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What you need, p.35
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       What You Need, p.35

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James

  It was exciting.

  It was life-changing.

  But since Brady was the ultimate boyfriend, that meant he was always two steps ahead of me. Due to his newfound spontaneity, I was having a harder time coming up with a way to surprise him because he always thought of something way cooler first.

  To mark our “anniversary,” Brady had taken me back to the Lund cabin in the North Woods. In addition to forcing me to learn how to snowshoe, he’d taken me ice fishing. Then we’d attended the local Winter Festival, complete with ice-carving and snowman-making contests, an “ice wine” tasting and ending with a dance beneath the starry winter sky. The night had been magical even before we’d returned to the cabin, and he made slow, sweet, passionate love to me in front of a roaring fire. He’d even earned points for moving the bearskin rug out of the way beforehand.

  As we’d returned to the Cities this afternoon, I suggested we visit his parents. Since the Vikings hadn’t made the playoffs, we hadn’t been spending every Sunday with his family—not that I minded hanging out with the Lunds because they were the most loving and welcoming people I’d ever been around—and I suspected Brady missed that family time. Once Selka had us in her sights, she whipped up a batch of her famous Swedish hot chocolate—who knew that vodka and chocolate mixed together would be so tasty? Then Walker, Annika and Jensen showed up, and we stayed longer than we’d planned.

  At first I worried it’d be awkward working for Annika when I was involved with her brother, but so far we’d hadn’t encountered any issues. I loved my new job. It challenged me, and Brady had to pry me away from my desk most nights instead of the other way around.

  After we left the Lund stronghold, I asked Brady to drop me off at my house. He’d ignored me and driven straight to his place, hence his eagerness to get me into his bed.

  I could admit I had gotten used to waking up with him. I’d gotten used to us inhabiting the same space when the workday ended and when the weekend began. Since I’d made such a big deal about taking things slowly, now I was having a devil of a time figuring out how to tell him I was ready to speed things up.

  Two raps sounded on the door, and I jumped.

  “Lennox? Baby, you all right? You’ve been in there a while.”

  “I’ve been in here two minutes, horndog.”

  He howled on the other side of the door.

  Crazy man. “I’ll be right there.”

  “Hurry. I miss you.”

  His sweetness killed me. Would I ever get used to the way he loved me with everything he had?

  No. But now that I knew that type of forever love existed, I’d never take it for granted. I’d do everything to give that same heady feeling back to him every chance I had.

  So quit stalling.

  I dug out the shirt I’d stashed beneath the stack of towels. I debated whether to put it on. Would Brady think it was weird? Or stupid?

  Only one way to find out.

  I slipped the polo shirt on over my head, smoothed my flyaway hair and exited the bathroom.

  Brady sat on the edge of the bed. When he saw me, his gaze skimmed over my bare legs and the boy-short panties to focus on the shirt I wore. “Where did you get that shirt?”

  “I . . . uh . . . stole it from your closet two weeks ago when you were downstairs working out.”

  “What did you do to it?”

  “Personalized it.”


  “Last Saturday at the LCCO Outreach Center, when you were in Detroit. The craft that day was embellishing a shirt. I’m not the arty type, so I put my own spin on it.”

  “Want to explain why you put your spin on my shirt?” He eyed the glued-on decals warily. “Do you expect me to wear that?”

  “No! This is mine.” My next words came out in a rush. “Look, everyone in your family is always wearing Lund jerseys for various sports and LCCO shirts for charities, and LI shirts for corporate events, which is great and all. But I wanted you to know I’m the leader of the special team called ‘Team Brady.’” I waited for him to smile at my football reference. When he didn’t, I carried on.

  “So I made my own version of a jersey and ironed on all these decals to represent you.” I was particularly proud of the pi symbol I’d found, so I started there. “You’re a numbers guy, so this is part of you. You’re educated, so I added three diplomas. You have killer moves on the dance floor, so I found this one”—I pointed to a decal of a couple dancing—“although I couldn’t find a tango image specifically. Since through your work at LCCO you’ve recently discovered you’re a great teacher”—I smoothed my hand over the stack of books and the calculator below my left breast—“this also shows who you are now. I didn’t have luck finding decals for cross-country skiing, but I did find this”—I spun around to show him the line of stick figures on my back—“to represent what a connected brother, son and cousin you are.” I smirked at him over my shoulder. “The other thing you do so well would require pornographic stickers, so I skipped that one.” He hadn’t said anything, so I kept going. “The car represents your hobby of collecting cars—again, trying to find a Maybach decal was impossible.” I pointed to the motorcycle at the small of my back. “A Harley, for when you’re a badass biker dude in a few months.” I spun around. “The heart because you’re the most loving man I’ve ever met. The tattoo is for your boldness. The open hand is for your kindness.” I paused.

  He hadn’t uttered a word.

  “Say something.”

  “Why aren’t the initials ‘CFO’ on the back of the shirt, below my name like numbers on an athletic jersey?” he demanded.

  “Because this isn’t about sports. You were convinced you were one-dimensional. This proves you’re not. It’s to show you that you’re so much more than one thing. I’ve also left blank spaces for you to add new things that define you. And no matter what you choose to do in the future, I’ll be right there with you.”

  Then he was off the bed and in front of me.

  “You hate it, don’t you?”

  “No. I love it.” Brady’s hands framed my face, his eyes fierce. “I love you, Lennox. I’m just . . .” His eyes searched mine. “You really see all that when you look at me, don’t you?”


  He crushed me against his chest.

  I held on.

  “I know the next thing I want you to add on this personalized ‘Team Brady’ jersey,” he murmured in my ear.

  “What’s that?”

  “A key.”

  I leaned back and looked into his eyes, my heart racing. “What’s the key symbolize?”

  “This one is literal.” Brady grinned and kissed my nose. “Move in with me, Lennox. I could point out that you’re here most nights anyway, but the truth is you belong here with me. Let’s make it official.”

  A thrill shot through me. “You’re sure?”

  “Never been more certain of anything in my life.”

  The love, hope and excitement I saw shining in his eyes quelled the last of my doubts.

  “All right. But we’ve gotta set up some rules . . . Eep!” I found myself in the middle of the bed with my new roomie on top of me. “Brady!”

  “You look damn good in that ‘Team Brady’ jersey, but it’ll look way better on the floor.”

  Turns out, he was right about that.

  Once he’d unleashed the wild man inside him, there was no putting him back in the cage.

  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Because no matter what anyone else called him—CFO, genius, shark, dork or beast—I could call him the only thing that mattered.


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