Shepard: Do you…like-like me?

Denver: See above.

Shepard: But also yes, right?

Denver: *grumbles* yes

Shepard: Ha. Knew it.

Twenty-Nine

Denver

“Anemone.”

I reach for the flowers Shep’s holding out for me and bring them to my nose.

“They don’t have a scent,” he tells me.

“I noticed. That’s…odd. Thank you for my non-smelling flowers.” I pull the front door open wider. “Come on in. I’m almost ready.”

He doesn’t budge.

“Don’t you want to know?”

“Know what?”

“What they mean?”

“Ah,” I say. “Yes. Tell me.”

A wolfish grin stretches across his face as he leans down close to me, his lips hovering dangerously close to mine. I can feel his breath tickling my senses and I want to press my mouth to his so badly, which is kind of sad because it’s only been two days since I last saw him.

“Tell me,” I say again.

“The wait is all part of the fun.”

I know exactly what he’s trying to do: get me all hot and bothered and then leave me hanging and waiting all through our date.

Not tonight.

“It’s anticipation, isn’t it?”

His lips quirk up in the corners. “Maybe.”

I lift onto my toes, bringing myself closer to him but still not letting our lips touch. His pupils widen, and I hear the hitch in his breath.

Shep wants this kiss just as badly as I do, but I’m determined to best him at his own game, so no kiss for him.

I brush my mouth against his, so soft and quick I know he’ll be certain he’s imagined it.

“Shep?”

He grunts in response.

“Two can play that game.” I step back, leaving him standing in the doorway.

“Goddammit,” he mutters before he finally steps inside and closes my door, shaking his head at my antics.

I smile, making my way into the kitchen to get my new bouquet of flowers in some water.

“Is that what you’re wearing for our date?”

Glancing down at my outfit, I begin to worry. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing, surprisingly. You look normal. And sexy.”

“Ass.” I flip him the bird and dump the old flowers from him into the trash. “It’s jeans and a t-shirt—you can’t mess those up.”

“To be fair, I think that’s called a blouse, not a t-shirt.”

“Technically, it’s a called a mind-your-own-fucking-business.”

“They must have a difficult time marketing those.” He smirks.

“Or a swimsuit coverup. Same thing.”

“You’re wearing swimwear on our date? In October?”

I lift a shoulder and fill the vase I’m holding with water. “What? It’s my get lucky shirt.”

“You’re telling me you wear this for others?”

“I have, yes.”

“Does it work?”

“Like a charm.”

“And is that what you’re trying to do tonight? Get lucky?”

“Obviously.” I fluff the flowers, arranging them so they look cute and full. “I thought you knew I only keep you around for orgasms.”

“Damn. Here I thought it was my charm and good looks.”

“I mean, you’re cute and all, but that charm? That’s not getting you very far.”

“Words hurt, you know.”

“Not when they’re true.” I wink at him then make my way down the hall to my bedroom to grab my things.

“Real shit ain’t funny!” he calls, but I hear the laughter in his voice anyway.

I work on putting the finishing touches on my hair, coating it with another layer of hairspray and checking to make sure my makeup is on point.

It’s weird how having Shep in my apartment feels so normal now, especially when a month ago he wasn’t even on my radar.

Well, that’s a lie. He’s always been on my radar. I had just learned to ignore the blipping coming from him.

I can’t anymore, though. It’s not possible, not after everything these last few weeks.

On Sunday when he chased me inside, I felt like the happiest girl in the world, like I used to feel when I’d sneak my cell phone into my closet at night and text with him. My heart would beat in my chest with anticipation as I waited for him to text me back, relishing the thrill that would run through my veins when I’d hear someone on the stairs.

The forbidden aspect of texting with Shep might have been what started our entire relationship, but it was him who kept it going. He captivated me with his words and wit, and I knew almost right away I’d found someone special.

I had no idea he’d break my heart, but I knew no matter what, it would beat for him.

Young love isn’t always right, but when it is, it’s the rightest kind of right there is…and if my heart is telling me one thing, it’s that Shep and me? We’re right, and I’m ready to fight for it.

“We should just stay in tonight!” he yells from the living room. “That way I can ravish you on the couch.”

“Not a chance!” I snatch my bag off my bed and make my way back down the hall. I stand in front of the TV, holding it up. “I already have my movie purse packed.”

His brows shoot up. “What do you have in there?”

“Nothing yet. We’re hitting the dollar store for some candy. Scoot. We have a show to catch.”

“You do know I signed a massive contract with the MLB, right? Meaning I do have some money in my bank account?”

“Sure, but where’s the thrill in buying candy?”

“I thought the movie was supposed to be the thrill, not actually getting into the theater.”

“Move your ass, Shep.” I put my hand out for him to grab. “You’re wasting valuable candy-choosing time.”

“It’s weird,” he says, putting his hand in mine and letting me do all the work to pull him up. “I’ve known you for a long time now, yet I’m still learning things about you.”

“I like turtles.”

“What?”

“I like turtles—sea turtles. They’re the cutest little creatures ever. I still cut the plastic on my six-packs of soda because I can’t stand the thought of a little baby sea turtle getting stuck in one.”

He stares at me, unblinking.

“What?”

“I’m going to kiss you now.”

“What? Why? Because I—”

His mouth covers mine and I don’t hesitate to move my lips against his. He pushes his tongue against mine and we’re pulling at one another like we didn’t just do this two days ago.

I can’t get enough of him. He can’t get enough of me.

It’s scary and thrilling all at once.

The kiss is hard and hot and over way before I want it to be.

“God.” His forehead drops to mine. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of kissing you.”

“I don’t think I want you to.” I swallow the lump in my throat. “Why’d you kiss me?”

“Because you’re cute, Den. And because I really fucking wanted to.”

The smile stretches across my lips. “Good enough for me.”

“Are you eating the popcorn one by one?”

“How are you supposed to eat it?”

He shoves his fingers into the bucket then crams a handful into his mouth. “Vike vis.”

“So classy, Shep.”

He swallows and nods toward my purse. “Funny coming from you. I cannot believe they didn’t check your bag. It’s obvious you’re carrying half the candy aisle in there.”

“And…” I dig through my purse, rooting around until I find what I’m looking for. “Half the chip aisle.”

“Nobody brings chips to the movies.”

“I was hungry! You refused to feed me before the movie.”

He yanks the bag from my hands and pulls out a box, shaking it my way. “Chicken nuggets, Denver—you made me stop and get you chicken nuggets!”

“What?” I snatch said nuggets from his hand. “I was hungry! I told you to feed me before the movie.”

“I couldn’t get reservations until after.”

“It’s obvious I would have settled for the dollar menu, Shep.”

“I swear, for the next fifty years, I’m only ever taking you to places with dollar menus.”

I freeze, my chicken nugget hovering just inches from my mouth. Is he saying…

“Just shove it in your mouth, Den. I meant what I said.”

I laugh, devouring my last-minute dinner and chewing not only on it, but also on his words.

The next fifty years with Shep? While it sounds exhausting, it’s not entirely unappealing.

Almost makes it hard to believe we were sworn enemies just a few weeks ago.

Now I’m sitting next to him in a dark theater contemplating a real-life future with him.

Fate is weird.

“First of all,” I start once I swallow, “that’s what she said. Second, that…uh, that doesn’t sound half bad. I mean, I don’t know about fifty. That’s going to make me super old and I’d rather not have wrinkles, but I wouldn’t complain about spending some time with you.”

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