“It was good to meet you, Logan. Take care of Rachel for me, will you?” He took a step closer and Kash’s hand stopped on my back. I could feel his body vibrating as it tensed up. “I’ll be talking to you very soon, Rach.”

As soon as he left, I took in a deep breath and Kash leaned close to kiss my cheek and whisper in my ear, “Who was that and how do you know him?”

“That’s Candice’s cousin.”

“I thought you said you had a bad history with him,” Kash said accusatorily as he held me close.

“I do.”

“Then why the fuck was he touching you?”

I’d been afraid Kash would overreact if he knew what was going on, but none of that mattered now that I’d seen Blake and his hands had been on me again. Everything in me was screaming to pull Kash into the back and tell him exactly who Blake was to me. But I didn’t want to voice those words at all, and especially not at work. I couldn’t break down in front of everyone. I needed a distraction. Or to leave. Something, anything to take my mind off Blake.

“Rachel, can you help me with table twelve? I have a party of ten that is driving me crazy.”

Big party. Distraction. I almost cried out in relief. I nodded my head at Amy and began pulling away from Kash. He tightened his arms around me and I looked into his concerned eyes, which didn’t match the furrowed brow and set jaw.

“No more shields. We’ll talk later tonight. But we are talking about him.”

“ ’Kay.” I forced out the word, and when I turned this time, he let me go.


The next three hours dragged. Every time the door opened, I was afraid it would be Blake walking in again. And every time I had to go to the bar or looked over at it, Kash was staring at me with the concerned/pissed look. How he managed to look both, I didn’t know. But he had it nailed. He waited for me to get off and followed me home on his motorcycle.

“Are you ready to talk now?” he asked as we walked toward my apartment.

“Not really, can we do this tomorrow?” My body had been tensed and my breathing ragged for the last few hours. I was exhausted and felt like I didn’t have long before I collapsed and didn’t move for an entire day. All I wanted to do was get out of the clothes that Blake had touched and make myself clean again.

“No, we can’t. Because I had to watch another guy touch you. I had to sit there and watch another guy whisper in your ear. And you’ve been avoiding me since you saw him. You told me you had bad history, and that sure as shit isn’t what it looked like. So we’ll talk about him now,” he demanded as we walked through the door.

I looked up and saw Candice standing in the kitchen and felt a small stab of betrayal. Had she told Blake where I was? She took one look at us and her eyebrows shot up.

“Just the girl I wanted to see,” Kash declared, and clapped his hands together loudly once. “What is Blake West to Rachel?”

Oh shit.

Candice’s eyes went wide. “My cousin? He’s her ex. They dated a couple months ag—”

“He is not my ex!”

Kash’s eyes narrowed. “So you’re still with him, is that what you’re saying?”


Candice put something back in the fridge and walked quickly to the front door. Pointing awkwardly in the direction of the guys’ apartment and waving, she opened the door. “I’m just going to see what Mason’s up to.”

I turned for my room and practically ran in there. I needed to get out of those clothes.

“Rachel. I’m not going to do this with you. Tell me who he is, or I’ll just go with my original assumption. Now that I think about it, you were acting weird before I saw you with him. Was it because he and I were in the same place? You didn’t want your two boyfriends to accidentally run into each other?”

“He was never my boyfriend!”

“Well then what, Rachel? You don’t just act like this for no reason. You don’t just shut me out. And he was touching you, Rach. So explain it.”

Stop reminding me that he was touching me! I quickly took my shorts and shirt off and threw them into the trash in the bathroom. Turning the shower on high, I reached for the hook on my bra and shrugged out of it and my underwear.

“That’s not the hamper,” he said drily, and scoffed when I didn’t respond. “So this is how you’re going to do this. Just ignore me? You can’t even be decent enough to tell me about him? To break up with me like a normal person?”

“I’m not breaking up with you!” I practically shrieked, and tried to step into the shower, but Kash caught my arm and I turned on him. “Who do you think he was, Kash? Who the fuck do you think he is to me?”

“Other than Candice’s cousin, I don’t know! I want you to explain what I saw.” He reached around me and tried to turn off the shower but I smacked his arm back.

“No! I need to get clean, please!”

“You can take a shower after we’ve talked this out.”

“Think about it!” I shrieked, and whirled on him. “Did I look like I was enjoying seeing him? I couldn’t even look at him. Think about when Candice said I was ‘dating’ him. Think. About. It.” Steam was filling the tiny bathroom and again, I tried to go into the shower. I just needed to wash him away. “Please, let me get clean,” I cried.

“Clean,” he whispered like that word had finally sunk in, and sucked in a quick gasp. “Oh my God, Rach—”

“I hate him, Kash. I hate him with everything in me. If I never see or hear from him again, it will be too soon! He tried to ruin me. And today—he saw us kiss. He started texting me. He said I forgot who I belonged to.”

Kash’s hand dropped from my arm and I cried in relief when my body hit the stinging water. I grabbed a loofah and poured shower gel on it before hastily scrubbing at my body. I was grabbing for more shower gel when Kash caught my wrist. I looked up at him and saw his horrified expression.

“Baby, please—don’t . . . don’t tell me he was right there and I did nothing.”

My jaw trembled and I blinked back the tears that began to cloud my vision.

Kash’s face drained of color and his shoulders slumped. “Son of a bitch. You said he worked at UT, I thought—I thought he was a professor. I was expecting some old, sick bastard, not . . . that.”

I shook my head quickly and began scrubbing myself again. “He’s a personal trainer there. He’s only twenty-six.”

His body swayed before going rigid, his eyes wide. “And he’s Candice’s cousin? Her goddamn cousin raped you?!”

Sobs filled the bathroom and I continued to scrub vigorously. “That’s why she didn’t believe me,” I explained when I could take a deep enough breath in. “She was so mad, said I was just accusing him because I didn’t want to date him.”

“What the fuck? She—how could she—”

“He’s her family. She loves him, I get it.”

“There’s nothing to get. That shouldn’t make a difference. Rachel, I’m so sorry. I’m . . . I’m sorry.” He grabbed the loofah out of my hand and tossed it in the tub. Cupping his hands to catch the water, he tried to help wash the suds off me and turned the water off when I was soap free. “You don’t need to get clean, baby. You aren’t dirty. You’re okay.” He wrapped a large towel around my body and pulled me close as I trembled. “You’re okay. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize, I’m sorry I was upset with you.”

I face-planted into his chest and let him lead me into my bedroom. Letting me go for a moment, he flipped off the lights, quickly undressed until he was only in his boxer-briefs, and walked back up to me. Grabbing the comforter off the bed, he had me let go of the wet towel and let it fall to the floor before wrapping me up in the comforter. I climbed onto the bed after him, and he got under the sheet and pulled me close to him, his arms tightening around my shaking body.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered against the top of my head. “You’re safe.”

My eyes shut and my body melted against his. I focused on nothing but his arms holding me close, the sound of his steady breaths, and his soothing words. Nothing else mattered as long as I was in his arms.


MY FEET SLOWED their pounding against the concrete as I turned into our breezeway and stopped completely when I saw him.

“What the hell?” I breathed, and got closer. “Can I help you?”

The man looking in Rachel and Candice’s windows jerked back and faced me. “I’m sorry, do you live here?”

Uh, no. I ask questions. “Can I ask what you’re doing looking in windows?”

“I was trying to see if I had the right apartment.”

“Same question. Different answer, or I call the cops.” They’ve already been alerted. But that’s just a technicality and I’d rather not use my job around here.

He laughed awkwardly and brought his hands up in front of him. “No, no! I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m here visiting my daughter. I came to surprise her, but she isn’t answering the door. I was just making sure I had the correct apartment.”

“And you didn’t think to call her? Who’s your daughter?”

“Oh, if you live around here you probably know her. Rachel Masters?”

Who the fuck was this guy? I kept a straight face, but every inch of me wanted to pull him into my apartment and interrogate him. “Heard of her. Not sure which apartment is hers. And to be honest, I don’t feel comfortable with you going around looking in windows. So until your daughter is here to show you which apartment is hers and let you in, you’ll leave. Or I’ll call the cops. And I can assure you it won’t take more than a few seconds for them to get here.”

His phone started ringing and I watched as he answered with an overenthusiastic “Hey, sweetheart! Whatcha doin’?” He pointed at the phone and mouthed daughter. “Oh, you’re out with Candice, huh? That’s great. When are you gonna be back home? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okay, I can meet you there. Okay, love you too.”

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