This is new to me, what I’m doing with Jade. She’s a hot girl who most likely has expectations. A girl who doesn’t want anything to do with me most of the time yet I’ve somehow worn her down. Who’s now telling me that she wants to spend time with me tonight but nothing’s going to happen.

I’m almost tempted to tell her, “I don’t understand.”

Because I sort of don’t.

“I’m glad you said that,” she’s saying, knocking me from my thoughts. “I’ve heard stories, you know.”

“What, that I push girls into doing something they don’t want?” I shake my head, incredulous. Even a little mad. “That’s so not the case. They’re all willing.”

“And you’re saying I’m not?”

“No, you’re saying you’re not.” I start walking toward my car again and she follows along beside me. She seems irrationally angry. “I’m trying to respect your wishes.”

“I know. You’re such a gentleman,” she mutters, her mouth twisted into a grimace.

We’re finally at my car when I turn to look at her. “Are you okay? Be honest.”

She rests her hands on her hips. “Why do you ask?” The evil eye is strong in this one. She’s giving me a look right now that could slay just about anyone dead. I’m standing my ground though. This isn’t just about me. Something else is annoying her. She’s acting awfully moody. Like maybe she’s…

Realization dawns and everything clicks into place. I have older sisters. Granted, it’s been a while since we all lived under the same roof, but I should’ve recognized the signs.

I have a feeling it must be Jade’s time of the month.

Not that I’ve ever dealt with that sort of thing with a girl I’m seeing. Living with the rage monsters known as my sisters was like surviving a war once a month because for some freakish reason, they’d be on the rag at the same damn time. When it first started I’d been too young to know what was going on and their moodiness had scared the shit out of me. And pissed me off. As I grew older though, I figured it out. Started to recognize the signs. It’s usually best to ignore a woman when she’s like this.

At least, that had been my past motto. But I’m interested in this girl. I need to be able to handle all of her moods. Is this some sort of test? Is God upstairs laughing at me, throwing me one obstacle after another in the hopes that I’d fail?

I’m not going to fail. Hell no. I know what I need to do. Sweet talk her. Treat her right. Maybe give her a massage. Definitely offer up some chocolate. That shit is like a cure all.

She’s glaring at me, waiting for me to answer her no-win question and I offer her a smile. “No reason. Never mind.” Best not to poke the dragon. I decide to change tactics. “Are you hungry?”

“I seriously need some caffeine.” She tucks a few vivid strands of hair behind her ears, sinks her teeth into her lower lip. I withhold my groan that wants to escape because damn it, she’s fucking sexy. Like at the most inopportune moments too. “I’m, um…I’m sorry I got all weird just then.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I hit the button on my keyless remote and unlock the car. Yeah, I can tell this could be a long night or a freaking test. More like a little bit of both. If I can pass this, I’m in. And she’s in. We’re in this together. “Come on. Let’s go get you caffeinated.”

He’s being so sweet he’s melting all the resistance within me. I’d been chock full of resistance too, from the very start when he sauntered over looking good enough to—lick. Not wearing a shirt, all those muscles on blatant display, that smile he seemed to flash just for me. That smoldering look in his eyes that again, seemed just for…

Me.

I still don’t get it. Somehow, with me looking terrible and bloated and acting like a PMS’ing crazy woman, he still wants to be around me. Took me to Starbucks and bought me a venti iced white chocolate mocha, nonfat, no whip, thank you very much. He presented it to me like a prize, an endearing little smile curling his perfect, sexy lips and I took it gratefully.

The ultimate though, is he brought me back to his place, searched through his freezer and found a giant tub of rocky road ice cream. He then proceeded to make me a bowl of it so now I’m stuffing my face with ice cream while sitting at the kitchen counter, sipping the last of my white chocolate mocha.

The combination of my favorite caffeinated drink and chocolate ice cream with those frozen little marshmallows inside it—yes, marshmallows are the best thing ever, I hope you realize this—I’m in heaven. Even cramps can’t get me down.

Not that I’m having them anymore. Though if I don’t watch it I’m going to give myself a stomachache. In fact, I’m sort of disgusting, eating ice cream and drinking Starbucks. I gaze down at the near empty bowl, irritated with myself.

“You need to stop licking that spoon.” Shep’s suddenly in front of me, his expression pained, his mouth thin.

I drop the spoon into the bowl, startled by his reappearance. He’d left the kitchen right after giving me the ice cream and I’m embarrassed to admit I sort of forgot about him, I’d been in such a chocolate/caffeine-induced haze. “Why?” I ask warily.

He leans across the counter, his dark, smoldering gaze never leaving mine. “I keep seeing your tongue.”

Everything inside me goes warm and liquid. I grip the edge of the granite countertop, praying I don’t slip off the barstool like an idiot. “You don’t like seeing my tongue?” My voice is small, my chest light and full of something…unfamiliar. This flirtatious game we’ve been playing has been mostly one sided. I always feel like he’s the one with the power.

But right now, at this very instant, I feel like I’m the powerful one—and I like it.

“I fucking love seeing your tongue. But considering the rules you laid out for us, it’s nothing but a tease.” He leans even further across the counter, his hands drawing closer, like he’s desperate to touch me.

“What rules?” I lean away from him, needing the distance. He’s pure temptation. The way he looks, how he smells. I think he changed clothes. In fact, he looks like he just came out of the shower. His hair is damp and he smells fresh and clean.

Fresh and clean and so freaking delicious it’s taking everything within me not to just leap across the counter and grab him.

“You established right from the start that nothing’s going to happen between the two of us tonight,” he reminds me.

Oh. Right. Nothing can happen. I stare at his lips, study them really. They’re perfectly formed. His lower lip is full and has the slightest dent in it. A dent I’d like to trace with my tongue...

Shit.

His upper lip is thinner but not by much, and at this very moment, his mouth is formed into this sexy pout that’s not really a pout at all but I don’t know how else to describe it. All I know is I like it. Memories fly at me, one after another. When he kissed me against the door. On his bed. In his car. His taste. The way he touched me, the things he said…

I’m regretting what I said to him. Rules were made to be broken, right?

Right?

“I’m having second thoughts,” I murmur, my gaze still locked on his mouth.

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