I rubbed a hand over my aching chest and stopped suddenly when I saw Kash sitting on the stool in front of the mic with a guitar in his hands. What was he doing? Since when did he play guitar and sing? And why this song? His eyes searched the dining area and landed on me just as he began the first chorus of “I’ll Be.” Tears pricked the back of my eyes and my entire body warmed under his intense stare as he continued through words that meant more to me than he could have known. Not once did he take his eyes from me, and my mind and heart fought over my conflicting feelings. Part of me wanted to yell that he was the guy I’d been waiting for. That I was in love with him and was done being only his friend. The other part wanted to know why he was torturing me with this song. With everything else that had happened tonight and the fourth anniversary of my parents’ death less than two months away, I wanted to run away from there, to curl in a ball and mourn what I had lost and would never have. I couldn’t call my mom and tell her I’d met a guy whose presence alone made me dizzy. Who sang to me the same song Dad had always sung to her. I couldn’t tell my parents that no matter how hard I fought my feelings and pushed Kash away, I knew I’d met the man I wanted to marry.

The haunting words drifted to an end, and soon the chords did too. When Kash was finished, he put the guitar on the stand and began walking in my direction. Throughout all of this, his eyes still hadn’t left mine. Before he could reach me, the bitter side of me won out and I turned on my heel and rushed back to my customers. I kept myself busy for the rest of the hour and whenever I had to go over to the bar, I made sure to go to Bryce’s side so I wouldn’t have to face Kash again.

I knew I was being ridiculous, but if it had been any song other than that one, if it had been on a night that wasn’t wearing me completely down, I may have been brave enough to finally fight for what I wanted. But right now all I could think of was finishing out this shift at work and staying far from Logan Hendricks. Somehow, he knew how to get to me. And somehow, I knew that our being together was right. But especially after that morning, everything about him—and us together—scared me. And I wasn’t sure I could handle that right now.

People say that being in love is amazing.

They lie. It’s freaking terrifying.

“WHAT’S UP, LADY, how was work?”

I looked at Candice and groaned. “It sucked so bad!” I went into the kitchen, where she was searching for dinner, and jumped on the counter as I told her about the entire night—including Kash’s song.

“Oh my God! Did you tell him about that song and what it means to you?”

“No! We’ve never even talked about it. I really think it was just some freaky coincidence but it—God, it hurt, Candi.” I wanted to tell her about the kiss that morning, but Candice and I hadn’t talked about guys for me since the whole Blake incident, and I didn’t know how to bring it up now.

She looked like she was about to cry. My parents’ death had been almost as hard on her. “Well, what did you say to him after?”

“Nothing. He was walking toward me and I turned and ran back into my part of the dining room. I avoided him the rest of my shift.”


“Rach, I’m sorry.” She sniffed and blinked back tears that were threatening to fall as she fanned at her eyes rapidly. “Screw this. Tonight is a Chinese-food-and-Ben-and-Jerry’s kind of night.” She grabbed the Lean Cuisine she’d taken out, put it back in the freezer, and looked at our stock. “I’m going to go get food and another couple pints; we’re running low and I have a feeling we’ll go through a lot this week.”

I smiled weakly at her and slid off the counter. “I’ll go with you.”

“No, go get comfy and take some Midol. I’ll be right back.”

“Love you, Candi.”

She wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed me tight. “Love you back. Always.”

I was in my pajamas and had just finished downing the pills and a glass of water when the door opened and Kash walked in. Candice has seriously got to start locking that door when she leaves.

“Are you locked out tonight?” I asked, but didn’t look up at him.

“No. I want to know what’s going on with you.”

Shrugging, I put the cup in the dishwasher and walked over to the couch. “Nothing.”

“So you just walked away from me and avoided me for the rest of the night . . . because you felt like it?”

“Pretty much.”

He walked over until he was standing directly in front of me, blocking my view of the TV, but I still didn’t look at him. “We talked about this.”

When he didn’t continue, I snorted. “We talk about a lot, Kash. You expect me to know what conversation you’re referring to just because you know which one you’re talking about? Can you move? You’re in the way.”

He moved. But it was to grab the remote out of my hand to turn the TV off. “You’re shielding again. Why? Did I push things too far tonight? Did something happen to you? Are you having nightmares again?”

“I’m just having a shitty night. Isn’t that enough?”

“Then tell me! Don’t throw your shield at me. I told you, no shields with us; if something is wrong, I want you to tell me. I can’t help you through whatever is going on if you shut me out.”

“I don’t need you to help me, I need you to back off! You’re not my boyfriend, you’re not supposed to be there to fix things.”

His eyes turned silver and his brow furrowed. “Where’s my Rachel, huh? The girl who just this morning dumped an entire bowl of pancake batter on my head and was kissing me . . . where is she?”

“First of all, you don’t have a Rachel. And as for this morning, we’ll say it was a moment of stupidity on my part.”

“A mo—” His eyebrows shot up and he took a step back as he shook his head. “A moment of stupidity? That’s really what you’re going to call that?”

It was a moment in my life I wanted to relive over and over again. But it was stupid. I shoved off the couch and headed for my room. “Since you like to let yourself in, see yourself out.”

Before I made it to my door, he grabbed on to my wrist and yanked me back toward him. “Stop with the goddamn shields!”

“Fine! You don’t want shields? Then they’re gone!” I tried to free my wrist, but it was no use. “I had a shitty night at work. Which you already mostly know about, seeing as you had to buy me a new shirt. Bad shifts happen, people get over it. As for the kiss . . . can I remind you that you were acting like it’d never happened as well? We shouldn’t have let it happen in the first place.”

“And why the fuck not?”

I kept talking over him. “And then you had to go and sing that song! Why did you pick that song?”

His head jerked back slightly and his eyes lost some of their fierceness. “You’re mad about me singing the song? You love that song. You play it all the time.”

I finally succeeded at freeing my wrist and crossed my arms under my chest. “And how the hell would you know that? I know I’ve never played that song in front of you!”

“Seriously? You leave your windows open! We live right across from each other. I can hear it from my apartment.”

Oh. “Well, that’s private. It’s for my parents. You don’t understand what it could possibly mean to me for you to sing that song to me.”

Confusion crossed his face and he shook his head. “For your parents?”

“Yes! And since we’re throwing the shields out, I lied to you, Kash.”

“About what?” he said through gritted teeth, and called my name when I turned and dashed into my room. “Damn it, woman, stop running from me!”

“I’m not running. I never told my parents about what happened to me like I promised you I would,” I mumbled as I grabbed underneath my mattress for my journal. Turning back to him, I held it up so he could see it and dropped it on the bed. “That is how I told my parents.”

His eyes were narrowed again as they bounced between the journal and me. “Why?”

“Why did I lie to you? Because you kept telling me I should tell them. And . . . well . . . technically, I did. I wrote it to them, so I guess I wasn’t exactly lying, because this”—I picked the journal back up—“is the only way I can talk to them.”

“What are you—”

“They’re gone, Kash. My parents died almost four years ago! I told you I couldn’t tell them. But I wasn’t ready for you to know why; no one in Texas other than Candice knows about it. And that’s how I like it.”

Kash’s face fell and he took a few steps closer to me. “Rach . . .”

“No, Kash. You didn’t want any more shields. Now there aren’t any. That song you sang tonight, my dad used to sing to my mom when they thought no one was watching. He would pull her close and dance with her in the kitchen while he did it, and it’s my favorite memory of them. So I’m sorry if I didn’t know how to react to you singing it to me, but that song means so much to me.”

“Rachel, I’m sorry.”

I threw my arms up and planted them on his chest so he wouldn’t come any closer. “Is this what you wanted? You know everything now. Are you happy . . . are you glad the shields are gone?”

He pulled me into his arms and held me close. “I had no idea, I’m so sorry. I—I’m just sorry. For hurting you, for pushing you to tell me, for upsetting you with the song . . . all of it. I swear to you that isn’t what I wanted.”

My anger was quickly fading and I blinked back tears. “I know, I just . . .”

“That song is special to you. I get it, Rach.” He tipped my head back and brushed his lips across my forehead before capturing my eyes with his. “You need to know—”

“Rach, I’m back!” Candice called. “Time to start this junk-food night!”

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