“Easy access.” I reached down between us, easing myself out.

Avery’s eyes remained fixed, and there was nothing hotter than that. My entire body was taut as a bowstring. I couldn’t help myself. I moved my hand up to my tip and then back down to my base as my heart rate kicked up.

“I’ve thought about you,” she whispered.

Every muscle in my body froze. “How?”

She hesitated. “When I . . . touched myself, I thought of you.”

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“Holy fuck,” I growled and then clamped my jaw down. I almost came right then and there. She thought about me while she touched herself? Good God almighty and the devil down below . . . “That is the hottest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Her lips tipped up, and I kissed her, harder and rougher than I probably should’ve, but she didn’t shy away. I brought her hand down to me, coaxing her fingers around my thickness. At first contact, my entire body jerked and then she moved her hand up and down.

What she lacked in skill, she sure as hell made up in eagerness. The innocence in the way she stroked me was almost too much.

“You’re perfect,” I murmured against her lips as I slid my hand back between her thighs.

Our breaths mingled, fast and hard as I cupped her through her panties, pressing my palm against her clit as I pushed my finger into her warmth, separated only by a flimsy barrier. I kept my mouth on hers, taking her tongue into mine as she rode my hand and I thrust into hers.

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I felt her body tense and then she cried out in a harsh expulsion. “Cam!”

Her body spasmed against my hand, wave after wave as I eased her down. Tremors rocked my body as my release barreled through me. I came harder than I ever had and I was amazed by that. She held on, her head dropped against my shoulder as I clamped one arm around her waist.

Only when I became too sensitive, I gently removed her hand. She was boneless in my embrace as I tucked her against my chest. I knew I needed to let her go. I’d made a mess of her and me, but I loathed to part with her body just yet.

Reaching up, I tilted her head back and kissed the lids of her eyes and then her parted lips. The silence stretched out between us, comforting until I felt her tense in my arms. Concern flooded me. I knew I hadn’t hurt her, but maybe it was too much?

“Hey,” I said, smoothing my thumb along her cheek. A troubled look filled her gaze. “You okay? I didn’t—”

“It was perfect.” She kissed my jaw, closing her eyes. “This is perfect.”

Avery was right. Oh God, this was the most perfect moment, but a ball of unease formed in my gut. A cloud had passed over her. It was gone now, but it had been there and I couldn’t help but fear that it would come back.

Twenty-Three

Ollie stood on the edge of the bench across from us, Avery’s left-over Chinese food in a carton. The fact that he’d brought that to campus with him was weird. And that food had been in the fridge for a couple of days.

“All I’m saying is that Presidents’ Day is more interesting than Valentine’s Day,” he said, digging his chopsticks into the noodles. “After all, Hallmark created V-Day. It’s not a real day.”

Sitting next to where he stood, Brittany shook her head. “Presidents’ Day is boring. What happens on Presidents’ Day?”

Avery sat in my lap, curled up against my chest. It was a brutally cold day in February and I had unzipped my hoodie, gathering the ends around her. “Did those two hook up at some point?” she asked quietly.

I laughed under my breath. “I honestly don’t know for sure.”

“There’re car sales and furniture sales on Presidents’ Day,” Ollie said, grinning as if he was proud of what he came up with. “And banks are closed.”

“Wow.” Brittany exchanged a look with Shortcake and then turned her gaze up at Ollie. “You don’t get laid on Presidents’ Day. You do on Valentine’s Day.”

Ollie paused, a noodle blowing softly in the wind as he looked down at her. “You offering?”

“Wow,” I murmured. “Smooth.”

Shortcake giggled.

Throwing out her arm, Brittany knocked Ollie off the bench. “No. I am not offering.”

Ollie landed nimbly on his feet. “That’s a shame.” He bent down so close to Brittany that his blond hair tangled with hers. “I’d change your life, baby.”

Unable to control herself, Avery laughed out loud, and I dropped my head on her shoulder, hiding my face as secondhand embarrassment washed over me.

Brittany looked unimpressed. “You’re probably right. I imagine that after one night with you, I’d be paying a visit to the health clinic for the rest of my life.”

“Ouch.” He slammed his free hand against his chest. “You wound me.”

She laughed then. “I doubt that.”

Ollie plopped down next to her and held up his chopsticks. “Noodle?”

Smiling slightly, she shook her head. “No. Thank you.”

Avery sat up, and cold air sifted in between us. I reached for her, dragging her back against my chest. “Don’t go,” I said, wrapping my arms around her. “You’re like my heated blanket.”

She twisted toward me, pressing a kiss to the corner of my lips. “I have to go to class.”

“Skip,” I murmured, seeking out her lips. “Come home with me.” I chased down her mouth, slipping my tongue between her cool lips. “I’ll warm you up.”

Her body shivered, and I doubted it had anything to do with the cold. “That’s about as classy as Ollie changing Brittany’s life.”

“Hey!” Ollie shouted. “Don’t bring me into your little love nest.”

Shortcake’s cheek flushed, and I wondered if she’d forgotten that we weren’t alone. She wiggled her way free, like she had done that night before in my bedroom, on my bed, and I swallowed a groan.

I really did not need to be thinking about that right now.

“I’ll see you in a little while?” she said to Brittany, giving her a quick hug.

Brittany nodded. “You got it.”

Saying good-bye, I dropped my arm over her slim shoulders, intent on walking her to Whitehall. She smiled up at me, squinting. “You’re supposed to be on the other side of campus, right?”

“Maybe.” I pulled off my cap and slipped it on her head, shielding the sun. “What are you and Brittany doing later?”

“Going to the mall.” She pushed the brim of the cap up a little as she stepped to the side, reaching out with her hand. “We have some special shopping to do.”

“Hmm.” I threaded my fingers through hers. “What kind of special shopping?”

“It’s a secret.”

I grinned and then inhaled deeply. There was dampness in the air. “Does it have something to do with a day that’s not Presidents’ Day?”

She laughed, and my grin spread. Shortcake had been laughing a lot lately. “I’m not going to tell you.”

“I see how it is.” We stopped near the covered entrance of the social-sciences building, and I pulled her toward me. She came willingly, stretching up on the tips of her toes. Sliding the cap around so it was backward on her head, I rested my forehead against hers. “Can you smell it?”

She laughed as she placed a hand on my chest. “My breath?”

Rolling my eyes, I wrapped an arm around her waist. “No, you little dork. There’s snow in the air.”

“Oh.” She giggled.

I kissed her softly. “Well, be careful on your special, secret shopping trip.”

“I will.” She reached up, taking off the cap and then fitting it on me. “You coming by tonight?”

“That’s a stupid question.” I didn’t want to let her go.

She made a face at me. “Thought there were no such things as stupid questions.”

“That’s a lie.” Dipping my head, I kissed her once more and then let go. When she turned to leave, I tapped her ass, causing her to jump and shoot me a dirty look. I laughed. “You liked it.”

Her flushed cheeks told me I was right.

The snow fell outside, coming down pretty fast. I was glad I was able to convince Shortcake to skip with me tomorrow. Classes would still be happening, but the campus would be an ice-pit death trap.

I glanced down at her and smiled. After eating pizza and hanging out with Ollie, she was tuckered out. Deeply asleep, she was curled on her side, her head resting on my leg. I scooped a strand of her hair off her cheek, tucking it back.

“She’s cute, you know?” Ollie bent forward and picked up the last slice of pizza and stood. “Only she could pass out in the presence of our awesomeness.”

I laughed softly. “It was too much for her. She was overwhelmed.”

He grinned as he stepped over my legs. “I’ll let myself out.”

In the following silence, I traced the elegant curves of her face with my gaze, committing the sweeps and angles to memory. Earlier in the day, as I’d walked over to West Campus with Ollie, he’d made some kind of comment about me being whipped. Funny thing was, it hadn’t ticked me off. I’d laughed. Maybe I was a little whipped. Maybe I was a little obsessed. Maybe I was—

On the coffee table, Avery’s phone beeped and the screen lit up, and I looked before I realized what I was doing.

You’re a lying whore. How can you live with yourself?

I leaned forward, reading the message three times before the light faded from the screen and the text disappeared.

Shock made me stupid. I had to have read it wrong. Three times? Not likely. Muscles in my back and neck locked up. I don’t know how long I sat there in stunned silence, but beyond the shock, anger simmered in my veins like a slow-burning brushfire. Who in the fuck would’ve sent that to her? Lying whore? I wanted to find the person responsible and rip their spine right out.

But why would someone send that to her? If Avery was a whore, so was a nun, but why? A muscle began to thrum in my jaw and didn’t stop when Avery stirred.

Yawning, she sat up and pushed long strands of hair out of her face. A sleepy smile formed on her lush lips. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.”

I looked at her, unsure if I should say something.

She straightened as her gaze flickered over my face. “Is everything okay?”

Fuck it. There was no way I could let this pass. I glanced at the table. “You got a message while you were sleeping.”

Her brows knitted as she followed my gaze and then she lurched forward, snapping up her cell. She inhaled sharply when she tapped on the screen.

I watched the blood seep out of her face and felt the knots of unease grow. “It flashed across your screen when it came through.”

Slowly, she sat the phone down with trembling hands. She didn’t look at me, but kept staring at it. “You looked at the text?”

“It’s not like I did it on purpose.” Tense, I leaned forward. “It was right there, sitting on your screen.”

“But you didn’t have to look!” She stood, hands curling at her sides.

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