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“By not getting so miffed about me running late to a bowling outing because I have a job and a therapy appointment. By not freaking out every time I mention the past or Daisy or Nate.”

He parks the truck and hops out. I guess this topic is on hold until we’re done bowling a few rounds. This should be loads of fun.

To my surprise, he comes around and opens my door. I unfasten my seatbelt and swing my legs around, but before I can hop out, he wedges himself between my legs. The arms I love encircle my body while he rests his forehead against my chest.

“You drive me fucking crazy.”

I nod several times, even though he can’t see me.

“If I believe you, then I sure as hell don’t want you being hypnotized to remember anything more. If I don’t believe you, then it’s going to piss me off if you waste time and money on something so insane.”

I kiss his head, tickled by the stubbly surface of the tiniest outgrowth of hair. Uncontrolled thoughts of Nate pop into my mind. A kiss on the head isn’t necessarily innocent, it can be intimate like it is when my lips press to Griffin’s head. What does Nate feel when he kisses my head?

“I need to feel safe. Don’t you want that for me?”

His head lifts, sincerity resolute in his expression. “I would never let anything happen to you.”

“I know, but you’re not with me all of the time. He was inches from me in a parking lot and you weren’t there. I don’t want this life, Griff.”

My eyes close on a heavy blink when his hands press to my cheeks.

“You won’t have this life. I promise.”

I love him for making this promise, even if it’s one he might not be able to keep. There’s a reason I’ve always felt safe with Griffin. I just hope when I need his safety the most … he’s close enough to hear my cry for help.

“Let’s go.” He takes my hand and helps me out before tucking me under his arm—my hero.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Griffin

Swayze is a terrible bowler. She’s also a skittish bird whenever one of the guys from work gives her shit about something. On the surface, she doesn’t fit into my world. But in a way that lungs need oxygen and a heart needs blood, she’s vital to my life.

I don’t know for certain that Doug Mann killed Erica, nor do I know that he killed Morgan Daisy Gallagher. What I do know is that he got too close to the oxygen in my lungs and the blood in my heart.

“Can I say your little fiancée is sexy as fuck without you slashing my throat?”

I take a swig of my bottled water, lean back in the chair, and watch Swayze’s perfect ass as she throws another ball in the gutter. “If you weren’t my boss, I’d say no. But I’ll let it slide because you’re right, and I want to keep my job. But if you say a word to her, look at her for more than five seconds at a time, or let your hand so much as graze her hand … fuck the job. I’ll end you.”

He chuckles, taking a slow pull of his beer. “Fair enough.”

“Griff, I suck at this.” She shoots me a pouty face with her lower lip protruding as she waits for her ball to return.

“Maybe it’s all the cheap wine. Should I cut you off?”

Her head jerks back, face sour. “No. I haven’t had that much … uh …” Wrinkles form along her brow.

“Wine, Swayz. We’re talking about wine. And the fact that you can’t remember that long enough to finish a sentence just proves that you’ve had too much. I’m cutting you off.”

A few of my friends and their significant others snicker.

She grabs the ball and swings it back. We all flinch because it would be the third time she’s released it in the wrong direction. Thankfully, she holds on to it. “Then I’m cutting you off too.”

I smirk. “Of water?”

She heaves it. Two seconds later, the ball clunks in the gutter. Looking over her shoulder, she scowls at me like it’s my fault she’s sucking ass at bowling tonight. “Sex, buddy. No wine for me, then no sex for you.”

The snickers return for a second round of the Griffin and Swayze Show, but this time they’re muffled behind fisted hands because they know better than to make fun of me. Payback is my favorite game.

I crook my finger at her as Breanna, Derek’s date for the night, stands up to take her turn.

Keeping her drunken gaze locked to mine, Swayze wobbles toward me. “Yes, Mr. Alcohol Police?”

Holding out my hand, palm up, I wait for her to take it. After a few seconds of staring at it with apprehension, she takes it. I give her a firm jerk, and she stumbles forward onto my lap. I drag her knees up to straddle my legs.

Jett clears his throat. “There are young kids ten yards away. At least take her into the bathroom. Not that I personally have issues watching.”

I ignore him. Swayze? Not so much. She turns pink clear to the tips of her ears.

“I’m not having sex in the bathroom,” she tries to whisper but misses the mark by a few decibels.

“No?” I grin, lifting a single brow while sliding my hand around the back of her neck.

Her head shakes a half dozen times, eyes wide like the idea alone has sobered her up a good fifty percent.

Those wide eyes dart side to side several times before meeting my gaze again. “Uh uh.”

I’m joking, even if my dick at the moment feels rather enthusiastic about the idea. Leaning closer, I whisper in her ear, “I love you. You suck at bowling, but I love the hell out of you.”

“I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you tell me what he said.” Jett winks at Swayze.

“A hundred bucks?” Her back snaps ramrod straight. “He said, ‘I love you. You suck at bowling, but I love the hell out of you.’”

Jett lifts his fisted hand to his mouth and coughs. “Bullshit.”

I grin at Swayze and shrug. She frowns.

“I want my hundred bucks. Tell him, Griff.”

All I can do is chuckle.

Jett lumbers to standing for his turn. “I’m firing your pansy ass if that’s what you said to her.”

“That’s bullshit!”

Okay, she’s not all that sobered up after all.

“I want my hundred bucks. I just shared …” She points a finger at him as I hold onto her waist before she attacks my boss, who’s grinning like an idiot. “Dammit,” she mumbles before sinking her teething into her bottom lip. “What was I saying?”

This gets more laughter from the rest of the drunks. I’m the only completely sober one in the group.

“Yes!” Her same accusatory finger shoots up in the air. “I just shared something personal with you only because you offered me a hundred bucks.”

Jett bowls a strike and turns, stroking his goatee. “Swayze, darling … Griff saying you suck at bowling is quite public. We’ve all seen you.”

Aaannnd it’s time to go. Swayze digs her nails into my arms, trying to pry my grip from her waist.

“We’re taking off. Swayze hasn’t had dinner yet.”

Breanna jerks her head to the side. “There’s food over there. Pizza, hot dogs, nachos—”

“Nachos? I love nachos! Griff, nachos!”

I lift her off my lap now that food has distracted her from attacking Jett. “I’ll take you to a Mexican restaurant. You don’t want stale chips and fake cheese.” After changing my shoes, helping her with hers, and saying our goodbyes, I take Swayze’s hand and pull her toward the exit.

“I think I do want stale chips and fake cheese,” she murmurs as we step outside. “I’m so hungry I could eat anything.”

I grin, shaking my head. “I can offer you a shot of cum on the way if you need something to tide you over.”

“A shot of—wait, is that code for a blowjob?”

Everyone else in the parking lot hears the lingering echo of blowjob. Well done, Swayze.

I open her door. “It’s code for get your ass in the truck.”

She lifts her leg but misses the step.

“You’re a fucking mess.”

She giggles as I grab her waist and hoist her up. “But you love me.”

I help her fasten in. “I do.”

“But you were piiisssed about me being late for bowling.”

I shut the door, get in on my side, and start the truck. As we pull out of the parking lot, she slips off her boots and wiggles around to get her feet tucked under her off to the side.

“Why does everyone look at you like you’re meat and they’re starving carnivores?” She slurs a few of her words either from the alcohol or plain old exhaustion.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Come on … the women. They are so nonconspic spic not conspic … no that’s not right. Inconspic … fuck!”

Biting my lips together, I shoot her a quick glance. “Conspicuous?”

“That’s it! You’re so smart, honeybuns.”

Honeybuns is a new one.

“All those filthy women want you. They have no shame.”

“Alcohol makes you paranoid, Swayz. What do you want to eat? Mexican?”

She leans on the console between the seats and drums her fingers together. It’s a little weird. “I’m thinking a Griffin hotdog.”

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