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“You don’t.”

His fingers pushed my hair back from my face and remained buried in my hair, lightly massaging my scalp. “I can see your pulse fluttering in your neck, the blush coloring your chest. I excite you.”

“You scare me,” I admitted softly.

“You want me to f**k you. To teach you the ways a man can pleasure your body.”

I sucked in a breath and held it, shocked by his words. He did excite me. Possibly more than any man had ever before.

I couldn’t believe I was actually considering this—hanging on his every word. This wasn’t me. But after a string of bad first dates, lousy sexual episodes, and so many run-ins with my vibrator that I needed to replace the batteries—his offer was intriguing. I couldn’t look away. His deep blue eyes gazed into mine so adoringly. He was mesmerizing. Utter male perfection.

“It’s intoxicating knowing how feisty I get you.” He brought his hand to my jaw and glided the back of his knuckles along my cheek. Shivers slipped down my body at the soft contact. No one had stroked my jawline like that before. So gentle, so soft. His touch was addictive.

“What do you want?” I found my voice, however shaky.

“Me and you. Pleasing each other. Giving in to this.”

“You just want to sleep with me?” I wanted to hear him say it. I doubted he was offering to take me out and wine and dine me.

“Among other things.”

“Like a one-time thing?” I held my breath for his response.

“Once wouldn’t be enough, and we both know that.”

Oh. The ache between my thighs intensified.

“Let’s not overthink this.” His fingers whispered against my skin.

I sat up on the bed, needing to distance myself from his sweet touch before I did something I might regret. I drew a deep breath, trying to clear my head from the wine and simultaneously ignore the ache between my legs that his presence alone inspired. “You’re suggesting a friends-with-benefits type of arrangement?” I asked, pressing my fingers to my temples. I wished I hadn’t drunk so much. My brain felt numb and heavy.

Braydon sat up beside me, watching my reaction. After a moment, he reached for his glass of wine and took another sip. “Hmm.” He swirled the wine in his glass. “I prefer something more original. Pleasure pals . . . bed buddies . . .”

I smiled despite the insane conversation we were having. “Fuck friends.”

“If you like.”

“I don’t know . . . I don’t think I can do that. . . .” I said softly.

He took my hand. “Don’t answer tonight. Let me take you home and tuck you into bed.”

I nodded. Sleep sounded heavenly. I’d had too much wine. Too much pizza. Too much hormone-fueled conversation with a devastatingly handsome man. My body wasn’t used to this.

“What time do you get off work tomorrow?”

“Six,” I responded without thinking.

“I’ll come by at seven with dinner. We’ll discuss our arrangement then.”

Our arrangement? “Okay,” I agreed, sleepily, wondering what in the world I was actually agreeing to.

• • •

Someone had stolen my brain and replaced it with a pile of goo. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I could barely form cohesive sentences. I’d dropped several petri dishes, spilled a specimen, and contaminated another sample I was working with. I’d consumed way too much wine for a Wednesday night and had woken up late and hung over. I’d gotten ready in a hurry, and as a result my hair was flat and dull and the dark circles under my eyes made me look like a zombie on crack. At lunch, I’d been so distracted, I’d picked at my food and dropped a huge glob of tuna salad on my shirt. Which led to me spending twenty minutes in the restroom trying to clean the stain, all while cursing myself out that I’d eaten smelly old tuna fish for lunch when I was supposed to see Braydon that night. I’d have to get home a little early to change my shirt and brush my teeth. Maybe touch up my makeup. And shave. Oh God, this was exactly why he wasn’t healthy for me. He sent my brain into overdrive. I hadn’t felt butterflies like this since I was in tenth grade and got felt up for the first time.

I’d replayed in my head what I would say to him a million times. Of course I’d refuse his offer. I was flattered, sure, but I couldn’t actually go through with it. I’d just have to make him understand. Braydon, though I’d known him only a short time, could be very persuasive. And that’s what scared me most. I couldn’t let myself get sucked into his world.

I fumbled with the dial on my microscope, cursing loudly when I couldn’t get the damn thing to cooperate.

“Are you okay?” my boss, Lydia, asked. She was looking at me with a concerned look, her wire-rimmed glasses balancing at the end of her nose. Lydia was a great boss. Smart as a whip, patient, and a great advocate for our department to receive the funding and training we needed to perform. I loved working for her. But we never discussed our personal lives. Ever. Aside from a simple “How was your weekend?” And I didn’t plan to start now. “You seem distracted today,” she said.

“I’m fine,” I lied. I focused on the task in front of me, hoping she’d let it drop.

“I’ve worked with you long enough to know when something’s wrong.” She removed her glasses and set them on the table beside her. Her brown eyes crinkled in the corners as she gave me a sympathetic smile. “You can talk to me, you know.”

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