The whole world might be in love with him. But all he’s ever loved is her.
Grant Turner’s name is synonymous with football. The fans and media can’t get enough of the player known as The Invincible Man, a nickname he earned while growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country and the nickname he’s kept by being one of the best players in professional football today. No one can take him down. He’s unstoppable.
But even a suit of armor has its weak point, and Grant’s has always been Ryan Hale.
They were a couple of kids when they fell in love, and just when it looked like the happy ending neither expected was within reach, Ryan disappeared. No explanations. No good-byes.
Grant coped by throwing himself into the game for seven years, and he’s finally moved on. Or so he thinks.
When she walks back into his life, all of those feelings come crashing back, despite the warnings in his head that tell him she’ll leave him again. Grant can withstand the league’s toughest defensive line, but he’s always been weak where she’s concerned.
No man can take Grant Turner down.
But one woman certainly can.
One woman will.
“How many men after me?” His forehead creased as he asked his question, setting down his fork.
His question surprised me. “What?”
“How many men have you been with since you were with me?”
I swallowed the bite of onion ring and set down what was left of it. Wolfing down fried food didn’t pair well with this type of conversation. “Like how many guys have I dated? Had as boyfriends?” My weight shifted on the counter stool I was situated on. “Had sex with?”
Grant’s jaw tensed, but he relaxed it right after. He answered me by lifting a shoulder.
The longer I took to answer, the more he looked like he was bracing himself for a full-on dissertation. Little did he know my answer to his questions could be summed up in one breath.
“I haven’t had any boyfriends since you,” I admitted, feeling kind of silly admitting it. At the same time, I felt strong. I’d never felt the need to fill a void in my life with a man. I’d never needed a man to define me. What Grant and I had had was special, and what we’d created together was even more special. I wasn’t about to let some shmuck looking to get a little piece of ass cheapen my whole experience with relationships.
The corners of Grant’s mouth were twitching, but he didn’t let the smile form. “What about dates?”
I leaned toward him. “Same story.”
He let the smile form then.
“And I thought we’d agreed to move on from the dating topic earlier tonight.” Giving him the look didn’t faze him—it never really had. Even my most impressive Look.
“Fine. No more talk about dating.” He lifted his hands in the air and pretended like he was getting back to finishing up the last few remnants of our gluttonous feast. When he just kept twirling the same fry in a gob of ketchup, I knew he hadn’t moved on yet. “How many have you had sex with?”
“Grant . . .”
“I need to know, Ryan. I know I don’t have any right to know. I also know you had a right to sleep with whoever you wanted.” He paused, his face looking like he was being tortured. “I just need to know.”
My lungs felt like limp bags when I thought about answering his question. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed or anything like that, but because he’d know once I told him. He’d know the reason why, and he’d know he was that reason why.
He’d know I’d never really moved on from him, and I couldn’t have him knowing that because I needed to keep a careful distance between us. I needed to protect him, not from himself this time, but from me.
But even though I knew all of that, I also knew that the truth had never been optional when it came to Grant and me. Never a choice. The truth wasn’t what we picked when it was convenient. It had been the standard from the beginning, and if I had anything to do with it, it would remain the standard to the end.
The truth. I’d told him almost everything I had to. Almost. The one last thing I was withholding would have to come out soon.
“You were the first person I had sex with, Grant Turner.”
He slowly twisted toward me, his legs spreading wide, tucking around the outsides of mine. His hands lowered to my kneecaps, like he was trying to show me that no matter how I answered, he still wanted to be here with me—eating greasy food in an old diner that had already locked its doors.
One of my hands covered one of his. “And you were the last person I had sex with too.” It came out in one long exhale, my fingers braiding tighter through his with each word.
He was quiet for a minute. And then another. When his silence continued, my eyes lifted to see what was the matter.
His forehead was folded in half a dozen creases, his eyes narrowed in confusion. “Are you saying . . .?” He leaned in closer, confusion settling deeper.
“You’re the last person I had sex with.” I thought I’d spelled it out pretty solidly before.
His face ironed out, blinking like he was just waking up. “Does that mean . . .?”
I sighed. “I haven’t had sex in seven years? Yeah. That’s what it means.”
Glancing behind the counter, I made sure the owner and cook, who’d generously agreed to let us stay late, were still way in the back and preoccupied with something other than the conversation happening at the two end counter stools.
Grant leaned closer, his head moving just outside of mine. His breath was just rushed enough to notice. “Are you saying I’m the last man you’ve had inside you?”
His words surprised me, sending a shiver winding down my spine. I didn’t want him to know that his question or his proximity or his labored breaths were affecting me, but they were. I was feeling very, very affected in certain locations of my body.
“I think that’s the general definition of sex, yeah,” I answered, glancing down to make sure nothing too obvious was showing through the thin material of the dress. Thank god I’d gone with the thicker lined bra, because Grant’s eyes followed mine a moment later.
When my gaze dropped to a certain spot on his body, I found his own arousal not so easily disguised. It made the inhale I’d been taking sound more like more of a gasp than a breath. He knew what I was looking at, he knew what was on display, and he didn’t do anything to adjust or hide it. He wanted me to know. He wanted me to see.
Realizing that sent a rush of pleasure through my body, pooling between my legs.
“I’m going to kiss you, Ryan.” His head nuzzled my neck. “I should probably ask permission, but fuck, I don’t want to, because I have to kiss you. Whether you think it’s a good idea or not.”
My arms went limp, my legs following, from the sickness I had for this man. The one that crippled me. The one that paralyzed me. My eyes squeezed closed when his face came around in front of mine. “You don’t want to kiss me, Grant.”
He pulled me closer. “Like hell I don’t.”
Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.