I chuckle and glance over to her, enjoying the way her lips twitch, like she’s made herself laugh with her own sarcasm.

It’s typical Denny: fun, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She knows exactly who she is.

And I’m a goddamn fool for giving her up.

“We still can be, Bucky.”

Her gaze shifts my way and I catch her green eyes for a moment before she turns away and whispers, “I know, Cap, and that’s what scares me.”

“What are you doing this Friday?”

“Did you just ask my dog what his plans are this Friday?”

“What? Noooo!” she drags out. “But also maybe.”

“You have some serious problems.” I grab Denver’s suitcase from the bed of the truck and drop it to the ground. “He’s not busy.”

“Oh. Huh.” She reaches into the truck to grab Steve, and I have the best view of her ass as she stretches across the cab. “Good to know.”

I press myself against her when she stands, and I’m certain she feels just what the view she gave me has done to me.

“Neither am I,” I say, my lips against her ear.

Her breaths come out stuttered. “Th-That’s nice, Shep.” She steps away. “Quit trying to bang me again.”

“Don’t you mean again again again again ag—?”

“How many times are you going to say again?”

“As many as it takes to catch up to how many times we…banged? Is that the right word?”

“Ugh,” Denny groans, pulling Steve free from his crate and turning to face me. “Shut it.”

I laugh and take a step away from her to keep myself from tossing her right back into my truck and keeping her forever.

“Why’d you wanna know what Steve is doing on Friday?”

“Gala, duh.”

“We’re off until after the wedding.”

“Really? You mean I don’t have to spend the next two weekends with you?”

“Have to? No. Want to?” I lean into her. “You want to spend time with me, especially after this weekend. Don’t play, Den.”

We didn’t talk about our past any more on the ride here. We left everything we had said hanging in the air between us, especially that part about us having a future together.

I want one—I’ve always wanted one—and it gives me so much hope that Denny does too.

“How about we call a truce? Try for that future we missed out on?”

“You mean the one you stole from us?”

“Den…” I rub a hand over the back of my neck, trying to relax the knots the tension of the past few hours helped form. “I’m trying here.”

“I know. That wasn’t fair. I mean, it totally was, but I shouldn’t have said it.” She kicks at invisible rocks on the ground to avoid my eyes. “Sorry,” she mumbles.

“Don’t apologize to me, not after everything.”

She lifts her head. “Truce?”

“Only if you agree to a date with me one night this week.”

She beams at me. “I’d like that.”

“What?” I raise a brow. “No pretending to hate me? No declaring you don’t want to be seen in public with me?”

“Nah. We called truce. Besides, if we’re going to the movies, it’ll be dark. The movies don’t count as public.” She winks then grabs her bag from my hand. “See ya later, Shep.”

“Denver?”

She quickens her pace but yells over her shoulder, “Yes?”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Can’t imagine a thing.”

“Are you seriously stealing my dog right now?”

Steve barks in her arms. She moves even faster, her suitcase bouncing off the uneven pavement behind her.

She sends me a worried glance. “Nope!”

“You trying to get me to come inside?”

“Not a chance.”

“Denver?”

“Maybe!”

I take off at a sprint, and catching her is easy. I curl my arm around her waist and pull her to me. She gasps out a laugh.

“Fine, fine. You caught me.”

“You’re the world’s slowest runner.”

“I’m holding a damn puppy and pulling my suitcase because someone didn’t carry it up to my apartment for me.”

“All you had to do was ask,” I whisper into her ear.

She drops her suitcase at our feet. “Fine. Shep, will you please carry my suitcase for me?”

“And?” I prompt.

She huffs in faux annoyance. “And please come inside?”

I grin at her. “I thought you’d never ask.”

We spend the rest of the day locked inside her apartment.

Twenty-Eight

Present day

Denver: HELP! She’s kidnapped me and won’t let me go.

Shepard: If I have to suffer through tux shopping with AJ then you have to suffer through dress shopping with Allie. Besides, aren’t girls supposed to love this kind of shit?

Denver: Stereotype much?

Denver: Actually, I love dress shopping. Just not with Allie. This is pure torture.

Denver: She is SO picky.

Shepard: I think she’s allowed to be picky about her wedding dress.

Denver: But she looks amazing in everything. She could wear a damn trash bag and still look amazing.

Denver: I know, I know. I’m just being bitchy.

Shepard: Everything okay?

Denver: Yes. I’m just tired.

Shepard: And whose fault is that?

Denver: Yours. Definitely yours.

Shepard: I beg to differ.

Shepard: “Oh, Shep! Keep doing that thing with your tongue!”

Shepard: “Yes, yes, YES! Right there, Shep!”

Shepard: “MORE, SHEP!”

Denver: OH MY GOD. ARE YOU FINISHED?!

Denver: And don’t you dare say ALMOST!

Shepard: Then this conversation is over.

Denver: THANK GOD.

Denver: Also…can you maybe do that thing with your tongue again tonight?

Shepard: You hussy.

Shepard: Tomorrow. After our movie date?

Denver: Or before. I mean, whatever floats your boat.

Shepard: Fuck. I wish I could kiss your dirty, sexy mouth right now.

Shepard: And your neck.

Shepard: Those tits too.

Shepard: Fuck it. I’ll kiss all of you. Even your feet.

Denver: See, I knew you were a freak.

Denver: Quit bothering me. I’m trying to dress shop!

Shepard: One more thing…

Denver: No. Go away.

Denver: Fine. What?

Shepard: Never mind. You ruined the moment.

Denver: Tell me.

Shepard: Nah.

Denver: Shep!

Denver: SHEPARD!

Denver: Ugh. I am going to murder you. It’s a good thing I look good in orange.

Shepard: Do you want to do dinner before the movie or after?

Denver: I thought I was dinner.

Shepard: You’re right. After sounds good.

Denver: I was kidding. Let’s go before. I had to skip lunch today so I’m certain I’ll be ravenous.

Denver: Okay, okay. You got me. I wasn’t really kidding, but I WILL need sustenance at some point.

Shepard: I am so lost right now.

Shepard: Dinner before or after?

Denver: YES. God, Shep. Just feed or eat me. WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

Shepard: I’m really starting to rethink this whole “we should try again” shit.

Denver: But are you really?

Shepard: Nah. I kind of like the chaos.

Denver: Good answer.

Shepard: Why’d you have to skip lunch?

Denver: I’m behind on my deadline on some articles about some sort of famous baseball star.

Shepard: Make sure you mention his dick length in there. It’s super important for all his adoring fans to know this information.

Denver: *solid four inches* NOTED.

Denver: Any other requests?

Shepard: Nah. I’m actually really excited to read it. And also a little nervous.

Denver: Why nervous?

Shepard: I know I’m not the world’s nicest person. I know I’ve been a sleaze ball. I know I hurt you. It’s hard to wrap my head around what you could possibly write about me.

Denver: You’re also not the sleaze ball you once were. Sure, you tried to pick a girl up in a grocery store a few weeks ago, but people change. You’re in a…well, I wouldn’t say relationship, but a committed “let’s see where this shit takes us” thing. (Which, by the way, is an exclusive thing. Keep those four inches to yourself and to me, thanks.) As for us…clean slate, remember?

Shepard: A few things coming your way…

Shepard: I am very impressed that we just had The Talk without actually having it. (And, by the way, we’re on the same page. Keep those beef curtains closed to anyone but me.)

Denver: OH MY GOD. NO. WHAT THE FUCK, SHEPARD?

Denver: DO NOT EVER CALL THEM BEEF CURTAINS AGAIN!

Shepard: Ham wallet?

Denver: WHY IS IT ALL MEAT?

Shepard: Taco shack?

Denver: Better…slightly.

Denver: God. I need to go scrub my eyes out.

Shepard: I’m not sorry.

Denver: Oh, you should be.

Denver: But in all seriousness, you don’t need to be worried about the article. I like the Shep I’m getting to know now.

Shepard: So you like me?

Denver: I tolerate you.

Shepard: You liiiiiiiiiiiiike me.

Denver: YOU ARE OKAY.

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