As she punched the bell to Ramsey’s apartment, she wondered for the hundredth time why she just hadn’t told Kristen a flat out no. She shivered with ap-prehension as she heard muffled sounds on the interior of his apartment.
The door was pulled inward and she got her first real look at Ramsey Tallmadge. Dear God, he was big! Kristen was right about his shoulders being out to there. The man took up the whole doorway. And the picture in the paper did no justice to his handsome face what-soever. His features were one of which held her dreams. A chiseled jaw, rugged angles and shapes. A classic nose and if he smiled, maybe just a hint of a dimple in each cheek. She wished at the moment she could make him smile just so she could see how deep they were.
But that cool arrogant glint in his eyes was what alerted Leslie to danger. His eyes were flint gray and as cold as steel. A shiver ran straight through her and she held her breath, sure by the way his brows were dragged down and the insolent way he was staring that he could see her and just any minute he was going to ask her who she was and what she wanted, despite the fact that she and Kristen could be twins.
“Kristen? Is that you?”
Just the way he said her name made her wish she was Kristen. Something warm and comforting unfurled and delicately rolled over her. At the moment she was Kristen, she remembered and all her instincts filled with compassion and a need to protect. She wondered vaguely if she should rush into his arms, just kiss his cheek or do nothing at all. What would Kristen be do-ing now? That’s what she would be doing if he were her fiancé.
Panic set in as he stepped out closer. “Yes! It’s me” she replied quickly.
Wanting to put distance between them, she rushed into his apartment as he stepped aside. Briefly she brushed against him and filaments of heat pulsed along her skin. She was totally unprepared for that reaction and fled to the far side of the room. Unsure of what the next move would or should be she remained quiet and tried to slow her fast beating heart.
“I couldn’t tell. Your perfume smells different somehow.” Ramsey closed the door, following her as she crossed to the sofa. “Where have you been, darling? I haven’t seen you for days.”
“Uh…” Leslie’s voice trailed off uncomfortably, trying to come up with a valid answer. How could she smell different? She’d made sure she had spritzed her-self with Kristen’s favorite perfume before she left. And... Was that sarcasm she detected in his voice or was it her imagination? She wished she knew more about their relationship as man and woman.
“Never mind,” Ramsey drawled, coming close to her, “all is forgiven. I know you can’t spend all your time nursing a blind man.”
Leslie bit her lip hard. She wanted to reach out and console him but was sure that’s not what Kristen would have done. So she said nothing and waited. The silence for her was nearly as unbearable as the whole situation was. It seemed an eternity before she could think of what to do or say.
“Let’s sit down, Ramsey. If your day has been as bad as mine, we both need to relax and kick back.” She sat on the couch and patted the seat beside her.
She saw his brows rise as if questioning her actions then he sat. “You must have had a bad day. You’re en-tirely too pleasant.”
Again, there was that little dash of underlying sar-casm in his tone of voice. And her cheeks blushed a faint rose from it. She was more than glad right at that moment that he couldn’t tell how uncomfortable she was. Just being in his presence was enough to halt any-thing she was going to do. The minute she got out of there, she decided, she was going to go tell Kristen the whole thing was off and she could take her five thou-sand dollars back and stuff it.
There were other things she noticed about him. A rigidity that spoke volumes. That he was relentless in his pursuits. Uncompromising and determined. God, but she didn’t want to get on his bad side. There’d be hell to pay for sure. Still, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for all he had been through. Now that she was near him it was so hard not to offer some kind of solace for the terrible tragedy he had been a victim of.
She watched open-mouthed as he stretched out long, powerful legs, setting his feet on the coffee table and crossing them at the ankles as if he could see what he was doing. Of course, all that was instinct and natu-rally he knew where everything was, she scolded her-self. It was his apartment, after all. He would be famil-iar with his surroundings here.
As he laid an arm across the back of the couch, Leslie furtively slid farther into the corner to keep it from touching her. There was a sardonic curl to his lips when he spoke. “ Thanks for asking after me, Kristen. I’m fine. I’ve been rambling around this big ole’ apart-ment all by myself and haven’t tripped over anything yet.”
Immediately remorseful for not asking after him right away. “I’m sorry,” Leslie said anxiously, still try-ing to think and imitate what her cousin would say and do and how she would say and do it. “So, tell me how your day has really been? Have you had anyone in to help you? Have you tried to finish your novel?”
“Well,” Ramsey replied caustically, “all these questions for little ole’ me?”
Leslie watched his nostrils flare and the corners of his mouth tighten and squirmed under his intense gaze. Silly, she admonished herself. He can’t see you! “I am interested, you know.”
“My day has been boring. My agent called, among others. No, I haven’t had anyone in to help me. I just couldn’t put up with another stranger at the moment so your last question has already been answered.”
Leslie gathered her thoughts and pondered on the uncertainty of her actions. What would Kristen say now? She could tell by the diabolic gleam in Ramsey’s eyes that he was only humoring her. That he was probably laughing himself silly on the inside at her. He made her feel so unsettled. Part of her wanted to bop him over the head with something no matter what his condition was. She was not here for his amusement and entertainment. This was getting stranger by the minute.
“Well,” Leslie returned haughtily, “now that the amenities are out of the way, what’s for dinner?”
“I don’t remember inviting you for dinner, Leslie. Even though that is a good idea, I’m not prepared.”
Unexpectedly, Ramsey reached for her hand, not bothering to search for it, seeming to know exactly where it lay on the cushion of the couch. She had been plucking at the button in the center and decided he must have heard her pulling on it. His fingers brushed her thigh then tightened on hers as she tried to tug away from him.
“What’s the matter, Leslie? Don’t you want me to hold your hand?” This was sad with a coldness in his voice and his blank eyes.
She wanted to scream at him to let her go but not for the reason he was thinking. Red hot flame was shooting up her arm, across to her breasts and took a maddening dive to the very core of her being. She felt as if she’d been shot through with a bolt of lightening. Never in her entire life had she ever experienced such a feeling. She wasn’t sure she liked it or not.
She licked her dry lips. “Sure, Ramsey, whatever you want.”
“My, my, my. Aren’t we all sweetness and light this evening?” Ramsey’s mouth was set in a straight hard line. He straightened her fingers and weaved his fingers through hers. Her whole being was on fire and she wanted desperately to pull her hand away but re-strained herself from acting so foolhardy. They were supposed to be a couple. After all, they were engaged. Couples held hands and more. She brushed that errant thought away before it grew and rambled down a path she didn’t want to take and trembled at what it could lead to.
Ramsey felt it and placed his other hand atop hers and twisted the engagement ring she wore around her finger as he spoke. “What’s wrong, Leslie? Scared of the big ole’ blind man?”
Leslie flinched at the sarcasm in his voice. Her first instinct was to jerk her hand from his and hightail it out the door and let Kristen do the explaining.
“Of course not, Ramsey.” Should she say it? Should she tell him? Had Kristen ever said it even though she really didn’t feel that way? “I love you.”
There she said it. It felt good rolling off her tongue. Wouldn’t Kristen have assured him with a declaration of love whether she meant it or not?
“Love. Now there’s a misnomer if I ever heard one,” Ramsey replied dryly. “You pledge your love for me but we have failed to explore our relationship in other ways. Why don’t we start off the evening right by seeing where that might lead us? Let’s just see how hot we can make the night and see if we can steam up the windows with red hot passion?”