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But fuck, I was.

Several curls had toppled across her freckled cheek, and without thinking, I reached down and carefully brushed them back. The contact with her silky soft cheek sent a jolt through me, and I yanked my hand back. Staring down at her, a rough breath punched out of me. Jesus Christ, I wanted to touch her again, really, in a very bad way. My fingers practically buzzed to pull that cover back, see if that swell of her breast was just as soft as her cheek, if her thighs were as sweet.

Cutting off those thoughts was harder than I ever imagined. Turning from the bed, I saw a tiny trashcan and grabbed it, positioning it by her bed. Then I went out to the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water and brought that back into the bedroom, placing it on the nightstand. She’d be thirsty when she woke up. She’d probably have one hell of a headache, too.

There was no real reason to linger any longer, but I worried about her—about how much she drank, if she’d be sick in the middle of the night when there’d be no one here to look after her. I thought about calling Kyler and getting Sydney on the phone, but I ended up planting my ass in a silver chair that was low to the floor but surprisingly comfortable. There was luggage beside the chair, zipped up.

I ended up sitting there for hours, until the first rays of dawn began to peek through the curtains over the large window, until I was sure that there was little chance she would be sick, and until I was so shocked with myself that I realized I’d spent the entire night like some kind of bedside nurse, something I’d never done before—never even considered doing before. Even though I was tired and my back ached when I stood like I was much older than my twenty-three years, I knew that meant something, that had to. But I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Chapter 3


Idly flipping through the pages of the latest US Weekly, I quickly gave up and tossed the magazine onto the beige cushion beside me. My attention wandered over the potted plants in front of the darkened window, to the TV, and I sighed heavily.

Sunday nights just weren’t the same without The Walking Dead.

Bored out of my mind and beyond restless, I pushed myself off the comfy couch and walked the short distance to my bedroom. My apartment was more of a loft converted into a one-bedroom. The rooms were decent-sized, larger than most, and I was super grateful that my parents had hooked me up my junior year of college. I could stay here without worrying about that kind of expense. No matter what some people thought, I knew how incredibly lucky I was.

I stopped a few feet from my bed and stared at the gray and white comforter I hadn’t straightened this afternoon when I’d peeled myself out of bed after spending most the day nursing one hell of a hangover. Last night was a blur of cocktails mixed with tequila and rum. I remembered dancing and grabby hands, and I also remembered Tanner intervening and driving me home, but after his truck pulled up in the parking lot, I honestly didn’t remember a thing. I figured he’d gotten my butt into my apartment and bed, because there’d been a glass of water on my nightstand when I’d woken up that I doubted I’d gotten myself.

God, I needed to stop drinking.

I looked around my room. What was I doing? I had absolutely no idea why I’d even walked in here. My suitcase, already packed for the trip to the cabin in the morning, was sitting by the silver-cushioned papasan chair next to my dresser. I was one of those people—the ones that sometimes packed days before a trip.

Exhaling yet another deep sigh, I stood there for a couple of minutes and then spun around, walking into the kitchen. This time I stopped in front of my fridge. Stainless steel. Double sides. My parents had wanted updated appliances, only the best, but all I could see were my fingerprints all over the door and handle.

I yanked open the door and the ring of bottles clattering off one another sent a shiver down my spine. The jangling was like music—like Jingle Bells, if Jingle Bells was drunk. Six bottles of Redd’s Apple Ale sat all by their lonesome.

A spasm caused my fingers to tighten on the handle, and I started to kneel down, my other hand flashing out, reaching for a bottle. You do drink too much. Sucking in a sharp breath, I closed my eyes. I didn’t drink that much. Just every now and then, no different than half the population of the United States, so it wasn’t like I had a problem.

Not yet, an insidious, annoying voice whispered.

Grabbing a can of soda, I shoved the fridge door shut, ignoring the enticing rattle that haunted my steps. I walked back into the living room, popping the top on the can. I leaned against the back of my couch, the soda dangling from my fingers. I tried to make sense of the blurred images from last night, even though I knew that was pointless. It wasn’t like I blacked out or something, not really. I just couldn’t remember all the fine details. That wasn’t the same thing. I shifted my weight from one foot to the next, suddenly uncomfortable.

A band of pressure tightened around my chest. Tanner was never going to let me live last night down. Even though it wasn’t the first time he’d escorted me home, somehow it felt different. I wondered if I’d cussed at him. Worse yet, I seriously hoped I hadn’t hit on him. Or tried to rub his head again. Goodness, if so, that was going to be so embarrassing. Squeezing my eyes shut, I forced myself to take deep and slow breaths until the band had eased up.

Time crawled by, and I had no idea how long I stood there, but it wasn’t even 9:30 when I glanced at the sparkly wall clock. Walking my butt back to the kitchen, I placed the soda on the counter and opened up the cabinet above the microwave.