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Chapter 20

For some reason, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that Reece would be with me when I went to talk to my parents. I don’t know why, but I guess it was because I don’t think I ever really went to my parents’ house to discuss anything with a guy tagging along.

Well, I’d brought home a guy once, and that had honestly been by accident. I was nineteen, and I’d just been at their house before a date when I realized I’d left my wallet and ID on their kitchen table. After meeting up with the guy, we had to go back and retrieve it. My entire family seemed to have been in attendance, and the poor dude never made it to another date after that.

I somehow doubted Reece would get the third degree from anyone, though. Knowing my parents, they’d roll out the red carpet for him.

We stopped at my apartment beforehand. Reece insisted that he enter first, and I waited just inside the door while he scoped things out. Returning to where I stood, he said, “Everything looks good to me. Do you need help getting anything?”

“No. Thank you.”

Leaving Reece to putter around the living area, I made my way back to my bedroom. I couldn’t suppress the chill that snaked down my spine when I looked around, my gaze settling on the messy bed, covers thrown to the side during my hasty departure and remaining the way I’d left them.

I started the surprisingly painful process of gathering up enough clothes and bath items to get me through a week or so. I wiped at a stupid tear that had snuck free. This was supposed to be a place of comfort and safety for me, not one of fear and paranoia.

When I left the bathroom, Reece was sitting on the edge of the bed. He took one look at me and rose smoothly. “You okay?”

“Of course.” My damn voice cracked.

Doubt crossed his stunning features. He didn’t say anything as I shoved my travel bag into a suitcase I’d loaded up with clothes. Forcing a smile, I zipped up the suitcase. “That should be all.”

He tilted his head to the side. “Remember what I told you?”

“You tell me a lot of things. I don’t always pay attention,” I teased.

A brow rose. “It’s okay to not feel all right about any of this.”

“You’re such a shrink. You sure you’re in the right profession?”

“Don’t give me any lip. I’ll turn you over my knee.” His eyes darkened to a cobalt blue. “Actually that sounds like a fantastic idea.”

Yeah, it kind of did. I wondered if he’d order me to stay still when he did? That made me hot.

He groaned as he stepped forward, curving his hand around my jaw. “I can read your face like an open book.” His voice dropped low, was husky. “You’d like that.”

I closed my eyes, swayed by the deep timbre of his voice. “Maybe.”

“There’s no maybe. You would. Just like you liked it in the kitchen.”

“What time is it?” I asked. “Because I think we have time to test out this theory before we go to my parents’ house.”

Reece tipped his head back and laughed. “Babe, the only times I’ve been in you have been too fast. The next time I strip you down, I want to take my time with you.”

Oh, that hit me in the lady bits.

He swooped down, kissing me quickly before grabbing my suitcase. Sighing, I headed out of the room and grabbed my laptop from the living room. I didn’t let myself look back as I left my apartment.

“Do you know if Colton got ahold of the guy who can hook up the security in my place?” I asked, locking the door behind us.

“What? You’re done staying with me already?”

I grinned at the light tone. “Yes.”

“My heart. You broke it.” Waiting for me to step off the porch, he then started for where his truck was parked. “I don’t know, but I’ll check in with him today and see about your phone. But your spare is working, right?”


Reece opened the truck door for me, and took my bags, stacking them neatly in the space behind the seats. As he stepped aside, he straightened my glasses and then dipped down, pressing his lips against my cheek. A huge part of me wanted to giggle like a little girl, because there was something so cute about being kissed on the cheek, but I managed to hold it together as he pulled away and loped around the front of his truck.

Turning around, I glanced in the back and then did a double take. At first, I didn’t believe what I was seeing. Peering into the back, I froze. Tucked behind the seat, carefully stowed away, were my easel, blank canvas, and my paints, all packed up. I couldn’t move as I stared at the items. I hadn’t even heard him go in and out of the house, let alone into my extra bedroom, but he . . .

He packed up my paints!

Lifting my gaze, I found him behind the wheel. He was looking at me strangely, and I had no idea what the expression on my face said, but probably spelled crazy. “What?” he asked.

“You thought of my paints,” I whispered.

He glanced to the back and then at me. “Yeah. I figured you’d want them. I have room in the guest bedroom for them.”

I thought about what he said last night, about me needing him, and I sucked in a shallow breath. I don’t even know why I thought about that, but needing him meant that I had way strong feelings for him again, which also meant that if I lost him, I’d be in a world of hurting. And connecting all of that together felt crazy, with an extra side of crazy sauce.

But he packed up my paints!

Standing outside the truck, all I could do was stare at him like a doofus until one side of his lips tipped up. “Babe, you going to get in this truck or not?”

I gripped the door, feeling my heart expand in my chest until there was a good chance it would burst from what seemed like not a big deal to Reece, but it was to me.

He chuckled that smooth, deep laugh. “Roxy?”

“I’m going to get in the truck,” I told him.

A brow arched after a moment. “Anytime this year?”

“I’m taking my time.” I flushed, because I knew I looked stupid. “Don’t want to pull a muscle climbing into this monster. I need a freaking ladder to get into this thing.”

Reece laughed while I made a face at him. Finally, I stopped acting weird and got in. As I was buckling up, he asked, “Who’s that?”

I looked out the window as Kip crossed the front porch of the Victorian, the vestibule door swinging shut behind him. “Oh, that’s Kip. I can’t remember his last name, but he’s the guy who moved in upstairs.”