One step closer a stepbr.., p.29
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       One Step Closer: A stepbrother, stand-alone novel., p.29

           Kahlen Aymes

  His eyes met hers unflinchingly, and his hand stroked the back of her head again. It was so soft, like a feather touch and it was all she could do not to melt into him. “But, I knew you looked to me to protect you, and I couldn’t even protect you from myself.”

  “I’m glad it happened, Cale.”

  His arms tightened and she laid her head back down on his shoulder. The arm she laid across his midsection reached for his hand and they threaded their fingers together. Caleb felt the last piece of deceit between them vanish. “God, it feels good to finally tell you the truth. We belong together, bird.”

  Despite his actions of the night before and now, Wren needed clarification about the status of his relationship with Macy. She wanted to tell him she was in love with him, but not until she knew for sure it was over between them.

  “What about Macy?”

  He shook his head again, his brow furrowing seriously. It wouldn’t be easy to tell her that his relationship with Macy was fairly new, and still convince Wren that he was in love with her. “At the risk of sounding like a dick, Macy and I were casual. We met at a time when I needed money to start my design firm and she had connections. One thing led to another and we dated; it was fun for a while, but it wasn’t serious.”

  “Does Macy feel that way?” Wren was well aware the other woman felt threatened, otherwise, she wouldn’t have done and said the things she had. She desperately wanted to tell Caleb, but decided not to add insult to injury. Macy was about to lose any chance with Caleb and that was punishment enough. “Intimacy changes things for a woman.” Wren hoped he understood her double entendre. “She traveled across half of the country to be here for you.”

  “I didn’t ask her to. When I was leaving, it was more of an annoyance than emotionally painful. Honestly, I just wanted to get it over with.”

  “She just showed up, then?”

  “No, I knew she was coming, but I didn’t initiate it. Wren, I told her that she and I don’t have a future together. I’m moving here and she has a life on the west coast. That’s that.”

  Her fingers stilled on his chest when he didn’t say what she wanted to hear. “I’m sure she’d move if you asked her to.”

  Impatience erupted inside Caleb. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss Macy. “Probably, but obviously, I have other plans.”

  “Does she suspect it has anything to do with me?”

  “Macy is a lot of things, Wren, but stupid isn’t one of them.”

  Wren pulled out of his arms and sat up in the bed next to him. Calm settled over Caleb and he reached out to take her hand in his.

  “I don’t want to feel like you’re sacrificing everything for me. You deserve to have your design firm, Cale. Maybe Jonathan still has the other version of the will. If it all comes to you, will you be able to sell everything, now? Then you can stop worrying about me.”

  Her heart was breaking but she owed it to him to think of him first.

  “What makes you think I can stop worrying about you?”

  “You can try.”

  His face twisted in frustration. Why was she doing this? “No, I can’t, and we burned the other version so the will stays as it is.”

  “Why, Cale?”

  “Your reptilian mother is just looking for anything she can use as a way to contest the will. But mostly, because I need to make sure you’re taken care of, with or without me. Which you should already know!”

  Wren smiled into the darkness, and Caleb saw the flash of her white teeth. “Okay, don’t get upset. What happens now?”

  “I have to go to San Francisco for a few weeks, and Jonathan will step in until I can come back.”

  “When are you leaving?”

  “That depends on you. When do you have to be back in New York?”

  “We have rehearsals for the next show that start in a week. I have a contract until the end of the year, but then I can leave the company.”

  “As much as I’d love having you close to home, I can’t let you give up dancing, Bird. That’s not what this is about.”

  “Why should you be the one to always make the sacrifice? Besides, who says I have to give it up? I can dance here.” Her career meant a lot to her, but what mattered most was being with Caleb. “Denver has a company, right?”

  Caleb reached up and ran his index finger down her cheek in a loving caress. Her skin was like velvet beneath his touch, and his heart was full of love and anticipation for the future; a future he never let himself imagine was possible.

  “We don’t have to decide everything tonight.” He lifted her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist, where the white horse tattoo covered her scars. “You stop arguing and kiss me.” He brushed his lips softly back and forth over her tender skin.

  Tingles ran over her skin starting from where he was kissing the inside of her wrist and then goose bumps spread out in delicious waves over her whole body.

  Wren sidled up closer, and then bent forward at her waist and placed a soft, slow kiss on his mouth. Caleb’s mouth came alive the second her lips touched his and he sat up, both hands coming to cup her head as he took charge. His open mouth slanted across hers and soon their tongues were waging a passionate war with each other as the kiss became deeper.

  “I’ve been dying to do that all day,” he ground out as his mouth teased hers, unwilling to break contact completely. “Mmmmm. You taste so good.”

  Wren’s fingers brushed the soft stubble on his jaw just before Caleb leaned back and pulled her on top of him. He wanted her, there was no question she was aware of it. It was clear that Wren shared his feelings. His hardness was full and pressing into the softness of her stomach, as his hips pushed into hers and their legs tangled together under the covers.

  “I want you,” he said in an almost whisper, going in for another kiss, though he kept this one more reserved. He was conscious that they still had a lot of things to iron out.

  Wren wanted to lose herself in him, anxious to have his mouth on hers, his hard body pressing and owning hers, but she hesitated. “Me, too, but Macy is downstairs, Caleb.”

  Caleb’s arms tightened around her as she sprawled over him and he willed his body to stop its quest for hers. “I know.” He kissed her temple. “I promise, sex wasn’t my intention when I came up here. I just wanted to check on you and maybe sleep with you.”

  Wren let out a soft laugh. “Sleep, huh? That must explain why you’re almost completely naked in my bed.”

  “Can’t blame a guy for trying. I can be fully naked if you want me to be.” He smiled and kissed the side of her neck in a series of delicious and very delicate kisses designed to seduce her despite his words or good intentions.

  “I’m helpless with you, but aren’t you tired? Plus, Macy—”

  Wren snuggled into him, and Caleb’s hands slid down her back and came to rest on top of her butt. He could see her logic, but he was reluctant to go to his own room. “Quiet. She knows I want to be with you. That was the whole point behind dinner with her.”

  Relief flooded through Wren. She could tell him about the way Macy had invaded her rooms and harassed her, but what was the point? Caleb had just said he wanted to be with her and they were some of the most beautiful words she’d ever heard. “How’d she take it?”

  “She did fine,” he dismissed. He didn’t want to talk about Macy, Veronica, the funeral, Lux, or anything else. It helped that he wasn’t convinced Macy was motivated purely by emotion. “I made my point. That’s what matters.”

  Wren kissed the underside of Caleb’s jaw and he started kneading her back. She wanted to tell him she loved him, but it was enough to be wrapped up safe and tight in his arms, warm in her bed and secure in the knowledge that they were choosing each other.

  “Wren?” Caleb paused. His instincts picked up on her sudden sadness. “Aren’t you happy? I don’t care about any of it… all I want is you, and to know that you’re happy.”

  She dropped her head to his shoulder and closed her eyes. He w
as so perfect. “I am. I’ll just miss you, Cale.”

  “I’ve missed you for ten years.” He rolled her over roughly, finally giving up his intention to stop himself from making love to her. “Let’s not miss each other tonight,” he said seriously as he started to make love to her. He touched her with reverence and awe, took his time kissing every inch as he slowly undressed her, and reveled in the soft sounds she made as he pleasured her with his mouth and hands.

  There was nothing between them now; not time, distance, half-truths, pain or misunderstandings and he wanted to keep it that way. Caleb found himself grateful to his father for the first time in his life. The choice Edison had forced on him had conjured up everything he could ever want. This amazing, beautiful woman he’d always loved still trusted him unconditionally. She made him feel prouder, and stronger than he’d ever been. With her by his side, he was invincible.

  All conversation stopped as he pushed into her willing body. Her flesh was hot and tight as she stretched to accommodate his size. He couldn’t tell if the ecstasy came from her body or the way he loved her and it didn’t matter. Their hands and mouths were desperate and clinging as they explored and devoured each other in insatiable desire, the longing almost unbearable. He moved on her and inside her, played her body like an instrument, and the closer he got, he still wanted more. The room fell silent except for panting breaths, sighs, and soft moans as love and pleasure started the slow build that Caleb controlled.

  “I love you, Wren.” He’d wanted to admit that to her for years and now there was no holding back. His body dug deeper into hers in long slow thrusts that drew out answering surges from her hips. It was like the most perfect dance Wren could ever imagine was playing out between them.

  “Jesus, I love you so much. Promise you’ll never leave me,” he breathed against her mouth between kisses.

  Emotion overtook her as his words registered a split second before he swooped and took her mouth in another hungry kiss. He tasted so good, and she was starving for him.

  Her fingers curled into the flesh of his back, her arms and legs wound around him as tears filled her eyes. Her hips surged against his, her insides clamping down to hold him tighter. She wanted to get closer to his body, to let him feel what he meant to her; to melt right into him as love made her fall apart in his arms. “Oh, Cale. Oh, my God.” Her voice cracked and she couldn’t breathe. “I love you so much, it almost hurts.”

  Caleb was overwhelmed, even as his orgasm started to overtake him, his eyes started to burn and his chest felt like it would explode. It took a lot for Caleb to let down his guard, but he trusted Wren and with her, he could crack open. With her, vulnerability wasn’t wrapped in risk; it brought the biggest gift of his life.

  He turned and kissed her temple, as his eyes closed and he poured into her. “I know, Wren. Uhggggg,” he groaned deeply. His body jerked and heaved against hers as he came hard. “It’s painful as hell, but it’s so amazing.”

  His arms were tight around her and he rolled on to his back, taking her with him as she fell apart around him; her flesh convulsing and quivering, pulling on his. His chest was heaving with the intensity of their lovemaking and the love that threatened to suffocate him. He could feel her hot tears fall onto the skin of his shoulder and neck, mixed with the warm rush of her breath as she struggled for control. They had just laid beautiful and passionate claim on each other and now, still wrapped tightly in each other’s arms, his body still buried in hers, they stilled. Only their breathing came down slowly, and the thin sheen of perspiration covering their skin started to evaporate, making Wren shiver. She was on top and half of her body was bare to the air, so he bent slightly to grab the edge of the comforter to pull it up over her.

  The fingers of one of his hands threaded through hers and his other soothed in long strokes down her back as she remained where she was on top of him. He knew she was crying and he blinked quickly to keep his own eyes from tearing up. Caleb wished he never had to move from her bed for the rest of his life.

  “There’s no going back for us. Promise me, Wren. He said it again, his voice growing thick. “I could lose everything and anyone and live through it, but I can’t lose you.”

  She closed her eyes as her heart squeezed hard inside her chest. She never thought she’d hear more beautiful words. “I promise, Cale.”

  He relaxed against her, though his arms still held her close. Wren’s head rested on his chest below his chin, and she could feel him breathe and hear his heart thunder under her ear, proof that he was alive and that he loved her.

  “You won’t lose me. Ever.”

  When Wren woke and made her way down to the kitchen, she found Jonesy had already started her day. A big bowl of fresh bread dough was covered with a linen towel and left to rise on the counter while the old woman puttered around cleaning up after herself. She was softly humming as she wiped down the cabinets and countertops. She offered Wren a glorious smile when the young woman walked into the kitchen.

  “You look happy today, Jonesy!”

  “I am!”

  It took about a minute and a half for Jonesy to elaborate. “Caleb is out for an early run and then going out to lunch with Dex. And, hallelujah; I think we’ve seen the last of Macy!” Wren took a seat on one of the stools near where Jonesy was working, not bothering to get any coffee or orange juice. “She didn’t look very happy when Caleb put her in that Toyota, I can tell you.”

  Wren nodded without thinking. Jonesy had no way of knowing Wren was privy to the other young woman’s plans. She couldn’t help a small sigh of relief. “That is a plus. How’d he take it?”

  “Hummph!” Jonesy wrinkled her nose and rolled her eyes.

  It was such so unusual to see Jonesy mocking anyone, it almost made Wren laugh out loud. “That good, huh?” She smiled.

  “I don’t know what he saw in her in the first place. She was about as nice as a wildcat in a fight with a rattle snake.”

  “I thought she was pushy, that’s for sure.”

  Wren wished she could confide in Jonesy about Caleb, but didn’t feel right about doing it before they both agreed.

  “Pushy!” Jonesy scoffed. She took out a pan and put a few eggs on to boil, adding the cold eggs, some salt and white vinegar to the water. “She’s a bulldozer!” She huffed wryly as she set a glass of orange juice and a warm mug of coffee in front of Wren.

  “She’s so sophisticated. I can see why Caleb would have been attracted to her.”

  “Until she opens her mouth, maybe. Don’t you worry your little heart.” She turned to Wren, reached out and patted her hand. “We all know who Caleb loves.”

  The corner of Wren’s mouth lifted in a half smile and she lifted her eyes lazily. Jonesy had spot-on intuition. “Do we?”

  “If you don’t know, then you need your head examined.”

  “I wish it were that easy, but I have to go back to New York soon. At least for a while, anyway, and Caleb will be in San Francisco. ”

  “Ahh. You’re worried that Macy will be there, too.”

  Wren bit her lip and nodded, picking up her coffee cup. “Yes. She will be. She lives there.”

  “I don’t know exactly what’s been brewing between you two, but it’s been in the works long before that girl showed up.” She went to turn the burner down to a simmer.

  “But she’s so…” Wren searched for the right word. “Determined.”

  “I see.” Jonesy leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms across her chest. “What did she do? You can tell old Jonesy.”

  “She just,” she shrugged. “Barged into my room a few times. At first, she pretended to be nice, but the last time, it was a full frontal assault.”

  “Does Caleb know?”

  “I didn’t see any reason to tell him; he’s had so much going on.”

  “Don’t start things off by keeping things from Caleb, Wren.”

  “I’m not trying to keep it a secret, but I don’t need to run to him like I’m five.

  Wren’s phone was in the back pocket of her jeans and it started to ring. When she pulled it out and saw that it was from her mother she cringed. Veronica hardly ever called, and she’d only been to New York to see her once in all of the time she went to Juilliard or the years she’d lived there, since.

  “Oh boy,” she said in a deflated voice. “Just what I need.” Jonesy’s eyebrows shot up as Wren answered. “Hello, mother.”

  “Wren, doll! How are you?”

  “I’m good.” Her tone was bland. No doubt Caleb would lose his shit if he even knew Veronica was calling.

  “Can you meet Mummy for lunch before I leave town?”

  Wren shifted in her chair and raised her free hand and started fiddling with her earring. “Um, well…” Her mother had the gift of selective retention and seemed to forget all of the mean ways she treated Wren when she was young.

  “Oh, well, nothing! There’s a nice restaurant in the hotel and then maybe you and that driver of yours can drop me at the airport. My plane leaves at 3 o’clock.”

  Wren couldn’t find any logical reason to say no other than she just didn’t want to, but the thought of several hours with her mother filled her with dread.

  Jonesy looked at her pointedly, obviously interested in what Veronica wanted. Her disapproval was obvious by her expression.

  “I’m not sure I can spare that much time, Mother.”

  “What do you mean, you aren’t sure? For heaven’s sake! How often do we see each other?”

  Wren rubbed the back of her neck under the curtain of her hair. She was uneasy and it showed in her body language. Jonesy was making a slicing motion across her throat and Wren’s mouth twisted wryly, her eyes widened and she nodded in agreement.

  “That’s true, but Caleb and I have some things to talk about before I go back to New York.”

  “Oh, pish! You can talk to him about all that business nonsense later. This is more important, and I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You’re lucky I don’t make you take me shopping.”

  “I hate shopping.”

  “So, be glad there’s no time, then. I’ll see you downtown at the Ritz Carlton in about two hours. I’ve got something important to tell you; something that can’t be said over the phone.”

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