Gray Bowie broke the bro code: he fell in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.
For years, he hid his feelings…until one terrible night, it all came to a head.
Since her life blew up in high school, Knox Holliday has spent her time honing her skills as a couture wedding dress designer. But, just weeks before her debut, a freak accident wipes out her collection. The culprit: her ex’s former best friend, Gray Bowie.
Gray does everything he can to get her career back on track. As they work together, they find forgiveness and start to stitch together something that looks a lot like love. But, at the very moment they realize they have a chance for something real, her ex comes back to town, bringing opportunities Gray can’t provide.
This time, Gray’s not going to step aside, so he can only hope Knox will hold onto his heart.
She’s his dream, but will he be hers?
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Gray knew her. He just did. And that made it easier to believe the bomb he’d detonated at her feet. Finally, after blocking out his confession for thepast hour, she let it come flooding in.
I was in love with my best friend’s girlfriend.
Shock waves rolled through her, slamming into every cell in her body. In love with me? Her brain sorted through snapshots from their time together, trying to catch a glimpse of his expressions. But what could she make of them? She could mold a memory into anything she wanted.
Gray didn’t lie. He didn’t have to—he had enough confidence and self-possession to own everything he said and did. Which meant…he’d loved her.That’s why he hung around me.
All her life she’d felt less than Gray Bowie. He was handsome and powerful, confident and competent. In high school, he’d walk down the hallways, and people would look up from their conversations, pause in reaching into their lockers, just to watch his easy gait, his infectious smile. He radiated authority. He was that unicorn who seemed to fit perfectly in his own skin, while the rest of them were gangly and awkward and unsure.
Gray’s bombshell opened up a whole new perspective. It made her see just how deeply she’d let the bullies shape her perceptions about herself. Tonight, Gray had removed that lens.
Not that anything could’ve happened between them. Robert would never have let go of her. She’d had to move to New York with no forwarding address in order to free herself.
She kept skimming the edge of the bomb site. It was too bright, too scary to look in. He’d loved her? He’d loved her.
Gray Bowie had loved her.
Now, it almost seemed ridiculous to think of all that time he’d spent with her as anything else. No one spent that much time with a pity project. You invited her to party here and there, you heard of an opportunity and tossed it her way. But you didn’t spend every free moment with your project.
He’d dropped the bomb, and she’d slammed the door in his face. She’d let him tell her a truth so big and horrible—he’d been in love with his best friend’s girlfriend—and then walked away. Was he still on the couch, watching mindless TV?
She needed to find the guts to go out there and respond. Because what kind of person just closed her eyes and went to sleep with a confession like that hanging in the air?
Not having a clue what to say to him, she threw back the covers. She hadn’t been in love with him. That had been so far out of the realm of possibility, she hadn’t even contemplated it. But she’d liked him better than anybody. Tell him that.
She flung open the door, ready to talk to him…only to find the suite dark, the couch empty.
Why did she feel like she’d missed an opportunity? Should she knock on his door? Wake him up?
Of course. He deserved a response, even if it had taken her an hour to find the courage. She pressed her ear to his bedroom door but didn’t hear a sound. Lightly, she knocked. “Gray? You up?”
“Yeah. Yep.” His voice sounded gravelly.
When she opened the door, she saw a flash of white, as he flipped the covers back and swung his legs off the bed. He snatched his boxers off thefloor, jamming his legs into them and yanking them up. Scrubbing his face, he stalked towards her. “You all right? What’s going on?”
“I believe you.”
“Sorry?” He looked so adorable, this big mountain of a man, wearing nothing but bright red boxers with a green grinch printed all over them. His broad, hairy chest, so toned, so fit, those bulging biceps, and rock-hard thighs—my God.
This man had loved her.
“I believe you.” This time she smiled because those were the three most powerful words she’d ever said.
“Still not getting it.”
“I’ve been working through it subconsciously. I started with total dismissal. No way did Gray Bowie have feelings for me. Then I moved to, okay, yeah, you don’t spend all that time with a pity project. You put on latex gloves and serve her a nice dinner once a year. You don’t lie on her bed, feet against the wall, and talk about her dreams of being a fashion designer.”
He watched her, like the glitter was settling and the image inside the snow globe was becoming delightfully clear.
“But then, the truth started to sink in. You had a busy life. Not just your competitions, but your brothers, your dad, and uncle. And then—bam—it rose right up out of my subconscious and smacked me across the face.” She came closer to him. “Gray, you chose me over time with your brothers. Well, over a lot of things. And I didn’t see it because of them. Of what bullies like Cady and Melissa trained me to believe. That I was trash. I thought flipping them the bird made me rise above it. I thought my little revenge plots made me invincible. But I didn’t see how my impressions about myself and the world came from them. Gray, the idea that you loved me? It just didn’t compute. A guy like you?”
His eyes softened, and he cracked a shy grin. Oh, Gray Bowie all vulnerable like that? That was hotter than anything she’d ever seen.
“I don’t know how it would’ve changed my life if I’d seen the truth,” she said. “But I can tell you it changes me now.”
He didn’t say anything, and awareness broke over her like a cracked egg. Don’t forget that he walked away, stayed away for seven years. He’d had no intention of ever seeing you again.
Oh, God. He was talking about a childhood crush, and she was standing here gushing at him. “I mean, I know you don’t love me anymore. Of course. Obviously. I’m just saying that you’ve given me a whole new perspective on my childhood, and it’s pretty damn amazing. We’re good, though. We can work together without you thinking that I’m, like…that I expect…you know, that I think you’re still in love with me.” She laughed, but it sounded as phony as it felt. “Anyhow. I just wanted to say I believe you. That’s a big moment for me, not you, so I obviously shouldn’t have woken you up to tell you. I could’ve kept that one to myself. So, anyhow. I’m a weirdo. Goodnight.” She gave him a smile she was pretty sure could only be found in a Fun House hall of mirrors and turned to go.
But his years of training served him well, because his arm shot out, wrapped around her waist, and jerked her against his hot, hard chest. “Never keep anything to yourself.” He leaned in until she could smell the toothpaste on his breath and the clean-linen scent on his skin. “I love every damn thing that comes out of your mouth.”
And then he pressed those beautiful lips to hers, and her heart exploded. Desire, sharp and fierce, burst in her core, the current so strong it flooded every fiber and tissue in her body. Immediately, she lost herself in the feel of his smooth, warm skin and the command of his tongue as it took possession of hers.
And then it faltered. He let out a sign that sounded utterly desperate. The power of his touch gave way to a tremble in his arms, and his body heated up to blistering.
His control snapped, and he turned reckless, wild. She’d never been kissed like this—like he needed to gobble her up but couldn’t get all of her in at once. Like he needed to consume her, get his fill before she was snatched away. Everything about Gray—his scent, the way his strong hands roamed her back as though he couldn’t believe he got to touch her—the passion in his embrace—lit her up, flipped on all the lights—and she wanted it. She wanted this torrent of yearning and desire and need.
Until those strong hands slid down and cupped her ass and gave her a lusty squeeze. The press of his arousal against her stomach sent up warning flares—sex—and, God, sex with Gray Bowie?
Panic had her hands pushing him away. “I…” Her fingertips brushed across her sensitive lips.
Those blue eyes worked hard to read her, his chest pumping, arms still out so that if she took one step forward her bottom would fit snugly back in his hands.
And it struck her—like really hit her hard—how much she wanted that.
“I’m sorry. I…goodnight.”
And don’t miss the first two standalone titles in The Bad Boyfriends Series, THE WORLD’S WORST BOYFRIEND and THE HEARTLESS BOYFRIEND! Grab your copies today!
About the author:
Award-winning author Erika Kelly has been spinning romantic tales all her life–she just didn’t know it. Raised on the classics, she didn’t discover romantic fiction until later in life. From that moment on, she’s been devouring the genre and has found her true voice as an author. Over three decades she’s written poems, screenplays, plays, short stories, and all kinds of women’s fiction novels. Married to the love of her life and raising four children, she’s lived in two countries and seven states, but give her pen and paper, a stack of good books, and a steaming mug of vanilla chai latte and she can make her home anywhere.