Chapter Eight, Scene Two
For the rest of the evening, “again” and “more” became Rhys’s personal mantra. Melina engraved the words in her memory, cherishing them but also taking them as a challenge. Part of her never wanted him to stop saying those words, so she pushed herself to do things she’d never been comfortable with.
First, remembering a scene from Sex and the City, she straddled him. With her back arched and her hands raised above her head, she rode him so fast and so hard that her breasts bounced. Well, not quite. Samantha’s breasts had bounced on the show. In real life, Melina’s breasts just jiggled. Still, given Rhys’s response, jiggling definitely worked for him.
Next, she resumed their alphabet game…
“Dirty,” she said later as they were taking a break to refuel. She was leaning against the kitchen counter wearing nothing but a clean T-shirt she’d borrowed from Rhys while he wore only a pair of boxers. He’d been peeking into kitchen cabinets when the urge to pick up where they’d left off with their alphabet game had suddenly hit her, which was why that particular word had come out of her mouth.
Rhys looked back at her, clearly confused. “What?”
“We left off with ‘cunnilingus’—”
He cocked a brow. “I beg to differ. While I’ve had the honor of tasting the paradise between your thighs, we’ve done a variety of amazing things since.”
She giggled. “I mean, we left off with ‘cunnilingus’ in our alphabet game. You challenged me to tell you my favorite sex words and alphabetize them for you, and I don’t want you to think I forgot or chickened out.”
He stepped up to her, tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, then stroked her cheek with the back of his knuckles. “You’ve proven yourself to be one of the bravest women I’ve ever known, Melina. I’d never think you’re a chicken. But, by all means, please—and I’m actually begging here—continue.” He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I believe you were on the word ‘dirty’.”
She shivered at the feel of his breath against her sensitive skin. Lord, she couldn’t get enough of him. “That’s right. I thought I’d start easy.” He nuzzled her neck and she sighed. “Ease…uh…ease you in.”
He straightened, grinning. “Good idea. After that wild ride you gave me, I’m still seeing stars.”
She blushed, but she was determined to hold her own with him. “That’s why I figured we’d eat. Get our strength back.”
“’Cause I’m gonna need it?” he joked.
“There’s an ‘E’ word.”
“Not even close. If I were presenting my ‘E’ words, I’d go for something like erotic or ecstasy or ejaculation.”
“Ejaculation. What a clinical word for such a mind-blowing sensation.”
“Hmm. And yet, you don’t seem to need much recovery time before you’re edacious again.”
He laughed. “Edacious?”
“Voracious. Gluttonous. Hungry.” Desire and delight surged through her as she caught a glimpse of Rhys watching her lips form the words.
“Okay, definitely a new favorite ‘E’ word of mine. In fact, I just realized I’m so hungry that I vote we skip the food altogether and head back into the bedroom. What do you say?”
She evaded his grasp, making him pout like a little boy denied his favorite toy.
If he touched her now, they’d be naked and in each other’s arms within seconds. Not that that would be a bad thing, of course, but as he’d taught her, there was a tangible reward in drawing things out.
“None of that. First feed me some real food, then we’ll see about satisfying your other cravings.”
He pretended to grumble as he turned to the sink. “Fine.”
He washed his hands. His big hands. Hands that could be rough and gentle and nimble and possessive all at the same time. For a moment, she wanted to forget anticipation and simply get to the part where he put those hands on her again.
Patience, Melina. Patience.
“I’m not sure I have anything in the fridge that isn’t frozen.”
“Whatever you have on hand is fine. We can just eat more of the snacks you brought for lunch.”
“Once you’re fed, it’s going to take a long, long time to satisfy the other cravings you talked about, so let’s do something more substantial. Give me a minute,” he said, rummaging through the cabinets again.
He’d just pulled out a jar of spaghetti sauce when she blurted out, “Dick.”
She actually saw his fingers tighten on the jar before he deliberately loosened them.
“That was an easy one. Fun yet easy. But I thought we’d moved on to ‘E’?”
“I decided one ‘D’ word was a cop out so I owed you. Debauchery. Dildo. Diddle.”
“Wow. If you can do that with ‘D,’ I’m really looking forward to ‘F’. You can skip ‘E’.”
“Well, thank you so much but I already did ‘E’.”
“Edacious doesn’t count since it was clearly related to your stomach and not your libido. Otherwise you wouldn’t be forcing me to cook for you when I could be doing so many other wonderful things to you.”
“What about ecstasy and erotic and ejaculation?”
He shrugged. “Those were pretty basic, don’t you think? Talk about a cop out.”
“Erection. That’s the last ‘E’ you get. And spaghetti would be great, by the way.”
With a chuckle, he said, “Okay, you’re on ‘F’ then.”
She sidled next to him with a wicked grin as he twisted the lid on the spaghetti jar. Rising up on her toes, she pressed her lips to his ear and whispered, “Fellatio.”
He swallowed hard.
He turned to stare at her, his eyes dilated, and brought one hand up to rub the back of his neck. “I love hearing that good girl mouth of yours say filthy things.”
“Filthy. That’s a good one. Thanks. I’ll keep that one in mind. For later.”
He pressed his lips together, but he wasn’t quite able to muffle his low groan.
Satisfied that she’d riled him, she slid onto one of the stools that surrounded the tile counter of the kitchen island. She watched him pour the sauce into a pot and then fill another pot with water. Her eyes took in every ripple of masculine flesh as he moved about the kitchen. “Are you sure you don’t want some help?”
“Nope. I’ve got this.” He opened a can of mushrooms and popped one in his mouth before pouring the rest into the sauce. A dimple formed and disappeared in his cheek as he chewed. When he ran his tongue across his bottom lip, she marveled at how sexy he was even when all he was doing was eating. Then he stretched, flexing his arms and causing his chest and ab muscles to bulge and ripple. She leaned forward, trying to see what his stretch was doing for the lower half of him, but the damn counter was in the way.
When he laughed, her gaze jerked back to his, and she realized he’d teased her deliberately. But that didn’t stop her from releasing something that sounded perilously close to a whimper.
He winked at her. “Fair play, baby. Fair play.”
Damn. Another ‘F’ word. She cleared her throat. “Gerontophile.”
“Is that in a real dictionary?”
She gave him a fake innocent look. “If you have to ask, it still counts, right?”
“So no, then.”
“Maybe not in Merriam-Webster, but it’s a word in the Urban Dictionary.”
“Works for me. Yet how do you know that?”
“I have my secrets.”
“Hmm. Okay, so ‘gerontophile.’” He lit the burner under the pot of water. “Old people?”
“Young people who have an old people fetish.”
“I don’t like that one.”
“Must all my words be designed to turn you on?”
“It would be nice…” He opened another cabinet and took out a package of spaghetti noodles.
He shook with laughter at that one.
“Getting anatomical again.”
He winced. “Too Playboy Channel.”
“Wow, tough crowd.”
He shrugged. “I guess I just expect a lot from someone as brilliant as you.”
“Grope, grind…Oh! Gonyphilous!” She was so proud of that one it took her a few seconds to realize he was staring at her lips again.
He put the box of noodles down, walked up to her, cupped her chin, and tilted her head up. “Say it again,” he whispered.
“Gonyphilous,” she said. “It’s not even a really sexy word. It just means exceptionally erotic knees.”
“You have exceptionally erotic knees.”
“Mmhmm…You have exceptionally erotic everything.” He bent down, taking her mouth with his, but where the kisses they’d shared throughout the day had been hungry and urgent, this one was gentle and soft.
Melina melted into him, breathing in his scent. She parted her lips and he immediately accepted the invitation, penetrating her with his tongue. He fisted a handful of her hair and explored her mouth like he’d never been there before, like he was tasting her for the very first time. He nipped at her bottom lip. She moaned and pulled him in again, using her tongue to dance, and stroke, and slide against his.
By the time he pulled away, her breath was completely gone and he was sporting a wolfish grin. “Remember that word. I like it.”
It took her several seconds to get her breathing back under control before she asked, “What is it about that word that appeals to you so much?”
“Your bottom lip does this sexy little pout when you say it. It makes me want to bite it, then hold your face still while I fill your mouth with my cock.”
Melina drew in a harsh breath and actually put a hand out to steady herself. She thought he was going to kiss her again but then he winked—as if to remind her: anticipation—and returned to the now-bubbling water on the stove. He poured the noodles into the pot and poked at them with a fork until they were all under water. Then he backed away, and braced his body and hands against the counter behind him so he was fully in her view. “You’re on ‘H’,” he reminded her, and she blinked out of her Rhys-just-kissed-the-heck-out-of-me-and-wants-to-fill-my-mouth-with-his-cock daze.
“Hmm… Hard-on.” She couldn’t stop her gaze from zeroing in on the large bulge in his shorts.
“Not from where I’m sitting.”
He widened his eyes dramatically. “Whoa there. I know I egged you on with that last comment, but are you trying to make me feel objectified?”
“Never,” she said. “You’re more than a sexy hot body to me, Rhys. But your sexy hot body is definitely a perk. Hedonistic.”
She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Hedonophilia. Good enough for you?”
“That depends. What does it mean?”
“Sexuoerotic arousal from engaging in pleasurable activity.”
“Oooh, say that one again. Sexuoerotic.”
“That’ll be my S word then.”
“I don’t think so, but I like it.” He returned to the stove and seasoned the sauce with dried oregano and basil.
“Illicit. Immoral. Impale.”
He paused what he was doing and gave an almost imperceptible shudder, making her smile. In fact, she didn’t think she’d stopped smiling since they’d started this game. She’d never realized how much fun flirting and fucking could be. With Rhys, she couldn’t imagine sex getting boring or predictable.
“Jack-off. Jerk. Jizz.”
“Nice. ‘K’ won’t be easy.”
“Kiss is kind of a mild one.”
“Not the kiss I’m thinking of,” she said with a grin. “You want your cock in my mouth? I’m going to do a lot of kissing and sucking then kissing again to make sure it’s at optimal condition for entry.”
He licked his lips. “Getting me to optimal condition will never be a problem, Melina. Never.”
“That’s good to hear. Lewd even. Labia.”
He adjusted the fire on the stove underneath the pan.
Was it her imagination, or were his shoulder blades rising and falling at a rapid pace, an indication he was having trouble catching his breath?
“Lick,” she said. “As in I want to lick you all over your body, starting at your toes and stopping at every throbbing, pulsing place along the way until I reach your fabulous mouth. Then I want you to do the same to me.”
He’d been stirring the sauce when his body jerked and he dropped the spoon into the pan.
He pinned her with a look “Far from it.”
“Shall I go on?”
“You haven’t gotten to ‘Z’ yet. What do you think?” He poked at the noodles as they boiled and stirred them around.
“Are you sure you don’t want my help?”
“I’m sure,” he said. “I want you to concentrate on finishing your game.”
She almost told him she might be able to do that, but only if he’d turn around and face her. At least then the sexy curve of his back and his tight, gorgeous ass wouldn’t be so distracting. But for obvious reasons, his front would be even more distracting. Her mouth was as dry as a bone.
“I think I need some water.” She jumped off her stool and walked past him to the refrigerator. As soon as she bent down to pull out a bottle of water she felt his hands on her hips. A moan escaped her lips as she ground her ass against him. He was rock hard, definitely at optimal condition, as delicious feeling as he’d looked.
She straightened, but he wrapped his arms around her, keeping her back flush against him. She let out a heavy sigh as he kissed and licked her neck. She wiggled against him again, and this time he groaned before stepping back.
Taking her seat on the stool again, she opened her water and took a long, slow swig before turning to face him. He’d gone back to preparing their meal. It smelled wonderful but she was no longer the slightest bit interested in food. “Masturbation. Mammary.”
“Nymphomaniac. Nude. Nookie.”
He laughed like a twelve-year-old boy at the word nookie. Sexy as sin but still damned cute at the same time.
Rhys took the sauce off the stove and poured it into a bowl. He pulled a noodle out of the boiling water, and although it was obvious the pasta wasn’t done yet, he still tossed it in his mouth. His eyes were on her face as he waited for her next word. She didn’t make him wait long. “Penis. Pussy.”
Another subtle shiver.
“Quiver,” she said.
“Good one. Q is hard.”
He gave a slight nod and she said, “Sensual.”
“I like the way that sounds coming out of your sexy mouth.”
She put her lips together and then greatly exaggerated them as she said, “Sensual,” this time in a whisper.
Rhys growled and turned back to his spaghetti. She loved knowing that even though they’d made love all afternoon he was still aching to be inside of her as much as she was to have him there. She loved seeing it on his face and in his eyes. The ever-increasing bulge in the front of his boxers was a less subtle giveaway…but it was nice, too.
Quickly, he drained the pasta and placed the bowls of food down on the island along with plates and silverware.
“Tit. Tool. Twat.”
Rhys took the stool next to her and said, “I know the spaghetti is a little underdone, but I’m losing patience. Eat.”
Melina reached over and squeezed his thigh, enjoying the way it made him breathe harder. She could see the rise of gooseflesh down the side of his arm and feel the gentle tremble of his leg.
“Eat,” he said again, this time in a raspier voice.
Melina smiled before taking her hand back. When she began to eat, she was aware that her fork wasn’t quite steady in her hand. “Wow, this is delicious.”
“I didn’t know you could cook.”
“Well, I’m at least good at heating things up. But I’ve cooked for you before.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I would remember.”
“Hmm, I’m sorry. I should have.” He gave her a serious look. “I should have done a lot of things for you before.”
Her pulse pounded in her temples. She needed him. “Urges,” she said in a breathless voice. “Meaning carnal, primal desires…irresistible needs…”
She heard the clang of his fork as it hit the plate just before he scooped her into his arms.
“Are you finished eating?” His voice was husky and his erection was boring into her hip.
“Yes,” was all she got out before his mouth covered hers. He kissed her all the way down the hall to the master bedroom. When they got to the bedroom he dropped her onto the bed and removed his shorts. He reached down and stripped her T-shirt off, then mounted her. Then, staring into her eyes, Rhys drove his throbbing cock into her.
“Yes,” she breathed out.
He pulled out slowly, so slowly, and she arched her hips in anticipation of him slamming back into her. She wanted him to, she needed it. Instead he slid back into her as slowly as he’d slid out. She cupped his tight ass and tried to speed him along, but he resisted. “Rhys…”
“What, baby?” His hot breath in her ear sent chills racing down her spine.
“Wh-what are you doing?”
He finally slid in as deep as he could and then he started the slow, languid process of pulling back out. “You don’t know?”
She gasped for air. “Faster. Please.”
“Finish your game.”
“You’re on ‘V’.”
“Later,” she said.
He started sliding back into her. As good as it felt to have him filling her up, she needed more. She needed harder and faster.
“Okay, I’ll just do this until—”
“Vagina,” she breathed as he bottomed out inside of her once more.
“Clinical,” he said.
“Damn it, Rhys.”
His lips twitched as he continued his slow torture.
She lifted her hips again and used the velvet walls of her pussy to clamp down as tightly as she could. He groaned and closed his eyes. She smiled. She thought she had him, but he was only regrouping. He began another slow stroke out and she yelled, “Vulva. Vixen!”
“Better.” He began moving just a little bit faster, still striking bottom each time.
“Oh Rhys, I’m on the edge. I need to come, please.”
He continued his leisurely pace.
She growled. “Harder. Faster.”
“Words,” he said.
She began by breathing out a new “W” word in time to his deep, languid strokes. When that didn’t speed him up, she tried cursing him again. She felt like she would die if he didn’t let her come. “Rhys!”
He laughed and pressed her hips down, controlling her movements. She was on “X” and she felt panic rise up in her chest. Are there any sexy “X” words? Oh God… Just when the panic threatened to override all logical thought, “xenerotica” popped into her mind.
“Strangers?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said breathlessly. “The act of getting turned on by strangers. Please Rhys…”
He thrust into her harder and faster. “Give me a ‘Y,’ Ladybug.”
He laughed. “I’ll take it,” he said as he reached down and touched her where they were joined. She came apart, screaming “zelophilia” so loud she barely heard his own groans of pleasure. He collapsed next to her, struggling for breath.
“Zelophilia?” he asked skeptically.
“Sexual arousal from jealousy,” she breathed back.
Turning on her side, she rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, smoothing her fingers over his muscular chest. “My friend Lucy is a Scrabble fanatic.”
They took a break for dinner, munching on more of the savories that Rhys had packed for lunch before he started a fire. Now they sat on the couch, Melina practically in his lap and Rhys playing with her hair. Enveloped in a soft blanket, she stared at the fire, wondering what part of the day would become her favorite fantasy once the weekend was over.
“You went somewhere,” he said. “What’s wrong?”
She jolted, stunned that he would pick up on her change of mood so quickly. Forcing herself to smile, she shook her head. “Nothing. I just realized I never got to tie you up. Or down, for that matter.”
His hand stilled. “So what’s stopping you?”
She kissed his shoulder. “I’m not sure I have that kind of energy right now. Can we try tomorrow, maybe?”
Blowing out a beleaguered sigh, he shrugged. When he spoke, his voice was tight. “I can’t make any promises about that.”
Fear had her heartbeat racing. Pulling away, she sat up, searching his face. “I’m sorry. If you want to, we can do it now. I just thought we could—”
He shook his head and cupped her face in his hands. “I was kidding, Melina.”
Closing her eyes in relief, she slapped his shoulder. “I knew that.”
“You did, huh?” He pulled her back into his arms so that her back rested against his chest and his chin nudged the top of her head. He took a deep breath. “You still use the shampoo your mom made for you.”
“Mmm. I guess I’m just a creature of habit.” She peered up at him. “Although you’re certainly changing that.”
“I haven’t changed anything,” he said seriously. “You’re still the same person you were. You’re just giving yourself permission to be who you really are.”
“Hmm. Well, one thing’s for sure. I never thought I’d get here.”
“In your…I mean, one of the Dalton twins’ arms,” she clarified in a panic.
Holy moly. Had she actually said that? Not only did she almost reveal how she felt about Rhys, but she’d pretty much implied he and Max were interchangeable. Remembering what he’d said about the woman in the trench coat and lipstick wanting him for his stage persona, rather than himself, she shook her head and wrenched around to face him. “I mean—”
Rhys released her and stood. The frown on his face confirmed that he’d taken her words in the worst way possible.
“So were you thinking of me or Max the whole time?” he said.
“Rhys, I’m sorry. That’s not—”
“Maybe you switched back and forth depending on what we were doing? Tell me, was it me you were riding like a wild bronco, or was it my brother?”
She stood, pulling the blanket around her when his hard gaze swept down her naked body. For the first time, she saw disgust in his eyes. She reached out, cringing when he pulled away. “That’s not what I meant, Rhys. Honest. Please don’t think that.”
“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” he said. Raking his hands through his hair, he laughed, a bitter, rancorous sound. “You’ve always preferred Max’s company to mine. Hell, you asked him for a sexual favor. Was it really because of what your boyfriends said, or had it just been a long time for you? Need an itch scratched? Call Max. And, heck, if he can’t do it, there’s always Rhys.”
Feeling like she was suddenly traversing a minefield, Melina said, “No, that’s not—”
Rhys snorted. “No? You just said it yourself. Either one of us would have done the trick. Apparently, nothing’s changed in twelve years.” He turned away, stalking toward his bedroom.
Stunned, Melina stared at his broad back and tight behind, not sure what had just happened. When his reference to that night twelve years ago registered, however, she narrowed her eyes. “You-you big jerk!” she cried.
Rhys froze and slowly turned toward her. “You big jerk?” he taunted. “You pulled out ‘xenerotica’ and ‘zenophilia,’ but that’s the best thing you can come up with?” He strode toward her, the look on his face making her back up in spite of herself. “Come on, Melina. You can do better than that. You’re a master with words, right?”
“Stop,” she whispered, torn apart by the nastiness in his tone.
He took hold of her arms then released them, his touch hovering as if he wanted to shake her but was fighting not to. “You used the words ‘cock’ and ‘dick’ before. How about ‘asshole’? That’s always a good one.”
“Why are you so angry?” she said. “I know what I said sounded bad, but you know I’ve always loved you.”
“You know what? I don’t need that kind of love. At least the women who want to fuck me for my fame are honest about their motives. You had to pull the pity card to get one of us in your bed.”
She jerked back, too shocked to form a comeback.
By the look on his face, he’d managed to stun himself.
He reached out for her. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry, Melina. I didn’t mean—”
She shoved him away with both hands, managing to knock him back a step. “You…you prick!” Blinded by tears, she whirled and tried to run, but her legs got caught up in the blanket and she tripped, falling to the floor. Stunned more than hurt, she flopped around, trying to free her arms and legs so she could get away.
He crouched down next to her, trying to help her. She slapped his hands away. “Don’t touch me,” she screamed.
“I’m sorry I said that, Melina. I’m sorry I blew up at all. Will you please listen to me? Please?”
Since he was crowding her and she was shaking so hard that she couldn’t get to her feet, she sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees, squeezing them to her chest. In the back of her mind, she remembered she’d started all this with her poor choice of words. Somehow, however, his anger and hostility—something she’d never faced before—wouldn’t allow her to soften.
“Fine. But the minute you’re done, I’m leaving.” She focused her gaze on the corner of the blanket. Idiot, she thought. She’d known if she ever let herself believe in him that things would end badly. And now she had to live the rest of her life knowing exactly what she was missing.
He nodded. “Okay. If that’s what you want, I’ll drive you back.”
“I’ll drive myself back,” she snapped. “You can figure out how to get to…to wherever you’re going next on your own.”
“Okay.” He held out his hands. “Okay, fine.” Slowly, he lowered himself to the floor, sitting in front of her. He dipped his head, trying to get her to look at him. “First, I apologize for what I said. I swore I’d never deliberately hurt you, and I did. Will you accept my apology?”
Still refusing to look at him, she shrugged, refusing to say more.
“What you said about wanting to be with a Dalton twin, it obviously pressed a big button of mine.”
She traced the grain on a plank of hardwood. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” she said grudgingly.
“Okay, but you can see how I mistook your meaning, can’t you? And why it might bother me that you just saw me as a sexual substitute for my brother?”
Forcing herself to look up, she nodded. “Yes. I can see that, and I tried to apologize right away and explain.”
“I know you did. I accept your apology. Will you explain now?”
She saw the genuine regret on his face and felt it herself. She hated the idea of hurting Rhys or of him being mad at her, but she couldn’t cave either. Not without some sort of explanation. “First, I want to know what you meant about me not having changed in twelve years.”
He hesitated briefly. “I meant the way you kissed Max in the gazebo, when I’d asked you to meet me there. I know it was a one-time thing, but I’ve always viewed that as you exchanging one Dalton twin for the other.”
Amazed, she straightened. “And how do you think I felt about Trisha? There I was, waiting for you for over an hour, thinking you were going to finally…and you were making out with her the whole time. I didn’t exchange Max for you. He was just trying to make me feel better. That’s why he kissed me. And I’m sorry if that bothers you, but given what you’d done, I don’t think you have a right to point fingers at anyone.”
Rhys shook his head, confusion creasing his forehead. “What do you mean, I was making out with Trisha the whole time? I never made out with her.”
Abruptly hiking the blanket to her thighs, Melina jumped to her feet. “Why are you lying?”
Getting to his feet more slowly, Rhys strode past her and into his bedroom.
She watched him in disbelief. “Where are you—”
Before she could finish the question, he was back, pulling on a pair of shorts with stiff, jerky movements. “Did Max tell you I was making out with Trisha?”
She hugged her arms to her chest, not knowing what to think. “Yes. Are you telling me you weren’t?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
She pulled the blanket tighter around her. “But why would Max lie?”
“I’ve got a pretty good idea.” Rhys threw his hands up in the air and began pacing. “No wonder he felt so bad afterward. Telling me it was nothing. That he’d initiated it. That I shouldn’t let it stop me from telling you how I feel.” Coming to a stop, he pointed his finger at her for emphasis. “I sent Max out to tell you why I was late. I caught Trisha throwing up in the bathroom. Caught her making herself throw up. You know how obsessed she was with staying thin. Well, she freaked when I caught her. Thought I would tell her parents, and I sat down with her, telling her that’s exactly what she should do. When she’d calmed down and finally agreed, I was walking her out when I saw you kissing Max. Then you just left. When I tried to talk to you, you—”
Shaking, Melina lowered herself to the couch. “I froze you out. I was so crushed, I didn’t want to talk to you. Never wanted to talk about that night.”
Rhys dropped down next to her, his elbows on his knees, staring at the floor between his feet.
“You said you had something you wanted to tell me that night. What was it?”
Rhys pressed his lips together. “I was going to ask you out.”
It was what she’d hoped, but to hear him verify it after all these years was almost too good to be true. “Out, out?”
A slow smile curved Rhys’s lips. “Yes. Out, out.”
“So you liked me, liked me?” Melina knew she sounded like an idiot, but the ways things were going, she wanted things to be crystal clear.
“Yes,” Rhys said simply.
“I liked you, too. I still do,” she whispered.
Reaching out, he took her hand and squeezed. “Like me, like me?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
“Do you still like me enough to give me a hug?”
She practically leaped into his arms, knocking him over so he fell back with her on top of him. Their mouths met for several long, deep kisses before she pulled back. “I want to ask you something,” she confessed, “but I’m afraid you’ll get mad again.”
He hugged her closer. “I might, but I promise to stay calm and let you say what you need to.”
Reaching out, she traced his lips with a finger. Teasingly, he caught the tip of her finger in his teeth, making her giggle. Since the topic was obviously so important to him, however, she forced herself to be serious. “Do you really think people view you and Max as interchangeable? Anyone who knows you sees the differences between you.”
Smoothing his hands up and down her back, he said, “Yeah? And what differences do you see?”
“Max is less certain of himself, and he disguises it by acting cocky. It’s why he sleeps with so many women, and why he jokes around so much. You’re more introspective, more serious. You put the weight of the world on your shoulders because you care about people so much. Like what you told me about Trisha. You interrupted your own plans to talk with her. Max wouldn’t have. Not that Max doesn’t care, but he wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting that close to someone’s scars. He’d have helped her, but by grabbing one of us or your mother to talk to her.”
For a moment, Rhys couldn’t respond. He was so choked up by how she saw him that he almost wanted to duck his head and hide for fear that she’d see just how much. Max was more comfortable with people, but she was right: It was mostly on a superficial level. Rhys, their parents, Melina—they were the only ones Max had ever really trusted enough to let inside. Rhys’s circle wasn’t that much bigger, so he knew Melina was exaggerating to a degree. He still liked how she saw him.
“There’s another difference between you, but I’m not sure if I should tell you. It might give you a big head,” she whispered.
He grinned and arched his hips into her, making her gasp. “Too late for that.”
She stretched up so she could whisper in his ear, deliberately dragging her nipples against his chest. “You promise you won’t tell anyone?”
Dropping his hands to her lush hips and pulling her in tighter, Rhys groaned, “I promise.”
Raising herself up slightly, Melina looked directly into Rhys’s eyes. “You’re way better looking than Max,” she deadpanned.
Rhys’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “You little—” Digging his fingers into Melina’s sides, he tickled her, making her screech and laugh with delight even as she struggled to get away.
He ceased tickling her almost immediately and instead wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight. The last thing he wanted, he realized, was for her to get away.
I hope you enjoyed the extended scene! Be sure to check out the rest of the books in the series!