Seventeen

I had experience with negotiations, holdouts, bargaining. Here I was in the unfamiliar position of having laid all my chips on the table, but when it came to Chloe, I didn’t care. I was all in.

“Are you looking forward to being home? You’ve been gone for almost three weeks.”

She shrugged, pulling my boxers down without ceremony and wrapping her warm hand around me with a familiarity that made me ache in new places. “I’ve had a nice time here, you know.”

I deliberated over each button of her blouse, kissing every inch of skin as it came into view. “How much time do we have to play before our flight?”

“Thirteen hours,” she said, without looking at a clock. The answer certainly came quickly, and from the way her skin felt when I slid two fingers inside her underwear, I didn’t think she was looking forward to leaving this hotel room anytime soon.

I tickled her thighs with my fingers, teased her tongue with mine, and rubbed myself against her leg until I could feel her arching toward me. Her legs slipped around my waist and she spread her hands against my chest as I reached down and pushed myself inside her, determined to make her come as many times as I could before the sun came up.

For me, there was nothing in the world but her slick skin and the soft air of her moans against my neck. Over and over I moved on her, mute with my need, lost in her. Her hips rolled with mine and her back shifted to press her breasts against me and I wanted to tell her, “This, what we have, is the most amazing thingI have ever felt. Do you feel it too?”

But I had no words. I had only instinct and desire and the taste of her on my tongue and the memory of her laugh ringing in my ears. I wanted to keep that sound playing over and over. I wanted to be everything for her: her lover and sparring partner and friend. In this bed, I could be everything.

“I don’t know how to do this,” she said in a weird moment—on the verge of coming and holding onto me so tight I thought I might bruise. But I knew what she meant because it was painful to be filled so full of this longing and have no fucking idea how it would play out. I wanted her in a way that made me feel like every second I was sated and starving—and my brain didn’t know what to do with it. So instead of answering her or telling her what I thought we could do, I kissed her neck and put my fingers against the soft skin of her hip, and told her, “I don’t either, but I’m not ready to let it go yet.”

“It feels so good . . .” She whispered this against my throat and I groaned in quiet agony, patently unable to manage one articulate word in response.

I feared I would howl.

I kissed her.

I pushed her deeper into the mattress.

It went on forever, this splintering ecstasy. Her body rising to meet mine, her mouth wet and hungry, biting and sweet.

.

I woke up when my pillow was yanked out from under my head and Chloe mumbled something incoherent about spinach and hot dogs.

The woman was a sleep-talking, restless bed hog.

I ran a greedy hand over her ass before rolling to look at the clock. It was only a little after five in the morning, but I knew we had to get moving soon to make our eight o’clock flight. As much as I hated to leave our merry little den of sin, I hadn’t done any work here and was starting to feel increasingly guilty about the career I’d essentially neglected. For the past decade my career had been my life, and although I was growing more comfortable with the obliterating effect Chloe had on that balance, I had to retrieve my focus. It was time to get home, put on the Boss Hat, and start taking names.

The early morning sun filtered in and washed her pale skin a gray-blue light. She was curled on her side, facing me, her hair a dark tangle across the pillow behind her. Most of her face was now cuddled into my pillow.

I could understand her hesitance to decide how our relationship would work back in reality. The San Diego bubble had been amazing, in part because it lacked every aspect that made our relationship tricky to begin with: her job at Ryan Media, my role in the family business, her scholarship, our independently sharp attitudes. Although I wanted to push to define this thing between us and set expectations so that I could dive in headfirst, her approach—far more tentative—was probably the right one.

We hadn’t bothered to pull the blankets back on the bed after we’d worked them to the floor last night, and I took the chance to stare at her nude body. I could definitely get used to waking up with this woman in my bed.

But unfortunately, we didn’t have a leisurely morning ahead of us. I tried to wake her with my hand on her shoulder, then a kiss on her neck, and finally a hard pinch on her ass.

She reached out and smacked my arm hard before I’d even pulled it back. I wasn’t even sure she was awake. “Asshole.”

“We should get up and get going. We need to be at the airport in a little over an hour.”

Chloe rolled over and stared up at me, face lined with pillow creases and her eyes unfocused. She didn’t bother to cover her body like she had the first morning, but she wasn’t all smiles, either. “Okay,” she said. She sat up, drank some water, and kissed my shoulder before climbing out of bed.

I watched her naked body as she walked to the bathroom, but not once did she look back at me. I didn’t exactly need a morning quickie, but I wouldn’t have minded a little spooning, maybe some pillow talk.

Probably shouldn’t have pinched her ass, then.

She didn’t emerge, and after collecting my things, I knocked on the bathroom door. “I’m heading next door to shower and pack.”

She was quiet for a few beats. “Okay.”

“Can I get something other than ‘okay’?”

Her laugh trailed from the other side of the door. “I believe I said ‘asshole’ earlier.”

I grinned.

But when I reached for the door to leave, she opened the bathroom door and stepped directly into my arms, wrapping herself around me and pressing her face to my neck. She was still naked, and when she glanced up, her eyes seemed a little red.

“Sorry,” she said, kissing my jaw before pulling me down for a longer, deeper kiss. “I just get nervous before flying.”

She turned and walked back into the bathroom before I could meet her eyes and figure out if she was telling me the truth.

.

The room next door felt eerily spotless, even for a high-end hotel chain. It took no time to pack, no time to shower and dress. But something kept me from going back over to Chloe’s room so soon. It was as if she needed some time alone in there, to deal with whatever silent battle she was waging with herself. I could tell she was conflicted, but which way would she come down in the end? Would she decide she wanted to try? Or would she decide it wasn’t possible to balance work and us?

When impatience won out over chivalry, I pulled my bag into the hallway and knocked on her door.

She opened it, dressed like a naughty businesswoman pinup, and it took me approximately eight years to move my attention from her legs, up over her breasts, and finally to her face.

“Hey, gorgeous.”

She gave me a shaky smile. “Hey.”

“Ready to go?” I asked, starting to walk past her to get her bag. The sleeve of my jacket brushed against her bare arm, and before I fully understood what was happening, she had my tie twisted around her fist and my back pressed against the wall, her mouth sliding over mine.

I froze, surprised. “Whoa, hello there,” I mumbled against her lips.

With one hand splayed on my chest, she began loosening my tie and groaned into my mouth when she felt my dick grow hard against her. Her nimble fingers had my tie yanked from my collar and on the floor at my feet before I remembered we had a flight to catch.

“Chloe,” I said, struggling to pull back from her kisses. “Baby, we don’t have time for this.”

“I don’t care.” She was nothing but teeth and lips, suction all down my neck, her hungry hands whipping my belt off, palming my cock.

I cursed under my breath, completely unable to resist the way she gripped me through my pants, her bossy wiggling and tugging on my clothes. “Fuck, Chloe, you’re fucking wild.”

I whipped her around, pressing her back into the wall and shoving my hand up beneath her blouse, roughly pushing the cup of her bra aside. Her greediness was infectious, and my fingers relished the pebbling of her nipples, the firm swell of her breast as she pushed forward into my palm. I reached down and slid her skirt over her hips, shoved her underwear down, and she kicked it aside before I lifted her off the floor.

I needed to be in her, now.

“Tell me you want me,” she said, the words coming out as exhales, only air. She was trembling; her eyes were squeezed closed.

“You have no idea. I want everything you’ll give me.”

“Tell me we can do this.” She shoved my pants and boxers down past my knees and wrapped her legs around my waist, digging the heel of her shoe into my ass. When my dick slipped against her, pushing just inside, I covered her mouth as she let out a small, keening noise. Almost a moan.

Almost a sob.

I pulled back, inspecting her face. Tears ran down her cheeks.

“Chloe?”

“Don’t stop,” she said, hiccupping, leaning to suck at my neck. Hiding. With one hand, she tried to dig between us and reach for me. It was a weird kind of desperation. We knew frenzied fucking, and we knew covert quickies, but this was something else entirely.

“Stop.” I pressed closer, pinning her tightly to the wall. “Baby, what are you doing?”

Finally, she opened her eyes, focusing on my collar. She slipped a button loose, and then one more. “I just need to feel you one more time.”

“What are you talking about, ‘one more time’?”

She wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t say anything.

“Chloe, when we leave this room, we can leave everything here. Or we can take everything we have with us. I believe we can figure it out . . . but do you?”

She nodded, her lip pinned between her teeth so tightly the pink flesh was white. When she released it, it flushed a decadent, tempting red. “I want to.”

“I told you, I want more than this. I want to be with you. I want to be your lover.” I swore, digging my hands into my hair. “I’m falling for you, Chloe.”

She bent over, laughing, relief spreading through her body. When she stood, she pulled me close again, pressing her lips to my cheek. “You’re serious?”

“Totally serious. I want to be the only guy who fucks you against windows, and also the first person you see in the morning—from where you lie, having stolen my pillow. I’d also like to be the person who gets you lime Popsicles when you’ve had bad sushi. We only have a few months left where it’s potentially complicated.”

With my mouth on hers, and my hands on her face, I think she finally started to understand. “Promise me you’ll take me to bed when we get back,” she said.

“I promise.”

“Your bed.”

“Fuck yes, my bed. My bed is huge, with a headboard I can tie you to and spank you silly for being so ridiculous.”

And in that moment, we were completely perfect.

In the hall, after one final kiss to her palm, I dropped her hand and led her down to the lobby.

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