I pull my mouth from his and push on his shoulders. “Put me down.”

He keeps walking toward his bed, so I say it again. “Ryle, put me down right now.”


He stops walking and lowers me to the floor. I have to back away and face the other direction to gather my thoughts. Looking at him while I still feel his lips on mine is more than I can deal with right now.

I feel his arms go around my waist, and he rests his head on my shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. He turns me around and brings a hand up to my face and brushes his thumb across my cheek. “It’s my turn now, okay?”

I don’t respond to his touch. I keep my arms folded across my chest and wait to hear what he has to say before I allow myself to respond to his touch.

“I had that picture made the day after I took it,” he says. “It’s been in my apartment for months now, because you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and I wanted to look at it every single day.”


“And that night I showed up at your door? I went searching for you because no one in the history of my life has ever crawled under my skin and refused to leave like you did. I didn’t know how to handle it. And the reason I sent you flowers this week is because I am really, really proud of you for following your dream. But if I sent you flowers every time I’ve had the urge to send you flowers, you wouldn’t even be able to fit inside your apartment. Because that’s how much I think about you. And yes, Lily. You’re right. I’m hurting you, but I’m hurting, too. And until tonight . . . I didn’t know why.”

I have no idea how I even possibly find the strength to speak after that. “Why are you hurting?”

He drops his forehead to mine and says, “Because. I have no idea what I’m doing. You make me want to be a different person, but what if I don’t know how to be what you need? This is all new to me and I want to prove to you that I want you for so much more than just one night.”

He looks so vulnerable right now. I want to believe the genuine look in his eye, but he’s been so adamant since the day that I met him that he wants the exact opposite of what I want. And it terrifies me that I’ll give in to him and he’ll walk away.

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“How do I prove myself to you, Lily? Tell me and I’ll do it.”

I don’t know. I barely know the guy. I know him enough to know that sex with him won’t be enough for me, though. But how do I know sex won’t be the only thing he wants?

My eyes instantly lock with his. “Don’t have sex with me.”

He stares at me for a moment, completely unreadable. But then he starts to nod his head like he’s finally getting it. “Okay,” he says, still nodding. “Okay. I will not have sex with you, Lily Bloom.”

He walks around me to his bedroom door and he locks it. He flips off the light, leaving only a lamp on, and then takes off his shirt as he walks toward me.

“What are you doing?”

He tosses his shirt on a chair and then slips off his shoes. “We’re going to sleep.”

I glance at his bed. Then at him. “Right now?”

He nods and walks over to me. In one swift movement, he lifts my dress up and over my head, until I’m standing in the middle of his bedroom floor in my bra and panties. I cover myself, but he doesn’t even look twice. He pulls me toward the bed and lifts the covers for me to crawl in. As he’s walking over to his side of the bed he says, “It’s not like we haven’t slept together before without having sex. Piece of cake.”

I laugh. He reaches his dresser and plugs his phone in to a charger. I take a moment to skim his bedroom. This certainly isn’t the type of spare bedroom I’m used to. Three of my bedrooms could fit in here. There’s a couch against the other wall, a chair facing a television and a full office off the bedroom that looks complete with a floor-to-ceiling library. I’m still trying to see everything around me when the lamp goes off.

“Your sister is really rich,” I say as I feel him pull the covers over both of us. “What the hell does she do with the ten bucks an hour I pay her? Wipe her ass with it?”

He laughs and grabs my hand, sliding his fingers through mine. “She probably doesn’t even cash the checks,” he says. “Have you ever checked?”

I haven’t. Now I’m curious.

“Goodnight, Lily,” he says.

I can’t stop smiling, because this is kind of ridiculous.

And so great.

“Goodnight, Ryle.”

• • •

I think I might be lost.

Everything is so white and so clean, it’s blinding. I shuffle through one of the living rooms and try to find my way to the kitchen. I have no idea where my dress ended up last night, so I pulled on one of Ryle’s shirts. It falls past my knees, and I wonder if he has to buy shirts that are too big for him just so they’ll fit his arms.

There are too many windows and way too much sun, so I’m forced to shield my eyes as I go in search of coffee.

I push through the kitchen doors and find a coffeemaker.

Thank you, Jesus.

I set it to brew and then go in search for a mug when the kitchen door opens behind me. I spin around and I’m relieved to see that Allysa isn’t always a perfect concoction of makeup and jewelry. Her hair is in a messy topknot and mascara is smeared down her cheeks. She points at the coffeemaker. “I’m gonna need me some of that,” she says. She pulls herself up on the island and then slouches forward.

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