She steps in a puddle then almost drops back into another one.

I grab her hand, stopping her before she can get her other shoe wet.

“What?” She peers down at our joined hands then back up at me. “Are you trying to hold my hand?”

“Don’t be gross, Den. No. I’m trying to save you from stepping in yet another puddle.” I tug her closer to me. “Come here.”

I face away from her and bend my knees.

She just stands there.

Glancing over my shoulder, I roll my eyes. “Well, hop the fuck up.”

“What? I am not riding you into the store.”

I stand to my full height, turning toward her. “You might not ride me right now, Denny, but you will be riding me later.”

She lifts her hand to smack at me and I grab it in midair, using the opportunity to drag her toward me and toss her over my shoulder fireman style.

“Dammit, Shep! Put me down!”

I bite her ass cheek. “Shush it.”

“Oh my god—did you just bite my ass?” She hits me.

“Are you punching my butt right now?

“Yes!” She hits my cheek again. “How is it so hard?”

“Squats, baby. Lots of fucking squats.” I do one right then, holding her like she weighs nothing—because she doesn’t.

The biggest thing on Denny is her mouth.

“Oh, wow. I’m so turned on right now,” she says sarcastically. “What is wrong with you? Put me down!”

I don’t.

I carry her through the parking lot, smiling at the few strangers giving us weird looks, and I don’t let her down until we reach the sidewalk.

She slides down my body, winded from yelling and beating me.

“I hate you.”

I lean down, tilting my head like I’m about to go in for a kiss, and watch as her breaths quicken.

She wants the kiss.

I do too.

Problem is, if I start kissing her now, I won’t be able to stop.

“Two things. One, you don’t look ridiculous. You look fucking stunning.”

Her pupils expand, and she darts her tongue out to lick at her lips.

“Two, what have I told you about lying, Den?” Forcing myself to back away before I fuse my mouth with hers, I step through the automatic doors and call over my shoulder, “You coming?”

She mutters something I swear sounds like, “I wish,” and follows me into the store.

We look like goons, walking around the grocery store in fancy clothes. It’s early enough for there to still be plenty of shoppers, and we’re garnering an abundance of stares.

I let her wander around, loading her arms with random snacks and, of course, plenty of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

When she finally announces she’s done, I pay for her haul and load the truck up.

We agree on a pizza—extra green olives for her—and head back to my place.

“Good evening, sir! Hello again, Miss Andrews.”

Denny waves to the old man then looks at me, surprised Jim knows her name.

“I told him you’d probably be here with me a lot.” I shrug. “Hey, Jim. How are the parents doing?”

“Fantastic, sir. Tiptop shape.”

“That’s good to hear. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.”

Jim bids us good night as the elevator doors close.

“His parents are still alive? He’s so old,” Denny remarks once we’re alone.

“Not his parents, Steve’s. He’s who I bought Steve from.”

“No way!”

“Yep.” I press the button for my floor. “He gave me an amazing deal on him too. Turns out pugs are expensive as shit.”

“I know. Why do you think I tried to get you to buy me one?” She winks as the elevator comes to a stop

We exit, and I lead her down the hall.

“Steve!”

Denny drops to her knees the moment I open the door, spreading her arms wide like she’s waiting for my pug to come skidding around the corner at any moment.

He won’t. I’ve crated him this time, since I discovered he peed in my shoes last time.

I stare down at her like she’s lost her goddamn mind.

“You do realize he’s in his crate, right? And that you’re kneeling down on my floor in a thousand-dollar dress?”

She juts her bottom lip out, and I’ll be damned if her plump mouth doesn’t make my cock jump.

I want to see it wrapped around me. Bad.

Firmly, I grab her chin, tilting her face up to me.

Her breathing kicks into overdrive, her chest rising and falling with eagerness.

“The only time you should be on your knees in one of these dresses is for me, Denver.”

I leave her sitting there, jaw slack and wanting more.

Soon, Denny. Soon.

Seventeen

Denver

“Oh god,” I moan loudly. “I don’t think I ever want to stop.” Another moan. “This is the best I’ve ever had.”

Shep’s head snaps my way. “Are you finished?”

“Almost.”

I wink and take the last bite of my pizza, chew, and then swallow. Dusting my hands off, I throw myself back on his lush dark gray couch, satisfied.

“God.” I pat my full stomach. “That was better than sex.”

“I don’t think you’re having the right kind of sex.”

“I don’t think you’re giving this pizza enough credit.”

He shakes his head, grabs another slice, and dips it into the cup of barbeque sauce he’s holding.

I curl my lip at the action. “I can’t believe you’re eating that. It’s disgusting.”

“Have you ever tried it before?”

“No, but it sounds disgusting.”

He shoves a slice in my face. “Try it.”

“If I try it and hate it, you owe me ten dollars.”

“And if you try it and love it, I owe you an orgasm.”

I sit forward, holding a hand up. “Wait—you’re telling me no matter what, I win?” I snatch the slice of pizza from his hand. “Give me that.”

I take a small bite, then another. Before I know it, I’ve annihilated yet another piece of pizza and eaten half his sauce.

Oops?

He sits, smug grin lining his stupid plump lips. “Told ya.”

I roll my eyes and push myself off the couch. “Whatever. I’m going to change into jammies.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t do that as soon as you walked in the door.”

“And eat cold pizza? No thanks.”

I brush past him and snatch my overstuffed tote bag off the floor then head back to his bedroom.

Staying the night at Shep’s is growing on me…and not just because of his ultra-comfy bed.

I like it here. It’s quiet—way quieter than my apartment building—and cozy. Though the apartment is mostly made up of shades of gray, it’s still inviting, pleasantly simple and modern.

Plus, there’s Steve, who I might be growing a little too attached to.

I push open the bedroom door and stop dead in my tracks.

“Shep!”

“What!” he hollers back.

“Get your ass in here.”

“Nah. I’m comfy.”

“Cap! Move that ass!”

I hear him sigh loudly, muttering as he shuffles down the hall.

“What?” he says when he’s standing next to me.

I point to the bed. “What the shit is this?”

Laughing, he says, “That, Denny, is a dog in a suitcase.”

“Whose suitcase is that? Yours?”

“No. That would be yours.” He walks farther into the room, scooping Steve from the open rectangle and depositing him on the floor. The pup does not look too happy about being moved from his spot. “He was sleeping on your flowers.”

“You got me flowers again?”

“I did.”

I approach the bed, bringing the crushed bouquet up to my nose and smelling it. I don’t recognize the blooms, or their scent. “What are they?”

“Amaryllis.”

Remembering that last week the flowers he got for me had a meaning, I ask, “And they mean?”

“Beauty.”

The single word lingers in the air, and a warmth trickles into my heart. It’s that same warmth that’s been working its way inside since Shep came back into my life. Slowly, every day we spend together, it’s spreading.

Oddly, I’m finding that I like it.

I drag my fingertips over the suitcase. “You got me this?”

“I mean, my dog did pee in your other one.”

“But I thought it was deserved because I was trying to kidnap him?”

“It was, but I still felt guilty. Besides, that other one was tragic looking. I couldn’t let you stuff another one of those expensive dresses into it. It was painful to watch.”

“They did barely fit…” I murmur, dragging the luggage closer. “Shep, this is really nice.”

“It’s a hard case with those idiot-proof wheels.”

“I did always want one of those.”

“Yeah? Good. You’re going to need it next weekend anyway.”

“Next weekend?” I ask warily. “What’s next weekend?”

“Another event.”

“Why would I need a suitcase for that?”

***

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