“Yes.”

Her heart stopped. She took a deep breath. “Take me home,” she said. “With you.”

Michael did take her, in more ways than one. He didn’t give her a chance to change her mind. As soon as they arrived at his house, he led her upstairs to the big bed where she’d been absent too long and made love to her. He relished the scent of her body and devoured every inch of her. He drowned himself in the softness of her skin and the passion that roared beneath.He didn’t want to think about how much he’d missed her, how much he’d wanted her. How had she become such an addiction? Her spirit, her emotions got under his skin. He still felt jealous of Stephen. It was an insane emotion, but he wanted to wipe away every memory of her former fiancé. He wanted her to think only of him. He wanted her to want only him.

Where had these feelings come from? He didn’t want to feel this need for her, this deeper-than-his-bones connection with her.

The next morning, he loathed leaving her. The realization bothered him, but he brushed it aside and did his usual workout. After he finished, he noticed a message on his BlackBerry. He listened to it, feeling amused and irritated. Rafe was flying his wife and son, their brother Damien and his wife, to Atlanta this afternoon. Nothing like short notice.

Michael returned to his bedroom to find Bella sleeping in his bed. A fierce possessiveness filled him, but he fought it. This would pass, he told himself. No one had ever belonged to him fully. Bella wouldn’t either.

Moving to the side of the bed, he slid his fingers over her tousled dark hair. She made a soft sound and curled her head against his hand. His gut clenched at her unconscious movement.

He swallowed over a strange lump in his throat and stroked her cheek. Her eyes fluttered open, her violet eyes immediately staring at him. She sighed softly. “Hi,” she said. “Have you already done your workout, taken over a half dozen companies and started a new country this morning?”

He gave a wry chuckle and tousled her hair. “No. I worked out. I just thought I should give you fair warning. Both my brothers and their families are descending on me this afternoon.”

She searched his face. “You want me to leave?”

He hadn’t considered any other possibility. “They’ll ask you a million questions.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said.

“I want you to do what you want to do,” he said.

She sat up, bringing the covers with her. “Well, that doesn’t help me any. I mean it would be nice to know if you want to keep me hidden or you don’t want them to know about me.”

“I’m okay with them knowing about you,” he said, watching her carefully. “You’re the one who wanted to keep this secret.”

She bit her lip and met his gaze. “Well, I have to admit this sounds even better than having dinner at Cie la Sea and seeing a Hawks game in a box seat.”


Surprise and amusement rippled through him. “Oh, really? How’s that?”

“Getting to meet your brothers,” she said. “And they’re both obscenely successful, right?”

He nodded. “I guess you might say so.”

“And their wives?”

“Yes. What’s your point?”

“I love it that they pushed themselves on you this way.” She clapped her hands. “I can’t imagine you allowing yourself to be pushed by anyone.”

“You imagine correctly. I wouldn’t let anyone but my brothers get away with this. But we missed too many years together to say no.”

She took his hand and held it in hers, her gaze holding his with an emotion that made him feel less empty, less hollow. Damn if he knew why. “I’m in.”

Michael sent his limo to pick up his family from the airport. Bella paced the den, checked the mirror a few times to make sure she looked okay. She smoothed her hands over her slacks for the third time and paced again.“Are you sure you want to meet them?” Michael asked as he glanced up from his laptop.

“Sure, I’m sure,” she said, fighting her nerves. “I’m just not sure what to expect or what they’ll think of me.”

“They’ll let me know,” Michael said and turned back to his laptop.

“That’s great,” she said. “So they’ll talk about me behind my back.”

“Relax. They’ll like you,” he said.

“How can you be sure?”

“Because your presence will give them something to annoy me about.”

She put her hands on her hips. “Why is that?”

“I haven’t introduced a lot of women to them,” he said, still looking at his screen.

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