Rival Page 30

I hadn’t cried in years. I was always able to stop it, to swallow it.

You can do this, I told myself. Just do it. Before you do anything else stupid.

My phone sat on my bedside table, and I opened my last text.

Will post when you’re ready.

That text was three days ago when I arrived. My weak fingers tapped out my response.

“Fallon?” Madoc knocked on the door, and I stopped typing.

“Just leave me alone,” I ordered, talking to the closed door.

“No.”

Excuse me? I raised my voice to respond to him. “You told me to lock the door to keep you out, dickhead. That’s what I’m doing.”

“I came up with that line when I was sixteen and had toothpicks for arms!” His muffled voice got louder. “I have muscles now,” he continued, “and this door is going to be firewood in five seconds if you don’t open up!”

I raced over and yanked the door open. “Don’t you dare!”

“What’s your problem?” He pushed past me into the room, turning around to face me. “We had a fun day. And I had an even better night planned, beginning with the Jacuzzi.”

Of course he did.

I slammed the door shut behind him, shaking my head and letting out a bitter laugh. “I told you to leave me alone. Why can’t you just do that?” My tone stayed flat, but the muscles in my arms and legs were rigid as I walked past him.

He hooked my elbow, bringing us face-to-face.

“You come into my room, dressed like that.” He gestured up and down my body. “And then you run out, expecting me to not wonder what the hell is going through your head?”

“What does it matter? You don’t care. Not about anyone but yourself, anyway.”

I pulled my arm away and walked over to the side of the bed, putting a safer distance between us.

His eyebrows were pinched together in confusion, like he didn’t understand what I was getting at. Why would he? I’d done a complete about-face from earlier, letting him seduce me, and then I’d changed the game and tried to seduce him to prove that I could. Crashed and burned at that—and now I was pushing him away. He was confused, and he should be. I sure was. I had thought I knew exactly what I wanted to have happen when I came back here.

“Where the hell is this coming from? Is this about the other-girls-in-my-bed question?” he asked, inching toward me.

A small, quiet sigh escaped me, and with it, my plan. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I could ask you about other guys, but I don’t.” His expression was angry. “You want to know why? Because I would care. Do you really want to know how many girls I’ve had in my bed? How many girls I’ve slept with?”

He would care?

“No, I don’t want to know. We’re not in a relationship,” I bit back.

Madoc stood immobile, his face hardening a bit and his chin lifting a little, but other than that his body was like stone. I didn’t know if he was angry, hurt, confused, or annoyed. But I knew he was thinking. I watched his large frame, his black pajama pants hanging low on his hips, walk across my bedroom, take my wide gray cushioned chair, and carry it to sit in front of my floor-length mirror.

“Come here,” he commanded, and I curled my toes, staying planted where I was.

When I didn’t budge, he softened his voice.

“Please?” he asked.

He planted himself in the chair and looked at me through the mirror, waiting.

He leaned back, slouching, with his legs about a foot apart. His chest glowed smooth in the barely lit room, and I had to lick my lips, because I was so thirsty all of a sudden.

This is ridiculous! I planted my hands on my hips, trying to look away but always reverting back to his gaze.

Okay, screw it.

I dropped my hands and walked over slowly, trying to look bored. Madoc took my wrist and led me around the front of the chair, yanking me down into his lap.

“Hey!” I argued, trying to stand up again, but his hands held my waist.

“Trust me.”

I huffed, but I stopped, if only to see where this was going.

“What do you want?” I snarled, inching my ass up his body, because straddling his thigh was . . . yeah.

“Look.” He tipped his chin up. “Look in the mirror. What do you see?”

“What do you mean?”

What the hell?

“Open your eyes!” he barked, and all of the hairs on my body shot up.

Shit. Yeah, you could never tell when Madoc was going to go from easy to scary, but it was always sudden.

Reaching around, he twisted my chin toward the mirror, and I sucked in a breath. “What do you see?!” he shouted.

“You and me!” I blurted out. “Madoc and Fallon!”

My heart was racing.

I looked at him through the mirror. I sat on one side of his lap, so he could see from the other side, and we stared at each other, my chest rising and falling more urgently.

“That’s not what I see,” he said in a low voice. “Those names mean nothing to me. They’re simple and empty. When I’m with you, I don’t see the daughter of a gold-digging bitch and an Irish drug lord or the son of a crooked lawyer and a vegan Barbie.”

I almost wanted to laugh. Madoc had an ironic way of looking at the world.

But he wasn’t smiling. He was scowling. He was dead serious, and I knew from experience that his genuine moments were few and far between.

He reached up, threading one hand into my hair while the other hand rested on the chair.

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