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Forever with You (Wait for You #5)

By:J. Lynn

d grin reappeared. "I moved in yesterday."

"Looks like you have quite a bit to go before you're finished." Stepping toward me, he dipped his chin as he held out his hand. "By the way, I'm Nick."

I took his hand. His grasp was warm and firm. "I'm Stephanie, but almost everyone calls me Steph."

"It's nice to meet you." His hand still held mine as his lashes lowered, his gaze dipping again. "It's very nice to meet you, Stephanie."

Warmth curled its way into my belly at the sound of how he spoke my name. "Mutual," I murmured, lifting my gaze to his. "After all, if you hadn't happened along, I'd probably still be out there cussing."




Nick chuckled, and I liked the sound of it. A lot. "Probably not the greatest way to meet new people."

"Seemed to work just fine with you."

The half grin spread slowly, becoming a full smile, and if I had thought he was handsome before, it was nothing compared to what I thought now. Wow. This guy was as gorgeous as he was helpful. "I'll let you in on a little secret," he said, squeezing my hand before slipping his hand free. "It wouldn't take much for you to make it work for me."

Oh, my little ears perked right on up. What a flirt. "That's very . . . good to know." I stepped closer, tilting my head back. A faint cologne clung to him, a crisp scent. "So, Nick, do you live in this condo?"

He shook his head and a strand of dark hair toppled across his forehead. "I have a place on the other end of town. I'm just here, waiting to help pretty ladies carry boxes into their apartments."

"Well, that's a real shame."

His eyes flared, deepening the light green irises. A moment passed as his gaze held mine, and then his lips parted. "That it is." Lifting his hand again, surprise shuttled through me as he touched my cheek, dragging his thumb to the corner of my mouth. "You had some dust there. All gone."

My pulse kicked up, and as I stared at him, for the first time in my life I was absolutely dumbstruck. I was bold. Hell. My pappy said I was as bold as brass balls. Not the greatest imagery there, but it was true. When I wanted something, I worked for it. That mentality had been ingrained in me since childhood. Grades. Dance squad in high school. Boys. A degree. The career. But even in all my boldness, this man rocked me a little, and right off my game.

Interesting.

"I've got to get going," Nick said, lowering his hand. The smile on his face, that crooked half smile, said he clearly knew the effect he had. He headed for the door and glanced over his shoulder. "By the way, I bartend at this place not too far from here. It's called Mona's. If you get bored . . . or want to rethink your ability to string curse words together on demand, you should come visit me."

I knew how to read guys. It was definitely a honed skill, and he was extending an invitation. Just like that, he put it out there, and I liked that. My own smile was slight and most definitely mirrored his. "I'll keep that in mind, Nick."

A fine layer of dust coated my arms as I stepped back from where I'd piled the last of the broken-down boxes, lifting my hands to my face just in time. The sneeze powered out of me with enough force that my ponytail flipped over my head and nearly smacked me in the face.

Bent over at the waist, I waited a few seconds. Another sneeze was building, and I wasn't wrong. I sneezed again, surprised that I hadn't knocked over the stacked boxes with that one.

Straightening, I flipped the ponytail over my shoulder and took a moment to let it all sink in, past the dust and the skin, even all the way to the bone. I'd finally done it.

I'd moved.

Not to some apartment in the same town I grew up in or went to college in, but to a clear, different state, and for the first time in twenty-three years I wasn't within a twenty-minute drive of my mama. Even at college, I'd lived in a dorm that was no farther than a quick trip to her house. It had been hard-harder than I realized it would be. Since I was fifteen, it had been just my mom and me. Leaving her, even though that was what she wanted, had been difficult. There were tears, and that had been a big deal for me. I rarely cried. I just wasn't that . . . emotional of a person.

Unless one of those damn ASPCA commercials came on the TV, especially the one that featured that "Arms of an Angel" song. Ugh. Then there were tiny ninja onion peelers lurking under my eyes.

Bastards.

After two whole days of unpacking, I was done, and when I looked around me, I felt damn good about what I'd accomplished.

The one-bedroom condo was pretty sweet even though I'd really wanted a two-bedroom. I needed to be sensible for once in my life, though, and by sticking to a one-bedroom, I was saving bank. It had a great galley kitchen, stainless-steel appliances, and gas stovetop-a gas stovetop I'd probably never use due to my irrational fear of blowing myself up.

But the living room and bedroom were spacious, and I was also pretty sure a cop lived here, because there was a cruiser in the parking lot on and off since I moved in two days ago.

And someone who lived here had a really hot friend named Nick.

Score.

Walking over to where I'd left a framed picture on the kitchen counter, I wiped my dusty hands off on my cotton shorts and then picked up the picture. I carefully undid the bubble wrap, revealing the photo that rested safely underneath. Pressing my lips together, I ran my thumb along the silver frame.

A middle-aged, handsome man in beige fatigues smiled back at me, the endless golden desert in the background. A message in a black Sharpie was scrawled next to him.

Not nearly as beautiful as you, Stephanie.

I bit down on the inside of my cheek and walked the picture into my bedroom. The gray bedspread and the white, aged furniture had been a gift from Mom and my grandparents. It gave the whole room a comfy, cottage feel.

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