Frayed Page 57

Exhaustion hits quickly and just as I start to drift off she softly says, ’’Ben.’’

’’Yeah,’’ I mumble.

’’You can call me S\elle.’’

I kiss her head one last time and grin before closing my eyes.

CHAPTER 18

Dirty Laundry

Bell

A tingle radiates all the way from my head to my toes as a vision of his lean and sinewy muscled body standing behind me on his surfboard with his very erect pen** pressing into my back awakens me from my dreamlike sleep and I float back to earth.

’’Hmm . . .’’ The noise escapes me involuntarily.

I knew I was a goner yesterday the minute he strode out of the water. There he was a vision of utter perfection with his tight stomach muscles on display. He has stunned me into silence many times over the past weeks with his charm, the funny things he says, and his utter good looks, but when I saw him on the beach his lean form, the faint line of hair that disappears into the waistband of his shorts, the dips and ridges of his half-naked body, then when his laugh dipped from his throat, everything just seemed so right. And lying here knowing he shared my bed last night for the first time, I can\ contain my glee.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I can\ help feeling amazed that the man I dream about is the one I\m waking up next to this morning. But then a sudden fit of anxiety bounces through me. I\m still a little scared. That hasn\ changed. It\s not a frightened kind of scared, though. It\s the same feeling I got when he first looked at me across the room almost a month ago. It was the same way he looked at me the night we were together so long ago and it thrills me, excites me, and scares me at the same time.

We are different people now than we were when our bodies first collided into a passion that consumed us. Sure, we\ve fooled around twice since, but it wasn\ like that night. I know he wants me in that way again, I can tell, and I want the same thing. But so much has happened and there are still things that need to happen, truths to be told, for this to mean something. I am afraid it might be too much for him, or maybe too much for me. Yet the past few weeks have shown me that the pull between us is too strong to deny . . . I have to give us a try.

Deciding to wake up, I let my fingers creep across the sheets, inching their way around so I can feel him. But he\s not anywhere in the bed. Last night we hadn\ had se*, but it was still somehow unforgettable. The way he took care of me, how sweet he was, his concern for how I was feeling. The way my head fit perfectly in the crook of his neck and how I fell asleep in his arms. It all felt so real, so right . . . there was nothing wrong about any of it.

With the light streaming through the blinds, my eyes slowly blink open. I look around my room for him. My lips curl into a smile when I spot his sneakers on the carpet. As the smile spreads across my lips, my hand flies to my mouth, and although a few small bumps remain, they don\ hurt. Thoughts of my feelings for him bubble back to the surface. I locked them away for a long time, but no matter how hard I tried to forget him I couldn\ let him go.

I ached for him when I saw him in my brother\s house last year. Having no idea who he was, I felt hope cascading through me. I thought it was finally our time. Memories of how he\d brought me to climax over and over were all I could think of. I\d blocked out everything else. But when I found out he was Dahlia\s Ben, her long-lost fiancéthought dead, I was sickened, horrified even that she had been the one whose boyfriend I had taken without regard and I knew the flame he had lit inside me needed to be doused. Thank God Dahlia didn\ hold on to angry feelings. Thank God she couldn\ see inside my head. But she was in love with my brother and nothing else mattered. She was willing to move forward. She accepted what I had done, what Ben and I had done, and I was so very thankful

Then when I saw him again I wasn\ worried about Dahlia, or River, or even my mother;I was worried about myself. No matter how hard I tried to shut him out I, couldn\ . When I looked in his eyes the past became a blur;the only thing I could see were the memories of how he made me feel. So I let him in. I couldn\ help myself. More than anything I wanted to feel that way again. But this time I knew I needed to proceed with caution. And that\s what I\ve done until now.

I sigh deeply at all the memories. The issues are still there, but this time I feel strong enough to face them, to throw caution to the wind and accept the consequences. I twist my back and stretch my neck, happy to be feeling only a fraction of the pain I felt yesterday, and a huge grin crosses my lips. It\s Saturday and I have no plans. Hopefully Ben and I can spend the day together alone. I\m particularly thankful right now that I told Tate I couldn\ work today. I knew after Ivy\s event I\d be wiped. He was upset, but the event he had planned for today wasn\ mine;it was his. He just wanted me there.

It was time for me to start pulling back on assisting him with events so I could spend more time on my own planning. Part of me wishes I could just leave, but I\m not ready to quit, although I\m not sure how much longer I can take it. He\s becoming more and more demanding of my time, and his advances toward me since our breakup last winter aren\ letting up.

Sliding my feet to the floor, I spot Ben\s keys and wallet on my nightstand. And then I start second-guessing myself, wondering if moving forward with him right now is what I should be doing. My goal for this year was to focus on myself. Get my life on track. It didn\ include a relationship that wasn\ in my plans. But everything about him seems so right this time. And even the repercussions don\ seem overwhelming. Sure, my family\s issues will be abundant. But Dahlia has accepted Ben in her life and I\m sure she can help me with River. Xander will be an ass, but I can handle him. The biggest issue of all will be my mother. But once I explain to her what Ben said last night, that he wanted to leave the past in the past, I know she\ll understand.


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