A Different Blue Page 78

“I saw the tickets. Were you going to surprise me? Is it my Valentine's Day surprise?” Pamela teased, and her flirtatious tone made me want to run up the stairs and hurl her over the banister. She must not have sensed my murderous intent, because she kept right on talking.

“We can have dinner with my parents before. They'll be staying at the hotel through next week.” I had forgotten about Pamela's connection to the hotel. Tiffa said the Sheffield family wasn't the sole owner of the hotel any longer, but money talked, and the hotel still bore the Sheffield name.

Pamela and Wilson reached the bottom of the stairs and I slunk back, hoping they wouldn't see me. I should have gone into my apartment and closed the door. Now it was too late to do so without alerting them of my presence. So I stood, frozen, watching Pamela loop her arms around Wilson's neck and stand up on her toes to place a quick kiss on his lips. I looked away. I should have watched, should have made myself acknowledge that she was the girl in his life. And I was the neighbor. The project. The whim? I had no idea what I was to Wilson anymore.

“See you Saturday?” Pamela asked.

I didn't hear Wilson's answer, I was too busy unlocking my door. I decided I didn't care if they knew I was there. I shut the door behind me. When I heard a soft knock several minutes later, I considered ignoring it. It could only be Wilson, and he would only make me feel worse. But I was just a girl. And the guy I liked stood on the other side of the door. So I opened it.

“Hi,” I said cheerfully, as if I was completely unaffected by what I had just seen. Wilson didn't look like a man who had just enjoyed a goodnight kiss. He looked a little upset. And a little stressed. I tried not to read anything into it.

“Hi,” he replied softly. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure. Mi casa es su casa . . . literally.” I turned and walked into my home, feeling him at my back. “Did Camilla just leave?” I asked pointedly. When Wilson didn't answer I looked up at him in question.

“Camilla?” he smirked, folding his arms. “You asked me if Camilla just left.”

“Is that what I said?” I frowned.

“Yes. You called Pamela Camilla.”

“Hmmm. Freudian slip,” I mumbled, a little embarrassed. It wasn't my fault. I had been thinking of kisses, and lately kisses made me think of Camilla . . . and The Golden Girls.

The carving I had been working on the last time we talked sat on my kitchen table, and Wilson halted beside it abruptly. He studied it intently, turning it this way and that, but I was distracted, knowing that any mention of Camilla had to remind him of what had transpired between us more than a month ago.

“Tell me what you see when you look at this sculpture,” Wilson asked after a while, his eyes roving down the sensual lines of the stained mahogany. His hand traced the contours reverently.

I had whittled away the heaviness from the branches, creating hollows and sinews and shaping the suggestion of lovers wrapped around each other while still maintaining the natural innocence and simplicity of the merging branches. The branches were mountain mahogany, the wood a natural reddish brown. I had rubbed several applications of black stain into one branch, and it gleamed like a black jungle cat, the golden red tones melding with the dark stain so the black looked like it was silhouetted in sunlight. I applied no stain to the other branch but had simply buffed and glossed the golden red wood until it glowed like amber. The effect was that the two limbs in the sculpture appeared to be different wood, branches from two different kinds of trees. The result was a statement all its own.

I looked away. I felt hot and angry, and my chest was tight with a feeling Wilson always seemed to stir in me.

“I'd rather not.”

“Why?” Wilson sounded genuinely confused by my refusal, since I was usually eager to discuss my carvings with him.

“Why do you want my explanation? What do you see when you look at it?” I said crossly. Wilson withdrew his hand from the sculpture and grabbed my braid where it hung over my shoulder. He tugged it gently, wrapping it around his hand as he did.

“What's wrong?”

“Nothing's wrong. I'm preoccupied,” I protested. “And my art is not about what I see. It's about what I feel. And right now I don't really want to discuss what I feel.” I tried to pull my hair free from his hand, but he wound it tighter, pulling me toward him.

“I see limbs and love and lust,” Wilson stated flatly. I stopped resisting, and my eyes rose to his. Wilson's gaze was wide and frank, but his jaw was clenched as if he knew he was crossing that invisible line he had drawn for himself.

“I'm not surprised you see those things,” I said softly.

“Why?” His eyes were intense, and I was suddenly furious. I was in love with Wilson, no doubt about it, but I would not be toyed with, and I sure as hell wasn't going to play kissy face ten minutes after Pamela left.

“You've just spent the evening with Pamela,” I reminded him sweetly. “She is a beautiful woman.”

Wilson's eyes flashed, and he dropped my braid, turning back toward the sculpture. I could tell he was mentally counting to ten. If I made him angry, it was his own fault. What did he think I was going to do? Wrap myself around him after he had ignored me off and on for months? I wasn't that girl. But maybe he thought I was. I took several deep breaths and ignored the tension that simmered between us. It was thick enough to slice and serve with a big dollop of denial. He took several steps, his hands fisted in his hair, putting some distance between us.

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