Dark Surrendering by Chelsea M. Cameron

  Dark Surrendering

  Copyright © 2014 Chelsea M. Cameron


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are use fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. All rights reserved.

  Cover Copyright © Chelsea M. Cameron

  Edited by Jen Hendricks

  Interior Design by NovelNinjutsu.com

  I rolled over and bumped into something solid. And warm. The thing groaned and my eyes flew open. I was in my room, but I wasn’t alone. Oh, shit.

  Then the headache hit me. I moaned and closed my eyes again. The sound of my voice woke the guy next to me.

  “What the fuck?” He drew out the last word. What the fuck was definitely the right thing to say. Also, I was naked. The guy next to me didn’t have anything on either.

  “Oh. Hey,” he said. That voice confirmed my worst fears.

  “Hey, Ryder.” I opened my eyes again to find him staring at me. Those blue eyes would be my undoing. They were set in a face that was none the worse for wear. Unlike his two brothers, Ryder bore the scars of a hard life in visible ways.

  “I feel like fucking shit,” he said, and I mentally agreed. I didn’t think I’d ever had a hangover this bad, and that was saying something.

  Ryder’s eyes skimmed my body, which, of course, was not covered by much more than a bit of blanket. I had a tendency to thrash around when I slept.

  Even though it hurt to move, I yanked the blankets over myself.

  “Stop that. This is going to make me sound like an asshole, but what happened last night?” he asked after he stopped trying to stare his way through the blanket.

  Great, he didn’t remember. Even greater? I didn’t either.

  “Um, I remember dancing and drinking and that’s about it,” I said, trying not to look at him. Ryder hadn’t bothered to cover up, and it was seriously distracting. There was so much to look at. His tattoos, the fact that he was redhead everywhere, the random little scars that marked his freckled skin with spots of white. And of course he had other, ah, assets.

  He rubbed his head and frowned. His hair used to be longer, but he cut it for some reason. I missed the length.

  “That’s about what I remember.” I glanced beyond the bed and saw the gorgeous dress I’d spent hours sewing to fit just right, crumpled on the floor, with pieces of Ryder’s suit next to it.

  Silence descended on us, and I really didn’t want to ask the question that was the most important.

  “I’m guessing we fucked, huh?” he said.

  “Well, judging by the fact that we’re both naked and in my bed, all signs point to yes. Shit. Rory is going to kill me.”

  “And Lucah is going to kill me. This is the last thing I wanted,” he said, sighing and slowly getting to his feet with a groan.

  “Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuccccckkkkkk,” he said, clutching his head. “That was a bad idea. Bad fucking idea.” I had no idea how many times a person could use the word fuck in a short period before I met Ryder. I cursed as much as the next person, but under his influence, I’d turned into a foul-mouthed sailor.

  “It’s your own damn fault,” I said. I wasn’t moving yet. If I did, I might throw up. I definitely didn’t want to throw up if I could avoid it. That would just make everything so much worse.

  Ryder leaned over slowly and picked up his discarded boxers, slowly drawing them over each leg, as if each movement caused him pain. I could imagine.

  I was still trying to figure out if we’d actually had sex. The evidence seemed overwhelming, and I scoured my hazy memories of the night before to find something, anything, that would confirm whether we had or hadn’t.

  Apart from my head, my body felt fine. I snuck my hand under the covers and felt around. No road rash or evidence of sex.

  “You don’t remember anything?” I asked again.

  “I remember how good you looked in that dress. That shit is burned in my memory forever.” And I would never forget the image of him in a tux. Fuck me, he looked good. Then there was the dancing. Who knew he could waltz? Didn’t exactly fit with his image, but it made him even sexier.

  “Yes, but after you saw the dress. Come on, Ryder, this is important.” The chance that the sex was actually safe was miniscule.

  “I know it’s fucking important!” he yelled, and then grabbed his head. “Do you think I wanted this to happen? That this was my plan all along? To get you wasted and into bed? Fuck, I did just about everything to make sure that didn’t happen.” Except, you know, not getting drunk and coming home with me and taking his clothes off. But I couldn’t blame him. We were both at fault for whatever had happened, sex or not.

  “I need to go. I need to get out of here before Rory or my brother sees anything. Because even if nothing happened, this doesn’t look good, and I’ll get blamed. I always get blamed.” He moved a little faster and got his pants, shoes, and shirt on. His outfit reeked of “walk of shame” but that couldn’t be helped. He probably still had some clothes at Rory and Lucah’s, but there was no way to get to them without being totally obvious about it.

  “Let me know if you remember anything,” I said. I knew what I was going to spend the next few hours doing.

  “I’m sorry if anything happened. I really, really wanted to avoid this.”

  “Yeah, I know. It’s my fault too. But we’ll figure it out. Do you want me to come over later?”

  He folded his coat over his arm. “If you can do it without anyone finding out, then yes. I really don’t need the shitstorm this might cause to come crashing down on my head right now.” No, he definitely didn’t. Ryder had been through a lot lately, and he didn’t need to add to it. He was just getting his life back on track after an accidental overdose on pills. He’d gotten an apartment and a job, and was on his way to being a productive member of society. Whatever that was.

  “I got it. I won’t say a word,” I said.

  He nodded once. “Good. I’ll, um, see you later.”

  I gave him a lame little wave and he left. But he was back in a second, a smile starting to spread on his face.

  “You really looked incredible last night.”

  “Thanks.” I returned the smile and then he closed the door softly behind him.

  I lay back on my pillows and mentally berated myself. Almost immediately, I was interrupted by loud voices. I cringed and knew exactly who those voices belonged to.

  So much for Ryder sneaking out. I heard him shouting and made up my mind to go rescue him from the firing squad, a.k.a. my best friend Rory and her sort-of fiancé, Lucah, who also happened to be Ryder’s brother. A clusterfuck is what this was.

  Before I left my bedroom, I quickly grabbed a robe and wrapped it around myself, and headed toward the front door, where all the yelling was coming from.

  “You are so irresponsible. I thought you’d changed, but I guess not.” Lucah’s face was red and angrier than I’d ever seen it. Standing beside him, with her arms folded, was Rory. She glared daggers at Ryder, who was just standing there and taking it.

  Yeah, that wasn’t cool with me.

  “Nothing happened. Shit, you two are worse than helicopter parents,” I said, walking over to join Ryder.

  “Nothing happened? Really, Sloane? We’re not stupid.” Rory pointed to my attire and then to Ryder’s. “If this isn’t the textbook image of a walk of shame, then I don’t know what is.”

  Rory and Lucah didn’t look much better than we did. Both wore the marks of ha
ngovers, but at least they were dressed.

  I poked Ryder. He should have been standing up for himself. He might have been Lucah’s younger brother, but he was a grown-ass man. He didn’t have to take this.

  “I’m sorry,” he said sheepishly, and that was it.

  I made a sound of frustration and everyone looked at me. “You have got to be kidding me. This whole fucking thing is ridiculous.” I was irritated but moving toward pissed.

  Lucah opened his mouth to argue with me, but Rory squeezed his arm. Yes, I knew there was a lot of shit between Ryder and Lucah, a lot which I didn’t know the details of. Their relationship was more confusing than the plot of a foreign film with no subtitles.

  “Can we please put a hold on this thing until we’ve all had some coffee and calmed down? I am not up for this right now,” I said, rubbing my forehead and wishing I could rub away the headache that throbbed there.

  “I think that’s a good idea,” Rory said, changing tactics. She probably sensed the potential explosive situation and wanted to cool things down before they blew up.

  “Lovely. Well, I’ll see both of you later,” I said, taking a risk and shoving both of them out the door. Lucah had a murderous look on his face, but went without protest. I shut the door on them and turned to Ryder.


  “That would be great,” he said, tossing his jacket across my couch. “Guess I’m not getting out of here anytime soon.”

  “Guess not.”

  An hour later, Ryder was still in his tux, I was still in my robe, but both of us felt better. We’d had coffee, scrambled eggs, and toast, and were trying to piece together the events of the night before.

  “So whose idea was it to do shots?” I asked.

  Ryder raised his hand. “That would be me. I think I said I was going to outdrink you.”

  It was sort of coming back to me now. “I can’t believe the bartender let us do that,” I said. We’d been at my friend Marisol’s swanky charity event. Usually those weren’t the kinds of parties where shots were encouraged, or even served.

  “Remember? I knew that one bartender and he hooked us up,” Ryder said, sipping his coffee.

  Oh, right. Now I remembered. Ryder had said he’d known one of the bartenders from “way back.” I didn’t even want to know. Anyway, the guy hooked us up with some stuff they’d been keeping away from the general drinking public at the event. The murk in my brain was starting to clear.

  “Where the hell was your brother when all that was going down?” Since his overdose, Lucah had been watching his younger brother like a hawk crossed with an annoying mother hen. I couldn’t totally blame him for it, though. Ryder had been in really bad shape. He was still a little thin and gaunt compared to the guy I’d first met when Rory and Lucah were moving in together. He’d stopped my heart in that hallway. I’d chalked most of the sudden intense feeling up to lust, but now I knew it was something more. Something that kind of scared the shit out of me.

  “I think he and Rory were indisposed,” he said. Those two. For all their moral grandstanding, they sure snuck off to get it on in a lot of public places. And that wasn’t even counting all the times they’d gotten it on in the office where they’d first met and both worked.

  “That explains it. And then I think we had the shot contest and Rory and Lucah came back, and then there was a dance contest? Or did I make that up?” I asked.

  Ryder chuckled and shook his head. “Nope, that totally happened. I can’t remember who won, but I remember moonwalking into the wall.” Now I wished I remembered that.

  “And then I think Rory and Lucah got distracted or something, and you said you didn’t want to go back to your crappy apartment,” I said. We were getting somewhere now.

  Ryder nodded along with me. “Right, right. I think I was whining about my bed or something, and you said I could share yours.”

  I gaped at him. “I did not say that.”

  “Yeah, you totally did. I might have forgotten most of everything else, but I remember that. Well, I do now.” He grinned at me. Oh, this was so not funny.

  “Moving on. We ended up here and then . . .”

  “And then . . .”

  Neither of us knew.

  “Maybe we should, ah, inspect the evidence?” I suggested. “Like, look at my bed? I don’t have one of those black light things they use in nasty hotel rooms though.”

  Ryder made a face. “Guess that’s as good as anything.” Pretty much. We both headed for my bedroom, the scene of the potential crime.

  I pulled the covers off and looked at the sheets, and Ryder did the same.

  “I don’t see anything,” I said, trying to ignore how disgusting this was. Pretty much the last thing I’d ever want to do with a guy.

  “I don’t see anything either. I mean, if we were that drunk, then the chances of me making anything happen are like, fucking slim.” He had a point there. I hadn’t thought of that. Probably because I’d never experienced that phenomenon myself.

  “True. That is true. I’m guessing we just ripped our clothes off and passed out.”

  He nodded in agreement. “But we should, you know, probably get tested, just in case.”

  Awesome. Just what I wanted. At least I didn’t have to worry about pregnancy, since I got the Depo shot every three months, and I was never, ever late.

  “Yeah . . . right.”

  “I mean, I used to be reckless, so who knows what I’ve got.” That was a completely sobering thought. I was always so careful about who I had sex with and always used protection.

  “I’m sorry about that, for your sake,” he said, his face grim. Once upon a time, before I’d known about Ryder’s past, I’d thought about jumping into bed with him. Now I was wondering how I could have been so naïve. Lust had a lot to do with it. I blamed lust for so many bad decisions.

  “I’ve fucked up a lot of things in my life, Sloane, and . . .” He didn’t seem able to finish his thought.

  “Yeah, well, I’m not perfect either.”

  Ryder snorted as if I’d said something hilarious. “Since neither of us remember any sex, and since there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of it, I think we can agree that the probability of sex is low,” he said.

  “Agreed. But we should be safe anyway.”

  “Agreed.” Ryder and I tucked my blankets back into the bed.

  “Now what?” I said, sitting down on the bed.

  “No fucking idea.”

  Ryder really wanted to change out of his suit, so he left and went back to his apartment, this time without incident. Figuring I should probably try and smooth things over, I headed down the hall to Rory and Lucah’s place. Normally I’d just barge right in, but this time I decided knocking was a good idea.

  Rory opened the door and her face was grim. “Hi,” she whispered.

  “Can I come in?” I asked.

  She nodded and moved aside to let me in. Lucah was on the couch with his guitar in his lap, his facial expression stony. You’d think someone had died.

  “This really isn’t as dire as you two are making it out to be. As far as we can tell, we didn’t have sex. Not that it’s any of your business anyway.” It seriously wasn’t. But Lucah and Rory were two peas in a pod. Control freaks. A match made in heaven.

  “It is absolutely my business,” Lucah said. “You have no right messing this up. He’s been doing so well, and now . . .” He strummed an angry chord. Like he was musically yelling at me too.

  Now what?

  Rory jumped to my defense. “Lucah, it takes two to tango. This isn’t some situation where Sloane was a predator and took Ryder’s virtue. They both got drunk. They both fell into bed.”

  I was glad she was sticking up for me, but I could fight my own battles.

  “Thanks hun, but I got this. Look, I know your brother is a mess. That’s an established fact. And I’m not dancing with joy about this. But it’s over, it happened, and now Ryder and I are the ones who will have to deal with the
consequences. So, I think we should drop it. What would you like for dinner?” Most nights I cooked since Rory was usually exhausted and wasn’t a big fan of the kitchen.

  “Dinner?” Lucah said, as if he’d never heard the word before.

  “Yes, dinner. The meal that comes after lunch. Or tea, if you’re all British,” I said.

  “Um, whatever you feel like making. We’re flexible.” Ha, that was so not true, especially at that moment.

  Lucah started to say something else, but Rory gave him a look.

  “Fine. Sure.” That was as good an answer as I was going to get. Awesome.

  “Okay then. I’m going to go back down the hall, and I’ll see you at the usual time.”

  With that, I turned around and headed out the door. I didn’t want to hear any more criticism at the moment. My head was still throbbing.

  I spent the rest of the day recovering from one of the most epic hangovers ever and trying to fix the tear in my dress. My beautiful, beautiful dress. I’d paid an arm and a leg for the rosy gold silk, and I’d painstakingly sewn it together. I wouldn’t even let my interns touch the fabric. I hadn’t trusted anyone to sew it but me. There was a split up the back, and I’d made the thing so tight that it fit like a second skin. Not very conducive to moving around a lot, but it looked fabulous.

  Ryder called me just as I was trying to pick out what to make for dinner and playing Tristan Prettyman’s “Waves.” I turned the music down so I could hear him.

  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

  “Better. I had a chat with Rory and Lucah. He’s still not impressed, so you might want to make yourself scarce for a few days.” It was a good thing he’d moved out, or else it might have come to blows.

  “Good plan.” What followed was an awkward silence. I’d never had an awkward silence with Ryder before.

  “So, I was thinking,” he started to say.

  “You shouldn’t do that. Thinking can be hazardous to your heath,” I said.

  He chuckled a little but continued. “I was thinking that we . . . probably shouldn’t hang out anymore. Alone, I mean. I’ll still come over for dinner and everything so Lucah can make sure I’m on track and going to therapy and everything, but I just don’t think we can be friends outside of that time.” I had a feeling this was coming. When we danced at the ball he shot me down again when I asked if he needed any help moving in.

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