Her fantasy men, p.7
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       Her Fantasy Men, p.7

           Shayla Black
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  Footsteps behind Kelsey told her that her time had run out. Tucker, of course, had no trouble finding her; his parents lived on the neighboring ranch. Knowing her so well, he’d figured out exactly where she was hiding.

  Without a word, he sat beside her, shoulder to shoulder, touching without overwhelming. Tucker always knew when she needed space and when she needed to face the world—even when she didn’t.

  “Everyone’s worried about you, Kels.”

  She hugged her knees tighter. “I know.”

  “Jeremy called me. So did Rhys.”

  Dread pounded her chest, and she squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t look at Tucker. God, did he know that she’d had sex with both of them? What must he think?

  “Tell them not to worry. I’m fine.”

  “If you were, you wouldn’t be hiding here.”

  In his gentle, insistent way, Tucker shot her the straight truth. Kelsey drew in a bracing breath. “I don’t know what to do.”

  “Avoiding reality isn’t the answer.”

  Something in his voice made her pause. “They told you what happened.”

  Beside her, she felt him shrug. “I’d rather hear it from you.”

  Look at one of the men she loved and tell him that she’d slept with the other two? But the only alternative was to lie. She had to, for lack of a better term, man up. Besides, Tucker was her best friend. She’d always confided in him. Even if he didn’t love her romantically, he cared about her as a friend. He’d be hurt if she cut him off.

  She swallowed. “I had sex with them, Rhys on Monday after the party, Jeremy on Wednesday after hours.”

  Tucker tensed. “And now you’re torn between them?”

  Something in Tucker’s choked tone gave her pause. “If I chose one of them to date or marry, how would you feel?”

  He plucked at the grass between his booted feet, those hands that made such beautiful custom furniture brown, strong, and steady. “I’ll be honest, Kels. I’d still be your friend—I always will be—but at more of a distance. If I were a better man, I could watch one of them make you happy, shake his hand, smile. But I love you too much to look at another man’s ring on your finger and not be jealous as hell.”

  “You w-want me? As more than a friend?” She’d wondered . . . but to hear him admit it shocked her.

  With a gentle finger beneath her chin, he urged her to look at him. His so-blue eyes surrounded by that thick fringe of dark lashes pierced her with sincerity, honesty. Devotion.

  “I’ve known for twelve years that you’re the girl for me. Guess I kept hoping that you’d figure it out too.”

  Twelve years? “We were sixteen.”

  “Yeah. Remember when Katie Benson broke up with me? I wouldn’t go to a stupid kegger party with her, so she told me that I was dull, then hooked up with some football jock.”

  “I remember. You looked so down.”

  “No, confused. I’d chased that girl for four months. I should have been devastated when she dumped me. I felt oddly relieved. When you found me making my mom that rocking chair on the porch, I was trying to figure out why. You came over and took my hand. You told me then that I deserved the best in life, someone who would love me exactly as I was. I realized in that moment that you’d always loved me. And I’d always loved you.”

  Kelsey remembered that night vividly. That was the first time she’d felt a romantic pull to Tucker. But they’d never done anything about it.

  “You didn’t say anything.”

  “At the time, you were dating Mike what’s-his-name. I couldn’t tell you that he was no good for you—you had to figure it out on your own. But then, you went off to college. Mom encouraged me to move on, and I tried.”

  “You got quite a reputation as a ladies’ man.” She winced.

  “I woke up at twenty-one and realized that I’d had a lot of sex but never loved anyone the way I loved you. By then, you were dating Alex.”

  “The slime. Ugh! Don’t say his name to me. Talk about a regret.” She bit her lip. “I wish . . . If I’d known how you felt then, I would have never been with Alex.”

  He dropped his gaze. “And that’s my regret. I didn’t think I could compete with a rich, sophisticated guy like him. He drove a damn Porsche. My blue pickup has seen better decades.”

  “I don’t care what you drive! Your truck has character. It’s . . . you.”

  He shrugged. “I was young and insecure. In my head, Alex could give you the flashy cars and diamonds I couldn’t. I thought . . . I’d never be good enough.”

  “You dated the prettiest girls, always outgoing and thin and—”

  “And never half the woman you are. Whatever happened with Rhys and Jeremy, I still love you. When you choose one, I’ll just love you from farther away.”

  She grabbed his face, willing him to understand. “Please don’t. I love you, too. That’s my problem. I love all three of you. I should have resisted Rhys, refused Jeremy. But I didn’t. Couldn’t. Now, I want to be wrapped in your arms so badly, and I know I have no right . . .”

  Leaping to her feet, Kelsey raced toward her parents’ house. Tucker must think she’d indulged her hedonistic needs without regard for anyone’s feelings but her own. God, she’d made a mess of everything, screwed up one of the best friendships in her life and ruined the chance for the relationship to become more.

  Seconds later, Tucker was right behind her. “Kels!”

  Hot tears ran down her face as she sprinted for the house. Damn it, she never cried—except this week. And she was so tired of it. It didn’t solve anything, and she needed to work on salvaging what she could of her relationships, especially with Tucker.

  But nothing she said or did could take back the damage she’d already done.

  Kelsey made it as far as the sunporch before breathlessness and tears caught up with her. So did Tucker. As she threw open the door to the little room, Tucker was on her, covering her body with his own, pressing her to the doorjamb. She had nowhere to look but right into his earnest blue eyes.

  “You love me?” His voice cracked.

  She didn’t have words for how much she loved him. So she just nodded.

  Tucker grabbed her shoulders and crowded closer. His size hit her then. He’d always been a tall boy, playfully teasing her about her short stature, but he’d become a big man, six-three, as solid and permanent as the trunk of a redwood.

  “You know I’m not a fighter, Kels. But I’ll fight for you. Whatever it takes to make you mine ...”

  Before she could tell him that a part of her would always belong to him and beg him not to make her choose, Tucker cradled her face in his wide hands and lowered his mouth to hers.

  She’d imagined Tucker laving her breasts, touching her sex, sliding deep inside her. Since their thirteen-year-old experiment, she hadn’t thought much about his kiss. He’d learned a whole bunch since she’d compared him to Josh Smith.

  The way he took her mouth left her breathless. Firm, seductive, and cajoling at once, Tucker kissed like a man who knew what he wanted and could coax her into giving it to him.

  Kelsey wrapped her hands into the shaggy waves of his dark hair and hung on. He lit up her body until she felt as bright as Austin’s Sixth Street on a Saturday night. His tongue dipped deep in her mouth. He tasted of beer and something spicy he’d probably eaten for dinner. On him, the flavors were captivating. The man smelled like well-sanded wood and grass. Everything about him combined to put her on sensory overload.

  In about ten seconds, she went from bereft to wet and clinging. How did he do that?

  How could she?

  Kelsey ripped her lips from his. “Tucker ...”

  His jaw hardened like granite as he shook his head. “A chance. That’s all I’m asking. Spend one night with me. We’ll do whatever you want. If it’s not sex, that’s fine. But don’t shut me out before you’ve considered how much deeper our friendship could be and how damn much I love you.”

  “Even though I
ve . . . been with Rhys and Jeremy?”

  “Especially because you’ve been with them. You have to give me a chance. We could have so much more . . .”

  Staring up at him, trying to control her harsh breaths, she suspected Tucker was right. Even her parents had always said that the best relationships started as friendships. She and Tucker had been there for each other since he’d moved next door shortly after they’d both turned four. There was no one in the world she trusted more.

  If she walked away now without giving him a chance, it would be unfair and irreparably damage their close-knit bond.

  Slowly, she nodded. Then grabbed fistfuls of his T-shirt and jerked it up.

  The heated relief on his face slipped from her view as his shirt left his body and revealed his gorgeously muscled torso. Not bodybuilder beefy like Rhys, not leanly elegant like Jeremy, Tucker was between. Tall, substantial, quietly powerful. Wide shoulders narrowing into a sinewy midsection, complete with a six-pack, all covered in golden skin since he built so much of his furniture outdoors.

  In a word, Tucker was gorgeous. How had she resisted her feelings for him for this long?

  He grabbed her hands. “Kels, this will change our friendship.”

  The gravity in his tone made her swallow. “It will.”

  “I think we’ll have something better.”

  Kelsey hoped he was right, especially when he lowered gentle hands to the buttons of her blouse and began to undo them one at a time, looking into her eyes like she was the only woman in the world.

  Once he freed the last button, he peeled her shirt off her shoulders, his gaze dropping to the swell of breasts above her sturdy bra. Suddenly, she felt ridiculously glad she’d picked the black one with low, lacy cups.

  “Oh my . . . Kels,” he breathed.

  His breath and palms worshipped her breasts, cascading, sliding, caressing over them. She shivered.

  “I dreamed of you a million times ...” He cupped her breast in his hand. “You’re even more gorgeous than I imagined.”

  Kelsey actually felt herself blush at his words. “I’m not as sexy as the other women you’ve dated.”

  “That’s your opinion, not mine. Sex with them meant nothing. With you, it’s going to mean everything.”

  In the past, Tucker’s girlfriends had looked more like Victoria’s Secret models than the average hometown girl. They paraded through her mind, and she fidgeted. “I’m afraid of disappointing you.”

  He took her face in his hands, arousal on the back burner behind his concern. “How could you think you ever would? I’ve never cared this much about a woman. I don’t want you to be whatever you think I expect. I just want you to be you.”

  God, how could a girl feel anything but loved?

  Tucker wrapped his palm around her nape and pulled her closer. And stared. Hunger and longing darkened his eyes. Need gripped her unmercifully, and she swayed against him, fingertips against his hard chest, feeling the thump, thump, thump of his heart against her palm.

  With a groan, he melded her lips to his own, stealing her breath. Capturing a part of her soul. Thoughts ceased. He brightened her, like sunlight in winter, warm and welcome and necessary.

  She clutched his shoulders, head thrown back, as his palms slid down her spine, making her shiver. His hands pressed tight, following the indention of her waist, flaring with the curve of her hips. He pulled her so close, there wasn’t a breath of air between.

  This was her friend. Her best friend. Before, she’d looked at him and seen her sounding board, her rock, her hand to hold. Now she saw all man. A passionate lover. She burned and arched into him, as he nuzzled her neck, making her tremble.

  “God, you feel so perfect,” he whispered.

  So did he.

  He captured her lips again, sinking ever deeper into her mouth. Kelsey pushed her fingers through his thick hair, moaning, losing herself in everything that made him the Tucker she’d always known . . . yet revealed a man she’d never seen. God, how badly she wanted him.

  As if he read her desire, he picked her up, cradling her against his chest, and smothered her protest that she was too heavy with a fierce kiss.

  Moments later, he eased down to the sofa and sat, positioning Kelsey across his lap. As she straddled his hips, their lips melded, tongues mated. His tight grip crushed her breasts against his chest. His woodsy scent rose up again, driving her mad. Then she became aware of the thick heat of his erection pressing against her sensitive, swollen sex.

  She moaned into Tucker’s mouth, falling heart first into heady desire. In that instant, she pictured them naked, panting together as he buried himself inside her, those big, creative hands guiding her hips down to take him deep.

  The very thought made her sex clench hungrily.

  He swept his palms up the bare skin of her back and unclasped her bra. It fell down her arms, and he flung it away. Goose pimples rose all over her flesh. Her nipples tightened under his gaze.

  “You’re so pretty and soft, honey.” He cradled her breast in his palm, thumbing her nipple with teasing brushes. “Do you know the number of times I’ve fantasized about how you’d feel? So damn many.”

  “Oh ... Tucker,” she gasped.

  “Hmm, you’re so . . .” He gently pinched the sensitive tips of her breasts. “Perfect.”

  Her flesh sizzled. Friendship turned to fire and burned in her blood.

  “Kelsey, honey, I want you so bad. Tell me you want this too . . .”

  His whisper cascaded over her, warm with caring, passion. How could she ever say she didn’t want him? Impossible.

  “I do. Don’t stop,” she gasped, then laid her lips over his and sank into his kiss. “Please . . .”

  His blue eyes blazed at her, even as he stroked her hair with tender hands. “I’m going to take such good care of you.”

  Kelsey bit her lip against a rush of need. “Then love me.”

  “Always have.”

  His answer made her even more certain that tonight was right. “C-can I touch you?”

  Tucker moaned. “Anywhere you want, honey. Anytime you want.”

  Smiling, she scooted back onto his thighs and whisked a finger down the hard ridges of his abs. He rippled wherever she touched. She smiled—and did it again, this time going lower and running a finger over his jeans, down the length of his cock. And down, and down, and . . .

  “Oh my God,” she blurted, blinking at him. “Seriously?”

  He repressed a smile. “I won’t hurt you, Kels.”

  “Not on purpose, no. But that’s way beyond average.”

  “You’re good for a guy’s ego.” He laughed.

  “You can’t tell me you’ve never heard that before.”

  “I have,” he admitted, then rubbed a hand down his face. “Could we not talk about other people right now? I’m trying really hard to focus on just us.”

  And not think about the fact she had recently had sex with Rhys and Jeremy and loved them. Good call.

  At least she had a thousand gorgeous sights to distract her. Golden, bulging shoulders rife with leashed power. Tucker was usually really relaxed. Now, she could see the tense set of shoulders, the flexing of his arms as he gripped her, realized he was holding her a bit too tightly, then releasing her . . . only to repeat the process. His pectorals, firm and ridged, not man-boobs as she’d heard them called. Just the natural state of a male body well versed in physical activity. His abdominals, even his obliques—muscles she knew only because she’d tried a million exercise videos and classes—were more defined than something in a dictionary.

  He’d won the testosterone lottery.

  But her pull to Tucker wasn’t his physical beauty; it was that she knew—and loved—him, all the way to his soul.

  Running her hands down his torso, she met his gaze. “You’re
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