Beautiful Player [Beautiful Series]

Chapter 15

I woke the next morning to the feel of unfamiliar sheets and the smell of Will still clinging to my skin. The bed was a disaster. The sheets were dislocated from the mattress and twisted around my body; the pillows had been shoved to the floor. My skin was covered in bite marks and fingertip bruises, and I had no idea where my clothes were.

A glance at the clock told me it was just after five, and I rolled over, pushing the tangled hair from my face and blinking into the dim light. The other side of the bed was empty and bore only the telltale indentation of Will’s body. I looked up at the sound of footsteps to see him walking toward me, smiling and shirtless, carrying a steaming mug in each hand.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” he said, setting the drinks on the bedside table. The mattress dipped as he sat next to me. “You feel okay? Not too sore?” His expression was tender, a smile curving the corners of his mouth, and I wondered if I’d ever get used to the reality of him looking at me so intimately. “I wasn’t particularly easy on you last night.”

I took the mental inventory: in addition to the marks he’d left all over my body, my legs were weak, my abdomen felt like I’d done a hundred sit-ups, and, between my legs, I could still feel the echo of his hips pounding into me. “Sore in all the right places.”

He scratched his jaw, letting his eyes move over my face before dropping to my chest. Predictably. “That is now my favorite thing you’ve ever said. Maybe you could text that to me later tonight. If you’re feeling generous, you could include a picture of your tits.”

I laughed, and he reached for a mug, handing it to me. “Someone forgot their tea last night.”

“Hmmm. Someone was distracted.” I shook my head, motioning for him to put it back down. I wanted both hands free. Will was predatory and seductive every minute of the day; but in the morning, he should be illegal.

He grinned in understanding, slowly brushing his hands through the ends of my hair, smoothing it down my spine. I shivered at the emotion in his eyes, how his fingers set off sparks that settled warm and heavy between my thighs. I wished I knew what exactly it was I saw there: friendship, fondness, something more? I bit back the question that continued to rise up in the back of my throat, not sure either of us was ready to have an honest conversation so soon after the last, disastrous one.

The sky that peeked through the window was still purple and hazy, making each inked line across his skin seem sharper, each tattoo stark against his skin. The bluebird looked almost black; the words that wrapped around his ribs seemed as if they’d been carved there in delicate script. I reached to touch them, to press my thumb into the groove formed by his obliques, the flat planes of his stomach and lower. He hissed in a breath when I slipped a finger just under the waistband of his boxers.

“I want to draw on you,” I said, and blinked quickly back to his face to gauge his reaction. He looked surprised, but more than that, he looked hungry, his blue eyes heavy and hidden in shadow.

He must have agreed, because he leaned over to search the small table next to the bed, and returned with a black marker. He climbed over me and lay down on his back, stretching out long and sculpted in the middle of his bed.

I sat up, feeling the sheet slip down my body, the cool air reminding me just how completely naked I was. I gave myself no time to think about what I was doing or how I looked as I crawled over and straddled him, my thighs bracketing his hips.

The air in the room seemed to condense, and Will swallowed, eyes wide as I took the marker from him and removed the cap. I could feel the length of him starting to harden against my backside. I bit back a moan at the way he flexed his thighs and rocked his hips upward the tiniest bit in an attempt to rub against me.

I looked down, not even sure where to start. “I love your collarbones,” I said, brushing my fingers along them to the little hollow below his throat.

“Collarbones, huh?” he asked, voice warm and still raspy.

I ran my fingers down his chest, biting back a triumphant smile over the way his breathing spiked, jagged and excited, under my touch.

“I love your chest.”

He laughed, murmuring, “Likewise.”

His was perfect, though. Defined, but not bulky. His chest was broad, with smooth skin leading from his muscular shoulders to his pectorals. I traced a line with my index finger. He didn’t shave or wax his chest like the men in magazines or on my rare night zoning out in front of mindless television. Will was a man, with a smattering of dark hair on his chest, smooth bare stomach, and the soft trail leading from his navel to his . . .

I bent down, dragging my tongue down his happy trail.

“Good,” he grunted, shifting impatiently beneath me. “Oh, God yes.”

“And I love this spot right here,” I said, veering my mouth away from where he wanted me and over to his hip. Pulling his boxers down just an inch, I drew an H just inside his hipbone, a B below. I sat back to examine it, smiling wide. “I like that.”

He lifted his head to see where I’d written my initials on his skin and blinked up to me. “Likewise.”

I remembered the smudged words and drawings I’d scrubbed from my body the other day, and brought the marker to my thumb, scribbling across the pad until it was wet with ink. I pressed it to his skin, right below where his hipbone jutted out, pushing hard enough that he sucked in a breath, and then pulled my hand away, leaving my thumbprint.

I sat back and admired it.

“Fuck,” he hissed, eyes fixed on that black mark. “That’s probably the hottest thing anyone’s ever done to me, Hanna.”

His words plucked at something raw inside my chest, a resurfacing of the knowledge that there were others: others who had done hot things, others who made him feel good.

I blinked away from his pressing gaze, not wanting him to see the thoughts that simmered steadily in the back of my mind—the nongirlfriend thoughts. Will had been good for me. I felt sexy and fun; I felt wanted. I wouldn’t bog it down with worries of what happened before me, or inevitably, what would happen after. Hell, what probably happened on those days we weren’t together. He’d never said anything about ending things with the other women. I saw him most nights of the week, but not every night. If I knew anything about Will, it was that he valued variety, and was pragmatic enough to always have a backup plan.

Distance, I reminded myself. Secret agent. In and out, unharmed.

Will sat up beneath me, sucking on my neck before moving his mouth to the shell of my ear. “I need to fuck you.”

I let my head fall back. “Didn’t you do that last night?”

“That was hours ago.”

Goose bumps exploded across my body, and my tea was forgotten again.

The air was still cool but it was starting to feel like spring. There were leaves and blossoms, birds chattering in trees, and the blue-skied promise of better weather to come. Central Park in the spring always rocked me; it was amazing how a city of such size and industry could hide a jewel of color, water, and wildlife in its very heart.

I wanted to think about what I had to do that day, or the upcoming Easter weekend, but I was sore, and tired, and having Will running beside me was proving only more distracting with time.

The rhythm of his feet on the pavement, the cadence of his breath . . . all I could think about was sex. I could remember the hard bunch of muscle beneath my hands, the quiet teasing way he asked me to bite him, as if he was doing it for me, knowing I needed to tear something loose in him, too, and that maybe I’d find it buried beneath his skin. I could remember how he breathed near my ear in the middle of the night, in a rhythm, holding himself back for what felt like hours as he made me come, and then again, and again.

He lifted his shirt and wiped his forehead as he continued to run, and my mind flashed hot and sharp back to the way his sweat felt on my stomach, his come on my hip at the party.

He dropped his shirt, but I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes from where he’d just exposed his stomach. “Hanna.”

“Hmm?” Finally, I managed to snap my eyes to the trail in front of us.

“What’s up? You have this sort of glazed look on your face.”

I took a gulping breath and squeezed my eyes shut for only a beat. “Nothing.”

His feet stopped, and the cadence of sex and his hips thrusting over and into me halted abruptly. But the tenderness between my legs didn’t go away at all when he bent to meet my gaze. “Don’t do that.”

I filled my lungs, the words escaping with my exhale, “Fine, I was thinking about you.”

Blue eyes scanned my face before taking stock of the rest of me: nipples pebbled beneath his too-big T-shirt I wore, stomach in tangles, legs on the verge of collapsing and, between them, muscles coiled so tight, I clenched harder just to relieve the ache.

A tiny smile skittered across his face. “Thinking of me how?”

This time, when I closed my eyes, I kept them closed. He said my strength was in my honesty, but it was really in how he made me feel when I told him everything. “I’ve never been distracted by someone like this before.” I’d always only been drive. Right now, I was lust, want, desire, insatiable student.

He was quiet for too long and when I looked again, I found him watching me, considering. I needed him to joke or tease, to say something filthy and bring us back to the baseline of Hanna and Will. “Tell me more,” he whispered, finally.

I opened my eyes, looked up at him. “I’ve never had a hard time focusing before, staying on task. But . . . I think about you—” I stopped abruptly. “Sex with you all the time.”

Never before had my heart felt like such a thick organ, beating with heavy, squeezing pulses. I loved these reminders he gave me that my heart was a muscle and my body was made, in part, for being raw and animalistic, fucking. But not emotions. Definitely not those.

“And?” he pressed.

Fine.

“And it’s scary.”

His lip twitched in a suppressed grin. “Why?”

“Because you’re my friend . . . you’ve become my best friend.”

His expression softened. “Is that bad?”

“I don’t have a lot of friends and I don’t want to screw things up with you. It’s important.”

He smiled, brushing a strand of hair away from where it clung to my sweaty cheek. “It is.”

“I’m scared that this whole friends-who-bang thing will, as Max says, ‘go tits up.’ ”

He laughed, but didn’t say anything in response to this.

“Aren’t you?” I asked, eyes searching his.

“Not for the same reasons you are, I don’t think.”

What did that even mean? I loved Will’s ability to remain contained, but right now I wanted to throttle him.

“But is it weird that even though you’re my best friend, I can’t stop thinking about you naked? Me naked. Us naked together and the way you make me feel when we’re naked? The way I hope I make you feel when we’re naked? I think about that a lot.”

He took a step closer, resting one hand on my hip and the other on my jaw. “It’s not weird. And Hanna?”

When he swept his thumb down over the pulse in my neck, I knew he was trying to tell me that he knew how much this scared me. I swallowed, whispering, “Yeah?”

“You know it’s important for me to be up front about things.”

I nodded.

“But . . . do you want to talk about this now? We can if you want but,” he said, squeezing my hip in reassurance, “we don’t have to.”

A tiny spike of panic went through me. We’d had this conversation before and it hadn’t gone well. I’d panicked and he’d taken it back. Would it be different this time? And how would I respond if he said he wanted me, but he didn’t want only me? I knew what I would say. I would tell him it wasn’t working for me anymore. That eventually . . . I’d walk away from this.

Smiling, I shook my head. “Not yet.”

He tilted his head, his lips moving to the shell of my ear. “Fine. But in that case I should tell you: nobody makes me feel like you do.” He said each word carefully, as if each one were placed on his tongue and he had to inspect them before he could let them go. “And I think about sex with you, too. A lot.”

It wasn’t exactly that it surprised me he thought about sex with me; that was fairly clear, given his ongoing commentary. But I suspected he wanted to be with me in some clarified, almost contract-oriented way as he did with all of his women, where it was discussed, and laid out in some sterile mutual agreement. I simply wasn’t sure whether for Will that meant committed fucking, or . . . less-committed fucking. After all, if nobody made him feel the way I did, then obviously someone else was out there trying, right?

“I realize you may have . . . plans for this weekend,” I started and his brows pulled together in frustration or confusion, I couldn’t tell, but I barreled on: “But if you do but you don’t want to have plans, or if you don’t have plans but would like to have plans, then you should come home with me for Easter.”

He pulled back just enough to see my face. “What?”

“I want you to come home with me. Mom always does an amazing Easter brunch. We can head up Saturday and head home Sunday afternoon. Do you have plans?”

“Uh—no,” he said, shaking his head. “No plans. You’re serious?”

“Would it be weird for you?” I asked.

“Not weird. It would be great to see Jensen, and your folks.” Mischief lit up his eyes. “I realize we probably won’t be telling the family about our recent sexcapades, but do I get to see your boobs while I’m there?”

“In private?” I asked. “Maybe.”

He tapped his chin, pretending to consider this. “Hmm . . . This is going to make me sound totally creepy, but . . . in your room?”

“My childhood room? You are a pervert,” I said, shaking my head. “But perhaps.”

“Then I’m in.”

“That’s all it took? Boobs? You’re that easy?”

He leaned in, pressed a kiss to my mouth, and said, “If you have to ask, then you still don’t know me very well.”

Will showed up at my apartment Saturday morning, having parked an ancient green Subaru Outback at the fire hydrant gap. I lifted my brows as I looked from the car to him, at the way he proudly spun the keys around his finger.

“Very nice,” I said, stepping back through the door long enough to grab my bag.

He took it and kissed my cheek, smiling widely at my approval. “Isn’t it? I keep it in storage. I miss this car.”

“When’s the last time you drove it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “A while.”

I followed him down the stairs, trying not to think about where we were going. Inviting Will had seemed like a great idea at the time, but now, barely a week later, I wondered how everyone was going to react—if I could keep my stupid grin to myself or my hands out of his pants. As I forced my eyes from his ass I realized the odds weren’t looking good.

He looked unbelievable in his favorite jeans, a worn-to-perfection Star Wars T-shirt, and green sneakers. He appeared to be as relaxed as I was nervous.

We hadn’t really talked about what would happen once we arrived. My family knew we’d been hanging out—it had been their idea, after all—but this, what was happening between us now, had most certainly not been part of the plan. I trusted Liv to keep our secret, because if Jensen knew the things Will had done to his little sister’s body, there was a good chance there would be fisticuffs, or, at the very least, some horrifically awkward conversations. It was easy to keep that particular reality in check when we were here, in the city. But heading home meant being faced with the reality that Will was Jensen’s best friend. I couldn’t act the way I did here, as if . . . as if he belonged to me.

Will placed my bag in the trunk and moved to open my door, making sure to press me against the side of the car and leaning in for a long, slow kiss. “Ready?”

“Yeah,” I said, recovering from my small epiphany. I liked feeling like Will belonged to me. He stared down at me and smiled until we both seemed to realize we had but a few hours in the car to enjoy being so unself-conscious about this comfortable intimacy.

He kissed me one more time, humming against my lips and sweeping his tongue gently across mine before stepping back so I could get in the car.

Walking around to the other side, he jumped in the driver’s seat and immediately said, “You know we could take a few minutes, hop in the back? I could put the seat down to make it work for you. I know you like your legs spread wide.”

I rolled my eyes, grinning. With a little shrug, Will turned the key in the ignition. The car started with a roar and Will put it in gear, winking at me before pressing the gas. We lurched forward, jerking to a stop only a few feet from the curb.

He frowned but restarted the engine and managed to pull out smoothly into traffic the second go-round. I snatched his phone from the cup holder and began scrolling through his music. He gave me a disapproving look but didn’t comment, instead turning his eyes on the road.

“Britney Spears?” I asked, laughing, and he reached out blindly, attempting to take it from me.

“My sister,” he mumbled.

“Suuuure.”

We reached a light at Broadway and the car stalled again. Will coughed but started it, swearing when it stalled just a few minutes later.

“You sure you know how to handle this thing?” I asked, smirking. “Been a New Yorker so long you’ve forgotten how to drive?”

He glared at me. “This would be a lot easier if we’d had sex in the back first. Help me clear my head.”

I looked out the windshield and then back to him, smiling, as I ducked beneath his arm and went to work on his zipper. “Who needs the backseat?”