The image of Lila Kate standing at the funeral. Her soft tanned back so perfect and bare in the dress she was wearing it made my fingers itch to touch it. To feel it’s silky texture. If Eli Fucking Hardy had laid one hand on that back, I wouldn’t have been responsible for my actions. But he hadn’t. He’d been the good guy. He didn’t touch her body. He only held her hand.

She’d seemed to need that support. I fought against the jealousy eating at me that I wasn’t the one there beside her. It was my choice that I wasn’t. I was suffering for her benefit.

Footsteps on the stairs this time alerted me I was about to be interrupted yet again by a family member. I lay my head back and closed my eyes as I sighed with annoyance. “Can’t you all just leave me alone?” I growled in frustration as the next nosey ass member of my family entered the room.

“I’ll just be a minute. I need to say something. Then I won’t bother you again,” Lila Kate’s voice had my head snapping back up. What the fuck was she doing here?

She was dressed in a white sundress that showed too much of her skin. I soaked it in. The sight of her. All that perfect softness. Here in my house. Why?

“Blaze said you were down here and I could come see you a moment. He was leaving to meet your parents for lunch at the club. I didn’t mean to bother you,” she paused and looked at the game on the television. “I see you’re busy watching something. I’ll be quick.”

She walked over to me stopping only a few feet away. “I didn’t make a mistake. I knew what I was doing. I expected this of you. I didn’t expect anything more. I chose to go with you, sleep with you, allow myself to enjoy being with you. That was all on me. I will deal with the memories. The heartbreak. All of it because I asked for it. At first, I thought I was stupid. I cursed my bad decisions. But . . . I am thankful I did it. I let you hurt me. But we had a moment. I now know how that feels. How you . . . feel. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret you. I’ll move on. Go another way. I won’t ever bother you again. Life will return to the way it was before.” She stopped then and smiled. It was a sweet, sad smile. It made my fucking knees feel weak, and I was sitting down.

“It was less than forty-eight hours, but it had been fun. Exciting. And I will always be glad I did it. Thank you, Cruz Kerrington,” she said as she closed the distance between us and bent down to press a kiss to my lips. “Goodbye,” she whispered against them. Then she stood up and walked toward the stairs.

My lips were still tingling from the excitement of her touch. My body hummed from the scent of her body. Letting her go seemed impossible. I was off the sofa and behind her so quickly I didn’t have time to think this through. My hands grabbed her waist, and I pressed her up against the wall squeezing her under my touch. There were a million things I wanted to say. But I said none of them.

I kissed her this time, and I did it right. No fucking peck on the lips. I claimed her mouth. Tasted her sweetness. Got drunk on the nectar that was Lila Kate. I’d craved this since I left her. I’d dreamed about it. Tried to get it out of my system with another woman. None of it worked. This was the only way to cure my craving.

Her hands tangled in my hair and my hands moved up to feel the heaviness of her breasts. I laid my hand over her heart, and the pounding of it made my heart soar. I did this to her. She wanted it just like I did. We were like fucking explosives. There had never been another woman to make me react this way. Why couldn’t we just make it last longer? Enjoy it until it fizzled out.

When her hands touched my chest and pushed me back firmly, I was dazed.

“That’s enough,” she panted and slipped away from my body to free herself from where I’d pinned her.

“We were just getting started,” I replied my own voice hoarse from lack of oxygen.

She shook her head. “No, Cruz. My kiss was a goodbye. That kiss was closure.” While I was trying to wrap my head around what she’d just said she walked away. Left me there. Just like that. No tears. Nothing.

Would I have felt better if she’d cried? I didn’t want to hurt her. I wanted to lock myself in a room with her and never leave again. But I didn’t want to hurt her.

She’d shown me her emotions before. On Bourbon Street, I’d seen it. All of it. I knew that her heart was soft. That her tears flowed easily. So, that meant the woman that just walked out of here was one thing . . . what I had made her. She wasn’t cold. She was finished. I had shown her just how badly I could hurt her and she’d seen that I wasn’t worth it. She knew she deserved more.

Her smell clung to my skin. My body ached from the loss of her in my arms. But more than that my soul knew I’d just pushed away the one thing that had ever woken it up. Shook it. I had lost the woman that had shown me what fire felt like.

I sank onto the chair behind me. Buried my head in my hands. It was done. We’d had our small moment. I’d meant to show her how I was bad for her. How I would ruin her. I had been preserving us both. But in the end, I was the one that would be completely ruined.

THE SPACE WAS perfect. It would grow with me. With my dance classes. I could see a future here. I had the money to start it. I’d buy this place, all the equipment, and start advertising. Sure, I’d wanted to find an adventure two weeks ago but now an adventure would always remind me of Cruz. He’d been my ultimate adventure.

I had almost let his presence in this town run me out. When I admitted to myself I was looking at dance studios outside of Rosemary Beach because I was trying to avoid Cruz, I had begun my search here. It only made sense for me to start my first studio in a town where I knew everyone and move further out later to expand. I didn’t plan on staying here forever. But for now, it made sense. My need for adventure had been sucked out. It had been fleeting. I’d had a little too much adventure in one weeks’ time to last me a few years.

The door opened behind me, and Ophelia Finlay stood there looking as glamourous as she always did. “I called you three times,” she told me as if I hadn’t seen the missed calls on my phone.

She sighed loudly. “You won’t even consider it? I’d be an amazing roommate.”

Ophelia had heard from her mother that I was buying a condo and starting my own dance studio. Word travels fast when your mothers are best friends. She was taking a “break” from college this year because she needed new direction or something of that nature. It was very Ophelia.

“I wasn’t not considering it. I don’t doubt you’d be a good roommate. I just needed to make sure this was what I was going to do,” I turned in a circle looking at the building. “This is it though. This is the place.”

I pointed at the ceiling. “My apartment will be up there. I’m buying the building. I need to save money, and living where I work makes sense.”

“What’s it look like up there?”

I shrugged. “A very large loft. Exposed beams, very open. Not really your kind of place.” Which is why I hadn’t answered her calls.

“Will you have early classes?” she asked, still not looking pleased.