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Her brown eyes, just like mine, rolled. “That was forever ago, honey. Now get your ass over here.”

I got my butt over there and the moment I sat down, she lifted a slender hand and gently poked at the messy ponytail I was rocking. “What happened to the red streaks?”

Shrugging, I reached up and tugged out the hair tie. My hair was long, reaching my nonexistent breasts. Other than the purple streaks, my hair was a deep brown. I messed with it a lot, so much so I was surprised it hadn’t fallen out of my head yet. “I got bored with it. You like the purple?”

She nodded as her eyes narrowed behind the glasses. “Yes, it’s very much you. Matches the paint stains on your shirt.”

Glancing down at my old Twilight shirt, I saw that there was quite a bit of purple splattered across Edward’s face. “Ha.”

“So . . .” Mom drew the word out in a way that had warning bells ring-a-dinging in my head. “You know, the offer still stands. Right?”

My spine stiffened as I met her earnest stare. The offer. Ugh. The offer was a living, breathing crutch that I sometimes—okay, almost always—wanted to lean on. The offer was to move back home, at twenty-two, drop the computer graphics classes and the bartending and the web design I did on the side, and devote 100 percent of my time to my real passion.


I was seriously lucky that my parents would be willing to support a broke-ass artist, but I couldn’t do that. I needed my independence. It was why I moved out and it was why it was taking me ten billion years to finish my classes at the community college.

“Thank you,” I said, clasping her warm hand in mine. “I mean it. Thank you, but you know . . .”

She sighed as she pulled her hand free and clasped my cheeks. Leaning in, she pressed a kiss to my forehead. “I know, but I just need to make sure you haven’t forgotten.” Drawing back, she tilted her head to the side as she smoothed a thumb just below my glasses. “You look so tired, worn out.”

“Geez, Mom. Thanks.”

She gave me a pointed look. “What time did you get off from Mona’s?”

“Three in the morning.” I sighed as I leaned back against the cushion, letting it swallow me up. “I got up early.”

“Couldn’t sleep?” Sympathy tinged her tone.

My momma knew me. I nodded.

There was a pause as she folded one knee over the other. “You saw Charlie yesterday?”

I nodded again.

“Of course you did,” she said quietly. “How is my boy?”

Hearing her refer to Charlie like that made the wound of seeing him the way he was now so much harder. My parents . . . God, they were more parental figures to Charlie growing up than his own parents were. Sighing heavily, I told her about my visit with Charlie and how he hadn’t acknowledged me again. Concern filled her dark eyes, because she too remembered what happened before.

When I was done, Mom pulled off her glasses and fidgeted with the slender arm. “I heard about Reece.”

My eyes widened until I thought they’d pop out of my head. She heard about Reece? About our hookup that was not really a hookup? Mom and I shared a lot, but I drew the line there.

“I thought it was very nice of him to find you yesterday and tell you about Henry,” she continued, and relief punched me in the stomach.

Thank God she wasn’t referencing the shenanigans. “How did you know about that?”

She smiled. “His mother told me last night.” The look about her became shrewd. “I think he went out of his way to do so. Out of his way, Roxy. Hmm, don’t you find that interesting?”

“Oh, Mom.” I rolled my eyes. Of course, she knew I had a huge crush on him from the moment he’d moved in next door. I was convinced that she and

Reece’s mother might have plotted to get Reece and me together last year over Thanksgiving, because they’d been dropping hints about both of us being sadly single to the point Reece’s brother almost choked on mashed potatoes because he was laughing so hard.

It had been an uncomfortable joining of the two families, which meant it was going to be even more awkward this year, since the almost-hookup happened not too many moons after the Thanksgiving dinner.

“He’s a good boy, Roxy.” Mom droned on, sounding like an infomercial for Reece. “He fought for his country and then came home, took a job where he puts his life in danger. And what happened last year, with that boy. He had to make a tough—”

“Mom,” I moaned.

I was able to steer the conversation away from Reece and toward the upcoming debut of grandbaby number one. When it was time for me to get ready for my evening shift at Mona’s, I got a warm and squishy hug from Mom.

As she pulled back, she looked me straight in the eye. “We didn’t talk a lot about Henry and what he wants, but I wanted to let you know that your father and I support you, no matter what you decide.”

Tears rushed me, and I blinked them back. Aw man, I loved my parents. They were too good to me. “I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t even want to see his face.”

Her smile was sad as she nodded, and I knew what she was really thinking. They wanted to see me let go of the big old baggage of hate that sat on my shoulders. “If that’s what you want, then we are right behind you.”

“It is,” I confirmed.

She patted my cheek and then roared out of the house the same way she’d come in, and as I closed the door behind her, I realized there’d be no time for a nap.

Which was a good thing, because I’d probably end up dreaming about Reece again, and that was the last thing I needed to do. Right that second, I developed a list of priorities.

Number One: I needed to shower. Baby steps.

Number Two: I needed to stop dreaming about him. Easier said than done, but whatever. It was high on the priority list.

Number Three: I also needed to stop painting his stupid—albeit sexy—face.

And finally, Number Four: I needed to be up front with Reece the next time I saw him and tell him the truth about that night. I could do that, at least. Let go of that baggage of hurt. I needed to, because I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had asked me.

Did I hurt you?

Pressing my lips together, I tried to ignore the nugget of guilt that bloomed in my belly as I started down the hall. Reece had dealt with enough guilt. He didn’t need me adding to it. Once inside my bedroom, I stripped down, leaving my clothes remaining where they fell as my thoughts were circling around how I was going to break the news.