Olivia Armstead is all wrong for Marcel Isaac.
She’s too crazy, too unpredictable and worse still, in love with his best friend.
So why is he so drawn to her? Why can’t he keep his eyes – and hands – away from her? Why has he just registered at the gym she works at? Hell if he knows! The truth is she has a wicked way with weight machines and an even wickeder way of turning his head.
There is just something about Olivia that has him wondering if there are more hidden depths to her than he realizes. And their chemistry is like a lightning bolt of lust – hard to hide from. Despite Marcel’s attempts to remain aloof, his hunger for her is as real as the sweet taste of her lips and the way her body fits deliciously against his.
But even as passion sizzles between them and their feelings grow deeper, past loves, loyalty and hidden nemeses still tug at them; forcing them to keep their desires secret.
“I don’t think you should come to the gym anymore,” she blurted out.
His brow wrinkled in confusion. “What?”
“I think you should quit the gym.” His keys jingled in her hands as she gestured between them. “This isn’t working anymore.”
Marcel’s eyes flew to her face and for a long moment he didn’t say anything – just stared. His gaze was so intent that she lowered her own. Her eyes became inexplicably fastened on her right wedge sandal. She scuffed an invisible circle on the concrete driveway. “We can’t be friends anymore.”
She lifted her face to find him still watching her. Finally he murmured, “Can we discuss this upstairs?”
She wanted to refuse, insist on ending it right here so she could get on with forgetting him. But he deserved better than that. She nodded. When she headed towards the Nismo to get her gym bag, he stopped her with a hand on her elbow. “I’ll get it.”
Though soft, his touch was another reminder of everything that couldn’t be between them and she stepped away quickly to escape it. While he got her bag, she went ahead to the apartment. By the time he closed the front door behind him, she was tapping her feet by the couch anxious to finish their conversation.
Before he could open his mouth, she rushed in head first, “I know we said that we were grown and that we could be friends, but I can’t. I thought I could, but-”
“Livy, breathe,” he interrupted. When he moved forward she took a step back assuming that he was coming toward her. Fortunately, he was only headed to the couch. He sat down and patted the space next to him. “Come sit down.”
She didn’t want to, afraid that if she was too close to him she might lose her nerve. Nonetheless she found herself following his instructions. She scooted close to the couch’s arm to avoid any of their body parts touching.
Once she was settled, Marcel asked, “What’s going on?”
She took a deep breath then let loose. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Can’t do what?” he asked calmly.
Somehow his composure only served to rattle her more. Gesturing with jerky hand movements she said, “I can’t do us anymore. I can’t do this secret friendship thing anymore.”
“Our friendship isn’t a secret.”
“Does Tay know we’ve been hanging out?” she asked. When he offered no response other than a flicker of emotion in his eyes, she said, “Exactly! I don’t want to be a secret anymore.”
“So you want me to tell Tay that we’re friends?”
“No.” She paused. On second thought said, “Yes.” Then realizing that wasn’t what she really wanted either, she released a frustrated breath and wrung her hands. “I don’t know.”
She probably sounded like a flaky idiot to him. To his credit he didn’t push her to figure her thoughts out. He simply watched and waited. How could she put this in a way that he’d understand. She scrubbed her palm over her face, took a breath then once her thoughts were aligned she met his gaze.
“I know all we can ever be is friends. And I said that I was okay with that, but I’m not. Being just friends isn’t enough for me anymore. It isn’t what I want.”
“What do you want,” he interjected softly.
“You.” She released a frustrated breath as she wrung her hands. “But I can’t have you. And even if I could, it would have to be on the down low because of Tay. I’m done being the side-piece. I can’t be someone’s secret again. It’s what I was with Tay and I can’t do it again.”
Marcel scowled at her. “Don’t compare me to Tay.”
“I’m not saying you’re the same person, but anything we have will go the same way. We’ll continue pretending to be friends. One day we’ll slip and end up having a one-night stand,” she said, in a voice that sounded strange and flat even to her own ears. “One week or two in the closet, maybe even a month. One day you’ll wake up feeling guilty, or I’ll get tired of being hidden, or even worse we get found out. And that will be the end of us.”
His eyes flashed. “You can’t predict relationships, Livy.”
“But that’s just it. That’s not a relationship. We’re not in a relationship and we’ll never be in one,” she snapped, her eyes on her linked fingers. “I’d rather cut my losses right now than slip into that tired no-direction dance.”
She stopped to take a breath then continued, ” I need someone who wants more than an extended one-night stand. I need someone who isn’t afraid to take me to dinner, hold my hand or kiss me in public because someone who knows Tay may see him. And no matter how much I want you to be that guy, you’re not him. So to avoid either of us getting hurt, I’d prefer we kept our distance.”
There! She’d said it. It felt like a load had been lifted off her.