Baby, Don't Go


nine years ago

DAISY Parker gave a sigh of pleasure as the weight of Nick Coltrane’s naked body pressed her into the mattress. Sweat bonded their bodies together, while his muscular arms held her tight. She could hardly believe she’d just surrendered her virginity to him—let alone with such enthusiasm. As he pressed kisses into the side of her neck, her body hummed with little aftershocks of satisfaction. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she stretched with voluptuous delight.

To think she almost hadn’t attended Mo’s wedding reception—which was still in full swing ten floors below. Two years ago, she’d tried to sever all ties with the Coltranes. She’d detested Nick and Maureen’s father for the cold premeditation with which he’d ended his marriage to her mother, not to mention the way he’d arranged to have Mama’s name smeared all over the tabloids. She’d seen no point in staying in touch with any of them.

But Mo had refused to let the connection lapse. She’d sent occasional notes that would have been rude to ignore, since Daisy’s beef had never been with her stepsister. So Daisy had written back, and every now and then they’d gotten together for a lunch or dinner. When the invitation to Mo’s nuptials had arrived, Daisy hadn’t been able to resist.

The wedding at Grace Cathedral had been like something out of a fairy tale to Daisy’s nineteen-year-old eyes, and Mo and her handsome groom had looked deliriously happy. But when Daisy arrived at the reception at the Mark Hopkins Hotel a few hours ago, she’d had second thoughts about the wisdom of attending.

She didn’t belong with the throng of San Francisco’s elite that crowded the Peacock Court—she never had. Being thrust into their company again had driven home the fact, and she’d planned to leave as soon as she paid her respects to the bride and groom.

Until Nick had swept her off her feet and blown all rational thought clear out of her mind.

She still couldn’t believe he’d greeted her like a long-lost friend and ditched the reception line to squire her around. He’d always done such an excellent job of ignoring her that the sudden attention had been like grabbing hold of the business end of a live wire—hot, terrifying, and excitingly disorienting.

There’d been a look in his eyes that she hadn’t been able to define: a sense of displacement maybe, an impression of recklessness, for sure. But he’d charmed her and kept her so off balance with his touch—a guiding hand in the small of her back here, long, warm fingers wrapped around her forearm or brushing her bare shoulder there—that she’d told herself it didn’t matter. He was a golden-skinned god with flashing white teeth and streaky brown hair, dancing attendance on her, snapping pictures of her from the camera around his neck, leaving her breathless, exhilarated, dizzy.

And that was before the dancing began and she got a taste of being in his arms.

When the lights went low and the music turned slow and torchy, she’d been a goner. He’d held her so closely she’d felt him from chest to knees, and he’d been warm, hard, and very happy to see her, as the old saw went. The next thing she remembered, they were in the hotel elevator and he was kissing her; then they were in this room, on this bed, and her heart was pounding, pounding, pounding, her pulse throbbing in places she hadn’t dreamed had a pulse; and he’d been on top of her, inside of her; and just as the slight sting of her hymen rupturing pierced her consciousness, his slow hands