This was it. Tonight we’d be having sex.
Why wasn’t I more excited about this? Guilt.
“I guess so,” I said, running a hand up and around his neck. Studying his face, I tried to smile but it felt all off.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, pulling away.
He snorted, then flopped down on his back next to me.
“You can’t lie for shit, Loni,” he said. “Just spit it out, okay?”
I sighed, but figured if I really wanted to build something with this man, I owed him the truth. “I felt very attracted to someone else this week and now I feel guilty and horrid.”
I don’t know what I expected—maybe that he’d be upset? Nate didn’t even blink.
“Did you do anything about it?”
“No,” I replied. “I didn’t. But I wanted to.”
“Who was it?”
“Reese Hayes,” I said slowly. “And he wants me to keep coming out to his place to clean. He offered me a really good cleaning contract for the MC’s strip club, too.”
Nate frowned, but he didn’t blow up at me. In fact, I couldn’t read him at all. Rolling over, I leaned up on my elbow and reached down hesitantly to trace the lines of his face. He seemed lost in thought, and I wondered if I’d ruined everything.
I hoped not.
Nate was perfect for me—sexy and smart with a good job and plans for the future. And I wanted him physically, there was no question about that. We’d been making out for ten minutes and my panties were soaked, but lying was no way to build a relationship.
“C’mere,” he said, sitting up. Then he caught my hand and pulled me to my feet, gesturing toward a deck chair. I sat as he handed me my glass of wine. He sighed, running a hand through his hair.
“I really blew it, didn’t I?” I asked hesitantly. I felt moisture prickling my eyes. Why had I been so stupid?
“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “Did you? You say you didn’t do anything.”
“No, I didn’t,” I said. “I got the hell out. But I don’t feel right sleeping with you unless I’m honest.”
“Do you actually want to sleep with me? Or do you want Hayes?”
“I want to sleep with you,” I said firmly, because it was true. “I think maybe I’ve gone so long without sex it’s making me crazy. I like you a lot, Nate. I can see us together in the future and it’s a good thing. I don’t want to mess that up before it even starts. But I’m not sure where we even stand. Are we exclusive? I realized this week that we’ve never even talked about it. Maybe we should.”
His gaze pinned mine, eyes assessing.
“We aren’t exclusive,” he said finally, and my heart clenched. “So I don’t have any right to say you did something wrong. But I’d like to be exclusive. What would you think of that?”
“Have you been seeing anyone else?”
“Not for the past couple weeks. But I won’t lie—up to that point I was still going out on the occasional date. And I think it’s normal—even healthy—to experience attraction toward other people. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean your body turns off.”
Well, that wasn’t exactly romantic. I’m not sure why I felt so let down … It wasn’t like I’d expected a declaration of undying love. In fact, it should’ve made me feel better, because obviously I hadn’t done anything too heinous. Not if he’d been seeing other women up until two weeks ago.
“So where do we go from here?”
“Bed, hopefully,” he said. “I want to be with you, Loni. Exclusively. But only if you want that, too. We’re both adults here, and I’d like to think we’ve outgrown our romantic delusions. Being with you makes me happy and I can see a future for us. If that’s how you feel, I’d love to be with you.”
Now my heart clenched in a good way. I smiled at him and he grinned back, reaching forward to catch my hand. Lifting, he kissed my palm.
“Of course, if you insist on just using me for sex, I’ll make the best of it.”
I burst out laughing as he pulled me up and caught me in a long, hard kiss. This time it felt right, like a bubble had popped and whatever lingering guilt and weirdness I felt about Reese evaporated. I dug my fingers into Nate’s beautiful hair and gave myself over to the sensation of his tongue exploring my mouth.
So what if Reese was utterly lickable in every way? He wasn’t real, not like Nate. Reese wanted a quick roll in the sheets, no strings. Nate wanted a partner.
My boyfriend was perfect. I didn’t need—or want—anyone else.
My phone started blaring Jessica’s ringtone thirty seconds after we fell into bed, Nate’s leg thrust between mine and his hands burrowing under my bra. I ignored it because she was eighteen years old and she could darned well survive on her own for an hour or two.
Then the phone rang again.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe you should check it?” he said. “Could be an emergency.”
“She better be dying,” I said with a scowl, reaching out for it blindly and almost knocking over Nate’s bedside lamp in the process. I found the phone right as it went to voice mail, flopping back on the bed and staring at the little screen in disgust.
Then Nate’s phone went off.
“What the hell? I’m not on call this weekend. If I have to go in to work, someone’s getting shot tonight,” he muttered, climbing over me as he grabbed for his shirt, digging through the pockets.
“Guess that’s what we get for trying to have a real date,” I said, feeling a deeply inappropriate laugh fighting to escape. Nate just looked so … frustrated. Poor man.
“I wonder if I can get disability for blue balls?” he said, grabbing the phone and answering it. “Evans here.”
He stalked off to the bathroom as I looked back at my own phone. Might as well see what fresh trouble Jessica had gotten herself into. There were two missed calls, one from Jess and one from Mellie. No messages. Great. I hit the callback button and Jessica answered.
“Loni, I need you to come and get me,” she said, sounding defiant. Fantastic—I recognized that tone. Jess had gotten herself into trouble and she didn’t want to admit she’d made a mistake, so she was going on the attack.