“I’m not being stupid. I’m being serious. My parents won’t mind.” I thought about what I had told my father. “Actually, they’d probably be happy to see someone other than me. And my mom likes to cook way too much food. The more mouths, the better.”

She continued to stare at me, mouth agape.

Not looking good. “We can leave whenever you want, but obviously before Wednesday afternoon. You finishing the rest of your hot chocolate?” I took the mug when she shook her head. “And we can come back whenever.”

Avery watched me finish it off. “I can’t go with you.”

“Why not?”

“Because of a hundred obvious reasons, Cam. Your parents are going to think—”

“They’re not going to think anything.” That was probably a lie, but she didn’t need to know that. I sighed. “Okay. Look at it this way. It’s better than you sitting home, by yourself, all week. What are you going to do? Sit around and read? And miss me, because you’re going to miss me. And then I’m going to have spend most of my time texting you and feeling bad that you’re sitting home, all alone, and can’t even eat McDonalds because they’re closed on Thanksgiving.”

“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. It’s not a big deal. I have no problem staying here.”

“I don’t want you sitting here alone and you’re making this into a big deal. I’m a friend asking a friend to come hang out with me over Thanksgiving break.”

“You’re a friend who just took a friend out on a date!” she protested.

I set the mug next to mine. “Ah, that’s a good point.”

Picking up a pillow, she held it to her chest like a shield. “I can’t do that. Visiting family over the holidays? That’s way too—”


“Yes.” She nodded furiously. “Way too fast.”

“Well, then I guess it’s a good thing that we’re not seeing each other then, because yes, it would be too fast if that was the case.”

Her head cocked to the side. “What the what?”

I tugged the pillow away from her and slid it behind me. “You and I are two friends who went out on one date. Maybe two if you come with me. We’re not dating each other. We’re just friends who had one date. So we will be going back to my house as friends.”

“You make no sense.”

“I make perfect sense. We haven’t even kissed, Avery. We’re just friends.”

Her jaw hit the couch.

“Come home with me, Avery. I promise you it won’t be uncomfortable. My parents would be happy to have you. You will have a good time and it will be better than what you’d end up doing here. And nothing, absolutely nothing is expected from you. Okay?”

The word no was easily forming on her lips, but she averted her gaze as she turned away, staring at the empty mugs on the coffee table. Several moments passed and then she twisted toward me, her lashes lifting. She swallowed. “Your parents really would be okay with this?”

She wasn’t telling me no now. This was good. “I’ve brought friends home before.”

“Girls?” When I shook my head, she clasped her hands together. “And your parents are really going to think we’re just friends?”

“Why would I have a reason to tell them we weren’t dating if we were? If I say we’re friends, that’s what they’ll think.” I met her stare and held my breath.

“Okay. I’ll go home with you,” she said in a rush. “This is an insane idea.”

For a moment I couldn’t process anything beyond the fact that she had said yes. “It’s a perfect idea.” Since she was in such a wonderfully agreeable mood . . . “Let’s hug on it.”

Her brow knitted. “What?”

“Hug on it. Once you hug on it, you can’t go back on it.”

Avery rolled her eyes. “Oh my God, are you serious?”

“Very serious.”

She grumbled as she rose onto her knees and stretched out her arms. “All right, let’s hug to seal our deal before I change—”

My arms went around her waist and I tugged her closer. Her leg tangled between mine as I hugged her. Within seconds, her scent surrounded me. “Deal is sealed, sweetheart. Thanksgiving is at the Hamiltons’.”

She murmured something nearly incoherent as she lifted her head. Our mouths lined up and understanding flashed across her face. “You . . .”

I chuckled, and her lips parted. “Smooth move, huh? Got you all the way over here. I would’ve taken you on your word.”

“You’re so wrong.” Her eyes glimmered, and anticipation rose in a rush.

“I’m wrong in all the right ways. I have to admit something.” Lowering my head, I brushed my lips over her smooth, soft cheek, briefly closing my eyes at the sweet sensation that radiated from my lips. “I lied earlier.”

“About what?”

Very carefully, so that I didn’t send her screaming to the mountains, I slowly slid my hands to her lower back. “When I said you looked great? I wasn’t being completely honest.”

“You don’t think I look great?”

“No.” I trailed a hand up her spine, stopping just below her hair as I pressed my temple against hers. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Her soft inhale warmed me. “Thank you.”

Kissing her was probably pushing my luck, but she was so close and she wasn’t pulling away. I had been waiting forever to taste her lips. My heart thundered, rushing heated blood through my veins.

Avery tensed when my lips swept over the hollow of her cheek and then her hands landed on my biceps. As I neared her lips, I could almost taste the hint of chocolate I knew would linger on them. “Avery?”


My pulse pounded in several parts of my body. “You’ve never been kissed before, right?”

“No,” she whispered.

“Just so we’re clear. This isn’t a kiss.”

Before she could speak, I swept my lips over hers. It was barely a kiss, more like a brief meet and greet, but the shock that traveled through my system blew the air out of my lungs.

“You kissed me.” Avery’s fingers clenched my arms.

“That wasn’t a kiss.” She shuddered as my lips brushed hers. “Remember? If we’ve kissed, then that means you going home with me could potentially mean something more serious.”

“Oh,” she sighed. “Okay.”

“This is also not a kiss.”

I kissed her for real this time, tracing the pattern of her lips, learning the feel of them. They were as soft as I believed they’d be, absolutely perfect against mine. When she leaned into me, making a tiny breathy sound, lust fueled by something far deeper slammed into me.

This was her first—I was her first kiss. No one could take that away from us. And no matter what happened a week from now or a month, we would always have this. A primal male pride wrapped itself around me.

Closer—I needed her closer, to feel her body under mine. I shifted her onto her back, keeping only my mouth on hers, and her lips moved against mine. She was kissing me back, tiny little ones that were clumsy and yet entirely sexy in their artlessness.

A sound came from deep within me and my body demanded that I sink into her, but I held myself above her, coaxing her lips open. She shuddered under me, and I shook with a need I’d never quite felt before. Her mouth opened, and I slipped inside, flicking my tongue over hers, deepening the kiss. Her back arched and when her breasts grazed my chest I had to throw the brakes on.

Lifting my head was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It seemed to go against nature, made even more difficult when a whimper escaped her as I nipped at her lower lip.

She was breathing heavily, like me, eyes unfocused. “Still not a kiss?”

Sitting back, I pulled her up. My gaze roamed over her face, searching for any sign that she hadn’t enjoyed the kiss. What I found was the exact opposite. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes fevered, and her chest rose and fell rapidly.

I reached between us, running my thumb over her lower lip as I leaned in. “No, that wasn’t a kiss.” I brushed my lips over hers, swallowing her sweet sigh. “That was a good night.”


“A girl?”

I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom. “Yes, Mom, a girl.”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “A lady?”


“A real, live female?” she asked.

“Opposed to a fake, dead female?”

Mom shushed me. “You’re actually bringing a girl with you home?”

I started to frown. “Why do you sound so shocked?”

“You never bring a girl home, Cameron. You—hold on. Honey!” A rustling sound interrupted her and then, “Honey, Cameron is bringing a real, live girl home for Thanksgiving! Can you believe it? No. I can’t—what . . . ?”

“Oh my God,” I groaned, squeezing my eyes shut. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

Her voice was closer to the mouthpiece. “Your father wants to know if her name is Avery?”

I smacked my hand over my eyes. “Yes, it is, but she’s just a friend. I mean it, Mom. She’s only a friend, so don’t act like a freak when you meet her and start planning our wedding.”

“That’s kind of insulting.” She huffed. “I wouldn’t start planning your wedding unless you brought her home for Christmas.”

I laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

After an absurd amount of time convincing Mom and then Dad that Avery really was just a friend and to not force me to commit patricide on them, I hung up the phone and tossed it onto the pillow next to me.

A slow smile started across my lips as I pictured Shortcake at home with my parents.

High-pitched giggles radiated from the living room, mixing with the rough, low laughter of Ollie’s. I didn’t even have to guess what was going on out there.

Groaning, I yanked the pillow out from under my head and smashed it over my face, trying to drown out the sound. It was bad enough that I was in a constant state of hardness. I didn’t need an amateur porn flick about to go down in the living room.

I was her first kiss.

Pride swelled in my chest and other parts of my body were also following the same reaction, which wasn’t helping things. After our date, I’d spent most the night with my hand fisted around my cock. And pretty much every night thereafter. Being around her didn’t make it easier, but I couldn’t stay away from her. Not kissing her again was driving me mad.

Once it quieted a bit in the living room, I peeked my head out from underneath the pillow. I really hoped that whatever Ollie was doing out there with whoever was not on the couch.

I had to sit on that thing.

Rolling onto my side, I grabbed my phone. I told myself not to, because I would see her tomorrow when we left for my house, but I was a loser, so therefore I couldn’t stop myself and I texted her.

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