He’s my brother’s best friend.
Which makes me off limits.
My brother made that clear to all his friends the summer I turned fourteen.
That didn’t stop me from falling in love with him. From dreaming about sharing my future with him. From wondering what it would be like to be with him.
It didn’t stop the heated looks he’d send me when no one was paying attention. Or how he always found a way to be near me, to touch me. To protect me.
For six years we fought against the waves of desire, but the current kept pushing us toward one another.
Then I had him.
We collided with hurricane force. Our connection… explosive. It felt right, being with him. With the first kiss, I gave him my heart. With the first touch, I gave him my body. When I saw the love in his eyes, I handed over my soul.
I should have known it was too good to last, though. The next morning, he was gone, and my heart shattered. I left it on his bedroom floor as I did the walk of shame.
It’s been nine months since I laid eyes on him.
Yes, I’ve been avoiding this moment. But I can do this. I can fight my attraction for one night. Even if the moment I see him again, I know that night is going to come rushing back to me, along with the days and weeks of agony that followed.
Because he still owns every piece of me.
The moment I met him I knew I was screwed.
It started with a sext.
An extremely hot, highly inappropriate sext during the wake for my best friend’s dad. That didn’t stop me from replying. From sneaking off to the bathroom, secretly hoping he would follow me.
And he did.
He staked his claim on me against the bathroom wall. Captured my moans with his kisses. And when it was over, I walked away knowing two things.
One – I wanted more.
Two – I couldn’t get involved with him.
He was dangerous to my heart. It was still healing from being destroyed two years earlier. And this man has the power to shatter it completely.
Still, I couldn’t stop myself from playing the game he started. Every sext was hotter than the last, tempting me to act on my desires. The first time we were alone, clothes went flying. There was no denying our chemistry as we collided. And in the heat of the moment, nothing else mattered.
Not my broken heart.
Not his reputation as a player.
Then the front door to my apartment opened… we were caught in the act. My roommate screamed. Her boyfriend growled. I cried. And he… he begged for more.
We needed to stop. One of us was going to get hurt – me! I was going to get hurt.
I should have known I couldn’t walk away from him. His promises sparked my curiosity. My body craved his attention.
It was his words that held me captive. They had the power to not only break my heart, but destroy my soul if I let him in.
A one-night stand.
That’s all I wanted. All I could handle.
I had enough on my plate. Getting involved with a notorious playboy was not on my agenda. Which is why he was perfect. He didn’t do relationships and I didn’t have time for one.
He’d been stoking my fire all weekend. Whispering dirty promises in my ear. Weaseling his way under my skin. And I was ready to combust.
He agreed to my terms. Probably because I was naked, he was caught off guard, and judging by the tent in his shorts, thinking with the wrong head.
I should have known better than to take him at his word.
Two days. That’s all he lasted before he showed up at my door begging for more.
More than I had to give. More than I was willing to part with.
My time. My body.
Most importantly, my heart.
And when I said no, he persisted until I caved. Not that he had to work very hard to wear me down. He was too tempting to ignore, and I craved another taste.
The only way to protect myself from getting hurt… rules. Some to keep him at a distance, others to keep him close.
Like rule number eight… no other sexual partners. The only dorm room I wanted him sneaking in and out of was mine.
I knew I was in over my head. That what we were doing was going to blow up in our faces as soon as our friends found out. But in the moment, I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it.
Consequences be damned.
He’s my new boss.
So what if I’ve secretly been crushing on him for years? Or that he’s sexy, tempting, smells like heaven, and makes my girly parts twitch? He’s also sweet, caring, and everything I’d want in a man… if I wanted one.
Which I don’t.
Falling in love is the last thing I want right now. I’m not even sure I believe in love anymore. It leads to heartbreak and that’s an emotional rollercoaster I’m not interested in riding.
Which makes the next few months the biggest challenge of my life. Spending hours alone with him, working side-by-side late into the night, keeping my hormones in check when I get a whiff of his intoxicating scent…
I can handle this. I’ll just repress my feelings the same way I have been since the moment we met. Masked by a fake smile and practiced deep breathing.
How hard can it be?
When he starts making promises, it becomes harder than I ever imagined. Because I want him to keep those promises even though I know he won’t be able to. I won’t let him.
It’s the only way to keep myself from falling in love with him. Because if I do, I may never recover.
I’m the youngest but that doesn’t mean I’m naive. That I can’t take care of myself.
Or go after what I want.
Which is exactly what I plan to do, no matter how many times my brother tries to stand in my way. This is my life, not his. He may be afraid to let me go, but I’m not scared of spreading my wings and flying.
Of rising from the ashes.
I’m tired of mourning. I’m tired of being treated as fragile. And I’m ready to start living my life again.
First thing on my list… sex.
So what if it’s my first time? Who cares if it’s supposed to be special?
I’m not looking for a relationship, I just want to lose my virginity.
I’ve even set my sights on the person I want to give it to.
His messy hair falls in his honey brown eyes, making me weak in the knees. His touch lights a fire inside me I didn’t know existed and I find myself begging to get burned. Best of all, he says he likes to fix broken things.
I’m still a little broken, and I have a few ideas how he can fix me.
The only problem… my brother’s forbidden him to come near me.
It’s a good thing sneaking around is hot.
I’ve wanted her since the moment I first saw her. She was wearing sweatpants and a baggy shirt. Her hair was tucked under a knit cap, her hands wrapped around a large to-go cup of steaming coffee.
We spent hours together that semester. Working. Studying. Talking. Becoming friends.
Ha! I never once thought of her as my friend. The only thoughts I had where she was concerned involved us naked and her screaming my name. Over and over again.
But like the idiot I am, I waited too long to make my move. She started dating some jerk and I remained in the friendzone.
They’re not together anymore, though. So when I spot her standing in the bookstore, looking hot as hell, I don’t hesitate. This may be my only shot with her so I’m not going to blow it.
Only, that’s exactly what I do.
Because instead of rekindling our friendship and moving slow, I end up devouring her lips and taking her back to my place. Worshipping her for hours. And almost letting my true feelings slip.
Would that be so bad?
Yes. Because she’s made it clear that we’re friends, even if we can’t seem to keep our clothes on when we’re around each other. Which is why we’re sneaking around.
If she only knew how I really felt, maybe things would be different.
Then again, opening myself up to her could expose my darkest secret. One that I haven’t even shared with my friends, my brothers, the people who know me the best.
Telling her my secret could also set me free. Because when I’m with her, that’s how I feel.
Of the burden. Of the memories. Of my reality.
I kissed her and she ran.
She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen and the way she was looking at me that night, the electric charge between us, had my jeans feeling snug the entire show. When I found her standing alone between sets, I couldn’t help but approach her.
It wasn’t my intention to kiss her. I should have gotten to know her first. Asked her more than her name. But after watching her while I sang my heart out, I wasn’t thinking straight.
That was more than three years ago. When we were both naïve freshmen.
I’ve been watching her ever since. From afar. Like a crazy stalker. (Not my proudest admission.)
She’s even more beautiful than the first time I laid eyes on her. So when I walk into the rec center and find her waiting for me, alone, with lust in her eyes, I pounce. Again. Like an idiot.
Only this time, I don’t feel an ounce of regret because I don’t plan on letting her run away from me again. She’s been my inspiration for years and it’s about damn time she figured it out.
There’s only one way I can do that… I need to sing her the song I wrote about that night.
I could try to slowly weasel my way into her heart the way she has mine over the years, but I’m sick of wasting time. I want her to be mine today.
Because the truth is… I’ve been hers since that very first night.
She owns my heart. My goal is to one day own hers again.
I want her.
What she doesn’t want is me. She made that perfectly clear the summer after high school when she broke up with me. That hasn’t stopped her from crawling in my bed on more than one occasion though.
Not that anyone knows about us, or our past.
We’ve kept that secret under lock and key for years. But I’m getting sick and tired of lying to my friends. I’m not ashamed of my love for her.
Yes, I love her.
I always have. And I know she loves me too. She’s just afraid to admit it.
When we get caught in a compromising position though, all the lies she’s been telling start to crumble around her. And if there’s one thing she hates more than me at the moment, it’s being vulnerable.
That doesn’t stop me from taking advantage of her weakened state. Of trying to work my way back into her heart. Of reminding her why we should be together. But the more she lets me in, the more her lies are starting to get twisted.
The ones she’s telling others but mostly the ones she’s been telling herself.
If I want my second chance, I’m going to have to find a way to break through the fortress she’s erected around her heart.
I know she’s the one for me. She has been since we were teenagers.
My first love. My last. My only.
There really is a fine line between love and hate. Friends and enemies.
Max Palmer is an a-hole.
And I’m in love with him. I’m pretty sure I have been since the day we met.
I’ve tried to quit him. Multiple times. But he’s an addiction that refuses to be ignored. Which is why one minute we’re together, colliding with hurricane force, and the next we’re pushing each other away, pretending not to like each other. Fighting the feelings that are bubbling just beneath the surface.
For years we’ve been able to hide our secret love affair from everyone.
I’m tired of lying to myself about the way I feel.
Of hiding the truth from the people that matter most to me. Even if I know they won’t approve. Even if my confession may destroy friendships in the process.
I’m also pissed off because he started dating one of my sisters. The same night I was ready to confess my feelings for him.
If he was looking to get a rise out of me, it worked.
I’ve wasted years with him. Lying and pretending I was happily single, focused on school so no one would suspect otherwise.
And how does he repay me?
By shoving his new relationship in my face.
Well, screw him. I’m not wasting another minute of my time crying over a man who was never really mine to begin with.
If he wants to play games, it’s on.
Because I don’t plan to lose my heart to Max Palmer.