I laughed. Over the last week, the time we spent together we spent studying for our own exams. “But shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

“I was lonely.” Her lips curved up as she tugged on my hands. “And I missed you. And I miss . . .”

She didn’t have to finish her sentence. I knew what she was thinking, what she wanted. Knowing the truth about what had happened was a blessing, but I wasn’t sure how to . . . well, how to really initiate things. The last thing I wanted to do was push her into something she wasn’t ready for. So I hadn’t pushed at all.

“Miss me?” I quickly changed the subject. “I know. Going even a few hours without my presence can cause heart palpitations, abnormal sweating, the occasional—”

“I think your arrogance is actually a disease.”

I gave her a cocky grin. “I like to think it’s a character strength.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” Sliding her hands free, she rose onto her knees in front of me. My mouth dried as I looked down at her upturned face. “Actually, keep telling yourself that quietly. Right now, try not talking.”

My brows shot up. “Well . . .”

She grinned, but I could see the deepening color spreading across her cheeks as she reached forward, placing her hands on my bare chest, and then she stretched up, sliding her fingers to my cheeks. She guided my head down to hers.

“I’ve missed you, Cam.” The tip of her nose brushed mine. “Haven’t you missed me?”

I closed my eyes as I wrapped my fingers along her slender wrists. “I have.”

“Good,” she murmured.

Her lips grazed mine once and then she kissed me softly. There was nothing like her kisses, especially when our positions were flopped. She pushed, working at the seam of my lips until I opened. The taste of her clouded my thoughts. I didn’t realize she had let go of my face until I felt the tips of her fingers slipping under the band of my nylon shirts.

My grip tightened around her wrists as I lifted my head. “Avery, maybe we—”

“Maybe you should let me do this.” Her chest rose sharply as her gaze dipped. There was no hiding that I wanted her to do this. The corners of her lips spread into a winsome smile. “I think you really want me to do this.”

“I do. God, I do, but—”

She silenced me with a kiss that told me that I needed to let her do whatever she wanted to do. Removing my fingers one at a time, I dropped my hands to the sides.

This was all her.

Avery broke away and then placed a kiss on my chest, above my heart. I tensed as she tugged my shorts down. Loosened, the shorts pooled on the floor in a second. I stiffened, aching, as she placed her hands on my hips and kissed her way down my abs. When the edges of her hair brushed me, my hands curled into fists. And she kept going, sliding one hand around my front, causing my body to jerk as she wrapped her fingers around me. I pulsed—my entire body pulsed. Then her breath danced over my hardness.

I cupped her cheek, stopping her. “Avery, you don’t have to do this.”

She lifted her head. “But I want to.”

My mouth opened, but the words—whatever the hell they were—died on my tongue as she took me into her mouth. Sensation exploded in several points. I kicked my head back, groaning as her hand moved, steady and strong in rhythm with her mouth.

I didn’t want to last. My back bowed as she worked me. Fuck. I couldn’t last. There was no way. Release powered through me as my hips jerked. I tried to pull her away, but she was latched on. She wasn’t going anywhere. I came, shouting her name.

After what felt like forever, she pulled away. As my chest rose and fell raggedly as I dropped a damn near out-of-breath kiss on her forehead. “Avery . . .”

“You liked?”

I coughed out a laugh. “I loved.”

“I’m a quick learner.”

Damn straight she was. Placing my hands on her shoulders, I guided her onto her back. “Avery?”

She let her hands fall beside her head. “Yeah?”

“Get ready.”

A puzzled look crossed her face. “Get ready for what?”

I captured her mouth, letting my lips and my tongue tell her exactly what to get ready for and it was a hell of a long time before I used those two things for anything other than loving her.

“Cookies! I got cookies!”

“Oh! What kind?” Shortcake’s voice floated from the bedroom.

She’d left the door unlocked for me, something that I was going to have to talk to her about later, but right now I had a warm plate of special delivery. I headed back to the bedroom, finding her lying on her bed, hands folded across her stomach.

“Peanut-butter cookies,” I told her. “But special.”

She grinned as she stretched her bare feet. “How are they special?”

“Well, besides the fact that I just baked them in honor of you finishing your last exam, they’re not just any kind of peanut-butter cookies.” I sat the plate on the nightstand. “But Reese’s peanut-butter cookies.”

Her brows rose. “And that makes them different?”

“Hell’s yeah.” I jumped on the bed, grinning as Shortcake bounced. “What are you doing in here?”

“Being lazy.”

I studied her closer. “You okay?”

“Yes.” When she smiled and it reached her eyes, I relaxed. “Cookie?”

“Cookie . . .” I reached over, eyeing the plate for one that appeared moist. Once I settled on one, I handed it over.

Holding one hand under her chin, she bit and immediately moaned. “Oh my God, these are . . .” She took another bite. “So damn good.”

“I know, right?” I picked up one, popping the whole thing in my mouth.

Shortcake reached for another and I grabbed the plate, holding it away from her. She punched me in the stomach. I gave her a cookie.

After eating our weight in peanut-butter goodness, I stretched out beside her and picked up a strand of her hair, twirling it around my fingers. I smacked the ends across her nose as her eyes drifted shut. “So what does it feel like to finally be a sophomore in college?”

She retrieved her hair from me. “I’m not officially a sophomore. Not until school starts again in the fall.”

“I deem you a sophomore now.” Undeterred, I caught another strand and trailed it across her cheek. “What I say goes.”

“Then how does it feel finally being a senior? Next year is your last.”

“Amazing.” I traced her lower lip. “It feels amazing.”

Shortcake rolled onto her side, wrapping her fingers around the collar of my shirt. “It feels pretty damn good to be a sophomore.”

“Would be better if you didn’t sign up for summer classes.”

“True,” she agreed.

But it would work out. I was doing the summer soccer camp with the kiddos, so I’d be here anyway.

She wiggled closer, resting her head on my shoulder as she threw a leg over me.

“Close enough?” I asked.


I laughed as I ran my fingers up and down her spine in a slow, idle line as I turned my head, kissing her forehead. These quiet moments were the best. I’d almost dozed off when she rolled suddenly, straddling my hips.

“Hey,” she said.

I liked where this was heading. I skimmed my hands over her waist. “Hey there.”

“So I’ve been doing some thinking.”

“Oh God.”

“Shut up.” She bent down, kissing me softly. “Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. There’s something I want to do.”

“What?” I slid my hands down over her shorts, resting them on her thighs.

She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. “I want to go home.”

Was not expecting that, nor did I like that. “Like back to Texas?”


“For how long?”

She placed her hands on my stomach and rocked back, pressing down on me. I tensed, eyes narrowing on her. I had a feeling that was totally on purpose.

“You’re not getting rid of me that easy,” she said. “For just a day or two.”

“Damn. There goes my master plan of spending the summer like a sex-crazed bachelor.”

Shortcake rolled her eyes.

“What do you want to do if you go back there?”

“I want to see my parents. I need to talk to them.”

I patted her thighs. “About what happened?”

“I’ve never talked to them about what happened, not since that night.” She matched my movements with her fingers along my chest. “I need to talk to them. I know this sounds like a bitch fest, but I need to tell them that what they did was wrong.”

“It doesn’t sound like a bitch fest, but do you think it’s wise?” I placed my hands over hers. “I mean, do you think it’s going to help you and not . . .”

“Hurt me?” She smiled. “There’s really nothing more my parents can do that will hurt me, but I feel like I need to confront them. Does that make me a bad person?”

“No.” I didn’t like the sound of this. They could still hurt her.

“I need to do this. I also need to talk to Molly.”

Okay. I really didn’t like the sound of this. “What?”

“I need to talk to her and try to explain why I did what I did. I know it’s risky and if it comes back and bites me in the ass with the nondisclosure, then it does, but if I can get her to understand just a little bit, then maybe it will help her and she’ll stop contacting me.”

“I don’t know about that. The girl seems like she’s not the most stable person out there.”

“She’s not crazy,” she said. “She’s just mad and she has a reason to be.”

“And you’re not the reason why it happened to her.” I brought her hands to my lips, kissing the knuckles. “You know that, right? You’re not responsible.”

She was quiet for a few moments. “I need to do this for myself and for Molly. I don’t want to run anymore, Cam. And I know I can never really put this behind me. What happened . . . well, it will always be a part of me, but it won’t be me. Not anymore.”

This wasn’t what I wanted her to do and I didn’t think she truly needed to. What she didn’t realize was that she’d already begun to make peace with everything, but I wouldn’t stop her. “You know what I think?”

“I’m awesome?” Her grin was cheeky.

“Besides that.”


“I think you’ve already made it that far, Avery. I think you have accepted it will be part of you, but it’s not you. You just haven’t realized that, but if you want to do this, then you’ll do this and I’ll be there with you.”

“You want to go with—”

She squealed as I shifted, rolling her onto her back. I hovered over her. “You’re not doing this by yourself. Hell to the motherfucking no. I’m going with you. And you’re not talking me out of it. When do you want to do this?”

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