“I should go clean up,” I said quickly, hoping to buy a few minutes to pull myself together. I didn’t want to ruin this moment with my tears.
“No,” Blake said, his body still nestled above me, inside me. “We need to let my little guys do their work in there. Stay put for a while.”
I laughed quietly, trying not to consider the possibility that it could be a lost cause. I pushed the hair back from his face. His gorgeous eyes twinkled in the moonlight.
I shook my head. “You’re determined, aren’t you?”
He smiled under a tender kiss and laced our fingers together. “Oh, Erica, you have no idea.”
“Oh, I think I do.” I arched against him, all too aware of how determined he could be. So determined that ever since I’d met the man, my nights were long, and the mornings always came too soon.
He hummed, his eyes darkening anew. “You’re making me hard again.”
I trailed my toes up his calves until my heels met the backs of his strong thighs. I lifted my hips and drew him into me fully again. His erection hadn’t flagged at all since he’d come. He met the motion with a small thrust of his own, solid proof of his lingering desire. I tightened around him and relished the delicious friction that I’d tasted so recently.
“Then let’s try again,” I murmured.
The honeymoon had been an escape. A beautiful, decadent escape. Then real life called us back home.
A week later, bronzed from the sun and restored from the last leg of our trip on an island that was beginning to feel like ours, we touched down in Boston.
Thin gray clouds obscured the sun and the threat of the impending winter greeted us. I shivered when a gust of chilled air whipped across the tarmac. A reminder of the inevitable passing of time.
As Blake and I disembarked, I spotted a black Escalade parked in the distance. We approached, and a tall thickly built man circled the vehicle. Clad in all black, he was a forbidding figure, but one I knew well.
“Clay!” I lifted high on my toes to hug the beast of a man who’d made it his job to protect us for the past several months. “We missed you.”
He cracked a shy smile. “How was your trip?”
“Incredible, but we’re glad to be home.” Paradise couldn’t last forever, after all.
“It’s good to have you back.” He looked to Blake. “Home?”
Blake nodded once. “Home.”
Clay drove us north, putting the skyline of the city behind us. The highway gave way to the one-lane roads curving along the coast through smaller towns. I took it all in. The steady flow of traffic, the familiar signs, rows of seaside homes overlooking the deep blue sea. Everything was home, yet somehow foreign. Even the destination, a house we’d yet to make a home, would seem strange after such a time away.
Here and there campaign signs still dotted yards as we passed them, some bearing the Fitzgerald name and slogan. Daniel was maybe the last person I wanted to greet me on my first day back, but he was everywhere. As our new reality set in, memories flooded me in an unwelcome rush.
After years of not knowing who my real father was, I’d found an old photograph of Daniel with my mother. I could still remember my anxiety about reaching out to him. I’d been a mix of scared and hopeful as I sat across from his desk and told him who my mother was. As intimidating as that experience had been, truly knowing the man behind the expensive suit, the high-rise offices, and the political machine driving his campaign had proven far more frightening. And yet fear wasn’t all I felt when I saw his name and remembered his face.
There was disappointment, too, and beneath that, anger. After all those years, I had expected more. I’d hoped for so much more. A knot formed in my throat, and I suddenly wanted to rip the signs out of every yard we passed.
Blake reached across the space between us and caught my hand. “What are you thinking about?”
I stared blankly ahead. “Nothing.” Nothing that he wanted to talk about. I didn’t hate Daniel, as much as maybe I should have. But I knew that Blake did. He’d understand my anger, but commiserating with Blake about it wouldn’t bring me any closer to peace.
“He won, you know,” he muttered.
Daniel had won. I rolled that news around in my mind a few times, imagining all the pomp and glory, streamers and symbols of patriotism, and the false pride. And then I thought about the darkness under the celebration, where all the things he’d done to secure his victory were hiding.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of it. What could I really say? That’s good? That’s too bad?
Blake and I rode the rest of the way in silence as I contemplated whether to mourn or celebrate Daniel’s news.