STEVE



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“I think it’s better if you leave,” she told him as he took the groceries and began to pack them into the kitchenette. The apartment hadn’t seemed so tiny last night, but with Steve here, it seemed full to capacity. Full of her and him and the double bed standing empty behind her. “I’m exhausted and need to get some sleep.”

She didn’t mean to stare, but his back was towards her as he stacked boxes and food on the shelves, and well, damn, his ass looked unbelievable in his jeans. In another life, she would have walked up behind him, pressed her pelvis against his butt and run her hands across the width of his shoulders.

In another life, he would have turned to face her, lowered his lips to hers and molded his hips to the shape of her groin. In another life they would have lasted less than a minute before clothes were torn from their bodies and tossed all over the kitchenette.

In this life, no matter how much she longed to follow through on her thoughts, she didn’t. Lust for him settled in her belly like a hive of swarming, stinging bees.

“Better for whom?” he asked. He turned two mugs right way up and opened a jar of instant coffee. While she spoke, he poured water into the kettle and switched it on to boil.

“For both of us,” she answered quietly. “It’s been a long day, an emotional rollercoaster, and I want to get some sleep. Perhaps we could talk tomorrow?” She knew if he stayed, he would push her for an answer. Insist she tell him her secret, and she wasn’t sure she had the strength to face it.

“Perhaps,” he agreed. “I know you’re worn out.”

“You look pretty tired yourself.”

He added sugar to one mug. “I’m beat.” Again, the expression she did not dare read was in his eyes. This time it was accompanied by a stiffening of his shoulders.

Then go home. Please.

“But I can’t leave, Pen. Not yet.”

Her hands fluttered at her sides. “Why not?

A muscle twitched in his cheek as the expression deepened. “As if you need to ask.”

Damn it, she didn’t need to. She knew exactly why he was there. “Steve—”

“Tyler and Kate are at the hospital. It’s you and me. Alone. There is no one else here, no one to disturb us.”

She shook her head. “Uh uh.”

“The time is right, Sunshine.”

No. No, no, no. The time could never be right to tell him.

Steve leaned back against the counter. “Talk to me, Pen.”

The persistent buzz of desire in her belly grew louder as he crossed his left foot over his right, causing a fold in his jeans right around the zip area. Her gaze settled there for an instant before she wrenched it away. Too late. Her brain had enough time to process what it had seen—his jean-framed cock—and her heart rate picked up, tripling in speed.

Heat zinged in her breasts and she longed for that other life, when nothing on earth would have stopped her from stepping forward and cupping her hand over him. From feeling his cock jump and grow beneath her palm.

The kettle whistled behind him. He ignored it.

She swallowed hard. “I can’t, Steve.” Even as she groped in her mind for a suitable excuse, she itched to hold him. To forget about Katie and her role in Steve’s life as his fiancée. To forget about her own reality. To throw caution to the wind and pick up where she’d left off two and a half years ago—naked, in his arms. Damn it. She couldn’t. For the very same reason she couldn’t tell him the truth. “I can’t,” she said again.

“Why not?”

Because I never want you to find out what is to become of me, she screamed in silence.

“Because I’m tired, and you’re tired, and my head’s still in the hospital, and I can’t focus on anything else right now other than Tyler.”

Steve swung his arm back suddenly, banging his fist on the counter, startling her. He swore out loud. “Is being alone with me that difficult for you, Pen? Do you despise the idea of it so much you’d rather make excuses about Tyler than have me stay with you?”

Her jaw dropped open.

“I’m sorry you find me so repulsive. There were occasions when you wanted to be with me. When you wanted to talk to me.” The look in his eyes had turned cold, distant. “Time has obviously changed that.”

He pushed away from the counter and stalked to the door. “I won’t bother you anymore. The pressure’s off. Keep your secret to yourself. It’s none of my business anyway.”

She would have interrupted him, corrected his misguided thoughts, but shocked by his outburst, words failed her. She hadn’t seen this coming, not for one second. How was that possible? What had she missed?

“Goodbye, Pen,” he said. “Have a nice life.” His hand was on the door handle.

“Steve…wait!” She had no thought or plan in her head other than to stop him. She couldn’t let him leave like this.

He turned to face her, nodded. “Yes, I know. We’ll still see each other at the hospital. I promise to be civil to you. I won’t make it any harder than it already is.”

For a second his grim expression broke. Pain and hurt flashed through his eyes, so intense they almost stopped Pen’s heart. Then they were gone and there was nothing but cold detachment on his face.

Oh God. She clapped her hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t groan out loud. In a moment of absolute clarity she realized Steve’s despair had nothing to do with Kate and their recent break-up. Here, now, it was her fault. He was hurting because of her. By confessing she’d had a secret earlier, she’d opened doors that should have remained shut. Then when she’d tried to close them, she’d locked Steve out again, reinforcing their separation.

It wasn’t Katie standing in the way of Steve’s happiness. It was her.

She couldn’t stand it. Couldn’t bear the idea of him hurting. She had to make it better, any way she could.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said fretfully.

His eyes were shuttered. “I’ve had enough practice getting to know when you don’t want me around. I’m an expert by now.” He shrugged and opened the door. “Like I said, I’m sorry I intruded on your space.”

“Damn it, Sommers, shut up for a minute and let me talk.”

He shook his head. “That’s okay, Pen. I’m through trying to get you to talk.”

Pure desperation led her to strike out with her foot and kick the door closed. Anything to get him to stay.

Steve’s face was guarded. He didn’t speak.

“You’ve got it all wrong, Sommers. You don’t understand.” Time had changed nothing. Nothing. Of course she still wanted to spend time with him. Talk to him. Of course.

He leaned back against the door and crossed one foot in front of the other. Like before. Then he hitched his thumbs through his belt loops too. “What don’t I understand?”

The movement drew her gaze downwards, and this time it wasn’t so easy tearing it away. She stared at his groin, forgetting what she wanted to say. A low-grade ache started up between her legs. A tingling sensation she couldn’t ignore. She bit her lip.

“Penelope?”

Lift your eyes, woman. Look into his face.

God knew she wanted to, like she wanted to tell him why he’d got it all wrong, but for the life of her she couldn’t move. She couldn’t put two words together. All she could do was stare at his cock as memories of that other life suffused her. Memories of how she’d loved him—and how he’d loved her.

“Fuck, Penelope,” he rasped. “What are you doing?”

He didn’t move, but beneath her gaze the soft denim of his jeans shifted and pulled tight across his groin. She didn’t suppress her groan this time. It had nothing to do with the pain she caused him and everything to do with his growing erection.

“You’re killing me, lady.” It was the timbre of his voice that finally broke the spell, the deep longing in his words that propelled her into motion.

“You don’t understand, Steve,” she said one more time, before she launched herself into his arms and clamped her mouth to his.

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Love doesn’t play by the rules

Circle of Friends, Book 2

Just when it seems Steve Sommers’s life can’t possibly get more complicated, the woman who broke his heart years ago comes back to town. His best friend in a coma, and his fiancée has called off their wedding, so Steve already has his hands full. But one look at Penelope brings old feelings crashing in, and he’s determined to get back what they once had.

Seeing Steve again proves to Penelope what she’s always believed—the passion they once shared still smoulders between them—but so does the reason she had to leave in the first place. Penelope’s certain that no man can love her given the challenges her future holds…but Steve won’t give up without a fight.

The chance to share the love of a lifetime is worth any cost.

(Please note: This book was previously published as Steve’s Story)

 

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING...

divider1-white “Jess Dee more than delivers with  Steve’s Story. I can’t say too much without giving away the story, which simply must be read to appreciate. Heartbreaking while at the same time being heartwarming, Jess Dee shows that while not every happy ending is perfect, sometimes you take the hand life deals you and love with all your heart. I found myself in tears several times. Truly outstanding.”

(Reviewed by Melissa)

Joyfully Reviewed: Joyfully Recommended

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING...

divider1-white“STEVE’S STORY is an emotional ride from beginning to end. The sexual tension between Steve and Pen is captivating. The CIRCLE OF FRIENDS stories have truly touched my heart and give me a newfound respect for life and those who choose to embrace everything life has to offer.”

(Reviewed by Chrissy)

Romance Junkies: Five Blue Ribbons

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING...

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“The dynamics of this couple proved that Dee knows how to grip the readers’ imaginations. There was a myriad of emotional highs and lows in this book. I shed enough tears to be glad I was reading in private. I laughed. I read some incredible sexual activity.

The overall content of the story was breathtaking. I loved the story and I loved the outcome. I’ve found a new author to add to my automatic list.”

(Reviewed by Brenda Talley)

The Romance Studio: Five Hearts

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING...

divider1-white“I fell in love with Steve in Only Tyler, in Steve’s Story, I adored him. Jess Dee writes a compelling story of love conquering all, even when you are faced with life and death. It’s a story of trust and faith, having trust in the person you love and faith that you can survive even the toughest of times.”

(Reviewed by Sandy Hudson)

Fallen Angel Reviews: Four Angels

WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING...

divider1-white“Ms Dee handles the plot beautifully…. She presents real-to-life characters with conversation you’d overhear everyday. It’s a touching story and a recommended read.”

(Reviewed by Stephanotis)

Whipped Cream Reviews: Four and a Half Cherries

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Book Facts

Series: Circle Of Friends, Book 2

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Publication Date: July 3, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 217 pages

ISBN-13: 9781633759893

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde Media

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OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES


Book 1