He kissed me again, resting most of his weight on the arm beside my head. The pressure of his finger below increased, and the knot in my lower stomach tightened. My body jerked on reflex, and another deep, grumbling sound came from him.

“You’re so wet,” he said in a husky voice, and I burned at those words. “I love it. You were probably like this before I even got my hand down there.”

I swallowed hard, and he chuckled. “Am I embarrassing you?” he asked.

“No.” His words made me feel something entirely different.

Jase lowered his head, claiming my mouth in a kiss that shook me inside and out at the same moment he thrust one finger inside me. The sound that rose from me was muffled by his lips. I gripped his shoulders as my h*ps tipped up, seeking more. And I got more.

He pressed his palm against my most sensitive area, and lightning struck my veins. My toes curled in my flip-­flops and both my legs jerked. A lick of pain encased my knee, but the other sensations racing through my system overwhelmed everything else. Desire clouded me. Jase was dangerous in all the right ways.

“God,” he groaned, tugging on my lower lip as his finger moved in and out. He added another finger, stretching me as he broke the kiss, resting his forehead against mine.

A tremble rocked his body as my h*ps followed his hand. The way his self-­control stretched to its breaking point was my undoing. The tension unraveled, whipping through my body. Seeking his kiss, I came with his tongue tangled with mine, and the tremors seemed to go on forever.

Jase eased his hand away, but he stayed there, above me for a bit, his cheek pressed against mine as I dragged in deep breaths. It took me a few seconds to realize that he was breathing just as hard. When he rolled onto his side, I missed the weight of him, the warmth and closeness.

He pressed up against me. The pleasant numbness had sunk deep into my bones, but I could feel his hardness. I wanted to see him. It had been dark Saturday night, but what I could see and feel had been rather impressive. I also wanted to give him what he’d given me. I started to reach for him, but he caught my hand and brought it to his lips. He dropped a kiss to each of my knuckles. “I told you. This was for you.”

I didn’t know what to say to that as my eyes fluttered shut. A thank-­you was definitely in order, but that seemed widely inappropriate. Not that I was turned off by doing inappropriate things obviously. Hell, my jeans were still unbuttoned, and I knew if I looked down, my polka-­dotted undies would be peeking through, and I didn’t care enough to zip up my pants.

He kissed my temple then, and my heart did another crazy jump. And then it did a series of leaps that spelled L. O. V. E. The rush that came after that was so intense it was almost as frightening as it was consuming.

I was in love with him.

Probably had been since that night he showed up at my parents’ house, nearly three years ago, and that hadn’t lessened learning that he had a son, and one day that could turn into a very tricky situation, especially if momma ever reappeared, but we were here, ­together . . . but not.

“Hey,” Jase murmured, placing two fingers under my chin. He turned my head to his. “Where’d you go?”

Straight into crazy land. That’s where I went. Suddenly, I had to go there—­go there with him, because my heart was already there, making itself comfy and happy, and I needed to be careful. I needed . . .

Or I needed the truth of what we were to each other, and I needed that now.

“What are we doing?” I asked, and I thought I’d be afraid of that question once asked. Because if I didn’t ask, this relationship—­whatever it was—­could keep going, but it wasn’t enough.

Tipping my head back, I bit back a sigh as his lips brushed mine, threatening to tug me back into the sensual haze. I so needed to focus. “You know what I mean. Us. What are we doing?”

He trailed his fingers down my throat, causing me to shiver as if a chill had danced over my bones. “Are you sure you want to talk about that right now?”

Unease exploded in my belly, chasing away the pleasant hum. “I think we need to, especially after that. And this weekend. And hell, the hay—­”

“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that.” He rose up again, onto his elbow. “It’s just a lot has happened in the last ­couple of days. With your knee and—­”

“What happened with my knee hasn’t anything to do with this.” Feeling like I needed to be sitting for this conversation, I rose and gathered up my courage. This conversation could end badly and it would hurt—­oh God, it would hurt—­but I needed to know. “Jase, I’ve had feelings for you since you came to my parents’ house—­that very first night. And I know that sounds stupid and childish, but you . . . well, you were like a hero to me.”

He blinked and opened his mouth.

“Wait.” I placed a finger on his lips, silencing him. “Like I said, I know that sounds stupid, but it was how I felt. That night you kissed me, well, all it did was cement the way I felt. And when I didn’t hear from you or see you until I showed up here, I did see other ­people.”

His brows lowered as he tugged my hand away from his lips. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”

“But none of them compared to you. And I did compare everyone to you. I couldn’t help it. They . . . they just weren’t you.” My cheeks burned. “They were never you.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Anywho, what I want has nothing to do with my knee or dancing. I’ve always wanted you, regardless of the time we didn’t see each other or because you have a son. That hasn’t changed how I feel.”

Jase stared at me a moment and then gave a little shake of his head. My heart stopped and then skipped a beat. He sat up and said, “When I saw you for the first time, I thought you were absolutely beautiful.”

Not expecting that as a response, but sure as hell not unhappy with it, I sucked in a shallow breath.

Two spots on his cheeks flushed. “Man, I felt like a dirtbag. You were my best friend’s little sister. You were only sixteen and you had just gotten of a terrible situation.”

He chuckled. “And I . . . well, I always knew you deserved someone better than me.” When I opened my mouth, he went on. “It’s the truth, Tess. And I haven’t met a single guy who deserves you.” He thrust his hand through the messy, russet-­colored waves and looked up, his gaze meeting mine. “You know, I’ve tried staying away from you. I’ve tried ignoring how I feel about you, which isn’t how I should feel. But it’s like fighting a losing battle. And I don’t want to fight it anymore. I don’t want to ignore this.

“And I’m going to be honest, baby, things won’t be easy with me. There’s going to be a lot of bridges we’re going to have to cross when we get to them. And I really don’t know what ‘this’ is.” He planted his hands on either side of my legs and leaned in, so close that his warm breath danced over my lips. “I gave up a long time ago when it comes to figuring out why we do the things we do. Or why we want the things we want. Truth is, we’ve known each other for years, but we don’t really know each other. Not like that. But I need to know you.”

This declaration of feelings wasn’t the most romantic I could’ve imagined, but there was an honesty behind those words. And Jase was right. We might’ve been lusting and wanting each other for three years and we shared quite a few intimate moments since we were united, but there was so much I didn’t know about him. Who knew if a relationship would even work between us, but what I did know about him I liked and I wanted to try.

A different kind of smile appeared on his lips, one I’ve never seen before. It was unsure, almost boyish in the way it was lopsided. “I want you to be with me.”

At first I didn’t think I was hearing him right. Maybe the orgasm had blown some of my brain cells. For three years I had wanted this moment, to hear that he’d struggled with the same thing I did, that he wanted me just as badly and that he wanted to be with me, and now that he was saying this I was torn.

Torn between wanting to jump up and do a little jig, and tackling him and knocking him on his back. I couldn’t do either. My knee wouldn’t be happy about that and I’d probably ruin this nearly perfect moment.

Strange that this huge thing that was so good was happening after something so bad.

“So I want this,” he said, gliding his fingers along my cheeks. “With you. I wanted it from the first time you ran down those stairs back at your home and hugged me, even though I knew it was wrong. For a f**k ton of reasons, but I want this.”

My gaze lifted, meeting his. I was almost too afraid to speak for a moment. “You want me?”

One side of his lips kicked up as he tilted his head, lining up his mouth with mine. His kiss was infinitely tender and sweet. He took his time, and the kiss went on forever. “I think that’s obvious, but yes.”

Good Lord, I was seconds from combusting. “As your girlfriend?”

Trying to maintain a scrap of dignity and not break into a fit of squeals, I managed to keep my voice even. “So you’re not going to ask me to be your girlfriend?”

He curved his hand around my waist as he grinned. “Not like you’re gonna say no.”

My mouth dropped open and I smacked his chest. “Geez. Arrogant, much?”

“No.” He kissed the corner of my lips. “Just extremely confident when it comes to how you feel about me.”

Unable to stop myself, I grinned like someone had just handed me a plate of freshly baked sugar cookies. “No.”

I laughed. “But how do you feel about me?”

“You should be as confident as I am about it.”

My mouth opened, but I closed it. I wanted to be as confident, but I wasn’t. Considering everything that had happened, my mind was still reeling.

The hue of his eyes was a bright silver. “Close your eyes.”

Swallowing the need to ask why, I obeyed. Several seconds passed and then he tugged me onto my back. His hands came down on either side of my head.

I had no idea how this would make me more confident, and it took everything in me not to open my eyes when I felt the warmth of his body hovering over mine. I held my breath.

Jase kissed the tip of my nose.

My eyelids flew open, and I giggled as he pulled back. The skin around his eyes crinkled as he smiled down at me. “Now here comes the scary part,” he said, taking a deep breath. “We need to tell your brother.”

And that would be terrifying. For Jase. But I smiled. “Maybe I’ll just update my Facebook to ‘in a relationship’ and tag you?”

Jase snickered and then dropped another kiss on my forehead. “That should go over well.”

Sadness filled Avery’s gaze as she handed me a glass of sweet tea. After one sip, I knew Cam had made it. The overabundant amount of sugar was a dead giveaway. I took another drink as I peeked over at Jase. He sat beside me on Avery’s couch, with a respectable three or so inches between us.

When we’d left the farm, I’d texted Cam and asked him where he was. Surprise. Surprise. He was over at Avery’s. My stomach had been in knots as I hobbled up the stairs to her apartment, but the reason for us coming here had taken the backseat the moment Cam saw me with the crutches.

Cam stood in the corner of the living room, beside a moon chair. His arms were crossed on his chest, expression clouded. “Why didn’t you call and let me know that you were hurt?”

I opened my mouth, but he wasn’t done.

“I would’ve come and gotten you, Teresa. You didn’t need to call Jase.”

“And I would’ve taken you up to Dr. Morgan,” he continued, and I held back a sigh. “You know that, right? Have you even called Mom and Dad?”

“She called them,” Jase answered, throwing his arm over the back of the couch. Mom had cried. It had been a terrible, hard call. “And I texted her yesterday because she wasn’t in class. She didn’t call me.”

“So you lied and told me you were sick when you weren’t?” Cam demanded.

“I think you know the answer to that,” I said.

The look on his face would’ve sent most ­people running and he turned it on Jase. “And you didn’t call me? Man, that’s f**ked up.”

“It’s not f**ked up,” I jumped in, holding the glass of tea tight. “He’s not required to tell you. I am. And I am telling you. I just didn’t want you to worry needlessly. You’ve got a lot on your plate right now. I wanted to be sure of what was wrong with my knee before I said anything.”

Jase held my brother’s gaze with his own steady one. “I could have, but she wanted to go to the doc first before she got anyone upset. I respected that decision.”

“I can understand that,” Avery said diplomatically, plopping into the moon chair. “Jase was being a good friend.”

“I was being a great friend,” replied Jase, and I almost choked on my tea when I felt his fingers tangle in my hair. From our positions, Avery and Cam couldn’t see what he was doing.