She flinched slightly as he said it, and he wanted to curse at himself. Way to make it plain that he wasn’t staying for long. And frankly, remind her that he’d left in the first place. He hadn’t even told her that he wasn’t staying, and yet the car sort of made that statement for him.
Instead of trying to explain, he helped her with her seatbelt and closed the door. He took steadying breaths as he made his way to the other side of the SUV and jumped in. This wasn’t what he’d thought he’d be doing once he made his way back to the human realm, but now, he couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do.
He had to fix this thing between him and Eliana. Because if he didn’t, he wasn’t sure what he would do.
They were silent as they made their way to Eliana’s home. It wasn’t lost on either of them that he remembered how to get there even if he’d never been to Dante’s Circle before. He’d never actually been in her home as he’d never wanted to let things get too serious, but he’d picked her up from there numerous times. They’d only ever slept together in his bed. And his shower. And on his table.
But he’d never made love to her in her home.
He’d tried to keep that distance.
And, apparently, he’d fucked up in doing that. He’d fucked up in a lot of things with Eliana.
When he pulled into her driveway behind her beat up old truck, he barely had time to turn off the engine before she had her seatbelt off and was trying to wedge herself out of the Rover.
“Wait a minute,” he snapped. “Let me help you before you get hurt.”
“Too late,” she whispered, and he cursed. “I’ve been getting out of cars on my own for a long time, Malik.”
“But you don’t have to do it alone now,” he said, hoping she understood he meant more than just the vehicle.
She shook her head. “It’s never as easy as that.” But she waited for him to help her out of the Rover. That had to count for something.
His hands shook as she slid down his body, her belly protruding and scaring the shit out of him. When he felt a slight push at his own stomach, he froze.
Eliana blushed and tried to pull away from him. “That’s just little squirt making his or her presence known. Just a kick. You don’t have to freak out.”
Malik’s tongue went dry. He swallowed hard so he could speak. “It’s my first kick,” he whispered. Something else she’d said triggered his mind. “You don’t know the sex of the baby?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” she answered. “I don’t know why now that I’m trying to figure out the nursery and everything. But I just went green and yellow.” She shrugged. “And as for the kick? You could have felt them all if you’d been here, but you weren’t.” With that parting shot, she slowly made her way to the front door.
Malik let out a breath and closed the car door, locking it behind him. Well, he’d gone a little too fast just then, but it wasn’t as if he’d done this before.
In fact, he wasn’t aware of anyone who had this particular problem. It wasn’t every day that a lion shifter next in line to the throne, dealing with a possible uproar and war in his Pride, found himself a soon-to-be father with a not-so-human potential mate after he’d left her all alone because he’d been forced to hurt her. There weren’t any manuals for this sort of thing, so Malik was just going to have to wing it and pray to the goddess he didn’t screw everything up.
Eliana let herself in and waved to the living room where there were two large chairs and a couch that looked lived in rather than ornate like the ones in his current home. He preferred these.
“Take a seat, I need to pee.” With that, she left the room and walked toward a hallway that must go to the bedrooms. Malik ran a hand over his face.
Okay, as long as he didn’t growl or roar, he should be okay. But telling a male lion not to be a lion wasn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world.
He sank down into the cushions of the couch and tried to catch his breath. He was going to be a father. He’d barely had time to contemplate the fact that Eliana could be his because of her circumstances, and now there was a baby—little squirt—added to the mix.
He snorted at the nickname. That sounded like Eliana’s doing and he liked it. A lot.
“What are you snorting at?” Eliana asked when she came back into the room.
Malik immediately got to his feet and walked toward her. She froze but didn’t put her hand up to keep him away. “I was just thinking how much I like the name ‘little squirt.’”
She blushed again but didn’t say anything. It seemed she was waiting for him to speak or at least explain himself.