Read At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3) Online

Authors: Brenna Aubrey

Tags: #Romance

At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3) (26 page)

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
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I extended my hand to grasp his but it was out of my reach. “It’s okay. Everything’s fine.”

He reached out and cupped my cheek with a shaky hand. “Fuck. I’m so sorry. What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Come here. Kiss me,” I said, trying to distract him. He looked like he was about to freak out.

Instead he rose from the bed and looked down at me. Eyes still wide with concern

We looked at each other for a long time. And I knew that our moment was over. We weren’t going to make love tonight. I sucked in a shivery breath and blinked back tears, pulling myself to a sitting position.

Adam knelt in front of me, putting his hands on my waist as if he were checking for broken bones. When he gazed up into my face, he saw the tears that were leaking out. I felt like a miserable failure.

“Please don’t cry,” he murmured, kissing me.

“What’s wrong with us?” I asked in a squeaky voice. “We’re broken.”

He sucked in a quick breath and shook his head. “No. No… it’s just. I’m worried about you. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

“You’re not going to, Adam. I swear that I’m fine.”

“When you are healthy… When we get home and you get the scan—”

I pulled away from him in frustration, scrubbing the back of my hand over my cheeks. I stood and went into the bathroom. He followed me.

“It’s how I look, isn’t it?”

His mouth thinned. “No. You are beautiful.”

I turned on the faucet and splashed water on my face. “You can be honest with me, you know. I can take it. You don’t have to spare me.”

I blotted my face with a soft white towel while he watched me in the mirror. When I turned to go, he stepped in my way, wrapping his hands around my forearms so I wouldn’t move away. “You. Are. Beautiful. A head of hair doesn’t change that one bit.”

I sighed and looked into his eyes. “I’m worried about us…”

He smoothed my cheek and smiled. “Don’t be. I love you more than ever, Emilia. I mean that.”

I swallowed a lump in my throat. There was something he wasn’t saying. I was certain of it. But I didn’t want to fight and I didn’t want to force something from him before he was ready to tell me. Maybe he was just worried about my health. God, I hoped it was something as simple as that. Because the moment that scan came back clean, I was jumping his bones.

I took in a deep breath and expelled it. “I’m so tired all of a sudden.”

He relaxed a little. Relieved, apparently. “Me too. I’m about to keel over into the nearest bed.”

I frowned. There were three bedrooms in this huge suite, all of them equally amazing and luxurious. “Please don’t say we need to sleep in separate beds.”

He pulled me into a gentle hug. “I’m not going to say that. I want you in my arms tonight.”

He wanted me in his arms.
Sleeping
. Nothing more.

Project Seduction was dead in the water. Mission failed.

Chapter Thirty
Adam

I folded her in my arms, held her tightly—like she sometimes asked me to do. I noticed those were the times when she was feeling the most lost, insecure. And I cursed myself for not having gone through with having sex with her tonight. It would have done good things for her self-esteem and body image.

I’d certainly wanted her, too. But that moment of hurting her had snapped me back into reality, back into all the problems and doubts and worries. There was so much that needed to be covered first. What about birth control? I hadn’t brought condoms with me—though they’d have been easy to get here. But I hadn’t planned that far ahead, had just assumed that things wouldn’t progress that quickly between us. I was still thinking of her as ill, weak, that semi-conscious sick woman in my arms declaring she deserved to die…

In the silence, I listened. She had long since started that slow, measured breathing of sleep and I kissed her, laying my cheek against hers. I closed my eyes, replaying everything in my mind again—thinking about my colossal fuck-up and how it had only served to hurt her more. As if in that one split second, all the good of the night had been erased.

But I couldn’t risk hurting her again. Not even the smallest hint of a risk. I fell asleep like that, with me wrapped around her. Like I was her coat of armor, protecting her. And I wished it could be as simple as that. But the truth was that sometimes I was her greatest threat instead of her protection.

***

The next few days in Paris were wonderful. We took a long walk down our street, Avenue George V, with its iconic cafes, exclusive boutiques and stunning cars parked along the curb. I even suffered through a few hours of her shopping on the Champs-Élysées, but since Emilia wasn’t a big shopper, I didn’t have to suffer long.

We spent most of one day in the Louvre, where she got to study the
Venus de Milo
up close and in person. I’d been to the museum several times before but what I found most enjoyable about this trip was that I got to watch her react to the priceless, famous works of art hanging on the walls before her. Emilia looked at the canvases, spending time getting perspective, sometimes taking steps back to look at them from another angle. And I spent that time watching her.

They say that a person should visit Paris three times in their life—once when they are young, once when they have the money to truly enjoy it, and once when they are in love. I’d already checked the first two off my list. This time, it was like a whole new city to me, because I was seeing it through her eyes, and through the eyes of love.

A sappy, sentimental thought so uncharacteristic of me. But one thing I’d learned in the previous few months of utter tribulation that we had gone through…happiness and love were fragile things. And we should be thankful for what we have when we have it.

And to say I was grateful for having her in my life was an understatement.

We spent one afternoon on a park bench in the Tuileries gardens, sharing a baguette and some cheese between us.

“So, we have two more days here,” she said munching the last of the baguette and murmuring regrets that it was gone.

“Yep. We’ve ticked off your bucket list items. Anything else you can think of?”

“Mmm. No. Not really. I’m just enjoying soaking up the ambiance of this place. I can see why they call it the City of Love. I still can’t get over how you ninja’d this trip on me. That was amazing.”

“Well, Jordan helped.”

She shot me a puzzled look. “Jordan? Really?”

“He’d been planning the trip for a while. When he heard about you getting so sick from the reaction to those meds, he insisted I take over his plane and hotel reservations.”

Her faint brows rose. “So we are on Jordan’s trip?”

“Well, kind of. I did a lot of tweaking to his plans but, yeah, more or less.”

She expelled a long breath and looked out over the park. “I always thought he hated me.”

“I think he more hated the idea that I wasn’t going to be his wingman anymore.”

“He sure tried to rope you back again…when we were broken up…”

I shrugged. “I think he feels worse about that than I do, if that’s possible.”

She turned to me, frowning. “Why do you feel bad about it? We were broken up. You went out on a date with someone else. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

I shifted, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. I wanted to change the subject and opened my mouth to do just that when I realized that this was something we
should
talk about. We couldn’t avoid the subject of that dark time in our relationship forever.

“It felt wrong,” I said.

She watched me and I focused on the water basins, where laughing children were launching toy sailboats. “We both made a lot of mistakes,” came her soft reply.

I took a deep breath, forcing myself to continue on when I just wanted to shut this down. “I was angry. I went out on that date because I was just so pissed off at you. So clearly, for the wrong reasons.”

“I did stupid things because I was angry, too. I shouldn’t have broken up with you. I just—” She sucked in a breath suddenly, and I could tell she was getting emotional but I didn’t stop it. This needed to come out and I had no idea how I knew that. Instinct, maybe? “I felt like you were being so demanding and unyielding and it made me want to do the same thing. That if I gave in…At the time it seemed all-important. Now, looking back, after everything, it was trivial bullshit that we could have worked out if we’d kept level heads and just talked.”

I reached for her hand, closed it inside my own. “We’re talking now.”

“Yeah, I guess we aren’t complete idiots if we can actually learn from our mistakes, right?”

I raised her hand to my mouth and kissed it. “What’s important is that we can learn from them and also move past them.”

She looked away and I saw her visibly swallow. Her hand tightened around mine. “So you don’t think it’s too late?”

“Would I be here if I did?”

She shook her head, closed her eyes.

“And you? Do you think it’s too late?”

“I hope it’s not. I don’t trust what I think anymore because my judgment hasn’t been good for me up to this point.”

“Hey,” I gently tugged her hand to get her to look at me. “We had a deal. No recriminations, self or otherwise. We move forward and we only look back to learn from our mistakes.”

“Okay.” She nodded, the ghost of a smile hovering on her lips. “And when we get home…?”

I inhaled a breath and held it. “When you’re better, and we know for sure you are healthy, then we’ll cross the other bridge when we come to it.”

She looked at me with that same enigmatic smile that might have put the
Mona Lisa
to shame. “I’m really,
really
looking forward to crossing that bridge.”

I grinned, a laugh slipping past my lips. “Me too.”

With that, we stood, discarded our garbage and walked back to the hotel, enjoying each other every step of the way.

Chapter Thirty-One
Mia

The night before we were to fly home, I found the courage to take a bubble bath in the enormous bathtub in our penthouse bathroom. It had a full window in front of it from which I could watch Paris below me. So I dumped a ton of bubble bath into the tub and let the bubbles rise up. I didn’t lock the door. I’d built up a wall of bubbles all around me so that if Adam came in, he wouldn’t have to look at my ugly scars and tattoo marks. He’d just see a naked woman sitting in his tub. And, if I got lucky, he’d volunteer to join me.

They had a special mechanism in the tub that kept the water warm so I could soak in there as long as I wanted. And after spending over half an hour with my eyes closed, my head resting against a waterproof cushion, I heard steps in the doorway.

“Have you shriveled up like an old lady yet?”

“You should try it before you knock it.”

“Hmm. So many things I could do with that.”

“When was the last time you took a bath?”

“I have no idea. I can’t even think of a time I’ve taken a bath since I was a little kid.”

I turned around and looked at him. “Are you shitting me? Seriously?”

“I’m seriously not shitting you.”

“Then strip and get in here.”

“Hmm. How do I know you aren’t just using this bath as an excuse to get me naked?”

I laughed. I was extremely transparent these days, apparently. It had been way too long since I had seen him naked, goddamn it. And I didn’t want to leave the City of Love without a glimpse of my favorite six pack and muscular thighs—to say nothing of his butt. “Well, that’s not beyond the realm of plausibility. But until you’ve enjoyed the true luxury of soaking in bubbles, you can never understand.”

“I’m just having a lot of fun standing here watching you enjoy it.”

“Hmm. That sounds kinda pervy. I like that.”

“I do have a pervy streak.”

“I already knew that. Well, get over here and make yourself useful, then. I need my back scrubbed.”

He took a step forward and I glanced down, noting that the bubbles had mostly flattened after I’d been in the tub so long and, thus, were no longer covering my breasts.

“Wait! Turn around, please.”

He froze. I could see his surprised profile in the mirror as I reached out, grabbed a small hand towel and draped it over the upper half of my body. He turned around, his features blank.

“Okay, I’m good,” I said, leaning forward. With a little hesitation, he approached again.

“There’s some soap over there, and a washcloth…”

“As you wish, my lady.”

I laughed, amused by the
Princess Bride
reference. I adjusted the towel against me and said in my best imitation of an English accent. “Farm boy, wet the cloth and wash my back. Every bit of it—please.”

He did as I asked with a quiet, “As you wish.”

He used the towel at first, then his hands were on my back, sliding over my soapy skin. I let out a long breath, tantalized by the feel of his hands on me, even if just to clean me. After massaging my shoulder blades, along my spine and down to the small of my back below the waterline, he rinsed the washcloth and rubbed it over me again.

“Farm boy, don’t forget my neck.”

“As you wish,” he repeated, but instead of washing it, he kissed it. I tilted my head, giving him access to more as tingling energy sluiced through me. My body was alive and coursing with lust from his touch in under five short minutes. When would it be time to cross that goddamn bridge again? Oh yeah, we hadn’t come to it yet.

“So… you want me to wash your hair, too?”

I opened my eyes. “Shut it.”

“No, you have little teeny weensy hairs here. I see a couple. I could wash them. I think I could spare one or two drops of shampoo.”

I blew out a breath between my lips and instead of retorting, I splashed him.

“Hey!” He jumped back but I scooped up more water and got him right in the middle of his chest. His shirt was now clinging to the muscles underneath. Oh, yummy. I should have done that a half hour ago.

“Brat.”

“Dickhead.” I splashed him again. “You’re wet now. Might as well get in here.” I punctuated again with another big splash.

He stepped back and slipped on the floor, only barely recovering his footing before he fell. He pulled a couple towels off the rack and laid them on the floor, then fixed me with a grim look before his mouth turned up in as mile. He reached up and pulled off his T-shirt.

BOOK: At Any Moment (Gaming The System Book 3)
2.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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