Copyright© 2007 Jennifer Colgan
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Lauren’s hand shook as she reached up to ring Eric’s doorbell. The faint tremor should have served as a warning, a yellow light of sorts, to slow down and rethink her headlong leap into a whole new set of problems, but it didn’t. In fact, the frisson of fear and uncertainty coursing through her body only seemed to make her more determined to get what she wanted tonight.
She took a deep breath of humid night air. As her chest expanded, her half-unbuttoned silk blouse rubbed against her scandalously braless breasts. She remembered why she’d come here and that gave her the courage to thrust her finger the final two inches and stab at the glowing button on the doorframe.
So much for heeding a warning. Lauren didn’t believe in fate anyway—or signs from above, or below, or anywhere else. If she had, she certainly wouldn’t be here at her best friend’s front door, naked beneath her tight black jeans and ready to plunge into moral bankruptcy.
The bell chimed somewhere in the depths of Eric’s apartment, and Lauren’s nerve wavered once again. What if he turned her down?
Her heart fled to a tight spot just below her rib cage when the door flew open. She hadn’t counted on him looking this good. Maybe the useless tears she’d shed over Mark’s betrayal had heightened her senses. Of course Eric Reynolds was attractive, but tonight his dark blue eyes seemed more intense, his black hair darker. He wore faded jeans and a blue, button-down shirt open at the collar to reveal a triangle of smooth, tanned chest. He was barefoot, and he looked sexy and sleepy, like she’d woken him from dozing in front of the TV.
She bit her lower lip and tossed her hair, hoping the move made her look alluring rather than spastic.
“Hi.” Did her voice sound husky and sensual, or would he think she had a case of laryngitis?
Lauren hooked her thumbs in her belt loops and tugged a little so the waistband of her jeans dropped just enough to reveal some skin beneath the hem of her blouse. Would Eric notice?
“Hey.” He gave her a quizzical stare, one eyebrow up, a half-smile curving his suddenly very kissable lips.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” At half-past eight on a Tuesday night? Not likely.
Eric squinted at her as though he didn’t quite understand the question. His gaze traveled over her shoulder as if he expected to find her posse of girlfriends hiding in the bushes. Tara and Roxy would kill her if they knew she’d come here after ducking out of the pity party they’d thrown in her honor. Being cheated on by Mark, her boyfriend of eight months, was supposed to make her depressed, resolute perhaps, and mad as hell, not lusty and reckless and hot for the only man on the face of the planet she could trust not to lie to her.
“Good.” Relief made her lightheaded. What would she have done if Eric had been with someone?
“Are you all right?” His smile faded, replaced with grim concern. The only time she’d showed up at his place without calling first was the day her parents announced their impending divorce. At twenty-five, she should have taken the news with maturity and aplomb. Instead, she’d run to Eric to cry on his shoulder because her family was breaking up.
“I’m fine,” she replied, taking a bold step forward. The move put her directly into his personal space. Warmth radiated from his chest when she placed her hands there. When she leaned close, the tempting vanilla spice scent of his aftershave tickled her nose. “I need a favor.”
He seemed to gulp for air, but to his credit, he held his ground. He didn’t step back to put distance between them.
“You know I’d…do anything for you.”
Lauren stifled a giggle at the brief hesitation in his response. Eric’s bad-boy good looks and his athlete’s physique hid the soul of an altar boy. He meant he’d do anything that wasn’t illegal or dishonest. That’s what she loved about him. Eric was straight up. He didn’t lie and he would never cheat on his girlfriend the way Mark had. And he was currently single.
“Anything?” Lauren licked her lips as she traced the line of his jaw with her finger.
“What’s going on, Laur? Are you sure you’re all right?” He put his hands on her shoulders and the heat of his touch sent her spiraling into desire for sweaty sex and sweet, sweet revenge.
She wanted revenge against Mark for letting her find him this afternoon cock-deep in a blonde bimbette. She wanted to feel important to someone, cherished and sexy and safe. Eric could do that for her. She needed him to do that for her.
Fear of rejection lasted all of two seconds. Her tumultuous thoughts conjured a particularly vivid memory of last summer’s Fourth of July beach party. Brilliant fireworks over the bay, an oyster bar and an extra large beach towel spread on the coarse sand had led to a moment of soul searching she still hadn’t forgotten.
A single kiss from Eric had sent her senses rocketing up among the roman candles bursting overhead. For a moment, as she’d absorbed the sweet taste of saltwater taffy from his lips, she’d wanted him inside her.
It never happened. The moment fled too soon. Their friends, marching down from the rented beach house in a drunken conga line, had shattered the spell with an off key rendition of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are”.
The next morning, Eric had feigned amnesia about the whole evening. Lauren, ever the self-analyst, realized it was his way of letting her know, without embarrassing either of them, that the kiss had meant nothing. It had been just a sweet moment between two friends, nothing more.
Now she drew on that memory to give her courage. It had sustained her during the long cab ride to his apartment from the restaurant where she’d left her two best girlfriends. She turned that memory into the full-fledged belief that she needed Eric now. Tonight. All the way.
“I want you. I want you to make love to me, right now.”