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We mute the voices.

We drown the pain.

I arch my back and twist as my orgasm hits hard. Griffin crawls up my body and sinks into me before I can see straight. With one hand on the bed next to my head and his other hand gripping the headboard, he drives into me like he wants to exorcise the demons from my mind.

But he can’t. And after he finds his own release, he collapses on the bed beside me. I wait for him to speak.

He doesn’t.

I wait for his arms to pull me into his body.

They don’t.

When his breath evens out, I slip out of bed to use the bathroom.

“What is happening?” I whisper to myself in the mirror before returning to our bed and a sleeping Griffin.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Hazelnut.

I grin.

He’s here. Griffin doesn’t drink coffee, so this aroma luring me to the kitchen is all for me.

“You’re here.”

Griffin glances up from his phone, taking a sip of his green drink. “Yeah.” He looks so sad. Where’s my morning smile? Where’s the crook of his finger beckoning me to straddle his lap so he can kiss me good morning?

“Thanks for making coffee.” I pour it into a mug and sit next to him at the table. This shouldn’t hurt. This shouldn’t feel awkward.

But it does.

He gives me a polite smile. “You’re welcome.”

I don’t want polite. I want hands in my hair, lips on my mouth, and the kind of grin that dissolves my panties.

“I’ll run by the store on the way home tonight. Text me if there’s anything you need.”

Keeping his gaze on the phone screen, he nods. God! Give me something more than a nod.

I sigh just before taking a sip of my coffee. As the events of last night replay in my mind, guilt and embarrassment give my conscience a sharp elbow. I lost my shit over a bucket, a rejected half a stick of gum, and one of the most ridiculous female names ever.

Okay … I don’t regret my feelings about the name Apple, but the rest feels cringe-worthy in the light of day and the silence of two scorned lovers. We’re mere inches apart, but it feels like we’re not even in the same house.

“Did you work out this morning?”

I know the answer. I’m just that desperate to settle back into us. If he doesn’t answer me soon, I’ll be forced to mention the cool weather we’ve had lately.

The weather.

If that’s not a sign of a doomed relationship, then I don’t know what is. My parents were married for twenty-three years, and I don’t ever recall them discussing the weather over coffee. I’m sure the occasional storm came up, but not out of desperation.

There aren’t any storms that I know of predicted for Madison anytime soon, so I bite my tongue about the nippy forty-degree weather.

“I gotta go.” Griffin scoots back in his chair and stands, taking his glass to the sink.

“You should take your truck. It’s cold out.”

The stupid weather. I give myself an internal eye roll.

He slips on his jacket and bends down, palming the back of my head and brushing his lips next to my ear. “Have a good day.”

I fist his jacket as he goes to stand. His gaze sweeps across my face while I fight to translate what’s in my heart and eating at the pit of my stomach. My eyebrows draw together. Griffin returns a sad smile, feathering his knuckles over my cheek.

“I love you too,” he whispers.

Yeah, that.

I nod in lieu of actual words.

*

“Helllooo?” I slip off my shoes and my coat.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say no one was home. The lights are off in the kitchen. There’s no aroma of coffee.

“Hello?” I repeat with a softer voice as I sneak down the hallway.

“Bedroom,” Nate says in a groggy almost muffled tone.

“Are you decent?”

His door is partially shut.

“Far from it, but come in anyway.”

I peek my head around the door. “Whoa! You’re still in bed?” Morgan rolls around on the floor surrounded by enough toys to keep her from escaping out into the hall or into the bathroom.

“Sick.” He’s on his stomach, like he collapsed. One arm hangs off the side of the bed, loosely gripping a toy.

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Uh huh,” he mumbles into his pillow.

“I take it you still need me? Or do I have the day off?”

A grunt is his only response.

“Sounds like a yes. Come on, Miss Morgan.” I pick her up. “Let’s get you away from your sick father.”

Another grunt as he lets the toy drop from his hand, but he doesn’t move his arm back on the bed. He’s nothing more than a corpse.

“Can I get you anything?”

“No.”

“Alrighty then. Say feel better, Daddy.”

We play, eat, change diaper. Rinse and repeat a couple of times before Morgan goes down for a nap. I lay her in her crib, not confident she’ll stay asleep since I usually hold her during naps, but she’s good for now. I get a glass of water and poke my head in Nate’s room.

“Still alive?”

“Unfortunately.” He stiffly rolls from his side to his back, squinting open his eyes.

“I brought you some water.”

He eases to sitting. I give him a tight grin, keeping my eyes wide and unblinking, focused only on his eyes instead of the flex of his abs and that heart-shaped birthmark.

“Thank you.” He takes the glass and drinks the whole thing.

“Body ache? Chills? Fever?”

“Blinding headache and sore throat.”

“Bummer. Sorry.”

“She asleep?”

Shoving my hands in the back pockets of my jeans, I nod.

“You owe me some story time.” He draws in a pained breath, closing his eyes.

“What?”

“I tell you about Daisy. Tell me something. Anything. What color are your bridesmaids’ dresses?”

I laugh. “You don’t care about the color of my bridesmaids’ dresses.”

“True. I just want a distraction from the pain. Sit.” He tips his head toward the other side of his bed.

After a few seconds of me not responding, he peeks open one eye. “I won’t breathe on you.”

I prop up two pillows and ease onto the other side of the bed, leaning back against the headboard. “Griffin thinks I should get a different job.”

Nate grunts. “I don’t like this story. Pick a different one.”

I glance over at him, but his eyes are still closed. “Were you serious about us being friends? I mean … can you be my guy friend? The one I don’t have sex with, but you give me advice about guys that only a guy could give?”

Nate chuckles, but it morphs into a moan as he scoots back down under the covers and rubs his forehead. “Yes to the friends part. And I think it’s frowned upon to have sex with the nanny. As far as the advice goes, I’ll give it, but it will come with a disclaimer. I don’t want to be responsible for you making some life-changing decision that goes awry.”

“Griffin worked on a motorcycle last night for this woman who I’m pretty sure is someone he had sex with before we were together. Is it weird that he would agree to do that for her?”

“Did she pay him?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”

“Then I can’t say. Next topic?”

“I’m not done talking about Apple.”

“Apple?”

“That’s her name. Can you believe it? It’s worse than Swayze.”

“Who said Swayze is a bad name?”

“Anyone who is not a liar, hippie, or fan of the original Dirty Dancing.”

“Swayze is a cute name.”

I roll my eyes. “And Apple is sweet.”

“I’m guessing Griffin is in the dog house.” He stops rubbing his head and lets his arm drape over his face.

Drawing my knees to my chest, I hug my legs. “No. We’re just kinda …”

What are we? I don’t know.

“Kinda?”

I sigh. “Going through a rough patch thanks to your childhood friend.”

“Is she giving you trouble?”

I laugh. “That’s an understatement.”

“He doesn’t buy it?” Nate sighs. “Can’t blame him. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t buy it either.”

“I find that hard to believe coming from Professor Albright’s student.”

Nate cracks his eyes open, easing his head to the side, the discomfort etched along his forehead. “How do you know that?”

Rubbing my lips together, I lift my shoulders. “You have her book on reincarnation in your nightstand drawer. And you told me I could snoop, so—”

“That book doesn’t tell you I was her student.”

“True. She told me.”

Nate’s lips part. “How do you know Hazel?”

“Dr. Greyson referred me to her.”

“Why?”

I give him the are-you-serious look.

He nods slowly, eyes fixed on me but unfocused, like his thoughts have taken him to somewhere a long way from this bed. “Is this what you needed to talk to me about?”

I shake my head. “Not exactly. But that can wait until you’re feeling better.”

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