Lowering my mouth to hers, I kissed her as her hips moved against my hand. The feel of her chest against mine was a sensation I’d long remember. It wasn’t long when she cried out against my mouth and I felt her clenching around my finger. I almost lost it right then and there.

I burrowed my head on her throat as she shook. “I love how you say my name.”

Reluctantly, I forced myself to ease my finger out of her and to pull away, but before I could get very far, she surprised me. Sitting up, she placed her hands on my chest, rolling me onto my back. A second later, she had straddled me.

Hellooo.

Drawing in a sharp breath, I almost lost it right there at the sight of her, almost nude as she rose up. Totally unaware of how she appeared made it all the more seductive. I reached for her, but damn, Shortcake was quick when she wanted to be. She slid down, her fingers trembling as she fumbled with the button on my jeans. I started to help her, but then she got them unbuttoned and was sliding them down my legs.

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I clenched the comforter when her hand wrapped around me and her warm breath teased the head of my cock. My heart jumped. “Oh shit.”

Her smile was pure woman. Then her head lowered and her hair slipped forward. I came off the bed, back bowing and hips jerking as her warm, wet mouth closed over me. Fire flooded my blood and I swelled as she gripped me and laved her tongue over the sensitive tip.

I cupped her hand with mine and wrapped my other around the back of her head, holding her hair back. But as she took me deeper into her mouth, I couldn’t stop myself from pushing her down.

My moans echoed through the room and it was mere minutes before my release was on me. I pulled her away before I came, hauling her up against my chest and kissing her as I pressed against her belly.

Weak and totally spent, I collapsed onto my back and Avery did the same. Both of us were breathing raggedly. “This was the best fucking Valentine’s Day ever.”

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She laughed. “I have to agree.”

I slapped around between us until I found her hand and squeezed. Several moments passed and while I wondered what to say, the stupidest thing came out of my mouth. “You hungry?”

“No.” She yawned. “Are you?”

I was an idiot. “Not yet.”

Another stretch of silence fell between us and then she asked, “Stay with me? The night?”

Rolling onto my side, I trailed a hand over her shoulder. “You don’t have to ask twice.”

Twenty-Five

Winter hadn’t wanted to loosen its hold on West “by God” Virginia. The sun came out most of February and March, but the temps were brutal. Even over spring break. While most everyone headed south, Avery and I headed west. We spent most of the break at my parents’ house. Needless to say, Mom was happy that I’d brought a real live girl home again.

As spring recess, or whatever the hell they were calling the four-day weekend in April, came into sweet, sweet view, it seemed like yesterday when Avery sat outside on the curb with a beer bottle and we’d made our way inside. I couldn’t believe how much time had passed.

I couldn’t believe Shortcake was also skipping the rest of the day with me and had allowed me to make up for her birthday. On the eve of our mini-break from school, we’d spent the day in D.C. and had returned late.

“Guess what?” I slid my hands up her sides until they rested under her rib cage. “Got another idea.”

“Does it involve eggs?”

I laughed as I tugged her hips against mine. “It doesn’t involve eggs.”

Her eyes took on the glazed, unfocused quality that I had become familiar with over the last months. “It doesn’t?”

“But it does involve something equally tasty.” I pressed my mouth to her temple, tracing her cheekbone with my lips. “And it involves you, me, a bed, and very little, if any, clothing.”

“Does it now?”

“Yes.” I moved my hands to her lower back, my fingers brushing the pockets of her jeans. I kissed her brow. “What do you think?”

She tipped her head back, luring me in. The kiss started off slow, but then, like always, it turned into something different. Something hungry. Something that always wanted more.

My hands found their way under her shirt and I pulled away long enough to tug her shirt off. Our mouths crashed back together—lips, tongues, teeth. We bumped into the couch and I lost my balance. I fell backward, half on the couch, half off.

Avery’s laughter reached deep inside me and I captured her cheeks in my hands. Staring into her dancing eyes, the words formed in my thoughts.

I loved her.

That feeling had been there for a while, probably longer than I dared acknowledge. Maybe even from the first time she’d turned me down, I’d begun to fall in love with her.

I was in love with her this very second.

The realization shook me to the core. I stared into those warm, whiskey-colored eyes and I wanted to see my future there—our future there. Never in my life had I ever wanted to see that when I stared into a chick’s eyes, but with Avery Morgansten, I wanted nothing more.

My brain turned off and everything I did from that point on was fueled by those three words. I loved her. My hands shook and I was surprised by how fast I got her jeans off.

I cupped her breasts, running my thumbs over her nipples. Her muffled moan reverberated through me. I wanted—no, I needed to hear her call out my name. Dammit, I needed to hear her say those three words or at least feel them.

Thrusting my hand under her panties, I palmed her, rubbing my thumb over the spot that always made her cry out and it did. She undid my jeans and slipped her hand inside, wrapping her fingers around me.

The desire was almost too much. I thrust against her palm. “Avery.”

She came apart at the sound of her name, throwing her head back, and it was fucking beautiful.

I don’t remember standing, but she wrapped herself around me as I carried her back to the bed. After I placed her in the center, she watched me strip bare. Her lips parted, and I groaned.

Crawling onto the bed, blood pounded in my ears as I hooked my fingers under her panties and waited for her to give me a sign that it was okay.

She lifted her hips.

I praised God and baby Jesus.

Finally, after so long, there was nothing between us. Not true, whispered a voice in the back of my head, but it fell to the side as my gaze swept over her. I said she was beautiful a million times and I’d say she was beautiful a million more. From the dusky tips of her breasts to the sweet curve of her hips and the shadowy area between her thighs, she was fucking beautiful.

I tasted my way down her body and back up, too far gone to really taste her. I hovered over her, letting her feel me between her thighs. Avery shuddered and I squeezed my eyes shut as she placed her hands against my chest.

My body strained to be inside hers. “Do you want this?”

“Yes,” she said, and it was like angels harking in my head.

Our gazes met as I bent my head, kissing her as I lowered my body onto hers. Getting a condom was a distant thought but I couldn’t stop. The tip of my erection slid through and then into her wetness, causing my muscles to tense. The feeling was overwhelming. My kiss turned deeper and I eased my hips—

Avery twisted her head to the side. “No. Stop.” She pushed against my chest with surprising strength. “Please stop.”

Those words cut through the haze and I froze. “Avery? What the—?”

“Get off.” Her voice pitched high, full of panic. “Get off. Please. Get off me.”

I had no idea what was going on, but within an instant, I was off her and she was moving. Crawling across the bed, she grabbed the comforter and held it to her chest as she stood. She backed up until she hit the dresser, rattling the bottles and knocking some over. The skin around her lips was pale and her eyes were wide and dark.

“Oh God,” she whispered hoarsely.

Concern and horror warred inside me as I stared at her. “Did I hurt you? I didn’t—”

“No. No!” She squeezed her eyes shut. “You didn’t hurt me. You didn’t even . . . I don’t know. I’m sorry . . .”

I rested my hands on the bed. “Talk to me, Avery. What just happened?”

“Nothing,” she said hoarsely. “Nothing happened. I just thought—”

“You thought what?”

She shook her head “I don’t know. It’s not a big deal—”

“Not a big deal?” My brows shot up. Was she serious? “Avery, you just scared the shit out of me. You started panicking like I was hurting you or—” The next words tasted like ash and vomit as I spoke them. “Or like I was forcing you to do this.”

“You weren’t forcing me, Cam. I liked what you were doing.”

I didn’t understand what just happened. “You know I would never hurt you, right?”

“Yes.” Tears filled her eyes.

“And I would never force you to do anything you didn’t want to do.” I held her gaze. “You understand that, right? If you’re not ready, I’m okay with that, but you have to talk to me. You have to let me know before it gets to that point.”

She nodded, but I didn’t feel any better. All I could hear was the terrified note in her voice when she had begged me to stop. Air caught in my lungs and what I knew about Avery flashed through my thoughts, all building to what I had already assumed, what I prayed wasn’t what had happened to her.

“What are you not telling me?” I asked. When she didn’t say anything, a muscle jumped along my jaw. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing!” she shouted. “There’s nothing to talk about, dammit. Just fucking drop it.”

“You’re lying.” I took a breath. It was time. No more secrets. “You’re lying to me. Something happened, because that?” I gestured at the bed behind me. “That wasn’t about not being ready. That was about something else, because you know—you know—I would wait for you, Avery. I swear, but you have to tell me what’s going on in your head.”

She still said nothing, and my chest began to ache as a terrible realization occurred. Didn’t she trust me? Didn’t she realize how I felt? But did that matter if she didn’t trust me? The answer was an icy wind down my spine.

“I’m begging you, Avery.” I leaned forward, clenching the sheet. “You’ve got to be up-front and honest with me. You said that you trusted me. You’ve got to prove it, because I know there is more to this. I’m not stupid and I’m not blind. I remember how you acted when we first met and I sure as hell remember what you said that night you were drunk. And that text message you got? Are you telling me that has nothing to do with this? If you trust me, you will finally tell me what the hell is going on.”

“I do trust you,” she whispered.

I waited for her to say more, to say anything that would prove her words, but she said nothing and there was this horrible cracking feeling in my chest. I threw off the sheets and stood. Grabbing my jeans, I pulled them on as my heart pounded in a way that made me feel sick.

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