“It’s rude to ask for details, O. You should know better,” Cruz was taunting her.

She glared at him. “I don’t want details! I want to know that there is an explanation that doesn’t include the two of you,” she wagged a finger between us and said, “doing it.”

Cruz laughed loudly. “Did you just say ‘doing it?’” he asked then laughed some more.

She gave up on him and turned completely to me. I was still standing there silently unprepared. “Lila Kate?” she prompted.

“I, well, uh,” I glanced at Cruz who was eating a muffin and grinning enjoying this a little too much. “Yes, we did it,” I blurted out.

Cruz began to laugh some more.

“Have you lost your mind?” she asked pointing back at him. “He’s a whore!”

“Hey, I’ve got feelings. You’re crushing them,” he didn’t sound crushed at all.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“No, I’m, uh, we are, you see,” I was fumbling.

“We’re exclusive. I’ve given up my man whore ways because Lila Kate gave me a taste and I got addicted. There’s also the small very important detail that I am in love with her.”

His explanation wasn’t as sweet and romantic as the things he’d said to me, but my chest swelled anyway. That was as sweet as Cruz let the world see him. He’d been open and just made himself vulnerable by admitting that.

“In love?” Ophelia repeated it like it was a foreign word she’d never heard before. She looked back at me.

Defeated, she sat down on her suitcase and shook her head. “I need a moment. This . . . just wow.”

“Muffin?” Cruz asked holding the pan out to her and then me. “They’re fucking delicious. Grab one now because I’m gonna eat them all.”

I walked past Ophelia, and she watched me like I was about to grow wings and fly off. As she sat down at the bar, I took the muffin pan and picked a muffin out, then went to pour myself some coffee.

“Are you going to,” she waved at Cruz. “Walk around in your underwear a lot?”

He smirked. “No. You’re not that lucky. I wasn’t aware you’d be barging in so early.”

“Lila Kate, you can’t be serious about this. He’s . . . he’s Cruz!”

I smiled into my coffee cup. This was our first encounter with a friend or family member. I imagined this was going to happen a lot.

“What about Eli? I thought you liked him.”

Cruz’s smile vanished, and he scowled. “She doesn’t,” he replied. His teasing tone now gone.

I put my cup down. “Eli is a great guy. But I’ve been in love with Cruz a long time.”

Cruz laughed again. “Damn, Ophelia. I didn’t know your opinion of me was so high.”

She cocked her head and stared at him with a “get real” expression. “You have screwed most of my friends. And when I say most, that includes all of them. And now you’re sleeping with Lila Kate.”

He winced. “Could we not discuss my past? That’s behind me. I’d like to leave it there.”

Ophelia stood up and let out a heavy sigh. “This is going to end badly. Then Grant Carter will murder you. Mark my words,” she said as she carried her suitcase and bag to the bedroom that was to be hers.

I slipped an arm around Cruz’s waist and leaned into him. “She’ll be more positive soon.”

He kissed the top of my head. “That’s what I expect we will get from everyone in our life.”

He was probably right. So I just kept my mouth shut and hugged him to me. “I’m happy. I’ve never been happier,” I assure him.

“Me too. And honestly that scares the hell out of me.”

“Why?” I asked tilting my head back to look up at him.

“Because I know what this feels like and I can’t live without it or you.”

“You’ll never have to so that’s not a problem. I’m not going anywhere.”

That desperate, haunted look shadowed his eyes again. I wished I could soothe him and his concerns. I was the one who should be worried. Not him.

“Can y’all put on clothes at least while I get one of the boxes out of my car?” Ophelia reminded us of her presence.

Cruz jerked the towel around me off and I scrambled to get it from him. “You are taking all the fun away,” he told Ophelia. “I like her in a towel. Easier to get her naked.”

“God! You are a pig,” she replied and went back down the stairs.

I slapped at his chest and grabbed the towel from him. “Stop that!”

He pulled me to his chest. “Think she’d care if we went up to your room and went another round?”

As tempting as that was, I wasn’t doing that to Ophelia. “Get dressed Cruz,” I told him, then grinned and left my towel off as I walked up the stairs to my room.

“Damn, you are asking for it,” he threatened.

I glanced back and winked at him. “Save it for later.”

“I take it back,” he said staring up at me.

“You’re not a china doll, and nothing about you is cold.”

I smiled and bit my lip to keep from grinning too big.

“You are incredibly tough, and that body is so fucking hot I won’t ever get enough.”

They weren’t words you’d ever hear in a sonnet but coming from Cruz Kerrington it was poetry.

OPHELIA MOVING IN with Lila Kate wasn’t ideal, but over the next week we made it work. I even started getting along with my dad better, but that was mostly due to my showing up on time to work. Being at the meetings he required and all the other shit I had been ignoring.

Thinking about August when I had to go back to school sucked. Lila Kate was finished. She’d be here, and I would leave. I didn’t like it. Worrying about it right now just gave me more to stress over. Avoiding Kelsey had been my biggest hurdle at work. She hadn’t said anything to my dad, or I would know. I was hoping that she had been bluffing to scare me.

Regardless, the kid wasn’t mine. I was willing to do a paternity test to prove it. That was if there even was a baby. I doubted that too. When I was sixteen, she’d been the sexy, exciting older woman. However, over the past year I had started noticing the crazy boiling under the surface.

The summer crowd was already up and in full swing when I walked out of Lila Kate’s studio at eight in the morning. I had planned on walking to the coffee shop across the parking lot and getting Lila Kate one of those fancy teas she liked and a muffin. I definitely hadn’t been expecting Grant Carter to be standing against his truck with his arms crossed over his chest glaring at me like he wanted to take the life from my body with his bare hands.

“Grant,” I said trying to not look guilty of staying the night with his daughter

I didn’t assume he was. “No, sir. Don’t imagine you are.”

He dropped his hands to his sides and looked up at the windows to Lila Kate’s loft. “That girl in there is the other half of my world. She and her momma have been every dream, every wish, every damn thing that means anything to me from the moment I held her in my arms.”