How can I not do the same for him regardless of our recent issues?
We park in the underground garage of his compound and then ride the elevator up to Salvatore’s loft. Walking through the front door brings on a wave of déjà vu. The last time I was here, Salvatore and I were still together. I’d been living with him and we’d been in a good place. Our relationship had never been stronger.
In the months since, the loft hasn’t changed much. It’s as impersonal and blank as ever, the exposed brick walls and open-spaced rooms, almost empty. He’s replaced the furniture that his father’s men destroyed and gotten rid of any lingering traces of me.
I can’t blame him.
Stitches scratches his head. “Er, so… what now?”
“You go finish whatever work you have. I’ll take care of him,” I say. “He shouldn’t be alone with a fresh concussion.”
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here,” Salvatore snaps, passing us both. He tosses his wallet and keys on the kitchen island counter and starts for his room.
“Go,” I mouth to Stitches.
He raises a doubtful eyebrow before he concedes and walks out with the promise he’ll return in an hour to make sure we haven’t bitten each other’s heads off. The door shuts with a resounding thud that sounds louder in Salvatore’s large, empty loft. I collect a new breath into my lungs, resigning myself to playing nice, and tear off my ball cap and glasses.
“I’m coming inside,” I say from the closed end of Salvatore’s bedroom door.
To my surprise, the door opens when I twist the knob. I don’t make it more than a couple footsteps inside before faltering to a stop.
Salvatore’s changing, standing before me shirtless. He’s built of carved muscle and a solid frame, where tattoos decorate his torso and a deep V-line cuts into his pelvis, disappearing into his boxer briefs. It’s the body of a man who trains to be quick and agile but endlessly powerful. The body of a fighter.
The cherry on top being the distracting sight of the generous bulge his boxer briefs show off.
My cheeks warm and I thank God for my melanin preventing me from visibly blushing. It shouldn’t be so easy to throw me off of my game, but an unexpectedly half naked Salvatore is more than enough. I force my gaze to not give into my desire to rake my eyes over him any more than necessary.
Any hot-and-bothered reaction is stamped out of me in the next second. Salvatore winces despite himself when he moves to sit down on his bed.
I rush over without thinking. My hand gently comes to his muscled back as I guide him.
He grits his teeth. “I don’t need you to help.”
“You just winced in pain.”
“I have two broken ribs. It comes with the territory.”
“Exactly why you need someone to make sure you’re okay.”
He settles down in bed, sitting in an upright position. “I have men on shift downstairs. They can keep an eye out.”
“Not enough. You’re not supposed to be alone when you have a concussion. You’re also not supposed to fall asleep for the first few hours.”
“Is that your way of saying you’re sticking around?”
I place my hands on my hips and give a nod. “It’s not how I imagined spending my Saturday afternoon either. But I’ll stay for a while. Nobody has to know, Jon. Your ego can remain intact.”
“This isn’t about my ego. This is about me turning down help from someone who claims she wants me out of her life.”
“I’ve claimed that how many times, and here we are.Bothof us.”
His blue-green eyes connect with mine and a full second passes where we linger in uncertainty. So many things we could say to each other right now and yet we’ve found ourselves in a state of tense speechlessness.
I blink and look away. “How about I make you tea? Green tea helps with cognition.”
Before he has a chance to turn me down, I pivot and march out of the room. In the kitchen I stall, taking my time brewing the fresh mug of green tea. Salvatore doesn’t have any in his pantry, so I phone the main office in the compound. Luckily, one of his men finds some in the general kitchen the soldiers use downstairs.