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I bit down on my lip as my gaze dropped to my gloves, considering his words.

I got what he was saying,really.

For so long, every single one of us – every rose, every thorn – had been forced to live a kaleidoscope of lives that weren’t actually our own. We were whoever the mission briefing told us to be.

Now that we were free to pursue a life of our choosing, it made sense to not want to lean on the same façade-driven actions that governed what others saw as our personalities.

In other words… to just be ourselves.

That depended heavily on knowing who we were, and what desires – whattruedesires – went along with that.

I… couldn’t really say that I did.

My loner status coming out of theGardenhad been a decision based in self-preservation, and after a while, I just got used to it. So my urge to get back to it now… the more I thought about it, the more it seemed driven by a desire to get back to what I’d established as my “new normal” than something I really, genuinely wanted.

It was all so damn confusing.

“I’m flattered by your attention – since we’re being transparent,” I told him, crossing my arms. “And I enjoyed last night too. You’re… very good with your fingers. And mouth. And… you know what else,” I blushed, shaking my head.

“Nah, I don’t,” he smirked. “I wanna hear yousayit.”

“Too bad,” I laughed. “Just take the compliment, and know that… I hear you, okay? I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I don’t know what I want. But if Idostay… I’ll probably let you touch me, and look at me, and… be inside me, some more.”

A big grin spread across Wilder’s face, bringing even more beauty to his already incredibly handsome features. “Bet.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s all you have to say?Bet?”

“No, but you already called meclingy, so I’m not trying to spook you,” he laughed, wrapping his arms around me again.

Still too intimate.

But… still not a problem, either.

“You two have something you wanna tell me about?”

At the sound of Alicia’s voice, I couldn’t peel myself away from Wilder fast enough – I wasn’t trying to generate questions for which I hadnoanswers.

“Nah boss lady,” Wilder answered for both of us, the epitome of thecool as a cucumbercliché. “We’re just getting a little better acquainted.”

“Mmmhmm,” she said, looking between us with a barely-suppressed smile. “Well, when you’re done… acquaint yourselves with the meeting room for a briefing. We have an update on this shit with May and Lana Turner.”

With one last grin from me to Wilder, Alicia turned, leaving us alone in the gym facility.

“We should probably go ahead and get to that, right?” I asked, already starting to take my gloves off. “The sooner it’s all resolved, the better.”

Wilder nodded. “Yeah. Depending on what comes up, I’ll just get my workout in after – so I’m not encroaching on your time.”

“I was basically done anyway,” I told him. “Just gonna… um… go grab a shower.”

He took a few steps toward me, getting back in my space. “That’s probably a good idea. I’ll let you get to it. I mean… unless you wanted some company for that shower…”

I studied his face, working on the removal of my other glove as I considered his offer.

And then… I nodded.

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