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I lifted an ice cold bottle of beer from the carton, twisted off the cap, and took a long sip. Mmmm . . . My taste buds did a little happy dance. Looked like I’d be having muffins and beer for dinner. Which suited me just fine.

It was strange how these little comforts of home improved my mood. I smiled for the first time in a week. Everything looked brighter.

My phone rang and I crossed the room, beer in hand, to fish it from my purse. “Hello?”

“Hi.” It was Ben.

The coarse sound of his voice surprised me. I had been so wrapped up in my own little world, I hadn’t even thought to check the caller ID. I didn’t say anything else and neither did he right away, but I could hear him breathing.

“Did you get a delivery?” he asked, tentatively.

“Yes, thank you. It just came. That was very thoughtful of you.”

“It’s nothing. I just wanted to show you that I was thinking of you, that I care about you, Emmy. You’re all I can think about. We should talk. I miss you.”

I missed him, too. Every hour of every day. “Okay.”

“Okay?” His hopeful, happy tone made me smile.

“Yeah, come have a beer with me. I’m guessing you’ve never had Hap & Harry’s.”

He laughed. “Be down in a minute.”

When Ben arrived, the urge to crush myself against his body was nearly overpowering. Instead, I opened the door wide and invited him in. Handing him a beer, I couldn’t help but notice the deep, dark circles under his eyes. He hadn’t been sleeping well, and I felt a pang of guilt at that realization.

He took a slow sip from the bottle, tilting his head back, but his eyes remained on mine. His scrutiny was too much. I busied myself at the little table, removing two muffins from the pastry box, and placed them on napkins for us. Ben’s large form loomed just behind me, and I felt the heat radiate from his skin, felt him breathe my scent against the back of my neck. He reached around me to set his beer on the table then took mine from my hands and placed it beside his.

“Emmy . . .” His gruff whisper sent a rush of goose bumps breaking out over my skin. His hands captured my jean-clad hips and he tugged me back a step until my back met his firm chest and his arms closed around me, hugging me from behind. He buried his face against the side of my neck. “I can’t do this anymore. I miss you so fuckin’ much, baby. And I’m so sorry about everything with Fiona. I should’ve told you sooner.” His soft, whispered apology murmured against my skin made tears spring to my eyes. I missed him, too. Terribly.

I turned in his arms, feeling the first of the tears roll down my cheeks. Ben looked at me, a pained expression on his face, and brushed away the drops with his thumbs, capturing my cheeks in his palms. I didn’t say anything, didn’t need to. The look we shared communicated so much; there was no need for words. Ben watched me in wonder, smoothed the hair back from my face, and ran his fingers through the long strands before he eventually bent down and brought his mouth to mine. “I’m falling for you, Emmy,” he whispered just as his lips pressed against mine.

Endorphins, lust, love, and desire flooded my system all at once. I kissed him back—hard—crushing my mouth to his. His words were everything I’d wanted to hear, but actually hearing them, in his deep, sexy voice, was too much.

I clawed at his clothes, pushing my hands under his shirt, tugging at his belt. Ben groaned against my mouth and his hands helped me. He tugged off his shirt, only breaking our kiss for a second, then removed my top. He cupped my breasts over my white lacy bra, groaning as his palms made contact with my skin. I’d missed that; I’d missed him too much to go slow. And Ben obviously felt the same way. I felt his rock-hard erection press into my stomach. Desire coursed through my veins and I groaned into his mouth. Ben lifted me from my feet, carrying me in a cradle hold over to the bed.

He laid me down against the center of the mattress and looked down at me. My breathing came much too fast, my chest rising and falling rapidly. His eyes lingered on my chest, moving over each curve. He delicately traced a fingertip along the lacy edge of my bra before reaching behind me to unclasp it.

He petted and kissed me gently all over. Sliding down the bed so he was even with my chest, he placed tender kisses along my collarbone, ribs, and the center of my stomach. He lifted my hands to his mouth, kissing the inside of each wrist, right where my pulse slammed violently in my veins. I twisted restlessly underneath him, trying to press my core against his heavy erection. He chuckled against my skin, lighting me up like a damn Christmas tree. I was so turned on, so unabashedly horny. I wanted him. I needed him to claim me. Even if he wasn’t good at using pretty words or big emotional displays, I needed him to show me.

He came to rest beside me, laying so we faced each other. Stroking my cheek softly, his eyes watched mine with wonder. “God, I’ve missed you.”

I placed my own palm against his rough cheek and my thumb skittered past the bruise-colored skin underneath his eye, acknowledging that this past week had been rough on us both. “You said that night with Braydon made you realize some things?” I whispered.

He swallowed and nodded. “Yes. I’m not good at expressing my feelings, but fuck, I wanted to punch him square in the face when I saw him touch you.”

I smiled. “We didn’t have to do that, you know . . . I’d never even thought about having a threesome before you suggested it.”

“That was stupid of me. He and I had done it before, so I figured it was no big deal. If it was something you wanted, and I could give it to you, I didn’t want to deny you anything. But then when it was actually happening, I don’t know. All this emotion and regret just hit me like a brick. I didn’t want him touching you. I wanted you all to myself: your sweet laugh, your beautiful, lush body. I don’t want to share you, Emmy.”

“You don’t have to.”

He leaned forward and rested his forehead against mine, lightly kissing my lips. “Never again.”

I nodded, agreeing completely. It was sort of a bucket list thing, and once had definitely been enough for me.

“I need to be inside you,” he whispered, hoarsely.

I let out a ragged breath. “Bennn . . .”

His fingers fumbled with the button on my jeans, and I found myself helping him to push them down my thighs.

Once I was stripped of every last stitch of clothing, Ben curled his hand around my pubic bone, his fingers lightly brushing my sex. “This pussy’s mine. No one gets to fuck this but me.”

“Yes, Ben. Just you.”

He shed his boxer briefs and jeans in one quick movement, sending them over the edge of the bed.

I gripped his smooth, firm length in my hand, slowly stroking him, and was rewarded by a husky moan tumbling from his parted lips. My body responded with a surge of moisture between my legs.

“I need to fuck you, Emmy.”

Reading the tension in the firm set of his jaw, I knew this would be hard and fast, and that was exactly what I needed. We both needed to chase away any lingering thoughts of Braydon, or Fiona. This was just us, wild and passionate.

His body slanted over mine. Ben kissed my mouth hard and inched himself forward, the head of his cock parting my folds as he pushed inside me slowly, allowing my body time to adjust.

He sank all the way in, inch by delicious inch, until he was fully buried within me. I sucked in a sharp breath at the same time he released a low groan, cursing under his breath.

“Fuck, baby, that’s so good.”

I was doing little more than lying underneath him but I took the compliment, pressing a kiss to his neck. I loved his scent, the weight of him on top of me. Finally, Ben started to move—little shallow thrusts until he was sure I was stretched around him and ready for more. I wrapped my legs around his back and Ben gripped my ass in one hand, angling my hips up to meet his thrusts. The sensation was almost too much. He was so deep inside me.

He drove into me, pounding hard against my core. I clung to his broad back while Ben moved against me, pushing me into the mattress with each deep thrust, claiming me, owning me, making me his.

Ben

Afterward, I held her, feeling her body tremble and pulse after her final orgasm. Being intimate with her helped to chase away some of the memories of Bray. That wasn’t something I wanted creeping around the edges of my memory, because I’d meant every word I’d said. She was mine. I’d never needed anyone quite like the way I needed her.

After her heartbeat had recovered, she rolled to face me in bed so we were laying side by side.

“We should talk, Ben.”

I nodded. I didn’t know what more there was to talk about. In my mind things were pretty fucking clear. I had Emmy back. That was all that mattered. “What’s on your mind, baby?”

She brought a hand to my cheek and rested it there. She sighed deeply. “Are you sure you want this . . .” She motioned between us.

“I just came twice, I’m with the most beautiful girl in the world, and I’m about to get the best sleep of my life. I’d be a fuckin’ fool not to want this.”

She swatted my arm, a smile blossoming on her mouth. “I know what I want . . . but you’re not the relationship type,” she reminded me sternly.

“I told you, it’s not a choice. I need you.” I didn’t know the right words to make her understand. But she watched my eyes and seemed to take it all in.

“Relationships that start with sex don’t work, Ben.”

I tilted her chin up to meet my eyes. “Nothing about my life has been conventional. Let me do this my way.”

Unwilling to even allow her the time to answer, my mouth captured hers in a hungry kiss. I couldn’t wait a second longer to feel her lips on mine. She was so soft, so sweet. I didn’t know what it was about this girl, but I wanted her. Needed her.

After our third round of sex in as many hours, we were both worn out. Emmy showered and changed into little sleep shorts and a tank top while I got two fresh beers for us and the muffins we’d forgotten about earlier. Neither of us had eaten dinner, but they would do the trick. When Emmy emerged, with damp hair combed straight down her back and freshly scrubbed pink cheeks, she smiled at the little picnic I had set out on the bed.

I fed her bites of muffin—she liked only the tops—and we sipped our beers, made small talk, and snuggled together in the bed. I navigated the conversation around any mention of Fiona, happy that my peace offering seemed to work. My little beer-drinking, blueberry-muffin girl.

• • •

I continued to give Fiona her injections but worked hard to keep things purely professional between us. I was expecting her in the next few minutes and made sure I turned my phone to vibrate. Emmy would probably call now that she was done with work for the day. I wanted to talk to her, but I needed to help out Fiona first. And since Fiona and Emmy mixed about as well as oil and water, I didn’t want to upset either of them right now.

Emmy wouldn’t understand me helping Fiona like this, and Fiona was in a delicate enough state of mind with all these damn fertility drugs. Her first two attempts at getting pregnant hadn’t worked, and I began to wonder if putting her body through all this was really worth it. But I wouldn’t question her. I could see the determination blazing in her eyes when she handed me the syringe. Fiona lifted her shirt and I swabbed the area clean, watching her inhale sharply at the cold alcohol.

“Sorry,” I murmured. The goose bumps faded and I flicked the vial, pushing up the plunger until a bead of liquid formed at the head of the needle.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, her eyes solemnly regarding mine. “Thank you for doing this. There’s no way I could inject myself.”

“It’s no trouble, Fiona. I just hope for your sake this is the last time we have to do this.”

She nodded, her eyes going misty.

Using the distraction, I pinched her skin and stuck the needle in, trying to be as gentle as I possibly could, burying the tip in her flesh. Fiona always jumped a little, but other than that we had this little routine down to a practiced science. Securing the small bandage in place, I discarded the needle in the Sharps Container.

“Doing okay?”

She nodded. “What would I do without you?”

A thousand times, I’d wanted to tell her about Emmy, but something inside me kept putting it off.

Emmy

During the day, I dreaded my time with Fiona. I still couldn’t look her directly in the eye. Every time I saw her, I thought about her and Ben. It was torture. He wanted to tell her that we were together, but I kept dragging it out. I knew she’d flip out, and since she already treated me like crap, I didn’t want to see what would happen once he told her. She’d probably end up firing me.

In the following weeks, Ben and I became nearly inseparable. During the week, each of us worked, but we spent every night together in Ben’s bed. We ordered room service, fed each other, talked about books, music, movies, our childhoods, and future dreams. And we had a lot of sex. The closer we got, the more we seemed to crave each other. Once or even twice a night wasn’t enough.

Oftentimes after sex, I felt like I’d run a marathon. My muscles trembled and became woozy, and I was drenched in sweat and come. I hadn’t known I was capable of multiple orgasms, and I never thought men were, either. Well, perhaps men weren’t, but Ben Shaw, a god in bed, was, and even he came two or three times during our crazy hours-long sex bouts. We leapt past any and all physical boundaries, making love constantly. We showered together, soaked together in the bathtub, and slept nude in his big bed. He refused to let me feel self-conscious, constantly petting me, kissing me, and telling me I was beautiful. It was perfection. A dream come true, really.

I realized with absolute clarity that I was falling in love with him. It was impossible. But I was. He was sweet and caring and made me laugh. I wanted to share his bed every night, sleep wrapped up in his arms, chase away his demons, and make sure he was well fed. I wanted to be the one to take care of him. The last person he saw before bed and the first person he saw when he woke. He was mine. Totally and completely. Even if he didn’t know it yet.

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