Restraint - Charlotte Stein I tagged this friends-to-lovers, but it's really frenemies-to-lovers. Mallory is going away with her two best friends for three weeks: male and female. The male friend is finally ready to make a play for the other female. (And sorry, I can't remember friends' names because they really weren't a big part of the story at all.) Male friend invites one of his male friends, Artie, along. By all accounts, Artie can't stand Mallory. She doesn't understand why, and she's not happy about Artie going along. His attitude towards her makes her feel like scum on his shoe.

So one night, they're all hot-tubbing, but the friends decide to retire for the night. Mallory decides to try to get to the bottom of what, specifically, Artie doesn't like about her. Turns out it's everything about her, he says, which makes her cry, much as she tries not to. Which in turn makes Artie feel like shit and come clean with what the problem is: she has no problem talking about sexual things (it's all innuendo, not even explicit), and he doesn't know how to deal with how it makes him feel (horny), so he tries to just deflect it or ignore it. He went to a Bible college where people didn't even admit to using the bathroom, much less discuss things with sexual innuendo.

So now Mallory can't get out of her head how he felt behind her, erect, when they were in the hot tub. And she wants to try to dispel some of the discomfort between them. And she catches him masturbating. Game on! Well, not a game. Really, it's sort of her gently cajoling him into certain situations and him rising to the occasion (literally) beautifully. Some very steamy, sexy situations.

In the end, it was really sweet how they sort of came to an understanding about each other and ultimately fell in love. Shortish story, but with an HEA which makes me happy.