Unconscious Hearts, Page 20Harper Sloan
"So what are you? Some dude she hired to be her date tonight?" Matt laughs, playing it off as a joke.
He did that when he first met Tommy, too. Though, Tommy laughed with him. Thorn doesn't find it funny at all, judging by the grunt that leaves Matt's mouth a moment later. His egotistical face now pinched with pain.
"You don't know me, but it would be wise never to say shit like that again."
He drops Matt's hand and pulls me close ... even closer than before with his arm around my shoulders.
"Matt," Piper hedges, earning his scowl. "You know I told you Ari was bringing her boyfriend tonight."
Matt just barely catches himself before he rolls his eyes. Over the years, he's made no secret of his opinion of me. I heard him tell Piper once that Tommy lucked out when he got the better sister before it was too late. I shouldn't be surprised that he would assume I couldn't get a man like Thorn without paying for him.
The silence while we move to our table and order our drinks is beyond awkward. Matt wisely keeps his crap to himself, but when he glares at Thorn for the second time after we've sat down, clearly judging him, I've had enough.
"Pipe?" I call across the table.
She looks up from her menu, and I stop myself from wincing when I see the dull look in her eyes. I hate seeing my boisterous friend like this.
"You wouldn't believe the size of Thorn's closet. I've never seen anything like it."
I see Matt frown out of the corner of my eye but don't pay him any attention. One thing Matt hates is when someone else might actually be more successful than he is. Even when most of that success is in his own arrogant mind. And he's so far out of Thorn's league, he's still playing T-ball while Thorn is in the World Series.
"There's no way his closet is bigger than yours." She laughs, some color coming back to her cheeks. "I mean, hon, you converted a whole bedroom to get yours. What'd he do? Buy a whole separate house for his?"
"Yeah, actually, when you put it that way, his makes my converted bedroom closet look like a postage stamp."
She jerks her gaze and stares at Thorn in disbelief. "Is she kidding?"
He laughs low. "Postage stamp would be an exaggeration, but no, she isn't kidding that it's a little bigger."
"A little bigger, he says." I snort.
"God, Ari, what did you do, order him on up mister perfect dot com?"
Everyone but Matt laughs.
"Seems like it sometimes," I tell her, looking at Thorn and meaning every word.
"I guess that means it'll be an easy choice for you when you guys have to decide which house you'll keep when you move in together," Piper jokes.
I feel like I've stopped breathing. That is, until Thorn's hand lands on my lap and gives me a gentle squeeze. Oh, my God. He's probably freaking out at just the thought of that step in our relationship. I mean, sharing closet space is one thing, but sharing one house is completely different. He gives me another squeeze. I bite the side of my cheek, suck in a breath, and look over at him. Only, he looks nothing like a man who has a problem with sharing a house with his new girlfriend. No, he's looking at me with a soft smile, and something that looks real close to reverence bright in his green eyes.
"Nothing against your place, baby, but I've got the garage for all my cars and one hell of a view from every window in my house. You got The Strip lights but not the mountains. Closet's good, but you're right; it isn't mine."
"Uh," I lamely offer.
"Should also point out you don't have the pool, theater, a bigger gym, or the kitchen you like to remind me is the best thing ever."
"Whoa, big guy, I was just kidding." Piper laughs, but even she doesn't seem sure if he's serious or just playing off something she made awkward.
"You mighta been. I wasn't." Oh, okay. Wow.
The waitress comes up to our table, and we order. We make small talk, but all I can hear is Thorn admitting he was serious. His "I wasn't" plays in my mind over and over. Thankfully, Matt's massive jerk attitude doesn't take long to resurface, distracting me from my thoughts.
"So, Thor, what is it that you do?"
"You want try that again? We both know you know my name."
Matt's facade doesn't crack even though he was just called out. I have a feeling he thinks his question is a way to put Thorn down. He used Thorn's casual dress to wrongly assume that Thorn isn't successful just because he isn't wearing something else. Of course, Matt's still wearing what I imagine he had on for work. He wouldn't change for a relaxing meal with friends when he can wear his outfit like a mask, showing off like he's way more important than he is.
"I own my own business," Thorn answers vaguely. That's my guy, recognizing Matt's play instantly and playing the game right along with him. Only he's one step ahead.
"Oh, yeah? Doing what?"
"I guess you could say I'm in entertainment," he answers, pausing and leaning back with a smug smile. "I own The Alibi."
I don't look away from Matt, and when I see panic flash over his face, I feel that like a victory. Not what he expected, I'm sure. Not even close to what he might have assumed. Piper might turn a blind eye to what her fiance does when he has a few hours to spare, but I'm sure he'll be finding a new strip club to frequent now.
"Your boyfriend owns a strip club?" he asks, covering his initial shock. I should have anticipated that. Matt doesn't just give up. Not when he thinks he found a way to gain the upper hand. "You sure do know how to pick them, Paris. Next thing you'll tell me is you picked him right off the stage."
I tighten my jaw. I hate that he always calls me Paris.
Thorn moves, jerking up from that relaxed position, and slams his open hand against the table with a loud crack. I jump, and Piper lets out a little squeak. I look over at her and hate Matt a little more than I already do when I see her mouth say that she's sorry.
"You'd do best to show Ari respect, Matt." Thorn sounds venomous.
"It's okay, honey." I sigh, reaching over and taking Thorn's now clenched fist and bringing it back down to my lap, rubbing circles against his skin until he relaxes some. "Not that it's any of your business, Matt, but the day he picked me was one of the best days I've ever had. And even if he was on the stage and not in the office, I would still feel the same. So get off your high horse when you're far from being some bright, shiny star. You work for your dad. We both know that's the only reason you have that job."
"Piper, we will be discussing this later," Matt fumes toward Pipe.
I see her chin wobble, and I hate him for it, but I also hate that I let him get under my skin.
"Talk about what?" Thorn interjects immediately, wisely picking up on the shift.
"If you must know, not that it's any of your business, I expect Piper to uphold a certain image. She's going to have a few things to think about when it comes to her association with Ari."
A tear falls down her cheek.
She bats it away before Matt can see it.
"Matt, please." Piper reaches out and wraps her hands around his forearm, but he jerks it away.
"If you'll excuse us," Matt hisses at Thorn and me. Grabbing Piper by the bicep, he basically drags her toward the restrooms.
"Tell me he isn't going to hurt her, and I'll stay where I am."
"He wouldn't," I answer.
"Fuck," Thorn snarls.
Thorn doesn't stop staring at the hallway they disappeared down. I can tell he wants to follow them to make sure Piper's okay, but he manages to stay seated. Our food comes at the same time they rejoin us. I can tell Piper had been crying, but she just shakes her head and places her napkin in her lap. Her red-rimmed eyes don't look back up once.
"Well, let's eat," Matt says, chipper as can be.
Thorn leans over the table. "You'll do well to make sure your fiancee doesn't ever have that expression on her face. Not when I'm around and not when I'm not. Her association with Ari? That's got not one fucking thing to do with either of us. Remember that. You try to pull
the two of them apart with your bullshit, knowing damn well they're close as family, and we're going to have problems. Understand?" His voice is scary low. Sitting at the table while they were gone cost him when he saw Piper's tears, I have no doubt, and he made sure to let Matt know just how much in a way that wouldn't embarrass the person he was defending.
Matt nods, but I have a feeling even Thorn knows he's full of it.
What a nightmare.
In every way possible
"What's the story with Piper and Matt?"
I shift in bed, turning in his arms, and sigh. I knew this question would come sooner than later, and I'm honestly surprised he waited this long to ask it.
We got back home--my house this time--a few hours ago. Dinner ended just as strained as it began. I was mentally exhausted from dealing with Matt and feeling nothing but sadness that Piper was with someone like him when she deserved so much more. I know it cost Thorn to keep his cool. Had it not been for Piper and me being there, I know he wouldn't have.
The only thing I had enough energy for when we got home was kicking my shoes off, feeding the cats, and pulling one of Thorn's dress shirts from a few days before from the hamper and slipping it on. He switched his jeans for an old pair of sweats and lost the shirt. After we got comfortable, we settled on the couch. I watched some of the recorded shows from the past week, and he checked his emails, returned a few calls, and basically humored me through an hour of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
That brought us to now.
"Aside from her fiance being the biggest jerk in the world, you mean?"
"That I already sorted out. I'm just trying to figure out what the fuck she's doing with him when he's not only a fucking dick, but she's also clearly not happy."
"I don't even know where to start, to be honest. He grew up with us. They started dating young. Middle of high school, I think. At the beginning, it was really more like passing notes and the occasional date. Even back then, though, even when they were too young to have more than the label of a couple, it still wasn't a good relationship. Piper's been in love with the idea of love since we were kids, so even when he would ignore her or make fun of her with his football teammates and followers, it didn't matter. I think he's made her feel like she couldn't do better, that she would never do better, so she stuck around. I know deep down she doesn't love Matt, but instead of thinking she couldn't do better, she's now afraid of him. He's made her that way, but because that young girl who fell in love with the idea of love is still in there somewhere, she's basically convinced herself things will change. I tried getting her to move in with me once before they got engaged, but she said she would be a burden and wouldn't hear anything more on it. Her parents are divorced, both moved about an hour away when we graduated, but they don't have a lot of money to help her anyway. Her sisters couldn't help even though they would. Everything she earns from Trend goes toward the lifestyle Matt tries to keep up with. To her, he's her only option, I think. I keep hoping one day she'll wake up and realize she's better than him, but until then, I just keep making sure she knows she actually does have other options."
"Has she ever tried to leave him?"
I nod, resting my chin against the hand I have on his chest. "Back in college, before things got worse. Some stuff happened to her when they weren't together, stuff that isn't my place to share, but it spooked her into being afraid of being without someone more than being with someone she feared. I think she took him back because she felt safer with someone who doesn't care about her as long as she wasn't alone."
"Does he hurt her?"
"Emotionally, yeah. Physically? I-I'm not sure. I've never seen any bruises, but you saw how he is. I try to talk to her about it, but she gets real mad when I do. Last time, she didn't speak to me for almost a month."
"Right. You give her that offer again to move in with you, Ari. Keep trying until she agrees. It's time for us to get her the fuck away from him. You can work on getting her to realize what she does deserve after you hand her the keys to your house."
I blink at him. "Did I miss something?"
"You sat in my car when I told you we were solid in a way that there was no end, weren't you?"
A rush of air leaves me. He did mean what I thought he did. "It's been two months!"
"You going to change how you feel about us after another two months pass?"
I snort. "Highly unlikely."
"Then, Ari, get your girl in your house. Tell her whatever the fuck you need to, but starting tomorrow, we work on getting her the fuck away from that guy. All that matters is getting her safe."
I settle back into his side.
"One stone, two birds, baby. She's safe, and it'll be a lot easier for me when I can make sure you don't have to worry about selling this place when you move to mine."
I widen my eyes, stare at the television, and try to figure out if I've just somehow agreed to move in with my boyfriend.
Sleep didn't come easy that night, but I finally managed to drift off about an hour before my alarm went off. I groggily move from the bed, silence the alarm, and head to the bathroom. I grab my robe off the hook on the door and cover up my naked body on the way. It's a miracle I managed to leave the bed with Thorn looking as good as he did with the sheet just barely covering his naked body.
After taking care of business, I wash my face and brush my teeth. When I hear my alarm go off again, followed by Thorn cursing under his breath about better ways to wake up, I smile at my reflection. He enters the bathroom a minute later. I turn, place my butt against the counter, and watch his naked body as he moves to the little closet area where the toilet is separated from the rest of the bathroom. I don't look away. He glances over his shoulder and shakes his head.
"What?" I smirk and try to look innocent.
"Watching me piss has you looking hungry as fuck."
"You look really good in the morning. It can't be helped. And, well, it's not you using the restroom that I'm thinking about. It's just hot to watch you touch your penis, no matter what you're doing. It's really hot."
Heat flashes in his eyes.
"Cock, baby. Penis is for chumps who don't know what they're doing with it."
I blush. I'm not used to such candor. I lost my virginity to a man who didn't deserve it, but he was the one who always made me call it a penis. Thorn's right; that is most definitely for those who don't know what they're doing.
"Fuck, you're cute. You like watching me touch myself, baby?" he asks, stepping up to the sink and washing his hands before grabbing the toothbrush he keeps in the little decorative holder with mine and brushing his teeth. Effectively easing my mind from where it had veered.
My eyes roam over him, every single hard inch, and I lick my lips. He laughs the best he can with a mouthful of foam, then bends to spit and rinse. He drops the toothbrush onto the counter, then pulls me against him. I don't even care that he's missed the holder for the brush because, with my robe wide open, his naked bits are against my naked bits.
"We've got a problem, babe. You feel me?" he asks, flexing his hips to make me feel just how big of a problem we have.
"I feel you, honey."
"Then get your ass back in bed so we can take care of it."
Heat licks across my skin from the rush of arousal caused by his words. I spin when he releases me, letting the robe fall from my shoulders and onto the ground. Before I can climb back into my bed, Thorn's hands are on my hips, spinning me back around. My belly flutters, and an eruption of heat pools between my legs. His mouth is on mine, our tongues sliding together. Kissing me deeply, he moves us so that my back is on the mattress with his body over me. He keeps inching our bodies across the mattress until my head is just inches away from hanging off the edge.
Then he lifts his mouth from mine and starts kissing a hot trail down my neck. His mouth closes around one nipple, sucking it deep and swirling his tongue around the sensitive pe
ak. His hand causing heavenly torture to my other breast. I cry out when he bites down, soothing the pain away with a lazy lick before looking up at me. He doesn't glance away, keeping his eyes on me while he starts kissing his way down my body. My erratic breathing mingling with the hungry sounds he keeps making from deep in his throat, tickling my skin. Just when I think he couldn't possibly drive me any higher, he grabs the back of my thighs and lifts my hips off the mattress.
Then he winks and drops his mouth to my pussy and feasts. There's no other word for how his mouth and tongue are moving against my core. His sinfully talented mouth takes me to the top and over the crest in seconds. I cry out his name, blind with desire. Even though he shows no signs of relenting, I hold him to me until my body quakes with aftershocks. Still, he doesn't stop. He growls against me, his tongue sliding into my body before gliding back up my slit.
"More," he demands, his lips hovering over my pussy as he looks at me up the length of my body. He leans back down, inhales, and then I get his eyes again. "Fuck, you smell just as good as you taste."
"Thorn, please, baby."
"Give me what I want, then you can have what you need."
He opens his mouth, covering so much of me, and sucks hard. His tongue flicks against my clit, driving me right back up the peak I just crashed down. He shifts, his lips moving over me, and nips at the sensitive flesh. When two thick fingers enter me, curling deep, he drops his mouth to my clit and sucks so intensely I swear I see stars. My whole body jerks, my back arches off the mattress, and I grab the back of his head again. Only this time, it's not to keep him there as much as it is to use him to get there faster. I start rocking against his mouth as every inch of my body comes alive.
Seconds later, I scream his name and feel a burst of wetness leave my body. I almost feel embarrassed, not understanding what just happened, but if the sounds he's making are anything to go by, he's a very happy man and I shouldn't worry. I keep gasping for the breath I can't seem to find. His fingers continue to pump inside me, slower this time, even though I'm well and truly spent. The wet sounds from my body get louder with each twist and push of his wrist.
"Fuck me," he hisses, lifting his mouth and looking down at his busy hand. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"