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His eyes are clear and warm. “Do you know what I was thinking just before I saw you?”

“Do I want to know?” I say with a half-frown.

He grins. “I was thinking that you were my home and my peace.”

“God, I sound positively provincial. Was I wearing an apron in this image?” I pretend to roll my eyes, but happiness fills me up.

“If I did picture that, it would be all you were wearing.” Pulling me back in, he wraps his arms around me until we’re pressed hip to hip. Close enough to feel the bulge growing behind his jeans. “I was also thinking that you make me hotter than anyone ever has.”

“Sweet talker.” But I kiss him. Because it’s impossible to be this close to him and not kiss him. Happiness swells within me. “Love you, Baylor.”

“Love you more, Jones.” He takes over the kiss, angling his head and delving in deeper, appreciating me with his mouth.

“Drew,” I say between hot, searching kisses.

“Mmm?” He suckles my upper lip before licking my bottom one.

“How did your talk go with your coach?” I have to ask. If I let him distract me, I’ll forget and it’s important.

Drew, however, stiffens and lets me go with a frown. “So you did know he was coming over.”

I’m not going to apologize about it. He needs someone to talk to besides me. Someone who might understand how it feels. Sympathetic I am, but I haven’t been there. I’m not a competitive athlete.

“Did you discuss therapy?”

“Jesus,” Drew snaps, running a hand through his hair. The golden-brown ends stick up at the top. He falls back against the counter and glares. “I don’t want to talk about this.”

Of course not. He never does. I open my mouth to tell him as much when the door opens.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Gray saunters in with a big bag of groceries under his arm. Oblivious, he sets it on the counter. “You,” he says to me, “forgot to pick me up.”

I cringe. “Oh, hell, Gray. I’m sorry. I got distracted.”

“Yeah, yeah, just leave the poor, defenseless tight end sitting on the curb while you get busy with the QB.” He grins though before giving me a kiss hello on the cheek.

Over his shoulder, Drew’s scowl deepens as he glares pointedly at my cheek. A flush of annoyance hits me. So I can overlook his slutty ex rubbing herself against him but he’s pissy about a kiss on the cheek? I glare back as Gray turns and gives Drew a pat on the shoulder.

“Hey, man. How’s it going?”

“Great.” Drew sounds like he’s grinding down a tooth.

If Gray notices, he doesn’t mention it. “Cool. But hold up, I’ve got to piss like you wouldn’t believe.”

Drew rolls his eyes as Gray runs off to the bathroom. “Why did you invite him here?”

“Hush.” I give his waist a quick pinch, and he yelps, skirting away from my reach. “He’s here because he’s your friend, you ass.”

“He’s just feeling sorry for me.”

“Well, who wouldn’t when you’ve decided to revert to being five?”

Drew gives me a warning look, which I ignore.

“He’s here because he cares. And since when have you not liked Gray’s company?”

“Since he started kissing my girl?” he offers with false pleasantness.

I gape at him. This isn’t Drew. He isn’t overly possessive or irrational. He doesn’t turn on friends.

“You’re going to regret that statement,” I tell him quietly. “You’re going to realize what a shit you’re being.”

His lips flatten into a line, but Gray’s already walking down the back hall. He eyes us but doesn’t miss a step. “Now, then,” he says as if nothing’s wrong. “Let’s get cooking.”

Drew is sullen as Gray cooks. He’s sullen when we sit down to dinner. And he’s sullen when we eat it.

My hand clenches around my napkin, the urge to chuck it at his head running high. All I can do is struggle to keep the strained conversation going with Gray.

“All right,” I tell Gray, “you make an admirable lasagna. It’s not as good as my mom’s, but it will do.”

“Don’t kill me with praise now.” Gray laughs then shakes his head. “I’m not trying to beat your Italian momma in a lasagna cook-off, Jones. That’s just crazy talk.” His brows waggle. “But I accept the compliment.”

Drew snorts. The sound sudden and harsh. “‘Jones’?” Jones is his nickname for me. But I hadn’t thought he’d be territorial. He levels a look at Gray, and my chest grows tight. “And here I thought you didn’t like my girl.”

I frown at Drew. So, being a dickweed is on the menu for tonight. Good to know.

Gray doesn’t flinch. “Naw, man,” he grins at me as he answers, “it’s all good. Anna and I worked out our issues over pie.”

He’s trying to reassure Drew, but even I know he’s said the wrong thing.

The high crest of Drew’s cheeks turn rusty. “Apparently so,” he says with a sneer.

Gray’s shoulders bunch as he goes still and stares at Drew. When he speaks, his voice is cold and flat. “What are you implying, man?”

“Gray, he doesn’t…” I begin, but Gray holds up a hand, not taking his eyes off of Drew. “Let him say what he wants to say, Anna.” Gray’s nostrils flare a bit. “So tell me, are you accusing me of trying to make a play for your girl?” He’s pissed, more than I’ve ever seen him, but behind it is intense hurt. I hurt for both of them.

The corded muscles along Drew’s forearms stand out as he clenches a fist. They stare each other down, a combined four hundred plus muscled-pounds of growing male aggression. Neither of them appears to be willing to break eye contact first. Then Drew moves, so fast, I flinch.

His fist slams down on the table, rattling the plates. “No,” he snaps, then takes a harsh breath before shoving back from the table. “No, all right?” His movements are not with his usual grace when he rises, bumping his leg on the chair. “I’m just f**king tired of you two sneaking around trying to fix me.”

Sneaking around? I almost shout the words, I’m so irate, but I’m not going to fight with him in front of Gray.

Gray snorts. “We’re trying to help you.”

“Well, don’t.”

“Tough shit, Baylor. That’s what friends do.”

Drew’s jaw clenches. “There’s nothing wrong with me. Or am I expected to waltz around shooting daisies out my ass all the time?”

“I don’t care what you shoot out of your ass,” Gray says, “just as long as you aren’t accusing me of betraying my best friend.”

Drew flinches, his mouth pinching. But he doesn’t apologize. He walks away, his stride determined, awkward, and angry. “I’m going to bed,” he says, not looking back.

Gray stands. “I’ll go.”

“Don’t bother. Do whatever you want.” Drew pauses at the door to our room. He doesn’t turn but his fist curls on the doorframe. “Thanks for dinner.” The words are curt and clearly torn from him out of force of habit, and then he’s shutting the door behind him with a dull thud.

My shoulders sag. “I’m sorry, Gray.”

He shakes his head, his blue eyes still full of hurt and anger. “I expected it. Damn if he hasn’t been alluding to it for a while.”

“He doesn’t mean it, you know.” I’m not sure if he does or not. I do know that, were Drew his old self, he’d never have picked a fight with Gray.

Gray shakes his head. “He’s not jealous of us.” His voice is low, as if he doesn’t want Drew to hear. “He’s jealous of me, which just plain sucks.”

I frown, and he sighs.

“He’s injured, Anna. And I’m not. Simple as that.” Gray rolls his shoulders and heads for the door. “Get him to talk to that therapist. I don’t blame him for avoiding it,” his eyes crease with tired humor, “but he’s got one too many daisies stuck in his ass.”

ANNA DOESN’T COME to bed when Gray leaves. I’m not surprised. I f**ked up. Worse, I knew I was doing it every step of the way. It was as if the rational Drew was locked up tight within my mind while ass**le Drew took over.

Lying in bed, I stare up at the ceiling and curse myself for being an idiot. Again. It’s almost pitch black in here because Anna insists on closing both the blinds and the curtains. Apparently she likes to sleep in darkness so complete it’s like we’ve crawled up into a womb.

Which is fine by me at the moment. A sensory oblivion would be nice.

A slab of grey moonlight cuts across the bed as Anna opens the door. She must have killer night vision or be part vampire because she doesn’t turn on a light as she pads through the room and into the bathroom.

My heart pounds loud in my ears as I listen to the running water of the sink and wait for her to return. Coach’s suggestion swirls around in my head. Therapy? I’m only injured, not mental. Yeah, I tend to over-analyze things, but I didn’t exactly love going to counseling before.

“Tell me about your parents, Drew.”

“They’re dead, doc. What else is there to know?”

“How does that make you feel?”

Like I’m free falling from the darkness of space.

How do I feel now? Like I’m free falling from the darkness of space.

Somehow my fingers end up clutching the sheets. I force myself to let go, and calm the hell down. It’s just a fricking broken leg. It will heal. I’ll get back in form.

On the next breath I’m on the field, the scent of grass, chalk, and my own sweat filling my nose. I hear the defensive end’s footsteps, feel them reverberating through the ground as he comes upon me. My stomach clenches, acid rising in my mouth along with the soul-deep terror of knowing that this sack is going to be catastrophic. Then the lightning hot pain and the sound of my bone snapping like hard wood. Stomach turning pain.

That snap, that sick sound echoes in my ears even as I take another sharp breath. Then Anna is there, climbing into bed, the mattress barely dipping under her slight weight.

For the first time, I regret buying a king size bed. She might as well be in Siberia, hugging the edge of her side, while I’m laid out on my back like a slab of beef on mine.

Because I’ve been in the dark longer than she has, I can see the shadowy shape of her shoulders, hunched over and drawn away from me. Her curls spill across the pillow in a dark, rambling mass.

A lump fills my throat. “I’m sorry.”

My words hang loud and uncomfortable over us.

Bed sheets rustle as she turns, and then she’s next to me, her warm hand smoothing over my lower belly. I love the way she touches me, the way she finds the exact spots that are most sensitive. I slide my arm under her neck and draw her closer, comforted when she lays her head on my shoulder. The curve of her luscious ass fills my palm. I give it a light squeeze.

“I’ll apologize to Gray tomorrow.” Which won’t be easy, because we almost never fight, and I was a colossal dick.

Anna’s br**sts press against my side as she sighs. She’s wearing one of those thin nightshirts she favors, which does nothing to block the warmth of her body, and I struggle to ignore that as her fingertips trace a circle under my navel.

“We are, all of us, f**ked up in some way,” she says. “The only difference is a matter of how deep our crazy goes and how we handle our shit. Frankly, I think the crazy comes and goes in cycles.”

I make a sound, somewhere between a laugh and a snort. “It must be my time of the month, then.”

“Mmm…” Anna strokes me again. “I shouldn’t have invited Gray here without asking you. I’m sorry.”

I can’t hold back. In one move, I roll over onto her, and her thighs part instantly, cradling my h*ps as I brace my forearms on either side of her so I won’t crush her chest. Her eyes gleam in the dark, her hair a wild halo around her pale face.

“Your leg,” she protests against my seeking mouth.

“Is fine.” I nuzzle her lips then dip my tongue into her sweet mouth. She tastes faintly of mint toothpaste, but underneath is pure, delicious Anna. Kissing her plump, pouty mouth makes my head light. It spins when my erection rubs over a tickle of curls and slick desire. That she gets wet for me as easily as I grow hard for her is a high I’ll never get used to.

Gently I rock against her, sliding over the place where I long to be inside. My hands hitch up her shirt and stroke her silky skin. Her curves are soft and warm and giving beneath the hardness of my body. “Anna.” I kiss one corner of her mouth, then the other one. “I don’t deserve you.”

She clasps my cheeks, her thumbs brushing my jaw. “Probably not,” she says into another kiss. “I can be a pain in the ass.”

“Always with the jokes,” I whisper before I kiss her deeper and lift my h*ps enough for the head of my c**k to find her wet core. On a groan, I sink into her. So tight. So perfect.

A shivering heat licks down my spine. I go easy, making love to her with an adoration that has me trembling, sweating. Her hands caress my back, my ass, a gentle exploration as she makes little noises that sends lust burning through my veins. It is perfect. I feast on her soft mouth and slowly pump in and out of her welcoming body. Here and now, I am whole. Healed. If only it could last forever.

But nothing does. And it soon becomes apparent that although Anna’s responding to my touch, she isn’t into it the way she normally is. I start to feel the tension in her, the way she holds back. It reminds me of those early days when I’d try to move in for a kiss, and she’d evade me. My insides go cold and heavy, and I lift my head.