Page 59

I never thought twice and just blurted it out. “I love you.”

He grinned and said it right back to me, no hesitation whatsoever.

It almost makes me want to say it again, but I hold my tongue. At this point, I’m too afraid of rejection and just as fearful that perhaps this is all moving a little too fast.

“This is totally cool,” he agrees. “Just hanging with my girl, watching a scary movie, and eating myself sick on Snickers.”

I like that.

My girl.

“What did Max end up doing tonight?” I ask as I snuggle into him, tucking my head up under his chin. His arms wrap tighter around me. We had invited Max to hang with us but he declined. We’ve actually been doing a lot with him lately. He and Hawke have become pretty close buds and he’s taken to working out with me and Max during our conditioning sessions. Max is killing it in the net so far this season, but he seems driven to be become better and better. I think the memory of missing last season due to an injury and then Ryker filling in and taking top spot is what’s fueling him.

Hawke gives a slight shrug to his shoulders. “No clue. Said he had plans, though.”

“Plans?” I say with surprise. Max is even more of a homebody than I am. As far as I know, the man trains, plays hockey, eats, and sleeps. That’s it. “Do you think he has a date?”

“Babe,” Hawke says with a dramatic drawl. “I’m a dude. He’s a dude. We don’t talk about stuff like that.”

“Yes, you do,” I argue as I tip my head back and tilt my face to once again look up at him because I know guys most certainly talk about stuff like that. They have to.

“Rest assured,” he says blandly. “We don’t. But even if we did, I wouldn’t tell you. That would be a violation of the bro code.”

Hmmm. That I don’t like. Seven years ago, when Hawke and I were together, there were no secrets between us. Well, at least not until that night. No bro code would stand in the way of him telling me something. His trust in me was absolute, and he would have shared any and all tidbits. He would have done so knowing I would keep secrets locked and secure.

The mere fact he’s throwing the bro code at me now tells me that no matter how great I think things are currently, there are still trust issues to mend. But now is not the time, so I change subjects.

I push up and out of Hawke’s embrace, murmuring, “Roll on your back.”

He cocks an eyebrow at me as he does as requested, and let me just tell you…this man has the perfect set of eyebrows over those piercing eyes. They can roll and arch in such a way to convey high intensity or the thickest amount of skepticism. Either way, it never prevents the brilliancy of his blue irises from lasering at me.

Now that arch is merely in interest with a sensual tilt to his lips.

I let him down quickly. “Get that look off your face. We’re just talking.”

Throwing a leg over his hips, I straddle his lap so I can look down at him. His hands come up to rest on my thighs and he grins at me sexily, and for the briefest of moments, I think about giving in on my “no sex in the apartment while Dad is in residence” rule. But then Hawke pulls his hands back and tucks them behind his head, shooting me a wink. “What’s up?”

“Dad’s been doing really well,” I segue into something that has been weighing on my mind.

“It’s been great,” Hawke says, his eyes softening at me. “I think it’s all going to be okay.”

Now, that I’m not so sure of. We won’t know until the next MRI, which is week after next. That will be the one where they expect to see some shrinkage of the tumor, at least according to how prior cases have gone. It will be miraculous if that occurs, so I’m trying not to hinge all of my hopes on it. Still, I can’t help needing some feedback on my worries. “The next MRI—”

“Will show shrinkage,” Hawke butts in confidently.

I give him a smile of appreciation for his positivity and nod. “Yeah…I’m hoping beyond hope for that.”

“Then why does your voice sound all doom and gloom?” he asks, his hands now coming out from under his head and taking my hands. He laces his fingers with mine, lifts one hand to his mouth, and kisses the inside of my wrist.

Shaking my head in quick denial, I tell him, “I’m not doom and gloom. It’s just…if the tumor is shrinking and Dad is otherwise doing okay, then he won’t have another MRI after that for another three months. He wants to go back to Sydney, and my lease will be up here, as we only signed a six-month lease. It’s just…”

“You’re trying to figure out what to do?” he guesses accurately.

“I think I should go to Sydney with him, but…”

My voice trails off.

But what?

But I don’t want to leave you, Hawke.

But I don’t want to quit my job midseason.

But I’m not ready to lose what’s been regained.

“…But,” I continue as I let my gaze drop, “it brings about a whole set of new complications. I’d need to get a job, and move again. Any new job would have to be flexible so I could travel back to Duke with Dad if necessary. And what if he takes a turn for the worse? And we’ve given up our home here?”

“No one said you have to go back to Sydney with him,” Hawke says in a gently firm voice. “If your dad is doing good and doesn’t need care—which let’s face it, Vale, he really doesn’t at this point—then let him go back home and you stay here with the Cold Fury.”

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