As much as I’d wanted Amanda to take me up on tonight, I was glad she’d shot me down. Thirty minutes after she’d left me in the coffee shop, I’d gotten a call from a client. This one was single, in her mid-forties, and had had enough plastic surgery to look like she’d just turned thirty. She owned a few upscale salons and was in town on business. I never had advance notice with her, but she paid well, so when she called, I went. Funds were low because I’d just paid my mom’s rent. Plus I’d had to cover the initial payment for Jimmy’s braces.
Walking into Live Bay, where I knew at least one of my friends would be, I decided that after doing what I’d just had to do, a drink was called for. This didn’t used to bother me. I could go entertain a paying MILF with no problem. But when Amanda surfaced this summer in my dreams, I’d had to start playing a role. Sex for money was suddenly dirty. It was wrong. I had a fucking conscience I hadn’t asked for, all thanks to a pair of pretty green eyes and full, all-natural lips.
I stopped by the bar and picked up the shot of tequila waiting on me. They knew me well around here. We’d been coming to this place since before it was legal for us to drink. Small coastal towns didn’t have a lot of entertainment. Live Bay was it.
Dewayne was at our table watching me as I walked over to them. Cage had Eva in his lap, whispering in her ear, completely blind to anyone other than her. Ever since she’d shown up at Live Bay and sung him that song a few weeks back, they’d been all over each other. You rarely saw one without the other. Cage watched her every move like she was the most fascinating thing in the world.
“I was wondering if you were gonna show up tonight,” Dewayne said as he lifted his beer and saluted me.
“I’m here. Where else is there to be?” I didn’t let the frustration come out through my words. Or at least, I didn’t think I did. However, the way Eva turned her head and stared at me curiously made me question that.
“Glad you’re here,” Cage said with that knowing gleam in his eyes. He wanted to see me with anyone except Amanda. Although Cage hadn’t been one of our crew while growing up, since we were now teammates and his best friend was about to be a married-in member of the group, Cage kind of just fit. He was a part now. He also knew that my screwing around with Marcus’s little sister was off-limits. Pissed me off that he could just freely be with who he wanted. No one and nothing standing in the way.
“You look down,” Eva said, still studying me.
“I’m tired,” I replied, looking over at Dewayne. “Where’s Rock?”
“Not sure. I figured Trisha would want to be here tonight since Jackdown is playing.” Trisha rarely missed her brother’s performances. She’d practically raised Krit, so they had more of a mother-son relationship than a sibling one. She was like the proud parent.
“Keep wiggling like that, and we’re gonna have to leave,” Cage growled as he took a nip at Eva’s ear. She giggled and stood up.
“Then come dance with me.” She held out her hand, and he went willingly. They were a little too much for me right now. I didn’t need to see that shit.
“Can Cage be any more pussy whipped?” I grumbled, taking the shot of tequila the waitress had set down in front of me.
“Someone’s pissy tonight. Don’t tell me you got the hots for Eva now,” Dewayne drawled.
I didn’t even look over at him. He was trying to goad me. It was his thing.
“What did I tell you about Manda?” I could remember some drunken ramblings one night after I’d been with Amanda, but I wasn’t sure what it was I’d said.
“More than I wanted to know,” he replied.
I looked over at him. “I need to know what that is, Dewayne. I did something, and I can’t remember it clearly.”
Dewayne shook his head. “I think it’s best you only have those sketchy memories. No use in reminding you.”
I slammed my glass onto the table. “Tell me what I said, dammit.”
Dewayne leaned on the table with his elbows and glared at me. “No. You were drunk as shit. I don’t want to remember it. She’s like my little sister, you stupid fucker. She should be the same to you. How you could do something with her like some cheap slut I am still trying to wrap my head around. I know you got issues. But that ain’t an excuse. She looks at you in a way that can only mean you can hurt her. You have hurt her, and she still looks at you with that wistful, dreamy look of hers. It makes me so mad I could beat the shit out of you. Okay?”
“It’s different with her, D.” I couldn’t tell him more than that because I couldn’t accept it. There was no way I’d ever be able to have anything more than a friendship with her, but I needed him to know she wasn’t like the others.
“Maybe. But she’s sweet. She’s good. She’s also innocent. Back off before Marcus figures out there is a reason he should put a bullet in your head.”
I couldn’t back off completely. I needed her friendship. I wanted to be near her. “We’re friends now. That’s something he’ll have to accept. Nothing more.”
I didn’t expect him to believe me. Why should he?
By the time I left the study group, it was after nine. Today had been busy and somewhat successful. We’d found a flower girl dress. However, the bridesmaid dresses hadn’t been so easy to find. We had another day planned next week to go to Mobile to see if we could find something there.
I noticed a familiar Jeep parked in the driveway. What was Preston doing? Mom was at home. I’d talked to her already once tonight. Had he been sitting there long?
I pulled up beside him and got out. I had to get him out of here before Mom saw him. She would have a fit if she saw me hanging around with Preston Drake. He was okay as one of Marcus’s friends, but that was all. She had never let it be a secret that she wasn’t a fan of his.
Preston was grinning when I got close enough to make out his face. The top to his Jeep was off, and he was leaned back with his head turned in my direction.
“You’re finally home,” he said. There was no slur to his voice, so he wasn’t drunk. That was a good thing.
“Yeah, um, what are you doing here?”
“Go for a ride with me” was his response.
I glanced back at the house. Mom’s bedroom light was off, and that normally meant she’d taken her sleeping pill already. But he didn’t know that. “Mom is expecting me.”
“Please,” he replied.
“Is asleep,” he interrupted.
Sighing, I shifted my feet and stayed a good foot away from him and his Jeep. “Why? It’s late and I’m exhausted.”
“Because I want to spend time with you. I missed you tonight.”
He missed me? Really? “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“It is probably one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had. Please come with me,” he pleaded.
I was a female. How was I supposed to ignore that? “Fine. But just a short ride, and then I need to go to bed.”
I walked around the Jeep and climbed in. I’d never made it into his Jeep the last time he’d asked me to take a ride with him. When I looked over at him, he was staring at the door I’d just closed and his eyes moved to me.
“Did you . . .” He swallowed loudly. “Did you have an orgasm up against my Jeep that night?”
He was remembering more and more of our night together. I doubted we’d be done talking about it anytime soon. The more he remembered, the more he was going to want to ask me about it. Then I’d have to relive it.
I turned my head to look outside before answering. “Yes.”
“Your shirt was off,” he replied slowly.
“Yes, Preston, it was. Can we please not talk about this?”
Preston shifted the Jeep into reverse, and we backed out of the driveway.
“I’m sorry. It’s just . . . pieces keep coming back to me, and I just remembered you clearly coming for me while I had you pressed up against the Jeep.”
I would not be embarrassed. I would not.
“No one had ever done those things to me before. It was a given that I was going to get off easy,” I replied.
“I was just kissing your tits. No one had ever done that before?” The surprise in his voice made me wish I’d stayed at home. Getting in this Jeep had been yet another bad move.
“Subject change, please.”
Preston didn’t say anything else. He drove to the public beach that was deserted this time of night and pulled down onto the gravel parking lot just before the sand starts. The moonlight on the waves was always something I loved to watch. It was romantic, and as many times as I’d wished I could sit and watch it with Preston, I didn’t want to right now. Romance and Preston had to be kept completely separate.
Preston opened his door and came around the front of the Jeep, then opened my door. He held out his hand. “Come watch the waves with me, Manda.”
“It’s late,” I replied.
“Just for a few minutes. Please?”
Giving in, I placed my hand in his and let him help me out of the Jeep.
I left my sandaled heels on the floor and got out barefoot. Preston closed the door to the Jeep, then stared at it before looking at me. The heavy, hooded expression in his eyes told me what he was thinking. Knowing it was turning him on only made my pulse rate pick up. I couldn’t help the fact that I wanted Preston to want me. To at least be attracted to me.
“Come on,” he said, reaching for my hand and threading his fingers through mine. We walked out to the sandy shore until Preston found a spot close enough for us to see the waves clearly but far enough back that we wouldn’t get wet.
He tugged me down with him until we were both sitting.
“Why are we here, Preston?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I wanted to come out here to think. It’s where I think best. And I wanted you to be with me.”
My traitorous heart skipped a beat. He could say the sweetest things. I just needed to remember he could also say some of the meanest things. His mouth was dangerous. In many, many ways.
He turned his head to the side and grinned over at me. “You don’t want the answer to that question.”
Yes, I did. I wanted it very much. “Let me be the judge of that.”
Preston’s grin turned into a sexy smirk, and he slid his hand across the sand until it was resting on my bare knee. “Because I can’t get you out of my head. Normally, after I’m with a girl, I move on. I’m done. But you . . .” He paused and glanced back at the water, breaking eye contact with me. “You’re different. I still want you. I think about you all the time.”
Uh-oh. I was a goner. Those kinds of things coming from a player like Preston Drake would make any female melt. He wasn’t playing fair. “It’s just because you were drunk and don’t remember it.” I was reminding myself as much as I was him.
“No, Manda. The more I remember, the more I want you.”
His hand slid up my thigh as he slowly slid it between my legs. I should be pushing him away. I couldn’t bring myself to, though.
“Every night, Manda. Every damn night I dream about you. About how sweet you tasted. How incredible you felt. It’s driving me crazy.”
I stopped breathing as his hand slid further up my inner thigh. I was beyond the ability to form words. The last time, Preston hadn’t said sweet, romantic things to me. He’d just sent me outside and we’d gone at it. This time he was pulling out all the stops, and I wasn’t going to be able to ignore this.
“Where all did I taste you, Manda?”
Oh, no. I wasn’t answering that question. I couldn’t go there. Not with his hand almost at the edge of my shorts.
“If it was anything like my dreams, it was fucking unbelievable. I’ve been trying real hard to stay away. Marcus would never be okay with this. And if you knew me—the real me—you’d run. I’m not what you think. I’m so much worse.”
That, I couldn’t take. Hearing him degrading himself like that. So he slept around. A lot of guys did. He was sowing his wild oats. It was okay to do that. Most girls knew what they were up against with him.
“Stop it. I do know you. I’ve been watching you for years. You’re no worse than Cage, and look at him. He has Eva. She’s madly in love with him, and she knows all about his playboy days.”
Preston eased his fingers up the inside the leg of my shorts. “Stop me, Manda,” he whispered.
Stop him? How was I gonna do that? He had me panting with anticipation. How could I stop him?
I dropped my gaze to watch his hand disappear up my shorts just as the tips of his fingers grazed the silk of my panties. It had been awhile, so the immediate reaction of closing my eyes and letting out a moan from the pleasure was to be expected.
Preston was on top of me with both my hands pressed back above my head with one of his hands while the other one continued to tease me relentlessly.
“I’m gonna kiss you this time, sweetheart. I can’t help it,” he whispered as his mouth lowered and covered mine.
From the look on his face, I expected his kiss to be demanding. Instead, his soft lips were gentle. Almost like he was savoring me. His tongue slipped into my mouth and tangled with mine. Each caress had me bucking my body to get closer to him. I couldn’t touch him. He had my hands still pinned back with one of his. So I kissed him back as wildly and freely as I could. Everything I felt for him came pouring out of me. The groan that vibrated his chest as he eased one finger inside the edge of my panties made my body tremble. I’d only ever done things like this with Preston. I’d only imagined him when I’d fantasized about doing these things. It was always his face I saw.
“Manda, please, baby, tell me to stop,” he begged in a deep, husky voice while he trailed kisses from my mouth to my neck, where he began licking and nipping the tender skin.
“I don’t want to,” I gasped out as his finger entered me easily against the wetness already there.
“So sweet. So wet. I shouldn’t be able to touch you. I’m not good enough.” His tortured voice only turned me on more. I opened my legs more, and he sank down between them as his fingers eased in and out of me.
“You’re so fucking warm,” he murmured as he kissed me down my chest, and he finally let go of my hands so that he could use his free hand to slide up inside my shirt. He chose that moment to start rubbing his thumb over my clit. I cried out and clung to both his arms. I was so close.
“No,” he bit out, and then he was gone.
My breathing was labored, and my body parts started screaming in protest. I wanted him back. Touching me.
“No! I can’t do this. I shouldn’t have started it.” Preston was standing up when I opened my eyes. His face looked fierce, and he wasn’t looking at me. Instead, he was focused on the dark sky.
“This is wrong,” he said again, in a determined voice.
I pulled my shirt down and managed to sit up. I couldn’t stand just yet. I’d been about to explode when Preston moved away and left me cold. My body was trying to process this. What had I done wrong, anyway?
“I’m so sorry, Manda. I shouldn’t have touched you.”
Confused, I slowly stood up, hoping my knees weren’t too weak and could hold me. Once I was standing and sure I could do so without crumbling at his feet, I stared up at him. “Why?”
Preston shook his head and started stalking back to the Jeep. I watched him for a moment before jogging after him. He was being so weird. I was beginning to think he might just leave me here. He went to his side of the Jeep, climbed in, then slammed his door.
The state of dazed confusion I’d been in after he’d brought me to the brink of an orgasm was fading, and anger was taking its place real fast. Who did he think he was? Why was I the idiot who kept coming back and letting him hurt me? I didn’t want to get in that stupid Jeep with him. I walked right past it and headed up the boardwalk that led to the street. My house was about two miles from here. I could walk it. No problem.
“Manda, what’re you doing?” Preston’s voice called out. I didn’t look back. I just kept making my way to the road. He’d go away eventually. I didn’t need this. I didn’t want this. I hated how he made me feel when it was over. The few moments of heaven were not worth the hell he put me through when he was done.
“Please come back. I can’t let you walk home. It’s late.”
He didn’t get to decide what I did. He didn’t get to decide anything about me. Preston Drake had done nothing to earn any privilege in my life.
“Manda, I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry.” The defeat in his voice had me slowing down.
I turned back and looked at him. He was outside his Jeep now, walking toward me. “I can’t seem to control myself with you. I’m sorry. That was wrong back there. I had to stop it.”