He looked back at a stirring JJ, the sheet barely covering her clearly naked breasts. He dropped his head into his palms as the memories of what had happened in this bed a scant few hours ago crashed in on top of him.
"Fuck," he whispered.
He leapt up, grabbing for his jeans, conscious of JJ's eyelids fluttering open. He kept his back to her as he pulled them on sans underwear, zipping the zip, leaving the button undone. He could hear the bed squeaking behind him but he had to wait a beat or two before he was composed enough to turn around and face her. She was sitting with her back propped against the bedhead, the sheets tucked firmly around her, a wary expression on her face. "Jesus," he said, running his hand through his hair. "What have we done?"
She held up her hands in a placating manner. "I think it's important that we don't freak out," she said.
Don't. Freak. Out? Was she kidding? He'd just slept with a woman he'd been best buddies with his entire life. With Jemima Jane Ericson for fuck's sake. And now he knew stuff about her he'd never known before. Intimate stuff.
Like how she kissed. How she whimpered in the back of her throat. How great her nipples tasted. His gaze dropped involuntarily to where the sheet ruched around her breasts. Oh God, doofus, do not think about her nipples. Or her breasts for that matter.
Or how hot and tight she was. How damn good she'd felt. Not now. Not when he needed JJ-his friend-more than ever.
He cleared his throat, his gaze falling to her breasts again before he pulled it away. "Why did you let me do that?"
She blinked and he hated himself for the affront he saw on her face. "I beg your pardon?"
"Well clearly I'd had a lot to drink and was not in any fit state to be making important sexual decisions."
She snorted, a little puff of air blowing her fringe off her forehead. "Are you accusing me of taking advantage of you?"
Ethan glared at her. She looked exactly like the JJ he'd always known. The knobbly kneed kid who lived down the street and could climb a tree, jump from a rope swing into a waterhole, and throw a cricket ball as good as any boy on the block.
Except, she wasn't.
Her shoulders were bare, her hair was all sleep tousled and her mouth, always a little on the wide side, looked thoroughly kissed. And then there was her distinct lack of clothing. "I'm saying you should have stopped me."
She crossed her arms and glared right back at him, her hazel eyes stormy. "Why?"
Why? She had to ask him that? Because she was … JJ. They'd known each other practically since birth. Their relationship was one of the few in his life he actually gave a rat's ass about. And now they'd gone and blown it.
Sex always complicated things.
Connie was living proof.
Ethan shoved his hands on his hips trying to gather good argumentative data in a brain that had obviously taken leave of its senses. Which he probably would have managed had her gaze not zeroed in on his belly and lit a trail of fire in its wake as it trekked from one hip to the other. He swallowed as the whole world shifted under his feet. "I was a … mess last night JJ," he said scrabbling for plausible reasons for his behaviour. "That bloody letter … I wasn't in any fit state …" Although God knew he'd been hard as a freaking rock from the first touch of her mouth. "I was drunk-"
She shook her head at him vehemently, interrupting his flow. "No. You weren't," she said emphatically. "Earlier in the night, yes. But not … later."
Ethan let go of the excuses for his behaviour as the truth came and bit him hard on the ass. He might not have been one hundred per cent sober, and some earlier events of the night were pretty much non-existent, but he sure as shit remembered every bit of their horizontal action.
But that didn't make it okay.
He opened himself up further to truth. The awful, harsh truth he'd been hiding from since he sprang from the bed minutes ago. "I was just using you," he bit out. "Don't you get it?"
Another typically inelegant snort escaped her mouth. A mouth he could not stop looking at. "You think I don't know that?" she railed. "What makes you think I didn't use you? I'm thirty-five years old, Ethan, and not averse to some recreational sex every now and then. I have needs too you know."
Ethan gaped at her. No. He didn't know. And he'd gotten through thirty-five years of his life just fine without knowing. Frankly this whole line of conversation was driving him nuts. How could he not think about what they'd done when JJ was sitting there bold as freaking brass-in a sheet-telling him she'd used him right back.
That she had needs.
He just couldn't wrap his head around it. Despite all evidence to the contrary-her marriage to that evil prick Shane, the casual arrangements over the years with the odd passing truck driver or transient backpacker-JJ had always been kind of asexual to him. The fact that she was forcing him to confront her sexuality-now of all times with the wild aroma of their joining lingering on his skin like soap residue-made him inexplicably pissed off.
"Well maybe you should have more self-respect?"
JJ gasped and he hated himself a little more. "Oh, I see," she said scathingly. "It's okay for you to use me but not okay for me to allow it? To enjoy it?"
He'd never noticed how symmetrical her features were before. How her big mouth balanced out her square face. How it was a good counterpoint for her wide cheekbones and her broad forehead. But with her whole face frowning at him like he was responsible for inventing menstruation, it seemed particularly obvious.
But suddenly an even bigger issue than her wounded feminine pride hit him square between the eyes.
Christ … enjoyed it?
She hadn't even come. He'd just taken what he wanted then rolled off her like some drunken slob and gone to sleep. Loathing rose in his throat and scalded like stomach acid. "For God's sake," he snapped, "You didn't even …" Dear God, he couldn't even bring himself to say it. "I mean I didn't even make you …"
Nope. It was no use. He couldn't say the words. God knew they trash talked and told each other dirty jokes all the time, but he couldn't talk about such intimate stuff with her when it actually meant something.
But he needn't have worried. JJ was drawing herself up against the bedhead, a familiar feminist glow burning in her eyes.
"You think I need an orgasm to enjoy sex?" she demanded. "What are you, like fifteen?" She eyed him in disgust. "I can get my own orgasms just fine. Last night was not about me getting off. It was about comfort and solace. About helping you to forget for a while."
Ethan blinked as the full magnitude of her words pelted him like shrapnel. "Oh my God. It was a pity fuck?"
JJ shrugged and his gaze was drawn to the angular lines of her collar bones and the hollow at the base of her throat. And lower …
"If you insist on labelling it."
Ethan gaped, her flippant remark halting the downward trajectory of his gaze. Bloody hell. He was speechless. Utterly speechless. This could not be happening. His best friend of thirty years, who he hadn't even seen in a bikini before today, had slept with him because she felt sorry for him.
It was official-his life had gone down the shitter.
And then, rather belatedly, another thought hit him square between the eyes. "Oh Jesus. We didn't even use a condom."
Ethan stared at JJ askance. What the fuck had he been thinking last night?
Clearly, he hadn't been.
Clearly, he'd lost his mind.
Protection had been so far from his head he might as well have been in an alternate universe where unwanted babies and sexually transmitted diseases had never been heard of.
Dumb horny guy universe.
JJ scowled at him. "It's fine, Ethan. I just finished my period. And as you seem to have about as much sex as I do, I assume disease isn't an issue." She folded her arms. "Take a frickin' breath."
Ethan couldn't believe how composed she was. Of course, that was JJ's MO. Cool, calm and collected. Unflappable in the face of most situations. Running a pub required a level head, a firm hand and a nose for bullshit.
Pretty much like being a cop.
But this situation was totally outside his experience. He's screwed up with women before. Hell, he'd screwed up with Delia big time. But this …
He found his gaze wandering again as she stared back at him like she wasn't naked beneath those sheets. Her long lanky frame, which he'd always admired for its athleticism-she'd run cross country for the state, had set the girls' long jump record at high school and could ride a horse like she was born to it-seemed suddenly … feminine.
"Do you think you could … get some clothes on or something," he said, with a sweeping gesture towards her general nakedness. "It's really hard to have a serious conversation with you in nothing but a sheet."
She raised an eyebrow. "Shall I just peel it back and do it now? Or perhaps you'd like to leave so I can have a little privacy?"
A dull flush lit his cheeks as he thought about her emerging from those sheets. He hadn't really seen an awful lot of her body last night-although he doubted he'd ever be able to erase the image, or the taste, of her rosy nipples. He'd been too intent on being inside her to worry about the outside.
His blush intensified at his crass ineptitude. He felt freaking fifteen years old again.
"Of course … sorry," he said. Her legs shifted beneath the sheet and he tried not to think about how firm they'd felt locked around his waist.
JJ's folded her arms across her chest. "Well?"
"Right," he said, dragging his mind out of those sheets and his head out of his ass. "See you outside," he said stiffly, and rather unnecessarily, before his legs actually circumvented his brain and moved him the hell out of the room.
Local pub owner Jemima Jane Ericson is living a lie. She's been in love with her best friend Ethan since forever. But he fell in love with another woman, married her, and despite their tempestuous relationship and decade old divorce, JJ knows Ethan's heart is still down for the count. And friendship is better than nothing, right?
Single dad and Jumbuck Springs chief of police, Ethan Weston, hits the pub the night his ex-wife remarries and announces she wants custody of their daughter. When he wakes the next morning to find himself in JJ's bed he's mortified that they'd crossed a line they should never have crossed. Until JJ's abusive ex, Shane, shows up at her door and Ethan claims he and JJ are engaged to protect her.
Both are stunned by the unravelling of their normally sane lives but suddenly it makes sense - JJ gets a deterrent and Ethan gets the respectability of a wife for any custody claims. But when JJ's life is threatened, Ethan is forced to confront feelings that may just run much deeper than convenience…
"I loved this book....actually, I've loved all of the books in the Outback Heat series. They're all excellent contemporary romances, but this book raises the ante and tackles some difficult subjects that are very emotional…This is a must read for fans of the genre." Linda Q Netgalley
Can friends of 30 years become more and if so, what would it take?....This was a fun, easy to read book….The writing was superb and made me feel as if I were there and oh so empathetic with JJ."
"This story is about learning to let go of past angst and learn to live and love again. I like JJ's strength of character and her approach to life despite what she went through in her previous relationship. It's as emotional as the previous books in this series and once again the family values and the community spirit shine. I would recommend this series to those who like a well written and easy to read romance with palpable emotions and steamy sex." Brigitte GR
"I have loved each book in this series. I hate to see it end. This book has both romance and suspense. Amy Andrews touches on a sensitive topic that will touch your heart. I can't wait to read more Amy Andrews." Runner10 Goodreads