Copyright 2014 Camille Leone

This story is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are invented by the
author or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to actual
persons or events is purely coincidental.

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in form or by any means
without the prior written consent of the author.

Have mercy . . .

Dangling over her head – well, not quite over it – more like near her forehead, was a plastic
replica of a mistletoe. Ethan shook the thing like a dinner bell. “Here’s to the new year.”
As she stooped lower her breasts fell forward, straining against that low cut velvet top. For a
brief second Ethan envisioned himself in a bounce house, submerged by rubber balls of all sizes,
only his face was plastered firmly in Torii’s soft flesh. Man oh man, the only way he’d come up
from her bosom would be for air. Willing himself to take care of the issue at hand, Ethan already
knew she was gonna blow him off by doing a quick peck on his cheek, or even worse, a forehead
swipe. No. Fucking. Way.
As soon as her lips connected with his forehead he made his move, flicking the mistletoe to
parts unknown. Clamping a hand on each side of her face, he tilted her head, aligning her mouth
with his. Torii’s eyes popped open, but whatever protest she’d planned on saying was muffled
once his lips devoured hers.
Slow down . . . keep it classy and romantic, he told himself. With a bit of prodding the tip of
his tongue nudged her lips open, but boy she was stiff. He moved one hand under the nape of
her neck, caressing the spongy, baby soft hair spilling through his fingers. Oh yeah, she could
wear her hair like this forever instead of that flat, straight do as far as he was concerned.
At some point during their lip lock one of them groaned. At least he thought it was a groan
until Torii pulled away, clearing her throat loudly as she wiggled out of his grasp.
Oh My God, Oh My God, OMG. She couldn’t remember the last time a man had kissed her
like that. All soulful and slow and . . . and oddly sweet. He’d lit a fuse inside of her, one that
simmered down to her core.
Torii had to hold on to the armrests of his wheelchair, that’s just how shook up his kiss made
her. When she tried to speak, her voice came out like a croaking whisper. “The party. I-I have to
get back.”

He gave her one of his crooked little smiles, like he just knew he’d rocked her world. “You
sure about that?”
No, she really wasn’t. But it was her party. Only with that heavy lidded stare of his . . . Lord
have mercy . . . “Ethan-”
“No, I need you to listen to me. Are you really done with that clown?”
“Clown?” Torii glared at him once she was standing upright. ”Do you mean Patrick?”
“Yeah, him. The guy who wanted you to wait on him hand and foot. The same one who
needed you to cook all his favorite dishes, even though he took every opportunity to neg you
about losing weight.”
“You heard our argument?”
“I told you, sound carries in these old buildings.”
This was beyond mortifying. Wringing her hands, Torii backed up, fully intending on
heading for the door.
But Ethan wasn’t letting her go that easily. “After the party, if you don’t want to be alone
tonight then come back down and celebrate the beginning of the new year right. Celebrate it with
me,” he said.
The pleading tone of his voice and the hopefulness in his eyes were almost too much for her.
How could she have missed the signs? And why wasn’t she throwing herself into this man’s
arms and sitting on his lap to continue their kiss? Because she was a coward, that’s why. Patrick
had been hurtful enough, but Ethan, he’d become more than just a friend. He was her rock. If this
infatuation somehow went wrong and she lost him as friend . . .
Sensing she was on the fence, Ethan tried a Hail Mary pass. “No strings. We can be friends
with benefits and – and you, I mean we can still see other people, you know, cos we’re friends.”
“This doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Maybe it’s the champagne talking.”
“Don’t try to speak for me, Torii. I nursed one glass of champagne all night. The rest of the
time I was looking at your ass and thinking of all the ways I wanted to kiss it.”
“Oh stop it,” he drawled, refusing to be fooled by her phony you shouldn’t be speaking of
such things outburst. “Quit acting like your mom. I know you Torii, you like it wild and hot. And
I’m willing to give that to you.”
Interest sparked in her eyes. “But what about you?”

“Don’t worry about me.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
There it was again. Pity for him and his situation. His expression turned ugly as he gripped
the wheels on his chair, rotating so that her eyes were on his back. “I don’t need this shit.
What’s your cousin’s name again? Hell, forget it. She wrote her it down on my palm, along with
her cell phone number. I bet she’d love to spend the night with me.”
“I-I’m so sorry.”
The sympathy in her voice was like a punch to his chest. “Make sure the door’s shut on your
way out, will ya?”
“Please, I didn’t mean ─ I only meant I want it to be good for you too. And how can it be if .
. .” Her implication hung in the air, making it all the more hurtful. She couldn’t even say it aloud.
His voice came out hard and guttural. “Just get the fuck out. NOW.”
Ethan waited until he heard receding footsteps and the soft swish of the door closing. Next
came the lock clicking in place. After a few moments, when nothing but silence greeted his ears
he finally released the pent up pain and longing, all the wishful thinking and dreaming he’d done
these many months for a woman who’d only see him one way. Torii’s rejection just about
spelled out her feelings. She had none for him. His despair wasn’t just because she didn’t want
him. That was just the cherry on top of a very large shitty sundae. No, it was about everything
that had gone wrong, Unsure whether he could climb his way out of this hole of expectations
he’d set for himself, Ethan began scrubbing at his face with his hands. But he couldn’t stop the
wetness burning his eyes, so he just gave up and let the teardrops fall. Time for plan B. He
needed to get shit faced, like right this second. Too late he remembered the ink on his left palm.
Just as he feared, the numbers now bled into one another, making the digits unreadable. Figures.
It was the story of his life.

End of Excerpt
Thank you for reading this excerpt. This novella will be released in December, 2014
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