Page 24

“Okay,” I whispered.

He leaned over the center console, keeping his hand on mine. “If you’re not okay with me coming in or staying, I can call a cab. You just tell me when you want me to leave and I’ll leave.”

Not surprised that he was giving me an out in case I wasn’t kosher with him being in there, I nodded. “Okay.”

His lips tipped further up on one corner. “But I have a feeling you’re gonna ask me to stay.”

I drew back, eyes narrowing. “Cocky bastard.”

“Confident bastard, actually.” With a chuckle at my exasperated look, he slid his hand off mine and climbed out.

Shaking my head, I followed suit. His long-legged stride got him to the porch before me and he opened the storm door. Grinning at him, I unlocked the door. “Such a gentleman,” I told him.

“After you,” he said.

I stepped into the silent, cool house, letting out a tiny squeal when he swatted my behind as he walked in after me. His answering chuckle sent a riot of shivers over my skin.

“Couldn’t help myself,” he said as I flipped on the living-room light. “Had to equal out my good-guy side with my bad-guy side.”

“Wow.” I dropped my purse on the worn recliner. “Do you keep a tally or something?”

His gaze found mine. “Only with you.”

Those three words were like taking a shot of tequila. They raced through my body, causing my head to float up to decorative plaster moldings near the ceiling. I wet my lips, entirely too delighted when his gaze zeroed in on my mouth. “Are you flirting with me, Officer Anders?”

Reece’s grin grew as he tilted his head to the side. “What do you think?”

“I think you are.” I moved away from the lamp, heading toward the kitchen. Thankfully, the dishwasher wasn’t possessed or anything. “You want something to drink?”

“Got tea?”

I grinned. “I do.”

He trailed me into the kitchen, leaning against the counter as I grabbed a glass. As he peered out the kitchen sink window, I had a moment of panic. Was the kitchen a hot, dirty mess? After a quick scan of the countertops, I only spotted a few crumbs by the toaster and my paintbrushes were drying on a sheet of paper towels—thank God. Normally there’d be cup rings, plates, and maybe a bowl of leftover cereal.

“Here you go.” I offered him a glass of iced tea.

“Thank you.” His fingers grazed mine as he took the glass, and a blanket of sudden shyness wrapped around me. “Mind if I use the bathroom?”

I stared at the thick, leather strap on his flip-flops. “Help yourself.” I took a step back, glancing up as I clutched my glass of tea to my chest. I sucked in a sharp breath when my eyes met his. He wore a look—a hot and hungry one—that said he wanted to take those two words I just uttered and apply them to a whole lot of other things.

In that moment, I sort of wanted to smack myself. I’d seen that look before, many times over the last eleven months whenever he was in the bar. We’d both made a lot of assumptions about that night we shared, but I felt like an even bigger idiot as I stood in front of him. There was no mistaking the way he looked at me.

“I’m . . . I’m going to get changed real quick,” I said, sidestepping around him. “You know where the bathroom is.”

He said something, but there were way too many things floating around in my head to pay attention. I left my tea on the end table I’d painted a deep blue last fall and then all but flew into the bedroom, stopping long enough to make sure the studio-room door was shut. Even though the portraits I’d done of Reece weren’t hanging in there, I really didn’t want him roaming into that room because they wouldn’t be hard to find.

Closing the door quietly behind me, I whirled around and stared at the queen-sized bed I’d scrimped and saved for, managing to purchase about two years ago. Now, I’d be saving to replace Henry’s windshield.


I didn’t want to think about how tired and . . . and done with it Charlie looked today. I didn’t want to think about Henry and how badly I’d lost control. I wasn’t going to think about any hard things, unless those hard things were a part of Reece’s anatomy.

I smacked a hand over my mouth, but a giggle escaped nonetheless.

Reece was actually out there, waiting for me. He was here.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I did a little butt shimmy as I balled my hands into fists, clenching my teeth together to prevent a high-pitch squeal from escaping. This went on for a good twenty seconds, and then I snapped out of, springing forward. What I wanted to do was shower, but that would seem too excessive and take too much time. Stripping down, I lotioned myself up until I was as soft and shiny as a baby seal, then pulled on a pair of fresh yoga pants and one of those camis with a built-in bra.

I yanked a brush through my hair once I let it down and then opened the closet door to check myself out in the mirror hanging on the inside. Giving myself a quick cursory glance, I thought I looked comfortable. Okay even. My hair fell to my breasts, and due to twisting it while still wet, it had messy waves in it. The outfit was laid-back, but flattering. Not like I was trying too hard or expecting anything. That was good. I think.

What was about to happen could end in so many different ways that I wondered if my parents ever had to worry about the many stages of possibly dating when they met. Tonight, Reece and I could hook up and it could just be a one-night stand. Or it could turn into the casual booty call—the one that only took place at three or four in the morning. But that could also progress into the friends-with-benefits stage or the “I think we’re dating, because we’re going out and doing things that don’t always involve sex but nothing has been established” stage. From there, we could end up dating or going our separate ways. We could end up married with babies or we could just fade apart from one another. I doubted we’d be friends with benefits, because Reece knew my family and I knew his, so that could just get awkward.

There were so many different ways this could end that I was starting to stress myself out.

I wasn’t going to overthink any of this.

Sticking my tongue out at my reflection, I stepped back and closed the closet door. Taking off my glasses, I placed them on the bedside table and then headed out of the bedroom, leaving the door ajar just in case we needed to make it back to the bedroom with a quickness.

I flushed, because I’d totally do him on the couch, floor, kitchen counter—wherever. A bed was not necessary.