"I can't remember the last time I've been to the carnival."
Lucky smiled down into Emily's laughing brown eyes. A gust of wind caught her long brown locks and whipped the hair against her cheeks. He threaded the silken hair between his fingers and lightly brushed it from her face. He resisted the urge to kiss her as he said, "Which is exactly why we're here. Are you ready to have some fun?"
While he paid for their tickets, she glanced over her shoulder. "Didn't you say Nikolas was coming?"
He took her hand and they moved away from the ticket booth toward the fair. "That's what he said."
Her brow drew into a delectable frown as she asked, "Alone?"
"Maybe he'll invite Dawn." The delicious aroma of cotton candy, hot dogs, pretzels and other delights attacked him from all sides. His stomach released a mighty roar. He laughed and tugged her hand. "Come on! Let's have fun."
"What you mean is let's eat," she teased. "When did you invite him?"
"Last night. A little after we made definite plans to come. Are we done talking about him?"
"Shoot me if I'm a little concerned. He's been in a funk for months," she explained. "Since he's coming, I'd hate for him to come alone. Carnivals are for lovers." She rubbed against his arm. The tips of her breast grazed his forearm. "I wish he didn't have to ask Dawn last minute."
He slipped his arm around Emily's shoulders, pulling her close and enjoying the feel of her warm body against his. "And have him risk her turn him down?" He chuckled. "As if that'd ever happen. If he called her, she's coming with him. But it would serve him right if she didn't."
"She's got it bad, but he doesn't see it."
"He doesn't want to," Lucky said. "But mark my words, one day he will. For his sake, I hope it won't be too late."
They came to a halt. Cotton candy vendors stood on one side while polish sausages claimed the other. His mouth watered. He didn't know where to go first.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Something sweet or something spicy."
"How about a little of both?"
He kissed the tip of her nose. "A woman after my heart."
"Lucky Spencer, I already have your heart."
He grinned. "Oh, yeah."
Tunnel of Love
The words loomed large over the darkened building. The possibilities that could happen inside a building like that made Nikolas' stomach bubble with acid. He hesitated. "Are you sure they went inside?"
Dawn struck him with a look that produced a sensation rivaling the one in his gut. "I wish you'd stop asking me that," she said in a dangerously low voice. "Emily's wearing a pink top. Lucky's wearing a blue t-shirt. I saw both of them give that man a ticket and step inside. If you don't believe me…"
"I never said I didn't believe you."
He shoved his hands into the pocket of his jeans. When Lucky invited him to tag along with the happy couple, Nikolas' first instinct was to say no. Watching his brother with Emily burned him inside. Years ago, he brushed aside her crush. Now, that she'd grown into a beautiful young woman, he realized his hasty mistake.
"So are we waiting for them to come out or what?" She looked away as she spoke to him. Her bottom lip trembled slightly. Perspiration beaded above her top lip. She licked it away.
Nikolas felt his body pulse in reaction. When a trickle of sweat slid down her neck toward the open v-neck of her t-shirt, he couldn't help but wonder about the destination. She turned toward him and nearly caught him gaping at her breasts.
He swallowed hard. "It's too hot to wait for them out here. We can go inside."
He half expected her to disagree. Not that she was a disagreeable person. He valued their friendship. She listened to him the way few others ever had. His status and title never seemed to bother her. But lately, other things did. They'd engaged in a few petty arguments of late. When he invited her to join him, he told himself it was a means to bring an end to the awkwardness that had grown between them.
So far, all he'd done was agitate the situation.
She inhaled a deep breath and nodded. "Okay. I've never been on this ride. I wonder what it's like."
A portly man sat on the stool outside the fun house. Nikolas handed him money and stared as the old man leered at Dawn. Instinctively, he caught her wrist and pulled her away from the lecherous cad. The old man gave him a toothless grin and whispered for Nikolas' ears only, "Good luck."
Nikolas placed his hand low on her hip, ushering her into the darkened building. Air lodged in his throat as his fingers splayed across her firm, round curves. A sharp ache stabbed his lower body. He snatched his hand away as soon as they were away from the stranger's greedy eyes.
"What did he say?" she asked as they stepped into the tiny boat for two.
"That old man."
The space was not built for two. His shoulders barely fit. He noticed that she wasn't sitting comfortably either. To alleviate the pressure, he draped his arm across the back of their seat. She hesitated before relaxing against him. His thumb flexed, gently caressing her upper arm. She released a soft gasp and clasped her hands together in her lap.
"He said 'good luck.'"
"This is kinda romantic."
Emily caressed the growing bulge inside Lucky's pants. She giggled as he jumped.
"Em! What are you doing?"
"Responding to the mood." Her fingers traced the outline of him. It always amazed her how quickly his erection grew. And how the touch of him made her instantly ready to accept him.
"Sweetheart." He growled, half-moaned. She released the constraints of his button-fly jeans. Her fingers slipped inside the opening. His head fell back against the seat. "Baby, what are you doing?"
"After all this time, you don't know?"
Hot and hard, his manhood throbbed in her hand. She knew what he liked. Just how to stroke him. Fast and hard, then slow and easy. His breath came in spurts. She licked her lips and bent over, taking in as much of him as possible.
His hands curved against the back of her head, massaging and guiding.
Emily had him right where she wanted him, straight toward ecstasy.
It wasn't hard to spot Lucky and Emily inside the love tunnel. They giggled and whispered like lovers. Dawn hated the knot that grew in her stomach. She recognized the ugly feeling as envy. Emily and Lucky loved each other. The feeling wasn't one-sided. They were committed for the long term. Dawn had yet to experience the same. She'd dated a few guys and came close to convincing herself that Sly Eckertt was the one. But in the end, she couldn't live that lie. Not when the silent man beside her claimed her body and soul…even if he was too blind to know it.
Nope, he was too consumed with lust for his brother's girlfriend to have a clue.
He shifted. His hard thigh slammed into her hers. Without thinking, her hand dropped to his knee. He hitched in a deep breath, but didn't move his leg.
"Sorry." His voice broke with huskiness. "This space is confining. Don't you think?"
"It's okay I guess." She turned toward him, wishing for better lighting to see his handsome profile. "I don't have much room; otherwise, I'd scoot over."
"No!" He coughed once and added, "Um, no, it's fine. I was saying for you. I didn't want to crowd you."
"If you say so."
Dawn held her breath, waiting. But the conversation died. Again. Shit. If they weren't arguing over stupid crap, they barely spoke. What the hell was wrong with her? With them?
She looked ahead at the other couples. Many were making out. Some quietly. Others not so quietly. Then, her gaze connected with Lucky and Emily. Sure enough, she'd recognize them anywhere.
Where did Emily's head go?
Dawn swore she heard Lucky groan.
"No way," she said in a choked whisper. "Oh, my goodness."
Nikolas' hand pressed against her shoulder. Unprepared for the sudden movement, Dawn lost her balance and fell against him. Her breasts tingled at the instant touch of his hard chest. Her nipples hardened, demanding attention. The apex at her thighs burned with unquenched longing. She quickly crossed her legs and fought burying her face in her hands.
His voice dropped several octaves. "What's wrong?" he murmured against her ear.
His sweet breath fanned her cheek. The longing increased.
"Um…" How did she tell him that his precious Emily was right that moment giving his brother oral pleasure? How? When that was exactly what she wanted to do to Nikolas right after he did the same for her…as well as other things?
Her head fell against his chest. She closed her eyes and emitted a low moan.
"Dawn? Are you okay?"
"No," she whined like a two-year-old.
"What's wrong?" His hands flew over her. Touching her forehead, her cheek, her neck.
Why wouldn't he go lower? Linger? Caress? Knead?
She squeezed her thigh tighter.
"Tell me!" His forceful tone vibrated with demand and something else she couldn't quite identify.
"Of what?" His body shifted. He placed one hand at her waist while the other cupped her cheek.
She could feel him staring at her. His face felt inches from hers. Her mouth answered before her mind could think. "Of you."
"Me?" His thumb brushed the swell of her cheek. His voice was the perfect mixture of husky warmth. "You're not making sense."
"Nikolas, I want you so bad," she confessed, throwing caution to the wind. "I know you don't feel the same and if this ends our friendship, so be it. That's not true. I'll miss you, but I can't live like this anymore. Watching you want Emily, knowing she only wants Lucky. Dying to have you…want me to." She covered her face with her hands. "I can't believe I said that."
Silence increased the tension between them.
Then, he asked, "Is it true?"
"Why don't you ever believe me?"
"I believe you."
Then, he was crushing her to him. His mouth covered hers in a dizzying rush of passion and possession. Their tongues collided. He touched her lower. Lingering. Caressing. Kneading. Her body threatened to explode. She placed her hand on him, intent on giving them some space. She wasn't prepared for the huge evidence of his arousal. They parted.
"Are you using me?" Her voice shook with emotion.
"No," he said, taking in deep gulps of air. "I've wanted you, too. I just didn't realize it until now."
"So, what do you want to do next?" Emily grinned up at Lucky like the cat who ate the canary. Well, in a way, she had.
He led her away from the Tunnel of Love exit. He glanced toward the entrance. "We could go through again…or we could go home. These tickets are good for tomorrow, too."
"Home doesn't sound like a bad idea." She closed her arms around his waist. "Hey, isn't that Nikolas and Dawn?"
Lucky's mouth dropped. The pair came out holding hands and smiling into each other's eyes. When did his brother finally get a clue?
Emily waved them over. Nikolas' hand remained firmly attached to Dawn's.
"We followed you guys into the ride," Dawn said. Her eyes danced and her breath sounded loud and laborious.
Lucky was tempted to pat his brother on the back or at least high five him. Emily must have read his mind because she shook her head.
"Looks like you had a good time," Lucky murmured, unable to resist at least commenting.
Nikolas smiled at Dawn. "It was enlightening."
As the two couples began to walk away, the chubby ticket master called out, "Come back again."
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above
If you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love
[Story inspired by and lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's 'Tunnel of Love'.]
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