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“Let’s break all the rules. I’ll bake muffins tomorrow and right all of the wrongs.”

He slides his hand around my back and presses me to him, his lips devouring mine, his erection pressed to my belly.

I want this life.

I want Flint showing me his appreciation for baking. I want Harry grinning when he sees cookies on a cooling rack. I want passionate kisses promising long nights of being tangled in each other.

I rub my lips together when he tears his mouth from mine, both of us breathless.

He grins. “I love that you think baked goods make up for breaking the rules.”

I shrug. “It’s worked so far. Maybe you should take freshly baked cookies to the judge or jury on the days you have court.”

“Mmm …” He takes two steps backward to distance us as the stairs creak a bit under Harry’s descent.

“Can we play guitars?” Harry sets his plate on the counter.

“I don’t have mine here, but we can still make music…” I jab my thumb in the direction of the formal living room “…you have a piano.”

“You play piano?” Harry looks surprised.

I laugh, giving Flint a quick glance. He’s wearing his own smirk of amusement.

“Yes. I play a lot of instruments.”

“Cool.” Harry runs back up to his room.

“How long until dinner?” Flint looks at his watch.

“Forty-five minutes.”

“I’m going to get a run in since I didn’t get one this morning.”

“Should I feel guilty about that?”

Harry jogs back downstairs with his guitar.

Flint winks before heading toward the stairs. “Yes, you should.”


I want this life.

Playing music with Harry. Setting the dinner table for three. Seeing the look on his face when I tell him we’re going to the new Spiderman movie after dinner.

We eat. Harry does his homework while Flint and I clean the kitchen, stealing sexy kisses, sharing flirty looks, and the smiles … I drown in every single one he gives me.

I want this life.

Harry plants himself in the middle at the movie. Flint rolls his eyes. I laugh. On the way home he recaps all the highlights, giving us a detailed account of the special effects.

“Bed,” Flint says the second we walk in the door.


“No buts, Harrison. Bed.”

“Is Ellen staying?”

I can’t read him. Is it a question of sheer curiosity or is he being challenging?

“No.” I smile. “I have to tend to my babies, and I need to get some packing done.”

“So no cookies tomorrow?”

Flint shakes his head, and I can’t see his face, but I’m certain there’s an eye roll accompanying it.

“There’s six cookies left.”

Harry frowns. It’s so Flint.

“I’m out of here,” I say on a laugh. The Hopkins boys can sort out their pouty ways without me here. “Goodnight, Harry.” I wrap my arms around him, feeling him stiffen and then relax.

“Night,” he mumbles.

Flint points to the stairs. “Bed.”

“Okay … okay …”

I open the door and Flint follows me out, taking my hand in his. He backs me up to the driver’s door of my car and envelopes me in his arms. He doesn’t speak and neither do I. What could we possibly say? My life has consisted of unexpected, life-changing moments. The familiarity doesn’t ease the pain, but I’ve learned that even when it hurts the most, something or someone comes along to take it away.

“Were you good at football?”

He chuckles, hugging me tighter. “Yes.”

“I knew it.”

“How many planes have you jumped out of?”


He pulls back, giving me a questioning look.

I shrug. “Truth. It’s an incredible feeling.”

“Yet, you won’t fly.”

I shake my head. “Those twenty-three jumps were before my mom’s plane crashed.”

Flint nods slowly, brow drawn tight.

“I’m going to go feed my babies.”


“Yes, my rat babies.”

His hands move to my neck; they’re strong, but his touch is tender as he slides them up to my face, pausing briefly to search my eyes before kissing me.

I … want … this … life …

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispers over my lips. “I want to be selfish with you …” He brushes his lips over mine again.

I grip his coat to steady myself.

“I…” he closes his eyes as if the pain is too great to bear “…don’t deserve this.” His lips ghost along my cheek, down my jaw to my ear. “But I want it so fucking bad.”

I hold on, letting fate have its way.



They feed the pain. They fuel the anger. They also make us stronger when we’re forced to let them go.


I check in on my dad and spend the rest of the morning packing with a little Rod Stewart singing about breaking hearts and wishing someone love. It’s fitting.

“You’ll like Cape Cod.” I pet Mozart as he crawls through the mess on my bedroom floor and onto my lap. “Except Bungie. I’m not sure how this will go.”

My phone chimes.

FLINT: I have forty minutes for lunch. Free?

ME: It’ll take me twenty minutes to meet you anywhere.

FLINT: I bet you can open your front door in under one minute.

I set Mozart on the ground and jump up with a huge grin on my face as I weave my way through the mess to my door.

“Mr. Hopkins.” I attempt to make a sexy pose. I’m not sure how sexy leggings and a bulky sweater with fuzzy socks can really be, but I’m working it.

“Ms. Rodgers.” He takes two short steps before the door closes behind him and he pins me to the wall.

We turn into a flurry of hands ripping at clothes, deep kisses, playful bites, and soft moans.

Between labored breaths, I stab my hands through his hair as he licks and bites his way down my neck. “You didn’t bring lunch, did you?”

“Elle …” He hums in pleasure as his lips feather across the swell of my breasts. “You are lunch.” Flint drops to his knees, taking my leggings and panties down with him.

My head thumps against the wall as my eyes roll back into my head.

Flint Hopkins can go all night or he can be incredibly efficient. Today he’s redefining the quickie without sacrificing a bit of my pleasure—and without moving an inch past the wall adjacent to my front door. It’s the crazy, spontaneous sex we should have had in his greenhouse, minus the stitches incident.

I want this life.

I want a man who can make it mean the world one minute and the next minute show me this living-in-the-moment passion that seeks nothing more than raw physical pleasure.

After he leaves me as nothing more than a pile of bones on my entry floor, Flint navigates his way into the bathroom to dispose of his condom.

“Fuck! Dammit!” He flies out of the hall bathroom with his shirt tucked halfway in and his pants still hanging open.

Perfectly ruffled. Just like I like him.

I slide on my panties and leggings, and pull on my sweater. “Let me guess … Lady Gaga’s by the sink.” I grin. “Told ya she likes to watch.”

Flint tucks the rest of his shirt into his pants, shaking his head. “I don’t know how you live with rats.”

“You make my babies sound like sewer rats from horror movies.” I finish buttoning his shirt and tie his tie for him.

“Who’s going to help dress me when you’re gone?” He grins.

“I think we both know you do it better than anyone, but I’m sure you’ll find some sexy woman who has a quiet and boring job and no pets. Harry won’t like her the way he likes me, but she’ll figure out that cookies get her into your bed. She’ll probably buy them from a bakery because women who bake are a dying breed.” I give his tie a final tug. “You have no idea how good you have it right now.”

He pulls me into him, nuzzling his nose in my hair. “You’re so very wrong.”

“Can I get you real food?” I turn out of his hold, moving toward the fridge, anywhere to separate my heart from this long goodbye.

“I have to get back to work.” He slips on his jacket.

“Work …” I give him a stiff smile. “I need to figure that out for myself.”

“Do you need money?”

I grunt a laugh. “No. I don’t have any major living expenses there. At least for now.”

“But if you do—”

I shake my head, knowing he’s expecting me to call him.

“I have skills. I can get a job. I want to get a job as soon as I know my dad’s doing a little better. Then we’ll look for someone to care for him during the day while I work, and I can be with him in the evenings and weekends.”

“Well …” He gives me a sad smile.

“Dinner later?”

“Sure.” A slow nod accompanies his sad smile.

I follow him to the door. “What’s wrong?”

He opens the door and turns back to me. “Every day it’s getting harder to pretend that you’re not leaving indefinitely.”