Read Listed: Volume IV Online

Authors: Noelle Adams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction

Listed: Volume IV

BOOK: Listed: Volume IV
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Listed

Volume
IV

 

Noelle
Adams

 

This book is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2013
by Noelle Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

 

Contents

Nine

Ten

Publishing Schedule

Nine

 

Emily’s stomach churned
with anxiety as she slanted a discreet look over at Paul.

They
were in the back seat together, being driven over to the Masons' for the party
in Emily's honor. He looked handsome and urban in a black dress shirt and slate
gray trousers, and his expression was as composed as always.

But
something was wrong. Emily
knew
something was wrong.

She
was very much afraid it was because they’d had sex the evening before.

She
was still a little sore—a pang of pain she’d feel every now and then that
reminded her of how Paul had been deep inside her last night. This morning,
even though she'd been disappointed when she woke up to find his side of the
bed empty, the feeling had inspired a silly kind of pride.

Now
it just intensified her anxiety.

For
her, the sex had been better than any fantasy. Yes, it had been rather
uncomfortable, and yes, it had been occasionally awkward since she hadn't
really known what she was doing. But that was to be expected. And being with
Paul that way, so intimately, so deeply, had totally blown her away.

He
had enjoyed it too. She was absolutely sure he had. He’d been so sweet, so careful,
but he had also been
into
it. He’d been just as overcome with desire as
she’d been, and he’d needed the consummation just as much. Emily was certain of
it.

Which
was why she couldn’t understand why he’d withdrawn from her today.

He
hadn’t been rude or cold. He’d been just as polite and attentive as ever,
asking her about how she felt and making sure she didn’t need anything. But
he’d spent most of the day working, beginning well before she'd awakened. Even
when he was with her, it felt like he wasn’t really there.

It
made her want to cry, and she had no idea what to do about it.

Paul
hadn’t said anything in the four minutes since they’d gotten in the car and
left the house. The silence was really starting to get to her. It wasn’t like
they always had to talk when they were together—they were quiet a lot—but this
silence wasn’t companionable or peaceful.

It
was stiff and uncomfortable, and Emily felt a chill of nerves as she tried to
process what it could mean.

Mostly
just to make conversation, she said, “Thanks for coming with me tonight.”

Paul
gave a half-shrug, his eyes focused on the sidewalk out the window. “It’s no big
deal. Why wouldn’t I come with you?”

He
was her husband. Perhaps he assumed accompanying her to parties thrown for her
benefit was part of his spousal duty, but Emily was pretty sure he would have
rather stayed at the house.

“I
don’t know. I mean, not everyone here understands us,
you
, our marriage.
I guess I thought it might be kind of awkward for you. It means a lot that
you're willing to come.”

Paul’s
eyes had darted over to her face, but now they shifted to window again. “It’s
no big deal.”

Emily
gave up on that conversation, since he clearly wasn’t going to share anything
genuine with her.

Maybe
she was expecting too much. Their marriage was only supposed to be one of
convenience and sympathy, and it had already ended up placing a much greater
burden on Paul than she had imagined when she suggested it.

In
the last couple of weeks, she'd come to a series of revelations about him—all
of them thrilling and gratifying. She'd realized she could be there for Paul
when he needed her, offering him comfort and support. She'd realized he could
actually have a good time with her, be happy in a way she rarely saw him. She'd
realized he was genuinely attracted to her, a revelation so shocking it had
taken a whole day to process. She'd realized she was more than just a duty and
responsibility to him.

But
maybe she was expecting too much in terms of emotional connection.

Paul
cared about her and was attracted to her and, for the time being, was enjoying
being with her, but she was a passing phase for him. That had always been the
fundamental truth of their marriage. Their relationship, whatever it was, would
only last for a few months.

Emily
could invest in the marriage emotionally as much as she wanted, since she
wouldn’t be alive to deal with any consequences.

It
wasn’t fair to expect Paul to invest emotionally in their marriage the way she
did, though. In fact, it would be insane if he did. She couldn’t be selfish
about this. She had to think more about Paul's needs than her own.

She
needed to do better about not expecting so much from him and not getting her
feelings hurt if he didn’t reciprocate.

With
this worthy ambition, she resolved that she wasn’t going to let Paul’s
reticence today bother her. It probably wasn’t personal. She wasn’t going to
pry into his privacy or make him feel guilty about any perceived slights.

He
didn’t owe her anything. In fact, she owed him more than she could ever repay.

So,
when the driver pulled up in front of the Masons’ row house, Emily was ready to
have a good evening with her friends, even with a perplexing husband by her
side who refused to talk to her.

Paul
was reaching down to grab the bag of hostess gifts they’d brought for Mrs. Mason
when Emily threw her worthy resolve out the window.

“Are
you sorry we had sex?” she burst out, her hand gripping her seatbelt strap,
which she hadn’t yet unbuckled.


What
?”
Paul blinked at her, clearly taken aback by the abrupt question.

Emily
swallowed hard, desperately trying to read some sort of expression on his
guarded face. Sometimes, it was so easy to read his feelings, but sometimes he
was so unknowable she wanted to scream. “Last night,” she explained. “Are you
sorry we had sex?”

“Of
course not. Why would I be sorry?” He was actually looking at her now, his gray
eyes scanning her face with a strange urgency. It was definitely an improvement
on his avoiding her gaze completely, which he'd been doing most of the day.

“I
don’t know, but you’ve been acting kind of…kind of standoffish today. So I was
starting to worry that you…regretted it.” She was suddenly embarrassed for even
bringing the subject up. “Or maybe it’s something else. I know you have a lot
of other stuff going on. It might have nothing to do with me. But I just got worried.”

“There’s
nothing for you to be worried about. I don’t have any regrets about last
night.”

“You
don’t?” she asked, a note in her voice that was almost a plea. “You’re sure?
Because it was so…it was so special to me. But, if it wasn’t good for you, I’d
understand. We can talk about it, though. You can just tell me. I’m not going
to expect you to do anything you don’t want to do.” Her voice wobbled
dangerously on the last few words at the thought that
she
might be
something Paul didn’t want to do. "You won't hurt my feelings."

“Emily,”
Paul said hoarsely, sounding much more like himself than he had all day. He
reached over until he was cupping her cheek with one warm hand. “Emily, that’s
not it at all. It was good for me too. You must have seen how good it was for
me. That’s not it at all.”

“Then
what…” She trailed off, not sure if she had the right to demand for him to tell
her the truth. Commanding herself to get a grip on her spiraling emotions, she
forced herself to smile at him brightly. “Okay. As long as things are okay with
us, I'm good. We don't have to talk about it. Everything's fine.”

She
got out of the car, feeling too hot, a little dizzy. Her cheeks were flushed
with embarrassment or some other emotion.

Paul
had gotten out of the car too, faster than she would have expected. He took her
arms and pressed her back against the closed car door, gently but unwaveringly.
“Emily, if you’re upset about something, then everything is
not
fine.”

“It’s
not?” she breathed, very stupidly. She gazed up at his tight face and intense
eyes, and the sight of him that way relaxed the ache in her chest at the same
time as it tightened a coil of desire between her legs.

This
was
Paul
. The real Paul. He hadn’t really retreated from her after all.

Then,
realizing how foolish she'd sounded, she added, "I wasn't upset."

“Yes,
you were. I’m sorry if I was withdrawn today.” He stroked her face until his
hand tangled in her loose hair. “It has nothing to do with regretting last
night.”

She
let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “So you don’t regret it?”

Paul
leaned forward until he’d brushed her mouth with his. “I don’t regret it,” he
murmured against her lips.

With
a thrill of relief and excitement, she wrapped her arms around his neck and
pulled him against her with an entitlement she’d never experienced before.

She
couldn’t believe she had the right to hold him this way, kiss him this way.
She'd been his wife for a while now, but she'd never really felt entitled to
him like this before.

They
kissed deeply, emotion and sensation washing in hot waves through Emily’s body.
It was hard to say how long the kiss would have lasted had they not been
interrupted by the sound of a car door slamming not far behind them.

Their
lips parted, and they both turned to look in the direction of the closing door.

Emily
saw Laura Mason staring at them, evidently having just gotten out of the cab
that was pulling away from the curb.

Emily
eased away from Paul a little, suddenly overwhelmed by a familiar insecurity.
She thought she’d grown a lot in the last few months, particularly in being
more confident in her ability to attract men. In fact, just the minute earlier,
she'd been reveling in the fact that Paul Marino was attracted to her.

But
seeing Laura now brought all of Emily's old insecurities back.

Laura
used to date Paul—way back when.

He’d
dated her longer than anyone else. Everyone thought he’d really fallen for her.

But
Paul was
Emily
's husband now. She was taking good care of him, and he
seemed to be happy with her in these few months they were together.

Laura
couldn’t have him.

“Emily,”
Laura said, giving her a breathtaking smile. “It’s so good to see you.”

“You
too.” Emily forced herself to remember that Laura had always been decent to her.
She pulled out of Paul’s arms, which were still draped loosely at her waist,
and walked over to greet the other woman.

Laura
gave her a little hug, and then her eyes drifted over to Paul, who was standing
in the background, watching quietly. “Hi, Paul,” Laura said, her striking dark eyes
a bit uncertain, as if she didn’t know what to expect from him. “How are you?”

“I’m
fine.” He gave Laura a strange little smile that made Emily’s gut twist even
more. “How’s life treating you?”

“Good.”
Laura’s smile broadened. “Great job. Great apartment. It’s so strange to be
back.” She turned to look at her family’s house.

“Yeah,”
Emily agreed. “We feel the same way.” She took Paul’s arm as they started to
walk toward the door. Maybe it was petty, but Paul was
hers
—at least for
the time being—and she wanted to make sure everyone knew it.

Paul
shifted the bag he carried into his other hand and didn’t pull away from her as
they walked.

BOOK: Listed: Volume IV
13.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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