Always My Girl (The Shaughnessy Brothers #3)
by Samantha Chase
Coming July 5, 2016
Sometimes the love that’s closest to you is the hardest to see.
Quinn Shaughnessy’s two older brothers have found their true loves … but Quinn’s not about to join that parade. Nope, as he tells his best friend Anna, there’s a lot more to life than getting tied down to one person. He’s positive tomboy Anna will be on his side — except she’s inexplicably developing other interests — even dating! Suddenly Quinn is seeing Anna in a very different light.
Quinn has been Anna’s buddy since they were both five years old. She can tell him anything — except the one big secret she’s been hiding for years — that she’s fallen in love with him. Now Anna is determined to make a life for herself that doesn’t include pining for Quinn. Falling in love with your best friend? Easy. Telling them how you really feel? Impossible.
It normally took a lot to throw Quinn, but today he had hit his limit. As much as he wanted to keep blaming it on his father and Martha, the fact was that Anna and her curves were wreaking far more havoc on him than anything else.
Just thinking about it made him feel like a colossal jerk. If he’d caught any other guy ogling her the way he’d been that day, he would have kicked his ass. If he thought about it, he kind of had done it a time or two if memory served. Great, now he was going to have to beat himself up over his own thoughts.
“Quinn? You coming?” Anna called from the doorway.
Shit. With the light from the house shining behind her, he could practically see through the white T-shirt she was wearing. Was she trying to kill him? She probably would if she knew he was checking her out.
It didn’t matter what Riley had said earlier. She couldn’t think of him as anything more. And really, he couldn’t think of her as more either.
Or could he?
Anna called his name again and snapped him out of his wayward thoughts, and Quinn knew he’d have to keep his eyes above her shoulders if he was going to survive watching a movie with her. Like a man walking to his execution, he made his way into the house, locking the sliding doors behind him and shutting off the outside lights.
“Oh no,” Anna muttered from the living room.
“This has got to be the smallest television in the house and you were right about the bed.”
He almost swallowed his own tongue. “Bed?” he croaked.
“Well, yeah. You’ve got it opened up, so I just figured we were going to sit on it to watch the TV, but it really is uncomfortable.” She stopped and chewed on her full bottom lip for a minute. “Maybe I can find an extra blanket or two to pad it with.” And before he could stop her and say maybe they should just skip the movie, she was on the move and out of sight.
“Damn it,” he mumbled. He had completely forgotten about the open bed. It was one thing to sit on the couch and watch a movie; it was another to be on the bed. Looking around, Quinn made a snap decision and quickly folded up the bed and put the sofa back together.
“Hey,” Anna said, confusion written all over her face, an extra blanket in her hands as she looked at the now-closed sofa. “Why’d you close it up? I just went to get stuff to make it more comfortable.”
Heat crept up his cheeks. “Oh, um…well, I don’t think there’s enough extra blankets to make this thing even remotely comfortable. At least this way we can sit with the cushions and have real padding.”
“Oh. Okay.” She looked at the sofa and then at the blanket in her hands. “I’ll just leave this out here for you to use later, I guess.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Damn. When were things ever this awkward? Oh, that’s right. A lot. Especially lately.
They’d missed the first thirty minutes of the movie but it didn’t matter; they’d seen it several times already. Quinn did his best to focus on the film, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw Anna slowly slouching down. Her legs—those gloriously bare, silky looking legs—were curled on the couch, her feet almost touching his thighs. He had to fight the urge to reach out and touch her.
“You don’t have to stay up, Anna,” he said softly.
With her head resting on the armrest, she kept her eyes on the TV. “It’s okay. I’m good.”
But Quinn knew her. Anna liked to have her head on a pillow. She was a bit fanatical about feeling comfortable, really. Reaching over to the chair beside him, he grabbed a throw pillow and put it on his lap before reaching for her hand.
“What? What’s the matter?” she asked, raising her head.
“Come on. I know you’re not comfortable.” With a little tug, he had her sitting up. Why he didn’t just give her the pillow, he couldn’t say for certain. It would have been easier—on him at least—if she kept her distance, but right now it was the last thing he wanted.
“It’s not a big deal,” she protested and then yawned. “I can just…”
He didn’t let her finish. He tugged again until she was leaning against him. “Just…you know…get comfortable. We’re missing the movie,” he added lamely.
Anna’s look was hesitant, but she finally shifted and lay down—stretching out beside him with her head on the pillow in his lap. One hand rested on his knee. It felt…right, Quinn thought to himself. Forcing himself to go back to watching the movie, it wasn’t until sometime later that he realized Anna was asleep and he was gently playing with her hair.
“I’m totally losing it,” he muttered but didn’t pull his hand away. The movie was almost over, and once it ended, he’d wake her up. But for now he was going to enjoy how soft her hair was. She was growing it longer—something she hadn’t done in a long time. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but for right now he liked it.
Fifteen minutes later, the movie was over. It was after two in the morning, and he finally felt like he could sleep. His hand drifted from Anna’s hair to her shoulder. It felt small under his palm. He gave her a gentle shake. “Anna?” he whispered.
“Mmm,” she hummed.
“The movie’s over,” he said softly. “Come on. You need to go up to bed.”
She snuggled up closer, her hand on his knee gently squeezing. “Too comfortable.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. It never occurred to him how by making her comfortable, he wouldn’t be able to wake her up. Shifting slightly, he maneuvered himself until he could stand up. Anna didn’t stir. The first order of business was to stretch. He had been sitting for so long he felt a little stiff and achy. Gazing down at Anna, Quinn forced himself to really look at her.
Her dark blond hair was getting longer and he realized now he preferred it short. The sun had given her skin a golden glow today, and she had a band of freckles across her nose. He knew her face as well as his own. He couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been there with him, for him. Just the thought of her not being his friend caused a tightening in his chest he’d never felt. He’d never had to consider it before.
She was the one constant in his life. Sure, he had his brothers and Darcy, but it was different with Anna. They had simply clicked as kids, and she was the only person he felt truly comfortable around. She didn’t judge him—at least not that he was aware of. If she did, she kept it to herself.
Unlike his siblings.
In all honesty, she was his safe spot. His home.
And it killed him how even looking at her now had him thinking about sex rather than getting the comfort he normally did. “Okay, that’s enough,” he mumbled and leaned forward to gently shake Anna again. She still didn’t stir, so Quinn cursed and then reached for her to pick her up.
Bad idea, he immediately thought. Now he could feel the silky skin of her legs and as the T-shirt rode up her body, he saw her plain white cotton panties. And damn it if they didn’t look sexy as hell, too. Images of Anna in her bikini immediately came to mind and Quinn knew he was going to have to practically sprint to the bedroom and drop her on her bed and run if he was going to survive.
And that’s pretty much what he did. Walking quickly up the stairs to Anna’s bedroom, he simply deposited her on the bed and pulled the blankets over her before he walked from the room, quietly closing the door behind him.
And then breathed a sigh of relief.
It was going to be a long weekend.
Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Since then, she has published seventeen more titles and has become a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She lives with her husband of twenty-four years and their two sons in Wake Forest, North Carolina.