“No, but I know her.” I nod towards the girl. I have no idea what I plan to do with her. Bring her to the party? Take her back to her girlfriends and ask them what the hel they’re thinking, letting someone this plastered leave a nightclub with a stranger?


What a douche.

“And she won’t be leaving here with you.”

He sizes me up and isn’t impressed. Mistake. “Who the hel are you? Nevermind, I don’t give a shit. Just back off before I kick your ass.”

“Yeah, I don’t think you’l be doing that, and I don’t think you’l be leaving here with her, either.”

I spot the left hook before it’s ful y thrown, dodge it, grab his wrist and twist his arm behind his back like a pretzel while catching the girl around her waist and pul ing her to my opposite side. The big guys never see it coming.

They’re too conditioned to their size and muscle obliterating any offensive launched.

In the same instant, John shows up with the bouncer, and suddenly we’re getting al kinds of attention. For al of his invariable stupor, my best friend is an expert in some things

—like inducing authority figures to see things his way. He’s already slipped a couple of fifties into the bouncer’s hand and they disappear into a pocket as I explain that this girl is obviously in no state to leave the club with a stranger. I’m obviously in no state to leave the club with a stranger. I’m only guessing they don’t know each other, of course, based purely on observation. But no one gives the douche a chance to refute it before he’s passed off to another huge tattooed guy and escorted out. His missed punch was enough to get him ejected.

“How do I know she knows you?” The bouncer peers at me, smarter than most guys who stand around at the front door flexing muscle, gathering phone numbers for closing time booty cal s.


I look down at the girl, hoping she’l play along, and in that moment I realize that the girl in that hot outfit and under al that makeup is Dori.

She frowns and blinks slowly, leaning into me. “Reid?”

“Hi, Dori.”

“Hi, Reid. You aren’t real y here, are you?” Her eyes tear up. “I don’t feel so good.”

That’s enough for bouncer man. “Al right, off you go. Be safe.”

Too late.


My eyes are so dry that cracking them open is agonizing.

I’m in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar gray-blue room.

The furniture is smooth and dark-grained. The scent of the pil ow under my head, though—the scent is vaguely familiar.

Not floral or citrus, but something heavier—clean and concentrated. Male. Dark blinds are pul ed shut, but light filters in through the crevices between the slats. It’s morning… or later.

Someone is tapping on a keyboard behind me. I rol over warily and Reid Alexander’s gaze shifts from the laptop to me at the sound. Pul ing his hands from the keyboard, he leans back in the desk chair and stares at me. A satisfied smile works its way across his face. I must be dreaming. Should I feel this horrible if I’m dreaming?

“Good morning.” His voice is low, and somehow I feel the reverberations of it beneath my sternum. My fingers flutter there, as though I can brush the panic away. I’m not dreaming. I’m in Reid’s bed. Not some random stranger’s.


“I thought I dreamed you.” The words whisper from my parched throat.

His head tilts to one side, his mouth shifting to something less sarcastic, more amused. “That may be the most enchanting thing I’ve ever been told after spending the night with a girl.”

I swal ow the little saliva I can generate. My mouth is as dry as cotton, my lips chapped. “What. Happened?” My voice cracks, barely above a whisper.

“You don’t remember?”

I close my eyes, trying to recal anything past the last guy I fol owed to the dance floor—the one with the too-sweet smel . “I… don’t remember anything.”

I force my eyes to open when he stands, moving to look down at me. Mouth set in a grim line, he peels the cool gray sheet back and I pul taut, expecting air on bare skin, but I’m stil clothed in the tank and skirt I wore last night. We did it dressed? Or… he redressed me?

Taking my elbow, he gently pul s me from the bed, but my head is heavy and throbbing, and my equilibrium is shot. When I sway, he scoops me into his arms and the room tilts crazily. I hold on, groaning. The smel of his bed was just an echo of the spicy maleness of him, stronger now, my face against his chest. I want to curl up into him and sleep, but he’s walking away from the bed. I briefly assume that he means to take me outside and deposit me on his doorstep, where I can be picked up for transport like a FedEx package.

He carries me through a doorway leading to a large bathroom, rather than the hal way I’d expected. There’s a cushioned bench along one wal , and he deposits me there, his hands gripping my shoulders lightly until he’s certain I can hold myself upright. My eyelids slit open just enough to track his movements and position in the room. Dressed in jeans and a faded black t-shirt, he pads across the carpet and marble floor, barefoot. He leans into the shower and a spray of water sounds, and then he’s walking back to me as steam bil ows above the frosted glass.

I never thought I’d see Reid again. Not in the flesh. My face grows hot at that thought and I close my eyes, reopening them when he says, “Hmm.” He’s standing in front of me, fists on his hips, staring down. I’m listing starboard but otherwise stil sitting up. And then he’s pul ing the fuchsia tank up and off, and taking my hands to stand me up.

“Nooooo,” I say, and it sounds more like a whine and less like a refusal. He begins to unzip the skirt and I grab his hands. He can’t mean to undress me now.

He picks up a huge bath towel from a fluffy stack on the opposite end of the bench, flaps it open and holds it up, a makeshift partition between us. “Everything off,” he orders.

“And then get in the shower.”

I try to glare at him over the towel, but even drawing down my brows hurts my head. I settle for a blank look. He looks back, one eyebrow raised like a chal enge. “You have to go home at some point.” he says, gesturing to the mirrored wal . “Is this how you want to look when you get there?”

I glance at my reflection, noting the smeared makeup, the sleep-creased skirt and the tangled hair, stiff with the half a bottle of whatever Kayla used to style it last night.

With al of the community service work I’ve done, I know this veneer al too wel . I look like a cheap prostitute. I can’t show up at Aimee and Kayla’s dorm like this.

“Dori. Shower.” It’s not a command or a plea, just a statement of common sense. I pul the top edge of the towel towards my chin with both hands and nod once. He returns the nod and leaves the room, pul ing the door shut behind him.

I hang the towel on a hook and unzip the skirt, dropping it to the floor. The lacy pink thong and bra that seemed so sexy last night feels incredibly sil y now. I strip off the lingerie and step into the warm cascade of water raining from a shower nozzle the size of a Frisbee.

As pulsing rivulets course over my face and body, I’m as relaxed as a person standing in a strange shower with almost no memory of the previous night could be. In the warmth and close quarters, every breath I take as I wash and shampoo catalogues the trace of almonds and exotic fruit and answers Reid. I had no idea I could recal his scent so acutely. Feeling as though I’m drowning in him, I don’t turn the water off until my skin is flushed and wrinkly.

My clothes reek of sweat, cigarettes and alcohol, and the last thing I want to do it put them back on. On the bench next to my tiny purse sits a bundle of folded clothing. Black linen shorts, soft white tank and a blue top with tiny snaps down the front. I’m reluctant to check the labels, but I do and then wish I hadn’t. The cost of this outfit would make a mortgage payment for most people.

After a soft knock, Reid gives me three seconds and opens the door. His eyes drift over me, wrapped in the towel, my hair hanging wet down my back. “I think those should fit.” He nods at the clothes, walking into the bathroom. “You and my mom are about the same size.”

“These are your mother’s clothes?” I shake my head and immediately regret doing so. “I can’t… take your mother’s clothes?”

“Sure you can. Or else you’l be wearing that towel home.” His eyes run quickly down my frame and more slowly back up. “You can give them back later, if you want.” His indifference concerning the return of his mom’s things is obvious, but he shrugs, placating me.

“I’l have them cleaned first,” I say. “Thank you.” Self-conscious, I run my fingers through my hair, trying to remove the bigger tangles and avoid his eyes.

He steps closer and hands me a bottle of water, which I gulp appreciatively. “There’s a blow dryer, hair products, al kinds of crap in this cabinet.” He leans down, rummaging, and pul s out a bottle of something, pours a little into his hands. “Detangler,” he says, running it through my hair, his fingers careful y separating strands while I recal him picking bits of fruit from my hair, in a different bathroom, a mil ion years ago.

Eyes closed, I drink as he detangles. As he moves around front, I force myself to look at him. “Reid… did we…?”

His fingers continue their careful paths through my hair, his expression al angel-faced innocence. “Did we… what?” I want to shut my eyes again but I need to see if he’s tel ing me the truth. I have to look in his eyes when he answers. “Did we… s-s-sleep together?”

He regards me with that bemused expression I know so wel . “You woke up in my bed, Dori. And yeah, I was in it with you last night.”

“Oh.” My gaze fal s to the floor. I slept with Reid… and I have no memory of it.

“Dori.” He waits until I look up at him. “Don’t look so mortified. We slept. I don’t do passed out virgins.” I swal ow. Of course he’s made the same assumption everyone who knows me makes: Dori Cantrel is nothing if not pure and innocent.

Chapter 38


What I don’t tel her: she did just about everything imaginable to break that personal policy. Not that I’ve instituted much of a code of conduct for hookups; I’ve been with virgins, and I’ve been with girls who were so stoned or hammered they could hardly recal their own names. I’ve just made it a policy to draw the line at combining the two, if possible.

Which brings me to the other thing I don’t tel her. If I didn’t know Dori, her actions in the club would have persuaded me to believe that she might not be as innocent as I assumed. What happened between the club and my bed left little doubt.

There was no way I could deliver her home fal ing-down-drunk to her pastor father, and I had no idea where to take her besides home with me. In the car, she revived somewhat, her head nestled against my shoulder. Her hands began wandering over my chest, grazing over and under my shirt, caressing lazy orbits around every susceptible part of me she could reach. I thought she would drive me insane by the time we arrived home.

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