There was another pause. And the longer it continued, the more Novo wanted to kick her own ass.

If you were smart, you didn’t provide a stage for theatrics. But she had rolled the red carpet out with that one.

“I have to go,” Sophy said through what sounded like sniffles. “I just…this is my time for joy, Novo. I can’t take your negativity. I’ll try again with you when I’m ready.”

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As Sophy cut the connection, Novo dropped the cell phone from her ear. “Why…why couldn’t I have been an only child.”

Dealing with her sister was like a bad carnival ride: You knew exactly where the turns and the loop-de-loops were, the free falls and the too-tall-for-comfort heights, because you could see them up ahead. And meanwhile, your corn dog and your cherry-flavored slushy were clawing back up your throat.

If she’d only held her tongue for another minute and a half, she could have avoided what was going to roll out next. So close. She had been so close. The trouble was that her sister knew nothing of real pain, true sacrifice, actual loss. And that coupled with the narcissism and the histrionics? It was enough to make a sane person want to plate-glass-window their own face.

Looking around the neat, orderly room, Novo found that the past replaced the soaking tubs, padded benches, and shelves full of wraps, braces, and gel bottles.

Oskar had been a blond, too. Just like Peyton. Not as rich as him, however.

And when Novo had first met the male, she had had no idea how bad things were going to get. If she’d had even an inkling? She would have trampled whole neighborhoods to get away—

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The door to the PT suite swung open, and Peyton appeared between the jambs with a bottle of liquor in his hand, an arousal in his pants, and the wild look in his eye of someone over the brink. In this current incarnation, the male was something right out of the Bad Idea Catalog.

And what do you know…a blond male with an able body was exactly what she wanted in her virtual shopping cart.

As Peyton stood in the doorway to the PT suite, he noticed nothing about the tiled clinical space…and everything about the female sitting on one of the padded tables.

Novo’s powerful body was strung tight as a wire, sure as if she were about to jump off or maybe attack something, her hands gripping the edge of the cushioned work surface, her legs dangling free, the muscles of her arms carved around the bones that supported them thanks to all that pressure she was funneling down into her hands.

“Everything okay?” he asked in a guttural voice.

“Gimme.”

As she extended her hand, he entertained a fantasy that she was reaching across the room for his hard cock. But no, she was after the Goose. And who was he to deny her?

Especially with that hooded look she was giving him.

“Say please,” he drawled.

“No.”

A bolt of lust funneled down into his sex and he smiled. “Careful, you’ll make me beg.”

“I’m waiting.”

As he crossed the room, he did absolutely nothing to hide what was going on with his erection, and fuck yeah she noticed, her eyes dropping to his hips and staying there.

“Far be it from me to deny a female,” he murmured as he held the bottle out to her.

She drank from the open neck like a boss, swallowing the vodka as if it were Sprite. And when she lowered the bottle, she nodded down at his hard-on.

“Who’s that for?”

“You. If you want it.”

She took another draw, and he waited for her to tell him, with no small amount of superiority, that she didn’t. When all he got was silence, his blood rushed even faster.

“Is that a ‘yes’?” he said as he focused on her lips.

“It’s not a ‘no.’ ”

“I’ll take what I can get.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Novo smiled with her fangs. “You can’t have the one you really want and you’re stuck here overday with me.”

“Fishing for compliments? That’s not like you.”

“Just stating reality.” She took another haul of the vodka. “You’re my only option, too. So we’re in this together.”

“You make me blush with the compliments,” he muttered. “No, stop. Really.”

“You don’t like being used? Hmm, maybe this is a life lesson for all those women and females you fuck at the clubs.”

“It’s not using someone if there’s pleasure involved. Mutual, that is.”

Novo laughed in a hard burst. “Is this the part where you tell me you’ve never had any complaints about your performance? Because that statistic would be a little more impressive if they had any way of reaching you afterward.”

“Now, Novo, if you don’t play nice, I’m going to take my vodka and my dick elsewhere.”

“You’re right. If we keep talking, this is not going to happen.”

With that, she reached out with her free hand, grabbed the front of his shirt, and yanked him to her mouth, holding him in place as their lips met.

Crashed, was more like it.

There was nothing romantic or tentative or get-to-know-you about the contact. Potent sexual power burst between them, their tongues dueling, sensation overwhelming, instinct shutting down thought. Her taste was wildness and Grey Goose, her scent was heady as weed, and shit, he got to touch her—something he had wanted to do for so long. Bringing his hands to her smoothed-back hair, her neck, her shoulders, his heart pounded and he was ready to get inside of her right then and there—

Had he shut the door tightly?

Breaking the contact, he panted as he looked over his shoulder and willed the panel shut tight and locked—and when he turned back around, she’d put the Goose on the floor and was pulling down her loose nylon workout shorts—

No panties.

Fuuuuuuuck, this was moving fast.

On that note, her hands went to the fly of his slacks, and in the work of a moment, his fine, loose pants fell to his ankles. He was also commando. ’Cuz this was exactly the situation he had hoped to be in. And what do you know, it was cup-runneth-over time: The next thing he knew, her thighs were wide, and she gripped his hips, her nails digging in. With a jerk, she pulled him forward, and he masterminded himself between them, taking his cock and angling—

“Oh…fuck,” he groaned as they were joined.

She was so tight and hot, and he felt the sensation all over his body, arching above her as she lay back on the massage table. With his feet on the ground, he couldn’t kiss her, but he could start pumping, that was for damn sure. Putting his hands on her hips, he rolled into her again and again, the momentum doubling and redoubling with ever-greater force—

It was hard to say when he first noticed she was just lying there.

For one, his body was all in for the sex, his blood thundering, the sight of his slick shaft penetrating her again and again scrambling what little was left of his blown mind. And as a corollary to all that, he was also having to concentrate on not coming—which was like trying to extinguish a house fire with nothing but your own thoughts. Yet, even in his frenzy, and in spite of the alcohol in his system, he noticed that her lids were closed in the frozen mask of her face, and her breathing was nothing-special as her head moved up and down while he fucked her.

Peyton slowed. Then stopped.

When he just stood there, his lungs screaming for air, the sweat dampening his silk shirt, she opened her eyes. “What’s wrong?” When he didn’t say anything, her brows lifted. “You finished already?”

Peyton blinked.

And withdrew.

With a curse, he bent down and pulled his slacks back up. “Yeah,” he muttered as he redid the fly. “I’m done.”

“I didn’t think you were a quitter.”

He looked away. Looked back at her. “Do you even care who you’re with?”

Novo sat up quick. “Are you trying to slut-shame me? For real? ’Cuz if that is not a double standard, I don’t know what is.”

He picked up the bottle from the floor and managed to take a swig as he straightened. “Nah, I just want the female I’m fucking to do more than lie back and make a grocery list in her head.”

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