Kerry’s head was pounding so hard, and her chest was so tightly constricted that she was having trouble taking a full breath. Her mother’s plea to promise me you’ll never make the mistake your sister’s making was getting all tangled up in her head with Colleen’s admission that I know my relationship with Payton isn’t perfect, but I still love him, so I have to go back.
In their family, so much pain had come from—and would likely continue to come—in the name of love. Before Adam, Kerry wouldn’t have understood how her sister could go back to her ex the way she had. But now that Adam had shown her such joy and pleasure, she could see all too clearly just how easy it would be to fall into the trap Colleen was in.
The easiest thing in the world if it meant you could have a few extra precious days or weeks of pure happiness—even when you could see that a horrible fall was up ahead.
Kerry hadn’t wanted to look too closely at any of her recent meet-ups with Adam. But she could no longer deny the awful truth that she’d been burying her head in the sand for far too long. She’d just wanted to let herself enjoy and appreciate it. Now, she finally forced herself to take out the microscope and face what had actually happened.
Things had probably started going off track on their very first night together, when he’d effortlessly made her feel so good. But it was the night they’d spent on her couch having pizza and watching a movie, rather than keeping to hot sex in hotels, that had truly started to knock away at the clear-cut boundaries they’d set up. At which point she’d doubled down on her mistakes by going to his house to be together—and then tripled down by staying the night curled up against him. Even when she’d tried to be smart and pull back, she’d simply been unable to resist dancing with him at the wedding, forgetting about everything but him for those few precious minutes in his arms.
So many times she’d had a chance to stop herself from going too deep and taking things too far, and each time she’d completely blown it. But none more so than the night she’d waited for him to come “home” from his late night on the job, as if they were a real couple. Just because their temporary home for the night had been a hotel didn’t make it any different. Because when he’d finally come to their suite and found her asleep at the table, then carried her to the bed and made the sweetest love imaginable to her? Well, there were no words to describe their connection that night other than making love.
Kerry’s stomach twisted as she finally accepted that, somewhere along the way, she’d let Adam become far more to her than just a friend with benefits.
So much more.
“Kerry, are you still there?” her mother asked.
Kerry opened her mouth, but no words came out at first. Only something that sounded more like a choked sob. “Yes, I’m still here.”
“I know you can’t control what Colleen does, and I can’t either,” her mother said. “But I just can’t stand the thought of both of my daughters being hurt the way I was. I can’t stand to see you go through what I went through, honey.”
Kerry’s tongue felt like crumbling cardboard in her mouth, and her vocal cords felt as though they were being strangled shut. But she knew she had to get out the words that her mother needed to hear.
“I promise.” Kerry’s voice didn’t sound like her own. “I promise I won’t make a mistake with a man like him.”
And there was only one way to make sure she didn’t. Tonight, when she and Adam met at another hotel, she was going to have to do the one thing she’d been trying to convince herself didn’t need to happen: She was going to end their arrangement.
She’d be brave enough to do it face-to-face, and she would also make sure he knew that they’d absolutely continue to be friends and work on the wedding and the house, just as they’d previously discussed. But they wouldn’t meet to have sex again.
And she wouldn’t keep falling harder and harder for him with every kiss, every touch, every moment she spent lying in his arms, wishing she could stay right there with him forever.
Adam figured he should have been nervous about seeing Kerry tonight, considering he was about to declare his love for her. Instead, he couldn’t stop grinning, nerves the furthest thing from his mind.
Everything that had happened between the two of them since the day they’d met—even the fact that Rafe and Brooke had picked her as their wedding planner out of all the wedding planners in Seattle—all of it now made sense.
He and Kerry had been meant to meet and fall in love. He had never even come close to falling for any of the other women he’d been with, because he’d been waiting for her.
And she’d been waiting for him, too. He was absolutely sure of it.
After all, when two people had as strong a connection as they’d had from the first moment they’d so much as looked at each other, there was no way in hell that they were supposed to be with anyone else.
Adam had always been fully supportive of his cousins and siblings who’d fallen in love, but he’d never truly understood how strong that love could be. It took you over, body, mind, and soul, but you weren’t just totally okay with it, you were downright psyched to have found such powerful, real love.
Not to mention the fact that in-love sex was so freaking hot.
Who would have thought?
Adam was still grinning as he walked into the lobby of the hotel, mulling over the only remaining big decision for the night: Should he tell Kerry he was in love with her before or after they went upstairs and ripped off each other’s clothes? Although, since telling her he loved her before, during, and after all sounded good, he figured there was really no point in trying to decide now, was there?
Turning to look out the big front windows to the sidewalk, his heartbeat immediately kicked up as he saw a flash of long dark hair and legs that went on forever beneath a soft pink dress. His grin widened as she stepped inside the building.
“Kerry.” Damn, he loved her name. Loved saying it in public—and when they were making love and he couldn’t get enough of her. Loved knowing that as long as he didn’t screw everything up, one day there’d be Sullivan after it.
As soon as she heard her name and their eyes met, she stopped short. A couple behind her would have run her down if Adam hadn’t pulled her out of their path and into his arms.
“Adam.” She swallowed hard as she blinked up at him. Her eyes were huge in her face, and she looked pale.
“What’s wrong?” But it wasn’t hard for him to guess. “Is it Colleen?”
Her face crumpled. “Her ex came back, the one who cheated on her and drove her nearly crazy for the past few months. They’re getting married in Las Vegas tonight. At some Elvis-themed chapel. She sprang it on me today at a café just down the street.”
“Jesus.” He stroked her hair as he brought her closer. He wished she’d called him instead of bottling it up until now, but he understood that sometimes you needed some time to process things before you called in the support team. It was the same reason he’d waited until yesterday to speak with his father about Kerry—because he’d needed to turn the situation around and around inside his own head until he figured out how to frame it with words. “You’ve had a hell of a day, haven’t you?”