Falling for Finn
When you’ve been burned, the heat of the moment is the scariest place to be.
Six months after a sexual assault, Anna Jameson has decided enough is enough. She’s sick of being a victim, of letting the experience have power over her. She wants her fear of physical intimacy gone, as in now.
In the quest to reclaim her sexuality, she needs a man. A man she trusts absolutely. A man like her best friend, Finn.
Finn Shaw is all about taking risks. He does it every week on his extreme sports TV show. But there’s one boundary he’s never pushed, and that’s his friendship with Anna. When his hyper-intellectual family kicked him to the curb over his dyslexia, Anna stuck by him.
Her request to become friends with benefits throws him for a loop. He can’t deny her anything, but this is a whole different ball game. Once they’re skin to skin, there will be no hiding the fact that he’s loved her for years.
When their chemistry burns out of control, Finn decides he’s the one who’s had enough. It’s time to break out of the friend box—and show Anna that risking her heart is a risk well worth taking. Even if it costs him her friendship.
Warning: This book contains a strong-willed heroine who knows what she wants, a daredevil hero intent on showing her how much more she could have, sexy love scenes that’ll melt your heart, and a grand gesture you’ll need a tissue for.
“Jesus Christ. Anna. What are you doing here?”
Okay. So it was official. Finn was not pleased to see her.
Anna gripped the strap of her backpack tightly. Well, she’d always known this would be difficult. She hadn’t been the world’s greatest friend for the past six months, and he was probably pissed off about it.
Actually it looked like he’d bypassed pissed off and gone straight to furious.
“Hey, Finn.” She hoped the friendly smile on her face would be enough of a white flag. “Long time no see, huh?”
He leaned casually against the doorframe, arms crossed. The shocked look on his face had faded, to be replaced by an expression she’d never seen before. At least one that had never been turned in her direction before. Hostility.
“Yeah,” he said on a long breath, no softening in his dark eyes as he looked her up and down. “You could say that.”
Anna resisted the urge to shift nervously on her feet. She couldn’t blame him for being angry with her. She really couldn’t. She’d been the one who’d gone into hiding. Who’d cut everyone off. Who’d avoided everyone. Avoided everything until she couldn’t avoid it anymore.
And that wasn’t Finn’s fault, was it? Oh no, that was all hers.
An awkward silence fell, and she realized she was waiting to be invited in, though it didn’t look he was going to be producing a gilt-edged invite anytime soon.
Oh hell. She’d really stuffed up then. Because no matter how much they’d argued, no matter what problems they’d had in their friendship, Finn had always been there. Had never shut her out.
Until, apparently, today.
“Soooo…” She kept the smile firmly in place. “Shall I stay here in the hallway or are you going to ask me in?”
“Any particular reason why I should?”
“Because I’m your oldest friend?”
Something flickered in his eyes. “Oh, you mean the friend I haven’t heard from for six months?” The sarcasm in his voice cut like a sword. “The friend who ignored all the messages I left on her phone? The friend who wouldn’t even open her goddamned door?” His voice had risen, the deep, velvety tones of it gone rough with anger. “Is that the friend you’re talking about?”
She swallowed, remembering the sound of Finn hammering on the door. She’d been there, hiding out, putting the ear buds of her iPod in her ears and turning her music up loud. The first couple of times it had been too soon after the assault. She’d been neck-deep in shame and anger, and the thought of talking to anyone—even the man who’d known her since she was five years old—was too much. And afterwards…she just hadn’t been able to face the explanations.
Well, yeah. Usually. But not today.
“There were reasons, Finn.”
His mouth, sharply cut and sensual, was set in a grim line. “Were there? And what were they exactly?”
Wait. Sensual? His mouth was sensual? What on earth are you thinking, girl? Anna pulled her thoughts back, almost shaking her head. Obviously something about the decision she’d made before she got here messed with her head. She lifted her chin. “I don’t want to explain in the hallway.”
A terrible silence fell between them.
The austere, beautiful lines of his face were hard, his brown eyes hostile.
He didn’t move. Just stood there, stern as St. Peter before the Pearly Gates, measuring her as if she were a sinner looking for absolution.
Crap. He was going to make her work for it. A small curl of anger swept through her. Because he had no idea. No idea in the slightest what she’d been through. The hell the last six months had been. But she’d worked her way out. Yeah, she had. Here she was, still standing. Broken but unbowed.
And one thing was for sure. She wasn’t going to beg.
Anna lifted one shoulder, trying for casual. Swallowing the bitter disappointment and the hurt she knew she had no right to feel. “Okay. Have it your way.” And she turned to go.
“What makes you think I’m even interested?”
Of course. She should have remembered. He always came out fighting when he was hurt. But he also always apologized afterwards. Finn never had any problems with admitting he was wrong. But when he thought he was right, he was stubborn as hell.
Turning back, she met his dark eyes. “Please, Finn.” She took a breath. Held his gaze. “I need your help.”
She wanted his help? Surely she had to be kidding? Six months ago he would have moved the earth and everyone in it to help her. But now?
Now he wanted to tell her what she could do with her request.
Get a grip, Shaw. Stop acting like a hurt child.
Crap. So he was. But then Anna Jameson had always had the power to hurt him like no one else in the world.
Shifting against the doorframe, Finn stared at her, fighting his anger. “What do you want?”
His first reaction when he’d opened the door had been one of sheer, gut-wrenching relief. Which had then morphed into a volcanic fury he couldn’t remember ever having felt before. Certainly not directed at her. He’d known Anna for twenty years, and though she’d made him madder than hell on more than one occasion, he’d never felt like he wanted to punch a wall or anything.
His third reaction was to notice that she’d cut her hair and he didn’t like it.
Her green eyes, so vivid in her pale face, had a wary look to them. A look he’d never had turned on him. “Like I said, I’m not doing this in the hallway.”
Finn pushed himself away from the door and stood aside, gesturing at her to come in. He’d always been going to. No matter how angry he was with her, he’d never turn her away.
Besides, if he wanted an explanation, he’d have to let her in.
A look of naked relief passed over her face. “Thanks,” she murmured and brushed past him.
Kicking the door shut, Finn watched her as she walked into the huge open space of his warehouse apartment. There was no hallway. The front door opened directly into the apartment. Afternoon sun fell through vast windows, the air full of Auckland’s humid February heat.
Anna dropped the backpack she carried onto the old leather couch he’d once picked up from a roadside rubbish collection. Anna had helped. He still remembered trying to fit the damn thing on the roof of her old Volkswagen Beetle. It had been a miracle it had stayed on for the journey back to his house.
“Beer?” he asked shortly, moving over to the galley kitchen situated along one wall of the apartment.
“Yeah, that would be great.”
He opened the fridge, hooked out a couple of bottles, snapped off the tops and walked back over to the couch. She’d already sat down, perching right on the edge of it, her feet firmly on the ground.
Not like Anna. Normally she curled up like a cat, kicking her shoes off and tucking her feet under her.
He frowned. “Here.”
She didn’t meet his gaze as she took the bottle from him. Another puzzle.
Shit. He didn’t have much patience for puzzles.
Normally he would have sat down beside her, but something about her warned him off. A tension to her shoulders. A certain stiffness about the way she was sitting.
Finn backed away, sprawling instead in the old velvet armchair opposite her, an Anna gift from years ago.
“So,” he said, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen. “Do I get an explanation or what?”
Anna said nothing for a moment, lifting the bottle to her lips and taking a sip. Her hair slipped forward, glossy dark brown, the feathered ends of it touching her jawline. Nope, he definitely didn’t like the cut. She’d always had long hair, down to her waist.
“You cut your hair.” The words were out before he could stop them.
Green eyes flicked to his, a surprised look. “What? Oh, yeah, I did.”
“I felt like a change.”
“I don’t like it.”
“I didn’t do it for you.”
Something wasn’t right here. This strange awkwardness between them. She’d always been reserved, preferring to stay back and observe rather than head straight into things. People who didn’t know her took it for snobbery or aloofness, but he knew the truth. Anna thought before she spoke. She was careful. Cautious. She always had been. Ever since she’d been a silent five-year-old peering over the fence to watch him do stupid tricks on his skateboard.
Yet she wasn’t like that with him. He’d never gotten the ice wall. The one she projected to defend herself from the worst of her parents’ arguments.
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? Or do I have to guess?”
Copyright © 2012 Jackie Ashenden
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication