“Ahhhhh . . .” A deep male groan broke from behind the closed door.
Sex noises seemed really out of place in a church. Call me old-fashioned, but I was certain of two things: One, doggie style should be reserved for the bedroom, and two, we were all going to hell. “Come on,” I urged Braydon, tugging his tuxedo-clad elbow. “We can’t listen to this.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” His feet remained planted to the floor, despite my efforts to shove him farther down the hall.
A loud, thundering moan vibrated the door.
My eyes jerked up to Braydon’s. His mouth quirked up in a lopsided grin, showing off his perfect dimple. He lowered himself to the floor, leaning his back against the wall with his long legs stretched out in front of him, and crossed his feet at the ankles.
“What are you doing?” I hissed. Shouldn’t we give our friends some privacy?
“Guarding the door.” He shrugged. “I’m sure one of those photographers outside would love a shot of the action in there.” He gestured with a nod toward the door of the church library where our friends were currently getting it on.
I couldn’t argue with that. There was a fleet of paparazzi outside who’d give their left testicle to get a shot of the action today. This wedding was practically the event of the summer in Manhattan. World-famous male supermodel Ben Shaw’s wedding to my best friend, Emmy, would be front-page news on the celebrity gossip sites.
I looked down at Braydon’s stretched-out form. He was dressed in a tailored black Armani tuxedo, crisp white shirt, and sleek Italian leather shoes that tapered just slightly at the toe. His bow tie was hanging loose around his open collar, and he was sipping from a silver flask, watching me curiously.
“Come sit with me.” He tapped the floor beside him with his knuckles. “Those shoes can’t be comfortable.” His eyes slowly lowered, wandering the length of my black strapless gown and all the way down to my strappy five-inch heels.
He was right again; I’d been in them for thirty minutes and already I could feel my toes becoming numb. The price of beauty. Sometimes it sucked being a girl. I sighed, not wanting to admit he was right.
“I won’t bite, kitten. Unless you want it rough.” He flashed his dimpled grin at me again and my stomach knotted.
Braydon tested my willpower like no one else. I’d sworn off men, so why did I want to take off my panties and give in to him? Lord, this wasn’t healthy. Not one bit. I forced my eyes from his. Gazing into his navy blue depths felt entirely too intimate. He saw too much. I wondered if he knew just how much he got my heart racing. I’d met him last year through our mutual friends, Ben and Emmy. He was a sinfully sexy male model, often working with Emmy’s soon-to-be husband, and trouble with a capital T.
Defeated, I slipped off my heels and sunk down on the floor next to him. Trying to maintain a sense of modesty, I arranged heaps of black satin and organza around my legs in the hallway of the church where my best friend was about to wed the man of her dreams. Pity party, your table of one is now available. I knew it was cliché, but weddings depressed me. Always have. I’d helped Emmy into her dress and fussed with her veil until it was just perfect. And now, I could only imagine what was going on in that church library, and the mess I’d have to clean up before their wedding ceremony even began.
“Ben wanted a quick fuck.” Braydon shrugged like this situation was completely normal.
Oh, that was romantic. Men were disgusting. I rolled my eyes at him; I felt like sticking out my tongue, too, but I didn’t. Weren’t most people nervous before their wedding? Apparently Ben and Emmy were just horny.
But this was fucking ridiculous. Their wedding ceremony was scheduled to begin in twenty minutes, and I could see the stream of guests already filtering in and sitting with the assistance of the ushers. When Ben had come knocking at the door, looking for Emmy, I hadn’t argued; I’d just helped her out of the one-of-a-kind white lace gown made just for her by Vera Wang, and let him inside the little library where we’d been getting ready.
His eyes had drunk her in, moving down from the little white bra and panty set to the pale blue garter around her thigh. “Fuck, sweetheart,” he’d murmured.
The chemistry and intensity between them was impossible to ignore. It’d always been that way between them though. Ben had crossed the room in three long strides, stopping in front of her and watching her with a look of adoration. His hands had skated down her sides, gliding over her hips and thighs. His voice had been a weak whisper when he told her how beautiful she looked. My heart had twisted in my chest. It was obvious how much he loved her, despite how many times he’d messed up. You only found a love like that once in a lifetime. And as happy as I was that my best friend had found it, it only reminded me of how painfully alone I was.
As I sat trying not to listen to my friends go at it in the tiny church library, I wished it was me in that room with a white poufy dress pushed up to my ears and a man who was so deeply in love with me he couldn’t wait another moment to be inside me.
“Is it true?” Braydon asked, passing me the flask.
“Is what true?” I accepted the flask and took a small sip. Mmm. I wasn’t expecting it to taste good. Citrus vodka. My favorite.
“That bridesmaids are horny at weddings,” he chuckled.
“Guess you’ll have to be a good boy tonight to find out,” I replied, taking a healthy swig from the flask before handing it back to him. “Zoey and Jenna are both single.” So was I, but that wasn’t happening. No thanks. I’d be leaving here tonight with my dignity intact.
His eyes lifted to mine. “There’s someone else I had in mind, actually.”
That little pang of nerves in my stomach was back. He needed to stop flirting with me. I wasn’t interested. Sure, my body processed that he was sexy—he was a supermodel for goodness’ sake—but my brain wasn’t stupid enough to fall for his batting eyelashes and quips. I wasn’t going to be another notch on his belt. “That’s not happening,” I deadpanned.
Braydon chuckled, the low rasp sliding from his perfect lips. He was like one of those jock-types in high school who thought the V on his varsity jacket stood for vagina. He was a total player, I was sure of it. “We’ll see,” he said.
“I’m a bitch to you. Why do you even like me?” I asked.
“I don’t argue with my cock, sweetheart. And he seems to like you. In fact, he’d like to get to know you a lot better.”
Good Lord! He couldn’t say things like that to me. I wanted to tell him where to take his cock and shove it, but I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth.
His hand patted mine. It was meant to calm me, but any time he touched me little darts of heat fractured out from his fingertips and across my skin. It was disorienting. I pulled my hand away and tucked it safely into my lap.
We sat there in silence, passing the flask back and forth, listening to our friends’ muted sex noises. God, it’d been entirely too long since I’d gotten any. I clamped my thighs together and groaned. I felt Braydon watching me and turned to meet his eyes.
“You need something, kitten?” His voice was deep and low. Too sexy for his own good.
“I’m fine,” I squeaked out. “You good?”
“Oh, I’m fucking fantastic.”
Finally, the door opened and Ben emerged, his hair thoroughly rumpled—from Emmy’s wandering hands, no doubt. A giant smile was planted across his full mouth.
I rolled my eyes. “You two need to go. I need to get her dressed.” I gestured to Braydon. “Go fix his sex hair.”
Braydon saluted me. “You got it, boss.”
• • •
The wedding ceremony was beautiful and heartfelt, perfectly representative of Ben and Emmy, just as I knew it would be. They had written their own vows and exchanged them in a tearful display in front of several hundred guests. It was beautiful to watch.
After a thousand photos and makeup touch-ups, we arrived at the reception at a beautiful, historic hotel overlooking Central Park. They’d certainly gotten lucky today. August in New York City could be brutally hot and humid this time of year, but it was mild, sunny, and perfect.
All through pictures, dinner, drinks, and dancing, I played the quintessential maid of honor. I was attentive to Emmy, smiled and made small talk with her loopy relatives from Tennessee, danced with her rather sweaty cousin, Randy Joe, and was fondled by her perverted Uncle Lou more than once.
I’d lied and told Emmy I was fine not having a date to her wedding—I’d reasoned that being the maid of honor meant I’d be too busy to entertain a man. But the truth was, watching Ben hold Emmy close on the dance floor and seeing the older couples swaying together made me realize it was pointless to lie to myself. Not that I had any viable date options. My recent prospects consisted solely of a string of lousy first dates, thanks to the Internet, with no real prospects on the horizon. My best friend’s wedding only amplified my loner status. Enter shame spiral.
I wanted that deep, all-consuming love and acceptance when someone just got you. I didn’t want just a boyfriend. I craved true intimacy and the peace of knowing I’d found my someone. I was tired of the game, and I wanted to settle down with a nice man. But something told me that working sixty hours a week as a scientist and shunning the entire male population wouldn’t make it easy to find my happily ever after. I wasn’t foolish enough to believe in fairy tales, but having a front-row seat to my best friend falling in love with a male model, traveling the world, and gushing about mind-blowing sex with a man who was allegedly hung like a baby elephant was making me hold out hope for my own Prince Charming. Possibly to my own detriment.
With my high heels pinching my feet, I headed for the exit, needing a moment to myself. The dance floor raged behind me, but my destination was one of quiet solitude. Emmy’s mom stopped me in my path.
“Darling, I think we’re low on champagne. There’s more in the storage closet down the hall. Would you mind?”
“Not at all.” It’d give me a reason to escape for a few minutes. Be alone and catch my breath.
“I’ll escort her.” Braydon appeared beside me out of nowhere. I’d noticed him throughout the night, quietly sipping his beer and keeping me in his sights but maintaining his distance.
His tone and the intense look in his eyes left little room for argument, so I merely nodded and turned for the exit. Making my way through the crowded ballroom, I felt Braydon’s hand ghosting along the small of my back as he guided me. Little flutters of heat raced along my spine, pooling low in my belly. I turned down the deserted hallway, thankful for a moment of silence. Today had been exhausting. Not to mention, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to be surrounded by two people who were so in love when my own love life was in the crapper.
We reached the storage room at the end of a long hallway only to find it locked.
“Dammit,” I muttered, wrenching on the door handle.
“It’s fine. We’ll just find one of the catering staff and ask them to bring up more champagne.” His hand closed around my elbow and an electric current zapped through me. It was as though his body knew mine and was calling to me. What the hell was that?
“Hey,” Braydon said, lifting my chin to his. “Is everything okay?”
“Fine. Why?” I lied.
He lifted one shoulder. “You don’t seem like yourself. Tonight, after that speech . . . I don’t know. I wondered where my little firecracker had gone. . . .” His hand lifted to my upper arm and glided along my skin in slow, measured strokes.
He was incredibly perceptive. Too much so. But I couldn’t have him getting to me. My maid of honor speech had been cut short when a lump of emotion had lodged in my throat, and I’d nearly broken down in front of everyone. I’d said a quick congratulations and ended it. Emmy and Ben seemed none the wiser, happily kissing and clinking their champagne glasses. I found it interesting that Braydon, of all people, had been perceptive enough to pick up on the change in me.
I sucked in a fortifying breath. I couldn’t let him see how weak and alone I felt. “She’s still here and will happily kick you in the balls if you decide to get too handsy.” I glared at the hand he’d left resting on my bare shoulder.
He quickly withdrew the offending hand. “Glad you’re back.”
I swallowed down a wave of nerves, my heartbeat quickening as I realized we were all alone.
“You look stunning tonight. I should have told you earlier,” he said.
My eyes lifted to his and I parted my lips to speak, to give him one of the sassy quips I was known for, but nothing came out.
“Shh, it’s okay,” he said, his palm cupping my cheek. “You don’t have to be tough all the time, you know?”
I nodded slowly.
“I know you can take care of yourself, but who takes care of you, Ellie?”
He rarely, if ever, called me by my actual name, and the familiarity of it passing over his lips caused a little ripple of desire to dance in my belly. “No one,” I admitted. “Men suck.”
“I can’t argue with that. Most men are assholes who behave like spoiled children.”
I nodded slowly, glad we were on the same page. I thought he’d try to convince me otherwise, or at least tell me that he wasn’t one of them. But he just stayed quiet, watching me with those gorgeous blue eyes of his, making my skin hum with nervous anticipation. What were we doing?
“I could take care of you tonight, make you feel good, if you let me,” he whispered, his mouth just a few inches from mine.
My heart rioted in my chest. He was so good-looking, so sexy. I knew it’d be incredible. But the word tonight stood out to me. I was done with men who wanted one night with me. I supposed a string of failed dates and one-night stands would do that to you. I was looking for something more, a deeper, intimate connection; a real relationship. Not a one-night stand, not a guy who wanted nothing to do with me in the morning. Braydon had a way with words, I’d give him that. That didn’t mean anything was going to happen, though.
“A few sexy words and you expect me to just hand over my panties?” I quipped.
“No. I’d prefer to peel those off you myself. Slowly. Savoring every delicious inch of skin I exposed.”
My eyes slipped closed. My body was screaming at me to give in, to pull him into the nearest coat closet or restroom and let him have his way with me. To make this ache between my thighs go away. But my brain, ever in control, knew I couldn’t do that.
“May I kiss you?” he whispered.
Temptation to kiss him flared inside me, unbidden and unwelcome. I’d been unconsciously watching the way his mouth moved when he spoke, as he took sips from his glass, fantasizing about how those full lips would feel against mine. Despite my body’s urgings, I slowly shook my head.
“What are you afraid of?” he whispered. “Falling for me?”
I raised an eyebrow, looking at him like he’d grown a second head. “There’s no chance of that happening,” I scoffed.
“Then kiss me,” he rasped.
“Why would I kiss you?” I asked, breathless yet fighting to remain in control.
“Because you want to.” His statement was bold, direct, and sure. I hated how well he could read me.
“No, I don’t,” I murmured weakly. Stay strong, Ellie.
He chuckled softly. “Okay, kitten. Then let me kiss you. I want to see if you’re still as feisty when that pretty mouth is occupied.”
My silence was the only answer he needed.
He took my hand and dragged me the few paces to the women’s restroom across the hall. In this quiet part of the hotel, it was deserted.
Braydon’s warm palm cupped the bare nape of my neck, his thumb lightly rubbing against the soft skin. A chill darted down my spine. The simple contact from his hand was more than enough to ignite the fireworks between us into a raging inferno. His touch was firm, knowing, and decidedly confident.
With his hand still planted firmly at the base of my neck, he guided my body to his until our chests rested together. Our hearts pounded against each other, and I didn’t know if it was from the adrenaline surge of arguing with him or the desire I felt flooding my system.
He certainly knew how to make my heart race.
All the bickering and heated arguments gave way to this moment. His blue eyes gazed fiercely down at mine and my tongue unconsciously darted out to wet my bottom lip. Braydon didn’t miss the movement, his own lips parting as he softly inhaled.
I had no idea what he saw in me—what he must think of me—with my razor-sharp tongue and the neon sign above my head advertising how much I distrusted men. But in this moment, he obviously didn’t care. He was every bit as wrapped up in this as I was. Maybe he was just horny, maybe it was our roles as maid of honor and best man at our best friends’ wedding that had brought us to this moment . . . but regardless, there was no denying I wanted him to kiss me.
He was the king of mixed signals. He’d poked fun at me all day, and now he was looking like he wanted to devour me from the inside out. The thought made my stomach flip. With my chest brushing his, I felt my nipples harden beneath my satin gown. I wasn’t sure if he felt it too, but Braydon’s eyes grew dark with his desire and began to slip closed. I didn’t know what to make of him, but before I could even begin to sort out my feelings, his lips pressed tenderly against mine.
The softness in his kiss was unexpected. His fingers curled around my neck, fastening my mouth to his while he demanded I give in.
Knowing we were tucked away, with no chance of being discovered, I gave in to my desires. His fingers slowly knotted in my hair as he pulled me closer and deepened the kiss, his tongue lightly probing my mouth.
He was too sure. Too skilled. My libido immediately took notice, delivering a healthy dose of moisture to my panties. He turned something as simple as a kiss into a promise for sweaty, heart-pounding sex. If he kissed this well, surely he would be commanding and confident in the bedroom. Why did that thought excite me so much? I kissed him back with everything I had, my tongue sliding intimately against his as I tangled my hands in his hair.
After several moments, he slowly broke away, grinning against my mouth. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
I parted my lips and drew a slow, shaky breath. I wanted to beg him to kiss me again, but instead I lifted one shoulder then dropped it in a noncommittal shrug. “It was okay.”
He tipped his head back and laughed out loud. “You’re lying. I can see your body’s response to me, kitten. Your panties are probably wet right now. Just from that one kiss.”
I didn’t deny it—I just held my eyes on his. Even in these insanely high heels, I had to tilt up my head to look at him. He evoked strange responses from my body. One minute I wanted to bite his head off for being a player, and the next I wanted to mount him and make him show me just how experienced he was between the sheets. God, I should be checked for multiple personalities. Hold it together, Ellie!
He bent down and his hands disappeared under the hem of my dress, skimming my naked calves and thighs. Chill bumps broke out in the wake of his smooth hands roaming along my skin. Was he honestly going to check if my panties were wet? And was I seriously going to let him? I knew I should stop him, slap his hands away, step back—something—but instead I stood there like a lovesick idiot, letting him manhandle me.
His fingers slid in through the sides of my panties and slowly twisted them, pulling them down my thighs. I knew I should say something. This wasn’t okay, this wasn’t me. Yet I watched in wonder as he let them fall to my ankles.
“Step out of them,” he commanded.
I lifted one foot and then the other, leaving my panties haphazardly on the floor.
He slid one finger against my sex, and his mouth curved up in a grin. “You get really wet, don’t you?”
Heat flooded my cheeks and my eyes dropped to the floor. Oh, God.
He tipped my chin up to meet his eyes once again. “Fuck, I like that. A lot.”
I pulled in a shaky breath, relaxing into his touch.
His finger glided along my wet center and a whimper fell from my parted lips. It was laced with need, and Braydon recognized it immediately, his jaw tightening. His eyes danced as he looked into mine, and we tried to calm our ragged breathing.
“All this tension between us, my little firecracker, this electricity . . . don’t you want to see what it will be like when I’m buried balls-deep inside you?” he murmured, his finger lightly rubbing my clit as his eyes met mine. I whimpered and bit my lip. Braydon continued watching me as though cataloging my every reaction as his finger continued to carefully circle the bundle of nerve endings so desperate for attention.
God, if he keeps that up, I’m going to explode . . .
“Can I taste you?” he asked.
All the blood rushed from my brain to my clenching sex, and I nodded wordlessly.
Walking us backward, Braydon guided me into one of the large bathroom stalls and slid the clasp into place, locking the door behind us. My heart pounded in anticipation.
Our eyes connected as he lowered himself to his knees in front of me, pushing my dress up around my hips as he went. Raw desire was reflected back at me as those beautiful blue depths penetrated mine. He hungered to put his mouth on me, and that thought alone drove me absolutely wild.
Balancing on precariously high heels with a poufy satin dress lifted up around my waist, I braced one hand on the wall beside me for support.
“Put your hands here.” He took my wrists, placing my hands on his shoulders instead. Then he slowly leaned forward, planting sweet kisses along my inner thigh. I writhed, trying to push myself closer, and balled my fists into his shirt.
“Hang on, baby. I’ll take care of you. I promise.”
His words instantly soothed me. I knew he would.
What in the world was happening between me and Braydon? I had no clue. But hell if I wanted to stop it. His tantalizing mouth moved to my other thigh, giving it the same treatment, trailing tender, sucking kisses all over the smooth flesh.
I gripped his shirt, my fingers sliding from his shoulders to his collar, to his hair, using it to tug him closer.
“Okay, enough teasing,” he whispered. “You want to come?”
“Yes,” I groaned out.
His mouth closed over my sex, sucking my swollen flesh into his mouth. He certainly wasn’t shy. This wasn’t the timid, noncommittal technique I was used to from most guys—a few flicks of the tongue before retreating to check a box. Oral sex complete. No, Braydon invested himself fully, pinning me in place and worshipping my lady parts until I was moaning and tugging against his hair to get him to ease up.
Hushed voices and footsteps came within hearing range. Braydon didn’t stop his ministrations, despite me trying to wiggle away. His hands clamped down on my hips, holding me in place. The footsteps stopped just beside the door, and I peeked one eye open. I could see black Italian loafers and hot pink satin pumps under the doorway. Holy shit! It was Ben and Emmy.
Braydon and I froze, our gazes locking.
“Ben, I need you,” Emmy whined.
“I know, baby. I want to fuck you so bad.”
Emmy giggled. “Look. There are panties on the floor.”
“Looks like we weren’t the only ones with this idea,” Ben said. “Our romantic wedding makes panties drop,” he said as he chuckled softly.
After a moment’s hesitation, Emmy asked, “Ellie? Is that you?”
There was no use denying it. She could see my shoes, and since she’d picked out these strappy sandals for me, I knew we’d been spotted.
“Yeah, um, Braydon’s just helping me, um, find my contact.”
She hesitated just a moment. “You don’t wear contacts.”
Damn. I was hoping she’d be tipsy enough to overlook that fact.
“Yes, but I’m thinking of starting and I wanted to be sure . . .”
Braydon’s hand squeezed mine and he shot me a sympathetic look. “We’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“Got it. We’ll see you shortly,” Ben said. I watched as their feet disappeared around the corner, and I sagged in relief.
“Thank you,” I whispered to Braydon. My dumb ass had tried to convince Emmy I was getting contacts. Thanks to his quick thinking, or guy code or whatever, he’d gotten rid of them.
Without another word, Braydon’s mouth returned to my core and I cried out at the unexpected onslaught.
Once my body was pulsing after its second release, Braydon slowly pulled back and lowered my dress into place, smoothing out the wrinkles over my hips with his hands. Then he rose and stood in front of me. A slow, lazy smile tugged one corner of his mouth up. “Hi,” he whispered, his eyes dancing on mine like we were the only two in on a private joke.
I pressed my lips together to hide my smile. “We shouldn’t have done that.”
“You came, right?”
“Twice,” he confirmed.
“I wasn’t keeping track,” I lied. It was two mind-blowing orgasms, more powerful than I’d ever experienced before.
“I was.” His eyes locked on mine, possessive and dominant.
“That’s not happening again.”
“Yes it is.”
I worked my bottom lip between my teeth while Braydon watched me curiously.
A Love by Design Novel
All or Nothing
A Love by Design Novel
As one of the world’s most sought-after male models, Braydon is no stranger to the finer pleasures in life. The last thing he wants to do is limit himself, especially when it comes to women. His best friend, Ben, might’ve settled down, but Braydon doesn’t want to waste his youth on the messy complications of commitment. He wants fun. He wants easy.
Ellie isn’t looking for a casual relationship, but her tough and sassy personality instantly attracts Braydon, who proposes a “friends with benefits” arrangement. Unable to resist the powerful pull of the charming bad boy, Ellie eventually relents, though she longs for all-consuming love.
As the two spend more time together, Ellie soon realizes that Braydon’s posing skills extend off the runway. His carefully crafted façade masks a secret hurt that he’s reluctant to share with Ellie, even as they embark on a passionate affair that sends them hurtling toward a fate neither expected. Can Ellie risk her heart while she waits for Braydon to let her in, or will she be forced to demand all or nothing?