“Say it again.” I kissed her deeply, tasted her.
“I love you,” she whispered against my lips.
“So I’m just going to come out and ask.” Avery’s eyes narrowed in on me and Thatch as we sat across from her and Lucas, holding hands and basically groping each other under the table. “Are you guys together?”
“Clearly they’re sleeping together. Austin’s neck has ten hickies. Who gives hickies anymore?” Lucas frowned into his glass. “Sucking on someone’s skin, not natural; now, sucking on a woman’s—”
Avery shoved a piece of bread into his mouth. “Hungry?”
With narrowed eyes, he pulled half of it out and chewed. “Starving.”
“That’s what I thought.” Her deep blush said more than I’d like to know about my best friend and the guy sharing her bed, but whatever. Lucas Thorn wasn’t a cheater anymore, and I was happy for them, especially now that I had Thatch back.
I shivered in response.
I’d spent the last week in his bed.
A full week of bliss where we argued over who made the coffee in the morning and which late-night TV show to watch. It was bliss.
It was exactly as it should be.
And I should be happy.
I was happy.
I still didn’t know why he’d cheated and why he’d dumped me, and I felt like a dog with a bone, just chewing and chewing and chewing away at the stupid thing, hoping that once I finished it, I’d have the answers I needed.
But did I really need the answers?
He said he loved me.
Thatch’s magical hand slid up my thigh, his fingers dipping beneath the edge of my skirt.
My lips parted as the warmth of his hand met with my skin in a way that probably should have been illegal.
“You’re flushed,” Avery pointed out. “It’s not even hot in here.” She tapped her chin. “Hands where I can see them.”
“Move your hand, I kill you,” I said out of the corner of my mouth.
Thatch smirked while Lucas gave him a nod of approval.
“What have you done to my best friend?” Avery threw her hands into the air. “She’s two bad choices away from getting arrested for public indecency!”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Thatch grumbled.
“There is everything wrong with prison time, my friend,” Avery said seriously. “So, now that we’ve lured you guys out of your sex dungeon long enough to have a normal human conversation—how did this happen?”
I opened my mouth to say something, when Thatch interrupted. “It just did, why do you need all the gory details?”
Avery blinked at him, then at me. “Is this one for real?” She shook her head. “I’m a woman. It’s what we do, we want the details.”
Thatch groaned. “I’m going to grab another drink.” He kissed the top of my head. “You need anything?”
“Nope.” I smiled up at him and then stared at his amazing ass as he walked away.
“He’s not a piece of meat, Austin,” Lucas ground out.
“He forehead kisses.” Avery sighed into her drink.
Lucas looked between us. “That’s a thing?”
We both nodded.
Lucas’s frown deepened. “Unbelievable, and yet another urban legend is proven correct. I always thought women assumed the forehead kiss meant friendship.”
“It means”—Avery rolled her eyes—“that he cares. It’s a tender kiss rather than a possessive alpha kiss of passion.” She coughed out his name into her hand and then smiled sweetly.
“You love my kisses of passion.” And like he needed to prove he was a legend, Lucas kissed her across the mouth, leaving Avery all flushed and dewy skinned.
I made a gagging sound.
They ignored me as they always did.
There must have been a long line at the bar. I glanced over at Thatch and nearly passed out when I saw my dad standing next to him.
“Mayday!” I jumped out of my chair and made a beeline for Thatch. He was pale, so pale. Shoot, my dad was probably talking all about the race again.
The race I basically told the entire city of Seattle that Thatch was competing in—with the mayor, and a doctor at his office.
I had been angry!
It was revenge!
And now it was time to save him. “Thatch!” I wrapped an arm around his waist. “Daddy, how are you?”
Dad pointed to his cheek. I went over and kissed his scruff and pulled back, frowning. He smelled . . . different.
Not like himself.
Then again, he was always with lots of people.
I shrugged and waited for him to answer.
“I’m good.” Dad looked between us. “I’m surprised to see you two back together after . . . everything.” His eyes narrowed.
“Dad.” I patted his shoulder. “We’re adults.”
“That you are.” His expression changed. “Thatch, I’ll see you later, think about what I said.”
“I will, sir.” Thatch looked ready to commit murder.
“Hey?” I cupped his face with my hands and forced him to look down at me. “Is everything okay?”
“No.” He swallowed slowly. “But it will be.”
He kissed me, pressing my body against the bar top so roughly that a sharp pain hit me in the back from the barstool.
When I pulled away for a breath, I asked, “What did you guys talk about?”
“Riding,” Thatch blurted, and then his eyes did that sexy smolder thing that had the entire world fading away around me.
“What kind of riding?” I licked his taste from my lips.
“The kind you’re really good at.” His body pressed me against the bar top again, his hips driving into mine.
“Oh?” I felt myself get hot and bothered. How was it possible that all it took was a look from this man, and I was ready to melt into a puddle on the floor?
“Yeah.” He pulled back and winked. “Though I think this time you’ll need a helmet.”
“Wait, huh?” My mouth dropped open. “What kind of kinky crap are you talking about?”
“Spandex.” He shivered. “At any rate, I really do need to learn how to ride a bike, I promised your dad I’d go on a ride with him sometime, and since I’m dating his daughter and don’t want him to think I’m a dirty little liar, or worse, just trying to get into his good graces, I figure I’d better man up and get down to business.”
“Well”—I took his hand in mine—“at least you have someone to help.”
“One condition.” He tugged me into his body. “No Dora.”
“But she’s an explorer!” I argued. “And the bike comes with a fanny pack.”
His eyes narrowed.
I grinned. “Admit it, the flashlight inside the fanny pack was cool, and how nice that she’s helping you learn Spanish at the exact same time!”
“You love me,” I fired back, still breathless at his admission. “So it’s Dora with the training wheels, and then when you don’t run into a mailbox, we’ll talk.”
“Fine,” he grumbled. “But no pictures.”
“Deal.” I held out my hand; he shook it. “You never said video.”
With a groan, he tugged my hand hard enough to press me tightly against his chest, and our mouths fused.
And I just knew—this was forever, me and Thatch, and nothing would ever stand in the way of a future with him. Nothing.
The paper from my office was burning a hole in my pocket.
The paper on which Austin’s mom had written her cell number and circled it a few hundred times.
I suspected that she wanted to know what I knew.
Which was a hell of a lot.
But I wasn’t going to say anything.
Maybe I had it wrong; maybe she was seeing how it was possible that I w
asn’t saying anything to Austin or going to the press. Then again, I could be wrong about every damn thing and her mother didn’t even know.
You don’t cheat by accident; your dick doesn’t just slip into another woman, the same way a woman doesn’t trip over her own feet and lock lips with another man.
I didn’t call the number.
Austin was snoring lightly next to me. She was the only good part of all of this, and I had to trust that she loved me enough to weather any kind of storm.
I lay awake, staring up at the ceiling, my thoughts going back to that night when I realized my parents weren’t who I thought they were.
“Hello?” I tossed my keys onto the kitchen counter and frowned. My dad was supposed to meet Mom at the house and take her out for their anniversary, but shocker, he couldn’t make it, so as a nice surprise, I decided to take her out for a meal. It was the least I could do. “Mom?”
I moved through the dark house.
Toward the back bedroom.
The light crept underneath the door. There was soft music playing and then, a noise that sounded a hell of a lot like sex.
I almost didn’t open the door.
I wish I hadn’t.
But I was young, and stupid.
Only nineteen, I’d just moved out of the house; the world was my oyster and life was good—my family was rich, my parents were paying for my undergrad, and I was going to change the world by following in my father’s footsteps.
I wanted for nothing.