He looked up.

Blake was crying again, the tears silently falling down her face.

“Do you get it now?” he asked roughly.

She could only shake her head, tears making her unable to speak.

“You fucked me up by making me realize I can’t live alone. Not after knowing there’s someone like you in the world. You fucked me up so damn well that I find myself trusting you for the strangest things. You admit to lying about Teller not being a childhood friend. You tell me you can’t yet speak the truth about him…but you tell me you also need to meet him. Alone. And to fucking top things off, you even dared to make a joke of the whole fucking thing…”

His lips twisted in a rare, beautifully crooked smile.

“Surely you see it now? How you fucked me up so damn good that even though everything points to you and Teller having some kind of romantic past…you’ve got me so fucked up that I see all these things as proof. You’ve gotta be the most inept person to be starting a secret affair and cheat on me…but it’s those same things that make me think I should trust you.”

He cupped her chin.

“It still makes me feel like the world’s biggest idiot to say this, but for what it’s worth…”

Another crooked smile.

“I trust you—”

Blake threw herself at him, and she was crying and he was grinning as they fell into the bed.

Tomorrow, Blake promised to herself as they tore each other’s clothes off.

Tomorrow, Thornton vowed to himself just before his cock plunged deep into her pussy.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell him I love him.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell her I love her.

Tomorrow, both of them thought as their bodies shuddered against each other.


But it wasn’t to be.

Chapter Eighteen

Ethan heard the front door swish open and absently wondered who in his right mind would need to visit a flower shop on a rainy weekday afternoon. Hartland was always exceptionally colder than most of the mainland, and rain made it more so.

Must be a miserable bastard, Ethan thought as he came to his feet, to have to brave this kind of weather and give someone flowers.

Footsteps headed his way, and as he turned to greet the customer – he ended up blinking in surprise instead. “Thorn?”

His older brother only grunted as he tossed himself on one of the vacant stools next to the counter.

Ethan glanced outside and saw no signs of Thornton’s new girlfriend. “Trouble in paradise?”

Thornton grunted again, and Ethan’s brows shot up. “There’s trouble then?” he asked in surprise. Even if only a fraction of the gossip coming out from the local rumor mills was true, he would’ve expected Thornton and Blake to still be too busy fucking to have any time to fight.

“Blake’s gone down to the city.” Before Ethan could ask what for, his older brother then added, “To meet with Curt Teller.”

Ethan gave up any pretense of working at that and set aside the bunch of flowers he had been arranging for a bouquet. “Let’s head back to the kitchen.”

“You’re still open,” Thornton felt obliged to remind his brother.

“It’s Hartland,” the younger man dismissed. “We don’t get robbed here, and even if we do get the stray burglar or two, they’ll find out soon enough we’re no ordinary small town.”

“Touché,” Thornton acknowledged, remembering the multimillion-dollar security system Hartland Initiative had invested in. It wasn’t the type that one could see easily, but it would work when it was needed to work.

“So…” Ethan placed a mug of hot chocolate in front of his brother. “About Ms. Golding meeting her very dear and handsome childhood friend—”

“Fuck you.”

Ethan smirked at the rare note of irritation in Thornton’s tone. “Did she tell you that or did you find out about it on your own?”

“She told me.”

“And you didn’t put up a fuss,” he guessed slyly. “Even if you wanted to. Because if you did, you knew it would make you look immature and unreasonably jealous—”

“Fuck you.”

Ethan threw his head back with a laugh.

“It’s not fucking funny.”

“Just relax, man,” Ethan said with a careless shrug. “This is Blake we’re talking about, remember? The girl who can’t help but still see you as perfect no matter how much we try to convince her otherwise?”


Ethan put his own mug down, just the slightest bit discomfited now. “What’s really bugging you?” he asked finally. “Because I think we both know Blake can be trusted, and—”

“I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

Ethan choked on his coffee.

“We’ve never spoken about our…feelings.”

Ethan kept choking. Was this fucking happening for real? His brother, a man whose range of emotions could only be from zero (frowning) to point five (not smiling), was actually talking about marriage and feelings?

“I’m sorry, Thorn,” Ethan said when he finally recovered from his shock. “You’ve dropped a bomb back there, but it’s great news…” His voice trailed off when he saw the shuttered look on his brother’s face. “I mean, it is. Right?”

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