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Page 15

As I guided him toward me, he paused. “Are you sure you’re ready?” he said, his breath strained.

“Come and find out,” I replied, wrapping my legs around his waist to draw him closer.

His face creased as my hand moved up and down him, but he restrained himself.

“Jude,” I whispered, “please.” I lifted my h*ps until I could feel him right where he should be.

Moving just barely inside, he groaned. I groaned louder. The torture was insane, and if he was going to play it nice and slow, I’d just have to change his mind. Nice and slow wasn’t on the agenda for tonight.

At the same time I tightened my legs around him, I flexed my h*ps higher, effectively taking the rest of him inside me.

“Oh, God.” I sighed, feeling like I could come now that he was all the way inside me. When his h*ps flexed, I almost did.

“Shit, Luce,” he said, breathing heavily outside my ear. “You really were ready.”

Performing that hip swivel thing that drove him up the wall, I moved his hand from my hip until it was covering my breast. “Then what are you waiting for?”

His hands squeezed both my hip and my breast, and then he started moving his h*ps more. I’d wanted hard, and that was what I got.

Each time he thrust into me I was sure I was going to come, but I didn’t. This time I was the one waiting for him. The table started wobbling beneath me as he picked up his pace. My fingers drilled into his back; all I could do was hang on and enjoy the way he was making me feel.

I heard every low growl when he slid inside, along with every tortured groan when he slid out. “Come, baby,” he breathed, rocking into me faster. “I want to feel you come.”

His hand slid from my hip down lower, until his thumb was circling over my clit.

I knew I was close, but my orgasm came the next instant. Jude’s body touching me both inside and outside in every way sent me right over the big O edge so powerfully, I felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside. I shouted his name, feeling my muscles contract around him as he slammed into me a final time. He sighed my name so many times I lost count, before collapsing on top of me.

NINE

I could still smell Jude on my pillow, but his head wasn’t sharing it with mine like it had all night. Well, all night after our makeup tabletop sexcapade.

But he was close. His off-key singing to the song playing on the radio was a dead giveaway. As I rolled over, a smile was already in place.

When my eyes landed on a backside, a bare backside, manning the coffee machine, my smile stretched wider.

“Have I mentioned lately what a fine ass you have?” I said, propping up onto my elbows, because if Jude’s bare backside was on display for my ogling pleasure, I was going to enjoy the view.

He smirked at me as he poured coffee into a cup. “Only last night, when you were grabbing it while you screamed my name.”

“My. Someone woke up on the cocky side of the bed this morning.” I was tempted to check my phone for the time, but that would have meant looking away. The time could wait; a nak*d Jude making coffee couldn’t.

“I wake up on that side of the bed every morning, Luce,” he said, turning around.

Like the bad girl I was, my eyes zeroed in on a certain spot. “Yes, you most certainly do.” My smile could not possibly stretch further without hurting.

“Good morning,” he said, holding out the cup of coffee while I continued with my staring contest.

“Yes, it is,” I replied, sitting up.

“Okay, Luce, you gotta stop looking at me like that or else I’m going to be late to practice.” He waited until my gaze shifted to his before he handed me the coffee. That was probably for the best. Gawking women and steaming cups of liquid don’t go together well.

“If you don’t want me looking at you like that, you should have put some clothes on.” I raised an eyebrow at him as I took a sip. “Thanks for the coffee. Very domestic of you.”

Snatching his discarded boxers from last night, he hiked them into position before scooting next to me. “I like waiting on you hand and foot,” he said, his eyes traveling down my body. “And everywhere in between.”

I sighed into my cup. “Here’s a pointer. If you don’t want to be late to practice, you shouldn’t say those kinds of things either.”

His eyes cleared and returned to mine almost immediately. How he could go from dripping sex one moment to all business the next, I didn’t know, but it was something that I doubted I’d ever be able to master. “You didn’t exactly give me a chance to tell you last night, since you were busy ravaging me on that table that has now officially become my favorite piece of furniture”—he studied the table as a slow smile formed—“but I’m sorry for everything yesterday, Luce. I wanted the whole day to be perfect and it couldn’t have gone more wrong.”

No, it couldn’t have. Well, at least up until the night.

I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. “I’m sorry, too,” I said, so familiar with the words I could have been a certified expert by now. In the history of our relationship, “I’m sorry,” “Forgive me,” and “I messed up” came almost as frequently as “I love you.”

“If you don’t like the house, that’s fine. We’ll find another one,” he said, draping an arm over my shoulders. “I want you to be happy, Luce, and I never would have picked this place out if I thought it was going to upset you.”

I sighed in relief. Yesterday we’d battled this conversation out. Today we could talk about it calmly and constructively. Maybe this was how we needed to approach these kinds of land mines in the future: nak*d and in bed.

“I know that, Jude. It just took me by surprise. Everything’s coming at me so fast, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have a chance to catch my breath.” I paused to take another drink. “You know?”

“Believe me, I know,” he replied with a nod. “You don’t need to explain it to me, Luce. I get it, and I’m sorry I made this whole thing harder on you. I’ll call my real estate agent this afternoon and have him start looking for a different place. Okay?” He pulled me closer, tucking my head beneath his jaw.

“Will this real estate agent be looking at three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses?” I started telling myself to stay calm, so when and if this took a turn for the heated, I could better manage it.

Jude groaned, but it wasn’t his full-fledged one, like he was also trying to catch himself before either of our tempers could escalate. “You realize how much money I’m making this year? Right, Luce? And how much I’ll be making from now—”

“I know. I know,” I said, biting my tongue so my next comments stayed inside. “But how does that change who you are? And who I am? And what we want?” Those were, at the core of it all, the questions I needed answered.

“It doesn’t change me, or you, or what we want at all, Luce,” he said calmly. “All it changes is our style of life. And how many sweet rides we have in our five-car garage.”

I set my coffee down on the nightstand. He wasn’t getting it, or I wasn’t being clear. I didn’t want more cars than I had fingers. I didn’t want more garages than I had hairs on my head. I wanted Jude. And a roof above us, along with a reliable car and food in the cupboards would be nice.

“I don’t want to change our style of life,” I said. “I thought our current style of life was pretty great.”

“It is pretty great, Luce. It’s pretty f**king great,” he said, keeping me close. This was the way to have a tough talk, held tightly against him. “But it could be that much better. All those times I wanted to go to the jewelry store and buy you the biggest, sparkliest damn thing I could, all those times I wanted to take you to some fancy restaurant and order the most expensive thing on the menu just because I wanted you to have the best. All those winters I wanted to get you an SUV that would laugh at winter driving.” He paused and leaned his head into the headboard. “I’m sick of not being able to get you the things you deserve.”

What he was saying was tugging on my heart, but it did nothing to alleviate the tension that built whenever he started talking about money. “I know you are, baby. I know you are,” I said. “But the thing is, all these years you think you’ve been giving me second-best—”

“More like fourth-best,” he muttered.

“Well, then, I must be a fourth-best kind of girl, because I’ve never felt cheated or that I was missing out.”

We were quiet for a moment, although our thoughts were so loud it wasn’t exactly silent.

“Luce? What is it about money that makes you so uncomfortable?”

Shit. He might as well have just laid me back out on that table, for how nak*d and vulnerable I felt with that question in the open. Jude had this uncanny ability to cut through the bullshit and see what was at the heart of what I was trying to hide. Some days I loved this gift of his. Some days I hated it.

I wasn’t sure what kind of day it was yet.

I inhaled and exhaled, shoving the half-truths I was hiding behind me, trying to get to what was really bothering me. Now I was ready to say what felt like was close to the heart of it. “I come from a place where I know what it’s like to have so much money in the bank you didn’t even realize you could worry about something like money,” I began, twisting in his arms so I could curl closer. “And I come from a place where I know what it’s like to have so little in the bank you’re not sure if you’ll have a house to call your home the next month. I know the highs and the lows. Money can’t make you happy. I don’t want to pretend it can, or will.”

“Luce, I know that,” he interrupted. “I know it can’t make you happy if you weren’t already. But you and me, we’ve created something so damn great before all this that it can only get greater with a little cha-ching in the bank.”

“No,” I said abruptly. “See? That’s it. I don’t want my life-contentedness meter to be tied to something like money. In any way. I want them separate.” I lifted one hand, extending it to the right. “Here’s Lucy and the roller coaster that is my emotions.” Jude was smart enough to keep from smiling his acknowledgment. “And here’s money,” I said, lifting my other hand and holding it off to the far left. “I don’t want them to ever be connected. Ever.”

“Ever? Or never, ever?” Now he was smiling. “Because there’s a difference.”

I elbowed him before answering. “Never, ever, ever.”

He contemplated that for a moment before nodding. “Okay. I think I can manage that.” He sounded as sincere as he looked.

“Yeah?”

Grabbing my outstretched hands, he kissed each one. “Yeah.”

Who would have guessed a round of wild tabletop sex and a night of sleep could pave the way for a productive conversation over something we’d been screaming about yesterday?

***

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