Last Man Standing

Contemporary Erotic Romance
For over a decade Jazz has carried the wounds of a   broken heart thanks to her high school sweetheart. But since she turned thirty, her heart and body have raced for her best friend. In a moment of passion and uncontrolled desire, she realizes her friendship with Ryder could be in jeopardy. Their friendship comes first, though, and she plans to ignore her body's desires.

When her ex drops back into her life, Jazz is thrilled, scared, and eager to show the man who broke her heart just what he's been missing. She's struck speechless, however, after sharing a heated moment in her office with him, Ryder throws down the gauntlet and confesses that he's always loved her. And he vows he won't let her go?
Amazon – US / Canada / UK

Copyright(c) Kacey Hammell

Jazz eyed Ryder, standing strong, tall and furious.
He never looked better.
Cut it out, Vanburren.
Dammit. Ever since she’d turned thirty two months ago, started reevaluating her life and trying to put the past where it rightfully belonged, she had started thinking of Ryder Donovan as more than just a boss and friend.
Though he’d always been powerfully masculine and sexy, she thought she’d gotten past all of that and saw him as only a pal, a buddy. But lately, just being in the same room with him anymore was painful to her sexually deprived body.
His smell, his voice, everything that he was rolled over her in waves whenever he was near and she was desperate to stifle it. He was one of her dearest and closest friends. They’d nearly lost one another once; she be damned if it would happen again.
And just when she thought her life couldn’t get any crazier or more confusing, Scott Price calls her out of the blue.
Was she suddenly on bad terms with the man upstairs? Or was it Karma that had turned her life upside down? Like a sense of déjà vu, it was like history repeating itself.
Her, Scott and Ryder.
But this time, she knew better.
She’d meet Scott for a drink; prove to herself once and for all that she was truly over him. Plus, maybe he’d see what had really been missing all these years. Who she’d become, how she’d grown into a woman.
Grow up, Jazz.
Sighing, she called herself every kind of fool. She didn’t know how she’d get through an evening with Scott. Deep inside she believed she was over him, but just hearing his voice caused her heart to pound and her palms to sweat.
Maybe seeing him again would get him out of her system once and for all. Then she’d prove to herself that she was better off without him.
But looking at her best friend, seeing how upset he was, perhaps meeting Scott wasn’t the best thing. She remembered her heartache after Scott had left town, and she knew Ryder did, too.
He’d been there for her, even after she’d broken things off with him. Was it fair to either of them to allow Scott back into her life—even if just for an evening?
But she knew she had to do this. She desperately wanted to have a man in her life, marry and have kids. In her heart, she knew she couldn’t do that with the ‘ghost’ of Scott Price and the past hanging over her head. She couldn’t move on, alone or with anyone else, until she closed this chapter of her life.
In an odd way, it was kismet.
Since Scott’s call, she had felt a rush of adrenaline that had nothing to do with emotions or the memories of his touch. Determined to move on, his call was just the chance she needed.
She only prayed that God wasn’t laughing at her, sending Scott back to her and making her fall in love with him all over again. But, if it was meant to be, then it was. However, she’d lost faith and trust in Scott years ago. She wasn’t about to place them, or her heart, in his hands again…skilled or otherwise.
Moving closer to Ryder, she took his hands in hers. Ignoring the spark of heat that flew up her arms, she could feel the rigid tension throughout his body. Even his fingers were stiff.
“Ryder.” Jazz grinned, hoping to bring back his gorgeous smile. She needed him in her corner more than ever. “It’s only drinks. I promise everything will be fine.”
His hands squeezed her, almost painfully so, as he stared down at her. She’d never seen him look so angry, so far away from her before, and it scared her. She didn’t want to lose him, no matter what.
“Jazz.” He stopped and looked over her shoulder, as if collecting his thoughts. “Jazz, I know you want to believe you’re over him. But this is me. I remember how much you loved the bast--guy, and what it was like after he was gone. I don’t want you to have to go through that again.”
Jazz let go of his hands and stepped back. “You don’t think I can resist him? I’m not the same schoolgirl I was then, admiring the jock with moon eyes. Give me a little credit.”
Turning her back on Ryder, she moved to her office window, looking out into Central Park. She loved New York in the fall. The leaves changing color and cooler days. Today, she didn’t feel the same sense of calm and appreciation she normally felt.
Knowing Ryder thought she was a fool cut her like a knife. She'd thought if anyone would understand, he would.
“Jazz, honey, I know you’ve changed. You’re stronger, smarter and more determined. You know what you want and go after it. But, baby, are you sure this is what you want to do? After all these years…to face that again?”
With Ryder’s hands on her shoulders, she felt herself begin to relax. Hearing the concern in his voice weakened her anger and the hurt. He was looking out for her, as always.
He’d never look at her as anything other than his pal, no matter how much she wished differently.
Jazz breathed deeply, trying to rid her mind of that thought. Friendship was more important than physical attraction.
“In some ways I have to face it, Ryder. In order to move on with my life fully, I have to say goodbye to the past.”
“What do you mean? Move on how?”
Jazz turned to face Ryder, her back against the window, his hands still on her shoulders. Being this close to him…
Don’t go there, Vanburren.
“I mean to move on as in get involved with someone else. Someone I could marry someday.”
If things were different, if they hadn’t been talking about her life, Jazz would have found Ryder’s expression funny. Slack jaw and eyes wide as if she’d grown two heads, Ryder looked perplexed.
She hadn’t told him about what she’d been feeling lately. Definitely not about her body’s reaction to him, wanting to find Mr. Right, or wanting to settle down. Though they were best friends, there were some things that perhaps even they couldn’t talk about.
“You mean you…” Ryder stopped, his arms falling to his sides. “You want to get married?”
Why those words coming from Ryder’s mouth made Jazz’s heart skip a dozen beats in a millisecond she wasn’t going to try to decipher at the moment. She had to leave it alone. She wouldn’t risk losing him.
“Yes. Someday I’d like to find Mr. Right and get married. I’m not getting any younger and I can’t keep shying away from guys after a couple dates.”
“This has something to do with your turning thirty, right? Your kid clock ticking and all that? Jesus, Jazz, that’s just women psyche stuff. You can’t decide to marry the first guy that comes along.”
Jazz frowned, watching Ryder pacing her office. His six-foot height and two-hundred-twenty pound muscular frame always seemed large to her five-foot-four, one-hundred-twenty-five pound size, but the space seemed smaller than ever as he paced.
Lost in her own thoughts, she watched his ass each time it crossed her line of vision. Encumbered in grey dress slacks, the fabric cupping the round globes like a glove, Jazz couldn’t help but appreciate the sight. Licking her lips, she wondered what they’d feel like. No doubt firm and soft. If only she could…
“Jazz? Jazz?”
“Hmm? What?” Jazz looked up at Ryder, shaking herself from her meanderings.
God, he’s gorgeous.
“What are you thinking about, Jazz? You have this dreamy look on your face.”
Feeling her face redden, Jazz stood taller, thankful for the cool pane of glass at her back as her body heated.
“Nothing, just daydreaming. And my kid clock, as you put it, is ticking. I admit it. I’ve thought a lot about the future lately and kids are a part of that.”
“You aren’t thinking…” Ryder stopped and turned his back on her.
“I’m not thinking what, Ryder? What were you going to ask?”
“Are you meeting Price in hopes of a future with him?”
Jazz barely heard the question with his back to her. At one time she would have given anything to have a future with Scott Price and believed those days were over. But she wanted to prove it to herself.
“Is it my intent to meet Scott and fall for him all over again? No.” Ryder turned back to her, his gaze penetrating, looking for the truth. She could do no less than give it to him one hundred percent. “But there’s still so much unresolved for me. I never thought I’d get past the broken heart I was left with. I did pull myself together and carried on, but part of me still wonders why.”
“Why what?” Ryder asked.
Jazz swallowed, her throat dry, a wave of embarrassment washing over her. It was hard for her to admit even to herself that her self-esteem had taken beating years ago. And it made her wonder if there was something about her that Scott hadn’t liked or wanted.
“I have to know why Scott never felt more than friendship, or occasionally more than that, years ago.” Jazz looked at Ryder, seeing his confusion, she tried to make it crystal clear. “I have to know why he didn’t want me. What was wrong with me that he didn’t want me?”
Ryder moved so fast, Jazz wasn't aware of it until she felt his hands holding her arms tightly. Looking up into his face, she was surprised to see so much anger in his eyes. “Ryder—”
“Shut up. Dammit.” Ryder closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Baby, you can’t really believe that it was you that he didn’t want. He was a selfish, arrogant bastard who never thought of anyone but himself. It wasn’t you.”
“Ryder, I know you—”
“No. I’m not done. You’re everything a man could want in his woman. Strong, fun, passionate, beautiful and caring. He was a fool.”
Her head was spinning. The look in Ryder’s eyes, his nearness, was a system overload. She believed every word he said. Said with such conviction and honesty, she felt herself slipping, wanting to fall into his arms and have him show her, in the way only their bodies could, that he believed everything he said.
“Jazz.” Cupping her face in his hands, Ryder rasped, “He never knew what he really had. Letting you go was probably the stupidest thing that idiot has ever done.”
“I almost believe you.” Smiling softly, Jazz ran her fingers down his left cheek. As the day was coming to an end, she felt stubble growing, its texture and roughness tickling her fingers. “You’re good for the ego, Ryder.”
Pushing his hands into her hair, cupping the back of her neck, Ryder leaned closer. Jazz could feel his breath on her lips. They were so close, if she stuck her tongue out she’d be licking his lips.
Not a bad idea, she thought, her breath hitching.
Staring into his eyes, a sea of deep blue, darkening with desire, Jazz felt as if the floor was shaking. No man had ever looked at her like that before. Even when she and Ryder had been lovers years ago, he’d never looked at her with such unadulterated lust and passion.
She could drown in it. She wanted nothing better than to let herself be taken by him. There would be no going back if she did. She wasn’t sure she could live with that.
But before she could back away, Ryder took the decision out of her hands, his voice pulling her from her thoughts.
“I have to taste you, Jazz. I need to feel your mouth under mine. It’s all I’ve dreamed about for longer than I can remember.”
His head dipped, taking her mouth with his, his tongue plundering her mouth before she had a chance to draw her next breath.
Shivers rushed through her body. Jazz’s eyes closed and she gave herself up to him. What she’d been dreaming about for weeks didn’t even come close to the reality of his body against hers and his mouth feeding on hers.
Even her memories didn’t come close to the overpowering and immense feelings coursing through her at this moment.
Her body felt alive. Wrapping her arms around Ryder’s neck, she gave back. Their tongues tangled and battled. Licking and nibbling one another’s mouth, angling their heads from side-to-side, the building could have caught fire and neither would have noticed.
Her hands ran down his back, her fingers digging in, bringing him closer. Pressed solidly against the window, Ryder’s body against her front, Jazz was burning alive. Images of tearing his clothes off, pushing him to the floor, licking and biting each and every inch of him flew through her mind.
Determined to do just that, Jazz was surprised to hear ringing. The only things that should have been ringing in her fantasy were their ears after they’d both found release. But they hadn’t gotten that far yet.
What was that ringing?
“Jazz,” Ryder pulled back, but still dropped tiny kisses on her lips as if he couldn’t let her go. “The damned phone. We have to…damn, you taste so good….”
Ryder’s body left hers and Jazz looked into his eyes. Heat and desire burned, his body tight, he looked ready to pounce at any moment.