Obsessed-Chapter Two

Chapter Two

“Why don’t you just dump him?”

I sank deeper into the passenger seat and shrugged without answering. My best friend, Callie, had picked me up from Patrick’s and was taking me home.

“I mean, so what if he’s going to be a senior at Tech? You still don’t have to put up with that crap.”

“I know, I know,” I muttered.

Patrick was the least of my worries. The big problem was my attraction to his father. There was no point in trying to deny it—Mr. Powers could set me on fire with a look. Just thinking about him got me quivery and wet. I hadn’t wanted him to stop kissing me the night before, and when he’d trapped me between his arms in his kitchen earlier, I’d hoped he’d do it again. If I went back to Patrick’s house, all I’d be thinking about would be kissing Mr. Powers. Well, I’d start off thinking about kissing him. It wouldn’t take long before I started thinking about doing other things with him. What was I going to do?

“So, are you going to let him apologize and take you out?”

“Probably.” If I didn’t, how would I see his father again?

“You’re crazy, girl.”

“I can’t argue with you about that.”

“If you were smart, you’d hook up with his dad, instead.”

I did not just hear that. “Mr. Powers?

Callie gave a wicked laugh. “Mmm, yeah. That dude is seriously hot. If I wasn’t with Blake…”

“Jesus, Callie. What is it with you and older men?”

“Try one and find out. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t caught you drooling over Blake before. Come on, now. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed Mr. Powers. He’s all kinds of buff, and he’s got those wicked dark, smoldering eyes…”

Jealousy flared hot in my chest. “Whatever.”

She just laughed again. “Come on. Admit it. If you had a gun to your head and you had to pick who was hottest, which one would you choose? Patrick? Or his dad?”

There was no contest. “His dad,” I agreed with a sigh.

“See?” she laughed again. “Maybe you ought to reconsider which Powers male you’re after. A guy like that… Man, I can just imagine the look in his eyes when he locks on…”

So could I. I’d seen it, and I knew. I also knew I didn’t want to discuss it with my best friend, who was way too perceptive about things I preferred to keep to myself.

Jeez, Callie. He’s Patrick’s dad. It’s weird just thinking about it.” Just then her car pulled up in front of my apartment. I opened the door the second we stopped rolling, eager to escape. “Thanks for the ride.”

“No problem. Just be sure you make Patrick grovel when you talk to him. Don’t let him off scot free this time.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.”

I practically ran up the stairs and hurried up to my bedroom, where I kicked off my heels then stripped off my blouse and unhooked my bra, letting them fall to the floor by my bed. Skirt and panties followed, flung aside in my haste to relieve the aching need that had been driving me crazy all morning. Even though I knew my roommate was out, I closed the door before I retrieved my vibrator from its hiding spot in the back of a drawer under a pile of sweats. I’d purchased it on a whim with the last of my birthday money after I turned eighteen, little knowing then just how much I’d be relying on it in the days to come. It was the only hope I had of satisfying my craving to have Colin Powers’ cock inside of me.

I shivered as my bare skin slid across the cool sheets, my nipples crinkling hard in response. Slowly I spread my thighs and stretched my legs out until my toes were pointed towards the corners of my bed and my muscles tingled. What would Mr. Powers think if he could see me now, spread out on my bed like an offering? Would he look at me with the same hunger he had last night when he kissed me?

In my imagination he stood watching as I wet one finger with my tongue and brought it down to trace light circles around my stiff nipples. Was the jolt that sang into the center of my body from the soft touches against my aching flesh, or from the thought of his need-darkened eyes roving across my naked body? I closed my eyes and let the heat swell in my breasts as I fondled them and wished that it was his hands on me, writhed on my sheets as the sensation became too intense and I had to back off.

My thighs were squeezed together as though to hold in the throbbing desire which grew between them. Turning my vibrator on low, I parted my legs and began to tease my way past the smooth, soft skin of my mound and down to the outer lips of my cunt. I gave it time to build, flirted with the tip around the swollen knot of my clit until my pussy went wet and loose. The blue latex hummed and buzzed as I slowly explored the moist skin around my pulsing hole, until the end was slick with moisture. As I tickled the opening a quiver ran through me, and my pussy begged me to plunge the long, plastic rod into my tunnel and satisfy its growing need.

I spread my legs further and arched my back as I throbbed and pulsed. With my lip caught between my teeth, my fingers twisted the end of the vibrator to turn it up a notch. As the tip slid against my clit, my hips rocked and I bucked up off the bed. I ran it back and forth along my swollen pearl a few more times before I finally gave in and thrust it into my opening.

In my mind, liquid, dark brown eyes watched every movement as I fucked myself hard with that thick, blue cock. What would it be like to have him inside of me, instead? A gasp of delight squeezed from my throat as my fingers hovered over my clit. Ah, even better. I settled into a rhythm that pushed me higher and higher, my juices leaking out to run down the vibrator and slick my hand.

I’d only been with a handful of guys, and they had all been my own age—overeager, mainly interested in their own pleasure, and ultimately unsatisfying. Mr. Powers wasn’t a boy, though. He’d know exactly how to please me, know exactly what I needed to sate the burning need that I could never quite quench on my own.

I skated right at the edge of orgasm, and I shoved the vibrator as far into my tunnel as it would go. That final thrust launched me into a sea of bliss, and I screamed his name at the ceiling as hot droplets trickled down my ass and thighs to soak the sheets.

Draping an arm over my eyes, I thumbed off my toy and let it fall from my shaking fingers. Aftershocks trembled through my pussy, and I took deep breaths of the cool air while I drowsed in the warm, post-orgasm buzz. However nice it had been, though, I knew that it couldn’t possibly compare to being taken by Colin Powers.

I spent the day trying to figure out what was going on with me. I’d never had this much trouble with men before. Usually I could just be my bubbly, flirty self and they rolled over like eager puppy dogs. Guys aren’t really that complicated, and it never took much to motivate them into doing whatever I wanted. I just didn’t understand how I’d gone so off the rails with the Powers men. I was in way over my head with those two. I couldn’t seem to make Patrick do anything, and I couldn’t get his father out of my head.

That was another thing. I didn’t lose my head over men. Ever. I liked hanging out with them, I liked the ones I dated, and I only slept with the ones I really, really liked. But with the exception of Bobby White in the eighth grade, I never obsessed about them. Not the way my friend Callie had gone gaga over Blake.

I was beginning to think I understood that a little better, now.

I knew that the situation was out of control, and my best option was to ditch Patrick and avoid having anything else to do with either of them. So why didn’t I do it?

I was still trying to figure that out when I went back over to Patrick’s house that afternoon. When Mr. Powers answered the door, though, suddenly I knew why. Whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not, Callie had been right. At some point during the past few weeks I’d started noticing Mr. Powers. Really noticing him.

“Back for more?” he asked, his eyes aglow with a mixture of humor and heat as he held the door open for me.

“Well, he did promise to take me to dinner,” I muttered, not about to admit my real reason for going back. I wanted to see him again.

Mr. Powers shook his head in disbelief at my naïveté. “I hope you’re not hungry.”

I found Patrick right where I’d been afraid I’d find him—in the game room playing some video game where people run around shooting at each other. He had a headset on and was shouting aloud as he bounced around on his chair, weaving along with the image on the big television screen.

“Get him! He’s right there on the ledge. What do you mean you don’t see him? He’s right fucking there, dipshit.”

He was still wearing the clothes he’d slept in and obviously hadn’t showered. As I got closer, the reek of stale tequila made my nose wrinkle in disgust.

“Patrick.” He was still yelling and didn’t hear me. “Patrick.

He glanced back for all of half a second. “Oh, hey Silly. Hang on a minute.” His head swiveled back to the television. “Oh, god damn it, Jason. Will you fucking shoot him before he kills all of us?”

“I thought we were going to dinner.”

Patrick shot me an annoyed look over his shoulder. Sure thing, babe. After I’m done.”

“When will that be?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied distractedly. “The team is playing in a tournament. It goes on until we lose.”

Unbelievable. “You really picked today to do this?”

“Sorry. One of the guys on the team couldn’t make it, so I had to fill in.”

“You had to.”

“Yeah. That’s what I said.”

I faded out of his awareness after that, all of his attention focused on the screen in front of him and the voices piped into his ears. With each passing second I grew more pissed off, and I finally decided I was over it. Screw Patrick. I’d go to Callie’s for the weekend and send him a breakup text, although knowing my boyfriend it would probably take him two weeks to bother reading it.

I went through the kitchen on my way out. It was late summer in Houston and I wanted something cold before I ventured back outside. Patrick had been keeping a box of my favorite popsicles in the freezer, and I figured that was the least he owed me for screwing up my day. My weekend. My summer.

Except the box was empty. Someone had eaten them all. Sonofabitch. As I stared down at the empty carton, my rage began to bubble up again. It was so typical, and added insult to injury. He knew that these were my favorites. Jerk. I tore the box in half and threw it in the trash. It wasn’t fair—I needed one of those popsicles just then. Callie swears I have an unhealthy addiction to them. I don’t understand how loving something so perfectly awesome can be unhealthy. She likes to bring up terms like crack addict, but she always keeps a box or two stashed at their beach house for me.

Oh, well. I settled for a bottle of water from the fridge. I’d stop at the store and get a new box of popsicles on my way home, just for me. My popsicle-stealing boyfriend would have to get his own.

As I tipped the bottle back to take a drink, the sound of a lawnmower drew my eyes out the kitchen window, and my heart started doing a little dance against my ribs. Mr. Powers was mowing the back yard. No riding mower for him, either—he was behind a heavy push mower built to hack through thick grass and weeds.

He was shirtless, wearing nothing but a pair of khaki shorts so faded they were almost white. My eyes were glued to his perfect abs and pecs and arms, toned muscle rippling under taut, glistening skin toasted bronze by the sun. I got a little wet just looking at him. This was so not fair. I’d dated a couple of jocks in high school, but none of them had looked nearly that good. I wanted to run out and plaster myself to that hard, slick body, wanted to lick him and taste the salty tang of his skin.

I was seriously drooling over my boyfriend’s father. What the hell was wrong with me?

Out of the blue it struck me. There was nothing wrong with me. Mr. Powers was a very handsome, virile man who had made his interest in me crystal clear, and my 20-year-old hormones were simply reacting to that. It was perfectly natural, especially given Patrick’s apparent lack of interest, and nothing said that I had to act on my feelings.

I mean, so we’d kissed? So what? Lots of people kissed without it being a big deal. And so maybe I was a little lonely and feeling a little neglected and I enjoyed the attention. It didn’t mean I had to do anything about it. I was in control, not my crazy hormones. I was always in control.

He started up the small hill by their fence, the powerful muscles in his thighs bunching as he leaned into the mower. I gulped down a long swig from my water bottle and followed him up to the summit with my eyes. Damn, but the man was hot, and not just because he was sweaty.

Behind me, Patrick began yelling obscenities at his teammates. With a burst of bitter rage I focused back in on Mr. Powers. I counted to ten backwards six or seven times until my temper was under control again. My boyfriend might take me for granted, but I knew someone who wouldn’t.

I always try to be nice, and my mother raised me to be polite. That doesn’t mean I’m a pushover, and plenty of people have found out by pushing me that what they say about redheads and tempers is true. But I by far prefer being nice.

The nice thing to do would be to take Mr. Powers something cold to drink since he was working so hard out in the heat.

I walked through the sliding glass doors into the backyard a couple of minutes later with a clean towel and a tall glass of icy lemonade. Mr. Powers was still over by the fence so he didn’t notice me right away. When he did, his eyes widened and he made a show of cutting off the mower. Amusement gleamed deep in his brown eyes as he accepted the lemonade.

“Thank you,” he said, wiping his face and neck with the towel. “To what do I owe this burst of generosity?”

I lifted one shoulder in a little shrug, never taking my eyes off of him. “You looked… Hot.”

His eyes narrowed a bit. Maybe it was just the glare of the sun getting to him. Or maybe not. “You’re playing with fire, Sylvie. I hope you know what you’re doing.”

I hoped so, too. Wordlessly I held out my hand for the towel, then turned to leave. Instead of going back inside, though, I tossed the towel onto the glass-topped table then stretched out on a lawn chair under the shade of the pergola. From there I watched his throat muscles work as he guzzled most of the lemonade, and then it was my turn to get soaked—and not with sweat.

He looked up with a start as he realized I was still outside. “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for Patrick.”

“Out here?”

I gave him a saucy smile. “The view is better.”

He seemed about to say something, then bit his lip and turned back to the mower. When he started it, he yanked the cord so hard I thought it was going to break loose. Oh, yes, I was definitely playing with fire here. But it felt good, and once I’d evened the score a little bit with Patrick I’d leave and never come back. For the time being, though…

The sun gleamed on Mr. Powers’ skin, the muscles beneath like ripples on a golden pond. He was a man in his prime, and his son wasn’t in the same league. The growing ache between my legs was a warning that I should run, not walk, back inside the house before it was too late, but I ignored it.

Had Mr. Powers needed to take care of himself the way I had earlier that morning?

*          *          *

She was still watching me from the patio when I finished mowing. Her short denim skirt left most of her long, tanned legs bare, and her hair was down so her gleaming, copper curls danced lazily in the soft summer breeze. I wanted to wrap my hands in that magnificent hair, wanted to wrap myself in her. Hell, I wanted to take her right there in that goddamned lawn chair.

What was she thinking coming out and teasing me like that? Did she really think I wouldn’t do anything about it? My self control only went so far, and she was going to find that out the hard way if she kept on like this. I’d decided earlier to bide my time and play nice while she worked Patrick out of her system. There was no way that was going to take much longer—she deserved better than she was getting from my idiot son, and she knew it. And since I’d already piqued her interest, when that day came I intended to swoop in fast before she worked herself up into saying no.

She wasn’t going to get to say no. That wasn’t happening.

Her eyes were hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses as I walked past her, but I knew that they were following me. She was intrigued, turned on even though she didn’t want to be. I just needed to give it time. It was like fishing. Bait the hook, put it in the water, then wait. When you get a bite, set the hook.

I never had the patience for that shit.

“I’m going to take a shower,” I said over my shoulder. “You should come scrub my back.”

Her head tilted up. “What’s in it for me?”

“Come with me and find out.”

Sylvie stretched sinuously, turning it into a show that made my cock swell. “Tempting as it sounds, I have to pass. What would Patrick think?”

I slid the glass door open and stepped inside. “Do you really think he’s going to tear himself away from Call of Duty long enough to find out?”

I shut the door behind me before she could come up with a response. We both knew she was wasting her time waiting for Patrick, just like we both knew she wasn’t going to climb in the shower with me. Not today, at least.

A couple of minutes later I stepped into the shower, my cock still iron stiff. If it got any harder, it would probably shatter. One thing was for certain—I’d never have to worry about needing Viagra with Sylvie around. The little witch kept me at a rolling boil just by being in the same room. Or the same yard. How much more of this could I take? If I didn’t get through to her soon, I was going to have to start taking ice-cold showers a couple of times a day unless I wanted to walk around with a constant erection.

When I returned to the kitchen, I’d managed to cool myself down to a simmer. Sylvie was sitting on a stool at the breakfast bar, her chin propped on one fist in an attitude of dejection. Fuck it. That was it. I’d had enough. Damned if I was going to keep putting up with someone mistreating my girl. Even if she didn’t quite realize that she was my girl, yet.

“He’s still playing that damned game?” I growled.

“Yes,” she muttered without looking up.

“Get your purse.”

“What?”

“Get your purse. We’re going to dinner.”

“But…”

“Fuck him. He blew it.”

I didn’t give her a chance to argue. Keeping one hand firmly on the small of her back, I ushered her out of the house to my truck. Her body heat soaking into my palm through the fabric of her shirt was enough to get my cock throbbing again. I wanted her so badly I could taste it, but now was not the time to let my libido get the better of me. Instead, I opened the door for her and gently lifted her up into the cab. She blinked back at me, uncertain, and nervously twitched her skirt back into place to cover her bare thighs as she settled.

I hoped like hell that I could keep my focus on the road and away from those legs.

*          *          *

I could still feel his hands on me—the firm pressure at the small of my back, the steel grip at my waist as he hoisted me effortlessly off the ground to set me into his truck. Despite the obvious power in him, none of his handling of me had been rough. I had a deep suspicion that he saved that for the bedroom, and thinking about that got me moist all over again. Mr. Powers was nothing like the other men—boys—whom I’d been with before. I had to stop even thinking that way, or I was going to be in deep, deep trouble.

Except that it was already too late.

We were sitting across from one another in a secluded booth in a nice Italian restaurant. Mr. Powers had kept a possessive hand on my back or arm from the moment we stepped inside, and I found myself instinctively drifting closer to him. The young man who seated us was about my age, the kind of guy I was used to getting attention from. He never so much as looked at me, though, and I knew I wouldn’t get even a sidelong glance of appreciation from him. Not while Mr. Powers was anywhere around.

It had only been a couple of minutes and I already missed his touch. A shiver ran through my core, and I tried desperately to respond casually to his small talk while pretending to browse the menu. I couldn’t make myself focus, though, couldn’t seem to think straight. All I could think about was him. What would he do to me, if I gave him the chance? What would I do for him? What wouldn’t I do?

That thought scared me enough that I reclaimed a little of my composure. I needed to stop this, needed to get hold of myself. Nothing good could come of letting myself get carried away by my hormones. We obviously had some major chemistry going on, but he was my boyfriend’s dad and he was twice my age. However hot he was—and yeah, he was plenty hot—he was no good for me. I was heading off to a new college to finish my bachelor’s degree and start grad school. My parents would never understand, never approve. My friends, with the exception of Callie, would mostly be creeped out. It just couldn’t work, even if I decided I wanted it to. And I didn’t really know what I wanted.

“You’d better not be staring at our waiter.”

I blinked my way back to reality, focused on Mr. Powers’ face. His voice was growly, but the twinkle in his eyes made it clear that he wasn’t serious. I couldn’t help but tease back.

“Why not? He’s kind of cute.”

“Be a shame for him to die so young.”

“You’re crazy,” I laughed. “Just because you take me to dinner doesn’t mean you own me, Mr. Powers.”

“Colin.”

“What?”

“Drop the ‘Mr. Powers’ nonsense. You’re twenty years old. Call me Colin.”

“I’m really not sure that’s a good idea.”

He sank back into his seat and watched me through half-lidded eyes. “You’ll thank me later.”

I took a sip of tea, trying to look more casual than I felt. “Why is that?”

Colin is a lot easier than Mr. Powers when you’re trying to remember what name to call out.”

I sputtered and grabbed for my napkin as I laughed and tea went up my nose. Colin raised an eyebrow and seemed to enjoy watching me trying to clean myself up and regain my dignity.

“You really are insane,” I gasped.

“Where you’re concerned, that’s a distinct possibility.”

“You’d kill that poor boy just because I was staring at him?”

“In a heartbeat. I don’t like competition.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “And I suppose I’ve got your undivided attention?”

“Since the first time I saw you.”

He wasn’t kidding. Oh, crap. From the look in his eyes, he wasn’t kidding at all.

The amused twinkle came back before I could think of anything to say. “Relax, Sylvie. I don’t bite—not unless invited.” He actually winked at that. “Just relax. This is hardly the first time you’ve gone out to dinner with someone who found you desirable and wanted to get you naked.”

“Yes, but…”

That eyebrow lifted again. “But what?”

But they were just boys. I could manage them. Mr. Powers—Colin—didn’t roll over like a puppy who wanted his belly rubbed whenever I batted my eyes or wiggled my butt a little. That was scary and exciting at the same time, but it wasn’t exactly something I could tell him. He reached over and took my hand, and his touch sent a thrill ringing through my body until I felt like a tuning fork humming. Compared to him, every other guy I’d been out with had been about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal. His eyes caught mine, drew me in.

“Relax,” he whispered.

Maybe there was some magic in his voice, but after that I found that I was able to get past being quite so nervous. He dialed back the flirting a bit, and through dinner kept the conversation light and mostly asked me questions. I told him about what I was studying and my plans for the future, about my friends and what we liked to do, about my family. As we stood up to leave, I realized he’d hardly said anything at all about himself. He remained an enigma, something out of my experience.

We spent the ride back to his house in silence. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew that I shouldn’t want him—he was Patrick’s dad, he was too old, he was divorced. None of that changed the fact that on some level I did want him, that I was attracted to him in a very primal way. Any woman in her right mind would have been.

That didn’t mean that it was a good idea, or that it was right. Yet I found myself sitting a little closer to him than I had to, leaning towards him like a sunflower towards the sunlight, and the moisture between my legs hinted that I was going to be getting a lot more use out of my vibrator when I got home.

I hopped out of the truck as soon as he shut off the engine, hoping to put some distance between us, but the front door was locked so I had to wait for him to open it. Colin didn’t seem to be in any hurry to do that, though. Instead he slowly pushed into my personal space and backed me up against the door. After a moment his arms came up and he planted his hands on either side of my shoulders, effectively pinning me in place. All the while his eyes watched me, measuring, daring.

Would I duck? Would I try to turn away? Would I run?

I stood there frozen as he bent closer, his soft brown eyes serene and still, until his breath teased my mouth. My lips parted for him of their own accord, and he leaned in to take what he wanted.

No one else had ever kissed me like this before—like I was his, like he had a right to me. He claimed my mouth, devouring me in a way that couldn’t have been more intimate if we’d been naked, and I responded even though it terrified me. My body came to life so quickly it took my breath away, ready for him, eager, wanting. If he’d tried, he could have fucked me there against his front door and I wouldn’t have lifted a finger to stop him. We both knew it.

Slowly he pulled away, his eyes still burning into mine and holding me nailed against the door. My heart was beating like a hummingbird’s, and Colin seemed to have taken my breath with him.

“You’re going to be mine, Sylvie,” he said. “Try to fight it if you want. But it’s not going to matter.”

He opened the door, releasing me from the trap of his arms, and then I did run. While I bolted for the safety of their game room and Patrick, Colin’s soft, mocking laughter pursued me. I could run from him, but I couldn’t run from myself or my own desires.

Patrick remained just as I’d left him, intent on the game he was playing with his friends. That suited me, because I needed time to pull myself together. My face was flushed with a mixture of shame and excitement, and my heart showed no signs of slowing down to its normal pace. Unlike so many of my boy-crazy friends, I’d always been responsible, always had my head screwed on straight. I kept a tight rein on my hormones and didn’t let them push me around or get me in over my head with anyone. But I’d never come closer to tossing all of that aside and plunging heart first into the pounding surf of desire than just now on Colin’s doorstep.

I felt ashamed for wanting to give in. I didn’t want to be that girl who cheated on her boyfriend—even if he was kind of a jerk most of the time. If I didn’t break up with Patrick soon, guilt was going to eat me alive. Just wanting another man so badly was tearing me up, and those kisses… I needed to end it. I needed to get away from both of these men before I really screwed myself up. I needed to forget about them and move on with my life.

But what I wanted to do was go back and find Colin and let him kiss me again.

In the end, the only thing that really stopped me was not knowing what he expected. You’re going to be mine, Sylvie. What did that mean? What did Colin want—besides the obvious? I’d never been into casual sex, but that was all it could be with Colin. I was leaving in a few weeks, and there was no changing that. His words implied that he wasn’t planning on it being casual, though. It was a complication that I just didn’t need, no matter how tempting.

“Hey, Silly—Sylvie.” Patrick’s voice yanked me out of my reverie. “We’re all done here, so if you’ll give me ten minutes to shower and change we can go to dinner.”

I stared at him, and then burst into disbelieving laughter. Was he for real? “You’re a little late.”

“Huh?”

“Your dad and I just came back from dinner.”

He frowned, puzzled. “You went to dinner with my dad? Why?”

Because he wants me more than you ever did, more than anyone else ever has. “I guess because he saw that I was hungry and tired of waiting on you.”

His face grew mulish as his voice took on an aggrieved tone. “I told you that I had to fill in. The guys were depending on me.”

I was depending on you, Patrick. You made me a promise. But like always, you didn’t come through. I don’t know why it makes me so mad. I should be used to it by now.”

“Hey, that’s not fair. Just because I don’t always do things on the timetable you decide doesn’t mean that I’m never going to do them.”

I shook my head. “If I waited for you to get around to it, I’d starve to death. I’d also be graduating college before I ever made it back to the beach.”

Patrick rolled his eyes in dismay. “The beach? Come on, Sylvie, that’s a kid thing.”

Planting my fists on my hips I glared at him. “And what do you call sitting at your dad’s house playing video games all day? Or going to parties and drinking until you’re too drunk to even stand up? I seem to remember an awful lot of that going on in high school. It certainly doesn’t make you look grown up or mature now.”

“Low blow, babe.”

“You even ate all of my popsicles and then left the empty box in the freezer so I didn’t know I needed more.”

For some reason that got to him when nothing else did, and he had the decency to look embarrassed. “OK, fine,” he muttered. “I’m sorry. I admit that I’m not exactly Boyfriend of the Year material.”

He wasn’t even Boyfriend of the Week material, but I bit my tongue before I said it out loud. If I kept on, we were going to break up—tonight. There was a part of me that urged me to do just that, eager to end it and get it over with so I could move on and forget both of them. Would it really be so easy to forget Colin, though?

In the end, I couldn’t make myself do it. I desperately wanted to see Colin again, even if I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I did. The only way I could see him was to keep seeing Patrick. I couldn’t just break up with my boyfriend and then blatantly hook up with his father.

No matter how much I secretly wanted to do exactly that.

“All right,” I sighed. “Granted, you’re not perfect, but then neither am I. Maybe I expect too much. It’s your summer break, too, and you’ve got other things going on besides me.”

Sly relief lit up his features. He thought he’d weaseled his way out of a jam again. “Great! Why don’t you come over tomorrow and we’ll do something?”

“I can’t. I promised Callie that I’d babysit so she and her husband can have some time out together. I’ll text you from there, though.”

Maybe I’d even send the rat a selfie of us playing on the beach.

The next morning I drove out to Callie’s beach house. It was a glorious day, so I secured my hair in a topknot and drove with the windows down to soak up the fresh air and sunshine. As I drove, I concentrated on the music blasting from my stereo and did my best to banish any thoughts of Colin as soon as they popped into my head.

Once I got to Callie’s, that wasn’t so much of a problem. Callie and Blake’s daughter, Madison, had turned two years old that spring, and she commanded all of my attention. A cherub with dark hair and gray eyes, she had her mother’s fiery spirit and her father’s mulish stubbornness. In other words, she was a handful.

With her clasped firmly in my arms, I saw Callie and Blake off, amused as always at the way the two of them still acted like a pair of besotted newlyweds. Together Maddie and I waved bye-bye from the deck as her parents headed up the beach road towards the highway in Blake’s Maserati. They rarely took a day just for themselves, because Callie was adamant that no one else was going to raise her children after being brought up herself by a long list of nannies and babysitters.

I didn’t blame her, but she and her husband needed their own time together as well. I always felt a little pang of envy when I saw them alone together. Would I ever find anything like that? A sudden vision of Colin’s eyes, dark and heated with desire, sent shivers running down my spine. It wasn’t the same thing though, was it? From the outside it certainly didn’t look like the same thing. With us it was nothing but chemistry, just sex. Wasn’t it?

Shoving the thoughts of him away once more, I slathered sunscreen on Maddie and we went down to the beach to play. When the excitement of digging in the sand began to pale, we went back to the house for lunch. I watched the little girl spoon Spaghetti-Os into her mouth with fascination, amazed at how far she had come so quickly.

Callie had always dreamed of this, always wanted children. With two older brothers, I’d been much more sanguine about the prospect. I’d never so much as babysat for anyone before I volunteered to do it for Callie’s daughter. Once she started worming her way into my heart, though, I began to wonder. Maybe Callie had it right.

But I had my own plans. I’d worked hard and fought for my degree, and I had no intention of giving that up. Compared to that, relationships and kids were far down on my priority list. This was my dream.

Out of nowhere a thought struck me. Colin already had grown children – two older daughters besides Patrick. Would he be open to having more kids? The sheer ridiculousness of it made me shake my head at my own silliness. I had no business thinking of the man that way, and besides, it was time to get Maddie down for her nap.

While she slept I channel surfed for a while, but there was nothing on worth watching so I ended up on the couch with a book. Later we watched cartoons together while we played with blocks and dolls and her mammoth collection of stuffed animals. After dinner we went for a stroll down the beach, where we enjoyed the warm breeze and Maddie shrieked and gurgled over the antics of the seagulls as we tossed them scraps of stale bread.

My thoughts drifted. What was Colin doing? Had he thought of me at all that day? Just wondering about it made me a little sad. Even if he had, there was nothing to be done about it. Was there?

It was growing darker as we headed back to the house, and Maddie was worn down enough that she didn’t put up any fuss over her bath or bedtime. I’d barely gotten her down when Callie and Blake came home.

“Did you have any trouble?” Callie asked anxiously.

“Of course not. She was wonderful.”

“Do you think she’s asleep?”

“Why don’t you go check?” Blake suggested.

She darted off, leaving us to trade looks of amused affection. Knowing that she would be a while, we walked out onto the deck together to enjoy the night.

“Thanks again, Sylvie,” Blake said. “We really appreciate it.”

“No problem. Maddie is a doll, and I wasn’t doing anything.”

He glanced over at me, curious. “I thought you were wrapped up with your boyfriend this summer.”

“Yeah. Sort of.”

“Trouble in paradise?”

I snorted. “I certainly wouldn’t call it that.”

“Ouch.”

“All I’m going to say is that Callie is really lucky.”

“As long as she thinks so, it’s all good.”

Knowing Callie, that made me laugh. I considered for a minute. I’d flirted with Blake a few times before they were officially a couple, just for fun. He really was hot, after all, and I’d wanted to see what he’d do. Not that I’d ever swipe a friend’s guy, but I had been curious to see whether he was really far enough into Callie that he wouldn’t even be tempted. To my surprise, he’d passed that test with flying colors. He really was one of the good ones.

“Blake?”

The tone of my voice made him turn to look at me. “Is everything okay?”

“You and Callie. Is it hard, with you being older?”

He gave a soft, wry laugh. “Callie certainly didn’t have any problem with it.”

“Yeah, but as I recall you were a little gun shy.”

“I got over it.”

“Any regrets? I mean, has it made things harder for you?”

The look on his face grew thoughtful. “There are times when it seems as though we’re talking two different languages, because our experiences are so far apart. But to some degree every relationship is like that, unless you’re high school sweethearts who grew up together, anyway. Sylvie, what’s going on?”

I had the odd urge to confess everything to him. He was Callie’s husband and utterly loyal to her. I didn’t have to worry about him carrying tales, or being judgmental.

“There’s a man…”

Interest flashed in his eyes. “Oh, really? Don’t tell me you’ve actually fallen for someone.”

A frown of annoyance flashed over my face. “Don’t sound so surprised.”

“Well, I just meant that you’ve never let anyone get under your skin. I’ve watched guys falling all over you at Callie’s parties for the last two years, but you’ve barely given any of them so much as a second glance.”

It was true enough. I replied with a rueful laugh. “He hasn’t exactly been falling all over himself. Maybe that’s why I find him so appealing. He’s older though—older than you.”

The look in Blake’s eyes turned cautious. “Be careful, Sylvie. You know there are guys my age who’ll happily use you to pump up their ego and then dump you after.”

“I know,” I sighed. I didn’t think Colin had any intention of letting me go if I ever let him catch me, though.

Blake turned his gaze out towards the moonlight-kissed waves. “Any relationship can work if the people in it are willing to fight hard enough. Most people aren’t. When it gets hard, they’d rather look for greener grass in the next pasture than put in the effort to fix what they have.”

That was true enough. I’d seen it with enough of my friends—and their parents. “Blake? Is it worth it?”

He glanced over his shoulder towards the house which held his wife and baby daughter. “Yeah. When you find the right person it’s all worth it. No matter what the cost.”

I shivered, despite the balmy air. What would Colin cost me? Despite Blake’s words, I wasn’t at all reassured. Even if Colin was the right person, how could I know?

A sudden gust of wind kicked up my hair, which I’d left hanging loose, and I felt light enough to float away. Wishing that I could take flight and soar off into tomorrow, I turned back to the house. “I need a popsicle. You want anything?”

“No, thanks,” he replied with a soft smile.

From his expression it was clear that he already had everything that he’d ever wanted.

Continue to Chapter Three…

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