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Then why do I feel so damn guilty?

Maybe I should end things with Rylee. Nothing is worth a few good romps in the hay. Not even if Ry is different from the others. Not even if she’s the only woman who has ever come close to being in the same ballpark as Nat.

But therein lies the problem. These feelings I’m having, whatever they are – they can’t lead anywhere and I know it.

I put the picture away as we taxi up to the gate.

I have two more weeks down here. Two more weeks of spending my mornings with Rylee. Two weeks of looking forward to whatever time she’ll give me after work. Two weeks of touching her, smelling her, laughing with her.

Two weeks can be a long fucking time. And right now, it seems like forever.

I need to end it with her.

I get off the plane and bypass the luggage carousel. I was only gone for two days so I just have my carry-on. As the escalator takes me down toward the exit, I notice a familiar face. I see Rylee standing there, wearing a black hat like one a limo driver wears. I wonder what she’s doing here wearing that silly hat and a huge smile. Then, just as I’m stepping off the escalator, she flashes a sign that reads ‘Scott Eastwood.’

I laugh. I laugh harder than I’ve laughed, well, since the last time I was with Rylee.

It’s only two more weeks, I think, justifying my sudden change of heart.

“What are you doing here?” I ask when we stop laughing and I can finally speak again.

“I drove you here Wednesday night, remember? You told me your itinerary.”

“Oh, well, you didn’t have to pick me up. I could have taken a cab. Or called Lenny.”

She shrugs. “It’s Friday. We always hang out on Friday. That is unless you don’t want to.”

“That depends. What did you have in mind?”

She takes something out of her back pocket and hands it to me. It’s two tickets to a concert.

I recognize the name of the band. I should, I’ve been backstage at a few of their concerts. “You like White Poison?” I ask.

She shrugs. “I’ve heard them on the radio. I guess they’re okay.”

“If you think they are just okay, why did you buy tickets?”

“I didn’t buy them. One of the guys gave them to me.”

I furrow my brow. “A player?”

She nods. “Lorenzo Santos.”

“Why didn’t he go himself?”

“Something about it being his sister’s birthday and she’s not a fan.”

“Oh, well we should go. They’re pretty good. I know Adam Stuart.”

“Who?”

“The lead singer for the band.”

We reach her car and she takes the hat off. “Of course you do,” she says, rolling her eyes.

I grab the hat and put it back on her head. “You should wear this later tonight. It looks sexy on you.”

She blushes. She’s so darn cute when her cheeks and neck pink up like this. I can’t help it when I lean down and pin her to the side of her car as I kiss her. I don’t know if it’s the crappy few days I’ve had with the funeral or what, but kissing Rylee just makes me feel … better somehow.

She doesn’t seem to mind that we’re in a public place. But the parking garage is somewhat dark and there aren’t many people around, so she deepens the kiss. She presses herself into me, teasing me with what we both know will happen later tonight. Later, when we’ll go back to my hotel room and devour each other like we have numerous times in the past few weeks.

“Well, hello to you too,” she jokes when we break apart.

I grab the keys from her and then walk around the car to let her in the passenger side.

“Do we have time to grab a bite first?” I ask.

“A quick one. Maybe a sandwich somewhere.”

“What is it with you and sandwiches?”

She shrugs. “They’re quick, easy, cheap, and the possibilities are endless.”

I laugh a little too boisterously.

“What?” she asks.

“I think you just described most of my sexual conquests.”

I see her look of annoyance out of the corner of my eye and I realize she might not find my joke funny.

“Not you, Ry. I said most.”

“Whatever. Listen, I’m a big girl, Brady. I know what this is.”

I reach over and put my hand on her thigh. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. You are nothing like them, least of all easy and cheap. But if that night in the bathroom is any indication, you’re sure as hell quick.”

We share another laugh and I realize just how good it feels to laugh with her. Sure, I laugh with the guys. I laugh with Murphy even. But I can’t remember ever laughing with any of the others. Not like this. Laughing with Rylee makes me feel … alive.

We stop at a sub shop along the way.

“Alex saw a picture of us at the fair,” she says as we eat. “Someone took a photo of us sitting on the bench while we were eating.”

“Was he mad?”

She sighs. “He seemed jealous, that’s for sure. I think I’ve been in denial.”

“I told you that man wants you, Ry. But I have to ask, other than the no fraternization thing, why don’t you want to go out with the guy?”

“He sleeps with all the interns,” she says. “But you never heard that from me.”

“Really? Isn’t the guy like thirty-five?”

“Thirty-seven, actually. And the interns are usually in their early twenties.”

“He’s taking advantage, Ry. That’s not right. You should say something.”

“Maybe they have an arrangement,” she says, elbowing me. “And I’m not about to say anything and lose my job. They are consenting adults, Brady and it’s none of my business. But he creeps me out. And since you’ve been around, he’s been kind of territorial.”

“Territorial?” Alarm bells go off in my head. “What the fuck does that mean? Has he made a move on you?”

“Calm down, Brady. He just asks a lot of questions about me and my personal life. And about you.”

“And what do you tell him?”

“That you are my patient. Nothing more.”

“And the picture? How did you explain that?”

“I told him you were getting impatient and anxious about your recovery and that I needed to think outside the box. I said the fair games were therapy and it helped to do something different. It wasn’t a lie.”

I smirk and lean in close. “I suppose you left out the part where I gave my fingers a good workout later that night by pinching your nipples and stroking your clit.”

She flushes and squirms in her seat. “Uh, yeah, I left that part out.”

“I need another good workout,” I whisper in her ear.

“We might be able to arrange that, if you behave yourself tonight.”

“Behave myself? What, no touching at the concert? Come on, Ry. It’ll be dark.”

She laughs. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about you knowing the lead singer. You are not allowed to use that fact or your celebrity status to get us anything. No backstage passes. No private parties. We’re just two normal people going to a concert, okay?”

I blow out a breath. “Fine.” I tug on my Nascar hat. “It’s a good thing I’m wearing this instead of a Hawks one, maybe it’ll provide camouflage.”

“That and your clean shave,” she says, reaching over to run a finger along my jaw.

“Oh, you like that? I thought I should shave for the funeral.”

“I do, but it’s a lot different than your usual scruff.”

“Scruff? I work hard to keep it that way I’ll have you know.”

“I’ll bet. And it works for you. Obviously,” she says rolling her eyes. “But it was nice to kiss you back at the parking garage. No scruff-burn.”

I look her up and down, my eyes falling to her lap. “No scruff-burn anywhere,” I say.

Her face pinks up again when my eyes meet hers. “Actually, that’s one place I don’t mind it. It kind of enhances the whole feeling.”

My pants get tight at the thought of going down on her. “Well, damn – I’m never shaving again.”

She giggles as she checks the time. “Come on, we’d better go.”

“In a minute,” I say. “You can’t tell me what you just told me and then expect me to walk out of here without a hard-on.”

~ ~ ~

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a concert. Especially a concert where I’m not in some VIP section with an all-access pass. It’s kind of refreshing to just be one of the crowd. For five years now, I haven’t been treated like a normal person. Not until Rylee forced me to be. And being normal is so much better than I remember. It’s freeing. It’s cathartic.

We make our way to the seats printed on the tickets. They aren’t near the stage but are close enough to see without squinting. We’re in the first row in the stands behind all the floor seats. There is a railing in front of us and we’re a few feet above the people sitting on the floor. All in all, they are decent seats and provide an unobstructed view.

The opening band is a local band I remember seeing at a bar last spring. But the real fun starts when Adam and the rest of White Poison come on stage. The pyrotechnics are a sight.

If the crowd wasn’t excited before, it is now. The people on the floor are getting shoved around in what is becoming a mosh pit.

“I’m glad we aren’t down there,” Rylee says, pointing to the sea of people.

I see some guys putting arms around their dates, trying to protect them from the mayhem. And suddenly, I have the urge to pull Rylee against me. So I do.

“I don’t know,” I say, stepping behind her and caging her to the railing in front of us. I lean down and let my breath tickle her ear. “It looks kind of fun.”

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