She kissed me, sliding her hands down my chest. “I’m sure.”

I froze, hands on her hips, and then rolled her onto her back. Over her, I caught her lips, kissing her with everything that I had in me. Maybe another guy would’ve asked her again or done something else, but those two words. I’m sure. They broke the tiny hold I had on my self-control.

Breaking the kiss, I stood and all but ripped off my jeans. When her gaze dropped and eyes widened, I couldn’t help but smile.

Avery looked almost untouchable as she lay there, staring up at me with those beautiful brown eyes. “I could stare at you for a lifetime. It would never grow old.”

“Even when I’m old?”

Advertisement

“Even then.”

Unable to wait any longer, I came to her. I wanted this moment to be perfect for her. I wanted everything to be beautiful and I wanted her to feel how much I loved her.

So I started at those tiny toes, working my way up her legs and over her soft stomach with kisses. I took my time, sucking and nipping until the peaks of her breasts were tight and she was panting. Every part of me felt hard, heavy, and swollen, but I wanted her ready, even if raw, intense desire rode me to drive deep inside of her.

Her body arched against mine as I reached her lips once more. Shifting my weight to one arm, I matched the thrusts of my tongue with my finger and then two, stretching her slowly.

She clutched my arms, my sides as she moved restlessly and when I put my mouth to her down there, she came apart in a way that almost undid me right then.

Advertisement

I was shaking like a weed in the middle of a storm as I rose, positioning myself between her thighs. Wrapping my hand around myself, I lined up our bodies. The first contact with her wetness sent shards of pleasure through me.

There was a point when you couldn’t stop and I was at that part, my body trembling with need, but I waited for her. I gave her time.

“I love you,” I told her, resting my hand to her cheek. “I love you so very much.”

Her arms wrapped around me, holding me tight, urging me forward. “I love you.”

Dropping my hand to her hip, I deepened the kiss as I rolled my hips into hers. She stiffened under me, and her soft gasp of surprise went straight to my soul.

I stilled. “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

I didn’t want to hurt her and I knew that had to hurt. I remained still, deep inside her. My heart hammered out of control as I kissed the corner of her lip and then the other. Her mouth opened, and I slipped inside, slowly tasting her, giving her body time to adjust.

I groaned as she tilted her hips tentatively, creating startling friction between us. “Av . . .”

She did it again, and I rocked back. A cry of pleasure ripped from her as she gripped me in her tightness, wrapping her legs around my waist. Between that and the way she moved her hips, I lost myself in her in the most glorious way possible.

God . . . nothing felt like her and nothing compared to the feeling of her, of how she invaded every cell of my being. There was no me. There was no her. As we moved together, our mouths clinging to one another, our hands exploring and our hips sealing together, there was only us.

Avery broke under me, throwing her head out and crying my name when I slid a hand between us, touching her as I ground against her. Feeling the tight spasms, the way she held on to me was too much.

“Avery,” I grunted, burying my head in her shoulder as my release blew through me, shocking in its intensity.

The release felt like it kept coming in tight waves. I rested above her, my body jerking every couple of moments. Forever went by before I trusted myself to move. A deep sound came from my chest as I eased out of her.

I kissed her and fuck if I didn’t feel a burning sensation in the back of my throat. I shook my head, dumbfounded by the force of what I felt. “That was . . . there are no words. You okay?”

She placed her hands on my cheeks and they trembled slightly. In her steady gaze, I saw the mirror of what I was feeling. “Perfect. You were perfect.”

The truth was, if I was perfect, it was only because of her. It would only ever be because of her.

Twenty-Nine

That’s where I need to be.

Those were Avery’s words as she’d spoken to the other girl. Molly. I had struggled not be angry when I’d seen the red mark on her cheek. The only thing that helped was hearing those words.

Shortcake finally got it.

The healing she needed did rest in the truth, in speaking out to her parents and to talking to Molly, but she had begun to heal all the way back in February, then again in April. Going to Texas was something she felt she needed to do and she had done it.

So I brought her home and here we were, back in the somewhat cooler state of West Virginia, the night before Avery would start her summer classes and I’d start working with the kids during camp.

Shortcake sat on the kitchen floor across from me, bare legs tucked under her. She wore one of my shirts and that was all. I had a hard time thinking about anything other than that.

Between us, Michelangelo and Raphael were currently head-bobbing each other.

“It’s like a tortoise version of smack talk,” she said, brows pinched. “I’m not sure they like each other.”

I grinned as I leaned back against the fridge, running my hand over the bare skin of my abs. “They still need some time. And Mikey-Mike is territorial.”

“Oh, blame it on my tortoise.” She rolled her eyes. “Yours started the head-bobbing crap first.”

The timer dinged, and I climbed to my feet, heading over to the stove. “He was just showing yours who’s boss.”

“Michelangelo is boss.” Shortcake picked up her little guy, setting him back several feet.

Eyeing the chocolate cookies and finding them done, I quickly washed my hands, then retrieved an oven mitt I was sure Shortcake had never used. The tag was still on it. Grinning, I tore it off and then removed the tray from the oven. The cookies were super-sized, golden and oh-so gooey-looking.

“Are they ready?” She looked up, eyes gleaming.

“You’ll burn your tongue.” I tossed the mitt aside. “Again.”

She grinned. “But it is so worth it.”

“Uh-huh.” I sauntered up to her, enjoying the way her cheeks still flushed when her eyes dipped below my navel. Swooping down, I kissed her upturned lips. “Give them—”

My cell went off from the living room. “Be right back.”

She nodded as I carefully avoided stepping on a poor tortoise and traumatizing myself and Shortcake. I swiped my cell off the coffee table. A sigh of relief exited me as I saw that it was from my sister.

Out of surgery. Doing ok. Will call u later.

Closing my eyes, I said a little prayer. It hadn’t been a major surgery, but it was still a surgery and fucked-up things happened in hospitals. She was home. That was good, but . . .

“Was that Teresa?”

Putting my phone down, I turned. Avery stood in the door, holding two squirming tortoises. Combining that with the shirt that read I WANNA BE YOUR MANWICH, it was a pretty adorable sight.

“Yes.”

She walked the two tortoises over to their habitat and gently placed them inside. While she closed the lid, the two green guys immediately eyed each other from their respective corners. “Is she okay? How did the surgery go?”

“She says she’s fine. It was just a text.” I paused. “She said she’d call me later.”

Facing me, her brows were pinched in worry. If anyone knew what Teresa was facing right now, it would be Shortcake, with all her years of dancing. “She didn’t say anything about dancing?”

I shook my head as I pressed my lips together. Teresa had torn her ACL a week ago during a recital. For athletes and dancers, it could be an injury fatal to their careers. All my sister had ever wanted to do was become a professional dancer. Only time would tell if that would be possible at all.

But from what Mom had said, it wasn’t looking good.

Shortcake disappeared into the kitchen, washed her hands and returned. Coming up to me, she wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her cheek against my chest. Her skin was warm.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Why are you apologizing?” I folded my arms around her, holding her close.

“Because I know you’re worried,” she said, rubbing her cheek along my skin. “And I know this injury is serious. I just hope it’s not as serious as it can be.”

I dropped a kiss to the top of her head as I slid my hand up her spine, cradling the back of her neck. “Me too.”

She was quiet for a few moments. “Thank you.”

Laughing softly, I leaned back so I could see her face. “Now what are you thanking me for, sweetheart?”

“Thank you for going to Texas with me.”

I cupped her cheek with one hand. “You’ve already thanked me for that.”

“And you told me that I didn’t need to thank you.” She placed her hand over mine. “But I need to thank you again, because I wouldn’t have done it without you.”

“Yes, you would’ve.”

She shook her head. “Maybe I would’ve, but I don’t really know. I needed you there and you were there, no questions asked. I can’t thank you enough for that—for everything.”

“Oh, Shortcake, you still don’t have to thank me.”

“But I . . .” She stopped, frowning. “Shortcake?”

I opened my mouth and then realized my slip. Dropping my hands, I stepped back and laughed. “Did I say that out loud?”

“Yeah. You kind of did.” She tugged on the hem of the borrowed shirt. Curiosity filled her face. “What’s up with that?”

Fuck me, but I felt my cheeks start to burn.

Her eyes widened as she smiled. “You’re blushing! Oh my God, you’re actually blushing!” She pinched my cheek. “I need to know now why you’re so flushed.”

“What do I get if I tell you?”

She pinned me with an arched look that said what I wouldn’t get if I didn’t tell her. That pissy look turned me on. Then again, when she breathed, it made me hot.

“It’s really kind of stupid.” Catching her hand, I pulled her back to me. Once she was close enough, I dipped low and slid an arm under her legs.

“Hey!” She smacked my back. “Stop trying to distract—” She squealed as her feet went off the floor. “Cam!”

Picking her up, I held her close to my chest as I turned toward the hallway. “I’m not distracting you. I’m helping you back to the bedroom.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Besides the fact that I don’t need help going back to the bedroom, why are you carrying me back to the bedroom?”

“You don’t walk fast enough,” I told her as I carried her to her bed. “Hey.”

Her look grew exasperated. “What?”

I winked a second before I dropped her over the middle of the bed. Her squeal ended in a grunt as she bounced. Her mouth opened, and I knew she was about to cuss me every way but straight. I was on her before she could start what she was about to say, sliding my hands up under the hem of the shirt. In a second I had it off her and she was beautifully, magnificently bare. I shucked off my pants.

Table of Contents No content storage and copying in transcoding