For reminding me I am in charge of my own happily ever after.
“We can’t do this here, sweetheart,” Jude whispered against my already swollen lips. Standing by the door to my nephew’s room, I was pressed tightly against Jude’s body. He’d come through the front door not a few moments ago and made a beeline upstairs to where I was hoping to sneak in a brief moment before being disturbed by anyone. My heart skipped a beat at the heat in his eyes as his hands held my hips tightly. Stolen moments was what we did best at this point. Not a soul knew we were secretly seeing each other.
“Bathroom. I need you. I need you so badly, Jude,” I told him, my face and wandering hands making it pointedly clear I wasn’t going to wait.
“Your brothers are downstairs and—fuck, don’t do that.” Jude’s groan echoed through the room as I ran my hand along the bulge in his jeans. I loved how quickly I could turn him on. “You’re killing me here, sweetheart.” Jude’s lips came down on mine in a crushing kiss that shot me from antsy to holy-fuck-bang-me-right-here-right-now kind of horny.
“What the fucking hell is this?” Trip’s voice broke through our passionate lip lock and turned my blood ice-cold. Jude moved forward and stood just in front of me; a protective gesture that wasn’t necessary. My brothers wouldn’t hurt me, not in a thousand lifetimes. They wouldn’t hurt him either; I hoped. That thought cut through me as I stared at Mace and Trip, both all but shooting flames from their nostrils.
“Fuck!” I sighed, knowing Hell was about to break loose if I couldn’t rein in the two egos who’d just caught us red-handed.
“Wanna tell me what this shit is?” Trip scowled. I wasn’t worried about my loud-mouth brother. He was mostly talk. I was worried about the hurt look on Mace’s face though. It was directed straight at Jude and so piercing it was cutting through every other feeling soaring around the small hallway we were crowded in. I suddenly needed to expel every bit of what was bottled inside me. And I needed air. It was fucking stifling under the glare of my two older brothers. I only hoped they’d understand.
“Mace, let me explain,” Jude said, ignoring Trip altogether. Mace looked from Jude to me and back at Jude. His face now void of any emotion. It was harder to see him shut down than it would have been if he’d become angry, hurt or even voiced some kind of emotion. With no words, he turned and walked down the stairs. Moments later, the front door clicked shut. The tightness in my chest turned into a cold rush of pain and piercing silence ensued. I put my hand on Jude’s arm only for him to look down at it, look at Trip and slowly peel my skin from his. He turned around and gave me a look that chilled my entire body. I knew that look. He was battling with a decision I was scared of. He didn’t know what he should do… and just like that he dropped his head.
“Don’t,” I whispered with a hitch in my voice. The lump forming in my throat was making it hard to swallow.
My heart sunk and I swear it shattered on the wooden floorboards at my feet when he turned his back to me and slipped quietly past a still angry Trip and conflicted Teeny.
“He’s no good for you. What were you fucking thinking?” Trip yelled, cornering me in upstairs. I stared blankly at him, my feet cemented to the spot. A silent tear rolled down my cheek, warm in comparison to the rest of me. I couldn’t escape. Slowly, as Trip kept up his lecture, I let my heart go numb. Soaking up his words but not really hearing them, I took the lashing over what he and Mace just caught me doing.
Finally, I snapped.
“No.” I pushed the sound past my lips. “I… I need to go after him.”
“Like fuck you will. He’s dead to us. You hear me, Haven? DEAD!” My brother sucked in a deep breath, the veins on his temples bulging and pulsing with rage. “I’m taking your ass home and you’ll goddamn fucking stay there.”
“Don’t you say that!” I snapped out of my temporary paralysis and barked at him. “It’s Jude, Trip. He’s our Jude.”
“Fuck off he is,” Trip seethed. “He quit being anyone we know the moment he started taking advantage of you.”
The way Trip just assumed what was going on hurt more than I could fathom. My heart almost beat out of my chest, anger replacing all other emotions. They couldn’t really blame Jude for everything. It takes two, as they say…
My hand shot out and connected with my big brother’s cheek before I knew what I was doing. The sound of my palm slapping his face rang loudly in the slight space. “It wasn’t Jude who started this, Trip. Don’t you ever speak about him like that.” With those as my parting words, I ran downstairs and out the front door for much-needed oxygen and with a fractured heart.