Authors: Brandi Kennedy
Most of the tension had eased by the time they reached Michael’s house, and Renee’s smile was genuine again as she followed him up the stairs and onto the front porch. He watched her from the corner of his eye as he unlocked the door; all seemed well, and she was herself again.
She met his eyes as he pushed the door open and stepped back to invite her in. “Women first?” she teased, shaking her head. “Some things never change.”
“Ladies first,” he answered, smiling down at her as she passed through the doorway. “There’s a difference. And some things
“Yeah,” she tossed back, stopping in the dark of the living room to slip her flip flops off. “Gas prices do.”
Michael laughed, following her into the living room. Before he reached the lamp in the corner though, she was there, one hand pressed flat against his stomach in surprise as they collided, both of them moving to turn the light on. They froze together, and even through the dark he felt the jolt of heat from her palm; he stepped back, eyes narrowing, and her hand fell away. “Other things change too,” he said quietly, wondering again if
Renee sighed, shaking her head in obvious disappointment –
but over what?
“I know – and other things always stay the same. You want the shower first? Or should I take it?”
“No, you go,” he said, lowering his eyes to cover his confusion. “I have a few things I need to do before I go up anyway.” He watched the thick rope of her braided hair fall over her shoulder as she nodded; when he followed the dark trail of the braid back up to her face, she met his eyes uncertainly, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. Michael stepped aside, arching his brows in question – but she shook her head and lowered her face.
“I’ll see you in the morning, Michael,” she murmured.
He walked through the lower part of the house as he listened to her footsteps climbing the stairs. She hit the creaky step at the top, and he smiled to himself – she still stepped right on the edge to avoid the creaking, not realizing that that end of the board was the creaky side.
What was going on with them?
Ever since she’d told him she had a date coming up, he couldn’t shake the feeling of tension that ran through him whenever he saw her.
She was his best friend – what if she got hurt? To accept a date with a random guy from one of her classes, she must be feeling pretty lonely – what if this Harvey guy was some kind of creep that had picked up on that? Stepping into the kitchen, Michael opened the cupboard above the refrigerator and wrapped his fingers around the smooth, cool glass of a bottle of rum. He paused, listened quietly, and heard the sound of the shower turning on upstairs before he pulled the bottle from the shelf and twisted it open.
He could imagine her, smiling as she met Harvey for their date – and he sincerely hoped she had planned to meet him wherever they were going, instead of giving him her address to pick her up. Her eyes would twinkle if he told a joke; she was too polite not to laugh, even if the joke was lame. And she would be beautiful. Michael had seen her in almost all different varieties of dress, from sleepily mussed in the mornings after their movie nights, to glamorously beautiful at Cass and Drew’s wedding. Even at Cameron and Mac’s wedding, which had been a much more casual affair, she had been stunning in a purple halter dress that swirled prettily around her knees, with the long ties of a bow sash hanging down from her waist. What would she wear on her date? The thought of what she might
wear after the date made him bring the bottle to his lips and gulp, the liquor burning a trail down his throat and chest as he swallowed.
Surely it wouldn’t go that far though, right? It was only a first date.
He jerked so hard, he nearly dropped the bottle on the floor. When had it gotten so light? There had been nearly three-quarters of a bottle when he’d opened it, now it was more than half gone. “Done already?” he asked. When he turned to look at her, bottle in hand, the sight of her was like a punch to the stomach. Her hair fell in dark wet tangles down her back; the skin of her face and neck – and oh God, her legs – had been scrubbed pink under her tan. She stood there, trails of moisture from her hair seeping into the fabric of the baggy blue shirt she was wearing. The shirt clung to her skin where she was still damp, and he could see the outlines of her breasts against the fabric.
She tugged at the hem, unaware of his appraisal. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, shrugging as she met his eyes. “Since you weren’t coming up, I sort of helped myself to your dresser.” He nodded briskly, unable to speak around the closure in his throat, wanting desperately to raise the bottle again but not wanting to draw attention to it. “I tried stealing a pair of your ‘jama pants, too,” she laughed, bending slightly to shake her head at her bare legs. “But I couldn’t keep them up. Even with the ties pulled tight, they just kept falling off. But this’ll do for sleeping, anyway.”
“Right,” he croaked. Clearing his throat, he shook his head and tried again. “Ahem. Yeah, it’s okay. You know you’re welcome to anything here. Mi casa, and all that.”
“I know,” she answered. Noticing the bottle in his hand, she nodded toward it. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he lied. No, he wasn’t. Something was wrong with him, seriously wrong. She was a
, had only ever been a
, and she had stood in his kitchen wearing baggy sleep tee shirts countless times. Granted, they had always been
sleep shirts, but it wasn’t like it was the first time he’d ever seen her wet and disheveled. So why was this time the time that made his dick strain against his jeans? Why was the sight of her legs and the scent of his own shampoo wafting from her hair making his brain short circuit? “I’m good. Just so much going on.” And why the hell was that worried look on her face making his hands just itch to touch her? His hand tightened on the bottle and when he could feel his own pulse in his fingertips against the glass, he brought it back to his lips, not caring as he saw her raise her eyebrows in surprise. He swallowed, and swallowed, and swallowed again before she reached up to touch him, then he choked.
Renee laughed, trying – and failing – to hide her look of concern as she took the bottle from his hand. She turned away to look for the lid, and it fell from his other hand, forgotten, as he watched the fabric of
tee shirt glide smoothly over what he would bet was her pantyless hip. The lid fell to the floor, and she spun at the sound, the hem of the tee shirt tightening around her thighs as she bent her knees to scoop the little cap from the floor. He swallowed, mesmerized as she twisted the cap back on the bottle and rose to her tiptoes, trying to reach to put the bottle back in the cupboard.
He stepped close to swipe the bottle from her reaching hand, and – carefully, so as not to touch her because he was afraid that if he did, he wouldn’t stop – he placed the bottle on the shelf in the cupboard.
“Thanks,” she whispered, narrowing her eyes at him. She could tell something wasn’t right; he had to get away from her before he did something stupid. Her friendship was too important to him –
was too important to him – for him to screw it up like this.
“Yeah. I gotta get a shower.” He met her eyes briefly, clenched his hands to keep them from reaching out to her, and looked away. “You okay down here, or are you coming up to your room?”
She stared at him, eyebrows drawn together, just watching. Finally, as he struggled to hold himself away from her, she said quietly, “Michael, I –“ She broke off and sighed, still watching him. He looked down into her face, found her watching him, and felt his stomach clench with need. Michael stuffed his hands in his pockets, and his breath quickened when she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth. When she released it, he closed his eyes to keep from staring at her mouth, and she sighed. “I’m okay down here for a minute,” she said. “I need some water – and I was thinking I might put my clothes in the washer … if that’s okay?” She waited for his answering nod, and went on. ”I’ll probably be in bed by the time you’re out of the shower though.”
“Right. In your room,” Michael said, hoping he didn’t sound as strangled as he felt.
“Right,” Renee answered slowly, arching her brows at him. “In my room. Where I always sleep. So I’ll see you in the morning?”
He gulped. “I’ll be here.”
Upstairs, Michael stepped into his room and paused, breathing deeply. The room smelled the same as always, soap and dust and the wood of his furniture. But under it all, floating softly through the clean, woodsy scent of his body wash, was the natural perfume of a
. A naturally summery, beachy-scented woman. “Damn,” he muttered, stalking across the room to the balcony doors. He flung them open and stepped out onto the balcony, breathing in the scents of the outdoors. The temperature had gone down, but the air was sticky with humidity, and the wildflowers in the field beside his house scented the air. He reached up and dragged his shirt over his head, stuffing a wad of fabric into the pocket of his jeans to hold it. He didn’t want to forget it on the balcony, but there was no way he could be in the house right now, not with Renee running around barely dressed, rum coursing through his blood, and more confusion than he knew what to do with. It wasn’t like she’d never slept at his house.
She just hadn’t ever done it in his clothes … but she had. She’d never walked around his house in them though – when she stayed over and borrowed a shirt to sleep in, she always just changed and went to bed. He’d never seen her like that, fresh from the shower, steaming with heat, bare legs scrubbed pink. Maybe that was why he’d never felt the urge to strip her naked and bury himself inside her before. That had to be it, right? Just the change in their routine? Because she wasn’t the kind of woman he looked at like that. She wasn’t the kind of woman he
like that. She was just Renee.
Or at least, she
been. He went to the edge of the balcony and leaned over, his forearms braced against the handrail he had built with his father shortly after buying the house, and looked out into the yard. It was well-kept, but had the clean, undecorated look of a bachelor home. There were no plants or fancy landscaping elements to create shadows in the dark, only the wide expanse of grassy land that would soon need its first springtime mow. Downstairs, the light from the kitchen illuminated a patch of grass beside the house, and he watched the patch of light grow as the light in the laundry room came on.
Behind him, he could hear her singing downstairs, and the rush of water as she started the washer. He listened, straining his ears to decipher what she was singing, but it was no use, the sound was too muffled by the house and the night air. Still, he smiled to himself, listening to her until the laundry room light went out, followed by the kitchen light.
He had almost turned to go back into the house when she opened the door and stepped outside. Stepping back, he leaned against the wall and watched her, knowing that with all the lights off, she couldn’t see him even if she turned back to look. She didn’t look, though; she walked out with confidence, his tee shirt billowing softly around her legs, the blanket from the back of his couch in her hands.
The hem of the shirt came dangerously close to showing her ass as she bent to spread the blanket on the grass, and he felt his eyes grow wider, watching. There was growth elsewhere, too, and the shame of watching her this way almost made him turn back to the house. Almost.
He sucked in a breath as she lowered herself to the blanket, lying back to look up into the sky. Let it out soundlessly as she bent one leg at the knee. His tee shirt skimmed over her breasts in the moonlight, flattened over a narrow waist, settled in a pool at the apex of her naked thighs. The next breath he drew was ragged, as his mind filled with fantasies.
What would she do if he were to walk through his bedroom and down the stairs, out into the night with her? Would she be accepting if he were to lower himself to the blanket with her, if he were to cover her body with his own? Would she stop him, if he ran a questioning hand up a slender thigh, over a naked hip? Would she open those thighs to allow him entrance?
And if she did? How long would it be before she left him? How long would it be before he drove her away too?
"Oh, God help me.” He couldn’t keep standing there looking down at her. He couldn’t keep watching her, wondering what could happen, contemplating the ‘what-ifs’. Closing his eyes, he shook his head and turned to the door. In his room, he stood motionless, almost panting – eyes still closed, hands flexing uselessly at his sides as if they sought to grab something just out of reach.
out of reach,” Michael whispered. His hands settled over his chest, as if to cover his heart protectively, but it ached anyway. He stood for a while that way, head bowed, eyes closed, hands over his heart. Finally, he shook his head and lowered his hands, pushing his jeans and boxer briefs to his knees; he stepped out of them as he pulled his shirt over his head. Finally naked, he scratched a hand over his stomach, snatched a tee shirt and pajama pants from the dresser, and headed for the shower.
She followed him there too, without meaning to – the musk of her scent was stronger there, wafting up to him as he plucked her still-damp towel from the rod. Resisting the urge to bring the soft, Renee-scented terry to his face, he stuffed it into the laundry basket and resolutely ignored the bobbing weight of the erection preceding him. “Christ, I need a drink,” he growled; stalking from the bathroom naked, Michael jogged quickly down the stairs and into the kitchen, where he opened the cupboard and retrieved the rum bottle Renee had caught him with earlier.
He should have run back upstairs immediately, but he didn’t. Instead, he turned to the window and glanced out as he twisted the cap from the bottle. Renee was still there, still lying on her back on the blanket in his yard, the moonlight shining down on her. As he watched, she raised her arms and folded her hands beneath her head, the movement dragging his shirt higher around her hips – he’d been right about her not wearing panties. He could see the glow of moonlight on her skin, and his dick bobbed again, achingly hard, seeking relief.
is going on here?” he gasped, his voice ragged as he palmed his own length, stroking absently with one hand as he brought the bottle to his lips with the other. His breath came in panting gasps, his heart thundered in his chest … and he felt like scum. What was he doing?
That’s Renee, for crying out loud!
But when she sat up and whipped his shirt over her head, wadded it up and used it as a pillow, he couldn’t help it; his grip tightened, both on his hardened length, and on the bottle he was still drinking from.
He watched her run her hands over the modest rises of her breasts, down over her stomach and the curves of her hips; one hand dipped briefly between her thighs, and he choked on his breath. His hand moved faster, gripped harder as she brought her hands back up with aching slowness, pausing to rub slow circles over the mounds of her breasts, and he swallowed disappointedly as she grew still, his hand slowing again as she lay staring up at the stars. “Oh my Christ, this woman’ll be the death of me,” he whispered. “What kind of piece of shit stands in his kitchen and jerks off to his best friend when she doesn’t even know she’s being watched? God, I’m such a pig.”
Still grumbling, he released his grip, shaking his head in disgust as the weight of his still-seeking erection bounced slightly in the air in front of his hips. Taking the rum with him, he stomped back up the stairs, pulled a clean towel from the closet, and finally stepped into the shower.