It wouldn’t be enough. But when it comes to Ivy, I’ll take what I can get.
A buzzing sound rings through my head as I continue to kiss her, lose myself in her. I slide my hands over her ass, groaning when she grinds subtly against me. The buzz gets louder, more insistent, and I break the kiss first, staring down at her, my breath coming in pants. “What is that?”
She blinks up at me, looking as wrecked as I feel. “I think it’s your phone.”
Shit. She’s right. I can feel it vibrating in my jeans pocket. Yanking it out, I see it’s a text message from Gage.
I gotta get back home. Meet me at the car.
“It’s your brother.” Damn it, I’m not ready to send her back to the city with Gage. I want to keep her here with me.
Like she’d ever go for it. She has a life. A relatively new career, friends—she probably has little time to spare, especially for me.
I’m delusional if I think I can make something between us work. Not that I want something real or lasting. A fling. That’s all I want. And then there’s the bet to consider.
You’re really going to let a bet guide your decision?
I ignore the shitty little voice in my head.
“What did he say?” She licks her lips as if she’s trying to get one last taste of me, and my c*ck twitches as I reluctantly step away from her.
“He’s ready to leave.”
“That’s probably best.” She pushes away from the railing, glancing to her left, looking at the tub that sits outside near the deck. “You never did explain the reason for the tub being outside.”
“It’s built for two. The decks are all private; none of the guests can see each other.” I smile, imagining the two of us in that tub, our nak*d skin slick and soapy, Ivy sitting in my lap, her long legs wound around my waist. “It’s, uh, one of our most popular features.”
“I’m sure.” The sarcasm is thick and I take another step away from her, surprised. “Archer, what happened between us last night . . .”
“Was a mistake. I totally agree.” I finish for her, needing to be the first one who said it.
Weird thing, though, is the look on her face when I did. Like I slapped her when she least expected it.
“A mistake,” she says slowly as she nods. “That’s what you think?”
“Absolutely. I mean, come on. We could never work. I don’t do relationships. You know this.” I sound far more confident than I feel. Maybe it’s because I always say this sort of thing to women, or really more to myself. I’ve never been in a relationship. I know I would fail at one. I would most definitely disappoint her. Ivy.
But secretly? I wish she would give me—give us—a chance.
“And I do.”
“You most definitely do,” I agree a little too quickly.
“And you’re yet another Humpty Dumpty.” She sighs.
“What?” Okay, that made no damn sense. Why is she calling me Humpty Dumpty?
“The kind of guy who’s all broken up and can’t be put back together again.” She smiles at me, but it’s sad and the sight of it makes me feel like a complete jerk. “I have a type. And I think you top my type list.”
“I’m on your type list?” I never believed Ivy had any sort of crush on me. Not beyond the push-pull-we-hate-each-other-maybe-we-should-tear-each-other’s-clothes-off thing we’ve been suffering through for years. Though I always figured that was more one-sided on my part.
“I never realized it until now. You’re so right. We could never work. I’m too nice. And you’re too . . . you.” She drops that bomb like it makes all the sense in the world.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I rub my palm against my chest, irritated with myself. I’m acting butt-hurt over a woman. This is crazy.
“Do I really need to explain myself, Archer?” She doesn’t let me answer. “Let’s go meet Gage. I need to get out of here.”
Without a word, I follow her out, trying to ignore the disappointment settling over me like a heavy wet blanket.
But I can’t. Her rejection, her words hurt far more than I care to admit. And I’m the one who rejected her first.
We’re quiet as we head back to the car, Gage waiting beside it with his arms crossed in front of him, tapping his foot impatiently. We all get inside, Ivy taking the back seat this time, and the mood is dark as I make the quick drive home.
They both hop out of my car as if they can’t wait to get away from me the moment I pull up in front of my house and I climb out, chasing after them.
“Sorry to be so abrupt, bro,” Gage tosses out apologetically as he yanks his keys out of his pocket and hits the remote, unlocking his car. “I have a client wanting to meet for dinner. He owns a piece of property I’ve been after for months and I think he’s finally going to cave.”
“I understand. You’ll have to call me when you make the deal.”
“Prepare for a call late tonight then.” Gage grins at me and I chuckle.
I get it. I’m a businessman. When an opportunity presents itself, you have to go for it, and that’s exactly what Gage is doing.
Sort of what I did with Ivy.
Sprinting ahead of her, I approach Gage’s Maserati and open the passenger door for her, watching as she slides into the seat. She glances up, her eyes fathomless as she studies me. “Thank you, Archer,” she murmurs. Then adds meaningfully, “For everything.”
“You’re welcome,” I automatically say, though I’m not quite sure what we’re referring to.
Rolling her eyes, she huffs out a breath and yanks the door closed, effectively shutting me off.
Shutting me out.
And as I watch the car speed away, I feel like I’m watching my heart leave with it, forever in Ivy’s possession.
Fucking crazy, but true.
One week later.
“AND SO YOU had sex with him.”
I nod miserably, trying to ignore the glee in my friend Wendy’s voice. She’s really enjoying my story—a little too much. “I did.”
“And it was awful. Terrible. He was selfish and didn’t bother getting you off.”
“Wendy,” I whisper harshly, glancing about the restaurant, at the people sitting nearby. Nobody’s paying us any mind. “What if someone heard you?”
“No one heard me. And quit trying to change the subject. Give me all the dirty details.” Wendy sips from her water glass, her brows raised expectantly.
I sigh, completely put out and embarrassed that she wants to hear everything, yet also perfectly willing to reveal all. I’ve had no one to talk to about my encounter with Archer and I’ve been holding this inside me for an entire week.
Then I see Wendy waiting for me at our usual restaurant for our Saturday lunch date, and I immediately tear up like a baby when she asked what’s new.
I reached my breaking point.
She took one look at my tear-streaked face, my watery eyes, and demanded I tell her what the heck was wrong with me. After purging the entire story of my encounter with Archer in twenty minutes, she’s contemplating me with a gleam in her eye, as if she sees me in a new light. She’s probably impressed—or in shock. I don’t normally do this sort of thing. Wendy’s the adventurous one with men. I’m the boring one who tends to choose wrong and stay too long.
I definitely don’t do one-night stands with sexy-as-hell men who know just how to touch me to make me go off like a rocket. No man has ever been able to make me go off like a rocket. Ever.
Until now. Until Archer.
“He wasn’t selfish,” I say primly, pressing my lips together to keep from saying what I really want to.
He’s amazing. Hot as hell. The best kisser ever. Oh, and his hand . . .
A slow smile curves Wendy’s mouth. “Meaning he was all right.”
Better than all right. “He knew what he was doing.”
“Quit being so vague.” Wendy sounds irritated. Not that I can blame her. I’m being vague on purpose.
“I’m not about to give you any more detail than that. Sorry,” I say chirpily, sipping from my water glass. “I don’t kiss and tell.”
“Since when? We’ve dished about plenty of men. Now I want details about the one who was actually decent in bed and you’re not talking.” Wendy’s eyes narrow as she contemplates me. “What gives?”
I squirm in my seat. I don’t want to admit that my night with Archer is . . . special. She’ll probably make fun of me. She should make fun of me. I deserve it. I’m thinking like an idiot. “I really don’t want to relive what happened between Archer and me. It’s too weird. We’ve known each other for too long.”
I’d have hoped he would call but he hasn’t. We agreed it was a mistake, what happened. I walked away from him. The subject was closed, in both my mind and his.
But I lied to myself. Since I came home from Napa, he constantly invades my thoughts. I’m trying my best to focus. I throw myself into my work, which is easy considering how busy we are. Sharon Paxton is one of the most coveted interior designers in the city and her clientele keep her—and me—busy. Learning from her, working with her is a privilege, one I take very seriously.
I’ve lost concentration more than once, though, since the Archer incident. I missed an appointment with a very important client. I brought the wrong fabric samples to another one. I was acting so out of character, Sharon sat me down yesterday afternoon and asked what was wrong. I made up some sort of excuse, promised I would do better and escaped her hawk-like gaze before she asked any more questions.
This is what Archer’s done to me. Turned me into a terrible employee. I can’t sleep. I sit around on the couch at night and watch really bad reality TV. All the while I stare at my cell phone, willing him to call me, text me, something.
Yes. I’ve turned into one of those girls. God help me.
Our waiter magically appears with our lunch, setting our salad orders in front of us before he takes off, leaving me alone once again with my too nosy, too perceptive friend.
“You like him,” she says, stabbing her fork into her salad with relish. Like she’s killing the lettuce.
“No way,” I reply too quickly. I’m such a liar. “He drives me crazy. He always has.”
“Because you like him. You just didn’t realize it yet. Now you do. The two of you have sex and it’s like roses and romance and you want more,” Wendy says, full of logic.
The sex between us was definitely not roses and romance. I can’t begin to describe what it was like, but not soft and sweet like I was used to. It was hard and fast and immensely satisfying. “No, it wasn’t quite like that.”
“But it was good.”
“It was amazing,” I admit softly, earning a giant smile from Wendy.
“Knew it.” She munches happily on her salad while I sit and watch her, my appetite having fled a while ago. “Call him. Tell him you want to do it again.”
“No way.” I shake my head, jealous of Wendy’s hearty appetite. I’ve hardly eaten since my night with Archer. He’s all I can think about and it’s so stupid, I don’t know why I’m acting this way. “I don’t want to do it again.”