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“Well, I like it. And the fact that it doesn’t scream that I want to get naked with him.”

“Says the girl who got up to all kinds of naughty stuff in his room today,” she says with a smirk.

“I never should have told you that! And it’s not like we got naked. We just made out.” I take off my uniform and slip into the dress. “The dress is just to make a point.”

“And what point is that exactly?” She gets off the bed and starts tugging on the skirt to help it fall into place over my ridiculous curves. “Oh, right. The point that you lust after Jaxon’s sexy, sexy body.”

“I thought you didn’t like Jaxon.” I shoot her a smug look. “I mean, aren’t you the one who told me how dangerous he was and that I should stay far, far away from him?”

“And look how well you listened.” She crosses to her dresser and starts opening and closing the myriad assortment of little doors on the jewelry box she has perched on the top of it. “Besides, just because he scares me doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how sexy he is for you,” she says in a deliberately deep and funny voice. “Plus that gorgeous bite mark he left on you? Swoon.”

Swoon is right. Every time I see it in the mirror, it makes me want to melt. “Everything about Jaxon is gorgeous to me,” I tell her as she crosses back over to me, a pair of dangling gold earrings in her hand.

“Try not to salivate on the dress,” she answers dryly. “Drool is so last decade.”

I stick my tongue out at her, but she just crosses her eyes at me. “Save that for Jaxon.”

“Oh my God! Are you trying to embarrass me to death before I ever make it to his room?”

“What’s there to be embarrassed about? You’re head over heels for him; he’s head over heels for you… I say go for it.”

“Can you please just give me the earrings so I can get out of here?” I demand, holding my hand out for them.

“Stay still and I’ll put them in for you. The clasp is kind of tricky.” She leans over and slides one of the earrings into my earhole. “Wow, you smell good enough to eat… Oops. I mean drink.”

“I swear to God, Macy…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop messing with you.” She moves to put the second earring in. “It’s just so fun to watch you blush.”

“Yeah. So much fun,” I deadpan as she struggles to fasten the second earring.

Finally the clasp slides into place, and she steps back. “How do you stay so still?” she asks as she straightens out the skirt of my dress. “I swear you’re a statue. It barely felt like you were breathing while I was putting that earring in.”

“Terror that you were going to slip and rip the thing out of my ear. Or poke me in the eye,” I tease.

She makes a face at me as I slip my feet into the one nice pair of heels I brought with me. They’re nude and strappy, so they go with almost anything. Including, thankfully, this yellow dress.

“So how do I look?” I do a little twirl in the center of the room.

“Like you’re going to need another blood transfusion by the time Jaxon’s done with you.”

“Macy! Stop it!”

She just grins as I make my way to the door. “Seriously, you look amazing. You’re going to knock that vamp’s socks off.”

This time when I blush, it’s from excitement. “You really think so?”

“I know so.” She motions for me to twirl around again, so I do. “Also, I’ll bet you ten bucks that dress is going to be missing buttons when you finally make it back here.”

“Okay, that’s it!” I give her a mock glare as I head for the door.

But she just grins and crosses her eyes at me, all of which makes me laugh ridiculously hard. And calms me down, which I know is exactly what she was intending.

It’s so strange. Before this week, I hadn’t seen Macy in ten years. We were virtual strangers. And now I can’t imagine going back to life without her.

“Don’t wait up,” I say as I make my way out the door.

“Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” she tells me with a snort. “FYI, I’m going to need all the details. And I mean all. So you should probably pay really close attention to everything that happens so you get them right.”

“Absolutely,” I agree, just to tease her. “I’ll take notes. That way I won’t forget anything.”

“You think you’re being funny, but I’m serious. Notes would be extremely helpful.”

I roll my eyes. “Goodbye, Macy.”

“Come on, Grace! Let a girl live vicariously through you, will ya?”

“Why don’t you go find Cam? Do a little non-vicarious living of your own?”

She considers it. “Maybe I will.”

“Good. And you should totally wear the red dress when you do. After all, guys love it when you’re obvious.”

She flips me off and throws a pillow at me that I only narrowly manage to dodge.

“Temper, temper,” I tease, then hightail it out the door before she decides to throw something at me that will really hurt. Or, you know, cast some kind of spell that makes all my hair fall out. There are perils to living with a witch, after all.

My palms are sweating and my heart is beating a little too fast as I make my way to the tower room. Maybe I should have come up right after classes, like I wanted to, because all the preparation—the hair, the makeup, the dress deliberation—has done is give me more time to think.

And more time to get nervous.

Which is ridiculous. This is Jaxon. He’s seen me falling out of a tree and nearly bleeding to death. He’s saved my life several times since I got here. He’s seen me looking my worst—why am I suddenly so determined that he see me looking my best? It’s not like I actually think he cares if I straighten my hair and put on high heels.

I tell myself all of this on the way to his room—and I even believe it. But my hands are still trembling when I knock on his door. And so are my knees.

Jaxon opens the door with a sexy grin that turns to total blankness the second he sees me. Which is definitely not the reaction I was hoping for after spending the last two hours getting ready.

“Am I early?” I ask, discomfort suddenly racing through me. “If you want, I can come back later—”

I break off as he reaches for my wrist and gently tugs me into his room—and his arms. “You look gorgeous,” he murmurs against my ear as he hugs me tight. “Absolutely beautiful.”

The ball of tension in my stomach dissolves as soon as he wraps himself around me.

As soon as I smell the sexy orange and fresh water scent of him.

As soon as I feel the strength and power of his body against and around my own.

“You look pretty amazing yourself,” I tell him. And he does, with his ripped jeans and bright-blue cashmere sweater. “I think this is the first time I’ve seen you wearing something other than black.”

“Yeah, well, let’s keep that between us.”

“Absolutely.” I keep my arms wrapped around his waist as I grin up at him. “Wouldn’t want to mess up that badass reputation of yours.”

He rolls his eyes. “What is it about my reputation you’re so obsessed with?”

“The fact that everybody feels like they need to warn me against being with you. Obviously. I’ve never dated anyone like you before.”

I’m teasing, but the second the words leave my mouth, I want to take them back. After all, it was only this morning he was telling me how worried he is about hurting me. Just because that fear seems ridiculous to me, considering he’s never been anything but gentle with me, doesn’t mean he doesn’t take it very, very seriously.

Sure enough, Jaxon pulls away. I try to grab on, but there’s no holding him if he wants to go.

“I hurt you once, Grace,” he says after a second, eyes and voice deadly serious. “It’s not going to happen again.”

“First of all, let’s be clear. You didn’t hurt me. A piece of flying glass hurt me. And secondly, I know I’m safe with you. I already told you. I wouldn’t be here if I thought otherwise.”

He studies me for a second, like he’s trying to decide if I’m telling the truth. He must decide I am, because eventually he nods, reaches for me again. And this time when he pulls me against him, he lowers his head and presses his lips to mine.

It’s different than the kiss we shared earlier, softer, gentler. But it reaches inside me all the same. Lights me up. Turns me inside out with everything I feel for him and everything I hope he’ll let himself feel for me.

But tonight isn’t about wishing for what might be. It’s for celebrating what is, so I lock that thought down deep inside me and hold on to Jaxon with everything I have. And everything I am.

The kiss lasts forever, the soft whisper of his mouth against mine, and still he pulls away too soon. Still I’m clutching at him, fingers tangled in his shirt, my body straining against his as I try desperately to hold him to me for just a little longer.

But when I finally let him go, when I finally open my eyes, the Jaxon staring down at me isn’t the one I’m used to seeing. There’s no regret in his dark eyes, no scowl on his face. Instead, he looks lighter, happier than I’ve ever seen him.

It’s a good look on him, one that has me breathless for a whole host of different reasons. I wonder if he feels the same way about me, because for several long seconds, we don’t move at all. We just stare at each other, eyes locked, breaths held, fingers entwined.

There’s a bubble of emotion inside me, and it grows with every second I get to look at him. Every second I get to touch him. It’s been so long since I’ve felt it that it takes me a few minutes to recognize it as happiness.

Eventually, he turns away, and the loss I feel is a physical ache inside me. “What are you doing?” I ask, watching as he rummages in his closet.