"Are you kicking me out?” she asked.
“I’m not kicking you out,” he replied calmly, though in fact, he was. “I’m just mitigating the fall out of a bad decision.” The minute the words escaped his mouth, he regretted them. But it was too late to call them back, and if he wanted to put an insurmountable distance between them, they would do the trick.
Ophelia’s breath seized in her lungs. It was almost like a slap. It wasn’t as if she’d expected a happily ever after ending. She didn’t believe in fairy tales and she certainly knew that Vincent was no prince charming. But she hadn’t expected to be thrown out of his bed in the middle of the night. “Of course,” she replied, her voice slightly clipped, the words as brittle as glass. Pushing the sheets back, she rose and retrieved what was left of her clothing. She had no idea where her torn underwear had wound up, but she wasn’t going to embarrass herself further by digging in the dark for them. Fastening her bra, she slipped her dress back on over her head. The zipper was proving stubborn, but when she felt the weight of his presence behind her and the gentle brush of his hands on her back as he tried to assist her, fury washed through her.
“I don’t need your help!” she snapped, and then quickly moved away. It wasn’t simply that it hurt. She was humiliated.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Sorry for what?” she asked. “Sorry for breaking your damned rules or sorry for tossing me out of your bed in the middle of the night like some drunken mistake?”
He stared at her for a long moment. “I’m sorry that it can’t be what you want.”
The shoe she’d picked up flew from her hand, sailing in his direction. “Don’t you dare put that on me! I never asked a thing from you! I never made assumptions about what would or wouldn’t be between us... The only one doing that is you!”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he demanded, picking up one shoe while dodging the other.
“You are so full of yourself, Vincent! What makes you so damned sure that I wanted more than what you’ve already given me?”
He didn’t have a suitable answer for that. It was a safe bet that anything he said would be wrong at that point. “Let me get my keys and I’ll drive you home.”
“I’ll take a cab!”
“No, you won’t. It’s dangerous.”
She whirled on him then. “Right now I’m dangerous... You don’t get to treat me like a whore and then play the gentleman in the same breath. I’ll take the goddamned taxi!”
Vincent placed the shoes on the bed and, with a sigh, walked out of the room. He had wounded her pride and she had always had that in abundance. But it would keep things from going any further. If she hated him, there would be no more temptation to resist. It would be easier for both of them that way, he reasoned. No false hopes. No disappointments down the road. It was safer for her that way. He paused in the foyer, listening to the click of her heels on the stairs as she stormed down.
“Let me drive you home,” he said. “It will take forever to get a taxi here at this time of night.”
“I’ve already called one and it’s on the way... You’ve done quite enough already, thank you,” she said. Some of the heat had left her voice and she sounded somewhat reasonable.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Ophelia, but a relationship isn’t something I can even consider right now.”
“Please spare me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ routine. I know it’s you, Vincent. It’s glaringly apparent right now that it’s you... If you want to be a coward, fine. Be one. Just don’t expect me not to call you on it... I’ll wait out front for the taxi. I could use the air.”