When I came to, I was immediately aware of the sterile smell of the room I was in, the steady beeping of a machine, and the weight of something surrounding my hand, holding it down.

I slowly opened my eyes, taking in the hospital room I was in. Juliana was asleep in the chair next to my bed, her head bent over my bed, resting beside my arm. Her hand was wrapped around mine, her grip tight despite her being asleep.

Pain was radiating through my body, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I was used to pain, and I knew how to channel it so it didn’t bother me much. But I knew my body had been put through the fucking wringer.

I lifted my free hand and gently ran it over her hair, watching as she slowly woke up, her pretty eyes opening to look up at me.

“Darren?” she croaked.

I smiled at her, though it hurt my fucking face to do so. “I’m here, baby girl,” I soothed, watching as her eyes welled with tears, breaking my fucking heart. I never meant to scare her like this, but unfortunately, shit happened – shit I couldn’t control.

And this had been one of those situations that had been out of my fucking hands.

“Come on.” I patted the spot beside me as I scooted my sore body over a little more. I wanted her next to me. I wanted to feel her warm, soft body next to mine for the next few hours. “Get up here.”

“But you’re hurt,” she said quietly, hesitant to get on the bed beside me.

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Juliana, baby, if you don’t get your cute ass on this bed—”

A small smile broke out over her face. My heart skipped a beat in my chest.

Fuck, she was gorgeous.

I was falling in love with this woman more and more every fucking day, and every time she aimed that perfect as fuck smile at me, my entire fucking world brightened.

She was like my personal sun, and just like the Earth, I revolved around her.

She slowly crawled onto the bed next to me. I wrapped my arm around her, pulling the blankets over her. She gently laid her arm over my abdomen, being extra careful of my injuries as she snuggled closer to me. I brushed my lips to her forehead. “Sleep, little girl,” I rumbled. “Daddy’s got you.”

She pressed a kiss to my bare chest. It didn’t take long for her breathing to even out as she quickly fell into a deep sleep. I closed my eyes as well, allowing the medicine dripping through my IV line to drag me back under.


The feeling of someone else being in the room quickly tugged me out of my sleep. I slowly opened my eyes, finding my brother standing over my bed, staring down at me.

“You’d recover a lot faster if you could let that woman of yours go for a few hours,” he whispered.

I narrowed my eyes at him. “You telling me that if you got put in my situation because of someone targeting Emmaline, you wouldn’t want her as close as possible either?” I asked. James stayed silent. I quietly scoffed, already knowing the answer. “Like I thought.”

“You feeling okay?” he asked me.

I nodded. “Good as I can right now,” I admitted. “They beat the fuck out of me pretty fucking good. I was right about Juliana being used for sex.” James clenched his jaw. “Their reactions to what I said about her confirmed it.”

James sighed. “Do you know how to just shut your fucking mouth?” he asked me.

I shrugged one shoulder, a smirk tugging at my lips. “Didn’t matter if I did or not,” I told him. “They planned to do this to me either way. I just sped up the process by taunting all of them.”

James pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fucking hell, Darren.” He looked down at me. “You find anything useful out?”

I nodded. “Found out a lot by sticking behind the scenes,” I informed him. “But I’m not discussing it right now.” James nodded in understanding. “Just warning you, though, this was supposed to be a message to you and Adrian. It’s like a prequel to what Andres plans on doing if we don’t hand over Juliana.”

James snickered. “This is it?” He laughed. I rolled my eyes. “Fuck; I thought the man would do better.”

I glowered at him. James rolled his eyes. “I know what he plans on doing, Darren,” he assured me. “I’ve already upped security here. You’re on a secure, private floor with multiple family guards. There are also eyes on every entrance of this building at all times. There’s extra security on the house as well. I’ve got everyone working fucking double time to keep her safe.”

I nodded once. “Appreciate it.”

James shook his head at me. “I don’t need a thanks, Darren. It’s like I told her the other day – she’s family now. You claimed her. You collared her. It’s only a matter of time before I know you’ll put a ring on her finger.” I grinned. James knew me so well. I’d meant what I had said to Juliana. When I collared her, I collared her forever. “We do what we can to protect family,” James reminded me.

I nodded once. My older brother gently squeezed my shoulder. I didn’t flinch at the pain that pulsed down my arm and back. “I’ll come back later. Emmaline wants to bring you and Juliana some food.” He looked at Juliana for a moment before looking back at me. “She actually spoke a tiny bit to Emmaline.” My eyes widened in surprise. “She’s making progress, brother. Whatever you’re doing with her, you’re doing it fucking well.”

My heart squeezed in my chest. I looked down at my sweet girl lying next to me, sleeping comfortably and safely in my arms.

She was blossoming, and I was slowly sparking the fire in her soul.

Tags: T.O. Smith Jackson Family Erotic
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