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Special Delivery by Reagan Shaw (1)

Noah

And the award for sexiest ass goes to…

I stood to one side of the dance floor, staring at her. Fuck it, I couldn’t help myself. That back, that ass, encased in a silvery dress, skintight. This woman put J. Lo to shame. She was animated too, talking to a couple of the other wedding guests, shoulder-length white-blonde hair brushing her neck with each bout of laughter.

That laugh, too. She’d throw her head back, and her shoulders would shake. Her entire body trembled. I liked that in a woman—that “I don’t give a rat’s ass” laugh.

Hot fucking damn.

Relax, nimrod, you’re not here for this.

“Noah!” My best bud’s voice rang out, close by. “There you are. I lost you after the ceremony.”

I turned toward him, putting fantasies of the unknown beauty on hold, and grinned at Marc. Shit, any other best man would’ve made a joking speech about the end of his bachelor life, about all the shit we’d gotten up to in high school. I’d opted to congratulate him instead. To say something heartfelt.

I wanted my buddy happy, and he was happy with Jess. That was all that mattered.

Marc and I bear hugged it out and I thumped him on the back. “Shit, man, you’re married. How does it feel?”

“It feels great,” he replied, then laughed at the ill-masked doubt that must’ve read all over my face. “I’m serious, man, you should try it sometime. Settling down with someone you love. It makes a world of difference.” The fucker was practically ablaze from the inside out. Definitely the happiest I’d seen him.

Just because I didn’t put any stock in love didn’t mean I’d put that on him or say it outright. “Couldn’t be happier for you.” I clapped him on the back again. “Now, you’d better get out of here before your bride—”

Someone tapped me on the back, below my shoulder blade, and I stepped aside, frowning. I wasn’t accustomed to interruptions, especially when they came during a chat with Marc. We’d been buds since he’d moved in a couple doors down from me in middle school.

“May I cut in?” It was the woman in the silver dress. Except, it wasn’t just “the woman.” It was Marc’s little sister, Erika.

My mind froze and frustration poured through me. Every muscle in my body tightened up at the sight of her.

How long had it been? Ten years? Eleven? The last time I’d seen her was the day I’d left for med school. She’d stood on her front porch and flipped me off. I’d returned the favor.

God, she was gorgeous. Gorgeous, intelligent, frustrating, and she’d matured from my love-to-hate high-school crush into a woman. A tits-out, smart-mouthed, “the world is my fucking oyster” woman.

“Dude,” Marc said, “you’re staring.”

I snapped my mouth shut and refrained from commenting.

Erika’s bright green eyes traveled from her brother to me and then back again. “I just wanted to wish you well, Marky Moo,” she said, and embraced her brother. “And apologize for missing the ceremony. And accuse you of trying to freeze your guests alive. A month before Christmas, are you kidding?”

“Hey, there’s heating in here. No one asked you to come scantily clad.”

Erika tinkled a laugh.

“And don’t worry about the ceremony, sis,” Marc said. “I’m just glad you made it.”

“You missed your own brother’s wedding?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. That suited her perfectly. Erika had always been self-involved. She’d avoided popularity like the plague and stuck to her books rather than making friends.

She turned a cold gaze on me now. “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot you were there. Maybe it’s because you’ve been standing there with a mouth full of teeth for the past five minutes.”

“Ha,” I snorted. “You haven’t changed.” It was always like this with her. The tension between us, my sheer fucking desire to own her, body and soul, made me say stupid shit. I wanted her but I could never touch her without pissing off Marc, and that meant I had to push her away.

Shit, maybe Erika did really hate me. I’d been a dick to her in high school. She’d have every right to.

“Haven’t I?” Erika asked, and quirked an eyebrow.

I held my gaze at eye level to keep from sweeping it down her body and taking her in. Good Christ, she was a temptation, and Marc would definitely catch on if I checked her out now. I’d taken great pains to keep my little obsession from him.

Marc snapped his fingers at both of us. “You two,” he said, “still at each other’s throats after all this time? Come on, guys, it’s getting old. Do me a favor and keep things nice, OK? Copasetic. Fuck it, in fact, why don’t you two take this dance?” He gestured to the heavens as a slow song replaced the club-hopper from the DJ’s booth. “Take a moment to get to know each other.”

My stomach tightened. There would be nothing worse than holding this woman close, her silver-enshrouded body stroking back and forth against mine. I wasn’t a beast, but being near her always made me feel like one.

“I don’t think—” I started.

“Sure, why not? Unless Noah’s scared of a little dance with me,” Erika said, the challenge sparkling in her eyes.

Fuuuuck. She has no idea who she’s playing with.

“Good,” Marc said, and smacked me on the back. He leaned in and rumbled, “Play nice, bud, she just got dumped. She needs a friend right now, not an enemy.”

The final cherry on the fucking ice cream cone on the cake. She was single. I was always single. And this was my worst nightmare.

Marc backed up, and I held out a hand to Erika.

She took it, and we strode out onto the dance floor. I clenched my jaw, and she moved into my arms. I placed one hand in the small of her back, not on her ass like I’d fantasized, and she looped her arms around my neck. We moved slowly, in time to the music.

I stared over her head. She stared over my shoulder.

Fuck it, if we maintained this position, I might just make it through the dance.

“You really haven’t changed either,” Erika said near my ear, her breath chasing across my neck. “You’re still cocky. Still full of yourself.”

“Ditto,” I replied and spun her out, then back into my arms. “You been keeping yourself busy, Erika?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“When I left Syracuse, you were set on becoming a paleontologist. Just wondering if you stuck to your guns,” I replied.

She stiffened and looked up at me. “You remember that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” I asked, and broke the eye contact. It was too torturous. “It’s my job to remember things.”

“Is it? I wouldn’t have said that about an ob-gyn,” she replied.

“You wouldn’t know.”

“Wouldn’t I?” She smirked up at me. “I didn’t become a paleontologist. I decided I’d rather deal with the living than the dead.”

“So, you’re…” Shame on me for never having asked Marc what she did for a living. Then again, we hardly discussed his family life. We talked business or about our everyday lives. Mentioning Erika would’ve let him know that something was up.

“An ob-gyn,” she replied.

I pulled back and stared at her. “You’re fucking kidding.”

“Not even a little bit. You’ve got a dirty mouthy, Noah,” she said, “too dirty for a doctor.”

“You would know.”

We fell silent again, rocking in time to the music. Heat climbed in my throat. I looked down at her, at that dress, and nearly lost it. Her tits brushed against my cotton shirt, the nipples already tight for me. She wanted me.

Christ, this was a bad idea. Shitty, shitty fucking idea. Marc was insane. Marc was oblivious.

“Where did you go to school?” I asked, searching for any topic other than the one on my mind. The one that would land us both in trouble. “Not in New York.” I would’ve heard about it if she’d been in New York.

“Chicago,” she replied, “worked there too.” Her tone was dour now.

“I’m sensing you don’t anymore?”

“Let’s just say I’m in between jobs and leave it at that.”

Dumped and out of work. Down on her luck. Fuck, why did that make me want her even more? I was a sick, sick man. Or I was just a protective man who couldn’t have what he wanted. “Sorry to hear that,” I managed.

Longest song ever. Fuck, when would this end?

“Yeah, right,” she said, and rolled her eyes, tossed that blonde hair. Like silk. I pictured running my fingers through it and tugging lightly, then feasting on the soft, warm flesh of her neck.

“What?”

“Come on, Noah. You and I both know we’re faking it here.”

“We are?”

“Of course,” she said. “We’ve never gotten along. We come from different worlds. I was the unpopular nerdy girl, and you were the high-school player. The jock who could’ve gone college football scholarship but opted for med school instead. You had everything.”

Except you. “I don’t see how that’s relevant.”

“You wouldn’t. That’s my point. We’re different people, and that’s the reason we’ve never seen eye to eye and never will.”

That wasn’t even close to the reason. But I’d made her believe it was because I’d been a high-school asshole who couldn’t control his hormones and needs. “You sure about that?” I asked and devoured her with my gaze, let the full force of the desire behind my eyes shine through.

My dick was already thick in my pants. I pressed her against it and she gasped, swallowed, stared me down. “W-what?”

“What?” I asked, and the corner of my lip curled. Bad idea. Insane. Don’t do this. And on my best friend’s wedding day, no less.

“Noah.”

“Erika?”

“Noah,” she repeated and leaned into me, catching her breath. She pressed her hands to my chest, took two fistfuls of my shirt, and tried tugging me closer. “If you think I’m going to play high-school games with you, you’re out of your mind. I’m not falling into this trap again.” She pushed me back and walked off toward the tables, leaving me exposed and rock-hard in front of the entire hall.

I spun and adjusted myself, hurriedly, buttoning my suit jacket. Of course, she’d shoved me away. We’d had a similar “moment” just before I’d left for med school. Her pressed up against her bedroom wall, me moving against her, wanting her, taunting her, then telling her it could never be.

It was the one time I’d lost control around her. And the one time I’d regained it at her cost—by rejecting her and making her believe that it was all a game.

“Fuck,” I muttered and walked toward the tables. I was situated at the long table at the front, along with the rest of the wedding party, and… Erika, of course. She was there, too. She sat on the end of the table, her elbow propped on it, leaning forward and exposing some of that cleavage.

She ignored my approach.

I stepped up and opened my mouth, but Marc and Jess sauntered up and stalled me. “See?” Marc said and nudged me. “You two can get along when you put your minds to it.”

“Minds, ha,” Erika snorted, then shrugged at Marc’s frown.

“They don’t get along?” Jess asked, her long dark hair bobbing as she turned to look between Erika and me. “Why not?”

“He’s an asshole,” Erika said.

“Sure, I’m the asshole,” I replied.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Marc laughed. “Enough of that, or I’ll condemn both of you to another dance. You two owe me. It’s my wedding day.” But he didn’t “condemn” us. Instead, he and Jess wandered off down the table, stopping to talk to people as they went.

Young love. Happy and totally oblivious. Totally unaware that it could end at any given moment because someone was bound to make a dumbass mistake and wreck it.

“Man,” I said, “I’m happy for them, but I can’t see it. Love is a waste of time and energy. One little mistake, and it’s all over. One fuckup and it’s gone, disappeared. Fucking evaporated. Who’d want that?” I turned toward Erika, expecting agreement. She’d stayed single throughout high school.

Tears streamed down her pale cheeks, and the tip of her nose was an adorable reindeer red. “Erika?” Fuck, of course. I’d forgotten the whole “dumped by the boyfriend” thing. I was an idiot.

She scraped her chair back. “Excuse me,” she said. “Just an emotional day.” She grasped her purse and headed out across the dance floor, toward the exit.

“Erika. Wait.”

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