He pulls back, sitting up and scrubbing a hand over his face. “You’re right. Our first time can’t be in the back of a truck.”

“You say that like I was going to sleep with you.”

He leans over to press a hard kiss to my lips, and I let him, our tongues quickly becoming a tangled web.

Before it can escalate—well, any more than it already has—Shep pulls away, grinning like he knows something no one else does.

“What’d I say about games, Den?”

I shove him away and he laughs.

“So while you were plotting your whole evening so you could drive Shelia, did you think about the fact that I drove us to the gala? From your apartment?”

Shit. I totally forgot about that.

“Yes,” I lie. “I was going to Uber from your place to mine.”

“You were going to call a car at this hour? And what—get murdered?”

He throws my words from last week back at me with a grin.

Can’t believe I just kissed this asshole.

Actually, yes, I totally can.

He’s hot and I’m horny. Anything will do right about now, even Shep…especially Shep.

Oh my god, shut up, Denny!

“I’m using this exact moment as justification during my murder trial.”

“That sounded a lot like, ‘You’re right, Shep, that’s just insane. Can I please stay the night? I promise not to molest you at two AM…or maybe I don’t.’”

“Huh. That sounded nothing like that, especially the last part.”

“Our lines are definitely getting crossed then,” he says seriously.

“I’m not going home with you, Shep.”

“What if I promise not to get frisky with you at two AM?”

“Or three…or four…or five, for that matter.”

“Well, shit.” He sighs. “There goes my whole plan for the night.”

“Creep.”

“You love it.” He pokes my cheek. “But, seriously, Den, stay the night. We can sleep in separate bedrooms. It won’t be weird at all. It’s late, and by the time we get back, it’ll be after midnight. I’m sure you’re tired. Stay.”

He’s right. I am tired. Sure, he claims we don’t live too far from each other and I probably wouldn’t get murdered on the ride home, but I don’t want to risk it.

There’s just the unpleasant matter of staying in Shep’s domain for an entire night.

That part might be tricky.

“We’re friends, right? This is something friends would do.”

“Would friends also make out in the back of a truck like horny teenagers?”

“Totally.” No hesitation from him.

“Shep…”

“Just say yes,” he insists.

I want to say no. I should say no. It’s on the tip of my tongue…

“Yes.”

I’m going to regret this in the morning, I know it already.

“You coming?”

I glance up at the looming building, unsure I want to walk inside.

When Shep said we live close to one another, he wasn’t kidding.

He just forgot to mention that while I live in the nice part of town, he lives in the fancy as fuck part.

“I’m coming.”

“Oh, you will be.”

He chuckles then grunts when I whack him with my patched-up duffle bag.

“Good lord.” He rubs at his shoulder. “What do you have in that raggedy-ass thing I’m pretty certain once belonged to a homeless person?”

“It did not!” I look down at my bag, which has seen better days. “It’s just well loved.”

“That’s one way of putting it.” He snatches it from my hands and leads us into the building, nodding at the security guard in the front lobby. “Evening, Jim.”

“Mr. Clark, you’re back late. Lookin’ mighty sharp too. A date?”

“Gala.”

“Oh goodness. Those things are always so stuffy.”

“We raised a hundred thousand for charity, so it wasn’t all bad.”

“We did?” I say, surprised.

Shep ducks his head, refusing to meet my eyes. “It’ll go to a baseball camp for kids with diabetes.” He waves a hand. “It’s no big deal. We donate all the time.”

“We?”

He nods shyly, which is weird because shy isn’t a word I’d use to describe Shep. “Me and a couple of other guys. I don’t usually attend the events, but I always donate to them.”

“I…I didn’t know that.”

He shrugs. “You didn’t ask. Now move it. I have things to do.”

“What in the world could you possibly have to do at almost midnight thirty?”

“Take care of Steve.”

“Who’s Steve? A neighbor?”

He guides me inside the elevator, ignoring my questions. “Good night, Jim.”

“See ya later, Mr. Clark.”

The elevator doors close, and the fact that we’re alone suddenly hits me.

Panic begins to claw at my throat.

I’m going to Shep’s apartment. I’m staying the night with him—willingly.

Am I insane?

The doors open and we step out of the elevator, turning left, not stopping until we reach the end of the hall.

I can’t help but smile when I see the number on the door.

“23?”

He smirks, pushing the key into the lock. “I asked for it special.”

It’s been his jersey number for years. He used to say it was his lucky number because everything good in his life happened on the 23rd.

He was born on the 23rd.

His parents were married on the 23rd.

Rose met Jack on the 23rd.

He was 23 when he was drafted to the MLB.

He texted me on the 23rd.

23 is his version of fate.

“Take your shoes off, please.”

He disappears down the hall as I walk into the entryway, surprised Shep is one of those no shoes in the house kind of people, and toe off my slip-ons.

His apartment is just as I pictured it. Dark gray hardwood floors cover the majority of the space, nicely contrasted with light gray paint on the walls. The furniture is all black, sleek, and modern.

It’s clean, welcoming.

There’s a scratching along the floors, a skittering that can only belong to one thing.

“Steve!” Shep shouts just as the puppy comes barreling around the corner, sliding right on top of my feet.

“You have a pug!” I stare down at the smiling dog, laughing as his tongue flops out of his mouth. “I’ve always wanted a pug!”

Shep already knows this.

Am I the reason he got one?

“Bucky, meet Steve Rogers Clark.”

My eyes snap to Shep. “You named your dog Steve?”

He lifts a shoulder. “What? A guy can’t name his dog after America’s first Avenger?”

“Uh huh,” I say, unconvinced that’s why he did it. “Can I hold him?”

“Best I take him out to the balcony real quick so he can pee. I have one of those fake grass pads out there to train him.” Shep scoops the puppy up. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back.”

He carries the pup outside, leaving me standing there. I notice then he’s taken my bag somewhere, so I go in search, beyond ready to head to bed.

There are only three doors off the hallway, so I try the first one—bathroom.

I try the second—guest room, but no bag in sight.

Which means…

No. No, he did not.

I push open the door, and yes, just as I expected, Shep has put my bag on his bed—his very big bed, I might add. Other than the small tables on either side and the all-leather headboard, it’s the only thing in the room.

Like hell I’m staying in here with him.

Although…it is very inviting.

I walk farther into the room, stepping up to the bed and pushing down on the mattress.

Oh fuck.

It feels heavenly.

Without thinking, I flop down beside my bag, sinking into the comforter and never wanting to leave.

“I’m moving in.”

“I mean, if you really want to, you can, but you’re gonna have to chip in for your portion of the rent. I accept sex, sex, and lots of fucking sex as payment.”

I groan, pushing myself up to my elbows to find Shep standing in the doorway, holding Steve, and watching me with an amused smile.

Long gone is his suit jacket, and he stands there in a crisp white shirt, sleeves rolled up to elbows.

He looks lickable.

I hate that I think he looks lickable, but Shep and no clothes is all I can think about since he kissed me.

Shep kissed me. And I let him do it.

What was I thinking? I can’t let him kiss me.

But…it wouldn’t feel so right if it was something so wrong…right?

“Comfortable, Den?”

“I love your bed.”

“I do too, but since I’m still feeling really goddamn charitable, I’ll let you take the bed and I’ll take the guest room.”

“Deal.”

His brows lift. “No arguments? That’s a new one from you.”

“I only have one condition.”

He chuckles. “Of course you do. Name it.”

“Steve stays with me.”

“You’re stealing my pug from me? Who am I going to snuggle with?”

***

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