“Yeah, I’m sort of attached to them, too.” He chuckled again, but cut it off abruptly when I gave him the evil eye.

“Hardy-har-har,” I deadpanned. “Maybe I should tell Mack what you just made his precious baby girl do. I bet you wouldn’t find it so funny then.”

“Hmm, I don’t recall forcing you to do anything you didn’t want to do,” Noah countered. “You wanted it, Lanie. You wanted my cock.” He emphasized the last word, which made my still-racing heart skip a beat. “Admit it.”


“Admiiiiit it,” he drawled out playfully as his fingers found my rib cage and gave it a tickle.

I laughed involuntarily and tried to squirm away, but Noah pulled me into his lap and locked his arms around me so I couldn’t move.

“We’re two consenting adults, Lanie. And one day soon your daddy is going to have to let his baby girl go,” he said with a serious look on his face. His long finger caressed my cheek delicately and he sighed. “Because you’re my baby now.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Who wouldn’t be happy to have Noah Crawford murmur those heart-stopping words to them?

Pleased with my reaction, Noah tilted his head up and kissed me sweetly.

There was never a dull moment between the two of us, and I prayed there never would be. But even if we grew old and gray together, sitting on a little white wooden swing in a gazebo, feeding a family of ducks as the sun set before us, I’d still be happy.

7: Say What?



It had been nearly two weeks since I’d seen her. Two very long, very unbearable weeks since I’d taken Lanie back to Hillsboro. I was irritable at best. The absence of the girl he loves will do that to a man.

I’d talked to her every day, though. Some normalcy had returned to their household. Her mother was up and about and seemed to be faring well, her father was back at the factory, and that was a good thing. Even I had to admit Mack deserved the break. And, according to Lanie, he wasn’t nearly as grumpy, but he still hated to leave his wife. Although it was for different reasons entirely, I understood how the man felt; I hated not being by Lanie’s side.

As if the first week without her hadn’t been bad enough, I had been called out of town on business and had to miss our weekend together. I would’ve just said fuck the whole son of a cock-blocking whore of a trip and gone to her anyway, but there was a board meeting coming up and I’d already missed so much work. And that didn’t look good for me at all, especially considering the intensity with which David Stone was breathing down my neck.

He had been acting even more arrogant than he normally did, if that was even possible, and I was beginning to get suspicious. It was like he knew something I didn’t. Something big. I chalked it up to his threat of tattling on me to the board about our little run-in the morning after the Scarlet Lotus Ball. I wasn’t concerned. The board members had a lot of respect for my parents, which trickled down to me by default. More than likely they’d say he deserved it.

I had half a mind to go ahead and sell my half of the company to the bastard so I could move closer to Lanie, but I couldn’t do that to my parents. Scarlet Lotus had been their dream, and although I knew my happiness would have meant more to them, I couldn’t be that selfish.

Yeah, I know; all of a sudden, I was a real saint. But since admitting my feelings to Lanie, I wanted to be the kind of man she deserved—a man who was just as self-sacrificing as she was.

Lanie was very understanding, insisting that I go on my trip and get my work done, but I knew it was all a façade, one that she put up because she knew it was something I had to do. Still, the way she covered the heartbreaking crack in her voice with a perkiness that sounded more like Polly was a dead giveaway, proof that the hardship of our separation was affecting her the same way it was affecting me. It was torture. Pure, unadulterated torture. But the anticipation of how great it was going to be when we finally did get to be together again was enough to keep us both going.

I’d tried to busy myself with work to take my mind off the fact that she wasn’t there, but that hadn’t been successful, either. Admittedly, I was a bit snippy with my employees, Mason, Polly, and Samuel included. Polly snapped right back at me, which really wasn’t a very good idea, but I respected her for it. She wasn’t one to put up with my bullshit when she knew it was uncalled for. I granted her a reprieve because I knew she missed Lanie almost as much as I did. Her friend was gone, and she didn’t have many. Being an annoying pissant sort of limited the number of people who were willing to put up with her ass. Plus I’d sort of forced Mason to go along with me on my business trip. She really hated me for that, but she’d gotten over it. I think.

Two more days.

Two more excruciating, miserable days until the weekend, when I would get to see her again. Hold her in my arms, taste her luscious lips, feel her soft skin. It would be enough to get me through at least a few hours.

Yeah, I was an optimistic motherfucker.

I finished looking over the reports Mason had prepared regarding the new clients I’d managed to sign on despite my preoccupied mind, and packed up my things for the day.

Mason came into my office with the agenda for the meeting. “You out of here, boss?”

“Yeah, I’m calling it a day. Good work on the reports, by the way. They look great.”

Mason drew his head back, eyes wide with disbelief at my kind words. The poor man had really taken a beating from me over the previous days, and it wasn’t right. He didn’t deserve it. So channeling my newfound theory about being self-sacrificing, I offered up an apology.

“Hey, I’m sorry if I’ve been hard on you lately, it’s just that with Lanie gone and all—”

“No worries, man. Polly has been the same way,” he interrupted, letting me off the hook.

“So you’re getting it from both ends, huh?”

Mason nodded. “I guess I never realized the effect that little gal has had on so many lives.”

I hadn’t, either, but he was right. Even Lexi had been calling me a lot more lately, which wasn’t at all like her, and it was always to see how Lanie was doing. I’d told her to call her herself, that Lanie would love to hear from her, but Lexi didn’t want to be intrusive. Yeah right, like that held an ounce of truth.

“Well, you don’t deserve all the shit you’ve been getting.” I shrugged my coat on and clapped him on the shoulder on my way out the door. “Have a good night, man.”

Most Popular