I wish there was an easy answer. One that would take away the pain I see in the depths of his eyes. Pain that I put there. He trusted me and I let him down. Seeing the hurt on his face, knowing I put it there, hurts me even more than I ached thinking he was with Summer. But I know I need to be honest with him, give him what he just gave me, if there’s any chance of us ever getting past it all. So I start with the truth, because it’s where I should have started all along.

“At the beginning, I talked myself into that it wasn’t true. I think I thought I could prove it and I’d get both things I wanted…the job and you.” I pause, thinking back to the minute I realized I was only fooling myself. “Then I met Senator Knight. And Jax.”

Vinny’s jaw clenches. I’m not sure if it’s the mention of his father or if he’s remembering meeting Jax at the exhibition fight. “He put his hands on you, Mom told me.” He searches my face, fists clenching in an innate response, his protective instinct taking hold of him at even the thought of someone laying their hands on me.

“By the time I realized it was true, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you. I didn’t want to hurt you. You’ve always been proud of your father’s memory. Sometimes I felt like you needed it. I just didn’t want to take that away from you.”

“So you never used me for a story?” His voice is desperate, full of agony at even having to ask the question. He needs to know that it was real. Needs to understand I could never betray him like that.

“I wanted to protect you. I never meant to hurt you.”

“I. Protect. You. Liv. I don’t need you to protect me. That’s how it works,” he says, his voice rising, eyes stern and serious. He waits for me to accede.

“No.” My response spoken with conviction, it surprises him.

Squinting, he studies me for a moment, not saying a word. I suppose his look could be labeled menacing, yet it doesn’t make me waver in the slightest. Instead, I stand taller.

One eyebrow cocked, he questions. “No?” I can’t tell if he’s amused or annoyed.

“No. We protect each other. That’s how it works.”


Both eyebrows pop this time. Although I catch a hint of an upward tilt on the left side of his mouth before he’s able to hide it. He’s amused, but doesn’t want to let me in on the secret.

“Okay,” he finally responds.

“Okay?” I question. Feeling bold, I push further. “Why was that so easy?”

Vinny laughs, his face and whole body shedding the last of the anger, diving head first into happiness. He wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me flush against him. Eyes sparkling, it warms my heart knowing I had something to do with putting the smile back on his face. “You’re a pain in the ass.”

Pretending to be offended, I feign trying to escape from his death grip. But the truth of the matter is there’s no place I’d rather be.

A few minutes later, Vinny picks up my bags and reaches for my hand. “You ready to get out of here? I’m pretty sure you owe me a shitload of makeup sex.” He grins at me.

Although even the thought of this man naked sends a shiver down my spine, there’s more I need to say. “Wait.” Vinny stops after taking only one step forward and turns back to me. “There’s more I need to tell you.”

He nods once and waits, cautiousness in his stance. Closing the small distance between us, I reach up to the beautiful face that still takes my breath away, even after all these years. Draping my arms around his neck, I pull him closer so our bodies are touching, yet he can still see my face as I speak. My voice barely audible as my eyes finds his, I tell him what I feel in every ounce of my being, “I love you.”

He smiles, cupping my face in both his hands. “Love you too, Liv. Think a part of me always has.” Softly, Vinny’s lips cover mine as he seals a kiss on words I’ve waited almost a decade to hear.


Veterans Day – Months later


Walking into the steam filled bathroom, I marvel at the sight of the gloriously naked body stepping from the shower. It’s been months, yet it never gets old.

Vinny grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist. Lucky towel.

“Morning.” He leans down and kisses my lips, uncaring that water is dripping everywhere, a playful, devilish grin on his handsome face.

“Good morning.” I smile.

“It could be.” Taking the towel from his waist, he purposefully lifts it to his shoulders to dry off, leaving his very aroused bottom half delightfully naked, standing firmly at attention. The confident, knowing smile tells me it’s a calculated move and has nothing to do with needing to dry off. He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively when he catches me staring.

“You’re insatiable.” I laugh.

Wrapping his hand firmly around the back of my head, he tilts my head toward him. “You know I get turned on when you use SAT words.” Another hot, wet kiss planted chastely on my lips.

“Insatiable is definitely not on the SAT.”

“Whatever. Keep talking.” Allowing the towel to drop to the ground, he reaches down under my knees, scooping me up into his arms.

“Existential, exculpate, ebullient, evanescent, ephemeral.”

Reaching the bed, Vinny quirks one eyebrow. “Ephemeral?”

“Short lived. Fleeting.”

“Yeah, what I’m about to give you isn’t going to be ephemeral.”


Lying in bed sated, my ear pressed to his chest, I listen as Vinny’s heart beats steadily. The sound soothes me, leaving me feeling replete, a feeling I’ve come to cherish after so many months of chaos swirling around us. Thinking back, things could have gone so differently. The press had a field day with Vinny’s admission. Months of nonstop badgering from reporters could have taken its toll, but instead, somehow, it bound us even tighter. Me and Vinny against the world.

After giving the exclusive story to the Daily Sun Times in exchange for my job, we hung low for a while. Vinny needed to recover physically from his fight and mentally from the toll the last 25 years had taken on him. Preach, Nico’s old trainer, loaned us his lake house, a serene, picturesque hideaway where we could escape the hordes of reporters and photographers vying for a piece of Vinny.

Like Vinny, Senator Knight eventually gave the media his side of the story, falling far short of full disclosure, although finally admitting to a one night drunken affair. Mrs. Knight stood dutifully by his side the entire time, a plastered smile on her perfectly made up face. I noticed Jax was suspiciously missing from all of the family photos aimed at restoring the Senator’s public image, but I kept my thoughts to myself.

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