“Oh, I have a damn good visual, but I’m praying I’m wrong on that.”
Anger pricked at Chandler’s skin, and he had to tell himself that this was his brother, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to thump his ass. “Be careful what you say next,” he warned in a low voice. “I’m not f**king with you.”
An incredulous look crossed Chad’s expression as he pushed away from the table, glancing into the dining room. “That’s f**king Miss Gore.”
His hands closed into fists. “Chad…”
“I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that every time she came around me, I felt the need to cup my balls. Or the fact that she blackmailed Bridget. Or that she’s more evil than f**king Medusa on her period?”
That was it. He was going to knock his ungrateful ass**le brother out, and he was a half a second away from doing it when Alana’s voice stopped him.
“Your balls were always safe around me,” she said, her voice tight as she leveled a cool stare at Chad. To anyone else, she looked unaffected, but Chandler caught the slight tremor in her lower lip and the stiffness in the way she held herself. “Please tell Chase congratulations. I’m sorry to intrude.”
Chandler watched her turn and walk out of the room. Wanting to go after her but needing to handle something else first, he squared off with his brother. He cocked back his arm. Fist say hello to jaw.
Chad spun sideways, catching himself on the table. “Jesus.” He straightened, clutching his jaw. “What the f**k was that for?”
“Are you really that f**king stupid that you have to ask that question?” Chandler seethed. Had the idiot been hit in the head with too many fastballs? “Look, I get that she doesn’t make you warm and fuzzy, but pull your head out of your ass. Yeah, she blackmailed your girl. Total bitch move. I agree.” He got right up in Chad’s face, forcing him to hold eye contact. “But if it wasn’t for Alana— No, shut the f**k up. I am not finished. If it weren’t for her, there wouldn’t be a Bridget. You’d still be f**king around with God knows who. And if Alana hadn’t forced Bridget to go out with you, you know damn well she wouldn’t have.”
“Well, that was sort of insulting.”
“It’s the truth.” He forced himself back a step before he hit him again. “You have Alana to thank and instead you treat her like she’s a terrorist. That shit stops now. She deserves your f**king gratitude and your respect. And a big ole f**king thank-you for the wife-to-be and the new multi-million-dollar contract your happy ass just signed.”
Chad’s jaw worked as he shook his head. “I get what you’re saying and yeah, I’m acting like an ass. But—”
“Yes.” His eyes flashed with anger. “She embarrassed Bridget. She made her feel like scum and even though forcing her into that mess with me did work out in our benefit, I have a hard time getting over how she acted toward Bridget.”
Chandler couldn’t argue that Alana didn’t have the greatest skills when it came to dealing with people, but how Chad treated her wasn’t right.
“Are you sleeping with her? Shit. That’s a stupid question. She was wearing your shirt. I think I got you that one for Christmas.”
“Shut up, Chad.”
Chad never knew when to shut up. “Do you have feelings for her? Holy shit, you have—”
“She took a bullet for me, you f**kwad, so how about shutting the f**k up.”
His brother stopped yapping, his eyes narrowing. “What do you mean?”
Half tempted to just kick him out of the house, he picked up the skillet from the island and told Chad what had happened last Monday. The tiny gleam of respect that was suddenly in Chad’s eyes only made Chandler not want to hit him upside the head with the skillet.
“Damn.” Chad rubbed a spot over his chest. “I don’t know what to say. It’s just that…”
“You don’t need to say anything,” he grumbled, returning to the stove. “So unless you want to piss me off more, I’m gonna make breakfast.”
“I’m not invited?”
He cast a dark look over his shoulder.
Chad backed away slowly. “Fine. I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m being a dick.”
“I’m not the one you need to be saying that to.”
His brother was just as stubborn as he was, and while he knew Chad was sincere in his apology, he didn’t foresee him saying it to Alana any time soon. His brother left shortly after that, leaving his gut churning. He slammed the skillet down on the stove, irritated. His brothers needed to get used to Alana, because she wasn’t going anywhere.
The burn in the back of Alana’s throat told her that she needed to get out of here. While Chad’s words and his attitude toward her didn’t come as a surprise, it still stung. Made worse by the fact that she was pretty sure she heard Chandler’s fist hitting Chad. The last thing she wanted was to create any strife between the brothers.
Shuffling into the bedroom she was supposed to be staying in, she stopped by the bed she had barely slept in. Her heart thumped against her ribs as she turned, tucking her hair back behind her ears.
God, Chandler had sounded so happy to be an uncle. In her mind, it was easy to picture him holding a baby. He’d be great as a father. She knew it.
This…this had gone too far.
Going back to her apartment wasn’t safe, and she wasn’t stupid. Okay, obviously she wasn’t the brightest because she was in this situation in the first place. She needed to go to a hotel and then what? Find someone else to protect her and make sure the crazy didn’t spread toward her job? The idea of bringing someone else into this felt like needles on her skin, but she had to get away.
She was close to sitting down on her bed and indulging in some really ugly crying, but she forced her legs to remain straight.
The scent of Chandler clung to her skin, even as she pulled the shirt off over her head and dropped it on the floor. Heading into the bathroom, she turned on the shower and cranked up the heat.
Her heart felt heavy as she stepped under the showerhead and the steady stream pelted her. For some reason, her skin felt raw and bruised, too sensitive. She shifted slowly, letting the spray hit her back.
She was in love.
She had gone and done it after swearing she’d never become her mother. Because wasn’t this how it had started for her? Alana really didn’t know, but what was between her and Chandler had gone beyond sex and a good time. It had morphed into a burning passion that knotted in her chest.
The truth was, no matter how she felt about Chandler, she didn’t belong with him, and his brothers would never accept her. Chad’s appearance served as a brutal, much-needed wakeup call.
Alana needed to get out before she got even more invested, which seemed stupid, because how much more invested could she get?
Closing her eyes, she tipped her head back and let the water and steam do its thing, wishing it could wash away Chandler’s presence as well as it did his scent, but that was foolish, wasn’t it?
This was a good thing, though, she told herself. Tomorrow she would be going back to work, back to reality. She still had her job. She still had that.
Alana wasn’t sure exactly how she knew she wasn’t alone. The door to the bathroom hadn’t creaked when it opened and she hadn’t been aware of the glass doors sliding, but she knew Chandler was there before she even opened her eyes.
He stood there, still shirtless, and his pants were hanging indecently low on his hips. His gaze traveled hungrily over her body, staying in some areas longer than others. The way her body responded ticked her off. Her ni**les hardened under his greedy stare and liquid fire flooded her veins. Air sawed in and out of her lips slowly as his gaze finally settled back on hers.
Feeling incredibly vulnerable, which seemed kind of pointless at this moment, she folded her arms over her br**sts. She had no idea what to say. Being na**d in the shower did not make it easy for casual conversation.
“You shouldn’t hide yourself. You’re absolutely beautiful.”
His words created a nest of butterflies in her belly, but she kept her arms crossed. “Congratulations,” she blurted out, and then flushed at how random it came across.
His brows rose.
“For Maddie’s pregnancy. That’s such good news.” Her nails bit into her arms. “I’m really happy for all of you.”
“It is great news. Chase will make a wonderful father.” He leaned against the shower wall, seemingly oblivious to the spray. She wasn’t. Her eyes followed the trail of water down his chest, over his tight abs. “But I didn’t come up here to talk about that.”
Her chest spasmed. “You didn’t?”
He shook his head. “What Chad said downstairs was wrong. Without you, he wouldn’t be marrying her, and he knows that. I want you to know that he apologized.”
While she knew Chandler meant well by telling her this, she doubted Chad apologized before the punch in the face. “It’s okay.”
“No. It’s not.”
Having no idea how to respond to that, she turned around slowly, letting the hot spray of water wash over her face. Her skin pricked with awareness. “I don’t want to talk.”
“Is that an invitation?”
It shouldn’t be. God knew continuing to cross that line with him wasn’t smart. Her body and heart were at war with her head. She should tell him to leave, pack up herself, and get the hell out of here, but…
But what was one more time? One more night? It wouldn’t change the outcome, staying wouldn’t harshen the blow that was sure to come. It just wasn’t smart. Then again, she hadn’t been smart about any of this and look where she was? There was already an ache deep in her chest.
The sound of her name on his lips sealed the deal. It was truly that seductive. He rolled her name around his tongue like he was tasting it. Looking over her shoulder at him, she drew in a shallow breath. “It is.”
Chandler stared at her for what felt like forever and then he had his pants off in record time. His arousal jutted out proudly, hard and thick, and molten lava filled in her belly.
He stepped into the shower, closing the door behind him. His hands landed on her h*ps and when he spoke, his voice whispered in her ear. “I know what you’re thinking.”
Alana shuddered. “You do?”
“Yes.” He kissed the scar on her shoulder, causing her heart to squeeze at the tender action. “You’re going to run.”
She stiffened, her arms clamped close to her chest. “I don’t…don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re a shitty liar.” He turned her around and reached between them, wrapping his hands around her wrists. He backed her up until she was flush with the cold tile. “You have that look in your eyes. Never really seen it before—the whole deer-in-the-headlights look. But you have it. You’re going to run.”
“You need to get your eyes checked, then.”
“Smartass,” he murmured. “Still a shitty liar. And you know what? That’s okay.” He transferred her wrists to one hand and placed his free hand on her hip. Tipping their foreheads together, he breathed in deeply. “Run if it makes you feel better and helps you sleep at night. It’s not the worst possible thing you could do.”
Alana wanted to deny it, because the accusation, no matter how spot-on it was, made her feel weak.
“So run. I don’t mind.” His lips blazed a path over her cheek and his teeth sank into her earlobe, causing her to moan. “I like to chase, Alana.”
A bolt of red-hot lust slammed from her pulse and straight to her belly. “I don’t like to be chased.”
“You will when it’s me.” He slowly lifted her joined hands above her head as he slid his free hand over the curve of her rear, lifting her up until she was on the tips of her toes. “I will chase you. And I will catch you.”
Chandler pressed forward, his erection firmly against her stomach. It felt like he was crushing her, or at least that was how it seemed for a panicked second. Raw emotions poured into her chest. She should push him away, stop this, but she tipped her head against the wall and her h*ps moved in slow circles.
“What’s between us isn’t casual.” His hot breath caressed her cheeks, sending shivers down her, and then moved down her throat again. “And you know that just as well as I do. You just don’t want to admit it.”
“No,” she whispered.
“Yes.” His voice was raw, sexy, and pure sin. “Look at you. You can’t wait for me to get inside of you.”
It was true. She was wet, ready, and her h*ps kept moving against him. Already she could feel him inside her and it was a desire that was like a drug—an obsession.
Her eyes flew open as icy panic balled in her chest. “It’s not—”
His mouth was on her, the kiss rugged and rough. Sparks flew from deep inside her and his tongue swept in, silencing the breathy moan building. Everything was spiraling out of control. Hell, it was already out of control.
Chandler rocked against her as he lifted his head, lips brushing hers as he spoke. “Don’t you feel it?” He pressed his lips to the side of her neck, lapping with his tongue. “I know you do.”
Alana shuddered. Her entire body was one giant pulse point. She ached for him, but the ache ran deep, blooming in her chest. He shifted his h*ps again as his lips roamed over her heated skin and she arched against him. Her body made her as transparent as a window and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.