Page 24

Tipping my head down, I checked out Syd. She had turned in her sleep, snuggling close. One leg was thrown over mine, and her head rested on my chest. Her hand was curled above my heart. And I was still so damn hard I was beginning to wonder if it was going to become a permanent fixture.


My hand shook as I reached up, brushing the hair off her cheek. I loathed getting up, but I didn’t want her to wake up to a freezing room. As gently as I could, I slid out from underneath her. The girl had to have been worn out, because she barely stirred as I rose and pulled another blanket up over her.

I tugged on my sweats, ignoring the urge to get back under those covers and wake her up in a way I doubted Nate ever had. Throwing the hoodie on, I padded out of the room. I immediately winced.

Hell’s bells, it was freezing in the rest of the house.

I peeked out around the Christmas tree and saw that the snow was still falling, but it was lighter. Everything was covered to the point it looked like Antarctica outside. Man, I had no idea how long it was going to take them to clear the roads up here, or even if the plows could get out now.

Moving around the house, I checked the doors and windows like I had OCD. Everything was fine—locked and secured. As I headed down to the garage for firewood, my brain replayed everything like it was stuck on the Syd channel.

In the early morning hours and in the silent house, I couldn’t believe last night had happened. Cursing as my feet hit the ice-cold cement of the garage, I hurried around the SUV and snowmobiles and gathered some of the dried-out logs. Shoes would’ve been smart, dumbass. That was how bad my brain was stuck on her. Fuck, when she’d said the “love” part, I was completely lost in her.

I had been lost in her for a while now.

It wasn’t like my feelings for her were new, or that I’d discovered them when I had my mouth on her or when she blurted out that half-finished sentence. Shit like that didn’t happen. Maybe some people woke up one day and fell in love. Not me. This had grown over a period of time, kicking off when she’d gone out on her first date with Nate. Till this day, I still remembered that bitter bite of jealousy when she’d told me she was dating him. Before then, I really hadn’t understood how I felt for Sydney. Fuck. We’d still been kids in a lot of ways, and I was just discovering the happy, happy times to be had with the opposite sex.

Not until after Syd had told me that Nate had ended things had I realized the extent of what I felt for her. Because I hadn’t been sad or upset—I had been glad. I had felt relief. That alone made me so undeserving of Syd, but it was the truth. I was a bastard. Still was.

I knew that moment, while we stood outside the science building on campus, that I loved her. Not in the best-friend kind of way. Not in the almost-like-a-little-sister kind of way. I loved her in a way that transcended those things. And I was in love with her.

None of that had changed anything. My feelings for her were just something I didn’t acknowledge. I refused to let it grow into something more than a yearning that couldn’t be quenched. People did that all the time. I was just one of many.

Syd was always too good for me. Never once had I thought she could’ve possibly felt anything more than friendship when it came to me, and I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure, because I couldn’t understand how she could be in love with me after watching me—her words exactly—“fuck anything that walks” for years.

How could she?

I didn’t get it.

And I also didn’t want to question it, at least not right now. I had, what? A day or two of living out what I’d always wanted before reality bitch-smacked me in the face, because I did know one thing for certain. There was a really good chance that, when she left this place, got back in the real world, she’d realize she could do better than me. Find a guy who wasn’t about to turn down a career guaranteed to make money—and who hadn’t spent the last seven years going after every girl except her.


I woke to the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, which didn’t make sense, because I was sure that we’d lost power. Maybe I’d dreamt that.

Rolling over, I didn’t feel Kyler or his warmth. Maybe I’d dreamt everything from last night. My eyes flew open as my stomach twisted. Flames were going strong in the fireplace and tucked under the covers, I was pretty toasty.

I was also very much alone on the makeshift bed.

My heart sank faster than the Titanic. I squeezed my eyes shut. The likelihood of last night being a dream was highly unlikely, because I was naked under the blankets, which meant Kyler had probably woken up this morning and been close to chewing his arm off to get away.

He regretted it.

I knew it.

Regretted what we’d done, and we hadn’t even had sex.

“You can stop pretending to be asleep,” Kyler’s deep voice drifted over to me. Amusement colored his tone. “I know you’re awake.”

I pried an eye open. “I’m not pretending.”

“Uh huh.”

Fighting the urge to pull the blanket over my head and pretend I wasn’t here, I took a deep breath and rolled onto my back. Kyler was sitting at the foot of the recliner, holding a Thermos in his hands.

One side of his lips tipped up. He put the Thermos on the floor and reached down on his other side, picking up a cup. “I know how you need your caffeine, so I found some instant coffee and boiled water over the fire. Got some sugar for you, too.”

I sat up, holding the blanket to my chest. Our eyes met and I felt my breath stall. They were so dark, nearly black. I couldn’t gain a lick of anything from his expression. I searched my brain for something to say. “You boiled water over the fire?”

His smile spread, revealing those deep dimples that always got to me, as he unscrewed the lid with a twist of his wrist and poured the coffee. “You sound so surprised.”

I just couldn’t picture him doing it. Casting my gaze down, I didn’t know what to do or how to act. What he had done last night had only ever existed in my fantasies and never in my reality. I couldn’t reconcile the two. Just because he made me coffee and slaved over a fire to do so didn’t mean he was about to pronounce his undying love for me or jump my bones.


Forcing my gaze up, heat swept across my cheeks. I scooted over the bed of blankets and reached for the cup. “Thank you.”

His brows rose as he pulled the cup back. “No. Not yet.”

Cocking my head to the side, I frowned. “Why?”

“You’ll see.” Placing the coffee down, he stood and came to the edge of our makeshift bed. He knelt in front of me. Slowly, as if he was afraid he’d startle me, he cupped my cheek in his palm. “Good morning.”

Lost in the simple feel of his hand on my cheek, I stared at him a moment. “Good morning?”

He came down on his knees and leaned in, pressing his forehead against mine. “I think we can do better than that.”

My heart tripped up. His closeness was a good sign, right? I tried not to wonder if I had morning breath as I swallowed. “We can?”

He nodded and his nose brushed over mine. My grip on the blanket tightened as my stomach hollowed. “Very easily,” he said. “Want to see?”

“Yes.” That word came out as a whisper.

Tilting his head to the side, he kissed one corner of my lips, and then the other. A tremble coursed through me as his thumb smoothed over my cheekbone, and then he deepened the pressure on my lips, kissing me for real.

“How about that?” he asked, dropping another kiss on my lips, a quick one. “Was that a better good morning?”

No longer able to speak, I nodded.

Kyler chuckled as he leaned back and picked up the cup. Handing it over, he settled down beside me where I’d turned into girlie mush in a split second.

The first gulp of coffee went a long way toward finding the ability to speak. “How long have you been awake?”

One shoulder shrugged. “A couple of hours. The fire was dying, so I had to put more logs in.”

I took another sip. Instant coffee wasn’t bad. “I slept through all of that?”

“Yep. Well, you were talking a little in your sleep.”

“My mouth dropped open. “Oh no. Was I? What did I say? Oh, my—”

“I was just joking.” Laughing, he glanced at me sideways. “You didn’t talk in your sleep, but by your reaction, I’m wishing you had.”

I narrowed my eyes. “That was mean.”

He grinned. “Did you sleep well?”

“I think that was my best sleep since the last time I took Nyquil.” I blushed again, realizing what it sounded like, and I hastily dipped my head, letting my hair shield my burning face.

Kyler was silent for a moment. “Same here. Best sleep I’ve had in years.”

“Really?” I dared a quick peek at him. I don’t know why that seemed so important, but it was.

He was staring straight ahead. “I’ve never slept with a girl before.”

My brows rose. “Come again?”

His lips twisted into a wry grin. “I never slept with a girl after doing anything with them. You’re actually the only girl I’ve ever shared a bed with overnight.”

A rush of giddiness swept through me, and I hid my smile by taking another sip. I remembered what he’d said about Mindy, and I almost jumped up and did a happy jig naked. “Not once?”

He shook his head as he twisted toward me. “I never wanted to.”

Our eyes met again, and I wouldn’t have been able to look away if Santa had run through the room with a rifle. “Never?”

Leaning back, he planted a hand behind me. “Never,” he said, his voice low. Tipping his head down, he pressed a kiss against my bare shoulder, and then rested his chin there.

I was afraid I was going to spill the coffee everywhere. He didn’t regret last night. That much was obvious. Relief was like a sweet drug clawing at me, but I still didn’t know how to act, and I was petrified of saying the wrong thing.

Luckily, Kyler had way more experience than me at all of this. “The snow isn’t falling as heavy now. The plows should be able to get out here at some point.”

A twinge of disappointment hit me and I hid it with a smile. Funny how, a day ago, all I’d wanted was to go home. “Do you think they’ll get to us today?”

“I’d be really surprised. Probably tomorrow,” he replied. “It’s like the North Pole out there right now.”

“Sounds good for Santa.”

His eyes glimmered. “I think even he’d get lost in that mess.”

I finished off the coffee, and Kyler took the cup from me. Gathering the blanket around me, I mumbled something about the bathroom, and he told me to use the one downstairs. I shuffled out of the room, hitching the blanket close as I hit the chilly temps in the rest of the house. Probably would’ve been smart to pick up my clothes—wherever they were—so I could change, but I rushed to the bathroom, my bare feet slapping against the cold wood floors.

I discovered that Kyler had gathered up some personal items and placed them in the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to go upstairs. Due to the thoughtful gesture, I smiled as I went through my morning routine. Butterflies had nested in my stomach and were about to take full flight. Using what I had, I washed up the best I could without killing myself with the frigid water.