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Belinda leaned forward in her chair. “We can provide the structure of a one-hour weekly meeting, but for most people that’s not enough. They need a support system of others who care about their progress and success. It also teaches them there is a way to get their social needs met through healthy interactions, rather than just with sex.”

She was talking about friendship, and suddenly I realized that I was that person for Knox. Before I ruined things, he was slowly starting to open up. I had hoped over time it would lead to his recovery, though it wasn’t my motivator for spending time with him. The truth was, I liked him. I liked being near him. I didn’t think Belinda would approve of that, though. Just the thought of telling her I’d been to his house, spent time alone with him, made my chest flush. No, I would need to keep that to myself.

“I’ll work on it,” I promised.

“Good. We’ll meet again in a few weeks, and I want to hear about your progress and who you’ve connected in the group.”

I made a move to get up, but Belinda held up a hand to stop me.

“There’s one more thing. I’m sending a young woman to your group. Amanda’s a little different from our usual case. I’ve been individually counseling her, but I think she could benefit from a group setting. She has a sex and love addiction. She looks for Mr. Right in all the wrong places. She even tried to trap her last hookup into a relationship by getting pregnant. It obviously didn’t work out the way she wanted—she’s now pregnant and alone and has come forward for help.”

“How far along is she?”

“Three months. She’s not showing yet, but I wanted you to know her background. She’s about your age, so I thought perhaps you two might connect. Tread lightly with this one. She’s fragile.”

Join the club. Maybe I wasn’t in any position to be giving out counseling advice with the state of my own life, but I nodded. “I will. And thanks for believing in me.” Her faith in me made me feel even guiltier about my growing feelings for Knox.

But I needed to put that out of my mind. I was due at the shelter and had a day of hard work ahead of me.

Chapter Twelve

Knox

As I lay in bed tossing and turning, I worked over and over again in my mind what had happened between me and McKenna. I shouldn’t want her. I wasn’t the right man for her. She should be with someone educated, polite, and well-mannered. Not some ass**le like me who had experienced enough loss to turn my heart into a hollow drum.

I knew one thing for sure—I wasn’t good enough for her. And I’d been stupid to even fantasize that I might be. Last night had cemented the deal; she’d run and I had too. Straight into the arms of a stripper. Temporary bliss was all I had these days. Finding a willing, wet girl to sink into provided twenty minutes of mind-numbing sensation, and I couldn’t give that up. Going out a couple of nights a week was my distraction. And thoughts of McKenna were starting to interfere with that. She was dangerous. I’d turned off my emotions a long time ago as my only source of protection, and I couldn’t have her tearing those walls down.

But morning light brought a fresh perspective to everything and I wanted her. Why deny myself?

Tracking her down was harder than I thought it would be. Her ass**le of a roommate hadn’t wanted to help me; that was crystal clear. He looked at me through squinted eyes, presumably guessing that all I wanted was to get inside her panties. And while that might have been true, today I actually just wanted to apologize.

She’d taken a chance coming over last night, groceries in hand, offering to cook for us. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had done anything like that for us. Not since my mother. And when I realized that I couldn’t get what I wanted—her—I’d gone all macho caveman, running her out and heading to my old stomping grounds.

Little good it had done me. I’d sat there sulking like a pu**y, unable to stop thinking about her, until I’d finally just gone home and crawled into bed alone.

But after I applied some pressure this morning, Brian had finally told me that she was volunteering at a shelter today, and said good luck finding her. It turned out the city of Chicago had dozens of shelters. I’d visited six of them already and was almost about to call off my mission when lucky number seven turned out to be the right one.

Letting myself inside the front doors, I was struck with the stench of sweat and mildew. I approached a woman seated behind what appeared to be bulletproof glass. This was the place McKenna came in her free time?

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m looking for a girl named McKenna. Is she here today?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that.” She crossed her arms over her chest.

I thought about describing her to the woman, but realized there’d be no way I could do that without sounding like a prick. She’s the perfect height to fit against me, curves that would bring a man to his knees, an ass you just want to admire, and tits to fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.

So I lied. “I’m here to volunteer with my friend McKenna, but I’m not sure which shelter she’s at today.”

“Oh. You’re here to volunteer? Well, come on then. I’ll take you to her.” The woman rose to her feet and motioned for me to follow her to a door just down the hall. Seconds later, it opened and I followed her inside. She led me through a series of hallways, and we passed by a large commercial kitchen and several bathrooms before finally entering a huge room filled with stacks and stacks of cots.

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