Carina McGinnis knows Josh Graham is trouble. Being attracted to a man who most likely has a turnstile at the entrance of his bedroom can only end in heartache, something Carina never wants to experience again. If she doesn't want a repeat of what happened last summer, it's best Carina keep what's left of her heart safely out of Josh’s reach. Josh Graham doesn’t do sweet. He goes for one kind of woman. The kind who never ask for more than he can give. Sex without strings, feelings and emotional baggage is safe. But from the moment Josh meets Carina his number one rule is quickly forgotten, forcing him to face his past and take a leap of faith for that one woman who will always want more.
I’ll just have to have enough control for the both of us.
That’s what he had promised her. That he would be a gentleman. Which meant that he couldn’t touch her, think of her anymore, at least not in the way he craved. He would friend zone her. He had girlfriends. Mia and Erin were proof that he could have a relationship with a woman and not want to get in her pants. He could do this.
Then why the hell was he so nervous?
He gripped the white bag and rounded the corner. The playground came into view and he increased his pace. He could hear screams coming from his right. And then the distinct sound of a rubber kickball being bounced against cement. Josh was on his way to the front entrance when he saw her through the black iron fence. Standing in the doorway to what looked like a classroom behind her, Carina was in full teacher mode. A little girl was looking up at her and saying something. He couldn’t make out her words but whatever she had said made Carina smile and then she positioned the girl so her back was to her. Seconds later Carina was gathering the girl’s blonde curly hair in one hand and securing it with a hair tie. After a quick tug to her pony tail and a smile from her teacher, the girl skipped away in the direction of the swings.
Josh could have stared at Carina all day, watching her do her job, a job she seemed to enjoy, a job that made her smile. He loved her smile. Especially when she didn’t think anyone was watching. Her silent confidence, the way she appeared to be so relaxed in her own skin, captivated him. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and scanned the playground. And that’s when she spotted him. Caught him, was more like it, staring at her through the iron bars. His throat went dry and his brain went to mush. The bag in his hand felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, as if reminding him why he had come.
She walked across the playground and with each step his heart beat faster. He urged himself to calm the fuck down. Because if he couldn’t do this, how the hell was he going to get through this weekend? Alone with her in a car for two and a half hours. Alone with her in a hotel room where there may only be one bed. The visual made his breathing hitch. He would take the floor. Scratch that. He would take an ice-cold shower and then sleep on the floor. She could have the bed. That king-sized bed all to herself, her wrapped in white sheets, warm and…
“Josh, what are you doing here?” she asked.
He swallowed hard and barely managed to raise the white, now grease stained bag until it was level with his face. “Have you eaten lunch?” he asked. It was a miracle he could get the words out.
“Um…not yet. Was just about to go inside and eat at my desk. I brown bagged it today.”
“I think I can do better than that. Do you like roast pork sandwiches?”
She eyed the white bag. Luckily, his fingers had stopped trembling. “Is that a Di’Nic’s bag?”
He nodded. “There’s a roast pork sandwich in here with your name written all over it if you agree to eat lunch with me.”
Her brow raised and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Is it fully loaded with peppers, cheese and horseradish?”
She liked messy sandwiches. She was too good to be true.
Her lips curled to form a mischievous smile. “Okay. But you better have lots of napkins.”
Josh pulled a fistful of napkins out of the bag and displayed them proudly. “I think we’re covered.”
“Alright. Meet you in the park across the street?”
He smiled at her, causing her cheeks to pinken. She then turned and walked back into the school building.
Alright, the hard part was over. She had agreed to lunch. He had gotten through it. All that was left to do was convince himself and to prove to Carina that they could be friends. And that because they were just friends, she didn’t have to worry about this weekend. As her friend, he would escort her to the baptism. As her friend, he would parade around as her boyfriend to help ward off Eric fucking Ross. As her friend, he would keep her company and turn back into the old Josh, the one who was easygoing and took pride in being a smartass.
Yep, he could do this.
She loved a messy sandwich as much as the next girl, but her appetite was shit right now. Carina forced down another bite and tried not to stare at Josh as he withdrew two bottles of root beer from the bag. As the muscles in his arms flexed beneath his thin cotton t-shirt. Or how nice his ass looked in his jeans. Or how his hair flopped…
“So I thought it was best that I just put it out there.” He set the bag down next to him on the park bench.
She stopped imagining how soft his hair would feel between her fingers. “Put what out there?”
“Well, I think we’re stuck with each other,” he said, opening one of the root beers and handing it over to her. His fingers brushed hers as she took the bottle. Her face was burning up.
“I didn’t really give you a choice. I kind of roped you into this baptism thing. Don’t you think?”
“I’m not talking about the baptism, Carina.” He twisted off the cap to his root beer and took a swig.
“Then what do you mean?”
“I mean…Mia is your best friend. Mia is one of my closest friends. Which means I think it’s inevitable. We’re going to have to become friends.” The root beer almost came up. Friends? This guy had kissed her, sucked on her nipples, and had his head between her thighs. She knew that she wasn’t his type, that he didn’t want anything remotely resembling a relationship with her, but how the hell was she going to be friends with him now? He flashed her a smile that made her want to squirm in her seat, but by the grace of God she remained still.
“Um…do you think that’s even possible? We…uh…”
“I think I’m a pretty good friend. Mia and Erin would vouch for me. Just ask them.” His mind was made up. Friendship was all he had to offer. And Carina didn’t need to ask Mia if Josh could fulfill that role. He had shown her that he really was a nice guy. A devoted grandson. Erin’s man of honor. A guy who wouldn’t think twice about beating the piss out of someone who got a little handsy at a club.
A guy who could be both brooding and sweet.
And he was now her friend.
Because that was all he was capable of.
“Well, it’ll be a first for me.” Carina took a bite of her sandwich and then a sip of her root beer.
He wiped his sinful mouth with a napkin and smirked. “What will be?”
“Being just friends with a guy…one who has seen my hoo-ha.”
He chuckled. “Hoo-ha? That’s what you call it?” he asked, glancing between her legs. His heated stare made her legs cross and her head go places it shouldn’t. And throughout it all, his smirk remained.
“Uh…yeah. What would you call it?” She suddenly felt parched and drained her soda.
His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. “Do you want me to be honest?”
She set her empty bottle on the ground beneath the park bench. “Friends are supposed to be honest with each other. Right?”
His smile evaporated and he bit his lip. Which was one of the sexiest things she had ever witnessed in her life. She wanted to bite his lip. His tongue. Every fucking inch of him. “I’ll tell you what I would call that part of you…and then we will become friends. Agreed?” he asked, his voice now gruff, no longer playful. His smirk had also failed to return.
Her heart hammered in her chest, as she was remembering how he had taken her in that office. His lips sucking her clit. The sounds she made. The groans he had allowed to escape as she rode his face. “Yes. Friends,” she said.
He stared at her for a few seconds. The silence wasn’t awkward, but intoxicating. She felt dizzy and overheated. And so damn wet. “That area between your thighs, where I licked you, inhaled you, tasted you…that was heaven, Carina.”
Now it was her turn to bite the shit out of her lip.
His eyes darkened as they traveled to her mouth and then he said, “Carina, finish your sandwich. Your lunch hour is almost over.” He retrieved the remainder of his sandwich and took a bite. Numb, she did the same. And thought about the weekend she was about to spend with him.
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About the Author
Elle Keating is the author of romance novels with sexy heroes and fierce females. Her first book, Thrill of the Chase (Dangerous Love, #1), was published by Forever Romance’s digital imprint, Forever Yours, in 2015. Cut to the Chase (Dangerous Love, #2) soon followed. Most recently, Elle self-published a standalone novel, Keeping His Commandments. An avid reader of gritty, dark romances, her favorite authors include Pepper Winters, Penelope Ward, and Anna Zaires. When she isn’t torturing her heroes and heroines (don’t worry, there’s always a happily ever after), Elle is a public school administrator and enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children in New Jersey.