Author: Jill Shalvis


“Grace—”


“No, I believe I just told you what you can do. Bite. Me.” She headed for the door again, but Josh was done with people yelling at him and/or walking away from him today. Done and over it, and pissed off to boot. He snagged her by the back of her sweater and reeled her in.


She sent daggers at him but he was also done talking. He scooped her up and took her caveman style down the hall to his bedroom. There he set her down, shut and locked the door, and backed her to the wall, caging her in.


She opened her mouth—no doubt to blast him—so he covered that sexy mouth with his own. His hand slid to the nape of her neck to hold her still while he kissed her like he was drowning and she was his only hope.


Because she was his only hope.


Grace knew she should push free and walk out of Josh’s room, but there was a problem with that. A big one.


He had her up against the wall, held there by well over six feet of worked-up testosterone. It should have infuriated her. Instead, her brain must have mixed up the signals because she was suddenly hot as hell. She shifted against his body and made herself hotter. “Move,” she said, the token protest, made out of a need to not set back feminism by caving to the sheer dominating force of his personality.


He held still, forearms on either side of her head, face close.


“Move,” she repeated.


He did. He moved backward to his bed, taking her with him. He sat, pulling her into the vee of his spread legs as he did, removing her clothes with shocking speed and letting out a low, rough groan at the sight of her body bared to him.


It did something to her, the sound of his arousal, seeing it in his intense expression, like he was completely lost in her. Screw feminism, she decided weakly, trying to get his clothes off, too, but then he threaded his fingers into her hair and kissed her harder, pulling her onto his lap.


Naked, she straddled him, rocking onto his hard length, feeling him through his scrubs. She’d been mad at him, so very mad, but now that emotion morphed into something else—a desperate need for a Josh-induced orgasm.


“Grace. Christ.” He ground his hips upward as he pressed her down onto him, sliding her along with his motions, making her moan in pleasure as the hunger began to build within her. Hell, who was she kidding, the hunger for him was always there.


“I need you.” He nipped at her ear. “I’ve always needed you, Grace.”


Her heart swelled against her rib cage. “Then take me.”


In the next beat, he had a condom and she’d untied his scrubs, freeing the essentials. And oh God, the essentials were ready, willing, and able. He slid home, and they both gasped at the shocking pleasure. Then Josh claimed her mouth with his, and as he began to move inside her, he claimed her body as well. She cried out his name as he thrust up into her, drawing her tighter with every smooth stroke.


It was exactly what she needed, and exactly not enough. “More,” she pleaded, digging her fingers into him.


He ran hot kisses along her jaw to her ear as he changed the pace, driving into her hard and fast, hoarsely whispering how good she felt wrapped around him, how he’d thought about doing this all day, wanting to be inside her like this, just like this, all the time.


It made her come, and as she clenched around him, he threw his head back, eyes shut tight, jaw clenched as he slowed for her to ride out the waves of pleasure. When she had, he took over, tucking her beneath him. Pressing her into the bed, he roughly grasped her ass with both hands, squeezing as he plunged deep and hard, his expression fierce. He’d held back for her, she knew, and now he couldn’t appear to hold back at all. Her heart, already taxed, turned over in her chest. It undid her, he undid her, and the words tumbled out of her unbidden. “I love you, Josh.”


His eyes flew open as he went over the edge, pulsing inside her, shuddering in her arms, breathing heavy. She was breathing heavy, too, but hers was sheer panic. I love you?


Josh rolled over to his back, taking her with him. “Grace.”


Heart pounding, she pressed her face into his throat. Be the bed, be the bed…


He stroked her damp hair and pressed his mouth to her temple.


She didn’t move.


She didn’t breathe.


“Grace.”


She tightened her eyes. She was asleep. She had left the planet.


She was on a different time continuum. She—


Someone knocked on the door. Then came the little voice. “Daddy?” This was immediately followed by the knob turning, and right then and there, Grace had heart failure.


Thankfully, the door was locked.


“Hold on, Tobes,” Josh called out, eyes on Grace. “We’re not done,” he said to her softly, then pushed up and off the bed. “I’m coming.”


And she was going. Rolling off the bed, she grabbed up her clothes and dashed into Josh’s bathroom.


On the other side of the door, she heard Josh greet Toby.


“I want popcorn.”


“Little late for that, Little Man.”


“I need water.”


“That we can do,” Josh assured him.


As their voices faded, Grace realized they’d moved down the hall. She shoved herself into her clothes and made her escape, not immune to the irony that she was absolutely proving Josh’s “queen of running away” and “passive aggressive” statements.


And he was right, of course. Oh how she hated to admit that, but it was true. She was running away. She was being passive aggressive, both of which really chapped her ass.


But she was thoroughly unequipped to deal with this situation.


In fact, this situation required the Chocoholics. She texted both Mallory and Amy, and like the BFFs they were, they met her at the diner despite the midnight hour.


Mallory was wearing a pair of sweats that were clearly Ty’s, looking like she’d just crawled out of bed. “I hope this is good,” she said with a yawn. “I just left the sexiest man on the planet, and I have to be at work at six.”


“I told Josh I love him,” Grace said.


Mallory immediately softened into a goofy smile. “Awwww!”


“No.” Grace pointed at her. “No awwww. You want to know why? Because I said it first! Do you know what that means? It means I said it first!”


“Well, hell,” Amy said with a wince. “That’s never a good idea.”


“Ya think?” Grace asked, her voice resembling Minnie Mouse. God. It was a nightmare. And it wasn’t as if he’d called or texted or come after her to try to discuss.


He’d let her go.


Okay, she knew he couldn’t have come after her. He had Toby. But he might have called…


“What did he do when you said it?” Mallory asked.


“Nothing, because Toby woke up and wanted popcorn.” Grace leaned over and thunked her head on the table a few times.


“Don’t do that—you’ll knock something loose,” Amy said. “Here, have another cupcake.”


“A cupcake isn’t going to fix this,” Grace said. “I need at least two.”


Mallory handed her another. “What were you doing when you said it?”


Grace sighed. “We were…in the moment.”


Amy winced again.


“Will you stop doing that?” Grace demanded. “Just tell me how to fix this.”


“That’s easy,” Mallory said calmly. “Tell him when you’re not in the moment so he knows it’s real.”


Grace’s heart clutched. “You think it’s real?”


Mallory took her hand and squeezed it. “Yeah, I do. But it doesn’t matter what I think. It’s what you think.”


“Have you seen him frustrated and pissed off?” Amy asked.


Grace thought of how Josh had looked when Anna had fought with him over Devon. And his expression when Grace had told him to “bite me.” Yeah, it was safe to say she’d seen him frustrated and pissed off. “Yes.”


“Have you seen him upset?”


She remembered how he’d looked talking about the loss of his parents. How he’d been after Mrs. Porter’s death. Or when he’d realized Toby wanted to be a good Jedi for his mom. Or when Anna had left. “Yes.”


“Did his reactions to those emotions scare you off?” Amy asked.


“No.” Grace sighed. “Actually, they made me care about him even more.” Which was her answer, she supposed.


“You realize he’s a package deal,” Mallory said. “Right? He’s got Toby and Anna. You’d be an instant family if you take him on, and that’s a big deal.”


“Of course I realize that. And I love them all.” Grace heard the words, then clapped a hand over her mouth. “What is that? Why does that word keeping slipping out?”


“It’s because love is one of those really bossy bitches,” Amy said. “There’s no telling it what to do.”


Mallory nodded and toasted a cupcake to that. Then she set the cupcake down and got serious as she turned to Grace. “Honey, just promise me something.”


“What?”


“That you won’t be so driven by your past that you throw away your future. You need to go back. You need to face him and deal with this or he’s going to think you didn’t mean it.”


Go back…When she’d first blurted out her “I love you,” she’d been so embarrassed that all she’d thought about was getting out of there. She hadn’t thought how Josh would take her vanishing act. But she was thinking now, and she knew the truth. Mallory was right. Her leaving told him that she hadn’t meant it and that her running off was her extricating herself from his life. Maybe his parents hadn’t left him on purpose, but Ally had. Anna had.


Grace had. She stood up.


“Tell him you meant it,” Mallory said. “Tell him—”


Amy stuffed a cupcake into Mallory’s mouth. “She’ll figure it out, Ace.”


Grace wrapped her two cupcakes in a napkin for later. She was hoping things went well but in case they didn’t, there was always chocolate. She drove home. And when exactly Josh’s house had turned into home, she couldn’t say. But Josh wasn’t there, and neither was Toby. Afraid something had happened to Anna, she texted him: You okay? Toby? Anna?

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