I shake myself from my stupor and fix my eyes on Allie, willing myself not to glance at Denny again.

“What are you doing here?”

I know what the fuck she’s doing here. I’m just biding my time, making this last as long as possible because apparently I love to torture myself.

She just stares at me, so I step aside, waving them in. “He’s in the back.”

I don’t miss the look Allie gives Denny, or the one Denny gives her before she tries to catch my eye.

I don’t let it happen because I know I’ll break if it does.

With a sigh, Denny grabs Allie’s outstretched hand and lets her best friend drag her through the mass of bodies.

I let them disappear into the crowd, watching her as she’s swallowed up by the crowd.

I need a moment. I need to think. I need to make sure.

No. No thinking. Just do it.

I march toward the back room, determined. The guys in the room eye her, and I want to punch every fucking single one of them.

Instead I lean against the doorframe, my arms crossed over my chest so my fists don’t snake out on their own.

“Who you here with, doll?”

Doll—ugh. Fucking pet names.

“I’m with—”

“She came with Allie,” I interrupt.

I don’t know why I say it, but I can’t take it back now, especially not since I can see the hurt in Denny’s eyes.

She doesn’t like that I didn’t say she’s here with me. In fact, she hates it.

Good. Maybe I can make her hate me too. That’ll make this easier.

“Yep.” She points a shaky finger at Allie. “I’m here with her—only her.”

Her words sting, but I don’t let it show.

I can’t. I have to walk away now. I don’t have a choice. It’s either break it off now or go down in flames, and I’ve never been one to play with fire.

“Since you’re free, you want to dance?”

She glances to me again.

I don’t back down.

“Sure. I’d love to,” she says, a cheery fake smile on her lips.

He pulls himself from the chair. “I’m Cade.”

She slides her hand into his extended one, and the contact makes me reel. It’s even worse when he pulls her toward him and she crashes against his chest.

He grins. “Just thought we’d get that out of the way before we go make sweet love on the dance floor.”

God fucking dammit.

She smirks up at him playfully, eating out of the palm of his hand. “Sweet love, huh? That’s where you’re going with this?”

Cade loves her mouth, which is complete fucking bullshit because that’s my mouth to love.

I have to turn away before I do something I’ll regret, like beat the shit out of my teammate for trying to steal my girl.

Someone slams into me, stumbling and spilling a beer on my shirt.

Great.

“Oh em gee! I am so sorry, Slug.” I try not to flinch at the nickname. “I didn’t see you there.”

Sure you didn’t.

“Whatever. Wanna dance?”

I don’t even glance at her or wait for her to answer, my eyes are too busy tracking Denver through the room.

My blood boils when Cade slips his arms around her waist. I do the same thing to the girl in my arms because if I don’t, I’m going to fucking lose it.

Denny’s gaze finds me again. Why does she have to keep looking over here?

I see it, even from across the room—I see the hate and the rage burning through her.

Good, Den. Good.

Cade nuzzles her neck. I mimic him. Everything he does to Denny, I do to the girl in my arms. She hates it, physically hates him touching her. I can see from here she wishes it were me.

She wants me like I want her, and I want her a whole hell of a lot.

I realize in that moment I have to follow through with this, because Denver Andrews could fucking break me.

She pushes free of Cade again, sending him a smile and then running from the room.

I waste no time chasing after her. I have to make sure I take this all the way.

I find her standing at the bottom of the stairs, and everything inside me screams that I should go to her and wrap her in my arms and take away all the pain.

But I don’t.

Instead I say, “You should leave.”

She spins around, mouth dropping open in surprise.

“L-Leave?” It comes out a strangled whisper. “What do you mean? I just came out here to breathe, not to leave.”

“I meant what I said.” She studies me hard, long enough to know I’m not joking but not long enough to know I’m lying, internally pleading for her to stay. “You should leave,” I repeat.

“Why?”

“Because I fucking said so.”

I cannot believe this is happening, can’t believe I’m doing this.

I was wrong. This was wrong.

It hurts. It fucking hurts and it wasn’t supposed to hurt. This was supposed to prevent the pain, not ignite it.

“Why are you doing this?” she asks quietly, barely holding back tears. “Did I do something wrong?”

I drop my gaze from hers, knowing I need to before her tears break me down. “We both knew this was coming.”

“Did w-we?” Her voice cracks, and I hate that it cracks. “Because I sure didn’t expect this. I came out here for you—for us…for dibs. We’ve talked about this for months. I most certainly did not expect this.”

My eyes fall closed for a moment, and a future where Denver leaves me flashes through my mind.

That pain is much worse than this pain.

“You did, Denver.”

The use of her full name startles her; I know by the way her breaths quicken.

“You knew I wasn’t cut out for commitment from the beginning,” I push on, and the longer I talk, the angrier she gets. “Whatever you built this up to in your head is your own fault. I can’t do this.” I flick my finger between us, driving the point home. “Whatever this was, it’s over.”

The fury blazes in her eyes.

Good. Be angry. Hate me, Den. Hate me like I hate me right now.

And she does. She hates me. I can see it.

Without another word, she turns on her heel and continues down the walkway.

“I mean it, Denver. This is over.”

I can’t tell if I’m trying to convince her or myself.

“I heard you loud and clear…Slug.”

My breath hitches, and I know she hears it.

She did it. She called me Slug.

I know in that moment. I know.

Cap and Bucky? We’re officially done.

And the pain is everything I didn’t want.

Twenty-Five

Shepard

“You got us locked in a closet because you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants!”

“I didn’t hear you complaining a few minutes ago when said dick was inside you. All I heard was lots of moaning and heavy breathing, maybe a few cries for ‘more’.”

She smacks at my chest and I laugh, causing her to strike at me again.

I don’t understand how she can be upset right now. What we just did? That was mind-blowing.

I should be committed to the crazy house because I have no fucking clue how I spent so many years not touching her.

“Murder, Shep! I will murder you!” Denny bangs on the door. “Help! I’m going to murder him, and I am way too cute for jail!”

“So dramatic.” I roll my eyes even though she can’t see me. “Let me see if Braxton is still here.”

I pull my phone out, scroll through the contacts, and tap his name just as the overhead light flicks to life.

“Goddamn, woman!” I shield my eyes. “That’s bright!”

“Well?”

“Well what, you impatient little shit? It’s still ringing.”

Denny huffs, crossing her arms over her chest and tapping her foot. I can’t help but laugh at her again. She looks so fucking cute when she’s upset, especially when she’s still rocking that post-orgasm glow. Her hair is a mess, her dress is wrinkled, and it’s obvious she’s been up to no good.

The line trills in my ear and I’m about to hang up when I finally hear Braxton’s voice fill the speaker.

“You already fucked it up, didn’t you?”

“First of all, fuck you. Second of all, no—well, not in the sense you’re thinking at least. Please tell me you’re still here.”

“Hell no. I bounced quick. I do have a life outside of philanthropic events, ya know. Why? What’s up?”

I groan. “Fuck. Well, see, what had happened was…”

His deep laugh fills the line. “Nothing good ever starts with those words.”

“I kind of sort of locked myself…and Denny…in a closet.”

He’s quiet…quiet enough that I think he’s hung up, so I check the line.

Nope, he’s still there.

“Braxton?”

“I’m sorry,” he says through laughter. “But did you two fuck at a charity gala?”

“I…” I try to come up with a lie, but nothing sounds right, so I settle for the truth. “Yes.”

“Oh shit.” More laughter. “You’re a mess, Clark, a real fuckin’ mess. If the coaches caught wind of this…”

“I know, I know. I’d be out on my ass, but it was a necessary risk to take.”

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