“You’ll be even sorrier on the couch tonight,” she said in return.

I couldn’t help but snicker at my grandparents’ dramatic conversation. Real love was funny, and I loved that my grandparents didn’t take their insults too seriously.

After stuffing my face at my grandparents’, I headed to my place with enough leftovers to get me through the next few days.

Thank God for that.

No sloppy joes this week.

As I reached my place on the ranch grounds, a huge knot sat in my gut. The shed Hazel was apparently crashing in was a dump. Unsafe too. Leave it to her to do something so idiotic.

Stop being an asshole. You don’t even know the girl.

I couldn’t shake off the fact that she was connected to Charlie, even though I knew Big Paw was right. So I went ahead and swallowed my pride, pulled up to the shed, and knocked on the door.

I heard someone shuffling around for a minute before it went silent. I cocked an eyebrow. “Hello?” I called out. More quiet shuffling. I knocked on the door. “Open up, Stone. I know you’re in there.”

More silence. Less movement.

A weighted sigh rolled through me as I flung open the door and saw Hazel sitting up against the far corner of the shed with those wide green eyes of hers. She looked as if I were coming to attack her, which was all the more reason that she shouldn’t have been staying in the damn shed. She was lucky it was me walking in on her as opposed to some town drunk crossing her path.

“Wh-what are you do-doing here?” Hazel asked, her voice shaky.

“What am I doing here?” I shone my phone light in her direction. “No. What in the goddamn hell are you doing in here?”

She got to her feet and blinked her eyes a few times. I hadn’t a clue what she’d been up to, but her hair was dripping wet, as if she’d just taken a shower. A few of her clothing pieces hung on the shelves, including her cotton panties, which had unicorns printed on them. She hurried over and snatched the panties from the shelf and shoved them behind her back.

“You’re living in here?”

“No!” she quickly replied.

I cocked a brow. “You’re living in here,” I repeated, this time as a statement.

She sighed. “Only temporarily.”

“You can’t live in this shed.”

“Why not?” she asked. “It’s not like anyone was using it.”

I groaned. “That’s not the point. The point is you can’t live in a damn shed like an animal. Half the roof is missing, Hazel!”

“I like to look at the stars.”

“It’s drafty at night.”

“I like the breeze.”

“Are you always this stubborn?”

“Are you always this bossy?” she countered, and holy shit, I couldn’t imagine living with someone as annoying as that girl right there.

“I’m only bossy to people who act like children.”

“I’m not acting like a child. I’m acting like a person who needed a place to stay for a little while.”

“Yeah, well, you can’t live here,” I said matter-of-factly. “This isn’t a home. It’s a broken-down shed. On private property, may I remind you. You can’t be a squatter here.”

For a split second, the hard exterior of Hazel cracked, and I saw a flash of worry race through her. The hard shell that she wore on the daily was to protect her from getting hurt, and in that split second, I saw her truths slip out through her eyes.

Shit. Maybe we had more in common than I thought.

My hard shell was made of the same material.

“You’ll stay at my house,” I said with a stern voice. I crossed my arms and nodded once. “You can take the spare room.”

“There’s no way I’m living with you!” she gasped, surprised that I was even offering her a way out of the shed.

“Hell yeah, there is. You can’t fucking stay here, Hazel. It’s stupid and not safe. I have a free room. Take it.”

“I don’t need your handout.”

“Says the girl literally living in a shed.”

“I hate when people say the word literally. It’s a stupid word that people use when they can’t come up with a better phrase.”

“Literally, literally, literally,” I blurted out. I gestured toward her garbage bags of things. “Grab your unicorn undies, and let’s go.”

“I know you’re probably used to women dropping everything to give in to your demands, but I’m not one of those girls. I said no, and I meant no. I am not going to take a handout from you. I don’t want or need your help.”

What in the goddamn hell was the matter with this girl? She was being offered a place to stay for free and turning it down because of her goddamn pride? How was I supposed to do what Big Paw wanted if she wasn’t willing to budge an inch? I’d never met such a stubborn woman in my life.

“You know what? Screw it. Fine. Stay out here with your creepy-crawlies and rodents. I’m not going to waste my time on someone who is choosing to suffer. Have at it.”



Ian left in a huff, cursing under his breath as he slammed the shed door shut. The whole space shook, and I swallowed down the knot that formed in my throat.