“A business proposition?” I repeated. “Why would I want to get into business with you?”
Colt grinned. “You seemed like you wanted to get into business with me earlier.”
“When you were dancing for me.”
I swallowed, remembering the way it had felt, unbuttoning my shirt for him, the way his hands guided my hips, how heady the lust was that I’d felt, how uncontrollable. How close I came to breaking my promise to Declan.
“That was different,” I said. “That was a job.” We were both still standing up, and I wanted to sit down, but doing that seemed like some kind of admission. An admission that I wanted to be here, that Colt had some kind of power over me.
“And how is a job different than getting into business with me?” he countered. His t-shirt stretched against his broad chest and across his huge shoulders. Even in just a t-shirt and sweatpants, you could tell how built he was, how strong, how chiseled.
The pull I felt toward him was intoxicating, and also frightening. I didn’t know anything about this man -- except that he ran a strip club. Strike one. He apparently didn’t have a problem with beating people up, as evidenced by what he’d done to those two thugs on the street earlier. Strike two. He also broke into a convenience store ice machine, which, let’s face it, wasn’t that big of a deal, but it spoke to something else – he was comfortable taking other people’s property, almost like he’d done it before. Maybe a lot. Strike three.
Then he brought me, a total stranger, back to his house without asking questions, which spoke to a tendency for impulsivity. He somehow knew I was staying at the Walnut Street shelter, which made it likely he was some kind of stalker. And he didn’t seem all that concerned by the fact that he’d caught me in his bathroom cutting myself.
The red flags were blinding.
“A job is totally different,” I said. “It’s a lot different than sleeping with you for money.”
“Sleeping with me for money?” He sounded offended, like he couldn’t believe I would even think such a thing. “Who said anything about sleeping with me for money?”
“You said you wanted to get into business with me.”
“Are you in the business of sleeping with people for money?”
“No!” I said. “Why would you even say something like that?” I wondered what he would do if he knew I was a virgin, that I hadn’t even kissed a boy.
“Well.” Colt shrugged, like it was blindingly obvious why he would jump to the conclusion that I’d had experience with prostitution. “I said I had a business proposition for you, and you immediately assumed I wanted to have sex with you.” His eyes blazed when he said this last part, almost like he was amused by the idea of sleeping with me, even though he’d pretty much just propositioned me a couple of minutes ago.
“Oh, please,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You would have slept with me earlier when I was dancing for you and you know it. Not to mention what you just said to me in the bathroom.”
The side of his mouth twitched up into a grin, like I was a silly little girl who knew nothing about the world.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I said.
“Like what?” he asked, holding his hands up and feigning innocence.
“Like I’m a silly little girl who knows nothing about the world.”
The cocky grin immediately disappeared from his face. “I think you know plenty about the world.” His gaze dropped to my wrist, and I knew what he was thinking – that anyone who took a razor blade to their skin, who wanted to feel that pain in order to ground themselves in something, anything, must have been through some shit. But that was none of his business.
“It’s none of your business what I’ve been through,” I said.
He didn’t say anything for a moment after that, and the silence stretched on for several moments. It was disarming. I wanted to say something, anything, just to end it, but that too felt like I was giving into him. And if there was one thing this silly little girl knew, it was that if you let someone think you were giving in, if you let them think you were weak, they would take advantage any chance they got.
I shivered, aware of the fact that I was still wearing just a thin t-shirt.
“You’re cold,” Colt said.
“No, I’m not.”
“I’ll be right back.”
He returned with a grey zip up hoodie, then stopped short just inside the door. He held it out to me, motioning for me to come get it. I took a step toward him, and his eyes raked over my body, lingering on my nipples, which were hard and visible through my t-shirt. Just like at the club, he made no excuses for the fact that he was openly staring at my body.