Her heart warmed and attraction flooded through her. Her cheeks heated as she grew awed by how easily she responded to him. But the way he’d looked at her and his touch as he’d wiped away her tears had been so tender and gentle. He’d been so careful. Like she was precious. A treasure.
Stop your fantasizing, Emma. You barely know him.
As he shut the door, he kept hold of her, almost like he didn’t want to let go. Ever.
She swallowed as feelings overwhelmed her. Why did she trust him? Why did it seem as if she knew him on a deeper level?
Alarm whisked through her, and she gently tugged herself free. She had to put a little space between them. Had to think. Had to…calm herself.
Yes, he was gorgeous. Hot, even. But that didn’t mean it would be good for her to become attached. And at some point, he would leave. Everyone always left. Or let her down. She had to be careful.
With her back to him, she shoved away the invisible hold he had on her by imagining taking scissors to the string stretched between them and giving it a snip. When she felt she had control, she faced him.
He leaned against the door, watching her as if wanting to be sensitive to her upset. The light in his eyes shone bright, intent on her.
Her heart thumped hard against her chest. Oh, God. Killian Jones. What had he done to her?
A few moments of charged silence passed, and she had no idea how to combat the feelings rushing through her.
Could he tell how he affected her? God, she hoped not. “Wanna play cards?” She winced when her voice squeaked on the suggestion.
He straightened and smiled softly. “Sure.”
Thankful for something to occupy her thoughts other than their current predicament and her attraction, she almost ran to the kitchen and yanked open a drawer. They sat across from each other at the table, and even though three feet of space separated them, she continued to feel his nearness. How could he take up so much of the room?
She withdrew the cards from their case. “Do you know how to play gin?”
He nodded. “And poker. And hearts.”
Good, she thought. They would be able to keep busy while they tried to figure out how to get him home. She shuffled the deck. “I know those, as well. Not too good at poker, though.”
As she dealt, he arranged his hand, his enigmatic gaze finally off her. “That’s a game of bluffing. I’m glad you aren’t an expert.”
Once done, she set the remaining stack between them. “Are you?”
“Good at poker?”
A small grin played at his mouth and he lowered his focus to his hand. “Yes.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, love.” He lifted his gaze to hers. “I’ll never lie to you.”
While his eyes shone bright with promise, she forced a smile. “Then maybe we’ll play poker later since I’ve been assured you won’t bluff.”
He laughed, his blue depths twinkling.
Damn, damn, damn. Emma’s pulse raced at his expression of delight. Oh, no. She liked him. She did. Ugh.
“You got me, there, love. I made a promise and I won’t break it.” He shook his head as he glanced at his cards, his lips still quirked in laughter, then took his turn.
After a couple of plays, he asked, “What’s a foster mother?”
Despite the memories it conjured, she was grateful for the question. “A person who watches kids who’ve been abandoned by their parents.”
His gaze shot to hers. “Your parents left you?” His dark brows furrowed in anger.
She nodded. “I was just a baby, so I don’t remember it. I’m glad I don’t, but I wonder why they did it.” The questions she asked herself at night came barreling through her mind.
“That must be torture.” He watched her carefully.
She shrugged, but couldn’t respond as anything she said would sound fake. Because it did matter. It hurt. Always.
“My mother died,” he volunteered softly. “And my father took me and my brother from place to place. His grief seemed insurmountable. Ours was, too, but I looked up to both of them. Especially to my brother, Liam. I had hopes we would all be all right.” He set his elbows on the table. “Then we boarded a ship, and Father said we were going to a new land where a new life waited. Liam and I were so excited.”
The pain of disappointed hopes shone in his gaze as he told his tale. “But we woke one morning to find him gone.” He clenched his teeth and a muscle jumped in his jaw. “He just rowed away and left us.” He curled a hand into a fist, then shoved his fingers through his hair, controlled fury pouring from him. “He sold us.”
She reared back, horrified. “What? To who?”
“To the captain of the ship. Paid for the man’s silence because…because my father was a fugitive and on the run and…” He trailed off, the light of rage changing to a pain she knew all too well. “I don’t know what he did. Never tried to find out. For the last ten years I’ve been forced to work back-breaking hours with no respite or hope. But I’d rather do that than ever see him again.”
She swallowed at the conviction in his tone, at the hardness of it, at the pain and grief he’d shared with her. “I wouldn’t want to see him, either.” Overcome, she couldn’t stop herself from reaching out a hand toward him.
He slowly lowered his arm and curled his fingers around hers. They watched each other for several quiet moments, and their connection only strengthened. It overwhelmed her once more, and her cheeks flooded with heat. She licked her lips and gathered her courage. “Why…”
He tightened his grip as if he knew what she wanted to ask and wanted to bolster her confidence.
She plowed ahead. “Why do I feel like I’ve known you for forever?”
His gaze darkened, and he offered her a gentle smile. “I’m not sure. I have a thought, but I don’t know if…”
Curious, she prodded, “If?”
As he brushed his thumb over her palm, tingles shot up her arm, and she wanted to move closer.
“I don’t know if I’m right, or if it’ll concern you, or…”
Confused, she furrowed her brow, but she could see he was unsure of what he should say, and she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. “It’s all right. You don’t have to say if it’s weird or something.”
He pressed his lips together then said, “Thank you, Emma.”
She nodded slowly then gently disengaged herself and slid her hand to her lap. “I guess…when we want to figure out how to get you home, we should talk to Ingrid.”
“The lady who told you that you have magic?”
The thought of seeing her again made bile rise in Emma’s throat, but, if Ingrid had been telling the truth, then she hadn’t been crazy. Ingrid hadn’t let Emma down and had possibly known more about Emma’s background or history. An urge to find the woman shot through Emma, and she itched to get started. “Yes, that lady.”
“And that won’t upset you. To see her again?”
Emma fiddled with her cards as she considered her changing feelings. “It would have, but now that she might have been right and not crazy, I…want to go.”
He gave her an encouraging smile. “Then we’ll go.”
She bit her lip as excitement washed over her. She might learn more about herself on this journey, and wonder of wonders, she might have found a…friend. A friend. Killian. Her heart squeezed with hope.