“Such a demanding body you have,” he said, sucking on my jaw. “I bet you’re slippery and hot. I bet I know exactly how you taste right now.”

My fingers circled, still teasing, knowing it’s what he would do. What he wanted me to do. I pressed my head back into the pillow, whispering, “Faster. Please, more of something.”

“Both hands,” he relented quietly. “Two fingers inside and work the outside. Let me hear it.”

I slid my other hand down my body and inched closer to him, feeling the unyielding shape of his renewed erection against my hip. With both hands, I touched myself, relishing the clean sweat and soap smell of him beside me, the rough scratch of his stubble on my neck and chest as he kissed me hungrily, whispering, “Goddamn it, Chloe. Let me hear you.”

My breath caught as he slid his palm over my breast, squeezing it roughly before ducking to pull the peak deep into his mouth. I loved the sound he made when he suckled me. It was desperate, and rumbling; a sound so rich I could feel it behind my eyes, and in the center of my bones.

He released my nipple from his mouth and reached to whip the covers off my body, exposing my skin to the cool air of the hotel room and the blazing heat of his eyes.

“It’s my hand you’re f**king,” he growled. “Show me what you like.” I lifted my h*ps from the mattress, wanting to please him, wanting him to relent and climb over me, claim me as his.

But instead, Bennett slid one of my legs higher up my body so he could reach down and land a sharp smack on my backside. “I’d do better; my hand would f**k you harder than this. I’d make you scream.”

It was a sufficient stand-in, and with his lips pressed to my ear telling me he was going to f**k me so long and so rough on Saturday that the next day I’d wish it’d been my own hand instead, I managed to come, hot and pulsing against my fingers.

But it wasn’t even close to what he made me feel.

We fell back against the pillows in breathless, unsatisfied silence.

It wasn’t enough to orgasm, and to feel his breath on my br**sts and his filthy words on my skin. I wanted to feel his pleasure when he came in me, or on me, or simply with me. I wanted to witness every time he felt that moment of release. He was mine; his pleasure was mine, and his body was mine. Why was he making me wait for it?

But as he ran a big, possessive hand from my hipbone to my shoulder, stopping at every curve along the way, I understood what he was doing.

He was giving me something other than the wedding to think about.

He was being a withholding ass so I would torment him.

He was making me torment him, and pretending to hate it.

He was ensuring that this week would feel like us, and we could be outwardly focused on everyone else while staying focused only on each other behind every blink, in every dark room, and in each one of our private thoughts.

Bennett was ensuring that we would see each other at either end of the aisle and know we made the best choice of our lives.

“You’re pretty brilliant, do you know that?” I asked, curling into him and running a hand up over his shoulder and into his hair.

He pressed his lips to my neck and sucked. “You can thank me later, Einstein.”

He turned his head to kiss me and I groaned into his touch. His lips were so firm, so commanding and I gave in to him as he parted them and pressed his tongue inside, sweeping, searching.

I shook when his hands returned to my skin, warm and rough, feeling every curve and dip, every small hollow. I felt the hard press of his c**k against my stomach and tried to roll him on top of me.

“I want you inside,” I said. I heard my own voice and it was hoarse and needy. I ran my hands up his neck, cupping his face and trying to pull him closer.

But he inhaled, turned and pulled my fingers into his mouth.

“Fuck,” he groaned, taking each of them between his lips and rolling them over his tongue, tasting my sex. He pushed my hand away, sweeping a frustrated palm over his face and rasping, “Goddamnit.”

Before I could hold on and keep him there, he’d rolled out of bed and walked back to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

I could barely open my eyes the next morning.

Bright yellow sun filtered through the open balcony door, warming my skin where it cut across the bed. I could taste the salt in the air; hear the sound of the tide as it washed along the beach. I could feel the heat of Chloe’s body where it pressed against my side. Naked.

She mumbled something in her sleep, slipped a smooth leg up and over mine, and shifted closer. The sheets smelled faintly of her perfume and even more of her.

With a groan, I extricated myself from her grip and very carefully rolled her to her side. Swinging my feet to the floor, I stood, looking down at my very hard, very selfish dick. Really? I thought. Again? I’d gone to the bathroom on two separate occasions last night—both before and after Chloe’s little one-woman show—and still. Always the traitor.

Chloe thought I was brilliant for having us wait until Saturday, when in reality it was starting to feel like the worst idea I’d ever had. I felt anxious and on edge—aware of a persistent hum beneath my skin and a need for exertion—to f**k until I was too tired to stand or sit, too exhausted to do anything but fall into bed and pass out.

Under normal circumstances I’d have cut off my right hand before considering leaving a warm bed and na**d Chloe. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and frankly, my right hand had proven invaluable the last few days.

I’d almost caved last night, and at this point, it would

be like surrendering to the enemy. I needed to get out of here.

I found my phone in the living room and typed a message to Max. I need to run. You in?

His response came less than a minute later. Definitely. I’ll grab Will and meet you at the main

See you then I typed back, and tossed my phone to the couch.

I’d have time to jerk off, clean up, and escape the room before Chloe was even awake.Max had most definitely gotten laid. I watched him as he neared the pool, hair a mess and limbs loose and relaxed. It would be easy to hate this guy if I wasn’t so damn happy for him.

Okay, no. I still hate him a little.

“You look disgustingly pleased with yourself,” I said, dropping into a deck chair beneath a bright blue umbrella.

“And sadly, you don’t,” he said back with a smirk. “Your virginity giving you trouble?”

I sighed, rolled my neck, and felt the tension that seemed present in every single muscle. “Is it tomorrow yet?”

“With Hanna still, I think. He said to wait, that he’d be down in a few.” Max took a seat across from me, bent down to tighten the laces of his running shoes.

“This is good. There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

He squinted up at me. “What’s up?”

“Do you remember when Will hired that creepy clown to deliver a singing telegram on my birthday?” I asked, an involuntary shudder moving up my spine. This kind of thing had become the norm in the Will, Bennett & Max Show. After having accidentally hired a transvestite hooker for Will while we were all in Vegas, he’d retaliated by having a couple of goons pretend to bust us for card counting. It had only escalated from there. Chloe insisted it was only a matter of time before one of us ended up in the hospital or jail. My money was on jail.

Max groaned. “Fuck. I thought I’d finally erased that mental image. Thanks for bringing it back.”

I glanced back toward the hotel to make sure I didn’t see Will coming down yet. “I have some retribution in the works.”

“Did you happen to meet Chloe’s aunts last night?”

“The ones that looked like a couple of hyenas circling a lame gazelle? Yes, lovely ladies.”

“I may be partly responsible for that,” I said, waiting for his reaction. He seemed completely unfazed.

He shook his head, but was clearly amused. “You don’t think they’ll get their hopes up, do you?”

“I got the sense that they were just looking to have some fun. I sort of told them he liked experienced women and that he liked them in pairs. All of which is true, I might add.”

“I’m not a total dick, Max.” When he lifted his brows as if to say Oh really? I ignored him, continuing, “I may have suggested she play along. She agreed.”

“That’s it? She’s easier than I expected,” he said, already shaking his head in disbelief. What girlfriend would ever agree to such an evil albeit brilliant plan? Clearly, Hanna was a genius.

“It took a little reassurance that he’d escape unharmed, but yes, she did. I really like her, by the way.”

“Same,” he said with a quick nod.

“So what do you think? Should I call it off? I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a little dirty over this one. They’re Chloe’s aunts.”

We heard footsteps move across the deck and both looked up, seeing Will jogging toward us.

Max leaned in quickly and whispered, “Tell him and I’ll kill you.”There were surfers scattered down the shore and a few runners passed us as we started away from the hotel.

“So what had you up so early?” Max asked from my right, keeping a steady pace with me. Will, the competitive runner, was about twenty feet in front of us, shouting insults and patronizingly encouraging remarks over his shoulder every few minutes.

“Just . . . everything,” I admitted. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so exhausted and so keyed up at the same time in my life. You probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m not sure whether I want to sleep for ten hours or fuck.”

Max gave me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “I know the feeling,” he said.

“Like hell you do,” I said back, looking over to him.

He fought a laugh. “Sorry, mate. I don’t mean to mock your pain, and this will most definitely fall into overshare territory . . . but I’ve never seen Sara like this before. She’s always been . . . How should I say this . . . ?” He scratched his jaw, thinking. “She’s always been eager. But pregnant Sara? Jesus, mate. I can barely keep up.”

I’d really have liked to shove Max into the pounding surf, but I had to admit it was a little endearing to see him so flustered and fumbling through his words. “That might be the most inarticulate thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“Really trying not to hate you,” I groaned.

“So, aside from the obvious,” Max said, meaningfully. “How are things?”

“The usual. My mother is texting me every half hour with whatever happens to be her worry of the moment. Chloe’s dad wouldn’t have the foggiest idea where he’s supposed to be at any given time without Julia assigned to Frederick Watch. Bull is waiting for Chloe to decide she wants one last fling. I’ll probably be checked into rehab by the end of the day.”

“Chloe is Chloe,” I said. “She’s sexy and infuriating and constantly keeps me guessing. I thought I might strangle her last night but we talked. I think we’re finally on the same page.”

“Sounds great then,” he said. But it was too short, too flat, and I didn’t miss the way he kept his eyes trained on Will.

“If you have something to say, Stella, say it.”

Will must have realized we weren’t behind him anymore because he’d doubled back. “What’s up?” he asked, using the hem of his shirt to wipe the sweat from his brow and looking back and forth between us, clearly confused.

“Oh, good,” Will said, turning to face me. “If I may, this sexbargo thing may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Agreed,” Max interrupted. “I get that it’s all a f**king game with you lot most of the time, but who flies to California to get married, rents a bloody suite on the beach, and then doesn’t bang the hell out of his hot fiancée?”

“Embarrassing to all men, if I’m being quite hon—”

“I don’t know, okay!” I yelled, my voicing booming down the beach. ”I know it makes no sense! At the time, it made sense. ‘Make it special,’ I thought. ‘Make the tension build,’ I thought. I wanted her to remember how fun it was to be pissed at me all day every day. I wanted her to remember that there really is only one man who can handle her and it’s me, goddamnit! Now, it seems like the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. But I’m committed. Do you see this tiny corner I’ve painted myself into? Do you?”

I gestured around me frantically until both of my friends were forced to give me slightly terrified nods.

“I threw down this gauntlet, I have to follow through. This is Chloe we are talking about. She already has her fist curled tightly around one of my testicles, at least let me keep the other one! If I f**k her before Saturday night she’s going to think she owns both balls and can wear them as f**king charms on a bracelet. She’ll expect me to thank her after she sucks my dick! She’ll think she’s letting me spank her! She’ll wear shoes to work that no one has any business wearing even in the bedroom!” I took a huge, gulping breath, lowering my voice, “And then. Then I will spend the rest of forever trying to convince her that she’s an ungrateful, pain in the ass, harpy shrew who really just needs to be tied to the bed and f**ked until she’s thanking me for existing!”