Beautiful Player [Beautiful Series]

Chapter 12

The only reason I ever skipped a run was if I was deathly ill or on a plane headed somewhere. So Monday morning, I hated myself a little for shutting off my alarm and rolling back over into the pillow. I just had no interest in seeing Hanna.

But as soon as I had the thought, I had to consider its accuracy. I didn’t want to see Ziggy, bouncing and chatting away as if she hadn’t blown me apart two nights ago with her body and words and needs in the guise of Hanna. And I knew if Ziggy showed up this morning, acting like Saturday night never happened, it would wreck me a little.

I’d been raised by a single mother, with two older sisters who didn’t give me any choice but to understand women, know women, love women. In one of the two serious relationships in my life, I’d talked to my girlfriend about the possibility that this comfort with women worked out pretty well for me when I hit puberty and ended up wanting to have sex with every girl I met. I think that girlfriend had been trying to not-so-subtly hint that I manipulated women by pretending to listen. I didn’t probe the issue much; we broke up pretty soon after that.

But whatever my comfort with the opposite sex, it didn’t seem to help me at all with Hanna. She felt like a separate creature, a separate species. She threw all my experience out the window.

Somehow, when I fell back asleep I started dreaming about fucking her on a giant pile of sports equipment. A lacrosse stick dug into my back but I didn’t care. I just watched her rock on top of me, eyes clear and locked to mine, her hands moving up and around my chest.

My phone buzzed beneath me, wedged into my spine, and I woke with a start. Glancing at my clock, I realized I’d overslept; it was nearly eight thirty. I answered without looking, assuming it was Max asking me where the fuck I was for our Monday morning meeting.

“Yeah, man. I’ll be there in an hour.”

“Will?”

Fuck. “Oh, hey.” My heart squeezed so tightly beneath my ribs that I groaned, and ran a hand over my mouth to stifle it.

“You’re still asleep?” Hanna asked. She sounded out of breath.

“I was, yeah.”

She paused, and the wind on the other end whipped through the phone line. She was outside and out of breath. She’d gone running without me. “Sorry to wake you.”

I closed my eyes, pressing a fist to my forehead. “Don’t worry about it.”

She stayed quiet for a few long, painful seconds and in that time we had several different conversations in my head. One where she told me I was being a dick. One where she apologized for implying that I could be so cavalier about the intense night we had. One where she prattled on about nothing in particular, Ziggy-style. And one where she asked if she could come over.

“I went running,” she said. “I thought you’d started and maybe I’d see you on the trail.”

“You thought I started without you?” I asked, laughing. “That would be rude.”

She didn’t answer and I realized too late that what I had done—not shown up, not even bothered to call—was just as bad.

“Shit, Ziggs, I’m sorry.”

She sucked in a sharp breath. “So I’m Ziggy today. Interesting.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled, and then hated myself immediately. “No. Fuck, I don’t know who you are this morning.” I kicked away my sheets, willing my groggy brain to wake the fuck up already. “It messes with my head to call you Hanna.”

It makes me think you’re mine, I didn’t add.

Laughing sharply, she started walking again, the wind whipping even louder through the receiver. “Get over your man-angst, Will. We had sex. You’re supposed to do this kind of thing better than anyone. I’m not asking for a key to your apartment.” She paused, and my heart dropped into my stomach as I understood how my distance was coming across to her. She assumed I was brushing her off. I opened my mouth to backpedal, but her words came out faster: “I’m not even asking for a repeat, you egomaniacal jerk.”

And with that, she hung up.

I requested we move our regular group lunch from Tuesday to Monday on the basis that I’d lost my balls and my mind, and no one argued. It seemed that I’d reached a level of moony lovesickness that made giving me shit a lot less fun for my friends.

We met at Le Bernardin, ordered whatever we always ordered, and life seemed to move on as it had for the past nine months. Max kissed Sara until she batted him away. Bennett and Chloe pretended to hate each other over the salad she insisted they split for lunch, in some confusing form of flirty foreplay. The only thing that seemed different was that I drank my alcoholic lunch beverage in less than five minutes and then earned a raised eyebrow from our regular waiter when I ordered another.

“I think I’m the Kitty,” I said once the waiter left. When conversation came to a screeching halt, I registered that my friends had been happily babbling on about whateverthefuck while my brain was practically melting next to them.

“With Hanna?” I clarified, searching each of their faces for any sign of understanding. “I’m the Kitty. I’m the one saying I’m fine with just fucking around, but I’m not. I’m the one saying I’ll be happy to fuck only on the third Tuesday of odd-numbered months just so I can be with her. She’s the one who’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t need to hook up again.’ ”

I was met with Chloe’s flat palm held up in my face. “Hold up, William. You’re fucking her?”

I sat up straight, eyes wide and defensive. “She’s twenty-four, not thirteen, Chloe. What the hell?”

“I don’t care that you’re fucking her—I care that you’ve fucked her and she didn’t call one of us immediately. When did this happen?”

“Saturday. Two days ago; settle down,” I mumbled.

She sat back, expression softening somewhat.

Relaxing, I reached for my new drink almost as soon as the waiter put it in front of me. But Max was faster, pulling it out of my reach before I could get it. “We have an afternoon meeting with Albert Samuelson and I need you sharp.”

I nodded, bending to rub my eyes. “I hate all of you.”

“For being right?” Bennett correctly surmised.

I ignored him.

“Have you actually ended things with Kitty and Kristy?” Sara asked gently.

Fuck. This again.

I shook my head. “Why should I? There’s nothing going on with Hanna.”

“Except you have feelings for her,” Sara pressed, eyebrows drawn together. I hated her disapproval. Of any of my friends, Sara only gave me shit when it was fully deserved.

“I just figure why create more drama right now,” I reasoned, lamely.

“Has Hanna actually said that she doesn’t want anything more with you?” Chloe asked.

“It’s pretty obvious from the way she acted Sunday morning.”

Already nodding, Max added, “I hate to state the obvious, mate, but why haven’t you had the Will Sumner sit-down with her? Aren’t you sort of proving the long-suffering point you always throw at us regarding your hookups: that it’s better to discuss things up front than leave questions?”

“Because,” I explained, “it’s easy to have that convo when you know what you want and don’t want.”

“Well, what do you know?” Max asked, shifting to the side so the waiter could place his food down in front of him.

“I know I don’t want Hanna fucking anyone else,” I growled.

“Well,” Bennett began wincing slightly, “what if I told you I saw Kitty clearly hooking up with someone else the other night?”

Relief inundated me. “Did you?”

He shook his head. “No. But your reaction sure is telling. Fix things with Hanna. Figure your shit out with Kitty.” Picking up his fork, he said, “And now shut up so we can eat.”

I was up at five fifteen the next morning, waiting outside Hanna’s apartment building. I knew that now that she had a taste for running she wouldn’t miss a day. I had to fix things with her. . . . I just wasn’t sure how to do it yet.

She drew up short when she saw me, eyes widening before she put on a calm, unaffected mask. “Oh, hi, Will.”

“Good morning.”

She started to walk past me, eyes straight ahead. Her shoulder brushed mine as she passed, and I could tell from the way she winced that it had been unintentional.

“Wait,” I said, and she stopped but didn’t turn around. “Hanna.”

She sighed. “And today it’s Hanna again.”

I walked to where she stood, turning to face her and putting my hands on her shoulders. I didn’t miss the way she shivered slightly. Was it anger or the same thrill at contact I felt? “It’s always been Hanna.”

Her eyes darkened. “It wasn’t yesterday.”

“Yesterday I fucked up, okay? I’m sorry I didn’t show for our run, and I’m sorry I came off like a dick.”

She watched me, eyes wary. “An epic dick.”

“I know I’m supposed to be the one who knows what I’m doing here, but I’ll admit that Saturday night was different for me.” Her eyes softened, shoulders relaxing. I continued, my voice quieter, “It was intense, okay? And I realize that this sounds insane, but I was a little taken aback when you were so casual about it the next day.”

I let go of her shoulders, stepping back to give her space.

She looked at me as if I’d sprouted the head of a lizard from my forehead. “How was I supposed to be? Weird? Angry? In love?” Shaking her head, she said, “I’m not sure what exactly I did wrong. I thought I handled it pretty well. I thought I acted just like you would have told me to if it was anyone else I’d had sex with.” She blushed, hotly, and I had to push my hands into the pockets of my hoodie to keep them to myself.

I took a deep breath. This was the moment I could tell her, I have feelings for you I haven’t had before. I’ve been struggling with them since the first second I saw you, weeks ago. I don’t know what these feelings mean, but I want to find out.

But I wasn’t ready for that. I looked up at the sky. I was clueless and had no idea what I was doing. For all I knew, this was nothing more than what I’d feel if I were having sex with anyone whose family I’d known forever; a protectiveness, a yearning to take caution with both of our feelings. I needed more time to sort things out.

“I’ve known your family for so long,” I said, turning back to her. “It isn’t the same as hooking up with some random person, no matter how much we want it to be casual. You’re more to me than just someone I want to be sexual with, and . . .” I ran my hand over my face. “I’m just trying to be careful, okay?”

I wanted to punch myself. I was pussing out. Everything I’d said was true, but it was a flimsy half-truth. It wasn’t only just about knowing her for so many years. It was wanting to know her, like this, for so many more.

She closed her eyes for a beat, and when she opened them, she was looking to the side, to some unknown point in the distance. “Okay,” she murmured.

“Okay?”

Finally she looked up at me and smiled. “Yeah.” Tilting her head in indication that we should get moving, she turned and soon our feet were slapping the pavement in an easy, steady rhythm, but I had no idea what conclusion we’d just reached.

It was gorgeous out, for the first time in months, and even though it was probably still under forty degrees, it felt like spring. The sky was clear, no clouds or gray shadows, just light, and sun and crisp air. Only three blocks from her house, I grew too warm, and I slowed slightly, pulling my long-sleeved thermal up and over my head and then tucked it into the back of my track pants.

I heard the sound of a toe butting into pavement, and before I knew what was happening, Hanna was sprawled out on the sidewalk, the wind knocked from her in a forceful gust.

“Holy crap, are you okay?” I asked, kneeling next to her and helping her sit up.

It was several long seconds before she could inhale and when she did, it was loud and desperate. I hated that sensation more than almost anything, getting all of the air knocked out of my lungs. She’d tripped on a large crack in the sidewalk and landed hard, her arms pressed to her ribs. Her pants were torn at one knee, and she was holding on to her ankle.

“Owwww,” she groaned, rocking.

“Shit,” I murmured, reaching behind her knees and around her waist, picking her up. “Let’s get you home and ice that.”

“I’m fine,” she managed, struggling to keep me from lifting her.

“Hanna.”

Swatting at my hands, she begged, “Don’t carry me, Will, you’ll break your arms.”

I laughed. “Hardly. You’re not heavy, and it’s three blocks.”

She gave in, wrapping her arms around my neck.

“What happened?”

Hanna was quiet, and when I ducked my head to catch her eye, she laughed. “You took off your shirt.”

Confused, I murmured, “I had another shirt on, you goof.”

“No, I mean, the tattoos.” She shrugged. “It’s been cold. I’ve only seen them a couple of other times, but I saw a lot of them on Saturday, and it made me think . . . I looked over just now . . .”

“And fell?” I asked, laughing despite my better judgment.

Groaning, she whispered, “Yes. Shut up.”

“Well, you can stare at them while I carry you,” I told her. “And feel free to nibble on my earlobes while we walk,” I whispered, smiling. “You know I like your teeth.”

She laughed, but not for long, and as soon as I’d caught up with her and realized what I’d said the tension grew into a heavy thing between us. I moved down the sidewalk to her building and with every step in silence, the monster tension only grew. It was the unspoken oh, right, the way I’d so casually referenced how she knew what I liked in bed, the reality of where we were heading—her apartment, where we’d had sex all night long Saturday.

I dug around inside my head for what to say, but the only words that bubbled right near the surface were words about us, or that night, or her, or my own fucked-up brain. I put her down when we reached the elevator and I had to hit the up button. It arrived with a quiet ding, and I helped Hanna limp inside.

The doors closed, I hit the button for the twenty-third floor, and the lift jerked with the initial ascent. Hanna settled into the same corner she’d been in the last time we were in here together.

“You okay?” I asked quietly.

She nodded, and everything we’d said right here two nights ago filled the elevator car like smoke rising from the floor. You go down on me. You do it until I come.

“Can you move your ankle?” I asked in a rush, my chest tightening with how much I wanted to step closer, kiss her.

She nodded again, eyes locked to mine. “It’s sore, but I think it’s okay.”

“Still,” I whispered. “We should ice it.”

“Okay.”

The gears of the elevator creaked; something just above us in the elevator shaft slid into place with a loud thunk.

You lean over me on the couch, jerking off, and come on my chest.

I licked my lips, finally letting my eyes move to her mouth, my mind wander to the memory of how it felt to kiss her. The echo of her words was loud enough in my head that it was as good as if she’d said them aloud: Sex in all kind of places on my body. How you like me to bite you, and how good it feels to do it.

I stepped closer, wondering if she remembered saying, We’re having sex and I’m doing everything you want and it isn’t just good for me, it’s good for you, too. And, if she did, I wondered if she could see in my eyes that it had been good, so good for me; it was making me want to kneel at her feet right now.

We arrived at her floor and I relented as she insisted on limping down the hall, needing to break the tension somehow. Inside her apartment, I grabbed a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and guided her to the bathroom, making her sit down on the toilet seat while I dug around under her sink for Bactine or some type of antiseptic. I settled for water and hydrogen peroxide.

Her pants were only ripped on one knee, but the other was scuffed enough to tell me that both knees were probably pretty scraped. I rolled up each pant leg, ignoring the way she swatted my hands away at the sight of the mild stubble on her legs.

“I didn’t know you would be touching my legs today,” she said, laughing a little.

“Oh, stop.”

Dabbing at the cuts with a wet cotton ball, I was relieved to see they weren’t too bad. They were bleeding, but there wasn’t anything that wouldn’t heal in a few days, and without stitches.

Finally, she looked down, straightening one leg as I cleaned up the other. “I look like I was walking around on my knees. I’m a mess.”

I grabbed a couple of clean cotton balls and dabbed her cuts with hydrogen peroxide, trying—but failing—to tamp down a smile.

She leaned down to get a better look at my face. “You are such a pervert, smiling at my scraped knees.”

“You’re such a pervert, knowing why I’m smiling.”

“You like the idea of getting my knees all scraped up?” she asked with a growing smile of her own.

“I’m sorry,” I said, shaking my head with absolute insincerity. “I really do.”

Her smile dissolved slowly and she ran a finger over my chin, studying the little scar there. “How did you get this?”

“Happened in college. A woman was giving me head and freaked out and bit down on my dick. I slammed my face into the headboard.”

Her eyes widened in horror: her worst oral sex nightmare realized. “Really?”

I burst out laughing, unable to keep up the story any longer. “No, not really. I was hit in the face with a lacrosse stick in the tenth grade.”

She closed her eyes, pretending she wasn’t amused, but I could see her swallow a laugh. Finally, she looked back down at me. “Will?”

“Mmm?” I put down the last cotton ball and screwed the cap back on the hydrogen peroxide bottle as I blew gently across the cuts. Once I had it all clean, I didn’t even think she would need a Band-Aid.

“I heard what you said about wanting to be careful because of our history. And I’m sorry that I came off as too casual.”

I smiled at her, absently running my hand slowly down her calf, before realizing how familiar that was.

She sucked on her bottom lip for a beat before whispering, “I’ve thought about Saturday night almost constantly since.”

Outside a horn blared, cars sped down 101st, and people rushed off to work. But in Hanna’s apartment it fell completely silent. She and I just stared at each other. Her eyes grew anxious and wide, and I realized she was getting embarrassed the longer I took to reply.

I couldn’t push any air past the tangle in my throat. Finally, I managed, “Me, too.”

“I never thought it could be like that.”

I hesitated, worrying she wouldn’t believe me when I said, “Me, either.”

Her hand lifted at her side, pausing before reaching out. Sliding her fingers into my hair, she followed forward with her body, eyes wide open as she slid her mouth over mine.

I groaned, and my heart slammed against my sternum, skin growing hot as my cock lengthened; every part of me felt tight and stiff.

“Okay?” she asked, pulling back, eyes anxious.

I wanted her so fiercely I was worried I wouldn’t be able to be gentle. “Fuck yes, it’s okay. I was worried I wouldn’t ever have you again.”

She stood on wobbly legs, reaching for the hem of her shirt and pulling it up and over her head. Her skin shone with a thin sheen of sweat, and her hair was a mess, but I wanted nothing else than to bury myself in her and feel her give in to me for hours.

“You’re going to be late to work,” I whispered, watching as she pulled off her sports bra.

“So are you.”

“Don’t care.”

She shimmied out of her pants. With a little ass wiggle, she turned and hopped on one foot to her bedroom.

I stripped as I walked, pulling off my shirt, kicking off my pants—and leaving it all in piles in the hallway. I found Hanna on her bed, lying on top of the covers.

“Do you need more first aid?” I asked, smiling as I climbed over her, kissing my way up her belly to her breasts. “Does anything else hurt?”

“One guess,” she said on an exhale.

Without needing to ask, I stretched, reaching for the drawer where she’d kept her condoms. Wordlessly, I tore one from the pack and handed it to her. Her hand was already extended expectantly.

“Fuck. We should fool around a little first,” I said into her neck even as I felt her begin to roll the condom down my length.

“We’ve been fooling around in my head since Sunday morning,” she whispered. “I don’t think I need more warm-up.”

She was right. When she positioned me and then reached for my hips, pulling me deep in one, slow move, she was wet and ready, quickly pulling on my ass to get me moving fast, and hard.

“I like when you’re hungry like this,” I murmured into her skin. “I feel like I can’t get my fill of you. Just like this, against me, under me.”

“Will . . .” She pushed into me, sliding her hands over my shoulders.

I could hear the rustle of the sheets as we moved, the slick sounds of our lovemaking, and nothing else. The rest of the world seemed to have fallen away, been put on mute.

She was quiet, too, staring, fascinated, down at where I moved in and out of her.

I slid a hand between us, played with her body, loving the way her back arched off the bed, her hands reached above her head, seeking anchor on the headboard.

Fuck.

With my free hand, I reached up, pinning her wrists and letting myself dissolve into her, mindless and warm, the rhythm of our bodies working together, rolling and wet with sweat. I sucked and bit at her chest, pressing down on her wrists and feeling the familiar build of my orgasm grip me somewhere between my hips, low in my spine. I jerked over her, going faster and hard, relishing the sounds of my hips slapping her thighs.

“Aw fuck, Plum.”

Her eyes opened, burning with understanding and the wild thrill of seeing my pleasure unfolding.

“Almost,” she whispered. “I’m right there.”

I circled her clit faster, three fingers flat and rubbing, her little hoarse cries growing louder and tighter, the telltale flush spreading up her neck. She struggled, pulling her wrists apart from my grip in abandon, and then she went off with a sharp cry, hips bucking wild and body coiling and sucking all around me.

I held on by a fucking thread, moving hard and fast until she went limp and soft, and then let go, rasping, “Coming . . .”

I pulled out, jerking the condom off and tossing it away before gripping my cock, squeezing as I stroked up my length.

Hanna’s eyes flamed with anticipation, and she propped herself on her elbows, staring intently down at where my hand flew over my length between us. Her attention, how much she clearly enjoyed watching . . . it overwhelmed me.

Heat burned up my legs and down my spine and my back arched in a sharp jerk. My orgasm pulsed through me unbelievably strong, tearing a loud groan from my throat as I came. Stuck in my head were images of Hanna, thighs spread under me, skin slick, her eyes open and telling me without words how good it felt. How good I made her feel.

Pulsing, pulsing, pulsing heat . . . and my entire body let go.

My hand slowed, and I opened my eyes, dizzy and breathless.

Her eyes burned, dark gray and fascinated as she ran her fingers over her stomach and stared at my orgasm on her skin.

“Will.” My name came out of her mouth in a purr. No way were we done here.

I propped one hand on the pillow beside her head, staring down at her. “Did you like that?”

She nodded, her bottom lip trapped viciously between her teeth.

“Show me. Touch yourself for me.”

She initially looked uncertain, but then it transformed into determination. I watched as she ran her hand down her torso, reaching briefly for my still-erect cock, her fingers first on me and then herself. She slid two fingers down over her clit, arching into her touch.

I ghosted my hand up her side and over her breast, bending to suck at the tight peak, before telling her, “Make yourself come.”

“Help me,” she said, eyes heavy.

“I’m not there when you do this alone. Show me what you do. Maybe I like to watch, too.”

“I want you to watch while you help.”

She was still so warm from the friction of our sex; flesh soft and so fucking wet. With my fingers inside and hers out, we found a rhythm—she stroked up as I pushed in—and fuck if it wasn’t the most amazing thing to see her so unchained and intense, alternating between staring down at where I’d come on her and where I was growing hard again between us.

It didn’t take long to get her there, and soon she was pushing into my hand, her legs pulled up tight to her sides and lips parted as she grew tense, and then fucking exploded with a scream.

She was beautiful when she went off, skin flushing and nipples tight; I couldn’t help but taste her skin, nibbling the underside of her breast and slowing my hand in her as she came down.

She took stock of our appearance: covered in sweat and, on her stomach, my orgasm.

“I think we need a shower.”

I laughed. “I think you may be right.”

But we didn’t. We started to get up, but then I would kiss her shoulder, or she would bite mine, and each time we would just slide back onto the mattress, until eventually it was nearly eleven in the morning, and we’d both long since given up on the idea of going in to work.

After the kissing escalated again, and I took her while she was bent over the edge of the bed, collapsing over her, she rolled onto her back and stared up at me, playing with my sweaty hair. “Are you hungry?”

“A little.”

She started to get up but I pushed her back down, kissing her stomach. “Not hungry enough to get up yet.” I spotted a pen on her bedside table and reached for it without thinking, murmuring, “Stay still,” as I pulled the cap off with my teeth and pressed the tip to her skin.

She’d left the window near her bed open a crack, and we listened to the sounds of the city outside as I drew on the smooth skin just beside her hip. She didn’t ask what I was doing, didn’t even really seem to care. Her hands slid through my hair, down over my shoulders, along my jaw. She carefully traced my lips, my eyebrows, down the bridge of my nose. It was the way she might touch me if she were blind, trying to learn how I fit together.

When I finished, I pulled back, admiring my handiwork. I’d written a fragment of my favorite quote in tiny script, from her hipbone to just above her bare pubic bone.

All that is rare for the rare.

I loved the dark ink on her. Loved seeing it in my handwriting even more. “I want to tattoo this on your skin.”

“Nietzsche,” she whispered. “Overall a good quote, actually.”

“ ‘Actually’?” I repeated, rubbing my thumb over the unmarked skin below, considering all the things I could put there.

“He was a bit of a misogynist, but came out of it with a few decent aphorisms.”

Holy fuck, the brain on this woman.

“Like what?” I asked, blowing across the drying ink.

“ ‘Sensuality often hastens the growth of love so much that the roots remain weak and are easily torn up,’ ” she quoted.

Well. I looked up in time to catch her teeth release her lip, her eyes shining with amusement. That was interesting. “What else?”

She ran a fingertip across the scar on my chin, and studied my face carefully. “ ‘All that glitters is not gold. A soft sheen characterizes the most precious metal.’ ”

I felt my smile falter a little.

“ ‘In the end one loves one’s desire and not what is desired.’ ” She tilted her head, running her hand through my hair. “Do you think that one is true?”

I swallowed thickly, feeling trapped. I was too wrapped up in my own tangled thoughts to figure out whether she was selecting meaningful quotes about my past or just quoting some classic philosophy. “I think it’s sometimes true.”

“But all that is rare for the rare . . .” she said quietly, looking down at her hip. “I like it.”

“Good.” I bent to even out one letter, darken another, humming.

“You’ve been singing that same song the entire time you wrote on me,” she whispered.

“I have?” I hadn’t realized I’d even made a noise. I hummed a few more bars of it, trying to remember what it was I’d been singing: She Talks to Angels.

“Mmmm, an oldie but a goodie,” I said, blowing a stream of air on her navel to dry the ink.

“I remember hearing your band cover it.”

I looked up at her, searching for her meaning. “A recording? I don’t even think I have that.”

“No,” she whispered. “Live. I was visiting Jensen in Baltimore the weekend your band covered it. He said you guys always covered a different song at every show so you’d never play it again. I was there for that one.” There was something restrained behind her eyes when she said this.

“I didn’t even know you were there.”

“We said hi before the show. You were onstage, adjusting your amp.” She smiled, licking her lips. “I was seventeen, and it was right after you came to work for Dad, over fall break.”

“Oh,” I said, wondering what seventeen-year-old Hanna had thought of that show. It was one I still thought about, even just over seven years later. We had played tight that night, and the crowd had been amazing. It was probably one of our best shows ever.

“You were playing bass,” she said, drawing small circles with her fingers on my shoulders. “But you sang that one. Jensen said you didn’t often sing.”

“No,” I agreed. I wasn’t much of a singer, but with that one I didn’t care. It was more about emotion anyway.

“I saw you flirting with this Goth girl up front. It was funny, how I felt jealous then when I never had before. I think it was because you’d lived in our house, I felt a little like you belonged to us.” She smiled down at me. “God, that night I wanted to be her so bad.”

I watched her face as she walked through the memory, waiting to hear how this night ended for her. And me. I couldn’t remember seeing Hanna when I lived in Baltimore, but there were a million nights like this, at a bar with the band, some Goth girl or preppy girl or hippie chick up front and, later in the night, under or over me.

She licked her lips. “I asked if we were meeting up with you later, and Jensen just laughed.”

I hummed, shaking my head and trailing my hand up her thigh. “I don’t remember what happened after that show.” Too late, I realized how awful it sounded, but the reality was, if I wanted to be with Hanna, she would eventually know the truth of just how wild I’d been.

“Was that the kind of girl you liked? ‘She paints her eyes as black as night now’?”

I sighed, climbing up her body so we were face-to-face. “I liked all kinds of girls. I think you know that.”

I’d tried to emphasize the past tense, but realized I’d failed when she whispered, “You’re such a player.”

She said it with a smile but I hated it. I hated the tight edge to her voice and knowing that was exactly how she saw me: fucking anything that moved, and now her, in this conglomeration of limbs and lips and pleasure.

In the end one loves one’s desire and not what is desired.

And I had no defense; it had been mostly true for so long.

Rolling closer, she wrapped her hand around my semi-erect cock, stroking up, squeezing. “What’s your type now?”

She was giving me an out. She didn’t want it to be true anymore, either. I leaned in, kissed her jaw. “My type is more along the lines of a Scandinavian sex bomb named Plum.”

“Why did it bother you when I called you a player?”

I groaned, rolling away from her touch.

“I’m serious.”

I threw my arm over my eyes, trying to collect my thoughts. Finally, I said, “What if I’m not that guy anymore? What if it’s been twelve years since I was that guy? I’m open with my lovers about what I want. I don’t play anyone.”

She pulled back a little and looked at me, wearing an amused smile. “That doesn’t make you receptive and deep, Will. No one says a player has to be an asshole.”

I rubbed my face. “I just think the word ‘player’ has a connotation that doesn’t fit me. I feel like I try harder than that to be good to the women I’m with, to talk about what we’re doing together.”

“Well,” she said. “you haven’t talked to me about what you want.”

I hesitated, my heart exploding in a wild gallop. I hadn’t, and it was because it felt so different with her from every other time I’d been with a woman. Being with Hanna wasn’t just about intense physical pleasure; it also made me feel calm, and thrilled, and known. I hadn’t wanted to discuss this because I hadn’t wanted either of us to have the chance to limit it.

Taking a deep breath, I murmured, “That’s because with you, I’m not really sure if what I want is sex.”

She pulled away, sat up slowly. The sheets slid off her body and she reached for a shirt at the end of the bed.

“Okay. This is . . . awkward.”

Oh, shit. That hadn’t come out right. “No, no,” I said, sitting up behind her and kissing her shoulder. I pulled her shirt from her hands, dropping it on the floor. I licked down her spine, slipping my hand around her waist and sliding up, resting my palm over her heart.

“I’m trying to find a way to say I want it to be more than sex. I have feelings for you that go way past sexual.”

She stilled, growing completely frozen. “You don’t.”

“I don’t?” I stared at her rigid back, my pulse picking up from anger rather than anxiety. “What do you mean I don’t?”

She stood, wrapping the sheet around her body. Ice slid into my veins, cooling every part of me. I sat up, watching her. “Are you—what are you doing?”

“I’m sorry. I just—I have some stuff to do.” She walked over to the dresser, began pulling things from a drawer. “I need to get to work.”

“Now?”

“Yes,” she said.

“So I tell you I have feelings and you’re kicking me out?”

She spun around to face me. “I need to go right now, okay?”

“I can see that,” I said, and she limped into the bathroom.

I was humiliated and furious. And I was terrified this was it. Who would have thought I’d fuck it up with a girl by falling for her? I wanted to get the hell out of there, and I wanted to climb out of the bed, pull her back. Maybe we both needed to think about a few things.