Rylan didn’t waste time. He strode to the two-story brownstone on Main Street and entered behind her. He didn’t bother to knock. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission and all that.
He found her upstairs in her small kitchen, arms braced against the counter as she stared out the window at the unkempt yard behind the building. It was empty, save for a decrepit playset in the back corner. The slide was long gone, but a single swing hung from a rusted bar.
“When you die,” she said without turning around, “I’m going to dub you Saint Rylan, patron of lost causes.”
Rylan stepped close enough that he could feel the heat from her body, but far enough away that there was room for her to escape. “How’d you know it was me instead of Sloan?”
“Your footsteps are different.”
“Huh.” He chewed on that piece of information a bit. He was probably reading too much into it, but the fact that she could distinguish his footsteps from someone else’s? That was all the encouragement he needed to stay. “You’re a damn impressive woman, Reese.”
“Is that right? Because I can tell you and Sloan apart?” She sounded tired, almost resigned. Rylan experienced a pang of concern. Connor had never sounded like this before, but then again, Rylan’s leader had never been in charge of eighty-plus people before either. Con kept his camp small. Even Hudson, his woman, had been an interloper he hadn’t wanted to take in.
Reese, on the other hand, threw her doors open to any misfits, wanderers, and beggars that rattled on her gates.
Rylan briefly pondered what it would’ve been like growing up if there’d been a Reese around when he was young. Maybe then every night wouldn’t have been filled with his mother’s tears and his father’s angry shouts, followed by mournful pleas for forgiveness and hollow exchanges of I love you.
“That, and because you’ve got a vision for the future that few people would ever try to make a reality,” he said frankly.
“You and Connor think I’m nuts, don’t you?”
And maybe a little foolish, but hell, if it wasn’t for Reese’s foot in their asses, they’d still be holed up in their isolated camp, avoiding Enforcers and scavenging for supplies. Reese’s plan was big and bold and possibly suicidal, but the alternative was to cower, and Rylan had had enough of that.
She sighed and finally turned to look at him. “Did Sloan send you in here to cheer me up?”
Was that a dig? It kinda felt like one. But it was also true—Sloan had sent him. Or at least given him the signal that he wasn’t totally barking up the wrong tree by running after Reese.
He searched her eyes for traces of derision, but he only saw fatigue with a side of melancholy. He wanted to scoop this tough woman into his arms and pleasure her until she was too satisfied to frown.
“I’m here because last night was the best sex I’ve ever had. Because walking away from you isn’t an option for me.”
She made a strangled sound—half laugh, half groan—and rubbed the back of her hand across her forehead. Is that all you can think about?”
“Around you? Yup. I fuck and I fight. Don’t scratch too deep because there’s nothing there.”
She snorted in disbelief. “Tell that to someone who’ll believe you.”
Rylan’s brow furrowed. He’d always skated on the surface of intimacy, enjoying the physical nature of sex—the hot embrace, the rough friction, the sharp desire. What he’d just told Reese was absolutely true. He didn’t feel deeply. He could appreciate it in others, but he’d witnessed firsthand the emptiness of love. What he wanted, and what he could give, was pleasure and nothing more.
“What’re you talking about?” he finally asked, feeling slightly off-center that Reese saw something in him that didn’t exist.
She studied him for a moment before waving her hand carelessly. “It’s nothing. Look, last night was hot, but there’s nothing left here for you.” She presented her back to him and stared out the window again.
Was that a challenge? Sure sounded like one.