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  “Your date had to leave,” he said. “Unexpectedly.”

  “Uh-huh. What did you do to him?”

  In his world, people never questioned him. And it was a good place to be, his world. Apparently she hadn’t gotten the memo. “Nothing.”

  Earlier, in the storage closet at the rec center, he’d stalked her, pressed her against the door. She did the same to him now, but this time her grip on his shirt wasn’t passion. “Tell me, Mark.”

  The sound of his name on her tongue did something to him, something it shouldn’t. “He waxes.”


  “He waxes his body hair,” he said.

  She blinked. Paused. “And how did you get close enough to notice that?”

  “I wasn’t that close, I have excellent vision. He didn’t have any hair on his arms.”

  “He’s a swimmer. So he waxes, so what?”

  Yeah, genius, so what? “He had a look in his eye. He was up to no good.”

  She gaped at him. “Tell me, was it like staring in a mirror?”

  Well, maybe a little. But Mark had taken one look at the guy and seen a player. He’d asked the asshole what his plans were. Kyle had seemed amused by the question but had answered readily enough—candlelit dinner, dancing, capped off with a canyon drive to stargaze....

  Bullshit the guy wanted to stargaze. No guy wanted to stargaze. Kyle wanted to get laid. In fact, Mark would bet his million-dollar bonus that the guy had a string of condoms at the ready. “I didn’t like him.”

  “You didn’t like him,” Rainey repeated. “And I should care, why?”

  “I’m an excellent judge of character.”

  She made a sound of disgust. “The last time you scared one of my dates off, I told you to never interfere in my life again.”

  He grabbed her as she went to pass by him. “The last time I scared off your date, it was because you were about six inches away from being raped.”

  She jerked as if he’d hit her, reminding him of one fact—they’d never talked about that night, about what had happened when he’d finally caught up with her.


  And apparently they weren’t going to do it now either, because she shoved at him hard and he let her go. She turned to her kitchen window, not moving, not speaking, just staring out at the backyard, her eyes clouded with bad memories.

  Feeling lower than pond scum, he sighed. “Rainey—”

  “Why are you here, Mark?”

  “I…” He had no idea.

  She turned to face him. “I agreed to go out with Kyle tonight because I’m looking for something. Someone. Or at least I think I am. I’m…not lonely, that’s not the right word. I love my life. But I want someone in it. It’s been a while for me and I’m ready. I want to be in a relationship.”

  His gut hurt, and he had no idea why.

  Her mouth curved, though the smile didn’t meet her lips. “And I’m guessing by the panic on your face that a relationship is the last thing you’re looking for.”

  He wasn’t showing panic. He never showed panic.

  “Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I made up the panic. God forbid you show an emotion.”

  “You think I don’t have emotions?”

  “I think you’re miserly with them.” She gave a faint smile. “But I do sense the slightest elevation in your blood pressure.”

  Now he rolled his eyes and she let out a low laugh. “Listen, I can’t be like you, Mark, that’s all. I’m not tough and cool as ice in any situation. That’s not me. I want someone to care about me, someone who wants to be with me. Now I’m all dressed up with none of that in sight at the moment, so unless you want to be witness to something as messy as an uncontrolled emotion, you need to go.”

  “I would,” he said quietly. “But—”

  “But what?”

  “I don’t want to.”

  At that, she dropped her head between her shoulders and let out a sound that was either another laugh or something far too close to tears for his own comfort. “Mark, you know what broke up our friendship.”

  “Yes, you kicked me out of your life.”

  She sighed. “I didn’t kick you out of my life. You left to go coach in Ontario, and I…”

  “Stopped talking to me.”

  “It was temporary—I was mad,” she said. “You remember why.”

  He let out a long breath. “Something about me being an interfering asshole.”

  “First, you rejected me. Then—”

  “You were sixteen!”

  “Then,” she went on stubbornly. “You followed me on a date and beat the guy up.”

  “It wasn’t a date. He picked you up after you ran out of my place. And in the ten minutes it took me to find you, he had you pinned in his backseat and was pulling off your clothes!”

  Remembered humiliation flickered in her eyes. “Okay, so I acted stupid and immature, but I was hurting.”

  He blew out a breath and shoved his fingers in his hair. “It wasn’t your fault. What he did to you wasn’t your fault.”

  “What he was doing was consensual.”

  “You didn’t know what you wanted.”

  “I wanted a friend and you turned into a Neanderthal.”

  He stared at her incredulously. “Well, what the hell did you want me to do, let him take you? You were a virgin!”

  She flushed. “I wanted you to stop interfering as if I couldn’t handle my own problems. I wanted you to listen to me. I wanted sympathy.”

  He must have given her a what-the-fuck look because she shook her head.

  “I wanted a hug, Mark. I wanted you to hold my hand and tell me I’d find someone else, someone better. I wanted understanding.”

  He just continued to stare at her, dumbstruck. Not a single one of those things had ever occurred to him.

  The sound that escaped her told him she was just realizing that very fact. Brushing past him, she moved to the front door and held it open. A clear invite for him to get the hell out.


  “I want to be alone.”

  Too damn bad. He slammed the door shut, hauled her up against him, closing his arms around her in a hug.

  “It doesn’t count now,” she said stiffly, even as her body relaxed into his and she pressed her face into his shoulder. “Dammit, do you always smell good? That just really pisses me off.”

  “You know what pisses me off?” he asked. “That all I want to do is this.” And then he pushed her up against the door and kissed her.


  THE SECOND MARK leaned into her, his hard body coming into contact with her own, Rainey knew she was in trouble. Her nipples immediately tightened into two beads against her soft top. But that was before his leg slid between hers, spreading her wide, his thigh rubbing against her core.

  She wanted him.

  She’d always wanted him.

  Not yours, she told herself even as she clung to him. He’s not yours and doesn’t want to be. He’s unattainable, unavailable… But he was clearly as aroused as she was, and that felt good. She turned him on, and being with him like this was the closest she’d get to what she might really want from him.

  He shifted his thigh, rubbed it against her, and she let out a shockingly needy whimper. His lips grazed her earlobe, his breath hot along her skin, and a rush of heat shot through her. “Mark,” she choked out as his fingers slid beneath her skirt to palm her bottom. It was all she could do not to wrap her legs around his waist and beg him to get inside her now, now, now, and she mindlessly thrust her hips against his. “Please,” she gasped.

  “Anything.” He held her against the door, his mouth sliding down her throat and over her collarbone, tugging her shirt aside to make room for himself. “Whatever you want, Rainey. Just tell me, it’s yours.” His hand slid beneath her top and cupped her breast, his thumb rubbing over her nipple until she quivered. “Do you want me to touch you like this? Do you want my mouth on you? What?”