I shuddered, both turned on and emotional all at once. This moment was so intimate, almost too intimate. “It is? I thought you were only doing it that way for me.”

He inched closer. “For starters, I’d do it that way for you. But in a most happy coincidence, I like it rough too. I like it hard. I like it dirty. And I like giving a woman exactly what she wants.”

His words weaved through my insides, warming me up in ways I hadn’t expected. They turned me on, but they also made me want to turn to him, to draw him close. I had to deflect, or I’d lose sight of the boundaries we’d erected.

“And you like that it’s just sex,” I said quickly, my pitch rising. “You aren’t into relationships. Well, not after Rose.”

He took a minute before answering, and I worked my way through more of my breakfast. “She wasn’t my finest moment,” he said carefully. “Sometimes I look back and wonder what I missed. What I should have done differently to avoid that kind of person and the lies she spun. But I was drawn to her from the start, and that was the trouble.”

“What drew you to her?” I asked, hating talking about his ex, but desperately needing to understand him in a new way, to delve into this side of him that I’d never wanted to explore so fully before.

Staring off in the distance, his jaw ticked, then he turned to me. “She had this way about her where she could talk about anything, take on any topic. She was outgoing, and it was alluring,” he said, and I made a note of that. I was not outgoing. I took my time with people, watching and observing before I let them in. “And that made it easy to fall under her spell. It seemed at first like we had a lot in common.”

All of sudden, a plume of jealousy burned inside of me. Did he mean in the bedroom? I had to know. Even if it would hurt. “In bed, you mean?”

He met my gaze, his eyes full of nothing but the honesty I knew from him. “Yes. Does that bother you?”

I swallowed the stone in my throat, then lied. “No.” For some strange reason I wanted to be the only one who liked it the way he did. The way we did.

But Adam surprised me again when he reached for my hand and threaded his fingers through mine. “But she never had the courage to write anything down. She never had the bravery to tell me how she wanted it. You do, and it’s so insanely attractive,” he said in that growly, alpha voice he’d used last night.

A voice that perhaps he only used with me.

“Everything about you is attractive. Remember that. You’re honest. She was a liar, so don’t compare yourself to her,” he said, running a finger down my nose.

And I was busted.

He’d seen through my questions.

He knew why I’d asked.

And he could tell I wanted to be different than she was.

He’d given me what I needed to hear, and I wanted to do the same for him. I laced our fingers more tightly. “It wasn’t your fault—what she did. What she took from you,” I said, our eyes holding. “She was a junkie. They weave their wicked magic. They seduce. And she was beautiful, and she was sweet,” I said, and though it was true, the truth tasted bitter on my tongue. But I had to endure it for him, to remind him that he wasn’t to blame. “We can’t erase our pasts, Adam. We can only make different choices. So you’re making a different one now. To stay away from relationships, from the hurt they might inflict.”

“I am,” he said, and it sounded like a solemn vow. “I trusted her, Nina. Trusted her in my home, in my life, with my heart. And she violated all of that. It’s safer this way.”

I nodded, getting him completely. I’d chosen safety too, for years, and in choosing him for my list, I would remain cocooned in that security.

Friendship was our safety net. We’d jump from the sky, and the net of our friendship would catch us.

“But you know what?” he added. “She is the past. Let’s focus on the present. And the present, as they say, is a gift. So how about I give you a gift before I leave for work?”



He cleared the table in seconds flat.

He told me to strip to nothing as he left the room.

I did, anticipation rushing over my body as I removed my clothes, setting my glasses on the end table in the living room.

When he returned, one hand behind his back, I wore only my birthday suit, and his eyes shone with ravenous lust as he stared at my breasts for the first time.

Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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