He snorted, grabbing his water bottle. “By now, who knows with you. You didn’t want your friends to know about our friendship. We’re fucking, and you’re aghast at anyone knowing. I had no clue what you’d do if I invited you to a game.”
“I am a basketball fanatic.” I pointed toward my bedroom. “You gave me a shirt to wear, and a sweatshirt. If you think you’re getting either of those back, think again, buddy.” I snorted and couldn’t dim my grin. “It’s like you don’t know me.”
Sex, food, and feeling wanted went a long way toward making this person happy.
I stared at Reese, really seeing him. He was here. He’d come after me. He’d fought for me. He screwed me six ways to Sunday, and oh so amazingly. Yeah. I’m pretty sure I was glowing at this point.
He stared back, his gaze growing somber. Putting his bottle back on the table, he twisted the cap on it and cleared his throat. That was his signal. We were going serious.
“I know I put off having the talk, but I didn’t realize you’d hightail it out of there two hours later. Based on our history…” He adjusted in his seat, squirming. “Maybe we should have the talk.”
A whole new churning started in my gut.
He opened his mouth, but I stopped him. I had to go first, especially with this one.
“You know I have baggage. Caregiving for someone who wanted to deny he was losing his mind, that’s a lot. For me. For the next guy. For anyone.” I pulled my knees up again, pressing them against my chest. “I went to camp a little out of my mind—I’ll be honest. I think I’ve been out of my mind for a while. But at some point these last few weeks, I started talking about Damian. Not just to you, though you got the most, but to the others too. Grant knows. Now Owen and Hadley do too. No one knew what I was going through for all those years. Damian wouldn’t let me tell anyone. We had to pretend everything was normal, when it was so not normal, and I slipped away. Little by little. Every day. I’m just now starting to feel like a person again. You’re part of the reason for that, but…”
I was so stupid. I knew it, but I had to say this.
“I can’t be anything right now. I can be a friend, but anything more? I can’t take that on. I will never lose myself to a guy again, ever. And I don’t know what you’re going to say, but that’s what I had to say first.”
He stared at me long and hard before scooting his chair back so he could lean his elbows on his knees. “I will tell you this. I like our friendship.”
“I do too.”
“And I really like fucking you.”
I grinned. “I do too.” But then my smile dimmed. “But not if you’re dipping in others.” That was a deal breaker for me.
He lowered his head. “Got it. Okay, I will not screw anyone, except when I see you. Then I’ll screw you.”
I nodded. Such crude words, but that was what we needed. Those words held no emotional attachment, and the only attachment I could handle was what we were spelling out right now.
“So…” I sat up, lowering my feet back to the ground. “Still friends?”
His head bounced up and down once. He laid his hand out on the table for me, palm up.
“And we have sex when we see each other?”
He nodded again. “And neither of us does that with anyone else. It has to go both ways. I’m all about female sexual equality, so I know you ladies get as horny as we do.” He wiggled his fingers at me. “Deal?”
I started to reach for his hand, but paused. “Should we be ironing out how often we see each other? How often we talk to each other?”
He stood abruptly. “Shake my damn hand, woman. Friends is friends. We talk as much as we can, and we see each other as much as we can.”
“Deal.” I reached over and slapped his hand.
“Oh no!” He caught my hand, reaching out and lifting me clear of the table and into his arms.
It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. He made me feel like I could soar, but he could drop me so fast.
“Christ, you make me work to get in your pants.” But he was grinning as his mouth found mine. He took me back to the bedroom, and once we got there, he laid me down on the bed, holding himself above me. “You have to promise I can fly you out, because I’m going to be traveling a lot. During season, it’s nuts. I won’t get here that often.”
I framed his face. “You’re so cute, acting like I’m not a basketball groupie.”
A twisted laugh ripped from him, but his eyes were back to darkening. “You are definitely not a groupie.” His hand moved down my side, slipping under my shirt and smoothing up to cup my breast. His thumb rubbed over my nipple. “I know you like to joke about that stuff, but do me a favor? Stop with the bad talk. Stop calling yourself a stalker, groupie, and whatever else you think is funny but is just a put-down. Only I can use those as endearments. Got it?”
I stilled, swallowing. He watched me, affection warming his eyes, but there was more—an emotion that had my pulse spiking because I didn’t want to name it, or feel it, but it was there.
As I whispered a yes, his mouth found mine.
I closed my eyes, giving myself over to him, and I tried to forget what I’d seen. Because if I didn’t, I couldn’t stay with him. I’d just ruin everything.
Instead of thinking, I wound my arms around his neck. I opened my legs as he settled over me, and I pushed down his shorts.
Condom on, he slid inside me moments later.
I forgot everything else.
Reese’s alarm went off at four, and just as he rolled out of bed, I caught his arm.
“Hey, go back to sleep.”
“No.” My eyelids couldn’t open. I was seriously tired, but I was determined. “Cancel your driver. I’ll take you to the airport.”
“No. Go to sleep. I’ll just slip out.” He bent down, pressing a kiss to the side of my mouth. “For real. It’s ungodly to be up at this hour. Rest till your friends get here.”
Did he not… He didn’t. It was official. I needed to introduce myself again.
I growled, lightly shoved his head away, and swung my feet down. I was at least sitting now, but yeah—eyes still not open. Around a yawn, I tried to be fiercer. “I said I’d drive you. Airporaaaaah,” I yawned, “is five minutes from here.” Okay. I just needed to rub my eyes a little, and then they’d open.
He chuckled, bending close again. He placed another soft kiss on my forehead before he pushed his finger there, easing me back down. “Go to bed, psycho. I have a driver coming.”
I was determined.
Pride. Stubbornness. All of my superhero qualities.
There. I got my eyes open, and whoa—it was so dark out. He was right. No one should be up at this time, but he was, so I was. He still wavered over me. I pushed him aside and scooted to the bathroom first.
“Are you for real?” His exasperation was evident.
“Yes,” I yelled over, peeing. A quick wash. Teeth. I splashed my face a little, then I opened the door and waved him in. “Go. Get ready. I’ll put on coffee. You canceled your driver, right?”
He growled as he grabbed for his phone.
I pulled on clothes. I wasn’t even looking, but it might not have been a coincidence when I grabbed one of his sweatshirts. I had a problem, a sweatshirt problem. Pretty sure I could’ve started a support group, because I know I wasn’t alone.
Slipping some shoes on, I got the coffee going, and had a cup ready for him when he was done. Keys. Phone. Purse. I was set. Black leggings on, his sweatshirt over, and my hair up in a messy bun, I was sure I was the epitome of beauty. Not. I didn’t care. The coffee gave me points.
He came out, all ready, saw me, and shook his head.
Giving him the biggest smile I could muster, I handed over his coffee and dangled my keys. “Let’s go.”
My neighbor was coming home from his night shift at a factory. He was trudging down the hallway when he saw us, lifted a hand in greeting, then stopped. His head shot upright and his shoulders stiffened.
He rotated swiftly on his heels, his eyes wide and bulging. He held up a hand. “Is that—”
“No.” Lying. Another superhero quality of mine. “It’s late, Bill. That’s my brother.”
Reese squashed a laugh and nodded to the guy. “What’s up.” It wasn’t a question, but a greeting, and he hustled me past my neighbor.
I gave Reese a look as we went to my underground parking spot. “He’s going to hammer me later. He’ll know he wasn’t seeing things.”
“He’s a fan?”
Reese smirked, meeting my gaze over the top of my car. “Bigger than you?”
We were entering cheesy couple territory here. We needed to scale it back.
“I have a cardboard cutout of you,” I told him. “In my closet.”
He froze. “You’re joking.”
I was, but now I had to buy one. “Wouldn’t you like to think that.” Settling into my chair, I felt better—more familiar terrain again. “But the funny thing is, next time you come, you won’t know if I was serious or if I bought him after I told you.”
Reese just rolled his eyes, putting the coffees in the cup holders for both of us.