“I’ve got a feeling Max likes you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You know he ran out of Trey’s place last night, and he was pissed off. I can’t believe he made it in time for your thing.”
“It’s nothing.” She didn’t want to talk about being cleaned up by him either. She never drank, and last night had only proven she couldn’t handle her alcohol.
New rule for her, no Max Carter, and no drinking.
The only problem was, he knew about her watching porn, which wasn’t a problem, not even a little bit, but … he knew.
Anyone could watch porn. She didn’t see a problem with that. Her biggest problem was what everyone else thought, or more importantly, Max.
Molly didn’t get a chance to bug her for the rest of the day as the shop was heaving. Sundays the shop never opened, and this time, Aria was more than happy to be alone. She wanted to be with her thoughts, as otherwise she’d go mad.
How dare Max go through her stuff. It pissed her off that he’d do something like that. It wasn’t his stuff to go through. It was all hers.
By the end of her shift, her anger had dissipated, and to make matters worse, Trey, June, Dale, Molly, and Max were in the shop, including their kids. They were all gathered around talking, and she really didn’t want to look in Max’s direction.
She’d promised herself he’d never be able to make her look like a fool again, and yet, she’d given him a lot more ammunition.
With the kitchen completely spotless, and out of her work clothes, she had no choice but to say goodbye.
The moment she stepped out, her bag across her chest, she forced a smile. “I’ll see you guys Monday.”
“You want to come back and have a barbeque?” June asked.
“I’ll have to pass this time.” She was very much aware of Max staring at her, and he was driving her crazy. She couldn’t stand it when he did this to her. “I’m really beat. I’m going to call it a night.”
She gave June and Molly a quick hug before leaving the shop. Feeling like she’d escaped for the night, she just wanted to curl up on the sofa and read. She didn’t want to do anything else.
No internet searching.
She just wanted to be invisible and to be calm.
“You just going to ignore everything?” Max’s voice carried across the street. No one was around, and she sighed, turning around.
“I’m not going to do this with you. Not now. Not today. Not ever.”
She spun on her heel, intending to make her escape, but Max wasn’t having any of it. He caught up with her.
“You don’t have to be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“Then why are you running away?”
She stopped, turning toward him. “I’m not running away. I’m walking home.”
“Is this about the porn thing?”
Aria had taken a step away from him. She stopped and stepped right up to him. “You had no right going through my things. All of that stuff is personal and private.” She couldn’t help but stamp her foot. She hated how he made her feel. “Now, leave me alone.”
She kept on walking. Max didn’t say anything else to her, but she knew he was following her. Her heart sped up as she got to her place. The key was in her hand. He caught up with her.
“I just want to talk. That’s all I want to do. We can’t do that out here. Please, Aria. I won’t hurt you.”
She took a deep breath and looked at him over her shoulder. “If I ask you to leave, beg, will you go?”
“I’ll leave if you want me to go. I just think we should talk after this morning. I didn’t realize you’d want to run off so soon.”
“Only to talk.”
“I’ve got nothing else in mind.”
“Yes. Of course.” She wanted to think of a million reasons to say no, but avoiding Max wouldn’t be easy. They shared the same friends, and she wasn’t going to make them feel uncomfortable just because of her.
She let Max take care of the door as she walked into her home, removing her bag, jacket, and shoes.
This was her space. Her place.
Pressing her hands together, she turned toward him.
Having him back in her apartment reminded her of how good it felt to have his lips against hers and the feel of his hands on her body.
They were not supposed to be good memories, so she forced them out of her head, and instead, stared at the man.
“What could you possibly want to talk about? I’m curious.”
“What you want?”
“Are you, like, granting wishes now? Is that it?”
“I’m not granting anything. Online dating is overrated.”
“Already gotten the memo and deleted my profile. It’s not going to happen again.”
“So you’re just going to give up. You’re not going to explore other options?” he asked.
“I have no other options. It’s fine.” She didn’t look at him.
“How horny are you right now?”
“None of your business.”
“I bet you’re wet. There was a lot of hardcore stuff. Spanking, rock hard fucking. I was shocked by the kind of stuff you watched. I mean, you’re sweet and lovely, but I guess what they say is true. It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for.”
Max held up his hands. “I’m not judging you.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I want to offer you my services.”
“Are you, like, an escort or something? Is that what you do in your free time?”
He laughed. “No, I don’t prostitute myself at all.”
She pressed her hand to her face and groaned. “Are you talking in riddles here? I don’t want someone to have sex with. I want a partner. Someone who means something to me. Not somebody paid to do the pleasure.” She couldn’t even believe she was having this conversation with him.
What she hated even more right now was how tempted she was to be with him. Max wasn’t the guy for her. They had nothing in common, and yet, she couldn’t help but wonder if using him like this, wouldn’t be worth it?
The two of them together, they were toxic, but she had no intention of having a long-lasting relationship with him. Far from it.
She wanted something special with a guy she could trust, but that wasn’t going to happen through a dating website or with any kind of matchmaking thing. She had to find a guy for herself.
Max took a step toward her.
In high school, she had hated him. She still hated him, but what he offered tempted her.
“You know I’m not used to offering this for anyone. I take girls, fuck them, and forget them.”
“Tell me you’re not tempted.”
Again, she wished she could argue with him. That she didn’t feel this overwhelming need to tell the truth.
Max smiled. “You see, you are tempted.”
“So what? We have sex and then go about our business as if nothing ever happened? Is that what you’re offering?” she asked.
Max stepped right up close to her. His body was so close to hers, she could smell his cologne. “I’m offering you the chance to work out every single dirty thought you’ve had with me. Nothing is off limits. You give yourself to me, and I’ll give you what your little pussy has been demanding.”
“What happened to the nice guy? The one that felt guilty.”
“He’ll never disappear, Aria. He’s right here. I can make it up to you.”
“I don’t want or need pity. Not
from you. Not from anyone.”
“I’m not giving you pity. Not even a little bit. I’m giving you an option you’ve always denied yourself.” His hand cupped her hip, and she bit her lip, trying to contain the moan that one touch created inside her.
It felt so good to have his hands on her body, in more ways than she wanted to analyze.
One week later
“No one can never know,” Aria said. “We don’t talk about this to our friends.”
“I’m not the kind of guy to kiss and tell.”
“Please, I’ve heard Dale and Trey talk about it. No one can ever know.”
Their deal had happened one week ago, which was why Max now sat in a rented hotel room, in the city. He checked the time. Aria had given some lame-ass excuse as to why she couldn’t work this weekend, and he had also given a reason. His friends would only need two seconds to put two and two together to come up with the idea they were alone and together.
Rubbing his hands together, he tried not to think of what he was about to do. All week long he’d been trying to think of how to plan tonight. He wanted Aria. His feelings for her had shocked and surprised him. She wasn’t the kind of woman he usually went for. He never chased a woman and was used to women coming on to him, and all he had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.
Aria was a girl he’d bullied in high school. He couldn’t even remember that one time he called her a name. He refused to even say it inside his own head because he was so fucking embarrassed by it. That time in his life was a blur and not one he actually took the time to think about. It was one thing! He’d been one of the popular guys in school, so he’d been able to do whatever the hell he wanted. In calling her a name once, others had decided to pick up the baton and continue to hurt her, but he’d not been there! If he had, he’d have stopped it.
The hotel’s door was knocked on, and he got to his feet, walking to it. Opening the door, he saw Aria standing there. She wore a pair of jeans and one of her signature large shirts. She always wore large clothing, but he knew what kind of body she had beneath. Her hands were clenched together, and she was wearing a bag with a strap between her breasts. She looked incredibly sexy. He didn’t know what was wrong with him and why he was even acting this way.