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Happily Never After: Chapter 49


“PUT DOWN THE pizza.”

Max stood there, waiting for me beside the entry table, his dark eyes alight with a ferocity that sent liquid heat pulsing through my veins. My heart started racing, but I didn’t say anything, just set the pizza on the entry table and let the door slam behind me.

“Your presentation.” He cleared his throat, lifted his hands like he was going to say something, then set them on top of his head and sighed. “I—”


“Shh.” He held up a hand and gave his head a single shake, silencing me. He looked like a Mob boss at that moment—a romance novel version of one—because he was wearing a very expensive watch and very nice suit pants that were hanging loosely below the waist (his belt lay forgotten on the kitchen floor).

And nothing else.

Just that ridiculously muscular chest, those washboard abs, biceps for days, and sex-mussed dark hair that looked downright sinful. The contours of his face were amplified by the volatile expression in his eyes, and my stomach filled with butterflies as I waited for him to speak.

“In your presentation,” he said, “you used the word love.”

“Now wait a minute,” I said defensively. “I clearly stated multiple times that I don’t believe in it—”

“But you said—and I quote—that if you did, this is what it would feel like.” His jaw clenched. “You said that.”

I didn’t know how to respond, because I was panicking. I didn’t want to scare him away with that statement, because even though he’d said nice things, it didn’t necessarily mean he was ready to become official.

I was terrified that I was foolishly in love with him even though love wasn’t real.

I’d felt brave when I added that bullet point, like I was being maturely self-aware of my confusing feelings, but hearing it aloud was horrifying.


“Stay the night.” He came closer, his voice low and hungry as his big body crowded me against the door. “I don’t care about what you want to call this, but I want all of you—every brilliant, beautiful piece of Sophie Steinbeck, with me, in my bed, all night.”

I swallowed and nodded, my eyelids heavy as I looked up at him, wanting every piece of him, too.

“I don’t want to scare you, but I’m not in love but also kind of in love with you, Soph.”

Something inside me lit up when he said that, felt a little less scared, because I realized that I trusted him. I trusted that he meant it, even though it came with no guarantee. I trusted that he’d take care of my feelings, and that he wouldn’t lie about his.

“I’ve never seen your bed,” I said, half to myself as I set my hands on his warm chest.

“That’s funny,” he said, his eyes crinkling at their corners as he gave me a sexy grin. “Because in my head, you’ve logged a lot of hours there.”

“You know, you’re kind of a pervert,” I said around a giggle as his hands slid underneath the dress shirt to grab my ass. “It seems like you’ve fantasized about me a lot.

“Oh, you have no idea.” Max lowered his shoulder and then casually lifted me into a fireman’s hold, as if he carried women around his apartment like that all the time. “It’s a real problem.”

“It is? It’s a problem?”

“Sure,” he said, walking down the hallway that I assumed led to his bedroom. “Think about it. I’m standing in the elevator, daydreaming about pinning you against the wall and making you moan and hum the way I love while we go wild in the elevator, and then the doors open and Deano, the super-hairy building super, gets in and says, ‘How’s it hanging,’ as I’m trying to rapid-scrub my brain. Very awkward.”

“I don’t make a moan-hum noise, do I?” I asked, impressed by the sight of his huge bed and frothy white bedding as he walked into the bedroom.

“You do, but it’s hot, so don’t you dare overthink it,” he said as he dropped me onto the bed and pounced on top of me.

His hard body, his laughing eyes, the soft cushion of his bed underneath me; everything in that moment was absolute perfection.

So I took a deep breath and said, “I’m not in love but also kind of in love with you, too, Max.”

He didn’t say anything, but his smile disappeared. His eyes were serious, intensely so, and he swallowed.

And then my heart pinched in my chest when he brushed his hand over my cheek.

“My brilliant,” he said, lowering his mouth to nip my chin, “strategic thinker.”

He kissed me then, and it was different than any kiss we’d ever shared. His mouth was soft, sweet, teasing my lips with hot languidness and the patient promise of long sighs and trembling limbs. If he usually kissed me like an electrical storm, this was the slow, drizzling mist, awakening the dawn second by second with its hazy glow.

“I could kiss you forever,” I said, very nearly purring as I wrapped my arms around his broad shoulders.

“No, you couldn’t,” he whispered back, his eyes crinkling at the edges when he raised his mouth to say, “Because there’s pizza in the entryway.”

“It’s freakish how well you know me.” I scrambled out from under him and sat up, pushing at my hair. “So how do we feel about eating pizza in bed?”

He gave me a scowl, his dark eyebrows furrowing. “Bad.”

“What about pizza on the bedroom floor?” I asked, knowing how he’d feel but enjoying the tease anyway. “Like a picnic.”

He said, “Steinbeck—”

“Or,” I said, putting my hands on his shoulders and pushing him flat on his back, relishing the flash in his dark eyes as I climbed over him. I felt powerful, one knee on each side of his hips, hovering over him as his gaze drank me in. “Maybe I should just make you so tired that you let me do whatever I want.”

His Adam’s apple moved, and all ten of his fingers found my waist.



“I don’t know if you can make me that tired,” he said, his voice textured with heat. “But feel free to give it a shot.”

My hands dropped to the button on his expensive pants. “I think I might.”

“Good girl,” he growled, and the look he gave me was pure liquid fuel.


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