Beautiful Sacrifice (Maddox Brothers #3)(9)

“Just to save money. Then we’ll move to Denver. Hopefully, I can find something there that’s flexible like this job, so I can work while he is in class.”

“I bet you can. Denver is … well, Denver. You’ll have options.”

Hope widened her eyes. “Where did you go? Not around here.”

I felt my expression involuntarily turn in. “I was premed at Dartmouth. Well, that was the intended direction anyway.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“It was a great year.”

“Just one year? You act like it was a lifetime ago.”

“Just one. And, yes, it feels that way.”

Kirby fingered the edge of the plastic lid on her to-go cup. “How long has it been since you left? Two years?”


“I’ve been working with you all year, and you’ve never talked about it. It has something to do with your parents, doesn’t it?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to ask.”

“By the time I thought we were close enough for me to broach the subject, I was afraid of what you might say.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Are you just saying that to make me feel better?” she asked. “Because if something happened to you there, you can talk to me. You know I won’t tell anyone, not even Gunnar.” Her perfect features were even more stunning when she was sad, her bottom lip even fuller when she pouted.

“Nothing bad happened to me at Dartmouth. I told you, I liked it there, but my tuition came with conditions I couldn’t agree to anymore.”

“Oh,” she said, a bit relieved. “Your parents.”

“Yes. Them.”

A knock on the door sounded again.

Kirby yelled, causing me to jump, “Come in!”

The knob turned, and in walked a mammoth man-child with the sweetest baby face and more muscles than his T-shirt could handle. He flipped his trucker hat backward with a quick motion, and caramel wisps fanned out in every direction from beneath the black mesh, refusing to behave. He rushed to the sofa to sit next to Kirby. “Damn it, baby, I’m sorry. Fucking night class and f*cking traffic.”

She leaned over with a stoic expression, letting him kiss her cheek. She batted her long eyelashes.

She wasn’t fooling anyone. He was already forgiven.

He peered over at me. “I apologize for the language.”

I waved him away, dismissing his apology. “There are no rules here.” I looked around my loft with a grin. “That’s part of its charm.”

“How was work?” Gunnar asked, his eyes bouncing between Kirby and me. His tongue fell just behind his teeth when he spoke, causing the slightest hint of a lisp that I found undeniably adorable.

Gunnar was naturally polite and considerate, yet when I joined him and Kirby on nights out, his foreboding glare would keep any unwanted male attention at bay. On many occasions, Kirby had mentioned what being the love interest of a superhero felt like, never feeling afraid or worried because Gunnar had it handled at all times. Although he spent his time in the gym when he wasn’t studying or with Kirby, Gunnar didn’t have the girth of a serious bodybuilder, but he was tall and just bulky enough to be intimidating. His only fault was that he was too nice, trying to be everything for everyone, often making him late and overwhelmed in the process.

Exhaling, Kirby stretched her legs over her boyfriend’s lap. “It was wonderful. Falyn has a date.”

Gunnar looked to me for confirmation.

I shrugged. “My parents showed up. They were there when he asked. I kind of had to say yes.”

He shook his head with a smile, already knowing where the story was headed. “Poor guy.”

“He knows,” Kirby said.

“Oh. Then it’s his own damn fault,” he said.

I pulled a throw pillow from behind my back and hugged it to my chest. “It’s just dinner anyway. It’s not like I’ll break his heart.”

“That’s what I said when Kirby asked me out,” he said, chuckling.

Kirby yanked the pillow from my grasp and chucked it at Gunnar’s head. “Stop telling people that! They’re going to think it’s true!”

Gunnar was still grinning when he plucked the pillow off the floor and playfully tossed it back at her. “Maybe I want you to believe it. That version at least makes it seem like I haven’t been chasing you the whole time.”

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