Shallow Page 17

I wasn’t sure I trusted her enough to tell her the specifics of what drove me to mark myself in such a permanent way, so I decided generic was the way to go with my answers. “I got it the day I turned eighteen.”

“Which was when?”

Hmm. She wanted to know when my birthday was and I found myself liking that. “September 27th. I know, a painful birthday present to myself, right?”

She looked at it curiously from where she sat. “I could think of less painful gifts. What does it mean?”

I wasn’t going to tell her what it said because having her read it herself would be my chance to bring her closer to where I wanted her. I stretched with my arm over my head. “Come read it for yourself.”

She got up and came to sit next to me on the couch before she cocked her head to the side to read the swirling words. “Oh, cool. I couldn’t tell that there were words mingled in the design from a distance. I thought it was only artwork.”

She reached out to place her finger on the first word. “I was lying when I said I didn’t like it.” Her fingertip gently followed the text as she read it aloud, “Love is delicate as glass; once broken it can be fixed, but there will always be cracks.”

The soft gliding touch of her fingertip trailing along my skin sent tingles down my body and ignited flames in my gut. When she finished reading it, she left her finger against my skin and looked up at me. “These aren’t random words. They mean something very significant to you.”

Very significant was the understatement of the millennium and the moment we were sharing quickly became very serious. I suddenly found myself in a place I didn’t want to be. It was a dangerous spot because I didn’t share that part of myself with anyone.

She put her finger against the part that said ‘Love’ just below my heart and rubbed as if she might be able to wipe the ugly away. “You didn’t randomly choose this. This is here because someone hurt you.”

I had been naked with plenty of girls, but I had never allowed one of them to read my tattoo and we definitely never discussed it. I closed my eyes, trying to escape this first time conversation I had ignited by asking her to take a closer look. When she didn’t say anything more, I opened my eyes and she was still sitting on the edge of the couch looking at me.

She licked her lips as she looked at my mouth. “We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. I can think of something else I rather do.”

I heard my heart throbbing loudly in my ears and I thought I would die if I didn’t get my lips against hers soon. I reached for the back of her neck and pulled her closer as I scooted in her direction on the sofa.

Although I had been with lots of girls, I normally didn’t kiss them longer than I felt obligated to and sometimes I didn’t at all if I could get away with it. It felt too intimate and emotional for me, much more so than sex, so I simply didn’t do it if I didn’t have to.

Give me ten seconds. That’s all I needed before I was reaching for panties but Payton made kissing feel different for me. I liked it and I was content to make out with her all day without taking it all the way.

Her lips left mine and she trailed kisses along my chin and jaw until her mouth reached the side of my neck. I rested my head on the back of the couch to give her full access and she took advantage.

I knew I had lied to myself when her lips hit that sensitive spot below my ear. It’s true; I could make out with Payton all day, but who was I kidding? She had flipped my on switch.

“Payton, I mean this in the best possible way,’re killing me here,” I groaned under my breath. “You’ve got me so turned on, I’m about to bust the seams in my swim trunks.”

I heard her giggle. “Is that so?” she asked between kisses on my neck. “I’d love to see your version of The Incredible Hulk.”

This girl was trying to kill me and I was definitely interested in seeing if she would succeed, but then we heard the door leading into the house swing open and we scrambled like a pair of kids trying to look like nothing in particular was going on.

Awesome. Jessie and Claire had been in the house almost two hours and they chose now to come out.

I scooted away from Payton to the opposite end of the couch and pointed at the stack of throw pillows behind her. “Toss me one of those pillows.”

She shrugged and then gave me a questioning expression as she reached for one. “Why? You gonna take a nap or something?”

I pointed toward the crotch of my trunks and she laughed as she tossed it in my direction. “Throw pillow, AKA boner barrier.

I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at her. “Not funny.”

I’d hate to know how many inconvenient hard-ons this girl had caused. The number would no doubt be tremendous and I felt a jealous twinge as I thought about it.

She smiled back. “Oh, but I disagree, Hulk.”

13 Adrenaline Junkie


Did I just attach my lips to Nick Hawke’s neck like a Dyson vacuum? Why, yes I did and I apparently did a bang up job at it according to the smile on his face.

He lounged against the back of the couch smiling as we waited for Jessie and Claire to find us after they discovered we weren’t in the pool. I looked at him and couldn’t contain my smile about the little secret he was trying to hide under the throw pillow I tossed him. I should have felt bad about it, but I couldn’t because I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of making out with him.

After Jessie and Claire found us, Jessie plopped down between us on the couch and looked over at the pillow casually across Nick’s lap. Yep, he had to at least suspect the reason behind its strategic placement. “What’s going on, Hawke?”

Nick dropped his arm across the pillow like he was afraid Jessie might jerk it away at any minute. “Awe, not much. Got tired of being in the pool and thought we’d watch a little television while we grabbed a snack.”

Wrong answer. Come on, Nick. You couldn’t watch a TV that wasn’t on.

Jessie looked up the television mounted on the corner of the house. “You’re watching a black screen?”

Nick ran his hand through his hair and laughed. “My bad. I meant listening to umm...Civil Twilight.

Jessie looked toward the pool. “Where’d Dane and Dallas go?”

Nick and I turned to find the pair in the pool, but there was no sign of them and I did the answering this time since Nick failed question one. “I don’t know. Guess they’re taking a break from swimming.”

“How did you not see them get out of the pool if all you were doing was sitting here listening to music while you grabbed a snack?” Jessie reached over and grabbed Nick’s kneecap and gave it a hard squeeze. “Sounds to me like you’re lying.”

Nick jerked and grabbed Jessie by the wrist to make him stop squeezing as he groaned, “Damn, Dude. Let go.”

Claire rolled her eyes as she looked at me and got up to get a drink from the pool house. “Leave him alone, Jess. They can do whatever they want to do.”

Jessie reluctantly obeyed Claire and released Nick’s kneecap. “I couldn’t help myself, Princess. He made messin’ with him too easy. Seriously,’re sporting that whole ‘two year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar’ look very well.” Jessie gave Nick an elbow to the ribs and looked over at me. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but you’re slippin’, Dude.”

It was impossible to not notice the way Nick didn’t deny Jessie’s claim about him slippin’. I realized I liked the idea of possibly being the reason why. I wanted to spend more time with him so I could explore this thing between us. My mind immediately began reeling with all the ways I could accomplish that but I had to put those thoughts on hold when Dane and Dallas came through the gate from wherever they had been.

Claire came out of the pool house from getting her drink and saw Dane and Dallas coming across the backyard. “Well, look who just magically reappeared.”

Dane lifted a brow at Claire. “I believe I could say the same thing about you and Jessie since you disappeared for like, what? Two hours?”

Claire looked at Jessie and they both grinned. “No way it was more than 30 minutes.”

“Yeah, sure. If you say so.” Dane chivalrously offered the only remaining chair to Dallas and then sat next to her on the ottoman. “What’s going on here? A meeting of the minds?

“Yeah and that’s why you weren’t invited. Where’ve you been, Underthinker?

He lifted his phone to show me. “Left it in the car and I’m expecting a call from Paxton about plans for tonight.”

“Why don’t we hang out here tonight since my parents are still gone,” I suggested. “We could cook.”

Claire knew I couldn’t cook so I wasn’t surprised when she called me out about my suggestion. “Since when do you cook?”

“I didn’t say I would cook. I said ‘we’ would cook.”

The girl wasn’t salutatorian for nothing. She could add one and one. “Meaning you want me to cook.”

I shrugged and acted innocent just to piss her off. “Well, if you’re volunteering, then ‘yes.’ That’s exactly what I meant.”

“Sorry, no can do. We have dinner plans with my parents. Remember? They arranged dinner with Uncle Bill so he could talk to Jessie about law school and we can’t blow it off.”

Dallas looked at Nick apologetically. “And I’ve gotta get back because I have plans with Ashley and Hailey.

Well, shit. That didn’t go the way I wanted.

“I could drive Dallas home if Nick wants to stay,” Dane volunteered and confirmed my suspicions that he might want to get to know Nick’s sister better.

Nick didn’t even think it over. “Would you mind, Dallie?

“No, not at all.” Dallas looked at Dane and gave him a sweet smile. “That would be great.”

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