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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 22

DECLAN

DINNER WITH PIPER and Anastasia ran later than I wanted it to. I’d even made the effort to go to one of HEAT’s low-key restaurants, Vibe, at the hotel across the skywalk from the gym so that they wouldn’t want to stay late.

Still, they both ordered drinks and kept talking like I didn’t have somewhere to be. As if I didn’t need to get home to see if Everly was back from her date with Wes. Instead, I had to pretend I wasn’t pining over a girl that wasn’t sitting at the table with me.

“So, this marriage is a complete curveball but I’ll just run with it.” Piper laser focused on me as she said the words. “It’d be great if we dropped something other than the fact that you’re married. I mean, you could do an exclusive interview as a couple or if you want to be honest and discuss Carl’s will…”

She wanted all the details. She waited, her eyes trying to cut through to the truth.

“There’s nothing to disclose in regard to that. The HEAT empire is secure.”

“Has any sort of probate started or—”

“Piper, you’re on my PR team.” I set down my drink firmly. “You kill stories that don’t line up with mine and you put out the ones I want. That’s why you’re the best, am I right?”

“Declan, it’s easier when I know what I’m going up against.”

“This time, your job might be a little harder. You’ll get it done or I’ll find someone else who will.”

Anastasia tsked softly but when I swung my glare her way she immediately looked down at her phone. “I’m just so disappointed in Carl.”

“Me too,” Piper pouted. “I realize we haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately, Declan, but Everly over Anastasia? You and Anastasia have been close for years. I’m shocked that he’d have you marry a stranger who doesn’t run in our circle whatsoever.”

Anastasia nodded her curled hair in complete agreement and it was glaringly apparent to me now how offensive both of them truly were. They didn’t see past themselves at all. They were entitled, arrogant, and ignorant.

“Oh my God.” Piper’s jaw dropped as she looked past me. “She’s still going to date Wes?”

Whipping around, I saw her. Lips shining with a bit more gloss than she’d had on at the gym and a bit more flare to her lashes too. Everly waltzed in on Wes’s arm looking up at him with a dazzling smile on her face.

Most men probably would have felt jealousy right then, maybe even anger. I felt a damn challenge.

I excused myself immediately and made my way over to them, weaving around the oak chairs and strategically placed foliage. “Everly, Wes. You guys up for a round of drinks?”

My raindrop bit her lip when she heard my voice and her brow furrowed. She adjusted the tennis skirt she must have changed into around before answering. Yep, she knew this wasn’t going to go well. “I don’t think that’s—”

“Oh, Jesus,” Wes groaned and rolled his eyes. “I’m never going to get a second alone with her, am I?”

That was the fucking point. “Piper and Anastasia are here. Clara might be stopping by. You know they’re going to bother you if you don’t sit by us anyway.”

Wes sucked on his teeth, flexing his muscles and rearranging the man bun on his head for no damn reason as he weighed his options, not even thinking to ask Everly’s opinion. Then, he shrugged. “A few drinks won’t hurt. Noah and Po will probably stop by.”

“Great.” I nodded at him as he breezed by me, beelining over to Anastasia and Piper who were already waving him over. I leaned into whisper to Everly as she walked by, “Guess we’ll be spending the evening together after all.”

She rolled her eyes like she’d had enough of me. Did she know I was only getting started? I touched the small of her back and saw how goose bumps flew up over her arms. I was thankful for Piper recommending a bigger booth so I could slide in next to her and push my thigh up against hers underneath the table. She glanced at me, pursing her lips and shaking her head ever so slightly as if to deter me.

I didn’t care, and she was either too stubborn or too intrigued to move away. Instead, when I placed my hand on her leg after ordering everyone a round, she narrowed her eyes at me like she was daring me to continue. I had no problem with that. My thumb circled on her bare skin over and over again. Then, she leaned into Wes to whisper something into his ear before he proceeded to wrap his arm around her shoulders.

“I think I need a shot,” Anastasia wrinkled her nose at them.

Me too. I ordered them all shots on top of the round.

Everly chewed her cheek before she picked hers up and clinked it with everyone to down it.

When she shuddered down the gulp, I leaned in. “If you hate it, don’t drink it, Drop.”

She took a deep breath. “I think we should all have another,” she announced.

There was a challenge in her eye so I dragged my hand higher up her thigh. Her soft lips parted but no other indicator of our interaction was given.

Clara arrived right then, floral pattern all over her dress like she’d burst from a garden, and a smile peeked out when she saw Everly although she tried to hide it from her sister. “So, I saw the news.”

“I can’t believe it,” Anastasia muttered.

Wes sighed as his hand rubbed Everly’s shoulder right in front of me, like he had no regard for our marriage, like I wouldn’t contemplate breaking his wrist for touching my girl. Then he said, “It’s a shame Carl put you both in this predicament. Everly said it won’t be for long.”

“Did she?” I asked, my eyes on her. So she’d told him the truth on the way over. And yet, why did I still want to pound his face in? I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself and let my hand below ghost over Everly’s thigh back and forth. “Well, a year isn’t that long to some, is it, Everly?”

Fuck, the fire in her eyes as she whipped them at me was intoxicating.

“A whole year?” Piper and Anastasia said at the same time.

“Well, we’re about two and a half months in,” I shrugged and squeezed her leg under the table. Surprisingly, she hadn’t shoved me away, but her glare could have burned down the whole restaurant.

“Well, at least you can both date other people, right? I mean, do it discreetly, of course.” Piper pointed out and glanced at Wes’s arm, then turned to Anastasia. “You two still have a chance.”

“Anastasia and Declan?” Clara scoffed. “They’ve never even been on a date, Piper. Why would you say that after you’ve been with him?”

“Because Anastasia and Declan belong together, Clara. Everyone knows that. I just was a blip on his radar.” She smiled at me, and I felt Everly’s thigh move under my grip. But she didn’t move away, she moved closer, spreading her thighs apart.

When I looked at her in question, I saw that Everly was indulging her jealousy the way I was, that she wasn’t backing down even as she smiled, cool, calm, and collected at them. “Well,” she said, “Piper does know what the public likes to see, I’m told. You all have a great group here together.”

I brushed my thumb across her panties, and she leaned over on the table, placing her chin in the palm of her hand.

“Exactly. It’s a tight-knit group too,” Piper pointed out, swirling her drink around. “You haven’t been around long enough to understand the dynamics.”

The dynamics were simple. I’d pick Everly over them again and again.

Wes interjected, “I’m trying to make her understand, guys. She’s going to be one of us soon enough because she’s my girl. Even if she’s gotta do this last crazy thing for Carl’s sake. Right, Evie?”

Everly turned to gaze at him, biting her lip while my hand brushed over her soaking panties. When she looked in Wes’s eyes, he thought she was looking at him that way, like he caused her to fight for her next breath, like she loved every second of what he was doing.

“You’re my girl, right?” he whispered as he leaned down and kissed her temple. “And I got lucky she’s not a part of this crew because you’re all a damn handful sometimes.”

That’s when I pushed her panties to the side—to remind her who really got her wet, who took control when she needed. Her eyes widened and she sat up away from Wes, busying her hands with a napkin to tear it to shreds.

Clara agreed with Wes, which irritated Anastasia enough that they all started bickering, which took the attention off Everly for a second. That’s all it took for me to slide a finger in, for her to shift enough that I could move my thumb over her clit and rub the bundle of nerves just right, and then her sapphire eyes closed and her hand went under the table to grip my wrist.

I leaned in so she could tilt her head back and act as though she was listening to whatever I had to say. I hope she listened good too. “He’s lucky I know how to hand-fuck you under this table so you can remember who you really belong to, or I’d break his arm off from around your shoulder.”

Her breathing was too erratic to respond, but I worked her pussy until she got the best orgasm she could and then pulled her panties and skirt back into place before bringing my hand to the table to dip my finger in my whiskey.

She watched as I swirled it round and round, and her cheeks flushed when I sucked the alcohol and her sweet taste from it. “Whiskey’s good tonight. Take a sip, Drop.”

She didn’t even hesitate. I owned my wife’s body even if no one thought I did, and I wasn’t backing down or away. Nobody saw our exchange as they all argued, not even the man with his arm around her shoulders.

“Why don’t Everly and I go get another round?” I announced.

Clara was fast to agree as our only ally, and I stood from the booth, pulling Everly with me.

Anastasia and Piper stood too, but Anastasia was bold enough to lean into my chest. “Declan, let’s go dance,” she whined.

It only took three shots for her to turn into a clinger, for her to get those doe eyes she thought would work on me. In the past, I used to fold, giving in to whatever her and Piper wanted because it was the path of least resistance, but when I felt Everly’s hand sliding from my own, I gripped it tighter.

“I’ll meet you out there in a while maybe.”

I pulled Everly past them and weaved through the crowd that had formed. The restaurant had already dimmed the lights.

“Declan, you probably should go dance with her.”

“I probably shouldn’t,” I responded back. When we got to the bar, I pulled her up to it and caged her in between my arms. “If I’m dancing with anyone tonight, it’s going to be you.”

“I don’t think so. I’m here with Wes.” She lifted her chin and stared straight ahead. “You have an obligation to your peers and the company. Once we’re done, it won’t be to me. It will be to her, Declan.”

“Is that so? And do you have an obligation to him? Is that why you went out with him tonight?” I blurted.

She looked over her shoulder at me. “What sort of obligation would I have with him that you’re so worried about, Declan?”

I hummed low. “One where you’re in a damn skirt for him, Drop. And wearing lip gloss that I know tastes like strawberries.” I stepped closer to her and felt her ass against my cock, my arms brushing against her bare skin. Vibe was filling up quickly, and it allowed for me to get close without anyone questioning it.

“You realize it’s a tennis skirt and the only thing I had in my locker, right?”

“What about when I have dinner with you?” I wanted the same treatment, wanted whatever she’d give me at this point. “You going to dress up for me?”

“I’m not sure.” She shrugged and turned back to the bar like nothing could faze her. “We haven’t had dinner together yet.”

“I’ve invited you to dinner.”

“At what you claim is our house? Well, then, it’s supposed to be my home too, and I don’t really get dressed up to sit at home,” she snarked.

The small smile that played on her lips told me she was trying to rile me. And still, I took the bait. “So, you get ready for your boyfriend but not your husband?”

“Declan,” she whipped around and whispered my name fiercely, fire in her eyes, “don’t start with that.”

Alcohol. Jealousy. A tiny raindrop that I wanted to control more than life itself. You name it. “You’re driving me fucking crazy sitting next to him and whispering in his ear,” I admitted.

“That’s ridiculous. You were out with Anastasia and Piper who I know you’ve …”

“Go on. Finish the sentence.”

“You’ve slept with Piper,” she pointed out and then fisted her tiny hand like she was mad at herself for having a reaction. “And it doesn’t matter. Honestly. Because we are two people living separate lives. And after, you’ll probably have to date my stepsister.”

“Would that bother you?” I whispered in her ear.

I saw the goose bumps break out over her neckline. “If it did?”

“Then, I’d say we need to rethink the commitments we’ve made regarding this marriage.”

She shook her head, worried immediately about changing a course she’d already set in motion. “No. I’m not bothered. I’ll get through it.”

The bartender walked up and asked for my order, willing to cater to the owner. She wiggled away from me right as my phone rang, and I let her go when I saw the number.

“Mrs. Johnson?” I answered as I watched her weave through a few guys and then catch Noah and Po’s attention.

I’d hired someone to dig through the will, to figure out what Mrs. Johnson wasn’t telling us and I’m guessing that’s why she was calling.

“Yes, Declan, sorry to be calling so late, but I wanted to remind you of the stipulation meeting. We’ve got two weeks until then and I want to make sure you and Everly are getting along.” She cleared her throat. “This stipulation won’t put too big a wrench in anything but I have heard you’ve been digging around.”

I wouldn’t deny it. “I’d like to know what it is sooner rather than later.”

“Well, at three months, Ms. Belafonte and you will have to make a decision that will either end your marriage or move it forward. I’d like to think the latter. You two seem so good together.”

My blood pressure rose, and I gripped the side of the bar. “Holding a stipulation secret this long with regard to a will can’t be—”

“I’ll see you soon, Declan. Please be nice to your wife.”

I hung up and mashed my teeth together as I called the one person I thought may be able to help.

I pounded his number into my phone as I walked out of the bar. He answered on the second ring. “What do you want, brother-in-law?”

“Do you and Izzy know the three month stipulations of the will?”

“Sure,” he said with literally no emotion in his voice.

“What the fuck? Tell me.”

“I’d rather not.”

“This isn’t even legal.” I ground out.

“Sure. But when you’re willing to make an illegal trust and will legal, it sort of takes illegal actions to make it null and void again. The world’s nice and fucked-up that way.”

“Fuck you, Cade.”

I hung up on him and went back inside to search for Everly. We had two weeks to figure out if we were going to commit to the stipulations and I knew whatever it was, I wasn’t losing her just yet. I knew whatever it was, I wanted her to commit with me.


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