I rolled out of bed on Sunday morning in a seriously pissy mood that had a whole lot to do with waking up without a certain redhead next to me. My desire for her was like the thirst of a man stranded in the desert—overwhelming, maddening, threatening to consume me if I wasn’t careful. Maybe she really was a witch. She certainly had some kind of power over me.
Grumbling under my breath, I shrugged on a t-shirt and shorts before stalking into the kitchen. As I took in the shining stainless steel appliances and the glowing hardwood cabinets that I’d built myself, I frowned. I’d been so proud of this kitchen, but without Sylvie there in those little scraps of pink pajamas she’d worn Friday night, it no longer had the same appeal to me.
Fuck. Had it really only been two nights ago that I’d kissed her for the first time? It felt like months had passed, and I ached to taste her again. She was worse than heroin—I’d only sampled those perfect, plush lips twice, and I was already addicted.
Coffee. I needed coffee. That would put me in a better mood. I filled the pot and dumped grounds into the filter, and closed my eyes with a groan as the memory of her sweet mouth and the way she’d come alive against me sent a surge of desire thrumming through my loins. This was pure torture. I was going to have to get her naked soon.
Belatedly I remembered that she had told me that she was babysitting for a friend and wouldn’t be over that day. The life seemed to drain out of me, and I couldn’t even summon up the strength to curse. There was no telling when I’d see her again, now.
I’d be stuck working late all of next week. My contracting company was finishing up a new women’s shelter, and Karen, the woman who ran the organization which had commissioned it, was paying a bonus to get it completed as soon as possible because they urgently needed the extra space. Even if I got that done, Karen had hired my company to do renovations on a dozen more houses. These had been picked up in foreclosure auctions to house battered women with children who were ready to take the first steps back into a more normal life. The women who needed my services were in desperate straits, and I couldn’t blow them off just because I was obsessed with my son’s girlfriend.
Hell, it might be a whole week before I so much as set eyes on my redheaded nymphet again.
That thought sent my mood plunging straight into the toilet. Jaw clenched, I filled my mug with steaming coffee and flopped down in my recliner. I needed something to take my mind off of her, so I turned on the television and flipped through channel after channel of crap. Why the Hell was I paying for this garbage? Wait. There. I passed it, and had to flip back. There was an all-day Walking Dead marathon on. Maybe watching people being eaten alive by zombies would distract me from my erotic thoughts about Sylvie.
It was pushing noon before I heard Patrick stirring, and a couple of minutes later the noise of the shower came from the hallway. The boy must be going out, otherwise he wouldn’t bother showering on a Sunday with Sylvie not around. Not that he bothered most of the time when she was around, for that matter. I sipped my coffee and turned my attention back to the television. Hell with it—it wasn’t my problem.
Just as I got back into the show, the doorbell rang. Who would drop in unannounced on a Sunday afternoon? None of the answers I came up with made me eager to jump up out of my chair to answer the door. I’d about made up my mind to ignore it when it rang again. Cursing, I muted the television and stalked into the foyer. Damned solicitors apparently couldn’t read the sign in the front. I really ought to turn the sprinklers on and douse them.
Squinting to look through the peephole, I closed my eyes with a groan and let my forehead sink against the door. My ex-wife, Janet, stood outside looking impatient. Solicitors would have been an improvement. I considered going back to the living room and pretending I wasn’t home, but my truck was in the driveway so she knew I was there. Like fingernails on a chalkboard, the doorbell rang again. Damn her, anyway.
I yanked open the door and glared at her. “What?”
Janet drew back and blinked at me. “Is that any way to talk to your wife?”
“Ex-wife,” I growled. “What do you want?”
Instead of answering, she pushed past me and clattered inside on a pair of stiletto heels like stilts. Her dirty blonde hair had been dyed a platinum shade so pale it was almost white, and her long nails glowed neon pink. She wore a pair of painted-on jeans and a top that was so tight it was a miracle her tits didn’t burst out of it. I rounded on her, outraged.
“I didn’t invite you in.”
“Oh, for god’s sake, Colin,” she sighed theatrically. “Can’t you manage to be civil? It’s not that difficult. I’m here to pick up Patrick. We’re going shopping for clothes and things for his dorm before he goes back for the fall semester.”
I crossed my arms across my chest. “You could go back with him. Maybe you could get him to actually go to class for a change.”
She jutted out a hip and rolled her eyes. “Didn’t you blow off classes now and then when you were his age?”
“You know damned well I did not. I was working full time and busting my ass to keep my scholarship.”
“You’re such a grump. Actually, I did have something else I wanted to talk to you about, though.”
Here it comes. “What do you want, Janet?”
“Well, I’ve been talking to the kids, and I think we should discuss reconciling. I think the divorce was a mistake.”
My jaw dropped and I stared at her thunderstruck, too shocked to speak.
“I really think we’d all be happier if we were back together as a family again,” she continued, oblivious to my reaction. “They want to be able to do vacations and holidays like Christmas together again, the way we used to.”
I ran a hand down my face. The woman had gone mental. She’d completely lost her mind. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so obvious that she was serious.
“So, what would you think of giving it a try?” She looked at me expectantly, then sidled closer to run her hand slowly down my chest. Her voice turned into a low, seductive purr. “We could get back together and see if we can recapture that old magic.”
I took a step away from her. “I seem to recall that you were the one who wanted out of this marriage in the first place. And I don’t remember you worrying too much about what the kids might think when you were blathering about finding yourself and reaching out for life with both hands and all that crap. You wanted to be free to experience all of the things you gave up for marriage and children. Remember?”
“I was just confused,” she said, her lips puckering into a pout. “I had empty nest syndrome, and when I hit my mid-forties… Well, you know. It was a phase.”
I took a deep breath. “Janet, you were fucking your personal trainer and your Zumba coach. And those are just the ones that the private investigator got pictures of and I could prove. I’m ninety-nine percent certain that you were screwing around with Cindy from your office before that, too.”
A flush crept up her face. I was pretty sure it was anger and not shame. I didn’t believe she had any of that left in her.
“Oh, and I suppose that when you go through your mid-life crisis that you’re not going to go out and by a flashy sports car and try to fuck girls half your age just to show that you still can?”
My insides went ice cold. “Would it bother you if I did?”
She just shrugged. “Call it tit for tat. If we get back together, you’ve got a few Get Out of Jail Free cards in your pocket.”
Janet was serious about that, too. What the hell had happened to the woman I’d married? This… This was like some terrible parody of the Janet I’d fallen in love with all those years ago.
“Think about it, Colin. We built a life together, had kids together. We can still grow old together—if you’re willing to be an adult and admit that we all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Not even you.”
I knew better, knew it was all a self-serving heap of crap. But my children were important to me. Family was important to me, and after the divorce I’d lost most of her relations that I’d counted as my friends because she’d convinced them that the divorce was all my fault. Even now, after everything that had happened and knowing what she was, I might have considered swallowing my pride and setting aside my own happiness for the sake of my kids.
There was just one little problem. Janet had never even hinted at the fact that she was sorry for what she’d done, for what she’d put me through. It wasn’t hard to guess that her only real regret was that there weren’t nearly as many sexy, younger men willing to jump into her bed as she had assumed when she filed the divorce papers. I knew for a fact that her personal trainer and Zumba coach had both gotten bored with her and dumped her. Apparently the single life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
The shower cut off, and Patrick’s bedroom door closed. Damn it. I couldn’t just throw her out, although that was exactly what I wanted to do and she deserved no less. My mind raced. Patrick would be gone again in a few weeks and I’d have no reason to deal with her afterwards. There was no point in starting a fight now. I just wanted her gone.
“I just don’t know, Janet,” I said playing for time.
“Think about it. We were really good together.” Her dark red lips curled in a wanton’s smile. “I can show you a few new tricks I’ve learned that will make it worth your while.”
My gorge rose at the mere thought of ever touching her again, and I clamped my jaw shut before I said something I’d regret.
“Just think about it,” she repeated. “I’ve got to make a call. Be a dear and tell Patrick I’m waiting in the car. Ciao.”
I stared after her with my stomach in knots. I felt slimy from even pretending to consider her proposal. I was going to have to bathe in dishwashing liquid to get the ooze off.
The front door had barely closed before Patrick emerged from his bedroom. “You were a little short with Mom, weren’t you?”
“Were you listening?”
My son ignored my disapproving tone. “She’s gone through a rough time. You should cut her some slack.”
“I should… Why? Because the guys she was cheating on me with got bored and dumped her, and now she’s lonely? How is that my problem?”
Patrick pressed his lips together and shook his head. “See, this is why she left you. You never understood her needs. If you’d just put a little more effort into understanding how to treat a woman instead of spending all your time working…”
That was too fucking much. “I don’t know how to treat a woman?”
“If you did, would Mom have decided that she had to leave?”
“You need to back off, son. I’ve seen how you ignore and belittle your girlfriend, and you’ve got no business lecturing anyone on how to treat women.”
Patrick brushed that off with a negligent wave of his hand. “Silly is just immature.”
“Sylvie,” I barked. “If you were such an expert on women, you’d know how much she hates it when you call her that stupid nickname.”
“Yeah, whatever. It’s not like we’re getting married or anything. She was just a hot little fuck while I was home for the summer, all excited because she got to screw a junior from the big university. I planned on dumping her as soon as I went back.” He paused and looked thoughtful. “Besides, I’m pretty sure she’s cheating on me. She’s changed the last week or so. She must be screwing someone else when I’m not around.”
My hands shook with rage. Hot little fuck? I had never in my life wanted to lay my hands on my son, but at that moment it took every ounce of restraint I had not to punch him in the mouth. Sylvie cheat on him? There was no way in Hell. I had seen the guilt in her eyes over a couple of kisses that I had initiated. The girl had principles—she wasn’t the cheating kind. She’d break up with Patrick before she slept with another man.
“Your mother is waiting out in the car,” I said coldly.
Patrick slid a baseball cap backwards on his head and plucked his sunglasses from the kitchen counter. “Seriously, though. Really think about getting back together with Mom. It would be the best thing that could happen to you.”
When my son was gone, I shuddered and ran my fingers through my hair. If that was the best thing I had to look forward to, then I ought to go put the barrel of my .45 in my mouth and just pull the trigger right now.
I made myself scarce before Janet brought Patrick back home that evening. I wasn’t remotely interested in getting into it with either of them again. They were both crazy—or else I was. Somehow it was my fault that my wife had flaked out, cheated on me, and filed for divorce? Apparently I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone without realizing it or something, but I wasn’t about to adapt to their fucked up reality.
On top of that, I had to figure out what I was going to do about Sylvie. How could I encourage her to kick my son to the curb? What was I going to do when she left for college? Once I had her, there was no way I was ever going to be able to give her up. And I meant to have her.
All week I threw myself into my work, trying to keep so busy that I didn’t have time to think about her during the day, and hoping to be so tired when I dragged home at night that I wouldn’t think about her then. Despite my best efforts—and as hard as I pushed my company was way ahead of schedule on our construction projects—it was a miserable failure. I simply couldn’t get Sylvie out of my mind. Every day was nothing to me but another burden to be endured in anticipation of the weekend when I might see her again.
It was almost nine o’clock on Wednesday night before I made it home, and Patrick was waiting for me as I came through the door.
“Mom wants you to call her to talk about you guys reconciling,” Patrick told me. “She’s disappointed that she hasn’t heard from you.”
“I’ve been kind of busy this week, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“Yeah, that’s what I told her. But she wants you to call her anyway. I’m going to stay over at her place this weekend. She’s been nagging about wanting to spend more time with me before I head back to Lubbock.”
“Ah, okay.” Disappointment hit me like a kick in the gut from a mule. I had to ask. “So no date with Sylvie this weekend, huh?”
“We’re supposed to go out Friday night. I’ll probably head straight to Mom’s to crash after I drop her off. Why?”
I shrugged. “Just wondering if she was spending the night again. I’d hate to wander into the kitchen in nothing but a pair of briefs and scare her.”
“It would scare me, too,” Patrick told me.
What was I going to do? I refused to give in to despair. There would be a time, an opportunity. When it came along, I’d take it. Somehow I was going to make this work, however unlikely that seemed at the moment. I wasn’t going to let Sylvie get away without a fight.
As I dropped into me recliner, though, I suppressed a groan. How was I going to make it until Friday night? That was two more whole days when I was dying for her. It might as well be an eternity.
Those thoughts drew a wry chuckle. I was acting like a damned teenager in love for the first time. What I needed to do was spend some serious effort figuring out how I was going to proceed. After my brief conversation with Patrick on Sunday, I’d realized that not only wouldn’t Sylvie cheat on my son, but that I didn’t want her to. The girl had character and class, and I didn’t want her to sully herself in her own eyes by cheating. No, I wanted her to break up with Patrick and then come to me on her own, with a clear conscience. But how?
I still had no answer when I sent my construction crew home on Friday afternoon. The job wasn’t done and I probably should have kept them working late, but I couldn’t stand it another minute so I sent them home at five o’clock sharp with the excuse that they’d been busting their asses all week and they deserved a break.
When I got home, Patrick was ensconced in the game room, completely wrapped up in whatever he was playing. Unshowered, unshaven, and still wearing the same clothes he’d had on the day before, it was obvious that he’d already forgotten Sylvie and their date. Somehow that didn’t break my heart.
Eager to rid myself of the day’s grime, I got into the shower and soaked while I mentally prepared myself to see Sylvie again. Patrick still hadn’t moved from his gaming chair by the time I got out. Sylvie was either going to dump him when she saw he’d screwed up again, or wait around for him to get his shit together.
I was betting on the latter.
* * *
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so nervous ringing the doorbell at a boyfriend’s house. Sophomore year of high school, maybe? My stomach was aflutter with butterflies, while my pulse raced from a mixture of nervousness and eager anticipation. There was no blaming my moist palms on the torrid Texas evening, either. Wiping them quickly on my skirt, I took a deep, calming breath. It was just a shame that none of my excitement had anything at all to do with my boyfriend.
The week had been an agony of wanting to see Colin again. However much I knew I shouldn’t, I wanted him. I’d never experienced anything like the electric sizzle I felt when he looked at me with naked desire simmering in his eyes, never felt anything like the insistent quiver low in my belly when he’d said, You’re going to be mine, and I had no doubt at all that he meant it. Those words and the caress of his lips played again and again in my mind, each time leaving me wet and aching with need.
How had he come to have such a hold over me? Not that it really mattered. It was done, that was all, and I craved his desire for me like a drug, hungered for the sensations he had awakened in me. And the only reason that I was there that night, the only reason that I was going out with his son again, was to get a glimpse of him and perhaps have a few stolen moments alone. Because that’s all we could ever have.
My teeth worried at my upper lip as I slowly stretched out my hand towards the doorbell. Do it quickly and get it over with. I steeled myself and pushed. The sound of the bell ringing turned my heart into a staccato drumbeat pounding against my breast.
I felt skittish as a racehorse at the starting gate. What was I going to do when I saw him? There was no way to hide what had to be plain as day in my eyes whenever I looked at him. Could I make a run for it? Dash to my car and drive away before it was too late? But then the doorknob was turning and I’d missed my chance at escape, so I stood my ground.
I’d taken hours to put together just the right outfit—something appropriate for a casual evening out with Patrick but which would make his father take notice, something that would make him want me more than ever but still be classy enough that he’d be proud to show me off if he were the one taking me out. Eventually I’d settled on a silver and charcoal plaid skater skirt with a black chiffon top that subtly showed off my curves while setting off the dark copper in my hair so that it practically glowed. My sheer, black tights and high heeled ankle boots made my legs look like they went on forever, even though I wasn’t tall.
It was Colin at the door, and I promptly lost myself in the angles of his face and the warm depths of his espresso eyes. Every instinct I had screamed at me to throw myself into his arms and give myself up to the passion which flared between us, to let him take me to his bed and show me everything that was in his eyes whenever he looked at me. Somehow I withstood the hurricane of desire which buffeted me, and held my breath as I waited for his reaction.
Colin’s gaze roamed hungrily over me from head to toe, and then back up again, and a frisson of tremulous desire jolted me. A tiny smile quirked one side of his mouth. “And now you know how Little Red Riding Hood felt.”
His words dumped a couple of hundred more butterflies into the swarm already restless in my tummy, but at the same time a pleasing warmth soaked me down to my toes. If the Big Bad Wolf had looked like Colin Powers, Red Riding Hood probably would have begged him to gobble her up. Oh, how I wished…
“You’ve definitely got the wolf part down,” I told him. “I guess that means that you approve.”
“Sweetheart, you could make a plastic trash bag look good.” he said, his voice husky as he stepped aside to make room for me. “Come inside,”
“I don’t suppose Patrick is ready?”
That earned me a soft laugh. “Um, no.”
I sighed, but I was secretly glad. This was the opportunity I’d been hoping for. “I guess I’d better see if I can prod him along.”
“He’s in the game room. Of course you’d probably guessed that already.”
With a shrug of disgust, Colin turned away and headed towards the living room. I watched him for a moment, admiring the play of his muscles beneath his tight t-shirt and jeans before going to find my boyfriend.
“Oh, hey, Sil—Sylvie,” Patrick said guiltily as I took up a stance next to the gaming television and planted one fist on my cocked hip.
“Are we still going out, or do you have another excuse lined up?”
“I was just going to go get ready.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll wait.”
Patrick saw that I wouldn’t be mollified until he started moving, so he reluctantly shut off the television and trudged to his room. As soon as he was out of sight I went hurrying after his father to the living room, where I found Colin sitting on the couch instead of in his usual recliner. My nerve almost failed me, but I got a grip on myself and sat down next to him.
One eyebrow quirked up. “You’re getting awfully brave, Red.”
I looked at him—really looked at him. This was a mistake. It couldn’t possibly end well. But right at that moment I didn’t care. Scooting closer to him, I murmured, “Patrick is in the shower. And I’m not afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf.”
He gazed down into my eyes, his face inscrutable as he drank in the ambrosia of my perfume. “Maybe you should be,” he said.
One arm went around me, pulled me into the solid heat of his body. As soon as we touched it clicked—I fit there. It was where I belonged, and every atom in my body knew it. I wanted to weep in despair. Not fair. It was so not fair. A relationship with Colin was impossible. It couldn’t hope to work, but somehow I couldn’t tear myself away. I couldn’t help what I felt, even though it was like a tidal wave building higher and higher, just waiting to come crashing down on me and destroy me.
If I gave in to him, how would I ever find the courage to leave?
He didn’t give me time to figure it out. His hands tilted my face up to his, and then his lips landed on mine and I forgot all about doubts or thinking at all. His kiss was dark and deep, hot with need, and it drew me along with him as I answered each stroke of his tongue with my own. Everything we’d both held pent up over the last week came flooding through us at once, shoving aside all doubt and hesitation.
I shifted, my arms going around his waist to press myself even more tightly to him. Closer, without clothes in the way, would have been better, but there was still Patrick. One of Colin’s hands slid into the rich mass of coppery curls behind my head to tilt my mouth so that the velvet length of his tongue could explore and claim every bit of it.
Everything dissolved in a burst of desire that left me floundering and light headed. I forgot to worry, forgot Patrick, forgot even to breathe as dizzying flames of need licked at my skin. Under my top my breasts tightened, my nipples crinkling so hard it almost hurt, while my sex came to life, slick with wet heat and quivering as my walls pulsated. The sudden aching, hollow need between my legs made me moan deep in my throat, and Colin responded with a low rumble in his chest that shivered all the way through my bones.
His lips pulled away, fastening onto the softness of my throat as his hand tipped my head further back. All at once my burning lungs reminded me that I needed air, and I drew in long, shuddering breaths that his mouth on my skin tried to steal away again. My whole body cried out for his touch, for the caress of his soft, devouring lips, and I arched my back when his other hand stroked against my breast to send tingling shocks singing from my nipple down into my core.
“Colin,” I groaned. It was torture—exquisite, delicious torture—and if he kept it up any longer we were going to end up having sex right there on his couch.
He froze, and I felt him swallow hard as a shudder ran through his frame. “Yeah. All right.” His hands released their hold to allow me to pull free of him. “For now.”
I didn’t go far, couldn’t make myself move away from him. I was a moth circling a flame, and I was going to get so burned.
“We’re in bad trouble, aren’t we?” I whispered.
A hard, cold fist squeezed my heart. Where was the way out of this that wouldn’t leave me broken? But I wanted him far too much to stop.
“You know I can’t just break up with him and start coming over to see you. He’d hate us both.”
“I know.” There was a world’s worth of agony and frustration in those two little words.
“What do we do?”
Colin leaned over and his lips silenced mine with the only answer he could give me. This kiss tasted of desperation restrained, and even though I knew we were cutting it close to the edge now, I opened for him when his tongue tested the crease of my lips. My eyes closed, and I let myself drift on the terrible wanting that was driving us both towards disaster.
When we parted with a shared sigh it was Colin who moved away, but like me he couldn’t seem to make himself put any real distance between us. Patrick’s father drew in a long, ragged breath and sank slowly back into the embrace of his couch. With an obvious effort he forced his attention away from me and back to the television.
We tried to play it straight, keeping our conversation light and restricted to the television show and the banal details of our week. It worked for a while, but the chemistry sizzling between us refused to be denied. We found ourselves trading furtive, sidelong glances of longing and gradually edged closer together again. Colin made me laugh with a joke, and I touched my fingertips lightly against the back of his wrist. A minute later he patted my knee in response to a snarky comment about his hectic work schedule.
While he continued talking, his hand crept slowly up my thigh, and my heart took off like a startled jackrabbit. I held myself still, somehow continuing the conversation and pretending that nothing was happening. Inside, every nerve in my body was taut and quivering, and the hollow ache in my center swelled until I could barely stand it. I wanted to beg him to touch me, was ready to tear off my clothes and bare my flesh to his fingers.
His hand slid beneath the edge of my skirt, and I shuddered as his fingertips brushed the damp, silky center of my tights. With a moan, I let my head fall back against the couch and I spread my thighs wider in invitation. It was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. One fingertip slid along the groove between my legs until it grazed against the swollen bump of my clit, and I moaned again. A sharp quiver ran through me, releasing a pulse of liquid heat inside. When Colin rubbed his fingertip against me in slow circles, my stomach went tight and my breath caught.
This was crazy. No guy had ever made me come before. While I certainly enjoyed sex, the only time I’d ever experienced orgasms was alone with my vibrator or my shower massage. Now Colin was going to make me come just that fast, just that easy—with my clothes on, never actually touching my bare skin at all.
I floated higher on the tingling tension, feeling it take me over as I got closer to the end. Colin made a light-hearted comment about something on the television, but I didn’t catch it. One hand clenched in my skirt while the other flailed out to my side for something to grab onto, my fingers finally digging into the edge of the cushion as though I was hanging onto it for dear life. The muscles in my thighs and stomach trembled as the sensations built to an unbearable height.
As I reached the crest, my thighs slammed together, clamping down on Colin’s hand, and there was no holding it back. My muscles jerked and spasmed, and I could only muffle my moans against the heel of one hand. There was a roaring in my ears, and the sound of my own ragged breathing came faintly above the bass drumbeat of my pulse.
Through the haze, I heard Patrick’s voice from the kitchen. “Hey, Dad? Have you seen my black tennis shoes?”
End of Free Sample
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