“You know, he isn’t going to be happy with you, Ro.”
She waved the man off. “Luca, he’s a big teddy bear. He loves me; besides, he knew I was a free spirit when he married me.”
“You knew he was a hard-headed military man when you married him. You agreed to wait for him.”
“I can handle a scolding.”
A sharp laugh erupted from Luca. “I spent years in the wild with that man, Rowena. I know what the two of you practice. You and I both know that if you get off with just a scolding, you’ll be lucky.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “And I know exactly what he likes me to do with my tongue.”
“Rowena Gypsy Erikson!” She shrank in her office chair as the man in question blew into the office.
“I thought you knew how to handle him?”
She ignored the comments from the peanut gallery and smiled sweetly at her husband. “Good morning, Sir.”
“My office, now!”
“A few clients will be arriving for the ten o’clock meeting soon. I need to be at my desk.”
“Trust me, sunshine, you want to have this over with before those clients get here. March.”
“I’m sure I can handle checking people in.” With a smug smile, Luca dropped into the seat at her desk and made a shooing motion with his hands.
“I think he’s helping plenty. Office. Now.”
“Traitor,” she mumbled as she passed Luca, stomping her foot for good measure.
“Rowena.” The exasperation was clear in her husband’s voice. “Where are your shoes?”
She looked down at her bare feet. “Oh, I’ll get them.”
In an instant, she was on her hands and knees, crawling past the man sitting at her desk and directly under it. “They’re under here.” She tossed a bright yellow flat from below the desk. “I know the other one is here somewhere. Oh, I found it!” As she backed out of the small space, a wet tongue licked the side of her face, followed by a soft whine. “Don’t worry, Toothpaste. Like I told Luca, he’s a big softy.” As she wrapped her arms around the furry neck, she eyed the man smirking at her from her chair. “At least the dog has some sympathy for me.”
“Would you quit calling him that. His name is Trident.”
“Like the toothpaste.”
“Like the Special Warfare insignia.”
“Oh, right. I think you told me that.” She knew exactly where his name came from but loved annoying the man.
“Rowena, I swear to God.” Her annoyed husband helped her off the floor. “You are going to give me a heart attack before I’m forty.”
“It’s more likely to be an aneurysm with how high your blood pressure gets.”
“Marching to the gallows and still mocking your executioner.” He shook his head disapprovingly.
“A spanking is far from an execution, bear.” He opened the door to the office, gesturing for her to go first. She shook her head vigorously. “No way. I would prefer the spanking to start after the door has closed, thank you.”
In a flash, her flats disappeared from her hands, only to return with vengeance to the seat of her skirt. “You don’t decide when your spanking starts or if you are going to get one. That is my job.” Each word was emphasized with a swat.
“Ow, ow. I’m sorry.”
He held the door for her once more. “Let’s try this again. Hands in front of you, sunshine.”
Her hands fell from their protective stance a second before the swat she had tried so hard to avoid landed. She stood at ease in the center of the room chewing her lip as she listened to the sounds of the ritual she both loved and hated.
First, was the sound of the lock sliding into place, followed by the jiggle of the handle. He always made sure there was no chance of embarrassment. Then came his muffled footsteps. This was the point where, if her hands were not clasped behind her back, she would start fidgeting.
“Feet further apart. Good girl.” He rounded his desk, taking his gun from its holster and placing it in the locked drawer. Once it was secured, he rounded the desk once more, taking a stance in front of her. “Care to take a guess at why we’re here?”
“Um, do I have to, Sir?”
“Worried you’ll incriminate yourself?”
“Isn’t there a law against self-incrimination?”
“I don’t know, maybe we should ask our resident lawyer?” His cocky grin was aimed at her.
“The fifth amendment spells it out pretty clearly. Speaking of, I am pretty sure you forgot to read my client her Miranda Rights.”
“Good thing we’re not in court.” Her lip was pulled from between her teeth. “Quit punishing your poor lips, sunshine. That’s what your ass is for. Now, why are we here?”
“Um, well it could be a number of things.”
“Take a guess.”
Her eyes fell to her chest. Maybe she’d gotten lucky and that was all he was upset about.
But her hopes were dashed when he shook his head at her. “No, sunshine, as much as I would prefer you to wear a bra to work, that’s a battle I gave up years ago.”
“Really?” she asked hopefully.
“More or less.” Her pout only lasted a few seconds before the stern look on his face had it disappearing. “Why are we here?”
“Luca’s such a tattletale.” She let her eyes drop to the floor.
“No, Luca is a concerned friend who found you crying in the bathroom.”
She swallowed hard, his small reprimand causing tears to fill her eyes. She broke position, walking the couple steps to stand directly before him. “I took another test.”
He took her into his arms as he leaned against his desk, his nose buried in her hair. “What did we agree on?”
“I wouldn’t take any more without you.”
“Why did we agree to that?”
“Because I’m a mess.”
The hand that landed on her ass broke the dam. She didn’t even attempt to stem the flow of tears. There was no point; she had been holding them at bay long enough, and she was in the one place she could let herself go—his arms.
“Do not talk about my wife like that.”
“I’m broken.” Her knees gave out, but he held fast, not allowing her to move an inch.
“I can’t give you the one thing you want, Octavius! I can’t give you the family you deserve! The family you fought for!” She pounded her fists against the man’s chest before allowing her head to fall against the hard muscle. “I’m broken in the worst way.”
They stood like that for what seemed like forever. She, crying, releasing the pain of what she would very possibly never have. He, the unmoving rock, her support, her stability, her husband.
“We have options.”
“I know,” Without shame, she wiped her wet face on his tee shirt. “I want so badly to look into our son’s eyes and see you staring back at me.”
“You can see me in other ways, in the way he loves and protects his mama or in the way he views the world.”
“And our daughters.” He shook his head. “They won’t be allowed to date until they’re fifty, forty if he’s a really nice boy.” She could do nothing to contain the harsh bark of laughter that escaped. “God help me if they love the world half as much as you do.”
She pictured their children—running around the office, playing with the future children of Luca, Jason, and the rest of the men, getting into trouble.
“Do I want it too badly?”
* * *
“I would stay if I could, sunshine, but tonight, it’s all hands on deck.”
“I know; I’ll be fine. Go back up the guys. Don’t get hurt. Oh, and don’t let anyone step on poor Trident’s paws. Last time, he limped for two days.”
“Woman.” His growl was soft as he planted kisses along her jaw. “Luca can take care of his own damn dog.”
As she pushed back from his chest, she gave him a look of disbelief. “It’s Trident. He’s family.”
“Baby, you would tell me the homeless lady outside the grocery store is family.”
“Martha is just down on her luck. Jason’s doing a search for her son. And don’t try to tell me you don’t think of that dog as family.”
“My point exactly.” His hand firmly squeezed her ass, which he was supporting. “I really have to go.”
“You can’t come with me.”
“Ro, you have to unwind your legs from around my waist.”
“But I love it when you hold me.” She sighed long and hard at his stony glance. “Carry me to bed? Please?”
Holding on as tightly as his big body would allow, she rested her head on his shoulder. At five-foot-seven inches and one hundred seventy pounds, she was far too big to be held, but her six-foot-two, well-muscled, former Navy SEAL husband never complained or broke a sweat. “How late will you be?”
As he entered their bedroom, he went straight to the king-sized bed and pulled back the covers before peeling her legs and arms from his body. “If everything goes as planned, our extra security detail for the sleaze will be done by eleven.”
“Why do you guys call him that?”
In a flash, her arms were pinned above her head as he used one of his legs to immobilize the lower half of her body. “Rowena, I have to go, and you need to let me.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, big boy, you have me pinned to the bed.”
He released her and checked his watch, frowning. “I know.”
She smiled when she felt his denim-encased member bump against her thinly veiled core. “We could take care of that.”
His lips landed on her, delivering a fierce, unrelenting kiss. By the time he pulled back, she had pulled his tee from the waistband of his pants and her hands had found their way into the front of his jeans. “Sunshine, I have to go.” A single finger played with the elastic on his boxer briefs, brushing the nest of curls at the base of his hard shaft. He pulled her hand out of his pants. “What happens when you tease me?”
“If I do it right?” She squealed when he rolled her over to pop her on the ass.
As he stood from the bed, he adjusted his cock before tucking his shirt back in. “You know I have to go.” With his clothing as it should be, he planted a kiss on her forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you, too; be safe.”
“Always. Oh, and if I’m going to suffer through the night, so are you. No touching what’s mine until I get home.”
She stuck her tongue out at his retreating back.
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