“Sophie’s going to overheat. We do need to leave.” Sherri kisses the top of Grif’s bandana-covered head, and then she kisses the top of mine like I’m one of her own. “I love you two.”
“Love you too.” I smile.
They mount their bikes and give a final wave as they ride off.
“Spill.” His hands resume their work.
“Why do you think I have something to spill?”
“Then shut the garage door and take off your clothes.”
I’m dating the sexiest man alive. It’s a fact.
A part of me wants to shut the door, shut off my mind, take off my clothes, and let Griff do what he does best—make me feel like we are the only two people who exist in the world. We make love like one soul—his pleasure is mine and mine is his.
But … tonight I can’t come undone from his touch. I need him to put me back together because Nate’s existence in my world has shattered me.
“Something is wrong with me.”
“Who told you that? They’re an idiot. You’re perfect.”
Gah! If only it were that easy. I’m fine—perfect—because my grocery store guy says so. I’ve never been anyone’s perfect.
“No. That’s not it.”
He pauses, giving me a concerned quirk of his brow. “Are you sick?”
“I don’t think so. It’s … something really hard to explain.”
“I think I can read minds.”
He chuckles as he should because it’s crazy. “Really? What am I thinking right now?”
“That’s easy. You’re thinking I’m cuckoo.”
Another chuckle. “No. Well, maybe. Go on. I’m listening.”
“It’s not really mind reading. It’s more like I can access memories, but not with everyone. Actually, just one person and it’s not all of his memories, just some … from when he was younger.”
Griff nods once. “And by ‘his’ you mean mine?”
“The professor’s?” He gives me a quick sidelong glance before returning his attention to the motorcycle.
“Yes. Remember I tried telling you this the day I saw him at Dr. Greyson’s office. I said I knew him, but he didn’t know me?”
“Then we had sex.”
I chuckle. “Yes. I think all of our conversations end in sex.”
“As they should,” he mumbles while spraying something onto one of the bike parts. “But I don’t really understand the mind reading.”
“You don’t have to understand. I don’t understand it either. I just need to talk to someone about this because I know it freaks Nate out, and I don’t want to lose my job. But keeping this to myself makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. And I don’t really want to lose that either.”
“What does Dr. Greyson say?”
I rest my elbows on my knees and wring my hands together. “I tried to tell him, but then it got uncomfortable and I was worried he’d think I’m crazy, so I haven’t been back in several weeks.”
“He’s a shrink, Swayz. I think crazy is his specialty.”
“So you think I’m crazy?” I jump up and the bucket crashes on its side. Preserving my sanity has taken priority in my life, and I can’t stop my need to defend it.
“No, that’s not what I mean.” He grabs a towel and wipes his face and hands as he stands. “I just need you to explain it to me better so maybe I can wrap my head around it.”
I cross my arms over my chest and pace the length of the garage. “How can I explain it to you better if I can’t explain it to myself?”
“Babe …” He grabs my arm and I jerk away. “What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know!”
“Then why did you tell me?”
“Because I had to tell someone.” I stop and move my hands to my hips. This isn’t about him. I don’t know why I’m taking it out on him. But I can’t stop. And I hate that I can’t.
Griffin pushes out a long breath and rubs his lips together, mirroring my pose. “Okay. You told me. Now what?”
“You think I’m crazy.”
He drops his chin toward his chest, shaking his head as he chuckles. “If I say no, you’re going to call me a liar. If I say yes, you’re going to be pissed off.” Glancing up, he shrugs. “I’m fucked either way.”
“I have to finish a design. I’ll just see you later.”
“Swayz, don’t leave.”
I keep walking to my car.
“Fuck …” Griffin’s parting sentiment fades behind me.
On the way home I stop for chocolate and wine. This time I have my wallet so there’s no need for a grocery store guy to save me. Too bad. I already miss him even if I’m mad at him for no good reason. Maybe I should grab tampons just in case.
“What’s in the bag?” Erica yells down as I unlock the door to my apartment.
“Wine and chocolate.”
“You break up with Sex on a Stick?”
I grunt a laugh. “I hope not, but he may break up with me.” I glance up. “Are you on neighborhood watch or something?”
“Date. Blind date. Well … not like he’s literally blind. You know what I mean.”
“And you’re waiting for him in the hallway?”
“Too desperate?” She rubs her glossed lips together.
“You’re asking the wrong girl. I won the man lottery. I didn’t have to work for it. I kinda went from nothing to everything with one trip to the grocery store.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Stop bragging. The dress though, it’s good. Right?” She does a quick three-sixty so fast she has to grab the railing to keep from stumbling in her high heels.
“Short, black, and cleavage. I’m sure it’s every guy’s dream. And the hair—” I whistle.
“It took me over an hour to straighten it.”
“It’s like one hundred percent humidity outside. You know that, right?”
“Don’t remind me.” She frowns while smoothing her hand along her silky black hair.
The door to our building slams shut below.
“Shit! That’s him.” Erica stumbles again and runs into her apartment.
Just as I open my door, the figure ascending the stairs snags my attention.
“Your friend’s motorcycle,” I say with a weak voice.
“Fuck the bike.”
“I have a design to—”
“Fuck it too.”
My grocery store guy climbs toward me wearing clean, ripped jeans, a white tee, and black boots. His woodsy just-showered smell makes it up to my floor before he does. The bouquet of flowers sticking out of a brown paper bag hides part of his face.
Two steps …
He climbs his way toward me with such confidence I want to cry.
Seven steps …
Griffin is so certain about life, and I’m not certain about anything because Nate Hunt has blurred my reality.
He pulls out the flowers and presents them to me with that smile that cures cancer, ends wars, and melts hearts. “We’ll figure it out. You’re not crazy. And you’re not alone.”
“Griff …” My voice breaks as I wrap my free arm around his neck, our paper bags smashing together. “I love you, Grocery Store Guy. It’s the only thing I know with complete certainty.”
Griff wraps an arm around my waist and holds me. Protects me. Loves me.
“What’s in your bag?” he asks.
I release him. He looks in my bag as I look in his. We both grin at the other’s bottle of wine and chocolates.
“Tampon time?” He cocks his head to the side.
“Shouldn’t be.” I lead the way into my apartment. “But after my emotional breakdown at your place, I questioned it.”
We don’t fight. That’s not us. No jealousy. No immature demanding of each other’s time. No goals of where our relationship is going or where we should be. We just fit.
Griffin opens a bottle of wine and pours two glasses.
“You don’t drink wine.”
He hands me my glass and takes a seat on the sofa, guiding me onto his lap. “I do. Just not very often.”
I sip my wine. His calloused hand slides under my T-shirt, resting on my belly. Parts of it feel like fine sandpaper. I love all of his rough edges and the way they smooth my frayed nerves and lull me into a safe, peaceful place.
“I’m sorry about earlier.” I lean my back against him.
He rests his chin on my shoulder. “No apologies.”
“Still … I was out of line.”
“So, these memories … tell me about them.”
I set my wine glass on the coffee table before wrapping my arms around Griffin. Then I tell him everything. He’s my guy—my person. And I should have known it and shared these memories on the day I saw Nate at Dr. Greyson’s office. Griff asks about my day—everyday—because my life is his life.
Without a diamond ring.
Without a legally-binding agreement.
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