“Your brothers and sister?”

“Yep. He bribed a government official and the verdict handed down decreed we had to sell the homestead that’d been in my family for seven generations.” He closed his eyes.

“I never once thought about cheating my siblings out of any money and they made me feel so…dirty for everything I was. Everything I thought they’d accepted about me. I lost my mother, my ancestral home, my family, and my…dignity.”


“The final cut was when my stepfather told everyone in my hometown selling had been my idea because I wanted to live in Sao Paulo with my male lover. I became a pariah. The church forbade me from even visiting my mother's grave.”

She couldn’t speak.

“So see. I know about difficult family issues. I’ve lost everything that ever mattered to me.”

Except Trevor.

Edgard didn’t say it; he didn’t have to.

Her heart seemed to shatter into a billion pieces. That’s why Edgard had come back.

Not to steal Trevor away, but to remind himself of something that’d been good in his life.

Or maybe he’d come back to cement his disillusionment that his time with Trevor hadn’t been the sunshiny rainbows he’d remembered?

Poor Edgard. Still grasping at straws, even when he knew them to be hollow. God. It wasn’t fair. Why did everything have to be so damn hard? Chassie placed her hands over her face and sobbed.

Strong arms wrapped around her. It took a while for the warmth and heat to offer any solace and she felt guilty for taking from Edgard when she should’ve been giving to him.

“It’s not fair. It’s so not fair. Why does bad shit always seem to happen to good people?”

Breathy kisses dotted the crown of her head. “I’m sorry about Cam, sweetheart.”

She lifted her face from his wet shirtfront and blinked at him. “You think that’s why I’m cryin’?”

Leeriness entered his eyes. “Yes.”

“I’m not cryin’ about Cam, you big dummy. I’m cryin’ about you.”

“Me?” he repeated.

“My heart is busted clean apart after hearin’ what you’ve been through. Alone.

You’re hurtin’ so bad and I just wanna fix it. Goddammit, I’d hoped we’d gotten past these secrets and you’ve been keepin’ a big one from me and I’ll bet Trevor too, huh?

He nodded warily.

“I wanna punch you and I wanna hug you, you big stupid jerk.” Chassie mashed her face into Edgard’s chest as more tears poured out in hiccupping stutters.

She tried to squirm away after she’d calmed down. “Sorry about blubbering all over you and swearin’ at you.”

Edgard tipped her chin up. His eyes were wet and shone pure gold. “Do you realize you’re the first person who’s cried for me? It is very humbling. Very sweet, and so very…you, Chassie. You’ve a soft heart and an iron will. It is a potent combination.”

A funny tickle started low in her belly. “Ah. Thanks.”

Edgard’s eyes zeroed in on her mouth. Their bodies were still locked together. “Can you smile for me? So I can taste the happiness on your lips when I kiss you?”

“You’re finally gonna kiss me?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“With all the sexual gymnastics we’ve tried, the one thing you haven’t done is give me a real kiss.”

“Why do you think that is, querida?”

“Maybe because you prefer a mustache on the upper lip of the person you’re smooching?”

Edgard laughed softly. “Trevor doesn’t have a mustache.”

“Maybe you just prefer Trevor?”

“Could be. But how will I know I don’t prefer your kisses if I don’t give you a fair shot, hmm?”

“Sounds logical.” Chassie moistened her lips in expectation.

He bent his head, his gaze solely focused on her lips. Then a soft press of his mouth to hers. He retreated a fraction of an inch, letting his breath fan over hers, letting her anticipation build.

And build.

Her nervous habit of biting her lower lip had him growling. He nibbled the fleshy inside rim. His tongue dipped in, delicately tracing the seam, back and forth. Each wet stroke delved a little deeper. But never all the way.

A whimper escaped.

Then Edgard’s hands were on her head and he kissed her voraciously. Thrusting his tongue past her teeth, tasting every inch of her mouth as thoroughly as he pleased.

The change from exploratory to conquering made her wet and weak-kneed. She clung to him, lost, craving every single sensation this complex man could offer her.

He backed off to whisper across her lips, “No need to grow a mustache, darlin’. You kiss just fine. Much better than fine.”

She smiled against his mouth.

“Would you like to—”


He chuckled. “You don’t know what I was gonna ask.”

“You were gonna ask if you can pin me against the wall and fuck me, ’cause you’re feelin’ all close to me and stuff now that you’ve spilled your guts, and stopped bein’ the strong silent type of tough guy.”

“Smartass.” Edgard dropped another kiss on her jaw. “But yes, that was it. I want you, Chassie.” He dragged his mouth down her throat. “I wanna bury myself in your sweet heat. Lose myself in the softness that is you inside and out.”

Chassie rolled her hips into his, getting a heady sense of satisfaction that Edgard was already hard. For her.

“Pants off,” he growled.

“Race you.” She stepped out of her jeans and panties.

He ditched his jeans, snagged a condom from his pocket and rolled it on. Before Chassie doffed her remaining clothes, Edgard picked her up and pinned her upper body to the wall with his muscular torso. He spread her knees wide and slipped inside her.

“Oh. Wow. That’s…” Chassie braced herself for a hard, fast fuck, knowing his preference for rough, dominant sex.

But Edgard stilled. He caressed the tops of her thighs and rotated his hands to cup her ass. Then he rocked his pelvis, pulling out of her wet cunt completely, pausing, and easing back inside on a slow glide until he couldn’t go any deeper. “You like that?”


“Me too.” Edgard’s kisses were as unhurried as his thrusts and she was totally undone at his gentleness.

Her body coiled with eagerness, yet was loose limbed with pleasure. When she realized she’d been wallowing in sexual gratification and not reciprocating, she slid her hands from his wide shoulders, across his collarbones and stopped at the hollow of his throat.

Chassie unbuttoned his shirt, seeking contact with his skin. She loved touching every ridge of his pectorals as her fingers sought the tight male nipples hidden in the hair on his chest.

Edgard groaned. “Pinch them harder.”

As she alternated pinching and rasping her thumbs over the hardened nubs, she playfully used her teeth on the strong line of his jaw. That bristly section of his beard scraped her lips and tongue. The valley between his ear and his jawbone seemed to be the source for his intoxicating male scent. She rubbed her mouth, her cheek, her nose in that secret spot, steeping her senses in him, in Edgard, this man who’d gone from her friend to her rival to her lover.

“Arch your neck so I can taste you,” he murmured.

His mouth connected unerringly with sensitive spots to send her flesh tingling and her head buzzing. She moaned with complete abandon.

His focus on every nuance of her pleasure was absolute. Wasn’t long before her climax swirled through her, not in a sudden burst, but drawn-out twinges that sated her body and filled her soul with an impression of rightness.

Edgard’s rhythm accelerated. He plunged deep and his cock jerked, bathing her clenching channel with heat she felt through the latex.

When he whispered, “Chassie,” in her hair, her world tilted, her emotions shifted, becoming clearer. She cared about him, not because of Trevor, but because he brought something different to her, something just for her. Edgard was as much a part of Trevor as she was and Edgard was rapidly becoming part of her too.

Chassie let the silence linger while they each caught their breath, leery of ruining the moment.

Edgard sighed and nuzzled her cheek. “You okay?”

“I’m great. You?”

“Pretty stunned, actually.”

“Stunned that you enjoyed it?”

“No. How many times do I have to tell you I’ve loved every second of touching you and being with you?”

“But I’m a woman. Isn’t that like against the gay guys’ creed?”

He squeezed her ass. “Dammit, that reminds me, I forgot to check the gay man’s handbook. And nailing a real chick—not a man in drag—against the wall, probably will get me permanently kicked out of the club. Then again, a smart cookie like you knows I wouldn’t have considered fucking you at all if it hadn’t been for our separate relationships with Trevor.”

“Yet, this isn’t the first time we’ve done this, Ed.”

“It is the first time we’ve made love alone without Trevor.”

“True. Is that why it is so stunning?”

“No. I’m stunned by the way you make me feel, Chass.” He pressed his mouth to hers. “Worthy.” A soft brush of his lips. “Safe.” Another kiss. “That I have value to you beyond what we both feel for Trevor.”

Oh God. Don’t cry.

Her head thunked back and tears trickled down.

“No, querida, don’t. Please.” Edgard kissed away her tears, murmuring Portuguese sweet-nothings until her cheeks were dry.

“Why are you so goddamned gentlemanly and sweet to me all the time?” Chassie asked half-gruffly, secretly basking in the tender way he soothed her.

Edgard leaned back to gaze in her eyes. “Because you let me. Because I can be softer with you and you don’t think any less of me, don’t consider me less of a man. You bring out a side in me I’d nearly forgotten and your acceptance of it is one of my favorite things about you.”