Hold Me Close by Melanie Harlow & Corinne Michaels
Ian Chase broke my heart at seventeen, and I’ve spent the last eighteen years hating him for it.He makes it easy, with his smart mouth and playboy lifestyle—which I unfortunately have to observe since he lives behind me. Every time I see him climbing out of his pool, practically naked and unreasonably sexy, my blood boils.I’ve always loved to loathe him.I never planned to need him.***London Parish is my little sister’s best friend, not that it stopped me from falling for her.Our history is complicated. The only thing we have in common is being godparents to my sister’s three adorable kids—until our lives are changed in one tragic moment.Now we’re trying to raise the children we love, mourn an unthinkable loss, and fight an undeniable attraction.My life is already upside-down, and the last thing I need is for old feelings to resurface.Because I’ll never be able to keep her, no matter how hard I try to hold her close.
Excerpt Hold Me Close by Melanie Harlow & Corinne Michaels
Tell me this isn’t a dream.
Tell me the memories of last night—the most unbelievable, most romantic night of my life—are real.
Carefully rolling onto my side, I prop my head in one hand and study Ian’s face as he sleeps. He’s gorgeous, even if I can’t see the bright blue of his eyes and he isn’t giving me that sexy grin, the one he gave me last night before he said, “You have no idea the things I want to do to you. You should tell me to leave.”
Tell him to leave?
Why did he think we were in this hotel room all by ourselves? Did he really have no clue how long I’d loved him? Did he not know how many nights I’d spent dreaming that he’d see me as something other than his little sister’s best friend? Couldn’t he see the way I idolized him? Especially last night . . . he was my hero.
Back home after his freshman year at UNLV, Ian witnessed my tearful meltdown yesterday morning as I cried to Sabrina that my senior prom date had ditched me last minute for someone else. He offered to take me instead.
I was stunned. He’d kissed me once at a party a couple months back, but we’d hardly spoken since. I figured he’d forgotten all about it.
I’d never felt as beautiful as I did walking into the prom on his arm. Pressed against him as we danced, I’d never felt my heart pound so hard. When he kissed me on the dance floor and told me he’d had feelings for me for a while, I’d never felt so head over heels.
After the dance, he asked me if I wanted to go to the hotel with the rest of my friends. “Yes,” I said, forcing myself to be brave. “But I don’t want to go to the party. I want to be alone with you.” Without another word, he took my hand and we raced for his car. When we arrived at the hotel, Ian got us our own room.
On the elevator, my pulse raced with anticipation. He kept my hand in his as we ascended, and my stomach ballooned as if we were cresting the top of a rollercoaster.
Alone in our room, door locked, shades drawn, lights low, he reached for me. Pulled me against his body. Kissed me as if he knew how many nights I’d dreamed he would.
Tell him to leave?
Not in a million years.
Instead, I gave him everything. My heart, my soul, my body. He was slow and tender and sweet with me, because he knew it was my first time. I was in awe of him—of his hard muscles, of the way he moved, of the thrilling words he whispered.
God, you’re so fucking beautiful. I’ve wanted this for so long. You feel so good.
I still can’t believe he wants me. Me! I look nothing like the blond Barbie dolls he usually dates. My hair is dark, my chest is small, and my waist is not the size of my thigh. On a scale of one to ten, most days I feel like a six.
But last night he made me feel like I was the only girl in the entire world. It was magical . . . and it was only the beginning.
Light is spilling in beneath the drapes, so I know it’s morning and we should probably get up, especially since Sabrina’s graduation party is later this afternoon. I promised to help her with decorations.
But I never want this time with him to end.
He’s lying on his back, one arm flung over his head, the sheets pulled up to his waist. I resist the urge to run my hands over his taut abs and muscular chest, but it’s not easy.
His eyes open. Upon seeing me, his lips tip up. “Hey.”
My heart races. “Hey.”
“Did you sleep?”
“I didn’t tire you out enough?”
I grin. “You did. But it’s hard for me to sleep when I’m this excited.”
He cocks one eyebrow. “And what has you so excited?”
“You,” I say guilelessly. “This. Us.”
He grins too. “Come here.” Hooking me with both arms, he pulls me tightly against his side, and I lay my head on his chest.
For a moment, I simply breathe him in and let pure happiness wash over me. “Did you mean all those things you said last night?”
“Of course I did. Do you think I’m the kind of asshole who’d lie to you just to get you in bed?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m not, London. Look, I might not be the most sensitive guy on the planet, but I’m not a total dick, and I don’t take this lightly. We’ve known each other too long.”
“So . . . what happens now?”
He’s quiet a moment. “What do you want to happen?”
“I want us to be together.” I take a deep breath. “I’m in love with you, Ian.”
He freezes, and for a moment I fear I’ve gone too far.
“You don’t have to say it back to me,” I say quickly, picking up my head so he can see my face. I want him to know my feelings don’t come with any demands. “I just want you to know how I feel.”
His eyes are locked on mine. “I’ve never been in love before.”
“I haven’t either.”
“But the way I feel about you—I’ve never felt anything like it.”
I can’t stop a smile from forming. “Really?”
“Really. I want to protect you. Keep you safe.” He pauses. “But I also want to fuck you like a hundred and ten different ways. It’s actually kind of weird.”
I giggle as my stomach whooshes. “A hundred and ten?”
“At least.” Suddenly he flips me onto my back so he’s on top of me. “And that’s just this morning.”
My heart threatens to burst from my chest. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Sex is even better the second time. It doesn’t hurt as much, although I’m sore from last night, and I even have an orgasm, thanks to his patience and skill. I’m curious about how many girls he’s been with, but I don’t really want to know. The only thing that matters is that we’re together now. And I hope we always will be.
Mrs. Ian Chase.
London Marie Chase.
Mr. and Mrs. Ian Matthew Chase.
“This feels so right, doesn’t it?” I ask dreamily. We’re still breathing hard, our skin hot and sticky, his chest heavy on mine.
“Like it was always meant to be.”
He props himself up and looks down at me. “Maybe it was.”
“So were you just pretending to be annoyed with me all those years Sabrina and I followed you around?”
He shakes his head. “No. You were definitely annoying.”
I push against his chest playfully. “You’re so mean.”
“But you love me, remember?” He drops a kiss on my lips, then lowers his head to whisper in my ear. “And I love you. It just took me longer to realize it.”
A lump forms in my throat, and for a second I’m scared I’m going to embarrass myself by crying. But after a few deep breaths, I’m okay again. More than okay, actually—I’m a new person. Everything is different now. My entire life is him.
“God, I’m so happy, Ian. This changes everything.”
“Yes.” I’m smiling again.
He picks up his head and looks down at me. “I don’t want you to change, London. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“I mean my life—it’s going to be different now.”
“Well, for one thing, I won’t be going to Northwestern in the fall.”
He looks confused. “You won’t?”
“No, silly. I want to be with you.”
He brushes the hair back from my face. “What about that scholarship?”
I shrug. “I got one to UNLV too. I’ll take that offer instead.”
“But UNLV isn’t your dream school. Northwestern is.”
“You’re my dream. I don’t care about anything else.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment, and his expression has changed. There’s something in his eyes I can’t read.
But then he kisses me once more. “Come on. We better get going.”
We drag ourselves out of bed and get dressed.
On the short ride home, I alternate between replaying every delicious moment from the night before and fantasizing about everything yet to come. Ian is silent too, and I wonder if he’s doing the same.
When he pulls into the driveway of the house I share with my dad, he gets out of the car and walks me to the front door.
“See you in a few hours,” I say. “Thanks for . . . everything.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you at the party.”
I let myself into the house and float dreamily up the stairs, humming a song we danced to last night.
“London?” my dad calls from the second-floor bedroom he uses as an office. “That you?”
“It’s me.” I pause in the doorway and see him hunched over his computer. The poor man has terrible posture.
“Did you have a good time?” he asks.
“Yes. A wonderful time.”
“Good.” He smiles at me briefly before focusing on the screen again. It’s nothing new—my dad has always been a workaholic. We have that in common. I don’t know who was more proud the day I got the scholarship offer from Northwestern, him or me. He’s going to take the news hard when I tell him I’ve decided not to accept it.
But I don’t care, I think stubbornly as I continue down the hall to my room. The only thing that matters to me now is being with Ian. I might be only seventeen, but I swear I’ve loved Ian Chase since the day I met him.
This is the real thing.
* * *
The party begins at six, and Ian still hasn’t shown up. Mrs. Chase keeps asking Sabrina where he is because he’s not answering his phone, but neither she nor I have any idea. By seven I start to worry he might be avoiding me. By eight, I’m convinced of it.
“Stop worrying,” Sabrina tells me. We’re in her bedroom sharing a strawberry wine cooler we snuck upstairs. She takes a sip and hands it to me. “He’ll be here eventually.”
“I just have a bad feeling.” I take a few swallows of the sweet fizzy drink.
“Why? He said all the right things, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I admit.
“Then I’m sure he’s just being his usual clueless self. I love my brother and all, but he rarely thinks about anyone’s feelings besides his own. He probably has no idea he’s making you worry.”
“Maybe you’re right.” I force a smile, take another sip, and hand the bottle back to her. “Sorry. I’m being stupid. Let’s finish this and go back to your party.”
By the time the bottle is empty, I’ve got a happy little buzz going and I feel much better. But as soon as we come out of the house, I nearly throw up. Because that’s when I see him kissing another girl in the backyard.
I can’t breathe. My stomach churns. My clothes feel too tight.
Sabrina grabs my hand. “Hey. Let’s go back inside.”
I shake her off. “No.”
“Lon, come on. He’s just a jerk, okay? Let’s go sneak another wine cooler.”
How could he?
I don’t understand. He lied to me. He said he loved me and now he’s touching another girl? After everything we had last night and this morning? I want to scream. Cry. Throw something.
But instead of any of those things, I march over to where he’s standing with a pretty blonde wearing tiny denim shorts and a red bikini top. She fills it out in a way I never could.
I feel like pushing her into the pool. Him, too.
“Ian, can I talk to you for a minute?” I’m surprised at how calm I sound. Inside, I’m falling apart.
He looks at me with zero emotion on his face. Like last night didn’t even happen. “Oh, hey London. This is Heidi. She goes to UNLV with me.”
Heidi gives me a bored look. “Hi.”
Ignoring her, I skewer Ian with my eyes. “You brought a date?”
He shrugs heartlessly. “I guess you could call it that.”
My heart is racing, and I think I might pass out. I’ve never felt this before. Is it normal for your chest to physically ache? Because each breath I take hurts.
“Wait a minute.” I hold up my hands, my eyes filling with tears. “What is this? I thought you meant what you said last night. And this morning.”
Heidi giggles, which makes me want to throat punch her, and I’m not even sure what throat punching is. “God, Ian, what did you say to this poor girl?”
Ian looks me right in the eye and breaks my heart in three words. “It was nothing.”
All at once it’s clear I’ve been a total idiot. How could I have thought he was really interested in me? I’m a pathetic little kid with a crush. He doesn’t love me. I gave him exactly what he wanted, and now I’m worthless.
I hate him. I hate myself for believing him and thinking I should throw my life away.
“Fuck you,” I whisper. Then I turn around and run, vowing I will never, ever let anyone hurt me this way again.
As I stumble around the side of the house, I thank God I didn’t tell my father I wanted to turn down the offer from Northwestern. All I want now is to get the hell away from Ian Chase.
The farther the better.