I push her buttons. I want to push them in the good way. Dirty, up-against-the-wall, my-hand-in-her-pants kind of way.
But that’s not possible, because I’m dark and she’s light, and we both know it.
So I push her buttons in the bad way, making her hate me.
If a genie granted me three wishes, I’d ask for Cole Parker to never look at me again, that I’d forget the dark promise in his eyes, and that just once, before he vanished from my life completely, that he’d push me up against a wall and make me scream.
Then I’d go wash my mouth out with soap.
This story was originally published in a three-part serial. Those are included, as well as a bonus postscript section with two exclusive new chapters.
“Hailey.” His voice roughs up a bit as he says my name, and I turn around. He’s not as close as I thought—a solid three feet of empty space sits between us, but he’s leaning forward just a bit, and it’s enough to make me shiver. He lifts his phone, all business again. “I called you twice this morning, so I know you’ve got my number. But you didn’t answer.” He swears under his breath. “Use it. We don’t need to talk, you can just text me. But don’t leave this apartment alone, or there will be hell to pay.”
“And right there, that’s why I think you’re crazy.”
“Well, I think you’re crazy for thinking you can somehow determine that there will be ‘hell to pay’.” My voice raises toward the end of that, because fuck it, I’m back to being mad again. “Did you stop for a second and think that maybe you think I’m crazy and a distraction and whatever else because I don’t play your fucking Men in Black games? But news flash, buddy—that’s not my world. I’m not a celebrity, and I’m not a politician. I’m just Hailey Reid, who had the misfortune to be born into a fucked up family. I’m smart enough to see the problems that raises, and for the last time, I’ll be a good girl, okay?”
My chest is heaving as I finish my stupid tirade, and all of a sudden I realize he’s breathing hard, too. He’s glaring at me, like my words wound him up but good, and then he’s in front of me, right in front. Close enough I can smell his cologne and the bare skin beneath it, and then I feel him. It’s weird that I don’t feel him first, because he’s pressed hard against my body, arms bracketing me against the counter on either side of my hips. But once I do, I can’t not feel him. All of him. And he’s big, and hard, and definitely turned on, which I don’t expect. Oh, sweet mother of all that is holy…
“Cole—” I breathe, and he cuts me off.
“When I say you’re a distraction, I mean I can’t get you out of my fucking head. I wonder what the inside of your mouth tastes like and if you’d pull my hair when I go down on you.”
“No.” My voice has dropped to a bare whisper, because holy fuck and how is that possible?
“Yes,” he growls, and I make a noise that sounds suspiciously like a whimper. This is a disaster. It’s one thing for me to covet Cole from a distance. He’s beautiful. It’s something completely different for him to want me.
For a second, I revel in that. I let my mind go blank and roll around in what it’s like for Cole—of the mad driving skills, angry thousand-yard stare, and legendary reputation for all manner of dangerously delicious things—to have a hard-on for me. It’s better than a million dollars, and for the rest of my life, I’m going to remember this moment when someone that out of my league pressed his cock against my belly and growled at me.
But in the next second, I remember all the reasons this is a bad idea. When I’m not looking at him, I don’t like Cole. And I can’t kiss someone I don’t like. I definitely can’t rub up against them like a cat in heat. And right now, he should be doing something else. Getting my sister out of trouble, for example. And then after that, he probably has a hot date with a supermodel.
I plant my hand firmly in the middle of his chest and push.
He doesn’t move.
“Cole…” Damnit. My voice is not on board with the whole tell him no plan. Instead it does a very uncharacteristic breathy sigh thing that sounds like a completely fake admonishment that’s not-so-secretly an invitation to be bad. Very, very bad.
There are a lot of layers to how fucked up my feelings about this moment are.
“I know,” he rasps. “Just…shut up for a minute.”
He drops his face toward my neck, and as he inhales next to my ear, my insides light on fire, like his breath is a lit match and my blood has been replaced with gasoline. No one has ever done that before, and I want him to do it again, consequences be damned.
Saying my name on a long, slow exhale, he drags his cheek against mine, lining up our faces.
Shut up for a minute. How the hell does that line work on me?
Because it totally worked. Like panty-melting magic. My nipples are tight, my breasts heavy, and my thighs ache.
“This isn’t a thing, got it?” He grinds out the words, his lips now perilously close to mine.
I can’t handle whatever is going on, not straight up, so I get lippy. It’s my way. “Yes. Totally forgotten already. This is nothing.”
“It’s not fucking nothing, Hailey. Jesus.” He pulls back just enough to look at me. Great, now I’ve said the wrong thing and he isn’t going to kiss me. Which should be the right call, but damn, my body is protesting. “It just can’t be more than this.” He drops his gaze to my mouth, and that look feels almost as good as a kiss. It’s deep and probing and hungry.
I don’t like Cole. But I do like his hungry gaze.
I think I like it a lot. So I lick my lips.