Josh Carter knows what he wants and that’s Anne Norris, Anne with her flyaway blonde hair and pale blue eyes that make him think of angels. Anne with her intense intelligence that has landed her in a top-ranked master’s degree program where she can prove her theories and help save the world from the plague of carbon infection. But he’s not good enough for her and he knows it. He’ll make do with what he can get, serving her sexual needs and providing support as best he can. It’s all he deserves.
Anne can’t wait to start her studies at UCSC, the golden opportunity of a lifetime. But once she arrives, the program can’t seem to get off the ground. The more she pushes, the firmer the resistance. Josh Carter, well, he’s a great companion and he’s there for her when she needs him, but her work demands her full attention. Too much is at stake for her to listen to his precautions – until it’s too late and she finds herself in more trouble than she had ever imagined.
Her gaze shifted away from him and she frowned. He turned to look through the doorway into the other room. Anne was standing by the table with Etheridge leaning over her shoulder, brushing her hair back and whispering.
“He’s such a jerk,” Tess said.
Josh hardly heard her. Without consciously deciding to move, he found himself striding across the room. He reached Etheridge and grabbed his arm, whirling him away from Anne.
“I’ll have a word with you,” he growled, holding his face close to Etheridge, so close he could smell his overpowering cologne and the fumes of whiskey. “Now.”
“What the… Who the fuck are you?”
The man’s speech slurred as he jerked his arm away from Josh.
“I’m someone you desperately need to talk to,” Josh said between clenched teeth. “Otherwise you’re going to have a terrible accident.”
He took a tighter grip on Etheridge’s arm, steadily propelling him toward the door onto the now deserted deck. Other than a brief stumble over the threshold, Etheridge moved along as Josh pushed him.
“How do you know?”
“How do I know you’re going to have an accident?” Josh shoved him into the shadows by the railing. “Because I’m going to cause it. I’m going to punch your ugly face and make your nose bleed then I’m going to slam you against the wall and pound your gut until you lose your dinner.” Josh glanced around to make sure no one could hear him. “Then – I don’t know, I might lose control of myself and actually kill you with my bare hands.”
The man’s face had lost color and his eyes bugged wide. “Are you insane? Who the hell are you? If you touch me…” He looked down and ripped his arm away from Josh. “How did you get in here? Do you know who I am? I’ll call the police.”
“I’ll tell you who I am and you better not forget it. Next time I see you touching Anne, even get close enough to breathe on her, I won’t give you any warning.”
Etheridge narrowed his eyes. He huffed. “Anne’s big bad boyfriend, huh.” He looked Josh up and down and waved his hand as if shooing a fly. “You’re not good enough for her.”
Josh seized Etheridge’s flailing hand and squeezed until he felt tendons pop. “I’m a thousand times better than you. Don’t forget. I’ll be watching.”
“Josh?” Anne’s tentative voice penetrated his fury.
Was he making a scene? Hell yes. “Yeah?”
“Hey, there you are.” Anne stood in the doorway, her cheeks flushed. “I lost you.”
“Your Dr. Etheridge and I have been chatting about boundaries.”
“Really?” Anne released a short nervous laugh as she hugged up next to Josh. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to ignore you with that gabfest out there.”
“No problem.” He put his arm around Anne and hugged her close. He tried not to react as Etheridge sidled away and careened back inside.
“What was that?”
“Just a little chat.”
“He’s drunk,” Anne said. “But yeah, he’s a creep. What did you say?”
“Just guy talk. I told him if he touched you again, I’d kill him.”
She inhaled sharply, a shocked look on her face. But then she cut her eyes, smiling at him then looking at Tess who had also appeared in the doorway. “Great guy,” she enthused.
“I see that,” Tess replied dryly.
He cleared his throat as his cheeks heated. “Okay, enough.”
The three of them ambled back into the main room where the intense discussions had broken up into several small clusters of conversation scattered around the room. Etheridge was nowhere to be seen. Josh thought he might have found it necessary to visit the toilet to scrape out his underwear. He took some pleasure in that idea.
Anne pressed her body against him. “Hungry for you,” she whispered.
He grinned and grabbed her arm. “I’m past ready.”