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I stop in front of Finn on the couch and smile at him like a lunatic with a bowl of buffalo chicken dip in my hand.

“What?” he asks with a concerned smirk. His face is lit up with the slight glow of Dex’s aquarium behind me.

“Nothing. I’m happy.”

“Are you sure? You can cry some more if you need to. You won’t scare me off.”

“No…I’m okay today.” I’m cried out, honestly. It comes in waves. I don’t miss Mason, but I do miss Palmer. It’s bizarre. Losing your best friend is like taking off a security blanket and feeling a chill. At first, it’s uncomfortable, but soon after, you realize you were burning up the entire time. The cold becomes welcome.

I set the dip down and crawl on top of his lap, resting my thighs on his, letting myself be comfortable in his powerful embrace. “Damn, you smell nice, baby,” Finn mumbles.

I snort. “Because I smell like your favorite dip.”

He chuckles into my neck and says, “No, it’s your perfume.” He breathes me in and then tucks my long hair away from my shoulder. “You look really nice tonight.”

I think I’m learning my balance. The truth is I don’t want to be prancing around in revealing lingerie and mermaid glitter…at least not in public. Finn has insisted we keep my mermaid costume for role-playing night. I agreed, but only if he gets an eye patch and he wraps his hand around my throat. But for every day, I’ve decided, I like being comfortable, but with a little effort. So for tonight, I’m wearing the cute flowy bohemian shorts Lennox found for me with a form-fitting, white, baby T-shirt that hugs the bulge of my chest and the slight dip in my waist. My hair is down in natural waves and I have a hint of makeup—a soft blush, a little lip tint, and a touch of mascara.

This is nice. This, I like. This feels like me.

“It’s our first official date,” I say before pressing my lips against his.

“What? I’ve taken you out before.”

“True, but tonight, I have no questions about how you feel about me, where we’re headed, or what you think about me.”

I run my hands all over his gray workout shirt, which is the same silky smooth material as his black athletic pants. He looks like such a jock tonight. Ha! Me…with a jock. I invited Finn to our first official date night. I made all his favorite dips. I have every intention of making it up to him tonight because all we’ve done for the past few nights is cuddle.

Sex isn’t going anywhere. After the most dramatic twenty-four hours of my life, I needed to recuperate and feel comfort in a different way. So Finn pals around and cuddles me. He’s patient through my sporadic little meltdowns. When I think of Palmer, I cry. I cry even harder when I think about the fact that she hasn’t bothered to call and beg me for forgiveness. I told her not to contact me, but a part of me wished she would have at least tried. Her cowardly behavior only solidifies what I know in my heart; this friendship isn’t just over, it’s been over for a long time.

It’s okay to mourn. It’s okay for my heart to hurt. And it does… Immensely. But it also feels like relief. Like the shadow that’s been chasing me my entire life finally stepped into the light, and the monster…it was just a mouse. The monster of my insecurity was just a teeny, tiny, sad mouse.

Finn is letting me process patiently. He even cuddled me last night on the couch as I fell asleep watching Finding Nemo in his arms, my personal memorial to Cherry. I cried as we watched it and he didn’t ask me if it was about Palmer or Cherry. He just stroked my hair and let me quietly sob. In a weird way, Finn likes my tears. He says my tears, unlike Nora’s, are honest. And he wants honesty.

I couldn’t have dreamed up a better man.

“What do you think I think about you?” Finn asks. There’s a sultry smile on his face, and I feel a swell growing where I’m rubbing against his crotch. He shifts his hips to subtly adjust himself with ease like I’m weightless on top of him. I love how strong he is. It’s how I know I can really lean on him.

“I think you think—”

Ring, ring.

My phone sounds from the kitchen counter, the loud ringtone carrying from Dex’s open-concept main floor with the tall ceilings. I’m actually going to miss this place when he returns in a couple of weeks. But, then again, I’m only moving next door. I bet I can pop by to visit.

The phone grows quiet for a brief moment before it picks right back up.

“Goddammit. Let me talk to that fucker. I’ll let him know he’s lost the privilege of speaking to my girlfriend ever again. And if he has a hard time understanding, I can pay him a visit and say it to his face.”

“It’s really hot when you get all protective,” I say with a seductive smile, placing my hands on his cheeks. I rub my thumbs against his stubble. “Say that again, but kind of growl it.” I try to snarl at him, but he’s not returning my playfulness. “What, Finn? Don’t be upset. You know I’m not answering his calls.”

Mason panicked when he found out I blew off the Legacy Resorts deal.

He spiraled when Palmer must’ve told him I knew everything about their affair. That’s when he started blowing up my phone—messages and voicemails toggling between begging, explaining, and then demanding I talk to him.

He damn near had a heart attack when he was copied on the email I sent to all of our clients, letting them know that Arrow Consulting was splitting ways and that I would be offering long-term services as a brand strategist and marketing consultant under a new boutique name: Queen Consulting, which would be based out of Las Vegas. I asked my clients to reach out if they were interested in receiving more information when I returned to work in a few weeks after my summer vacation concluded.

The response was overwhelming. Mason can keep Arrow and all its assets. It’s nothing but an empty shell now.

My more vindictive side has enjoyed watching him spiral as I keep his messages on read and let the phone line ring. I plan on giving it a few more days before I block his number completely.

“I’m not upset if you talk to him. I am just so angry for you. But you’ve got an edge, baby. Maybe you should rip him to fucking pieces while I listen on speakerphone.”

Not that I’d say this to Finn, but I’m eternally grateful for Mason. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I needed him to string me along for four years. I needed him to make me doubt myself so I felt low enough to ask for Finn’s help. I was desperate enough to approach a man who I never would’ve unless I had absolutely nothing to lose.

“I don’t need to. I did what I needed to do, and now I’m not going to dwell on this any longer. I deserve better and Mason deserves…Palmer. There’s no greater punishment than that.” I laugh to myself. “And I don’t need to tell Mason what a huge mistake he made. His consequence is not getting to experience the best version of me.” I kiss Finn’s forehead. “I’m saving all that for you, babe.”

“You’re a queen,” Finn says, guiding my lips to his. “Such a fucking queen.” Our kiss deepens, and this time he reaches between us to adjust his erection, which has grown to mammoth proportions. He groans against my ear. “Are you feeling better? Can we fuck—”

“Wait.”

He exhales. “Sure, why not,” he grumbles bitterly. “That’s all I’ve been doing. I’m getting really good at it.”

“Are you actually pouting?” I burst out in a chuckle. “I just want to show you something, then you can fuck me like a madman, right on this couch.”

I dart to the kitchen and return to the living room with my box of photographs.

“You saw them?” Finn asks.

I shake my head. “Nope, not yet,” I say as I break the sticker seal on the box. “I want to look together.”

I’m nervous, but not for the reason I thought I would be. There’s one thing I desperately needed to get out of the summer and it lies within these pictures. It was never about Finn liking these…

It’s about me.

I open the box and dare myself to love what I see.

The pictures are stacked strategically so they tell a story. I see the studio first, black roses, scattered on the ground. I see the disturbed sheets and just my hand gripping them tightly like I’m in the throes of passion. And the first time I see my body—my legs, covered in the black stockings that rose a few inches over my knees, I gasp.

I hand the picture over to Finn, my eyes wide as I soak in picture after picture of my naked body, my most intimate parts, half covered by my hands, my hair, a rose. The look on my face in every picture is hauntingly erotic. Finn captured something I’ve never seen in myself.

Confidence.

“Finn…” I trail off as I hand him image after image after I look at them. My cheeks are burning, and my heart is thumping angrily. “Is this what you see when you look at me?”

He watches my eyes carefully as his brows furrow. “Yes. Avery, these are—”

“Amazing.” I finish for him. I want to be the one to say it. I laugh in joy and relief, proving myself to the one person who matters. “I look really, really good.”novelbin

Finn nods, examining the picture. “You look beautiful. So sexy.”

I nod in agreement. “Thank you.”

He sets the pictures I handed him on a neat stack on the coffee table. “Come on, I’ve seen enough. We can finish looking at these later.”

Actually, I want to keep going. The feeling of loving myself and appreciating the way I look is exhilarating. It’s my new addiction. But I take his hand and let him drag me up the stairs, knowing what these images have stirred up in him—a primal, lusty urge. This feels just as good…being the wanted girl.

“Closet?” I ask as we head to the master bedroom. “The big mirror?” 𝓷𝓋.

I watch his head shake from behind. He wordlessly pulls me through the bedroom, through the master closet, and into Dex’s bathroom. He lets go of my hand, opens the shower door, and turns on the water.

The energy between us is electrically charged. It’s like lightning struck and lingered. I stay still and revel in his masculine angst as he strips me down like I’m a doll to play with. He yanks down my shorts and panties in one pull. I step out of my bottoms obediently as he maneuvers his hands underneath my form-fitting shirt and unhooks my bra. He pulls the straps free of my arms and slides my bra out under my top but leaves it on. Then he drags me under the stream of the shower head, letting it soak me from head to toe.

He watches my shirt glue to my body, my breasts completely on display through my drenched white shirt. He peels off his shirt and tosses it on the bathroom floor, shutting the glass door behind him so we’re boxed into a different kind of wet dream.

He cups my chest delicately. “Before I met you, I swear I was an ass man. But these have converted me.” He pinches my nipples one by one before he spins me around, bends me over, and secures my hands on the built-in bench. He smacks my ass, hard. The sound is exaggerated by the echo of the shower.

“Then again,” he growls as he rubs his palm over the spot he swatted, “this gets me just as hard.” I groan when he slinks his thickest finger into my crease. “I bet this pussy missed me.”

“Yes,” I mumble.

Finn bends over me, his chest lining my back as his free hand wraps around my throat. His lips tickle my earlobe and he speaks right into my ear so I can hear him over the shower. “I’m going to fuck you like I own you, first. Then I’m going to pull you into the bedroom and make love to you. How’s that sound?”

“Mmm, good. Yes.”

He slowly pumps his finger in and out, and I spread my legs a little wider, inviting him to get deeper.

“But tomorrow, when you wake up in my arms and I kiss you good morning, I’m going to enjoy that just as much.”

“Me too,” I mumble.

He curls his finger inside of me, as he tugs on my earlobe with his teeth. “Why did I bring you into the shower, Queen? What do you think I want you do to for me?”

“Come,” I whimper. “You want me to come.”

He pulls his fingers out and rapidly flicks against my clit before he plunges back in, with two fingers this time. “No, baby. That’s not enough. I don’t want you to just come for me. I want you to explode for me.” My body goes weak and my legs start to shake as he drives his fingers into me furiously and the familiar pressure brews from the forbidden spot that I rarely allow him to touch.

“Oh my God,” I cry out as the pressure blows past the point of tolerance. I completely let go and burst as Finn roars in appreciation.

“That’s it, baby. Good girl. I fucking love how you can do that.” He spins me around, pulls his fingers out, and yanks his soaked shorts down, his erection springing free and bouncing in place. My breath is still ragged from my orgasm, and the tension in my chest only tightens as I study the perfection that is his dick.

“Finn, I want it to always feel like this. Whenever we’re together, whether we’re fucking or cuddling, I want to feel like you want me this much every single day.”

His demeanor changes. He pauses to kiss me sweetly, pulling me against him so his dick is sandwiched between our bodies, stirring an ache from deep inside of me. “It will and I do. Just tell me what you need and I’ll take such good care of you. I promise…I love you, Avery.”

I nod. “I love you too, Finn Harvey. And thanks to you, I think I love me too.”

A part of me wants to stop here. I want to spend the rest of this evening under the warm rain from the shower with Finn’s burly arms wrapped around me, making me feel safe. But his erection is twitching on my stomach, and now I need to take care of my man.

I smirk into his chest. “Now pull my hair and tell me to get on my knees and swallow the whole load. Boss me around. Pirate-style.”

He lets out a short laugh. “Dirty girl with a dirty mouth.”

Obediently, he weaves his hand in my hair and clenches his fist. I’m at his mercy as he guides me to my knees and the tip of his dick nudges against my lips.

“Look up at me,” Finn says.

He shoots me a playful wink before he wipes the smile from his face, getting fully into character.

“Open your mouth…wider…good girl.” He groans in delight. “Just like that, Queen.”

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