Belle waited for the punch line to his compliment. When none came, she looked up to see Gray staring at her. His entire body seemed tilted and his eyes – wide and stormy now – pulsated in time to her heartbeat.
“Would you mind closing the doors a bit?” she asked, motioning to the fireplace. “It’s hot enough.”
“Belle.” Gray leaned forward in his chair. His jeans pressed into the coffee table between them. He said her name again, as if she hadn’t heard the first time.
But she’d heard it just fine. She’d heard the longing tone, the soft inflection, the way in which he made it half sigh, half question. It was just one syllable, which she’d heard a trillion times in a million different voices. But suddenly it caused her stomach to flip inside out and her eyes to burrow deep into the half-finished blanket in her hands – the blanket that would soon belong to the reason Gray couldn’t finish what he wanted to say.
“Don’t forget to –”
“Belle. Something happened today.”
She pitched her chin up. Could he recognize the terror that was flashing through her entire body right now?
Gray wrung his hands together over his knees. Something unfamiliar flitted across his face.
“I know I’ve only been here a week,” he said, “and I don’t want to put myself where I don’t belong.” Belle gripped the cloth and the smooth metal needle pushing through it. She’d stab herself before she let him ruin this – whatever this was. “But I care about you and –”
“Gray, please –”
“What did he do to you?”
Silence dropped with the question mark. The needle plunged into Belle’s thumb but she bit back the yelp. Only the crackle of the fire had the nerve to make a sound.