Ella: I know.

ME: I really liked having you at my game, Ella.

Ella: I liked being there.

Me: Wish you would’ve waited. Was looking forward to spending time with you.

Ella: Actually, I was hoping . . .

Me: Hoping what? Maybe it’s the same thing I’m hoping. . . .

Ella: Maybe it is. Apartment 1A. 34 Carmine Street—you know the building. I’ll be waiting.

I could barely contain myself on my barstool. I waited a good two seconds before bolting out the door. The urge to see her was nearly blinding.

I parked on her street and tried not to jog all the up the walk. When I rang her apartment, she didn’t even bother to ask who was at the door; she just buzzed me in. I decided I’d have a chat with her about that later, before I realized that she probably saw me pull up through her front window.

As soon as she swung open the door, I grabbed hold of her face and kissed her. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to smell her, taste her, hold her. And damn if her lips didn’t feel so soft and pliant and ready for me. Her breath tasted like mint mixed with alcohol from the beer I’d seen her drinking at the table.

I backed her into the room and shut the door with my foot. “Are we alone?”

“Ye—” When she opened her lips to speak, I took advantage with my tongue, sliding it deep inside her mouth as she grasped at handfuls of my T-shirt. I couldn’t get enough of her. She shoved her hands in the back pockets of my jeans and hauled me against her. In an instant I was hard as a block of fucking ice.

She moaned as I gathered up the back of her hair into a makeshift ponytail and gently tugged it down to gain better access to her mouth. I backed her in the direction of her room and though I could see her bed in my peripheral view, I wanted Ella in a different way.

When her back hit the door, I pinned her hands above her head, in much the same position we’d found ourselves in before. She closed her eyes, tilted her neck, and I took full advantage, practically devouring her skin. It was smooth and silky and smelled faintly of her almond scent.

“We always seem to end up against a door,” she breathed out. Her words faltered as I licked and nipped my way down her collarbone to the scoop of skin above her breasts.

“I have fantasies about what I want to do to you against this door.”

Her breath hitched as she squirmed, grinding her hips against the front of my jeans.

“You keep doing that and I’m going to come like a horny teenager,” I breathed into her hair, attempting to steady my racing pulse. “That’s how hot you make me.”

She made that little noise in the back of her throat and I nearly lost my load.

“Want to know what I plan on doing to you?” I growled against her neck.

“Yes,” she breathed out. “Please.”

Shit. She did not have to beg. At this point, I’d probably walk across flaming coals if she’d asked me to.

I let go of her hands and trailed my fingers down to the sliver of stomach peeking beneath her shirt. I felt her shiver while I ran my tongue along her earlobe and then claimed the patch of skin below it. She fisted the back of my hair and tugged my lips back to her mouth. Her kiss was frantic and deep and, goddamn, this girl knew how to rock my world.

When she sucked on my tongue, I couldn’t fucking take it anymore.

I need to see her. All of her.

I inched her shirt up her torso to remove it and she lifted her arms to make it easier. I threw the thin material on her bed and then trained my gaze on her amazing tits.

I thumbed the lacy part of her bra and her nipples pebbled beneath the material. I sucked one nub straight through the fabric and when I moved to the other breast she whimpered and clawed at my back.

Fuck, this girl was hot.

She yanked off my shirt and traced her fingers over my arms and chest and then down the trail of hair above my belt loop. “Quinn,” she said all breathy.

I closed my eyes and reveled in the feel of her hands on me. They were soft and smooth and warm. And when her nails lightly scratched across my abdomen, I inhaled sharply. It felt so damn good.

I let out a shaky breath before I opened my eyes and flattened my body against hers, practically molding her to the wood. This kiss was reckless, bordering on dangerous, and I wanted to keep my tongue in her mouth for all of eternity.

She peeled one bra strap down her arm and then the other, eyes glued to mine, like this was our private striptease. She reached around her back to unclasp her bra while my dick tried to spring free of my pants of its own accord.

Damn, this girl was perfection. Her breasts were perfectly round, her nipples pink and standing at attention, and I was desperate to put my mouth on them so she could feel me. Really feel me.

I wanted to show her how beautiful she was.

“I want to kiss this gorgeous body.” I strung my fingers through the ends of her hair. “Will you let me?”

Her only response was a low moan as she shut her eyes and knocked her head against the wood. My fingers skimmed across her stomach and then up to her breasts. I held the weight of them in my hands and thumbed her taut nipples before pulling one of them into my mouth.

I took my time sucking, licking, and nipping her warm peaks while Ella whimpered and murmured my name over and over again. I’d have kept going if only to hear her throaty pleas. Her breasts were bare, her buds hard and wet from where my mouth had been, and I was sure this image of her would be permanently etched in my brain.

When I pinned her earlobe between my teeth, her fingers shot to the front of my pants. She gripped me through the thick material and I strained against her hand, wanting to strip naked for her.

But not yet. Maybe not even tonight.

I wanted to savor this girl. Show her how much I relished her. I didn’t want her to think I was anything like Joel. This girl needed to be cared for, protected, and valued.

This was Ella standing before me, allowing me touch her and taste her, and all I wanted was to make her feel good. Special. Exquisite.

I removed her hand from the front of my jeans and then knelt down and kissed her stomach, which quivered at my touch. I flicked open the button on her pants and then looked up at her. Her eyes were filled with so much desire, it was all I could do not to throw her on that bed and sink myself deep inside of her. Lose myself in her. Claim her as mine.

But she wasn’t mine. Not yet.

“I want to see you, Ella. All of you.”

When she threaded her fingers through my hair, that was all the permission I needed. I rolled her jeans down her hips and she kicked them off. I grabbed hold of her ankle, momentarily studying the dragonfly tattoo I’d wanted to ask her about.

I didn’t want to break this spell we were under, so I kept going, kissing up her calf to her knee. She wore little blue panties and I wanted to rip them off with my teeth. My fingers traced up and down her thighs and then thumbed beneath the edges of her lacy underwear.

“You’re so damn sexy, Ella,” I whispered. I heard how her breath caught. “You make me want to do naughty things to you.”

“Is . . . is this part of that fantasy you were talking about?”

“Fuck yes,” I said, adjusting myself on my knees and then palming her sweet spot through the thin material. “I want to kiss you, Ella. Right here.”

“Oh God, Quinn,” she said, panting.

I’d never been so desperate to taste a woman before. Only Ella. With other girls, I’d just wanted to fuck and get myself off. But I needed to savor Ella. Consume her. Own her.

I tugged her panties down and helped her step through them. I met her large and sparkling eyes before I studied her stunning body, on display before me. Her hips were shapely and her boobs were amazing. She didn’t have a skeleton body like other girls I’d been with. Her stomach wasn’t completely flat and that made her even sexier.

She was all woman and hot as hell.

“I hope you know how gorgeous you are, Ella,” I said as I kissed her thighs. They quivered with eagerness and it excited me even more that I could stir this girl so much.

Her fingers gripped the door handle and her head sank back.

I repositioned my hands to the back of her thighs before grabbing hold of her perfect ass. And damn if that didn’t do me in right then and there. I looked up at her just as I hauled her hips closer to my mouth. Her lips parted and her eyes clenched tight in anticipation.

“Look at me, Ella,” I murmured. “I want you to see how much I enjoy kissing you down here.”

Her eyes snapped open, like she couldn’t believe the words that had fallen from my lips. And actually I had no earthly idea where they had come from either. Never had I uttered those words to a girl before. Never had I wanted to or even cared that much.

Ella just brought out this unyielding passion in me. I was desperate to feel connected to her and right now that connection would come through my tongue making contact with that gorgeous patch of skin on exhibit before me. It was swollen, perfectly trimmed, and waiting on me to sample it.

Her eyes blazed with the same intensity I’d seen before and as I opened my mouth to taste her, she shuddered against me. I kissed her gently at first, taking my time caressing her outer lips before flicking my tongue against her opening and then trailing it up her center.

She tossed her head back in pleasure, her chest and cheeks flushed with a pretty crimson color, her skin hot and pulsing beneath my lips.

I adjusted my hold on her ass and spread her wider so that my tongue could have full access. She had a heavenly musky scent that infiltrated my senses and made me nearly ravenous for her.

I tasted her for a long time as she whimpered and made that insanely sexy noise in the back of her throat. She grasped at my hair and when I sucked on her bud she nearly unraveled right in front of me.

But I drew away and made sure her eyes were still on me. They were glossy and unfocused but she never looked away. She bit her lip and inhaled sharply as my tongue continued to map its pattern over her folds. And then deeply inside her.

Finally, I settled on her epicenter again, alternately sucking and swirling her into a frenzy.

“Yes. Quinn.” Her voice was hoarse and gravelly as she reached her breaking point. “Oh God. Don’t stop.”

Her knees gave way and she nearly collapsed against me, but I braced her hips against the door. I licked her more slowly and gently to bring her down as my fingers grazed soothing patterns over her skin.

“You are so fucking incredible, Ella.”

When she finally stopped quivering, she fastened her eyes on mine solid as steel.

And I swear I saw straight through to her center. Maybe to her soul.

So I gave her sweet pink bud one final, lasting kiss.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Ella

I hadn’t seen Quinn in a few days. But damn if I didn’t still feel his tongue on me and fantasize about experiencing the sensation again. And maybe he’d finally allow me to return the favor.

After he had his way with me against the door, I could tell how aroused he’d been—but he acted like it was no big deal and refused anything in return.

Instead, he helped me get dressed, which almost made me ready for round two—until he pulled out the Xbox controllers. I kicked his butt in a Sonic racing game, and afterward, he held me on the couch while we clicked through the channels.

I almost fell asleep in his lap while he stroked my hair and kissed my forehead. It was such a comfort to have him there. I wanted him to stay over but I wasn’t sure if I could ask him, or even if I should.

I had stood naked in front of him and not felt shy in the least bit. Hadn’t even felt the need to hide my stomach or my ass. The way he looked at me with such reverence and passion was something I’d never experienced before. He asked me to watch him while he relished my body, and that was, hands down, the most erotic experience of my life.

But I still didn’t know where we stand or how to define us. I was living in the gray and just trying to enjoy it, but I’d never done that before. Been with someone for the sake of being with them—with no parameters or definitions caging us in.

It felt unnatural, but also, in a way, freeing. There were no expectations about loyalty or communication, and Lord knows that boy could make quite a statement with his tongue.

I was free to do what I wanted with anybody else, really, but the reality was, I didn’t want to. And I knew with an unspoken degree of certainty, neither did he.

And that right there was the difference between Quinn and Joel.

Even though Quinn had no claims on me, my gut told me he wanted me, and this time, I was listening. But something was holding him back. Something in his past that he needed to work through. Someone or something had hurt him, and that made me feel protective of him.

The problem would be letting him go. Defending my own heart would not be easy. If we kept going this way, I’d eventually fall for him. Hard. If I wasn’t falling already.

The team had been on the road and between work and classes, we’d only had time to text. But he was coming home today and my stomach buzzed with anticipation when his text came in.

Quinn: Hey, sexy. Do you already have plans? If not, want to catch dinner and a movie?

Me: Sounds like a plan. I can be ready in an hour.

I jumped in the shower and contemplated what to wear. I decided on jeans and a dressier top with my wedges. This would be the first time we were out in public together, but considering this was a large town, the chances of us running into anyone we knew was slim, unless we stuck to the regular college haunts.

Besides, did it matter anymore? Tracey said that most everyone had figured it out anyway. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what they’d figured out if Quinn and I didn’t even know ourselves.

Avery had come home from work and was changing in the bedroom when Quinn knocked on the door.

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