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Commitment. That’s what I really want from Colin. Ever since my brother, Danny, died in Iraq, Colin’s done so much to help me, including giving me a job at his popular restaurant so I can leave my crappy waitressing job at the strip joint. But lying in bed with him every night to comfort him from his horrible nightmares isn’t enough anymore. I know he feels guilty about Danny’s death, about not going to Iraq, but I can’t keep living this double life.
I love him desperately, but he’s got so many demons, and if he can’t open up to me now, then he’ll never be the real partner I need him to be. I gave him a month, and now I’m out of here. If he truly loves me like he says, he knows where to find me.
Now we’re clinging to each other, only the sound of our loud breathing filling the room. My skin is covered in sweat, as is hers, and I start to move away from her but she tightens her arms around me, her fingers digging into my back as if she doesn’t want to ever let me go.
“Stay for a minute,” she murmurs against my chest, her lips tickling my skin, making me shiver.
“I’m crushing you,” I start, but she cuts me off.
“I like it. You feel good, crushing me,” she admits, her voice soft and sleepy-sounding.
I don’t know what to say. What to do. In the aftermath I’m usually the one who’s hopping out of bed, getting rid of the condom, and hustling my ass out of there. I never bring women home. I made the mistake of that once long, long ago when I was successfully running my first restaurant in Southern California. The woman took one look at my decent apartment near the beach and decided she was ready to set up and play house permanently.
Had to nip that in the bud real quick. That one terrifying moment made me swear off ever bringing a woman back to my place. And now I have one living with me. One who wants to leave while I’m desperate for her to stay.
Everything’s different with Jen. We have a history. An intricate past that I don’t want to ruin with a relationship destined to end. She’s leaving and I won’t stop her. It doesn’t matter if the sex between us is phenomenal. She wants out.
So I’m letting her go.
Finally, she releases her hold on me and I head into the bathroom, tossing the condom in the trash, glancing at myself in the mirror. I don’t look any different, though I definitely feel it. I see the same ol’ pretty face looking back at me that I sort of hate if I’m being truthful. This face gets me into trouble. It’s easier to get what you want when you have a pretty face, right? And I don’t need any help with getting into trouble. I can do that on my own, thank you very much.
I’m curious, though. What does Jen see when she looks at me? Someone she cares about? Someone she can easily forget? Both options scare me.
Turning off the bathroom light, I walk back into my bedroom and slip into bed, pulling the covers up over us. She scoots closer to me without a word, her back to my front, and I wrap my arm around her middle, holding her close. She feels damn good. Snug and warm, and fitting perfectly against me. I never want to let her go.
Pulling away from her slightly, I smooth the hair away from her neck, my gaze locked on the tattoo. The blinds are cracked open and the dull glow from the streetlight outside filters into the room, helping me see the delicate, colorful lines of the butterfly.
I trace it, sweeping my finger across her skin, feeling her shiver beneath my touch. Leaning in, I kiss her there, my lips lingering, and she moans softly.
“There’s meaning behind this, isn’t there.” I dart my tongue out for a lick, absorbing her salty-sweet taste. I can’t get enough of her.
“I like butterflies.” She sighs when I squeeze her closer to me. “And yes. There’s meaning.”
“What is it?”
“It represents my wanting to break free of my past.” Her voice hitches and I frown, pressing my chin into her shoulder. “I’ve done things I’m not proud of, Colin.”
“I know. I wish you could let them go. No one’s judging you.” I hate what she’s done but I can’t hold her actions against her. She’d been in a tough situation. Confused and alone and damn it, that was partially my fault.
“May—maybe someday I could learn to let them go.” She pauses. “Not yet, but I’m close.”
Damn. My life has been completely changed by this one beautiful, amazing woman that I’ve known since we were kids.
And I’m not sure what to do about it.