An all-new, sexy standalone novel in the Reed Family Reckoning series is coming this week from author Shayla Black, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
“Now it’s my turn. Who was your first sexual partner?”
“That’s personal!” she protests, her voice slurred, her eyes glazed.
She’s definitely well on her way to drunk.
“All our conversation tonight has been pretty personal, don’t you think? I’m not asking you to share anything I haven’t shared myself.” I brush my mouth against her ear and have to restrain myself from letting my lips linger on her neck. “Don’t worry. Your secrets are safe with me.”
As I pull back, her eyes are closed. She shivers delicately. Am I getting to her? Is she thinking about having a relationship—sexual or otherwise—with me?
I shouldn’t like that thought. But suddenly I’m hard as hell, so I do.
Bethany shakes her head. “I’d rather drink again.”
“You passed on the last two Drink-or-Dare questions. The rule is that you can’t pass on three in a row.”
“You’re making that up.”
Totally. But I manage to keep a straight face. “Seriously, you have to answer…”
She frowns. “Fine. His name was Dalton. I was twenty and fresh out of grad school. My father set us up.”
The tense way she’s suddenly holding her body tells me it wasn’t good. “Did you like it at all?”
Her answer is so quick and sharp, I’m worried. “Did he hurt you?”
She takes a long time answering. “Doesn’t the first time always hurt?”
That isn’t what I asked, and now I’m downright suspicious. “Did he force you?”
But something about the way she utters the word tells me it wasn’t exactly her choice, either. I’m dying to know what the hell happened, but even as I sit beside her, Bethany starts pulling into her shell and putting distance between us.
I squeeze her hand. “I’m sorry if I brought up bad memories.”
“Not your fault. You didn’t know. I just…try not to think about it.”
“We all have those moments in life we’d rather not remember.”
Like my dad dying on my living room floor and me being wholly unable to save him.
Fuck. I need to get my head back in the game.
Still, the next thing that comes out of my mouth is way flirtier than it should be. “Have you ever found a lover who made you feel good?”
Bethany extracts her hand from mine, tosses back another glass of wine, then crosses her arms around her middle. “I’m passing on that question. Can we talk about something else?”
“You know what, sweetheart? We don’t have to talk at all. Come here.”
I extend my arm to curl it around her shoulders before easing her close. She’s stiff, but she doesn’t protest, merely sits beside me in oddly companionable silence as I drink the rest of my beer.
To my surprise, she lays her head on my shoulder with a tired sigh.
“You okay, Beth?”
That’s good. As much as I need the information and I wonder constantly if she’s guilty, I feel so reluctant to hurt her. Or believe the worst about her. What seemed like such an open-and-shut case of criminal activity when I was packing my suitcase in LA to hunt her down in Maui now feels a lot less obvious.
Is there any chance the scheme to steal all their clients’ money was purely her father’s? That she somehow didn’t know? Or am I hoping so because she’s shown me her fragile side and I feel this irrational urge to protect her, even as I’m dying to take her to bed?
I don’t know.
Still, I can’t stop myself from opening my big mouth. “Sex should never hurt, sweetheart. It should only make you feel like the goddess you are. And if you’ve never found the right man to prove that to you…I’m here if you want me.”
Is she trying to decide what to say to me? How she feels about my offer? Is she shocked? Upset? Or intrigued?
After a few dozen tense seconds slide by, I risk a peek at her face . . .