“Is your full name Andrew?” Not the most brilliant of conversational openings, but I’m curious.


The full curve of his lips lifts a little. “Nope. I’m just Drew.” He talks low, barely over a murmur. “Mom didn’t like nicknames. She figured they would name me what they wanted to call me. So just Drew Baylor. No middle name either.”

“I kind of love your mom for that,” I say softly.

His eyes open and lock onto me. Pain still lingers in them, but there’s also a warmth that has me flushing. “She would have loved you too.”

No, she wouldn’t have. What mother would like a girl that uses her precious son for sex? None. I palm his face, effectively blocking his view, and run my thumbs down the sides of his nose and over his cheeks, digging in deep.

“Christ,” he breaths out, “that’s good.”

“I know.” I smile a little.

“What about you?” he asks. “You have a middle name?”

“Marie.” I stroke along his jaw. So much tension there.

“Anna Marie,” he intones. “I like that.”

He goes silent, and I gently hum, not a song, really, just a lilt that fills the silence. He sighs, his body easing more under my touch.

“When’s your birthday, Anna Marie?”

“You’re going to make me regret telling you my middle name.”

His smile is wobbly, as if weakened by pain. “Just answer the question.”

“Why,” I slip my hands under his neck, finding the base of his skull. His muscles are so dense here that my fingers barely make a dent. “You going to give me a present?”

“You put it that way…oh, God, that’s a spot…” His brows furrow on a wince. “God, do that some more, Jones.”

Heat flushes my skin, but I comply. He shudders, his long body twitching as it releases pain.

“You put it that way,” he says returning to the topic of presents, “and I kind of have to, now don’t I?”

“Stop tensing,” I murmur, running my fingers along the back of his skull, before answering him. “You set me up for that one, Baylor. When’s your birthday, then?”

Drew lets out a breath and moans as I find the tension spots plaguing him. He’s now lax, lying heavy on the couch. I’ve had my hands all over his fine body, and yet touching him to take his pain away is a gratification that I never expected.

His voice slurs with drowsiness. “November nineteenth.”

I pause. “It is not.”

He cracks open one eye. “Why would I lie?” Both eyes open. “When’s yours?”

I bite my lip. “November twentieth.”

Drew grins, his whole expression lightening. “We’re birthday buddies.” His smile turns smug. “Only I’m older.”

A small laugh escapes me. “You can keep that victory. I don’t know any girl who wants to be older than her—” My voice dies.

But it’s too late, because it’s obvious what I was going to say. Her boyfriend.

Satisfaction steals over his expression, but there’s something more. Something that has my heart racing in my chest, and my mouth going dry. An acknowledgement. As if he’s been waiting for this very slip.

His lashes are long and thick, framing his light brown eyes. Beneath my fingertips, his throat lifts on a swallow. “Anna.”

My chest tightens to the point of pain. My mother always accused me of having an excess of pride. People think pride is something you ought to be able to control, that it’s something sinful, best used in small doses. And they’re right. But for most of my life, pride has been the only thing that’s kept my head up. Now it’s holding me back from Drew. I know this. Hell, I feel its hard hands upon me, clutching with a tightness that speaks of desperation. I know this, and yet I can’t break free. I’m not ready.

I snuggle back into its familiar hold. Safe there. And instead of acknowledging this growing thing between us, my hands move up to cup Drew’s cheeks. “Sleep,” I say, running a thumb along his bottom lip. “You need it.”

Protest darkens his expression.

“Sleep,” I insist as if my throat isn’t closing in on itself. “I’ll wake you.”

He resists for a moment, watching me with those eyes that reveal too much. But then he does as I ask, putting himself in my keeping. I run my fingers through his silky hair and watch over him while he sleeps.

11

IT’S GETTING WORSE, this addiction. I need Drew with greater frequency and with more urgency. At least there are rules. Rules to keep myself under control, safe. Rules that are somehow agreed upon and understood without having to say a word. We always meet at my place, never so late as to warrant a sleepover, never stay together more than an hour—or three if we are particularly… needy. And still no kissing on the mouth, though I’m starting to see more and more shadows of discontent from Drew regarding this rule. But he’s yet to vocalize it. And I do an admirable job of telling myself that it’s for the best. I need to protect myself. Because I’m never getting left behind again.

Now we’re na**d and on my bed, my favorite fleece throw covering our bodies. I draw the line at getting under the covers with him. That’s too personal, too much like making love verses hooking up. Not that getting under the sheets is an issue when, from the instant we close the door to my room, we think of nothing else but being skin to skin.

Even more concerning is that now that we’ve finished, he isn’t leaving. Nor am I hurrying him out. Sweat gives his golden skin a fine sheen, and he’s panting lightly as if he’s run miles.

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