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Ross 03 Leave Me Breathless

By:Cherrie Lynn

Chapter One


Being single on Valentine’s Day sucked.

Macy Rodgers sipped her Dos Equis and mused that plenty of people would argue with that statement. People happy in their carefree singlehood. And that was fine. She could remember when she’d been one of them.

Her two best friends, Candace and Samantha, cackled over the noise in the too loud, too warm bar. Apparently, some joke had passed between them while Macy had been pondering bolting for the door to spend the night at her apartment in blessed solitude watching Bridesmaids for the five hundredth time.

It wasn’t so much that she lamented the fact she had no one to send her flowers or give her chocolate or take her out to a candlelit dinner before tumbling her into bed. That was partly it, but no…the worst part about being a single girl on Valentine’s Day was well-meaning, relationship-entrenched friends who decided you were a pity case and took it upon themselves to distract you from the oh-so-obvious tragedy your sexless life had become.

She did enjoy seeing the girls, though. Lately, it didn’t happen often enough.

“So what is this surprise you said you have for me?” she asked Candace when she could get a word in edgewise. Candace and Sam had been all aflutter about something when they dragged Macy out of work earlier, and now not a word about whatever was in store had been mentioned since.

Her friends exchanged glances and furtive grins. Great. They were about to embarrass the crap out of her somehow. Candace checked her cell phone, tapped out a text and then slipped it back into her purse. Macy didn’t like the self-satisfied look on her face. “Patience, my dear.”

“Is this…a good surprise, or an I-get-to-maim-you-later surprise?”

“I honestly can’t answer that,” Samantha said, and Candace nodded her agreement.

Macy slapped her hands on the tabletop. “That’s it, I’m out—”

“No!” Each girl grabbed a shoulder to keep her seated. “It’s okay, Mace,” Candace soothed. “Relax.”

Macy swept her gaze around, frowning. What the hell could it be? A male stripper? Surely not in here. And surely her friends knew better than to cook anything up between her and Jared.

Yeah, to put the nail in the coffin of her Valentine’s night, her ex-boyfriend was here. They’d remained on good terms, and she even gave Jared’s twin daughters horse riding lessons twice a week, but that didn’t mean she wanted him to see her in here practically wearing a big sign over her head that flashed Still Single After All These Years! in neon letters. So far, she’d mostly managed to keep the entire bar between them. But he was divorced from the woman who’d come along after Macy sent him running, and he didn’t appear to be with anyone now, so that was a bonus.

Maybe they bought me a male escort. Ha! Sure. The girls might have grown as tired of her aching dry spell as she was. As much as she wanted a relationship, there just wasn’t time to seek one out—or even a little oasis in the drought. Between managing her parents’ outdoor retail store and riding lessons at their ranch and seeing her friends whenever her schedule and theirs would allow, she felt stretched too thin. Wound too tight. A man thrown into the mix might very well cause her to snap.

Then there were days like these that made her look around and feel like a colossal failure for not having achieved what her best friends had: true happiness.

She tried not to dwell on it. Mostly she didn’t, but tonight was different. Dammit, twenty-five wasn’t old, but when she considered the fact that she’d like to have kids before thirty, she didn’t have a whole lot of time.

“Brian wants to pierce my nipples,” Candace announced.

Or…maybe she was doing pretty well on her own, if that’s what true happiness entailed.

“Awesome.”

“Oh my God! You’re not going to let him do it, are you?”

Candace looked back and forth between Sam and Macy and shook her head. “See, I played this conversation out in my head before we got here. So far it’s going exactly as I had envisioned.”

“You know us so well,” Macy said wryly, taking a swig of her beer to chase down the swallow she’d nearly choked on. She should’ve grown accustomed to Candace’s little Brian-related bombshells by now, but she hadn’t. In Macy’s mind, he belonged with Ghost in a far-off universe she would never understand, and there they would both remain.

Ghost. Given the funk she was in, the last thing she needed was to start thinking about him.

“That is so freaking hot,” Sam said, still shouting to be heard over the blaring country music. “But you get a hands-on demonstration of Brian’s hotness every night, right? Lucky girl.”

“He’s hot because he wants to drive a needle through her nipples?” Macy asked.

“Well, I brought it up to him,” Candace said. “He doesn’t push anything on me, and if I told him no, he’d back off. But I’m having fun letting him try to convince me.” An impish smile curled her lips, an expression Macy never would have imagined seeing on her sweet friend a year ago. Hell, a year ago, she’d have laughed riotously at the thought of even having this discussion. With Candace, of all people.

But her once straight-and-narrow best friend now sported three tattoos, a belly ring, hot pink streaks in her blonde hair and who knew what else. All thanks to her tattoo-parlor-owning boyfriend, Brian Ross. Why Brian and Candace weren’t together on their first Valentine’s Day as a couple was a mystery Macy hadn’t quite put together and didn’t really want to ask about. But if they were talking piercings, then everything must be hunky-dory in their world.

Sam gave a quasi-orgasmic little shudder. “You’ll have to tell me what it’s like. I might think about doing it too.”

Sam was another story. This kind of talk from her didn’t come as any surprise.

“He says it really heightens sensitivity.”

“It can also eradicate it altogether,” Macy muttered, knowing she was whistling in the wind. “It can do permanent nerve damage. Not to mention—”

“That’s what I’ve heard,” Sam said to Candace, but it wasn’t in response to Macy’s warning.

“Yeah, it drives him crazy when I play with his rings.”

“There’s also rejection, infection—”

“Brian knows what he’s doing, Mace.”

Macy subsided, pulling her lips between her teeth to contain the retort. Of course. Brian knew everything. The sun came up in the morning because Brian said it should. Forget simple facts.

“But he might get so excited because it’s you he’s piercing that all the blood will drain south from his brain, and he could really mess up.” It was one of the more sensible things Sam had said.

Candace laughed. “Maybe I’ll spring it on him out of the blue one day when we’re just hanging out at the studio. He won’t have time to think about it much.”

“And neither will you,” Sam said. “That’s the only way I’d have the nerve to do it. If I had too much time to think about it, I’d chicken out.”

“You guys really are crazy. Why even do something if it scares you so much?”

Candace shook her head. “It’s not that it’s scary, Macy. But it’s…intense. It’s a rush.”

“Why do people bungee jump? Or skydive?” Sam said.

“Freaking adrenaline junkies,” Macy muttered. “All the piercing and tattoo stuff, you say it’s all about your ‘self-expression’, but in the end I think it’s simple addiction.”

“For some people, maybe. And it’s fun. We’re not depraved or something because we like it. My thrill is simply different than your thrill.”

“That stuff you did on a horse, Mace? See, that’s crazy to me,” Sam said. “You were a little kamikaze. When I would watch you barrel race, I could hardly pry my fingers apart to peek through them.”

“Agreed,” Candace said.

Macy shot a glare at Sam. “Bad analogy. We all know how that ended.”

Both the other girls clamped their mouths shut, and Macy instantly wished she could take the words back. She covered her face with her hands. “I’m sorry. I’m just…I don’t know. I love you guys. But maybe this was a bad idea.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Sam said quickly, her rueful expression making Macy feel worse. “It’s not you. That was a totally insensitive thing for me to say.”

“But you know I’m usually not so sensitive about it,” Macy said. “At least not with you guys. Like I said, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“You need to get laid.” Candace declared this as if it should be obvious to everyone.

Macy rolled her eyes and laughed. “That’s never been a cure-all for me, and you know it.”

“Maybe because you haven’t found someone yet who can do it right.” Candace twirled her barely touched beer bottle between her hands. “It’s too bad Ghost left, huh?”

She hadn’t wanted to think about him, and she damn sure could’ve done without the mention. Ghost was Brian Ross’s best friend and employee who had somehow managed to short-circuit Macy’s brain. It was the only explanation for the way she’d behaved with him that one night all those months ago…

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