GRUDGE MATCH (Love Challenge)

BOOK: GRUDGE MATCH (Love Challenge)
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Chapter One

 

Slipping through the
opening weeks of Holly’s Pizzeria without catching sight of Mason Morrison qualified as a genuine miracle, and Holly Franklin knew she was just about out of grace.  Inevitably, as though the thought conjured Mason’s delicious form, he strode through the front doors and into her life as if he had done so regularly instead of for the first time in ten years.

Ten years
had made his tight, lean body harder.  Dark auburn hair once shoulder length now buzzed an inch except for the top, a little longer, making his stunning hazel eyes stand out of his tanned features.

Holly scowled
, heart beating faster.  Stupid emotions.  Growling, she forced herself to look away.  She was a grown woman now, twenty-eight, and business owner.  Why would she still lust for him?  Breathing deep a number of times, then a few more times, she struggled to calm down.  Why would it be him to make her heart flutter?  Sex with him had been adequate at the time, she was barely eighteen.  Looking over their brief interludes, nothing beyond her deep love for him stuck out.  The sex wasn’t about her or seeing she reached orgasm.  Ever.  So why would he not leave her mind or heart?

Three years
passed since her last lover, who wasn’t terribly satisfying either.  Tired of the game, she quit the sating scene altogether.  The depressing lack of satisfaction made her ache.  What was the point?  Where were the mind-shattering, full bodied, star-destroying orgasms she’d read about?  Her friends told her about how earth shaking they were.  Yeah, right.  Memories of Mason rose up embarrass her.  Those times were nothing to write home about.  So she was best served to keep her emotions to herself.  Maybe someday she’d be lucky enough to find a man who could satisfy her.

She busied herself behind the counter, helping her brother and business partner, Sunn
y with orders.  Unable to help herself, her gaze kept sneaking out to table four.  This was not high school.  Why did she feel like a girl crushing on her teacher?  God, she hated that feeling.  The one where she was inadequate and never enough, no matter how accomplished she may be.

             
Watching Mason clap hands with Justin Travis, Mason’s long-time friend, she admired both men’s muscular arms as they flexed.  Gossip said they had shared women in the past.  Holly wasn’t the sharing kind, though many women she knew thought about it, she wasn’t one of them.  She’d probably run screaming. 

             
“You thinking of me, Darlin’?” Mason’s voice pulled a shiver from her toes, up to her nipples and out the back of her neck.  He caught her daydreaming about him.  Instantly pissed at her body’s reaction to him and that he snuck up on her while she was thinking of him added to the knowledge of the women he’d been known to service, she bit back a scathing comment to settle for general insults. 

“With you?  About You?  Not hardly,” she snorted, not terribly attractive, but she wasn’t concerned with Mason’s opinion. 
Hating Mason caught her day dreaming about sex with him, she worked to keep her face bland.  She despised being embarrassed and felt the telling flush despite her mental screams to stay calm.  When would the awful blushes end?

             
“All business today, Holly?”  He reached out one large hand and smoothed his index finger over hers where she had an unconscious death grip over the Alaskan Blue keg pull.

             
Yanking her hand back, she glared at him again.  “What are you drinking?” her voice almost firm.

             
Faint lines around his eyes deepened in amusement as he leaned closer into the counter.  His breath reached out to her, warm and spicy like she remembered.  Her heart thudded, ticking at the juncture of her thighs making her want nothing more than to punch his mocking smile from his face.  Why would these feelings never die?  Her love and desire had tied her to this man for ten years with her inability to get over him.  Why was she not able to cut the cord?  She hated not completely letting go and preferred to desperately hate him for hurting her, but the best she could do was fake disinterest. 

             
“I’m not playing with you, Mason.”  With a tight smile, she tilted her head as though shaking out a memory.  “Sex with you was faintly adequate.  Don’t need to go there again.”

             
Mason stopped dead, his eyes boring into hers for long moments.  He finally blinked then threw his head back and laughed.  He laughed so loud the entire pizzeria paused to look at them.

             
“Stop laughing,” she waved her hand in a shushing motion, “people are staring.” 

             
Mason’s smile never dimmed, “let them stare.  We have more important matters to discuss.”

             
“I don’t think so.”  Just then another customer indicated he was ready to order and Holly was thankful to exit the awkward discussion.  She wanted him.  Three years must have been lonelier than she thought.  Wasn’t she just kicking herself for her tie to him?  Sex wouldn’t solve anything.  Grumbling about how bad he was for her, she put as much energy into denying her desires as possible.  Taking him home was not a good idea, ever.  Stupid hormones.

* * *

              Mason watched Holly for the rest of the evening.  How smooth she was with her patrons.  She offered them her bright smile and each one tightened his guts, a bitter-sweet torture.  She genuinely liked people.  The care and concern for each was evident in the way she spoke to them, asked about their lives, families and particular interests she knew each of them had.  She only seemed to scowl and frown at him.  He didn’t mind.  His grin widened as Holly caught him staring at her ass.  No, he didn’t mind her scowl a bit.  He flustered her.  He’d like to fluster her right on her back with her legs wrapped around his waist, nails digging into his back, her throat hoarse from passionate screaming.

             
Images of them together were vague and indistinct.  His recall was shoddy at best.  Pleasure came to mind, but he couldn’t extract details and that drove him crazy.  He was a shit ten years ago.  Her father was right to drive him away from her.  He drank too much then.  After a few blackouts and waking up with his face bloody and swollen, his hands in no better shape, he’d instituted a two beer limit.  He may find himself challenged to a fight from time to time still, but now at least he remembered them.  Justin helped if he got carried away on the rare occasion he wanted to dink beyond his self-imposed limit.  Justin was the brother he wished he had. 

             
“Damn, quit looking at her.  The steam coming off you two is making me hot.”  Justin’s Native-American heritage stood out prominently in his dark hair and high cheek bones even though he was only half and he never ceased to draw women, especially when he chose to turn on the charm.

             
“She’s mine.” Growled Mason, an uncharacteristically gruff sound meant to be carried to Justin’s ears alone. 

             
“Well, well.”  Justin’s eyes felt like they penetrated Mason’s defenses and saw what he was trying to keep quiet.  “When did that happen?”

             
Sighing at his friend’s skill at seeing truth he said, “A long time ago.  I just didn’t realize it before now.”

             
“You’re an idiot.” A grin broke from Justin’s dark skin. 

             
“Yes, I’m an idiot.”  Mason’s eyes tracked Holly as she worked behind the counter.  “She’s matured.  Her hips and breasts are fuller.”

             
“And look at that ass.”  Male appreciation hummed in Justin’s voice.

             
“I won’t share her.  She’s mine.” 

             
With a mocking smile, Justin shook his head.  “You have it bad.  When did this relapse come on?”

             
“Right now.”

             
“Because she’s not expressing her love for you, if I’m not mistaken, she looks like she’d rather take the pizza cutter to your dangly parts.”

             
Mason’s brows rose and then realigned to a feral look as he took up the challenge, feeling the urge to rub his hands together in anticipation.  “Yeah, how about that?  Been a while since I chased her down.”

             
“As fun and exhausting as all that sounds, I’ll leave it to you.  I may have to find one of my own some day.  Let me know how it goes.”  Justin rose and turned to leave when Mason stopped him.

             
Peering directly into Justin’s eyes, Mason nodded, “Thanks for your faith.”

             
“You got it.  My money’s on you, but I think you will get bloody and bruised before she gives in.”  He lifted his mug toward Mason.

             
“Looking forward to it,” he clanked his beer mug against Justin’s.  Mason settled back to watch his future pace from taking pizza orders to delivering drinks and working the register. 

* * *

Nearly eleven, the pizzeria slowed.  Holly flipped the sign closed and bussed the table next to Mason.

             
“You can leave now,” she said, her words clipped.

             
“Could.”

             
“Leave.”  Holly tried the more direct route since his hard head wasn’t getting her message.

             
“Come home with me,” he said.

             
Wiping the table slowly, gripping the course rag firmly while concentrating on the smell of the degreaser instead of the sudden beat of her heart and the sudden difficulty getting air into her lungs, she swore softly and told herself to stand firm, “No.”

             
“You still want me.”

             
“I want a chocolate brownie sundae too, but it’s not good for me.”

             
“Mmm.  I think you spread out for me would make a great sundae.”

             
A groan nearly escaped her tight throat as the sudden image his words created.  “You weren’t all that before, why would I sample again?  Sounds like meatloaf leftovers to me.”

             
Ignoring her insult, “We are not the same as before.  We’ve both changed, grown into adults.”

             
“You were twenty-seven, how adult was that?”

             
A chagrined look crossed his face, making him look adorable.  “I’m a late bloomer, sincerity poured off him.  “Really.”  He reached out, grasped her wrist and with his other hand, he pulled her to him, fitting the hard ridge of his erection to her belly. 

             
Her nostrils flared as the feel of him pushed against her.  He ran one hand over her back, then slowly down lifting her butt cheek to fit her tighter against him. His lips found the pulse at the base of her throat and his tongue flicked out and tasted her.  Holly’s knees nearly buckled with a drowning rush of desire.  Eyes closed, her head tilted to the side allowing him greater access.  The hand grasping her wrist slipped down to cup her breast, his thumb strummed her hard nipple.

             
His groan forced reality back to Holly’s fogged brain.  Where was her insult and anger now?  “Sunny’s here.”  Angry at herself she swore.  “Stop!” 

             
“He left already.  I said good bye before you got to me.”

             
“Sunny would not leave me here with you.” Her voice trembled in reaction and disbelief. Sunny would never abandon her to Mason.

             
“He owed me one.”

             
“I’m going to kick his ass.”  Betrayal burned in her heart.  What kind of brother does that?  Wait until she saw him tomorrow, he was dead.  What kind of favor could he owe Mason?  Must have been serious for Sunny to leave. 

             
Frustrated, Holly ground out, “Just like before.  You take what you want and leave me hanging.  Sex is not only about you, buddy.  You couldn’t even kiss me first.  You just grab and go.”  Hands fisted on her hips, embarrassed and enraged, she wagged a finger at him, which later would remind her of her mother.

             
“If I ever took you back into my bed, it would be on my terms.”  Eyes narrowing, she continued, “and I’m pretty sure you can’t handle my terms.”

             
“Did you just dare me to a night of sex with you?”  Arousal darkened his eyes and his pupils dilated.  “Name it.”

             
“If you can’t handle an emotional woman, leave now.  I have feelings, they run deep and I won’t deny how I feel for your comfort.  I’m all grown up.”

             
“I see that.  I can accept your feelings and I won’t hold back mine either.  I won’t sugar coat how badly I want to fuck you, or how, or when.

             
Holly stopped breathing.  With visible effort, she drew air into her lungs as she nodded.  Squaring her shoulders, she said, “You will submit to me.  You will learn a lesson about how to love a woman.”

BOOK: GRUDGE MATCH (Love Challenge)
8.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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