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I’m clutching onto my sippy cup for dear life, afraid to move.

After a few long, dragging, crackling minutes, I hear a low rasp. “Hey, come here for a bit.” And he reaches out his arm and draws me into his chest. “I like that you came over,” he whispers, brushing my hair behind my cheek.

I swallow. “Well. Someone has to watch out for you, I guess.”

“I guess,” he agrees, looking into my eyes.

We stay there silent for a while but I don’t make a move to leave his arms.

Knowing I shouldn’t get comfortable, I eventually force myself to sit up straight and put a little distance between us.

He drags his hand lazily down my spine then drops it. “What’s up?”

I shrug then glance at a thick vintage car book on the coffee table. “Are you as passionate about cars as you are about lacrosse?”

“My grandfather restored vintage pieces. The one on the cover is mine.” He smirks and spreads his arm on the back of the couch again. “They used to build things to last in those days,” he says.

“Really? Hmm. It’s lovely.”

“I’ll drive you around in it someday.”

He rests his head on the back of the couch and stares at the ceiling again.

The exhaustion of the past few weeks from hard work and apartment hunting start weighing on me, so I place my cheek on the back of the couch, facing him. He tells me about his grandfather and his collection of cars, and the museum in Texas in his memory, and I focus on the sound of his delicious voice, lulling me to a near sleep.

The exotic smell of his soap and skin makes me feel like I am on vacation and nothing else exists but this. Him. Him him him, god, HIM.

“I’m comfortable around you,” I whisper, as quietly as a confession.

He turns his head to me, his eyes half-mast. “Does your boyfriend make you feel as comfortable as I do?”

Some fiery warmth in his eyes makes me want to admit, I started dating him because you’ve always implied that I can’t be with you.

His pupils enlarge, as if he can read the answer in my eyes.

“He doesn’t,” I admit. “But…does that matter? So what if I’m more comfortable with you? Maybe you’re just good with the ladies.” I smirk, trying to lighten the thick-as-tar air between us. “Ladies are your specialty.”

He scowls. “Hell, I never said that.”

“Then what are we doing here discussing… What are we even discussing?”

He sits up and looks at me, shifting his body as he does, his expression deadly somber as he rests his elbows on his knees and grabs his cast with his good hand as if it suddenly hurts. “Just because I’m not with you, doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.” He raises his brows, challenging me as he slowly adds a bad boy smile and lets me register what he said.

I blink, flabbergasted.

“Are you teasing me?” I narrow my eyes, straightening too.

“Why would I tease you, Regina?” He tugs on a strand of my hair, smiling with a sparkle in his eyes.

“Tahoe Roth, the infamous player, would be monogamous all of a sudden? What? Do you want a girlfriend now?” I ask, pushing at his chest, laughing at the thought.

He laughs too. “I’m too old for a girlfriend,” he says, catching my wrist before I can retrieve it and squeezing it gently in his warm palm.

“So what do you want? Do you want me to be a permanent groupie? And what, you promise not to break my heart, you shameless heartbreaker?”

He smirks as he holds my wrist in his hands, squeezing it gently—and in that moment I feel like he’s squeezing my heart.

He smirks again, but his voice is low and husky, as is the look in his eyes. “You’d need to give it to me for me to break it.”

“In your wildest dreams, Roth.” I sound breathless. I am breathless. I pry my wrist free of his hold. “Look, I like being with you, so what? And maybe you drop my defenses, so what? I got drunk and said some things at the beach house. That’s what this is coming from, right? It’s no big deal.”

He leans back and spreads out his arms, and his dimple is still showing even when his eyes swirl like storms. “It’s a big deal to me.”

“It’s not a big deal.” I straighten in my seat and tug down his shirt primly. Nervously.

“Alright then, it’s no big deal.” He smirks, cants his head and links his hands behind his head, looking at me as he waits for a reaction.

I exhale. “You told me yourself you had nothing to offer me. It’s taken me a while to see you were right, Tahoe.”

Ever so slowly, he lowers his arms back to rest his elbows on his knees and leans forward. He clenches his jaw in frustration, his eyes losing their shine. God, they’re almost black, they’re so dark and stormy.

He looks at me, all of his energy muted, as if he’s coiling it all within himself for control. “You’re not yourself when you’re with him, Regina. The girl right here with me now,” he runs his eyes over me with a slow, meaningful nod, “the girl with me, is the Regina I know. The girl I see with Davis is a shadow of her. You can do so much better than that motherfucker and you know it.”

All the confusions about my relationship with Trent rise to the forefront, and I hate him for bringing them here.

“He’s good, Tahoe,” I say lamely.

“Is he good, Regina?” He raises his brows, and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that beneath the playful, devilish glint in his eyes, there’s a jealous fire brewing there too. “Do you give your boyfriend your panties too?”

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