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Chapter 1

Lachlan

May

Torture is working side-by-side with the woman you adore—and can’t touch.

It’s a gorgeous spring afternoon in Ottawa, and outside Centre Block on Parliament Hill, flowers are blooming and people are milling around, waiting for the prime minister’s arrival.

As his chief of security, I give that go-ahead. This final sweep of the event site should be my only consideration at the moment. I shouldn’t be thinking about Beth.

But I know exactly where she is, and have from the second I stepped outside. After a year, the way she affects me shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. And yet I still find myself wondering why my head is spinning, why my core pulls tight…then she smiles and there’s no mystery at all.

Most days, we work within arm’s reach of each other. Close enough for me to memorize the elegant line of her neck, the curve of her cheekbones, the way her hazel eyes glitter differently in every light.

Definitely close enough for me to know better than to indulge a crush fueled by lusty desires, because that very closeness is exactly why she’s off-limits.

Beth Evans quietly and efficiently runs the prime minister’s world. She’s his executive assistant, his calm and steady gatekeeper.

I. Can’t. Touch. Her.

I’m not the kind of guy Beth deserves. I’m complicated and kinky. And even her tentative, curious explorations over the last year have been adorably vanilla.

The one time she got a real glimpse at my depravity, she was horrified.

Not that she stayed horrified, though. That would have been easier to handle. If anything, the chemistry between us has ratcheted up lately.

I still can’t touch her.

And I want to with every aching part of my soul.

Now I search for her, as I always do, and unerringly, I find her in seconds. She pauses her conversation and looks up, as if she can feel my gaze.

Moments like this burn at me. If only… But there’s no way to finish that statement.

Then the tension ebbs as she takes a deep breath and returns to her task at hand, but it doesn’t take her long to wrap it up. I watch her the whole time as she walks across from where she’d been chatting with the catering manager. She gives me a cool, professional smile. “Good to go?”

I return the exact same expression, but where she looks right at me, I can’t bring myself to hold her sharp gaze. I have to look just above her head. “Yep.”

“Lachlan…”

“Not now.”

“No, you don’t get to tell me that.” She sighs as my radio crackles. “Or maybe you do. Saved by the bell.”

She’s been trying to talk to me for two days now about something personal, and I’ve been dodging her, because…

Well, because I’m a fucking idiot, mostly. But the shit between us is complicated, and two months ago it got even more complicated when Hugh Evans slammed back into my life.

“After the party,” I tell her, my heart sinking. I’m pretty sure she’s met a new guy. There’s a lightness to her step that’s been missing over the last year.

It’s a good thing.

Beth deserves all good things.

But it makes me want to crawl into a bottle of scotch and die.

Today, of all days. Today marks one year since we met, one year since Gavin was elected in a stunning upset, a come-from-behind victory that catapulted Beth from an ordinary Hill staffer to the Keeper of the PM’s Everything. One year since I walked into a meeting with the brand-new PM and his staff. I fell in love, head-over-fucking-stupid-heels with the sharp-eyed, smart-mouthed brunette with the legs that go on for miles.

It’s also been one year since I made myself promise I’d never act on those feelings.

“Sure, after the party,” she says, lightly touching my forearm.

I lock down the part of my brain that thinks about Beth non-stop. The part that wants to turn in to that touch, let her fingers sizzle my skin.

The next ninety minutes tick by exactly as expected. Gavin pulls out a two-four of beer for those who don’t want champagne. A cheer goes up for that, yet another example of how he knows how to read a crowd just right.

They have good reason to celebrate. This is a government nobody thought would be formed. The underdog prime minister and his merry men. In the past year, Gavin Strong has proved himself a confident international diplomat and a caring national leader.

And personally, a good friend.

As soon as he says a final thanks and heads inside, members of my team with him, I allow my gaze to snap back to Beth.

She’s hopped onto a table to sit, her legs swinging gently as she leans back on one hand. After a long winter of tights, tall boots, long skirts, and heavy wool pants, the dirty dog part of me is fucking pleased to see her in flirty summer dresses again. Ottawa winters are too damn long when all one gets is lusting from afar.

Today’s dress is floaty and soft looking, a couple of layers of flower print fabric over a slip of silk against her skin. Earlier she had a blazer on over it, but she’s taken that off now, and has it bunched up in the hand that’s leaning on the table.

In the other hand, there’s a nearly-empty champagne flute.

She’s talking to Gavin’s chief of staff, Stewart Rochard, and as she nods her head along to the conversation, her short, dark hair swings around her face in a sharp bob.

Not long enough to wrap around my fist, but the perfect length for her to role-play a sexually adventurous flapper girl.

Not that I’ve had any speakeasy fantasies about Beth or anything. Ha. I don’t kid myself. When she sets her glass down and shimmies off the table and saunters towards me, I let myself go there, just for a second.

And then, as always, I lock it down.

I nod when she stops in front of me.

“Done being the guy in charge?” she asks lightly.

“For now. Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” Technically I’m still on duty, but I’m not on Gavin’s personal guard at the moment, and I can walk across the street with Beth.

She parts her lips, then stops and shakes her head. “Not today.”

“Of course.”

“I do…”

“It’s okay.” This is another reason why I haven’t asked her out. Because we can’t even coordinate going out for coffee and we work together every single day in a high-level way. Things getting awkward between us is not an option.

“Actually, I have a date,” she says, her eyebrows tugging in ever-so-slightly as she holds my gaze. “That’s what I wanted to tell you.”

A date. It’s a punch to the gut that I deserve, and one I saw coming. I manage to make a guttural sound of acknowledgement, but nothing else comes out.

“I’m hoping it won’t be awkward.” Her voice is smooth, practiced. How did we end up in this place, where she’s had to rehearse how to tell me that she’s seeing someone else?

Let me take you out instead, I want to say, but it’s too late. I had my chance. Three hundred and sixty-five of them. “Not awkward at all. You don’t need to tell me about your private life, either. I mean, I’m happy for you. But—”

“It’s just that it’s—” She stops and glances behind me.

I realize who her date is with before I turn around. I can feel Hugh’s smug grin penetrating my back, and when I do glance back, there it is—but even though his expression is entirely meant to set my brain on fire, and it does, his gaze is locked on Beth like she’s the only person in the world he can see.

I know that feeling well.

She’s hypnotic.

There’s only one other person that has ever made me feel anything close to what I feel for Beth. And it’s entirely because of how explosive—and disastrous—my affair with Hugh was ten years ago that I can’t allow myself to go there with Beth.

Hugh doesn’t share my concern about mixing business and pleasure, though.

He never has.

Didn’t care that he burned me a decade ago.

Doesn’t care now that he’s playing with fire again.

Fucking Hugh. Tall, dark, and arrogant. He’s a sexual pyromaniac, and since I’ve refused to even talk to him outside of work, he’s turned to Beth.

I grind my teeth, but I can’t make a scene. Not here.

“Ready to go?” he asks her, and she brushes past me, her fingers sweeping across my arm just below where I’ve rolled up my shirt sleeves.

“Definitely.” She casts one last, quick glance back at me. “See you tomorrow, Lachlan.”

I cross my arms as I give her a curt nod, and I watch them head across the lawn towards Spark Street.

I can’t follow them.

I won’t follow them.

My radio crackles to life.

Fucking hell. The reality is, if I had half a chance to sneak along behind and spy on their date, I probably would.

I rub my hand across the muscles of my forearm before I press the talk button. I can still feel her touch there. But duty calls. “This is Ross, go ahead.”

 

Chapter 2

Hugh

 

I unbutton my suit jacket and loosen my tie as we navigate around the tourists taking pictures in front of Parliament. Heading out after work was Beth’s idea—and it took me long enough to get her to say yes that I wasn’t going to argue.

“Where are we heading?” she asks as we stop at the street that separates Parliament Hill from the rest of downtown Ottawa.

“There’s a cocktail bar a few blocks from here I’ve heard good things about.”

Her face lights up. “Intermezzo? I’ve been meaning to go there!”

I know she has. I saw her reading a newspaper article about it a few days ago, and when she agreed to go out with me, the first thing I did was call and reserve a booth.

There’s nothing I like more than a first date. The potential is huge, and the expectations are low. Let’s be honest—most people think first dates are utter shit.

Then I come along.

It’s cocky to say that I give a good first date, but I’m cocky—and first dates aren’t the only thing I’m good at giving.

First dates are foreplay.

I’ve spent my entire adult life in unapologetic pursuit of giving good foreplay. Flirting, first dates, second dates, second base, third base—a personal favourite—I love everything about the build-up towards sex.

There’s a lot you can learn about a sexual partner through foreplay. How they like to flirt and talk and touch is all good intel when it comes to finally getting them naked and in your bed.

And that’s what this date is all about—getting Beth Evans naked. Not tonight—foreplay takes time—but soon. My bed, her bed, Lachlan’s desk when he’s away…I’m easy about where we eventually fuck.

But seducing a woman like Beth is a long game. For a bunch of reasons, like she deserves to be wooed, and her standards are justifiably high. But the most important reason is she’s clearly in love with Lachlan.

Sure, I should probably feel bad about poaching her, but I don’t. Just because she’s got a flame for Lachlan doesn’t mean I can’t treat her right while she’s waiting for him to unfuck himself and his precious feelings.

As we wait for the streetlight to turn green, I brush my arm against hers. Light, casual touches are important on first dates. They say, if all goes well, I’ll be happy to hold your hand, but I’m not going to be pushy about it.

They’re also an excellent test of chemistry.

And every time I touch Beth—when I reach across her desk to borrow a pen that just happens to be in her hands, when I drop my arm if we’re walking next to each other, or nudge her shoulder—there’s a warm sizzle under my skin.

This one’s magic, the sizzle says.

Beth plays her cards close to her chest. I have no idea if she feels the sizzle too. If she doesn’t yet, that’s okay. It can take time to figure out that connection. Sometimes it needs coaxing. And if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay, too.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, although none of them are quite as pretty as Beth.

There’s something about her—like she gives zero fucks about shit that doesn’t matter, but when something is important to her, she’s all in with her entire heart. She loves her job, that much is clear, and right now that’s where all of her focus lies.

Over the last two months, I’ve learned: she doesn’t have a boyfriend; her last relationship was serious, but they didn’t live together; it ended because he was a dick about her job getting more complicated when her boss became the prime minister; and she knows she’s better off without that guy.

All of that is good stuff.

I’ve also learned a lot about her and Lachlan.

None of which is good stuff, not really. Not because they shouldn’t end up together—they probably should, although I’m not magnanimous enough to want that for them.

No, I want them for myself. Choosing would be impossible, but Lachlan’s made the choice for me. He’s not interested in me right now and he’s throwing up all the barriers between him and Beth.

Right now, taking Beth out for a drink and then dinner? I’m practically doing a public service.

* * *

The bar is everything I’d hoped it would be and more. We’re seated in an intimate booth near the back, and our bartender is a hot young guy who flirts just enough to get a good tip, but reads my body language and gets that we’re on a date.

Beth orders a glass of Prosecco. “I had champagne at the party. I should probably stick to wine if I want to keep my faculties about me.”

I grin. “Now what fun is there in that?”

She laughs, a full-bodied throaty sound that sends a healthy surge of blood to my groin. “You’re dangerous.”

“I can be.”

She gives me a long, perusing look. “Good.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve been a bad influence on someone, though.”

“You think I’m a good girl?”

“Oh, I hope not.” I get another laugh there and she leans back against the booth. The bartender returns with our drinks, bubbly wine for her and rye on the rocks for me. I watch as she murmurs her thanks, her lips curving in a sexy smile.

I lift my drink once we’re alone again. “To a little break from work and reality.”

She tips her glass against mine. “Yes, please. It’s been far too long.”

“All work and no play?”

“Exactly.” She presses her lips together, and I know what she’s going to say next. “It’s not that I don’t love my job—”

I reach across the table to touch her hand. “Beth, I don’t think anyone in the country loves their job more than you do. But it’s okay to say it’s been a long year.”

She groans and nods at the same time. “Such a long year.”

I take a sip of my drink and watch her over the rim of the glass. She’s very good at schooling her features. I don’t want her to have to do that around me. So I watch, and wait, and eventually she finds my gaze. “What?”

“Tell me about it.”

“No.”

“Yes, please.”

She laughs. “I don’t think that’s great first date conversation.”

“No?” I shift a bit closer to her around the small, circular table in our booth. Not crowding, just getting more friendly. “I’d wager the most important thing to test on a first date is how good a listener someone is.”

Her eyebrows bob up for a second, then settle back into place. A momentary flash of surprise. “Maybe about other things, but work is so ordinary.”

“Again, there’s nothing ordinary about your job. But let’s say there was. Let’s say you worked as an office manager or a nurse or a hairdresser. Or a cop.” I point to myself. “Where every day is the same old thing, over and over again. You don’t think I want to date someone who’s willing to listen to boring?”

She tips her head to the side, thinking about that. “Good point.”

“Tell me about the most boring part of your job.”

“When Gavin’s gone, it’s deathly quiet,” she says immediately. “I’m still not used to that. It was never like that when he was just an MP. But now so much of what he does either travels with him, or is handled in the PMO across the street.” She gestures in the general direction of Langevin Block, the office building across from Parliament Hill where most of the PM’s staff have office space. It’s a select few that work in Centre Block.

“I hadn’t thought about it like that.” I frown. I’ve only been a part of the prime minister’s security detail for two months, but in that time we’ve been away from Ottawa an awful lot. And for the most part, Beth stays behind. “I’m sorry.”

She waves it off. “It’s fine. It’s insane the rest of the time.”

“I’ve seen some of that.”

She snorts. “Like the last-minute schedule upheavals?”

“And the million phone calls you make, ever so sweetly, to resolve conflicts with seeming ease.”

“That’s my superpower.” She winks, but I like that she knows it, even if she’s teasing.

“It is.” I lean over, and we’re close enough for our arms to touch. “I like it a lot.”

She glances sideways at me. “Yeah?”

I hold her gaze as it grows warm. “Yeah.”

She shifts closer, closing the gap between us. Her arm presses against mine—again with the sizzle—and she looks out of the booth, a smile playing on her lips as she searches for the bartender. “Maybe we could have another drink before dinner?”

Most definitely.

* * *

We end up walking to the restaurant, where we take our time over three slow, amazing courses of food before winding our way back to Parliament Hill. Hours have passed since we left on our date, and I didn’t drink anything over dinner because I knew I wanted to drive her home.

She skipped wine with dinner, too. Because faculties and first dates.

Smart, and sexy.

The walk back is charged with electricity. Our conversation flows, interspersed with laughter and more and more brushing touches of hands and arms. Glances sideways that make us smile. I finally take her hand a few blocks from the Hill and the conversation fades in a good way.

My pulse is thumping as we slowly drift around to the priority parking lot for the RCMP detail.

Yeah, I really like first dates.

And tonight is right up there as the best first date I’ve ever had. Only one other rivals it, and that one probably doesn’t count because the guy I was with didn’t realize it was a date.

But he doesn’t get to intrude on this moment. Right now, all I can see is Beth. We stop beside my car. I rest my hand in the small of her back as I reach past her and open the passenger door.

At the bar, I’d caught the faintest whiff of vanilla and brown sugar, and now I get another hit of it, a heady mix that I get to breathe in and in and in because she doesn’t move to get into the car. Instead, she turns towards me and lightly touches my jacket with her free hand. “I’m glad we did this,” she says softly.

I brush my fingers over her cheek, then I touch her hair for the first time. It’s glossy and smooth, the dark brown strands sliding over my fingers. I want to muss her up. I want to see what she looks like after a night of sex, lips swollen and hair wild.

I settle for the briefest of kisses, a light brush of my lips against hers that feels anything but simple. She makes a little noise in the back of her throat, and I run my fingers down her neck, over her shoulder, and along her bare arm.

She shivers, and I kiss her again before picking up her hand and pressing my lips to her knuckles, too.

“Let me take you home,” I say. I mean it however she wants me to mean it.

She sways towards me. “I want to be smart about this,” she whispers, twisting her hand out of mine and pressing her fingers against my chest, this time inside my jacket.

She doesn’t need to spell out how complicated her feelings are. I draw her in close, wrapping her in a hug that she leans right into. God, she feels perfect in my arms—soft and sweet and strong at the same time. “You know what I think we should do?” I murmur against her hair. “Go on a second date. Talk more. Kiss some more. And not worry too much about anything else.”

She inhales slowly, her ribcage expanding under my touch, then she lets it out. Slow. Steady. Thinking.

I didn’t want him to intrude on this date, but maybe that was impossible to avoid. I squeeze her tight. “Do you want to talk about Lachlan?”

She laughs. “God, no.”

“I’m not trying to stake some kind of claim here. We’re not going to be two bucks fighting over you.” I ease up my hug, and she leans back far enough to look at me, her eyes searching my face. Did that surprise her? “I’m not the jealous type. If anything, I usually get dinged for being a little too Mr. Free Love.”

“An interesting thing to advertise at the end of a first date,” she says, a hint of laughter drifting back into her voice.

“But maybe the right thing to tell you?”

She smiles. “Maybe. Yes. I’m not in a good place to get serious right now.” She hesitates, and I hear the unspoken, but if I were, I’d have thought it would be with Lachlan, the stubborn and confusing jackass.

“Let me drive you home.” I change the offer to make it clear I’m good with whatever she wants. “And we can talk about what we want to do for our second date.”

She directs me to her apartment, a short drive away, and I park just down the street.

This time, she’s the one who takes my hand as we step onto the sidewalk. She lives in a tall apartment building with decent security, so we stop in front of the passcode-protected entrance.

She doesn’t punch in her access code right away. She doesn’t let go of my hand, either.

Fuck me. “I want to kiss you again,” I admit, my voice a bit rough.

She bites her lip and smiles. “Good?”

I laugh and pull her close, both of my hands sliding into her hair. This one isn’t going to be chaste, not after that saucy little display.

Her lips part for me and I get my first taste of her for real. So fucking good. Sweet and bright, like the sun at high noon, and just as far away. I chase her, curling my tongue around hers, and she welcomes my exploration. It’s playful and hot, a flash of what she’ll be like in bed.

Will be. Definitely betting on that happening now. She’ll want to be on top. There will be lots of laughter, and teasing.

I move my hands down her body, forming the shape of her through her soft sundress. My fingers tighten on her hips, and the urge to walk her back, to press her up against the bricks is almost overwhelming.

But her dress feels delicate, silky, and ruining a date’s outfit is bad etiquette. So I turn us around and press my own back against the wall as I spread my legs, urging her into the space between them.

She comes so eagerly it makes my cock pulse with anticipation.

Down boy, we’re not doing more than this tonight.

But soon. I can’t wait to get inside her.

She presses in closer, nestling my growing erection against the soft swell of her belly. “I wish we’d done this sooner,” she whispers, kissing my jaw.

I close my eyes and try to do some advanced algebra. Her breath on my skin is dangerous. “We’re doing it now, and that’s all that matters.”

But that’s a simplification of the situation, a fact that’s rammed home when I open my eyes and over the top of her head, I see the outline of a familiar body leaning against a car in the shadows across the street.

What the fuck?

I tense, and Beth shifts against me.

How long has Lachlan been watching us?

And even as my brain churns in outrage, something else kicks in deep in my gut. I weave my fingers into her hair again and tug her head back.

This time my kiss is more deliberately seductive. I’m doubling down on what I want to prove—to both of them. I want to cement her desire for a second date. And I want there to be zero fucking doubt on Lachlan’s part that he’s missing out.

I don’t want to be a dick—well, maybe I do—but there’s something else about knowing Lachlan’s watching, too. Something hot and uncomfortable—but mostly just plain hot.

We both like women. We both like men, too—maybe me more than him, but we definitely liked each other at one point.

But this? We’ve never performed for each other. I’ve never kissed a woman in front of him. Now I am, and it’s a woman he’s not just interested in, but probably a woman he’s stupidly in love with, not that he’ll allow himself to go there.

That should be a cruel thought.

It doesn’t feel mean, though. And the way Beth is surrendering to me, pliant and gorgeous, it doesn’t feel like my kiss has been lacking in any way on the receiving end.

I forget that we’re being watched. Or I stop caring, because she’s soft and warm and she’s got her hands inside my jacket, so all that’s between us is my dress shirt and the soft fabric covering her breasts, and my brain goes primal.

Woman. Breasts. Mine. Get naked.

It’s Beth who finally ends the kiss, slowly and sweetly.

“Goodnight.” She presses her hand against my chest. Message clear—thanks for the smoking hot kiss, but you can’t come up tonight.

I want to. Fuck, I want to so much it hurts. And the way she swayed against me, pressing herself against my cock, I know there’s a part of her that wants me to as well.

And if Lachlan weren’t across the street, probably steaming mad by now, I’d want to walk her upstairs just to make sure she got into her apartment safely.

But I have no doubt that when I walk away, he’s going to do that instead.

Maybe that’s the way this needs to go.

I burn hot under the collar at the thought of him finishing what I’ve started here. Him tasting, touching, taking the soft wetness I’ve caused between her legs.

I’m going to go home, that burn aching at me the whole way. I kiss her again, lightly this time. “I can’t wait to do this again.”

She touches her fingertips to my jaw and makes a sweet little sound before taking a deep breath. “Same here. Thank you.”

Stepping back, I watch as she punches in her code and the apartment door unlocks. I take a few more steps down the path as she turns around, her skirt swinging around those stunning legs.

When I drag my gaze back to her face, she’s watching me, her lips curled into a smile.

I wonder how long it’ll take Lachlan to make his presence known to her.

Fuck.

 

Chapter 3

Beth

As I walk into the lobby of my building, I turn my head for a final glimpse of Hugh through the glass doors.

He gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside I haven’t had in a long time. Hugh, of all people. I watch as he disappears from sight.

But the warmth he’s filled me with vanishes as I catch sight of Lachlan standing across the street, hands in his pockets, staring towards my building.

My heart starts pounding. Spying on me like a…like… I have no words, but a hell of a lot of feelings. The gall of him. I turn away and hit the button for the elevator.

The intercom for the main door is buzzing away by the time I let myself into my condo.

I should ignore it, but I can’t.

We need to have this out and it’s probably better for it to happen here, where it’s private. Things have been strained in the office enough as it is.

I pick up the phone and hit the intercom button.

“Yes?”

He hesitates, not that he needs to say anything. I know exactly who it is. “It’s Lachlan. Can I come up?”

I don’t bother to respond, I just buzz him in. He’s never been here, but I don’t doubt for a moment he knows everything about where I live.

It doesn’t take long for his knock to come at the door.

He’s looking rough. His suit is rumpled, and a day’s worth of scruff covers his normally clean-shaven face. Seeing him with his mask dropped like this really shouldn’t make me wet, but it does. He does, always.

That doesn’t stop me from being angry with him, though.

“Come in,” I bite out as I open the door wider, allowing him through before I close and lock it.

I turn to face him, hands on my hips. I don’t bother offering a seat. I don’t plan for him to be here any longer than it takes for me to give him the sharp side of my tongue.

“If you’re here about me going on a date with Hugh, you can just—”

“I was here to make sure you got home safely.”

“You don’t trust a member of your own security team?”

“With you? I don’t trust anyone.”

I swallow a scream, because that is beyond frustrating. I tamp it down and try to let it out in a long, slow exhale. It half works and I groan.

He steps towards me and reaches out, setting his hands on my shoulders. He crouches slightly so our eyes are level. “Beth, he’s using you for sex.”

Yesterday, I would have welcomed the feel of Lachlan’s hands on my bare skin, but now…

Now, it just fuels my anger.

“Well, it’s about time somebody did.” Because it’s not like I haven’t given you enough chances over the past year.

His eyes flare at that. Yeah, jerkface. I’m going to talk about sex if you storm into my apartment after the hottest makeout session ever. Deal. But I don’t say that out loud.

He curses under his breath, and his fingers tighten on my upper arms before he lets me go. He looks to the ceiling as he drags his fingers through his hair, and I immediately miss his warmth.

“Damn it, Beth, I’m just trying keep you from getting hurt.”

“The PM is the only person you need to keep from getting hurt. I can take care of myself.”

“I’m not saying you can’t. But, I know Hugh—”

I hold up my hand. I don’t want to hear his overprotective nonsense. They worked together a decade earlier. From the fiery clash they had when Hugh first showed up in Ottawa, I’d gleaned they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. But in the end, Lachlan hadn’t objected to Hugh’s posting to Gavin’s security detail. And over the last two months they’d been nothing but professional to each other. “It’s been ten years. I can’t imagine either of you are the same men now as you were back then.”

“Some things never change, no matter how much time passes.”

“That may be, but I’m capable of coming to my own conclusions about a man. And I think you’re underestimating how open Hugh is about the kind of man he is—and isn’t.”

Lachlan’s eyes flare wide. “What did he tell you?”

Interesting reaction. Now I want to know what Lachlan knows. I almost laugh, but he doesn’t see anything funny about this situation, so I’m not going to push any more of his buttons tonight. I take a deep breath. “He told me he’s not looking for anything serious. So you can—”

“You deserve serious.”

“I want fun. And besides, how am I supposed to find someone to get serious about when you keep cock-blocking me?”

“That’s—” He cuts himself off. A muscle twitching in his cheek is the only reaction I get. It’s probably the only one he can’t control.

What, he doesn’t like me accusing him cock-blocking?

Well, I don’t like anything about this. And frankly, if he’s going to be this difficult, I don’t know why I’m holding back. He came to me. He got in my face about this, and now I’m going to blast him right back.

I jam my finger into his chest. “You know what? If Hugh wants to use me for sex, that’s just fine. He can use me like that any time he wants.”

“Beth…”

“And you really should know that it didn’t feel like he was using me when he kissed me.” I drop my voice. “It felt good. He felt good.”

He groans deep in his throat. I jab my finger at him again, but my hand is shaking now, and it skips off the hard planes of his broad chest. He grabs my wrist, holding me still.

“You can’t tell me who to kiss,” I whisper, my voice cracking.

“I know.” His voice is equally ragged, but he’s not shaking at all. He’s tense all over. Tense and big and suddenly, right up against me. His mouth crushes against mine, the kiss demanding and primal, and before I can stop myself I’m kissing him back.

It’s messy and confusing. It’s also probably wrong, but oh my God, Lachlan is kissing me. It’s totally different from Hugh’s kiss.

But it feels just as right.

Before I can stop it, I’m dragged into the feelings of it, the hunger and bite, the desperate need zinging between us.

A kiss a year in the making.

A kiss that should have happened for a hundred other reasons, not insane jealousy. But I don’t care, I’ll take this however I can get it.

And before I can get enough, it’s a kiss that ends with a curse.

Lachlan drags himself back, and I find myself following him. No. He shakes his head and I skid to a halt.

No, no, no, I want to scream at him, but he’s backing away just as fast as he came at me.

I watch, regret building inside me so fast it hurts, as he lurches backwards and turns, letting himself out of my apartment without a word of explanation or apology or even rejection.

Nothing.

Communication has never been his strong suit, but this kind of takes the fucking cake.

Men.

Two kisses in one night.

Two men who couldn’t be more different. Now what the hell do I do?


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~ Ainsley & Sadie

A Year In the Making