Unlike his older brother, Matthew Finley has no problems with commitment. A creature of habit, he craves the predictability of marriage and family. Unfortunately, his most enduring habit is his commitment-shy ex-girlfriend, Casey Franklin. After five months of going cold turkey, Matthew comes home to find Casey waiting for him, and he falls off the wagon. Hard.
But he still wants forever, and she’s still not ready to look beyond tomorrow, leaving him two choices—overcome his addiction or her resistance. And that’s really no choice at all.
“Thanks for the ride,” I said to my date as we stood on the generous porch in front of my house. I usually took the train to my downtown office, and today had been no exception. Parking in the city was a bitch, not to mention expensive, and the train station wasn’t far from my house, so it was a simple choice. After work, I’d hooked up with Jenna, had a bite to eat, and now wasn’t sure what to do with her.
“No problem. It’s on my way home.”
I stood there for a moment, feeling a little uneasy. This was the first date I’d attempted in five months, and while I liked what I’d seen so far, I wasn’t sure I was ready to take the next step. On the other hand, after five months of celibacy, I was horny as hell and had to admit that Jenna Hawthorne had exactly the kind of broad, curvy ass and small, round tits I found appealing in a woman.
My dick gave a little jerk at the thought, making my mind up for me. And Jenna had been telegraphing her interest in getting into my Dockers all night long.
“Would you like to come in for a drink?” I tilted my head toward the door as I slipped my key into the lock.
Jenna smiled, a sultry come-hither expression that doubled my resolve. It had been way too long since I’d gotten laid, and Jenna, whom I’d asked out on a whim while standing behind her in the checkout line at the grocery store, seemed like a safe bet for getting my dick wet. Just a couple of years out of college, pretty and smart, she was probably still more interested in hooking up than shacking up.
That suited me just fine. I sure as hell wasn’t ready for anything deeper than a tight pussy and a solid night’s sleep. Not so soon after Casey.
I turned the doorknob—a burnished stainless steel oval I’d spec-ed in my original drawings to complement the heavy birch panel with its high, prairie-style lights—and pushed.
Three facts instantly impinged on my consciousness.
First, the lights were on in the living room. Lights I knew had been off when I’d left for the office this morning.
Second, a woman’s black leather jacket hung on one of the pegs behind the front door.
And third, the house smelled like coffee with an undercurrent of Givenchy perfume. Familiar aromas that, combined, always reminded me of…
I saw her the second I rounded the corner between the foyer and the living room. She was curled up in the far corner of the sofa, where she’d obviously dozed off after drinking several cups of the coffee she’d brewed.
At the sound of my voice, she blinked sleepily and stretched, giving me an eyeful of the firm, round breasts and dusky nipples beneath her opaque white blouse. At some point since she’d arrived, she’d taken off her bra—something she’d always done practically the moment she was anywhere she could relax. In fact, now that I was looking, I saw the lacy beige cups draped over the back of the couch.
I hadn’t seen her in the five months since we’d split, except on TV—usually holding hands with or making eyes at Lincoln Davies, a man I’d once considered a friend—but my body responded as if none of that shit had ever gone down. My cock went straight to attention, the image of my mouth and tongue teasing those beautiful, chocolate-cream tits while I stroked her clit and fucked her pussy as fresh in my mind as if we’d never been apart.
Jenna drew up short behind me. “Oh!”
“How the hell did you get in?” I barked at Casey.
Casey shrugged drowsily and reached around to the end table behind her, nearly knocking over a coffee mug in the process. “I still have this,” she said, holding up a key that matched mine.
“I think I’d better be going,” Jenna murmured behind me. “I didn’t realize you had…company.”
I turned to look at her. Damn, she was a pretty girl, with pale skin, straight black hair that reached between her shoulder blades, and bright blue eyes. Except for her general shape, she looked nothing like the woman on my couch, and that, I’d thought, was a positive. I wouldn’t be reminded of Casey when I slept with Jenna, and memories were the last thing I needed.
Unfortunately, I now had more than memories. I had the real McCoy sprawled on my sofa. And she was ten times more powerful in person.
“I didn’t either,” I assured Jenna, but I knew there was no way to salvage the evening. Probably no way to salvage anything at all.
“That’s okay. I understand,” she said, hoisting her purse higher onto her shoulder and turning toward to the door.
That was more than I could say. What the fuck was Casey doing here? I whirled back to glare at her as she yawned and rose from the couch.
When Jenna added, “I’ll show myself out,” I barely heard her.
All my attention was fixed on the woman who’d crushed my heart with her lame, it’s-not-you-it’s-me refusal of my marriage proposal right before Christmas. But the fact that I was still angry with her—for dating me for almost five years when she apparently had no intention of marrying me and worse, for taking up with Davies within weeks of our break-up—didn’t matter at all to my dick and balls. Just watching those lush, red lips open wide when she yawned made me remember with excruciating clarity the way it felt to have them clamped around my cock.
Hard-hearted bitch or not, I still wanted to fuck her senseless.
Vaguely, I heard the front door click shut. Knowing we were alone, I asked the obvious question.
“What are you doing here?”
“I need your help.” She turned her hands up in a supplicating gesture. I noticed, with some satisfaction, that she didn’t have an engagement ring. Maybe she was screwing Davies, but she apparently wasn’t in any greater hurry to marry him than me. “Or rather, Lincoln needs your help.”
What the fuck?
Jealousy, acrid as the smoke from burning plastic, curled up inside me. I turned away from her and walked to the kitchen. “What the hell makes you think I’d help your new boyfriend?”
“He’s n—” She broke off. “He’s your friend, Matty.”
Matty. Casey was the only person I’d ever allowed to call me that since I was six years old.
“Not since he started banging you, babe,” I growled, reaching the granite island that housed the wet bar. I dropped my keys on the counter with a clatter, bent down to reach into the small refrigerator, and grabbed a beer.
“Damn it, Matthew, this is serious. Linc’s been arrested for cocaine possession.”
I jerked up, almost hitting my head on the edge of the counter as I rose, and stared at her. “What?”
Lincoln Davies might be a treacherous, backstabbing bastard, but he was the last man on the planet who’d be caught dead with drugs. A former gangbanger who’d been arrested for selling crack at the age of seventeen, Lincoln was one of the lucky few to experience a real conversion while in prison. Now, he poured all his time, energy, and money into the foundation he’d started to get South Side black kids out of the life before it took the life out of them. He was respected—even revered—in the city for his work. There was no way in hell he’d throw away everything he’d worked the last ten years to accomplish.
Casey stood across from me at the island. “The cops pulled him over, claiming he was driving erratically.”
She pressed a hand between her breasts, pushing the almost-sheer fabric closer to her nipples. Nipples I couldn’t help noticing were pebble hard. And it wasn’t cold. Was it possible she still wanted me as much as I wanted her?
“I’m pretty sure it was a D.W.B.,” she added.
I snorted. As a white guy, I had no personal experience to draw on, but I had enough evidence to know that getting pulled over for no other reason than “driving while black” was fairly common in Chicago. Especially if you happened to be male and drove an expensive car. And Lincoln’s one luxury—the one thing he spent money on other than the foundation—was his car.
“Go on,” I said.
She shrugged. “After they pulled him over, they searched the car and found a kilo of coke.”
I cracked open my beer. “Shit.” Lifting the bottle, I took a deep slug of the cold, bitter brew, praying it would cool a fraction of the lust still heating my blood.
How could I still want to screw Casey when she was here pleading for me to help her new lover? Was I insane?
“Why are you here?” I asked again. “I mean, you couldn’t call me to tell me this? And what am I supposed to do about it? If Linc needs an attorney, you should be calling Luke, not lying in wait for me at my house.” My older brother, Luke, was the lawyer in the family. And though he didn’t practice criminal law, he’d know someone who did.
Casey sighed. “Lincoln doesn’t have enough money to post his bail. You know the only thing he has is the car, and that’s in impound and could be confiscated by the police. I was hoping you’d put up the house as collateral for the bond. You know he won’t skip.”
Unbelievable! I might have laughed at the irony if the whole situation weren’t so excruciatingly, unpleasantly real. The woman I’d asked to marry me was asking me to mortgage my house—a house I’d designed, built, and paid for in full myself—to bail her lover out of jail.
“The hell I will,” I said, wanting to growl at her nerve. I made my way back to the living room and dropped into one of the dark green armchairs. “Why doesn’t he ask your dad? Your father’s richer than Croesus.”
She followed me but didn’t sit down. “He doesn’t want Dad to know until after he finds out how the coke got in his car. You know what would happen to my father’s campaign if he bailed Lincoln out, and then Linc was found guilty of cocaine possession.”
I grimaced. Yeah, I could see that. Casey’s father, Everett Franklin, was engaged in a heated re-election campaign for city alderman. His opponent’s primary charge against him was that Franklin went too easy on crime and drugs in the district, excusing the perpetrators as victims of racial oppression. Safe in the suburbs of Schaumburg, it was hard for me to identify with either side of the argument, but I could well imagine that Franklin’s close association with Lincoln and his foundation would be a liability rather than an asset should Lincoln be convicted of a drug-related crime.
But then, I didn’t have any particular love for Casey’s dad. I was pretty sure he was at least part of the reason she’d turned down my marriage proposal. No doubt Alderman Franklin was thrilled that his daughter was now dating an upstanding member of the black community instead of a well-to-do, white architect who designed expensive houses for rich suburbanites.
“And I should care because…?” I asked, letting the sarcasm lace through my words, then took another long pull from my beer.
Casey crossed to my chair and knelt in front of me, placing her hands on my knees. The simple contact delivered a current of electricity straight to my crotch. I was grateful I’d worn a loose pair of slacks and not tight jeans to work today.
“You should care because Linc is—was,” she corrected at my scowl, “your friend. And because I’m asking—no, begging—you to.”
She looked up at me, her eyes large and pleading in her beautifully sculpted features, and I felt my anger softening. Lord, she had bone structure. And since the last time I’d seen her on the news, she’d had her hair done in long, flowing braids that accentuated the striking contours of her cheekbones and the slight upward tilt of her espresso dark eyes.
She should have been a high fashion model, my Casey, not a fundraiser for not-for-profits and politicos. I had to admit, though, that she was damn good at what she did. She was about to raise some funds out of me.
Along with something else entirely.
I dropped my head back against the cushion behind me and groaned inwardly. I was on the verge of making a complete ass of myself, but the way she was looking at me, I had no damn choice. No matter how she’d screwed me over, I still wanted her. Still loved her.
J. Geils had it right. Love stinks.
But maybe now it was my turn to do the screwing.