Authors: Megan Hart
To Natalie Damschroder for the after-midnight parking lot adventures, the honest critique and the squeeing. Thank you for helping me make this book the best it could be.
To Lauren Dane for the afternoon IM madness and constant support. Thank you also for helping me kick this book in the butt.
To my family, for helping me become the person I am.
To my children for their loving support and pride. “My mom writes books” still makes me smile—even though you’re not allowed to read them until you’re over eighteen!
To Jude Law…well, duh. Because.
To my Internet and real-life friends who listen to me blather on about my writing and actually buy my books. A million thanks!
To Joshua Radin, whose song “What If You” was the backdrop for the scene on the stairs. Thanks for giving me the perfect song as inspiration. I listened to it a hundred times and could listen a hundred more.
To Stevie Falk for letting me borrow her house and her profession, and for answering all my questions.
To my agent, Mary Louise Schwartz, my editor Susan Pezzack, the cover artists and staff at Harlequin who worked to get this book on the shelves—thank you for your hard work and dedication. I can write it, but you’re the ones who put it out there for the world to see.
And finally, to my husband, who listened to me talk about this book for months and months, offered insight, kept me going, hooked me up with medical information and told me how great I was. (And still does.) Thank you for helping me reach my dreams.
This book couldn’t have been written without the knowledge and help of the following:
Jake Fischer, who offered insight into living with SCI
Elaine McMichael and Karen Heffleger, who answered my questions and helped me get the details right
And Michael F. Lupinacci, M.D., who helped me put all the pieces into place and in the right order.
his month my name is Mary and, apparently, I’m as contrary as the nursery rhyme. First I said I wanted to fuck, but now I’m refusing to come out of the bathroom. What I don’t know is that Joe doesn’t like cock teases, nor does he suffer wasting time. He’s already done the wooing, bought the drinks, made the compliments. If I don’t put out in the next five minutes, he’ll put his coat on and go.
I don’t know this because I only met him three hours ago in a bar downtown. His name seemed as if it were a cosmic joke, but out of all the men I met tonight, Joe’s the only one who bothered trying to have a conversation with me. That’s why I picked him. That, and the fact that’s he’s hot and well-dressed, with a charming quirk of a smile that tries to look sincere but mostly doesn’t.
“Mary, Mary quite contrary. How does your garden grow?”
His voice presses against me through the bathroom door. I’ve heard that rhyme a thousand times. Been called Proud Mary. Bloody Mary. Mary Poppins. My parents gave me the name thinking it had no diminutive, but people will always find a way to tease, if they want.
The doorknob is cool under my fingers and turns easily. I open the door to show Joe I’m ready for him. That the wait was worth it. I’ve stripped down to a set of lacy white panties and a matching bra, and I fight to keep from crossing my arms to shield myself from his scrutiny.
His eyes widen a bit. His tongue snakes out to slide along a mouth I haven’t even kissed yet. I want to kiss it. He looks as if he’ll taste good.
“Damn.” The word’s a compliment, not a curse, and I manage a slightly more confident smile.
I turn, slowly, so he can see me from all sides. When I come around again to face him, Joe reaches for my hand and tugs me one step, two, until, like magnets, our bodies attach to one another.
He’s unbuttoned his shirt and the hair on his chest scratches my soft flesh. I shiver. My nipples peak against the lace and heat coils in my belly. Joe’s fingers splay on my hips. I’m all of a sudden too shy to look into his eyes.
He pulls me to the bed—the nice, big king-size he requested from the clerk at the front desk with that same quirky smile that first attracted me. “I’m a bad boy,” that smile says. “But I’m so good you won’t care.” It had worked on me and the clerk, too, who’d taken the extra time to find us a room with a bed big enough for an orgy.
There’s no orgy, though, just me and Joe and the sound of the heating unit blowing the curtains. The hot air coming out of it smells stale, but what did I expect? Frank-incense and myrrh?
“C’mon.” Joe’s getting impatient, tugging me onto the bed.
He kisses me, finally, my throat and the curves of my breasts. A shoulder. I arch a little under the feeling of his mouth on my skin, and though my lips part, he doesn’t kiss them.
His hands smooth up my sides and over my belly. When one goes between my legs, I’m startled. He doesn’t notice, or maybe he doesn’t care. He strokes me a few times and I melt into his experienced touch like sugar in a hot pan, all crumbling, scattered grains melting and smoothing into one liquid ooze.
This is all happening faster than I’d imagined it would, but I can’t seem to find the words to tell him to slow down. His fingers find the small, lace-covered bump at the front of my panties and begin a pattern of slow circles. I decide fast isn’t such a bad thing.
“You like that?”
I nod. He smiles and reaches to flick open the front clasp of my bra. My breasts surge out and I moan in the back of my throat. I want his mouth on me, his tongue swiping across my tight pink nipples. I want him to suck on them, one and then the other, while his hand moves between my legs. I’m already wet from his caress. I can feel it when I shift.
He pauses to shrug out of his shirt and I admire his chest. He has a body clothes are made to hang on, but naked, his shoulders are broader than they seemed before, his belly flat and tight with muscles but not rippled with them. His arms look strong, the cords in his forearms standing out as he tugs his belt buckle, unbuttons and unzips his pants. The hair on his chest, arms and belly is a little darker than that on his head, where his hair is the color of a lion’s mane. I wonder if he colors himself blond or if all men’s bodies show such disparity.
He pushes his trousers over his thighs and takes off his boxer briefs. I can’t look. I turn my head away, my breath lodging in my throat and my heart beating pitter-pat under my left breast. The bed dips as he kneels beside me. His hand returns to its shelter between my thighs and strokes me again. I lift my hips, an uncertain cry leaking from my unkissed lips.
“Take these off,” he whispers, giving me no time to comply before he hooks his fingers into the strings at the side and pulls them off himself.
I’m bared to him. My carefully waxed and trimmed bush of candy floss pubic hair. The hard button of my clitoris. My tender flesh, soft with arousal, wet from his touch.
He parts my thighs, spreading me, and I moan. Joe seems to like this, because his breathing gets heavier, faster, the way mine is. He runs an inquisitive finger along my folds and then up to my clit again and, oh, the sensation is indescribable. He rolls my own moisture over the tight bump and my hips jerk.
I feel an unaccustomed weight in my pussy, an emptiness, an ache. More heat blooms in my belly and breasts, that secret cavern between my legs. He rubs my clit and liquid trickles down the curve of my ass, tickling.
He takes one of my nipples in his mouth and it feels so good I whimper. I put a hand to the back of his head, feeling his soft blond locks on the backs of my fingers. He suckles, and my fingers tighten. He mutters something but doesn’t stop sucking my nipple or rubbing my clit, and my breath comes faster and faster until I’m light-headed.
I’ve been with boys before. Making out. Petting. I’ve given furtive hand-jobs in the back seat of a car, stroking and jerking and wondering what all the fuss is about. I’ve been with boys before, but not yet a man, someone who doesn’t plead or fumble. Joe doesn’t even ask, he just does. There’s something so perfect about that, just what I was looking for, and I have no more time to be shy.
Not even when his mouth slides down my body and centers between my legs. I go stiff at once in my surprise, but my small protest becomes a moan when Joe’s tongue flicks along my clitoris.
Oh, holy mother of God.
I’ve imagined this, using my hands or the pulsing jet of a hand-held shower to make myself come. Nothing has prepared me for the reality. His tongue is soft and warm, gentler than his fingers. It’s like water against me, softly lapping like waves against the shore. I arch into the sensation. He licks me. I shudder. He licks me again, and I’m helpless to do anything but spread my legs for him and give him my body.
Tension coils in my belly, and my nipples have grown as hard and tight as pebbles. Tiny moans leak from my throat. Joe pauses to blow against me, his hot breath making me writhe.
I’ve never had an orgasm with another person. I’m not sure I can. I’ve been close a couple times and it always slipped away from me at the last minute.
He stops again, and I’m sure I’m going to lose it. My thighs vibrate. The muscles in my belly tense and release. It will take only the barest pressure to make me go over, just the right touch, but he’s not giving it to me.
He’s doing something I can’t see. Something crumples. The bed moves as he shifts. His body covers me, chest hairs tantalizing my nipples wet from his saliva. His thighs and belly press against mine.
I have time to think of one more name I’ve been called, one that is appropriate but nevertheless tiresome, before Joe grunts and moves.
“Holy hell!” he cries, astonished when I shriek. “You’re a virgin?”
I’m embarrassed by the entirely involuntary scream, and I stutter, “Y-yes.”
He’s not climbing off me, though I wouldn’t blame him if he did. The pain has faded, replaced by a sensation of fullness, of being stretched. It’s not unpleasant. It’s not exactly comparable to the stories of bliss my girlfriends have been telling, but it’s not as awful as the tales the nuns told of unbearable agony, either. I’ve always wondered how a nun would know.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I hoped you wouldn’t notice.”
A smile tilts one corner of his mouth as he pushes up on his hands to look into my face. “The scream gave it away.”
“I was surprised.”
Something tender creeps into his eyes and he leans in to kiss my cheek. “You should’ve told me. I’d have been gentler.”
Now comes the truth of why I’m here. “I really just wanted to get it over with.”
He looks perplexed. “Why?”
“I’m twenty-three. It’s time. All my friends have done it. I’m tired of being a virgin. I just wanted to…do it.”
He’s still inside of me and it doesn’t hurt, but I’m becoming uncomfortable. This isn’t going the way I’d planned. None of it has except for the part where I find a guy in a bar to take me someplace and get him to divest me of my maidenhood.
He gives a gentle, exploratory thrust. I tense, waiting for pain that doesn’t come. Joe bends to trace the curve of my ear with his tongue.
“You shouldn’t have to just get it over with,” he whispers, voice deep. “Not the first time.”
He slides a hand under my hair, which has spread out on the pillow. He kisses my earlobe, then my neck. His teeth press into the sensitive skin of my shoulder.
He pushes inside me and slides out, inch by inch. He does it again. The next time he moves inside me, I gasp and curve to meet him.
He smiles. “Good?”
good, but he doesn’t seem to care when I don’t say so. He moves a little faster and pushes himself back up on his hands. The tendons in his arms stand out. I can look down between us, to the point where our bodies have joined. His dark curls tangle with my lighter hair. He pulls out and I see the base of his erection, the ring of latex sheathing him, glistening. He pushes in and I watch, fascinated, as he disappears inside my body.
Sex isn’t like I’d imagined, but I can’t say whether it’s better or worse. It brings a flush of red out on my chest, and it must spread to my throat because I feel the same heat there. I watch him move in and out of me, and I think,
connected. We are connected
His face has gone solemn in concentration, eyes squinting, mouth creased. Sweat forms along his hairline. I smell him, a crisp bite of soap mixed with something musky and rich, like earth turned over in the garden after a heavy rain. Something like blood. I think it’s lust. I slide my hands up along his chest, feeling his muscles bunch and move, touching the twin tight nipples so different than mine. I pinch one, experimentally, and he groans, so I do it again.
His thrusts are a little less smooth and a tremor runs through his body. He stops and looks down at me. I look back.
Without a word, he rolls us both until I end up on top, legs straddling his waist. I’ve put a hand on his chest for balance, and his fingers grip my hips. He shifts us both with practiced ease, and a moment later I gasp aloud as this new position allows him to sink deeper inside me.
“Lean forward and put your hands on my shoulders.”
I do what he says. When he begins to move again, I’m glad I did. Oh, shit, this is good. Oh, fuck. He fills me all the way, in and out. My clit bumps his stomach with every thrust, and the weight, the heat, the ache is back, though the emptiness has been replaced by the delicious fullness of him stretching me.
He slides a hand between us, his thumb cocked to press against me, and this extra pressure sends exquisite bolts of pleasure shooting through me like lightning.
“Come on,” he whispers. “I want you to come.”
This time, I really think I might.
He fucks me faster. Every thrust rocks my clit against his thumb. I’m being stroked inside and out. My thighs shake. My breath comes in hitches and gasps. I’m burning and frozen at the same time.
He grunts and thrusts harder. Our bodies smack together, my ass against his thighs, belly to belly. My fingers have dug into his shoulders, the palms of my hands pressed hard to his collarbone. The pulse in his neck beats fast and hard.
I can’t stop myself from crying out. It feels too good. I no longer feel my arms, legs, back. I’ve become coiled in tension, everything growing tighter, like a key winding a spring, and I know it won’t be long before it happens, before I spring free.
But not yet. Right now he pushes me to sit up straight. My breasts bounce as his thrusts lift me up and down. There’s no more push-push pressure on my clit, but he replaces it with direct stimulation with his finger, which circles in time to his thrusts. This is even better, almost unbearably better, so good I don’t think I can stand it, so good it almost hurts.
I cry out, “Joe! Oh, God, Joe!” And understand now that the dialogue in romance novels isn’t so unrealistic, after all. I want to shout out more, words of love and gratitude. It would be easy enough to fall in love right now, with pleasure coursing through my veins headier than any wine has ever made me. I shout his name again, then I stop trying to speak and end up making sounds.
My clit is wet from my juices and his finger slips and slides against me. He’s thrusting, I’m rocking, we’re jerking and pumping but somehow managing to keep the pace together.
I’m not quite sure how, but I feel him getting thicker inside me. He closes his eyes, his brow furrows in concentration, and I wish he’d open them to look at me when I come. I want that sense of connection again, but he doesn’t give it to me. I have to be satisfied with looking down between us, to the place his body joins with mine.
Electric sparks tingle in my thighs and down to my curling toes. I quiver. My center burns with spreading outward warmth while the pleasure goes up, up, up, and I’m stretched thin with it. So thin, until at last, I break.
I can’t make a sound this time, knocked so breathless with ecstasy I can’t even cry out. My head tips back so far my hair tickles my back. I explode outward and become scattered pieces connected by nothing more than breath. When I inhale, I merge back together. A second time I burst apart and reform, more quickly and without as much drama.