Authors: JM Stewart
New York Â Â Boston
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This one goes to my long-time critique partner, Skye Jones. This series wouldn't even be here if you hadn't encouraged me to try. A thousand thank-yous.
he musical ding of an incoming chat sounded through her laptop's speakers. Hannah Miller's heart stuttered. Standing in her kitchen, coffee cup in hand, electricity fizzled along her nerve endings, settling hot and luscious between her thighs. She didn't need to see them to know what they said. The same words popped up every night:
Hey baby. You there?
Like every night, the same little flutter of excitement and arousal slid through her. Every inch of her came alive. He was early tonight. According to the clock on her cable box, it was ten past seven. They didn't usually meet until sometime around nine. She'd anticipated a couple of hours of waiting.
She bit her lower lip, gnashing it between her teeth. What she needed to do was wait before answering him. Keep him wondering. She didn't want to look too eager. Like she hadn't been biding her time waitingâ¦in lingerie she'd bought just for him.
She glanced down at herself, fingering the hem of the pink negligee she'd donned an hour before. The sheer fabric fluttered over the tops of her thighs. It was the first time she'd ever splurged for something sexy, but on the way home from the bookshop this afternoon, she got to thinking about him and ended up in the Victoria's Secret on Pine Street. It was a spur-of-the-moment splurge. She'd taken one look at it and knew he'd love it.
She had to admit, wearing the see-through nightie filled her with a sense of feminine power. She
sexy. Something she hadn't felt since long before her breakup with Dane a year and a half ago.
She sighed, set her cup on the counter, and gave in to the pull. Then she moved around the breakfast bar separating the kitchen from the living room and padded across the space. As she came to stand behind the couch, she rested her hands along the back and stared at the words on the screen. It had to be pathetic to look forward to a date with a man she'd never met. Night after night, she sat alone in front of her computer. The only sexual gratification she'd gotten in the last year and a half always happened solo.
She didn't even know the guy's real name. She'd been chatting with him for six months now. They'd met on a message board discussing a book, an erotic romance of all things. An easy friendship had developed that had become more over time. He made her laugh. He challenged her. And he made her see stars. She knew intimate things about this man. Where he liked to be touched and how, what his kinks were, his hopes and dreams.
Yet all she knew about
was that he was Harley-riding lawyer from San Diego. They chatted via Gchat and both went by anonymous usernames. She was “JustAGurl456.” He didn't offer his real name, and she didn't ask. He could be her neighbor for all she knew, the ugly guy in 45B who played the weird music at two in the morning.
Still, she looked forward to this part of her day, to coming home knowing he'd be there. Even if all they did was chat about their days, he was a lure she could never resist. More often than not, though, their conversations veered toward the hot and erotic. The man had magic fingers. He always knew the right thing to say to light her on fire, and those fingers always reached through the wires straight into her core.
She'd throbbed all day thinking about her chat with him. So much so she'd stopped on the way home for something sexy to describe to him. She only wished her lover could be there to see the nightie she'd bought for him. She'd even contemplated getting brave and sending him a picture or inviting him to a video chat on Skype. She'd grown tired of her own fingers. Even her high-end vibrator didn't cut it anymore. What she craved was touch and the warmth of skin. A flesh-and-blood lover.
Except she'd never been able to summon the courage to move beyond their anonymous chats. She had rules she'd lived by since her parents' deaths, since she ended up in a children's home and part of the foster care system. Inserted and forgotten. She'd set those rules aside for Dane. Since his exit from her life, she'd reaffirmed them. The top one? Never get attached. She was already growing attached to this one. The fact that she was here, waiting, proved it. She knew better.
Even knowing that, she moved around the couch and sat, picked up her laptop, and set it on her knees. As she punched in a reply, her hands trembled with nerves and the first stirrings of arousal. Yeah. This was why she was so damn addicted to him. Because all he had to do was pop up in her Gchat window and her panties dampened.
JustAGurl456: Hi. You're home early tonight. I didn't expect to see you until after nine.
bikerboy357: Meeting canceled last minute. Paperwork can wait. I had to talk to you. I've been looking forward to you all day.
JustAGurl456: Mmm. Me too.
Hannah inserted a finger into her mouth, biting down on the nonexistent nail. She shouldn't have told him that. Did she sound too desperate?
bikerboy357: Did you have a good day?
JustAGurl456: I had a long day. You?
Her day had been slow and boring. A couple of requests from her online bookstore had come in, people looking for original first copies, but the shop itself had been slow. Being in the middle of the rainy season for Seattle, the day had been dreary, the light drizzle enough to keep people indoors. Despite the shop sitting around the corner from Pike Place Market, only a handful of customers had come into the physical store.
bikerboy357: I've had a helluva hard-on all day thinking about you. Made the day hella long. Let's do something crazy tonight, baby.
That he'd been looking forward to her, too, had her insides clenching in anticipation. The mention of his cock had fantasies filling her mind, and the desire to see him flared to life in her chest. It wasn't the first time the urge had hit. She had a million fantasies about what he looked like. It was her favorite. She always imagined he had big hands and a big cock. More than a time or two she'd wanted to ask him to take a picture of it. She ached to have him in front of her, to see the bulge in his slacks. She bet he was long and thick, with a bulbous head she'd kill to wrap her lips around.
Really, what she wanted, what she craved more than chocolateâ¦was his touch. To have him beside her. To bring their online encounters into reality. She yearned for the hands touching her to be his. To open her eyes after an intense, mind-blowing orgasm and find herself alone always filled her with emptiness. She was tired of being alone.
JustAGurl456: OK. What do you have in mind?
bikerboy357: Let me call you. I know we agreed to keep this anonymous, but I'm dying to hear your voice.
Her scintillating mood skidded to a halt. For a moment, all she could do was blink at the screen. Call her? Was he serious? Her hands trembled again, this time from the nerves currently wrapping themselves around her throat. Okay, she'd admit it. She'd fantasized about talking to him on the phone, actually getting to hear his voice. It would make him seem a little closer, a little more human and not just words on a computer screen.
She'd told this man secrets she'd never told anyone, including her best friend, Maddie. Like how lonely she really was. It was something they shared. A love for readingâ¦and a lonely emptiness nothing could fill. There were nights when they simply chatted, about life and horrible days and wishes and dreams. He'd become a friend, and she looked forward to their chats as much as she did nights like these when she craved his body the most.
She'd made her self-imposed rules to protect her heart. If one more person left her life, she might crawl up inside herself and never come out. Those rules, however, isolated her. The loneliness and monotony of her life got to her every once in a while. She longed to hear his voice, to hear the sounds he made when his orgasm ripped through him. Even to know the sound of his laugh.
Letting him call her, though, would take their exchanges to a level she didn't know if she was ready for. What did she know about this guy, really? Nothing. Well, okay, almost nothing. She knew his favorite color was blue, that he had a love for good Chinese, and that he was a reader, like her, but she couldn't pick him out of a lineup. She had no idea if he had siblings, or if he even had family at all. He was little more than a chat handle on the other side of her computer. One step above a fantasy. How did she know he hadn't lied about himself, the way she had?
Truth was, as lonely as it could get, she preferred their relationship this way. At least online, he wouldn't be able to see her. He wouldn't discover she'd lied about her looks. She didn't have long legs up to her ears or blond hair. She had mousy brown locks that frizzed when it got too hot and a short, plump stature. Maddie, her business partner and best friend, insisted on calling her
. But Hannah knew she had twenty pounds she couldn't lose for the life of her and that men tended to overlook her.
She also wouldn't have to watch the disgust wash across his expression when his gaze landed on the hideous scars cutting across her face. She wouldn't have to watch him stumble for an excuse, a reason why he needed to back out of an encounter with her. She'd heard the excuses one too many times. Maybe from jerks, but still. She didn't have it in her to start all over again.
Another message popped onto her screen.
bikerboy357: Hey, where'd you go?
With shaking fingers, she punched in a quick reply.
JustAGurl456: Sorry, I'm here. I have to admit, you caught me by surprise.
bikerboy357: I want to hear your voice, baby. I want to hear your breathing when you're pumping those fingers into yourself and what sounds you make when you come all over them. I want to know you're right there with me.
A hot little shudder ran the length of her spine, settling warm and luscious in all those places he mentioned. Her clit throbbed, begging her to take him up on his offer. She'd done safe for so long it had become habit, because the fear of history repeating itself froze her into inaction. Could she do this, though?
bikerboy357: Are you nervous?
She bit her lower lip, staring at his words on the screen. The answer came immediately. She shouldn't tell him, though. No, what she ought to do was stick to the script. So far she'd played fearless and flirty, everything she wasn't in real life. She enjoyed her online persona. For a while, she could be someone more exciting, instead of the book geek who hid in the shadows.
In real life, she owned a bookstore with her best friend, Madison O'Riley. They sold rare, hard-to-find books. Hannah was a geek. She'd survived her time growing up by sticking her nose in a book, by learning to keep her eyes open while blending in with her surroundings.
Truth was, she was scared of her shadow most of the time. When she became comfortable with someone, she could talk their ear off, but in real life, she was a wallflower. Online, she was safe, because nobody could see her. They couldn't reject her before they'd even gotten to know her, and she didn't have to worry about people leaving her life. If she admitted he terrified her, she might as well admit she'd lied about her persona, too, which would do nothing but change the entire dynamic of their relationship.
The word typed itself onto the screen anyway. She had to be honest or come up with a flimsy excuse, and she hated lying, especially to him. She might not be able to pick him from a lineup, but she knew one thingâhe really was a nice guy, lonely like her, and lying to him made her feel too much like the very thing she loathed.
Seconds passed. She bit down on her nail again, nervousness clutching at her stomach. Had she scared him off by being too honest?
bikerboy357: 312-555-1725. That's my cell number. How 'bout you call me then.
Her gaze shot to her phone, lying on the coffee table across from her. Its dark shape beckoned, daring her to pick it up. She swallowed hard. The thought of talking to him had become her latest fantasy. Getting to hear the sexy sound of his voice and the noises he made when he came. His breath sawing in and out as his arousal ramped up, as they pushed each other to the point of no return and he tipped over the edge with her. Yeah, she wanted that. Desperately.
Another message popped onto her screen.
bikerboy357: All right, honesty time? I'm dying to know the sound of your voice. It would make you feel not quite so far away. I hate that I can't see you or touch you. You're a big part of my day, but I don't even know what your laugh sounds like.
His admission tugged at the isolated place inside. She couldn't deny she yearned for the same things. Or that she'd had the very same thoughts.
Then and there the decision made itself, and she snatched her phone off the table. It didn't have to change things. He still wouldn't be able to see her.
Her fingers trembled as she punched in his number, and she hesitated at the last digit, her thumb hovering over the
button. She couldn't go back after this.
bikerboy357: I always imagined you'd have a sweet voice. I can close my eyes and pretend you're here with me.
Oh God, that did it. It was like he'd snatched the thought right out of her head. Knowing he understood what it was to be lonely made talking to him irresistible. She swallowed down the fear and punched the
button before she lost the nerve. As the phone rang, her heart rate skyrocketed, a dull pulsing in her ears. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath in a desperate attempt not to sound as nervous as she felt. With any luck, her tongue wouldn't trip over itself.
Please, God, don't let me say something stupid.
The line rang once, then twice. Her breath stalled as she waited for the click, for a voice to sound on the other end of the line. Was he as nervous as she was?
His voice rumbled along the line, low and etched with a happy edge. Hot little shivers raced along the surface of her skin and a stupid smile stretched across her face. She'd thought of this moment a million times, and he fulfilled the fantasy. He had a sexy bedroom voice, deep and powerful but quiet, one she could envision listening to while lying in the dark. The thought of the naughty things he'd whisper in her ear had fire licking along every nerve ending.