Anyone but You Read online

  He was pulling her toward the couch, and then down on the couch with him, and then he rolled to pin her underneath him and the length of his body was hot and hard on hers, and she clutched at him, opening her legs to bring him closer to her as he pressed against her. All the while he kissed her, his tongue teasing her mouth open, his lips on hers, and then on her neck. He shoved her T-shirt up and cupped his hand around her lace-covered bra, and she cried out at how good the pressure felt against her swollen breast. She’d never wanted any man so much, never wanted hands and mouth so hard on her, never wanted to be taken so roughly before, never wanted to be so marked and possessed. She wrapped her legs around him to bring him as hard against her as possible, and he rocked his hips into hers, biting her shoulder while she gasped and clutched at him, and then his mouth was on hers again, bruising her, and she was lost, tearing at his T-shirt, trying to rip it off. He rose a little to help her, and she pulled it over his head, clutching it in her hand while she arched up to meet him, but he said, “Nina!” and his voice was full of horror, not lust.

  He jerked away from her, grabbing her wrist and pulling her up into a sitting position, and from far away she focused on her hand and saw blood.

  “Oh, hell,” Alex said, and she looked at him, broad and beautiful in the lamplight, his chest furred with blond hair and his muscles clenched from holding her up, his mouth dark from kissing her and being kissed, and she thought, What’s a little blood? and kissed him again.

  He kissed her back, hard, and then groaned and said, “Nina, love, we’ve ripped some stitches, let me look at it,” and she moved to his mouth again.

  “No,” she said. “It’s all right. Kiss me now.”

  And he did, but his kiss was gentle, not hot. “I hate this, but I have to fix your hand, Nina,” he whispered to her. “You’re hurt. Let me fix it.”

  He sounded so much like Guy that she woke up. “All right,” she said, and used her free hand to pull her T-shirt down while Alex unwrapped the bandage.

  “It’s not bad,” he told her a moment later while she was still coming down from her sexual high. “We can fix it here. Do you have a first-aid kit?”

  Nina felt tired suddenly. “In the bathroom,” she told him.

  Alex kissed her again, still gentle. “Stay here,” he told her. “Don’t get any ideas about moving.”

  She watched him cross the floor to the bathroom, naked except for those damn Daffy Duck shorts, and she wondered if she’d lost her mind. If her hand hadn’t started to bleed, she’d have been naked with him in another five minutes, and he would have been glorious—he was glorious even in Daffy Duck shorts—and she would have been middle-aged with a middle-aged body.

  Good thing her hand had started to bleed.

  She met him halfway across the floor, half expecting him to say, “I told you to stay put,” but he just bandaged her hand again, standing there in the hallway.

  “Are you okay?” he asked her when he was done. “I’m sorry. I never—”

  “It’s not your fault.” She patted him on the shoulder with her good hand, and he looked unhappier than she’d ever seen him. She reached around him and opened the door. “Thank you for helping me with Guy.”

  Alex stood there for a moment, looking confused and hesitant and sexier than anybody else on the face of the earth. “Nina, could we talk about—”

  “No,” Nina said, pushing him gently out the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  “Nina—” he said, and then she closed the door in his face and leaned her forehead against it. Her hand throbbed from the stitches, and her body throbbed from his hands, but mostly her mind throbbed from how much she wanted him and couldn’t have him and how close she’d been to disaster.

  Fred licked her ankle.

  “Thank you, Fred,” she told him. “You did good tonight. Just like Lassie, after all.”

  She went back to the couch to turn off the lamps and saw Alex’s T-shirt on the floor. She picked it up and held it to her face, inhaling his scent for a minute while Fred watched. “I’ve got it bad, Fred,” she told him. “I’ve got it so bad I’m going to sleep in this T-shirt tonight, that’s how bad it is.”

  Fred yawned.

  “Yeah?” Nina said. “Wait’ll you fall in love. It’s the pits.”

  “YOU WERE RIGHT,” Alex said ten minutes later when Max picked up the phone.

  “I’m always right,” Max said, yawning. “I also have to be at the office tomorrow at eight. Could you tell me about your triumph tomorrow night? I’ll bring the beer.”

  “It wasn’t a triumph,” Alex said gloomily. “It was close, but then her hand started to bleed, and by the time I had her bandaged again, she said no.”

  “Never stop to bandage,” Max said.

  “That’s very humanitarian of you, Dr. Moore,” Alex said. “And I still don’t know why she stopped. I bandaged her hand, and she looked at me and said, ‘Thank you and good night.’ I still don’t know what I did wrong.”

  He heard Max sigh on the other end of the line. “Let me think for a minute.” There was a long silence, and then Max’s voice came cautiously. “I hate to ask this, you couldn’t have been this dumb, but you did change your clothes before you went up there, didn’t you?”

  Alex was lost. “My clothes?”

  “Hell, Alex, you’re hopeless,” Max said.

  “Since when are you the big clothing authority?” Alex asked, annoyed. “I haven’t noticed you dressing like GQ.”

  “Alex, listen to me carefully,” Max said. “I’m telling you this as your brother and as your best friend.”

  “All right,” Alex said. “Let’s have it.”

  “Never wear Daffy Duck shorts to seduce a woman. You want her gasping in awe when she looks down, not wondering how old you are.”

  “Oh, hell,” Alex said.

  “I’M WORKING on the rewrite,” Charity said the next evening when Nina picked up the phone.

  “Great.” Nina tried to open the window for Fred while she kept the phone clamped between her ear and her shoulder. She wanted to tell Charity everything about Alex and the kiss and the couch, but she didn’t want to think about it because she’d been thinking about it all night and all day and she was already half-crazy with lust. Talking dirty about Alex on the phone to Charity would not help things. Much better to discuss the book. “Did you work on a new last chapter, too?”

  “Yes.” Charity hesitated. “I’m making some big changes, Neen.”

  Nina stopped moving. “How big?”

  She heard Charity draw a deep breath. “I’m making it fiction.”

  Nina closed her eyes in pain. Fiction. Sexy, romantic fiction. Jessica would have a fit. “Tell me you’re kidding.”

  “No, no, I’m serious. I’m making it fiction.” Charity’s voice speeded up. “The whole reading group thought it was, anyway, and it’s so much better, Neen. I just changed all the names, and after I did that, I saw how funny all the stories were. And I’d already made it third person and used my middle name for the heroine, so now all I have to do is write all the chapters over again so they’re upbeat and she learns something each time.”

  “Fiction,” Nina repeated, still trying to compute that she’d gone to contract on a book of erotic fiction for Jessica’s stuffy Howard Press.

  Jessica’s father was going to turn cartwheels in his grave. Jessica, on the other hand, would just fire her.

  “Yeah, and I’m making the guys better, too. I thought about them, and I’m doing another rewrite now, showing why she falls for them so her mistakes don’t seem so dumb.” Charity sounded so happy that Nina tried to listen to her and be happy, too. “Which gave me the idea for a great title since it’s about mistakes now instead of just bitching. What do you think of Jane Errs?”

  “Jane Errs. That’s great,” Nina said, still trying to grasp the extent of the disaster.

  “And I’m writing the thirteenth chapter now, the happily-ever-after chapter about the perfect man. Hi