Appalachian State University, Early Senior Year
Robin Bates paused to tap his head on the wall. This couldn’t go on. Stop stalling and do it. He opened the door and took a deep breath. “Anna, we have to talk.”
The blue lamp on the table glowed with soft light. Stuffed toys and blankets crowed the limited floor space. Hats in various sizes and neon colors scattered across the surfaces of desks, chairs, and the floor. Anna and her ‘share the warmth’ or ‘toys for tots’ drives. Robin shook his head but couldn’t prevent the smile.
Then his gaze fell upon her.
Books and crumpled papers decorated the tangled sheets, mute evidence of one heck of a restless night. Her laptop perched at an angle on the pillows, not quite bent down, not quite straight. Starry skies shot with pen point stars twinkled as her screen saver. She’d been asleep for at least fifteen minutes.
But she was all he could focus upon.
Robin’s gaze followed the line of Anna’s bare legs. All but transparent from numerous washings, her favorite blue nightshirt rode high on thighs he’d give his right arm to caress. His body hardened.
Anna whispered in her sleep and shifted. Her thighs parted. The shirt rode higher.
It was now or never.
Robin felt actual pain in his groin. Did she wear those cute smiley face panties or the ones with the little bows? Had she showered? Used that cherry blossom lotion so her skin would feel even more silky and touchable?
Wait. What the hell was he thinking? “Jesus, get a grip.” Robin ran a hand through his hair. “I’m supposed to be breaking away from her not perving and imaging sex.”
Yet he couldn’t stop. Moth to her flame his gaze devoured her in the way his hands couldn’t. Her glorious dark golden hair tumbled out of a braid, spilling in waves over sonic screwdrivers and Tardises printed on her pillowcase. One arm was thrown over her head, small slender fingers curled. The slow rise and fall of her chest made him picture her in his arms, tonight, tomorrow, and every night and day after. Robin wanted her in a way he’d never wanted anything.
“Robin. Please Robin.”
He jerked around as her lashes fluttered and quiet voice broke the dream. His hands covered his head as if that alone could block out the images of a future. Her southern tone, sweet butter sliding over hot bread, could drive any man insane. When half-asleep her voice became pure sin, honey on skin he could lick and never taste enough. Robin seriously contemplated a shower in ice water from the Antarctica Ocean.
If he turned right now he’d see those big brown eyes drowsy with sleep. Her soft rose-colored lips would be parted on a yawn. Anna rarely wore the makeup other girls so loved. She didn’t need it. She’d look soft, rumbled, and warm, an unintended seductress. God please help me focus on the door and getting out of here.
“Sorry to wake you.” Robin began to recite the periodic table of elements in his head. Where was Iron? Oh yes, there. And Gold? In her glorious hair. Just begging for his hands to feel its softness and pull her closer—
No, no, No! There have been forty some Presidents of the United States. George Washington was the first. The second was…
“Robin? What’s wrong?”
“I’m grabbing a shower. That’s all.” All? I’m also chickening out. Again. “Go back to sleep.”
Sheets rustled. Paper balls bounced to the floor. Muttered words. The thump of books and computer as she placed them on the table. “I just took a short nap. I haven’t finished this assignment because you said you’d help me.”
Guilt flooded Robin. He had promised to help after she endlessly tutored him and ruthlessly, effectively, edited his last term paper. She was the darling of every charity, a whiz at English and grammar. And yet almost hopeless at higher math. “Give me a few minutes. I’ll be back.”
“Are you all right? You’re acting weird.” Her voice whispered behind him. “Did something happen on your date? Are you hurt?”
Yeah, something happened. Melody’s sexy and fun. But all I could think about was you. She realized my mind wasn’t on her and caused a freaking scene. I’m lucky to have escaped with my life. “Everything’s fine.”
Anna’s small hand gripped his arm. “You don’t seem fine. I told you not to go bungee jumping. Did you strain a muscle? Hurt your ankle again? What?”
“Don’t touch me.” Robin pushed past her and stalked to his own bed. He threw the neatly folded quilts and winter gear to the already littered floor. “When are you getting all this junk out of here? It’s like a thrift shop in here. Useless junk.”
“It’s for a good cause, you know that. I know it’s crowded, but I promise to take it to the church tomorrow.”
He ripped off his jacket and tried to ignore her shocked expression. The hurt in her voice almost drove him to his knees. He tossed his cell phone and wallet onto her laptop, ignoring the warning clinks and clangs.
“Sorry it all bothers you.” Anna bent her head, long hair falling to cover her face. Her shoulders slumped. “It’s really late. Never mind the assignment. I’ll just ask Professor Randall for an extension.”
“Stop with the guilt.” Hide in anger. “When someone offers help it’s on their time table, not yours. I have a schedule and a life that doesn’t include you.”
Her head snapped up, gaze enflamed whisky brown fire. “I’m well aware of that. We worked the whole separate lives things out after I got stuck with you in my room three years ago.”
"You got stuck?” Robin ripped his shirt over his head. “I thought you were happy with your own damn solution. I’ve stayed out of your way.”
“You aren’t ever here. I don’t have a roommate.” Anna waved her arms. Robin nearly sank to his knees at her exposed skin. “The girls call you Playboy Prince of ASU. Those stupid ninnies think you’re God’s gift with your tight jeans, leather jacket, and idiot motorcycle. Like Danny from Grease.”
“Well you know, baby, rocking and a rolling.”
His humor fell flat Robin saw immediately. Anna folded her arms across her chest and looked sterner than any mother. “One day, all that wild riding and crazy stunts is going to catch up to you.”
“So, you keep telling me. Mom.” Robin ran his hand through his hair again. Why couldn’t she see the only reason he did ‘all those crazy stunts’ as she called them was to try to forget her? They were best friends and yet she couldn’t see what was literally right in front of her!
“I’m not your mother.”
“Then lay off.”
“Wow, you are in a bad mood. Did the great Robin Bates finally meet the one woman who could resist his infallible charm in Melody? Aw, poor baby. That explains why you’re biting my head off.” Anna bent to gather the woolen items into a pile. While not a great improvement, at least a sliver of the floor could now be seen.
“I’m not in a bad mood.” I’m wanting you, just you. And all you ever see me as is your best bud, your roommate, your math tutor, damnit. When I’m horny as hell for you. “We both need to cool off before you say something you regret.”
Anna marched over to poke his bare chest. “You aren’t going to take your rotten mood out on me. It’s not my fault—”
“It is your fault.” He grabbed her arms and shook her. Her hair cascaded around her shoulders as her head wobbled. Tears formed in her eyes.
“How? What did I do?” The tears spilled like crystal to her pale cheeks as she stared up at him. “I’m just trying to help.”
She looked unbearably beautiful and precious. And he’d treated her like crap.
Appalled at his treatment, Robin released her. Anger not violence. Oh God, please help me. She smelled like sweet cherry blossoms. He wanted to dive in and see if she tasted as good. If I don’t get out of here in the next three seconds... “Go help some other lost cause. Leave me alone.”
“No.” She stood on tip toe, pressed against him from shoulder to hip. “I won’t.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, warm, vibrant woman. Her mouth settled under his, tender, trembling, parted. He was only human.
Thank God, thank God, thank God. Finally, he doesn’t see me as just a friend, a roommate, an English tutor.
Why hadn’t she picked a fight a long time ago? Robin pressed against her, hard and thick. He wanted her. Holy Tardis she wanted him. Anna raised her leg and wound it around his. The rough fabric of his jeans rubbed her bare skin with incredible friction. He moaned. Please don’t stop. Please, please, please.
“Anna.” Robin broke their kiss. “That damn well better mean yes.”
“Don’t talk.” Anna kissed him again. His hands cupped her bottom as he lifted both her legs to wrap around him. Heat and dampness flooded her. Everything she possessed needed him deep inside her. He smelled like soap, fresh air, and pure Robin. Her Robin. She’d loved him almost from the moment they met. Now she could show him. He spun her around and slammed them on her bed, left her breathless.
“You aren’t wearing any.” Robin’s hands roamed her skin. His fingers stroked her inner thighs, made her shiver. “Commando.”
Heat rushed to her cheeks. She’d figured she’d be alone all night again. “I, um, just didn’t—” She cried out as his fingers filled her, sought through her damp folds and into the very heart where she ached most. One finger trailed up until he reached the small button. Her hips jerked as he tugged. She couldn’t just lie here. She needed to touch, to caress, to something. Her fingers fluttered over his skin. “Show me what I should do.”
“Shh.” He feathered her cheeks with kisses. “Just enjoy.”
A master at this, Anna realized as his fingers scissored inside her and his thumb rolled her clit. Her hips arched. Her body ached. Who could have guessed anything felt so good? Anna dug her fingernails into his shoulders then clawed at his back. “I need to you, freaking have to breathe you in. God, Robin, please!” Her mind shattered as something inside burst into flames.
“Anna.” Robin pushed a strand of hair from her forehead with fingers which trembled as much as she. His ocean eyes gazed into hers while a smug smile curved his lips. “Anna.”
Panting, body quaking like the ground under an earthquake, Anna stared up. He’s so proud of himself. Guess he should be, giving me my first orgasm. With another person, I mean. I need to do something smug. She pushed, caught him off guard, and straddled him. “My turn.”
Robin laughed which caused her tingling body to shiver anew. “Be my guest.”
It took precious moments to yank his jeans and briefs down, for him to kick them to the floor. He was beautiful, all solid muscle and tanned skin. Feast. He hissed and shuddered when her teeth closed around his nipple. Good. Now he understands. Anna nibbled until he hoarsely called her name. She released and panted out the question. “What?”
Robin’s hips thrust up, pushed against her bottom. He cupped her breasts, bare skin over bare skin. Anna shivered, barely able to breathe. He’d pulled off her nightshirt and she hadn’t even noticed. His wonderful magical fingers caressed until her nipples stood taut and her lower body wept. His eyes bored into hers. “Do you want me?”
Anna nodded, unable to speak through the pleasure his whisper caused against her hot skin. When his hand slid down her stomach she bit her lip not to scream. “Now. Please.”
“Wait.” Robin motioned with a shaking hand to floor. “Right front pocket.”
What? Ohhhh. Anna scrambled to retrieve the condom, refused to think it had been meant for another woman, and ripped it open. He’s way bigger than the banana used in sex ed class. Just because I’ve never done this doesn’t mean I can’t. Her hand closed around his erection, heated flesh over steel, lined with throbbing veins. Mmm, he feels so perfect in my hands. What if I squeeze right here? His grunted curse made her lips twist. Maybe I should taste him?
“Anna.” Robin’s entire body shuddered. He tensed when she ran a fingernail over the tip of him, found him damp. “You’re killing me.”
“You seem pretty alive.” Anna clamped her lips around him. Robin jerked straight up, thrusting into her mouth. Earthy, salty, nothing she’d expected. Pure delight filled her, enhanced the need. She sucked and pushed her mouth further down. His eyes all but rolled back in his head. A few more suckles, a couple of licks.
“Anna. Please let me be inside you. Please.”
She looked up into his eyes. Drowned in their depths, in the scent, and taste, and feel of him. Anna pulled the condom over brick hard skin.
“Thank God in His heaven.” Robin rolled her body under his and with a slow, careful nudge, eased inside her.
Anna wasn’t afraid and she didn’t want slow. She wanted to see him explode, to have the same pleasure he’d given her. His fingers caressed, made her squirm and whisper his name over and over as sensation pounded through her blood. Lost again, so lost in him.
“Wrap your arms around my neck, Carolina Girl.”
Only Robin ever called her that. Everything within melted in sweet emotion. Anna took a deep breath, gaze glued to his. “Now?”
“Now.” Robin inched inside a bit more and held still.
Anna arched, impatient, wanting, loving all of him. “Harder. More. Please.”
He slid deep past the last thin barrier. Anna couldn’t help the tiny cry at the small pain which faded under a wave of crushing desire with his thumb on her clit. Robin murmured something she couldn’t understand. Their tender kiss, lips caressing each other belied the heat.
Anna felt each of the veins she’d just licked rubbing her inner walls. Her muscles clenched until nothing mattered except their fusion, his fullness, and her acceptance. She held his gaze even as his fingers worked their incredible magic once more. Only love could bring this sensual, consuming, all pleasurable dance she never wanted to end. I love you. I love you. My Robin.
Her legs wrapped his waist as their bodies pressed heart to heart. His thrusts became more frenzied, more urgent. Anna matched his pace, determined not to succumb to the colors threatening to burst around her. His breaths came in rough bursts of air as sweat dotted his forehead. “Anna, Jesus, you’re so hot and tight, it’s like—”
“Heaven.” Oh damn, she couldn’t hold back, couldn’t stop. His eyes glazed as she squeezed and exploded. Robin shouted her name as his body went rigid.
They just held each other, wrapped tight, his body still inside hers. His heart thudded against hers. I love you Robin so much. Now everything is perfect. We’ll be together as a couple not just as friends. His breath evened out, become a normal rhythm. The soft sounds he made only when he slept filled the quiet air. Anna didn’t want to move, couldn’t even if she’d wanted. So, she smiled and slept.
The Carolina blue sky painted above them, cloudless, perfect. Soft grass made a carpet under her bare feet. The soft scent of apple blooms filled the just warm enough air. It was a perfect day. She used a blade to tickle Robin’s cheek and grinned when he sighed and wiped at his face.
“Wrap your arms around my neck, Carolina Girl. Never let go.”
Only Robin ever called her that. Everything within her melted in sweet emotion. Anna took a deep breath, gaze glued to his. “Robin, I need to tell you—”
The vibration woke her. A cell phone drummed. Its hum echoed whatever it lay on.
Anna reached toward the nightstand, eyes half-blind from sleep. Robin laid half against the wall and half over her in the narrow bed. She giggled when his arms tightened at her movements. She just avoided poking him in the nose with her elbow. They really needed a bigger bed.
And some earplugs. Robin was snoring again. Darn him. But she grinned, unable to be mad. Mmm, he felt so good over her. Maybe she could wake him up with her lips on his—
The tone was ’Born to be Wild’ filled the air. Robin’s cell. Its text light flashed. She grabbed the blasted loud phone. Its text light flashed.
Where are you? Supposed to meet for a ride on your bike. Or another on you. Call me. Kassie.
Anna’s heart shattered. So, it was Melody last night and Kassie today. Kassie. Her friend. Or Anna had thought she was her friend. How stupid to think someone who could have his pick of any of the women here would actually ever pick her. Or that making love would change things between them. How stupid could she be? He’d never change.
She’d heard him say, “Nothing better than riding with the wind in your face, utter freedom from any nagging female until I decide I want company” countless times. He lived for that stupid motorcycle, even more than he liked to chase women. And considering he’d dated most of their senior class plus half the juniors and sophomores, that said a lot. The deathtrap motorcycle brought nothing good. Hadn’t one so close to Robin’s it could be its twin almost taken—
Breath hurt her lungs. To Robin, the motorcycle was like a beloved child, a soulmate. He treated the metal and chrome much better than he ever treated any woman. Not that Robin was mean. Far from it. Women actually fought to go out with him. More than once some desperate female had even tried to befriend Anna, certain she could ‘give a boost’ or ‘put in a good word’ with her best friend.
Shoving at her hair, Anna sighed. It was just as well. They were so different. And while that might attract, it didn’t build. She wanted a future. A stable life. A love of a lifetime.
He wanted Anna’s friendship and nothing more. He’d never settle down with any one woman. All he cared about was his motorcycle and the next daredevil stunt. And the next in his long line of willing, panting girls ready to do almost anything to be seen with The Playboy Prince.
Anna wanted commitment, a relationship. She wanted a future with a house and a yard, and children someday. Maybe even a dog. But Robin didn’t. Not now. Maybe not ever.
And definitely never with her. He’d had four years to be more than just her friend. Not once had he ever indicated he wanted more.
She had a choice to make. Fast.
Decision made, she dropped the phone. She pasted on a big bright smile and tossed back her tumbled hair. “Hi. There’s something we need to talk about.”
“Like spending the rest of the day here?” Robin winked from beneath his arm. He looked sleepy and soft, cuddly. Like crawl in and stayed curled up to me for hours. No bear Anna had ever possessed had as great an appeal as Robin just waking up. “It’s Sunday. We can sleep in. Shut the blinds, dose the light, and let’s go back to sleep.”
Anna yanked the sheet higher over her naked breasts. She tried to not to lose her smile. Her heart felt like jagged pieces of broken glass. “”We can’t let this happen again. This, um, sex stuff.”
“Sex stuff?” Robin gaped and sat up. “You mean last night?”
“Yeah.” Miserable but determined Anna shook off the crushing disappointment. Pretend to be just like him, calm, cool, collected, always moving on. “I don’t ever want to do anything to jeopardize our friendship. It means the world to me.”
“You don’t want me.” His gaze searched hers. “After what we shared?”
She shoved all the emotion down somewhere dark. Don’t break, keep up the pretense. It’s all for the best. “We just got carried away. Meaningless sex will mess up our friendship.”
“Meaningless sex?” He jumped up to tug on his jeans. Anna swallowed hard at the gorgeous curve of his naked ass. “You think it meant nothing?”
“There’s emotion sure. I love you as my best friend. I always will.” And then some. “Can’t we put this night behind us? I just want to make sure you know that and nothing changes.”
Thunk! One shoe hit the floor as he pulled it on his foot. Thud went the other. “Oh, believe me, I know what we are. Friends. Yeah, right.”
Anna kept her gaze averted. If he searched her eyes, he’d see she didn’t mean a word about just being friends. He’d see she wanted so much more. Then he’d run fast to the first woman he met. Probably Kassie. “It’s all I can give you. Please stay my friend.”
“Fine. Friends.” He laughed, though not with his typical lightness and humor. “Since I’m not wide awake, I’m going to grab some breakfast, maybe take a ride. Want to join me, Friend?”
With Kassie? Anna bit the words back. “No thanks. I’m kind of tired. Your idea about sleeping in sounds good now.” Plus, she needed a good long cry. They could only be friends. Everything went back as it was before last night.
“Later then Carolina Girl.” The door slammed behind him.
Anna curled in a ball in rumpled sheets which smelled like Robin. What was wrong with her? She got what she wanted, didn’t she? This was the right thing to do. She could keep living with him as her best friend. She couldn’t live without him in her life. So, this was the only way.
She was a strong, independent woman, darn it. She had a great career ahead, a bright future. She was going to graduate near the top of her class if she survived this blasted math class. She even had a position at her home town school all but lined up after graduation. She didn’t need some playboy dare devil.
So why did she feel like she’d literally lost her best friend?
What was wrong with her? She got what she wanted, didn’t she? This was the right thing to do. She could keep on being his best friend. She couldn’t live without him in her life. So, this was the only way.
Crash! The door hit the wall, startled a yelp from her. “Anna.”
Her heart thundered. Why had he come back? Was it possible he—
“I’m sorry for the way I acted.” Robin plopped on the bed beside her, sighed, and then spoke again. “You’re right. We’re great just as we are. Best friends.”
Don’t say I’m right. Say you want more. Say you only need me. Anna shifted, faced him.
“We’re best buds.” He grinned, happy-go-lucky Robin again. She was in pieces and he was the same as ever. “Your friendship means a lot to me, you know. You’re right not to mess with it.”
Anna nodded and forced a smile. Wheels in motion made it too late to go back now. “Thanks. Go have your ride. Then maybe you could help me with stats. Please?”
He laughed. “I’ll skip the ride. We’ll tackle it over waffles in the café. Deal?”
“Sure. As long as there’s mocha coffee.” Anna bit her inner lip not to ask about Kassie. They stared at each other, gazes fused. He showed none of the anger from last night. If he could move on, so could she. “I’ll shower and meet you there in twenty minutes.”
“You got it.” Robin stood and ran a hand over his hair. “Don’t forget your scientific calculator, laptop, and loads of paper.” This time he gently closed the door.
Anna pushed aside the sheet. “I have to forget. I focus on classes, taking the teaching exams, and graduating. I have my best friend. That’s what matters most.”
What was it her mom was so fond of saying? Oh yeah. “The biggest lies we tell are often the lies we tell ourselves.”
But what other choice did she have? None. Anna gathered things for the shower. She caught a glimpse of her face in the mirror. Ugh. Talk about awful bed head. She looked the same, no outward signs she longed for a man who didn’t long for her back. Now she just had to act normal.
She steeled her shoulders, tossed her hair, and headed out. She’d better get moving or she’d never make breakfast. She began to hum the Doctor Who theme. Allons-y.