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His fingers found the buttons on my shirt, though he paused for a moment, silently asking for permission.

I nodded, my heart hammering against my ribs. A million different emotions warred inside me. Want, anxiety, excitement, fear. But most of all, hope. For this moment. For us.

Nash’s fingers deftly unfastened each button. But he seemed to be in no hurry. My hands lifted to the top buttons to help the process along.

“Don’t.” His voice was all husky smoke.


“Because I’ve been dreaming of peeling the clothes from your body for as long as I can remember. And I’m going to enjoy every damn second.”

My eyes flared as my hands fell back to the mattress. “Oh.”

Nash leaned over me, his lips skimming the column of my neck. “I’ve dreamt of how this skin would feel. How it would taste. I’ve come to pictures of you in my mind more times than I can count. And I know the real thing will ruin me forever. But it’ll be so damn worth it.”

My breaths came in short pants, my fingers fisting in the sheets. “Nash…”

 He pulled back, moving from button to button. “Hmm?”

 His focus was zeroed in on each expanse of skin my parted shirt revealed as if it were the most riveting sight he’d ever seen. Nash’s thumb circled my belly button. It was the most innocent of movements, but it had everything in me drawing up and winding tighter.


Nash unbuttoned another clasp. “Don’t rush me.”

I squirmed in place, a million curses on the tip of my tongue. But two could play this game. I ran my bare foot up the inside of his leg from his calf to his thigh to what stood at attention between us.

“Maddie…” he growled.

I grinned. “What? If you get to touch, I get to touch.” I stroked Nash through his sweatpants.

The sound that slipped from his lips wasn’t altogether human. Nash took both sides of my blouse and tugged. The remaining buttons went flying across the room.

I gaped at him. “You did not just do that.”

Nash grinned as he slid the blouse down my arms. As the fabric parted more, he stilled, his gaze zeroing in on the kaleidoscope of colors on my side.

I swallowed. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

His fingers lightly skimmed the marred skin, then he bent and ghosted his lips over the fading bruises. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. That I didn’t—”

I grabbed Nash’s tee and gave a hard tug. “No. It’s not on you. And he doesn’t get a place here. Not when it’s you and me. Not when I finally have what I’ve wanted all these years.”

Nash took my mouth in a long, slow kiss. “It’s you and me.”

“Always you and me,” I whispered against his lips.


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