“I walk.”

“You walk?” I say, aghast, not feeling particularly great about that.


“Yeah, I was born with those amazing things called legs. I use them every day to get there.”

“Funny. You could get mugged, Pins.”

“It’s broad daylight, West. And it’s only two blocks away.”

“It’s Hollywood.”

“Yeah, the land of dreams.” She gives me jazz hands.

I laugh. It’s impossible not to laugh at her.

“You’re crazy. And I think you mean, the land of opportunists. Just because it’s Hollywood doesn’t mean it’s glamorous, Pins. West Hollywood has the highest crime rate in the nation. Rape, murder, robbery.” I tick off on my fingers.

“Okay, Mr. Statistics, take it easy.” She holds her hands up. “I live in New York. I do know how to take care of myself.”

“I don’t care. You’re not walking around here alone again. And, hang on, you live in New York?” I didn’t know that, which is weird, considering I spent most of last night and this morning inside her.

“I do.”

“City girl, huh?” I grin, liking the idea for some reason.

“What’s with the grin?” she asks, suspiciously eyeing me.

“Nothing.” I shrug, still smiling as I walk toward her. “You living in the city is just kinda hot, is all.”

“Seriously? I’m starting to think that you find most things hot.”

Reaching her, I slide my hands around her tiny waist. “When it comes to you, that’s true.”

I kiss her glossy pink lips. They taste like strawberries.

When I pull back, her eyes are all soft—just like I like her.

“So, where’s home for you?” she asks me, fingers curling into the collar of my sweater, which now smells like her. I also like that a lot.

“Oregon.”

“Oregon?”

“Yeah. Why do you look so surprised?”

“I just figured all you celebs lived in the Hills. So, why Oregon?”

“Because that’s where my house is.”

“Funny.” She lightly jabs me in the arm.

“Hey! Careful with the merchandise. This makes me my living.” I gesture to my body, playing with her.

She rolls her eyes, and I just have to kiss her again.

“Oregon is home. I grew up there,” I tell her.

“Sounds nice.” She smiles.

“It is. So, what was it like, growing up in New York?”

Her eyes change, hardening, and her body tenses in my arms. “I didn’t grow up in New York. I moved there when I was eighteen.”

“Okay. So, where is home?”

“New York is home.” She looks past me. “But I grew up in Philadelphia.”

Okay…

So, I’m taking it, home wasn’t the best place for her.

And that pisses me off, making my gut tighten.

“Is your family still back in Philly?” I ask carefully.

She shakes her head. “I was raised by my grandma, and she died when I was thirteen. I went into foster care. My foster parents weren’t bad people, but they didn’t give a shit either. They were just in it for the money. They had a bunch of us kids living with them. So, when I turned eighteen, I was out of there. I applied to an art college in New York; it was where I had always wanted to go. I got accepted and moved there. Then, I met Nick.”

She smiles fondly, and jealousy lances through me.

“Nick?”

“He’s my best friend,” she says. “He’s my family. We have an apartment together.”

“Okay, so not to sound like a jerk…but Nick…have you and he ever…”

She laughs. “No. For one, I’m not his type. You are.”

Ah.

“And, even if he were straight…I don’t see him like that. He’s like my brother.”

“Good.” I move my hands to her ass and squeeze, pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose. “So, what about your parents?” I ask.

Then, I wish I hadn’t because she freezes in my arms.

I lean back, looking her in the face.

“My mother died when I was two. She was murdered…by my father.”

“Jesus, Charly.”

She shrugs her shoulders like it doesn’t hurt her, but I can tell it does. Of course it would.

“Shit happens, right? And it’s not like I remember her. Or my father. He’s still in prison. He will be for the rest of his life. After my mother died, I went to live with my grandma. She was the only living relative I had. She did her best, but she was old. I think it was hard for her, seeing me every day. I look a lot like my mother. She never hurt me. I was always well cared for, but she wasn’t exactly the loving type.”

I wrap my arms around her, hugging her, and she stiffens, but then she slowly relaxes in my arms, her arms sliding around my back, holding on to me.

I can’t even imagine what her life has been like. My family is amazing. I grew up knowing I was loved. There wasn’t a day my mom and dad didn’t tell me that I was loved with either words or actions.

My cell starts to ring in my back pocket.

I sigh. Loosening an arm from around her, I slip it out and glance at the screen. It’s Aiden.

Charly steps away from me. I frown. I don’t want her going anywhere.

“Yeah?” I answer.

“I’m outside,” Aiden says.

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