(This will probably be the only sample from this project – it’s supposed to come out on 3/13)
As tired as I was, that didn’t stop the immediate racing heart and butterflies combo that Trace’s presence coming down my hall set off. Maybe because we hadn’t spoken all day – none of the usual random texts or calls, meeting for lunch – his smile felt especially… potent.
“I didn’t know you weren’t home,” he explained, stopping a few feet away from me. “I didn’t knock or anything, I was just…” he gestured toward my door, where a large bouquet of flowers was waiting, directly across the hall.
“Oh,” I said – a weak ass response, but I didn’t know what else to say. I loved fresh flowers, and he knew it, and the fact that he’d left them there for me to walk out to – but not trip over – in the morning, was just… incredibly sweet.
“Everything good?” he asked and I nodded.
“Yeah. Demetria flew in, and we’re just… making ourselves a buffer between Logan and that overbearing Byers nature. Gotta train them, you know?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I do. Like you did with Leona and me with her parents when we had TJ.”
“I… shit, I’d forgotten about that,” I laughed. “Her mother still can’t stand me, I think.”
“But Leona loves you for it, and it was definitely appreciated.”
I grinned. “Well then, mission accomplished.”
“Right.” He stared at me for a moment, before a barely-detectable sigh made his shoulders lift and sink, and he started moving past me. “Well… the intention was to give you a few days, so… I’ll let you get to it. We’ll talk later.”
“Trace, wait,” I said, reaching out to grab his hand before he could get too far. “Um… would you mind bringing the flowers inside for me? It looks like a pretty big vase.”
He gave my fingers a little squeeze before he released them. “Yeah, of course.”
I let out a sigh of my own as he turned back for my apartment, his long legs easily traversing the distance back to my door. I fished my keys from my bag to let us both in, holding the door for him to bring the bouquet inside.
And then closing and locking it behind us.
“Anywhere is fine,” I told him, in response to his question of where to put it.
He chose the kitchen counter, and then turned to me. “So… I’ll see you later?”
“Don’t do that.”
He raised an eyebrow, confused. “Don’t do what?”
“Make me tell you I want you to stay.”
The befuddlement he wore made a quick shift to understanding, and then a smile. “Stay and… talk about how we’re going to move forward from this?”
I didn’t want to talk to Trace at all.
Contrary to the confusion happening in my mind, my body was very clear on what it wanted.
Him, inside me, now.
I shook my head. “I’m not ready for that yet,” I admitted.
“And I’m not interested in us just fucking,” Trace said, approaching to grab me at the waist, pulling my body into his.
“Are you saying you won’t?”
“I’m saying I want more than that. I’m saying… you’re going to give me more than that.”
“But nothing,” he cut me off, meeting my eyes. “I can leave, and you can think, and we can talk. I can accept that. But if I stay… you’re telling me you want more as well, you’re just still processing it. Which I can accept, too. What I won’t accept is… some friends with benefits bullshit that only gives me part of you. I can be your friend, Des. Or I can be your man. Nothing in-between. So… am I staying?”
“It’s a yes or no question, baby,” he said, quieting my objection. “So… am I staying?”
I dropped my gaze, taking a deep breath before I could bring myself to meet his eyes again.