Page 38 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

He cursed, pulsing into me. Eyes to the sky, he caught his breath. He looked as destroyed as I felt. Slipping out of me, he fell back onto the couch. Hands on his head, he blew out a slow unsteady breath.


He turned his head to look at me, confusion mingling with the utter wreckage on his face. “Why what?”

“Why on earth would you deprive us of that?”

He laughed, and I smiled too, too wasted for anything else but levity. Then his smile faded. He brought his hand to my knee, and stroked my leg gently. Several empty minutes passed.

“Don’t leave me again, Blake,” I said softly.

Our eyes locked. “I didn’t leave you.”

“You left our bed, and I didn’t know where you were.”

“I didn’t want to stay away. I never want to be away from you. You’re all I think about. You’re the only person I ever want to be with.”

“Then why did you leave?”

He sighed. “If I came home, I was going to fuck you senseless.”

I laughed again, despite the seriousness I was trying to convey. “When did that become a crime?”

“Not nearly a crime, but as amazing as this is—and believe me, it was amazing—fucking you wasn’t going to get me what I wanted. If anything, it would only complicate matters and confuse the issue. We both know sex isn’t the issue here. But I was hoping you’d come around, sooner rather than later. I was prepared to jerk off until you gave in to my demands, but I can’t say I was looking forward to it.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “And now that I have?”

He slid his hand down farther, catching mine and threading our fingers together. “Now I want to take you home and show you how grateful I am until the sun comes up.”

* * *

I dressed for work and joined Blake in the kitchen. Seeing him there pouring coffee made me realize even more how terrible the brief distance had been. I wanted Blake in my life, every morning, every night, and every minute we could steal in between. Married life, I figured, would cater to that pretty well. A little flutter of excitement went through me at that sentiment.

I navigated around the island for my coffee, and he snagged me close for a kiss. I melted into it. His lips lingered and his tongue teased. Memories from last night whirled through my mind. Every touch, every toe-curling moment. Now I wished we had time for more. Still, the weekend was close, and we could spend at least some of it in bed. I wanted Blake by my side, but I also wanted to catch up on some much needed sleep. I hadn’t really slept since the trip to San Francisco, and the fatigue was catching up with me.

“I’m exhausted.” I slipped out of his embrace and lifted myself onto a seat at the island with my coffee.

“Makes two of us. Why don’t you stay home?”

“Some of us have to work, dear.”

A comfortable silence fell as we drank our coffee.

“When does James leave?”

I tightened my jaw, lingering bitterness at James leaving seeping in. “I wanted to talk to you about that, actually.”

He set his cup down with a thud. His eyebrows went up with a challenge.

“It’s not what you think,” I reassured him.

“What is it then?”

“Asking James to leave wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I did it for you.”

“For us,” he said.

I exhaled heavily. “Whatever. It’s difficult for me to not draw parallels to your situation with Sophia, though.”

He leveled an expressionless stare at me before turning to refill his cup. “She lives in New York.”

“You’ve also slept with her. You have a history with her. You had a sexual and romantic relationship. Even if I didn’t despise her personally, it would bother me that you still see her...sporadically or not.”

He turned and leaned against the counter. The pose was casual, but I could sense the tension rippling below his clothes. I resented what this woman’s name brought into the room. I also resented his clothes. These conversations seemed to go better when we were both naked.

“The only reason I ever see her is on business. I’ve told you this. Why do you keep pressing the issue?”

“Because I’m human, and like you, I’m jealous of anyone who wants what’s mine. You’re mine, and neither of us can deny that she wants you. You can claim you’re just friends all day long, but I could say the same about James and me, and the words would fall on deaf ears.”

“What do you want me to do about it?”

I traced the rim of my cup, suddenly scared to the death that I was dancing on the edge of disaster with Blake again and so soon after we’d come to terms.

“How long have you been invested in her business?”

He knitted his brows. “Four years.”

I nodded. “That’s a long time.”

“What are you getting at, Erica? Spit it out.”

“I’d like it if you would consider removing yourself from her business. I’m not saying I want her business to suffer, but I can’t help but feel like keeping that connection with you is like a lifeline for her. Like she’ll always have a chance to try to get you back.”

“She has zero chance of getting me back.”

“Did you tell her we were getting married?”

His jaw tensed. He pushed off the counter and dumped the remains of his coffee cup into the sink. “You’re a pain in the ass, Erica. Do you realize that?”

I laughed, relieved to have a little comic relief. “Do what you want, Blake. I’m just letting you know how I feel. You want me to be honest with you, so I am. I made a sacrifice for the health of our relationship, and those sacrifices are more easily made when there isn’t a double standard.”

He circled the island and stood in front of me. Staring down, his eyes glimmered with humor. Something had changed in him, and already I loved it.

“I’ll take it into consideration.”

“Thank you,” I murmured, arching up to kiss his lips.

“Does that make you happy?”

I smiled. “You make me happy, so yes. The less of you I have to share, the better.”

He hummed and lowered again to kiss me, tracing his tongue over my lip. “How about we make you happy one more time before work.”


I worked busily through my work all morning. For the most part, everything was on track. Blake and I were good, James and I had an understanding, and I was ready to move on with my life. After lunch Daniel texted me, reminding me of the meeting we’d scheduled for the afternoon.