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“Luce.” There was warning in his voice, but also welcoming.

I chose to hear the latter.

Pinching his zipper between my thumb and finger, I slid it down, torn between wanting to savor the moment and wanting to let it devour me whole. Done with the zipper, I folded the material of his jeans down and slid over him, moving down his body until I could feel his warmth between my legs.

He growled, moving beneath me, making me gasp out loud.

“Damn it,” he muttered as both arms wound tight around me right before he slammed the brakes. His arms held me firmer than any seat belt could have.

“I thought you could handle it,” I breathed, smirking at him.

His chest rising and falling hard against mine, he met my smirk with one of his own. “I was wrong.”

And then his mouth covered mine, his hands forming over my face. His body pushed against mine, bowing my back over the steering wheel.

“Yes?” I managed to get out against his unyielding mouth. It was a one worded question he didn’t need any further explanation to. It was one I’d been asking a while. One he’d never agreed to, up until tonight.

I felt his smile against my mouth as his tongue teased mine for another moment. Holding my face as firmly as one could and still be considered gently, his mouth left mine, his eyes taking their place.

“Hell, yes,” he replied, his smile a dichotomy of peace and conflict.

Every muscle in my body clenched in anticipation. This was it. Finally. The man who’d slept with more women than I cared to know was finally allowing himself to sleep with his girlfriend.

“Are you sure?” he asked, looking like he’d bust something if I answered in the negative.

“I’ve been so sure I went on the pill the week after we got back together,” I said, sliding up and down over his lap. He groaned again, his head falling back against the seat. “Are you sure?” I asked, moving a bit faster to sway his response.

“Luce, I’ve been so sure I went and got tested and have been carrying this rubber around in my back pocket since the day we got back together,” he said, grinning that tortured kind at me.

I formed my hands around his face, tracing the scar that ran down the length of his cheek with my thumb. This man was everything I wanted‌—‌in every way a woman could want a man‌—‌and at last, I could have him the last way I hadn’t.

“I love you, Jude,” I said. Because that was all there was left to say.

The lines of his forehead ironed out. “And that makes me the luckiest bastard in the world.”

I smiled at him. “Come here,” I said, holding his face while lowering my mouth to his. “I want to know how the luckiest bastard in the world makes love.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said before fitting his lips to mine.

His hands had just found their way to the button of my jeans when a blinding set of headlights exploded into the cab.

I groaned, covering my eyes with my forearm when the driver flicked the truck’s brights on.

“Shit,” Jude cursed, looking over his shoulder.

The truck door exploded open, followed by some male hooting and hollering.

“Expecting company?” I sighed, covering myself with my other arm as I worked my way off of his lap. It was painful, separating myself from that what-could-have-been.

“Not exactly,” he replied, folding himself over my lap and grabbing my sweater. Lifting it over my head, he pulled it on, holding each arm for me as I worked each arm in. The sweater felt scratchier than it had five minutes ago.

Jude had just lifted his zipper when someone threw themselves against the driver side door.

“Ryder, man!” one of Jude’s teammates hollered through the pane of glass, appraising the two of us. “You getting your freak on with this fine minx?” Looking at me, Jude’s teammate wagged his brows. “You lucky bastard.”

Looking my way, Jude smirked at me. “Told you.”

A fire crackled at my feet, the stars blinked above me, Jude’s arms held me tight against him, and the sound of an entire college football team belching their way through “Hey Jude” serenaded me.

“I can’t believe this big night I thought you’d planned for us also involved more than fifty football players,” I said, tilting my head back against Jude’s chest so he could see my expression.

“Sorry, baby,” he said, kissing the lines of my forehead. “I thought we’d have a couple hours to ourselves before these animals showed up.”

A couple hours? I would have settled for, oh, about fifteen minutes.

The belching chorus came to an inconclusive ending, the temporary silence only to be interrupted by a chorus of flatulence. I groaned, closing my eyes and pinching my nose.

“Man, that was lame, Ryder.” Tony’s, Jude’s number one wide receiver, unmistakable voice hollered across the campfire. “If I was trying to win a girl back, there’s no way I’d go through the whole effort of bribing her roommate to get her to some mixer so I could have the DJ serenade her with some suckass oldies song why I professed my undying love to her.”

I opened my eyes so I could deliver a glare through the fire at Tony. I loved the guy, his infectious character was impossible not to, most days. This wasn’t one of those days.

“I’d just go up to her and be like, ‘Hey, baby. How’s it going?’ You know, something real suave like that?” Tony smiled like the devil at me.

“Tony,” Jude spoke up, curling his chin over my shoulder, “when was the last time you got one of your old girlfriends to take your sorry ass back?”

Tony’s face scrunched up in contemplation. Shrugging, he answered, “Never.”

“Exactly,” Jude said, lifting his middle finger at him.

My arms were tucked tight into the blanket Jude had wrapped me in earlier, so when he lowered his finger, I nudged him. “One more for me.”

Tony got the bird from Jude again, this one compliments of Lucy Larson.

“Come on, Lucy,” Tony said as the rest of the players rocked in laughter, a few showering him in marshmallows. “You know I think you’re the shit. I’m just jealous because you’re about five times too good for Ryder and I want to get in on that five-times-too-good-for-me benefit too.”

“Maybe if you stopped dropping the ball and started getting it into the end zone, you could manage to find a girl who wanted to do more than run her hands all over those twenty inch biceps,” I said, cocking my head.

Jude stifled his laughter into the blanket. The rest of the team, not so much.

Popping his brows at me, Tony slid the sleeve of his t-shirt up, kissing his grotesquely large bicep, then repeated on the other one. “Stop hating on me, Lucy. Jude’s going to catch onto us if you don’t stop being so obvious,” he said, ducking his head as Jude’s mostly full sports drink bottle sailed past him. “And no need to worry about the end zone tomorrow, baby. I’m making that end zone my bitch.”

“I won’t hold my breath,” I replied, no longer able to contain my smile with Tony’s continued theatrics. At any given time, he was like watching a one man three-ring circus. And, all jesting aside, Tony was one hell of a wide receiver. Together, he and Jude had been setting records that would likely never be challenged.

“Here’s what I don’t get,” Tony said, nudging the guy next to him. The team’s number one kicker. I think his name was Kurt. Or maybe it was Kirk. Or Kent. Okay, K something. “In the appearance department, Ryder’s a seven, maybe an eight,” he said, narrowing his eyes as he inspected Jude. Kurt or Kirk appraised Jude, rubbing his chin.

“Then you’re a negative two, Tony,” I muttered, really cursing the fates that I was stuck bantering with a couple of Jude’s teammates while the rest talked about and performed every male thing that should never be known to women.

“His personality gets a suck’s ass,” Tony continued, nudging the K named kicker. “So why, in all things unfair and unholy, does he get all the good ones lining up outside his door?”

Jude leaned forward. “I can give you an eight inch explanation, Rufello.”

Tony and the kicker stared at Jude, then each other, right before their heads tipped back and they exploded with laughter.

Jude joined in about halfway through.

But something Tony said needed a little clearing up. “What good ones are lining up outside Jude’s door?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even.

Tony’s laughter trailed off, his dark eyes shifting away as soon as they landed on me. Jude’s body stiffened just enough around me to cue me to something being off.

“You,” Tony said, thrusting his hands my direction. “You’re the ‘good ones’ lining up outside his door.”

Nope, I wasn’t buying it. I’d seen Tony close to tears the night his senior year high school VIP trophy got snapped in half when a guy used it as a baseball bat at one of the legendary parties at their house, and even then his smile was almost present. There wasn’t a trace of it now, which meant Tony was working to cover something up.

“You,” he repeated again, when I continued to hold him prisoner with my glare.

“And Adriana Vix,” another one of Jude’s teammates added behind us, sounding like he would be content to make love with the name alone.

Now my body tensed, no longer fitting around Jude’s. Twisting in my seat between his legs, I met his eyes.

Nothing in them gave anything away. That was, perhaps, the worst way they could be.

“Who’s Adriana Vix?” I asked, my voice the perfect blend of anxious and pissed off.

Jude’s hands fitted around my face, staring straight into my eyes. It was hard to breathe when he looked at me like this. “No one,” he answered, not removing his hands or stare from me.

“No one?” the guy from behind cried, taking a seat next to us. “Your definition of ‘no one’ must be girls a man would amputate half his limbs to be with. To be with once,” the player whose name I couldn’t remember, but I knew warmed a lot of benches, continued. He was going to be permanently riding benches if he didn’t shove the Adriana Vix worship where the sun didn’t shine.

“Matt,” Jude warned, finally letting my face go, but only to rewrap me into his arms, “shut your trap.”

“Your girl was the one that asked,” he replied, holding up his hands. “I was just answering a question.”

“Well, stop embellishing,” Jude said, his voice level, but I could sense it wavering. About to spill over. “In fact, why don’t you just stop talking for the rest of the night?”

Matt conceded with a shrug, taking a swig of his beer. If it wasn’t for the team’s two beer limit the night before a game, I could write off Matt’s “Adriana Vix” worship as the ramblings of a drunk. Matt was sober as they came, which meant Adriana was as hot as he was implying.

Turning so I could lean my back into the side of Jude’s bent leg, I met his gaze again. He was wearing his old gray beanie tonight, but only because it was cold. He no longer hid behind it.

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