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Guests … this makes me more nauseous.

“But, Ave …” Jake kisses the side of my head. “I’ll return.” He goes into the bathroom.

I grab my phone, cringing with every little move.

Me: You suck. I hope you feel better, but you suck.

Sydney: Where are you? And why do I suck?

Me: I’m visiting a friend and now I’m staying here because I’M VOMITING! Would it kill you to not use my water glass? Ugh! Thanks for sharing your virus.

Sydney: Do you want Lautner to come get you?

Me: No. I don’t want to move. I just want to make you feel bad for getting me sick.

Sydney: Sorry you’re sick. But it’s not my fault.

Me: BS

Sydney: I don’t have a virus. I’m pregnant.

I stare at the screen. She’s pregnant. I’m going to get another little niece or nephew. Not even the painful urge to retch can keep me from smiling.

Me: OMGGGGGGG!!!!!!

Sydney: We’ve told no one. So you know nothing. Got it?

Me: OMGGGGGGG!!!!!!

Sydney: Love you too. Feel better. Call if you need us.

“Is that a smile?” Jake shrugs off his shirt as he comes out of the bathroom.

I stare for a few seconds. His jeans are unfastened as well, just barely hanging onto his hips.

“Ave?”

“Huh?” I glance up.

He grins. “Were you just smiling?”

“Yeah. Sydney is … well, I can’t tell you. But I didn’t get this virus from her because what she has is not contagious.”

He studies me with a narrowed gaze for a few seconds. “So she’s pregnant?”

“I did not say that.”

“Got it.” He winks.

I refocus on his abs and a bit lower. It distracts me from my nausea.

“I’m going to eat. Will that bother you?”

My gaze snaps back up to meet his knowing eyes. He smirks.

“No.”

“I’m going to get you some coconut water. I want you to drink it before you go to sleep.”

He’s my Lautner. Why does this bring tears to my eyes? Because he’s leaving on Saturday. Because Mo will be with him next week. Because … I love him. “Okay,” I whisper around the swell of emotion in my throat as I roll to my side again, putting my back to him.

A few seconds later, there’s a pounding noise. I glance over my shoulder. He’s pounding a hole into a young coconut. He’s giving me coconut water from an actual coconut.

He might be better than Lautner.

“Thank you.” I dab the corners of my eyes and ease to sitting. “Glass straw. Fancy.”

He hands me the coconut.

“Only the best for you.” He smiles.

I frown. “I brought you coconut water in a can when you were … not well.”

“When you poisoned me.” He lifts an eyebrow.

“Yeah, when that happened.” My lips wrap around the glass straw. “Go eat,” I mumble.

He leans forward, kissing me on the forehead. “Get some rest. Feel better.”

I fall asleep. By the time I wake up, Jake’s asleep on the sofa. The dim lighting under the kitchen cabinets gives me just enough light to make it to the bathroom where I vomit the coconut water.

As I reach to flush the toilet, a cold damp cloth gets pressed to my forehead.

“I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well,” Jake whispers in my ear, sliding his other hand around my waist to help me stand.

Closing my eyes, I rest the back of my head against his shoulder.

“Water?” He holds out a glass of water.

I lift my head and take a drink, swishing and spitting in the sink. I should brush my teeth again, but I’m just too tired. It must be the middle of the night.

When Jake scoops me up in his arms, I don’t protest.

When he lays me on the bed next to him, I murmur a thank you.

When he molds his body to the back of mine, his face in my hair, his arms around my waist, I hold my breath and cry silently. I want this Jake.

Every.

Single.

Day.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

I wake up alone.

Then I see the sprig of lavender on the pillow next to mine and a short note.

Three simple words: You are beautiful.

Below the pillow is a small bowl of granola and berries with what I assume are edible flowers garnishing the top. I scoot myself up to sitting, glancing around the room. No Jake.

Taking a slow breath, I check in on my body. I feel better. No nausea. Dr. Matthews cured me. Take that, Dr. Lautner Sullivan.

I eat the granola and fruit, passing on the flowers. They are too pretty to eat. And what if they’re not edible? What if they’re payback for the mushroom incident? Pulling my hair back into a ponytail, I rinse off in the shower, brush my teeth, and put back on my blouse and capris. It’s not the first time I’ve worn dirty clothes.

His truck and motorcycle are out back, so Jake must be down at the cafe. I make my way down the stairs, my heels clicking on each wooden step.

“Good morning.” Seth smiles, rushing past me with plates full of food. “Jake’s out front,” he calls just before pushing through the swinging door.

I follow him. A giggly girl bats her eyelashes at Jake as he shows her how to use the juicer. Must be the girl who got my job. She has long, blond hair. Long like mine used to be, only I think hers is all her own. And she’s definitely younger than me.

Her smile loses a touch of momentum when she spies me.

Jake turns. “Morning, Ave.” His smile beats hers by miles. “Feeling better? You look better.”

I nod, trying to ignore the girl who got my job and the way she’s eye-fucking Jake. My memory jumps back to him without his shirt, coming out of the bathroom, and that glorious V cut below his abs, and those faded unfastened jeans.

“Coffee?” Jake asks, wiping his hands.

“Juice?” I have this sadistic need to watch him show new girl how to run the juicer. Who knew my jealous side had such an appetite?

“Ginger, apple, lemon, cucumber,” he fires off to new girl while taking the order of the next person in line.

A minute later, new girl hands me my juice, giving me the once-over and a catty smile. He should fire her. She’s bad Karma. I can feel it.

“Jake’s girlfriend?” she asks.

I take the juice. “Uh …”

“Avery. Aspen. Aspen. Avery,” Jake introduces us just before disappearing to the kitchen. Was that his way of avoiding Aspen’s question? Preventing me from answering her?

“If not…” she leans in and whispers “…I call dibs.”

Dibs? Did she really just call dibs on Jake?

Aspen, Mo … stiff competition.

Before I sharpen my claws on her perfect skin, I turn and retreat to the kitchen.

Seth gives me a friendly nod as he and Jake assemble plates and bowls of food.

“Juice okay?” Jake asks as he perfectly garnishes a plate of some kind of hash and gravy with mushrooms.

I nod, sidling up to him. Lifting onto my toes, I press my lips against his ear. “Three words … I need you.”

His hands still as he pulls away from me just enough to see my face. If he can’t read my come-hither expression, then he needs a thick pair of glasses. “Ave, I’m in the middle of the breakfast rush.”

Seth takes the plate from Jake and runs it out front.

Rejection sucks. Would he reject Mo … or perky little Aspen?

And the only thing that sucks worse than rejection is jealousy.

“K.” I smile like it’s no big deal. Like I’m not embarrassed for suggesting it. Then I pivot and make my way up the stairs to get my purse and get the hell out of here before I say or do anything else that’s impulsive and stupid.

As I grab my purse, the door slams behind me. I turn. Before I can take a single breath, Jake’s hands frame my face and his mouth crashes against mine.

It’s all consuming.

It burns through my skin as we stumble to the bed, clawing and tearing at each other’s clothes.

I moan as his tongue circles my nipple. My impatient hands tug down his jeans and boxer briefs. He attacks my mouth again, easing us to the bed.

It’s slow and methodic, yet every stroke is deliberate and perfectly timed. Guiding my knees to my chest, he pushes into me.

Thoughts vanish.

Toes curl.

My torso twists and jerks.

There. He’s the best at finding my “there.”

He’s the best at bending me to his will.

He’s the best at prolonging this feeling—finding the edge and keeping me there.

It’s torture. God … I love his kind of torture.

“I love you, Ave,” he whispers in my ear as he pulls my hair gently, reentering me from behind while my body trembles on all fours.

Within seconds, I’m there. Mystical, magical there. I’ve fallen off the edge. I’ve arrived. Collapsing onto the bed, my face buried into the pillow, Jake grips my hips and slams into me three more times, my name a guttural moan from his lips.

His sweaty body falls onto mine, his chest to my back, his labored breaths warm against my ear.

“Sorry for disrupting your breakfast rush,” I mumble into the pillow while turning my head to the side. My lungs can’t find oxygen with his dead weight blanketing me.

“No, you’re not.” He rolls off me and smacks my ass.

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