Abby Burke put her wild days behind her, determined to be the adult she thought she needed to be. It was just a phase, right? But when her college reunion reveals her...adventurous...past to her straitlaced gentleman of a husband, Abby is terrified he’ll reject her.
Except Sam is more than intrigued by what has his normally bold wife flushing with embarrassment…and desire. So when he and Abby stumble onto an especially hot scene that takes them over the edge, he proposes a challenge: confess their deepest fantasies and fulfill them together.
As their playful explorations escalate, their forays into exhibitionism and kink shift the way they see each other and their relationship—for the better. But when Sam finds himself longing to see her pleasured by other men, and Abby’s all in, they wonder if this will make their marriage stronger or end up tearing them apart.
Each book in the Comes in Threes series is STANDALONE:
* Three-Way Split
* Just Past Two
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Abby stared up at the Hotel Mapleton through the windshield. Her husband Sam had the car still idling, the heater blasting warm air against their feet, while outside, a light sprinkling of snow coated everything in a frosted glaze. Except for the noises of the car, silence surrounded them, giving Abby ample time to have second thoughts.
"You know, we don't have to go."
She looked over at Sam, who had just said what she was thinking. Always the picture of practicality, he shrugged and fixed her with his best "It's only logical" face. It was one of his most common expressions. He smiled, the smile he gave when he was trying to be supportive, another common expression. She'd been looking at this face for ten years now, through three years of dating and seven years of marriage, and the variety of expressions was as familiar as his face itself.
"I know we don't." She looked back up at the hotel, where her ten-year college reunion was presumably already underway. Their breath was beginning to fog the windows, even with the heater on, softening the edges of the resplendent building. Still decked out for the holidays, the hotel glistened with white twinkle lights beneath a glaze of snow. Even looking like every New England Christmas photograph, though, its beauty didn't assuage any of the anxiety tightening her stomach.
Sam gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, his black leather driving gloves slick against the softness of her palm. "We can always go back home. Spend New Year's on our own, no reunion, no small talk, no explaining to hundreds of people what you've been up to for the past ten years."
Abby swallowed. That would be easy, wouldn't it? The thought had a certain appeal. She'd become a different person in these last ten years, and not by accident. Bringing Sam into this environment was already merging two worlds never designed to intersect. Did she even want to be here? She'd agonized about it when the invitation first came in the mail, accompanied by a flood of old memories, and had eventually decided yes. She'd had reasons.
"The car's not even off," Sam added. "I could just put it back in drive." Abby started to laugh. "You know, if you don't want to go, you could just say that."
"Hey, I don't mind." Sam put his hands up in a defensive gesture. "I'm happy to go. I'm just saying, you have options."
"I know. I know I have options." The choice was hers, obviously.
"I'm looking forward to it, to tell you the truth." Sam rubbed his chin, contemplative. "A glimpse of college Abby? It's like spotting a rare bird."
Abby snorted. "A dodo, maybe."
"An extinct bird?" Sam gaped comically. "That's even more remarkable."
Laughing, Abby shoved him. "You know what I mean. I was kind of a dumbass back then." She twined her fingers together in her lap.
"You? Never." Sam's warm smile was too open, not a trace of guile in sight. He really believed this, too. He believed there was no way Abby could be other than the person she was now: mature, respectable Abby Wood Burke, who could have fun but would never go too far. A woman with class, who could be playful but would never be too raunchy, a woman with a good head on her shoulders.
Basically, the opposite of everything she was back in college.
If they left and went home now, Sam would know her only as the woman she'd worked so hard to be, not as the wild young woman she once was. Sure, he'd had hints of it: he knew she'd had a number of past relationships, for example, but she'd been mum about specifics. Her wild dating history was too wrapped up in the rest of the person she'd been, the person who'd almost ruined her life with careless bad decisions, and she was content to forget those embarrassing memories. Leaving now meant she could keep those secrets for good.
But damn, she'd lost touch with too many people since college, had forgotten too many friendships that might deserve rekindling. She'd been thinking about this reunion ever since they announced it last spring, watched the photos pop up on the Facebook event page, and RSVP'd to that invitation when it had arrived. She'd already weighed the pros and cons. Sam loved her, and he wasn't going to judge her for her past. She'd made something of herself, had grown up into a respectable woman with a gorgeous, brilliant husband and a successful career. She'd bought a beautiful green dress that highlighted her eyes and the fullness of her curves. She was not about to turn her back on this. Abby Wood never backed down from a challenge, and even now that she was Abby Wood Burke, that quality still remained.
Abby tossed her long red curls back over her shoulder and unfastened her seat belt. "Shut the car off, babe. There's an open bar with our name on it."
The main ballroom of the Hotel Mapleton was already crowded, people spilling out into the foyers, laughing and talking loud enough to be heard over the music blasting from inside. The faces were almost familiar, one step past where she could place them, people from her classes who had been acquaintances but not friends. Then, like a picture coming into focus, she started identifying people she'd known well. Students from her dorm, from her art classes, from the clubs she'd joined, one after another everywhere she looked.
"Holy shit, this takes me back." She grabbed Sam's arm. He steadied her, like he always steadied her.
"See some people you know?"
"So many." She scanned the crowd again. "I'm just trying to think of who you need to meet first."
Sam nudged her. "I think you've been spotted." He gestured to where two guys were rushing over to meet them from across the room.
Phil and James looked so much like their college selves, she could have picked them out anywhere. Phil was still as tall and big as ever, built like a refrigerator and almost as white, carrying a few extra pounds and sporting some glasses but with the same football player body underneath. And James, at Phil's side, skin flushed pink with probably too much alcohol, looked as proud to be on Phil's arm as he had the day they'd started dating senior year. He'd cut his hair shorter since then, the curls trimmed down to a manageable length, but otherwise he had the same baby face despite being ten years older.
Phil wrapped Abby up in an embrace that squeezed the air out of her, pulling her away from Sam as he did so. "Holy shit. I can't believe this." Phil held her at arm's length and looked her up and down, grinning. "Abby Wood. Stunning as ever. Is it still Abby Wood?" He looked over at Sam.
"There's a Burke on there now." She stepped back and introduced the two. "Phil, this is my husband Sam Burke. Sam, this is Phil Smith and James ... I'm sorry, I'm drawing a blank on your last name."
"Peterson," James supplied, shaking hands. "Your wife and my husband were roommates way back when."
"Roommates for one disastrous semester." Phil laughed uproariously. "Shit, what a bad idea that was! Your wife here almost got me kicked off the football team. Remember that, Abby? The night of the streaking? When the police came?"
Eyebrows raised, Sam looked to Abby for an explanation. "What?"
"No. Really?" She grasped for the memory through the annals of the past. She'd had so many encounters with campus security and the local police, they all ran together. "I swear, I don't remember that."
"Hand to God." Phil elbowed James. "This was before you knew me. This girl holds a raging kegger during finals week. Our apartment is barely a block from the edge of campus. Middle of the party, she convinces me to go streaking."
"Wait. Wait a minute." Abby shook her head. The details were starting to come back. "If I remember, you didn't take much convincing. You were always halfway naked at any given time."
Phil paused. "Okay, true. True. But you definitely put me up to it, saying you'd do it if I would."
Oh, shit. It was this story. Abby started to hold up a hand to stop him, but Phil just kept going. "So you go, run butt-ass naked through the center of campus and back, everybody loves it, right? I mean, obviously. And I get literally one block from our home and the cops pull up, arrest me. Coach was furious. I spent the next two weeks running suicides."
Phil was already laughing before the end of his story, and James joined in along with Sam, leaving Abby standing there chuckling. Ah, shit, that wasn't exactly the way she'd wanted to open this reunion. They were supposed to ease in with some of the less disastrous stories, not her running bare-ass naked through campus.
Sam wrapped an arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze. "You never told me this. Streaking on campus?"
"That's not even the half of it." Phil shook his head. "We should get drinks. Come on, James, give me a hand. What can I grab for you two?"
"Um. Wine? Whatever red they have. Thanks." Abby looked to Sam, who asked for the same.
"Wine?" Phil shook his head. "Damn, things really do change, don't they?"
He disappeared a moment later toward the bar with their drink order, leaving them alone, and Abby exhaled shakily. "Okay, so, you might get your wish for some stories about me."
"Yeah, I'm picking up on that." Sam grinned, his expression teasing and not at all upset. Thank God. He managed to always look so put together, with his wavy dark hair and perfect jawline, clean-shaven for the occasion, filling out a slim-cut suit with only a hint of those beautiful, lean CrossFit muscles. He cleaned up like a GQ advertisement. This wasn't the kind of man who probably went streaking in college, or who dated a few dozen people in a long string of short-term relationships that never went anywhere, or who had nearly flunked out of college by being an irresponsible fuckup. She knew Sam's past. He was the valedictorian of his high school class, studied architecture at Cornell on a near full ride, and was now a star architect in his firm. He was settled, professional, brilliant, and for some reason that occasionally eluded her, madly in love with her, and they'd somehow ended up in a romance and marriage that was — without a doubt — the best thing to ever happen to her.
"Hey." Sam shook her by the shoulders. "You tuning out on me? Earth to Abby."
"I'm sorry." Abby flashed him her best flirtatious grin. "I was just thinking how gorgeous you are."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, a likely story. Probably thinking of more of your college adventures that you've been keeping from me." He waggled his eyebrows.
"For your own good, I swear." Abby gestured to the buffet. "I think you're in for the long haul of stories about me getting into trouble. You want to go get some food to go with these drinks?"
Sam laughed. "You're damn right I do."
They brought plates of finger foods over to a table with Phil and James. She obviously wanted to see more people at this reunion than just those two, but they were a nice place to start, since Phil had been a good friend on and off throughout her years at school. At least most of the stories Phil could tell would be stories about parties. He was gay, so they'd never slept together, and hopefully they could avoid that entire realm of Abby's past altogether.
Phil handed a glass of wine to each of them. "So tell me about yourself, Sam. What do you do? How did you and Abby meet? How long have you been married?"
"Babe." James put a hand on Phil's arm. "Give it a rest, all right? Let them get a word in edgewise."
"I'm an architect at Dooney, right here in Mapleton." Sam sipped his wine. He looked totally at ease here, even though he didn't know a single person, and Abby could fall in love with him all over again. "Abby and I met at a pottery class she was teaching at the community center. It turns out I'm shit at pottery, but I had the hots for the teacher, and we've been together ever since. Married seven years this coming April."
"You do pottery?" James asked Abby.
Phil tapped his finger on the table, looking like the memories were slowly coming back. "Yeah, you were an art major, right?"
"Still doing pottery. Just as a hobby now, though. Not really interested in making a living at it. Finest way to ruin a hobby is to turn it into a job." Abby had definitely sat at that crossroads for a while after her junior year internship, looking at an art degree in a field that she had been slowly starting to hate. "I switched majors, and now I'm an MRI tech. Learned to love art again when I didn't have to do it full time." She raised her glass in a toast. "You two have been together since college?"
"Straight through. Ten years now." Phil made love eyes at James, which was adorable. "We got married basically right out of college."
"And, great news." James pulled out his phone, tongue poking out the side of his mouth in concentration as he scrolled through pictures. He triumphantly turned his phone around to show them a photo of a toddler, all large blue eyes and too much curly hair. "This is Liam. We've just been approved to adopt him."
They cooed over the adorable baby, and that shifted the conversation more to James and Phil, their jobs, their struggles buying a house, the minutiae of life going from age twenty-two to thirty-two as they grew into full adulthood. She'd grown into full adulthood, too, mostly by cutting ties with her college self and starting anew with Sam, and sitting here bridged the divide in a weird way. As conversation waned, their plates emptied, and finally Abby turned to Sam.
"I love this song. Do you want to dance?"
Sam knew she didn't love this song, but he could also take a hint, so with a cordial goodbye to Phil and James, they made their way out to the dance floor, and he swept her smoothly into his arms.
They didn't go dancing often enough. They'd gone a lot in the beginning of their relationship, when they were younger and searching for any signs of nightlife in and around small-town Mapleton. Dancing to house music, ballroom, salsa, they'd gone wherever they could find a steady beat and a lively crowd. But life became ever busier, and dancing — like many things — faded over time. His body pressed against hers conjured up all kinds of memories from their younger years.
"So why am I really dancing with you?" he asked. "I thought you liked those guys."
She smiled. Sam was clearly not fooled. "I did. I do." Back at the table, Phil and James were already in conversation with someone else. "I just wanted some space."
Sam turned and dipped her easily, guiding her through a samba that somehow fit perfectly to this pop ballad. "You worried I'm going to keep finding out more about this bare-ass running career of yours?"
Abby tipped her head forward onto Sam's chest and started laughing, her voice muffled against his shirt. "I can't believe that came up. I swear to God, I haven't done that lately."
Sam squeezed her hand, prompting her to look up again. "We all change. I think that's pretty normal." His voice, low and smooth, soothed whatever nerves had cropped up during the conversation. The man didn't have a dishonest bone in his body. He was a man of convictions and principles, but he could identify guile in anyone else, and especially in her. "Is this kind of stuff the reason you never talk much about college?"
"You know the important things. You know I dated a lot, that I wasn't ready to settle down, and that all changed when I met you." Everything he needed to know, really, and he'd never pried.
"Babe, you know I don't care what you got up to in college." He twirled her around once, surprising her into more laughter, and pulled her back to him again. "I love the person you are now. It doesn't matter who you were back then."
"Easy for you to say. You were a Boy Scout."
Sam's expression turned serious, but the kind of serious that was comical in its intensity. He even stopped dancing, holding her at arm's length. "Abby Wood Burke, I need to know this right now. Back in college, did you kill a man?"
Abby burst out laughing, heart suddenly full. He could always make her laugh. "I did. That's what I've been keeping from you."
"I knew it." He shook his head in disappointment. "You going to prison is really going to put a damper on this New Year's." He dropped a chaste kiss on her lips before sweeping her into the dance again. This was textbook for Sam; he wasn't a PDA kind of guy, and for all his jokes, he was pretty serious underneath. She loved that about him. She'd been drawn to his seriousness from the very beginning. Even when they were first dating, he'd been so respectful of her, never wanting to push her boundaries, until she'd practically had to drag him to bed. She'd landed herself one of the good ones. It had all felt so tentative back then, a relationship with someone she could see a future with, back when she was still trying to muddle her way into adulthood.
Over Sam's shoulder, the crowd parted, and another familiar face came into view. She froze, body going suddenly motionless like she couldn't convince it to move. She must have gone pale, because Sam's response was all concern. "What? Are you okay?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Just Past Two"
Copyright © 2019 Elia Winters.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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