If I still had a beer in my hand, it would now be sloshing down over his dark head. The comical image is not nearly enough to satisfy me. Not at all. I get right up in his face, swallowing my nerves when his eyes land on my mouth and darken imperceptibly. “If you seeing my underwear was the only thing preventing the destruction of planet Earth and the end of mankind as we know it, I would still have to think about it.”
Shane clucks his tongue. “That’s selfish, now, isn’t it?” He leans in close to speak right beside my ear. My hair shifts with each movement of his lips. “I’m not nearly as selfish. Not when it counts. Bear that in mind next time you’re deciding which panties to wear under those damnably tight jeans.”
Something heavy moves in my belly, twisting and expanding. I suck in a quick breath. Doing my best to ignore the uncomfortable sensation, I jerk back. “Did you come here just to comment on my choice in undergarments?”
“No,” Shane bites out. The sensuality in his eyes is gone, replaced by irritation once again. His moods shift so fast, even my own volatile temperament is having a hard time keeping up. He’s knocking me off balance and I resent him for it. Possibly because I’m usually the one doing the knocking. “I’m here because this hellhole is no place for my sister. Don’t let this go to your head, but I pegged you as smarter than to bring her somewhere like this. Somewhere that could send her out a different person than when she walked through the door.”
His barb hits the mark, because I know he’s right. Mostly. But it’ll be a cold day in hell before I give him an ounce of satisfaction. “Last time I checked she was old enough to make her own decisions.”
He shakes his head, a humorless smile on his face. “God, I saw this coming. You just couldn’t leave her alone, could you? You made it all of one week before blowing off my simple request.”
“Look, she begged to come with me. It’s no wonder, the way her entire life is devoted to the inn. One night isn’t going to bring on a Full Lohan.” I throw a glance over my shoulder to see a laughing Faith being spun by Brian, her feet completely off the floor. When I turn back around, Shane has already started moving toward the dance floor, obviously intending to retrieve his sister, mortifying her in the process. Can’t let it happen. Quickly, I put a hand on his chest to stop him, ignoring the electricity that shoots up my limb. “Don’t do this to her, please. Can you just give us five minutes? Wait for us outside.”
His snapping blue gaze drops to my hand, still pressed against his chest. “You told me never to touch you again. Does this mean we’re breaking that rule?”
I yank my hand back like it has been burned. “No, it doesn’t.”
His smirk is infuriating. “You’ve got five minutes.” Shane turns to push his way back through the crowd, then stops. When I notice he’s staring behind me, a quick look reveals Patrick watching us closely from the bar. The sudden tension in Shane’s shoulders tells me he sees a challenge and doesn’t appreciate it. Like me, though, turning down a challenge doesn’t appear to be in his nature. He returns his attention to me and his energy has changed from irritated back to sensual. Having it directed at me is more potent than any amount of alcohol. “One more thing, Willa.” His rough hand slides down my arm, a possessive gesture that sends a shiver coasting up my back. “If I can’t touch you, then neither can that f**ker.”
“He’s just a friend.” I say it fast and immediately want to melt into a puddle of self-disgust. I don’t owe him a damn explanation. He has a lot of nerve acting as though ordering me around is acceptable. It’s too late to take it back, however, so I can only stand there and fume silently.
“I thought you weren’t here to make friends.”
“Allow me to clarify. I don’t want to be friends with you.”
“Feeling’s mutual.” For a moment, his gaze lingers on my mouth. “Five minutes.”
As Shane exits the pub, all I can do is stare at his retreating back, flexing beneath his gray Henley. I don’t know what the hell just happened, but I know I don’t like it. Since that day in the airport, there has been an undercurrent running between us. Every time we’re in the same room, it only feels stronger. By giving him an explanation moments ago, I’ve taken a big, ill-advised step toward accepting that there is an attraction between us and God forbid, that we could actually act upon it. Even more troubling, despite my annoyance over Shane behaving as though he has ownership of me, the thought of giving into those urges leaves me feeling…impatient. With him? My reaction? I don’t know.
Patrick’s voice intrudes on my troubling inner thoughts. “Everything all right, love?”
I paste on a smile and nod.
“Who was that?”
The bane of my existence. “Our ride. I’m afraid we have to call it a night.” We start walking toward the dance floor where Brian is now doing soft-shoe as Faith points and giggles. “Help me wrangle the dancing queen?”
One day, a little over a year ago, Ginger locked her keys in her car. It was just about sunset on an unusually gorgeous day in Chicago and instead of calling Derek to come pick her up, she decided to walk home. Unfortunately, with f**ked-up luck running in the family, her cell-phone battery died and she got lost. When she finally gave up on finding her way and called Derek from a payphone, he’d been ready to call in the National Guard. Seriously, I was there. He actually picked up the phone to make that call.
We’d immediately rushed out of the apartment to go pick Ginger up in a less-than-savory section of town, finding her in a Laundromat located beside an abandoned lot. The strained silence that reined in the car during the ride home was thick and impenetrable.
Exactly like the silence I’m experiencing now in the passenger’s seat of Shane’s car as Faith fumes in the backseat.
She didn’t make a scene in front of Brian and Patrick, but as soon as she’d seen Shane’s car idling at the curb, she became the poster child for angst. A glance in the rearview mirror tells me the back of Shane’s head is still the recipient of her ferocious glare. If his rigid posture is any indication, he feels that look like an ice pick lodged in his skull.
I grab onto the dashboard as Shane snakes between two delivery trucks and takes a quick right turn. He only has one hand draped casually over the steering wheel and yet, he somehow handles this car with practiced ease. It’s there in his eyes, the love of driving. I’ve seen him angry, and I’ve seen him turned on. This is a combination of those two emotions. Intensity snaps in the air around him, the rev of the engine corresponding to his body movements, as if he’s one with the car. It’s clear this is what he’s passionate about. What he was meant to do with his life. I glance away, back out the window.
Finally, we pull up in front of the Claymore Inn. Shane puts the car in park and for a second, no one moves. I unfasten my seat belt, intending to be the first one out, to give them time to hash out their private family issues. I don’t want to be involved, even if a small part of me wants to stick around and defend Faith, but she beats me to it.
“I’m sick to death of being treated like a child.” She snatches up her purse and throws open the back door. “You just had to come collect me like some sort of…unruly teenager.”