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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 33


EVERLY BELAFONTE WAS STUNNING, beautiful, and completely and utterly beyond my control. I couldn’t control the media interacting with her. Couldn’t control the people around her. Couldn’t even control my niece’s affection for her.

The woman couldn’t control people’s fondness of her either. I swear, if she were capable of such a thing, she’d have faded into the background so as to not be seen by anyone, hence protecting them from what she thought was her own destruction.

And when I saw Wes approach us, I tried my best not to step in his way.

“Can I have one dance?” he asked her without even giving her a hug. “I haven’t seen you in weeks and I know you’re avoiding me because you heard about what happened between me and Dec, babe, but it’s no big deal.”

Everly stood straighter as if suddenly appalled by him. It was a different version than I’d seen of her. Normally she greeted him with a smile. “No. I absolutely won’t be dancing with you.”

“What?” He almost stumbled back like he couldn’t believe she’d say no.

“You broke my husband’s wrist,” she hissed, and Wes’s eyes widened while my damn heart swelled. Hearing her use that title in public had me proud as fuck.

That was the thing about Everly. She held on to what I couldn’t. Didn’t forget the past even though she acted like she could. Maybe we all did it a little, tried to move on and conquer it when really it festered in us, making us who we would be the next day. Everly had so much past that I saw the pain in her eyes haunting her some days, and I knew she harbored it deep in her soul like she’d never be able to get it out. Here though, for me and my past, she did.

“Evie, that wasn’t what it looked like,” Wes stuttered before glaring at me, his eyes menacing like I always knew them to be. “You showed her, you asshole?”

“He didn’t show me.” She shoved her finger into his shoulder to get his attention. “Clara did. And if I had it my way, you wouldn’t even be here.” She stopped suddenly and looked at me with new hope. “Can’t your wife make decisions on who is a part of HEAT?”

I chuckled and pulled her close. “Not today, Drop. Let it go.”

She stomped her foot and scoffed as she glared back at Wes. “I’ll never entertain anything with you again after seeing the sportsmanship you displayed. You should be ashamed.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Noah and Gianni walked over just as he threw up his hands, both of them in navy suits like they wanted to match or some shit. “You guys believe this girl? She’s pissed about a broken wrist.”

“Yeah, man, because it’s not hockey. It’s football,” Noah chuckled.

“Fuck off, man. I get better women on weekends, anyway. I’m not interested in holding out for golden pussy,” Wes scoffed, and then it was Everly who grabbed my arm as I stepped forward.

“Stop.” She caught my gaze, but Wes was already backing away like he knew he’d gone too far. I’d make sure he knew for certain before the night was over. “He’s not worth it.”

Noah cracked his knuckles. “She’s right. He’s not. Plus, he’s been drinking. He’ll probably apologize tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow he won’t have access to communicating with us to apologize,” I ground out.

Noah shrugged and then turned to Everly, not there to soothe me but instead her. “Dance with me, Evie. You’re the only girl here I know without two left feet.”

She didn’t even turn to me to see if I’d be okay with it. She stepped out onto the dance floor with him immediately, and off they went, clean lines, beautiful form, and pure sensuality. Noah didn’t care who I was. He knew he had the most stunning woman in his arms, and he took full advantage dancing with her.

Did she know she had the whole ballroom enraptured? That Noah probably would date her if he could? That any man would have her here if I hadn’t put a ring on her finger—and even that wasn’t a surefire deterrent.

I wanted to own her, take her from his grip, and announce to everyone that she was mine, that it wasn’t just a fake marriage, that she was truly my wife. Yet, seeing her with my niece had caused something small and ugly to form in my gut, and it felt a lot like doubt. Everly only wanted love in her family, and she deserved it. Carl had wronged her, her ex had wronged her, and her stepfamily continued to wrong her still.

When Noah brought her back to me, I gripped her hand tight as we walked over to our table for the auction to start as we ate.

Clara, outfitted in a red as deep as roses, had offered to lead the charge of the auction that night. I got up to thank everyone for being there and handed the mic off to her. Everly commented that I’d done a good job as I sat back down next to her.

“Good enough for us to leave for the night?”

“Not a chance,” Izzy and Lilah said, because of course they were eavesdropping on me murmuring to my wife.

We all listened to auction items as our forks and knives clinked away at the steak dinner, and we sipped more champagne.

Clara finally announced, “Okay, the night is almost over, but we have a surprise. It’s the most fun part of the night. We’ve added a bit of a twist. We’ll do the spontaneous portion now.”

Dom glanced at me with a lift of his eyebrow. “You allowing any auction items now?”

I shrugged and rolled my eyes. “Clara wanted to put a spin on it.”

He hummed and folded his arms over his chest as she explained the rules to everyone. As long as the terms were agreeable to those participating in the auction, people could make requests.

Someone yelled out, “I want a date with Noah Romero. If he fights like that on the ice, I want to see how he fights in the bedroom.”

Clara smiled big. “I hope there’s no fighting in the bedroom.” She winked, and Dom grumbled that this was stupid. “Noah, what do you say?”

Noah was always a team player. He chuckled and shrugged, leaving his date in the dust as he sauntered up there like he didn’t give a damn. She must have not cared at all either, because she clapped for him as he hopped up on stage and did a little spin and bow.

When he pointed at Everly, I shook my head. The fuck did he think he was doing? My wife wouldn’t be bidding on him. I leaned over and muttered, “Don’t even think about it.”

With a flute of champagne in her hand, she turned those deep blues on me. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t compete with what he’ll go for.”

“You think he’ll go for that much?” What the hell was so special about him?

“He’s literally a walking dream, and he dances like one too.” She must have seen my jaw ticking because she tapped her finger to it before she licked those red lips and murmured in my ear, “In all honesty, I’d pay more for you.”

A woman yelled out six figures and her head whipped around, her jaw dropping wide open. Everly probably had never seen the lengths people would go to at a charity auction of this sort.

I expected no other surprise auctions to be announced, but Clara cleared her throat. “An anonymous request for the beautiful woman in deep blue who danced clean lines with Noah.” She glanced up from the note. “Evie, that must be you. They want a dance down in the garden under the starlight. What do you say?”

She gasped when she heard her name, and her gaze whipped to me.

I glanced around the room for the anonymous bidder, wanting to make sure I took note of who I would have to obliterate later. A private dance with her wasn’t on the table. I set my fork down and wiped my mouth before leaning close to her ear and saying, “Did you fucking agree to this?”

She bit that luscious lower lip and shook her waves of curls. “No, but I can’t say no.”

“You absolutely can and will.” My voice was low and held warning.

Yet, my wife studied my face, took a sip of her champagne, and then patted my thigh before she took a deep breath and met Clara’s gaze. “One dance in the garden.”

Noah chuckled and leaned in to say something to Dom. Izzy and Lilah whooped while both of their husbands snickered. My hearing, vision—everything—was muted to the outside world. I was singularly focused on Everly. Her back straight, with that wide opening where a man’s hand would hold her as they danced; her eyes sparkling, alive with defiance that someone gets to see under the moonlight.

She wasn’t giving me the privilege of taking care of her much anymore. The change shook my soul. I’d gotten comfortable having her tucked against me, where I could protect her, command her, make sure I was alleviating her worries.

And when I saw her smile wobble just a second as Po yelled out a bid, I knew the ridiculous charade wouldn’t last long. I leaned back and watched Po and Noah and a younger man still on the dance floor go back and forth.

When the bids hit six figures, she gasped, her gaze ping-ponging between the men. Even Dom threw in a bid but quit when I glared at him. Didn’t she see the effect she had on everyone? Men wanted to be around her, women wanted to be her, and I wanted her all to myself.

It’s when a man hesitates, though, that the serious men step up, sure and strong and audacious.

At nearly $500,000, Clara announced, “Going once, going twice—”

“One million.” I held up my paddle without so much as a stutter.

“What?” she blurted out and whipped around to shake her head at me. “No, what are you doing?”

“I’ll tell you down in the garden when I get my dance,” I said matter-of-factly. She didn’t seem to understand that I’d have paid fucking eight figures for her at that point. I was beyond controlling anything.

“Well, that’s if I don’t bid,” Wes grumbled as he walked by.

“You bid on my wife again, I’ll end not only your membership to HEAT but your career as well, Wes.” I said it casually. It wouldn’t take much work.

“How’s that?”

“You think I don’t know your coach, all your teammates, that everyone doesn’t enjoy their HEAT membership? That I can’t drag your name if I want to with the shit you’ve pulled in the past?” I stood from my seat, done with games. Done with people not understanding that Everly wasn’t simply a transaction to me. I grabbed his paddle and snapped it in half and set it on the table before I held out my hand for my wife to take.

She glanced around with a blush staining her cheeks as Clara nervously chuckled out, “Well, I guess sold to the possessive husband of the night.”

People clapped and laughed, but I wasn’t worried about their approval. I pulled my wife to the balcony’s doors and opened them to feel the night air on our skin. My brother had done a phenomenal job creating the stone balcony that overlooked a garden of beautiful foliage that could rival the Gardens of Versailles.

I didn’t stop to enjoy the view. I pulled her down the stone steps and across the lush green grass into the small hedge maze that had been created for guests to enjoy. It would ensure the privacy I needed now. Here was where I needed to make her understand one thing, here was where I needed Everly to see only me and no one else.

Away from them.

Away from the bullshit.

Away from a life I’d created but didn’t enjoy without her anymore.

“Why did you agree to that?” I said once we were deep in the hedges, the stars and the moonlight highlighting her features.

She stood there in that gown that practically glowed the same color as her eyes, the material hugging her curves and then fanning out below where the wind could blow it softly over her thighs, the slit much too high for a man like me, a man so obsessed with her I couldn’t see straight anymore.

“It’s for charity, Declan. We’re giving kids a future in sports and athletics that otherwise wouldn’t get one.” She folded her arms close to her chest. “You didn’t have to be the one to bid on me.”

She thought this was about the money. “Oh, I had to bid on you.”

“Why?” She shivered as a gust of night wind blew past.

Already, I’d begun to unbutton my suit jacket. “You’re my wife. Everyone in that room knows it.”

“Right. Well, it’ll be amazing for the kids, but it’s not like we’re going to be married long anyway because—”

“Do you think my bid was for charity, Everly?” I cut her off as I stepped forward, my anger at her words licking through me fast.

She tilted her head in confusion. She didn’t get it yet. “Well, all of them are somewhat for charity.”

Maybe it should have been. But it wasn’t. This wasn’t about my ego either. This wasn’t about embarrassment. This was about her and me. This was about the raindrop that turned into a catastrophic storm, drowning me in thoughts of her.

I held her gaze hostage as I slid my suit jacket off my shoulders and threw it over one arm, taking my time rolling up my cuffs, one fold at a time. Neither of us said a word. The only sound was the violins from inside as she licked those red lips, watching me.

Then I stepped forward, and she gasped, but the heat rose over her cleavage and her pupils dilated. The woman’s body knew how to react to mine even if she couldn’t read what I exactly wanted. Her body knew I was coming for her, that I was about to devour and take what I wanted.

I wrapped her in my jacket and pulled her close by the lapels. “Dance with me.”

The stars glittered in her eyes as I saw the same turmoil I felt deep in her soul. She had to feel this, the pull between us and the mindfuck we were dealing with. How was I supposed to let her go if she didn’t want a child? How was I supposed to be fine having a child with her when I knew she didn’t want one with a man she didn’t love?

How was I supposed to give her everything when the will stood in the way, tainting it all? I couldn’t tell her this was for real, couldn’t force her into this when I knew that she deserved better than all of it.

She tried to step away, but I held her there. “Declan, let’s go back inside.”

“No, Drop. I’m getting my dance with you. Here in this garden. Tonight. With just the moonlight and my touch on your skin.” I pulled her through a bit of the maze of the garden so no one could see us and then my hand disappeared under my jacket where it found the small of her back. I felt the goose bumps there as I pressed my palm flat to nudge her forward.

She stumbled into my hold, and I took her other hand. It was small in mine, fitting perfectly where it was supposed to be. She gulped as she felt my length against her, hard and throbbing for her like it had been most of the night.

And then I spun her, wanting this dance with her even if it meant denying my desire to fuck her right then too. I pulled her back, and we fell into step with each other as the violins built to the backdrop of our night.

I should have let her go back up those stairs, I shouldn’t have spoiled myself with a dance while the smell of her swirled around me, with her breath on my chest as she folded into me as our souls mingled together and clung to one another.

It may have been wrong, but her with me felt so fucking right. “That bid wasn’t about charity. It was about this. About knowing no one belongs here with you but me. I’ve had you twice outside in the night, I’ve looked into your eyes and seen a darkness you harbor that only I want to witness and soothe and bring light to. Why do you think I’d ever give another man that privilege?”

“Declan, it was just a dance.”

“It’s not just anything with you. It’s everything. It’s my wife in another man’s arms, it’s her skin feeling his touch, it’s her conversation and intelligence being shared. What would you have talked about?”

“Probably the kids we were helping,” she said softly, trying to soothe me. She even ran her hand along my chest as we swayed in the wind.

“He’d have seen the love in your eyes as you talked about those children. You’d share your kindness, your passion with him. Not me. And I don’t want you to share anything with anyone.”

She murmured my name in chastisement, but I didn’t let her finish. My name dripping from her lips was enough to push me over the edge. I took them against mine and kissed her like I should have at the beginning of the night when I’d seen the red painted on them as soon as she came out of her room with my sister. She’d stunned me into silence as she smiled at everyone earlier that night, and my brother-in-law beat me to the punch of complimenting her.

Now, my hands roved over her body, trying to memorize every stunning part of her. I threaded my fingers through her hair, then brushed them over her collarbone, over her breasts, over all the curves of her body until I gripped her ass as I walked her backwards so she was up against the garden wall.

Everly may have wanted to go inside, but as my hand found the slit of her dress and slid into her panties, and she gasped. “You know, Everly, even if I wasn’t your husband, you’re mine and your pussy has proven that time and time again. How long have you been wet for me? All night?”

She bit her lip and rode my hand, her hips rocking back and forth, her arousal coating my fingers well enough that when I thrust them into her, there was barely resistance. “I wish I could stop you, Declan. I wish I could just say this is ridiculous and be done.” She whimpered.

I wished I could do the same. I knew what was for the best, how she looked at my niece with longing, how she smiled at kids, how she shared with me she wanted them. I knew she deserved it all. Yet, I looked at her sapphire-blue eyes in the moonlight and I wanted it with her, couldn’t fathom her having it with someone else.

She arched her tits toward me as I curled my fingers into her and then her hands fell to my slacks. “I need you right now. I’ve needed you all night.”

“I should have fucked you on that counter earlier.”

She purred out that she agreed, that maybe she would have had more control then.

I shook my head against her neck as I licked it and let her work my cock out of my briefs. “It wouldn’t have mattered. There’s no control when it comes to having you. Seeing you dancing all night, seeing how you stood up to Wes, seeing how you were an angel to my niece … I needed my wife here in this garden tonight, Everly. I need you.”

She threw her leg on my hip and guided my cock to her entrance. I moved the tip of it against her folds and then tipped my hips so I could rub her arousal over that clit with my piercing. She moved herself back and forth, trying to ride me into an orgasm.

I breathed against her lips, “I get you screaming my name before you get my whole cock, Drop.” And then I worked her pussy faster, rubbing my thumb over her clit, massaging it just how she liked as I slid my fingers in and out, in and out. She moved her hand up and down my dick in the same rhythm before she squeezed and cried out.

I didn’t muffle her screams, didn’t try to hide what we were doing, although the garden bushes did a good job of that already.

“That’s right, baby. Scream my name so loud the whole gala hears you. Don’t they know better than to bid on my wife? Tell them now who you belong to.”

She whimpered my name over and over as the aftershocks shivered through her body. Even still, her hand stayed on my cock and then pulled me forward. I grabbed her hair and whispered in her ear, “I think if I could, I’d have you forever, Everly.” And then I shoved into her.

Her pussy gripped me tightly and was slick with her orgasm. She took me whole in one rough thrust, gasping as her hands dug into my shoulders.

I wasn’t gentle or even focused now. I thrust deep in her over and over, trying to make it clear she was mine, trying to make her understand she belonged to no one else.

Trying. But as I stared into her shining eyes filled with a brewing desire again, I lost myself to her. I realized she didn’t belong to me, I belonged to her.

I fucked her hard, wanting to own her but realizing I couldn’t.

She held my sanity, my control, my power, my heart in her hands. She owned me.

My body built toward release, every muscle in me tightening to have her all to myself, to keep her close to me forever, and then I pumped into her one last time before hitting my own high and coming as I swore fluently into her neck. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

She did the same, her arms around my neck now, pulling me close as she whimpered over and over, coming on my cock.

“That’s it, baby. Get all you need. Milk my cock like the pretty good girl you are.”

She rode me for one, two more thrusts before slumping into me and kissing my neck.

I held her tight, didn’t let her slide down my body just yet. I smelled her hair, rubbed her back, stayed connected to her as long as I could.

I didn’t want to leave the garden, didn’t want to leave this night and go back to reality. Here, we could be under a spell, lost in the magic of one another, not worrying about outside factors.

Yet, she finally sighed and untangled her legs from around my hips. She rearranged her dress as her gaze held mine with a vulnerability I hadn’t seen most of the night. “We’re going round and round, Declan, and I don’t know if it’s right to do that without admitting that I keep thinking about the decision we have to make. We’re being reckless by taking what we want in a garden and not discussing our future.”

I tucked my cock back into my trousers and tried not to feel an immediate sense of concern at her words. “Or we can keep trying to take it day by day.”

“Right. But I don’t do that.” She sighed and tried to smooth the waves of her hair that should have always been given the permission to run wild. “I … I’ve been thinking about it all night. Your niece, she’s so beautiful, Declan.”

“And?” I lifted a brow.

She took a breath and whispered, “And what if we had a daughter like her? What if she had your eyes and my hair and wanted to dance with us just like Carolina? But also … what if we didn’t? What if we can’t make that beautiful soul because we didn’t start with what your sister and her husband started with? We need to love.” Her voice shook, and I saw how she tried to have the courage to share the feelings she thought I wanted to hear. “And I think I could—”

“I don’t love you, Drop.” I cut her off fast. I needed to say it out loud anyway. Maybe if I could convince her of it, I’d believe it myself. I didn’t want her love this way. I wouldn’t have it be like this. Not with the weight of a will bearing down on us.

She needed to love me and I needed to love her without conditions. To do it under a commitment we made to one another for a damn will would be to betray the one thing she deserved to get. She deserved a beautiful life with no stipulations, with only love, with everything she’d ever dreamed of.

“Okay,” she breathed out, and her posture deflated, like I’d taken all the wind from her sails and snuffed out the tiny bit of sun she had started to see on a rainy day. I knew it had to be this way though. “But do you think you ever could?” she whispered and, fuck, my heart broke.

Everly didn’t push or need to ask for anything from me. She barely let the world in to see her mask slip and witness her real emotions. She was strong, but in that moment, I saw the vulnerable, soft part she hid from the world. And that part would be broken and ruined if I did what I was about to do now.

“I can’t.” I shook my head, backing away from her. I couldn’t subject her to having a baby with me under these conditions. I couldn’t steal the one thing she’d planned for all her life by barreling through it in hopes we’d still become the healthy family she dreamed of.

“I’ll get your mother’s yoga studio, Everly. And I’ll make sure the media leaves you alone.”

She stumbled back, clutching her heart. “I don’t … I … don’t want that from you.”

“I’ll take care of it. Anastasia will agree …”

She’d told me herself the second time we went into Mrs. Johnson’s office and she told us Carl was requiring us to have a child—happily ever afters aren’t made this way. We couldn’t have this inheritance hanging over our head anymore. I had to take care of it for both of us. Then, we’d have a chance at the dream of a family that she deserved.

I hoped one day she would understand that I’d fallen so beyond in love with her that I was willing to do the one thing that would make her hate me.

Betray her.


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