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“All right over here,” she answered, smiling over at me. “Besides, the heavy stuff’s out of the way now, right?”

“Absolutely,” I replied, when I should have said mostly. When it came to the world of Immortality, you were never “out” of the heavy stuff.

“Dessert, coffee, family,” she listed as I swung the door open. “Easy, right?”

“Right,” I said as we stepped into William and Bryn’s living room, realizing I’d forgotten to knock on wood.

Six sets of eyes focused on us as the whole room went silent. Nothing but the sounds of wood popping in the fireplace and the espresso machine hissing in the kitchen. So much for being in the “heavy” clear. Every face, whether focused on me with looks of please-don’t-tell-me-you-screwed-this-up, or on her with sympathetic eyes, screamed “heavy.”

Emma slid a little closer, the silence and stares making her uneasy.

Scrambling for the perfect ice breaker, or any ice breaker, Bryn stood up, gliding towards us. “So you didn’t go running for the hills?” she asked Emma, giving me a devious smile.

Emma relaxed, nudging me. “Not this time.”

Lifting a shoulder, Bryn grabbed Emma’s hand. “There’s always a next time,” she said, steering her into the kitchen. “You look like you need a good cup of coffee.” I watched in wonder as Emma and Bryn flitted about the kitchen, grabbing cream from the fridge, a spoon from the drawer, engaged in conversation like they’d known each other since they’d been in diapers. Seeing the two of them laughing as they made jabs about me, everything felt oddly copacetic.

“So,” Joseph said, lifting a brow, “how did she take it?”

Throwing myself down on a chair, I kicked off my shoes. “Better than she could have,” I said, grabbing a stack of peanut butter cookies from the tray. “Not as well as I would have hoped.”

“Where does that leave the two of you?” William asked, scooting to the edge of the couch.

My least favorite place to be. “Limbo land, brother,” I answered, dropping the cookies back on the tray. “She could just as soon leave me tomorrow as she could stay right now, you know?” I said, staring at her in the kitchen as she sipped her coffee. “I can’t lose that girl,” I said, mostly to myself because I couldn’t. If I lost Emma, I’d lose myself—that’s what love had reduced me to.

William nodded his understanding, regarding me with eyes that knew all too well what I was going through.

Nathanial rose from the arm chair, already mid-stretch and yawn. “Night, youngsters,” he said, waving at Abby finishing her cup of coffee with the girls in the kitchen. “As reigning oldest one of the bunch, I’m going to bed.”

Joseph whined his protest.

“Let him be,” I said, giving those peanut butter cookies a second thought. “Cranky-pants needs a nap.”

Nathanial scowled at me in passing, smacking the backside of my head. “And smarty-pants needs an ass whooping.”

“I guess Cora and I are outta here too,” Joseph said, popping up. “We’ll leave the newlyweds and lovebirds”—he bounced his eyebrows my direction—”to their devices.” Snatching a cookie, I sailed it at his head and he caught in his mouth. “Have fun with your device,” I implied as he crunched around the cookie.

Cora popped into the room just then, carrying her purse.

“My wife always does,” he said, winking at me as he pulled Cora under his arm.

She rolled her eyes, shoving at him lightheartedly. “You’ll be having fun with your own device tonight if you keep up that cocky attitude,” she said, accusing me with her eyes. “You’ve been spending too much time around Patrick.”

I blew Cora an air kiss as they followed behind Nathanial and Abby. Two couples down, one more to go.

Bryn and Emma weaved into the room, their eyes bouncing between William and me. Bryn’s landed on me, her face forming into a knowing smirk when she saw what I guessed was unbridled anticipation on my face.

“Time for bed, husband of mine,” she said, nodding her head up the stairs at William.

The man sprung off the couch and was across the room in Immortal world record setting time.

Walking over to the coat closet, Bryn pulled out a few things from the top shelf. Turning around, her grin took up half her face. Only after she’d walked across the room and dropped the items in my lap did I understand the reason for the smile.

“You’ve got the couch, Hayward,” she said, with a wink.

I punched the pillow and blanket for good measure.

“You guys have like five bedrooms in this palace,” I said, watching Emma. She was trying to fight a smile. “Why do I get the couch? I always get the couch.” William, like Bryn, wasn’t trying to hide his smile. “Because all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. Where Emma is sleeping. You need at least a floor between the two of you if you’re going to sleep under my roof.”

My mouth fell open. This coming from the guy who broke just about every rule of our kind to be with the woman he loved?

“Are you guys kidding me?” I said, throwing the pillow and blanket on the ground. “You two crawled into each other’s beds every chance you got.”

Bryn and William looked at each other, their smiles growing. Bryn cleared her throat before looking back at me. “And you made that so incredibly easy for us every chance you got, right?” Ah, so that’s what this was about. Payback. I’d given them a hard time at every turn and this was a little tit for tat.

“Pleasant dreams,” William said, choking on a laugh before he hauled Bryn up the stairs.

I grumbled something after them.

Emma’s smile had dimmed, but she still looked way too amused. There was nothing amusing about being told, on the first night I actually could, I wasn’t “allowed” to spoon, suck face, and sleep until sunrise with my girl.

“You look too happy given the circumstances,” I grumbled as Emma walked over. “I am pretty happy given the circumstances,” she said, stopping in front of me. “I get to spend a whole night with my boyfriend and his family.”

“Not the whole night,” I said under my breath.

She laughed a few notes before leaning over and dropping a kiss into my temple. “Good night, Patrick.”

“It could be a helluva lot better than good if I wasn’t on couch patrol,” I said, watching her head up the stairs. The sway of her hips, the way her hair moved, it was like I was already dreaming. “Love you, Em.”

“Love you, couch cop,” she called back, her voice light.

The world no longer made sense. Everyone but me had turned into a regular smartass. I had officially become the butt of all jokes.

Kicking my shoes off, I stood up and started unbuttoning my shirt, resigned to the fact I’d be surfing the sofa—alone—all night long. Pulling my arms out of the sleeves, I tossed the shirt on the floor, unbuttoned my pants, lowered the fly, and dropped them.

I snatched the pillow and blanket and threw them on the couch. Hitching my hands on my hips, standing in the living room in nothing more than a pair of boxers and a scowl, I stared at those stairs longingly. One floor, one hall, and one door were all that separated me from heaven.

I took one step towards the stairs, then one more. My heart was about to explode out of my damn chest, just from being two feet closer to her. I knew I was one second away from sprinting up those stairs and knocking down every door until I found her, so I made myself take a step back towards the couch. Not because I actually thought William and Bryn cared if Emma and I shared the same room and bed, but because maybe that’s what she wanted.

Maybe, after everything she’d learned today, she needed that privacy and separation from me. I had to force myself to take another step back because those stairs tempted me. No, they beckoned me. Damn, even the stairs were aligning against me.

Wrapping my arms around my head, I let out a stream of curses through my teeth, venting my frustration.

“Holy hell,” a voice whispered in front of me.

My eyes snapped open. A smile hitched its way into position one second later.

“Em,” I whispered, appraising her on the bottom stair, staring at everything but my eyes. “You minx, you.”

She stayed silent, frozen in place, that dazed expression on her face, her eyes sweeping over me like pin balls.

Damn, my smile couldn’t pull any higher without it hurting. “Enjoying the view?” I asked, stretching my arms above me, giving her a free show.

“Holy hell,” she repeated, her eyes watching my stomach muscles move before they shifted a few inches south. She swallowed, pulling her lower lip into her mouth. “Why are you in your underwear?” she whispered, her voice high.

I looked her over in her tank and pajama shorts, that alabaster skin gleaming in the dark. “Why aren’t you?” I asked, raising a brow, feeling an instant bolt of heat when I pictured it.

“Because then we’d be in trouble,” she answered, stepping down from the last stair and crossing the space between us. “Big trouble.”

And now, thanks to that look on her face and the way her body moved towards me, I was having a tough time coming up with a coherent response. I shook my head, prying a response from my mind. “I happen to be a big fan of big trouble.”

“That so?” she said, stopping in front of me.

I nodded, feeling my throat go dry.

Pressing her body into mine, her hands weaved around my neck. Lord, my knees might have just wobbled. Her mouth moved towards mine until I could feel her breath breaking against my jaw.

“Me too,” she breathed before sucking my lower lip into her warm mouth.

Okay, that was definitely a wobble. In fact, I couldn’t do this standing up. Grabbing her waist, I lifted her up and walked backwards until my legs rammed into the couch. Emma’s mouth continued to pulse over my lip, her thighs clenching my waist.

And I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest a minute ago.

Holding her tight to me, I dropped down onto the sofa.

I loved this damn sofa.

Emma showed mercy and let go of my lower lip, leaning back to study my face. Whatever she saw on it made her smile. It also made her eyes go a little lidded. Lifting herself above my lap, she readjusted herself, wrapping her fingers around the peaks of my arms.

Lowering herself over me, she slid down a spot that had my head rolling back over the couch. My hands grabbed her hips, squeezing them as hard as I could without leaving marks. The last thing I was capable of doing right now while her body moved against me like that was control. But it was also the first thing I had to have on my mind when we were together like this.

She slid back up me and, with nothing more than a thin pair of boxers and cotton pair of shorts between us, she could feel my desire as much as I could feel hers. Taking advantage of my exposed neck, Emma’s mouth attached to the spot just above my collar bone, kissing, smoothing, and sucking a pattern to the beat of her h*ps moving against me.

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