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“But I have more than just myself to think about now,” I say. “Emma. I have Emma. She doesn’t know about any of this. I want to protect her as much as I can.”

“It complicates things, but not by much,” he says. “For now, just lay low. We’ll keep our guards up, because I doubt they’re done looking for you. They’ll be here soon enough.”

“They’ve got guns,” I say.

“And we know these forests like the back of our hands,” he smiles. “Shit, man. These hands of mine are considered assault weapons by the State of Colorado. If they get anywhere near me, I’ll knock their jaws out of place.”

Fat chance going against a real assault weapon. Still, his enthusiasm is getting me pretty fucking riled up. “It’s us Payne brothers, back in the ring again?” I ask.

He gives an announcer-style voice, “And now, Gabe and Soren Payne, up against the hardest gang in Buffalo, New York!” We both laugh even though this whole thing is clearly fucked. “Man, they won’t know what hit them. Don’t worry. Just keep your house locked and devise an escape plan if they come. I’ll install cameras at your place. I’ll keep a lookout as much as I can. That’s the best we can do.”

“And Emma?” I ask him. “What the hell do I do about telling her?”

“That’s your business,” he laughs. “All I can say is that if you lie, you’ll end up with worse than what these Good Boys will do to you.”

“Truer words have not been spoken,” I laugh.

I leave it at that. I give him a hug and I’m on my way back home. When I finally get back, I head up to my porch. I haven’t seen Emma yet and I need to get ready. I take one step onto my porch and notice a piece of paper taped right to my door. I grab it and hold it up to the light. It reads: “They’re coming for you, but I can help. Call me.” There’s a number on the bottom of the sheet.

Yep. I’m fucked.

Emma

Tonight, I’m wearing the sexiest dress I can find. Red, tight around the hips, and practically screaming, “I’m the hottest woman in the room.” Well, I’ll be the only woman in the room tonight, but still.

In my head, I know I should probably listen to Harry. What’s going to happen if this does turn serious? Ugh, the thought of that makes me nauseous. Serious. I didn’t come out to Denver to try and further my love relationships. I came out here for a job that I mean to do well with.

Soren. He’s better than all the other guys. He’s moody, brooding, and dark, sure. But, he’s loyal, sexy as hell, and refuses to give into anybody but himself. Plus, I really think he might be ready to set out on a different path, one that might benefit him in the long run.

Maybe I can help him. Maybe we can set off on that path together. Okay, but what’s going to happen when I bring him to the Christmas work parties? Is Harry going to fire me or put me on his shit list? Well, if that’s the case, fuck Harry and fuck Johannson Publishing. I don’t need them anyway. In the end, I only need myself… and maybe Soren.

There’s a knock on my door. I turn around, heart beating a million beats per second. What’s happening to me? I’ve never been this freaked out over a guy before. I have to remember, he’s a great fuck and he’s fun to be around, but he’s not untouchable or anything. I can’t let myself be consumed.

I open the door and immediately I’m staring at his crotch. Oh god! I’m staring at his crotch! “Jesus, you look amazing,” he says. I force my eyes upward and he’s looking at my tits. God! He’s looking at my tits!

“You too,” I say. He’s not wearing a suit this time, but he’s wearing a tight shirt and a fresh pair of work boots. He’s just so fucking big, in the best way. Every time I look at him, it makes me want to behave badly, just so he can toss me around for a bit.

“I brought you flowers,” he says, pulling a small bouquet of sunflowers out from behind his back. “And a kiss for the lady.”

Our lips meet and my world comes crashing down all around me. Rubble, smoke, cinder, and cement fragments fall around us, yet nothing can stop us from enjoying the things we’ve been yearning for. Forget the flowers. I want him.

When I open my eyes, everything is back to normal, except for the fact that there’s a stupid smile glued on my face. He tastes like… man. Like, a fine whiskey, aged in a barrel, somewhere in the Kentucky forests. He holds me and it’s better than anything in the world. I feel safe. I feel protected. I feel like someone is watching out for me, for once in my life.


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