She stiffens at his name. “He asked me to move to LA.”
Of course he did. “And what did you say?”
She blinks at me. “I’m not leaving New Hope. This is my home.”
“He wanted more than for you to move to LA.” I take a step closer. I need to touch her. I wonder if she knows she’s pulling away from me, if she can feel it like I can. It’s as if we’re connected by a thousand little threads like those in a woven rug and they’ve been breaking one at a time since the moment Nate came back into town. With every breath, I feel another thread snap. “He wanted you.”
She shrugs. “I’m already taken.”
I draw in a deep breath. She lifts her hand to my face and skims her fingers along my jaw.
I groan softly and slide my hand into her hair as I lower my mouth to hers. She’s soft and sweet, and I need more of her.
Taking a fistful of her skirt, I yank her dress up around her waist and find the cotton of her panties. She gasps, and I rub her through the fabric as her fingers curl into my back.
My lips find her neck and the skin in the sensitive juncture of neck and shoulder.
“Max,” she says. But it’s not the normal breathy, needy whispering of my name. The word is a warning. A yield sign. “Max.”
My hand stills and I pull back to look into her eyes. I’m blindsided by the apology I see there. “Let’s move in together.”
“What?” She blinks at me. If she’s thinking I have the world’s worst timing with important proposals, she’s not wrong.
“We could rent out our apartments and use the money to rent a little place together. Someplace without those stairs that scare the living shit out of me every time I think of you climbing them. Someplace we can make our own.” I take her hand and squeeze.
“You didn’t want to move in together last spring because you knew your mom would flip if you lived with a guy before marriage, but we’re not trying to maintain appearances anymore, are we?” She looks at the floor, and I tilt her chin back up so her eyes meet mine. “I could give two shits about appearances. I want to wake up with you in my arms, Hanna. I want to know I’m going to be right there when you need me, every time you need me. You and Claire are all that matter in my world. I want everything that matters to be what I come home to every night.”
“I’m sorry.” She steps back. “I just can’t. I’m too confused right now.”
My lungs burn as I fill them—it hurts to breathe in a world where Hanna isn’t mine.
“I know it’s not fair. And I want a future with you, but…”
“But you can’t stop thinking about him.”
“I can’t move in with you right now,” she says softly. “That wouldn’t be fair to either of us. It’s not that simple.”
“You keep saying that.”
I swallow back the rest of what I want to say right along with my anger, frustration, and the betrayal I’ve never allowed myself to feel. While I was waiting for her to take my ring, she was with another man, and I was never allowed to be angry because that man died and she needed to grieve.
I drag a hand through my hair and look at the ceiling. “Was it that simple when you made love to him?”
“Can we not do this?”
Torment is etched across her face, and I can’t stand to know I’m the one who put it there. I pull her against my chest.
“I won’t rush you, but remember something for me,” I whisper into her hair. “You put on my ring.”
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