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I figured he was going to use the bathroom and, again hysterically, I thought he should put in a bathroom downstairs. He had the room for it. If it was me, I’d put it at the other end of his lair, behind his desk, once I moved that closer to the kitchen and installed the ping pong table, pool table and air hockey table.

I focused on air hockey, not on Hawk’s presence on the bed platform and I forced my body perfectly still.

I heard some beeps from what I guessed was his phone and they were coming from close to the bed.

I stayed immobile.

Then I heard him flip his phone shut, it clattered to the nightstand, I tensed and my eyes flew open. There was nothing for a moment then the light by the bed switched on. I uncurled and turned to my back to see he was standing by the bed, tugging off his tee.

My breath froze in my throat.

Then I forced out, “Is everything all right?”

He dropped his tee on the floor, turned and sat, his back to me. He bent forward and I heard one boot drop, then the other. He stood and turned back to the bed and his hands went to his cargoes.

My breath instantly heated and I found it hard not to pant for a variety of reasons when he tugged them down.

“Hawk,” I whispered. “Is everything all right?”

“It wasn’t,” he replied, leaned in, grabbed the covers, pulled them back and I tensed as he slid in, his arms reached out, he turned me and then I was plastered to his body and his mouth was at my ear. “It is now.” His arms got tight. “Just got your voicemails, babe.”

He just got my voicemails. He just got them and I was in his arms.

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My relief was so deep, so sweet, I couldn’t hold back the tears as my hands went hesitantly to his chest.

“Hawk,” I whimpered through my tears.

He leaned in, taking me to my back, his torso on mine and his head came up. The tears slid out of my eyes, his hand came up and his fingers moved through the wetness at my temple.

His gaze came to mine. “Baby,” he whispered.

“I was a thoughtless, selfish cow!” I wailed, lifted my head and shoved it into his neck as I wound my arms around him.

“Sweet Pea.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. It hurt, what you did to me, and that was all I could think about,” I told him, dropped my head back to the pillows and looked into his black eyes. “You were right. I couldn’t see through that to see what you were going through. It was thoughtless and selfish and –”

He rolled to his back, his arms around me taking me with him and when I was on top, his hand came up and pulled back one side of my hair, holding it at the back, he pulled my face down to touch my mouth to his. Then he let me back an inch and spoke.

“I cut you,” he said softly. “You moved to protect yourself. It’s a natural reaction, babe.”

“It was mean and… and… bitchy,” I replied, still crying.

“Yeah, babe, you can maintain mean and bitchy for about ten hours and then you call and apologize. I think I can handle that. I left you hangin’ for a week.”

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This was true.

“This is true,” I muttered, the tears subsiding and I watched his dimples form.

Then they disappeared, his hand left the back of my head so it could move to my face, his thumb sliding along my cheekbone, my jaw then my lips as his eyes followed its path. Then those eyes locked on mine.

“I’m sorry I cut you, baby,” he whispered and the tears that had subsided welled up again and slid down my cheeks and his thumb moved instantly to glide through them as they did. “I’ll do everything I can not to put you through that again,” he promised.

“’Kay,” I whispered back and then my hand went to his cheek and I thought about his Mom’s visit. “And I’ll do everything I can, if you do it again, not to give up on you and be a mean, bitchy, thoughtless, selfish cow.”

His fingers slid back into my hair, he pulled my head back down and he touched my mouth to his where he murmured, “That’d be good.”

Then the touch became a short, light kiss before he again let me back an inch.

“Glad that’s done, Sweet Pea,” he whispered.

I took my hand from his face and wiped my own, agreeing, “Yeah,” but thinking “glad” was a mammoth understatement.

“Though that’s done, we’re not done talkin’,” he told me and the tone of his voice had changed.

I studied him and the look on his face had changed too. No longer gentle, it was firm.

Uh-oh.

“Um…” I mumbled, trying to find words to get out of a talk I was thinking I might not like.

“I’ll remind you you’re livin’ in Badass World,” he declared and I didn’t think this reminder boded good tidings.

“Um…” I mumbled, wondering what was next, however, although wondering, from his look and tone, not actually wanting to find out.

“And in Badass World, even when shit’s unsettled between us, you don’t meet another man on the sidewalk in front of your house and let him touch you and put his mouth on you.”

Oh boy.

“Mo told you,” I guessed.

“Another voicemail I just got.”

Shit.

“He kissed my hair,” I defended myself. “I don’t have a brother but I would guess that would be how a brother might kiss me.”

“Mitch Lawson does not feel brotherly love for you, babe,” Hawk returned.

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This was true.

Shit!

“Um…”

“Gwen, you made that sweet call, you told me you were sorry and when you did, you dropped that hand and gave yourself back to me. That means you just entered Badass World for good, you did it on your own and you gotta know there are rules. You stick to those rules or bear the consequences. Understood?”

Uh-oh. He was being bossy and it was kind of making me mad.

“I didn’t throw myself at him and start making out with him on the sidewalk, Hawk.”

He ignored my reassurances. “No hands and definitely no mouth, Gwen, no man but me in the way I get you and your Dad in the way he does. No man. At all. No excuses. Yeah?”

“Hawk –”

“And you don’t jump on the back of a bike unless I’m on that bike,” he went on.

“Hawk –”

His arm at my waist and hand at my head tightened. “Babe, you need to confirm you get me.”

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