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“What does that mean?”

“That means your stepmom doesn’t need to know the shit swirling around your sister, or at least she’s not gonna hear it from me. You already know too much and aren’t gonna know any more. Your father needs to know it all so I told him and he agrees with me about you and your stepmom.”

I didn’t know where to start so I started in the middle.

“You told Dad everything?”

“He asked questions, I answered, so… yeah.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. What I was sure about was that I couldn’t turn back time so I had to let it go.

“How was he?”

His thumbs went away from my jaws as his hands slid down to rest where my neck met my shoulders.

“Not happy but not surprised,” he answered.

I knew how Dad felt because I felt the same way.

“How did you keep this from Meredith?”

“She was cookin’, I asked for some time, your Dad took me into his den and I closed the doors. We got out and she didn’t ask. Their conversation, if they have one, can be private. She’s his woman, that’s his call.”

I had no verbal response to this but I felt gratitude. Hawk was right, Dad would want to know and he wouldn’t be happy not knowing. Hawk was also right, Meredith shouldn’t know unless Dad felt she could handle it and he should tell her himself.

Even though I felt gratitude, I didn’t express it. Instead my eyes slid to the side.

“Babe,” Hawk called when they did and my eyes slid back. “What you said earlier –”

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On no. We were not going to talk about earlier. I’d gladly walk barefoot on a bed of hot coals and at the end of that journey take a swan dive into the boiling lava at the mouth of a volcano before I talked about earlier.

Therefore instantly I tried to jerk my neck away and move out from in front of him but he moved faster, pushing in closer, pinning me to the car and his hands came up to cup my jaws, forcing my face tipped to him.

“Babe,” he repeated when my eyes stared at his ear.

Guess I had to talk about it.

“I was making it up,” I lied to his ear. “Meredith is a romantic. I couldn’t tell her how we really are. Not then with Dad there, not privately, not ever.”

“Babe,” he said yet again.

“It’s not a big deal or at least it isn’t now. When you disappear, it will be then. Meredith will be sad but I’ll handle it.”

“Sweet Pea, look at me,” he ordered quietly.

My eyes slid to his.

“I asked to be seated in that booth,” he informed me and I sucked in breath at what he might be saying.

Then I breathed it out on a, “What?”

“Clocked you before you clocked me, Gwen.”

I stared up at him, incapable of speech.

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“Saw you through the windows as I was walkin’ up. Your friend was with you and you were laughin’.”

Oh my God.

His head dipped closer and I watched as it did, holding my breath and feeling his eyes burning into mine.

“Still see you,” he whispered.

Oh my God!

His thumb swept my cheekbone then his fingers went back into my hair as his other hand slid down my neck, over my shoulder and around my back, his head came down and he kissed me.

This kiss was with tongue, lots of it, his and mine. It was wet, it was deep and it lasted a really long time.

As usual I was holding on when he lifted his head and my body was quivering in places he could feel and in better places only I could feel and my private places were way better.

“Get to work, Sweet Pea,” he murmured against my mouth, pulled me gently away from his car, bleeped the locks, opened the door, folded in, fired up the Camaro and purred away.

I’d long since lost sight of his tail lights but I was still standing there, a residual quiver dying away, my mind stuck on one thought.

He could still see me laughing.

Chapter Nine

Squishiness

I felt the intense warmth of Hawk’s hand at the small of my back and my eyes opened. I’d been dead asleep and I felt confusion with a hint of excitement before his weight hit the bed and he turned me to him.

Then his arms closed around me, pressed my body the length of his and my confusion cleared.

I was in my parents’ house.

Before the shadow of his descending head hit its intended target, my hand shot up and covered his mouth.

“What are you doing?” I hissed through a whisper.

His hand came up, fingers wrapping around my wrist and he pulled it away.

“What do I always do?” he asked back, also whispering.

“You broke in my parents’ house!” I was still whispering and hissing.

“Yeah,” he replied like this was perfectly okay.

“We can’t have sex when my parents are practically right next door!”

He was silent, his body still, then he moved fast, his face disappearing in my neck as his arms got super tight and he rolled me to my back with his torso on mine and I heard his muffled laughter.

“Hawk!” I snapped, my hands at his sleek-skin-over-hard-muscle bared shoulders, pushing back.

His head came up and his weight came off me as he rested both forearms into the bed on either side of me.

He looked at me through the shadows. “Babe, not gonna f**k you,” he murmured.

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“You just said, ‘what do I always do?’ And we always have sex,” I returned.

“Yeah, babe, but it starts with a kiss.”

Oh. This was true.

I stared at his shadowed head through the dark. “Then what are you doing here?”

“You’re here.”

“So?” I prompted.

One of his hands came to my face and I felt his fingers glide along my hairline before they moved into the hair at the side of my head.

“Last night, someone targeted you and got close enough to you, he freaked you out. When that happened, my boys were eight minutes away and I was an hour away.”

“You’re telling me something I know, Hawk.”

“That’s not gonna happen again.”

He had sounded amused, at first, then informative. His last sounded like a vow.

My stomach got squishy.

I resisted the squishiness and reminded him, “Dad’s right next door.”

“He’s a man who can take care of himself and you, Sweet Pea, but there are people out there who don’t know that. They see my ride sitting at the curb, they’ll think twice before they f**k with anyone in this house.”

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