My face hurt. My hand hurt. Walking even hurt, but we were going to get that pizza for Aspen. I was doing it, no matter how much my body told me to sit down, roll over, and fall asleep for a month.
I held her hand as we walked, and my head pounded to the music before we even neared the front door.
The door burst open, and I was blasted with pain.
I stopped, groaning before I checked myself.
Two guys paused in the open door.
“Dude!” one of them said. “You’re our fucking hero, man.”
Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know this guy.
“Yeah.” I offered a small smile back, but I ground my teeth. My head wanted to split in half. I kept walking.
“Don’t touch him!” Aspen jerked her hand from mine to block the guy.
“He’s hurt,” she hissed. “He was in a fight.”
He stared at Aspen with a blank face, his hand in the air. He’d been about to hit me on the shoulder or back. His blank expression switched to nervousness.
He lowered his hand, stepping back. He saluted me with the beer in his other hand. “Sorry. Just had to come out and congratulate you. Any guy that lasts a round with Cross Shaw, only to be knocked out by one of Monroe’s bounty hunters, is legendary in my mind.” He touched his beer to his chest and took another step backward.
“Yeah, man.” Aspen took my hand as I clipped out, “But don’t touch me or her.”
I gave him another look and let Aspen tug me toward the house.
Zeke was holding court in the back section of his basement. He had a bar in the corner, and everyone had congregated around him. There were a couple pool tables, and couches in all corners of the room. The sliding doors had been pushed open, and the party spilled out around the pool.
The music was going to give me a migraine.
“Yo.” Zeke reached for a beer, but paused. He leaned over to the back of his bar and came out with a bottle of whiskey. He opened it as he made his way to us. “You got sprung, huh?”
He handed it over.
I took a drink for the impending migraine.
Zeke nodded to Aspen. “You drink? If you don’t, I could make something virgin for you.”
I paused, checking his tone and look, but there was no hidden innuendo there. Zeke was truly offering to make something non-alcoholic for Aspen.
My chest swelled.
He was rolling out the carpet for her. He’d done it at her house, but doing it here in front of everyone, he was giving her his stamp of approval. That would go a long way with everyone else.
Aspen stepped close to me, resting her head against my arm. “You know what? Give me a beer. Never been a big drinker, but maybe it’s time, huh?”
Zeke’s grin was almost blinding. “Right on.” He nodded before going back behind the bar.
I glanced down. “You sure? You don’t have to. I’m in pain. I needed something to dull it, but I’ll quit in a second so I can drive back, if you want.”
“Drive Maisie?” she said incredulously.
She was adorable.
I wanted to taste her pouty lips. I needed to taste them.
“Uh, whoa.” Her eyes went wide and darkened. She’d felt my sudden response.
I caught the back of her neck and leaned down.
Moving my mouth to her ear, I whispered, “I want you grinding on me tonight. I want to watch you as I slide inside of you, and I’m going to make you come three times for me.”
Her knees folded.
I caught her. Her hand pressed to my stomach, fisting my shirt. “Oh. Okay. Yes, please.”
Adorable. Fucking adorable.
“Seriously, guys. Keep the hot and heavy till later,” Zeke said, returning from who knows where. “Daniels is here, you know?”
That was a cold shower. It worked on Aspen too, because she jerked away from me.
I caught her right as she was about to run into Brian, who held three beers by the necks. I tugged her back, focusing on Zeke, who was handing a beer in a glass to Aspen.
“Cheers.” He held his drink up.
I clinked it with the bottle of whiskey. Aspen joined us, and as she drank, Zeke asked, “So now that I’ve been an ace host and the beverages have been distributed, what happened?”
“You tell me.” I frowned. “I woke up in the back of Monroe’s bounty hunting office. You were gone.”
He rubbed the back of his neck, watching the crowd around us.
Not me. I ignored everyone but these two.
“Your brother’s girlfriend stayed back to handle the pizzeria staff. I don’t know why. She seemed to know the girl we were talking to, but they wouldn’t let me come. Said I’d escalate the situation. Your boy had one of his goons with him, though. What happened?” His eyes slid to Aspen. “How’d you hear? I didn’t have your number, and his phone was still on him when they took him.”
Her eyes got big.
I smoothed a hand down her back, keeping her close. “Channing Monroe called her.”
“Hmmm…” She held up a finger, finishing her drink. “No. I called your phone. He picked up and asked who I was, then told me to come down if I thought I could help the situation.”
I felt a kick from that one. I’d been mouthing off to Cross, hoping to incite him again.
Zeke read my face and started laughing. “You are such a dick. People say I’m a dick, but you’re worse.”
I frowned. “Come on.”
“No, no, no.” He backed away, bowing. “When someone comes along that’s scarier than me—and you’ve earned that especially lately—I acknowledge it.”
I rolled my eyes, and he motioned us to follow him.
Holding Aspen’s hand, I moved us through the crowd. She kept close, her other one rested on my back. It was a light touch, but she was with me. And I liked it. I liked it a lot.
Glancing around as we walked, I realized almost who all was here.
“You invite Roussou people?”
Zeke tossed me a grin over his shoulder. “Why not? I don’t discriminate. Besides, things are cool with me and Gambin again.” He gestured toward a guy across the basement.
Gambin was one of the athletes from Cross’ school, and seeing me, he separated from his group. He followed us into the den connected to Zeke’s bedroom. It acted as a gaming room. Zeke used it for his smoking room too, but tonight, only two guys were inside.
“Out.” Zeke jerked his head toward the patio doors leading to the pool.
The guys were passing a blunt, but they looked up, saw us, and scrambled. I didn’t recognize them.
“Finally.” Zeke sank down onto one of the couches.
Brian sat on his other side.
We were here for pizza, but the whiskey had helped my headache a little. And I wanted to relax, have my girl with me in my scene. I went to the far inside corner of the couch and sank down. When Aspen made a move to sit next to me, I leaned back, pulling her onto my lap.
She stiffened, but I molded her against me. I leaned back and closed my eyes. What a fucking night. I felt her fingers touching my face, gently, as she inspected my damage. But everything had already been cleaned and bandaged by one of Monroe’s bounty hunters.
I opened my eyes and saw Zeke watching us as Gambin came in.
“Making sure all my teeth are there?” I asked Aspen.
I’d meant to tease her, but it came out a bit more gruff than I wanted. I put my hand on her thigh when she tensed. “Sorry. I must be in more pain than I thought.”
She nodded, biting her lip.
I lifted my hand to touch her mouth. “Not that.”
She let it go and breathed out, her body relaxing against mine. She rested her elbow on my shoulder, her head cocked to the side. “Do your ribs hurt?”
I frowned. Cross hadn’t hit me there.
I shook my head. “Nah. We were trying to mess up each other’s pretty faces.”
She smiled. “Okay. That’s good then.”
God, she was beautiful, soft golden hair. She had lips I wanted to do dirty, dirty things to, and her body was ridiculous—tight, toned, and perfect everywhere.
My dick was already hard with her in my lap, but thinking about what I wanted to do to her tonight, fucking painful.
Aspen felt it, and her face flushed. She laughed, burying her head in my neck.
That felt nice too.
Zeke caught my attention, jerking his chin up. He wanted to talk.
I leaned in and asked Aspen, “You want to participate in our conversation or just relax in my lap?”
Her eyes were dark, and I knew she was thinking lusty thoughts, so I wasn’t surprised when she lifted a hand, touching the bruise on my lip before she murmured, “Just kinda wanting to relax.”
I nodded and moved her to the other side. Her back was to the room this way, and I pulled her legs up to rest next to us on the couch. One hand held my whiskey and the other curved behind her. I rested my head back.
This was the life.
When Aspen had settled, her head pressing to my shoulder, I gave Zeke the signal.
He was fighting a smile, but stopped. A full-on shit-eating grin spread over his face. “Fuck. Never thought I’d see it, but it’s here.”
I smiled back.