A/N: AGH, my lovelies, I am back! I'm so sorry I haven't updated in a while! Summer's just been so busy! And thank you all for all the awesome, spectacular, wallawallabingbang reviews!

Anyway, here's your dose of Nate and Danny good-ness! Enjoy!

Chapter 30


It was Thursday, and Nate was acting weird.

I'd finally pried out of him that his mom was supposed to be coming today, so I'm guessing that was the reason for his mood.

You see, he kept grinning. And laughing.

It was weird.

And completely, painfully fake.

Even Derek and Brianna knew something was up because they didn't make that big of a deal about his laughter - something they've never seen him do. Heck, I think I was the only one in the world who'd actually seen him laugh for real. That thought gave me a little warm feeling in my chest, making me suddenly give a silent giggle.

By that time, Nate and I were in the car heading to his house, and Nate was wound up tight as a bowstring. He looked like the littlest thing would make him snap. I glanced over at him in the driver's seat in time to see a muscle in his jaw tick as he clenched it.

"Nate," I said quietly.

He didn't move. Thinking he must not have heard me, I repeated his name a little louder.

He finally flicked his eyes over to me, giving me an unreadable look. "Yeah?"

I opened my mouth to say something, but I couldn't think of anything to say, so I simply shut it and shook my head. "Never mind."

He gave a slight nod, then faced forward and continued to drive.

Sighing, I stared out the window, watching everything pass by as we headed to Nate's house.

Er, home now, I guess.

I was still a little dazed that I was actually living there in that huge mansion. Nate had informed Corey I was moving in, but his Corey had just given a distracted nod.

We reached the house in silence, and I got out of the car, staring at Nate over the roof as he slammed the car door shut. He glanced around, his eyes narrowing as they landed on a shiny new black Mercedes parked a few yards away. I don't know much about cars, but even I know what kind of car that was. A rich person's car.


He watched me as I walked around the car to stand in front of him. "What?"

I lightly brushed my hand against his arm as he leaned it against the car. He grabbed my hand before I could pull it away, holding onto it.

"So," I said calmly. "What's the battle plan?"

Nate's lips twitched upward, but his eyes were serious. "We go in. You don't leave my side. We'll face the dragon, conquer it, then head to my room."

"Mmm, great plan," I said, rolling my eyes.

He narrowed his own eyes, his grip on my hand tightening fractionally. "You got a better plan?"

I shrugged, tapping his hand with my free hand. He loosened his grip, but didn't let go. "Just, go in and say hi," I said sincerely, staring into his black eyes. "Try to get along with your mom. And, help Corey out."

"Why should I?" he snarled.

"He's your brother."

Nate growled at my simple statement, not liking it. But, it was true. If you have a brother, you should stick up for him. I mean, that's what I would do.

"At-at least, be there when he tells his mom about the, um, baby thing," I continued. "Just-just support him."

Nate didn't say anything, so I didn't bother to push it.

We headed inside, cautiously looking around. Heading further into the house, we heard talking coming from the family room, so we made our way there. Silently entering the room, I stared at the tall, normal-looking woman berating Corey for something. Truthfully, the way Nate talked about her, I thought she'd be scary or something, but she was merely intimidating.

She had long blond hair a little bit darker than Corey's pulled back in an elaborate hair-do, a thin body, deadly-looking heels, and a business suit on. She looked to be in her forties, with a few wrinkles on her face, but not much. She was actually attractive, to tell the truth. I could see where Corey got his looks from.

She turned her cold blue eyes on us, though, and the attraction was lost beneath her piercing stare.

"Nathanael," she greeted with absolutely no inflection in her voice.

"Mother," Nate said, giving a small nod, his voice monotone. "Welcome back."

She glanced at me, and I saw her eyes narrow. "Nate, who's your friend?" she asked, her terse voice carefully polite.

I could see Nate's mouth tighten, a sign that he was about to snap out something rude or mean, so I quickly said, "I-I'm Danny. Danny Morino." I winced a bit as my voice quickly trailed off, nearly cracking at the end.

"Ah," was all she said. "I am Gwendoline Giovanni."

I sighed in relief as she turned back to Corey, a disapproving frown on her face, her attention no longer focused on me.

She suddenly reached out and grabbed a tuft of Corey's hair between her fingers, grimacing in distaste. "Aw, Corey, your hair's gotten so scruffy," she muttered. "And, good lord, look at those split ends. I'll set you up and appointment so you can go get it cut tomorrow."

Corey quickly hides the flash of hurt, nodding his head. "Yes, mother."

I felt a little sorry for him, but couldn't do anything, so I remained silent. Nate suddenly grabbed my arm and tugged me out of the room before his mom could notice. We headed up to his bedroom, and he firmly shut the door behind us, locking it.

I watched as he sighed, running his hand through his hair and kicking his shoes off. Feeling something in my chest twist, I walked up behind him and wrapped my arms around his waist, burying my face against his shoulders.

"Danny, what are you doing?" he muttered.

I shrugged, nuzzling his back. "I-I just..." I stopped, not really knowing what I was saying. "Your mom seems..."

"Cold? Controlling? Bitchy? Go on, you try."

When I remained silent, Nate loosened my arms, then turned around, staring down at me. His eyes were flat and unemotional, something that usually calmed me, but, right now it worried me.

"How long will she be here?" I asked.

"Dunno. Probably only a couple days. Then she'll be back to work and out of our lives for another two years."

I frowned, staring at the collar of his shirt in thought. Sighing, I closed my eyes and rested my forehead his chest, relaxing as I felt his arms finally wrap around me.

"Danny," he murmured, pressing his lips to the top of my head. "Don't freak out. She'll be gone before you know it."

I hummed, tilting my head up and locking eyes with Nate. He smirked, crushing his lips to mine.

"Don't forget to support Corey," I whispered against his lips.

"Don't ruin the moment, you little twit."

Chuckling, I reached up and tapped his nose. "Don't call me a twit."

"Fine," he said, smirking. "Brat."

Narrowing my eyes, I bared my teeth at him, digging my nails into his side. His eyes flickered, and he reached down and grabbed my hand, pulling it away from his side.

His other arm suddenly tightened around me, and I yelped as he picked me up, carrying me over to the couch. Dropping me onto it, he smirking down at me, winking.

"With my mom home, we'll be having dinner together at six in the dining room. Until then, we'll have to entertain ourselves," he said, giving me a suggestive look.

I sat up, looking at him with wide eyes. "Can we go bowling?"

He blinked at me, his smirk disappearing. "What? Bowling?"

"Yep," I said, nodding my head and giving him a big grin.

His eyes narrowed, and he gave me a dark look. Before I could react, he shoved me over and covered my body with his, pinning me down. Laughing, I wrapped my arms around the back of his neck and held him close as he bit my collarbone.

"How long do we have until dinner?" I asked quietly as he began working on the button of my jeans.

"A couple hours."

"Mmm, then we better make the best of them."


Nate made little work of our clothes, quickly stripping us so that nothing was between us, heated skin against skin. I giggled breathily as his fingers ghosted teasingly along my side, tickling me and making my muscles twitch. Pressing his mouth against the racing pulse in my neck, he slid his arms around my waist, yanking my hips closer to him as he kneeled over me.

"Danny," Nate muttered, his hand digging into my thigh as he slid it along my leg and up to my hipbone. "Want you."

Wrapping my legs around his waist, I tightened my arms around his neck, lifting myself up off the couch as I clung to Nate, hanging from his body, my lips searching for his mouth. "Want you, t-too," I managed to mutter, my heart hammering.

Nate went to adjust his position on the couch, but something went wrong, and I felt my stomach drop as Nate's knee suddenly slipped off the edge of the couch cushion, a single thought of 'oh shit!' flashing through my mind, before we crashed to the floor, tumbling in a mash of flailing legs and arms.

I felt my elbow begin to tingle as Nate groaned beneath me. I'd managed to land on him, using his body to cushion my fall. But, unfortunately, that means he took the brunt of it.

Quickly rolling off him, I sat up and looked back down at him worriedly, placing my hand cautiously on his chest. "A-are you okay? Nate?"

"Fuck," he wheezed, brushing my hand away and rubbing at his chest. "Elbow--"

I felt my eyes widen as I realized I must have elbowed him on our landing. "Oh, crap! Nate, I'm sorry!"

Rolling to my knees, I leaned over him, my hands hovering and my eyebrows furrowed. God, he wasn't gonna have a heart attack or something, was he? What if he couldn't breath? What if-what if he couldn't catch his breath, and-and then start to go into shock or something, and-and-I don't know CPR!

He suddenly sat up, pushing me out of the way. Grimacing, he rubbed his chest, taking slow, shallow breaths. Sitting back on my haunches, I began biting my lip, watching him with wide eyes.

After what seemed like hours, but must have been only a few seconds, he turned to me, raising a single eyebrow. "If that was simply your elbow, I'd hate to see what damage you could do with a punch," he said, his voice husky.

I stared at him in bewilderment, my terrified brain not quite comprehending what he was saying. "Wha-?"

Nate's lips twitched, and he reached out to ruffle my hair. As my brain finally caught up with what he said, I felt my fear turn into indignant anger.

"You-you idiot!" I accused, smacking his arm. "This is no time for jokes! What if-what if I-I-I broke one of your ribs or something? Or you had a heart attack?"

"You hit my solar plexus, Danny, not my heart. And, you're not that heavy. I doubt you would have broken my ribs."

I huffed, crossing my arms. "Still..." I muttered, trailing off as I stared down at the floor.

He chuckled lightly, then slowly laid back down, letting out a deep breath. Flicking his eyes towards me, he smirked, reaching out and placing his hand on one of my thighs.

"Kiss it and make it better?" he asked, his grin sending a shiver down my back.

Twitching, I uncrossed my arms, my anger quickly dissolving, though I still felt a little put off by his earlier words. Frowning, I rested one hand on his chest, feeling his heart beat beneath my palm. Spreading my fingers, I slid my hand along his chest and onto his shoulder farthest away from me, leaning my body over his.

Straddling his waist, I rested my other hand on his right shoulder, bending my elbows and staring into Nate's eyes, pouting. "Meanie," I muttered.

He smirked, trailing one of his fingers along my spine, making me shiver. "Not my fault you're so easy to rile up."

I growled, baring my teeth at him. Straightening, I sat down roughly on his stomach, snickering at his grunt. Laying back down, I turned my head and buried my face against Nate's neck, breathing in his scent. He began fiddling with my hair, absently tracing circles on my back.

"I'm still feeling horny, you know," he suddenly said conversationally, his fingers tightening in my hair to pull my head back so he could look me in the face.

I pursed my lips, raising one eyebrow. "Oh? How do you plan on fixing that?"

"I can think of a few ideas."

My eyes fluttered closed as he slipped his hand between us, showing me exactly what he had in mind.

"Good," I breathed, gasping as he squeezed me roughly. "Good ideas."

"Of course," he muttered as he quickly rolled us over, towering over me with a dangerous, teeth baring grin. "They were my ideas, after all."

"Insufferable egomaniac,-"

...was what I meant to say, but it came out more as a moan.

Still. I think he got the point.

Dinner was Awkward. So awkward, the word deserved to be capitalized. It mainly consisted of Nate's and Corey's mom asking them subtly probing questions about school and their lives, while also subtly putting them down.

I eyed Nate's hand, which was wrapped around a fork as he sat beside me. He was glaring down at his plate, his knuckles white as his grip tightened, and I could easily imagine how much he wanted to use the fork as a weapon on something.

Well, most likely someone.

"Nathanael, I don't approve of your driving that undignified motorized bike," his mother was saying, a disapproving frown on her face as she spoke, her attention on her plate as she speared some salad onto her fork. "It's dangerous, not to mention low class."

Nate's grip tightened for a fraction, then suddenly relaxed. He looked up at his mother with a small smile gracing his face, his head tilted a bit. "Yes, mother. Shall I get a helicopter instead? I'll have my own driver, not to mention, it's higher class."

Corey snickered from his side of the table opposite Nate. "If Nate gets a heli, then I want a rocket. I've always wanted to go to space," he added dreamily, his eyes unfocused.

I quickly wiped my grin away with my napkin as Mrs. Giovanni narrowed her eyes at Corey, then Nate, then back again, obviously not sure who to glare at. Corey winked at Nate when she looked away, throwing a smirk my way.

"Ridiculous," Mrs. Giovanni said primly, sitting straighter in her seat and giving off a disapproving vibe. "I'll hear nothing of the sort."

"You hear nothing unless it involves your scramble up the social ladder, or our attempts to sabotage you," Corey muttered darkly, gulping down the rest of his blood-red wine.

I swear, if looks could kill, Corey wouldn't just be dead, he'd be a smoldering pile of ash on the floor right now.

"Cornelius!" Mrs. Giovanni nearly shrieked.

Corey grimaced at the use of his full name, and I stared at him wide-eyed. I mean, his name is Cornelius? No wonder he goes by Corey. I mean, I have nothing against the name, it just doesn't fit Corey.

Nate snorted, catching his mother's attention. "What?" she snapped. "Do you have something to add?"

"You know he's right," Nate said, indicating Corey. "Social status and money are the only things that matter to you."

"Nathanael," Mrs. Giovanni said, her voice suddenly quiet and laden with something I couldn't detect, but caused both Nate and Corey to tense up and bow their heads submissively. "Silence."

I swallowed nervously, suddenly glad for the dim lighting of the room and the ease with which I was forgotten about. Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I remained quiet and still, hunched so I didn't attract any attention. Thankfully, Nate's body hid me from his mother, so she couldn't see me.

Flicking my eyes over to Nate, I felt my gut twist at his enraged expression, anger radiating from his every pore. He sneered down at the table, and I was filled with an overwhelming urge to reach out and hold him, to touch him, to just let him know I was still there, right beside him.

Searching with my foot beneath the table, I moved it around until I bumped against something. Feeling around, I discovered it was the leg of Nate's chair, so I continued exploring until I finally found Nate's shin.

His head twitched a bit towards me as I hooked my foot around his ankle, my leg in a bit of an uncomfortable position, but I quickly shoved the discomfort away as I saw Nate's expression become less severe. He blinked a few times, then let out a sharp breath, straightening back up in his seat.

"So, mother," Nate said pleasantly. "What brings you back home?"

Mrs. Giovanni cleared her throat, absently dabbing her lips with her napkin. "I've been hearing some interesting rumors."

I froze, my heart hammering. She-she didn't mean about me and Nate, did she? I-I-I mean, we haven't exactly been hiding our relationship. But, she couldn't have heard of it, could she? We've only really been hanging around Derek and Brianna, and they wouldn't be able to tell her. I took a deep breath, my mouth suddenly dry.

But, when I glanced at Nate's mom, she was staring at Corey. He was thin lipped and pale, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. I had a bad feeling I knew what rumors she was talking about.

"Are they true, Corey?" she asked, her voice quiet and deceptively pleasant.

He hesitated, his eyes flashing over me and Nate. "I-I.." he paused, then swallowed, managing to give his mother a level look. "Depends on what the rumors say. You know how most rumors are false."

"These rumors involve a girl," Mrs. Giovanni said, giving Corey a digging look. "That's one of the reasons I'm hard pressed to believe them."

Nate snickered, and Corey looked like he wanted to chuck his plate at Nate, but held himself back.

"What-" Corey started, but his voice suddenly broke, so he cleared his throat and started again. "What are the rumors?"

"That you knocked up a girl," Mrs. Giovanni said frankly, her lip curling in distaste.

Corey paled, frowning down at his plate. Poking at some of the chicken on his plate with his fork, he sighed, running his hand through his hair. "Mom-"

"Is it true?" she interrupted him sharply.

Biting his lip, Corey paused, then reluctantly gave a small nod, flicking his eyes up to watch her reaction. "Yes."

Mrs. Giovanni's own lipstick-covered lips thinned as she gave him a disapproving look. Making a disgusted noise, she shook her head, leaning back in her seat.

"I knew something like this would happen one day," she said with a sigh. "Honestly, though, I'd thought you would contract some sort of disease or something. At least this is more manageable."

Corey made a choked sound, cringing like he just got punched. "Man-manageable-" he spat out, then suddenly stood so fast his chair fell to the floor with a crash. "This is not something to be managed. A baby is not managed! A baby is-is coddled a-and loved! Told by their parents how proud they are! A child is to be raised by their parents, given attention, not hoisted onto someone else!"

Panting and red-faced, Corey growled at his mother, glaring. "I," he said, jabbing a thumb against his chest, "I will be a good parent. A great parent! And when my child grows up and they have a problem, I will be there for them. The problem won't be managed, it will be fixed. And I will help the child, and be there for them, and love them."

"Something you've never done," Nate added quietly, staring at his mother.

Startled, Mrs. Giovanni stared at Corey, her lips parted in surprise. "Corey-"

Turning on his heel, Corey stormed out of the room, the doors slamming shut behind him as he left the dining room. Mrs. Giovanni stood as if to go after him, but paused, glancing back at Nate.

"Nate," she said quietly. "Is this true? Is this how you two see me and your father? A failure as parents?"

Very carefully, Nate folded up his napkin and placed it on the table. Standing, he softly grabbed my arm and urged me to my feet. Without a word, he turned and tugged me after him as he made his way out of the dining room in the same path Corey had taken a few seconds ago.

We made our way upstairs, but, instead of heading to his room, we passed Nate's door and continued on down the hallway. Turning a corner, we walked down another short hallway, then stopped at a door. Without knocking, Nate opened the door and walked in, leaving me standing in the doorway, hesitant.

This was obviously Corey's bedroom. I stared wide-eyed as I took a small step in, my eyes roaming around the room.

Teddy bears of all shapes, sizes and colors littered the room, perched on shelves, in the corners, a few hanging from the ceiling, and covering the bed. The walls were painted a light blue, while the floor was white carpet, and white modern-looking furniture were set up in the sitting area diagonal to the big canopied bed dominating one wall of his room.

Corey was curled up on a window seat on the opposite side of the room, his head turned away and facing outside. He was hugging a little brown teddy bear to his chest, his body slumped and his shoulders drooping.

Nate began moving around the room, picking up random teddy bears from the shelves, floor and bed. Corey finally turned his head to dully watch Nate, who managed to collect and armful of the stuffed bears, before he descended on Corey. Dumping all the bears he had collected on and around Corey, he practically buried Corey beneath the mountain of stuffed animals.

"I suggest you avoid our dear mother for the rest of her stay here," Nate said to Corey.

Nodding, Corey wrapped his arms around all the bears he could reach, then buried his face against their soft furs. "Thanks, Nate," he said softly, his voice muffled and hollow.

Nate made a dismissive noise, then turned and headed back towards me. We made our way back to his bedroom, shutting and locking the door behind us.

Sighing, Nate walked over to his TV and flicked it on, then flopped onto the couch, completely ignoring me. Biting my lip, I took a few cautious steps toward him, then paused, wondering if he simply wanted to be alone. I watched as he roughly ran his fingers through his hair, leaving it in disarray.

Ah, screw it.

Exhaling, I walked over and leaned over the back of the couch, staring at Nate. He flicked his eyes towards me, but made no moves. Frowning, I crawled over the back of the couch and landed in a heap in Nate's lap. He gave a small grunt, wrapping his arms tightly around me as I finally got settled.

Sighing, I sat sideways in Nate's lap, resting my head against his chest and listening to his steady heart beat.

"Are you okay?" I asked after a while.

"Fine," Nate replied shortly.

Figuring that was all I was gonna get out of Nate, I snuggled closer to him, letting him know silently I was there for him as he had been for all the times I'd needed him.

With the TV as background noise and Nate's heartbeat lulling me into a light doze, I thought of all the time I've spent with Nate. He's such a cold person, but...not always. I mean, yeah, occasionally he'll snap at me, Derek or Brianna whenever he's in a bad mood, and, yeah, he can be mean when he wants to be. But...he's not intentionally mean. He's mean to get what he wants done without any hassle. He's spoiled and selfish, but he has a hidden soft side, though it rarely shows.

His mom, though...

She seems like one of those mean bitchy mothers on reality TV shows or dramas who everyone hates and who bullies others. She was really mean to Corey and Nate during dinner. It's no wonder the boys turned out the way they did. Although, I'm really glad Nate's not a lying, cheating, soulless bastard like most rich kids are. I mean, he can be a bit of a pervert, and he does lie, and, yeah, sometimes he'll cheat at games, but...

But, when it counts, he's there. Like what he did with Corey earlier. Nate's not all comforting and caring, but he at least tried, in his own way. Covering Corey with all those teddy bears - something Corey really cares about - is probably the extent of Nate's comforting ability, but it was still an effort.

I thought of all the times Nate's comforted and been there for me. He's strong where I'm weak, but he doesn't bully me to get what he wants (usually). He'll throw a bit of a fit sometimes, yeah, but he'll calm down after a while.

Nate suddenly groaned, dragging me out of my thoughts. Wrapping his arms tighter around me, he dragged me down with him as he fell to his side, laying us down on the couch. I straightened my legs and stretched them as I laid on my back, turning my head towards Nate and staring into his black eyes.

I felt his breath ghost across my face as I closed my eyes, leaning my forehead against his.

"You're a crazy little bastard, you know that?" Nate suddenly said quietly.

I opened one eye and stared at him, my eyebrow raising in disbelief. "What?"

Instead of answering me, he simply chuckled, closing his eyes. Frowning, I reached up and poked his cheek.

"What does that mean?" I demanded, still poking him.

He snatched my wrist, stopping my finger's movement. Growling, I tugged on my wrist, and nearly ended up smacking myself in the face as he suddenly let go.


He finally opened his eyes, staring at me with a bemused expression. "I'm surprised you're still here."

I felt a sharp pang in my chest at his words. What, does-does that mean he wants me to go? Should-should I leave? Does he expect me to leave?

But, I don't want to!

Confused and a little hurt, I went to sit up, but Nate quickly yanked me back down.

"I didn't mean it like that," Nate quickly said. "I just thought you would have been running for the hills."

"Why?" I asked him softly. "I-I wouldn't leave you."

I knew my cheeks were burning at the words, but I couldn't help it. It's true. I would never leave Nate. It's a little scary how much I need him, but, at the same time, it's so relaxing to have him. He's like my safe haven.

"My mother was actually well-behaved during dinner, most likely because you were there," Nate was saying, grabbing my attention. "But she was still being a real bitch. I figured you'd want to get as far away from her as possible. God knows I want to," he added as an afterthought.

I licked my lips, feeling a tingle in my gut as Nate's eyes followed the movement.

"I-I'm scared of your mom," I confessed quietly. "But, you're here. You'll protect me, won't you, Nate?"

Nate frowned, reaching up and running his fingers along my cheek. "You're too trusting."

I shrugged, closing my eyes and tilting my head, leaning into his touch. "It's your fault."

"Oh, it is, is it?" Nate asked, his voice amused.

I grinned, nodding my head as his hand began trailing down my throat, playing a silent tune against my skin with his fingers. "You let me be this way," I whispered.

His fingers suddenly wrapped around my neck, his thumb resting on my pulse. "I could choke you right now, and no one would hear."

Snickering, I looked at him, letting a smile curve my lips upwards. "You could," I agreed docilely.

He scoffed, slipping his fingers from my neck to rest on my chest. "Like I said. Too trusting."

Only for Nate. If anyone else did that, I'd have been in a panic. But, I trusted Nate. Everybody needs someone in their life they can completely and utterly trust, and Nate is my someone. I know it's probably not healthy, or completely sane, but, then against, I am not completely healthy or sane. After all, placing all your trust in one person can be potentially devastating.


But, I have no one else. My family's dead, my uncle...he-he's not real family. Derek and Brianna are just friends. Nate's all I've got. And, I love him.

I've lived my life knowing that the next beating, the next punch, could be the last. Everyday was dark and filled with pain. I was hollow and alone.

Nate's made me feel whole again. He gives me confidence. I feel good - no, great - around him. He earned my trust. I want to trust him.

Besides, it's not like I have much to live for anyways.

"Hey," Nate whispered against my ear, his breath tickling me. "Let's skip school tomorrow. Make it a three day weekend. We'll go somewhere, do something."

"We should bring Corey along."

I could feel Nate's frown beside me, so I pressed my lips to his to stop any argument. He growled, knowing I was shutting him up, but he didn't bother to pull back.

Reaching up and burying my fingers in his hair, I turned my body towards Nate, resting on my side and arching against him. He slid his hand to my lower back, pulling me closer as he swiped his tongue across my bottom lip.

"No Corey," he muttered against my lips, sliding his hand beneath my shirt.

I managed to separate my mouth and turn my head, but Nate simply attacked my neck with his teeth and tongue, trying to distract me.

"He-he should come," I gasped out, twisting Nate's shirt in my hand as I tilted my head back. "He'll be alone o-otherwise."

Nate rolled us over so I was trapped beneath him, his weight pinning me down as he stared down into my face with narrowed eyes. "What do you care about him?"

I shrugged, feeling uncomfortable beneath his glare. "I-I just know what it's like to be alone like that," I said softly. "With nothing but thoughts of failure running through your mind."

Nate was silent a moment, his eyes searching mine. "You're not just talking about Corey, are you."

Squeezing my eyes shut, I shook my head, trying to push memories away.

Sighing, Nate let his head drop to rest on my shoulder. "You're going to regret it," he said conversationally. "Corey's gonna drive you nuts."

"I can handle it," I said confidently.

He scoffed, nibbling my collar bone. "Whatever."

I grinned, knowing I had won.