Just the Way You Are
Page 6

 Lexi Ryan

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She looked up at him through her lashes. “But don’t you want to?”
His mouth was on hers, his hands in her hair. She wrapped her legs around his waist, and rocked against him, his thick, exposed c**k against her sex.
She didn’t just want him. She wanted him here. His dick buried deep inside him while the other couples sunbathed yards away on the beach, unsuspecting.
He broke the kiss and pressed his face into the crook of her neck, breathing hard.
She shifted her h*ps until the head of his dick was pressed against her opening. “I’m on the pill.”
His eyes sought hers, questioning. “Here?”
“Here.” She circled her hips. “Now.”
That was all it took and his hands her on her hips, rough and greedy as he slid her down on him.
She bit his shoulder as he filled her, the ocean rising and falling softly around them.
He groaned into her hair. “God, I love the way you feel.”
His words shot a jolt of hot pleasure through her, and she moved against him, riding the sensations rippling through her.
“I love you, Harrison.”
His eyes blazed hotter at her admission. He murmured her name and she looped her hands around his neck, leaning back to watch his face and change the angle.
His gaze dropped to the clear water and the space their bodies joined. Fingers curling into her ass, he watched his dick move in and out of her as they fucked. His face was tense, his eyes hot.
When the pressure was too much, she pulled herself against him, relishing in the swell of him inside her. She tangled her hands in his hair and whispered his name as he came.
After, he held her tight, pressing small kisses to her head. “Can you give us the week? Just a week to enjoy each other?”
“Yes.” She wouldn’t ruin this with the demons from her past. He deserved better.
Chapter Thirteen
Harrison blinked and realized someone was knocking at the door. Stacey slept soundly beside him, her dark hair splayed across the pillow, her cheeks rosy even in sleep.
He pulled on his jeans and padded to the door. He found a resort staff member waiting on the steps, hands clasped behind his back.
Harrison stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind him. “Yes?”
“I apologize for bothering you, sir. Your sister called the office, said you don’t have cellular service but she needs to speak with you as soon as possible.”
“Right. Okay.” Harrison tugged a hand through his hair. Why would Addy call him?
“You’ll find a phone in the guest services lounge. You can make an international call from there.”
“Thank you,” Harrison said softly. He hesitated a moment, looking over his shoulder to the door to their chalet. He’d let Stacey sleep and find out what was happening. No need to worry her until they knew more details.
He strode to guest services, fighting the instinctive worry that shot through him, the litany of possible tragedies that would make his sister bother him on his honeymoon.
He made the call and Addy picked up on the first ring.
“Addison? What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Oh, Jesus, Harrison, I’m so sorry.” Her voice was tight with worry.
“What happened? Is it Mom?”
He could hear her long exhale through the phone line. “Mom’s fine.”
Jesus. “Tell me what’s going on.”
“Jake went to Louisville to move some of your stuff out of your apartment. But when he got there, the place was a disaster. Everything of value is gone, and everything else nearly destroyed.”
Harrison winced, but things could be replaced.
“He called the police, of course.”
“Right. Okay, thanks for letting me know.”
She took in a breath. “There’s more. Decadence Creek Fire Department was called out to a fire last night.”
He understood without being told, and he squeezed his eyes shut. “Stacey’s house.”
“Arson, they think. The fire was already pretty far along by the time they got there.”
“Goddamn it.” That house meant everything to Stacey. That house was the only reason she’d married him, probably the only reason she hadn’t called it all off the minute she discovered he’d decided to leave the firm. “Can you make sure the police know about the break-in at my apartment? This was no coincidence.”
“The police don’t think so either.” She was silent for a moment. “They found Mr. Parker at the house.”
“That as**ole wanted to keep the house from her so badly that he tried to burn it down?”
“He didn’t set the fire, Harrison. He was unconscious, bloody and bruised. Beaten. He’s in the hospital.”
Chapter Fourteen
Silence filled the car as they rode from the hospital to the airport, but Stacey preferred the silence to the platitudes, preferred the new numbness to the worry that had gnawed at her gut all morning.
“It’s going to be okay,” Addison had said when she’d met them at the airport. She’d pulled Stacey into a hug and the touch had sent tears spilling down her cheeks. Because it wasn’t going to be okay. She’d indulged in her one fantasy and now she was paying the price.
Harrison was paying the price. And Stacey’s grandmother had warned her.
Stacey had been raw and broken. Sixteen-year-old girls weren’t supposed to be pregnant. They weren’t supposed to have to bury their mothers. But hers had been tucked inside that casket like a gift. And she was the child who wanted to keep the present for herself.
“Grandma!” She’d wrapped her arms around the woman who’d raised her mother, the woman who had passed her eyes and nose to Stacey. “I want her back.” She’d sobbed into the woman’s dress, and she’d needed to be soothed and reassured.
The woman’s eyes had been hollow as she’d stared upon the casket, and Stacey had squeezed her hand waiting for the words that would make the horrible pain inside her go away. But those words had never come.
“I dream of what your mother’s life would have been like if she hadn’t married so far beneath her. Your father brought her more misery than joy, and more hardship than security. And she was so busy fixing him, she didn’t even notice he was destroying her.” Her eyes had been cold as she’d turned them on Stacey. “Don’t you do that to some nice boy. Don’t you let the poison of being a Parker bring down a man who deserves better.”
The lights of the road blurred outside the car now as they headed toward the hospital.
Addison and Chase sat in the front, exchanging worried glances.
Harrison touched Stacey’s leg, brushed a knuckle over her bare shoulder, took her hand and kissed her fingertips. Each touch was torture. A reminder of this gift she’d received and didn’t deserve.
She turned off the thoughts and avoided her husband’s eyes. When he’d woken her early this morning with the news, those eyes had been full of questions and softness.
They should have held anger and accusations.
Chase pulled into the hospital’s parking garage. He’d hardly pulled the brake when she unbuckled and hopped out of the car.
“Stace, slow down,” Harrison called behind her.
She ignored him, making her way to the elevators and closing the doors before they could catch up.
When the doors opened onto the unit that held her father, her throat grew thick with emotions she couldn’t pin down. Fear, anger, and grief churned around inside her, threatening to combust.
“Mitchell Parker,” she told the woman behind the desk.
“Immediate family only.”
Her eyes burned. Family. What a word. What a joke of a concept. “I’m his daughter.”
The woman gave her a sad smile. “He’s sleeping, heavily medicated, but you can see him. Room 3044. It’s down this hall on the right.”
Stacey nodded and headed for her father’s room, the beeping and whirring of the machines the only sounds filling the eerie silence.
Her father’s face was swollen and blue with bruises. His right arm was in a soft cast and wrapped against this body. His bottom lip was split.
She swallowed hard as she went to stand by his head.
“Why did you have to be like this?” she asked quietly. “Didn’t I deserve a father who would protect me? Didn’t you promise you wouldn’t let me down again?” She closed her eyes. How could she feel so much anger toward a man so utterly destroyed? “Don’t die,” she said softly. “You can’t die while I hate you so much. You owe me that much at least.”
She didn’t hear Harrison behind her so much as sense him. “I’m going to stay,” she said quietly. “But I want to be alone.”
He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his mouth to her neck. Her heart squeezed painfully but she didn’t turn to him. She didn’t want his comfort, not while guilt ate at her for bringing him into her life.
“I’ll make some calls,” he said softly. “I’ll find out when we can get moving on the house. I’m sure we’ll have to wait while the arson investigation—”
He frowned. “What?”
“I don’t want you fixing this for me, Harrison. You have your own life to worry about. You don’t need to be running around fixing mine.” She shook her head. “You can’t fix me.”
His jaw tensed. “You’re tired. It’s been a long day.”
She gave a sharp nod. “I am. So…go, please?”
He gave her one last long, searching look and left the room. It took everything she had not to run after him. She was where she needed to be.
Hours blended into each other and the sun was peeking in the tiny window when her father woke.
“I tried to stop them.” He voice broke and tears spilled from his eyes.
“Shh,” she said. “Don’t talk.”
“I am so sorry,” he said.
It was only the second time in her life her father had uttered those words. The first, she’d been seventeen years old and burying her baby.
Chapter Fifteen
His wife was pushing him away, and it was starting to piss Harrison off.
“We’re not going to your parents’ house, Harrison. It’s out of the question.” She looked out the window and into the courtyard, avoiding his eyes like she had every time they’d spoken in the last few days.
Today he’d gotten her to agree to share a meal with him, but she’d refused to go further than the hospital cafeteria. He resented the hell out of the people milling around them. He wanted her alone. Looking at him.
“Why won’t you let me help?” he asked.
She squeezed her eyes shut. “You can’t fix me.”
He slammed his palm against the table and she jumped. Good. At least she was paying attention. “I’m not trying to fix you. I’m trying to be there for you. I’m your husband.”
Laughter slipped from her lips, a hard sound he didn’t recognize as hers. “But you’re not. Not really.”
“Would you please look at me while we talk about this?”
When she turned her eyes on him, the cold, hard determination there made him flinch. “Do yourself a favor,” she said. “Get as far away from me as you can. You could have a good life. Now go have it.”
“I want a life with you.”
“You’re smarter than that.”
“This is why you keep saying you don’t want a marriage, isn’t it? It’s not because you have some sort of objection to living your life with one man. You don’t want a marriage because you don’t want anyone else to get hurt by your father’s mistakes.” It was so obvious now, he couldn’t believe he’d never seen it.
“Tomorrow, I’ll talk to a lawyer about the divorce.”
“You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“It’s over.”
“You said you loved me.” The words abraded his heart as they made their way to his lips.
“My father is a drunk and a gambler. His addictions destroy everything.”
“We’ll get through it together.” He reached for her hand. “I love you.”
She yanked away from his touch and flinched, as if his admission of love had been a slap across the face. “Love is irrelevant. Did love save your apartment? Did it save the only thing I had left of my mother?”
“Ten years ago, did it save me from the knife of the man who wanted to teach my father a lesson? Did it save our baby from that man’s brass knuckles and steel-toed boots?”
What was she talking about? “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“It’s too late.”
Ten years ago. Our baby. The words snapped into the place in his mind, right next to the memory of tracking her down in Louisville. The big sweatshirt, the way she’d insisted they couldn’t try for a long-distance relationship.
Her scars.
“You understand now,” she said.
He closed his eyes. Our baby. And she’d kept it from him.
When he forced himself to look up again, to try to see her past the anger and betrayal, she was gone.
Chapter Sixteen
Harrison wasn’t surprised when he saw headlights turn onto the narrow gravel drive. That was why he was here, after all. Stacey had avoided him for two weeks and this was the only place he knew he could corner her.
She didn’t bother with a flashlight, just turned off the car, slammed the door behind her, and walked up to the house.
He pushed away from his pickup, moving toward her in the dark. “I have a contractor coming out tomorrow. I’ll get a timeline and we’ll go from there.”