“Is everything okay?”
Reese reached out and caught me again, pulling me back into the crook of his arm. I found my face pressed against his chest while his fingers started running through my hair. I couldn’t believe we’d actually had sex. S. E. X. For real. Wasn’t sure how to process that. On the one hand, I felt incredible … Warm and full of endorphins that still gave me a full on glow. On the other, I knew I needed to protect myself because Reese was a Grade A man-whore, and I couldn’t let myself get attached to him.
Fun to play with but not a keeper.
Then again, keepers weren’t part of my new, improved plan to be a free and independent woman. Unfortunately, neither were hurt feelings and picking up Jessica from the airport tomorrow afternoon. The plan wasn’t off to a good start.
“Loni?” Mel asked. I blinked.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?”
Oh my God, I’d done it again. I’d forgotten about Mel—while I was on the phone with her, no less. I was such a shitty person. Ugh.
“What was the question again?”
“Can I come over to your place tonight?” she asked, her voice full of hope. “Dad’s in a real bad mood. I have some news …”
“What is it?”
“I think my mom took off,” she whispered. “That’s what Dad told me, and I haven’t seen her for two days. He’s been skipping work. He’s really drunk right now—I’m kind of scared. Do you think I could stay with you for a couple days?”
I closed my eyes, feeling a rush of hot, righteous indignation. How dare that asshole do this to Melanie? She was a sweet girl, a good girl who worked hard and deserved happiness.
“Oh, baby … Of course you can. Go let yourself into the house. You can get anything you want out of the kitchen, just make yourself comfortable. Settle yourself in Jess’s room, okay?”
“What time will you be home?” she asked in a small voice. I burrowed into Reese’s side and felt his hand sweep down to cup my bottom. He caught my knee with his other hand, pulling it up and over his leg until I sort of straddled him in a weird, lying-down kind of way.
His erection stirred to life, and I looked down through the faded light to see it. Still couldn’t quite believe that thing had not only gone into me, but made me come twice in a row.
Shitty to be me, because Mellie needed me more than I needed Reese’s dick.
“I’ll be home in twenty, thirty minutes.” Hayes snorted, and I smacked his chest to shut him up.
“Thanks, Loni. You know … Sometimes I wish you were my mom.”
A lump grew in my throat.
“Well, you’re part of my family,” I told her. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out.”
I ended the call and then dropped the phone, nestling into the muscles of his strong chest.
“Define okay,” I said, feeling a bitter smile spread across my face. “Jess has a friend named Melanie. Her home situation isn’t so good, so she spends a lot of time with us. I think I just invited her to move in with me.”
“Nice of you.”
“She’s a good kid,” I said, sighing. “And she’s nearly nineteen—older than Jess. They graduated in the same class but Mel had a late birthday and Jess had an early one. They probably should’ve held her back a year along the way.”
“Sounds like this girl can do all right, you give her a fighting chance,” he said. “But I want you to stick around a while longer. I’m not finished with you yet.”
At that, he caught my hips and tugged me up and onto his body. My legs tangled with his and my breasts crushed into his chest, all of which made me wish to hell that Mellie’s dad had chosen another night to get drunk. Of course, he was drunk every night, thus her mom’s decision to take off. Nicole should’ve left his ass years ago—but she should’ve taken her daughter with her.
Mellie was so eager to please and easy to be around. I couldn’t imagine why her mom would pull this shit. Thinking about it made me feel sick. That’s why, when Reese cupped my bare ass with both hands and pulled me into him, I shoved against his chest.
“I have to go.”
“I’m sensin’ a pattern here,” he muttered, frowning at me. “Every time I get you horizontal, you run away. Not a fan, sweetheart.”
“If one of your girls needed help, you’d be out of here so fast I’d find myself on the floor.”
He sighed and I knew I had him. Then one of his hands slid slowly up my body, catching me around the back of my neck. I let him kiss me, amazed that such an intense man could be so gentle. His tongue flirted with mine and his fingers tightened on me. His penis—no, his cock—kept getting harder and I felt a restless ache stir between my legs.
I have to get the hell out of here, I realized. Otherwise I won’t make it.
The kiss ended and I pulled back, staring down at his face. The man was beautiful, no other way to describe it. His short brown hair was sticking up all around his head at the moment. His eyes were bright blue, like aquamarine birthstones shining in the center of his face, and the scruff covering his chin held just a hint of gray. Not enough to make him look old. Just … mature.
And the arms holding me?
I’d never met anyone with such strong, safe arms.
You’re not safe, my brain hissed. He’s a dangerous man, you have no idea what he might be involved with.
My brain made a good point—I knew damned well that the club had business interests that weren’t totally legitimate. Everyone knew it. That’s why they paid so well—they weren’t just buying cleaning services, they were buying silence.
“I’m going home,” I whispered, kissing his cheek softly. Then I tried to roll off him, stand up. He held me tight for a second longer.
“You sure?” he asked. “If you’re worried about Melanie’s dad, I can send one of the guys to watch her.”
I shook my head. “Her physical safety isn’t the problem. She’s a young woman whose mother just abandoned her and she’s terrified. She needs hugs, not a bodyguard.”
Reese grew very still, and his fingers dug deep into my flesh.
“You didn’t mention her mom before,” he said, his voice deceptively calm, but with an undercurrent of strong emotion I couldn’t place. What was that all about?