Tied, p.2
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       Tied, p.2
 

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  I chuckle at my own joke. “You probably don’t want to hear this, but your mom is gorgeous—the finest ass I’ve ever laid eyes on. Still, I really liked my old life and I couldn’t imagine anything better. But I was wrong, James—falling in love with her, earning her trust, having you, are the best things I’ve ever done.”

  He’s not crying at all anymore but simply regarding me with quiet attention. “The adjustment might be hard . . . but it’s worth it. So could you cut us some slack, please? We love you so much—I can’t wait to show you how fucking great life is on the outside. And you don’t have to be scared, because we’ll keep you warm and fed. And I promise I’ll never, ever let anything bad happen to you.”

  His little mouth opens in a stretching yawn. And his eyes slow-blink. I stand up and pace the room again—slowly.

  Kate’s hushed voice comes from the across the room. “You certainly have a way with words, Mr. Evans.” Her hair is wild, messy; my college T-shirt is baggy on her and almost reaches her knees.

  “What are you doing up?” I ask.

  She shrugs. “I couldn’t fall back asleep. And I heard you whispering out here.” She walks up to us and rests her head against my arm—gazing down at the baby. “He’s asleep.”

  And so he is.

  “Do I risk putting him down, or should I learn to sleep standing up like a frigging horse?”

  Kate loops her arm through mine and guides me to the couch. She sits and pats the spot next to her. Like a member of the bomb squad handling a device with a hair trigger, I shift James so he’s on my chest, his head resting on the steady beat of my heart. Then I sit down and put my feet on the table and my head against the back cushion and my arm around Kate’s shoulders.

  I sigh. “God, that feels good.”

  Still not better than sex—I don’t give a shit what the new-mom magazines say. Sleep is good, but screwing will always be better.

  Kate curls her feet under her and rests her head against my arm. “It sure does.”

  A few moments later, all three of us are sound asleep.

  It’s possible James understood my offer of bribery, because that night he slept there on my chest for three whole hours. Before he woke up—and it started all over again.

  But I have a theory. I think it’s all deliberate. I think God plans for those first days home with a new baby to suck donkey balls. Because afterward? Everything else—the shitty diapers, the regurgitation, the constant changing of clothes and bed linens, teething—they all feel like a walk in the park.

  After a few more days, I realized my mother wasn’t just being a bitch. She was actually giving us solid advice. Because together, Kate and I were able to figure it all out.

  You know how dogs have a bark that says, Let me out or I’ll piss on your recliner? And another that says, Just give me the squeaky toy, you sadistic son of a bitch? And even another one that says, I’m not playing. I’m literally going to chew your face off now?

  Babies aren’t much different from dogs. There’s a cry when they’re hungry. One when they’re tired. Another one when they’re bored, or when maybe their nose itches and they just don’t have the manual dexterity to scratch.

  In any case, once you figure out the Language of Crying Baby? Life is a whole lot sweeter. And quieter.

  Plus—here’s the kicker—in spite of the exhaustion? The frustration? The crying that makes you want to puncture your fucking eardrum with a meat thermo?

  You love them anyway. Fully. Fiercely.

  Intensely.

  You wouldn’t change a thing about them—wouldn’t trade them for all the freaking iPhones in China. Sounds strange, I know. But that’s just how it is.

  Screw the Peace Corps. Parenthood is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

  So now, two years later, back to the porn-worthy sex . . .

  I slide my hands under Kate’s ass—kneading and lifting—bringing us closer. Rocking us faster. My forehead hovers close to hers and I open my eyes. So I can watch.

  I’m greedy like that. I want to soak up every gasp—every flicker of pleasure that dances across her exquisite face. Pleasure I’m giving her.

  I know Kate’s body as well as I know my own. There’s a contentment, a confidence, a power, in that knowledge that I can’t fully explain. We’re completely in sync. Joined body and soul. A well-lubed machine working in tandem toward that moment of pure, hot paradise that I’ve only ever experienced with her.

  Kate’s breathing changes. It turns panting and desperate, and I know she’s close. Sweat trickles down my chest. I move harder, grinding against her—inside her—with every forward push. Warms sparks tickle my spine and tighten my balls. Heat spreads down and out until every nerve in my body is shaking. Quivering. Begging to explode.

  Sweet Jesus.

  My hips rock back, and I pull almost all the way out. Then, for a second, I freeze. We teeter right on the edge. Together. Savoring the sensation of that perfect moment—right before you come—where it feels so fucking good. But you know it’s about to feel even better.

  I slam my cock inside her, burying deep as Kate’s hips jerk upward. She spasms hard around me, gripping me tight over and over, while ecstasy wracks my body, making me shudder.

  I hold on to Kate’s ass as if my life depends on it. I press my lips against her neck to soften the sounds I can’t control. “Kate . . . Kate . . . fuck . . . Kate . . .”

  It’s astounding. Fantastic. But not unusual. ’Cause we’re just that frigging good together.

  I exhale harshly against Kate’s skin as I come back down to earth. But I don’t move yet. I just don’t have the will. I’m considering going back to sleep. On top of her.

  She won’t mind.

  At least that’s what I think, until Kate performs the move that seems to amuse every woman on earth. And causes every man on earth to want to squeal like an impaled pig. Without warning, she uses her powerful pussy muscles to squeeze my extremely sensitive dick.

  Guys hate that. We don’t think it’s funny. Kate knows this.

  I jerk back, pull out, and roll off her.

  I try to look annoyed—but don’t quite pull it off. Because Kate’s eyes are sparkling. And she’s giggling. And she looks so messy-haired, flushed-faced, just-fucked beautiful, that it’s impossible not to grin back.

  She knows that too.

  I whisper, “Hi.”

  “Hey.”

  I turn on my back and Kate scoots closer, resting her head on my chest and her palm on my stomach.

  My tattoo? Noticed that, did you? Yeah—I got another one right after James was born. It’s straightforward, nothing flashy. But it’s as meaningful as Kate’s name on my right arm.

  It simply says James. Right over my heart.

  “So,” Kate starts, “big day today, huh?”

  I run my fingers through her hair. “No. Next week is a big day. Today’s just a technicality.”

  One hundred sixty-eight hours. Eight thousand six hundred and forty minutes.

  Not that I’m counting or anything.

  That’s when it’ll be official. That’s when Kate Brooks is gonna marry me. When she’ll not only sleep in my bed because she wants to—but because she’s legally obligated to be there.

  Husband and wife. Flesh of my flesh. What God has joined together, let no one who wants to keep his arm attached try to pull asunder.

  Kate bites her lip. “Have the guys told you what the plan is?”

  She’s referring to the bachelor party. My bachelor party.

  My Las Vegas bachelor party.

  The stag party is a night to celebrate the demise of a man’s singlehood, in the rankest, most depraved manner possible. Sex and alcohol are big themes. You’ve seen the movies—The Hangover, Bachelor Party . . . it’s the last hurrah. Like the night before you ship off to war or, if you’re a woman, start a diet.

  The groom is expected to gorge himself on all the stuff he supposedly won’t be getting anymore, once he slips that ring on
his bride’s pretty little finger.

  Of course, Kate is not the average bride. And because our relationship—and our sex life—is better now than it’s ever been, at first I didn’t want a party. I just didn’t see the point.

  For a few men, such as me, once you’re in love, all the other tits and asses in the world just sort of . . . blend together. It’s like . . . cars in the city—the honking, the revving, the screech of tires on blacktop. I hear them, I know they’re there, but I just don’t give a shit. I don’t glance their way, don’t stop to look. Not anymore—because I’ve got a top-of-the-line classic in my garage, just waiting for me to come home and ride her.

  She’s the only one I want.

  But eventually, the guys convinced me. Jack, Matthew, and Steven cornered me in the conference room and explained that the bachelor party wasn’t really for me. It was for all the other guys, who actually had to work to get laid.

  Meaning the single guys and . . . you know . . . the ones who are already married.

  After hearing them plead their case, I was on board. Between work, Kate, and the adorable little dictator that is our son, I haven’t had a lot of quality time with the boys. I figured it would be a good time—a night of bonding—a way to make some lifelong memories with my closest friends.

  So when Kate asks if the guys have told me what the plan is, I answer, “Not really.” Matthew’s exact words were “The less you know, the better. Plausible deniability.” But I don’t want to tell Kate that. It’ll just make her worry.

  She doesn’t let it go, however. “Well, if you had to guess, what do you think you’ll do?”

  I shrug again. “Steak dinner, casino, drinking . . .”

  “Strippers?”

  Did you hear the change in her voice? The preemptive anger? The bite?

  My eyebrows rise. “A visit to a strip club will probably be on the itinerary, yeah.”

  She scoffs. In that you’re-such-a-prick kind of way. Then she sits up and crosses her arms. “Of course. Figures. Because you haven’t spent enough time in the company of strippers—you have to squeeze in another night’s worth before our wedding.”

  Have you ever heard of the Missile Defense System—the MDS? Started by Reagan in the eighties, its sole purpose is to defend against another country’s attack. To destroy their missiles before impact. To deflect damage. The system doesn’t analyze the opposition’s argument. It doesn’t take the time to consider that maybe they have a valid reason for attacking. It simply reacts. Immediately. Defensively.

  “Don’t get pissy—it’s a bachelor party. Are you trying to tell me Dee-Dee’s not gonna have a guy . . . or ten . . . shaking their junk in your face?”

  Did I not mention that the girls will be coming along on our weekend adventure? They are. Delores thought it’d be fun to make it a group excursion, then split up for our separate nights of debauchery. I thought it was a fabulous suggestion—made me almost like Dee.

  “That’s different and you know it,” Kate argues.

  “Except it’s really not.”

  “Will it bother you if Dee hired strippers?”

  For years, Sister B told us there were no stupid questions. Boy, was she full of shit.

  The mere thought of a half-naked guy who isn’t me grinding on Kate? It makes me want to destroy something—like a face. Go all Fight Club and break someone into mangled, bloody pieces until he’ll never resemble a human being again.

  Maybe it’s caveman. Maybe it’s irrational and sexist and unfair. But that’s just how I am.

  “Of course it’ll fucking bother me!”

  “Dee-Dee says what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

  “Matthew needs to learn how to muzzle his fucking gander.”

  “Like you muzzle me?”

  I can be biting too. “No, sweetheart—I enjoy your mouth way too much to muzzle it. I prefer it wide-open and waiting.”

  Kate gasps, and I expect her to come back at me, guns blazing. Because this is what we do. You’ve been around long enough—you know the drill. It’s foreplay, afterplay, it’s jabs and zingers. They’re just words—a way to vent our frustrations or turn each other on.

  They don’t mean jack shit. Only on rare occasions is there any real anger or hurt feelings behind them. And this isn’t one of those times.

  Only . . . apparently it is.

  “See—this is exactly what I was afraid of. We haven’t even left yet, and you’re already being a bastard. I knew this would happen again.”

  Kate turns slightly away from me, shaking her head stiffly. That’s when I see them. Tears. Welling in her eyes, ready to fall, being held back by her sheer stubbornness alone.

  I’m surprised. And aching. Like I got shot in the heart with a rock-size rubber bullet.

  Kate throws the sheets off and moves to get out of bed. But I’m faster—Flash Gordon can eat my dust. Before her feet hit the floor, I’m in front of her, hands up. Remorseful and apologetic.

  And naked.

  When you’re trying to plead your case? Being naked doesn’t hurt.

  “Kate . . . wait . . . just slow down. Back up a minute.” I grab for her wrist.

  But she pulls away. “Stop touching me!”

  Right—like that’s gonna happen.

  But I don’t get a chance to tell her that. A dreaded sound echoes across the room and halts all action, grabbing our full attention. Because it’s coming from the baby monitor.

  It’s a rustling, the sound of cotton rubbing cotton. Like snipers in the jungle, we don’t move a muscle. We don’t say a word. We wait. Until the rustling stops. And all is quiet again.

  That was a warning sign—a shot across our bow. A “shut the hell up.”

  We don’t have to be told twice.

  What ensues next is a comical soundless argument only true parents will understand. It’s all mouthing and miming, facial expression and hand flailing. Until eventually, Kate flips me the finger.

  Then I smile. And mouth, “Okay.”

  I mean, if she’s ready for round two, who am I to deny her?

  I tackle her. We roll around on the bed for a minute until I pin her down—sitting on her waist—trapping her hands over her head. The physical exertion defuses some of the tension, and Kate looks a little less devastated. When I’m sure she won’t try to escape, I grab the comforter and pull it over both of us, so we’re shielded in a conversation-muting cocoon.

  I flop down on my side facing Kate, and in a half-whispered tone I get right to the point. “If the idea of strippers being part of the entertainment bothers you so much, why the hell did you say it was okay to have my bachelor party in Las Vegas?”

  Strippers in Las Vegas are like corn in Iowa. They’re kind of what the city is known for.

  Kate squirms. Then she sighs. “Because everyone was so excited about going to Las Vegas. I didn’t want to be the downer. Bachelor and bachelorette parties in Vegas are like . . . tradition, right?”

  Not too long ago, sacrificing goats was a tradition too. Doesn’t make it a good idea.

  “Not all traditions have to be followed. If you’re really that uncomfortable about it, I’ll tell the guys no. We’ll stick to gambling, cigars, and alcohol.”

  She pauses a moment—thinking. “You would do that for me?”

  I chuckle. Because by now, how can she not know? “Of course I would.”

  Kate tucks her hands under her cheek. It makes her look young, vulnerable. My chest tightens with the desire to protect her. From anything—everything—that could cause her pain.

  Including my own tongue.

  “I don’t really care about the strippers, Drew.”

  Now I’m confused. “Are you saying that because you really don’t care—or because you think that’s what I want you to say?”

  I have to ask, because in my experience, women will tell you to do something and then slit your fucking throat when you actually do it. Since you were supposed to know they didn’t really want you
to do it. That they don’t really mean what they say.

  Except for the times when they do.

  It’s like an undiscovered form of schizophrenia. God gave you a mouth for a reason, ladies. Well . . . several reasons actually.

  But the point is—use it. Be up-front. It’ll save us all a lot of time and energy.

  “No—I’m being honest. Now that I know you don’t want to go to a strip club, it doesn’t bother me so much if you do.”

  “Then why were you upset?”

  “I think, deep down, I’m just . . . afraid.”

  “Of what?”

  “You.”

  Ouch. Gotta say, that one kind of hurts. Like an old knee injury that acts up so infrequently, you almost forget it’s there. Until it reminds you. And you’re bedridden for a week.

  Kate sees my expression and elaborates. “I’m afraid you’re going to do something . . . that you’re going to see something, or hear something, and that you’ll take it the wrong way. That there’ll be a misunderstanding, and you’ll react . . . badly.”

  I rub my eyes. And sigh. “I thought we were past all that, Kate.”

  She grabs my hand and squeezes. “We are past it. We forgave each other, and we’re so good now. But . . . you have to admit . . . there’s a pattern.”

  Rose Kennedy once declared, “It has been said, ‘Time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

  Preaching to the choir, Rosie. Preaching to the choir . . .

  My hand trails out and cups Kate’s cheek to reassure her. “I’m not that guy anymore, Kate.”

  Okay, you’re right: deep down I am still that guy. But I’m smarter now. More. I’m a father. In a week, I’ll be a husband. And I would cut my dick off before I would ever hurt Kate like that again.

  I’ve grown, God damn it.

  “I love you, Kate. And I trust you. I trust us. We talk about things—I don’t just react now. So I’m not gonna screw this up. Not this weekend; not ever again.”

  Oh, irony. You ugly bitch.

  Kate’s hand covers mine. She stares into my eyes, looking for truth or sincerity or I don’t know what. Whatever it is, she finds it. Because she smiles. And kisses me softly. “I believe you.”

  Then she pulls back and asks, “Would you feel better if I tell Dee to cancel any stripper plans she may have made for us?”

  Yes.

  “No.”

  Hell yes.

  “Well . . . maybe.”

  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  “No. No. I want you to have fun with the girls. You know, do what ganders do.”

  See? If that’s not evidence of fucking growth, I don’t know what the hell is. Besides, male strippers aren’t that big a deal. Because most of them are aspiring dancers. And we all know what that means. . . .

  Anyway, no girl wants to bang a guy in a banana hammock. I don’t care if you’re built like a brick shithouse and hung like a freaking horse—if you’re
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