Addicted for Now / Page 35

Page 35


“Same goes for my ass,” he says with a small laugh, his back still turned to me. The lightness and humor in his voice relaxes my shoulders.

“I like your ass,” I tell him as he rotates to face me, a washcloth in hand.

“I know you do,” he murmurs. He laces his fingers with mine and draws me to his body. My thigh brushes his cock, and a breath catches in my throat. “You’re okay, Lil,” he whispers. That’s not what it feels like.

He runs the cloth along my arms and in between my fingers, soaping my skin. I am hypnotized by the slow, lingering movements. And then the cloth dips to my belly and rises to my br**sts, circling each one with meticulous care. I stagger forward a little and grip onto his arm.

“Easy,” he breathes. “Think of this as a test.”

“Showering with you?” My eyes widen.

“Showering with me,” he confirms with a nod, “without sex at the end. I’ll wash you and then you can wash me, okay?”

I don’t know what comes over me. I just…don’t think this is real. So I reach out and pinch his arm.

He flinches. “What the hell?” And he retracts his hands. No, come back!

“I-I was making sure this wasn’t a dream,” I explain. “I’m sorry!” I lean down and plant two soft kisses on the reddened skin.

His chest rises and falls with full-bellied laughs. “You’re supposed to pinch yourself, dummy,” he tells me.

Oh, right. I squeeze the skin above my elbow. Ouch, that does hurt.

He draws me back to his chest, and his hands slowly skim my arms, lighting every part of me. His eyes flicker to mine. “Am I real enough for you?”

Dear God, yes.

He talks easily as he returns to soaping my body, as though he didn’t just blanket me with Loren Hale seduction. “Today we can do touristy stuff alone together. Whatever you want.”

It’s our first vacation where Lo is sober and I’m in recovery. Our last trip by ourselves, we spent the weekend in Prague. We never even made it to a museum or Prague Castle. Lo wouldn’t let me wander the streets alone, so our time was spent in the hotel bar where I could pick up a guy and he could drink without us dying in the process. Now the memory just seems sad. We missed out on all the good aspects of traveling.

“We should see the Mayan ruins,” I say, excitement bubbling in my stomach. “Oh and turtles! I want to see turtles.”

“Sounds like a date.”

A date. A date in a foreign country with my boyfriend. A date in foreign country with my sober boyfriend. It sounds amazing.

And then the washcloth descends and all my thoughts whoosh right from brain. I hold onto Lo’s arms as he rubs the cloth on the spot between my legs. It aches for a deeper touch, for my body to burst with that familiar euphoria. But I remember something: This. Is. A. Test.

I plan to pass it. No matter how hard it is. I focus on his eyes and not his hands. “Hey boyfriend,” I say easily, testing out the word. I rarely say it aloud to his face. Maybe it will distract me.

“Hey girlfriend,” he replies. “You okay?” His brows rise, a little teasingly. I think he understands my physical state better than I do at times.

The washcloth ascends, leaving my tender flesh, and I nod in reply, words escaping my head. The water beads our skin and caresses us in its warmth, provoking me to take him every which way. But I won’t. My sex life is in his hands. I won’t jump him. I won’t hike a leg around his waist. I’m restraining myself. Willingly.

I feel a little good with the fact.

And then the shower chooses to have a manic episode, the water spurting in ice-cold sheets.

Holy shit!

I shriek and spider Lo’s body to avoid the chilly spray. So much for not jumping him.

His feet slide against the wet tiles, and he almost falls. But he catches his balance and rights himself, his arms wrapping around my h*ps to keep me from toppling.

I just realize that my arms are flung around his shoulders and my leg is most definitely midway up his waist. The position is not so innocent. But any arousal is smothered by Lo. He is laughing his ass off, his voice echoing in the boxed shower.

He cannot stop. Seriously.

“It’s not funny. This shower is a demon,” I tell him.

He tries to hide his smile, but fails. “If you’re scared of a little cold water, how are you going to pet snapping turtles?”

“I’m not petting snapping turtles,” I say, lowering my leg to the floor. “I only want to pet the cute ones.”

He passes me a bottle of shampoo from the ledge. “Oh, so the ugly ones don’t get any love from you? They’re left out all alone, cold, un-petted?”

I frown deeply. He’s right. I should pet all of them. Even the scary ones. “Okay, I’ll pet the snapping turtles, but only if someone holds their muzzle.” Before I run my fingers through his hair, I soap his abs with the cloth and follow the taut ridges across his body, being methodical but not too focused on where this could lead—which is nowhere. I tune into our conversation instead.

“I don’t think turtles have muzzles,” he says with another laugh.

“Snouts?” I ask, a little confused now. What do you call the nose of a turtle?

“That’s a pig.” We debate the existence of a turtle’s nose and the difference between Mayan and Aztec ruins while we finishing washing, and then we both step out of the shower and dry off. After a long moment, I realize that I’m okay. That I’m more excited about spending the day with him than I am about hav**g s*x.

I don’t know if I’ll feel this way tomorrow.

But today…it feels nice.

{ 23 }

LOREN HALE

My Nike soles sink into the sand, digging hard into the uneven surface as I run. The sun beats against my bare chest, and I hope that I sprayed enough lotion to avoid a nasty burn.

Even in the boiling heat, Ryke sprints beside me, keeping up with my lengthy stride. I try to run every morning. It helps with my cravings, especially in Cancun. I can’t take one step out of our hotel room without seeing a sloshed college student or a bottle of beer. Seventeen bars are on this resort alone. I knew coming here would test me to the limit, but I never anticipated how I would feel.

Yesterday with Lily was literally the only day that alcohol never crossed my mind. Not once. We snorkeled with the turtles and climbed to the top of a Mayan ruin. She never asked me for sex, and I never craved a drop of whiskey. But that was one good day out of many shitty ones. I want to improve our statistics, to lessen all the bad days until they’re nothing but a dream.

I push harder, the humid air squeezing my lungs. Sweat beads my skin, and the pain that ripples through my muscles feels better than my nagging thoughts. So I keep driving farther. I keep bending my knees and pumping forward. And Ryke never breaks from my side.

I know that if I didn’t care so much about Lily—or have Ryke here to glare at me—I would have already broken my sobriety. And then Connor makes me want to be a better person—however lame that sounds.

But today we all split up.

Lily is shopping with Rose and Connor, which gives her a break from obsessing over hav**g s*x. Surrounding ourselves with other people is still new for us, and kind of exhausting, but we’re making it work.

I glance over my shoulder, and we slow down to a jog almost immediately. Melissa and Daisy are barely a speck in the distance. They were the only two that wanted to join us on a run. Unsurprising, since Lily looks like the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing after a minute sprint, and I’ve never seen Rose wear sneakers in her life. Connor would have come along, but he didn’t want to leave Rose and Lily shopping alone in Mexico.

Our feet slow to a complete stop. “Connor’s investigator still hasn’t come up with anything new?” Ryke asks, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, shirtless like me.

“Connor says he’s looking into it as quickly as he can.” And if his contacts don’t pan out, hopefully my father has better luck. But I wouldn’t tell Ryke that I’m talking to Jonathan Hale. Nothing good can come from that.

“Let’s say, worst case scenario, it gets leaked that Lily is a sex addict,” Ryke says, uncapping his water bottle as we wait for the girls to catch up to us. “What happens then?”

My stomach churns at the thought. “I don’t even want to entertain the idea.” All I picture is Lily sobbing and unable to be consoled. Watching her in that kind of gutted agony would kill me, but if we do go down that road, I can’t resort to booze. For once, I have to be there for her. She’s my best f**king friend. And she deserves the type of guy who can make her feel better, not worse.

If I can’t do that, then we really shouldn’t be together.

Ryke studies me. “You still taking Antabuse?”

I give him a bitter smile. “One pill a day keeps the demons at bay.”

“You didn’t answer me.”

“Yes, Dad.” I stretch my muscles, pulling my arm over my chest, trying to relieve this built-up pressure. If the pill bottle wasn’t in my pocket—if I had left it in my suitcase with the other stolen luggage—I would have more temptations to drink. I was lucky for once.

I also hate talking about that medication. Talking makes me think and thinking makes me want to f**king drink.

“I wish you would have told me about Mason Nix sooner,” Ryke admits, changing the subject once again, this time to one of our top suspects. Ryke is good at that—talking and revolving around different topics. I find myself zoning into something, being immersed by his roundabout discussions like a whirlpool.

“Why is that?”

“We share the f**king gym at Penn. I see him almost every day. If I knew what he did, I wouldn’t have…tolerated him.”

“So what does you not tolerating him look like?” I ask with furrowed brows. I picture him ramming his fist into Mason Nix’s conceited face. Granted, I already did that.

“We may have had words,” Ryke says.

I still imagine a fist fight.

“You know,” I mutter, staring at my water bottle, “for the longest time after our freshman year, I kept thinking that I was in the wrong. I can’t even tell you how many tires I slit. And Lily told me that she didn’t expect what happened that night, but she didn’t mind it either.” I shake my head, thinking back to our first year at Penn. We both went to a frat party, the entire soccer team in attendance. Most of it is still a giant blur. But I do remember hearing guys near the kitchen discussing some girl on the second floor. Someone named Mason convinced a freshman to screw each guy on the soccer team.

One after the other.

I didn’t have to be told it was her. I just knew.

I grabbed a bottle of Jim Beam, pulled out my serrated hunting knife, and paced manically in the parking lot. I lost it on any car with a f**king soccer sticker, badge, identification, whatever. They would have to find another ride home.

That morning, she was dazed and hung over, but somehow I pulled the truth from her. Mason Nix asked if she wanted to have the night of her life, and she agreed as long as no one watched. As long as each guy came in and went out like a factory line.


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