“Dude. Something other than wipe. Please.”
I thought about it. “Fucker.”
“Nice.” He gave me an approving nod. “Sticking with the classics. Right on.”
I was drunk.
I swear, that table had not been there two seconds earlier.
Bumping into it, I almost fell down and dissolved in laughter.
Hands caught me, righting me.
Yes. I’d forgotten they were here too.
I looked up. Bren and Taz. They were wonderful. I didn’t know why Blaise didn’t like them.
Bren’s hand tightened around my arm, and she tried not to smile. “You, uh, don’t have to share all your thoughts.”
Taz laughed on my other side. “I don’t know. I appreciated her giving us drunk GPS directions as we walked across the campsite.”
Right. I had done that. Drunk GPS…
We neared my camper, and I felt a smile on my face. “This is my place! This is where I’m sleeping.”
“We’re very aware. The whole campsite is now aware.”
I had no clue who said that, but I didn’t care.
Blaise stood from his chair.
“No!” I launched myself at him.
He caught me, like I knew he would, and I curled up in his lap.
“I love you.” An alarm sounded in my head, but I wanted to get this out. “I love you, and I’ve known for a while, but I didn’t share.” I frowned. “I don’t know why I kept that to myself.”
He was frozen, his eyes latched to mine as a strangled laugh came from him. His hand curled around my leg, and he grasped me tighter as he sat with me on his lap.
“Uh, thanks,” he said over my head. “I got it from here.”
Bren took off right away.
“Bye, Bren!” I yelled, waving.
She was only four feet away.
Taz was still laughing. She’d been laughing at me most of the night.
And she wasn’t leaving.
She sat in a chair next to our camper door. She nodded toward me. “You sure you’re okay with her?”
“I’ll be fine.”
I peered up at Blaise. He sounded sad. Why’d he sound like that?
I didn’t like that.
Blaise was sad a lot of the time. He was sadder than most of us, to be honest.
“Okay.” He patted my arm. “You don’t have to say that with everyone.”
Taz covered her mouth, trying not to laugh. Why now? She’d been laughing openly most the night.
“This is live television,” she said. “I would sign up for this subscription.”
“Shut up.” But Blaise grinned.
Oh good. I could relax.
I laid my head against his shoulder.
He wasn’t so sad now.
“Oh my God,” he muttered under his breath.
“Yep. She’s certainly all yours.”
He shook his head. “So, uh, how are things with the boyfriend?”
I heard a shocked laugh. “What is this? A Blaise who’s actually asking me a conversational question? How scandalous of you and your anger problem.”
His hand curled around my waist, shifting me against him.
“You’re here. I’m here. She’s about to fall asleep. And I actually don’t want to rip your brother’s face off his skull, for the first time all day.”
She laughed. “Progress. I’m impressed.”
Blaise groaned, and it relaxed me further.
“Just a conversation with my little sister.”
“Ha. Younger than you by a month, dickhead.”
“Yeah. Our dad was a busy guy that year.”
Silence, then a sputtering laugh. “I can’t believe you said that.”
Blaise sighed, and I fell asleep.
A pounding headache woke me in the dark, and I jerked around, then immediately regretted it.
Hitting a body, I cried out.
And I couldn’t see.
I had no clue where I was.
That body turned over, and arms swept me in.
I relaxed, recognizing those arms.
I burrowed into Blaise and whimpered. “How drunk did I get?”
“Really drunk.” He held me a second. “I need to turn the light on. Cover your eyes.”
Why? Why to the light?
But then it was on, and I turned my face toward the pillow.
Oh, God. No.
What had I been thinking? I hadn’t. That’s what I’d been thinking. Nothing.
I’d been sitting there, enjoying Bren and Taz, and enjoying the camaraderie of the guys. They were funny. They’d told stories the entire time, but I mostly enjoyed the ease they had with each other. I only felt that when Blaise was around Zeke, but no one else. He didn’t trust anyone.
Then I’d started drinking, because I wished I could have him come over with us, but I knew he wouldn’t, and the more I drank, the sadder I got, but the drunker I got too.
I opened my eyes to find him holding a glass of water in one hand and two pain pills in the other. Thank God. I really loved this man.
Swiping both, I swallowed the pills with the water, and then I had another problem. I had to pee. And my breath was horrible.
Holy—he’d let me go to bed like this? Embarrassing.
“Bathroom?” I croaked, one eye closed and the other opened just the tiniest bit to see his answer.
He chuckled, climbing out of bed.
I tried not to notice how good his shirt and boxer briefs looked on him, because it was cold out, and we were camping, and I had a splitting headache, but I did. Because he was hot. That’s all.
He padded barefoot past the kitchen area and opened a door. He reached inside and a soft light turned on. “Here.”
I loved him. I loved him so much.
I slipped inside, and a second later, he knocked on the door and shoved my bag inside. I loved him even more.
I didn’t change clothes, but I pulled out some better for sleeping and tossed them on the table in the main area. Then I shut the door and went back to rifling through my bag. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. I needed all the cleaning things I could find, because who knew drinking could make you smell?
After cleaning up a bit, I stepped back.
Leaving the light on, I didn’t want to look at Blaise. I knew he was back in bed, and he was probably watching me, and for some reason, acknowledging that would’ve made me feel self-conscious. So I ignored him as I quickly changed clothes. Then I tossed my bag aside and went back to turn the light off.
He nodded, looking at me from his pillow. He seemed exhausted. There were soft lines around his eyes and mouth. He had a sleepy look to him. “I’ll turn it off later.”
I padded back over, and he held up the covers.
I slipped in, but then he lifted me and rolled me to his other side, so he was between me and the door.
I squeaked in surprise, but then relaxed and really relaxed. He’d been warming my spot for me.
Man. I really loved him.
I settled in. Camping was awesome.
“How was your night?” he asked.
I searched his eyes, wondering if there was more to that question, but he seemed genuinely interested.
“It was nice, actually.”
He propped himself up on an elbow and reached for my hand, twining our fingers. He looked at our hands, his finger sliding against mine. “You seemed like you had a good time with them.”
His eyes lifted, held mine. He smiled, though it was slightly sad. “You can talk about my brother. I won’t get mad at you.”
“Okay.” So I did. “Zellman apologized for being slightly mean to me before. He said he didn’t mean it the way it came out. Jordan’s nice, and they’re all funny. I really like Bren and Taz. Thank you for inviting them.”
He nodded, his eyes falling back to our hands.
“And I liked your brother,” I added after a moment. “He’s nice.”
His eyes lifted back to mine. “Good.” He laid down on his pillow and turned toward me. He pulled me to him, our legs tangling. Then he said softly, “I know my brother is a good person. It’s half the reason I hate him. If he were a bad guy, I wouldn’t feel like a shit person.”
I held my breath.
His eyes fell to my mouth. “I’m jealous of him. That’s why I hurt him so bad.”
My breath caught in my chest. “Because of your dad, right?”
He shrugged against the blanket. “Not totally. I think just the whole situation. I’ve seen their mom, and she’s nice too. I mean, I get why she and Stephen didn’t work. They don’t seem to fit, but they tried. They tried for their kids. That’s respectable.”
I cocked my head up. “Your mom’s nice.”
He looked away. “My mom’s damaged. So am I. He did that to us.”
I closed my eyes and a wave of fierce protection, fierce love, fierce everything for him rolled over me, almost drowning me. I sputtered with the need to clasp him, anchor him, take away his hurt. But I couldn’t. That stuff was deep inside.
He had put it there.
“Blaise…” I reached up to touch the side of his face.
He caught my hand, pulled it to his mouth, and pressed a kiss there. “You told me you loved me tonight.”
I sucked in my breath. Oh God. I had.
The night came back to me in parts, but I remembered sitting on his lap. I remembered babbling, a lot.
“Did you mean it?” His eyes caught mine. There was a yearning there.
I nodded. “Yes.” It left me in a whisper. “I love you.”
He didn’t respond—not right away.