I gasped and sat upright, the world tilting for a few dizzying seconds. Leo leaned against the doorjamb, his ankles crossed as he stared down at me. “What?”
“You need a shower,” he repeated. “Guess you need to get used to the Valley again.”
“Hmm, yes, I guess.”
“Here.” He handed me a glass of cold water and watched in silence as I gulped it all down. When I pressed the glass against my cheek and sighed in relief, he snapped, “Shower. Now!”
“No, you’re not. You’re getting sunstroke. Don’t you think I know you by now?”
“I’m not even in the sun!”
“Heatstroke, whatever you want to call it! Come on, Jade.” He grabbed my left hand and pulled me up, steadying me with one warm palm on my hip when I teetered. “See?”
I mumbled something in return, but he didn’t pay attention. He pushed me into his bathroom, the white and black tiling too stark for my tired eyes. “I can go home.”
“Not yet. I won’t let you fall sick on my watch.”
“I’m not sick!” I complained, brushing his hands off me. “I can take care of myself. I’ve done so for the past years, remember?”
“But now, you’re back.” The words echoed between us, my gaze slamming upward and locking with his.
“Don’t do this, Leo.”
“Too late,” he whispered as he took a step forward and pulled me into his embrace. I thought he would kiss me, so I purposefully looked down, but he surprised me. He took the hem of my tee into both hands and lifted it up, baring my stomach then my bra.
I squealed. “Leo!”
“I’ve seen you naked before, remember?”
Swearing inwardly, I forced my feet to take a step back and said, “I don’t want to talk about that night.”
“Why not? Don’t you want to know how I felt when I woke up to find you gone?”
“What happened, Jade? I knew I was your first, and maybe I hurt you a little, but I also know you liked what we did. I made you scream, baby. But no, you got scared instead, didn’t you?”
“Shut up!” I hit his shoulder, but he was so powerfully built it felt as if I’d hit granite instead. Nursing my achy hand, I glared at him instead. “I said I didn’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s too fucking bad!” he roared back.
“I didn’t come back for this.” I braced myself against the wall. “I’m not ready for this.”
“Yes, you are. You’re my mate, Jade, and you need to get this through your pretty little head.”
“I can’t be your mate, damn it! I’m not a lioness!”
“Is that why you left? Because you thought you weren’t good enough? Lion enough?”
It was so close to the truth, I felt unbidden tears swim in my eyes. I blinked rapidly, wishing them away, hoping he wouldn’t see this very human show of weakness. I’d already cried in front of him the night before and certainly didn’t want a repeat. Not today. Not ever. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I repeated for what felt like the hundredth time.
“My mother chose you, Jade. Our Pride’s leader chose you. Shouldn’t that tell you everything you need to know?”
“No.” I shook my head. “She loved me. She was biased.”
“You think Sara wasn’t rational? Is that really what you just said?”