Authors: Zara Cox
Tags: #Erotica, #Literature & Fiction
For a brief moment, Lexi’s thoughts strayed to Hans, who had called her out of the blue last week to say he’d arrived in town, as promised. But as she’d decided in Vegas, hooking up with the hunky Swede wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
“I mean it,” Fiona stressed. “I know some hot guys. I can set you up, just say the word.” Glimpses of the
Fiona had been before the accident broke through. Lexi was happy to see the old Fiona back out but there was no way she could do as she suggested.
She shook her head. “I can’t. I’d lose my self-respect if I stay, not to mention risk a broken heart.” Although, it was probably too late for the broken heart part.
“You still love him, don’t you?”
Lexi’s chest tightened with pain. “I never stopped.”
Fiona regarded for several seconds, and then sighed. “I hate the thought of you leaving, Lexi. But if you must, you must.” She held out both hands. “Keep in touch?”
Lexi smiled and grasped the pale hands. “Of course I will. And you take care of yourself too, okay?”
Fiona rolled her eyes. “If they ever get round to letting me outta this dump, I’ll take care of myself like there’s no tomorrow. Count on it.”
Once again, he’d been unable to reach her. Frustrated, Enzo thumped a fist on his steering wheel as he parked in his allotted slot outside his apartment and yanked the key out of the ignition.
On his return from the club in the early hours, he’d decided to catch a few winks before tracking Lexi down. He hadn’t planned on staying out all night, but one of his barmen hadn’t turned up for work and, as part owner, he’d had no choice but to step in to help. After a quick shower mid-morning, he’d rung Lexi. When her number kept going to voicemail, he’d driven to her work, only to be told she was out for the day.
He slammed the door and stalked to the elevator. Now he had to wait until tonight to reach her. But reach her he would, even if he had to camp outside her condo until she came home. He’d had enough of this fucking cat-and-mouse game.
Tonight, they were sitting down to do some serious talking. It helped that Cara had chosen to sort things out between them and end her animosity toward Lexi. Now they could discuss
relationship. He wanted her back, full time. He wanted her to belong to him again. It wouldn't be easy – they'd have to work damned hard on the trust thing – but he wasn't ready to give up. He needed to hear what she had to say about that.
He entered his apartment, intent on digging out a cold beer to drown his frustration.
Cara, huddled on the sofa, her pale and tear-stained face twisted in pain wiped his mind clean of all else.
In two strides, he was at her side. “Cara? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
“I got a call,” she whispered, her voice small and broken.
“A call? Who from? Is it Fiona?” Damn, he hoped nothing bad had happened to her.
She shook her head.
“Dr. Hopkirk? Did something happen with the tests?”
“Then what the hell is it?” He tried to keep his voice level, afraid of upsetting her further, even though everything inside him wanted to scream at her to tell him. She took a deep shaky breath.
“Ian. Ian called.”
…Pulbrook?” Disbelief followed by anger unfurled in his gut and began to spread. “What’s he doing calling you? The asshole broke off your engagement when you were still in hospital. What the hell did he want?”
His sister’s bitter laugh screeched along his nerves. “He said he was in town and wanted to catch up.”
A tight knot seized the back of his neck. “He’s here? In LA?”
She gave a stiff nod.
“How long has he been in town?”
“About a week, I think.”
An uneasy feeling crept up his spine. “I hope you told him to get lost.”
“Of course I did.”
“Good. He won’t bother you again, I’ll make damn sure of it. Don’t upset yourself. He’s not worth it.”
She picked at the sleeve of her top. “He…he apologized for the pain he caused me.”
“I’m sure you told him to shove it. That slimeball isn’t worth a second thought. Just put him out of your head, all right?”
Again a small nod. She opened her mouth, as if to say more.
He frowned. “What? Did he say anything else?”
“He wanted to know where Lexi lived.”
A red haze washed over his eyes. He cautioned himself not to lose it. “And did you tell him?”
“No, but he asked for her phone number. I—I gave it to him. He said he wanted to catch up, for old times’ sake. Maybe he wants to apologize to her, too.” Fresh tears clouded her eyes.
Somehow Enzo doubted that. He wanted to demand a word-by-word replay of the conversation, but forced himself to calm down.
“Did he say where he was staying? Why he was in town?”
“He’s staying at The Wiltshire, I think. As to what he’s doing in LA,” she shrugged, “I presume he’s shooting another movie. I didn’t ask him how long he was in town for.” She looked up at him. “Why all these questions?”
“Nothing. Listen, I need to go out for a while. Will you be all right?”
She sniffed. “Yes, but you just got home and I cooked.”
“Rain check. Call Hopkirk, I’m sure he’ll jump at the chance to sample your cooking.” He forced himself to smile as he backed toward the door.
Less than a minute later, he was back in his car. He forced himself to drive within the speed limit. No point risking a speeding ticket before he’d reached his destination.
After he found out what the fuck Pulbrook meant by getting in touch with his sister, and what he intended to do with Lexi's phone number, he didn’t give a damn if he got arrested then. He probably would be anyway after he rearranged the son of a bitch’s face for daring to encroach on what belong to him. Again.
He screeched to a stop in front of the hotel, threw his keys to the valet and strode into the lobby. Scanning the faces of the four receptionists behind the desk, he approached the bottle blonde, his most charming smile in place.
“Hi, I have an appointment with Ian Pulbrook. Can you tell me what room he’s in?”
Her return smile slipped into a frown. “You have an appointment with Mr. Pulbrook? Are you sure?”
Shit. “Of course. Is there a problem?” He struggled to keep his easy stance.
“Well, yes and no. Mr. Pulbrook is staying here, but he’s currently location-scouting.”
“Really? Maybe my PA got the dates wrong. So when will he be back? I’d like to reschedule.”
“We’re expecting him back on Wednesday.”
“Thanks, you’ve been a great help.”
“No problem. Here, take my card. If I can be of further assistance, just give me a call.”
The “I’m available” smile barely registered as he took the card.
He started to walk away. A thought occurred to him and he turned back. “How long is he in town for? Just in case, you know, our schedules clash this time round.”
She smiled again and tapped a few keys on the computer. “His reservation is for three months.”
He managed a nod as he backed away. By the time he reached his car, anger had taken control of him
. Three months
. What the fuck was the bastard playing at?
Did Lexi know he was in town? Had she already planned to meet up with him? Was that the reason she’d been giving him the brush off the past few days? The need to know burned through him. He was fifteen minutes away from her place.
He made it in twelve. The doorman let him in without fuss. Taking the stairs three at a time, he stalked to her door and leaned on the bell.
She opened it, her face creased in irritation. And trepidation.
“What are you doing here?”
“You mean why have I turned up on your doorstep after you’ve been giving me the run around all week?” He stormed past her and slammed the door. Before she could respond, he rounded on her. “Have you seen him? Is he why you’re avoiding me?”
Her frown intensified. “Who are you talking about? Have I seen who?”
“Don’t play games with me. Cara told me Pulbrook’s been in town for a week. I’m sure he’s contacted you by now.”
The blood drained from her face and, for a second, he thought she’d pass out. “
Ian’s in town?” she whispered.
She obviously didn’t like being found out. Well, the truth had a nasty way of coming out when least expected.
“And he called Cara? Why did he do that?”
He barely heard the question through her stiff lips.
“Under some clap-trap guise of apologizing for dumping her, but we both know that’s not true, don’t we?”
“I think it’s interesting he ended the call by asking for your number. But you know all this because he’s the reason you’ve been blowing me off, isn’t it? Hell, he could already be here for all I know.” The very idea made him want to punch something. He checked for signs of male occupancy anyway.
“Of course he isn’t!”
He was sure he imagined the shudder that shook her body.
“I’m warning you, Lexi, stay away from him. I don’t want anything to set back the progress Cara’s made, you understand?”
She gave a short, strangled laugh. “God, that’s the first time you’ve called me Lexi.”
Confusion clouded his brain. “What?”
“It’s the first time you’ve said my name in over a year.”
He frowned. “That’s bullshit.” When she remained silent, he shrugged. “So what? What’s that got to do with anything?”
She clasped her elbows. “Nothing. Nothing at all. Is that why you came here tonight? To warn me about seeing Ian?”
“Why else? Cara says she’s fine with it, but it could all be a front. This is the last thing she needs.” He watched her walk past him to sit on the sofa. She curled herself into a ball. A spurt of concern pierced his anger. “Are you all right?”
“I told you, I wasn’t feeling too well.”
“That was your excuse a couple of days ago; that and packing for New York.” He couldn’t keep the censure from his tone.
“Well, it’s the truth; I’ve got a headache. A real one.”
He stopped pacing and moved closer. She looked very pale, her eyes shadowed and large in her face. He placed a hand on her forehead. She was burning up. “Shit! When did you start feeling like this? Have you taken anything?”
“A couple of pills an hour ago. I just need to get some sleep. I’ll be fine.”
The anger instantly drained out of him. Bending down, he picked her up. She weighed less than he remembered. What the hell had she been doing to herself?
“Wh-where are you taking me?” she asked in a feeble voice.
“You should be in bed.”
She tried to wriggle out of his arms. “No. Put me down, Enzo, I’m not in the mood.”
He stopped in the hallway. “You think I want to have sex? Now?”
Heat crept up her face. “Well, I thought…”
“You thought wrong.”
“Oh.” Her voice emerged frail, weary. His chest tightened.
He continued walking until he reached her bedroom. He laid her on the bed, pulled the covers over her, and straightened up. Suddenly, he felt useless. “Do you need anything? A drink of water?”
Her eyes had started to droop. “No, thanks.”
“Fine. Get some sleep.” He started toward the door.
“Are you leaving?” Lexi half-hoped he would--the half that wanted time to absorb what he’d just told her. But the other half hoped he’d crawl into bed with her, hold her, and keep her safe and warm. Stop the cold spreading through her, turning her to ice.
“Do you want me to?” he asked, returning to sink down onto the side of the bed, his gaze fixed on hers.
She’d missed him so much these last few days, but she had to be strong. Very soon, she’d have to live without him. Not that she ever lived with him. “If you want. I’ll be fine.” Tiredness descended on her with a vengeance.
A shadow crossed his face. “Yeah, you said.” He rose, raking a hand through his hair. He bristled with barely suppressed tension.
“Is there something else on your mind?”
He whirled around. “What?”
“You seem…agitated.” Talking became an effort when blackness clawed at her. The past few nights had been hell. Now this. At least Enzo’s news solved the puzzle of the silent phone calls she’d been receiving the past few days. Another shudder raked through her. She was certain Ian was her caller, even though the caller ID was blocked. Now he had her cell phone number. She’d have to change it. Again.
“It doesn’t matter. Go to sleep. We’ll talk when you wake up.”
She wanted to ask what he needed to talk to her about, but her head thumped too hard.
“I haven’t seen him. Ian, I mean.”
His shoulders slumped as some of the tension left him.
Her eyes grew heavier, her thoughts became disjointed. Staying awake hurt, looking at Enzo’s beautiful face hurt even more, but
was better than thinking about Ian Pulbrook and what he'd done to her.
So she closed her eyes and let everything melt away.
Enzo looked down at her sleeping form. God, she was so fucking beautiful; if a little pale and worn around the edges. What had she been doing to herself since he last saw her?
Dark shadows lurked under her eyes and delicate veins criss-crossed her lowered lids. Her mouth had lost its pinched look, as if in sleep she’d let go of whatever troubled her. He pulled the covers higher over her and made sure her window was shut against the late afternoon breeze.
He glanced at the fragile-looking chair at the foot of her bed. No way would it take a man his size without breaking. His gaze touched longingly on the empty space beside her, but shook his head against the idea. Taking care of her was one thing. Taking care of her while
with her was something else altogether. Even sick, the sight of her body made his loins burn, so close bodily contact was out of the question until she recovered from whatever was wrong with her.
If he was to believe her – and he felt surprisingly inclined to – she’d been as surprised at the mention of Pulbrook's name as he’d been. Which meant the reason she’d avoided him had nothing to do with the asshole.