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Stone got there and I swear I saw fury riding behind on his coattails. He strode in. His gaze went to me, and he was growling instantly. “Jesus! She’s freezing.”

Someone cursed.

I was fine. I started to tell him, but something was thrown around me, and someone was tucking it in front of me. Kneeling. Stone dropped in front of me. Gentle hands touched my face. “You okay?”

He was furious but concerned. And he looked tired. He was so tired. And smelly.

A second cop had joined the mix, and the paramedics were at the door. Their bags gone and their heads down, almost like they’d been caught stealing candy. The female was holding a piece of paper. The guy had a pen.

The two cops had migrated closer.

I was about to tell him I was fine when a cop started, “She never said a word.”

Stone whirled on him, his back to me. “She lost her fucking parents, got into her own car accident, just came out of a four-day coma. You expect her to know when she’s cold or not? I’m surprised she’s been able to remain sitting this whole time.”

The cop opened his mouth, then closed it. The second cop turned away. Both paramedics looked admonished.

Another growl came from Stone again, and he clipped out, “If she’s not dying, I want you all to fucking leave. And no, I’m not in the mood to sign autographs.”

Cop one stiffened. “Now, see—”

“Out!” he thundered.

The cops left, glaring at both of us. The paramedics remained, but the male one nudged the female, head nodding toward the piece of paper in her hand. He handed her the pen and slipped outside behind the cops. If Stone needed to talk to them, I was assuming he’d already said what he needed.

Once all were gone, the female waited a second. Approaching, she cleared her throat. “When we arrived, she was upright and walking. Her baseline was fine, and we checked a few more rounds while waiting for you to arrive. All sets of vitals were normal. You said she fainted again yesterday, but was released, and considering her history, you might still want to have her checked out again. Call to the hospital said you could make that decision. If you’d like, we can take her in with our wagon, or you can take her in yourself.”

Stone was silent. His shirt was molded to him, so much so that I could see every muscle in his back was rigid and tense. He was right in front of me.

Without thinking, I lifted a hand and placed it to his back.

He sucked in a harsh breath, then turned, some of the tension leaving him. “What do you want to do?”

“I’m fine. It’s the…” that word stuck in my throat, “trauma. I’m okay. Really.”

His eyes were taking me in, sliding over my face, my body, studying every single detail. Whatever he saw, he relaxed and jerked his head in a nod. “Okay,” he said to the woman, “We’ll stay.” He pointed to the paper. “I’m assuming that’s for me to sign?”

Her eyes lit up. “Would you mind? To my partner and me both.” She handed it over.

Stone took it, taking it over to the nearest table. “What are your names?”

“Cassie. Frank.”

He scrawled over the piece of paper, writing a few words, and handed it over.

She read it, a pleased smile lighting her face up. “Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.” Her eyes fell to mine, and some of that smile dimmed. “Not under the best circumstances, but you know. And congratulations on your win tonight, the two touchdowns. We’re lucky to have gotten you, I can say that much. If we didn’t have you and Doubard, we’d be hurting this year.” She went to the door. “You think we can do it? Make it to the Super Bowl?”

Stone didn’t follow, just watched her, and I could sense his irritation rising.

He didn’t respond, and clueing in, the woman’s cheeks reddened. “Right. Well. If anything happens, don’t hesitate to call. Get well, Miss.”

I didn’t respond.

Stone didn’t respond.

She wasn’t expecting acknowledgement and left, closing the door behind her. Stone let out a guttural curse before walking forward and hitting the locks. He bypassed me, going back to the kitchen area, and a few minutes later I heard a soft beeping sound.

Then he came back and regarded me. “I see you had an eventful day.”

I closed my eyes. “Sorry.”

“No.” He shook his head, running a tired hand over his face. “It’s my fault. I should’ve had someone here when you woke up, or at least told you about the security system. About shit my pants when one of the trainers brought my phone over, telling me it wouldn’t stop ringing. Had calls from your college, and then the security system.”


That’s all I had in me, just that one word.

He was watching me, reading me. “You woke up today, huh?”

I knew he wasn’t asking about the actual physical act of waking, more like the mental version. “Yeah. I woke up.” My voice trembled.

“Right. Okay.” He pulled a chair forward, sitting and resting his elbows on his knees. He was sitting, facing me. “What do you want to do?”

“How much were the funeral costs?”


“My parents died.” All three of them now. “There was an accident. The car would’ve needed to be towed. The funeral costs. Coffins. The burial sites. Headstones. You said you covered my costs, but what about those?”

“I meant everything.” A soft curse under his breath. “Dusty, you don’t need to worry about that.”

I looked at him, really looked at him. So much was weighing on him. He’d taken all of my shit on without a second thought to what exactly that entailed. Why? We hated each other.

“Why are you doing all this for me?”

His head lifted. The torment there cleared into wonder. His eyebrows dipped together. “Because I considered you family at one point. And I liked your mom.”

My mom. Right.

That was why.

Some of the confusion cleared. “I need to know how much everything costs, Stone. I have to know.”

He was saying one thing, but he wasn’t being honest. I could feel it. It was driving me nuts.

“Your aunt took care of it all.”

Another lie.

“Bullshit.” I knew there’d been a contentious relationship between Gail and her sister. She had called twice asking Gail for money, and I knew Gail turned her down both times. “Did my aunt even travel for the funeral?”

I was watching him, and I saw it. His nostrils flared. Guilt flared before he swallowed, dipping his head a little. “No. She was contacted by your parents’ lawyer, said she wasn’t in the will, and when asked about Jared, she couldn’t have given him away quicker than she did.”

That sounded right this time.

“Who took care of everything? I know you’re lying.”

He hesitated.


His chair jerked back, but a deep wariness just passed over his face. “My parents did. My father, to be exact.”

Fuck. It was worse than I thought.


“Because I made him. Because I threatened to never come home again unless he manned up and righted every fucking wrong he ever did to your family. My dad took care of mostly everything, and no, you will never know how much any of it cost. He also took care of your schooling for the next two years. Your campus got a sizeable donation in your name, along with a check for your schooling costs.” He shoved out of his chair, his eyes flashing. His face hard. “Consider it done, and honestly, I don’t want to hear another goddamn word about it again. It’s the least my family could do.”

His phone started blaring, but he looked down on me. “And with all that said, I’m going to make myself something to eat, head into the theater room, and put on something mindless to watch. You’re welcome to join me, or not. I don’t give a shit, just don’t leave, because in your state, you’d probably walk into oncoming traffic.”

He wasn’t wrong.

But it would’ve been on accident, not intentional, and admitting that much to myself, I found my room and curled under the covers again.

I’d call Jared in the morning.

Chapter Seventeen

Stone was shirtless.

Stone was only wearing sweatpants.

Those sweatpants were hanging seriously low over his hips.

And, he had a lot of bruises on his back. I was guessing they were from his game.

Oh, and he was making breakfast when I walked into the kitchen.

He stopped, his coffee cup in hand, the other manning the toaster, and glanced at the clock. “It’s five in the morning.”

“You say that like I’ve not been awake most of the night.” I grunted, sliding onto one of those many barstools of his. He was clear across the counter and the island. I noted, “Kitchens shouldn’t be this big. Who else lives here? What’s the need for this much size?”

He stared at me, his mouth flattening. “Good morning to you, too.”

Another grunt from me. “Sorry. I’m a bit bitchy.”

He hid a grin. “That a new development or…?”

“Fuck off.”

He didn’t hide the grin this time, laughing as the toast popped up. “You want one?”

I considered it. I did, but I shook my head. “Coffee?”

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