Tru blue, p.5
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       Tru Blue, p.5

           Melissa Foster
 
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  “Well, can’t you call her? Or email?”

  “She’s…” He had to get used to saying it. Might as well start now. “She passed away unexpectedly.”

  “Oh gosh.” She laid her delicate fingers on his forearm, and he liked it far more than he should. “I’m so sorry.”

  “Trust me. They’re better off without her.”

  She drew back as if she’d been burned. “Why?”

  He mulled over the question and took another drink of his iced tea, wishing he had something stronger. He wasn’t a big drinker and usually just had a beer or two when he was hanging out with the guys. But the babies didn’t need a drunk guy taking care of them. He needed to be clearheaded and present, now more than ever. He set his drink on the table and ran a hand over his chin, remembering he hadn’t shaved in forever. At least Dixie had watched the kids long enough for him to shower earlier in the day. Not having time for a shower, helping Kennedy brush her teeth, changing diapers… He’d become a parent overnight, and just as quickly he’d come to love the little babies sleeping in the other room.

  His mind returned to their mother, bringing a wave of bile to his throat, and his mind back to her question. “Some people aren’t cut out to be mothers.”

  She nodded as if she agreed and set her drink beside his. “Even so, I’m sorry you lost her. Regardless of whether she was a good or bad mother, she was still your family. The kids’ family.”

  “Right,” he said under his breath. She had the right idea, holding family in high regard. Unfortunately, Kennedy and Lincoln were born to a mother who deserved no such respect. “Well, I hope they don’t remember a second of their life before last night.”

  “Last night? Is that when…?”

  “Yes.” He wondered why in the hell he was sharing this with her, but it felt good to get it out. It wasn’t like he was the drug addict. He had nothing to hide—except six years of his life spent paying for a crime he didn’t commit.

  She touched his arm again. It was a gentle, soothing touch, the kind of touch you might share with a friend or relative. There was nothing sexual about it, but it sure felt good.

  “Is that why you needed to buy so much for them? Was there a house fire or something? Did they lose all their stuff?”

  “No. They never had any stuff.”

  “I don’t understand. How could they have nothing?” She cocked her head to the side.

  Who was he kidding? Of course she couldn’t understand. She probably came from a normal family with normal problems, like where to go on vacation or which car to take to the store. He might as well cut this conversation short. He came from an effed-up family, and the minute she heard where he’d spent the last six years, she’d run like the wind.

  “You know what? Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Why don’t you leave me your keys? I’ll give you a loaner and call you when your car’s done.” He pushed to his feet.

  She rose beside him. “Why?”

  He arched a brow.

  “You just told me that you were glad I was here.”

  “I am, but you don’t need to hear this.”

  Those catlike eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to hear it.”

  “Are you always like this?”

  “Like what?” She cocked her head again and smiled innocently.

  His eyes dropped to her fingers resting on her jutted-out hip. “Oh yeah. You’re always like this.” He couldn’t suppress the smile tugging at his lips.

  “You mean, friendly? Curious about a guy who offers to fix my car for free and makes me a little nervous?” The innocence in her smile smoldered right before his eyes.

  “You don’t act like I make you nervous.” He stepped closer, and she held her ground. The air between them sparked like it had when she’d first arrived, before he’d gotten sidetracked with the kids.

  “Why are you afraid to talk to me?” She lifted her chin, schooling her expression. But she couldn’t mask her quickening breaths.

  “Why do you want to talk to me?”

  She pursed her lips. “Because you’re so in love with your brother and sister it practically drips off of you, and I like that in a person. Love and loyalty aren’t easy to find, especially in siblings. And you’re protective of them, which is pretty telling, you’re incredibly artistic, and you’re obviously generous. You did offer to fix my car for free. You’re a little mysterious.” Her eyes dragged down his chest, making his cock take notice. When she met his gaze, she smirked. “And you’re mildly attractive.”

  He stepped closer, their thighs brushing. “Mildly attractive?”

  She rolled her eyes. “You could use a shave.”

  Damn, he liked her spunkiness. “In case you haven’t noticed, my life is pretty messed up at the moment. Not much time for shaving.”

  “Messed up? No. I hadn’t noticed that. But I have heard that you recently acquired responsibility for two very cute children, and I happen to be very good with children. If you talk to me, I might be willing to share some secrets about finding time to shave and other things.”

  With the exception of the Whiskey family, he’d never had help from a single person. The thought reminded him that he needed to back away from beautiful Gemma. “I don’t need help.”

  She searched his face again. “Everyone needs help.”

  “You have no idea who I am.”

  “No, but generally that’s why people talk. To get to know each other.” She swallowed hard. “My friend reminded me that I’ve been overly cautious where men are concerned. I don’t want to be overly cautious. I’d like to get to know you.”

  He could see how difficult that was for her to admit, and yet she’d not only admitted it, but she’d also followed it up with a very confident statement. A statement that made his heart take notice. Truman was no stranger to being hit on. Women pursued him often when he was out at Whiskey Bro’s or shooting pool. When he was with tougher crowds, where things like prison time weren’t a deterrent but a badge of honor. Women who brought their cars into the shop, both married and single, also hit on him, women who thought fucking a tattooed bad boy would be a thrill. But he never took them up on it. He had enough darkness in his past; he didn’t need to bring it into his future and wonder whose wife he’d slept with.

  But Gemma…Gemma was smart and savvy, and the more they talked, the more he liked her, which was exactly why he needed to end this conversation. He wasn’t a glutton for punishment, and he didn’t want to lead her on knowing his past would push her away.

  Before forcing himself to take a step back, he couldn’t resist stroking her cheek. She was stunning, and smart, and funny. She deserved a guy without a past hanging like a noose around his neck.

  “I think in this case, Gemma Wright, you should be a little cautious. Let’s get you that loaner car.”

  Chapter Six

  TRUMAN GRITT WAS not fooling Gemma, not for one second. He was a man who wore his emotions on his sleeve. Raw emotions. Real emotions, made clear in the way he looked at her, like a hungry wolf ready to devour his next meal. She’d seen the restraint it had taken to keep himself in check. She’d felt it in the lightning streak of that single caress. And when he talked about his mother, in those few short sentences she’d heard his disgust for her. Now she wanted to understand why, and to understand why he’d sent her away when he had so clearly wanted her to stay. That was precisely why she was standing on his back deck at six thirty the next morning with two to-go cups of strong coffee from Jazzy Joe’s, her favorite coffee shop. She was armed and ready to interrogate, if that’s what it took.

  She smoothed her hand over her shirt, straightened her spine, and knocked on the glass just as the sound of Lincoln crying rang out. She knocked again, and the curtains swished on the other side of the door. Kennedy’s face peered up at her. She was wearing the pink pajamas with little ice-cream cones printed on them that Gemma had chosen. She yawned, her little eyes squeezing closed with the effort.

  Gem
ma crouched before her and waved through the glass. Kennedy twisted from side to side. Her chin tilted up as Truman’s big, shirtless—breathe, breathe, breathe—body appeared behind her. Gemma rose slowly, taking in every inch as she went. Dark blue sleeping pants hung dangerously low on his hips, beneath impossibly ripped and insanely lickable abs. Her tongue swept over her lips as she rose higher, her eyes playing over the brawny arm cradling Lincoln, ribbons of blue ink decorating his broad chest, sinking between thickly muscled pecs, over powerful shoulders, and up the right side of his neck. A knock on the glass above her head brought her eyes up to his again, and she felt her cheeks flame at his grin. His hair was tousled, his eyes sleepy and…curious? She really liked that sleepy look on him. It made him look like a gentle giant. His grin turned to a straight line as he tugged the door open. Uh-oh. She might have misconstrued curiosity for annoyed.

  “Do you gawk and stalk all mildly attractive men?”

  Kennedy wrapped her arms around his thigh, tugging his pants down lower. That’s it, Kennedy, tug a little harder.

  Oh, that was bad! She shouldn’t want him to lose his drawers in front of the kids. Wow, who knew muscles had the ability to lower her IQ?

  Thinking much faster than she believed herself capable with all the lust swirling through her, she said, “I’m not stalking. You need a shave, which means you need a shower, which is nearly impossible with two little ones underfoot. I came to help.”

  He rested his hand on Kennedy’s cheek, and that tender touch made Gemma’s heart open a little more to the guarded man.

  “You don’t listen very well, do you? I thought I said I didn’t need help.” He stepped to the side, a small smile forming on his lips.

  “You did, but your eyes told me something different.” She stepped into the apartment feeling a little victorious, and she noticed blankets and pillows on the couch, empty bottles on the counter, and the Parenting magazine lying open on the floor beside the couch. The bag she’d brought yesterday was still on the end table.

  “Hard morning?” she asked.

  “I’m not sure I know when night ended and morning began.” He stifled a yawn. “Lincoln got a few shots yesterday and he’s been running a low fever. I called the doctor and she said it’s a normal reaction. I gave him medicine already to bring down his fever, and he seems okay now, but she said he’ll probably need it again in four hours.”

  “Aw, poor little guy. You took them to the doctor already?” She set the to-go cups on the kitchen counter.

  “She came here yesterday as a favor for my buddy.”

  “That was nice of her. I didn’t know doctors made house calls anymore.” Gemma reached for the baby. “Give me Linc, and you can down that coffee and grab a shower—and a shave.”

  He ran his eyes over her scoop-neck shirt and skinny jeans. “No princess dress today?”

  “I save them for special occasions, like being told to leave.”

  He kissed Lincoln’s head and handed him to her, his gaze falling to her mouth and lingering there so long her pulse quickened. When his eyes slid slowly down the length of her body, she felt the heat of it searing through her clothes.

  “For what it’s worth,” he said in a low, seductive voice, “I like that outfit just as much as I liked the dress.” He lifted Kennedy into his arms and kissed her cheek.

  “Good to know. Just don’t tell me to leave.”

  The edge of his mouth quirked up and he turned Kennedy’s face toward him. “Will you be okay with Gemma for a few minutes while I shower, princess?”

  Kennedy looked at Gemma.

  “We’ll be fine,” Gemma assured him, loving the way he worried over them. “It’s good for her to have some girl time. Besides, I have some goodies for her.”

  “Coffee?”

  “Yes, strong coffee, because that’s what every child needs. What do you take me for? Everyone knows kids like Frappuccinos, not coffee.”

  Concern washed over his handsome face, and his hand splayed over Kennedy’s back, like a lion protecting his cubs. Maybe he had a little Neanderthal in him after all. She liked that a whole lot.

  “I’m kidding. I brought a few things last night.” She pointed to the bag on the end table. “Stop worrying and go shower. And for goodness’ sake, cover up all those mildly attractive, distracting muscles.”

  A gratified grin lifted his lips, and just as quickly his face went serious again. “You brought her gifts last night?”

  She shrugged and reached for the little girl’s hand as he set Kennedy down. Kennedy blinked up at Truman, who nodded, and she took Gemma’s hand.

  “Just a few things I thought she’d enjoy. Is it okay if I get them breakfast if they get hungry?”

  “Sure, thanks.” He crossed the floor, every purposeful step a visual reminder of his power and control. Even the way he lifted the backpack lying by the front door was determined, as if in his head he ticked off every move. He dug a hand into the opening and withdrew a handful of papers. “I fed Kennedy eggs yesterday morning and she seemed to like them. The doctor gave me these menu ideas, schedules, things like that.”

  She’d thought about how quickly his life must have changed only two days ago. Losing his mother, acquiring care of these two little ones. No wonder he acted like a guard dog. And here he was, staying up all night with a feverish baby and still needing to be pushed into accepting help. She knew mothers who would beg for help with toddlers just so they could get their nails done.

  She looked down at her sleeve to see if her heart had slid out from her chest. This man did not need to change. He was perfect just the way he was.

  “You know what, Tru? Don’t shave if you don’t want to. A little distraction is a good thing.”

  HOW WAS HE supposed to shower when Gemma was just a few feet down the hall taking care of his kids? Not his fucked-up mother’s children, not the freaking government’s, who would steal the only real family he had left. He had to figure that part out, but he would make it happen. Somehow. That was one worry he couldn’t deal with yet. First he had to get through Lincoln’s fever and figure out schedules, sleeping arrangements, and how the hell he was going to deal with them in the shop all day. There was too much to figure out in one ten-minute shower, and damn this shower felt good. He closed his eyes and tipped his face up to the warm water, his mind drifting back to Gemma. Smart, beautiful, pushy-as-all-hell Gemma. Gemma in the short, sexy blue dress, her long legs and creamy thighs on display, tempting him in ways he hadn’t been tempted for a very long time. The swell of her breasts peeking out of the neckline. His hand slid down to his throbbing cock, fisting around it and giving it a slow tug. He pictured Gemma’s slim fingers beneath his, that seductive look in her garden-green eyes. Stroke. Stroke. Her tongue sweeping over those crimson lips as she dropped to her knees. Stroke. Stroke. He pressed his palm to the wall, swept up in his erotic fantasy, thrusting through his fist as the image of Gemma sucking him off took hold. He stroked faster, sliding his rough palm over the head, then streaking down faster, tighter. In his fantasy, Gemma’s eyes watched him from below as she took him deeper, sucked him hard, coaxing him closer to the edge. Lust pooled at the base of his spine, and he thrust faster, groaning—“Gemma”—as his release crashed over him, through him, into him. He stumbled back, slamming into the tile wall and panting for air. Holy fuck.

  “Truman?” Gemma said through the door.

  His cock twitched with renewed anticipation. What the hell? It was like Pavlov’s dog now? That wouldn’t be cool.

  “Yeah?” he ground out.

  “I made you breakfast if you want it.”

  He dragged a hand down his face, feeling guilty. She’d made him breakfast and he’d just come down her fictional throat. “Thanks. Be right out.”

  He quickly scrubbed the evidence of his fantasy from his skin, brushed his teeth and hair, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Hurrying, he crossed the hall to the master bedroom, tripping over Gemma, who was crouched beside Kennedy, help
ing her dress.

  Gemma gasped, lurching forward, both hands reaching for Kennedy to keep her from falling as Truman found his footing. She looked up with an oh-shit turned oh-my look in her eyes. Her red lips and hungry eyes were cock height, and his fantasy came rolling back in as she stared at the rising bulge behind his towel. Her cheeks flamed, but she didn’t turn away. She calmly lifted those seductive eyes to his, licked her lips, and made a twirling motion with her finger, her head nodding toward Kennedy.

  Aw hell. Kennedy. He turned away, silently cursing his traitorous cock for sucking the life out of his brain.

  “Best not to overreact,” she said quietly. “I thought you had clothes in the bathroom. Sorry.” She lifted Kennedy into her arms, taking one last, long eyeful over her shoulder before saying, “Come on, sweetie. Let’s go check on your sleeping baby brother and let your big brother get dressed.”

  As she disappeared through the door, he looked down at his rigid cock, knowing there weren’t enough cold showers in the world to calm the flames raging inside him.

  Chapter Seven

  FOR THE HUNDREDTH time in as many minutes, Truman glanced at Gemma leaning against the doorframe of the side bay door in her skintight jeans and cream-colored top. She was smiling down at Kennedy, who was sitting a foot away in the grass happily playing with a princess doll Gemma had brought her and wearing the plastic tiara she’d also given her. The doll had a matching tiara. Kennedy was so taken with the gifts, she’d been playing with them all morning. Lincoln was asleep in the playpen a few feet away. Gemma had draped a blanket over the top of the playpen to keep the sun from making him too warm. She made taking care of kids look so easy, while he stressed over every little thing. The serenity of the scene conflicted with the chaotic night he’d had—the chaotic couple of days he’d had—and yet she made it seem attainable for more than a few minutes. But if anyone knew how quickly life could change, it was Truman.

 
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