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“You okay?” Brian squinted at me.

“Fine.” I squirmed, forcing the thoughts of Knox’s raw masculinity from my brain. “Let’s go get our painting on.”

Chapter Seven

Knox

After a trying week with my brothers, the last thing I wanted to do was go to my Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting—but the promise of seeing McKenna there forced my hand. I wanted to watch the way her eyes gravitated toward mine, and the soft flush of pink that warmed her cheeks when she spoke. She was a curiosity. A fun plaything to entertain me since I had to sit through the torture of being there.

I stepped into a pair of jeans and shoved my feet into my worn boots before making my way downstairs. Tucker sped past me, tearing through the kitchen with a bowl of cereal in hand, sloshing milk on the wooden floor right at my feet. He beelined it for the TV to watch his Saturday morning cartoons. It was the only time I let him eat in front of the television, so instead of scolding him for the spilled milk, I dropped a kitchen rag to the floor and began mopping it up with my foot. The TV switched on and a roar of canned laughter came from the other room as I flung the milk-soaked cloth into the sink.

Our house wasn’t clean. It wasn’t organized. But we tried to keep it somewhat tidy. We each took turns washing the dishes and doing the laundry. The floors weren’t mopped and the bathroom was often neglected, but we managed. We had clean dishes to eat from and fresh clothes to wear. It was all we needed.

During the week while the boys were at school, I managed a hardware store, and at night I occasionally picked up bartending shifts for the extra money. It provided enough to pay the bills, but bigger things weighed on me—paying for college, buying cell phones, and cars for the guys. I had no idea how any of that would be possible.

I tried to push those thoughts from my mind as I drove to my sex addicts meeting. I would deal with one problem at a time. It was all I could do.

When I arrived, the chairs were already filling up in a semicircle around McKenna. I grabbed a paper cup of weak coffee and sat down just as she was getting started. Her eyes flashed to mine and a tiny smile lifted her mouth. She hadn’t thought I would show up, and her relief was visible. I couldn’t help but give her my best panty-dropping grin and watched as her chest and neck flushed pink.

McKenna’s eyes dropped down to the notes on her lap and she took a moment to steady herself before beginning. “Sex addicts are very me-centric. Your addiction isn’t meant to serve anyone else. It’s a selfish pursuit. You get what you want, when you want it. And that’s why it can be so difficult to break. You’re not used to having to delay gratification. Today I want you to think about how you first became dependent on sex.”

She paused for a moment, her gaze drifting around the faces in the group. I couldn’t help but notice she deliberately avoided looking my way. Apparently I rattled her and she needed her composure to continue the meeting.

How did I become dependent on sex? I wasn’t sure I could pinpoint when it happened, but sure, I used sex to numb my pain and manage stress. Listening to McKenna, I was starting to believe that maybe it wasn’t totally normal.

“Over time, people develop a tolerance for sex. They need more and more of it to feel okay, and they experience withdrawal if they can’t have it. Eventually, it can destroy your relationships—your marriage, your job. I know we’ve previously talked about being fired for looking at Internet  p**n  at work, or marriages ending when a spouse discovered an affair. Your risky behaviors put you in danger for contracting a life-threatening STD. Or put you in debt, paying for strip clubs and prostitutes. None of these things lead to good outcomes. Can anyone share some of the techniques they’ve developed to work through their cravings?”

Shit. She actually wanted people to share how they avoided sex? It would be more useful to share techniques on how I seduced girls from nightclubs, coffee shops, the grocery store, or how to f**k standing up in a tiny bathroom stall. Doggie style. It was really the only option.

A timid girl directly across from me cleared her throat. “I count backward from ten and practice deep, calming breaths.”

“That’s great, Mia. Anyone else?” McKenna asked, looking straight at me this time.

I wasn’t saying shit.

Watching McKenna was hypnotic. After our last little exchange, I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind, and seeing her in person, I completely got why. She was soft and pretty. Her voice was light, clear, and appealing. Listening to her and watching the way her mouth moved around her words penetrated my walls, reached deep inside me and went straight to my dick. I had no idea why she’d have such a profound effect on me—unless it was a simple case of wanting what I couldn’t have. I wanted to unbutton her white shirt, push it open, and rub my fingertips over her ni**les until she sucked in a deep, shuddery breath. I wanted to see what kind of panties she wore and break down her walls, like she was doing to me.

Holy shit. Maybe I did have a problem. I was sitting in a sex addicts meeting with a hard-on. I was pretty sure that couldn’t be filed under N for normal.

But shit, I wasn’t like these people. Was I? The f**king jackass next to me was dressed in sweatpants with a hole in the crotch, and he’d just spent twenty minutes confessing about how he’d jacked off in the car to  p**n  downloaded on his phone before coming into the meeting. I scooted my chair farther away from him and caught a glare from McKenna.

McKenna continued providing prompts in the conversation and several more people opened up. By the time the hour was up, I knew far more about the people sitting around me than I wanted to.

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