Cela knows how to be good. She’s had a lifetime of practice. But on the night of her college graduation, she decides she’s earned one wild night before she has to move back home to her overprotective family. So when the hot neighbor she’s been quietly fantasizing about for a year suggests a game of Never Have I Ever, she’s ready. But what starts out as a simple game takes an unexpected turn. Because Ian Foster doesn’t play games he can’t win.
Foster knows his desires aren’t for the faint of heart, especially not for someone as sweet and innocent as his pretty neighbor. But when Cela shows up at his door with an invitation that surprises him, he can’t resist indulging. Cela has no idea what she’s in for. The secret dark side of this man’s need will both intrigue and terrify her. But Cela has a secret of her own—and a new game to see just how far they’re both willing to go, and how much they’re willing to risk by crossing every boundary of desire.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
NOT UNTIL YOU DARE
“Andre, this isn’t a good time. Can I call you back?”
I did my best not to let my cell phone slip from between my ear and shoulder. Just don’t drop the tequila. I adjusted the enormous bottle that my friend Bailey had given me as a graduation present from my right hand to beneath my left arm and tried to dig my keys out of my purse so I could open the main door to my apartment building.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to make it, Cela,” my older brother said, his guilt obviously trumping my request to call him later. “I got caught at an investigation site this morning. I thought I’d be able to get there in time, but we had a witness wanting to talk and . . .”
I cursed silently as my keys hit the pavement. I crouched down, doing my best not to flash my underwear to anyone who may be passing by. “Really, it’s fine. They called my name. I walked across the stage and got a piece of paper and a sash for being summa cum laude. Papá yelled my name like he was at a baseball game instead of a ceremony. Mamá cried. We all went to lunch at Rosario’s and then the two of them headed back to the airport. Not that interesting.”
My brother’s heavy sigh said everything. I almost felt guilty that he felt so guilty. “Before you move back home next month, we’re getting together to celebrate. My baby sister, the doctor. I’m so proud I could burst.”
I smiled. I did like the sound of that. Dr. Marcela Medina, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Seven years of exams and studying and clinics, but it was finally done. Now it was time to leave Dallas and head back home to Verde Pass and take up the slack in my dad’s practice.
That last part had my smile faltering a bit. I hooked my key ring with my finger and wobbled back to a stand. “That’s sounds great. But I really have to get going. I have my hands full and need to get through the door.”
“Cela, you know better than to carry too much. Parking lots at night are one of the most dangerous places for women. Are you holding your mace?” he asked, his voice going into that bossy cop tone I was all too familiar with.
“It’s in my hand,” I lied, trying to remember where I’d stowed the last little canister he’d given me—probably in my junk drawer. “But I don’t have a free hand to pull the door open.”
“All right,” he said, placated. “Congratulations again. I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
The call ended but I didn’t have a way to take the phone off my ear, so I just shuffled forward in a sideways hunch, trying to juggle everything I was holding to get my key into the door. After two attempts, I got the lock turned and pressed my back against the glass door to push my way into the lobby.
As soon as I’d cleared the entrance and turned toward the stairs, male voices sounded behind me. Of course someone would show up right after I didn’t need help anymore. I peeked back to see who it was, Andre’s danger warnings still echoing in my head, but found something more distracting than criminals—my neighbors, Foster and Pike.
Foster stepped through the main door first and glanced my way. As usual, everything went melty inside me, his smile like a zap of heat to my system. Ridiculous. “Need some help, neighbor?”
I straightened, but forgot about my phone in the process. My brand new iPhone went sliding off my shoulder.
“Crap!” I lurched forward, trying to save it from its imminent demise, and accidentally dropped my plastic bag of Chinese takeout on the way.
“Whoa, there.” Pike, Foster’s roommate, was at my side in a second. His hand caught my elbow, saving me from losing the ginormous bottle of liquor along with my balance. But my phone clattered to the ground, the harsh sound mixing with the splat of my noodles hitting tile.
I winced, anticipating a broken screen. “Dammit.”
Foster bent down, his tie brushing the ground as he swept my phone off the floor. He peered at the screen, dark brows lowering over pale eyes, then he turned the phone toward me—the happy puppy screensaver staring back at me intact. “All is well. Luckily, these things are built to take a licking.”
My brain got snagged on the word lick, and the back of my neck went hot. My lips parted, but words failed me. Great, imitate a gaping goldfish—that’s cute.
Pike cleared his throat, easing the tequila from my arms, and then crouched down near the open bag at my feet. He grabbed a noodle from the spilled box of Chinese food, tipped his head back, and dropped the noodle into his mouth, his eyes watching mine. “The lo mein’s a loss, though.”
I swallowed hard, his gaze even more bad boy than the tattoos peeking out from his open collar. His tongue snaked around the noodle. Look away. I forced my face upward, but then ended up focusing on Foster again. Say something. God, I was standing there like an idiot. This was why I always avoided these two like they were contagious. They made me go stupid.
Foster held out my phone, and I managed to take it, the slight brush of his fingers against mine hitting the Reset button in my brain. I managed a feeble, “Thank you.”
Foster glanced at the mess on the floor. “I’m really sorry I said anything. I didn’t mean to distract you from your intricate juggling act.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been trying to carry everything at once. It’s been a long day, and I was hoping to save myself a second trip up the stairs.”
“The joys of a walk-up.” Pike grabbed a few napkins and started cleaning up the noodles at my feet like it was his mess to worry about.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.” I lowered down to my knees. “I’ll take care of it.”
He grinned over at me, the mirror opposite of his roommate. Ian Foster was all suits and dark looks—a man who preferred to be called by his surname. Whereas Pike didn’t seem to even have a last name. He was a drummer in some popular local band—jeans, a sex-on-the-mind smile, and spiked, bleached hair his usual uniform. Not that I had studied either of them. Or listened to their escapades through the wall I shared with them. Not at all.
Keep telling yourself that, Cela.
Despite my protest, Pike helped me finish picking up the mess. “So what’s the big-ass bottle of tequila for? No one could’ve had that bad of a day.”
I glanced over at the bottle I’d set on the floor, debating whether I could be trusted to have a normal conversation with these two without sounding like I had a speech impediment. “I, uh, graduated today. It was a gift.”
“Oh, right on.”
“Congratulations, Cela,” Foster said. Just the sound of him saying my name in that smooth, dark voice had my stomach clenching. He was all Southern refinement, but I didn’t miss the glimmer of a drawl underneath it all.
Ay dios mío. My body clamored to attention like an eager Labrador ready to be petted. Down, girl. These guys were way above my pay grade. I wasn’t dumb or delusional. I’d seen/spied on/secretly hated the women who’d passed through their apartment door—women who looked like they’d earned their doctorates in the art of seduction.
I hadn’t even reached the kindergarten level in that particular department.
“You were going to vet school at Dallas U, right?” Foster had tucked his hands in the pockets of his slacks, and though the question was casual, I had the distinct impression he was tense beneath that suit jacket.
Pike handed me a napkin for my hands and stood to toss the food into a nearby trash can.
I wiped off my hands and pushed myself to my feet, trying to do it as gracefully as possible in my restrictive skirt. “Yes, how’d you know that?”
“The scrubs you wear have the school insignia on them,” Foster said, as if it was totally normal that he’d looked at me that closely.
“Observant.” Especially considering I usually only managed a head-down, mumbled, hey-how-are-ya exchange when we passed each other in the hallway. Secretly listening to one of your hot neighbors having sex had a way of making eye contact a bit uncomfortable the next day—particularly if said eavesdropper had used the soundtrack to fuel her own interlude with her battery-operated boyfriend.
Not that I had. Several times. Whatever.
Pike sidled up next to Foster—a motley pair if there ever was one. “So, doc, now that you’ve got no dinner and clearly too much liquor on your hands, why don’t you join us? We already have pizza on the way, and we can play a drinking game with the tequila. Do college kids still play Never Have I Ever? I was always good at that one.”
Kid? Is that what they saw me as? Neither of them could be that much older than I was. Though in terms of life experience, I had no doubt they trumped me a few times over.
“Oh, no, that’s okay.” The refusal was automatic, long practiced. How many times had I turned down such offers—from guys, from friends? My parents had been so strict when I was younger that I almost didn’t know how to say yes even after living on my own the last few years. Studies first. Fun later. Yet, there never seemed to be any time for fun after the first one was finished.
“You sure? I don’t want you going to bed with no dinner because of us,” Foster said, frown lines marring that perfect mouth of his.
Going to bed and us was about all I heard. My father’s stern voice whispered in my ear. You don’t know these men. You’ll be all alone in their apartment. Medina women have more respect for themselves than that.
“Really, I’m fine. I had a big lunch,” I said, my smile brief, plastic. “But thanks.”
“Oh, come on,” Pike said, his tone cajoling. “We’ve been neighbors for what, two years? We should at least get to know a little about each other.”
Get to know each other? I knew that Foster was loud when he came—even if he was alone. Knew that Pike liked to laugh during sex. Knew the two men shared women. And the other sounds I’d heard over the last two years . . . the smacks, the commands, the erotic screams. My face went as hot as if I’d stuck my head in an oven.
“Y’all just want me for my tequila,” I said, attempting to deflect my derailing thoughts.
The corner of Pike’s mouth lifted. “Of course that’s not all we want you for.”
“Uh . . .” Oh, hell. Pictures flashed across my brain. Dirty, delicious pictures. I almost dropped my phone again. I had no idea what to do with my hands, my expression.
Foster put a hand on Pike’s shoulder. “The lady said no. I think we should let her go celebrate her graduation however she wants.”
“All right.” Pike’s face turned hangdog, but he handed me the tequila bottle. “If you change your mind, we’ve got big plans. Supreme pizza and a Star Wars–themed porn marathon. The Empire Sucks C—”
Foster smacked the back of Pike’s head, and Pike ducked and laughed.
“Kidding. I mean, a Jane Austen marathon,” Pike corrected, his green-gold eyes solemn. “Pride and Pu—”
Foster was behind Pike, his hand clamping over his friend’s mouth in a flash. “I seriously can’t take him out. He’s like an untrained puppy. Maybe you can lend me a shock collar or something.”
Pike waggled his eyebrows, all playful wickedness.
I laughed, putting my hand to my too hot forehead, and turning toward the stairs. “Yeah, so, I’m going to go now.”
“Cela,” Foster said as I put my foot onto the first step.
I glanced back. “Yeah?”
His ice-melt eyes flicked downward, his gaze alighting along the length of me before tracing their way upward again in a slow, unashamed perusal. “Promise you won’t go to bed hungry.”
I wet my lips, my skin suddenly feeling too tight to accommodate the blood pumping beneath it, and nodded.
But it was a lie.
I always went to bed hungry.
And it had nothing to do with a spilled dinner.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” Foster asked shrugging off his jacket and loosening his tie, annoyance digging at him like a bad case of chiggers.
Pike straddled one of the chairs at their breakfast bar with Who me? innocence in his eyes. “What? I’m not allowed to flirt with the neighbor? You certainly can’t tear your eyes away from her anytime she’s around. I know you time your morning run so that you pass her in the hallway.”
Foster groaned. “You invited her over to watch porn, Pike. I thought her eyes were going to fall out of her head.”
“Oh, come on. I was joking. She knew I was kidding.”
Foster wasn’t convinced of that. Cela’s movements had gone jerky at the suggestion, and her usually imperceptible accent had thickened her words. “You can’t joke like that with girls like her. She’s not some chick you met after a show.”
Pike somehow managed to smirk without his mouth so much as twitching. “Girls like her?”
Foster tossed his jacket across the back of the other chair and opened the button at his neck, his shirt collar feeling nooselike. “Yes, girls like her. You know what I mean.”
Foster rubbed the spot between his eyes with his thumb, trying to chase away the throbbing that had started at the office and had gotten worse downstairs. “She’s not just vanilla, she’s . . .”
“Innocent.” He grabbed two beers from the fridge and plunked one down in front of Pike. “And young.”
“She’s a doctor.” He twisted off the cap and took a sip. “So not that young. She’s got to be at least . . .” He paused, apparently counting in his head. “Twenty-four.”
Twenty-four. Not a total stretch for Foster’s thirty-two, but somehow Cela seemed even younger than that—untouched by the world. Part of it was that sheltered vibe that seemed to waft off her, like she’d been raised in another era. But he knew it was more than her demureness and manners that screamed innocence.
Foster leaned back against the counter, taking a deep pull of his beer, his throat dry and his blood hot from the brief encounter downstairs. The scene replayed in his head—the sound of her breath catching when he’d said her name, the way she’d looked there on her knees, that hint of a blush beneath her honeyed skin. His cock twitched to life. Fuck.
Pike rolled his bottle cap between his fingers, walking it over his knuckles in the way that said he’d spent way too much time in bars. “She’s interested, you know?”
“Right. She almost vaulted up the stairs to get away from us after your Jane Austen comment. She’s probably next door right now googling to see if we’re on the sex offender registry.”
But despite his protest, Foster knew Pike wasn’t far off base. His friend had probably noticed the same signals in Cela that he had. She’d been flustered, maybe even offended, but her nipples had been hard points against her blouse and her pulse had been pounding at her throat like a beacon. He’d wanted to lick the spot. He’d wanted her to say yes.
But maybe Pike’s crassness had actually saved them. The last thing Foster needed to be doing was messing with his good-girl neighbor. Women like her were off limits. He’d learned the hard way not to get interested in someone from outside his scene. Once those women got over the excitement of the ooh, I’m being so scandalous dating a kinky boy phase, they bailed and went to find someone they actually wanted to be with for the long haul.
And Foster was tired of getting his hopes up and was really tired of one-night stands. His interludes at The Ranch, the BDSM resort he belonged to, and the occasional ménage with Pike and one of his band groupies satisfied the physical itch for a while. But the dominant side of him—the part that craved ownership—was shriveling into a desiccated husk.
He was over thirty, had a job that could fund a posh life, and even had a swank home his family had left to him sitting empty. But he was still living like a college kid, rooming with his best friend. Foster had good reasons for setting his life up this way. But on days like this, when he saw glimpses of what else was out there, he found himself wondering if his life was bound to be haunted by what ifs.
The doorbell rang and Foster headed over to the door to get the pizza. He paid the delivery guy and took the two large supreme pizzas from him, passing them over to Pike who’d eagerly stepped up behind him. After one furtive glance toward Cela’s closed door, Foster stepped back into the apartment.
Pike already had one of the boxes open and a slice in his mouth by the time Foster made it into the living room. Pike pointed to the box. “This one’s mine.”
Foster snorted and grabbed for a slice from the other box. Some things never changed. Pike could out eat a linebacker, though you’d never guess it looking at him. Apparently, a few hours of banging on drums every night was as effective as running marathons. Plus, Foster wasn’t entirely convinced that some part of Pike didn’t still worry about not having a next meal. Food hadn’t exactly been easy to come by when Pike was a kid.
Foster sank into the love seat and set his beer on the side table.
“You really think she wasn’t interested?” Pike asked, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “Anytime you said something to her, she got all tongue-tied. And she shivered when I touched her.”
Foster shrugged, trying to appear as if he’d already forgotten about their run-in with their neighbor and wasn’t sitting there trying to get the image of her on her knees or those big brown eyes out of his head.
“Maybe she has a boyfriend or something.” Pike folded another slice of pizza in half and bit.
“Doubtful. No one ever sleeps over.” The words were out before Foster could call them back.
Pike’s eyebrow arched. “And you would know this how? Taking up stalking as a hobby?”
Foster tore a bite off his pizza, eyeing Pike, warning him off the topic.
“No way.” He pointed the neck of his beer bottle at him. “Don’t give me that eat shit look. Spill it, dude.”
Foster polished off his own beer. He had a feeling this was going to be more than a one-drink night. When he set down the empty bottle, Pike was still watching him, waiting. Foster sighed. “We share a wall—a thin one. I can hear some of what does . . . and doesn’t go on in her bedroom. All sex noises have been . . . solo.”
And had provided erotic background music to his own solo tours more than once, imagining Cela’s hands roaming over her body, her fingers sliding between those pretty legs. He adjusted himself on the couch, his boxer briefs developing a choke hold on his quickly swelling erection.
“Holy shit.” Pike’s mouth broke into a grin. “You dirty eavesdropping bastard.”
Foster looked at the ceiling, wishing he could rewind and take back the admission. “I’m in my own fucking room. It’s not like I have a glass up to the wall.”
Though he’d considered it.
“Well, no wonder she’s so quick to get flustered around us,” Pike said, laughing. “If you can hear her, God only knows what she’s heard on her end.”
Foster cringed. “Tell me about it.”
Anytime he and Pike shared a woman, it was in Foster’s room. He had the bigger bed and master suite. And neither he nor Pike were quiet. Fucking was noisy business.
He’d considered moving things to Pike’s room once he’d realized how thin the walls were, but then he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. Knowing that Cela could be on the other side, listening to them, had only served to turn Foster on more. He’d found himself talking louder, issuing his commands in a voice that he knew would carry, and he hadn’t held back his own sounds of pleasure. She’d become the focus of Foster’s attention, an unknowing part of a foursome.
He figured if she was bothered by it, she’d complain to the office. She’d reported the couple across the hall who couldn’t seem to keep their shitty music to a non-earsplitting level, so she wasn’t afraid to speak up. But as the months had gone on, no word had come. And when he’d pass her in the hall, arm full of books, scrubs hiding that cute little body, he’d catch her sideways glances, the way she held her breath when they passed each other. He scared her on some level, set her off balance, which only served to prod his dominant side, tease it. It’d turned into one tortuous exercise in restraint.
“You think she’s going to get herself off tonight?” Pike asked, shifting on the couch and peering in the direction of Foster’s bedroom. “She looked pretty keyed up.”
There it was again—illicit images of Cela on her knees before him, those wanting eyes locking with his as she unzipped his pants and wrapped those plush lips around . . . “Ah, hell, we have to stop talking about this. I’m getting a headache and a hard-on. And aspirin’s only going to help one of those.”
Pike chuckled. “So go bring her a couple of slices of pizza. Maybe you’ll catch her at the right moment.”
“No.” Foster undid his tie fully now and untucked his shirttails, everything irritating him at the moment. “She’s not our type.”
“She’s not your type. I have no problem introducing a good girl to the dark side.” Pike swigged his beer. “Sometimes the quiet ones turn out to be the dirtiest of them all. All that pent-up frustration, digging up those repressed fantasies and making them happen for her.”
“And then they freak out, blame you, and bail the minute the guilt catches up with them,” Foster said darkly. He’d been on the receiving end of that dynamic before, and had no intention of taking that not-so-scenic tour again.
Pike frowned over at him. “Of course they all leave eventually. Good girl or not. Women don’t come to guys like us for an I-do, my friend. Thank God for that.”
“Right.”’Cause having someone to come home to besides your pizza-inhaling best friend would just be the most horrible thing imaginable. Foster’s appetite left him, and he lost a taste for the beer. “I need a shower before the movie.”
Pike snorted. “Sure you do. Extra lube is in the hall closet. Just don’t call out her name too loud when you blow.”
Pike smacked his lips in an air kiss. “Love you too, pumpkin.”
I stood in front of my freezer, contemplating the uninspiring microwaveable meals and letting the frosty air wash over my still-burning skin. I’d changed out of my graduation outfit into a tank top and pajama bottoms, but I couldn’t seem to cool my temperature or get my heart to stop pounding. My two hot-as-sin neighbors had flirted with me, invited me over.
I hadn’t imagined that, right?
Maybe I had. Picking up the signals when a guy was interested had never been my strong suit. My stay away from boys at all costs rules as a teenager along with my all-girls Catholic high school had left me with an emaciated female intuition. And any boys that came around the house were scared off by either my father or brother.
Maybe Foster and Pike had just been joking around—or worse, teasing me. They had called me a college kid after all. I’d seen some of the girls who’d made the walk of shame out of their apartment. They certainly didn’t look anything like me. Maybe all the innuendo I’d read into the brief conversation had been my hormones inserting my own hopes into their words.
I groaned and slammed the freezer door. Like I’d act on a sexual invitation anyway. I hadn’t done anything more than kiss someone since starting grad school. And I didn’t even know these guys, not really. And there were two of them.
My body quivered at the thought, and a hot ache pulsed between my thighs. I collapsed onto one of the stools lining the breakfast bar. “Good Lord, what is wrong with me?”
I uncapped the bottle of tequila I’d left on the counter and poured a shot into a juice glass, then lifted it. “Happy graduation to me.”
I kicked back the shot, the alcohol burning like liquid lightning on the way down. My face scrunched up as I tried not to cough. Wow. Maybe that’s why you were supposed to do those with salt and lime.
As the fire cooled in my throat, I looked around my empty apartment, wondering what to do for the next few hours, because I sure as hell was too wired to go to bed. Every night was usually spent in front of my books, eating takeout, and studying. But now every test had been passed, every class completed. This chapter of my life was done.
Sadness flickered through me.
The “find yourself” years were rolling in my rearview. Real life was here, waiting for me to claim my spot as a responsible adult.
In a few weeks I’d be back in the vet office I’d grown up in, but now my name would be on the placard next to my father’s. I’d get my own patients, my own house. I’d eat dinner with my parents a few nights a week and probably date Michael Ruiz. My former high school boyfriend had been the only one to make it past the test with my father, and that was only because my family had been friends with his since the beginning of time. Michael had made it no secret that he was happily awaiting my return to Verde Pass. He’d even sent me a bouquet of daisies for graduation. Such a nice guy.
Nice. Polite. Just like the rest of my life.
I traced her finger around the rim of my glass, the droning hum of the freezer a mind-numbing soundtrack to my thoughts. My whole future was stretched out before me—a dot-to-dot picture with a set path I’d known I would follow for as long as I could remember. One I’d never thought to question growing up. But now that it was staring me in the face, a ribbon of regret threaded through my already melancholy mood, darkening the trajectory of my thoughts.
Grad school was supposed to be my big adventure. Single girl in a big city, experiencing life for the first time without my father staring over my shoulder. I’d fought like hell to even have the chance to go to school in Dallas, had come up with an argument to present to my parents that would’ve impressed a trial lawyer. In the end, the fact that my older brother was here had saved me. And to his credit, Andre had mostly stayed out of my business.
It’d been the first true stand for independence that I’d won.
And what had I done with the opportunity after all the struggle to get out here to Dallas? Not a damn thing. I’d been the obedient daughter and studious student like I’d always been. I’d even gone to Sunday mass every now and again. I’d said no to all the parties. I’d gone on a few dates, but never with anyone I was truly interested in. Hell, I’d been in Dallas for four years and the shot of tequila warming my belly was my very first.
With a rush of frustration, I poured another shot and tipped it back—the sting no softer than the first time, but the heat fueling the call of rebellion within me.
Enough of this bull. Drinking alone in an empty apartment and pining over my neighbors was freaking pathetic. I deserved a real graduation celebration. I only had a few weeks left here to get a taste of all that I’d never experienced. It was now or never. If I screwed up royally or embarrassed myself, I’d be gone soon anyway. My friends and family back home would be none the wiser.
With renewed resolve and a little liquid courage, I capped the tequila and grabbed a notepad off the refrigerator to write down a list I never thought I’d be putting into print. Just seeing the words glide from the pen had my throat constricting. The first two attempts didn’t work. I scratched out and reworded a few things, my hand shaking with adrenaline and nerves. But then it was too messy. And I didn’t do messy. I balled up the first few sheets and tossed them in the trash, then got it right on the third time. Nice little block letters forming statements I didn’t even have the guts to say aloud. Done.
I stared at the list and took a deep breath, the neat plan of my life getting tucked away into the back of my brain for now. I folded the page in half, making a crease, and tore off the bottom half. I slipped that portion in my kitchen drawer, but kept the other half in my hand.
“One, two, three, don’t look down,” I muttered, repeating an old mantra from my childhood diving classes, as I slid off the stool. Hopefully, I wouldn’t drown.
Before blind panic could take me over, I grabbed the liquor bottle, toed on my flip-flops, and headed out the door.
It was only four steps to apartment 3G, but it seemed my blood pressure had reached near-stroke rate by the time I lifted my hand to knock on the door. Even then, I almost spun on my heel and scampered back to the safety of my quiet apartment where everything was normal and predictable.
For a few moments I didn’t hear anything, and I wondered if they weren’t going to come to the door. Maybe it was a sign from the universe that I had no business being here, that I’d truly lost my mind. Because really, I probably had. But then there were voices and the shift of the lock, and my muscles seemed to turn to stone. The door swung open, Pike and the scent of pizza greeting me. He leaned against the doorjamb, looking edible in his tight black tee and worn jeans. His mouth curved upward, and I forgot to breathe for a second. Oh crap, how was I going to go through with this?
He glanced down at my outfit and the tequila tucked under my arm. “Well, hi again, doc. Changed your mind?”
“I, uh . . .”
“Cela?” Foster appeared a few steps behind Pike, his hair wet and his chest bare. Oh, blessed, blessed Lord. My eyes automatically shifted downward, drinking in the real view of what I’d only imagined the many nights I’d listened to him through the wall—broad shoulders, honed pecs, and an abdomen so lickable that the sight of it made my tongue press to the back of my teeth. I knew I should look up, say something, but my gaze snagged lower, following the trail of dark hair that disappeared into the waistband of his low-slung track pants.
God help me. He was even prettier than my imagination had conjured—and my imagination had been aiming for the outfield already. Every feminine molecule in my body seemed to lurch toward him, my fingers aching to trace the lines of muscles he’d been hiding beneath his suits, to lick off the water droplets that had fallen from his hair onto his shoulders. My body went into full, rolling boil.
I clenched the bottle of liquor like it was a life raft. “Hi. Um. Yeah. So I decided I really was hungry, and I’ll never drink this much alcohol myself, and I know y’all are probably settled in for the night now and don’t want company, and I don’t know if y’all really wanted me over or if you were just being nice . . .” Shut up, shut up, shut up. “But if you weren’t just being nice and wanted to share me—”
Pike’s eyebrows lifted.
My face flamed. Oh God, had I just said that? “I mean, share the tequila with me, then well, here it is and if not then that’s fi—”
Pike pressed two fingers to my mouth, the touch shocking me into silence. “Take a breath, doc. We still have pizza, we will always accept free liquor, and we will never turn down good company.”
My shoulders sagged, mortification bleeding through me. Way to be smooth. If they really had been flirting with me earlier, they were probably regretting that decision now. Warning: Awkward girl, straight ahead. I wet my lips when Pike lowered his hand, inadvertently tasting the salt his touch had left behind. “I’m sorry. I just don’t want to intrude or anything.”
“Is she intruding, Foster?” Pike asked, still looking at me.
I peered past Pike’s shoulder. Foster’s gaze was unwavering, making it near impossible to hold the eye contact. Maybe he didn’t want me there after all. I glanced at my feet, but then heard the low notes of his voice. “Of course not. I don’t extend invitations I don’t mean.”
Hot goose bumps chased over my skin, something in his firm tone making me shiver.
Pike’s smile was pure warmth. He leaned over and took the tequila from me. “Come on in, doc. Foster decided to jump in the shower before eating, so there’s still lots of pizza left.”
“Thanks.” I stepped inside and when Pike shut the door behind me, I had the distinct feeling of the safety net of my existence ripping to shreds beneath me.
“I’m going to get us a few glasses,” Pike said, veering toward the kitchen.
Foster glanced to the left toward the open bedroom door, then back to me, his expression unreadable. “Make yourself at home, Cela, and help yourself to pizza. I’ll be right back.”
I moved around the breakfast bar and down the short hall toward the living area. The apartment was similar to mine, but the kitchen and living space weren’t open to each other. Plus, this was the bigger two-bedroom version and had a decidedly more masculine decor. The couches were leather, the furniture sleek and modern, and the artwork on the walls black-and-white photography. The stuff looked refined and expensive, like it should be in some high-rise loft downtown instead of in my modest apartment complex.
I took a seat along the side of the ginormous wall-mounted TV, and a spaceship flew across the screen, the surround sound vibrating in her ears. Uh-oh. Panic flitted through me when I remembered Pike’s words from downstairs. Had he not been kidding about the Star Wars porn?
Pike sauntered into the living room, setting the liquor, a few beers, and a couple of glasses on the coffee table, his triceps flexing beneath his gorgeous tattoos as he arranged everything. He glanced up at me, frowned. “You okay?”
I ventured a peek at the television, saw Harrison Ford, and let out a breath. No Star Wars porn. Just straight-up Star Wars. “Yep, I’m fine.”
“Liar,” he teased, handing me a paper plate with a slice of pizza. “You’re so tense, you’re almost vibrating. And that’s after”—he eyed the tequila—“at least a couple of shots of liquor.”
I sighed, forcing my neck from side to side, trying to slough off my anxious state. “I’m sorry. It’s been a really long day. And I think graduation affected me more than I expected.”
“Is that right?” Foster asked, coming back into the living room wearing a soft gray T-shirt that covered his skin but not the peaks and valleys of the man beneath. He slipped between the couch and my chair, his fresh soap scent drifting over me, and took the spot on the love seat across from me. “How so?”
I took a bite of pizza, taking a moment to gather myself so I wouldn’t start rambling again. They were just two guys. Yes, they were beautiful and sexy and had starred in too many of my fantasies, but I was a woman who had just graduated at the top of her very competitive class. I was capable of coherent speech. Mostly.
I swallowed my bite and attempted a shrug that said yep, I’m carefree and totally at ease, fellas. “Well, it’s something I’ve been working at for seven years.”
“Seven?” Foster interrupted.
“I got into vet school a year early.”
“Of course.” He made some face akin to a scowl, but covered it so fast I couldn’t be sure.
“And so I’ve had my eye on this one prize, this one goal. And now it’s done.”
“But that’s good, right?” Pike asked, peeling off a pepperoni and popping it into his mouth. “Wasn’t that the point? God knows I was happy to finally scrape through my four years.”
“Sure. It’s great,” I said, mustering up some semblance of a smile. “But I realized I’ve done little else besides work on that goal. These were supposed to be the fun times before I went back home to south Texas to settle down and work in my father’s practice. But I’ve lived here for four years and have spent ninety-five percent of it either in class, studying, or sleeping.”
“Now that,” Pike said, pointing at me with his pizza, “is a goddamned tragedy.” He looked to Foster. “It’s a good thing we invited her over, dude, because we were like three days away from her going all The Shining on us.”
I laughed. “I’m not quite that bad off.”
“No, I’m serious. I can see the ax in the door now. All work and no play can only lead to homicide.”
Pike’s grin was infectious, and some of the tightness in my chest eased a bit. “So really having me over is a self-defense move on your part, then?”
“Completely selfish,” Foster agreed, his own smile finally peeking through at the corners of those stark blue eyes.
Pike leaned forward and tossed his grease-stained paper plate onto the coffee table, then rubbed his hands together. “So, now we’ve got a big responsibility on our hands. We have to make sure your first night away from school is a killer one—and not in an ax-swinging kind of way. Pizza and Star Wars aren’t going to cut it.”
“No, really. This is fine,” I said, waving him off.
“Nah, come on. I’m not letting you off that easy. We were supposed to play Never Have I Ever. Anything you’ve never done that you’re dying to do?”
The list I’d written seemed to warm in my pocket. I shrugged, my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth.
Foster glanced at the clock on the cable box. “It’s still early. We could take you out to celebrate in style. Pike can get into any club within a hundred-mile radius once he tells them he’s the drummer in Darkfall.”
Pike sniffed. “And Foster can bribe us into the swankier ones that want to keep me out for the same reason.”
I glanced down at my outfit. “I’m not dressed for that. And I know y’all didn’t have plans to go out tonight.”
“Plans can change,” Pike said.
I pressed my lips together, my logical side telling me to call it a night, stop while I was ahead. But the thought of going out with these two, possibly dancing with them, had my pulse climbing. “I’ll need more alcohol before either of you can convince me to dance in public.”
Pike laughed. “That can be arranged. You up for it, Foster?”
Foster looked at me, his blue-eyed gaze seeming to penetrate right through all my attempts at a calm façade. “You sure you want to spend your big night with the two of us, Cela?”
The question and his tone seemed to hold more layers than the simple words he’d said. And for a second I wondered if he knew what I’d been thinking, knew why I’d talked myself into coming over here in the first place, knew about that list tucked against my hip. But of course, there was no way he could know all that.
I met his stare head on, my bravery building like a staircase beneath my feet, one tentative step after the other until I could see the door to the unknown rising before me, beckoning me to open it. My chest rose and fell with a steadying breath. “I couldn’t think of two better guys to spend the night with.”
His jaw twitched and something feral flashed through his eyes as he stood. “All right, Cela. Then go back to your apartment, put on something for dancing, and meet us downstairs in fifteen minutes.”
The authority in his voice scattered my thoughts like dry leaves on a windy day. I scrambled to gather them back together. “Fifteen minutes? But I’ll need to redo my makeup and do something with my hair.”
“No.” He walked toward me, frowning in a way that cut off my words. “You don’t need any of that. You look great already.”
“Agreed,” Pike chimed in.
I rose to my feet, feeling vulnerable and quivery with Foster looming over me. “Thanks, but—”
He reached out, his hand going to the back of my head, and my words got logjammed in my throat. He tugged at the clip I’d twisted my hair into, and released it, letting my hair tumble down my back.
“And wear your hair down,” he said, pressing the clip into my hand as he bent forward. His lips brushed the shell of my ear. “I want to be able to run my fingers through it when we’re dancing.”
All air evaporated from my lungs.
He backed away and smiled casually, as if he’d simply informed me of the weather forecast. “See you in fifteen, neighbor.”
I clutched the clip to my stomach, not trusting myself to respond, and turned toward the door. I had to be having a dream. I’d dozed off on my couch and was spinning erotic fantasies in my sleep.
But when I got back to my apartment and pinched my arm, everything was still the same.
Everything except me.
Foster paced the apartment lobby, stalking the small space and trying to quell the hum of anticipation running through him. He checked his watch—five minutes past when he’d told Cela to be here. If she were his sub, every one of those late minutes would be earning her a fun punishment for later.
But of course, she wasn’t his. He doubted Cela had ever even heard of sexual submission. She screamed innocence with every unintentional dip of her lashes, every unsure smile. He’d had to fight a hard-on sitting across from her in his apartment, despite the fact that minutes before, he’d jerked off in the shower to thoughts of her.
Pike leaned against the wall of mailboxes and crossed his arms, the picture of placidity. “What did you whisper to her before she left?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Foster had said the first thing that had sprung to his lips, had been unable to resist seeing those sable locks fall over her shoulders and telling her how much he wanted to run his fingers through them. It’d been stupid. He’d felt her startled panic electrify the scant column of air between them. Maybe all the innuendo he’d been playing with tonight had gone over her head. Maybe she had simply wanted to go out and dance—as friends, neighbors.
“Maybe she’s not coming,” Foster said, forcing himself to stand still. Pacing was going to do no good, and perhaps it was better if she didn’t show up. She’d been as jumpy as a bird on the highway as she’d stood in their doorway. She was too sweet for what he and Pike brought to the table. They could break her. Or at the very least, freak her the fuck out.
Unfortunately, her sweetness was the very thing that had Foster’s dominant side busting through the seams and hijacking his best intentions to stay away from Cela.
“There’s our girl,” Pike said, coming up behind Foster as red high heels appeared on the top step, drawing Foster’s rapt attention. Red. Shoes that said she wasn’t going to spend the night at the library. Cela’s bare calves came next—smooth, touchable skin that sent Foster’s heart rate speeding up. Then a snug black dress came into view, one that hugged her above the knee and molded over flared hips and a narrow waist.
A bolt shot straight downward to Foster’s cock.
Pike’s hands landed on Foster’s shoulders from behind. “And holy fuck does she look hot.”
Pike had stolen the thoughts right out of Foster’s head. Ms. Lives in Scrubs looked like a goddamned pin-up girl sashaying down those stairs. The only thing that didn’t match the come-hither outfit and fuck-me shoes was the hesitant expression on her face.
When she hit the bottom step, she offered them both a tentative smile. “Sorry I’m a few minutes late. I couldn’t find my shoes. I haven’t worn them in a while.”
Pike stepped around Foster and took both of Cela’s hands in his, holding her arms outward so he could get a good look. “Damn, doc. I changed my mind. Let’s send Foster out to dance, and you can just come back upstairs with me.”
A laugh broke through the nervous compression of her lips, proving she wasn’t immune to Pike’s natural gift of putting women at ease.
Pike guided her into a little twirl, giving Foster a delicious view of how the material clung to the curve of her ass. “You look smoking.”
“Thanks.” She sent a shy glance Foster’s way, hope for his approval in her eyes.
The move reached into Foster’s gut, wrenched something sideways. He took her hand and kissed it. “You look stunning, Cela. And if you make one move to go back upstairs with Pike, I’m tackling his ass.”
Her pleased look had him tightening his hold on her fingers, not wanting to let her go. Her eyes dipped down, taking in his blue button-up shirt and dark jeans. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in jeans.”
His mouth curved. So she’d been surreptitiously observing him in their hallway passings, too. “I work a lot. Suits are part of the deal.”
“You pull off both well,” she said, her voice still dancing a bit with nerves, the Latina accent peeking through.
“Thank you.” He took her hand and tucked it in his elbow, taking control, hoping it would help ease some of her anxiety. “Let’s get going. There’s a stiff drink and a dance floor with our names on it.”
“Now we’re talking,” Pike said. “The cab’s waiting outside.”
Foster watched Cela’s throat work as she sipped her margarita. The club was in full swing, but Pike had used his connections to get them a table on the balcony so that they could all have a drink and talk without the music drowning them out.
This kind of club wasn’t usually Foster’s speed. Too loud. Too crowded. If he was going to go out, he usually drove to The Ranch where true privacy could be had if needed. But when Pike had suggested dancing, Foster couldn’t resist the thought of having Cela’s body pressed against his, the scent of her swirling around him.
But unless Cela relaxed, they were going to be cemented to these chairs all night. Her salt-rimmed drink sloshed precariously in her unsteady hand as she sent the tables nearby a darting glance and sipped. If he said “boo,” she’d probably leap off her seat.
Way to go, genius, he chided himself. It was his and Pike’s job to make sure Cela had fun tonight, and they were reaching epic-fail status quickly.
Pike was at least trying to put her at ease. “So how long do you have before you move back home?”
“I’m going to help out in the clinic at the vet school for a few more weeks. I’ve been interning there this year, and I wanted to make sure they had a replacement for me before I left. So before the end of June.”
“Wow, that soon, huh?” Pike asked.
She looked at her drink and seemed to sink into her thoughts. “Yeah.”
Damn, they needed to turn this night around quickly. Cela seemed to be getting more morose instead of relaxed. Enough sitting around. He didn’t have Pike’s talent for settling women with humor and the occasional off-color comment. If he said half the stuff Pike did, his face would be permanently marked from angry slaps. But he did have one potent tool in his arsenal—one that only worked on a special type of woman. And all his God-given instincts were telling him Cela was exactly that kind of girl, his kind of girl. Even if she didn’t know it yet. Time to do what he’d been wanting to do since he’d first met his shy neighbor.
He reached out and plucked the glass from her hands. “Stand up, Cela.”
She turned toward him and blinked as if to clear her vision of some afterimage. “What?”
He stood. “Up. Now.”
She glanced at Pike with a what’s-going-on look but rose to her feet anyhow.
“Thank you.” He stepped around the small cocktail table to stand in front of her, using his height advantage to the fullest. “Look at me.”
Her head tilted upward without hesitation—like he’d tugged a string attached to her chin.
Good girl, his mind whispered. But he shoved the instinctual response to the back of his brain. “We brought you here to have a good time tonight.”
Her lips rolled inward, nervously smoothing her lip gloss, and she took a breath. “I know. I want that, too.”
“Good.” He glanced at Pike, who was watching the exchange with deceptively casual interest. Pike gave a barely perceptible nod, somehow always in tune with Foster’s thoughts, and climbed out of his chair. He moved behind Cela with easy confidence and slid his hands along her waist.
She jolted a bit at the touch, a flush creeping over the skin exposed by her V-cut neckline, but she held Foster’s eye contact.
“You’re shutting down on us.” Foster reached out and cupped her face, running a finger along her cheekbone. “I need you to let go of the nerves. You have no reason to be anxious around us.”
She scoffed, then bit her lip when she realized the sound had escaped.
Pike smiled over her shoulder and moved in closer, pulling her gently against his chest, swaying a bit to the music. Foster knew this would be the make or break moment. She’d either jump in with both feet or shrink back into her shell like a hermit crab. But he was done trying to resist his urges with her.
So far, she was responding just as he’d hoped, the submissive undercurrent almost a taste on his tongue. The desire to take control, to take her over, surged inside him like lifeblood. His dominance could calm her. “You’re safe with us. Neither of us would ever make you do something you don’t want to do. Understand?”
Her gaze shifted, and he could see her body going rigid. Her fight-or-flight was kicking in—which only served to activate his chase-and-conquer gene. But right as he thought she may wiggle out of Pike’s arms and run, she blurted out, “But I don’t know how to do this!”
The honest response made him want to smile, to kiss her, to soothe that insecurity. “Do what?” he asked calmly, letting his hand drift to her throat, feeling her pulse quicken against his palm. “Tell me what you fear.”
She closed her eyes as if gathering her strength around her—finding that steel core he sensed resided under all that cottony soft innocence. “I’m . . . not used to this. Being out with guys. I don’t know how to act, what to do.”
“Ah, sweetheart,” Pike said, pressing a kiss to her bare shoulder. “You’re doing just fine.”
Foster breathed slowly, willing his own heartbeat to slow, his protective instinct flooding him. Oh, how he’d like to show her exactly what he wanted her to do when she was with him, how to act, how to submit. But she was so young, so untouched. He’d fear crushing her under the weight of all he desired.
Despite his body screaming for a different outcome and knowing that he and Pike could seduce her into their bed tonight, he forced the right words to come out of his mouth. “Listen to me, Cela. Tonight, we’re just going to dance. All you need to do is relax and have a good time. We don’t have any expectations beyond that.”
What if I want you to? The question sat full on my lips, my body already in overdrive from Pike’s warm chest pressed against my back and Foster’s commanding gaze holding me captive. But I couldn’t deny the unwinding ball of tension in my stomach at Foster’s statement. They weren’t expecting anything from me. All I needed to do was get the stick out of my backside and have fun. Give myself over to the night.
Give myself over to them.
They would take care of me. I didn’t know them well, but on some primal level, I knew that much. They wouldn’t hurt me or take advantage of me.
“I don’t know where to start,” I confessed. “I’ve never been good at letting loose.”
Foster’s dark smile was devastating in the changing lights of the club. “Good, let’s start our Never Have I Ever with that one. Letting loose. Your instruction is to simply act, don’t think. If you want to do something, do it. No one knows you here. And even if you fell on your ass in the middle of the dance floor, who gives a shit?”
I smiled. “That’s a distinct possibility.”
Pike nuzzled the back of my ear, inspiring a line of goose bumps down my back. “Don’t worry. If you fall, we’ll be there to pick you up, doc.”
“We won’t let you fall in the first place,” Foster said. “Not with four hands on you.”
Four hands. My skin tingled at the image—or maybe the alcohol was finally doing its job. My quaking nerves dipped to a manageable level, my confidence rallying. These two guys weren’t there to embarrass me or laugh at my lack of experience. I’d had that happen once before and would rather become a nun than face that humiliation again. But both of these guys obviously knew I wasn’t Ms. Experienced. If they’d wanted some smooth-talking seductress, they could’ve come here alone and picked up any woman in the place. They were here to have a good time, and they wanted to have it with me. Wasting that opportunity would be like throwing away dessert—a travesty.
I laced one of my hands with Pike’s and reached out for Foster’s, channeling the version of myself that I played in my private fantasies. “I’m ready. Never have I ever . . . danced with the two best-looking guys in the place.”
“That’s my girl,” Foster said, grabbing my offered hand and tugging me toward him, sandwiching me between the two of them. “Let’s go show these bastards how it’s done.”
We made our way down to the dance floor and the pulsing mass of humanity. Foster pressed a palm to the small of my back, and Pike kept his grip on my hand as they guided me into the throng. Having the two men flank me gave me the sense of being protected by some invisible bubble. Hands and limbs snaked around us, bodies brushed me, but somehow instead of feeling claustrophobic like I’d expected, it awakened my senses, made me feel alive. We slowed as we neared the center of the dance floor, and Foster turned me into Pike’s arms.
“Hey, gorgeous.” Pike’s smile glowed in the black lights as he dragged me against him and looped an arm around my neck.
I grinned back, relaxing into him. Despite the full-sleeve tattoos and hardened edge of Pike’s bad-boy rocker look, his presence was boyishly charming. I could imagine days with him being full of open laughter and sexy teasing.
I started to move and tried to focus on not stepping on his feet. But before I could get in time with Pike’s movements, Foster’s hands were spanning my waist from behind, sending sensual awareness sparking through me like static electricity. His lips tickled my ear. “Just take a breath and let us lead, Cela. I can feel you thinking.”
Thinking. Always thinking. He was right. I nodded and softened my spine, letting the sounds and sensations flow over me, trying to give over the control. I held Pike’s gaze and moved with the two of them—the bass pounding through my ribs like some tribal anthem and the smooth elixir of tequila flowing through my veins. Yes. This. This was what I needed tonight . . . freedom.
The song ended and changed into one with a weighty, sensual beat and no lyrics. Thump. Thump. Thump. The guys didn’t say a word as our movements slowed, but it was as if the air shifted around us, grew heavier, warmer. Foster’s pelvis brushed against my backside, and Pike pressed his forehead to mine as we swayed in time to the music. Both men’s colognes filled my nose—Pike’s clean, like salty ocean air and summer nights, Foster’s laced with dark spice. And underneath all that—sweat and desire. Mine. Theirs. Ours.
I closed my eyes, letting myself fall into the moment, the men’s presence and touch waking up places that had never stirred. My feet moved, my body rocked, hips swayed. But none of it was from my focused effort anymore. The throbbing beat of the song seemed to enter my bloodstream and sync with my heartbeat, lifting me up on the wave of movement around us.
“That’s right, baby,” Foster soothed, his voice like melting wax. “Let it all go.”
I allowed my head to fall back, landing against Foster’s shoulder, surrendering. One song turned into another and then another until I lost track when one would end and another began. Heat and alcohol and their touch coalesced, making all the normally awkward edges inside me blur. Time seemed to slow and stretch, until there was just this one continuous rhythm. Just the three of us dancing without regard to the world existing around us.
Foster’s hold on my waist roamed, exploring my belly, the curve of my rib cage. His knuckles grazed the underside of my breasts, and sharp need tightened my nipples, dampened my panties. Mercy. My eyelids fluttered open and met Pike’s riveted gaze. Gone was the affable smile. A ripple of delectable apprehension glittered along my nerve endings. Pike may be a good-time guy, but unapologetic desire had surfaced in those hazel eyes. I wasn’t used to guys looking at me that way. The power of it almost knocked me down.
Pike’s palm slid beneath the curtain of my hair and cupped the back of my neck, a firm grip. Foster’s breath danced against my opposite ear. “He’s going to kiss you, baby. Stop him if you don’t want that.”
Kiss? Pike wanted to kiss me. I didn’t know why this came as such a shock.
But the earth would’ve had to quit moving for me to say anything to stop him. I was spellbound. Things like this didn’t happen in my life. I didn’t allow them to. My world was safely constructed and populated with people who didn’t push my boundaries. But right now, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted more than these two men doing whatever they wanted to me. Old me had apparently left my body and stayed upstairs to babysit my drink.
Pike paused long enough to give me a window to say no, hovering inches from my mouth, his soft puffs of breath touching my cheeks. But I didn’t turn away. Instead, I slid my fingers along his chest, gathering the soft fabric of his T-shirt in my fists, afraid that if I didn’t hold on to something, I’d disintegrate into a heap of ash between the two of them. His lips met mine in a slow, coaxing dance, matching the beat of the music—teasing me, tasting me, licking along the seam, and then finally when I thought I’d go mad, sliding his tongue into my mouth.
I moaned into the kiss, the power of it like a thunderclap to my system. The taste of mint and alcohol mixed in with the potent flavor of unrepentant desire.
Foster groaned, as if watching another man kiss me both pained and pleased him. His hands slid down to the tops my thighs, precariously close to where I ached the most. And for the first time all night I didn’t feel like a girl among men. I felt womanly and sexy and . . . brave. No longer filtering my actions through my brain, I acted on pure instinct and arched my hips back toward Foster, seeking.
He met my silent request without hesitation, fitting my backside against him. The hard length of his arousal pressed against the curve of my ass.
I gasped into Pike’s kiss.
“I’m trying to be good with you, Cela,” Foster said, his voice a low growl. “But keep doing things like that and my moral compass may malfunction.”
My body shuddered at the threat, my pelvis tilting backward, dragging myself along Foster’s erection. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated by the fact that he was so turned on. That I’d done that to him.
Pike released me from the kiss, leaving me panting for breath, and Foster spun me around, the ice blue of his eyes going black as he took in the view of me. I’m sure I looked like some crazed version of my former self—swollen lips, stained cheeks, begging eyes. He didn’t hesitate. Where Pike had left off, Foster picked up, cupping my face and coming down for a crushing kiss. My eyelids drifted shut, everything seeming to spin around me as Foster’s mouth consumed mine. Unlike Pike’s slow and sensual approach, Foster was demanding, overpowering. My legs went boneless beneath me.
But Pike had me, his hands planted on my waist, his mouth laying soft, sucking kisses to the back of my neck, my shoulders.
Holy shit. Every erogenous zone in my body flared with desperate want, and heat slicked my panties. I gripped Foster’s damp hair, holding on with everything I had, and whimpered into his kiss—a plea. For what exactly, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what to do with all this . . . wanting.
“Ah, God.” He said, breaking from the kiss, but threading his hand in my hair and insinuating his knee between my thighs, putting pressure where I needed it most. “You’re killing me.”
The contact was like tossing my brain into the deep fryer, my better judgment evaporating in a cloud of wanton desperation. The music continued pounding around us, and my hips rocked shamelessly as he ground the hard muscle of his thigh against me, sliding my panties against tender, needy flesh. I bowed back, leaning on Pike for support, no longer noticing the crowd undulating around us. The quest for release, for Foster’s touch, kidnapped all of my senses. I had lost myself and all sense of appropriate behavior.
“Please,” I whispered. “I need . . . I need more.”
“Jesus.” Foster’s thigh lowered, removing the stimulation, and my eyelids slid open to find Foster raking a hand though his hair, a frantic edge to his movements. “Let’s take a break. I can’t—I need a breather or I’m going to drag you into a dark corner and give you exactly what you’re pleading for.”
My tongue swept at my bottom lip, the suggestion only making the throbbing between my thighs more pronounced. “Maybe I don’t need a break.”
Had I said that out loud? Once again I questioned where Cela had gone. I couldn’t actually be considering taking him up on that offer. I needed a taste of reckless abandon tonight, but I wasn’t qualified for the dark-corners-in-clubs kind. Did people actually do that?
“Doc,” Pike said wrapping an arm around my waist, already turning me to guide me off the dance floor. “We promised you we’d just dance. You’ve been drinking. We’re all a little . . . overheated. I think a break is a good idea.”
I clamped my lips together, stopping myself from the urge to protest. My body was ruling my head right now. This is what my parents used to warn me against, right? You let a guy go too far and you make mistakes—like my sister did. I needed to get some air, some perspective. The guys were trying to do the right thing. I should let them.
I allowed Pike to lead me away from the dance floor back upstairs. Foster trailed behind, a tight expression on his face. When we made it back to our corner, Pike joined me on a cushioned, curved bench, draping his arm across my shoulders, and Foster took the seat catty-corner to us. He adjusted his pants before sitting, and I felt the blush rise to my cheeks. Guess I wasn’t the only one left half-cocked.
Pike, who was clearly handling what had transpired on the dance floor better than Foster or I, ordered another round of drinks—beers and empty shot glasses. I sent him a curious look. “Interesting choice.”
He smirked. “No more hard liquor for any of us tonight. But I thought we could take a breather, cool down, and finish Never Have I Ever the proper way.”
“I think we should take Cela home,” Foster said, his tone as stiff as his posture.
I frowned over at him. Is that really what he wanted?
“Screw that. The night is young,” Pike said, that mischievous edge back in his voice. “And your blue balls will ease up soon enough.”
Foster smirked and sent Pike a one-finger salute.
My gaze dipped down to the fly of Foster’s pants, the urge to ease that discomfort for him palpable. What would he be like when he dropped all that calm, refined control? Just the glimpse I’d seen on the dance floor had made my blood race. Part of me wished I had seduction skills already in my arsenal, like those women in the dirty books I used to borrow from my dorm mate in undergrad. I imagined crawling over to Foster, situating myself between his open thighs, and taking him in my mouth, tasting him until he made that sexy groaning sound again.
My teeth dragged along my bottom lip as I raised my lashes.
Foster’s eyes locked with mine, the fierceness of his stare stealing my breath. “Tell me what you’re thinking, Cela.”
Never have I ever . . .
Given a guy head.
Almost climaxed in public.
. . . Wanted someone so much.
“I’m thinking I need a drink.”
Foster counted to a hundred backward in his head, trying to calm down his racing heart and his determined libido. It had taken every ounce of his willpower not to drag Cela somewhere private so he could ruck up her dress, wrap her legs around his waist, and fuck her hard against a wall.
He’d known dancing with her would be a lesson in restraint, but he had no idea how goddamned responsive she’d be. She’d been on the verge of coming from the simple pressure of his leg rubbing against her—her pupils dilated, her body tightening, her sexy scent drifting to his nose and scrambling his brain. If he’d been at The Ranch, he would’ve torn her panties off her right there in the middle of the dance floor, tucked his fingers inside her, and made her scream while Pike held her up.
Fuck. His cock pushed against his zipper, and he adjusted his position again. He needed to stop letting his mind travel down those roads or he was never going to be able to sit here comfortably.
Pike poured one of the beers the waitress had brought over into three shot glasses and smiled over at Cela. “Alright, doc. The way this works is one person says ‘never have I ever,’ then lists something they’ve never done. If the other two have done it, they have to drink. If they haven’t done it, they don’t. Got it?”
She peeked over at Foster then back to Pike. “I have a feeling y’all are going to end up drinking a lot more than I am.”
Pike laid a hand on her knee and squeezed, sending a tweak of jealousy through Foster. “No worries, doc. It’s all in good fun. Why don’t you go first?”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Roni Loren and her novels
“Revved up and red-hot sexy, Roni Loren delivers a riveting romance!”—Lorelei James, New York Times bestselling author of the Blacktop Cowboys and Rough Riders series
“Hot and romantic, with an edge of suspense that will keep you entertained.”—Shayla Black, New York Times bestselling author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm torn about rating this series as 1 star because the stories are fantastic. But I wanted to warn readers not to get started if they don't want to shell out $14 for a regular length (barely) book. There are apparently 7 books in the series, each with continuing chapters from the preceding book; about five chapters per book. At $1.99 each. By the time you get rid of the copyright/table of contents/following material each one is only about 45 pages. I'm stuck, since I live them an have to know how it turns out, but I wouldn't have started if I'd known how short they were from the start and how many the f-ing publisher would force me to buy if I wanted to know the end of the story. I hope this practice doesn't gain a lot of support. I don't mind serial release but the cost for the total number of pages should be comparable to other full-length novels in the genre.
These books are so short that you can read them for free in a B&N store
This was only 40 pages long. Why even bother? For a few dollars more I could have bought a book that had more to it. I will not be buying any more of these.
Sizzling hot! A perfect read after a very stressful, frustrating, long, hard day. I love Jace, have since the first book. But got damn I'm falling for Foster. His dominance makes him appealing and sexy as hell. I liked Pike in the first part, still do but Foster and his dominant but still very caring ways make him more appealing. Foster cares about Cela even if he's trying not to. He wants to give her pleasure and give her what she wants. The way she submits to him brings out his dominance and possessive side. Pike is sweet and he's all for the threesome but that's all it is to Pike a threesome. Cela is so unsure of herself but Pike and Foster make her feel bold and she just wants to give them whatever they want to take from her. She also wants to learn to please them just as much as they're pleasing her. Great part. Can't wait for the next part. Can't wait to see what will happen to the trio and if we get to see Foster's true dominant side. Highly recommend this series.
How many pages is this? Is it one of those short short stories that really isn't a book yet? Where the writer gets my money and I am left dissapointed?
This was one of the best books I've read in a ehile, loved it
I waited till all 8 parts came out before reading......well worth the wait......wonderful love story!!!!!!
Rating: 3.5 Star Review Please note, first of all, Until You Dare by Roni Loren is Part 1 of an 8 part Not Until You e-serial. Now, I'm not exactly sure what an e-serial is, but I'm guessing that it's an e-novella that is going to be released in smaller parts. NUYD1This first installment is about 63 pages so it will barely whet your appetite if you're looking for a sexy AND short read. Well, it's certainly short and I suppose its sexy but there is no Sexy Time. But it is definitely a great start and I enjoyed reading it! We meet Cela and she's JUST graduated from Veterinary School (awesome!). She's coming home and is trying to juggle too many things in her arms when she happens upon her delectably hot neighbors in the entryway of their apartment building, who offer to take her out on the town to celebrate. I liked Cela well enough but I wouldn't say I fell in love with her. You can tell right away that she's a good person and that she studied hard while getting her degree, since this first part is from Cela's point of view. We also see that she was raised in a pretty strict Catholic household and that she's pretty sheltered. She actually decided on this college because she would be able to move away from her stifling family. She loves them very much but she also realizes that she wasn't able to do much living with them around. Her upbringing is so ingrained into her thinking that she realizes that even though she moved away so that she could live a little hasn't worked out because she hasn't done anything. She lived as she would have lived at home: doing what was right and doing what her family would have wanted her to do. Its a little sad, actually. But once Cela sees a problem, she wants to fix it. So she decides to take her sexy neighbors up on their offer to show her a good time and to celebrate her graduation... and then, the REAL fun begins! Ian Foster (Foster) and Pike are Cela's super sexy neighbors. We get a little insight into Foster since some of the story is told from his point of view. I really liked Foster and Pike. They are a lot like Yin and Yang but I suppose that's how the author wanted it. Pike is jokey and light and fun, in addition to being blonde and kind of a bad boy. Which makes sense because he's a drummer in a popular local rock band (cool!). Foster, on the other hand, is all dark and mysterious. Dark looks (glances) and dark looks (hair, eyes). And he's always wearing a suit so he's definitely not laid back. He is Mr. Buttoned-Up! What I really liked about Foster is that he's looking for more. He and Pike can get pretty much any girl they want (and regularly do) but Foster wants more than a one-night-stand and threesome with his best pal/roommate. The difficult part for Foster is that he's a dom. He has a membership in the area's exclusive BDSM club and loves it there. But he's looking for that special someone who he can be with and who he can be himself with. I can't explain it but I really like when the smokin' hot guy is looking for love and just can't find the girl he wants. I guess I like going on that quest with them, plus, it's nice to know that hot dudes don't always have it all together! The three of them (Cela, Foster and Pike) together are pretty great. They all have a great dynamic. Cela is sweet and normal and a little shy. Foster is quiet and intense but very confident. Pike is gregarious and funny and likes to joke around and tease a lot. Things are a little awkward between them at first but they quickly smooth everything over and start getting along really well and Cela is able to really open up to them. Again, there is no Sexy Time in this installment but when the three of them go to a club, it gets a little steamy. I think that once we actually get to some action between these people, that this will be a really hot book. I would recommend this but only if you can buy all of the sections together. This first part wasn't hot enough to keep my attention but if I could just continue on into the next one, I'd have been pretty happy. As it is, this first one is a great introduction to the characters. I hope I get to see what happens next!!
OMG... LOVE IT. LEAVES YOU HUNGRY FOR MORE AND MORE................
I love Roni Lorens "into you" series. So when she had a new release, of course I was excited! But for $2, this new series are not worth it to me. Maybe for $8 for the whole story (at least 300+ pages) but not for less than 65 pages in the first book and 50 in the 2nd it is not. I would really love to continue to read about Cela,Foster and Pike but I don't know if I will.
I love this series! It's like one of those great summer TV shows that gives you something better to look forward to besides just a bunch of reruns and bad reality shows.
Only 42 pages
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I thought this was awesome! I haven't read one of these I didn't like. They get better with each one. Keep them coming! I can't wait until the next one. The only recommendation would be to include christmas with her parents.
I loved all the books up until this one. I liked the story and the characters, but I did not like that it was written in first person.
The Loving on the Edge series continues to brilliantly and completely entertain in a tale of good girl who finally decides to go a little bad and the men who help her finally experience life. Cela has always been the dutiful daughter, devoted to studying and her family. Being away from home she had hoped to spread her wings, but with little time left before she heads home for a life already planned out, she finally decides to explore the fun side of life with her sexy neighbors as her guides. Cela gets more the she expected though with eye-opening sexual interludes and a complicated relationship that offers more than she ever thought possible. Cela's an immensely likable woman who's torn between living her life for herself or giving into her parent's expectations. As she's close to her family she never wants to disappoint them, but the thought of going home is too safe and boring. Giving into what her neighbor offers both scares her and tempts her as she'll have to embrace a side of herself she never knew existed in the sexy thrill ride within her reach. Foster appears to be studious and strait laced with his suits but beneath that is a sexually dominant man tired of being alone but bruised from a past relationship. He's been attracted to Cela since she moved in but he's been afraid to make a move as he doesn't want his true desires to scare her. One night he gets the opportunity he's been waiting for and though it's a rocky journey to HEA, from both internal struggles and familial interference, being with her changes him irrevocably. He's finally able to put past fears behind him and find a balance between his desires and the intense feelings he has for Cela. Foster is immensely sexy and seeing his uncertainty at the start was endearing. He's a true temptation with his talent for dirty talk and his slowly initiating Cela into the BDSM world heightens the sensuality of a relationship that already crackles. Adding to Cela's temptation is Foster's roommate, the tattooed drummer Pike, who's charming and playful. He's the more outgoing of the two and not afraid to say things that will make a girl blush. He had a rough childhood just barely hinted at but it's made him grasp onto the pleasures of life. He's a delightful dichotomy and the two roomies make Cela's walk on the wild side memorable. It's clear though that she's meant for Foster but Pike's there to make sure they reach their HEA despite all the obstacles in their way. I absolutely fell for Pike and all his rough edges. I felt sympathetic for all I imagine he went through and can't wait for his whole story to be told. This was a fast-paced read that pulled me in from the very start. While it's loosely based in the same world as the other books in the series it can stand on its own. The connection between the characters crackles with sensuality with each one immensely likable and memorable. As with the other books Ms. Loren nicely balances character with steamy erotic interludes and light BDSM play that won't offend sensitive readers. This series continues to be my obsession and I can't recommend it highly enough to readers who want steam with substance!
Originally produced as an eight part serial storyline, Not Until You, brings it all together! Roni Loren is wonderful erotic storyteller, who knows how to write about the BDSM world in an enlightening and entertaining way. Readers looking for a steamy-hot love story will find this one irresistible. Coming in between books 3 and 4 in the Loving On the Edge series, this book is all about innocence and exploration. What happens when a submissive veterinary student meets a dominate CEO? A whole lot of fun! What I liked: I have been reading Roni Loren books for a long time and it never ceases to amaze me at how Loren is able to make her stories seem so fresh and new, even though they are generally following the same theme. The BDSM lifestyle has a lot of variety and can come in many forms, but you would think that are only so many ways it can be described. Not so, and Loren is a master at giving the reader diversity and change in her novels. I like that I get a different story every time and not just a re-hashing of something the writer has already done. Not Until You is a part of the Loving On the Edge series and readers who have been there since the beginning of the story will love the way this one fits into the series. This book was originally written as an eight part serial and falls between books 3 and 4 of the series, but it can be read as a standalone as most of Loren's books can. There are some cameos with characters from previous books, like Cela's brother and other members of The Ranch a BDSM club that is a major part of the series. It ties in very well. Cela is veterinary medicine student who has just graduated. She has always been a good girl, who always did what was expected of her and never got the chance to explore her sexual desires. But in this book, she is living next door to some pretty rowdy neighbors. Pike and Foster aren't your typical roommates, in fact they share more than just the apartment. Cela is captivated and also terrified by them. Watching her start to open up and explore what she desired was like watching a flower bloom. I liked the fact that Loren chose to make Cela an innocent girl and how she introduces her to the BDSM scene and what it means to love someone who is a part of it. Foster is what I would call a man on a tight leash. He is a CEO and has a certain air of command about him. But it always seems like he's barely keeping his dominate side under control. I liked that feeling of urgency within him. He had been watching Cela for a long time and when he got the opportunity to finally spend some erotic time with her, he seemed to have a difficulty keeping it light. There was a darkness in him that was tantalizing but also a little bit scary. The relationship that develops between these two is passionate to say the least. Both of them seem to be at very different places in their lives. Cela is just starting out and Foster is more seasoned. She treats things almost like a game in the beginning and he is playing for much higher stakes. I wasn't entirely sure if Loren could bring them to the same place, but I shouldn't have worried, she is a master at bringing it all together. And what the reader gets is an intense reading experience. Bottom Line: I enjoyed this addition to the series very much. Keep in mind it is an erotic romance and there is more going on the bedroom than vanilla sex. It's intense, passionate and emotional. Loren writes BDSM with the best of them!
Billionaire Dom & Virginal Submissive: 4 stars--NOT UNTIL YOU is the latest full length storyline in Roni Loren’s LOVING ON THE EDGE contemporary, adult erotic romance series. Originally release as an eight part serial storyline NOT UNTIL YOU focuses on Master Ian Foster and reluctant submissive twenty three year old Marcela (Cela) Medina’s. Although this is the latest book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone without too much difficulty. Some of the previous storyline characters make cameo appearances. Any important information to the current storyline is imparted where necessary. NOTE: There are some M/F/M scenes as well as implied M/M/M/F situations. Told from alternating points of view including Cela and third person, NOT UNTIL YOU follows recent graduate of veterinary medicine Cela Medina. On the night of her graduation, good girl Cela wrote a list of ‘to dos’ including seducing and having sex with her two sexy and older neighbors- rock star Pike, and CEO and business owner Ian Foster. What Cela never expected was to fall in love with a man whose need for control reaches beyond the obvious. Cela is an innocent and Foster’s needs may be too much to handle. The relationship between our trio begins as a one night stand and graduation celebration where Cela will succeed with most of her ‘to do’ list but Cela’s attraction to Foster goes beyond friends with benefits. Both Foster and Pike are men with dark pasts, rooted in abuse, neglect, loss and betrayal, and in this their lifestyles reflect the need for control. It is Foster’s need to control and protect Cela that forces the man to push Cela away. Something from his past controls his present and Cela is a reminder of everything that went wrong. NOT UNTIL YOU is a storyline that is very familiar to fans of the billionaire Dom and the virginal submissive scenarios. We follow as Foster pulls Cela into his world of leather, bondage and his need to dominate both inside and outside of the bedroom. Cela is a young woman whose sexual experience is limited but Foster will show her what it is they both need and want. The sex scenes are intimate, passionate and exploratory. There are no hard core BDSM scenes although Foster’s anger does fuel one particular scenario of S&M. The secondary characters include Cela’s family (and brother Andre Medina whose story was told in MELT INTO YOU) as well as friends and Foster’s inner circle in the BDSM scene. The world building brings the reader behind the scenes of an exclusive BDSM club known as The Ranch as well as getting up close and personal with Foster’s dark past and his all consuming need to protect. Roni Loren’s LOVING ON THE EDGE series continues to explore the BDSM lifestyle intertwining romance, love and a happily ever after. All of her characters are wholly aware of the situation and no one is ever forced into something they do not want to do. There are emotional moments of realization; heartbreak and letting go, but in the end, it is love, that has the ultimate control of the other’s heart and soul.
This book has great characters, steamy scenes and love! All her books with characters tied to "The Ranch" are great! Make a point to read them all!