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I remembered to grab it from the car.” Knox set my package on the kitchen table in front of me and sat down.

“Mmmm...Thanks.” I replied, her mouth full of oatmeal. I didn’t hesitate. I ripped the box open and pulled the sealed plastic bag free. The black and crème wild floral pattern caught my eye. I was forced to swallow my food. “Oh my God.” I stood up and let the material unfold. The silk baby-doll dress stopped at my upper thigh. The patterns were non-consistent. I held it to my chest and nodded my head, “This is going to be beautiful.” I looked like a child that was let loose in a candy store.

And then she saw the shoe box buried beneath the tissue paper. “Ah, she didn’t.” Laying the dress over her shoulder, she reached in and grabbed the black box marked DB.

Knox smiled and shook his head. Carefully I lifted the lid, set it atop the table and pushed the tissue aside with delicacy. Putting both my hands inside, I removed a single shoe. I held them as though I was Cinderella holding up that fragile glass slipper. With the stiletto in one palm and the toe in the other I gaped. It was a black strapless. The toe strap was covered in black feathers. Hanging from the ankle wrap was a note. Knox reached out, snatched it and read it aloud. “Call Me.”

“Oh, Delise that was low.” I pursed my lips. “You know that I cannot resist a sexy pair of shoes.” I turned to my brother. My lips curving into a devilish smile. “I’m going to go and try them on.”

Once I hit the top of the stairs, Knox shouted, “A bunch of us are going to the store here in a few. Wanna go?”

“Sure.” I shouted back and shut my bedroom door. Eager to try on the new outfit, I changed quickly and clicked my way downstairs.

I looked at Knox’s surprised face as I came around the corner. “What?”

“I think you set the record for the fastest dresser. You were in there for maybe a minute.”

I shrugged my shoulder. I didn’t think anything of it. I was used to dressing that way. After back to back photo shoots and runway shows, I developed a habit to dress quickly. If I didn’t, there was hell to pay. “So, what do you think?”

“I think you look hot as hell myself.” The voice that I had come so familiar with came close to my ear and didn’t shrink back. Instead, it sent a tiny shiver down my arms.

I looked over my shoulder. His face is just inches from mine. Being in the modeling career, I was only told two things. I either looked amazing or bloody awful. Not so much of the latter if I was being honest. And as it went for Brock, some would think I was stretching the truth a little when I said he rarely gave me a compliment. And as extreme as it sounded, he never really did. Guess he figured I never needed to hear it. He lacked the knowledge that every woman was in need of a compliment or two at one point or another by their boyfriend. And for a split second I thought how sad it was that Gage’s single compliment had meant so much.

He lacked a shirt and wore only shorts and tennis shoes. His body was covered in sweat. His skin flushed in certain areas giving away that he was doing groundwork today. “How was your first day of training?”

“Good.” He replied.

“I was wondering since you know— I kept you up late last night.”

“It worked out.” He gave me a wink. Settling both hands on my hips, he scooted by. I couldn’t help but notice that he let them linger as long as possible. He looked at Knox as he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. “I thought you had to work today.”

“No. With everything that’s going on Spencer and I are trading days off for a while. I’ll go in tomorrow. And Spencer will be here.”

“I have my very own personal bodyguard at all times.”

“Bodyguard’s.” Gage corrected. He motioned towards the window at his coaches who were on their way to the house from the gym. “There’s no one here that wont fuck that guy up if he steps foot on this property.”

“Huh.” Knox scoffed. “That’s an understatement.”

Not wanting to have the rest of the guys catch me in my mini dress, I looked at Knox. “So what do you think?”

“About what?” he asked, as he was pulled out of his thoughts.

“About my dress.”

His protective nature kicked in. “Oh! I don’t know Jayden, I...” he gave a heavy sigh. “Don’t you think it’s a little too short?”

Gage piped in. “Don’t let him fool you. There’s no such thing as too short.”

“Normally I would agree with you, but at this moment there is such a thing as too short. Besides, your opinion doesn’t count.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because you’re not her brother.”

“No,” Gage laughed, “I’m not, thank God.”

I placed my hand on my neck. I was smiling from the inside out. “I’m going to go change so we can go to the store.” I wasn’t yet comfortable wearing such things in public. Funny, how someone could go from posing in lingerie for photographers in the public streets of Paris, to not wanting to wear a simple dress to the store in her hometown. But knowing that Him was out there, how could I?

I glanced at Knox. He had a strange combination of confusion and complete annoyance written on his face. “That would be a good idea.” He pushed off the counter and left the room.

“Personally, I think you should wear what you’re wearing.” Gage gave me a quirky grin and pointed to the box’s on the counter. “D.B. Delise Berry, huh?”

“I’m surprised you know who that is.” And I was.

“Both my sisters back home love her stuff. I don’t think there’s anything of hers that they don’t own. Did you order anything else?” His voice was full of hope. As if he couldn’t wait to see me in them.

He peeked inside.

“I didn’t order these.” I replied. “Delise sent them to me as a bribe.”

He jolted back a little shocked. “You’re friends with her?”

“I am. I modeled for her for years until just recently.”

“I didn’t know you modeled.” He raked his eyes over me once again. “Makes sense though.”

Hearing the mingling voices of Gage’s coaches opening the front door, I pointed over my shoulder. “I need to change.”

“Right behind ya.”

When I reached my bedroom door, I felt a slight pressure on my hip and was turned around. All of a sudden my back was flush with the wall. His lips were on mine before I knew what was happening. They were just as I remembered. Full. Soft. And very addicting. My body shivered. My heart quickened. His hands cupped my cheeks and I savored how hot they were. The way he was eyeing me downstairs I expected him to kiss with force. But he didn’t. The hunger was there but I knew he was holding back for me. He didn’t want to push me too far too soon. And because of that it made this all more special. It was exactly what I needed.

I couldn’t help but wonder how he knew.

Our tongues mingled and I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t sure how long we stood there. I didn’t care. I was lost in the moment. My head spun.

Placing one last kiss on my lips, he pulled back. “I’ll be down in a minute. Right now I have to take a shower. A really fucking cold shower.”

* * *

I rummaged through the bin of oranges as Gage picked his way through the vegetable aisle. The faint giggles behind me caught my attention. Turning around, I set the plastic bag full of oranges into my cart and looked up. And there they stood. Two girls I had gone to school were clumped together as they watched Gage. Their whispers and current display was arid. One prepped her hair, the other slapped on heavy lip gloss, both in high hopes that he would take their notice.

It was as if I was standing in the hallway in junior high again.

“Jayden dear...”

The voice of Brock’s mother sent chills through me. Though her voice was sweet and endearing, the words that normally came out of her mouth were condescending and belittling. In some ways she reminded me of a snake. Sleek, beautiful and completely dangerous. Martha Davis was a sharp woman, at times rather overwhelming. Brock’s father, Dean, had been mayor for two years now which fit perfectly for Martha. As did her look. Her blonde hair ended just below her shoulders, her dark rimmed glasses were rectangular in shape. She stood about five-three and one hundred-thirty pounds. Her black and white pencil skirt suite was nicely fit. “Hello Mrs. Davis.” I was rather shocked to see her considering Brock was getting married in a few days last I heard. Not that I was keeping tabs.

“I’m a little surprised to see you here.” I admitted.

“I was pretty upset to hear about the split between you and Brock. Darling, I’m so sorry. I was rather looking forward to having you as a daughter in-law. And instead I’m stuck with the Scotts’ wretched child.”

“It’s for the best.” I seemed to muster.

“Jay I didn’t know you were back.” As Jamie came around my cart, he reached out and touched my arm.

I shrunk away and stepped back. His touch was light but it sent an unnerving sensation through my body. As if it would remove the feeling, I crossed my arms and rubbed my hands down across my sleeves

And I felt terrible for feeling the way I did.

‘Sorry’ sat on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t let it slip, for I hoped that he didn’t feel my slight. But by the light saddened smile he gave me, said he had.

“I didn’t expect you to come home right away. Normally you stay gone a while after the fights.” Jamie smiled. “You know...Party it up and all.”

“We decided to, um…We thought it best if we...” I couldn’t find the words. What was I to say anyway? That the sicko who attacked me was sending me texts and that was why I came home?

“We decided to—”

“Come back a little early.” Gage brushed Jamie’s arm as he set his bundles of vegetables in the cart. I can’t explain the amount of comfort that washed through me when Gage placed his hand on the small of my back.

By the questionable leer and shocked look from Jamie and Mrs. Davis, clearly it hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“And who are you?” Martha questioned.

Gage must have felt the slight tense when she asked the question and slid his hand up and down my spine.

“Gage Buchannan. I’m a friend of her brothers.” With his one hand occupied, he offered the other.

Snubbing him, Mrs. Davis derided. “Well isn’t that nice.” Removing her glasses, she kept them in hand as she motioned between the two of us. “I see you have managed to make yourself at home.”

“It’s a friendly town.” Gage replied.

“I’ll relay the message to my husband. He’s the Mayor of the town you know.”

“And what an accomplishment he’s made to be sure.”

There wasn’t a soul standing here that could smell his mockery. She placed her hand upon Jamie’s shoulder. “This is my son Jamie. He’s a sheriff here in town.”

“No kidding.”

Martha tightened her lips.

I, on the other hand, bit the inside of mine.

Gage turned his attention to Jamie. “So how long have you been in the field?”

Jamie straightened his stance. Taking a solid grip of his belt, he hiked his pants and set his hands on his hips. “I’m going on five years.” He said proudly.

Mrs. Davis spoke up. “Well darling I hate to cut it short, but we really must be off.”

“I’ll see you around, Jayden.” Jamie replied.

“See ya.” I smiled. Waiting until they were out of hearing distance I spun around and grabbed him by the hem of his shirt. “I don’t know what made you come over here but I can’t thank you enough.”

“I came over here because you looked like a rabbit caught in a snare.”

“I wasn’t aware that it was so telling.” I replied off set.

“You wear your feeling’s on your sleeve. Besides, there’s no reason to hide whether you’re comfortable around someone or not. If you’re not, you’re not, and to hell if they don’t like it.”


Knox tossed a family pack of Ritz into the cart. “So what did the old hag want? Sell her condolences?”

I dropped the hold I had on Gage’s shirt. “Knox!”

“I thought she was nice myself.” Gage jested.

“Ha! Brock’s mother is a venomous snake.” Knox laughed. “Kierra’s a mirror image of her. She’ll fit in nicely with her new mother-in-law.”

“That was your ex’s mother?” Gage tossed his thumb over his shoulder. “That explains why she didn’t like me. For a second there I thought it was just my charm.”

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