“Hah!” I say with a laugh. “Are you sure about that?”
He nods, so I prepare to let him have it. I push against his chest and make my way around him so that he’s the one leaning against the ledge now.
“I can’t tell what you want, Ryle! And every time I get to the point where I start to not give a shit, you show up again out of the blue! You show up at my work, you show up at my apartment door, you show up at parties, you . . .”
“I live here,” he says, excusing the last one. That pisses me off even more. I clench my fists.
“Ugh! You’re driving me crazy! Do you want me or do you not?”
He stands up straight and takes a step toward me. “Oh, I want you, Lily. Make no mistake about that. I just don’t want to want you.”
My whole body sighs at that comment. Partly out of frustration and partly because everything he says makes me shiver and I hate that I allow him to make me feel like this.
I shake my head. “You don’t get it, do you?” I say, softening my voice. I feel too defeated right now to keep yelling at him. “I like you, Ryle. And knowing that you only want me for one night makes me really, really sad. And maybe if this were a few months ago, we could have had sex and it would have been fine. You would have walked away and I could have easily moved on with my life. But it’s not a few months ago. You waited too long, and too many pieces of me are invested in you now, so please. Stop flirting with me. Stop hanging pictures of me in your apartment. And stop sending me flowers. Because when you do those things, it doesn’t feel good, Ryle. It actually kind of hurts.”
I feel deflated and exhausted and I’m ready to leave. He regards me silently, and I respectfully give him time to make his rebuttal. But he doesn’t. He just turns around, leans over the ledge, and stares down at the street like he didn’t hear a single word I said.
I walk across the roof and open the door, half expecting him to call out my name or ask me not to leave. I get all the way back to the apartment before I finally lose all hope of that happening. I push through the crowd and make it through three different rooms before I spot Devin. When he sees the look on my face, he just nods and begins to make his way across the room toward me.
“Ready to go?” he asks, looping his arm through mine.
I nod. “Yes. So ready.”
We find Allysa in the main living room. I tell her and Marshall goodnight, using the excuse that I’m just exhausted from opening week and I’d like to get some sleep before work tomorrow. Allysa gives me a hug and walks us to the front door.
“I’ll be back on Monday,” she says to me, kissing me on the cheek.
“Happy birthday,” I say to her. Devin opens the door, but right before we step into the hallway, I hear someone yell my name.
I turn around and Ryle is pushing through the crowd on the other side of the room. “Lily, wait!” he yells, still trying to make his way over to me. My heart is erratic. He’s walking quickly, stepping around people, growing more frustrated with every person in his way. He finally reaches a break in the crowd and makes eye contact with me again. He holds my gaze as he marches toward me. He doesn’t slow down. Allysa has to step out of his way as he walks straight up to me. At first, I think he might kiss me, or at least give a rebuttal to everything I said to him upstairs. But instead, he does something I’m not at all prepared for. He scoops me up into his arms.
“Ryle!” I yell, gripping him around the neck, afraid he might drop me. “Put me down!” He has an arm wrapped under my legs and one under my back.
“I need to borrow Lily for the night,” he says to Devin. “That okay?”
I look at Devin and shake my head, wide-eyed. Devin just smirks and says, “Be my guest.”
Ryle starts to turn and walk back toward the living room. I look at Allysa as I pass her. Her eyes are wide with confusion. “I’m going to kill your brother!” I yell at her.
Everyone in the entire room is staring now. I’m so embarrassed, I just press my face against Ryle’s chest as he walks me down the hallway and into his bedroom. Once the door is shut behind us, he slowly lowers my feet back to the f loor. I immediately start to yell at him and try to push him out of the way of the bedroom door, but he spins me and shoves me against the door, grabbing both of my wrists. He presses them against the wall above my head and says, “Lily?”
He’s looking at me so intently, I stop trying to fight him off of me and I hold my breath. His chest is pressing against mine, my back is pressed to the door. And then his mouth is on mine. Warm pressure against my lips.
Despite the strength behind them, his lips are like silk. I’m shocked at the moan that rushes through me, and even more shocked when I part my lips and want more. His tongue slides against mine and he releases my wrists to grab my face. His kiss grows deeper and I grasp at his hair, pulling him closer, feeling the kiss in my entire body.
Both of us become a medley of moans and gasps as the kiss brings us over the edge, our bodies wanting more than our mouths can deliver. I feel his hands as he reaches down and grabs my legs, lifting me up and hooking them around his waist.
My God, this man can kiss. It’s as if he takes kissing as seriously as he takes his profession. He begins to pull me away from the door when I’m hit with the realization that yes, his mouth is capable of a lot. But what his mouth has failed to do is respond to everything I told him upstairs.
For all I know, I’ve just given in. I’m giving him what he wants: a one-night stand. And that’s the last thing he deserves right now.