Authors: Colina Brennan
Tags: #Romance, #romance sex, #Young Adult, #sex addiction, #Contemporary, #sex, #new adult, #contemporary romance
“There’s a bake sale tomorrow at lunch,”
Elijah said without looking at her. “They’re trying to raise money
so we can get free yearbooks at the end of the year.”
She dug into her purse. She only had a few
dollars on her, but she tucked them into a small pocket on Elijah’s
“Don’t lose it, okay?”
He nodded and gave her a small smile. He
always looked scared to ask. He knew how tight money was for her.
When she graduated, she would be buried in school loans, and that
was after the two scholarships she’d managed to get. But when her
brother gave her that uncertain look, it was hard to deny him
They ate dinner while Elijah told her about
the constellations he’d learned in school that day. Then, he helped
her clean up before they went outside and picked out Orion and the
Big Dipper in the night sky. After, she gave him the usual reminder
to brush his teeth and get up in time to catch the school bus in
“Can we make cookies tomorrow?” he asked as
she hooked her purse strap over her shoulder.
“Sure.” They baked at least once a week.
Making creative desserts was one of her favorite hobbies. She
supposed she wouldn’t be a Carter without some kind of love for the
kitchen. She pulled Elijah into a hug and kissed the top of his
dark head. “I’ll see you then.”
“Good night.” He gave her a squeeze before
She waited in her car until she saw the
light in his bedroom turn on. As she drove out the gates, she
congratulated herself for not having thought about Blue Eyes and
his low, lilting voice even once.
At least until now.
Leah got home to find her roommate
overseeing the assembly of new furniture.
This appeared to basically involve making
the living room look like a forest with an identity crisis, full of
dozens of slightly different pieces of wood. Helena was shouting at
their neighbor Jay who sat on the carpet with a screwdriver in one
hand and the instructions in the other.
“But they’re in Japanese!” he said, shaking
the instructions at her. “You’re Japanese!”
“I was born in San Francisco,” she snapped.
Then, seeing Leah, she demanded, “Can you read Japanese?”
“Not unless the instructions just say ‘baka’
over and over again,” she said.
“Ha!” Helena threw up her hands. “All that
anime you watch, and you’ve learned exactly one word.”
“You don’t speak or read
it either, and it’s
heritage,” Leah pointed out.
Leah gave her a bemused look. “How?”
“Because I didn’t bring home my tenth casual
screw of the year and then pass out while he robbed us blind, hence
my trip to the furniture emporium, and hence Lord of the Eyebrows
here trying to put it together.”
Jay rubbed his absurdly thick eyebrows with
a self-conscious frown.
“How does that even—” Leah gave up and
sighed. “I take it I’m never going to win an argument with you ever
again? What if I had a boyfriend and you slept with him?”
“You got us burglarized.”
“What if you ran over my mother?”
“You still got us burglarized.”
“I see.” Leah pursed her lips.
Jay gave a cry of triumph and waved two
pieces of wood that had been fastened together into an L shape.
Leah headed for her bedroom. Spending time with Helena these days
always turned into another guilt trip, and she was tired of making
the journey. She had promised to pay her back for everything that
had been taken. But it had been over four months, and Helena showed
no signs of forgiving her, despite that she was trying her best to
do whatever Helena wanted.
Why else would she be attending those
ridiculous sex addict classes?
Leah collapsed backward onto her bed and
sighed. Thank God she still had her bed even if it was only because
she’d been asleep on it while her one night stand had been lugging
everything else out the door.
She rolled onto her stomach and reached for
her book bag. Having read enough of the assigned pages to get by
for the next class, she pulled out her computer science textbook
instead. She had database commands to study. Having always wanted
to do something with writing, she’d ignored her parents’ protests
(she ignored a lot of their protests so it hadn’t been hard) and
was majoring in creative writing. But her minor was in web design
because she was also practical, and she knew that if she wanted to
live on anything that wasn’t ramen, she would have to study
something else as well.
Even as she flipped through the textbook to
find the right page, she itched to be writing instead. The last
time she’d written anything just for herself instead of an
assignment had been before the burglary. The guy had taken her
short story journal. Of all her possessions, that had been the most
treasured. She would have happily traded everything else that was
stolen to get it back.
The journal had held over two dozen short
stories she’d written over the course of the last three years, ever
since she began college. The stories themselves weren’t important.
But they represented who she’d been when she wrote them—the bright
moments and the darker ones. Helena had always called them morbid
so there had probably been more dark ones than bright, but the
stories had been her only way to release the things she kept
bottled inside. More than that, they had helped her think
objectively about herself and whatever issues she’d been going
through. She could pretend those feelings, those difficulties,
weren’t happening to her, just to a character in a story.
Every story in that journal had been
fiction. But everything the characters felt had been real.
From outside her bedroom door, she could
hear Helena’s raised voice, although she couldn’t make out the
words. Leah glanced around her nearly empty room. All that was left
were her clothes, a few notebooks, and some pictures of herself and
Helena hanging on the walls. He’d even taken her anime collection.
She hadn’t asked for his full name when
she’d made the poor decision to bring him back to the apartment, so
all she could give the police was his first name and physical
description. They were still looking for him, but if she ever saw
him again, she’d smash his face into the nearest jagged
Waking up to the sound of Helena screaming
and sobbing at their cleaned-out apartment had been terrifying.
Realizing she was responsible had been … horrifying. Humiliating.
Gut wrenching. A hole had opened up in her stomach, and she had
wanted to climb inside and disappear so she wouldn’t have to face
what her colossal mistake had cost her. And she didn’t mean money
More than the loss of her things, she’d been
scared to lose Helena. She couldn’t even count how many times she’d
apologized, but really, how did someone make up for something like
that? She didn’t know, but she’d started by going along with
Helena’s demand to get help for a problem she didn’t have. It was a
miracle Helena hadn’t immediately thrown her out and ended their
friendship. In fact, she still half-expected it to happen.
They had known each other
for nearly ten years, ever since Leah’s family permanently moved
into the old estate that had, previously, only been a vacation
home. Helena was her first and most enduring friend. Okay, Helena
was pretty much her
friend. But that didn’t make their friendship any
Shutting her textbook, she scooted back off
the bed. Database commands could wait. Helena and Jay sounded like
they could use some help.
Leah didn’t even bother looking at the
cookies. She was too agitated. To still her fidgeting hands, she
tucked them inside the too-long sleeves of her striped tee and
trapped them between her thighs. A moment later, she realized she
was bouncing on the balls of her feet and immediately stilled.
She couldn’t understand why she was so
restless. This was her last session. After tonight, she was free.
And yet, instead of feeling anticipation, the agitation had been
gradually building for two days, and now, back again in the dingy
church hall for the last of her completely useless ‘therapy’
sessions, she had reached some sort of peak of freak out.
It was only when Blue Eyes walked through
the door in dark jeans and a v-neck tee that perfectly framed his
collarbones—and she released a breath in heartfelt relief—that she
realized she had been afraid Blue Eyes wasn’t going to come back a
second week. She would have left these sessions without ever having
seen him again.
This realization made her stiffen up in
renewed agitation. She immediately vowed to avoid eye contact. She
looked at the ceiling. She looked at the floor. She crossed her
arms and scowled. What was her problem? Whether he came or not, it
shouldn’t have mattered to her anyway since she wasn’t coming
She hoped this compulsion to see him was
just because she felt bad for snapping at him last week. Even after
she insulted him, he’d still been inexplicably nice, and now her
conscience wouldn’t let it go until she apologized.
At random points in the past seven days,
moments from last week’s session had surfaced in her mind,
completely steering her thoughts away from whatever she’d been
doing at the time. It had been extremely confusing when she’d been
vegging out watching a late night documentary on the migration of
wildebeest, and then suddenly, she was thinking about the way Blue
Eyes had stood up for her. About the genuine indignation in his
voice that had caught her so off guard.
Or the next day when she’d been decorating
cake pops with Helena, and suddenly she was remembering the way
Blue Eyes had looked at her when he handed over her jacket. Not
with the lust of a one night stand or the disgust of some of her
classmates or even with the disregard of the other addicts.
He had just looked … thoughtful. Like he
wanted to ask her something, and he might actually care about how
Or maybe it was just her imagination
twisting the moment into something else.
She sensed him settle into the chair next to
her, which made her stomach tighten with excitement. She should
just get that apology out of the way, but she wasn’t very good at
saying she was sorry. She’d probably screw it all up. So instead,
she focused on the counselor as he walked in, maintaining her
glare, and determined not to acknowledge the guy beside her. Even
though the side of her body nearest to Blue Eyes burned with
He was close enough that she could lift her
hand if she wanted and bridge the distance between them, feel the
warmth of his skin against her fingertips. Her resolve weakening,
she stole a quick glance in his direction. He looked just as good
as she remembered. Better even. This time, his sleeves were short,
and the way he stretched his arms back to lace his fingers behind
his head made the thin cotton stretch across his chest and his
biceps bulge. Her throat went dry. Her pulse quickened.
His gaze shifted, met hers, stayed. There
was a question in his eyes, the exact look she’d recalled during
her wildebeest documentary, and she wanted to know what it
She drew slow, deep breaths through her nose
to steady her heart rate. Just faintly, she caught the scent of
what must have been either his cologne or his soap. Fresh sea. Warm
sun. Rich earth. It made her want to press her face into that tiny
dip at the base of his neck and inhale deeply.
Geez, maybe she really did need help.
She didn’t even notice that the rest of
their motley group had straggled in until Stilettos muttered
something to Packers Cap about a relapse and a tub of pudding. She
cast a quick glance at Old Lady who appeared to have made it to her
chair without incident.
“Good evening!” the counselor announced in
that ineffably cheerful voice. “I thought we would try something
new this week.”
, she thought, perhaps a little
Experiment on us like
a bunch of helpless, horny rabbits.
“I want you to split into pairs.”
“And talk about your childhoods.”
Holy mother of God. She could feel Blue Eyes
turn his chair a little toward her, and she braced herself for the
two most awful things in the Leahverse: 1) Having to spend time
with someone she physically wanted but couldn’t have (because
Helena would find out somehow and cut her), and 2) Talking about
“Off you go then!” said the counselor.
She reluctantly swiveled
toward her ‘partner.’ Blue Eyes was smiling.
Don’t look directly at it
“Do you want me to go first?” he asked, his
voice rolling over her nerves like honey. “It doesn’t look like
this is your sort of thing.”
She nodded and prepared to endure endless
reminiscences about whatever the hell kind of paradisiacal
environment could have produced such a beautiful man. Magical dust
and fairy god mothers were almost certainly involved. Maybe even
footmen made of mice.
“How detailed are we supposed to get?” she
He gave a ridiculously sexy shrug. “What do
you want to know?”
How you look without your
clothes on. If you’re a shouter. How many inches—
She cut herself off before the heat in her neck
could give away her thoughts.
“Where’d you grow up?” she asked and rattled
off a bunch of mundane questions. “What do your parents do? Where’d
you go to school? Do you have siblings?”
How weird was it that she had no idea who he
was as a person and yet she knew he had closets full of porn?
Personally, she hoped he’d been exaggerating because that was a
little disturbing and Blue Eyes seemed so … normal.