Tristan breathed in while I breathed out.

I thought about kissing him.

“My hot water isn’t out,” he said softly.



I thought about kissing him again.

I looked up into his stormy eyes and saw a bit of life. My heartbeats quickened as I held on to him, not wanting to let go any time soon.

“I should go,” he said.

“You should go,” I replied.

I thought about kissing him some more.

“Unless you stayed,” I said.

“Unless I stayed,” he replied.

“My best friend told me I should use sex to help me move on from losing Steven.” I sighed against his lips. “But I’m not ready to forget. I’m not ready to move on. But I do want this.” I sighed, studying his embrace of me. “I want you to be here with me, because it helps me. It helps me remember what it felt like to be wanted. I just.” I lowered my head, almost embarrassed by my words. “I miss having someone to take care of me.”

Tristan stepped closer, lowered his voice, and brushed his lips against my ear. “I’ll help. I’ll help you hold onto him. I’ll help you remember. I’ll take care of you.”

“We’ll use each other to remember them?”

“Only if you want to.”

“This sounds like a terrible idea, in the best kind of way.”

“There’s still this giant part of me that misses Jamie every day. And holding you”—his tongue gently danced across my bottom lip—“helps me remember holding her.”

“Feeling your heartbeats”—I placed my hand against his chest—“reminds me of his heartbeats.”

“Running my fingers through your hair”—he tangled his hands through my blonde locks, making me gasp lightly—“helps me remember her.”

“Feeling your skin against my skin”—I slowly lifted his T-shirt—“reminds me of him.” My head tilted to the left, and I studied his facial structure. The sharp lines of his jaw, the tiny creases in the corners of his eyes. His breaths sawed in and out. Everyone in town was convinced that he ran so much because he was trying to run from his past, but that was far from the truth. He was trying to hold onto it daily. He hadn’t had any plans to become a true runner anytime soon. If he had been, his eyes wouldn’t have looked so pained. “Pretend with me for a little while,” I muttered before slowly brushing my lips across his. “Help me remember him tonight,” I whispered, a bit shy.

His hips pressed against mine, his eyes dilated. He placed his right hand behind my lower back, forcing me to thrust my body against his. I felt his hardness against my inner thigh and my body slowly began to grind against him. Yes. We moved to the closest wall. His left hand formed a fist and landed against the wall above my head. His brows drew closer and a deep, weighted sigh rolled through him. “We shouldn’t…”


This time my mouth parted, and I softly bit his bottom lip as my hand rolled against the fabric of his sweats. My thumb circled the tip of his hardness. Yes, yes. He emitted a low growl and tightened his grip on my back. I watched as his tongue slowly slid from his mouth and ran against my neck, making me shiver inside. Do that again.

His hand trailed up under my dress, his touch landing against my inner thigh, and when he rolled his fingers against my wet panties, my heartbeats soared. Yes, yes, yes…

I moaned as he pulled the fabric of my panties to the side and slid a finger inside me.

Our mouths crashed together and he whispered a name, but I wasn’t certain that it was mine; I whispered one back, not positive that it was his. He was taking me all in as he kissed me hard, his tongue exploring every inch of me. He slid another finger deep inside me as his thumb circled my clit. “God, you feel so good…” he growled, feeling my tightness, my wetness…feeling me.

My hand slid into his boxers, and I began to stroke him up and down, squeezing lightly and listening to his growls of appreciation.

“Perfect,” he stuttered, his eyes closed, his breaths growing shorter and shorter. “Fucking perfect.”

It was bad.

But so, so good.

As my hand worked faster, his fingers sped up. We both panted together, losing ourselves, finding ourselves, losing our loved ones, finding our loved ones. In the moment, I loved him, because it felt like loving Steven. In the moment I hated him, because it was nothing more than a lie. But I couldn’t stop touching him. I couldn’t stop needing him. I couldn’t stop wanting him.

He and I together was a terrible idea. We were both unstable, we were both shattered, and there was no getting around it. He was thunder, I was lightning, and we were seconds away from creating the perfect storm.

“Mama,” a small voice said behind me. I took a big leap away from Tristan’s body, his fingers falling from me. I smoothed out my dress, flustered. My eyes shot down the hallway toward Emma, who was holding Bubba in her hand, yawning.

“Hey, baby. What’s going on?” I asked, wiping my hand over my lips. I hurried to her side.

“I can’t sleep. Can you come lie with Bubba and me?”

“Of course. I’ll be right there, okay?”

She nodded and dragged her feet back to her bedroom. When I turned to Tristan, I saw the guilt in his eyes as he readjusted his pants.

“I should go,” he whispered.

I nodded. “You should go.”

Chapter Sixteen


We should’ve stopped that night. We should’ve realized how bad an idea it was for us to use each other to remember Steven and Jamie. We were our own ticking time bombs, and we were set to explode.