Chasing Me Read online





  Chasing Me

  Sex on the Beach #2

  Dedication

  "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you." ~ A. A. Milne "Pains of love be sweeter far than all the other pleasures are." -- John Dryden To all my readers who are chasing something wonderful.

  I hope you find it.

  Prologue

  JAMES

  IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LOVE STORY.

  Right?

  Yeah, I know, I didn't believe in that shit. Lust? Hell, yeah. Love?

  No fucking way.

  Yet here I am, alone in my apartment, on my knees, staring at a closed door. 'Cause she left me. For good this time. And if she was smart, she'll never take me back, because all I do is end up hurting her and screwing up her life. She deserves better, and that's not me. Yet the idea of another guy putting his hands on her makes me want to roar like the animal I am and beat the life out of him. Quinn's always affected me that way.

  I remember the first time I saw her.

  A one-piece swimsuit covering her slamming body, eyes dark and mysterious as she met my gaze with that haughty look I'd get to know and adore. In that moment, I fell head over fucking heels and never looked back.

  I knew she was out of my league, but I didn't care. Looking back, I wonder if I hadn't pursued her, would things have turned out differently? Is it Fate that determines our choices in life? God? Free will? Or just plain old innate selfishness?

  I got her, of course. There hadn't been a girl I wasn't able to seduce. Problem was, she seduced me right back, body, mind, and fucking soul. She possessed me, tormented me, and showed me a world that was so bright and pure I was almost blinded.

  Quinn made me feel alive again, reconnecting me with a part of myself I thought I'd buried years ago. She looked right into my sorry soul and loved me anyway. Didn't she know after such a drug I could never settle for less? Didn't she realize no matter how many times I screwed up, or broke her heart, or bent her to my will, I'd never be able to let her go?

  If I hadn't known such intensity existed, would it have been better for both of us?

  I don't pretend to have any of the answers. I never did. All I know is when she left me in Key West, I had to make a choice. The week we spent together in Key West was a sliver of a possible future, a future filled with more meaning than I'd ever had in my pathetic twenty-four years. I could change my life and go after her, into another dimension I had no experience with. I could leave my friends and my shit behind and start fresh, and become the man I wanted to be for her. A man she seemed to glimpse in my eyes, even though I still worried day after day if that man even existed.

  Now, I know he never did.

  But it's too late. I followed her to Chicago, enrolled in art school, and swore I'd be everything she wanted. For a while, it was as perfect as I imagined. Then, like I always do, I made a wrong choice and watched my future and the love of my life disappear in a cloud of smoke that choked my lungs and reminded me of my limitations.

  Yeah, did you think this was a fucking love story?

  Sorry to dissuade you, but you better go down to your local bookstore and pick some other shit up. Unless you're like me, and believe true love, the real kind, isn't nice and sweet and pure. No, it's dirty, and sinful, and messy. It's like ripping a chunk of flesh from your body and watching yourself bleed out in slow, helpless intervals until you thankfully pass out.

  No. This isn't a love story. But it's the only story I got.

  Let's hope the ending hasn't been written yet.

  Chapter One

  QUINN

  "HEY, QUINN, THEY NEED YOU IN ROOM SEVEN!"

  I nodded, my sensible loafers squeaking over the polished floor of the senior citizen home, passing the night nurse who was struggling with Mr. Pearson to swallow his meds while he screeched that they were trying to poison him and begged for someone to save him.

  I hardened my heart, though I just wanted to throw Nurse Crotchet off him and give him the lollipop I carried in my pocket for those freak-outs that my patients seemed to have. But the last time I had challenged her, she threatened to tell the supervisor I was a problem, and I didn't need any issues when graduation loomed so near.

  I took a right and swung into Mrs. Apple's room, trying not to wince at the shrieks echoing down the hallway. I'd been working at the center for a year now, and had gotten to know all the patients on a one-to-one basis. I took my job seriously, even though I was only paid minimum wage and considered a part-time basic caretaker, but if I did well, I might get a permanent position while I waited for a full-time opening at the New Beginnings Rehabilitation Clinic.

  Usually I liked the center and found both the staff and residents pleasant. Most people think of senior centers as smelling of old people and disinfectant; white hospital gowns and patients shuffling down corridors with a mad look in their eyes. Unfortunately, there were too many state nursing homes, but this residence catered to the elderly who still had their functions and were able to make sense of where and who they were.

  The cheerful yellow walls were set off with paintings and framed words of ancient wisdom, hopefully allowing the residents to think of the positive things in life rather than why their son or daughter hadn't visited them in too many weeks.

  But I pushed all these muddled thoughts from my head and stopped at Mrs. Apple's bedside. "Quinn! There you are, sweetheart. I don't want to go to bed yet. I'd like to read in my chair please, but they're giving me a hard time."

  I smiled and did my normal routine, plumping and smoothing out her pillows, and pretending to fix her blankets. "It sounds like a wonderful idea, Mrs. Apple, but remember you need some extra sleep tonight? You're having blood work super early in the morning, and they won't let you eat or drink. When you read, you always get thirsty."

  The eighty-year-old scrunched up her face in deep thought. I kept up my busy motions, knowing she craved attention at night, when the demons came by to visit. "I forgot. Didn't I have my blood work yesterday?"

  I tried not to grin, because she was damn sharp. "This is a different blood test. Oh, your nail polish is chipping off. How about I re-do them tomorrow? What color do you think you'd like?"

  She lifted her hands, heavily veined with brown spots. But her nails were squared off with pretty pink polish that sparkled under the dim light. A soft smile curved her lips. "Something different. Maybe purple?"

  I shook my head and made a tight crease in the sheets, bringing them up to her waist. "Well, my goodness, you are getting a bit wild on me. Do you want to give Mr. Foster a heart attack? He already can't keep his eyes off you."

  She cackled out a giggle. "Stop playing with me, child. Everyone knows he's having a thing with Emma."

  I raised my brow. "For real? How come no one told me?"

  "You can't keep secrets."

  I gasped. "I'm a great secret keeper!"

  Mrs. Apple surrendered to the pillow and let out a sigh. "Everyone knows you break under duress. Your heart is too kind." Her lids slid closed, an effect of the mild sedative she'd just received. "Why aren't you with your young man? He must miss you."

  I brushed the stray silver hair from her forehead. "He's waiting at home for me. Good night. Sleep tight."

  "Good night, Quinn."

  I made sure to tiptoe out and pull the door closed. Pushing past a tired sigh, I glanced at my watch. One more hour to go. After a full day of classes, and the night shift this week, I was ready to collapse. I hadn't spent any quality time with James in a few days, and I missed him. Funny, in the past months, he'd become my rock in a pit of shifting sand. I'd changed since returning last year from Key West, when our idyllic week spent in the sun, fiercely falling hard for each other, blew up