"That shit's strong. Has she eaten?" he asks.

"No, I doubt it. She mumbled something about pink Starbursts."

"I'm on it, bro. Just breathe. I'll be there soon."

Just as Pace makes it inside the house, the sky turns dark and a loud roar of thunder crashes in the distance. The rain will be here soon.

"Where is she?" he asks.

"The bedroom." I'd laid her down with a photobook from my last trip to Africa. It seemed that she could look at the photos of the small villages, the people, the children for hours on end.

"What do you want me to do?" he asks.

"We need macaroni and cheese."

"You should have told me, I could have picked some up." He holds up a plastic bag that is filled with at least a dozen packages of Starburst candy.

"No, we need to make it homemade."

"How do we do that?"


"I don't know. Google it, I suppose."

He nods and heads into the kitchen.

"Bring it up when it's ready," I tell him, then head for the stairs.

Sophie is snoring softly, but when I cross the bedroom, she lifts her head and blinks several times, her eyes unfocused. I'm glad she got some rest, however brief.

"How are you feeling?" I ask, sitting beside her on the bed.

"Groggy," she confirms, pushing the messy hair from her face.

"I thought I could run you a hot bath. It might help you relax."

She nods. "Okay."

At least she lets me take care of her. She doesn’t fight me on that. If she did, I'd really feel helpless and out of control. As it is, I know my subtle gestures may not help much, but at least I can do something.

I turn on the hot water and watch the tub fill. After dumping in a generous amount of something in a purple jar called Stress Fix, I go gather Sophie.

She lets me carry her into the bathroom, undress her, then lower her down into the water.

"How is it?" I ask once she's settled.

"Nice," she says and treats me to a rare small smile.

My heart leaps, God I've missed seeing her happy.

"Will you be okay for a few minutes? I'm going to get you some clothes."

She nods. "You're coming back, right?"

"Yes," I confirm.

Once I have a fresh change of clothes for her, I reenter the bathroom, set them on the counter, pull out the stool from the vanity and sit.

"Thanks for staying." She grins at me again.

"Of course I'm staying. Do you want me to wash your hair for you?"

She shakes her head. "I washed it earlier. I do still shower, you know."

"I know you do." I did not in fact know this.

"I'm not broken you know."

"I know you're not."

I wait on the stool, and check my work email on my phone while Sophie lounges in the tub. She sinks down into the water and rests her head against the edge, her eyes closed and a blank look across her features. When she secures her hair in a messy knot at the top of her head, I can tell she's still drunk by her uncoordinated movements.

My stomach churns with worry. I try not to hover, try not to stare, and instead focus on responding to the dozens of unread mail messages, but it's hard. Thoughts of her consume my entire being.

When I hear movement in the water, I glance up. Sophie has risen, standing in the center of the tub with streams of soapy water cascading down her body. My eyes wander lazily from the tips of her full breasts down to her bare pussy and I feel my body take notice of hers. My cock throbs, swelling against my thigh. The fucking bastard has bad timing. But a naked Sophie is not something I can ignore, no matter how somber the situation.

I grab a towel as she steps out of the tub and onto the bathmat. She lets me dry her from head to toe, seemingly oblivious to my semi-aroused state.

Sophie stands there, watching me with wide blue eyes. When I grab the pajamas from the bathroom counter, a small pout crosses her full lips.

Ignoring the urge to kiss the frown away, I hold out the pair of panties, and dutifully, Sophie raises one foot at a time and steps into them.

"How are you feeling?" I ask. My voice is too damn thick with arousal. I clear my throat.

"Better," she says, her own voice just a whisper.

"Good." I'm glad the bath helped, and I'm hoping the food Pace is preparing will make her good as new. "I don't want you drinking like that when I'm not home."

I lift her chin up so I can see her eyes.

"I know." She swallows. "It was just a bad day."

Shit. Now I feel like an asshole.

I stroke her cheek and press a tender kiss to her lips. "You're allowed to have bad days. I just don't want to worry about you, okay?"

She nods and leans in for another kiss. "I miss you, Colton. I miss us."

"I'm right here, sweetness. I'm not going anywhere." I press my lips to hers and feel the exact second the kiss changes, turns hot and filled with a lusty promise of something more.

Sophie parts her lips and her tongue lightly probes my mouth. Instinctually, I open, my own tongue running lightly along hers. I know I shouldn't be doing this, but it's been too long since I've kissed her–really kissed her and I'm craving her warmth, and a sense of normalcy. She sucks my tongue into her mouth and I swallow down a rough groan of pleasure.

Pulling back just a fraction, I check her eyes. They are shining bright with desire, weakening my resolve. It doesn’t help that she's bare chested and warm and standing mere inches from me. I'm inches from having her heavy full breasts in my hands and my mouth, my face between her creamy thighs. I take a step back, needing to put some distance between us. Only I didn’t count on that providing Sophie a direct view of the erection tenting my slacks.