“You go ahead and get in,” she said. “I’m just going to go and get a couple things from my suitcase.”
Everett nodded. He had brought her suitcase out to the guesthouse earlier. He got into the shower and lathered up. His body felt good after that explosive release. Really good. He hadn’t realized how tense he’d been . . . how anxious he’d been to see Joy . . .
How desperate, apparently.
The only thing that would be nicer after that mind-blowing quickie would be to have his hands running all over Joy’s smooth, soft skin along with all the hot water from the shower, to show her he could savor as well as devour her. After a few minutes of her absence, however, he got out and toweled off, leaving the shower going.
“Joy?” he called, scraping his fingers through his wet hair. He tucked the towel around his hips and padded toward the closed bathroom door. It opened and Joy stepped in, still wearing her skirt and tank top.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought I hadn’t packed one of my vitamins.”
“Did you find them?” he asked, glancing down at the transparent bag she carried containing several bottles.
She nodded and walked over to the counter to set down the items.
“You must be a health nut, like Katie,” he said, nodding toward her bag of vitamins. Her smile in the reflection of the mirror struck him as strained.
Whoa . . . What just happened? he wondered. He felt it again—that wall that seemed to fly up between them at times. She kept her face averted as she extricated her toothbrush and a few items from her bag. He opened his mouth to ask her what was the matter, but stopped himself.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” he said.
She glanced up. Their eyes met briefly in the mirror, but then she looked away.
He closed the door behind him, feeling a sense of defeat, not to mention confusion. She gave of herself so completely during sex. Why did she retreat into herself following physical intimacy?
He could tolerate many things when it came to new relationships, but something about the idea of Joy withdrawing the way she did spoke of loneliness . . . of suffering. And that was one thing, he thought as he dropped the towel to the floor, he wouldn’t accept easily.
Joy felt awkward when she came out of the bathroom a short while later wearing her new lemon-colored silk nightgown, but Everett wasn’t in the bedroom. Guilt washed thro
ugh her. He’d obviously wanted to take a shower with her after they’d had sex. He’d known she’d avoided him. She’d seen it in the sober glance they’d exchanged in the mirror.
What was wrong with her? Why did she feel so raw every time he made love to her? She couldn’t put the feeling into words. It felt almost unbearably good to give in to the elemental lust he inspired in her, but afterward she felt like a walking exposed nerve. For some stupid, inexplicable reason, it reminded her of making eye contact with other cancer patients she randomly encountered during her chemo. Usually, they dropped their gazes. Joy understood. She’d learned to do the same.
It was all she could take to manage her own survival. It was too painful to consider another’s struggle . . . another’s mortality.
She couldn’t imagine why a similar feeling occurred with Everett following their electric sexual encounters. She promised herself she’d stop being so weak, so idiotic. She set her clothes on top of her suitcase and started to go in search of him. The partially opened door widened before she got there.
Everett stepped into the bedroom carrying a champagne bucket. Two flutes were laced between his long fingers. His hair was a sexy mess of waves and wet spikes. He wore a pair of light blue cotton pajama pants that fell low on his narrow hips and nothing else.
He did a double take when he saw her standing there. “Hey. You look pretty,” he said, his gaze running over her warmly.
“Thanks,” she said. Bless his heart. He wasn’t irritated at her for her momentary stupidity. She walked toward him as he set the glasses on the table and poured the sparkling fluid into them. “I bought it for this trip,” she said, forcing herself to admit the little vulnerability as a lame apology for her earlier foolishness. When she saw his pleased expression, she was amply rewarded.
“Yes.” She could smell the fresh scent of soap on his skin. She wanted to kiss the smooth, golden skin covering his pectoral muscle.
Then do it, idiot.
She stepped forward. His skin felt firm beneath her lips and still felt moist from his shower. He made a rough sound in his throat. She looked up when he touched the back of her head. His gaze on her was soft.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, not sure if he would understand her apology or not. His eyelids narrowed slightly. She sensed him studying her . . . considering. What had she been thinking? Of course he understood she was apologizing for her withdrawal following sex. What had Katie said? He was a creature of instinct. It was why he was such a great actor—he felt so much. He lived so deeply.
His life wasn’t governed by fear, like hers was.
He turned and whipped the light blue, raw silk comforter back, folding it at the bottom of the mattress.