Sweet addiction, p.21
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       Sweet Addiction, p.21

         Part #6 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
 
Page 21

 

  There, behind the confidence and the blunt words, was a thin layer of worry. Not exactly insecurity but perhaps disappointment.

  She leaned up, cupped her hand over his strong jaw and then pressed her lips to his. “No,” she whispered. “It doesn’t bother me at all. I find I just don’t want to disappoint you in any way. I’ve never wanted to disappoint you. That doesn’t go away. Not in ten years. ”

  He kissed her back. Thrust his hand into her hair and held her to his mouth. His tongue brushed across her lips, tasting, retreating and then boldly advancing again.

  He rested his forehead against hers, still holding her to him as he quietly caught his breath.

  “No, Ren. You’ve never disappointed me. It was me who let you down. All I want is for you to be yourself and be happy. I love the real Ren. And I’d never want you to be anyone else. ”

  She swallowed hard. Her heart twisted, robbing her of breath. This was all she’d ever wanted, wasn’t it?

  A year ago, she would have said yes, unequivocally. To have Cole back, to have him here, saying the words he was saying. To have another chance to make the past right.

  But that was before Lucas. Even as her heart soaked up every piece of Cole, there was still a part that clung stubbornly to Lucas. Maybe it would go away in time. Maybe it wouldn’t.

  If Lucas came for her tomorrow, would she be able to tell him no? Was it easier for her to cling to Cole and to accept this fire between them because she feared that Lucas had left her just as Cole had left before?

  She didn’t like the possible answers to those questions. She didn’t like that if Lucas was standing in front of her right now, she didn’t know what way she’d go. How could she?

  The coward in her hoped that Lucas had moved on because it meant she wouldn’t have a choice to make. She was deeply shamed by that part of her. But the idea of having to choose between two men she cared deeply for had the potential to completely break her.

  She shook off the dark thoughts and refocused on the present. If she could put Lucas away in a neat little box, she was happy—extremely so—with Cole. No, they hadn’t been together long. Maybe it wouldn’t even work out. But for now …For now? She was content. A little excited. Hopeful. Who knew what the next two weeks would bring?

  Cole kissed her nose and then pulled back, repositioning himself in his seat. He reached over to squeeze her hand and then drove back onto the highway.

  A few minutes later, they pulled up to a gated driveway and Cole rolled down his window to speak into the small intercom box. The gate began to open and Cole accelerated up the winding drive and around a corner to a beautiful home.

  It was larger than Cole’s and while the landscaping was exquisite, it didn’t feel as homey or personal to her as Cole’s house had. But for her, Cole’s home fit him, or at least her image of him.

  Cole parked behind another vehicle and Ren waited as he walked around to get her door. He reached down for her hand and pulled her up to stand beside him.

  “I meant it, you know,” he murmured.

  She lifted her brows questioningly.

  “You’re beautiful. ”

  She smiled and relaxed. He twined his fingers with hers and started for the door, keeping her beside him the whole way.

  Like Lucas, he just had a way of ensuring she felt comfortable.

  She closed her eyes. Enough about Lucas. She had to stop with the mental comparisons. It wasn’t fair to either man, but it sure as hell wasn’t fair to Cole, who was doing everything in his power to make her happy.

  A tall, imposing man answered the door. Ren’s brow crinkled and she glanced warily at Cole. The guy looked like a bouncer. A higher-class version, but someone into personal security for sure.

  Cole just grinned. “How are you, Sam? Is Serena keeping you on your toes these days?”

  Sam grimaced and then stepped aside to gesture Cole and her inside.

  “Mr. and Mrs. Roche await you in the sitting room. Would you like something to drink? And your lady?”

  “This is Ren,” Cole said. “Ren, this is Sam, Damon’s jack-of-all-trades. ”

  Ren smiled while Sam gravely shook her hand.

  “Would you like a drink?” Cole asked her. “Damon stocks very good wine. Well, and everything else. Chances are, if you want it, he has it. ”

  “I like white wine. I’m not picky. ”

  Cole nodded. “Make that two. ”

  Sam disappeared and Cole took Ren’s hand again and led her further into the house. It was opulently furnished but nothing was gaudy. Damon, and perhaps Serena, had excellent taste. The artwork was beautiful. The furniture was tasteful and elegant. The entire house had a look of refinement that was hard to achieve on purpose.

  But it still made her vaguely uncomfortable. Almost like she was in a place she could look but not touch. Already she felt the urge to tense up, put on a fake mask and never let these people see inside.

  They walked into a spacious sitting room, although it looked like a regular living room to Ren. But perhaps when people had this many rooms in a house, they felt the need to name them all something different.

  Damon and Serena were sitting on one of the sofas and another couple sat on the loveseat diagonal to the sofa. The woman was small and curvy, with beautiful caramel-colored skin that told of her Hispanic heritage and long dark brown hair. Her eyes were dark as well, a perfect match to the dark-haired, dark-eyed man who sat next to her.

  Both couples rose when Cole entered the room with Ren. Ren hung back automatically even though Cole bore her forward with him.

  “Cole, so glad you and Ren could make it,” Damon said warmly. “It’s very nice to see you again, Ren. ”

  Ren smiled back until her jaw felt frozen. Serena stood at Damon’s side and offered Ren a genuine smile as well.

  “Come with me, Ren. I’ll introduce you to Micah and Angelina and then we girls can let the guys do their thing. ”

  Damon rolled his eyes but let go of her hand. Serena reached for Ren’s wrist and guided her in Micah and Angelina’s direction.

  “Micah, Angelina, this is Ren Michaels. Ren, these are dear friends of ours, Micah and Angelina Hudson. Their daughter, Nia, is at the sitter’s tonight. ”

  “It’s a pleasure, Ren,” Micah said, his husky, deep voice washing over her. It had that thread of authority she so craved, one guaranteed to make her sit up and pay attention. He too was a man confident of his dominance.

  “Hi, Ren,” Angelina offered sweetly, her shy smile delighting Ren.

  “Okay, let go of Angelina so we girls can go sit. There’s only so long a pregnant woman should have to stand, and my feet are screaming,” Serena said impatiently.

  Micah cracked a grin. “Sure thing, doll. I know when I’ve been given my marching orders. ”

  He leaned down to kiss Angelina and then stepped around the women and ambled over to where Cole stood with Damon. Not two seconds later, Sam appeared with wine for Cole and Ren.

  After Ren took her glass, Serena motioned her and Angelina toward the couch. “Let’s go sit. ”

  Angelina grinned and leaned toward Ren. “She’s cranky. Don’t mind her. ”

  “I heard that,” Serena grumbled. She eased back onto the couch and sighed so loud that the men threw amused looks over their shoulders.

  Ren perched on the loveseat across from Angelina and Serena, still unsure of what to make of these women.

  “She and the others were all about cracking jokes about me when I was a waddling house,” Angelina continued with a smug smile. “It’s not so fun for Serena now that the shoe’s on the other foot. ”

  Serena glared at Angelina. “Shut up. ”

  “Who are the others?” Ren asked curiously.

  “Our other friends. Girlfriends,” Serena explained. “There’s Faith, Julie and now Lyric, and of course Angelina and I. ”

  Despite not really wanting to get into sensitive subject m
atter, Ren was fascinated by Serena being pregnant and how it played into her relationship—the type of relationship—she and Damon had. She knew enough from Cole to know that Damon was the dominant force twenty-four seven, in and out of bed. And yet when Damon looked at his wife, his eyes were soft with love. When he touched her, there was such gentleness and caring. Damon was the type of man Ren herself most longed for and had found with both Cole and Lucas. The other men in her life? Not so much.

  “You look preoccupied,” Serena said, interrupting her thoughts. “Is something wrong?”

  Ren smiled slightly. “I was being nosy and trying to decide whether to be rude and ask you a question. ”

  Both Angelina and Serena lifted their eyebrows. “Oh do tell,” Angelina said. “I think I definitely want to hear this. ”

  Ren’s cheeks warmed and her courage faltered. “It’s none of my business. ”

  Serena shrugged. “I’ll let you know if it dips too far into the off-limits territory. ”

  Ren sucked in her breath. “I just wondered, with you pregnant now and a baby entering the picture. How did it change your relationship? And before you think I’m some freak with too much curiosity for her own good, it’s just that I’ve often weighed my desire for a family—children—with the type of relationship I need and I can’t reconcile the two. But you …you seem to have it all. I think I envy you. ”

  Serena’s eyes softened and she and Angelina exchanged secret smiles.

  “I was worried at first. The decision to have a child wasn’t made lightly by either of us. But in a lot of ways it heightens our relationship. It’s hard to explain. I’ve always loved Damon’s dominance and his protectiveness when it comes to me and how he cherishes me and takes care of me. But it’s even more pronounced now that I’m pregnant with his baby. It’s been truly wonderful. ”

  Angelina nodded her agreement. “It was the same with me and Micah. He was just so gaga over the idea of me being pregnant with his child. He wouldn’t let me lift a finger. He wasn’t any less dominant, but his dominance was exerted in other ways. ”

  “It’s not that things didn’t change,” Serena continued. “They did. I mean, it’s not like he’s going to bust out with a flogger or something when I’m as big as a house with swollen ankles and hormonal swings from hell. He still demands my obedience and my respect but he’s less demanding of me physically if that makes sense. But no less emotionally. ”

  “No, it makes perfect sense,” Ren murmured. “I think it must be wonderful to have that. ”

  “You should have seen Cole that night in the restaurant,” Serena said in a low voice. “When he saw you again. I’ve never seen him like that. He was so determined to find you. ”

  Ren smiled. “Yes, he was. ”

  “As much as I hate to interrupt you ladies, dinner is being served,” Damon said as he came to stand beside Serena. He lowered his hand and gently pulled his wife up beside him.

  Ren stood and edged toward Cole. His hand slid over her shoulder and he squeezed reassuringly. Just that simple gesture warmed her to her toes. He wrapped his arm around her waist and stood there holding her to him while he waited for the others to precede them out of the living room.

  “Everything okay?” he murmured in her ear as they turned to follow.

  She nodded and then laced her hand with his, liking the comfort of his touch. He kept his fingers twined with hers as they entered the dining room and then he ushered her into her seat before taking the one next to her.

  Dinner conversation was light and she relaxed more as the evening wore on. Cole’s friends were good people. Down to earth. Damon obviously had more money than God, but he wasn’t pretentious, seemed to have no ego, but he wore confidence as surely as Cole did.

  Micah wasn’t as affluent as the other two men but he fit in well with the others. He too oozed confidence. His expression, his demeanor, it all spoke of a strong man who knew exactly what he wanted and apologized to no one.

  In the company of so many gorgeous, alpha males, Ren was light-headed. She was well acquainted with the entire spectrum of dominant men. There were those who played at being dominant, those who tried to be dominant and then there were those who just were. It didn’t take effort or practice. It came to them as naturally as breathing. They had nothing to prove, no ego to be stroked. They liked what they liked and adored the women in their care.

  These three were such men.

  She was suddenly eager to return home with Cole so she could enjoy his every whim. It heated her blood to imagine what he would want from her, what he would exact or how he’d seek to gain his pleasure from her.

  And then she imagined herself round and big with his child. How much more adoring would he be? He already was so mindful of her well-being. Her throat tightened at the wistful thoughts. Having his baby was a lovely fantasy.

  She shook her head. Seeing Serena had made her fanciful. She was still far too young to worry about having babies. She hadn’t even managed to land in a stable relationship yet. But one day…

 
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