Dylan pulled into the driveway of the home in which he spent his latter teen years, parking next to his sister’s car and sending Lana a text that he would be over in a few hours or so. His parents were hosting a barbecue, and his mother had begged him to come. He had seen everyone at his brother’s wedding the month before, but it had been a while since they had all gotten together just to relax and enjoy each other’s company. He grabbed a beer out of the fridge, joining everyone on the covered patio while the chicken and steaks cooked on the grill.
“When do we get to see our granddaughter again?” His mom Ada questioned with a smirk.
“I’ll bring her down next time,” he sighed. “Mari’s grandfather passed away and she was in Arizona for about a week while I kept Nat, so she wants to keep her for her designated time. She wants to make sure she keeps getting that child support check,” he joked, and everyone laughed. “Besides, I’m staying local for the weekend,” he took a deep breath as he prepared to share the news. “I’ve been seeing someone.” He took a swig of his beer and everyone exchanged smiles.
“Sweetheart, that’s great,” his mom grinned as she reached over and squeezed his shoulder and he smiled. “Tell us about her, what’s she like?”
“Her name is Lana and she lives out by the La Jolla coves. She’s really great, actually. She makes a good living with her photography, she’s very outgoing, and Nat likes her,” he smirked, and his mom gasped with another grin.
“Nat met her?!” She exclaimed excitedly.
“Yeah, last weekend,” he nodded. “They got along well, and Lana was really good with her. It was only over dinner and while we walked down at the beach, but it was enough for a first meeting.”
“Is she hot?” His brother smirked.
“James!” His new sister-in-law Brooke scolded, playfully slapping his arm.
“Oh, yeah,” Dylan laughed. “She’s smokin’,” he added, making even his mom and sisters laugh.
“When do we get to meet her?” His dad Greg smiled. “You should invite her over for dinner before you go back home.”
“I’ll talk to her about it. I’ll probably stick around until Tuesday or so. Maybe we can get together before then.”
“Yay, I can’t wait,” Heather, the oldest of his two sisters smiled.
“This is exciting, Dyl,” his youngest sister Megan added. “I hope it all works out for you, you deserve to be happy.”
“Thanks,” he picked at the label on his bottle. “Hopefully things keep going in a good direction.”
He spent the next few hours with his family before finally heading over to Lana’s. He knocked on the door, only waiting a few seconds before he heard her unlocking the deadbolt and opening the door. Her hair was pulled back in a messy lump on top of her head, sweaty and frizzed, and she wore no makeup with gym shorts and a ratty tank top. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw him, and he smiled as he stepped inside.
“Oh, god. I’m such a mess! I didn’t expect you until a little later, I was cleaning,” she laughed. “Give me 20 minutes to shower and get changed.”
“It’s fine,” he smiled, leaning in for a kiss. “I didn’t text you or anything to let you know I was on my way. Finish up what you’re doing, I’ll sit outside” he nodded to the balcony. “I have to work on re-reading and re-editing my manuscript anyway.”
“Are you sure?” She smiled weakly. “I don’t want you to feel put out.”
“Positive. I don’t feel put out at all,” he assured her as he walked past her to take his duffel bag into the bedroom. “Besides,” he playfully slapped her butt, “you look pretty hot just like you are now.”
“Well, I’m glad you still find me attractive when I’m all sweaty and gross, and I smell like an armpit,” she joked as she headed back towards the kitchen. Dylan rolled his eyes before grabbing his book and heading outside.
Lana finished up cleaning before getting a hot shower and then coming out to start dinner. It was just about six in the evening, and she hadn’t eaten since a bit before noon. She started with the Mexican rice and then pulled out the sliced carne asada meat that had been marinating since the night before, throwing it in the cast iron skillet as she pulled out all of the ingredients necessary for a good taco. She pulled out her slaw with an avocado-lime dressing that she had prepared the night before and finished by making fresh margaritas.
She carried the margaritas out to the small table on the balcony, and Dylan sat his manuscript to the side. She placed them on the table, leaning down to kiss him softly before going back in to get the plates. They exchanged smiles as she brought them out and he stood up to close the sliding screen door behind her. His stomach rumbled at the sight of the food in front of him and he reached for his drink.
“I didn’t even realize I was hungry, but this looks incredible,” he grinned.
“The recipe for the tacos and marinade are my dad’s, I made the sauce for the slaw through trial and error,” she explained as she picked up a nearly overflowing tortilla. “I’m no professional chef, but I didn’t do too bad if I say so, myself.”
“It’s delicious,” he mumbled, his mouth already full of food. Lana laughed softly.
“I’m glad,” she replied before biting into her own.
The pair sat on the balcony and watched the sunset as they enjoyed each other’s company and another round of margaritas. It was getting late when they finally went in, and Lana slipped into a black, satin nightie while Dylan got a shower. She climbed under the covers, thinking she would close her eyes for just a minute while she waited. When a boxer-brief clad Dylan came back into the bedroom she was fast asleep.
He pulled the covers back and slipped in, brushing his lips against her forehead which caused her to subconsciously snuggle against his warmth. He slipped an arm around her waist, letting his eyes finally rest, heavy from the long drive down earlier that day. He thought about what his daughter had said to him the night that the girls met each other. Could he really already love the woman in his arms? Maybe it was possible, but he wasn’t ready to say it out loud. Although he had come to peace with everything he had gone through growing up, even at the age of 31 he still struggled with getting close to others. Every time he bonded with someone throughout his formative years, he learned they could be ripped away in an instant. He pushed the thoughts aside, tightening his arms around Lana before falling into an unsettled sleep.
The early morning glow of the sun was just starting to be visible in the sky when Lana woke up to use the bathroom. When she returned back to bed, Dylan was sleeping on his back with one arm across his stomach and the other at his side, the sheet pulled down to his hips. Lana smiled as she slipped into bed with one goal in mind. She must have had a dirty dream, because when she woke up she was so turned on that her thin, satin thong was soaked through. She slipped the undergarment off and tossed it to the side before lying on her side, placing her hand on his lower stomach and lightly moving it south. She carefully slipped her hand into the front of his boxer-briefs and grasped his manhood, brushing her thumb back and forth over the tip. He started to get hard, slowly stirring awake with an initial confusion. When he woke up enough to realize what was going on, he looked over at Lana and she flashed a naughty smirk.
Dylan lifted his arm and rested it behind his head as Lana moved up against him, pressing her lips to his. She leaned down, licking his nipple and slowly sucking on it as she continued to stroke him. She kissed a trail down his chest before hooking her fingers into the sides of his boxer-briefs and he lifted his hips as she pushed them down his thighs and tugged them over his feet. She knelt between his legs, leaning up to kiss him once more before dipping her head down and taking him into her mouth. His head fell back, and he closed his eyes, tangling his free hand in her hair.
“Fuck, Baby,” he moaned, his eyes rolling back into his head.
She worked him slowly until he was fully engorged, and she couldn’t wait any longer to have him inside of her. She straddled his hips, rubbing her moist heat back and forth to coat him in her fluids. She lifted herself just enough to reach down and position him, closing her eyes and letting out one of the sexiest noises Dylan had ever heard as she sheathed him. She gave herself a second to adjust before unhurriedly moving her hips, wanting to take it nice and slow. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, tasting the skin of her neck and collar bone as he reached up and slipped the thin straps of her negligee over her shoulders, one at a time. He exposed her breasts and wasted no time devouring her already erect nipples. Lana cried out as the new sensations sent a flood of heat to her already swollen parts. She rode him for a bit longer before he held her tightly with his arm around her waist and flipped them over.
His lips crashed down onto hers greedily as he hooked one of her legs over his arm and placed his hand on the bed, allowing him to take her deeper. She moaned loudly at the new sensation as he did the same with her other leg, essentially pinning her in position. Her body writhed underneath of his in pleasure-overload and he watched her face as she built up to the brink. His name escaped her lips in the form of a moan as she went over the edge, and he drove into her even harder, quickly joining her in ecstasy. As they started to come down, he collapsed on top of her, resting his arms by her sides as he slowly moved his hips until they were both completely spent. They shared a few lazy, passionate kisses before he slipped out of her, moving down a bit as he rested his head on her shoulder and they both caught their breaths. She gently stroked her fingers through his hair as they both quickly drifted off into a comfortable sleep.
The next few days had passed by too quickly for Lana’s liking, but after bidding farewell to her new beau once again she got busy preparing for one of her erotic shoots. In the days leading up to her shoots, she kept in close contact with the couple for two different reasons. First, she wanted to try to ease any nerves they may have about being in front of the camera, and second, to make sure they weren’t going to back out at the last minute. She had a process that she fully explained to the couples she photographed, and she was very open with them from start to end.
She headed to the couple’s home later in the day, the day after Dylan left. She was dressed in black yoga capris and a black tank top, and she had her camera that wasn’t quite silent, but was much quieter than most. She also had her “bag of props” in the back seat, which were items she used to set the mood. When she reached the couple’s home, she instructed them to go about their evening anywhere but in the bedroom while she set up.
She was pleased to see that they had put the clean, white sheets on the bed as she had requested, and she immediately got started setting up the rest of the room. She strategically placed candles, rose petals, two glasses, and a bottle of champagne on ice around the room. She moved any items that would potentially take away from her shots, and finally finished setting the mood by dimming the lights and putting on her “sound track” that included a compilation of songs about sex and slow, romantic jazz music.
Lana sent a text to both of them stating that she was ready, just to act natural, and they would barely notice her. She tucked her feet under her, sitting in the corner, out of the way where they would hopefully not focus on her when they came in. She only waited a few minutes before they came into the room and spotted the bottle of champagne and glasses on the nightstand. They popped the cork, each downed a glass, refilled and sat the glasses to the side before focusing on each other. It only took them about ten minutes to forget that Lana was in the room as she stealthily moved around the outskirts of the room, trying to stay out of their lines of sight. After they had passionately made love to each other and were lying side by side and dozing off, Lana quietly grabbed her iPod from their dock and packed up her bag, quietly slipping out barely noticed.
When she got out to her car, she found a single rose lying on the window. She immediately froze, cautiously looking around her to make sure there was no one else there. She purposely put her bags in the trunk of the car, so she could make sure that there was no one there or in her back seat. She quickly climbed in and headed home, constantly looking at her surroundings and in the rear-view mirror to make sure no one was following her. She made it from the parking garage into her condo without issue, but when she got inside she screamed and ran down the hall to the neighbor’s and promptly called 911.
The police were there within minutes, and Lana agreed to walk into the condo with them, so she could tell them if anything was out of place. They escorted her back to her front door and her eyes filled with a fresh batch of tears as she saw it again. There were chopped up roses thrown all over her living room, but the most disturbing part was what was spray painted on the wall.
IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU
HE CAN’T EITHER
One of the detectives that had come along with the many uniformed officers caught her as her knees buckled. He asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this and she nodded, taking a deep breath and trying to pull herself together. He kept his arm protectively around her shoulders as they continued through her home. Once they made it back to the living area, she told them that she hadn’t immediately noticed anything else wrong. They advised her to call someone for support and to find somewhere else to stay until they found Nathan, as he had been MIA since the incident at the hotel the week before.
She didn’t want to get her family involved, and she knew that Dylan was with his daughter and didn’t want to upset him, so she called Katie. Katie and Mark showed up within 20 minutes, sitting with her through the rest of the interview with the detectives before helping her pack a couple of bags and having her come back home with them. Katie drove her car since she was so shaken up, and Mark followed close behind them. Once they reached their house, they set Lana up in their spare bedroom, and she took a hot shower before picking up her phone and calling Dylan. She didn’t want to upset him, but she knew that if she didn’t tell him, Mark would. The phone rang twice before he picked up, speaking softly.
“Hey, beautiful,” he greeted. She immediately burst into tears at the sound of his voice. “Lana? What’s wrong?! What happened?!” He started to panic, and she cried harder. “Come on, baby. I need you to tell me what happened!”
“He was in my house,” she got out between sobs.
“What?” He nearly growled.
Lana tried her best to explain to him what had happened, how she had found the rose on the window of her car at the house and then what she saw when she got home. She told him that he hadn’t shown up to work or been able to be located at all since the night at the hotel. After begging and pleading with her, she finally agreed to go to his place the following morning. He had his daughter for the next couple of days yet, but he assured her that he would explain to her that something had happened in her building and she couldn’t stay there for a few days. He stayed on the phone with her for over an hour, until the adrenaline rush started to die down, and the fatigue swept over her.
Once he was off the phone with her, he called Mark to see if he could take her back home the following day to grab whatever else she might need. Mark assured him that he wouldn’t let her out of his sight until she was safely in her car and headed for Venice Beach. After hanging up with Mark, he couldn’t rest. He was worried for her safety, and he had to come up with the story to tell his daughter to explain why Lana was coming up to stay for a few days. He had never had a woman stay the night when Natalia was with him before, but he wouldn’t know she was truly safe until he had her there with him.
He had fallen asleep on the sofa at some point during the night, and he woke up as Natalia turned on the TV in the living room the next morning. He rubbed his hands over his face, slowly sitting up and getting his bearings. He maybe slept a total of 3 hours throughout the night, and it had been a light sleep that wasn’t very restful. He made a quick trip to the bathroom and started the coffee maker before going back to sit on the sofa again. He asked Natalia to come sit next to him, and he turned to face her, taking a deep breath and quickly running the story through his head before he started talking.
“Lana’s coming over today,” he started, and she gave him a small smile. “You know this isn’t something that I would normally do, but I’m going to have her stay with us for a few days if you’re okay with it.”
“Why?” She asked curiously.
“There was a bad break in at her building, and they haven’t found the person yet. She went to one of our friend’s houses last night, but they both work full-time and she’s pretty shaken up. She needs to be somewhere she feels safe right now,” he tried to explain. “I’m sorry if this seems like it’s going to fast for you, Honey. I just feel like I need to help her, and I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want you to leave by any means, but I’ll understand if you would rather go back to Mom’s.”
“I’d rather stay here,” she defended. “I’m okay with her being here, Dad.”
“Alright, good,” he sighed. “If you get uncomfortable with the situation, I want you to tell me and I’ll figure something else out.”
“It will be fine,” she shrugged. “I’m not a little kid, anymore. I can handle you dating someone. She makes you happy, and I want you to be happy. It was inevitable that this would happen sometime anyway. I think it’s good you want to help her.”
“Jesus,” he smirked. “When did you get so grown up? What happened to Barbies and wanting a pony?”
“Well, Barbies are stupid, but I’ll still take a pony,” her eyes lit up.
“I’m banking on it not happening, but we can leave it on the table for a few more years,” he joked, and she rolled her eyes.
Meanwhile, Lana had gone back home to get her laptop and anything she would need to edit the photos she had taken the night before. She wasn’t sure how long she would be staying at Dylan’s, so she also grabbed a professional outfit since she had to meet with the magazine to discuss her photographs she had been working on for them over the past couple of months. She took another quick look through her closet and drawers, making sure she had anything else she might need. Once she had everything, Mark walked her back down to her car and followed her out of the parking garage and until she took the I-5 North freeway entrance.
Lana still stayed on guard throughout the drive. Any vehicle that seemed like they were creeping up on her was on her radar. She was so stressed and exhausted by the time she reached Venice Beach, she wanted to just curl up somewhere and hide. She pulled into Dylan’s driveway just as the third garage door opened, and he waved for her to pull in. She shut off the engine and he closed the garage door, opening up her car door for her and immediately pulling her into a hug when she stood up out of the car. He felt the dampness of her tears against his neck and he tightened his arms around her as he pressed his lips to her forehead and held her close.
“It’s okay. I got you, you’re safe,” he whispered, and she let out a small sob. “Everything’s going to be alright,” he tried to reassure her, and she scoffed.
“That won’t happen until they lock him up and throw away the key.” She pulled back, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her light sweatshirt and looking up at him. “If you want out, just say the words. I’ll understand.” Her lip quivered, and he pulled her back into his arms.
“I could never back out, now. I care about you too much,” he said honestly. “Promise me that you’ll stop seeing that as an option.”
Lana didn’t reply, just hugged him tighter as she tried to pull herself together. She hadn’t put on any makeup except for her foundation, and she knew her eyes would be red and bloodshot. Dylan explained to her the story that he had told Natalia, and she agreed to go along with it. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, and he only left out the details because he didn’t want Natalia to get upset and worry. He’d shoot the motherfucker before he’d ever let him lay a hand on either of his girls while they were on his watch.
Once Lana pulled herself together and calmed down, Dylan helped her carry her bags up to his bedroom. She was thankful that Natalia had stayed out by the pool the entire time, she looked like hell and it was apparent she had been doing a lot of crying. Despite agreeing to stay with Dylan, she didn’t want anything to have a negative effect on his daughter. She had never dated anyone before that had a child, and most of her friends’ children were younger. She knew, however, that if she and Dylan had any type of long-term commitment, she needed to figure out the part she was going to play in Natalia’s life. As of right now, she had no idea what that was.
A few hours later, Dylan found Lana sleeping comfortably in his king size bed. He saw that she had the book he had sent her marked towards the end and smiled. He was happy to see that she was actually taking an interest in it. He sat on the edge of the bed and lightly rubbed his hand up and down her back as her eyes fluttered open. She moved onto her back and looked up at him with a sleepy smile, and he leaned down and lightly brushed his lips against hers.
“Hungry?” He rested his hand on her thigh. “Nat wants pizza, so if you’re on board I was going to get delivery.”
“Carbs and cheese always make a shitty day go better,” she joked, and they shared a laugh. “I’m game.”
“Good, I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that. Once you’re ready you should come downstairs. She’s harmless, I promise.”
“Okay,” she nodded with a smirk.
They shared a brief kiss before he stood and headed out of the bedroom. Lana stretched before sitting on the edge of the bed to gain her bearings, and then headed for the bathroom. She splashed some cool water on her face and patted it dry before joining them downstairs. Natalia greeted her with a small smile when she stepped into the living room. The three of them sat and talked for a bit while they waited for the pizza, and then decided on a movie to watch while they ate.
Once the movie was over, Lana helped Dylan clean up their mess before he went upstairs to take a shower. She made a quick trip to the downstairs bathroom and smiled when she came back into the kitchen and found Natalia building a giant ice cream sundae. She sat down at the island and watched her build the concoction, exchanging glances with her which made her laugh. Natalia had used up what was left in the ice cream carton, added some chocolate syrup and sprinkles, and finished her masterpiece by putting some whipped cream and cherries on top.
“Are you going to rat me out to my dad about this?” Natalia questioned softly.
“Not as long as you share,” Lana smirked.
Natalia grabbed two spoons out of the drawer before rounding the island and sitting down next to Lana. Lana let her take the first bite, laughing as Natalia closed her eyes and let out a little moan of happiness as the sugary concoction slid down her throat. The girls sat and talked, and Lana asked her about how she liked playing the violin. Natalia’s face lit up as she told her about playing in the concert for school and how they were supposed to travel to Disney World in Florida during the upcoming school year. She also elaborated on how she wanted to travel the world when she was older and how she was trying to convince her dad to take her to London when he released his book and traveled for his book tour. Once they finished the sundae (Natalia having three bites for every one of Lana’s), Lana took the bowl and rinsed it out in the sink before putting it in the dishwasher and putting all of the sundae ingredients back where they belonged.
“We have to hide the evidence,” she smiled at Natalia.
“Good point,” she smiled back. Lana sat down next to her again with a sigh.
“Are you sure you’re okay with me staying for a night or two? I know it’s probably weird, but I don’t want to be overbearing either,” she looked down at her hands as she picked her nails.
“I’m okay with it,” she nodded. “I can tell Dad really likes you, and I want him to be happy.”
“That’s a very grown-up answer,” Lana placed her hand on Natalia’s arm with a smile. “You know, your dad loves you very much, and he would do anything for you. He talks about you all of the time.”
“He should,” Natalia smirked, and Lana laughed with a brief pause.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I know you guys are really close and I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m trying to get in the way of that. I appreciate you being understanding of what’s going on and letting me stay here with you guys, and if things keep working out between your dad and I, I’m looking forward to spending time with both of you.”
“Me, too,” she replied softly with a smile.
Lana gave Natalia’s arm a gentle squeeze before Dylan walked into the kitchen and they both turned to look at him. He looked at them questioningly before heading for the fridge and pulling out a beer. He popped the cap off and tossed it in the trash before bending down and leaning on the other side of the counter at the island. Natalia smiled sweetly at him and Lana smirked.
“I saw the ice cream carton in the trash can. You’re both busted,” he tried to look at them seriously. Lana shrugged her shoulders and Natalia couldn’t hold back her laugh. Dylan and Lana exchanged smiles in amusement.
Later that night after the house had quieted down, Dylan and Lana were lying in bed. She was resting her head on his chest as he lay on his back and he stroked his fingers through her hair. The room was dark with exception to the dim moonlight reflecting off the water through the open window. Lana could hear the water softly rippling outside in the canal, the cool breeze and the gentle sounds nearly lulling her to sleep. His hand stilled, resting on her shoulder as his breathing slowed and became more even. She began to drift off as his soft snores that had started to become so familiar filled her ears.
The next two days were filled with spending time at the beach, going out on the boat, hanging by the pool, and trying out different restaurants. Dylan thought he had tried most of the places in Venice Beach, but Lana and Natalia made it a mission to find somewhere new each day for dinner. He watched as the two girls bonded, and it quickly became apparent to him that he couldn’t deny his feelings any longer. His love for Lana was solidified on the third day, when he got a call from his publisher saying they needed his final copy within the next 24 hours in order to be published by the deadline. He was trying to work furiously in his office, making important phone calls, and Natalia kept running in to ask him questions or be nosey. When he got to the point where he was about to lose his patience with her, Lana came in and asked him if it was okay to take her out for a bit. He hesitated at first, but she assured him that it was alright, and they would find something fun to do. He only agreed after taking a minute to warn Natalia to be on her best behavior or there would be repercussions.
At his insistence, the girls took his car. Lana knew that he felt safer with her driving a vehicle that wouldn’t be recognized by Nathan, so she didn’t fight him too hard. They started out by stopping for a quick lunch, and then grabbed some iced coffee and frozen hot chocolate before heading to the nail salon. They talked while they were getting their pedicures and Natalia opened up to her about a boy she liked. Lana listened attentively as she realized that Natalia was at the point in her life where she was starting her transition into becoming a young woman. She knew the girl was smart and had a very grown up attitude towards her dad, but she still had a little bit of a girlish side when it came to her crush. She hoped that she would hold onto that for quite some time and encouraged her not to grow up too fast.
After they were finished at the nail salon, they stopped at the grocery store and Lana bought everything she would need to make tamales. She told Natalia the story that her grandmother had told her about helping make tamales in Mexico when she was a child. She explained that they had come from a small village where they didn’t have a lot of the conveniences that made it easier for them to cook tamales today, such as having a stove. Natalia was fully engrossed, and once they got home she couldn’t wait to help Lana in the kitchen.
It was around 6:30 in the evening when the food was finished, and Natalia finished setting the table as Lana went to find Dylan. She gently knocked on the door to his office before stepping inside and shutting the door. He had just finished shutting down and closing his laptop, and he took his reading glasses off and set them on the desk as he rubbed his eyes. Lana moved behind him and started to massage his shoulders and he looked up at her with a smile. She leaned down and pressed her lips to his in a brief, but heartfelt kiss.
“Dinner’s ready,” she told him softly as she gave his shoulders another squeeze.
“I can smell it, it smells amazing,” he smiled again. “What is it?”
“Tamales with roasted corn salsa and rice. Nat helped me make it.”
“Really?” He questioned in surprise and she nodded. “She’s never been one for helping in the kitchen unless it involves something overly sweet.”
“She seemed like she had fun with this,” Lana shrugged as he stood up and pushed his chair in. “Do you have much more to do?”
“Nope, finally finished. Should be hitting the shelves next summer. I’ll probably start working on the next one in a couple of months. I’ll take a good break before I start again.”
“Good, now you can focus your attention elsewhere,” she teased as she bit her lip and wagged her eyebrows. He slipped his arms around her hips and firmly squeezed her butt.
“I fully plan on focusing all of my attention on you later tonight,” he leaned in and kissed her hungrily. “I didn’t get to go for my run this morning, I have a lot of pent up physical energy.”
“Well, we’ll have to give you a good workout then, won’t we?” She grinned. He kissed her again with a smile before they separated and headed for the kitchen.
Lana stayed true to her word once Natalia had fallen asleep and they locked themselves in his bedroom. They spent the better part of an hour torturing each other with pleasure as he sent her over the edge twice before she had him coming harder than he could ever remember in his life. As they laid in bed, their legs tangled together as he rested his head on her shoulder while they caught their breaths, the words threatened to slip out. The only thing that was holding him back from saying them was the fear that Lana wasn’t ready to hear them.