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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 4

DECLAN

Me: It’s been two weeks of you ignoring the car I’m sending for you.

Everly: How did you get this number?

Me: You’re my employee. I have all your numbers.

Everly: That’s not what the employee directory is for.

Me: I can use it how I see fit. Take the ride home from work today.

Everly: I don’t need a car when I like to jog. I appreciate the thought though.

SHE APPRECIATED THE THOUGHT? I’d appreciate bending her over my knee and spanking her ass for defying me every chance she got. Could I send her that?

The bouncing dots showing she was typing something stopped and started a few times at the bottom of my screen before I got another text.

Everly: I appreciate the extra time in the studio with the kids too. It was nice of you to open self-defense on Tuesdays and yoga on Wednesdays.

She shouldn’t have to thank me for that. I wanted HEAT to do more with the community, and Carl knew that. He’d mumbled that he didn’t know whether Everly was ready when I brought it up to him the day after Everly confronted me about it.

When I told him she was, he’d smiled big and said, “Okay! I’m glad. See? This is going to work out fine.”

Yeah, except I couldn’t figure out how to stop thinking about how my dick would feel inside her every chance I got. This ‘working out fine’ was a long shot with bad aim in the middle of the night.

I glanced up as the elevator doors opened and saw her smiling at a kid at the front desk where she was setting her water bottle down. Wearing a zip-up bra.

It was a damn problem that I couldn’t look away.

“You did great today, Grayson.” She high-fived him, and he spun in a circle with his mom standing there before his eyes lit up as he saw me.

“Declan Hardy! No way!” He ran toward me, his chestnut hair flopping fast, and then stuttered to a stop. “Mom! Do we have a football?”

She smiled bright before digging in her bag and whipping out a marker and pigskin like she walked around ready to run into retired NFL players.

“You have fun at class?” I asked, and he nodded vigorously as I signed the ball. “I did the best downward dog ever. And Ms. Everly says if I breathe properly, my emotions won’t get all squiggly sometimes.”

When I finished signing, he gave me a hug and his mother thanked me before they walked out as Piper walked in. I didn’t have a chance to turn around to talk with Everly about taking care of the kids, about how she was making a difference by teaching them how to handle emotions with exercise, how utterly brilliant it was.

I had no chance because my PR exec was a viper of a woman who didn’t care that I wanted to deal with Everly in the least. “You ready to talk?” Piper flipped her bone-straight raven hair and kept walking without scanning in her watch to check in as she walked by the front desk.

Everly ducked her head immediately to look at the tablet instead of us. She really did hate spotlight and attention of any sort. I sighed because I didn’t catch the blue of her eyes or even a small smile from her that I would have liked to see after two weeks of us playing professional.

Piper droned on as she followed me to one of our all-gender locker rooms. My brother had implemented privacy throughout with expansive stalls and private showers so all genders could utilize the shared space. As we wove past the sauna and into my office, I wondered if Everly would text me again.

Could I text her and thank her for being good to the kids? Could I tell her I appreciated her?

“Are you even listening to me?” Piper stopped and crossed her arms over her blouse as I loosened my tie. This was where I normally changed, but when saw her eyes dip before a small smile played on her face, I halted.

Fuck.

Piper and I were over. I’d made it pretty clear to her once or twice. Or maybe three times. We’d been on and off for years, but only one girl consumed my mind these days and it wasn’t Piper. This girl had waves cascading down her small back, fire in her blue eyes, and a composure I was sure no one could crack, but I damn well wanted to try.

Even so, Piper stepped up with her expert hands and undid my tie before she started unbuttoning my shirt. “I see now why you’re not listening.”

“No.” I grabbed her hands and stopped her. “I’ve got a lot on my mind, Piper.”

“Okay,” she whispered, “let me clear it for a bit then.”

She’d get on her knees in a second, I knew that. But my dick didn’t even twitch at the thought. “Piper, I said last time was the last time. I meant it.”

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Fine. I’m confirming the sponsorship with the shoe company.” Back to business because the woman was better at her job than most, I’d give her that. “HEAT Resorts needs to push the Pacific Coast hotel soon too. You need to talk with your brother about it.” She glanced at her watch. “I’m late for a meeting, but if we’re not dating, you need to consider Anastasia because my bestie will be good for press.”

She left me more irritated than I’d been before, so I changed into gym shorts and T-shirt. Then my irritation turned to pure rage when I saw Everly across my damn gym bending over to adjust the height of the punching bag.

For Wes.

“Everly.” I tried to keep my voice calm, but I had just arranged schedules so she’d be up front permanently, aside from the children’s classes. She was great at greeting guests and that way guys wouldn’t be staring at her ass all the damn time like he was at that very second.

It was wrong, but I wasn’t above that shit. I saw the way every guy in my gym looked at her. She was in shape, had curves for days, and those fucking deep-blue eyes. So deep, they looked like sapphire sirens that mesmerized you before she pulled you in and devoured your soul.

Plus, she was my partner’s daughter. I was looking out for her. That’s what I’d keep telling myself. And what I told my brother Dom when he asked me what I was doing when he saw me switching the schedule the other day as we went over shareholder business.

No one needed to know about the night in the back of that SUV. Even though I couldn’t forget about it. I’d held her composure, her control, her damn undoing in my hands. She’d given it to me. And ever since, I wasn’t sure I could keep control of myself. I’d made her leave another man’s house. And she wasn’t even mine. Yet.

I could blame Carl for it. He’d called and practically designated me to be her guard dog, but she’d stirred something different in me the moment I’d met her. The girl was beautiful, nice, quiet, and had a take-no-shit attitude. Most of the men at my gym thought she was a catch. I heard the damn whispers.

But I couldn’t figure out if she was fucking with everyone’s minds or just mine. I was convinced that even if she was younger than me and half the guys in the gym, she was smarter than all of us combined.

“What do you need, Mr. Hardy?” She held a hand up to stop Wes from continuing to pummel the bag she was holding and then she wiped the sweat from her forehead, her breath coming fast.

My eyes flicked over her, lingering on the fact that she couldn’t for the life of her wear a T-shirt or a tank top to the gym. Instead, she was in tight yoga leggings and bright-red sports bra, her curves on display so perfectly that I couldn’t look away. At this point, I was considering a new employee dress policy expressly so others wouldn’t stare at her like I was.

Her dark wavy hair was up in a pony, ensuring everyone could admire the slope of her neck too. And I knew her hair was long, could imagine how it fell down her back or that it would have covered the way her chest rose and fell if it cascaded over and in front of her shoulders.

I hated that she did these classes at my gym for our business, showing these guys flexibility and strength when those fuckers weren’t even there for that. Noah didn’t need a damn yoga class for balance in the NHL. He only wanted to stare at her ass.

Much like I did.

Fuck.

And if it wasn’t me daydreaming about grabbing her hair or her ass, I imagined running my hands over her bare stomach … the one that currently glistened under the gym’s lighting, showing off her muscle tone, the small curve of her waist, and how her ass swelled perfectly from it.

“I thought I told you to assist at the front desk.”

“Right. I didn’t have a chance to tell you when you walked away with Piper.” Her cheeks were flushed, and she chewed her lip in an effort to not give anything else away. But I heard the dip in her voice when she mentioned our names, felt the tension like she might be jealous. She pointed to my front desk where I saw one of my seasoned employees. “Juna took over because Wes needed help sparring so …” She shrugged and smiled at Wes.

Big man that he was, he stepped in to defend her. “I just needed a little extra motivation today.” He winked at me like I would understand.

Oh, I understood his dumb ass all right. “Motivation?” I chuckled and rubbed my jaw, trying my best to temper my response. To see reason. To act composed like she did all the time.

Everly was an employee. She was my partner’s daughter. She should have been completely off-limits and not at all mine.

Yet, my dick responded every time she was in the room. My mind had started to scream that no one could look at her but me. And my body obviously didn’t react to anyone else at this point. It’d been two weeks since our time in the SUV, and I’d jacked off to her countless times since.

“Declan,” she whispered my first name like she knew something in me was brewing. When her hand grazed my bicep gently, she probably figured it would calm me.

Her touch instead ignited the flames of jealousy that licked through my veins and made me spew the bullshit I said next. “How about I motivate you to get the hell out of my gym before I beat your ass for flirting with my partner’s daughter?”

One of our security guards who meandered around incognito stepped forward. In the NFL and in the empire I’d built, I reigned supreme. No one wanted to come into HEAT Health and Fitness and upset one of the owners. Everyone, even Wes, knew that.

I wouldn’t apologize for it. He should have known his place.

“Bro, you know you’re a legend to me. I still think you could take another Super Bowl if you decide to come back in a year or two.” That fucker knew I was retired and that he was part of the reason for it. “This can’t be that big of an issue that you, me, and Carl can’t look past—”

“It is.” I cut him off. Wes was a snake. Everyone in the NFL knew it. His ass should have been happy he was a HEAT member at all. He knew it too, because he was already backing away, grumbling to Everly that he’d call her later. He didn’t want me sharing his reputation with her, didn’t want me tarnishing what he thought they had.

What he didn’t realize was they were about to have nothing at all.

“Are you a complete imbecile?” Everly ground out, her small hands fisting at her sides as Wes practically ran to the locker room. “We’re seeing each other. You can’t just come over and scare him off.”

“Your dad wants me to.” I shrugged. Damn, her eyes turned a vivid crystal blue when she got mad. “I told you the other night, and I’ll tell you again, he’s not your type.”

“I don’t care what Carl wants,” she spat. “You and my dad aren’t my keepers.”

“Wes is an asshole,” I found myself saying, although I didn’t have to defend my actions to her. Carl Milton had made it clear that Everly was not allowed to date any guy from Wes’s team.

Him and I were partners. The man had lived and breathed by my team. When I’d mentioned that I was thinking about retiring to the press, he’d hunted me down to invest in his hotel and gym empire. That was five years ago and I hadn’t retired then. I’d played four more years while we’d built up the gym and hospitality brand together. In that time, he’d been smart enough to plaster my name on everything.

Hardy Elite All-Access Team. Hardy Hotel. Hardy this, Hardy that. My face everywhere and America went wild.

Carl was a mentor and a friend, and I was going to make sure his daughter wasn’t dating someone he didn’t want her to. At least, that’s the reason I was going with for now.

“How would you even know? You never talk to him here,” she pointed out.

“Exactly. Because he plays a dirty game of football, and he’s cheated on every single woman he’s ever been in a relationship with. He’s not your type.” I turned and started to walk back to the front desk, but she grabbed my arm and yanked me to turn and continue the conversation.

“Totally my type,” she threw back, her poise suddenly slipping.

I leaned in close. “Was he your type when your pussy got wet for me? When you screamed my name, not his, after leaving his house the other night?”

Her eyes widened at my question and then narrowed like she was ready to go to war. “Great. So, you’re assuming I want a serious relationship? That I’m concerned he cheated on someone before me?” She leaned in and whispered, “Maybe I just want to fuck someone in the locker room once or twice like you and Piper have.”

Her sapphire eyes blazed a blue fire now, her jealousy burning to the surface with mine. Two storms brewing to make a damn hurricane. She wanted to goad me; I saw it in how she squared up to me, but she must have realized her mistake. I felt my heart pounding, my body reacting to her, my anger mingling with the desire to be the one to take her back to the locker room and do exactly what she wanted.

She took a step back as I took one forward, and then she spun on a heel, navigating her way to the locker room as she undid that long hair and let it cascade down her back before the doors swung shut behind her.

I swear she was taunting me to come back there, playing a fucking game with my dick that I couldn’t win. Everly was the mastermind, and I was the dumb man being led by lust rather than reason.

But I followed her into that locker room, rounding the corner fast, ensuring no one saw me, before I grabbed her by the elbow and shoved her into the first private shower stall I could without saying a damn word.

“What the hell, Declan?” She turned and faced me, tilting her head up to stare at me as I stepped close to her. We’d been pushing each other for too long now. I wanted to taste her, smell her, feel every part of her. I took my time nestling into her neck, and she gasped but angled her head, giving me access to her neck.

She may have wanted to fuck someone else.

She may have been ten years younger than me.

And she may have been my partner’s daughter.

But Everly was going to be only mine right then and there.

“If you intend to fuck someone in my gym, babe, you can bet your ass it’s going to be me.”

She shook her head and stammered out, “I wasn’t talking about doing anything with you in here.”

“If you’re talking about fucking someone, it better only be me, Drop.” I took my time dragging my lips across her neck as I moved my knee between her legs. She immediately whimpered in response to the pressure of my thigh against her pussy, even with the fabric between us.

“We’re at work.” She stared up at me, and I saw lust in her eyes, saw how she licked her lips.

“And contrary to what I said out there, I don’t fuck at work like some—”

“Piper does my PR. She was giving me an update. Not—”

“It doesn’t matter.” She looked away and one of her hands went to her neck full of necklaces to play with them. She dragged her teeth over her bottom lip and it glistened enough that I had to lower my head to taste it. To taste her.

I took her lips in my mouth, and she opened them immediately, ravaging me like I did her, taking what she wanted from my kiss like she needed it as much as I did.

When my hand brushed over her breast, though, and I felt that nipple pebble, she pushed me back, breathing fast. “We’re at work. My father’s gym. Your gym. I’m barely a part of this community. I don’t want to make waves by sleeping with the king of it. Especially when the king is friends with my father.”

With that, she pushed past me.

I called after her but she didn’t listen.

And she didn’t listen to my text from earlier about taking a car home either.

I didn’t text her about it. I couldn’t. Instead, I tried to let her go, because I knew everything Everly had said was right.

It was just a matter of time before I figured out if we could ignore the pull of being wrong.


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