Tangled Page 38

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Her smile fades a little more. “My father was killed when I was thirteen. Car accident—drunk driver. After that, my mom was always busy. Trying to keep the diner going, trying to keep herself from falling apart.”

When she pauses again, I put my arm across her and pull her in until her forehead rests against my chest. And then she goes on:

“She barely kept us above water. I wasn’t deprived or anything, but…it wasn’t easy. Everything was a struggle. So, when they told me I was going to be Valedictorian, and I received a full scholarship to Wharton, I figured—okay—investing it is. I never wanted to be helpless or dependent. Even though I had Billy, it was important to me to know I’d be able to support myself, by myself. Now that I can, all I really want to do is take care of my mom. I’ve been asking her to move to New York, but so far she’s said no. She’s worked her entire life…I just want her to rest.”

I don’t know what to say. For all my snide comments about my family, I’m pretty sure I’d lose my frigging mind if something happened to any one of them.

I raise her chin so I can look into her eyes. Then I kiss her. After a few minutes, Kate turns around. I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her right up against me. I press my lips to her shoulder and settle my face in her hair. And even though it’s technically morning, that’s just how we stay until we both fall asleep.

Every healthy man in the world wakes up with a stiffy. A fatty. Morning wood. I’m sure there’s some medical explanation for the phenomenon, but I just like to think of it as a little present from God.

A chance to begin the day with your best dick forward.

I can’t remember the last time I slept next to a woman. Waking up beside one, however, definitely has its benefits. And I’m prepared to take full advantage of them.

With my eyes still closed, I roll over and search for Kate. I plan on teasing her awake before giving her a “good morning” from behind. It’s the only acceptable wakeup call, in my book. But as my hand slides over the sheets, it finds only empty space where she’s supposed to be. I open my eyes, sit up, and look around. There’s no sign of her.

Huh.

I listen for movement in the bathroom or the sound of running water from the shower. But there’s only silence. Deafening, isn’t it?

Where’d she go?

My heart rate kicks up a notch at the thought that she snuck out while I was asleep. It’s a move I’ve performed myself—on several occasions—but one I’d never expect from Kate.

I’m just about to get out of bed when she appears in the doorway. Her hair’s pulled up in one of those elastic bands that women always seem to pull out of thin air. She’s wearing a gray Columbia T-shirt—my gray Columbia T-shirt—and I’m momentarily fascinated by the way her tits jiggle beneath the lettering as she walks.

Kate sets the tray she’s carrying on the bedside table. “Good morning.”

I pout. “It could’ve been. Why’d you get up?”

She laughs. “I’m starving. My stomach was growling like a caged troll. I was going to cook breakfast for us, but the only thing I could find in your kitchen was cereal.”

Cereal is the perfect food. I could eat it at every meal. And not the healthy bran-and-oats shit your parents shoved down your throat. I only go for the good stuff: Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Cookie Crisp. My cabinet is a veritable smorgasbord of highly sugared puffed wheat.

I shrug. “I order out a lot.”

She hands me a bowl. Apple Jacks—good choice. Between bites, Kate says, “I borrowed a T-shirt. Hope you don’t mind.”

I crunch my breakfast of champions and shake my head. “Not at all. But I really like you better out of it.”

See how she looks down? How her lips curve into a soft smile? See the color that rises in her cheeks? Good God—she’s blushing again. After last night? After the cursing, the screaming, the scratching? Now she blushes?

Adorable, right? I think so too.

“I didn’t think cooking in the nude was very sanitary.”

I put my now-empty bowl back on the tray. “Do you like to cook?” In the months we’ve worked together, I’ve learned a lot about Kate, but there’s still more I want to know.

She nods and finishes her cereal. “You grow up over a diner, it kind of rubs off on you. Baking is sort of my thing. I make great cookies. If we can get the ingredients later, I’ll make them.”

I smile devilishly. “I’d love to eat your cookie, Kate.”

She shakes her head at me. “Why do I have the feeling you’re not talking about the chocolate chip variety?”

Remember that gift from God? I can’t let it go to waste. That would be a sin—and I really can’t afford any more of those. I drag her onto the bed and pull the T-shirt over her head.

“’Cause I’m not. Now, about that cookie…”

“Queen to B-seven.”

“Bishop to G-five.”

Games are fun.

“Knight to C-six.”

“Check.”

Games without clothes? They’re more fun.

Kate’s brow furrows as she stares at the chessboard. This is our third match. Who won the other two? Please, like you even need to ask.

We’ve been trading stories while we play. I told her about the time I broke my arm skateboarding when I was twelve. She told me about the day she and Delores dyed her hamster’s fur pink. I told her about the nickname Matthew and I have for Alexandra. (Kate pinched my nipple after that one. Hard. She remembered the day I called her “an Alexandra” in my office.)

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