Knox pulled me over to the small sofa on the far end of his bedroom and we sat down. He looked at me intently. “What?” I asked finally.

“Just like you help me, I want to help you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve got to stop running.”

“What makes you think that’s what I’m doing?”

“You work seventy hours a week volunteering, you don’t do anything for yourself. When’s the last time you did something normal girls your age enjoy? Like go shopping or get your nails done?”

I stiffened at his implication that I wasn’t a normal girl. “How’s that fair? When’s the last time you did something a normal twenty-two year old guy would do?”

He smirked. “Not the same thing, angel. I have custody of three boys. Don’t bring my shit into this. We’re talking about you.”

“I happen to like volunteering, and I like being here with you guys. I have no desire to go out and party it up like a twenty-one year old.”

“But someday you might. And you might regret not doing all the things young people are supposed to do.”

Was he speaking from experience? He’d certainly missed out on enough being responsible for his brothers. Though his sexploits more than made up for that deficit. “I’m not going to regret anything.” I already lived with enough regret over my choices that fateful day I’d lost my parents. There wasn’t room for more in my world. “Serving others is the only thing that keeps me sane. The only thing that makes me feel okay with being me,” I whispered.

“I get that.”

“Then don’t ask me to change.”

“I want you to find balance – that’s all.” Knox wrapped one hand around my knee and gave it a gentle squeeze. His touch was all that was needed to reassure me. He wasn’t trying to force me to change or make me feel guilty about my choices.

“I want that, too,” I admitted.

“One step at a time. Right, angel?”

I grinned up at him wryly. It was the same thing I’d said to him once about his addiction. “Right.” I was suddenly feeling like the patient rather than the counselor. This was new.

“There’s something that scares me, McKenna.” Knox ran a hand through his wayward hair, meeting my eyes with a worried stare. “One day you’re going to forgive yourself and let go of all this hurt you carry around. You’re going to wake up and realize I’m all wrong for you.”

Knox was the only one to call me out on my obsessive tendencies. I avoided my life. I avoided dealing with my emotions and grief. Not even Brian was brave enough to tell me the truth. I appreciated his honesty, but he was wrong. I’d always want him. He made me feel alive and secure. Like maybe I could finally stop running from my past.

“And when all that happens, you’re going to want someone nice and normal,” he continued.

“Let me guess, someone like Brian?”

“The thought has crossed my mind, yes. He’s in love with you, McKenna.”

The crushing weight of the knowledge that he was right hit me square in the chest. Knox was looking at me like he could see straight through me. I could not have felt more exposed if I’d been sitting there completely naked. How did he not only understand me so well, but also get my complicated relationship with Brian? Feeling vulnerable and needy, I curled into his side, needing his warmth, his protection from the muddled mess my life had become. Knox pulled me closer, lifting my mouth to his while my pulsed thrummed violently in the base of my throat.

I didn’t try and explain away my feelings, I didn’t even tell him that I wasn’t going anywhere, but I did decide then and there it was time to show him how deeply my feelings for him ran.

Chapter Thirteen

Knox

Unable to resist the swell of her full mouth quivering so close to mine, I lowered my lips to hers.

A kiss that was meant to be innocent quickly turned heated. McKenna whimpered and opened her mouth to mine, our tongues tangling wildly as her hands pushed into my hair. She nipped my lower lip, tugging it with her teeth to pull me closer.

She was a woman in need and I was just a man. A man who hadn’t been laid in God knows how long. I needed to feel her heat surround me. Gripping her ass, I lifted her from the sofa and moved her to my lap. She wrapped her legs around my waist, clinging to me like I was her everything. And maybe I was. It broke my f**king heart and something in me snapped.

With our mouths fused together, her tongue hypnotically rubbing against mine, I found my hands unbuttoning her pants. Rather than stop me, McKenna’s hips pushed forward, her body eager for friction.

I needed her just as badly as she needed me. We were two lost souls fighting to cling to something real. But our first time shouldn’t be like this – so desperate and full of anguish, mouths seeking, hands grasping, clutching for something to hold on to. We were a tangle of limbs and hands groping until each of us had shed the other of our clothes. I lifted a fully nude McKenna, strode with her across the room and lay us back against my bed. She straddled me and remained motionless for several seconds. The dim light in my room bathed her skin a faint golden glow. She’d never looked more beautiful to me than in that moment.

Pulling away from her mouth, I cupped her face in my hands. Hazy blue eyes slowly blinked open to meet mine. “Not like this, not for your first time,” I breathed, my heart pounding.

“But this is how I need it. Make me forget everything else,” she whispered.

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