Take Me if You Dare (Entangled Brazen)(12)

By: Nina Crespo

Damn it.

It was so perfect, if her purse were waterproof, she’d have tossed out everything and filled it with the rich, creamy brew.

Taking one last lingering sip, she set the cup back down on the bedside table and opened her purse. Riffling through the contents, she found a pen and the only piece of paper she could find—the hotel receipt for the chocolate mousse pie. Using the back of it, she scribbled out a note, and then looked it over. Short, cute, but not annoyingly sweet. Leaving it propped against the cup in plain view, she jogged back down the stairs.

Another completed birthday dare to check off her list.

Where was the rush of excitement? Why wasn’t she eager to call Tab?

As she drove away in her rental car, a pang of guilt made her look in her rearview mirror, but she set it aside. He hadn’t wanted her to stay, not really. It was just one night of fantastic sex, nothing more. Before she turned the corner at the end of the block, Jasmine looked back in her rearview one more time, half expecting to see Ethan’s blue-eyed gaze following her retreat.

Ethan barely acknowledged the opening of the front door, focusing instead on the early-morning beach view from the kitchen’s picture window. Sweat cooled as he refueled with a protein shake, body still humming with the energy from his workout and his frustration. He looked over his shoulder at Mitch ambling into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and rumpled, in the same pullover and jeans he’d worn last night.

His friend scrubbed his hand down his face and leaned wearily back against the edge of the counter. “How was the run?”

“Fine.” Ethan flicked his eyes over him. “I’d ask how you are, but from the way you look, it was one hell of a night.”

“And morning.” Mitch grimaced as he cautiously rotated his neck and shoulders. “I barely made it home in one piece. That blonde has moves that could put an Olympic gymnast to shame, not to mention the brunette…” He let out a low whistle. “What about you? I got your text message.” He tilted his head toward the stairs and gave him an inquiring look.

Ethan took a long sip from his cup and swallowed. “She’s not here.”

“Too bad, but I’m not surprised though.” Mitch righted himself from leaning on the counter. “She didn’t seem like your usual type.”

Ethan paused with the cup in midair and frowned. “Exactly what do call my type?”

Mitch went over to the refrigerator. He rummaged around inside of it and came back out with an energy drink and the leftover chocolate mousse pie. “I don’t know, one that doesn’t look so”—he frowned as if he had a sour taste in his mouth—”permanent.”

Ethan filtered the word through his mind.

He hadn’t gone into last night with any long-term expectations, but he’d wanted more when he’d awakened that morning. More time to explore Jasmine’s soft curves. More time to find out what else she was addicted to besides chocolate mousse pie. More time to see how many times he could change that teasing little smile on her face into a laugh.

Get over it.

He let out a derisive snort. You got one night just like you said you wanted.

“No—really. There are certain things we just have to accept,” Mitch said, obviously interpreting his response as part of the conversation.

“Oh yeah, like what?” Ethan turned to look at Mitch. His friend looked like he was about to spout world philosophy instead of his usual grand theories about women.

“There are women, like the blonde and brunette, who clearly make it known it’s about the moment.” Mitch moved the can from right to left, further emphasizing his point. “There are others, like the one you met last night, who have more of that tomorrow, day after, day after that feel.” He pointed at him. “You, my friend, like me and everyone like us, are a man of the moment, and with the jobs we do, we have more than enough good reasons behind it. Look what happened in South America.”

South America.

Ethan released a grim breath as he thought about his friend Dario Ortiz. The fact that he’d left a wife and kid behind only solidified why they shouldn’t get involved in serious relationships, but he also knew from experience. When his father, a Green Beret, hadn’t returned home from a mission, he’d watched his mom fall apart from the loss. It had taken a long time for her to recover.