The expression on Mrs. Knox’s face as she looks me over is that of someone who’s found a pile of dog shit in the middle of her living room floor. She sniffs. “If you’re going to help your aunt out around here, I don’t want you and Brinley alone together. It might not be a big deal where you come from, but it’s considered inappropriate in our family.”

My hands curl into fists and my chest churns with rage I can’t do a damn thing with. My hackles are up, but half of me knows there’s no fight here I can win, and that half wants to hide.

“Mom, the door was open,” Brinley says, and I almost laugh, because the door was open and still I had her pressed against the wall with my hand up her shirt.

“Marston, you’re dismissed,” Mrs. Knox says, those sharp, angry eyes on her daughter now. “Please leave me so I may speak privately with my daughter.”

It takes every ounce of my willpower not to turn around and look at Brinley, but I’m afraid her mother would see too much if I did. I don’t know the punishment for “inappropriate behavior,” but I don’t want to risk Brinley suffering whatever it is.

I nod and walk out of the room.

I’m not three steps down the hall when I hear Mrs. Knox say, “Do you want everyone to think you’re spreading your legs for some trashy delinquent?”

Chapter Seven

Brinley

Present day

“I think maybe I need some rules for tonight,” Marston says.

“Rules?” My voice cracks. We’re back in the limo and moving slowly through traffic on the way to the nightclub. I don’t want rules. In fact, what’s the opposite of rules? That’s what I want.

Marston nods, his gaze flicking up to mine before dipping to my mouth again. “I don’t know where the lines are, and I’m sitting here wondering if half the things I want to do and say are allowed.”

I laugh. “You literally just bought me the nicest lingerie I’ve ever owned. Say what you want.” I scoot closer and trace the back of his hand with my index finger. His hands were always big and rough, but they’re a little bigger and surer now, just like the rest of him. I wonder if they’d feel the same on my skin as they used to. “Do what you want.”

His smile is tenuous, but his eyes are all over me. “Ten years later, and you’re still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I can’t stop thinking about kissing you again.”

My breath catches. “Yeah. You’re definitely allowed to say those things.” I shift forward and bury my face in the side of his neck, breathing him in, then skim my mouth up to his ear, nipping lightly and making him groan softly. “You’re definitely allowed to kiss me.”

His hand tangles in my hair and he brings his mouth to mine, kissing me deeply and with the kind of hunger that mirrors my own and only makes me want more. Something in the back of my mind warns me that I shouldn’t be doing this until we have a conversation, until I come clean about what happened after he left, but I tamp that down. I kiss him back and funnel all of my fear and guilt and worry about the future into that kiss.

When he tears his mouth away from mine to kiss my neck, I realize there is some honesty I can offer, and the confession bubbles out of me. “I knew you’d be here. That’s why I was at the bar. Tonight wasn’t really a coincidence.”

He looks into my eyes, and I want to pour my soul out on the floor of the limo, if only to be free of the weight of my secrets. But then his lips curve into a smile that reminds me so much of the boy I loved and lost that I know I won’t say anything tonight that could hurt him.

“I looked you up and knew your latest project was reopening today. And then I stalked social media to find out what clubs you liked in Vegas.” I swallow. “I wanted to see you. You probably think I’m crazy.”

He shakes his head, something like awe on his face. “Sometimes crazy is good.”

I don’t even realize we’ve stopped until the driver opens my door and offers a hand to help me out.

“You can leave those here if you want,” Marston says, nodding to my bags.

There’s a promise in that offer—our night doesn’t end at the club—and the hours ahead glimmer before me with possibility. Reluctantly, I retreat from the warmth of Marston’s arms, and he follows behind me. On the sidewalk, he holds me close, leading me around the line in front of the club and right to the door. He flashes his ID to the bouncer, who checks his list, then lifts the ropes to let us through.

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