(#2 of Loose Ends series)
Author: Kaia Bennett
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic
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After a whirlwind week of hot sex and growing affection, Nicole and Gabriel were forced to part ways and to return to real life. For a while they danced around each other, meeting up when they could, the distance between them rivaled only by their desire to be together again.
Now these lovers are no longer star-crossed. They’re in the same city at the same time and can finally indulge their insatiable passion. At least until Gabriel’s increasingly popular band goes on tour.
But the ticking clock of his budding music career isn’t the only obstacle to contend with. A blast from Gabriel’s wild past, a guy that kept Nicole warm in Gabriel’s absence, and fear of what the future holds all converge just as they’ve begun to realize this might be love…
Author's Note: This book contains strong language and sexual content with dark elements, some of which readers may find uncomfortable.
Excerpt . . .
It was around three o'clock in the morning when Nicole heard her phone ring. She tried to block out the noise by throwing her pillow over her head, ignoring that niggling voice of common sense that said a phone call this late could be about something important.
A gruff masculine voice next to her said, "Nicole, get the... who the fuck could be calling... ?"
She heard a deep sigh, felt the bed shift and a warm body stretch across her back.
"Hello?" he grumbled. There was silence for a long moment, then a huff. "Yeah, hold on a minute. Nicole?" He shoved her shoulder twice. "Nicole, wake up. It's for you."
His next words brought her into full consciousness. "Some dude named Gabriel. Says it's important."
Nicole peeked out from underneath the pillow so fast Travis blinked in sleepy surprise from under his mussed black hair. She wiped a hand over her face, pushing her hair out of her eyes, and sat up on her elbows to take the phone. She was embarrassed by how anxious she must appear, which was reflected in the look Travis gave her as he handed her the receiver. What if something horrible had happened? Gabriel wasn't known for calling her in the middle of the night for something unimportant. That's what emails and texts were for.
"Gabe?” she blurted. “Is everything okay?"
"Hey, Nicole! I'm so sorry I'm calling this late!" he yelled. She immediately sat upright her, heart pounding in her chest. Gabriel's voice always had that effect on her.
"No, Gabriel, it's fine, but what's going on? Did something bad happen?"
"No, no! Nothing like that, sweetheart," he said in that deep, raspy voice, and the familiar term of endearment sent a rush of warmth over her skin. "It's all good news, but I couldn't wait to tell you till tomorrow."
About a year and a half had gone by since that incredible, sex-filled week when she visited her sister and he caught her masturbating on his bed. In that time she'd graduated college, moved from Austin, Texas to New York to be closer to her sister Jackie, and gotten a job. But when it came to him, nothing had changed. She was still the girl who found herself getting wet at just the sound of his raspy voice, the girl who had yet to find a man that measured up to him.
They'd managed to keep in touch, even after he moved out of her sister's place to start really pursuing a music career full time. He'd set his sights on traveling and touring, which he and his band Fool the World had really started to do just a few months before she finished her last year of college. When they could – when he and his band were playing a gig she could make, or when he was in town for a while – they would get together and see just how much their bodies were still in sync. But the reality was they were on two separate paths and a real relationship wasn't going to work. They'd never talked about it in too much depth, since technically they were never a real couple. But they both agreed it was the right decision to keep things from getting too heavy.
That didn't mean it hurt any less for her.
It had been months since they'd been in the same city, let alone gotten to spend time with each other. Moments like this were what she had to hold onto now instead of him.
There was commotion on the other line and she could hear him walking, the sound of wind whooshing through the phone. She started to say something but was distracted by the lamp on at the other side of the bed flooding the room with warm light. She turned around quickly to find Travis, who was truly nothing more than a friend with benefits, staring at her with those dark blue
eyes. He looked between her and the clock as if to say, Who the fuck is Gabriel? And why is he calling at three o'clock in the morning?
"Hold on a sec, Gabe, I gotta go in the other room." Nicole threw Travis an apologetic look, covered the phone with her hand and whispered, "He's a really good friend, I'm sorry, it won't take long, so you can go back to sleep."
The look on Travis' face made her think his mind must be channeling Biz Markie’s song “Just A Friend”. Well… Gabe was just a friend. A very, very good friend with exceptional benefits.
She made sure Travis couldn't see or hear her, then she sighed and rolled her eyes as she padded into the living room. He was sweet, fun to catch a movie or have a beer with. They had an understanding and she enjoyed spending time with him, but it never once occurred to her they could be anything but the occasional distraction to each other.
"Hey, sorry about that," she said stifling a yawn and rubbing at her eyes.
"Did I interrupt... you know, you and the guy that picked up the phone?" She heard him clear his throat on the other end. One of his few nervous ticks.
She nibbled at her lip and spared a glance over her shoulder, as if she expected to see Travis standing there watching her. The golden lamplight from her room was shining into the hallway, but that was the only indication he was still awake and possibly listening to her.
"Um... yeah, I mean, no. We were asleep but... it's okay. What's going on?"
She heard silence for a moment, and then, "I'm sorry I... sorry I woke you guys up. I wasn't even thinking straight. Typical, right? But I wanted to—"
There was the sound of loud voices cheering in the background that muffled out part of his statement and made him laugh. The sound sent an involuntary shiver through her body, as if she had recorded his laugh into the very marrow of her bones.
"Sounds like you had a great show. Are you celebrating or something?" she asked with a weary laugh. Rising into the foreground of all the commotion was the sound of Jonny Beckett’s voice, who was the lead singer, along with some girls that were giggling like giggles were going out of style.
"Yeah, we are," he said, the excitement in his voice returning full force. "A music exec for Phantom Records saw us play again tonight. He said he was feelin' our music and he wants to meet with us at the end of the week. Do you know what that means?!"
She couldn't speak, her brain was having trouble functioning. Phantom was an indie label a lot of their favorite bands were on. She used to lie against him in bed after he moved out of Jackie's, listening to the music of bands that Phantom execs had gone to see one night and plucked out of obscurity. Was he talking about a record contract, a chance to be one of those success stories?
"Are you saying...?"
"He wants to sign us, Nic! We meet him and the heads of the label this Thursday and if everything goes the way it’s supposed to with the contract—"
Even before she could speak her face was breaking into an exuberant smile. "Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me!?”
"Nah, sweetheart! Fool the World is gonna have a fucking record deal!"
"Oh my God! Oh my God!!" she screamed into the phone, jumping up and down, squealing and listening to the sound of his laughter on the other end, completely oblivious to anything else in the world.
"Look, I know it's late and all, and I'm sorry, but I couldn't wait to tell you. Just couldn't wait." The soft edge in his voice, made her heartbeat stutter in her chest. "You were the first
person I thought of – well you and Jackie and Ian, but she would’ve kicked my ass if I called her this late," he quipped with a chuckle.
She wished she could wrap her arms around him and show him just how happy she was for him. She wished she could say something more eloquent than ‘Oh my God’. She wished she could hear his voice because his lips were by her ear, instead of through the receiver of a phone. She wished she could taste his mouth, his neck, his chest, lick and nibble her way down those twin tribal tattoos on his sides...
She hated going down that line of thought. It was bad enough she still fantasized about him, but to know it wasn't meant to be and she still felt as strongly as ever killed her. She wished she could just forget him sometimes, that Travis or someone else could be enough. But just when she started getting used to the idea that they weren't going to be together, he would call, he would come into town, or she would listen to one of his songs and think of him. She would find herself transported back to the times they'd hooked up, and then back to that one glorious week when she'd had him all to herself, a secret tucked away. But it didn't do any good to think about that kind of thing now. She forced herself to listen to him, to cheer him on as he talked about continuing to move on without her.
"I'm so ecstatic for you and the guys, Gabriel. You have no idea. I can't wait till you get it down in writing so I can start bragging about how I know a bunch of rock stars. I'm going to have to tell all my friends. They're gonna freak!"
He laughed, started to say something, and once again his words were blocked out by the background noise.
"Can't even fucking hear myself think!" he grumbled good-naturedly. "Listen, we're gonna be back in town in a couple days so we can get ready to meet with the label. If you're not busy we could meet up," he paused and again cleared his throat. "You can bring your boyfriend, unless you've got plans or some—"
"Oh, no, Travis isn't my boyfriend," she said quickly, wincing at the excitement in her voice and how she must have been loud enough for Travis to hear it. "We're just... we're just friends." She wasn't exactly sure how to explain why a male friend was lying in bed with her when he called, so she decided to hop right over that bit of awkwardness. "I'm not busy this week. I can see you whenever you get back and you can tell me everything."
"Cool," he said, and once again she found her body thrumming. It was rare that she got to see him, but when she did, she knew there was a good chance she would get to feel him inside of her again. "I'll give you a call, we'll go out and eat or something, really celebrate and catch up. Just the two of us."
"Okay," she managed to whisper, swallowing hard. She almost groaned at the prospect of spending an entire evening with him for the first time in months. "Congratulations, babe. I'm so, so proud of you."
He yelled his thanks over the ruckus around him, laughing. "I'll let you get some sleep. Night, Nicole."
She smiled softly. "Night, Gabriel."
She clicked the phone off, cradling it against the butterflies in her stomach and processing his voice, his great news, and the fact that in a few days she'd be able to show him just how happy she was for him. Then she heard a zipper and turned.
Travis was leaning against the doorjamb zipping up his jacket, then he reached down and grabbed his motorcycle helmet off the floor. She was going to ask him why he was leaving, if he was upset, but the look in his eyes made her not even bother. It was obvious he'd been listening to
her conversation. She didn't blame him for not wanting to play second fiddle, for not being able to spend the night.
He was still sweet. He gave her a kiss and told her to call him whenever. But when he left she couldn't help but feel a hollow sense of defeat. Travis was the kind of guy a girl was lucky to actually date, and here she was pining for a voice on the other end of the phone. A voice couldn't keep her warm at night. A voice on the phone couldn't hold her and make her feel safe and special, not in the way she wanted to feel.
But it wasn't just anyone's voice. It was Gabriel's. That voice carried the memories of nights when he had kept her warm, when he'd made her feel like the sexiest and most beautiful woman in the world. She couldn’t let go of that. Not even when holding on caused her to watch a good guy's back as he closed the door on what might have been.
Giveaway . . .
About the Author . . .
She is an erotic author who loves to write stories with diversity, depth, realism and viscerally hot encounters that flirt shamelessly with the taboo. A lover of all genres and a voracious reader, she aims to write stories that are transformative for her characters and readers alike.
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