Filthy English (English #2)(8)

by Ilsa Madden-Mills

He was too gorgeous.

Too dangerous.

Too much of everything.

He was exactly what I needed to avoid.

A muscle ticked in his jaw. His fists clenched. “Eva-Maria did that to you? Why didn’t you tell me?”

I’d been too destroyed to look at him, much less talk to him.

“It wouldn’t have mattered,” I said quietly, remembering.

Stormy eyes met mine. “I never told a bloody soul about us. And as I recall, you walked out on me. Maybe you should have stuck around for an explanation instead of storming out of my room.”

Silence settled between us, the tension thick.

My hands shook, and I put them behind my back.

“Holy shit.” Spider’s eyes bounced from Dax’s face to mine, obviously taking in the body language between us. “Don’t stop now,” he said. “I’m dying for all the juicy bits.”

My mouth tightened. I sighed and looked at Spider. “The usual story: a freshman girl falls for the experienced fraternity boy who only wants a one-night stand.”

“That so?” Spider asked Dax, swinging his head back to him.

“That’s your version, Remi,” he said, his face inscrutable, impossible to read.

My eyes swept over the sharp contours of his face, taking in the expressive eyes I’d lost myself in three years ago; the sensual lips that had owned me. Indeed, he was beautiful. He was soul-wrenchingly hot, the kind of guy you’d beg to love you—only I didn’t beg anyone. I swallowed, forcing myself to look away from him. I focused on Spider. “The truth is, I was one in a long line of girls he dated that year. I lost count after number forty-two.”

Spider threw his head back and laughed, his spiky blue hair glinting under the lights. “Seriously? This guy? He hasn’t had a girl all summer.”

“Bloody hell, you’re exaggerating,” Dax muttered at me, a dark expression on his face. “And how would you know how many girls I was with? You spying on me?”

“Ha. As if.”

“Whatever.” His arms brushed against my chest as he went to pick up his drink on the bar.

Crap! I was still in his lap.

I scrambled off his legs, but winced as my right foot hit the floor. My ankle. Of course, it started throbbing. I must have hurt it more than I’d realized. Welcome to my life.

Sucking in a sharp breath to hold in the pain, I limped over to my shoe, which thankfully some kind person had placed near the edge of the dance floor. Maneuvering carefully, I bent down and managed to snag it. I took the other one off and held both shoes with one hand.

“What’s wrong with your ankle?” Dax had risen up from his seat and followed me. “Are you hurt? Why didn’t you say something?”

I cut my eyes at him. “Why? Would you have been nicer?”

His lashes dropped. Opened. “I don’t wish you any pain, Remi.”

Why did his voice have to sound so concerned?

Why did he have to be hotter than summer at high noon?

Why, why, why had I kissed him?

I did not want to get sucked into his vortex again.

“I’m fine.” I hobbled back to the bar and grabbed my clutch. Mike was nowhere to be seen, so I pulled out a handful of twenty-pound notes and left them on the bar, hoping that covered the tequila and a reasonable tip, even though the guidebook had said the bartenders in London didn’t rely on tips.

I grabbed the bottle of alcohol and snuggled it close.

Dax was next to me the entire time. Watching.

“Stop hovering,” I told him.

He moved to stand in front of me, resolve written on his face. And perhaps regret. “Remi, wait. Don’t leave like this. You’re obviously hurt from falling and upset at seeing me, and I—dammit—the truth is I never would have kissed you the first time if I’d known it was you. For real.”

“Because I’m that awful?” Pain swirled in my chest. He’d never wanted me the way I’d wanted him.

“No. Because I wouldn’t want to trick you.” He sighed and held his hands out. “Look, everything else aside, I’m a gentleman, whether you believe it or not. My mum taught me to make sure a lady gets home and that she’s safe. At least let me call you a cab or grab Hartford. Is he here somewhere?” He pulled out his cell.

I propped myself against the bar to take the pressure off my foot. “You really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” His brow wrinkled.

I bit my lip and stared at the floor, feeling that familiar embarrassment I’d experienced since I’d had to explain to people that Hartford had changed his mind about getting married.

“What am I missing?” His voice had lowered. Grown intense. Narrowed eyes flicked down to my bare finger again. “Why aren’t you wearing your engagement ring? Did he hurt you?” He took a step in closer, his hand tentatively reaching for mine but then dropping to rest by his side when I pulled away.

“No, it’s not like that.” I straightened my spine, tired of being sad about Hartford. “He—he—dumped me two weeks before the wedding. He said he needed some time to clear his head—a break.” I laughed, but it wasn’t real. “And we all know what a break means, right?”

His eyes widened, and maybe I saw sympathy there, but I ignored it. I didn’t want his pity.

“Since the honeymoon was nonrefundable, I came here with Lulu, mostly to get away from the stares and my mom.” I paused, letting it all come out. “Now I don’t even have a place to live. And then there’s my autistic brother, Malcolm—I help take care of him part-time, and I don’t want to even think about my classes this fall or applying to graduate school. I had a great plan, you know—the plan. Marry a responsible, nice guy, get my doctorate, discover a new bird species, take care of Malcolm, have four kids, but guess what? My plan is shit. My goals are shit. Even my back-up plan sucks. It’s flawed because the perfect guy decided I’m not the perfect choice for him.” My voice cracked, but I yanked it back.

“Where’s Lulu?” His voice was gentle, surprising me.

“She’s having a great time—like I should be. Instead of my honeymoon, I’m in some skanky, mask-wearing club where even the walls probably have a venereal disease. I’m supposed to be taking romantic walks in Hyde Park—or at least having incredible sex.”