Page 23

Author: Cora Carmack


That was the moment I knew for sure that I hadn’t been in love with Bliss. I couldn’t have been. Because at that moment, nothing could have kept me from going to Max, not even if Bliss had been on the other side calling me, too. I moved through the crowd until she was in my reach. She was twisting and turning and singing along to a song I’d never heard. She ran her hands down her sides to her thighs, and one side of her tee slipped over her shoulder. I wanted to replace the hands on her thighs with my own.


“I’m waiting, Golden Boy!”


Watching her was appealing, but touching her was irresistible. She was even more electric than the music that pulsated around us. I stepped forward right when she rolled her body from her chest down through her hips. When she went to repeat the move, I matched her. Our chests brushed, and she bit her lip.


Every theatre major in college had to take dance classes, and every day in warm-up the professor made us practice isolating different parts of our bodies. The purpose had been to stretch, not dance, but the ability transferred well to this kind of techno music.


Max danced the same way she sang . . . with complete abandon. I just followed her, keeping our bodies close and matching her movements. She tossed her hair and started to circle around me.


The music changed to something a little slower. I slipped a hand around her waist and pulled her into me. Our hips locked together, and I placed a hand on her hip to guide her into a circular motion. My thigh fitted between hers and hers between mine until we were as close as we could possibly get. She rolled her body to one side, and I leaned the opposite direction.


The air around us was warm and sticky with sweat. She rocked her hips into mine, and I had to clench my teeth to keep in a groan. Moving with her was amazing, but every once in a while she would move in a way I didn’t expect. Our hips were so tightly pressed that the friction her movements caused had me seeing stars.


I pressed her backward, and with zero hesitation and no self-consciousness, she dropped her head and body backward in a dip. I kept her steady with an arm around her waist. With her body leaned back, I got a clear view of her tight stomach, the black bra beneath her white shirt, and the delicate column of her neck. I couldn’t resist reaching out and running my hand from the front of her throat around the back. I cradled her neck in my hand, and used it to propel her back up to me. She wrapped both arms around my neck, so that her chest was pressed tightly against mine. I simplified our movements because being pressed against her was better than any dance move that would have moved us apart.


I could feel the sweat collecting on my skin, and it glistened on hers, too. I kept one hand curved around her neck and the other ran in a loop from her thigh up to her rib cage. I sighed, wishing that I could freeze this moment, wishing that we were somewhere else. Her face was level with my neck, and her forehead pressed into my jaw. Her breath on my neck was an exquisite torture.


I thought briefly about this being an unwise decision, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. I knew from the first time I saw her with Mace that they meant nothing to each other. There was no gravity between them, not like there was between us. No matter how hard we tried to keep ourselves apart, we always wound up right back here.


I thought I had that kind of pull with Bliss, but now I could see that I was wrong. We would have been perfect together, another notch in my pursuit of the “right” life. That’s what I was in love with . . . not my friend. Bliss had been exactly what I thought I’d wanted. A friendship evolved into something more. Loving and kind. Sweet and safe.


Max scared me shitless.


And it was so much better.


I could finally say that the past was the past, and the present was so much more appealing. I slid my hand on her neck up until her hair threaded between my fingertips. Her arms tightened around my neck, and her lips brushed my jaw.


I stiffened for a second, worried that I was making the wrong choice.


Almost as if she could hear my thoughts and was trying to shut them up, her teeth grazed my skin, followed by a firm press of her lips.


If this was a mistake, it was the best one I’d ever made.


26


Max


I followed his lead and slipped my fingertips into the curls at the base of his scalp. His other hand slid from my hip to the small of my back and snuck underneath my tee. His hands pressed into my skin, and I was taken back to the night he’d treated my injuries, and how badly I had wanted to do this then.


His face tipped down toward mine, and he breathed, “Max.”


There was hesitancy laden in his voice, and I knew what he was thinking. He was about to get noble. He was going to pull some shit about this not being good for me or me needing time or whatever. He was overthinking something that was so simple.


So I made it simpler for him.


I shifted up on my toes and kissed him.


His resistance must have been thin, because he was kissing me back immediately. The hand under my shirt slid farther up my back until his fingers met my bra strap. He used that arm to pull me up onto my tiptoes. It lined up our hips perfectly, and I moaned into his mouth.


He kissed like he lived—perfectly. His mouth searched mine feverishly and thoroughly, like he needed to taste every part of me. Oh how I had underestimated tender kisses. This kiss was a slow burn that had me squirming against him, ready to beg for more. He placed a light peck on my mouth, and then nipped my bottom lip. His mouth pressed harder against mine, and the kiss crescendoed into something fierce and addicting.


Even though I didn’t want to, I broke away to breathe. His lips dropped to my neck instead, where he kissed and bit and sucked, driving me wild. All the feeling in my body was concentrated on the area where our bodies intersected, so that the rest of me felt weak and lifeless by comparison. My legs shook, and for the second time, he was the only thing holding me together.


Last time it had been because I was in pain.


The only pain I felt now came from the ache in the pit of my belly that wanted more. I pulled his head up from my neck and pressed my forehead to his.


I wondered if my eyes looked as dilated as his. There was a good chance that he would say no, but I was too far gone to care about rejection.


“You said you lived close to here?”


I’d been prepared for a fight. I thought he would shoot me down, but his eyes searched my face for a few seconds, which was a few seconds too long for my liking.


Then he nodded, and my uterus did the butterfly or possibly the running man.


I kissed him again because I could. I’d meant it to be quick, but his hands cupped my face, and he kissed me hard. I fisted my hands in his shirt and prayed that he lived extremely close.


When he broke away, his voice was husky. “I can’t say no to you.”


Perfect.


“Then don’t.”


The door to Cade’s apartment clicked shut behind me, and I leaned back against it. The wood was cool against my back, and I shivered. My heart thumped radically in my chest. I felt like my blood had been replaced with Red Bull. He stepped toward me, and I felt feverish.


I searched his eyes, and my stomach dipped like I was falling.


I hadn’t even been this nervous my first time.


I hadn’t been this nervous ever.


He fixed his eyes on me, and desire outweighed my fears. The way he looked at me made my skin sing with electricity. It wasn’t just that he made me feel attractive. Any guy on the street with wandering eyes or a good whistle could do that. He made me feel . . . special, which sounded so damn cheesy that I could choke. It was true though. I knew myself better by knowing how he saw me. He erased the doubt and the fear and the anger. He made me feel like the melody instead of the accompaniment.


“Are you sure?” he asked.


I couldn’t quite get a handle on his expression. It was full of wanting, but whether he wanted me to say yes or no was unclear. I had no problem adding a little clarity to the situation. Rather than answering with words, I reached down and pulled the white tee up over my head.


His eyes followed my shirt to the floor. Then he took his time scanning from my heels up to my face. He crossed to me, and I pressed back against the door, needing the support. My whole body tensed in anticipation, but he kept nearly a foot of space between us. He plucked the strap of my bra between his fingertips, and his knuckles grazed my skin. The air in my lungs started to burn. He began to slide the strap over my shoulder, and then seemed to change his mind. His eyes met mine instead, and he gave a dark half-smile. Then he said, “Take it off.”


The breath rushed from my chest, and I was so turned on that my fingers went numb. He leaned one arm on the door next to me, so that when I reached behind my back, my chest brushed his softly. I kept my head tilted back so that I could see his face. He was so close, but too far, and the longer he stayed there the more uneven my breathing became. I fumbled with the clasp, unable to force my fingers to cooperate. I was ready to rip it off when the clasp finally came undone, and the straps fell from my shoulders. I leaned back against the wall, and let my bra drop to join my shirt. The door behind me was cold against my overheated skin, and the peaks of my breasts hardened.


His right index finger touched the skin just above my belly button, and my muscles tensed on instinct. He’d found one of the roots to my tree tattoo, and his light touch followed it until it met up with another line. He followed that line down to my hip, and then back up to the hollow of my rib cage. He took his time, tracing each line, and his touch was so soft that goose bumps rose up on my skin. He danced over the sensitive skin on my ribs, and I sucked in a breath.


He made a sound low in his throat in response, and I was going to sink into a heap of frayed nerves and arousal if he kept at this. Finally his attention turned to the trunk of the tree that grew up in the valley between my breasts. I arched my back, desperate for him to touch me somewhere more substantial. He used two fingers to push on my sternum and pressed me back against the wall.


“Patience, Angry Girl.”


I groaned, and he smiled.


“You don’t know how much I’ve thought about this tattoo. I want to memorize it so that every time I close my eyes I can see the way it accentuates your body.”


For the briefest of seconds, both of his hands cupped my breasts, and I moaned in response. But then he slid his hands up to my shoulders, and held me back against the door.


He placed a kiss on my puckered frown and said, “I promise to pay this much attention to every part of you.”


It was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life, to sit there, still and silent, as he traced each branch. The tree spanned my chest, but always stopped a few inches shy of where I really wanted his touch. I wanted to grab his hands and move them myself, but I liked him being in control too much.


When he finished, my skin was flushed and my breath heavy. My knees grew weak, and my hands clutched at the door behind me. Our eyes met, and his lids were heavy and his pupils dark. I felt intoxicated. Everything in the world but him was blurry. Everything in the world but him disappeared.


“Beautiful,” he whispered.


A “please” slipped from my mouth, and he rewarded me by pulling me forward until my chest pressed against his. It was good, but he was still clothed so it wasn’t enough. I reached greedy fingers toward the bottom of his shirt, and he lifted it over his head for me.


He loomed over me, one hand perched on the wall on either side of me. It was reminiscent of the night he’d kissed me outside of Trestle, but the view was so much better this time. His chest was broad and tanned, and gave way to rippling lines of muscle on his abdomen. But my hands went straight for the V of muscle that started above his hips and disappeared down into his jeans.


Mace had been fit, but on the skinny side.


Cade was . . . God, he should just stop wearing clothes altogether. I would fully support that. A little impatient, I slipped a finger under the waistband of his jeans and tugged him forward. The first touch of his skin on mine was like lightning. I could feel the charge between us building.

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