I hadn’t told him the extent of my financial issues, but at this point, who really cared since he’d already aired some of his thoughts in front of the group.
I gestured to him. “And it’s none of your business either.” And another screw-it moment. “The real truth, for anyone who wants to know, comes down to Damian. He’s still here. He’s still someone I care about. And yes, one day I need to go and visit him.”
I needed alcohol.
Going to the fridge, I yanked the door open.
Reaching inside for the wine, I said—more to it than anyone else, “You don’t stop loving someone even if they’ve forgotten you.”
No one said a thing.
Then, from the living room, Lauren whispered, “Who is Damian?”
That was it. I took the wine and went to my bedroom, shutting the door. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal to anyone else. I tried to tell myself that. They all cared about me in their ways, but I cared about their opinions—each one, and they were varied.
Reese didn’t want me in a place that would hurt me again, and with the board, that was a fair assessment. He also didn’t want me to take a job because I had to. Grant, Owen, Hadley, and Sophia, they just wanted me there. They wanted to work with me every day, but they were each making more than I would. They had each other as well, and working there was their full-time job. They wouldn’t have to supplement with a second wage.
Maybe if Damian couldn’t—yeah. I wasn’t going there. Not yet, but my hosting duties were done for the night. I uncorked the wine, sat down by the bed, and took a swallow.
Rosé all day, or in my case, the rest of the night.
I heard them leave.
Hadley knocked on the door a few minutes later and poked her head inside. “We’re heading to Janet’s. You want Owen and me to stay here tonight instead of Grant and Sophia?”
I shook my head. “No. I’m fine. Let’s stick to the original Grant plan. I’m sorry for being dramatic.”
“It’s okay.” Her smile slipped. “My grandpa had Alzheimer’s, but to lose Owen to it? That’s not how it’s supposed to go, you know? Not that it’s supposed to ever happen, but you know what I mean.”
Maybe. Regardless of circumstances, I didn’t think the sting ever went away—whether it was parent, grandparent, or in my case, someone who was supposed to be my husband.
“We’ll see you tomorrow then?”
I nodded, gripping that wine bottle so tightly. “Sounds good.”
Grant stopped behind her, saying over her head, “Sophia and I will be back later tonight. That okay?”
I nodded again. “Sounds good. We’ll see you later on.”
His eyes were hooded, and he dipped his head before heading out.
Hadley gave me a small wave, disappearing after him.
Then Reese was in the doorway, and he let out a long breath of air. “I feel like I fucked up earlier.”
I shook my head, as he came into the room, but I didn’t need to worry about moving. He came over and deposited me on his lap, sitting on the floor.
He tugged the wine bottle out of my hand, taking a drink and handing it back.
I took it back. “I messed up. I got emotional.”
“Seems like you have a right.” He brushed my hair back, resting his head against the mattress. “I don’t think any of us can imagine what you’re going through.”
He shook his head, pursing his lips together. “Not even a little bit. My brother’s an asshole to the umpteenth degree. He’s in jail right now, and he’s mad he can’t get anyone to post his bail. He’s pissed that I won’t take his calls and my lawyers are fielding everything from him. Now, if my mom decides to use her money to post for him, that’s on her. All I can do is protect myself against them. That’s not the same situation as yours at all.”
But he was wrong. For both of us, there was a hole where our family was supposed to be. Damian had created mine. His brother had created his.
I settled back against him. “Loved ones aren’t supposed to go away, whether it’s their choice or not. That’s not how life is supposed to be.”
He ran a hand down from my face, cupping my cheek before falling away. “You’re not close to your family?”
“It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with them. It’s just… They couldn’t support me while I was losing Damian, and that put a wedge between us. I don’t know how to make that right, especially when they won’t acknowledge it.”
“They know you guys broke up, right?”
“No. I had no reason to tell them.”
He cursed softly, hugging me close. “You shouldn’t go through that alone.”
I tipped my head back. “But I’m not. Not anymore.”
A look flashed in his depths.
Raw. Tender. It was the way he’d looked at me last time when we were having sex, and I turned away from it. I wasn’t ready to see it. After a moment I shifted up, raising my hand to his face. My thumb grazed his chiseled jawline, the dip around his mouth, the rough stubble that told me he’d shaved last night, and then finally, I traced his lips. His breathing grew shallow, and his hand moved more insistently behind me, molding over my hip.
He turned me to face him more directly, sliding his hand under my leg.
My breasts pressed against his chest, our foreheads resting together.
Our lips so close, a tantalizing temptation. He licked his, his eyes never moving from mine.
“If we do this, it’s not going to not mean anything,” he whispered.
I swallowed over a lump. I knew what he was saying—a question not in question form. But I couldn’t stop it anymore.
The calling. The texts. The jokes. The concern. Him being here, making me a priority. And him just being him—I couldn’t go back. I was too far gone by now.
He cupped the side of my face, his palm resting against my skin. “It’s going to mean something.”
He was giving me an out.
I could pull away, slip off his lap, walk out of the room.
But really? Could I?
A door opened inside of me, letting everything out. It flooded me, going through every vein in my body, warming me, filling me with something akin to lightness, hope…happiness.
I was already gone.
So I gave him my answer, closing the distance and pressing my lips to his. I held there and whispered back, “It’s meant something for a while.”
That was all he needed.
His hand moved to the back of my neck, and his mouth opened over mine. Flames licked my body, teasing me, making me shiver all over. As his mouth slid down my chin, my throat, I let my head tip back. My hair fell free, the ends resting on my back because he had moved my shirt up to pull it free. I lifted my arms, goosebumps breaking out as he took me in. A primal desire flared in his eyes.
His hands slid underneath my bra straps, and his mouth found my shoulder as he unclipped my bra. It fell away, and he drew it away from me, using it to further torment me.
His mouth found mine again, coaxing me open, and his tongue slid inside. He did a slow and sensual sweep, claiming me.
A rumble started in me, vibrating me, making me headier with need.
“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured, his mouth moving back down my throat. He arched over me, one of his hands cupping my breast as his mouth closed over the other. He sucked me, a nuzzle, a nibble, still so damned slow and torturous. I could only hold on to him, falling back against his arm, now anchored firmly behind me.
“Fuck, Charlie,” he growled, biting just slightly on my nipple.
We continued exploring, my hands sliding down his arms, over his chest, around and down his back. Every place my hands went, he shivered under their touch.
I was writhing now, panting for him.
His hand moved to my pants, and I bit my lip, keeping a cry inside.
I needed him inside of me.
His fingers slipped into my underwear and found me. “Christ,” he hissed, his mouth nipping my throat again. “You’re so wet.”
I rolled my hips back and forth, feeling him, and then feeling his fingers as they dipped inside.
“Reese,” I gasped as I started to ride his hand. “Please.” An ache.
I held on to his shoulders, and his hand moved down to my back. He urged me on. “Ride me. Come on. Come, Charlie. Come for me.”
He sat back, his gaze molten as he took me in, his hand gripping my thigh and moving with me. I rode him as his fingers thrust in and out, moving inside of me until the climax started. I came on his fingers, my entire body jerking. I couldn’t move for a second after, and he held me, hugging me to his chest.
He chuckled softly in my ear before he started pressing kisses to my shoulder, my forehead, my cheek. He dipped, finding my lips, and then moved down to my throat again. With each kiss, he was warming me, growing more insistent.
I could feel him. He was still hard. His fingers slid out, but he was right there, pressing up against me. Still in his pants, he rasped next to my ear, “I need to be inside of you. Right now.”
“In my bag.”
I was clean. I was on birth control, which he knew. I looked up at him. “Are you clean?”