This was easily the sexiest moment I could remember. I had to focus on details because when I tried for the whole package, I felt like there wasn’t enough room in my body for all the blood and adrenaline surging through me.
Details: the sweet tang of her sweaty skin on my tongue. Details: her damp, hot forehead on my shoulder, her hands gripping my biceps.
But then those big blue eyes locked on me as she smiled, and then it couldn’t be details. I capsized under a wave of lust and love while every single one of my senses drank us in: her body, our scent, the guttural sounds of our pleasure, her essence on my tongue.
I'm a fucking rock star. Any sexual act you could think of, I’ve probably seen at least once. I’ve had models and royalty and countless other women. None of them made me feel like this, so open and stripped bare to the most elemental kind of connection between two people. Nothing had ever stirred this feeling inside of me.
“I need to leave soon,” I repeated once I’d slipped off the stool and followed to find him on the couch. I wandered back to the windows, but reality crashed down on me, dissolving this scene just like Ivy’s voice had done last night.
“I wish you understood...” I trailed off, gazing out again. My perfect winter setting just looked dull and dead. With a sigh, I rubbed my forehead.
“I didn’t ever think I’d see you again.”
“Didn’t think, or didn’t want to?”
My throat was tight, but I flashed a sad smile over my shoulder. “Want to,” I whispered, and he couldn't hide his flinch. “I wanted to be perfect to someone. Just a memory, a wild time, you know? You were perfect—we were perfect, right? I wanted it to stay that way. I wanted a little fairytale of my own—just once. I wish life could’ve given me that." Telling him this broke my heart, partly because of the pained look on his face and partly because, even though it’s true, I know I can’t bear the thought of not seeing him again.
James rose and stood beside me, silent a long time. When I couldn't take it anymore, I continued. “You don’t know me.”
"Oh, really?" he asked with a sarcastic grunt I never imagined hearing from him. Of course you didn't. That's the whole issue. You don't know him.
"I’m serious. You have to see how different I am than the girl you met last year.”
“Sure,” he said, finally turning to eye me. “I see that. What’s your point?”
Note! This is the bit that comes AFTER the bit on Twitter!
I woke in the middle of the night freezing cold on my front. My back was warm where he curled around me, and it took me a minute to get that we were still on top of the sheets of his bed. A flash of panic grabbed me—I couldn't sleep there all night, couldn't wake up and see his embarrassed smile and hear words about why this was a mistake. For me there was no mistake.
I slipped out of his arms and back to my bedroom, leaving my clothes on his floor. Even though the clock read 3am, I stepped into the shower before climbing into the soft sheets. The first guy I really wanted to spend the first night in his arms, and I left because I was afraid. Classic New Megan.
The sun was bright when I woke at last and stumbled out of bed. I cracked the bedroom door carefully to listen, but the place was silent—well, except for the symbolic screaming my gown and--oh, god, kill me now--panties were doing from the hanger on my doorknob. I grabbed them both and tucked them away, then peeked out again to find his door open and the room definitely empty. Matter of fact, the whole house seemed dead. Too antsy to sit around, I jumped into my swimsuit and went to the pool.
The water was cold but I didn't care. Half an hour of strong laps soothed me a little and tired me after my night. I hoisted out and sat with my feet in the water, staring vacantly into the blue. It was just good sex. You needed it. It wasn’t a big deal.
It was so a big deal.
I swear the room spun. “I said we should stop…but I didn’t say I wanted to, did I?”
That opened his eyes.
Will put his feet back on the floor and crooked his finger. “Then come over here and let me show you just what I thought about. Unless, of course, you’re still trying to be good.”
I lifted my chin. “Oh, I’ll be good. I’ll be fucking great.”
He grinned. “No doubt.”
But it was a long walk, those five steps from the couch to the chair. Every second built the anticipation, the desire—and the dark thrill of knowledge that this was a point of no return, that we were about to--
I shivered when he put his hands on my thighs and lifted his gaze. One of my knees rested on the chair’s arm. Will sat back and stroked my skin, his breath short and tight, eyes lust-drunk.
“Wait.” His hand covered my knee and eased me back to stand so he could tug my shorts to the ground and push my over-shirt off. Will kissed my leg just below the hem of my tee and exhaled hard. “These legs. Fuck, come here, Liv.”
I needed no more prompting to straddle his lap, cup his jaw, and seal our mouths.
“Not sure. What happens after the deadline?”
I swallowed hard. He’d never say it, but I knew Nick wanted me to find an angle that would let us be together.
I didn’t want to lie to him.
“I have no idea. Jesse’s tour starts at the end of September. He’s booked across North America through the spring. If things go right, he’ll tour worldwide for at least a year.”
“Which means you’ll be gone for at least a year.”
“I don’t have any other options on the table right now,” I said.
“And what about you? What comes after the album?”
He sighed and rolled to his back. “Another project, and then another. Life will go on.”
Will it? Will life go on when I lose you again? What does it feel like to know there’s someone in this world that you love when you’re not with them? How does life simply go on when you carry someone so deep in your soul?
We didn’t talk more, but sleep didn’t come for either of us easily, either.
I heaved a sigh and pushed off the cushion, shuffling blind down the hall to brush my teeth. It was only 9:00, but exhaustion and the look on my mother’s face haunted me. I crawled into the sheets, where ideas and questions tumbled around in my head in a jumbled mess.
Give me a truth... I’m fine. Once this job sorts itself out, life can begin again. I’m not hiding, I’m... playing to my strengths. I’m better alone. I can focus. Know yourself. Your business is you.
But, as always, my thoughts turned back to That Day—the day I blew it, the day Derrick taught me the hardest truths of my life.
Stop. Don’t. Don’t think about it. Don’t go there again. I gripped my arm tight and braced against the memories I couldn’t control, could never forget. Something new. Think of something, anything else. My nails dug into my skin as I searched my mind and landed on...
Wonder where he is tonight, what he’s doing? Is he drinking Jameson? Is he thinking of me? Definitely not, but still. What if he was? And why are you holding your elbow so damn tight?
My grip slacked, and blood began to flow again. It had been such a nothing move, only a means to stop me from driving home tipsy, but the memory of Benjamin’s hand wrapped around my arm made my skin tingle.
"Give me a truth."
In the dark, alone, the truth was this: I wanted him to touch me again.
A waitress sauntered over. “What are y’all drinkin’?”
Celeste ordered first. “Jameson. Also, could I get an IPA? Thanks.”
Well, damn. I’d figured a “New York gal” like her, with her sharp fashion sense and haughty streak as wide as the Mississippi River, would’ve been all about the Cosmopolitans. “Sounds good. I’ll have the same,” I said to the server.
While we waited, I sat back and watched Celeste do everything she could to avoid eye contact. She studied her hands, the table, and the bar to our left, but her gaze flicked to me every few seconds. I suppressed another smile.
Come on, Celeste. Look at me. We’re at a bar; we can chat a little, right?
I searched for a conversation starter, but nothing seemed safe enough. What’s your story? Why is a woman like you fighting for a position like this? Too invasive. How long have you been in programming? No, might sound like I’m fishing for info.
Did you know how thirsty I was while I stared at your mouth? Do you have any idea how beautiful you are, how often I look at you during the day? Why do you seem so sad?
Is there someone who makes you happy? Is there someone who can make you come so hard that you forget all your troubles?
“What is wrong with you?”
Celeste blinked at my whispered self-reprimand. “Sorry, what?”
Shit! Recover, quick! “What, ah, what’s wrong with—”
“Two Jamesons, two IPAs.”
I could’ve kissed that waitress for her timing.
Benjamin let me ride in frustrated silence over to a café called Portland Brew. Inside, David Bowie played on the speakers while baristas called hello to regulars. The smell of roasted coffee made me salivate. We took a small booth in the back by a display of handcrafted mugs for sale.
He let me take two sips of my latte before speaking. “Why are you so upset?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. This whole thing is weird for me. I don’t do flings . I know it’s just sex, but—”
“That’s what you think this is?”
“I’m not asking for more, don’t worry—”
“That’s not the same as—”
“But it’s still complicated.” I paused to realize he’d spoken. “What?”
Benjamin swirled his coffee. “You’re right that it’s complicated, but I disagree with...” He trailed off, still intent on the drink. “I’m sorry you’re so upset. You weren’t worried last night,” he said at last.
“Last night was crazy.”
He set his cup on the table and pointed at me. “Last night was incredible. And you thought so too because if you didn’t, I wouldn’t have a bag of clothes in my car right now.”
“Stop,” I whispered, but his voice was already giving me goosebumps.
“Do you know you’re blushing?”
I nodded, focused on the pattern in the wood tabletop.
He leaned in. “You can hide your beautiful eyes all you like, but that blush on your cheeks still gives me ideas.”
I glanced up. “Ideas?”
“Mm-hmm. When you make that face, the ideas it gives me are definitely not suitable for work.”
Querying is a long road, y'all. Sometimes it's hard not to get discouraged, to remember that this is a journey and a process. Sometimes you need a little boost.
Well, I got one this morning.
"Not Suitable for Work" WON the Linda Howard Award of Excellence in the "Romantic Sensual and Sizzling" category for 2017! Not only that, the MS has been requested by the judge! I'm so honored and excited, I've been grinning for the past hour and show no signs of stopping.
Break out the whisky and raise a glass!
Allow me to explain...
Yes, these are romance novels. In each book, characters fall deeply in love. Before they can, though, they have to fall in love with themselves, and that can be the hardest thing to learn how to do. The Anti-Belle series are love stories with story—story of finding oneself, of laughing a little more, living without having all the answers, facing your demons, and learning that perfect is exactly what you make it.
No sweet Southern belles; no Prince Charmings. Just true love.
Skye McDonald is my pen name for the series of novels I’ve written. Each of the books features its own protagonists, and can be read as a standalone novel; however, this seven-book-and-growing series is the world of a group of friends and family, and you will meet your favorite characters again in supporting roles as you progress through the books.