Monday, March 28, 2016

FREE - First THREE chapters of Deeper: Descent (Book Two of The Deeper Chronicles)

Mark your calendars because Noah Adams is back.

He’s been a pawn in a game all along...

The King of New York is back. And now, he’s got a Queen on his arm. Just when Noah Adams and Avi Linton are finally settling in to their “happily after ever,” another evil is preparing to make a move. This time, the game just got a little more dangerous and nobody will come out unharmed. Determined to protect her at all costs, Noah puts his life on the line for the only woman who ever mattered to him. But that might not be enough.

When the past begins to threaten their future, Avi and Noah must fight for their present. But can they battle against their enemy without getting deeper into the dangerous abyss?

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April 1979

Farfallina, I’m leaving. Dammi il mio bacio.”
Felipe Guera waited by the door for a response. When none was heard, he expelled a deep breath. This was getting tiresome. Turning around, he was every bit of the fearsome warrior the enemies of his famiglia labelled him. He walked down the dark hallway toward the woman who tempted him like no other, made him forget his own name, and sometimes even made the oath he’d taken as a teen inconsequential.
The bedroom door he’d just walked through was ajar. He spied her with her head bent and the sheet wrapped around her tempting body. He almost cracked a smile at her angelic image. He could almost hear her mumbled words—is she praying, again?—but he definitely heard the low sobs. He shoved the door open so the knob would hit the wall with an ear-splitting noise to frighten her. When she picked up her head, he almost stumbled back from the innocence in her round face and dark brown eyes.
He sneered. He wanted to wipe out every vestige of that ethereal look that was always present and crush that halo others saw around her head. She was his, damn it. Hadn’t he proved that he could easily take command of her body to do sinful and wicked things? And that she would love them? Her orgasms proved she loved them.
No one would keep him from her: not her God, not her father, no one.
He marched over to her, but she shuffled backward on the bed. He was glad she was fearful of him; it made it more interesting when he broke down her will and put her in her place. She wiped away the evidence of tears from her cheek, but it was too late.
“What did I tell you?” he bellowed, his Italian accent coming out thicker as his anger rolled off him and his tongue. “Eh? Stop with the tears, Nellie.”
Ornella Fareri clutched her throat as her lover stood over her. He was a brute of a man, standing over six feet tall with a thick mustache. His nickname, Il Corvo—or The Crow—fit him well. He was a brawny man with a dominating nose. He was also pitch black all over—from his thick mustache, to his soulless eyes, right down to the color suits he wore. There was just no light in him.
Nell, as she preferred being called, had to think quickly. The man in front of her never gave her a moment’s peace. The things she once enjoyed—praying, going to church, meditating, reading her Bible—were snatched by him the night he changed her entire life. Nell was just a pawn to him, and she knew it, because he never let her forget it. He saw a seductress—whom he’d nicknamed Nellie—when she was really a simple woman who wanted to serve God.
He didn’t believe what he saw, reminding her since the first night that she was a temptress and sorceress. So she played her part, rising to her knees she prayed would stop wobbling. The sheet pooled around her slender body.
His hungry eyes swept over her high, firm breasts with their dusty-rose nipples, down to the flat stomach and slim hips. Instead of heat, coldness curled in Nell’s lower belly. But, she still crooked a finger at him, plastering the ‘come hither’ look he told her she’d worn when she walked by him as he sat outside his social club.
He came to her.
“You wanted your kiss, right?” she asked.
The woman confused him. One minute, she was reciting scriptures like the nun she was on her way to becoming when she first laid her seductive trap for him, and the next, he swore she was like the Delilah she’d once told him about.
“What made this donna so wicked?” he’d asked as they had laid naked in bed one night.
Nellie’s supine position had displayed her body well, and he’d found himself distracted by the natural plateaus and valleys her naked form proudly boasted. She’d dragged a hand through his hair then twirled a few locks around her finger.
“Samson trusted too easily. He told her his strength was because of his uncut hair. That was all Delilah needed. While he slept, she cut his hair for just eleven hundred pieces of silver.” Nellie had pulled on his hair before leveling him with a stare so crazed he believed she could cut him down as well. That was the first instance he’d marred her creamy complexion just to remind his Nellie she was nothing without him. He’d never give her the chance to hurt him.
Nellie leaned her upper body toward him. “Come and get your kiss, il mio Corvo,” she whispered his nickname, which pulled him back to the present.
He wrapped his hands around her, dragging her closer. He grunted at the soft contact of her body on his. “Why were you crying?” He couldn’t help adding, “And don’t lie.”
She played with the sharp lines in his suit jacket, her sight tracking the intricate pattern in the tweed. “I’m just going to miss you. You’ll be gone for a week.” Her small hands wound themselves around his thick neck, pushing up into his dark hair. “I wish you didn’t have to leave Paulo as a guard, and start trusting me.”
He backed away. His dimples sunk deeper into his cheeks the wider he smiled. “You think I don’t see you?”  He came closer to Nellie’s ear. “My almost nun.” His fingers brushed down over her smooth skin before grabbing her jaw, holding her immobile. Nellie’s hands slapped at his forearms while her eyes seemed to pop from their sockets. The more she fought, the harder his grip became. “Leave you alone? So you can escape? I see you, Nellie.”
“It’s Nell,” she mumbled out, tears springing to her eyes as his short nails dug into her flesh.
“Nell died the day I killed her father. Your name is Nellie. My hot piece of ass. Miniera!” He licked the side of her face, snickering when she stiffened.
“Please, don’t.”
At her parted lips, he seized his opportunity, forcing her warm mouth wider and moaning at the silkiness of her tongue. Her wet cheek rubbed against him and made his cock stiff as her fear dripped off her body.
“Nellie,” Felipe growled out then backhanded her.
She flew back on the pillows, but he was on top of her in the next instant. His hand slipped up her neck, squeezing it. He batted away her weak hands as they tried to clutch onto him. He laughed out loud when she pounded her fists on his thick hands. He never stopped, not even when Nellie gasped and her neck reddened with his fingerprints.  
Lowering his head, he whispered, “You’re not getting away from me that easily.” He lessened the pressure of his fingers. One of his hands was at his zipper, pulling out his hardened cock that he jammed into her.
Silent tears coated her cheeks.
Minera,” he grunted, telling her she was his.
“Goodnight, everyone,” she called out, heading toward the main entrance.
“Are you going to come out with us?” someone asked.
Tugging on her gloves, Nell faced her co-worker. “I know you’re all excited that tomorrow will be a new year, but I’m going to spend a quiet night at home.”
“With a face like yours, doll, I know that husband of yours will appreciate that,” a customer yelled out before winking at her.
If he only knew, she thought then opened the diner’s door. She was looking forward to what 1981 would bring because Nell had plans. Plans like taking that permanent trip to Toronto, Canada to eventually buy a place to call her own. But daydreaming of those plans came to a halt when a plume of whitened breath left her lips. She’d arrived in Buffalo, New York close to a year ago, and still wasn’t used to the city’s constant frigid weather.
But it’s good training for Canada, she thought as she walked. A sense of foreboding crept its way over her body that had her glancing over her shoulder. She saw the normal faces who she’d seen on her many late nights, but she still quickened her steps on the pavement toward her rental home. She’d taken every precaution, from cutting her hair to just under her chin, coloring it to blonde, and adopting the last name of Adams—all to outsmart the one man she still had nightmares about, even after all this time. She rushed up the long, winding stairs then pushed her key into the door.
“You’re late.”
Nell coughed as her baby-sitter’s cigarette smoke filled her lungs. No matter how often she’d begged Anitra not to smoke around her child, Nell’s words were brushed aside.
Unwrapping the scarf from her and pulling off her hat, she walked into the small living area. “How was he today?”
The older woman leaned over the arm of her ratty love seat, which made her black hair swing against her brown shoulders. She crushed the butt of her cigarette into a makeshift astray. “I keep telling you that boy of yours is bad as he wanna be.”
Nell flapped her hand in her direction, hoping to quiet the woman. “Anitra, no, he—”
The other woman interrupted her with a firm headshake. “I don’t care what you say. That black-eyed devil of yours is no good. I don’t know how a sweet woman like you ended up—”
Nell’s nostrils flared. “You need to leave.” Every month or so, Nell bought the woman a carton of Marlboros and her son had a babysitter. She had no right to speak about her only child like that. I’ll just bring him with me to the diner tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll understand.
Anitra eased up, huffing out, “Well, don’t you come begging me to take him back, ‘cause I’m not watching him no more.” She breezed by Nell but turned near the door. “Oh, and some man was here lookin’ for you.”
Fear seized Nell, and she stammered out, “Di-did he leave a name?” The woman was sometimes too friendly to strangers, talking up a storm when silence was probably better. If someone was in my apartment...
“I didn’t let that man inside here,” Anitra said, and Nell blew out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “I looked through the peephole, and he scared the shit outta me. He said to tell you he’d be back.”
Nell ran to the woman, squeezing on her arms. “What was his name? Did he say his name?”
The other woman flung Nell’s hands from her, scrunching up her features. “He mentioned some bird’s name; hell if I remember. He only told me to deliver his message.” She paused before looking like she drank something spoiled. “Look, I like you and all. But between your kid and now this scary guy, I’m gonna need you to move out. I can’t have no shady shit going on here.” Anitra was quick to leave after that.
Nell locked the door then her body sagged against it. She wished she had some deadbolts to use. On top of having no babysitter, now, she didn’t have place to live. Lord, help me. She leaned her head back on the door as dread seeped through her. She could pack, grab all their things, and run. But to where? She’d been lucky Paulo had taken pity on her and had helped run from Elizabeth, New Jersey, but now there was no one. Just her and her son.
As she bolted toward her tiny bedroom, Nell knew she’d have to move up her timeframe to get to Toronto. She had a few dollars saved to buy the necessary fake documents she’d need to get them across the border...but not enough. It was never enough, because the little she made from tips dwindled into nothingness because she had to buy diapers, pay rent, and whatever else they needed.
“What am I to do?” Nell whimpered out, stuffing a fist into her mouth so she wouldn’t cry out in desperation.
She was barely making ends meet with her waitress job at the diner. She had no transportation, and no legal identification documents out of fear of him. What could she do? Anitra’s words came back to her, and Nell hurried over to pull out her tattered suitcase and began flinging her family’s few belongings into it. A small hand touched her leg, causing Nell to nearly jump out of her skin.
“Oh, my God, you scared me.” Looking down, she was face-to-face with the small reminder of the reason she’d ran the night Il Corvo almost strangled her to death. The toddler at her feet was the only deciding factor when Nell contemplated suicide nightly. Her son forced her to continue fighting to live out the hand she’d been dealt. “Noah, baby, what are you doing?”
He leaned his head to the side, his features so much like his father’s: sharp, black eyes and strong nose. They even shared personalities—strong-willed, persistent, and selfish, though Nell convinced herself the latter, in Noah’s case, was because he loved so deeply. Even though he was only a year old, Nell knew her son was different.
She bent down to his level, getting lost in his dark eyes. “Sei una brava persona. Lo so.” Her Noah was good, no matter that he shared DNA with a devil of a man.
She had such high hopes for her son, and named him Noah because of them. Nell wanted her son to be a savior, just like her Biblical hero who saved his family. She touched his chin. Yes, her son would be a rescuer; he’d do only good thingsshe’d make sure of it.
“We’re leaving here, baby,” she told him and continued packing.
Sometime later, she was sure she had everything. The money she’d pulled out from a loose floorboard would have to take them as far as it could, and then she would start over. Nell pulled up the zipper on Noah’s coat and was just about to put his hat on, when she heard heavy footfalls in the hallway. Then her door was banged on. The hinges rattled, sounding like they were about to fall off.
She smashed a finger to Noah’s lips, grabbing him up, and running back into her small bedroom. She peeked out the window and down at the dark alley below, but they were so high up. She couldn’t take the chance that she and Noah wouldn’t fall to their deaths. What should I do? She didn’t have many options. The doorknob jiggled a few times before silence was all she heard. She made a cross, hoping her God wouldn’t fail her yet again, then threw Noah inside the closet and shielded his small body with hers.
“I’ll keep you safe. No one will ever hurt you, Noah.” Her mother’s promise echoed inside the small hiding place.


Late November 2013

The brisk Monday wind encouraged Katherine Brashier’s feet to hurry along Spring Street. The well put together, perfectly coiffed woman would surprise the people who knew her best. Nowhere was the adolescent who’d been abandoned, or the teenaged heroin addict who’d come from a broken neighborhood. Brash, as she was nicknamed, came from dismal beginnings. Her parents were more concerned with their next score than being providers, and she’d been a byproduct of poverty so entrenched that it stretched generations. With those surroundings, it was as if Fate was against her from birth, and Destiny dictated she’d follow in her parents’ footsteps.
“Watch it,” she yelled at the back of a bear of a man who bumped into her. “Pick your eyes up from the damn cell, you jackass.”
He turned at her words. There was a brief stare-off between the two. Brash wasn’t a pushover. Though he towered over her and could seriously hurt her, she also knew she wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Fuck him, she thought as she carried on about her business. This was the girl those from her neighborhood knew: defensive, quick-tempered, and well, Brash. She blew out a breath to help center her emotions. None of the new people she surrounded herself with these days had ever met the real her. Not even her lover. He’d caught glimpses, like right after she’d fired the killing shot at Detective Manning or when she’d attempted to take out Noah Adams at his club.
She stopped walking, pinching her cheeks and using the moment to school her features from frazzled to serene. She silently reflected on everything she needed to accomplish over her breakfast meeting with Ido.
Put a definite timetable on Noah Adams’ death.
Find out her partner’s angle in their alliance.
She was tired of pussy-footing around both issues, and was becoming fearful that her accomplice would be side-tracked by whatever his reasoning had been that led to their alliance. Her sister’s death demanded swift retribution. Bloody and public was Brash’s plan. She opened the restaurant’s door and was immediately greeted by a host with a smile on his lips.
“Table for two. My reservation is under Aswad.” She and Ido had a standing arrangement, using the time to eat, flirt, strategize, and always ended with them bucking New York’s indecency laws. She grinned as she thought about the perfect place for today’s escapade.
“May I start you off with something to drink while you wait on your server?” the host asked after she sat.
“My usual and this morning’s paper,” she demanded.
Not soon after, she had a copy of the Daily News and a cup of coffee was in front of her. She was just about to share her meal preference when her gaze landed on the headline.
“What in the actual fuck?” she screeched, unable to help herself. Her youth showed itself in her speech most times though she did her best to camouflage it.
“Ar-are you—”
Brash was too dazed to answer the man who stood by her table, flicking her fingers that silently told of her desire to be alone. The caption on the front page shocked her: The Curious Burning of East Meets West. She scanned the article below, and then just as fast, flipped to the next page until she got to last word in the story. There was no mention of Ido. She frowned.
The hookah lounge burned to the ground sometime last night. Unbelievable. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she mumbled to herself.
Another woman would’ve had tears in their eyes or began frantically trying to find out what happened, but Brash was a realist. It was one of the reasons she was able to hold her own against the likes of Ido. She knew he was using her. Their relationship, if it could be called that, was mutually beneficial: she wanted to get the man behind Take Over, and he wanted whatever the hell he wanted. She could never figure out Ido’s motives for agreeing to partner with her over two years ago, only that he had the means to get her as close as possible to Noah Adams.
Now that’s shot to hell! With the paper held high, she read the article again, looking for any clues she’d missed on her first read through.
“I’d like a cup of cappuccino,” a gruff voice requested.
She lowered the paper, catching sight of a man in his early sixties sitting opposite her in the place meant for Ido. She glared at him, but all the man did was fold together his strong hands that looked like they’d have no trouble squeezing the life out of her. She didn’t have the patience to deal with some fool hitting on her, and her facial expression stated as much.
When he didn’t take her non-verbal hint to heart, she said, “Fuck off.”
His thick eyebrows lifted to his forehead and he sat taller in the chair. A man stepped forward as if he would pummel her with one of his fists, but the older man stopped him with a raised hand. With a loud sniff, the brute took a step back behind her unwelcomed guest.
“You’re bold for such a young woman. But I expected more, Katherine. Or should I call you Brash?” He nodded his thanks when his hot beverage was delivered.
She was rooted to her seat and tried her best to hide her fear. Her gaze circled the room, looking for help if she needed it, but instead noticed the restaurant was deserted with the exception of the waiter and two people in front of her. Only someone of importance pull off something like that.
“Wh-who are you?”
He cracked his neck then chuckled deep within his throat. “Did you enjoy your morning reading?” He picked up a spoon, spinning it around the cup before licking off the froth from his hot beverage. “It’s sad about Ido’s business.”
Brash grunted, choosing to keep quiet and learn as much as she could about the mysterious man.
“I see no mention of a body. Do you?” he inquired before raising the cup to his lips. His charcoal-black eyes lit up as he regarded her defensive posture. “You’re right not to trust me, but you’ll be happy to know I’ve decided to help you.”
“You’ve decided...” she sputtered, stopping when he leaned forward.  
“You need a new sponsor.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She had to get Ido on the phone. Maybe he can—
“Ido Aswad is dead.” He sat back nonchalantly, boring into her as if calculating her worth and usefulness.
The paper fluttered from her lifeless fingers onto the table. She dug in her bag for her cigarette—damn the city’s law about smoking indoors— pulling one out then lighting it. She inhaled deeply.
“Here’s how this will work. I tell you what to do, what to say, who to meet, and you get to live.”
She exhaled smoke into the air.
“Just nod your head.” Behind him, the other man eased his jacket back, revealing a shiny gun near his hip.
So typical for a man. But she wasn’t a coward, and the proof was her going after the man nicknamed the King of New York. “Listen, I don’t know you. And no one tells me what to do.” Brash flipped her hair over her slim shoulder. “You can count me out, mister.” The perfect smoky O’s finally reached his face, reminding her of the time she’d blown smoke into the face of a now dead detective.
She’d been so close to exacting her vengeance, missing the perfect shot outside Club Envy by inches. If she could believe this man, Ido was dead, which meant she was fucked! Her dead sister would get no justice now.
“It’s a cold world out here. You need an ally.” He pointed to his wide chest. “I can be that person.”
He probably wanted to screw her brains out, and then he’d screw her over. No way. She was done with men with accents who couldn’t deliver. She’d find another way to get—
He grabbed her wrist, using it to pull her almost over the table. He didn’t seem to care that her body rattled the utensils or the stemware on the table. “I know you’ve been scheming to get to Noah Adams. Ido wasn’t the man who could deliver him to you, but I can.” He squeezed harder, sending a pulsing sensation between Brash’s thighs.
She licked her lips then grinned just a little, pulling the man’s sight onto the curve of her lips. When his gaze drifted down, she internally celebrated her victory before asking, “Why didn’t you just say so?” She mewled low in her throat then rubbed against the callouses she felt in his palm while he tapped the side of her face.  


Noah tugged on the coarse rope a little harder than necessary, wanting this ordeal over and fucking done. The animal brayed in protest, disturbing the quiet that radiated in the night. Looking back, Noah noted the donkey was like him—they both didn’t want to be here. The proof was that neither animal nor man had any intention of slowing their pace. They trekked up the hilly terrain in silence. The crunching of gravel was the only sound heard in the late night as the six men climbed higher.
“This is bullshit,” Noah muttered to himself. And all because he didn’t want to piss in his pants—something men in the military were known to do to hasten the end of their patrols and to avoid capture by enemies. His high handedness, or maybe it was stupidity, placed him and his men right in the center of imminent danger. Some fucking way to spend his twenty-third birthday.
Behind him, Noah picked up on bits and pieces of his captors’ conversation. Being in Afghanistan for close to fifteen months, he was fortunate that picking up the different regional tongues came easily to him. That and his lip reading skill had helped him and his men out of many sticky situations during foot patrols. The one in charge, who’d first pushed his homemade gun in Noah’s face earlier, was the loudest, and kept quieting his two partners who wanted to give up on their quest.
Despite the cold wind blowing, Noah’s anger blazed, warming him from the inside out. He heard a stumble behind him, like someone falling to their knees right before a low grunt of pain.
“Damn it,” Cass yelled.
Turning around, Noah saw that the Afghani men were on top of his friend in seconds. Noah had to rely on the stingy light the moon shone to see the damage to his friend’s face.
“To your feet!”
Cass was clocked in the mouth by the butt of one of the men’s gun. When he staggered up from his knees to stand, he spat out a mouthful of blood.
“Yo!” Ro pushed against the man nearest him, attempting to help his comrade.
“I tripped, you asshole,” Cass said.
The other men spoke in quick, guttural Farsi to each other. Suspicion straightened the men’s postures near Cass and Ro, each swarming in closer around Noah’s friends.
At the raised guns to his friends’ chest, Noah rushed out, “Wait. Wait.” They all spoke at once, neither understanding the other, adding more confusion.
“We don’t need them. Just the black-eyed one.”
Noah wasn’t sure what the latter part of the statement meant, but he had to act fast. His gut told him Cass and Ro were soon to meet their Maker. Noah jumped in front of his friends, raising his hand in submission. “Kill them, and you have to kill me.” The other men looked at each other. “Your donkey won’t cross the border.” The blank glaze over their beady eyes reminded Noah of the language barrier and the men’s cold-blooded nature. He searched his memory for the right word. “Kill him, and no heroin. Nothing,” he said in their language. Fuck them. They wouldn’t get shit from him if Cass or Ro didn’t continue on with them.
The men huffed, eventually lowering their drawn weapons. Noah breathed out in relief. He didn’t want to show fear, but he was nervous. Much like the time, five years back, when Harry had caught him with a bag full of shit that could’ve cost him ten years of his freedom. Cass had an eleven-year old niece and wife waiting for him stateside, and Ro had a fiancée. Noah couldn’t let his men...his friends die just because he hadn’t wanted to smell like a piss pot.
“Move,” the man who sounded to be in command said.
They shoved the rope at him again before chucking Ro and Cass on the opposite side of the animal. As Noah led the illegal caravan, it struck him as ironic that he’d traveled thousands of miles to leave behind the life of a small-time drug dealer, and yet here he was doing the exact thing again. A foreign feeling clutched his heart, making him stumble and miss a step. Noah thought of the man who was probably snoozing in his La-Z-Boy chair in Brooklyn with the belief that everything was going well.
“You’re different. I know it,” Harry had told him on more than one occasion.
To come all this way, and to be right back at fucking square one was a cold dose of reality for Noah. It was like the universe was reminding Noah who and what he was. Harry couldn’t save him, and the U.S. armed forces couldn’t do anything to erase Noah’s start in life. He’d been stupid to believe Harry, and realized the nightmare that haunted him from his early days in Buffalo was true: there was no good in him.
Noah jumped up from his sleep with a start, sweat beading on his forehead and his heart galloping away.
“Shit,” he muttered. His hand immediately reached out to his left, and when his fingers grazed her soft arm, he allowed himself to relax. Breathe. The dream felt so real, almost like he was right back on that dark night in December 2002 and climbing that fucking hill.
He turned from Avi and picked up his cell phone, noting it was nearing two in the morning. Even after a week later, he still felt the twinge from his final run-in with Ido. I should kill the fucker for shooting me. He chuckled low at the thought. The bed shifted, forcing him to end enjoyment about the pleasure of the man’s demise. No need to wake Avi when she had to go to work in another seven hours. In the two days since she’d been back in his life, he refused to let her out of his bed despite his banged up ribcage. His dick never got enough of her, and surprisingly, she was nice to have around his condo.
He took a deep breath. He was all right. Ro and Cass were alive and well. They’d all made it out of that hellish situation, and everything would be just fine. Lowering his head back on the pillow, he gathered Avi in his arms, disregarding her low grumblings. Now I can sleep. Noah’s eyelids closed, hoping for a dreamless night.
At first, she thought she was hearing things. But then she heard it again: a low squeal that sounded close to a trapped, wounded animal. Avi’s eyes fluttered open. I should’ve never watched that darn horror movie without Noah. She vowed that was the last time and she’d wait on him just as he’d instructed her. When quiet was all Avi heard, she sought sleep again.
Avi’s eyes popped open. What the heck? Noah’s muscles tensed under her splayed hand. She was just about to shake him awake when she was pitched off him. She flailed backward, biting down on her tongue as she clipped her head on the top of the wooden portion of the bed. Noah’s upper body lurched upright.
“Fuck,” he roared.
She swallowed the blood pooling on the back of her tongue then took her time opening then closing her mouth. This was her third night in Noah’s bed, and there were a few things she’d learned about him: he slept in the nude, kept ‘vampire hours’ as she’d come to tease him, and preferred sleeping in a thick cloud of darkness. Since their reunion on Friday morning in his office, they’d both tuned out the world, but she’d come to learn that wasn’t an easy feat for Noah. He got up early and came to bed late. Somewhere in between those hours, he’d steal lengthy time to eat with her, take a shower, or help her cook...well, she cooked, and he just got in her way. Without fail, every time Noah branded her as his, he made her body rise to each passionate height he took her. Even girlish giggles around him became her new normal. It’d been magical for Avi, and though there were no lifelong commitment statements expressed, Avi was confident about her future with him.
“Noah.” Swathed in the dark, she could only make out the curvature in his pale back and that his head was cradled in one of his large hands. She used her hand to reach him, but it was like the man was thousand miles from her on his California king bed. When she heard rustling, Avi turned to her side of the bed and flipped the switch on the lamp. She repeated his name because Avi wasn’t sure he heard her. He was so still that it frightened her. Then, she heard his laboring breaths.
“Hey.” Avi’s voice was as soft as the sheets caressing her skin.
He grunted but still didn’t turn. Concerned, she drew closer. Noah leaned toward the lamp on his side, and now the room was bathed in a soft glow. The light sheen of perspiration glistening his skin shimmered under the bulb’s illumination.
What in the—
“Go back to bed.”
Noah’s strained tone sounded tired and hollow. Her body twitched in response. Her first night here, when he’d gotten up pretty much like now, he’d joked it off and told her he’d been dealing with some business issues. But then it had happened again the following night. Now, she was concerned. Though new and still unnamed, she was very protective of whatever she and Noah had going on. She’d made a choice to run a week ago, but Avi had retired her running shoes and refused to cower from the hard things any longer.
“It’s the third night of these...” She paused. Another thing she’d learned about Noah was that he wasn’t a man who showed weakness. Even though bolstered by her place in his bed and now his life, she had to remind herself this was still Noah Adams, so she chose her words with care. “It’s now three episodes,” she said gently. “Do you want to talk?” I’m getting worried. Avi knew better than to share those concerns.
“It’s nothing.”
Although he wasn’t looking at her, Avi still shook her head. “It’s not nothing.” Noah was either lying to himself—and most likely lying to her which didn’t sit well with her—or maybe these were really nothing to worry about. He almost had her second-guessing her suspicions until he trembled. “Noah, this isn’t nothing.”
He blew out a breath.
“I’m getting worried,” she said, taking a chance with sharing her feelings. She scooted closer to him, but he stood abruptly. Avi sucked in a low gasp and pretended his move didn’t sting her pride. “If we’re going to do this, then we’ll have to—”
“Fuck,” he offered.
She heard the slight chuckle in his voice. It was the same tactic he’d used for two nights, and it had worked then, because Noah knew Avi’s weakness for his brand of lovemaking. But she wasn’t about to give in...not this time. “Noah, we have to do more than that. How about talking to me about whatever is going on?” Her head lifted, and she waited.
Then, he turned toward her. She didn’t think she’d ever stop admiring the rippling muscles that bunched then flexed at his every move. Warmth spread from her lower stomach down to the place between her thighs as her sight settled on his navel and the smattering of fine hair that surrounded it. If I look lower, I’m in trouble. So her gaze travelled upward, flickering over the low stubble covering his defined jaw. Avi couldn’t help rubbing her legs together recalling how the bristles had scraped against her skin in a delicious way, and was another reminder that she was here and his. Noah flashed her a smile as if he could read her thoughts and knew her body’s reaction to his. But, her sensual haze fizzled when she saw the forced smile that accompanied his trademark dimples. It was then she really took in his appearance: the redness in his eyes and the slight puffiness under the lids.
“What the heck’s going on with you? And don’t try that nothing line.” She leaned back on her pillow, folding her arms over her chest.
Avi’s question was simple enough. But Noah’s answer was probably nothing she wished to hear, and definitely not one he wanted to talk about. How could he tell Avi about the shit swirling around him that was robbing him of his sleep long after he’d gotten a dip in her addictive pussy?
Noah dragged his hand through his dark locks and inhaled deeply. The closer he got to his thirty-fourth birthday, the more the shit storm brewed. Without fail, every birthday, since he’d left Afghanistan in the middle of 2003, was pretty much the same. In the last two years, he’d coped the best he could— mostly him, a couple glasses of whiskey sour, and sleeplessness. Before that time, he’d call Harry. Unlike his daughter, Harry had never tugged on him for answers. He’d simply listen to Noah’s heavy breathing for hours on end, saying a few encouraging words here and there, until Noah had indicated he was all right enough to end the call.
But there was no more Harry.
“Noah...” Her voice pulled him outside his head and onto her determined face.
This was the reason he didn’t do the whole sleeping over and girlfriend shit. He didn’t like answering to anyone, especially about shit he hadn’t processed no matter how long it’d been. When she shifted under the weight of his scrutiny, he remembered this was her...this was Avi. He wanted her here. He needed her here. Now, he needed to give her just enough so she’d back off.
He opened his lips, but she cut him off with, “Try the truth, Noah, or I’m leaving.”
Noah smirked, approaching her side of the bed. That was a bullshit bluff. She wasn’t going anywhere, but the closer he got to the bed, he saw the concern in her darting gaze that couldn’t seem to decide where to focus and her tapping fingers that moved with haste over her forearm.
“I just had a dream, Avi,” he told her. Walking around the bed, he silently asked her to move over, which she did. “I told you it’s nothing.” His body sank into the mattress, just like he hoped the month of December, when it came, would sink into oblivion.
Her pursed lips told him that Avi wouldn’t let this go.
“Three nights.” Tendrils of hair fell over her face when she shook her head. “Three nights in a row is not ‘nothing,’” she said, air quoting then dropping her arms to the sides.
Without even knowing it, she got his mind off the dream when her breasts jiggled. He zoomed in on the large, circular darkness around her puckered nipples that he saw through her light pink nightgown.
“Noah, eyes on my face. We’re talking.”
He licked his lips. You’re talking, but I’m done. This new thing between them was only three days old, but he definitely liked having her around; she didn’t ask questions about his business affairs and made his condo feel like a home with her presence. Plus, fucking her was becoming a favorite habit he had no intention of giving up. She lightly slapped his arm, coming closer to him and her scent almost had his tongue wagging out of his mouth. That was the kind of pull Avi had on him, over him...and he didn’t have it in him to question it any longer.
“It’s your fault you’re so sexy.” Noah twisted his body toward hers, trapping Avi’s hands at her sides. His nose found its place near her neck, first inhaling then licking the spot. “You want to help me?” he asked between the small kisses he showered on her silky skin. He felt Avi’s nod. “Then help me.” One of his hands left hers, making its way down her slender form and over the healthy curve of her hip. He flipped the frilly edge of her nightgown up. “Give me a taste of this.” Noah’s hand cupped her pussy. That’d put me to sleep with none of these nightmares chasing me.
Avi’s warm body leaned into his chest. Through the thin material, the soft underside of one of her plump breasts grazed his naked arm and his cock hardened.
“Noah...” she pleaded, but he heard the low moan she tried to hide when his fingers brushed her clit.
“Do you want me to beg?” Her nails dug into his flesh when he snuck two fingers inside her. Avi’s body arched upward just as he withdrew his fingers from her. Going in again, he felt her slickness, but when he heard that wet, gushy sound, he growled. “I don’t want to talk. I want this.” He was dying for a taste of her.
Her eyes never left his lips, following the way his tongue slurped her essence from his fingers. Avi’s violet eyes darkened with passion. He heard her quickening breath and felt her shiver.
“You going to give up the goods or what?” he asked, pushing her back on the bed and covering her softness with his body. Avi’s hands grasped his waist, grinding into his cock. Noah felt her body’s slippery desire on his cock with every move.  
Peeking up at him, she inquired, “When do you ask for what’s yours?” Her hands drifted up to his jaw, trailing over his low facial hair then threading her fingers through his hair.
“Thought I’d have to steal it like I’ve been doing,” he said, kissing his spot...the sensitive area near her left ear with the mole. Even though it’d been the weekend, he still had businesses to run. Last night, he’d only meant to be in his office for an hour, but there were deals that required his attention. By the time he’d been finished, Avi had already watched a movie without him and was snoring lightly. That was pretty much how it’d been since Friday morning when they’d both arrived at the condo, though he did try to carve out some time just for them.
The sheet rustled with their movements. She parted her legs even more. “Noe—”
That was all it took for Noah to slide into his home. Her tight walls enveloped him with a welcoming grip as the tip of his cock kissed her g-spot. “Fuck.” A man could get use to this. She pulled him in farther, and intelligent thinking took a back seat.
Avi groaned out.
He got real close to her face, putting the bulk of his weight on his forearms then Noah gazed at her features, noting how even her small imperfections were perfect to him. Their lips met at the same time, both of their tongues swirling around each other’s. Her mouth was as captivating as the rest of her. Wanting to savor the feel of her gripping him, Noah took his time exploring Avi. But, her hands cupped his ass, dragging him into her body, and she bent her knees, pulling him deeper.
“Avi...” Noah tried to warn her.
“You said to help.” She caressed the sides of his face and met each of his urgent thrusts.
He was drowning inside her. Sweat poured off him as his lower body went in and out of the woman he’d never let go of. He could feel his balls tightening up, and knew he couldn’t hold off anymore. “Come with me,” he gritted out just as her eyes closed and her succulent pussy walls clenched again. “That’s it.” Noah held onto her leg, swiveling his pelvis to the side, hitting a newly discovered sweet spot for the both of them.
“Noe!” she screamed.
He heard her toes crinkling the sheets and felt her legs stiffen. “That’s it. Give me what’s mine.” She felt so damn good. Avi’s body gushed again just as Noah reached for her clit and rubbed against the aroused bud furiously. “You came twice without me. The last time, Avi, we do it together.” He wasn’t sure she heard him until she nodded. Her hair was matted to parts of her head. “Ready?” He aimed for her g-spot, jutting the tip of his cock at it.
She screeched out something he didn’t pay attention to and then pulled his mouth toward hers. Her trembling body told Noah she was near again.
“You help so good,” he breathed out on her lips. With one last pelvis thrust, he spilled inside her. He waited for a split second before he got off Avi and tucked her into his side. They were both panting, having a hard time catching their breaths. The feel of her sweaty skin brought a smile to Noah’s face and his eyes closed to the sounds of her snores.
Sometime later, he was awakened by another dream. This time, the message was clear: they were coming.

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