My lips parted as his words hummed through me. “Yeah, I just woke up and didn’t want to wake you. You couldn’t have been sleeping for that long.”
His broad shoulders rose in a lazy roll. “I don’t really sleep that much. Just a couple of hours here and there, especially when I’m working.”
I thought about the night on the couch where it had seemed like a nightmare had shaken him awake. “You have to be so tired, though.”
Casting the heavy-hooded eyes to me, he shrugged again. “It’s the same with you, babe. You work crazy-ass hours just like me. You manage. I manage.”
“True,” I murmured, looking out over the lawn. “I like this—the balcony, I mean.” Flushing, I mentally kicked myself. “It’s very private and quiet.”
“I like it, too. Try to come out here at least once a day, drink my coffee.” Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw him raise his arms above his head and stretch. I had to look. I was only human, and goodness gracious, I was so glad I did. His back bowed as bones cracked. The man was pure sin. “It’s a good place to think,” he finished, dropping his arms.
My gaze coasted over the expanse of his chest and taut stomach, down to the fine trail of darker hair that disappeared under the band of his bottoms. “I can . . . um, understand that.”
There was a pause. “I talked to Colton this morning. He’s going to come by soon. I’ll be here while he talks to you.”
A shiver crawled along the nape of my neck, and I pulled the sweater closer. I nodded. “Does he know what happened?”
I watched a bird flutter past the balcony. “Does he think it’s related to the other stuff?”
“I don’t know. I think he wants to talk to you first before he makes that jump.” He sighed softly. “Seriously, Roxy, you hanging in there?”
That wasn’t an easy question to answer. So much was going on and hanging between us, and everything we needed to talk about I wasn’t ready for. “Charlie’s on a feeding tube,” I said finally, raising my gaze to the blue, cloudless sky. The color was much like Reece’s eyes. “He hated being on that before, so they have had to restrain him, and it’s so hard to see him like that.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Genuine sympathy radiated from his voice.
I nodded. “The last time he wouldn’t eat, he ended up having a seizure.”
“I remember that,” he said quietly.
Surprised, I looked at him. “You do?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I remember you talking about it, and I know how close you came to losing him.”
Pain rose as I leaned back in the chair. “I’m so afraid.”
“Yeah,” I whispered, and I bit down on my lip as he reached between us, curving his hand around my arm. It felt like my heart doubled in size. “I’m afraid I’m going to lose him. I really am.”
He squeezed my arm gently. “I wish there was something I could say.”
“I know.” I swallowed the knot in my throat.
His gaze held mine for a moment and then he moved his hand. I wanted to climb into his lap and wrap myself around him like an octopus, but knew that probably wouldn’t be the greatest idea. “I want to ask you something again. I’m hoping you’ll answer differently than before.”
Oh God, I wasn’t sure I was ready for any of this. “Okay?”
“Why didn’t you tell me what was happening at your place, Roxy?”
At first, I didn’t know how to answer that question. “I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy for believing in ghosts or making it up, looking for attention. I mean, how many women come to the office with fears they’re being stalked and it gets written off? That’s the kind of fucked-up misogynistic crap that happens.”
Reece shook his head. “Not when I take the call.”
“You’re different,” I pointed out, unfolding my legs. The cement was cold under my bare feet.
“Then why didn’t you say anything?”
I chewed on my lower lip as I gripped the arms of the chair. “I really didn’t know what was happening, and when I found my . . . my stuff in the dishwasher, I just didn’t think it was right to bring it up then when . . .” Unable to sit, I stood and walked to the railing. “I mean, you know what was happening.”
His gaze held mine for a moment and then he looked away. Rubbing the heel of his palm over his heart, he frowned. “When I realized this morning I was there when you found that and had no idea, I wanted to punch myself in the nuts.”
My brows flew up.
The muscle along his jaw popped. “I’m serious. What has been happening to you has to be some scary shit. Finding your panties in a dishwasher? Not knowing how that happened, wondering if your place should be on Ghost Adventures or if you need to get your head checked had to be driving you crazy. And you went through that by yourself—by yourself when I was there.” He scooted to the edge of the chair and leaned forward. “I fucking loathe the idea of you going through that.”
I drew in a deep breath but it got stuck. “You were angry . . . and you had every right to be angry.”
“I was.” He looked up at me through thick lashes. “But I should’ve been there for you. You should’ve been able to stop me and show me what happened. That’s not your fault that you didn’t. I put you in that position and I’m sorry for that.”
My mouth opened, but I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s time to have that conversation,” he said, his voice brooking no argument. “And we really need to be up front with one another. Both of us. No more bullshit.”
I leaned against the railing, feeling a little weak, but I didn’t run or try to hide from this. I wasn’t a coward. At least, I tried not to be one. “You’re right,” I said, but I wished he’d put a damn shirt on, because that body was super distracting.
“You know that I was pissed. You know why I’m pissed.”
“You hate lying above anything else. I know it’s because of your dad,” I said, and I rushed on before I stopped. “Knowing that made it hard to come clean about that night. Not that I’m excusing it, but just so you know where I’m coming from.”
“Lying isn’t what I hate above all else, Roxy. I hate fucking predators who stalk women and people I care about. That’s pretty high up there. So is murder and rape,” he continued, and I think I got his point. “But yeah, I was pissed. I’m still kind of pissed.”