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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 27

DECLAN

SHE’D SURVIVED ASSAULT, and no one had delivered justice.

The court system had failed her. Like it had failed so many. Her father had failed her too. It all made sense now. Carl tying me to her, knowing how the media would resurface that information. It was clear he expected me to take care of it.

I took her to the guesthouse that same day and tried my best not to touch her until I got my emotions in check. I wanted to rage—red, violent, catastrophic rage. She didn’t need that from me. But I was going to. I didn’t give a fuck what she said. She operated logically and without emotion because the world hadn’t allowed her to feel her damn heart.

I knew I was the opposite. I acted on my first instinct, and I would here too.

Not for Carl, but for her.

That night, I called company after company to make sure those stories were taken down. And I called Piper to tell her to get to fucking work. “Maybe it’s best we let the stories ride out and not try to save her image if she’s concerned—”

“You let these stories surface, I fire your whole PR firm, Piper. Get rid of them.”

Everly didn’t come over to eat, although I’d invited her, but the lights at her place burned bright while I swam lap after lap in the pool outside. Way past ten, her light was still on. I knew because I stayed up until three watching it.

I dozed off but woke up at five to get back to it.

“Declan, it’s five thirty in the morning,” my sister snipped when she answered.

“I need to talk to Cade.”

She muttered out, “Of course you do. Just don’t do anything stupid.” Izzy, the freaking wild child of the family, was warning me.

“Give the phone to your husband,” I said and she knew I meant it because a second later Cade grumbled in the background.

“I want all the information on him and his family,” I spit into the phone.

“I don’t think me giving you that information is very legal,” Cade drawled on the other line.

“I don’t give a fuck.”

“Oh, so now when you want something done it’s fine if it’s not legal? What happened to me not being good enough for your sister because of my background?”

“I swear to fucking Christ, Cade. You met her, it’s for her.”

“I’ve met a lot of people,” he deadpanned. “There’re a lot of women in the world—”

“There’s only one woman you’re going to have to see around the family for the rest of your life attached to me and that’s my wife,” I bellowed, losing my patience. Quite frankly, I think I’d lost my mind. “You want to cross me? It will mean you dealing with me and my sister. Izzy will—”

“The information’s in your email, fucker. Stop acting like I wouldn’t get it for you. You’re part of the family now.”

“I’m not a part of your family, Cade—”

“Oh, you are. You’ll see.”

My brother-in-law hung up the phone on me, and I didn’t bother picking apart what he had to say. My focus was on her. Everly Belafonte. The woman who’d stood up for what was right and been torn apart for it.

My phone beeped as I scrolled the email he’d sent.

Izzy: Declan truly is being the reckless child now. Make sure all you Hardy men are watching him. He even called Cade.

Me: Fuck off, Izzy.

Dimitri: Too early for sibling chat. But I will say, Dec, the press is doing her dirty because she’s married you. You’d better handle that shit.

Dom: Honestly, I got my own problems, but if Declan can’t handle it, I definitely will. Everly’s my girl.

Me: She’s not your girl. She’s my fucking wife. I’m handling it.

I grumbled to myself as I stared at the sunrise outside. I had let all of the day pass without calling or texting her or barging back into her place. Now, it was breakfast time. And the clock ticked.

6 a.m.

7 a.m.

8 a.m.

I still hadn’t eaten, but I made scrambled eggs and biscuits and cut up damn strawberries, like I was ready for us to have a gourmet meal.

Me: Are you coming to breakfast?

Everly: I don’t particularly enjoy breakfast, as you know.

Me: You didn’t come to dinner either.

Everly: I wasn’t sure you wanted me there after everything we discussed. So, I decided against it.

Me: You decided against what I specifically told you we were doing every day?

Everly: Declan, the media is going to drag your name through the mud because of my past. Let’s just get through the rest of this year. Sharing a meal every day isn’t necessary. I’m going back to bed.

I stomped over there, unlocked her door, and went to her bedroom.

“Are you kidding me, Declan?” she groaned when I opened the curtains and ripped the comforter off the bed. I had to smile when I saw she was still in my jersey.

Then I threw her over my shoulder.

“Oh my God. Absolutely not.” She pounded my back. “What happened to you feeling bad about manhandling me?”

I’d feel some way about that for the rest of my life, but I couldn’t focus on that now. “I’m still me and you’re still you. What kind of man would I be if I let another man dictate the relationship I have with my wife?”

I felt her body shaking and realized she was laughing at me as I made my way out of the guesthouse and up the stone driveway. “You can’t let anyone rule your world, can you?”

“Why should I when I built it? Now, you’re not following the rules. We had a breakfast and dinner plan for the rest of the marriage, and you went against your commitment.”

She huffed and stopped fighting as I stomped back into my place. I set her down at the white granite countertop and placed the food in front of her.

“Did you make this?” She lifted an eyebrow.

“What? Is it not good enough?” I spun around and grabbed bacon out of the fridge. “We should have protein too.”

She narrowed her eyes, bluer than the blue of my jersey, and then stood. “I can help.”

“Stay on that side of the island or I’ll be eating you for breakfast instead.”

She sat back down with a huff but a small smile played on her lips.

“Good girl.” I winked at her and started cooking.

“Stipulations are a week away, Declan. And the press is—”

“Handled. Let’s enjoy breakfast and the day, huh?”

She didn’t argue. Maybe we were both tired of the bullshit, maybe we were escaping into the bubble that was our gated home. It didn’t matter because I had her there, weaving calm into the flurry of emotions in my head.

“You actually are a decent cook,” she said as she crunched into a piece of crispy bacon I set on her plate. “And you make sure the bacon isn’t floppy.”

“Are you surprised?” I questioned. “My mom is a good cook. She stayed home because nobody was going to give her a job as an immigrant with an accent where I grew up, so she perfected what she did there.”

“I read they both immigrated here. You’re a rags-to-riches story,” she admitted, and I lifted my brow because Everly never went online. It was one thing I respected about her. “Yes, I finally looked you up.”

“And what did you find?”

“You’re about as big as your ego, which is massive. You’ve got the world in a choke hold with everything you do. The HEAT brand does well because of you. I stopped reading when they went into your NFL stats and history.”

I rolled my eyes because she never wanted to know a damn thing about the sport. “You going to watch some of the preseason games with me? They’re starting up next week.”

She chuckled. “Nope.” Then, she studied me. “You know, it’s a bit scary how you can touch something and it’s like Oprah endorsing it. Have you thought about that? I guess you look the part and act it though, so it makes sense.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You look like the all-American boy, and you probably acted all macho in the NFL. People like that sort of thing.” She waved me off like everyone in the world loving me was ridiculous.

“What the fuck?” I ground out, annoyed she wasn’t more in awe of me like most of the women before her. And yet, I went to sit down next to her, trying to get as close as possible. “I worked hard to get where I am.”

“You also have a pretty face with a lot of muscles, dark hair, light eyes, good bone structure. People trust men like you. The media eats that up.”

“So, you’re saying I got to where I am based solely on my looks. All the touchdowns, workouts, training, schmoozing, and the amount of asses I had to kiss did nothing for me?” I heard myself getting irritated. “I worked fucking hard to get here.”

“No doubt. But even if I had worked that hard, I probably wouldn’t be where you are.”

“I—” Thinking about it, I snapped my mouth shut. “Fair.”

“Did you retire just because of your wrist?” she murmured as I wiggled it a bit before taking another bite of my food.

“Not really.” I shook my head. “Maybe more because of the press behind it. And my sister had a kid. My family’s always been important to me, and I just …” I shrugged as I stared at her. “Do you want kids?”

“Kids?” Her blue eyes widened before she glanced down at her plate. “Sure. I guess. Probably one day. But, like, a lot. Not just one.”

I choked on my food. “Why a lot?”

“You have sisters and brothers! I didn’t.” She shoved my arm like she didn’t want me making fun of her. “Was it a lot growing up with all six of you in one home?”

“Hell yes. Especially when I wanted the bathroom over the twins. My sisters are fucking brats.” I chuckled. “No, they really aren’t. They all have their demons. You’ve seen how Dom walks around. His ass is the oldest, and it’s like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. My mom and dad put pressure on him to make sure we all were okay. Izzy and Lilah are married off to— Well, you know … but they love my sisters, so I can’t say much.”

“Cade would die for Izzy,” she said longingly. “I want a husband like that with a bunch of babies.”

“But you like the quiet.”

“I do. But I like noise when it’s comforting. It’s as good as silence when it’s the sound of loved ones buzzing around your home.”

I silently vowed to take her to my family’s Christmas party. She’d absolutely love that chaotic shit. For the time being though, I announced we’d be watching Home Alone instead.

“Don’t you have to work or something? Do some investing or shareholder stuff today?”

“Nope. We’re relaxing before they throw some other story at us.”

She stared at me. Assessing, maybe questioning, I don’t know. Her eyes pried at my soul though, and when she found whatever she was looking for, her smile was brilliant. “I’m going to go get my string to make you a bracelet while we watch.”

She ran out of the house and returned minutes later with a little box. In it were strings of all sorts of colors, and little tiny seashells. She plopped down on the floor instead of the couch while I searched for Home Alone on a streaming service. “Where’d you get those shells?” I asked her.

“I pick them up sometimes on the beach,” she said. Of course she did that, looking at all the small things of beauty none of us saw anymore. It made me want to spend all day and all night with her just so I could soak in how good of a person she was.

So, that’s what I decided to do all afternoon and all night. We watched a whole damn marathon of those movies while she showed me how to make bracelets, demonstrating the knots over and over again. She made me an all-black one with one of those shells threaded in and tied it to my wrist with such pride, I knew I’d probably never take the stupid thing off.

At one point, I touched the necklace around her neck. “Who’s that one for?”

“Me and Tonya have these. She doesn’t wear hers anymore.” She glanced away. “The red one on my right wrist is for my mom. The others I sort of make for whatever mood I’m in. Ours now match.”

She touched her wrist to mine, two black ones that bound us to whatever we were at this point. Friends in a marriage. Or maybe it was one friend and another friend who wanted something more.

I crawled over to her and took my time kissing her, exploring her mouth in a gentler way than I ever had. The air shifted between us, the silence she loved so much becoming loud with my desire for her, my draw to her, my need for her. She let my hand inch up her delectable tan thighs, pushing the fabric of my jersey up until I saw her wet lace panties underneath, covering her sex. When my phone rang, though, she swatted my hand away and told me to get it. “It’s Piper. We need to know what’s going on.”

I needed to turn off the feature that fucking announced who was calling. I rearranged myself and swiped my cell off the table. When I answered, Piper purred into the phone that she’d taken care of everything. It was good news, she’d done her job, and I was thankful for it. I sat down on the couch and let her rattle off the list of magazines.

“Only one is giving us a hard time.” She sighed into the phone.

I glanced at Everly and shook my head at her when she started to get up. I wanted her on that fucking floor and this call was ruining it. “Which publication? Actually, it doesn’t matter. Just pay them.”

“It’s going to be six figures to get rid of it. It’s probably best we discuss it over dinner?” She was trying to get me to come out.

“Dinner?” I questioned back. I wasn’t processing what she was saying as Everly stood but at my question, my little raindrop spun around, her caramel brown highlights fanning around with her fast turn. “Tonight?”

“Yes. It will look good the press seeing you out and about, Declan. Should I invite Anastasia too?”

Everly had walked back over to me, a look I couldn’t quite decipher in her eyes. She kneeled down in front of me, and all of a sudden, her small hands were on my thighs as she held my gaze. I pulled the phone away and said low in warning, “Everly, what are you doing?”

Doe eyes. She did them right. Full of innocence and longing and naivete when she brushed her hand over my bulge. “Just finishing up what I started with my husband so he can go to dinner.”

“Declan, you there?” Piper said as Everly unbuttoned my pants and pulled them down, my jersey shifting mesmerizingly over her chest as she did. Then she wrapped her fingers around my cock, and I had to bite my damn fist to not moan into the phone.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to make dinner, Piper,” I choked out as she stroked me up and down, up and down with a soft but firm grip. When she lowered her head to drag her tongue over my pierced tip, I felt like I was going to explode before we even got started.

“Oh, why? Anastasia was really looking forward to it.”

“I don’t know why Anastasia would be looking forward to it. I didn’t say I was going,” I ground out through clenched teeth right as Everly wrapped her soft full lips around my cock and hollowed out her cheeks.

“She misses us having you all to ourselves, Declan. I mean, do you have plans with Everly?”

Her tongue swirled around as I tried to listen, as I tried to formulate any sort of thought other than that I wanted to fuck this woman for the rest of eternity. “I do have plans. With my wife. For the foreseeable future. So, don’t make another plan for me.”

I hung up on her and growled loud as I pulled Everly from my cock and shoved her down onto the ground where I could hover over her. “I should fuck your mouth more often. Seems you like taking me there with someone listening.”

“Are you going to dinner?” she asked, a frown on her face.

“Jesus, baby, I’m not going anywhere.” I looped a finger into her panties.

“Maybe you should,” she murmured. Her voice dipped low though and I knew she didn’t mean it. There was no way either of us were going anywhere after I’d felt those soft lips wrapped around my erection.

“Maybe. Or maybe I should give you what you really want.” I pulled the lace to the side so I could brush my hand over her. “Spread your legs like a good girl, baby.”

My wife, the one who normally would have thought this through, didn’t hesitate. Her thighs opened for me to see her pussy glistening.

“Wet as always, Ms. Everly Belafonte. You think if your cunt could choose it would be Mrs. Everly Hardy instead? It’s ready for me every time.” Just saying her name with my last attached to it had my cock hardening.

“I think that would be ridiculous considering our plan.”

“What plan exactly?” I whispered in her ear before I slid my finger in her.

She wanted to answer, I saw her open her mouth, but I sucked her bottom lip between mine and worked her clit agonizingly slow, so slow she forgot to say anything but please.

Over and over again.

“You want your husband to fuck you?” I asked.

She nodded fast.

I worked her up further. “Say you want your husband’s cock, Everly. Only mine.”

Her sapphire eyes caught my stare. “Declan …” she whimpered.

“Say what you want.”

“Fine. I want my husband’s cock. God, please.”

I was no better than all the men that saw her and wanted her for themselves. Everyone at my gym, Wes, Gianni, all of them. She was a fucking phenom of a woman that I wanted to consume for the rest of my lifetime.

I drove home into her. At this point, her sex was where my dick belonged. Rolling my hips so the friction would arouse her clit, I asked, “How does it feel to be full of me, Everly?”

She clawed at my back, wanting more, wanting it faster, probably wanting what we had before. “Hurry,” she pleaded.

“Raindrop, I’m taking my time. Nice and slow.” I pulled my length from her inch by inch, letting us both feel every part of each other and then I pushed back in with agonizing control. “We’ve got all the time in the world. Nice and slow.”

She whimpered, those

I repeated it over and over until I took not one but two orgasms from her.

I repeated it as I hit my own high.

I repeated it, knowing it wasn’t true.


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