‘At my place.’
He’s frowning. Thinking. Instinctively I shy away from his thoughts, despite having no clue what they are.
‘You live with those two women?’
‘Eliza and Cassie? Yeah.’
‘How’d you meet them?’
I step out of the shower and he’s right behind me. He reaches for a towel and hands it to me. I know it’s a small, inconsequential gesture, but there’s something in the tiny little act of thoughtfulness that pokes holes in my resolution to keep him at arm’s length.
I harden my heart as I dry my arms. Easier said than done. Because he’s watching me, smiling.
And then he sings again. Only it’s a song with my name in it.
Hair like flame, I turn to fire
Sky-blue eyes, you’re my bad liar
Can’t hide secrets you try to keep
Truth seems to make you weep, Ally... Ally...
My smile is heavy. As if resin has been poured over my face, casting me in a mask that will be an approximation of how I really look for ever.
‘Is that about me?’
‘Nah.’ He reaches for a second towel and rubs it through his hair. ‘It’s for another girl I know. Alisandre.’
I roll my eyes. ‘You’re the bad liar.’
He laughs. ‘I don’t think so.’
I wrap the towel around me, tucking it under my arms. The song echoes through me. ‘What do you think I’m lying about?’
‘It’s lyrical,’ he says with a shrug, but then he looks at me curiously, his expression watchful. ‘I don’t think you’re lying. I think you’re...closed off.’
‘Closed off?’ I arch my brows and think my expression must show how unimpressed I am. ‘Seriously? I have been more intimate with you than...than anyone in a really long time.’
‘That. Right there. That’s what you do. You catch yourself before you can say anything about yourself.’
‘That’s not true!’
‘Okay. Why do you love that painting at the MoMA so much?’
My cheeks flush pink. ‘I told you...’
‘You “just do”.’ He imitates my voice and rolls his eyes, but his lips are twitching into a smile. ‘See? Vague, vague, vague.’
‘Well, no... I just...’ I huff an indignant breath. ‘It’s kind of embarrassing.’
He crosses his arms over his naked chest and my eyes drop lower. Man, it’s so much easier when we’re having sex. There are no barriers then.
I grimace at the secret I’m about to share. Something I’ve never told anyone.
‘When I was in middle school I really hated the way I looked. You know—bright white skin, orange hair...’
‘It’s not orange,’ he murmurs.
‘It felt like it. Everyone else was blonde and tanned and I was all...me.’ I shrug. ‘My mom wouldn’t let me dye my hair, even though I desperately wanted highlights.’ I sigh dramatically. ‘And then I saw that painting. And...and she was so beautiful and mysterious and she kind of looked like me. Don’t you think?’
‘No one looks like you,’ he says, wrapping his arms around me.
His voice is thick and so full of sincerity that it reaches right into my heart and curls around it.
‘You are completely unique.’
The atmosphere between us is a net, tangling me in its midst. I stare at him, and everything is quiet but the beating of my heart and the gushing of the super-charged blood through my veins.
It’s too much.
I smile awkwardly and step away from him, moving out of the bathroom, my heart still racing, my body aching for him.
‘So...’ He follows me, all casual nonchalance because he knows it’s what I need. ‘What’d you cook?’
‘Ah!’ Safer ground. ‘Lasagne.’
I’m rewarded with a grin. A grin that curls my toes.
Apparently not safer ground.
I move on to business, seeking something that will suck the sparkle out of the air around us.
The lasagne is burned on top.
It almost does the trick.
* * *
His kisses run like raindrops down my skin. They are soft and sweet and I shift a little.
‘Was I asleep?’ I stretch in the bed, lifting a hand to capture his cheek. My heart twists.