“He actually told you that?”
The deputy director had been surprisingly candid with her since Hunter’s hospitalization. “I think he had the idea that I know more than I actually do, so I didn’t stop him. And I think he’s feeling guilty that we were kidnapped on his watch by one of his men.”
He started to speak again, but she stopped him. “Listen, Hunter, I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself for leaving you…” She trailed off. In her head she knew it had been the only way to save their son, but it broke her heart that she hadn’t been able to help.
“Marry me.” Groaning, he fully pushed up on the bed until he was sitting.
“Marry me and I’ll forgive you.” The corners of his mouth tugged up. It looked like more of a grimace, but she supposed it was meant to be a smile.
His words were exactly what she’d wanted to hear at one time. But he’d made his feelings about their future perfectly clear. She brushed his hair away from his forehead. “I think you’re still a little out of it. Why don’t you close your eyes and—”
He angrily batted her hand away. “I’m not out of it. I know exactly what I’m saying.”
“Hunter, I’m not going to take advantage of your state right now. You’ve been through a lot and—”
“I love you, Alexis. I don’t deserve to, but I do.”
“Can we please just talk about this later? If you say this now then change your mind, I don’t think I could stand it,” she whispered, hating the treacherous tears that threatened.
“I’m not going to change my mind. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. You were right when you said I was being a coward. I was. I’m so afraid I’ll screw up and you’ll realize what a mistake you made. I’m a different man than I was six years ago. I know I don’t deserve a place in your life, but…I love you and I want a second chance.” His voice was hoarse and scratchy.
“Deserve? You saved my life and our son’s life.” Her throat clogged as she thought about how differently things could have gone. He’d sacrificed himself for them. If anything, she didn’t deserve him. She wiped away a few stray tears.
“So is that a yes?” he pushed.
“You’re serious?” she whispered.
“I can’t think of a better time.” Though it had to be killing him, he leaned forward and cupped her cheeks. “What do you say, Alexis?”
Swallowing her tears, she nodded. “Yes.”
One month later
Clapping like the proud parents they were, Alexis and Hunter stood in the auditorium along with the other hundred parents cheering for their children. The holiday play for Jonathan’s school had just ended, and even though she was biased, her son had definitely been the cutest.
Hunter squeezed her hand as they exited into the aisle, moving along with the throng of people. “Gwen did a great job on his costume.”
She smiled at him, unable to hide her excitement. “I know.” His Snoopy costume had fit perfectly. Thankfully Gwen knew how to handle a sewing machine. Between taking care of Hunter during the past month, getting him settled into the house, explaining to friends and neighbors that she was married—but not to Michael—and dealing with the DEA, she hadn’t had a moment’s rest. And she had a funny feeling that the only reason people were being so friendly about her recent marriage was the fact that her new husband was a national hero.
“Mom, Dad, did you see me?” As soon as they stepped backstage, Jonathan rushed toward them, arms outstretched and tail flopping behind him.
“We sure did, buddy!” Hunter released her hand and went to pick him up, but she quickly intercepted at the last second.
“Your ribs!” she admonished Hunter.
“They’re fine,” he grumbled, but she didn’t miss the slight grimace when he straightened.
It had only been four weeks, and he needed at least two more of rest before he could contemplate any heavy lifting. And she didn’t care what the doctor said, she was making Hunter wait three more. Shaking her head at Hunter, she shifted Jonathan on her hip. “You looked great up there.”
“I forgot a couple lines.” He chewed on his bottom lip.
“Did you? Well, I’m sure no one noticed because we certainly didn’t,” she soothed.
“Really.” Hunter nodded and straightened one of the floppy ears on his costume.
“I’m hungry. Can we get ice cream on the way home?”
She started to say it was too late when Hunter said, “Yes.”
Growing used to sharing the parenting responsibilities was taking time, but she was getting the hang of it. And thankfully so was Hunter. Ever since they’d returned to Hurley Beach, he’d been more protective than her. At least now that he was out of bed and able to move around, he wasn’t driving her as crazy.
Jonathan was finally sleeping the entire night through without any nightmares. His doctor warned that the nightmares could return, but he was adjusting well.
“All right, kiddo, let’s get going then.” She set him on his feet. He was almost getting too heavy to carry. “Remember, no jumping on Dad.”
“I know, I know.” Jonathan grabbed her hand, then Hunter’s hand and placed himself in between them.
It was still hard to believe that little more than a month ago she’d been planning to marry someone else. After everything that had happened, settling into a normal routine was a piece of cake.
She still got the offhand remark about marrying someone else so soon after breaking off her engagement with Michael, but the bliss of being married to Hunter diminished the nastier comments. Sometimes she wondered if maybe she should have waited longer, but saying no to Hunter while he’d been laid up in that hospital bed had been impossible. And a big part of her had understood that he’d needed that commitment. Sometimes she could still see the fear in his eyes that she’d change her mind, but that wasn’t ever going to happen. Only time would convince him.
As they walked across the parking lot, Alexis spotted Michael walking hand in hand with one of the teachers at the school. By the way he was looking at the woman, he was definitely over Alexis. She smiled at the sight. They’d talked a few times since she’d been back home and while everything between them was perfectly civil and polite, she was grateful he’d found someone else so quickly.
Jonathan dropped their hands when he saw one of his friends to wave to. Then he started skipping, staying a few feet in front of them. He chatted about the play, his new “girlfriend” and what he hoped Santa would bring him for Christmas as they made their way to the car.
Her husband—she still couldn’t get used to calling him that—covered the distance between them and wrapped his arm around her. “You look beautiful tonight,” he whispered before kissing the top of her head.
“You don’t look so bad yourself.” Instinctively, her grip around his waist increased, but she stopped when he grimaced. “Sorry.” She needed to remind herself more than Jonathan to keep her hands off the man.
He didn’t release her as she expected. “After six years of waiting to hold you again, I can deal with a little discomfort. I’m never letting you go again.”
And she knew that he wouldn’t.
After settling Jonathan into the backseat, Alexis palmed the keys and got ready to slide into the driver’s side when Hunter stopped her. Even though the back door was shut and there was no one around to hear, Hunter’s voice was low as he leaned in to whisper to her.
“I want you tonight.” By the inflection of his voice there was no doubt what he meant.
Despite the fact that she knew they shouldn’t do anything that could hinder his healing, a thrill trailed up her spine hearing the need in his deep voice. Ignoring the excitement she experienced as she imagined them tangled up between the sheets, she shook her head. “I don’t think that’s—”
He silenced her with a quick, searing kiss. “Tonight.”
Hunter shut Jonathan’s door behind him and quietly sighed. Finally asleep. He’d been absolutely wired after that play, and even though Hunter knew they should have come straight home, he hadn’t been able to say no to ice cream.
Alexis had told him more than once that he was a pushover when it came to Jonathan, and maybe he was, but he was diligent about the important stuff. Like keeping them safe. And spending as many of his waking hours doing fun stuff with the son he’d never known he’d had… Hell, yeah, he was a pushover.
Jonathan seemed so happy and proud to have him in his life it still floored him. Hunter kept thinking that this was all a dream and he’d wake up and be back in hell. But it wasn’t. His son and Alexis were very real, and right now he needed Alexis so bad he ached for her.
His ribs were basically healed even if he did have a little discomfort. And it wasn’t as if they needed to do crazy acrobatics in bed. He just wanted to sink himself deep inside her and savor every moment of it.
Once inside their bedroom—something else he was still getting used to remembering, that this was theirs now—he found himself alone. He could hear the water running in the bathroom and see the muted light streaming in from under the door.
As quickly as he could, he stripped off his clothes and lit a few candles. Then he stretched out on their bed and stared at the door, trying to will her to hurry up. His entire body was tense as he waited.
After what felt like an eternity the door swung open and Alexis stepped out. Completely clothed.
Frowning he propped up on his elbows and stared at her. Her jaw tightened as she looked at him. “You really should rest.” She didn’t make a move for the bed and instead crossed her arms over her chest.
Instead of responding, he grasped his already hard cock and began stroking himself. Her blue eyes narrowed on his movement and her arms immediately dropped. Underneath the outline of her top he could see her nipples harden.