Not Until You: Part VII

Titles by Roni Loren

Crash Into You

Melt Into You

Fall Into You

Caught Up in You

Not Until You

Part I: Not Until You Dare

Part II: Not Until You Risk

Part III: Not Until You Crave

Part IV: Not Until You Trust

Part V: Not Until You Beg

Part VI: Not Until You Surrender

Part VII: Not Until You Believe

Part VIII: Not Until You Love

Specials

Still Into You

Not Until You

Part VII

Not Until You Believe

Roni Loren

I
NTER
M
IX
B
OOKS,
N
EW
Y
ORK

INTERMIX BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

For more information about the Penguin Group visit penguin.com.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have control over and does not have any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

NOT UNTIL YOU BELIEVE

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

InterMix eBook edition / July 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Roni Loren.

Excerpt from
Need You Tonight
copyright © 2014 by Roni Loren.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-62485-2

INTERMIX

InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group

and New American Library, divisions of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Contents

Also by Roni Loren

Title Page

Copyright

 

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

 

Special Excerpt from Need You Tonight

Prologue

Chapter 1

About the Author

Chapter 32

Foster shoved open the door to his apartment, feeling like he’d been put through a meat grinder, then stuck back together again. The weariness of days on the road and the scent of airport bars clung to him like some unwanted traveling companion. He tossed his keys on the counter and grabbed a beer out of the fridge.

Pike strolled into the kitchen, pulling a worn Toadies concert T-shirt down over his head. “Heh, well, look who it fucking is. He returns. All hail the King of Douchebaggery.”

Foster shot Pike a murderous look. “Fuck off, Pike. I’m not in the mood.”

“Oh you’re not?” he asked with a sneer. “Well, you know what I’m not in the mood for? My goddamn friend who disappears and then doesn’t answer his fucking phone for a week.”

“I told you I’d be out of town. I wanted to be alone.”

“Or with Bret.”

He scowled. “She only hung around for the first part of it. We had some business to handle.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

Foster tipped back his beer, tempted to throw it just to hear the glass break.

“It wasn’t like that.” Though it almost had been. He and Bret had been friends for a long time and had fooled around off and on through the years anytime one of them got a little too drunk or a little too lonely. They weren’t suited—both too dominant for the other—but an angry fuck between two control freaks could work out a lot of rage. And it had been in the back of his mind when he’d called her in for a last-minute business trip. He’d needed something—anything—to numb the pain he’d felt when Cela had said she couldn’t be submissive.

But when it came down to acting on anything with Bret, he hadn’t been able to drum up an iota of interest. He’d ended up sitting in a bar with her and getting shit-faced drunk while he told her all about Cela. Fucking ridiculous.

Pike sniffed. “It wasn’t like that, huh? So you just paraded her in front of Cela to be a complete asshole.”

“Cela? She doesn’t know Bret.”

“She knows you were out of town with her.”


What
?”

Pike’s jaw flexed. “And if you had answered your goddamn phone I could’ve told you that.”

“Fuck.” He raked his hand through his hair, his head booming like a bass drum beneath his fingertips. “I’ll talk to her. Apologize. I have a list of dick moves to make up for at this point.”

“Yeah, well, good luck talking to her, buddy,” Pike said, leaning back against the edge of the counter and crossing his arms. “She left a few days ago.”

“What?” He stared down at his beer, trying to process that information. “Oh, right, her birthday trip. She’d mentioned that to me. I’ll talk to her when she comes back. It’ll give us both time to get our heads together.”

Pike shook his head slowly, his expression making the hairs prickle on the back of Foster’s neck. “No, man. That’s not what I mean. She
left
. Like for good. Her job fell through.”

Every ounce of alcohol Foster had consumed in the last week seemed to burn a path up his throat, singeing his insides and threatening to come out. “She moved
home
?”

Pike sighed. “There was no one here to convince her otherwise.”

Foster sagged against the counter, his beer forgotten in his hand. Cela was gone.
Gone
.

“What happened between you two, man?” Pike asked, no sarcasm left in his voice. “One minute you’re buying her a bed, the next she can’t get out of town fast enough.”

He rubbed fingers over his brow bone, massaging the spot where all the pressure was building. “I asked her to wear a Home Safe anklet.”

“Ah, fuck, Foster,” Pike said with a groan. “Just what every girl wants—a piece of jewelry her boyfriend can stalk her with.”

“You know I wouldn’t use it like that,” he bit back, but he couldn’t muster much fire behind it. Suddenly, he was tired, so very exhausted by it all. “I just wanted her to be safe.”

“Uh-huh.”

“But if it’d just been that, I’m sure we would’ve worked past it. It was more than the anklet. She told me she needed time, that she wasn’t sure she could be submissive. It all started spilling out like it’d been bottled up the whole time, like she was just waiting for the opportunity to bail. It was Darcy all over again.”

“Like Darcy? Fuck. That. Cela is nothing like that girl. Darcy wanted a rich husband who would indulge her with a pampered princess life. She was never really submissive. And when she figured out that you weren’t going to magically morph into some Stepford husband she could control with a pout, she cut bait.”

“Cela probably wishes I’d morph into something different, too,” he said, the muscle in his jaw twitching.

“No, she knew who you were when she stayed in the first place. But she probably backpedaled because you freaked her the hell out,” Pike said, making it sound like it the most obvious truth in the world. “I saw that girl the first night with you. And I heard what happened the night you cuffed her to the door. Cela is
not
afraid of giving you control. But she
is
independent, and if you try to lock her down and treat her like a kid, she’s going to feel smothered. For fuck’s sake, you asked her to wear a homing device. You don’t LoJack your girlfriend like she’s your newest Mercedes.”

“It’s not a—goddammit, Pike.” Foster did toss the beer this time, but managed to hit the trash. His head heart, his chest hurt, and now he felt like an even bigger dick than before.

“Did you even manage to tell the girl you loved her before you laid the whole tracking device thing down on her?”

“What?” He looked at Pike like he’d grown an extra head. “Of course I didn’t tell her that. We’re not at that point yet, I don’t—”

“Bull. Fucking. Shit,” he said, jabbing his finger at him with each word. “I knew you were an asshole but don’t be a liar, too. You had her apartment painted. You bought her a bed. You made her
pancakes
.”

Foster threw his hands out to his side. “Again with the pancakes.”

“You don’t do that crap for girls you kinda like. You do it for the ones you are shit-faced in love with.”

Foster simply glared back at him.

Pike pushed off the counter. “And for some unknown reason, she’s got it just as bad. I mean, she had the chance at all this”—he swept his hand down and out—“and went for you. So the question is, what are you going to do about it?”

Foster wanted to punch something, and if he didn’t walk away soon, it might be Pike. “Nothing. I don’t chase women anymore. If they want to be with me, they are. If not, that’s their choice.”

He stalked past Pike, needing his dark bedroom and a dreamless night. And anything but this conversation.

“Coward,” was the last word he heard before slamming his door.

A few hours later, still wide-awake, Foster slipped out of his room and into his roommate’s. Pike was sound asleep on his stomach, all the covers kicked off. Making sure not to step on anything that would alert him, Foster stepped around the bed and grabbed what he needed off the nightstand.

***

The room was too quiet—oppressive. I stared at the ugly popcorn ceiling, mentally making a list of the things I needed to buy to make this room feel like home. I hadn’t unpacked much of anything yet, and I knew I had my bedroom knickknacks tucked away somewhere, but I had the urge to throw it all out and start fresh. I didn’t want anything to remind me of my apartment back in Dallas. Not that this place could ever look like my apartment.

The 1970s decor my aunt had never updated was so awful it was almost back in style. Green carpet, faux wood-paneled walls, orange countertops in the kitchen. It even had a trash compactor, for God’s sake—but no dishwasher. Because apparently, turning trash into a cube was way more important than having something that washed dishes.

But it was free and it was available when I high-tailed it here a few days ago, so here I lay. And really, I didn’t care at this point. I just wanted to keep moving forward so I wouldn’t have to think. I’d kept myself busy with moving related things for a few days, and tomorrow was my first official day at the clinic. As long as I didn’t stop, I was okay. Mostly.

But nighttime sucked. My cable and wireless hadn’t been turned on yet, so all I had was an empty, quiet house, some stale smell I couldn’t seem to light enough candles to cover, and my thoughts. I rolled onto my side, determined to force myself to sleep, but the ding of my cell phone broke through the silence. I flipped back over to reach for my phone, my heart leaping a little bit, as if it had muscle memory from the last time I’d received a late-night text. But of course, this wouldn’t be like that one.

I hit the button on my phone, expecting to see a text from Bailey. She’d been checking on me like I’d just gotten out of rehab and she was my sponsor. But the name staring back at me was definitely not what I expected.

Pike.

Move go ok?

I shifted fully on my side, propping my head up with my hand and typed back. It was sweet of Pike to check on me, but even seeing his name sent a cymbal crash of sadness and longing reverberating through me. Already, it felt like Dallas and everything I’d left there existed on some other planet I no longer had access to anymore.

Survived.

Good.

U realize it’s almost 1am, right?

Sorry, did I wake u? (Musician hours)

No. My new place is too quiet & possibly haunted with the spirits of Charlie’s Angels or The Brady Bunch.

Scary. *Sends exorcist*

I smiled, some of the pressure that’d been crushing me for the last week easing with the relaxed banter.

Not sure the power of Christ would compel them. How’s Monty?

Hardheaded & dominant. Like someone else we know.

I stared at the blinking cursor, a sharp pain digging right through the center of my chest and burrowing deep. I didn’t want to talk about Foster. Couldn’t. I was barely keeping myself together as it was. But before I could think of how to respond, my phone dinged again.

He came home. Nothing happened w/ Bret.

I rolled onto my back, finding it a challenge to draw in a full breath—the elephant-sized weight of everything pressing down on me again.

None of my business.

If ur not happy there, u should come back.

My job is here.

Even if my heart wasn’t.

U know he would cover u while u looked for another job. Even if u aren’t together. He’d take care of u.

I let the phone sit against my chest as I stared up again, the flecked ceiling blurring with fresh tears. Of course he would. And that was part of the problem. It took me a full minute before I could even attempt a response. I lifted the phone.

I don’t need to be taken care of.

I just needed Foster. Not as a bodyguard or a parent or a master. Just him.

But being with Foster meant being with his dominance—all parts of it—and if I didn’t think I could live that way long term, it wasn’t fair for either of us to drag it out.

I’m happy here.

Lie.

This time it was Pike who took a while to respond. I shifted back to my side, wondering if he was going to say anything else when the final text came.

I’m glad ur happy. U deserve to be. Good luck w/ everything.

There was nothing else to say back to that except thanks and good-night. Continuing to lie to him would only make the yawning crack in my heart spread wider.

“Yep, that’s me,” I said aloud to my empty house, my voice hoarse with tears. “So freaking happy.”

I tossed my phone onto the nightstand, curled up around my pillow, and tried to pretend it didn’t hurt so bad.

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