The first time we fucked, I was actually ashamed to admit, was after his wife’s funeral. Her parents had hosted a luncheon at their home, fifty people comprised of various friends and relatives. Devastation had been written all over the faces of those who’d been close to her, while the distant relatives acted uncertain and aloof, nervously glancing at the floor and making small talk. Needless to say, it was a somber occasion and the mood reflected it.
I’d felt heavy, like I was moving underwater. A life lost so young—it all felt pointless. Mostly, though, my pain for him was what felt insurmountable. Shaw. Once upon a time, he’d been my everything.
He was standing in the corner talking to one of her great aunts, holding an empty glass that my brother had kept filled with whiskey all afternoon. I wanted to help—to do something, anything, to take that dark, stormy look out of his eyes—so I asked him if he wanted to get some air.
He took my proffered hand without a word, but instead of leading me outside like I expected—maybe to the front porch for a breath of the cool February air—he towed me upstairs. And straight into the bathroom. Without a word, he pulled my black cashmere sweater off over my head.
I stood there shocked for a few seconds. This was Shaw—my former best friend and secret lifelong crush. The man who once held my heart in the palm of his hand when I was young and foolish. And he had just been through the most traumatic event of his twenty-six years—losing his wife to a drunk driver. Yet here he was, singularly focused on getting me naked, and seemingly as quickly as possible.
He unhooked my bra and then his hot mouth descended, latching onto my nipple—sucking hard and pulling a cry from my lips despite my reservations. And even though I was twenty-five at the time, now twenty-six, I was new to this quick intimacy and raw, carnal desire. Sexual relations were always the result of the proper number of dates, and more out of obligation than desire.
My head was spinning as he unbuttoned the black dress pants I’d bought just for the occasion and placed me roughly on the countertop next to the sink. I should have asked him what he was doing, but honestly, questioning him never even entered my brain.
Then, before I could think, his mouth crashed into mine, hungry and demanding, and his fingers were in my panties. I’d groaned, palming his heavy erection through his slacks . . .
“Chloe?” My brother’s terse voice snapped me from my erotic daydream.
“Yeah?” I sounded breathless and my cheeks were flushed from that memory alone. Not just because of how crazy-good the sex was—I’d come three times around Shaw’s thick, powerful cock—but because the entire encounter had been laced with illicit undertones. It was forbidden and wrong on the most basic of levels. We could have been discovered at any moment, overheard by a nosy relative. But in that moment, we gave zero fucks.
Afterward, of course, guilt like I’d never experienced before slammed through me and kept me in bed for the next three days. I hadn’t known Samantha well, but that didn’t matter. I’d used Shaw in a vulnerable moment for my own pleasure. I’d gotten off on the whole thing, been totally out of my mind with wanton lust. What I’d done was wrong. And worse? I’d wanted to do it again.
“What the hell is with you?” Jason asked.
“What?” I tossed the laundered towels into a basket and hefted it up onto the counter.
“You’re as distracted and jumpy as a hooker at church. What’s up with you lately?”
“Nothing,” I lied.
Everything had changed over the course of a few short months. That somber day might have been how everything started with Shaw, but since then it had changed into something even darker.
“Well, I need your focus today. We have six groups checking in, and the McAlpherson party wants to charter a fishing boat this afternoon. You’ll have to call Shaw and see if he can take them out on such short notice.”
“Why can’t you?”
The thought of calling Shaw made my stomach hurt. That’s not how our interactions worked. I never asked questions—never demanded anything of him, in fact. Everything was on his terms. His schedule. His way. A chill ran through me.
“Because I’ve got a plumber coming in ten minutes to fix the leak in the Grande suite, which means I have nine minutes left to finish checking out the”—he thumbed through the invoices on his desk—“thirteen people leaving today.”
“Fine,” I grumbled.
If Jason knew what was going on between Shaw and me, I’d feel the shame of his harsh judgment for years to come. And since we worked together seven days a week, it wasn’t something I ever wanted to come between us. He and Shaw were also close friends, and Jason was fiercely protective of him ever since the accident. He looked out for Shaw like a brother, and I was sure he’d find a way to blame me for my disgraceful, opportunistic behavior. Even though Shaw had been the one to seduce me, none of that would matter in my brother’s eyes.