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I make sure to add a little extra sway to my hips as I walk away from him. Just because we’re taking things slow doesn’t mean I can’t torture him just a little.

“You’re killing me, Paige McCarty!” Matt shouts to me as I climb up the stairs and put my key in the lock.

I can’t keep the smile off of my face as I open the door and leave him outside on the sidewalk to think about what he’s missing. I hear his truck start up and pull away a few seconds later as I flop down on the couch, tossing my bag onto the coffee table. Seeing a piece of paper sitting on the glass top, I lean forward and pick it up. The smile dies on my face when I see the words scribbled across it in perfectly neat, block letters:

IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YA, YOU’LL STOP STICKIN YOUR NOSE WHERE IT DON’T BELONG. GO BACK TO BEING IN PRETTY PICTURES AND NO ONE GETS HURT.

I drop the note like it’s on fire and scramble up from the couch, staring frantically around my condo, afraid to breathe.

Someone was in my home. Someone knows I’ve been looking into Vinnie DeMarco. What if they’re still here?

For the first time today, I wish my mother were here with her gun.

CHAPTER 15

We’re going to the fucking police right now,” Matt states angrily as he hits the blinker in his F-150 truck to take us into town.

When I ran out of my house in a panic, I pulled my phone out of my purse and called the first person I thought of. Was it just because I could still taste him on my lips? I could have called my mom, but I knew she would just lecture me, and I could have called Kennedy, but that would mean I’d have to come clean about what I’d been doing and I wasn’t ready for that. The only person I wanted in the midst of my fear was Matt. It exhilarated me and scared the shit out of me all at the same time.

I’d grown used to my independence in the months since my divorce, and it was a frightening feeling to want to depend on another person again. Especially one of the male gender who could fuck me over in the blink of an eye and crush my heart to pieces if he suddenly decided he was still in love with his lying, cheating ex.

“There’s no need to get the police involved. I probably overreacted. For all I know it was Andy trying to cause trouble because I won’t give him any money.”

He stops at the empty intersection and stares across the front seat of the truck at me. I can see the battle going on in his eyes. He wants so much to protect me from the person who left a threatening note in my house, but he also wants to do whatever I ask.

“I don’t like this, Paige. I don’t like this at all.”

Then he sighs deeply and takes the street that leads away from downtown and away from the police.

Andy would always make decisions for me. He would tell me that he was doing what he thought was in my best interest or say that the few years in age he had on me meant that he was able to make more informed choices about my life. Really, he wanted to make me feel like I needed him to function. For the first few months after we separated, I almost believed it. I didn’t know how to do anything on my own. I didn’t remember how to make the simplest of decisions because I had been relying on him for so long. With the help of my friends, I was able to see just how much he controlled my life and slowly get my independence back.

Something as little as having Matt listen to me when I tell him what I want means more to me than he’ll ever know. He didn’t belittle me or tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. He let me make my own decision, even if it turns out to be the wrong one.

I feel my throat growing tight with unshed tears and I have to clear it to keep them at bay. I will not cry right now.

“I wish you would have let me look through your place. What if whoever left that note was still there?” Matt asks.

“Are you crazy? That’s like something straight out of a horror movie. You never go back into a house looking for the bad people. It always ends with a machete to the face,” I argue.

“A machete, huh? Do you normally have a lot of people with machetes after you?” Matt asks with a laugh. “I’m seriously considering turning the truck around and going back to the police if that’s the case.”

“Like I said, I probably just made a big deal out of nothing. I’ll get hold of Andy first thing tomorrow and put the fear of God into him.”

“And if it wasn’t that little weasel, what then? Your friends aren’t sick and twisted enough to do this as some sort of joke, are they?” he asks.

I’m not going to lie; it warms my heart even more that he called Andy a weasel.

I laugh easily at the idea that Kennedy and Lorelei would sneak into my house and leave a note like that for me, the heaviness of my thoughts from a moment ago disappearing quickly. “Okay, I think it’s safe to say Lorelei would have never done something like that. She would have used bigger words to drive her point home, and she would have been more polite. Like, ‘Please discontinue your inquisitive ways or we shall be obliged to damage your appendages,’” I tell him in my best Lorelei voice.

“I would have to agree even though I’ve only talked to her for a few minutes. But what about Kennedy? She carries a gun and she sounds scary,” Matt says with a dramatic shiver. The smile on his face proves that he believed me when I said they wouldn’t do something like this, and he’s trying to distract me by making light of the situation.

“Well, it’s close to something Kennedy would have said, but hers would have had more cursing. ‘Get your fucking head out of your ass before I punch you in the goddamn face.’”

Matt and I laugh together as I describe my friend’s personalities to him with just a few sentences.

“I’m glad you called me,” he says softly as he pulls into a driveway of a gorgeous Cape Cod home and puts his truck in park.

He doesn’t give me a chance to reply as he jumps out of the truck and comes around to my side, opening the door for me and taking my hand to help me down. Hand in hand we walk up the steps of his front porch, and I stand to the side, admiring his profile as he unlocks the front door.

As soon as we walk inside, Matt hits a switch and bathes the living room in light. I have to say, I’m a little shocked at what I see. I assumed his place would look similar to Andy’s apartment: mismatched furniture, no pictures on the wall, still-unpacked boxes littering the floors, and takeout containers in the kitchen. Matt’s home is tastefully decorated and spotless. There aren’t any signs that a woman used to live here, but it also doesn’t look like a bachelor pad. It’s gray and black and full of leather, and I love it. I notice a framed picture on an end table next to the couch, and I walk right up to it and lift it up for a better look. In the picture, Matt has his arm around the shoulders of an older man; it almost looks like a before-and-after picture. I can tell right away that this is Matt’s father and also how nicely Matt is going to age. His father is a handsome man with the same bright blue eyes and dark hair as his son, except he has a few gray hairs at his temples and wrinkles around his eyes.

“This is a great picture. I’m assuming this is your dad?”

Matt comes up behind me and looks over my shoulder. “Yep. That’s Eric Russo. Obviously, he gets his good looks from me.”

I laugh, setting the picture back down and turning around to face him.

“Can you show me where the bathroom is? I want to wash up a little. And if you have anything I can use as pajamas, that would be good too. I didn’t think to grab anything when I went racing out of my house like a chicken.”

Matt places his hands on my shoulders, sliding them up my neck until he cups my cheeks. “I’m sure I can find something for you to wear. And you aren’t a chicken. I would have gone screaming into the night if someone left a note like that for me too.”

My heart skips a beat as he places a kiss on the tip of my nose before grabbing my hand and pulling me down the hallway.

I can’t keep the smile off of my face as I stare at myself in the mirror. I washed off the day’s makeup and ran a comb through my hair. I’m wearing an old T-shirt of Matt’s and a pair of his boxer shorts and I’ve never felt more comfortable. As I head for the door, I pull the neck of the shirt up to my nose and take a deep breath, loving how it smells exactly like Matt.

I step out of the bathroom and into the hall, walking over to Matt’s room to thank him and say good-night. Instead of letting things turn awkward when it came time to discuss sleeping arrangements, as soon as he handed me the T-shirt and boxers, I told him I was fine sleeping on the couch. He tried to argue with me and give me his bed, but I wouldn’t have it. He’s done enough for me tonight; I’m not about to make him give up his bed. Or beg him to let me sleep in it with him.

I poke my head into his bedroom and lose my breath when I see him resting on top of his covers. He’s shirtless and has on a pair of gray sweatpants, and his hands are resting under his head with his feet crossed at the ankles. His eyes slowly open as I hover in the doorway.

He takes me in from head to toe and I feel a little self-conscious when I remember I’m not wearing a stitch of makeup.

“You are so beautiful,” Matt says in awe.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard this back in my modeling days. But hearing it come out of a man’s mouth when I’m fresh faced and wearing one of his shirts and a pair of his boxers, it warms every single spot inside of me.

“Why are you still standing all the way over there? Come here.”

He slides over and pats the bed next to him. I should turn and run down the stairs—I really should.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I hedge as I stare at the happy trail disappearing into the waistband of his pajama pants.

“It’s an excellent idea. Just let me hold you for a little while.”

His voice is soft and no longer teasing. I can see in his face that he’s concerned about me. Even though we made jokes and I tried to convince myself that Andy was the one who left me that creepy note, we both know there is a strong possibility someone much more dangerous could be out there watching me. In the dim light of his quiet bedroom this late at night, I realize Matt would never judge me for being weak, or admitting I’m scared and don’t want to be alone right now.

Padding across the floor in my bare feet, I crawl up the bed until I’m next to him, curling up against his side and resting my cheek on his chest. I trace little circles on his stomach with my fingertips and watch as his stomach dips when I ghost over a ticklish spot.

“Thank you for coming to my rescue tonight,” I whisper against his skin.

Matt’s hand threads its way through the long strands of my hair over and over. “I’m glad you called me. I like having you here, wearing my clothes.”

I can hear the smile in his voice and I lift my head so I can see his face. He stares down at me with one arm still resting casually under his head. Lifting my face up to his, I press my lips against his cheek and hold them there. When I pull away, Matt is staring into my eyes. All worries about threatening notes and him being in love with Melanie fly from my mind, and all I can think about is getting closer to him. Grabbing onto my hips, he pulls me on top of him. With my legs straddling him and my chest pressed against his, I feel every hard inch of him between my legs; nothing separates us but a few scraps of cotton. Leaning up, I reach for the hem of Matt’s shirt that covers my body and pull it over my head. He sucks in a breath when I’m bared to him and his hands immediately come up to cover my breasts.

“I know I talked a good game earlier about taking things slow. Obviously that’s not going to work out for me. If you’re not sure, or if this is too fast, we don’t have to do this,” he whispers softly as he stares at his hands moving gently over my breasts, his thumbs sliding over my nipples and causing me to jerk my hips against him.

“Not fast enough. Definitely not fast enough.”

Resting my hands on top of his, I lean back down and kiss him. He lifts his hips against me with each sweep of his tongue through my mouth and I want more. I can’t get close enough, can’t move my body fast enough against him. We quickly pull away from each other and clothes are ripped off and tossed to the side of the bed. I let out a contented sigh when we’re both naked, skin to skin, hands touching everywhere we can reach. Matt lets out a groan when my hand wraps around his length and I stroke him from top to bottom. He’s smooth and hard in my hand. I could spend the entire night touching him.

“Fuck, Paige. I need you.”

The guttural words from Matt’s mouth turn me on more than I thought possible.

“Then hurry your ass up and take me.”

I let out a squeak of surprise when Matt suddenly flips me onto my back and positions himself between my legs. He slides his erection through my wetness until I’m clutching at his back with my nails, trying to pull him closer. The head of his penis moves back and forth over my clit and I feel that familiar coil deep in my belly, signaling my quickly approaching orgasm. I watch between our bodies as Matt grabs his erection and guides it slowly inside of me. Throwing my head back, I moan when I feel him enter me and push his way inside. He’s thick and hard and nothing has ever felt this amazing or this right.

He pulls back out slowly and my hands grab onto his ass, pulling him back in hard. He starts up a delicious rhythm with his hips, not treating me like a delicate flower, and then thrusts into me over and over and my hips push up against him, trying to force him harder and deeper. Wrapping my legs around his waist I let him take me, claim me, and own me. My orgasm bursts out of me, and Matt swallows my cries with his mouth. I kiss him back hard, moving my hands up to the back of his head and holding him in place while he shudders and groans through his own release a few minutes later. I feel him throbbing inside of me and tighten my legs around him, holding him close.