Wearing headphones, she’s completely absorbed in whatever’s on the screen in front of her, so she doesn’t hear us approach.

Eric waves a hand across the screen and she nearly jumps out of her seat at the unexpected interruption.

“Dammit, E!” she shouts, hitting the space bar and pulling her earbuds out. She glares up at him with annoyance. “It’s a good thing I’m wearing a panty liner—I just peed a little bit!”

He chuckles. “Sorry, but you have a guest.”

Finally, she spots me standing behind him, and her face pales.

I can’t help but serve her my famous grin. “Morning, Den.”

Groaning, she drops her head into her hands and mutters, “Eff you, universe. Eff you.”

She takes another moment to compose herself before looking back up and smiling sweetly—it’s false sweetness, by the way—at Eric.

“Thank you for bringing him over here. I’ll take it from here.”

He turns to me and sticks his hand out. “It was great meeting you, Mr. Clark. I’m a huge fan of your baseball pants.”

“Eric!” Denny admonishes.

I burst into laughter and shake his hand.

“Thank you for the compliment. It was great meeting you. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you a lot in the upcoming weeks.”

His perfectly groomed brows shoot into his hairline as he looks between me and Denny.

“And why’s that, Mr. Clark?”

“Didn’t you hear? Denny and I are a thing now. We’re—”

“You ass!”

Denny launches out of her chair, clambering around her desk—I’m certain she hits her hip on the corner—and covering my mouth with her hand.

“Not. Another. Word,” she instructs through clenched teeth.

I laugh against her palm.

She gives Eric another falsely sweet smile. “Thanks, Eric. So much.” Her words drip with sarcasm. “I’ll let you know if we need anything else.”

The receptionist shakes his head and laughs, heading back to his station, probably not wanting to be witness to Denver maiming me.

I can’t blame him. For someone so tiny, she sure can pack a punch.

Denny returns her attention to me, hand still covering my mouth, eyes ablaze.

“I will murder you in your sleep, Shepard Clark. I don’t give a shit if you’re some hotshot baseball player or not.”

I lift a brow in response.

“Don’t test me. Tell me you’re not going to test me.”

I dart my eyes down to her hand.

“I don’t trust you. Shake your head up and down if you promise not to test me.”

I do.

“Good. Now—”

Before she can finish her sentence, I dart my tongue out and lick her palm, laughing as she wrenches it away in disgust. She groans and wipes her hand against her jeans.

“I am so going to get fired for murder.”

“Just fired? Not jail time?”

“If it goes to trial, I’ll just explain how obnoxious you are. I’m certain I’ll be able to sway several jurors in my favor.”

“Not if the jury is mostly women.”

“Those poor, delusional women.” She wipes her hand on her jeans again like she can’t get rid of the feel of my tongue against her skin. “Why are you here, Shep?”

“Dress shopping.”

“Excuse me?”

“For tomorrow. Our date.” I sigh. “Don’t act like you forgot. I know you’ve been counting down the hours.” I glance at the watch on my wrist. “We’re down to thirty-three now, in case you were wondering.”

“I’m not going shopping with you.”

“Oh, but you are. I need to make sure you don’t embarrass me with your…eccentric outfit choices.”

“First of all…” She holds her finger up in my face.

I bite at her.

She grimaces in poorly disguised disgust. “Can you not keep your mouth to yourself?”

“I—”

Denny holds her hand up. “You know what, don’t tell me. Anyway, how dare you judge my fashion sense! It’s…it’s…”

“Awkward? Confusing? Basically nonexistent?”

“No!”

“No offense, Den, but I ran into you last week while you were wearing brightly colored yoga pants, a sweater that was about four times too big, and no bra.” I lean down. “And by the way, I was so happy to see that your nipples were enjoying my eyes on them.”

A surprised gasp escapes from her lips then her breaths grow labored. She’s rattled. She likes that my eyes were on her.

I liked it too.

Collecting herself, she crosses her arms over her chest like she’s protecting it from my prying eyes, which is pointless because she’s unfortunately wearing a bra today. I already checked.

“It was the middle of the night!” she reasons—or attempts to.

“All I’m hearing are excuses. Besides, us shopping together means your dress and my tie will match.”

“I could always text you a picture.”

“You still have my number?”

Her attention falls to the floor as she stammers through an uncertain, “N-N-No.”

I can’t tell if she’s stammering because she’s lying or because she’s ashamed she deleted my number.

I have never wanted somebody to be lying so badly in my entire life.

“I still have yours.”

Her bewildered gaze finds mine, searching to see if I’m being honest.

I am.

I haven’t used it in…well, years, but I have it. I still have all our texts too.

Technology is kind of amazing in that way. Nowadays, you can save texts from years past, hold on to the memories of before—you know, before you turned your own life into shit with your insecurities.

There were moments when I wanted to delete her from my phone, from my mind—because of my own shame, nothing to do with her—but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Erasing her wouldn’t erase my mistakes, no matter how hard I tried to make that happen.

“I have all our texts too,” I confess, still holding her stare.

Her pupils grow, and I swear I’ve melted the ice around her heart by at least an inch.

She licks at her lips, her eyes dropping to my chest as she says, “I’ll go shopping with you, Shep.”

Eight

Denver

I should have insisted on taking my own car.

As it turns out, when it comes to Shepard Clark, I’m still the biggest idiot around.

“What are we doing here? I can’t afford this store.” He pulls his steel gray truck into the parking lot of a high-end store about an hour south of where we live. “And on top of that, you never said we were going so far away. I have a job to do, you know. I didn’t even tell anyone I’d be gone so long.”

“You really think your boss will be mad if you’re out shopping with me?”

“You say that like you’re someone special.”

He side-eyes me with a shit-eating grin. “You know I am.”

“They make medicine for that, you know.”

“For what?”

“Your constipation. Being so fucking full of shit all the time has to start hurting after a while.”

His boisterous laugh echoes as he pulls into a parking space. He slides his baseball cap off and tosses it onto the dash, running a hand through his messy hair. “Get your ass inside, Andrews.”

We climb out of the truck and trudge into the store I cannot even remotely afford to shop in.

“Welcome to Landry’s,” says the saleswoman who opens the door for us. “What brings you in today?”

Shep hitches his thumb back toward me. “Miracles. We need to make miracles happen.”

I sigh. “Are you going to annoy me forever?”

He spins around, smirking. “Quit pretending like you hate it—and me.”

“No.”

“You didn’t even look!”

“Because I don’t have to. It’s not the right color.”

I stand before him in a pale yellow dress that I think looks stunning.

He doesn’t. Again.

Why is he always so judgy about dresses?

I groan. “You have shot down literally every single dress I’ve tried on, which has been like fifteen. How much longer are we going to have to do this?”

He sits there with one leg resting on the other, a bored expression plastered on his face as he scrolls aimlessly through his phone.

His eyes, though—they’re giving away his pleasure.

He’s enjoying every single second of this torment.

Bastard.

“I’ve told you ten times: try this stack on and we’ll be good to go.”

“I am not letting you pick my dress for me. It’s bad enough I’m letting you pay for it.”

“You’re seriously still upset I’m buying you thousands of dollars’ worth of very fancy dresses that you get to keep forever?”

“Yes,” I say stubbornly.

“You can barely say that with a straight face.” He points to the mound of fabric beside him. “Try them and we can leave.”

“And if I hate them? Then what?”

He sighs. “Then we can still leave.”

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