I loved what I did, and now that I could do it without reprimand? I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me.
And in the meantime?
I’d just have to take Roman back to when we were broke teenagers and could only afford box mac n cheese again. At least, while he was at my place anyway.
I loved the sound of that.
“You know, you’d have a lot more things to unpack if you let me get your stuff from Baker’s place,” I said as I looked around Teagan’s new apartment.
It was in a good building in a nice neighborhood, so that was comforting. Not that it didn’t sting that she didn’t want to stay at my place anymore, but I understood it. She’d just gotten out of an overwhelmingly intense, controlling relationship where she hadn’t been allowed to have anything of her own…only to jump into a relationship that was equally intense for way different reasons.
We both felt way too much, way too fast, and yet nothing had ever felt more right in my life. This wasn’t some stranger—it was Teagan. I knew her almost as well as I knew myself.
“I know.” Her lips pursed as she took in the boxes that now lined the living room wall and contained almost everything she owned…which wasn’t much. The rest of it had already been set up in her guest bedroom, which served as her studio. “There’s only a few things there that I really care about.”
“Then at least let me get those for you.” I wound my arms around her waist and tucked her in close. I didn’t want her in the same room as that abusive asshole if I could help it.
She smiled up at me, then kissed my chin. “Thank you, but it’s something I have to do for myself. Besides, if he really accepted our relationship as easily as you said he did, then there’s no reason for you to worry.”
“I’m always going to worry.” It had been a week since Rick’s blasé reaction to Teagan and I being together, and four and a half months since she’d shown up on my doorsteps wearing his fingerprints. He hadn’t so much as looked my way during practice, and he’d nailed every block for me at that last game, so I was feeling pretty good that he’d moved on. Didn’t mean I wasn’t going to worry about her directly confronting him, though.
She sighed and pushed out of my arms, heading toward the stack of boxes. “I get that. I do. But whether or not I go is ultimately my decision.” Her gaze snapped toward mine with wide eyes as her cheeks flushed. “And I know you know that. I know you’re not him. I just feel like I need to shut that door with a deadbolt, and it’s not going to stay shut—not in his mind—unless I’m the one slamming it home. He probably thinks you’ve got me locked away or something.” She ended that last part in a mutter.
“Well, now you have your own place,” I answered with a forced smile.
I understood it. I really and truly did. She’d run to me for a rescue, and I’d given her exactly what she needed, for as long as she needed it.
It didn’t matter that I needed her in bed with me when I woke up, or that I needed to hear her voice when I got home from work. That could all come later. It had to.
What she needed now was to stand on her own two feet—to know she was strong enough to do it. That way, when she came back, and eventually she would, it was because she chose to, not because she needed to.
That little box burning a hole in my pocket was just another choice I wanted to give her. Was it too soon? Probably. But I wanted her to know that her choice to move out didn’t change the way I felt about her, or our future.
The doorbell rang, and her eyebrows puckered. “I’m not expecting anyone.”
“I am,” I answered with a grin, jogging over to open the door. Bulky delivery guys stood at the threshold, and one by one, their eyes popped wide as they recognized me.
“You’re really Roman Padilla,” one of them said, thrusting a clipboard in my general direction.
“I am.” I took the board and scanned for the little box I’d need to sign.
“I mean, the order said Roman Padilla, but we all figured it had to be a coincidence or joke or something,” another said, blatantly staring.
“No coincidence.” I signed my name and handed the board back over before turning toward Teagan. “I bought you a housewarming gift.”
She arched a brow. “It had better not be an apartment-worth of furniture, Roman, or so help me God, they can take it all back right now.”