“I’m sorry,” I say.
“Don’t apologize,” all of the Carters say at the same time.
“All right, boys. I think we should get back into the pool then have dessert,” Cherie declares loudly, making her way to my Jeep to open the door for them. “You’re on break now, aren’t you?” she asks them.
“Yes,” Dean answers, hopping out first.
“That mean we can stay over?” Logan asks.
“I think that’s a brilliant idea.” Rick winks my way as he leads Cherie and the boys back into the house, leaving Tyson and me all alone.
“That was the most embarrassing experience of my life. I’m sorry your parents had to see that.” I bury my face in his chest. Both of his parents are still being so sweet. It’s no wonder Tyson is such a good man.
“The only person that should be embarrassed here is Sheila. It’s no secret how she is, babe. I don’t understand why you’d ever be embarrassed. What you get up and do every day for your family speaks to the person you are. I’ve always seen that. It’s part of why I love you so damn much.”
There is no stopping the tears from coming now. I lift my head to stare up at him.
“We both know what’s important in life. You’d give everything you have to protect those boys. You have given everything. You’ve sacrificed so much.” He wipes the tears from my cheek. “Don’t run from me anymore. I want to be in this with you. Let me,” he pleads. I slip my hands up his chest, wrapping them around his neck.
“No more running.” I break. It’s easy when you find someone you know will pick up the pieces. “This isn’t me agreeing to marry you,” I quickly add as I fight a smirk. “Not until I know how you are in bed at least.”
“Then we better get on it.” He grabs me by my ass, lifting me off my feet. I should tell him to put me down. His parents might see. But then he kisses me, and like always when his mouth meets mine, I’m lost in the best of ways.
I wantto take Rory inside and make love to her like she deserves, but with her brothers here and my parents watching over everyone, there won’t be a better opportunity for me to take care of business. I set my girl down and brush her hair out of her eyes. “I’ve got to go and do something with Sterling. Stay here with the boys and my parents.”
“Tonight?” She’s disappointed but not suspicious.
“It won’t take long. Keep my parents occupied, will you?” Her lips are wet and plump and shiny in the fading sunlight.
“Is it a Christmas present for them?”
“It’s a Christmas present,” I agree and kiss her again—not so much to distract her but because her mouth is irresistible. She doesn’t mind. She kisses me back, hooks her leg around my hip, and tries to climb me like a tree, which makes me regret having to put her down again. “Hold all of those thoughts. I’ll be back soon and will want to try out all the things we didn’t talk about doing to each other.”
“What about the things we did talk about?” she says, wiping a finger across her thumb and then sucking on it, like she’s trying to absorb my taste.
Fuck. That’s hot. I sway toward her, only managing to catch myself at the last second. Straightening, I give her a pat on her ass and direct her inside. “Parents. Pool. Distract.” I can only manage the one word at a time since my mind is in the gutter, envisioning myself inserting my hard cock between her ripe lips.
She goes inside without any more questions, giving me a little finger wave as she disappears inside the front door. When I can’t see her anymore, I jog toward the garage and climb into an old pickup that my dad uses to haul manure for Mom’s garden. Its bed is dirty, and the wheels are almost bare, but I’m not using it for those reasons. The best feature is that there aren’t any license plates on this beater. They expired years ago, and since Dad only uses the truck occasionally, he hasn’t bothered to replace them.
I text Sterling that he’s my excuse. He sends me a thumbs-up in reply. Sheila’s dealer slash boyfriend lives in the next county over, which is twenty minutes away. I pass by Astor’s farm and wave at Cane, who is sitting in his truck staring moodily at the fence line. Glad to see I’m not the last man standing. I don’t know if Cane is ever going to win Astor’s daddy over, and Astor, well, you can’t blame her for not leaving her dad in his condition.
There’s a patch of land just on the border between Edison and Cactus Ridge. On it sits four trailers and one double-wide. Until a couple of years ago, three generations of Pembles lived here. Then old man Pemble died, and the son, who had a disability from the war, decided to move in with his daughter down in El Paso. The youngest Pemble sold the land to put himself through college.
No one knew who bought it until a group of bikers showed up. County records say the title holder is 1PC which, according to my uncle, is for One Per Center. It’s basically a gang. They’ve been quiet, although everyone knows they’re running drugs here. Basically, that means they can be bought.
I’m not taking out the whole crew. I just want to buy one man.
I attach my camera to the dashboard and turn it to face the front door of the double-wide. I throw the duffel bag over my shoulder and climb out the driver’s side.
The sounds of a football game slide through the gaps between the metal wall of the trailer and the door frame. I pound on the door to make sure I can be heard over the television. The TV cuts off, and then I hear boots stomping against linoleum. The door creaks open a half-inch, and a weathered face pokes out.
“I’m here to make a purchase.”