She smiled, the look turning almost dreamy and she rolled her head on my pillow from side to side. “I love you.” Her eyes darkened.
I wasn’t moving. No way now. “I love you back.”
Her hips pressed up and her lips parted. “Now fuck me.”
“I can do that.” And a moment later, I was sliding inside of her.
Aspen was curled in my bed, sleeping sound when I hit up Zeke on the phone.
I typed to him as I dressed in the bathroom.
Me: Heading over now.
He buzzed back a second later.
Zeke: Okay. He’s sleeping.
Me: Did he drink tonight?
Zeke: No. He was too scared to drink. Most of the guys were.
A deep satisfaction bloomed in my chest. That made me feel damned good.
Me: Then we’ll wake him up. Be ready.
It wasn’t a long drive to get to Zeke’s frat house. There was an alley in the back, and a piece of the fence was loose. Zeke showed it to me the first day I was there, said we could use it to sneak in and out. Some of the brothers knew about it, some didn’t.
He was waiting for me as I slipped through, dressed all in black. He handed over a small flashlight and a gag. Without saying a word to each other, we headed inside the house.
Later, as we woke Harper up, as his eyes opened and he saw me standing over him, as he started to jump up, his mouth opening to yell for help, I would think about what we did that night. But in that moment, I didn’t.
I wouldn’t think about it in the way that I would regret it. No. Never that.
I enjoyed as Zeke stuffed a gag in his mouth, and as I yanked him off the bed. There was a thudding sound, but no one came to his help. Not one brother. We weren’t exactly quiet about it. We dragged Harper from his room, and since his room was on the first floor, he only needed to worry about a few steps on the back porch.
Zeke stood back when we got him where I wanted him.
I stood back.
Harper realized it. I wasn’t like him, and I say that because I know his character. He would’ve jumped me with five other guys. He would’ve had them hold me down.
I wasn’t like that.
I let him get to his feet. I let him clear his head.
I gave him a fighting chance.
It wasn’t my fault the fucker couldn’t fight.
It wasn’t my fault that I could fight.
I told Zeke to head back to the house half way through it, and I texted him once I was done. Harper was breathing and awake when I left him, but he was bleeding. And he would hurt. He would hurt for a hell of a long time, but there was no permanent damage.
It was later when I thought back to that night and I realized I wasn’t hitting him just for Aspen. I was doing it for myself. I was doing it for Zeke. But I was doing it for my brother because there would be a time in the future when they would find out what else Harper did.
I was also doing it to set a precedence. Don’t fuck with me and who I loved. And knowing that, knowing my message was good and received, I went back to my apartment.
I washed up, then crawled in bed with Aspen. I pulled her into my arms.
Tomorrow would be another day, but we’d be all right. I’d make sure of it. We’d be all right no matter what came our way.
Aspen’s voice was sleepy. “You okay?”
I pressed a kiss to the side of her mouth. “Never better. Go to sleep.”
And she did. So did I.
“Are you ready for this?” Jade asked as she took the seat beside me.
I shook my head. “Not in the least.”
It was Blaise’s last game as a Seattle Falcon. When he’d finished college, he’d taken a spot on the team. We’d been in Seattle for the last two years. But tonight was his last game with the Falcons—and in the United States. He’d joined a new club in Europe. We’d be on a plane in a couple weeks, heading to Hungary. The offer had been too big, and Blaise knew his time to be able to go over and play in their ranks was diminishing. With the Falcons, he’d quickly become one of the best in the league, but I knew he wanted to try his luck overseas.
“But I’m excited too,” I assured Jade.
I reached over, took her arm, and gave her a squeeze. “I’m glad you came.”
Her eyes got big. “Of course!” She pulled me in for a hug.
My throat was already swelling up. With the little one in me, my emotions were all over the place. And just thinking about him or her—we’d decided to be surprised—made me reach down and place my palm over my stomach.
He/she was kicking, and I smiled.
Blaise had been ecstatic when I told him.
After college, we’d wanted to enjoy living together while he started his soccer career, and I joined a marine-mammal-rescue nonprofit. My main task was to go out every day and rescue ocean mammals. There was never a shortage, sadly. Wrestling seals and cutting netting from around their necks had been the most terrifying at first, but then became my favorite job to do.
It was not something I thought I would’ve ended up doing, but camping on the beach was what got me started. Not a seal, but a sea lion was caught in another large net. Blaise and I caught him to cut it off.
After that, I was in in.
There was no going back.
Blaise and I still did our camping thing, and I say our because I’d converted him long ago. He was now the packer and planner for our trips, though I think that was because he always wanted to make sure our sites were somewhere Zeke could join us.
You read that right.
Zeke now joined our camping expeditions too—he and his girlfriend. And I’m not naming names because the ‘girlfriend’ changed every two months. Though, that was a step up from how he was in college. Zeke had gotten a big rep for having only one-night stands.
“Blaise’s family is coming tonight, right?” Jade asked.
I nodded. “They got their own seats because it’s a surprise for him. He can see me, and if he looks up and they’re sitting with me…”
Jade nodded. “Got it.” Her smile was so big. “And that’s awesome. I’m happy they’re here.”
Another arm squeeze, another look, and we were hugging again.
I couldn’t stop the tears this time. I sniffled, trying to wipe them away.
I still hated crying, but the hormones didn’t. The hormones loved crying, especially publicly.
A roar started in the stadium, and just like that, the game was about to start.
The players came out, and we all stood.
Blaise was one of the last to walk onto the field, and as soon as he appeared, a giant roar sounded through the stadium. This was the last game for the Falcons’ newest star.
I knew Blaise planned to come back.
He wanted to be in Europe for a few years, then return and retire after a few more years here. There was a bit more leeway when it came to players’ ages in the United States. Plus, we had family here.
Like I knew he would, Blaise turned his head as he strode out to the field. His eyes found me, as I’d sat in the same spot for every one of his games.
Jade sucked in her breath. “You’re on the jumbotron.”
I ignored that, because Jade didn’t know we were going to be on the jumbotron quite a bit. News had broken about the pregnancy last week, and the attention had been intense.
When I fell in love with Blaise, if I’d known the amount of attention he was going to get—and I’d get by his side—I’ll be honest… I don’t know how I would’ve handled it. But, day by day, game by game, I’d slowly started to get used to it.
I went from being the invisible girl to having a jumbotron on me on the reg. That said everything right there.
Blaise smiled, kissing his fingers and holding them in the air to me.
I returned the gesture, then noticed many in the crowd doing the same.
They loved their DeVroe.
And yes, my throat was swelling and here came the tears. Again.
I’ll have no working tear ducts by the time I have this kid. I’ll be like a desert inside.
Jade sighed. “God, he’s hot.”
I glanced at her.
Her cheeks reddened. “Not your man—though he’s hot, too.” Her eyes went to his teammate.
Ah-ha. The last time she came to visit, I now realized it hadn’t been an accident that Theo joined us for dinner.
And the night after.
And the night after that.
Why hadn’t I noticed it before? And why hadn’t Blaise told me? I needed to be looped in on this stuff. Jade had been my roommate, then my friend, then my best friend, and now my sister.
My phone buzzed.
Nate: Your man is looking ready to kill someone tonight.
Me: You know it. Probably envisioning your head on his opponent tonight.
Nate: Ha! Your man loves me. We both know it.
He was right.
Nate had started visiting more often, and he and Blaise had become almost joined at the hip. Nate didn’t care about the age difference in the beginning of their budding bromance. He joked that hanging with him kept my brother young, but I always thought he liked Blaise so much because Blaise enjoyed pissing off some of Nate’s friends.
Nate: You’ll be around before you fly out?
Me: Of course.