Authors: Lauren Blakely
But the more I think about the insanity and foolishness of me right now, the more I risk telling her everything. The more I'll ruin us.
Besides, right now I have one job. To take her there.
“I will, baby, I will,” I say, then thread my fingers in her hair and bring my mouth to her ear as I fuck her hard and deep. She hooks her legs around my ass and pulls me tighter. I bury myself in her, fucking and thrusting until she screams so loudly that I know she's on the cusp.
Then, she tells me. Because that's what she does. She's an announcer.
I'm so close.
Just like that.
Like I'd stop.
She rocks up into me as if she's finding the perfect friction on my shaft, and soon she discovers it. She uncovers her pleasure, and an orgasm seems to blast through her. She trembles from head to toe. She shudders as she squeezes her eyes shut. “I'm coming,” she whispers in the faintest, most desperate whisper.
Then a louder one. “Oh God, I'm coming.”
Then an ear-splitting shout that rattles loose my own climax. It seizes me, crashing into me with the force of a storm, ripping through my body as I fuck her through my release, grunting her name, groaning barely coherent words. And as pleasure keeps rolling through me, I have to bite my tongue so I don't say anything more. So I don't tell her it's never been this good. And it's not just a scientific kind of good. It's a whole new level. One I fear I'm already becoming dangerously addicted to.
But I don't want to say that out loud yet, or ever. If I do, I could lose her, and that's a risk I just won't take.
Instead, we eat pizza.
a slice and take another mouth-watering bite. After I chew, I roll my eyes in absolute appreciation of Josie's talents. “I was wrong all the other times. This is now the best thing you've ever made.”
She laughs. “You said it's what you missed most in Africa.”
“Oh, I definitely missed pizza with a ferocity.”
“Say the word, and I'll make you a cherry pie, too,” she says. When I give her a naughty wink, she holds up a hand. “I meant the kind with fruit in it.”
“You do know there's no way for pie to sound anything but dirty?”
We're parked on the couch, half-dressed, afterâno hyperboleâthe best sex of my life. She fastened the apron again, and wears the cherry-patterned wrap and heels. She said she thought I'd get a kick out of her “post-sex” outfit. She was right. As for me, I'm in jeans.
“I do know that,” she says, then stretches across the couch to ruffle my hair.
The gesture both warms my heart and makes me think. Josie's always been a toucher, so it's not out of place. But it feels so . . . couple-y. So boyfriend-girlfriend. There's a part of me that desperately wants that with her. That wants to just crack open my heart and tell her how I feel.
Because inside, I'm on cloud nine. I'm a happy motherfucker, just kicking back, eating pizza with the best girl I know. Our physical connection is mind-bogglingly good. We get along like two peas in a pod. She's been my friend forever. Hell, we're about to play a game of Scrabble before we go for round two.
But there's the rub.
Because all this floating on a cloud of complete and utter dirty, sexy, fantastic happiness is just smoke and mirrors. It's a trick designed flawlessly by the human body. Why, oh fucking why, does falling for someone have to be such a rush? Such a high?
But I know the answer.
There's a reason for the release of those endorphins. Chemicals are in our system so falling in love will make us procreate. This rampant contentment swirling inside me is all just basic survival-of-the-species shit. It's an illusion of brain chemistry.
And as long as I keep my head on straight, I can't be fooled by risky feelings.
Even though a part of me wants to throw caution to the wind, to listen to this hammering in my chest, to just say, “Hey, it's you and me, let's defy the odds.” Fucking, eating pizza, and playing Scrabble.
Yeah, there's no need for anything more.
Until Josie clears her throat. “So . . .”
And that one word sucks up all the oxygen in the room.
All the happy, floaty, let's-get-drunk-and-screw vibe vanishes. It evaporates into the night. In one syllable, I know it's time to talk.
Though Josie and I can chat about anything, whatever comes after the “so” is the one thing I'm not ready to discuss. Because what's happening with us is fraught with too many complications. Screwing your roommate is like operating on a kidney, only you can't do it without harming a main artery. Too many systems are linked togetherâthe home, the friendship, the sex, the rent. Even the utilities are part of our sex life.
Naturally, my next step is to try to defuse the bomb.
you mean the two-letter Scrabble word S-O, or the three-letter one that's an action performed by a seamstress?”
She laughs, shakes her head, and sets her hand on my thigh. “Chase,” she says, and her tone is friendly but serious at the same damn time.
“We need to talk about what's going on. With us.”
Like a steel rod has been implanted in my spine, I straighten and say roughly, “Okay.”
Why does dread flood me at the mere prospect of this conversation?
Oh, right. Because the last woman I felt this way for had an affair while we were together. Ergo, relationships and me don't get along well. I open my heart, and it's stomped on. Add in the little, tiny, miniscule fact that falling for your friend means you're likely to lose that friend when the relationship goes belly up, and all I want to do is imitate a monk.
Well, just the vow-of-silence part. Not the other vows.
“You know how everything blends together for me?” she asks.
“Josie in a mixer,” I answer.
A small smile is her response. “And this”âshe points from her to meâ“has the potential to make one big milkshake of emotions.” The look in her eyes is fierce and resolute. “I know myself. You know me, too. You've seen how emotions all spill over. I don't try to compartmentalize. I'm no good at it. It's all here,” she says, tapping her chest. “And with you and me, I can see this becoming the biggest milkshake of all. We're friends, we're roommates, and now we're lovers. I can't keep all the ingredients separated. Do you see what I mean?”
For the barest sliver of a second, I imagine we're going to skip the hard part. She'll say she's fallen for me, too, and let's just live like this forever and ever without a thing going wrong.
“Do you mean you like milkshakes?” I ask carefully, because I'm not sure if this is her preamble to telling me she's had the same goddamn epiphany I have and that we'll be the first pair of friends in the history of the universe not to fuck up the transition to the next “ship”âthe one that goes with “relation.”
There's a first time for everything, right?
She laughs lightly. “I do like milkshakes, Chase,” she says and runs her fingers down my chest. “But you can't have them for every meal.”
“The milkshake diet is completely physician approved,” I deadpan.
But she's not in the mood to tease, or to eat sweets all day long, evidently. “What I mean is,” she says, “I want us to be careful. I want us to have an understanding. I don't want to get my heart broken, and I don't want to hurt you, and most of all, I don't want to ruin our friendship.”
And that's why I kept my mouth closed in the first place, and why the zipper on it will stay shut. Her words only cement the need for me to compartmentalize even if she can't. To keep love on one side, and sex on the other.
“Separate drawers,” I say with a nod. I mime opening a bureau. “We need to keep this sex thing in a separate drawer”âthen I close itâ“and the friendship in another.”
If we don't, we run the very real risk of losing the friendship.
She flashes a brief smile. “Yes. Don't you think that's the best way for us to stay in each other's lives?”
I nod because of course I've got to make sure she knows I'm not going to screw this up. I need her to know I can do as asked. “And you need me to help you keep the fact that I can make you come ridiculously hard in one drawer, and that I pay half the rent check in another?”
“And our awesome Scrabble teamwork in one more, please,” she says, laughing. Then her chuckles quiet down. “It's not easy for me to keep everything on opposite sides. You have to know I'm completely and utterly turned on by you, that you absolutely get bonus points for being great in bed, and you're my dearest friend, and I think you're amazing.” I can't help but grin at the compliments. “And I also can't bear the thought of losing you.”
A life without Josie sounds like a living hell. “I don't want to lose you, either.”
“That's why I need you to be the tough one. You need to be the doctor who rips off the Band-Aid eventually,” she says with a rueful smile.
“Take advantage of the MD, why don't you,” I grumble, jokingly.
But she's serious. “I don't want to be Adele. I don't want to be gone from your life.” Her voice breaks, and this girlâGod, she wears her emotions on her sleeve. She lets them out in the open for me to see. She's fearless and bold, not just in bed, but right here as she lays her heart on the line.
There's no tiptoeing around this topic. No doorbell ringing in the middle of a tough conversation, truncating it. Nope. We're not avoiding the issueâwe're diving into the deep end as Josie opens her heart to me even more.
Everything she does makes me want her, in every way.
“That's why I think this is the only way to do this,” she adds.
I swallow tightly, remembering the emptiness I felt when Adele moved on. I force myself to recall the hurt of losing someone I cared deeply for. Sure, the lonely nights sucked, but what ached more was the absence of a person I relied on. My friend. “I can't stand the thought of not being friends with you. We can't let that happen.”
“I don't want that to happen, either,” she says, her tone so earnest it hooks right into my chest. “But I also don't want to get fooled again like I did with Damien.”
I give her a hard stare. “I'm not Damien. That guy surpassed acceptable levels of douchery by a million percent.”
“I know, but it still hurt. I learned my lesson with him, and I want us to be completely clear from the get-go about what this can and can't be. We have to draw lines. We need to promise that whatever this sex thing is, we go back to being friends when we're done.”
“Fine,” I say, because that's what I want. To keep her.
“We just have to accept that we have crazy chemistry from living together, right?”
I nod. Maybe I even punctuate it with a wag of my tongue.
She laughs. “And we need to get that out of our system, right?”
I remind myself that compartmentalization is my special skill. I've honed it over the years. I've made it a goddamn practice. I take care of the body, and others handle the heart and mind. For once, Josie wants me to lean on my top talentâmy ability to separate the physical from the emotional. She wants me to take the best possible care of her orgasms then send her on her way with regular friendship check-ups.
This ought to be easy.
This ought to be easy as pie.
“Josie, we are on the same page,” I say, squaring my shoulders and giving her my best show of confidence. She doesn't need to know I'm stupidly falling for her. I'll apply the brakes and stop myself from falling further. This thing between us won't need to be more than a sweet little tryst with my sexy, gorgeous, daring, wild roommate.
All those strange sensations swarming my chest? Done. I'm giving them the boot. Tossing them out with the trash.
See you later, falling in love.
Josie breathes a sigh of relief. “I'm so glad you feel the same way. I'd be so sad if you were out of my life.”
I laugh and cup her cheek. “I'm not going anywhere. I'd never do anything to risk losing you. You're not just my friend. I hate to break it to Wyatt, but you're my best friend.”
“You're mine, too.” She beams. “It'll be our secret.”
“Like âScotland's Burning.'”
“Look out, look out,” she sings, and I join in our horrible duet.
When we're done massacring the song, I hold out a fist for knocking, keeping it all on the level. “We're roomies with benefits until we get it out of our system.”
She knocks back, and we're all good now.
Only, I can't stop. I need to sell this to the judge and jury. I need to be thoroughly convincing so she doesn't know how close I was to spilling my guts. “And you should totally date,” I add, all nonchalant.
She arches an eyebrow. “I'm not going to date while we're screwing.”
“But when we're done,” I add. Like the magnanimous, generous, wonderful friend I am. Who, evidently, likes to state the patently obvious.
“Okay,” she says, hesitantly.
“When we're out of each other's systems,” I add, and plaster on a smile, reminding her that we will be over eventually. We are a temporary fling. There's no point dwelling on how I felt earlier.
There's no point at all. Not even when we screw again that night on the couch. Not even when she wraps her arms around me and whispers my name. Not even when she tells me how good it is.
Nope. I don't let any of that affect me.
Not at all.
Not in the least.
Even when she falls asleep in my arms again, curling up next to me and smelling like her, and like me, and like the best sex I've ever known. Because it was more than just sex.
Only . . . it can't be.