“Shut up, Mason.” Then to me, Jensen asked, “You okay?”

I nodded. I did what I felt I needed to do, and I didn’t care if he thought I was a lunatic. I warned Mason, and now it was up to him to take it seriously. I really hoped he didn’t have to.

AFTER THE SOMEWHAT disastrous and embarrassing attempt at warning Mason, the school day ended with no more drama llama visitations, and Jensen and I headed to my house.

“I don’t regret saying something,” I said as he turned onto my street.

He glanced at me. “Well, I regret not punching him in the face.”

My lips twitched. “Sorry. I couldn’t let that happen.”

“I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity,” he muttered, squinting at the windshield.

I let out a low breath as we pulled to a stop in front of my house, behind my lonesome Jetta. Mom wasn’t home yet, wouldn’t be for several hours. When he turned off the engine, I didn’t move. At least there were no reporters hiding in the bushes.

“Do you think he’s got Brock or . . . ?” I trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

Jensen sat back, clenching the keys in his hand. “Or Brock made a run for it because the police are on to him?”

I nodded.

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“I don’t know, but if it is him?” Jensen shook his head. “Besides the fact that it’s messed up in so many different ways that I can’t even think about it right now, it might be a good thing. Because if it is him and he’s hit the road, then you’re safe.”

“So are you.”

He tilted his head to the side. “I’m not worried about me.”

I frowned. “You should be. We all should be worried.”

“I’m too worried about you to really give it a thought.”

“While that’s sweet and all, I kind of want to punch you in the face.”

Jensen laughed. “Wow.”

“I don’t want you to do something careless and put yourself in danger.” I leaned over and kissed his cheek. “And I really don’t want to punch you in the face, but if you do something dumb and get hurt, I’m going to, and you taught me how to punch. So it’ll hurt. Okay?”

He chuckled again. “Okay. You ready to head in?”

“Yep.” I reached back and grabbed my bookbag. “You hungry?”

“Always.”

I climbed out and waited for him to join me, and then we hurried down the walkway. The dark, fat clouds looked ready to burst at any second. “I think we have some leftover pizza from last night.”

“Perfect.”

I took another step, and a fat drop of cold rain landed on my nose. “Crap.”

Halfway to the porch, we broke into a run, but we weren’t quick enough. The clouds ripped open and chilly rain poured down on us, soaking my shirt by the time we reached shelter.

“Oh my God,” I gasped, slopping my wet hair out of my face. “That is cold.”

“Cold?” His gaze hit below my neck. “I really don’t feel cold at all.”

My gaze followed his and my cheeks heated. I slapped his chest. “You’re such a dog.”

Shoving his hair back from his forehead, he grinned. “You love me.”

The air caught in my throat as my gaze locked with his. You love me. The rightness of those three words were shattering, the truth undeniable. I loved Jensen. I had loved Jensen for years. That was no big surprise, but I was in love with him too.

His grin started to fade. “What are you staring at? Can you see my nipples through my shirt? I doubt mine are as—”

“No.” I flushed, turning away as I dug my keys out of my bag. “I’m not staring at anything.”

“You were.”

I rolled my eyes as I shoved the key in the lock.

Jensen stepped right up behind me, pressing his fingertips lightly into my hips. “Then what were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking anything.”

His breath was warm against my neck. “You’re such a terrible liar.”

Opening the door, I escaped inside, putting space between us. “You’re terribly annoying.”

Jensen laughed as I dropped my bag inside. “Where are you going?”

I stopped at the base of the stairs. “I’m going to go get changed.” And recollect my scattered, overly emotional thoughts. I knew Jensen cared about me. Deeply. But love? He hadn’t said that and we’d just gotten together.

But we’d known each other forever.

His lashes lowered, giving his eyes a heavy look. “Need help?”

I started to tell him no, but my heart leaped and parts of my body coiled tightly. I wet my suddenly dry lips. I really needed to say no. Mom wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours, but . . .”Sure.”

Oh goodness.

Jensen blinked once and then twice, staring at me like he honestly hadn’t expected me to say yes. He cleared his throat, extending his arm. “I have no words. After you.”

Laughing loudly, I whirled around and headed up the stairs. The laugh . . . God, it felt good. That moment of feeling free, I clung to it, but when I reached the landing and turned to see Jensen a step below me, I swallowed hard.

“You know.” His voice was deeper than normal. “That shirt is going to have to go first. It’s soaked.”

My hands opened and closed at my sides. “It is wet.”

“Glad we’re on the same page with that.” His eyes were fastened on mine as he came up the last step, stopping in front of me. “Need help?”

It was like someone else was in control of my body. I nodded.

He hesitated for a moment. “Thank you,” he said in a low voice, and I didn’t understand what he was thanking me for. He brushed my wet hair back from my shoulders. “Do you have any idea what you do to me?”

My throat dried and I shook my head.

Jensen didn’t follow up on that statement as he slipped his hands under the hem of my wet shirt. As he lifted it up over my head, my heart felt like it stopped beating in my chest. He made a deep sound in the back of his throat as he draped my shirt over the railing.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe normally so I didn’t end up passing out because that would surely be a mood killer. But it was hard. I was standing before him in my jeans and bra, and I knew the latter, being as damp as it was, showed more than it probably covered.

“You’re beautiful.”

My eyes flew open. His stare was latched on to my face which was not where I thought it would be. My throat closed up, and I stood still as the tips of his fingers skimmed the sides of my stomach, running all the way up to my throat and then my cheeks. Who knew such a light touch could cause my knees to shake?

He tilted my head back and brushed his lips against mine. It was quick and soft, but it zinged all the way to my toes. He brushed the back of his fingers across my cheeks, sweeping up any lingering drops of rain, and then his lips found mine again, taking it deeper and longer.

His lips didn’t leave mine as his hands skated back down, sending a series of shivers through my body. My fingers found the damp ends of his hair as his hands settled on my hips. Without breaking contact, he lifted me up. His lips caught a surprised gasp as I wrapped my legs around his waist.

I leaned into him, sliding my fingers through his hair. The feel of his damp shirt against my flushed skin sent a riot of sensations through me.

Jensen walked us to my bedroom. I didn’t know what was going to happen once we were inside, but I was curious—beyond curious. I wanted to know. I wanted to experience this with him.

I wanted to feel alive.

And I wanted to feel that with him and only him.

My bedroom door was cracked open, and when my back bumped into it, it drifted the rest of the way. Kissing me deeply, he eased my legs off his waist and my feet to the floor.

He lifted his mouth from mine. “Ella, I want you.”

Air caught in my throat. “I can tell.”

He rested his forehead against mine. “I’m sure you can.” He dropped his trembling hands to my waist. “But I don’t want to rush you. I mean, I’m ready. I’ve been ready, but I want you to be—”