Just one night sex love.., p.19

Just One Night: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series, page 19

 

Just One Night: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series
 


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  “A boy, obviously,” his best friend said, as Skippy promptly rolled to his back and displayed the goods while demanding a belly rub.

  “Yeah, taking him in next week to get neutered.”

  “Poor little guy,” Liam said with a last pat. “What’s with everyone hopping on the get-a-dog bandwagon lately? Riley mentioned she got a puppy too, although I haven’t seen it yet.”

  Sam avoided his friend’s eyes. “Kinda lonely out here. Thought the company might be nice.”

  He expected a grilling, but Liam merely nodded. “Makes sense. You’ve always been a dog guy.”

  Had he? He’d never had one. He’d asked his mother every year on his birthday until he was ten, and then he’d just given up.

  But Riley had known what Sam had never told anyone, save for apparently a wine-fueled slip one Thanksgiving. And now apparently Liam knew it too.

  That part of friendship continually caught Sam by surprise. That knowing without telling. That blind support, and even the occasional push when you needed it.

  “So,” Sam said, grabbing two of the staff tasting glasses and heading toward the casks. Liam was always game for a taste test on Sam’s more experimental stuff. “How are the Dutch women?”

  “Hot,” Liam said, taking an appreciative sniff of the tumbler Sam handed him. “And get this … I met honest-to-God triplets. Leggy, blond, identical. I would have killed for my wingman.”

  Sam nodded automatically, but the truth was that the thought of leggy blondes didn’t do anything for him.

  Leggy brunettes, on the other hand …

  “Any more trips planned, or was this the last of it?”

  “One more week. Then the project wraps up.”

  One more week.

  One more week before Sam had to look his best friend in the eye and try to convince him he was worthy of his baby sister.

  Something Sam wasn’t at all sure that he could do. Not because he was afraid to face Liam.

  But because he was afraid he wasn’t worthy.

  Knowing that he wasn’t good enough for Riley McKenna was painful enough without having to hear his best friend say it to his face.

  Skippy came trotting over, carefully positioning the stuffed rabbit in his mouth over Sam’s work boot before beginning to squeak the toy wildly.

  “Mom says you haven’t been at dinner lately,” Liam said.

  Sam listened for any hidden accusations but heard only idle curiosity, likely fueled by Erin’s demand that Liam “bring Sam back around.”

  “Been pretty busy here,” Sam said, gesturing at the casks. “Finally getting to the point that I’m producing a steady supply.”

  Liam broke into a wide smile. “Fuck yeah. So, ready to sell, then?”

  Sam looked away. “I said I had a steady supply. I didn’t say it was good.”

  “You’re drinking the same shit as me, right? It’s fantastic, and you know it.”

  He did. But if he was wrong …

  Just one more thing to add to his list of fuckups.

  “I’m still figuring out what to do.”

  Liam shrugged in a suit-yourself gesture. “You got any food? That’s the shitty part of you being way up here. No decent food places nearby.”

  Sam picked up Skippy’s toy and sent it sailing across the room, watching Skippy’s awkward puppy run as he chased it down. “Clearly you haven’t tried the Mexican place a couple blocks up.”

  “Nope. Walked by it though. Will definitely hit it up if I ever have an E. coli craving.”

  “Frozen pizza?” Sam asked, heading toward the back living area and silently hoping none of Riley’s skimpy undergarments were around. He’d had the foresight to call and tell her he was busy tonight the second he’d heard from Liam, but he was out of practice with disguising the presence of a woman in his bedroom.

  Not since high school had he had to worry about someone spotting a rogue pair of panties where they shouldn’t be. Not that his mother would have cared much. Or even noticed.

  And normally Sam wouldn’t have given a shit if Liam found out he’d been getting some. But there was no way Sam could let his best friend spot his sister’s bra by accident, even if Liam wouldn’t know it was his sister’s.

  For all of their sakes, he really hoped that shit was out of sight.

  Skippy misgauged his stopping distance and careened into the back of his calf before happily bouncing back up and prancing in front of them.

  The little guy loved pizza.

  “I guess I should be more careful about leaving you on your own,” Liam said as he settled at the small table and watched Sam dig out a frozen pizza.

  “How’s that?”

  “Well, I was gone for what … two weeks? I come back and you’ve got yourself a girlfriend and a freaking dog?”

  Sam froze in the process of heating the oven. Had Liam talked to Riley? And even if he had, surely she had the good sense not to mention their little fling?

  They’d agreed not to tell her family until they knew where it was going. Erin McKenna would be knitting baby booties before their first-month anniversary, and Liam …

  Well, Liam would kill him.

  “Who says I have a girlfriend?” Sam kept his voice easy.

  “It’s written all over your whipped face.”

  Sam relaxed slightly. It had just been a lucky guess. “You’re delusional.”

  “Am I?” Liam asked, going to the shelf that doubled as a liquor cabinet and rummaging around until he found a bottle to his liking. “For starters, you’ve smiled about eight times more than usual. Next up, we have the puppy, which, like I’ve said, doesn’t surprise me, but the breed of dog does. It’s one of those fancy ones, not a mutt from the pound …”

  Sam remained stubbornly silent as he refilled his own drink.

  “And then there’s the more tangible proof …,” Liam continued.

  “I can’t wait to hear. Are my eyes more sparkly? Have I been doing something different with my hair?”

  “Nope.”

  Sam had known Liam long enough to recognize that silent laugh. He turned to see what hilarity he was missing.

  His heart jumped into his throat.

  Oh shit!

  He’d done a quick scan of his bed when he and Liam had entered and deemed it free of any obvious female presence.

  There was just one tiny detail he hadn’t considered.

  Skippy.

  The very cute, very proud puppy had swapped his squeaky toy for one very frilly, probably very expensive red bra, and was attempting to maneuver it across the floor before proudly depositing it at Sam’s feet.

  Sam exhaled through his nose. If the bra didn’t belong to the sister of the man currently cracking up, he might have been able to see the humor in the situation.

  As it was, the red bra might as well have been a red flag.

  Danger. Danger.

  Leaning down, Sam scooped up the light bit of fabric and glared down at the puppy, who was doing that frantic tail wag that caused his entire body to reverberate.

  “No treat,” he said, jabbing a finger down at the dog.

  “But looks like Daddy got a treat,” Liam said, his expression all gleeful innocence.

  “So I had some female company,” Sam grumbled, marching to his dresser and stuffing the bra inside with his undershirts. “You going to tell me that every pair of panties in your bed equates to a girlfriend?”

  “Nah,” Liam said, reaching down to scoop up Skippy and letting the dog lick his face. “But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced what you’re experiencing.”

  “And what’s that?” Sam asked warily.

  His friend’s eyes met his over the puppy’s head, and they were both sympathetic and curious. “Happiness.”

  Sam’s chest tightened. His best friend was right, and the realization filled him with terror.

  For the first time since he and Riley had slept together, Sam let himself face the inevitable: The deeper he and Riley got, the more
it was going to hurt when it ended.

  And if there was one thing Sam was sure of, it was that all good things definitely ended.

  Chapter Twenty

  “Wait. So your brother saw your bra?” Julie asked, spinning around in her office desk chair like a restless third-grader.

  “Yeah. But he didn’t know it was mine,” Riley said as she tossed the red pen on top of Grace’s article, which she’d been reading.

  “It weirds me out that you seem so dejected about that fact,” Emma said as she took a bite of something that looked like birdseed.

  Riley reached for the donut she’d stolen from the IT guys, noting the way Grace eyed it lustfully before sighing and returning to her low-fat peach yogurt. Riley didn’t feel even remotely guilty. Grace had a gorgeous man who’d professed his love for her in front of news cameras.

  All Riley had was a man who refused to come to family dinners and who couldn’t even tell his best friend about the two of them.

  She’d earned her good metabolism, damn it.

  “It’s not that I want my brother to see my bra. Ever,” she said around a mouthful of sugary fried dough. “But it pisses me off that Sam told him the bra belonged to ‘just some girl.’ ”

  Julie winced.

  “I am not just some girl. Am I?”

  “Of course not,” Grace said, daintily licking her spoon clean. “But you’ve known all along that Sam’s got a major hang-up over the whole sleeping-with-the-best-friend’s-sister thing.”

  “Which is stupid,” Riley said.

  “It is. But it’s also classic. The same way a woman can never look at a man her best friend once had a half-second crush on in eighth grade, a man doesn’t touch his best friend’s little sisters.”

  “It’s true,” Julie said practically. “It’s in a bunch of books and movies.”

  “And if it’s in a movie, it must be true,” Emma said with an eye roll.

  Riley held up a hand. “Okay, let’s just pretend for a second that Sam’s not being an idiot. That his whole hang-up is justified. What do I do about it?”

  “Well, you could distract him by getting him a dog he didn’t want. Oh, wait …”

  “He did want the dog,” Riley protested. “I gave him plenty of time to take Skippy back. He loves that dog.”

  “True. I bet he didn’t tell Liam that Skippy’s toy belonged to ‘just some other dog,’ ” Grace mused.

  “Not. Helping,” Riley ground out.

  “How about this,” Julie said, leaning back in her office chair and tugging her long blond hair out of its ponytail as she thought about it. “See, Sam had his chance to come clean face-to-face with Liam. He chickened out. Maybe what we need here is a less confrontational approach. Like, say, if Liam just happened to see you two together …”

  “Yes,” Emma said, rubbing her hands together. “Because manipulation is so much more adult than confrontation.”

  Riley flicked a hand at Emma. “Save it. When you’re head-over-heels in love, then you’ll get to talk about doing things on the up-and-up.”

  All three of her friends immediately grew still and stared at her, their expressions ranging from delighted (Julie) to dismayed (Emma).

  “Love?” Grace said in a casual tone as she looked at her fingernails.

  Riley barely managed to swallow her donut as she realized what she’d said. “Um.”

  “You owe me twenty bucks,” Julie said out of the corner of her mouth to Grace.

  “You bet on my love life?” Riley asked.

  “Of course. And thank God we didn’t bet on your sex life. That apparently would have been boring.”

  Riley felt a dopey little smile creep across her face. “Worth the wait though.”

  “Jesus. She really is in love,” Emma said, slumping back in her chair.

  Riley considered. Truthfully? The L word had just popped into her head. There were no fireworks, no uh-ohs, no falling off the chair in surprise.

  It was almost like love had always been there when it came to Sam. Simmering beneath the surface. Or perhaps in this case it was a little naked time that had caused it to flourish.

  “I guess I’ve always been a little in love with him.”

  “You say that so easily,” Julie said. “I almost crapped my pants when I realized I was in love with Mitchell.”

  “That’s because you fell for Mitchell in less time than it takes most women to pick out a new lipstick,” Grace said.

  “You and Jake didn’t exactly take the slow-and-steady track yourselves,” Julie shot back. “I mean it was how long before you started simpering? Two months?”

  Emma cleared her throat. “Um, ladies?”

  But Riley didn’t even notice their squabbling. She was too busy letting being in love with Sam settle over her.

  It was terrifying.

  It was strange.

  And yet … perfect.

  “Well, crap,” she muttered. “Now what do I do?”

  “Tell him.”

  Riley snorted. “Yeah, right. It took me more than ten years to get him into my bed. If he thinks I’m trying to coax him down the aisle, I’ll never see him again.”

  “So he doesn’t feel the same, then?” Grace asked, her voice soft.

  “He cares about me,” Riley said carefully. “I’ve never doubted that. But sometimes he looks at me with this expression on his face, like—”

  She broke off.

  “Like …?” Emma prompted.

  “Like he doesn’t deserve me,” Riley said hesitantly. “Which is ridiculous. He’s easily the best guy I know, but he holds himself back somehow. And when we’re together, things are great, but there’s something almost frenzied, even in the quiet moments.”

  “Explain.”

  Riley dug a candy bar out of her drawer. “You know how when you go on a really perfect beach vacation? When each day is better than the last and you can’t ever remember feeling so amazing?”

  “Sure, although I’m more of a pool girl myself,” Julie said. “I don’t like sand in my crack.”

  Another throat clear from Emma.

  “Well, it’s like that when Sam and I are together,” Riley continued. “We’re happy—beyond happy. But it’s as though we’re both bracing for it to end.”

  “What makes you think that it has to?”

  She studied the smooth chocolate of her candy. “You guys didn’t see Sam after his divorce. He totally blamed himself for the failed marriage. Plus Liam told us Sam swore he’d never get married again.”

  “I think all people probably say that right after a divorce,” Grace said kindly. “There’s no reason to think he still feels that way.”

  “And if anyone can change his mind, it’s you,” Julie said, leaning forward and squeezing Riley’s knee. “Anyone who’s ever looked at the two of you knows you’re made for each other.”

  “Plus, you went almost a decade without sex because you were so hung up on the guy,” Emma said. “Nobody does that unless it’s the real thing.”

  “Now, this is interesting.”

  All four women’s heads snapped around toward the door of their shared office to see one very intrigued-looking boss standing in the doorway.

  “Hey, Camille,” Riley croaked.

  How much had she heard?

  “Riley, honey, what say you and me go have a little one-on-one chat at MoBar,” Camille said, referring to one of the local hotel bars.

  “Now?” Riley asked, looking at the clock on her computer screen. “It’s two o’clock.”

  Camille tilted her head. “You really want to be sober when you explain to me why my sex columnist isn’t having sex?”

  Riley jumped up and grabbed her purse. “A drink sounds great.”

  * * *

  “Well, I have to say, I’m impressed. I’ve read every single one of your articles line by line, multiple times, and it never occurred to me that I was reading the work of a virgin.”

  “I wasn’t a virgin.”

 
“Might as well have been,” Camille said with a hand flick. “Clumsy encounters in college dorm beds barely count.”

  Having encountered the difference between sleeping with a nervous boy and sleeping with Sam, Riley couldn’t argue.

  “So you’re not mad?”

  “Nah,” Camille said. “It’s not as though you ever lied. It’s like I told Julie and Grace, Stiletto’s not a diary. Our job’s to tell stories, not experience them.”

  Riley took a drink of her afternoon Manhattan. “Except for the upcoming issue. ‘The Truth Behind the Headlines’? That might as well be a diary.”

  Camille took a sip of her whisky. “Ah, so that’s why you haven’t turned in your story yet.”

  “I’m thinking of sitting this one out,” Riley said quietly. “Or maybe writing about shoes or something.”

  “Coward,” Camille said with a grim little smile.

  Riley knew her boss said it to be inflammatory. To ignite Riley’s competitive spirit, blah blah blah. But the truth was, she’d rather be a coward than exposed.

  If anything, whatever was happening with her and Sam made her less sure of a story idea. She couldn’t write about what was going on between them.

  Because she didn’t know.

  What was she supposed to write about, “Bedroom Rookie Mistakes Sex for Love”?

  Her reputation as Manhattan’s sex goddess would be in the toilet.

  “What if I did something a little different?” she said in a rush. “Like, I could talk about the friendships I’ve made while talking about sex. You know, like, part of the story behind the headline is my friendships with the girls?”

  Camille shook her head as she munched on an ice cube. “Emma beat you to it: ‘How Writing About Love Taught Me About Friendship.’ ”

  “Damn it.” Riley tapped her fingernails on the bar top. “Okay, what about something more generic on how helping other women find themselves helped me find myself?”

  “Unless you’re talking about masturbation, it won’t work. You write about sex, Riley. You’ve never once strayed from the topic in all the years you’ve been here.”

  In other words, your own omission painted you into this corner.

  “I can’t talk about Sam,” Riley said dropping her forehead into her hands.

 
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