Foreplay, p.32
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       Foreplay, p.32

         Part #1 of The Ivy Chronicles series by Sophie Jordan
Page 32

  Author: Sophie Jordan

  I blushed as Lila made a point to sit on the far side of the big, comfy couch, making sure I had to sit beside her brother. Not exactly subtle.

  After scrolling through movies to rent, we selected the new James Bond movie.

  “Want some Chex Mix?” Hunter asked after it started.

  I groaned, rubbing my stomach. “I can’t eat for another month. ”

  “I’ll have some. ” Lila pushed PAUSE as Hunter headed downstairs, then directed a hard stare at me.

  “All right, so what’s the plan?”

  I shook my head. “Plan?”

  “Yeah . . . you want me to fake a headache so you two can have some alone time?”

  I shook my head. “No, no. Don’t do that. I want to spend some time with you, too. ”

  “We’re shopping tomorrow and doing lunch. We’ll have the whole day. This is the only time you two have before you head back on Sunday. ”

  “It’s fine, really,” I hissed as I heard his returning steps thudding on the stairs.

  “Here he comes,” she whispered, giving me a knowing wink and settling back into the corner of the couch. She punched PLAY on the remote.

  I shook my head at her, hoping to convey that she shouldn’t invent some excuse to leave me alone with her brother.

  Thirty minutes later, she released an exaggerated sigh. “I’m really tired. Guess turkey really does make you sleepy, huh?” She unfolded her sleek dancer legs that she had tucked under her and rose gracefully to her feet. “I’m going to bed. Need my beauty sleep. Especially if we’re going to hit all those sales in the morning. I’ll pick up you up at seven, Pepper. Okay?”

  I glared at her as she waved good night.

  Hunter smiled easily at me. I forced a smile back, willing away my sudden discomfort. I turned my attention back to the movie, but didn’t really see anything. Just images flashing on the screen that I couldn’t process.

  His arm stretched along the back of the couch behind me. I felt it there, the fingers grazing softly at my shoulder. I noted the passing of minutes on the digital clock on the Blu-ray player. Ten minutes. He shifted on the couch. The graze of his fingers was a full-blown touch. Fifteen minutes. His fingers moved, stroking my shoulder in small circles.

  My stomach knotted with anxiety, torn between wanting him to make a move and wanting to flee. Was he waiting for an invitation? I couldn’t help thinking that Reece would have acted by now. I’d be under him. Or over him. We’d have half our clothes off and his hands would be everywhere. My pulse jackknifed against my throat, remembering how it was with him.

  Suddenly I found myself staring at Hunter, studying his profile. Even though his hand stroked my shoulder, he was watching the movie, following the characters through the action scenes. He must have sensed my stare. He turned. I held his gaze.

  “Pepper?” His voice fell softly, hesitant and inquiring.

  I closed the distance and kissed him. Pushed my lips against his own and serious-as-a-heart-attack kissed him, willing myself to forget Reece in the taste of him.

  He was motionless for a second before reacting. Before kissing me back. He was a good kisser. I recognized that at once. He knew what to do. With his lips. His tongue. His hand came up to hold my face like I was something precious and fragile. Even so, I didn’t feel it. The zing, the consuming ache filling every inch of me.

  Sensation didn’t slam through me like it did with Reece. Had. Like it had with him. I reminded myself of that. Had. It was over.

  Desperate, frustrated for something to be there between us, for me to feel something—Oh, God, anything—with Hunter, I climbed up on my knees and straddled him, never breaking my mouth from his.

  He stilled, obviously startled, for half a second before his mouth resumed kissing. He was definitely into it now, groaning when I nipped at his lip, sucking it between my teeth. His hands skimmed down my back, his palms stroking up and down rhythmically.

  I tore my lips from his and kissed his jaw, his neck, sucking at the warm skin.

  His hand buried in the back of my hair. “God. Pepper. What are you doing to me?”

  His words sank inside my mind, forming into a very real question. What was I doing?

  The answer came back to me, clear and ugly, resounding like a bell in my ears. Using him. Searching for something, desperate to feel with him what I felt when I was with Reece.

  Only it wasn’t working. It wasn’t there. Not with him.

  I lifted my lips from his throat and stared down at him, stunned, horrified. He blinked, looking up at me, his deep brown eyes glassy with desire. “Pepper? Everything okay?”

  I shook my head, words stuck in my throat.

  “Hunter! Lila and Pepper!” Mrs. Montgomery called from the base of the stairs. “We’re putting up the desserts. Want any first?”

  Annoyance flashed across Hunter’s face at the interruption. “No thanks, Mom!” His gaze zeroed back on me. He brushed his thumb against my cheek. “Pepper?”

  “I—I need to go home. ”


  I nodded and climbed off him. “Yes. I gotta get up early to meet Lila. ”

  He rose to his feet, one hand stretching out for me like he wanted to touch me but was unsure. “Are we okay?”

  I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, avoiding his gaze. He actually sounded worried. “Yeah. We’re good. ”

  “Is it that guy from Gino’s? Reece?”

  My gaze snapped back to him. “Why do you ask that?”

  “I saw how you were together. ”

  “We’re not together,” I snapped, too quickly probably.

  “You’re more than friends. I could see that much. ”

  “No,” I bit out. “We’re not. ”

  He nodded slowly, as if trying to accept that. “Okay. Good. Then I—” He stopped and dragged a hand through his hair. “Then I want to give us a shot, Pepper. I’ve been thinking about you a lot the last couple of weeks. I know it’s tricky considering you and my sister are best friends, but I think it’s worth the risk. ”

  This was it. Finally. He was offering what I’d always wanted. A chance to be with him. The rest, the fireworks I’d felt with Reece, they would come. They had to. I refused to believe otherwise.

  “I want to try, too,” I said slowly, the words withering something inside me. What was wrong with me? Where was the elation?

  He reached for my arm, slid his fingers down, and captured my hand in his. “Well, all right then. Let’s do this. I’m going to court you, Pepper. ”

  “Court me?”

  “Yeah. Like you deserve. ”

  God. It was like a dream. Those words. From Hunter. Directed at me.

  I knew I should say something. “Oh,” I managed to get out.

  He smiled, seemingly unbothered at my lack of enthusiasm.

  Holding my hand, he walked me outside to Mrs. Lansky’s car parked in their circular driveway. I unlocked the door.

  “I’ll pick you up Sunday morning. Eight o’clock okay?”

  I nodded, accepting his quick peck on the lips.

  He opened the driver’s door for me and I slid inside. Buckling my seat belt, I started the car and waved good-bye.

  Pepper, you home already?” Gram poked her head in my room. I didn’t bother telling her I’d been home for over an hour and it was already eleven thirty. Gram slept off and on throughout the day like a cat. I didn’t know if it was her age, the pain of
her arthritis, or the myriad of medicines she took keeping her up all hours.

  “Yes, Gram. I got home a little while ago. ”

  She stood at the threshold in her housecoat. The kind that snaps up the front. She still wore one of those. I’m not sure what store even sold them anymore, but she seemed to have an endless supply of them.

  Her heavily lined mouth worked in an exaggerated manner before speaking, her tongue darting to moisten her lips. I asked her once why she did that and she said her medication made her mouth dry. “Did you have a good time at the Montgomerys’?”

  “Yes, Gram. They all said to tell you Happy Thanksgiving. ”

  “Ah, that’s nice. Well, good night, dear. ” Gram’s feet shuffled down the hall, leaving me alone again. I stared at my ceiling, watching the spinning blades of the fan. That sound had lulled me to sleep for so many years. Years when I had lain in this bed fantasizing over becoming Mrs. Hunter Montgomery. And now we were dating. He wanted to court me. Take that, former cheerleaders of Taylor High School.

  Turning onto my side, I curled myself around my pillow, hugging it close. It wasn’t a stuffed animal, but I hugged it like it was. Few stuffed animals had ever graced my room. Not since Purple Bear. I was too old to cling to stuffed animals, but the pillow felt comforting and familiar.

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