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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 17

EVERLY

THE SPASMS from my orgasm would last well into tomorrow, I thought. There was no way I’d be able to forget this feeling or shake it from my bones.

Declan had infused me with the drug that was him, and I was addicted. When, he scooped me up from the bench press and carried me to the locker room, I clung to him harder than I should have because I didn’t want to let him go.

“I’m going to clean you up, Drop,” he’d said gently, the hands that had smacked my ass so soft now, like I was a treasure, like we hadn’t just had rough sex all over his gym.

“I can clean up on my own, Declan.”

He hummed and smiled, nestling his head into my neck as he carried me like a baby to rinse off. The locker room reminded me of a scene from a Greek cathedral with white pillars holding up the tall ceilings, gold faucets at the sink, rustic wood beams, folded plush towels and robes around every corner, and ombre mosaic tiling down the walls of the private shower stalls. A large jacuzzi with dim lighting sat in an intimate nook.

Declan hesitated near it, then grumbled as he walked on, “If I take you in there, I think you’ll have trouble walking tomorrow.”

I dragged a finger across the collar of his shirt. “I might enjoy being sore.”

“Don’t tempt me, Drop.”

I sighed, “I know. I shouldn’t even tempt myself.” Because our boundaries had now all been scribbled out, jumbled around, and rearranged.

He set me on a seat in the shower and undressed, taking his time as I stared at him.

Declan’s body had no flaws. His forearms were thick, his biceps round and large, and the abs defined in a way that was near impossible. “What are your tattoos for?”

He came close, so I didn’t catch what all of them were. “They’re all for my family. Five siblings, one niece, Mom and Dad. About to add two more with my sister’s twins.”

His hands roved over me as I stared up at him. “Pretty big family.”

He nodded. “Full house most of the time when I go home.”

“Do you go home a lot?”

He grabbed some soap from the dispenser and pulled me to stand next to him so he could rub it on my back, taking extra care when he got to my ass. “I should go home more. We’re all close, though. I try to make it home for holidays.”

I gasped when his hand grazed over my pussy. “I can wash myself, Declan.”

He didn’t stop soaping me up though. He was meticulous and thorough with his hands and fingers as he made sure to rub every single part of my body clean, even kneeling in front of me to rub my feet and calves. “I’m taking care of you now, Everly. It’s what I’m going to do when we’re together, always.”

“I don’t need a keeper.” My hands fell to his shoulders as his slid up my thigh.

“I know that.” His mouth was so close to my clit again, I could practically feel it on me. I stared in his eyes as that hand went further and further until he pressed two fingers in me again. My hands immediately flew to his shoulders. “You don’t need it, but you like having a keeper. It makes your pussy weep for me, baby.”

“Declan, I’m exhausted.”

“Give me one more, baby.” He wrapped my thigh around his shoulder. “Just one more. I love hearing you panting in the locker room.”

I knew this was going to end in disaster. I’d given my body and sexuality to Andy before, let them control me, and they’d made a fool of me, ruined me, driven me out of my own town. “Make it worth it, Declan. Because this has to be the last time.”

He chuckled into my pussy and shook his head. “This is just the beginning of us, Ms. Belafonte. I’ve got you for ten more months.”

I dug my nails in as his tongue circled my clit before thrusting into my folds. I rode his face as the shower water cascaded down on both of us.

After I screamed his name for what felt like the millionth time, he let me crumble into him so he could finish washing me up.

“You did so good tonight, babe,” he murmured. “So fucking good. You know that, right?”

I took his praise like a fiend who’d never heard nice things before. I didn’t get appreciation from my ex, hadn’t ever received accolades from my father, and being an only child meant compliments hadn’t come often.

Declan spent obsessive amounts of time drying me off before rubbing lotion he’d retrieved from his locker on me, making sure to knead my cheeks with care. I murmured I had extra clothing in my locker.

He shook his head. “You’re wearing this.”

He shoved a big shirt over my head and worked it over my body. When I looked down, I scoffed and glared up at him wearing a smug smile.

“My jersey is best.”

“I’m not so sure,” I threw back. “I’ve yet to see either of you play.”

“Right. You don’t watch football,” he grumbled like I was insane.


THE RIDE HOME was quiet until my phone buzzed with a text.

I stared at it for probably too long.

Tonya: His hearing is coming up. Should we go?

It’d been over a year, almost two if I was counting. But I hated doing that, hated thinking about the night I’d lost who I was, the day Tonya had lost her best friend, the day I’d pretty much died and become someone else.

I didn’t want to dwell. So I’d left. She’d stayed.

Tonya was the best friend of a girl who was dead to me. I was someone new. I’d left that life behind, hoping the media and the pain and the hurt wouldn’t follow me.

“Everly?” Declan murmured.

I jumped, and his hand went to my arm to steady me.

“Sorry,” I murmured and turned my phone off.

“Who was texting you?”

“No one.” I tried to brush it off.

He grumbled, “You’re a terrible liar.”

“It’s nothing important to my life now.”

And as I watched him comb his hand through his dark hair, I had to believe that. I had a new life here, a stepping stone that could lead me to a life that was better than before. And doing what Declan and I were doing wasn’t helping. Not when he was as famous as he was. Not when I wanted my past to stay in the past.”

Entertaining our desire could only lead to the path of destruction. The media would dissect our relationship, they’d hold it under a magnifying glass if we were an actual item. It’s why we needed to stick to the original plan. Make this marriage a clean one of convenience. Instead, we’d gone between our commitments, outside of them, way overshot them.

And even still, my heart wanted more of it. I wanted him commanding me around, I wanted the change in my life more than I’d wanted anything in a long time. But to want was to hope and to hope was to fear, and I’d seen how hope could be ripped away.

I’d lost the hope of forging a meaningful relationship with my father.

Lost the hope of a future I’d thought would last with my ex.

I’d lost hope in who I was and what I’d become too.

When Declan stopped the car in front of the guesthouse, I knew this had to be the end.

“I’ve already figured out plans for tomorrow. I’m going to Clara’s bakery first thing, and it’ll be nice to walk, so don’t worry about me.”

He studied me, his vivid eyes narrowing. “You always do what you plan, don’t you?”

“It relieves anxiety for me.” I shrugged.

“You can’t plan everything.” His voice came out low. Declan shifted and changed plans when he wanted, indulged in all he desired, and lived a life I couldn’t.

“Yes, I’m aware.” I needed to plan much better than I had in the past. I shifted in my seat. “But I’m going to try.”

We let the silence bounce between us, louder than words in the night. “We’re going to be more than a friendly commitment, Everly. You can’t avoid that now. This relationship is changing.”

I gripped my duffel bag at his words. “What happens when we don’t want a relationship anymore, then? Or even better, what happens when everyone finds out?”

“They haven’t yet, have they? Let’s keep taking it one day at a time.”

“I like to plan ten steps ahead,” I admitted.

“You can’t live everything all planned out, thinking through every scenario. You’ll miss half the moments that are made through spontaneous adventure. You’re so buttoned-up with plans, I’m fucking itching to unbutton you half the time.”

Was I really that obvious? “You don’t know if I’m like that or not—”

“Coffee twenty minutes before you leave for the day, you’re always on time, no breakfast, color-coordinated weekdays—red, white, blue, green, black. Blue’s the best on you, and you should wear it more than one damn day a week. And your lights are normally out by ten. That schedule says a lot about you.”

Even if it was boring, my schedule kept me calm, ready for all the outcomes, and prepared to take what life threw at me. “Right. Well, sorry. I don’t bring many surprises.”

He chuckled darkly. “You’re full of surprises, Everly. Especially with how you can bend over a—”

“Declan!” I cut him off. “Don’t you dare. Oh my God.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Come with me tomorrow.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. We need to stop—”

“I have an appointment,” he murmured, and then he nodded. “You’re coming.”

“I work, Declan.”

“Don’t worry about working tomorrow. You’ll still be paid, and I’ll switch the schedule around.”

Just like that. He would cover my wages and take care of my schedule. He maneuvered lives that fast. As I stared up at his big house, I shook my head. “No. Hanging out and fucking in a gym is not— We can’t have a marriage with benefits when it’s supposed to be one of convenience, Declan.”

“Why the hell not?”

He followed my gaze, but his car didn’t creep up toward his home. He was parked in front of my place maybe because I never asked to go to his and always turned him down when he invited me.

Or maybe it was because we’d fucked, not made love. Maybe this was still our boundary even if we didn’t say it. It had to be, right? I couldn’t live in his world, not with my past, and he couldn’t be a part of mine. I belonged here, and he had to belong up there.

Sure, he could ask me to change, to belong, to be beside him, but I didn’t like change, didn’t trust it anymore.

“Good night, Declan.” I pulled at my car door handle and hopped out before he could stop me.

As I hurried away though, I heard his window roll down and he called out, “Everly?”

I turned to glance back at him in his stupidly expensive car, and he smirked and nodded toward me. “My name on your back looks best.”

With that, he disappeared up the long driveway without so much as a “good night.”

I sat in silence later, tying together another bracelet while my thoughts raced.

My phone beeped with a text from Wes but I couldn’t bring myself to respond back to him. Not when I was trying my best to instead push away the thoughts of my freaking husband’s hands on me, trying to forget how he made me feel, trying to tell myself I could never truly be with a man like him. I was from a small town where my ex had made it too hard for me to even stay because of the stories that had been spread about me.

How would I make it here, tied to any of these larger-than-life athletes? The stories would be bigger, the spread wider, and the heartbreak even more destructive.


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