I open my mouth to correct whatever it is I said, but he puts up a hand as warning.
My mouth snaps shut and he starts, “First things first, my silence last night had nothing to do with you, but also had everything to do with you. You were not good last night, Lily, and I’m not the kind of guy that’s filled with sweet words.” Shaking his head, he adds, “That’s not me.”
I’m trying to understand where this is going so I simply nod.
He nods, too. “But I get you. And I know that nothing I said last night would’ve helped. So I shut my trap, knowing that whatever I could’ve said would’ve only made things worse. That wasn’t something we needed. So, rather than using words, I showed you how I could take care of you. So now you know. We can go from there.” His face softens as he says, “You didn’t ruin anything, baby. Got to taste you in every way, take care of you, and hold you all night. That’s not bad.”
Shaking his head slowly, he utters, “That’s fucking phenomenal.”
My head dips to hide my smile, but he catches my chin between his fingers, pulling my face back up to his.
The smile he wears isn’t one I’ve seen before. It’s soft and sweet. And it’s aimed at me.
I love that.
Face turning serious, he says, “You get me?”
Yeah. I totally do.
Not trusting myself to speak, I nod and mouth, “Yeah.”
His eyes crinkle. “Then kiss me, baby.”
He doesn’t need to ask again.
Lifting my face, I press my lips to his and kiss him sweetly. I feel him smile against my lips and it’s so beautiful that my stomach dips.
Finally pulling back, Nox inhales slowly, he utters on an exhale, “Don’t really wanna get out of bed but we need to eat.” A cruel smile appears on his face. “You know what today is, princess?”
Shit. Shit. Dammit. Shit.
I do know.
Cringing, I whine and he chuckles. We both speak at the same time.
Showering quick as I can, I slip into the kitchen while Nox is showering and eat some plain oatmeal (blech!) and drink half a glass of orange juice. When he finally comes down dressed in his work-out pants sans tank or tee, I watch Nox as he eats his apple.
We stand at opposite ends of the kitchen smiling at each other like a couple of dorks.
Finishing his apple with a smile and a shake of his head, he holds the core and walks pastme to throw it in the trash. When his chest brushes my back, my nipples harden.
That’s the effect he has on me.
A man like Nox is wild.
You can’t tame him. You don’t want to even try. His ferocity is gorgeous. There’s beauty in every single scowl and glare he shoots my way. Things won’t ever be the same for me. And I’m grateful.
I never realized how much I hate my life. Not until he showed me beautiful.
Pressing close to my back, he wraps his muscled arm around my middle and I sink back into him. Tilting my head, he places a slow-wet kiss under my ear and I close my eyes. A throat clearing makes me jerk.
My eyes snap open and I cringe.
That’s because Boo and Rock stand there, mouths gaping.
My heart races. I don’t want Nox to get into trouble.
Feeling protective, I blurt out, “It’s all my fault! I seduced him! And I was good at it, too!” Twisting my neck, looking up into Nox’s face, I add seriously, “Wasn’t I, babe?’
Nox smiles down at me so hard, it looks like he’s holding back laughter. He leans down and presses a chaste kiss to my mouth.
I mentally gasp.
Don’t do that! I’m trying to save your ass, you nitwit!
Boo chuckles roughly, shaking her head as if to clear it. “Has- has the world gone mad?”
“I don’t know, babe.” Rock’s eyes crinkle at us. “But all I will say to you both is to be careful, alright?”Nodding vigorously, my fearful expression turns sour when Rock adds, “And if it’s not on, it’s not on. You get me, lovely Lily?”
Bunching my nose at his condom reference, I grip a banana and throw it at him, hard. Catching the banana with little effort, he peels it, takes a bite and walks away laughing under his breath.
Boo smiles softly but her face falls a little when she says softly, “I’m happy for you both. I really am.”
There’s a but in there somewhere. I can feel it in my bones. Walking over to us, she stands on the opposite side of the counter and adds, “But you need to think carefully about this.” Nox’s arm tightens around my waist and I swear I hear him growl. Boo ignores the display of dominance and utters, “Have you thought about what happens aft-”
Nox warns heatedly, “Boo.”
Lowering her eyes, she purses her lips. Lifting her head, looking right at me, she smiles. “I’m happy for you, Deedee. Just-” My throat clogs when her eyes mist. “Just be happy, okay?”
Without waiting for a reply, she turns on her heel to follow Rock.
Nox squeezes me and I place my hand over his, squeezing back. Twisting again, I ask, “Why did you do that?”
I don’t have to elaborate. He knows what I’m talking about.
His eyes warm for just a second before ice cloaks them once more. Looking down at the counter, he explains softly, “There are girls out there you want to fuck, and there are girls out there that you want to love.” He looks me in the eye. “Not ashamed of you, Lily.”
He stops speaking for a moment, allowing that to sink in.
Leaning his chin on top of my head, he utters, “You’re not for the background.” Burying his nose into my hair, he mutters, “You deserve center stage.”
A violent tremor washes over me, my entire body breaking into goosebumps. My heart squeezes, and I try hard at pushing back the tears from hearing something like that come out of Nox.
“I thought you didn’t do sweet.” My voice sounds thick even to me.
With a smack to my butt, he steps back, takes my hand in his and smirks, “Besides, I’m the boss. What are they gonna do? Fire me?”
My brows lift and I tilt my head while pursing my lips.
He has a point.
A goofy smile spreads across my lips, and I allow him to lead me to death by workout.
Special ferret and friends
“How much time we got?”
None. We don’t have any time left. But I’ll be damned if I lose Lily now. I just fucking got her.
Turning to Rock, I lie, “Some. Any news?”
“Actually, yeah.” He looks me right in the eye. “You’re not gonna like it.”
A stabbing pain shoots through my chest. It’s someone they know. My poker face in place, I ask, “What is it?”
“Gotta understand, dude. There was no reason to look before, but Mitch got an anonymous tip and…” He trails off.
My stomach flips. Biting the inside of my cheek, I nod for him to tell me.
Rock shakes his head and mutters, “This is hard, man.”
Rage builds in the center of me. I’m ready to knock skulls. Forcing a chuckle, I roll my eyes, “Fuck, Rock, tell me already!”
…The fuck he just say?
I’m sure I heard wrong. But Rock repeats himself, “Jamie fucking Harrison. For real, bro.”
Whoa. Definitely didn’t see that coming.
Ciaran Flynn is going to need some serious help after all this is over. We’re talking trust issues for life.
He took in the boys when their father died and this is the thanks he gets? Just goes to show, you can’t put your trust into anyone.
Lily. My princess. She’s gonna be devastated.
If I were to do what I really wanted to do right now, I’d go downstairs, take a van, and drive. I’d drive all the way back to California to the residence of Jamie Harrison, knock on his door, and when the weak, sly fucker answered the door…
Off with his fucking head.
But I can’t do that. I promised to watch Lily and that’s what I’m gonna do. I have two minds about telling her though.
My body sinks deeper into my chair. I have to tell her. Eventually. When she needs to know.
I’ve spent too long in silence. Rock watches me carefully. With a single nod, I stand and ask, “Feel like sparring?”
Boo and I walk past the workout room and hear, “I’m warnin’ you, man.”
That’s Nox. And it sounds heated.
My eyes widen in interest. I look up and see Boo holding the very same expression. She crooks her finger and I follow her to the almost closed door. We peek in and watch the clowns at work.
Rock pops him in the nose while bouncing around, “Or what? You’ll tell on me to your girlfriend?”
Ouch, Rock! That was mean!
Boo giggles quietly and whispers, “He doesn’t mean it, Dee. Just watch.”
Nox’s face turns hard. His eye twitches.
“Say it again,” he says in dead calm. “I dare ya.” Shaking his head, he adds, “I love you like a brother, man. But I swear to God, I’ll drop you so hard, so fast, you won’t know what hit you.”
Rock continues to bounce on the balls of his feet, feigning punches. He smiles harshly, “Quit fucking around already. I know you wanna punch me, so do it.” He stops bouncing. “Unless you’re a pussy.”
Nox’s eyes flash and I bite my lip to hold in my laughter.
Walking backwards, he starts undoing his boxing gloves. I think it’s over, so I move to walk away, but Boo stops me with a hand on my shoulder, looking all too excited. She mouths, “Watch.”
Rock smiles in victory and undoes his gloves, too. They both kick off their shoes and peel off their sweaty socks and meet in the center of the room. Rock grins, “Rules?”
Nox bounces up and down on the spot, shaking out his arms in an attempt to loosen up. He states, “One weapon.”
Rock’s face falls. “One fuckin’ weapon? No way. At least two.”
Nox chuckles, “Always tryna hustle. You wanna do this? We do it my way. One weapon.”
I have no idea what’s going on. My face bunches in confusion while Boo’s body shakes with laughter by my side.
Rock scowls, “Close your eyes, bitch.”
Placing his hands on his hips, Nox closes his eyes and Rock runs over to his bag. Fiddling through it, he takes an object out and places it in his palm, hidden from view. He’s too far away to see what it is, anyway.
Rock walks back to the center and announces, “Your turn.”
Rock closes his eyes, and I watch Nox walk over to his shoes. He pulls something out and places it in his shorts’ pocket before returning to the center of the room.
They stand a few feet apart. Rock says, “High school wrestling rules.”
Nox barks out a laugh, “No fucking way! This is street or nothing. Your choice.”
Rock whines, “Street’s whack!”
Nox prods, “If you’re too weak to handle it, we’ll call it a day.” I have to slap a hand over my mouth to control my giggles when Nox walks forward to Rock, places a hand on his shoulder, and asks in complete seriousness, “How about I run you a nice bubble bath?”
Rock shrugs his hand off harshly. “Fuck you, motherfucker!”
Boo and I remain hidden, bodies shaking in silent laughter. It’s like watching a documentary. Seeing the way wild animals behave when they think no one’s watching.
Nox laughs at his friend. “C’mon. One match. Street. One weapon.” Turning to Rock, he says, “Ready?”
Rock remains sullen for a whole ten seconds before he moves into a grappling stance and utters, “Let’s get it on, bitch.”
Nox chooses a boxing stance and mutters, “Oh, hush now. I don’t wanna hear how you talk to Boo in bed.”
Rock immediately responds, “My woman is a lady, so you better shut your mouth.”
My mouth parts. Placing a hand to my chest, I look up at Boo. She watches Rock through misty eyes.
Rock, you sweetheart!
And Nox smirks, basking in the glow of finally getting one back at Rock. He counts them in, “On three. One. Two. Three.”
They lunge at each other, then grapple, stepping in and out of each other’s space. Nox low kicks at Rock’s knee, but Rock is quick.
Rock high kicks at Nox’s face, but barely skims his ear. My man is pretty quick, too.
When Nox tries to catch Rock, Rock somehow reverses the move and I’m surprised when he catches Nox into a headlock.
It’s kind of alarming, actually.
Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve thought of Nox as a superhero. Nothing bad ever happens to them. They get caught; they fight, and they win every episode.
My heart sinks at the thought of Nox being nothing more than human. Humans can get hurt. They bleed, grow old, and die.
Inside this house, it feels like time stands still. Maybe we can live here together forever?
I’ll have to enquire about this at a more appropriate time.
Rock squeezes his throat closed and mocks in a deep voice that sounds just like Nox, “Street rules or nothin’.”
Nox’s face turns a nice shade of maroon as Rock cuts off his air.
And it’s freaking me out.
Rock doesn’t look like he’ll let up anytime soon. Just then, Nox reaches into his pocket and pulls out his weapon. He shoves it into Rocks mouth and pushes his jaw up to hold it in. Rock’s eyes widen and we hear him yelling through gritted teeth. We can’t make out the words though, being that he’s temporarily gagged.
Not another second passes before Rock releases Nox and gags, then dry heaves. Spitting out the weapon, he coughs and gags again. “You dirty, dirty fucker. A fucking sock? A sweaty sock?” Gagging at a steady pace, he wipes at his tongue.
Nox coughs and laughs at the same time. Rubbing his neck with his palm, he wheezes, “Street rules, bitch. I win.”