Authors: Terri Anne Browning
Now, with Dallas in the same room with him, despite her just gutting him with words I was sure that I
would need a dictionary on country slang to understand, I saw more life in his eyes than I had seen in what
felt like forever. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not, but I was hoping that Axton got his head out of his ass soon and would try to get his girl back.
“Bitch, I missed you!”
I laughed and hugged Dallas tighter. “I missed you too.”
We turned to see Linc coming into the penthouse, dressed in nothing more than a pair of basketball
shorts. He pulled us both into his arms, swinging us around like we weighed nothing at all. To him, we
probably didn’t. I clung to his shoulder with one arm while I wrapped the other around Dallas’s shoulders.
My eyes closed, savoring this. It felt so good to have them right there holding me just then. For a long
time these two were my only family other than my stepdad. Dallas, and then later on Linc, had been my
rocks. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for either one of them.
“Dude, I’m getting seriously jealous over here.” I heard Shane chuckle from somewhere behind me.
Linc let us go and turned to face my fiancé. “Ah, sorry bro. I’ll hug you too.” He winked and everyone
burst out laughing.
“I’d watch that,” Dallas said and glanced from one hot guy to the other, taking Linc and Shane in from
head to toe. “Yeah, I’d pay good money to watch that.”
“Well I wouldn’t,” Natalie said as she came into the living room from the direction of the bedrooms.
“That’s just gross. He’s my brother.”
Shane wrapped his hands around my waist and I melted against him. It was still hard to believe that he
was going to be my husband in two days. I felt like an entire lifetime had passed since he had first kissed me and ran for the hills. We had come so far in the past two years, but my love for him only seemed to
grow with each passing day.
“Okay, I need a shower and lots of water. I need hydration after that long-ass flight.” Dallas picked up
her cosmetics bag and lifted the handle on her huge roller bag. “Where am I sleepin’? And if you say with
douchebag over there, I’m throwin’ someone out the window.”
“It’s a king sized bed, hotness,” Axton said and winked at her, acting his normal conceited self. “And
you don’t take up too much room.”
Natalie stepped forward before Dallas could drop her bags and punch him—if that was what she
happened to do. Knowing Dallas, it was hard to tell what she could have done to him. A knee to the balls.
A punch to the face. Maybe even suck his face. She was always surprising me. “My room has two queens.
If you want to stay in my room, that’s cool.”
“Or mine,” Linc assured her. “I don’t mind sharing.”
Dallas nodded. “I’ll go in with Nat. She doesn’t snore.”
“We were planning on just ordering room service for dinner,” Lana told her. “So take your time. I’ll
order you a steak or would you rather have pizza?”
“Both. I’m starvin’.” She gave Lana a peck on the cheek and followed Nat down the hall. “And tea.
“Extra sweet,” three people said at the exact same time as she did. I wasn’t surprised that one of them
was Axton. Natalie and Linc shot him a grin and Dallas turned to give him the finger before disappearing
down the hallway.
Nik disappeared down the same hall and a few minutes later Layla joined us. After ordering what
seemed like enough food to feed a small country, we settled down and watched television while we waited.
With Lucy still sleeping soundly in her room and Mia conked out too, everyone was quiet. I sat on Shane’s
lap who was seated between Drake who had a half-sleepy Lana draped over him, and Layla who was
getting a foot massage from the beast of a rocker sitting on the floor in front of her. If it hadn’t been so cute I might have laughed at the sight of the bad-ass rocker doing something so sweet for his very pregnant
Linc, Natalie, and Axton took up the other couch and I let my eyes drift to the rock god. Because of my
loyalty to Dallas, I hadn’t let myself get too close with him after their breakup. Sure, because Axton was
such close friends with Shane and Drake, we had all hung out a lot. But I just hadn’t bothered to get to
know him better. In my opinion he was a dick, having torn Dallas apart because he was still in love with
Gabriella Moreitti. And he still saw that bitch from time to time from what I had heard at work. Just a few weeks ago one of my photographers had gotten a picture of him walking out of a hotel with her and his
Shane tugged on a lock of my hair, forcing my attention back to him. He gave me that sexy as hell grin I
love so much and I didn’t try to resist the temptation to kiss him. “If I weren’t so hungry, I’d beg you to take me to bed,” I whispered in his ear, making my man practically tremble as I let my teeth skim over his
lobe. “But I’m starving and after that mind-blowing session back in the park, I need nourishment before I
will be able to go again.”
“Where is that damned waiter?” Shane demanded to no one in particular and I giggled as I snuggled
closer to him. “I’m ready to eat.”
“Calm down, brother,” Drake told him. “They said forty-five minutes and it’s only been twenty.”
The food arrived ten minutes later, and I signed the receipt making sure that the waiter got a generous
tip for being so quick. I wanted—needed!—some alone time with Shane before we went out for the night.
This was our last night over at the Halloween Horror Nights and I wanted to
him for being so strong as we walked through all the houses, something I have always wanted to do. Some of the houses had some
serious gore to them, and Shane and gore… Yeah, that didn’t mix well.
Shane had been the one to suggest this as our bachelor/bachelorette party, knowing that Halloween was
possibly my favorite time of the year. I had a thing for scary movies, and getting to walk through the houses with some of my favorite horror characters was just short of paradise for me. He was always thinking of
me, always giving me what I wanted before I even realized I wanted it.
Why had it taken me so long to realize that this man loved me unconditionally?
Feeling a little sad—and yeah, maybe a little mad at myself for all I had put him through—I picked at
my food, no longer hungry.
Strong fingers grasped my chin gently, lifting my head to meet that blue-gray gaze that never failed to
melt me inside and out. Shane didn’t say a word, just raised his brow. I swallowed hard, feeling stupid and emotional and just wanting him to make love to me. I bit my lip, and he growled, “Love you, beautiful.”
“Bed,” I whispered.
That was all it took. That one word and he was up and I was being flung over his shoulder in one
graceful move. “Later!” he called over his shoulder on his way to the door so that we could get back to the second penthouse and our room.
“Harp!” I raised my head to find Dallas coming back into the living room. She was freshly showered
and dressed to make Axton suffer. There could be no other excuse for what she had on. A pair of cutoff
jean shorts that could be described as nothing but Daisy Dukes. A top that tied around her neck and her
back that showcased the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra. Not that she needed one. Girl had the perfect
rack and I half hated her for it. Her tattoos were abundant and just enhanced her long limbs. Her piercings only drew a person’s eye to her beautiful face. “You’re leaving me? I just got here, you bitch.”
I grinned. “I’ll be back.”
“Maybe,” Shane muttered, smacking a big hand across my ass, causing my sex to clench with need.
As soon as the door closed behind Harper, I flopped down on the couch beside Lana who was still
curled up on Drake’s lap. I rolled my eyes at her. “You’re pregnant, woman. Not helpless. Drake, dude, let
her feed herself at least.”
That just got me a giggle from my friend and a frown from her husband, as he lifted yet another bite of
what looked like eggplant parmesan to her lips. I rolled my eyes again, figuring I would be doing that a lot over the next few days. Linc, seated on the floor in front of the coffee table, slid a covered plate and a box of pizza toward me and I grabbed it up, smelling the Texas toast, mashed potatoes, and steak as well as the garlic of the pizza sauce before I even lifted the lids.
“Steak sauce?” I asked to the room at large around a mouthful of pizza. I had to have it or the whole
meal was going to be ruined. Not for the steak, but for my toast.
My eyes snapped up from my plate to Axton, who was holding the steak sauce and offering it to me.
The bitch in me wanted to say screw it—I didn’t need that steak sauce that bad. I didn’t want to even touch the bottle after he’d had his hands on it. But the hungry, exhausted person that I was already snatching it from him and drizzling it over my toast, trying to avoid touching the place his hand had just been. I didn’t offer a thanks, or look in his direction again.
Unable to cut the steak and hold the plate steady at the same time, I picked the steak up whole and took
a decent sized bite of the perfectly prepared medium steak. The meat was juicy and some dripped down my
chin. I smirked before wiping it away. If only my mother could see me now! Damn, she would have a
coronary watching me eat with my fingers.
“Quick, someone take my picture!” I pulled my phone from my pocket. Natalie caught it when I tossed
it her way and I lifted the steak, tearing into it like a barbarian. Laughing, Natalie started punching away on the touch screen, already knowing what I had planned for the picture.
“Don’t you think you should stop pissing your mother off so much?” Natalie said even as she was
hitting send on the text she had just typed. “I’m about fed up with her calling the apartment just to bitch.”
I hadn’t known Natalie as long as I had everyone else in the room, so she didn’t know even a third of
what my mother had put me through growing up. Sure, she knew some of the bigger things—forcing me
into pageants when we lived in Texas, followed by signing my life away to some modeling agent when I
had been ‘discovered’—but barely anything else. So I refrained from jumping down her throat. Instead I
just shrugged and kept eating my steak, dipping it in the potatoes from time to time.
“Dallas could never piss her mother off enough,” Linc told Natalie. “The next time she calls to bitch to
you, tell her how happy Dallas is. That will really piss her off.”
Yeah, that was probably the truest statement ever made about my mother. She hated how happy I was,
living my life the way I wanted to instead of how she had imagined me living it. Her plans had been for me
to keep modeling—even though she knew I hated it. Maybe start an acting career—although I couldn’t act
to save my life. Marry some Hollywood-type guy who had a big name and even bigger wallet. All the things
she wished she could have done if she had been pretty enough.
Instead I had destroyed my body—her words, not mine—with my ink and piercings. And then I had
worked my ass off to get into one of the best nursing schools in America. A school that had required every
spare moment I possibly could have had in the last two years. Seriously, Linc had had to do my laundry
because I hadn’t had the time to! After graduating at the top of my class, and suffering through clinical
training at one of the busiest hospitals in New York, I now had my license and was an RN—something I
had been dreaming about since I was a little girl.
You would have thought that a mother would be proud of her daughter for working hard in a respected
career. Not my mother. She hated the thought of me being around sick people all day, every day. Not even
the thought of my possibly finding a doctor to marry had pleased her. Doctors made good money, sure. But
then again, so did my father who was a big shot cattle baron in Texas. Money wasn’t what my mother cared
about—not the most.
It was the fame. The popularity. My mom wanted to be famous by association.
I could have given her that, by being with Axton. Only Ax wasn’t the right type of famous for her. He
was only known as the rock god from OtherWorld. She didn’t think he would be able to keep up the fame once he was older, and that just wouldn’t do for my dear mother.
When my steak was gone I licked my fingers and picked up the glass of sweet tea. After a small sip I
realized that no one knew how to order it right, or maybe Californians just didn’t know how to fix good tea.
“This shit sucks.” I put it down and reached for Linc’s Diet Coke.
Stomach full, I sat back and took inventory of the room. The two kids were missing and so were
Emmie and Nik. “Where’s the redhead?” I loved that bitch!
Layla sighed. “She isn’t feeling well…”
“It’s a bug,” Lana told me, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “I don’t think she will be going out with
you guys tonight.”
“Well, hell.” I had been looking forward to spending time with Emmie nearly as much as I had Harper.
“Should I check on her? If she’s sick maybe I can help?”
Natalie and Layla shared a look that I didn’t miss before Natalie shook her head. Something was going
on. “Nah, I think she’s good for now. Maybe if she’s still not better in the morning you could talk to her.”
Everyone was just finishing up their meal when Nik appeared, looking stressed. “Anyone want to tell
me why she’s been crying? She won’t talk to me.”