Shamed # 3
Laura Marie Altom
August 11, 2015
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When the woman he loves marries billionaire Liam Stone, Nathan Black swears off dating and playing by the rules. He’s also tired of being broke. His new gig as a male escort isn’t exactly legal, but the cash will help him build a solid future. Then there’s Carol Moore, Liam’s personal assistant. She and Nathan always seem to get paired up at Stone family functions—and always seem to end up in bed together. She’s definitely intriguing. But how could a good girl like Carol settle down with a screw-up like Nathan?
After Carol’s dreamy boss gets hitched, crushing any chance of them getting back together, she finds herself hooking up with the bride’s best friend. Nathan is hot, adventurous, and just a little bit dangerous. But when one of their sexy games goes too far, Carol discovers how out of control Nathan’s life really is. And before long Carol is forced to choose between her safe old life and the bad boy who makes her feel like the woman she’s meant to be.
Plain and simple, Carol and I were on the most pathetic of all possible rebounds. Her past with Liam was ancient history, and mine with Ella was nonexistent save for a lone kiss I’d stolen and for which I’d subsequently been slapped.
I hugged Carol, breathing her in. She smelled like orange blossoms—I knew, because when my mom was dying, I’d bought her a little orange tree. She’d loved it, but it died not long after her. Because of that, I usually shied from the scent, but on Carol, the lush sweetness laced with a crisp edge somehow seemed right.
“What now?” I set her back on the table’s edge and pondered how to save face while performing the awkward business of disposing of a used condom with no tissue.
She leaned backward, tearing a chunk of pearlescent white paper from the nearest gift. “Here.” She nodded toward my shrinking cock. “This might help.”
“No problem.” She arched her head back and sighed. “Think they’re done?”
“With the vows?” I nodded.
“It really was awful, wasn’t it?” She fluffed the ribbon atop the nearest gift. “I thought I was prepared, but there’s no manual for seeing the man you love marry another woman—don’t get me wrong. I like Ella—a lot. I just . . .” She glanced down at her dress, the way the fabric bunched around her waist and one of her breasts had sprung free. Laughing, she hopped down to cover herself. “Christ, would you look at me. I’m a hot mess. No wonder he wanted her over me.”
“Knock it off. Liam being with Ella has way more to do with him than you.” I cupped my hand to her cheek, brushing the mascara trail with my thumb. “You’re smart and beautiful, and any guy would be lucky to have you.”
“Things guys say when they want a Get Out of Jail Free card after an awkward fuck?”
I kissed her. “Things I say when I’m sorry for taking advantage of a woman I never meant to screw, but am damn glad I did.”
“Idiot. I took advantage of you.” Her laugh caught me as off guard as her original proposition. “Look, what’s done is done. No harm, no foul. We’re good. Let’s get cleaned up, get this god-awful night behind us, then be on our mutual merry ways, so we can spend the next fifty years pondering how to complete our lives without them.”
I winced. “Think it’ll take that long?”
She shrugged before turning for the bathroom at the end of a short hall.
I stood with my dick out, staring at the view—or rather, the lack of one. The sun had long since set, and now, where the ocean had once been there was only my faint reflection superimposed on darkness. I worked myself back into my boxers, then closed up shop.
I still tasted Carol—and craved more, only she was as far out of my league as Ella.
Even if she hadn’t been, she deserved more than to be some guy’s rebound.
She emerged from the bathroom, backlit by soft incandescent light. Her hair was once again upswept and her gown appropriately clinging to her curves.
“You’re beautiful.” I gazed upon her reflection rather than directly at her.
“Thank you.” Head bowed, she smoothed the front of her dress. “Lately, I’ve felt anything but pretty—especially inside. You know Ella’s pregnant, right? That’s why they had to fast-track the wedding.”
Pregnant? I clamped my hand over my mouth.
No. I hadn’t known. Now that I did, I wished myself back to when I hadn’t. Over the coming months, watching Ella’s belly swell with Liam’s child would be brutal. Up until this moment, I hadn’t realized how much I’d secretly wished her marriage to fail.
“She didn’t tell you.” Carol’s radiant heat warmed my back as if she were a cold night’s bonfire. “I’m sorry—for both of us. But hey, at least now that we know any hope we might have had with them is well and truly gone, we can get on with our own lives, right?”
“What life?” I clasped my hands over my forehead. “I stock grocery store shelves and take a few hours online at a community college. Yay, me.”
“If you’d ask, Liam would give you a scholarship to any—”
“Screw that. There’s no way in hell I’d ask him for a goddamned thing.”
“I’ve gotta get out of here,” I said more to myself than her, already heading up the winding redwood staircase leading to the upper floor. The news about the baby wasn’t sitting well. I felt cold, hot, clammy-sick. I loved Ella, but now—once and for all—it was time to let her go. Only the real pisser was the fact that only in my imagination had she ever been mine.
Laura Marie Altom is the author of more than forty books in three different genres. Now that her kids are in college, Altom spends her days writing and chasing after a menagerie of pets: a mini long-haired dachshund named Cocoa, a Yorkie named Daisy, a mutt named Sweet Pea, and Domino—a black-and-white stealth cat she rarely sees. She’s happily married to her college sweetheart (go Hogs!), and when night falls, she steals a few romantic moments for herself with her own hunky cover stud.