More Than Friends

More Than This, Book 1

Jess Dee

Chapter 1

Lucy Lawson laid her head back against the bath and let the hot water envelop her restless body. Tension thrummed through her muscles, making her twist this way then that in a useless attempt to get comfortable.

Several deep breaths did not help. Neither did a slow count to twenty. Frustration made her scrunch her nose and clench her jaw.

Once again she tried to ignore the obvious, tried to pretend her feelings hadn’t changed, but all the effort made no difference. For months she’d known everything had shifted for her—although she’d hidden that knowledge as carefully as she could.

Lucy flexed her shoulders, stretching them and pushing her chest upwards. Instead of loosening the tension like she’d hoped, it only increased it. Her breasts jutted through the warmth of the water, making contact with the room-temperature air, and her nipples stiffened and beaded in response.

Blaming something as innocuous as air on her nipple stand was absurd. The temperature of the elements had nothing to do with it. No, Lucy’s breasts responded to the slightest stimulant in the most erotic way because she lived in an almost permanent state of sexual awareness—with no outlet for her frustration.

She ran a palm over one breast, attempting to soothe the ache, but the touch only tightened her nipple further, sending a jolt of desire straight through to her stomach.

Rolling her hips and clenching her thighs did not ease the tension. The swirls of warm water churning over her groin, caressing her lower lips and her clit, only increased her arousal.

Lucy sighed, or maybe moaned, and stopped fighting the ache. It would just continue to grow, continue to haunt her. When she headed out tonight, she did not need to be a livewire ready to spark at the slightest provocation.

She trailed the hand on her breast down over her belly and lower, bringing it to rest on her pubic bone. Her breath quickened, and her eyes closed. Liquid heat filled her pussy, and she brushed her finger over her hairless mound, seeking her swollen nub.

Contact took her breath altogether, and she pressed down, allowing herself the pressure her body craved.

Relief swept through her. Relief and yearning.

Yes, she touched herself. Yes, it felt good, but no, it wasn’t what she wanted. Wasn’t who she wanted caressing her most intimate body parts. Her hand wasn’t the reason she spent sleepless nights tossing in bed, shoving thoughts she shouldn’t be thinking from her mind.

Her hand, helpful as it might be, wasn’t the cause of her endless frustration or arousal. And though it felt good now, rubbing over her clit, manipulating it in just the right way to make her stomach contract, it couldn’t provide what she really longed for. Who she really longed for.

Sebastian Blackford.

Marketing executive at a Sydney-based TV ad agency, close friend and all-round cool guy.

His face filled her mind, his eyes so blue they left her dazzled. His nose, slightly crooked from the time he’d used it to stop a cricket ball, so familiar and so…sexy. And his lips. His full, succulent lips that curved into his gorgeous smile, one he flashed at her all the time.

It seemed ridiculous that after knowing that face for so long, it now filled her waking thoughts and drifted through her dreams.

His hair was to blame. It had changed everything. Once dark, lush and thick, with locks that fell down to his shoulders and over his forehead, now it was the polar opposite—startling in its absence. He’d shaved it off. Vowed never to be one of those men who pathetically held on to their balding tresses, and sheared off every last strand.

Rather than leaving his scalp looking stark and empty, it had given him an edge so sensual, Lucy had struggled to breathe the first time she’d seen the new Sebastian. Struggled to find her center and balance herself.

Usually Seb was her center, her balance. But at that moment, he’d pulled the rug from beneath her feet. He’d shaken her world.

Her hand brushed over her pussy, one finger caressing her nub, another stroking the seam of her lips.

It was no coincidence her bikini line remained as hairless as Sebastian’s head. Just like it was no coincidence every time she touched herself, it was Sebastian’s face playing in her mind. Seb’s smile, Seb’s shoulders and abs, Seb’s…

Just Seb.

Since the day he’d shaved his hair, he’d become the focal point of every one of her fantasies and emotions. Fantasies she couldn’t repress—no matter how hard she’d tried. So for these few minutes, with only the heated water for company, her hand became his.

He neglected her clit in favor of slipping two fingers inside her, burying them deep, stroking her sensitive channel, loving her intimately.

His lips whispered sweet nothings, a silent caress of her imagination.

“Love you, Lucy-Loo.”

“Love you too, Seb.”

He fucked her with his fingers.

“Wanted you for so long, babe. Wanted you forever.”

“I’m yours. All yours.” Her voice came out thready, raspy.

“Prove it. Come for me.” His speed increased.

Lucy began to pant. A hand cupped her breast, and she arched her back, pushing her nipple into Seb’s roughened palm. Sensation blossomed between her legs, intense pleasure coupled with desperate longing.

“Let go, Loo. Give me everything you’ve got.”

She bit her lip, heard the roar of blood in her ears. Every muscle stiffened in anticipation.

“Be mine, only mine.” The fingers slid from her channel to press on her clit, rubbing in wanton circles.

Lucy’s desire crested and broke. She came on his fingers, pulses of pleasure throbbing through her pussy and radiating outwards. It was Sebastian’s name that echoed across the bathroom walls as she peaked, Sebastian’s face that filled her mind and love for Sebastian that flowed through her heart.

It was cold, hard fact that pulled her from her high, leaving her lying in a tub of lukewarm water, physically sated yet emotionally hollow.

Seb’s hand vanished, and she stared dully at her own.

Only one thought occurred to her as the last shudders of her orgasm ebbed away.

Her obsession with her friend had continued for too long. It wasn’t a passing fad. The time had come to tell Seb how she felt.

* * * *

“Loo, if you space out on me one more time, I’m going to start thinking it’s personal.”

Lucy blinked and brought her attention back to the man sitting opposite her. Not that she’d ever lost her focus. Nope, her attention had been on him the whole time. Maybe not on what he’d been saying though.

“That’s about the tenth time you’ve zoned out. You haven’t heard a word in the last five minutes. You gonna tell me what’s going on?” He set his tea down on the table.

She shook her head as she looked at his cup. “You realize you’re the only man in Sydney, maybe in the world, who drinks Earl Grey?” The cup seemed small and dainty beside his strong, tanned hand.

He shrugged. “I like it, as you well know. Now forget about the tea and tell me what’s bothering you.”

Her gaze drifted from his teacup to his chest, and she admired the way his black T-shirt sat snugly across his shoulders. How was it possible she’d never appreciated the broadness of those shoulders? Had his hair been so long it had hidden their extraordinary proportions?

She sighed. “You wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you.”

Seb shot her a strange look. “When have I ever not believed something you’ve said?” He took a chip from their shared plate, dipped it into tomato sauce and popped it in his mouth. Then he repeated the process, only this time he popped the chip in Lucy’s mouth.

It was all she could do not to close her lips around his fingers and trap them there. But then trapping fingers, a chip and a dollop of tomato sauce in her mouth was hardly sexy, now was it?

She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed, desperate to open up with the truth and admit her feelings, yet paralyzed by the prospect. For the first time ever, she had trouble voicing her thoughts to Seb.

“You know, I’m a pretty good listener.”

She smiled, trying to keep the mood light while her insides were so heavy. “Then why do you always complain that I never stop talking?”

He grinned. “Maybe because you never stop talking.”

“I’m not talking now,” she pointed out.

“Which leads me to believe something is very wrong, ergo my willingness to listen.” He dipped another chip and offered it to her.

She shook her head. Her stomach was queasy and trembling, and though she and Seb always shared a plate of chips after seeing a movie together, she suspected fried food would do no good whatsoever. “I’m full.”

“Full of shit, maybe. C’mon, Lucy-Loo. Out with it. What’s bothering you? You fidgeted the whole way through the movie and haven’t been able to hold a simple conversation since it ended.” He gestured to the people sitting around them, enjoying a meal or a drink in the trendy little café in Newtown. “Everyone else here is chatting away. The only one not talking is you.”

“Okay, so you talk to me. Tell me how your hot date went the other night.”

The strange look was back on his face. “I spent the last five minutes telling you about it.”

She stared at him, dismayed. “You did?”

Seb nodded. “I did.”

Lucy gave him an apologetic look, staring into his eyes, willing him to forgive her.

Seb said something, but Lucy missed it, mostly because staring into those blue eyes dazzled her senses and once again took her breath away. A feverish flush seeped into her skin, heating her flesh. Just like that, Lucy was lost in a haze of desire, lost in the realization her body was responding to Seb’s proximity. Being this close to him made her heart pound and her pussy clench. She wanted him fiercely. In a way she’d never desired another man. In a way she’d never desired a friend.

Damn it. She had no place desiring a friend.

She had to say something, tell him how she felt. She couldn’t exist like this anymore, living this way with him. Forever friends, nothing more.

“Lucy!” His sharp exclamation snapped her back to attention.

“I love you, Seb.” It was out before she had a chance to think twice.

“I love you too, babe, but if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m taking you to the closest medical center to have you checked out.”

“No, I mean I love you. Like, really, love you.”

He grinned his beautiful grin. “So you tell me every time you get trashed on red wine. You love me and you think I’m the bestest friend in the whole widest world.” He tapped her half-empty wineglass. “Although you surprise me tonight. You haven’t even had one glass. Usually you have to have three or four before you get this sentimental.”

She bit her lower lip, sucking it into her mouth before releasing it. “I’m not drunk.”

His grin told her how much he believed her.

“I’m not,” she said again. “Truth is, I’m stone-cold sober. And the reason I haven’t been concentrating is because I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell you how I feel.”

Seb’s smile began to fade. His blue eyes widened as he stared at her.

“It’s changed, Seb. Everything’s changed. I’ve changed. My feelings for you have changed.” She took a deep, fortifying breath and the words tumbled out. “Y-you’re not just my friend anymore. You’re…more. I dunno what happened. And I dunno how I never felt this way before, but I…I…” She pressed her hand to her chest. “I have all these feelings for you, just sitting here, pressing on my heart, and I can’t ignore them. Can’t pretend they’re not there or they’re not real.”

Sebastian’s jaw dropped.

Now that the words had started, she couldn’t hold them back. Didn’t want to. This was Seb she spoke to, and she could tell him anything. Had always been able to, and now was no different—even though everything was different.

“I dream about you at night. And at work, when I’m not sleeping. Dirty dreams. Filthy, really. Dreams a girl shouldn’t dream about her friend, but there you have it. And when I see you, I wish, just wish, the dreams were real. I wish you’d kiss me the way you do in my imagination. Wish you’d tear my clothes off and do filthy things to me. I wish, wish you felt for me what I feel for you, and we weren’t sitting here at this very moment, drinking red wine and Earl Grey tea.”

Lucy paused to draw breath, her heart beating frantically, her cheeks burning.

Seb just gaped at her.

“I lay in the bath earlier, thinking about you. Fantasizing about you. I touched myself, wishing it was your hand. Couldn’t stop touching, until…until…” Lucy closed her eyes, mortified that she was voicing all of this, yet unable to stop. After months of keeping it to herself, the confession felt liberating. “I came thinking about you. And it wasn’t the first time. But the thing is, I don’t want to just fantasize anymore. Don’t want to just dream about you. I don’t just want to be your friend. Can’t be your friend, ’cause what I feel for you goes way beyond friendship. I’m like, wildly, crazily in love with you.”

“Lucy…” Seb’s voice sounded hoarse, scratchy. He looked dazed. “Geez, I don’t know what to say.” He drew a shaky hand over his shaved head.

Her breath caught in her diaphragm and she hiccupped. “Say you feel the same way. Or at the very least, tell me there’s a chance you could feel this way.”

“I love you too. You know I do.” Again he drew his hand over his head. “You’re my gal, my friend, my mate. ’Course I love you. Just…”

Lucy’s heart stopped beating. Or maybe her lungs stopped working. She couldn’t tell. “Just…?”

His blue gaze held hers. “Just…not like that.”

That’s when she recognized it. The pity in those dazzling eyes. He no longer looked dazed. Now he looked sympathetic.

“Not like that,” she repeated dumbly, letting his pity settle in her stomach, hating it.

“Now I know for sure you didn’t listen when I told you about my date the other night. Because if you had, you’d have heard me say it wasn’t just one date. It turned into two more, two nights in a row, because I realized how much I like Sarah. How I think there’s something between us.”

The sound she made was more a whimper than an acknowledgement of his words.

For a very long time she sat there in the café, oblivious to the people around them, just staring at Seb. He stared back at her. Never once averting his gaze. He seemed incapable of looking away, seemed only to be able to look at her. He also seemed incapable of speaking. Once or twice he opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Not a word. Not a sound. Yet still he stared at her, just like she stared at him.

No, not just like she stared at him. Because as she stared, a sense of horror filtered through her veins, seeping into her nerves and finally usurping her conscious thought.

She’d just confessed her every feeling to him, and in response he’d confessed to…nothing. He felt nothing for her. Nothing more than a strong sense of friendship.

He was interested in someone else. Another woman.

Humiliation, akin to nothing she’d ever experienced, washed over her. She’d blurted out her innermost feelings for her friend, and he didn’t return them. Not a single one of them.

Nausea almost knocked her sideways, her stomach lurched, and the few chips she’d eaten burned like bile in her throat. She was going to throw up. Going to lose her food like she’d lost her dignity.

Only she wouldn’t do it here. Not in front of Seb.

She’d already embarrassed herself enough in front of him. Destroyed whatever they had between them in one rash, selfish confession.

She’d told him she loved him for only one reason: because she couldn’t keep it to herself any longer. Didn’t want to. Something this huge couldn’t be kept to herself. Not when it included Seb. He had a right to know, didn’t he? He should know, shouldn’t he?

But as she stared into his eyes, she knew the answer. Knew it all the way through to her bones.

No, he shouldn’t know. No, she shouldn’t have shared it with him. Because he did not feel the same way. He never had. And now that her confession was out there, it would always be out there, sitting between them like a hideous secret she should never have revealed.

Lucy bolted. Jumped up so fast her chair toppled over. She charged out of the café, taking a sharp left and racing toward the train station.

Pausing only to toss the contents of her heaving stomach into a garbage bin and then wipe her mouth, she flew into the station, yanked her monthly pass from her purse, and caught the first train that chugged into sight.

Chapter 2

Sebastian could not have been more gobsmacked had Lucy proven she was an alien from another galaxy. Nothing in his realm of experience had prepared him for her confession.

The probability of Loo falling for him? Like a million to one. A billion to one. Hell, less than that. Not one month ago she’d been in a serious relationship with another man. Seb had thought it the real deal, but Lucy had broken up with the guy, much to the surprise of everyone they knew.

Had she ended the relationship because of him? Impossible. He and Lucy were mates. Friends. That’s all. That’s all they’d ever been. All he’d ever considered her to be.

No, that’s all was a piss-poor understatement. She was a brilliant friend. His go-to girl. His confidante. The one he poured his heart out to. Discussed the issues that meant something to him. His BFF—as his eight-year-old niece liked to call her.

In love with him? Turned on by him?

No way. Not Lucy.

Seb had never thought about her in a sexual manner. A staggering accomplishment, since every woman he met he sized up sexually in the first thirty seconds of meeting her. But Lucy had always just been Lucy, like his mate Justin had always just been Justin.

In fact, Lucy had been his friend Leo’s girlfriend when they’d first met. Probably the reason his and Lucy’s relationship had begun on a nonsexual level. A guy didn’t hit on his mate’s girl—current or ex. Leo and Lucy hadn’t lasted much longer than a few months, but he and Lucy had. Six years longer. And each day they became closer.

Seb scratched his head, perplexed and stunned.

Why, if his relationship with Lucy was as platonic as his friendship with Justin, and if Seb was really into Sarah, was he sporting a fucking huge erection?

And why had he been sporting that erection ever since his cute librarian friend had looked at him with her big brown eyes and flushed cheeks and told him she’d been having filthy dreams about him? Masturbating in the bath.

And what the fuck was he doing, sitting in the restaurant when Loo had taken off? What kind of a jerk was he, letting her get away?

They needed to talk, needed to straighten things out between them.

But until the blood drained from his cock, Seb couldn’t do a damn thing.

* * * *

Ninety minutes later, after jogging the length of Newtown twice searching for her, he rang her doorbell.

She didn’t answer.

So he rang again and then a third time, sensing she wouldn’t come to the door anytime soon.

He spent a good five minutes ringing—to no avail. He considered using his key. Considered opening up and heading on in, but decided against it. Lucy had fled, racing out of the restaurant in her desperation to get away from him.

He couldn’t and wouldn’t betray her trust by barging in on her uninvited now. He wouldn’t leave, but he wouldn’t let himself in. He’d be so persistent, she’d finally give up ignoring him and open her damn door just to get him to stop bugging her.

So he switched to knocking. He rapped on the wood until his knuckles grew raw. Then he banged on it with the palms of his hands.

Nothing.

Lucy’s unit remained dark and silent.

“Damn it, Lucy. Open up.”

He listened intently for any movement from within and heard none.

“We can’t leave things like this. Talk to me. Please.” He stared at the bag in his hand. “I have chocolate. Lots of it. Mint Aero and Chunky Kit-Kat. And yes, it’s a shameless bribe to get inside.”

He tried charming and coercing her for ages. No luck.

“I’m not leaving ’til you open the goddamned door. I’ll sit here all night if I have to.” He would too. Regardless of the deadline he’d intended to tackle after tonight’s movie, he wouldn’t leave without speaking to her.

When silence continued to echo from within, he grimaced. “Fine. I’m right outside when you’re ready.” Frustration got the better of him, and he slammed the bag against the door. Work on Peter’s Peanut Butter Protein Bars would have to wait. “Eating the fucking chocolate.”

He turned around, all set to slide down the door and sit on his ass until she finally opened up, but never got the opportunity.

Lucy stood in front of him, two shopping bags in each hand. Her brown eyes looked enormous in her pale face. Had there not been two bright spots of pink in the middle of her cheeks, he’d have worried she was sick.

“I’m not home,” she explained quietly.

“Shopping?” He glared at the bags, flexing his tender fingers he’d knocked almost down to the bone. “Really?”

She shrugged. “I needed some things.”

“At midnight?”

“My kitchen’s empty. What are you doing here, Sebastian?”

“What do you think I’m doing here? We need to talk.”

She shook her head. “No, we don’t. I need to sleep. I have to be at the library at eight tomorrow. So if you’ll step out the way, I’ll let myself in and go to bed.”

He ignored her, reaching to take her shopping bags, not giving her a choice when she tried to clasp them tight. “You won’t be able to get your keys if you’re holding all the groceries.”

She released the bags reluctantly, stepped around him and placed her key in the lock. “I need you not to be here now,” she whispered.

“We have to sort this out. You can’t throw something like that at me, and then split before I’ve had time to comprehend it.”

“What I can’t do is look at you. I can’t face the humiliation.”

She pushed the door open and walked a few steps inside. He followed, not giving her a chance to object, going straight through to the kitchen to place all the parcels on the counter.

She stayed where she was, holding the door open, a clear indication she waited for him to leave.

Seb propped his hip against the frame of the kitchen doorway and looked at her expectantly. “Humiliation?”

She gave a big, dejected sigh before pushing the door shut. “Don’t act dumb, please. What just happened with us? That was the most excruciating experience of my life. And you standing there now, looking all what-the-fuck-is-she-talking-about, isn’t making this any easier.”

“Damn it, Loo, you changed the game tonight. You blew me the hell away. What am I supposed to do? Pretend you didn’t say anything? Pretend everything’s exactly the same as it was when we walked into the movie? I can’t do that, babe. You rewrote all the rules, and I’m floundering here.”

Her shoulders dropped, as though the air had seeped out of her, leaving her deflated. “I should have kept my big mouth shut. Should never have said anything.”

Seb scratched the back of his head, flummoxed. Should she have kept quiet? Would it have been better that way? “Why did you say something?”

“Because…” Her eyes shut, giving him the impression she couldn’t bear to face him while she spoke. “Because I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I had to tell you. Had to let you know how I felt. You know everything about me. It seemed insane you didn’t know my biggest secret. Especially when it was all about you.”

“Loo—”

She held up her hand, cutting him off, and shook her head. Her long brown curls tumbled over her shoulders. “That’s not the full truth.” The pink tinge in her cheeks turned scarlet, but she opened her eyes to look at him. “I told you because I wanted to hear that you felt the same way. I…I guess I hoped if I confessed how I really feel, you’d be hit with this epiphany, and you’d realize you were in love with me too, and we could love each other, and, you know…” She twirled her hands in the air. “Live happily ever after.”

Seb’s heart sank. There hadn’t been an epiphany. Hadn’t been any thunderbolts of realization. There’d just been stunned surprise.

And the unexpected erection.

“But you’re not in love with me. You want her. Sarah.” She squeezed her eyes shut again and raised her head to the ceiling. “I, uh, I never took the time to think about what would happen if you didn’t feel the same way.” She halfheartedly reached out to him, but her arm flopped down, as though she didn’t have the strength or energy to hold it up. “And obviously, you, uh, don’t feel the same way.”

“I’m sorry.” His heart constricted, and regret, like physical pain, shot through his chest. “So sorry. I do love you, babe. Heaps.” He shrugged helplessly. “Just not like that.”

“Yeah.” She nodded as she looked at him, her eyes haunted. “I kinda got that at the café. Which is why I need you to leave now. Give me time to lick my wounds in private, okay?”

“Your wounds?”

“Yeah, Seb. I have a couple that need healing. I’m embarrassed and my heart is broken.”

He stood up a little straighter. “Don’t you dare feel embarrassed. Not with me. Not because of what you said.”

Her cheeks turned even redder.

“Your loving me? Fuck, it’s the biggest compliment ever. It’s nothing for you to feel ashamed of.”

She snorted humorlessly. “A compliment? You think my loving you is a compliment?”

“The biggest one you could give me.”

Lucy threw her shoulders back and marched into the kitchen, shoving her way past him. She headed straight to the parcels and began to unpack them. “I’m glad you feel flattered. Now could you go home?”

She shoved bread in the bread bin and coffee in the cupboard above her kettle. When she opened the fridge to put the milk in it, Seb couldn’t help but notice the full bottle already sitting on the shelf.

“And if I do leave, when will I see you again?”

She shrugged, opened a bag and pulled out seven bars of chocolate, staring at them blankly.

“They’re from me. I thought you might need a fix.”

Lucy grimaced, but said nothing about the chocolate. She just shoved them into her grocery cupboard, behind several boxes of cereal, out of sight.

“If I leave, will you meet me for breakfast tomorrow before work?” Not that he had the time, but for her, he’d sort something out.

“I can’t.”

“Lunch?”

She shook her head. “Busy.”

“Fine, supper then. My place, I’ll cook.”

“I have plans.”

His gut twisted. “Shit, don’t do this.”

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t push me away.”

“I’m not.” Lucy unpacked a bag of fruit and vegetables, placing bananas, apples and mandarins in a bowl and the veggies in the fridge drawer.

“Morning tea?” he pressed.

She shook her head. “Working.”

“Coffee tomorrow arvo?”

“Can’t.”

“Yeah, babe, you are pushing. Hard. You’re not giving me a minute to be with you.”

“What can I say? I’m working tomorrow. My shift at the library runs from eight to five. I don’t have time.” She yanked a jar of strawberry jam out of the bag.

Strawberry jam?

She hated the stuff. Hated jam, full stop.

“What if I had told you I feel the same way? That I love you too? That I wanted to spend tomorrow doing every dirty, filthy thing you dreamed of?”

She froze with her arm stretched up to place the jam on a top shelf.

“Would you still have been busy tomorrow?” Shit. His cock stirred, his mind filling with several thousand dirty things he could do to her.

What the fuck?

The jam slid from her grip and crashed to the floor, cracking in two, spilling its contents on the white tiles.

Lucy stared at it, her face ashen.

Seb grabbed a few sheets of paper towel, scooped up the oozing gunk and tossed it all in the bin. Then he wet a few more sheets to wipe up the remaining mess.

“You don’t love me,” she said shakily. “It’s a ludicrous question.”

“Not ludicrous at all.” He scrubbed the last bit of jam from the floor and stood. “I’m just making a point. If things had played out differently, you wouldn’t be refusing to see me. I’m getting a bad feeling, Loo.”

You’re getting a bad feeling?” She gave a hollow laugh. “Try standing in my shoes for a while.”

“You’re distancing yourself from me.”

“What would you have me do? Pour out my innermost feelings to you? Tell you what’s going on in my screwed-up heart and head? I did that once already tonight. And look how well that worked out.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’d have you do. Talk to me. Really talk to me. Not cut me out like I’m someone you’d rather never see again.”

“I’m not cutting you out,” she snapped. “I told you I love you, and you told me you’re into another girl. I just can’t be with you now. It…it hurts too much. Okay?”

“Not as much as the thought of you cutting me out of your life hurts me.” He couldn’t deal with the Sarah issue now. Couldn’t even think about her. Not when Lucy was this upset.

His gut warned him that if he gave her some space, as she wanted, she’d exclude him from her life the way she did with anyone who hurt her.

Lucy had an amazing capacity to throw up walls. To pretend someone she’d cared deeply for no longer existed. Seb had witnessed it with at least two of her ex-boyfriends, and with a friend at her work who’d made a play for one of those exes.

She’d shut the offenders out of her life and pretended they no longer existed.

Seb never wanted to be on the other side of Lucy’s impenetrable walls.

“Jesus. You’re worried about how I might behave tomorrow? How I might distance myself from you? I’m trying to focus on taking one breath after the next so I don’t roll up in a ball and die from your rejection. Trying my hardest to deal with you standing here, so close I can touch you.” She took a shuddery breath. “So close it…it hurts not to touch you.”

She grabbed two handfuls of her lustrous curls and tugged on them, her white knuckles making her frustration that much more obvious. “It’s ripping my heart out. You’re ripping my heart out. Playing hell with my sense of self-preservation and self-worth. All I wanna do is throw myself into your arms and kiss you for the next year. Rip off your shirt and your pants, and fuck you like there’s no tomorrow, and all you wanna do is…is have a heart-to-heart. Work out the finer details of how we can still be friends.”

She grabbed the last remaining bag and marched out of the kitchen, yelling over her shoulder. “Don’t you get it?” Her voice grew even louder—and wobblier—as though she fought back either tears or fury. “I need you to get out of my place so I can breathe again, so I can find my balance. I don’t need you worrying about how I might act tomorrow.”

And with that she disappeared down the passage and into her bathroom.

He should go, should respect her wishes and leave her in peace. But Seb was too damned selfish to do that. Too damned concerned he’d lose her forever if he did, so he went after her, yelling, just like she had.

“No. It’s not okay. I know you too well. If I leave now, if I leave you to nurse your wounds alone, I’ll never hear from you again. You’ll add my name to the list with Brian’s and Keith’s, and I’ll be another guy you don’t talk to. Another loose end you tie up by ignoring me.”

She’d cut Leo off too. But that hadn’t been too big of an issue between Seb and Lucy, since Leo had upped and moved to Melbourne a few weeks later.

He marched into the bathroom after her, found her slamming toiletries into the cabinet over the basin. Dove soap, Colgate toothpaste, Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner. “I’m right, aren’t I? That’s how you intend on getting through this. By pretending I don’t exist.”

She didn’t turn around, didn’t modulate her tone. She just kept yelling. “I’ll deal with it however I need to. And right now that means you leaving me the hell alone.”

Seb was having none of it. He wasn’t going anywhere, and he wasn’t leaving her the hell alone. Instead he got in her face. Grabbed her by the shoulders and squeezed between her and the vanity, holding her still and forcing her to look at him.

She struggled to free herself, so he held her tighter, pulling her closer, immobilizing her against his body.

“I won’t do that. And I won’t let you ignore me. I won’t let you pretend I don’t exist. I’m not one of them. Not an ex you can cut out and never think about again. No matter how unnecessarily embarrassed you might be now, you’re my friend, my mate, and I refuse to let your feelings for me come between us. Refuse to let you go because this is all making you feel a little awkward. We’re better than that. We’re stronger than that. Whatever’s going on, we can get through it together.”

“Get through it?” Rage blazed in her eyes. As did shame. “Get through it? Jesus, Seb. I masturbated in that very bath.” She jerked her head to the side, indicating the tub. “Fucked myself and fantasized it was you fucking me, and you want us to get through it? I don’t think so. I think I’m way past that point.”

Seb couldn’t help himself. He looked at the tub. And just like that, he was hard again. Painfully hard.

As fast as his head filled with images of a naked Lucy, lying in her bath, immersed in water with her hand buried between her legs, so blood filled his cock.

He saw her, her head thrown back, her neck arched, her breasts bobbing, nipples swollen and distended. And he wanted her. Wanted her with an intensity that blew his mind clean away.

A soft groan rasped from his throat as his body heated.

Lucy froze.

She even stopped breathing for a few seconds.

Seb continued to hold her tight. Hold her close. His erection, full and throbbing, pressed against her belly.

“Seb?” His name was a question, whispered through trembling lips.

He had trouble breathing himself. Couldn’t get quite enough air into his lungs to fuel the rampant heat burning through his blood.

“Fuck.” The word felt like sandpaper against his throat. “Jesus, Loo. You masturbated there?” He didn’t take his gaze off the bath. Couldn’t. Couldn’t see anything but the naked, submerged Lucy, touching herself.

She didn’t answer. Didn’t say a word, but he heard her breath hitch.

Static electricity filled the bathroom, zapping Seb’s chest, making his skin stretch taut over his bones. Every sense seemed to flick to hyper-alert.

Lucy’s scent, her familiar, floral scent, tickled his nose, tantalizing in a way it never had before. Her shallow panting echoed through his ears, so soft he almost didn’t hear it, yet loud enough to alter his breathing, making him pant too.

The soft cotton of her shirt beneath his hands slid like silk against his palms, outlining the feminine arch of her shoulders, making him want to hold her even tighter, pull her even closer.

He closed his eyes, let her nearness overwhelm him.

“Tell me what you did, Lucy-Loo.” His voice was a hoarse murmur. “Tell me how you felt, when you touched yourself and thought of me.”

“D-don’t do this.” Lucy’s words whispered over his neck, a soft plea. “Don’t go there. Not if you don’t feel what I feel.”

“Too late for that, babe. I’m there. In the bath with you, and God help us both, I’ve never seen anything sexier in my whole life.”

“Seb…please.”

Please what? Please stop? Please don’t?

He opened his eyes, stared at the tub, transfixed, dropped his hands to her waist and held her against him, trapping his cock between them, ensuring she felt exactly what her confession had done to him.

“You’re touching yourself. Running your hand over your cunt. Your eyes are closed, and there’s a hiss of air escaping your mouth.”

“Seb!” She dropped her head to his chest, burning him through his T-shirt.

Was her face hot with embarrassment—or arousal?

“Your breasts… Christ, I’ve never seen them before, but they’re beautiful. Full. Your nipples are so hard, as though you’re waiting for something. Someone…to touch them? Kiss them?” He shook his head. “Suck on them. Me. I’d suck on them, pull each tip into my mouth, one at a time, and feast on the plump flesh.”

She whimpered, and the sensual sound sent a fresh flow of blood to his groin.

“Where’s your hand while you bathe, babe?”

His question was met only with Lucy’s shallow panting.

“Where are your fingers? On your clit? Playing with it?” The thought turned him on so much he thought he might have a stroke. “Or are they exploring a little lower, slipping inside your pussy?”

Lucy muttered something nonsensical. Her voice was a low, sexy murmur, and she buried her head further into his chest, hiding her face from him.

“Tell me, Loo. Tell me where your fingers are, so I don’t have to guess. So I can see what you’re doing to yourself. What I’m doing to you.”

Lucy clutched at his shirt, her nails digging into his sides, and the sting only increased his awareness, made the sudden lust sharper, the need for her more intense.

He wrapped one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulders, combing his fingers through her hair, pushing it aside. Then he dropped his head to her neck and nipped at her throat, ensuring the bite was forceful enough that she’d feel the sting—just like he felt the sting of her nails.

She yelped.

“What are you doing, Lucy? Fucking yourself, or rubbing your clit? Which one?”

She answered. He knew she did, but her voice was muffled against her chest, making her response inaudible.

“Louder.”

Silence.

He bit her neck again, harder this time, leaving a mark.

She yelped again, only this time the sound had meaning. “Both.”

Seb froze. “Both?”

She nodded against his chest. “I’m taking turns, fingering my clit and fucking my pussy. And I’m touching my breast with my other hand, caressing my nipple, wishing my hands were yours.”

Seb had no idea what made him do it, what clicked in his mind and made him act, but impulse took over. One minute Lucy was wrapped in his arms, pressed against his body, the next he’d backed her against the wall and ripped her top in two. Grabbed the neckline with his hands and torn it clean in half, from the top to the bottom, so it hung open, leaving her white lace bra exposed to his hungry—no, his starving—gaze.

The image of her in the bathtub was fantasy overload, the sight before him visual overload. A surge of adrenaline coursed through his veins, and he grabbed a delicate lace cup in each hand and yanked down, ripping them both off their seams.

Jesus. What the hell was going on with him? He acted like a man possessed.

“Seb!” His name was a stunned gasp, and it only amplified the adrenalin rush.

Using the wall to support her back, he lifted her until the beautiful breasts he’d pictured just minutes ago now sat at his mouth level, swollen as they’d been in his imagination, only sexier. Fuller. The tattered remains of her bra framed her dusky pink nipples.

The bra he’d torn to shreds, in behavior so uncharacteristic, he barely recognized himself in his actions. But in that moment, Seb wasn’t thinking clearly. He wasn’t thinking at all. He had only one thing on his mind.

He dipped his head, opened his mouth and suckled on one nipple.

“Oh, God!” Lucy’s scream reverberated through the bathroom, and Seb sucked harder, felt the nipple bead on his tongue as Lucy arched her back, pressed her breast hard against his mouth and grabbed hold of his shoulders.

She dug her nails into him again, scratching his skin, sending sharp twinges of pain skittering down his back.

He bit her, hard enough that another feminine scream echoed across the walls, before he traced his tongue over the bite, easing the burn, loving how she writhed against his lips.

Lucy sobbed his name, and he pulled back to catch his breath. Christ, he’d turned into a savage.

Her nipple was red, wet and even more swollen than before. Her chest heaved and a vein pulsed in her neck.

She kicked against the wall, then against his thighs, then her legs were wrapping around his waist, and she was hanging on to him, clasping his lower body to hers, as tight as he’d clasped her to him before.

“Other one,” she begged. “Kiss the other breast.”

He did. He kissed it, nipped at it, suckled on it and when a soft keening sound filled the air, bit it.

Jesus, what was it with the biting? When the fuck did he ever bite a woman?

Never, that’s when.

But with Loo it was different. With Loo it was essential. He had to bite. Had to taste her, had to…mark her.

Mark her. Fuck yeah. That’s exactly what he had to do.

He released her nipple and nibbled his way up the swell of her full globe, opened his mouth again and feasted on the sensitive skin of her milky-white breast.

He sucked gently at first, scraping his teeth over one particular spot, drawing his tongue over it, once, twice, twenty times. But the sucking became fiercer, the urge to mark her more primal, and finally his teeth stilled, his tongue flattened, and he pulled at her with his mouth, the action rougher, insistent and continuous.

Lucy twisted her hips frantically, pushed against his groin, pressing her cunt to his erection, riding him where he stood. Her grip tightened, and Seb realized he wasn’t the only one leaving a mark. He’d have visible scratches on his shoulders tomorrow.

He sucked harder, and harder still, until Lucy swore at him—even as she rubbed her pussy against his cock.

Seb raised his head to survey his work.

A red mark glistened on the swell of her left breast. A round, conspicuous, love bite that would leave its imprint for at least a week.

~

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