Page 30 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

“Why, Erica? Why do you fucking fight me?”

My hips churned, bucking against his hand. My panties were soaked and I was ready to have him here. When it came to having his hands on me, he’d win every time. Fighting him was a lost cause, and now that I’d been deprived of his touch for so long, I was ready to crawl up his body if it meant ending this distance.

My hands traveled under his shirt, over his naked torso.

“I want you...right now.”

His breath rushed out, and massaging his fingers against my throbbing sex through the flimsy fabric of my underwear. Curling my fingers, I trailed my nails down his sides, blind with all the ways I wanted him.

Then another loud pop sounded from the living room. The sound was followed by the familiar voices of his family and Alli’s calling my name, a sobering reminder that we weren’t nearly alone enough to follow through on what we’d started here.

We broke apart, breathless.

“Christ.” Blake stepped back unsteadily and readjusted himself.

Even through his jeans I could see that he was painfully hard, fully ready to fuck me on any surface he could find. In this room, that might have been Heath’s desk. That would have been bad. So very good, but very bad.

I swallowed hard, trying like hell to drive my thoughts back to reality. I let my head fall back. My chest heaved even as I hopelessly tried to tame the rush of sexual tension that flowed through me. Fuck. This had to be worse than the seventh circle of hell. He’d taken several steps away, a crushing distance considering how intimately he’d just held me.

“Blake, I don’t want to fight. Please, let’s go home and just put this all behind us.”

After a moment, he turned back to me, sending my heart flying again. But I didn’t see resignation in his eyes. Far from it, he seemed to have gathered his resolve in that short moment as I was putting my brain cells back to work.

“I told you I was sorry, and I meant it,” I pleaded.

“I know you are. But it’s not enough this time. What I’m asking for... this isn’t what I want. This is what I need. It’s what we need.”

He held me in his gaze, the tension arcing between us. I opened my mouth, but he spoke before I could.

“The choice is yours, Erica.”

The simple words. The finality in his voice when he said them. The expectation in his eyes as he waited for me to... to what? To submit? To give everything to him? Every last tiny little piece of myself that was ever worth hanging on to, he expected me to deliver along with my love and trust and future.

I wanted to crack. I wanted to cry, because I knew I couldn’t give him the answer he needed. Could I? I couldn’t imagine it.

As I went to war with myself, he closed the distance between us. He kissed me, a quick soft press of his lips to mine. The sweet gesture scattered my thoughts again as he looked deep into my eyes.

“I love you, Erica. But if you can’t give this to me...” He didn’t finish, only shaking his head, eyes a tornado of emotion that seemed to reflect.

But... what was he saying? This was it? Before I could question him, he reached for the door and I moved to let him pass. Head down, his hands stuffed back into his pockets, he disappeared down the hallway toward the noise of the party.

I stood there, paralyzed by what had happened. For all my wanting to talk, I was in disbelief that this is what had been brewing inside Blake all this time.

All the emotions I’d pushed down to go on about my life the past couple days had crept up to the surface tonight, and I’d passed the point of being able to be here with his family and pretend everything was fine. One look at Blake, knowing our relationship was now very much on the line, would have me in tears.

Even if sorry was enough, I couldn’t say it any more than I had, and my heart couldn’t take any more of this. I couldn’t take another minute of knowing that everything I’d given him still wasn’t enough.

Without giving Blake’s mother any indication of how our talk had gone, I slipped through the kitchen past her and into the living room. The friendly chatter quieted when I entered. Ignoring the others, for fear I’d break down if I made eye contact with anyone, especially Blake, I found Alli. She was standing by the couch, drink in hand. I grabbed my purse and gave her a quick hug.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered and found my way out.


The apartment was dark and quiet. Too quiet.

I’d returned home alone and tried in vain to sleep. Inside I was battling with the enormity of what Blake had said, what he’d asked of me—the proposal after the proposal. Except this one hadn’t come with a glittering band of diamonds, but the very real threat of having nothing at all. I wanted to believe he was bluffing, that I could talk him out of this way of thinking. But what if he wasn’t? What if nothing I could say would sway this position he’d put me in?

I’d texted Alli just before midnight, wondering if he’d stayed the night there. No, he’d left. She didn’t know where. Sleep finally took me in the early hours of the morning.

The morning was muggier than usual after an evening of light showers. I stepped outside and found Clay waiting outside with the Escalade, ready to take me to work. Even when he didn’t drive me on other days, he was always nearby. Evidently Blake wasn’t going to take any more chances with my safety¸ and I didn’t suppose there was much I could say to change his mind on the matter.

I relished the cool dry air of the SUV and let him guide us through the city streets. My mind drifted to Blake and where he was spending his nights. Before my imagination began to run wild again, I looked to Clay.

“Do you know where Blake was last night?”

His gaze lifted meeting me in the rearview mirror. “I couldn’t say for sure, Miss Hathaway. He asked me to stay available for you this week. I haven’t heard from him since then.”

“Does someone else stay with him?”

“No, ma’am. Just you.”

He wasn’t worried about himself it would seem, but I was. The streets sped by until we slowed in front of the office. I said goodbye to Clay and walked briskly toward the entrance to the building.

My body desperately needed more coffee to get me through the day, but I’d decided to skip my usual morning routine of stopping at Mocha. I’d been avoiding Simone. I didn’t know how much James had shared with her about Blake confronting him. I was already emotionally maxed out with what had transpired between Blake and me the previous night. If I had to face one more emotionally draining situation, I was going to snap.