"Southern Comfort. Check. 7UP. Check. Chips. Check. Condoms. Check." Shayna Hingham scratched off the last item on the mental list she'd made for the key party. They were all the ingredients for either one hell of a good time or one colossal mistake. Lucky for her, she wasn't the one deciding between the two. "I think I have everything."
"I'd say." The leering clerk slipped the condoms into a separate bag, then tallied up the total on the register. "The only thing you're missing is me."
"You?" The out-of-the-blue comment caught Shayna completely off guard. It wasn't that she wasn't used to being hit on. She didn't have a false sense of modesty. She knew she was a reasonably attractive woman, but this was a bit bold for small-town Maryland. White guys didn't normally come on to black girls. Although it seemed to be happening to her a lot of late...well with one guy in particular anyway. But that guy was a different story. He was her Achilles' heel. This guy was a dead ringer for Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter. It wasn't the same thing at all. Not even close. "Excuse me?"
"I'm off at eight in case anyone's interested."
Shayna wasn't one to shine anyone on, but this guy had no chance in hell. "If I run into anyone interested, I'll be sure to let them know."
"Your loss," he muttered ungraciously.
"I'm sure." She handed him exact change, then picked up her bags, grinning all the while.
Shayna waited until she was out of the convenience store and in her car before she began to laugh. That was exactly what she'd needed tonight. Not the come on, but the laugh. Her stomach had been in knots all day because of the key party her friend Edith was throwing. Not for her own sake, because Shayna had no desire to sample the wares of her friend's neighbors, but for Edith, who was about to step out of her sexual comfort zone for the very first time.
Although Shayna was against this venture on principle, she was still going to provide moral support, and by the time she arrived at Edith's house, she was almost all laughed out. The very thought still brought a smile to her lips, but she'd managed to contain herself a bit. Now she was focused on helping her friend survive the night.
On the way up Edith's driveway, Shayna caught sight of Edith's brother Embry's car parked in his usual spot. "Well, shit," she cursed aloud. Maybe she should have taken Horshack up on his offer after all. Anything had to be better than dealing with Embry. The little bugger wasn't just getting to her; he'd gotten her. Two weeks ago in fact, and she was having a hard time keeping that very erotic memory at bay.
She'd known she was going to have to face Embry sooner or later; she'd been hoping it would be later rather than sooner. She wasn't prepared to see him just yet. Her guard hadn't been reinforced, and her heart was pounding fiercely; she just couldn't tell if it was in excitement or fear.
Embry was trouble with a capital T, fine as hell, and undeniably the best lay of her life. But he was also white and the brother of her best friend, which should have meant hands off. And it had...until he'd put his hands on her, followed by his mouth, then quickly by other longer, harder parts.
"Jesus." She shivered just thinking about him. Nervous, Shayna glanced back at her car, then to the house, weighing the pros and cons. Edith really wanted her to be there, and as a friend she should be, but Shayna wasn't sure she could handle being within touching distance of Embry and not jump his bones. It was why she'd been avoiding him for the past two weeks.
After taking a much-needed deep breath, she continued on her way to the less-formal entrance at the back of the house. It was her usual MO, and this little party didn't change that at all. Besides, she was here for Edith, not to shake her groove thing. Nervous, Shayna paused outside the back door and looked through the window on the door. She instantly saw Embry and Edith talking in the kitchen.
The duo, deep in conversation, didn't spot her, which gave Shayna ample time to drink in the sight of Embry. He was casually dressed in jeans and one of his favorite Pink Floyd T-shirts. It was black and featured the same design as their Dark Side of the Moon album. He looked cute in it and even better out of it. So much better. She didn't know how it was possible, but every time she saw him, he seemed to look better than the time before. It was of course impossible, but it didn't make it any less true.
Embry was tall, lean, and entirely too attractive for his own good. His almost shoulder-length dark brown hair was thick and held a hint of curl to it. She was surprised the partners at the law firm he worked for allowed him to get away with the bohemian style, but then again, Embry wasn't one to do as he was told. Thankfully he didn't have the muttonchops many men were sporting these days and instead kept his face shaved clean. It was a look she preferred not only because it showed off his strong jawline, but also because she'd really enjoyed the way his smooth cheeks had felt pressed against her thighs when he was...
No. No. She wasn't going to think about that again. She was going to concentrate on the here and now and try to figure out how to get her and Embry's relationship back where it was supposed to be, because she really missed him. The trio's friendship hadn't been formed in the most conventional of ways, but it had lasted through the years, despite their economic and racial differences. And even though life had taken them in different directions, they still remained close, which made it a bit strange for her not to pick up the phone and call Embry when she wanted to shoot the shit, as she would have in the past. Now things were just awkward, and she didn't know how to get them back on track.
Worse, she couldn't even go to Edith for advice. Even though Shayna knew Edith loved her like a sister, she didn't know if her friend would be supportive of the duo if they continued to see each other, even if it were on the sly. It was all so very confusing, but she wasn't going to find any of the answers standing outside.
Gathering her courage, Shayna opened the kitchen door and slipped inside with a smile at the ready. Conversation ceased the second she entered the room, which made Shayna very curious as to what the siblings had been talking about.
"Sorry I'm late." She offered this not as an apology but as an attempt to get the conversation hopping again and maybe in an effort to ease a bit of the tension. Her words didn't seem to have the exact effect she'd been aiming for. Instead of the inane chatter and kidding that normally came about when the three of them were in a room together, Embry looked furious.
"Shayna? Oh, hell no." Angry, he pushed away from the wall, all trace of his easygoing persona gone. "Not you too."
Startled, Shayna glanced over at Edith, then back at Embry, in hopes of clearing this up. "Not me too what?"
"You're not here for this crazy shit."
Jump back! Was he serious? Her picking keys? "God, no." Did she look insane? "I'm just the hired help."
"Hired help." This time Embry turned his furious gaze from Shayna to Edith, much to Shayna's surprise. What did Edith do now? "Tell me you didn't hire her to be your maid."
"No, of course not. Take a chill pill, why don't you," Edith said quickly. "I would never ask her to do anything of the sort. She's here as my friend, to help out, because I'm quite frankly at my wits' end."
"Hold up one second, sucker." Shayna knew she shouldn't be offended, but she was. Of course she was also touched Embry was about to do to battle with Edith over the slight he'd felt his sister had dealt Shayna. And while Shayna would never admit it in a million years, when he went all macho man on her, she creamed. But this wasn't just about him defending her extremely tarnished honor. This was about the insult he'd slapped her way while trying to defend her. And that was something she wanted to get cleared up and fast.
Shayna set her purse and the grocery bag down on the counter with a loud thump. Then slapped a hand on her hip and raised the other to point her index finger at Embry. "First of all, I don't appreciate the way you said maid. My momma's a maid. She was your maid, if you recall, for many, many years and still works for your parents up in that mausoleum you call a house."
Instead of going toe-to-toe with her as she'd been sort of hoping, Embry smiled, his temper obviously no longer an issue. "You're so cute when you get riled."
Fuck that. "I got your cute"--Shayna turned until her backside was facing him, and slapped her hand against her ass--"right here."
To her utter surprise, Embry reached out and looped his finger in the belt buckle of her bell-bottom jeans and tugged her back toward him.
Shayna stumbled but found her balance just in time for him to pull her back against him. In this position she could feel his hard, muscular body pressed against her backside and noticed he was getting harder by the second. "If I recall correctly," he whispered in her ear. "That wasn't where you had my cute. You had him deep in your sweet pussy. Or do you need another sample to help you remember?"
She sure as hell didn't need a reminder. Because try as she might, she hadn't been able to forget yet. But she'd be damned if she let that little gem slip out, especially with Edith in the room watching them intently.
"Well, do you?" he whispered again. "Because I'm more than happy to..."
Shayna sent her elbow soaring back into Embry's solar plexus, causing him to cough, then laugh and release her. "Brat."
"Buzz off, jive turkey." Shayna walked quickly away from him, needing to put as much distance as possible between them so she could get her shit together. She'd been in the room with the man for less than five minutes, and she was already primed to climb on top of him and ride him like a Harley. Feeling all out of sorts, she brought a slightly trembling hand to her newly styled Afro and patted it. Discreetly she cast a glance over at Embry who was watching her with a pleased-as-punch grin on his handsome face, then over to Edith, who looked concerned.
Oh no. That would never do. It was time to bring the fun back to the room and fast.
"So"--Shayna smiled brightly--"have the kinky festivities begun?"
Embry snorted. "What do you know about kinky?"
Shayna turned back to face Embry and smirked. Embry was in for a rude awakening if he thought he knew all her sexual secrets after one drunken encounter. "Enough to know there are some things worth trying, a few worth trying twice, and some not worth giving a second thought to."
"And where do key parties fall on your kink meter?" he asked.
"Between naw and hell naw." Shayna shuddered at the very idea. "Sex with random strangers went out of style right after Woodstock."
Embry cut in. "You didn't go to Woodstock."
"Don't remind me." She sighed. That was one of her biggest regrets. Sure she wouldn't have been old enough to do anything worth doing, but still, it might have been fun. "Free love, free music, free drugs. What more could a person ask for?"
"Indoor plumbing and bedding?" Edith obviously wasn't as enthralled with the free-for-all as Shayna was. "Besides, you're no hippie."
"True, but it still sounds decadent."
"If you're looking for adventure, look no further." Edith teasingly picked up the glass bowl and held it out to Shayna. "I can't give you mud or rain, but I can offer you a no-strings sexual encounter. And I'm sure one of those jokers has a joint just waiting to light up. If they haven't already."
"No." Shayna laughed, not at all willing to take her friend up on that offer. "I'm good. Besides, you really think any of those lily-white people out there would even let me pick a key from their bowl?"
"Yes." Embry's reply was swift and held enough heat to singe the walls. "Which is why I don't want you going out there."
His hypocrisy was amusing. "But you're going to let your sister."
Embry on the other hand looked far from amused. He held her gaze boldly and unflinchingly and spoke to her as if she were the only person in the room. "I don't have any say over what she does."
"And you think you have say over what I do?"
"No," he said quietly yet firmly. "I don't think it. I know it."
Shayna raised a brow. Somehow, somewhere, Embry had straight up lost his mind. "Oh really?"
"Really." He took a step closer, not backing down an inch. He never did when it came to her, and it was one of those things she loved and yet hated about him all at the same time.
Shayna opened her mouth to counter his claim when Edith butted in. "Enough, you two. This is a love-in, not war."
"Yes, Shayna. Let's make love. Not war."
She rolled her eyes. "You are so corny."
"But you still love me," he teased. His tone was lighter, but she could still see the fire churning in his big blue eyes. If he ever got her alone tonight, she knew she was going to be in for it.
Taking a deep breath, she moved on. "Keep thinking that. Anyway"--Shayna turned her attention back to Edith and away from the woman's all-too-tempting brother--"aren't you throwing a party?"
"Well, Irvin is mainly. I'm only making food and collecting keys."
"Speaking of food..." Shayna glanced over her shoulder to Embry. She needed to get him out of the room so she could give Edith the condoms. Although she was fine with talking about them with him in the room, she doubted Edith would be. "I have a couple more bags in the car. Be a sport and get them for me."
"Great, now I'm helping out too."
"Less lip smacking and more working," Edith said. "We need to finish the rest of the hors d'oeuvres. You can't have an orgy on an empty stomach."
"Fine," he grumbled. "Is it unlocked?"
"Yes." Shayna watched Embry stomp from the kitchen with a smile. He was downright adorable when he was peeved. Hell, she found him adorable all the time, and that was the real problem. Despite her best intentions, he'd gotten under her skin, and the worst part was she liked it.