Feeling the warmth of tears in her eyes, Lilah rose from
the table. She never became so emotional over nothing. What in God’s
name was wrong with her?
Lucas’s strong hand came against her shoulder. She didn’t
pull away. In fact, she had the strangest urge to just lean into
him. Like somehow, he would take away all of her doubts.
"Lena’s happy in her life with her children,
and with Alec Westwood," he said. "I’d never begrudge
her that. All I ever wanted was her happiness."
The way he said the words, she almost believed them. He
seemed to care, or at least, maybe was trying to be a better person.
"You’re trembling," he said, reaching in
before she could stop him. His finger brushed her quivering lip.
Her instinct was to smack his hand. But the tingling sensation
racing from mouth to spine kept her in place. Lucas’s touch
was so soft. It made her crazy. She was consumed by the strongest
desire for his lips to be where his finger was now.
He took her wine glass and held it out to her. "Here,"
he said. "This’ll calm your nerves."
Senses returning with a bang, Lilah held up two hands in
protest. "Are you trying to get me drunk?" she snapped,
not entirely sure whether it was him she was angrier at or herself.
"Am I that obvious?" He laughed as if the whole
thing was funny, setting the glass back down.
She enjoyed being in the company of a monster—there
was nothing lighthearted about it!
"I’m guessing you’ve probably been down
this road too many times, hmm?" Lucas replaced his hand on
"What road would that be, exactly?"
His gray eyes looked deeply into hers. "I’m
sure I’m not the first man who’s tried to get you into
a relaxed state, Lilah."
"Actually—" She hesitated, not wanting
to get so personal yet feeling she could probably tell him anything
and he’d somehow understand. "It’s been a long time, longer than
you’d imagine. After I finished college, I had every intention
of becoming a journalist. Meaning I’d be out most of the time
chasing a story despite whatever danger came with it. It’s
all I’ve ever wanted, for as long as I can remember."
He nodded, coming closer. "You must have been very persistent.
It takes a good deal of perseverance and sacrifice to become a success
at such a young age."
Lilah sure knew that. While her friends had been enjoying
their last semester of college, she’d been frantically gathering
writing samples, sending them out to every newspaper who would give
her the time of day. But had her father noticed? Even when she became
one of the youngest reporters at the New York Times, he’d barely raised a brow.
Deep down, she knew this was why she’d accepted Raphael’s
offer, even in spite of the danger that came with it. A story about
Raphael Ramone’s family laundry wasn’t going to impress
Blake Benson. But exposing Lucas’s diamond smuggling operation
would be a print-worthy unearthing that would win her father’s
admiration as well as her first Pulitzer.
She lowered her gaze. "I haven’t given up anything
Lucas lifted her chin. "But if it came to that, do
you think you’d be willing to make that sacrifice? Give up
something you want—maybe something you want more than anything—to
attain some ultimate level of self-victory?"
A chill came over her at his words. Lilah came back a step,
unsure of what had just happened but wanting desperately to pretend
Lucas cleared his throat. "Let’s get some air,
Something she needed desperately. She followed him to the
balcony, welcoming the cool night breeze as it caressed her hot
"It’s beautiful here," she said, hoping
very much to steer the conversation in a new direction.
"It is." He nodded and came beside her, bracing
the rail with one hand. He slipped an arm around her back.
His body was warm—like a furnace—and he felt
strong, as if he spent his days loading lumber instead of dabbling
away at a computer.
Lilah shivered, goose bumps forming along her bare arms.
It felt so nice being close to Lucas. Too nice. Maybe she’d
just stay there with him a few minutes longer. They weren’t
exactly hurting anyone by being in each other’s company.
He leaned into her, speaking in a tone she could only describe
as husky. "Those men you never met," he said, "that
was their loss."
She blinked, keeping her eyes on the night sky. "Please.
A man’s the last thing I need in my life."
"Are you sure about that?" Lucas asked, his warm
breath coming against her ear. "Or is it possible you’ve
been hiding behind your work for so long, you don’t even know
how things could be?" His palm brushed her bare shoulder as
he turned her to face him. "No one knows what it’s like
to be hidden from the world more than I do, Lilah. You can trust
me on this. I think we’re more alike than you realize. And
it’s possible we’re both missing out on something incredible."
She didn’t push his hand away as it cupped her cheek.
Or his arm as it encompassed her waist. No, she let him do what
he wanted. She wanted him to touch her...