“And we did it twice. We can’t even blame it on a onetime mistake.”
“Want to know the worst part?”
“It wasn’t even bad sex. I mean, I expected us to begin laughing when we tried to get physical, like the last times. But it was different. I felt . . . things.”
His heart pounded. He tried to sound relaxed, even though his palms sweat. “Me, too. What should we do?”
He tried not to wish she’d suddenly declare they should keep sleeping together and figure things out. That there were emotions between them, lurking, that needed to be dragged out into the light. He wanted time to experiment and see if there could be something more than friendship, because he’d never found that connection in bed before. Not as if parts of him had been found. Which was crazy, because that’s how he imagined he’d act if he was deeply in love with a person.
Yes, he loved Taylor. He just wasn’t in love with her. At least, he always assumed that was the difference between a committed relationship versus a friendship.
Until last night.
The thoughts whirled in his mind, and he held his breath as he waited for her response.
“I think we should move on.” Her face reflected a seriousness that told him she’d been thinking about this for a while. “I don’t want to pretend it never happened. But one night of great sex shouldn’t derail our friendship at this point. If we hadn’t been drinking, it would have never happened.”
He nodded, ignoring his disappointment. She was right. There was no way they could just jump into bed with one another without consequences. It was best to go back to the way things were. Before last night, things were perfect. “I agree,” he said. “You can’t be using my body for orgasms whenever you want.”
She snorted, but a smile tugged at her lips. “I’m sorry I ran out of your house. I think I freaked a bit.”
“Understandable. Seeing me naked can do that to a woman.”
This time, she laughed and punched his shoulder. “Idiot. Okay, so we agree to put this episode behind us. You didn’t tell anyone, right?”
She released a breath. “Thank God. It’ll be our secret to take to the grave. We good?”
He studied the curve of her cheek, the stubborn line of her jaw, the pert nose. Her lips were pursed in thought as she waited, poised perfectly for his mouth. He remembered the wild, sweet taste of her on his tongue and the way she’d wrapped herself around him like she’d never let him go.
Uneasiness curled through him. No, he wasn’t good. He was still tortured by the memory of her in his bed, but he’d force himself to get over it. He had to, or he’d sacrifice their friendship. Taylor needed the reassurance that he’d be able to transition back, and damned if he wasn’t going to give it to her.
He nodded. “We’re good. Never happened. Moving on.”
Relief shone in her big brown eyes. “I’m glad that’s over. Thanks for being cool. I’d better get some work done, or I’ll never be able to deliver on time.”
He stood up. “You’ll get it done. Shoot me a text tomorrow with an update.”
Pierce left the workroom and stepped back outside. Eventually, he’d get past this stumbling block and fall back into their effortless friendship. He’d bet not many other close friends would be able to talk calmly and make a decision on the best route to take. It just showed that he and Taylor were unbreakable.
Pep talk complete, he swore he wouldn’t think about their slipup again.
“Aunt TT! We’re going to the beach! Wanna come? Oh, please, please, please!”
Taylor rubbed the sleep from her eyes as Zoe charged through the connecting door of their duplex at high speed, skidding on bare feet in front of her. She looked adorable in her Fancy Nancy nightgown, tangled nest of hair, and shiny bright-blue eyes that were so like Bella’s. But cuteness wasn’t going to get her out of this pickle. “Zoe, what did I tell you the last time you came in without knocking?”
Her niece was smart enough to pretend to think, then clap her hand over her mouth in dismay. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I was just excited about asking you to go to the beach with us. I forgot.”
Taylor crossed her arms in front of her chest and repeated the question. “What did I tell you?”
Zoe hung her head. “That I’d get punished.”
“That’s right. I promised your mother if you didn’t listen, I’d have to punish you. You have to remember, sweetheart, that this is my private house, and I could have had company.”
Her stomach gave a strange flutter. “Yes, or someone else.”
Zoe let out a pathetic sigh that morphed into a whimper. “I was bad. I know. Are you going to punish me, Aunt TT?”
She bit the inside of her cheek and tried to keep a straight face. As if. She’d never punish Zoe. That was what Bella was for—to be the bad guy. “I have to. My punishment is . . .” She trailed off, almost laughing at her niece’s obvious distress. “You have to make me a shell necklace.”
Zoe blinked. “But then I’d have to go to the beach.”
“Exactly. We’ll go together, but your job is to collect enough shells and create me a work of art to wear. Deal?”
Zoe jumped up and down. “Yes! I’ll make it so pretty, you’ll never get mad again!”
Taylor leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I’m not mad at you, silly. Just knock next time, okay?”
“Zoe Sunshine-Caldwell! Did you come into your aunt’s house again without knocking?” Bella stood in the doorway with a frown. “Because if you did, after we keep warning you, I don’t know if we can go to the beach today.”
“But Mama, Aunt TT said—”
“I said it was a good thing she knocked, or she would’ve been in big trouble,” Taylor interrupted. “And I’d love to go with you. Is Gabe coming, or is he working?”
Bella softened. “Oh, good. Yes, Gabe has a party tonight, but we’ll have a few hours. Avery has a bridal lunch, and Carter’s working, so they can’t make it. Why don’t you invite Pierce? I’ll pack lunch for all of us, and Gabe can do the cooler.”