Relentless(7)By: Skye Jordan
Every muscle in his body pulled taut, poised to act-to do what, he had no idea, because for the first time in over half a decade, since he'd pulled his shit together after she'd walked away, Troy didn't know what to do or say or think. He couldn't make sense of her presence, still half questioning his own sanity.
The instant recognition he'd expected to see in her eyes never came. She scanned his face, curious, maybe intrigued, then let her gaze slide down his body in a slow search, as if she were trying to place him. But when her attention returned to his face, her expression had shifted in a way Troy could only label as…distant? Disappointed? Aloof? He didn't know. All he knew was she didn't recognize him. All he knew was she turned away.
The grip on his heart tightened.
Yes, he'd changed. Yes, between his mask and his beard, his face was pretty much fully covered. But that didn't stem the pain. It didn't keep the knife from driving into his heart or the irrational insecurity from the past rushing back. In fact, those torturous months of transition at the end of their relationship, when Giselle had risen from unknown wannabe to golden child, flooded back into Troy's head and heart as if it had been seven days ago, not seven years. And he felt the pain of his humiliation at the hands of her new groupies with the strength of a sledgehammer. He'd been downgraded from her best friend to a leech, from her lover to her lesser half, from her strongest supporter for years to her greatest weakness in a matter of months. He'd turned from her everything into absolutely nothing.
And now, even she didn't recognize him.
The guide settled Giselle into a small table toward the back of the room along the far edge of the stage. She faced the door but didn't look at Troy again, and his insides smoldered with irrational hurt and anger. All his issues, issues he'd fought to put behind him, resurfaced, instantly transforming him from a strong, capable, grown man to an angry, abandoned asshole.
The guide exited the salon, and Troy stepped into her path but kept his voice soft when he asked, “Is she alone?”
Her wide dark eyes appraised him before answering. “She is, but she's observing tonight. Prefers to get the feel before she jumps in.”
“Thank you.” He refocused on Giselle and found her watching him. Their gazes clicked, and fireworks lit off in his gut. But her gaze cut toward the stage, as if she didn't want to get caught looking. Which begged the question-did she recognize him after all?
She sat straight, legs neatly crossed, hands resting in her lap. In the midst of a relaxed, sexually open crowd, she looked uptight and out of place. Troy's mind spun and spun, trying to figure out why she'd be in a place like this if she didn't want to be. Or why she was so tense if she wanted to be here. And why in the hell had she come alone? A beauty like her in a place like this…alone? That was just a traumatic experience waiting to happen. One more scar a woman like Giselle didn't need.
He caught his train of thought. What in the hell did he care? She was not his concern. She didn't even deserve his concern. For all he knew, this was some sexual fantasy she was playing out with a guy already here in the club. Or she was waiting for someone to come in. Or…shit, it didn't matter.
A man approached her, lowered to a crouch, smiled, shook her hand. She responded in a perfectly appropriate way-with a smile, a shake, small talk. And a rejection. All very tense, uptight, and rigid.
Troy rubbed a hand across his mouth and turned his back on the salon. He wasn't going to be able to stay now. He wasn't going to be able to engage with anyone else tonight. Maybe not for weeks. Or months. And goddammit, that just sucked. He was still so seriously screwed up.
Becca and Casey returned and, in the process of wrapping their arms around him and rubbing their bodies along his, turned him partially toward the salon again.
“Ready to get it on, handsome?” Casey purred.
“Let's head straight to Ecstasy,” was Becca's suggestion, referencing one of the free-for-all sex rooms where one could purchase the drug of the same name.
Troy glanced at Giselle again. He caught her watching him just before she cut her gaze away, then scraped her bottom lip between her teeth.
The very real possibility that she recognized him and was ignoring him snapped his very last thread of human decency. If he were normal, if he were mature, if he were everything he should be, he'd simply confront her. But he wasn't. He never had been. And even though his logical mind knew he should walk away, even though his logical mind knew nothing could come of watching her here but pain, bad feelings, and disappointment, his heart…or his emotions…or his psyche…something…was festering deep inside. It was as if seeing her had tripped a self-destructive switch inside him. As if it was just a matter of time before the fuse burned out, reaching the explosive, and Troy imploded.