Breathless Page 7

He never did.

His imagination was perfectly content to feed him other ideas, however. Ideas that Nick shoved out of his head practically upon thinking them.

Ideas that would definitely drive a wedge between him and his brothers, if they knew.

So he kept dating girls, still hoping that one day he’d wake up with new ideas.

Sometimes he could get into it, could seek out bare skin with his hands and mouth, could let them half undress him and explore his body in the darkness. Like now, with everything cloaked in shadow and a tongue stroking his, a strong body pressing into him, fingers in his hair.

Nick made a small sound in his throat. Like this, he could pretend he was with—


No, he couldn’t. He couldn’t pretend anything. He couldn’t even let himself think it. He shoved those thoughts from his brain and told that roulette wheel to keep f**king spinning and settle somewhere else.

Quinn must have felt the change in his body, the sudden tension, because she drew back. The inside of the truck was stifling hot. “What’s wrong?” she whispered.

Everything. “Nothing. It’s just—nothing.” He paused, trying to breathe. Him! Fighting for air! And words. He choked on half of them. “Just—you don’t need to sleep with me if you want me to help you, Quinn.”

She went still. “You think I’m trying to sleep with you so I can get a place to stay?”

He gave her a look. Her hand was still on the button to his jeans, for god’s sake. “Aren’t you?”

She shoved herself off him and grabbed her bag.

Nick caught her arm. “Hey,” he said gently. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—I’ll help you because I’m your friend.”

Friend. It was the wrong thing to say, and he knew it instantly. She was still poised to shove the truck door open, but she looked at him over her shoulder. Her eyes were so striking, even bluer than his were. “Why don’t you want to sleep with me?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Right now? Because we’re in a parking lot.”

“No,” she said quietly. “I mean, why don’t you want to sleep with me ever?”

Nick drew back and let go of her arm. He gave her his easy smile. “Maybe I’m a gentleman.”

Quinn didn’t smile back. “I know I’m not as hot as the girls you usually date, Nick.” She paused. “Are you just taking a break or something? Using me as a filler girlfriend so you have time to let the chafing heal?”

“Wow.” He dragged the word into three syllables.

“Or is this like a favor for Becca? Did Chris tell you to give me a little attention—”

“Are we seriously having this conversation?”

“No. Forget it—no.” Then she was out of the truck.

He was behind her in a heartbeat, trailing her up the steps. “Quinn. Stop. I don’t—”

“Go away, Nick.”

She was crying; the air told him that much. Crying because he hadn’t tried to have sex with her in the cab of his brother’s truck.

Irony was like a devil on his shoulder, thinking this was a grand ol’ knee slapper.

He stopped her on the top landing. Her face was flushed and damp, her blond hair wild and full of moonlight. She looked like an angel of vengeance, ready to kick his ass.

“Let me go,” she snapped.

“I know this isn’t all about me,” he said carefully.

That made fresh tears well, and she pressed fingers to her eyes. “You’re right. It’s about like fourteen different people. So why don’t you go away and let me deal with it?”

“Quinn.” He moved closer and spoke low. “Quinn. Please talk to me.”

She swiped the tears free and looked up at him. “Why do you even give a crap, Nick?”

Because she was a hot mess, every emotion on her sleeve, and he admired that—no, he envied that. Because he could feel her intensity when she danced, and he craved that kind of passion in his life. Because she was trapped by circumstance, and so was he.

Because, until tonight, she’d never expected anything from him, and that was damn refreshing.

He studied her face, her eyes that had turned so furious. Every breath that came out of her lungs whispered to him about her tension, her fluttering heartbeat, her anger.

“No one wants me,” she said fiercely.

“Quinn—that’s not true.”

She got right up close to him, putting her chest against his. “It’s not? Do you want me, Nick?”

If it had been any other girl, or any other tone, he could have played along. He probably could have thrown her up against the wall and kissed her silly. But it felt like she was throwing all her cards on the table. Lying to Quinn now would be like the worst kind of cruelty.

It didn’t matter anyway. She’d read his hesitation, or maybe she’d just read the look in his eyes. She turned away.


“Quinn. Quinn, stop—”

She whirled. Her hand flew.

She didn’t slap him. She punched him. Hard.

Before he could get it together, she was shoving her key into the door at the top of the steps and then slamming it in his face.

And Nick stood there staring at the wood, wishing he could call her back.

And what would he say? It’s not you. It’s me.

Yeah. Right.

But at least in this case it was true. It had nothing to do with not wanting Quinn.

And everything to do with not wanting any girl.

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