Ghost blinks. Once. Twice. A wide smile transforms his beautiful face. He responds softly, “That was a fucking long thank you, pretty girl, and I’ll take it, but you should know, I’m more of an anti-hero.”

My face softens and I smile a small smile. “That’s not true.” I close the distance between us and take hold of his hand. I feel so tiny next to him. My head only reaches his shoulder when I’m without heels. His eyes question me. He looks at my dainty hand holding his large, calloused one. I whisper, “You didn’t have to come but you did. You helped me even though I really don’t deserve it. I’m always such a bitch to you.” I dip my face and confide in him. “You know I like you. You and me, we’re the same kind. We’re like avengers. Protecting the people we love. It makes sense for us to be friends, right?”

I look up into his softening eyes and he nods once.

Relief flows through me, lightening my body. I squeeze his hand and smile. “Okay. Good. Great. Now close your eyes, please.”

His eyes narrow untrustingly and I roll my eyes at him. With a shake of the head, I urge, “Would you just do it!”

He rolls his eyes right back at me and laughter climbs up my throat, itching to get free. I bite my lip to stop it from escaping. He puffs out a breath, puts his hands on his hips and makes a show of closing his eyes. Once they’re closed, I lift my hands in front of his face and wave ‘em around like I’m at a rave party. I’m satisfied he can’t see, but now that I’m in this position, I don’t know how I’m going to make this work. Looking around his apartment, I tell him, “Don’t move a muscle.”

I run across the room to the bookcase and get the two phone books from the bottom shelf. Placing the phone books on the floor in front of Ghost’s feet, one on top of the other, I carefully step on my makeshift stepping stool. I bounce up and down to make sure they’re stable, and once I’m satisfied there’s no threat of me falling on my ass, I place both my palms onto Ghost’s hard chest. His body stiffens at my touch, but as I rub his chest gently, I soon feel him relax under my palms. I take this moment to get a good look at him.

He’s beautiful.

His new haircut is modern and stylish, shaved at the sides but still longer up top. It brings attention to his face and makes him look polished.

My gaze slides down his lean and muscular body. The white tee he wears is tight against his skin, and I can make out every ridge of muscle that makes up his abs. His arms are toned and strong, with veins running through them. I wonder what it would be like to be held by those arms.

Here goes nothing.

The phone books have almost made me the same height as Ghost and we’re so close that my breasts are almost pressed up against him. I slide my hands from his chest, up his shoulders to curve behind his neck. He tenses when I pull my body flat against his and hold onto him as if I’m scared he’ll run from me. Because, in reality, I am scared he’ll run from me. My soft cheek rests against his stubbled one. My fingertips play with the short hair at the back of his head.

This is intense. There are too many feels.

Yeah, icky feels.

My heart races and I suddenly feel vulnerable.

I whisper hoarsely, “Thank you. Thank you so much for being there for me. I don’t know what would’ve happened tonight if you weren’t there. I am thankful as fuck that you were, because I can handle getting knocked around, but I don’t know what I would’ve done if something happened to my sisters.”

Having said my piece, I feel Ghost’s arms hesitate at his sides before they wrap around my lower back and hold me tight. I release the breath I hadn’t known I was holding and sink into him, feeling secure and protected. I burrow my face into his neck and breathe him in.

He smells like manly soap and mint. The weird combination works its magic, soothing me.

I totally need this right now. My sisters know I’m not the hugging kind so they don’t even try anymore. Today I really needed contact, any form of contact, but didn’t want to be that pathetic girl that asks for it.

But this is Ghost. It’s different with him. Different in a way I can’t explain.

His muscled arms cocoon me, squeezing me tighter. We’re flush against each other and I feel the hard bulge at the front of his pajama pants press into me. I smile into his neck and I know he feels it when I feel his cheek muscles form a smile too. Feeling bold and empowered, I do something I didn’t plan on doing.

I lift my head off his shoulder but keep my arms around his neck. I’m surprised to see that Ghost still hasn’t opened his eyes. I’m secretly thankful for it. I slide my hands from the back of his neck, forward and up to cup his cheeks. Before I overthink things, I lean forward and press a soft kiss against his lips.

An electric current jolts me, and from his sudden intake of breath, I’m sure he feels it too.

Then I remember something.

Holy shitballs! This is our first kiss!

I feel constricted in the best way when Ghost’s arms wrap tighter around me, warming me. I feel his mouth open a little against mine.

Is that an invitation?

I have no idea but I’m totally taking it!

Rather than plunge my tongue in, I lift my face and open my mouth a little, breathing into him and placing my full bottom lip into his parted mouth. Ghost groans into me and sucks my lip gently.

And, holy shit, it’s hot!

I feel that slight suction spark all the way down to my vajayjay. My core moistens and I clench my legs together but it doesn’t help. His lips are warm and soft and he tastes delicious. His sweet minty breath mingles with mine.

It’s incredible. I wish I never have to breathe so I can kiss him forever.

This is a sweet kiss. There is nothing sexy about this kiss, but I am so hot, I’m burning up.

This was not part of the plan!

Oh, yeah. Right. Stick to the plan.

Knowing I’ll be pulling away from this awesome kiss in a moment is seriously breaking my heart. My stomach dips. I don’t want it to end but Ghost and I are friends. Making this unplanned kiss a little awkward. Call it a thank you, if you will.

My body feels light as a feather. I’m swimming in bliss. I have never been so turned on by a kiss before.

As in ever.

In my whole life.

Loosening my hold on his neck, I slide my hands to rest on his shoulders and move my face back from his.

What happens next, I do not see coming.

Ghost growls and pushes his face further into mine, reconnecting our lips. I feel that growl vibrate through my crotch. My panties are soaked.

He’s not letting me go!

I push unconvincingly on his shoulders but he fights to win this battle. His arms loosen, his hands slide down my back, further down til his palms rest on my ass. Goddamn, I like that. My eyes roll back and I sigh loudly. He nips my bottom lip and grips my butt, squeezing both cheeks with his large hands. A moan escapes me and I press into him.

So much for ending this on my terms!

It’s on, motherfucker!

A whimper bursts out of me. I assault his lips with deep, open mouthed kisses and I wrap my arms tightly around his neck once more. His hands knead my tingling ass, fuelling me on and it feels amazing.

My stomach flutters.

Using his shoulders as leverage, I jump a little and wrap my legs around him. Ghost groans against my lips, “Fuck me! You’re sweet as honey, pretty girl.” He holds under my ass with one hand and slowly slides the other hand under the elastic of my pajama pants. I tear my mouth from his and gasp, “No!”

Ghost’s body stiffens. He stills awhile before slowly letting me down to my feet. His hold on me loosens and he steps back. I search his face, not quite understanding his sudden withdrawal. He won’t look at me but his eyes are full of remorse. He almost looks ashamed.

My head swims while my lips throb deliciously.

Whoa! That kiss has left me in a daze.

Forgetting the phone books, I take a step back into air and stumble. My shaky legs wobble for a moment before I straighten. I adjust my tank and clear my throat before walking backwards to the door. “So, yeah. Um, thanks again.” Still in a kiss coma, I ramble. “But I already said thank you. So you know that I, um, thank, uh, you. And you’re good at hugging too, so thanks for that also. You are very warm. Like a person blanket.” I walk back into a wall with a thump. Annoyed at my failed exit, I turn around and glower at the wall. Looking back at Ghost who watches me through furrowed brows, I point my thumb back and whisper, “There’s a wall there so, um, be careful.”

His lip twitches and he nods once.

Having finally located the door, I turn the handle and step out. I turn to face him and say, “Good night, Asher.” Without waiting for a reply, I close the door behind me and go back to my apartment. Once inside, I tiptoe back to my room and get back into bed.

I don’t really understand what just happened, but I know one thing.

Ghost can kiss the fuck out of a woman.

I fall asleep with a huge smile pasted on my face.

Chapter Ten

Hot Lips McGee

Waking this morning with a boner so hard it could cut through glass, I gotta say, I’m not surprised.

What the fuck happened last night? Not that I don’t want it to happen again, but can somebody please explain what the fuck that was?

That was not a kiss. That was something else altogether.

I palm my erection and smirk to myself.

That was Nat. Plain and simple.

I think I’m gonna have to call her Hot Lips McGee from now on. I chuckle quietly knowing just how much that’ll piss her off. I get a sick, twisted sense of enjoyment seeing her all riled up. Her cheeks flush pink, and although I’d bet she doesn’t even know she does it, she pouts those full, sexy lips.

Lips that I never got to taste til last night. Lips that I’ve been thinking about since we fucked over a year ago. Sweet as sin, cherry-flavored lips that I want to taste over and over again.

I don’t think Nat realizes what she’s done. She’s unknowingly opened the floodgates.

Palming myself harder, I close my eyes and think of her lips on me.

My erection starts to deflate. Disgust turns my body cold.

Why would she want you? Once she gets a look at you, the real you, she’ll never have you again.

With a sigh, I get out of bed and walk over to the bathroom. I undress and turn on the shower. While I wait for it to heat up, I stupidly look in the mirror.

My eyes remain focused on my torso. Pink and faded ugly-as-hell scars scattered all over my chest and stomach. The forced memories of my dad invade my head.

Never loved you. Never even wanted you. Always a burden. Always will be.

My stomach boils as rage controls my body.

Smash

My chest heaves rapidly as I breathe heavily through my nose. I look down at my clenched and bloody fist.

Damn it to hell.

The man’s been dead for years and he still controls you. You’re so fucking weak.

Fuck this.

I skip the shower, get dressed and wrap my wound. Then I head to work with a scowl on my face.

Cleaning the broken mirror can wait.

***

My phone blasts ‘Blister in the Sun’ by Violent Femmes and I smile. I hold the phone to my ear and answer, “Ahoy hoy.”

Tina squeals dramatically, “Oh my God! She’s alive! Muahahahaha!”

I hear the muffled cheers of Mimi and Lola in the background. I put on my best nasal voice and say, “Mommy, I still don’t feel well.”

Tina laughs. “Hold on, I’ll put you on loudspeaker.” She fiddles around with the phone a few seconds before I hear her voice echo, “We miss you, hon! When are you coming back?”

I smile hard at the sound of her pitiful tone. “Tomorrow, guys. I’m a little better today, but I’m sure I’ll be fine tomorrow. Guess what?”

“What, ho bags?” That’s Mimi.

I crow, “My sisters are here!”

Tina gasps then whoops excitedly. “You’re kidding! That’s awesome. They have to come to the store tomorrow, we can all do lunch at The White Rabbit together!”

Lola joins the conversation, “Who with the what now?”

I chuckle, “My sisters are here and we’ll see if we can do lunch. They’re leaving in two days so I want to spend as much time with them as I can.”

Tina says, “Okay, honey. See you tomorrow. Just take some ibuprofen and drink lots of water.”

And that’s Tina in a nutshell. Always caring and looking out for others. And tomorrow I have to tell her about Cole. My eyes prickle.

I clear my throat and force out, “Okay guys, I miss you. See you then.”

All three girls yell out at once. I hear a chorus of “Get better”, “Take a shower you dirty girl” and “Miss you too!” I laugh and hang up.

I get out of bed smiling.

Today’s gonna be a good day.

***

Ghost: You good to come to The White Rabbit tonight?

Lounging on my sofa watching crappy daytime TV with my sisters, my brow furrows at the text while I reply.

Me: Sure. What for?

Ghost: The club’s closed. It’ll just be us and the others. Bring your sisters. 7pm.

Nat: Okay. Do I need to bring anything else?

Ghost: Just wear sweats and comfortable shoes.

Curiouser and curiouser.

We decided to skip lunch with the girls, so bringing my sisters to the club is actually perfect. That way everyone can see them and we can all catch up together.

Nat: Okay. See you then.

Ghost: Text me when you get here.

I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m already sweating.

***

My sisters and I arrive at The White Rabbit at ten to seven dressed in our gym wear. We all wear our hair in high ponytails and have matching outfits of three quarter length gym tights, black t-shirts and sneakers. My sneakers are white, Helena’s are pink and Nina’s are black with pink trim. Seriously though, we buy things in threes. Most of our clothes are exactly the same because our tastes are.

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