❆ chapter ten

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When a ray of sunlight wormed its way through the curtains the following morning, the first thing that she noticed was the empty spot on the mattress beside her. Nevada had expected to wake up in a similar position as yesterday, his face nuzzled in her shoulder, but all that he had left in his wake were the rumpled sheets.

Nevada sat up, rubbing at her eyes with closed fists. Cassidy was sprawled over the couch, her legs hanging over the armrest. Carter's snores continued to echo through the room, his stomach turned toward the ceiling as he slept soundly. Alicia's back was turned to her, but the slow breathing gave away the fact that she was still asleep. That meant that Sam had been the first to rise.

She kicked off the covers, her mind still in a daze as she stood on shaky legs. The door to Carter and Sam's shared bedroom was shut. Nevada didn't even think to knock before she opened it, and she was confronted with an image that imprinted itself in her mind almost instantly.

Sam's hand was stuffed down his sweatpants, his head tilted back as his lips parted, but at the sound of her entrance, his eyes snapped open, locking in on her. It didn't take a genius to realize what she had walked in on, but for a painful second, she was incapable of moving.

When her mind snapped out of its daze, her body reacted before her embarrassment could paralyze her. "Sorry!" she squeaked, yanking the door shut with more force than she intended.

Nevada strode into the kitchen, a flush working its way up her neck. She should've knocked, but she hadn't even considered it beforehand. Her first intention had been to see where he was, and it had never occurred to her that there might've been a reason he sought privacy in his own bedroom while the rest of the world was asleep.

She needed to do something to distract herself from her never-ending flow of thoughts. She opened one of the cupboards to grab a bowl for herself; without thinking, she had decided that she would have cereal for breakfast. There was half of a container of Cheerios remaining, and she tipped a large serving for herself into the bowl before pouring milk inside.

By the time Sam emerged from his bedroom, Nevada sat at the counter, eating small mouthfuls of Cheerios. The sight of him brought back the image in her mind, and no matter how much she tried to shove it out, it stuck. He seemed to be thinking the same thing, as his cheeks reddened when his gaze fell on her.

Sam scratched the nape of his neck. "Uh ... I'm—sorry. I didn't think you'd walk in."

Nevada dropped her gaze to her bowl of cereal. She couldn't face him without words failing her. "It's not your fault," she said, moving her spoon around in a circle. "I should've knocked."

"Well, yeah, I mean—"

"Can we stop talking about it?" she cut in, dropping her spoon onto the counter with a clatter. If the conversation continued a second longer, she was certain she would tear her hair out of pure mortification. She glimpsed at her reflection on the metal utensil to find that her face was a bright red.

When Nevada forced herself to look up, she discovered that the color of Sam's face mirrored hers. He was as embarrassed as she was.

"Sorry," he repeated, his eyes never quite meeting hers. "Forgotten."

"Thanks."

Cassidy rolled over on the couch, emitting a loud groan before she rubbed at her eyes. They stilled as they waited to see whether she would wake or fall back asleep. After another second, it turned out that former was correct: Cassidy forced herself into a sitting position only to squint when she realized that they were both awake.

"Jesus, you two wake up early," she muttered.

Nevada didn't respond. Instead, she picked up her spoon again and returned to eating her cereal. Sam didn't seem to have a proper reply either, as he merely shrugged before setting out to make himself breakfast.

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