Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The Commodore held Lauren’s hand and studied the ring on her finger. He cut a sharp glance to me, then Lauren, and back to me. She didn’t notice. She went right on guzzling her margarita as if the Commodore wasn’t trying to vaporize me with his glare.
“That’s quite the rock,” he said. “Only two reasons a man buys something like that: he’s making up for shortcomings or asking forgiveness.”
The unspoken question lingered over the table while a mariachi band played holiday tunes, circulating through the resort’s restaurant.
“My sister, Erin, helped me pick it out,” I said, reaching for my water glass. “She’s a geologist. She actually talked me out of a larger stone. Erin said this one,” I nodded to Lauren’s hand, still in the Commodore’s grip. “Was flawless. Perfect. Rare. And I knew it was the one for Lauren.”
The Commodore stared at me, his expression clearly articulating his contempt for my response. And as much as I disliked this exercise, I expected it. Lauren had told me more than a few stories about her absurdly protective father and brothers, and I was the guy they’d never met.
The guy who intended to marry his daughter.
Lauren twisted her hand free to intercept another margarita. “Gracias,” she said.
“Well I think it’s beautiful,” Judy, my future mother-in-law, said. She patted my arm and offered a bright smile. It was nice knowing I had an ally at the table. “What are you thinking for the wedding? Any ideas? Wouldn’t San Diego be wonderful?”
Lauren turned to me with a sweet, bewildered look on her face, and she shrugged. “We haven’t talked about that yet.”
Between burying my father and making the last-minute trip to Mexico, there hadn’t been time for much of anything. Boston was getting hit with one blizzard after another, and that made the business of restoring homes almost impossible. Half of Lauren’s apartment was packed and ready to relocate to my loft, but we didn’t know what to do about the rest of it. And we were stepping around the topics of weddings and marriage, as if this trip to Mexico was necessary to finalize our engagement.
“That’s not much of a surprise,” the Commodore barked. “Did he get you pregnant?”
“Oh, my God,” Lauren said. “Give me a little credit!”
I expected that, too. At least there wasn’t a shotgun pointed at my head.
“Goddamn it, Bill!” Judy cried. “It’s Christmas Eve. Be a civilized person or go back to the room.”
Over the rim of her glass, Lauren’s gaze pinged between me and her father. His eyebrows lifted before focusing on the pilsner glass to his right.
“You’re in architecture,” Bill said. “You’re successful in that field.”
It was a statement, a comment delivered with the cool authority of well-researched fact.
“We’ve done well for ourselves,” I said.
“That’s an understatement,” Lauren snorted. Her words ran together, slurring just a bit at the end. She waved a hand in my direction and dropped it on my thigh, and I figured I’d be carrying her back to our casita. “Matthew is brilliant. He and his family, they have a client waiting list five pages long. They’re in all the architecture and design magazines; they’re featured at all these prestigious events. They’re beyond successful, Dad. You should see what he’s done with my school.”
Lauren kneaded my leg, squeezing my hamstring through my trousers. Her thumb, that sweet little thumb, passed back and forth over my inner thigh, and I swallowed a growl.
She was such a handsy drunk, and I loved that about her. But right now, at this moment, in this restaurant, I didn’t need to think about Lauren crawling under the table and sucking my cock. Or my hand sliding beneath her gauzy red sundress. Or clumsy, drunk sex on the floor of our beachfront casita.
Not with Commodore Halsted staring at me as if he could read all my perverted thoughts about his daughter.
“I called in a few favors at the Agency,” he said.
Oh God, please tell me we are not talking about the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Ran an extensive background check on you.”
Yep, that agency.
“Dad!” Lauren said, slapping my leg in concert with her shout.
“William,” Judy groaned. “We talked about this. You’re being a weirdo!”
What would that produce? Tax returns, parking tickets, college transcripts? I wasn’t associated with the mafia. I’d never texted pictures of my dick to anyone. I wasn’t running a fight club from my loft. The only skeleton in my closet was my father, and he was good and dead now.
“And you participate in triathlons.”
I didn’t expect that one. Maybe he was thinking I could run, swim, or bike back to Boston tonight.
“Not just triathlons,” Lauren said. “Those crazy Ironman competitions like Will and Wes.”
She was disappointed that her brothers were still deployed on top secret missions and weren’t joining us for the holiday, but I was relieved I was only facing unfriendly fire from only one Halsted.
“I usually get a few miles in each day. Up for a run in the morning?” Bill asked. “Maybe some ocean swimming? You can’t get much of that in Boston.”
Feats of strength. Perfect. Why couldn’t I just let him win a round golf?
“Definitely,” I said.
“Good,” the Commodore said, smiling. “Looking forward to it.”
Yeah. I’d be lucky if I didn’t have to wrestle a pod of humpback whales tomorrow.
“That went well,” Lauren said as the door closed behind us.
She kicked off her sandals and headed for the bathroom. I seized the opportunity to bang my head against the casita’s door.
“I mean, overall, it wasn’t bad,” she called.
I banged my head again.
“Yeah, sweetness, if I had seven margaritas, I’d be saying the same thing.” I nursed a single beer through dinner. Didn’t seem wise to meet my future in-laws while rocked off my ass on the best tequila Mexico could offer. “Which part went well? When your father announced that he had me investigated? Or when he suggested that your engagement ring was intended to make up for a small dick? Or maybe the fact he glared at me for three straight hours like he was trying to decide how to kill me?”
“But my mother loved you.” Lauren leaned against the door frame and gestured with her toothbrush. “Give him some time. He’s surprised. We’ve been in Cabo for like eight hours and he just met you. You’ll grow on him.”
She vanished behind the bathroom door, and I flopped onto a wide leather chair in the living room. Moonlight sparkled on the Pacific no more than twenty feet away, and I exhaled. The worst of it was over, the ‘hi, how are you, I’m Matt and I’m marrying your daughter’ was behind us. Now I just needed to survive the next ten days.
But I couldn’t relax. I’d been on edge for the past month, but this—this tension gnawing at the base of my skull—was different.
“Hey,” Lauren murmured as she approached. Her hands dropped to my shoulders. “Everything is going to be fine. There’s no bite to his bark. You know that, right?”
I nodded, and closed my eyes while her fingers teased apart the bunched, knotted muscles. Several quiet minutes passed, and her ring tickled my earlobe, catalyzing my tension into hunger.
This is what I need right now. She is what I need.
“Bedroom,” I murmured.
Standing, I caught Lauren around the waist, tossed her over my shoulder, and marched out of the living room.
“Is this some kind of Walsh family holiday tradition?” she asked.
“No,” I said. Her sundress was over her head on the ground before her ass hit the bed. “This is me taking what’s mine.”
I stripped down and crawled onto the bed, stalking Lauren until she reclined against the bank of pillows. There was no mistaking her heavy-lidded gaze or the way her breathing hitched when I dragged my cock along her leg. I ran my nose across her shoulder, up and down her neck, between her breasts, surrendering to the staggering pull I felt toward her.
“Tell me what you want,” she whispered against my ear.
Hooking my fingers in her panties—God, those lacy creations were going to give me a heart attack one of these days—I drew them down her legs and over my shoulder. Her bra was next, but instead of yanking it off, I twisted her wrists in the straps.
“What are you doing?” she giggled.
“You’re all mine, sweetness.” With her hands positioned over her head and blessedly bound, I smiled. “But if you touch me right now, I’ll explode. Don’t even think about moving.”
Lauren laughed beneath me, her body vibrating with loose, drunken giggles that spiked desire through my veins. “And what would be wrong with that?”
“Ordinarily? Nothing. But right now?” I licked each of her nipples, leaving them taut and shiny. “I’m in charge. You basically gave me a hand job under the table while your father was plotting my execution. And I had to sit next to you while you wore that little dress, and I wanted to lean over and lick your tits every forty-one seconds. So now I’m tormenting you.”
“Oh really?” Nodding, Lauren curled her leg around my waist, locking me against her center. Instinct had me grinding on her, and I realized I was probably the one who required the restraints.
Sometimes, Matthew’s eyes shifted between several shades of blue. They brightened when he was happy and laughing, almost a cornflower color. While he worked and solved problems, they tended toward grayish slate. And now, even with his head bent over my breasts, I knew they were nearly midnight blue, dark and serious as intensity consumed him.
Drinks and dinner with my parents was rough. Matthew was quite accustomed to being one of the most affable Walsh brothers, and he didn’t know the first thing about being the least popular guy in the room. But he held his own and took the best my father could give without breaking a sweat.
Now I figured we’d get naked and forget all about it.
“We told your parents that we’re engaged,” he murmured against my belly button. I needed him a few inches lower, I needed those tiny kisses and licks and bites where I was aching for him.
“Mmhmm. And look, my father didn’t castrate you. I’m really pleased about that.”
Matthew glanced up at me with a rueful smile. “So when do I get to marry you?”
For a full day after I said yes, I wrestled with gravity. I couldn’t determine whether I was floating ten feet off the ground or flattened by the weight of this decision. I assumed responsibility for arranging Angus’s funeral, and that busy work provided the cover necessary to panic without anyone noticing.
But it wasn’t panic, not exactly.
It was realizing that Matthew was part of me, and I was part of him, and not only did we want each other but we needed each other. Sure, we knew how to kick ass on our own, but doing it with him was the only option worth considering.
And maybe that was where the gravity pushed and pulled, because it was never a choice; it was always Matthew and me. While he arrived at the conclusion more quickly that I did, I was there, and I was owning the shit out of it now.
I grinned, my leg tightening around his waist. He was erect and ready, the hot weight of his cock sliding over me, just waiting for the right moment. “When do you want to marry me?”
He dipped to my chest and took a nipple in his mouth while his hips moved against me, urgent and impatient. I could translate his touches, his movements, and I knew he was going to fuck me hard and fast, and I knew he wasn’t waiting much longer.
With his mouth on my breast, he said, “As soon as you’ll let me. I know you probably want—”
“Is tomorrow too soon?”
I felt his lips curve into a smile, and he wrapped his arms around me, my breath vanishing as he squeezed my ribs. I didn’t want to talk about this without my hands on him, and I laced my arms around his neck, urging all his weight onto me.
And then he bit the underside of my breast.
I couldn’t explain why his teeth drove me wild or why the bolt of pain electrified my desire. The sensation had me arching off the bed, moaning, begging for more. For his fingers, his mouth, his cock—anything, everything. All of him for all of me.
“Oh, sweetness,” Matthew growled. “You drive me so fucking crazy.”
“But you love me.”
He nodded, shifting until he was there, pushing inside me. “And you love me.”
“More than I can even explain,” I whispered. He anchored my legs around his waist and thrust forward, filling me. Goosebumps spread out across my skin, every tingle gathering, aligning in my center. I felt him everywhere, stretching me, owning me, adoring me.
A sob caught in my throat, and I wanted to remember every ounce of this moment, every drop of warmth radiating from us. I wanted to keep it in a safe place alongside his bites and growls forever.
It was overwhelming and suffocating and perfect.
“We did it all backwards,” Matthew groaned. Each word was punctuated with rough thrusts that had me seeing stars.
“That doesn’t mean it was wrong,” I said.
He pulled all the way out, watching his body separate from mine before snapping forward, then repeating the process. Matthew slipped two fingers into my mouth and growled, his eyes narrowing and head falling back as I sucked.
“I want to do this right. A real wedding,” he said.
His fingers retreated from my mouth and he fastened them to my clit. “We’ll do the wedding thing, and then we’ll do the marriage thing.”
His lips were on me, all over my throat, my mouth, and his kisses mixed with my obscene words and filthy requests and promises of a forever we’d create. There was nothing to hold back, not anymore.
“And I’m going to build you that house. And we’ll have a dog and babies, and we’re going to do it right.”
He lifted my hips higher and—oh God, oh fuck, oh yes yes yes yes—his eyes held mine for a heavy moment before leaning down and kissing me, swallowing my moans as he drove deeper.
“I can’t wait, sweetness. I need you with me.”
His fingers dug into me, pulling at my hips and shoulders, demanding everything, and I didn’t want to deny him anything, ever. Teeth scraped over my nipples, and tiny explosions erupted under my skin, each one triggering another. The waves of my orgasm crashed over me, spreading, multiplying until I was dissolving in Matthew’s arms.
He stilled, his body rigid while he roared against my shoulder. It was my turn to hold him tight, and I squeezed my legs around his waist, keeping him deep inside me.
“Holy fuck, Lauren,” he groaned. “You’re going to kill me. And I’m going to enjoy it.”
We stayed there, panting and clinging to each other, still joined.
“Memorial Day,” I murmured. “On Cape Cod. But I don’t want to wear a white dress. Maybe yellow. Or pink.”
Matthew lifted his head from the crook of my shoulder, running his thumb over my kiss-swollen lips with a smile. “That’s when I can marry you?” I nodded and sucked his thumb into my mouth. “Okay. Wear whichever color you want, sweetness. I’ll be there.”
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Walsh.”
Matthew’s lips curled into a devious smile. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Walsh.”