Tru blue, p.15
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       Tru Blue, p.15

           Melissa Foster
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  “Tru.” She must have let go of him without realizing it. His arms circled her waist, then shifted, tucking her safely against his side, and together they continued walking through the maze of Truman’s life.

  Faces with bushy brows and scraggly beards leered with unseeing eyes. She stopped behind a van, taking in the image of a little boy curled into a fetal position within what looked like a giant bird’s nest. A bird with long, jagged talons swooped from a dark cloud above, so vivid and real Gemma sucked in a breath and stumbled backward into Truman. Holding her close, he stepped around the van to a long dark car with a missing hood. On the side panel was an unmistakable self-portrait of Truman, standing tall, wearing denim pants—not black. A ray of yellow sunlight shined down like an arm reaching from the upper edge of the trunk, forming a hand at his back, as if it were urging him forward. His legs were painted midstride. Gemma lost her breath at the torturous beauty before her. This was the only color painting amid a world of angry, haunted images. On the door panel was a picture of a baby, his arms and legs stretching upward, a smile on the baby’s lips. His tuft of strawberry hair brought a lump to her throat. Lincoln. Crouched beside him was a little girl—Kennedy—wearing a pink dress, one tiny hand reaching for Lincoln, the other reaching across the seam of the front panel toward…me.

  She could hardly breathe as she took in her image painted through Truman’s eyes. She wore a bright green and yellow bodysuit. Two transparent, and beautifully depicted, wings sprouted from her back. Bright golds and whites glittered against the dark backdrop. One hand was outstretched toward the kids, the other reached higher, as did her gaze, toward Truman. As Gemma tried to bring air into her lungs, she looked more closely, following a sliver of sunlight that wound its way around Truman, beneath the kids, and bloomed into two open hands, cradling them. The light looped around Gemma’s middle like a whip, making her one with the light and drawing them all together.

  Truman lifted his phone higher, illuminating the car windows. Shadows hovered over an image of the man she’d seen at the shop the night she’d picked up her car. Quincy. Another sliver of sunlight stopped short of him. As if Truman would never stop reaching for his brother, but he knew only Quincy could take that final step. And in those dark clouds was the face of a woman. A woman she now recognized in the faces of her children. Your mother.

  Gemma turned to face Truman and clutched his shirt, shaking from the impact of what he’d revealed. His face was a mask of sadness and hope, strength and determination. This man. This incredible man should be too damaged to know how to love. Too broken to want to embrace life. And yet here he stood, her pillar of strength, revealing all his weaknesses and fears, baring his tormented soul. He was the strongest man she’d ever known, and she wanted all of him.

  Her arms circled his neck, splaying across his taut muscles as she drew his face toward hers. Conflicting emotions warred in his eyes, but she pulled harder, wanting to experience that battle with him. He’d known tragedy, desperation, and destitution. He was a survivor, a savior to his siblings and mother. He should be crumbling, but his painful past had etched composure and dignity into his handsome face. He set the monitor on the ground and gripped her arms with strong hands. She knew he could see how what he’d revealed had sparked so many emotions she felt like she’d gone up in flames. He had to see the raging inferno that made her skin burn and her sex throb. Had to feel her need to be closer. Emotions that powerful couldn’t remain hidden.

  “I wanted you to see how you’ve affected me,” he said in a voice full of restraint and laced with unmistakable lust. “You make a normal, happy life seem possible, and I want that.” He turned and gazed at the incredibly beautiful pictures he’d painted of Lincoln and Kennedy. “For them.” He turned to face her again. “For us. I’m not afraid of sharing my past with you because you accept it. You accept me, and you help me deal with it and get it out of my system.”

  He pressed his body to hers and heat consumed her, searing between them like lightning. He clutched her hips, and their bodies took over, grinding together. The need to be closer grew inside her like a volcano ready to erupt. Skin. She needed to feel his skin. She tore at his shirt, lifting it up and bending to kiss his chest. She slicked her tongue over his nipple and he groaned, his fingers digging into her flesh. She did it again, spurred on by the heady noise, and he grabbed her face—hard—lifting it so she had no choice but to look into his serious, dark eyes.

  “I came down here after telling you why I was in prison,” he said strongly, almost angrily, though it was raw, primal passion blazing a path between them. “I thought rage would pour from my hands, but…” He clenched his jaw, holding her impossibly closer, and his breathing quickened. “There was only you, Gemma. Your face, your tears. Your touch on my skin. I could fucking taste your mouth on mine, and you wouldn’t let that darkness in. You’re my light, Gemma. You’re everything I always thought life should be, and I know you can get any man you want, but I’m so damn happy you want me—”

  She smothered his lips in an act of desperation. Her emotions whirled as he took control, and she succumbed to his forceful domination. The kiss was rough and urgent, messy and wet, and so damn hot the rest of the world disappeared. He tore at her pants, and she tore at his, each struggling for speed, unwilling to break their kiss as they fought their way free from their clothes.

  “Condom.” He grabbed his jeans, fishing for his wallet, and she clutched his wrist.

  “Are you really clean? Tested?”

  “I wouldn’t lie.”

  “Take me, Truman. Just you, with nothing between us. I want to feel all of you.”

  He lifted her into his arms, guiding her legs around his waist, and she sank down onto his cock, feeling the broad head as it stroked over her sensitive nerves and every inch of his thick, hard shaft as he filled her.

  “Oh God. Truman.”

  She clung to him, angling his mouth so she could kiss him harder as his strong hands guided her hips in a fast rhythm, greedily fucking her. And she freaking loved it! He knew just how to move, taking her rough and hard, then easing to a torturously slow pace, until she was begging for more. An orgasm teased just out of reach, taunting her into a pleading mess of wanton desires.

  She dug her nails into his shoulders, tearing her mouth from his. “Faster. Please, Truman. Come with me. I want to feel you lose control.”

  Her back met the side of a van, giving him leverage to pound into her with reckless abandon and deftly shattering any hope of cognitive thought. Her limbs tingled, her insides pulsed, and when he buried his face in the tangles of her hair and grunted out her name, she exploded in a firestorm of sensations. Aware of every pulse of his release, every beat of his heart, every frantic breath he took, she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, she wasn’t falling for him. She’d already jumped.

  Chapter Eighteen

  AUTUMN SWEPT THROUGH Peaceful Harbor like an artist’s brush coloring everything in its path. Bursts of reds, oranges, yellows, and every hue in between flared from the trees and bushes along the streets, kissing the grass and sidewalks with promises of bare trees and even colder nights. Chilly mornings gave way to extra snuggles and led to steamy nights of endless lovemaking, and Gemma couldn’t be happier. It was the weekend before Halloween, five life-changing weeks since she’d met Truman. She spent most nights at his place, and probably had as many clothes at his apartment as she did at her own.

  Crystal held up a royal blue gown with faux diamonds lacing the sweetheart neckline. “How about this one?” She waggled her brows and waved her hand above the neckline. “Perfectly bare, which is ideal for your pearl necklace.”

  They were shopping for a gown for the fundraiser while Truman and the guys finished installing the door on the new bedroom wall. She’d offered to take the kids with her, but Truman had insisted that she needed time alone with Crystal. He was so thoughtful, always making sure she didn’t slight herself because of him or the kids. She wondered when he’d realiz
e that spending time with him and the kids was her most favorite thing of all.

  Gemma laughed and shook her head. “I really don’t want to go this year.”

  “Gee, I hadn’t noticed. We’ve only spent the last three weeks looking at every dress store in Peaceful Harbor. I know we have plenty of time before the event, but at this rate…” Crystal hung the dress on the rack and glanced in the mirror, pulling her hair into an updo. “Maybe because you told your man not to go with you?”

  “Are you kidding? I’d never punish him with the likes of my mother and her pretentious cohorts. Besides, he and I talked about it, and being around that many people would be too much for Kennedy.”

  Both Lincoln and Kennedy had progressed well over the past few weeks. Lincoln had tried baby food and had gone straight through it, preferring finger foods, and he was sleeping through the night, which was a big milestone. And even though Kennedy had become less wary around strangers, the people who attended the fundraising events weren’t exactly warm and welcoming. She wasn’t about to put those sweet children in a situation she didn’t even want to be in. In addition to the kids, she had Truman to consider. He had his own worries and didn’t need the stress of contending with her awful mother.

  Crystal dropped her hair and it tumbled loosely over her shoulders as she spun around and set a narrow-eyed stare on Gemma. “You still haven’t told your mother about him, have you?”

  Gemma turned away, pretending to inspect another gown.

  “Gemma Wright, what are you thinking? If you don’t tell her, she’ll fix you up with another one of those uptight pricks like she did last time, and I don’t think Tru Blue is going to be cool with that.”

  Sighing, Gemma dropped her shoulders in defeat. “It’s on my to-do list, but you know what conversations with my mother are like.” She didn’t even want to think about her mother. She was happy. Really, truly happy, and her mother had a way of squashing the happiness of everyone around her. Besides, she had enough on her mind. Truman still hadn’t heard from Quincy, and even though he didn’t talk about it, she knew he was worried about him.

  “I know, and when she tells you you’re dating him as part of your ongoing rebellion—like your business, and moving away, yadda, yadda, yadda—tell her to shove it up her ass. Because I’ve seen you with Truman, and you’ve never looked at a man that way.”

  She was glad Crystal saw how much she cared for Truman, and she had a point about her mother. She probably would accuse her of dating Truman to spite her. But the truth was, even though Gemma had thought about her mother’s reaction, her mother’s opinion did not factor into Gemma’s decision to be with Truman. What Gemma saw in Truman were all the qualities her mother could never see even if he were a suit-wearing billionaire. How could her mother recognize intense loyalty that knew no boundaries, love that came directly from the heart, and a firm grasp on doing things for the right reasons, when she didn’t possess those qualities herself?

  Crystal looped her arm through Gemma’s and dragged her out of the store. “Come on. We’re going to Pleasant Hill.” Pleasant Hill was about an hour away.

  “What? Why?” She walked fast, keeping pace with Crystal as they crossed the parking lot.

  “Because you are going to have to tell her, which means you’ll have to listen to all of her socialite news about people you don’t know or care about and probably a diatribe about dating a man from the wrong side of the tracks. She’ll have you tearing your hair out in no time.” She climbed into the car and slid a coy smile to Gemma. “If she can torture you, it’s only fair to give her a little payback. We’re going to Jillian’s.”

  Jillian’s was an upscale and slightly outlandish dress shop. “A payback dress. Oh, Crystal. You are brilliant.”

  Two hours later Gemma stood before a three-way mirror wearing a floor-length black leather gown with a plunging neckline that dipped almost to her navel.

  Jillian Braden, the owner of the shop and designer of many of the gowns, moved in her four-inch heels as if she’d been born in them. She tucked her hair—a spectacular cross between burgundy and dark auburn—behind her ear and walked in a slow circle around Gemma. “You have a great figure, and your face is so refined and classic looking that it gives you an elegant and sweet vixenish quality that not many women can pull off. You’re killing it.” She adjusted the shoulder straps, then smoothed a wrinkle at Gemma’s waist.

  “She’s right, Gem,” Crystal agreed. “But don’t let Truman see you in it, because it’ll be shredded before you ever step foot outdoors.”

  Gemma’s stomach quivered at the thought of Truman’s hands all over her. She turned to the side, admiring the way the leather hugged her curves, making her feel sultry and alluring—and her stomach knotted. She wanted to be sultry and alluring for Truman, but the idea of wearing that dress out in public without him by her side made her feel uneasy. Plus, she might give her mother a heart attack if she showed up in it. As much as she disliked her mother, she didn’t want to ruin her event.

  “My mother would totally flip out if I showed up in leather.”

  “Isn’t that the point?” Crystal smirked.

  “I don’t know. It’s a fun idea, but the more I think about it, the more I worry that it’ll end up backfiring and the night will be even more painful. I think I need less vixen and more refined rebellion.”

  Jillian guided Gemma by the arm toward the dressing room. “If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that a woman should never wear a dress she’s not totally comfortable in. No matter what the reason.” She gave Gemma a little shove through the curtain. “Take that off. I’ve got the dress for you.”

  Gemma stripped, and a few minutes later Jillian’s voice came through the curtains.

  “Try this one. I think it strikes the perfect balance—proper defiance—and it’s one of my favorites. My brother and I designed it together.” Her hand parted the curtains, and all Gemma saw was a mass of shimmery black material and lace.

  “Your brother designs clothes too?” She slipped the dress over her head. The luxurious material slid over her skin like silk, hugging her from shoulder to thigh, where a slit revealed her right leg.

  “Mm-hm. My twin, actually. Jax. We’ve been designing together on and off for years, but his specialty is wedding gowns.” Jillian zipped up the back of the dress and fidgeted with the shoulders and waist, then stood back and ran an assessing eye over Gemma. “Gorgeous. Go on out to the three-way and I’ll grab heels.”

  As soon as Crystal spotted her following Jillian out of the dressing room, she jumped from a plush chair and squealed.

  “Oh my gosh, Gemma! You look stunning.”

  “Really?” She turned to look in the mirror and her jaw dropped. The neckline fell just below her collarbone. A pattern of black lace and silk created capped sleeves. A narrow path of lace ran down her sides, dipping in at the waist, to just below the curve of her hip. She glanced over her shoulder at the low back.

  Jillian knelt by her feet. “These are comfortable and sexy. You don’t need to rock sky-high heels in this dress.” She stepped back, and her smile radiated with approval. “The fishtail accentuates your waist, and since you’re not showing any cleavage, the touch of lace looks elegant rather than racy. What do you think?”

  “I think I want to marry this dress.” Feeling a spike of rebellion, she added, “And the neckline is perfect. No room for pearls.”

  TRUMAN CLOSED THE new bedroom door to the unfinished room and eyed the gorgeous woman lying on the bed paging through a flyer of children’s Halloween costumes. She wore a pair of boy-short panties that barely covered her ass and a spaghetti-strap top. Her knees were bent, her feet dancing above her as she suggested costumes for Lincoln. Kennedy had already picked hers out. She was going to be the cutest Tinker Bell that ever lived.

  “A pumpkin? There was a pumpkin in Cinderella.” Gemma pointed at a picture of an infant wearing a pumpkin costume.

  Truman lay down beside her, ran his
hand up her thigh, and squeezed her ass. “I like your pumpkin.”

  She flashed a haughty smile. “I still think he should be Winnie the Pooh. That’s who Kennedy says he is in her night-night book, and she should be allowed to choose his costume. As his older sister, it’s her right.”

  He slid his leg over the back of her thighs and kissed her shoulder. “He’s only a few months old and already women are ruling his life.” He nuzzled her neck. “I think he should wear a boy’s costume. He can be a prince, like I’m going to be.”

  She leaned in to him with a tease in her eyes. “Kiss me again and maybe I’ll consider it.”

  He leaned toward her lips and she turned away and pointed to her shoulder. He chuckled and kissed her shoulder again.

  “Shoulder kisses are the best,” she said in the breathless voice that made his body ignite.

  He continued kissing her shoulder, moving slowly down her breastbone. Still looking at the magazine, she reached over and lifted his chin so he was kissing her shoulder again. God, he loved everything she did.

  “I think Kennedy wants you to be her only prince, and she was pretty clear about wanting Linc to be Pooh. But if you’re so adamant about not letting him be a fuzzy bear, which for the record, I think he should be, then how about if he dresses up like one of the Lost Boys from her storybook?”

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