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Unconscious Hearts, Page 9

Harper Sloan

  Nope. I was too sated to do anything more than shift when he came back, pulling the sheets around us and dropping down with a groan, my body moving to curl around his without thought. If only he hadn't been so good at owning me, then maybe I would care that the only parts of him touching me were the parts I was curled against.

  But as sleep claimed me, all I could feel was beautifully used.

  My skin tingled. The soft weight of Ari's body against my skin burning deep to the bone. My cock, still fucking hard, begging me to push her on to her back and get into that hot fucking pussy again.

  I've never, not once, felt anything tighter than her pussy.


  She was so tight, I checked for blood before flushing the condom down the toilet, half convinced she was a virgin. She admitted it had been a while, but it felt like it had been more like never. The thought alone thrilled me more than it should.

  Staring up at my ceiling, I continue to ignore the urge to take her again. I don't let myself reach down and pull her tighter against me. I refuse to press the delicate hand against my chest tighter. I deny the whispered voice inside my head that screams at me for being too fucked up to know how to offer her something that would keep her in my bed longer.

  I should be happy. I got what I wanted. I've had her. I can let her go and be satisfied that I didn't even have to work that hard to get another available pussy in my bed.

  Only, I'm not because, fuck me, that wouldn't all be a lie.

  Wilder was right when he said no pussy was worth working as hard as I did to get Ari's--even if it wasn't really that hard at all. Only, he was also wrong because now that I've had it, I know I would have worked a hell of a lot harder to get not just her pussy ... but her.

  "Shit," I hiss, rubbing my face with my hand and finally allowing my other arm to curl around her body, pulling her deeper against me.

  I knew something was between us. I fucking knew it. But I didn't prepare myself for that shit to be so fucking strong. I was willing to forget all the lessons I've learned in over forty years, and be a man a woman would want to work past all my goddamn issues for.

  And because I'm so fucked up, I have no clue what to do now.

  Ari moves, interrupting my thoughts, and lifts one leg up until I feel her wet pussy against my thigh, relaxing even further against me. Her hand leaves my chest in a glide that has it resting at my side with her arm across my body. Only then does she stop moving and a content sigh leaves her lips.

  Fuck it.

  I allow myself to move, pulling her slack body closer, tangling our legs together, and dropping my free hand to hold her arm against my chest.

  Tomorrow, I can figure it out.

  Tomorrow, I'll do my best to convince her to keep giving herself to me.

  Tomorrow, I'll do the one thing I've never fucking done in my life.

  Make a woman more than just a body to fuck.

  I take a deep breath, careful not to stir the sleeping woman in my arms, and look down at the beautiful face tipped just slightly to be looking toward mine in her dreams. Only then do I bend my head, bringing my lips down to press against her slack ones. I feel that one-sided kiss with so much brute force, it's like the iron box my heart's encased in might--for the first time in my life--have found a weakness against its armor.



  So much warmth, I'm burning alive from the heat.

  That, and the sheen of sweat I'm covered in because of it, are the first things I notice when my sluggish mind starts to come awake in small degrees.

  I start to stretch, my whole body feeling like I have run a marathon, and come awake instantly when I feel the hardness behind me that could only be one thing.

  A man.

  Or, more specifically, a Thorn.

  Oh, my God.

  Everything we shared comes rushing over me, so overwhelming that I can't handle the enormity of what I'm feeling. I just know I need to get the heck out of here. Panic wins over every emotion I feel pulling me in different directions.

  It takes what feels like forever to pull his heavy arm from where it's resting over my body. He doesn't so much as twitch when I start to slide out from under it, quickly grabbing a pillow from his mammoth bed and replacing my body with it, careful to lower his arm back down around it. The chill from losing his warmth bathes my naked skin in chills.

  He looks so peaceful. The hardness that I had become used to in his features, nowhere to be found. The imposing power that I have no doubt he holds, not as intimidating when he's relaxed in slumber. I force myself to move, not taking the time to enjoy the exposed skin not covered by his dark navy sheets.

  I ignore my bladder, rushing around the room to grab my clothes--or what I can find of them. My dress and shoes on the ground next to the bed are the first things I grab. My clutch a little farther away, reminding me how it went flying at the same time I did last night. When I find my underwear, I drop them back to the ground when I realize they're useless with the sides ripped.

  Where is my bra?

  I whip my head around frantically, but when my phone starts to ring in my clutch, I rush from his room, naked, not even caring that I'll be doing the walk of shame without anything under my dress, if that means keeping my phone from waking him before I can make my escape.

  It takes me a second, but I manage to get my phone out without dropping my dress and shoes, quickly accepting the call before the second ring can start. I pull my dress up my legs without dropping my phone as I jam my cell between my shoulder and ear.

  "Yeah," I gasp, not paying much attention as I push my arms in and halfway zip it up. Silence greets me as I step into my heels and start searching for a way out of this house, finishing the zip on my dress while I do. I almost drop my clutch a few times, but by the time I find the stairs, I'm able to take my phone in my hand and hold on to the banister with the other. "Hello?" I repeat, rushing down the steps.

  "You keep popping up where you shouldn't be."

  I stop dead at the base of the stairs. The large foyer registers slightly as nothing short of stunning, but my sister's voice paralyzes me.

  "For years, you don't pick up! You keep yourself gone like you're so good at doing, and without the constant reminder of you, I finally was able to make him happy. Then you're everywhere in just a handful of days! And all I've heard in those fucking handfuls of days is Paris this and PARIS that!"

  "London," I whisper.

  "No, Paris. You've ignored my calls and my messages for too long. It's time to listen to what I have to say. I did my best to erase you from our lives, but you just won't fucking go away so I can! On the weekend of the anniversary of Mom and Dad's death, of all times, you're fucking everywhere! Do I need to remind you ONE MORE FUCKING TIME what you took when you tried to keep a man?! What was lost because of you!"

  I don't reply, unable to speak past the lump in my throat, and disconnect the call. This time, I rush toward the door with a different feeling filling me. One that is full of pain. The memories of the past slam into me; it's a miracle I'm able to even get outside, and at some point, in my sprint down the driveway, I get an Uber ordered.

  It isn't until my Uber arrives ten minutes later that I stop hyperventilating. The shaking doesn't stop until he's dropped me off in the empty parking lot of The Hunting Ground. But, the tears still don't come. Not on the drive home. Not in the run from my garage to the house. Not until I'm in the closet of my guest room with pictures thrown all over the ground around me.

  My sister and me, around sixteen, well before we left for college, and she started to hate me.

  My parents, alive, one Christmas morning a few years before they died.

  My mom and I at Trend.

  My sister and dad in the garden.

  My sister.

  My parents.

  My heartbreak.

  Dwight joins me, curling into my side where I had collapsed, and I feel the pain of just hearing her voice over and over.
br />   This is why I have no one.

  This is why I keep to myself, not letting my heart open for something that could hurt me like they all did. I thought I knew pain when we lost our parents. Even if London had started hating me for reasons I never understood before that, losing them meant I lost the one connection that guaranteed I wouldn't lose her completely. Only, she made sure that connection was severed in a way it would never be whole again. And, in doing so, ensured I would be alone forever because of it.

  The only person I had left is the one who refused to leave--Piper.

  I gasp, a sob getting caught in my throat, and clutch Dwight to my chest when I stand. I trip over my own feet, still feeling the soreness from Thorn in my tired muscles, and grab the landline phone next to the bed in my guest room. Dialing Piper's number, I curl my body into a ball on the bed.

  "Hey, girlfriend! I didn't think I would hear from you this early! Tell me--"

  "I need you," I cry into the phone, interrupting her.

  I don't hang up until she's told me she's on her way. Then I disconnect and let the phone roll from my fingers and onto the ground. Dwight, for once, lets me hold him tight without complaining.

  It doesn't take Piper long. It feels like only seconds, but not long after I had hung up with her, I hear her loudly entering the house. Front door slams, her keys, and whatever else, falling to the floor, then her rushed steps echo throughout the house. All the while, she's screaming my name at the top of her lungs.

  "Oh, my God, Ari! What happened?!" She drops down on the mattress, causing Dwight to hiss before scurrying off. She places one hand against my arm and dips down until she's looking in my eyes. "Did he hurt you? If he hurt you ..." She trails off, and I hate the pain I hear in her voice.

  "He didn't hurt me," I whisper, closing my eyes tight against the memories of Thorn.

  "Then who did? He was the last person you were with!"

  "I don't think he would hurt me," I confess.

  "Don't or didn't?"

  "He didn't hurt me! He doesn't even know I'm gone!"

  I look up to see her confusion and sigh.

  "London called. London called, and I was too busy trying to sneak out that I didn't even think to check the caller ID on my cell before answering. London called, and I was too busy running scared from the way Thorn made me feel to check. I always check!"

  "Oh, Ari."

  "I forgot, you know. It's been so long since I let someone get close enough to make me feel more. I hadn't remembered what it felt like when they inevitably left. I forgot what it feels like. I can't believe I did, but I still forgot."

  "Ari, stop," Piper begs, her voice thick with emotion.

  "No! Don't you see? I forgot. Seven years of always remembering, and I just forgot. London just reminded me what happens when I stop being alone. When I let someone close, just like I did with Thorn, I just hurt others."

  "Your sister is wrong. Nothing that happened was your fault. Your parents wouldn't want you to be alone, honey. How is getting close to Thorn hurting anyone? He's single. You're single. It's not messy. You deserve a chance to have something not messy."

  "She must have seen me," I continue, not hearing Piper. "She must have seen us. I don't know when, but I know I didn't look unhappy in his presence once last night. I should be. I should be, especially so close to the day I found out what real pain is! I FORGOT! I forgot!"

  "Would you stop it!" Piper yells, jarring me with a shake of my shoulders. "You didn't forget, dammit! You've started to heal! I've waited so long to see that happen, and I refuse to let that bitch sister of yours try to ruin things when you are finally on the way to letting it all go and healing. All the twisted things she's said and done to you, that is what you are forgetting. And thank God you are. You're busy putting the pieces back together, and honey, that's not forgetting, that's learning how to live again!"

  I shake my head, not believing her.

  "But it was my fault," I gasp, my tears falling faster. "I don't deserve to live again!"

  "Yes! Yes, you do! You deserve a beautiful life again. They died, and it was tragic, and the timing sucked, but it wasn't because of you."

  "They wouldn't have been out that night if it wouldn't have been for me."

  "Wrong. So wrong! How many times do I have to tell you that?"

  "It doesn't matter."

  "It damn sure does if, because of London stirring this up again, you're going to push away someone who I've seen make you come alive for the first time in seven damn years!"

  "It's done."

  "What's done?"

  "Thorn. He got what he wanted. Papers are signed. It's just ... done." Admitting that, feeling the taste of those words on my lips, makes me want to take them back.

  "Don't do this, Ari."

  My mind all over the place, I push my pain down and sit up. My movement forces Piper from her lean over me.

  "I'm going to need you to cover things at the store if you don't mind. I think I need to take some time to get my head straight."

  "Of course, but Ari, we need to talk about this."

  "Do you want to stay for brunch? I can cook us something." I look at the clock on the dresser across the room and frown.

  "Ari," she continues.

  "Actually"--I sigh, not listening and needing to concentrate on something that will take my focus somewhere else--"I'm not sure what I have as far as brunch food, and it's close enough to lunch that we could probably just have that. We could order in, or I can still cook us lunch?"

  "I'm not fucking hungry!"

  I blink at her, then stand and start to walk out of my guest room.

  "Ari, seriously."

  I keep walking, reaching behind me to pull my zipper down on the way to my bedroom. Stepping out of it with a kick toward the hamper, I enter my master bathroom. I turn on my shower, my sister's words echoing through my mind. Only, they all vanish when I hear Piper gasp from the doorway.

  "Are those handprints?" she screeches, her eyes on my body.

  I glance at the mirror across from me, seeing Thorn's mark on my skin, and push down my initial thoughts--the ones that tell me to run back to him--before meeting Piper's shocked face and shrug, feigning indifference. "Yeah."

  "Yeah? That's it? Just yeah?"

  "What else do you want me to say?" I yell, twisting to narrow my eyes at my best friend. "Yes, they're handprints? Handprints from the most amazing experience I've ever shared with a man? That they're a reminder of just how explosive that experience was? That the tender bruising will be the only thing I feel from him again because IT'S DONE!?"

  "Honey," she says softly; sadly, her tone full of pity. "We need--"

  "No. We aren't talking about that. I need you to be here with me and take my mind off what my sister said. I need you to be the best friend who refused to leave when I lost everything and didn't try to talk me into anything I wasn't ready for. That's what I need. I'm going to shower so I can't smell the memory of last night anymore. Then I'm going to cover my body up so I can't see what I shared with the man I can't let myself have. Okay?"

  She studies me, then nods sadly. "Okay, Ari. Okay."

  "Okay," I repeat, stepping into the shower and rinsing off my beautiful night. The pain of losing the scent of him off my body--losing him--almost as strong as what my sister's call did to me--making me remember what I had allowed myself to forget.


  Come back to life, Ari

  My phone rings ... again.

  I feel Piper's accusatory stare. The same one she's been giving me all afternoon since I refused to speak about what happened this morning. I don't move. I ignore her burning gaze and keep my eyes on the show we've been watching. Television is safe.

  "You should get that," she tells me for the millionth time that day, breaking the silence.




  I close my eyes.

  Everything I've watched on television today, small scents
hitting my senses over the hours, or even pictures in the magazine I flipped through earlier ... have been constant reminders of the man I ran from. The hold he has on me makes no sense. Even the dog food commercial that played during the last break got me. I instantly wondered if he liked dogs or cats. Seriously, I was on the cusp of losing it over a man who I, for all intents and purposes, don't even know anything about. Well, aside from our ridiculous chemistry, that is.

  My ringer continues, and I know without a doubt that it's him calling. With Piper still here, I can't think of anyone else who would be calling me over and over. Plus, there's the little fact that I ran out on him this morning. Something tells me a man like Thorn Evans isn't used to women fleeing the scene. Ever.

  The ringing stops.

  I let out the breath I had been holding.

  He'll give up.

  He never said he wanted more than what we shared. He wanted me to beg him to take me, and I did. He wanted me, and there's no doubt what we shared last night was what he meant by that. He had me. That's hardly cause for him to put forth this much effort to break through my silence. In a different world, I would have woken up with him and asked him straight up for more. But that's not my reality.

  He'll move on to someone easier.

  The ringing starts again.

  Or maybe he'll move on after this call.

  "Seriously. This is so ridiculous. I've let you sit there and be miserable all day, but enough, Ari Daniels. Enough! I don't care what you think you need; I'm going to give you what I know you need."

  I don't open my eyes. I keep my head back, resting against the couch. I also don't correct her. She's right; I've been stewing in my own pain and misery all day. I'm not that person--the one who sinks to the bottom and doesn't try to get back up. But I also am. I very much am. I sink to the bottom, then I climb back up, but I remember what made that fall possible in the first place and avoid the pain of hitting my knees again by holding those memories up like a shield.

  That's me, Paris Avoidance Daniels.

  "I'm going to say some things that I should have told you years ago. I'm going to say them, and I don't give a shit if you like what I have to say. I don't care if you think you aren't ready to hear it or hearing what you think you need. I refuse to let you be sucked back into that depression your bitch sister always succeeds in putting you in, closing yourself off from finding that beautiful life you deserve. So, ready or not, it's time for some harsh truths, my friend. First, letting someone get close does not mean you're going to lose them. You don't need to keep your heart locked away from feeling. Look at me, honey. I've been here, and our friendship doesn't mean you will feel pain. I'm as close as it gets, and you won't lose me. Your loss, their lives, that shouldn't be something that keeps you from finding more in life! They died, Ari! They died on their way to you because they loved you so much; the thought of you being upset was too much for them to sit at home and ignore. Tragic--God, it was--but knowing that, can you honestly say they would want you to use their loss to keep from moving on and finding that 'something more'?"