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If You Hate Me: Epilogue


One Month Later

“All your kitchen stuff is put away,” Bea announces. “Do you want me to put lunch out for everyone yet, or hold off and tackle the bedroom now that the furniture is where you want it?”

Her hair is pulled up in a ponytail. Sweat makes flyaways stick to her skin. She’s wearing one of my loose tanks that doesn’t hide anything with a blue sports bra underneath. Her yoga pants hug her ass in a way that makes me want to tell the guys to come back later.

I wrap an arm around her waist and nuzzle her neck. “I’d rather get started with you in the bedroom.”

She tips her head to give me access to more skin. “I’m a gross mess.”

I lick her salty skin. “You taste like you want to be naked.”

She laughs and pushes on my chest. “Put a pin in it, Tristan. We’ll be alone in a few hours. You can lick every inch of me then.”

“Waiting sucks.”

“Says the king of withholding orgasms.”

“I’ll give you one right now to tide you over,” I bargain.

“Alluring, but my brother and your teammates are on the way back up with living room furniture, and Hammer, Hemi, Shilpa, Dred, and Tally are setting up the spare bedroom.” The chatter of female voices filters down the hall. “We both know you’ll do something dirty, and I’ll probably be louder than I mean to, and it’ll be embarrassing, mostly for me.”

I open my mouth to argue, but she’s not wrong.

As if on cue, Dallas, Flip, Hollis, Ashish, and Roman grunt their way through the propped-open door, each carrying huge boxes containing new furniture. I probably should have hired movers, but Flip argued that it was an unnecessary expense when we have an entire team who can unload a truck within an hour.

“Stop looking at your girlfriend like that, Tristan. We’ll be out of here in a couple hours,” Hollis grumbles as he passes.

Bea laughs and untangles herself from my arms.

A few seconds later, more of my teammates appear with boxes.

I give up on getting into Bea’s pants for now. She’s right. We’ll have all night together. The more we get done now, the less I’ll have to manage on my own.

“Just a couple more trips and the truck will be empty,” Flip says.

“I’ll check on the girls, and we can get started on lunch.” Bea’s fingers skim my back as she passes.

I latch onto her wrist before she can get very far.

She spins to face me, her expression expectant.

“Thanks for being here today, and for going to all the trouble to make sure the fridge is stocked.” She brought over two coolers of food this morning and a case of vitamin water, plus beer and wine for after we’ve finished unloading the truck.

She smiles up at me. “I’m happy to help.”

I lean in and brush my nose against hers. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She squeezes my hand and winks. “Go help the guys and I’ll get lunch ready, so we can kick everyone out sooner.”

I pull her in for a brief hug. I’m getting better at affection. It’s not something I’m inherently good at because I didn’t get a whole lot of it growing up. My dad was good with praise and back pats and being present, but hugs were rare, and my mom’s version of affection usually involved telling me she was surprised I hadn’t screwed something up. Or sometimes throwing shit around me instead of at me when she was particularly frustrated. I equated hugs with weakness. But Bea is slowly changing that, and I try to show her through more than just gifts and words how important she is.

The therapist Roman suggested has been helpful, too. Talking about my feelings isn’t my favorite, but I want this to work with Bea, so I go every week. The more I do it, the easier it gets.

“You’re poking me in the wrong hole,” Bea mutters when my erection nudges her navel.

“He loves you, too.”

“When everyone leaves, we can start christening rooms. The bathroom should probably be first.”

“I vote kitchen. I saw all the cucumbers in the crisper.”

She laughs and pushes on my chest.

I release her and head for the living room, where the guys are unboxing my new furniture. Bea came with me to pick most of it out.

An hour later, the living room is set up, along with my bedroom, the spare room, both bathrooms, and the kitchen. The dining room table is covered in a lunch buffet of wraps, homemade pizzas, salads, and a dessert platter. My teammates all go back for seconds and ask who catered. I tell them Bea put it together on her own, and Hollis and Roman talk up how awesome it’s been to have her prepping meals for them when they have home games. She doesn’t have time to take on more right now, but she loves it, so I’m hopeful that could change in the future.

We’ve been discussing what it would take for Bea to go back to school for sports nutrition. I have a plan that includes getting her to move in with me. I’m not pushing her, though. I know she wants to forge her own path, but when she’s ready to take that step, I’ll be here to help her achieve that dream.

An hour or so later, as soon as everyone leaves, we christen the kitchen island and the shower. Then I grab us drinks so we can hydrate in the living room. Which we’ll christen next.

“You’re staying over tonight.” I move Bea to straddle my lap.

“Don’t think I haven’t noticed the absence of the word sleep in that statement.”

I run my hands up her thighs. “You should bring some clothes over and leave them here.”

“I literally live across the street,” she points out with a smile.

I finger the hem of her shirt. “Yeah, but I left a couple of empty drawers in my dresser for you, and the closet is freaking massive, so you should help me fill it.”

Her grin widens. “Okay. I can do that.”

I squeeze her thighs, working up my nerve. “You’re welcome to move in any time you want.”

Bea runs her fingers through my hair. “You’ve been here for a handful of hours. How about you take a little time to get settled, and we can enjoy being a couple while that happens?”

I swallow past the thickness in my throat. “You don’t want to move in with me?”

“It has nothing to do with wanting to.” Her eyes grow soft, and she leans in to rub her nose against mine. “Because I absolutely do. But we’ve only been officially official for a couple of months. And your place is still full of unpacked boxes. Toronto is having a great season, and you’ll be traveling on and off until June.”

“If we make it to the playoffs,” I add.

She nods but doesn’t say anything else about that. We’re having a kickass season, and as long as we keep playing like we are, we have a good chance of making the playoffs this year. “When you’re in town, I’ll be spending most of my nights in your bed.”

“You can stay here even when I’m not in town.”

“I know. But it’s nice having a roommate and girlfriends to hang out with. I need the support system, especially with Essie in Vancouver for the foreseeable future, and because your job has you on the road so much. It makes sense for you to settle in, and we can date, and I can sleep over when you’re in Toronto for the next few months. Then I can fill your place with my crap and put my throw pillows everywhere.”

“They should be called throw-me-away pillows,” I grumble.

She laughs. “Besides, it’ll be good for you to have your own space too. No cleaning up after Flip. And then you can appropriately appreciate how awesome it is to have me around to take care of all the things like meal prep when I finally do move in.”

“I already appreciate those things about you.” I finger the end of her ponytail. “But it makes sense that we wait until the end of the season. You’d be alone half the time, otherwise.” Bea and Hammer get along well, and while she’s not a replacement for Essie, they’ve become close friends over the past few months. All those girls have.

“Once I move in, you’re stuck with me.” She runs her fingers through my hair.

“More like you’re stuck with me. I’m the clear winner in this arrangement.”

Her smile softens. “I don’t know about that. You’re proving to be a pretty awesome boyfriend.” Her fingers drift down my cheek. “You’re thoughtful, sweet, and giving.”

“Especially in bed,” I add.

“And out of it.” She brushes her lips over mine. “You’re a catch, Tristan, and you’re all mine.”

“And you’re mine.”

“All yours,” she agrees.

I can see my future unfolding with Bea. For the first time in my life, I understand what home feels like. It’s not a place for me; it’s her. She’s where I want to be.

She has my heart.

Bea is the person it beats for.


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