This scene takes place a couple months after Pike comes to get Jordan from the motel but before he proposes to her on the four wheelers. She’s back in college and living in his house.


I love this car. I grab my water bottle and the receipts I’d stuffed into the drink holder, fold back my visor, and take my backpack from the passenger’s seat.  I step out of the new Chevy Blazer Pike bought me.

I mean, bought us.

Technically us. That’s the story he’s sticking to anyway.  

I swing my backpack over my shoulder and head for the garage, turning around to walk backwards as I gaze at my new car, dark red with black wheels. I smile. It just matches the leaves falling from the trees on the sidewalk, perfectly complimenting the Jack-o-Lanterns on the curb. I want to jump up and down at how pretty it is.

And then I roll my eyes at myself and toss the garbage into the recycle bin as I turn back around.

Pike still drives that old, beat-up truck, and while this new car is nice for ‘nights out or road trips’ like he said, I know he bought it for me. Safe and reliable, he’d said.

Because I can’t take care of myself, and I’m just one expense after another for this guy. Not that he gives any impression it bothers him. I just don’t want people thinking he’s my meal ticket. He gives me so much, and I just…

I catch movement to my right and stop, looking out over at Kyle Cramer’s house. His screen door swings open and Cam steps out, him trailing behind her as she laughs at something.

My shoulders fall as I freeze. Shit.

Her long hair shines in the light, and she slips her hands into her dark, skinny jean pockets, her skin exposed in her off-the-shoulder shirt as she turns to look at him. He has a towel wrapped around his waist as he uses another one to dry the back of his head. She leans in and kisses him, long and slow, moving over his mouth soft and passionate.

Like a promise of more to come.

Like how I kissed Pike in the shower this morning.

I dart my eyes over my shoulder, scanning the neighborhood for noses stuck or their windows or peeled-back drapes.

Cam heads toward me, and Kyle disappears into his house again.   

“Hey!” she says, smiling.

But I’m not smiling. “What are you doing?”  

Her face falls, and she straightens, rolling up her sleeves. “You know I’m been trying to fit in more cardio, Jordan.”

But her joke doesn’t breach me. Cardio? We go to the gym for that.

“Seriously, Cam,” I whine. “The whole neighborhood is already whispering about what a tart I am behind my back, and you’re only adding fuel to it.”

“Tart?” She looks at me, amused.

Yes, tart! Ever since Pike brought me home from Virginia, word has certainly gotten around. They’re sleeping together! How long has it been going on? She’s doing it, because Cole dumped her. What kind of man wouldn’t lose control with THAT living in the house? Poor guy—her attention will certainly cost him a few bucks.

I mean, Jesus. Almost no one understands our relationship or how we have anything to talk about, so of course, they assume it comes down to sex and money.

I walk toward the kitchen door in the garage, finding the door key.  

Cam chases after me. “Don’t put me in a bad mood. I just spent a very enjoyable afternoon next door, getting—”

“Lalalalalalala…” I sing to drown her out as I unlock the door.

Picturing Kyle Cramer getting exactly what he wants from my sister aggravates me. He doesn’t deserve her.

“And I am not going to feel guilty,” she goes on over my singing, “just because the Northridge Housewives are jealous.”

I throw her a look and push through the door, hitting the button to close the garage on my way in.

She adjusts her sweater and lifts her chin. “If they had a lick of sense, they’d take a few notes from me, drop to their knees, and give their men something to watch tonight other than the TV.”

Oh, for God’s sake…

But I honestly don’t know why I’m worried. Or angry. Cramer isn’t evil. I still watch his kids here and there—partly because I love watching Pike with them, but…

I don’t know. He’s sleazy, and he likes to mess with her head at the strip club. Making her give his friends dances or paying other dancers to get on him when he knows she’s watching.

But it’s Cam and not me, and Cam is different.   

She approaches, softening her voice. “Stop worrying, okay?” she pleads. “I’m already growing bored with him.”

Well, thank God. I’m sleeping with the single dad here, she’s sleeping with the single dad there. We’ll get reps.

I plop down at the kitchen table, letting out a deep breath. I’m overreacting.  

“Why are you so worried about everything lately?” she asks.

Why? It takes a moment to find my words, but with my sister, I know I can just be straight.

“He pays for everything,” I mumble what’s really bothering me. “My education, the new car, allllllll the bills…”

I went back to Grounders last month, but with school and his unpredictable work schedule, we hated being apart any more than necessary.

So I quit, and he was beyond thrilled. He supports us entirely.    

Cam pulls out the chair and sits down next to me. “You’re his future, and he’s investing in it,” she tells me. “Your college debt would be his as your husband anyway. What’s the difference if he helps you now or gets saddled with your debt later?”

“Husband?” I laugh, even though flutters hit my stomach. “Slow down now.”

“Oh, please.” She levels me with a sarcastic gaze. “He closes his eyes when he kisses your forehead, for Christ’s sake. He’s not letting you go. Ever.”

He closes his eyes? Really? My cheeks warm.

“You’ve made his house a home,” she continues, “you love him, you’re honest, loyal, and genuine, and you’re completely devoted to him. He’s the luckiest man in the world and he damn-well knows it.”

I chew the inside of my lip to keep the tears away. Leave it to Cam to put things in perspective. I love him good, don’t I? It’s enough?

“Those bitches had their chance.” She tries to pinch my cheek, but I swat her hand away. “They’re just bitter that a kid was smarter than them and snatched him up while they were snoring.”

Yeah, okay.

Part of me still feels like Pike will wake up and realize he’s taken a step backward in life and want someone his own age.

But she made me feel a little better. I’m doing my best. I know that much. It won’t be like this forever. I’ll graduate, get a job, and contribute more.

Cam rises and adjusts her jeans. “Now I have to go get my Puddin’ and get ready,” she says. “I’m the Harley to his Joker tonight. Woohoo.”

Oh, that’s right. Halloween. Pike and I won’t be home tonight, so I can’t pass out candy. I’ll leave some candy on the porch. Hopefully the teenagers don’t take it all.

I walk over and dig a bag out of one of the cabinets, opening it. I pull out a handful of chocolate and quickly stick it into a baggie.

I give it to my sister. “Give him his first candy of the night from me,” I tell her. “And have fun.”

She takes the baggie but notices something and stops, picking up my costume on the hanger as it lays draped over the island bar stool.

“Yeah, you, too,” she says and holds up the costume, looking at me.

 I shrug. What?

It’s the Little Red Riding Hood costume from the movie, Trick ‘r Treat.

She starts to move her body, moaning and rolling her eyes into the back of her head. “Oh, Grandmother,” she pants. “What.. a big… dick you have!”

Her mock sex sounds fill the house as she thrusts against my costume, and I grab a cookie from the plate on the counter and throw it at her, snatching my outfit out of her hands.

She rears back, shielding herself from any more attacks as she laughs.


“See yaaaaa,” she teases.

And then she turns and leaves.

I hold up my costume and look at it. I’m pretty sure Pike won’t be wearing his, but it doesn’t matter.

Wearing this tonight, I’ll have plenty to fear from him anyway.

And I can’t wait.


My hair blows, and I look up at the night sky, spotting the dark clouds even at night. I hold a small basket of snacks, the air caressing my chest through the thin fabric of my short-sleeved, low-cut peasant blouse. I wore a red cape for public.

And no bra under the thin, white shirt for Pike in private.

I look over, seeing him approach with a picnic blanket under one arm as he slips his car keys into his jean’s pocket and heads for the entrance where I stand. He had to work late, so we decided to meet here.

I smile, laughing under my breath. His long-sleeved gray T-shirt peeks out from the bottom of his black pull over jacket.  God, he’s so hot.

But no costume, I guess.  

He shakes his head at me, clearly seeing my expression. “You know I love you…”

“And I love how predictable you are,” I tease, coming in and wrapping an arm around him. “It’s okay.”

He was supposed to dress as Principal Wilkins from the same movie I’m dressing from. I guess he decided the suit and glasses was just too silly, but I couldn’t care less. I’m still calling him Principal Wilkins.

All night long.

He slides an arm around my waist and lifts me up. I press my lips hard to his, just holding him and breathing him in. I love how he smells. Like wood and wind and warmth.

I suddenly want to be somewhere where I don’t have to let him go.

“And I’m loving this,” he says, looking down at my outfit as he sets me back on the ground. “You sure you want to see a movie?”

I catch the insinuation in his tone and toss him a look. We’re not going home. Yet.

“It’s supposed to rain,” he quickly explains. “We could watch it at home.”

I laugh again, threading my fingers through his and walking us both into the park.

“Nuh uh,” I tell him. “We’ve been cooped up long enough.”

Between my second year of college starting and that site two towns over he’s been working on, we’ve been busy. If he’s not working and I’m not studying, then we’re too wrapped up in each other to make it out of the house much.


I don’t know. It feels like something else is holding us back, too, and it could be my paranoia stemming from why I left last June, but I can’t help but feel like he’s still nervous sometimes.

Like they can’t judge us if they can’t see us? We go to the store together, Home Depot, the movies, but…if we go out to eat, he makes some excuse to try a new place in the next town or grab take-out instead and have a picnic. Which is awesome. I haven’t complained.

But still, we’re not going home yet.  

We head through the park—the open, wide lawn spreading before us has a huge blow up screen already set up and a sea of people—couples and families—parked on the grass with their blankets and coolers. It’s after nine, so trick or treating is done, and kids run around, ready to see a classic horror movie. Albeit a PG one.

The surrounding trees hug the crowd in shadows as Pike leads me over to the concession stands. “Two, please,” he says to the kid and then looks down at me. “Butter?”

I nod.

“Both with butter,” he orders.

Poltergeist is showing tonight, and the screen plays a bunch of retro movie trailers as everyone finishes trailing in, getting their snacks, and getting seated. As soon as I heard which movie was playing, I knew we had to come tonight. It was the date we almost made the first time we met watching Evil Dead last May. It was the date he tried to make a month later when I left his house—and his bed—and ran far away, because I knew if I stayed, I wouldn’t be able to resist wanting to be with him.  

Two months later, he came and got me, and now, more than two months after that, we’re inseparable unless we have to be. I wake up with him, I go sleep with him, and I get to touch him anytime I want. He’s always looking at me, never goes anywhere except work without me, and for some reason, doesn’t think I know how to undress myself for bed every night, so he helps with that, too.

Such… a sweetie.

I feel his eyes on me, and I look up, seeing his downcast gaze scowling at my breasts. I look down at them bulging out of the top, the cool air coaxing my nipples through the fabric. He pulls my cape closed, and I laugh to myself.

We pay for our popcorn and Pike takes both cups, both of us heading for the lawn.

But then suddenly, Dutch is there. We stop, seeing him exit the line next to us, grumbling, “They’re not serving.” He rolls his eyes at us. “Some bullshit about being family-friendly. Beer is the reason I am friendly to my family.”

He walks off and Pike lets out a small laugh.

We watch Dutch head back to his family, and Pike and I start to move.

But then I hear my name.


We halt again.

I turn my head, following the voice, and see my Mr. Jarchow holding a tray of nachos with two sodas tucked in his arm.

My old principal. Not nearly as good looking as Pike wouldn’t been as one but still a good guy.

“Mr. Jarchow.” I reach up for a quick hug.

Pike releases my hand as I do, and I pause but shake it off.

I come back, looking at my old high school principal. His light brown hair has turned dusty, and he looks like he hasn’t been home from his workday yet, still wearing the same kind of slacks and shirts he wore to school when I attended, minus the tie. But who are we kidding? The tie was always gone by lunch period anyway.  

“How are you doing, sweetie?” he asks.

“Good,” I tell him. “I’m in my second year at Doral State.”


“Landscape design.”

He snaps his fingers. “I knew it.”

I laugh. Yeah, I was the President of the Garden Club. Not a difficult feat, though, when we only had three members.

Mr. Jarchow’s eyes gleam at me but then they rise, seeing something behind me, and his lips turn tight. “Pike?” He nods in greeting. “How’s it going?”

“Joey.” Pike reaches out his hand.

“Joey?” I repeat, turning to Jarchow. “May I call you Joey now that you’re no longer my principal?”

He laughs under his breath, but he looks straight at Pike when he says, “And no longer your fifth-grade teacher or your eighth-grade science teacher. Why not? You’re an adult now.”

I force the smile to stay on my face, but it’s a struggle, because I can hear the disdain in his voice.  

“Legally, anyway,” he adds as an afterthought.

 I close my eyes for a moment.

So I guess he knows. Pike and he are about the same age. One is in love with me and the other raised me, in a way that teachers do. Well, this is awkward.

And Jarchow isn’t pretending otherwise.  

Thankfully, Pike keeps his cool.

“You know, watching you grow up,” Jarchow says, “I always knew you’d do something creative career-wise.” His look is gentle and fatherly again. “It’s good to hear I wasn’t wrong.”

His heart-felt demeanor never failed. He’s one of the people I was lucky to have during those years.

But I can’t feel or hear Pike’s breathing next to me, which tells me he isn’t.

“Well, have fun,” I tell Jarchow.

“You, too, sweetie.”

And he walks off, carrying his food to his three daughters seated not far away.

Pike takes my hand again and leads us off, but I can see the silent rage all over his face.

“It wasn’t that bad.” I clutch his hand. “He saw me grow up. It’s weird to know I’m dating someone…”

“His age?” Pike finishes for me.

But I can tell he’s aggravated. Mr. Jarchow just became principal five years ago, and he and Pike clearly knew each other well. Jarchow probably taught Cole.

“Dating…” Pike shakes his head as we walk, my word not sitting well for some reason.

“You sure you don’t want to go home?” Pike teases, laying out the blanket. “We could make out.”

I snort, setting the basket down. We can make out later. We will make out later.

Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party plays on the screen, and I look up, seeing Bentley with a few other people I know. He waves, and I wave back, the couples all laughing and joking together. I saw them less after high school but still at the bar sometimes. When I worked there.

I turn around to sit and meet Pike’s eyes, his gaze darting quickly between my high school friends and me before he looks away again, fixing the blanket. I don’t need those friends. We weren’t close anymore anyway.

But seeing the couples together makes me realize Pike and I don’t really have mutual friends, do we? At least not yet.  

“You know, I was thinking…” he says, taking my hand and pulling me down into his arms. “You’re going to need an internship senior year, right?”


“Well, if you want…” He threads a lock of my hair through his fingers. “De Kalb is coming in to assess the property next week. You should be with me during the walk-through. Start networking.”

I smile wide. Really? De Kalb is a major developer. I mean, interning with them would open so many doors, especially since we don’t live in a metropolitan area.

“Convince your mom to let me host either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I’ll be with you during any walk-throughs you want.”

He gives me a little snarl. “Fine, but if I have to eat a tofurkey, I will never have your back in front of her again.”

Whatever. His mom likes my cooking. She’s just a control freak about the holidays and loves for her house to be home-base for all the family. Fine by me, but I’m cooking.

“You had tofurkey in the tetrazzini last week,” I retort. “And you didn’t notice.”

“What?” He grabs me and digs his fingers into my waist.

I jerk, squealing at the tickle.

“Excuse me?” he plays, feigning anger. He tickles more, and I giggle as I try to squirm away from him.

But he pulls me back into his chest, both of us calming. “Actually, I did notice. I just didn’t say anything.”


He tosses me a look, and I try to hold back my smile. I’m not really changing what he eats on purpose, but if I’m cooking dinner that night, then he’ll eat what I eat.

We look at each other, holding each other’s eyes, and before I can help it, my gaze drops to his lips. Smooth and strong and have touched almost every inch of my body. They even have their favorite places on me.

And suddenly, I can’t stop the heat rising to my cheeks. There’s no one around us, we’re in our bedroom, and everything is in slow-motion. Our breathing quickens, and just as the lights around the field suddenly extinguish and the crowd cheers for the movie about to begin, his mouth lands on mine, and we kiss.

He doesn’t use this tongue at first. Just cups my face as I tilt my head back and dive into our own little world. I love him so much. These stupid little kinks we continue to work out are nothing compared to this and how well he loves me. His tongue touches mine, and I’m on fire, almost sorry we came tonight after all.

But even after the movie later, I know we won’t make it home before we have to pull over somewhere. I’ll just have fun with the foreplay until then.

He snaps the ruffled band on my shirt at my cleavage. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” he asks in a whisper.

I grin as I settle back against him and he kisses my temple. “A little.”

Like yesterday morning when I made him breakfast in my underwear and half-shirt.

But then when he insisted I sit in his lap to eat my breakfast, it was my fault when he wanted something other than his own food. He’d pulled me back against him like this, stuck his hand down the front of my panties, and fingered me before he went to work. I’ll happily take those punishments for taunting him.  

A breeze picks up, sweeping through the crowd, and people fumble to keep their blankets on the ground. Ours picks up, and I dart over, away from Pike for a moment to dig a soda can out of the basket and plant it down on the blanket to hold it down.  

“Pike?” a woman exclaims.

I look up and see a brown-haired woman in jeans, a tight pink Henley, and cat ears standing a few feet away. She holds out her hands, fixing a look of surprise on her face.

“Oh, my God, hey!” she says, charging over with her shiny, straight hair cropped to the shoulders and her eye make-up flawless.

Pike rises, and I still.

“Dee,” he says, both of them embracing. “Jesus…”

I stand up, immediate insecurities rising, but I push them away. She pulls back, and I watch as her hands drift down to his upper arms, holding him. I narrow my eyes.

“What’s it been?” She looks him about and down. “Fifteen years?”

“Just about.”

A gleam hits her eyes. “You know, I convinced myself every boy I went to school with was some beer-bellied, baldy by now,” she goes on, “and that was incentive enough to stay away from this town, but here you are, looking like someone I’m going to develop a teenage crush on before the night is over.”

He laughs nervously, and I stand there, waiting for him to introduce us, but neither of them looks at me.

“How are you?” she asks. “Not married, right?”

And then she grabs his left hand, to check for a ring, I presume. She sighs in relief, seeing his hand is bare. “Oh, thank God.

Pike takes a step back, and her arms fall away finally. “Are you still living in Arizona?” he asks.

“Yes, but it’s so fucking hot—still.” She laughs, and I go to fold my arms over my chest in aggravation but stop myself. “I needed a more cooperative temperature to feel festive. I’m just back for the weekend.” And then she fixes him with a look. “Long enough to break your heart if you let me.”

Um, no. The image of two high school friends falling in bed together, getting all hot after years of pent up sexual attraction makes my stomach roll. I let my eyes drift up and down her body. She’s pretty.  

I visibly turn my head to Pike, and he finally looks over at me.

So does she. As if I just appeared out of nowhere.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she says, wincing. “Excuse me, sweetie. You didn’t hear me swear.” She playfully puts her hands over my ears. “My bad.”

Excuse me? I fist my skirt at my sides.

She pulls her hands away, shaking her head at herself. “She looks exactly like you,” she tells Pike. “I knew about Cole, of course, but I didn’t know you had a girl, too.”

My stomach sinks. Oh, my God.   

Pike is dead silent for a few moments, and when I finally open my eyes, he chokes out a laugh. “You’re so funny,” he says. “Dee, this is my, um…” He swallows, forcing the word out. “Girlfriend, Jordan Hadley.” And then he looks at me. “Jordan, this is Deanna Mansano. We graduated together.”

I exhale. Fucking finally. Was that so hard?

I hold out my hand as Dee looks between the two of us, her eyes wide. Hopefully, she’s not appalled at anything but her own assumptions.  

“Hey,” she finally says, taking my hand. “Wow, I’m so sorry. Nice to meet you.”

“You, too.”

I can still see the shock playing on her face as she probably reprocesses everything she just said that I was right in front of her to hear.

“And he’s being kind,” she tells me, finally recovering. “I barely graduated.”

There’s an awkward silence, but she holds out her hand, gesturing to both of us. “You should both come to Red’s with us after the movie,” she tells us, looking at Pike. “You and I can catch up, see some of the old crew, and I’m sure you won’t have to guard the door while I pee this time.”

I glance at Pike.

He nods, remembering. “Dutch ripped the doors off the stalls when someone gave him a sugar cube that he thought was only a sugar cube.”

They laugh, sharing in the memory.

She knows Dutch, too. An emptiness settles inside me, but it hurts.

Of course, she would know him. If she grew up here, she’s known Pike and everyone else a lot longer than I have.

Pike’s eyes look happily lost in thought for a moment. “I forgot all about that night.”

“You were my hero.” She touches his fucking arm again. “You should come, though. Both of you.”

He looks over at me. “Actually, I have work early in the morning,” he tells her. “Wish I could. Thank you, though.”

He has the day off tomorrow. I can’t go into the bar, because I’m too young, and he doesn’t want to tell her that.

“Well,” she trails off, looking a little disappointed. “It was nice to see you. You both have a good night.” She starts to move away, but she looks back at me. “And I’m sorry again for my mistake. I’m drunk. And an idiot.”

I force a small smile. I guess I can’t blame her. She’s interested. Who wouldn’t be?

And at least she backed off once she realized her mistake.

She leaves, and Pike and I stand there for a moment, watching her walk back to her friends.

Their friends.

“She’s only in town for the weekend,” I remind him. “You could go and hang out with your friends.”

I trust him, even though the idea ties my stomach into knots. What if he realizes what he’s missing? Conversations with someone on his level. Someone mature. Someone that’s maybe done wanting kids and has been a few places and had a few experiences.  

But he just replies, “They’re not my friends, Jordan. Don’t worry about it.”

And he sits back down.

The movie starts, and I reluctantly join him, but not in his arms.

And he doesn’t reach for me, either.

What the hell is happening? Is this on me or him? I’m not sure if I’m mad or mad that he’s mad.

I let out a breath. I guess he had a point about keeping us secluded the past couple of months. Jarchow pissed him off, and Deanna unnerved him. Deanna unnerved me. I wasn’t jealous of Lindsey, mostly because Pike seems to dislike her vehemently.

But Pike has good memories with Dee. A history. Something I don’t really have with him yet.

And my God…I do not look like him. She just humiliated him. Us.


But he shakes his head. “Just watch the movie, baby.”

He fiddles with my cape, putting it over my legs to cover me against the chill, and I fall silent. We sit there, the movie playing, but I don’t think either of us is watching. The popcorn sits uneaten, as well as the snacks in the basket.

I drop my eyes, doubt swamping me. What’s he thinking?

We burned hot for a few amazing months, but reality is seeping in, and he’s going to start seeing this as a step back.

I’m not what he needs. This doesn’t make him happy.

A joke passes in the film. We’re silent. A scare pops up, we don’t react.

We shouldn’t have come tonight. This was a bad idea. Another bad idea from me and my stupid expectations.

Only now, I’m scared. I can’t lose him. I walked away once, but… I can’t walk away again. I don’t want anything more than I want him, and if he ever not wanted me anymore, I’d…

“What’s wrong?” I hear him ask.

The movie plays, the breeze quickens, and I blink at the sudden break in silence, seeing him leaning back on his hands out of the corner of my eye.

He knows what’s wrong. I can barely manage more than a whisper, because my throat is filling with tears. “I love you more than anything.”

He doesn’t move, and if he were home, and I were sad, he’d pull me into his arms. But he can’t do that now. Which is probably good.

“You’re embarrassed,” I tell him.


“You’re embarrassed.”

He doesn’t hesitate long. “I’m not.”

The leaves on the trees rustle, and the blow-up movie screen sways, pulling at its stakes in the ground.

“I just wanted us to get out for the night,” I tell him, pushing my hair out of my face to look at him. “We never go anywhere really public. You didn’t even want to say I was your girlfriend.”

“Like you rushed over to invite your friends over here or drag us over there?” he snaps back. “I mean you’re not at all afraid of what they’ll think, I guess.”

A crack of thunder pierces the air, and I feel a drop of rain hit my arm. But I barely register the commotion around us as people start chattering and rising from their seats.

So he thinks I’m the one who’s embarrassed?

“The rain’s starting.” He sits up and pushes himself to his feet. “Let’s go.”

I rise. “I was thinking of you,” I tell him. “Your comfort.”

He leans down, pulling up the blanket and forcing me off.

 “Because you worry too much what people think,” I go on. “You just stood there while Jarchow acted like an ass.”

“He acted like I was a child molester, Jordan!” he whisper-yells, glaring at me.

My spine goes steel-rod straight. I thought we’d settled this. We’re not doing anything wrong.

But he apparently hasn’t gotten over it, and I knew. I knew this was a problem last June, and it’s still a problem for him.  

I glare at him. “I told you. Didn’t I tell you? Why did you even come for me in Virginia?”

Pain hits his eyes, but he doesn’t answer me.  

“People think you only want me for… That I’m good for one thing, because what else would you want from a bubblehead nineteen year old? Are they right?”

“Are you serious?” he growls, breathing hard as he inches closer. “You know that’s not true. You’re overreacting.”

“Yes, teenagers do that.” I dip down and swipe up the basket and popcorns, tossing them in the trash.

He shakes his head, like I’m oh-so-immature. “Let’s just go.”

“I have my car.”

“Leave it!” he barks.

But I charge off, following the crowd to the parking lot. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m overreacting.

But it seems I’m telling myself that a lot lately. Like today with Cam.

I never want to let him go, but what if this isn’t the life he wants? It would kill me to make him unhappy.

Am I making him happy? Is this too hard?

“Jordan?” he calls after me.

“I need to be alone.”


I whip around, fat drops of rain hitting me now as people go running to their cars. “I need to be alone.”

Why are people so awful? What makes them have any right to judge us? I just wanted a night out. We should be able to do that. I should be able to walk out of the house in the morning without the neighbors looking at me like Pike is keeping a dirty, little secret inside.

Rain pummels the gravel lot, kicking up dust and drenching my hair as I whip open the car door and put the basket inside. Untying my cape, I remove it and toss that inside, as well.

“I’m not embarrassed,” Pike says, throwing the blanket into the back of the truck. “I’m pissed off.”

I stand in my open door, watching him over my shoulder.

“I wasn’t hiding you or embarrassed by you,” he explains, anger creasing his brow. “I was hiding us.”

Rain soaks my clothes and hits my mouth as cars peel off around us, getting their kids home.

“I’m fucking happy,” he barks.

The words my make heart fly, but the rage on his face and the harsh tone of the words almost make me laugh.

“I’m fucking happy, and I hate everything they don’t see in you,” he tells me. “Looking at us like they know what goes on between us when they know nothing!”

I turn around slowly, watching him—his eyes intense and piercing me.

“Of how I’m ten times more entranced and obsessed with you—your whispers in the morning, the sight of you in my house, the feel of you in my arms, your smile, and your body than I’ve been with all of the women in my life combined,” he says. “Fucking looking at us with their snide smirks when they don’t know what this is. I don’t want anyone invading it, because I’m not going to be made to feel like this shouldn’t be happening. I won’t live without you.”

My throat swells as tears fill my eyes, and I can’t fucking breathe.

“Now get in the goddamn car,” he orders. “Don’t make me come after you.”

I swallow the needles in my throat as I watch him round his truck and pull off his jacket, tossing it inside.

But I don’t move. I can’t wait until we get home.

I don’t take my eyes off him as the rain hits my blouse, soaking through. Pike goes to climb into his truck but stops, seeing me.

He comes back around the door, looking at me over the hood. He doesn’t blink as his chest rises and falls steadily.

How does he do it? I’ve never been more afraid of losing something, because I’ve never loved anything more. But he always knows what to say to make it all go away.

I breathe hard, fisting my hands because they’re aching for him, and tip my face up to the rain, feeling the fabric stick to my nipples like a second skin.

He’s going to marry me. This is it. It’s forever.

“Wanna make me come after you?” I hear him ask.

And I smile, all the doubt washing away. I open my eyes and meet his again, seeing he’s slowly stepping around the front of the car with a look in his eyes.

I nod, stepping around the front of my own vehicle and backing away from him as he inches forward. Rain drops stream down my legs, and water slips into my flats, but I barely notice. The way his eyes take me in I may as well be naked.

Cars spin their wheels around us, one by one emptying the lot, and I carefully back up around them. Pike won’t give chase with so many around us, so I don’t need to run yet.  

I hold his eyes as he cocks his head, looking at me like I’m asking for it.

A horn honks behind me, and I go to look over my shoulder to see who it is, but then I see Pike shoot off, darting toward me.  I gasp, breaking into a laugh.

And run.

Scurrying through the mess of cars, I hall ass into the trees, digging in my heels, because I know he’ll be on me any minute.

I can’t believe he did that. People are probably wondering if I’m in danger or something, running away from him.  

I dash into the woods, seeing the old Donahue barn and swing open one of the doors, not bothering to close it.

Horses peek out from their stalls, the smell of hay hitting me as I race to the other side. Instead of seeking refuge, like he thinks I will, I run out through the other doors, exiting the barn, and quickly close them again. Heat swirls in my belly, and my heart is in my throat, but I keep my laughter quiet as I peek through the slits in the board and watch Pike enter the barn.

His T-shirt is already soaked, and I watch him glance side to side, looking for me inside the barn. I bite my bottom lip to keep from laughing.

He moves down, checking stall after stall, and I trail around the side of the barn, finding a hole here or a slit there to keep an eye on him. Once he goes up into the loft, I’ll go inside, hide, and jump his ass when he least expects it.

But as I move to the next peep spot, I can’t see him anymore. Did he go up the stairs already? I move my eye in a circle, scanning every inch I can see, and then move to another slit to try to get a better view.

He’s not there, though. He has to be in a stall and out of my view. I stand up straight, ready to head to the front of the barn, but I see something out of the corner of my eye. My heart jumps.

I jerk my head, seeing Pike standing outside at the corner of the barn.

He runs for me.

I squeal and change directions, darting around the back of the barn again and rounding to the other side, toward the front.

But before I can reach the parking lot again, he’s there, catching me in his arms. My startled scream turns into a laugh, and he throws me over his shoulder, carrying us both back into the barn.

My shoes are gone, and I’m smiling. But then I feel his hand slide up my skirt and pull down my panties, the fabric ripping.

I feel them slip over my feet, and then they’re gone. My toes curl. God, I want him.

He sets me on the ground, and my mouth is on him as he tries to unlace my little corset.

“I love you,” he says, breathless as I pull off his shirt.

But I can’t pause long enough to reply. My hands are everywhere. On his chest, his face, and finally, down his jeans, rubbing him until he’s moaning.

He yanks at my laces, and I shift on my tippy toes, because my thighs are on fire.

“Just rip it,” I breathe out.

He grabs my blouse, tearing it away from my breasts, his hand immediately cupping one and kissing me hard.

“Oh, God. Pike.”

He lifts me up and carries me, but I don’t know where, because I’m lost in his lips, his jaw, his neck…

He sits me down, unfastens his belt and jeans, and pushes up my skirt. I barely have time to register the cool air hitting between my legs before he pushes me down on the table and thrusts inside of me.

“Ah!” I cry out.

He pauses for a moment, savoring the feel, and then dips down and sucks on my nipple as he begins moving inside me.  

“I’m so lucky,” he says.

I whimper, holding his head to me.

God, this is good. He lifts up, holding my hips and looking down at me, my tits bouncing back and forth, still wet from the rain.

But I can’t even feel it. I’m on fire right now.

He thrusts again and again, kissing me and my breasts, and his hands roaming my hips and ass. I’m never not in the mood for this and every time it’s good.

Because we’re made for one another.  

“They need to see us, Pike,” I tell him.

I mean, I get it. I know why he wants to keep us to ourselves and not let anyone rain on our parade, but that’s can’t go on forever.  

He comes back down, sucking my breast into his mouth. “You really want Jarchow to see what I’m doing to his former student right now?”

Ew. No. That’s not what I meant.

He leans back up, propping himself up with one hand and grazing my face with the other as he looks down at me.

His dick slides in and out, and I run my hands down his chest, loving to watch how his body moves when he fucks me.

“They need to see us every day,” I go on, “because the sooner they trust that this isn’t changing, the sooner they’ll get over it.” I meet his eyes again. “And they will get over it. They’ll see it every day, and they’ll learn.”

If one thing is certain in this world, it’s that it moves on eventually.

“I love you,” I tell him. “They can’t ruin this.”

He grabs the end of the table above my head and thrusts harder, his tip hitting me deep, and I roll my hips, arching my back.

“Ugh, fuck,” he groans, closing his eyes.

And I smile, because that’s the sexiest compliment a man can pay you in bed.

Not that we’re in a bed, but all the same…

I hear a creak and the sounds of rain rushing in, and all of a sudden, Pike stops, popping his eyes open. What?

I twist my neck, following his gaze. Deanna stands in the doorway with some guy, both of them soaking wet.


Pike pulls me up, holding me to him, so all they see is my naked back.

Her mouth hangs open a little. Both of them are stopped dead in their tracks at what they see at the back of the barn, and I’m not sure if they’re just trying to escape the rain or if they’re up to the same thing we are.

A faint smile plays across Pike’s lips. “Barn’s full,” he says.

And I turn around, burying my own smile in his neck.

Yep, he’s mine.

“Excuse us,” I hear her finally say.

And then the door creaks closed again.

I burst into laughter, wrapping my arms around him. I thought for sure he’d grab me and have us hurrying out of here, embarrassed.

But his mouth crashes down on mine and he’s not stopping.

I fall back to the table as he pumps harder and faster, and I close my eyes again, feeling him and loving him so much.

“Pike,” I moan.

He spreads my knees wide, leaning over me and thrusting as my orgasm crests and he starts groaning more and more.

But then something hits me, and I gasp. “Oh, shit.”


“I think I left a candle burning in the house?”

I don’t remember if I blew out the blueberry vanilla one in the kitchen or not. Dammit!

I try to push myself up, but leans down more, getting in my face as he rubs my clit and thrusts at the same time.

“You’re not seriously stopping?” he growls against my mouth.

Heat spreads down my thighs, and I wrap an arm around his neck as my hair sticks to my face.  

“But the house could burn down.”

“I don’t care.”

His hard breath caresses my lips, and I smile, falling back onto the table again.

Fine. I don’t care, either. Pretty sure we’re going to care in a few minutes, but…

I moan, arching into him and clawing his chest. Whatever.