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Mutely, I nod my head and accept the bath sheet he’s holding out. He leans in and plants a swift kiss against my lips before walking towards the open door. When I notice the slightly awkward way he’s walking, a nervous giggle bubbles out. I slap my hand over my mouth to try to stop myself, but he turns and narrows his eyes at me.

“This isn’t funny, Dee. I’m so hard right now that I wouldn’t be surprised if my balls are turning blue.”

“I’m sorry, really!” I hold my hands up in surrender, but notice my mistake about two seconds too late. The towel falls from my body and pools around my feet, leaving me standing before him completely naked. He growls low in his throat, the sound so powerful that my pussy throbs. Jesus, that’s hot.

With more willpower than I thought possible, he turns stiffly and walks the rest of the way out the door, closing it softly behind him. I spend the next thirty minutes trying to calm my own hormones down, but quickly realize there isn’t much that can soothe the inferno raging inside me. I want him with an all-consuming thirst.

****

After our bathroom incident, we walk on eggshells around each other. Both of us dance around, knowing that behind each stolen glance and heated glare, we both want nothing more than to collide together in what promises to be the wildest of reunions.

When he looks at me, again, like he’s just finished fucking me against the countertop that I’m fixing dinner on, I slam my knife down. The sexual heat between us has the room thick with tension. It almost feels like a fog of desire is cloaking every inch of space around us.

“I think I might need to skip dinner.”

He puts the plates down and walks over from where he was setting the table. I don’t move. I continue to hold the marble countertop as if my life depends on it, afraid that if I remove my hands, even for a second, that I might shred the clothes straight from his body.

I don’t feel him at first, but I know he’s standing directly behind me. I can feel him, and his body heat warming my back. I fight the urge to turn and throw myself at him. When his hand moves my hair off my shoulder, and his lips press lightly against my exposed neck, my body trembles violently.

“I want you so bad, Beck.” The desperation in my voice causes my cheeks to heat, and I drop my head, annoyed with my body for its shamelessness.

“And I want you right back just as much, so don’t think this isn’t hard on me, too. I’m not going anywhere, Dee. You might think you’re ready, and I have no doubt that your body is, but I want it all. Mind, body, soul, and heart. I promise you that when we finally get there, it’s going to be worth the wait. When you open yourself up to me completely… Baby, you won’t even believe how good it’s going to be.” He nibbles softly across my neck before backing away and picking up the plates he’d abandoned. It takes me longer to calm the heat in my body.

I understand where he’s coming from, but it’s harder to explain to my overactive hormones that we need to put the brakes on it. The last time I had him inside of me was another moment of weakness, and even though it was mind-blowing, as always, it still left me unsatisfied because I ran off in the middle of the night. Six months is a long time to crave someone else. I pause in my tracks when the very vivid images of him with someone else come floating through my mind. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that he could have been with anyone else, but now that the thought has popped in my head, there is no erasing it. My stomach cramps with the idea of him and some faceless woman.

“Beck?” He turns with a frown marring his handsome face, cocking his brow in question. I gulp, trying to calm my emotions. “I have no right to ask this, I know I don’t, but… has there been someone… um, anyone else?” I whisper the question, but I know he hears me because his face goes soft.

His lips curl into a small smile and his eyes darken. “Are you jealous?”

I glare at him when his teasing tone hits me.

“Don’t poke fun at me, Beck. I know that I have no right to even be bothered by the thought, much less question you on it. I pushed you away and I get it, I do. But… I just want to know. I need to know.”

He doesn’t walk over to me, and I appreciate that he’s giving me some space here. My mind is a jumbled mess of questions. On one hand, I know without a doubt that this is where I’m meant to be. I don’t fear that he will change anymore, but I’m still afraid of the unknown. I know now that this is normal with any relationship, but it’s still there. Knowing that I’ve pushed this man away for so long, regardless of what I’ve had going on in my head, is what kills me. I wouldn’t even fault him if there had been someone else.

“Look at me, Dee, and I mean really look at me.” He gives me a second, and I just look into his eyes, waiting for his next words. “The day your drunk ass went on and on about how chocolate is better than sex, you had me hooked. It was never a question of whether or not you were it for me. I knew. You might have pushed me away physically, but I didn’t really go anywhere, and if you think about it long enough, you know I didn’t leave you. Even if we hadn’t had the handful of nights together during all this time apart, there was no way I would have even been able to get it up for another woman. Not when my heart has always been yours. So no, Dee, there hasn’t been anyone else, and there won’t be anyone else. This is the longest we’ve ever gone without falling into each other, and I can wait as long as it takes for your head to catch up with your heart.” He smiles and it isn’t a smile of sadness. It’s one of acceptance. And right then and there, I know without a doubt that I don’t deserve this man, but I’ll fight like hell to be worthy of the love he’s offering.

“For what it’s worth, it’s only been you for me, too.” I echo his words back at him. His smile gets even bigger before he finishes setting the table.

A comfortable silence fills the air, and after sitting down and starting our meal, he clears his throat. I look up, expecting the question I’ve known was coming, but not sure I’m ready to answer. “How did it go with Izzy today?” He finishes cutting a piece of his chicken, but pauses with it halfway to his mouth when he sees the nervousness take over my face. Telling Izzy what Brandon had done to me had been a painful conversation, but it will pale in comparison to how gutting it will be to tell Beck.

I think I’ve always known that he would be the hardest one for me to tell. I have had a very real fear that he would look at me differently if he knew everything that had played a part in keeping me from him. Like he would think I’m damaged goods, tainted, unworthy. Things would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t been afraid to tell him. I took a while, but now I can tell that he would have helped me get over it back then and still would’ve loved me.

“It wasn’t easy.” He nods his head and waits for me to continue. “I think that was one of the hardest conversations I will ever have in my life.”

“How did she take it?”

“Better than I thought she would. She’ll be okay because it’s Izzy.”

He smiles, returning to his meal for a few bites. We both know how strong Izzy is now, and since she has Axel standing by her side, I know she’ll be able to move past this and not have it affect us.

In a way, having the strength to tell Izzy is what gives me the strength to have this conversation with Beck.

“I would like to tell you what we talked about, if that’s okay.” I rush the last part out so that I don’t wuss out before I finish.

He stops what he’s doing, sets his fork down, and gives me his full attention. “I’m done eating if you want to talk now.” His eagerness helps give me the final push to talk. He’s been waiting for this moment since I closed myself off and pushed him away. Patiently waiting for me to open up.

“Why don’t we get everything cleaned up, and then go sit somewhere and have a drink. I think you’re going to need it.” I stand up and do my best to ignore the worried look across his face.

I smile when I walk into the kitchen with our dishes, because I know, with not one single shadow of doubt, that I’m ready to have this conversation. Not only that, but I finally can see with crystal clear clarity that, once I get this out, there won’t be anything left standing in our way.

Chapter 17

I finished up cleaning up our dinner mess and walked out into the living room where Beck’s on the phone with his sister, Julie. The phone rang right when we finished up dinner, and even though he’s anxious to get our conversation rolling, he answered with a smile.

I round the couch and hand him a beer before settling in next to him. He pulls me close with the hand that isn’t holding the phone, and smiles.

“Yeah, Jules, I know. I promise that I’ll be home to visit soon. Yeah. No, I haven’t forgotten how to work a phone. Yeah, she’s great.” He stops talking and looks into my eyes, giving me a light squeeze so I know she’s asking about me.

I’ve talked to Julie, his youngest sister, a few times over the phone, and once when she came to visit. She’s such a sweetheart and we connected instantly. His other sister, Peyton, I haven’t met in person, but each time I’ve spoken to her on the phone, I can tell that she’s just like Julie. Both of them share the same huge heart and compassionate soul that Beck has.

“I think mom said she would be driving down to visit sometime next month. You know how she is; she wants to wait until you and Pey can come down with her.” He laughs at whatever Julie says in return.

I settle into his chest and enjoy the feeling of his voice vibrating against my body. This feels so right, sharing this moment, even though it’s just a small one with him. Doing things that normal couples take for granted feels like a huge accomplishment for me. When he hangs up the phone and turns to me, catching my smile, he offers one just as big back to me.

“What’s that smile for?”

“I’m just enjoying the moment.” My smile fades when I realize that it’s time to have this talk with him. “How’s Julie?” I ask, trying to buy some time to settle the butterflies in my stomach.

He gives a snort, shaking his head a few times. Obviously, he knows me well enough to know my stalling tactics. “Do you really want to know or would you rather I sit here and let you calm down a little while before we talk?” He isn’t mad, just being honest.

“You really do know me, don’t you?” I laugh softly. “I really do want to know how she is, but I do also need a second to collect my thoughts.”

“I understand that. We’ve got all night. Jules is good. She’s complaining about some class she’s taking. Keeps going on and on about how she shouldn’t have waited until she was twenty-eight to go back and get her degree. She’ll figure it out though. She says mom wants to come down, especially when she found out you had been hurt. Don’t worry, I bought us some time.” His smile gets big when he talks about his family. He’s so lucky to have come from such a loving family. Even without having a father around, there was never a lack of love in his life.

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