Fighting the Undertow
By Eden Rivers
Length: Novel Plus
Now available from Loose Id
For Ian and Val, falling for each other is all too easy. But his sexy friends, her career goals, his writer's block, and a troubled spirit redefine the meaning of the words "complicated relationship." Val presses for information about Ian's brother's ghost, but meets a wall of silence. When she discovers that Ian's highly emotional, sexual connection with his friends was what held him together after his brother died, she's intrigued and frightened by the eroticism of their bond. Truly entering into his world will involve expanding her sexual experiences in ways she's never imagined.
For Ian, Val's willing to take that erotic journey. But when she uncovers secrets about his family, his brother's death, and the group's sexual history, she suspects she's in way over her head. Confused by her new hungers, she's overwhelmed by the searing passion of two emotionally charged ménages. Although the friends have become the family she always wanted, she's not sure whether she's ready to accept Ian's world of complex relationships and dark passions, or whether she and Ian have even a ghost of a chance at happiness.
For Christ's sake, he hadn't been this nervous since his junior prom. As he lit the candles, Ian ran through a list of things that could go wrong. Maybe she'd ask what the hell was up with him and his friends, and since he was an honest guy, she'd run screaming from the house when he answered. There was always the chance for ordinary disasters, like dumping eggplant parmigiana in her lap while he served dinner. Or Abby and
could get back early from their evening out and scare her off. Tyler
At least Jeremy and Nathan lived close enough to visit without sleeping over. Better yet, Abby and
Tylerwould be heading back to when their vacation ended in a few days. After that, they'd just be around on weekends. Hell, he'd known Val one day, and already his loyalty to his friends was evaporating. These were the people who'd kept him sane when Lisa walked out, who'd been there for him when Kevin… He stopped that line of thought before it ended up somewhere dark and painful. Boston
Before he could subject his attraction to Val to further scrutiny, he heard a confident rap on the door. "Come in." He slipped a bottle of wine into the ice bucket, wiped his hands on a dish towel, and went to meet her.
"Hey. Something smells good." Val gave him a quick hug.
"I hope you don't mind eating here." At her inquisitive glance toward the kitchen, he rushed to reassure her. "
helped me with dinner, so it will be edible." Tyler
He continued talking as he busied himself in the kitchen. "
and Abby are out for the evening, and Nathan and Jeremy drove home a while ago." Her shoulders relaxed. A good sign, she wanted to be alone with him. Or maybe a bad sign, she was wary of his friends. Tyler
Somehow, he managed to get dinner on the table without any disasters. Though entertaining a sexy woman felt sort of strange. He hadn't cooked for anyone other than his friends since Lisa left. As they talked, he reminded himself of his priorities. Write the damn book. No new attachments until I can think about Lisa without my gut twisting into a knot.
As for his attraction to Val, that could be a pleasant distraction. Just because he wanted to reach out and touch her face when her cheek dimpled with laughter didn't mean he had to get involved. She didn't want that any more than he did.
All of that seemed rational, until they finished dessert. The next thing he knew, his arms were wrapped around her waist, though he wasn't sure who'd initiated the embrace. As he explored her mouth with his tongue, sweet with dessert and tart with a hint of wine, the pounding of the ocean clouded his thoughts. He broke away long enough to close the windows. Then, before he could think of a good reason not to, he invited her upstairs.
"Ian, I…" If she'd been about to voice second thoughts, he drowned her words with another kiss. When they reached his room, she threw open the window, inviting in the crash of the waves.
Neither of them bothered to turn on a light. In the moonlight, she looked even sexier than she did with the waves playing at her skin.
"You're sure you want this?" Damn it, Winters, what if she says no?
"Mmm hmm. Just a formality, but my roommate would kill me if I didn't ask…"
"Yes, I've engaged in risky behaviors. Yes, I've always used a condom. Yes, I've been tested, and I'm fine." He held his breath, waiting to see if she'd ask for specifics. He'd tell her, but he didn't know if she was up to hearing the details yet.
"Me too. Well, except for the risky behaviors part." Val tugged at the clip that held her hair back from her face. As thick curls spread across her shoulders, she found his lips and nipped hard enough to elicit a grunt of surprise.
When she moved toward the bed, Ian was relieved not to have to navigate that particular transition. "Miss Vee?"
"Yes, Mr. Winters?" Laughing at the feigned formality, she tugged him down beside her, sinking into the down comforter.
"I was wondering something yesterday, and maybe you could help me come up with an answer." Teasing his hands over her shoulders and neck, he brought them to rest in the silky curls that spread out around her head on the pillow.
"When we were walking on the beach, the wind blew your curls around your face and…" He paused to tug at a few tendrils of hair, shining reddish brown in the moonlight. "I wondered if you might be that wild, that free…"
"In bed?" Without embarrassment, she finished the question.
"With you, I think maybe I could be."
That was all he needed to know. She wouldn't run blushing if he forgot himself and took things too far. But she wasn't Lisa, either. Lisa had used him for the sex, for his friends, for the excitement of the forbidden. But he'd been so in love, he'd been blind to her motives, expecting nothing less than the honesty he'd offered her.
As Val slipped her fingers under his shirt, he pushed aside the past and focused his attention on her. What frightened him wasn't how much he wanted her -- though he couldn't remember the last time he'd been this hot and bothered for someone -- it was how much he wanted to be with her. To fall asleep with his head beside hers on the pillow, to see what those crazy, wonderful curls looked like in the morning…
"Ian?" She tugged his shirt over his head and paused with her fingers on the button above his fly.
Ian slid his hands under her shirt and unhooked her bra, and soon they sat naked in the moonlight. He leaned over and grabbed two silk scarves from a drawer in the bedside table. Val's shoulders tensed under his hands, but as he trailed the silk over her skin, she relaxed.
"Yes." As the silk brushed across her nipples, she made a soft sound of approval.
His balls were making a concerted effort to crawl up under his skin, and he hadn't ached for anyone like this since high school, but he forced himself to go slow. Seeing as he wanted to avoid attachments, he shouldn't be so afraid of scaring her away. But he'd reason that out later. For now, their bodies told him what he needed to know. The way she arched into his embrace. The shivers of fire that raced across his skin when she touched him.
"No." He moved her hand away from his cock and eased her down onto the mattress. Not that he objected to the heat that followed the path of her fingertips along his dick. But he wanted this to last until morning. God help him, he wanted to pull her close and watch her sleep as the sun rose.
Val flinched as he draped a scarf across her eyes, but when he left it loose, she settled back onto the pillow and explored his body with her fingers. She stroked his hair while he sucked one nipple, then the next, and when he tried to sit up, she locked her hands behind his neck and guided his mouth to hers.
He could tell by the way she nipped at his neck and jaw, by the way she tried to shift to her side when he rested his weight on her, that she wanted to take control. And he had no doubt she could. In fact, he looked forward to the night it would happen. But he wanted something else tonight. She protested when he knotted the scarf at the back of her head, but didn't try to tug it away from her face.
"Okay?" A few heartbeats of silence greeted the question, and he soothed his hands along her arms as he waited.
"I think so."
Not wanting to spook her, he waited to see what she'd do next. Reaching out to find his face, she shifted onto her side and pressed her mouth to his. The heat of her kisses, the probing insistence of her tongue in his mouth, nearly pushed him beyond the thin shred of control he had left.
What is it about her?