“So do I, baby.” That much was true. But whether it would come true…

In the back of his mind, that other man still existed, and Thornton just had no fucking idea.

If there ever came a time that she’d be made to choose…

He had no fucking idea if she’d choose him.

Chapter Twelve

It was usually a brisk thirty-minute walk back home, but since the shop was closed for the day and he already had the car with him, Thornton suddenly heard himself asking Blake if she had already eaten breakfast.

“Not yet,” she admitted. “I was in such a hurry to catch up with you, and then when I was at the cafe, I forgot about it again, and at the library…well, obviously, I got distracted there, too.”

“I haven’t had breakfast either, so…” He opened the car door for her. “Want to head down and grab brunch in the city?”

“Are you asking me out on a date, Mr. Blackwood?” Blake couldn’t help asking teasingly.

“If you’re not inside the car in five seconds…”

Blake was still giggling when he joined her inside the car and pulled his door shut.

“Do you realize,” she couldn’t help sharing eagerly, “this is the first time you’re giving me a ride?”

“No. I didn’t.”

She couldn’t help smiling at his matter-of-fact tone. They both knew that had been a rhetorical question, but she loved how it never mattered to him either way. He always took the time to listen to her. Always.

Thornton couldn’t help wincing at the way Blake was staring at him again. “Blake…”

“Call me the other thing,” she teased.

“Baby.”

Blake jumped in her seat with a squeak.

Thornton was torn between amusement and exasperation. “Why are you acting all shocked when you were the one who said—”

“I didn’t know you’d give in so easily,” she said sheepishly. “But I should have known.”

Ah, fuck. There it was again: her expression turning dreamy, and after that, inevitably…

“You’re so perfect,” Blake sighed.

Thornton also sighed. “I’m not.”

“You so are.”

“If I were,” he said evenly, “then I wouldn’t have let you wake up alone this morning.”

Blake’s smile faded, but when she started to look away, he didn’t let her.

“Don’t.”

She shifted in her seat. “I don’t know if I want to hear this—”

“I bailed on you this morning,” he interrupted flatly, “because I needed space to think about what I did and said—”

“Are you saying you didn’t mean any of them?” Blake automatically braced herself for the worst as soon as the words were out. If Thornton said yes, she’d take it. She was a big girl. She could take it. She would take it. Right?

The play of expressions on Blake’s pretty face was painfully easy to read, and he didn’t like it, knowing how insecure he had made her. The old Blake he knew had been ridiculously but adorably confident that she could get him to fall in love with her…and he wanted that old Blake back.

“Blake.”

“Mm?” Don’t let him know what you’re thinking. Don’t show you’re hurt once he tells you last night’s drunken confession meant-

“Everything I said last night was true.”

What…was…that…he…had…just…said?

“I just didn’t like that you had to see me drunk while saying them.”

“Really?” she whispered.

“Really.”

More seconds passed.

And then—

“You’re really perfect.”

Thornton groaned.

“I mean it. You really are perfect—”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

But by this time, she was laughing, and even Thornton couldn’t keep his lips from twitching.

I love you.

The words were begging to be said again. But she couldn’t. She just couldn’t. So instead, she ended up doing the next best thing.

Thornton was just about to start the car when he felt her fingers tap his arm, and he glanced at her—

Mmph!

A cheeky smile on her face was his only glimpse before she had his face between her hands and her mouth had covered his.

Aaaaah.

Even as his desire surged, and his body instantly responded to the sweet, seductive brush of her lips over hers, even as her tongue shyly slipped into his, he just couldn’t fucking stop his lips from slowly curving into a smile.

Blake felt this, too, and a rare wave of embarrassment swept over her at the thought that he was laughing at her possibly clumsy attempt to kiss him. She started to pull away, feeling self-conscious, but then she felt his hands suddenly holding her back—

Thornton sucked on her tongue, and her insides clenched.

A moment later, and he was the one to pull back, his head lifting so he could gaze down at her. “It wasn’t what you thought.”

“Wasn’t it?”

“Your sweetness makes me smile.”

Oh.

“Only you,” he said simply. “Only you can make me smile.”

And then he was kissing her, again, but it was Thornton with the reins this time, and she had no problem with this at all. She could only whimper as he dragged her past the gear stick, but this quickly turned into a gasp of laughter as he used the lever to have his seat fall back, and she ended up straddling him.


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