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If Love Had A Price: Chapter 31


FOUR MONTHS LATER

“Kris, you have to stop making our sisters cry.” Courtney took off her knit beanie and fluffed her thick brown curls with one hand as she sent a pointed glance in Kris’s direction.

“Blair’s a pledge. She’s not officially a sister until next semester, and all I said was her haircut looks like shit.” Kris slipped out of her Saint Laurent boots and flexed her feet against the plush carpet of her off-campus apartment. Finally. She’d been running around all day, doing stupid sorority shit, when all she wanted was to drink a glass of wine and finish designing the invites for MentHer’s holiday fundraiser. “I was being honest. It’s not my fault she’s so sensitive.”

“She spent $300 on that haircut.”

“Again, not my fault.”

Courtney folded her arms over her chest. “You’ve been crankier than usual.”

“You know Christmas cheer irritates me.” Kris liked the presents and her family’s annual trip to St. Barth’s, but the cheesy holiday movies, ugly sweaters, and those godforsaken Christmas songs playing incessantly no matter where you went? Gag her with a spoon.

And okay, fine, she was also a teensy bit cranky because she hadn’t spoken to Nate in two weeks. He was filming in the middle of the Nevada desert, and between the spotty cell service and his crazy workdays—as well as her own packed schedule—they hadn’t so much as texted since Thanksgiving.

“Does this mean you’re not going to the Sigma party tonight?”

Kris grimaced. “I would rather dye my hair with drugstore box color.”

Her friend and sorority sister laughed. “I guess that’s a no. But let’s grab brunch tomorrow, okay? All my finals are papers, so I’m leaving Thursday. Have to prepare for the big Christmas shindig at my house.”

Courtney lived with her aunt, uncle, and five cousins. They were like a big, smiley Brady Bunch come to life, and they took their holidays seriously. Courtney owned a handmade sweater for everything from Valentine’s Day to Fourth of July to fucking National Pancake Day, courtesy of her aunt.

Kris was convinced Courtney’s aunt was a serial killer.

“Sure. I leave in a few days, too.” Kris grabbed the arts and crafts kit Courtney had lent her from her room and returned it to her friend. She’d only rushed Theta her sophomore year because Courtney, whom she’d met and befriended at freshman orientation, had already been a member and begged her to join. She hadn’t expected it to involve so much glitter. “We’re staying stateside this year.”

Surprise flitted across Courtney’s face. “No St. Barth’s?”

“No. My dad said I should have a normal Christmas at home, whatever that means.” Kris frowned. “Plus Gemma has to stay in town for an art exhibition, and he wants us all to have dinner together.”

Courtney’s mouth curved into a small smile. “That sounds nice.”

“I guess.” It did sound nice, but Kris would never admit it.

Roger had kept his word and traveled minimally in the months since they left L.A. He and Kris ate dinner together once a week, sometimes more—the Carreras’ mansion in Broadmoor was a short drive from campus, so it wasn’t difficult. Gemma occasionally joined them. She’d rented a modest apartment not too far from Broadmoor and had converted the spare bedroom into her art studio.

Kris had visited it once with Courtney, who’d freaked when she found out Kris’s real mother was none other than Gemma Cruz. Apparently, Gemma was a rising star in the art world. Kris had never cared much for paintings, but she had to admit Gemma’s hyper-realistic renderings were out of this world.

They’d gotten to know each other much better these past few months, but theirs wasn’t a mother-daughter relationship—yet. Roger and Gemma, though…

Kris smirked when she remembered how flustered they’d looked when she’d arrived early to dinner one night and found them in the living room with their heads bent very close to each other.

Clearly, their flame had rekindled after all these years.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Courtney smacked a kiss on Kris’s cheek. “Hal’s Diner?”

“Of course.”

Hal’s served the greasiest bacon and thickest milkshakes in the city. It was fantastic.

Once Courtney left, Kris drew a bath and put on soothing music. She sank into the bubbles, mentally going through her to-do list for the MentHer fundraiser. Even though she was in Seattle, she’d volunteered to help with their marketing and design needs in her free time. MentHer didn’t have the budget for a dedicated marketing person, the work could be done remotely, and Kris missed Susan and the girls, especially Skylar.

Shit. Thinking of Skylar made her think of Nate, which in turn made her depressed.

Kris couldn’t believe she’d turned into one of those girls who moped about when she couldn’t talk to her boyfriend for a few weeks. It wasn’t like Nate was ignoring her; he had a job to do. So did her vibrator, which she was going to—

An incoming call interrupted the calming melody playing from her “Chill Out” Spotify playlist. Kris dried her hands with a nearby towel before reaching for her phone so she could decline the call. She did not appreciate interruptions during bath time—until she saw the name on the screen.

Her heart rate went from five to five hundred in zero point one second. Anticipation and pleasure kicked in, followed by a strange rush of nerves.

“Hey.” She didn’t sound like herself. Too breathless, too excited.

But she couldn’t bring herself to care.

“Hey.” Nate’s whiskey voice had all her lady parts standing at attention. Her nipples puckered into diamond points, and moisture that had nothing to do with her bath slicked her core. Yes, she was that sexually frustrated. “What are you up to?”

Kris leaned back, not bothering to suppress the giant smile spreading across her face. “I’m taking a bath.”

There was a pause. “Really.” It wasn’t a question, and Nate’s voice had gone from whiskey to gravel.

“Mmhmm.” It came out as a purr. Kris placed him on speaker, set the phone on the porcelain rim, and leaned her head back until it rested on the waterproof cushion she’d fixed to the head of the tub. “Ask me what else I’m doing.”

“What else are you doing?”

A pleasurable ripple of goosebumps erupted all over her flesh following Nate’s low growl.

“I’m thinking of you and me, fucking in the tub.” Kris closed her eyes and slipped one hand between her thighs while the other played with her aching nipples.

Usually, they didn’t jump straight into the phone sex. They’d catch each other up first—on Kris’s classes, on Nate’s shoot progress. They’d share funny stories, lingering doubts and nightmares, and little things that had irritated them or made them smile since they spoke last, like Kris being forced to dance and dress up as a Spice Girl for one of her sorority events—damn Courtney; at least Kris had snagged the Posh Spice role—and Nate nailing one of his scenes in one take.

But it had been two weeks, and Kris was too impatient and frustrated to wait. Her vibrator wasn’t the same without Nate’s voice as an oh-so-sexy complement.

He didn’t speak now, but his heavy, quickened breathing told her he was hanging onto every word she said.

“I’m sitting with my back against your chest, riding you.” Kris could picture the scene in her head, as clear as day. Heat pooled in her belly, and she tilted her pelvis, wishing Nate was actually inside her, filling her up.

“Yeah? Do you like how that feels?” he murmured, his question black silk over crushed ice, ripe with lust and an edge of something even more primal. “Having my cock buried deep in your pussy?”

Absence made the heart grow fonder—and the sex talk filthier, which Kris didn’t mind. At all.

She gasped, her fingers slick with a mix of water and her juices as she rubbed furious circles on her clit. Her cheeks flushed, and her skin stretched hot and tight in arousal. “Yes,” she moaned. “God, yes.”

“I know you do. I bet you like it even more when I reach around and play with your clit and pretty nipples…”

As Nate detailed exactly what he’d like to do her body, Kris arched up, her breath coming out in short pants. The bathwater had turned lukewarm, but she might as well be sitting in lava, she was so hot. Her skin burned, and heat sizzled down her spine, chasing release. So close. So, so—

“Don’t come,” Nate ordered. “Not yet.”

Kris whimpered in protest. “But—”

The sound of the doorbell broke through her fog of lust. Who the fuck was visiting her at this time of the night?

“Is someone at the door?” Nate asked, still in that gravelly voice.

“Yes, but they’ll go away.”

“Answer it.” A pause. “Put some clothes on first.”

Kris had never taken well to orders, but she couldn’t deny the flutters in her stomach at Nate’s territorial growl.

The doorbell rang again, and she groaned.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, irritated and frustrated by both her delayed orgasm and the unwanted interruption.

“I’ll be here,” Nate drawled.

Kris splashed out of the tub and wrapped herself in a fluffy thousand-thread-count Egyptian cotton robe before padding into the living room. She opened the door, ready to give whoever was on the other side a piece of her mind.

Instead, her jaw dropped, and her mind blanked.

Nate grinned, looking sexier than ever. He’d bulked up for the movie, and his tan had deepened from all the hours spent shooting in the desert. His eyes glittered like cut emeralds against his bronzed skin, and they zeroed in on Kris with the heat and intensity of a nuclear missile.

“What—how—”

“Figured we should finish our conversation in person,” he explained with a slow, sexy smile. “As much as I love our dirty talk sessions, I like the feel of you coming around my cock even more.”

Kris’s knees weakened.

There’d be time for questions and answers later. Right now, she needed him inside her. ASAP.

“Come here.” She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and yanked him toward her.

Their mouths and bodies clashed with an urgency that could only exist between lovers who’d been deprived of each other’s company for too long.

Her robe dropped to the floor. His shirt flew off and landed on a nearby lamp. His jeans followed.

“Want to make it to the bathroom to finish the fantasy, but don’t think I can wait that long,” Nate mumbled, his stubble rasping against her skin as he trailed kisses down her throat.

“We’ll do the bathroom later. In the meantime—” Kris backed up until her thighs hit the couch. “This is fine.”

More than fine.

In fact, when Nate thrust into her at the same time his mouth reclaimed hers, it was perfect.


KRIS AND NATE made up for lost time in every room of the house before they ended their marathon in her bedroom, panting and boneless from multiple orgasms.

“Hey.” Nate smiled down at her, rubbing a lock of silky, multi-toned hair between his fingers. Every time they saw each other, they fucked like it had been years and talked like no time had passed. The days apart were hell, but the reunions were glorious.

“Hey.” Kris stretched and let out a lazy yawn before snuggling up to him again. “Now, are you going to tell me what the hell you’re doing here?”

He laughed and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “We wrapped up the desert shoot early. Production will pick back up in L.A. after the holidays, but I thought I’d surprise you before I headed home.”

Nate had missed her with every fiber of his being. Sure, he was enjoying the hell out of his first shoot as the lead—despite the hellish desert heat, the sixteen-hour days, and the eccentricities of Scott West, he loved acting and everything that went along with it. He’d had to quit his job at the cafe because as accommodating as Elijah’s dad was, you couldn’t disappear for months at a time and expect to keep your gig.

Nate had been surprisingly bummed—he’d liked his coworkers at Alchemy—but the rush and adrenaline once he arrived on set helped. There was nothing like stepping into the role of someone else, of being so immersed in a character who lived lives you’d never had. He hoped the audience would connect with the story as much as he did when the movie aired in theaters. Being able to escape into a fantasy world—one where the good guy wins, the bad guy gets what he deserves, and the romantic interests live happily ever after—was a refreshing break from reality.

Except, for once, Nate’s reality was better than fantasy.

Drowsy from exertion and pleasure, with Kris in his arms and her amber scent filling his senses—this was perfection.

Too bad perfection had a time limit.

“How long are you staying?” Kris asked, tracing her fingers over his abs.

Nate’s stomach muscles contracted in response, and his sex stirred, eager for round five or six or ten. He’d lost count.

“For the weekend.” He flashed a languorous smile. “I hope you don’t have plans, because I have a lot of…fun activities for us in mind.”

A majority of which involved them naked and horizontal. Or vertical, diagonal, whatever. He wasn’t picky.

Kris’s eyes glittered with sensual heat. “Let me guess. Brunch and yoga?”

“Sure. Yoga is you doing downward dog with me behind you, and brunch is me eating your pussy.”

Nate chuckled at the faint pink tinge on her cheeks.

“When did you become so filthy?”

“I’ve always been this filthy. I just didn’t show it when I was chasing you, but now that I’ve caught you, I’m revealing my true nature.”

She slanted him an arch stare. “Caught me, huh?”

“Yep.” He was all smiles and smug male satisfaction. “Same as you caught me. We’re two fish in a net, tangled together for—” He caught himself before he said “forever.” “For a long, long time.”

Kris dissolved into laughter. “That is the worst metaphor I’ve ever heard.”

“Perhaps we should do less talking and more doing, then?”

“Smooth,” she drawled. She propped herself up on her elbow, her expression turning serious. “But first, I have something to tell you. Well, two things. One, I have brunch—real brunch—scheduled with Courtney tomorrow, so don’t think about tying me up in bed all morning.”

Nate actually pouted. “Goddammit.”

“Two—” Kris hesitated, and wariness prickled the back of his neck. “I spoke with Susan last week.”

“Okay…”

Nate knew Kris was still volunteering with MentHer, albeit remotely. She had a gift for marketing, event planning, and fundraising—probably because she’d attended so many fundraisers herself. She knew exactly how to reach out to donors and squeeze the green from their wallets.

“The organization is growing, and grants aren’t enough to sustain all its operating costs. They need to step up their fundraising efforts, and they’ve created a new role. Director of Fundraising and Development.” A pause. “She offered me the job.”

Surprise, excitement, and pride bloomed in Nate’s chest. “That’s incredible!”

Kris had always talked about how dissatisfied she was with standard public relations—for Hollywood, for corporate, even for fashion. But she loved MentHer, and this was the perfect role for her.

Plus, MentHer was in Los Angeles.

His heart skipped at the thought. It was almost too much to hope for, but… “Did you accept?”

Kris’s lips curved into a smile. “I did. I’ll continue to volunteer next semester, but my official start date as a paid employee is in June. Enough time for me to graduate and move.”

“To L.A.”

“To L.A,” she confirmed, her smile now a full-blown grin.

Nate wanted to say something along the lines of holyshit areyoukiddingmethisisawesome! but he was afraid it would come out a jumbled mess, so he did the next best thing: he kissed Kris silly. After that, he alternated between fucking and making love to her until they were both so exhausted, they couldn’t move.

He’d been willing to do the long-distance thing with her for however long it took. He hadn’t taken it for granted that she would move to L.A. after graduation—her family was in Seattle, and what if she found her dream job elsewhere?

It was hell not seeing her every day, but she was worth the frustration and lonely nights.

However, Nate hadn’t known how much their physical separation weighed on him until Kris confirmed she was moving to Los Angeles.

“I love you,” he said, tangling his fingers in that thick, gorgeous mane of brown and caramel and mahogany that he adored so much.

Kris’s huge brown eyes blinked up at him, as tender as he’d ever seen them. “I love you, too.”

They sealed their words with a searing kiss that warmed Nate to the bones.

Yes, they had another six months of long-distance left, but six months was nothing compared to forever.


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