Avery dropped the biscuit on the floor and stretched out her legs in front of her. “If someone tried to take away the man I loved, I’d be upset, too,” she said. “But there’s something you need to know. I will never try to get between you. You loved him first, Lucy, and he loved you.”
The dog cocked her head, giving her a sidelong look as if she were listening. Even though Avery felt ridiculous, she continued her speech.
“I just want to make him happy, too. I know you’ll be rid of me in a week when you go back to DC, but is it wrong to hope for more? Can you give me a chance if I promise to never hurt you or try to control your relationship? Because you’re everything to him, and that will never change. I think we can both make him happy. Don’t you?”
Lucy blinked. Considered. Then dropped her head to rest between her delicate paws, as if telling her she needed some time to think about it.
“Fair enough,” Avery said, getting up from the floor. “I guess trust is earned, not given. I’ll work harder.”
The door opened. Lucy jumped with joy, and damned if the man didn’t get straight to his knees to give her love and affection. Avery’s heart mushed and her head spun, and she watched his tenderness with a longing that roared up from her very soul.
When he straightened up, he tossed her a sexy grin and walked over, pressing a hard kiss to her lips. “You look so fucking hot,” he growled, eating her up with his gaze.
“It’s just a shirt,” she teased, cupping his rough cheeks.
“It’s my shirt. I’m all over you. Turns me on.”
She laughed and stepped away, grabbing the bag from his hands. “Everything turns you on, but right now, all I can think of is food.” She pulled the chocolate croissant from the bag and moaned, crossing her legs in ecstasy. “Oh God, it looks so good. How do you keep finding them? Each time I go, they’re all out.”
He grabbed a paper plate and napkins, and slid his own pastry out of the bag. “When I found out how much you love them, I asked Madison’s to keep one to the side every time they baked a batch and text me.” He took a bite. “You’re right. It’s so good.”
The pastry dropped from her fingers. She blinked, staring at him. “What did you say?”
“No, about Madison’s.”
He shrugged. “Told them to put one aside. No big deal.”
The knowledge he wanted to please her and had gone out of his way to make her happy struck hard. If only he realized how much he had to give. If only she could help teach him.
She leaned forward, making sure the shirt gaped open and flashed her bare breasts. “After you finish your breakfast, I want you naked. I’m about to show you how grateful I am for being so sweet.”
He stared back, slightly dazed. “I’m done now.”
She laughed and shook her head. “After. Can I give some to Lucy?”
“No, chocolate isn’t good for dogs.”
“I can give her this crunchy end. It’s plain.”
He smiled, glancing back and forth between them. Lucy gave a tiny whine, sensing she was close to the treat. “Sure.”
She offered the bite, but Lucy sat stubbornly, waiting for Carter to give it to her. “Dammit, she’s stubborn.”
He deepened his voice. “Lucy, you can take it from Avery or you get nothing at all. Your choice.”
Lucy whined and looked away in refusal.
“Okay, your loss.”
Avery kept it aside. Carter dumped the plate, rinsed his hands, and turned. “Now, you were saying?”
She laughed. “Meet you in there, robot man.”
He disappeared in a flash. Arousal tightened low in her belly, mixed with a joy she’d never experienced before. She dried her hands and turned, ready to join him.
Lucy sat before her. Paws in front, head cocked up, she looked like an adorable posed doll.
Avery sucked in a breath. Her heart beat. Was this just a ploy to mock her? Slowly, she took the edge of the croissant and bent down, offering it to her.
The dog gently accepted the bite, chewing politely. When she was done, they gazed at one another with a new understanding.
“Girl power,” she whispered with a big smile. “It’s something I’m going to teach you, Lucy.”
And damned if she didn’t catch a twinkle in those big brown eyes.
“Please don’t make me watch this.”
Avery gave an impatient sigh and turned to face Carter on the couch. “But you’ve never seen it! I swear, it’s not mushy. It’s really funny, and it’s my favorite movie. Can’t you give it a try?”
He glanced down at the cover of the DVD for Notting Hill and looked miserable. “Does it have any of those stupid one-liners that women like to swoon over and repeat endlessly?”
She averted her gaze because it was very difficult to lie to him. “Not really.”
“What about Baby Driver? It’s a new classic. The soundtrack kills.”
They stared at one another in a battle of wills. Lucy cranked her head around to stare at them from her position at Carter’s feet, as if sensing a war. Finally, Avery sighed. “What if we watch my movie first, then your movie?”
He narrowed his gaze in suspicion. “You’re not going to fall asleep during my movie and claim tiredness, are you?”
She giggled at his adorable frown and pressed a kiss to his lips. “No. I’ll make popcorn while you put it on.”
He grumbled, but set up the movie on the ancient DVD player while the merry sounds of popping corn echoed in the air.
She returned to the couch with the bag, and snuggled under the comfy crocheted afghan. “I promise you’re going to love it,” she squealed. “Lucy, wanna come up and sit with me? I’ll share.”
Lucy gave her a long look. Ever since the croissant episode, they’d been slowly bonding, and Avery wasn’t afraid to admit she used bribery to help her along. Still, she was surprised when the dog got up from her spot and jumped up to settle on the extra patch of blanket beside her.
“Good girl,” she crooned, stroking her silky back. “Here, have one.”
The dog took the kernel with a gentle bite, then slowly chewed, as if savoring the salty taste with class.
“That’s my girls,” Carter said happily, putting his arm around her shoulders. Then he hit the “Play” button.
Two hours later, the credits rolled past, and she risked a glance at his face. Lucy was snoring happily, the popcorn was gone, and darkness had fallen.
His eyes were closed.
She punched him in the arm. “You were sleeping!”
He jerked and blinked madly. “Nope, I was awake the whole time.”
“Oh, sweetheart, there’s only one liar here, and it’s you.”
A shiver worked down her spine at his sexy growl. She huffed out a breath. “What are you talking about?”
“You said it had no stupid lines, but that one gets the award for worst line ever spoken.”
She wriggled her butt on the couch and glared. “It wasn’t stupid.”
He snorted. “‘I’m a girl, standing by a boy, asking him to love me’? Really? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Holy crap, how do they create this stuff that would never be spoken in a million years? This is why men never want to watch these movies. It’s completely unrealistic.”
She sniffed. “You said it wrong. And it’s not unrealistic. You can’t be sure you’d never say anything like that if you were desperate to prove your love to someone you were afraid of losing.”
“Yes, I can. Nothing could make me say that shit.”
“That’s horrible! What if it was the one line that would make everything better? You wouldn’t say it because of your male pride?”
She nibbled at her lip, desperate to make her point. “What if you had to say it to gain a million dollars?”
“Not worth it. It’s too stupid. Can we watch Baby Driver now?”
She got up and stalked into the kitchen. “Fine. Do you want some water?”
“Can you grab me a beer, please?”
She cracked open an IPA, filled a glass of water with ice, and came back to resettle. Lucy was snoring softly, and she cuddled into the crook of Avery’s arm as soon as she sat back down. “This better be good,” she warned.
“Oh, it is. You’ll love it. It got extremely high reviews from all the critics.”
“So did Notting Hill.”
He grumbled something, but she got quiet and swore she’d have an open mind.
Two hours later, she was ready to scream. “You call that realistic?” she hissed furiously. “Nothing in that movie could have ever happened.”
He looked at her with complete astonishment. “What do you mean? He’s a getaway driver! That’s how they drive. And there was even a hot romance in there.”
Her disbelief grew. “That was a romance? I think it was a train wreck. I’m sorry, I didn’t like it.”
“Impossible. Wasn’t it exciting and pumped you with adrenaline? Didn’t you love the music?”
She wrinkled her nose. “No.”