"Try me."

She draws a deep breath and releases it slowly. "I’ve never had the luxury of time and space like this before – something just for me."

I can see what she means. Sleeping in and jogging and swimming every day has been good for her. Her skin is kissed in a sunbathed glow and her body is equal parts relaxed and toned. It’s a look that suits her.

Sophie fishes the lemon slice from her water glass and brings it to her lips, sucking the sour juice in the most distracting way. Fuuuck.

She sets the lemon slice down. Thank God. And continues. "I was always the twin sister of the girl who had cancer. I never had my own identity. And even though I’m not there yet, this time away has given me some much needed perspective. It’s like there is life beyond hospital rooms and the crippling stress. It’s making me see that I wasn’t even truly living before. And I should be. If Becca’s illness has taught me anything, it’s that life can be taken away from you in an instant. I’ve been wasting mine. And even though I don’t know what’s next, I know I don’t want to continue to live like I was."

It’s deeper than I intended her to go, but I like hearing all of her inner thoughts. "What else?" I ask.

"I want to have a career I’m passionate about, I want to fall in love, travel the world, make lasting friendships…You know, basically conquer the world and have the best life ever. I hope Becca is right alongside me, but even if I have to go it alone, I will. For her." She smiles sadly up at me.

"Sounds like a brilliant plan. Let me know how I can help."

***

After dinner, I head over to Collins’ place for a mid-week drink with my brothers, needing the distraction. My cock feels like it’s about to explode every time I’m in the same room as Sophie.

I find them sitting outside by the pool, a bottle of expensive bourbon sitting on the table between them. Seems like I’m not the only one having a long week.

I slide into the lounge chair and Pace hands me a glass, filling it generously with liquor. "Bottoms up, baby."

"What’s the occasion?" I ask.

Collins shrugs. "Tatianna’s talking about wanting an engagement ring. Leaving pictures of huge diamond rings all over the damn house."

"And?" I hadn’t realized their relationship was all that serious, even though she’s lived with him for about six months now. I figured it was more a relationship of convenience. When they started dating, she needed a place to stay, and he needed regular sex. Problem solved.

He looks down into his glass thoughtfully. "How are things going with the roomie?" Collins asks instead of answering.

"Fine."

"And how’s her job search going?"

"Good."

Collins rolls his eyes. My one word responses aren’t going to fly with him. He started it though by dodging my question about Tatianna.

"Have you fucked her yet?" Pace asks, much less tactfully.

I choke on a swig of bourbon and clear my throat. "No." My voice is gruff. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. I have. Almost constantly. I imagine lifting her up with her ass in my hands until her legs hug my waist. Pressing my fingers to her warm center while biting the soft skin at her throat. The waiting and wanting is pure torture. Christ, I’m screwed. How did I not think this through when I brought her home?

"No shit?" Both he and Collins turn to face me, like this is breaking news.

"Please tell me you’re not still hung up on Stella," Collins asks, his sympathetic eyes locked on mine.

Fuck no. I’m not hung up on her. I’m just trying to do the right thing – without having one fucking clue what that means.

They watch me, cataloging my contemplative mood and Pace chews on his lower lip. "Seriously dude, Stella is ancient history, even if she refuses to get the fuck out of your life, there’s nothing wrong with moving on."

"I know that," I grumble. I’ve told myself the same thing, over and over, yet some unknown force holds me back. Of course they don’t know it’s been two fucking years since I’ve been intimate with a woman, and being in such close proximity to a beautiful girl like Sophie is the worst kind of torture.

"So, what’s the hold up, man? I’d be tapping that sweet pussy every night." Pace gives me a goofy grin.

"She’s a virgin." As soon as I’ve said it, I want to take it back. It’s too intimate a piece of knowledge to share with them. It’s Sophie’s personal business. I don’t tell them how I’ve come to possess this information, or that I’d bought the right to that particular privilege; I just sit there staring down into my now empty glass, wondering if and when I’ll do something about it.

"Wow." Collins says while Pace’s cocky grin widens. Asshole. "Not what I was expecting you to say," Collins continues, "I thought you’d feed us that line again about her being your buddy’s little sister."

Oh yeah. I’d almost forgotten the story I gave them. Just another testament to how messed up my head is right now.

"We all know things aren’t totally finished with Stella – so I’m not going to pretend like they are, but really, is that honestly what’s stopping you?" Pace asks, his eyes full of genuine confusion.

"I don’t know." It’s partly that – partly that I’m not sure if Sophie wants me, or if I even deserve to take something so precious from her. Part of it is her innocence, the sweet way her eyes follow me around the room, her trusting nature, the selflessness she displayed to save her sister in the first place…she’s entirely too good for me to use for my own pleasure. I already feel guilty – but after, I know I’ll feel guilty as fuck. And even though I tell my brothers nearly everything – my participation at that auction is something I’ll take to the grave. Not for my own sake, but because I doubt Sophie would want anyone knowing she’d sold herself that way.



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