This has been the best morning I’ve had in a long time, from the moment when Noah and I woke up Josie with her gift to the unwrapping of mine. I can’t wait to spend hours combing through every photo Josie gave me. Even though I’m not in them, having pictures of Noah when he was a baby, toddler and his first Halloween costume means everything to me.
I know I told Josie I can be patient, but I’m not sure I can. Seeing her in my bed, with her long dark hair spread across the pillow makes me want to claim her as mine. I knew I was a goner when I walked upstairs complaining about being hungry and she offered to make Harrison and I lunch.
Seeing her move around my kitchen like she owns it makes me want have her here every day, but I’m afraid. She was with Nick for a long time and you just can’t turn off your emotions.
I should know.
The sound of the doorbell saves me from making an error in judgment. Swinging the door open, her back is facing me but I’d know that head of blonde hair anywhere. She turns and smiles as she steps in.
“Hey, baby,” she coos. I swat at her hand when she tries to touch my face with her fake fingernails.
She just shrugs and opens her coat; she’s clad in a barely-there bra and panties. Her stockings are held up by garters. At one time I found them sexy, but not so much anymore.
“Sam, what the—”
“Oh my god!”
I turn at Josie’s gasp. The look on her face isn’t anger, but hurt. She runs up the stairs, and the slamming of my bedroom door makes me jump.
“Cover yourself up. There are children in the house.”
I walk away from her toward the dining room. I don’t want her anywhere near the living room with Katelyn and the girls. Katelyn comes around the corner and motions that she’s going upstairs. I nod and prepare for what I’m about to do.
“Sit down, Sam, we need to talk. And keep yourself covered.”
I sit across from her. It’s a safe distance so I won’t hit her and she won’t try and touch me. “I spoke to Brandon the other day.”
“Me too,” she says happily.
“This would be the day the mother of my son showed up demanding that I return her son to her.”
“I took care of all that, baby.”
“Sam, I’m not your baby and I’m never going to be. What you did was wrong on so many levels. I never doubted that Noah's mine. I also don’t want custody. Josie wasn’t some girl I met backstage; she was my girlfriend. How did you even know about Noah?”
She shrugs and starts looking at her fingernail. I know her game, this is the ‘I have the answer but I’m not giving it’ game. I slam my hand on the table to get her attention.
“I’ve been with your dad’s agency since I started and never once have I questioned the integrity of his firm, but right now your job depends on it. I suggest you answer me.”
“I didn’t know you wanted him,” she mumbles.
“What did you say?”
Sam rolls her eyes and sighs heavily. She’s acting bored. “Someone claiming to know you called the agency when you first started. I put the messages in your file.”
I bite the inside of my cheek, my hands clenching. “You knew I had a son and didn’t tell me?”
“My dad said it was bad for your image.”
“HE’S MY GOD DAMN SON!”
I get up and pace, my hands pulling at my hair. “She said she called and left messages. You took her calls and listened to her beg. Are you that much of a bitch, Sam? That woman calling you was my girlfriend and she was pregnant and scared and you ignored her. You kept my son from me. My god, how fucking heartless can you be?”
“Daddy did what was best.”
“You’re fired. I’m done with you. Get out of my house.”
“Don’t,” I hold up my hand for her to shut the hell up. “I said I’m done. I don’t want you here.”
“You need me.”
“No, I don’t. Get. Out.”
“You heard him.” I turn to find Josie leaning against the entry way. Her arms are crossed and she’s been crying. “This is our house and you need to leave. You’re not welcome here.”
“Is this what you want Liam?”
I can’t help it. I smile at Josie and wink. “Yeah, she’s the boss. If she says go, you go. Brandon will send you the separation agreement by the time you reach your car.” I pull out my phone and text my lawyer to finalize the paperwork he started yesterday.
“You’ll be sorry.”
I step closer to her. “I’m already regretting the past ten years with you and your dad, so no, I won't be.”
Sam gets up and walks to the door. She takes one look at me and shakes her head. I know she’s about to cry and I don’t care. As soon as the door closes, I pull Josie into my arms and hold her as if this is the last time I’m ever going to get the chance.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I’m so very sorry for not being there for you,” I tell her repeatedly. She strokes my hair, comforting me when I should be the one down at her feet groveling for forgiveness. With one single message all of this could have been avoided.
Katelyn and Harrison watch everything as it goes down. Harrison starts clapping when the door slams. I knew he was never a fan, but Sam made us money. Guess we’ll have to figure that part on our own.
“Well, that was interesting,” Katelyn says. Harrison looks down on her, his smile wide. I’m going to have to tell him to chill when it comes to Katelyn. “Just so you know, if you need a manager or something, I can probably help out for a bit.”
“You’re hired,” Harrison blurts out causing Josie and I to laugh.
I shake my head and drag my friend away from his newest obsession. Although, I guess if Katelyn is going to start dating ever again, Harrison would treat her right.
Harrison and I emerge from the studio well after dark. He carries a sleeping Quinn upstairs, telling me goodnight along the way. I stay in the kitchen, ready to clean up the dinner mess. I told Josie and Katelyn I’d clean since they cooked a full dinner and dessert for everyone. When I flip on the light, however, there isn’t a dish in the sink or on the counter. I look around and notice the small touches of Josie everywhere, fresh flowers on the windowsill, hand lotion by the sink and – the most obvious – our matching mom and dad mugs from Noah. They're sitting side by side next to the coffee pot, which is already set to go off in the morning. This means one thing.
She’s planning on spending the night.
That means I’m sleeping on the couch.
I shut off the kitchen light and check the back door to make sure it’s locked. I check the front door as well and turn off the remaining lights. I decide to leave on the candle lights that sit in the windows. I’m hoping Josie is still awake and maybe can talk.
We haven’t really talked since before Nick left and I need to know where her head is. One moment she acts like she wants to be with me and the next she can’t stand to be in the same room as me. I don’t want to pressure her though, but I also don’t want to sleep on the couch.
One concern I have, and shouldn’t, is the relationship between Nick and Noah. Noah hasn’t said anything about Nick leaving suddenly and has seen me kiss his mom. This is not the example I want to set for him. I want him to learn boundaries and respect for women when they're in relationships with other men. I have not done that with Josie. Of course, Liam Page never cared. But Liam Westbury does.
Josie is sitting on the couch looking through my photo album. Her legs are covered with her grandma’s afghan, the nameless cat curled up in her lap. There is a soft glow around her, her dark hair being held back by the white ribbon Noah used to wrap her necklace in. I lean against the wall and watch her as she studies each page, every now and again her face lifting in a smile.
“Are you just going to stand there and watch me?”
I push off the wall and walk toward her. She closes the book and adjusts the way she’s sitting. I take the spot next to her and pull her legs into my lap, the cat hissing at me. She laughs and sets him on the floor. “I like watching you. I have a lot of time to make up for.”
“Not with me,” she replies softly.
“Yes, with you. I’ve missed so much. Like the day you opened your flower shop or how you came up with the name Whimsicality. I missed the day you brought Noah into this world and saw him for the first time. I missed your late-night cravings and his midnight feedings. I’ll never forgive myself for not being there, Josie. I won’t. I know you’re about to tell me it’s okay, but it’s not. I trusted the wrong people to take care of me when I'd left behind the one person who would’ve taken care of me the best. I was selfish and scared and instead of talking to you, I ran.
“But I promise you, I’m done running. I’m still selfish, but only where you and Noah are concerned. I have years of spoiling to make up for and I plan to spend every day of my life making sure you both know how much I love you.”
Josie wraps her fingers around mine. “I’m trying not to love you. I’m telling myself that this is just a show for you, to make Noah happy. I’m so afraid to show up one day and walk in and find that you’ve moved on because I’ve taken too long to make up my mind about us.”
I knew she would feel like this, which is exactly why I didn’t push myself on her.
“I’ve looked for you every day of my life since I left you in your dorm room. Every show, pub, or appearance I did – I thought for sure you’d show up somewhere. Not once, not even a glimpse. I desperately wanted to see you, just once. When I read about Mason, I knew I had to come. I told myself I’d show up and leave, in and out and no one would know I was here. But I ended up leaving a few days early because I wanted to see you just so I could tell myself I did the right thing.”
“Why did you leave? You’ve never said?”
The dreaded question, the one I knew she shouldn’t have to ask. I should’ve just told her the first day I saw her in her flower shop.
“When I got to college…” I shake my head feeling stupid. Now that I’m an adult, I should’ve done things differently. “God, Josie, it sucked. Mason was supposed to come with me. I mean we planned this and then he goes and changes his mind. I was there – he wasn’t and you weren’t. I was lonely and hated everything about it.
“This one day, I’m sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself and I get this call. She tells me her name is Betty Addison and I’m so confused until she tells me she’s my grandma.” I rub my thumb over the top of her finger. “She wanted to have lunch and talk so I did. I had nothing to lose and never had a chance to get to know her, so I met her. We spent a week together, having lunch, talking and getting to know each other. She told me things about my mom and why they don’t speak to each other. I learned a lot in that week.
“She asked me what I wanted to be if I wasn’t going to play football. ‘What’s your passion, Liam’ she asked me. I told her music. I had been spending a lot of time on campus at open mic and I loved it.”
“I wish I had known that you loved music that much.”
“You had this dream and I didn’t want to change that for you. I was doing what was expected, but Betty – she invited me to Los Angeles so I went and loved it. I knew I had made the best decision for me even though it meant destroying us.
“Thing is, I never expected to see Noah in the bathroom that day, but it was like fate or some shit telling me that my life is in Beaumont. I went right to your shop and waited. I watched for you and once I saw you, I knew I was going to end up chasing my girl, waiting for you to turn around and see… the real me and love me for who I am and not what I did to you.
“I’m standing in front of you, Josie. You just have to turn around.”
I could easily fall into a routine with Liam. How soon is too soon though? Is there a rule book I need to follow?
Liam and I have never shared a home. We didn’t go off to college together and have the opportunity to sleep in each other’s dorms. Being here – it’s peaceful - sharing the same space that he’s in. Almost like the walls bask in his presence.
I haven’t left since Christmas. We didn’t discuss me staying. I just stayed. I guess that makes me a bit like Nick. For the first few nights he slept on the couch or in his studio until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I finally found the nerve to pull him upstairs with me and into bed. He held me all night, his hands never once wandering away from their placement on my hip.
We're apparently keeping things platonic even though I know he wants me and I want him.
I’m dreading the return to my house. School starts back up in a few days and while this has been a nice vacation, reality is pushing itself back into my life. I caught Liam and Harrison discussing a possible move to Beaumont. I know that would make me happy because that means Liam isn’t traveling back and forth all the time to work. And I think Harrison has a crush on Katelyn. There is no mistaking he has eyes for her and watching him with the twins during Christmas, as much as I hate to say it, I know Mason would approve.
Tonight, Liam has promised me a night filled with debauchery. He says we’ve missed far too many New Year’s Eves. When I asked him what the night will entail, he just smiled and walked away. I’d be lying if I said I it wasn’t driving me crazy not knowing his plans.
With Noah packed and in the car, the drive over to my parents' is nerve-wracking. They haven’t been too impressed with Liam’s return, not that I can blame them. Because of his involvement with Noah, my parents have been in the shadows. It’s not that I don’t want them around, but under the circumstances I thought it best to let Liam get to know Noah without my parents stringing him up on a burning stake.
I can’t blame my parents for their feelings. They were the ones who had to pick up the pieces and take care of their pregnant, teenage daughter. My mom was there, holding my hand, when I delivered Noah when it should’ve been Liam. My parents are bitter, I get that, but people can change.
This will be the first time seeing my parents since Thanksgiving. They just returned from a holiday cruise. I told them about Nick over an email. Not necessarily the way I wanted to tell my parents that my boyfriend of six years has left, but I also didn’t want them to find out through town gossip.
My dad is waiting for us on the porch when we pull into the driveway. Noah jumps out of the car before I have it turned off and runs into his arms. If Noah wasn’t nine I’d say he’s excited about seeing his grandparents, but I have a feeling it’s more about the second Christmas he’s about to have.
I carry an armload of presents into the house. I love the smell of my parents' home, the fresh baked bread, pies and cakes always coming out of my mother’s oven gives their house a welcoming and the all-over home feel.
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” I say as I enter. My parents are already sitting on the couch listening to Noah rattle on about everything he received for Christmas and his new friend, Quinn.
Each time he mentions Liam’s name, my dad glares at me. I knew things would be a bit on edge, but honestly it’s my life and I made the best decision for me and my son. I should be respected and not made to believe I’ve done something wrong.
After we’ve caught up, presents are handed out. Noah is buried under the mountain of gifts my parents bought him.
“Can I start?” he asks. My dad laughs and tells him to start ripping. I don’t like Christmas this way, it’s too fast and you miss what’s being opened. I keep my stack of presents, all sweaters, skirts and scarves, the same as every year, on the floor and watch Noah.
“Oh, cool! A remote control car. My dad is going to love this.”
My dad grunts and stalks out of the room. I get up and follow him into the kitchen. His hands grip the edge of the counter as he mutters to himself.
“Dad,” I say touching his shoulder. He stands and looks at me with sadness in his eyes. “I know you’re upset about Liam, but you can’t let Noah see or hear you like that. He doesn’t know anything other than Liam being his dad. He’s trying really hard to build a relationship with Noah and we need to support it. I know you don’t like it, but I need you to put on a game face for your grandson.”
“He’s going to hurt you, Josephine.”
I shake my head. “He’s not, dad.”
“I do, I can feel it. Things are different. He didn’t know about Noah. You should’ve seen his face when he found out. I knew right then that he would’ve been here, daddy. I know it in my heart.”
I pull my dad into my arms and hold him. He’s been my rock for so long. I know he’s afraid that Liam is going to run for the hills, but I have to trust my heart with this one.
The rest of the afternoon goes well even though each time Noah mentions Liam, my dad fights a grimace and plasters on some sort of smile. I can’t imagine how he feels. He was there when I needed him most, but I now need Liam.
Noah also needs Liam. He needs his dad and even though he had Nick, I can’t deny the instant bond Liam and Noah have. It was evident the first time I saw them together. Noah knew Liam was his dad and treated him as such without calling him out. I know I’m making the right decision.
I kiss Noah goodbye after we eat an early dinner. I promise to pick him up tomorrow afternoon for our annual college football party at Katelyn’s. My parents don’t ask me what my plans are for tonight, but as I’m leaving my dad whispers for me to be careful.
Driving back to my house seems surreal. When I open the door, it’s cold and uninviting. For the first time I look at the walls and think they are drab and in need of a serious paint job even though I just painted them in the spring. Everything feels as if it’s lacking life. I know that if I want to be with Liam, I need to show him. Words aren’t going to be enough, not for him at least. He needs to feel it in his heart that I’m committed to him. He wants us to be a family and I want that too. I don’t want to spend any more nights away from him.
I’ve been waiting since I was fifteen to have the opportunity to wake up in his arms day after day. So what if we had a ten-year road block? The opportunity is here now and I need to take it.
I take a quick shower, careful not to get my hair wet so I can curl the ends. Tonight I’ve opted for a royal blue one-shoulder metallic dress. Katelyn and I found it at an after Christmas sale that was too good to pass up. My hands shake as I apply my make-up. I mess up too many times to count and have to start over. The last time I was this nervous was my first date with Liam. Of course any girl is a bundle of nerves when they're going to their first major dance, but it was more for me then and it’s the same now.
I want everything to be perfect.
I wash my face and start over, climbing up onto the counter because I can barely stand without having my knees shake. I slip in my ear buds and turn on some soothing music. With deep calming breaths, I focus on making my eyes smoky.
It takes me longer than usual to fix my make-up and hair. I pin my hair to the side, away from the shoulder that is going to be exposed. My tear-drop diamond earrings are in and I’m ready for my dress. That is what I tell myself as I stand in front of my closet staring at it while it mocks me. What if he doesn’t like the dress? What if he thinks I’m trying too hard? Maybe I should just wear jeans and cowboy boots. He’s always liked that look.
But that was before he went to Hollywood and became famous and had women – gorgeous beautiful women throwing themselves at him. In dresses much shorter no less. I shake my head to try and get the image out of it and give myself a pep talk. I can’t think like this because if I do, I know I’ll be a nervous wreck by the time I arrive at Liam’s. Removing my outfit carefully from the hanger, I step into it, shimmying until I can push my arm into the sleeve.
I step into my peep toe heels and take deep breath before looking in the mirror. I stand there with my eyes closed and imagine Liam staring at me. In my mind, he’s smiling as his eyes wander over my body. He’s remembering what I feel like under his touch and how his lips make my body sing to him. He’ll pull me to him and carry me upstairs, our night forgotten because he knows I’m ready.
Ready for him and no one else.
My palms sweat. My body is flushed. I open my eyes and stare at the woman in the mirror. Staring back is a girl I once knew, one that shined and sparkled every time she was about to go see her boyfriend. This girl looks happy.
I try not to speed while driving back to Liam’s. I’m anxious and my heart is racing. My hands slip repeatedly from the steering wheel. My foot misses the gas one too many times. I’m a danger to the people on the road, but I can’t hurry. My mind is clouded with thoughts of me under Liam as he makes love to me. I need to make Liam want me as desperately as I want him.
Liam is at the door before I can set my hand on the knob. I swallow hard when I see him. He’s dressed from head to toe in black. His shirt sleeves are rolled, showing off the tattoos on his forearms. I lick my lips in anticipation of being able to trace each one with my mouth. He’s wearing a black leather bracelet on his right wrist and a watch on the other. Both of which I want to take off so he’s free of any obstacles when I finally get to touch him. His blue eyes darken as he looks at me. When he licks his lips, I go weak in the knees and have to balance myself by holding onto the door jam.
I don’t know if my date is with Page or Westbury, but I think tonight I’d like to go out with Liam Page.
I pull the door open before she has a chance to open it. My day has been utter shit with her gone. I don’t know how I grew accustomed to her being here so quickly, but I did. Waking up next to her these past few days has been beyond words. Holding her in my arms, while she sleeps and feeling her body against mine, indescribable. Many times I’ve wanted to take her, claim her as mine, but I’ve held back. I need to do this right. I’m just not sure how much longer I can hold out. She’s a temptress and she’s calling my name.
I drink her in, every inch of her toned body. There was a time in my life when I was allowed to explore her freely, where she’d beg for me to touch her. I want to relive those memories and make them my reality.
Her heels are shorter than most women wear. I like this. It allows me to pull her close and look down at her, which I plan to do all night. Her legs are bare, leading to the dress I know she picked up with Katelyn and teased me about. Visions of my hands going under the hem, grabbing her ass and pulling her to me flood my mind. I have to close my eyes for a minute to clear my thoughts because if I don’t, we aren’t leaving this house. It’s empty tonight and I don’t have any qualms about taking advantage of that.
Her little dress is one of those one-shoulder things, giving me ample opportunity to place my lips all over her shoulder and neck. Not that a sleeve or strap would’ve stopped me, but with this much freedom I may not need a cocktail to ring in the New Year. I’ll be drunk off her.
There is no one sexier than the woman standing before me.
I contemplated tonight for a few days. I didn’t know where to take her. Half of me wanted to take her to Los Angeles and show her off. I’ve been invited to a few parties for tonight and any one of them would grant me the ability to parade her around. But that means paparazzi and I’m not sure she's ready or realizes what it’s going to mean to be with me. When I think about her picture spread all over the gossip rags, it makes me sick. I need to hire someone to handle the public side of my life now that I’ve fired Sam.
I decided to take her to Ralph’s. Tacky, I know, but its close and if we decide to drink we can walk home. Although, with the way she’s looking tonight, we may make a pit stop in a few, very well-known backyards.
Her eyes sparkle when she smiles. I reach for her hand, pulling her into the house. There is so much I want to ask her and yet words seem so futile right now, especially when we can communicate with our bodies. I reach out and run my fingers lightly through her hair, brushing her long bangs away from her face. She sighs when I cup her cheek. I fight the urge to lean down and kiss her. Once I do, our night will escalate and I want to enjoy her. I want to take her on a date. I’m a selfish man. I want heads to turn when I walk in with her on my arm.
“God, you’re gorgeous,” I say quietly.
“You’re so fucking hot.” Her eyes go wide as she covers her mouth. I pull her hand away from her mouth.
“You think so?”
“Don’t be cocky.”
My reaction is to pull her close and let her feel what she does to me. Her eyelids flutter, causing me to close my eyes. With my forehead against hers, my hands trail over her ass. Her breathing stills when I push her into me. Her tiny gasp sends waves of heat through my body. If I don’t let go, I’m going to take her right here on the floor.
I promised her a date.
I step away from her reluctantly. Her eyes shimmer with want. I definitely plan to deliver. I take her hand in mine and lead her out of the house. I need the fresh air and a crowded place otherwise I’m not going to make it through the night without stripping her bare or at least hiking up that dress of hers.
In the car I place her hand on my thigh. It's a mistake. I have a feeling tonight will be a long list of mistakes. Her fingers brush against me each time I shift. And I’m finding a lot of reasons to shift.
I feel her stiffen when we pull into Ralph’s. The excitement that was evident on the way here is gone. She’s upset.
I lean over and pull her face to mine, my lips meeting hers. She softens against me. I hold her to me, my hand cupping her face.
“It’s not what you expected?”
“No, it’s fine.” She turns away from me, her hands rubbing down the front of her dress. Her earlier smile now masked by indifference.
“I wanted to take to you L.A. There are all these parties and I know you’d have a good time, but I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of you and the paparazzi would be all over you.” My finger traces the top of her dress. “I wanted to give you all of my attention tonight.” She looks down at my finger as it caresses the swell of her breasts.
She looks at me.
“I don’t want to share you, Jojo. That day is going to come soon enough, probably sooner than we think. I just want one night where I can hold you, dance with you and touch you without people being in my face about it.”
“The last time you were here people took your photo,” she reminds me.
I turn away from her and follow a group of people into Ralph’s. I never expected her to want the glitz and glamour that my life offers. I should’ve asked her what she wanted before bringing her here. Maybe I should’ve known she’d want a taste of the celebrity life. Hell, I denied her the opportunity once before; maybe I should throw her into it.
“Josie I can give you anything you want, but I can’t offer you peace and quiet all the time. We’ve been lucky with the paparazzi. You know I’m having a gate installed and a concrete fence because I want our home to be private. I want Noah to be able to play outside. We need security. I don’t want to give up who I am, but I want a life with you and tonight I want it to be here in our hometown because next year I could be on tour or we could be at a party someplace. I just want one night.”
“Which Liam am I out with tonight?”
I smirk. I never thought I’d hear that question come out of her mouth. “I wasn’t aware there were two.”
“There definitely are.”
“Hmm… well which one do you want?” My voice is deep, dangerous. I’m tempting her, waiting for her answer even though I know what she’s going to say.
“Page,” she answers seductively.
“You want the rock star, the bad boy?”
Who am I to deny her?
I get out of the car, slamming the door. I hesitate, looking at her shadow in the front seat. Liam Page would never have a woman in his car, let alone open a door for her, but she’s my girl. I step to her side and open the door for her. I can’t help but gawk at her legs as she steps out of the car, her hand in mine. I kiss her briefly before pulling her behind me into Ralph’s.
Inside, the place is packed. Ralph brought in a DJ for the night in hopes of increasing business. He’s definitely done that. Josie and I hit the bar first. I order us each a drink. Whiskey for me and some fruity ass drink for her. Ralph says hi and tells me he has a reserved table for us. Not something I wanted, but I’ll take it as there’s no place to sit.
Leading Josie through the crowd of people, my name is shouted – women look at me with lust in their eyes and people slap me on the back. Word has spread that this is my hang out. Good for Ralph. Bad for me.
Our booth is in a dark corner, which I like. Josie slides in first and I follow, sitting as close as I can to her. I drape my arm over her shoulder, sliding my fingers under the top of her dress. Her hand is on my thigh, stroking my leg. If she keeps that up, we won’t be here very long.
She looks at me, her eyes full of anticipation. I hate what I’m about to do to her, but she asked for it.
I lean, my nose running along her jaw until I get to her ear. I bite down gently. Hearing her gasp urges me on. I suck her earlobe into my mouth. My hand trails up her leg, pushing her thighs slightly apart.
“Is that what you do on a date?” she asks, eagerly.
“I don’t date,” I reply quickly.
“Ever?” she asks as her voice breaks. I kiss my way toward her mouth before answering.
“I fuck.” I capture her lips with mine before she can say anything. Her lips and tongue react immediately to mine. My fingers reach her panties. They’re silk. And wet. I pull my hand away and stop kissing her.
I can’t sit here in this booth with her like this, willing to let me do things in public. I grab her hand and pull her out to the dance floor. I want more for us when we’re together again.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asks close to my ear. She has to yell over the music.
I shake my head. “I don’t know if I can be Liam Page around you. He doesn’t treat women very well.”
She answers me by grinding against me, urging me on, showing me she doesn’t care. God, I love her but we can’t happen like this.
Purple Rain comes on. It’s the song we first danced to at homecoming. It’s perfect for us. I wrap my arms around her waist, my hands resting on her ass. She places her hands in my hair. Closing my eyes I let the music move us, guide us. I want her to feel her effect on me. She needs to know that I want her, that my body is craving her.
I open my eyes and look down at the woman who holds all my fantasies. Her finger traces the outline of my lip before she leans in and shows me how much she wants me. We make out like the horny teenagers we once were, in a bar full of people we used to know.
I want to live in these arms. They make me feel secure, loved, needed. His hands don’t roam. They stake their claim and hold me tight to his body. He leads us on the dance floor in a sinful tangle of gyrating hips. His eyes are dark and seductive. I’m done allowing him to question my state of mind. I vow to make him mine.
The song changes, but we don’t move. It’s like the DJ knows we want to be close. Not that we’d stop what we’re doing. I rest my head on his shoulder, my body keeping rhythm with his. I don’t know how I’ve forgotten what it feels like being with him like this. I used to count the days until our next dance just so I could hold him.
I place small kisses on his neck. He grips me tighter and nuzzles my ear. My hand finds the top button of his shirt. I play with the button until it opens. His hand stills mine, pulling it away from his shirt. I’d pout if he could see my face fully. He sets my hand on his chest, just over his heart and holds it there as his lips touch mine softly.
He pulls away abruptly and looks over his shoulder. A woman comes into view. Her hair is piled on top of her head in a messy ‘I don’t give a shit’ bun. Her skin-tight red dress is showing so much of her breasts. Liam doesn’t have to imagine what they look like. She licks cherry red lips and she looks at Liam like he’s taking her home tonight.
“Can I have this dance?” she asks brazenly. Can’t she see he’s with someone?
“I’m kind of busy.” He turns back to me. His expression telling me he’s sorry we were interrupted.
“How about an autograph or a picture?”
Liam rolls his eyes. Apparently she doesn’t get it. She pulls her cell phone out of the top of her dress and hands it to me. I look at Liam, my eye brow raised. If he thinks I’m touching that phone he’s nuts, let alone take a picture of them together.
“No pictures, not tonight. I’m on a date.”
“Maybe we can meet up later?”
Before I can say anything, Liam says, “I’m on a forever kind of date so no thanks.”
She looks annoyed and glares at me. Sorry chick, he’s mine. If I have to wear a shirt claiming him, I will. She pulls out a tube of lipstick and spins it until the bright red is showing.
“Sign here.” She runs her finger over the top of her breasts.
Liam shakes his head. “Paper or nothing,” he says turning back to me and pulling me into his arms. I can’t help but throw her a knowing look and smile as I hold onto his shoulders. She stands there, her leg pointed out like she’s just waiting for another opportunity to pounce on my man.
We only sit for a little bit before more people come up and bug him, asking for photos or autographs. Women bring him drinks, but he pushes them aside. He tells me that he never accepts drinks from anyone because that’s how Harrison ended up with Quinn. He met this woman backstage and woke up at her place. Nine months later she dropped off Quinn. I can’t image leaving Noah. He’s my life and for the longest time my only reminder of what Liam and I had.
Liam takes me back to the dance floor. He requests a series of songs from the DJ, most are his. Songs that I’ve memorized and know are about me, our love and the things he wants to do to me.
When the clock strikes twelve his lips claim mine, solid and confident, like he’s been waiting for this moment forever. I know I have.
“Are you ready to get out of here?” he says against my lips. He doesn’t wait for an answer. He pulls me through the cheering crowd. When we’re outside he rushes us to the car. He pushes me up against it, and wraps my legs around him. I feel him fumbling for the door. The leather is cold against my skin as he sets me down in the seat. “Hold that thought.”
Liam climbs into the car and starts it. He places my hand on his hard on, sighing when I squeeze him lightly. He pulls out of the parking lot, gravel spitting out behind the car and drives us home as fast as he can.
My nerves are on fire when we pull into the driveway. I haven’t moved my hand and yet I feel as if this is our first time all over again. Except this time we're in his house, not a hotel. I let myself out of the car and meet him around the front. We walk hand in hand into the dark house. Only the candles in the window light a path through the darkness.
He bends, placing one arm under my legs, the other behind my back. He takes the steps slowly, his eyes penetrating mine. I can see the desire, feel it in the way he holds me. He pushes the bedroom door open, kicking it shut when we’re inside.
He sets me down on his bed and stands in front of me, pushing my hair off my shoulder. He kneels letting his hands trail down my legs, sending a shiver over my skin. He picks up each foot and removes my shoes. His fingers dance along my skin until he reaches the hem of my dress. I stand, forcing him to take a half step back.
My hands slide up his covered chest, fingers working the buttons. I'm so eager to see his chest, one that I’ve missed for so many years. I close my eyes when I get to the last button, my hands pushing aside the fabric. I allow my hands to explore feeling the tight ridges of his abs as my fingers memorize every plane. His hands clamp down on mine when I get to his chest.
“Open your eyes.”
When I do, he lets go. He wanted to see my eyes when I finally discovered what he’s been hiding. On his left pec there's ink and lots of it. It’s dark, solid black. My finger outlines the edges, following the maze.
“It’s a tribal design,” he answers without hesitation. “Trace here,” he says as he moves my fingers along his tattoo. I do as he asks, my mind telling me what my heart already knows.
“It says, Jojo.” I place an open mouth kiss over my name. He pulls at my hips. I can feel him, his need evident through his jeans. He’s been this way all night, waiting patiently to get us back here so we can finally be together.
Liam turns me around, wrapping his arm around my waist. He rubs his hard on against the swell of my ass. I can’t help but push into him. He pushes my dress off my shoulder, his lips pressing against the exposed skin. I tilt my head, resting on his shoulder as his hands rub over my breasts. My hand reaches back, weaving through his hair. He moves away from me, lips burning a trail down my back. Fingers tug at my dress, pushing it down my legs. I’m bare except for the thong I’m wearing. I feel his teeth pull at the side of my panties. I turn. I need to see him, touch him.
He picks me up and lays me on the bed, crawling over me. I arch up to feel his skin on mine. I drag my fingers through his hair. He looks at me, breathing shuddered. The intensity of his gaze makes my skin tingle in anticipation. His thumb brushes under the curve of my breast.
He sits back, undressing. I sit up and rub my hand over his chest, abs and finally his bulge. His eyes roll back in his head as I touch him. He crawls over me, pushing me back into the mattress. I wrap my arms around his shoulders, urging him. He settles on me, his weight and heat a welcome feeling.
“I love you, Jojo,” he says against my lips. He holds my hands above our heads, his forehead touching mine. Our mouths drops open in ecstasy, remembrance as he moves, working his body into mine. I cry out, grasping at his hands. My legs move over his hips, guiding and holding him where I need him most.
I moan as he flexes his hips, going deeper. I can’t stop looking at him, his eyes watching me, relearning how good we are together. When he lets go of my hands, I dig into his ribs, encouraging him to move faster.
Liam moves to his knees, moving my body by the push and pull of my legs. “I need to look at you,” he says breathlessly.
My hands clamp down on his forearms, hanging on as he moves us in rhythm. He drops my legs, moving to kiss me. He makes love to my mouth while he moves faster, harder, bringing me to the edge.
“Liam!” I need more.
He knows my body and grunts just as my orgasm takes over. My toes curl, my nails dig into his ass as I lift my hips to meet his last thrusts.
He stills, collapsing on top of me. I lay there, my muscles weak and tired, yet completely satisfied and ready to do this again. I stroke his back, causing him to shiver. I kiss his neck, his cheeks and finally lips.
“I love you, Liam. I love you so much.”
He looks at me and smiles. He leans on his elbow, not moving from where he’s nestled between my legs. He could stay there forever for all I care. He moves my damp hair away from my face and kisses my nose.
“Move in with me? You and Noah move here and we’ll be a family. I want you to call this your home. I want to do normal things with you like go grocery shopping and meet you for lunch at work.”
“That’s sounds like the American dream.”
“No, my girl, that’s our dream. If you want it, I’ll give it to you.”
“I want it.”
Liam’s smile lights up the dark room. We kiss for a while before he rolls over and pulls me on top of him.
“Son, come down here.”
My eyes roll automatically when he speaks to me these days. I never thought I’d cringe at the sound of my father’s voice, but I do. The closer I get to graduation, the more of a hard ass he’s become.
The day I asked Josie to homecoming the dissension started. My parents sat me down and explained the concept of socially acceptable standards. In a nutshell, Josie isn’t country club enough to be seen with a Westbury.
For the first time I saw my parents in a different light. I was disgusted to be their son. I couldn’t understand how they could say something so horrible about someone they didn’t even know. The night of homecoming I walked out of my house in my tux without saying goodbye or allowing my mom to take a picture. I wasn’t going to let them dictate who I dated, or who I loved for that matter.
“I’ll call you back,” I say to Josie. She doesn’t come over anymore. She gave up a long time ago. She even offered to break up with me so my life would be easier. I told her no way in hell was I going to let Sterling and Bianca Westbury drive her away.
Josie is the best thing to ever happen to me. She understands me.
Throwing my phone on the bed, I sigh. I’m counting the days until I’m out of here. Mason and I are taking the girls camping for a week before we leave for college. One last hurrah and a week of pure solitude for me and Josie. No annoying parents looming over our shoulder.
When I get downstairs, I’m greeted by an ominous look from my father. He’s up to something. He pats me on the shoulder and leads me into the living room. There sitting on the couch, with her legs crossed, is his golfing buddy’s daughter, Sasha.
I groan and rub my hands over my face. In this position I could elbow my dad in the gut and run for it, but Sasha has already seen me and is standing, walking toward me with her hand out as if I’m to kiss it. Like I owe her a thank you for being in my house. No thanks.
“Liam, it’s so good to see you.” Her voice is whiney, nasally. I can’t stand it. I grimace which only makes her smile brighter. Her teeth are so white. She could light a dark street at night.
“Sasha,” I say coldly, uninterested.
“Well, I thought you two could come with us tonight,” Sterling says. Again with the eye rolling which Sasha witnesses.
“Or we could stay in,” she offers.
I recoil at the thought of spending time with her. “I have plans.”
“Oh, I don’t mind hanging out with you and your friends.”She laughs as her hand trails down my arm. I move away, offended by her touch.
I don’t remember offering I want to blurt out. “I’m sure you don’t, but my girlfriend does,” I say just so I can goad Sterling. He stiffens and I want to laugh. His matchmaking is failing which means his buddy is going to be pissed.
“Excuse us for a moment, Sasha.” My dad grabs my arm and pulls me into the other room. I’m about to get a tongue lashing, something I may thoroughly enjoy.
“Liam, it’s about time you look at your future. You're going away to college and Sasha is a fine woman to have on your arm, especially when the NFL scouts you. You need to present the full package and she completes that. You can’t have riff raff from across the tracks hanging on just so she has someone to support her.”
His words fuel nothing but pure anger. “You don’t know shit about Josie and her family.” I point at him, pushing my finger into his chest. “You do nothing but sit on your pompous ass and look down on people who don’t go to your stupid ass country club. I love her and I plan to marry her whether you like it or not. If you want some arm candy, why don’t you date Sasha? She’s probably looking for a sugar daddy anyway.”
“Where are you going?” he asks as I walk away.
“Out with my friends. It’s Mason’s birthday so you’ll have to entertain Sasha. Just don’t let mom catch you.” I slam the door effectively cutting him off.
I shake my head to clear away that memory. I’ve hated my dad for so long for the way he’s treated Josie. Even though my mom comes around to see Noah, I refuse to step foot into their house. She’s trying. I’ll give her that, but him… no way. If he couldn’t accept Josie in my life back then, I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow him anywhere near my son.
So much has changed in the past four months. Josie and Noah moved into my – our – house after New Year’s. Harrison and Quinn have also moved to Beaumont and right into Josie's empty house. Which I knew was going to happen. It all made sense. That also put him in the same neighborhood as Katelyn, where, if you drive by on Saturday, you see him and his tattooed arms mowing her lawn.
Tonight we're celebrating Mason’s birthday. It’s been seven months since he left us and we’ve each struggled and coped differently. We held our fundraiser for Katelyn and the girls at Ralph’s, which has become a local hotspot, and did fairly well. I’ve also hired Katelyn as my manager effectively giving her a stay at home job, even though she has to come to my house and work every day. As soon as school is out for the summer we're heading out on tour. Three band members, two bossy women and four kids touring for three months. Band life will be different now.
I’m waiting for Josie to get ready. My truck, a recently acquired nineteen sixty-five Chevy, is strictly for water tower drinking. When I told Josie about my purchase, she slapped me in the arm and told me to grow up. Yet she’s the first one to yell for a ‘water tower’ night when we're in need of a reality check.
I load the back of the truck with a cooler full of beer. Josie will be our designated driver tonight, which I’m thankful for. I want tonight to be fun and somewhat enjoyable for Katelyn. Josie walks out of the house, her arms full of food. I run over to her, kissing her on the cheek and relieving her of the heavy load. We had the food catered as I didn’t want Josie or Katelyn stressing about what people will eat.
I turn back and look at her after putting everything into the back of the truck. I take in her appearance. She’s dressed in tight jeans with her red cowboy boots. Her tight, ‘I love my rocker’ tank top hugging her curves nicely. She dresses like this to tease me.
I saunter over to her and sweep her into my arms, bending her backward and attacking her neck. She giggles and tries to push me away with her head. She finally relents, knowing I’ve won.
I set her back on her feet. “Ready?” I ask. She nods, threading her fingers into mine. She climbs into the truck through the driver’s door, settling in the middle. Just like in high school.
When we arrive at the water tower, there are a bunch of people here. I was surprised when Katelyn said she wanted to invite people from high school, but went along with it. Josie and I hop out of the truck, hand in hand. I drop the tailgate and help her set up. Harrison comes over to say hi before snagging a beer out of the cooler.
“I’m going to head up, okay?” I kiss her on the cheek and pocket a few beers. Mason’s truck is lined up just perfectly for our beer torpedoes. Harrison follows me up the ladder. Most of the guys already at the tower know him, but I make a few introductions.
We pop open our first beer and chug. On the count of three, we throw our bottles down. With the loud crash of glass shattering we all yell out ‘Mason!’ The women start cheering and the music is turned up.
We start the party in true Mason style.
As the night goes on, stories are told and retold. The comfortable camaraderie that we all had in high school is back. I’m no longer the asshole that ditched everyone and Harrison fits in with everyone. I’m literally living the best of both worlds and I couldn’t be happier.
I look at Harrison when I hear him sigh heavily.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” he says. I follow his gaze and see that Katelyn's talking to Bill Rogers, some geek turned millionaire for creating a computer program that everyone loves.
Bringing my bottle of beer to my lips, I look back at Harrison. His expression is sad. I know he likes her but is afraid of being turned down.
“Take your time with Katelyn, man. Just be there and don’t push her. They were together for a long time, but I know she notices you. I’ve heard her talking to Josie about you. Just seize the moment when it’s there.”
Harrison starts laughing. “You’re one to talk.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You write song after song about how much you love that woman.” He points to Josie who's talking to Jenna. “You live with her, share a son, yet I don’t see you asking her to marry your sorry ass.”
I look from Josie to him and back again.
“You’re right.” I stand up, holding on the railing, place my fingers through my lips and whistle loudly getting everyone’s attention.
“What do you want, Westbury?” she yells back. I love how some things haven’t changed.
“Will you marry me?”
Someone kills the music and silence spreads over the field. She moves closer to the water tower and sets her hands on her hips. “If you’re going to ask me, you better do it proper.”
“Yes ma’am.” I down my beer and toss it toward the truck and make my way to the ladder. I climb down carefully. When my feet hit the ground I pat my pocket for the ring I’ve had in there for the past few weeks and pull it out, keeping it in my palm. I’ve just been waiting for the right moment. This must be it.
I stroll over to her, my steps wide so I’m there faster. Her hands are still on her hips, her eyes wide. She’s not expecting this.
I bend down on one knee in front of her. Her hand goes to her mouth and there’s a collection of gasps behind us.
“Josie Preston I have loved you since I was sixteen. I know I’ve screwed up a whole lot, but I promise to make it up to you every day. Would you do me the immense honor of wearing my ring, taking my name and becoming not only my partner in life, but most importantly, my wife?”
Josie nods. There are tears in her eyes and I want to get up and kiss them away. “Yes, Liam. Yes a million times over I’ll marry you.”
I pull her hand forward and slide the ring on, kissing her finger before I kiss her. There is loud applause and cheering behind us.
“I love you, Jojo. You’re forever my girl.”