“What lie?” He didn’t usually go for playing dumb, but he was at an informational disadvantage and needed to suss out what she knew.
She glowered at him. “That you’re the gargoyle at the fountain? The one who was there when I made my wish. You’ve known about this stalker the whole time, haven’t you?”
“What makes you think I was there?”
“This makes me think you were there.” She stuck her palm out. The piece of opal she’d thrown in as her offering sat on it, glinting at him.
There was no point in denying it. “Willa, listen, I just had to be sure—”
She sucked in a breath. “So you were there. That was you. That big gargoyle on the platform.”
“It’s not what you think.”
She tossed the opal onto the kitchen counter. It skittered to a stop against the backsplash. Her hands curled into fists as tears welled in her eyes. “Why didn’t you say something? I was talking to you, for crying out loud.”
“Because I had to be sure you weren’t trying to…control me.”
Her mouth came open. “I’m sorry, you had to be sure I wasn’t trying to control you? How exactly is that supposed to work?”
He studied her for a moment, trying to read her expression, her eyes. Was there any chance she was playing him? What kind of lapidus fae didn’t know she had power over a gargoyle? “Do you really not know?”
She stared at him. “No. Enlighten me.”
He ran a hand over his head. “I know what kind of fae you are.”
“Yeah, we talked about that. What does that have to do with anything?”
“You’re really not messing with me?”
Her gaze narrowed. “No, and apparently you’re not going to tell me why you would think that, or why what kind of fae I am matters.”
“It matters because your kind and my kind don’t mix.”
“What? Fae and shifters?” She shook her head. “Now you’re just making crap up. Fae and shifters get along fine.”
“Not fae and gargoyles. Ages ago, your kind held my kind in bondage.”
Her mouth gaped open, and hurt filled her eyes, telling him instantly he’d gone about this the wrong way. “I don’t know anything about that, but I can’t believe you thought I was trying to…ensnare you in some way? How would I even do that?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it—”
“Of course you did or you wouldn’t have thought it. Or said it.” She backed away. “Why did you even sleep with me? Do you think I somehow compelled you to? Because you certainly seemed on board last night.”
“No, I don’t think that. Please listen to me. Whatever your fae powers are, they contain the ability to control me. You’re a lapidus, aren’t you?”
She froze. “You know I am. What does it matter?”
“Because that’s who the fae used to enslave my people to fight their wars for them. The lapidus, those fae born with the power over metal and stone.”
“I’ve never known anything about this. I don’t have the power to control you.” Her voice held the jagged edge of fear.
That edge cut through him. He shook his head. “I can feel it when you touch me. The power in you resonates in me.”
“I would never do anything to force you—”
“You already have.”
Fresh hurt darkened her eyes, and she looked away. Jasper wound around her feet as if he could sense the tension in her. “If this is where you tell me that you didn’t really want to sleep with me and you just did it because I forced you, I’m going to have a really difficult time believing that.”
“I wasn’t talking about last night. I was talking about a minute ago when you grabbed my wrist and demanded I tell you what kind of shifter I am. I couldn’t have lied to you if I wanted to. Just like when you came to the fountain and made your wish, sealing it with stone. You must know the significance of that.”
“You’re delusional, you know that?” She scooped Jasper up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I know I have to go.”
She left, stomping down the hall to the bedroom.
He wanted to go after her, but she clearly wasn’t in a mood to talk anymore. He rubbed his face, still sticky in spots from the craziness of their dessert-fueled lovemaking. How was it possible that the woman he’d just been in bed with a few hours ago was now too angry to be in the same house with him?
She came back, her go-bags over her shoulder, but she went past the kitchen and into the living room, then the sounds of Jasper’s carrier being opened and closed reached his ears.
He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, watching her. “I can drive you to the sheriff station if you want.”
She picked up the carrier and shot him a withering look. “I wouldn’t want to risk making you my mindless sex slave again on the way.”
“Willa, please. Let me explain.”
“I think you’ve explained plenty.”
And then, without another word, she walked out his front door.
The snick of it shutting echoed through the house, an empty, accusatory sound. Nick felt a moment of panic. He wasn’t good with people leaving him. He took a breath, closed his eyes and tried to deny that the ache in his belly had anything to do with how badly he’d handled the situation, but this was his fault. He should have spoken up. Told her who he was. Should have known her intentions were innocent.