Thank fuck Elena wasn’t at The Wicked Horse last night. Jerico surprised me with his personal knowledge of her schedule of attendance at his sex club. She never went on Sundays because she spent that day with her family. And why wouldn’t she? Elena is incredibly family oriented. Another reason we don’t belong together.

I’m not sure what I would have done had she shown up last night. Would I have stood by and watched her fuck someone else? I had no right to deny her. Yet, I feel like I might have made a scene. Not from the alcohol… but from something deep inside me that still believes she’s mine. Inherently, I know I would flip out if another man even looked at her, much less touched her.

Sadly, it’s not an acceptable way to feel—nor is it fair.

That means I need to stay away from the club. She still has a couple of weeks left on the thirty-day membership I got her. My plan is to stay out of there until her membership expires, and I hope to hell I never run into her there again.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Every part of my being wants to run into her again. Be with her again. Be inside of her again.

Over and over again.

But the cost is way too high. The vulnerability and the way she strips me bare comes with too much risk of pain. It does too much to make me remember the loss I’ve already suffered, and I don’t even want to consider a loss that could occur if I got tied in deep with her.

These thoughts preoccupy me so much it barely penetrates there’s a car in my driveway as I slow on approach. It’s a nondescript charcoal-gray car I immediately recognize as Elena’s. At the end of every evening with her at the club, I’d escorted her back to that same vehicle.

One night, as I’d been kissing her goodbye, it had turned hot and heavy between us. I’d ended up hiking up her skirt, bending her over the hood, and fucking her hard from behind. Luckily, only one other couple had walked by us during our interlude. They’d been club members, so it hadn’t been awkward in the slightest as they moved past us, even with their eyes glued to our straining bodies.

The thought of that night—boldly taking what I wanted without a care in the world—makes my dick twitch. Regrettably, it only gets more interested as she steps out of the car. It quickly lengthens behind the zipper of my pants, my breath turning ragged as I take her in.

I maneuver my car in beside hers, letting my gaze rake her over without shame. She’s incredibly beautiful in just a pair of jeans with rips across the thighs and an off-the-shoulder white blouse. With her hair in a ponytail, she looks fresh and innocent.

Why is she here? How does she even know where I live?

And why in the fuck is there a feeling of joy bubbling up inside me when I have firmly decided, without equivocation, that she is simply no good for me?

It’s with resolve I exit my vehicle and move around the front so I can meet her head-on.

“I’m sorry for just showing up,” she rushes to say as we come face to face, her expression wary and slightly fearful even.

Oddly, I don’t even have an ounce of anger she could be some weirdo stalking me. However, my curiosity shines through. “How did you find out where I live?”

I mean, it wouldn’t be hard. Property tax records and all.

Which is why I’m surprised when she replies, “Your medical partner, Dr. Aimes. I went to your office today because I was worried about you. He told me where you live.”

I’m going to fucking kill him. Not for the invasion of privacy, but for putting her back in my path. For tempting me with something I’ve already decided is no good.

Elena crosses her arms and tilts her chin up, giving me a harsh glare. “Why did you ghost me?”

I’m not prepared for her simple question. I’d expected it to be recriminations first, but it appears she just wants a straightforward answer.

“I’m sorry,” I say sincerely. “I should have canceled.”

Fire flashes in her eyes, and her jaw locks. “Explain,” she corrects with an icy look. “You should’ve explained.”

“It’s complicated,” I say, painfully aware of how lame my excuse is.

Elena throws her arms out, her voice heavy with sarcasm. “Yeah, I figured out you’re a complicated guy. Knew it from the get-go, Benjamin. That’s not really an excuse.”

“I don’t know what to say.” She’s right, of course. There was no good excuse for standing her up. But if I am going to hold true to the life I’ve been living since the accident, I don’t owe her an explanation.