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The minute I open the bathroom door, I hear a voice…deeper and more rumbling than my dad’s. It takes me no more than a millisecond to recognize it as Hawke’s. With one foot across the threshold of the bathroom and one foot still inside, I freeze…a momentary lapse in motion so I can contemplate what to do.

I can jet into my bedroom and let them visit. Perfectly Pearly Pink will go on just as well in either place.

Or I can go out there, because curiosity has the better of me and my blood is already racing at the prospect of seeing Hawke.

I wince, duck my head in shame even though no one can see, and take a step into the hallway. Despite everything I just promised Avery, and despite all the ways in which our history has fucked both of us up, I can’t help but want to see him.

But I’ll play it cool.

Act surprised to see him.

Sit on the opposite end of the couch from him and pretend indifference as I paint my nails.

I’ll reinforce to him that all we’ll ever share is a mutual love of my father and a working arrangement. Anything past that is just…well, in the past.

Chapter 17


I hear the bathroom door open behind me and can’t help the tension in my shoulders. This is either a smart move or a dumbass move on my part, but I can’t leave things as they are with Vale. The last two days it’s been gnawing at my insides…an unrealized epiphany that keeps my head swimming. I purposely visited Dave at the hospital early yesterday morning, hoping to avoid a run-in with Vale. It was cowardly, but until I could process what was really happening inside my gut, I needed to stay away from her, and besides, I had a game to concentrate on.

But when I woke up this morning, still a little high off the win last night with a shorthanded goal compliments of yours truly, a clarity that was more crystal than a Waterford vase seemed to permeate my entire being. I knew what needed to be done where Vale was concerned.

I didn’t dwell on the implications, I didn’t hesitate in my actions. In fact, I called Dave once he was home from the hospital and told him what my plan was. Well…I told him part of what my plan was. The other part a father doesn’t need to know about his daughter.

Vale hesitates a moment, and I know this even with my back turned to her because the hallway has loose floorboards under the carpet that squeak when you walk on them. I remember this from the other morning when I was making my way out of her apartment, chased by demons of the past and the uncertainty of my present. I suspect her hesitation is merely the result of being mired in as much awkward confusion as I’ve been.

Finally, I hear a squeak, and then another, and I know Vale has decided to come into the living room. My shoulders remain tense as I prepare to jump my first hurdle.

Getting her out of this apartment.

My head turns to look at her over the back of the couch, finding her eyes pinned on me. Christ, she looks sexy as fuck in a tight tank top and sweatpants that fit her just a little too good, despite the fact they’re rattier than all get out.

“You might want to change,” I tell her as I give her body a quick rake before standing from the couch.

She blinks at me in surprise, coming to a dead stop just to the side of her dad’s recliner. He’s got it collapsed into a sitting position, his back ramrod straight. He’s prepared for a fight if one should occur.

“Change for what?” Vale looks between her dad and me with befuddlement.

“Hawke’s taking you out,” Dave pipes in with a firm voice. Almost a command.

“Out where?” she demands.

“To a movie,” I smoothly lie to her. “Your dad and I think you need to get out of this apartment and do something fun. All you do is work.”

Vale’s eyes narrow at me, then slide over to her dad without widening a millimeter. “You both decided I need some fun?”

“Something like that,” Dave says with a smirk, then gives her a wink.

Vale’s gaze travels back to me, and her eyebrows raise in question. “And you’re the person that’s going to give it to me, I suppose?”

Oh, baby…you have no idea, I think to myself. Because, yeah…sure, I want to talk to Vale. I want to put all the cards on the table, get the truth of why she ditched me all those years ago, and I want to come to peace with that.

But I want to fuck her again, and that’s the part I most certainly didn’t tell Dave about. I’m quite certain I can get that to happen, and that’s without any degree of ego talking. Vale and I are just magnetized to each other, particularly when it comes to sex. She’s cut ties with the toad, she’s already given herself to me once, and it’s damn well going to happen again.

Tonight as a matter of fact.

I know this because I decided that no matter what Vale says to me tonight, no matter what her reasons are for crushing my heart, I’ve decided I’m going to accept it and let it go. With that nastiness out of the way, then I’m going to fuck her again.

And again, if I’m lucky.

This was my epiphany. A cleansing of our history and a monstrous orgasm deep inside the one woman who once used to rock my world.

But she just thinks we’re going to a movie and I’m okay with that little lie for right now.

“Come on, Vale. Shake a leg. Go put some clothes on and let’s see a movie. You can relax, let your mind escape,” I say with what I hope is sincere and genuine interest in her well-being.

Vale chews on her lower lip in consideration of the offer. She looks back down at her dad, who immediately raises up a defensive hand and growls, “Don’t you dare even suggest that you can’t leave me alone for a few hours. I’m fine and I want you to go.”

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