“Stay the night with me?” I asked, knowing it was asking a lot. He probably wanted to swing by the farm or go to the frat.

“Already ahead of you.” He grinned, jerking his chin at a backpack sitting next to the recliner. I hadn’t even noticed it. “I picked up a change of clothing when we were out. Just need a shower.”

“Thank you.” I stretched up, kissing his cheek. “Thank you for everything.”

He tipped his forehead against mine. “Why don’t you order some Chinese? The place down the street delivers, and I’ll hop into the shower.”

Sounded like a good plan. I placed the order while he dipped into the bathroom. The moment the water came on, I found myself staring at the door, heart pounding.

What would he do if I just joined him?

I bit down on my lip as I entertained the image of me stripping, sans crutches and knee brace, and sexily slinking into the shower. Picking up the soap . . .


Turning my attention to hobbling into my new bedroom, I unpacked what I could until I heard the shower turn off. I made my way back into the hall as the bathroom door opened. “I ordered chicken—­whoa.”

Jase stood in the doorway, his hair wet and curling around his chiseled cheekbones. The fine sprinkling of hair on his chest was damp. The jeans he’d thrown on hung low on his hips, revealing those V-­shaped muscles on either side of his hips.

“Is chicken whoa a new plate?” he teased, dragging a white towel down those rippled abs.


“It’s a kind of plate I want to eat.”

His eyes flashed silver and he started toward me, a look of stark hunger carved into his face. Just as his fingers brushed my cheeks, the doorbell rang.

He groaned as he backed off. “I’ll get it.”

Mouth dry, I watched him go to the door. The deliveryman got an eyeful of Jase’s half na**dness, but I doubted it was oddest thing the teenager had ever seen. We ate dinner on the couch, watching TV.

He remained there while I headed into the shower, washing away the funk of the day. I wished the water sluicing over my skin could rid me of what I saw when I closed my eyes or how my thoughts kept going back to that pink scarf and Erik.

Could he’ve really done it? From what I’d seen and from what Debbie had told me, he had the temper. When he’d swung that bag around, he’d been on the verge of losing control, but swinging a bag violently didn’t mean he was capable of murder.

The water had started to go lukewarm when I stepped out and wrapped a fluffy green towel around me. Getting the brace on proved difficult with wet skin and I nearly broke a sweat by the time I finished.

Jase wasn’t in the living room when I stepped out of the steamed-­up bathroom. Holding on to the tightly wrapped towel, I quietly made my way into the bedroom.

He was hanging up my clothes, humming a song under his breath. He didn’t hear me as I stopped in the doorway. My throat closed up as he slipped a sweater onto a hanger he must’ve found in the closet or snatched from the dorm. When he turned to my bed and picked up the stack of jeans—­folded jeans—­all my clothes were put away.

“You’re a keeper.”

He backed out of the closet, looking toward the door. A single pair of jeans were in his hands, forgotten as his silvery gaze traveled from the top of my head down to my curled toes. “Damn.”

I flushed to the roots of my hair. “Thank you for putting my clothes away.”

“Uh-­huh.” He dropped my jeans on the floor and stalked toward me. The look in his gaze made me want to back up and run toward him. He placed just the tips of his fingers on my arms, his gaze burning into mine. “I’m going to make this crazy suggestion, okay?”


One side of his lips tipped up. “I think you should walk around like this at least twice a day when I’m around. Once in the morning. Once at night.”

I laughed. “You just want me to prance around in a towel then?”

“Prance. Walk. Sit. Stand. Breathe.” He brushed his lips across my cheekbone, causing me to shiver. “I’ll be okay with any of those things.”

Turning my head just the slightest, our lips glided together. The kiss started off sweet as he drew his fingertips up to my cheek. My grasp on my towel loosened as his tongue flicked over my lips, coaxing my mouth open.

I loved the way he kissed, how he tasted me and could practically bring me to the tips of my toes with his lips and tongue. My breath quickened as he shifted closer and there was only an inch or so separating us.

Need rose swiftly, and I was so hot for him. The desire for him ran deeper than the physical. I wanted nothing to be in between us.

He moaned against my lips. “I want you.”

Molten lava flowed through my veins. “You are what I want.”

His hands skimmed down my sides, reaching the edge of my towel as he growled deep in his throat. I swayed into him. “I’m yours,” I whispered.

He kissed me again, dragging his tongue over mine. When he pulled back, he nipped at my lip, causing me to gasp. My eyes fluttered open, and I got snared in his silvery gaze.

Jase had been right to stop things the night before. I didn’t want our first time to have shadows clinging to it. Like him, I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to look back on this moment and have absolutely no regrets.

But I knew it couldn’t be perfectly planned. It was all about both of us wanting the same thing, and while him wanting to do everything the right way melted me inside, he didn’t realize that he’d already done things in the right way.

Taking a deep breath and drawing on my courage, I loosened the knot holding my towel closed. It was like stepping out on the stage and knowing all eyes were on me, but this was different—­more potent. Because only his eyes mattered, and right now I was his entire world.

I tugged the knot free and let the towel drop.

“Christ,” he groaned, lips parting on a sharp inhale.

Completely bare with the exception of my very sexy blue knee brace, I was more vulnerable to him than I’d been with anyone in my life.

I wasn’t just offering him my body, I was truly offering him my heart.

Jase took a step back, his hands following to his sides. He opened and closed his fists. “Do you know how beautiful you are? How it affects me?” A pleasant haze invaded my system as my body and heart responded to his words. He slowly shook his head. “I don’t think you really understand, because if you did, I don’t think you could just stand there. God, Tess, there isn’t a part of you that’s not perfect in my eyes.”

There was a lot of me that wasn’t perfect. Without dancing, I’d lost the lithe figure about fifty cheeseburgers ago. My h*ps were more rounded, my thighs not as lean as before. Instead of the perfectly flat stomach I used to rock, it was now convex and my br**sts were larger. Not a bad thing, but so was my ass.

But in his eyes, I felt more beautiful then I ever did before.

I’d never felt such anticipation before. His stare was doing crazy things to me. I was flushed, excited, and I knew I was making the right decision.

“I’ve never . . . been this bold before,” I said, voice shaky. “But this is the right moment for us. I want you, Jase. Do you want me?”

“Yes.” His voice was gruff as he dragged his gaze up, lingering on my chest until I ached and throbbed there for his touch. “I want you.”

Jase touched me then, his hands closing around my upper arms as he dipped his head. Strands of his soft, still damp hair brushed my cheeks. “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Surer than anything,” I breathed.

His bare chest rose, brushing mine. The sensation rocketed through me. He made another deep sound in the back of his throat. “Stay right here. Don’t move. Okay?”


He kissed me quickly, sucking deeply before he broke off and left the bedroom. He returned a few seconds later with several foil packets in his hand. I arched a brow as I started to grin. “You came prepared, huh?”

A cocky grin appeared. “I wanted to be prepared with you.” He tossed them on the bed behind me, and I moved until the back of my legs hit the mattress. “Watch me?”

“I’m not looking anywhere else.”

My breath caught as a full smile appeared, but then I held my breath as he reached down, thumbing out the button on his jeans. The zipper came next, and then his jeans slid down. They were gone in a second and his boxers were next.

I gasped at the sight of him, and he chuckled. He was utterly magnificent. The deeply tanned skin of his rippled in all the right places.

Jase was . . . well, he was endowed. And then some.

Two fingers pressed against my chin, lifting my gaze. “You like what you see?”

I shivered. “Oh yes.”

“Good.” He kissed me, and the very air in the room became laden with sexual tension. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted this,” he murmured against my lips as he wrapped an arm around my waist, lifting me until I was flush against him. The next kiss ignited a fire. “Or how many times I lay awake at night, thinking of you like this with me.”

“As many times as I dreamed of this,” I said as he lowered me to the bed, so I was lying down the middle. “I don’t want to wait any longer.”

“Neither do I.” He grabbed a condom, ripped the foil open, and slid it on.

He lowered himself, trailing his lips over my flushed face and then down, blazing a path across my chest, suckling and nipping until my h*ps moved restlessly against him. The moment my h*ps pushed into his, he shuddered. His hands were everywhere, caressing me as if he sought to etch the lines of my body into his memory.

My body arched into his, aching and tense as I ran my hands down his chest. Desire flooded me, like a dam bursting after a long storm.

“I want to take my time.” He reached down between us, finding me and slipping a finger inside as he nudged my thighs apart. “I want to kiss and taste every part of your body, because that’s what you deserve, but I don’t think I can wait, baby. I really don’t.”

And he was shaking as he spoke those words. He slowly withdrew his fingers as his gaze fixed on mine. I almost came apart at the first touch of him pressing into me.

“God, you’re so . . .” He faded off, as if he was incapable of words.

Halfway in, the pressure and fullness was unbelievable. I lifted my hips, wrapping my legs around his waist. Our mutual groans filled the room as he rolled his hips, driving in until he was completely inside.

Keeping still inside me, he panted with the control to hold himself immobile. “Are you okay?”

There was a bit of stinging since it had been so long, but I was okay. I was better than okay. “Yes.”

His lips brushed mine in a sweet kiss as he cupped my cheek. “Nothing is better than the feeling of you holding me tight.”

“I can say the same.” I curled my fingers around his hair, tipping my h*ps against his, and whatever restraint he had up to that point, it broke.

He thrust in me, moving deeper with each long, powerful stroke. My body tensed around him as he cradled my h*ps in his hands, rocking me up against him. The increasing intensity turned into a feverish pace that tore open a floodgate of pleasure. Bliss built inside me and he moved faster, grinding against me as his hands moved, exploring my body, heightening the pleasure until a tightly sprung coil deep inside me started to unravel, to whip through me.

Jase kissed me deeply, and I broke apart, shuddering around him. Spasms racked my body, and he followed quickly, shouting his release, burying his head in the crook of my neck. As one last aftershock jolted my body, my hands slipped lazily down his back as his body still twitched.

Minutes passed before he lifted himself onto his forearms. “Tess, baby . . .”

Opening my eyes to a beautiful silver pair, I fell in love all over again. “That . . . that was wonderful.”

We stayed joined together for what felt like forever, before he pulled out from me, quickly moving from the bed and getting rid of the condom in the nearby bin. Seconds later he was stretched out beside me. We lay there, him on his side, me on my back, staring at each other long after our breathing returned to normal.

A lopsided grin appeared. “You know, that . . . it felt like the first time.” A laugh burst from him as he ducked his head, kissing my shoulder. “That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”

“No. Not at all.”

“It really did feel like that. I can’t even say my first time felt that good, and I thought I’d discovered the key to life then.”

I laughed as I rolled so I was facing him and my breast pressed against his chest. His eyes flared quicksilver as he rested a hand on my bare hip. Closing my eyes, I anticipated a kiss. I didn’t have to wait long. He nipped at my bottom lip, and I sighed. “It sounds perfect.”

“You know what else sounds great?” He shifted closer, and I felt him against my belly. My eyes widened, and a wicked gleam ­appeared in his eyes as his body slid against mine. The fine coarse hair teased my skin, adding to the sensualness of nothing being between us.

My breath caught. “Already.”

“I told you I’m always ready when it comes to you.”

“Yeah, but . . . oh!” His hand had wiggled in between my thighs, cupping me.

The grin on his face was pure appeal. “What about you?”

It was like he controlled a switch to my sex drive. It was wonderfully ridiculous. My h*ps jerked as he snaked a finger inside. “What do you think?”

“I think that catch of your breath means yes.” He kissed my damp temple. “I want you. Again.” His lips then skated over my flushed cheek, capturing my mouth in a deep, searing kiss. “I want in you. Deep.” Withdrawing his hand, he reached behind him, smacked around until he found a condom in the mess of sheets. A moment later he grasped my hips, lifting me into his lap as he rolled onto his back. The deep growl that rumbled through him sent of flood of heat to my core as his tip pressed into me. “I want to go so deep you can never get me out. You want that?”