He’d hated her for so long for leaving him the way she did, not understanding how she could have taken his heart and tossed it back to him in shreds. But now he wondered if what they had hadn’t been what he’d thought.
For him it had been an all-consuming love, but for her, maybe it had just been sex, a way to rebel before she got sick of playing poor with him.
His anger should have flared up again at that point. But as he kissed her in the deck chair, the whole world fell away. For the first time in years, he didn’t feel the bitterness that had been his constant companion since she left him. Instead of revenge, it felt like a dream come true. Like someone had heard his prayers during the bad days when he was still begging God to return his Eva to him and had decided to grant them eight years later.
“I want you again,” he said. “I want to be inside of you.”
“Alexei,” she answered, her voice as hot and raspy as his.
He sucked in a breath when she took him in her hand and guided him toward her. “I want you inside of me. I shouldn’t. I wish to God I didn’t, but I do.”
She enveloped him in her steaming, hot wetness, taking him in with one desperate jerk of her hips. Then she let out a cry of such intense pleasure, he nearly came right then and there. As it was, he had to hold her hips still, not allowing her to move on top of him.
“Let me,” she said squirming against him. “I thought you wanted me.”
“I do,” he assured her between gritted teeth. “Too much. I need a moment or this is going to be over way too soon for both of us. Just give me a minute.” She moaned and let her head fall against his shoulder. Her aching need felt so tangible to him that he released her hips and started to move into her, his desire to give her what she wanted greater than his desire to stay inside of her for as long as possible.
And he was right. It was over much faster than he wanted it to be. They both came only a few minutes later, announcing their twin release against each other’s shoulder. It made him wonder if every time would be like this, fraught with frantic need, like they’d been starved of each other for far too long.
“I really need a shower now,” she said, laughing a little as she basked in her afterglow. They had cleaned up a little after the first time, but here they were again, sweaty and reeking of one another.
“I will show you to your room.”
Her face lit up. “I have my own room?”
“Yes,” he answered. “But it is only for storage. Your vacation wardrobe is in there and a few toiletries. I assumed you used the same hair products as back in grad school and I made Emilio a list.”
Her cute gasp of pleasant surprise made the entire effort worth it. “Look at you, even remembering my favorite hair products!” She clapped her hands together. “Show me, show me, please!”
So he showed her, and he had to fight hard not to get caught up in Eva’s reaction when she squealed upon finding a closet full of designer label, brightly-colored vacation wear. “And here I was thinking you were going to have me running around buck naked,” she said, pulling out a seventies retro-style yellow and orange tunic dress.
He tilted his head to the side. “I had not considered that option. Perhaps I should have the clothing returned.”
She hugged the dress to her and made a mad dash for the bathroom, yelling, “No backsies!”
He laughed and returned to the master suite to take a shower of his own. A certain contentment stole over him as he let the shower spray wash away his last interlude with Eva. Being with her again like this felt more right than he cared to admit, but for once, he refused to obsess over his feelings regarding her or try to quell them with bitter thoughts.
By the time he came out of the bathroom, dressed in another robe, he’d decided to take Emilio’s advice, and try “going with the flow” instead of waging a power war as he’d originally intended.
But then the sound of a cell phone ringing in his suite interrupted his thoughts. The bouncy ringtone definitely wasn’t coming from his smart phone. And he followed the sound to beneath the bed, where he bent down and found Eva’s phone going off. She had retrieved her things earlier, but the phone must have fallen out of her purse. It stopped ringing, just as he reached out and grabbed it.
And he would have delivered it to Eva right away, except a box that said, “Missed call: Aaron” popped up on the display screen.
He frowned, and a memory came back to him unbidden: Eva making a big deal of putting his name into her cell phone while they were eating breakfast in her apartment. “How exactly do you spell your name?” she’d asked, eating the omelet she had made for them with one hand and keying in his information with the other.
He’d spelled his first name for her, but when he tried to spell his last name, she winked and said, “No need. I really like you. I don’t need to put in a last name to remember who you are.”
His heart turned to stone in his chest as he looked at the one name on the screen. And it felt like he was walking through a room with no sound as he made his way back to the living room and stood there, waiting, until she finally appeared, now wearing the tunic dress she’d been so excited about.
“Hey, you’re not dressed yet,” she said. “Does that mean we’re not going out?”
He held up her phone. “Who is Aaron?”
Her eyes widened when she saw her phone in his hand. “Why do you have my phone?” She ran over to him and tried to snatch it from him, but he held it above his head, too far for her to reach.
“Give it back. Give it back right now. This isn’t funny.”
He didn’t find anything funny about this situation either and his voice was much harder when he asked again, “Who is Aaron?”
“WHO is Aaron?” he asked, confirming Eva’s worst fears after she found him in the living room, his countenance changed from relaxed and sexy to stiff and angry.
A cold hand closed around Eva’s heart and she scrambled to think how to answer his question in a plausible way. “Nobody,” she said, trying to relax her own posture.
“Eva, I operate in a world filled with sharks and snakes. I deal with half-truths on a daily basis. Do you really think I cannot tell when someone is lying to me? Who is Aaron?”
Her heart beat louder than thunder in her ears. She didn’t know how to answer this or what to say, because he was right. He’d be able to see through whatever lie she told. The safest bet, she decided, was to say nothing at all, so she clamped her lips tight.
“Answer me,” he growled, still holding the phone in the air.
“No.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“You have to do what I say if you want to save your town, so tell me who he is.”
Eva glared at him. He thought he had her with that one, but what he didn’t understand was the only thing she cared about more than Drummond was Aaron. And she’d protect him at any cost. “Fine, then. Close Drummond Oil. I’m not talking about him with you. Now give me back my phone.”
His eyes narrowed. “You love this man that much?”
She didn’t answer.
“You love this man that much, but you are here with me?”
She shook her head. “Not for much longer. May I have my phone, so I can leave?”
He studied her for a long time before lowering the phone and placing it in her palm. “You know, I do not need that. There are people I can call. I will have a dossier on this Aaron within forty-eight hours.”
“No!” she cried. “You leave him alone, Alexei Rustanov. I was stupid enough to get caught up in this with you, but he’s innocent. Just like all those people in Drummond you keep threatening to put out of work because you’re mad at me.”
His only answer to this was “Does he know you’re here with me?”
She gave him a wry smile. Finally something she could answer truthfully. “No.”
“What would he do if he found out?
Again, she told the truth. “I don’t know.”
“If you two are in love, why are you not married?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I told you, I’m not going to talk with you about him. Either you drop the subject and agree to leave him out of this, or we end this—whatever it is—right now.”
She was leaning toward the latter, but then he said. “Why did you nod?”
He folded his arms over his chest.
“If you are in love with him, why did you not take the out I gave you?” he asked. “Why did you enthusiastically have sex with me again by pool? Are you unhappy with him?”
She saw his questions for what they were. An opening. An opening she could work with. “Listen,” she said, stepping closer to him. “I know what you want from me. You want me to be the person I used to be, the one who left you, so you can get your revenge. I can be her for you. Look…”