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Deep is something I will avoid like the plague.

Deep is what brings the pain.

Pain when he cheats. Pain when he leaves. Pain when you realize that, no matter how much you wish things were different, you will never be first in a man’s eyes.

Am I jaded? Hell yeah I am. I even annoy myself with this, but I’ve learned enough from my past, that if I ever find a man worth trying a relationship for, the chances of him not breaking my heart are slim.

Until then, I plan on just enjoying the ride. If Beck happens to be one of those rides, then so be it. I just have to remind myself that the price of admission is too high to make it a ride I take often.

“Dee?” I lean back from my desk, rub my eyes, and push the work away. I’ve been staring holes in it for the last thirty minutes while I sit here and fester on all the shit going on.

“Yeah, Babe?” I call back through the open doorway, hoping that my voice sounds better than I’m feeling right now.

“I want you to take me shopping tomorrow. The whole nine. You know, all those ridiculous things you keep telling me are wrong with how I dress. Well, now they are yours to do whatever with. No limit.” I want to call bullshit so bad. I can tell by the way she sounds that this is another way for her to avoid her life. Okay, my rational mind knows, but she also knows how to play the game. She’s using my love for shopping and my hatred of all that crap she wears to get her out of the house and away from what I can only assume is Axel. But, my girl hit the nail right on the head.

Direct slam.

So I give her what she needs. I put the smile on my face, and with some screeching and jumping up and down like a demented kangaroo, I readily agree. After all, I’m still helping her out. Right?

****

The next morning, we don’t waste any time getting ready and heading off for the mall. We arrive just as most of the stores are opening. I’ll give her credit. She hates being here, but she’s acting like this idea of hers is the best one yet. She doesn’t even fight me anymore when I pick stuff up and thrust it into her arms. The last store we left, she just handed me her credit card and the clothes she had just tried on, before even leaving the dressing room.

At least she’s trying to smile.

We walk out of yet another store, and I look over at her. She’s still clearly miserable but trying to hide it. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be in a better place. I’m in my element. I could spend hours walking around the mall. It’s my vice. Some people have booze, drugs, hell even sex. But me? I have shopping.

When I was younger, and my parents just wanted me out of their hair, they would send me with Nanny Amy and their credit card. I loved Nanny Amy. When we would disappear for hours, just walking around the mall, going in all the toy stores that my mother never let me look at, eating all the junk in the food court, or just being normal, I could pretend that someone loved me. I could forget the crap that I had to deal with, and the fake mask that I felt forced to wear.

I could be me. The real Dee. The girl who wanted desperately to just have someone who loved her for her, and didn’t hate just looking at herself in the mirror.

When I was out shopping, buying whatever I wanted to fill that void, I could pretend. I could forget. So, I get what Izzy is doing here. She’s using me and shopping to forget the giant mess of ‘what the fuck’ her life has become.

It’s nearing lunchtime when she takes a call from Greg. Her tone is light and teasing, and she finally agrees to meet up with him. I know it’s not what he wants, but baby steps are better than nothing. She isn’t closing him off anymore.

We are on our way to meet up with Greg, and find him waiting outside the newest store that we had just left, when I see him. Beck. Mr. Panty Soaking himself, and just like the night we met, the pull is just as strong as it was. Only this time I don’t want to stop it. I want to enjoy him and all the promises I see hiding behind his eyes.

He looks at me as if he only has eyes for me. With a devilish smirk on his face, and his brown eyes smiling, he’s saying everything that he can’t say out loud with just a look.

This gorgeous man wants me, and for once, I’m going to let my hair down, and just enjoy the waves that life wants me to ride. He’s a guy, after all, so he shouldn’t have any issues with the whole ‘this is just sex’ thing. I need him to take my mind off of everything else going on around me.

We leave the mall right after meeting up with the guys. Greg is the type of man that gets hives just from being near shopping, so it doesn’t surprise me that he wants to get out of here. We head over to Heavy’s, our favorite restaurant, and settle into a long afternoon of eating, drinking, and much needed laughter. The tension between Beck and me is tangible. Half of the conversation just floats around me as I look into his eyes. The flirting, sex talk, and uncontrollable lust are just too much to handle.

When Izzy drops the bomb that she wants to go get a tattoo, I do the only thing I can. I put my friend hat back on and go along for a ride. I can tell that Beck is confused and worried, but he still tags along.

We have only been at the tattoo place for about thirty minutes before she is called back. Beck comes over to my side and wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me in close and offering his support. It’s obvious that Greg is about to come unglued. I can’t stop worrying about Izzy, and the fact that it was a huge mistake to let her come here.

I swiftly stand up and get ready to march back and drag her out of here, but before I can get a step away from the couch, the front door opens, and Axel comes storming through the entrance. One look at his face has me dropping back down next to Beck.

“It’s okay. He won’t hurt her,” he whispers in my ear.

“He already has,” I reply cryptically. He looks at me in question, but I just shake my head and watch the shit storm unfold.

After the most intense ten minutes, we all end up on the curb. When Axel all but forces a stoic faced Izzy into his massive truck, I breathe a deep sigh of relief, and one of massive anxiety, all at once.

“Do you want to be alone?” Beck asks when he pulls me into his arms. I stand there for a second, and watch where Axel’s taillights just disappeared before shaking my head. “Come on, I’ve got you now.” He presses his lips to my temple, and I shiver. He growls low in his throat before lacing our fingers together and leading me to his truck. I steal a glance back at Greg where he’s still standing on the sidewalk. He waves me off before heading to his own vehicle. I should be mad at him for what he pulled tonight, but I know he did what he feels is best for Izzy.

Knowing that there isn’t anything I can do for her tonight, and hoping that she opens up to Axel, I get ready for the new turn in my night. The man I haven’t been able to get out of my head is taking the lead, and I have every intention of letting him.

And now, here I am, after a night that I still can’t really process, in his house, and by the heated look he is throwing at me from across the living room, there is no doubt in my mind that we both want the same thing here.

“Do you think she’s okay?” I finally break the silence. The way that Izzy ‘left’ the group earlier still isn’t sitting right with me.

“Sugar, I think we can both agree that enough is enough with those two. Axel isn’t the kind of man that will sit by and wait when there’s something he can do about it. I think a week is about as much patience as we will ever get out of him.” He starts to walk over to me, but I stop him with my hand.

“I don’t like the way I left her,” I stress, hoping he understands me.

“There really isn’t anything you can do about it now. Those two are adults, and they need to figure out their own mess without dragging everyone else into it as buffers. Let me take a guess here. You’ve been her shield for a while now? You and Greg?” At my nod, he continues. “Right, well, I would say it’s time to set her free, and let her stand on her own two feet. You aren’t doing her any favors by holding her hand.” He’s right in my space now, the heat from his chest warming my own.

“I don’t know if I can,” I whisper as his hands come up and take my face between his warm palms. His thumbs stroke my cheeks softly before he brings my face up to look into his, making sure that I see him and understand what he’s trying to tell me.

“Let go, Dee. I saw it the moment I met you. You hide it well, but while you work so hard to protect her, you forget about yourself.”

I gasp, and he just offers an understanding smile. It shouldn’t shock me since he’s right, but this man, who has known me all of a week, can see right through my walls. It’s unnerving.

“You don’t know me,” I throw at him, almost defiantly. I don’t want him to get in and worm his way past my walls. This is just supposed to be about letting loose and having something for me.

His eyes go warm for a second. “Not yet, but I will. It was my job, for too many years, to see what others didn’t want to be seen, so I’m sorry if I hit it on the head, but don’t get pissed because I’m right.”

I have no idea what I’m supposed to say to that. He’s right. I’m pissed because he figured me out in no time, and the two people that I love more than life itself still think I’m happy-go-lucky Dee. I break eye contact when it becomes more than I can stand. It’s like he really does see right inside me. It’s almost as if he can reach right in and pull out my secrets.

“Right. Are we going to do this?” Desperate to change the subject and steer him away from seeing too much, I bring my hands up and slip them under his shirt. I shake off the nagging feeling that getting into bed with this man might be more than I can handle. The warmth of his soft skin causes the butterflies to pick up speed, and chills to break out. He is completely scalding and hard all over. Every part of him that I touch makes my body get hotter and hotter. I lick my lips when I think about running my hands down his back, digging in as he pounds into me.

“We were going to do this before you even knew you would be coming home with me, Babe.” And before I can blink, his lips are on mine. He is consuming my mind, and completely branding me straight down to my soul.

Shit. I knew he would be more than I could handle, and if I feel this ‘owned’ after one not so simple kiss, I have no idea what I’ll feel like come morning.

When he pulls back from the sweet seduction his lips have been making against my own, the look in his eyes almost makes me lose my footing. His eyes are so dark now that they look like the richest, most expensive chocolate money can buy. Twinkling with lust and alight with desire, they rake over my face, taking in my swollen lips, and my hooded eyes. When he sees the state that he’s brought me to, his lips curl in to a heart-stopping smirk.

“You want this, don’t you, sweetness? Because I can tell you right now, after just one taste of you, I want you more than my next breath.” His deep gritty baritone wraps around me like a blanket. I feel as if he’s spun a web of desire that I’m completely stuck and hypnotized in. “Dee, you’ve got to give me the words. Once I start down this path, there isn’t any way I’ll be ready to pull the brakes.”

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