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1. Flesh and Bone

"Harder! Fuck, Mike, harder!" I fisted my hands around the sheets, leaning forward on my elbows as Mike knelt behind me on the bed, driving into me. His hand was splayed on my back, pushing me down onto the mattress, while the other gripped my hip, holding me steady as he growled out a filthy stream of profanity.

He was so unbelievably good at this.

He complied eagerly with my request, increasing the power behind his thrusts, and I practically screamed in pleasure. "Fuck! It feels so good!" I was right on the edge, just needing a little nudge, and he gave it to me when his hands moved to my shoulders, slamming me back against him.

"Yes! God, Mike!" I threw my head back, arching my back as I came, crying out wordlessly through clenched teeth. Mike rode me through my orgasm, keeping his pace strong and steady until my body sagged beneath him. He was right behind me, his hips pumping hard as he found his release. He was sexy as hell when he came, letting out a guttural growl, his movements controlled and demanding.

I mean, fuck. He was so good.

Mike rolled off of me, tugging me with him until I had scooted around and was snuggled against his side. I rubbed my hand over his chest, feeling the rise and fall under my fingers as he panted from exertion.

"Damn, baby." He smiled. "You give a man a workout." He slipped off his condom and tied it up, tossing it into a trash can by the bed and grabbing some tissues from the bedside table to clean up.

I just smiled and sighed happily. I knew I should go, but I wasn't quite ready to leave the warmth of his body. I had been with Mike for over a year, had been living with him for the past three months, and I still couldn't seem to get enough of him.

I traced a finger around his nipple, remembering the first time I had seen him. It had been the beginning of my freshman year, and I was completely intimidated by the new environment and lack of supervision. I'd been sitting in the front row of a large auditorium for a general education statistics class, feeling young, naïve, and completely out of my league, when he'd caught my eye from the front of the room. He'd given me a quick once-over and winked at me before turning back to the professor to discuss his TA duties for the class.

A little thrill had run up my spine. I hadn't really been one to get a lot of attention from boys in high school. I'd been on a couple of awkward dates and had even lost my virginity in a mediocre tumble in a hotel room on prom night. But I couldn't exactly call myself experienced, and any little show of attention left me blushing bright red.

It was something I'd had to get used to. Though I had been the ugly duckling in high school, I had apparently managed to grow into my name, because all of a sudden, guys were noticing me. And not just awkward high school guys. For the next several weeks, I'd found myself being flirted with, catered to, asked out . . . and a fair number of these interactions had occurred in my statistics class. Time and time again, I'd blushed and agreed to a date with a guy only to look up and find Mike's eyes on me, a knowing smile playing around his lips.

Finally, after a couple of months, and after I had made yet another date after class, he'd strolled up to me and leaned on a small fold-out desk in front of me.

"Are you busy tonight?" he asked me, his blue eyes locking on mine.

It was Friday. I hadn't had a free Friday night since I had started college. "Yes," I told him, my stomach fluttering with nerves. Something about the way he looked at me had left me feeling weak and light-headed.

"What about tomorrow night?"

"Also busy."

"Cancel," he said, his gaze still intense.

I blushed and looked down, unable to take the weight of his stare. "I can't just cancel."

"Why not?"

I tried to look up at him again, but I quickly dropped my gaze. He was completely unnerving. "It's rude."

He didn't say anything, and for several long seconds I waited, my cheeks burning from the blush that rose so easily to my face. I finally raised my eyes to him, seeing him smirking down at me. He reached out and deliberately took my pen from me, holding my hand in his and writing a series of numbers on the back. He capped the pen and handed it back to me.

"When you get tired of playing with your little toys, you give me a call," he said and sauntered away.

I hadn't canceled my dates. It was hard, but I hadn't. I'd gone out with Eric, and then with Tyler, and I'd enjoyed their company immensely . . . at least, I had when I wasn't thinking about Mike. And the next week, after taking several days to work up my nerve, I'd called him.

That was it for me. We'd dated casually at first—or anyway, he had dated me casually, and I had pretended to feel the same. But I'd been convinced he was the one for me right from the start, and I'd waited patiently for him to decide that I was the one for him too.

And he had. After a couple of months, he and I were together all the time, staying over at each other's apartments every night, and when the next fall semester started, we'd finally decided it was time we just moved in together. My dad had been pissed, my mom had been elated, and I had just been happy.

I could feel that happiness flowing all through me now, but as much as I enjoyed lying here beside him in post-orgasmic bliss, I had things to do. "I need to go," I said, reluctantly.

"Don't." He grabbed the hand that rested on his chest. "Stay home tonight."

"I can't. Finals are coming up. I need to put in some serious study time."

He grinned, tucking his hands under his head. "Studying is overrated."

"Not when you have a scholarship to maintain." I pushed off of the bed and moved to the bathroom to clean up, then I returned and grabbed my clothes off of the floor.

"How come you always study at the library?" he pouted.

As if he didn't know. "Because when I study here, you distract me." I started tugging on my clothes. "I can't get anything done because you keep dragging me back to the bedroom."

He smirked. "Tell you what? Take those clothes back off and go study on the couch, and I'll just keep myself entertained while you work."

"Right," I snorted. "I'm leaving." I leaned down for a quick kiss, but of course, he didn't let me get away with that. He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me down on top of him and pinning me against his chest as I giggled and struggled to break free.

"Michael Newton, behave yourself!" I laughed. "God, you would think after months of living together you'd be used to me leaving in the evenings."

"I'm used to it." He sighed, releasing me. "But that doesn't mean I like it." He sat up, running his hand through his sex-tousled hair. "Go be a good girl and do your homework. I'll be at the club late, so I won't be here when you get home."

"'Kay. Love you." I headed out the door and locked the apartment behind me before driving to the research library.

My truck was one of the very few things that I didn't pay for with the living stipend that came with my scholarship. Those dollars only stretched so far, and transportation wasn't something that I could make them cover. I had intended to rely on public transportation at school, but Charlie was extremely uncomfortable with that notion. He had insisted on helping me drive my truck all the way to Los Angeles, and he'd paid my insurance and my gas card so that I would never find myself without a ride. It was such a Charlie thing to do, making sure I was safe and protected, and I smiled every time I thought about it.

And I had to admit, it did make it easier to study where I could focus. Every night, Monday through Friday, I got away from the irresistible distraction that was Mike's body and headed to the library to do my schoolwork. There were a few regulars that I tended to see there every night, or on particular nights of the week, and being creatures of habit, we all had favorite tables where we liked to sit. My place was at the corner of a table for six, where I could spread out with all my books. At the table to my right, a couple who had been together as long as I had been coming to the library would work together and quiz each other quietly on test questions. I thought it was crazy sweet. To my left, an older blond man always sat, taking up even more space than I did. He would fill his entire six-person table with haphazard stacks of books, journals, and loose pages, and he would occasionally stop typing at his laptop and move around the table, reading and checking his materials. I was curious about what he was writing, but I had never had the nerve to interrupt him and ask.

Lately, though, with finals coming up, we regulars hadn't always been able to get our usual seats. More and more students were resorting to the library to cram, and the place had become almost as distracting as my apartment.

Okay, not quite. I shook my head and laughed to myself as I pictured Mike's naked body. The library would never be that distracting.

But I was a little late getting there tonight, due to our impromptu tumble in the sheets, and when I got to my regular space, I saw that it was packed full. Students sat in every available seat, and even the regular Study Couple had been relegated to a single study carrel across the room from where they preferred to be. The only available chairs were at the table with the older blond man, who had apparently managed to get there early enough that he could still spread out over the whole table. He was typing away at his laptop, his tie loosened and his blue Oxford shirt open at the collar, as usual.

I bit my lip, gathering my nerve to speak to him. I had always been shy, and I really didn't want to get in his way, but at this point, I didn't have much choice.

Bella, stop being ridiculous, I chided myself. He had always been perfectly nice, with the occasional nod-and-smile greeting. Once he had even held the door for me when we were both leaving at the same time.

I took a deep breath, scanning the room one more time for any other places that might be available to sit. There was nothing, though, and I edged uncomfortably toward his table, stopping at the opposite corner from where he sat.

"Um . . . I'm sorry to bother you."

His eyes raised, but looked more through me than at me, as his fingers continued to tap away at his laptop. For a moment he typed, not-looking at me, and then his fingers stilled and his eyes snapped into focus. "Hm?" He raised his eyebrows, still looking distracted.

I gestured to the chair in front of me. "Would you mind?" I asked anxiously. "Sorry, it's a little busy today."

"Oh, not at all." He jumped up from his chair and started moving his things out of the way, clearing a space for me to work. He had to stack papers and open texts together, but he didn't seem to mind. "Pardon me, I know I make a mess," he said, looking a little sheepish.

"This is great," I said when he had opened up a couple of feet of empty space in front of the chair. "I really appreciate it."

He glanced around the room, seeming surprised to see so many people there. "It's busy in here tonight."

"You get pretty focused, don't you?"

He gave me a charming smile as he settled into his seat again, a dimple appearing in his cheek. "I'm afraid I do."

Damn. He was kind of hot. I had never noticed that before.

I tugged out my own laptop and a textbook, arranging them in front of me. "I'll try not to bother you," I promised him.

He flashed me another smile and returned to his work.

The evening passed pleasantly. We each worked silently, though I always thought it was amusing when he moved around the table to check his reference materials, and once I held a couple of books for him while he fished out a text that had been stacked underneath them. But for the most part, we left each other alone, as usual, and when I had crammed more knowledge into my head than I could actually retain, I bid him goodbye and headed home.

I showered and pulled on a pair of shorts and one of Mike's old T-shirts, and I was heading to bed when I spotted a little sampler box of Aplets and Cotlets on my pillow. My jaw dropped open as I moved to pick it up. I loved the little candied fruits, but I had only ever seen them in Washington. How Mike had gotten hold of them here in California I didn't know, but he deserved one serious blow job for it.

There was a folded sheet of notepaper beneath the box, and I picked it up, opening it and reading the note scrawled on it.

Love you forever. –Mike

"Mike, you're the best!" I squealed, even though he wasn't there to hear me. I set the box on the bedside table and scooted under the covers, planning to do something extra special for him to thank him for his thoughtfulness.