Authors: K.J. Wolf
Admitting that last one made her stomach cramp. For years she’d pretended to hold out no hope for a loving, lasting relationship. But the truth was, deep down, she’d hoped it could happen. She’d wanted it for herself. And Chris was the one who’d given her that hope.
“Screw him.” She sniffled and smacked her hand against the floor. No one
love in their life. Right?
She took her time washing her hands and face before heading back out into the bar. Jack made eye contact and waited for her to nod before he returned the gesture.
Oh, shit. This night just got worse and worse. She turned to see Dirk, Chris’s friend and sometimes co-worker.
The guy had a way of just rubbing people the wrong way. Take her nickname, for example. No one called her that—no one who wanted to live.
And even though she’d slapped him upside the head for it once, he still called her “
Hannah-banana” every single time he saw her. At this point, she suspected he might have some kind of mental deficiency that wasn’t quite obvious.
“How’s it going, Dirk?” She tried to keep the irritation out of her voice but without success. It didn’t faze him.
“Great! Chris and I are meeting up to have some beers and shoot darts. Have you seen him?”
Her night continued to get worse. She
’d sent home probably one of the only guys who hung out with Dirk and didn’t pick on him. That kind of guilt was all she needed.
“Uh, yeah. But he left. I don’t think he’s coming back.” She hesitated to put her hand on his shoulder but did it anyway.
Dirk’s face lit up. “I’ll bet he’s still mad about last night.”
She snatched her hand away. Had Chris told Dirk what had gone on between them?
“What do you mean?” She leaned against the wall with her arms crossed and waited.
“Oh, he was mad at work today. His ex-girlfriend came over to his house really drunk and messy and wanted to have sex with him. He said it was gross, and he wanted to throw her out, but she had already driven her car over while she was drunk. Chris put her on the couch and then worked in the basement all night. He was pretty tired and cranky today. I guess he was too tired to wait for me. That’s okay. I’ll see him tomorrow. Bye, Hannah-banana!”
Dirk leaned in for a quick hug, turned and strolled out of the bar. She stood still, and her mouth when dry.
She’d had it all wrong. If what Dirk said was true, Chris wasn’t the bad guy. He could still be her hope in having happily ever after with one guy.
“Hey, Rox. Can you handle this? I’ve got something I have to do.”
Roxy shook her head. “Nope. Wait until your shift is over. It wouldn’t hurt you or your friends to think things through before you act. Just cool your jets. The time will still be right if you think it is later on.”
Hannah thought about giving her the finger, but she loved Roxy and knew she was probably right. She’d been over-impulsive in the last forty-eight hours. It wasn’t like her. A little time to think wouldn’t kill her.
She’d been wrong. The seconds crawled by, and by the time she locked up the bar for the night, her heart raced.
All she wanted to do was see Chris. Find out if what Dirk had said was true and what he’d wanted to say to her earlier.
Of course she considered that Chris might be so sick to death of her at this point he wouldn’t see or talk to her. She shook her head as she drove. It wouldn’t do her any good to think like that.
Every window in his house was dark when she pulled up to the curb. He could be in bed. She doubted it. Chris would be agitated. She’d bet the little bit of money she had he was working in the basement.
The front door clicked when she tried it. He’d left it open. The second she closed it she could hear the soft scraping of sandpaper coming from under her feet. She inhaled and took moment to enjoy the smell of sawdust in the air. It smelled like Chris.
She kicked off her shoes and tiptoed to the basement door. Light was coming from underneath it and filled the hallway when she turned the handle and pulled.
The first few steps of the stairway didn’t creak, and she was able to bend down to get a peek of him.
. Any fear of his rejection vanished when she saw him stripped down to his boxers.
Every stroke of the sand paper made the muscles in his back, shoulders, and arms flex. His skin glistened with a light layer of sweat. She wiggled her fingers. Sliding them over his hot, sweaty skin would be more than enough to have her wet and ready for him.
She descended further down the stairs forgetting to keep her step light, and the last step creaked. His head snapped around.
A gasp escaped her lips when she saw Chris had tears streaming down his cheeks. His cheeks reddened, and he wiped at them with the back of his hand.
“Shit! What now, Hannah?” His voice sounded thick.
He held up a hand before turning back to his work table. “You know what, Hannah? Never mind. I’m sick of these games. I don’t want to play anymore.”
His words stabbed her heart because they were true. Her issues had made her screw around with his heart.
“You’re right, Chris. And I’m sorry. I just came over to ask you one question. Can I do that?” Her knuckles became white as she held onto the railing and waited.
Chris finally turned back to his work, his shoulders slumped, and he nodded once. She slid between him and his worktable.
Her eyes widened when she saw how the last couple of days had taken their toll on his face. Lines had appeared where he’d never had any before. The darkness around his eyes resembled someone who’d been recovering from black eyes for a while. But the redness in his eyes pulled at her heart. She’d made Chris, the rock in her life, cry.
She reached out to touch his cheek. Holy crap. For the first time, she understood that she had just as much power to hurt him as he did over her. She’d already done it.
Being with Chris wouldn’t be like her parents’ relationship. Her father held all of the power there. With Chris, he had just as much to lose as she did if they gave a relationship a shot. They would be risking everything—together.
“Oh my God, Chris. I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
He turned his head, and she pulled her hand back. “What did you want to ask me, Hannah?”
She bit her bottom lip. “Did you sleep with Ariel last night?”
Chris barked out a laugh. “What? Are you serious?” Then he went still, and she watched his eyes widen.
“You thought I … you came over here?”
She nodded and blinked back tears.
Chris put his hands on her shoulders. “Hannah, why did you come over here last night?”
She took a deep breath and let the moisture spill out of her eyes. “I came over to ask if it was too late to give it a shot. You know. Us being more than friends.”
He stared at her for a long time before one side of his mouth pulled up into a half-grin. “Really?”
The smile broke out all across his face. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “I know I’m screwed up, Chris. And I’m so sorry I hurt you because I’m so screwed up. But I think we might be able to do this. At least I want to give it a try.”
He pulled her in for a long, hard kiss. When he let her go, she placed her hand on his chest.
“I need to tell you something, Chris.” She licked her lips, closed her eyes and then looked at him. The light in his eyes melted away her fear. “I love you. I’ve loved you from the day we met all those years ago. If anyone is going to help me learn to trust and be with someone, it’s you.”
The last reaction she thought he’d have was for his eyes to well up with tears. “Son of a bitch. You mean to tell me we’ve wasted all this time loving each other? That sucks, Hannah. I love you. All of you, including your messed up stuff. I know who you are and what we’ve got to work through. I promise we’ll do it. And it’ll be great. I know it.”
She sniffed and wiped her tears away. “Oh, God, Chris. I just love you so much.”
He pulled her close and held her head against his chest with one hand while the other slid down to grab her butt. “I love you, too, baby. And I really love this,” he growled as he squeezed her ass.
“Mmmm,” she moaned. “I hope so. Because I’m pretty fond of yours, too.” She proved it to him by mimicking the gesture on his fine bottom.
She shrieked when he reached down, wrapped his arm around her knees, lifted her up and carried her over to his worn tan armchair next to his workbench. He set her down, pulled the lever to put up the footrest and pushed the back of the chair down before he settled on top of her.
“I’m going to love you so good for the rest of your life,” he whispered in her ear.
“Then I’m the luckiest girl in the world.” She whimpered when he gave her earlobe a gentle bite. And she let herself believe it.
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