After too many years being overlooked by men, Carol is ready to take action. She wants a man, and she knows which man she wants. Her brother’s best friend, Patrick Stevenson.
Patrick is funny and brainy and the sexiest man she’s ever known, but he has never looked at her as anything except his friend’s little sister. That’s going to change.
Carol isn’t good at flirting. Or seduction. Or anything that requires putting herself out there. But she’s going to make sure Patrick sees her as a desirable woman—and one he wants for more than one night—even if it turns her whole world upside down. He already likes her a lot. He just needs to open his eyes to how good they’d be together.
After all, how stubborn can he be?
She narrowed her eyes even more and gave him a cool glare. “You might as well just admit it. I know exactly what happened.”
He groaned softly. “All right. Fine. I couldn’t believe you’d be acting like… like that.”
She was making this as hard as possible for him, and he couldn’t even blame her. “Like you… liked me.” It sounded ridiculous, immature, but he couldn’t think of any other way to put it.
“And you really can’t believe that I do?”
He wanted to be anywhere but here, put on the spot like this. He wanted to get up and leave, somehow escape everything he was feeling.
But, if he did, that would be it. He’d never have Carol in his life again. He might have messed this up completely, but he wasn’t prepared to lose her for good. So he told her the truth. “No. I really can’t.”
“Why the hell not?”
Carol almost never used to rough language—even something as mild as “hell.” It seemed to emphasize how upset she really was.
“I… I don’t even know.”
She stared at him for a full minute. He could see her chest rise and fall with her heaving breathing. Then she finally got up, muttering, “You’re a real idiot sometimes. You know that, right?” She went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
He hauled himself to his feet and followed her. “I know I’m an idiot. I know that. But I’m still here, trying to fix things.”
She was staring into her open refrigerator, like she’d forgotten what she’d come here for.
“Carol,” he said, touching her shoulder gently. She looked so hurt and wounded. He couldn’t believe he was important enough to her to make her feel this way.
She whirled around to face him. “Why shouldn’t I like you?” she demanded.
He blinked. “Because… because it seems pretty obvious that it’s just because the others have gotten together.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I mean Emma and Noah got together, and then Ginny and Ryan got together. So now we’re the only two left. I get it. I do. It would make sense for us to get paired up in the same way. But that doesn’t mean it’s… it’s real.”
She made a loud, throaty sound of naked frustration.
Patrick contorted his face as he was washed with self-consciousness and confusion. “I’m trying to be honest here.”
“I know you are. I know you are!”
She closed the refrigerator, having taken nothing out. “Why wouldn’t we be good together?”
“We’re totally different. If I wasn’t the last guy left in our little group, you’d choose someone totally different.” He knew this much for sure. He’d been rehearsing it over and over again—for months now—reminding himself that any soft looks she’d given him had been based on something other than real attraction.
“How do you know that?”
“Carol, please. I know I act stupid sometimes, but I do have a functioning mind. And neither one of us deserves to be stuck with… whoever happens to be left.”
She gaped at him. Literally gaped. Then her cheeks paled even more. “You think I’m… just whoever happens to be left.”
“Not you,” he gasped, shocked that she’d ever even imagine he felt that way. “Not you. Me. I’m whoever is left.”
“You… you… you…” She was panting, couldn’t even get the words out.
He was processing her uncontrolled outburst and so he wasn’t prepared for what she did next.
What she did was launch herself at him, grabbing his head and pulling it down into a kiss.
Since he wasn’t prepared, he couldn’t control his response. And he’d been wanting her too much, for too long, and not letting himself act on that desire.
So he didn’t stop it, even though he knew he should.
He didn’t push her away gently and explain that it couldn’t happen.
He kissed her back.