“I fell off the bed.” She shakes her head, looking around.

“I see that. Are you okay?”

“I haven’t done that since you’ve been back,” she mutters, looking confused and completely adorable as she blows a strand of hair out of her face.

“That’s ’cause when I’m in bed with you, you’re attached to me like an octopus,” I explain, walking fully into the room and picking her up off the floor.

“I don’t attach myself to you like an octopus!” she cries. “You attach yourself to me. I can’t even move an inch in the bed without you following me and pinning me in place.”

“Babe,” I chuckle, “if I didn’t control you in your sleep, you’d roll off the bed or knee me in the nuts.”

“Whatever,” she huffs, trying to unwrap the twisted sheet from around her naked body.

“Let me help you with that,” I insist, taking the edge of the sheet from her grasp, giving it a tug, and making her fall into me while the sheet falls to the floor.

“Ev,” she gasps, looking up at me with wide eyes.

“What’s up, baby?” I run one hand up her back, wrapping my hand around the back of her neck, while the other slides down, cupping her bare ass cheek.

“Ev,” she breathes against my mouth that has lowered, an inch from hers, pressing her chest into mine, while her hands slide around my waist and down the back of my sweats.

“I love that.” My words are spoken against her mouth as my hand slides down farther, cupping between her legs, feeling she’s already primed for me. “Hop up.” I tap the back of her leg then catch her when she does, and wrap my hands around her thighs. I carry her toward the bathroom while her tongue licks up my neck, ending its ascent at my ear which she nips. The sensation obliterates all thoughts of this morning’s phone call and the conversation we need to have.

“We need to talk, beautiful,” I tell June, once we’re out of the shower and in the kitchen. Taking the coffee pot off the heater, I pour her a cup then turn to look at her when I notice she hasn’t answered me. I find her digging through a big box she brought into the kitchen a few minutes ago.

“What’s up?” she asks, distracted, pulling odds and ends out of the box and setting them on the island.

“What are you looking for?” I move to her side with her cup of coffee in my hand, wondering what she’s searching for.

“Found it.” She grins, holding up a small, silver paper box. Opening it up, she takes whatever is in the box out, and holds it out between us, before sliding it on her finger.

It takes me a second to recognize the shiny piece of gold metal sitting around her ring finger. A piece of metal I put there years ago. A piece of metal I never thought I would see again. The ring I gave her when she became my wife. It was what I could afford at the time. I knew that one day, when we were settled and I could afford it, I would put a diamond on her finger. A ring worthy of her. But after everything that happened, I never thought I’d get the chance.

“Ev?” she whispers, and I drop her cup of coffee to the island then lift her up, planting her next to it.

“Do not move,” I demand, pointing at her while speaking through the lump that has formed in my throat, as I let her go and head back to the bedroom. I dig through my bag sitting in the bottom of the closet until I find what I’m looking for, and shove it into the pocket of my sweats.

Going back to the kitchen, I find her where I left her on the counter. Her eyes are on me, but her guard is up. I can tell she doesn’t know what to think. “Take that shit off your finger,” I growl when I’m close. Her eyes widen and her bottom lip trembles as she drops her gaze from me to her hands. Rolling the ring around on her finger, she swallows then slowly slips it off.

“I’m sorry. It was stupid.” Her head shakes. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Grabbing her knees, I open her legs wide, making room for my hips, then take the ring from her hand and hold it up between us. “Look at me.”

“I should get breakfast started,” she murmurs to her lap, where her eyes are still pointed. The sadness and defeat in her tone makes my gut clench.

Pressing closer, I soften my voice. “Look at me, beautiful.” Her head slowly comes up and I see tears swimming in her eyes. “This ring was put on your finger by a coward,” I say, and I watch anger fill her eyes, anger that catches me off guard. It’s an emotion that makes me realize for the millionth time the kind of idiot I am, because I know that anger is her wanting to defend me. “It was put there by a man who wasn’t strong enough for you. A man who didn’t deserve you,” I continue quietly, closing the ring tightly in my fist.

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