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He paused, his eyes narrowed on me. “When’s the last time you ate?”

“When did that feeding tube get pulled out of me?”

He swore under his breath, buttering one of the pieces of toast for me. Placing it in front of me with a firm thud, he leaned over the counter. “Eat. Now.”

“I’m not hung—”

“I don’t give a shit.” He pointed at it. “You don’t eat, you’ll end up right back in the hospital. I, for one, am sick of picking you up there. The nurses got more forward the second time I was there.”

Now I hid a grin. “The hardships of being a football god.”

And it was his turn to grunt, finishing the other toast for himself. “There’s the perks, but trust me, there’s cons, too. A shitty pic of you is on Page Nine’s website today.”

“You’re lying.” But I was pulling my phone out, typing in Page Nine, and then swearing. He hadn’t minced words. It was a shitty pic of me. I was pale. My hair a mess. I groaned. “You look like you’re picking up a drug rehab reject.”

The headlines weren’t far off. Mysterious New Love Interest for Reeves? And the article went on to detail how he’d been a regular visitor at the hospital, spotted several times going in and out. Half my face was hidden by his truck, but enough they caught enough of me where it made me think hospitals needed to offer a spa day to patients before allowing them to be released.

“I’m surprised they didn’t get the other shot. That would’ve been better.”

He poured my coffee, took it to his fridge and glanced back. “You still like milk in your coffee?”

“I never drank coffee when we were friends. How’d you know that?”

“I might’ve had a conversation one time with your mom in the grocery store. I was picking up flowers for graduation and she was there.” He lifted his milk from his fridge. “Buying this for you.”

I—I swallowed over a lump. “You have a lot of secret conversations with my mom?” I took the cup as he handed it over, then watched as he poured some green juice in a glass and placed it right next to me.

He pointed at it. “You can’t have coffee if you don’t drink that, too, and maybe a couple more. Random times I saw her. We liked to buy groceries at the same time.”

“Saturday morning.”

He added, “Nine in the morning.” Leaning his back against his counter, he sipped his own coffee. “Course once I realized that was her usual time, I might’ve made sure to always have to pick something up for my mom during that time.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. “It’s like you had a secret affair with my mom, hopefully in a platonic sense.”

He barked out a laugh, his hands going to his shoulders, making his entire chest area bulge up.

Jesus. Those biceps. They flexed just as I was watching them.

Then I stepped into the equivalent of a cold shower as he said, “Your lawyer is coming this morning.”


Because for thirty minutes there, the image of a shirtless Stone had distracted me from what plagued me all night. “Right.”

“You want me here?”

“Yes.” I said it almost before he finished. I not only wanted him here, I needed him here, too.

I was past trying to be prideful.

A soft chuckle from him. “Can I make more food for you?”

I shook my head. I still hadn’t started on the toast. “Why are you up this early? Isn’t the day after your games for resting?”

“Technically, but I usually get up and head to the gym. I gotta run into the stadium today, too. And speaking of,” He moved to his phone, hitting the screen and scrolling. “Your lawyer will be here around nine this morning, so I’ll plan on going in after that.” He paused, tilting his head to the side. “You want to come with me?”


“To the stadium. I just gotta go in and talk to my coach, then do a few other things. I won’t be there long.”


He cleared his throat, setting his coffee aside and coming to lean over the counter across from me. He was almost staring down at me. “Let me put it this way, both times I’ve left you, I’ve not enjoyed the myriad of phone calls I got later. You’re coming with me where I know you probably won’t get into trouble.”

It was yes, sir. Right away, sir. No, I can’t talk back, sir.

I lifted up the toast, nibbling at the end. My stomach was growling and protesting, but I took a few bites. I knew there’d be a time I’d look back at this day with fondness, where I was trying to make myself eat. Not about all the other stuff, all the reasons why I didn’t feel like eating to begin with.

Except maybe a shirtless Stone, or a stern-talking Stone. I’d make sure to memorialize those moments.

Good Lord. I had a concussion. I was finding Stone attractive. I pondered that, and no. Not at all related. Finding someone attractive and being attracted to someone were totally different. I could recognize Mia and Savannah from the house were both gorgeous, but I didn’t want to jump either of them. It was the same deal here.

And speaking of my housemates, “How long am I staying here?”

“You’re here until I deem you’re able to function in the real world again.”

He was saying that all imposing-like. Two days ago I would’ve considered his face smirking and arrogant and pompous, but now I saw the thinly veiled concern.

He stood and straightened away from the counter. His eyes flashed, dropping from my face. “Listen. You have a concussion, and that shit’s no joke. That means ensuring you have the least amount of stimuli as possible. After today, no homework. No phone. Try to keep the television stuff to a minimum. I feel bad that I even invited you to watch a movie with me last night. Just until you’re okay to travel, stay put. I already cleared everything with your job and your college. They all know the deal. If you want it, they said you could take a leave of absence for the first semester and there’d be no penalty or impact to your tuition or your GPA.”

My heart sank. I’d already lost so much, I couldn’t lose a semester of school.

“No way.”

I’d have to restart all over again. I could only handle so many restarts. “I can’t do that.”

“You lost your father. You lost your stepmother. I know you still haven’t called your stepbrother yet. You are barely managing to get through a day here. And yeah, your job called me, said some bullshit that you’d be in tomorrow. I told ’em to fire you if you tried that shit again.”

“What? Stone, you can’t—”

“I can and I will!”

I was wrong. It was evident we were back to the ‘I hate you’ phase.

I shouted, “Why is this your business?!”

He didn’t answer, his face twisting, his mouth snapping shut. He stared at me, something fierce flashing in those eyes until he backed down. I felt it in the air. He eased back and I was at a loss. What just happened here?

But he was saying, more quietly, a lot more restrained, “Your lawyer. Then the stadium. If you’re hungry, we can stop and grab food on the way back. You need to head to your house, pick up anything left there?”

Maybe it was the concussion, but I wasn’t able to keep up with him. He was soft, hard, soft, hard, and yeah. Were we now not back to the ‘I hate you’ stage? Damn, this revolving door was making me dizzy.

I slunk down in my chair, suddenly more exhausted than I’d ever felt. “I thought you got all my stuff?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just asked those girls to pack a bag. We can swing by, make sure you have everything you might need. Then after that, your ass doesn’t leave this house. It’s my one day I can drive you around, so I’m offering to make a pit stop.”

Yeah. Okay. But he was already walking out of the kitchen.

Chapter Eighteen

There was no house.

I gaped at the lawyer. He was all trussed up, a black suit, black tie. Even a black suit jacket. Black briefcase. Black shoes. Black fucking socks. The only thing not black was the shirt. That was a cream color and I knew the quality was expensive. And there was not one iota of hesitation as he nodded to my question.

“Indeed, Miss Phillips. Your father was behind on his mortgage for the last year. He was going into foreclosure. We’d already had a meeting the week before…” Now he seemed to remember to be human, hesitating, “before the accident.”

I had no words. Nothing. This wasn’t as bad as when we lost the house the first time because of my mom’s chemo treatments, but it seemed similar. No. It seemed worse. I had Dad with me then.

Stone leaned forward, sitting next to me. His leg pressed against mine, and he left it there. His elbows went to his knees. “What was owed on the house?”

“Seventy-five percent of it.”

I sucked in my breath.

I had no idea they owed that much on it.

Stone gazed at me. “You want the house?”

The lawyer straightened. “Mr. Reeves, I don’t know…”

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