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“Okay, that’s normal. I mean, we haven’t really touched on my past, but my parents were never together. My grandparents practically raised me, you know that.” Alana’s grandparents are a hoot. You can tell how much they love her and pretty much took Jace as their own, too.

“I know that. I haven’t told you the worst of it.” Her hands go to my shirt, moving it out of the way, so her fingers find skin, soothing me with her touches.

“Then tell me so I can understand. I’m not going anywhere, promise.”

“Here it goes. The last time I saw Anna, Jace’s mom, she was hell-bent on coming after me with a kitchen knife during one fight too many over her not eating enough for Jace. Shit, Alana, when she told me she was pregnant with Jace, it was the happiest time of my life and the shittiest all in one, knowing there was no way I was in love with her. I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. Anna was ready to get an abortion if we didn’t have a relationship. There’s no way I wanted that. God, I loved that boy before I met him, so I tried. It clearly didn’t work, and when I got the call that she was in the hospital,”—that day hits like it was yesterday—“I walked into that hospital, told the labor and delivery team who I was, and the doctor took me to the side. Christ, she was delivering Jace early, so I figured that was the issue, knowing she was only thirty-four weeks, but when he told me she tested positive for cocaine, I was knocked on my ass. And she was doing it off and on throughout her pregnancy. I had no idea, Alana, none. If I had known, my ass would have stayed with her, not let her do that shit until Jace was born. So, instead of our boy being this happy and healthy still coming early boy, he was born addicted to cocaine.” I drop my head, needing a fucking minute to just breathe.

“Keller, look at me, sweetheart, please.” Alana’s hands leave my waist and move to the back of my head. I slowly pull my head back up. “That says nothing horrible about you, not at all. I know to the marrow of my bones that if you’d known, you would have done anything in your power to help Anna. It says everything about her that she would endanger your sweet little boy. God, he’s not even mine, and I would be protective to every depth of my being. What happened is not on you. It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah, sometimes, it’s hard not to carry the burden, so before Jace was even born, my parents, siblings, everyone was there. I stepped out, called the family attorney, and had him draw up two sets of papers. One was her giving me temporary custody while I put her through rehab, the other was for her to sign over custody, giving her a lump sum in the process. You can guess which one she chose. Cut me to the core. Anna went with option two, hours after Jace was born, didn’t even look at him, didn’t hold him. All she wanted was drugs. I found out after she signed the papers that she voluntarily checked herself out against doctors’ orders, and she’s been gone ever since. That’s why I was such a dick. I knew in the back of my head that not all women are like Anna, but I somehow lumped them all together just the same. I’m sorry, Alana, so damn sorry.” This woman, she doesn’t say a word, but she doesn’t have to either. Instead, she wraps me up in her arms, buries her face in my throat, and lets me breathe her presence in, and it’s exactly what I need after getting everything off my chest.



“Need you, gorgeous.” Keller’s hands wrap around my waist from behind in what has to be the middle of the night. God, how he must have felt telling me everything, getting it off his chest. I swear if a man could cry silently without actual tears, that’s what Keller was doing.

“Anything you need, honey, it’s yours,” I respond, feeling him work the bottom of my silk and lace pajama shorts, lifting my hip up to help him. Keller’s hands are greedy, greedier than they’ve ever been in the past when our time was limited. There’s one thing that hasn’t changed—how he makes me feel that when it’s just him and me, it’s only him and me. The world is shut out, there’s not a care in the world, only our heavy breathing, pounding hearts, and needy bodies.

“Alana.” Keller’s smooth voice carries through the room. “Need the light. Want to watch your body take me.” The light on his nightstand flickers on. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust, and while they’re doing that, I realize Keller is completely naked, muscles rippling as he moves back between my legs, spreading them wide to accommodate his firm thighs, the hair tickling me as he moves close.

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