I sighed, knowing this all too well. “I know you did. But you never even thought to ask me. Maybe I could have gone with you. Maybe I could have helped. You know, if you wanted to keep it as a fling, that would have been fine. But then don’t paint me as the bad guy here because I slept with other chicks afterward or I had to tell the press I was single because I am single, Dawn, and so are you. We went our separate ways.”

She swallowed hard. “I didn’t know you felt that way…you said you didn’t love me…”

“And I didn’t,” I said, her face immediately falling at my harsh tone. I tried to soften it. “But it didn’t mean I wouldn’t. Love takes time. For someone like me, who swore he’d never love anyone after my ex, after the bargain, love wasn’t even an option. But I still knew I could get there. Dawn, I wanted to get there with you.”

Damn if I hadn’t been so honest in my whole life. I felt like a manzanita tree with the layers of bark peeling off, leaving the core of me bare.

“And now?”

I licked my lips anxiously and grabbed her hand, cold and small in mine. I gazed at her intently. “Now we’ve started over. And I don’t want to say I’m single. That was my life for years. That’s all it could have been. I’m done with that. I want you. I want you.” I’d never wanted her more.

She stepped up to me, her hand stroking my face, her dark eyes shining. “You have me. I’m not leaving you. I’m here.”

She reached up and kissed me, so fucking softly. I put my hands at the small of her waist, loving that I could hold her there and claim her as mine now.

Though I wouldn’t feel—know—she was mine until I was deep inside of her again.

I bit her lip and tugged on it playfully, feeling my body tense up, the need to have her naked and under me growing by the second. “We better do as Jacob said. You’re coming to my room.”

She teased the rim of my lip with her tongue. “Do you even know what room you’re staying in? Do you even know where the hotel is?” she asked, her voice breathy. I shook my head. “Then you’re coming to my room.”

“I love the women’s lib movement,” I mumbled before I grabbed her behind the head, making fists in those smooth curls, and kissed her furiously. I could have devoured her right there in that courtyard in Nice. I was seconds away from taking her in my arms and fucking her here on the bench, not giving a shit if it was indecent or if anyone could see.

But as I started unbuttoning her jeans, she swatted my hands away, pulled back, and led me in a frantic rush all the way to the hotel, which was only about a block away.

It was a chic little boutique hotel, but all I cared about was that tight round ass in front of me as Dawn led the way up the stairs. We barely made it inside her room before I pressed her up against the closed door and kissed her until she couldn’t breathe, until I couldn’t breathe—but who needed air when you had a silken tongue and warm lips and a body that begged to be licked, pinched, stroked.

I bit her neck hard and pulled off her shorts, sliding my fingers into her like I was running out of time. She moaned, neck arching, so fucking sweet, so perfect. She melted into my touch better than my damn guitar, her skin yielding to me, fully and completely, like the tightest strings that finally give in.

I made her come right away, her cries fluttering down around us like snow. She was the song and I was the composer, and I knew all the right notes to hit, again and again and again until her nails were digging into my arms, begging for me to stop, to let her catch her breath. But we were only getting started.

I scooped her up into my arms and threw her down on the bed, where she cried out in surprise. She quickly rolled over onto her back, her legs wide and body ready again like I knew she would be. I pulled off my shirt and let her eyes trail all over my body in the dim hotel room light, and then I undid my pants. She looked hungry for me, and I knew I looked hungry for her. She went for my dick with fierce determination.

Her lips were hot as her tongue danced up and down my shaft, her hands cupping my balls, until I was at the breaking point. I had a lot of stamina, but even I had my limits. I placed my hand at her forehead and gently pushed her back down on the bed, then I slipped my arm underneath her waist, and flipped her around so she was on her stomach.

I brought her body to the head of the bed and told her to hang on to the headboard while I slipped fingers between the silky slit of her ass. She tensed up, afraid, but I licked her spine from neck down and continued licking, my hands now spreading her cheeks. She melted into me like butter.

“You have no idea, no idea how beautiful you taste to me,” I whispered, my tongue lapping up every crevice. God, she was so damn pure, and this was so damn sinful I could barely keep it together.

I pulled back and realized she was gasping in delight. “Don’t stop,” she moaned.

“Sweetheart, it’s not over yet.”

I straddled her, my knees on either side while I guided my cock in with one hand and pulled her back toward me with the other. I knew I rode her pretty hard last night, and I didn’t want to hurt her but…Jesus. I pushed in slowly, and she took my breath away. So tight, so wet, so eager.

“You feel too good,” I hissed through my teeth as the pressure built. “Too good for me. An angel.”

“Just don’t fuck me like one.”

I grinned at her suddenly dirty mouth and did as she asked, loving how uninhibited she was being. I thrust my pelvis hard against her ass, my dick driving deep inside her pussy until my balls were banging. She tightened her grip on the headboard, and I just drove in her again, harder, quicker, a stabbing motion that made her inhale sharply.

“Harder?” I asked, my fingers trailing up her stomach until I hit the smooth curve of her breasts. “I can come at you harder. Softer. Slower. I can fuck you senseless.” I kissed her neck, feeling her racing pulse under my lips. “Shit, I can do anything you ask, Dawn.”

“Give me all of you,” she said. And I responded by doing just that. I rammed into her, my fingers melting onto her clit, rubbing her wet, making her breathe harder, making her legs shake. In and out, I kept the rhythm. I made sure we moved in time, in sync, like a metronome. With each thrust, I felt something becoming undone inside of me, a sensation in my chest, that I was falling and falling and falling and I realized I was. I was burning up inside and letting go and giving in.

When we both came, crying for each other, our sweat-slicked bodies linked as one, I knew I’d given her everything. I had given her all of me.

Damn.

I’d fallen in love with her.

Chapter Ten

Dawn

I woke up needing water something fierce. I opened my eyes to see a dimly lit room, the lamp in the corner still turned on, my bra hanging from it. Sage’s strong, firm arm was draped around my waist, spooning me, and I could hear him breathing lightly, ruffling the hair on the back of my head.

I grinned stupidly and sank further into the mattress. Sage. Sage was here, with me. I wasn’t alone. I had him, his arms offering me protection from the night, protection from the next day and the next.

It’s too bad he wouldn’t be able to protect me from the oncoming hangover. After I saw him disappear into the bar car earlier with Angeline, I spent the rest of the train ride drinking out of Tricky’s flask and stewing over my fear about the phone call with my mother coupled with the frustrating jealousy of Angeline. As soon as we arrived in Nice and I checked into my room, I went straight to the hotel bar and did a few shots with Garth, desperately trying to get out of my own head and let loose. For a moment there, I knew exactly why Sage drank the way he did.

But it didn’t matter. Sage had been more honest and open with me last night than he’d ever been. It full-on floored me to hear him say that I’d left him. I had no idea he took my going back to Washington as a sign that I didn’t want to be with him. To hear that he’d wanted me—hell, even wanted to come with me—that made me thaw like nothing else. All that time we’d been pining for each other, too damn scared to even pick up the phone.

And the sex. I’d heard the term “mind-blowing sex” thrown around so much, but I was embracing that cliché because that fuck blew my mind. I’d never felt so dirty before, what he did to me, and yet it had never felt so good. That was raw, primal, emotional sex. Yeah, I could tell I was going to be a bit sore from two nights of his dick in a row after months of celibacy, but it was worth it. Everything about Sage, this man, this rock star in my bed, was worth it.

Even a hangover. I sighed, knowing if I wanted to ward it off, I needed to drink a gallon of water and take some aspirin. When you’re on tour with a rock band, you’re bound to be getting wild at some point, so I’d learned to carry pain medicine with me. I didn’t want to get out of bed, out of his arms, and away from the heat of his beautiful body, but I had to.

I carefully untangled myself out of his embrace, not wanting to wake him, and tiptoed across the room to the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. I opened my toiletry bag, and shook out some pills and downed them. The hotel room glasses were tiny and I couldn’t get enough, so I took my time standing at the sink, drinking and refilling.

It was between my third and fourth glass that a chill crept up on my bare arms and legs, and the hairs on my head began to tingle. I cautiously looked up to the mirror above the sink, expecting to see someone standing behind me.

But there was no one.

I finished drinking the glass, my senses going haywire as the crop of goosebumps intensified and my spine felt like it was being stroked with a piece of ice. Sometimes you just know when you’re not alone. When there’s someone else…here.

A dripping sound caught my attention. Faint and subtle at first, like it had been dripping this whole time and I hadn’t noticed. I slowly turned my head and looked over to the bathtub, where the curtain was drawn across it. The curtain was a pale yellow, which probably evoked feelings of sunshine and the French Riviera at any other time but right now reminded me of bile.

I sucked in my breath as the curtain moved, billowing out just slightly, as if pushed by an imaginary breeze. But I’d been in the room earlier. There was no window behind it, and the air in the room was still. Heavy.

The curtain billowed out again, and the dripping continued erratically. It didn’t sound like a leaky faucet. It sounded heavier than water, thick and sticky.

And the more I stared at the curtain, daring it to do something else, the more my eyes picked up on a small movement behind it. A shape, a shadow behind the sunny façade.

The blood pumped noisily through my head; the whole bathroom seemed to vibrate with it. Go get Sage, I told myself. Turn around, get out of the bathroom, and go get Sage. Don’t do anything else. Go get Sage.

But though the words in my head made perfect sense—gave me comfort, even, that my big, tall Sage would save the day while I hid behind him—my body didn’t listen.

I put down the glass on the counter, wincing at the sound it made.

It can hear me, I thought.

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