The sound of something crashing outside jolted me awake. As I rushed to sit upright, it took me a few moments to realize where I was. The light in the storage room was on, showing me the shelves of supplies the Ink Shoppe kept on hand for all the tattoos Maverick and his father did every day.
“What?” Maverick groaned, his huge hand touching my naked back before he sat up beside me. His touch calmed me somewhat, but the adrenaline of being so forcefully awoken made me tremble. “What’s wrong, babe?”
Heart still pounding, I shifted my eyes around the room while I strained to hear the noise that had pulled me so abruptly from sleep. When the only sound I heard was our breathing, I started to relax, and the trembling thankfully began to subside.
“River?” Maverick cupped the back of my head, turning me to look at him. We’d both fallen asleep after having sex once the Ink Shoppe closed. I’d been so blissed out after countless orgasms that I hadn’t been able to fight it when my eyes grew heavy, and I’d passed out on the makeshift bed of blankets we kept hidden in the storage room.
“I’m okay,” I told him with a tight smile. “It must have been the wind blowing against the trash cans out back.”
His eyes narrowed on me. “You’ve been jumpy all day, baby. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
Wrapping my arms around his middle, I pressed my face into his wide chest. I was anything but okay, but I couldn’t tell him. Normally, I would have told him anything that was on my mind, but it was just better for everyone if I kept this to myself.
At least for now.
My birthday was a few weeks away. Then, I could tell him.
And pray no one tried to kill him once our fathers found out.
Until then, I wouldn’t put that kind of stress on him.
The alarm I’d set for myself went off, making me jump at the sudden noise as if a foghorn had blasted right in my ear. Groaning, I kissed Maverick quickly and then pushed to my feet, pulling on my clothes in a rush. I had a midnight curfew, but it was Saturday. My parents never got home from the bar earlier than two—later than that if it was Dad’s turn to close—but an urgency was shouting in the back of my head to hurry, hurry, hurry.
“Slow down,” Maverick said as he took his time standing and pulling on his jeans. “You have plenty of time.”
“No,” I muttered, lifting my hair out from under my shirt once it was in place. “I need to get home. Something feels…off.”
“Hey,” he grumbled when I grabbed my purse and phone. His arms came around me from behind before he turned me to face him. With a finger under my chin, he tipped my head up so I had to meet his gray eyes. Fuck, I loved those eyes. They were so full of love and possessiveness every time they landed on me. Every woman should have a guy look at her the way Maverick looked at me. As if there was no other person in the world they would rather be with for the rest of their life. As if the sun only rose to shine on their love. A lump filled my throat, but I quickly pushed it down. “Tell me what’s wrong, River.”
Of course he sensed something wrong with me. I would have been surprised if he hadn’t. There had always been this connection between us that I hadn’t fully understood until I was fourteen. As if we could read each other’s minds. I always knew what he was thinking, and more often than not, he knew what was going through my head as well.
Then he’d kissed me one day, and I’d realized why we were so connected.
Maverick Masterson was my soul mate. He was the other half of my heart. The reason I was born was to love him.
But as desperately as I wanted to share what was going on with me right then, I couldn’t.
So instead of telling him what was happening I pushed the attention to someone else. “It’s…my mom. I think something’s up with her.” I bit my lip. It wasn’t a lie. Mom had been acting weird lately, and I was worried about her. But I’d been so stressed over what was happening to me that I hadn’t stopped to really examine what might be going on with her.
Maverick’s eyes widened. “What, like she’s sick?” He practically whispered the last word. I understood why. After Aunt Raven had gone through her cancer treatments, we’d all been terrified that something like that could happen to our own mother.
“No,” I told him, shaking my head. “I think—” I broke off, not wanting to voice what I really suspected.
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