Breaking the Rules (Page 25)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(25)
Author: Katie McGarry

“Uh-huh.” The bed dips as Noah sits beside me, and I don’t miss how the towel slides up his leg. Oh, God, I’m obsessed now.

“So you bolting had nothing to do with me being naked?” he asks in this I-know-everything tone, and I sort of want to wipe that smirk off his face. As I peek at him, I realize I could kiss it off.

I think of the shower and his wet body and the comforter on the bed becomes suddenly fascinating. “Not at all.”

I try the tangle again with both hands. The pick combs through the top then snags at the middle. Hard. The teeth scrape my skin, but when I attempt to pull it out, it yanks my hair, threatening to rip it out by the roots.

“Need help?” Noah asks.

“No.”

“That’s a ginormous knot.”

“I’ve got it.” Yet as I drag the pick through, it becomes totally ensnared, making everything worse, making me flush, making me want to… “Screw it!”

My hands slam down on the bed, and I sit there, utterly humiliated with a plastic growth now embedded in my hair. At least people will have something new to tease me about.

The heater kicks on, and I groan. The room teeters on sauna status. Noah shifts, and my shoulders slump when a tug on my hair causes my head to fall back. It’s as if he believes he can untangle the mess that is my life.

“It’s useless,” I tell Noah as the tugging on my hair inches increasingly close to yanking. “You’re right. I rushed out of the shower because you were naked, and I needed conditioner. Now I’m forever screwed.”

“Not forever, baby,” he says gently.

My eyes stupidly burn, and the weight of the last few days covers me like a shroud. “It feels like forever.”

He says nothing, and I’m very okay with that. Sometimes I prefer silence. My hair drifts right and left and up and down as Noah tries to repair the twisted damage.

“What if I can’t measure up?” I ask, and the pressure on my head pauses. The question even startles me.

“What?”

With Noah behind me, balancing a lock of my hair with one hand and the wedged-in pick with the other, I’m literally stuck, and I fight the urge to dash to the opposite side of the room…or the country. “Nothing.”

“Talk, Echo.”

I link my fingers together and unlink them. Noah grants me a moment of silence as he continues to extricate the tangle. As each stroke works through larger sections of my hair, I sense my reprieve coming to an end. He won’t let this go, and I’m not sure I want him to.

I drop my mouth open to tell him the truth then lose my courage. “I messed up my only hope at making a contact with an art gallery in Vail.”

“How’s that?” Noah pauses to use his fingers against the knot. “Showed them your art and they felt inferior?”

I giggle before sighing. I wish. I’ll be going home a failure—as someone not capable of succeeding on my own with my art. At least not without my mother’s help, and that isn’t an option. “No, I wasn’t thinking straight. There was a painting of the constellation Aires that was wrong and after everything that happened…the owner came out…and he asked what I thought and…I messed up.”

“How’d he take it?”

“Not good.”

“Not good like I need to talk to him or not good that you’re scared you hurt his feelings?”

“Second one, and since when do you have talks with people?”

“I’ll rephrase. If he yelled at you, I need to shove my foot up his ass.” My head jerks back, but then the pick swipes clean through my hair. “Got it.”

“Thanks.”

I wait for him to hand me the pick back, but he continues to brush the rest of my hair. No one’s done anything like that for me before, and the act makes my skin joyously sensitive.

After a few minutes, he places the pick on the nightstand and settles back against the pillows. I turn and watch as he messes his hand through his hair. I like it damp. It’s a tad bit darker and gives him this hint of wildness.

“I don’t want you scared of me, Echo.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

I think of the first night we made out in the basement of his foster parents’ house. He told me he didn’t want me to be scared of him. I told him I wasn’t, but I was. I was frightened by the sensations caused by his touch. Months later and I’m still terrified. Noah’s right. I’m no different.

I move so that I face him, but stay safely near the end of the bed. “I’m scared.”

Noah scratches his chin with his knuckles and shakes his hair over his eyes. “Me, too.”

“What?” Maybe we aren’t discussing the same thing.

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?” He’s Noah Hutchins. They guy who has done it backward, sideways and forward. “I mean you’ve done this, and I haven’t. I can’t even get myself together enough to handle looking at your—” I wave both hands frantically in the air “—stuff.”

“Stuff?”

Oh, my God. “Noah, if there was something sharp nearby, I’d slam it into my brain so I wouldn’t have to have this conversation. So can you stop pointing out my inability to say…stop pointing out my inabilities.”

“Fine. We’ll do this your way.” Noah stretches out his legs and offers me his hand. “But we’re talking.”

Talking. We’re going to do this. We are going to talk about it. We’ve discussed this before…the night I was willing to do it with him, but we didn’t do it, we did other things, and since then he’s been patient.

Still sitting cross-legged, I edge closer to him and bring his hand into my lap so that I can hold it in both of mine. My knee rubs against his thigh, and I like how the hair on his legs tickles my skin.

Noah frowns and tips his chin, indicating that I should come closer, but I can’t. I need distance so I can curl into a ball and die if the conversation becomes too much. That would be harder to do being tucked next to Noah.

“What are you scared of?” I ask.

Noah slides his ring finger along mine, and a small amount of liquid heat flows into my veins. “Hurting you.”

Fantastic. “So you are abnormally large.”

Noah laughs, and I blush so hard that I could roast marshmallows off my cheeks. He squeezes my fingers until I finally meet his gaze. “While I don’t go around checking out the competition, I’d say I’m normal.”