The One For Me(9)

By: Sydney Landon

Crystal began choking on the sip of water she had just taken. He got up and walked over to pat her on the back until she managed to catch her breath. “Sorry about that,” she said huskily. “It’s just that no one is brave enough to call Dorothy Webber names. Most people are terrified of her.”

“Trust me, Angel, I’m fully versed in bad parenting. Mine aren’t exactly the type to give you the warm fuzzies either. Of course, I haven’t seen either of them in a while, so maybe they’ve turned over a new leaf.”

“How have you stayed away from them for that long?” Crystal asked incredulously. Considering her mother called her no fewer than ten times per week, it was hard to imagine going that long without her popping by for one of her awkward, unannounced visits.

Mark took her empty plate and put it in the sink before turning back to her. “It’s not complicated. They only communicate with me when they want something. I only wish that weren’t as often as it is.”

“You’re so lucky.” She sighed before she could stop herself. Mark chuckled, nodding his head in agreement. Then she forced herself to say the last words that she wanted to utter. “I guess I should be getting home now. You must be so ready to see the last of me.” Please God, say no . . .

He didn’t speak for a moment. Instead, he studied her intently, as if looking for a sign of something from her. Just when she thought he wasn’t going to say anything at all, he shrugged his broad shoulders and grinned. “What’s one more night, Angel? I’d hate to take you home now and you have a relapse. Stay here and we’ll leave early enough tomorrow morning to swing by your place before work. Today, we can take it easy and watch some movies.”

Crystal could only gawk at his suggestion. She wanted to stay more than anything, and he was making it possible without her having to do something crazy like begging. So why was she hesitating? She’d never get the opportunity again to spend time with the man she had all but stalked for months now. She looked down at her hands, trying not to let her excitement show. “I guess that would be all right,” she said, trying to sound flippant. She was on cloud nine until she remembered how she looked. “Um—do you think I could take a shower?”

He gave her a look that was pure wickedness. “Of course—but I should probably help you again. What if you get dizzy? I’ll do your back—and front—if you like.”

Down, girl—roll your tongue back into your mouth. “I—er, believe I’ll be fine.” She’d never wanted to scream YES before as she did now. She needed to remove herself immediately from the temptation he offered.

He rolled his eyes. “If you insist. After we’ve both showered, we’ll go back to bed for a while. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.”

Fighting back a yawn, Crystal nodded her head. “That sounds good.”

Mark led her to the same bedroom and handed her more clothing from his closet—this time a soft T-shirt. He then pulled a pair of boxer briefs from a nearby drawer and passed them along to her as well. “Knowing you aren’t wearing panties might be more than I can take. I’m only human, Angel. Hopefully, you can make those work.”

Crystal knew her face was probably five shades of pink as she took the items and went into the bathroom, avoiding glancing at herself in the mirror. By the time she was finished with her shower and drying her hair, she was about ready to drop from exhaustion. When she opened the door and walked back into the bedroom, she was disappointed to find it empty. Mark had apparently decided to bathe elsewhere. Shrugging her shoulders, she crawled into the bed that she had so recently vacated and fell asleep almost immediately.

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