“I do, okay? And it is my fault. I can’t expect you to give me the benefit of the doubt so easily. So fast. Not after everything we’ve been through.” He lifted her hand and kissed it. “After everything I’ve put you through, please don’t blame yourself for reacting the way you should. Until I prove myself, it’s what I deserve.”

She tried to disagree, but he refused to let her. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—hear her say she was sorry even one more time. He’d sooner come clean than allow that, so he kissed her again until they were moaning and ready for his turn to make it up to her.

Later, when she lay there asleep, looking very content, he reached for his phone on the nightstand. Almost afraid to read it, he clicked on the text she’d sent him just before he got home anyway.

We both promised to change. To grow up. You still have a chance to keep your end of the deal too. Extend me the same courtesy PLEASE. It’s all I ask. Stay out of my life. Don’t call. Don’t text. I’m moving on.

A giant “ASSHOLE!” would’ve made him feel better.

Things were definitely changing. In all the times they’d fought, through all the tears, this was the first time she’d said she was moving on. This was the first time it felt so final.

Alex glanced back at his sleeping beauty, feeling the terror of this reality seep into him. This had been too damn close. Another careless move on his part, and he could lose it all. He had to be more careful, damn it. Clearly, Valerie was done forgiving him. But he was so close.

Leaning over, he kissed her softly on her forehead then sprinkled smaller softer kisses down her temple. “Almost, sweetheart,” he whispered. “I promise you.”


It was one of Alex’s best games yet, and it couldn’t have happened on a better night. It was the annual family night game. It felt even better knowing Valerie was up in the stands with his family where she belonged. When the game ended in a dramatic last-minute win for them, Alex and Angel made their way through the crowd that had spilled onto the field in excitement. Alex wasn’t used to ignoring girls like Angel, so when he’d barely lifted his chin at a few of the smiling girls who’d gone up to him clearly wanting to give him a congratulatory hug, it was a weird feeling. Blowing chicks off was new to him.

Now he knew why Angel always scrambled through the crowd after every game. Alex had always just assumed his whipped ass younger brother was in a rush to see and hug Sarah. Since Alex had never blown off the girls before, he didn’t realize how overbearing and unwilling to take a hint they were when he tried. No wonder Angel had set the precedent early on. By the time Alex reached Valerie and his parents in the crowd, he was more than relieved to have Valerie’s hand in his.

The last thing he needed was another uncomfortable moment. They’d had enough with the calls and texts he was still trying to dodge or avoid around Valerie. And damn it if Valerie didn’t pick up on his unease every time. So getting through that crowd and to her without having to do any damage control had been exhausting.

More than a few girls still passed them, congratulating him on what a great game he had and how good he looked out there. He and Valerie exchanged glances each time, but she smirked and he hugged and kissed her openly, holding her close. This was a statement he was not only putting out there for his admirers but Valerie’s as well. Too many times after the games he’d walked through the crowd when he and Valerie were on the outs, only to spot her with another dude up in the stands or in the crowd.

She was never doing anything bad, but she didn’t have to be. The fact that he knew she was mad at him and would likely end up at a party with the guy or exchanging numbers if they hadn’t already was infuriating. He wrapped his arm around her neck, holding her close even as his mom addressed him. “Your ankle, mijo? How is it feeling?”

“Good,” he looked down, wiggling his foot around. “Real good actually. The trainers wrapped it nice and tight before the game. It didn’t bother me at all.”

He’d seen the glances his mom had given him and Valerie already, and he was sure she was wondering what was up. Since he didn’t do the horn dog thing in front of his mom and he’d never done the love sick thing in front of anyone, this was a first for his mom. She obviously knew he and Valerie had a history but not the extent of it since he was yet to make any official announcements about his relationship with her either. But tonight on a crowded football field didn’t feel like the place. Even if he did let them in on this change, it wasn’t like him to make a huge deal out of something like this. But he was hoping when he did he could say something as solid as “She’s living with me now.”

It was a lot to hope for so soon. He knew this. But the longer he was around Valerie, the more this felt like the right change at the right time. Waking with her in his arms felt perfect. If there’d been any doubt, there was zero now. He was more than ready for this kind of commitment with Valerie.

Family night ended perfectly. They all went back to Alex’s parents’ house where his mom and Sofie had prepared dinner earlier. Having Valerie there with them felt perfect. Over the years, they’d all become so used to Valerie being part of the bunch, but he could tell everyone had noticed the difference lately.

The last two times Alex had happened to talk to Sal on the phone were either very late at night or early in the morning. Somehow the mention of Valerie being at his place both times had come up. So tonight, when Alex mentioned they were going home to hit the hay, Sal smirked as Valerie walked out before Alex. He tugged at Alex’s elbow. “She living with you now?”