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Too Sweet: Chapter 12


TOBY MADE HIMSELF COMFORTABLE at Aisha’s place, which she shares with her little sister. They invited a few friends over for board games tonight…

Maybe it’d be wiser to stay home, away from Mia, but I’m not fooling myself. I want to see her again.

need to see her again.

The triplets are attending yet another frat party, so I’ve got a range of solid excuses at the ready. I should keep an eye on Mia for Cody. Yeah, that’s cool. It’s nice of me, right?

Wrong. Bullshit is what it is.

I just can’t shake this girl. The more I get to know her, the deeper I sink. Her mindset, personality, cleverness, and talent draw me in more than her body ever could. I hop in my car around seven in the evening, and ten minutes later, I ring the doorbell. Anticipation tingles in my neck—yet another reason I should’ve stayed home.

Mia’s getting under my skin.

Fuck that. She’s already deep under my skin. I need to stop seeking her out to save us both the misery.

After all, I’m not blind. I see how she reacts to me, and the fact my brother wants her makes everything about this situation fucked up.

Shit, even if Cody was still just her big brother by choice, Mia’s not what I need. She’s gullible and trusting. Innocent… oblivious to the monstrosities of the world.

I’d bend her to my will without an effort. She’d let me. She’d dance to every tune I’d play, and that’s a big no. I need a woman who won’t let me get away with shit I can’t control.

“Hello there, baby boy,” Aisha chirps, letting me in. “Glad you made it.”

She leads me across the hallway into the open-plan living area. An off-white grand piano partially hides floor-to-ceiling windows. A Yamaha, just as Mia said.

How fucked up is it that I want to order a bright yellow model C for her? I overheard Cody say it’s Mia’s favorite color, and a Steinway would fit perfectly in this space.

Toby sits in one of the two identical navy wing chairs, and Adrian’s sprawled on the five-seat leather sofa with some woman, but no sign of Mia.

I shake their hands, accepting a drink from Aisha, then scan the room more, taking in the immaculate mid-century modern interior, rows of books on floating shelves, and huge pictures of both Harlow girls dotting the southern wall.

In one of them, Mia plays the piano in a white, flowy dress, her blonde locks cascading down her back, fingers on the keys. The other picture is a portrait. She gazes into the camera, resting her arm on an electric keyboard propped against the wall. Her hair is curly, her lips parted, eyes bright.

“You see something you like?” Toby pats my back, walking past to help Aisha. “She’s not here.”

Aisha zeroes in on me, cocking one eyebrow. “She’s out. She’s got a hot date.”

A surge of possessiveness spills under my skin like a contusion, and this time, I swear, it’s not just for me but Cody, too. I’d much rather see Mia with my brother than some random guy. At least that way, I could keep an eye on her; make sure Cody behaves himself.

“A date?” I grind out. “Who with?”

“Some guy from college.”

I pull out my phone and text Cody.

Me: You know your girl’s on a date right now?

“About time she gets herself out there instead of sitting at the piano all day,” Aisha muses. “Maybe once she finds a guy she likes, she’ll stop being so odd.”

My phone vibrates in my hand.

Cody: Fuck. Who with?

Me: Some guy from college.

“Isn’t date just a euphemism for sex?” Adrian asks, scratching his beard. “Girls can have fun too. She’s a teen. It’s what they do, isn’t it?”

Aisha bursts out laughing. “Way to put everyone in the same bag, asshat. Sure, some teenagers sleep around, but others don’t. Mia’s in the latter group. She almost burst into flames when she saw Toby in his boxers. Just because we’re sisters doesn’t mean we’re alike. Far from it, actually. I had my cherry popped at homecoming my sophomore year of high school, and Mia’s still a virgin at nineteen, so no, she’s not hooking up with guys she eats dinner with.”

I can’t say I’m surprised Mia’s not had sex yet, but the confirmation still almost knocks me off my damn feet.

It’s a good thing I’m sitting.

My head fills with images of her on my bed, hair sprawled across the pillow, lips parted as I push into her in an unrushed rhythm.

Mia on all fours, boobs crushed against the sheets, fingers digging into the side of the bed while I plunge as deep as I can get to make her tremble.

Mia on her back, my face buried between her legs…

Sex is physical. It’s primal. It’s natural. While men are more or less born understanding this, women learn in the process.

The first time is important not because it’s a magical threshold but because it starts a lifetime of pleasure. The more comfortable the girl feels, the higher the chance she’ll demand what she wants and take what she needs later.

Men experience sex differently. A shitty first time probably won’t ruin it for a guy for years to come, but it might for a woman. Girls need to feel safe and comfortable in their skin. If the guy is an egotistical asshole, it might take a long time before she learns to enjoy sex instead of overthinking how she looks or sounds.

People don’t talk about sex enough. It’s still a hush-hush topic in many families, and that shielding hides it away on a taboo pedestal where it doesn’t belong. Sex is one of the most basic human needs.

We breathe, eat, sleep, and fuck.

“Hello!” is yelled from the hallway.

Alex, one of Adrian’s soccer buddies, walks in with a blonde teen on his arm and another right behind. One glance at the unnatural movement of his eyebrows proves he brought her for me. He still didn’t get the memo: I don’t touch teens.

But I’d touch Mia.

God, I’d touch her everywhere.

Alex wraps his arms around Aisha, kisses her cheek, and hands over a bottle of tequila.

“Shots?” she asks, eyeing the girls. “You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

It takes two hours of playing Hot Seat before Mia comes back. The quiet click of the front door has my head turning in the direction of the hallway, but instead of joining us, her soft footsteps retreat, and another door closes behind her.

“She won’t even say hey?” Adrian asks, his eyebrows pulled together. “That’s rude.”

“She’s doing what she’s told,” Toby clarifies with a scowl. “Aisha doesn’t want her here.”

“Because she’s such a buzzkill!”

She’s been riling me up for months but never this fast. “She’s your sister.”

“Doesn’t change facts, does it? I invited her to spend time with my friends once, and Mia got so uncomfortable with jokes she puked her guts out.”

“Nico’s right. She’s your sister, babe,” Toby drawls, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “Ask her to come out here. She doesn’t have to play. She can just have a drink.”

With a huff and an eyeroll, Aisha stumbles down the hallway. We hear the knock but not their conversation, and a moment later, she’s back alone. “She’s busy.”

“Which door?” I ask, not buying that.

“Second on the right.”

I head down there, tap my knuckles against the frame, and enter. My mind goes quiet at the sound of “Graceland” by Allan Rayman. Since I heard him on Mia’s playlist, I’ve listened to everything he recorded.

Mia jumps, startled, and my brain fucking freezes.

She stands by the bed. Her blonde waves dance around her face, kissing her arms before falling lower.

My attention is not on her hair for long, stolen by her body dressed in nothing but a pair of low panties cut out to accentuate the curve of her hips. She covers her boobs with her hands but isn’t doing a good job. Pale pink areolas peek between her fingers.

I think I’m having a stroke.

My heart rams in my chest so hard every beat pulsates in my fingertips. My cock hardens faster than I can blink.

I’m aware that I’m staring… silent, speechless, taking her in over again, skimming down from blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and barely parted lips to protruding collarbones and the delicate skin of her cleavage. The hourglass dent of her waist, deep navel, and round hips. Smooth legs, gold anklet, then up again, drinking in the sight. Committing it to memory.

My chest tightens so hard it’s enough to fucking choke me.

“Jesus…” I whisper on an exhale, then fill my lungs again, looking into Mia’s green eyes. “You’re beautiful, baby.”

Her body taunts me, draws me in, and tortures me in ways I never thought could cause pain.

Her cheeks blush like a well-trained sunrise, and she shudders, fighting to hold my gaze. “I didn’t say come in.”

“Fuck,” I pinch the bridge of my nose, turning away from the girl I want so much I question my sanity. “I should… I should apologize for walking in, Mia, but…” Why? Why is she so gorgeous? Why is she Cody’s? “…I can’t. I’m not sorry. I’ll let you get dressed, but not in that night dress you’ve got ready on your bed. I expect you to join us for a drink.”

“Um… okay,” she says quietly.

And I leave, bursting out of there like I’m being chased by cops. The image of her, almost naked, is burned into my hippocampus for-fucking-ever. I’m not getting it out of there even if I open my head and pour a bucket of bleach in.

I down my drink in one go, taking a seat on the piano stool. I’m mentally pep-talking myself, keeping it together until Mia comes over a minute later.

“How was the date?” Aisha asks.

“It was fine.”

Her tone is far from fine. I don’t like the insecurity radiating off her or the fact she hasn’t looked at me once. Either she’s embarrassed or still annoyed about my stunt last week.

“So? Second date material?”

Mia cringes as if the mere idea of seeing the guy again makes her nauseous. “Unfortunately, no.”

Thank fuck for small favors.

She sips the wine, then makes her way across. I think she’ll take the empty wingchair to my left, but she sits arm-in-arm with me on the piano stool. I’m relieved.

Maybe she’s not that mad.

“Okay, what happened?” Toby demands after he introduces Mia to Alex. “What did I tell you before you left? Tell me what he did.”

“He kissed me.”

I’m starting to really hate my mood swings. From aroused and calm to fuming in a flash. Violence quivers within me like a loose wire at the thought of anyone’s hands or lips on Mia’s delicate body.

“Okay, you’ll have to explain this a bit more,” Toby says, scratching his chin. “You shot him down because he kissed you on a date?”

“No. I shot him down because he can’t kiss.”

Alex bursts out laughing. “I had no idea there’s a wrong way. I mean sex, sure, either you’re good at it, or you’re not, but kissing?”

Mia crosses her legs, the movement nowhere near the iconic scene in Naked Instinct but five times more titillating. My eyes are drawn to her ankle bracelet, or rather the tattoo just above. I’ve noticed it before but couldn’t make out what it was: a word in a foreign language. Greek, I think.

“You can definitely do it wrong,” she admits. “Take Finn. His kiss was a five out of ten.”

“This is actually interesting,” Toby says, leaning back in the wing chair to make room on his lap for Aisha. “Come to think of it, I’ve had my fair share of lousy kisses, but never rated them. Do you kiss every guy at the end of the first date?”

“No. They kiss me. I let them because what’s the point in taking things further if they can’t kiss well? I like it too much to date a guy who can’t.”

My phone vibrates in my pocket, stealing my attention. Good. I’m barely keeping my hands to myself right now.

Cody: Is she back yet?

Me: Yeah. You can relax. Finn can’t kiss, so no second date. What the hell are you waiting for? Act before someone steals her from you.

If he forces my hand, it will be me.

“Alright, let’s check.” Alex gets up, pulling one of the teens with him, and shoves his tongue down her throat while his hands grope her butt.

Cody: I’m working on it. I see she told you about her rating system. You two are getting close, bro. Back off.

The fucking nerve of him. Who the hell does he think he is to see right through my bullshit?

Me: Whatever your strategy is, it’s failing.

“Rate that from one to ten, babe,” Alex purrs, pulling away.

“About… six and a half?”

“Six?!” he exclaims, disbelieving, then all-out embarrassed when we burst out laughing. “Seriously?! So you all have a rating system? Where has this information been all my life?”

“I’ll give you a few pointers,” Toby smirks, but Aisha chooses that moment to shoot him down.

“You’re barely a nine yourself.”

“Nine? No way. I’m a ten.”

“You’re a ten when you kiss my other lips. Those…” She pats her mouth, “…you need to work on.”

And he does, determined to up his score.

I turn to Mia, leaning closer for no reason. My body drifts toward her whenever we’re in the same room. Now she sits inches away, the sweet scent of her wafting around us…

My bones have been broken, my knuckles bled a hundred times, yet not being able to touch Mia is the cruelest form of torture.

“What does it mean?” I ask, pointing at her tattoo.

Soteria. In Greek mythology, she was the goddess of safety and preservation from harm.”

That’s an odd choice, but I bet there’s a story behind it. “You got any more?”

“We’ve got sister tattoos.” Aisha pulls away from Toby, jumping to her feet and rolling her blouse up, showing me a small dandelion under her bra line. “Mia’s got it in the same place.”

“I guess it’s not without meaning.”

“It symbolizes joy and youth,” Mia admits.

“What else do you have?”

She turns her back to me. “Just under my hairline.”

I watch goosebumps appear in the wake of my fingers brushing her skin. My chest tightens. The urge to kiss the tender spot below her ear hits me like a snake in tall grass. I keep the desire on a leash, touching the little musical note on Mia’s nape. The meaning of this one doesn’t need explaining.

I let her hair fall freely before she tugs the fabric of her skirt higher. My pulse speeds up with every inch of her bare skin. She’s trying to fucking kill me.

Another tattoo comes into view. One word: strength, curled around a pale scar. Maybe I would’ve noticed it just now when I saw her almost naked if I weren’t so dumbstruck.

“That’s all of them,” she says, pulling the dress back down. “For now.”

“Right, we had fun. Now we’re going out,” Aisha chirps, pecking Toby’s head. “I’ll get changed,” she adds, then speaks through clenched teeth. “Do you want to come, Mia?”

“Um… no, thank you.”

“Maybe we could stay?” Toby asks, treading lightly not to upset Aisha. “Mia’s had a lousy date. Let’s play more games. Monopoly?”

Aisha frowns, a flat sheen of murder glowing in her eyes for a second before she realizes Toby’s watching. “Oh, sure.” A pained smile crosses her lips, but she’s trying hard not to come across as a bitch who doesn’t give a crap about her sister. “Yeah, why not. Monopoly sounds super fun.”

“I’m fine,” Mia says, coming to Aisha’s rescue. “Go have fun.”

“Only if you’re sure!” Aisha sing-songs, already halfway down the hallway.

She’s back in a heartbeat, still zipping up a tiny black dress. Panting and wheezing, she turns her back to Toby, urging him to deal with the stuck zipper.

If Mia were mine and decided to go out dressed like that, she’d be an accessory to fucking murder. I’d never forbid her wearing whatever she wanted, but I’d throw my fists at anyone who’d dare to look longer than appropriate.

Soon enough, the cab arrives, and Aisha almost breaks a leg, rushing to the door with the other girls. “I’ll clean the mess up when I’m back, sis.”

Everyone’s out the door two minutes later while I’m casually strolling toward the kitchen to place my glass in the sink.

I don’t want to go. Not without Mia.

“Have fun!” she shouts, grabbing a handful of shot glasses off the table.

“Can I apologize for last weekend without being interrupted?” I ask when she joins me in the kitchen.

“No need. I wasn’t mad, just hurt, but you had a point—”

“No, I didn’t. I let my own experience cloud my judgment. Don’t change how you deal with guys like Justin if it keeps you safe.” I spin her around, hooking my index finger under her chin, and tilt her head back. “I’m sorry.”

“I know. It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay, Mia. Don’t let me off the hook that easily. I don’t like seeing you sad, and I hate I made you cry,” I insist, letting my guard slip as I drop my gaze to her lips.

I’ve never wanted to kiss a girl so much.

Whenever she’s this close, I forget about whatever feelings Cody has for her. I should talk to him because this… this is wrong on every single level. I’m a pendulum around her.

I want her, and I don’t want her.

I want her, and I can’t have her.

I want her, and she doesn’t need my crazy.

From what I’ve learned so far, Mia wants her man to take care of her, but I’m sure she wouldn’t want the unhealthy overprotectiveness I picked up three years ago.

The jealousy.

The rage.

She wouldn’t want me keeping tabs on her to ensure she’s safe; deciding whom she could be friends with so she wouldn’t waste time with people who are bad influences or those who can’t be trusted. As much as I’d like to keep that part of my character in check, I know it was why Kaya cheated on me with Jared.

She couldn’t stand the control.

No sane person would, but knowing I’m overreacting and ridding myself of the compulsive habits are two different things. It’s a disease like alcoholism.

I’m an addict, but my poison isn’t lethal, no matter the dose. My poison affects those around me more than me, but it’s as hard to quit as heroin or vodka.

“You’re forgiven,” she says, her voice a loaded whisper.

“Come with us, Mia. One drink. I’ll take you home if you don’t enjoy yourself.”

“Thank you, but no.” She leans her back against the cabinets. “You’ve got the other girl to take care of. Why do you want me to come?”

I grip the marble countertop on both sides of her waist, the gesture uncontrollable. The moment I see her resting against something, I want to box her in, act on the intense need to keep her close, sheltered, safe.

“I don’t want her. One drink,” I repeat quieter.

“One drink,” she agrees with a shy smile. “You make me self-conscious when you look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m a warm triple chocolate brownie with a side of vanilla ice cream, and you’re on a strict no-sugar diet.”

The electric stress between us rears its full power, and I snap. So fucking fast I don’t see it coming. I grip her waist, hauling her onto the kitchen island, and immediately move my hands to her thighs.

She’s soft and warm and smells so sweet. “I’ve been on a no-sugar diet for a while.”

I slide my hands up, up, up her thighs, the tips of my fingers disappearing under her skirt. She trembles. Softly, but it sends heat surging across my nerve endings.

God… I need her lips more than my next breath. We’re both softly panting with need. Sparks fly between us, and I almost fucking lose it when she parts those plump lips, her eyes darting to meet mine as she pulls down a shaky breath.

“Is… um, is the other girl a brownie, too?”

“She’s a peanut M&M at best.”

My phone vibrates in my pocket. Two short vibrations mean it’s a text message. Instantly, without checking, I know it’s Cody.

My insides freeze. Lust morphs to shame, but I can’t unglue my hands from Mia’s warm skin. “Push me away,” I tell her, the words like razorblades slicing my tongue. “Now. You need to push me away.”

Her eyes lose their glow, and her smile slips. Disappointment clouds her pretty face, but like a good girl, she braces both hands against my chest, barely putting any pressure.

“I’m sorry, Mia, but this… we… we won’t fucking happen.”


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