Until We're More(8)

By: Cindi Madsen

I’d forgotten about that, but memories of eating more candy than I’d ever consumed—and more girlie movies than I ever wanted to watch—came back to me. “I can’t get away with that much junk food thanks to my job, but I’ll provide you with as much as you want. I just moved to a place a few blocks from the beach, too.”

Her eyes lit up, the way I knew they would. She loved the beach. Loved making sand castles and reading under an umbrella and feeding her lunch to those damn seagulls that would then attack me for my food.

“So?” I nudged her with my elbow. “What do you say?”

Chapter Three


Stay overnight with Liam for six weeks straight? In an apartment where he’d probably walk around shirtless, smelling like that intoxicating Prada cologne I’d talked him into during a super-rare trip to the mall, or all soapy fresh like right now? Where he’d constantly be looking at me with the same blue eyes that were currently pinning me in place, unraveling me in the best possible way?

In order to keep my goals, it wasn’t just a bad idea; it was an epically bad one. But my mom was a vortex of neediness and guilt trips, one I got sucked into every time. My stepdad didn’t want me there, either. Since he was also allergic to cats, George would be restricted to my old bedroom that’d been converted into a craft room, which meant I had to unbury the bed before I could use it. Mom had also added that I’d have to deep clean the room before I left, including paying for the carpet to be professionally steamed. George would hate being cooped up in such a small space and would undoubtedly enact revenge by shoving every item he could get his paws on to the floor, and then I’d end up replacing them, and by the end, it probably would’ve been cheaper to book a hotel.

Plus, Liam and I would have so much fun together, and we had months to make up for. I could totally keep myself in check. Maybe get he’s my best friend tattooed on my hand. Or stomach, since it needed to be a place he’d never see. Then again, we might go swimming, so that left my boobs or my butt.

“It’s okay if you’d rather stay with your parents,” Liam said, and I might be projecting, but he almost sounded sad. The barest hint of sadness, really, but for a guy who didn’t often show emotions, it seemed huge to me. “I just thought it’d be—”

“I’d rather stay with you,” I said, meeting his gaze. “Like, it’s not even a competition. I just don’t want it to get weird, and what if you get sick of me?”

He reached out and tugged the end of my ponytail, his callused fingertips brushing my neck and sending a cascade of goose bumps across my skin. “Chels, I’ve missed you like crazy. I’ll never get sick of you.”

“But what if you get sick of George?”

“I’ll do my best to remember that you two are a packaged deal.”

“Okay, but I can totally pay you rent, and—”

“You’re not paying rent.” His eyebrows drew low, and his frown took hold. Most people would run scared and/or give in. Luckily, I wasn’t most people, and I’d grown immune to his scowls.

“Liam, I don’t need you taking care of me all the time. Like I said, I’ve changed.”

“I’m always going to take care of you. That’s never going to change, so get used to it.”

A swirl went through my stomach. Probably a good indicator that my previous assertion about this being a bad idea held some validity.

Then again, if I was going to make a stupid decision, it might as well be a fun, superhot one, right?

Then again again, I couldn’t keep being the human version of an alley cat that always showed up at Liam’s door. The side of me desperate to prove I’d changed wasn’t ready to give up on a stipulation. I crossed my arms and set my chin so he could see I meant business. “I will only go along with this if you let me pay at least some rent. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

He grunted.

“Or grunts.”

He grunted again, sighed, and added a shrug that meant he gave in to my terms without having to say it. Still felt like a victory to me, and I loosened my arms from the stance that felt way too stiff and unnatural. “Then I say we get this party started.” My excitement got the best of me, and I bounced on the seat of my chair as I flashed him a giant grin. “Roomie.”

Liam set my giant suitcase and duffel bag next to the couch—I’d attempted to carry one, but he’d simply raised an eyebrow, taken it from my shaky grip, and hefted both of them. As much as I appreciated that he took care of me, I couldn’t get used to it, and more than that, I wanted to be a strong, independent woman and all that. Hey, Beyoncé made it seem possible, and while I wouldn’t be dropping a record anytime soon, I was trying to do my part for female empowerment in other ways, starting with moving up the corporate ladder at my company so I could not only make a better living but also so I could make a difference. I’d almost botched it already by holding back and not being firm enough, and that was after the months I’d spent improving my boldness skills.