Page 10

Seething, I bit out a little louder, “Thank you.” I sucked in a breath and added in a less angry voice, “It was really decent of you to help me out. I’m sorry if I caused you any inconvenience.”

“Inconvenience,” he murmured, smiling.

“Would you please take me home now?”

“Not a problem. I live to help spoiled little Greenwich princesses.”

The way he looked at me said it all. He didn’t think very much of me. The idea stung more than it should have. I was used to guys liking me. At least superficially. And face it, that’s as much as I let them see. I never let them get to the real me, the Em beneath the party girl veneer. Assuming they ever tried. Most were content with simply fooling around. No strings attached.

“This morning, can you tell me where you live—princess? Then I can get on with my day because, believe it or not, I have things to do.”

I bristled. So he thought I led a charmed life . . . that I was a spoiled princess who teased guys by licking them and then passed out like a pathetic drunk. My face burned. I guess he wasn’t that wrong. Except my life was far from charmed.

Not that I was telling him that. Who cared what he thought of me? He could think what he wanted.

“Let’s go. I don’t want to keep you from the things you have to do . . . like plan the next crime wave with your biker gang.”

He grinned again, and I realized he was enjoying this. Me baiting him. Him baiting me. Now that my panic upon waking in a strange place without any clothes on had subsided, I realized I maybe enjoyed it, too.

“Sure. And you don’t want to miss your nail appointment.”

I cocked my head. “That’s tomorrow.”

The sound of his chuckle followed me as I turned and walked off the porch. His truck was unlocked—why wouldn’t it be all the way out here in the middle of nowhere? I yanked open the passenger door and hopped inside.

He climbed in and started the engine. We sat there for a few moments as it warmed up. I stared out at the frozen lake, marveling at the peacefulness of it. I wouldn’t have pictured a place like this as his home. It was . . . nice. Which was weird. He was a biker. Some crapped-out meth house might have been a more accurate image. A stereotype, I knew, but it wasn’t as though he wasn’t stereotyping me.

I slid him a glance. “You live out here long?”

“It was my grandfather’s. He died a year ago and left it to me.”

I quickly faced forward again, my hands squeezing around my knees. It was the first bit of anything real we had exchanged beside taunts, and frankly, it made me uncomfortable. But then he made me uncomfortable. Undeniably. From the first moment I saw him.

“I’m sorry,” I said, because I had to say something. They had been close. The man had left him his house. Obviously they had been close. “About your grandfather.”

He put the truck in reverse and backed out of the property. “He went fishing with a friend, came in, made a sandwich, laid down for a nap, and never woke up. He was eighty-nine. We should all be so lucky.”

I blinked against the illogical burn that suddenly pressed against my eyes. Gazing at the strong line of his profile, I wondered at my sudden surge of emotion. I suppose it came from hearing the love in his voice for this man who had clearly meant so much to him. And his grandfather had obviously cared for him. I wished I had that. I wished I had someone. Honestly, there was no family member who overly cared whether I lived or died. No one in my family would lose sleep if anything bad happened to me.

“Still . . . I’m sure it’s hard. I’m sure you miss him.”

He glanced at me, but there wasn’t any of the derision I was coming to expect. No cocky half grin. He looked at me curiously, almost as if he was surprised I could say anything kind. “Yeah. It is . . . thanks.”

Nodding, I faced forward again.

He drove us into town with no further conversation. I tucked my hands beneath my thighs and only spoke when we got close to campus, directing him to my dorm.

There wasn’t too much student traffic this early on a Saturday and for that I was glad. Stepping out of his truck in front of my building, no one I knew was around. No one to witness me wearing my clothes from the night before and assume I was getting dropped off after a hookup.

One hand on the door handle, I looked back at him. “Thanks. For everything.”

It was a weird moment. As anxious as I was to make my exit, I knew I’d never see him again. We didn’t move in the same circles. I certainly wasn’t going back to Maisie’s. Realizing that kept me rooted to the spot, staring at him longer than I should. Kind of like I was memorizing him. A guy unlike any other guy I allowed myself to be with.

“Sure.” His eyes looked dark as they held mine. “Stay out of trouble.”

I felt my mouth twist into a smile at the irony of some guy I met in a biker bar telling me to stay out of trouble. “I’ll try. You, too. Don’t get in any more bar fights.”

His eyes glinted. “Yeah? Well, you don’t start any more.”

I laughed once. “Yeah. No worries. That so won’t happen again.”

“Bye, Emerson.”

I closed the door on him and walked to the front door of my dorm. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and ignored that small thread of sensation running through me that told me he was watching.

THE SUITE WAS EMPTY. Not a surprise, but I checked both rooms anyway just to be sure. Pepper had a fabulous new boyfriend. Ever since they’d gotten together she spent most nights at his place. And Georgia had Harris. Not a fabulous boyfriend, in my opinion, but a boyfriend nonetheless.

For once I was glad they weren’t around and I didn’t have to explain where I’d spent the night. I loved them, but they tended to worry about me. They would love nothing more than me putting my wild streak to rest and getting a boyfriend.

Stripping off my clothes, I slid on my robe and grabbed my shower caddy and headed across the hall to the shower, trying not to shudder at the idea of a boyfriend. Boyfriends kind of wanted you to let them in. Among other things. And that so wasn’t happening.

I spent at least half an hour under the hot spray of water before washing my hair and body. I kept thinking about last night. And this morning. Waking in Shaw’s bed. Despite his bad-boy edge, he hadn’t made a move on me. Sure, the invitation had been there when I’d practically straddled him and licked him like candy the night before, but he hadn’t jumped my bones. He hadn’t pushed for more or tried to manipulate the drunk girl. And this morning . . . this morning he just wanted to get rid of me.