“Grip is my ultimate…If I was forced, gun-to-the head, to make one book boyfriend real to be mine, it would be him. No questions asked.”
— Adriana Locke, USA Today Bestselling Author
STILL, the sexy,emotional final installment of the GRIP series,
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I’ll be there.
Through thick and thin.
Ride or die.
You can count on me.
The promises people make. The vows we take.
Assumptions of the heart.
Emotion tells us how we feel, but life…life has a way of plunging us in boiling water, burning away our illusions, testing our faith, trying our convictions.
Love floating is a butterfly, but love tested is an anchor.
For Grip and Bristol,
Love started at the top of the world
On a Ferris wheel under the stars
But when that love is tested, will they fly or fall?
“Mmmmm, that looks good.”
The comment grabs my attention, and I find myself smiling for the first time since I left Bristol. As she walks toward me, the approaching sunset paints the roof in shadows, but I see her clearly. Dark hair, burnished in places, falls around her shoulders. She has already discarded the dress she wore at lunch today in favor of a T-shirt and nothing else; it’s the one I just tossed into the hamper.
She tugs at my HABITUAL LINE STEPPER T-shirt, the hem landing at the top of her thighs. Where the T-shirt stops, my eyes keep going, past the lean muscles of her legs and the cut of her calves, the delicate bones of her ankles and to her bare feet. I love this girl, head to toe. Beyond this gorgeous packaging, it’s everything beneath that makes me beyond grateful she’s mine. The loyalty, the bottomless pit that is her heart, her sense of humor. The toughest girl I know is also the most tender, and I’m so honored I get to see both sides, all her sides.
“You out of clean clothes?” I nod to my T-shirt. “You gotta wear my dirty stuff now?”
An impish smile tugs at her bare lips. She’s washed away her makeup, and with it, all the sophistication she wraps around herself for her job. Up on this roof in my T-shirt, she’s just my girl. I love her in every iteration, but this is the one only I get to see, so it’s probably my favorite.
“I have clean clothes.” She steps close enough for me to smell her scent and mine mingling in the fabric. “I like the way this shirt smells.”
I drop a look over her, my eyes resting on the curves of her breasts in the soft cotton, where her nipples have gone taut under my stare.
“How does the shirt smell?” I ask, my voice as smoky as the steaks I should be paying attention to.
“Like you.” She leans forward until her breasts press into my chest. “It smells like you.”
My hands are twitching to touch her, and I finally surrender, slipping under the shirt to grasp her waist, pulling her up the few inches until our lips meet. I’ve been thinking about these steaks all day, and before Bristol arrived, I thought I was starving—but this, what I feel having her in my arms after hours apart, this is starving. It starts in my balls and tunnels up through my chest, infiltrates my heart, and presses its way to my mouth, which is open and devouring in a lips-searching, tongues-dueling kiss. I grip her by the ass, grinding our bodies together until the texture of her skin and mine, the scents of her skin and mine meld into this one panting, voracious thing that never seems to get enough.
“You better not burn my steak,” Bristol pants in between kisses.
I angle my head to send my tongue deeper into her mouth, holding her still, teasing her until she’s straining up, open and begging when I pull back.
“Grip.” My name is a whimpering complaint. She cups my neck and tugs my head back down.
“Oh, no.” I resist, laugh, and turn to the grill. “You were so concerned about me burning these steaks, Ms. Medium Rare.”
“I am.” She slides her arms around me from behind and I feel a sweet sting, her teeth gently biting my shoulder through my T-shirt. I love it when she bites me, but I’m not giving her that satisfaction yet. “But that doesn’t mean you get to stop kissing me. You have to multitask.”
One slim hand slides over my abs and past my belt to cup me through my jeans.
Damn. Not sure how long I can keep up this charade that I don’t want to screw her into the wall on the roof where anyone with half a telescope could see.
“Wow,” I say, keeping my tone unaffected, though she’s gotta feel me getting longer and harder in her hand. “Somebody’s horny as hell.”
She makes a sound that’s half outraged laughter, half indignant grunt before stepping around to stand in front of me by the grill.
“I will not be slut-shamed by my own boyfriend.” Amusement lights her eyes, turning them to quicksilver.
“Shamed?” I put down the grilling fork I’m using for the steaks and reach for her again. “No shame in being horny for me, baby. I wanna give you a gold star.”
Her eyes slide down to the erection poking her in the stomach. “Is that what we’re calling it now? Should we name it?”
“Guys who have to name their dicks probably aren’t using ’em right.”
“So I ask again . . . should we name it?”
I cock a brow and press our hips together.
“Are you implying that I don’t know how to use mine? Because that’s not the impression I got this morning when you came so hard you were singing like a bird.”
She tilts her head, her eyes wide and considering. “Did you say like a bird?” A small smile plays around her lips. “What made you say that?”
“I don’t know.” I give a careless shrug. “Why?”
“It’s silly,” she says, rolling her eyes in self-derision. “I was thinking today when I laughed it sounded like . . .”
Bristol blushes about once every Halley’s Comet, so the color washing across her cheeks makes me wonder.
“What?” I probe. “Your laugh sounded like what?”
“Like a happy bird,” she mumbles, peering up at me like I’m going to laugh in her face.
Which I do.
“Stop laughing at me.” She narrows her eyes in mock warning.
“Right.” I dip my head to catch her eyes and tease her. “Because when you tell me you laugh like a happy bird I’m just supposed let you get away with that.”
“I’m not telling you things anymore.” She narrows her eyes and folds her arms over her chest.
“Yeah, right. I’m your best friend.” I pull her back into me. “You’ll tell me everything like you always do.”
“You are, you know.” Her voice softens. “My best friend, I mean.”
When she looks at me like this, her eyes stripped of every defense, no guard in sight, completely honest and open and vulnerable, I feel slightly invincible. It’s a trick of the heart, I know, but I can’t help but think that as long as she looks at me like this, there isn’t anything I couldn’t survive, that our love is the stuff of legends, rolled in Teflon, disaster-proof. I’m as fanciful as Bristol, my laughing bird.
“You’re mine, too,” I echo her sentiment. “My best friend.”
“I won’t tell Rhyson,” she promises with a grin.
“I’m pretty sure he spits the same line to Kai.” I keep a straight face. “We have to say that shit to get laid.”
“I hate you.”
“Orrrrrrrrr do you love me and want to blow me after dinner?” I shrug and lift my hands, my palms up. “Just saying. Listen to your heart, Bristol. Listen to your heart.”
“I’m listening to my belly right now, smartass, and it’s growling. Feed me.”
“Like my mama used to say, ain’t no freeloaders in this house. What’ll you give me for feeding you?”
“Um . . .”
“I do have a suggestion, if you’re searching.”
“Let me guess—you have a ‘Will fuck for food’ sign up here somewhere?”
“I used bubble letters.” I laugh and give her ass a light smack. “You can barter that booty.”
It’s so damn easy with Bristol—our banter, the chemistry, the perfect rhythm of our conversation. It was one of the first things I noticed when we met all those years ago. We didn’t read each other’s minds or finish each other’s sentences. It wasn’t cosmic, but it was a connection that seized me by the brain and grabbed me by the balls. She was as smart as she was sexy, as curious as she was forthcoming. There were years in between when we made things complicated, when things were strained, but now with our hearts settled on each other for good, it’s simple.
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Kennedy Ryan is a Southern girl gone Southern California. A Top 100 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy writes romance about remarkable women who find a way to thrive even in tough times, the love they find, and the men who cherish them.
She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Georgia families living with Autism, Kennedy has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other outlets as a voice for families living with autism.
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