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The sound of our ragged breaths filled the air. I didn’t want to let go, didn’t want to face the questions I would see in his eyes.

His head turned to press an open-mouthed kiss to the side of my neck. “Emerson.”

A question hung in the sound of my name. I sighed, relaxing my arms around him. He pulled back and studied me for a moment before rising up from the bed. I watched him, a twisting ache in my chest. I’d done it. Given up control. And I was terrified. I pasted a smile on my face and hoped it didn’t look too thin. I sat up and reached for his shirt, pulling it over my head. I curled my knees together, wincing a little at the soreness between my legs.

He watched me carefully as he disposed of the condom. My face burned. He pulled several tissues from my Kleenex box and then sat back down on the bed. “Let me.”

I shook my head fiercely, mortified. “I can do it.” I snatched the tissues from his hand and turned halfway on the bed, cleaning myself off. The sight of the blood on the white tissue only drove home what I had just done. I wadded up the evidence in my hand and rose to dispose of it in the trash can. While I was up, I grabbed a fresh pair of panties from my drawer.

“Emerson.” The sound of his deep voice pulled my gaze back to him. So unbelievably hot and still naked. Not a flicker of embarrassment crossed his features. “Why?” He shook his head like he didn’t even know where to begin.

I decided to make it easy for him and get to the point. “I never said I wasn’t a virgin.”

“But you let everyone—me—assume—”

“I can’t help what people think.” Lame, I know, but if I was honest with him, I would be giving him too much of myself and I’d already given him enough for tonight.

“C’mon.” His mouth quirked into that sexy half grin. “What about Pepper and Georgia? Do they even know?”

I looked away at that, unable to hold his gaze. I let Pepper and Georgia assume I was experienced—maybe even implied it on more than one occasion.

“Wow. Your own best friends.”

“Why should it matter?” I snapped, looking back at him.

“It doesn’t. I still would have wanted you. I still do.” His eyes gleamed fiercely. “But I might have liked to know before this happened.” He motioned between us. “I could have made it better—”

“You were fine.” I dropped on the bed beside him, splaying a hand on his chest, directly over the tattoo. Fine? Try amazing. “Better than fine. It was . . .” I paused, suddenly self-conscious under his intent gaze. “It was beautiful.”

He dipped his head swiftly and kissed me then, long and tender. I would never have suspected when I first spotted this guy at Maisie’s that he was capable of such tenderness. That Hot Biker Boy would be the one to change everything. Change me.

He broke the kiss and whispered against my mouth, “No more secrets. I want to know the real Emerson.”

The real Emerson. The idea of that sent a bolt of panic through me. Could I do that? Could I be real with him? I nodded, determined to try. I’d come this far.

“Good.” He sat up and reached for the lamp, his muscled bicep flexing as he stretched his arm and flipped it off.

He came back down, pulling me against his hard body. Smooth, warm, male skin surrounded me. I found my voice. “W-what are you—”

“Staying the night.”

I swallowed, thinking about my rules. Spending the night with a guy was a big no-no. One of my cardinal rules. But then so was sex and that had just kind of gone out the window. I sighed and nestled my head against his chest.

I guess it was a night for breaking rules.

Chapter 16

AN INSISTENT KNOCKING WOKE me. Blinking, I sat up, clutching the sheets to my bare chest. Shaw was already up and buttoning his jeans. I paused, gawking at him. There was no other word for it. With sunlight streaming through the blinds, there was no hiding the brilliance of his body. Seriously. He was criminally hot. Everything about him shouted strength and power. Heat washed over my face as I recalled that body joined with mine—as I remembered how easily he had lifted me up in his arms. His body wasn’t created from hours at the gym. It was the result of his life. Playing sports. Years in the Marines. Hours of labor. He was real. He wasn’t a boy. He was a man. A man who made me feel like a woman for the first time in my life.

The knocking started up again and jarred me to action. I scrambled to my feet, yanked his shirt off me and tossed it at him. He grinned, his eyes devouring me as I darted to my closet in my panties.

I slipped on a pair of yoga pants and a University of Dartford sweatshirt as he pulled his shirt back on. A glance at the clock revealed it was eight forty-five A.M. I didn’t know who it could be, but the RA was rather free with her master key. If it was Heather, I didn’t want to risk her walking in on us partially dressed.

Shaking my hair back on my shoulders, I pulled the door open and faced a girl I had never seen.

She clutched the strap of her messenger bag, her wide eyes sweeping over me. “Emerson?”

“Uh, yes.”

She held out her hand. “I’m Melanie, Justin’s fiancée.”

Heat flashed through me, followed by a sudden rush of cold. Justin’s fiancée. What was she doing here? I glanced over my shoulder at Shaw. He watched curiously.

She followed my gaze, noticing him. Pink brightened her cheeks. Wholesome. That’s the word that popped into my mind. This girl was sweet and wholesome. And she was marrying Justin. Ugh. That made about as much sense as bananas going into a peanut butter sandwich.

“Oh. Hello.” She waved once at him.

Shaw stepped forward and offered his hand. “Hello, I’m Shaw.”

She visibly relaxed at the courtesy, shaking his hand in turn. I certainly hadn’t shown her any such courtesy. I was too bewildered at her appearance. “Melanie.”

“Emerson’s boyfriend,” he added.

My gaze whipped to him and I forgot that Justin’s fiancée was standing in my doorway. He looked at me mildly, as if he hadn’t uttered the most shocking thing. Boyfriend? I’d never had a boyfriend before. There had been boys, sure, but I’d never had a boyfriend. To hear him call himself that both thrilled and terrified me.

“Oh,” Melanie practically gushed now, drawing my attention back to her. “It’s so nice to meet you, Shaw.”