He purposely leaned in, knowing how weak she was for him. She hated it, but just having her palm flat against his hard chest was already doing things to her. Being this close to him and feeling the warmth of his body against hers calmed the fiery jealousy that had consumed her just thinking about Alex meeting up with Nadine later.

“Bad girl,” he whispered as he leaned in even closer against the side of her head but remained mindful not to touch her. “Why’d you do that?”

Gulping back what she was feeling because she didn’t want him to see how easily he managed to calm her anger yet awaken her hunger for him without so much as touching her, she turned to him with a purpose, their mouths close enough to touch now. “Same reason you were getting ready to do the same to Ivan.”

He pulled away from her, his expression instantly hard. “Ivan?” he asked, and if disgust were a tone of voice, he nailed it with just the one word. “I would’ve done a lot more than hit him once.”

Valerie lifted a stubborn chin. “If you hadn’t carried me away, I would’ve done more to that bitch.”

Alex shrugged. “She asked for it. I’ll give you that. But I wasn’t gonna let you get arrested for her stupid ass.”

Calmed considerably, Valerie’s chest still heaved. The question burned at the tip of her tongue. Had he actually slept with Nadine? She gulped hard, staring into those eyes she’d loved staring into for years. Those beautifully intense eyes had melted her from day one.

A part of her was so tempted to just ask him—get the truth—but she was still pumped. Even as her heart continued to pound in her chest, she already knew one thing. Just like all the other scenes and confrontations their tumultuous relationship had endured over the years, tonight’s incident was already another one for the books. Alex was gazing into her eyes in that way that always made her feel so weak—weak because she knew what it meant. He could hardly wait to be alone with her. And this was the reason she was afraid to ask. It was the same reason she’d always refrained from asking direct questions about all the rumors she’d ever heard. She knew what would happen if the answer was yes, he had slept with Nadine. Maybe even recently. This night—maybe more—would be ruined because she’d lose it.

“Let’s go back to my place,” he whispered in her ear. “I have something I wanna show you.”

Valerie shoved him playfully unable to refrain from smirking. “You always do.”

Alex laughed that sexy laugh that never failed to make her melt. “No, not that. Sofie came by today and dropped something off. I think you’ll get a kick out of it. It’s why I came down to get you.”

That piqued her interest and Valerie tilted her head, peering at him curiously. His sister had brought something to him he thought Valerie would get such a kick out of he came looking for her at a party? Not that this was the first time he’d showed up unexpectedly at one of these parties to whisk her off, but, still, this was different.

“What did she drop off?”

With a click, Alex opened the door to his truck behind her. “Get in. I’ll show you when we get there.”

For a moment, Valerie pretended to consider it. That prompted Alex’s usual pleading eyes, and she was done. She smiled, nodding, and he leaned in and kissed her softly, sweetly, like the Alex Moreno she’d fallen for so many years ago.

Who was she kidding? He’d had her at “Let’s go.”

As usual she’d had to play a part, the part she’d been playing for years with him: That she was okay with this arrangement. That like Alex, she too, could go out and have a great time with someone else and not be thinking about him the whole time. That she too was a bit on the commitment-phobic side and that’s why this arrangement was perfect as is. No promises. No exclusivity. Just uncomplicated fun times. Yet many who knew them would argue that their relationship was anything but uncomplicated.

After tonight, after seeing him with someone else, not just hearing about it, Valerie had confirmed the one thing she’d feared from the beginning. Even though she’d yet to admit it even after all this time because she was sure it’d have him running for the hills, she was in love with him. And if she ever got the proof she refused to seek out—that he was in fact seeing other women when he wasn’t with her—it would break her as none of the unconfirmed rumors had ever done before.

All this time her heart had held on to the gut feeling that he did care about her as much as she did him. Just as she couldn’t bring herself to so much as kiss another guy, she hoped he felt the same way about her. The gut feeling was still there, but now she knew one thing for a fact. If she ever got proof that all those rumors were actually true, whatever this was she had with Alex for years now would be over. As much as she’d tried to convince herself that she’d be able to handle it, she now knew she was dead wrong. She’d never be able to handle seeing him with someone else.


Chapter 2


The warmth of Valerie’s naked body next to Alex’s was always amazing. This was the only time being with a girl ever felt perfect. Not that he’d been with anyone else in years.

Not like this.

As much as they liked to think of their relationship as simple—carefree—unlike most of the couples their age, theirs was arguably more convoluted than most.

Still, as the years had gone by, one thing had become clear: Alex had never met any other girl who could make him feel the way Valerie did. It had never been just about sex with Valerie as it’d been with most of the girls he’d gone out with in the past. Even in the very beginning when they both agreed their relationship would be just that—friends with benefits—the friends part, the relationship they’d built, had always outweighed everything else.