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The thing about alcoholism and depression, I was learning, was that it wasn’t a one-person problem. It affected everyone you came into contact with, sometimes in ways you didn’t even know, and not necessarily negatively either. People wanted to help you. They wanted to understand. You just had to let them.

And one of the most important things I kept forcing myself to remember was that I wasn’t alone in this. Through the ups and downs since I’d gotten out of rehab, Syd and Kyler had been there. Tanner had been there, a constant source of love, acceptance, and support.

Even when I was sure he wanted to strangle me.

“Hey,” Tanner murmured, his fingers sifting through my hair. “Where’d you go?”

Lifting my head, I smiled up at him and felt my chest swell with all the love I felt for him. Sometimes that was scary, holding on so tightly to those feelings, but it was also exhilarating, downright magical, and I knew now I would never trade what I was feeling for a beer.

“I’m here,” I told him.

Tanner’s hand slid out from my hair to cup my cheek. Those blue eyes, filled with tenderness, met mine. I stretched up on the tips of my toes and looped my arms around his neck. I didn’t have to ask. He lowered his mouth to mine. The kiss was gentle at first, a soft exploration that sent a pleasant hum though my veins, and then, when his tongue touched mine, raw passion exploded.

My fingers tightened along the back of his neck as I pressed my hips against him. He groaned into my mouth, and I felt his reaction swell against my belly. I slid my other hand down his chest and pulled on his shirt, a silent plea that was answered by Tanner pulling back, his eyes glazed over with pent-up desire.

“Are you sure?” he asked, his gaze searching mine. “Are you ready for this?”

Tanner and I had held off on taking our relationship back to what we’d shared while we were at the cabin. My counselor had recommended against having sex, because it was quite possible that I would substitute one addiction for the other to cope with the depression. At first, that didn’t make a damn bit of sense to me, because I’d never used sex as a way to not deal with things.

Until I realized through the weekly sessions that yes, I had used sex to not deal with things. That had also sucked, understanding just how deeply my illness had penetrated every facet of my life, but I wanted to get better. I wanted to be better, so I followed the rules, and even though I’d been more or less cleared for sexual fun stuff weeks ago, I had held off. Tanner had understood. He was patient. He waited.

But damn, it had been hard. The tension, the chemistry was always there between us, and denying it was torture even though I hadn’t been ready to go there.

I was ready now.

“Yes.” And to prove my word, I reached down and cupped him through his trousers. He was hard and thick, straining the material. “I’m ready. Like, way past ready.”

His eyes closed as he shuddered and when he spoke, his voice was rough. “We can wait—”

I squeezed him through his pants and arched a brow.

“Fuck. Okay. You’re ready.”

His mouth smothered my giggle. The kiss that time was not sweet or slow. His mouth dominated mine and set fire to my blood. He backed me up as his hands coasted down my sides, balling around the material of my blouse. Not having time for buttons, he pulled the thin material up over my head while I started to pull off his shirt. We broke apart long enough for him to strip, and dear Lord, I’d never seen someone get their clothes off that fast, even though he’d forgotten to take his shoes off first and got hung up on that for a moment. I didn’t waste time as he undressed. With trembling hands, I undid the zipper on my pants and dragged them down, taking my panties along with them. By the time I straightened, Tanner’s fingers had already found the clasp of my bra.

There would be time later for a slow seduction, because I was really looking forward to Tanner undressing me, piece by piece of clothing, but I was aching and I knew he was too.

Then his hands and mouth were all over me, kissing and licking, nipping and tasting. I grew impossibly damp and he became so much harder. We stopped long enough for him to grab protection, and then he shoved his hands under my arms, lifting me up and tossing me on the bed.

I laughed as I bounced, and he came up and over me, his mouth claiming mine as he reached between us, guiding his erection. His hips thrust forward and I nearly exploded right then. He started moving, pumping in and out, and I tilted my hips up, wrapping my legs around his waist, taking him in as far as he could go.

Our mouths were greedy for one another, our bodies not easily sated. We clamored for one another, oblivious to the rattle of the headboard against the wall, fully focused on each other’s sighs and groans.

Tension coiled tight when his large hand curved around my cheek in such a tender, gentle grip completely at odds with the surges of his hips. “I love you,” he gasped out, his voice guttural. “I fucking love you.”

I tightened all around him, breaking apart as I said those words back to him, over and over, until his hips grinding against mine stilled and he gave a hoarse shout as he came. I was spinning and spinning, tossed up so high that when I came back down, I was shocked to find that I was still in one piece.

Afterward, we lay together, our arms and legs tangled, my cheek resting on his chest. There was no need for words, not when his hand trailed up and down my back lazily. Not when the last words we’d spoken to one another were ones of love.

Quiet moments could still be really tough, but they weren’t all bad. A sleepy smile stretched my lips. Nope. Sometimes those quiet moments could be heaven.