She did what he said, and the dizziness began to fade. But then she gasped. “Oh no! It’s the episode where Ross cheats on Rachel and breaks her heart. I hate this episode.”
He gave a snort. “They were taking a break. It’s ridiculous for her to think the poor guy wouldn’t hook up with a hot woman after she’d told him she wanted space.”
“You suck. All men suck. If we were in a relationship, had a fight, and decided to take some time to think and ponder, would you jump into bed with the first woman who was hot?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Taylz, you’re getting all riled up. No, I wouldn’t. Just watch it and go to sleep.”
She huffed out an annoyed breath. “I don’t know if I can believe you now. You’d cheat on me.”
“Only if we were on a break. Now, shush. I’m exhausted.”
She muttered under her breath but obeyed because she was getting tired, too. The mattress steadied underneath her. Pierce’s bare shoulder pressed against her arm. Her little toe touched his. She went to jerk it back, hating that awful bump, but then relaxed when she remembered that Pierce didn’t care.
The final scene flickered on the television, when Ross begged Rachel to forgive him, praising her arms, her face, and all the things he loved about her.
Taylor’s throat tightened. The desperation on Ross’s face as he looked at Rachel shook through her. Suddenly, she wondered if living a long, lonely life was going to be as fabulous as she’d believed. What if, when she finally fulfilled her dream of traveling, she still felt there was something missing? Why hadn’t she fallen in love like everyone around her had? Was it the lack of quality men that held her back? Or was it something worse—a lacking deep inside her?
Had Pierce been right?
Tears burned the backs of her lids, and suddenly she wasn’t tired anymore. She sat up, pressing her fists to her eyes in an attempt to block off the strange surge of emotion rising up inside.
She shook her head, refusing to answer.
“Hey, you okay?” His hand was gentle as he stroked her back. Her shoulders shook, and then he was pulling her arms to her sides so he could see her face. “Taylz, what’s the matter?”
Her voice broke. “Do you think it’s true—the final question at the bar? Is something wrong with me?”
He swore. “No. There is nothing wrong with you. Don’t you ever question that again. You haven’t met the right guy, and guess what? You don’t need a man to complete you anyway. Remember?”
She choked out a pathetic laugh. “But what if I want to love someone the way other people do someday, with all that cavity-inducing Valentine’s Day stuff?”
“Then you will.” He cupped her cheeks, tipping her head back to force her to meet his gaze. His thumbs rested on the curve of her lower lip. She looked deep into his sea-green eyes, flaring with a mixture of raw emotion. “When it’s the right man, and the right time. But for now, you have bigger things to do. Can you imagine what a clusterfuck it would be to meet Mr. Right before you take off to Paris?”
She nodded, trying to gather her composure. “I guess. It’s not like I dream of falling in love—I don’t even know if I want to get married! But my whole life, something inside me has felt different. It’s why I’ve always wanted to travel. Not just for my art, but to see if maybe the problem is that I’ve been stuck in one place most of my life. Why do I always want . . . more?”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting more.” His voice was fierce. “You’re still figuring shit out. We both are. And as for being different, that’s a good thing. You’re careful with your heart. It’s not going to just anyone. One day, when the right guy comes along and you open up, that lucky bastard is going to strike gold, Taylz. You’re a treasure.”
Tears clogged her throat. Her insides shifted at his words and cracked open. She felt on the verge of a crying jag. God, she was falling apart.
“Come here,” he said, pulling her close.
She sighed, her head resting against his bare shoulder, his arms wrapped tight around her. The scent of spicy male and mint filled her nostrils. His leg tangled with hers. He stroked her hair, murmuring soothing words, and she sank into a blissful state of comfort.
Until it suddenly turned.
She realized her breasts were pressed against his chest, and her nipples tightened into hard points, easily felt through the thin cotton of her shirt. His arms tightened, and his caresses changed, becoming more like those of a lover than a friend as he trailed his fingers down her spine and lingered over the curve of her buttocks. Deep shivers shook her. He grew hard against her thigh. Her mouth dried up, and her head spun, but this time it wasn’t from the tequila shots.
This time, it was from him.
Her brain madly tried to grab on to sanity and the million smart reasons to pull apart and laugh. They were still drunk and half-naked together in bed, and even the most reasonable of couples would find themselves tempted. It was simply a physical reaction.
Except, she’d never felt this way about Pierce before.
And they weren’t laughing.
“Taylz?” He breathed her name in his familiar husky voice, but this time it reeked of an intimacy and question she didn’t know how to handle.
Dragging in a deep breath, she raised her head, determined to get back on track.
Her gaze stumbled on his.
Fierce, fiery heat lashed out at her. His hand fisted in her hair, tipping her throat back as he studied her face with a strange longing, as if the civilized barriers between them had crumbled to ruins, and all that was left was the fragile line between primal want and the easy friendship they’d shared for years.
Her heart beat madly in her chest. She licked her lower lip, suddenly wary, and that wolfish gaze followed her gesture, his body slightly shaking. And in that stunning moment, sure that sanity would rule and she’d be able to ease back, Taylor did something that would forever change their course.
She leaned in and kissed him.
He’d lost his mind.
Pierce felt as if he was in a strange place between dream and reality, where every action had no consequence or worry. When he’d glimpsed the sadness on Taylor’s face, his entire insides twisted in pain, and he only knew he’d do anything to make her smile again. He’d regretted his stupid, drunken statement about her love life at the bar the moment he’d uttered it, but seeing how deeply he’d cut her had broken him.