“This is the last of it.”
Calder’s voice draws my eyes up from the bookshelf I’m attempting to assemble. He’s standing in the doorway, holding a cardboard box with the word “Miscellaneous” scrawled across it in Sharpie.
I grin. “Then it’s official?”
He meets my smile with one of his own. “It’s official.”
I leap up and run over to him. He barely has time to drop the box on the counter before I jump into his arms. My arms go around his neck, my legs around his waist. He stumbles back a step, laughing as he holds me up.
“We live together,” I whisper. “We really and truly live together.”
And before he has the chance to respond, I’m kissing him. It seems only right; after nearly six months of dating, Calder Cunningham and I have finally decided to take things to the next level. A week ago we signed the lease on an apartment together, and tonight, for the first time, we will be calling the same place home.
“Mm,” he says against my lips. “What do you say we christen this place?”
He doesn’t wait for my answer. He carries me across the room toward the one corner of the apartment that isn’t covered in boxes or disassembled furniture. I kiss his cheeks, his jaw, his neck as we move, not even bothered that I’m sweaty and smelly from a long day spent hauling everything we own up three flights of stairs. It doesn’t matter where we are or how disgusting I feel—one touch from Calder and I’m lost.
He lowers me to the floor. I dig my fingers into his hair as he presses me down against the carpet.
“Aren’t you tired?” I tease.
“Exhausted,” he says between playful nips at my neck.
He bites me a little harder. “Starving.”
I laugh and tighten my legs around his waist. Oh, yes—I can feel exactly how starved he is.
“You know,” I murmur against his ear. “I bought a housewarming gift for you…”
“Did you now?”
He captures my mouth with his own, sucking my bottom lip between his teeth. I shiver and dig my nails into his back, abandoning myself for the moment to the taste of him, the smell of him, the feel of him. How is it possible to want him this much even now? Wasn’t this fluttery, head-over-heels sensation supposed to fade months ago?
I pull away from him, panting.
“Your present’s in one of the suitcases,” I breathe. “I was going to wear it for you tonight.”
“Mm,” he says, his eyes darkening in pleasure. “Sounds promising.”
“It’s completely sheer.”
“Very, very promising.”
I draw in a breath as his lips find my ear. “You know, you’re going to have to get off of me if you want to see it.”
“Get off? When I already have you right where I want you?” He grinds against me, drawing a gasp from my lungs. “The way I see it, this place has four rooms—”
“Five if you count the bathroom.”
“—and I plan on having you in every one of them before the night is over.” He moves against me again, then leans down to whisper directly in my ear. “Bathroom last. I have a feeling we’re both going to need a nice long shower.”
I shiver. My hands are already clawing at his shirt. Screw the lingerie. There will be plenty of nights to dress up for him.
Calder chuckles and helps me pull the T-shirt over his head. His chest is slick with perspiration, but I don’t care. It only enhances his natural scent, and I bury my face in the place where his neck meets his shoulder, placing kisses along the muscles there.
“I have a present for you, too,” he says.
“You mean the one between your legs?”
He grins. “That too. But I meant something else.” His hands are sliding down my body, over my breasts and toward my waist. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to give it to you.”
I pause in my explorations of his neck. “Is it that complicated?”
“You have no idea.”
I bite my lip. Now I’m extra intrigued.
“It can’t be that difficult,” I say lightly. “Just bring it here and hand it to me.”
“Oh, I plan on it.” His eyes gleam, and the corner of his mouth quirks up. “But not yet. Right now, I have something else in mind.”
I laugh, but the sound twists into a moan as he grinds his pelvis against me yet another time.
“Tease,” I say. “Do you have a gift for me or not?”
“I do.” He slides one of his hands between us. “But you’re going to have to earn it first.”
His fingers work the button of my tattered jeans. I loosen the grip of my legs slightly to give him easier access. My knee hits one of the cardboard boxes beside us, but neither of us stops. I press my fingers against his back and groan as his hand finds its way down inside my pants. His finger brushes against my clit, and my leg jerks. My knee slams into the cardboard box once again, toppling it over, but I don’t care. I’m not sure Calder notices at all.
“Welcome home,” he whispers as he slides his finger between my legs.
Home. We’re both home. After all the ups and downs we’ve encountered, I can hardly believe we’re here. There were times I thought that despite our undeniable passion for each other, we’d never be able to get past our differences. But here we are. Home.
Calder watches the emotions play across my face. His lust-darkened eyes soften slightly.
“What are you thinking?” he asks.
I close my eyes. “That I’m so lucky to have you.”
To think that I once hated this man—that I blamed him for so many things without knowing the true depth of the struggles he faced. We’ve learned, with time, to find strength in each other, to trust each other and work through the rough times together. Not that there aren’t still bumps now and again. I’m still waiting for my dad to come fully around; he’s had a harder time forgiving Calder for what he did to the Frazer Center for the Arts—and for what he believes Calder did to me. I still catch Dad eyeing him sidelong from time to time, for all that Calder treats me like the most precious thing in all the world.
He traces the line of my nose. I can feel his gaze on me even through my closed eyes.
“I think you have it wrong,” he murmurs. “I’m lucky to have you.”
I don’t have to see his face to know what he’s feeling. I was the only one there to see him fall apart after his father’s death. His own sister—the only flesh-and-blood relative he still has on this earth—took off to the other side of the world after the funeral. I watched him struggle with his grief and the loss of the only world he’d ever known. I watched him crumble beneath the weight of it, and I watched him climb out again, all the stronger.