She nodded. “Yeah. I’m okay. Thanks. And I know you have to get to work.”

“Can we still talk later?”

“There’s more?” she asked, pushing a chunk of hair behind her ear.

“We need to discuss you and me.”

“There’s a you and me?” she breathed.

“You know there is.” My heart thumped steadily in my chest. My relationship with her was the only real thing in my life. Even if it wasn’t a romantic relationship, I needed her presence. My brothers did, too. We’d figure the rest out later. “When are you free?”

“Tomorrow night. I’m attending a fundraiser at the library. It goes until 8:00.”

“Come over after?”

“You’ll be a gentleman?” The hint of a smile played on her full lips.

“If you like.”

She exhaled a deep shuddering breath, like she was summoning her courage. “I’ll come.”

The urge to take her in my arms again was overwhelming, but I resisted it. As difficult as it was for me, I needed to learn to deal with shit without falling back on physical touch. “See you then.”

Chapter Four

McKenna

I took my time getting ready, telling myself I wanted to look nice for the library fundraiser. It was an after-hours event with hor d’oeuvres and wine tasting. I should dress up a little, right? It had nothing to do with seeing Knox after. Yeah, right.

I was still reeling with the emotional turmoil stirred up by being near Knox. Getting away last weekend for the retreat was supposed to bring clarity, but all it did was make me miss him more. And then knowing he planned his work day around seeing me at the soup kitchen yesterday had torn down my final wall. Every time I thought I had Knox figured out, he surprised me and pulled me back in. With him, I knew the road was guaranteed to be bumpy, but at last I was moving forward.

I inspected myself in the mirror one final time. My dark hair fell in loose waves down my back and my fitted black pants and silky gray blouse looked simple, but chic. I puckered my lips in the mirror and added a dab of pink lip gloss. Stop stalling, McKenna. I grabbed my coat and purse and flipped off my bedroom light.

“You look nice,” Brian said as I entered the living area. The football game was playing in the background. I found it sort of oddly endearing how he’d become a hardcore Chicago sports fan, now cheering for every local team. It was just another way he’d changed his life and habits to support me in this move.

“Thanks.” I smoothed my hands over the fabric of my pants. “I have this fundraiser thingy at the library tonight.”

“You look like you’re going on a date.” His eyes glanced over my curves and came to a stop on my face again. My cheeks heated.

“Nope. Just the library.”

“Maybe I should join you.”

“No!” He couldn’t know I was going to Knox’s after. I calmed my voice and started again. “I mean, no, that’s not necessary. It’ll probably be boring. A few speeches and sign up opportunities for volunteer work in the coming year. Nothing too exciting. Besides, I wouldn’t want you to miss the Bears winning their big game.”

“You know I would for you.”

He was too good to me and I was hit with a pang of guilt about lying where I was headed. “Thanks, but no. You stay, enjoy your game.” I slipped on my coat. If the chill in the fall air was any indication, winter was just around the corner.

“Hey, you wanna do something this weekend?”

“Uh, sure. Sounds great, Bri.” It was probably time we put this awkwardness behind us and forget about his fight with Knox.

---

The closer I got to Knox’s place, the more anxious I became. I was fidgety and distracted all during the fundraiser and watching the clock hadn’t helped. The entire evening had dragged by at a snail’s pace.

Knox was like a magnet drawing me to him. The pull was primitive and all consuming. And not because I was a fixer, like Brian said, but because our wounded souls found solace in the company of each other. He’d been like a balm to my unseen injuries. And I’d wanted to believe I was his healing balm, too. But I hated that I hadn’t been. Despite his little speech in the bathroom, I worried he was still seeking nameless, faceless girls to soothe his aches, which was why I needed to face reality. Sex was his drug of choice. If I’d really meant something to him, he would give all that up, right? I questioned if he could have a relationship that wasn’t based on sex. I needed to hear what he had to say tonight, even if it destroyed me in the process.

It was nearly 8:30 by the time I arrived and as I stood waiting on the porch for him to answer the door, I took a few deep breaths of cool air and promised myself that nothing would happen between us. Remembering how his tender kisses and skilled fingers had felt, I inwardly groaned. I needed to be strong.

The door swung open and Knox stood there in jeans, bare feet, and a white T-shirt looking sexy and sinful. “Change of plans,” he growled.

I followed him inside and shut the door. It was dark and quiet inside. “Knox?” He continued to the stairs and began climbing them silently. I hurried to keep up with him. “What’s wrong?” His sweet, gentle demeanor from yesterday morning had disappeared, but I wasn’t about to let him shut down on me now. We’d come too far for that, hadn’t we? We were supposed to talk tonight. “Knox, what happened?” I asked again as we entered his bedroom.

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