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Authors: Laurelin Paige

Last Kiss (9 page)

BOOK: Last Kiss
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He glanced around the room, seeming to suddenly notice the shower running behind us. “Clean up.” Was it my imagination or were his words as unsteady as the rhythm of my pulse?

“Are you joining me?” What I really wanted to say was
don’t leave
.

He shook his head and my heart sunk. But then he said, “I’ll still be here when you get out.”

The water was lukewarm when I got in. I didn’t even want a shower anymore, my initial reason for wanting one long gone. Still I stood under the nozzle for long minutes, letting the spray get cold enough to shock my brain back into cognitive reasoning.

What the hell was going on between us? Reeve acted like he knew. He acted like I should know as well, and if I read him right, maybe I did know. Maybe. Was it ridiculous that I needed clarification?

One thing was certain – I wasn’t getting answers standing in here.

I shut off the shower and hurriedly wrapped a towel around my hair and another around my body. He’d said he would still be there when I was finished, but all of a sudden I worried that he wouldn’t be. When I opened the bathroom door and found him lying on my bed, his arm thrown over his eyes, I almost sighed audibly.

Then I stood in the doorway and stared in amazement. Because
he was still there
. And he’d undressed. His shirt and jeans had joined my clothes on the chair and now he was just in his boxer briefs, which meant he was staying. Which meant…?

Seeming to sense me, he shifted his arm above his head and glanced in my direction. “I like it when you look at me like that. Almost as much as I like it when you look at me like you think I might slit your throat in your sleep.”

I opened my mouth to respond then decided there wasn’t any response appropriate. Instead, I asked, “Are we…
together
?”

“Well.” He turned to his side and propped his head up on his hand.

And I held my breath.

“Right now you’re over there and I’m over here. But when you come over here and we get into bed then, yes, we’ll be together.”

“Reeve!” Goddammit, this was hard enough. “I’m being serious, here. Please.”

His grin faded. “What are you asking, Emily?”

“I’m asking about Amber.” Amber, who was right on the other side of the wall. I could feel her presence in the room as if it were only a thin screen that divided us instead of a foot of drywall and insulation.

“Seeing as how she’s not in the room, I’d say I’m even more not with Amber than I am not with you.”

I let out an exasperated groan. “Why do you keep dancing around this? Do you not know what you want? If that’s the case, just tell me.” I’d never done this before – never had to feel my way around a relationship that wasn’t based on financial security. Strangely, this was so much more difficult than negotiating where I’d live and how much I had for living expenses and whether I’d allow double penetration or cum in my hair. This was my heart on the line, and until now, I’d had no idea how much I valued that.

Reeve sat up, and in the sincerest of tones, he said, “It’s not the case. I know what I want. I want you.” His lip curled into a half-smile. “Now come here.”

My head fell with the weight of relief. Me. He wanted
me
.

It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want Amber, too
, I reminded myself. There had been other men set on sharing us. That arrangement had worked once upon a time, but we were long past that, no matter who Amber was these days.

I pulled the towel off my hair and tossed it to the floor before starting toward the bed. I was nearly to him when I halted. “And what about Amber?”

“She’ll have my protection as long as she wants it.”

I nodded, glad for that, but it hadn’t been what I was asking. “What did you tell her at dinner?”

Reeve sighed as if he were losing patience with the conversation, but he answered all the same. “I didn’t tell her what I would have told her if you had stayed.”

“Which would have been…?” I gestured for him to fill in the blank.

He scooted to the end of the bed and reached for my hand to tug me closer. “That things have changed since she left,” he said. He drew me closer still so that I was standing between his knees. “And that I’m currently in a committed relationship. With you.”

My breath caught around the lump in my throat.

But then I noticed the flirty glint in his eyes, and, though his tone had seemed earnest, I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t.

I rolled my eyes. “No, you wouldn’t have.”

“Yes. I would have.”

I pushed playfully at his shoulder. “Can you stop messing with me for half a second and be honest?”

In a blur of motion, Reeve had me pinned on the bed. “I am being honest.” He narrowed his eyes. “Why is it so hard for you to believe me?”

Because no one ever chose me over Amber.
 

I couldn’t say it out loud. As if that would jinx it. “It just is.”

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I realized what this was about for him. My trust. Or lack of trust. Again, he was seeking it. Again, I’d refused to give it. But this time it was totally unintentional on my part.

I searched his face, trying to predict what his reaction would be. I was afraid I’d ruined it. Ruined us. I was so desperate to undo whatever damage I might have done that I opened my mouth and prepared to tell him what he really wanted to hear instead – that I loved him.

Before I could, he broke into a smile. “Well then you can believe it when you hear me say it to her.”

“Okay.” How could a word feel so soft on my tongue when it held so much? I couldn’t even begin to name the emotions wrapped up in those simple two syllables, so many different shades and colors of relief and hope and affection and amazement.

Then reality came storming in, and I remembered my obligations and promises and all the reasons I couldn’t let Reeve declare his love for me to my friend. “I mean, no.”

His brow arched. “No?”

His grip weakened with his surprise, and I easily pushed out of his hold and stood up from the bed. I rewrapped the towel around me, gathering myself literally as well as figuratively, and then pivoted to face him. “I have to be the one who tells her.”

This wasn’t how things worked between us. He was the one who decided how things would be; I was the one who followed orders. I didn’t get to make demands.

This, however, was nonnegotiable.

I shifted my weight from one hip to the other, waiting for his response.

Reeve rolled to his side and eyed me carefully. “As long as you actually tell her,” he said sternly.

“I will,” I assured him. Then I frowned. “What do I tell her exactly?”

He cocked his head at me. “You know.
You
tell
me
.”

It was a challenge, a test, and for half a second I was afraid that I’d fail because I didn’t know what the correct answer was.

And then I did. “That I’m yours.”

His features barely changed and yet his entire face lit up. “You’re mine,” he confirmed, pride thick in his tone.

I bathed in that pride. Let his words lick at my skin like the rough washing of a cat’s tongue. I felt like I’d been remade. Claimed. Newly wedded. Though my declaration and his acknowledgment were far from marriage vows, it was the strongest vow I’d ever made.

Well. Besides the one I’d made to Amber.

But this moment wasn’t about her – it was about me and Reeve and this bond between us that she had no part of.

If there was any chance of letting her slip farther into my thoughts, it was gone a second later when Reeve yanked me to the bed and flipped me to my stomach.

“You’re mine,” he said again, this time with a growl as he jerked the towel away from my body. “And now I’m going to fuck you like I own you. On your knees. Ass up.”

I scrambled into position while he stripped out of his underwear. Then he was inside me – bruising me, breaking me. Tearing me into a hundred pieces that all belonged to him.

And while he fucked me and used me and made me beautiful, I stayed almost entirely focused on him. Almost. Because, unlike in the bathroom where the shower had masked our activity, here we were exposed with only that one wall between us and Amber’s room. I would tell her about Reeve and me, but this wasn’t how I wanted her to find out. So I swallowed my cries of pleasure and pain, and I buried my face in the mattress when I couldn’t keep it inside.

He noticed, of course. With his cock buried in my cunt, he pressed his chest against my back and whispered at my ear. “Remember I’m the one who’s letting you be quiet. If I wanted you to be screaming right now, you would be, no matter what you wanted anyone else to hear.”

Was it wrong that this was his way of making love?

Was it wrong that it was mine too?

Later, like new lovers who can’t get enough of each other’s touch, we fell asleep coiled, our legs and torsos intertwined, unwilling to be parted even while we dreamed.

The last time I’d shared a man with Amber I’d been twenty-one.

The last time I’d shared one willingly, anyway. Bridge had been after that, but I didn’t count him for obvious reasons.

Bryan Crane had been nothing like Bridge. Amber had met him while we’d lived in Mexico. He’d been a guest at the resort we’d stayed at, but, though she’d been at his side the entire two weeks he’d been in the country, I’d been too wrapped up in my own affair to have a chance to meet him myself. When his vacation ended, Bryan had invited her to visit him anytime so, naturally, when we decided to head back to the States, he was the first person Amber thought of to take us in.

“He’s so nice,” she’d told me with a dreamy look in her eyes, “and really rich. But mostly just really a nice guy.” After rescuing me from an abusive lover who had very nearly killed me, Amber had likely thought
a nice guy
was just what I’d needed.

She hadn’t understood me back then. Eventually, she began to, but that came later, and, even then, she’d never understood all of me.

“I can’t wait to meet him,” I’d told her. And maybe I’d meant it. As horrible as my relationship with Aaron had been, he’d taught me some very important lessons about myself – that I had no limits. That I didn’t know how to say
stop
. That I was incapable of deciding what was best for me in sexual situations.

A nice guy probably
was
just what I’d needed.

“Anyway, I know you’re just going to love him,” Amber had said for the fiftieth time as we’d boarded the private plane he’d sent to collect us. She’d been determined to sell me on him, not because I’d been reluctant to go, but because she’d thought it would be good for my morale to have something to look forward to. “Plus he can lick pussy better than any guy I’ve ever met.”

“You’re just as beautiful in person as Amber said,” he’d told me when I met him in the foyer of his Atherton estate. I’d looked like I’d just been beat up by someone, because I had been, so I knew it was a lie, but he’d embraced me and kissed my cheek and made me believe for a fraction of a second that I actually was a beautiful person.

It had been immediately evident that Bryan was everything Amber had made him out to be – nice, rich, and incredibly good at oral sex. Every word that had come out of his mouth had been gracious and kind and, surprisingly, genuine. His house had been the biggest I’d ever seen, let alone lived in. And he could go down for hours.

He also turned out to be ordinary with a capital
O.
Except for the fact that he’d self-made his billions in the pharmtech industry, there was absolutely nothing notable about him. He was average age (midfifties), average looking, average height, average personality.

But Amber had liked him, and he’d welcomed us into his life with no hesitation. He was newly divorced, and with his two daughters already grown and married, his fifteen-thousand-square-foot estate had probably felt large and lonely. It was to our benefit – living with him had been a paradise like no other. He’d spoiled us rotten, buying us gifts and bringing in servants to cater to our every whim, and never once did he act as though he’d expected us to pay him back in any way. He was just that nice of a guy.

We did fuck him, though. Of course we did. And just as he’d been outside of the bedroom, he’d been extraordinarily nice inside it as well. His generosity had been what Amber had liked the most about him. Not only did he give her several orgasms in a night, but he’d also caress her and massage her and lavish her with attention.

He’d caressed and massaged and lavished me with attention as well. I just hadn’t responded to it the same way she had. The sex had bored me and it had very rarely been satisfying. Poor Bryan would lick me for what seemed like days, and I’d still go to bed frustrated. Each time was exhausting and embarrassing and not worth the effort. Early on, I’d considered excusing myself from the sexual activities altogether, until I’d discovered that Bryan also had difficulty releasing. Pretty much the only thing that could make him come was watching two women make out. More specifically, watching Amber and me make out. My participation had therefore been necessary. At least, it had been if I’d wanted to keep everyone happy, and I very much had wanted just that. So what if my own happiness was ignored? At least it was a much better situation than the one I’d left in Mexico, where orgasms were in abundance but so were bruises, fractures, and other assorted injuries.

Despite having several guest bedrooms available, we had all slept together in a king-size bed in Bryan’s master suite. It was the first threesome we’d been in where Amber and I had been treated equally, or, at least, where the façade was that we were equal. I didn’t try to fool myself that it was anything other than a ruse, and in case I ever needed proof, I got it when I’d sit outside on the balcony off the bedroom and listen to their conversations spill through the vent, unbeknownst to them.

One night, I heard Bryan ask, “With Emily – am I doing something wrong?” His concern had been sincere enough. Even though I suspected he was in love with Amber, he’d always sincerely wanted both of us to be happy and cared for.

“She was raped,” Amber had said in explanation for my distance. “She’s still recovering. Be patient with her.”

“That must be it. Sure. I’ll be patient.” There had been a brief pause before he’d asked, “Are you sure she’s just not more into women than men? The other day she got off really easy when she was fondling your tits.”

“I’m surprised you noticed since you also got off really easy when she was fondling my tits.”

Bryan chuckled. “True, true.”

They grew silent and my thoughts turned to the occasion Bryan had mentioned. We’d been in a variation of sixty-nine – Amber, sucking Bryan’s cock while he went down on her while, at the same time, he’d finger-banged me. And I’d tried – I’d tried
so hard
to be turned on, but I just couldn’t get there.

Then Amber had let up on the blow job to turn to me. “Touch my tits, Em.”

I reached over and cupped a breast in my palm.

“Not like that,” she’d snapped. “My nipples. Roll them between your fingers. Do it now.” She’d even taken my hand and placed it exactly where she’d wanted it.

Amber had always been good about asking for what she needed, but usually it had come in the form of pleading. This time, she’d made demands. She’d ordered me and used me for her own sexual pleasure. It was base and completely self-motivated on her part – she hadn’t been concerned whether I was getting off. She’d been so consumed with her own climax that I hadn’t even been sure she’d realized Bryan was working on me as well.

And I’d found that arousing. Very arousing.

“But you know,” Amber had said, interrupting the memory, “I don’t think that was the reason Em was into it.” She said it if she’d been thinking about the scenario at the same time I had, and in retrospect, she’d realized something that she hadn’t before.

A chill had run down my spine and my skin had started to tingle. It had felt like suddenly discovering I’d been being watched when I’d thought I was alone. It had been unnerving and comforting all at once.

Bryan hadn’t seemed to have been struck with the same insight that Amber had. “You don’t? What do you think it was?”

She’d hesitated. Then in her ultimate flirty voice, she’d said, “You. Silly.” I’d known her well enough to recognize her cover. She hadn’t really believed that it had been he who’d made me come. Either she hadn’t wanted to hurt his ego or she hadn’t understood enough about what she’d figured out to put it into words so she’d given him the credit. But I was certain that she’d had a moment of clarity and that she had finally glimpsed the animal that dwelled inside of me.

Whether that had been the first time she’d ever thought about what turned me on or whether she’d been trying to figure it out for a while, I wasn’t sure. But after that, she’d been different with me, acknowledging the thing between us more than she ever had before. She’d always been slightly bossy, saying things like “Wear your hair in a French braid,” instead of “maybe you should braid it” like someone else might. Now when she made her commands, she’d look me in the eye as if to say,
“I know. I know this is what you want and so that’s what I’ll give you.”

It tied me to her tighter than ever. Eventually I learned it tied her to me as well.

We’d been living with Bryan for almost a year when he proposed.

“I think you should marry me.” It had come from out of the blue. I’d learned to tune out most of their conversations, and I’d been surprised I’d even caught it.

“What?” Amber had said, echoing my own surprise.

“Marry me.” His tone was so sweet. So sincere. So romantic in its simplicity. “Yes, I’m more than twice your age, and my ex will have a field day with the news, but who the fuck cares? I love you. I can make you happy. Let’s get married.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Her voice sounded tight and I’d wondered if she was fighting tears or if she was already crying.

“Yes. You could say yes.” His boyish exuberance in that moment endeared him to me more than anything before had.

“I love you, too, but…” She’d trailed off, and when she’d spoken again, her voice had been stronger. “What about Emily?”

What about Emily?
Yeah, what
about
Emily?

“Emily too! I can only legally marry you, but for all intents and purposes, she’ll be part of the family. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a package deal. You love her, you know I’m fond of her, and she’s an absolute essential part of our sex life. So let’s make it official. We’ll be scandalous and depraved – you, a knockout of a wife, and Em, our live-in mistress. Everyone will judge and talk about us behind our backs but mostly just because they’re jealous.”

I had to stifle a laugh. It wasn’t funny, I was just happy. Happy for
her,
even as I knew that living that arrangement for the rest of my life would kill me. Even as I knew that I’d say yes right along with her. Because it was everything that she’d ever wanted in all the ways it was everything I’d never wanted at all.

But she hesitated. “I don’t know.”

“Are you worried Em will feel left out? I’ll do everything to make sure she doesn’t. I’ll buy you both rings. She can wear hers on her right hand if she wants or around her neck. And I’ll make sure she’s listed as a primary beneficiary. After you, of course.”

“Can I think about it?”

I choked back the lump in my throat. It was so obvious to me that she’d already made up her mind, but dear, sweet Bryan either didn’t know her well enough or was too optimistic to see the truth.

“Yes. Think about it,” he’d said. “Then when you’re done thinking about it, say yes.”

We’d moved out before a week had passed.

We’d left the cowardly way – packing up our belongings one morning while he was at work, not leaving so much as a note of explanation. “He’d try to stop us if we said good-bye in person,” Amber had said.

“Tell me again why that would be a bad thing.” But she hadn’t even told me why a first time. Just like she hadn’t told me about Bryan’s proposal. And because I never challenged her decisions, I didn’t push her.

Though we’d been taken care of for the better part of twelve months, we had no money of our own, so we had hawked some of the nicer pieces of jewelry that Bryan had gifted us, including a diamond ring I hadn’t seen until it was on the counter before the loan shark. That baby bought us enough for two months’ rent at a dump of a motel in Hollywood.

I hadn’t said more than two words at a time to her between the pawnshop and the motel registration. Finally, in our room, I couldn’t hold back any longer. “I know he proposed.” I didn’t bother trying to hide how I felt. I’d been angry that she’d walked away so easily from Bryan. Bitter accusation streaked through both my words and my body language.

Amber had furrowed her brow, never bothering to look up from the drawer she was arranging. “He told you?” she asked eventually.

“No. I heard you talking. I could hear every word you said when I was out on the balcony, by the way.”

“Ah.” She’d nodded as if that were the end of the conversation.

“Amber.” I had waited until she looked at me. “Why did you say no?”

She’d sighed, but not so heavily that she’d actually relaxed her guard. “I didn’t say no. I just didn’t say yes either.”

“Why not?” I’d stomped my foot, demanding for her to take me seriously. “Why the hell not? He’s the most decent guy we’ve ever been with. And I think he actually loves you. I mean, besides just for what you do in the bedroom.”

Her expression had tightened. “I know. I think so too.” She’d shut the dresser drawer and pivoted toward me. “He wanted both of us.”

It had been my turn to furrow my brow. “Is that why you left?” I’d been so perplexed by all of it, I hadn’t been able to come up with a theory. Had it really been as simple as not wanting to share?

I’d taken a step toward her. “Amber, we don’t have to be a ménage à trois. If you had wanted him to yourself, all you had to do was tell me.”

She’d smiled. “It’s not that.”

“Then what was it?” I’d been beyond frustrated, desperate to understand her as well as I’d hoped she’d understand me.

“He wasn’t what you wanted.”

Her answer had taken me aback. Amber had always led me through life and I’d always followed. Not once had we ever stopped to talk about what either of us had wanted.

She really had seen me after all. It hadn’t just been in my head.

I’d softened at that confirmation. “Maybe not. But he was offering a good life. Trust me, it wouldn’t be settling.”

She shook her head. “It would have been settling for you.”

“Then I could have left.”

“But that’s just it – you never would.” Now she was the one who’d sounded frustrated. Her words the ones streaked with bitterness.

Immediately she’d attempted to smooth me over. “And I wouldn’t want you to. I love you, Em. One day things might be different, but right now if I have to choose between a boy and you, I’m going to choose you.”

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