On those two words, his face shut down.
“No, you don’t. Not really.” She reached for him but he backed away from her. “It’s too much.”
He shook his head. “Nothing about you is too much. But I get it. I got too much baggage.”
So do I, she wanted to say but couldn’t force anything past the lump in her throat. He waited a half heartbeat before turning on heel and getting in the car. She followed at a much slower pace. It seemed she was always in need of apologizing to him but this time she couldn’t come up with the words. And maybe it was better this way—the cowards’ way but nothing tried was nothing lost and she really didn’t think she could stand to lose anymore. If she ended it now, she could walk away with the biggest pieces of her heart still intact. She was honest enough to admit that he’d already chipped away at the tender parts left bruised by Tony. The rest belonged to her and she didn’t know if she could give it away. With those depressing thoughts circling, she climbed behind the wheel and pointed the car north.
Out her window, the
“We’re not going to make it tonight.”
The lump in her throat was still there but she managed to speak around it. “Where will we stop?”
That was all he said and the silence pricked at her. Stung in a way she hadn’t expected.
“Do you need to call her?”
He looked at her for the first time since they’d changed drivers. “She doesn’t know I’m coming,” he said, referring to Jessica. “I prefer to keep it that way.”
And have the upper hand, she finished mentally. She could understand that. He was wading into a boxing match and he needed all the power behind the punch that he could get. No distractions. No Gracie.
“Stay here,” he instructed and went to get their rooms.
Snow pelted the windows and Toby lay in the back seat, whining occasionally. She leaned over the seat to comfort him, and herself. Kale was back in moments. He opened her door for her, and using his jacket, shielded her from the worst of the wind. Snow pushed its way into the tops of her boots and snuck under her gloves before they made it to the hotel doors. Toby stayed back in the car, waiting for his escort.
“Here,” Kale said and shoved a keycard at her. “I’ll be up in a minute with Toby and the bags.”
Gracie did her best to shake the snow from her hair and face. She ripped off her gloves and shoved them in her pocket, then caught the elevator to her room. The room was blessedly warm but she kicked up the heat anyway. She’d left the door propped and didn’t turn as Kale shouldered his way into the room, accompanied by the smell of wet dog and a few joyous barks. Instead she went to the window to stare out. There was nothing to see but the swirling of white and the fog of her own breath.
She jumped when his hand came to rest on her shoulder. The movement caused her to spin toward him and he caught her and backed her to the window.
“Where’s your room,” she asked, breathless because he was looking at her with an intention she couldn’t mistake.
“Here,” he said and kissed her.
Yes, her tired, lust filled brain whispered. Oh yes.
He lifted her arms around his neck and circled her back. One hand slipped beneath her shirt and came to rest beneath the waistband of her jeans. She pushed herself harder into the kiss, letting her mouth roam over his without conscious thought. He tore his lips away to trail wetly over her neck and down to the line of her sweater. Gracie leaned away long enough to pull her sweater and tank over her head. He murmured her name against her skin and angled them toward the bed. They tumbled down together and as Kale reared up to push her hair off her face, she knew what she wanted. She’d been lying to herself this whole time. It wouldn’t be easy to let him go. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do. She only wanted one thing. Him.
His lips met hers once more and she arched up to him, giving everything she had.
Hours later, she didn’t know exactly what time because one of them had kicked the clock to the floor, Kale lifted his head and cocked an eyebrow at her.
“I love snow,” she said and he laughed. The richness of the sound caused tears to spring to her eyes. God, how she would miss him. He rolled from her and she used the edge of the sheet to wipe away the wetness before he could see.
Kale sat on the edge of the bed. “I don’t want to wake up.”
Because she could, Gracie ran a hand down his strong back. “Wake up?”
“It’s a dream,” he said, sending her a beautiful smile. “This time with you is like a dream.”
Gracie crawled to her knees and wrapped her arms around him while her heart melted into a useless puddle. That’s it, I’m a goner.
“We have a few more hours,” she said into his ear. Outside the blizzard raged and Gracie Proctor fell in love.