I was frustrated, and in a way, I still am. I don’t really understand why she couldn’t spare a little time for me when all of her Facebook updates were pictures of her at different restaurants and nightclubs with her friends.

I missed hearing about her day. I wanted to listen to her brag about how well she did in class. I missed her raving about how she couldn’t wait for an upcoming audition. She was always the first person I went to with anything. That began to change after I met Tessa and started getting closer to my stepbrother, Hardin, but still, I missed her. I don’t know a lot about dating, but I did know that this wasn’t it.

Suddenly I realize the bathroom is filling with steam from the shower while I’m just standing here staring at myself in the mirror and reliving the failure of my only relationship. I finally step into the shower—and the water is scalding, like it’s lashing out against my skin. I jump back out and adjust the water. I connect my phone to the iDock and turn on my sports podcast before I get back into the shower. The announcers’ voices are deep and loud as they bicker over the unnecessary politics surrounding hockey. I try to pay attention to who they are complaining about, but the sound keeps cutting in and out, so I reach out and shut it off. My phone falls from the dock and lands in the sink. I reach over and get it out before my usual luck kicks in and an invisible house elf turns on the water. Having a house elf, preferably Dobby or his clone, would be ideal. Harry Potter was one lucky kid.

This bathroom is way too small for another body, elf or not. It’s tiny—microscopic, really—with one low sink with a wonky faucet planted next to a small toilet that I can barely fit on. Whoever designed this apartment didn’t do it with a six-foot-tall guy in mind. Unless said six-foot-tall guy liked to bend his knees to get his head under the shower stream. The warm water works at my back as I continue to torture myself and think about Dakota. She takes up prime real estate in my head, and I can’t seem to get her to move out. She looked so good today, so damn sexy in those shorts and sports bra.

Did she notice that my body has changed since she’s seen it last? Did she see that my arms have grown thicker and my stomach finally has the lines of muscle that I’ve been working toward?

Growing up, I was the chubby kid. My hefty build was often the topic of conversation in the crowded hallways of my high school. “Lardy Landon,” they called me. “Don’t let Landon land on you,” they would joke. Maybe it sounds so damn stupid and childish now, but it bothered the crap out of me when the meatheads would walk behind me chanting it. That was only one of the many flames of the hell that was high school. It was nothing compared to what happened with Carter, but I’m not going there tonight.

The more I try to remember about our encounter at Grind, the more my brain screws with the memories and jumbles them. I couldn’t tell what Dakota was thinking. I never could. Even when we were young, she always had secrets. It was appealing then, mysterious and exciting. Now that we’re older and she broke up with me with little real explanation, it’s not so fun.

I stare at the seaweed-green shower tiles and think about all of the things that I should have said and done during those five minutes. It’s a vicious cycle, going over what I could have said and then reminding myself that it’s not a big deal, then back to freaking out. I stare at the wall, remembering her standing in front of me earlier today. I wish I could have read the pages behind her almond eyes, or found some words hidden beneath her full lips.

Those lips . . .

Dakota’s lips are something else. They are plump, and the perfect shade of soft petal pink. Their rosy color has always driven me crazy, and she’s mastered the art of using them perfectly. We were only sixteen when we messed around for the first time. It was our two-month anniversary, and she had just adopted a puppy for me. I knew my mom wouldn’t let me keep it, and she had to know it, too, but we tried to hide it in my closet. Dakota often did things that she knew she shouldn’t, but her intentions were always good. We would feed the little gray fur ball the best food from the little pet shop down the street. He didn’t bark much, and when he did, I would cough to try to hide the sound. It worked for a while, until he grew too big for my small bedroom.

After two months of captivity, I had to tell my mom about the dog. She wasn’t nearly as upset as I thought she would be. However, she did explain the cost of upkeep of a puppy, and when I compared that to my measly check from the car wash I worked at sporadically, it didn’t add up. Even with the tips added in, I couldn’t cover a vet bill. After some tears and protestations, Dakota finally agreed. To ease the pain, we geeked out and watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies. We binge-drank Starbucks Frappuccinos and complained about paying five dollars a cup. We ate Twizzlers and peanut butter cups until our stomachs hurt, and I drew circles on her cheeks with my fingertips, the way she always liked, until she fell asleep on my lap.

I woke up to her warm mouth and her lips tight around my cock.

I was surprised, half-awake, and aroused as hell watching her take me between her lips, down her warm throat. She said she had wanted to try it for a while but was nervous. She worked her mouth around me perfectly, making me come with an embarrassing quickness.

She learned that she really liked to please me this way, and she started doing it almost every time

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