“You should try to go to sleep.” I wrapped my arms around her waist as the TV cast flickering shadows across the room. “It’ll help in the morning.”

Shortcake let out a little sigh as she snuggled against my chest. “You’re not leaving?”

“Nope.”

“At all?”

Lowering my chin, I brushed my lips across her forehead. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here when you wake up, sweetheart. I promise.”

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I woke the following morning the same way I had fallen asleep. Avery was still curled up in my lap, but she was awake now and she kept wiggling around. I groaned, tightening my arms around her as her hip pressed against my erection.

“Sorry,” I said. “It’s morning and you’re sitting on me. That’s a combination meant to bring any man down.”

I opened my eyes in time to see a flush sweep over Shortcake’s cheeks. I moved a hand to her hip, watching her sleepy expression through heavily hooded eyes.

“Do you want me to get off you?” she asked.

“Hell no.” I slid my other hand up her spine, threading my fingers through her soft hair. “Absolutely fucking not.”

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She grinned. “Okay.”

“Finally, I think we’re actually agreeing on something.”

Tilting her head to the side, she studied me for a long moment. “Did last night really happen?”

I grinned. “Depends on what you think happened.”

“I took my shirt off for you?”

At the mention of that, my gaze dipped. The hardened tips of her breasts were nicely visible. “Yes. Lovely moment.”

“And you turned me down?”

My hand drifted to the side of her thigh. “Only because our first time together isn’t going to be when you’re drunk.”

“Our first time together?”

I grinned lazily. “Uh-huh.”

She turned a pretty shade of pink. “You’re really confident about there being a first time between us.”

“I am.” I leaned back against the cushion, watching her as I smoothed my hand up and down, from hip to thigh.

“We talked, right?” She glanced at her bare wrist. “I told you when I did this?”

“Yes.”

Her lashes lifted. “And you don’t think I’m a raving bitch?”

“Well . . .”

She pinned me with a dry-as-sand look.

I grinned as I moved my other hand up to the nape of her neck. “You want to know what I think?”

“Depends.”

I led her head down so that our lips almost touched. “I think we need to talk.”

“We do,” she whispered.

But the longer she sat in my lap, the less likely we were to talk. I gripped her hips and lifted her up, dropping her on the cushion beside me.

“I thought we needed to talk,” she asked as I stood.

“We do. I’ll be right back.”

Confusion poured into her expression.

“Just stay there, okay?” I started for the door. “Don’t move from that spot. Don’t think about anything. Just sit there and I’ll be right back.”

She rested her chin on the back of the couch. “Okay.”

“I mean it, don’t think about anything.” I opened the door. “Not the last couple of minutes or last night. Not the last month. Or what’s coming next. Just sit there.”

“All right,” she whispered. “I promise.”

I held her gaze for a moment and once I was sure she wasn’t going to lock herself in her bedroom, I hurried to my apartment. It was quiet inside, but there was a pair of heels next to the couch. Smiling, I quickly brushed my teeth and then grabbed the required items from the kitchen. Took me all of five minutes and when I returned to her apartment, she was where I left her.

Her gaze dropped to what I held in my hands and she smiled. “Eggs—you brought eggs.”

“And my skillet.” Using my hip, I nudged the door closed. “And I brushed my teeth.”

“You didn’t put a shirt on.”

I cast her a long look. “I know it would break your heart not to be able to see me shirtless.”

As I put the eggs on the counter, I heard a muffled squeak and turned toward the door. “Avery, what in the hell are you doing?”

“Nothing,” was the response.

I smiled to myself as I turned back to the counter. “Then get your ass in here.” When I heard her feet hit the floor, I frowned. “And don’t you dare change.” I paused. “Because I really like seeing you in my clothes.”

“Well, when you put it like that . . .” She appeared in the doorway.

“What?” I looked over my shoulder at her. “You missed my eggs that badly?”

She blinked slowly. “I didn’t think I’d have you in my kitchen making eggs again.”

Those words affected me more than she knew. I adjusted the controls on the stove. “You missed me that much?”

“Yes.”

I turned to her, running a hand through my hair. “I’ve missed you.”

Shortcake inhaled deeply. “I want to say I’m sorry for how I acted when you . . . well, when you saw my scar. I’ve never let anyone see it.” She inched forward, worrying her lower lip. “I know that’s not an excuse, because I was a terrible bitch, but . . .”

“I’ll accept your apology on one condition.” I folded my arms.

“Anything,” she said passionately.

“You trust me.”

“I trust you, Cam.”

“No, you don’t.” I walked to the table and slid out a chair. “Have a seat.”

Once she sat and adjusted the borrowed shirt, I went back to the stove and cracked an egg. “If you trusted me, you wouldn’t have reacted the way you did. And that’s not me judging you or any of that kind of shit. You got to trust me that I’m not going to be an ass or freak out over that kind of stuff. You have to trust that I care enough about you.”

At the sound of her soft inhale, I turned to her. “There’s a lot I don’t know about you and I hope we fix that. I’m not going to push you, but you can’t shut me out. Okay. You have to trust me.”

Her gaze met mine. “I trust you. I will trust you.”

“I accept your apology.”

I finished up the eggs and returned to the table with OJ before I broached the issue at hand. “So where do we go from here? Tell me what you want.”

She stopped with a fork full of fluffy eggs. “What I want?”

“From me.” I popped a whole egg in my mouth. “What do you want from me?”

Shortcake sat back, placing her fork down on the plate. She opened her mouth and then squared up her shoulders. “You.”

My chest spasmed and for a moment I couldn’t speak. “Me?”

“I want you,” she said, flushing. “Obviously, I’ve never been in a relationship and I don’t even know if that’s what you want. Maybe it’s not—”

“It is.”

“It is?” she asked.

I chuckled, feeling lighter than I had in weeks as I picked up another egg. “You sound so surprised, like you can’t believe it. It’s really kind of adorable. Please continue.”

“Please continue . . . ?” She shook her head. “I want to be with you.”

I chewed the egg slowly. “That’s the second thing we’re in agreement on this morning.”

“You want to be with me?”

My lips curved up. “I’ve wanted to be with you since the first time you turned me down. I’ve just been waiting for you to come around. So, if we’re going to do this, there are some ground rules.”

“Rules?”

Nodding, I peeled the third egg. “There’s not that many. No shutting me out. It’s just you and me and no one else. And finally, you keep looking damn sexy in my shirts.”

Her laugh burst from her, deep and real. “I think all of them are doable.”

“Good.” I wondered if she saw how my hands shook as I peeled the final egg.

“I’ve never done of any of this before, Cam. And I’m not easy to get along with all the time. I know that. I can’t promise this will be easy for you.”

“Nothing fun in life is easy.” As I finished off the milk, I was done talking for now. I needed to tell her about what happened three years ago and what I had to do every Friday night, but it had to wait. I needed to do what I’d wanted to do since the night of Thanksgiving.

I stood and went to her side. Taking her hands, I tugged her onto her feet and wrapped my arms around her waist. I lowered my head, brushing my lips across her cheek. “I’m serious about you, Avery. If you want me for real, you have me.”

Shortcake pressed her palms to my chest. “I want you for real.”

“Good to know.” I slanted my lips over hers. “Because, if not, this would get a whole lot awkward.”

She laughed, but the sound was lost when I pressed my mouth to hers. The contact felt right, as necessary as breathing. The kiss was soft and slow, but as she slid her hands into my hair, I deepened the kiss, giving her what she quietly asked for. My lips slid over hers, back and forth, nudging and pushing, and then coaxing them open with my tongue.

Her moan set a fire to my blood and she tasted like juice and something far sweeter. My hands dropped to her hips and I hauled her against me, lifting her up. Surprise shuttled through me as her legs wrapped around my waist. I pressed her back against the wall, fitting our bodies together.

Kissing her was all that I’d planned, but the feel of her breasts flattened against my chest and her core hot against me was my undoing. I was lost in her. Shortcake was timid and she was innocent of a lot of things, but she was also very passionate and her response was natural and so very seductive.

I groaned as she tilted her hips, pressing against me in that wonderful artless way of hers. Her fingers tightened in my hair as she held my mouth to hers. I was so hard and swollen and the scrap of clothing covering her between her thighs wasn’t enough of a barrier. I wanted nothing more than to take her right here, against the wall, and I doubted she’d protest, but it wasn’t right.

With effort, I lifted my mouth. “I need to go.”

Her hands slid back down to my cheeks. “You’re leaving now?”

“I’m not a saint, sweetheart.” My voice was deep, rough with desire. “So if I don’t leave now, I won’t be leaving for some time.”

She shuddered, and my body tightened. “What if I don’t want you to leave?”

“Fuck.” I gripped her thighs, briefly squeezing my eyes closed. “You’re making this very hard to be the good guy you said I was last night.”

Her lips grazed my cheek. “I’m not drunk.”

Laughing softly, I pressed my forehead to hers. “Yeah, I can see that and while the idea of taking you right now, against the wall, is enough to make me lose control, I want you to know that I’m serious. You’re not a hookup. You’re not a friend with benefits. You’re more than that to me.”

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