Authors: Alison Foster
He puts his arms around me, holding me tight as if I might vanish if he let go. I hug him back with my weakened arms. His fast breathing enters my ears and fills me up everywhere at once, calming me into an almost drugged bliss.
There’s so much I want to tell him but I feel useless now.
He gives me a smile as he pulls back a strand of hair off my forehead. “That was better than my fantasies,” he says.
“Ya think?” I tell him, biting his lip gently.
He brings my hand to his mouth, kissing the band aid. “Don’t ever do anything like that again,” he says. “I need you in one piece.”
Fine by me, Tanner Hayes. I’m all yours.
hirty years of living and never have I felt every heartbeat like I do now. It’s nothing I can explain. The quiet of her sleeping soothes me. Not even Anisa could take away all the unrest of both my past and present. Already I fear losing Tris. How can I let this feeling go?
I know how crazy it sounds, but maybe she and I are meant to be, maybe being with Tris Kane is where I belong, maybe she is my destiny, my home.
My phone sits on the night stand reminding me of a warning that is sure to come. I don’t know who will be the one to dispense it, but it’s coming just as sure as death and taxes.
It’s a few minutes past five. Tris sleeps next to me in this old bed—the only bed I have owned since moving to California four years ago, a bed that no woman has slept on before tonight.
Tris takes my breath away. If I’m being honest, she’s had my undivided attention since the very first moment I laid eyes on her. My life has been a series of missions and my new mission is to protect her freedom and happiness whatever the cost. To me, the mission is everything. That’s the one thing she can count on.
When she turns in her sleep, the covers peel off her, revealing her delicate collarbones and her perfect breasts. It all happened so fast. I can’t believe we fucked again last night. Her body feels so amazing, so warm and tightly caressing. Her heat thrills me even while it heals me.
There’s no going back. I had every intention of staying away, but instead I fell all the way into her. We’re together now. It’s done. For better or worse.
She senses I’m watching. Her eyes half-open as she stretches one arm over her head. My own eyes focus on the way her nipples stiffen almost immediately when she realizes they are exposed.
“Good morning, Princess,” I say, burying my face in the spot where her neck meets her shoulder.
“Asshole,” she says, turning to me and placing a hand on my cheek.
I kiss her small shoulder. I kiss her ear which makes her giggle.
“Stop,” she says.
“I’m just getting started.”
“Stop tickling me, bad boy.”
“You think this is bad? It could get much, much worse.”
She bites her lip while I tease her ear. “I dare you to show me.”
Has she any idea at all who I am?
Challenge me and I’ll spend the rest of my life rising to the occasion.
“You should not dare me, princess. Even being involved with me is dangerous. I’m not one of your college boys. My world is a dark place and my appetite in bed is no different. You are too pure, Tris. And I am too savage.”
“Involved? Did that word just come out of your mouth? You said you didn’t want that, Tanner. Has something changed?”
I’ve spent my life avoiding the feelings and words she wants to hear. “You know things have changed. Why do you want me to say it?”
Her lips come for mine. We get lost in a long, soft kiss that rouses my insatiable hunger for her. My heart stirs with anticipation which, of course, hardens my cock. A fact that does not go unnoticed.
“I want you to say it because I love watching your lips in action,” she says. “And you’re so hot when you’re vulnerable.”
“I’m never vulnerable.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says and violently clenches my hard cock.
“Listen, Tris, I owe you an apology for last night. Please take your hand off my cock. I’m serious.”
“You have a serious cock,” she teases. “It just gets more excited the more I try to hurt it.”
“You could never do anything but please it,” I tell her. “But I am trying to be real now.”
She releases her stranglehold and even that pleases me. “So be real, big guy. What’s on your mind?”
She’s so fucking beautiful. “I should have used a condom. My only defense is that it was not planned and you are fucking gorgeous.”
“You didn’t use a condom the first time,” she says with teasing eyes. “We’re fine. I’m on the pill and you’re a hermit, remember?”
Fuck, she never misses a beat. “Yeah,” I say with a grin. “I’ve been chilling a little ever since…” I stop. Why did I want to bring that up? Fucking moron. Just tell her you’re clean and move on.
Too late. She knows what I was going to say. She sits up a little and pets my hair. “I hope that one day you will feel comfortable enough to tell me your story.” She traces my face with her fingers ever so lightly, making my skin tingle. “I know your life has been hard. It’s written all over your lifeless face.”
“If my face is lifeless, how could you read it?”
“Easy,” Tris says. “Someone who doesn’t want to feel anything, usually has a reason. “
I take her face in my hands and place a kiss on her nose. “Everybody has a sad story to tell, Tris. And if they don’t yet, they will.”
“No, it’s not,” she says. “It’s a small part of reality and you’re just making it everything. You know what else is reality? Kisses. Your cock in my hand. Puppy dogs and rainbows and all the good shit.”
I laugh. She’s too much.
She grabs my cock again, squeezing as hard as she can, burying her nails into the flesh. I love it. I kiss her roughly, parting her lips with my tongue so I can taste her. I want to quench the thirst I have for her, but the more I get, the more I need. My plan is to lick her from head to toe, leave bite marks all over her beautiful naked body like a savage, and then hold her in my arms until the world ends and sand covers all things, including our naked bodies.
“What is that?” she says, breaking the kiss.
I follow her gaze to the single tree branch I brought in last night after she fell asleep. I put the branch in a vase and decorated it with colorful Life Savers candy I found in a kitchen drawer.
I didn’t know what else to do for her. She deserves Christmas and I took that away from her. Fuck, it’s Christmas morning. Now.
“That’s my last-minute Christmas tree,” I say. “Do you like it?”
She scrunches up her face like I’m insane. “Do I like it?” she repeats. “Would a girl like a man to go out in the night and make something pathetic and sad for her in hopes to make her Christmas just a little bit more charming?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Tanner, I love it. I’m just trying not to get emotional, you fool.”
Placing my hands on both sides of her ribcage, I can feel her heartbeat on my fingertips. It’s fast and strong like the girl herself. I move my hands upwards to the sides of her full tits. She sighs before she throws her arms around my neck, pulling me closer to her warm body.
I devour her lips again when my phone rings.
An expected call, no doubt.
“I need to get that,” I tell her as I retrieve the phone.
,” the voice on the other end says.
“What took you so long?”
Kane has asked for your head. Not that you didn’t know that.
There’s actual fucking sadness in his voice. Whether it’s because he feels sorry for me, or because he feels I let him down, I do not know. It’s true that what I did was a betrayal in the eyes of everyone in the business.
“Thanks for the heads up, man. I won’t forget that.”
Anytime. Stay alert
I know that Dominic can’t afford to be openly on my side either. I don’t begrudge him that. The underworld is no playground. Bite the hand that feeds you and all bets are off.
“Who was that?” Tris says. She’s probably good at picking up my signals of distress. She has been studying me for years, trying to figure out how to stay one step ahead of me.
“We have to go,” I say, getting out of bed.
I sit back on the bed and take her bandaged hand in mine. “Because eventually they will find this place. No one knows about it, but my name is on the lease.”
“I have free will. They can’t force me to go,” she says, sounding less certain than she realizes. “You’d stop them, right? Tanner?”
“They wouldn’t ask nicely,” I tell her, not wanting to go into the grisly details of what my fate is likely to be. “We need to lay low for a while. Your father is furious right now. I humiliated him in front of his people. He’s going to need some time.”
“Tanner, my dad is a bastard and he’ll want revenge but not today. It’s Christmas. He won’t make this an ugly day for our family. It would ruin every future Christmas. He’ll wait before he does anything. I know him.”
She’s right and I’m impressed, but that doesn’t change anything.
“That may be true, but we still have to go.”
That’s a good question. It has to be somewhere where Kane has no connections, somewhere where his long arm cannot reach us until I’m ready to fight back. “I’ll figure it all out,” I tell her and then I get to work.
I find my spare gun on a closet shelf in the hallway and load it. I find the gym bag which is filled with my emergency extraction supplies, including water bottles, protein bars, dry snacks and a medical kit.
I shove the gun into the bag along with an extra pack of bullets.
I stare across the hall at the bedroom door. Tris is still inside the room, probably getting dressed. This gives me a few moments to come up with a viable plan.
My gaze falls to a piece of paper on the coffee table. I pick it up absentmindedly, trying to figure out what the writing on it means.
The L. org. unable to solve this. Money is no object
That’s right. That’s me taking notes back in the summer when Carter Wade was trying to recruit me to protect his daughter, Ella, while a mob syndicate wanted both of them dead. I have a bullet hole in me to prove it.
I connect the dots fast. Carter Wade has stayed in touch, grateful and feeling indebted to me for having helped him out when he needed all the help he could get. He called a few nights ago and he was in a talking mood. He casually mentioned that his daughter’s away in a cabin up in Big Bear. My connection to Ella is one I kept under the rug in order to protect her from any association with the likes of me, but as it turns out, my decision might actually work in my favor.
This is my chance. I pick up the phone and dial Carter’s number. It’s about time he paid back that debt of his.
,” he says as soon as he picks up. “
I didn’t expect to hear from you on Christmas day
“Yeah, I don’t have time for all that. I need a favor.”
“I need to get in touch with Jaxson and Ella.”
Carter Wade considers my words. I can almost hear how he licks his lips before he answers. “
Should I be concerned
“They’re both fine, it’s me who’s in trouble and I need their help.”
I almost certainly expect him to refuse as he’s so fucking protective of Ella. But he doesn’t. “
Ella would want to help
,” he says. “
She thinks highly of you. She’d never forgive me if I tried to prevent you from talking to her
That went easier than I thought. “I’m looking for their address in Big Bear”
Yeah. No problem. Let me find the paper, but you have to promise to keep both of them out of whatever you’re running from
“I’ll keep them clear,” I assure him.
After a long pause, he gives me the address. I write it down on the same piece of paper from last summer and then head for the bedroom.
Tris is standing in her lilac evening dress with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. I forgot she doesn’t have any other clothes. I can’t take her to the mountains in that flimsy, long dress and high heels.
She gives me the most sincere smile I have ever seen on her face. “I actually looked for women’s clothes in your closet. I know it’s silly, but I’m so happy I didn’t find any.”
“We’ll buy some clothes on the way,” I say, as I go through my sweaters to find one that might keep her warm. I help her put it on, careful not to mess with her ponytail. Tris looks smaller now. Her neck is so slim. I love it just like I love everything else about her.
“On the way to where?” she asks.
“We’re going visit some associates of mine. They’re friends, really,” I say as I roll the sweater sleeves up to free her hands.
“You have friends?” she says with a chuckle. “Associate friends?”
“Yeah, up in Big Bear. The closest thing I have to friends.”
“I’m curious now,” Tris says. “What must people who are almost your friend be like?”
“They’re just people,” I say dismissively.
“What kind of people?”
“I did a job for her,” I say, surprised at my own honestly. I show her the small purple scar on my left shoulder. “I got this scar for my efforts.”
“Yeah, her name’s Ella.”