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“Thank you.” My whole chest tightens. I’m touched by her concern and grateful that she’s willing to help me out when we hardly know each other.

“No problem.” Her eyes drop to Madeline, who’s now asleep in my arms. There is no denying the longing in her eyes as she looks at my girl.

It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask why she doesn’t have kids, but it doesn’t feel like the right time. I give the cab driver my address, then sit with my girl in my arms as we head the few blocks to our place. When we pull up outside, Courtney pays the driver and gets out, holding the door for me. “What’s the code?” she asks when we reach the door to our building.

“Two-seven-one-nine,” I tell her. After she punches it in, she follows me upstairs to our apartment.

“Where’s your key?”

“Pocket.” Her cheeks darken, and she bites her bottom lip.

Biting back a smile I shouldn’t even have on my face, I lean to the side so she can reach into my pocket for the key. Once she has it, she ducks her head. I still glimpse the blush rising in her cheeks as she opens the door for us to go in.

“Let me put her down,” I say softly, and she nods.

I walk across the apartment to Madeline’s room and lay her down on her bed. Her forehead’s not as warm as when I first got to her, so I sigh in relief. I kiss the top of her head, take off her shoes, change her out of her clothes into a nightgown, and tuck her in. Once I return to the living room, I see that Courtney is still standing near the front door, not looking around, not making herself at home, just standing there holding Madeline’s bag.

“Do you just need Tylenol, or . . . ?”

“Tylenol, ginger ale, and some soup and crackers, if you don’t mind stopping at the grocery store.”

“I don’t mind.” Once I take the bag from her, I pull out my wallet.

“I have money,” she says, watching me pull out a couple of twenties.

“I really appreciate this.” I ignore her comment and place the cash in her hand.

“It’s not a big deal.” She looks away.

Without thinking, I wrap my fingers around her chin. Her head jerks toward me.

“It’s a very big deal,” I say.

She swallows. I let her go so I don’t do what I want to do, which is to place my mouth on hers. Her eyes stay locked with mine, though, and something moves behind them that makes the urge to kiss her stronger.

“I’ll be back,” she quickly says before leaving.

I stare at the closed door for a long moment before shutting my eyes and tipping my head back. There is something between us. I feel it whenever I’m near her. I also know that something happened to her, something that has left her vulnerable. My gut tightens at the thought of someone hurting her, of me hurting her without even trying or knowing what I’m up against.

“Fuck.” I run my fingers through my hair, then drop my hands and call the doctor to make sure I don’t need to bring Maddi in before I go to check on her again.

“Jesus, did you buy out the store?”

Courtney is carrying at least ten bags when she returns.

“I talked to the pharmacist, and she told me what I should get for a six-year-old with a stomach bug.”

I quickly help her with the bags and drop them on the counter. I look at them, then her. I raise a brow because she bought a lot more than just stuff for a stomach bug. Her shoulders jerk up, and then her nose scrunches adorably.

“I also didn’t know what kind of soup she liked, so I got a few different kinds.”

I pull out a stack of coloring books and magazines, then raise my brow again.

“I also thought that maybe she likes to color or read?”

“She’s six.” I glance at the People magazine on top of the pile and fight back a smile. And the urge to touch her again.

“Well . . .” She presses her lips together, then looks to the side like she’s embarrassed. “Maybe she wants to keep updated on what’s going on in Hollywood.”

“Yeah.” I can’t control it any longer. She’s just too cute. I chuckle, and she bites her bottom lip, making me fight back a groan.

Fuck, I really want to kiss her.

“Well, I should probably go. Will you let me know if she’s okay?”

Go? She wants to go already? I search for something to make her stay.

“You bought enough soup to feed an army. It’s only right that you stick around to help me eat some of it.” Courtney looks unsure, so I continue. “I’ll also make grilled cheese. I’m the master of grilled cheese.” I put on what I hope is a charming-but-reassuring smile.

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