© Lexi Ryan,
once you were my friend,” I say. “And maybe that’s what I miss most about us.
Maybe instead of judging me for my decisions, you could try being my friend again.”
He puts his
glass down on the table, his eyes locking on mine before he slowly stalks
I lift my
chin, refusing to back down, because dammit,
I shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting Mason’s friendship. Is that so
defiant stance doesn’t faze him and he keeps coming, one step at a time, until
he’s finally up against that bubble he prefers to keep between us. He takes
another step and he’s inside it, but still not nearly as close as I want him.
He takes another, and if I had the courage, I could reach out and touch him.
Another step and he’s so close that he has to bend his head down to maintain
eye contact. So close that if I lift onto my toes, I could brush my lips
do, if only because fighting with him makes me feel as if there’s something
broken in me, and I want it to be over. I miss the soft stroke of his lips
against mine. I miss the sound of his sweet murmurs as he unbuttoned my pants
and slid my underwear off my hips. I miss the sex, but more than that, I miss
the way he’d hold me after. He held me in a way no one else had ever bothered
to. Not even Nic. Mason would pull me against him, my back to his chest, and
he’d snuggle against me until I could feel the warmth of his breath against my
I want all
of that again, and what breaks my heart the most is if I’d known when I took
that deal—if I could have seen into the future and gotten a glimpse of exactly
what I was giving up—I still would have done it. I did what I had to do.
eyes drop to my mouth. “I don’t want to be your friend, Bailey.”
whisper. “You’re making that really clear. All or nothing, am I right?”
hardens, and I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but he moves even closer. My
back’s against the sliding glass door, and his body presses into mine. He
shifts until his thigh is between my legs, and then he lifts a hand to my hair,
sliding his thumb up my neck until he’s cupping my jaw. I want to melt because
I’ve missed this so damn much. I’ve missed him
so damn much.
wanted to be your friend,” he says, shaking his head. And it’s a blow to the
heart I’m not sure I’m strong enough to endure. When I told him we could be
lovers but nothing more, we were friends…best friends. Then he moved down here
and shut me out.
my friendship was such a burden.” Fuck, even my sarcasm sounds weak, but this
whole conversation has me vulnerable.
a burden. It was a daily reminder of
what I couldn’t have. I thought that if I quit fucking you it wouldn’t hurt so
much that you refused to be mine.” His thumb traces my bottom lip, and I
tremble. “I thought if I could get the memory of your taste out of my head that
maybe I’d be okay with being your buddy.”
He sneers the word, his face twisting in disgust, but when the sneer falls
away, it leaves raw need in its wake. “But I was wrong. I don’t want to be your
friend, because that means you’re only giving me part of yourself, and I am the
spoiled bastard you say I am. What was your word? Privileged?”
He dips his
head down and turns his face to the side, sweeping the tip of his nose over the
tip of mine. “I don’t want your friendship unless it comes with your body. And
I don’t want your body unless it comes with your heart.” He dips a little
farther and brushes his lips so softly against mine that I almost wonder if I’m
imagining it. Maybe he isn’t touching me at all. Maybe the sensation is nothing
more than air passing between our mouths.
chipping at the walls I keep erected around my heart. And what happens when
they’re gone? What happens when he sees me for who I really am?
you want to be my friend,” he says, “but friends don’t lie to each other. They
don’t hide their pasts.” His hand falls from my hair. I brace myself for his
retreat, but he doesn’t back away. Instead, he finds the hem of my dress and
slides up my thigh, then between my legs until he reaches my cotton panties.
“Is this it, then? Is this all you want from me?”
knuckles skim across my center, and I should stop him. Fuck. I should stop him. I know what he’s trying to do, what he’s
trying to say, and how I’ll feel when this is over. But all I can think is how
I feel right now. How it finally feels to have him this close—his heat, his
All I can
think is that if the rest of my life is going to be some sucky, lonely series
of if-onlys and what-ifs, dragging from one day to the next, I just want this
moment for as long as it can last. Maybe I’ll wrap it up and hold on to it.
Keep it for later when I can untuck it and examine the heat of his breath
against my neck or the gentle graze of his fingertips along the lace edge of my
He nips at
my ear with his teeth, and I moan. His breath has gone shallow, and I can feel
the tension building in him—that push and pull of wanting and knowing you
shouldn’t want. It’s easy for me to recognize, because I’ve lived in that limbo
for almost four years.