I brought the second blanket up higher around our shoulders. “No one will see us.”

His hand clamped down on my fingers to stop me. “Not here.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” When in the hell had I ever uttered those words to a guy? We were out in the open, for the love of all things sacred. Who had stolen my brain and replaced it with the pages of an erotic romance novel? “We’ll concentrate on being quiet.”

He let out a low growl before devouring my mouth again. His tongue probed deep, telling me just how desperate he was for release, and I couldn’t wait to give it to him.

I unbuttoned his pants and lowered his boxer briefs until he poked out. Even in the shadow of the blanket, he still looked gorgeous. I ran my thumb along the moisture that had beaded along his tip and his breath hitched.

“Relax your legs a bit,” I whispered.

He leaned back, positioning his arms on the blanket behind him. With his hands out of the way, he was in easy reach. He felt warm and solid in my palm. I hadn’t been with that many guys, but I could tell that he was very long and thick and imagining him inside me made my underwear instantly damp.

“Christ, Ella.” He closed his eyes and tried to control his breathing.

“Same deal you had with me,” I said. “I want your eyes on me while I touch you.”

I surprised myself with my boldness. Having the power to make Quinn putty in my hands was so completely heady.

I moved my fingers up and down in a steady and deliberate rhythm and his head sloped to the side. His eyes softened and his gaze never left mine. With my other hand, I reached below his shaft and grasped him there, teasing the area with my fingers. “Oh fuck, Ella. I’m close.”

I lowered my lips to his. “Kiss me. I want to feel you when you come.”

He sealed his lips over mine and with his tongue he mimicked the up-and-down motion of my fingers. He groaned his release into my mouth, his lips quivering with the effort.

It was the sexiest damn thing I had ever felt—let alone done with a guy.

As if I’d absorbed his passion and it’d ignited every nerve ending inside of me.

This was the type of physical connection I’d never had but always longed for with someone. It rooted something between us. Something that had embedded itself in my very center.

“Ella, Goddamn,” he panted out as he caught his breath. “That was amazing.”

Chapter Twenty-Four


Ella came to as many of my games as she could this past week when she wasn’t busy with classes or homework or her volunteer work at some psych center.

We’d fallen into a natural routine where I’d show up at her place and we’d play video games, laugh, and hold each other. Ella did most of the talking; the sound of her voice comforted me—or we didn’t do any talking at all.

We hadn’t had sex yet, but we’d come close. Lots of grinding, touching, and kissing.

I knew I couldn’t go there with her until I was sure. Sure that I could give her everything. Tell her everything.

Plus, the experience of being inside her might just do me in. Make it that much harder to leave if she decided she didn’t want me. Once I told her all of it. I was feeling things for Ella that I’d never felt for a girl before.

I’d slept in her bed a couple times and those mornings had become my favorite. She’d be wrapped in my arms and I’d watch her sleep, so warm and sexy and beautiful. Her breasts would be bare and the curve of her neck would call to me. I’d nestle my lips against her skin and she’d make that noise. The noise that drove me crazy.

We didn’t talk about what we were doing or what we’d become to each other, but I could tell the question was on the edge of her lips. Just dangling there. Waiting for me. She wanted to know. She deserved to know. And I was struggling to gain my footing, to hold on tight. Because she’d given me something I hadn’t had in a long time, maybe even ever.

She made me feel happy. Normal. Whole. Like everything was possible.

Maybe even love.

She had this way of putting things in perspective—life, relationships, dreams. Even when she didn’t realize she was touching on stuff that was significant to me. It was an intrinsic quality that she possessed, despite her psychology major. It made her special—that part of her that had a calming effect on me.

The other night I’d come so close to just spilling everything. But something still held me back. More than likely it was gut-wrenching panic. That she’d walk away. And then I’d have to find a new kind of normal again. And I really liked living in this normal, where I could get lost in her. Her smile, her scent, her skin.

A normal where I hadn’t killed my best friend because his girlfriend was coming on to me.

But Gabby from the hotline had helped me to see myself differently, even though I’d only talked to her a handful of times. Like maybe I was worthy. I had always lived in Bastian’s shadow and thought I was worth crap without him. But maybe Amber truly liked me for me and had been going about it the wrong way. She was human, too, after all. I needed to remember that.

Now I was perched at Ella’s door, a bag from the local deli tucked beneath my arm, a couple of sandwiches inside. Tomorrow, I was headed to a special dedication ceremony for Sebastian. His parents had donated a new scoreboard in his honor.

They’d requested I attend—my parents, of course, had insisted—and as the date loomed nearer, I’d become more of a wreck. About seeing all the people I’d wanted to avoid. Maybe forever.

I’d considered begging Ella to come with me, but then I’d have to tell her everything. And right now I was living day by day. Hour by hour.

When she swung open the door my heart strained against my rib cage. Stunning even in her cutoff jean shorts and plain white T-shirt. Her legs seemed to go on for miles and her boobs more than filled out the thin cotton material.

“Hey, baby. You look kissable,” I said, and her cheeks flushed the color of her lips. My fingers wound around her neck to draw her closer and my lips brushed against her soft mouth.

Kissing Ella was like coming home. There was no other way to describe it. It felt natural, thrilling, right. I just wasn’t sure if I was right for her.

Ella picked at her turkey-and-cheese sandwich and I helped clean up her leftovers. Without another word, we sank down on her couch and picked up the controllers—as if we were one seamless unit.

We’d spent the bulk of the other night building a mansion in Minecraft. We’d compromised on number of rooms, placement of bathrooms, down to our luxurious back deck that housed its very own hot tub. Yeah, my mind had quickly gone to the gutter on that one.

It was as if we had built our dream home together even though neither of us breathed a word about it. But there was a connection there. Like we were united, somehow considering our future, planning it together.

“Where do you want this to go, Tall Boy?” Ella asked, her knee brushing against mine.

“How about here, Silly Girl?” I smirked and shook my head.

Ella had decided that a giant roller coaster needed to be erected right outside our make-believe home, which, obviously, I completely dug. Maybe it was her way of telling me that we could have fun together. Like she knew I was holding myself back and was giving me time to work it out.

“Ready to go for a test drive?” she asked, wiggling her eyebrows at me.

“Ooooh yeah.” I winked. “I love roller coasters.”

We climbed up the length of the track and then slid down our imaginary amusement-park ride.

“Wheeee.” Ella laughed and it was the greatest sound to my ears. “Maybe we could go for real one day.”

“On a roller coaster?” I nudged her with my knee until she looked at me. “Sounds perfect. You name it and I’m there.”

“It’s a date, then.” Ella’s cheeks bloomed pink and she looked so damn pretty right then it made my heart hurt. I wanted nothing more in the world than to fulfill that promise to her.

After we tested out our roller coaster a couple more times, I threw down the controller and pulled Ella onto my lap. God, it felt good to have her in my arms. She trailed her lips down my jaw and then whispered my name in my ear. It made my stomach perform a dive-bomb—like I was really on that ride, holding on for dear life.

She stood up, reached for my hand, and walked backward toward her bedroom. “Will you stay again?” I nodded and she flashed me a wicked smile, knowing just how to produce the desired effect.

I jerked her top off and nudged her onto the bed. Flicking my tongue down her neck to her collarbone, I felt her nipples harden through her bra. She moaned and squirmed, bringing my dick to full attention.

I tugged the straps off her arms, unhooked the clasp, and dropped the flimsy material onto the floor. Curving my hand around a soft globe of her flesh, I drew the peak inside my mouth as she writhed beneath me. I moved to her other breast and indulged on her other pink bud.

“Quinn,” she rasped out. “Take off your shirt. I want to feel you.”

I did as she asked and then sank back into her arms. Capturing her bottom lip between my teeth, I nibbled and then swiped my tongue across the tender flesh. She whimpered beneath me and I plunged my tongue deep inside her mouth, completely turned inside out over this girl.

One of my hands tangled in her hair while the other one gripped her hip. Her breasts were like firm pillows against my bare flesh and I had the urge to get her completely naked beneath me. My fingers traveled between our bodies to unfasten the button on her shorts. I pulled back and used both hands to tug the denim down, along with her lacy white panties.

I slid them off her legs and then savored the view between her thighs. She practically knocked the goddamn wind out of me each time I had the privilege of seeing her nude and I prayed there would come a day when I could plunge myself deep inside of her.

But for now I needed to touch her, to show her how amazing she was. My fingers trailed down her stomach and I felt her muscles contract beneath my touch. I skimmed my fingers over her perfectly groomed patch of hair before sliding my fingers through her slick folds. “You’re so wet, Ella.”

Her forearms rested above her head and she moaned against her pillow. When I thrust one finger inside, her back arched off the bed. She was so ready for me and for one brief moment I considered letting it all go and falling into her.

But I knew this girl deserved more.

I plunged two fingers deep inside and hooked them upward, hoping to hit that magic spot that made her shudder against my hand. My tongue went to work on her inner thighs, trailing my way up to her sweet spot.

“Please, Quinn.” Her gaze was tethered to mine, thick as a rope, pure abandon blazing in her eyes. “I need you inside me.”

Hearing her beg for it almost made me lose my fucking mind.

“No, Ella.” I struggled to find my voice through my blinding arousal. “Not tonight.”

“Why not?” she panted out. “I want you. Right now. Like this.”

I withdrew my fingers and she groaned from their absence. I crawled up her body, placing my knees on either side of her thighs. Her eyes widened in anticipation.

“Don’t misunderstand, Ella. I want you. So fucking bad.” I gathered her face in my hands. “The day I can finally bury myself inside of you is the day I know for sure that you’re mine. All mine. Only mine. And anything other than that isn’t good enough.”

Her chest was heaving and her jaw was slack, but she didn’t say anything.

“Do you understand me, Ella?”

“Yes,” she whispered, her eyes full and glassy. “I know there are parts of you that you’re holding back. And I . . . I want to know all of you.”

I shut my eyes against her words. Against the honesty in them. And the pain.

“Damn it, Quinn.” Her fingers gripped my thighs and my eyes snapped open. I looked at her. Really looked at her. Her vibrant blue irises. Her luminous wavy hair. Her velvet-soft skin. She was like a goddamn angel.

Her hand cupped my jaw. “I’d be honored if you shared yourself with me.”

Honored? Fuck. I backed the hell away and sat down on the edge of her bed, hot and stinging tears gathering behind my eyes. If only she knew. She would not be fucking honored to know that I’d killed my best friend.

Shit. What was I doing here with this girl who deserved someone better?

My head sank into my hands and I considered fleeing from the room. From her life.

“Hey,” she said, scooting off the bed and kneeling in front of me. “Quinn.”

She tugged my hands from my face and locked her gaze on me. “Whatever it is, I know it’s important. It makes you afraid. Afraid to share yourself completely with me.”

“I . . . shit. I don’t deserve someone like you,” I mumbled. “You shouldn’t be . . . with someone like me.”

Ella became still, her gaze locked on mine. The only sign of life was in her eyes which were quickly welling up. Fuck. I swiped a stray tear from my cheek and looked away from her, embarrassment heating my face. Or maybe disgrace.

“No,” she said, grasping for my hands, forcing me to look at her. “You . . . you’re the best kind of person I know.”

“No.” I shook my head, hard and insistent. “I’m not.”

“I believe you are, Quinn.” Hearing those words tumble from her mouth triggered something. Something deep inside. It felt like I’d heard similar words uttered by someone else before. “And when you’re ready to tell me, I’ll be here.”

I was so full of emotion for this girl that I yanked her mouth to mine and practically devoured her lips. She grasped fistfuls of my hair and then straddled my lap to get as close to me as possible. I greedily sucked her tongue into my mouth as a moan erupted from her throat. Our kiss turned frantic, impassioned, reckless. It was busting at the seams with unspoken feelings.