When she lost it all, Jess decided to cope by living a lie.
But you can’t keep on pretending forever…
Twenty-one-year-old Jess used to have everything—a loyal best friend, a boyfriend she loved, and a future that was right on track. But in a single night, her whole world changed.
Now, Jess lives for the impersonal connection of drunken hook-ups and to-go coffee cups in the morning. All she needs is one night to pretend everything is fine…until she meets Adam.
Thanks to a sports injury, gorgeous, charming basketball star Adam Carson is stuck in physical therapy at the hospital where Jess interns—giving her the perfect opportunity to see his sweet, considerate nature and making her realize that maybe she does want something more.
But while Adam might be the best thing that’s happened to Jess in a long time, letting him past her carefully constructed walls means letting him know what happened…and why he’d never want her for more than one night.
“Well, Ms. Elliott, I believe I’m ready to sleep with you.”
My gaze searches the length of his body. Where his jeans once hugged his hips just right—and yes, I noticed—he now wears his green basketball shorts.
“Do you always travel prepared to spend the night out?”
“No . . .”
He rounds the bed slowly and sits on the side opposite me.
“I’m not that kind of guy. I’m more the superstitious type.”
My heart hammers at his nearness. He may be across the bed, but he’s here, in my room, asking nothing of me other than a bed to sleep in.
“Enlighten me,” I say.
“I wear the shorts, under my jeans, the night before a game,” he starts. “And if it’s an away game, the night before travel too.”
“Because winning has nothing to do with skill and strategy, only whether or not you’re wearing the shorts?”
He chucks a pillow at me. Then I reach over to my nightstand where the product of my kitchen visit lies, tossing it across the bed to him. He picks it up and eyes the package of frozen peas.
“For your knee,” I say, and there’s a small silence as he positions the bag over the visible swelling.
“Thank you.” He says nothing more to give away what we both know, that Jake’s cheap shot did more than draw blood. Adam absorbed the shock of the blow with his whole body.
I turn off my lamp and slide down until my head rests on my pillow. He slides down too, so he’s on his back, the bag of peas molded over his knee, his head turned to face me.
“You’re miles away,” I say. But that’s not true. He’s closer than I’ve let anyone get since sophomore year.
He reaches his arm across the space between us, his hand finding mine where it lies on my pillow. He doesn’t grab it but instead snakes his pinky around mine.
I stifle a sharp breath, shocked not so much at the gesture itself but at the jolt of the touch of his skin.
“I’m right here,” he says. “Just being a gentleman. Friends or not, I don’t have much control over what can happen…” His eyes dip to his shorts, and I giggle. “… if I get too close to a gorgeous girl in bed.”
Heat floods my neck, my cheeks, and I cross my fingers the room is dark enough that he doesn’t notice. The thought of Adam’s body pressed against mine—of him being aroused by me—threatens my last shred of resolve. Because I want him in so many ways, this gentleman who keeps his distance. But I want even more not to lose him as my friend.
“You need to stop saying stuff like that.”
I chuck the pillow back at him.
“I’m just asking for some clarification,” he says. “I mean, I say a lot of things.”
I purse my lips and glare.
“Fine. Okay. I won’t call you gorgeous anymore. I don’t need to. You already know I think it.”
How does he do that? Unabashedly say things threatening to unravel me. With the few others who have shared this bed with me, all I ever wanted was to get to the sleeping part so I could close my eyes and forget, fool myself into a night free from dreams pretending the arms around me belonged to Bryan. When the dreams stayed hidden, sleep was the one thing that could transport me back to where I used to be.
But tonight I fight the fatigue. I don’t want the evening to end, don’t want to pretend I’m with anyone else. Still, my eyes grow heavy, blink, blink, blinking me off to sleep. With each flutter of my lids, I watch my pinky, still laced with his. Our hands are the last thing I see before I lose the battle and sleep takes me.
In the early morning, I don’t have to search for a warm body that finds more comfort in the art of spooning a pillow. Because Adam is still here, his finger still tangled with mine. But we failed at maintaining the bed-border relationship.
His arm no longer has to reach to find me. It’s bent at the elbow, pulled tight to his chest and along with it, my hand. And his head, tilted slightly in my direction, rests dreamily on my pillow. I watch him, this beautiful boy with an equally beautiful, forgiving, nonjudgmental heart. And for a minute, I imagine giving my heart to him and his accepting it without question. I imagine a future with him in it, but only for a moment, before I let his soft exhales lull me back to sleep. Reality can wait a few more hours.
AJ Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher and a librarian, AJ has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality–romance. Naturally, her books have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes) and, of course, a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires, from Eric Northman to the Salvatore brothers. And in the midst of all of this, you’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago burbs.