“Are you married?”
His brows drew together. “Married? No, why?”
I pointed to his hand. “Your ring. I thought it was a wedding band.”
A wistful smile tipped his lips. “No. It belonged to a friend.” He gazed down at it and twisted the thin braided gold band around and around. “He died.”
Pain as sharp as a knife jab twisted inside. “I’m sorry. It sounds like you were very close.” A lover, I supposed, and my heart seized with jealousy. I must be fucking crazy to feel like this. I was an adult, not a high-school kid anymore. Yet I still wanted to know about this man who obviously meant so much to him, but Ezra had become tight-lipped and didn’t seem to want to elaborate.
“We were, yeah.”
His lips pressed together, and I waited for him to speak further, but he remained frustratingly silent. My annoyance spiked. “Asking again, what are you doing here? If you want to forget the past, why not make a clean break and wipe me from your memory?”
Like you did when you left.
But I wouldn’t say that out loud. It was stupid for a forty-year-old man to still be hurt about events more than two decades old.
“Roe, come on.” He took my hand in his, and the shock to my system from his touch woke me up as if I’d been sleeping for years. “I-I thought we could be friends. I don’t know many people in the city, and it gets lonely.” Smooth fingers rubbed against mine. Goddamn, it felt so good.
“You? Lonely? A big-time agent in Hollywood? I’m sure you have millions of friends coast to coast. All you need to do is pick up the phone, and you’re set.” I tried to pull my hand from his, but he held firm.
“They don’t know me.”
“And I do, not seeing you all these years?” I couldn’t believe he had the gall to say that crap to me. “You’re being ridiculous.” Yet I couldn’t pull away.
“No. I’m not.” His thumb played over the top of my hand, and tingles shot through me despite my reluctance. “My industry is so fake; people say what they want to get who they want. It can get so lonely. I’ve never connected with anyone the way I did with you.”
I could tell him about loneliness. Long, dark nights wishing I could talk to him, but the few times we tried, it was awkward with my parents around, and…well, it wasn’t easy to talk about how we felt, so we agreed to write. And for a while we did, but then the letters dwindled to nothing. Endless years where finances, school, and work prevented me from traveling to California to surprise and eventually confront Ezra. If he’d wanted me, he’d have made the effort, my pride argued with my heart. He had the means to pick up and go wherever he desired. There had been other men for me, of course, but the affairs had led nowhere.
The phone rang, but I let it go to voice mail. All the broken pieces of the past floating around in my head paralyzed me.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I’d turned into a solid block of ice and could barely breathe. Maybe it was a delayed reaction to the slight hangover from last night’s two beers. The intensity of Ezra’s eyes captured me, drawing me in like I was his prey. I felt devoured whole. I shivered, goose bumps rising on my arms as if his lips had touched my sensitive skin.
“Roe,” he whispered and tugged my hand.
With my brain on hold, I swayed toward him and fell into his mouth, my body lighting up the moment Ezra’s lips found mine. He grabbed my face, and I dug my hands into the thick of that glorious head of hair and pulled him close. I drank him down as if parched, as if I’d been traveling through a desert for years. His kiss flowed through me, watering my dried-up soul.