Watching Dale now, Lukas saw something interesting. He’d just reminded her she was supposed to fear him, yet he could still see her need to ease him in the way she was holding herself. She was fisting her hands as though she wanted to touch, and she was emanating such sympathy he could almost see it. Her focus darted around his face, lingering on his eyes, and then, mmm, his mouth. Snatches of her emotions continued to flit across her face. Pain, compassion, confusion…desire. The fear was there, too, but barely.
“Your mother must be going crazy,” she muttered, glancing at the door she wouldn’t be using anytime soon.
I’m sorry, Mama, he silently apologized, because he was about to use her absence from his life to his advantage. “If she were here, she would be inconsolable.” The trace of sadness he’d allowed her to hear in his tone did wonders.
“Fuuuck,” his soft-hearted female whispered, looking away. After a moment, she balled her fists up and pressed them into the mattress. “She wouldn’t happen to be out of town, would she?”
“No.” He didn’t have to work at sounding anything but heartbroken when he admitted, “She was taken from us seven years ago by an illness we couldn’t buy a cure for.”
“Double fuck.” Dale’s head fell forward and hung off her neck like a heavy weight. Her nape was mouthwatering. “Do you miss her? Or was she the type you wouldn’t miss?”
Her questions were muffled and quiet, but he heard and answered honestly. “I miss her physical presence in my life every day. But she’s still with me. Or so I like to think.”
She nodded and threw her head back. His chest constricted in a sharp snap when he saw tears shimmering in her eyes. “Super. I’m stuck lusting after a mobster with a fucking conscience. Perfect. Anything else you wanna throw at me? Do you have dogs? Because a dog lover would have me out of this dress lickety-split.” She spun away and slid over to sit on the far corner of the bed. The mattress shook along with her bobbing leg, and little snaps sounded as she cracked each of her knuckles by pressing down on them with her thumbs.
Lukas felt the strangest urge to grin as he fell deeper under her spell. But he also felt a sickness in his gut because he was upsetting her. Those tears. Since when did a woman’s tears affect him? He’d seen too many of them during his time as a serial monogamist. Typically, they were inconvenient and annoying, and he found it too easy to walk away from them.
Dale’s sniffle had him looking up from her fragile shoulder blades to meet her eyes in the reflection of the mirror above the dresser. He held them as he slipped his holster off and hung his gun over the shoulder of his suit jacket. If her surreptitious glances were any indication, the sight of it on his person was upsetting her.
“I think it would be best if you just took me home.”
He slowly shook his head.
“If I have sex with you first, will you take me home after?”
He couldn’t stop his grin at that hopeful tone. “Once we have sex, you’ll be home.”
Her mouth compressed as fire snapped and crackled in her eyes. She wanted it as badly as he did, but there was something else going on in her head. He could see the battle in the back of her eyes.
“How can you say that? This isn’t the dark ages. You don’t even know me, Lukas.”
He shrugged as he undid the buttons at his wrists and rolled up his sleeves. “I know enough to have made my final decision. Once I do that, there’s no going back.”
She came around to face him. “Seriously?” She laughed. “So, I have no choice here? You like me, and I just have to live with that?”
His gaze skimmed her body. He couldn’t look into her eyes anymore without giving away how far beyond “like” this was. He owned her. Or, rather, she owned him. “This is about something bigger than liking you, Magdalena. I need you. I want you. So, yes, that means your choices are…limited.” Nonexistent.
“How can you need me?”
He tipped his head to the side. “Not going to ask how I can want you?”
“No. That I understand.”
“Because you want me.”
Win. “And you wouldn’t refuse me if I initiated sex right now.” He bounced his cufflinks in his palm and waited to have his ego stroked.
Those brilliant emeralds took a leisurely trip down his form to top off his hard-on. “No. I wouldn’t. But all this talk about fate and powers that be isn’t happening. If you’re looking for some sort of long-lasting, meaningful relationship, you picked the wrong girl.”
Her honesty was doing nothing more than adding a lubricant that greased his descent so that he fell deeper and faster than ever. “Why is that?”
“Because I don’t do people. They’re just not worth the trouble.”
The lonely words pierced his heart. “I will be,” he promised her, vowing to make it so.
“Can’t help it.”
Her expression had darkened, and he could see she was starting to close up, so he pointed his thumb at the door in the corner. “Why don’t you freshen up and I’ll take you out back to see the dogs.”
Her mouth opened to deliver another quick retort, but nothing came out. She stared up at him for a few beats before ducking her head. He had to take a step forward so he wouldn’t miss the reluctant smile that curved her lips. When she tipped her chin up just enough to look at him, her dimple made an appearance. “You really want me out of this dress, huh?” she said quietly. There was a new softness surrounding her that almost sent him to his knees. A natural seductress. Who he would likely have to kill for again because her allure was undeniable, and men were going to respond to it in the coming years. No matter. He would do whatever had to be done to protect his greatest asset.