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by Cari Quinn
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Having all of her is the only thing that will satisfy him...
Shawn Griffin and Rachel Cooper have been best friends practically since birth, thanks to their families' close relationship. But for the past few years, Shawn has been fantasizing about getting his best pal in his bed. When she announces she's taking a trip to reconnect with an old lover, Shawn knows the time has come to put up or shut up. If she wants to go to New York City, fine. But he's coming with her.
Rachel doesn't know what to think of Shawn's sudden interest. Determined to live life on her own terms, she refuses to fall right in line with her wealthy family's wish that they get married and have perfect little babies. She just didn't count on how determined her seemingly laid back -- and extremely sexy -- best friend would become after setting his sights on what he wants. Her, over and over again. But when tragedy strikes, Rachel begins to wonder if she'll lose not only her lover but her best friend too.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, exhibitionism/sex in public.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
24 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [280 KB]
Reading time: 170-239 min.
She had a choice to make. To go or to stay. To have an incredible adventure or to stay snuggled in the soulless crypt of her comfort zone.
Fighting back a grin, Rachel Cooper sipped her iced tea. Well, well, aren't we being melodramatic tonight.
Not that a bit of melodrama wasn't called for in circumstances such as these. The unknown beckoned, via a cream square of linen stock that weighed down her ancient designer bag like a not-so-metaphorical rock. As she made the rounds at Stacia Winter's outdoor summer soiree, she resisted checking to make sure it hadn't been whisked away by an errant breeze or a malfunctioning clasp.
That little sucker wasn't escaping. No way, no how.
She hadn't expected the surprise run-in last month with her high school sweetheart to yield anything more than a few pleasant tingles. After all, Ryan had only been home for a short time and she'd bumped into him at the lone grocery store in Calvin Bay, California, on the day he was due to leave. He'd still been the three Ds: dark, deceitful, and damn hot, but she'd believed their quick convo by the beer cooler would be the extent of their reunion.
Until the mail had arrived three days ago.
If she accepted the invitation to visit him in New York, would she be taking a gigantic step backward? Her mind said yes. The rest of her was much more ambivalent.
Such a trip required boundaries. If she made it clear that this journey into the past was for pleasure-seeking purposes only, dashed with a bit of closure, then what harm could be caused by a two-week jaunt to the city that never slept?
Besides, she hadn't had a vacation in forever. Or sex. The importance of that particular one-two punch couldn't be overstated.
Smothering another grin, Rachel let her gaze roam over the guests clustered around Stacia's enormous pool. Most of them wore virtually nothing in the oppressive August heat, but she knew each wisp of silk and swatch of spandex had cost more than she earned in a month as a middle school music teacher. Squarely stationed amid that pastel sea stood the solitary roadblock to her no-holds-barred vacation sex.
She'd met Shawn mere moments after leaving the womb, thanks to the Coopers' and Griffins' lifelong friendship. To Rachel, the word "cult" sometimes seemed a more apt description of the close relationship the families shared.
They vacationed together, had adjacent compounds, and whenever their respective businesses overlapped--the Griffins owned an architecture firm known throughout the West Coast, and the Coopers published the mag for tony fashionistas this side of the Pacific--they employed each other's firms exclusively.
Following that grand tradition, Shawn had become her best friend before she'd had a chance to consider whether it was what she truly wanted. Her elder by eighteen months, he'd simply always been in her life.
She could recognize his spicy cologne at fifty paces, and if she closed her eyes, imagining his arms encircling her waist centered her faster than any fictitious happy place. He'd been by her side, and she by his, through the best and worst of what life had dealt them.
Taking a slow sip of her drink, she narrowed her eyes to peruse the snug cut of Shawn's pleated gray trousers. Best friend or not, the guy had a drool-worthy behind. Hell, she wasn't blind, was she?
Shawn's surfer-god looks were enhanced by the inside-of-a-seashell smoothness being born into oodles of money had granted him. He'd inherited his feline green eyes and golden hair from his mother and his laserlike focus from his father, CEO of Griffin Industries, LLC. But where he'd gotten his ability to soothe her tempestuous moods, she'd never know.
Though Shawn nodded at whatever Stacia whispered in his ear, his gaze sought Rachel's. Such was their way. She'd always thought an invisible cord connected them, binding them to each other in a manner no one else could understand.
What he would never understand, however, were her plans to go to New York. She'd yet to decide if she'd kept Ryan's invitation a secret because she'd known Shawn would disapprove, or because she sensed he was right.
As tempting as the past could be, going back represented more than a chance to add a new epilogue to the ending of her relationship with Ryan. She just might get her heart chipped again.
One way or another.
She smiled at the intriguingly unfamiliar man who had appeared at her side. "Hi. Do we know each other?"
"No, but I know of you." He gave her a cocky smile, one that went well with his reflective sunglasses. "Want to dance?"
She took the mystery man's tanned forearm, her gaze again connecting with Shawn's. Ignoring the sudden quickening of her heartbeat, she let her partner steer her into the music.
He was watching her again.
If he were being honest, Shawn could admit he'd spent a great deal of his thirty years watching Rachel. But he wasn't a stalker. Alas, no, he was her closest friend, which in some ways was even worse.
She wasn't gorgeous in the conventional California sense. Her curves, currently displayed in a black jersey dress, were a shade too generous, her dark hair a tad too unruly as it cascaded over her sun-kissed shoulders. Her eyes weren't a tranquil blue, but an intense, snapping brown that made any other color seem bland in comparison.
He'd been in love with her for, oh, half a dozen years or so, and in serious infatuation even before that.
But Rachel wasn't in love with him. Instead, she'd chosen to give her love--or its nearest statistical equivalent--to a number of their town's eligible men. And now, while Shawn sipped his Grey Goose martini at the latest in the long string of parties that had dotted his summer, she danced with bachelor number thirty-five.
He'd cajoled her to come with him to this thing, but she wasn't dancing with him. Nope. She preferred to dance with the first himbo who twirled the pretty pink umbrella in her mixed drink.
Maybe she teased guys as easily as she breathed, but she didn't sleep with most of the men she dated. Nah, his Rachel never held back the deets when it came to her conquests.
Or at least she hadn't before the last couple months. Lately, she'd been reticent to discuss anything deeper than which movie they should rent.
Hell, it wasn't like he actually wanted to hear about her lovers. Not that he hadn't had a couple of his own in the recent past, mainly to make it seem like he wasn't some lovesick jerk following around a woman who viewed him as the only guy she could watch chick flicks with.
He hated chick flicks, but what was he supposed to do? Thus far, tearing up the sheets hadn't been on the table.
"You planning on sitting here brooding all night?" Rachel grabbed the seat beside him, then the drink out of his hand. He'd saved her his olive, which she snagged off the tiny sword with a slick lip roll that made him shift uncomfortably in his Armani suit. "Not that it doesn't work."
"What works?" Shawn motioned to a passing waiter. Almost immediately, another martini was in his hand and Rachel was again after his olive.
"The whole broody male thing. That dangerous, leave-me-alone aura paired with a dark gray suit that fits like a wet dream." She laughed at his swift glance in her direction. "No wonder none of the women dare approach you."
He took back his martini. Damned if she didn't set his cock twitching with every flirtatious swish of her tongue over her mouth. "You did."
"You don't scare me." Leaning in, Rachel tangled her nails in his blond hair and tugged. "I've seen you naked, remember?"
"That was thirteen years ago." He edged back, hoping to avoid picking up her scent on his clothes. She always smelled of coconuts and sun-warmed tanning lotion, an irresistible combination to a man who'd grown up with the Pacific practically in his backyard. "And I'll remind you, you interrupted me in the middle of a cold shower."
She flipped his toothpick between her fingers. "Uh-huh. Next, you'll tell me you weren't through puberty yet."
Shawn was about to toss back his answer--and yeah, she'd hit the nail on the head--when a sickening thought caused his already knotted stomach to plummet. Was that why Rachel refused to consider him as anything but buddy material? Of all the possibilities he'd entertained, her thinking he had a small penis hadn't been on the list.
For one stony moment, he contemplated his drink. Then he slanted her a slow, measuring look. "Anytime you want to see what's under the hood, Rach, just let me know."
To his unending pleasure, she flushed. "No, thanks." She cleared her throat. "I'll just ask one of your harem if I'm curious."
She jerked a thumb ringed with a narrow silver band toward the opposite side of the property. Three women of varying heights with glimmering blonde hair and brightly hued minidresses stood together, avidly watching him and Rachel.
Mindy, Mandy, and Michelle. He'd enjoyed all three of them at one time or another over the past year.
"They're friends." Shawn shrugged and pushed away his drink. He'd be damned if he drowned his sorrows in vodka all night.
"Friends who want seconds."
He flashed a grin. "Or thirds."
Rachel tossed her long dark hair, and the ends whipped across his cheek, stirring her scent. And his blood. "Pig."
She sniffed. "And you say I'm indiscriminating."
"You are. A guy with a Rolex and a sweet car is all it takes, baby, and you know it."
He knew she wasn't like that at all, but he appreciated immensely the way her eyes fired with indignation. Hell, he preferred any reaction from her than conviviality.
"You have a Rolex and a sweet car." She managed to look down her nose at him, though he was several inches taller than her five-nine. "Haven't been there, have I?"
Unless first kisses counted, which they didn't. Not when said first kiss occurred sixteen years ago during a round of spin the bottle. "Nah." He went back to his drink. "Actually, I'd guess I'm one of the few guys here who hasn't seen your breasts."
"Wrong again, smart-ass."
Happy not to press the point, Shawn surveyed the assembled guests. People were everywhere. Clumped together in groups on the manicured lawn, lounging on floats in the mammoth pool, draped on chaise lounges sipping mai tais. Everyone seemed to be in a party mood but him.
And judging from Rachel's long-suffering sigh, it was about to get worse.
"I might as well tell you now." Her long fingers stroked his toothpick. "I'm flying to New York tomorrow."
"Gonna give East Coast sex a try for a change?" Though the question was meant in jest, the purse of her lips made his shoulders tighten.
Great. Just frickin' great.
"I'm going to...connect with an old friend."
"Ever consider connecting with your oldest friend?" When she rolled her eyes, he could tell she'd taken his statement as yet another joke. Damn best-buddy curse. "Which old friend?" His suspicions mounted at her silence. "I didn't know you knew anyone in New York, except--"
Rachel nodded briefly. "I'm going to see Ryan."
She waited for his response, even if it were merely an assessing flicker of his mossy green eyes. She got nothing.
Typical Shawn. If he was disappointed in her, a Tibetan monk made a chattier companion.
"So you're just going to sulk now?"
"I'm hardly sulking." He tossed back his drink in two swallows. "It's your life. Your choice what you do with it."
She tapped her glossy fingernails on the glass tabletop as the music shifted to something more upbeat. The last rays of sun had disappeared, but the pinprick white lights draped between flaming tiki torches lit up the night. Even the air changed, becoming sultrier, sexier.
California nights couldn't be beat. Unless you were trying, as she was, to get away before the life everyone thought you should be living closed in around you.
It wasn't as if she was leaving town permanently. Was it really so awful she wanted to take a vacation? To do something impulsive without getting the public consensus first?
"I value your opinion. I--" Her heart gave a nasty jolt as he reared to his feet and seized her suddenly limp wrist. "What're you doing?"
He glared at her, firelight gilding his golden hair. Smoking in his unfathomable eyes. "It's called dancing. Let's do it."
Because the phrase let's do it made her a bit too hot and shivery, she took a steadying breath. "Oh." She rose and shoved her chair back from the table. Her arms and legs couldn't seem to work together, leaving her feeling no more coordinated than a marionette bopping on the end of a string. "Weird time to dance, don't you think?"
Shawn tugged her away from the table and onto the makeshift dance floor. Before she could argue further, she was in his arms, her body neatly cleaved to his. Chests, stomachs, thighs. Right on down the line.
Her pulse tripped a moment before her feet. What was the matter with her tonight? "I was trying to have a serious conversation. Not to--" Her stumbling feet stopped altogether at the solid column of heat pressing into her belly. Her eyes widened. "You're hard!"
He didn't even have the courtesy to look ashamed. Actually he appeared amused. "You don't say."
Rachel rubbed her hand over her mouth, easing back to keep from bumping into it again. "I'm your best friend. You shouldn't get aroused when you're dancing with me."
"Why not? You're a beautiful woman." He spun her out smoothly, brought her back so his body spooned hers and his long, thick length nestled into the cleft of her ass. She closed her eyes, appalled that her heart rate climbed with every sway of his hips. Oh, God, this felt so good. So incredibly intimate, even with the other couples dancing just a few feet away.
This wasn't right. He was her best friend, the man everyone had told her she should want. But she didn't. Didn't.
Yeah, she'd wanted sex, but not with Shawn. And now that he was dirty dancing up against her for everyone to gawk at, she could admit her need to escape to New York was partially his fault. Just because their families and most of their friends had thought they belonged together ever since he'd accompanied her to her first junior high dance didn't mean it made sense.
What was between them wasn't about passion. She'd seen too many good friendships trashed when sheet aerobics were added into the mix. He meant way too much to her to risk what they had at the request of her hormones. Or because their mothers thought they'd make gorgeous babies.
She'd never blithely gone along with her family's wishes before. No reason to start now. Even if she'd just gotten a firsthand feel of how well he'd, uh, grown since she'd seen him in the shower so many years ago.
"Why haven't you been talking to me lately, Rach?" Shawn's breath steamed into her ear, sending a trail of fire from the nape of her neck to her toes.
"What do you mean?"
"You used to tell me things." He walked his fingers down her shoulder, and she fought back a shudder. "Private things. Now you keep everything between us G-rated."
Because of this, you jerk.
She squeezed her eyes shut. How long had she been feeling this bizarre undercurrent between them? Weeks. Months, even. A heaviness in her chest when he stepped too close, a thrill along her spine every time he linked his fingers with hers.
She was lonely, that's all. It'd been too long since she'd shared anything more than takeout Chinese with a man, so of course Shawn sent her libido into overdrive.
"You're just doing this to keep me from Ryan." Reassured she'd finally discovered his angle, she craned her head to stare at him. "You're pretending there's...heat between us because you don't want to deal with the fallout if something goes wrong. You're trying to protect me again. But it's none of your goddamned business what I do. Or who."
The venom in her tone shocked even her, but he only laughed. "Yeah, I'm pretending there's heat." His large, warm hands slid down her sides, hardly touching her, but setting off a wicked burn of anticipation between her legs she couldn't control. "You're in denial, Cooper. I'm not."
Her pussy flooded with moisture, proving how right he was. "Yeah, sure. Suddenly, you're all hot and bothered." She hoped he couldn't hear the quaver in her voice, but she doubted she'd get her wish. He simply knew her too well. "I think it's just because you don't like the idea of me leaving."
"Just because you're blind, don't ascribe motives to my actions that aren't there. No, I don't want you to see him. Ever." An emotion she couldn't read flashed in his eyes. "But not just because of me. Have you forgotten he dumped you at eighteen to run off to New York, when you were--"
"Don't. Just don't." Rachel hissed out a breath. "It's been ten years. I'm over it. But that doesn't mean I haven't wondered what if..."
"You know what if. His career was all he ever cared about. You came second."
She rubbed her eyes, willing her mind to settle and her body to stop betraying her by trembling each time he brushed against her. The last thing she needed was to be dissuaded when she'd finally gathered up the nerve to go after what she wanted.
Or at least what she thought she might want, even if it was only temporary. Which equaled pretty much the same thing.
"We were kids then. Things are different now. He's achieved the success he's always wanted. Besides, ever heard of a harmless fling?"
"A fling? With a man you used to be in love with? Get real, Rachel." With a snap of his wrist, he spun her out again, twirling her until she collided hard into his muscled chest. She gasped, but he didn't seem to notice. "Where do you think you'll fit into his world?"
Swallowing, Rachel tipped back her head. She was actually dizzy, and she was beginning to think it wasn't from Shawn's killer dance moves. "We'll see, won't we? I've been down that road once before. Now I want to see where this one takes me."
"As you wish. If you need to go, go. But I'm coming with you."
That she hadn't expected.
"Say what?" At his mulish stare--and the demanding press of his hands against the small of her back--she swiftly backtracked. "Look, Shawn, Ryan's publisher is putting on this big masquerade party to celebrate the release of his new book. We'll have one memorable night. Or a memorable couple of hours." She huffed out a breath when he cocked a dark blond eyebrow. "I hardly need a chaperone."
"No, but you may need a friend."
Immediately she softened. Staying mad at Shawn was a losing proposition. He was, after all, the person who'd helped her balance on her first two-wheeler and hadn't stopped steadying her since. "There are phones, you know." She laid her hand lightly on his chest. "I'm only going for ten days. Once school starts up again, I won't be able to get away. This is the right time."
"Let's say he falls madly in love with you again." Even as she wondered if she'd imagined the hurt undercutting his deep, honeyed voice, she dismissed the idea. Why would he possibly be hurt? "Then what? You leave your position at CB Middle School, leave your family, leave--"
He hadn't had to say the word aloud.
She bit the inside of her cheek. In their nearly thirty-year friendship, Shawn had always demonstrated his loyalty through actions, not words. Or in this case, a soulful look that set off a quiver low in her belly.
Wow, he was really giving this acting job his all.
"No." Quietly, she repeated, "No. I'll never leave you." Her fingers slid into the opening in his shirt, brushing over warm, smooth skin and rough hair, but the warning flash in his eyes made her snatch her hand back. "Don't you get that yet, Griffin?"
She waited for his trademark slow grin. It always started with a slight twist of his lips as he upped the wattage degree by degree. But this smile wasn't merely unhurried, it was nonexistent.
"I won't wait forever, Rachel."
While she struggled to decipher what he'd said, her world narrowed to him clasping her fingers in a punishing grip. As their gazes locked, her breath lodged in her throat.
"No," she whispered, her lashes sweeping down to block her view as his mouth met hers.
It wasn't a kiss. She couldn't, wouldn't, have labeled it as such. More, it was a claiming, a territorial seizing a heartbeat before his tongue demanded entrance.
Shawn, her brain screamed. This was Shawn. The child she'd built sandcastles with, the boy she'd called to take her to the hospital the night she'd miscarried Ryan's baby.
Shawn, the man she loved more than anyone.
That was what had her slamming her hands against his chest, forcing him back.
"How could you?" She gave him only seconds to answer. When he didn't, she tore off across the lawn.