Wicked all the way, p.1
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       Wicked All the Way, p.1

         Part #6. 5 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Wicked All the Way
Page 1

  Chapter 1

  Black Friday 2012 – Tyler, Texas

  “If I have to watch you ogle my mother-in-law’s ass for another second, I’m going to gack. ”

  Caleb Edgington tore his stare from Carlotta Buckley’s gorgeous backside wrapped in a soft black skirt and turned to glare at his oldest son, Hunter. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Like I’ve never had to watch you ogle Kata? You forget, you two visited me not long after you married. Want to know how much sleep I got those few days for listening to you newlyweds through the walls?”

  Not at all repentant, Hunter just grinned.

  Rolling his eyes, Caleb stole another glance at the object of his lust as she and her daughter, Hunter’s wife, made their way around the garland-wrapped corner of the restaurant, heading up the hall to the ladies’ room.

  Damn, Carlotta’s ass made him salivate.

  He sighed. “You think you got the market cornered on attraction because you’re married? Or young?”

  “Nope. I’m going to gack because you’ve been staring at her ass for over two years, and you still haven’t managed more than…what, two dates?”

  A flare of heat passed through Caleb’s system, partly fueled by anger that Hunter was throwing this shit in his face. The other part was a pure jolt of erotic sizzle. Yeah, two dates in two years. And the kiss that had ended that second one…

  Caleb picked up his cell phone and bounced it lightly against the checkered tablecloth, gathering his words. “She’s afraid of me. ”

  Instantly, Hunter’s teasing smile disappeared. “I thought you two had worked that out. ”

  “As long as we’re just ‘friends. ’” Caleb’s lip curled up in annoyance. “Saying I wanted a hell of a lot more was a tactical error on my part that put us back at square one. ”

  “Having met her ex-douche bag, Gordon, I can’t say I’m surprised that she’s reluctant. ”

  “I’m not a damn thing like him!” And if Hunter thought so, Caleb wasn’t too old to exert some parental ass-kicking influence.

  “Oh, hell no. Not even close. ” Hunter scowled. “What I mean is…you’re on the forceful side. Where do you think Logan and I got that trait from, Dad? Granted, you taught us how to respect a woman. Gordon, that damn asswipe, treated her like she didn’t matter. He told her what to do, when to do it, how to do it. After her driver’s license lapsed, he refused to take her to have it renewed. With her ankle injury—which he didn’t allow her to rehab—she couldn’t take herself. He convinced her to quit her job. He cut her off from her friends, her livelihood, and the outside world. Remember, he didn’t even fucking take her to the doctor when she had pneumonia. Instead, he tried to convince her that she had seasonal allergies. If I had to guess, I think she’s just worried about letting another take-charge man near her. ”

  “I might be a bit overprotective, but I’m not that kind of asshole,” Caleb insisted.

  “You’re not, but smothering?” Hunter’s stare challenged him to own up to the accusation.

  Caleb just gritted his teeth.

  “Remember when Kata and I went through something like this? My wife was only afraid that she could lose her identity, because apparently I can be a little overbearing. Who knew?” Hunter gave a mock shrug.

  “The whole universe?” Caleb suggested with a grin.

  “Yeah, just remember, you and I are cut from the same cloth. ”

  No denying that. Hunter was a dead ringer for him twenty years ago.

  “But here’s the difference,” his son reminded him. “Carlotta did lose her identity. Her fear isn’t a maybe/might thing. It’s real and in the not-too-distant past. ”

  Caleb balled his hand into a fist. Hunter’s words explained why she’d run and stopped nearly all contact between them, family dinners and minor emergencies excepting, after he’d pinned her against the door of her cozy little house and kissed her after their second date. He’d tried so damn hard to coax her gently, but Carlotta didn’t just flip his switch—more like the whole circuit breaker of his central nervous system. With his lips layered over hers, he’d grabbed her screen door to restrain himself from hauling her into his arms and dragging her to bed. Caleb still remembered the horror on her face when she realized that he’d inadvertently ripped the little metal contraption off one of its hinges. She’d quickly slid in the house with a murmured good night and slammed the door in his face. After that, he’d done everything he could think of to reassure her—fixing her door, flowers, phone calls.

  No response.

  Had he given up? Not really. He’d plotted a tactical retreat…but every time he got around her, he was as subtle as an Assault Amphibious Vehicle. Of course, twenty-four years in the U. S. Army didn’t exactly cultivate a talent for tact.

  “I know,” Caleb admitted. “When she stayed with me just after her separation, she nearly jumped out of her skin every time I even came near her. ”

  “I think she’s filed you in the ‘overwhelming’ category. ”

  Exactly. But it didn’t do him any good to pretend to be someone else in order to win her over. From everything he understood, her ex had pulled that routine.

  “She’s not leaving me with many options, but I’m not giving up. I’ve dated the alternative. ” Caleb grimaced. “The last one was forty, just divorced, and ready to skip dinner to tango between the sheets. ”

  “Don’t say another word, Dad. That is a textbook case of TMI. ” Hunter looked a little green.

  Caleb wasn’t a lot more comfortable saying it, but facts were facts. He’d gotten to the age where he appreciated a woman for qualities other than her sex drive. Not that he didn’t want that, too. Being over fifty hadn’t been a death sentence on his libido—at all. But Carlotta was just…more.

  The waitress, wearing black slacks and a Santa hat, dropped off the check. He picked it up, waving away Hunter’s money, as thoughts of the beautiful woman assaulted him without mercy.

  Her tender heart drew him. Over the past two years, he’d noticed that she went out of her way to please just about everyone. She’d helped Kata decorate her first apartment with Hunter, turning it into a cozy little nest for newlyweds. Complete strangers at the hospital where she worked felt her compassion daily when she shared a smile, a tear, their silence. She’d taken to mothering Hunter with an affection he hadn’t had since Caleb’s own wife had walked out on him nearly fifteen years ago. His macho Navy SEAL son might not admit that he liked it, but when Carlotta cooked his favorite meals, Hunter preened like a cat basking in sunlight. She’d even opened her heart to his younger son, gently teasing or scolding Logan whenever he was home and on leave. And the sweet woman had all but adopted Logan’s little wife, Tara, and his youngest daughter, Kimber, both of whom had grown up mostly without a mother.

  Carlotta spared him only stuttering words and averted gazes…and lots of blushing. Yeah, he made her nervous.

  “Good. I don’t want to talk to you about my sex life, either. But how am I supposed to convince her that, despite my hard head, I’d be good to her?”

  Hunter hesitated, then whipped out his phone, sending a quick text. “Let me think on that, maybe talk to Kata. In the meantime, I’ve texted my gorgeous wife and told her to stall coming back to the table. I was hoping to ask you for a favor. ” On cue, Hunter’s phone beeped. He read it. “All right. That buys me five minutes. ”

  Caleb wasn’t particularly ready to change the subject, but Hunter had suddenly turned antsy. Whatever it was, his son found it damn important. “Shoot. ”

  “Remember when I came home at the end of May, then rushed back here in August?”

  “Vaguely. ” Caleb shrugged.

  “Kata
was ten weeks pregnant and lost the baby. ”

  The air left Caleb’s lungs, and he leaned forward, gaping at his son. Then he scowled.

  Hunter held up his hands. “Before you say it, I know. But Kata wanted to tell me first, in person, and I didn’t get leave. I knew nothing until she called from the hospital. She didn’t want anyone but her mother to know. That’s just Kata. You know she doesn’t want the pity. ”

  “Oh, shit. I’m sorry, son. ” He clapped Hunter’s shoulder gently, wishing that he’d have known or could have helped. Kata had an independent streak that his son had learned to respect—so he had to do the same.

  “I won’t lie; it’s been a tough three months. I had mixed reactions to it all, but it’s made me confront some things I’ve been putting off. ” Hunter sighed heavily. “I can’t be an active-duty SEAL forever. ”

  “It’s a tough gig after thirty, I’m sure. ”

  “Amen. Kata wants to have kids now. I’d planned to wait until I left the Navy. I didn’t want…”

  Hunter looked like he was grasping for diplomatic phrasing, and Caleb saved him the trouble. “What your mother and I had?”

  “Yeah. She tried to raise three kids while you were gone. She was alone, angry, depressed. I know other women manage, but I don’t want to risk putting Kata through what I fear might make her unhappy. And when Mom walked out because she couldn’t deal anymore, I resented the hell out of her. ”

  His son had summed up some of the problems, but he and Amanda had suffered through many others. He had been overbearing. Protecting her had been his way of showing affection. Well, that and taking her to bed. Amanda had wanted someone more charming, less rough around the edges. He hadn’t known what to do with her tears and rants that life hadn’t turned out as expected, so he’d shut down.

  Caleb rubbed the top of his military-short hair. It was probably more gray than golden these days. Wasn’t that shit supposed to bring wisdom? For the life of him, he didn’t know what to say to his son.

  “So I take it you’ve come to some conclusion?” he asked Hunter instead.

  His son looked pensive. “Jack and Deke have offered me a job. Good money, health insurance, far less risk of dying in a third-world shithole. ”

  “But you love what you do. ”

  “Yep, but everyone knows I’m one injury away from being off the teams for good. This shoulder of mine has been shot up twice. ” He rolled it. “It’s stiff. I worry… What if it freezes up on me during a mission? What if me wanting to hang onto this part of my life endangers a teammate? I worry about it, but…” Hunter fingered his phone, probably to avoid eye contact more than anything.

  Like father, like son. Communication was essential, but they were both far better at sorting through others’ issues. They tended to bury their own.

  “Not enough to quit?”

  “Nope. I just work out harder. Then I remember the six months I thought that Kata and I were divorced. ” Hunter drew in a shaking breath. “It fucking gutted me, and I couldn’t go through that again. She wants kids. She wants a husband who’s home more than not. She wants normalcy. ”

  “And you think it’s time you grew up and shouldered your responsibilities?”

  Hunter’s blue stare bounced up to his. “Yeah. And actually, I’m finding myself looking forward to it. ”

  “You’re so much fucking smarter than me. I didn’t figure out all that crap until I was over forty. ”

  His son snorted. “Of course I’m smarter. That was a given. ”

  Marriage had been good for Hunter. He was still intense as hell, and Caleb knew he was largely the cause of that. But he’d found his sense of humor, could talk about his feelings now, and worshipped the ground Kata walked on. In some ways, Caleb found himself a little envious.

  “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m ready for some more grandkids. Two strapping boys, and what do I have from them? Jack squat. Your baby sister has outclassed you in the reproduction department. ”

  “That’s where the favor comes in. ” Hunter drew in a deep breath. “I scraped together some of my savings, along with part of the last signing bonus I received. I bought us a house. I want to surprise Kata for Christmas. ”

  “That’s great, son. You don’t think she’ll string up by your balls for buying a house without her input?”

  Hunter laughed. “Yeah, my wife does threaten that a lot. I’ll just start reminding her that if she wants kids, then string and my balls don’t belong in the same sentence…or the same room. Luckily, she’s seen this house, likes the neighborhood. But the place needs work. It’s older and been vacant. The kitchen especially shows it. I set aside another chunk of cash for some remodeling…but I have to be back on base in forty-eight. ”

  And he’d have no time to tackle the renovation in the last few weeks before Christmas.

  “You want to shamelessly use my handiness around the house?” Caleb teased.

 
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