Page 49

He flinched, as if I’d slapped him.

And to hell with it. “Because I could fall in love with you, and I know that you don’t love me. You’ll never love me. I’m a body you think fondly of, and if you care anything about me, give me that much honesty.”

He turned his head, that jaw clenching over and over again. His hands were still in fists beside me, but he wouldn’t look at me.

That. Right there. That was the truth for me.

Every word I said was real. I didn’t have to play the guessing game anymore. I didn’t need to torment myself because it was all the truth.

I spoke another truth, one I needed from him. “Let me hate you.”

A second flinch. He sucked in his breath, and his eyes closed. His head reared back.

I had to hate him. Maybe it’s why I hated him all those years before, because I had to, because if I didn’t there was just the vast hole of his rejection.

A part of me was waiting for his response, and I hated that, too.

Hated that I still needed his acceptance, that I couldn’t just walk away.

I wanted his rejection.

I was praying for it.

I could muster the strength and keep going.

I needed his rejection, because then I could walk away, once and for all.

“I served your mom today.”

He tensed, but looked at me. A wall came down over his face.

My words were soft but chiding. He knew what was coming wasn’t going to be pleasant. It wasn’t going to be healing. Oh, no. He knew. He knew what was coming next would make him hate me. Oh, yes. We were going back there.

If he wasn’t all in, then he was all out, and I was going to fucking shove him all the way out.

I was going to make him hate me.

I was going to make us enemies, once and for all.

I pushed off from the wall, an inch between us, and I taunted him with my words, “You said you didn’t look hard enough, but she did.” I raised an eyebrow. “She looked me in the face. She looked me in the eye. She saw my hair, and guess what her reaction was? She was disgusted by me.”

He drew in a shuddering breath. His head lowered, his eyes were closing.

I was right there, right in his face. “I was beneath her. I was the dirt under her shoes, the dust on her expensive furniture, and you know what’s funny? I’m so used to it, that’s what I prefer now. I can’t remember when she tried to teach us to cook. I don’t remember that woman anymore.”

“Dust.” A low warning from him.

I didn’t care. My breath was on him. I knew it was and I was doing everything I could to make him snap. “That woman back then, she hadn’t been the waste of space that she’s become now. Does she even mother you? Is she proud of you? Does she see a trophy son? Are you the reason she stays in their pathetic marriage? Drinking. Driving drunk. Lying about it. That’s just the stuff she did to destroy my family, what’d she do to destroy yours?”

His hand flashed out, wrapping around the back of my neck. “Stop it.”

I laughed, knowing I had the upper hand. “I haven’t even started.”

I felt how cruel my smile was. Good.

I was going to torture him. I would haunt him. I would say the words that he only thought, but never wanted to hear out loud. I would give him that gift, and he would goddamn loathe me for it.

“She’s an alcoholic, Stone.”

“Shut up.”

“She hates her life.”

“I said to shut up.”

“She hates your father.”

He started to look away.

I grabbed his face, holding him in place, and I leaned forward, pressing a soft kiss to the side of his mouth. “Do you wonder if she stays with him for his money? Or is it really just you? If he didn’t have the money, if you didn’t have the notoriety, would she leave?”

He was rigid and still and I could feel how his body was turning against me.

I kissed the other side of his mouth. “Do you wonder if she would’ve left you with him long ago if you guys were poor? If your family would’ve changed places with mine?”

“Jesus,” he grated out, starting to pull away.

I was on him, both my hands locked behind his neck. He couldn’t get away from me. I was a leech on him now. I was sucking the will from him and I was filling it with something toxic instead. I was infusing him with poison.

“What about your father?”

“Stop.” He reached behind him, took my hands, and thrust me off of him.

I hit the wall, and I felt alive. Maybe for the first time since being in his arms. I laughed, seeing the torment clouding his face.

I leaned forward, dropping my voice to a whisper. “Be honest. You got the call from Colby and what? You couldn’t leave because of your parents? I’m right, aren’t I? You were with them, catering to them, giving them the royal treatment, and you knew if you left to come for me, your mother would have questions. She’d want to know the answers, and I bet you anything that you couldn’t come to me at the stadium because Mother Dearest would’ve had a fit. And I bet you even more that she hates that you made your father pay for my schooling, that you made them both pay for my parents’ funeral costs, that they had to pay for all of that because your mother is one twisted sick piece of fu—”

His hand wrapped around the back of my head again, this time knotting in my hair, and he jerked me to him. “I would be very careful what you’re about to say to me. Very. careful.”


He was starting to hate me.

One more shove.

It was a boulder balancing on the edge of a cliff and I was going to knock that fucker completely off.

“Did you know that your dad gave me a ride home one night my senior year?”

I was lying. I didn’t care.

His body never loosened. It remained rigid and unmoving, but I felt his hand flex on the back of my head. His eyes were growing half wild, dilating, a panicked look edging in there. I knew it because I was putting it there, because it’s the same emotion I hadn’t stopped feeling since she got cancer.

“I was working at your parents’ supermarket and my car wouldn’t start. It was the beginning of November, so temps were bad. Mom was already in Hospice by then. We knew the house was going on the market for a short sale, so I didn’t want to bother my dad. But your dad saw me walking home and he pulled over.”

“Dusty,” he clipped out. He started shaking his head. “If this is a lie, I swear to God…”

I kept on as if he hadn’t said a word, “He offered me a ride. Insisted on it when I refused.” I pushed against him, my body rubbing over his and I felt him hardening. “Said he’d drive behind me the whole way if I didn’t get in the car, so I got in.”

His hand was holding the back of my head captive, but I had everything else in check. Drawing a hand down between us, I grazed over his cock, feeling it jerk against his jeans at my touch.

“You know when you meet someone and they want you? But you don’t want them? It’s plain as day to you. They might not say anything to you, but it’s in their eyes. They track you everywhere you go.”

A low curse word slipped from him.

I turned my hand around, fully cupping him and he grunted, but he didn’t move away. He didn’t release his hold on me either.

I leaned into his left ear and murmured, “That’s how your father was the whole ride home. He could barely watch the street. He kept looking at me, his eyes running the length of my body. He liked what he saw. He wanted what he saw. He wanted more than what he saw. He wanted to touch me. He wanted to taste me. I can’t help but wonder now, like father, like son?”

He yanked on my hair, whipping my head back. “You are such a bitch.”

I started to smile, my hand still cupping him, and I ran my thumb down the side of him, but his mouth covered mine. I surged up, my hand going to his jeans and I started to draw his zipper down. His tongue thrust in the same time my hand snaked inside his jeans, finding the opening of his boxers and I had him in the palm of my hand.


Bass ripped through the air as the back door of the Quail opened.

Joe stood there, taking us both in. “Uh. Sorry.” He started to close the door, but paused and grimacing, he looked back. “I need Dusty to come in and work. We’re slammed.”

I took a breath, my chest rising against Stone’s and falling as I released it.

Play time was over. Knowing it and feeling it, Stone moved his mouth to my ear, the one closest to where Joe was standing. He spoke in a normal sounding voice, “Take your hand off my dick.”

“Shit.” From Joe.

I did so, releasing him, but my thumb ran over his tip as a parting goodbye.

“Pull your hand out of my pants.”

I did so, half-laughing as I felt his hand flexing to cup the back of my head.

“Now.” He nipped at my earlobe with his teeth. “Zip me up.”

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