And her son has my crooked smile and dimples.
On leave one night thirteen years ago, I slept with my battle brother’s little sister. Layla was wild, uninhibited, and everything I could ever want, but nothing I could have.
So I walked away.
I let her live her dreams, instead of pining after a man deployed.
When I got out, I never looked her up, instead I went searching for the brotherhood I missed, and I found it with the Evil Dead MC.
Now, out of the blue, she’s back.
And this time I won’t walk away, even if her brother will want to bury me six feet under when he finds out.
When trouble at the Club starts piling up, I know exactly who’s to blame.
Officer Rebecca Reilly, our new sheriff’s deputy, is a jealous woman.
But she’ll be sorry she ever screwed with me, because I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect my club and my woman.
Finally, I drop my heavy weight to her again, and she clutches me tightly, accepting it gladly. Our sweat-slick skin presses together, the burning heat of our bodies sending warmth down to my soul.
I’m so wrung out I don’t want to move, but I know she can’t take my weight forever, so I pull out and roll to my back. When my breathing recovers, she turns on her side away from me.
I go up on an elbow. “Hey.” I dip my face in her neck and wrap my arms around her. “You okay?”
She nods, but doesn’t answer verbally.
I rub her upper arm, and bury my nose in her hair. “You smell like honeysuckle.”
“It’s my shampoo.” Her voice is barely a whisper.
“It reminds me of home.”
“Mississippi.” I lift up and run my hand over her bare hip. Her skin is golden in the firelight. It’s then I see the spot of blood on the white sheet, and go still.
“Jesus Christ. Layla.” My voice is a whisper.
“Baby. You were a virgin? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s done now.”
I’m thrown by her words. It’s almost like it was a chore to be done. Lose your virginity. Check.
“I don’t understand.”
Her shoulder lifts in a small shrug. “There’s nothing to understand.”
“You could have told me to stop. Why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t want you to stop.”
“Because I wanted you.”
“But you hardly know me. That isn’t something you do.” I pause, studying her, but she still has her back to me. “How old are you?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yeah. All of a sudden it sure does. Please, God, tell me you’re of age.”
I breathe an internal sigh of relief. But more questions follow. “How does an eighteen year old girl end up the live-in housekeeper on a ranch?”
“I’m not exactly the housekeeper.”
My mind is spinning. “Then who exactly are you?”
“Layla Draper. Chris is my brother.”
I practically fly off the bed to stand naked next to it spearing both hands through my hair. “Holy fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!”
She rolls and tucks the sheet across her breasts. “Yes, that’s what we did.”
I stare at her in horror. Oh my God. Chris is going to kill me with his bare hands. “Do you know what position you just put me in?”
“I just gave you my virginity. You seemed to enjoy yourself. You should be pretty happy right now.”
“Happy? Have you lost your goddamn mind? I’m a dead man walking.”
She rolls her eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic. He doesn’t even know. And he won’t hear it from me, that’s for sure.”
“What fucking game are you playing?”
“Look, you want the truth?”
“I’ve been a good girl all through high school. Always home in my virginal bed by nine. Never let a boy get past second base. Always followed the rules.”
“And you picked tonight to break every one of them?” I pace across the room and back, then catch her trailing her eyes over my naked body, and freeze. “Hey. Eyes up here, missy.”
I go to grab the blanket, but she grabs my wrist and pulls me down.
“Get back in bed. The damage is done, and I don’t have cooties.”
I lay next to her, punching the pillow for good measure to let her know I’m still pissed. That only gets me another chuckle from her, this time with full body shake.
“What was this all about, Layla?”
“Like I was saying, I’ve always played by the rules. But I’m going off to college next month and I didn’t want to go a virgin.”
“So, it was just something to get out of the way?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s a fucked up way of looking at it. It’s supposed to be special, with some guy you love.”
“My prince, you mean? He was taking too long to find me.”
“You are the strangest woman I’ve ever met.” That gets me a smile.
“You called me a woman, and now, finally, I feel like one.” She turns her head on the pillow to look at me. “Have you ever been with a virgin?”
“Nope. You’re a first for me.”
She grins. “So I’ll be memorable that way.”
“That’s a fact. ‘Til the day I die I’ll remember this night.”
“Good. Then we both will.”
I stare at the fire for a while, and finally give up trying to make sense of this whole night. “So, college, huh?”
“Yes. I can’t wait.”
“What are you going to study?”
“Pre-law. I want to go to law school one day.”
“A lawyer, huh?”
“Yep,” she says proudly. “I’m going to get justice for people, the ones that never get it. The ones the system lets down. Those are the people I want to help.”
I chuckle. “I think those are the lawyers that never make any money, darlin’.”
“I don’t care. That’s not what’s important.”
“You say that now. Wait until you have bills to pay.”
“So is there a prince in this future plan of yours somewhere?”
“I don’t need a man. I refuse to be one of those women.”
“I’m not going to be home cooking dinner and waiting for a man to come in and take me for granted while he eats his meatloaf without talking to me.”
I can’t hold back the chuckle. “Layla, I just met you and even I know that no man will ever be able to take you for granted.”
She clasps her hands behind her head and smiles at the ceiling. “Good.”
“What other dreams have you got, besides bein’ a kickass lawyer and all?”
“Get the hell out of Texas. I’m sick of flat nothing for as far as the eye can see. I want to live near the ocean and maybe mountains.”
“I can understand that. What else?”
“I’d love to start a charity someday.”
That gets my attention, because it’s about the last thing I expect her to say. I swivel my head to look at her. “A charity? What kind?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet. But it’ll come to me eventually.”
I grin. “I’m sure it will. Come here.” I pull her against me, and tuck her to my side. My calloused palm strokes down her bare arm, loving the touch of her soft skin under mine. She wraps a hand across my chest and snuggles closer. I kiss the top of her head. “You’re somethin’ special, Layla. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”
That gets me a squeeze.
“Get some sleep, babe. I’m beat.”
I stay awake long after her breathing evens out and I know she’s drifted off. I stare at the ceiling, thinking about how badly I’ve fucked up and how in the hell I’m going to get out of this mess.
I eventually dose off. Like always, I’m back in Afghanistan, walking some road when a bomb goes off in front of me, taking out a Humvee and everyone near it. I’ve had the same dream over and over. But this time I’m startled awake by the distant sound of a jet high overhead. I jerk, and I’m breathing hard, my heart racing. It takes me a minute to remember where I am and why there’s a warm woman pressed against my side.
Then it all comes flooding back. Layla. She’s Chris’s barely legal little sister. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I twist my wrist and look at the time. 5:45 a.m.
The only thing I know to do is get the fuck out of here and back to the guest room where I’m supposed to be sleeping.
The fight or flight reaction takes over, and this time flight wins the day. I’ve got to get the fuck out of here as soon as possible. I manage to slip from the bed without waking Layla and pull on my clothes and boots.
I stand next to the bed, straightening my cuffs as I stare down at the beautiful girl. Last night I fucked up, royally, but somehow I know I’ll never regret being with her. She’s the soothing balm my weary soul needed. My eyes connect with the glint of metal on the table next to the bed. The key ring she’d pulled from her pocket. I don’t know what makes me take them and slip off the small round silver medallion that catches my eye. I read the scrolling words engraved on it.
Life is beautiful – enjoy the ride.
I certainly had. I slip it in my pocket as a keepsake, and then I pause and take off my dog tags. I can always get replacements, so I leave this set on the side table. It’s all I have to leave her to remember me by, and our night together. I take another last look at her then sneak out like a fucking coward. I have a lot to fear. I just fucked the eighteen-year-old sister of my Navy SEAL host and friend. And that, I’m sure, will not go over well.
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Nicole James is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal
bestselling author who loves writing about hot alpha men who’ll do anything for
the women they love! Her stories are filled with struggle, conflict and real
human emotion. She is the author of the Evil Dead MC series, the Brothers Ink
Tattoo series and more.
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