“Oh, wow,” Brinley says, eyes wide as she walks into her room. She must have changed when I was out front meeting Smithy. Her sweatpants and loose T-shirt have been traded for a pair of fitted jeans and a silky pink shirt with skinny straps. “You’re done already!”

Smithy wipes his hands on his jeans and looks around at Brinley’s white furniture now positioned in its new spots around the room. “You owe us big time. I about crapped myself lifting that bed.”

Brinley wrinkles her nose. “Too much information.” She looks to me. “If it was too heavy, you should’ve left it. I could’ve asked Mom to get the movers to come back. When she wanted the piano in the ballroom for her party last spring, she had them come take care of it. I’m sure they could’ve done this too.”

“It was fine,” I say, even though every muscle in my back disagrees. “We handled it.”

Smithy rolls his head side to side. “Barely. I’m gonna go home and sit in the hot tub. Enjoy the new arrangement, Brin.” He gives her a quick hug, then gives me a clap-handshake. “See you later, bro.”

“Thanks, Smithy,” Brinley says, smiling at her cousin’s back as he leaves.

Then we’re alone.

In her room.

“I’d better see what Aunt Lori needs me to do next.” Well, I earn partial credit. I said the words, but my feet don’t move, and Brinley does.

She smiles up at me. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help.”

I can smell her flowery perfume. I normally hate perfume, but whatever she’s wearing is light and clean, and as pretty as she is. “It’s no big deal.” I swallow. Move your ass.

I don’t move.

“Do you feel this, Marston?” She presses a palm to my chest.

“Feel what?” I ask, but I do.

She smiles. She knows I’m dodging. In truth, I’ve never felt anything like this before—this instant chemistry, complete awareness of her, of us.

“This,” she whispers, brushing her hand against mine.

I want to close my eyes at that brief contact—to absorb it and relish it. But I keep them focused on her.

“You kissed me on my birthday,” she whispers.

As if I could forget. “I shouldn’t have.”

“I don’t agree.” Her gaze settles on my mouth. “I’m glad you did. I just . . . I feel this thing every time I’m around you, and I think you feel it too, but I also think you want me to leave you alone.”

This is it. This is the moment I tell her I wish she’d back off. This is the time to tell her it’d be better if she stayed away from me. But before I can open my mouth to say what I should, she lifts onto her toes and presses her mouth to mine.

My reaction is one hundred percent instinct. I slide one hand behind her back and the other into her hair. Mom was an addict, and I thought I escaped that curse, but now I’m wondering if this is how it feels—a magnetic pull toward something that can only end badly.

Brinley’s mouth is so damn sweet under mine, and when I taste her lips with my tongue, she lets out this soft little moan that makes me crazy. She presses one hand against my chest, and just when I think she’s going to push me away—since one of us should stop this—she fists her hand in my T-shirt and tries to draw me closer.

I guide her back without realizing what I’m doing. The next thing I know, she’s against the wall and my hand is sliding up her side, under her shirt.

I still my hand at her ribs and break away, breathless. She looks up at me with those big blue eyes, her lips pink and swollen from my mouth. Tentatively, I tuck a loose strand of her hair behind her ear then graze my thumb down the side of her neck.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” she whispers.

I’m thinking this is crazy and incredible and that it can’t possibly be real, because I’ve never had anything this good for myself without stealing it. “I’m thinking you should stop trying to spend time with me.” My thumb skims along the band of her bra, and she sways toward me.

“Brinley!” Her mother’s sharp voice comes from outside the bedroom.

I jump away just before she enters.

Brinley smiles at her mom, but it’s fake—because of her relationship with her mother, or because we were almost caught? “Hey, Mom. Like my room like this?”

Her mom looks back and forth between us, a frown turning her patrician face sour. “What are you two doing in here?”

“I was just thanking Marston for helping Smithy move my furniture.”

“Is that right?” Mrs. Knox asks me.

I don’t dare turn to look, but I can feel Brinley’s eyes on me, can feel her panic at almost being caught. Does she think I’m going to tell her mom what we were really doing just now? “Yes, ma’am. My aunt asked me to help. Smithy just left a minute ago, and I was about to leave too.”

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