Curvy girl Cassidy Blue had her heart broken when she caught her fiance and her younger sister together. Despite the scandalous nature of their relationship, the town has chosen to pretend Cassidy never happened – well, everyone except Cassidy of course.
Cassidy becomes untethered as she faces the impending nuptials, losing her grandmother’s home to her sister who will inherit it after the wedding, a mother who can’t choose between her daughters, and a town of romantics dead set on embracing the wedding even as it destroys Cassidy’s heart.
Cass finds distraction from her anger in an unlikely place – the arms of her ex-fiance’s older brother, Jason King. Home for a few weeks from his city-boy, New York investor life, he quiets her mind by satisfying her body. For Cass, he’s the perfect salve to heal her wounds. He’s temporary and insatiable and seems to want a plus-sized girl like Cassidy as much as she needs his strength. He can’t hurt her if she doesn’t let him get close.
But as they grow closer, temporary may not prove long enough.
“Sit,” he instructed, a demand but delivered gently. I slid onto the stool and he sat in the one directly in front of me, our knees touching awkwardly. He unfolded the first aid kit he’d stolen from beneath my bathroom sink. When he tried to take my injured arm, I jerked away from him so hard I almost slid off my stool.
“I’m not a child,” I repeated. “You need to go home, Jason.”
“Stop being obstinate. You can’t bandage it with one hand.” The corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk. “Although it might be amusing to see you try.”
I scowled and unfolded my arm towards him so he could get a good look at the wound. It was positioned right along the back of my forearm where I would have had a devil of a time trying to see, let alone bandage, accurately. Conceding hurt.
“You don’t seem to like me much.” He wet a cotton ball with an antiseptic cleaner and began methodically cleaning around the wound, making his way carefully towards the cut itself. I tried not to look, each tender touch causing me to wince in pain.
“I don’t even know you. Even when you were here, you were never from here.”
“What does that even mean?” His blue eyes raised briefly to meet mine, his easy mirth almost as infuriating as his help.
I motioned with my free hand towards the front door. “I know your reputation, Jason King. You were never a small town boy.”
In a flash of bright blue light his mirth evaporated. His full mouth pulled into a frown, but I couldn’t see his eyes.
“I thought you said you didn’t know me.”
“I guess I know enough.” He didn’t answer me and I wasn’t sure if that meant I was right or I was wrong.
With the site cleaned, he carefully applied ointment to a gauze pad, then taped it down like he’d done this before and knew his way around a wound dressing. More evidence of a careless, country youth. In the deep heat of summer, we all learned there was nothing a good rinse with the garden hose couldn’t fix. Unless you were dead and dying in a ditch, you’d live to fight another day. Only grandmas made sure we did up the bandage right and that was only if she caught us in time.
“Jonathan was wrong,” Jason said quietly after a long, stretched silence. “What he did to you. It wasn’t right. I don’t doubt what he and Bailey have is love, but he should have been straight with you. I told him that as soon as I heard what happened.”
Jason’s voice, so sorry, so full of pity, stabbed me right up under the rib cage. He pressed the bandage tape in place and I flinched, harder than was necessary, and looked away to hide the tears that pricked the corners of my eyes.
“You have no right feeling sorry for me,” I murmured into my shoulder. I didn’t want to watch him be nice to me. “Not like you’re such a role model towards women.”
He didn’t meet my eyes. “I’ve made my mistakes, but I’ve never cheated on anyone before. There’s no excuse.”
I squeezed my eyes shut real tight and when I opened them again, all I saw was the Tiffany blue box on the counter top, its puffy satin pillow peeking out. I could see the linen invitation balanced out the edge of the box, taunting me.
He set my arm down into my lap and maybe it was my imagination that his fingers lingered against my cold, damp skin. He felt unbelievably hot, like a furnace kept on too long and too high in the dead of winter. He evaporated the cold right off me.
A rumble of thunder, a flash of light, and rain enough to beat back the devil. It was his voice that drowned out the rush of blood in my ears and the near constant screaming I’d heard somewhere at the back of my mind since the day I discovered their ugly secret.
What I didn’t want to hear was his sincerity or his encouragement. I didn’t want his pity or his comfort. I didn’t want to be the girl who needed that from anyone. It made me feel too much like a victim.
“He deserved it, Cass. Tell you the truth, you were – ”
I made him stop talking by kissing him.
I snaked my wounded arm across the nape of his neck and kissed him like some kind of crazy person who goes around doing crazy things like kissing strange men. I pressed my mouth to match his, and for a whole lifetime he didn’t react. He sat stock frozen still, unresponsive to the urgent crush of my smaller lips against his.
And then all at once his spine softened and his mouth accepted mine, turned a half degree to capture it more fully. His hands found my thighs and stroked them up and back down to my knees. He leaned into me. Action not reaction.
The screaming in my thoughts cut off under the flooding sensations of mouth and hands and heat. All at once, like a light switch, and Jonathan and Bailey and that day in the barn vanished with the noise and all I could feel was Jason’s burning, wet body and the sound our mouths made when they pressed and came away to breathe.
His fingers dug roughly into my sides and mine into his hair, his shoulders. I clawed at him to move closer and he answered by scooping his hands down my sides to my hips and lifting me across our knees into his lap. I resisted but he was stronger and somehow I balanced in his lap, my toes hooked on the bottom rungs of his stool, our bodies pressed impossibly into the space of one. His arms were so strong, one wrapped across my lower back, the other over my shoulders and buried in my hair. For a moment, just one moment, I worried about my weight balanced precariously on his legs, but he squeezed me tight against him as if he could read my thoughts and they vanished with the next kiss.
Jason tasted like rain. I licked his lips, his tongue, his teeth, until he growled softly and tightened his hand in my hair and held me still so he could plunder my mouth with his tongue. He kissed me hard and for a long, long time and I was powerless to stop him and too delirious to mind. Everything left me in that kiss, the anger, the fierce sense of betrayal, the humiliation and defeat. In the hollow space where my heart had once been I felt the stir of hunger, a growling, animal thing ravenous from famine. I sank my fingers into his shoulders until he moaned against my mouth, a sound of pain or pleasure I couldn’t tell and didn’t stop to ask.
He broke the kiss first, jerked my head back with my hair and layered his delicious kisses up my throat. I moaned, purred where he kissed. His teeth raked my skin where he sucked and licked and kissed at me. His hands sank and squeezed, pulled me in inches closer until we fit together like paper dolls. I wrapped my legs and arms around him and we couldn’t have been closer. Not without stripping off our clothes.
My thoughts dismantled when I tried for language, something to anchor me from losing control, but then his tongue stroked the soft curve of my throat and I couldn’t remember my own name.
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