“Sound asleep.” He sat down next to me. “Is Luke alright?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I just think there’s a lot on his mind. Girls, how to pay for college….”

Knox blew out a frustrated breath. “Fuck. Tell me about it. It’s been keeping me up at night.”

I hadn’t meant to add to his stress load, only to tell him how my conversation with Luke went. Knox hung his head in his hands and I moved closer so I could rub his shoulders. “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out somehow.”

His head lifted until his intense gaze met mine. My fingers paused on his shoulders. “That’s just it. Nothing just works out around here unless I figure it out. And I’ve been trying for the last year to figure out how in the hell I’m going to help Luke pay for college and so far I’ve come up with jack shit nothing, so unless you have an extra fifty grand laying around, it won’t just magically work out.” I could see the defeat written all over his features. He felt like a failure. He had three little lives depending on him and he wanted the best he could provide. “I’m sorry.” His tone softened. “I don’t mean to take it out on you.” Considering that his usual way of taking out stress was by sleeping with random women, I would take sarcasm any day.

“It’s okay. I know you’re under a lot of pressure. I’m here to help however you need me.” I couldn’t imagine being in his position. I only had to budget for myself and even that was tricky in an expensive city like Chicago.

“Thanks, Kenna.” He sat back against the sofa, pulling me closer. “It’s good to see you feeling better. What’d you do today?”

“I took Amanda to the doctor for a prenatal appointment. She’s having a girl. They said the baby is healthy and progressing nicely.”

“That’s good,” he said, grabbing the TV remote.

“Why didn’t you tell me the truth about Amanda?”

He glanced up at me, remorse flashing in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I should have. I just didn’t want to give you something to worry about when I knew I had it under control.”

“She propositioned you?”

He nodded. “There was no temptation there. None. I told you, I’m handling it. And I’ve got someone better I’m waiting for.” He laced our fingers together, his palm resting against mine, warm and solid.

“Should we go upstairs?” I whispered, suddenly feeling bold and wanting some privacy with him.

“I thought we’d hang out down here, maybe watch a movie or something.”

“Oh, okay.” I tried to hide the disappointment in my voice, but failed.

Knox flipped through the selection of available movies for rent and let me pick a romantic comedy I’d been waiting to see for several months. I curled against his side and he held me while we watched the sugary-sweet interactions playing out on the screen. They seemed so far from real life. At least far-removed from my life and Knox’s. In my experiences, real life and love were incredibly messy affairs. That was what I knew. Maybe that was why I was so comfortable with Knox. He’d been through hell and back, too, and we recognized those deep scars in each other.

Throughout the entire movie Knox kept things purely platonic. His arms were wrapped around me, strong and sure, but the few times I’d tried to let my hands wander to touch him, his stomach, his thigh…he would tighten his grip around me, holding me in place and effectively preventing me from touching him. It was incredibly frustrating and only left me worked up and buzzing unfulfilled energy inside me.

For two hours I lay there in his arms, his chest rising and falling steadily against my back, his breath warming the back of my neck. Various scenarios played out in my head. I imagined rolling towards him, unbuckling his belt and touching him again. What would he do then? The realization that he may stop me, that he might reject me, prevented me from making my move.

Once the credits rolled, I climbed from my warm spot next to him on the couch and stood, stretching. “Should we go up to bed?”

Knox stood up, watching me warily. “You’re sleeping over?”

“Is that okay?” God, why was he acting so weird tonight?

He hesitated, looking down at the floor.

“Why are you acting like you don’t want me here?”

He didn’t respond, he just continued staring down at the floor between our feet.

“Knox?”

“This is hard for me, being near you and knowing I can’t have you,” he admitted softly.

I wanted to tell him he could have me, anytime, anyplace. I’d gotten brief glimpses of how good we could be together and I wanted more. “You have me,” I whispered.

He crossed the room and pulled me into his arms. “I know. I’m sorry, angel. I have a lot on my mind and I don’t want to f**k this up with you. That’s all.”

“Do you want me to go?” I looked up at him, blinking.

“No. Stay. Please?”

I nodded and let him guide me up the stairs.

Once I’d brushed my teeth and changed into a T-shirt of Knox’s, I stood beside the bed, watching while he pulled his shirt off over his head and stripped out of his jeans. His body was a work of art, complete with sculpted lines and rugged muscles that I wanted to touch and lick. He evoked strange feelings inside me that no man had before. It was an almost animal attraction that brought out a new and viscerally sexual side of me.

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