“Will you stay and hold me?” She looked at me with wide eyes, clinging to my shirt.

“I will.” I hated lying, but with Tammy it was easy. I didn’t flinch with my words. “Come on, get in. I’ll stay as long as you need,” I said as I opened the door, holding it open.

She gave me a weak smile as I closed the door and fought every instinct I had to run. After I climbed in, she curled up to me. She held my arm as I drove and I didn’t look at her or return her touch. We drove in silence.

“You’re coming in, right?” She looked up from my shoulder with a meek smile on her face as I pulled in her driveway.

“Yes.” I wasn’t going to fucking cuddle either. This time I wouldn’t leave her house without the scrapbook safely in my possession. “Let’s get you into bed so you can rest.”

Her smile grew wide as she looked into my eyes. “I can’t think of anything that would make me happier, Michael.” She climbed out of the car and waited for me.

Holding my arm, she opened the front door.

“Go get ready and I’ll be right in. I’m going to make us some tea,” I said, wanting her to go away.

“Oh, okay,” she said as she stood on her tiptoes, kissing my cheek.

“Take your time, put something comfy on, and I’ll meet you in bed.”

She walked away with a giant smile on her face, looking back at me before disappearing inside her bedroom.

I turned on the water, to hide any noise, before I looked through the living room.

Where the fuck was the scrapbook? It wasn’t on the coffee table like it had been the last time I was here. I started to panic, my heart pounded and sweat beaded on my brow. I needed to find it and get the fuck out of here.

As I walked by her television I spotted it. Victory was mine. I grabbed it and tucked it under my arm.

Turning off the water, I stood in the kitchen, out of her line of sight from the hallway. “You okay in there?” I called out to her.

“Yeah, I’m going to jump in the shower to freshen up. Okay, baby?” she replied from the bedroom.

“Go ahead. I’m just finishing up with the tea. I’ll be waiting for you.”

“I’m hurrying,” she yelled.

As the shower turned on, I waited, listening for her to climb inside. I left the house as quiet as humanly possible before jumping in my truck and breathing a sigh of relief.

I could only imagine the scene when she walked out and didn’t see me there. She wasn’t my issue to deal with anymore; it was for the law to handle.

First stop would be Izzy to put the block back on my phone and then to George. I needed to sign the restraining order and have it executed.

Mia was the next thing to resolve.

I had to get her back.

She was the one prize I couldn’t lose.

Chapter 23

I stared out of the sliding glass doors that led out to my lanai, sipping a cup of coffee. I inhaled the sweet scent as I watched the palm trees sway in the summer breeze. I needed to blow off some steam. Running was the best option but out of the question in the blazing sun and humid air. Even early in the morning, the humidity outside was enough to make your hair instantly frizz and your skin damp within seconds.

I tapped my coffee cup with my finger and weighed my options. Pass out from running outside or head to the gym and possibly run into Michael. Why can’t my life be simple anymore?

A pounding on the door made me jump and spill my coffee.

“Fuck,” I muttered, wiping my hands on a napkin. Nothing like a peaceful morning ruined by a Mormon searching for a new convert.

I trudged to the door, annoyed with the interruption. Instead of a gaggle of religious people, Michael stood there with a package tucked under his arm, looking really pissed off when I opened it.

My heart hammered wanting to burst through my chest.

“Mia,” he said, holding the doorframe.

“What do you want, Michael? Haven’t I made it clear that I don’t want to see you?”

He closed his eyes, letting go of the doorframe and taking a step forward. “I can’t let you shut me out.” He shook his head as he opened his eyes.

“It’s not your decision to make.” Crossing my arms, I didn’t let a bit of weakness show through. That’s the problem with men – they want control and I wasn’t used to giving it up.

“Fucking hell,” he muttered as the hardness in his face melted away. “I need to talk to you.”

I didn’t move. “We’re talking. Say what you need to say and go.”

I had to stay strong when all I wanted to do was jump in his arms and make up. I wanted to erase the last week. I needed to be strong. I’d never play second fiddle to anyone.

“Can’t I come in?” He straightened, taking another step forward.

I held out my arm, stopping him. “Here will do.”

He balled his hands into fists as he stared at his feet. “First, Tammy is not pregnant. I had that confirmed yesterday by a doctor.” He paused.

I took that opportunity to jump in. “That’s lucky for you. I ran into Tammy yesterday and she told me you two were going to get an ultrasound.” His eyes widened as I spoke. “I was also told that you’re very much back together and happier than ever.”

“We are not back together. I spent yesterday afternoon filing a restraining order against her.” My stomach filled with butterflies as he reached to touch my arm, but he pulled away at the last second. “I needed her to trust me to prove she wasn’t carrying my baby. She’s nothing to me,” he pleaded with me.

“Are you so careless with women, Michael? We’re here to be used.”

He stiffened and glared at me. “Are you fucking kidding me right now? I’ve never used you. I did nothing to make you feel that way, Mia.”

“I felt dirty in the hallway of the hospital when Tammy flashed her ring in my face. I felt used and worthless. No one has ever made me feel that way.” I choked back the tears that wanted to escape. “I’ve never allowed anyone to make me feel that way until you came into my life.” Shaking my head, my shoulders fell.

“Mia, sweetheart,” he said tenderly. He touched my arm and the electricity passed between us. The snap, crackle, pop. The spark hadn’t died no matter how hard I tried to smother it.

“Tammy’s not in my life. I never promised her a relationship or a forever and I never asked the crazy woman to marry me. You have to believe me.” He rested his hand against my cheek and I wanted to melt into his touch, but I didn’t.

“I want to, Michael. I really do.” I looked into his soft caramel eyes and felt his sorrow. It was like a punch to the gut. “How do I know it’s really over between the two of you?”

“My lawyer is taking care of it.”

“Sometimes the law can’t stop someone like her. It’s a can of worms I’m not sure I can handle right now. I have enough shit happening in my life without looking over my shoulder all the time.”

“I’ll protect you.” He smiled.

It was megawatt and amazin

g. It sent a thrill through me that he wanted me so badly, but could I willingly lay myself out for this man?

He grabbed my chin, bringing my eyes to his. “Don’t throw what we have away, Mia. There’s something that brought us together. I feel like I’ve known you forever and I don’t want to be without that feeling. I can’t lose you.”

I felt at home in his arms and truly at peace when he entered my life. I closed my eyes to break the connection. The enormity of the moment sunk in as I opened them. “I don’t know,” I said, staring at his chest. He’d be able to see my vulnerability if I looked at him.

“How can you deny what’s between us, Mia?” His soft lips touched mine and I couldn’t pull away. I leaned into him, inhaling the soft musky scent that was purely Michael. “We have something here that can’t be denied,” he said against my lips.

“Michael.” Before I could finish the statement, his mouth enveloped mine effectively shutting me up.

He wrapped his arms around me. The touch that I had missed for days almost brought me to my knees. Pushing me into the house, he kicked the door closed behind us. I couldn’t deny him any longer. I couldn’t lie to myself and say what we had wasn’t magical in some way.

I pulled away and stared into his eyes. “Only me?” I asked. I needed the affirmation that I was it for him. I wouldn’t be in competition with anyone else for his love and affection. I’d never let myself be that girl.

“No one else,” he said before capturing my mouth.

The sound of his breath as he devoured my lips sent an electric pulse through my body. I loved everything about this man down to the small noises he made when we kissed.

“I’m scared, Michael,” I whispered as he broke the kiss.

“Of what?”

“You.” I sucked in a breath.

He held me at arm’s length. “Mia,” he said, lifting my chin. “I won’t break your heart. For the first time in my life, I’ve found something worth fighting for, someone more important than me.” His eyes searched mine. “Give me a chance to prove it. I’ll do everything in my power to make you happy.”

“How do I know I can trust you? I want to believe you, but what if I was the other woman, Michael. I can’t just pretend like nothing happened without knowing for sure.” I stared into his eyes.

“I have proof. I brought this to show you.” He held out the large brown envelope.

“Was is it?” I asked, not sure I wanted to open it.

“Just look. I want you to see Tammy for who she really is. My statement to the police is in there along with evidence and screen shots of her text messages. She never mentioned a baby, Mia. She lied and tried to trap me.” He pushed the envelope forward into my hands.

I walked to the couch and set it on the coffee table. Michael sat next to me, not speaking, as he watched me. I removed the contents one by one. A book and a couple sheets on paper were inside. Setting the book on the table I grabbed the papers and flipped through them.

I read the text messages first paying close attention to the timestamp. Not one said anything about a baby, just Tammy begging him to come back to her. The

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