Dad put a loving arm around my mom’s shoulders. “Wouldn’t dream of it. I have everything I need right here.” They shared a quick kiss while Gavin and I exchanged a look.
Gavin led my father over to meet his man crush, and Mom and I took our drinks to wander around and mingle. It hardly looked like their office with the low lighting, and all the furniture moved out of the way to accommodate a small bar and parquet dance floor.
I chuckled to see Quinn was dressed as Santa Claus, complete with a red velvet suit, stuffed belly, and white beard. His perfectly styled dark hair wasn’t covered by a wig, though, so the effect was rather hilarious. He was a hot Santa, and he was truly the center of attention. With Gavin now married and Cooper nowhere to be found, that left the dozen or so escorts in the room focusing on Quinn—sitting on his lap, pressing lipstick kisses to his cheek, and smiling at his every word.
For the first time, I realized how lonely it must be being Quinn Kingsley. As the oldest brother of the family, he had so much weight on his shoulders as he guided the ship. The smudge of dark circles under his eyes was faintly visible. While he was jovial tonight, all smiles and hearty laughs, I could tell it wasn’t always that easy for him.
Pushing the somber thoughts away, I introduced my mom to Alyssa, and they struck up an easy conversation. As I stood there, enjoying the low pulse of electronic holiday music pumping through the speakers, my mind began to drift.
This year was so strange. It was Christmastime, but instead of baking cookies and stocking up on sweaters, I’d spent the morning picking out bikinis, modeling each one for Gavin in the department-store dressing room. Tomorrow, we’d leave for the vacation in the Seychelles islands Gavin had bid on and won at the charity gala we’d attended together earlier this year—fourteen days spent on a private yacht in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. A late honeymoon, a holiday getaway . . . whatever you wanted to call it, it was my idea of heaven.
Of course, my parents had balked that I wouldn’t be home for Christmas with my new husband. It amused me to think about Gavin sleeping in my childhood bedroom with me, probably tying me up with my old equestrian ribbons or making me wear my old cheerleading uniform while we made love. And, of course, I would have done it. It was impossible to deny Gavin something he wanted.
Traditions like that with my family would come later, in time. Their acceptance of Gavin, of us, meant the world to me. My mom had continued with her quest for grandbabies, reminding me that I’d be thirty next year.
I still wasn’t sure what to make of Gavin’s uncertainty about that subject, and tried to hide how worried I felt about it.
Later, my parents met Quinn, and while they chatted about my dad’s favorite football team, Gavin turned toward me.
“Come with me,” he said, taking my hand and drawing me into a private alcove in the office. “There’s something I want to say to you.”
My heart beat faster, stealing my breath. “Okay.”
He brushed my hair lovingly from my face and took a step closer. “There were so many things I never thought I’d do. Fall in love, get married . . .”
He left it off the list, but I imagined having a falling-out with Cooper would have been on that list too. And that stung, because I knew it was my fault. It still made my heart hurt after all this time. But I couldn’t focus on Cooper right now because Gavin was opening up, baring yet another piece of his soul to me, and I hung on his every word.
“What are you saying, Gavin?”
“I also never thought I’d be a father, but I’ve been thinking about it lately, thinking about what you said. Let’s have a baby.”
Suddenly breathless and at a complete loss for words, I felt my mouth curve into a suspicious smile. “What are you talking about?”
He shrugged, pulling me close to his chest. “Having all those things I never thought I’d want, they’ve taught me I can’t be afraid to say yes to the good things in life. You’ve made me so happy, Emma. I want this too. With you.”
“Gavin . . .” My heart surged with even more love for this man.
“What do you say, love?”
I brought my lips to his, kissing my silly, loving husband. “Of course I do. But, I’m sorry, I’m kind of in shock right now.”
“Want to make a baby?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows.
“My bookstore isn’t even open yet. I think we should wait a couple of months. I’ll get off birth control, and we can figure out the right time.”
He brought my hand to his lips, kissing the back of it. “Of course. There’s no rush.”
My heart swelled at the thought of Gavin with a baby, the thought of someone else, even a tiny creature, loving him so unconditionally. It made my heart feel incredibly full.
He might have thought he was doing this for me, but truly, this would be one of the biggest gifts and blessings in his life. He just didn’t know it yet. Fatherhood would suit Gavin. I knew it.
He was commanding, yet loving. Firm, but fair. Guarded, but affectionate. I wasn’t worried, not one single bit. And I almost laughed at the idea of how overprotective he’d be of me while I was pregnant. But if I could survive an over-the-top alpha male doting on me, I knew our happily-ever-after would be amplified tenfold.
“How many do you want?” I asked, still giddy and drunk on this conversation, and not wanting it to end.
He kissed me again, pulling back slowly. “I don’t know. Three? Four?”
I barked out a laugh. “Whoa, overachiever. Let’s start with one and go from there.”
“Okay,” he said, agreeing a little reluctantly.
Bringing my lips to his, I murmured, “You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.”
“I love you,” he said softly, his lips still against mine.
“A million billion,” I finished for him.
And then he swept me off my feet, carrying me toward his office down the hall where I imagined we’d do very naughty things.
My phone buzzed, and against my better judgment, I glanced down at the screen. It was Quinn. It was always Quinn these days.
Gavin never bothered contacting me anymore. Not that I could blame him. The rift between us had grown into something so vast and unmanageable, I didn’t know how we’d ever climb our way out.
I didn’t bother replying to my brother’s message, because honestly? I didn’t have an answer to his question. I didn’t know when I was going home. Being surrounded by palm trees and ocean breezes suited me just fine right now. And the girls with their sun-kissed shoulders and bikini lines were working overtime to keep me distracted.
Boston would always be my home, and my business was there. While I knew I’d have to return eventually, I wasn’t in any rush.
“Who was that?” the blonde crouched between my thighs asked.
“Did I tell you to stop?” I frowned down at her.
She bit her lip, watching me through heavily made-up eyes.
“Suck my cock. Make me come.” Those were the words I said, but the words I meant were make me forget.
The naked blonde kneeling in front me went back to work, tasting the broad head of my cock before drawing it deeper into her mouth.
“That’s it, princess.”
I called every girl princess now. The word stung the first few times leaving my lips, which was all the more reason to use it. The need to work Emma out from under my skin was immense. And what better way to cast her memory away than to pretend she never existed. She wasn’t my princess, and neither were any of the others.
And I was no prince—I was just a lonely bachelor who used to believe in love.
But these days, I was done being the nice guy. It hadn’t gotten me anywhere. And women, it turned out, wanted the asshole. My experiment with Gavin had proven that. And no, I wasn’t going to pretend to be an asshole simply because I was willing to play the part.
Sweet little Emma Bell had actually turned me into one.
She had broken me.
I hated to admit defeat, but Emma fucking Bell—excuse me, Emma Kingsley now—had turned me into a shell of the man I once was.
It was my own fault. I’d known from the beginning that I was playing with fire, knew she’d be perfect for my brother and had done my best to push them together. And the thing was, I was actually happy for the motherfucker. But that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like hell to see them together.