He shakes his head, trying hard not to laugh, because he knows I’m right.

He hops down from the truck bed and moves toward me, pushing himself between my legs. Cupping my face, he draws all my attention to him.

“Look, Den,” he says, his soft hazel eyes holding my own. There’s such sincerity in them that I can’t imagine ever looking away. “I’m sorry. I should have told you about what I did to Delia. That wasn’t cool of me to hide it. I should have been straightforward with you and honest about the mistakes of my past.”

“Anything else hiding in that closet of yours?”

“No. That was it. Clean slate from here on out.”

“Here on out, huh? You say that like we have a future.”

For the first time ever, Shep looks sheepish, and a blush creeps up his cheeks.

I lied before.

This is my favorite version of Shep—humble, vulnerable.

“I’d like us to, Den.” He whispers the words, so quietly I can barely him, but I do.

My heart skips another beat, or that final thin layer of protection around it shatters—I can’t tell which.

All I know is I’m ready.

To say yes. For a future. For us.

“I’d like us to, too.”

His face lights up. “Yeah?”

“Yes.”

He closes his eyes, resting his forehead on mine and letting out a relieved sigh. “I’m going to do so much better this time. I’m going to be worthy of you.”

“You already are worthy of me, Shep.” I put my hands on his face, holding him to me. “You already are.”

“I’m not, Den.” He shakes his head. “You know I’m not, but I’m going to change that. I love you.”

My lips curl into a smile at his words.

“Say that again.”

“I love you.”

“Are you sure?”

His lips capture mine in the softest kiss he’s ever given me.

I feel hopeful. I feel good. I feel like we’re going to make it this time.

He pulls away and I look up at him. He’s smiling down at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes, and I know whatever he’s about to say, it’s going to make me love him even more.

“Yes, Bucky, about 9% sure.”

Laughing, I say, “I’ll take those odds with you.”

“You know you’re stuck with me now, right?”

“I know, but I’m only in it for the pugs.”

“Until the end of the line?”

“The very end.”

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