The letter had already made its rounds, drawing a mixed-bag of reactions from every one, but Jackson’s and Luke’s reactions were pretty much like Brandon’s, just without the wall-punching. Ian patted my shoulder and offered to help with whatever he could. Calland had shown up a little later; I don’t think I’ve ever seen him when he wasn’t smiling, but there was absolutely no trace of the levity he usually showed as he put his arm around my shoulder and kissed the top of my head. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. I knew.

My heart was full to bursting once again at the love I was being shown and I wondered briefly how my life had gone from such shit to better than I’d ever imagined.


Hours later, there was a plan set, I was temporarily out of a job, and everyone had left, leaving me alone with a tall, gorgeous man who was busy cleaning (yes, I said CLEANING!) up pizza boxes and plates.

On his last return trip from the kitchen, I grabbed him, pressed my body against his and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“Kiss me,” I demanded.

He chuckled softly before he complied, pressing his lips sweetly against mine for a brief second. I whimpered when he pulled away and he smiled at me, but it faded as he stared into my eyes, looking intently for something, but I wasn’t sure what.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“Are you okay?” he asked me, quietly. “I know we kind of took over everything and didn’t even really ask your opinion. But, sunshine, you have to agree, it’s what’s best until that dickface is behind bars again.”

“I know,” I replied firmly. “I’m really okay with everything because it’s just nice to know that I have people standing behind me. I mean, I know I had people behind me always, but I was too stupid to accept it, to let anyone know the horror I was living. I won’t make that mistake again. I won’t let him take another second of my life away from me.”

“That’s my girl,” he said, snuggling me against him again.

“How’s your hand?” I asked him dryly, tilting my head back to look up at him.

He grimaced a bit and gave me a sheepish look before he answered. “Pretty fuckin’ sore. Luke’s having T.J. fill in for me, take on some extra hours for a couple of days. So, upside, I guess, is that you get me all to yourself since you don’t have to work and neither do I.”

I sighed guiltily. “Yeah, I know. But how can I do that to Allie, even though everyone agreed it was best, when she’s due like any time now?”

“Allie’s mom is taking over for a while and, not that it’s public knowledge yet, but Allie’s been thinking of selling the store since Jackson’s firm is very successful and she wants to be home with the baby.” He said it nonchalantly, but I could hear the caution behind it.

I blinked up at him, stunned, because if that happened, I’d really be out of a job and possibly even a home.

Brandon pulled away from me and ran his hands over his face. He blew out a breath and said, “Well, actually…Luke and I were going to talk to you about something. Emma is wanting to stay home with their baby, too, which means she won’t be available to help out in the shop. So…would you be willing to come to work for us?” He peered down at me, his face hopeful.

“Really?” I asked him, surprised that situations just seem to resolve themselves so quickly around here.

“Really.”

“Huh,” was my only reply. Not that I would refuse the job; seriously, I wasn’t stupid.

Brandon hugged me to him once more and said those five little words that every woman wants to hear. “Let’s go get some ice cream.”

I grinned up at him and nodded. Okay, so there could be other words that women want to hear, but who doesn’t love ice cream?

We got our ice cream and walked around the park, holding hands as we ate our cones. He leaned me up against a tree and kissed the daylights out of me when our ice cream was done, laughing as he gamely explained he was only trying to get the chocolate off my lip. I wasn’t complaining though, and he definitely didn’t need an excuse to kiss me senseless…

We headed home when the sun was setting and, by the look in Brandon’s eyes, our night was just beginning.

We walked in the door at home and I’d barely gotten the door shut and locked behind us when I found myself being spun around and pressed against the door by his body. He locked his lips on mine in a heated kiss as his hands found my hips, slid down a bit and lifted me up into his arms. My legs automatically wrapped around his waist, nestling the hardened ridge of him between my thighs, which drew a ragged groan from his throat.

He wrenched his lips from mine and leaned his forehead against mine, his breath puffing against my mouth as he whispered, “Is this okay? I know it’s been a rough day…”

“Fine, I’m fine. Don’t stop…” I moaned, seeking his kiss once more.

He complied, his mouth slanting over mine in a rough, deep caress, his tongue sliding inside to duel with mine before slipping back out as his teeth closed over my bottom lip, sucking on it and then biting sharply.

I arched into him, crushing my breasts to his chest, rubbing myself against the engorged column of flesh trapped beneath the placket of his jeans. One of his hands left my thigh and slid up my body to tangle in my hair, jerking my head back as he moved down my throat, sucking and licking the tender flesh and sending shivers down my spine.

“Bed,” he panted against my throat and I nodded wildly, feverish to feel him against me, skin to skin, with his length buried deep inside my body.

He carried me into the bedroom and laid me on the bed, but he didn’t follow me down. Instead, he ordered me to strip as he moved to my closet. He watched me distractedly, torn between drinking in the sight of my naked flesh that each removed article of clothing revealed, and whatever he was reaching for in the darkness of the closet.

Finally he swore, snapped the light on, grabbed something, and then the light was off and he was on the bed with me. I have no idea how he’d done it so quickly, but he was naked when he got there.

I gasped and arched into him as his body came down over mine, his hard to my soft, every inch of him pressed to me. His teeth nipped at my shoulder and then he kissed his way down my stomach, stopping to lick along each of my hip bones, moving down a little further as he hooked his arms under my thighs and pulled them apart, spreading me open and covering me hungrily with his mouth.

His tongue made a long, leisurely stroke through my slick folds, the tip swirling around and around my clit before sliding back down and inside me, tasting every inch of my dripping wet heat. He kept up his assault on my tender flesh until I was hovering on the edge of release but, right before I tipped over into blissful orgasm, he moved, kissing back up my body until his lips met mine.

I tasted myself on his tongue, moaning at the heady sensations coursing through my veins, lust overriding every thought. He ate at my mouth with a ferocity that belied his sure movements. He moved in haste, yes, but there was nothing hurried about the way he slowed and sipped at my lips and plucked at the tips of my breasts, the tight buds swollen, tender, and aching with need. The smooth, firm head of his turgid length slid effortlessly though my damp folds, the ridge of him dragging over my clit with every thrusting stroke.

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