“Sports car. Definitely sports car. You have that I have a small dick and need to make myself feel better about it with horsepower sort of vibe.”

I grin. “While it’s oddly specific, I see what you mean. It’s the jock angle, right? Most jocks are like that.”

“What made you get a truck? It’s kind of…hot.”

“Well fucking well. Did you just call me hot, Denny?”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat, rearranging herself until she’s sitting up straighter. She shoves another mouthful of ice cream in then says, “No.”

“Huh? I couldn’t hear you through all your manners over there.” I snatch the container of deliciousness out of her hands. “Give me that. I didn’t say you could eat in here anyway.”

She reaches for it, but I pull it from her grasp.

“It was going to melt, you dick. Give it back!”

“Nope.” I pull the plastic spoon from the pint and lick it clean, not letting myself think too long about the fact that this is probably as close to kissing her as I’ll ever get. “Mine now.”

Denny groans, and I almost wish I hadn’t stolen her ice cream because I’m definitely missing her moans.

She crosses her arms over her chest, her eyes falling to slits as she glares at me. “You cannot eat and drive.”

I toss a wink at her. “Watch me.”

“I hate you.”

“You keep saying that, but the fact that you’re in my truck proves differently.”

She pulls on the locked door handle, testing to see if she can jump out, I’m sure. I mean, we are going slow enough for her to survive.

“It’s called desperation, Shep.”

“Bullshit. You could have easily called a cab or an Uber. It’s called convenience.”

“I’m sorry, you want me to call a car at this hour? And get murdered? Wow, I knew you hated me, but I didn’t know you hated me that much.”

I never hated you, I want to say.

I don’t.

“You tried to murder me with a box of tampons earlier. Fair is fair.”

“Oh my god. You can live without an eye, Shep.”

“Not if you’re a famous baseball player.”

“Oh, famous, huh?” She laughs. “Someone’s getting a little big for their britches.”

“You did just see my face on the cover of a magazine, right?”

“It was a local gossip trash-zine, and it was your mug shot. Are you really proud of that?”

There are a lot of things in my life I’m not proud of—what I did to Denny being one of them—but the thing that really hit home for me? Almost losing everything I’ve worked so fucking hard for because I couldn’t handle my emotions like a goddamn pre-teen.

After I nearly lost my career over my unresolved issues, I vowed to turn my shit around and get it together before I mess up so bad I can’t charm my way out of it, turning over a new leaf and all that other sappy look at the new me shit.

I shovel the ice cream into my mouth to avoid answering her, taking the biggest bite I can while keeping the truck on the road.

We’re quiet for a few miles, sitting in that same uncomfortable silence as before.

“What happened anyway, Shep?” she asks in a hushed tone.

It’s an easy story to tell, really. I was in a club up north hanging with some pals and we started bragging about our best college conquests. Are we immature pigs? Probably, but it was fun and innocent.

Until someone brought up Denny.

I saw fucking red.

All over my hands. All over the floor.

I beat the shit out of the guy and broke a few things in the process. Luckily, he didn’t press charges, but the club did for destruction of property.

My coach and PR team decided I needed some time off to “clean up my act”. With this and what happened with my brother and his girl my senior year of college—another stupid fucking mistake of mine—I'm on thin ice.

“It’s nothing,” I tell her eventually.

“Shepard…” It comes out as a plea, and I want to spill all my secrets to her right here.

I don’t.

“What are you doing? Why are you messing this up? It’s all you’ve ever dreamed about.”

I snort. “Messing it up—like I’m doing it on purpose or some shit.”

“Aren’t you?”

“No!”

She flinches as the word vibrates across the cab of the truck.

“No,” I repeat quietly. “I’m not. It’s just…I get…”

“Stupid?”

My lips twitch. “No. I get…emotional.”

Her hand flies to her mouth as her lips drop apart in false shock. “Why, are you telling me you, Shepard Clark, king of assholes, have…feelings?” She pokes at me. “You telling me there’s a heart in there somewhere?”

You know I have a fucking heart, Denny. You of all people know I do.

My skin burns from the touch, which is so fucking stupid considering it was just a poke, and I shift away from her as best I can before it’s painfully obvious that my cock is straining against my jeans, begging to be touched.

I toss her an easygoing grin, hoping she doesn’t look at my lap. “Under all the ice, sure.”

“Layers and layers…and layers of ice,” she quips. “So, you gonna tell me what really happened?”

“If I tell you my secret, will you tell me one of yours?” I bargain like old times.

“You don’t deserve my secrets anymore, Shep.” I glance over at her to see she’s staring distantly out the windshield. “We both know that.”

I don’t disagree with her, because she isn’t wrong.

I lost that privilege when I screwed up.

Add that to my very long list of mistakes.

“How’s Zach doing? Your Titanic parents?”

I smile at the thought of my mom and how happy she is with Jack, but that old familiar sting of missing my father hits me and it hurts so fucking bad.

“Mom and Jack are good. Zach and I…well, I’m not really talking to Zach right now.”

She laughs dryly. “Of course you’re not talking to your brother. What’d you do, Shep?”

Annoyance tickles at me. “Why do you assume I did something wrong? Why can’t it be his fault?”

“Because I know you better than that. You’re the king of screwing things up.”

“King of assholes, king of mistakes—no matter how you look at it, you’re still calling me the ruler, Den.”

“You’re obnoxious.”

“Yet here you are.”

“Desperation, Shep. Desper-fucking-ation.”

“Whatever you need to tell yourself, Denny.”

“You can pull in right here.”

“Huh.” I pull the truck up to the window of the security checkpoint. “I didn’t realize we lived so close to each other.”

Her eyes widen. “You live here now?”

“Yeah, while I’m…taking some time off.”

“Oh.”

I can’t tell if that’s a bad oh or a good one.

With Denny? Probably bad.

She leans over the center console and waves to the old man sitting inside the hut.

His eyes narrow as he tries to get a look inside the cab.

“Roll your window down, dumbass,” she hisses.

I comply because I’m truly afraid she’s about to murder me.

“You know him?”

“Of course I do.” She rolls her eyes. “What? Think he’s going to attack me?”

“You never know these days…”

“I’m fairly certain he served in World War II. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

I glance over the old man again, noting the patriotic hat he’s sporting. Fine, he seems harmless.

I roll the window down.

“Hey, Captain.” Denny beams his way.

“Ah, Bucky, I didn’t realize that was you. I was about to hit my panic button. I don’t have these plates in the books.”

My breath hitches.

Captain America and Bucky.

She’s supposed to be my Bucky, not his.

It takes all the strength I can muster to not turn her way, to not let her know just how much it stings that she’d let someone else call her that.

“Just me, Cap. My tire went flat on my run to Smart Shoppe.”

The wrinkled old man narrows his eyes at me. “You didn’t hitch a ride with some stranger, did ya?”

“No. I know him.” I whip my head her way, surprised she’d admit that out loud. “Unfortunately,” she adds as I stare at her with a smirk.

Ah, there she is.

“Should I let him through?”

“You’d be my favorite man in my life if you did.”

“If he gives you any trouble, Bucky…”

“Hit him where it hurts. I know, Cap.”

The old man gives her a thumbs-up and me another glare before pressing the button to lift the gate.

“Cap and Bucky, huh?” I say as casually as I can while pulling forward.

She purses her lips but doesn’t address my inquiry, instead directing me to the building she lives in. “Up ahead and to your left.”

Fine. You win this round, Denny.

I follow her directions until she tells me to stop.

***

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