If You Dare: Chapter 17

Before

Wes

Mom calls to tell me Chloe is coming home for the weekend, so I am too. No excuse to get out of it, even when she tells me Chloe is bringing Violet.

As soon as I pull into the driveway, she rushes toward me with hands up and a watery smile. “My boy! Oh, my sweet, handsome son!”

After the fourth cheek kiss, I pull away. “Mom, I’ve only been gone a couple months.”

Only a couple months, he says!” She grins and whispers, “Did you know Violet is single?”

I grab my bag from the backseat. I know exactly where this is going, but I stupidly ask anyway. “So?”

“So you should ask her out!” Mom smacks my shoulder. “Oh, Wes, she’s so sweet and a little cutie! Why don’t you ask her on a date? What could that hurt?”

“Mom, please stop trying to play matchmaker.”

She puffs out her bottom lip. “I just want you to be happy. You haven’t had a girlfriend since Britt.”

“That’s why I’m happy.”

Mom shakes her head and tsks. “No, I know my son. You’re afraid of being hurt again. But that’s life, sweetheart. You’ve got to risk your heart if you ever want to find the person who deserves it. Chloe just adores Violet, and your father and I are already smitten. I bet you would be too if you gave her a chance.”

What Mom doesn’t know is I already hate exactly how smitten with Violet I am.

They’ve known Violet for all of five minutes, and they already like her better than they ever liked Britt, even before she cheated on me. She never fit with us. Clamming up at family dinners and wanting to spend all our time up in my room. Acting like she was inconvenienced when my parents suggested family activities like mini golf and beach days. As soon as Chloe found out Britt cheated, she called her a “walking red flag.” Wish I’d seen the signs earlier so I didn’t waste my time.

Now all I do is watch for signs.

I squeeze Mom’s shoulder as I pass and head for the house. “Mom, stop trying to pimp out your son.”


Despite my best efforts to avoid Violet as much as possible this weekend, Mom insists that I go hang out in the pool with her and Chloe.

I sit at the pool’s edge, taking my time inflating my raft and can’t help watching Violet swim and bob in the shallow end. Her long brown hair is slicked back, soaked and plastered to her delicious, creamy skin. Every time she bobs up out of the water, her glistening tits flash, making me ache to pull down the flimsy fabric covering her nipples.

Chloe smacks my raft and pulls herself half out of the pool to hiss in my ear, “Stop eye-fucking her.”

The sliding glass door opens behind us. “Chloe!” Mom calls. “Come help me with the lemonade.”

My sister groans and pulls herself out of the pool. “I’ll be right back.” A promise to Violet and a threat to me.

As soon as we’re alone, Violet keeps her gaze on anything but me. Her shyness is cute. Makes me want to take her to my bed and break her of it. Watch her blush deeper and deeper shades of red as I peel every layer off her body. Listen to the way she moans and screams as I make her feel things no man ever has.

“You know Chloe hasn’t had a friend sleep over since middle school. Pretty sure Mom embarrasses her too much.”

“That’s funny, she told me you’re the one who embarrasses her,” Violet teases. A surprised laugh bursts out of me. Then she admits, “I’ve never had a friend sleep over.”

“Never? Not even when you were a kid?”

She shakes her head. “Mom had to work a lot. She never had time. I spent most of my time at home alone, actually.”

“Damn. That sucks.” A twinge in my chest at the image of Violet as a kid, all alone at home with no one to talk to. “What about your dad?”

“He died when I was really young.” She shields her eyes against the sun as she glances my way, face scrunching adorably. “Before you say sorry or anything, I barely remember him.”

“Good thing I wasn’t going to say sorry. I’m not the one who killed him.”

Her turn to bark a surprised laugh. “Thank you. No one likes when I make jokes about my dead dad. As if he’s not my dead dad to make jokes about.”

“What happened to him?”

“A car accident. I was actually in the backseat. I don’t remember it,” she adds in a rush. “Mom was terrified she lost both of us. But I made it out without a scratch.”

She was resilient, even back then.

I flash her my cockiest smile. “So you could live long enough to meet me.”

She lets out a musical laugh. “That must be it.”

“And Chloe. I’m glad you’re friends.” Chloe’s never had a friend like Violet. She’s been waiting for Violet her whole life.

Part of me thinks I’ve been waiting for her my whole life too.

“I’m glad I have a friend like her. And that she has a brother like you looking out for her.”

“I’ll look out for you too,” I promise.

Her pretty lips twist just a little. “Like a sister?”

“No,” I tell her. “Not like a sister.”

Her smile widens. “Thanks. I’d like that.”

“Do you want to try out the raft?”

She flashes me those adorable, bashful eyes through thick lashes. Always gets my heart going. “You just spent all that time inflating it. You should get your turn.”

What I really want is to see Violet’s body in a bikini floating across my pool. “I’m cool hanging out with my feet in the water. You’re the guest—you should try it out. I’ll help you in.”

No way she doesn’t see right through my flimsy excuse to touch her wet body, but she still moves toward the ladder and climbs out. My mouth goes dry as Violet emerges from the pool, every exposed inch of her nearly at my fingertips. Her tits could easily fit in my hands, and I want to yank that top down with a single finger and suck her nipples into my mouth. Then when she’s squirming hard enough, hook a finger in her bottoms and slide those down slowly. Explore her thighs with my mouth first and then between them.

She moves behind me, wet feet slapping against the concrete. I hold out my hand for hers, and when she slides her palm into mine, I can’t remember what I’m doing. So distracted by her that I’m lost in a trance until she finally reaches for the raft herself.

“Here.” I hold the raft while helping her ease her tight little ass down onto it.

When the raft settles, every inch of her perfect body glistens in the sun. Fuck yeah. I want her living in this pool.

Maybe if I fuck her once, I can get it out of my system. Get her out of my head.

“So what do you want other than the NHL?” she asks, leaning her head back and basking in the sun.

“What?” My mind is so overwhelmed with thoughts of getting Violet naked and being the first guy to make her come that I barely understand her question.

“What else do you want after college? A house? Kids? Or are you trying to be a Leonardo DiCaprio?”

“Dating hot twenty-year-olds for the rest of my life doesn’t sound too bad.” Even as the words leave my mouth, I know they aren’t true. I want what my parents have. The kind of marriage that’s like a forever honeymoon. The loyalty, the commitment, the love.

But I need a loyal girl. A ride or die.

“Really?” Violet lifts a brow, hazel eyes locking on mine. She’s getting braver now. I like it. I want her meeting my gaze when my head is between her legs, when she finally comes around my cock. “That doesn’t seem like you.”

“What do I seem like?” I tease. Last time, she called me a mystery. Doubt she knows much more about me now. It’s easy to learn as much as you want about a girl when you follow her around campus and your sister is her roommate.

Violet chews on her lip for a second. “The kind of guy with a big heart he doesn’t like to show. You drop everything to be there when your sister needs you. You come home for the weekend just because your mom misses you. You don’t date because you put your whole heart into the relationship, and when it’s broken, it takes a long time to repair. You want the big house and kids, but you’re too afraid to admit it to yourself. Because if you let yourself want something, if you put your heart on the line again and it breaks, you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to fix it.”

Fuck. I’m supposed to be the one who knows her better. The one who knows things about her that she never told me. Her favorite candy (chocolate peanut butter cups), the scent of her shampoo (honeydew melon), the sub she orders (turkey with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and bell peppers on wheat bread). Who understands things about her she’s never admitted out loud to anyone.

Somehow, she sees right through my bullshit to everything I’ve been hiding so well from everyone else.

I play it cool, leaning my hands back on the concrete. “So you’ve got me figured out, huh?”

She shrugs. “Not entirely. I still need to figure out your favorite candy.”

A chuckle rumbles from my chest. “Gummies.”

“There. Now I know everything.” She flashes me a smile.

“Oh, little flower. There’s so much more for you to learn.”

The cocky little grin slips off her face before she swallows. “Maybe you should teach me then.”

“Who wants lemonade?” Mom calls, and I jump into the pool to hide my stiff cock beneath the water.

Jesus Christ. The effect Violet has on me. How the hell I’m supposed to keep my hands off her while she spends the entire weekend at my house, I have no idea.

Maybe I won’t.


Violet

The next morning, Chloe’s parents announce it’s beach day. They’ve already got a cooler packed with sandwiches, sodas, and water.

When we parallel park along the sidewalk, I offer them gas money, but Mrs. Novak gasps and swats the money away. “I will not be taking money from any child of mine.”

My heart swells. She’s known me for less than twenty-four hours and I’ve already been adopted.

“She’s not your child, Mom,” Chloe objects. “She has a mother.”

Mrs. Novak waves her off. “A girl can never have too many mothers.”

On the beach, Wes and Mr. Novak set up the chairs and two umbrellas while Chloe and I lay out towels.

The air between me and Wes is charged. After our conversation in the pool yesterday, I’ve been bracing myself every time he’s around, waiting for him to get me alone so he can teach me everything I still need to learn.

Despite lathering herself in a thick layer of sunscreen, Mrs. Novak parks under an umbrella and settles in.

Mr. Novak unzips a bag and beams at me. “Chloe tells me you’re a big reader, Violet. I’ve taken up reading since I retired from the NHL, so I took the liberty of bringing a few to keep you busy.”

He pulls out a stack of paperback mystery novels. Not the romances I usually gravitate toward, but the kind gesture has me grinning and reaching from my towel for the paperback on top of the tower.

I haven’t known the Novaks long, but I already feel like I belong.

“Dad, the point of bringing her to the beach was to get her to do something other than read,” Chloe tells him.

“She can do it all,” her dad insists.

“Everyone put on sunscreen,” Mrs. Novak calls, waving her bottle of SPF-eighty in the air.

Behind me, a low voice murmurs in my ear, “I’ve got you.”

Wes squeezes a dollop of sunscreen into his palm from his crouched position. As soon as his massive, calloused hands massage the lotion into my shoulders, I have to bite down on my lip to suppress the moan. Chills race down my limbs despite the heat.

I pray my face doesn’t betray the effect Wes has on my body. The last thing I want is for his family to know their son and brother turns me on.

His hands drift down my back, callouses scraping deliciously over my skin. My eyes ache to fall shut.

Chloe grabs my hand, pulling me up off the towel and out of my trance. “I’m hot! Let’s get in the water!”

“You kids have fun,” Mrs. Novak calls, nose already in a mass-market paperback. On the towel beside her, Mr. Novak is sprawled out, sunglasses on and snoring lightly.

Chloe’s feet fly across the sand while I stumble along behind her. The sand turns dark and smooth where the tide has been rolling in, and I stop at the water’s edge.

“What are you doing?” Chloe asks. “I want to swim.”

“I am not swimming in the ocean,” I object. “There are sharks and jellyfish and about a thousand other things that will kill me in there. Have you seen the way orcas literally torment seals? They’re called killer whales for a reason.”

Chloe plants her hands on her hips. “First of all, wild orcas have never harmed humans. Second, we did not come all the way to the beach for you to refuse to get in the water.”

“You’ve never been in the ocean?” Wes’s rumbling voice is suddenly beside me. Too close. As half-naked as he was when I met him. But instead of a towel around his waist, he wears a pair of red swim trunks. My mouth goes dry at the sight of his sloping muscles, hard pecs, and the abs lining his stomach. A sprinkling of freckles dust his shoulders and make me long to rub sunscreen on his back too. Maybe my hands on his skin would have the same effect as his on mine.

“I’ve never been to the beach before,” I admit.

“How have you lived in Rhode Island your whole life and never been to the beach?”

I don’t ask how he knows I’ve lived in Rhode Island my whole life. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew my social security number.

“I dare you to get in the ocean!” Chloe calls, already backing into the gentle waves. She turns and dives into the water.

“Shit,” I mutter.

Wes holds his hand out to me. “I’ll help you. I’ll make sure you don’t drown.”

Panic bubbles in my stomach, but Wes Novak is holding his hand out to me and I can’t not take it.

His fingers thread through mine, sending a bolt of electricity through me.

The water is colder than I expected, making my nipples peak under my bikini top. Wes lets me take my time slowly submerging, deeper and deeper into the water.

Until I’m waist-deep, when he wraps an arm around my hips beneath the water where no one can see our connection.

He squeezes so hard, my flesh pinches between his fingers. I gasp.

His touch isn’t tentative or uncertain. Not the touch of a man testing the waters.

This is the touch of a man who knows what he wants and takes it. Who knows I want it to.

Rough. Dominant. Possessive.

The touch of a man claiming what is his.

“They like you, you know.”

I’m so flustered by his hand on me, I have no idea what he’s talking about. “Who?”

He nods back to the shore. “My family. They hated my ex.”

“Really?” I squeak. The infamous ex who broke his heart.

“Maybe my parents didn’t hate her—Chloe did—but they didn’t like her either. They faked it the best they could, but you? You already kinda belong with us.”

I beam. Belong with us. Belong with him. The days I spent alone while Mom was working one of her three jobs or grabbing a few hours of sleep in between shifts, all I longed for was a family to belong to.

Now I’ve found one. I know when I introduce them to Mom, she’ll fit right in too. An image of all of us together on Thanksgiving flashes through my head. At my birthday. At my and Wes’s wedding—

Whoa. What the hell is wrong with me? We haven’t even kissed and I’m already planning my vows. I am truly unhinged.

“Violet?” His soft but commanding voice.

I meet his eyes until his gaze drifts to my lips. Focusing on my mouth with so much concentration, it feels like the only visible part of me. The only body part that matters.

He’s going to kiss me. I’m so sure of it, the butterflies in my chest burst free from their cocoons and take flight.

But when I expect him to draw nearer, to brush his lips against mine, they part instead. “Chloe doesn’t want us together.”

“She doesn’t?” That’s the first I’m hearing about this. She hasn’t said a word about me and Wes since I first met him, when she confidently declared that I’m attracted to him and he doesn’t date. “Why not?”

“Supposedly, she doesn’t want us breaking up and getting caught in the middle.” Despite his words, he keeps his hand on my bare skin.

I can’t blame Chloe for her concerns. If Wes and I actually did date and break up, the situation would be, at best, incredibly awkward. At worst, she might feel like she has to choose between us.

Wes is family. She’d choose him. My chest aches at the thought of losing her.

“But I don’t believe it,” he adds.

I lift a brow in his direction. “You don’t?”

“Nah. She just doesn’t want me all over you every time we’re together. She knows if I get my hands on you, I won’t be able to keep them off. She’d be happy for us, but we’d annoy the hell out of her.”

I laugh, even as his words set me ablaze. Uttered with so much conviction and certainty. Like a promise.

I imagine Wes Novak’s hands all over me and hope it’s a promise he doesn’t break.

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