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“Anyway, dropped Emmy’s off with her, but she was on the phone when I came in, so I’ll go catch up when we finish our little lunch date.” She turns back to her food, takes a few bites before closing up what’s left, and walking over to the fridge in my office to save the rest.

I toss the empty containers from my meal in the trashcan and pull her into my lap when she walks back over to take her chair. She giggles and wraps her arms around my neck.

“Hey,” she whispers against my lips.

“Hey.” I almost don’t get the word out before her lips crush against mine. She takes my mouth in a rough kiss that shows me just how desperate she had been to get here. I answer every move she makes. Our tongues dance together, and it doesn’t take long before her kiss starts to turn more heated.

I pull back and give her a minute. Her eyes are still closed and her breath comes in quick bursts against my face. She takes a few beats before her lips curl into a beautiful smile. It feels like I’ve been handed the whole world in my hands when she gives me that smile. It’s the one I’ve been craving for so long. There’s nothing fake or forced about it. When she opens her eyes, the blinding joy that is like a blazing fire inside her, spills out. I give her a smile in return, and let the rest of the stress and worry from the day just pour off of me.

She lays her head against my shoulder and shifts so she’s more comfortable in my lap. I keep one arm around her back to support her body but take her small hands and wrap mine around them, rubbing her silky skin with my fingers.

“Things went well today.”

I nod my head and give her the space she needs to keep talking.

“He took it about as hard as I thought he would but in the end you’re right. He needed to know, and I feel so much… more free.” She laughs and the sound wraps around me. I close my eyes and savor this moment between us.

“He’s going to be okay. I know this isn’t something that he’ll just snap and be over, but he has Melissa and Cohen to help him get through it.” She leans up, pulls her hands free, and frames my face. Her thumbs rub the stubble of my day’s worth of beard a few times before she brings her mouth to mine, giving me a small kiss before pulling away. “And I have you.”

She smiles, and right there I can see it. She’s moved on and is finally letting every, single, last one of those things that has been hurting her go. Like a sea of balloons being released into the sky, you can almost physically see her letting it all go.

“Always.”

If possible, her smile gets even bigger before she lays her head back down and pushes her arms around my chest. With our hearts beating together, and a peace like I haven’t known in a long time settling around us, I just enjoy this moment.

Greg walks by my office door, and I turn my head to see what he needs. He nods his head and gives me a look that confirms what Dee just said. He’s okay, but he’s going to need a little while before he can move on from what he now knows isn’t what he thought. He stands there for a few minutes and keeps his eyes on Dee’s back. I can’t tell what’s running through his mind, but then he silently looks back up and offers me one hell of a look. He’s got his approval, acceptance, and happiness that Dee is in good hands. That right there is the look of the man who has accepted responsibility for Dee as if she were his own blood relation, letting go and allowing me to take over that honor.

Chapter 26

After lunch with Beck, I spend some time with Emmy while we wait on Chelcie to finish up with Sway. According to Maddox’s last grunt filled, one-word response, phone call, she is happily being ‘fluffed like a fucking bird’. I start laughing so hard that I almost drop the phone when he tells me that Sway has already tried to sit on his lap twice. Those guys can play all they want, but they secretly love the attention that Sway is not shy about throwing at them.

“We need to get Sway a man. Not just any man, but we need someone that could stand up next to these C.S. boys and belong. Certified, grade-A, hunk material.”

Emmy looks up from where she’s entering some notes from an earlier meeting the guys had and drops her jaw.

“You aren’t seriously thinking about playing matchmaker, right?”

“Why not? It shouldn’t be that hard to find him someone. I bet if we checked Craig’s List right now, there would be a million men looking for companionship!”

Emmy snorts. “Yeah, maybe if you were in the market to start pimping. You can’t pick him a man off Craig’s List… That’s just dirty.”

“Okay then, Ms. I Know Everything, where would you like to find him a man?” I cross my arms and huff.

“Uh, how about, I don’t. I have enough trouble with my own dates, let alone picking up someone else’s.” She turns her attention back to the computer, effectively cutting me off.

Whatever. I turn around from the front desk and take in their lobby. I was shocked when Greg told me that the guys did all their own decorating. The lobby is pretty dark, but still welcoming. Emmy’s desk is the center of attention when you walk in the door, literally, the first thing you can see. Then of course, there is the Corps Security logo in huge black letters behind her head. The walls are a dark gray, and on either side of Emmy are two thick black couches. Both sitting areas have a gray coffee table with various piles of crap magazines on them. We had finally talked the guys into adding some red accents around the place to at least make it look a little happier and less ‘my wife is cheating, will you catch her’ gloomy.

I walk over to the left of her desk, pick up the most recent People magazine, and start flipping the pages.

“Emmy, we’ve got to take an important call in the conference room, so hold all the other calls, and when Coop comes back, tell him to get in here.” Beck’s voice draws my attention away from the magazine. He walks over and gives me a brief kiss. “You okay up here for a second? We’re just right down the hall.”

I smile up at him and reach out to rub the frown from his brow. “I’m fine. Emmy and I were just discussing the benefits of getting into the pimping trade, so just go along, and let us work our magic.”

He walks away with a smile and all traces of his frown gone.

“You are nuts,” Emmy says from her desk, punctuating each word with a hard snap of the keyboard.

“But you love me!” We both laugh, but before she can go back to her work, I ask her the one question I know she hates to be asked. “So, how are things with Maddox?”

She loses the small smile on her face and stops what she’s doing.

“Things aren’t anything and they won’t be anything. That man is impossible.”

“You’re giving up?” I really never expected her to hold on to her flame for him this long, but I had been hoping that he would at least let her in when he realized how awesome she is.

“It’s for the best, Dee.”

Before I can reply, Coop comes dancing in the door, running his fingers through his shaggy blond hair. We both start laughing when we notice the gold glitter falling from his locks.

“This isn’t funny! I swear Sway has some kind of tracker on my truck. Ever since Greg told him I was some glitter fairy, he finds the need to come shower that shit all over me.”

I can’t hold back the laughter. I have to walk over to the desk and hold on so I don’t fall over, and squeeze my legs together so I won’t pee in my pants like a little kid.

I’m so busy laughing that I miss the second the mood shifts from light and laughing to deathly serious. I’m wiping the tears from my eyes when I notice something out of the corner of my eye. I take in Emmy’s stark white face and bugged-out eyes, before looking over at where Coop is standing. He’s frozen with his hand still in his hair, but his attention isn’t on the glitter anymore. I have never, not once in the two years that I’ve known him, seen him look like this. Playful and joking Coop has been replaced with someone that would give Maddox a run for his money. He looks absolutely lethal.

“Dee, get your ass behind the desk. Now.” Coop’s voice sounds the same, only much harder. I try to move, but the second I shift, the figure standing in the doorway turns his attention back towards me. I don’t even need to focus on him to tell that he’s pointing a gun right at the side of my head. The sickening click of him releasing the safety is all I needed to hear.

“If you even think about movin’ a fucking inch, I’ll put a goddamn bullet through your head.”

You would think that when you hear the voice of someone you know has clearly gone in-fucking-sane that he would at least sound demonic, but no, Adam sounds just like the same southern frat boy I hired not too long ago.

“Adam, put the gun down and let the girls go. Let’s me and you sit down and talk.” I beg. I try to swallow the lump of fear that’s crawling up my throat, but my mouth is bone-dry. I sneak a glance at Emmy to see that her face is impossibly pale, and she has tears streaming down her face.

Shit! Okay. Think Dee… I can feel the claws of my own personal hell trying to latch on and pull me under, back into that darkness that I’ve finally overcome, but I’ll be damned! There is no way in hell that I’m going to finally move past that to find my own happiness, then have some motherfucking cokehead take it away from me.

“I have nothin’ to say to you! All of yous assfucks have been in my business. You don’t think I know yous been lookin’ for me?! NO! I ain’t lettin’ you take me to him!” He sounds high as a kite. Surely, I can make it behind the desk and grab my purse. I made sure that my Glock was loaded before I put it in my purse earlier. All I need to do is get a little closer.

“DON’T FUCKIN’ MOVE, BITCH!” His maniacal screams cause me to jump, and I reach out to grab the desk again to help keep me from falling.

“Please, Adam.” I beg. I just need to buy a little time to get behind the desk. Fuck! Why haven’t the guys come out! Surely they… Oh, God! They’re in the conference room. The conference room isn’t just in the back of the building, but it’s also completely sound proof! My heart sinks when I realize that, unless Maddox comes back, there isn’t anyone to help us.

“No! No! NO!” My mind flashes back to when Brandon held Izzy and me hostage. He was the same kind of crazy, bashing his head with the gun, and pulling frantically at his hair. The only difference is that Adam looks completely insane, while Brandon was able to hide his under his perfect exterior.

The gun never wavers when he starts rocking back and forth, muttering under his breath. His beady eyes look over every single inch of the lobby, pausing to leer at Emmy behind the desk before a sick smile curls his lips. “Who is this little thing? You sure do look a lot like that bitch Chelcie. Where is that little shit?” His bloodshot eyes swing back towards me, and I flinch when I see his vacant expression.

“She isn’t here, Adam. She’s back in North Carolina.” I hold my hands up, and hope that by showing him I’m not a threat, he will drop the weapon and give us enough time to take control. I can see Coop shift just slightly, and I know he’s trying to get to his gun. He’s the only one out of the group of Corps men that keeps his gun in a shoulder harness, and there isn’t a way he can get to it without drawing more attention. “Adam,” I start, trying to make sure he’s looking at me. “Why didn’t you just tell me you needed help? I would have helped you.” I keep my tone calm and hopefully void of the terror that is washing through my body.

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