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“It changes nothing, Bear. I’m still leaving. He’s still with the brunette girl with the…” I cupped my hands in front of my chest. Bear laughed out loud, revealing a perfectly straight line of pearly white teeth.

“It changes everything, actually. Our bro code only goes so far. Seeing as how he’s not claimed you as his, as stupid as that is, my offer is still good. What’s fair is fair,” Bear said, again taking the bottle from my hands.

I looked over at him and half-expected to find him laughing at his own joke, but his lips were in a straight line.

He was dead serious.

He also wasn’t bad to look at. That night was the first time I’d seen his blonde hair pulled into a high bun on the back of his head.

“Listen,” Bear said. “King’s been my friend almost my entire life, but he knows the rules I live by. In my world, you’re fair game, and I would love to put you on your back in my bed.”

“You’re just saying that. The truth is that you’re not gonna want me when you find out that I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to—” I darted my eyes to the bulge in his jeans. “—that.”

“Fuck,” Bear swore, biting his bottom lip. “Darlin’, I believe I want you even more now.”

“You’ve got freckles under your eyes,” I said, leaning toward him. He grabbed onto my shoulders before I fell forward.

“Yeah, kid. So I’ve been told.” He laughed. He also had a dimple on his left cheek, which was on it’s own a ridiculous contradiction when it came to the big biker man sitting next to me.

“Why did you send me to him?” I asked. “I would’ve gone with you. You’re nice. I needed a place to stay, and you’ve got freckles under your eyes, and I would’ve been a good biker whore for you.”

Bear’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh yeah?” he asked, a crooked smirk on his face. “I don’t really see you as the biker whore type. But I can definitely see you on the back of my bike.”

“But you said I don’t belong here. That I shouldn’t hang out with you. Or any of those—” I waved the bottle around behind me, missing Bear’s jaw by only an inch or two. “—people up there in the stupid house. Stupid people in the stupid house on stupid stilts.” My shoulders slumped. “Bear, my heart was just getting warm. Now, it’s all cold again.”

Bear grabbed the bottle from my hand and set it down on the dock.

“I said you didn’t belong here. I said you were too good to hang out with me. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t hang out with you. You may be too good for me, but I’m the kind of guy who can live with that.” Bear placed a hand against my cheek. I could see why they called him Bear. He was strong and warm and his hands were so big they reminded me of giant paws. I closed my eyes and swayed into him. He leaned in close, his lips only a breath away from mine.

“Will you come with me, baby girl? I don’t know if I can warm your heart, but I sure as shit can warm your body. I know for a fact that you can warm my bed. Then, maybe, we’ll work on that cold heart of yours. We’ll take it one day at a time.” He assured me.

Bear sounded sincere, and what he was offering was exactly what I was looking for weeks earlier.

It seemed like a lifetime ago.

A lifetime ago when King wasn’t in my life.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.

I couldn’t stay with King anymore; that much I was certain of. And all the liquid courage in the world wouldn’t be enough for me to convince myself that I could survive out on the streets again, scrounging for food and shelter.

Bear’s offer was all I had, but I couldn’t bring myself to say yes. Saying yes meant closing the door on King altogether. Was that something I was ready to do? I looked back up at the house. The light was now off in King’s studio.

I may not have been ready to close that door, but just as I’d thought he’d opened it, he’d slammed it in my face.

It was time for me to do the same.

“I guess I’m going to have to do a little more to convince you.” Bear wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into his big warm body. Right before his lips touched mine, I felt it.

Or rather, I felt him.

“Get the fuck away from her, Bear,” King seethed. A clicking sound grabbed my attention, and I whipped my head around to where King stood behind us on the dock, his gun cocked and aimed at Bear.

“Done already?” I asked, all too aware of Bear’s arms still wrapped around my waist. I made no move to push him away. “She must be disappointed that the almighty Brantley King, The King of the stupid Causeway, couldn’t last longer.”

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