Page 12

Author: Tracy Wolff

I’m not touching that admission with a ten-foot pole. Not when it makes him seem so … human.

“On that note, thanks for the ride.” I all but push him toward the stairs. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

“You could give me your number. That way you’ll be sure to see me around.”

For long seconds his words don’t compute. “You want my number?” Z never gets a girl’s number. He usually meets her, takes her out, bags her, and then goes on his way. Or at least that’s what everyone says about him. And it’s certainly the vibe I got off him that first night.

“Yeah?” For the first time he sounds uncertain, like he’s totally unfamiliar with this routine. “That way I can call you. See if you want to go to dinner sometime, or maybe to see another movie.”

Another crack appears in my shell, and I know it’s the uncertainty I’m responding to instead of the request for a second date. There’s just something about seeing the totally self-assured Z look a little lost that gets to me in a big way. In a bad way.

“I, uh, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean—”

“You don’t want me to call you?” He sounds incredulous.

I don’t, no. For so many reasons that I don’t want to get into. “It’s not that simple.”

“Sure, it is. You give me your number. I call. We go hang out, have a good time. See where it goes.”

“Why are you pushing this?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. Why are you so determined to get my number? There are hundreds of girls at the resort who would lie down buck naked in the snow for a chance to go out with you. Why are you here trying to convince me?”

He looks uncomfortable, and suddenly I remember what Cam told me. The bet. Of course. This is all about the bet he made to sleep with me.

On one hand, the knowledge reassures me. On the other, it scares me to death. Because I’ve been around him one night—one night—and already he’s getting to me. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is.

What am I going to do if he keeps popping up, trying to endear himself to me? Even if it isn’t serious, even if it’s all about that stupid bet, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to resist him. Not the sex, because that’s the most unimportant part of the whole equation. But the vulnerability I see in him when he doesn’t think anyone is watching. The pain that connects so easily with my own.

“Maybe I like you,” he says.

Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of. Or, more accurately, I’m afraid that if I give him half a chance, he can make me like him. And I’m just not ready for that. Not now. Maybe not ever.

“Good night, Z.” I take another step into my room, start to close the door.

Once again, he catches it—this time by wedging his foot against it. “Fine. If you won’t give me your number, at least take mine. Or tell me what time you’re working tomorrow. I’ll show up. We’ll talk. I’ll even let you dump coffee on me again.”

“I don’t want to dump coffee on you again.”

“Maybe not now. But give me ten minutes. I’m sure I’ll say something that pisses you off again.”

The funny thing is, he probably will. But even that’s a problem, because if I’m angry, then I’m feeling something. And once I open that door, who knows what else will leak through. Look where I am already, just twenty-four hours after meeting Z.

I start to tell him to get lost, to leave me alone, but he gives me that charming grin again. The one he gave me yesterday, and the one he gave me over and over again today whenever I looked at him.

And that’s when it hits me. He’s not going to give up. Not Z, world-class athlete and Olympic contender extraordinaire. He hasn’t gotten where he is by being a quitter, by forgetting about what he wants. By giving up. If he’s got a bet going on, then he’s going to be all over me for the next week, trying to get me into bed. Trying to win that bet. Which, normally—with any other guy—I’d just ignore.

But Z isn’t an easy guy to ignore. Especially now when I know there’s a lot more to him than I first thought. The longer I’m around him, the bigger the risk I’m taking. Not that I’ll fall for him, because that won’t happen, but already I’m cracking. Already I’m letting him in when I swore I’d never do that again. Never let anyone close enough to hurt me the way Remi did.

But I can see traces of Z’s pain, know there’s so much more of it than what’s at the surface. And I’m afraid that somehow all the agony I sense in him will slip behind my last line of defense and then I’ll be right back where I was a year ago: totally screwed.

I don’t want to go back there. Not now. Not ever. When I came here, it was for a fresh start. I promised myself that I wouldn’t look back, wouldn’t think about the past. It’s a good plan, one I can’t let Z derail me from, not now that I can finally breathe a little.

Which is why, even as I tell myself to close the door, I end up doing the exact opposite. I step back and ask, “Why don’t you come in for a while, have something to drink?”

Chapter 7


I’m not sure who’s more shocked by her invitation, Ophelia or me. Probably me, since she’s already turned around and walked deeper into her room while I’m still standing in the hall with my hands in my pockets and my mouth wide open. Talk about a total loser.

There’s a part of my brain that’s telling me to walk away, that any girl who makes this kind of 180-degree turn obviously has issues I am not equipped to deal with. And yet, even as I’m telling myself to get the hell out of here, I take a step into her small studio apartment. Then another and another, until I’m standing in the center of the room. Which is only about five feet from the main door, but still.

“So what do you want to drink?” she asks. “I’ve got Dr Pepper, hot chocolate, coffee, and water.”

I glance around, take in the single bed that doubles as a couch, the small bookshelf loaded with books, the tiny kitchenette. There’s not much else to see. No photos. No posters. Nothing but a few books to give me a clue about who Ophelia really is.

“I’ll take a Dr Pepper.”

“Good choice.” She walks over to the fridge and pulls out two of the old-fashioned glass bottles, then uses an opener to pop the caps off them.

“Did you really ask me in just for a drink?” I wonder as she hands me the soda.

She pauses, her hand still on the bottle, right next to mine. “Did you really come in just to get a drink?”

“What do you think?” I ask, watching her face carefully as I put the bottle on the counter next to me without taking a sip.

Ophelia follows the movement with her eyes. “I think you don’t like Dr Pepper.”

“You think right.” I’ve never been able to stand the stuff.

“So why’d you take it, then?”

I put my hands on her waist, pull her closer, until her lower body is pressed against mine. “Why do you think I took it?” I can’t help it. There’s a part of me that likes playing this cat-and-mouse game with her.

“I don’t know.” She keeps her eyes steady on mine. “You’re certainly full of questions tonight.”

“I am. How come you’re not full of answers?”

“Because answers are always harder than questions. Don’t you know that?”

I think of the million or so questions I have about April. About my mom. About everything that went down during that time in my life. A million questions and almost no answers. Except the really bad ones. “I guess I do.”

She takes a long sip from her bottle, and I can’t help but watch the way her mouth moves against the rim, the way her throat works as she swallows. I don’t know if she’s doing it on purpose this time, but Jesus, she’s making me hard.

I shift, try to adjust myself so my hard-on isn’t so f**king obvious. But it’s nearly impossible when she’s drinking half the damn bottle in one sip and all I can focus on are her shiny pink lips and what it would feel like to have them wrapped around my cock.

Finally—finally—she puts the damn drink down next to mine, then tilts her face up so she’s looking me in the eyes. “Still, I think I’ve got a pretty good answer for what you’re doing here,” she tells me.

“Oh, yeah?” Who is this girl and what has she done with Ophelia?

I know I should be concerned, but her face is only inches from mine now, and if I bend my head, I’ll be able to kiss her like I’ve wanted to from the first moment I saw her. I start to do just that, to press my lips to hers, but her sudden change of tune holds me back, tells me to take it slow. Something is up with her, and I don’t know what it is. The knowledge bothers me more than it should.

I mean, all the signs are there.

Her full lips are tilted up in a seductive smile.

Her sweet body is curved into mine.

Even her hands have taken up residence on my arms, her fingers curling around my biceps as if to hold me to her.

Yeah, she’s giving me all the right signals, and I should totally be taking advantage of them, stripping her down so that I can see and touch and kiss every inch of her beautiful, beautiful body.

Still, I’m hesitant. Something feels … off, though I can’t figure out what it is.

Then again, Ophelia must not be feeling the same trepidation, because she tilts her head up and answers, “Yeah,” to my earlier question, right before she makes the move I’ve been dying to make since the moment I first saw her. She wraps her arms around my shoulders and presses her gorgeous, perfect lips to mine.

Thank God.

It’s just a soft touch, her lips brushing over mine in a kiss as light as an early winter snowflake. Once, twice, then again and again until I feel like I’ll go crazy if I can’t touch her. If I can’t tilt her head back and thrust my tongue deep inside the recesses of her mouth. If I can’t pull her against me and feel her slick heat against my cock.

Though it kills me, I keep my hands clenched at my side and my lips gentle against hers. She started this. It’s only fair to let her lead for a few minutes so I can find out exactly where she wants this thing to go.

It’s a good plan, and it probably would have worked, too, except the seventh or eighth time her mouth brushes my own, she makes a low, needy sound deep in her throat. It’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard, and it shatters the stranglehold I’ve kept on my control from the moment she invited me in.

My hands come up of their own volition, my fingers tangling in her long, silky hair as I tilt her head to the side for better access. Then it’s my turn to take charge of the kiss. My turn to show her everything I want to do to her.

I run my tongue along the seam of her lips, licking softly, tenderly, toying with the perfect bow of her upper lip until she gasps and opens for me. I nip at her lower lip then, tugging gently at it with my teeth. She moans a little, her hand coming up to twist in my shirt, and that’s when I slip inside her, my tongue gliding between her lips and her teeth to play with her frenulum, the sensitive bit of skin that connects her upper lip to her gum.

She moans again, and this time the sound shoots straight through me. My cock, already hard, starts to throb in time with the blood roaring in my ears. Every cell in my body is screaming at me to strip her naked, press her up against the nearest wall, and f**k her until we’re both senseless with pleasure.

But Ophelia’s not that kind of girl. From the moment she dumped that drink on me, I knew she was different. That she’d require more than my usual fuck-and-run. It’s why I walked away from her that first night. And why I made that stupid bet, so I’d have an excuse to see her again when every instinct I have is shouting at me to stay as far away from her as I can.