top of page

Rolland Ruins Christmas

 

By

Meagan Brandy

Copyright © 2023 Meagan Brandy

 

All rights reserved. This book, or any portion thereof, may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No copyright infringement intended. No claims have been made over songs and/or lyrics written. All credit goes to original owner.

Blurb 

 

I don't want a woman to call my own. It's a decision I made long ago and one I plan to stick by.

Too bad for me, the little brat down the road seems determined to change that, prancing around in her little Santa suit and bringing me things I don't want.

No matter how many times I ignore her not so subtle advances, the girl keeps trying.

I'm going to have to set her straight the hard way ... even if it means ruining Christmas.

Chapter 1 

 

     She tests me.

     Every damn day, this girl tests me, and I’m not just talking about my patience.

     Pulling my glare from the small opening of the shutters, I glance at my watch once more. 

     If I wait any longer for her to go away, I’ll be late. Again. A sigh pushes past my lip as I slip my suit jacket over my shoulders and walk out the door.

     Keeping my face pointed forward, I watch her in my peripheral – the only way I allow myself to look.           She doesn't spot me right away, but there is no avoiding the little vixen. The minute I press the button, unlocking my door, she's going to spin on those platforms of hers, giving me every ounce of her attention. 

      I wait until my hand is wrapped around the handle to make the move, telling myself if I tear it open and drop inside quickly enough, she won’t have a chance to make her way over, but it’s a lie that’s proven wrong every single time. 

     The second the loud ass alarm peeps, she whips around and starts my way. You would think it's a non-issue, that I could simply plant myself in the seat, close the door and take off down the long, newly paved road, pretending I didn't notice her advancing at all. 

     But no, that’s not how she does things. 

     No, this one, she’s a hellcat and does not accept being ignored. 

     She refuses to be forgotten, doing everything she can to make sure she never is.

     And she never is. 

     Instead of heading my way, she moves to the center of my one and only exit of the estate and struts her ass toward me like the star of her own runway show. One foot in front of the other, eyes locked on mine through the tinted window. A small smirk plays on her red lips, and it grows to a grin as she reaches the front end of my ride, running her dark green fingernails along the hood. They’re a new color every week, courtesy of my favorite girl in the world, I have no doubt. 

     She keeps coming until she’s gripping the roof and bends next to my window. She waits. 

     My jaw ticks and begrudgingly, I roll the damn thing down, but not before I slip on a pair of blackout sunglasses, blocking my eyes from her prying ones. 

     “Good morning, Mr. Brayshaw.” Her voice is velvet, a soft purr from her lips straight to my damn dick. 

     “Ciara.” I frown at the orchards ahead. “Shouldn’t you be inside, watching my granddaughter?” 

She leans closer, gaze roaming over the slight stubble I should have shaved this morning. “Brielle just got back with the twins. She’s making them show her what they learned in Jujitsu today since her daddy still won’t let her go.” 

     I look to the clock on my dash, frown deepening. “Practice isn't over for another hour.”

     “Yep.” She props her elbow on the window seal, dropping her chin into her palm. “Twins choked out a couple kids today.”

     “Again?”

     “Mm-hm. Think they might get booted this time.”

     My son won’t allow that.

     “Anyway.” She smiles. “How about a kiss?”

     My heated gaze whips her way so fast I have to blink to regain focus, and when I do, my eyes immediately fall to her lips. 

     Thankfully, she can’t fucking see my confounded expression. 

     “Excuse me?” I keep my tone as level as I can manage with fire burning its way up my throat. 

     A kiss. 

     Me and her. 

     That cannot fucking happen. 

     An airy chuckle leaves her, and I swear there’s a hint of mockery in it, as if she read my mind and is boldly calling my bluff.  

     She straightens, the sweater she’s wearing hardly a sweater at all, and cut off just beneath her bra line, rising higher with her hand as she sweeps her dark hair from her face. Her other slips into the tiny pocket of her jeans, so tight they should be straining at the seams. And when she holds her palm out before me, a single kiss sits there. 

     A Hershey kiss. 

     My brows snap together and her lips curve impossibly high.

     She tosses it to me and reflexively, I catch the red wrapped treat. 

     “Hilarious.”

     “I thought so too.” She winks, taking backward steps. “Be seeing you.”

     I put the car in gear and hit the gas. 

     The tires spin with my exit, but I don’t care. 

     I get the hell away from the girl who won’t quit.

     She wants me, but that’s too bad.

     She’s still young, and like most milestones, the most important lessons are learned the hard way, and this one, while not likely, is easy.

     The cub can’t have the cobra.

     There’s just no fucking way.

Chapter 2 


 

     When I told my sons I would run for Mayor of this town, I didn’t expect them to hold me to it. The town is named after us, for fucks sake, so what would the point be? A Brayshaw as head of Brayshaw?

     It’s not like anyone could rival us if they wanted to, and if they did, they’d be gone before they had the chance. No one moves here without our knowledge, and no one stays without our permission, so more or less, the opposition is just something to keep me busy and out of the house. They say I have no life, but they’re wrong. 

     I have five grandchildren ages ten and under, thanks to my sons following in my footsteps and having kids at – and before – eighteen. Shit, there are men in this town my age just having their first child, and here I am, a “papa”. 

     Subconsciously, I slide a hand across the sides of my hair, as if that will make the hint of silver that’s begun to show itself there fade. 

     Fourty-two is not fucking old.

     It’s too old for her.

     “Fuck.” I frown at the unwelcomed thought – this isn’t only unwelcomed because of the truth behind it, but because I thought it, thought of her, in the first place.

     `“Good morning, Mr. Brayshaw.” 

     I look toward the corner office, raising a brow at the brunette sitting on top of the desk. “Chloe. What did I say?”

     “No pissing off the boss.” 

     “Then why are you here?”

     She smiles, wiggling her eyebrows. “To piss off the boss.” 

     A chuckle pushes past my lips, and I shake my head, calling out. “Tell Mac to meet me in the conference room when you’re... done.”

     “It might be a while!”

     “There are cameras in every room,” I remind her. 

     “Good thing he’s head of security then, huh?”

     I laugh at that, pushing past the glass doors and peeling my jacket off. Just as I fling it over the chair in the corner, my oldest comes in. 

     “You’re late again.” 

      I meet his green eyes, mine narrowing when I spot the laughter in his own. “It’s not funny.”

     “You’re right, pops.” My youngest bounds through in nothing but a white tank and basketball shorts. “It’s fucking hilarious.” Royce grins. 

     “There’s a dress code here.”

     “Don’t try to get off easy…get her off easily instead. I could give you some pointers if you need ‘em old man.” He ducks, laughing when I smack him upside the head.  

     Chloe comes in a few minutes later, not a hair out of place but no one comments on the twist of her skirt. 

     Well, no one but the expected anyway.

     “Damn, Mac Money. When did you turn into a minute man?” 

     Mac flips Royce off, a smirk on his lips as he lowers into the seat beside his best friend. 

     Chloe sets down our usual orders before each of us and looks down the hall. “Incoming,” she says before slipping out. 

     A moment passes and then the rest of the board members settle in the room. 

     We waste no time, my sons having other places to be then here talking about town bullshit, but it’s when       Dante King speaks for the first time today that their attention is caught. 

     “There’s been some talk around town,” he begins. “Families across the bridge have started a petition.” 

      Across the bridge, being the old territory of our former enemies. Enemies that were taken out seven years ago, when my sons took their places as the leaders of this town. The side of town the King family has … graciously taken it upon himself to speak for like a real fucking golden boy. And he is one. 

     Blonde hair, blue eyes with a Harvard Law degree. 

     Why he came back here after college, I don’t know, but the punk keeps showing up everywhere and it’s starting to get on my nerves. 

     We don’t need him here. 

     Since merging the north and south side, there have been no problems, but they very much keep to themselves. We treat them as part of our own in the sense that they want and need for nothing, and when money is needed, it’s given, even if most families from the north side are considerably wealthier than those of the south. They like to flaunt it too. 

     “How long you gonna pause for dramatic effect, Dante?” Royce sips his hot chocolate obnoxiously loud, a child in a twenty-five year old’s body. It’s all for fun really. Everyone in this room knows he’d be the first to snap if snapping were required. 

     “They want to officially close Graven Prep.” he announces.

     That has Maddoc sitting forward, his face an unreadable mask, as always. “And put those kids … where?”

     He asks the question, though we all know the answer. There’s only one other school in this town. 

     Brayshaw High. 

     Dante doesn’t state the obvious but continues. “It wouldn’t be right away. We’d transition, figure out the logistics and bus schedules. See where we can shift around the staff to other schools, so no one is losing jobs because of it. I think we can have it all settled in say… four years from now.”

     Instantly, the air in the room shifts.

     Dante’s eyes sparkle, the bastard. 

     He knows exactly what happens in four years. 

     After being held back a year to put her closer in grade to the boys, my oldest grandchild, Zoey, will begin the next generation of Brayshaws at Brayshaw High. 

     Slowly, Maddoc rises to his feet, his gaze locked on Dante’s. “How old is your son now?”

     Dante is silent a moment before answering. “He’s eleven.”

     Royce cocks his head, staring straight at Dante, but says nothing. 

     Clearing my throat, I rise from the chair, moving toward the door. I wrench it open, and the men in the room clear out, but when Dante stands, stepping forward, I close it, blocking his exit.

     “You keep your son away from my granddaughter, or the next ticket you get won’t be for whipping that sports car of yours through town, it will be a one-way plane ride as far away as I can send you. And the only thing you’ll get to take with you is what you can carry in your greasy hands.”

     “I hear you, Rolland.” The man five years younger than me smiles. “Besides, I sent the boy away after my wife died, so you won’t have to worry about him.”

     He claps a hand on my shoulder, and I wait a long moment before giving him the space he needs to walk by. 

     He pauses in the hall, frowning at something Chloe must say, and plucks a candy cane off the Christmas tree on his way out. “See you at the Christmas party, Brayshaw.”

“Mac.” 

     He’s already standing, camera feeds pulled up on his iPad before I finish speaking his name. “On it.” 

     He walks out, and I turn to my sons. “Do nothing.”

     Maddoc lifts a dark brow. “You gonna tell Captain that when he finds out the Kings are trying to find a way to get their son at the same school as his daughter?”

     “You heard him. He sent the boy away.”

     “What I heard is, a punk with mommy and daddy issues might ride is ass back into this town one day, and land right where our princess will be.” Royce hops up.

     My brows snap together, and I look between the two. 

     “Anyway, that’s an issue for the next gen, so we’ll worry about that when their time comes. Let’s talk about this one.” He grins. 

     “What’s happened now?”

     “Nothing and that’s the point here. A pretty little kitty is clawing at you like you’re her favorite flavor catnip and you refuse to cage her. Why?”

      My jaw tightens. “Out.” 

     “Hey, I’m just saying, you’ve got to be getting tired of-”

     “Do not finish that sentence,” I warn, but he only shuts up because what he was going to say is awkward as hell and we both know it. 

     “Hey, all I’m saying is you could do worse. Might as well keep it in the family.” 

     Maddoc scoffs., “Like you did?”

     Royce glares. “Hey, asshole. That wasn’t my fault. I was tricked.”

     “Both of you, go away.”

     “Fine, fine. We’ll leave you to your thoughts of banging Mrs. Clause.” Both boys laugh on their way out and I slam the door behind them.

     Sighing, I scrub a hand down my face, turning toward the window.

     I jolt instantly, eyes narrowing on the leggy brunette climbing the steps of the coffee house, her tiny red skirt lifting higher with each step, the fuzzy white trim doing nothing to hide the edge of her ass as she goes. 

     Her perfect, perky ass. 

     Fuck

Chapter 3

      “Yeah, well he shouldn’t have said she had pretty hair.”
      “But Zoey does have pretty hair, don’t you think?” I ask Champ.
      “Duh,” his twin adds, shooting the Nerf gun and hitting his mom in the back of the head. “Sorry, ma!” 
     She just laughs and goes back helping clean the massive mess we made decorating cookies tonight.  
     I grin from him to Champ. “So why did you get mad and start a fight with him, if what the boy said was true?”
     Champ slaps his forehead as if exasperated by my line of questioning and me and their dad laugh. “Listen, papa. No one gets to say nice things about Zoey, okay?” 
     I bite back a laugh, as the expression on his face is completely serious.
     “And why is that?”
     “Because Phoenix said so.” He sneaks a cookie off the tray and runs away. 
     My brows jump and I look to Zoey. 
     “Boys, am I right?” She sighs dramatically, shaking her head as she chases after him. 
     Laughing, I finish wiping down the table, tossing the paper towel in the trash as I carry the glasses to the sink. “I do not envy the poor kid who dares to love your little girl.”
     Victoria smiles, tossing a pod into the dishwasher and spinning to lean her hip against it. “Is it bad if I want it to be one of them?” 
     My head yanks back and she throws her head back laughing.
     “What?” she shrugs. “They’re being raised in the same house. There’s love and trust and respect … but there’s no blood here.”
     “Family runs deeper than blood,” her husband offers, disappearing into the living room.
     She only smiles, wiggling her brows my way.
     “Honey, there will be
blood everywhere if Captain ever finds one of those boys in his princesses’ room…his and whichever kids dad it is blood to be exact.”
     “I’d pay to see that shit.” I turn toward Raven, Maddoc’s wife. “It’d be just like old times. We could call      Bishop to take the bets, make a whole thing out of it.” She teases. “But I will say, I’m glad we won’t have to worry about that for another handful of years. At least your kid can only get in trouble nine months at a time. What if mine ends up being a ho like his dad was?”
     “The fuck?” Maddoc shouts from somewhere and Raven smirks to herself.
     That man, always listening.
     “My bad, I meant like they all were.” She chuckles, she corrects as if it’s better.
     I look back to Victoria. “You’re lucky the boys are younger so that won’t happen.”
     “What’s being younger have to do with anything?” 
     I tense at the throaty whisper as it fans along my ear. 
     She steps around me then, pressing closer than necessary and pausing when her front is aligned with  mine. When I don’t respond, she does. 
     “That’s what I thought,” she whispers, goading me. “Age ain’t nothing but a number,
old man.”
     It works and I’m pressing forward before I even realize it. 
     “Old man?” I lift a dark brow. “Angel, I am young in every way that counts, believe me.”
     Her neck stretches, and she flips her hair to one side, sending the sweet smell of her perfume into my nostrils.
     My pulse races instantly. She smells like chocolate and strawberries and whipped fucking cream. When her chest inflates with a full breath, and I realize my hand somehow ended up wrapped around her ribs, squeezing and guiding her closer. I yank myself away, and her smile grows.
     “What if I said I don’t believe you…would you prove me wrong?” and her tongue presses between her teeth. 
     I glare at the girl because that’s what she is. A girl. 
     A gorgeous, single ... grown girl.

     Keep telling yourself that.
     Ciara pulls her lips between her teeth and slips from the room. The minute she’s gone, I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding, my head falling backward as I clench my eyes closed. 
     Choked laughter sounds a moment later and I whip my head to the right to find all three of my daughters in law huddled in the corner, doing their best not to crack up at me. 
     I jab a finger in their direction, frowning, “Do not encourage her.” 
     “Wouldn’t dream of it,” Brielle, Royce’s wife, smiles innocently. 
     “Scouts honor.” Victoria. 
     “Who do you think gave her the idea of the Santa suit?” Raven.  
     Sighing, I yank open the patio door, and step out, but not before all three singsong in unison.               “Goodnight, Mr. Brayshaw.”
     I slam the door closed. 
     Brats. 
     All of them. 

 

Chapter 4

 

     Turning off the spray of the shower, I dry off and step into my room. The door is locked, all the littles in bed by this time a night, so I don’t bother putting clothes on as I walk into the kitchen for a night cap. 

     I pour a half glass of dry whiskey and take the bottle with me into the living room. I lower into my favorite chair and put on the highlights from tonight’s Warrior’s game. The boys had it on in the background during dinner, but the kids were too hyped up to sit still, the idea of Christmas Eve approaching too exciting for them to pay any attention. Except for Phoenix, that is. That boy was glued to the seat beside Maddoc, eyes frozen on the screen the entire time. Like father, like son. 

     A small smirk pulls at my lips as I set it on the side table and refill it for round two. 

     The highlights end and the broadcasters start talking, so I mute the tv, settling into the silence for a moment. 

     A minute ticks by, and then another, and I pick up my phone, calling Captain to see if he wants to come have a drink with me. 

     It goes straight to voicemail, so I try Maddoc, but it rings twice with no answer. 

     My finger hovers over Royce’s name, but that man never answers the fucking phone if it’s not his wife’s name on the screen, so instead, I call the one person I know will answer. 

     Her voice is groggy, but full of fire that makes me smile. “Boy, you should know better than to disrupt an old woman’s beauty sleep.”

     “Nice try, but curfew check isn’t for another thirty minutes, Miss Maybell. There’s no way you’re already in bed.”

     “And miss the chance to bust the new kid who keeps trying to sneak over to the boys’ home for some play time? Not a chance.” She teases. “But if she hears me talking on the phone, there’s no telling how long I’ll have to wait up to bust the girl.”

     I laugh into the line. Maybell has been running the girls group home at the front of our property line for decades now, and even at her age, which must be pretty up there even though she never shares, she loves a good bust.

     We’re silent a moment after that. 

     “What’s on your mind, boy?” she wonders. 

     “Nothing, I was going to see if you wanted to come by for a drink.”

     "You’d be asleep by the time my happy ass made it to ya.”

     I smile, nodding. “You might be right.” 

     “Rolland?”

     “Yes, ma’am?”

     “Take a sign for what it is, would you?” 

     Before I can ask what she means, the line goes dead. Shaking my head, I set the phone down, a small grin on my lips, but as I settle further in my chair, a sigh escaping me as I realize my sons are right. 

     I have no life and it’s getting boring. How, when literally my entire family lives less than thirty feet from me, I don’t know. But it is. 

     The screen switches to the Morning Show, replaying a performance from some young, popular pop singer. It must be a Christmas song she’s singing as the set is decorated with lights and trees and fake presents. 

     The girl wears a long, white winter coat, and when a backup dancer drops a hat onto her head, she slips it off, revealing a red Santa suit with white trim. 

     My mind instantly goes to the dark-haired beauty down the street. 

     To the tiny bikini’s she wears when she slips into my hot tub at night when she thinks I’m asleep.

     To the leggings she walks around in, so tight they leave nothing to the imagination, her entire, full figure on display for me to see. 

     I wonder what her skin feels like?

     Is it as velvety as the skirt she wore tonight? 

     Fuck. 

     My head falls back, but as I feel that familiar fire burn up my stomach, I frown, looking down once more. 

     My cock is swollen and stiff, sticking straight up my fucking stomach, begging for attention it hasn’t gotten in way to fucking long. 

     My eyes fall to the small table, and I pick up the small chocolate she gave me this morning. The chocolate kiss. 

     I tear the foil off and set the creamy treat on my tongue. 

     I suck the rich flavor, letting my eyes close and suddenly, there she is, licking across the seam of my lips, tasting what she gave me. 

     I moan and before I know what I’m doing, my palm is locked around my cock.

     I squeeze my shaft once, twice, and then begin to pump.

     My abs constrict and I groan, dropping my head all the way to the back of the chair, my hips lifting, legs widening and allowing for a better grip. 

     I imagine her lips trailing down my chest and I jolt, desperate to tug on my dick harder, but not yet, not until she’s hovering above me, sliding down my skin. Not until I can picture her hot mouth pressing over the head of my cock. 

     “Fuck,” I rasp, stroking myself with hard, long movements. 

     I work my dick like I imagine she would, with long, thoughtful pulls, and then quick desperate ones. My toes curl and my hips buck and I run my thumb over the precum, teasing the tip like I know she would. 

     My teeth sink into my bottom lip, and I grunt, my fist working faster and faster until the candy is coating my throat like my cum would hers. 

     My teeth clash together, and I moan, long and loud as my orgasm rips through me, hot ropes of cum shooting over my stomach in repetition, 

     I gasp, trying to catch my breath and my eyes flick open. I have to blink beyond the spots in my vision, and my muscles are so spent I can’t fucking move. 

     A mocking chuckle escapes and I scrub my hands down my face. 

     Of course, the most satisfying orgasm I’ve had in years and it’s to nothing but the image of the girl I should not want but clearly do. 

     I am so fucked. 

Chapter 5 

 

     Ciara Bishop.

     Cousin to my daughter in law, Brielle. 

     Babysitter to my granddaughter, Zoey. 

     Temptress of my every fucking fantasy.

     When the fuck did that happen?

      I peek out the window, frowning. 

     There she is again. Like always. 

     Every fucking day.

     Outside, waiting for me to leave for work. With the kids out of school for Christmas break, it’s even worse. 

     She’s always here. 

     Fuck this. 

I tear the door open, not bothering to be quiet this time and she whips around with a smile. 

     “Hey-”

     “Go away, Ciara.” I cut her off. “I don’t have time for your childish bull shit today.”

     “Excuse me?” she snaps, a small green and red box clutched in her left hand.

     “Are you incapable of listening or do you enjoy making people repeat themselves?”

     She gapes at me, her hip popping out. All it does is draw attention to the curve of her waist in those fucking leggings. 

    So much to explore. 

     So much to hold onto.  

     Touch.

     Taste.

     No. fuck

     I grit my teeth, storming over to her and little by little, her bravado falls until she’s looking up at me with uncertainty in her eyes. 

“I am a man, Ciara. You’re nearly half my age. What makes you think I would bother with someone like you when I can have a real woman, any woman, any time I wanted?” 

Her face falls and guilt stabs at my chest so unexpectantly, that I have to turn and walk away before I do something stupid. Like apologize. Like grab a hold of her and never let her go. 

Once locked inside my car, I drag my hand through my hair. 

“Jesus fucking Christ,” I mutter. 

And then I get the fuck out of there. 

I think of nothing else that day, but the wounded expression on Ciara’s face.

 

*** 

 

     It’s well after six PM when I finally force myself to stop delaying and make the short drive home. 

     I fully expect the brunette to be sitting on my porch, maybe with a paintball gun to light me up, but she isn’t. In fact, she’s not outside waiting for me at all.

     That’s what you wanted.

     Frowning, I close my car door, right as a gang of boys flow from the front of the house.

     I turn with a smile, wondering if Ciara and Zoey are around the house, messing in the gardens despite the season since they and my granddaughter didn’t follow behind.

     “What’s up, papa!” Phoenix nods. “We’re about to play a game, wanna play?” he asks, signing the words as he speaks them. 

     I do the same. “Do I even need to ask what game we’re playing?”

     Lark smiles, shaking his head. He lifts his arms, palms up and flicks his wrists as if the throw a basketball. 

     I chuckle, picking up my youngest grandson and tickle his belly. Even his laughter is silent, but I can feel his joy. I kiss his cheek, nodding my head as my way of agreeing. 

     Lark can hear but not well, and being he doesn’t speak at all, everyone in the family has and continues to learn sign language. 

     The little man kicks to be let down, so I free him, and he glues himself to my side, claiming me as his partner. 

     Phoenix grins. “Okay, fine.” He looks to his best friend Riot. “Three on three. Champ you’re with them.”

     Lark shakes his head and Champ glares his way. 

     “Hey, we lost one time, man. Not fair.”

     Lark pinches his lips together, looking up at me with a fought smile. 

    I bend down. With my hands starting in the middle of my chest, palms facing downward, I slide them outward, then flip them, flicking my right over my left palm twice.

     Lark laughs, and nods. 

     “Sorry, papa. But you’re not mopping the floor with us today.” Phoenix crosses the ball between his legs.       “I’ve been practicing.”

     Lark rolls his eyes and gets ready, but not before Zoey comes out.

     I tense, waiting for Ciara to follow behind her but she comes out alone.

     “Hey, papa.”

     “Hey, honey. Wanna play?”

     “With Phoenix? No way.” She pushes her hair over her shoulder.

     “Hey!” he shoots back with a glare.

     “Hey.” She waves innocently. 

     When he turns back this way, she looks to Lark, signing wonder what he’ll break this time when you score on him.

     Lark’s cheeks puff with his laugh and Phoenix whips around to look at Zoey. 

     She pushes her hair over her shoulder, looking up at the sky with a smile. 

     He sighs, shaking his head and passes me the ball as he and the other boys huddle together to game plan.

     “Curls today, huh?” I ask Zoey, noting the ringlets, and my eyes slide toward the still empty porch. “Your mama do that or…?”

     She beams. “Yes! She was helping Ciara get ready for a date and then did mine!” 

     A date. 

     Ciara is on a date. 

     Who the fuck did she go out with?

     A tug on my shirt has me looking down. 

     Lark frowns at me, his hand in a fist, pinky and thumb stretched out as he taps his fist against his chin twice. 

     I close my fingers together in a circle, shaking them slightly. “Nothing, Kiddo.” 

     Slapping my palm on the ball, I gain the others attention. 

     “Let’s do this.” Champ claps, facing off with his smirking twin. 

     “No wild balls, Champ!” Phoenix warns.

     “No promises.” He grins back.

     “If you nail Zoey again, I’m gonna tell Riot how you-”

     “I get it. Shut up already and play.”

     I shake my head, having a hard time keeping up with all their ten year old drama. 

     We play for over an hour, my mind coming up with all the possibilities of who and where Ciara might be. 

     I plan to ask her when she shows up later. 

     But one call to the girls group home, where she lives and works when Zoey’s in school, and I find out she isn’t there. 

     When I leave to get donuts for the kids the next morning, her car is nowhere to be found. 

     I shouldn’t be annoyed, I have no right to be angry, but I am. 

     In fact, I’m fucking furious

Chapter 6

 

     The tires screech as I throw the car in park at the curb, and when the valet steps up, I shove right past him.

      “Sir, you have to leave your keys…sir!”

      I ignore him – clearly the kid is fucking new here – and charge into the restaurant.  

      “Mr. Brayshaw!” the hostess greets, panic in her eyes. “I’m so sorry sir, I don’t have your table ready. If you’ll give me a moment-”

      “Not staying, Shirly. I’ll only be a minute.” 

      “Oh, uh…”

      I shove through the double doors, my head slicing left to look through the holes of the entryway. 

      My feet jolt to a stop when I spot her, tucked in the back corner of the room – the most private corner.             Her long dark hair lays in waves over her left shoulder and her lipstick is as red as the dress she’s wearing. The same shade she wears for me.

      Maybe she doesn’t wear it for me. 

      Maybe it’s just her favorite fucking color. 

      Movement to the left catches her attention and she looks over, her smile blooming. She stands, and an expensive black suit blocks her from my view, but then they turn, and I’m frozen, rage bubbling beneath my skin when his lips touch the swell of her cheek. 

       “Fuck no.” I tear around the corner, feet pounding against the hard marble. 

      Then I see him, and red spots fall over my vision.

      People watch me from the corner of their eyes, flat out staring at my back once I pass. 

      A hush falls over the space and then her eyes lift, locking with mine. 

     She goes from confused to shocked, to panicked all in a moment, but they settle on warning. 

      Funny, cause she’s about to get one from me. 

      I step right up to the table, slamming my fists down so hard a glass of white wine tips and spills. 

      Her date jolts, shoving his chair back in surprise. 

      “What the hell?!” he shouts, rounding with a growl, but jerks up straight when he finally sets his eyes on me. “Rolland. What are you doing?” 

      “Collecting something.”

      Realization dawns and a slow smile sweeps over his lips. “Well, if you don’t mind.” He sits back down with a smirk, dabbing at the liquid on his suit jacket like a prissy little bitch. “We’re in the middle of something.”

      “I mind and no. You’re not.” I whirl on Ciara, eying her expectantly. 

       Her blue eyes burn with anger. “Go home, Rolland,” she hisses under her breath. 

      “Get the fuck up, Ciara.”

      Her lips purse and she sits back, her chin rising. 

      “I’m going to count to three.” 

       She huffs, crossing her leg, the slit in her dress falling open and exposing even more skin. 

      The asshole looks at her the moment she does, so I flip the table and this time, they both jolt up. 

Small gasps and squeals fill the place, but I ignore them.

      Her stormy eyes flash to mine, her lips parting to scream at me, but before she can, I’ve bent and flipped her over my shoulder. 

     “Three.” 

       “You son of a bitch!” she screeches, pounding at my back. 

      No one says a word as I carry her out. 

      The valet kid’s eyes fly wide, but his boss simply claps a hand on his shoulder. 

      I move to the driver seat, set her on her feet, and then settle us both behind the wheel. 

       “What are you-” she squeals when I peel from the parking lot. 

      The radio screams some angry rock song, so when she tries to speak, I press the bottom on the wheel to drown her ass out.

      I take the hills going ninety and she growls, burying her face in her hands. 

      I’m fucking fuming, my limbs shaking with anger and irritation. 

      My blood boiling with … fuck.  J

      Jealousy. 

       It’s jealousy. 

       It’s possessiveness. 

      Mine

      My jaw locks hard at the thought, but that’s not the only thing that hardens.

      My cock strains hard against my slacks, pressing firm against her ass, doing all the traitor can to get closer to what it wants. 

      Her. 

      Why is it her?

       My eyes must close, because in the next second horns blare and when they fly open.. We run the light, nearly being clipped by the crossing traffic.

      Ciara shifts. “Stop the car.”

      “No.”

       “Stop the fucking car, Rolland, or I swear to god!” 

      I don’t stop. I keep weaving in and out of traffic and turn down the long drive on the property line. 

      Thank fuck the crew is out walking the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, so I don’t have to worry about the kids when I whip into the driveway, slamming on the breaks in front of my studio. 

       She doesn’t wait, throwing the door open angrily and climbing out. 

       She tears the clips from her hair, and it falls wildly in her face as she whirls on me, shoving me back into the seat when I go to step out. 

      I jerk up again, catching her wrists when she goes for a second push and yank her against me.

     “Dante fucking King? Really, Ciara?”

     She lifts her chin. “He’s a nice man.”

     “He’s a fucking joke.” 

      “Well, I guess he caught me laughing then, because I like him.”

       My muscles lock. “Say that again?”

      She tries to tug away, but I don’t let her. “I said I like him.”

      Anger licks up my spine and I curl my lip. “You sound like a fucking child. Like him? What are you, sixteen?”

       “Sorry, is that too juvenile for you, old man?” she presses forward, her tongue licking across her lower lip with slow purpose. 

     My eyes zone in on the contact, my cock so fucking angry now, it aches. 

      “Let me try again.” She purrs. “I like the way he feels inside me. Is that bet–?”

       I’ve got her spun and pinned against my car in a split second. “Watch you’re fucking mouth.”

      “I’d rather watch his as it works-”

      “Finish that sentence and I will show you what it really feels like to be wet between your thighs.”

      “Between my legs,” she whispers in defiance.

      I growl, my fingers freeing her wrists and biting into her hips. 

      Her lip’s part, eyes dilating. 

      I pick her ass up and this time she doesn’t squeal. 

      She stares into my eyes, her long, thick legs curving around my waist. They’re strong and solid, yet so fucking soft against my palms. I squeeze her and she jolts closer to my chest. 

      I want her to run her fingers through my hair. To lean forward and press those irresistible lips to mine. 

      We step through the small gate, move closer to my door, but at the last second, I cut right, and before she knows what’s happening, I untether her from around me and toss her ass in the cold pool. 

      She pops up with a gasp, then screams as she hurries to the steps.

      “Are you fucking kidding me!” she shrieks, teeth already clattering.

      I smirk despite the anger, crossing my arms. “Told you I’d get you nice and wet.”

      She scoffs. “Yeah, I’m starting to wonder if this is the only way your capable of accomplishing that.”

       “Watch yourself,” I warn.

       Mischief dances across her features and she shrugs. “Don’t mind if I do.”

       She shifts the slightest bit, staring to my left and I take the bait, following her gaze. Her eyes find her own in the glare of the window and my nostrils flare when she peels the straps from her shoulders. 

      I whip around, red hot need burning through my veins. “Don’t you dare.”

      The gown falls to her feet.

      My mouth runs fucking dry. 

      Ciara stands before me, completely fucking naked, body dripping wet and bubbled with goosebumps. 

      Her hands slide between her legs, and I jerk forward. 

       The second my feet move, she jerks left, rushing down the steps of the spa and settles in the middle. 

      My feet hit the edge, and I glare down at her. “Get out.”

      She shakes her head, and I can’t see her hands anymore. The censored jets have kicked on, obstructing her body from my view. 

      I should be happy. 

      I’m not fucking happy. 

       “How did you find me tonight?”

       “How do you think?” I reach for her, but she evades me, pressing up against the other side. 

       She looks up at me through long, dark lashes. “You track me?”

       “Of course, I fucking track you.”

       “Why?” she dares, as if she knows. 

       As if the truth is written across my face. 

      That I need to know where she’s at at all times. 

      That I need to know she’s safe. Always. 

      That I … care more than I should. More than I want to.

       I dash around and she spins back to the middle. 

      “Tell me why you track me, Rolland,” she pushes. 

       When I say nothing, she leans back, her full breasts lifting in the water, nipples speaking through the bubbles every few seconds. 

      I’m rock fucking hard now, my tongue tingling to taste what I should not want to fucking taste. 

       “Get out. Go fucking home.” 

      “I am home.”

      Heat curls through my body at her words, but I ignore it. “No. This,” I point to the old pool house, turned upscale studio. “Is my house. Go back to the room you call yours in the group home.”

      “You brought me here.”

       “That was my mistake.”

      For a second, she looks struck by my words, and I almost reach for her. Almost

      But then that sadness shifts, a fire of fury lighting behind her eyes. Defiance shines deep and her hands disappearing beneath the bubbles. 

      “Ciara.” My tone is clipped. 

       Her eyes close, and she moans. “Say my name again, Rolland. Whisper it, like I know you do when no one’s around.” 

      “You know nothing.”

      “I know what I feel, and I know what I see.” Those baby blues come back to mine, seeing too much. 

      “Stop.”

      “I don’t think I can.” Her voice starts to tremble and my attention slices toward the bubbly water. 

      What is she doing that’s making her sound like that? 

       “Play a game with me, Rolland.”

       My eyes slice up to hers, asking what I cannot. 

      What game, baby? 

      “Let’s play pretend.” 

        My eyes narrow and she pushes on. 

      “We’re strangers who meet at an airport bar, both coming from different places. Both headed in different directions.” She lays back against the side, her breaths coming faster now.

       My muscles flex over and over again, my hands fisting at my sides as I try and tell myself this is a bad idea. That I don’t want her. 

      That I can’t want her. 

      That it’s wrong. 

     “We’re just two lonely people tired of spending Christmas Eve alone,” she whispers, those eyes saying the exact opposite of what her mouth does. “Just two people who will forget all about this night and never see each other again after it.” 

    The last word leaves her on a moan, and I step closer to the spa, a heavy frown written across my forehead. 

      She stands then, her breasts and the curve of her soft body on full display. Her nipples are sharp and pointed at me, begging me to take them between my lips. “So, what do you say, stranger?” she says it so low I almost miss it, an almost shy, softness radiating from her. “Will you be my gift this Christmas?” 

       Before I know what I’m doing, before I can think and stop myself, I’m kicking my shoes from my feet, unfolding my jacket from my body at the same time. I loosen my tie, and she watches in rapture as I toss it to the ground. My shirt is next, my slacks last. 

       She slides back as I reach the stairs, taking them one slow step at a time, my gaze locked on hers. 

       When my feet meet the spas bottom she lowers onto the seat across from me, looking up at me with raw need .. and a hint of nerves. 

       My cock strains in my briefs, the head angry and swollen and stretching beyond the elastic of the waste band, the hot water rolling over the tip in erotic waves. 

      Her eyes fall to my chest, tracing my muscles to the line of dark hair leading to my cock. 

      She sees the swollen head, and her lips part, her legs brushing mine under water as she rubs them together. 

      I reach down, fisting myself, the weight of her yes on my bare skin driving me fucking mad, and her gaze snaps up to mine. Slowly, I reach out, my knuckles gliding along her cheek, she leans into the touch, eyes fluttering. 

      My thumb slides along her lower lip and she dips her chin lightly to kiss the rough tip. 

      A low groan escapes me, and she looks up again. 

      I latch my hands around her wrists suddenly, hauling her to me and she gasp as she slams into my bare chest. 

       Her body shivers instantly, but it’s not from the cold and we both know that. 

       My arms slide around her, palms sliding down to rest on the swell of her ass and I push her further into me, pressing my cock into her stomach. 

      My head is fucking spinning, heat threaded through my entire being at the feel of her pressed against me. 

       “She lifts her chin, her mouth hovering right over mine and I sink my teeth into my lower lip, desperate to take them with my own. 

      “I can’t be your Christmas gift, Angel.”

        Her face falls instantly, and she tries to pull away, but I hold on tighter. There is no fucking way she’s getting away now. 

       “I can’t be your Christmas gift, because you are, without a fucking doubt, mine.” 

       My mouth crashes against hers and when she gasps, I swallow it with my tongue, sweeping inside her mouth with reckless abandon. 

       I fuck her mouth with a primal need so damn raw, I’m panting. 

       I feel like I could explode, and I’ve barely touched her. 

       Her hands come up tangling in my hair and mine do the same, fisting her long dark locks and holding her where I want her. I squeeze her ass beneath the water, nudging and she jumps, locking herself around me. 

      The heat of water is nothing compared to the heat of her pussy against my stomach. I adjust her, placing her right over my aching cock and she throws her head back, moaning into the cool, crisp night. 

It echoes around us, and I growl, diving into her neck and tasting the sleek slope. I suck and bite and lick, grinding into her like a boy when I want so bad to fuck her like a man, to show her what a real man feels like. 

     But not yet.

        My hands slide under her, fingers gliding down her ass crack and over the tight muscles there. She clenches but says nothing, her nails digging into my scalp and making me moan. My touch slides lower, and then I’m dipping my fingers into the sweetest pussy of my life. 

      It’s soft and warm and so. fucking. tight.

       She clenches around me instantly, my name on her lips as she presses into my hand, I drop to one knee, pushing her back slightly so I can taste more of her, starting with her breasts.

      I fist one with my free hand, massaging in sync with the slow thrust of my fingers inside her. She cries out and I dip, swirling my tongue around the little nub, fucking her with my hips without fucking her at all. 

      I release her nipple, moving to the other and them lick my way up her neck. “I want you so fucking bad, Angel. You have no fucking idea how many times I’ve thought about this. My fingers are punishing now, my knuckles slapping at her clit as I drive them in and out. 

       She’s fully panting now, her hands darting to my shoulders, her body beginning to tremble as her head falls back further, dark hair fanning out in the water around us. 

       “Oh god-” she moans, about to shatter. 

       I yank my fingers out and step back, letting her fall into the water. 

      Her head dunks all the way in, she’s so caught of guard, and when she pops up it’s with a choked breath.        She’s flushed from head to toe, I’d bet. 

      She scowls, ready to rage at me, when I sit back, hauling her with me as I spin her, placing her back to my front, her legs hooked over each of mine she breathes a ragged “yes”.

      I open my knees, spreading her wide the fuck open and reach down, freeing my cock from its restraints. 

       She feels it instantly, the heat of me, pressing against her slit, I adjust a little, so her folds wrap around me and then I grab her hips. 

       She moans as I slide her forward and then back, but when she tries to take over, to ride me like a wild bull when I’m not even inside her yet, I hold her still. 

      She whines, looking at me over her shoulder and I take her bottom lip between my teeth, biting down ever so gently. 

       Her blue eyes flash and slowly, I start to move her again. 

       She relaxes, letting her head rest on my shoulder, her warm breath fanning over my chest. 

      I let my head fall back to the cement, reveling in the feel of my most hidden desire between my hands. 

      “Can you be good?” I wonder.

       She moans instead of answering, but still my hands go up to her breasts, kneading and squeezing as she keeps the pace I set for her, riding my length, the tip of my dick brushing over her clit with each slice forward. 

       “Good fucking girl, Angel.” I praise, my voice is rasped and raw, my need peaked. 

      In seconds, she’s trembling again, her nails biting into my thighs. Her pussy flexes and she moans.

      I lift her off and she cries in protest, whipping around to glare at me. 

      I don’t move, my chest heaving, head still laid back, I watch her through the obstruction of my lower lashes. “What? You thought this would be quick?”

     Her pupils are blown wide sweat and water rolling down her temples. “I don’t like being teased.”

“I’m not teasing.”

       “You’re edging. That’s worse.”

       “No.” I grip my cock beneath the water, stroking myself as I stare at her naked body from the waist up. “I’m making sure, even in this water, I’ll feel you dripping for me.”

      “I’m always wet for you, Rolland,” she murmurs, moving to the opposite side of me. She lowers herself onto the heat, the jets bubbling around her shoulders. “Always thinking of you. Dreaming of you.” 

       Her hands disappear as mine did and then she’s biting into her lower lip. 

      “What do I do to you in those dreams?” I ask, my cock still sliding along my fist. 

      A throaty chuckle leaves her then. “God, what don’t you do.” She closes her eyes. “You take me in your car and on its hood. Fuck me in the grass out back, and against the wall in your shower. In the chair in your living room and on the counter in your kitchen. But my favorite…” she moans, and the muscles in her arms tense. She rubs herself harder, faster, working toward her own climax. 

       I shift through the water silently, gripping the cement on either side of her head. 

       “God, my favorite is when we’re in your bed. Your big hands grip my hips and-” she breaks off in a moan. 

      “And what?” I murmur. 

      Her eyes fly open, lips parting at my nearness. 

       She’s so fucking gorgeous, so perfect like this, 

      Flushed and full of thoughts of me. Of us. 

      I grip her hips. “And. What?”

      She must see it, my desire at the edge. 

       “You flip me over,” she whispers shyly. 

      Easing her up from sitting, I spin her, her knees pressed to the seat. My lips find her ear, grazing along her skin. “And then?”

       “And then you climb behind me.”

       I climb behind her, my cock hard against her ass crack. 

       “You bend me over,” she shares, and I glide my palm along her spine, pressing her down until her breasts and belly are flat against the cold concrete outside the hot tub. Her face is turned toward mine, and our eyes meet. She sucks in a sharp breath, waiting.

       “And then?” I hardly recognize my own voice, the look of her bent over for me, creamy ass in the air in offering, too fucking much. 

       “And then you slide inside.”

      My gaze flies to hers once more. 

      Both of us are panting, our eyes hooded and bodies corded with tension, the need to have each other outweighing any and everything else in this moment. 

       I have her in my arms. 

       The one girl I’ve found myself wanting, truly wanting, in more than a decade. Longer than that. 

      My undoing. 

      My Angel girl. 

      I must hesitate, because her soft little fingers reach back, brushing along my grip on her hips and when she threads hers with mine, I hold on to us both. 

       “It’s just a game,” she lies, looking up at me with so much fucking trust, so much longing I couldn’t possibly deny her of me.

       Deny me of her.  

       Deny us of this. 

       “It’s just a game.” I lie right back. 

      With my cock pressed at her entrance and my eyes on hers, I slowly push inside. “I’m a man, Angel.”

“Yes.”

      I give her another inch. “I fuck like a man.”

      “Please.”

      Another. “Do you think you can handle me?”

      Her eyes flutter close, her free hand slapping against the concrete. “I think … I think I was made for you.” 

      A growl tears from me and I push all the way in until there is no more left of me, until she’s swallowed me whole. 

      Until I’m completed, and utterly hers. 

      “Fuck, you feel so good, Angel.” My head falls back, and I thrust slow and steady, getting to know the feel of her. “Warm and perfect.”

      “And yours.”

      I tense, but when she presses her ass further into me, my thoughts and hesitation slip away. 

       I fuck her faster, driving inside her harder and she cries out into the night. 

      I lean forward, bending over her, and fuck her fiercely, smashing her body with mine; she revels in the weight, crying out, “more.”

      My ass is in the air, but I don’t care. 

       I’ve never felt this fucking mad. 

      Our flesh slaps against one another and I half expect her to tell me to ease up, to move us, that I’m squashing her, but she doesn’t. 

       No, she drives her ass into me, meeting me thrust for thrust. 

       When her walls clamp around me, I moan, long and loud, the sound sending a ripple through her body. 

       I push off her and she groans in protest. 

       “Don’t you dare.” She warns. 

       “Oh, Angel, I’m not. I earned this.” I grip her shoulders, and without pulling out, I tug her up, thrusting deep into her. “You better fucking believe I’m going to claim it.” I whisper in her ear, letting my groans fill her ear. “I’m going to claim you, sweet girl.”

      She whimpers, seeking out my lips and I tug back, evading her, but only for a moment. 

       And then I crush my mouth to hers, gripping her cheek with my palms, my hips bucking wildly. 

       Water splashes all around us and she all but sits on my cock. 

       She starts to shake, and then her teeth burry themselves into my lower lip. 

      I groan, and she moans, shattering in my arms. 

      Coating my cock. 

     I fucking explode, coming so hard flashes of white burst over my eyes. 

     I collapse onto the seat, taking her with me, nothing but the rumble of the jets around us and our harsh breathing filling the air. 

      We sit there for I don’t know how long, our heartbeats slowing and beating in sync. She starts to shiver, the breeze picking up and rolling over our wet shoulders.

      So, I ease her off me, tucking myself back into my briefs, and step out, offering her a hand as I do. 

       She takes it, a blush creeping up her cheeks when her eyes meet mine for the first time after I came inside her. 

      It’s cold out, being Christmas Eve, but it’s even colder because we’re dripping wet, but still, when we climb out, we don’t run for the house. 

      My feet glue themselves to the ground, and then I’m tugging her into me, kissing her again. 

      I’m walking her backward, curving to the left and then right and we’re at my door. 

      I need more.  

      I want fucking more. 

      “Rolland” she moans. 

      “Don’t worry, beautiful girl,” I murmur, my hands slipping into her hair. “I’m not done with you yet.”

      A car door slams, and then another. And another. 

      “Dad, you said I could tell her first!”

      “Bro, no! I get to.”

      “Well, I’m telling papa!”

      “Hey, that’s cheating!”

       “Oh, papa!” 

      We freeze, our gazes locking on one another. 

      We speak at the same time. 

      “They can’t see me naked.”

      “They can’t see you here.”

      Both of us frown, but it’s the hurt that flashes across her face that has my muscles turning to stone. 

      Reality comes crashing down all at once in the form of five sets of running feet. 

      These are my grandkids. 

      This is their nanny. 

      She’s too young. 

       I’m too old. 

      “Ciara-”

       “Do fucking not,” she hisses in a whisper, but the sound is broken and scarred. 

      She slips into my house, locking me out, just as the kids come around the corner. 

      “Kids!” I say too loud, too animated. 

      They all jerk to a stop. 

      “Uh, what are you doing in your underwear?” Phoenix asks. 

      “Went for a swim.”

      “It’s winter.” Champ frowns. 

      “In the hot tub.”

      “You can’t swim in a hot tub.” Zoey signs, bumping Lark’s shoulder as if to say right? 

       Lark shrugs, and then he tears his Santa hat from his head and his shirt from his body and jumps in the spa. 

      “What the-”

      And not five seconds late, they’re all laughing and doing the same thing. Each kid is in before their parents even come around the corner. 

      It’s only when Raven lifts a dark brow that I remember I’m in my boxers. 

      I glare in warning, but no one has to ask, as in the next second, Zoey shouts. 

      “Hey, mom! Looks like you don’t have to shave Ciara’s head for trying to steal your dress!”

      Victoria … and everyone else looks to Zoey. “What makes you say that?”

       “Cause she must of came by to give it back, but we were gone, so she dropped it off here instead.” She looks to me. “But you might have to shave papas cause it looks like he got it all wet.”

      Six pairs of eyes burn into my head, but I don’t look at them. 

      I look anywhere but at them. 

      And when all my sons and their bratty wives start to laugh louder than necessary, I spin and walk around the backside of my house. 

     By the time I get inside, Ciara is nowhere to be found. She snuck out the same way I snuck in. 

     But not before scribbling across the counter fridge with what looks like permanent marker. 

      “Game over. I lose.” 

      Fuck.

Chapter 7


 

      It’s Christmas Morning, and the family is piled on a bunch of beanbags in the game room, eating donuts out of a box, YooHoo’s and paper cups of coffee all around. 

      The twins are dog piling on their dad for stealing the last sprinkle donut, and Lark is teaching Zoey how to do a proper headlock while Phoenix and his mom rewatch last week’s film on her phone, talking strategy for his game tomorrow. 

       Everyone is here. 

       Everyone but her. 

       I keep finding excuses to get up and go into the living room so I can look out the window, hoping to catch the dark haired beauty walking up the path.

      Once again, she isn’t. 

      “Missing something, boy?” Miss Maybell comes around the corner, joining me in the kitchen. “Or someone?”

      I glare and the old woman raises a thick brow. 

      “Sass me, go ‘head.” She crosses her arms. “See if I tell you anything.”

      A low chuckle sounds and then Raven is walking in, her smirk knowing. “So, Rolland, bringing a hot date to dinner tonight?”

      “No. I am not.”

      “Shame.” Her lips smash together, and she nods, peeling the clear film off her new tattoo. “Hope you don’t mind.”

      “Mind what?”

      Tossing the clear plastic into the trash as she goes to leave but not before looking over her shoulder, amusement in her light eyes. “Being the only one there without one.” 

      My frown is instant, but she doesn’t stick around to see it. 

      Miss Maybell does though, and she scoffs. “You give the girl a rope and then cut it on your end and expect what?”

      I spin around. “What did she say to you?”

      “It isn’t what she said, boy. It was the look in her eye when she walked in the door.” She pushes her finger into my chest. “You screwed up. Best believe you’re gonna pay for it.”

     “It’s for the best.” 

      “For who?” Miss Maybell challenges. “You? Her?” the kids shout then, arguing over who knows what, and Miss Maybell points her thumb over her shoulder. “Them?”

      “I’m not having this discussion.”

       “Yeah, well.” She walks toward the door, pushing it open as she lifts the basket of gift cards for the girls at the group home into her hands. “The way it’s looking? You won’t be having a lot more than a discussion, if you know what I mean.” 

      I glare after her, but it’s not until the door is closed behind her and I’m left in the kitchen that I realize what Raven meant. 

      Tonight, the girls are throwing a Christmas dinner.

      She said I’ll be the only one without a date.

      That means Ciara has one.  

      There’s no way she would show up tonight with someone on her arm. 

      Not after I dragged her from the date she tried to have last night. 

     Not after last night in general. 

     She gave herself to me. 

     She can’t do that and then touch another man. 

     No other man can touch her. 

     She’s not free for the taking. 

     She’s … fuck. 

     She’s mine. 

 

*** 

 

      She’s stunning and she has no idea. 

      The dark green dress jumpsuit she’s wearing is elegant, yet edgy. A mix of class and sass, just like her. 

     Her dark hair is shining, and sleek, laying straight down her back. Her lips are my favorite shade of red, but the smile that curves them isn’t the one I’ve told myself I hated because I liked it too much. \

      It’s the same sadness she carried when she first arrived in this town, nothing but a broken young woman hiding her pain with jaded eyes and a bad attitude. 

      No one liked her. 

      No one bothered with her when she wouldn’t bother with herself. 

      But I did. 

      I helped her find her place here, taught her the meaning of loyalty, and eased her into our folds, but then the way she looked at me changed, the way I felt when I saw her right along with it. 

     She was nearly nineteen then and I was thirty-five. 

     So, I pushed her away, and now here we are, seven years later. 

      Twenty-five and forty-two.

     She’s grown but I’m still the same asshole I was then. 

     Fighting and dying. 

     I can’t do it anymore. 

     I don’t fucking want to do it anymore. 

     I have an entire speech planned; one I worked out in my head this afternoon. It’s kind and thoughtful … and it all goes out the fucking window the moment her smile points to the left, landing on a brave mother fucker I’m going to watch bleed. 

      It’s like last night is on repeat as Dante King saunters up and she takes his outstretched hand, letting him lead her to the dance floor. 

     He stops, turning toward my girl and goes to step in. 

     To put his hand on her hip. 

     Before he can, I’m charging from the corner I was hiding in, my shoulder slamming into his gut and throwing us both onto the ground.

     The chatter in the room grows louder, some shouting, others laughing, but it’s the harsh grunt from Dante when I sit up and slam my fist into his nose that I zero in on. 

     I punch him once, twice, and then he bucks his hips, flipping me off and jumping up, but I didn’t spend nearly a decade fighting to survive like I did, so I’m quicker, faster. Better. 

     I duck his punch, landing one as I wrap him up and slam his ass onto his back … right over the food table. 

     “Rolland, stop!” Ciara shouts. 

     Dante smirks. “Yeah, listen to your bitch, old man.”

     An ornament flies past my head, and Dante’s eyes widen as he ducks, the glass bulb shattering behind him. His eyes level on her. “I should have just fucked you when I had the ch–”

     I lay into him, driving him back until we’re stumbling into the Christmas tree.

     He trips over speaker wires, falling onto his ass.

     My chest heaves, as I glare down at him, spitting blood from the corner of my lip. 

     My eyes widen when the Christmas tree begins to fall. It’s at least ten feet and loaded with no less than five hundred ornaments.  

     But before I can decide, it falls over, revealing not one, not two, but all five of my grandchildren standing on the other side.

     Zoey is on Phoenix’s shoulder, her hands out stretched, just as all of theirs are.

     “Oops?” she says, her brows lifted high, but the boys are already clapping their hands, proud of their group effort. 

     “Seriously?” Raven’s voice comes and all at once, they scatter. 

     “Knew it would be you the gang was afraid of.” Bass Bishop steps up beside her, hands in his pockets. 

     Raven lifts a fist, and the man smirks, tapping his knuckles against hers, but then she says. “You do realize your daughter just ran off with my son, right?” 

     Bass jerks his head left, and more than one person laughs when he takes off in a full sprint. 

     A scoff leaves me, and I turn, ignoring the cursing, bloody asshole as he drags himself to his feet. 

     I level my eyes on Ciara. 

     She glares at me, but with each step I take, she loses some of her fight, until only hopeful blue eyes stare back. 

      “Let’s play a game.” 

     Her expression is an uneasy gaze asking the same question mine did. 

      What game?

      “Finders keepers.” 

      Her lips press into a soft line, trembling as she tries not to assume she’s only hearing what she wants. 

      She isn’t. 

      “And what exactly did you find that you’d want to keep?” She whispers.

      “My sense.”

     Her mouth twitches despite herself. “What else?” 

     “My passion.” 

     She lifts a brow this time, but the way she chews her lower lip tells me she knows what I mean. That before her, I had none. “And?” 

     My smirk is slow, and her chest rises as I close the space between us, taking her face in my hands and her mouth with my own. 

     She doesn’t tense, not even for a second. 

     She kisses me right back. 

     When we finally break apart, I skim my hand along her jaw, loving the way she leans in and the soft way her lashes flutter along her cheekbones. 

     “And you.” My eyes hold hers. “My angel. My baby.” 

     “Your girl?”

     A slow grin spreads across my lips. “Damn straight.”

     She chuckles, a girly, airy sound as she looks away. Instantly, a choked laugh leaves her, and her mouth falls open as she slaps my chest.

     I follow her line of sight, eyes bulging. “Oh shit.” 

     The people are gone, and I destroyed the place. 

     I made a fucking mess. 

     Well, me and my grandkids. 

     The food is smashed beneath our feet. 

     The tree lies on its side in a watery mess, its base having flipped and spilled everywhere, shorting out the lights and destroying the ribbons. 

     The guests have found their way to the doors and out them. 

     “I ruined the party.” My shoulders fall, but before I can turn and apologize to my family, the music kicks back on and all our heads turn that way. 

     Lark has the DJ headphones on his head, a wide grin on his little face. He gives a thumbs up and laughter follows. 

     My family dances their way across the floor, kicking the ornaments along the way. No one says a word about me and the girl beside me. They just sing along to the music, letting the rest of the world fall away, blood smears and disarray be damned. 

     Because this is just another day in the world of Brayshaw. 

     Mayhem and well… 

     I look to the orneriest of my grandkids, a smirk pulling at my lips. 

     Chaos.  

     I look to the girl I was afraid to want, knowing deep down what I felt for her was far beyond that. 

     It’s deeper. 

     Darker. 

     It’s real.

     “Merry Christmas, Rolland.” She smiles softly, a fiery promise in her eyes.

     One I give her right back. 

     "Merry Christmas, Angel girl.” 

Thank you so much for reading my short! Interested in the couples featured in the story?

Find out how they came to be in my New Adult romance series, Boys of Brayshaw High! 

bottom of page