November 18, 2014
“Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.”
Gabriel García Márquez
At the age of twenty-eight there were things Lily should be immune to or come to expect, like colds and cheating boyfriends. Correction—cheating lovers. Really, she had no clear definition of what role Adam played in her life, and that was part of the problem. Of course, after she caught her fiancé sexting another woman, you’d think she’d be more guarded. Nope. Instead she went to Martha’s Vineyard for a weekend. Hooked up with the sexy Italian, gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed to their long distance, no strings attached, no dating or exchanging any bodily fluid with anyone else relationship.
Ha! Once again, she found herself to be the butt of the joke.
Lily fought back a sneeze, and the terrible need to close her heavy eyelids and drift into a sweet, mindless sleep. Except she already knew such sweet relief would be impossible to achieve for several reasons.
First reason, it appeared she’d managed to catch a cold in the middle of September–the wonderful month when summer said its final farewell to autumn, when one could start saying goodbye to the stifling heat, welcome the cool, crisp air of fall, and go for long jogs against the backdrop of colorful leaves.
Nope. Not her.
Instead, she spent most of the day cuddling with her new BFFs—a box of tissues and antibiotics. How she managed to get out of bed and wiggle her way into her sexy, come-get-me little black dress was still a mystery.
“We could have rescheduled,” the strong, masculine voice said from across the table.
She flashed her date a smile and tried her best to show some interest, because the second reason for sleep deprivation was why she had agreed to this blind date. Adam Aquilani, the lethally gorgeous, unflappable Formula One racer, the reason behind her superhuman strength. She needed to forget him and say arrivederci to her lover for the past year.
“No, I’m okay. Just a little cold.” In reality, she was b-o-r-e-d out of her brain and every muscle in her body ached. She needed her bed. She was angry at Adam. He needed to stop occupying all of her functioning brain cells. Just the knowledge that he possessed the ability to penetrate her thoughts during this hour was irritating.
She was done with him. Wasn’t she?
Well, of course she was. She just needed to tell him. And she would do that first thing in the morning and interrupt his beauty sleep at wherever the hell he was at the moment. Morocco. No, Italy. He should be there now with his parents for a few days before flying back to Boston. Possibly jet-lagged. She smiled as she considered his displeasure when she’d interrupt his sleep.
Yes, the time difference suited her just fine, although she would have preferred to catch him while he was in Morocco for his race. After a year of sleeping with him, she knew his days never started before nine in the morning, North America, Eastern Time zone, regardless of the continent.
She would call and tell him to go to hell. That was sure to bruise his inflated ego. She’d bet her beloved 1997 SL320 convertible Benz that no female had ever given the great Adonis his walking papers. This would be a first. A sudden, grating sound interrupted her thoughts as her phone chirped inside her tiny green purse on the table. She glanced at the thin watch around her wrist; probably one of her overly protective brothers checking up on her. She decided to ignore the call. Time to show some interest in…oh…what was his name again? Shit! She couldn’t remember her date’s name. She just knew it wasn’t Adam. And thank goodness for that. What’s-his-name was sexy in his own way, tall, dark, and handsome. As a matter of fact, he even resembled the dark, brooding Italian she was getting ready to dump.
Wait, could one dump a fuck buddy?
She needed to check the etiquette on that. But not now. She needed to focus and enjoy what’s-his-name…Paul. There, she remembered.
She smiled in relief. Paul smiled back before ordering a bottle of wine. Okay, the wine would help.
“So, Paul, you must enjoy working with children.” Small talk always lightened awkward situations.
Her date’s handsome face frowned a little, only to be replaced quickly with a smile. “Of course, they’re fun.”
See, she could do it. Her phone chirped again.
“Should you check to make sure all is well?”
Lily dismissed the suggestion with a slight wave. “That’s one of my overly protective brothers.”
Paul’s face knitted in agreement. “Oh…how many are there?”
“Three,” she answered as casually as possible. She didn’t need to tell him her brothers had threatened to break the legs of her last boyfriend. Correction—ex-cheating scumbag fiancé.
Paul choked on his water and flagged the waiter. It was obvious the thought of three protective brothers scared the guy a little bit. Lily didn’t blame him. She wondered how Adam would react to her brothers. He’d most likely go toe-to-toe with them.
Did he even know she had siblings? She searched her mind and tried to remember if they ever talked about anything other than what are you wearing? Another round? Let’s fuck.
She leaned forward and tried her best to appear more inviting. “They can be a bit much, but nice guys.”
“I’m sure,” he replied, his voice, deceptively calm.
“Tell me all about your life as a pediatrician,” she quickly suggested, hoping to shift gears and focus back on handsome doctor Paul. Her friend responsible for this set up had told her he was reliable and a one-woman-at-a-time type of guy. Not the type who would be caught on camera kissing scantily-clad women with fake, perky breasts after a victory race.
“Actually, I’m a chiropractor,” Paul corrected.
Oh. Damn. Her mistake. Embarrassed, she fanned her warm cheeks. “I’m so sorry.” She made a mental note to get all the facts straight next time she agreed to a blind date.
Her phone beeped again. Damn it! It wasn’t like her brothers to bother her that much…unless something was actually wrong. “I’m sorry, but I need to check my messages. Something may be wrong.” She offered the apology while reaching for her phone.
The text read—
Her heart hitched. Oh Lord, only one man ever called her by her full name.
The second text read—
Where are you? I’ve been trying to reach you for two days.
Her breath caught. She had been ignoring his calls and text messages the last two days. She needed to focus and figure out how to dump his ass. Even the fact that her best friend, Minka, had defended him and advised her to give him a chance to explain had set her off. She couldn’t blame her friend, though. Her mind was clouded and she was high on love. In about eight weeks, Minka was going to marry one of Adam’s best friends. Except Jason had been a model fiancé and never felt the need to kiss any other but his lovely soon-to-be wife. She couldn’t say that about Adam Aquilani.
I’m imagining you naked in my bed.
Oh, God. The room became sweltering hot. She sat in the broiling heat Adam generated even miles away.
I’m horny and I want to make you come. Phone sex?
Her breath rose to her chest and that little spot between her thighs throbbed with need. She didn’t need to read further. She knew the messages would get more explicit. That was Adam’s way and somehow he had managed to entangle her in his dirty little games, including phone sex.
As if the metallic device burned her skin, she dropped the phone in her purse and turned her attention to Paul.
“Is everything okay?” he asked, his eyes on her.
“Ummm, yes. Sorry about that.”
“You look flushed.”
Flushed was an understatement. More like completely turned on and would jump Adam if he were the one sitting across from her. Except it was good old pop-your-back Paul. And thank God for that.
“I’m okay.” But her voice came out a little shaky, rough.
Paul continued to stare at her, confusion evident. Lily flashed him a perky smile, leaned toward him and tried to appear interested.
Her date smiled pleasantly as he reached for her hands. “Lily, there’s someone else.” It was more a statement than a question, his voice calm with no hint of anger.
Damn you, Adam!
Stricken with guilt, she pulled her gaze from his. It was one thing to want revenge on her lover, but it was another to bring an innocent party into her mess. “Yes,” she confirmed in a soft whisper. It made her angry that someone could have such a hold on her even miles away. Hell, right now he was on another continent altogether. “No…I mean, kind of, but not really.” Damn it, she was rambling. Lily let out a frustrated sigh and looked into Paul’s friendly eyes. “He’s not a boyfriend.”
Paul chuckled, probably over how ridiculous she sounded. He released her hand and leaned back in his chair. “Well, whatever he is, he’s pretty persistent. Is he going to show up here?” he asked with genuine concern.
“Oh, God no. He’s in Italy.”
Paul brows went up. “You’re dating a man who lives in Italy? That’s almost an impossible relationship unless he’s some globe-hopping superstar.”
She almost laughed in agreement but instead said, “We’re not dating.”
Her date nodded, seeming to finally understand the status of her relationship. “How about we continue to enjoy dinner with no expectations? Maybe I can even convince you to drop him and go for something steadier and closer to home. You don’t seem like the casual type.”
Paul was right on one thing, she’d never done the casual thing until she threw caution to the wind and threw herself at Adam. As for convincing her to go for something steadier and closer to home, she doubted that very much but decided to continue their date anyway. Although the more she tried to brush Adam out of her mind, the more he penetrated.
Stubborn was his middle name.
* * * *
Lily stepped out of the elevator while fumbling in her purse for the keys to her apartment. Once she and Paul managed to get the whole Adam thing out of the way, they had a good time. Oh, the chemistry was zilch, zero, all because of the man she’d been casually sleeping with the past year.
A whole freaking year of great, mindless sex, wherever and whenever. A low groan escaped her throat as she opened the apartment door. As soon as Lily stepped inside her condo she knew she had company, and it wasn’t one of her brothers. She didn’t need to see him to know who it was either. His presence filled her condo. The smell of nature, similar to the wilderness–rugged, undiscovered, and comforting even in silence only belonged to one man. Her body tingled, betraying her. Traitor. It was definitely time for a tête-à-tête with her body. It should not be so weak while in a state of indignation.
Since her lover was obviously inside, Lily did what any sane woman who was about to dump someone would do. She slowly removed her jacket and escaped into the powder room to ensure she looked like she was coming back from an awesome date. She reapplied the red lipstick and tousled her dark brown pixie hair to give it the appearance that someone’s fingers had already been there, and then pulled the little strapless black dress an inch or two above her thighs.
Well, her eyes were on the puffy side. And she looked a little dazed from her cold, but those attributes could work to her advantage.
There, Mr. Italian-sex-god.
She found him on her sofa. All six foot plus of perfect lean muscles fast asleep. She didn’t approach him. Not out of concern of waking him up. Nope. She learned long ago, one should not seek out a predator. He could and would eat her alive. Instead, she stood a few inches away, mesmerized. Even asleep, the man managed to look sexy as hell.
She scanned the body she had become familiar with. He appeared as if he threw whatever was within reach on, and oh my, how beautiful he looked in casual attire. His jeans sat low on his lean hips, the Captain America cotton V-neck tee stretched across his broad shoulders and his rock-hard abs. She knew that because she had kissed every part of him on many occasions.
A smile tugged the corner of her lips. Such a conundrum he was. Born American, raised in Italy, and now splitting his time between the two countries. A man without a home, who belonged everywhere and nowhere.
She took in his large frame. He was too big for her sofa; his worn New Balance hung over the armrest. He had gotten a haircut since she last saw him. Although now shorter, his jet-black hair was still unruly with strands wildly tousled in his face. Lily fought the urge to reach out, brush the curls aside and touch the scar on his left eyebrow. For a fleeting moment she wondered how he got it.
Lily quickly dismissed the desire to know everything about the man on her sofa and continued to survey him. His jaw was firm and strong, even in sleep stood with pride. His arrogant masculine nose was slightly crooked, like it had been broken and left to its imperfections. His lips full, well-defined and inviting; even in a relaxed state they looked sinfully delicious. She fought the need to surrender to her desires and suck on his lower lip. Memories of the many times they brought her to ecstasy flashed in her mind. Even the thin crease on the corners of his mouth, not from age but of laughter, was downright sexy. Every piece of him was molded to perfection, a thing of beauty and he knew it.
Oh, God. She should not be thinking about ecstasy or how perfectly sculpted he was. She needed to dump him, not jump him. Lily blew out a breath and started to walk past him into the living room to make her way down the hall to her bedroom. She could dump his ass in the morning. She paused inches away from him and stole one last glance, noticing for the first time the fatigue on his face.
Well, what did you expect, Lily? The man looked like he had flown straight from Morocco when he was supposed to be in Italy relaxing.
Why would he do that?
“Because you refused to answer your phone,” he muttered, his eyes still closed as he reached and caught her arm. “I never made it to Italy.”
His voice and the realization she had spoken out loud startled her. Oh, well, at least she didn’t voice all the crazy thoughts of what she’d like to do to his body. “You didn’t go see your parents?”
Eyes still closed, he shook his head. “I came straight here.”
This meant he had been in her condo during those text messages. Puzzled, she stared at his handsome face. The question she wanted to ask but didn’t dare. Why?
“It’s late,” he continued in a calm but steely voice, eyes still closed. “Where were you? Although I have a feeling I already know. You’re all dressed up.”
“How do you know that? Your eyes are closed.”
He chuckled, that cocky, confident chuckle that used to irritate her when they first met. No, she corrected. It still irritated the hell out of her.
“How long have we been together now? A little over a year.”
So he was keeping track. A year, three months and two weeks, but who was counting? “We are not together.”
He smiled that sweet, sexy smile that always made her want to devour him. Tonight was no exception.
“You were checking me out,” he continued, his voice filled with humor, though Lily also traced fatigue underneath.
She stared at him. Long, thick eyelashes no man should have swept over his hard and handsome face. “I wasn’t,” she lied. “You look tired, so I was concerned.” Naturally she cared, even if they were fuck-buddies.
Eyes the color of the earth, rich and fertile, opened, captured her gaze and held it. Lily loved his eyes. They were expressive and changed based on the time of the day. At sunset, they’d had golden flecks in them that would fade as night settled in. They had the power to captivate her, hold her hostage.
She always found herself gazing into them a little longer than she probably should. They held warmth and knowledge in them, secrets as well. Secrets that sparked her curiosity but never felt close enough to him to ask. Even after a year of sleeping together, they were still strangers.
“So you actually care,” he teased, bringing her back to the reality of the state of their relationship. They didn’t do feelings, sentiments or any of that mushy stuff. No, those were for Keely and Blake and now Minka and Jason.
Still holding her hand, he came to his feet and circled his arms around her waist. His lips touched the corner of hers. The same lips that had been kissing another woman only forty-eight hours ago. Peeved, she brought her free hand against his muscular chest and pushed out of his grip.
“What are you doing here?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I missed you.”
“You flew from Morocco to see me. I didn’t realize I was that good.” She walked past him into her small kitchen to turn on the stove and retrieved a tea kettle. She needed a hot toddy, tea with a nice shot of whiskey to take care of this darn cold. Of course he followed, every piece of her sensed his presence in the tight space of her kitchen. God, he radiated sex. Pure, unadulterated, raw, wonderful sex. And good-looking, she reminded herself. Too freaking good-looking for his own good. Good looks and sex appeal were a lethal combination. Her body went damp, responding to his closeness.
She went about setting the kettle in an attempt to show his presence didn’t affect her. That was a complete lie, of course; she felt his gaze warm on her back as he leaned against her bench top inspecting her every move, her black fitted dress and her four-inch heels elongating her legs. She glanced at him as she walked over the pantry to retrieve the raw honey. His lips twisted into a snarl; obviously the realization she had been out on a date had settled.
“What happened to our not sleeping with anyone else rule?” His voice was controlled and tight. She knew him well enough to know he was livid.
Good. That makes two of us.
“I was on a date, Adam. That doesn’t necessarily mean I was screwing someone’s brains out.” She crossed her arms over her chest and smiled at him. “Something you wouldn’t be familiar with.”
“We had an agreement.”
Lily squared her shoulders and forced herself to face what she was trying to postpone till the morning. No time like the present, her mother always said. And the images of Adam lip-locking with that woman still seared anger through her. She reached for her phone on the counter, flipped through her pictures until she landed on a particular one and tossed it across the room at him. He caught the device just as it hit his chest.
“Our agreement is now void.” Take that. Two can play this game.
She watched his eyes focus on the picture, the one of him kissing that floozy. His brows creased and then the unexpected happened. He smiled.
He actually smiled and looked amused. Why was he smiling? Feeling her anger rising, Lily glared at him, but he seemed unfazed and took three easy steps to close the gap between them. She cursed her kitchen for being so small. Her only reaction was to take a step back, away from him and ended pinned against the wall. Literally.
“You stayed up and watched my race.” A smug smile tugged the corners of his mouth, satisfaction radiating off of him. As much as she hated his profession, she actually watched him win the last Formula One. He was missing the point.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
He grinned. “You’re lying.”
So what? Everyone who knew her could detect when she was lying. “Whatever.”
One long, tanned finger stroked her bottom lip. “She kissed me,” he explained. His voice low and husky. “The camera chose not to show the part where I broke it off. Do you know why I did that?”
She knew. They had an agreement. Nonetheless, she waited, wanting to hear it once more.
“Because of you. Because of us.” His lips were dangerously close to hers now. “I only want to kiss you, touch you, fuck you.”
“There is no us,” she managed to argue, but even in her own ears, the argument sounded feeble and weak.
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