Til Death

I wanted to stand there forever, watching him read poetry to a cat with such a peaceful expression. If it could tolerate him, then maybe—a big maybe—he wasn’t so bad. The guy could be human after all.
“Stalking me again?”
The question startled me. I jerked and lost my balance. My shoulder collided with the rolling ladder. I winced, pain shooting down my arm. Nice. My smile wobbled when I steadied myself by grabbing the rail.
“Uh…um…why would I do that? I have a life. I was looking for Kyle.” A flaming blush spread across my cheeks. Lord, I was making a mess of myself.
The cat turned its head and stared at me with its stunning lime-green eyes. I quivered. Those eyes were almost too intelligent, as if to say: “Idiot.”
Dillan set the book aside, but continued stroking the cat’s steel-gray fur from head to tail.
“You made friends with Constantinople.” I pointed at the half-asleep cat. I swallowed, trying to stay cool in the presence of the heavy stares of a serious feline and a boy who made me feel hot and cold all at the same time. “He’s never good with strangers.”
Constantinople turned its head away from me and closed its eyes again, purring like a small generator. Remember that crazy part of me? Well, it wished, just a little, that I could take the its place. Even worse, I wondered how my skin would feel if his fingers decided to glide over it. Would I feel those tiny electric shocks again? Goose bumps rose on my arms and legs. I had to stop thinking dangerous things before I made a fool of myself.
“That’s your name.” He reached for one of the cat’s front paws. “It’s nice to meet you, Constantinople. Dillan Sloan, at your service.” He held the paw and Constantinople gave him a warbling meow, which turned into a yawn. Mischief glittered in his eyes as he gave me a smile. “Never thought Robert Frost would send a cat snoozing.”
Who knew being in the presence of a playful Dillan Sloan was wickeder than being with the arrogant and annoying Dillan Sloan? One guy, two different people. It was enough to give me whiplash.
My heart sputtered. Damn, he looked good. I fought hard to stay focused. “I think it’s your voice.”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “I was there before I came here, but it’s not called Constantinople anymore.”
“What?” I reached for one of the rungs of the rolling ladder.
“Istanbul…I was just there.”
The change in his expression made me ache. He went from mischievous to lonely. He got so quiet, like he retreated into himself.
I let go of the ladder and stepped forward. “Why were you there? That’s in Turkey right?”
“Yes.” The gray cloud that settled above him lifted a little.
Without his usual biting tone he came off as vulnerable. I fought to concentrate on his next words in an effort to ignore the need to comfort him. Images of him in my arms while I whispered nonsense things into his ear woke flutters in my stomach.
“My parents are there on a yearlong dig just outside the city. They’re collaborating with Istanbul University and the Topkapi Palace.”
“And your parents took you with them?”
“My parents always take me with them when they’re on a dig.”
“But…what about school?” I took another tentative step forward and skimmed my fingers over the giant globe at the center of the room.
He gave me an are-you-learning-impaired look. A face I knew all too well. This was good. I could handle myself when on familiar territory.
“I usually stay in the city with my tutors. I was home schooled until recently.”
“So why are you here?” I pretended to search for Turkey on the globe.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m here, you’re here, Constantinople is here.”
The cat settled its head on its front paws, murmuring as if in response to Dillan’s careless words.
“But it does matter!” I covered my mouth with both hands. Where the hell did that come from?
As if reading my mind, his eyebrows shot up. A hint of a grin formed on his lips. Constantinople gave me a withering stare, silently reprimanding me for disturbing his nap.
“Really? Why?” Mischief returned to those startling blue eyes, and something else…something unfamiliar that caused heat to flow under my skin.
Feeling weak against that stare, I hedged, “What matters? What did I say?”
That mocking eyebrow went up a notch, forcing my head to work on overtime. The smile accompanying it made me dizzy. Did the air in here just get lighter?
“Don’t play dumb.” He picked up a slightly disgruntled Constantinople as he stood and deposited the feline on the seat with deliberate yet graceful movements. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The voice in me that told me to fight the corpses screamed for me to run now. But I couldn’t move. After giving Constantinople one last head to tail stroke, Dillan faced me. He dusted cat hair off his hands and jeans without breaking eye contact.
When did the library get so hot? I resisted the urge to pull on my sweater collar. My palms sweated. I forced myself to move. For every forward step he made, I answered with a step back. Our little dance continued until the far wall bookshelves pushed against me.
A glimmer of pleasure surfaced in his eyes.
My skin practically sizzled.
“Come on.” He rested his hands on the shelves, boxing me in with his body. “Tell me why it matters that I’m here.”
“Well...” I faltered. His clean scent scattered my thoughts.
“Well?”
I bit my lip. My worst idea yet. His eyes left mine to focus on my mouth. I shivered. Oh, Lord Almighty. Slowly, he bent his head toward me. The tip of my tongue darted across my lower lip. This couldn’t be happening. What was he thinking? 

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