A part of her couldn’t accept what she feared was true until she was presented irrefutable evidence, and in this case it would mean facing Lucas and having him tell her.

It made her stupid. It made her …It made her someone she didn’t want to be. She hated it. But God, how do you just stop loving someone? How? It wasn’t like flipping a switch. She’d been with Lucas an entire year. She’d only been back with Cole a few days.

She couldn’t cheapen her love for Cole by being as fickle as to say she no longer loved Lucas. What would that say about what she felt for Cole?

The words burned in her throat and she knew she had to tell him. She had to explain. And oh God, if he didn’t understand, if he grew angry, she didn’t know what she’d do because there was nothing left for her but the truth.

She opened her mouth but the words stuck. How she hated this horrible paralysis that gripped her.

Then Cole’s gentle hand slid over her cheek and turned her more fully to face him.

“Talk to me, Ren. There’s such torment in your eyes. I can’t stand to see you this way. ”

Her throat swelled and then tightened into a vicious knot that she could barely breathe around.

“I love him,” she whispered.

Something died in Cole’s eyes. His hand drifted slowly down until it lay on his leg. It was then that she realized that she’d never been honest with her feelings about him. Everything had happened so fast and she’d battled so many conflicting emotions. There was never a doubt in her mind that she loved Cole deeply. Always had. But she hadn’t told him and now she’d just blurted out that she loved Lucas and in Cole’s mind that meant she was choosing him over Cole.

She put both hands to his face, forcing him to look at her as she pleaded with him with her gaze. But instead of saying anything she pressed her lips to his in a hungry kiss and poured every ounce of her feelings for him into that kiss.

“Please forgive me,” she whispered. “I’m so terrible at something that is so important. Please just listen while I explain. ”

“What else is there to say?” he asked hoarsely.

“I love you, Cole. I love you so damned much. ”

His brows furrowed and he looked utterly perplexed. “But you just said …”

She nodded. “I did. I just thought all this out in my head but instead of thinking it, I should have been saying it to you. I love you. I’ve always loved you. Even when I was so hurt and devastated by you leaving me. My loving Lucas doesn’t change that. It may sound ridiculous. Maybe you don’t even believe me. But it’s true.

“I’ve been with Lucas for a year. It took me a long time to sort out my feelings for him. I already told you that in the beginning I was using him. Not maliciously. But I clung to him because he was an anchor in a tumultuous time in my life. I needed him. He provided so much of what I needed to get back on track. I respected him. I liked him. He was a friend and a lover. I’m not even sure when all of that changed and became something deeper and more meaningful. Maybe I didn’t even realize it myself until he took me to you. Because it hurt. It hurt more than I could have imagined that he walked away from me so easily. It was like swallowing a torch and being burned from the inside out.

“But then there was you. So damn perfect. So caring and loving. Seeing you again was like having the past hit me like a tidal wave. I immediately knew that if I’d ever told myself that I’d stopped loving you, I was a damn liar.

“But oh God, Cole. I love Lucas too, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I can’t just turn that off. Even if he has left me and moved on. I don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with that. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to disrespect you. But I can’t pretend like this isn’t tearing me up inside. I can’t pretend I don’t love him when I do. But I can’t—I wont—have you think that I don’t love you with every thing I have. ”

Her breath came out as a sob, stuttering over shaking lips. She hadn’t realized how badly she was shaking all over until Cole gripped her arms with his hands and simply held her.

“I love you, Cole,” she whispered. “I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you were second best or that I didn’t love you or that, God forbid, you were a substitute for Lucas and that any man could give me what I want and need. ”

He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly, his chest heaving against her. “Ren. My darling, Ren. I love you too. So damn much. So honest and so tormented. I wish you’d talked to me before. I hate that you’ve been feeling torn and afraid. ”

“I didn’t even know myself what to say or what to do,” she said, muffled by her mouth against his throat.

She inhaled his scent, closed her eyes as his pulse beat against her lips. Steady and reassuring. Just like he always was. Her Cole.

“I love you,” she said again, because it seemed the right and best thing to say. Perhaps the only thing out of all the other stuff that mattered.

He kissed her hair, stroked her skin and simply held her as she clung to him.

“It will be all right, Ren. I swear to you,” Cole finally said. It was a vow. So firm that hope and comfort took hold. “We’ll find a way, darling. We’ll find it. ”




For several long, glorious days, Ren lived a pampered, idealistic existence. Cole saw to her every need, emotionally and physically. Captain Mike and C. J. , were equally attentive whether it was to smooth sunblock over her skin or to bring up food or drink whenever she or Cole requested it.

She and Cole swam in the sea. They snorkeled along a reef not far from the boat and she delighted in all of the sea creatures she got to interact with.

One afternoon, they took the small outboard to the island they’d anchored off and picnicked on the sand. They played in the surf, took a nap in the shade of a palm tree and then motored back to the yacht at sunset.

Their two weeks were almost up, but neither broached the subject even though it weighed heavy on Ren’s mind. But she knew Cole thought about it too because she could see the way his eyes changed when he thought she wasn’t looking.

On the morning of their seventh day, she woke to Cole parting her legs and plunging deep inside her. He hadn’t worn a condom since that first day on the boat and she’d been fiercely relieved. It wasn’t as if they’d been completely irresponsible.

Both were healthy and had discussed their histories at the onset of their time together. It had been Lucas who’d insisted Cole wear a condom and he’d done so because he hadn’t wanted another man to have what was his. He’d wanted Ren to hold something back. Not let Cole enjoy the same privileges as Lucas had.

But neither Ren nor Cole had been willing to continue that line of respect in light of Lucas’s actions. And it had more to do with their own deep, personal connection than any regard or disregard for Lucas.

She wrapped her arms around Cole’s neck and let her palms slide over his shoulders to his back and down to his lean waist and over his firm buttocks.

He was such a gorgeous man. Toned. Muscled. But not hulking and huge. Just perfect.

“We have to go back today,” he murmured as he nibbled at her ear.

She wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him deeper. “I know. ”

“Mike’s already weighed anchor and we’re heading back to the island where the jet is waiting. ”

She sighed her regret. Their return to reality was inevitable, but still, the few days they’d been able to escape were a fairy tale she’d never forget. Perhaps an extremely kinky adult fairy tale, but a fantasy nonetheless.

He continued to rock into her until her release slid warm and pleasurable over her. Like the sun caressing the earth at dawn. She kissed him. Held on to him as he lowered his body to hers.

For the longest time they remained there, legs intertwined, their breaths mingling until finally Cole rolled over so that Ren was sprawled atop him. r />

“Let’s take a shower together and get dressed,” he said in a regretful tone.

She lowered her mouth to his and allowed the sweetness of his kiss to reassure her. He’d said they’d work it out and she believed him.

“Last one in the shower’s a rotten egg,” she threw out just as she lunged from the bed and ran for the bathroom.

“You little cheat!”

She laughed madly as she turned the water on and waited for it to warm. A moment later, his arms closed around her and his mouth found her neck. Then to her utter shock he hauled her into the shower and shoved her underneath the still-cold spray.

She shrieked and then began laughing as goose bumps broke out over her skin. The water began to warm and suddenly she found herself forced against the wall of the shower. Cole spread her legs and lifted her just enough that her feet left the floor and she was angled so he could penetrate her easily.

Her palms slapped against the wet shower wall and she turned her head so that her cheek was flush against the now-warm tile. She closed her eyes as he ruthlessly fucked her from behind while water rained down over them both.

There was no leisurely love making as there had been just moments earlier. He thrust hard and fast, with the sole purpose of release.

Her hair wasn’t completely soaked yet and he wrapped his hand through the tresses before yanking her down so she knelt in the shower. He angled the showerhead away and began stroking his cock with his free hand, directing the spurts of semen into her hair.

The thin ropes of cum landed in intervals and dripped onto the floor where it disappeared in the swirling water down the drain. When he was finished, she expected him to sink into her mouth and have her lick the remaining stickiness from his cock, but instead he wiped himself with her hair, smearing the liquid through her tresses.

For several long moments he simply stared down at her with glittering eyes as she knelt in front of him. Then he smiled a slow, arrogant smile that told her he was well satisfied with himself.

He ran his fingers over the stickiness in her hair before finally pulling her to her feet and once more directing the shower nozzle directly over her.

He shampooed her hair and rinsed it thoroughly before washing the rest of her body with gentle hands. He sent her out ahead of him while he finished his own shower, and she toweled off and went back into the bedroom to dress.

Breakfast was served topside and Ren watched as the island they’d anchored off of became smaller and smaller on the horizon. Then she smiled because no matter what happened in the future, she’d always treasure the memory of these last days with Cole.

“What has you smiling?” Cole asked.

Her gaze moved to him and her smile widened. “I was thinking of beating you again at Ping-Pong on the trip back. ”

Cole’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, again? I clearly won our last bout. ”

She shook her head. “You cheated. I won. ”

He sputtered and set down his glass of juice. “You accuse me of cheating?”

She nodded solemnly. “I do. But another match should clear things up. Winner takes all. Claims championship rights for the entire trip. ”

“You’re on. ”

What before had been a friendly game turned quickly into a competitive bloodbath as both were determined to emerge the victor. The ball flew fast and furious.

Ren sank her teeth into her bottom lip and let her competitive nature take hold. Over her dead body was he going to beat her.

“Game point,” she taunted.

She blew a strand of hair out of her eyes and stared grimly across the table at him as she prepared to serve. If she lost this one, they’d tie and then she’d have to win by two. Cole seemed every bit as determined to win as she was. It was now or never.

Instead of slapping the ball toward the corner, she put a wicked backspin and barely put it across the net. Cole, who’d stood back, anticipating the hard hit, lunged forward, paddle outstretched. He just caught the ball as it fell over the side and he popped it up high. She backhanded it viciously to the opposite side and he had no prayer of getting to it in time.

She grinned triumphantly as he shot her a disgruntled look.

She sauntered around to his side and slid her paddle back onto the table. “My game. ”

“So it is. I don’t like to lose, you know. ”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Turn around. Hands down on the table. ”

Delicious chills danced up her spine when she saw he was still holding the paddle. Her pussy tingled and her breasts tightened and swelled, suddenly super sensitive to the slightest touch.

He reached around to unfasten the fly of her jeans. Then he pulled her pants down just below her ass. With no preamble, he brought the paddle across her cheek with a smack.

It felt like fire. The very best kind. Edgy pain that quickly turned to hot pleasure.

He struck her other cheek and then stopped to caress the marks on her ass. “Very pretty. But do you know what would be even prettier, Ren?”

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