late afternoon sun was turning the horizon orange and gold as Josh took the I-70
split into St. Louis. Seeing the arch loom high on the city skyline, Josh had a
spontaneous thought. Sure, they could keep going and get to Oklahoma in the wee
hours of the morning, but this would be something they may not get a chance to
glanced over to Reva, who was amused by Colin’s “ohhing” and “ahhing”
at the big city in front of them. She glanced up and smiled warmly as she ran a
hand through her son’s golden hair.
have an idea.” He paused for a moment as he changed lanes to take the exit
into downtown. He saw the look of surprise when he quickly stole another glance
Reva’s way. “A mini-family vacation. A couple of days here in St. Louis.
We’ll take Colin to the top of the arch, wander through downtown, and eat some
great food. What do you say?”
thought of some quality time with two of her favorite men warmed Reva and her
smile showed it. “I guess there’s no reason to rush to Oklahoma. This is our
new adventure, right? Let’s do it, Bud.”
an exit off of Memorial Drive, Josh pulled into the valet parking area for the
Adam’s Mark Hotel.
was stunned. She expected something far less extravagant. “Um, Josh?”
shook his head. “No, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. We
deserve this. It’s been a long time coming.”
smiled at him. “Okay.”
they had settled into their suite, Reva got Colin fed and bathed. They all sat
on the huge king sized bed and watched a movie until Colin fell asleep against
Josh’s shoulder. Reva got the rollaway cot set up and Josh carried the little
boy over to settle him down into it.
they exited the bedroom area and went to sit and talk in the adjoining suite.
sat next to Josh. He automatically put his arm around her shoulders and pulled
her close. It was as if they had never been apart; the comfort of their history
making old habits easy to fall into again.
closed his eyes and kissed the top of her head, enjoying the feel of her in his
arms. It was what he had been missing and what he had needed for so long. Their
lives were finally coming full circle.
sighed and closed her eyes, letting a hand settle on his smooth stomach; a ball
of desire was already building in her at the simply touch. She had forgotten how
much she loved this with Josh; how he brought it out in her. There was something
truly special about him; about them.
ringing of her phone interrupted her wandering thoughts. She sat up and picked
it up off the coffee table in front of them then settled back down against Josh
Shayne.” She flipped the phone open and raised it to her ear. “Hey, sweetie,
how did the game go?” The noise in the background made it hard to hear him so
she pressed a finger to her other ear. “Where in the world are you?”
at Company. Buzz opened up for a private celebration.” He nearly yelled over
smiled at the happiness in his voice. “I take it that means you won.”
we’re heading to the championships!”
could hear Henry in the background asking to be picked up and it made her smile.
She already missed the rest of her family, but she needed this time, too. It was
time to move on and make some new memories and a new life. She talked to Shayne
a few minutes longer and gave Henry some phone kisses goodnight before hanging
looked up at Josh who was smiling sweetly at her. A long moment passed between
them with no words said. Slowly, he leaned down to kiss her, and she felt the
familiar warmth that loving Josh had always brought her radiate through every
inch of her body and soul.
leaned back and saw the look of desire on his face. She stood and reached her
hand down. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”
noise in Company was deafening even though the crowd from the ballpark had come
in over an hour ago. Olivia came in and spied Natalia in a booth near the back.
Emma and Rafe were playing darts and generally goofing around. She snuck by
before the kids could see her, and as she got closer to Natalia, she could tell
her girlfriend was feeding Francesca French fries.
fries? Bad eating habits are my job. I’m the good momma.” Olivia loved the
look of surprise on Natalia’s face as she snuck up on her.
This is all your fault, you know. I think she can sniff them out now. She
wouldn’t eat any of the mashed up veggies I had for her. She only wanted
mashed up fries with ketchup.” Natalia directed a mock glare at her.
you love my bad influence.” Olivia leaned over and gave Natalia a soft kiss.
smiled as they broke their kiss. “Mmmmm, I sure do,” she said huskily as she
quirked an eyebrow at Olivia. “And maybe later you can show me what a bad
influence you are?”
let out a little groan and kissed her again, a little slower. “Anything for my
had to look away from the hungry look in her partner’s green eyes. The woman
could undo her so easily and for a moment she even entertained the idea of
putting their quiet corner booth to good use.
cleared her throat, an action that brought an amused smile to Olivia’s face,
and changed the subject. “Is the farmhouse still standing?”
had almost forgotten to tell her. “Oh, yeah. Actually, Leyla was there. She
had just gotten in. She would have come out but I think her trip home to see
your folks and her friend Marco wore her out. She was crashed on the couch with
popcorn and chocolate, watching a movie.”
snickered. “That girl’s too young to be acting so old! Did you hear from Ava
slid into the booth next to her. “Yep. Her flight should be in any minute
you need to go get her?”
shook her head and snagged a fry. Natalia popped her hand, drawing a giggle from
Olivia as the food disappeared in her mouth. “Nope, she insisted I stay here
and have fun with you all, so I sent a Beacon car to get her. She got everything
packed up and the moving van should be here in a couple of days.”
younger woman leaned against her partner, smiling happily. “It’s hard to
believe we’ll have all of our family here at one time.”
is a feat of epic proportions, yes.” Olivia laughed.
the other side of Company, Olivia saw Frank helping Marina behind the bar. She
glanced at Natalia. “I’m going to get a bite to eat. Do you want
looked at her surprised since she’d hardly eaten anything during the day.
missy. You.” Natalia smiled sweetly.
groaned and grumbled, “You know I can’t resist those dimples!”
made her way to the bar; glancing to the game area to make sure that Emma was
nowhere within ear shot. She edged her way up and settled in front of where
Frank stood as he pulled the lever for the tap. Marina, who was standing nearby,
took the glass and handed it to a guy down at the end of the bar before coming
back to stand by her father.
Frankie!” She acknowledged the redhead glaring at her. “Marina.”
glanced up. “Oh, hey, Olivia. Is Francesca insisting on more fries?”
smiled and shook her head. “No, actually I needed something.”
wiped his hands on the bar rag. “Great. What can I get you?”
leaned a little closer, her voice dropping. “The rundown on what happened to
that chase in the woods at Phillip’s. Was it Edmund?”
sighed and dropped his head. He rubbed at the tense knot in the back of his neck
then looked back up. “Of course it wasn’t Edmund. It was just some homeless
didn’t buy it. “A homeless guy that took off like a bat out of hell when you
got close? Really, Frank? You buy that!”
did you know that anyway?” He glared.
narrowed her eyes at him. There was no way she was telling him that she saw Anna
earlier. “I have my sources.”
huffed and tossed down the rag in his hand. “This is none of your concern,
Olivia. The police are taking care of it.”
of my concern?” She growled. “My daughter was nearly kidnapped and could
have been killed. That damn well makes it my concern. And don’t give me the
company line about the police taking care of this. You don’t even believe it
IS Edmund. At least Anna, Jeffrey, and Jonathan have been doing something about
it, which is more than I can say for the PD.”
shook his head at her. “I can’t believe you’d even defend Jeffrey
threw up her hand. “Don’t!” She didn’t want to discuss that with him and
certainly not with Marina hovering around.
Frank started to apologize but she interrupted again.
her voice was a low warning.
held up his hands. “I’ll talk to Eleni. She’s been digging up some
Olivia tried not to make her voice sound pleading. She heard Emma’s laughter
rise over the crowd and she felt more determined than ever to protect her
family. “Just keep an open mind, okay?”
nodded and let the earlier tension go. “So…a Buzz burger?”
smiled. “With extra onions. And a salad.”
laughed. “Gee, let me guess who gets the salad.”
remind me,” she grumbled.
good thing about being an early riser was moments like this; Natalia loved lying
here in bed, propped up her elbow, watching Olivia sleep. Last night, Olivia had
certainly been a bad influence, just like Natalia had teased her about. She came
back from the bar with their food, acting feisty and affectionate. She didn’t
know what had gotten Olivia so fired up. It certainly wasn’t the salad she
picked at. Whatever it was though, Natalia wasn’t complaining as she stretched
and felt the soreness in her muscles.
memories of last night came back to her and she traced her hand over Olivia’s
back, smiling as the goose bumps rose on the creamy skin beneath her fingers.
She slid the sheet down Olivia’s back and sighed. It still surprised her a
little at how easy this part of their relationship had come to her. For someone
who had fought her desire and panicked, she never imagined she’d so easily
yearn and ache for Olivia.
Natalia’s light and teasing touch caused Olivia to stir. She stretched her arms out above her head and looked over at Natalia.
Olivia loved the sexy dimples that took over Natalia’s face at the compliment. The hand drawing gentle circles on her back was creating a warm feeling low in her belly. It slipped lower and caressed the sensitive skin at the base of her spine, drawing a soft groan from her. She couldn’t seem to get enough of Natalia. Just when she thought she was satiated, a simple touch from the beautiful woman stirred her again.
“Good morning to you, querida,” Natalia whispered.
Olivia recognized the desire in Natalia’s breathy voice and it caused a rush of heat to flood her body. She tried to focus on the words she needed to say. “What time does Rick and Mindy’s wedding start?”
Natalia leaned in and ran her tongue over the back of Olivia’s exposed neck, up to her ear. “Noon. We have plenty of time.”
“The kids? Breakfast?” Olivia gasped as Natalia’s roaming hands ran down over her ass and dug in with her nails.
CLICK HERE FOR AFTER DARK CONTENT (NC-17) OPENS IN NEW WINDOW
rolled wearily to her side and ran a shaky hand along Natalia’s cheek.
wrinkled her nose. “Is that why you’re marrying me? Because I’m good in
laughed. “It’s definitely an incentive.”
slapped Olivia on the arm playfully, making Olivia laugh harder. Olivia peeked
over Natalia’s shoulder at the clock on the side table. “Hmmm, only a little
after nine.” A sudden banging and giggling was heard from downstairs. “And
it sounds like the kids are taking care of breakfast.”
got a scared look on her face. “Have you ever seen Rafe cook?” Olivia shook
her head. “Maybe we should get up.” Natalia moved to get out of bed.
no, you don’t.” Olivia grabbed her wrist and pulled her back down onto the
bed, wrapping her legs around Natalia’s so she couldn’t move. “I’m not
rolled her over onto her back and kissed her way down to Natalia’s breasts. As
soon as Natalia offered up a protest, she latched onto a nipple to quiet her.
what are you doing?”
older woman flicked at a nipple with her tongue and moved down Natalia’s
stomach. “Getting some breakfast.”
felt like her life was one whirlwind event after another – the worry and fear
over Phillip’s illness last year, Alan dying immediately after, her wedding to
Phillip, the endless studying for the bar exam, taking and passing the exam, and
now all the fast and furious preparations for Mindy and Rick’s wedding. As
soon as all of this was over, she wanted to sit down with Mel Boudreau about
joining her private practice. She felt like their very different specialties and
approaches could be a strong combination. Besides, someone had to balance out
the dirty pool of Alan’s lawyers in town.
poured two fresh cups of coffee and ascended the stairs to the bedroom. Phillip
was brushing off his tuxedo to make sure it was in perfect condition for the
got you some coffee.” She handed it over to him.
took a grateful sip and smiled at her. “Is Peyton up yet?”
Hilda’s making sure she eats some breakfast. I got her dress and shoes out.
And you’re sure Olivia said it was okay to use the suites to get dressed?”
nodded his head and swallowed the sip of coffee he’d taken. “I called her
last night to be sure. It’s all set up with hors d’oeuvres and champagne in
both suites. In fact, Rick texted earlier that he and Mindy are already there.
turned to leave then did an about face. “Remind me to double-check the
caterers when we get to the park about making sure the food stays cold. I
don’t want anyone getting food poisoning from this heat.”
smiled at his wife. “Honey, they’re professional caterers, and it’s like
the ovens of hell outside. I’m sure they’ve thought of ice.”
rolled her eyes. He was such a man sometimes. “Just remind me.”
He looked at his watch and jumped. “Oh, when are Bill and Lizzie supposed to
get here again?”
glanced at her own watch. “Oh…damn it!” She frantically set down her
coffee and ran to the closet to get her dress and shoes out then ran to the
bathroom for her makeup bag. “I need to grab Peyton’s stuff. Be right
soon as she walked through the door, the front door rang. Phillip picked up his
tux and shoes and headed down the stairs where he could hear Bill and Lizzie
talking to Hilda.
looked up and saw the taller man coming down the stairs. “Hey! Is everyone
ready to go?”
came scurrying to the top of the banister, her arms loaded with clothes and
shoes. “We’re ready! Peyton, honey, are you finished with breakfast?” she
called out for her daughter.
get her, Mrs. Spaulding.” Hilda hurried to the kitchen for the young girl.
got to the bottom of the steps and saw Lizzie miserably sitting in a chair.
“Goodness, Lizzie, I think you grew overnight! You look like you’re about to
an eyebrow at her mother, Lizzie didn’t move her head, which was resting
against the railing of the stairs behind her. Sighing at the physical exhaustion
of the pregnancy and the heat of the later summer, Lizzie said, “Just put a
fork in me…I’m done.”
smiled with understanding. “Just a few more weeks. You’ll make it.”
whimpered at the thought of a few more weeks. Yesterday wouldn’t have been
soon enough for her. The first few months had been fun and thrilling, but now,
she was done with it. She could certainly confirm the belief that summer is the
worst time to go full term with a pregnancy. If she got any bigger, she was
going to look like that mean aunt in Harry Potter that he tried to explode.
quick as her oversized body would allow, she stood with Bill’s help and made
her way to the car behind everyone else. They climbed in the limo Phillip had
rented for the occasion and headed to the Beacon.
were coming in fast as Marina made quick work of the coffee pot to set it up to
brew a fresh batch. She pushed her hair back and blew out a frustrated breath.
It seemed like half of Springfield decided to stop into Company for breakfast.
Of course, half of that half was heading to Rick and Mindy’s wedding. That’s
what happens when a local doctor and a girl from one of the most influential
families in town get married. Everyone comes out of the woodwork for it!
called out an order from the back, and she went back to gather up the plates for
table five, which was a family of six and all of them with huge appetites. She
hustled to the table to drop off the order and ran back to the bar for the
coffee that had finished brewing. She made her rounds to check on everyone and
came back to stand behind the bar again.
bell over the door rang and in came Frank and Eleni. Marina felt her hackles
rise just at seeing her mother, but the way the other woman was on her
father’s tail didn’t help matters. Frank rested his hands against the bar
and dropped his head down between his shoulders. Eleni stood right next to him,
gritting her teeth and trying to speak quietly; it wasn’t quite working and
Marina could make out some of what was said.
are you being so hard-headed about this, Frank? I told you that Anna and I have
been sorting through the evidence, what there is of it, and not only is
something off with the case on Edmund but it looks as though there could be
other cases with evidence missing. This isn’t something you can brush over.”
She was nearly pleading with her ex-husband now.
I’m not brushing over it. I have a lot going on right now, and I’m doing the
best I can.”
know, but this is about the safety of this town and its people, and very well
could be about the integrity of your department.” Eleni tried to get him to
see the importance of this issue. He was so damn stubborn sometimes that it
drove her crazy. When he didn’t respond, she lost her temper and slammed her
hand on the counter. “Damn it, Frank.”
don’t you lay off of him?” Marina had heard enough. “You don’t have any
right to come in here, after all these years and lecture him about anything. He
raised me on his own. He’s taken care of Grandpa and this restaurant, on top
of protecting the citizens of this town. And you come up in here and mess
everything up. You always mess everything up. Why couldn’t you just stay
and Eleni, along with some surprised patrons, watched as Marina ran out through
the kitchen. Buzz popped his head out of the kitchen, and seeing Frank and Eleni,
he gestured after Marina. “What’s that all about?”
scrubbed a hand through her hair and looked at Frank. “Something has to give,
Frank. You can’t keep pretending that you don’t see what’s staring you
right in the face.”
moment seemed to stand still as their eyes locked, and for a brief moment, Frank
wondered if she was still talking about the cases or something more. The thought
made him swallow hard and he had to look away. He heard her sigh and half
expected her to continue on in her tirade like she had been for the last few
weeks, but he was surprised when all she did was run her hand over his, squeeze
it slightly, and leave. For a few seconds, he sat perfectly still. He closed his
eyes and could still feel her touch. Something was staring him in the face and
it was time to do something about it.
the alley behind Company, Marina paced the small, dark space. She chewed at a
fingernail and kicked an empty can in her way.
what did that poor can ever do to you?” She jumped at the deep voice behind
her and turned to see Shayne at the end of the alley holding Henry. “Buzz told
me you got upset at your mom and dad.”
waved it off and came over to take Henry, giving him a tender kiss on his cheek.
“It was nothing. She was just jumping all over my dad, and I didn’t take it
watched her for a moment as she cooed and giggled at Henry. “She really gets
under your skin, doesn’t she?”
she did kind of abandon me and my dad for that…that bastard, Alan-Michael.”
She flinched at her own cursing in front of Henry. She kissed him again.
“I’m sorry, baby.”
shrugged and decided to let it go. He really didn’t want to get Marina all
worked up over it. He had learned the hard way that Eleni was one topic he
needed to steer clear of if he wanted to keep Marina happy. “So, do you need
to go get changed so we can get to the wedding?”
was then that Marina realized that both Shayne and Henry were in dress shirts
and navy dress pants. She had been so preoccupied that she had forgotten about
the wedding. She shifted Henry nervously to her hip. “Actually, it’s kind of
busy here. I don’t think I can make it.”
looked at her curiously, “It didn’t look that busy when I was just in
she ran a hand through her hair and hesitated. “You know, I’m just not
really in the mood to go with all the stuff going on with my mom and seeing a
bunch of happy families is not at the top of my agenda.”
nodded. “Okay. It’s my cousin’s wedding though. I probably should go.
Henry and I will make a stunningly handsome pair, if I do say so myself.”
smiled a little at how good Shayne was with Henry. “Tell you what, go to the
wedding and leave Henry with me. That way you can relax and enjoy it without
having to keep up with a kid.”
honestly couldn’t argue with the logic so he shrugged. “If you’re sure.”
gave her a kiss and high-fived Henry. When he turned the corner out of the
alley, Marina leaned back against the wall, breathing a sigh of relief.
heard the laughter in the kitchen drift up the stairs as she finished getting
dressed. She smiled as she listened to Emma’s giggles and Rafe’s
good-natured chuckles. Natalia had taken a shower in a rush when Leyla knocked
on the door to let them know that Rafe’s culinary skills left much to be
desired. So, Natalia was down there now trying to regain some semblance of order
to her kitchen. A knock at the back door and cheers from her family let her know
that Ava had arrived.
put in her earrings and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She hadn’t
worn the sleeveless red dress since Natalia’s engagement party, but red seemed
to be her color for weddings. When Natalia had made a pointed comment about how
sexy she had been at that party, she couldn’t resist wearing it again.
picked up her black handbag and headed toward the bedroom door then stopped as
her hand touched the knob. She had been trying not to think about the necessity
of protection for her family since talking with Anna and then Frank, but the
lightness of her purse reminded her that she was forgetting something. She
walked with purposeful strides over to the closet and opened the door.
She was probably just being overdramatic and paranoid. “Better safe than sorry though,” she mumbled into the empty room.