I was on the treadmill with my earbuds in when Brody walked by the door. He looked in but kept going, backing up when he realized it was me.

He said something but I couldn’t hear him and lip-reading was not one of my specialties. I hit the pause button and stood on the sides of the treadmill as it slowed to a stop, then plucked my buds from my ears. “What’d you say?”

“I said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’”

“I had an appointment with the mind reader this morning. My back was all tight, so I came in to see Pete and have him work on it.” I leaned against the rail of the treadmill and crossed my arms.

Brody glanced quickly around the room, making sure no one could hear him. “How’s that going, by the way? The therapist thing?”

I shrugged. “Good, I guess. I’ve been given the all clear from her with the office, so at this point it’s my choice to keep going.”

“Nice!” He reached out and punched my bicep.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“What? I thought you liked her?”

“I do, but her… practices… are a little unconventional.”

He frowned at me. “Like what?”

It was my turn to look around the room for nosy ears. “A while back, she challenged me to abstain from sex for a week, so to humor her, I did it. Then she upped the challenge to two weeks. Again, I did it. Now, she has me going a month, and I’m sure after that, it’ll keep going.”

The corners of his mouth pointed down as he nodded his head to the side. “That’s definitely interesting, especially for you. Has it fallen off yet?”

“No, asshole,” I said sarcastically. “It hasn’t been all that bad, actually. Different, yes, but not bad.”

“Well, whatever this doctor is doing seems to be working. Tell her I said to keep it up.” He winked at me and tossed his hoodie over his shoulder as he turned for the door. “By the way,”—he stopped suddenly and spun back toward me—“at the risk of you going off on me again, what’s up with you and Michelle?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I guess Kacie talked to her the other day, and she said something about you giving her cooking lessons?”

I nodded and put my earbuds back in. “That’s exactly what I’m doing. Now, fuck off.”

“WHAT ARE YOU guys making?” Matthew climbed onto the stool next to the island and studied the stuff spread out on the counter, wrinkling up his little face as he did so. He leaned in closer to the garlic and plugged his nose. “Ew! It smells gross!”

“You’re gonna like it, I promise,” Michelle said as she lifted him off the stool, patting his butt as he ran away. She turned to me. “He’s gonna like it, right?”

“Hey,” I said, holding my hands up, “you made the promise, not me.”

“The odds are in our favor, though, right? So far we’ve made the lasagna, tilapia, and rosemary chicken. He’s loved all of those. Oh! And burgers that were so good they’ve ruined me for all other burgers for the rest of eternity.”

“The rest of eternity, huh? That’s pretty big.”

“Yep.” She nodded. “You’re going to have to supply me with burgers at least once a month for the rest of my life, okay?”

I’m totally cool with that.

When I didn’t answer, she grinned and nudged me with her sharp little elbow right in the ribs. “All right, what next?”

“Now you’re gonna take that bowl with all the seasonings in it and rub your meat.” I tried my hardest not to laugh.

Michelle tilted her head to the side and pressed her lips together.

“What?” I defended. “I swear I’m not being dirty. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

“Fine.” She picked up a small handful of the seasoning and dropped it on top of the pork tenderloin, massaging it in with her hands.

I walked up behind her and leaned in close above her shoulder. “Oh yeah, that’s it. Rub it real good. Get it all the way in there,” I growled as dirty as I could.

She laughed and elbowed me again. “Knock it off.”

“I can’t help myself. When you rub the pork like that, it really gets my spices flowing.” I danced in a circle around the island.

She pretended to ignore me as she bit her lip and concentrated on what she was doing, but I could tell by the pink in her cheeks I was getting under her skin.

“Okay. Now you’re gonna flip it over and rub it again. Make sure you really get in there and massage that meat. Tell it you love it. Show it.”

Her blue eyes flashed up to me before she rolled them toward the ceiling. “There’s something seriously wrong with you, you know that?”

I tilted my head left and right. “So I’ve been told.”

She finished with the spice rub and held her messy hands up in the air. “Now what?”

“Now smack it.”

She pulled her brows in tight, frowning at me. “Huh?”

“Smack the meat,” I repeated.

Her shoulders slumped and she glared at me, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. “I’m not gonna smack this piece of meat.”

“You have to. It helps in the cooking process,” I said as seriously as I could. “It loosens the juices.”

“Oh.” She straightened up and paused, thinking about it. “Okay.”

Turning back toward the stove, she took a deep breath before slapping the pork with her right hand. “Like that?” She glanced back for my approval.

Holding my laugh in at that point was physically painful, but I was determined. “Yep, just like that. Smack it again. Harder.”

She hesitantly raised her right hand and brought it down hard against the tenderloin two more times. By the second time, my gut was ready to explode. I laughed out loud so hard that I startled her.

“You’re such a jerk!” she shrieked playfully, charging at me with her wet, spice-rubbed hands. I caught her wrists and held them away from my face.

“I’m sorry, but you were so adorably naive about the whole thing. I couldn’t help it.”

She wiggled her fingers, trying to get close enough to slather that stuff all over my face, but I wasn’t about to let her. I pushed her back, pinning her between me and the counter, gently moving her hands so that I had them securely behind her back.

“The minute you let me loose, you’re dead.” Her eyes were wild and mischievous.

“What makes you think I’m letting you go anytime soon?”

She pulled and wiggled, desperately trying to break free before she finally gave up and sighed, blowing the pieces of loose hair off her forehead. “How long do you think you can keep this up?”

I leaned in close, breathing onto her cheek. “Oh, I can go all night, baby.”

Redness started at the base of her neck, quickly creeping up to her face as she swallowed hard.

“Give up yet?” I asked.

“Fine,” she snapped. “I give up.”

“Now, when I let go, you promise you’re going to go to the sink and wash your hands?”

She stared me straight in the eye and nodded.

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