She went really quiet on the other end of the phone and then whispered so softly that I almost didn’t hear her, “Oh, Lando …”
I rubbed my temples and grunted. “I know, Ma. Believe me I know. The reason he came to see me is because he was already hurt in the line of duty. He got shot and fell off of a building.” Just saying the words made me tense up. Dom was so lucky to be alive, and I couldn’t fathom how hard he was working to put himself back in the line of fire after a close call like that.
She was quiet for another drawn out minute before solemnly asking me, “Are you sure you can handle being with someone in such a high-risk field? After Remy …” she trailed off again and I had to fight the urge to bang my forehead on the edge of my desk.
“I know how I was after Remy, Ma. I’m still that way minus the sleeping around. I think I’ll always be that way. I don’t think being with this guy is an option for me. First of all he’s a client, so anything romantic between us is pretty goddamn unprofessional, and secondly I honestly don’t think I’m strong enough to get involved with someone that I could very well lose.”
She made a little noise and I could almost see her lifting her hand to her mouth. She cleared her throat and when she spoke, she sounded like the woman who had always told me to be proud of who I was and to chase after whatever dream I had. “You’ve never been afraid of anything in your life, Orlando. Fear was the biggest issue in your relationship with Remy. It controlled everything that sweet boy did and we all hated to watch him live like that. It broke your heart time and time again. We taught you better than to let fear rule you and maybe I forgot that because you scared me when Remy died. I let my fear take over. You lost so much of yourself when you lost that boy, and maybe I’ve been scared to see you go back there, but that’s not who you are and that’s not who we are. You’ve never been afraid to love anyone. Don’t start now.”
I gave her a dry little chuckle and leaned back in the chair so that I could stare up at the ceiling. “A little early to be talking about love, Ma.”
But I did like him. I liked that he was effortlessly charismatic and brash. I liked that he was determined and driven in the way only someone with real dedication could be. I liked that he didn’t bother to hide his attraction to me but kept himself in check and in control because I obviously couldn’t be trusted to. I liked that he could give just as good as he got and that he felt hot and hard when he was pressed against me. And I liked that I liked him. It had been way too long since I found anyone interesting enough to engage with and I liked the pop and sizzle of desire that worked under my skin and made my blood heat when I was around him. That was new.
Of course, I wanted Remy and a few of the men that had come after but none of them blindsided me with lust. No one made me feel like I was being buried under my own hunger and scrambling to fight my way through thick and slippery passion. I couldn’t get my footing or find anything to hold on to, which meant I was falling. I didn’t like the feeling one bit.
“You haven’t mentioned a man in a long time, kiddo. Regardless if this one is a client or not, that means something. I think you owe it to yourself to figure out what that something is, don’t you?”
“Maybe. I gotta go. Tell Dad that if he gets an RV, I get to borrow it to go camping.”
She laughed. “Will do. Figure out what you’re gonna do about the cop and then bring him for dinner. I get tired of harassing your sister and brother about my future grandchildren.”
I rolled my eyes and told her I would call her later.
I had no clue what I was going to do about the hot cop, but I needed to figure it out fast because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself when he showed up for his therapy session on Monday. I’d already mauled him with my mouth; if I didn’t get a handle on my reaction to him there was a very good chance I could be inspired to attack him with the rest of my body as well. Something told me Dom wouldn’t complain about being ravaged, but my mom was right. There was something more there, something that hadn’t been there for a very long time and I owed it to myself and to Dominic to be man enough to face it and find out what that something was, if only I could reach around the walls of fear to get at it.
Lando was angry at me and doing a piss-poor job of hiding it. Not that I could blame him.
I had apparently undone all the positive improvement he had put into my body over the previous week by not knowing when enough was enough. I wanted to pretend like I was still the guy that could do everything, could still be the one everyone counted on when they needed a strong back and some good old-fashioned sweat, but I wasn’t. After helping my youngest sister, Ari, move into her very first apartment on Saturday, I should have told Royal no when she asked if I wanted to go hiking with her on Sunday. As a result of the overuse my thigh felt like it was made of Jell-O and I was pretty sure that there was a torn muscle or strained tendon somewhere in my shoulder. I was back to hurting like everything inside of me was on fire and even the simplest of movements made me wince.
Lando was watching me with a furious scowl on his handsome face. I wanted to tell him the fierce expression was ruined by his freckles, but I didn’t think he was in the mood to flirt. He looked like he wanted to knock me around and yell at me.
“Come on. It was my little sister. I couldn’t exactly tell her no when she asked for my help. I practically raised her when my dad died when we were younger. I’ve always been her go-to guy. I didn’t think it would hurt anything.”