Not Until You
Not Until You
NOT UNTIL YOU Roni Loren
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd
77–85 Fulham Palace Road
Hammersmith, London W6 8JB
First published in USA by Intermix, Penguin Group (USA) 2013
First published in Great Britain by Harper 2013
This edition published by Harper 2014
Copyright © Roni Loren 2013
Cover illustration ©
Cover layout design © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2014
Roni Loren asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Ebook Edition © November 2014 ISBN: 9780007568970
For my NaNa, Kelli. You would’ve gotten such a kick out of this crazy career of mine. I miss you more than words can say.
“Andre, this isn’t a good time. Can I call you back?”
I did my best not to let my cell phone slip from between my ear and shoulder. Just don’t drop the tequila. I adjusted the enormous bottle that my friend Bailey had given me as a graduation present from my right hand to beneath my left arm and tried to dig my keys out of my purse so I could open the main door to my apartment building.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to make it, Cela,” my older brother said, his guilt obviously trumping my request to call him later. “I got caught at an investigation site this morning. I thought I’d be able to get there in time, but we had a witness wanting to talk and …”
I cursed silently as my keys hit the pavement. I crouched down, doing my best not to flash my underwear to anyone who may be passing by. “Really, it’s fine. They called my name. I walked across the stage and got a piece of paper and a sash for being summa cum laude. Papá yelled my name like he was at a baseball game instead of a ceremony. Mamá cried. We all went to lunch at Rosario’s and then the two of them headed back to the airport. Not that interesting.”
My brother’s heavy sigh said everything. I almost felt guilty that he felt so guilty. “Before you move back home next month, we’re getting together to celebrate. My baby sister, the doctor. I’m so proud I could burst.”
I smiled. I did like the sound of that. Dr. Marcela Medina, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Seven years of exams and studying and clinics, but it was finally done. Now it was time to leave Dallas and head back home to Verde Pass and take up the slack in my dad’s practice.
That last part had my smile faltering a bit. I hooked my key ring with my finger and wobbled back to a stand. “That’s sounds great. But I really have to get going. I have my hands full and need to get through the door.”
“Cela, you know better than to carry too much. Parking lots at night are one of the most dangerous places for women. Are you holding your mace?” he asked, his voice going into that bossy cop tone I was all too familiar with.
“It’s in my hand,” I lied, trying to remember where I’d stowed the last little canister he’d given me—probably in my junk drawer. “But I don’t have a free hand to pull the door open.”
“All right,” he said, placated. “Congratulations again. I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
The call ended but I didn’t have a way to take the phone off my ear, so I just shuffled forward in a sideways hunch, trying to juggle everything I was holding to get my key into the door. After two attempts, I got the lock turned and pressed my back against the glass door to push my way into the lobby.
As soon as I’d cleared the entrance and turned toward the stairs, male voices sounded behind me. Of course someone would show up right after I didn’t need help anymore. I peeked back to see who it was, Andre’s danger warnings still echoing in my head, but found something more distracting than criminals—my neighbors, Foster and Pike.
Foster stepped through the main door first and glanced my way. As usual, everything went melty inside me, his smile like a zap of heat to my system. Ridiculous. “Need some help, neighbor?”
I straightened, but forgot about my phone in the process. My brand new iPhone went sliding off my shoulder.
“Crap!” I lurched forward, trying to save it from its imminent demise, and accidentally dropped my plastic bag of Chinese takeout on the way.
“Whoa, there.” Pike, Foster’s roommate, was at my side in a second. His hand caught my elbow, saving me from losing the ginormous bottle of liquor along with my balance. But my phone clattered to the ground, the harsh sound mixing with the splat of my noodles hitting tile.
I winced, anticipating a broken screen. “Dammit.”
Foster bent down, his tie brushing the ground as he swept my phone off the floor. He peered at the screen, dark brows lowering over pale eyes, then he turned the phone toward me—the happy puppy screensaver staring back at me intact. “All is well. Luckily, these things are built to take a licking.”
My brain got snagged on the word lick, and the back of my neck went hot. My lips parted, but words failed me. Great, imitate a gaping goldfish—that’s cute.
Pike cleared his throat, easing the tequila from my arms, and then crouched down near the open bag at my feet. He grabbed a noodle from the spilled box of Chinese food, tipped his head back, and dropped the noodle into his mouth, his eyes watching mine. “The lo mein’s a loss, though.”
I swallowed hard, his gaze even more bad boy than the tattoos peeking out from his open collar. His tongue snaked around the noodle. Look away. I forced my face upward, but then ended up focusing on Foster again. Say something. God, I was standing there like an idiot. This was why I always avoided these two like they were contagious. They made me go stupid.
Foster held out my phone, and I managed to take it, the slight brush of his fingers against mine hitting the Reset button in my brain. I managed a feeble, “Thank you.”
Foster glanced at the mess on the floor. “I’m really sorry I said anything. I didn’t mean to distract you from your intricate juggling act.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been trying to carry everything at once. It’s been a long day, and I was hoping to save myself a second trip up the stairs.”
“The joys of a walk-up.” Pike grabbed a few napkins and started cleaning up the noodles at my feet like it was his mess to worry about.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.” I lowered down to my knees. “I’ll take care of it.”
He grinned over at me, the mirror opposite of his roommate. Ian Foster was all suits and dark looks—a man who preferred to be called by his surname. Whereas Pike didn’t seem to even have a last name. He was a drummer in some popular local band—jeans, a sex-on-the-mind smile, and spiked, bleached hair his usual uniform. Not that I had studied either of them. Or listened to their escapades through the wall I shared with them. Not at all.
Keep telling yourself that, Cela.
Despite my protest, Pike helped me finish picking up the mess. “So what’s the big-ass bottle of tequila for? No one could’ve had that bad of a day.”
I glanced over at the bottle I’d set on the floor, debating whether I could be trusted to have a normal conversation with these two without sounding like I had a speech impediment. “I, uh, graduated today. It was a gift.”
“Oh, right on.”
“Congratulations, Cela,” Foster said. Just the sound of him saying my name in that smooth, dark voice had my stomach clenching. He was all Southern refinement, but I didn’t miss the glimmer of a drawl underneath it all.
Ay dios mío. My body clamored to attention like an eager Labrador ready to be petted. Down, girl. These guys were way above my pay grade. I wasn’t dumb or delusional. I’d seen/spied on/secretly hated the women who’d passed through their apartment door—women who looked like they’d earned their doctorates in the art of seduction.
I hadn’t even reached the kindergarten level in that particular department.
“You were going to vet school at Dallas U, right?” Foster had tucked his hands in the pockets of his slacks, and though the question was casual, I had the distinct impression he was tense beneath that suit jacket.
Pike handed me a napkin for my hands and stood to toss the food into a nearby trash can.
I wiped off my hands and pushed myself to my feet, trying to do it as gracefully as possible in my restrictive skirt. “Yes, how’d you know that?”
“The scrubs you wear have the school insignia on them,” Foster said, as if it was totally normal that he’d looked at me that closely.
“Observant.” Especially considering I usually only managed a head-down, mumbled, hey-how-are–ya exchange when we passed each other in the hallway. Secretly listening to one of your hot neighbors having sex had a way of making eye contact a bit uncomfortable the next day—particularly if said eavesdropper had used the soundtrack to fuel her own interlude with her battery-operated boyfriend.
Not that I had. Several times. Whatever.
Pike sidled up next to Foster—a motley pair if there ever was one. “So, doc, now that you’ve got no dinner and clearly too much liquor on your hands, why don’t you join us? We already have pizza on the way, and we can play a drinking game with the tequila. Do college kids still play Never Have I Ever? I was always good at that one.”
Kid? Is that what they saw me as? Neither of them could be that much older than I was. Though in terms of life experience, I had no doubt they trumped me a few times over.
“Oh, no, that’s okay.” The refusal was automatic, long practiced. How many times had I turned down such offers—from guys, from friends? My parents had been so strict when I was younger that I almost didn’t know how to say yes even after living on my own the last few years. Studies first. Fun later. Yet, there never seemed to be any time for fun after the first one was finished.
“You sure? I don’t want you going to bed with no dinner because of us,” Foster said, frown lines marring that perfect mouth of his.
Going to bed and us was about all I heard. My father’s stern voice whispered in my ear. You don’t know these men. You’ll be all alone in their apartment. Medina women have more respect for themselves than that.
“Really, I’m fine. I had a big lunch,” I said, my smile brief, plastic. “But thanks.”
“Oh, come on,” Pike said, his tone cajoling. “We’ve been neighbors for what, two years? We should at least get to know a little about each other.”
Get to know each other? I knew that Foster was loud when he came—even if he was alone. Knew that Pike liked to laugh during sex. Knew the two men shared women. And the other sounds I’d heard over the last two years … the smacks, the commands, the erotic screams. My face went as hot as if I’d stuck my head in an oven.
“Y’all just want me for my tequila,” I said, attempting to deflect my derailing thoughts.
The corner of Pike’s mouth lifted. “Of course that’s not all we want you for.”
“Uh …” Oh, hell. Pictures flashed across my brain. Dirty, delicious pictures. I almost dropped my phone again. I had no idea what to do with my hands, my expression.
Foster put a hand on Pike’s shoulder. “The lady said no. I think we should let her go celebrate her graduation however she wants.”
“All right.” Pike’s face turned hangdog, but he handed me the tequila bottle. “If you change your mind, we’ve got big plans. Supreme pizza and a Star Wars–themed porn marathon. The Empire Sucks C—”
Foster smacked the back of Pike’s head, and Pike ducked and laughed.
“Kidding. I mean, a Jane Austen marathon,” Pike corrected, his green-gold eyes solemn. “Pride and Pu—”
Foster was behind Pike, his hand clamping over his friend’s mouth in a flash. “I seriously can’t take him out. He’s like an untrained puppy. Maybe you can lend me a shock collar or something.”
Pike waggled his eyebrows, all playful wickedness.
I laughed, putting my hand to my too hot forehead, and turning toward the stairs. “Yeah, so, I’m going to go now.”
“Cela,” Foster said as I put my foot onto the first step.
I glanced back. “Yeah?”
His ice-melt eyes flicked downward, his gaze alighting along the length of me before tracing their way upward again in a slow, unashamed perusal. “Promise you won’t go to bed hungry.”
I wet my lips, my skin suddenly feeling too tight to accommodate the blood pumping beneath it, and nodded.
But it was a lie.
I always went to bed hungry.
And it had nothing to do with a spilled dinner.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” Foster asked shrugging off his jacket and loosening his tie, annoyance digging at him like a bad case of chiggers.
Pike straddled one of the chairs at their breakfast bar with Who me? innocence in his eyes. “What? I’m not allowed to flirt with the neighbor? You certainly can’t tear your eyes away from her anytime she’s around. I know you time your morning run so that you pass her in the hallway.”
Foster groaned. “You invited her over to watch porn, Pike. I thought her eyes were going to fall out of her head.”
“Oh, come on. I was joking. She knew I was kidding.”
Foster wasn’t convinced of that. Cela’s movements had gone jerky at the suggestion, and her usually imperceptible accent had thickened her words. “You can’t joke like that with girls like her. She’s not some chick you met after a show.”
Pike somehow managed to smirk without his mouth so much as twitching. “Girls like her?”
Foster tossed his jacket across the back of the other chair and opened the button at his neck, his shirt collar feeling nooselike. “Yes, girls like her. You know what I mean.”
Foster rubbed the spot between his eyes with his thumb, trying to chase away the throbbing that had started at the office and had gotten worse downstairs. “She’s not just vanilla, she’s …”
“Innocent.” He grabbed two beers from the fridge and plunked one down in front of Pike. “And young.”
“She’s a doctor.” He twisted off the cap and took a sip. “So not that young. She’s got to be at least …” He paused, apparently counting in his head. “Twenty-four.”
Twenty-four. Not a total stretch for Foster’s thirty-two, but somehow Cela seemed even younger than that—untouched by the world. Part of it was that sheltered vibe that seemed to waft off her, like she’d been raised in another era. But he knew it was more than her demureness and manners that screamed innocence.
Foster leaned back against the counter, taking a deep pull of his beer, his throat dry and his blood hot from the brief encounter downstairs. The scene replayed in his head—the sound of her breath catching when he’d said her name, the way she’d looked there on her knees, that hint of a blush beneath her honeyed skin. His cock twitched to life. Fuck.
Pike rolled his bottle cap between his fingers, walking it over his knuckles in the way that said he’d spent way too much time in bars. “She’s interested, you know?”
“Right. She almost vaulted up the stairs to get away from us after your Jane Austen comment. She’s probably next door right now googling to see if we’re on the sex offender registry.”
But despite his protest, Foster knew Pike wasn’t far off base. His friend had probably noticed the same signals in Cela that he had. She’d been flustered, maybe even offended, but her nipples had been hard points against her blouse and her pulse had been pounding at her throat like a beacon. He’d wanted to lick the spot. He’d wanted her to say yes.
But maybe Pike’s crassness had actually saved them. The last thing Foster needed to be doing was messing with his good-girl neighbor. Women like her were off-limits. He’d learned the hard way not to get interested in someone from outside his scene. Once those women got over the excitement of the ooh, I’m being so scandalous dating a kinky boy phase, they bailed and went to find someone they actually wanted to be with for the long haul.
And Foster was tired of getting his hopes up and was really tired of one-night stands. His interludes at The Ranch, the BDSM resort he belonged to, and the occasional ménage with Pike and one of his band groupies satisfied the physical itch for a while. But the dominant side of him—the part that craved ownership—was shriveling into a desiccated husk.
He was over thirty, had a job that could fund a posh life, and even had a swank home his family had left to him sitting empty. But he was still living like a college kid, rooming with his best friend. Foster had good reasons for setting his life up this way. But on days like this, when he saw glimpses of what else was out there, he found himself wondering if his life was bound to be haunted by what ifs.
The doorbell rang and Foster headed over to the door to get the pizza. He paid the delivery guy and took the two large supreme pizzas from him, passing them over to Pike who’d eagerly stepped up behind him. After one furtive glance toward Cela’s closed door, Foster stepped back into the apartment.
Pike already had one of the boxes open and a slice in his mouth by the time Foster made it into the living room. Pike pointed to the box. “This one’s mine.”
Foster snorted and grabbed for a slice from the other box. Some things never changed. Pike could out eat a linebacker, though you’d never guess it looking at him. Apparently, a few hours of banging on drums every night was as effective as running marathons. Plus, Foster wasn’t entirely convinced that some part of Pike didn’t still worry about not having a next meal. Food hadn’t exactly been easy to come by when Pike was a kid.
Foster sank into the love seat and set his beer on the side table.
“You really think she wasn’t interested?” Pike asked, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “Anytime you said something to her, she got all tongue-tied. And she shivered when I touched her.”
Foster shrugged, trying to appear as if he’d already forgotten about their run-in with their neighbor and wasn’t sitting there trying to get the image of her on her knees or those big brown eyes out of his head.
“Maybe she has a boyfriend or something.” Pike folded another slice of pizza in half and bit.
“Doubtful. No one ever sleeps over.” The words were out before Foster could call them back.
Pike’s eyebrow arched. “And you would know this how? Taking up stalking as a hobby?”
Foster tore a bite off his pizza, eyeing Pike, warning him off the topic.
“No way.” He pointed the neck of his beer bottle at him. “Don’t give me that eat shit look. Spill it, dude.”
Foster polished off his own beer. He had a feeling this was going to be more than a one-drink night. When he set down the empty bottle, Pike was still watching him, waiting. Foster sighed. “We share a wall—a thin one. I can hear some of what does … and doesn’t go on in her bedroom. All sex noises have been … solo.”
And had provided erotic background music to his own solo tours more than once, imagining Cela’s hands roaming over her body, her fingers sliding between those pretty legs. He adjusted himself on the couch, his boxer briefs developing a choke hold on his quickly swelling erection.
“Holy shit.” Pike’s mouth broke into a grin. “You dirty eavesdropping bastard.”
Foster looked at the ceiling, wishing he could rewind and take back the admission. “I’m in my own fucking room. It’s not like I have a glass up to the wall.”
Though he’d considered it.
“Well, no wonder she’s so quick to get flustered around us,” Pike said, laughing. “If you can hear her, God only knows what she’s heard on her end.”
Foster cringed. “Tell me about it.”
Anytime he and Pike shared a woman, it was in Foster’s room. He had the bigger bed and master suite. And neither he nor Pike were quiet. Fucking was noisy business.
He’d considered moving things to Pike’s room once he’d realized how thin the walls were, but then he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. Knowing that Cela could be on the other side, listening to them, had only served to turn Foster on more. He’d found himself talking louder, issuing his commands in a voice that he knew would carry, and he hadn’t held back his own sounds of pleasure. She’d become the focus of Foster’s attention, an unknowing part of a foursome.
He figured if she was bothered by it, she’d complain to the office. She’d reported the couple across the hall who couldn’t seem to keep their shitty music to a non-earsplitting level, so she wasn’t afraid to speak up. But as the months had gone on, no word had come. And when he’d pass her in the hall, arm full of books, scrubs hiding that cute little body, he’d catch her sideways glances, the way she held her breath when they passed each other. He scared her on some level, set her off balance, which only served to prod his dominant side, tease it. It’d turned into one, tortuous exercise in restraint.
“You think she’s going to get herself off tonight?” Pike asked, shifting on the couch and peering in the direction of Foster’s bedroom. “She looked pretty keyed up.”
There it was again—illicit images of Cela on her knees before him, those wanting eyes locking with his as she unzipped his pants and wrapped those plush lips around … “Ah, hell, we have to stop talking about this. I’m getting a headache and a hard-on. And aspirin’s only going to help one of those.”
Pike chuckled. “So go bring her a couple of slices of pizza. Maybe you’ll catch her at the right moment.”
“No.” Foster undid his tie fully now and untucked his shirttails, everything irritating him at the moment. “She’s not our type.”
“She’s not your type. I have no problem introducing a good girl to the dark side.” Pike swigged his beer. “Sometimes the quiet ones turn out to be the dirtiest of them all. All that pent-up frustration, digging up those repressed fantasies and making them happen for her.”
“And then they freak out, blame you, and bail the minute the guilt catches up with them,” Foster said darkly. He’d been on the receiving end of that dynamic before, and had no intention of taking that not-so-scenic tour again.
Pike frowned over at him. “Of course they all leave eventually. Good girl or not. Women don’t come to guys like us for an I-do, my friend. Thank God for that.”
“Right.” ’Cause having someone to come home to besides your pizza-inhaling best friend would just be the most horrible thing imaginable. Foster’s appetite left him, and he lost a taste for the beer. “I need a shower before the movie.”
Pike snorted. “Sure you do. Extra lube is in the hall closet. Just don’t call out her name too loud when you blow.”
Pike smacked his lips in an air kiss. “Love you too, pumpkin.”
I stood in front of my freezer, contemplating the uninspiring microwaveable meals and letting the frosty air wash over my still-burning skin. I’d changed out of my graduation outfit into a tank top and pajama bottoms, but I couldn’t seem to cool my temperature or get my heart to stop pounding. My two hot-as-sin neighbors had flirted with me, invited me over.
I hadn’t imagined that, right?
Maybe I had. Picking up the signals when a guy was interested had never been my strong suit. My stay away from boys at all costs rules as a teenager along with my all-girls Catholic high school had left me with an emaciated female intuition. And any boys that came around the house were scared off by either my father or brother.
Maybe Foster and Pike had just been joking around—or worse, teasing me. They had called me a college kid after all. I’d seen some of the girls who’d made the walk of shame out of their apartment. They certainly didn’t look anything like me. Maybe all the innuendo I’d read into the brief conversation had been my hormones inserting my own hopes into their words.
I groaned and slammed the freezer door. Like I’d act on a sexual invitation anyway. I hadn’t done anything more than kiss someone since starting grad school. And I didn’t even know these guys, not really. And there were two of them.
My body quivered at the thought, and a hot ache pulsed between my thighs. I collapsed onto one of the stools lining the breakfast bar. “Good Lord, what is wrong with me?”
I uncapped the bottle of tequila I’d left on the counter and poured a shot into a juice glass, then lifted it. “Happy graduation to me.”
I kicked back the shot, the alcohol burning like liquid lightning on the way down. My face scrunched up as I tried not to cough. Wow. Maybe that’s why you were supposed to do those with salt and lime.
As the fire cooled in my throat, I looked around my empty apartment, wondering what to do for the next few hours, because I sure as hell was too wired to go to bed. Every night was usually spent in front of my books, eating takeout, and studying. But now every test had been passed, every class completed. This chapter of my life was done.
Sadness flickered through me.
The “find yourself” years were rolling in my rearview. Real life was here, waiting for me to claim my spot as a responsible adult.
In a few weeks I’d be back in the vet office I’d grown up in, but now my name would be on the placard next to my father’s. I’d get my own patients, my own house. I’d eat dinner with my parents a few nights a week and probably date Michael Ruiz. My former high school boyfriend had been the only one to make it past the test with my father, and that was only because my family had been friends with his since the beginning of time. Michael had made it no secret that he was happily awaiting my return to Verde Pass. He’d even sent me a bouquet of daisies for graduation. Such a nice guy.
Nice. Polite. Just like the rest of my life.
I traced her finger around the rim of my glass, the droning hum of the freezer a mind-numbing soundtrack to my thoughts. My whole future was stretched out before me—a dot-to-dot picture with a set path I’d known I would follow for as long as I could remember. One I’d never thought to question growing up. But now that it was staring me in the face, a ribbon of regret threaded through my already melancholy mood, darkening the trajectory of my thoughts.
Grad school was supposed to be my big adventure. Single girl in a big city, experiencing life for the first time without my father staring over my shoulder. I’d fought like hell to even have the chance to go to school in Dallas, had come up with an argument to present to my parents that would’ve impressed a trial lawyer. In the end, the fact that my older brother was here had saved me. And to his credit, Andre had mostly stayed out of my business.
It’d been the first true stand for independence that I’d won.
And what had I done with the opportunity after all the struggle to get out here to Dallas? Not a damn thing. I’d been the obedient daughter and studious student like I’d always been. I’d even gone to Sunday mass every now and again. I’d said no to all the parties. I’d gone on a few dates, but never with anyone I was truly interested in. Hell, I’d been in Dallas for four years and the shot of tequila warming my belly was my very first.
With a rush of frustration, I poured another shot and tipped it back—the sting no softer than the first time, but the heat fueling the call of rebellion within me.
Enough of this bull. Drinking alone in an empty apartment and pining over my neighbors was freaking pathetic. I deserved a real graduation celebration. I only had a few weeks left here to get a taste of all that I’d never experienced. It was now or never. If I screwed up royally or embarrassed myself, I’d be gone soon anyway. My friends and family back home would be none the wiser.
With renewed resolve and a little liquid courage, I capped the tequila and grabbed a notepad off the refrigerator to write down a list I never thought I’d be putting into print. Just seeing the words glide from the pen had my throat constricting. The first two attempts didn’t work. I scratched out and reworded a few things, my hand shaking with adrenaline and nerves. But then it was too messy. And I didn’t do messy. I balled up the first few sheets and tossed them in the trash, then got it right on the third time. Nice little block letters forming statements I didn’t even have the guts to say aloud. Done.
I stared at the list and took a deep breath, the neat plan of my life getting tucked away into the back of my brain for now. I folded the page in half, making a crease, and tore off the bottom half. I slipped that portion in my kitchen drawer, but kept the other half in my hand.
“One, two, three, don’t look down,” I muttered, repeating an old mantra from my childhood diving classes, as I slid off the stool. Hopefully, I wouldn’t drown.
Before blind panic could take me over, I grabbed the liquor bottle, toed on my flip-flops, and headed out the door.
It was only four steps to apartment 3G, but it seemed my blood pressure had reached near-stroke rate by the time I lifted my hand to knock on the door. Even then, I almost spun on my heel and scampered back to the safety of my quiet apartment where everything was normal and predictable.
For a few moments I didn’t hear anything, and I wondered if they weren’t going to come to the door. Maybe it was a sign from the universe that I had no business being here, that I’d truly lost my mind. Because really, I probably had. But then there were voices and the shift of the lock, and my muscles seemed to turn to stone. The door swung open, Pike and the scent of pizza greeting me. He leaned against the doorjamb, looking edible in his tight black tee and worn jeans. His mouth curved upward, and I forgot to breathe for a second. Oh crap, how was I going to go through with this?
He glanced down at my outfit and the tequila tucked under my arm. “Well, hi again, doc. Changed your mind?”
“I, uh …”
“Cela?” Foster appeared a few steps behind Pike, his hair wet and his chest bare. Oh, blessed, blessed Lord. My eyes automatically shifted downward, drinking in the real view of what I’d only imagined the many nights I’d listened to him through the wall—broad shoulders, honed pecs, and an abdomen so lickable that the sight of it made my tongue press to the back of my teeth. I knew I should look up, say something, but my gaze snagged lower, following the trail of dark hair that disappeared into the waistband of his low-slung track pants.
God help me.He was even prettier than my imagination had conjured—and my imagination had been aiming for the outfield already. Every feminine molecule in my body seemed to lurch toward him, my fingers aching to trace the lines of muscles he’d been hiding beneath his suits, to lick off the water droplets that had fallen from his hair onto his shoulders. My body went into full, rolling boil.
I clenched the bottle of liquor like it was a life raft. “Hi. Um. Yeah. So I decided I really was hungry, and I’ll never drink this much alcohol myself, and I know y’all are probably settled in for the night now and don’t want company, and I don’t know if y’all really wanted me over or if you were just being nice …” Shut up, shut up, shut up. “But if you weren’t just being nice and wanted to share me—”
Pike’s eyebrows lifted.
My face flamed. Oh God, had I just said that? “I mean, share the tequila with me, then well, here it is and if not then that’s fi—”
Pike pressed two fingers to my mouth, the touch shocking me into silence. “Take a breath, doc. We still have pizza, we will always accept free liquor, and we will never turn down good company.”
My shoulders sagged, mortification bleeding through me. Way to be smooth. If they really had been flirting with me earlier, they were probably regretting that decision now. Warning: Awkward girl, straight ahead. I wet my lips when Pike lowered his hand, inadvertently tasting the salt his touch had left behind. “I’m sorry. I just don’t want to intrude or anything.”
“Is she intruding, Foster?” Pike asked, still looking at me.
I peered past Pike’s shoulder. Foster’s gaze was unwavering, making it near impossible to hold the eye contact. Maybe he didn’t want me there after all. I glanced at my feet, but then heard the low notes of his voice. “Of course not. I don’t extend invitations I don’t mean.”
Hot goose bumps chased over my skin, something in his firm tone making me shiver.
Pike’s smile was pure warmth. He leaned over and took the tequila from me. “Come on in, doc. Foster decided to jump in the shower before eating, so there’s still lots of pizza left.”
“Thanks.” I stepped inside and when Pike shut the door behind me, I had the distinct feeling of the safety net of my existence ripping to shreds beneath me.
“I’m going to get us a few glasses,” Pike said, veering toward the kitchen.
Foster glanced to the left toward the open bedroom door, then back to me, his expression unreadable. “Make yourself at home, Cela, and help yourself to pizza. I’ll be right back.”
I moved around the breakfast bar and down the short hall toward the living area. The apartment was similar to mine, but the kitchen and living space weren’t open to each other. Plus, this was the bigger two-bedroom version and had a decidedly more masculine decor. The couches were leather, the furniture sleek and modern, and the artwork on the walls black and white photography. The stuff looked refined and expensive, like it should be in some high-rise loft downtown instead of in my modest apartment complex.
I took a seat along the side of the ginormous wall-mounted TV, and a spaceship flew across the screen, the surround sound vibrating in her ears. Uh-oh. Panic flitted through me when I remembered Pike’s words from downstairs. Had he not been kidding about the Star Wars porn?
Pike sauntered into the living room, setting the liquor, a few beers, and a couple of glasses on the coffee table, his triceps flexing beneath his gorgeous tattoos as he arranged everything. He glanced up at me, frowned. “You okay?”
I ventured a peek at the television, saw Harrison Ford, and let out a breath. No Star Wars porn. Just straight-up Star Wars. “Yep, I’m fine.”
“Liar,” he teased, handing me a paper plate with a slice of pizza. “You’re so tense, you’re almost vibrating. And that’s after”—he eyed the tequila—“at least a couple of shots of liquor.”
I sighed, forcing my neck from side to side, trying to slough off my anxious state. “I’m sorry. It’s been a really long day. And I think graduation affected me more than I expected.”
“Is that right?” Foster asked, coming back into the living room wearing a soft gray T-shirt that covered his skin but not the peaks and valleys of the man beneath. He slipped between the couch and my chair, his fresh soap scent drifting over me, and took the spot on the love seat across from me. “How so?”
I took a bite of pizza, taking a moment to gather myself so I wouldn’t start rambling again. They were just two guys. Yes, they were beautiful and sexy and had starred in too many of my fantasies, but I was a woman who had just graduated at the top of her very competitive class. I was capable of coherent speech. Mostly.
I swallowed my bite and attempted a shrug that said yep, I’m carefree and totally at ease, fellas. “Well, it’s something I’ve been working at for seven years.”
“Seven?” Foster interrupted.
“I got into vet school a year early.”
“Of course.” He made some face akin to a scowl, but covered it so fast I couldn’t be sure.
“And so I’ve had my eye on this one prize, this one goal. And now it’s done.”
“But that’s good, right?” Pike asked, peeling off a pepperoni and popping it into his mouth. “Wasn’t that the point? God knows I was happy to finally scrape through my four years.”
“Sure. It’s great,” I said, mustering up some semblance of a smile. “But I realized I’ve done little else besides work on that goal. These were supposed to be the fun times before I went back home to south Texas to settle down and work in my father’s practice. But I’ve lived here for four years and have spent ninety-five percent of it either in class, studying, or sleeping.”
“Now that,” Pike said, pointing at me with his pizza, “is a goddamned tragedy.” He looked to Foster. “It’s a good thing we invited her over, dude, because we were like three days away from her going all The Shining on us.”
I laughed. “I’m not quite that bad off.”
“No, I’m serious. I can see the ax in the door now. All work and no play can only lead to homicide.”
Pike’s grin was infectious, and some of the tightness in my chest eased a bit. “So really having me over is a self-defense move on your part, then?”
“Completely selfish,” Foster agreed, his own smile finally peeking through at the corners of those stark blue eyes.
Pike leaned forward and tossed his grease-stained paper plate onto the coffee table, then rubbed his hands together. “So, now we’ve got a big responsibility on our hands. We have to make sure your first night away from school is a killer one—and not in an ax-swinging kind of way. Pizza and Star Wars aren’t going to cut it.”
“No, really. This is fine,” I said, waving him off.
“Nah, come on. I’m not letting you off that easy. We were supposed to play Never Have I Ever. Anything you’ve never done that you’re dying to do?”
The list I’d written seemed to warm in my pocket. I shrugged, my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth.
Foster glanced at the clock on the cable box. “It’s still early. We could take you out to celebrate in style. Pike can get into any club within a hundred-mile radius once he tells them he’s the drummer in Darkfall.”
Pike sniffed. “And Foster can bribe us into the swankier ones that want to keep me out for the same reason.”
I glanced down at my outfit. “I’m not dressed for that. And I know y’all didn’t have plans to go out tonight.”
“Plans can change,” Pike said.
I pressed my lips together, my logical side telling me to call it a night, stop while I was ahead. But the thought of going out with these two, possibly dancing with them, had my pulse climbing. “I’ll need more alcohol before either of you can convince me to dance in public.”
Pike laughed. “That can be arranged. You up for it, Foster?”
Foster looked at me, his blue-eyed gaze seeming to penetrate right through all my attempts at a calm facade. “You sure you want to spend your big night with the two of us, Cela?”
The question and his tone seemed to hold more layers than the simple words he’d said. And for a second I wondered if he knew what I’d been thinking, knew why I’d talked myself into coming over here in the first place, knew about that list tucked against my hip. But of course, there was no way he could know all that.
I met his stare head on, my bravery building like a staircase beneath my feet, one tentative step after the other until I could see the door to the unknown rising before me, beckoning me to open it. My chest rose and fell with a steadying breath. “I couldn’t think of two better guys to spend the night with.”
His jaw twitched and something feral flashed through his eyes as he stood. “All right, Cela. Then go back to your apartment, put on something for dancing, and meet us downstairs in fifteen minutes.”
The authority in his voice scattered my thoughts like dry leaves on a windy day. I scrambled to gather them back together. “Fifteen minutes? But I’ll need to redo my makeup and do something with my hair.”
“No.” He walked toward me, frowning in a way that cut off my words. “You don’t need any of that. You look great already.”
“Agreed,” Pike chimed in.
I rose to my feet, feeling vulnerable and quivery with Foster looming over me. “Thanks, but—”
He reached out, his hand going to the back of my head, and my words got log jammed in my throat. He tugged at the clip I’d twisted my hair into, and released it, letting my hair tumble down my back.
“And wear your hair down,” he said, pressing the clip into my hand as he bent forward. His lips brushed the shell of my ear. “I want to be able to run my fingers through it when we’re dancing.”
All air evaporated from my lungs.
He backed away and smiled casually, as if he’d simply informed me of the weather forecast. “See you in fifteen, neighbor.”
I clutched the clip to my stomach, not trusting myself to respond, and turned toward the door. I had to be having a dream. I’d dozed off on my couch and was spinning erotic fantasies in my sleep.
But when I got back to my apartment and pinched my arm, everything was still the same.
Everything except me.
Foster paced the apartment lobby, stalking the small space and trying to quell the hum of anticipation running through him. He checked his watch—five minutes past when he’d told Cela to be here. If she were his sub, every one of those late minutes would be earning her a fun punishment for later.
But of course, she wasn’t his. He doubted Cela had ever even heard of sexual submission. She screamed innocence with every unintentional dip of her lashes, every unsure smile. He’d had to fight a hard-on sitting across from her in his apartment, despite the fact that minutes before, he’d jerked off in the shower to thoughts of her.
Pike leaned against the wall of mailboxes and crossed his arms, the picture of placidity. “What did you whisper to her before she left?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Foster had said the first thing that had sprung to his lips, had been unable to resist seeing those sable locks fall over her shoulders and telling her how much he wanted to run his fingers through them. It’d been stupid. He’d felt her startled panic electrify the scant column of air between them. Maybe all the innuendo he’d been playing with tonight had gone over her head. Maybe she had simply wanted to go out and dance—as friends, neighbors.
“Maybe she’s not coming,” Foster said, forcing himself to stand still. Pacing was going to do no good, and perhaps it was better if she didn’t show up. She’d been as jumpy as a bird on the highway as she’d stood in their doorway. She was too sweet for what he and Pike brought to the table. They could break her. Or at the very least, freak her the fuck out.
Unfortunately, her sweetness was the very thing that had Foster’s dominant side busting through the seams and hijacking his best intentions to stay away from Cela.
“There’s our girl,” Pike said, coming up behind Foster as red high heels appeared on the top step, drawing Foster’s rapt attention. Red. Shoes that said she wasn’t going to spend the night at the library. Cela’s bare calves came next—smooth, touchable skin that sent Foster’s heart rate speeding up. Then a snug black dress came into view, one that hugged her above the knee and molded over flared hips and a narrow waist.
A bolt shot straight downward to Foster’s cock.
Pike’s hands landed on Foster’s shoulders from behind. “And holy fuck does she look hot.”
Pike had stolen the thoughts right out of Foster’s head. Ms. Lives in Scrubs looked like a goddamned pin-up girl sashaying down those stairs. The only thing that didn’t match the come–hither outfit and fuck-me shoes was the hesitant expression on her face.
When she hit the bottom step, she offered them both a tentative smile. “Sorry I’m a few minutes late. I couldn’t find my shoes. I haven’t worn them in a while.”
Pike stepped around Foster and took both of Cela’s hands in his, holding her arms outward so he could get a good look. “Damn, doc. I changed my mind. Let’s send Foster out to dance, and you can just come back upstairs with me.”
A laugh broke through the nervous compression of her lips, proving she wasn’t immune to Pike’s natural gift of putting women at ease.
Pike guided her into a little twirl, giving Foster a delicious view of how the material clung to the curve of her ass. “You look smoking.”
“Thanks.” She sent a shy glance Foster’s way, hope for his approval in her eyes.
The move reached into Foster’s gut, wrenched something sideways. He took her hand and kissed it. “You look stunning, Cela. And if you make one move to go back upstairs with Pike, I’m tackling his ass.”
Her pleased look had him tightening his hold on her fingers, not wanting to let her go. Her eyes dipped down, taking in his blue button-up shirt and dark jeans. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in jeans.”
His mouth curved. So she’d been surreptitiously observing him in their hallway passings, too. “I work a lot. Suits are part of the deal.”
“You pull off both well,” she said, her voice still dancing a bit with nerves, the Latina accent peeking through.
“Thank you.” He took her hand and tucked it in his elbow, taking control, hoping it would help ease some of her anxiety. “Let’s get going. There’s a stiff drink and a dance floor with our names on it.”
“Now we’re talking,” Pike said. “The cab’s waiting outside.”
* * *
Foster watched Cela’s throat work as she sipped her margarita. The club was in full swing, but Pike had used his connections to get them a table on the balcony so that they could all have a drink and talk without the music drowning them out.
This kind of club wasn’t usually Foster’s speed. Too loud. Too crowded. If he was going to go out, he usually drove to The Ranch where true privacy could be had if needed. But when Pike had suggested dancing, Foster couldn’t resist the thought of having Cela’s body pressed against his, the scent of her swirling around him.
But unless Cela relaxed, they were going to be cemented to these chairs all night. Her salt-rimmed drink sloshed precariously in her unsteady hand as she sent the tables nearby a darting glance and sipped. If he said “boo,” she’d probably leap off her seat.
Way to go, genius, he chided himself. It was his and Pike’s job to make sure Cela had fun tonight, and they were reaching epic-fail status quickly.
Pike was at least trying to put her at ease. “So how long do you have before you move back home?”
“I’m going to help out in the clinic at the vet school for a few more weeks. I’ve been interning there this year, and I wanted to make sure they had a replacement for me before I left. So before the end of June.”
“Wow, that soon, huh?” Pike asked.
She looked at her drink and seemed to sink into her thoughts. “Yeah.”
Damn, they needed to turn this night around quickly. Cela seemed to be getting more morose instead of relaxed. Enough sitting around. He didn’t have Pike’s talent for settling women with humor and the occasional off-color comment. If he said half the stuff Pike did, his face would be permanently marked from angry slaps. But he did have one potent tool in his arsenal—one that only worked on a special type of woman. And all his God-given instincts were telling him Cela was exactly that kind of girl, his kind of girl. Even if she didn’t know it yet. Time to do what he’d been wanting to do since he’d first met his shy neighbor.
He reached out and plucked the glass from her hands. “Stand up, Cela.”
She turned toward him and blinked as if to clear her vision of some afterimage. “What?”
He stood. “Up. Now.”
She glanced at Pike with a what’s-going-on look but rose to her feet anyhow.
“Thank you.” He stepped around the small cocktail table to stand in front of her, using his height advantage to the fullest. “Look at me.”
Her head tilted upward without hesitation—like he’d tugged a string attached to her chin.
Good girl, his mind whispered. But he shoved the instinctual response to the back of his brain. “We brought you here to have a good time tonight.”
Her lips rolled inward, nervously smoothing her lip gloss, and she took a breath. “I know. I want that, too.”
“Good.” He glanced at Pike, who was watching the exchange with deceptively casual interest. Pike gave a barely perceptible nod, somehow always in tune with Foster’s thoughts, and climbed out of his chair. He moved behind Cela with easy confidence and slid his hands along her waist.
She jolted a bit at the touch, a flush creeping over the skin exposed by her V-cut neckline, but she held Foster’s eye contact.
“You’re shutting down on us.” Foster reached out and cupped her face, running a finger along her cheekbone. “I need you to let go of the nerves. You have no reason to be anxious around us.”
She scoffed, then bit her lip when she realized the sound had escaped.
Pike smiled over her shoulder and moved in closer, pulling her gently against his chest, swaying a bit to the music. Foster knew this would be the make or break moment. She’d either jump in with both feet or shrink back into her shell like a hermit crab. But he was done trying to resist his urges with her.
So far, she was responding just as he’d hoped, the submissive undercurrent almost a taste on his tongue. The desire to take control, to take her over, surged inside him like lifeblood. His dominance could calm her. “You’re safe with us. Neither of us would ever make you do something you don’t want to do. Understand?”
Her gaze shifted, and he could see her body going rigid. Her fight-or-flight was kicking in—which only served to activate his chase-and-conquer gene. But right as he thought she may wiggle out of Pike’s arms and run, she blurted out, “But I don’t know how to do this!”
The honest response made him want to smile, to kiss her, to soothe that insecurity. “Do what?” he asked calmly, letting his hand drift to her throat, feeling her pulse quicken against his palm. “Tell me what you fear.”
She closed her eyes as if gathering her strength around her—finding that steel core he sensed resided under all that cottony soft innocence. “I’m … not used to this. Being out with guys. I don’t know how to act, what to do.”
“Ah, sweetheart,” Pike said, pressing a kiss to her bare shoulder. “You’re doing just fine.”
Foster breathed slowly, willing his own heartbeat to slow, his protective instinct flooding him. Oh, how he’d like to show her exactly what he wanted her to do when she was with him, how to act, how to submit. But she was so young, so untouched. He’d fear crushing her under the weight of all he desired.
Despite his body screaming for a different outcome and knowing that he and Pike could seduce her into their bed tonight, he forced the right words to come out of his mouth. “Listen to me, Cela. Tonight, we’re just going to dance. All you need to do is relax and have a good time. We don’t have any expectations beyond that.”
* * *
What if I want you to? The question sat full on my lips, my body already in overdrive from Pike’s warm chest pressed against my back and Foster’s commanding gaze holding me captive. But I couldn’t deny the unwinding ball of tension in my stomach at Foster’s statement. They weren’t expecting anything from me. All I needed to do was get the stick out of my backside and have fun. Give myself over to the night.
Give myself over to them.
They would take care of me. I didn’t know them well, but on some primal level, I knew that much. They wouldn’t hurt me or take advantage of me.
“I don’t know where to start,” I confessed. “I’ve never been good at letting loose.”
Foster’s dark smile was devastating in the changing lights of the club. “Good, let’s start our Never Have I Ever with that one. Letting loose. Your instruction is to simply act, don’t think. If you want to do something, do it. No one knows you here. And even if you fell on your ass in the middle of the dance floor, who gives a shit?”
I smiled. “That’s a distinct possibility.”
Pike nuzzled the back of my ear, inspiring a line of goose bumps down my back. “Don’t worry. If you fall, we’ll be there to pick you up, doc.”
“We won’t let you fall in the first place,” Foster said. “Not with four hands on you.”
Four hands. My skin tingled at the image—or maybe the alcohol was finally doing its job. My quaking nerves dipped to a manageable level, my confidence rallying. These two guys weren’t there to embarrass me or laugh at my lack of experience. I’d had that happen once before and would rather become a nun than face that humiliation again. But both of these guys obviously knew I wasn’t Ms. Experienced. If they’d wanted some smooth-talking seductress, they could’ve come here alone and picked up any woman in the place. They were here to have a good time, and they wanted to have it with me. Wasting that opportunity would be like throwing away dessert—a travesty.
I laced one of my hands with Pike’s and reached out for Foster’s, channeling the version of myself that I played in my private fantasies. “I’m ready. Never have I ever … danced with the two best-looking guys in the place.”
“That’s my girl,” Foster said, grabbing my offered hand and tugging me toward him, sandwiching me between the two of them. “Let’s go show these bastards how it’s done.”
We made our way down to the dance floor and the pulsing mass of humanity. Foster pressed a palm to the small of my back, and Pike kept his grip on my hand as they guided me into the throng. Having the two men flank me gave me the sense of being protected by some invisible bubble. Hands and limbs snaked around us, bodies brushed me, but somehow instead of feeling claustrophobic like I’d expected, it awakened my senses, made me feel alive. We slowed as we neared the center of the dance floor, and Foster turned me into Pike’s arms.
“Hey, gorgeous.” Pike’s smile glowed in the black lights as he dragged me against him and looped an arm around my neck.
I grinned back, relaxing into him. Despite the full-sleeve tattoos and hardened edge of Pike’s bad-boy rocker look, his presence was boyishly charming. I could imagine days with him being full of open laughter and sexy teasing.
I started to move and tried to focus on not stepping on his feet. But before I could get in time with Pike’s movements, Foster’s hands were spanning my waist from behind, sending sensual awareness sparking through me like static electricity. His lips tickled my ear. “Just take a breath and let us lead, Cela. I can feel you thinking.”
Thinking. Always thinking. He was right. I nodded and softened my spine, letting the sounds and sensations flow over me, trying to give over the control. I held Pike’s gaze and moved with the two of them—the bass pounding through my ribs like some tribal anthem and the smooth elixir of tequila flowing through my veins. Yes. This. This was what I needed tonight … freedom.
The song ended and changed into one with a weighty, sensual beat and no lyrics. Thump. Thump. Thump. The guys didn’t say a word as our movements slowed, but it was as if the air shifted around us, grew heavier, warmer. Foster’s pelvis brushed against my backside, and Pike pressed his forehead to mine as we swayed in time to the music. Both men’s colognes filled my nose—Pike’s clean, like salty ocean air and summer nights, Foster’s laced with dark spice. And underneath all that—sweat and desire. Mine. Theirs. Ours.
I closed my eyes, letting myself fall into the moment, the men’s presence and touch waking up places that had never stirred. My feet moved, my body rocked, hips swayed. But none of it was from my focused effort anymore. The throbbing beat of the song seemed to enter my bloodstream and sync with my heartbeat, lifting me up on the wave of movement around us.
“That’s right, baby,” Foster soothed, his voice like melting wax. “Let it all go.”
I allowed my head to fall back, landing against Foster’s shoulder, surrendering. One song turned into another and then another until I lost track when one would end and another began. Heat and alcohol and their touch coalesced, making all the normally awkward edges inside me blur. Time seemed to slow and stretch, until there was just this one continuous rhythm. Just the three of us dancing without regard to the world existing around us.
Foster’s hold on my waist roamed, exploring my belly, the curve of my rib cage. His knuckles grazed the underside of my breasts, and sharp need tightened my nipples, dampened my panties. Mercy. My eyelids fluttered open and met Pike’s riveted gaze. Gone was the affable smile. A ripple of delectable apprehension glittered along my nerve endings. Pike may be a good-time guy, but unapologetic desire had surfaced in those hazel eyes. I wasn’t used to guys looking at me that way. The power of it almost knocked me down.
Pike’s palm slid beneath the curtain of my hair and cupped the back of my neck, a firm grip. Foster’s breath danced against my opposite ear. “He’s going to kiss you, baby. Stop him if you don’t want that.”
Kiss? Pike wanted to kiss me. I didn’t know why this came as such a shock.
But the earth would’ve had to quit moving for me to say anything to stop him. I was spellbound. Things like this didn’t happen in my life. I didn’t allow them to. My world was safely constructed and populated with people who didn’t push my boundaries. But right now, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than these two men doing whatever they wanted to me. Old me had apparently left my body and stayed upstairs to babysit my drink.
Pike paused long enough to give me a window to say no, hovering inches from my mouth, his soft puffs of breath touching my cheeks. But I didn’t turn away. Instead, I slid my fingers along his chest, gathering the soft fabric of his T-shirt in my fists, afraid that if I didn’t hold on to something, I’d disintegrate into a heap of ash between the two of them. His lips met mine in a slow, coaxing dance, matching the beat of the music—teasing me, tasting me, licking along the seam, and then finally when I thought I’d go mad, sliding his tongue into my mouth.
I moaned into the kiss, the power of it like a thunderclap to my system. The taste of mint and alcohol mixed in with the potent flavor of unrepentant desire.
Foster groaned, as if watching another man kiss me both pained and pleased him. His hands slid down to the tops my thighs, precariously close to where I ached the most. And for the first time all night I didn’t feel like a girl among men. I felt womanly and sexy and … brave. No longer filtering my actions through my brain, I acted on pure instinct and arched my hips back toward Foster, seeking.
He met my silent request without hesitation, fitting my backside against him. The hard length of his arousal pressed against the curve of my ass.
I gasped into Pike’s kiss.
“I’m trying to be good with you, Cela,” Foster said, his voice a low growl. “But keep doing things like that and my moral compass may malfunction.”
My body shuddered at the threat, my pelvis tilting backward, dragging myself along Foster’s erection. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated by the fact that he was so turned on. That I’d done that to him.
Pike released me from the kiss, leaving me panting for breath, and Foster spun me around, the ice blue of his eyes going black as he took in the view of me. I’m sure I looked like some crazed version of my former self—swollen lips, stained cheeks, begging eyes. He didn’t hesitate. Where Pike had left off, Foster picked up, cupping my face and coming down for a crushing kiss. My eyelids drifted shut, everything seeming to spin around me as Foster’s mouth consumed mine. Unlike Pike’s slow and sensual approach, Foster was demanding, overpowering. My legs went boneless beneath me.
But Pike had me, his hands planted on my waist, his mouth laying soft, sucking kisses to the back my neck, my shoulders.
Holy shit. Every erogenous zone in my body flared with desperate want, and heat slicked my panties. I gripped Foster’s damp hair, holding on with everything I had, and whimpered into his kiss—a plea. For what exactly, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what to do with all this … wanting.
“Ah, God.” He said, breaking from the kiss, but threading his hand in my hair and insinuating his knee between my thighs, putting pressure where I needed it most. “You’re killing me.”
The contact was like tossing my brain into the deep fryer, my better judgment evaporating in a cloud of wanton desperation. The music continued pounding around us, and my hips rocked shamelessly as he ground the hard muscle of his thigh against me, sliding my panties against tender, needy flesh. I bowed back, leaning on Pike for support, no longer noticing the crowd undulating around us. The quest for release, for Foster’s touch, kidnapped all of my senses. I had lost myself and all sense of appropriate behavior.
“Please,” I whispered. “I need … I need more.”
“Jesus.” Foster’s thigh lowered, removing the stimulation, and my eyelids slid open to find Foster raking a hand though his hair, a frantic edge to his movements. “Let’s take a break. I can’t—I need a breather or I’m going to drag you into a dark corner and give you exactly what you’re pleading for.”
My tongue swept at my bottom lip, the suggestion only making the throbbing between my thighs more pronounced. “Maybe I don’t need a break.”
Had I said that out loud?Once again I questioned where Cela had gone. I couldn’t actually be considering taking him up on that offer. I needed a taste of reckless abandon tonight, but I wasn’t qualified for the dark-corners-in-clubs kind. Did people actually do that?
“Doc,” Pike said wrapping an arm around my waist, already turning me to guide me off the dance floor. “We promised you we’d just dance. You’ve been drinking. We’re all a little … overheated. I think a break is a good idea.”
I clamped my lips together, stopping myself from the urge to protest. My body was ruling my head right now. This is what my parents used to warn me against, right? You let a guy go too far and you make mistakes—like my sister did. I needed to get some air, some perspective. The guys were trying to do the right thing. I should let them.
I allowed Pike to lead me away from the dance floor back upstairs. Foster trailed behind, a tight expression on his face. When we made it back to our corner, Pike joined me on a cushioned, curved bench, draping his arm across my shoulders, and Foster took the seat catty-corner to us. He adjusted his pants before sitting, and I felt the blush rise to my cheeks. Guess I wasn’t the only one left half-cocked.
Pike, who was clearly handling what had transpired on the dance floor better than Foster or I, ordered another round of drinks—beers and empty shot glasses. I sent him a curious look. “Interesting choice.”
He smirked. “No more hard liquor for any of us tonight. But I thought we could take a breather, cool down, and finish Never Have I Ever the proper way.”
“I think we should take Cela home,” Foster said, his tone as stiff as his posture.
I frowned over at him. Is that really what he wanted?
“Screw that. The night is young,” Pike said, that mischievous edge back in his voice. “And your blue balls will ease up soon enough.”
Foster smirked and sent Pike a one-finger salute.
My gaze dipped down to the fly of Foster’s pants, the urge to ease that discomfort for him palpable. What would he be like when he dropped all that calm, refined control? Just the glimpse I’d seen on the dance floor had made my blood race. Part of me wished I had seduction skills already in my arsenal, like those women in the dirty books I used to borrow from my dorm mate in undergrad. I imagined crawling over to Foster, situating myself between his open thighs, and taking him in my mouth, tasting him until he made that sexy groaning sound again.
My teeth dragged along my bottom lip as I raised my lashes.
Foster’s eyes locked with mine, the fierceness of his stare stealing my breath. “Tell me what you’re thinking, Cela.”
Never have I ever …
Given a guy head.
Almost climaxed in public.
… Wanted someone so much.
“I’m thinking I need a drink.”
Foster counted to a hundred backwards in his head, trying to calm down his racing heart and his determined libido. It had taken every ounce of his willpower not to drag Cela somewhere private so he could ruck up her dress, wrap her legs around his waist, and fuck her hard against a wall.
He’d known dancing with her would be a lesson in restraint, but he had no idea how goddamned responsive she’d be. She’d been on the verge of coming from the simple pressure of his leg rubbing against her—her pupils dilated, her body tightening, her sexy scent drifting to his nose and scrambling his brain. If he’d been at The Ranch, he would’ve torn her panties off her right there in the middle of the dance floor, tucked his fingers inside her, and made her scream while Pike held her up.
Fuck. His cock pushed against his zipper, and he adjusted his position again. He needed to stop letting his mind travel down those roads or he was never going to be able to sit here comfortably.
Pike poured one of the beers the waitress had brought over into three shot glasses and smiled over at Cela. “Alright, doc. The way this works is one person says ‘never have I ever,’ then lists something they’ve never done. If the other two have done it, they have to drink. If they haven’t done it, they don’t. Got it?”
She peeked over at Foster then back to Pike. “I have a feeling y’all are going to end up drinking a lot more than I am.”
Pike laid a hand on her knee and squeezed, sending a tweak of jealousy through Foster. “No worries, doc. It’s all in good fun. Why don’t you go first?”
“Okay.” She fidgeted with the cocktail napkin in her lap, folding it into thirds, thinking. “Hmm, well, never have I ever … watched Star Wars porn.”
Her sly smile pulled a laugh from Foster despite his plummeting mood. “Low blow, doctor.”
Pike glanced at him, shrugged, and both of them tipped back their shot glasses and swallowed.
“Oh my God,” she said, laughing. “So you guys were only half-kidding when you mentioned it.”
“It was college,” Pike said in mock protest.
“I couldn’t look away,” Foster said at the same time.
“Pervs,” she declared, but her eyes were crinkled around the corners. “Okay, your turn.”
Foster refilled the shot glasses and sighed. He needed to come up with something neutral. Safe. “Alright, never have I ever … owned a pet.”
Cela’s jaw dropped as if he’d just admitted he liked to dress up in women’s clothes and sing Broadway tunes. “Like ever?”
“Not even like a fish or something?” She drank her shot.
He watched her throat work as she swallowed, imagining things he shouldn’t. “My parents traveled a lot. They didn’t trust me to take care of a pet.”
She frowned. “Kids usually do a better job than most adults.”
“Yeah, well, my track record on taking care of things wasn’t so great,” he said, failing to keep the tinge of bitterness out of his voice—the old, always-present guilt surfacing.
“I’m sorry.” The stark sympathy that swept her features had something knotting in his chest. God, why had he admitted something so personal? He could’ve just said no and left it at that.
Pike drank his shot, and Foster sent him a curious look. When he’d met Pike, the kid had barely owned enough clothes to get him through a week. He and what passed for his family wouldn’t have been in a place to fund a pet.
Pike shrugged. “A stray cat used to live under our house when I was a kid. I named him Jagger and fed him, so I think that counts. I wanted him to be mine.”
Cela looked between the two of them. “I’m dragging both of y’all to the vet school shelter. Clearly, you need a pet.”
Pike laughed. “Doc, we can barely be trusted to care for ourselves. Let’s not inflict a poor animal with owners like us.”
Owners. Foster could think of one thing he’d like to own right now—at least for a little while. He dragged his focus away from Cela and nodded at Pike. “Your turn, drummer boy.”
Pike narrowed his eyes, that nickname always serving to annoy him, which is why Foster loved using it so much.
“Fine. Let’s see if I can come up with something less depressing than yours.” Pike sat back on the couch, his eyebrow arching in challenge. “Never have I ever …”
The pause was long. Too long. Pike smiled and leveled a gaze at Foster.
Oh shit. Foster knew that look. Don’t do it, Pike.
“Gotten off while eavesdropping on my neighbor,” Pike finished.
Cela’s expelled breath was audible even over the music. Well, shit. Now he was going to look like a creepy asshole. Foster ventured a glance her way, his gaze colliding with hers. Her panicked-rabbit expression made him wish time could be rewound and deleted.
“Dammit, Pike,” Foster said, gearing up for damage control. “Cela, look, Pike’s just messing around. He likes to—”
But before he could finish, Cela reached out, lifted her shot off the table, and downed it. When she finished, she wouldn’t look up. She stared down at her hands and the empty glass, her knee bumping up and down—as if she were contemplating running.
The silent admission and ensuing bashfulness were like strokes to Foster’s cock, oil on a fire he was trying to tame. This girl may be inexperienced, but she was brave—bold in a way that had him getting surprised at every turn. And it’d been a helluva long time since anyone had surprised him. He leaned forward in his seat. Like a predator scenting blood in the water, the dominance rose in him, locked her in its sights.
She put her hand over her face, shaking her head. “Let’s just go to the next turn. Please.”
“Look at me, Cela,” he commanded, his tone harsh.
Her attention snapped his way, as if she couldn’t stop herself from obeying.
He held her eye contact and slowly drained his own shot.
Poured another, drank again.
Then another, drank again. “I could keep going.”
In Foster’s peripheral vision, Pike gave a slow, satisfied grin. “Honesty. I like it.”
Cela’s throat worked as she swallowed hard, her lips parted, closed, opened again as if she had words to say but couldn’t pick which ones.
“Tell me what’s going on in that head of yours,” Foster said, keeping his voice even. “You don’t need to be afraid to say what you’re thinking.”
She licked her lips, the pulse at her throat visibly jumping. “First, I need to know what this is—tonight.”
Pike angled toward her on the couch. “We told you, doc. It’s your night to have a good time, whatever that may be.”
She looked to Pike, then back to Foster and lifted her hand to the neckline of her dress. Her fingers dipped underneath the material and moved along her sweat-dampened skin, riveting Foster’s gaze. She pulled a small square of paper out.
“What’s that?” Pike asked.
“In less than a month, I’ll be back in the small town I grew up in. Everything there is planned out for me in a nice, neat path. The job I’ve always known I’d have, the guy I’m supposed to date, the place I’m going to live.”
She hesitated and stared down at the paper, her thumb rubbing across the smooth white surface over and over again. Pike put a palm to her back, a gentle grounding touch that seemed to replenish Cela’s resolve. She gave them both a wavering half smile before continuing.
“I’ve lived my whole life working toward exactly that goal. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long. But I realized tonight that I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences that weren’t bullet points in the plan. I don’t want to go back home with a Never Have I Ever list a mile long.” She set the square of paper on the table, let her fingers linger on top of it for a moment, and then pushed it toward the center. “And I was hoping you two might help me scratch some things off the list.”
Foster’s attention zeroed in on the note, his heartbeat climbing up a notch.
“Whoa,” Pike said, her declaration apparently stunning the nothing-shocks-me musician.
Before Pike could take the liberty, Foster reached out and laid his palm over the small square, the paper slightly damp from being against Cela’s bare skin. He resisted the urge to bring it to his nose and inhale.
“That is,” she rushed on, her eyes darting toward Foster’s grip on her note. “If y’all are, you know, really interested in me or whatever but if not …”
“Shh …” Pike said, pressing his fingers against her lips. “Doc, if what’s on that sheet has anything to do with getting to touch you again, I have no doubt we’ll be all for it.”
Foster lifted the paper, unfolded it carefully, and stared down at the neat, bulleted list Cela had written on half a notebook page.
Never Have I Ever …
Broken the rules.
Had a one-night stand.
Lived out a fantasy.
Slept with the hot neighbors I’ve been crushing on for a year.
But I want to …
The paper crinkled beneath Foster’s fingertips as all sights and sounds around him seemed to fade, the words on the page nearly glowing at him. But I want to … He looked up at Cela, the vulnerable expression on her face reminding him of her youth, her innocence. But his stampeding libido trampled over those concerns, his cock hardening past the point of maybe. Yes, she was sweet. Inexperienced.
But the woman who wrote this list knew what she wanted, what she craved.
And he’d be damned if he was going to let someone else give it to her.
If Cela wanted to lose control with someone, he knew the guys for the task.
He stood, tucking the note in his pocket, and holding out a hand. “I think we’re done dancing.”
* * *
My heart was pounding hard enough to make my chest hurt, and a fine sheen of sweat had gathered on my neck, but I managed to get to my feet and take Foster’s offered hand. This is what I had wanted when I’d knocked on their door tonight. Wanton abandon. A departure from all that my predictable life normally was.
But now that I was standing with my toes peeking over the edge of the precipice, preparing to leap, the ingrained voice of my father was firing in my head like a machine gun. What are you doing? You don’t know these men. You’re not this kind of girl. What would people say?
And the ever popular, Don’t shame the family.
My father had used that one ad nauseam throughout my childhood. My older sister, Luz, had fallen into the wrong crowd in high school, had a boyfriend who’d stolen from people in town, and had gotten pregnant at sixteen. The taint of that had hung over us for years, even after my father had sent Luz away, disowning her after she terminated the pregnancy. So with my oldest brother away in the military and Luz gone, it had been left to me and Andre to prove that “those Medina kids” weren’t all bad.
Be a good girl or you won’t be part of this family anymore. My father had never stated it that way, but the sentiment had hung in the household like a stench you couldn’t air out. And now here I was putting myself into the hands of two men, giving them a laundry list of sins I’d like to commit.
Foster’s fingers laced with mine, and he pulled me closer to him, dragging me from my swirling thoughts. He brushed my hair away from my face and graced me with a smile that sent warmth bleeding through me. “You’re panicking already, angel. Don’t. There’s no need.”
The endearment and soft tone were like soothing strokes to my climbing anxiety. He probably called girls angel all the time. I wasn’t under the delusion that I was any different than the women I’d heard in their apartment over the last two years. But something about the way he said it, the reverence in it, made me want to curl into him, to block out the harsh voice in my head.
“Is it okay that I’m a little scared?” I asked, offering my own attempt at a smile.
He cradled my face, his blue eyes seeming to read me as if every emotion were printed in permanent marker on my forehead. “It’s all right to be scared of the unknown, to be nervous about exploring things you’ve only thought about in private moments. But you don’t have to be scared of us.”
Pike stepped up behind Foster. “He’s right, doc.”
“But I have no idea what I’m doing. I want this, but I know I’m in over my head,” I said, the men’s stark gazes pulling blatant honesty out of me.
Foster chuckled. “Lucky for you, there isn’t anything I like more than being in charge and giving directions.”
Pike smirked. “No truer words have ever been spoken.”
“Come on.” Foster’s grip tightened on my fingers, and Pike came around to flank my opposite side, grabbing my other hand. “Your only instruction for tonight is going to be an easy one to follow.”
One instruction? My mind flipped through possible scenarios like a day calendar in a wind gust as Foster and Pike led me down the stairs and through the crowd on the bottom floor. What would they expect from me? What if they asked me to do something I couldn’t handle or didn’t know how to do? What if they laughed at me like the frat guy had my sophomore year?
Pike retrieved my purse from the coat check stand, and by the time the three of us finally pushed through the doors and the night air hit us, my nerves were gnawing at me, chewing through my resolve. I glanced back and forth between the two guys, but neither was giving anything away.
The valet hailed a cab and Pike climbed in. I peeked over at Foster, gathering courage. “Can I ask what my one instruction is going to be?”
He grinned and pressed his lips against my ear as he guided me toward the cab. “To show us exactly how much pleasure you can take before you beg us to stop.”
“Oh,” I whispered, my insides liquefying.
He slid into the cab next to me, pressing me against Pike. Pike draped his arm around me, and Foster laid a hand along my exposed thigh.
“The Hotel St. Mark, please,” Foster said to the driver.
“Hotel?” I asked.
He traced a small, sensuous circle along my inner thigh, making me think of gentle tongues and nips of teeth moving higher. My sex clenched.
“Wouldn’t want to wake the neighbors.”
I was in a cab on the way to a hotel with Foster and Pike. Foster and Pike. I kept blinking, staring out at the road in front of me, wondering if the whole scene was going to fade before my eyes. Maybe I’d passed out drunk in my apartment and was hallucinating. Could you hallucinate from alcohol? Because surely this couldn’t be me—Cela, the high school valedictorian, the no-I-can’t-go-out-tonight-because-I-have-to-study good girl. Nice girls like that didn’t get in a car with two sexy, older guys for a one-night stand—a one-night threesome. Shit. This was crazy.
I’d never been so simultaneously excited and nervous in my entire life. But despite all the implications about what kind of girl this made me, I found myself desperately hoping that this wasn’t some dream, that it truly was real.
“You okay?” Foster asked me after giving the driver instructions.
I nodded, though the move felt stiff and jerky. “You bet.”
He chuckled quietly and settled in, his hand resting casually on my knee. His mouth dipped close to my ear. “Breathe, Cela.”
“Trying,” I whispered, my heart stuttering at the warm feel of his skin on mine. Pike stretched his arm over the back of the seat and sent me a reassuring smile.
I closed my eyes and inhaled a long, deep breath before opening them again. Surprisingly, it seemed to help a bit. Well, that and the fact that the guys seemed to refuse to let me be anxious for long. I expected the cab ride to be tense, the question—Am I really going to do this?—on thunderous repeat in my head. But with Foster’s hand caressing my thigh and Pike’s fingers teasing the hair at my nape, I was losing myself in the rising tide of hormones. The nerves were siphoning off with each gentle touch, each caress. And the question of Am I going to do this? transformed into if not now, why not? It wasn’t like I could find guys I was more attracted to. And they weren’t going to pressure me. If I didn’t like something or changed my mind, they would stop. I knew that in my gut. This was my chance to have a fantasy night, and I’d be stupid not to take advantage of it.
Internal pep talk complete, I relaxed against the seat, Foster’s and Pike’s body heat bookending me, their combined scents like bottled sex and man. Mmm.
Foster smiled down at me. “Feeling better?”
“Getting there,” I said as I closed my eyes, my voice taking on a dreamlike quality even to my own ears. No longer was I thinking of the past, my lack of experience, or what kind of girl this supposedly made me. All I was thinking about was twisted hotel sheets, naked skin, and feeling these two guys against me, on top of me… inside me. Even thinking those last two words gave me a hard shiver, a heady cocktail of desire and fear filtering through my blood.
Foster’s hand drifted higher, the strokes against my thigh deceptively light. If the cabbie turned and peeked back, Foster’s touch would look like an afterthought, casual. But the soft, circular glides were a silent, relentless assault on my starved libido. I ached for more, for the intensity I sensed lurking in this man. Foster’s touch moved even higher, and as if acting on their own volition, my knees parted a bit further than was appropriate.
I opened my eyes, surprised by my own involuntary response, and caught the hint of Foster’s smile in my peripheral vision. He kept his eyes forward as he asked the cab driver a question, but his pinky snuck beneath my dress and grazed my satin panties.
Oh, Lord. A hot ripple of heat sizzled up and outward. I bit my lip to keep from gasping. This was not happening. Couldn’t be.
Pike joined in the conversation with the driver—something about the basketball finals maybe—but I couldn’t be sure. My brain was in reboot.
Foster’s hand disappeared beneath my dress again, this time more boldly. If the driver really looked back now, he’d know something was up. I set my purse on my knees, blocking the view. Foster’s fingertip dragged across the damp satin, finding my hot button through the thin fabric and circling around it.
My muscles tensed like I’d been Tasered, and my fingernails curled into the leather of my purse. Pike’s hand cupped my neck and squeezed, letting me know that even if he was carrying on a mundane conversation, he knew exactly what Foster was doing to me and how my body was responding.
Foster stroked me through the fabric once, twice—knowing exactly where to touch. I tried not to squirm in the seat. My body was near detonation already after what had happened on the dance floor. I hadn’t been touched like this by anyone other than myself in years. And, God, how many times had I fantasized about this very guy being the one to do it? I wasn’t going to be able to hold it together.
And apparently he didn’t want me to, because before I could even catch another breath, he was moving aside the fabric. The pad of his finger brushed embarrassingly slippery skin and dipped lower, finding my entrance. He slipped one long finger inside. I did gasp this time, unable to hold it back, but Pike conveniently coughed over the sound.
Foster moved his finger back to my clitoris, gliding over me with the exact amount of pressure that offered pleasure but not release. I had to fight hard not to make a sound, while Foster continued his calm conversation. “Can you take a left? It’s the longer way, but I don’t want to get caught in that overnight construction.”
“No problem,” the cabbie said.
“And do you mind turning up this song?” Pike asked. “I love this band.”
The music filled the cab, and Foster’s teasing touches turned purposeful. I curled my lips inward, a moan building in my throat. Oh, God. If he didn’t stop, I was going to climax right here in the cab. Loudly, if my lungs had anything to do with it.
He leaned close to me, his words barely audible against my ear. “Come for me, Cela. Let’s scratch something off that Never Have I Ever list of yours.”
His finger dipped inside me again, his thumb strumming my clit, and everything went white behind my eyes. Oh, God, oh, God. I turned my head, my lips parting, as the orgasm crashed over me. I wasn’t going to be able to stay quiet. But before a sound could slip past, a hot mouth was on me, my cry swallowed by Pike’s kiss.
My mind went blank, and inhibition dropped from me like a snapped anchor. I tumbled into the moment, the touch, the kiss. My body fluttered around Foster’s fingers, begging for more, for the real thing. And I poured that need into the kiss with Pike.
“Hotel’s right around the corner,” the cabbie said, clearing his throat and yanking me from my slow drift back down to earth. “Do you need to go through the lobby entrance or are you heading to their wine bar?”
“The lobby,” Foster said, tracing his fingers along my inner thigh again.
Pike eased away from our kiss, his gaze hooded. “The next one’s mine.”
My brain and body were buzzing in some lust-laced haze when I turned to face forward, and everything was hot, flush. Foster’s hand was back in his lap, but the bulge in his jeans was prominent. After a few breaths to return my breathing to normal, I demurely straightened my dress, then reached out and squeezed Foster’s knee in silent thanks—almost afraid to look at him because I knew I’d lose my stoic facade.
He lowered his head next to mine as the car rounded a corner and nuzzled the shell of my ear, sending a hot ripple down my left side. “That was beautiful, angel. I love feeling your fear slip from you as you let your desire take over. There’s nothing sexier than a woman who knows what she wants and has the guts to ask for it.”
I closed my eyes, letting the warm honey of his voice slide over me.
“The Hotel St. Mark,” the driver announced.
“We’re going to make this very good for you, Cela,” Foster promised, and then Pike was taking my hand, helping me out of the cab, and leading me into the vast unknown.
Pike steered me with a hand on my back into the lavish lobby of the St. Mark. Unlike the modern lines of the club we’d just left or the sleek hotels that filled this part of downtown Dallas, this building had the look of lovingly cared-for historical opulence—inlaid marble tile, rich dark wood furniture, and a grand staircase that would make a bride-to-be weep.
“Wow, this is beautiful,” I whispered, feeling as if I needed to keep my voice down, lest the building realize I was far too small town to be staying in a place so elegant.
Foster smiled down at me as we made our way over to the front desk. “Glad you approve. I book all of my out-of-town clients here.”
Clients? The statement was like a one-two punch of reality. My step stuttered.
Both guys paused, as if totally in tune with my every movement. “Everything okay?” Pike asked.
I glanced between the two of them. “Yes. Fine. I just…”
“Go ahead,” Foster said, giving a nod of encouragement.
“Well, I just realized two things. One, there’s no way I could afford to pay for even half a room here. And, two, I have no idea what you do for a living, Foster.”
Foster leveled a gaze at me. “First, you won’t pay for anything, ever. So let’s get that out of the way.”
He put a finger to my lips, my scent still on him. “That part is non-negotiable. Secondly, I own a tech company called 4N Solutions.”
My eyebrows lifted. He owned a company? And he shared an apartment in my complex? Either he was very bad at his job, very frugal, or something else was going on there. Maybe he had a lot of college debt or a greedy ex-wife or child support to pay. The last couple of thoughts had my lungs constricting.
“You’re panicking again, doc,” Pike said softly.
Foster lowered his hand. “Cela, if you need to ask more questions, need to know us better before we do this, just say the word. We can go to the bar and talk… or even go home if you want.”
I swallowed past the knot in my throat. What did it matter if he had an ex or even if he had kids? This was not the start of a relationship. This was not a compatibility test. This was sex. A fun, hot diversion before I moved home. I knew I was safe with them, and God knows I was attracted to them. Those were the only must-haves for this type of thing.
I nodded. “I’m okay. Maybe y’all can help me shut off my overanalytical brain.”
Pike grinned. “Challenge accepted.”
He slipped an arm around my waist and gave my hip a squeeze, instantly easing that last coup of my old self.
Foster stopped at the front desk and gave the pretty blonde behind the desk his name. “We’ll need a suite for the night.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Foster,” the woman said in that elegant, library-quiet voice that luxury hotel employees must practice. She tapped on her keyboard with long fingernails, then looked up, taking in the three people standing in front of her. “Two queens?”
“Just a king,” Foster said smoothly.
“Of course.” The woman’s lips pressed together, and her gaze slid over to mine.
I braced for the impact, but where I expected judgment, I found envy in the other woman’s eyes. Huh.
Three key cards appeared on the granite countertop. “You’ll be on the top floor to the right. Is there anything else I can help you with? I’m about to go on break, I could show you to your room if you’d like.”
I heard an extra dose of suggestion in the seemingly innocuous statement, but Foster’s response was swift, his smile painstakingly polite. “No thank you…” He glanced at her nametag. “Tabitha. We have everything we need.”
Foster grabbed my hand and gathered me to his side. “Come on, angel. I have a feeling the view upstairs is going to be fantastic.”
Oh, I had no doubt. The thought of seeing these two naked had crossed my mind so many times, I could paint a detailed portrait of what I imagined was beneath their clothes. But as the elevator loomed in front of us, my conscience niggled at me, urging me to tell the guys the whole truth about my Never Have I Ever list. I hadn’t put anything on that list that wasn’t true. But like any former Catholic school girl knew, lies of omission were just as bad as blatant ones.
The gold doors of the elevator dinged, and Pike took a quick step forward to hold the door open for me and Foster. We slipped into the elevator, and Pike followed, along with an older couple who were deeply involved in their discussion of the symphony they’d seen earlier. As the gray-haired lady tried to convince her husband that the tickets had been worth the price, I pressed my back against the side of the elevator, holding the rail behind me and listening to the warring factions in my head.
Pike glanced down at my tight grip on the rail, then nudged me with his shoulder. “Got a fear of elevators, doc?”
I made a weird sound—some hybrid of a nervous laugh and a snort. Totally attractive no doubt. “Not quite.”
Our ascent slowed, and the doors opened to the other couple’s floor. The lady offered a cursory good-night to everyone, then stepped out with her husband, leaving me alone with the two guys and my thoughts.
Pike stayed where he was, but Foster crossed over to the other side and turned to face me. “Cela, look at me.”
With a sigh, I dragged my gaze upward.
“Tell me what you need from us. I’m not stepping out of this elevator if I think you’re going to be white-knuckling your way through this. I want you to enjoy tonight.”
I held his stare, willing myself to say something, anything. The last thing I wanted to do was go home. But I also couldn’t bring myself to tell him what was knotting me up. Speak, my brain shouted. The loud ding of the elevator was like a clap of thunder in the silence. The doors slid open with a smooth whir.
Foster reached out and pressed the Door Open button but made no other move. Pike glanced at me, questions in his eyes. Neither of them were going to step out until I said something.
I wet my lips, and my throat seemed to narrow. Panic was edging in now that the moment was here. No, no, no.Don’t back out now. I thought back to the cab, the way I’d felt when Foster had touched me, and how he’d taken what he wanted without asking. The shock of that had shut down my brain, had pulled me deep into those minutes and scared off any errant thoughts. It’d just been a taste, but I wanted more of that, more of that free fall.
I forced my fingers off of the bar behind me. If I was going to jump, I couldn’t keep ahold of anything. My eyes stayed focused on Foster, on the commanding set of his jaw. “I had a bad experience the last time I was… with a guy. I fumbled a bit, things were awkward, and he made fun of me. Not in a playful way.”
Anger flared in Foster’s eyes. “What an asshole.”
“And an idiot,” Pike offered.
I gave a little smile. “Definitely. But even knowing it was him who was in the wrong, it’s left me a little gun-shy.”
The door tried to shut, but Foster pressed the button again. “You have to know that we would never disrespect you that way, and I kind of wish I had the address of the jerkoff who did that to you, because I’d like to pay him a visit and teach him some manners. But beyond that assurance, is there anything else you need to feel more comfortable? We can take things as slow as you want.”
I looked up at him again, the rest of the story hovering on my lips. I knew I should spill it. It was the right thing to do. But if I told him the whole truth, it would ruin everything. It wasn’t worth the risk. He said he liked a girl who wasn’t afraid to ask for what she wanted. I could do that. I knew what I hoped for tonight, had heard all I needed to know listening to Foster through my thin wall. Now I just had to say it aloud. I flexed my fingers, trying to shed the nerves. “I don’t want to make any decisions tonight. I need you two to take over. Tell me what to do. I don’t want to be asked each step of the way.”
Foster’s shift in expression was like dark falling over snow-covered fields, icy calm and inescapable. His nostrils flared as he inhaled a slow breath. “Cela, are you sure you know what you’re asking?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
His eyes stayed locked on mine, unblinking, intense. “Do you know what a safe word is?”
I couldn’t even shake my head, it was as if his gaze was holding me in some suspended state. “No.”
“If either of us does something that you want to stop immediately, you call this word and we’ll stop, no questions asked,” he said, his voice disconcertingly calm. “That’s the only power I require you to keep. Everything else, Pike and I will gladly take tonight.”
A heavy shiver worked its way through me, the thought of really surrendering everything to these two guys was a dark fantasy I’d barely had the nerve to admit to myself. “Okay.”
He stepped to the right, putting his back against the straining elevator doors and held out his hand. “Your safe word is tequila.”
“Tequila,” I repeated. I looked down at his open palm. This was going to be my last decision of the night. And it was one that felt more right than anything had in as long as I could remember. I took Foster’s hand, then reached back for Pike’s with my other. Pike smiled and laced his fingers with mine.
I left my free will in the elevator and watched as the doors closed, whisking it away.
Now I was theirs.
Foster backed his way through the hotel room’s doorway, tugging me and Pike with him. Before the door even clicked shut, Foster’s mouth was on mine, his hand cupping the back of my neck, his tongue exploring and stroking. The kiss was more fervent than the one in the club, more purposeful—controlled violence. I could almost feel restraint vibrating off of him, as if one popped button and all the passion I suspected lurked behind that calm facade would rush out like a levee break.
I looped my arms around Foster’s neck, holding on and losing myself to the moment. Pike’s hands pressed against my hips as he trailed kisses along my shoulder. The two men’s scents swirled around me, and my body’s engine kicked into gear, warming me in all the right places.
“Take off her dress, Pike,” Foster directed as he pulled away from the kiss, his eyes like blue fire. “I wanted to take my time with you, angel. But that’ll have to be later. I’ve spent too many nights listening through the wall to those soft sounds you make when you come, imagining what you look like when you climax. I’m not willing to wait another moment to see all of you.”
The proclamation was like being doused with hot water, sending need cascading over me. Pike’s fingers tugged my zipper down in the back, his lips following the track of skin exposed. After planting a kiss on the dip at my tailbone, he straightened and eased the dress down and off me. The material fell to my feet, leaving me standing between them in only my lacy panties and bra. Near naked that fast. No backing out now. Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.
The hotel room’s air-conditioning was blasting, but the cool air did nothing to ease my burning skin as Foster’s gaze trailed over me. “It’s a crying shame that you’ve been hiding under scrubs all this time.” He cupped the side of my face, running a thumb over my cheek and meeting my eyes. “You’re stunning, Cela.”
I looked down, my hair falling forward. I’d been told I was pretty before. But never before had those words sounded so genuine, so stripped down. It was almost as if Foster hadn’t wanted the compliment to escape, but couldn’t help himself.
Pike stepped around from behind me and smiled a smile that unwound the last tangle of tension inside me. Foster’s intensity had always drawn me, had laced my fantasies, but Pike’s sexy boldness brought out my confidence. Shame had no place here with these two. They weren’t here to judge me on my sexual prowess or experience. And they’d never laugh me. They wanted me. And I wanted them. That was all that mattered tonight.
I’d figure out the rest as I went along.
“Tell us what’s on your mind, gorgeous,” Pike said. “What’s making you bite your lip?”
I paused, not even realizing what I’d been doing and released my lip from beneath my teeth. “I’m not sure what to do next.”
The curve of Foster’s mouth filled with illicit promise. “Close your eyes, angel.”
I let my eyelids fall shut and clasped my hands in front of me. Vulnerability rippled through me, but I focused on my breath, counting the inhales and exhales. I could sense Pike and Foster standing there, watching me. Then there was the faint rasp of cloth, movement around me. Smooth palms touched my shoulders and squeezed. “Walk forward, Cela. I won’t let you run into anything.”
Foster guided me with gentle nudges, his big body pressing against my back, until my knees brushed against something—some piece of furniture. He spun me, staying behind me, and then his fingers were touching the hook of my bra. I sucked in a breath as the front clasp gave way, exposing my nipples to the bite of cool air. My hands moved upward, an automatic shielding reaction. But Foster’s hands were around my wrists in a flash, pulling my arms down to my sides.
“Gorgeous,” Pike said from somewhere in front of me, the reverent tone making my insides go liquid. “Take off the rest. It’s my turn to make you moan like you did in the cab.”
My pulse jumped, the suggestion almost enough to send me halfway there already. Foster released my wrists and the couch springs squeaked faintly as he took a seat behind me. I hooked my thumbs into the waistband of my panties, thankful for the alcohol I’d had tonight. I wasn’t drunk, but there was definitely some liquid courage still pumping in my veins. After one fortifying breath, I slid my panties down my thighs.
When I reached my heels, I had to balance carefully to slip the underwear off, leaving me bent and exposed to Foster. A rumbled groan sounded behind me, and then Foster’s hands were spanning my hips. “Stay just like that.”
I halted in place, one hand on the floor to keep my balance—not that I ever felt balanced around these two. Foster’s thumbs traced along the cleft of my backside, making me momentarily tense, and then ventured lower, finding the lips of my sex and spreading me. I bit the inside of my cheek, fighting hard to be still and not let my knees buckle. Then the hot, wet flat of his tongue was on me, tasting my heat and launching a bottle rocket of sensation through every one of my nerve endings.
“Oh, God,” I said on a sharp breath. My hips tilted upward, putting me teetering on my toes, but there was no way I was going to let myself fall and miss a second of the blissful sensation that was radiating outward from the caress of Foster’s skillful mouth.
The tip of Foster’s tongue teased my clit and then ran along my crease, his thumbs keeping me exposed to him. My eyelids squeezed even tighter. Only one other guy had ever attempted to go down on me, and clearly he’d been a novice because it’d felt nothing like this. And though I’d become quite proficient in taking care of my own needs, feeling Foster’s tongue against me wasn’t even on the same continent as that sensation. This was just… guh.
His breath was hot against me, his stubble rasping along my tender skin. “So sweet, angel. I could spend all night tasting you, feeling you come against my mouth.”
My back bowed, my body aching for him to do just that. But instead of continuing, he shifted away, caressing the outsides of my thighs.
“But I’m being selfish,” he said, a dark smile hiding in his tone. “Stand up.”
After taking a second to make sure I’d heard correctly, I pushed myself to stand. A head rush and the pulsing need between my legs sent me swaying on my feet. “Whoa.”
Foster’s hands kept me steady. “Sit back on me, angel. I think it’s time we reward Pike’s patience, don’t you?”
I gulped at the thought, anticipation spinning in me, but managed a nod. “Yes.”
A quick pinch at my waist made me gasp, then Foster’s smooth, commanding voice: “If you want me to be in charge, I expect you to call me by my name or sir. Do you understand?”
The command made my thoughts stutter, trip over each other. Sir? The idea should’ve been laughable, but for some reason it made something snake low and hot in my belly. I swallowed past my parched vocal cords. “Yes… sir.”
He kissed the spot he’d pinched. “Good girl. Now sit back and let us enjoy you.”
Good girl. Those were the most ironic words of the night. It was who I’d been all my life, but right now I was as far removed from that label as I’d ever been—uncharted waters. I kept my eyes closed and let Foster guide me in between his spread thighs.
He looped my arms above me, securing them around his neck, and then hooked his ankles with mine, parting my legs and opening me to Pike. I may have ceased breathing.
“You can open your eyes now, doc,” Pike said, his voice devoid of the playfulness that usually colored it.
I felt like a butterfly pinned to a board, totally exposed and vulnerable. But something about being held in place, Foster’s hard body beneath me, had everything in me pulsing and my body aching. This is what I’d asked for—the absence of choice. Knowing that they were deciding the moves took away some of the awkwardness that would’ve swamped me otherwise.
I lifted my lashes, colliding head on with Pike’s heated stare. He’d stripped off his shirt, gifting me with the sight of all that tawny muscle and tattooed skin. I wanted to touch him, to explore, to taste, but as if invisible bonds had wrapped around my wrists, I kept my hands locked above me, clasping Foster’s neck.
Pike took a step closer, and my gaze drifted downward, tracing the hard line of the erection pressing against the front of his jeans. My sex clenched, my body aching to know what he’d feel like inside. I knew it would hurt tonight, was prepared for that. But the fear was quickly fading to a distant beat in the back of my brain. Need trumped that anxiety the moment Foster had put his mouth on me.
Pike rubbed his palm over the bulge. “That’s what you do to me, doc. What you do to us.” He reached out and caressed my knee. “I could get off just seeing you like this.” He knelt down in front of me. “But I’d rather do more than look.”
Foster adjusted his legs and pulled my thighs further apart, spreading me for Pike. I glanced down my body, seeing the hard points of my nipples, the glistening pink of my sex. Pike blew a gentle breath over my damp skin, sensitizing everything and making me shiver. “So wet and pretty already.”
Then he lowered his head and put his mouth on me—hot, wet, and maddeningly gentle. I arched against Foster, and his sexy grunt pressed against my ear. “Don’t let go yet, angel. Let Pike tease you.”
“But,” I gasped as Pike circled his tongue around my swollen nub, licking and laving. Everything inside me already felt ready to blow to bits. This was so much more than my own fingers or even my vibrator. “God, I’ve never…”
“Have patience,” Foster murmured. “It’ll make it better. I promise you’re going to get to come. Many times.”
I watched Pike’s pale blond head rock between my thighs, the sight one of the most erotic I’d ever experienced. He lifted his gaze, as if sensing my stare, and glided the flat of his tongue along my folds while holding the eye contact. I shuddered hard, the link almost too intense.
Then he lowered his head again, and two fingers slid inside my soaked channel. The fit was deliciously snug. I whimpered and undulated against his hand and the intensifying pressure of his tongue. A surge of need built behind the dam inside me, pressing against the resistance I was trying to hold strong. My lids fell closed, and my hips began a rhythmic, involuntary rocking.
“Ah, angel, that’s right. Fuck his mouth. Take what you need. God, you’re beautiful when you let go.”
Foster’s dirty whispered words were a soundtrack from my most private fantasies. All I could do was moan in response, the canting of my hips picking up pace. Then Foster’s hands were cupping my breasts, holding me in place.
“You want to go over, baby?” he asked, his voice raspy with grit.
“Beg Pike. Tell him what you need,” Foster commanded. He pinched my nipples, a swift erotic pain that made me cry out and go desperate for release.
I squeezed my eyes shut, beyond embarrassment or shame. “Please, Pike. I need to come. Please.”
Pike groaned and then his fingers were curling inside me, hitting a spot I’d heard of but had never been able to find myself. The world splintered behind my eyelids. I bowed off Foster, and my thighs clamped around Pike’s head as orgasm enveloped me. My cries sounded unfamiliar to my own ears—the abandon as foreign as the emotions coursing through me.
I rode the wave of sensation until I was panting and writhing, edgy with both satisfaction and the need for more. Need for them. Pike eased back once I’d loosened my headlock on him, then he was climbing up the length of me. His mouth met mine in a lust-filled haze. My arms released Foster’s neck as the taste of Pike and my own arousal filled our kiss. Foster continued to tease my breasts, his hands trapped between my and Pike’s bodies, and he kissed my shoulder, my neck. Hungry. Wanting.
Foster’s erection pressed against my bottom as he shifted forward. I wriggled against him even as I continued to kiss Pike. The swirl of sensations overtook me. I lost track of whose hand was where, whose scent filled my nose. It was both of them, all of them, coalescing into one heady moment.
Pike pulled away, gasping for breath. “Fuck slow. Bedroom. Now.”
“Agreed,” Foster growled.
Pike pushed away from the couch, and Foster turned me into his arms, standing up and lifting me with him. I linked my arms around his neck again and caught his gaze. The stark need that filled those sea glass eyes seemed to reach inside me and twist everything into something new and different. Unrecognizable. I knew then that whatever happened next, I’d never be the same. Even if it was just this one night. This man would change me.
Maybe already had.
He carried me toward the bedroom, Pike ahead of us. And I tore my gaze away from Foster’s, the connection almost too powerful to bear. For the first time since walking in, I noticed the elegant creams and golds of the suite, the refined decor, the fresh flowers. Every detail had been finely attended to. It was romantic. And expensive. Fit for a honeymoon.
Or a girl losing her virginity.
“I’ve been imagining this for a long time,” Foster confessed as he stepped into the large bedroom.
I smiled, warmth spreading through me, the feeling of rightness settling in my gut. “So have I, Foster.”
So have I.
Foster set me on my feet in the bedroom and didn’t let go until he made sure I was steady. He brushed my hair away from my face, his expression unreadable in the combination of soft lamplight and shadows. “Undress me.”
It was a simple request, but hell if it didn’t make a ripple of Oh, my God, yes go through me. I lifted my hands, my fingers almost forgetting how to work as I reached for the buttons on his shirt. How many times had I pictured his naked body in my fantasies? When I’d hear Foster come in late, I’d lie there in bed, holding my breath and listening to the sounds he made. The TV turning on, the plunk of shoes coming off and hitting the floor. I’d imagine his clothes sliding off of him, the hard muscle and planes of his body coming into view. My eyes would shut and without pausing to think, I’d trace my hand down my belly, below the band of my panties, and pretend it was his touch instead of mine.
As I reached the bottom button, Foster put a finger beneath my chin, tilting my face toward him. “What are you thinking about, angel?”
In the corner of my eye, I saw Pike sit on the edge of the bed, his attention fixed on the two of us. Nerves crept in, making my skin go hot then clammy.
I tried to look away from Foster, but he tapped my chin. “No you don’t. Look at me and tell me without filtering.”
I forced my focus upward and tried to swallow past my parched throat. My cheeks burned hot—guilt and shame, my old Catholic friends, pumping through me. But I was not going to chicken out now. If I wanted people to stop treating me like I was a naive little girl, I needed to stop acting like one. “I was thinking about how many times I’ve touched myself while listening to you get undressed in your room, how many times I’ve imagined you naked.”
His grip on my chin tightened, and his jaw flexed, the pleased look in his eye its own reward. “I think we’ve both imagined things long enough, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” I said, the words quivery in the quiet room. This is going to happen. This is really going to happen.
I pushed his shirt off his shoulders, letting my fingers travel over the ripples and dips of his pecs and shoulders. Hard muscle and hot skin. The shirt hit the floor, and I went to the button on his jeans, knowing that if I stopped moving, I’d start questioning myself. So without examining the urge, I lowered myself to my knees and pulled down the zipper. The thick outline of his erection pressed against the denim—intimidating and enticing all at once. I grabbed the waist of his pants and lowered them along with his boxer briefs. His cock slipped free, hard and heavy with arousal. I bit my lip so the gasp wouldn’t escape.
I’d seen a naked man a time or two before, had fooled around with a few guys. And I had definitely looked at more than my share of illicit photos on the Internet. But I’d never been this close, this intimate. It’d always been hands fumbling around in the dark while making out. And he was definitely bigger than any guy I’d been with before. Just the sight of him had everything inside me stirring and aching. I couldn’t remember ever being so desperate to touch and taste a man. I wanted to explore every inch of him, wanted to feel the dark thatch of hair beneath my fingers, wanted to feel the soft skin against my cheek, in my mouth.
Foster ran a hand over my hair. “Hope reality lives up to the fantasy.”
I looked up to finding him with a teasing smile. I shrugged, though it took everything inside me to appear casual. “This’ll do.”
He laughed. “Smartass.”
“No, smart girl.” Pike stood, coming to my side. He’d undone the button on his own jeans, giving me a peek beneath. No underwear, just smooth, hard belly behind the zipper. “He doesn’t need any help with his ego.”
Pike stepped behind me, sifting his fingers through my hair. “Do you want to taste him?”
I curled my fingers against my thighs, nerves pushing through again. What if I screwed it all up now? One wrong move and I’d expose exactly what I was most trying to hide. “I want to, but I’m not very experienced at this.”
Or experienced at all.
Pike reached around and cupped my jaw with a gentle hold. “Don’t worry, beautiful. I’ll guide you. Take him in your mouth. Believe me, you can’t do anything wrong, except teeth.”
I lifted my gaze to Foster, to find the smile had left his face, replaced by hard-edged desire. “Keep your eyes on me while you do it, angel.”
I licked my lips, my fingernails cutting into my palms. I wanted to get this right, wanted to bring him as much pleasure as the two of them had given me already. But with my complete lack of experience, I feared I’d be a disappointment. How could I compare to all those pretty girls I’d seen come and go from their apartment over the last two years?
But before my anxiety could steal away with my nerve, Pike eased my head forward, guiding me over Foster’s cock and taking away my choice—just like I’d asked. My lips parted, and I took Foster into my mouth, holding his eye contact as he slid inside. The salt and musk of his skin painted my tongue and filled my senses, his flavor and scent like potent aphrodisiacs dumped into my bloodstream. God, I hadn’t known what to expect, but liking the taste surprised me. My friend Bailey had always made blow jobs sound like a chore. But having Foster pushing along my tongue felt like anything but. It felt like a privilege.
A new rush of desire pulsed between my legs, making me moan around Foster as I brought him as far to the back of my throat as I could manage.
“Ah, God,” he said, his voice like soft, warm strokes to my skin. “That’s it, angel. Perfect. Touch me while you do it.”
Emboldened by the feedback, I lifted my hands and tracked up and down his thighs, feeling the hard muscles there, the tension. He ran every morning and it showed. The thought had a spark of self-consciousness blooming through me. Had he expected me to be this built? I was soft everywhere he was hard, my curvy figure something I’d never been able to change even when I did get on a regular exercise plan.
“She’s thinking again, Pike,” Foster said with a tsking tone. “Fix it.”
Pike’s grip on my hair tightened. “Eyes open, doc. And touch him like you really want to. I know all those nights in your room, you weren’t thinking about touching his legs.”
The command snapped me out of my tanking thoughts. I opened my eyes and found Foster’s gaze again, the heat there like an anchor keeping me from drifting too far from shore. There’s no way he could look at me like that if he didn’t like what he saw. I bobbed my head, taking him deep again, and refocused my efforts. Also, knowing Pike was one hundred percent right, I let my hands find their way to the area I really wanted to explore. I cupped his sac, caressing the delicate skin there, loving the weight of him in my palm. My mouth and tongue slid over the length of him again, Pike’s grip on my head determining my pace now. I’d asked to not have to make any decisions and they were keeping their promise. I was there to be used how they wished.
The idea should’ve rankled me. Being used. I wanted it to bother me. But instead it only served to dial up the intensity of this experience more and to deflect my near-constant sexual insecurities from overtaking me. I wanted to please Foster, wanted to do well. Like my innate inclination to be the best daughter, the best student, the best everything, this need seemed to stem from some place I couldn’t define. Whether I liked it or not, his level of pleasure was directly tied to mine. If I thought too hard about it, I’d lead myself to no place good.
“Eyes on me, angel,” Foster reminded me, dragging me back again.
I brought my attention back upward, finding Foster’s eyes filled with naked lust and a dangerous edge—like it was taking every stitch of his control not to completely overtake me. The sheer power of that look had my mind emptying, my worrisome thoughts winking out of existence like stars at dawn. I moved forward and ran my tongue along the vein at the base of his cock, then tried to relax my throat, working to keep my teeth clear of him at the same time. I wanted all of him inside me. I gagged a bit when he hit the far back of my throat, but managed to breathe through it without letting go.
Now Foster was the one to break the eye contact, his head tilting back and a low groan slipping from him. “Not sure what you’re doing, huh? You’re about to bring me to my knees.”
The praise rained over me like a summer storm. I closed my eyes and hollowed my cheeks, sucking him with the level of need rising in my own body.
“Jesus.” Another hand was suddenly in my hair, pulling me away. Foster stepped back, his grip gentling after a second. “Not yet, angel. I’ve waited this long. When I come, I want to be face-to-face, deep inside you.”
Hot goose bumps trailed over my skin, the glimpse of his slipping control giving me a rush of feminine confidence. Not only had I not messed up, I’d almost made him come. I couldn’t stop the smile from lifting my lips.
Foster chuckled. “Well, don’t you look pleased with yourself.”
“She should be,” Pike said, letting her go. “She didn’t even touch me, and my head’s about to explode.”
I turned toward Pike, staying on my knees, the praise making me brave. “I could help.”
Pike smiled. “It’s okay, baby. I can be patient. Tonight’s about you.”
I sent him a raised eyebrow and boldly tugged at his zipper. What the hell was I doing? I didn’t recognize this version of myself but liked it. My hand dipped inside his fly, pulling his thick cock free of its denim prison. A bead of moisture glistened at the top and without giving myself time to think, I leaned forward and swiped it with my tongue.
“Well, don’t fucking listen to me,” he said, laughing. “Clearly you have better ideas.”
“Sit on the bed, Pike,” Foster directed from my left. “And Cela, on your hands and knees.”
Pike helped me to my feet, obviously used to Foster taking charge, then led me to the bed. He climbed onto the mattress, pulling me onto it with him, and settled back on the puffy pillows, his tattoos like gorgeous art against all those white linens. He cradled my face, bringing me in for a soft kiss first, then guided me down his torso to lower my mouth down on him.
I took Pike’s length between my lips and tucked my knees beneath me, inadvertently exposing my backside to Foster’s view. The bed dipped as Foster joined us. A hand caressed the curve of my ass, and I had another brief moment of panic about my body. But when his fingers dipped between my legs, finding that wet and aching spot, all thoughts dissipated. I whimpered around Pike’s cock, unable to stop the desperate sound from escaping.
“Mmm, I love to hear how badly you want this.” Foster moved his fingers, teasing my clitoris without directly touching it. “You’re so beautiful when you give in to it. So sexy. I’m finding it hard to play nice.”
Pike’s hand was threading through my hair, his pelvis rocking toward me, but Foster’s words landed heavy on me. I wanted to respond to him, to answer, but I also didn’t want to break the moment. And I wasn’t even sure what I’d say. All I knew was that whatever he wanted to do, I was game for it, especially if he kept touching me like that. I widened my knees, showing Foster in the only way I knew how that I trusted him. I had put himself in their hands and meant it.
Foster made a sound of approval. His hand tracked over the curve of my backside. “I like to play a little rough, angel. And even though I know you’re not ready for most of that right now, I’m not sure I can resist this pretty ass.”
My pace stuttered a bit, unsure of what he was suggesting—the possibilities both scaring and exciting me.
Pike’s fingers went gentle against my scalp, and he eased me upward until I was looking up at him. His hazel eyes had gone black, yearning. “He wants to spank you, baby. If you’re not cool with that, say so.”
Foster wanted to… oh. Rough. He wanted to hit me.
I peeked over my shoulder, finding Foster, seeking reassurance. His hand was still against me, but his focus was solely on my eyes. There was power in his gaze, steely control, but underneath there was a vulnerability that reached right into my chest and tugged. Asking for this was costing him something. He hadn’t planned to show me this side of himself.
“I trust you,” I said, my voice as even as I’d ever heard it. I couldn’t say the same for my heartbeat. I knew there was some line we were about to cross, some highly uncharted territory for me. But I couldn’t find the word no in my vocabulary, not when he was giving me that look. I may have walked across glass in that moment to peek past that door he’d just cracked open.
At my words, the wrinkle in Foster’s brow softened, his features shifting from concern to resolve. “Finish what you started with Pike. And touch yourself while you do it, angel. It will make this all the better.”
Touch myself? In front of them? Instinctive shame bubbled up in me again—the damn emotion always running right below the surface ready to burst through. But just as quickly I shoved the thought from my brain. I was naked, ass in the air between two men. I’d already jumped that shark.
“Yes, sir,” I said then turned back to Pike. He was stroking himself, filling in where I’d left off. For a few seconds, I was held in suspension, fascinated by the slide of that strong male hand, by the total lack of self-consciousness as he took his pleasure.
But then a sharp smack hit my backside and snapped me out of the spell. I yelped, more from surprise than anything else, and a stinging heat traced over skin. Ow.
Pike’s mouth hitched up at the corner as he gently guided me downward again. “Close your eyes and give yourself over to it, doc. It’ll be worth it.”
Despite my burning rear, I listened to Pike and closed my eyes as my mouth enveloped him again. He tasted of salt and man and illicit fantasy—a combination that had my brain teetering on the edge of some place I hadn’t been before. I didn’t know what the spanking was supposed to accomplish, but I wanted to try to do what they asked. To let go and see where they took me. Foster delivered another slap to my opposite cheek, and the stinging burned just as much. I barely bit back the urge to tell him to stop. Then another lighter one came, popping me right along my exposed folds. This time the flash of pain was followed by a hot, rolling warmth that started low and surged all the way out to my fingers and toes. I moaned, pressing my lips harder around Pike’s shaft and earning a shudder from him.
Holy mother of God. Was that supposed to feel so good?
My nerve endings tingled as Foster continued with a quick volley of slaps—the backs of my thighs, my ass, my sex again. Smack, smack, smack. The sharp sounds filled my ears, and I started to lose count. Chasing the burning sting was a rush of desperate, clawing need that was emptying my brain. It was as if I hadn’t just orgasmed minutes before. No longer caring how it may look, I braced myself against Pike and reached down with my free hand to relieve some of the pressure building behind my clit.
Even the slight touch had my body tensing, begging for release. I slid my fingers along the folds as Foster continued to spank me, the sharp bite of the hits only driving my desperation higher. My sex was slick with arousal, swollen with need. I tucked two fingers inside the way I did when alone, and my inner muscles clenched around the invasion. “Ah, God.”
“You’re not allowed to come,” Foster said, his words like an iron blockade to my climbing need. “Not until I tell you to.”
The force of his tone sent me reeling. My hand moved back to the bed as if on autopilot, and my mind spun into the yawning abyss of the moment, my whole body riding the edge of release. I couldn’t cling to anything except the sound of Foster’s voice and the feel and touch of the two men. The state was disorienting, like being submerged in dark, ocean water and only holding on to a piece of driftwood. But no fear entered my system. Instead, I worked harder at bringing Pike pleasure, at taking all of him. The desire to please beat through me like a chant.
“Fucking hell,” Pike groaned. “Yes, like that… so good.”
Pike’s belly rose and dipped above me, his breath going rapid, his muscles coiling tight. A swell of feminine power went through me. I was doing this to him. Foster’s hands smoothed over my backside, soothing the stinging skin. “Make him come, angel. Let me see you send him over the brink.”
I swirled my tongue around the tip of Pike’s cock, my confidence building with every stroke, and Pike’s fingers pressed hard against my scalp as his hips lifted off the bed. A strangled moan wretched from him, and at the same moment, Foster slid his fingers along my clit.
“Go over with him,” Foster commanded, his fingers delivering a quick pinch, a devastating blow.
I cried out as orgasm, sharp and instant, roped me and dragged me under.
“Ah, fuck,” Pike groaned. His cock swelled against my tongue, and then he was spilling his pleasure inside my mouth, gripping me like he’d die if I stopped.
Pleasure rolled through me like sparking electricity, waking up every sensory system, and making me want to writhe. But I worked Pike until I’d swallowed every salty drop of what he had to offer, loving his taste and abandon, loving the wanton feeling of being between him and Foster.
After both of us drifted down from the high, Pike eased away from me with gentle movements. I lifted my head, feeling drunk on lust—satisfied but not quite sated. My body still ached for one more thing. The thing I’d never had before.
And I only wanted one man to give it to me.
Pike helped me off my knees and rolled me onto the pillows next to him. Leaning over me, he gave me a smile that could break every heart in its path. He pressed a soft kiss to my lips. “That was amazing, doc. Thank you.”
My lips curved, my brain still buzzing, words not forming.
Pike glanced at Foster, then back to me, brushing my hair off my forehead. “I’m going to give you two some time alone. I don’t think Foster’s quite done with you yet.”
My gaze slid over to Foster, who had moved to stand at the foot of the bed. The quirk of his lips was wry, but the hot blue of his eyes was pure animal—like a wolf quietly sizing up its dinner. “You ready for me, angel?”
My tongue darted out, wetting my lips. Ready? God, I’d never felt more ready for anything in my life than this man and this moment. Even seeing him standing there, all hard muscle and proud arousal, had my skin tingling anew. “Yes, sir.”
Pike gave me one more quick kiss on the forehead then climbed off the bed. As Pike passed by Foster, Foster put a hand on his shoulder, halting him. He whispered something, and Pike nodded with a brief, knowing smile.
I couldn’t hear the exchange, but my thoughts were too languid to even care. All I knew was that whatever came next, I wouldn’t regret it. I’d waited my whole adult life for this moment, and regardless of how things may feel tomorrow, how the light of day would change this, right now nothing felt more right.
Foster waited until Pike had closed the door behind himself before daring to look at Cela again. She looked so perfect there laid out on the soft down comforter, like a naked angel perched on a cloud. Her dark hair was fanned out behind her, a few strands sticking to her damp forehead. He wanted to kiss every bare spot of skin, draw out every kind of sound she was capable of.
He hadn’t planned to use any D/s play with her, definitely hadn’t intended to spank her. He knew better. Bringing in kink with vanilla girls wasn’t his style, especially with someone as sweetly innocent as Cela. But something in her had tugged at his dominance, had called it forth like a sorceress’s spell. And then he’d seen her sink.
Subspace had claimed her like it’d been simply waiting for her to knock on the door. Her muscles had gone lax, her voice thready. Even her pupils had gone large. And it’d been the sexiest fucking thing he’d ever seen.
He’d brought women to subspace many times in his life, but never had it stirred up the intense possessiveness Cela had inspired. The second he’d seen her go under, he’d had the distinct urge to drag her away from Pike, to kick his friend out of the room altogether. He’d wanted her all to himself.
To own her.
It’d been a dangerous thought.
But when Pike had offered the opportunity for alone time—something he’d never done in a threesome before—Foster hadn’t been able to stop himself from thanking the heavens for the unexpected gift. And when he’d told Pike to not come back until he gave the all clear, his friend had only smiled. Like he’d known exactly the nature of Foster’s possessive thoughts.
Now Cela was all his. At least for a little while.
He walked next to the bed, trailing his fingers along the edge of the duvet and letting his gaze track hot over Cela’s bare skin. When he reached her side, he traced a finger around a dusky nipple, bringing it to a hard point. “I love how responsive you are.”
“Thank you, sir,” she whispered, her eyes closing when he gave the little nub a soft tug.
His already stiff cock twitched. The word sir rolled off her lush lips like they’d been made to say it. There was no force there, no this-is-just-a-game smugness. He drew a finger along the bow of her lips, remembering how they’d felt around him—the heaven that was Cela’s hot, eager mouth.
“Hold on to the slats of the headboard, angel. And don’t let go until I tell you.”
Her dark eyes flared with heat and her lips parted, but she followed his directive without an ounce of hesitation. She was sliding deeper, he could see it in the softness of her expression, the looseness of her muscles. If the simple act of holding the headboard sent her to that lovely place, he could only imagine how she would respond to true restraints, to real roughness. His blood hummed at the thought.
Maybe another time.
But he knew there would probably not be another time.
This was her wild ride before she went home to her real life. He’d made the mistake of reading too much into a woman before, and he wouldn’t do it again. He’d barely survived the first time.
He needed to accept his role for what it was—the kinky neighbor she was working out a few fantasies with. But that didn’t mean they both couldn’t have a fantastic time tonight.
Once he was sure she had a good grip on the headboard, he climbed onto the bed, straddling her. The soft curls of her mound brushed against his cock, and he had to suppress the urge to bury himself inside her that instant. But he didn’t want this to end too quickly. If he only had tonight, he wanted to savor every part of her like fine wine. He braced his arms on the side of her and laid soft, wet kisses along her neck, pulling the delicate skin into his mouth and tasting the brininess of her exertion. There were few flavors he enjoyed more than the salty taste of a woman’s sweat or tears. He liked to bring both forth when a woman was under his command.
Cela whimpered softly, her back curving, as he made his way down to her collarbone, nibbling. Her body brushed against his, petal soft and burning hot, begging. Every move, every sigh she made tested his own resolve to go slowly. But as he found his way to her breasts, he knew rushing would be a crime. Her nipples were hard and dark in the lamplight of the room, inspiring worship. He lowered his head, drawing his tongue around the point, bringing goose bumps to the surface, then gave the treatment to the other side.
She squirmed beneath him in quiet desperation. Her knuckles went white along the headboard. He smiled and traced her sternum with a featherlight touch. “What do you need, angel?”
Her teeth pressed into her lip, her eyes closed. “I need more. Please. Sir.”
“Mmm, good girl,” he said, cupping her breast, loving the weight of it in his hand. He adored how curvy she was. He’d only imagined what she looked like under those scrubs she always wore, but the reality was so much better. A body strong enough to withstand a rough hand but built for sin. Lush indulgence. “You have no idea what your sweet begging does to me.”
He plumped her breast with his hand and drew the nipple into his mouth, teasing and then sucking with enough force to make it count.
“Oh,” she gasped, lifting into his touch.
Her knees parted, and the aroma of female arousal drifted up to his nose, wrapping around his cock like hot fist. Fuck, even her scent was mouthwatering, every bit of her edible. He gave her nipple a gentle bite, and the grinding noise that escaped from the back of her throat nearly made the top of his head blow off.
If he waited too much longer, he was going to go off like some inexperienced teenager. And even though the thought of her smooth, honeyed skin being painted with his seed spoke to his deep, primal desire to mark her, he wasn’t going to settle for anything less than being inside her tonight.
He kissed his way down her belly, then licked along the creases where leg met pelvis. Her thighs fell open further, the ultimate invitation, exposing the smooth lips of her pussy. He loved that she’d only left a triangle of hair on her mound. Everything else was blessedly pink and glistening with arousal. He used the tip of his tongue to tease the swollen button at her center, and her breath went choppy.
He pulled back with a smile. “Not yet, angel. Not until I have these legs of yours around me.”
“God, yes,” she said, her belly quivering as she tried to reel herself in, then she stilled as if just realizing something. “Did you bring—I didn’t…”
“Shh, I’ve got it.” He reached for the condom he’d pulled from his wallet earlier and set on the side table to sheathe himself. “You can let go of the bed now.”
Her arms melted into the mattress, releasing the headboard, and she raised her eyelids as he settled himself over her. The look was one of pure trust, untainted surrender. He didn’t deserve it, but he wasn’t going to question it right now.
“You ready, angel?”
“You have no idea.”
He laughed and positioned himself at her entrance. She was so wet, so hot, as he pushed forward. It should have been a smooth glide of an entry. But as soon as he got a little ways in, her body seemed to fight him, the clasp of her heat squeezing him hard. “Fuck, baby. You’re tight.”
He nudged a little, and he caught the wince she tried to cover.
“Am I hurting you?” he asked, an arrow of worry shooting through him.
She circled her arms around him, her hold on him deathly tight, like she was afraid he was going to get up and walk away. “No. It’s just been a long time. And you’re… big. Please, don’t stop. Just go for it.”
“I don’t want to h—”
“I have a safe word,” she said, a pleading look in her eyes. “Please, I need this. I need you.”
A niggling concern pressed at the back of his brain, but the way she felt around him clouded any coherent thoughts he was trying to have. He needed to have her, wanted to feel her around him. He rocked his hips forward, gently at first, then with a bit more force, pushing past the resistance and burying himself deep.
She cried out, her head titling back and her back arching. He couldn’t tell if it was pain or pleasure. Her nails dug into his shoulders, and she seemed to not breathe for a long moment. He held still, afraid he was doing more harm than good. “Tell me you’re okay, Cela.”
She took a breath finally, panting. “Yes. Please. Keep going.”
He slid back and plunged inside her again, this time meeting no resistance—just the pure ecstasy of being surrounded by her heat.
“Oh, God,” she moaned, her grip on him easing and a softness smoothing her tense features. “Yes… this.”
And that was all he needed. He moved inside her again, the feel of her like hot cashmere around his cock. God, she was so snug, so maddeningly sexy. He didn’t know if he’d ever experienced such an intense feeling. Sweet agony bled through his veins as he pumped into her with a cadence that belied the urgent need building in him. He would not rush this.
He didn’t want it to end, didn’t want to lose the beautiful sight of her beneath him, the pained bliss that was coloring her features. “You’re so beautiful, Cela. So fucking perfect.”
She lifted her lashes and reached up to touch his face, to brush her fingers along his stubble. The tender intimacy of the move almost undid him. “And you’re better than the fantasy, Foster.”
He dropped onto his forearms, unable to bear another second without kissing her. His mouth met hers in a hungry rush, tongues and lips clashing. She laced her fingers in his hair and pulled tight. Out of his conscious control at this point, his hips begin to thrust into her with more force. She whimpered into his mouth, and the bed squeaked beneath them as sweat glazed his skin.
He didn’t break the kiss, but reached a hand in between them to find her clit. The moment he touched it, her pussy gripped him, contracted.
“Come with me, angel,” he said, lifting up only far enough to watch her face and then picking up speed.
He angled his hips to brush his cock over her where he knew she needed, and strummed her clit. A long, gritty moan passed her lips, and he felt the precise moment she shattered. It was all he needed. His balls drew tight and the all-encompassing explosion of pleasure shot through him like bullet train.
The sweet, erotic sounds of her orgasm danced around him, driving him higher as he emptied every bit of him inside her, his body throbbing and pulsing, all with need for her. Just her.
And the realization didn’t hit him then.
It didn’t even hit him as he lifted off her, kissed her face all over, and eventually tucked her into a robe.
But then he went into the bathroom to toss the condom.
And saw red.
And he knew, knew what had been haunting her eyes in the elevator.
Never have I ever…
He leaned against the bathroom wall, his heart sinking.
I rolled to the left, bumping into tattooed, sleep-warmed skin. The obstruction spun my hazy brain into confusion for a moment. Where was I? Was I dreaming? I blinked in the predawn darkness, finding Pike snoring softly, his bare back to me. My mind stumbled, then rewound, the memories of the night dropping back into place.
A long breath pushed past my lips as I lay back on the pillows and rubbed my eyes. No, this had been no dream. My achy, tender body punctuated that conclusion. I’d actually done it—shoved past all my worry and inhibitions and gotten naked with not just one of the neighbors I’d been fantasizing about, but both of them. And I’d had sex with Foster. Sex. I was a virgin no longer. I waited for the shame to hit me. The morning-after regret I’d heard about from friends, but none came.
The only thing clawing at me was the memory of the way I’d felt when Foster had held me and kissed me, the way he’d felt filling my body. The physical discomfort of it had been expected, the initial wave of it breath stealing. But that pain had faded to a soft hum in the background when my eyes had locked with his. Something far deeper than the sensations my body was experiencing had passed through me. An intense oneness with him.
It’d probably been the simple fact that he was my first. Girls were wired to get romantic notions about that, right? But later when Pike had joined the two of us in bed again, I hadn’t felt the same thing kissing and cuddling him. Being with Pike was fun—he was sex personified and he made me laugh—but I didn’t get that tight feeling in my stomach when he looked at me.
I turned to my right, seeking the man who was stirring up the turmoil in me, but that side of the bed was empty. I reached out and touched the rumpled sheets. Cold.
I frowned and squinted at the clock—a little past five A.M. Careful not to disturb Pike, I scooted across the bed and climbed to my feet, grabbing the robe I’d thrown over the high-backed chair in the corner. My body protested at the movement, soreness fully setting in now. But in a way, I welcomed the discomfort, the proof that the night had really happened and wasn’t some fantasy. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I padded across the plush carpet and slipped out of the bedroom.
The living room was still in twilight, but the silhouette of a man standing in front of the large windows drew me. Foster stared out at the coming dawn, the lights of downtown Dallas starting to blink off, preparing for the sun’s appearance. He held a mug in his hands, blowing across the top of it.
I hung in the shadow of the far side of the room, simply enjoying watching him. The muscles in his back shifted and caught the light as he lifted his coffee to his lips and sipped. There was an elegance to his economy of movement, to his stillness. His brows were drawn low, his profile a sculpture of deep thought.
I almost turned back toward the bedroom, afraid to interrupt the sanctity of his quiet morning, but when I stepped backward, my robe brushed a nearby lampshade, sending the lamp chain clinking against the metal base.
Foster tipped his head in my direction, a slight turn, but didn’t take his eyes off the view. “You’re up early.”
I wrapped my arms around myself. “Said the rooster to the chicken.”
He looked at me then, a quirk of a smile. “I’m not so good at the sleeping-in thing. Hope I didn’t wake you.”
“You didn’t.” I stepped out of the dark and headed to the oversized chair near the window. When I sat, my body reminded me again of all I’d been through in the last few hours. But even the tenderness of my backside had a flash of lust zipping through me. God, I was a glutton for punishment. Since when was pain a good thing? I tucked my legs beneath me and resisted the urge to go over to Foster and kiss him good morning. “I’m not sure what woke me up. Maybe Pike’s snoring.”
Foster chuckled. “Don’t tell him he snores. It will devastate his Mr. Suave self-image.”
“Never.” I pantomimed zipping my mouth shut.
Foster’s smirk remained in place, but I sensed this lighthearted conversation was simply pretty decoration on top of a pile of crap that wasn’t been said. The lines around his mouth, the way he gripped his coffee, even the set of his shoulders had my nerves rising, my fingers fiddling with the tie of my terrycloth robe. He knew.
He released a long sigh and moved away from the window to perch on the arm of the couch across from me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
I stared down at fidgeting hands. “Tell you what?”
“Cela,” he said in that commanding tone he’d used in the bedroom. “Look at me.”
A hot quiver rippled through me, but I raised my gaze to him.
Sharp disapproval edged his features. “You left something pretty important off that list of yours.”
My cheeks heated. “I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to say anything.”
“Didn’t want to say anything?” he said, his exasperation loud in the dead quiet of the hotel room. “Cela, we could’ve hurt you. If you had told me, I would’ve been gentler, more tender. I hit you for Christ’s sake.” He dragged a hand through his already disheveled mop of hair. “Your first time’s supposed to be sweet and romantic and I…”
“Stop,” I said, sitting up taller in the chair. “You didn’t hurt me. And this is exactly why I didn’t want to tell either of you. The guy I told you about, the one who made fun of me? I had gone on a few dates with him and when things started to heat up, I let him know before anything happened. He laughed and asked if I was some religious fanatic. Then he left because taking a girl’s virginity was ‘too heavy’ for a hookup.”
“Well, thank God for that. That idiot definitely didn’t deserve to touch you. But you know I wouldn’t have done that.”
“I know you wouldn’t have teased me, but you would’ve backed out the instant you found out.”
“No, I wouldn’t’ve.”
“Liar,” I said, frustration building in me. “You just said it. Everybody has all these notions about what a first time is supposed to be like, and it freaks people out. Dudes are afraid the girl is going to cling to them like some let’s-be-together-forever teenager, and girls are afraid that if the heavens don’t open up and the angels don’t sing that it’s a losing-your-virginity failure. I didn’t want any of that.”
He shook his head. “What did you want?”
You, my mind whispered, exactly what happened. And angels had sung. Or maybe those were devils… I kicked the thought aside. “I wanted a good time. I wanted to get that big branded V off my resume before I have to go back home and start my real life.”
Something flickered through his blue eyes, like a biting wind in a winter storm. “A good time. Right. Well, that’s our specialty.”
He stood and walked back toward the window, dismissing me.
The iciness in his voice and stance cut though my thick robe, chilling my skin. The shift in his mood had my defenses rising, anger welling. “Isn’t it? Or are all those girls I’ve heard visit your apartment your ‘twu wuv’.”
His wince was almost imperceptible, but I caught it.
I rose to my feet, arms crossed. “Be honest, Foster. If I had told you last night that I was a virgin, would you have slept with me?”
He stared out the window, his jaw twitching, and I thought he may ignore me. But then after a few long seconds, he spun on his heel, set his coffee down, and stalked into my space.
His nearness had my thoughts scattering, my emotions splintering. Words wouldn’t come.
He cupped my shoulders, a grip that vibrated with restrained power. “I don’t know. But if I had, I would’ve made it different. I would’ve made it special for you, would’ve taken my time, gone slow. And I certainly wouldn’t have invited Pike or used any kink.”
I swallowed hard, his earnest speech curling around me, making me ache for him all over again. “It was special, Foster. And yes, I’m new at all this, but what you did… how you acted…”
His eyebrows lifted.
“I asked you to take control. I didn’t realize you would take it where you did, but… I liked it. I felt lost and safe all at the same time. I never expected sex to feel like that. I had an idea what it would feel like physically. I know my way around a vibrator. But this was…” I paused, not sure if the right words even existed. “Transcendent.”
His thumbs caressed the curve of my shoulders as he stared down at me, his head tilted ever so slightly, like he was working out some riddle in his head.
A door squeaked behind me.
“Why the hell are you guys up so fucking early?” Pike groaned. “And why am I alone in a cold bed?”
Foster’s hands dropped from my shoulders, and he stepped back, the moment broken. “Sorry, we couldn’t sleep.”
“Great, two insomniacs,” Pike muttered and made his way over to us.
I couldn’t help but smile at him, his spiked hair flat on one side and his eyelids heavy. He looked like an overgrown teenager shuffling in for breakfast. Before saying anything else, he grabbed Foster’s cooling coffee off the side table and swigged. Grimaced.
“Cream is an option, you know,” he said to Foster.
“So is getting your own damned coffee.”
I laughed. “Y’all have lived together too long.”
“No fucking doubt,” Pike said, setting the cup down and then reaching for the belt of my robe. He pulled me to him like I was a fish on a line and wrapped his arms around my waist. “And how are you this morning, gorgeous?”
The embrace was warm, affectionate, but suddenly being this close to Pike felt strange. Even though I’d happily pleasured him last night, had even curled up with him when I’d fallen asleep between the two of them, something had changed in those early morning moments. The attraction was still there, but the dynamic was askew. My gaze flicked to Foster, who stood like a sentry behind Pike—stiff and stoic.
Some vulnerable part inside me wanted him to intervene, to pull me into his arms instead of letting Pike embrace me. But then I realized how ridiculous I was being. Just because Foster was the one I’d had actual sex with, it didn’t mean we had something different between us than Pike and I did. All of this was exactly what I had described it as—a good time. Naughty fun.
No big deal.
I brought my focus back to the man in front of me. “I’m exhausted, but in the best way possible.”
“Mmm,” Pike murmured. “I know what you mean, doc. Last night was fantastic.” He peeked over his shoulder. “Even though Foster hogged you at the end.”
“Oink, oink,” Foster said, his voice too tight to deliver the intended humor.
“Well,” Pike said, pulling the tie on my robe and slipping the halves open, his hands along my waist. “Why don’t we rectify that? I think there’s a big ol’ hot shower with our names on it.”
Despite feeling a bit off balance, Pike’s soft touch against my skin had interest stirring in me. And if my heart was getting all mixed up because it was pulling the virgin-getting-attached card, maybe a morning wake-up call with Pike was just what I needed.
I closed my eyes, trying to block out Foster, and leaned my forehead against Pike’s. “That sounds like a great idea.”
“That’s our girl,” Pike said, his tone dipping into that low, sexual place that was impossible for my body not to react to despite the tug-of-war in my mind. “Come on, doc.”
He guided me toward the bedroom, all sleepiness gone from his face.
Before we crossed the threshold, he called back to Foster. “Shower fits three, my brother. Door’s open.”
But when I sent one last glance Foster’s way, he hadn’t moved an inch.
The trip home from the hotel was painfully quiet. I sat in between Foster and Pike in the back of the cab. Pike was leaning against the window, eyes closed, half dozing, and Foster was like an automaton version of himself—only speaking when absolutely necessary.
I had no idea what had changed in the span of the last few hours, but my wild night out had morphed into something decidedly more somber. I tugged on the short tennis skirt Foster had bought from the hotel shop to save me the walk of shame in my wrinkled dress. The gesture had been thoughtful, sweet even. But he’d shirked off my thank-you like he hadn’t even heard me.
Anxiety bubbled in my stomach at the thought of the good-bye this morning. Why in God’s name had I chosen my neighbors? Last night, the crush-driven idea had seemed ingenious. Now I realized how stupid I’d been. Morning-after awkwardness was bad enough, but there was no way I was going to be able to avoid facing them regularly during these last few weeks I was living here.
The cab rolled to a stop at the curb in front of our building, and Foster paid the driver. He slid out of the car and held his hand out to me, the consummate gentleman, even in his cool state. Once I was on my feet and had grabbed my plastic bag of discarded clothes, I moved to let go of Foster’s hand. But instead of allowing me to escape, he gathered me to his side, planting a hand at the small of my back.
I sent him a curious look but let him guide me toward the door. Pike jogged in front of us and grabbed the door to hold it open for the two of us.
“You’re a hard man to read,” I said, half under my breath.
“Am I?” Foster asked, continuing to look forward as we climbed the stairs. “I would think I’m painfully transparent at the moment.”
“You’re angry,” I said, speaking what I already knew.
He sighed, his fingers pressing into my back. “Not at you, angel. Not at you.”
“We need to—” I began, but my words lodged like popcorn in my throat when I reached the top of the stairs and saw the imposing figure leaning against my doorway. “Oh, shit.”
Foster tensed like a Rottweiler spotting a pit bull in his path. “What the hell?”
Andre turned around and spotted me, my brother’s dark eyes filling with relief. “Marcela. Jesus, you’re all right, thank God,” he said, coming toward me.
But when his gaze jumped to the man beside me, Andre reared up, stiffened, and took on that badass cop pose I knew so well.
I instantly moved away from Foster’s touch. “Andre, what are you doing here?”
He stared down at me, his eyes jumping to the Hotel St. Mark insignia on my polo shirt, then back to my face. I could almost hear his teeth gnash together. “I stopped by to take my baby sister out for brunch to celebrate her graduation.”
“You could’ve called.”
He raised his hand, cell phone facing out. “I did. Four times. And your house phone. You know how scary it is to have your sister tell you she’s in for the night and then she’s nowhere to be found the next morning? I was picturing you dead on the road somewhere, Cela.”
I winced. “Sorry. I decided to go out.”
“And not come home until the next morning, wearing hotel clothes?”
“I really don’t think that’s any of your business,” Foster said, his tone almost bored.
Of course, Pike, who’d stayed behind to grab the mail, chose that moment to step up behind us. “Hey, doc, you forgot your purse in the cab.”
I closed my eyes, wishing my brother would just poof into thin air and that this was some waking nightmare.
But when I opened my eyes again, Andre’s face had gone red—a feat, considering his skin tone. “Tell me you didn’t.”
“Andre,” Foster said, obviously nonplussed by the imposing force that was my brother. “I suggest you take a breath and stop talking to your sister like she’s a child, especially considering the glass house you’re about the throw a rock through.”
That caught Andre’s attention—and mine. I looked between the two of them. Andre’s eyes narrowed as he studied Foster. “I know you from somewhere.”
Foster smirked. “Yeah, you do.” He leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Let’s talk later.”
I nodded numbly, not sure exactly how these two could possibly know each other or what Foster’s comment to Andre had meant. “Sure.”
Pike sent me an apologetic smile, handed my purse to me, and then both men disappeared into their apartment, leaving me there with Andre.
The minute the door shut, my fists curled around the plastic bag I was holding. “I cannot believe you just embarrassed me like that. What the hell is wrong with you?”
I shoved past him and stabbed my key into the lock. Andre was right behind me, following me into the apartment like a dark cloud flooding the room. “You had me fucking worried, Marcela. I’ve been in a near panic trying to find you. And then you walk in, dressed in clothes that aren’t yours with not just one but two strange dudes.”
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