Home > Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(10)

Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(10)
Author: J. Kenner

“Me, too,” I agree. But I can’t quell the little part of me that wishes I knew for certain.

When Damien steps out onto the patio to tell me that the kitchen is tidy and Jackson has gone to bed, I leave Ollie to his communing with the stars and follow my husband back to our bedroom.

“I love you,” Damien whispers as I spoon next to him, naked and sleepy. “Wholly and completely.”

His words are raw and real, but I also hear the undertone of a question. He knows there’s something on my mind. How can he not, this man who knows me so well?

He’s probably waiting for me to explain, but I can’t. Not tonight with Christmas about to dawn, when I’m sleepy from schnapps and melancholy from the deed and my conversation with Ollie.

So instead, I just reply with the most basic truth of all. “I know,” I say. “Your love is like the air I breathe. It’s vital. It keeps me alive.” I roll over to face him, then gently kiss him. “I love you, too.”

He holds me close, and I do feel safe. I do feel warmed.

And, yes, I do feel loved.

But even so, I am not entirely soothed. Not even by Damien’s arms tight around me. Because I can’t escape the fear that as far as my business is concerned, it is Mrs. Damien Stark who has succeeded, and not Nikki. Not the girl underneath.

That’s not a feeling I like.

And as sleep settles over me, I think of Jimmy Stewart. But I don’t wonder what the world would be like if I were never born. Instead, I wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t met Damien when I did…

Chapter 4

I wake to the feel of a man’s body pressed against mine, warm and comforting. My eyes flutter open, and I reach over and grab my smartphone off the battered bedside table that is littered with a half-dozen trade magazines focusing on web applications and smartphone apps.

I glance at the screen—two a.m. on December 24—and I frown, because something about that’s not right.

“Hey. You okay?”

The voice is gentle and masculine and familiar, and I roll over to find myself looking into Ollie’s sleepy eyes.


I sit up, suddenly confused. “What are you doing here?” But even as I ask the question I realize that here isn’t right, either. This is my room in Jamie’s condo. There’s my desk and my laptop. My dresser that needs refinishing. My favorite math geek T-shirt tossed negligently over the back of my desk chair. My room. My things. But I’m not supposed to be here.

Where? Where am I supposed to be?

“You look confused. Weird dream?”


He tugs me back down. “Don’t tell me you’re regretting it. Because I’m sure as hell not.”

Regretting what?

“I—no.” The words come automatically, as if they fit, and it all starts to fall into place.

I remember a night drinking with Jamie and Ollie as we commiserate about Courtney leaving him, this time for good. Or at least so she says.

And then Jamie heading off to bed. And then Ollie kissing me, so sweetly after so many years of just being friends. And then…

And then…?

My head is so damn foggy. “I’m just groggy. I feel so weird.”

“Too many drinks and too little sleep.” He kisses my nose. “But it was worth the sleep deprivation, wasn’t it? And we can sleep in now. Come on, Nik. Four more hours until we need to get up, and I need my beauty sleep even if you don’t.”

“Right. Sorry.” I blink, trying to recall the strange dream I was having. A dream with a big house and a Christmas tree and a man who held me close and kept me safe. A man who wasn’t Ollie.

Then who?

I reach out in my mind, trying to find him again. But it’s gone, lost upon waking like so many dreams.

And so I succumb to Ollie’s demands. I curl up against him and let his steady breathing and the warmth of his palm against my bare skin guide me back into sleep. And, maybe, back into the wonderful dream that now feels lost to me forever…

Chapter 5

The morning sun is streaming in through my bedroom window, and I prop myself up on an elbow and watch as Ollie straightens his tie in the mirror that hangs on my closet door. For a moment, he is focused only on pulling his tie snug, but then he must realize that I’m looking at him, because he meets my eyes in the mirror and grins. “Hey there, beautiful.”

Ridiculously, I feel my cheeks warm. “Hey, yourself.”

He turns and leans against the door, his focus on me never wavering. “We’re good, right? I mean, last night wasn’t a mistake?”

“Of course not,” I say automatically, even though I vaguely remember waking in the middle of the night, groggy from some dream I can’t remember now, and unsure about pretty much everything. But that had been a dream, whereas the man in front of me is real. He’s my best friend, and he has been for years.

The truth is, I hadn’t expected that we’d end up in bed after drinking too many homemade margaritas while watching movies and commiserating over his latest breakup with Courtney, his on-again, off-again girlfriend. But we did, and I can’t deny that it feels comfortable. Easy, even. After all, Ollie knows about my demons, about my scars. And considering the shit I’ve been through with men, I know that has to be a good thing.

He’s hinted around that we should get together before, but I’d always deflected, scared that something physical between us would screw up the friendship. But last night the power of tequila overcame the fear, and maybe that was a good thing. Maybe me and Ollie were inevitable.

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