Read No Strings Attached Online

Authors: Jaci Burton

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BOOK: No Strings Attached
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“Yeah.”

“And you knew I was coming here.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You followed me?”

“No. I came here to go fishing.”

She didn’t believe him. Then again, what kind of ego did she have that she thought
he was here for her? That was ridiculous. “So this is all coincidence.”

“I came over here for a few drinks and to check out the action at the club. Noisy
as hell in there. So I came outside for some fresh air. That’s when I spotted you
tusslin’ with that asshole.”

She lifted her gaze to his. “I’m glad you showed up when you did. And thank you.”

He laughed. “I didn’t do anything. Looks like you had him under control when I got
here.”

She pulled on his hands and he sat on the bench next to her. God, he looked fine.
So different from his jeans and long-sleeved shirt. Tonight he wore black linen pants
and a black silk short-sleeved shirt. His face was always tan from working outdoors,
and his blue eyes mesmerized her.

“I think your intimidation helped get rid of him. I’m not sure he was ever going to
get the hint.”

“Well, he’s gone now.”

“Yes, he is.”

He studied her without saying a word. Ella found herself not minding that at all.

“You look different.”

Leave it to Clay to say something like that. “Is that good or bad?”

“It’s good. You always look beautiful. You just don’t look like you usually do. I
like you just fine in jeans and a T-shirt. But this dress…Goddamn, Ella. You look
hot.”

Her heart stopped. Shawn had told her at least thirty-eight times that she was beautiful.
It had meant nothing to her. One compliment from Clay and she had melted to the bench.
“Thank you. I wasn’t sure you even knew I was a woman.”

He arched a brow. “I’ve always known you were a woman. I just try not to treat you
like one.”

She laughed. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Good.”

Being with Clay was so…easy. She knew him, had known him since she and James had started
in the construction business all those years ago. With Clay she could be herself,
didn’t have to pretend. He’d seen her at her very worst. There was nothing to hide
from him.

“Ella, why are you here?”

Well, maybe she had one thing to hide from him.

“I’m on vacation.”

“And that’s it. You came all the way to Hawaii—by yourself—to rest.”

“Yes.”

“Bullshit. Tell me why you’re really here.”

She arched away from him. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“I’m making it my business.”

“Now you’re being a pushy bastard.”

“Yeah? And?”

She couldn’t help herself. She laughed. “Why can’t I stay mad at you?”

“Because I’m irresistible.”

She rolled her eyes. “You probably use that line on the ladies. And it probably works.”

“It does.”

“God. You’re unbelievable.”

“They all say that, too.”

She liked that he was here. Despite wanting to do this vacation on her own, she was
happy Clay had shown up. Though it did put a major crimp on the sex thing. How was
she going to pick up a guy with Clay around? And she still had a niggling suspicion…

“So I’ll tell you what, Clay. You come clean with me and I’ll do the same. Tish told
you why I was coming here, didn’t she?”

“No. She didn’t. But I was kind of hoping you would.”

He was telling the truth. Damn. She and Clay had gotten close after James’s death.
But not that close. Not close enough to divulge her desperate need for sex.

“Um…”

“You didn’t know that guy, did you?”

“No.”

“Okay.” He looked away.

“What?”

“I thought you had come here to meet someone.”

She blew out a breath. Explanation time. She hated this. “I did.”

He shifted his gaze back on her. “But not him.”

“No.”

“Then who?”

She shrugged. “I have no idea.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“I know. This is difficult for me to explain to you. You and I…we don’t have the kind
of relationship where I can talk about…intimate things.”

“Oh. Well, sure we do. Okay, we don’t. Not yet, anyway. But we
can.” He leaned back and slung his arm across the back of the bench. “You can tell
me anything, Ella.”

She probably could. And Clay got around…a lot. He knew things…about sex. About relationships.
Maybe he could help her figure this out. If she could survive the embarrassment.

She took a deep breath, then let it out. “I’m here for sex.”

Four

Ella tried not to grimace when Clay’s jaw dropped.

“Um…what?”

“Sex. S-E-X. I need sex. That’s what I came to Hawaii to get.”

“You mean you haven’t…?”

“Since James died? No, I haven’t.”

“Oh. Well. Really? No one? It’s been five years, Ella.”

“I know. I wasn’t ready.”

“And you are now.”

“Yes.”

“Then why can’t you get that back home? I mean, honey, I’m sure there’s plenty of
guys in Tulsa who’d love to fuck you.”

She laughed. “That’s nice of you to say. But that’s not what I want.”

Clay rubbed the spot above his brow. “I’m confused. You can’t have sex with any man
you know in your own hometown. Why not?”

She shifted to face him. “Because I know all those guys. They’re all friends and coworkers
of James. I don’t want to have sex with
someone who knew James. Someone who knows me, who knows my story. I want a clean slate.
I don’t want a relationship.”

“And you think no one will have sex with you—without strings?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I just didn’t want to go there. Not with guys I know.”

“And not with men who knew James.”

“Yes.”

“Not every man in that city knows you or knew James.”

“I know that, too. I just wanted to get away.” Away from the familiar, away from memories
of the man she’d loved, from the place where the two of them had built their lives
together, where every building, every street, didn’t remind her of James.

“So you came to Hawaii, intending to pick up some random guy and fuck him?”

“Yes.” But now that he said it out loud it sounded like a really stupid idea. “I guess
I hadn’t really thought that one through.”

“It’s not safe, Ella.”

She rolled her eyes. “Guys do it all the time.”

“Guys can take care of themselves.”

“And women can’t? You know I can.”

“Yes, I know you can. I just wish you wouldn’t. Not here. Not by yourself.”

“Not where you can’t keep an eye on me? Come on, Clay. What are you going to do? Stand
in the bedroom and watch over the guy I’m having sex with to be sure no harm comes
to me?”

He looked horrified. “Uh, no.”

She laid a hand on his arm. “I’m a grown woman. And I’m not stupid. I can handle this.”

He shook his head. “I know you think this is a great idea. But there has to be a better
way to jump back on the horse again.”

“If I knew a better way, I’d do it. I’d have already done it.”

“Need it that bad?”

She laughed, and at the same time heat pooled low in her belly.
Talking sex with Clay made her body heat up. They’d never had a conversation this…personal,
this intimate before. He wasn’t a “best friend” kind of man. He was a man. All man.
Hot, sexy, but their conversations were usually all business. She’d never thought
of him in that way other than the occasional admiration for his body, his looks, the
way he commanded a room and the men who worked for him. She’d learned a lot watching
him, and maybe while watching him she’d had a feminine appreciation for him as a man.

But in her life there’d always been James. And she’d loved James with her whole heart.
So no other man had attracted her.

But James had been gone for five years now. And in the last year or so, she might
have started noticing Clay as more than a business associate. Still, she’d never once
thought…

Yet here she was in Hawaii, talking about sex with him. Not just sex in general, but
her sex life. Or rather, her not-quite-but-impending sex life. The whole thing was
surreal.

“I might be able to help you.”

Finally. “Great. What do you suggest?”

“What about me?”

Her heart dropped to her stomach. “What?”

“You can have sex with me.”

Her throat had gone dry. Where was that glass of wine now? “Are you kidding me?”

His smile died. “I never joke about sex.”

She’d just bet he didn’t. He probably took it very seriously. She could already imagine…

No. No way. Oh, definitely no way. “I…We…Oh, hell, no.”

She clamped her mouth shut.
Way to insult a man’s ego, Ella.

But instead he tilted his head back and laughed. “So, you think I’m repulsive.”

“Oh, God. No. I didn’t mean that at all. I think you’re hot, Clay. Any woman would
want to have sex with you. I mean, you probably have women falling all over themselves
wanting to…”

Again…she clamped her lips shut when she saw the grin on his face. “I think I should
just shut up now.”

He walked his fingers along the flesh of her back. “No, you’re doing great. Keep going.”

She shivered at his touch. Shawn hadn’t elicited one-tenth of the response in her
that Clay did. This was bad. Really bad. “Don’t you see how this couldn’t work?”

“No.”

“We work together. We own competing businesses.”

“So?”

“We’d have to face each other…afterward.”

“So?”

She blew out a frustrated breath. “It would be awkward. Plus, what would everyone
think?”

“Are you going to tell them?”

“Oh, my God, no.”

“Neither will I. What goes on between you and me is just that…between you and me.
And why would you feel awkward about having some fun?”

Dammit. He made it sound so logical. “Clay, you’re too…familiar.”

“Huh?”

“I know you. You’re too close. The last thing I need for this is someone I know.”

“I disagree. That’s exactly what you need right now.”

Clay watched the mix of emotions on Ella’s face, and still couldn’t believe he’d offered
himself up as…what? Stud? Sex partner? Hell, even he didn’t know. He just knew he’d
seen red when that guy had pushed her too hard. And he’d be damned if he was going
to let some other guy touch her.

Unfamiliar territory. He’d come here to make sure she was okay. And she had been handling
the situation okay, but he’d wanted to
knock that guy hard—like onto the next island. The only thing that had stopped him
was Ella standing there.

And then listening to her talk about wanting to have sex with some random guy?

Oh, hell, no. But he hadn’t known he wanted the guy to be himself until tonight, until
he’d seen another man kiss her, put his hands on her. He knew then that the only man
he wanted touching her was…him.

“You need someone you know, someone you trust, someone who can lead you back into
sex and expect nothing in return.”

She tilted her head to the side, exposing her neck. He wanted to kiss her neck. Okay,
he wanted to start there, then put his mouth all over her.

“Yes. But that’s my whole point. Someone who expects nothing in return. That’s the
great thing about anonymity.”

“Anonymity can also be dangerous. That’s where the trust is lacking. You can’t trust
a stranger. A stranger doesn’t know you.”

“And you do.”

“You know I do. I’ll also keep you safe.”

She sighed. “Okay, I hadn’t thought about that part. I was just so excited about this
trip I hadn’t thought about the danger aspects. Stupid, I know.” She looked down at
her hands. “It’s just that I’ve finally started to feel whole again. And that took
a long time after James died. I never thought I’d ever want to be with another man
after him.”

“But now you do.”

“Yes and no. I don’t want to fall in love again.” She lifted her gaze to his, and
his gut clenched at the sincerity in her big brown eyes. “I can’t ever love anyone
like I loved James.”

“But it’s not love you’re after. It’s sex.”

“Yes. Lately it’s all I’ve been able to think about. And all I want is meaningless
sex.”

He slid his fingers under her hair and teased the nape of her neck. Her hair was soft,
her skin even softer. “Sex is never meaningless,
Ella. Or it shouldn’t be. And I’d be really disappointed if that’s what you’re going
for.”

She snorted. “Oh, right. I’m sure all your sexual escapades are filled with meaning.”

“If you’re implying that I have fulfilling, long-lasting emotional relationships,
then no, I don’t. My life isn’t conducive to long-term relationships, and you know
that. But I never have meaningless sex. I don’t fuck someone and drop them the next
day. Sex means something. You should never take it lightly.”

She looked down at her hands again. “Damn you. I wanted it to be meaningless.”

“Did you?”

“Yes.”

“Why? If your objective is just to get off, you can do that yourself.”

Her gaze shot to his, her mouth dangling open. Her lips were full, soft, and it took
every bit of willpower he possessed not to kiss her.

BOOK: No Strings Attached
3.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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