Below you'll find a little information about this timeless story that involves three people who find love together. As a bonus, I've included the entire first chapter for you to read.
Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy! ~Ayla
The Deciding Factor
by Ayla Ruse
First Published January 17, 2011 by Totally Bound Publishing
Word Count: 37K
Genre: Contemporary erotic romance, menage m/f/m; short novel
Being with two men suddenly became a lot more complicated …
Reuniting with both a first love and a first lover within a matter of days is enough to make any girl’s head spin. Alycia Delaney is no exception. About to turn 30, Aly decides to take charge of her lacklustre life and to live with a try-anything-new attitude. Too bad her attitude didn’t account for fate throwing two of the most important men from Aly’s past straight into her arms.
Sawyer Test and Luke Coldwell are best friends and each man wants Aly for himself. Leaving the choice to her, Aly opens door number three and decides they should embark in a summer-long ménage.
When talk turns into action, each participant is forced to question their impulsiveness, and Aly is left caught between the safety of a painful decision and the perils of following her heart.
5 Stars from JERR
"...The Deciding Factor is a charming yet scorching, sexy summer read that will have you thinking of your own 'firsts.''
4.5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies"
"THE DECIDING FACTOR is a fun, thought provoking story that brings to mind the question ‘what would you do?’"
“Are you ready for this, Aly?”
Alycia Delaney gazed up into Sawyer Test’s sky blue eyes. “Of course I’m ready. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
“You’re right about that,” Sawyer teased in a low voice. He stepped close, raising his hands to cradle her face, and met her lips with his own. Aly opened for the kiss with a smile, loving the languorous way his mouth moved over hers.
She wound her arms around his neck and threaded her fingers through his thick, blond hair, moaning as his tongue tangled lazily with hers.
“Have I told you how lucky I am you answered my ad?” Sawyer murmured, raining sweet, open-mouthed kisses down the column of her neck.
“Almost every day,” Aly answered and tilted her head in encouragement. “Have I told you how glad I am I answered?”
“Not nearly enough.” He hummed low against the hollow of her throat. “Oh, you taste so good.”
Aly shivered at the deep timbre of his voice and inwardly revelled at how truly alive she felt for the first time in ages. It still amazed her how a change of attitude had transformed her life in only a couple of weeks.
Sawyer’s teeth nipped gently up her throat and teased at her earlobe. She could remain in his arms forever. Tall, strong, and skilful, this was a man in whom she could lose herself. She ran her hands across his wide shoulders and gave an appreciative sigh when his fingers plucked at the buttons of her blouse, teasing her. Playing with her. Would he flick them open this time or not?
They’d kissed a few times already in the past couple of days, and every time he’d kiss her a little longer, touch her a little more, stir her long-forgotten desires just enough to make her whimper. To make her hold him tighter. To make it harder and harder to stay away. She was a mouse to his cat, but she thrilled to the game.
Aly opened her eyes, intending to pull back, wanting to see his smiling face and to give him more opportunity to slip that first button from its hole, but the sights around her snapped her back to reality.
They weren’t in any bedroom. They weren’t even behind closed doors. They stood in the parlour-turned-classroom where students would arrive at any minute. She stiffened and pulled away from his questing hands.
“Where are you going?” he asked, snaking an arm around her waist.
Aly started to answer, but Sawyer stopped her with a dare-me look and sealed his lips to hers once again.
What the hell, why not? Just one more kiss.
Sawyer became more aggressive, and a moan escaped when he pulled her tight against his body. His erection pressed into her belly and she quivered, shamelessly grinding her hips forward.
As soon as she responded to him, his aggression left. His body relaxed its hold from hers without breaking the kiss, and she wanted to yank his hips back. This back-and-forth bit was fun, but it was getting old really fast. They’d been lovers a long time ago and surprisingly, she couldn’t wait to renew some of their old relationship, but he seemed to like dragging it out.
Again, Sawyer left her mouth to kiss her neck and she pushed at his head, trying to encourage him to dip his kisses lower when voices in the hallway let her know their time was at a temporary end.
With regret, Aly pulled back a second time, a playful scowl on her face to his soft laughter. “I’m enjoying this more than you know, Sawyer—”
“I think I know how much—”
She intentionally ignored his smug interruption and continued. “But you keep stringing me along and there are other things to do here.”
“Stringing you along?” Sawyer asked with a chuckle. Again, Aly ignored him.
“You did, after all, hire me to teach this class that’s starting in less than ten minutes. As much as I’d love to keep kissing you, I am a professional and we’re not in the lesson plans for tonight.”
Since he wanted to play, she’d show him she could give as good as she got. She forced herself to step around the small podium serving as her desk, planting it between the two of them. She had to get herself ready to teach. There’d be time for Sawyer later.
“There you go,” he murmured in what sounded like approval. “Have a good class tonight.” He smiled and headed towards the door. “I’ll see you later.”
“That you will,” Aly answered quietly to his retreating back, itching to feel the hard warmth of his muscles against her bare hands. Before last week, it’d been somewhere around eight years since she’d seen him, not since they’d dated in college. Not since she left him because she thought her heart had still longed for another…
Nope. Not going there right now.
She shook her head and glanced over her notes. A tiny slip of yellow paper caught her eye.
I’ll meet you after class.
Remember, dinner at my place.
Game’s over tonight.
Ever since her interview with him a week ago, sparks that had never quite died out had heated back to life between them. Seeing his note made her smile. When she’d entered the room earlier, Sawyer had already been there and it made sense to her now how he quickly intercepted her before she walked behind the podium. The kisses were a great distraction, she’d hand that to him.
Now, thinking about the evening ahead and the implications of his note, her belly tingled. A sleep-over seemed imminent. All his stringing her along would surely lead up to a climax to end all others. She smiled, remembering this is exactly how he’d seduced her virginity from her, only it’d taken a lot longer than a week. Sex with Sawyer had always been fantastic and given the years that’d passed, she imagined earth-shattering moments for tonight’s interlude.
Two students wandered in and were engrossed in their own conversation, so Aly simply nodded her head and smiled, looking around the classroom that looked more like an old-fashioned parlour with its settees and single upholstered chairs set next to dark, folding tables. She absorbed her surroundings and let her own thoughts ramble.
If Mr. Desque could see me now, she thought with wry humour, thinking of her stuffy job-by-day boss, the headmaster at Reno Prep High School. He’d actually done a double take when she turned down his usual offer to teach a summer school class. She’d never turned down the extra job before. If mister straight-laced knew she was teaching a class that delved into graphic sex he’d probably fire her on the spot.
She still found it hard to believe that barely two weeks ago, she’d been a staid, high school English teacher. She’d turned in her final grades for the year and realised she had nothing to look forward to for her summer except thumb-twiddling time off and a big, uneventful 3-0 birthday looming in the fall.
It’d been the reality of soon turning thirty that had caused her to take stock of her life—finding herself severely lacking. She was a boring person. She did nothing, had no friends to speak of, no life to brag about, and most discouraging of all, no sex in God knows how long. Wanting to shake herself out of her monotony, Aly made the decision to do everything she’d shied away from since college.
Since her little epiphany, her life had indeed turned a new page. She hadn’t watched a single television show in over a week, her library books were actually overdue and her bulging bank account dwindled happily with the new clothes and pampering she’d given herself. Within the first week of summer vacation, she’d cut off her waist-length hair, received a professional manicure topped with fire engine red nails, purchased a pair of sturdy hiking boots for the mountain trails she intended to blaze in the Tahoes, and…
Then, her life turned upside down. She had run across a curious ad for an evening instructor at a private school.
Remarkably, it turned out Sawyer owned this private school, The Centre of Erotic Arts and Learning, CEAL for short. Aly still wasn’t sure if he’d hired her because of her teaching experience or because of their brief history, but it didn’t matter. Teaching an erotica class hadn’t been on her original break-out to-do list, but she wouldn’t pass up the chance to do something completely new.
Not only that, Sawyer was apparently eager to pick up a new, no-strings attached, for-old-times-sake…something, with her. She wouldn’t call it a relationship, but a summer fling had a nice ring.
* * * *
Sawyer set his paperwork aside. Aly was absorbing too much of his mind to focus on work tonight. A glance at the wall clock reminded him he’d be meeting with her in about an hour and a half.
Knowing better than to force himself to work, he locked his office before heading towards the back stairs that would lead up the two flights to his apartment. It never ceased to amaze him that despite having both his school and his residence in a single refurbished mansion, he didn’t lack for room or privacy.
Sawyer turned with a grin as his best friend, Luke Coldwell, caught up with him.
“Good to see you, Luke. Are you running late or just switching around classes?”
“I’m late. I got hung up at the hotel or I would have been here sooner. I don’t know which class I’ll audit for you yet, maybe a couple of them?”
“We just started a new semester this week so there’s plenty to choose from.”
“Don’t worry, just be glad I’m here at all,” Luke added with a chuckle.
“Trust me, I am. I appreciate your input, you know I do. Your observations have really helped the classes, and the teachers. I still wish you’d let me hire you on. You know more about eroticism than anyone else I know.”
“Except you,” said Luke.
“Well, that’s a given,” Sawyer answered with a grin.
“Thanks man, but you know I’m not teacher material. I like running my hotel too much.”
“Why, I’ll never know. Okay then, have a good night. I’ll see you around.”
Sawyer turned to go but Luke stopped him once again.
“Will you be upstairs later? We haven’t hung out in awhile. Maybe we could grab a beer and I’ll tell you my thoughts about whatever class I attend.”
“We’ll have to do that another time. I’ve got a date when I close up tonight, so hanging with you is the last thing on my mind.”
“Ah, gotcha. Sorry for holding you up. Is it Melissa you’re going to see?”
“Actually, no. Do you remember me telling you about that really hot girl I dated early on in college?”
Sawyer rolled his eyes. Luke had a point. By the time they’d met in their senior year in college their previous girlfriend lists could rival Santa Clause’s naughty or nice list. At least the naughty ones, they’d liked to stress.
“Yeah, she and I were over as an item long before you came to campus. I ran into her recently and we’ve gone out a couple of times. I’m counting on tonight being an all-nighter.”
“Say no more. I’ll call you later in the week. See you.”
With Luke finally taking his leave, Sawyer jogged up the stairs to his apartment to make sure all would be ready. He had a dinner to prepare and he’d picked up flowers earlier in the day he wanted to place around the apartment. He remembered Aly had always loved flowers and he hoped she’d appreciate the effort on his part.
He didn’t want to admit to Luke just now how much Aly had meant to him when they’d dated years ago. He hadn’t said how much seeing her recently had affected him. In the past nearly ten years, Sawyer had tucked her memory away—a fond one, but hazy, like a distant thought that she had been his one missed chance for love. Then last week, she’d shown up in his office looking for a summer job. The sight of her had brought everything tumbling back and his breath had caught. Maybe this was a second opportunity, one he didn’t know if he wanted to take, but he wasn’t about to let her slip through his fingers either. He’d dropped Melissa the same day he’d talked to Aly, knowing there was still something between them. Luke, being the proverbial ladies’ man, wouldn’t understand. One woman was the same as the next for that guy.
But do I want to get serious with Aly?
He shrugged, undecided. For now, he’d take her any way he could get her. There was something there. He couldn’t pinpoint it, but there was something about her that made his mind implode and his cock want to explode. Dating and fondling had been okay, but enough was enough. He knew she was ready, too. Tonight would be a night to remember. He’d make sure of it.
* * * *
Two minutes into class time, Aly wanted to leave. Her palms actually sweated. Teaching distracted teenagers Shakespeare was one thing. Teaching the small group of interested adults about erotica, another. Still, she’d pull this off, no matter how much she’d have to fake her “knowledge” of erotic art, literature and film. Especially the film part, which—lucky me—featured in tonight’s class.
It took a little effort, but soon she found herself smiling and chatting with the students. She reminded herself these people were strangers and were probably more nervous than her. It should be uncomfortable talking to them about anything sexual, but in no time, Aly was guiding the students into a discussion on what made an erotic film different from run-of-the-mill pornography. Silently, she found herself curious and listened attentively to their talk.
The bluntness of the students’ debate enlightened her, though it did make her blush. Sex had always been a private thing between Aly and her few lovers. Open and frank discussions about having multiple partners and strange positions were things she might have thought about but never actually talked about.
She tried to focus, without gawking, on a conversation about the merits of close-up shots when movement at the doorway caught her eye.
She froze and stared in shocked disbelief. Her heart tripped.
Her startled eyes met a ghost from her past. A ghost in the very physical form of Luke Coldwell. Her first love from high school and the one that got away, as the saying went. She hadn’t seen him since graduation. He’d been handsome as a teenager. As the man coming into her class now, his looks were devastatingly stunning.
His eyes caught hers. Recognition flashed in their dark depths and his lips curved into a wicked smile.
“Sorry I’m late,” he offered as an apology.
Luke sauntered into the room, his stride purposeful but easy. He didn’t just walk, he moved. The very air around him seemed to part. His hair, thicker and blacker than hers, complimented his permanent, deep tan—which was courtesy, he’d once told her, of Shoshone blood from somewhere in his ancestry.
He slid, gracefully for his large, well muscled size, into a chair next to Ms. Arbuckle, who had earlier introduced herself with pride as a young sixty-year old, one of the oldest students in the class. To Aly’s astonishment, Ms. Arbuckle tried to pinch Luke on the thigh. He must have expected the move because he easily avoided her and sent the older woman a devilish grin.
“That’s Alycia Delaney.” Aly watched mutely as Ms. Arbuckle filled him in. “She’s new here.”
Luke turned his hooded gaze to Aly. “Hi.”
She didn’t know what to say.
“Alycia?” a student asked, drawing Aly’s attention.
“Um, yes, Derrick?” As Aly tried to concentrate on his question, she couldn’t get Luke out of her mind. Or her eyesight. He sat right in front of her, decked out in designer slacks and a deep blue silk shirt, the top two buttons undone, sleeves rolled up. She bit her tongue to keep from licking her lips. She wanted to taste that exposed part of his neck so badly she hurt. This man radiated sin like it was free for the taking.
This is not right. I should not be feeling like this.
Then again, Luke had always been sexually devastating. Why she never slept with him when they’d dated in high school, she couldn’t fathom.
Yes, she could. Stupidity on her part. Only sixteen, she’d been stupid in love and had wanted forever with him. Yet even as a teen she’d known that he didn’t love her in the same endless way she did him.
Luke caught her eye and winked. Her heart jumped. Nah, she couldn’t still feel that love for him, could she?
Oh, please let the class end soon.
Aly did her best to ignore Luke, even though his stare made her feel like she taught naked. He never said a word, but simply sat in his chair, making various notes in his notebook and giving her dark, intense looks that made her constantly lose her train of thought.
When his long, thick fingers idly stroked the pen in his hand, she had to fight the imagery of him caressing her skin. When she caught him giving her a slow bodily once-over, finishing with an open smile of promise, her throat dried up and the words she’d been speaking died on her tongue, embarrassing her when one of the students asked if she was okay.
No, I’m not okay, she’d wanted to shout. My skin is burning and my insides are melting and if Luke doesn’t leave this classroom right now I’m going to straddle his lap and lay to rest all the curiosities I’ve always had about having his body inside mine!
Instead, Aly straightened her shoulders, cleared her throat and turned away from Luke’s knowing gaze and bedevilling smirk.
I’m a professional educator. I can resist that man. I did it once before, I can do it again.
And she could keep lying to herself, too, but still, she made it through the discussion part of the class without any more incidents. During the brief break before the film, she kept herself occupied in a conversation with two other students.
I am not avoiding Luke. I’m simply being a teacher.
Walking as tall as her five-foot five-inch frame—with heels—would allow, she dimmed the lights, grabbed the remote and started the movie. One of the students pointed towards an empty seat for her to use. Graciously, Aly thanked the lady. As she sat down, however, she wished she’d opted to stand at the furthest back corner of the room instead.
Luke sat barely more than an arm’s length from her. Yes, she was somewhat kiddie-corner to his back, but she couldn’t watch the movie without seeing him.
He shifted in his chair, leaned back, turned his head and flashed a smile so full of heat her thighs clamped together. She forcefully returned a pleasant smile, as if his presence didn’t matter one way or the other to her.
Yeah, right. All you want to do is crawl over to him, strip him down and have your way with him. Oh God, somebody help me.
Surprisingly, the movie did help by pulling her attention to the wide screen at the front of the room. To her astonishment, the abundance of sex worked in well with the story line. It fit naturally. Plus, the movie had actual dialogue, clothed characters from time to time, and a plotline to follow.
On the other hand, the longer the film progressed, the more Aly squirmed in her seat. There might have been a story to follow, but there was also a whole lot of graphic sex. She desperately wanted to reach down between her legs and rub her clit just to stifle the building ache.
Luke stretched, and Aly’s gaze swung to the thick arms raised high over his head. She wondered what they would feel like around her. Would his embrace feel crushing or tender? Would she feel trapped or exhilarated?
She squeezed her eyes shut, berating herself for these images about Luke when she would no doubt be sleeping with Sawyer in a few hours. Fate could not be this cruel to her. She shook her head, trying to sort her scattered thoughts.
Surely some of her mixed up feelings could be excused because it wasn’t every day a woman saw both her first lover and her first love within a one-week time span. And as for Luke, of course she’d think about sex with him. He was the one man she’d always wanted and never had. There should be no guilt with those thoughts, she decided. It was only in her mind after all.
The guttural moan of a man’s pleasure snapped Aly’s attention back to the movie. A female character crouched on her knees, busy giving the male character a blow job.
Aly couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to do that to Luke.
Like right now. His arms had come down, crossing over his chest. His legs were splayed out before him. She let her thoughts go…
She’d have to move the little prop table from in front of him, then she could sink down to her knees between his hard thighs. She could almost hear the scraping sound of the zipper as she opened his slacks. His cock would spring out, eager for her touch. She’d wrap her hands around the bulging shaft. She could just imagine how it would look, dark and thick and completely ready for her wet mouth…
“Sorry.” A muffled apology sounded from behind her. Someone must have hit their table, but the distraction worked to rip her out of her fantasy.
Glancing randomly around the room in an attempt to clear her lust-filled head, she pondered again her run-ins with both Sawyer and Luke recently. Why now, instead of months or years apart? Why here, at this private school? A sudden thought sent a shiver up her spine.
What if Luke and Sawyer know each other? She balked. No, it’s coincidence, that’s all. Happens to people all the time.
Besides, Luke no doubt had a girlfriend or maybe even a wife, and she was about to embark on an affair with Sawyer. Her answer should be simple. She had to tamp down her libido for Luke.
After all, what kind of woman lusted after two men? What kind of self-respecting woman, who was planning to have sex with one guy, still wanted to have sex with another? She told herself to be daring this summer, true, but there would be no way to have two separate affairs. Would there?
She shook her head sharply. Get your head out of the movie, girl. You should not be having such diverse fantasies.
She should be having fantasies about Sawyer, not Luke.
The same man who even now turned his head to look her way, watching her with a hunger that seemed to want to eat her up. Literally.
She quickly turned her head before he saw the heat in her own eyes.
Aly suffered through the rest of the film, trying desperately to ignore Luke while she constantly imagined them doing all the delicious things playing out before her eyes.
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