A blush creeps up my skin as I gun my car through the quiet neighborhood intersection, my clunker’s obnoxious rattle garnering a dirty look from a suburban mom.
I can’t afford to fix that problem now, especially not after I bought my boyfriend’s birthday present.
If it weren’t so hot inside my deathtrap of a car, I’d be jumping out of my skin with excitement to see Jamie. But I’m trying to conserve my energy for our horizontal activities. Although he’s not supposed to be home until tomorrow, I overheard my boss, who’s friends with Jamie, mention that my guy might be back today, and I thought I’d surprise him. It’s his birthday after all, and I have the perfect gift, something I’ve been saving up for weeks to afford.
When I see Jamie’s Bronco parked in the driveway of his house, I slow my beater and pull up to the duplex across the street.
My legs are stuck to my seat, and I slide my hands down my bare thighs below my cutoffs to dry the sweat. As soon as I open the door, a blast of cool air hits me, and I sigh with relief. Austin in early May is still relatively cool and breezy. Thank God, because my car windows don’t roll down, and the air conditioning died long before I got this junker.
Reaching into my messenger bag, I grab Jamie’s present—two tickets to see the Texas Rangers play next month. He’s always traveling to Dallas on business, and I thought it might be fun for us to go together.
I wrestle the balloons out of the back seat and skip up the pristine walkway to his two-story colonial.
Pride fills me as I take stock of how much he did to the property. This place was an eyesore when he bought it a few months ago, but after replacing the roof, stripping the interior to the studs, and replacing the appliances, it looks brand spanking new. I don’t know how he parts with these investment properties because it would break my heart to sell this gorgeous house.
An image of me and Jamie flashes behind my eyes. A vision of us starting a family. Of kids and more birthdays and barbecues in the back yard. I mean, I haven’t decided how many children I want or their names, but I’m pretty sure I want them with Jamie.
Two months ago, I’d laughed off his suggestion that we should get married because we were both drunk, but I can’t lie—I want the white picket fence with him someday.
Yeah, he’s a little older than me, but what’s an eight-year difference in the grand scheme of things? Besides, he’s not all judgy about me struggling with school.
I want to get serious about figuring out my life, which is why I need to keep my shit together long enough to graduate from the University of Texas in a few weeks. Most of my friends seem to know where they’re going and what they’re going to do. Me? I’ve operated on the party-now, plan-later mindset, but that only got me an academic warning, mandatory tutoring sessions, and a run-in with law enforcement.
So I’m trying to buckle down. Do the smart thing. Study and whatnot. God knows school is not my thing, but I’m almost done, thank fuck.
When I ring the doorbell, I’m beaming the biggest, brightest smile, but a second later when he opens the door, he frowns, his dark hair falling into his deep brown eyes.
“Happy birthday, babe!” Ignoring whatever weirdness is going on, I throw my arms around his neck. “I missed you.” He smells so good. Like spicy cologne and man.
“Tori.” His arm comes around my back in a stiff hold. I wait for the passionate kiss. For him to rip off my clothes like he usually does.
Except he just stands there.
What’s going on?
I lean back and look at him. He’s still frowning.
And then he glances down at his watch.
“Late for something?”
You’d think he hadn’t been gone for two weeks. I know we’ve only been dating for six months, but he’s given me jewelry—real jewelry, not that costume crap—and says he wants to marry me someday. Hello, he spoons me after sex sometimes. That has to mean something, right? And he usually makes me come. He’s probably batting in the high .400s, and my trigger does not go off easily, so I’d say these are good signs.
But before I can ask him why he’s being weird, he ushers me into the house. I turn and find him peering down the driveway, his dark eyes shifting from one side of the street to the other.
He clears his throat and closes the door. A muscle twitches in his jaw. “Sorry, hot stuff. I’m meeting a contractor in a bit. Wasn’t expecting you.”
Relief washes through me. “No worries. Thought I’d stop by on my way to work. I have an hour.”
I waggle my eyebrows at him, and he nods, glancing at his watch again. “That should be enough time.”
For me to rock your world? Oh, yeah.
By the time my back hits his mattress, all thoughts of his birthday and the unopened present sitting in the living room fly right out the window. I don’t care that we’re skipping straight to the main course. I don’t even care that he hasn’t told me he missed me. It’s his birthday. He can do this any way he wants.
So he didn’t call me much while he was away. I know work has kept him busy. He owns property all over Texas and commutes often between Dallas and Austin to manage a new housing development he and his family are building. I love that he’s motivated and on top of his shit. At least one of us is.
Jamie peels off his t-shirt, putting those gorgeous muscles on display. A sigh escapes me as he wedges himself between my thighs. His rough jeans scrape my skin, but I don’t care.
In the two point two seconds we’ve been in his bedroom, he’s managed to strip me of most of my clothes, except for my black lace bra and thong, which he eyes appreciatively before he presses himself against me.
“Missed you, sugar plum,” he whispers against my neck.
Warm fuzzies fill my chest. Of course he missed me. I knew he did.
The moment his lips touch mine, we’re in a frenzy to get closer, and the Jamie who makes me come undone is back. His hand fists my hair, and he’s sucking on my neck and grinding his cock against me.
I’m lost in a haze of lust until something slams down the hall.
Was… was that the front door?
His whole body goes rigid.
“Jamie!” a female voice yells out. “I’m home, baby!”
It’s my turn to frown, especially when I see the expression on his face.
“Fuck,” he grunts. “Get up. Put your shit on.” He leaps off the bed like an Olympic runner at the sound of the starting gun and tosses my shorts and tank top in my face.
I’m still processing what’s happening when he closes the bedroom door, but yells, “I’m coming. Be there in a sec!”
“Who is that?” I didn’t hear the doorbell, and I doubt a contractor would waltz in like that.
Plus, it’s a woman.
He ignores me and yanks on his t-shirt.
With dread slicing through my veins, I open and close my mouth like a beached fish. “Are you…are you seeing someone else?” Holy shit. Is he dating that other waitress I saw him talking to last month? Is he cheating on me?
He buttons his jeans and motions for me to move off the bed. I stand up and slide on my shorts, my mouth still agape as I watch him smooth down the comforter. “Seriously, Jamie. Are you fucking someone else?”
Pushing his hands through his hair, he growls, “Not now, Tori. Just fucking get dressed.”
I wrestle with my tank top. “Please tell me that’s a relative in the other room, and that you’re not screwing around behind my back,” I plead, my voice low. Why I whisper, I have no clue. If he’s cheating on me, I should be screaming in his face and breaking out the crazy.
Footsteps sound down the hall, and a look of panic registers in his eyes.
And then he’s pushing me back along the far end of the room.
Back behind the dresser.
Back behind the teal ottoman.
All the way back to the walk-in closet, where he shoves me into the shadows and tells me to wait.
“What’s going on?” I ask, horrified. Why is he hiding me in the fucking closet?
His eyes clench, and he shakes his head. “I’m sorry, okay? Just wait here and be quiet. I’ll explain everything later. Please do this for me. I promise to make it up to you.”
But I don’t have time to respond before he shuts the closet door in my face just seconds before that woman squeals with delight and launches herself in his arms. How can I tell? Because he slammed the closet so hard the sliding door bounced open, and there’s a one-inch gap.
And I can see everything. Her gorgeous black hair and designer clothes. Her lithe body and perfect tan. Those expensive black and red heels with the French name I can’t pronounce.
Then the kissing starts. She’s moaning and telling him how much she missed him. Telling him how she never wants to spend that much time apart again. Saying how much she loves their new house. How she’s going to make it their home.
Does she mean this house? Is this their house?
Nausea overrides my senses, and suddenly, I’m suffocating. Cold sweat breaks out on my body, and I swallow—hard—so I don’t throw up in that asshole’s new Nikes, which are sitting at my feet.
“Are those balloons in the living room for me?” the woman asks excitedly in between attacking his face.
No, bitch. They’re not.
“You know it,” the liar says.
“And the Ranger tickets too?”
He laughs awkwardly, and his body turns toward the closet where he can probably feel me holding up my two middle fingers. Because he knows I don’t have any money, but I spent what little I did on him. To make today special. Because I, Tori Duran, am a dumbass.
At least he has the decency to look sheepish.
He coughs. “Yeah, honey. They’re for you. Thought we should enjoy a game together for once.”
I wipe away the hot tears spilling down my cheeks.
She “awws,” and I want to stab them both with her expensive heels.
“I can’t believe you got me presents on your birthday. We’ll get a babysitter and make a night of it!”
He’s seeing a woman with kids?
Except my horror isn’t over yet. No, it’s when she chirps, “I tell my friends that I have the best husband in the whole world!”
It starts to sink in, and my world tilts on its axis.
Because she’s not the other woman.
My stomach rolls, and acid lurches up the back of my throat. I slide to my knees and brace myself against the wall, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the nightmare unfolding in front of me.
She pushes him down onto the bed and nestles herself over his body, and he moans the same way he did a few minutes ago when he was touching me.
Now he’s fucking his wife.
* * *
Can Tori move on from this betrayal? When she accepts a live-in nanny position working for a sexy rancher named Ethan, she can't deny the attraction. But the last thing she's willing to do is put her heart on the line again. Especially when he's not quite single yet.
Reckless is a USA Today bestseller.