Craving Him Page 41

Did he mean . . .? No, I couldn’t be distracted right now, though. I had to tend to Ellie. I’d been a horrible roommate and a worse friend the past several weeks. Removing his hands from sinking any lower, I took a step back. My head was a mess. He was standing in my tiny bedroom telling me he was committed to this—to us—and wanted to share an address with me. “I need to talk to Ellie. Can I call you later?”

His mouth tightened into a line and his eyes settled on mine. Shit. He’d been vulnerable with me, opened up and explained his need to keep me close and his fear of rejection. And here I was, ready to reject his proposal. I took his hand in mine and squeezed. “Actually, I could come over later if you like. I just need to make sure Ellie’s okay.”

His mouth relaxed and he leaned down to kiss my forehead. “I’ll send Henry back in a few hours.”

“Okay.” I wondered if I’d ever ride the subway again. Not if Ben had his way. I’d be chauffeured around the city like a kept woman. But I’d address that later. I didn’t want to refuse his generosity. We did, however, need to have a talk about boundaries and maintaining my freedoms at some point soon.

After seeing Ben out and locking the door at his insistence, I sought out Ellie, tapping lightly on her bedroom door. “Ells?”

“Yeah?” Her voice was rough. Agitated.

“Can I come in?” I peeked my head inside. She was curled up under a mound of blankets, staring blanking at her little TV in the corner. “Ellie? Are you okay?”

“Just f**king lovely.” Her tone was laced with sarcasm. “Not to be a bitch, but the last thing I need right now is to be around two people in love.”

“What happened?”

“Men happened. I’m done with them. I’m done with their bullshit excuses, their selfishness, waiting for them to call. I don’t need them. I have two perfectly wonderful, functioning vibrators and I’ll be taking care of myself from now on, thank you very much.”

“Oh . . . kay.” I wasn’t sure what had brought this on. The last I knew she was single and wasn’t really dating. “Did you go out with someone new?”

“Doesn’t matter.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Already forgotten.”

“He didn’t call, did he?”

“Nope. That asshat.”

“I’m sorry, baby. I’ll get the vodka.”

“Thanks, pookie.” She smiled at me weakly.

I loved how simple things were with Ellie. She was tough and smart and independent, yet in a lot of ways still needed someone to rely on. Deep in my heart I wanted to consider Ben’s invitation to move in with him but I’d feel terrible leaving her—and now certainly wasn’t the time to bring it up.

When I returned to her bedroom with two vodka–cranberry juice cocktails, Ellie was at least sitting up in her bed this time. She happily accepted her drink and took a long sip.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked, sipping my own drink.

“Not at all. Now, tell me . . . are you moving in with him or what?” she asked.

“I, um, I don’t know. He wants me to, I just don’t know if I’m ready.”

She nodded, watching me with soulful eyes. “You know I love having you here, but don’t let me stop you. You’re stuck with me no matter where you live.”

I smiled at her. “True.” Our friendship wasn’t defined by my address. “I think I’m just scared of jumping into his world so completely.”

She nodded. “Then take your time and think about it.”

“I will.” The thing about Ben that she didn’t understand was his need for love and acceptance. He’d grown up without love from two parents, any siblings, or a happy family unit. His mom was in and out of rehab and he never knew his father. He’d come to terms with all that, but I could tell the idea of me rejecting him scared him. And this was a guy who wasn’t easily phased in any other area of his life. The knotted tension in his shoulders, the intensity in his eyes when he’d asked me to move . . . waiting to see what I’d do, how I’d react. If I’d accept him. Him and all this baggage. And there was a damn truckload of baggage where that man was concerned. It was daunting at times. But still so easy to love him at others.

After cooking dinner with Ellie and making sure she was settled for the night, I was chauffeured back to Ben’s place.

His lips at my throat greeted me. “Thanks for coming.” I felt him inhale the scent of my neck and a shiver raced down my spine, igniting all my senses.

I nodded and lifted on my toes to press a kiss to his full mouth.

He had the lighting turned low, and the city lights that glittered through the large picture windows provided a pretty ambience. A bottle of red wine rested on the coffee table with two wineglasses and a fire crackled in the fireplace. Wow. It was very romantic and the perfect end to my day.

“Would you like some wine?”

I nodded and let his fingers dancing at my lower back guide me into the living room. We settled on the sofa and Ben offered me a glass of ruby-colored wine. Hazel and luminous green eyes roamed mine while I took a sip. Delicious. Flavors of spicy pepper and robust black cherry burst on my palate. It was pleasantly tart with just a hint of sweetness. Yum.

“Good?” he asked, trying his own.

“Orgasmic.” I smiled.

Ben chuckled. “Not yet, lovely, but that could be arranged.”

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