I inhaled a deep breath. Daniel had more sides than I wanted to know. “Powerful. Shrewd. Deep into his career and political circles. His way or the highway for the most part, I suppose.”

Elliot studied me. “Doesn’t sound like much has changed.”

“No. But for what it’s worth, I believe he did love Mom. I just don’t think he had much choice in the matter. If he’d done the right thing, his family might have disowned him.”

“And Patty did what she felt was right, and her family disowned her.”

I sighed, saddened for them both. If things had been different, they could have been together. We could have been a family, with or without their parents’ support. Nothing could replace the years that we’d lost, but maybe that didn’t matter now.

Beth and Blake joined us on the patio. The heaviness from our conversation lifted a little when I saw Blake. His eyes flashed to mine. I smiled, despite the sadness that filled me.

“The girls go down all right?” Elliot asked.

Beth slumped into one of the chairs, looking drained and in dire need of a stiff drink. “Not without a fight. But they’re down.”

“Your girls are so precious,” I said. “You’re doing a great job with them.”

Beth managed a smile. “Oh, thank you. I’m trying, but heaven, do they wear me down.”

“What about you two? Any plans for kids?” Elliot asked.

My jaw fell open slightly. The question had completely blindsided me.

Beth slapped him on the shoulder. “Quit. You’re going to give Blake a heart attack.”

Blake looked at me, his eyes more thoughtful than I expected. “We haven’t talked about it much. We’ve got time to figure it out though.”

We hadn’t talked about it at all, in fact. With the way he was looking at me now, I had a feeling that would be changing soon.


We left Elliot’s house near midnight. Blake and I drove back to the city and checked into a beautiful five-star hotel overlooking Lake Michigan. We crashed seconds after coming into the room.

My eyes fluttered open. Predawn light seeped into our hotel room, and through the curtains, I caught the glittering shimmer of light across the lake. I sank back down into my pillow. It was barely six o’clock and beside me, Blake slumbered quietly. The late afternoon flight followed by the dinner with Elliot’s family had been tiring.

I thought about last night, his first introduction into my world outside of meeting Marie. I was happy he’d met Elliot, and I was proud to come back into their world with Blake by my side. Seeing him and Beth again had been great, but Elliot’s words would color the way I thought of my mother’s family for the rest of my life. Any hope I’d harbored about having them in my life in the future had been effectively shut down.

Blake stirred and stretched. My recounting of the conversation with Elliot dissolved, and my thoughts circled around Blake. The sheet lay loosely over his hips, putting his amazing body on display. I slid my leg over his thigh and nestled close to him. He was warm from sleep.

“’Morning, sleepyhead,” I sang quietly, drawing light circles over his stomach and up his chest.

He groaned and stretched again, scooping me closer to him when he relaxed. “I love waking up next to you.”

I hummed my affirmation and pressed a kiss to his chest.

He threaded his fingers through my hair. His eyes were sleepy, his face soft and rested. “Happy birthday, baby.”

I smiled. “Thank you. I would have totally forgotten if you hadn’t reminded me.” 

“What do you want to do today? We can do whatever you want.”

I raised my eyebrows. “I figured you had everything all planned out. I didn’t bother wishing for anything in particular.”

He laughed. “All right, guilty as charged. Let’s shower and get dressed. We’ll get breakfast, and then I’m going to take you shopping.”

“Shopping? For what? I have everything I need.”

“Honeymoon wardrobe shopping.”

I laughed. “I can’t imagine that’s something you really want to do.”

He smirked and rolled me off him as he turned to his side. Propped up on his elbow, he began lazy caresses under the edge of my shirt. “It’s your birthday, and I want to spoil you. In all your years living in Chicago, did you ever go shopping on Michigan Avenue?”

I thought of the very few times I’d even walked down the popular street, let alone purchased anything. “No. Not really in the budget.”

“Well, this time everything is in the budget.”

I smiled teasingly. “Everything?”

Blake cocked an eyebrow. “Do you doubt it? I’m pretty confident I can buy you anything you could ever want.”

I planted a playful kiss on his lips. “I don’t doubt it. But I’m more interested in your other”—I hooked my finger under the sheet lying precariously over his hip and lowered it slowly—“assets.”

“Hmm,” he moaned against my lips, shifting his hips up. He was hard, and his erection slid into my eager grasp. “What’s mine in yours, sweetheart.”

“Then I’ll just make myself at home,” I murmured, sucking his lower lip between my teeth. I bit down gently.

He groaned and tightened his fingers in my hair. I let my tongue slide over the plump flesh. I pushed his shoulder back until he was flat on the bed.

The smile playing on my lips relaxed as I eased down the length of his toned body. I traced my tongue down the center of his stomach, dipping lightly into his navel. I breathed him in, his musky scent stronger the farther I went, until I was face-to-face with his rigid cock—the thick weight of it heavy in my palms, the veins throbbing as I pumped him gently. I punctuated each stroke with my mouth, swirling my tongue over the head, sucking the salty pre-cum. I wanted to draw more out. I wanted to watch him come apart. I pressed my nails into his hip as I took him fully in my mouth.

“Fuck,” he yelled, from the nails or the fact that I’d taken him to the root, I wasn’t sure.

I didn’t let up on either account.

“Ah,” he gasped. “Come here, baby.”

I moaned, my core clenching as I imagined taking him fully in other ways. I let him slip from me slowly. “I’m just getting started. Relax.”

“As much as I love morning head...” He sucked in a sharp breath as I took him deep into my throat. “Fuck me, it’s your birthday. Get your ass up here. You’re about to get your first present.”

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