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Avery follows me. I hold the door open for her as she gives me a narrow-eyed glare while walking into the building. “You are. You’re using me for sex on your summer road trip.”

“I’m having sex with you on my summer road trip. And it’s surprisingly good sex. The questions … well, maybe by the time we get to L.A., we’ll have the answers.”

I don’t really believe that at all. I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing. But it doesn’t serve a purpose to let her know that right now.

“Surprisingly good sex? Wow …” She opens the first washer and piles clothes into the rolling basket. “That statement sounds like the preamble to the rest of our trip—no sex.”

I help change the loads to the dryers, keeping my gaze on her and a smirk firmly planted to my face while she tries to ignore me.

“So what do you do in L.A.?”

Avery shuts the dryer door and stops, giving me two raised eyebrows. “I’m a massage therapist. Was a massage therapist.”

I shake my head. “When you’re not working or shopping or going to get your hair and nails done … what do you do?”

She blinks several times. Damn! That’s all she does. I swallow the reality in small doses so I don’t choke on it. Avery is a diva.

“Never mind. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.” I shoulder past her to put money into the dryers.

“That’s not it,” she murmurs. “You didn’t put me on the spot. It’s just …”

“It’s fine, Ave. That’s a lot, and there’s only twenty-four hours in a day.” I continue to change clothes from the washers to the dryers, moving twice as fast as Avery.

“Don’t be a dick.”

I feed coins into the last dryer and turn around. Avery eases onto a clothes-folding table. Her wrinkled brow cast down with her gaze as her feet dangle in the air.

“I’m being a dick?”

She answers with silence.

“I’m just trying to get to know you.”

More silence.

I rub my forehead and blow out a slow breath. “I cook. It’s not just my profession, it’s my passion. When a shipment of fresh, local produce arrives, it gives me a ridiculous high. I can’t wait to create something pleasing to both the palate and the eye. When I’m not cooking, I’m reading food blogs. When I’m not doing that, I’m on my Harley or walking dogs from the animal shelter because I did it with Addy, and…” I shrug “…it’s just something I’ve continued to do.”

Avery lifts her head.

Without taking a breath, I continue. “I like space, the infinity I see through my telescope. It makes my troubles feel insignificant. I like old sayings, but not as much as I like new ideas.”

“What are your troubles?” Avery whispers. Worry shrouds her sunny blue eyes, turning them blue-gray like an impending storm.

“Memories.”

Her teeth brush her lower lip several times as the lines on her forehead intensify. “I like baseball and peanuts. I love peanuts. The saltier, the better. I mean … I want to tell you that I love to travel, watch Broadway shows, spend warm afternoons at vineyards sipping wine and eating bruschetta … but those are things I’ve done with men. Wealthy men. I’m not wealthy. In fact …” Avery frowns. “I’m dirt poor at the moment. I can usually snag tickets from friends at work to see a baseball game. Peanuts are in my budget. And when I’m by myself—alone—I like …”

I wait.

She stares at her feet swinging from the table in a slow rhythm.

“You like …”

Avery’s nose wrinkles. “These videos.”

“Videos?”

“Never mind. Forget it. It’s dumb.” Her cheeks flush as she glances around the laundromat, looking everywhere but directly at me.

“Ave, are you into porn?” I push off the wall of dryers and wedge my body between her dangling legs.

Giving me a quick headshake, she presses her lips into a firm line and continues to survey our surroundings.

My hands squeeze her legs, forcing her mouth into a tiny smile. “If you don’t tell me, I’ll be forced to think your favorite past time is watching porn.”

“What if that’s it?” She halts her wandering gaze, focused on mine. “What if all I enjoy is shopping and long afternoons at the salon? What if I’ve never stuck a dime in the red kettle at Christmastime or paid it forward? What if my favorite foreplay is watching other people have sex? Does that deflate your tree-loving heart? Does it take a little more effort to get an erection for me?”

I grin.

Her eyes narrow. “This isn’t funny. You need to find a sliver of goodness in me to justify what’s happening between us. And the truth is, you’re just like every other guy I’ve dated—you want my body, but you, Jake Matthews, have this nagging conscience. You have a reputation for being a nice guy who does the right thing. And nice guys doing the right thing don’t settle for someone like me.”

I can strip her down, take her apart. We can sort through the pieces. But she needs to decide how to put things back together where they belong and what she no longer needs. I can’t be part of what makes her whole again. People don’t fill voids, even if they create them.

Leaning forward, I ghost my mouth along her jaw to her ear. “Tell me about the videos. I know they’re not porn.” I kiss her earlobe. “I think it’s something very unsexy. Yet…” I kiss her neck “…something tells me it’s going to make my whole damn day.”

She shivers as her shaky hands lay claim to my arms. “Jake …” My name falls breathlessly from her lips.

My hands ascend another inch up her legs as my lips remain idle against her soft flesh. “Tell me, Ave …”

Her fingers curl into my biceps. “Documentaries. I like watching documentaries. Especially the True Facts series by Ze Frank. He shares crazy but mostly true facts about various animals in a Morgan Freeman-like narration. It’s hilarious and completely inappropriate because he often fixates on genital facts, but I laugh myself into a giggle-fit every time.”

And this is why I’m on the road to nowhere with this woman—and with no incentive to rush a single moment. I get to see something I’m sure no human before me has ever truly seen. It’s pretty fucking incredible.

“Real sexy, huh?” Insecurity. I hate the insecurity in her voice.

Wrapping my arms around her waist, I lift her from the counter.

“Jake—”

I silence her with a hard look two seconds before kissing her. With no knowledge of what’s in the back of the laundromat, I walk us toward two vending machines down a small hallway ending in a “staff only” door.

It’s a little dark and a lot cramped, but I don’t need any light or much space to make my point.

Her sundress.

Her sans-panties body.

It’s almost wrong to not do this right here, right now.

I wedge us into the four-foot space between the two machines, pin her back to one of them, and free myself from my jeans. Messy, disheveled, giggles-at-animal-genitalia-jokes Avery has me very hard at the moment. And completely out of my mind.

“Jake, not … here …” Her protest evaporates into the musty air between us as I fill her with every inch of my cock.

We kiss, tongues making desperate jabs into each other’s mouths as her hands ball into tight fists filled with my hair.

I growl.

She tightens her grip.

I slide my hands to hold her bare ass as I fuck her harder, rattling the vending machine, attempting to infuse some sense into her. She’s worthy of whatever the hell she wants in life.

We all are.

Her legs tighten around my waist as I pick up the pace. What is she doing to me? When did my despise morph into such an uncontrollable need? I feel like a horny teenager possessed with the need to get off all day long.

The front door creaks open.

“Jake—”

“Shh …” I kiss her harder, fuck her faster.

Two vending machines hide us in a dim hallway. Eighties music stutters out of old speakers to block our noise. We’ve got this. And even if someone heads toward us, I can’t stop.

It’s not just me. Avery rocks her pelvis in a clawing rhythm to get off before time runs out.

That’s all it takes for me to release. “God … damn …” I bite her neck to muffle my pleasure.

“No …” Avery yanks my hair again, hips grinding frantically as I still.

“Let it go.” I chuckle, thrusting into her several more times as my right thumb finds her clit.

“Yes … yes … yesss …” she whispers out of breath.

With my final thrust to get her off, something clinks and thunks into the bottom opening of the vending machine at Avery’s back.

Avery lifts her head, flushed from neck to forehead. She grins, realizing we just rattled out a snack. “Dibs.”

She can have dibs on the candy bar. I want dibs on her.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Avery

“Swarley won’t eat his chew stick.” Twisted in my seat, I frown at a drowsy Swarley as we make our way to the Grand Canyon.

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