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A timer goes off in the kitchen. “Dinner is ready,” he says.

“But we haven’t even tasted the canapés,” I say, nodding to them on the bar.

He quickly pops two of them into his mouth. “Sorry,” he says after he’s swallowed them. “I might just be a little eager to get to dessert.”

I raise a seductive brow at him. “What’s for dessert?”

He belts out a throaty laugh. “You are.”

My stomach flutters. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

We go to the kitchen and I help him carry the pasta dish, bread basket and salad to the table. Then he brings our champagne over and makes a toast. “To tonight. To us. To … possibilities.”

I touch my glass to his and take a drink wondering what all the possibilities are. Hoping beyond hope that those possibilities include my son.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Brady asks a few minutes later, seeing me push food around on my plate.

I take a bite to show him I’m eating. “It’s really good.”

“What’s wrong?”

I shrug and glance back towards his bedroom.

“You aren’t nervous, are you?” he asks.

I push more food around my plate.

“Rylee, we’ve been together plenty of times.”

“But that was just sex. It didn’t have a label on it. Now that we’re—now that I’m …”

“My girlfriend? You can say it, Ry. You’re my girlfriend.”

“Now that I’m your girlfriend, there are certain expectations.”

He gives me crazy eyes. “There are no such expectations. And if there ever were, you’ve exceeded them, believe me.” He puts down his fork and lays a hand on my arm. “It’s okay. We’re good.”

I nod my head. Then I steel myself up to ask him something that’s been on my mind for two months. “What did they say when you told them?”

“The reporters?”

“No, the women. The girls in each city. What did they say? You’ve told, what, eight of them by now?”

“Nine.”

“Nine?” I ask, surprised. I know they’ve only been to eight cities in the past seven weeks.

“One of them looked me up last month when she was visiting New York. Cornered me outside the stadium one day after practice.”

“Really? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t want to worry you. I was still trying to make a good impression and I didn’t want you thinking you had to worry about things when I’m home. I know you worry enough when I’m away.”

“What did you say to her? To them?”

“I tell them all the same thing. That I’m done playing around. That it’s not going to happen anymore.”

My heart soars to hear him say the words. “And how did they take it?”

He shrugs. “Some better than others. Let’s just say I was right not to give any of them my number. And it’s a good thing they all live in other cities.”

“Oh, Brady. Do you think any of them will stalk you?”

For a second, his face pales and it looks like he might be sick, and that has me more than a little worried.

“I’ve gotten a few letters that were delivered to the Hawks’ offices, but nothing too alarming. Nothing you need to worry about. The security in this building is second to none.”

“Will you tell me if there is ever anything to worry about?”

He laces his fingers with mine. “If there is ever anything to worry about, you’ll be the first to know. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“I’m not worried about me, Brady. Fans can be crazy. I see the news. Just be careful, okay?”

“You too,” he says. “I want you to be careful as well. It’s why I didn’t give the reporters your name. If you see or hear anything unusual, if someone follows you, if they even take your picture, I want to know about it.”

“People are going to take my picture. Surely you realize that.”

He shakes his head in disgust. “I know, and I’m sorry. I guess I put you in a position, didn’t I?”

“It’s fine. Part of me is glad you said it publicly. Maybe some of them will leave you alone.”

“Sweetheart?”

I look at him and smile.

“Can we stop talking about this shit? It’s not exactly how I imagined us spending our first official date.”

“How did you imagine it?” I ask.

He pushes his plate away and then lifts me out of my chair and onto the table. “Something along the lines of this,” he says, right before kissing me.

I taste the pasta. The champagne. Him. I feel the heat growing between us. His hands wander from my face around to my back where he strokes me up and down before moving his hands around to my front. He squeezes my breasts through my clothing.

“I’ve waited so long, Ry.” He steps back. “I love this dress and all, but I’d really rather see it on my bedroom floor.”

He holds his hand out to me and helps me off the table. Then he picks me up and carries me back to his room, placing me on the bed. He stands back to look at me. He looks at me as if he’s never seen a woman on his bed before.

“Do you trust me, Ry?”

I nod.

“I need to hear you say it.”

“I trust you.”

A brilliant smile comes up his face as he loosens his tie. He pulls it over his head and then starts to unbutton his shirt. I lunge forward and brush his hands away.

“I’ll do it,” I say.

I carefully unbutton each one purely by feel since I’m looking up at his face the entire time. The lower I get, the more heated his stare becomes. When I reach the last shirt button, I lower my gaze and continue on to his pants. I lower his fly and let his pants fall to the ground as he removes his shirt.

His erection is peeking out of the waistband of his boxer briefs, begging to be released. I pull them down and he kicks them off leaving him standing gloriously naked in front of me.

I take him in my hand and look up at him. “Are you saying this is all mine?”

He laughs, pushing me back onto the bed. He climbs on top of me. “Every single inch of me is yours, sweetheart.”

He flips me over and slowly unzips my dress, caressing my back, my butt, my thighs as he removes it. He leaves me on my stomach, unclasping my bra before he reaches around to play with my breasts. I lift my behind for him when he moves his hands to my panties.

He kisses the dimples on my lower back. He slips a hand between my legs and runs a finger along my sex. I moan and bury my head in his pillow, enveloping myself in his scent.

“God, Rylee,” he says, feeling how wet I am. He slips a finger inside me. Then another. His thumb finds my clit and in seconds, he has me on the verge of pure euphoria.

I flip over. I need to feel him. See him.

I grab his length in my hands and feel every silken inch of him. He groans when I quicken my movements. Then he removes his hands from me and reaches into his nightstand for a condom.

“It’s been so long,” he says, rolling it on. “I will take my time with you later, but right now I need to bury myself inside you.”

“Yes,” I say arching my back as he climbs on top of me.

I watch his face as he slips inside me. His eyes close until he hits the end of me. He stops and stills, letting my body get used to him. When he looks at me again, he makes love to me not only with his body, but with his eyes.

This is unlike any other time we’ve been together. He’s slow. Tender. Deliberate. It’s like he’s trying to savor every second. Trying to record every movement.

I’ve never known sex to be anything like this. I never imagined it could be. I find it hard not to let a tear slip out of the corner of my eye. He kisses it away. Then he whispers in my ear.

“You feel so good. I’ve dreamed about this for months. Touching you. Kissing you. Putting my fingers inside you. Tasting you. You’re mine, Rylee Kennedy.”

His words and his thrusts have my insides coiling. My belly burns and my thighs tighten as he moves to the right, hitting the place inside me that sends me over the cliff of pleasure. I hear myself cry out his name. Then I hear him utter mine over and over into my hair.

He collapses on top of me, keeping the brunt of his weight on his elbows and I smile realizing he can do that now. He catches his breath and rolls to the side.

“You want to know what I hate?” he asks.

“I’m not sure lying in bed naked with me is the time to tell me,” I joke.

He reaches over and runs a hand across my breasts and down to my belly, resting it over my heart tattoo. “I love every inch of you, Ry. That’s not what I meant.”

“Okay, what do you hate?”

“I hate the signs women hold up at the games. The ‘I love you’ signs and the ‘Brady is my hero’ signs. Promise me you’ll never hold up signs like that.”

I giggle. “So while we were making love, you were thinking about other women holding up ‘I love you’ signs at your games?”

“Hell, no. I was thinking about how much I want you to come to my games. I was thinking about how I’d love to finally be able to look into the stands and see someone I care about.”

I rise up on an elbow. “I promise never to hold up an ‘I love you’ sign.”

I want to tell him. I want to tell him that even though I’ll never hold up that sign, it’s how I feel. But I don’t. I don’t because I know he won’t say it back.

“Why the long face?” he asks. “You know we’re just getting started, don’t you? We have a lot of lost time to make up for.”

And with that, he climbs down my body, making me laugh as he acts like a starving animal that hasn’t just eaten. But then he shuts me up when his mouth lands on me. When he takes me over the cliff once again. When he makes me fall even deeper for him.

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