Page 40

Not my fucking problem, I remind myself.

With my shoelaces almost tied, I thought I’d make a clean escape when I heard her bed creak and looked up to see Vale perched up on her elbows, the sheet hanging just low enough on her breasts I got a peek of cleavage. My cock twitched in clear interest and I wanted to strangle the monster.

“Are you leaving?” she asked, her voice rough and craggy with sleep.

“Yeah, going to head home for a shower, then to the arena for practice.”

Vale’s head turned to look at the clock on her bedside table. “Yeah, I better get up too and go to the hospital.”

“You should sleep some more,” I blurted out, then smacked myself mentally.

Not my fucking problem.

Vale is not my problem. I helped her last night, gave her a good ride and an even better orgasm, but that’s all there is to this. I can’t go back there with her because she’s too dangerous to my heart. I gave it to her once and she stomped on it. Can’t let her do it again.

She gave me a bright smile and shook her head. “Actually, I feel pretty good.”

There was no helping myself. I stared and stared some more when she swung her legs to the side of the bed and slipped free from the bedsheet. Watching her standing naked, stunningly gorgeous and probably sore between her legs, I had to physically restrain myself from launching myself at her. She ignored me, walked to a small, battered pressed-wood dresser, and pulled a pair of panties out that she slipped up her long legs. My nose wrinkled in distaste when I saw them glide over those roses. She then took out a T-shirt and slid it over her head before threading her arms through.

When she pulled her long hair free, she said, “I’m going to make some coffee if you want some.”

“No, thanks,” I returned woodenly. “I need to get going.”

Vale’s eyes went soft…limpid pools of ferny green understanding. She got my reticence because she still knew me and my layers very well. She got my discomfort and then went the extra mile to try to ease the situation.

“Well, okay,” she murmured with a smile as she walked toward me. She stopped just before where I stood near the bedroom doorway and laid her hand on my forearm. “Thanks again for last night. You really helped me out of a rough patch.”

I coughed to clear my throat. “Yeah, sure…no problem.”

Vale nodded and slipped past me, padding down the short hall into the kitchen. I followed along and glanced to the left to see her at the coffeepot. She didn’t turn back to me, and I had to wonder what the fuck was going on.

I saw it on her face last night. The open acceptance of me back into her life…her body. Fuck, I’m pretty sure her heart was inviting me in. I saw the gratitude laced with desire and smothered in tenderness written all over her face as I fucked her. I wanted to fall prey to it as much as I wanted to fly out of this apartment and not look backward.

“I’ll try to get to the hospital later today to see your dad,” I told her as I reached for the door.

She looked over her shoulder at me with another bright and thankful smile. “Thanks. He’d like that a lot.”

I stared at her, she stared at me…patiently.

I should have gone, and yet I stayed, searching vainly for something to bridge those weird feelings simmering at a low boil deep in my gut. “Hey, need me to tell Bruce what’s going on for you?”

Her eyes crinkled with another smile, another radiant display of gratitude. “No, thanks. I also texted him last night and he told me to take all the time I need.”

“Oh, okay. Well, I’ll just get going.”

She gave a wave of her hand. “Have a good practice today.”

As I stood outside her apartment door, I had to question what in the hell had been going on. Was she using me as a means of escape from a shitty situation? Or did she still truly care for me and gave me her body to show me that? Or did I misread everything and take advantage of her last night and now she’s just too polite to be rude about it?

Fuck. What a mess.

And now I’m stunned to see her in the workout room with Max, as I figured she’d be at the hospital all day. It’s barely two P.M.

Max is on the treadmill running with a VO2 mask on to measure his volume of oxygen. Vale stands beside him, her back to me, a clipboard in hand and her other poised above the buttons on the treadmill to increase the speed and incline.

I had intended to work with weights today, in particular my legs, but I cut across the room to the treadmills and take the one beside Max. My movement catches Vale’s attention but Max keeps his eyes straight ahead, breathing hard at seven miles per hour and an incline of eight. When Vale’s eyes meet mine I ask, “They let Dave out of the hospital?”

She shakes her head and turns back to look at the numbers on the VO2 machine. “No, but he chased me out of there for a bit. I’m going to train a client at Xtreme Fit after I’m done with Max and then head back to the hospital after that.”

“How’s he doing?” I ask as I start the treadmill and inch the speed up to a fast walk for warm-up.

“Great,” she says while not looking back at me, her attention on Max and his performance. “Said he can probably come home tomorrow.”

She’s not giving me the cold shoulder exactly, but she’s not engaging either. In fact, she steps up closer to the machine, more to Max’s front so he can see her and says, “Let’s bump the speed up to nine for another sixty seconds and then we’re done.”

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