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He was saying all the rights things and, in truth, he hadn’t given me one reason to doubt him since we’d cleared up the whole Holly and little Jude situation, but I wasn’t ready to be appeased. Not after the shit load of ammunition Adriana had fired my way all day.

“You let her do your laundry, Jude,” I began, wishing a magical clamp would appear so I could fasten it over my mouth. “She cleans your room. You lead her into a damn room on your arm with hundreds of people watching.” My voice was running away with me, filling the dark room with its insecurity. “She runs her fingers over your clean, pressed underwear. Damn it, Jude!”

I was taking it all out on him. Everything I’d been bottling up today, when it would have been more constructive to find a dance floor and give it a run for its money.

His head twisted my way and whether it was the darkness in the room or the actual color of his eyes, they looked black. “Did you not hear what I just said to you?” he said, his teeth clenched together. “Did you miss when I just professed all I want is you? Even when you’re acting like some crazy ass girlfriend?” Narrowing his eyes at me, he hoisted himself up.

“Yeah, I heard that,” I answered, leaping up beside him. “So I’m your girl. I’m the only girl you want to make moan in the bathroom. Yeah, I get it.” My words were hurting him‌—‌I watched as each one etched a deeper wrinkle into his face. “But you let her take care of you like she’s your old lady.” Grabbing a handful of Jude’s freshly made bed, I tore the covers off. “You might not want her intimately, but you let her into your life intimately.”

Jude stared at me, his eyes narrowed like he didn’t recognize the person standing before him. “Fine,” he said, ripping the blankets curled in my hand away and tearing the rest of them off the bed. Rolling them into a ball, he tossed them across the room.

“Happy?” he asked rhetorically as he marched across the room to his dresser. Sliding the top one open, he ripped it out of its spot, carrying it over to the window. Sliding the window open, Jude held the dresser drawer outside, tipping its contents over. His clean, folded boxers parachuted to the ground below. The drawer followed behind them.

“Happy now?” he asked again, raising his brows at me where I stood frozen beside his bed. Lunging across the room again, he ripped the second drawer from the dresser. Rushing back over to the window, he spilled his shirts to the ground. The drawer splintered when it hit the ground.

“Happy yet?” This time he didn’t look at me, he just ran across the room, tore the last drawer out, and this time, when he reached the window, he hurled the whole thing out. The sound of it shattering echoed back into the room.

Spinning around, he looked at me. His chest was rising and falling hard, his eyes were flashing‌—‌he was lost. “What else, Luce? What else do you want me to bust to shit?” he hollered, waiting for me. “Huh? Surely there’s something else I can break to prove my love to you. What is it?” He was in a frenzy, as toeing the ledge as I’d seen him. All because of me. I loved knowing I had power over him, but not this kind of power.

“Jude,” I whispered, barely able to make a sound. “Stop.”

“Stop? Why?” he yelled, extending his arms and spinning around the room. “I’m proving my love for you. So come on, Luce. What else can I ruin so you’ll be happy?”

“Nothing,” I whispered, biting my lip.

“What was that?”

“Nothing,” I repeated, looking at him. “This isn’t what I meant, Jude. Why do you fly off the cuff anytime I question you?”

The skin between his brows creased. “Why do you?”

That was a question I didn’t have an answer to. I took him in, observing what my jealousy and insecurity had reduced him to. I was supposed to be the person that brought him comfort and supported him, but tonight, I’d done everything but. A tear escaped my eye before I knew one had formed.

Jude’s eyes narrowed in on it, watching it fall down the side of my face. One side of his face pulled tight. “Tell me what to do, Luce. Tell me what you want from me. Because I’ll do it. I’d do anything,” he said, putting his arms behind his neck and watching me like he was afraid I was going to disappear. “You want me to tell Adriana to go screw herself and never so much as look her way again? No problem. You want me to never talk to another woman for the rest of my life? I’ll do it.” Crossing the room, he stopped in front of me, grabbing the sides of my arms. “I’ll do anything. Just tell me what to do.” He held me, staring at me as he waited for my answer.

I didn’t have one.

“You’re all I’ve got, Luce. I’ll do anything not to lose you,” he said, his scar pinching into his cheek. “Just tell me what I’m doing wrong and I’ll fix it.”

This man had been through enough. Why was I making him trudge through more shit?

“You’re not doing anything wrong, Jude,” I said, swallowing. And he wasn’t. As boyfriends went, he was the dream. As companions went, he had the makings of a lifelong one. “It’s me. I’m doing all the wrong tonight.” I pressed my hands into the sides of his face, trying to rub away the lines wrinkling it. “I saw Adriana all wild for you and I let my insecurities turn me into a crazy person. I trust you. I don’t trust her.”

He blew a breath through his mouth. “You trust me?”

My throat tightened that he had to ask. “Yeah, Jude. I trust you.”

“You love me?”

“Always,” I answered, stroking his cheeks.

“Then screw Adriana Vix,” he said.

I arched a brow.

“Someone else who isn’t mad for his girl can screw her,” he clarified, smirking at me. “Don’t let anyone come between us, Luce. This thing we’ve got going on is going to be challenging enough without the likes of an Adriana Vix complicating it.”

“I know,” I said, looking away. “It feels like sometimes I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out beneath us. You know?” I felt guilty for admitting it, but I was a realist, and couples like Jude and me had the odds more stacked not in our favor than in it.

“I know, baby,” he said. “I know. When it does though, we’ll just grab onto a rope and wait it out.”

I nodded, wondering if this was the kind of life Jude and I could expect from here on. Searing moments of passion, interrupted by miscommunications, followed by soul bearing make ups. It wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a life.

“Come on then,” he said, running his hands down to mine. “Come to bed with me.” Leading me over to the blanketless bed, he kicked off his shoes, scooped me into his arms, and crashed down on the mattress.

Rolling me onto my side, he pressed himself against my back, cocooning me between his arms and legs. “Arguing with you is exhausting,” he said outside my ear, mid yawn. “Let’s never do it again.”

“Okay,” I lied. It was a nice idea, but one Jude and I would never realize if we lasted. People like Jude and me didn’t make it through life without a screaming match every now and then; that was the reality. But reality was a lot easier to face with Jude wrapped around me the way he was now.

We laid like that for a while, silent and still, enjoying the warmth of one another. A breeze rushed through the window, caressing my face. I grinned.

“I hope you’ve got more underwear hidden somewhere,” I said, poking my elbow into his ribs, replaying Jude tossing his drawers out the window.

“That would be a negative,” he said in a sleepy voice. “I was out of clean underwear this morning.”

“Wait,” I said, suddenly feeling very awake. “Does that mean…?”

“Yep,” he answered, nuzzling deeper into my neck, already half asleep. I’d give him a free pass tonight. He’d won a big game, made me feel things a girl shouldn’t spread over the counter of a boy’s bathroom, held his own in an argument with me, and managed to say the exact right thing to calm me down. He had a right to be exhausted.

Smiling, I tucked deeper into him. “That could have made things far more interesting in the bathroom.”

I felt his smile curve against my neck before I followed him to sleep.


His body wasn’t wrapped around me‌—‌like he was sheltering me from the world‌—‌any longer, but he was close. Whatever bond we’d built in the tumultuous months we’d shared, we’d passed over into a new level of consciousness when it came to each other.

“I can feel you staring at me,” I said, keeping my eyes closed and curling deeper into Jude’s pillow. It smelt like him‌—‌maybe that’s why my dreams were so sweet.

His hand curled over mine, lifting it to his mouth. “Sorry, Luce,” he said, kissing my knuckles. “I didn’t mean to wake you. Go back to sleep.” Rotating my hand, he pressed another kiss into the fleshy underside.

“How’s a girl supposed to sleep when you’re doing that?” I smiled, opening my eyes.

His eyes were trained on me, metallic in the morning light. One corner of his mouth curled up.

“She’s not,” he said, leaping onto the bed, strategically landing over me.

“Good,” I said, wishing I could have one minute to brush my teeth and run a brush through my hair, but with Jude, these moments of carelessness came rarely, so I wasn’t about to chance excusing myself while all his engines were firing. “Sleep’s overrated.”

His hand slid up my side, swerving in and out over my ribcage, before settling over the top of my chest. “Yes, it is,” he whispered, kissing the area below my ear.

This was one hell of a wake up call.

“Did you lock the door?” I teased, situating myself below him so the important parts were aligned. No one in their right mind would let themselves into Jude Ryder’s bedroom when the door was closed. Not if they didn’t want to wear a fist-size dent in their forehead.

Challenging my prior assumption, Jude’s door exploded open the next second, bouncing off the wall.

“Ehh,” Holly said, making a face and holding her hands over her eyes. “You guys are like a pair of damn rabbits.”

So everyone but Holly knew better than to throw themselves into Jude’s room uninvited.

“Didn’t you two get enough of each other last night?” She was talking quietly, at least for Holly, and judging from the way she was screwing her fingers into her temples, she’d had a wild night.

“Nope,” Jude answered, hoisting himself off of me.

“Good morning, Holly,” I grumbled, sitting up in bed. “Great to see ya.”

“Don’t you whine like a baby to me. You had him to yourself all last night and now I need to borrow him for a few hours or else I’m going to miss my flight.”

“Yeah,” I said, crawling off the bed. “I’ve got a mess of homework to finish too.” Running my fingers through my hair, I plaited it into a quick braid since it looked like there wouldn’t be time for a shower. “It looks like you’ve got two girls that need your chauffeur services this morning.”


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