Unknown: Highly grateful for it myself.


“Yeah well, you would be,” I mutter, but, who am I trying to kid? I am too. The phone dings again.

Unknown: Where are you now?

My cheeks start to hurt from my repressed smile.

Me: Home.

Unknown: Where’s that?

I pause, my heart now giving a little leap as well. This is stupid. He’ll hurt me. Without even trying. I have to protect myself. The thought barely forms, and yet I find myself responding.

Me: Why?

Unknown: I want to know, obviously.

Me: Is this a booty call?

Damn if all my happy parts aren’t perking up now. Traitors.

Unknown: In the spirit of the brutal honesty in which we interact, yes. Yes, it is.

I laugh, too shocked not to. And a stupid grin pulls at my cheeks when I respond.

Me: Brownie points for that honesty, Baylor.

Unknown: Then give me the address, Jones. My list of semi-public places has grown thin. I’ve come up with janitor’s closets and bathroom stalls. Both unsavory. And I don’t want someone other than me seeing your gorgeous butt. I’d like to refrain from punching people, if possible.

I have to agree about the lack of privacy, although my brain’s stalled out on his reference to my butt. He thinks it’s gorgeous? Okay. I can do this. I can keep it about sex. Only sex. Awesome, hot, perfect…

Before I can talk myself out of it, I tap out my address. Sweat blooms along my skin the second I hit send.

My phone is quiet. For too long. Shit. When the text signal chimes again, my heart skips a beat.

Unknown: I’m on my way.

My heart promptly begins to race. And so do I. I practically slam down my phone as I fly into action, grabbing strewn clothes, trash, a sock, my ratty comfort bra, and a variety of other junk that’s cluttering the place. It all goes into the closet. Okay, I shouldn’t care what my place looks like. If I’m a slob, I’m a slob.

But I’m also a girl, and I’m not letting him see my place in any other condition than pristine.

I don’t know how far away he is; why didn’t I ask where he was? Skidding into the bathroom, I look myself over in the mirror. At least I don’t have a zit or anything. Which makes me think of George and his zit analogy. Fucking George.

I look all right, but Drew’s coming here for one thing, and I’m now slightly sweaty. I don’t have time to wash my hair so make do with washing my body, shaving all pertinent areas in record time and dashing butt-naked out of the shower and into my room. I stub my toe on the dresser.

“Fuck!” I’m hopping around on one foot as I tug on some yoga pants. The doorbell rings and I’m still half dressed. “Fuck, f**k, f**k!”

Grabbing a sweater hanging over my desk chair, I shove it over my head. A quick, frantic look down to check for stains—please don’t let there be stains—calms me somewhat; the sweater is a nice one, deep green and silk wool knit.

One second before I open the door, I pull out my hair tie and fling it into a far, shadowy corner of the living room.

And then Baylor’s standing before me, hands shoved in his pockets, short hair tousled as if he’s run his fingers through it. Golden eyes under straight dark brows, a little dimple on his left cheek, body to kill or die for. He makes my knees weak and my skin heat. Every damn time.

We stare at each other, him grinning, and me with my heart pounding like a kettledrum. Do we talk? Are we just supposed to go at it? I suppose I should invite him in first.

“Hey.” My stunningly witty opener.

“Hey, yourself.” His gaze runs over me. “You look pretty. Flushed,” he adds, his grin deepening, “but pretty.”

“Yeah well,” I stand back and wave him inside. “I’ve just run all over the house cleaning it so…” I shrug.

He laughs a little, walking into the center of the living room. God, but he’s tall. Without heels on, I’m an elf next to him.

“I’d say you were joking with me, Jones,” he turns and catches my eye, “but I know how honest you are.”

I bite back a smile and close the door. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Funny, I thought I was giving you a compliment.”

“Have we drifted into the compliment stage?” I’m a little too breathless, and I have no idea what to do with myself. So I’m stalling by being a moron.

“Jones, I’ve been giving you compliments since day one.” His voice is low and easy and it makes my toes curl into the carpet. “You just haven’t been paying attention.”

Taking a breath, I ask him the important question. “You want a drink?” Or do we just start f**king like bunnies?

I don’t even know what answer I’d prefer until he says, “A drink’s good.” Something in me eases a bit, when really I ought to be more agitated.

He follows me into the open kitchen, his eyes taking in everything, from the decorating by Ikea and secondhand furniture to Iris’s hot firemen of NYC calendar hanging on the dividing wall to the kitchen. “Nice place,” he says kindly. Because it isn’t that nice.

“We did what we could with my mom’s castoffs. Though some of it has seen better days.” I glance at the big brown sofa. “I think Mom got that thing when I was ten.”

“I did the same. When my parents…” He trails off, looking pained.

“When they what?”

He clears his throat, ducking his head as he gives the back of his neck a scratch. “Ah, when they died.”

My insides lurch on a jolt of prickly heat. “Your parents are dead?” Of course they are, he just said that, you idiot. “I mean… Hell, Drew, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

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