Page 77 of Tripping on a Halo

My heart swelled and I blinked rapidly, trying to contain the emotion that threatened to spill out in tears. “It’s a big list,” I said, aiming for a light-hearted tone and almost nailing it. “It’s going to take you a long time.”

“That’s okay,” he said quietly, and damn if he wasn’t intent on trying to make me cry. “I’ve got the rest of my life.”

“I want a wedding in the woods,” I started, imagining our wedding party in camo, with a bonfire and steak reception.

“Done.” He nipped at my neck.

“And maybe we could go to Daytona Beach for our honeymoon? To that surfing competition?” I looked at him hopefully.

He made a face. “Sure. Not exactly shooting for the stars, but whatever makes you happy.”

“And build that house you designed.” He’d shown me the plans in the hospital, the sprawling one-story being exactly like every fantasy I never knew I had.

“And babies,” I pressed. “Lots of fat and happy babies.”

“Human babies?” he asked, concerned. “Because I love Mr. Oinks, but I can’t take—”

“Human babies,” I assured him. “But only if they have my sense of humor and your good looks.”

“Lots of babies…” he mused, grinding his hips into me, his readiness hard and apparent. “That seems like something we could start on now.”

“Right now?” I lost a breath when he rolled on top of me, my sleep shirt bunching up as he settled in between my legs. “Because I have a lot of other items on my list.”

“Right now,” he muttered, one hand pushing down the drawstring waist of his pajama pants. I got a brief glimpse of his dick, stiff and thick and beautiful, before his knees slipped on the hammock and he fell forward. His elbow hit my side, and I jerked right, the combination of factors causing the hammock to swing upside down and unceremoniously dump us out onto the grass.

I started to laugh and Declan wheezed out a cry.

“Not my finest moment,” he said.

“Right now,” I mimicked his deep drawl, and another laugh bubbled out of me. “I told you we weren’t talented enough for that.”

“I blame the failure on the hammock and not our bedroom skills.” He rolled onto his knees and crawled across the grass and above me.

“Yeah?” I said, smiling up at him.

“Yeah,” he said, his gaze focusing on my lips before coming back to my eyes.

And there it was. Another look. Another flame lit. A crackling of need that flamed between us and lit every pore in my body on fire.

“Declan?” I said, my voice husky.

“Yeah?”

“Let’s make some babies.”

And there on the damp grass, under the cover of a faulty hammock, we did just that.

> > > >

Someone was trying to break in. I sat up with a start, pushing up my sleep mask, the sunlight coming in through the windows too bright, my drunk stumble into bed last night neglecting the blackout curtains. I found my phone and peered at it. 9:48 AM—an odd time for a robbery. There was more pounding, the sound coming from the living room, then the splintering of wood. I yanked at the cord of my cell and unplugged it, gripping it tightly, pushing the covers aside, my bare feet hitting the floor just as my bedroom door swung open, a stranger in the opening.

My search for a weapon stopped as I stared at the man, clad head-to-toe in tactical gear, a walkie-talkie at his mouth.

“Chloe Madison?” he asked.

“Yes?” I said weakly, praying my grandma underwear didn’t show underneath my baggy tee, a Versace number that barely hit mid-thigh.

“I’m from the FBI. As of now, this apartment is the property of the US Government. We’re going to have to ask you to leave, or you will be arrested.”

“But … I own this apartment,” I said weakly, my gaze darting around the bedroom, a Monistat box open on my dresser. I closed my eyes in embarrassment, two more men appearing in the doorway.

“Your parents did,” he corrected me. “Not anymore.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m going to need you to get dressed.”

There was a time in my life when I found FBI agents sexy. Let me assure you, they aren’t.

ONE MONTH LATER

I stood in the afternoon sun, my eyes stretching up the Central Park brownstone, counting the stories out of habit. Five. Double-checking the address on my phone, I rang the bell, my toes tapping a nervous beat, my eyes tracing over the decorative B that was carved into the heavy door before me. I wasn’t used to being nervous. Or anxious. Or desperate. And that’s what I had become. Desperate. It didn’t wear well; it itched along my skin like a T.J. Maxx clearance sweater.

I should have been in South Beach, with Cammie and Benta, lying on a beach and celebrating our NYU graduation. They’d flown out yesterday and hadn’t stopped Instagramming since. If I could have reached through the Internet and throttled them, I would have. Instead, I gave them the ultimate passive-aggressive snub: no likes.

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