His voice turned soft. “Lily.”

My heart pounded and my nose tingled, the stupid shake in my voice sounded as I asked quietly, “Fifteen minutes?”

More softness. Softer than soft. “Lily.” His voice pleading me to not push this.

Defeat evident, I dipped my chin to stop my quivering lips from showing as I whispered, “Okay. Five minutes.”

Moving closer to me, he caught my chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting it. My watery eyes met his icy blues. I was momentarily stunned when I saw something akin to sympathy there.

Using his free hand, he stroked my hair once, dropped his hand to his side and explained, “I’m not an unreasonable guy, Lily. I know you think I’m a dick and that’s cool. But I need you to know, I’m not unreasonable. Not ever.”

It took me a whole thirty seconds to get what he meant.

Meaning if there was leeway to give, he would consider what I was asking. But he can’t offer me leeway when there is none.

Breaking my thoughts, he offered, “Calls made once a week. Five minutes with your parents.” Holding my chin firm, his eyes bore into mine. “Fifteen minutes with your sister.”

When I flung myself at him and buried my face into his neck, he held me tightly. My stupid tears flowing freely.

He never rushed me.


He wouldn’t drop me.

He was my shield.

He would protect me.

Against almost anything.

So I guess you could say that things between Nox and I have both improved and declined. In the month that passed, I managed to pry some information out of him.

Regardless of how minimal the stupid facts are, I feel victorious.


Nox loves iced tea. It reminds him of home.

Once, I made the mistake of asking him if he wanted sugar. He responded immediately, “Sweet tea’s for pussies,” then walked away.


Nox is fluent in three languages and passable in six others.

He won’t tell me which ones.


When Nox was sixteen, he was caught drunk as a skunk at a strip club. The owner called his mama and she dragged him home by his ear.


Nox hasn’t been with a woman in close to two years.

According to Boo.


Getting Nox to reveal pieces of himself is harder than pulling a tiger’s tooth.


Delilah Flynn prefers to sleep with a strong arm around her waist.

A few weeks ago I woke in a cold sweat with my heart pounding out of my chest. When I opened my eyes, I looked to the doorway and for once, I wished I’d seen Nox sleeping there.

Since we came back from our first motel room adventure, Nox had left me alone. And although I was glad he put his trust in me, that first night back, I missed his presence and the comfort it brought.

Since that first adventure, there have been two more.

Both included shrieking siren alerts. Both included me being thrown into the back of a creepy black van. Both included me being blindfolded. Both included finding the most obscure, small motel to stay in, hours away.

Both times, it was just me and Nox.

Both times, Nox slept pressed into my back with an arm around my waist.

You wouldn’t hear me complaining.

In fact, my rigid body would turn soft at the contact.

I missed that.

So when I woke in a cold sweat, heart racing at almost four in the morning, it was clear what I needed. A shower, you say?

Hell no.

I needed a strong arm around me.

Slipping out of bed, I threw off my soaked nightie, replaced it with a tee and tiptoed out of my room. Creeping down the hall, I reached the door at the very end, wrapped my fingers around the door knob, and twisted.

Only to feel resistance.

Damn it to heck!

Nox locked his door at night.

My gut sank.

I stood there in the hall, dressed in a baggy white tee and underwear, contemplating what to do next, when something clicked and the door opened. Nox stood there in boxers, looking tired and just woken. Without a word, I pushed my way inside, walked across the room, climbed into his bed facing away from him, and covered myself with the covers.

Laying my head down with a sigh, I waited.

And waited.

Patiently, I waited some more until I finally felt it. The bed depressed, and Nox slid in beside me.

Turning to me, his arm wrapped around my hips, and he pulled me back into his body.

Not a single word was spoken.

And that was okay.

We didn’t need ‘em.

That was not the last night I’d spent in Nox’s bed.

In fact, more often than not, I slept in his bed rather than my own. He’d even started to leave his bedroom door unlocked, knowing that in the wee hours of the morning, I’d be making an appearance.

Rock walked in on us sleeping one morning, and when we both lifted our heads to look up at him, he looked like he’d just found out unicorns were real.

The best part of the situation?

Nox grumbled, “You need somethin’?” Like it was no big deal.

Rock’s eyebrows lifted so fast, I thought they’d fly off his face. “Nah. Just wanted to see if you wanted to spar before work, but,” Smirking like an ass, he finished with, “I see you’re tired.”

Backing out of the room, he shut the door and Nox tucked me into his side, mumbling, “Ass.”

I wrapped my arm around his side and sighed quietly, “Mmhmmm.”

Then we slept for the better part of the morning.

It was peaceful.

It was quiet.

It was perfect.

Fast forward three weeks…

I vaguely hear something penetrate the depths of my deep sleep.


My dream pulls me back in and just as I get to the good part, static sounds, then I hear a little more clearly, “Boss? Come in.”

Peeking through one eye, I check the clock on the nightstand.


Oh, for the love of God. Why are people awake at this time?

Getting more of my bearings, I roll over on the bed. I do this with ease which immediately alerts me to the fact that Nox is already awake.

“The hell, Boss? Come in.” This comes from the two-way radio on the opposite nightstand.

Throwing my body across the bed, I press the button on the two-way. “Shower, Vito.”

“Lily? What the…? You know what, I don’t wanna know,” Vito responds gingerly.

I chuckle, “Shut up, Vito. I was asleep. And by the way, I need more pads.”

Clearly confused, he asks, “Pads? What kind of pads?”

“The feminine hygiene kind. Aunt Flo will be here soon.”

I almost see the disgust on his face. “TMI, Lily. Seriously, babe. Just tell me what you need.”

Feeling sleepy again, I mumble, “Heavy flow.”

He chuckles, “Oh yeah, like I could forget, huh? Got it. Anything else?”

Wow. Asking a woman, soon to be on the rag, if they need anything is a dangerous question.

Now that I think about it, I add to my list. “Uh, yeah. Candy. Lots of it. And a magazine. Or three. And pancake mix. The good kind, not the stuff you got last time. It tasted like cardboard. Maybe some bacon, too. And don’t forget the syrup.”

He scoffs, “Babe, I meant the essentials.”

Rolling my eyes, I utter, “Vito, that is essential to a girl with her monthly friend.”


I gotta butter him up a little. In a sing-song voice, I say, “C’mon, Vito. I’ll be sweet to you.”

Lightning quick, he returns, “Oh Lily, baby. You get any sweeter and I’ll get a sugar rush.”

I’m stunned and thoroughly amused. “Vito, was that…? Did you just…? Was that flirting?”

He says quietly, “That depends.”

Confused again. “On what?”

He mutters huskily, “Depends on if you liked it, babe.”

Having to think about this, I mumble, “Well, it was my first time, but yeah, it was nice.”

Vito sounds shocked. “No one’s ever flirted with you before?”

“Nope.” I pop the p.

I can hear the smile in his voice. “It’s a crime, baby.”

Just then, the door to the bathroom opens and in walks Nox, wearing nothing but a towel.

My brain smiles like the cat that got the cream. Seeing Nox like this is nothing unusual now. Modesty is a thing of the past.

Nox narrows his eyes at the two-way in my hand and I roll my eyes at him. Pressing the button, I say, “Listen, I gotta go. Señor Anger just got out the shower. You need him?”

Vito chuckles, “Nope. Not unless he needs anything.”

Still in bed, I look up at Nox and ask, “Need anything from the store?”

Stepping into a pair of gunmetal-grey boxers, he pulls them up under his towel and replies, “Oatmeal. Apples. Eggs.”

Still holding the button on the two-way, I ask, “You get that, Vito?”

“Got it. Have a nice day, sweet, sweet Lily.” He overdoes it with the huskiness, and I chuckle before putting on a breathy voice, “Bye, baby.”

Still chuckling, I put the two-way back on the nightstand and watch Nox dress.

I love this part of the morning. He acts like I don’t exist and I act like he can’t see me. Today is a little different for me, though. I can’t seem to wipe the smile off my face. It doesn’t bother me that he doesn’t know what today is. It doesn’t bother me that no one knows what today is. I’m just happy that I made it to another birthday safe and well and surrounded by friends.

The hot guy in my bed?

Total bonus.

Chapter Twelve

The hair of the dog that bit ya

Three days later…


I punch the bag. Hard.

Once more. Harder.

The feeling of pain shooting through my lightly wrapped knuckles, up my arm, then disappearing into my body feels good.

Pain is good.

Pain is an indication that you’re alive. Well, living, at the very least.

Pain is also a good way to play games with your mind. A distraction method taught to me in the early stages of training.

And I need a fucking distraction.

Waking up with yet another hard-on pressed into Lily’s ass is enough to put anyone in a bad mood.

Yeah. That’s right. Bad mood.

Why bad?

Because I feel like I’m getting my prick teased every fucking day with no relief! Sure I could jerk off, but that would leave me feeling like a creep. Jerking off in the bathroom next to our room is just…wrong.

Fuck me.

Did I just say our room?

I punch the bag repeatedly while growling through gritted teeth.

This is bad. Very bad.

Nope. I don’t like it.

Three weeks.

Three fucking weeks of sleeping next to that girl.

That girl. She’s just a girl.

Oh, I’m going to hell. No doubt. Especially after last night’s dream.

Wrapping up my morning training session, I step out of the workout room and into the hall. And there she is. Boo has her laughing at something. She has a nice laugh. It’s not small and sweet sounding. It’s not a giggle. It’s uninhibited and animated. When she laughs, I feel like I get a chance to see the real Lily. The one whose mind doesn’t stop her from living a good life. The one who isn’t paranoid or on edge all the time.

The free Lily.

She wears a pair of small, black workout shorts and a baggy white tee knotted at the belly. Then I see her feet and scowl.

Walking up to them, we meet halfway. I say, “Take the boots off.”

Confusion mars her face. “Why?”

Because they look way too sexy on your long ass legs, and I can’t do anything about it.

“Because they don’t belong to you.” I say matter of factly.

Her eyes widen and she says concretely, “Uh, yes, they do.”


Okay, so the military boots have hot pink laces, but you can’t buy those just anywhere. I feel I need to let her in on this.

“You can’t buy those boots just anywhere, Lily.”

Boo and Lily share a look, then smile. Lily utters, “Yes, Nox, I’m aware of that. Boo bought ‘em for me and I love ‘em, so I’m gonna keep ‘em on.”

I don’t get it.

Turning to Boo, I ask, “Why’d you get her boots? She doesn’t need boots.”

Boo hesitates for a moment before she says quietly, “Because it was her birthday, and that’s what she wanted, so that’s what she got.”

Her birthday?

I fucking forgot her birthday. Great. Now I feel like an asshole.

What do I say now?

“Uh, happy belated birthday. Guess you can keep the boots.”

Rolling her eyes, she mutters, “Thanks, dickhead,” then pulls Boo along and they disappear down the stairs.

Watching her leave, I get an idea. It’s probably not a good one, but it’s something. Walking back into the workout room, I ask Rock, “You know it was Lily’s birthday?”

Rock continues to punch the bag but replies, panting, “Yeah. Boo got her boots. Vito got her flowers. I got her an eReader.”

The hell?

Vito got her flowers? The little fucker. He and I need to have a talk.

I mutter, “Got her an eReader?”

Rock shrugs, “She likes it. Always with the books.” He turns to me smirking, “Know what they say about women who read?”

I have no idea what they say about women who read, but I know he’ll say something dirty. And that’s not gonna help me and the semi I’ve been sporting for three weeks. Turning, I shoot him the bird and he chuckles to himself.

I have to find something. And in order to find it, I gotta do some digging.

Time to wrap a present.


“The guy is completely fucked up but he’s so dreamy at the same time. I like the dominant characters. But you know what’s funny? If I had a guy treat me like the guy in the book, I’d run the other way. Fast.” I tell Boo. I’ve had her reading some erotica and she likes it. So, naturally, we’ve been talking smut.

Boo reclines in her lawn chair. “Oh, I get ya, honey. The dude is rich; he’s powerful, and he wants a sub. I’m not a sub. I’d never be a sub. But for him, I’d pretend to be a sub.” After a moment, she adds, “The girl, however…man! What she puts up with? And how he treats her sometimes? Oowee. She is fifty shades of cray.”

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