I couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything more than arch my hips into him and ride the waves of scream-inducing ecstasy as he held tightly to my hands, keeping them pinned with one hand while his other gripped my hip tightly, his fingers digging almost painfully into my flesh as he jerked me back into his thrusts.

With one, final, forceful plunge into me, the tide crested and broke. I screamed, a ragged, wild cry as my orgasm exploded through me, rushing over every inch of my body, tingling and burning through me like I’d been injected with fireworks. Aftershocks singed the already frayed nerves of my sex as I came, and came, and came, still screaming with the never ending pleasure drinking me down. Brandon’s hips locked tight to mine and he shouted hoarsely as he bathed my insides with his scalding hot release, each spurt making him flex and twitch inside my sheath, sending even more paroxysms of bliss over my shivering, well-used body.

Once our bodies had calmed a bit, he disengaged, making both of us moan. He slumped to the bed beside me, pulling me to him and spooning me as he ran a soothing, gentle hand up and down my side.

“Well,” he said, smiling. “Good morning to you, too!”

Chapter 12

“You’re awfully chipper this morning,” Allie said to me, suspiciously, a couple hours later at the store.

I’d managed to get up out of bed, shower once more, and actually get dressed this time before heading to work. Brandon was moving a little slower, but he didn’t have to be at the shop until ten this morning, so he was just getting in the shower when I left. Before I’d walked out the door, though, he’d pulled me close and kissed me, making me promise to be careful. He’d said, ‘I know that somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re still worried that that jerkwad will find you. But Chloe, he won’t ever get near you. Not if I have anything to do with it.’

I jumped and spun to face Allie, who’d snuck up behind me while I was organizing the book rack and putting some new stock out. I gave her a smile and shrugged. “It’s just a beautiful day,” I said, winking.

She cocked her eyebrow at me and then glanced out the front windows, looking back at me with a baleful expression when I noticed that the sky outside had darkened and it had started to rain. “Wanna try again?” she said, drolly, the corner of her mouth quirking up. She rubbed her belly absently and waited for my response.

“Things are just looking up for me. You know?”

She nodded. “I hope so. You sure you’re okay? I know your mom said that that monster was out of jail…I hate to bring it up, but there’s no way he knows you’re here, right?”

I jerked my shoulder at her in a half-hearted shrug. “I’m fine. I feel like I’m allowed to heal now, and, I’m not gonna lie, I puked my guts out when I heard that he was out, but there’s no way he knows where I am. He never knew that we lived out here before, he didn’t know really anything about Jackson, and we never spent any time with my mom,” I paused for a second, uncertainty wavering in my mind. “At least I hope not…” I finished, softly.

She gave me a tender look, patted me on the shoulder, and sighed. “Well, damn. I didn’t mean to drag the mood down, but I didn’t get to really talk much to you last night. And then you come in this morning, smiling, all sunshine and rainbows, and…wait. Did you…?”

An odd look crossed her face and then she shook her head, but I could see the question forming on her lips. “Did you and Brandon…?” She didn’t complete the question, just left it hanging.

I knew what she was asking and couldn’t stop the grin spreading across my face.

“You did!” she crowed. “Holy shit! You guys had sex! You…oh. Hmm.” She nodded, but her smile slid away, melancholy taking its place.

My heart dropped. “Oh, God. Allie, I’m so sorry!” I cried.

She waved it away, smiling once more, a faint, sad smile. “No, Chloe. Don’t be silly. I’m happy for you, happy that you two are going to make a go of it. I guess I just didn’t realize that it would-never mind.” She turned away quickly and headed into the office.

I called after her, but she ignored me. I tossed the stack of books in my hand down into the box beside me and took a step toward the office to follow her, but the bell above the door jingled, heralding the arrival of a customer. I turned to greet the customer, smiling faintly when I saw it was Emma.

“Hey, Chloe!” Emma called.

“Hey,” I answered.

“How are you doing today? Better?” she asked, pulling me in and giving me a hug.

“I’m good,” I sighed.

She tsked. “You’re lying. What’s up? And where’s Allie?” she asked.

I felt tears threaten as I gestured toward the office. “She’s in there…she-I think she’s mad at me.”

“What? Why?” Emma said, worriedly.

“God, Emma. I don’t know why I even agreed to try to see where things would go with Brandon. I mean, Allie kept saying that I should because of the kiss, and this conversation we had, and…and…I’m just a fuck-up, is what I am!” I sobbed, burying my face in my hands.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Emma cooed, wrapping her arms around me. “No, you’re not, Chloe, and I’m sure there’s an explanation for this. What happened?”

“Brandon and I…you know…and I was so happy this morning and she asked me why and then I smiled and then she got mad and then…”

“Whoa! Slow down, chick. Take a breath.” Emma held me back from her by the shoulders, not letting me go.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Tears slid silently down my cheeks as I looked at her and began again. “I think she’s mad that I slept with Brandon.”

“You slept with Brandon?” she squealed, shaking me around a bit and grinning from ear to ear. “Well, that’s the whole point, wasn’t it? To get you two together and then all that’s left of the group is Leah and Calland to get paired off…of course, now there’s T.J. that we need to worry about, but I don’t kno--”

“Emma! Focus!” I said sternly, my voice still clogged with tears.

“Oh, sorry,” she said contritely. Her brow furrowed then and she glanced worriedly at the closed office door Allie had disappeared behind. “I’m not sure I understand, because wasn’t this whole thing her idea?”

I nodded, a little churlishly, but I kinda felt like I had the right to be a little disgruntled about the situation. She’s the one that insisted…but…no. I shouldn’t have listened. Guilt choked me up again, and more tears followed the damp trails streaking my face.

Emma hugged me, gently rocking me from side to side. I could tell she was perplexed and was taking a second to think about what was going on and how to fix it. She’s a fixer.

I closed my eyes and sighed. We stayed that way for a minute until she patted my back and said, “I’m sure this is all a misunderstanding. I’ll talk to her, okay?”

I nodded, my chin bumping her shoulder.

A throat cleared behind us and Allie said, timidly, “It’s not a misunderstanding. It’s just me being a bitchy asshat on top of a hormonal pregnant woman. I’ve turned into an emotional wreck.” She moved to us and reached out to touch my arm.

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