Walker had gone out to visit some old friends and Piper was juggling groceries while trying to get her key in the back door. Before she could turn the knob, the door flew open and Piper gasped.
He reached out, taking most of her load from her hands. “I nearly gave up waiting on you to come home,” he said, setting the bags on the counter. “How much food do you need here, Red?”
Piper stood in the doorway, still clutching her keys, staring at the one man she didn’t think she’d see for at least two more months. Her heart pounded from the initial shock of someone in her house when she thought she’d be alone, but even more than shock was hope. Ryan was back for a reason and she hoped it wasn’t just for a turkey dinner.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, totally ignoring his question.
He glanced in the bags and then turned to her, resting a hand on the counter. “Hoping to get you to cook for me.”
Piper stepped inside, slowly, still shocked that Ryan was standing in her kitchen. Maybe he’d come back because he’d been injured.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
“Actually, I am.”
Her eyes raked over him, taking in his dark gray shirt and faded jeans, scuffed boots. “You look...” Hot as hell. “Fine.”
Stepping closer, Ryan stood toe to toe with her and grinned. “My heart is broken, Red. You took it when you walked out on me.”
That very second tears burned her eyes. “I may have physically walked out, but you left us before I could leave you.”
Ryan nodded. “That’s a fair statement and one I’m sure you won’t let me live down anytime soon. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll put up with you mocking me, so long as you let me back in your life.”
“I want to make you suffer,” she told him.
He reached for her, cupping her face between his strong hands. “I’ve suffered, Red. Believe me, I’ve suffered.”
“What about the circuit? Are you just here for Thanksgiving?”
With the holiday being tomorrow, Piper didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but neither did she want to give up hope.
Stroking her cheeks with his thumbs, Ryan shook his head. “I’m here for the duration if you’ll have me.”
A tear slipped over and she blinked the others back. “What about Joe and the championship?”
“I’ll think of something,” he told her. “If I have to pay off his debt, I’ll find a way.”
Piper closed her eyes. “Why now, Ryan? Why did you come back?”
“Because watching you walk away was one of the hardest things I’ve lived through. Because I was miserable without you and because you’ve gotten into my system. I was a mess out there because you were on my damn mind all the time. You were wreaking havoc on my work.”
“So sorry,” she said as she met his gaze and offered a half smile.
“You’re not sorry, you’re gloating.” He held her gaze and opened his mouth a couple times before he finally spoke, as if he needed to gather the right words. “I can’t be without you again, Piper.”
Moisture filled his eyes. In all of their years as friends, she’d only seen him cry at the death of his parents.
“What will happen when you want to leave again? When you get the urge to have an adventure or if someone needs you?”
“First of all, being with you is adventure enough,” he informed her.
A laugh escaped her.
“Second—” he nipped at her lips “—the only person that needs me is you.”
Piper opened her mouth, ready to defend herself, but he laid a fingertip over her lips.
“And I need you,” he murmured. “More than I ever thought possible.”
Ryan rested his forehead against hers and sighed. “I’ll resort to begging if I need to, Red. But for the love of God, tell me something. Tell me you forgive me or you’ll think about it. Anything.”
Piper smiled. “As much as I’d love to see you groveling, I’ll cut you some slack.”
“Does that mean you love me?”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and held on, not ready to let go anytime soon. “It means if you try to leave again, I’ll castrate you.”
Ryan picked her up, spun her around and kissed her. Hands-in-her-hair, devouring-her-lips, making-her-breathless-with-want kissed her. Yeah, they would have one hell of a reunion tonight.
“Uh, should I come back later?”