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My heart stuttered and then sped up. I thought about the way he’d looked at me last night. “I don’t know, Syd. I’m…” I was afraid to open myself up, to expose myself to all that hope.

She touched my arm. “Just don’t stress out about it, okay? And if you feel up to it, give it a chance. Give it one shot. Use your time alone with him and see what happens. Kyler and I aren’t planning to come back until tomorrow evening. You two will have all day today and tomorrow.”

Understanding seeped in. “You guys are going camping because of us—”

“We’re going camping because we want to.” Her sly grin said otherwise. Footsteps sounded from above, nearing the stairs. She hopped off the stool and then leaned in, kissing my cheek. “Have fun.”

I said nothing as she danced off toward the stairway. Sitting there, I stared into my mug as my pulse began to race. Sweat dotted my palms, but I regulated my breathing, taking deep breaths before the overwhelmed feeling could take hold and spread like a virus.

When I heard Kyler’s deep voice, I looked up and closed my eyes. In a lot of ways, I was a coward. And I didn’t like that about myself. Not at all, but it was scary—the idea of giving us a chance when I wasn’t even sure Tanner would be on board.

But there’d been last night, and there’d been the time in the pool. He had said it meant something to him, and maybe…I wasn’t seeing what I thought I saw in the way he looked at me. Maybe I was reading too much into that and not enough into what he was actually saying. I opened my eyes, I decided that I could at least try.

I would try.


I normally wasn’t a suspicious man, but I had this distinct feeling that Kyler and Sydney’s impromptu camping trip reeked of a hidden agenda. With them gone, Andrea and I had the whole place to ourselves.

And I totally wasn’t complaining.

When we got back to Maryland, I was going to buy Kyler a drink, or maybe one for Sydney—for whichever was the mind behind their deviously brilliant plan.

The two of them had left about three hours ago, and I was still giving Andrea some space. She was downstairs for the most part, at least not hiding, and neither was I. I’d plopped myself in the living room and had been flipping channels for a while when she reappeared in the room.

My thumb paused over the remote as I glanced over at her. Her red hair was pulled up in some kind of twist so there was no hiding the pretty flush creeping across her cheeks.

Fingers clasped together in front of her, she shifted her weight from one foot to the next. The skirt of her lavender dress swung just above her knees. She was barefoot, and I noticed that the paint on her nails was a different color than before. They were now a pale blue.

I had never, in my entire life, noticed a chick’s toenail polish until now.

“I was going to go outside.” Her gaze met mine and then flickered away. “I wanted to see if you wanted to, um, to join me?”

What I wanted to do was jump to my feet and thrust my fist into the air, but I managed to calmly turn off the TV, place the remote on the couch, and stand. “Yeah. I can do that.”

Her smile was quick, but beautiful nonetheless. As she turned around and walked toward the glass doors, I trailed after her, wanting to start spewing poetry and shit. Rubbing a hand along my jaw, I shook my head as we stepped outside. She went to the side of the pool, sitting down and dipping her feet into the water. The rain last night had raised the levels, and the water nearly reached the edge.

Following her, I rolled up the legs of my jeans and did the same. Since the storm yesterday, the temps had dropped. While it was still warm, it was bearable—we could sit outside and not have sweat pooling in uncomfortable places.

Andrea stared at the slowly rippling water. “So…when you leave for the police academy, how long will you be gone?”

The question caught me off-guard, because I was surprised and glad that she wanted to know, but I recovered quickly. “It’s about six months.”

She glanced at me quickly, eyes wide. “That long?”

I nodded. “But we do get time off. We can leave after a little while, and people can visit us on assigned days. It’s not like no contact for six months.” At first I wasn’t sure why I was telling her all of that, but then I realized I wanted her to know that I’d be around, available. For her. “So, I’ll still be around.”

Andrea seemed to mull that over. “Are you excited?”

“Yeah,” I admitted, splashing my feet. “It feels like I’ve been working toward it since forever.”

“You don’t have to go to college to enter the academy, right?”

I shook my head. “No, but it gave me a foot up on those who didn’t. Plus, having a degree in criminal justice and having experience on a police force will allow me to move more easily into federal positions.”

“That’s what you want to do? Federal law enforcement?”

“Eventually,” I nudged her with my arm and grinned. “Because while I know I’ll look damn good in a police uniform, just imagine what I’d look like in a suit.”

Andrea tipped her head back and laughed. “I can second that.”

“Damn straight.”

Smiling, she paddled her feet in the water. “When you end up pulling girls over, they’re going to willingly accept whatever ticket you’re giving them.”

I chuckled, admittedly basking in the compliments she was paying me. Fuck. I was ready to roll on my back and let her rub my stomach.