My Darling Bride: Chapter 24

EMMY

Graham steps down from the inside of the window, sweat on his brow as he takes his hat off and rubs his hair. “The ball is up and turning. I’m not an electrician, so we might need to have it checked tomorrow.”

“Good idea. Come on, let’s go look,” I say.

The air is thick with humidity as we dart outside and stand out on the sidewalk. Even though it’s nearly midnight, people have been pausing to stop and watch us work in the window.

I gasp at the full effect. “So perfect,” I murmur.

The iridescent ball sends sparkles over the window, highlighting the couple in a frozen dance beneath it. Brody’s school’s drama department did a parody of the movie Saturday Night Fever, and he managed to snag a John Travolta–style seventies dance outfit for the male mannequin and pink bell-bottomed pants and a crocheted halter top for the woman.

Jane used a curling iron and styled her hair into beach waves and added dangly feathery earrings. Jasper delivered with the record player, which is on a table in the corner, softly playing “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees. Various records, ones Graham picked out, are strewn around the table.

We pulled two more mannequins from storage and dressed them in bright colors from the era. They sit propped against the wall on either side of the display. The girl has her head bent as she reads The Shining, in a nod of respect for Brody securing the costumes. The other mannequin, a teen girl, is reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The other titles, in hardcover, are suspended from wires from the ceiling.

“It looks damn good,” Graham murmurs.

Emotion fills me as I look around at everyone. I blink away tears as the stress I’d been carrying ever since I came in this morning drifts away. “You guys worked so hard. Graham, you went and took down your light fixture. Brody and Cas, you ran around Manhattan and got us costumes. Jasper, you bought the record player. Jane has already left, but I couldn’t have done it without her dressing the mannequins.”

Brody shrugs. “Meh. I’m off for the summer anyway. I’d help my sister-in-law anytime she needs it.”

Sister-in-law. Right.

“Guess we should take out the pizza boxes and soda cans we left in there,” Brody muses.

Cas says he’ll get them and dashes inside. He waves at us, does some disco moves, then comes back outside to where we are.

I kiss my brother on the cheek. “Thanks for keeping us fed and hydrated.”

“I’m a cookie machine, Ma,” he says.

Babs crooks her arm in mine, and I pat her hand. “You, too, Babs. You found the books and got them hung.”

“Ah, don’t get misty on us. We still need to clean up the kitchen,” my brother says.

“You need to go home,” I tell him. “I’ll want you back in the store at eight to make more cookies.”

“Nooooo,” he wails, and I shoo him away.

“And thank you to Graham for the idea,” I say as we move to head back inside the store.

I glance at him, and his eyes are already waiting, a heat there I don’t want to acknowledge.

I can’t.

My heart should be—is—stone when it comes to him.

Andrew gives me a hug. “I’m gonna head out, Ma. Call me if you need me, all right?”

We head inside and go into the kitchen. Cas says he’s still hungry, so I grab croissants and pull some fruit and cheese out of the fridge for them to munch on. After sticking dishes in the commercial dishwasher, I leave Graham and them chatting as I go to Terry’s office to check on Babs.

I open the door, and sure enough, she’s sitting in his chair, looking glum. “Missing him?”

She dabs at her eyes. “It’s not just the sex. I miss his messy office, his crazy hair, our trysts.”

“Call him. I’m sure he’d love to hear your voice, Babs.”

After she leaves, I wander into my office to get my purse, and just before I’m about to go, I see a small package on my desk.

“It’s from me,” Graham rumbles from behind me, and I turn around. He’s leaning against the doorjamb, his hair a mess where he’s been raking his hands through it. His shirt is damp against his chest, and I swallow. We have the AC set to automatically go off at five, and the store has slowly heated up.

“You don’t need to keep getting me gifts. You’ve bought my silence forever already.”

He straightens, with his arms crossed in front of his chest. “This isn’t about keeping you quiet. It’s personal.” He pauses. “I’m sorry about before, in the basement. I know this marriage has been hard for both of us. I shouldn’t have stayed away so long.”

I glance down at the gift. Part of me wants to rip it open, but the other side of me doesn’t want to know what he bought.

“Open it.” His eyes caress my face. “I enjoy watching you.”

I inhale a deep breath. Fine. I tear at the little string and unwrap the brown paper. My lips tremble when I see what it is. My fingers delicately touch the jacket on the paperback, an illustrated picture of a girl holding a pig as a spider dangles down on a web. Inside, the book features an aqua-colored page with a beautiful web. Little illustrations of the story are in each chapter.

My eyes find his. “You got me a first edition copy of Charlotte’s Web, and it’s signed.” I want to clutch it to my chest and weep. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Why not?” He eases down on the couch.

Because it’s breaking me.

He’s chiseling away at my heart piece by piece.

Pretty soon he’ll own it forever.

“You deserve that book. You deserve beautiful things, Emmy.”

My heart swells with a mixture of emotions at his soft tone. Everything around me suddenly feels fragile and delicate, as if the slightest gesture might shatter everything into a million pieces.

I must resist giving in to these feelings.

I should put him aside and move on.

He is temporary.

We are temporary.

“You asked me once what my greatest fear was, and I didn’t answer you,” he says as he leans forward.

“Yeah?”

A gruff sound comes from him. “It’s letting someone in. And you? It’s yours too.”

And it’s too late for me.

Like a thief, he snuck into my heart before I knew what was happening.

He rubs his jawline. “We have something. I tried to push it aside. I tried restraint. It’s not working. As soon as I saw you this morning, I . . .” His words trail off.

I swallow. “Too much tension.”

“Perhaps we should just give in to it.”

My stomach knots in anticipation.

He says the words quietly: “What would it take?”

Barely anything.

His eyes hold mine, a knowing there, a desire. I’m drawn into his gaze, being pulled toward him, an invisible force controlling my limbs.

He inches closer to me. “Do you want me, Emmy?”

I say nothing as he tucks a piece of hair out of my face and says, “Let’s see what it’s like between us if we face this fear together.”

“What if it . . . ends badly?” My breath trembles in my chest.

“Focus on the good.” His intense gaze is filled with hunger and desire, and my lashes flutter.

I want him. I want him to make me forget we’re not real.

I feel his breath on my skin, and my whole body tingles with anticipation. His hands slide up my arms, sending shivers down my spine, and then up to my neck, pulling me close until our lips are just a breath away.

I close my eyes, savoring the moment, before his lips finally meet mine. His kiss delves softly, brushing me with little tastes, and I can’t help but moan in pleasure. Our tongues intertwine, and my hands caress his shoulders, feeling the strength and power in his muscles.

His hands move to my hips as our bodies press together.

The heat between us burns like a fire, and passion rises with every kiss. His hands wander to my blouse, his fingers expertly undoing the buttons, eliciting moans from me.

My shirt is tugged from my skirt, and he tosses it to the couch. He kisses me hungrily, his lips growing passionate, his mouth open as he explores the recesses of mine. With a snap, my bra is off, and he groans as he finds my piercing and tweaks it between his fingers. His breath is in my ear as he kisses up my neck. “I’ve been dreaming about these tits.”

I gasp, my head falling back to give him more access. “They’re all yours.”

“And this luscious ass.” His big hands palm my butt as he pushes my skirt up to my waist.

I bite his bottom lip gently, and he hisses, burying his face in my neck. He sucks on a piece of skin, and I swivel my hips against the bulge in his shorts.

“Clothes. Off.” I tear at his shirt until he pauses enough to rip it off.

Holy mother of . . .

His bare chest under my hands is mind blowing, his tanned skin, the dust of dark hair on his pecs, his glistening eight-pack. I gasp his name, and he pushes me against the wall, caging me in as he takes deep breaths.

“Strip.”

My core flutters at the command in his voice. I marvel at how safe I feel with him, how sure I am that here’s a man who would never hurt me physically. He wants to protect me. He gives me gifts that speak to my heart.

Holding his eyes, I remove my skirt, unzipping the side with slow movements. My lace panties are next as I slide them down and let them fall at my feet. “You like?”

His eyes feast on me, his lids lowering. “You. Are. Extraordinary.”

My throat moves as I trace my hand down my neck to my clavicle, to the tip of my breast, then to my core. I taste myself, my tongue rolling around my finger.

“Fuck.” A long breath shudders out of him as he watches me. “You’re a siren.”

“It’s been a while,” I say as I shove down his shorts and boxers, and his cock jerks free. It’s long and thick, the crown weeping. My mouth waters, and I fall to my knees and take him into my mouth.

He curses, his hands slapping the wall behind me. His body tightens beneath my hands as I massage his thighs, then reach up to his waist and chest.

He thrusts gently into my mouth as I press kisses up his length, my tongue sucking on his tip.

“Emmy, fuck, stop, stop . . .” He pulls me back up and hits me with his lustful eyes. “Once we start fucking, we aren’t going to stop. No breaking-the-tension shit. I’m going to have you every day we have together.”

“Promise?”

He smirks. “I don’t have a condom, but I’m just back from a physical. You?”

I nod. “On the pill too.”

“So, we’re doing this?”

I kiss him, and finally he touches me again, his hands palming the back of my skull as his lips devour me.

He’s a man possessed, giving me deep, passionate, hungry kisses that make me weak.

I am lost in him, in this deep need to have him inside me.

His hand touches the top of my mound as a finger glides inside me, testing the wetness. “Dripping for me.”

“More.”

He finger-fucks me, and I gasp out with each exit, itching for more of him, for endless touches. When his thumb brushes my clit, I writhe against him.

He picks me up in his arms, my back against the wall. He thrusts inside me, deep and hard as I cling to his shoulders.

“Emmy,” he breathes as he squeezes my ass. His mouth sucks on my piercing, his scruff making excited tingles erupt over my skin.

There’s no resistance as I accept him. He swivels his hips, finding a new angle, and I adjust. He takes me roughly, checking my eyes for guidance.

“Do you know what it’s like to fuck you face to face?”

“No,” I say around a moan.

“A dream, darling. A fucking dream.”

Sensations spiral over me, a voracious need. And when he uses his pelvis to grind against my clit, I scream, trying for more, to get to the zenith.

“Graham,” a voice says from the door, and I gasp, my eyes flaring wide when Brody pokes his head in.

“Get. The. Fuck. Out,” Graham yells as I dip my head behind his chest to hide.

“Sorry to intrude. Emmy, dear, when we go out the door to leave, does it lock behind us?”

“Um, yes,” I say, my face burning with embarrassment.

“I thought so but wanted to check. Bye, turtledoves. Enjoy.” I hear a chuckle; then the door shuts again.

“You okay?” he asks me with a tender expression.

I nod as his hands move to each breast, playing with my nipples, then up my waist, each touch creating new waves. My breathing grows shallow until I’m dizzy. My legs tighten around his waist.

I shudder as he toys with my nub, pressing down with each stroke inside my pussy.

Over and over.

He fucks me.

Harder.

Wild.

Voracious.

Deep thrusts.

Like he’s trying to crawl inside me.

Until the imprint of the drywall must be on my back.

My body winds tighter and tighter, the sensations building until I’m about to burst. I glance down to watch him slide in and out, my hips thrusting to meet his. He growls, a deep sound, and it makes me skyrocket. My hands claw at his neck as I pull him in for a kiss and dance toward orgasm. It rises and rises, then shatters into beautiful shards, my pussy clenching around his cock as ecstasy tingles under my skin, in my veins. I call out his name, and he groans, kissing me through the vibrations.

“My turn, darling.” He kisses me hard, his hands digging into my hips as he repositions us and increases his rhythm as he pushes inside me with faster thrusts. I can barely keep up, my fingers around his neck as I hang on.

He groans out my name when he comes. Heavy breaths come from his chest as he grapples with the aftereffects, his body shuddering.

Maybe all we have is sex, chemistry, and pheromones that neither of us can resist.

But maybe it’s something more.

I don’t want to be temporary. I don’t want to be pretend. I want him.

He pulls out of me and stumbles to the couch with me still wrapped around him. He kisses my shoulder as I lean on him, snuggling under his chin. I feel his lips brush my hair.

I pat his arm. “That was great, Creamy.” I giggle when he huffs out annoyance. “You may as well accept the nickname. Mine is Darling, and yours is Creamy.”

He twists a strand of my hair around his finger. “You wanna go home and do this again, only with a bed?”

“Mine or yours?”

“Who cares?”

I laugh. “I have to be back at seven to get the store ready.”

“Is that a no?”

I ease off him and grab my clothes from the floor as he watches me with heavy-lidded eyes. “It’s a ‘Get your ass in gear so we can hurry.’”

He smiles, broadly, the effect of it nearly taking my breath. “Yes, darling.”

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