Authors: Cher Carson
She wanted to scream and cry out his name, but having to remain silent only added to the fierce intensity.
Her stomach clenched as her legs started to tremble. “Oh God,” she whispered. “Mark…”
He continued to devour her, relentless in his quest to give her pleasure.
She rode out the final wave, her body finally satisfied, at least temporarily.
He stood up, taking her face in his hands. He kissed her lips gently, and she tasted the tang of her own essence on his lips.
“I can’t get enough of you,” he whispered between kisses. “I think about you all the time. When I’m playing hockey, practicing, sleeping… I can’t get you out of my head.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist, battling the inner voice that told her to push him away. “I know how you feel,” she admitted. “I’ve been thinking about you, too.”
He kissed her cheek, her ear, sucking the tender lobe into his mouth. “I love you. I know you don’t believe that, but just give me the chance to prove it to you, please, baby.”
Her heart surged. There was a time when she would have given anything to hear that sweet declaration, but that was a long time ago. Her life was different now. “You know I can’t do that. It’s over. It has to be over.”
He pulled back to look her in the eye, still framing her face with his rough hands. “If that were true, you wouldn’t have made love to me the other night. You wouldn’t have let me love you now.”
She closed her eyes, shaking her head as she tried to refute his claim. “It was sex, nothing more.”
He pressed his forehead to hers. “You and I both know that’s a lie, Jen. Don’t do this, don’t go back to him, sweetheart. Please, give me a chance, give us a chance. I know I can make you happy.”
She pushed against his shoulders, trying to put some distance between them. “I can’t do that.”
“Why the hell not?”
She said the only thing she could think of to drive him away. “Because I don’t love you. I’m sorry.”
He stared at her, as though he were trying to find the truth in her eyes. “I don’t believe you.”
She sighed, running a hand through her tousled hair. “What’s it gonna take to convince you?”
He bent to pick up her dress, handing it back to her. “Let me ask you a question.”
She slipped her dress over her head, standing to straighten it. “Okay.”
“Were you ever tempted to sleep with another man while we were together?”
Of all the questions he could have asked her that was the last one she expected. He had never taken an interest in her sex life while they were dating, so why now? She could have lied to save face, but she wouldn’t. “No, why?”
He smiled, running his hands up her arms. “Doesn’t that tell you something, baby? You and I weren’t even exclusive. I’m sure you were propositioned plenty of times…”
“Dozens,” she said, resenting him for calling her out. “I’m just not that kind of girl.”
His eyes fell to her lips. “I know that.”
She sat back on the desk, trying to put some distance between them. It was getting harder to think, harder to breathe. The heady scent of his cologne was clouding her judgement, making her want to cancel her meeting and invite him back to her place so he could give her another mind-blowing orgasm.
“I have to sort this thing out with Kevin. Figure out where we go from here.”
He smiled. “Does he know you’re still in love with me?”
It would be pointless to try again to deny she still had feelings for him, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of defining them. He was trying to bully her into giving him another chance, on his terms, and it wasn’t going to happen. He had his chance with her and he squandered it.
She refused to make the mistake of trusting him again.
She checked her watch. “I have an appointment. I have to go.”
He kissed her softly. “Just so you know, I’m not giving up, Jen.” He grinned. “I intend to pull out all the stops to get you back in my bed, where you belong.”
Apparently, Mark wasn’t kidding when he said he intended to pursue her. It started with flowers, and quickly progressed to theater tickets, designer purses and clothes, and finally, jewelry.
“What is it this time?” Trace asked, propping her feet up on Jen’s coffee table.
She set the small box down on the end table, trying to pretend she wasn’t curious about the contents. She’d returned everything, with handwritten notes asking him to back off, but he chose to ignore her requests.
Callie picked the box up, shaking it. “Come on, you have to at least open it.”
“Why bother?” she said, checking her make-up in the hall mirror. She, Tracey, and Callie were meeting up with a few more of her girlfriends for her bachelorette party. The same bar Mark happened to frequent with his teammates after home games. Fortunately, they didn’t have a home game tonight; not that she would mind seeing him one more time before…
“I still can’t believe it; this time next week you’ll be a married woman,” Trace said, sighing. “It just won’t be the same.”
Jenna wanted to deny their claim that things would change once she was married to Kevin, but she knew it was inevitable. They had been her lifeline for more years than she could count, but he was going to be her husband, her life partner. In theory, he was supposed to be her best friend now, but she couldn’t imagine confiding in him about her hopes and dreams for the future. He would tell her to get her head out of the clouds and set more attainable goals.
Is that what she wanted, a man who would quash her spirit? She sank down on the chair, staring at her two best friends in turn. “Am I making a huge mistake?” she whispered.
A look passed between them before Callie said, “Only you can answer that question, honey.”
“I’m asking you.” She looked at Trace, who had always been honest with her, no matter how difficult it was to hear the truth. “I’m asking both of you, please, tell me what you think I should do.”
Brushing her hair off her face, Tracey said, “We’ve been telling you what we think of him all along, Jen. You just didn’t want to hear it.”
Kevin had often been the butt of their jokes, but she assumed they were poking fun at him to amuse themselves, not because they genuinely disliked him.
She drew her legs up, resting her chin on her knees. “You really think he’s wrong for me, huh?”
“The question isn’t whether we think he’s wrong for you. We’re not the ones who have to live with him, you are,” Callie said.
After their dress fitting, she convinced herself it was pre-wedding jitters, the normal doubts every bride experiences before taking that long walk down the aisle, but she knew every bride didn’t spend every waking hour fantasizing about a man who wasn’t her bridegroom.
“This is such a mess,” she muttered, circling her arms around her face.
“It’s not too late to back out,” Trace said, reaching out to rub her back.
Jen tilted her head to the side, looking at her friend. “You know what I wanna do right now?”
“I wanna get loaded.”
Mark and Steve entered the restaurant, trying to slide in under the radar of the other diners. Mark realized he should have chosen a less conspicuous dinner companion if he didn’t want to be recognized, but Steve had experience landing the woman of his dreams and he needed his expertise tonight.
Steve approached the hostess as Mark scanned the bar, looking for a man who might pass as the owner. He needed to see Kevin for himself, if for no other reason than to size up his competition.
If Callie was right, and Kevin made a practice of cheating on his fiancée, his employees may know about it.
Steve clapped Mark on the shoulder. “She’s got the perfect table for us, way in the back.” He nodded his head toward the bar. “That blond guy, dressed in black, that’s him.”
Mark glared at the man in question. He was model perfect with bronzed skin and glaring white teeth, a pretty boy if he had ever seen one. “Ugh, seriously?” He watched him lean over the bar, flirting up a pretty patron wearing a thigh-high dress.
Steve laughed. “Yeah, he’s got that look about him, doesn’t he?”
Mark tore his eyes away. He wanted to observe Jen’s fiancé without being obvious. “What look is that?”
“You know what I mean. He makes you wanna knock all of his teeth out.”
Mark fisted one hand in the other, wishing he could do just that. But he had a game in two days, and the coach would have his ass if he got thrown in jail. “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”
“Nah, you can tell he’s a dirtbag,” Steve said. “Just look at the way he’s chattin’ up that chick. No question he’s banging her.”
Mark looked over his shoulder at the couple in question. They did look too intimate to pass as mere acquaintances. “You think so?”
“No doubt about it, man,” Steve said, shaking his head. “The guy’s an asshole.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
Steve chuckled. “Hey, I remember Jenna. Any guy who’d fuck around on her must be crazy.”
Mark wished he could say he had been smart enough to realize a good thing when he had it, but he was no smarter than Kevin. At least he had finally come to his senses. He only hoped it wasn’t too late to make up for his past sins.
The hostess appeared and led them to their table.
Mark was grateful that the dim lighting allowed them to remain anonymous as they meandered through the tables.
Once they were seated, Steve looked at the hostess’s name tag and grinned. “So, Sarah, what can you tell us about your boss?”
She frowned, looking suspicious. “Kevin? Why do you ask?”
Steve pulled out a chair, inviting her to sit down. “We have our reasons. Let’s just say, if you could help us out, we’d be more than willing to show our gratitude.”
Mark pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, peeling a few hundreds off the top. “Consider it a tip.” He slipped the money under the leather bound menu as he smiled at her.
She looked around to see if anyone was watching them before claiming the seat Steve offered. She discreetly slipped the bills into her pocket, asking, “What do you want to know?”
“You ever see him with a woman?” Steve asked.
“You mean besides his fiancé?”
Mark leaned forward. “You know Jenna?”
Sarah smiled. “Sure, she’s a sweetheart. Way too good for him, if you ask me.”
“We think so, too,” Steve said, smiling. “That’s why we need your help.”
She looked at Mark and Steve carefully, sizing them up. “So, which one of you is after Jenna?”
Steve held up his left hand to reveal a platinum and diamond wedding band. “I’m a happily married man.”
She tipped her head toward Mark. “So it’s you, huh?” She grinned. “That’s too bad. You’re cute.”
Mark smiled, intent on using her interest in him to lower her guard. Obviously Sarah wasn’t a hockey fan, which seemed to be working in their favor. As long as Kevin didn’t know they were there, they could find out what they needed to know and bail before he figured it out.
“Let’s just say that I’m a friend who doesn’t want to see her make a mistake.”
She snorted, folding her arms. “Yeah, and marrying that guy would definitely be a mistake.”
Steve glanced at Mark across the table. “Really? Why’s that?”
“He’d chase anything in a skirt.”
“Is that right?” Steve asked, smiling. “He doesn’t even try to hide it, huh?”
It was taking everything in Mark not to lay the guy out in front of his customers and employees.
He deserved to be humiliated the same way he’d been humiliating Jen for the past two years.
“He hides it from Jenna,” she said, shaking her head in disgust. “He’s a totally different person when she’s around.” She made a face, shuddering. “He’s so sweet and attentive; it makes us all sick to watch him.”
“Did it ever occur to someone to let her in on it?” Mark asked, clenching his teeth.
“Hey,” she said, holding up her hands. “I like Jenna and all, but I need this job. I’m going to school full-time and…”
Steve waved off her explanation. “We get it, Sarah, we do.”
Mark peeled a few more bills off the roll, tossing them across the table. “Thanks, you’ve told me everything I need to know.”
She fisted the money in her hand and stood up, bracing her hands on the back of the chair.
“Listen, I hope you can convince Jenna to see that guy for what he is. She deserves better.”
“I agree,” Mark said, casting a glance at the bar. If only he could help Jen to realize that.
They were on their way out of the restaurant when Mark got a text message from Callie.
Someone’s having a little too much fun at her bachelorette party. She made need a ride. You up for it?
His fingers flew over the keypad.
Yeah, where is she?
Murphy’s, better hurry or you’ll miss your opportunity.
What the hell was that supposed to mean? Surely she wouldn’t consider leaving the bar with some stranger. Not unless she was loaded or…
Don’t let her leave. I’m on my way.
He turned to Steve as they reached their respective vehicles. “Hey, man, thanks for coming tonight.”
“No problem.” He inclined his head toward the cell phone Mark clenched in his hand.
“Yeah, Jen’s at Murphy’s for her bachelorette party. One of her girlfriends just texted me to let me know she needs a ride home. I’m gonna head over there now.”
Steve grinned as he opened his car door. “Have fun playing hero.”
Mark opened his door. Just the thought of seeing her again made him smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
Steve tapped the roof of his car. “Good luck with Jen. Seriously, man, I hope it works out for you two.”
“Thanks, buddy, so do I.”
Mark drove the short distance to the bar, weighing his options. Should he come right out and tell Jen that her fiancé was a lying, cheating sleazebag, or should he set it up so she could see for herself the kind of man she planned to marry? He didn’t want to hurt her, but there was no way he was going to allow her to commit to spending the rest of her life with a man who wasn’t worthy of her.
He pulled into the parking lot and spotted Jen’s black Roadster. It was easy to identify with vanity plates that read
He eased his truck into the empty space beside her car and cut the engine. Jumping out of his vehicle, he raised a hand in greeting to the security team working the door.
There was a line forming outside of the busy sports bar and he felt the murmur of excitement move through the crowd as hockey fans began to recognize him.
He smiled and waved at them as a uniformed guard waved him inside. Men were shouting, huddled around a large-screen TV watching sports highlights. Any other night he would have pulled up a stool to join them, but tonight he had only one thing on his mind: finding Jen.
Someone shouted his name, and he turned to see Callie staggering toward him, a beer in her hand.
“Hey, handsome, you made it just in time.” She reached up to put her arm around his shoulder.
“Some other dude was dyin’ to give her a ride home.”
“I’ll bet,” Mark muttered. “Where the hell is she?”
Callie pointed to a table in the back of the seating area. “Way back there.” She leveled her hand over her eyes and giggled. “Can you see her?”
“I’ll find her,” he said, edging people aside as he moved through the crowd.
He could see Jen seated at a table of boisterous women; some he recognized, while others were strangers to him. Half a dozen men surrounded the group of women, one with his arm around Jen as he whispered in her ear.
Mark walked up behind her, fighting the urge to twist the guy’s arm behind his back.