Authors: Amber Lin
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Erotic Contemporary
GIVING IT UP
Giving It Up
Copyright © June 2012 by Amber Lin
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Editor: Ann M. Curtis
Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde
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This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either 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.
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To D, for loving me however I am.
They say it takes a village to write a book. Well, I say that, because I have a lot of people to thank for helping me tell Allie’s story. Thank you to my editor, Ann Curtis, and my agent, Jewelann Cone. Thanks to all my writing buddies, beta readers, and red pen wielders, but especially Kate Meader, Anna Geletka, Jessica Briones, Bibliopolist, Gina Danna, Jennifer Lowery, Lilly Hale, Kitty DuCane, Natalie Damschroder, Vanessa Kelly, Ruthie Knox, and Sherry Thomas. I am grateful and honored to have you all as neighbors in this writing business. Thank you.
There’s a certain sultry walk a woman has when she’s bare that can’t be faked. No hose and no panties. The nakedness under my skirt was as much about keeping me aroused as it was about easy access.
I’d perfected the art of fuck-me clothes. A surprising number of men asked me out, even at a grungy club on a Saturday night. Cute little college girl, they thought, out for a good time. I saved us all time by dressing my part.
Tonight’s ensemble consisted of a tight halter and short skirt with cheap, high-heeled sandals, bouncing hair, and bloodred toenails. The scornful looks of the other women didn’t escape me, but I wasn’t so different from them. I wanted to be desired, held, touched. The groping fingers might be a cheap imitation of intimacy, its patina cracked with rust and likely to turn my skin green, but they were all I deserved.
My gaze panned to the man at the bar, the one I’d been watching all night. He nursed a beer, his profile harsh against the fluid backdrop of writhing bodies. His gray T-shirt hung loose on his abs but snug around thick arms.
His expression was unreadable, but I knew what he wanted. What else was there?
He glanced over but didn’t hit on me. I didn’t know why I kept tabs on him either. I wasn’t exactly discerning. I was trolling for sex, not a life partner. There were plenty of men here, men whose blackened pasts matched my own, who’d give it to me hard.
A woman approached him. Something dark and decidedly feminine roiled up inside me.
She was hot. If he wanted to score, he probably couldn’t do better, even with me. I tried not to stare. She walked away a minute later—rejected. I felt unaccountably smug. Which was stupid, since I didn’t have him either.
Maybe no one had a chance with this guy. I was pretty enough, in a girl-next-door kind of way. Common, though, underneath my slutty trappings—brown hair and brown eyes were standard issue around here.
I glanced up to see a cute guy wearing a sharp dress shirt checking me out. Probably an investment banker or something upstanding like that. Grinning and hopeful. Had I ever been that young? No, I was probably younger. At twenty-two I felt ancient. The world had already crumbled around me and been rebuilt, brick by brick.
“Sorry, pal,” I said. “Keep moving.”
“Aww, not even one dance?”
His puppy-dog eyes cajoled a smile from me. How nice it might feel to be one of the girls with nothing to worry about except whether this guy would call tomorrow morning. But I was too broken for his easy smile. I’d only end up hurting him.
sorry,” I said, wistfulness seeping into my voice. “You’ll thank me later.”
Regret panged in my chest as the crowd sucked him back in, but I’d done the right thing. Even if he were only interested in a one-night hookup, my sex was too toxic for the likes of him.
I turned back to the guy at the bar. He caught my eye, looking—if possible—surlier. Cold and mean. Perfect. I wouldn’t taint him, and he could give me what I craved. Since Tall, Dark, and Stoic hadn’t deigned to make a move on me, I would do the pursuing. A surprising little twist for the night, but I could go with it.
I squeezed in beside him at the bar. Up close his size was impressive and a little intimidating, but that only strengthened my resolve.
“Hey, tough guy,” I shouted over the din.
He looked up at me from his beer. I faltered a bit at the total lack of emotion in his face and fought an automatic instinct to retreat. His eyes were a deep brown, almost pretty, but remote and flat. Dark hair was cut short, bristly. His nose was prominent and slightly crooked, like it had been broken. Maybe more than once.
He looked mean, which was a good thing, but I was used to a little more effort. Even assholes provided a fake smile or smarmy line for the sake of the pickup. There was a script to these things, but he wasn’t playing his part.
My club persona and beer from earlier lent me confidence. Whatever was bothering him—a bad day at the construction site or maybe a fight with the old lady—I didn’t care. He was here, so he needed this as much as I did.
I planted my elbow on the bar. “I saw you looking at me earlier.”
He raised an eyebrow. I shrugged. He was making me work for it, but I found myself more amused than annoyed.
“Buy me a drink?” I asked.
He considered me, then nodded and signaled the bartender.
The beat of the club reverberated as I took a sip. “So do you talk?”
His lips twitched. “Yeah, I talk.”
“Okay.” I leaned in close to hear him better. “What do you talk about?”
He ignored my question—or maybe answered it—by asking, “What are you doing here?” Almost like he was asking something deeper, but that had to be the alcohol talking.
“I’m trying to get laid, that’s what I’m doing here.” I pulled off a breathy laugh I was pretty proud of.
He didn’t react, didn’t appear surprised or even interested, the bastard. He just looked at me. “Why?”
I decided on honesty. “Because I need it.”
He seemed to weigh the truth of my words, then nodded toward the exit. “All right, let’s go.” He got up and threw some cash on the bar.
His easy acceptance caught me off guard, just for a moment. But it shouldn’t have surprised me, because…well, because men always wanted sex. That’s what I liked about them—they didn’t even bother trying to hide it. It was worse when I hadn’t seen it coming, when it had sneaked up on me— Now wasn’t the time to think of that. It was never the right time to think of that.
He tucked his hand under my elbow, guiding me. He used his body to maneuver us through the crowd, almost as a shield. The whole thing was so gentlemanly, given what we were about to do, that I wondered if he’d heard me right. Maybe he’d want to get coffee or something, and wouldn’t that be awkward all around?
But he was a man, and I was a woman wearing fuck-me clothes—this could only end one way.
When we exited the club, I couldn’t help sucking in several deep breaths. Even the faint smell of street sewage was refreshing, washing the stench of smoke, alcohol, and countless perfumes from my lungs. I never liked the crowds. The press of bodies, the mingling smell of sweat, the small bumps from all around. Tiny violations that were somehow okay since everyone did it.
As my heart rate settled, he inspected me as if he could read me. He couldn’t. “What’s your name?” I asked to distract him.
“Nice to meet you, Allie. Your place or mine?”
I was comfortable again. I knew this play: horny girl who can’t wait to get naked.
“We don’t need to go anywhere. Let’s get started right here.” I let a soft moan escape me and clasped myself to the brick wall named Colin. Never mind that I was dry as a bone. He wouldn’t notice. They never did.
He raised his eyebrows. “In the parking lot?”
“Or in my car. Whatever. I just want you to do me.”
“I’m not fucking you in a car. It’s forty degrees out.”
I was hardly in this for comfort. I’d done it in colder weather just this past winter. “I don’t mind.”
“Well, I do.”
“Fine.” I was willing to give him so much. Why couldn’t he take it the way I wanted? “Then we can go to the motel over there. You’re paying.”
He didn’t look happy. I wasn’t either, but I couldn’t budge on this. Going to an apartment might be the norm for hookups, but my hookups weren’t normal.
Going to their houses where they might do God knows what was out of the question. And I wasn’t about to bring one of these guys near Bailey.
“Not there,” he said. “I’ll pick the place.”
I followed his truck in my car to a motel about ten minutes away. When I pulled in, he waved me to a parking spot next to his truck and went into the office.
The place wasn’t fancy, but the manicured shrubbery and freshly painted building proclaimed this was an entirely different kind of establishment than the dump by the club. No renting rooms by the hour here.
The sign out front advertised $119.99 a night. A typical price for Chicago, but I sweated the cost. The extravagance of my six-dollar drink from earlier paled in comparison.
What if it was too much money? I might not be worth it.
I kept watch on the frosted office door like he might disappear. Eight minutes later, he came out. My stomach clenched. He flashed a key and nodded toward the back before getting into his truck. I followed him in my car and pulled up beside him again.
It was dark back here. Deserted. The only light came from flickering, yellow lamps dimmed by tiny hordes of bugs. Scattered buildings slumbered around us like a nest of dragons, their snore the low drone from the appliances. It wasn’t exactly safe. Technically that was what I wanted, but the allure of danger only worked up to a point.
He didn’t come to my car. Instead he opened the motel room door and waited.
I could drive away. He probably wouldn’t even come after me. Even if he could, if I drove somewhere safe—assuming there was such a place—there’d be nothing he could do.
But his solemn patience gave me the courage to open the car door and join him.
The stale air and harsh edge of cleaning supplies softened me. I’d ridden along with my dad in his 18-wheeler once. He usually slept in truck stops, but with me he’d gotten motel rooms. This was just an empty room, but it felt strange to use a place for casual sex that I associated with childhood memories.
Once inside the room, I set down my purse on the floral fabric chair.
Colin reached out and trailed his finger along my jaw. His eyes, almost black in the dark motel room, searched my own. I thought he was going to fuck me then, but he said, “I’m going to make coffee.”
I blinked. Shit, coffee. “Okay.”
He went to work at the coffeemaker. Unsure of what to do, I sat down in the chair, clutching my purse in my lap like I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment instead of rough, dirty sex.
He poured a cup of coffee, adding the cream and sugar without comment, and handed it to me. I took a few sips. It soothed some of the skittishness I hadn’t realized I had. He didn’t take any for himself.
Enough of this.
I set down the cup on the cracked countertop and stood to kiss him. I started off light, teasing, hoping to inflame him. This was all calculated, a game of risk and power.
He kissed me back softly, gently, like he didn’t know we’d started playing. He held his body still, but his mouth roamed over mine, skimming and tasting.