They repeated that routine three more times before Emma had realized that Lucas was sleeping on the lounge by the fire not five feet from her. Good thing she hadn’t noticed earlier, otherwise she would never have gone back to sleep.
From her spot on the bed, she watched him settle back in on the lounge. “Have you been sleeping there all night?” she finally asked.
“Pretty much,” he said wearily.
“Why? I mean, you said you were going to sleep on the couch.”
Lucas growled lowly and sat up and faced Emma. “This was just easier, Emma. I’m not used to having to get up every two hours, so I thought I’d make it easier on myself and sleep here.” His tone was sharp and he didn’t care. There was no way he was going to admit to Emma or to anyone that the real reason was because his knee wasn’t strong enough to get him from one room to the next.
“Oh,” she said and quietly lay back down, turning her back on him.
That one act caused a mountain of guilt. Lucas sighed and scrubbed a hand across his face before gently calling out to Emma. When she rolled over and looked at him, her eyes sad and wary, he felt even worse. “I didn’t mean to snap at you,” he began. “I guess you were right last night about my social graces or whatever. I’m not a morning person and just a little out of sorts.” He offered her a small smile and was rewarded when she returned it with one of her own.
“I’m sorry I’ve disrupted your life so much, Lucas. Believe me, this is a far cry from where I thought I’d be this weekend.”
“It’s not your fault.” He knew who was responsible, but stopped himself from telling her. “It’s still dark out, why don’t you go back to sleep.”
“What about you?”
“I plan on going back to sleep. Like I said, it’s still dark out.”
Emma sighed but didn’t move.
“What’s the matter? Is your head bothering you? Do you need something for it?”
“No, it’s just that—”
“Are you thirsty?”
“No, I’m just—”
“Is your ankle bothering you?”
“No, no, that feels fine, I think—”
“Are you cold? Because I can put another log on the fire.”
“Lucas!” she cried out with exasperation.
“Stop asking so many damn questions for crying out loud and let me answer one!” Emma sat up and took a deep breath before facing him. “I’m a little weirded out by the situation.”
“Weirded out? What the hell does that even mean?”
“It means that I can’t go back to sleep now, knowing that you’re over there watching me sleep.”
Lucas rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t watching you sleep, Emma,” he lied. “I just didn’t want to keep going back and forth throughout the night. This was easier.”
She looked at him with disbelief. “It’s fine, it’s not like I thought you were being creepy or anything…”
“Creepy?” he chuckled.
“How would taking care of you and making sure that you didn’t have a serious head injury be creepy?” This he had to hear.
Emma couldn’t help but chuckle with him at the ridiculous conversation. “Well, I mean it’s not like you were watching me through the window or something, but it’s just a little…awkward, shall we say…to know that a stranger is sleeping in the room with you when you weren’t aware of it.”
Lucas looked at her in disbelief. “Stranger? I’m hardly a stranger, Emma. We’ve known each other for years.”
“You know what I mean!” she said and flopped back down on the pillows and then winced at the pain it caused in her head. When Lucas immediately jumped up to see if she was all right, she held out a hand to stop him. “I’m fine, Lucas, relax.”
“You don’t look fine, Em; you look like you’re in pain.”
She wanted to correct him, but got tangled up in his calling her Em. They’d always been rather formal with one another, and the fact that he used her nickname stopped her in her tracks. She could only stare at him.
“Now you’re scaring me,” he said and came to sit next to her on the bed. “Talk to me; tell me the months of the year.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” she mumbled, sitting back up, and found that they were nearly nose to nose. “I’m not in pain, not really. I just fell back too hard and it hurt for a moment.”
“You mean on the fluffy pillows? That hurt your head?”
Emma burst out laughing, she couldn’t help it. “You know something, Lucas? You can be quite funny sometimes.” She leaned forward in her fit of laughter and touched his arm. Suddenly she looked up and met Lucas’s intense green eyes, and her breath caught.
There was something there that stopped her in her tracks: heat and raw, naked desire. Had she ever seen that before from Lucas? No, and she’d never seen it so starkly in any other man either. Emma couldn’t look away; she matched his heated gaze with her own and licked her lips in silent invitation. Leaning in ever so slightly, Emma secretly hoped that Lucas would close the distance between them and finally she would know what it felt like to be kissed by him.
Lucas watched the movement of Emma’s tongue across the lips that he’d dreamed about all night, and knew that all he had to do was move that last little bit and he’d be able to taste her for himself. Her eyes were locked on him and he felt his entire body tighten in anticipation. It would be so easy to take what he wanted.
But he couldn’t.
It was one thing to have a one-night stand with someone who meant nothing to him merely to satisfy an urge. Emma meant too much to him to treat her with the same disregard. The problem was that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. No, Lucas was at a point in his life where he needed to work through his own demons, and sleeping with Emma, while satisfying on many levels he was sure, would not be good for either of them in the end.
So he pulled back.
Lucas saw the question in Emma’s widening eyes, and rather than address what had almost happened, he chose to go another route. “You go back to sleep, Emma,” he said as he stood. “I’m awake now. I’ll check on the weather and see what we can do about your car.” He never looked at her; he simply turned and walked out of the room, gently closing the door behind him.
How was she supposed to just go back to sleep now?
Carefully lying back down with more calmness than she actually felt, Emma had to wonder at what just happened. One minute Lucas had been looking at her as if he could eat her alive and the next he was walking out the door as if nothing had happened.
Well, to be fair, nothing actually had happened, but it could have. Emma wasn’t a world-class dater but she certainly knew when a man was attracted to a woman, and there was no doubt in her mind that Lucas was attracted to her. What had she done to turn him off?
The image of herself the night before came to mind and she groaned with disgust. Of course. She probably looked like a disaster: no makeup, morning breath, and her hair its usual mass of untamed curls.
It was amazing there weren’t skid marks from his departure.
It was good to know that the makeup industry wasn’t lying to her. Clearly she did need all of that crap. Rolling onto her side, Emma looked at the clock. It wasn’t even six. How often had she wished for a day just to lie in bed? Though part of her wanted to get out of the bed and yell at Lucas that, while she may not be the most beautiful woman in the world first thing in the morning, he wasn’t looking so hot either.
Which would just be a big fat lie, and she prided herself on not being a liar.
The man looked good enough to make her forget her own name and every other ridiculous question he’d asked her throughout the night. Unfortunately, she was in a no-win situation. With nothing left to do, Emma decided to do the only thing she could.
Pull the blankets up over her head and pray for the day to just end.
Of course the day didn’t end, and Emma only managed another three hours of sleep before she forced herself out of the bed. She carefully tested her ankle and was relieved that it actually felt better. There was still no doubt in her mind that she was going to have to baby it a little, but at least she knew she would be able to get around easier today.
Walking over to the full wall of windows, she opened the blinds and saw nothing but white in front of her. Everything was coated heavily in snow. She sighed. There was no way she was leaving Lucas’s house today, that was for sure. Thoughts of her car came to mind and she willed them away. There was no use making herself crazy over it; the car was a wreck and she’d have to get a tow truck here to get her out and then rent a car.
With her inner pep talk complete, she went into the master bathroom and decided to indulge a little. Last night was all about freshening up; today Emma needed to relax. A sad thought at only nine thirty in the morning, but with the way her day started, she needed all the help she could get.
Grinning at the oversized tub, she turned on the faucet and began filling it. Her body ached in general from the crash yesterday and submerging herself in the jetted tub was too good an opportunity to miss. For a minute she thought about checking with Lucas first, and then decided against it. She was going to put off being in the same room as him for as long as humanly possible.
There was nothing around that suggested Lucas even used the tub. There were no bath salts or anything out on the vanity. So, deciding to be a little inventive, Emma reached into the shower and grabbed a bottle of shampoo and dumped some into the water to give her a mock-bubble bath. She smiled as the bubbles grew and when the water was at a decent level, she stripped off Lucas’s T-shirt and climbed in.
And made the most unladylike groan at the pleasure the hot water and the jets were giving her.
“Emma? Are you okay?” Lucas’s frantic tone came from the other side of the door and Emma couldn’t find her voice. “Emma?” He knocked and then stormed in.
“Lucas!” Emma screeched. “What the hell?”
“I heard you moan and thought you hurt yourself,” he stammered, but his eyes never looked away.
“I wasn’t moaning in pain,” she said, feeling rather embarrassed. “The water and the jets felt good. I didn’t realize I was that loud.” She wanted to dunk herself under the bubbles and hide until he left.
Lucas looked like he had been punched in the gut. He didn’t move, but he didn’t say anything either.
“Um, Lucas?” Emma said, breaking the silence. He finally seemed to snap out of his reverie and looked at her face. When she nodded to the bubbles and then looked back at him, he got the picture.
“Oh, right. Sorry,” he said and backed out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Emma sagged with relief once the door was closed. What in the world? For a minute there she thought Lucas was going to strip and join her. Wouldn’t that have been nice! But no, clearly she still was looking too much like a troll to tempt him.
Well, she wasn’t going to let it bother her. She sat back and let the jets do their magic on her body. It really seemed to work, and twenty minutes later she had to force herself from the tub. Drying herself off with a towel from the heated towel bar, Emma couldn’t help but wish once again for her overnight bag. Besides wanting her toothbrush, she’d kill for some moisturizer right about now.
Wrapping the towel around her, Emma realized that she hadn’t brought Lucas’s robe in with her. Opening the door, she stepped into the bedroom to grab it and ran directly into Lucas.
“Oh!” she cried as his arms came around her to steady her. Dammit, why here? Why now? Why couldn’t she have just stayed in bed all day and avoided all of this? If she’d listened to her original instincts, she wouldn’t have to fight the urge to snuggle closer into Lucas’s arms and beg him to finally kiss her.
A muscle ticked in Lucas’s jaw as he stared down at the damp and barely covered Emma. He had knocked, dammit, and when she hadn’t answered he’d felt that he could come into the bedroom and grab an extra sweatshirt without seeing her.
This was way more of Emma than he could handle seeing.
He stared down at her and swallowed hard. “I was able to find a towing company to come out and get your car,” he said, his voice sounding like gravel. “They should be here within the hour.”
“Oh.” Slowly she raised her eyes to his and released her breath, bringing her body into closer contact with his.
“Emma,” he sighed, so ready to say to hell with his doubts and just take what he so desperately needed from her. “I…”
“Yes, Lucas,” she whispered, and he swore she became more beautiful right before his eyes.
“I…” He hesitated and studied Emma’s face. He saw desire there for sure, but he saw something else: trust. She trusted him. He silently cursed because he knew he didn’t deserve her trust. Emma did not strike him as the kind of woman who would be okay with a one-time encounter and he was in the awkward position of being somewhat of an employer to her. As much as it pained him, again, Lucas knew that he could never betray her trust. “I just needed to grab another sweatshirt. The snow has stopped but it’s still below freezing outside.”
He released her immediately and Emma nearly wept at the loss of his warmth. Frantically she reached for the robe and turned her back to Lucas as she put it on, all the while cursing him for sending her such mixed signals. Before she could turn back around and speak her mind on the subject, she heard the door close and knew he was gone.
The urge to scream was nearly overwhelming. Dropping the towel to the floor, Emma kicked it into a corner and then stomped back into the bathroom. She ransacked the bathroom in search of a spare toothbrush and was rewarded when she found a new one in the back of one of the drawers. She scrubbed her teeth and then took her hair down from its messy twist and shook it free.
“Damn him, damn him, damn him!” she said, slamming a cabinet door shut after being unable to find a suitable comb for her hair. Storming from the bathroom, Emma went to the bedroom and went about the task of setting everything back to its original appearance. She wanted to wipe away all traces of her having been there. With any luck, she could get a ride with the tow truck driver into town and get a rental car and get home. There was no way she could spend another night here with Lucas playing whatever game this was.
Yanking open the bedroom door, she stomped over to where Lucas stood in the kitchen, his coffee mug suspended midway to his mouth.
“When the tow truck gets here, I want him to get me into town so I can get a rental and get home,” she stated bluntly and then crossed her arms across her chest in defiance.
“No.” Lucas finally took a drink of his coffee, putting the mug down with a little too much force on the countertop and wincing when the hot liquid splashed on him.
“No? What do you mean no?” Emma’s tone got louder and she took a step toward him.
Lucas was just as fired up as she was, possibly even more so. She’d had him tied in knots since she got here. Who was he kidding? Emma had him tied in knots for well over a year. “I mean,” he said menacingly, closing the distance between them, “no. The tow truck driver has more important things to do than chauffeur you around looking for a rental car. Did you think you were the only car trapped in this storm?”
“It’s not your decision to make, Lucas. I may not be able to drive my own car right now but I can damn well leave if I want to!” If her voice hadn’t trembled on the last word, she would almost have believed her own bravado.
Lucas almost had too.
“Emma,” he began patiently, “no one is saying you can’t leave, but the towing company has to battle enough things right now without adding driving you around to their list. All of the roads aren’t even cleared yet and you’ll probably be hard pressed to find a rental place open. Be reasonable.”
Right now Emma didn’t want to be reasonable. She wanted to kick, scream, and pout. None of this was fair. All she’d wanted was to get away for a few days, dazzled with the possibility of an all-expense paid weekend at a spa. Look where it had gotten her. She took Lucas’s patience as condescension and she simply snapped.
“Reasonable? I’m supposed to be reasonable? I drive up here into the unknown in the middle of a damn snow storm and nearly get myself killed! My car is probably totaled, and has your father even bothered to see what’s happened to me? No! I mean, I risked my damn life to get some stupid papers to him and he hasn’t even called me to see if I’m okay? Who does that?”
Lucas was ready to defend his father but Emma had merely stopped to take a breath.
“I have worked my tail off for Montgomerys, and this is what I get? I’m snowed in and stuck here with a man who treats me like I’ve got the damn plague!” Her chest was heaving by the time she was done and the lack of response from Lucas was the final straw for her. Emma didn’t care if she had to walk all the way back into town herself, she was getting out of here. She spun on her heel to get away from Lucas when he grabbed her by the arm and hauled her back.
“What the hell are you talking about?” he snarled. “I have never treated you like you have the plague!”
“Oh, really?” she asked snidely. “You have spent the better part of my time here going between looking at me like you want me to walking away like I disgust you! And you know what, Lucas? It’s pretty damn insulting.”
They were pressed together from chest to thigh and Emma almost purred with delight at the feel of him, and then remembered that every time she gave in to that feeling, Lucas seemed to pull back. Doing her best, she gave him a look of disgust. “Let go of me,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Not a chance,” he said just before he lowered his head and claimed her lips with his. Everything in Lucas’s head told him not to do this, that it was a mistake. But the sight of Emma so riled up had him needing to give in to all he’d been denying himself.
The kiss started out punishing; he had to make Emma feel all of the anger and frustration he’d been feeling, but as soon as she caught up to him and clenched the front of his shirt in her fists to pull him closer, Lucas was lost. One hand came up to cup the back of Emma’s head and he heard her whimper.
There was no turning back. One taste was never going to be enough. Lucas changed the angle of his head and swept his tongue into Emma’s mouth to mate with hers and everything in Emma seemed to soften. She melted against him and Lucas found himself gentling the kiss, stroking instead of taking. Emma’s hands let go of his shirt to work their way up around his neck. The feel of her hands on his skin, raking up into his hair, was driving him wild. He wanted to feel her hands on other parts of him and not while they were standing in his kitchen.
Lucas reluctantly left her mouth and worked a trail of kisses along her cheek to her throat, nudging the collar of his robe aside to taste more of her skin. Emma’s head fell back to give him better access as she sighed his name.
He could get very used to hearing her say it like that.
His hands began their own journey, first skimming down her back, then cupping her rear before trailing up her sides to the swell of her breasts. Lucas was certain that he was going to go mad if he didn’t have her soon. In his mad dash to claim her as his, one hand slid to the sash of the robe. He was about to pull it free when there was a very loud knock at the front door.
“What the…?” he asked as he raised his head. Emma’s face was flushed, her breathing ragged, and he had never seen a sexier sight.
“I think it’s the tow truck,” she said quietly.
Lucas stepped back from her and watched as she righted the robe and tried to fix her hair. If it weren’t so important to try and get Emma’s car free from the ditch, he would gladly have ignored the door. “Dammit, Emma, I’ve got to go out there.” He skimmed a hand along her cheek and ran a thumb along her now-swollen lower lip.
Reluctantly, Lucas went to the door and looked back at Emma once again. He wanted to say something, anything, but what was there to say? If he hadn’t made the call, there was no doubt he’d be deep inside her right this minute. But maybe this was for the best; after all, wasn’t he the one who knew better? That their sleeping together would be something Emma would come to regret?
The distance between them right now would help them to both see that. Without another word, Lucas stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
Emma stood speechless in the kitchen. Well, how could she possibly doubt his feelings for her now? It was obvious that he wanted her and surely he could tell that she felt the same way. But where did this leave them?
Who knew how long he’d be outside with the tow truck? And when he came back inside, then what? Was she supposed to be waiting for him? Waiting to pick up where they’d left off? Was she supposed to just forget what had almost happened? Right, like that was going to happen. Ever.
The sound of a cell phone ringing in the distance had Emma searching for its whereabouts. She walked over to the living room and found Lucas’s phone on the sofa. The display showed it to be his father, so she decided to answer it.
“Emma! My goodness, girl, how are you? Lucas told me about the accident, but you were in the shower so I told him I’d wait until today to call and check on you! Are you all right? What can I do to make this up to you?”
His tone was near frantic and Emma had to suppress a smile. Not twenty minutes ago she would have said she was furious with her boss, but hearing the sincerity in his voice right now had Emma reconsidering. “I’m better today, thank you, sir.”
“Oh, stop being so formal,” he chided. “Lucas said you had a concussion.”
“That was his opinion, but I don’t think it was all that bad. He woke me up every two hours last night and had me reciting state capitals and the months of the year and I passed with flying colors.”
“Ah… I remember the days when we had to do that for him. It’s never a good feeling to watch someone you care about and not know the extent of their injuries.”
“Well, I’m down to just a mild headache—that is completely manageable—and my ankle is feeling better too. Lucas was able to call a tow truck and he’s outside with the driver right now in hopes of getting my car out of the ditch.”
“I am so sorry, Emma. I had no idea that a storm was brewing. I tend to think that the weather where we live is exactly as it’s going to be up here. I never seem to be able to accept that there can be such a difference in a two-hour drive.”
“It’s okay, Mr. Montgomery. I’m fine, really, and my car? Well…”
“Don’t you worry about a thing. We’ll take care of all of the repair costs and the rental car for you. This was completely my fault and I just feel sick at the thought of what could have happened if you’d gotten hurt anywhere but on Lucas’s property.”
“Yes, thank heavens for small miracles,” Emma murmured. “Are you and Mrs. Montgomery okay? Did you have any trouble with the storm?”
“Us? No! We’re used to this sort of thing even when it sneaks up on us. Luckily Lucas takes after us. He said he had stocked up on supplies yesterday so the two of you should be fine for the duration.”
“Um… I’m not sure about the duration. I’m hoping to bum a ride with the tow truck driver into town to try and find a rental car place so that I can get home.”
“No, you can’t!” he replied too quickly. “Emma, the roads are a mess. You shouldn’t be out driving just yet. Plus, everything up here is closed down because a lot of the roads haven’t been plowed yet. I can’t bear the thought of you possibly getting hurt again.”
She smiled at his concern. “I appreciate that, but I think it would be best if I tried to get home.”
“Why? Has Lucas done something to upset you?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that,” she lied. “It’s just that he really lives a very solitary life up here and I’m just frazzled from the wreck. I think it would be best if we each had our own space. I don’t understand how I ended up here rather than your place though…”
“I’m afraid I had a senior moment,” he admitted sheepishly. “I’m just so used to rattling off Lucas’s address to people and having things sent to him that when you asked, I automatically gave his address. I’m embarrassed to have to admit it. You know that’s not like me at all.”
No, it wasn’t like him at all, and she knew her boss well enough to know that he wasn’t being one hundred percent honest with her, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why he would do such a thing.
“I’m just relieved to know that you’re all right. Promise me that you won’t get on the road until they’re cleared better.”
She wanted to argue with him just as she had with Lucas earlier, but she supposed they both had a point. “I promise. I’m not happy about it, but I promise to wait until it’s safer to drive.”
“Excellent! Maybe wait until Sunday and let Lucas just drive you home and we’ll get a rental car for you Monday morning. This way we can kill two birds with one stone: I know you’ll get home safely and I have an excuse to get Lucas into the office for a second time in a month.”
Emma smiled at his words. She knew how much it pained her boss that Lucas spent so much time away from his family and the rest of the world. She only wished that he wasn’t pinning his hopes on Lucas falling in line with those plans. “We’ll see. I can’t force Lucas to let me stay here for another two days and then drive me all the way home. That’s not my fight to have with him.”
William had to give her credit for her compassion for his son. Some people in her position might be more than willing to do his bidding to win his favor, but not Emma. No, she understood Lucas, maybe better than he did, and didn’t want to do anything that would cause more strife. “You’re a sweet girl, Emma. I wouldn’t expect you to fight this battle with Lucas for me. All I ask is that you consider it.”
“I will, sir,” she assured him. “I have no idea how long he’ll be outside with the tow truck.” As she said the words, she walked to the window by the front door and looked out to see what kind of progress was being made. The driveway had been cleared. When had that happened? But for all she could see, her car had yet to make an appearance. “Would you like me to have him call you when he comes back inside?”
“That would be wonderful,” he replied. “Oh, and Emma?”
“Make sure he doesn’t overdo it out there. I know he doesn’t think that we can tell, but…he’s still not doing well with his knee. I don’t think he wants any of us to know or to ask, but since you’re the only person who’s been with him for any amount of time in his house, please make sure he’s okay.”
There was sadness in his voice and Emma’s heart broke a little for the parent and for the child. Though they were both grown men, it didn’t seem to matter; to William Montgomery, his concern for his youngest son would never end. “I’ll make sure he takes it easy,” she promised before hanging up.
If only she knew how…