It’s all fun and games until it isn’t. Because then I blink and the humor on Conor’s handsome turns into something headier. Heavy-lidded gray eyes fixed on me, he bends slightly and thrusts one hand through my hair. Long fingers tangle in the thick strands.
He’s not dancing anymore. Not moving. Except, he is moving. He’s closing in on me and I know what he’s about to do. He’s going to kiss me. He’s going to kiss me here, in front of everyone at Malone’s? No fucking way. He said he likes games, but this one has gotten out of hand.
Before he can press his lips to mine, I launch out of my chair so fast he nearly falls to the floor. I catch only a second of his bewildered look before I run off toward the back corridor. The door there leads out to the alley next to the parking lot, and I stumble into it, relieved to find it empty.
Heart pounding like crazy, I lean against the brick wall behind Malone’s and peel out of my sweater to let the frigid air rush over my skin. My breath comes out as plumes of white, but sweat continues to bead across my chest. It’s barely above freezing, yet in only a camisole I’m still burning up.
“Taylor!” The door flies open. “Taylor, you out here?”
I don’t say a word, hiding in the building’s shadow. I just want him to go away.
“Fuck, there you are.” Conor appears in front of me with worry etched on his perfect face. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Why would you do that?” I mutter, staring at the ground.
“What? I don’t understand.” He reaches for me and I step out of his grasp. “What did I do wrong? Just tell me so I can fix it.”
“I can’t do this. I don’t want to be a game to you anymore.”
“You’re not a game,” he protests.
“Bullshit. You told me you were bored and that you love games. That’s the reason you changed your stupid MyBri status and showed up at the diner tonight. This is some weird form of entertainment for you.” I shake my head. “Well, I’m not entertained anymore.”
“I’m sorry. I know this is my fault and I pulled you into it at the Kappa party, but I’m done. The game’s over.” I try to get around him but he blocks my path. “Conor. Move.”
“Please. Just move. You don’t have to pretend to be into me anymore.”
“No,” he repeats. “Listen to me. You’re not a game. I mean, yeah, I did think it would be fun to fuck with your sorority sisters and talk about wedding vision boards and all that crazy shit, but I’m not pretending to be into you. I told you the night we met how hot I think you are.”
I say nothing, avoiding his eyes.
“I didn’t come out tonight because of who’s watching. I came because I was sitting at home thinking about you and I couldn’t stand it another minute.”
I slowly lift my head. “Bullshit,” I accuse again.
“Honest to God truth. I like being around you. I like talking to you.”
“Then why do something so stupid and screw it all up by trying to kiss me?”
“Because I wanted to know what it felt like to kiss you and I was afraid we might never find out.” The corner of his mouth quirks up. “Figured if I tried it in public, I had a better shot, ’cause then you might kiss me back for appearances.”
“That’s a dumb reason.”
“I know.” Tentatively, he takes a step toward me.
This time when he reaches out to take my hand in his, I let him.
“I thought I was helping just now,” he says sheepishly. “I thought I was protecting you from having to do that ridiculous dare and we were having a laugh. I read it wrong and I’m sorry for that.” His voice thickens. “But I know I’m not reading this wrong.” His thumb rubs the inside of my palm, and I gulp. “You like me.”
Ugh. This was all so simple just a few days ago. Wasn’t it? A little gag between friends. Now we’ve crossed over and there’s no going back. We don’t get to pretend the sexual tension is a joke, that the casual flirting doesn’t mean anything, that someone isn’t going to get hurt.
In this case, “someone” means me.
“I don’t know where to go from here,” I start awkwardly, “except that maybe it’d be better if we didn’t hang out anymore.”
“Yeah, I veto that suggestion.”
“You don’t get a veto. If I say I don’t want to hang out with you anymore, then tough shit. That’s the way it is.”
“I think you should let me kiss you.”
“Because you were probably dropped on your head as a child,” I snap back.
At that, Conor cracks a smile. He lets out a breath and squeezes my hand, then places it against his chest. Beneath my palm, his heart is pounding hard.
“I think there’s something here.” There’s a note of challenge in his voice. “And I think you’re afraid to find out what it is. Not sure why, though. Maybe you don’t think you deserve it, I dunno. But that’s a fucking tragedy, because you of all people deserve to be happy. So here it is: I’m going to kiss you, unless you tell me not to. Okay?”
I’m going to regret this. Even as I lick my lips and tilt my head, I know I’m going to regret this. But the word “no” refuses to exit my mouth.
“Okay,” I finally whisper.
He takes full advantage of my acquiescence, leaning in to brush his lips against mine.
At first it’s the lightest of caresses, but it doesn’t take long for his kiss to grow deep, urgent. When I weave my arms up his shoulders and comb my fingers into his hair, he makes the sexiest sound against my mouth. Half groan, half sigh.
I feel his entire body clench against mine. His hands go to my hips, fingers biting into my bare skin, and presses me against the wall until there’s no light left between us.
His mouth, so gentle yet hungry, the heat of his body, and the feel of his muscles caging me…it’s surreal, thrilling. As desire courses through my veins, I kiss him back desperately. I forget myself. I forget where we are and all the reasons we shouldn’t do this.
“You taste like cinnamon,” he mumbles, and then his tongue is exploring again, slicking over mine and summoning a moan from deep in my throat.
I cling to him, completely and totally addicted to the feel of his mouth against mine. I drag my teeth over his bottom lip and feel rather than hear the groan vibrate in his chest. His hands slide up my ribs, pushing beneath my shirt, until they’re just beneath my breasts. I suddenly wish I didn’t take off my sweater, that I had an extra layer of protection between my flesh and Conor’s seductive touch.
“You get me so hot, Taylor.”
His lips find my neck and then he’s sucking on it, triggering a flurry of shivers. His lower body bumps mine, hips giving a slow sensual thrust that makes me moan again.
He kisses me again, his tongue teasing the seam of my lips. Then he pulls back and I see the same needy, hungry lust I’m feeling reflected back at me in his eyes.
“Come home with me tonight,” Conor Fucking Edwards whispers.