“Ben! Jesus Christ!” she yells, sitting up and placing her hand on her heaving chest. Her other hand pulls out her ear buds and discards them in her lap. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough,” I reply, thinking back to the night at the bar when I used the same words on her. Her cheeks react the same way they did that night, the slight flush that causes her gaze to wander from mine temporarily until she regains her composure. But she doesn’t have to hide her reaction to me. I like when I knock her off balance. And right now, I can’t stop looking at her. She’s all dark hair, slightly tanned skin, and big brown eyes that regard me with curiosity after she collects herself.

“I, uh, didn’t know you were stopping by today. Are you here to see Tessa because she ran out for a bit.”

For the first time since Mia’s arrival in Ruxton, I wish we weren’t alone. I wish my sister was sitting out here by the pool. I can’t be weak right now, and being alone with Mia in the insanely small bikini she is wearing is making me weak. No, fuck that. I can do this. I focus on her eyes. Only her eyes. “I think it’s a safe assumption to make that if I ever stop over here while you’re in town, I’m not here to see my sister.” Her lips part slightly as she absorbs my words. Does she really not know that I’m here to see her? I glance down at the neglected book in her lap. “What are you reading?”

Her eyes follow mine and her fingers graze the cover. “Oh, um The Giving Tree. I haven’t read it since I was little but I can’t really get into it.” She peeks up at me slowly, taking her time to reach my face. “You didn’t respond to my text.”

My breath hitches in my throat uncomfortably. I reach up and rub my neck, suddenly feeling like a shitty friend. But fuck! What the hell kind of response was she expecting out of me? The memory of that text and of her wet pussy has me contemplating nailing her to the beach chair she’s reclining on. Leave it to Mia to cut the shit and just straight up call me out on my neglectfulness. Because if we are friends, why wouldn’t I have responded to her? It won’t surprise me if her next move is to read the damn message to me out loud and prompt a reply from me that way. And I can’t have that happen. There’s no way in hell I’d be able to restrain myself if she actually voiced that message. But I gotta give that daunting stare of hers something. She’ll never let this go. I know her too well to try and change the subject. So a lie will have to do.

I stuff my hands into my pockets and try to seem unfazed by this. But I’m definitely fucking fazed. “I was really busy this afternoon. Luke and I got called to this domestic violence dispute and it was really intense. I’m sorry. I actually forgot about your text until just now.”



I didn’t. I could never forget about that text.

“Oh, okay.” She begins chewing on the inside of her cheek, her eyes flicking away from mine to the pool. She seems hesitant all of a sudden. The confident girl that was just singing her heart out and ballsy enough to bring this topic up is nowhere in sight. Until I see it, something spreading over her, causing her back to straighten and her eyes to narrow in on mine with a thundering intensity that I’ve never seen before. “You’re going to respond to it, right?”

Fuck. Me.

“I will,” I promise without a single thought. Christ, this woman has the ability to unhinge me like no other. I need to get the subject off that text. I’m going to get hard if I don’t. And damn, if her persistence isn’t the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. She wants me to respond. She needs it. And I hate making her feel like I ignored her. But I need to focus on something else, so I do. “Do you know if Tessa’s busy this weekend? I need to work on Saturday night and I’m going to have Nolan. I was hoping she’d babysit him for me.”

“I don’t know. She’s got a lot going on right now,” she states tensely, avoiding my eyes. A lot going on? Tessa? Her summer plans consisted of tanning and chasing after Luke. But Mia seems uneasy all of a sudden so I decide not to pry. Her eyes return to mine and she smiles. “I can watch him for you if you want.”

“Yeah?” I ask, completely stunned by her offer. I shouldn’t be surprised at anything involving Mia though. The girl seems to astonish me with each passing day. “You don’t have to do that. I can ask the old lady that lives a few houses down from me. She’s watched him before when no one else could.”

She smiles wider and cocks her head playfully. “Do you think Nolan would rather spend the evening with a princess that knows her way around a wooden sword, or an old smelly lady that probably has an absurd amount of cats?”

“An absurd amount of cats?” I arch my brow at her, finding her thought process completely amusing.

She gives me a raised eyebrow in return. “Oh, I’m sure she has them. All old women become crazy cat ladies. My grandmother did. She had eleven roaming through her house.” She scrunches up her nose at the memory. “It smelled really bad in her house. You don’t want Nolan to make this face, do you, Ben?” She points to herself, trying to keep the unpleasant look going but cracking into a smile after a few seconds.

I chuckle. “No, I guess not. I’m sure he’d have more fun with you anyway.” She nods in agreement, smiling as if she really is looking forward to giving up her Saturday night to babysit. Could this woman get any more perfect? “I’ll owe you big time for this so start thinking of ways I can repay you.”

She pulls her bottom lip into her mouth and grabs the sunscreen off the chair next to her. “Oh, I already have a few ideas.” She’s staring right at me and the heated look in her eyes is hitting me where I don’t need it to. “I think I’m burning. Would you mind?”

Fuuccckkk.

No. I don’t mind. Not in the slightest. I’m only a man. I’m not a God. I can’t say no to Mia when she’s staring up at me like she wants me to do more than just rub sunscreen on her. Because that’s exactly how she’s staring at me. Ask my cock. I grab the lotion and clear my throat as she spins around in her chair, offering me her back. This is a test. A test to see if I can handle touching Mia as a friend. Because friends apply sunscreen to each other and can do it without it being sexual. I begin applying the lotion onto the warm skin of her shoulders, feeling the goose bumps pop up against my touch. She drops her head and moans softly, causing my cock to twitch like a fucking traitor. But I ignore it, moving down to her back. She moans again, a bit louder this time, as I lift the string of her bikini, making sure to cover the area before I put it back in place. I’m only being thorough. I’d hate for Mia to burn and be in any amount of pain. Just being thorough.

“That feels so good. I forgot what your hands felt like on my body.”

Good God. I don’t want to react to that. This is like her text messages, only worse. I can’t hide behind the screen of my phone and jerk off with my free hand. And my cock is having difficulty not reacting. I pretend like I don’t hear her and run my hands down her lower back, smearing the lotion on. She does that damn whimpering sound and all the blood in my veins rushes straight to my dick. That’s it. I have to get out of here. I pick the bottle of sunscreen off the ground and drop it over her shoulder and into her lap.

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