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“You’re the best boyfriend ever. Fake or not.”

“How many you had?”

“Boyfriends? Two.” I held up a couple of fingers, just in case he wanted a visual aid. It was good to be helpful.

“So I’m number three?”

“No, you’re number two. Relationships aren’t my specialty.”

“No?” He lifted his chin, looked down at me. “You’re doing real good, Anne.”

“Thanks, Mal.”


I had a nice buzz by the time we stumbled home. We shared a cab with Nate and Lauren at around three in the morning after an amazing party.

I’d finally heard Stage Dive play live. They were awesome playing acoustic. Jimmy’s and David’s voices melding together beautifully. Each one of those men was so damn talented it made my teeth hurt. Ben, with his bass, and even Mal, deprived of his full drum kit, made his presence felt in amazing ways. They were all in perfect balance, integral to the music.

It might have been way past my bedtime, but I didn’t want the night to end. Not just yet. I lay on my back, staring at my bedroom ceiling. It’d stopped spinning a short while ago. The gap in my curtains provided just enough light from the street to see by. A few years ago on nights like this when sleep wouldn’t come, I’d often talk to Mal–I mean, the poster version of him. Sad and psychotic, but true. Now the man himself slept next door.

Life could be a strange and beautiful thing sometimes.

Other times it was just a disaster. But sometimes beauty won out.

I ran my fingers over my poor, sore lips. They’d almost been kissed into extinction. Once Mal got an idea into his head, he was unstoppable. And apparently dancing with him meant indulging in a mini make-out session. It had gotten more and more difficult to feign dissatisfaction every time he tried something new. So many ways to kiss, I’d truly had no idea. Soft and hard, with or without teeth, the varying depths of penetration by tongue had featured largely. And hand placement. Whoa, the hand placement. He’d done everything from gently stroking my neck to kneading my ass. A man who knew what to do with his hands was truly a force to be reckoned with. I’d only just stopped him from slipping it up my skirt at midnight.

Such a great night.

He’d stripped down to boxer briefs again once we got home. I’d gone into the bathroom to grab a hairbrush and there he’d been, brushing his teeth. A man brushing his teeth had never been such a turn-on, even with the white bubbly drool slipping out of the corner of his mouth. My guess would be he didn’t own pajamas. Nope, a guy like him must sleep in the nude. A brilliant scientific deduction based on the hot and hard man currently occupying my couch. All too readily I could imagine his warm, tanned skin exposed. Did he sleep on his back, stomach, or side? Aesthetically, on his back would be most pleasing … for various reasons.

But if he did lie on his stomach the long line of his spine would be on show with the bonus addition of his ass. I’d sell something important to see his bare ass. My books, my e-reader, my soul, whatever was necessary.

And I could think about something else anytime I wanted to. But why would I?

No, masturbating was a much more sensible course of action. I was all wired and awake, my ni**les hard and br**sts aching. The time had come to take matters into my own hands.

“Mm, Nate.”

More moaning.

Some groaning.

A thump.

“Baby, yes.”

“Lick it, Lauren.”

No. Fucking. Way.

I covered my face with my pillow and silently screamed. If I put on music to drown them out (my usual course of action for dealing with Nate and Lauren’s nocturnal passions) I’d probably wake Mal.

Two more thumps. The bed next door started creaking. It was so loud I almost didn’t hear my bedroom door being opened.

“Pumpkin, am I in hell?” Mal walked in, sat on the edge of my bed.

“Yes. Yes, you are. I’m sorry. This is the first and worst level of all, the one where you can hear your neighbors f**king through paper-thin walls.”

Lauren made some screechy noise she was particularly prone to during such encounters. I cringed.

“Make it stop,” Mal whispered, mouth opened wide in horror. “Oh, f**k no. This is horrible.”

We both started quietly laughing. It was the only sensible response.

“Let’s go to a hotel,” he said, moving farther onto my bed.

“It’s four in the morning.”

“How long do they normally take?”

“They’ve been drinking, so this could go on for a while.” I drew up my knees, hugged them tight to my chest. He didn’t need to know about my nipple situation. The sad truth was that listening to people having good, noisy sex wasn’t helping. Lucky I was wearing my best comfy cotton jammie pants and an old T-shirt. They were so baggy they hid everything. Otherwise, having Mal sitting on my bed so close might have been a touch embarrassing.

“Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?” said Mal, scowling at the wall as if it had personally offended him. “I’m the drummer from Stage Dive. I don’t get kept awake by other people having wild sex. I keep them awake. I keep entire f**king neighborhoods awake.”

“Damn, baby. You’re so good at this,” Nate snarled through the wall.

“Did you hear that?” asked Mal.


“Right. That’s it.” Mal climbed up onto his feet, standing tall on my bed. There was only a foot between him and the ceiling at most. “He’s taunting me. He’s challenging me.”

“He is?”

“The bastard.”

“And I always thought Nate was such a nice guy.”

He reached out his hand to me. “C’mon, Anne. We must defend our fake sex life.”

“Shit.” I took his hand, letting him pull me up too. “Don’t let me bounce off the side. And don’t hit your head.”

“I’m not gonna hit my head. Would you stop being such a grown-up for a minute? Relax, have some fun.”

“Harder, Nate!” Came from next door.

Mal’s cleared his throat, loudly. “Anne!”


“Louder,” he hissed, as we started to bounce. The wooden frame of my bed made startling creaking noises. The kind it hadn’t made in a very long time, if ever. If only it were due to us being horizontal and naked. That would be so great.


“You’re such a nice girl, Anne,” Mal projected for the sake of our neighbors. “I really like you a lot.”

“Seriously? That’s your version of sex talk?”

“Let’s hear you talk dirty, then. C’mon.”

I shut my mouth. It stayed shut.

“Coward.” Mal turned his face to the wall we shared with Nate and Lauren. “You taste so f**king good.”

“Like what?” I asked breathlessly, thigh muscles tightening. The man was lucky I didn’t just attack him with my vagina. “What do I taste like?”

“Well, like honey and cream and … I dunno, bread?”

I scrunched up my nose. “Bread?”

“Yes. Sexy bread that I could eat all the time because you are so delicious and full of wholegrain goodness.”

The next round of giggling made my stomach muscles seize up, but I kept bouncing. How weird to be laughing and jumping and turned on at the same time. Some friends of Lizzy’s and mine had a trampoline when we were growing up. It’d never been as much fun as this, however.

Then Mal jumped particularly high and hit the ceiling with his head.

He dropped onto his much-coveted ass, rubbing the top of his skull. “Fuck. Ouch.”

“Are you okay?”

The bed suddenly collapsed, one end of the wooden frame crashing to the floor. The noise was most impressive. As was the sudden silence from next door. I stumbled and slid and wound up landing half on his lap. Fortunately, an arm went around me, stopping me from bouncing further. We sat there, basically chest to chest, with one of my legs thrown over both of his.

“We’ve broken my bed,” I said, stating the obvious.

“In battle, sacrifices must be made, pumpkin.”

“Is your head okay? Do you need an ice pack?” I pushed his mess of blond hair out of his face. Maybe he needed sexual healing. I was so up for that. It was right on the tip of my tongue to suggest it. Drunken bravado was the best.

“It’s good.” His smile came ever so slowly.

Someone knocked on the wall from Nate and Lauren’s side. “You two okay?”

“We’re fine,” I called back. “Thanks. Carry on.”

I could hear barely subdued laughter. My face felt hot. Flame-worthy hot. You could probably cook a steak on that sucker. Crap, everybody would hear about this. And I do mean everybody. We were never going to live this down.

“They’re mocking us,” I said.

“Nonsense. We just f**ked so hard we broke your bed. They wish they were us. The natural order of sexual status has been restored.”

We both laughed. It was all so ridiculous.

But then the laughter kind of dwindled away to nothing and we were sitting there staring at each other. His face was in shadows. It impossible to read him. But his thickening c**k made its presence known against my thigh. What I wouldn’t have given to know what he was thinking. All of my awareness went directly to between my legs and oh shit, it felt good. I wished he’d do something because I wasn’t sure I could. He reacted to me but what did that mean? Dicks did stuff. Mysterious stuff, like getting hard for no reason. Sex was most definitely not part of our agreement. He’d been specific. And yet, all the kissing and teasing tonight…

I’d never been so confused in my entire life. Confused and horny.

Next door, the noises started up once more as they took my advice and did indeed carry on.

“I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking about us at all,” I said.

“Just out of interest, how drunk are you?”

“The room is kind of spinning. Why?”

“Nothing. We better move,” he said, voice guttural. Carefully, he lifted me off of him and then climbed out of the ruin of my old bed. We both stood there, collectively ignoring the bulge in his pants. Not awkward at all. It had to be said though; a damp crotch was far easier to hide.

“Let’s go watch a movie,” he said. “No one’s getting any sleep anytime soon.”

“Good idea,” I lied and let him haul me out of the wreckage. “Poor bed. But that was fun.”

“Yeah, it was. Not as much fun as actually f**king, but still, not bad.”

My curiosity got the better of me. Either that or I had no manners and was indeed still drunk. “Speaking of which, what happened to your hook-ups? I thought you might go visiting a lady friend after we got back from the party.”


“Meh?” He had a half-on and he was giving me ‘meh’?

“Between getting ready for this tour and being in a serious fake relationship, I haven’t had the time.”

“Fair enough.” I didn’t believe him at all.

Instead, my alcohol-addled mind made giant leaps of logic. Little to no reason was involved. What if his lack of libido had to do with his need for a fake girlfriend somehow? Maybe he had a mysterious real girlfriend hidden away down in L.A. and I existed solely to put people off the scent. Actually, no. That theory hurt. But maybe this was all about the bet he’d made with Ben. He’d backed himself into this ridiculous corner with his insane jokes and now his pride would be wounded if he tried to back out. And that theory hurt even more. Neither probability covered his being sad sometimes, though. I let him lead me into the living room, my head and my heart a not-so-sober mess.

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