I polished off the rest of my sub and threw away our trash. Riley was humming along to music from a radio that sat in the corner of the Laundromat. I found a toothpick dispenser and put one in my mouth as the dryer buzzed.
I shoved a wheeled laundry cart under my dryer and began dumping in my dried clothes. Riley did the same, his singing growing louder. He’d thrown in some hip movements too, and I shook my head with a smile at his antics.
A club song came on with a pounding beat and Riley whooped. He latched onto a pole that was in the middle of the Laundromat and began to shimmy along its length like he was a stripper.
We were alone in the Laundromat, which was good, because Riley sure as hell wasn’t holding back. He worked the pole like a pro, and by this time I’d stopped pretending like I was folding. I stood with my hands on my hips and watched him.
He moved like a cat, all fluid and boneless. His expression was dreamy, like he was caught up in the music and happy to be that way. I wasn’t sure anything had ever made me feel that transcendent. And that was exactly how he looked.
His back was to the pole and he dipped down in a squat, separated his knees, and then rose back up. Now his hot eyes were on me, the brown showing a fiery ember beneath.
He beckoned to me with one finger, and I hesitated for a minute when I remembered his rejection. But this was harmless. We were just goofing off, playing around, and dancing to fun music in a Laundromat in the middle of nowhere.
And the best part of all of this was I didn’t see one damn demon in Riley’s eyes. Not one.
So I sauntered over to him, spitting out my toothpick as I went. He rolled his eyes at me, which made me grin.
I grabbed him around the waist, his slender body easily crashing into mine as I curled my bicep. He wrapped his arms around my neck and continued to swivel his hips. I made a scrunched face and strummed a little air guitar on his back, and he arched his neck and laughed.
I loved how carefree he looked, his hair in disarray from dancing. He was only wearing a plain T-shirt now and an older pair of jeans since his good ones were all in the wash.
And we danced. As we swayed, I didn’t even have to guess what he’d do next. Our bodies fit like a puzzle, our rhythms in sync as we moved to the beat.
Everything about this felt right, and I wondered what had happened to me—that I was somehow falling for this man who looked like he’d stepped off of a catwalk, who had demons and sad eyes and kissed like an angel.
Maybe it was the caretaker gene that Jess always talked about, because I wanted to hold Riley like this forever. I wanted to dance with him while doing laundry and joke about delis with mounted animal heads.
It was reckless and a little stupid but I’d spend my last dime to follow this guy around the country. Maybe I could do this—for once in my life, succeed at something. And if that was taking care of Riley while he got rid of his demons, then so be it.
The song ended and a slower one filtered through the speakers. I heard a piano and some kind of stringed instrument like a violin. The singer’s voice was melancholy and Riley’s mood seemed to sober right with it. It was like he felt the music internally as he clung to me and swayed in my arms, all traces of the earlier joy gone.
I rubbed my hand up and down his back, feeling the knobs of his spine through his T-shirt. I was glad I’d bought that pack of cookies at the deli because I might have to force-feed Riley later.
But now I enjoyed the warmth of his body against mine as he rocked back and forth to the music. This was okay, this dancing. It didn’t have to lead to more. It felt good to want him, to enjoy this moment, knowing it wouldn’t progress further. He’d made his feelings clear.
His breath was hot on my neck, and I could feel his erection hard against my thigh. He shook slightly, and his fingernails dug through my thin T-shirt.
He turned his head, and my lips brushed the hair at his temple as his lips brushed my neck, so softly, so slowly, but enough to make me close my eyes. Enough to make me groan. Enough to make my hard cock throb.
I kept my mouth shut as those soft lips coasted over the front of my throat, then up to the lobe of my ear. His hand rose from my shoulder to cup my neck, and he pressed even closer, aligning our bodies. “In another life, Col, I-I think it could be you. I swear.”
That hurt. That hurt a lot, each word like arrows into every sensitive bit of flesh. I stepped back, separating our bodies. Riley’s hands dropped lifelessly to his side. I ran my fingers through my hair and tugged a little, the pain taking the focus off of where Riley had bled me. He stared at me, biting his lip, and his hand clenched his thigh. This felt too soon. I’d only known Riley for less than a week, and I barely knew anything about him. But he made me ache. There was something about him that called to me. So I swallowed my pride and I threw out the only parting shot I had. “I guess our timing is off, then, because I think it could be you, too. In this life.”
I shoved the rest of my clothes in my bag, not giving a shit if they were folded, and headed toward the front door. “Get your clothes and let’s head out,” I called over my shoulder.
I didn’t look back as I pushed the Laundromat door open and heard it slam shut behind me.