She narrowed her eyes at me, the sultry softness of her posture stiffening slightly.
“No need to make idle threats, Cameron. I get it.” Her throat worked on a swallow as she glanced down at her champagne flute. “You’re possessive, and rightly so. She’s lovely. I can see that she’s special to you.”
“You’re right about that. She’s very special to me, but I’m not making idle threats.”
“Who’s making threats?”
Maya joined us, distracting the laser focus I’d had on making my point to Jia. Maya frowned, looking between the two of us. No one looked too pleased, but of course she was none the wiser as to why.
Jia plastered on a more genuine smile. “I was just asking Cameron if you’d like to have drinks later, but it sounds like you two have plans. Anyway, it’s just as well. I have to catch up with some people. You two enjoy yourselves. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She leaned in and kissed Maya quickly on the cheek, flashing a sly glance my way before disappearing into the crowd.
I clenched my teeth and fought the urge to take Maya into my arms, the only place where I could keep her safe and out of reach of the people who only pretended to care.
“What the hell was that all about?”
“Let’s get out of here. You made an appearance. They don’t expect you to network all night, do they?” I wanted to get out of here before I actually made a scene. The lengths I was willing to go for her sake continued to surprise me. As much as I wanted to protect her, in the same breath I was perilously close to jeopardizing any progress she was hoping to make at work. The last thing I wanted was to become a hindrance in that part of her life—of any part of her life.
“Sure, we can go. Are you going to talk to me though?” Her beautiful features strained with concern as she brushed her fingertip over the frown that marred my brow.
I took a breath, willing myself to relax. I turned into her palm, kissing it gently and keeping her hand locked in mine. “We’ll talk on the way home,” I said, moving us toward the cloakrooms.
I didn’t really want to get into the dirty details of Jia’s proposal on the drive home, but the more time went by the more pissed I became. By the time we stepped into her apartment, my words came out more harshly than I’d wanted.
“That b***h is trouble.”
Maya jolted, freezing in place while I paced the small path at the foot of her bed.
“You’re upset because she invited us over for drinks?”
“She doesn’t want drinks. She wants to orchestrate some sort of f**k fest between the three of us, and I’m not interested. You need to keep your distance from her.”
Her voice was quiet—too quiet. I came closer and took her hand, as if that would be some lifeline, some way for her to understand the reality of the situation without getting upset with me.
“She’s manipulative. You can’t trust her, Maya.”
“How do you know?” She slipped out of my grasp, her eyes intent on me.
I shook my head, shoving my hands through my hair, wishing she could have seen the look in Jia’s eyes when she made the offer. “I just know.”
Maya shivered and took a step back, staring at her shoes.
“What’s wrong? Are you cold?”
“You should go.”
“I have a long day tomorrow. We need to finish this deal before the holiday if we can.”
“The deal that Jia’s managing.”
She reached for my coat and handed it to me.
“Thank you for coming with me tonight. I appreciate your support. I really do.”
I tossed the coat away and took a step closer, our bodies so close I could feel her warmth. She was flush against the wall now, trapped. Her frustration radiated, mixing with the sexual tension that was damn near palpable by now.
“You can’t tell me what to do.” The edge to her voice softened a bit.
“No?” I raised my eyebrows. When it came to Jia, I had different thoughts on the matter.
“All you’ve done since we’ve been together is tell me what to do, what not to do, and now you’re telling me who I should be spending my time around. What makes you think I need someone like that in my life?”
“You need someone like that in your life because no one’s telling you the truth. And when you do stupid s**t, I’m going to call you out on it. If you want to call that me telling you what to do, fine. But I’m not going anywhere, and I think you know that.”
Her glaze flickered to mine, and for a split second, I saw all of her vulnerability. The soft scared girl lingered for a moment before an impassive expression took over.