Mature (18+) Audiences. Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios.
The Bestest Time Ever
Dinner with everyone laughing and chatting together did wonders to help Theo wind down for the night, and Ayesha agreed to let him stay with Joel for the rest of the week while she and Josiah finished moving. Theo had his bag packed in under a minute, but Joel had to repack it so they brought actual essentials instead of dinosaur toys, race cars, and juice boxes.
They asked Theo’s teacher if he could complete his work for the rest of the week virtually, and she told them Theo had been so anxious and withdrawn at school, she wanted them to treat his time out like any other illness. She also gave them a recommendation for someone they could speak to about his night terrors.
After dinner, Ayesha and Josiah tried to entice Theo with the promise of watching Trolls at home—they knew he wouldn’t agree, but they wanted him to feel even more missed—but he grinned and said he and Joel were going camping. As it was cold outside, Joel had set up a tent in the front room and pulled up the blinds so they could see the stars through the windowpanes.
He’d had a night of activities planned, but Theo wasn’t interested in anything other than lying on sleeping bags, tucked against him while they read stories together.
“Are you sure you want me to read this one, Theo?” Joel asked, flipping through the book which was a story about a baby bird who’d hatched while its mother was away getting food for it to eat. “Have you ever read it before?”
“My teacher at my old school in Maui readed it to our class. It’s about a baby bird looking for its mama.”
Theo had wanted them to wear matching pajamas, but Joel didn’t have anything blue with gray spaceships, so he improvised with a blue Quantico T-shirt and gray pajama pants. The fabrics rustled against each other as Theo snuggled closer.
“She read it to your class?” He turned to the first page. “You must really like this story if you want to read it again.”
As Joel began the story, he understood why it had resonated with Theo. The baby bird was in an egg that the mother had been sitting on. When she felt the egg move, she realized that it was getting ready to hatch and flew to find food for it to eat. While she was away, the bird hatched from the egg and then went on an adventure trying to find its mother.
Due to his age, Theo often didn’t get enough credit for the times he was most astute, like now. He’d essentially “hatched” when his father wasn’t around, and he’d been looking for one ever since.
When they reached the part where the baby bird proclaimed that it had to have a mother, it just hadn’t found her yet, Theo squirmed next to him.
“Is this how you feel, Theo?” Joel asked. “Do you feel like you don’t have a,” he decided to play coy to give Theo more independence, “mother?”
Theo pulled wrinkled fingers from his mouth. “But I have a mama, Joel!”
“Do you feel like you don’t have a daddy, then?”
“Josiah had a daddy. I never had a daddy.”
“And how does that make you feel? Do you feel sad that you never got to meet your papa?”
“I asked Mama if we could go to where they put Papa in the dirt after he went to heaven, just me and her this time, and she said yes,” he explained. “And, I know I have a papa. Mama showed me pictures and stuff. I watched him on her phone and the TV.”
“But…it’s not the same.”
“It’s not the same thing,” Theo echoed.
Joel read more of the story and stopped again when Theo squirmed as the baby bird asked a giant piece of machinery if it was its mother.
“What’d you do when you went to see your papa?”
“I aksed him a secret. I aks…aks,” Theo huffed out a sigh, “asked him if he would be mad if I got another daddy.”
“Did you have someone in mind?”
Theo readjusted so their heads touched. “I want you to be my daddy, Joel. I love my uncles, but I want them to be my uncles.”
“I must be a special guy if I’m the one you want.”
He’d framed it teasingly, but he did feel amazing knowing how much love Theo had for him.
“You’re really funny, your eggs don’t have any juice like when Mama makes them, and you’re really good at soccer even though I think Mama’s better now.”
“I’m working on my game,” Joel said, faking hurt. “But she is pretty good, isn’t she?”
“Mama said when you love somebody, you don’t want bad things to happen to them,” Theo added. “I love you, Joel, the same like I love Mama. I don’t want bad things to happen to you. When I get to hang out with you and we do stuff together, just me and you, or with Jojo, I feel like you’re my daddy. I like when you pick me up from school and read me stories. You have to be my daddy. Can you stay with me forever? Please don’t go away.”
Joel closed the book. “Do you think I’ll go away if I’m not your daddy?”
“Do you want to?”
“Theo, I’ll always be here for you, whether I’m your daddy or not.” He wouldn’t mind the role, however. “And no, I don’t want to go far away from you.”
Theo beamed. “Don’t tell Mama, but you’re my second best friend.”
“Who’s your first?”
Joel smiled. “Good choice.”
“Mama is the bestest because she’s Mama, Jojo is my first best friend, you’re my second best friend, and Thandie is my third best friend. I don’t have any other friends at school.”
A pang hit Joel in the center of his chest when he recalled what Ayesha had told him at dinner. Back in Maui, most of Theo’s friends had been extensions of Josiah’s. Theo also wasn’t the biggest fan of school, and he and Ayesha had assumed it had to do with having to “sit still and listen” for a time period longer than fifteen minutes. Part of that, now that Joel thought about it, was likely attributed to his friendlessness. Kids could tell when people didn’t like them or merely tolerated them, but what was there not to like about Theo?
“Are kids mean to you at school, Theo?”
Theo split his fingers into “legs” and walked them across Joel’s forehead. “They get mad because sometimes I kick the ball too hard, but I never mean it when it hurts somebody. That’s when they say I can’t play anymore.”
“What do you do then?”
“Play catch by myself.”
Behind Joel’s eyes felt like a fire had been lit. He was torn between wanting to fight kindergarten-age children for hurting his boy and wanting to beg them to please play with Theo. If they gave him a shot, if they learned who he really was, they would love him.
“Whenever we go to recess at the same time, Thandie plays with me even though she’s bigger’n me.” Theo crawled on top of Joel and stared down into his eyes, their noses almost touching.
Joel had to move the book to the side to avoid it being crushed beneath Theo’s thirty-eight pounds. Theo continued to lag behind on the growth chart, but then again, so had Josiah. They’d already taken him for two check-ups since moving and, according to his doctor, he was perfectly healthy…just small.
“Joel, I didn’t mean to scratch Thandie.”
“I know you didn’t, buddy,” Joel reassured. “Me and your mama know you didn’t mean it, but we have to make sure you understand it’s dangerous and remind you of the rules.”
Theo agreed, quieted, and resettled, and Joel finished the rest of the book. Afterward, they read one about a little boy who lost his dinosaur.
When Joel thought they were finished and Theo was ready to “roast marshmallows,” Theo went to his bag and pulled out one last book. Joel scanned the cover and came dangerously close to bursting into a level of tears he hadn’t shed since elementary school.
“My teacher gived me this book.” Theo climbed back on top of him. “I aksed her if she had a book that I could read to you when I’m a gooder reader, and she said I can take this one home and read it with you so I learn the words.”
Joel swallowed twice before reading the title out loud. “You asked her for a book called ‘I Love You, Daddy’ to read with me?”
“When I go back to school, I’ll ask her for the mama one.”
When did this happen, Theo?
When did you become my boy?
Joel sat up. Theo plopped his fingers in his mouth and threaded himself through Joel’s arms so he could see the pictures in the book while Joel read.
Joel didn’t know how he got through the book, which was about a baby bear who felt like he could do things he’d never thought he could before because of his father, without flooding the living room with tears. He had to stop a few times and pretend to clear something from his throat to gather his composure. He didn’t know what he’d ever done to deserve this, but just like Theo didn’t want him going anywhere, he didn’t want to go anywhere himself.
He loved Theo.
He loved Josiah.
And he loved Ayesha.
At this point, where could he go except straight into a den of misery and unhappiness if they weren’t part of his life?
After the story, they roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Joel used the opportunity to reiterate fire safety to Theo four times to make sure he heard it once. When they were done, he expected the sugar to have Theo bouncing off the walls, but all Theo wanted to do was sit with him in the tent and look at the stars through the windows.
He learned that dinosaurs were the “biggest animals to ever have lived,” Komodo dragons had “poisin spit,” and a “boxed jellyfish” was “the most poisinous thing in the world.” As Theo spewed out fact after fact, Joel made a mental note to get some sort of National Geographic Kids subscription sent to the house.
Theo had also wanted to know, if he was “really good,” whether he could get a pet iguana. Gage and Tayler had Ares, Mo had a puppy named Ginger, and Giorgio had secret piranhas, but there was no way in hell Ayesha would agree to having a big ass lizard in the house. A hamster or guinea pig might be an easier sell.
“Joel, are you gonna marry Mama?” Theo suddenly asked in the middle of explaining why a Komodo dragon wasn’t the same thing as a Water Monitor lizard.
“Well, I…uh…” He scratched his head. “I’m still trying to impress your mama.”
“What does ‘impress’ mean?”
“I’m…trying to get her to like me.”
“But she loves you!”
His heart raced, and his mouth stretched into a wide smile. Not even a gun to the head would have stopped him from smiling right then.
“And how do you know your mama loves me?”
“She told me.” Theo tossed up both hands for emphasis. “But, I can help you make Mama love you like me and Jojo love you.”
The smile grew. “I’m all ears.”
“Mama likes food.”
“Good. I took her to a fancy restaurant, and she really liked it.”
“Did they have yummy lemonade?” Theo smacked his lips. “Mama likes yummy lemonade.”
“We didn’t have lemonade that time, but if we go back, I’ll make sure we order some.”
Theo stood in front of Joel and tapped his chin, their faces again close to touching. “What about pretty flowers?”
“Will you help me pick some out?”
“We’ll get the prettiest flowers for the prettiest mama!” Theo pumped his fist and then tapped again. “Oh! Mama loves kisses too!”
And he loved that Theo’s mama loved kisses.
“I’ll…try to remember that.”
“Okay.” Theo yawned and curled himself into Joel’s chest. “Joel, when it’s just me and you and nobody else, can I call you Daddy? Or would that make you mad?”
Joel’s racing heart swelled. “It wouldn’t make me mad, but are you sure you want to do that?”
“Jojo said if you get to be our daddy, I can call you Daddy and he can call you Dad. Then, when I get bigger, I can call you Dad too, but I don’t want to right now.”
Joel smoothed a hand over Theo’s hair. “Well, when it’s just the two of us and nobody else, you can call me whatever you want.”
“Daddy. I want to call you my daddy.”
If he could help it, Theo would never feel unsafe again. Poor Ayesha had no idea she was moving in for good, but it wouldn’t take her long to figure it out. If she needed convincing, he could do that too.
“If I fall asleep, will you leave me?” Theo asked.
“Nope.” He pressed a couple of kisses on top of Theo’s head. “I’ll be right here when you wake up. No one will hurt you as long as you’re with me.”
Joel held up his pinky. Theo wrapped his smaller one around it in a silent promise and closed his eyes.
“I’m happy you’re my daddy for right now.”
Joel’s eyes misted over.
“This is the bestest time ever.”
Joel held him close. “For me too.”
WHEN HE DIDN'T FEEL the movements or stirrings of a small, warm body next to him, Joel’s eyelids flipped open. He was in the tent, but Theo wasn’t next to him. He’d told Theo to wake him if he had to go to the bathroom, even though he wore the night underwear, to make sure he didn’t walk in the dark alone. If Theo wasn’t next to him, where the hell was he?
“Theo?” Joel moved aside a picture on the wall, grabbed the Glock hidden behind it, and searched through the dark house, pulse pounding in his ears. “Theo, where are you? Talk to me, buddy.”
A shriek that made Joel’s blood curdle echoed throughout the house, and he took a moment to focus on where the noise had come from, keeping as cool a head as possible. Panic wouldn’t help him find Theo, but he was seconds away from his heart giving out.
Theo’s voice rang out a second time from the direction of the kitchen. “Please don’t let him get me!”
Joel dashed to the kitchen and followed crying and whimpering noises to the pantry where he found Theo curled into a ball on the floor, eyes shut.
His fingers grazed Theo’s skin. “Theo, it’s me. I’m here.”
Theo startled out of his sleep and plastered himself up against a pile of cans. When he recognized Joel, he scrambled forward and wrapped his arms around Joel’s neck, tight. His little heart beat out of his chest, tears stained his face as he coughed between cries, and his entire body shook.
Joel tucked away the pistol. “Theo, I’m here. I’m here. Can you feel my breathing? Try to breathe like me. In…out. In…out. I’m here. I’m here.”
While they breathed together, he walked around the house, patting Theo’s back and rocking him like he used to do when Theo was younger. He made sure to keep his tone level and calm, no matter how much he freaked out on the inside. What if he’d lost him? What would he have done? What would he have told Ayesha?
“I’m right here, Theo.” He sent a quick apology heavenward before the next words left his mouth. “Daddy’s here. Daddy’s right here. I’m not going anywhere, baby boy. You’re safe.”
It took several minutes before Theo was able to speak again.
“Tell me what happened,” Joel said. “Did you have a bad dream?”
Theo’s stomach quivered with each shaky breath. “Mr. Veeny was at the Maui house.”
All fear left and was replaced by rage potent enough to coagulate Joel’s blood.
“Theo, is Mr. Veeny real or fake?”
“I can’t tell you.”
He sat Theo on the living room sectional and crouched in front of him. “Theo, you can tell me anything. Anything in the world. I love you,” his voice shook, “so if Mr. Veeny hurt you in Maui and told you not to tell me, tell me anyhow. Anybody who hurts my baby boy has to deal with me, and I won’t be nice about it. It’s okay to tell me, no matter what he said to you.”
Theo’s lips trembled. “Mr. Veeny told me not to tell Mama that he was at my school.”
“So, it wasn’t a dream?”
“Did he tell you his name was Mr. Veeny?”
“His name sounded like Veen…something.”
“What else did,” this motherfucker, “Mr. Veeny tell you?”
“He said that if I’m not good, he’ll hurt Mama and Jojo. I told him my daddy was stronger than him, and he said my daddy’s dead.”
“And…” Joel took several deep breaths, “how did Mr. Veeny get inside the Maui house?”
“He climbeded in through my bedroom window.”
Joel swallowed a litany of curse words and used divine strength to keep his expression neutral.
Please, God, let him say no when I ask him this.
“Theo, did Mr. Veeny ever touch you? And I mean anywhere like on your arm, your leg, or,” his voice shook again, “in your underwear?”
“No, he didn’t touch me. But he showed me his gun.”
Joel’s rage grew until tremors moved inside him. “Theo, when was the last time you saw Mr. Veeny?”
“When you stayed with me, Mama, and Jojo. I forgot about him for a little while, but then I had a dream that he was here in our Sweden house, and then I remembered.”
“And Mr. Veeny,” who’s a dead motherfucker, “said he knows about your heaven daddy?”
“Uh, huh. He said he killed my papa, but I don’t believe him. Mama said my papa was a hero, and he protected my uncles and that’s how come he went to heaven.”
“And your mama’s right.”
“Joel,” the tears returned, “are you still not gonna get mad if I call you my daddy? I don’t want you to be mad.”
“I won’t get mad at all. It makes me happy that you want me to be your daddy, and daddies protect the people they love. Mr. Veeny won’t lay a,” fucking, “hand on you. I promise.” It was something he felt now more than ever, and he didn’t give a shit about anybody who had a fucking problem with it. “I’m going to take care of you, Jojo, and your mama. Come on. Hop on up.”
Joel turned around and patted his shoulders.
Theo climbed onto his back.
“Hold on tight.”
Theo’s chin moved against his shoulder with a nod.
Joel went around the room, closing all the blinds, and he double-checked the locks on the doors for Theo’s peace of mind. After, he put out the fireplace and headed upstairs to his room. Camping was fun, but also for Theo’s peace of mind, they needed to sleep somewhere not as open or vulnerable.
He set Theo down and had barely climbed into bed before Theo scrambled over to him and latched onto his left arm. Joel gently pried him off so he could wrap an arm around him, locking him in to help him feel safe. Then, when he was certain Theo was asleep, he texted Ayesha.
Joel: Eesh you up?
Ayesha: Hey 😍. How’s boys’ night?
Joel: How do you feel about you and Josiah coming tonight?
His phone rang, and he cursed. He’d texted to avoid talking to her because he had no idea how he sounded. Inside, he felt ready to commit murder.
“What happened? Is Theo okay?”
He wasn’t ready to tell her what he knew. If he did, she’d have to live with the knowledge that this man had been in her home. She’d realize this Mr. Veeny had been in her baby’s room and had managed to bypass Julien’s security system, which meant he wasn’t some average fuck, not that it mattered in the grand scheme of things. Mr. Veeny was a dead motherfucker.
He couldn’t do that to her, not when she’d been so happy since they moved here. She was always laughing and smiling now, and she loved being within driving distance of everyone else. As her man, which he would affirm tonight, it was his duty to keep that smile on her face.
So, he would keep this from her for as long as he feasibly could.
“He had another nightmare,” Joel said. “I found him in the pantry.”
“Oh my God.”
“I’d really like it if you and Josiah came tonight. I’d feel better if you guys came now before it gets too late, and that when Theo wakes up, you’re here.”
Her sheets ruffled, and her bed creaked. “Okay. We’re coming. I’ll go wake Josiah, and I’ll see you in—”
“Don’t hang up.”
He kept her on the phone and listened to them pack their things, Josiah’s maturing, sleepy voice asking if everything was okay with Theo. He heard Ayesha reassure him, but there was no way Josiah believed it with the way she sounded.
They drove to his house, and he didn’t allow her to disconnect until he heard the garage door close. When she appeared in the bedroom doorway, his anger cooled.
“Where’s Josiah?” he asked.
“He’s half asleep, so he went to his room.”
She dropped her things, kicked off her shoes, slipped off the pair of leggings she’d tossed on under her sleep shirt, and climbed into bed, giving him a quick kiss that eased the remainder of his need for violence.
He gave her a redacted rundown of his and Theo’s eventful night. While he spoke, she stroked Theo’s cheek.
“And Giorgio doesn’t know anything about this ‘veeny’ thing, right?” she asked.
“No, and we still don’t know what it means, but he says he thinks it’s, at least, not a word.”
She stared at Theo, eyes glistening.
“Ayesha, I don’t want you to be here solely for the purpose of me and you sharing a roof for safety. I want you here because we’re together. Because you’re mine. But, before you answer, I have something to tell you, and I don’t know if you’ll like it.”
Her gaze flicked to him and then back to Theo. “Theo asked to call you Daddy, didn’t he?”
“And you didn’t tell him he couldn’t.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I mean, I guess it’s because I don’t hate it? I know how that sounds, and I’m sorry for doing that without consulting with you first, but he had me read this ‘I Love You, Daddy’ book, and I got caught up in all the feels.”
“An ‘I Love You, Daddy,’ book?” Her brows shot up. “And he brought that to you out of the blue?”
“He asked his teacher for a book he could read with me.”
She kissed Theo’s cheek, temple, and forehead. “I wish more people could see how sweet my baby really is. And while I do think, under different circumstances, it would be soon for him to be calling his mother’s boyfriend ‘Daddy,’ you’ve been an active part of Theo’s life for…almost as long as I have, actually.”
“So you don’t think Curtis’ll lodge a trident in my spine?”
She burst out in quiet laughter. “Why a trident?”
“I…” He breathed through a laugh. “I don’t even know.”
“Joel, if Curtis and I had divorced, then yes, things would be different. Theo would still have his daddy around, and I’d make sure to keep those boundaries tight. But,” she sighed, “the truth is, no matter how much I try to avoid thinking this, Theo never knew his father. He never knew what it’s like to have a father, and my words and videos and photos can only do so much. You came into his life and made him feel loved, protected, and appreciated. I don’t think he sees you as a father figure because of our relationship. I think it’s more your relationship with him.”
He loved them more than even he understood.
His sister had warned him that he might never come to love Josiah and Theo the way she loved her children. From what she’d told him and showed him, there were a lot of stepparents who didn’t feel “love” for their stepchildren. In fact, it was the majority. If he and Ayesha had met when the boys were older or Curtis had been given more time in their lives, he could see how things might be different compared to what they were now.
But, if he and Ayesha were to have a child right then, it wouldn’t be that Theo and Josiah were his stepsons and that child was his real son or daughter.
They would all be his.
“Josiah told me that because of you, he remembers his father more,” she added. “Until he pointed it out, I didn’t realize the similarities you and Curtis have. If Theo wants to call you his daddy, that’s his choice. In his eyes, you’ve earned the role, and I think he needs that right now.”
Theo squeezed him and then squeezed again as if the first was for reassurance he was still there.
Even after the divorce papers were signed and time had passed, he’d held onto the belief that he’d used up all the love he would ever have. Sydney had been more than his wife. The reason he used “split” more often than “divorce” was because it was exactly what his heart had done that day he walked out of a lawyer’s office as a single man, again, all of a sudden.
But these three?
Love might be a barrel filled with water that could be drained, but rain would always come again.
“Wait…” He eyed Ayesha. “Did you say ‘mother’s boyfriend’?”
She slipped her fingers through his. “Took you long enough.”
“So, you’re with me?”
“I’m with you, Joel.”
This wasn’t easy for her. Opening up to love was treacherous territory, especially since her marriage had ended the way it had and their relationship still felt taboo. On the outside, it looked like he and Ayesha had been harboring feelings for each other while he was still married, but the thought had never crossed his mind. He’d noticed she was beautiful, but Larke, Tayler, Xara, and Ari were also all beautiful as hell.
He couldn’t bring himself to even think about Mo’s looks and have Giorgio lurking in his dreams like Freddy Krueger.
Ayesha Savea had been nothing but a great friend, in his mind, until a fateful Friday at Lahaina Beach on the west coast of Maui. All of a sudden, his ears started flaming whenever she looked at him. Her laugh made his skin tingle. He became self-conscious whenever he touched her, and he started having dreams about holding and kissing her and sent looks that promised death to the men checking her out:
“You okay, Joel?”
“Hmm?” Joel looked away from Ayesha’s dripping wet body walking toward him. “Yeah.”
He didn’t know what was happening. The minute she’d emerged from the water, his groin had tightened. Now, his breaths were coming up short and his pulse no longer moved in time to the gentle back and forth of the waves. He’d always thought she was pretty, but damn. Ayesha was fucking gorgeous.
She eased down onto the towel next to him and propped up on her elbows. “You’re quiet. You must be hungry.”
“You sure you’re okay?” She turned her head, and he could feel her looking at the side of his face. “You can head back if you want. I don’t mind being alone out here.”
He saw himself reaching out, pulling her up against him, and sucking her lips into his mouth. His brain was already mapping her shape for the best place to put his hands, and he could tell her body would be the perfect temperature hitched up against his. His skin wanted her close, her limbs wrapped around him. He wanted her head on his chest, her fingers in his hair, and his lips on her forehead.
“I think I’m ready to get back in, that’s all.” He stood and headed to the water, disappearing under the surface just in time to hide his erection.
He was hard…for Ayesha Savea.
He was really messed up and lonely if he wanted the one woman who was most off-limits to him.
How did something like this even happen? How could he go from laughing and chatting with her as they walked down to the sand to wanting to ask her if she had feelings for him because he needed to know if they felt the same way about each other? Why was his chest hurting like this all of a sudden, and why did the sensation grow whenever she looked at him?
When he turned around, she was at the water’s edge and headed toward him. Her red bikini showcased her perked up nipples from the cool water, her kissable brown stomach, the gentle flare of her hips, and her—
He dragged his eyes back up to her face.
This made zero sense. He’d seen her in the same bikini dozens of times. Was this happening because the boys were at a school friend’s house for the weekend? Had his horniness reached new heights? Shit, now that he thought about it, was it making love to her he’d actually pictured when he’d jerked off the other day?
This was bad.
“Want to race?” She adjusted her bikini top, and the movement made her breasts bounce. “Josiah said I have to beat you at something because, as it stands, they think you’re Superman.”
If a shark swam up and chomped off his dick, he would deserve it. But, if it really wanted to make a difference, it would have to take his heart too.
“A race?” He rolled his shoulders. If he didn’t, he would reach out, hold her close, and never let her go. Ever. She was his. His, his, his. “Yeah. We can do that.”
Lust was easy enough to handle. Sex these days wasn’t like it had been with Sydney, but it served its purpose. However, it wasn’t lust that made a man want to smooth a woman’s eyebrows or trace the fullness of her lips. Lust didn’t make him want to hold her hand, make her dinner, show her off, and never leave her side. This was insane, and love often danced around the same campfire as insanity.
But this wasn’t love.
Jesus, this couldn’t be love.
The sheer amount of time he’d spent with this woman, doted on this woman, needed this woman, and the way he loved the boys until it hurt meant this could not, in any way, be love.
Because, if it was, heaven help her.
“Ready?” she asked.
Ayesha made him feel wanted in a way he hadn’t experienced even with Syd, and he’d been borderline obsessed with Sydney. She made him feel needed and strong and capable. He was a giver—according to Larke, his love language was Acts of Service—and he wanted to give Ayesha everything. Mind, body, and soul.
He indicated for her to come closer with a tilt of his head.
Their lips touched, and what he felt wasn’t another petit mal infarction. His blood vessels dilated. His breathing slowed. He dipped his tongue inside her mouth and cradled the back of her head to take as much of her as he could. Later, when they were alone, he would possess this mouth. Own this mouth.
Right now, her son, his boy, lay between them.
So, they pulled apart.
He wanted to see nothing but want, desire, and the bloom of something unspoken when she looked at him.
At least for the next several weeks.
While he wooed her and made her his in every way imaginable, behind the scenes, he would track this fucking Mr. Veeny and make sure the piece of shit understood that his biggest mistake was messing with the people Joel Lattimore loved more than his own life.
* * *
“Gage?” Tayler descended the steps down into what the guys referred to as the Lair, a massive underground space that would put American basements to shame. “Baby, are you down here?”
“I’m back here, love.”
She found him cleaning guns. It was three o’clock in the morning, and he was cleaning guns. If it wasn’t for the fact that he did so whenever there was a lot on his mind, she would have blamed it on the celibacy bet they’d made with Joel. So far, Gage, Dez, and Julien were still in the running.
Giorgio had made it four hours.
Mike, ten minutes.
She wrapped her arms around her hubby and set her chin on top of his head. “What’s keeping you up, Mr. Wolfe?”
He set down the gun and rag and dragged her around his body onto his lap. Then, he buried his face in her breasts, his nose playing between the deep V of her nightgown.
“Tay, what would you do if something happened to me?”
“If I died, love.”
A rush of cold covered her skin. “Gage, don’t.”
“Gage, I literally try to never think about that, even when you’re gone.” She held him close. “Baby, you and Grey are my everything. I can’t imagine not having you or him growing up without his father and—”
He quieted her with a caress up her spine.
“I didn’t mean to get you all worked up, love. I only asked because of the Joel and Ayesha situation. I never thought about Ayesha’s end of it. All I thought about was, if anything ever happened to me, I’d find a way to come back from the dead and kill any bloke who even thought he was going to put his dick in my wife.”
“You went from zero to ‘sex with wife’ pretty quickly.”
He squeezed her ass and nipped the inside of her right breast.
“But, look how much happier Ayesha’s been,” he added.
Ayesha was so happy, they realized that before, she’d been depressed. With them all now within driving distance of one another, and with Joel becoming a bigger part of her life, Ayesha couldn’t stop smiling.
“Joel’s not normal,” Tayler said. “He’s not an everyday kind of guy. There are no more Joels, so if anything ever happens to you, I’m done.”
He eased back and moved a loc out of her face with his index finger. “You don’t mean that.”
“The way we met, it was kismet. I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want anyone else as my husband or the father of my children.”
“I mean, it wasn’t like we had to try hard for Grey.” She switched to a deep Australian accent. “‘Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ll pull out. I promise. I…ah, fuck. Sorry, love.’”
Gage tipped back his head and laughed. “Hey, I tried. It’s warm and cozy in there.”
“I’m sure it was so difficult to come up all inside me.”
He gripped the back of her head, dragged her toward him, and angled his mouth, tongue pushing against her lips until she opened up for him. While she repositioned on his lap and fiddled with his belt, he probed her mouth, licking the soft flesh inside, and sucked her lips.
He flicked his tongue at the corners of her mouth and then trailed kisses down her neck to the pulsing center of her collarbone. “Yeah, love?”
“Your bet’s off.”
She raised up and lowered onto his cock.
“Fuck. Fuck.” He hissed and pivoted his hips, pushing up into her. “You’re so wet, sweetheart. You’ve been fantasizing about fucking your husband?”
Tayler had to forcibly prevent her eyes from rolling back in her head. “Why do you think I came down here without panties on?”
He pulled down the straps of her nightgown, exposing her naked breasts, and covered a mound with his mouth. Her nipples pebbled, and she looked down to watch his cheeks hollow as he sucked and his pink tongue as it flicked against the dusky bud. He was harder than stone, and each tilt of his hips rewarded her with the deep penetration she craved.
He released her nipple, kissed the center of her chest, and filled his mouth with the other soft breast.
“Never leave me, Gage.”
“Never, love.” He flicked her nipple, kissed it. “You’re stuck with me forever.”
A quick shock of pleasure tugged on her clit. Her breast popped from his mouth, and he released a low grunt and grabbed her hips. She tried to match his fervent strokes but gave up and steadied herself with her arms around his neck.
“I love you, Gage.”
He slipped his fingers into her locs and tilted her head so their eyes connected. “I love you too, Mrs. Wolfe. Mother of my beautiful son. Fuck, do I love you.”
She cried out his name and broke apart.
Seconds after she exploded, he fused their mouths together and released inside her. She shuddered against him, lips tingling and basking in his pleasure as well as her own.
“I think we just made a busload of siblings for Grey,” he said, breathing hard.
She laughed and held him tight.
05: The Man of My Dreams, The Man from My Dreams
She sucked on his tongue. His hips shot up, pressing the thick bulge against her clit, and she rocked against it. He matched her movements, and she kissed him to the rhythm of their bodies.
“Mama and Daddy are still asleep.”
Joel broke the kiss.
“Five more seconds,” Ayesha whispered, chest heaving. Even if it was five seconds, she wanted to spend them with his mouth on hers. “And the boys always knock.”
“Joel’s not really my daddy. It’s just his secret name that I call him.” Small hands tapped on the door. “Mama? Joel? Auntie Sydney’s here.”
Sutherngurl was the first to get them all 🙂
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