He was about to go and check on Joy when he heard the bathroom door open. He braced his arms on either side of him, his muscles bunching tight, when he heard her tread in the hallway.
“Are you okay?” he asked when she entered the room wearing a short pink bathrobe. At first he thought she’d splashed her face with water, but then he realized that her hair was damp at her temples and nape from perspiration. He was wet with sweat himself. It’d been like running a marathon, making love to her.
She nodded and silently came and sat next to him on the bed, several inches from his hand. He wanted to touch her. He wondered if he’d lost the right.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked.
He paused. Her tone had sounded starkly honest.
“Then what’s wrong?”
He saw her throat convulse as she swallowed. Her sideways glance struck him as wary . . . bewildered.
“Why did you do that to me?”
He just stared at her. For some reason, even though she’d said why, he’d heard what. It struck him that she felt wholly vulnerable. He covered her hand with his.
“I didn’t just want to have sex with you. I wanted to connect with you. It worked a little too well, on my part. You were so . . .” He made a ragged, helpless sound. “I lost it a little, there at the end. I’m sorry.”
She turned her head, searching his features. “I wanted you to lose control. I’m not talking about that,” she said.
His forehead bunched in confusion.
“Never mind,” she whispered, glancing away. “It doesn’t matter.”
He cradled the back of her head. She fit his palm perfectly.
She dropped her chin to her chest. “You overwhelm me.”
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to.” He froze for a second after the words were out of his mouth. Was he lying? Had he meant to break down her defenses?
“You don’t understand,” she said so abruptly that he started. She glanced at him entreatingly. “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re . . . wonderful. Perfect. I wouldn’t want you to change anything.”
“I’m not following you, Joy,” he said slowly.
She shook her head. He sensed her frustration. He tamped down a strong desire to hold her; she looked so small sitting there, so lost. Instead, he stood. She’d told him he overwhelmed her. He couldn’t push himself on her farther.
He reached for his trousers.
“You don’t have to go,” she said in a cracking voice.
He turned, his hand on the zipper of his fly.
“I think I better,” he said. “Can I call you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
He nodded and reached for his shirt. He was angry with himself for pushing her, but dammit, he had wanted to move her, to reach her, to touch her in more than the surface sense. That’d been the reason h
e’d made love to her the way he did. Joy clearly was a formidable fortress, but she wasn’t entirely impregnable.
Tonight had shown him that.
He felt raw and confused. Irritated. The experience had rattled him as well as Joy. The only reason he was leaving was that she appeared to be even more exposed and bewildered by what had happened between them than he was.