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Because, she acknowledged with a grimace, she didn’t want to be just another notch on his bedpost, another girl that he forgot as soon as he’d zipped his pants. She wanted to know that she mattered to him. If not in the same way he mattered to her, then at least enough for him to choose her and not just sleep with her as a means to stop the pain she knew he carried deep inside himself.

When she didn’t say anything, or make any move to disentangle herself from his hold, Ryder murmured, “Jamison, baby? Are you okay?”

He was breathing hard, even panting a little, and his obvious arousal made her feel a million times more secure. As did his concern for her. Even if it was just for now, just for this short moment of time, Ryder wanted her, cared about her. It was enough.

She lightly pushed on his shoulders. When he stepped away, looking wary and more than a little confused, she grabbed onto his hand and continued back down the hall to the bedroom she had woken up in. Once he realized where she was going, Ryder stiffened. Stopped.

Jamison froze, her cheeks burning with humiliation. She’d been wrong. She’d assumed too much. Ryder didn’t want her after all. “I—I—”

His mouth fastened on her shoulder before she could apologize, his tongue licking over the curve where her neck met the smooth line of her shoulder. The slow, wet circles had her eyes crossing and her sex clenching with desire and relief. He did want her. Thank God.

She tilted her head back, rested it against his chest to give him better access. Her eyes fluttered closed even as she fought against it. She couldn’t help it. It felt so good, he felt so good that she didn’t even register the sound of a door opening at the beginning of the hall.

At least not until Jaredyelled, “What the hell is going on here?”

At the sound of his best friend’s voice, the sensual fog that had enveloped Ryder from the moment he first touched Jamison fell away. He blinked a couple of times, took in the fury on Jared’s face. Then looked down at Jamison in an effort to figure out just how bad it looked.

Shit. They were fucked. Or at least he was.

The top of her shirt was open, her full, luscious breasts spilling over the top of her black lace bra. Her pale, redhead’s skin was flushed pink with arousal and her lips were swollen from his kisses. Not to mention the fact that the second she stepped away from him it would be obvious to Jared just how hot Jamison had gotten him. His dick was hard enough to pound nails, even with Jared looking at him like he wanted to rip him limb from limb.

“It’s not—”

“What it looks like?” Jared’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

As did Jamison’s, who had turned around to stare at him in disbelief even as she buttoned up the top of her shirt. Damn it, there was no way for him to win this.

He threw up his hands. “Okay, so it��s exactly what it looks like.”

“Yeah, I’m well aware of that. Asshole.”

Jamison turned to glare at Jared. “Why don’t you go back to sleep? This isn’t any of your business,” she said.

Jared gaped at her, his mouth opening and closing as he thought of—and discarded—what looked like a hundred different things to say. He finally settled on, “You’re my sister!”

“Yes, I am. Sister, not daughter. I’ve never gotten in the way when you were with someone. I’d appreciate the same courtesy.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder in a gesture loaded with indignation, then slipped through the doorway into Ryder’s room. “Are you coming?” she asked him over her shoulder.

It was his turn to stare at her, mouth opening and closing like a trout as he tried to find his way through the minefield that had just sprung up in front of him. A quick glance at Jared told him his friend would kill him if he so much as moved an inch in Jamison’s direction. And while Ryder wasn’t known for walking away from a fight, he wasn’t about to throw down with Jared. Not when he was clearly the one in the wrong here.

Shit. What the hell had he been thinking? How had he gotten so pissed off, freaked out, and turned upside down that kissing Jamison had seemed like a good idea? He knew what had happened after he’d kissed her—she was so sweet, so hot, that he hadn’t been able to think about anything but being inside of her. But why had he kissed her in the first place? With his past—and present—he had no business going anywhere near a woman like her, and he knew it even if she didn’t.

“Look,” he finally said to her. “Why don’t you get some sleep? We can…talk more later.”

“Talk?” The word dripped with sarcasm. “Is that what we were doing?”

He shoved a frustrated hand through his hair. “Jamison—”

“Don’t strain yourself thinking up an excuse,” she told him, nose in the air. “I get it.”

She didn’t get a damned thing and he didn’t know how to explain it to her. Not right now when his brain was still fuzzy with desire and his cock still ached with the need to bury itself inside of her.

He would never be able to do right by her—even if he wanted to. There was too much darkness inside of him, too many things he’d done that he couldn’t take back. The chemistry between him and Jamison might suddenly be off the charts, but that didn’t mean there could be something between them. Because there couldn’t be. He wouldn’t allow there to be.

Now if only he hadn’t let his dick do the thinking for the last ten minutes, none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t be sick to his stomach, Jared wouldn’t look like he wanted to rip out his vocal cords and Jamison…Jamison wouldn’t look so damned hurt as she slammed the bedroom door shut behind her. Forget Jared, if he could have reached it, he would have kicked his own ass. He sure as hell deserved it.e He sHe

The sound of the door slamming echoed down the hallway and seemed to release Jared from whatever shock-induced stupor he’d been thrown into. Three seconds later he was in Ryder’s face, shoving him down the hall. “What are you doing?” he demanded, low and vicious. “What the fuck are you doing?”

He didn’t have a clue. And with Jamison’s taste still lingering on his lips, it was hard to think. Hard to breathe.

“It’s not—” He stumbled over the words, forced himself to stop and take a deep breath. Then he tried again. “I didn’t mean anything—”

“You were practically doing my sister in the hallway and it didn’t mean anything?” Jared interrupted, pushing him.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and this time Ryder shoved back, hard. He watched with absolutely no satisfaction as Jared stumbled a little at the unexpected blow. “Stop putting words in my mouth.”

“Well, start coming up with your own, because what I just saw was bullshit, Ryder. Total bullshit, and if you were sober and thinking clearly, you’d see it, too.”

He was sober and he did see it, though he was the first to admit he wasn’t thinking clearly. That was the problem. He hadn’t been able to think clearly since he’d seen Jamison in the audience the night before. But how did he explain that to Jared, when he’d just been caught pawing his sister with all the finesse of a fifteen-year-old with his first girl?

Head down and gut burning, Ryder turned and headed back toward the living room—and away from the bedrooms. If they were going to do this, the whole suite didn’t need to know about it.

He grabbed a couple of bottles of water out of the mini fridge, tossed one at Jared. For a second it looked like his best friend was going to fire it back at him—straight at his head—but eventually he uncapped the thing and took a long drink.

Silence hung thick and expectant between them until Ryder finally said, “She came out here because she couldn’t sleep. I think what happened with Max affected her more than she wants to admit.”

“So, what? You decided a little time between the sheets with you was what she needed to stop thinking about what that bastard did to her?” Jared asked calmly. Too calmly. Sixteen years of friendship and bitter experience had taught him that the quieter his lead guitarist got, the angrier he was. Judging from just how low his friend’s voice had become, Ryder figured Jared was pretty damn close to ripping his head off, even if he had stopped trying to shove him around.

Ryder gritted his teeth, hung on to his own temper by his fingertips. “We had waffles, watched a movie. And then…”

“Yeah, I saw the and then,” Jared snarled at him. “Stay the hell away from Jamison, man. She’s off-limits and you know it.”

There was a part of him that wanted to argue, but he couldn’t. Not really. Jamison was off-limits, and kissing her had been all along. Trying to change that now was crazy. Especially when all he could do was hurt her. “I know she’s off-limits, man. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.”

“Damn right it won’t. You don’t need to go anywhere near her for the rest of our time here.”

Normally, he’d be damned offended that his best friend thought he couldn’t be trusted around his little sister. But seeing as he’d been caught in the middle of stripping her naked—not to mention the fact that he’d had a raging hard-on for the last twelve hours, totally courtesy of Jamison—Ryder was having a hard time working up any righteous indignation. He had no intention of touching Jamison again—ever—but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. Which pretty much made this whole damned conversation unbearable.

Jared finished his water. He tossed the bottle into the nearest trashcan, then crossed the room. He didn’t stop until he was right up in Ryder’s face. “I asked if you heard me. She’s not one of your legion of groupies. Don’t screw around with her.”

“I’m not.”

“She’s my sister, man.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I don’t know what to think. Hell, most of the time I don’t have a clue what’s going on in your head. If someone had asked me yesterday if I trusted you with her, I wouldn’t have thought twice. But after what I just saw…” He shook his head. “We both know Jamison’s had a thing for you for a decade.”

Jared’s words sent a dark thrill through him, had his dick twitching all over again. When he was in his early twenties, he’d known she had a crush on him. But she’d been in high school at the time. The idea that she still felt something for him…it made him— He put the brakes on, locked that shit down tight. Now was not the time to think about how easy it would be to get Jamison into bed. “Have I ever done anything about it?”

“Not until now.”

He growled low in his throat. “How many times do I have to tell you I’m sorry? That it won’t happen again?”

They stared at each other, stale-mated for long seconds. Then Jared closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, and all of the aggression seemed to flow out of him. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to bust your balls, Ryder. I’m really not. But, dude, you go through women like you go through condoms. Like they’re cheap, disposable, and mean nothing more than your next fuck.

“Which is fine. I get it. I really do. If I had all your shit to deal with, I’d probably do the same thing. But you know Jamison deserves better than that.”

“Don’t you mean she deserves better than me?”

“That’s not what I said.”

“No, but it’s what you meant. Isn’t it?” He waited for Jared to protest, to tell him he was being stupid. Taking things out of context. But, in the end, his best friend didn’t say a word—and Ryder couldn’t blame him. He knew Jared was right, even as he felt the weight of the other man’s disapproval all the way inside of himself, deep down in the spots he worked so hard to pretend didn’t exist anymore.

He ignored the twinges of pain, refused to even acknowledge them. Instead, he smiled the cocky, lead singer grin he was known for all over the world, and said, “You don’t need to worry about me taking advantage of Jamison. After all, she’s not exactly my type.”” The implication was that the fault was with her, not him.

Nothing could be further from the truth—he’d always been fascinated by Jamison’s deep waters, by the complications and contradictions that made her different than the other women he knew—and he waited for Jared to call him on his bullshit. But before he could, Jamison walked into the room, shoes and coat on. Shoving her crazy, sexy curls out of her eyes, she snarled, “And who exactly said that you’re my type?”

Ryder’s stomach sank at the anger Jamison didn’t try to hide. And the hurt that she did. Once again, he’d screwed up and once again, he had no one to blame but himself.

Chapter Eight

She wanted to hide.

Wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole.