Laman utama The Doctor (Nashville Neighborhood #1)
Mungkin Anda tertarik Powered by Rec2Me
If you are into Steamy fast going romances you are in for a ride.
20 May 2021 (18:28)
Too hot plus hot scenes are very detailed
15 July 2021 (16:58)
If you are gay you will really like this.
19 July 2021 (12:26)
For years, he was a part of my life. I watched him rush to the hospital countless times, his beautiful surgeon hands racing to save lives.
After all this time, I can’t escape the truth.
I want Dr. Lowe.
Lust chokes each moment we’re together. He promises to fulfill my fantasies—every dirty, naughty desire we can dream up.
Only, I can’t have him.
He’s confident. Experienced. Seductive.
And he’s my ex-boyfriend’s father.
After all this time, I can’t escape the truth.
I want Dr. Lowe.
Lust chokes each moment we’re together. He promises to fulfill my fantasies—every dirty, naughty desire we can dream up.
Only, I can’t have him.
He’s confident. Experienced. Seductive.
And he’s my ex-boyfriend’s father.
07 August 2021 (13:53)
Ok it was hot and amazing
20 August 2021 (11:59)
Fast. So good. Made my legs shaky... just amazing, wanted it to last longer.
24 August 2021 (02:02)
Honestly, Preston should have never forgave them, idc what anyone says he should have left them, the dad is kinda weird. Preston really should’ve have cut them both out
27 August 2021 (04:12)
Uhmmm I just finished Birthday Girl which has the same 'my ex boyfriend's dad' with this ? helpp I'm crazy
03 September 2021 (07:43)
Table of Contents ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NINE TEN ELEVEN TWELVE THIRTEEN FOURTEEN FIFTEEN SIXTEEN SEVENTEEN EIGHTEEN NINETEEN TWENTY TWENTY-ONE TWENTY-TWO TWENTY-THREE TWENTY-FOUR TWENTY-FIVE TWENTY-SIX TWENTY-SEVEN TWENTY-EIGHT TWENTY-NINE THIRTY THIRTY-ONE THIRTY-TWO THIRTY-THREE THIRTY-FOUR THIRTY-FIVE OTHER BOOKS FROM NIKKI SLOANE THANK YOU ABOUT NIKKI SLOANE COPYRIGHT ONE NASHVILLE IN THE SUMMER wasn’t for the faint of heart—the heat and humidity were oppressive. Preston had invited our friends over to hang out by his dad’s pool, and when we ran out of beer in the cooler, I volunteered to get the other case from the fridge in the garage. I did it because I needed a break from everyone. Preston Lowe and I had been together for more than three years and had started dating the summer before our junior year of high school. Since then, we’d done almost everything together. All the school dances. Family vacations. Our first year of college. Hell, our senior class even voted us ‘Most Likely to Marry Their High School Sweetheart.’ I’d loved him so much, I’d given him my virginity. But . . . Preston had changed. I didn’t know if there was a turning point, or a single event that made him different, but he wasn’t the sweet, caring guy I’d known. We’d gotten comfortable with each other—maybe too comfortable. He’d tell me anything, including when he thought I looked like I wasn’t ‘trying’ anymore, or acting like a bitch. It was June now, and we were both home from Vanderbilt University, but I saw my boyfriend less this summer than I did when we were at school. We had jobs, sure. But today he made it clear he was more interested in hanging out with our high school friends than he was with me. God. We’d been best friends, and now we didn’t really talk anymore. No deep conversations, or playful teasing, or anything. Preston only called me when he was horny. That’s what I’d become to him. Cassidy Shepard—Preston’s release valve. I tucked my phone ; into my swimsuit top and played my favorite song by Joven as I walked through the house to the garage on the far side of the home. I opened the door and padded down the two steps into the cavernous garage, not bothering with the overhead light. The cement floor was cold on the soles of my bare feet, but the music was awesome, and in the dark space, I tried to let go of my annoyance with Preston. Maybe I was just in a bad mood and needed to shake it off. I did that. Literally. I closed my eyes and danced to the song playing from between my boobs, not caring about the grimy floor, or how I was cold in my damp swimsuit. I tried not to care about anything, and it kind of worked. I swayed my hips to the music. I put my hands in the air and waved them around and couldn’t stop the idiotic smile from warming my lips. It felt good to dance like a fool, lit only by the light coming from the open door to the kitchen. Since I knew every word by heart, I sang along and, as I hit the chorus, I really let go. I swiveled around, swinging my hips as I belted out the lyrics— A startled sound choked off in my throat as I jerked to a stop. Dr. Lowe stood in the doorway, and judging by his expression, he’d been there awhile. I was surprised to see him for a number of reasons, but the biggest was Preston’s father was a trauma surgeon at Davidson County Hospital. He was usually on-call and wasn’t around much. He was always there for the things that mattered, like birthdays and graduation, but most of the time, Preston and I were alone in the house. Why had his father kept such a big home when his son went off to college? It was strange. Dr. Lowe barely used it. Preston’s dad looked younger than he was, at least in his face. There were faint lines at the sides of his eyes that hinted he was forty, but the lines made him look smart. Distinguished. His dark brown hair and short beard were threaded with a few strands of silver, and the afternoon sunlight coming from the nearby window highlighted the gray. It was a good look. In the series of pictures we’d taken before our senior prom, there was a shot of Preston and his dad, and my friends drooled over Dr. Lowe. I’d made fun of them, but I understood. My boyfriend’s dad wasn’t just attractive—he was fucking hot. But rather than smile at him like I usually did, I went wooden. Was it possible to die of embarrassment? My knees turned soft, but my spine snapped straight and my face flushed to a thousand degrees. I dropped my gaze to the cement floor and tucked a lock of my long, dark hair behind my ear, trying to play it off like he hadn’t just caught me dancing and singing like a crazy idiot. “Uh . . .” I stammered. I dug the phone out of my top and shut the music off. “I was just getting another case of beer for the—” Shit! What was I doing? Preston’s friend Mike was the only one of us who was twenty-one. “I meant Coke.” It was the worst ‘save’ in the history of ‘saves,’ and all Dr. Lowe did was chuckle. It was a deep, pleasant sound that filled the spacious garage. It drew my gaze up to him. He had his hands resting casually on the sides of the door frame, and his expression was faint amusement. But he blinked it away and straightened. “Preston sent you to get his beer?” I shrugged, pulled the fridge open, and stared at the nearly empty shelves. At least the cold air coming from the open refrigerator calmed my heated face. “I offered.” The cardboard creaked when I grabbed the case’s handle and lifted the twenty-four pack off the shelf. I tried to focus on the heft in my hand and not the man in the doorway, since it was the second time this summer he’d caught me. The second time he’d seen me doing something he shouldn’t have. Oh my God, don’t think about it. Lord knew I’d spent enough nights fantasizing about that day, so I plastered on an indifferent expression and lugged the beer toward the door. Every step brought us closer, and yet Dr. Lowe didn’t move. His maple brown eyes sharpened on mine until I pulled to a stop. He was blocking me. “Are things okay with you two?” he asked, full of concern. I nearly dropped the case in surprise. Preston seemed oblivious to the divide growing between us. How the heck did his dad see it? “We’re . . .” I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to say it. “I think it’s school. It got us out of sync.” Dr. Lowe nodded slowly. Preston had struggled with his new freedom as a college freshman, and he’d found going to class on a regular basis a challenge. His grades hadn’t been good, and it was a sore spot between him and his dad. I forced myself to brighten. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.” His expression didn’t change. He looked at me funny, like he was worried or upset, or as if he didn’t believe me. But he nodded once more and stepped back to let me pass. I was halfway through the kitchen before he spoke. “Cassidy.” His voice was quiet, yet strong. “I don’t know if I ever said it, but thank you for everything you did with Preston.” Confusion made me slam on the brakes. “What?” Dr. Lowe shifted on his feet, visibly uncomfortable. “When he came to Nashville, it was hard on him. You made it easier.” He balled his fists, set them on the kitchen island, and leaned forward, pressing his knuckles into the granite. “You made him a better person, and I’m grateful.” The cardboard was cold as I clutched the case closer to my body, stunned. Growing up had been complicated for my boyfriend. Preston’s parents had him young and never married, and he didn’t talk much about why he’d lived with his mother in North Carolina until he was sixteen. I didn’t know what kind of relationship he’d had with his father before he arrived in Nashville, but it sounded nonexistent. The story I’d pried out was he’d been hanging around with a group of kids his mother was scared of, and like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, she’d shipped him off to live with his dad, determined to keep him away from their bad influence. When Preston and I started dating, we both joked it was because I was the first girl who was nice to the new kid in town. My smart, somewhat nerdy friends became his friends, and eventually, his mother’s plan seemed to work. I squeezed the beer in my arms, not sure how to respond to his father’s gratitude. What was I supposed to say? You’re welcome? “That’s really nice, but I didn’t do anything.” A faint smile lifted at the corner of Dr. Lowe’s lips and spread wider as he spoke. “Well, I’m thankful either way. Sorry about interrupting whatever that was you were doing a minute ago.” His light teasing brought on fresh embarrassment, and I pulled my shoulders back. “Hey, I couldn’t help it. I really like Joven.” “I agree they’re good, but they don’t,” his smile widened, “give me seizures.” “Ha, ha,” I said in a flat tone. “I’ll have you know I’m normally a great dancer. I didn’t know anyone was around.” I shot him a pointed look. He lifted his hands in mock surrender, but his smile didn’t fade. “Well, I don’t really have room to talk.” He hooked his thumbs back at himself. “World’s Worst Dancer right here.” “I don’t know. Your son might have you beat.” Preston spent most of the school dances hanging out on the side of the dancefloor. Whenever he did dance, it was like he was mimicking those inflatable windsock men outside of used car dealerships—all flailing arms and spastic hips. As I left Preston’s father and went down the stairs to the basement, I couldn’t shake the feeling he’d given me. A warm tingling in my chest that felt all sorts of wrong, but good too. It was two more weeks with Preston before I reached my breaking point. As I sat in my sweltering car, parked in the Lowe driveway, grief swept through me. I mourned the death of our relationship. I missed the guy I’d loved, but knew he was never coming back. My grandmother passed away last week, but Preston didn’t come to the funeral. He’d had to work, he said—which was fine. But he didn’t come to the visitation either. He didn’t stand beside me or hold my hand as I’d cried while staring at the casket. He’d left me on my own to field the incessant question from my family, “Where’s Preston?” “Sick,” I’d lied. I found out from our mutual friends he’d forgotten and gone to the movies. That made it obvious how little I mattered now. A frustrated sigh slipped out as I reached across the seat and snatched up my backpack. I’d brought a swimsuit and towel over, knowing I was going to need to work up to the moment I told him it was over between us. I’d never broken up with someone before. I didn’t ring the bell. I climbed the front steps and pushed open the unlocked door, comfortable walking into the Lowe house unannounced. Would this be the last time I did it? The wind sucked the door shut behind me with a loud slam, and heavy footsteps pounded on the hardwood floor until his dad stepped into view. “Cassidy?” The momentary confusion on his handsome face was replaced with an easy smile. I froze in place. “Hey, Dr. Lowe. Didn’t he tell you I was coming over?” He shook his head. “I think he’s in the pool already.” “Oh. Okay.” I headed toward the door to the basement, but only made it a few paces before the toe of my sandal caught the edge of the entryway rug. “Ah!” Like an idiot, I stumbled forward on shaky legs, fighting not to go down, and instead tumbled right into Dr. Lowe. He grunted softly as I collided with his hard chest. I knocked him back a half-step, but then his steady hands locked onto my waist. Embarrassment flickered through me, but as I lifted my flustered gaze to his, the emotion burned away. Oh. The sensation of his hands on my body made my breath catch in my throat. There’d been concern for my near-fall in his expression seconds ago, but it evaporated as his hold on me tensed. Something gathered in his brown eyes—something that looked a hell of a lot like heat. The muscles running along his jaw tightened and flexed. I had to be imagining it. There was no way he was looking at me like he was thinking about sliding his hands around my back and drawing me closer. My body hummed from the contact, and the buzz grew louder and more frantic the longer we remained motionless. His embrace put me far more off-balance than tripping on the rug had. We were standing too close, but he was magnetic. The pull toward him was a force I struggled to overcome, even when I knew I had to. His voice came out strange and uneven. “Are you all right?” “Yeah,” I breathed. Why hadn’t I noticed how deep and beautiful his eyes were before? Abruptly, he released me, his hands coming off my waist as if I were a hot stove. Shame flashed through his expression and then it went blank. “Sorry.” He turned and strode quickly away, leaving me to stare at his broad back as he went. What was he sorry for? Keeping me from falling? Touching me? Or the way he’d stared at me like Preston used to, with a gaze that teemed with desire? I’d had impure thoughts about Dr. Lowe before. I couldn’t help myself and tried not to feel guilty about them. They were just harmless fantasies, I’d justified, and were kept safe in my own mind. Any shame over thinking about my boyfriend’s dad was about to be moot anyway. Outside, the stone patio led to the shady back yard and the bright blue pool was surrounded by a decorative black, wrought-iron fence. The pool wasn’t enormous, but nicely proportional to the sprawling home. It was large enough for either of the Lowe men to swim laps if they wanted, which Preston appeared to be doing now. He must have sensed my arrival because he stopped mid-stroke, pushed his wet, dark hair back out of his eyes, and flicked the water away with his fingers. He stared at me and raised an eyebrow. “You’re not in your suit?” No greeting. Just his annoyed tone. “I’ve got it in my bag.” I glanced over at the empty lounger at the side of the pool. Maybe I should tell him I didn’t want to swim, sit down there, and find my way into the difficult conversation we needed to have. He swam to the edge and propped his arms on the stone ledge. “Get your sexy ass changed, then. It’s hot as balls out here, and the water’s great.” It felt like an order. I bit my bottom lip as I tried to muster the courage to say no. But I failed miserably. I turned around and went back into the house, stalling. I plodded through the large media room and into the spare bedroom Dr. Lowe used as his home gym. The only other rooms downstairs were the bedroom Preston used while home from college, and the bathroom, both of which were disasters. He left his clothes everywhere, and it was easier to change in here. Calling this room a home gym was probably too fancy. It had a treadmill and an all-in-one weight machine. The futon Preston used mostly as a couch at college was pushed to one corner, and I dropped my bag on it with a sigh. As I changed, I reminded myself of my goal. I wasn’t happy with my boyfriend, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hurt him. I hoped to break up with him in the least painful way for both of us. I stacked my clothes on the futon, grabbed a beach towel out of the hall closet, and forced myself back outside. His gaze lifted to me, and he blinked. Then his eyes hazed as he scanned my body, clad in a simple, black string bikini. “Is that new?” My mouth went dry. What had I been thinking, bringing this swimsuit? I hadn’t been, really. I’d grabbed the first thing that would work and had shoved it in my bag. Wearing the bikini had been a bad idea. “It was on sale at Target,” I croaked. His expression was thick with lust as he pushed off the side. “I like it.” He swirled his hands beneath the water, floating closer to me and the shallow end. “C’mon in.” Preston’s intentions couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d tried. He wanted to fuck. Was it the only reason he’d called me over? I hurled the beach towel down onto the lounge chair and twisted my dark brown hair up into a bun. I didn’t want to get it wet, because it’d take forever to dry, and I might need to leave in a hurry if things became too emotional. Reluctantly, I went to the stairs at the front of the pool and took my first step into the water. I only made it halfway down before his cold, wet arms were wrapped around my body, and he was pulling me deep into the center of the pool. “Wait,” I said with forced casualness, struggling against his embrace. I wanted to get in under my terms, and I didn’t want him so close. I needed distance to do what had to be done. Whatever disconnect was going on between us, it seemed to get wider every time we were together, and Preston ignored my protest. His mouth crashed against the side of my neck, planting kisses. It’d always been the surefire move to turn me on, the fastest way to get in my pants, but things had changed between us, and this was one of them. “Preston,” I said, pushing away and finally getting out of his hold. He turned and looked up at the huge arched windows on the back of the house, then focused on me. “What? Are you worried about my dad? He doesn’t care what we do.” Oh, God. A shiver ran through me, but since most of my body was underwater, it was unlikely my boyfriend could see it. Like a fool, the first weekend home from school I’d tried to bring Preston back to me and used the only tool I could think of—sex. The back yard beyond the fence was surrounded by woods, so no one could see us as we went skinny-dipping in the middle of the day. There weren’t people around to witness how he’d set me down on the thick cushion of the lounger, knelt between my parted legs, and thrust inside me. I’d let him fuck me while I thought no one was watching, but I’d been wrong. As Preston’s tempo increased, I’d turned my head to the side and saw a figure at the window. TWO DR. LOWE VANISHED FROM VIEW the moment our gazes locked, and Preston mistook my gasp of surprise as pleasure, too into the moment to think it’d be anything else. I didn’t tell him what I’d seen, and Dr. Lowe never said a word about it. Not to me, and probably not to his son either. He was excellent at pretending it hadn’t happened. But I wondered how long he’d stood at the window. How much of my naked body had he seen, writhing on the deck chair? Should I have felt unease? Disgust? I didn’t. All I felt was odd and jittery, like I’d been left under a heat lamp too long. Whenever I thought about it, my skin glowed hot and was stretched too tight. “I just got in the water, give me a second,” I said, stalling for more time. Preston shot me a helpless grin. “Sorry.” Although his tone said he wasn’t. “You put on a bikini. How am I supposed to keep my hands to myself?” Six months ago, I would have found his comment playful and charming. Today, it turned me off. He leaned back in the water, floating near me, and his brown eyes looked richer with the water reflecting in them. He was cute when we’d first started dating, and he’d since filled out as he grew into a man. Like his father, he was handsome. Preston’s hair was short on the sides and long on top, and lighter in color than his dad’s. My stomach hurt with worry as I watched him glide through the water, carefree. He had no idea I was about to drop a bomb. “Hey,” I started, my voice already wavering. “We need to talk.” The patio door opened with a noisy slide, drawing our attention. Dr. Lowe stepped outside, carrying a pitcher in one hand and two plastic cups in the other. Preston grinned widely, and he asked his dad teasingly, like it was some joke I wasn’t in on, “What’s that?” “Fresh lemonade,” Dr. Lowe answered quickly. Too quickly. Preston laughed. “Poor Judy. Maybe I should go over there and tell her you hate the taste of lemon. She could make those cookies again. Or the brownies. Those were awesome.” I wrinkled my forehead in confusion. Preston swam close and circled me in his arms. “Our next-door neighbor got divorced, and now she wants my dad. Bad. Up until today, she’s been trying to seduce him with baked goods.” He squeezed tight, and it felt constricting. “Hey. How come you don’t bake stuff for me anymore?” “Probably because I’m busy and we hardly see each other?” My tone was more pointed than I’d meant for it to be. Dr. Lowe walked toward the glass table perched under the umbrella and set the pitcher and cups down. “Well, enjoy.” “You think she roofied it?” His son said it as a joke, but Dr. Lowe’s gaze narrowed suspiciously at the pitcher. “I’m sure it’s safe,” he said, then disappeared back into the house. “What a glowing endorsement,” Preston joked. Under the water, his hands began to wander, playing with the strings at my hips. I squirmed away, but he didn’t get the message, and my irritation reached critical mass. “I didn’t come over to have sex with you.” He shot me a confused look. “Then, why did you?” Oh my God. His simple question broke the last piece of my heart. He couldn’t see any other reason I’d want to be here? I wasn’t his friend anymore—I was just someone to stick his dick in. The realization was incredibly hurtful, and tears sprang into my eyes. My voice went shallow. “Preston, I can’t do this anymore. It’s over.” “What?” He went wooden, his shoulders snapping stiff. But judging by his reaction, he’d heard me loud and clear. “You’ve changed. We’re different people now.” His shocked expression was frozen on his face. It was painfully tense, and the only sound was the water quietly lapping at the edge of the pool. That was, until the sliding patio door rang out a second time. “Not now,” he growled at his father. It didn’t slow Dr. Lowe down. He had a cordless telephone in his hand. “It’s your boss. He says you’re not answering your cell.” “Fuck,” Preston muttered as he swam to the edge of the pool. “My battery ran down.” He stretched up a hand and took the receiver. “Hello?” He paused, listening to the other side, and contorted his face with an annoyed look. “No, I’m not coming in today. I don’t work again until Wednesday.” My gaze locked onto Dr. Lowe’s, and the thought seemed to hit us at the same time. Today was Wednesday. “Shit,” Preston said into the phone, scrambling toward the steps. “Yeah, of course. I’m so sorry. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” He flew up the stairs and out of the pool, dropping the phone on the chair cushion and grabbing the towel there. My towel, because he’d forgotten to bring one out. “I gotta go,” he said, scrubbing the water off his skin. No idea if he was talking to me or his father. “I’m already late.” Dr. Lowe crossed his arms over his broad chest, visibly displeased, and Preston noticed. “Yeah, I know,” he said, banding the towel around his hips and hurrying toward the patio door. “I screwed up. Sorry.” Again, no idea who this apology was directed at. I was glad to be in the cool water at that moment, because my blood boiled. He didn’t give a thought to staying and talking. He didn’t say anything to me—including goodbye. As he ducked into the house, I was left floating both physically and emotionally. My frustration got the better of me. “How did he not know it was Wednesday?” The summer had him all screwed up, but this was his job. Waiting tables wasn’t life or death, but Preston acted like having spending money for his upcoming sophomore year was. Dr. Lowe sighed loudly. “I’m sorry about him. You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you want.” Um, unlikely. “Thanks.” He hesitated. “And there’s fresh lemonade.” “I know what you’re doing,” I said. “You’re just trying to unload that on me.” He smiled and nodded like he’d been busted. “I feel bad pouring it out. If you like lemons, I’m sure it’s good and probably not drugged.” I squeezed out a smile, meeting his. We held each other’s gaze for a long moment. Long enough for the smiles to end and be replaced with something different. He gave me a look similar to the one earlier and it made my pulse pound in my throat. What the hell? I stared down at the ripples in the water, blinking rapidly. Maybe I wasn’t imagining things. “Do you want some?” His deep voice sounded unsteady, and his question threw me. What exactly was he offering? “Some?” “Lemonade.” Right. I was an idiot, projecting things that weren’t there. “Oh. Sure.” He picked up a cup and poured from the pitcher, and my focus was drawn to his hands. They weren’t just beautiful, they were talented and worth a lot of money. How many lives had he saved with them? Off on the far side of the house, we heard the garage door go up, a car back down the driveway, and tires peel out. “Here you go,” he said, bending down over the edge of the pool to pass me the cup. “Thank you.” I took a sip, and he gauged my reaction. I puckered my lips. “Ugh. Don’t feel bad about pouring it out. It’s too tart.” I set the cup on the side of the pool and turned my gaze to the steps. I couldn’t stay here. I climbed out of the water as Dr. Lowe gathered up the cups and pitcher. He paused when he noticed me standing beside the railing, my arms crossed over my chest. It was warm outside, but when the breeze blew, it was chilly. I was drenched and wasn’t going to go inside the house to change until I at least stopped dripping. “You forget to bring a towel out?” he asked lightly. “No,” I said. “Preston did, and he took mine.” He shook his head and muttered something under his breath as he went inside the house, taking the gross lemonade with him. He reappeared thirty seconds later with a folded towel and passed it to me. “Thank you,” I said. “I didn’t want to go in and drip all over your carpet.” “Because you’re capable of thinking of someone besides yourself.” It had to be a dig at Preston, and I had absolutely no response. I wrapped the towel around my body and pressed my lips together. Dr. Lowe’s expression wasn’t exactly frustration—it looked like he wanted to say something else, but instead he held it back and just frowned. His brown eyes filled with disappointment. “Can I get you anything else?” he asked, hovering awkwardly. Almost as if he hoped I’d start a conversation. I searched the back of my brain to find something, but couldn’t. “I’m good,” I eked out. “All right. I’m . . . going inside.” He turned swiftly and disappeared into the house, moving so fast he didn’t see my mouth fall open. The man was a surgeon. He oozed confidence and always seemed calm in a crisis. When Preston had totaled his car two years ago, his father had been concerned, but never lost his cool throughout the ordeal. Seeing Dr. Lowe unsure? It made me nervous. THREE AFTER I’D DRIED OFF ENOUGH, I let down my hair, grabbed my phone, and padded back into the house, shivering in the air conditioning. The enormous television was on, showing some news program, and the volume was so low I could barely hear it. Dr. Lowe didn’t seem to be watching. He sat casually on the large sectional couch, one arm thrown over the back of it, and gazed vacantly at the coffee table before him. The angle of his body and his form fitting t-shirt showed off his toned frame. His jeans clung to his powerful legs, and I lingered inside the doorway, gawking weirdly at him while my toes burrowed into the plush carpeting. My desire to talk to him was strong, but I shouldn’t. He was Preston’s father. I couldn’t exactly ask him for advice on what I should do now, could I? I cinched the towel tighter around my waist and made my way into the spare bedroom where I’d gotten changed. After I shut the door, my disappointment made me move slowly. I dropped my phone beside my stack of clothes and sighed. What was I going to do? Wait for Preston to call me? Technically, it was done. I’d told him we were over. Knuckles rapped softly on wood. “Cassidy?” I went motionless, and my heart skipped a beat faster. “Yeah?” “I . . . need to say something,” Dr. Lowe’s voice came from the other side of the door. “Can I come in?” I clenched a hand tight on the side of my towel. I hadn’t started changing, and he’d seen me in my swimsuit a minute ago, but that had been beside the pool. It was stupid, but I felt more exposed now that I was in the house. I pushed the thought aside. “Yeah.” He stepped into the room, shut the door behind him, and when he faced me, his shoulders sagged. Whatever he was about to say, it seemed deadly serious, and he’d struggled with the decision. “What’s wrong?” I whispered. “I shouldn’t be saying this, and it’s not my business, but Preston—” His eyebrows pulled together. “You should end it with him.” I nearly fell over. “What? Why?” It took him a lifetime to say something. Every rise and fall of his chest as he breathed made it harder for me to do so. I ran a list of reasons in my head of why he’d ask this, and one of them was absurd. “Because,” he said, “I’ve watched the way he treats you, and it’s not right. He’s at a point in his life where he’s extremely selfish, and he’s not going to get better. Not for a while.” Dr. Lowe’s expression was resigned. “Not until he learns to stop taking things for granted, and I’m unfortunately speaking from experience. When I was his age, I was the same way.” It was a lot to process, and I swallowed thickly. It was hard to think around him. Maybe the lemonade had been drugged. I opened my mouth to tell him I’d broken it off with Preston five minutes ago, but he kept talking. “I know this all sounds terrible. What kind of dad am I, telling you to break up with him?” He shook his head at his own question. “I don’t want to see either of you get hurt, but I think that’s bound to happen, no matter what you do. I’m probably going to walk out of this room regretting I said any of this, but I want to be clear, this is on him, not you.” He rubbed a hand on his defined jaw, and the whiskers scratched against his skin. “You’re a great girl, Cassidy, and frankly, you deserve more than my son can give right now.” “Wow.” It was a breath, rather than a word from me. Dr. Lowe’s face twisted with embarrassment, and his shoulders straightened sharply. “I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t have said anything.” “No, wait,” I cried as he turned toward the door. “I just broke up with him.” “You did?” He stilled. “Why?” I dropped my gaze to the carpet. It was too hard to look him in the face as I told him his son was less than perfect, even when Dr. Lowe seemed to know Preston was human. “For the same reason you just said. Preston and me, we’re different people from who we were three years ago.” My gaze crawled up Dr. Lowe’s body until I could meet his eyes. “I’m not sure the new me likes the new him all that much,” I admitted. “I get it,” he said, and he genuinely seemed to. There wasn’t defensiveness or anger in his eyes. It looked mostly like relief. “I grew up a lot when I was in school. I did stupid shit until I figured out how to be an adult, and I’m guessing that’s where he is right now.” “Still figuring it out?” It was a half-question, half-statement, because I knew it was true. Preston couldn’t get a handle on all the freedom of college life, and he’d gone overboard. “Yeah. He’s got a ways to go,” his father said. “I’m sorry.” Confusion flooded Dr. Lowe’s face. “For what?” I shrugged. “I don’t know. That I couldn’t make it work.” He looked at me like I was being silly. “Don’t do that. This isn’t your fault. Things don’t work out sometimes, and that’s just life.” I took in a deep breath. It was strange to talk about it with him, but it felt good too. It was nice to hear I wasn’t to blame. He was always so good at knowing what to say or do, and with that thought, I grew sadder than I’d been all day. “It sucks. I feel like I broke up with you too.” The second it was out of my mouth, I wanted it back. His eyes went wide. “I mean,” I sputtered, “because we won’t see each other again after this. Like, do we say goodbye?” I’d been a huge part of Preston’s life. There were pictures of me with my boyfriend sprinkled throughout this house. I’d even gone on vacation with the Lowes last summer. I wasn’t overly emotional, but I blinked back the threat of tears. “Is it weird to say I’m going to miss you?” Dr. Lowe’s face was heartbreaking, and the gravel in his voice matched. “No, not at all. I’m going to miss you too.” As I swallowed the lump in my throat, he moved toward me, his arms spread open for a hug. I stepped into it eagerly and let him crush me against his chest. If he didn’t care my swimsuit was wet, I didn’t either. He was warm and solid. His arms wrapped tighter, holding me, and it brought on a fresh threat of tears. I didn’t want things to change. I didn’t want this part to be over. My cheek was pressed to his chest, and I could hear the hurried beat of his heart inside. I closed my eyes, squeezing back the tears as his hand smoothed down the hair on the back of my head. How long would he let me stay like this? His warm palm was on the small of my back, and once again, the contact of it against my skin left me breathless. He moved, shifting the position subtly, as if settling me into his embrace, and unexpected pleasure jolted through me. It was instantly followed by a wave of shame. He was only offering advice and comfort. This was the most inappropriate time to get turned on. Yet I grew heavier each moment I was in his arms, wanting to get closer to him. He smelled like wood and leather, and the scent was enticing. His muscles under my hands flexed and tensed, like whatever this strange thing happening between us was, he could sense it too. The hand in my hair moved, and he cupped the side of my face, drawing me back enough so he could peer down into my eyes. The way he gazed at me, it sucked the last of the air from my body. Made every nerve ending tingle. His look was intense. Wild. It announced he was considering doing something very, very bad. We stood as two people on a crumbling cliff, afraid to move or the ground would give way beneath and make us fall. Only our shoulders lifted with our hurried, uneven breaths. His palm seared against my cheek, and my eyes hooded. When his gaze slid down to my parted lips, I knew we were doomed, and the worst part was I didn’t care. I wanted it to happen. I tilted my chin up to meet him as he lowered his mouth to mine. FOUR WARNING SIRENS BLARED IN MY MIND, but it was useless. His gentle, hesitant kiss roared loudly through my body, drumming back any other sound. His soft lips moved against mine, cautious and testing, and I answered back. Even more, I encouraged. I opened my mouth to welcome his seeking tongue. He drew in a sharp breath through his nose as our reckless kiss deepened, but it didn’t stop his exploration of my mouth. Behind my back, his palm urged me into him, and his grip on my face firmed. His lush tongue dipped past my lips, slid against mine, causing goosebumps to burst down my legs. I couldn’t think, breathe, or even move as he kissed me, because I worried I’d break the spell. Dr. Lowe used the hand cupping my face to tilt me further up, enough to break the contact of our lips, but his mouth was still on my skin. It moved hurriedly over my cheekbone, streaming down the side of my neck. I shivered. My skimpy swimsuit was still wet, and the air conditioning was blowing on us from a vent overhead, but the tremble that shook my shoulders had nothing to do with that. It wasn’t the cause of my hardened nipples jutting out beneath the triangles of my bikini top either. Dr. Lowe was. I nearly lost my balance as he moved in, walking me backward toward the wall. He drew the hand away from my back and threw his palm flat against the wall by my head. His haggard breathing filled my ear. “What the hell am I doing?” Was he thinking out loud? Because he didn’t stop. His damp lips skimmed over my neck and closed on a spot where it met my body, giving me another wave of shudders. When he sucked lightly, a sharp bolt of electricity shot straight between my legs. I had my arms wrapped around his waist, and I clenched his t-shirt in my hands. I wasn’t supposed to like it, but it felt so damn good. I leaned my head into his hand, giving him more room on the other side to kiss my neck, and I closed my eyes. “You mean, what the hell are we doing?” I murmured, because I was just as much a part of this as he was. When I threaded my fingers through his thick hair, the thought pounded in my mind. Is this cheating? No, it couldn’t be. I had ended it with Preston. We needed more closure, but I had ended it. My heart lurched into my throat as Dr. Lowe’s hand slipped down the wall and came to rest on my shoulder, the edges of his fingers beneath the black string holding my top in place. The room was steamy hot and frigid cold in the same instant. I was feverish and shivering while the war between my head and body intensified. His mouth journeyed back up the slope of my neck until it sealed over mine. He was twenty years older than I was. My boyfriend’s—ex-boyfriend’s—father. What was wrong with me? With us? We had to look insane. He had me pressed against the wall hard enough my swimsuit left damp triangle shapes on his shirt. I liquified under his lips. The way his mouth moved against mine wasn’t just seductive, it enslaved. His greedy kiss made me thirsty for more. “We shouldn’t be doing this,” I whispered. My words said one thing, and my body another. I bowed off the wall, arching my back, causing his hand to creep lower. His fingertips inched along my skin, heading for the curve of my breast. “I know,” he groaned into my mouth. The sharp edge of his teeth glanced off my bottom lip as he nipped at me. Down his long, deliberate fingers went, following the string until it met fabric and began to widen into the cup of my top. It was amazing the way the cold swimsuit rubbed against my sensitive nipples, and I ached for more. His voice was strained. “I’m going to keep going,” he took a shallow breath, “unless you tell me to stop.” Was he warning me, or pleading with me to do that? My throat closed off. I didn’t want him to stop. I was out of control and only thinking about myself. I was too focused on how different and exciting this experience was. He must have figured out I wasn’t going to say anything, because his fingers trailed down the edge of the cup toward the center, all the way to the bottom string going across my ribcage. I gasped as he slid the triangle of fabric to the side, exposing me, and I moaned quietly when he palmed my naked flesh. To go from the wet, cold fabric suddenly to his warm grip was sensual. Our kiss had started out tame, but as we learned each other, it grew bolder. He plunged into my mouth, his tongue stroking sinfully over mine. It teased as his fingers traced and plucked at my nipple. I sighed as the sensations heated me to a thousand degrees. There was an insistent throb in my core, growing louder and needier by the second. It went nuclear as Dr. Lowe shifted, moving his leg between my knees. The towel unwound from my waist and fell to our feet, but I barely gave it any attention. No, my attention was on the man who used the top of his thigh to put pressure where my ache was acute. His kiss conquered me. Before Preston, I’d kissed a few guys, but I’d never had anything like this. “Oh,” I moaned. White-hot pleasure flashed along my spine from the grind of his leg against me. He lifted his mouth away from mine, and when he drew back, I could see how hazy his eyes had become. His expression dripped with desire. “Jesus, Cassidy.” His tone was heavy and sexual, and it was shocking. Three years I’d known him, and never heard him sound like that. I shuddered, enjoying it, unable to stop myself. “Shit,” I gasped, sagging against the wall. I always tried not to swear in front of him, but right now I couldn’t control my mouth. My legs were so weak, I was about to fall. “Dr. Lowe—” He must have known. His hands tightened on my hips, steadying me as he pulled back. “Greg.” I was breathless. “What?” “Greg. My name.” I knew that, of course. Yet he wanted me to call him by his first name? He was an adult. So much older than I was. I’d only known him as Dr. Lowe, and Greg sounded like— A stranger. I struggled to form the word. My mouth fell open to speak his name, but nothing came out, and the room grew colder every moment his mouth wasn’t on me. The temperature plummeted further as lust drained from his face and was replaced by an unreadable expression. Was he realizing the gravity of what we’d just done? Before I could say anything, a phone rang. The ringtone playing from the back pocket of his jeans was one I was familiar with. It was his special one, exclusively for the hospital. His muscles went rigid as I flinched, and we both turned to stone. It wasn’t something he could ignore, no matter how much the look on his face said he wanted to. “I’m on-call. I have to get—” “I know you do.” I nodded quickly, tugging my swimsuit back in place and trying to act as if it were no big deal. Not like we’d just been making a huge mistake. It was cold when he took the heat of his body away. He dug out his phone, answered it, and as the person on the other side of the line spoke, he paced, listening thoughtfully. He asked a question about the patient, but I was still hazy, coming down out of my desire, and my gaze lingered over him. He didn’t just have beautiful hands—his forearms and biceps were perfect too. All tight and toned without being bulky. Once the call was over, he gave me a somber look. “I have to go. I’m sorry.” I didn’t ask him what exactly he was sorry for. That we’d been interrupted, and he had to leave? Or the things we’d done before the phone call? I couldn’t find my voice, anyway. Words wouldn’t even form in my head. “Cassidy.” He looked pained. “What just happened . . .” For the first time, he didn’t appear to know what to say. I stared up at him, unable to do anything but breathe shallow breaths. “It was my fault,” he said. I blinked. What was he talking about? He hadn’t coerced or persuaded me. I’d kissed him. The whole thing had been mutual. I opened my mouth to say something, to defend him, but my vocal cords didn’t work, and my brain was mute. His eyebrows pulled together, creating a deep crease between them. The painful quiet grew acute, and the longer the silence stretched, the more hurt he looked. Then, it became clear he couldn’t wait any longer. His patient needed both him and his scalpel. “My fault,” he repeated. “You say that to Preston when you tell him about this.” He marched to the door, yanked it open, and disappeared before I could do anything. FIVE IT HAD BEEN A WEEK and I hadn’t told a soul what happened. Not even my new best friend Lilith, who I saw every day as I interned at the animal hospital. I tried not to think about Dr. Lowe and what we’d done. Instead, I thought about Preston. He hadn’t bothered to call or text, and anger rose inside me each day he remained silent. It was easier to focus on that. How did he not need closure? Ten seconds was all it took to undo three years. Unless this was a power play on his part. Maybe he was waiting for me to call. And maybe I’d been avoiding it because of what I’d done with his father. Would any good come from telling him? The relationship between father and son was okay, but not great, and I didn’t want to be part of the wedge that drove them further apart. I was being a coward about it, but I also saw no upside to confessing my sins. All it would do was cause pain. Preston might not have needed closure, but I did, and couldn’t put it off any longer. On Friday, nine days after our breakup, I texted him. Cassidy: Are we going to talk about this? Preston: Talk about what? Was he fucking kidding? I wasn’t going to get into everything via text. Cassidy: What I said in the pool. What are you doing right now? Preston: Playing Call of Duty. I gnashed my teeth. Of course. He was just sitting around playing video games. Cassidy: Is your dad home? Preston: No. The tight breath in my lungs relaxed. I could do this. Get in and get out, even though the thought of not seeing Dr. Lowe again brought on a surprising sharp pang of disappointment. Cassidy: Can I come over? Preston: You horny? What? He thought I was asking about his father being gone so we could fuck in the house? Un—fucking—real. Was this how he was handling the breakup, like it had never happened? The three dots blinked across the screen. Preston: Yeah, you can come over. My stomach churned and roiled as I drove to Preston’s and parked in the driveway. I shut the car off and stared up at the dark windows of the house, working up the nerve to do what I needed to. Like last time, I went in through the front door without knocking. There was no point. Preston would be in the basement and wouldn’t hear me. My flip-flops slapped against the soles of my feet as I marched through the living room and turned left, heading toward the basement door. I was so focused on my goal, the movement didn’t register until he spoke. “Cassidy?” Oh, Jesus. My mouth went dry as a desert, and my brain quit working. “He said you weren’t here,” I blurted. Dr. Lowe’s face contorted into a strange expression. Guilt, confusion, and hurt. Perhaps a little fear too. It made me feel like garbage, and my gaze dropped down to see the stack of mail he was sorting in his hands and the plastic bag of takeout resting on the breakfast bar. The faint smell of garlic lingered. He pulled his shoulders back. “I just got home.” “Oh.” It was barely a whisper from me. “Sorry.” He tilted his head slightly and scrutinized me. “What are you doing here? I thought you and Preston . . .” “We did. I’m just here to talk to him.” And make sure he understands we’re over. Dr. Lowe was dressed casually in jeans and a form-fitted t-shirt, and I forced myself not to think about what he would look like without them. I sucked in a deep breath and lifted my gaze to meet his. “You haven’t told him,” he said in a low voice, “about what I did.” “What we did,” I corrected, “and I’m not going to.” Why did he look upset? Wasn’t he supposed to be relieved? “Why?” “Because it won’t change what happened. All it’s going to do is hurt him, and the way things are between you two . . .” I didn’t want or need to say that Preston’s relationship with his father was fragile. “I don’t want to jeopardize what you have.” Dr. Lowe put his hands on his hips, and his shoulders sagged in defeat. “I appreciate that, but—” My phone chirped with an incoming message, interrupting us. I dug it from my purse and looked at the screen. Preston: I think my dad’s home. I heard the garage door. Great fucking timing, Preston. I put my phone away and shot Dr. Lowe a determined look. “I don’t want to hurt him. And telling him what we did?” I shook my head. “I can deal with it if he hates me. But not you.” Before he could say anything, I put my hand on the doorknob and pulled open the door. Sounds of simulated gunfire echoed from the base of the stairs and grew louder as I hurried down, passing pictures of Preston and me hanging on the wall. When I hit the bottom of the steps, I skidded to a stop. Preston wasn’t alone on the couch. His friend Colin sat on one side, and Troy on the other, all three clutching controllers and focused on the TV screen. I balled my hands into fists at my side. Why the hell didn’t he tell me his friends were over? Colin glanced my direction for a microsecond and flashed an easy smile. “Hey, Cassidy.” Preston couldn’t be bothered to look away from the game. “What’s up?” Anger tightened my vocal cords, but I choked it out. “We need to talk.” “Yeah. Lemme finish this level, and . . . I’ll be right with you.” It was loaded with innuendo for his friends’ benefit, and they snickered. My mouth fell open. Who was he these days? Just as I was about to snap, all three guys swore at the screen. “Fucking shit,” Troy groaned, and his annoyed gaze rolled to his friends. Preston stood and dropped his controller on the couch cushion. “I’ll be back in a few.” “Only a few, huh?” Colin turned his gaze to me. “Poor Cassidy.” Preston wasn’t amused. “Shut up, dude.” He probably thought my icy expression was for Colin, when it was meant for him. I stayed silent as I followed him into his bedroom. I’d barely shut his bedroom door before his hands were on me, and I spun away. “What are you doing?” I shrieked. Preston wore a look of pure confusion. “Come on. They’re playing the game. They don’t care what we get up to in here.” Did he think I was shrugging him off because I was embarrassed his friends might hear us? “Have you lost your mind? We broke up.” He scowled. “You were serious about that shit?” “Yes.” Very much yes. My gaze left his and moved across his messy bedroom, and everywhere I looked, there was another painful reminder of what I’d brought to an end. The poster tacked to a wall was from the exclusive Black Keys show we’d gone to at the Ryman Theatre last year. A mason jar mug rested on his bookshelf. Our school had given them out as party favors at our senior prom. Taped to the mirror was a picture of us and our friends in the stands at the homecoming game. Preston blinked, and his confusion evaporated. It shifted to irritation. “You’re going to end things with me just because I didn’t drop everything for you?” Now it was my turn to be confused. “What?” “You asked if you could come over and I said yeah. Troy and Colin were already here when you texted. What was I supposed to say? Get lost, because Cassidy finally wants to hang out with me? The world doesn’t revolve around you.” “Are you kidding me?” I gasped. The audacity of his statement blinded me with rage, and my sarcasm was thick as syrup. “I know it doesn’t, because the world clearly revolves around you.” He rolled his eyes, put his hands on his hips, and I was struck by how much he looked like his father. Only he was a spoiled, selfish version, and the opposite of the man upstairs. I couldn’t stay in this stifling room another moment. I needed to get away before my mind went to other comparisons I shouldn’t make. His indifferent attitude was too much, and I felt gutted. I barely choked it out, “Goodbye, Preston.” I flung his door open and fled through the living room, keeping my head up and ignoring the two guys playing on the couch. But Preston went after me, grabbing my shoulder and turning me to face him. “This is stupid,” he said. “Calm down.” The TV went silent. One of the guys must have paused the game, either so Preston and I could hear each other, or so he could listen to our second breakup play out. I wasn’t going to put a show on for them, but my anger wasn’t going away either. “Don’t touch me,” I hissed. His face turned sour. “You know what? You can call me when you’ve calmed down.” If Preston wanted to wait for a phone call that was never going to come, so be it. My expression was firm, masking how wounded he’d made me feel. I’d been determined to end things with him but had prepared for a struggle. It had been wasted. He wasn’t going to fight for us. He turned on his heel, went to the couch, and grabbed his controller. After everything, that was how he treated me. I wiped at my eyes as I climbed the stairs, brushing away the angry tears. He didn’t care about me, so why should I care about him? I wasn’t going to waste any more time on him. Dr. Lowe was washing a dish in the sink, and when he heard me at the top of the basement steps, he cast a glance over his shoulder. His eyes widened. The water was shut off, and he hurriedly dried his hands on a dishtowel, stepping toward me. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine.” My tone was clipped. I wanted to run, but also to stay right where I was. A big part of me wasn’t ready for him to be gone. He slung the dishtowel over his shoulder and crossed his arms, perhaps to stop himself from reaching out for me, and leaned back against the kitchen island. His eyes were full of sympathy. “That was fast.” “Yup.” I tried to force my feet to move, but they wouldn’t. “Three years, and it’s no big deal.” My voice broke. “I mean, he’s just down there playing video games, so . . . he’s fine.” I was swept up into his hug so abruptly, it squeezed the air from my body, and in my weakened state, I softened into Dr. Lowe. His embrace was fierce, and perfect, and exactly what I desired. “I’m sorry,” he said. Since I had my forehead pressed against his collarbone, he couldn’t see me twist my face into displeasure. “Don’t. It’s not your fault.” “I know, but I’m sorry anyway.” We fell silent. The only sound in the kitchen was the faint ticking of the clock on the far wall. I turned my head and pressed my cheek to the flat plane of his chest, and in response, his arms shifted and settled around me. Neither of us made an effort to step away. I was greedy. I knew it was selfish and wrong to want his embrace, but I did regardless. It felt like I belonged here. His chest lifted as he drew in a deep breath, and I rode the rise and fall with my eyes closed, hoping the hands on the ticking clock would freeze and go quiet. But they didn’t. Each second built in my body like a timer counting down, and anxiety swelled, dreading the moment he’d let me go and it’d be time for me to leave. I’d do anything to prevent it. So, it was a desperate measure when I lifted on my toes and tilted my head, moving to slant my lips over his. I caught him by surprise, but only for a moment, and then his mouth softened to welcome my reckless kiss. I shivered as he took over and drove away all thoughts. My arms wrapped tighter around his waist, holding on as his dominating mouth pressed to mine and pulled a sigh from my body. “Wait, wait,” he said, abruptly yanking his head back and breaking off the kiss. “I’ve been waiting here, washing the same damn dish for the last five minutes, hoping when you came back upstairs, I’d find an excuse to talk to you. We need to, Cassidy.” “Oh,” I whispered. The blood in my face heated to a million degrees. I didn’t want to talk about it, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going anywhere. Plus, I was certain I’d do pretty much whatever he said, as long as his arms were around me and the buzz from his kiss lingered on my lips. “I can’t stop thinking about what would have happened if the hospital hadn’t called.” The way he said it made it impossible to tell if he felt regret or relief. I swallowed the thick knot in my throat. “Me too.” The scenes that had played out in my mind over the last nine days were dirty and wrong. More fantasies, ones that had me putting a hand down my pajama pants late at night just to relieve the ache. “We have to stop,” he said. But he made no effort to release me. “I know.” “We can’t do this.” His words were as hollow as my agreement had been. Dr. Lowe smelled like the fresh, clean dish soap he’d been using, but underneath, I caught the hint of leather. The scent caused the memory to flash white-hot in my mind, reminding me of his hands on my breasts, and I shuddered. The struggle in his eyes made it clear he was losing whatever fight the sensible side of him was waging. “Shit.” He yanked the towel off his shoulder and tossed it down on the island countertop. “I don’t know which is worse. How wrong this is, or the fact I can’t stop.” His voice dipped so low, it was barely audible. “I shouldn’t, but—fuck, I want you.” My knees threatened to give out. I was vaguely aware I was a mess. Hurt and angry at Preston, but I needed Dr. Lowe’s mouth on mine again, and like him, I didn’t care that it was wrong. I didn’t give a fuck how Preston was only one floor below us and could come upstairs at any time. I pressed into him, like I could burrow deep into his chest. “Dr. Lowe.” His embrace hardened, locking me tightly with bars made of muscle and bone. “Greg.” The word was a plea and an order. “Say it.” I tipped my chin up and peered into his eyes. Saying his name would be permission. It’d break the feeble lock we’d put on our restraint, unleashing everything. Uttering it would be a promise of more. I swallowed a breath and found my voice. “Greg.” SIX GREG LOWERED HIS MOUTH TO MINE, and the moment our lips touched, every inch of me exploded with longing. This kiss started tentative. Controlled and aware. But I was engulfed by it, consumed by it, and the sensation drove me crazy. A single breath was all it took for us to find our rhythm. His lips were pliant against mine as I matched him and charged forward, slipping my tongue into his greedy mouth. This kiss was passionate and dangerous. It built, layer upon layer, until we were both breathless and urgent. He seized my hips in his sure hands and steered me around, pressing me back against the kitchen island, where the edge of the cold granite bit into the small of my back through the thin cotton tank top I was wearing. Neither of us let up, though. I was wild and out of control, too wrapped up in this thrilling kiss to care. It was almost brutal, the way he attacked my mouth. I moaned and clutched fistfuls of his t-shirt, wanting it gone between us. Our kiss was even more reckless, but beautiful too. The need between us was so powerful. He let out the softest sigh when I gave up on tugging at his shirt and slipped a hand under the hem, resting my fingers on the warm, hard ripple of muscles across his stomach. The sound of his affected breath shot straight through me. It was a live wire. A jolt of electricity, spurring him on. His hands on my hips slid forward, focusing on the snap and zipper of my shorts. “I’m going to put my hand down your pants unless you stop me,” he uttered in my ear. I wasn’t aware of anything but Greg. Subconsciously, I knew Preston and his friends were downstairs, and how terrible this would be if we were caught. There were consequences, and Greg’s were much worse than my own. But it wasn’t revenge that allowed him to undo the metal snap of my shorts with a silent click, or drop my zipper, one slow tooth at a time. I didn’t care about my ex-boyfriend. Every nerve ending in my body clamored for the man before me. I clung to Greg, not saying a word, but urged him onward with my eyes and the arch of my back. Also, the fourth step from the top had a terrible creak in it, so we’d hear anyone coming, and he’d positioned his broad back to block me from view. Once he had my shorts undone, he left them sitting there open and hanging low on my hips. I had on black silk panties trimmed with white lace, and his fingertips traced over the sensitive skin at the top edge while his mouth latched onto the side of my neck. I shuddered. How could I not? Greg’s delicate strokes at the lace over my belly promised pleasure, and I was fucking eager for it. I craved release. All the tension between us had been winding the last nine days until I was so tight, I was going to break wide open. I was grateful for the counter at my back so I could use it for support. “Stop me,” he whispered. “Please. Tell me you want to stop.” He was begging me like it was his only way out, but I wasn’t in control any more than he was. How could I tell him to stop? I wanted him to do it. I needed him to. The fire inside me was insatiable. When fooling around, I’d always been quiet, but Greg made bold and powerful thoughts bubble to the surface. It unhinged the filter on my mouth. “Do it,” I whispered. “I want you to.” Surprised pleasure snapped through him. “Yeah?” He didn’t wait for an answer. His fingers curled into a half fist and inched below the lace trim. The hard edges of his fingernails scraped lightly as he raked them down into my panties, working deeper until he found the spot he wanted. I rose onto the balls of my feet, my flip-flops squealing against the tile. We both exhaled loudly at the same time. I was wet. So fucking wet, I was drenched, and his chestnut-brown eyes hooded with lust. His other hand went behind my back to support me as he buried his thick fingers beneath my clothes. His touch was pure bliss. I leaned on the island, my elbows slamming into the polished stone counter, and threw my head back until I was staring at the decorative lighting fixture positioned overhead. I gripped the edge of the counter and moaned as he stirred careful circles over my clit. The tiniest touch from him caused me to flinch and shiver. Ecstasy rocketed up and down my spine like lightning. His mouth was pressed against the side of my neck, and my hair fluttered with his rapid, uneven breathing. Like last time, I was both feverishly hot and frigid cold. My nipples tightened and protruded through my unlined bra and tank top, as if wanting to be closer to him. It sent me into chaos. The way his skillful fingers stroked and touched me, I was going to melt into a puddle. It felt dirty, but in a good way. Like when you went off to summer camp and they took you on a mud hike, encouraging you to smear the thick, cold mud on your skin. Years of programming had told me not to get my clothes dirty, but it was freeing when I finally got to let loose. That was how I felt now about what I was doing. I reveled in the wrongness of Greg. I marveled at how perfectly his hands sizzled across my nerve endings and brought me closer to the brink with every twitch. I shook with desire and lust, throwing aside insecurities and rules, and surrendered to my most basic craving. Was I going to come? Panic simmered toward a bubbling boil. I’d only orgasmed a few times with Preston, and I’d felt weirdly embarrassed about it. Enough that whenever it happened, I did my best to stay quiet and not let on. I wasn’t comfortable having him watch me when I was so vulnerable and out of control. With what Greg was doing now, staying quiet seemed like it’d be fucking impossible. His pace increased, and I swallowed a ragged breath. I was half out of my mind, not even sure I was speaking, or what I was saying. “Oh God, I’m going to . . .” Greg’s lips moved against the base of my neck, his stubble faintly dragging over my skin. “Mm-hmm,” he mumbled. Like this had been his master plan, and he was just letting me in on it now. As if he were giving me permission to come, to fall to pieces in his arms. I did. And I did it with as quiet of a whimper as I could. I turned my head blindly into him and groaned, letting him hear the ecstasy ripple through my body. His arm around my back tightened at the same instant his fingers stopped moving and pressed against my throbbing clit. It lengthened my pleasure until it was so strong, I could barely breathe. The orgasm receded, but Greg did not. He held me still and sure, dropping kisses against my parted lips. As the sensation drifted away, I felt both relaxed and twitchy. Anxious with need for something I couldn’t quite figure out. Just wanting . . . more. I pushed off the counter as his hand withdrew from inside my shorts, and before he could do anything else, I palmed the large bulge straining down one leg of his jeans. Air left his lungs in a burst and his hips moved instinctively, pushing forward into my touch. I was a tit-for-tat kind of girl with the boys I’d been with. Always reciprocating, even if I wasn’t that into it. But today was decidedly different. I wasn’t touching him out of obligation, I was rubbing his erection through his jeans because I fucking wanted to. My fingers ached to learn the feel of him. “Jesus,” he said. He pumped his hips again, urging me to move along his length, and then abruptly froze. His eyes cleared of fog as he blinked, and his pupils focused on me. “Go get in your car.” I turned into a statue and nearly shrieked it. “What?” He was kicking me out? “Move it down the street,” he said, hurried. “The house for sale at the end of the road has been vacant and on the market for six months. If you park by the garage, no one will notice.” I stared up at him. My brain was so clouded with lust, I was slow to keep up with what he was telling me to do. He wanted me to move my car, so when Preston’s friends left, no one would see it. No one would know I was still here. Greg’s voice softened until it was silk. “Come up the balcony stairs on the side of the house.” Because the balcony was attached to his bedroom. Panic burned slowly and grew in his eyes when I hesitated. Did he understand what he was asking? Us in his bed was a very, very bad idea. He put his palm over my hand still cupping him through his pants and pressed, molding me to his erection. “Feel how much I fucking want you, Cassidy. Please say yes.” “Yes.” It came from me instantly, no time to think about it. He gave me a rushed kiss and stepped back, releasing me. My flip-flops squeaked on the hardwood floor as I turned and went for the front door. The orgasm still lingered, buzzing in my system, and fueled me as I stepped outside into the late afternoon heat and propelled myself toward my car. I focused only on my task, rather than why I was doing it. And as I parked in the driveway down the street, my car tucked behind the garage and hidden from view, the alarms in my head jumped to full volume. They were so steady and consistent, it made them easier to tune out. As I walked back to the Lowe house, I distracted myself by staring at the dark storm clouds off on the horizon. Thunder growled quietly in the distance. The air was heavy with humidity and charged with electricity. It only added to the vibrating feeling coursing through me. I took the wrought-iron stairs on the spiral staircase one step at a time. All I did was put one foot in front of the other until I reached the small landing at the top, and the door swung open. My breath stuck in my lungs at the sight of him. His dark eyes studied me like I might not be real, and I felt a little like that. What was I doing here? How was it possible this gorgeous man wanted me, when he shouldn’t? I wasn’t able to move from my spot on the landing, but when Greg curled his hands around my waist and walked me into the room, my body followed him willingly, and his gaze never left mine. His room was dim. Deep blue paint on the walls, dark furniture, and the overcast light from outside didn’t seem to breach the two windows on either side of his enormous, four-post bed. Oh, God. There it was. The bed. SEVEN IT WASN’T THE FIRST TIME I’d seen his bed. I’d been in Greg’s room a few times over the years. During the Lowe’s family Christmas party, we’d put our coats on it. But I looked at the gold textured duvet now with new eyes. He made his bed perfectly. There weren’t piles of shirts or dirty socks on the floor, or empty Mountain Dew cans on the bedside table like Preston’s room downstairs. This was the room of a man—a precise adult—and it wasn’t surprising. I’d known since the beginning how Dr. Lowe liked everything in its place. He lined the cooking utensils up in the drawers in the kitchen like they were his surgical instruments. The room smelled like him. Greg’s grip on my hips softened, and his hands slid up my back, so slowly it felt like he was going one vertebrae of my spine at a time. Heat rose along with his hands, and goosebumps pebbled across my thighs. He didn’t kiss me. Instead, he hovered, his breath rolling over my lips as his eyes searched every inch of my face. I hungered for his mouth on mine but felt strangely too shy to take what I wanted. So, I waited, balancing on the edge for him to move. To close the last inch of space between us and claim me. Please, a seductive voice in my mind whined. What are you waiting for? Could he read my thoughts through my eyes? “If I kiss you,” he said, “that’s it. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop.” I exhaled softly and stared at his lips. I was here, ready. Desperate. “Then, kiss me.” He moved fast, sealing his mouth over mine and stealing all the air from the room. The kiss was explosive. Heat flared from where his lips met mine, spreading outward like wildfire, engulfing me. I cased his neck with my hands, pretending to steady him when I was really stabilizing myself. Everything went weak inside me. My bones turned to jelly. I was cold when he peeled the tank top up over my head and dropped it to the floor, but then his hands were on me, his fingertips tracing the lines of my bra. My hands found their home back on his neck, and I could feel his hurried pulse beneath my palms. The thin fabric of my delicate bra was all that stood in his way, but he seemed to enjoy touching me like this. Skirting the edge before diving in. His soft tongue slid into my mouth and caressed, and instinctively, my hand grabbed a fistful of hair at the base of his skull. I wasn’t going to be able to stand much longer if he kept kissing me like that. I pulsed with need. Fingertips worked the clasp of my bra, and it popped loose, sliding down to catch on my elbows. I tossed it aside and reached for the hem of his shirt, but he beat me to it. Up the cotton t-shirt went, and then it was cast off, bringing his solid form into view. I wasn’t prepared for how good he looked. Greg was all hard muscle twisted over his frame, a patch of hair covering his chest and arrowing down to disappear beneath his jeans. I swallowed hard when he pressed our warm, naked skin together. If it was supposed to be wrong, why the hell did it feel right? Somehow, between our passionate, greedy kisses and wandering hands, I found myself backed up to the bed, where the duvet touched the backs of my thighs below my shorts. His hands cupped my breasts and pushed them together, making it easier for him to run his lips and tongue from one aching nipple to the other, and back again. Shivers shook my shoulders. I skimmed my hand over the waistband of his jeans, lingering at the button. Just enough to threaten what I was thinking about doing. How much further I was willing to go. It was challenging undoing the button at the top of his jeans, but he held still and let me. I clawed my unsteady fingers at his zipper, and then shoved the pants down over his hips. For a split second, I marveled at how soft his underwear was. Rich, black fabric covered him, but did nothing to hide his dick straining beneath. He gave a quiet hiss of pleasure as I smoothed my palm over the long, thick length of him. Jesus, he was big. I was excited, but also nervous. Would I be able to give him as much pleasure as he had given me? I squeezed, stroking up and down, and satisfaction burned on his handsome face. I didn’t get more than a few pumps before he attacked my shorts, wrenching them down my legs. He stepped out of his jeans as he lifted me up, seating me on the edge of the high bed, and my shorts were a puddle left on the floor. The tension between us grew infinitely greater and more serious. We were both down to just our underwear. My heart threatened to beat out of my chest, but I didn’t care. All I needed was his mouth fused to me, his bare skin touching mine. With a light shove, he pushed me down on my back, and the comforter felt cool against my heated skin. He stepped between my legs and followed me down, trailing kisses over my throat and down between my breasts. All while he ground his lower body against mine, and sparks of pleasure roared from the contact. Desire hazed the room. It took control of me and sent my hands roaming over his skin. His back was strong, and I loved skimming the muscles and the hollow of his spine. He was so fucking powerful. So different from anything I’d had. It seemed like Greg wasn’t sure what to do next. Not that he was hesitant, but more like he wanted to do everything all at once. He glided the length of his erection over the damp crotch of my panties, and I arched, bucking up into him. He straightened, smoothing his hands down my curves until they came to a stop on the sides of my panties. His gaze traveled the length of my body, lingering on my exposed breasts before settling back on my eyes. The connection between us was sharp and taut. “Stop me,” he said, making it clear this was my last chance. I bit down on my bottom lip and gave the tiniest shake of my head. “Fuck.” He whispered it as he began to drag the panties down and nuzzled his face into the cradle of my lap. “Oh my God.” I gripped his broad shoulders. His lips followed the descent of my underwear, kissing each new spot of my flesh he revealed. I was going to explode. Burst into a million pieces and flutter to the ground like burnt confetti. His mouth inched along the top of my slit, and something like panic gurgled in my system. I wasn’t supposed to do this, but dear God, how I craved the slippery slide of his tongue, desperate for him to go lower. I moaned and bowed off the bed as I got my wish. The tip of his tongue brushed over me. Cautious. Curious. My reaction must have left no doubt in his mind what I wanted, because his second pass wasn’t hesitant. The full sensation of his tongue against my clit tore a gasp from my lungs. He looked amazing as he hunched over me and delivered his wicked, intimate kiss. Pleasure was so sharp and overwhelming, it made me unable to do anything but stay there and take it. It had never felt like this before. Was this how it was supposed to be? Preston had been the only guy to go down on me. He’d done it a few times, usually when I wasn’t turned on enough to have sex, and although he’d never said it, his attitude always left me feeling like he was doing me a big favor. So, really neither of us liked it all that much. Greg didn’t act like what he was doing was a favor. I kneaded his shoulders as I shook and watched him through my barely-open eyes. His were closed, but his expression made it seem he was enjoying it almost as much as I was. His tongue was so soft. It caressed and stroked, sending my heart rate into overdrive. I grew lightheaded from how hard I was breathing and the waves of heat that traveled up my body. Pinpricks of bliss crept over my skin. A low, deep groan came from him. A bolt of white-hot pleasure seized me as his lips closed and sucked. My hands flew from him to go to my sides, and my fists tightened until my nails dug into my palms. The stroke of his tongue was insanity. He used his lips, his tongue, and even his teeth—just a faint hint—to tease, and torment, and please. I swallowed huge gulps of air, struggling to keep up with him. His tongue lashed at my clit, and he made every muscle in me shake. I was going to rattle apart. The sight of his mouth working over me was so sexy, I moaned. “The noises you make,” he whispered, “they’re driving me crazy.” His statement earned him another whimper. Heat crawled over my skin as I grew closer to satisfaction. His fluttering tongue was building me into a frenzy. I threaded my hands through my hair and shut my eyes tight, squeezing back the urge to let go. If I did, I worried I’d be loud. My challenge increased dramatically when his mouth paused, and he stirred two fingertips over my clit. I opened my eyes and peered at him, which was a huge mistake. His raw, hungry expression made another moan fall from my lips. The fingertips drifted down, and one began to press inside me. My mouth rounded into a silent “oh” as he slid deeper. Just one thick finger intruding, but my body threatened to break apart. I clutched at the comforter beneath my body—like having a physical handle on something would help. The sensation was too intense. I wanted to control it, but I’d have better luck holding back the waves of the ocean. He had his mouth on me, and part of him was inside my body. Claiming me. It made me want more. I shouldn’t, but I wanted all of him. This thought was my undoing. “Shit,” I groaned, locking up as the orgasm surged. Heat flooded through my veins, searing my nerves. I fell into a million pieces while pleasure roared up and down my body, leaving me cold and flushed as it subsided. I blinked my sluggish eyes, staring up at the ceiling as the blood swooshing in my ears began to slow. My mouth was no longer attached to my brain, and the words stumbled out of me. “I didn’t know it could feel like that.” Embarrassment screwed my eyes shut tight. Why the hell had I just said that out loud? There wasn’t anywhere to hide, but with my eyes closed, I could pretend he wasn’t staring at me. He leaned over, and his kiss began at my collarbone, skimming up. Our mouths fused, and when our lips and chests were pressed tight together, there wasn’t room to feel anything else but him. I hooked my legs around his waist, locking my ankles together behind his back, and sank deeper into our kiss. It was full of fire. “Do you want to stop?” His voice was strained with need. “Because I want something I shouldn’t.” Our foreheads pressed together. “It’s all I want whenever you’re around.” My mouth fell open on an audible gasp. How was I supposed to react to that? It made my already racing pulse leap faster. All I could see were his dark, gorgeous eyes. A warning sliced through my mind, sharp and white-hot, but I shoved it aside. I’d always done the right thing. I’d been the selfless one in the relationship with Preston. For once, I was going to do what I wanted, and what I wanted was Greg. “I was thinking about the same thing when I just . . .” His eyes went heavy. “When you came?” We were too close for him to see it, but with our foreheads together, he had to feel my subtle nod. It sounded like I punched air from his lungs. It set him into motion. The tip of his tongue skimmed down the slope of my breast, keeping contact even as my chest rose and fell with my deep swallows of breath. I was a live wire beneath him, and I swiveled my hips, rubbing my arousal against his. Our groans came out in the same pitch, low and soaked with desire. “Cassidy.” He whispered it at the base of my neck. “I want to feel you all around me, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Is that okay?” Oh, God. The muscles deep in my belly clenched in response, so tight it was almost painful. Lust wrung the word from my lips. “Yes.” He took the heat of his body away as he straightened, leaned over to the side, and tugged open a drawer on the nightstand. Were his hands shaking? No, I had to have imagined it. He dealt with life and death situations every day on his operating table and had a steady hand there. There was no way fooling around with me could affect him like that. I lifted my head to gaze at him as he pushed down his underwear, and I pressed my lips together to stifle the whimper. His dick was long and thick, so hard it had a slight upward curve to it. I stared while he tore open the condom, and as he rolled it on, tension tightened in me until I was one compact cord, too twisted to move. His eyes were hungry and full of longing. “Have you thought about this?” I asked abruptly. No idea where the question came from. He slowed. His expression clouded with hesitation, or maybe shame, and then disappeared. “All the time.” His measured gaze worked along the length of my bare body, lingering over my nakedness. I felt flushed and breathless. “Jesus, Cassidy,” he continued. “After that day I saw you and Preston on the lounge chair . . . I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” I closed my eyes as my heart skipped. His admission seared into my center, and desire reached fever pitch. He pressed the fingertips of one hand to my clit, shooting sparks of pleasure down my quivering legs, and used his other hand to stroke himself. His hooded gaze traveled to where he was touching me, and he looked mesmerized. “What about you?” His tone was tight. Desperate to know, but trying to hide it. His fingers teased my most sensitive spot, causing me to gasp and squirm. “Did you think about this?” I gripped the comforter at my sides and nodded vigorously. It was hard to say it out loud, and what he was doing made it impossible to speak, anyway. Need choked in my throat as a soft, sticky lump. His expression was relief at first, pleased he wasn’t the only one between us who had these wrong fantasies. His face then heated with pleasure, and a finger speared into me as a reward. “Tell me,” he pleaded. “Tell me what you thought about.” I bowed my back, clenching at his invasion and loving it at the same time. How was I supposed to tell him? How was I going to think about anything but the way his finger pulsed in and out, stretching and preparing me? I threaded my hands through my hair and shut my eyes tightly. “This,” I breathed. “Every night since we kissed.” A second finger joined the first and I moaned, clenching fistfuls of my hair. “Oh, God, every night.” His sigh was heavy. “Did you touch yourself?” “Yes.” I moved my hips to match his lazy tempo. His expression was indescribable. If I’d had to label it, I’d have said he looked fucking thrilled. “Did you get off thinking about me?” My desperation burned away any shame. I was suddenly eager to say it, hissing it out. “Yes.” He had me writhing on his bed, my toes curled around the edge of the bed frame. His powerful body stood between my bent knees, his fingers fucking me exactly how I’d spent the last nine days fantasizing he would. “You don’t know what you’re doing to me,” he whispered, yet it sounded like he was thinking out loud. Saying it more to himself than to me. “No fucking clue how much I want this, even when I shouldn’t.” His fingers pumped deeper and faster. “But you want it too?” “Yes.” I was losing my grip on any sense of consequence. His fingers retreated, and he slicked them over his cock, wetting it with my own arousal. It was erotic watching his beautiful hand work himself over. And then he slid his forearms under me, his hands on my thighs, and jerked me closer to the edge of the bed. My heart stopped, but when the hard tip of him brushed against me, it restarted in overdrive. I hooked my quivering legs around his warm hips. He leaned over, setting a hand on the mattress beside my head as he steadied himself with his other. “I’m not supposed to,” he murmured, delivering a brutal kiss. “Just for a second. Just so I know what it would feel like with you.” He was right at my entrance and began to push, easing inside. I locked my legs around him so tightly, his hipbones dug into the insides of my thighs. Greg’s eyes were as dark as coffee, and the color deepened as he advanced. He watched intently, studying every breath I swallowed as he claimed me. Oh, shit, the uncomfortable stretch felt good. A delicious shiver tore through my body. I reached up a hand to cup the side of his face and held on to him, even as my lips rounded into a silent moan. “Fuck,” he uttered so quietly, it was a ghost of a word. His slow push kept going. Deeper, wider, harder. I whimpered as it felt even better and more uncomfortable. I’d only been with one other person before, and even though Greg had done his best to prepare me, it still was a tight fit. I’d never felt so full. But it wasn’t the only new experience. Being with Preston had been lonely. During sex, we’d been two people playing roles, him only there for himself. My enjoyment wasn’t a priority—only a bonus to him. I’d felt disconnected all the times we were the most physically connected. But Greg was present in this moment with me. Right as I reached the edge of him being too much to take inside, his body was snug against mine, and another tremor rippled along my muscles. He was buried deep, possessing me, and it felt amazing. Not only physically, either. But just as soon as he’d given it to me, he began to take it away. His hips drew back, easing out and pulling the sensations with him, leaving me feeling empty. No, my mind and body screamed together. I clutched at the landscape of his chest, trying to get him to stay. He pulled out completely, and panic swept me away like a rogue wave. “Again,” I gasped. The single word wracked his body with a visible shudder. He repeated my command, tinged with hope. “Again?” “Oh, shit, Greg,” I whined. “Again.” EIGHT UPON HEARING HIS NAME FROM MY LIPS, Greg’s face softened. He lowered until our lips touched and moved his mouth against mine, wanting that connection while he gave me the other I’d demanded. “Oh,” I moaned into his mouth as his hips flexed into me. The first slide into my body had been amazing, but this second one put it to shame. Satisfaction fired all along my system, lighting me up with fireworks. He pulled his mouth away from mine, dragging it across my cheek, and groaned into the shell of my ear. The sound was the sexiest thing I’d ever heard. His withdraw started sooner this time, and the same panic took over. He was still inside me when I cried out, “Again.” He grunted like I was killing him, but he loved it. “I shouldn’t.” It was a hollow statement, because he pushed inside me, and quicker this time too. “We shouldn’t.” His uneven breath fell in the crook of my neck as his body continued to move. “Doing this is wrong—” I grasped his shoulders, like I could keep him right there. “It feels too good to be wrong.” Which should have proved that sleeping with him was, in fact, very wrong. Usually, the enjoyable things were bad. Like chocolate cake and buying expensive shoes you didn’t need. My confession drilled into him and flipped a switch. The muscles on his back tensed before he shifted, rising enough so he could stare down at me. His eyes were full of primal need. It was then he actually began to fuck me. His first full thrust stole my breath. The second was hard enough it made my breasts bounce and drew his attention. He clamped his hands on them, holding firmly as he drove into me, his thumbs brushing over my peaked nipples. I arched off the mattress, pushing myself into his hands, wriggling against his hips beating against mine. Gone was the unsure girl I’d been before. Beneath Greg, the sexual woman I’d always wanted to be came alive. He looked stunning as the fading light from outside played across his chest, his expression intense and focused. I didn’t bother holding back the whimpers and sounds of enjoyment, and he didn’t either. He grunted and sighed as he rutted into me, both taking and giving pleasure. “You’re gorgeous,” he uttered between hurried breaths. His gaze wandered appreciatively over my breasts and moved up to settle on my lips. “You’re so fucking young and gorgeous.” The caress of his hands was madness. Fire licked at me with his touch, sensitizing my skin. And as his pace increased, so did the feeling of another orgasm. Was it possible? I’d never come from sex before, but Greg was obviously experienced. He’d mastered my body more in one short afternoon than Preston had done in three years. He shifted so he was standing upright, locked a hand on each of my hips, and drove into me. The new angle threatened to make my eyes roll back in my head, and I gasped with satisfaction. His lips turned up at the corner in an impish smile, and I could read the question reflected in his eyes. “That’s the spot, huh?” Moans drifted from me, too loud to contain, and the smile on his face faded somewhat. I was loud. Too loud. If someone decided to come up from the basement, they might hear us. He slowed his tempo, but I was greedy and frantic. “I can be quiet,” I said, “but, please don’t stop.” He looked conflicted. “I love the little sounds you make, but—” Only I wasn’t making little sounds right now. He coursed a hand slowly up over the curve of my arm, along my shoulder, and up to cup the side of my face. It was sweet and sensual, and I turned into it, pressing my lips against the center of his palm in a kiss. I’d done it without thought, but it sent an unintended signal to Greg. His hand molded to my face, covering my mouth. When he resumed his driving rhythm, I didn’t mind the hand one bit. If anything, it only turned me on more. “You want to know the first time I thought about you like this?” he asked quietly. His dick plunged and retreated endlessly, hitting a spot that made the rest of the world fade away. “When he took you to prom. The green dress you wore . . . You looked ten years older. After you left, I thought about all sorts of things. Bad things.” Pressure was building, bubbling under a lid, and dangerously close to release. I wanted to ask him about these thoughts, but his hand was over my lips, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my voice, either. My expression must have made it clear, because he kept going. “I was jealous of him.” Greg’s eyes were hesitant. This was something he was nervous to reveal. “I was so fucking jealous. I knew after the dance was over, he was the one who got to kiss you. Touch you. Put his hands up your skirt and find out if you were wearing anything underneath it or not.” Whoa. My moan bled through his fingers, and my head spun with even more lust. “Were you?” His tone was playful and seductive. I nodded underneath his hand. I’d worn a pair of black panties that were silk in the front and delicate lace in the back. He strived to match the tone, but it faltered a little. He both did and didn’t want to know. “Did he fuck you in that dress?” I slowly shook my head, keeping my eyes glued to his. Preston and I had barely messed around that night. We’d gone to an afterparty at Colin’s house, and Preston had so much to drink, he couldn’t keep it up later when I attempted to go down on him. So, no. Preston hadn’t fucked me in my prom dress. “I would have.” Greg’s voice oozed. “I’d have bent you over a table, pulled up that skirt, and fucked you so hard, your legs would shake.” His smile was sinister. “Just like they are right now, Cassidy.” Even muffled under his palm, my cry was loud and full of pleasure. I clenched around him, and he exhaled loudly, thick with enjoyment. I put one hand over his on my mouth, trying to silence myself, and wrapped the other hand around his wrist. Each pump of his body into mine primed me for detonation, and as I closed in on my explosion, Greg must have sensed it. He pulled out abruptly, stepping away from the edge of the bed. “Where—” I started, wanting to ask him where he was going, but he pointed to the center of the bed. “On your hands and knees.” He said it lightly, but it was a demand full of weight and urgency, and I found myself scrambling on top of the duvet. He climbed up behind me, steering my hips and positioning me how he wanted us to be. The waiting for him to fill me again lasted a decade, and I sighed with relief when he was there, nudging his way between my legs. I swallowed thickly as he pushed all the way in. Holy hell, he felt even bigger this way. I stared down at my hands splayed open on the comforter and let him rock his hips into me. Greg pushed my hair out of his way, so his hands could trace up and down my spine. I arched like a cat as he stroked me, never wanting this to stop. I could listen to his soft sighs of pleasure and the sharp slap of skin meeting skin forever. But then his strong hand was on my shoulder, pulling me up off my hands, and my eyes went wide. A large mirror hung over the dresser on the other side of the room, and in it, I could see Greg’s hands as they slid over my naked body. I watched as they caressed over my breasts, down the curve of my narrow waist, and onto the flare of my hips. Over my shoulder, he watched us in the mirror too. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t look away. His thrusts were rigorous, pounding into my body, and when I threatened to fall, I latched a hand on the post to steady myself. It only made us look more erotic. My small, pink nipples jutted up and out, and at the crevice of my thighs, we could see the movement of his cock disappearing inside me. I was slick between my legs, and faint sweat clung to my skin. It was the same for him. It beaded at his forehead and glossed his face. We looked so good together. I tightened my hold on the smooth post of dark wood, bracing myself so hard, my muscles strained. My pulse thundered as he slipped one hand down, his fingertips searching my slit. He strummed there, making me gasp. “Shit,” I cried out, arching back so my head rested on his collarbone. Even with my head tipped back, I watched the mirror through my half-lidded eyes. How could I not? His powerful body behind mine, fucking me into oblivion, was a sight to behold. I’d never forget it as long as I lived. “I love it,” he murmured. “Seeing this and feeling you wrapped around me. Whatever happens, you were worth it.” NINE I CLOSED MY EYES as unexpected tears sprang into them. How cruel was the world to us, to give Greg and me this perfect experience, and know we couldn’t have it ever again? I almost wished we hadn’t acted on our desires. Now I’d always know what I was missing. “I’m close,” he said as a warning. “Are you close?” Because my pleasure mattered to him, and my heart twisted further. I didn’t want to reach the finish because then this would be over, but . . . “Yeah.” He double-downed his effort, determined to get me there. His warm lips sucked on my neck as his fingers moved furiously over my clit, and his pounding thrusts seemed to go deeper. “Oh,” I cried. It rolled from me in unstoppable waves. “Oh, oh, oh!” “Yes.” His body hardened like stone, and then we both broke apart, him only seconds behind me. Ecstasy ripped a hole in my belly and poured hot pleasure in its place. I jerked and contracted with each shock, and inside I felt the rhythmic pulses of his climax. Bliss sped through my veins, temporarily sweeping away judgement, leaving only us in this moment together. He hung onto me as I clung to the bedpost, both of our knees dug into the bed and our bodies shaking. It seemed like as long as we remained like this, gravity couldn’t touch us, and we lingered even as the orgasms faded to nothing. I turned my head toward his, and he slanted his lips over mine, kissing me with so much tenderness and care, it would have made me tremble if I wasn’t already. Eventually, we parted. I fell into a heap on the bed, endured another long, slow kiss from this impossibly beautiful man who could never be mine. He left me only to remove the condom, then returned to the bed, wrapping his arm around me like it was the most natural thing. “This is weird, right?” I whispered. Cuddling. But I needed it. “If it is, I don’t care.” He used a fingertip to trace my hairline, pushing a lock of hair back from my flushed face, giving me a serious look. “It’s what I want to do.” God, he made me melt. I curled in closer, pressing my sweat-damp skin against his. When I was burrowed in his arms, one leg hooked over his, his fingers swept absentmindedly up and down my back, tracing faint patterns. “Stay,” he said. A sliver of panic ran through me. “Overnight?” Because there was no way in a million years I could, no matter how much the idea excited me. He skewed his face, maybe realizing how impractical the request was. “Just for a little while.” I took no convincing. I was tired, and warm, and happy right where I was. I let out a deep breath. “Yes.” His smile was wide and bright. I blinked my blurry eyes and shifted before I realized where I was. Greg’s arm was cast over my waist, holding me, even when we’d both fallen asleep. I couldn’t tell what time it was. The sun was still up, at least enough to generate some light, but the room was dark and cave-like. When I wiggled out from under his arm, Greg stirred, but didn’t wake. He rolled onto his back and sighed, oblivious. I sat up and stared at the naked man, crossing my arms over my chest to hold in my warmth. I needed clothes. More importantly, I needed to get out of this bed, out of this house, and down the street to my car. The dark clouds from before had moved in, and although it wasn’t raining yet, it was going to start any minute. Thunder boomed and shook the pane of glass in the balcony door, like the universe was reminding me how to escape. Except, I didn’t want to. It was impossible, but I forced myself to slip off the bed and slowly tug on my clothes, wondering the whole time what I was going to do. Should I wake him up? I glanced at the black clouds outside and back to the man on the bed. I didn’t have time to enjoy how good he looked like that. He seemed younger when he slept, and he looked more handsome. I was on borrowed time with the storm. I had to go. Because not only would saying goodbye take too much time, I’d do anything to avoid it. I didn’t want him to see me as I walked away and was left gutted. This afternoon might have been wrong, but it wasn’t a mistake, and if he woke up with regret in his eyes, I couldn’t bear to see it. It was better to slip away and not ruin what we had. The door was silent as I pulled it open, and I watched through the glass as I closed it carefully behind me, making sure Greg didn’t hear. I rationalized my escape as I hurried down the staircase. He worked crazy hours at the hospital. Didn’t he deserve to get some sleep? A fat raindrop landed on the part in my hair and rolled forward down my face as I scrambled along the wooded lawn. I wiped it away with a shaky hand. By the time my flip-flops hit the sidewalk, it was pouring. Cold sheets of rain soaked my tank top, my hair, and squished between my bare toes. I was drenched when I crawled into the driver’s seat of my car and shoved the keys in the ignition. Rain drilled against the windows, loud and angry. The car interior was muggy and confining, trapping me inside, where I couldn’t run from my thoughts any longer. Oh, my God. What the hell had I just done? TEN MY BEST FRIEND LILITH was five years older than I was. She had sleek, iron-straight hair the color of caramel that hung halfway down her back, and she stood almost six feet tall when she was in heels, which she wore every chance she got. She had to be the only woman on earth who slipped into stilettos after a grueling day of work. She couldn’t wear them at the animal hospital. Sometimes she had to chase an escaped bunny around the exam room or needed good footing when an overly excited mastiff wanted to jump up and say hello. Her four-inch heels weren’t going to cut it against a dog that weighed more than she did. I’d become friends with the veterinary assistant on the first day of my summer internship when we’d walked into an exam room together, and the pet owner demanded we look at her ‘duck.’ “He refuses to swim,” the woman whined. Bless Lilith’s heart—she gently let the owner know her chicken, not duck, was in excellent health, and Lilith said it in a way to minimize the woman’s total embarrassment. It wasn’t until the owner was gone that we died with laughter. “It’s like she’d never seen a cock before,” Lilith teased. She always turned the conversation sexual, and I sort of loved that about her. It meant I could talk to her about sex stuff. She’d been on me all summer about the Preston situation, telling me every day to dump his selfish ass. “I did it,” I said this morning, using a flat mop to clean the exam room floor. “I called him, and we talked . . . I guess. He definitely got the message that we’re over.” My friend grinned her approval. “Finally. How’d he take it?” “He acted like it wasn’t a big deal.” I shrugged. “Like he thinks I’m going to come crawling back to him within a week.” “Please.” She rolled her eyes as she flipped the sign on the door to let the rest of the staff know the room was clean and ready for use. “I can’t wait for you to hook up with someone with actual dick game.” My hesitation was short, but just a fraction too long, and more than enough time for my new friend to catch on. Her pretty blue eyes widened. “Cassidy,” she accused. I feigned innocence. “What?” She hustled me across the hall and behind the stacks of prescription dog food, so we were out of earshot of anyone in the waiting area. Her voice fell to an urgent but excited hush. “Already?” Her smile was evil . . . and a little proud. “Who was he? Was it good? Shit, tell me everything.” It wasn’t a trust issue that made me cautious. I knew Lilith would keep my secret. We’d had plenty of in-depth conversations after the animal hospital closed for the day, talking about boys and sex while we’d cleaned cages and done laundry. But this secret was huge, and worse—Lilith knew Dr. Lowe. After college, she’d moved into the converted pool house behind her parents’ home, which was in the same wealthy neighborhood, just up the street from the Lowes. “I’m waiting,” she said playfully, although sort of serious. I needed to tell someone. The amazing afternoon spent with Greg had planted feelings inside me that grew too big to contain. My voice dipped low, and she leaned over to hear me. “It was Preston’s dad.” There was no reaction from her, other than a set of slow blinks, like she couldn’t interpret the information. “Did you just say what I think you did?” she whispered. “Dr. Lowe?” I pressed my lips together and nodded. An enormous, incredulous smile dawned on her face. “Holy Mother of God. How? Where? I have all the questions.” Too bad I didn’t have good answers. I was still fuzzy on how it had happened. In fact, everything was fuzzy and complicated after Greg and I kissed the first time. “Uh,” I said, searching for something to say. “I don’t know. I gave him a hug goodbye, and it just turned into . . . more.” “Where was Preston?” My face heated with shame. “That time? He’d left for work.” “What?” Her word was so sharp, surely someone in the waiting area heard her. She moved in until I was trapped in the corner. “How many times have you slept with him?” “No, we didn’t have sex the first time.” It had been tame enough to be considered PG-13, although nothing about it felt tame. “Yesterday, Preston was still downstairs, playing video games with his friends, when Greg and I—” “Greg,” she repeated. “Holy fucking shit, Cassidy.” She gazed at me in awe, as if I were a brand-new person, and then she grinned like a fool. “How was it?” “It?” I played dumb. She shot me a pointed look. “The sex.” Now my face burned a thousand degrees. “It was . . .” Unbelievable. Magnificent. “Um, great.” She gave a half-laugh, and her expression said she didn’t believe me.