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Guarding Her: A Secret Baby Romance
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Guarding her is my duty.
Avery is a nightmare.
Guarding her is a 77k standalone novel with lots of steam, a hot hero, and a feisty redheaded heroine! For a limited time, Guarding Her includes bonus content from author Lexi Whitlow. Enjoy!
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Seven Years Ago
Tonight, I’m asking Avery Thomas to move away with me. Mexico. It’s a hell of a drive, but I just had the oil changed in my pick-up.
I have it all worked out. MapQuest directions printed. I sent them to Avery last night, but there wasn’t a response. I’m hoping that means she’s down and just couldn’t get back to me. Maybe she’s scared her parents will find out.
I’ve got it all planned. It’s beautiful down there at this time of year. Gray whales. Avery likes whales. And the sea.
It’s a good plan. A good idea.
We’ll leave downtown San Francisco as soon as the crowds clear, and we can take the old highway down to Big Sur, camp by the beach. Or stay with my brother’s friend—he has a bed and breakfast right by the shore. He might have a spare room.
Avery is a virgin, I think. That’s what she said when we were sitting on her parents’ roof three weeks ago. Avery had consumed half a bottle of Boone’s Farm by that point, and we’d both smoked three or four clove cigarettes I stole from my brother and half a joint that Avery picked up from her friend Ella. I think that’s what she meant when she said she’d never done anything with a guy before.
Her parents didn’t ever let her out of the house—that’s probably why.
Funny how they’re not here tonight. They’re at some rally for Avery’s asshole mom, fucking Evelyn Thomas. And Richard is right there with her. You’d think a career politician and her military husband might give a damn about their daughter delivering the salutatorian speech at her own damn high school graduation, but apparently fucking not.
Here I am. The only person in Avery’s reserved row.
Because nothing is about Avery. It’s always about Evelyn.
I watched Avery walk across the stage alone, orange-red hair falling over her face in waves. Her bright blue eyes glinted in my direction when she took her diploma, but her expression was blank. She was looking for her parents. I listened to her speech, which was better than the valedictorian’s speech by a long shot. And I’m standing here by the exit, waiting for her. There are three or four guys trying to chat her up, and there are at least five of her girlfriends flitting around her like moths around a flame.
She’s all fire and elegance. High cheekbones and red-tipped eyelashes, cool clear skin and a smattering of freckles across her nose. There are freckles on her shoulders too. I noticed that three Fridays ago when we smoked and drank, and she fell asleep in my lap. I wanted to touch her, trace my finger over the hollow in her neck, her pulse flickering like a butterfly’s wings as she slept.
But I didn’t. I leaned back on my hands, trying to will my cock to lie low. I concentrated so hard that I didn’t notice when she woke, until she spoke my name softly. Full pink lips forming the sounds.
Maddox, why don’t you kiss me? I’ve been waiting all night.
“Avery!” I cup my hands to my mouth and shout in her direction. She turns at me and smiles, but the joy in that expression doesn’t reach her eyes.
“One second,” she shouts back. One of the guys puts an arm around her shoulder, and her friend Ella pulls her back towards the stage. I hear some rumblings about a party, and knowing Avery, I bet someone will talk her into it.
I shuffle from side to side, anxiety building in my gut. I shove my hand in my army jacket, checking for the directions. I find them, pat them.
I watch Avery as she disappears with her gaggle of friends behind the bleachers set up on the graduation stage. I can hear the peals of her laughter. Is it fake or real? I can’t tell.
I know underneath it, she’s hurting. I can read it on her. Back when I was in college, the teacher in my freshman psych class told us that adult children of alcoholics can read micro-expressions. I can. Fuck. I spent my childhood trying to read my dad to see if he was in a good drunk mood or a real shitty one. My safety depended on it. So did my brother’s.
I take a pack of cigarettes out of my coat pocket. There are seven still in there. Enough to make it to Los Angeles, maybe. I’ll quit then. I take one and put it in my mouth, clenching it between my teeth. My eyes are still glued to the stage. I see a burst of bright red hair every now and again. I can almost taste the tobacco, but I don’t light it yet.
A hand claps me on the shoulder, nearly making me jump out of my skin.
“You can’t smoke those things in here, son.”