Which is why I beelined to the bathroom after our tryst. I need time to breathe, a moment to myself to wrap my head around the fact that he’d said he never stopped loving me.

How is that possible when he hurt me so much? How is it possible that I still love him even through all that?

Is that what fate is? Loving someone even when you know you’re not supposed to? Knowing they have the power to destroy you yet still opening your heart to them?

If so, maybe Shep was right to fear fate. It’s scary as hell.

I finish cleaning up my makeup and smoothing down the flyaways that have escaped the intricate bun I have my hair tied up in. Once I decide I don’t completely look like I’ve been ravished, I make my way back to the main ballroom.

Sliding back into the crowd, I accept a glass of champagne from one of the waitstaff.

“When we get up to that room, your ass is mine.”

His warm hand slides his body against me, and I smirk against the glass I have raised to my lips.

“Wow, we’re already progressing to anal? You move fast, Shep.”

He shakes his head. “I never know what to expect from your mouth, Denny.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Good—most of the time.”

“When don’t you like it?”

“Well, when you tell everyone I have a four-inch dick, for instance.”

I try not to laugh. “You’re right—three was much more believable.”

“Dammit, Denny,” he mutters, pulling me close and laying a kiss on my cheek. “I’m keeping you this time.”

I turn into him, catching his hungry eyes with mine. “Are you?”

“If you’ll let me, Bucky.”

I take another sip of alcohol, needing the confidence.

“We’ll see, Cap. We’ll see.”

“What are you doing?” Shep asks as I drop to my knees when we enter the hotel room. He chuckles. “Steve is in his crate—and you’re the one who put him in there.”

“I’m not down here for Steve.”

His eyes darken. “Den…”

“Didn’t you say I could only be on my knees for you in one of these dresses?”

He swallows thickly and nods.

I’ve never been one for giving blow jobs. It always felt like work, not play. This, though, feels different.

It’s Shep, so I should expect nothing less.

I don’t look away from him as I work his buckle open, don’t blink when the sound of his zipper echoes off the walls, and refuse to look away even as I draw his slacks and boxers down his thighs.

I don’t dare close my eyes as I take him into my mouth for the first time.

His hiss of pleasure fills the room as I begin to suck him, and a pressure is already beginning to build between my legs.

“No,” he instructs with a strained voice as I begin to close my eyes. He wraps his hand in my hair, pulling until there’s just a bite of pain to keep me looking at him. “Don’t you fucking dare, Bucky.”

I don’t dare.

He moans when I take him deeper, and the moisture between my legs builds to an embarrassing level. I wish I’d thought ahead and pulled my dress up so I could at least rub my clit, but this isn’t about me. It’s about him, and I’m sure it won’t take much to cajole Shep into round three.

His breathing grows ragged and I can tell he’s already getting close.

“Fuck, this is so embarrassing. I’m about to come.”

I pull off him but continue stroking, giving him a lazy grin. “I can stop, if you want.”

“I swear, you’re trying to kill me.” He bites at his lip, pushing into my hand and stifling another groan of pleasure. “If you don’t keep sucking, I’m taking it out on your ass.”

“So much talk of ass play tonight.”

“Den?”

“Yes, Shep?”

“Suck.”

I take him into my mouth again, breathing through my nose as I take him deeper than I have before. His legs shake, and I hum with a thrill at his reaction.

“Fuckfuckfuck,” he mutters.

He pulls my hair tighter and the move nearly brings me to orgasm, all without him even touching me below the waist.

“Den, unless you want me to blow my load down your throat, move.”

I don’t move.

“Last chance,” he grits out.

I pull back but don’t let him go, working him until he empties himself in my mouth.

I release him, sitting back on my haunches, feeling satisfied as he collapses against the door, his breathing ragged and raw.

“Jesus, Den.”

“What did I say—”

“9%,” he huffs out on a strangled laugh. “I know.”

“Quit licking my feet, Shep.”

“Why would I lick your feet?”

“Um, because you’re a freak.”

“True, but I’m not that big of a freak.” He turns toward me, and I feel his breath on the back of my neck. “Two things: one, I’m too tired to lick your feet—you’ve worn me out with all the orgasms—and two, did you ever stop to think it might be Steve licking your feet?”

I don’t know how he had the energy to roll over just now. I couldn’t move even if I tried.

I didn’t have to wait long for Shep to return the orgasm favor. Once he regained his composure, he scooped me up off the floor and hauled me into a steaming shower, where he showed me that shower sex can be fun.

Then he showed me that sex on a bed is great too, and that’s where we’ve been ever since, too worn out to move.

“First, Steve knows I hate that. Second, are you telling me if you weren’t too tired then you would be licking my feet?”

Though I’m not facing him, I know he rolls his eyes. “Go to sleep, Den.”

“Snuggle me first.”

“I don’t snuggle.”

“You also said you don’t do commitment…or love…” I trail off.

He groans and wraps his arm around me, being the big spoon to my little.

“Can you tell me something?”

“Can you promise me you’ll go to sleep after I tell you?”

“Yes, and unlike you, I stick to my promises.” He pinches my ass with his free hand and I yelp, trying to wiggle away, but he holds me tighter. “There’s that ass play you’ve been promising all night.”

He shakes his head. “What do you want me to tell you, Bucky?”

“Was it something I did or said?”

I don’t have to elaborate. He knows exactly what I’m referring to.

They’re the same questions I asked him all those years ago, standing on that porch.

Did I do something to push him away? Did I say something to make him run?

“No, it wasn’t you.” He presses a kiss to my neck. “Zach and his fiancée broke up.”

“Now that I know he’s Delia’s Zach, I just cannot imagine him engaged to anyone else.”

“It didn’t last long, and it scared me. They were together for years before getting engaged. They were supposed to be that couple that made it through college. They didn’t, though. They failed, and I was terrified we would fail too.”

“You didn’t even give us a chance, Cap.”

“I know.” Another kiss. “But all these doubts started creeping in. What if I wasn’t good enough for you? What if I couldn’t make you happy? You were moving across the country for me—what if I didn’t give you everything you needed? What if I wanted baseball more than you? There was so much I didn’t have answers for.”

“That’s life, though. We don’t have answers for any of it.”

“Tell that to eighteen-year-old me, because I sure as shit always thought I had all the answers. I was the king of the fucking world.”

I laugh. “You still think you’re the king.”

I feel his smile against my neck. “Guilty, but I was wrong then, Den. I was wrong to project all my insecurities onto you. It’s something I’ve done time and time again. I’ve made that same mistake several times after…us, but I’m ready to own up to it. I’m ready to face it.”

I roll toward him, snuggling close and searching for his eyes in the dimly lit room. “What changed?”

Shep buries his face in the pillows. “Yurhunnawaf.”

“What?”

“Yurhunnawafatme.”

“English, Shepard—do you speak it?”

He turns to me, grinning. “Say what again. I dare you. I double dare you.”

I wrinkle my nose. “Um, what?”

“Oh god, you haven’t seen it.” He rolls away from me, pulling himself out of bed…naked. He moves around so fast that Steve falls off and darts under the desk, cowering in his bed. “Well”—he tosses his hands up in the air—“this was good while it lasted. I’ll be taking my dog and leaving now.”

“Don’t you dare touch Steve!” I shoot up to a sitting position, pointing at him. “I’ve seen Pulp Fiction. Now get your ass back in bed.”

“Oh, thank god,” he says as he exhales. He shakes his head, sliding back under the blankets. “I thought we were done for.”

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