Unease churned inside me as I watched him cross the room and head down the back hallway alone. What was he doing? Had he already picked out a girl and given her a special wink? I couldn’t believe he’d really disappeared and left me sitting here all alone. I sucked down more of my drink as tears blurred my vision.

I hated how I couldn’t be what he needed and he chose instead to fulfill his needs without me. I sensed that Knox was developing real feelings, too. So why did he continue on with this charade of hussies? Because even if he did have feelings for you, McKenna, you're a virgin. You can’t satisfy his needs. That realization sparked something inside me. Rebellion. It made me want to try.

A few moments later, Knox strolled back to the table, his expression unreadable. “McKenna?” Spotting the unshed tears shimmering in my eyes, he stood immobile in front of the table. “What happened?”

“You left me.” I pressed my fingertips to my temples, willing the tears away.

He slid into the booth next to me and pulled me close, pressing a kiss to my temple. “I went to take a piss. You didn’t think…?”

I nodded slowly.

“Christ, McKenna. I wouldn’t do that. I used the restroom, washed my hands, and came right back to the table.” I suddenly felt foolish for freaking out. He hesitated for several long moments, his jaw clenching in the dim light. “What do you want from me? You know who I am.”

“Friendship, Knox. I want your friendship.”

“That’s it? There’s nothing more….” He smiled, crookedly, begging me to disagree.

He was hinting at the burning chemistry between us, brewing just below the surface. My obvious jealous reaction at thinking he’d gone after a girl. He felt this intensity between us and apparently he knew I did, too. I hadn’t been hiding my true feelings well enough. He saw it in my lingering gazes, the way I cared for his brothers, and the ways my eyes always went to his while we were in group. There was no point denying it, since I knew eventually he’d see through my game. The truth was I wanted much more than friendship. I wouldn’t have taken things physical with him if I hadn’t. Something told me he understood that.

I took a deep breath, settling my nerves. “As for more…yes, I know who you are. You’re a man who takes care of his family, who takes on the world for those boys, who works hard and plays harder…but you’re also a man on the cusp of change. If you want anything more than friendship with me, then you’ll have to show me.”

“Show you what? I told you I don’t do love.”

“So change.” I shrugged, flippantly, like it was the simplest thing in the world. Knox said he didn’t do love, but he was wrong. He loved his brothers fiercely. He might not have done romantic relationships, but I believed in him, I believed anything was possible, as long as he wanted it bad enough. And selfishly, I wanted to be the one to change his mind about love. He was helping me and some little voice deep inside told me we could do this. It might have been foolish, but when everything else had been stripped away from me, I needed that hope. I would cling to it like a life raft until I was forced to admit he wasn’t my savior and I wasn’t his.

“What about Brian?” Knox asked, drawing another sip of his beer and signaling the bartender for another.

“What about him?”

“You and him. You ever thought about that? You guys could be good together.”

Was he seriously encouraging my relationship with Brian? After all this? “First Belinda and now you, really?”

He shrugged. “Just pointing out your options.”

Frustrated, I pushed a chunk of hair behind my ear. Brian had always been there for me. Would always be there for me. He was sweet and had cute boy next door looks to match. Would it really be the worst thing in the world to see if real feelings could develop between us? Sometimes I wondered about us, but I just didn’t feel that way about him, despite what Knox or Belinda saw when they looked at us together. And his encouragement about Brian had the opposite effect, it only made me want to rebel. I took a big gulp from my grown-up Shirley Temple, finishing the drink. “I’m going to dance.” I didn’t dance, but being near him was too much of a roller coaster and I needed a minute to clear my head.

Knox moved aside to let me out of the booth and I headed to the center of the dance floor, ready to lose myself in the crowd. Squeezing my way past the writhing bodies, I found a spot for myself and closed my eyes, letting the thumping rhythm wash over me. Finding the beat, I swayed back and forth to the music. The alcohol had relaxed me enough that I felt totally unconcerned with how I looked to others. I moved and swayed, feeling loose and relaxed as the music took over.

I felt someone approach me from behind, but before my body had the chance to tense, I smelled his unique scent of warm leather and sandalwood and knew it was Knox. He placed both hands on my waist as his chest brushed against my back. A wave of heat crashed over me. He pressed his hips into my bottom and I forgot how to breathe. I spun to face him, needing to see his dark eyes. Was this part of his seduction efforts? He was used to things easily going his way with girls and that fact alone made me want to challenge him a little. He’d just suggested I be with Brian. Did he even really want me?

Knox’s hands wandered from my waist to my hips, where his fingertips made contact with bare skin fractures of heat crackled across my abdomen. “Don’t question this.” He leaned down to breathe against my ear.

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