McKenna craved physical touch, but in a much different way than I did. She was seeking something real – a connection, something permanent. I never thought I’d be the one to offer her those things, but seeing how brave she was, how open she was with her needs, made me question everything. I wanted to be what she needed. I just didn’t know how and was pretty certain I’d find a way to f**k it up. Hurting her was out of the question. She’d been through too much already.

We kissed for several long minutes, our tongues moving together, her breathing becoming ragged, and her lower half pressing clumsily into mine as though she was seeking something.

I hadn’t wanted to push things between us tonight, but hell, she’d just broken down and told me she felt responsible for her parents’ deaths. If there was ever a time she needed the distraction of pleasure, it was now. I knew that better than anyone.

“Knox….” she breathed, pressing her hips to mine.

I didn’t respond, my lips moving to her neck to taste her and breathe in her sweet scent. Her hands scrambled along my abs until they reached the waistband of my shorts. I caught her roaming hands and moved them away just before they dipped inside. We’d just agreed to take the first steps toward a relationship and I didn’t want her to think that had anything to do with sex. I wanted her, of course I did, but I wanted more, too.

Sex wasn’t the way to show her how I felt about her. That meant nothing to me. But being near her kissing her, cooking for her, letting her sleep over in my bed. Those were the ways I told her how I felt about her. Only now as her fingers curled into my hair and her lips hovered above mine, I didn’t think she got that. She wanted the physical, too. And it was killing me. Literally killing me not to take her and push her knees apart and sink into her slowly.

She let out a frustrated groan and rubbed her pelvis against mine. Even if I didn’t want her to feel pressured to go further than she wanted, I wouldn’t leave her in this state. Trailing my hand from her hip down to her pubic bone, my fingers brushed against her panties. The damp fabric clung to her skin. “Right here?” She whimpered softly. “Is this where you need me?” She pushed her hips closer, begging me silently. Lifting her panties aside, I pressed my fingertip against her firm little clit and she let out a ragged moan. Something told me I knew her body better than she did herself, and I liked hearing the responses I provoked from her. I liked knowing I was the one responsible for her pleasure. The one taking her over the edge. It did insane things to me. Even without touching me, she got me rock hard and aching. Half of me worried we should stop – we’d both been drinking – but none of me wanted to.

Removing my hand from her panties, I pressed a kiss to her parted lips and met her eyes. “Angel?” Disappointment flooded her pretty eyes. “How drunk are you?” She’d only had one drink plus the shot I’d made her try, but still, something told me she was unaccustomed to drinking.

She hesitated for a moment, blinking up at me. “Not drunk,” she breathed. “Don’t stop.” Her mouth crashed against mine in a hungry kiss and I was done questioning this.

Restraint urged me to keep her panties on but I couldn’t help lifting the baggy T-shirt she wore and kissing all over her br**sts. Using both hands, I pressed her tits together and placed damp sucking kisses all over the rounded flesh, using my tongue to lick each taut peak until she was restless and moaning out my name. She smelled lightly of soap and fresh washed laundry and tasted even better. I was desperate to taste her all over and feel her warm soft skin against mine.

Creaking floorboards signaled that we weren’t alone just as I heard my name. “Knox?”

I tossed the blankets over McKenna to cover her naked chest and jumped up. “Tucker? What’s wrong?”

“My tummy hurts,” he groaned.

“Okay, buddy. Come on.” I led him into the bathroom, my heart pounding out of control. As soon as the toilet was in view, Tucker lurched over it and got sick. I stayed with him in the bathroom, sitting on the tile floor, just in case he got sick again.

A few minutes later, McKenna tapped on the bathroom door. I didn’t know if she’d wanted to hide the fact she was staying overnight, but she stuck her head inside the door to see if Tucker was okay. “You need anything? A glass of water, maybe?”

I nodded. “Sure, that’d be great.”

After a few minutes more, Tucker rinsed his mouth and crawled into my bed between me and McKenna. By that point it was nearly three in the morning and we were all exhausted. Tucker had insisted she stay and held her hand as he fell back asleep. I caught McKenna’s eyes as she lay on the far side of the bed, a sick little boy sprawled between us, and as I watched her in the dim light, she seemed to understand that this was my life. Her eyes on mine and the small smile on her lips was her silent acknowledgement that she accepted each part. From my broken past to my responsibilities with my brothers. McKenna’s constant presence here showed me that she could handle not only the f**ked up side of me, but also my role as a brother and a parent. It was a huge feeling of relief. Realizing I wasn’t alone for the first time in a long time, I feel into a peaceful sleep.

Chapter Six

McKenna

I had sent a quick text to Brian to let him know I wouldn’t be home last night. And to my surprise, he hadn’t replied. My phone had stayed eerily silent all night. A sinking feeling formed in the pit of my stomach.

After getting Tucker settled in his own bed with some dry toast and soda, Knox and I ventured to the kitchen where Knox set a pot of coffee to brew. I was working at the teen shelter today, but didn’t go in until mid-morning, and Knox, with a sick little boy home from school today, was taking the day off to look after him.

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