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don’t think don’t question just do

The anonymous note wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the habit of reading other people’s mail, but it was just a piece of paper with a few lines scrawled on it, clearly meant for the apartment upstairs. It looked so innocent, but decidedly—deliciously—it was not.

Before replacing the note—and the ones that followed—in its rightful slot, I devoured its contents: suggestions, instructions, commands. Each was more daring, more intricate and more arousing than the last…and I followed them all to the letter.

Before the notes, if a man had told me what to do, I’d have told him where to go. But submission is an art, and there’s something oddly freeing about doing someone’s bidding…especially when it feels so very, very good. But I find that the more I surrender, the more powerful I feel—so it’s time to switch up roles.

We play by my rules now.

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Excerpt:

The Pharmacy was almost always a total sausage party – three guys for every girl, easy, and all of them horny and looking to hook up. Chivalry had nothing to do with them pulling out their wallets and plying us with booze. It was all about getting laid.

“Oh, look,” Kira said from beside me. “Talk about trouble.”

She was right. Trouble with a capital T. I stood taller in my sexy shoes and lifted my chin, straightened my shoulders. “Hello, Austin.”

Once upon a time, Austin and I had fucked like tigers. I was willing to bet he still had the scars. I did.

“Paige.” His hair was longer, but he had the same grin, the one that parted thighs like the Red Sea. He didn’t look surprised to see me.

Austin wore a blue striped shirt and faded jeans that hugged his ass just right and hung down, ragged, at the hems. Jeans like that should be outlawed on men like Austin. His buddy, some guy I didn’t know, wore an almost identical shirt, but with brown stripes. He didn’t look half as good.

Behind me, Kira dug her fingernails into the skin of my elbow. It stung, and I shook her off. “How are you?”

“Good. I’m good.” His eyes shifted to Kira and back to me. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Haven’t been home,” I said, though home to me now was an apartment on Front Street, not a trailer or a rented house in Lebanon.

“Yeah. I know. Hey, Kira. I made it.”

My insides froze. I glared at her, but Kira gave me her best dumb look. “What?”

She’d told him we’d be here. I knew it. I could see it on both their faces, their conspiracy, and I wondered how he’d convinced her to tell him. I thought about walking out, and the only reason I didn’t was because he was looking at me. Not her.

Kira saw it, too and she gave me a narrow-eyed glare. I wouldn’t have put it past her to set this up purely to see the throw-down between me and Austin, but I wasn’t going to do it. I was past those days. She rallied when Austin’s friend gave her a grin. It helped that he was cute. Not as cute as Austin, but then really, who was? Who had ever been?

What’re you drinking?” Austin was already pulling out his wallet to pay.

I wasn’t going to turn down a free drink, not even from him. “Margarita.”

“I’ll take a Slow, Comfortable Screw.” Kira made sure to lean in close so he could hear her. Her lips brushed his ear.

Austin leaned away a little, not enough that Kira would notice. But I did. He introduced us both to his friend, Ethan, who managed to tear his gaze away from Kira’s tits long enough to nod toward me without a trace of recognition. Well, what had I expected him to do? Say “oh, so this is Paige?”

“So what are you up to now?” Austin asked me as Kira and Ethan eyed each other.

“I work for Kelly Printing.” The last time we spoke I’d still been finishing the degree I’d started when we were together and taking care of some rich couple’s kids. I didn’t ask him what he was doing, not for work and not here in Harrisburg. I didn’t want him to think I cared.

“What about your mom?” Austin moved closer, his arm on the bar. “She still working for Hershey? I haven’t been to the shop for a while.”

My mom owns a tiny sandwich shop she inherited from her dad when I was in high school. I’d worked in that shop almost my entire life, running errands as a kid then graduating to making subs and running the cash register. Now I only helped if she had a big order to fill and deliver, or a party to cater.

“She still has it. She was working for Hershey but got laid off.”

Austin nodded. “I’m working for McClaron and Sons.”

I had no idea who or what McClaron and Sons was, but the fact he was working for someone other than his dad surprised me into a reply. “What about your dad?”

Austin shrugged, then grimaced, and only because I’d once him known him so well it had been like knowing myself did I catch his hesitation. “It was time I got out of that job.”

“But you’re doing the same thing, right? Construction?” Kira popped into the conversation and drew both our attentions.

“Yeah, and some other stuff,” Austin said, but didn’t elaborate.

Interesting. Austin had worked for his dad’s business the way I’d worked for my mom’s – summers and after school since he’d been old enough to carry a hammer. It had always been the assumption that he’d take over the business when his dad retired, and become a full partner some time before that. I’d figured he already was.

“What about you?” Kira sipped her drink, eyes on Ethan. For someone with a boyfriend, she certainly seemed interested in him, but then Kira was just one of those girls.

You know. The slutty ones.

“I’m a mechanic,” he said. “For Hershey.”

“Oh, that’s a good job!” Kira sidled in between Austin and Ethan.

“It is a good job,” Ethan agreed and drank from his cup while his eyes wandered everywhere on Kira’s body but her face.

It was so easy, really. They wanted to seduce us. We wanted to be seduced, for a few hours anyway. I knew what we looked like to them. Two girls in slinky outfits, sucking back drink after drink and letting the crowd push us closer and closer. There’s no such thing as social distance in bars. The music makes conversation impossible unless you lean across to shout in someone’s ear. The crush of people means you have to fight for your own small space, and sharing it doesn’t seem so bad after a drink or four.

When Austin’s hand ended up on my ass, I didn’t even blink. It felt good there. Heavy, warm. He had strong fingers to go along with those biceps. He smelled good. Drakkar Noir. Despite myself and everything that had happened with us before, I’d missed him.

Austin said into my ear, “Wanna dance?”

Our bodies had always worked just right together, whether we were dancing or fucking. I was ready for both. Leaving Ethan and Kira, he took my hand and pulled me up the stairs to the third floor, where the songs ran into one another without stopping and all sounded the same. We found a spot in the middle and started dancing.

The booze had made me soft and melty, but the music wasn’t. I wanted to slow dance. Austin wanted to grind. We compromised with a little hip action that brought us groin to groin, but when he tried to flip me around and get up on me in the back end, I pushed away with a smile.

“You don’t answer my messages,” Austin said.

It was easy to pretend I didn’t hear him with the music so loud. I smiled and shook my head. He took me by the arm, up high in the soft part that bruises easily. His fingers closed all the way around it.

He moved in to brush his lips against my ear. “I’ve really missed you.”

I inched away from him, but Austin grabbed my wrist just as a bazillion watts of supernova bright light lit the entire dance floor. Austin still looked good. I must not have looked like Frankenstein, because he reached to brush my hair from my forehead. He smiled again as the lights went down and the beat of the music started its rapid thump-thumping, the same as my heart.

It was different when he kissed me. I felt different. His mouth opened and I let him inside me. His tongue stroked mine as his hand came up to curl in my hair. He didn’t pull it, though my body tensed in anticipation.

Austin nuzzled at my earlobe. “You still taste the same.”

Fortunately, I remembered the reasons I’d broken off our relationship. Unfortunately, I still remembered all the reasons we’d ever hooked up. When Austin ran a fingertip down my bare arm along the sensitive inside flesh to press his fingertip just over the pulse at my wrist, I knew he felt the way my heart sped up at his touch. Time hadn’t changed that. Maybe it never would.

Maybe that was okay.

“Come home with me,” Austin said.

“It’s too far.”

“Paige,” Austin said with a grin like a shark. “I moved to Lemoyne.”

Just across the river. The world fell out from under my fuck-me pumps, but Austin was there to catch me. The crowd moved and danced around us, but we stayed still. I looked deep into his blue, blue eyes, made bluer by the strobe lights.

“What the fuck,” I said evenly, “did you do that for?”

“New job,” he reminded. “Remember?”

I tried to recall if he’d said where McClaron and Sons was, and couldn’t. He should’ve told me, I thought, and hated myself for being irrationally angry. I tugged my arm from his grip. “I have to go check on Kira.”

“She’s fine. She’s with Ethan.”

I tried to level him with a glare, but I’d never been able to level Austin. He’d laid me out cold a thousand times with a look, but though I’d practiced and perfected my steely eyed look of cold disdain, it slid off him like oil. I bit my lower lip and lifted my chin.

“If he’s anything like you, I’d better make sure she’s okay.”

“Paige.” Austin’s hand snagged my wrist. Pulled me close. “If she’s anything like you, she can handle him.”

The night it ended between us, we’d fucked up against the wall of our shitty, third-floor apartment on Cumberland Street in Lebanon. The red-blue lights of a cop car outside on the street had painted the ceiling and wall over our heads. He’d torn away my panties, tossed them to the side, used his body to pin mine to the wall while his hands held my ass.

I bore the marks of that last encounter on my back for a few weeks where a nail from a fallen picture had gouged me. I hadn’t noticed the pain or the blood while we were going at it. I never had found my panties.

It had ended but wasn’t over. The plain truth is, with a few drinks in me there was little chance of my resisting Austin. Not drunk. Not sober, either. Why else had I moved so far away?

“Hell, no,” Kira said when I found her downstairs and brought up the subject. She shook her head and looked over my shoulder to where I was sure Austin was watching. “You told me to never, never, never let you fuck him again!”

I made myself stare at her, not look back at him. “I know. But that was before.”

“Before what?” Kira’s lip curled.

“Before you thought it would be fun to invite him out with us. I haven’t talked to him in months. Since before I moved here. But now here he is.”

“And looking utterly fuckable.” Kira didn’t lose the sneer, but her gaze flickered back and forth to my face and over my shoulder. “You know, Paige, I’ve known him as long as you have. He moved up here, wanted to know where the good places to go were. I told him we were going here. I didn’t know you were going to go home with him. I thought you were over him.”

“I am over him!” I looked over my shoulder and caught his gaze, then turned away with hot cheeks and fast-beating heart.

“Whatever.”

“I’ll give you my key.” I looked back at Austin, now bent in conversation with Ethan.

“Fuck, no. I’ll get Tony to come pick me up!” Kira shook her head and stumbled a little bit.

I reached to steady her and she clutched at my hand. “Will he come for you?”

“He will if I fucking tell him to.” Kira straightened, then swiped at her hair.

“I’ll wait with you until he comes.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” Kira said, then slung her arm around my shoulder. “Paige. Don’t forget what happened.”

As if I ever could. “I’ll be fine!”

“Don’t let your pussy get you into trouble,” she continued, warning me off what she’d fallen prey to many times herself. “He made you cry.”

“Yeah.” I let Austin’s gaze catch mine when it turned toward me and didn’t look away. “Well, he won’t make me cry anymore.”

“He’ll always make you cry,” Kira said. “But go. Whatever. He’s got a magic cock. I get it.”

Remembering the times she’d left me stranded so she could go home with someone she met in a bar, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as she wanted me to. “I’ll wait until Tony gets here.”

I could do that, at least.