"May I come in?" He didn't wait for an answer, instead stepping into the doorway, so close to her the current between them scorched him where he stood.
Her eyes fell halfway closed as if she felt it too. She swayed a little closer to him before jerking herself upright. The scowl on her face grew as she backed away. He stalked her movements—closer, closer, closer—until he'd made it inside the house and it was too late for her to slam the door on him.
That didn't stop her from reacting.
She'd had eight days to stew over what he'd said to her. Eight days to build walls to keep him out.
He owed it to her to shut up and listen to whatever she needed to say.
"You need to leave now," she said, her voice trembling with anger.
He hoped it shook from desire too.
He pushed the door closed and moved closer, one slow step at a time.
"Now, Tristan," she demanded, moving away as if unaffected by the flame of desire dancing between them. "I don't ever want to see you again."
"You shouldn't be here. It's not safe for you," he said, looking at the new security panel on the wall next to the door, both grateful that she'd gotten it and frustrated that she felt as if she needed it at all. That was his fault, and he hated it.
"Not safe for me?" Lillian blinked at him and then laughed, the sound brittle, bitter. "As if you care."
"It's my job to care, Lillian." The words sounded callous even to him, but he spoke nothing but the truth. The line between duty and desire blurred where Lillian was concerned, but he couldn't cross it again now. If he did, things wouldn't end well for either of them.
With her standing in front of him, he had a hard time remembering that.
"Just like it was your job to do…what we did in the club?" she demanded. The pink tint to her cheeks increased, giving away her discomfort almost as much as her slight hesitation did.
Tristan wanted to apologize to her, wanted to look her in the eye and say he was sorry for what he'd done, but he couldn't. He was sorry for being a prick. He was sorry for the things he'd said to her. He was sorry she was afraid because of him. And he was truly sorry she hated him, but he wasn't sorry for wanting her. And he damn sure wasn't sorry for making her come for him. He doubted she wanted to hear that though, so he said nothing, choosing instead to let her say her piece.
Surprisingly though, she didn't rage at him like he deserved. She opened her mouth, closed it, and then shook her head. "Please get out of my house."
The tired, fragile look on her face drove home the sadness of her quiet request better than screaming would have. She really didn't want him there. His chest tightened and his stomach sank. He wanted her to get angry at him. He could deal with her yelling, but he wasn't prepared to deal with defeat.
Jesus. He really was an asshole.
"You have to pack up and go for a few days, Lillian," he said, his voice soft.
"I just got home from heeding a similar request. I'm not leaving again." She met his gaze, the look in her eyes equally determined and vulnerable. Maybe she didn't want to scream at him, but she would fight him on this until she couldn't fight anymore. The same stubborn streak that had made her such a seductress on the dance floor their last night together lurked deep within her gaze.
He wanted to drag her out the door, toss her in his Rover, and lock her ass in a hotel room. Away from Teplo, him, and the slippery slope extending before them. He couldn't do that though. He had no right.
He did what he had to do instead.
Always, he did what he had to do. Duty and responsibility were getting pretty goddamned old.
"You can't be here, Lillian," he said, forcing cold detachment into his tone. He refused to plead even though he would have done just that if he thought she'd listen.
She wouldn't. She fucking hated him. He saw it in her eyes.
"I'm not leaving, Tristan," she snapped right back, her posture stiffening as his cold, frustrated tone registered. "You can go now."
No, he couldn't.
"No." Her mutinous expression firmed. "You can go to hell, but I'm not going anywhere."
"Dammit, Lillian." He pinched the bridge of his nose. He didn't want to fight with her. He needed her to go back to wherever the hell she'd been for the last week. For her sake, and for his. Shit across the street wasn't a game, and he didn't want her in danger because of it.
Because of him, that's exactly where she'd end up if she didn't leave.
"I'm staying here, and you and the DEA are absolved of any and all responsibility for my well-being," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "You can leave now."
"You really think it works that way?" he demanded, not believing for a minute that she was stupid enough to believe it was that simple. Why'd she have to be so frustrating?
"Do you really think you get to say you won't hold us responsible if you get caught up in this bullshit and expect it to work that way? You aren't that fucking naïve."
"I don't know how it works, Tristan," she said when that last instigating sentence shot from his mouth. The fragile vulnerability in her gaze vanished as if he hadn't seen it there at all, replaced with steely resolve and contempt. "No one bothered to tell me the rules of your little game, remember?"
He flinched at her pointed, acerbic question.
"And quite frankly," she continued before he could respond, "I don't care how it works. But I'm not leaving just because you and Jason Ames want me out of the way. I don't owe either of you a damn thing, and I'm not going to inconvenience myself further to make your life easier. Now get the hell out of my house."
"You think I give a shit about inconvenience or making my life easier?" Tristan asked, balling his hands into fists in a last ditch effort to keep himself from snatching her up and kissing her. "I'm trying to keep you safe! Jesus Christ, do you not understand that? They will kill you in a heartbeat. If I wanted to make my life easier, I wouldn't have–" He snapped his mouth shut before he could say he wouldn't have agreed to let Jason deal with her. He would have gone himself to beg for forgiveness.
"You wouldn't have what? Fingered me on the dance floor?" she asked, a baleful expression on her face. The blush of her cheeks deepened to a lovely red. "Kissed me? Asked me to come back to meet you?"
She pressed on before he could form an answer. "I could forgive you for what you said to me when you dragged me over here that night. I could forgive you for kicking in the door and accusing me of being a whore and a murderer. I might even have been able to forgive you for saying I deserved to have my career ruined. Now that I know who you are and what you do, I could almost understand where all of that came from. But I won't forgive you because you're a hypocritical bastard, Tristan."
She shifted her weight off of her bad leg. He watched her, ready to catch her if she stumbled even if she would probably knee him in the balls for touching her. She didn't stumble though. She kept right on, saying what he knew she'd wanted to say since she saw him standing in her doorway.
"How dare you accuse me of anything when you used me to save your own ass? And how dare you come in here now and pretend you're concerned about my safety? If my safety is at risk, it's because you risked it. You used me as an excuse for being in that club, and you didn't care what happened to me afterward. I was a means to an end for you, and you didn't give a shit what that meant for me."
"What?" Tristan blinked.
"I didn't stutter, Tristan," she said. "You had no right, no right at all, to come in here accusing me of anything when you were the one using me. And it's pathetic that you had to send your boss to admit it for you." She laughed, swiping at her eyes as if expecting to find tears there. "As if it weren't humiliating enough to find out from someone else that you're a DEA agent, or to have someone else tell me your last name after the things we did. I had to sit in a hospital bed and listen to your boss tell me you'd used me and I needed to stay the hell out of your way. You couldn't even be bothered to do that much yourself. You make me sick."
He stared at her, trying to absorb and process what she'd said.
Jason had told her that he'd used her?
"Don't you dare look at me like that," Lillian seethed, swiping at her dry eyes again. "You used me to save your own ass, and I was naïve enough to let it happen." She stopped, her shoulders slumping as if she'd run out of steam. When she met his gaze this time, the sadness and doubt in her gaze wrecked him. "Tell me one thing. Why did you pick me? Out of everyone there…was I really the one who looked the most desperate and pathetic?"
Her sad question hit him like a bullet to his gut. Eight days of guilt and resentment boiled, flashed to steam, and then erupted outward, leaving fury in its place. Fury at Jason for allowing her to believe that he'd used her, at himself for letting Jason convince him to stay away, and fury at her for believing for a second that she looked anything like the women prostituting themselves at Teplo.
"You think I used you?" he demanded, pacing toward her. If she wanted to believe he didn't care about her safety, fine. But he'd be damned if he let her believe he'd used her because she looked easy.
She backed away from him, but he was implacable.
"You think I wanted convenient or desperate? A quick fuck?"
"I know you did," she said, her chin coming up and a haughty gleam entering her eyes. She continued to back away from him, one careful step at a time.
"You know nothing!" He smiled a feral, wicked smile and kept stalking toward her. Even when her back thumped into the pale wall across the foyer, he didn't stop. He advanced until he was toe-to-toe with her, and her eyes were inches from his.
Her breasts grazed across his chest with every sharp exhalation of breath from her lungs. The electric hunger between them snapped and sizzled, the edges tinged an angry red. His hands came up and landed on the wall on either side of her head, trapping her beneath him.
"Let me go," she demanded, her eyes wide and her face flushed. She stood still, not even attempting to push him away. It wasn't fear that kept her there though, not of him anyway. It was fear of herself and of what she might do if she touched him.
Even if she hated him, she still wanted him. He saw that truth in her eyes, too.
A satisfied smile spread across his face.
"I may have approached you as a cover, Lillian, but that ended before I ever touched you. I buried my fingers in your body until you came because I wanted you. I dragged you to the lounge and fucked you with my tongue until you screamed because I couldn't stop thinking about you. I wanted you."
She gasped at his low, fervent words, trembled, and then clenched her jaw. Desire flared brighter in her gaze. She balled her fists, seemingly fighting for the ability to keep her hands to herself.
"Even when I thought you worked with the Vetrov family, I wanted you. Even now that you fucking hate me, I still want you." He pressed himself into her, making her feel the truth of that statement as his erection pressed into her stomach. He dropped his head, placed his lips to the shell of her ear, and nipped at her skin. "I want to be inside of you so goddamned bad it's driving me out of my mind, beautiful."
Lillian swallowed hard and shivered, a breathless groan escaping her lips.
He hummed at her involuntary, telling reaction, and put his mouth to her skin again, unable to resist.
Jesus, he wanted her. Here. Now. Against the wall with her legs around his waist and her nails digging into his back. Wanted her until neither of them could move, let alone remember why she hated him.
"Go to hell," she whispered. Her words shook but were no less desperate for it.
"You want me," he said, shifting his hips into her one more time. "You want me right here and now, don't you, baby?"
"No," she lied as he dragged his lips down her throat.
"You do." He ran his tongue across her skin, working his way closer to her collarbone.
"I can't stand you." She tilted her head, granting him access.
He ached to take her wordless invitation, but he couldn't. Not like this.
He dragged himself away from her before he did something she'd regret and fucked her against the wall to prove his point. She'd hate herself if she gave in to him now, and he wouldn't do that to her, not even if she did unravel his self-restraint little by little.
"I may be an asshole, Lillian, but I didn't use you," he said, staring at her as if he could will her into believing he spoke the truth. His heart hammered.
Her head snapped up, her eyes hooded and her pupils dilated with lust when they met his. Doubt still lingered deep within her gaze though.
"I'm sorry you don't believe me, but you being here now won't solve anything. It's not safe for you, and I'm fucking sorry for that too. I never should have put you in this position, and I'll regret doing it for the rest of my life. But I'm asking you to please, please leave before you get hurt." He brushed his fingers down her flushed cheek, pleading with his gaze for her to give in and leave.
She said nothing. Not one word passed her lips as she stared at him with those big, brown eyes.
"Lillian, please." He wasn't sure if he begged for her sake or for his own any longer. He just knew he needed her to agree for more reasons than he cared to consider. He hovered on the verge of doing something monumentally stupid, so close he could feel himself slipping over the edge into that void where pure selfishness ruled.
For her sake, she had to go.
She shook her head, denying him one more time. "I'm not going anywhere, Tristan."
He exhaled in a rush.
He was so fucked.
They both were.