Mia was surprised that I didn’t have a condom with me. She assumed I'd done it with a few of the girls from school that I'd messed around with. When I admitted it would be my first time too, she looked at me like she understood that we were both giving a piece of ourselves to the other. I jogged up to my house and retrieved a condom, and was back at the boat within minutes. I was guessing that by the time I made it back, she would have changed her mind, but instead she was undressed and under the quilt, quietly waiting for me with wide green eyes.

I still remember the tight squeeze of her around my cock, the puff of breath against my neck when I fully entered her, the way it felt when I came inside the latex for the first time, wiping her clean after and worrying that she hadn't come. My chest gets tight as feelings of lust mix with ones of shame. I fucked up that night.

“Collins?” she asks, pulling me from my faraway thoughts.

I clear my throat. “Sorry. It's just surreal seeing you here. Tell me what brought you to LA. Are you still living in Connecticut?” I ask. I hate the formality of my questions, but we have lost ground to cover, and the scared look on her face when I'd opened the door is still lingering in my mind.

She takes a big gulp of her drink. “This is going to sound crazy…” she laughs nervously.

“Mia, I've known you since you were five. We used to tell each other everything.”

I didn't know if someone had hurt her…or if she was running from something, but I waited patiently while she gathered her courage and downed several more sips of her drink.

“Remember that promise we made each other?” she says.

I watch her quietly. She was going to have to be more specific. Shit, it'd been fifteen years. “About?” I probe.

“Us. When we turned thirty…” She swallows nervously.

I take a deep breath, trying to understand where she is headed with this. “Mia?”

“When we were ten. We promised each other that if neither of us was married by the time we were thirty, we'd marry each other.”

The memory drifts into my head. Her soulful green eyes looking up at me like I was her savior, our pinky's locking together in solidarity. Christ, we had promised that, hadn't we? The suitcase by the front door. The fact that I'd turned thirty a few months ago. All of it slams into me at once, and a panicky feeling presses against my chest.

Heels clicking across the wood floor capture our attention. “There you are,” Tatianna says, entering the library. “This house is really too big.” She takes in Mia's presence and stops. “Oh, I'm sorry, I assumed you were alone. Hi, I'm Tatianna.” She holds out her hand and Mia rises to her feet and shakes it.

“Mia. It's nice to meet you. I'm sorry, I should go…” She sets down her drink.

I rise to my feet and place my hands against Mia's shoulders. “You don't have to go anywhere. I'm sure it's been a long day of traveling. Please sit.”

She swallows and watches me uneasily. “Are you sure?”

I nod. “Very. It sounds like we have a lot of catching up to do.” After that fucking bomb she just dropped on me, there’s no way she’s going anywhere.

She nods, her smile unsure.

“Tatianna, would you like to join us for a drink?” I ask, heading to the bar.

“Sure,” she says, her voice flat.

I make her the raspberry vodka-soda mixture she likes and hand her the glass. Tatianna sits down across the room and crosses her legs, her posture straight as a rod and her eyes glaring blankly ahead. She's still pissed about earlier.

I fill Mia in on the past fifteen years—that my brothers and I all live in the Los Angeles area now and that I run a successful investment firm downtown. My mouth is saying the words, but my brain is still trying to wrap around the fact that she showed up here after all these years.

Both women watch me and listen, Mia interjecting with questions every now and then, laughing happily when I tell her both of my younger brothers are settled down—Pace with a young son and Colton just got married last month.

Mia doesn't offer many details about her life, or what has prompted her to come here, but I'm guessing Tatianna's presence has thrown her off. There is still a lot I want to know.

“So, I'm sorry,” Tatianna interrupts, “who did you say you were?”

“Mia was my best friend growing up,” I answer for her, not liking Tatianna's tone.

“Yes. We were pretty much inseparable until we were fifteen.”

“What happened when you were fifteen?” Tatianna asks, not knowing the minefield she's walking into.

My eyes lock on Mia's and her cheeks heat. I can tell she's remembering our first and only sexual encounter. I still worry that I'd been too rough with her. The way her small body trembled in my arms after, the blood I saw between her legs. I feel sick just thinking about it. If I had the chance to redo things today, I’d fuck her so well, she’d never want to leave. Christ, did my brain take a sick day too? I need to lock it up. Mia is not here to fuck. I repeat the mantra in my head.

“My family moved,” Mia answers, blinking and looking away from me. “And you are?” Mia asks, and takes a sip of her drink.

Tatianna frowns at me, obviously not happy that I hadn't offered up this information. “I'm his girlfriend.”

Chapter Two

Mia

“I’m his girlfriend,” Tatianna says. She’s answering my question, but her glare is directed at Collins.

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