I placed the pen back in the coffee cup an author had sent me, pulse pounding in all the interesting, distracting places. It was Sunday and we’d made plans to see each other this evening, nothing further or more concrete than that, and I was still edgy with anticipation.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I ever felt any of this with Kevin. Not because my feelings for him were weaker, because they weren’t, but we’d gotten together so young. What I felt then was nothing like what I felt now, and maybe if Kevin and I had met when we were older, I would be experiencing this with him.

All the maddening rush of emotions was a bit too much to handle. It was like seeing only in black and white, and suddenly everything was in vibrant colors. My stomach dipped as a thread of realization weaved its way through my thoughts.

Was what I was feeling something more powerful than lust and the excitement that came with new relationships? Was it love?

I swallowed hard as I turned from the dry erase board, my gaze crawling over the spines of the books I’d edited while in New York and from freelancing, but I really didn’t see any of the titles.

Had I already fallen in love with Colton?

That sounded so, so ridiculous. We’d only come back into each other’s lives a week ago, and we really hadn’t been in each other’s lives before. Not really. But what I was feeling was powerful, reminiscent of what I felt for Kevin.

It was strange to think about him while thinking about the four-letter word and Colton, all in the same sentence. It wasn’t a bad feeling, like it was wrong or anything, but just odd.

Tucking my hair back behind my ears, I pressed my lips together. It wasn’t like I never wanted to fall in love again. I had hoped that I would, but it wasn’t something I had imagined happening in a long time. For one thing, I really didn’t put myself out there to even meet anyone. To do that, I’d actually have to go out more often.

Feeling what I was caught me off guard for multiple reasons. I wasn’t expecting anyone to waltz into my life, especially not Colton Anders. I wasn’t expecting to feel this strongly, and although many of the books I’d edited featured characters falling in love hard and fast, I hadn’t believed it was possible. Insta-love didn’t exist in the real world.

Or maybe it did exist and I was actually experiencing it.


The flutter in my stomach increased. A twisty mixture of thoughts and emotions invaded me. Falling in love was exhilarating. It was arousing, possibly the most powerful aphrodisiac.

It was also scary as hell.

Because I’d already loved and lost once.

And knowing what I knew now, that I would lose Kevin, I still wouldn’t go back and change a damn thing. Love, no matter the amount of pain it could rain down on your head, was worth it.

Then that meant if what I was feeling now was real, no matter how crazy it sounded and felt, it was also worth the possibility it wasn’t returned, that it would never grow into something mutual, that it would cut deep in the end.

No matter what, I wasn’t going to hide from what I was feeling. What happened to Kevin and what I’d seen Friday night proved that life was truly too short to not live it.

To be a coward.

Walking into my bedroom, I kicked off my flip-flops as I glanced at the dress I planned to wear tonight. It wasn’t fancy, just a cotton eyelet pattern dress, but I was trying to get more comfortable in my own skin. Reaching down, pulling my shirt off, cool air washed over my breasts and the already hardened nipples tingled sharply. As I pulled off my bottoms, I couldn’t help but imagine Colton doing it. I could easily see him on his knees, staring up at me with those ocean-blue eyes.

My stomach hallowed as I sat on the edge of my bed. I needed to shower and get ready, but my hand floated to the base of my throat. There was a moment of hesitation as I bit down on my lower lip. I knew what my body wanted—what I wanted. The tension had been building all week and I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin.

Getting off had been kind of clinical in the past, almost as if I was detached from what I was doing and feeling. It was just about feeling a few moments of pleasure, but this, right now, was so much more potent. My hand trembled as I realized what I wanted to do and this time, it was so different.

The sharp swirl of pleasure built as I drew my hand down. My arm brushed over the tip of my breast, causing me to suck in a shallow breath. I wasn’t thinking as I dragged my fingers down, my nails scrapping lightly over the puckered nipple. Colton consumed my thoughts as my hand drifted down my stomach, beyond my navel. The moment my fingers brushed through the gathering wetness, a breathy moan escaped me. I slipped a finger in as I pressed the palm of my hand against the nub of nerves.

Pleasure pounded, heavy and intense. I let myself fall back against the bed as I widened my legs. My eyes were opened into thin slits. I could see the tips of my breasts, the curve of my stomach, and my hand moving between my thighs.

I’d never watched myself before, but I couldn’t look away this time, and my heart thumped fast as I lifted my hips, meeting the thrust of my finger. There was something wholly erotic about this—about watching what I was doing.

My breathing turned shallow, and in an instant, I saw Colton’s head bowed between my thighs instead of my hand, and it was his fingers instead of mine, his mouth. The tension coiled and then unraveled without warning, whipping throughout me. I kicked my head back, crying out in the silence of my bedroom. The release was more intense than anytime I’d ever done this, shocking me.

Closing my eyes, I let out a long sigh as I slowly pulled my hand away, letting it rest on my belly. God, my hormones were out of control.

Actually, my emotions were out of control, but in a very good way. My lips curved up at the corners, forming a small, sated smile. I blinked open my eyes, my gaze focusing on the ceiling. My muscles were nothing and moving from this bed was the last thing I wanted, but I…

I felt…alive.

* * * *

Colton really did know the way to my heart.

Crab rangoons.

When he showed up Sunday evening, he’d brought a delicious array of takeout, including my weakness, which existed in the form of crab and cream cheese. He’d also brought a movie with him since I’d replaced the TV a few days ago. It wasn’t nearly as nice or as big as the first one, but it would have to do until I could justify spending hundreds of dollars on a larger TV. He’d brought with him a remake of an old-school horror film that had traumatized me as a small child, and when we finished dinner, he popped the movie in.

We started off sitting side by side, but before we were even fifteen minutes into the movie, Colton stretched out his long body across the couch. He managed to coax me down so I was lying beside him, my head tucked against his arm and his hand resting lightly on my hip.

At that point, I pretty much stopped watching the movie.

Kevin and I had done this so many times, favoring bumming around the house many Saturday nights instead of going out. I expected there to be a pang of sorrow, but what I felt was a shadow of the hurt I had lived with in the months and even years after his death. I knew beyond a doubt that if Kevin was aware of what I was doing right now with Colton, he would be happy. Knowing that made it easy to relax against Colton.

But that relaxation quickly turned to keen awareness. With every breath Colton took, I was conscious of just how close we were. The scene of a screaming girl on the TV became nothing more than background noise as I focused on every part of our bodies that touched. The front of his thighs pressed against the back of mine. My bottom was almost cradled in his lap and his hard chest was against my back. I bit down on my lip as I wiggled a little, stopping the moment his fingers of the hand resting on my hip curled, bunching the thin material of the dress.