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I exhaled. Dad had a way of soothing me just with his voice alone. “That works for me.”

“I mean that, sweetie. Your happiness is all I care about,” he said. “If it makes you happy to stay engaged for the rest of your life, I’m fine with that.” I laughed sharply. Dad might be all right with that, but I knew another man who wouldn’t be too pleased. “If a shotgun wedding in Vegas makes you happy, so be it.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said.

“Whatever you and Jude decide on, your mom and I are good with it,” he said. “Okay?”

It was a weight off my shoulders knowing that, but the problem was, I couldn’t decide what I wanted right now. I needed some time and a cup of tea to help me with my sea of indecision.

“Okay, Dad. Thanks, that means a lot to me,” I said.

“Well, you mean a lot to me, Lucy in the Sky.”

When I stepped out of the shower, I peeked out the bathroom window. The last party stragglers were gone. Today had been one hell of a day, and I knew that tomorrow would be, too. So tonight I wanted to forget about everything running around in my mind and get some sleep. I needed to close the door on this day and open a new one in the morning.

I’d left all the lights in the pool house off in hopes Jude would be too drunk or too tired to come looking for me. Of course, I knew that was wishful thinking. I knew he’d come. I just hoped that when he did, he would give me the space I’d tell him I needed. Jude wasn’t the biggest fan of “space,” given our past experience with it.

I was getting a cup from the cupboard when the knock sounded on the pool house door.

“Luce? Are you in there?” His voice was high pitched.

Before I had a chance to respond, the door opened and he stepped inside.

His face was as worried-looking as his voice had sounded. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” he said, taking a few more steps inside. “What are you doing out here?”

Hiding from you. Trying to get my thoughts together. “About to go to sleep,” I answered, setting the glass down. Water had sounded good until Jude had arrived. Now the only thing that sounded good was him. Especially with the way he was looking at me.

“You’re hiding from me,” he stated, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“No,” I said, cinching the tie of my bathrobe tighter. “I’m hiding from that place.”

Jude’s jaw tightened. “That place is our home, Luce. It’s mine and yours.”

“No, Jude. That place belongs to you and the person you want me to be. Not the person I really am.”

Tapping the wall with his fist, he walked toward me. “Fine. That’s not the place that you want, we’ll get rid of it,” he said, staring at me like I was his whole world. He knew I melted under that look. It had been days, weeks, and he was using my failing restraint to his advantage.

I closed my eyes and sucked in a slow breath to calm myself down. I could already feel the blood rushing to certain parts of my body at having him alone and this close. I could not, I would not sleep with him until I’d worked through this crap in my head.

“Tell me what you want, Luce,” he said, stopping a few feet in front of me. I could smell him; I could almost taste him on my lips. I could nearly feel him. . . .

I shook my head, keeping my eyes closed. “I don’t know,” I admitted, sensing him stepping closer.

“Tell me what you want,” he demanded, and now his body pressed into mine.

Dammit. My weakening resolve was officially about to be a lost cause.

Then his mouth moved outside my ear, and the heat of his breath broke across my neck. “What,” he whispered, “do you”—his teeth sank into my earlobe—“want?” His h*ps flexed into me, and when I felt him hard against me, that last bit of restraint I’d been clinging to slipped right through my fingers.

I opened my eyes. Now that I’d jumped, I was going to enjoy the fall.

I waited until he looked into my eyes. “I want you,” I said, my fingers moving for his zipper. I was long past the point of foreplay. “Here. Now.” Sliding his zipper down, I rested my mouth outside his ear. “And hard.”

Jude sucked in a sharp breath, but that was all the surprise he allowed himself. His hands made quick work of untying my robe. Grabbing my hips, he hoisted me up and carried me over to the table. His mouth found mine and he kissed me like he’d never kissed me before. It was desperate, and hungry, and almost painful.

But the pain felt good. I needed to feel it right now.

After unfastening the button of his pants, I tugged them down. Grabbing him in my hand, I lay back on the table. Jude stared down at me, his face a mix of emotions. My mind, for the first time since this afternoon, was clear. And content.

As I guided him toward me, he paused. “Are you sure you’re ready?” he said, his breath strained.

“Come and find out,” I replied, wrapping my legs around his waist to draw him closer.

His face creased as my hand moved up and down him, but he restrained himself.

“Jude,” I whispered, “please.” I lifted my h*ps until I could feel him right where he should be.

Moving just barely inside, he groaned. I groaned louder. The torture was insane, and if he was going to play it nice and slow, I’d just have to change his mind. Nice and slow wasn’t on the agenda for tonight.

At the same time I tightened my legs around him, I flexed my h*ps higher, effectively taking the rest of him inside me.

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