Swallow Me Whole by Gemma James

Chapter 1

 

Sadie

Moaning. It’s the first thing assaulting my ears as I approach my boyfriend’s office. My knuckles whiten, fingers tightly gripping the wicker basket I’m carrying. It’s late, and this visit is supposed to be a surprise.

Maybe I’m the one in for a surprise.

I stall outside his door, and there’s no doubt at what I’m hearing. Releasing a soundless breath, I feel my shoulders sag, same as my spirit. God, I feel like a fucking cliché right now—the clueless girlfriend catching her man cheating at the office late at night. It doesn’t help that I have that wholesome girl-next-door appearance bullshit to go along with the overdone trope.

At five feet and three inches tall, with thick red hair that doesn’t know the first thing about behaving, I’m not the poster girl for a man’s wet dream. And don’t get me started on the freckles smattering my nose and cheeks. I’ve been told my freckles are adorable, sexy even, but I’m sure the people who said it are full of shit. Especially now, considering the groans and grunts coming through the door of Jake’s office. I bet whoever she is, she doesn’t have freckles.

Adorable doesn’t get a girl anywhere with someone like Jake Jennings. He’s the epitome of mature and successful. Classic good looks, blond hair never out of place, strong jaw and broad shoulders. The man favors expensive suits, and he wears them well.

Being that I’m several years younger than Jake, dating him made me feel mature. My father approved—how could he not, since Jake is on the fast track to becoming a junior partner at his law firm.

Sounds like he’s on the fast track to getting laid as well.

Betrayal rises in my chest, coils around my heart, threatens to slice and dice. I should be used to betrayal and rejection by now. Guys have proven they can’t be trusted, and as for rejection…

I get enough of that from my father.

But he looks at me differently since Jake and I began dating. I hate the thought of losing that, of disappointing him yet again, but if the sounds on the other side of the door are any indication, I won’t have a choice.

Clutching the bodice of my little black dress, as if I can keep my heart from bleeding hurt, I tell myself to close the remaining steps to the door of his office. But I hesitate, grieving the could’ve been of another relationship down the drain.

Another lost opportunity to work past my fear of sex and intimacy, because tonight was supposed to be the night.

It’s the slimeball’s birthday, and he begged off from celebrating, claiming he had to pull an all-nighter on the case my dad’s had him working on. So I decided to surprise him with a homemade dinner I prepared for the occasion, hoping I could coax him into taking a break.

I’d hoped to take our relationship to the next level by giving him what he’s wanted for weeks.

A blow job.

real blow job—the kind that involves messy thrusting and sucking, and zero inhibition as his ecstasy spurts down my throat. I’d even convinced myself I had enough courage to give him my fucking V-card.

God, I’m so stupid.

My best friend warned me about him from the get-go.

He’s got the douchebag vibe going on.

How can you tell?

It’s in the eyes, Sadie. The smug bastard thinks he’s better than everyone else.

Guess she was right, but I refused to hear it. A single glance in his direction shattered my brain cells, and I followed his come-hither smile like a cat on the scent of dinner scraps.

“Yes! Oh God, fuck yes, Jake. Your tongue…right there.”

A warm tingle travels down my spine, which is interesting since I’m angry as hell.

Turn away. You don’t want to see this.

I take three steps forward, and my hand stalls halfway to the knob. He left the door ajar—no point in worrying about privacy when everyone in the office has already gone home for the day. One soundless push of that door, and I’ll see for myself that Jake Jennings is scum.

No, he’s the grime that lines the tiles in my shower, the mud caking the soles of my sneakers from our hike last weekend. Thinking about the time we spent together sucker punches me. I draw in even breaths through my nose, trying to remain silent as tears burn my eyes.

The weather’s been mild for fall, even by Pacific Northwest standards, so we took advantage by getting outside for a few hours. Things got heavy up on that deserted hillside, where we’d spread out a blanket to stop for a picnic. His hands explored every inch of me, yet the day ended with a preamble of what was to come.

I should have known.

He’d wanted more, but when it came time to reciprocate, I ended up freezing with uncertainty. And that’s how it always goes with me.

Guys want what I’m not ready to give. What I’m not confident enough to give.

But Jake said he was different. He said he’d wait until I was ready. He even claimed he wasn’t angry last weekend, but the deafening disquiet between us on the long trek back to his car was the first sign that something was wrong. Our weeks of dates, flirty texts, and smoldering looks at the office were about to get complicated. I’d known it, felt it, because that wasn’t the first time I’d put the brakes on when he was ready to go full throttle.

For days I chewed over my insecurities before coming to the conclusion that I needed to step up my game. He’s a man with needs, and knowing it’s beyond time to move past my fear of taking the next step, I wanted to give him the most special birthday gift I could.

Guess he decided to get it from someone else.

“Get on your knees,” he groans.

I slap a hand over my mouth to keep from making a sound. Careful not to give away my presence, I set the picnic basket of baked chicken and rice pilaf on the floor then wedge the door open a crack. My heart pounds in my throat as I peer into his office, despite the roaring voice in my head shouting to just walk the fuck away.

Now, Sadie. Walk. The. Fuck. Away.

But I can’t. My gaze fastens on the blonde sinking to her knees in front of him. She’s his assistant—someone I’ve never liked—which makes this even worse in the cliché department. Wearing nothing but a pair of heels and a wide grin, she curls her fingers around his jutting hard-on. His slacks puddle around his ankles, and…Jesus, he’s huge and ready and already dripping onto her double D’s.

I wipe the moisture from my eyes with quick, angry movements. I’m angry at him, and angry at myself for being incapable of looking away as she parts her lips and sucks his length into her mouth. He’s fisting her tousled hair as his hips move so fast that I can’t help but wonder if he’s choking her.

I kind of hope he is.

She purrs around his shaft, making him throw his head back, and a guttural moan escapes his mouth. “You take it like a whore every time.” He yanks her head back and seats the tip between her damp lips. “You want to swallow every drop, don’t you?”

“Mmm-hmmm,” she moans, sliding her lips down his shaft again.

As I watch them, I question the very basis of my being, wading through the conflicting emotions roiling through me. Anger, betrayal, and admittedly, fascination because I want to be the one on my knees.

What would it be like to have a man at my mercy like that, to have the confidence to give head like a whore and enjoy every moment of it? Would our eyes lock on each other the whole time? Would the lustful glint is his stare give me a sense of empowerment?

I should be raging mad at finding my boyfriend with his dick in someone else’s mouth. Not to say that I’m not wounded by his betrayal.

But what I really am, at the core of my soul, is curious.

Confused.

Ashamed.

Hurt.

Yeah, definitely hurt. If he’d given me a little more time, not to mention some damn respect, it could have been me on my knees. I would have given him what he wanted. Could have given him what I wanted. Eventually, after the red haze of shock and hurt wanes, I know I’ll be glad I didn’t get on my knees for him.

He doesn’t deserve it.

And he sure as hell doesn’t deserve my V-card. This asshole doesn’t deserve shit from me, least of all another breath wasted on him.

Leaving the picnic basket on the floor outside his office, I whirl with silent footsteps and creep out the way I came. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t hold on to the anger long enough to drown out the hurt. Hot drops of humiliation drip down my cheeks as I jab the button for the elevator.

Determined to get my shit together before I arrive on the first floor, I dry my eyes. Holding the tears back isn’t easy, but I’m dressed up on a Friday night, and no way am I going to waste it by crying over a loser like Jake.

Chapter 2

 

Sadie

“You better slow down there, Sadie.”

Ashton Levine, with his caring eyes—the kind of eyes that put puppy dogs to shame—attempts to commandeer my sixth…maybe seventh shot? Before his grabby hands slide it out of reach, I toss it back. My eyeballs water as it burns down my esophagus like the last five rounds of tequila did.

Wait. Is it five or eight? Shit, maybe Ash is right. I’ve lost count.

“She’s messed up over something,” Amanda says. Mandy is my best friend. She’s also Ashton’s twin sister. The two of them cage me in, forcing me into the middle of the cozy circular booth the three of us are sharing. I’m a little annoyed by the furtive glances they keep throwing toward each other. Worried glances.

Probably because I called from Club Hoppin thirty minutes ago, bawling into the phone while camped out in a dirty stall in the women’s restroom. That’s where Mandy found me.

So much for not crying over losers.

“Ya think?” Ashton arches an incredulous dark brow at his sister. They’re always at each other’s throats, despite the two of them being closer than most friends. Maybe it’s a sibling thing…or a twin thing. I wouldn’t know since I’m an only child.

I slam the empty shot glass onto the wooden table and turn to Mandy, blinking several times until her porcelain complexion and sleek brown hair come into focus. “Be a best friend and get me some fries?”

With a sigh, she squeezes my shoulder. “I’m on it.” As she rises to her feet, she shoots a warning look at Ashton. “Don’t let her out of your sight. She never gets this drunk.”

“Got it covered,” he says, waving her off.

As soon as Mandy is on the way to the bar, her tall, voluptuous figure lost in the crowd of sweaty bodies grinding on each other, I face Ashton and prop one hand on his chest to keep from swaying into him. Damn, he’s built underneath that black T-shirt. Black seems to be his signature color, and it suits him since he could be the definition of dark, dangerous, and handsome.

Especially with those tattoos. His ink flexes with his biceps, and I follow the picturesque mural of a forest in the midst of a full moon traveling down one arm. I’ve seen him without a shirt, and I know his ink continues its tale on the left side of his chest. I run a palm down his ripped abs, envisioning the masterpiece on his skin.

“Do you live in a gym or something?”

“Jesus.” He removes my hand, but instead of letting go, he twines our fingers together. Holding hands is nothing new for us. We’ve done it for years.

“You’re like a different person when you drink, Sawyer.”

Smarting over his chiding tone—and his use of my last name—I give him a drunken glower and try to pull away. His grip tightens.

“Wanna tell me what’s going on?” he asks, searching my face with his light blue eyes.

Hell no, I don’t want to tell him. He has a tendency of getting under my skin with his questions and opinions on how I should live my life. Now that I think about it, I can see why he and Mandy fight a lot because he’s even worse with her.

But one glance at the worry pinching his mouth soothes my ire. Ash has always cared about me, and for some strange reason, tonight his concern sends my heart into a fluttering dance. His fingers, still tangled with mine, cause the strangest, most exciting sensation ever, and a wave of heat breaks out on my skin. I haven’t felt this way since I was fourteen and had the biggest crush on him.

Must be the alcohol screwing with my body’s chemistry.

“Can we not talk?” I don’t want to think about Jake or the betrayal threatening to well in my chest again. Telling Ash what happened is more embarrassment than I can handle right now. I avert my eyes and take in the club, enjoying this floaty feeling from the alcohol. The bass of the music vibrates through me, sending me floating even higher. If not for Ashton’s fingers entwined with my own, I could probably just drift away completely.

Not be aware of anything for a while.

“Uh-uh. Tell me what’s wrong.” He leans closer, and worry pulls at the corners of his mouth. His dark brows narrow over his eyes in two severe lines. “You can always talk to me, you know.”

“I know.”

Several beats of the pounding music come and go before he shifts at my side. “I promise, I’ll keep my asshole tendencies to a minimum,” he coaxes, mischief playing on his lips.

God, he smells amazing. His cologne infuses my senses, and I’ve always loved the way he smells—like pure testosterone mixed with a hint of the woods after it rains. I bet he tastes just as good. Unable to help myself, I lower my gaze to his mouth.

“What if I said I wanted you to kiss me?” The question tumbles off my tongue, completely surprising me. Apparently, I have no filter tonight. For once in my life, I don’t give two fucks about what comes out of my mouth.

His eyes widen before lowering to my lips, and as the whirl of music and people and voices around us blast my ears, neither of us move. Maybe my brain is on slow-mo tonight due to the booze because it takes me a few seconds before I realize he isn’t going to press his lips against mine. I’m not surprised, but it’s still disappointing. He lets go of my hand, and hot flames of humiliation lick my cheeks.

Shit. Letting my hair curtain my face, I begin stacking the shot glasses on the table, my fingers trembling. “Sorry,” I mumble. “I’m buzzed.”

Ash slides his arm along the back of the booth behind me, turning his body until his knees graze mine. “It’s not that I don’t want to kiss you,” he says, inching my hair back and tucking it behind my ear.

“What is it, then?”

He slides his fingers under my chin and turns my head toward him. He’s much closer than he was a few seconds ago, making my heart pound too fast and hard. The heat of his touch steals the breath from my lungs.

“You’re Mandy’s best friend.” His teeth latch onto his bottom lip, and he watches me as his fingers brush my jaw in a hypnotic way that ignites searing heat between my thighs. I clench them without thinking.

“She wouldn’t care.” A lie, because I’m pretty sure she’d flip out.

“Okay, you’re my friend.”

“I don’t care, Ash.” Apparently, I’m full of lies tonight. Losing his friendship is a terrifying thought. He and Mandy are all I have.

I care.”

“Oh.” I’ve got no reply to that. Needing some distance, I draw away by a few inches.

“Sadie.” He shifts again, and the next thing I know, his fingers are threading through my hair. He hovers at my ear, letting out shallow and uneven breaths. “Jesus. Don’t you know how much you matter to me? You have to know.”

I exhale a shaky sigh. “You matter to me too.”

Seconds tick past before he inches back, dark stubble grazing my cheek. His lips part as he meets my eyes, and I hate that I have no idea what’s running through his head as he searches my face, his sharp blue gaze darting between my eyes and mouth.

“Hell, Sawyer. You couldn’t handle me.” And just like that, he pulls away. “You’re too damn sweet.”

My spirit sinks to my toes. I’m the kind of sweet that doesn’t fall to her knees and suck a guy’s dick until he can’t think straight. The kind of sweet that inspires a man to cheat because even though I want to do all sorts of dirty things, I’m too inhibited to know how.

I’m almost twenty-three-fucking-years old—the same as Ash and Mandy, who are light-years ahead of me when it comes to sex. But me? I must be the last virgin from our graduating class. How pathetic is that?

Thanks to numerous shots of tequila, the familiar shackles of inhibition are nowhere to be found. I glance around the packed bar and spot Mandy talking to a guy she’s been chasing for a couple of months. She works here three nights a week as a KJ, keeping Club Hoppin hopping with karaoke during the bar’s slower nights.

But tonight is Friday, and everyone is busy chasing someone, or dancing, or too drunk to notice Ashton and me in the corner booth. Even the barmaid has forgotten us.

Just do it flits through my mind. Before I allow myself the chance to chicken out, I disappear underneath the table and wedge my body between his legs.

His shocked intake of breath spurs me on. “What the fuck are you doing, Sadie?”

“Giving you a taste of how sweet I can be.” I fumble with the button of his jeans too long, giving away my inexperience and offering him plenty of time to push me away.

But he doesn’t.

Licking my lips, I inch down his zipper. God, he’s free balling it. His long length springs free of the confines of his jeans, and I had no idea he was hiding such a big cock behind that denim.

An erect cock. The brain above his waist might be putting on the brakes, but the one in his pants is ready to go. It curves upward, the soft tip practically staring me in the face.

“Sadie,” he says in a strangled tone, and I think I hear him groan as he sinks his fingers into my hair, holding me still. Holding me back. “You’re drunk, and I don’t mess with drunk chicks.”

“I’m not a chick.” I fight his grasp, and he loosens his fingers without much effort on my part. Because he wants my mouth wrapped around his cock. His ragged breathing is evidence enough. He combs my hair back as I tilt forward, and I flash back to what I witnessed earlier through the ajar door of my boyfriend’s—ex-boyfriend’s—office. Blondie hadn’t just used her mouth; she’d fisted the base as she took him between her lips.

Bringing trembling fingers to Ashton’s lap, I curl my hand around the thick root of his shaft and slide my lips over the head.

“Hell,” he groans. “You’re so much more than just a chick.”

My heart is beating out of control as I glide my hand up and down velvet steel. I roll my tongue over the plump head, and his fingers tighten in my hair.

He lets out another groan as I take in another inch. “Goddamn, Sadie.”

My head is swimming, no doubt from the alcohol, but mostly from the fact that I have Ashton’s dick in my mouth. This moment is too surreal. I’m not this brazen girl who does shit like this, especially in public.

But it feels good to be this girl now. Feels damn good to shatter his sanity, steal his breath, and take what I want.

I have no idea what I’m doing, but I must be doing something right. His thigh is rigid under my free hand, and his groans drift to my ears in choked pleas, as if I’m wrenching them from his throat by force.

He tastes good, salty with the perfect hint of sweet. He smells even better. His light, woodsy scent infuses my nostrils as I work his length toward the back of my throat. I grab hold of his knee to keep from falling over as I impale myself on his erection. The tip hits my tonsils, and the instant my gag reflex kicks in, I begin to panic.

Damn it. I’m losing control. Letting fear seize me. This is the point when I shy away, leaving a trail of disappointment, but with Ashton…I don’t want to stop this time. I want to know what it’s like to make a man come undone.

I want to know what it’s like to reach past my limits, and I want to do it with Ashton. I’ve known him for most of my life, and I trust him without question. He won’t judge or become angry at my inexperience or lack of skill. He won’t cop an attitude and act butt hurt if I have to put on the brakes.

His hands guide the tempo of my mouth, the depth of his thrusts, and I gag again. Drawing air through my nose, I pull back the tiniest bit and count the rapid thumps of my heartbeat before sucking him deeper once more. His grasp on my hair tugs at my scalp, taking some of the control away from me. Ensuring I don’t pull away again.

God, he’s shaking, and something about that excites me. Warmth floods the space between my legs.

Is that me moaning?

Holy shit, it is.

I’m losing myself to the task, enjoying it for the first time ever.

Someone’s talking above the music, and Ashton goes still. I’m so lost in him that I don’t realize Mandy is back at first. His voice sounds far away as he says something to her.

“Sadie’s ah…she’s…”

He pulls on my strands one last time before dropping his hands from my head with a shitload of reluctance. I veer back and let his erection slip from my mouth, and horrified at the thought of being caught and having to explain, I wrack my brain for an out. Inspiration strikes, and I fumble with my ear, unhooking an earring as I scoot ass-first out from underneath the table, wiping my lips on my arm as I go. I pray the lighting is dim enough to hide my blazing cheeks.

“I was just…just looking for my earring.” I hold up the tiny hoop in question before pushing it through my lobe again. But I can’t meet her eyes, and I sure as hell can’t bring myself to face Ash.

Shit, I don’t have a choice. I face my friend and meet her eyes with a boldness I don’t feel. They’re the same sea-blue shade as her brother’s.

“Jesus, Sadie. You’re about to fall over.” Holding the requested fries in one hand, Mandy uses the other to guide me back into the booth. She slides in next to me, and the telltale sound of Ashton zipping up his jeans makes me shiver.

The weight of his stare presses on me like a wet blanket. I’m immovable, and way too fucking hot. He’s mere inches from me, radiating heat.

Breathing with jagged desire.

Peeking below lowered lashes, I spy the death grip he has on the edge of the table. Long, heart-pounding seconds pass, rife with arousal and wreckage, before I bring my eyes to his and plummet into the sea of his gaze. I don’t think either of us are breathing. The world falls silent as our secret pings back and forth between us.

“What’s up with you two?” Mandy asks. “Are you guys fighting or something?”

I swivel my attention to her, relieved to find that she doesn’t suspect the truth. Like usual, she assumes we’ve been arguing over something stupid—the way she and Ashton do all the time. In that moment, it doesn’t even cross her mind that I’m seeing Ash in a whole new light for the first time.

My God. I had his cock in my mouth.

Maybe tomorrow, as I bury my hungover head beneath the covers to block out the searing reality of daylight and destructive decisions, maybe then my insane actions will start to penetrate.

But tonight…tonight everything is surreal. Ethereal even. With alcohol still buzzing through my veins, ignoring my mortification is doable. I’m trying to form a response when Ashton beats me to it.

“I cut her off.” He slides an arm along the back of the booth, and his fingers brush my shoulder. A tingle of awareness shoots through my system, from the nape of my neck to the aching core of my sex.

I tell myself it’s from the alcohol.

I’m not breathless and jittery from the heat of Ashton’s mindless caress.

“I think she’s had enough.” Reaching across the table for a fry, he rubs his chest against my arm then brings the golden fry to my lips. “Have you had enough, Sawyer?”

My heart adopts a crazy rhythm as I dip forward and take the offered fry, my lips grazing his warm fingers. As I chew, I meet his eyes again.

There’s a challenge in them. A smug glint to match the smirk taking hold of his lips. He’s enjoying this too much. With a gulp, I swallow the fry. But I’m thinking about swallowing something else. His focus wanders to my lips, and I know what he’s thinking. He knows that I know what he’s thinking.

My mouth. His cock. Unfinished business.

Fear barrels through my bravado. Real fear. Not the kind one experiences when faced with a what-if or an unknown, but the kind of soul-numbing terror that blasts through your blood when you realize how badly you fucked up. When you realize that fuck-up could be the beginning of the end of something too important to lose.

A lifelong friend…gone in the tatters of the status quo.

This is why I snuffed out any feelings beyond friendship when I hit my senior year of high school. Ashton and Amanda are like family, my sanctuary against my own disapproving flesh and blood. I’ve witnessed his inability to commit to one girl for longer than a few weeks, and I can’t stand the thought of being a forgotten notch on his bedpost. Nausea rises, thick in my throat.

A few weeks of blissful insanity with him isn’t worth breaking a lifelong bond.

“I…I think I’m gonna get sick.” I nudge Mandy out of the booth before pushing past her to make a beeline for the restroom, wresting my way through the throng of sweaty, moving bodies on the dance floor. Everyone is oblivious to the turmoil rolling in my belly, so maybe if I hide in the ladies’ room long enough, Ashton will be oblivious too.

I cast one last glance across the club to our table and find his intense blue eyes on me. That is not the look of an oblivious man—that’s the look of a man who has no intention of letting me forget what happened tonight.

Chapter 3

 

Ashton

Sadie comes back looking sicker than she did when she bolted for the ladies’ room. Mandy scoots out of the booth to let her back in, but she doesn’t budge. She doesn’t meet my eyes, either. I have no clue why she pulled that stunt under the table, but I’m still hard as fuck over it, not to mention confused.

“I had too much, guys,” Sadie says. “I’m gonna take a cab home.”

“Like hell you are.” I stand and shoot her a glare. “I’ll drop you guys off on my way home.” Unlike the two of them, I haven’t been drinking.

Willing my dick to settle down, I exit the booth and hand them their coats. The nights in Douglas Falls, Oregon are getting chillier as the leaves change colors, and Sadie is drunk enough to forget her jacket. The last thing I want is for her to get sick.

After they shrug into their jackets, and I settle our tab, I herd my sister and Sadie toward the entrance of the club. Mandy leads the way, winding a path between the tables and dancing bodies. I take Sadie’s hand and pull her along behind me. The place is overcrowded, and I don’t want to risk losing her in the throng of people in her current state of fucked-up.

“Party Monster” by The Weeknd blares through the speakers, the bass vibrating under our feet. Glancing over my shoulder, I take in Sadie’s appearance. Wild red locks riot around her flushed face, and she’s focusing on the dirty floor while we move through the club. I don’t have to see her eyes to know they’re the sexiest hue of jade I’ve ever seen.

And that little black dress. She failed to button up her jacket, and damn, she was out for blood tonight when she dragged that low cut scrap of fabric over her body. Has she always had such a sexy-as-fuck rack?

I don’t even have to answer that question. I’ve known for a while what a knockout Sadie has become.

My Sadie.

I want to grill her and find out what she’s thinking, but she and my sister share an apartment, so there’s no chance for us to work this shit out until tomorrow after Mandy leaves for her weekend job tatting skin. Sadie, no doubt, will be hungover in bed. I plan to attack then and hopefully get some damn answers.

She can’t just pull this shit and pretend it didn’t happen.

She had her lips wrapped around my cock like they belonged there. And damn it to hell because it felt right. Aiming my gaze forward again, I almost groan out loud at the thought of shoving back into her mouth to finish the job. It’s been a long time since a woman made me this hot over a blow job, and the fact that it was interrupted is only making it worse.

Fucking hell, this is Sadie, I remind myself. She’s not some faceless chick I picked up for a night of no-strings-attached sex.

It’s Sadie.

I don’t know how many times I’ll have to repeat that in my mind before it sticks.

Lord knows I’ve wanted her for a long time. But Sadie has always been and will always be out of my league. She’s off-limits. Sweet, sexy, and sincere. Too innocent to subject to my depraved ways. I can only imagine what her reaction would be if she ever found out what I’m like in bed.

The red would never leave her flawless, pale cheeks. Both sets of cheeks, because I’d spank her ass for putting me through this torture.

As we step onto the sidewalk outside the club, Sadie stumbles into me.

“Sorry,” she slurs as the chilly wind whips her auburn hair around her shoulders.

The sidewalk is wet with rain, and I’m worried she’ll slip and fall. Hoisting her over my shoulder, I lead the way to my car, Mandy steady on her feet at my side. She didn’t have nearly as much to drink as Sadie did.

“I’ve never seen her this smashed,” Mandy says, watching me buckle Sadie into the front seat of my Honda.

“Me neither.” I grit my teeth, not liking her behavior one bit. I’m tempted to take her home and spank her ass anyway, to hell with the consequences. Tomorrow, we can hash out the impulsive actions and desires—her tempting lips around my dick, and my twitchy hand unleashing retribution onto her bottom.

But fifteen minutes later, I tuck her drunken body into her bed and hightail it out of their apartment before I get myself into serious trouble. I’m almost home when my cell buzzes from the center console. I glance at the screen and spy the name of the girl I dated briefly in high school.

The girl I was stupid enough to hook up with again a few weeks ago.

Corinne Kaldwell is sexy and willing and the perfect example of a bad idea because I’m starting to suspect she wants more than I can give her. That still doesn’t stop me from hitting the brake hard and making an abrupt turn down a tree-lined street.

Because I need an outlet for this rampant desire raging through my blood, compliments of my sister’s best friend.

Fuck.

I backtrack several blocks, all the while questioning the wisdom of this unplanned side trip. Neat rows of residential houses with perfect lawns give way to the bustle of college living. People litter the sidewalk, coming and going from cafes and bars. Friday nights don’t end until closing time, and for those looking to party all night, there are numerous frat parties going on down the road. I pass one such party, throbbing bass spilling out the two-story house, and realize that Corinne might not even be home. She could have called from anywhere.

But the last thing I’m in the mood for is a damn party.

Truth be told, I’m in the mood for one thing and one thing only, and it doesn’t involve Corinne. Yet here I am, wheeling the car into the parking lot of her apartment complex. It’s pouring rain by the time I climb the stairs and head toward her door, and I’m relieved to see light shining through the gap in the living room curtains. She answers in sporty gray sweats and a pink T-shirt. Makeup free, she’s far from dressed up, with her blond hair pulled back in a long ponytail.

I’ve always been partial to blondes, with the exception of one redhead who has the power to make me crazy.

“Hi,” Corinne says before opening the door wider and gesturing for me to come inside.

“Tearing up the town tonight, I see.”

She responds to my teasing grin with one of her own. “Got a test on Monday.”

“Look at you,” I say, reaching out and twirling her ponytail, “staying home to study like a good girl.”

Long, dark lashes flutter over her deep brown eyes. “I’m just finishing up for the night. I was hoping we could…if you want to, I mean?” Swallowing hard, she aims her gaze at my feet.

I make her nervous—the kind of nervous that’s a red flag for what I already know.

This is more than sex to her.

Walking away should be a no-brainer. A necessity of self-preservation. It’s the reason I distanced myself from Corinne a couple of weeks ago.

And I don’t want to hurt her. I never set out to hurt anyone, but I’m not a saint either. What I am is upfront.

“If I fuck you,” I say, letting go of her hair, “that’s all it’ll be. I need to know you’re okay with that.”

“I’m okay with that.” Her voice softens. “I just want you.”

I grab her by the back of her neck and pull her closer. “You know how I want it.”

Heat flushes her cheeks, and something flashes in her eyes, but it comes and goes too fast to put my finger on it. “I do know, Ashton.”

Of course, she does. She’s known about my ways since high school. Though looking back, I had no business touching her, considering she’s two years younger.

But she’s not young and innocent anymore. My hand loosens from around her neck, trails down her spine, slaps her cotton-clad ass. I step back and issue a command with nothing more than the heat in my gaze.

As she heads toward her bedroom, I follow, noting the self-satisfied smile she tosses over her shoulder along the way. I’ll spank her ass for that alone. We enter the tidy space in which she sleeps. One window, curtains drawn back to reveal the night through rain-splattered glass. Corinne moves to close the curtains.

“Leave them open.”

Her hand pauses, fingers itching to shut out the possibility of prying eyes. She glances at me once more, hesitation lining her face, and I stand my ground.

Waiting.

Because she knows what to do.

Facing me fully, she gives the window her backside and grips the hem of her top before shedding her clothes without modesty. Getting naked in front of me isn’t a novelty. I point to the desk tucked against a wall, and she bends over the hard surface, sticking her ass out the way she knows I like. I pull the tie from her hair and admire how her blond locks splay across her back.

“Spread ‘em wider,” I say, nudging the backs of her ankles with my foot as I unzip.

She parts her legs in invitation, but more importantly, total surrender. “I’ve missed this,” she moans, grasping the edges of the desk with both hands. “I need you to fuck me.”

“I’ll fuck you when I’m ready. First, tell me why you’re home cramming on a Friday night. Were you procrastinating, Corinne?”

“Y-yes.”

I bring my palm down on her right cheek with a satisfying smack. “Shameful. You know better.” I smack her other cheek, using more force this time, and she flinches.

But she doesn’t tell me to stop.

This girl lives to take my punishments. She’ll do anything to get me thrusting between her thighs, and nothing turns me on more than a red ass. I smack her flesh for several minutes, growing harder with every flinch and gasp. A dip of my fingers into her sex confirms what I already know.

She’s drenched as fuck.

“God, Ashton. I’m dying here.” With a long, needy moan, she pushes her ass into my waiting palms, silently begging me to take her.

I roll on a condom and nudge her opening, on the cusp of entering her, and that’s when I falter.

That’s when I see the flaming shade of auburn instead of blond. The memory of Sadie’s mouth on me is too potent. Too shattering. Too fucking distracting.

What the hell? My dick has never been so hard and ready to go, but it has nothing to do with the woman spread out in front of me, more than willing. For the first time ever, I can’t muster the will to fuck.

Sadie has totally messed with my head, and she’s going to explain. She’s going to pay for this.

“I can’t do this right now,” I say, removing the condom. It’s one thing to fuck a woman with no strings attached, but it’s another to do it while wishing she were someone else.

Letting out a ragged breath, I step away from Corinne and push both hands through my hair as the foolish, confused organ in my chest plays an erratic drumline.

Corinne stands to face me, her features pinched in disappointment. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. It’s not you.”

“What the hell is it then?”

“I’m too fucked in the head right now. I shouldn’t have come here.” Zipping up my pants, I flee her apartment and escape into the downpour.