A/N Hello Everyone. Thank you all so much for sticking with me. I love your messages and feedback. I know these chapters are few and far between but I have been busy with my book, writing the sequel, and promotion. I will get you chapters as quickly as i can manage by this story will not be as long as the original. SPOILER ALERT: There will be HEA and I don't want to drag it out any longer than it needs to be.
For those of you who have read Sweetness and commented, thank you from the bottom of my heart. xoxo
When I walk into the front door of the house, the first thing I notice is that it is very unkempt. The floors are dirty; there are empty liquor bottles on the staircase and side tables, and clothes are thrown haphazardly all around the house. When I walk into the kitchen I see empty pizza boxes, more liquor bottles, and dishes overflowing in the sink.
Gideon is watching me walk around, surveying the damage of the holes in the walls and glass on the floor. With Charlie sleeping comfortably in his arms, I glance back and see he too is looking at the site, as if for the first time.
"I'll have this taken care of immediately. Sorry." Gideon hands over Charlie and pulls out his cellphone from his pocket. "Why don't you take her upstairs? No one has been up there since you left so it should be clean."
"I think I am going to walk over to the Grey's. I have a lot of explaining to do. They need to know that you are not the prick they think you are." I smirk, but he is not amused by my joke.
"We should do that together. They can't know it all Ana. We can't tell them the truth." Gideon voice is laced with concern. I know I can't tell them everything that happened but they have to be told something.
"What do you want me to say, then? They won't believe I just upped and forgave you for the last two months." Charlie stirs in my arms and reaches for Gideon when her eyes open.
"I will talk to Carrick. I will tell him that my family was blackmailing me and threatened to hurt you if I didn't cooperate. I am sure, given the circumstances, he will understand."
I nod in response. If anyone can convince Carrick, it's Gideon. I take a step forward and drop my forehead to Gideon's chest as he wraps his arm around my shoulders. Charlie swipes her small hand over the top of my head and I smile as I turn to see my daughter lying on Gideon's shoulder sucking her thumb. As her bluish grey eyes stare into mine, I see a flash of Christian in them.
I use the excuse of needing to use the bathroom, needing a second to compose myself. Gideon doesn't question me and as I walk upstairs. I can feel the tears burning behind my eyes. I don't think about him as often as I used to. I haven't been to the cemetery in months. I feel like sometimes I am forgetting him. Forgetting the time and love we shared. That is something I don't want to forget. Yes, I have moved on with Gideon, but sometimes I still miss Christian.
The older Charlie gets, the more and more she resembles her father. Her eyes, her face, her hair; she couldn't be more him if she were sculpted in his likeness. I asked for this, though. I asked god to give me a piece of him and he answered my prayers, but sometimes it is hard to look at her and not mourn him all over again.
I small rap on the door startles me. I turn on the tap and run some water on my face before pulling the door open to see Gideon on the other side. His worried expression immediately puts me on high alert.
"What's wrong?" I ask him as I put my hand on his face.
"Ireland is here. She is in Charlie's room playing with her. Ana, I don't know what to tell her. What do I tell her happened to my mother?"
I drop my hands to his waist and snake my arms around to his back. I don't know how to comfort him. He has seen a lot in a short time and it has to be weighing on his conscience.
"Marco!" I say into his chest.
Gideon pulls back and stares at me in confusion. "That is what we will tell people. We will tell them that your mother and Marco threatened to hurt Charlie and I. So you paid her off and she ran away with him. That is a believable story. Right?"
It seems I have underestimated Ana. She is a damn genius. I pull out my phone and step into the walk in closet, to contact my attorney. I have him move four million dollars into my offshore account. No doubt my stepfather will be wondering where she went and may even get the police involved, so if we are going to pull off this story, I need to start a paper trail.
When I walk out of the closet, I see Ana lying on the bed running her hands over the plush duvet cover. She looks so relaxed with her eyes closed. From this angle her clothes are falling back, revealing the full size of her swollen abdomen.
"Are you just going to stand there and watch me all day?" She quips.
"I was thinking about it." I answer.
"Come lay with me," Ana rolls her head until her eyes meet mine. "Please."
I walk over to the bed, kicking off my shoes along the way. As I crawl up on the bed Ana rolls to her side and lays her head on my outstretched arm. I pull her as close as I can as our legs intertwined like vines on a trellis. Her warm breath brushes against my neck and I savor the smell of her hair and the softness of her bare upper arms.
Ana moans into my chest and I pull back to see her face. With my index finger, I trace a line from her forehead, down her cheek, and across her plump lips. "What are you thinking Sweetheart?"
"I am thinking I am glad to be home."
"Even if it means I am here, too?" I ask apprehensively.
Ana places her warm hand on my face. I'm annoyed that I didn't think to shave before I went to Escala. I would like nothing more than to feel her skin on mine. Even though she is wrapped in my arms, I need to be closer to her. I need to feel all of her on me. I need to wrap myself in her and never let go.
Ana looks deep into my eyes but doesn't speak right away.
I don't know what to say to him. Of course I want him with me. I want us to pick up where we left off. Christian dying has taught me that life is too short. It is obvious that Gideon was struggling with the separation. It doesn't make it any better, but it also doesn't make it his fault. He was trying to protect Charlie and me. I can't hold that against him.
"Gideon of course I want you here." I slide his hand over my stomach and a smile erupts over his face right before he kisses me. He kisses me like the first time he kissed me breathless in the elevator. His mouth is urgent on mine. It is sad and passionate all at the same time. His hand never leaves my stomach as he pulls away and trails kisses down my throat and finally settles his face over my stomach. Gideon lifts my shirt and lays his face on my lower abdomen. The scratchy stubble feels unfamiliar but not necessarily bad.
"Hi, in there. I hope you have been good to your mommy while I have been gone." Gideon's eyes meet mine and I nod. "I know I haven't been around so you don't know my voice, but I am your daddy."
Gideon's hands rub around the circumference of my stomach in one large circle over and over. His face is smiling, but I can see the sadness and the sorrow in his eyes. It is going to be a long road back for him. He has had to deal with so much over the past few months and now that he knows he is going to be a father I can only hope that will be the salve that helps his broken heart.
"I called Dr. Greene before I left Texas. I have an appointment and I would like for you to go with me."
Gideon's head shoots up without hesitation. "Of course I will. Ever damn appointment. I missed that with Charlie because Kate and Grace wanted to be with you, but not this time. I will be there ever step of the way. No more bullshit is going to get in the way of us being a family. We will figure it all out," Gideon hovers his body over mine so we are nose to nose, "but as god is my witness, Ana, we will never be apart again."
I didn't feel the tears building in my eyes but I do feel them trickle down my temple and into my ears. My eyes close as Gideon's face lowers to mine and he kisses my eyelids and nose. I bring my arms up to his neck and pull him down to me. It's just then that our bedroom door flies open and a bubbly toddler jumps on the bed next to us.
"Perfect timing," I giggle to Gideon.
"Yeah, the kid is her father's child." He jokes, earning a smack in the arm. "I'm kidding."
"Not funny, Gideon." i scold.
"Daddy!" Charlie screeches as she jumps on our bed. Gideon pulls me off the mattress before Charlie kicks me in the face. "Can we go to the park?"
"Charlie bug, we can do whatever you want. But first daddy needs to take a shower and get rid of his scratchy face so he can do this," Gideon pulls Charlie onto the bed, lifts her shirt and blows on her tummy as she laughs and squirms to get free.
"Daddy…hahahaa….dad….hahah…stop….stop…" Charlie hollers into the room. Gideon pauses long enough for her to break free and jump on his back. He grabs her arms around his neck and takes her into the bathroom with him.
Leaving the door open, he sits her on the countertop and places a wet kiss on her forehead. "So kiddo, I think we should have a chat."
"A chat?" Charlie asked while she plays with the faucet.
I saw Ireland standing in the doorway watching the interaction but I don't think Gideon realizes she is there. I motion for Ireland to leave the room with me as Charlie and Gideon have their chat.
"Yeah. You know like a talk." I explain the best I can to the two year old watching herself in the mirror.
I pull out my shaving kit and turn on the sink. Charlie watches dutifully as I add water to the soap cup and make a foamy lather with my shaving brush.
"So, are you excited to be a big sister?" I ask as she continues to stare at me with her mouth open, tilting her head and mirroring my expression with each long stoke of the straight razor. "Charlie?"
"What?" she questions as if it is the first time she hears me.
I smile at her confused little face and reach into the drawer for Ana's tail comb. I swirl the shaving brush into the soap cup a few more times and gently put a thin coating on Charlie's face. "Daddy, that tickles." I hand Charlie the comb and show her how to scrape the shaving foam off using the end. She sits cross-legged in front of the mirror and does exactly what I do.
As I watch her mimic my every movements, my mind drifts off to David. I missed nine years of my son's life. I missed all of his firsts. I missed moments like this. Did Anthony do these things with him? Did he teach him how to tie his shoes, or take him on his first day of school, or read to him at night like I do with Charlie? With each passing stroke of the blade I can see myself coming back into view. The man who was hiding and scared is disappearing with each pass.
I watch my daughter in the mirror as she wipes her face off with a hand towel. She admires her work as I wipe my own face clean. I stand her up and tell her to go find Ana while I shower and figure out how to be the man I used to be. The man I was when I met Ana. The man who wanted to rule the world and everything in it. But, I don't know if I can. Having a family and having lost so much, I don't even know if I want to. I want to be better than that ruthless man I was before.
As I turn on the shower and step under the hot water it feels as though I am cleansing my soul as well as my body. Washing away all the dirt of my past and leaving a clean slate for what is yet to come. Taking the natural sponge in my hand, I scrub away my past layer by layer. My mother's treachery, my father's deceit, and the guilt over Eva's death. There is no way I can be held responsible for any of it and its time I realize that.
As if the revelation hits me like I ten-ton truck, I sway on my feet and grip the wall in front of me. It is time I realize that I, Gideon Cross, cannot control the world.
After my major fuck up last night, I realize that I better figure out how to make this up to Mia, and fast. Once Ethan and Ireland left last night, I was sent to the couch to think about what I had done. I don't know what the hell that is supposed to mean. I know what I did. I beat the hell out of a man who I saw walking out of my house in the dark with my wife. Any red-blooded man would have done the same. But as my sleepless night progresses I suppose she means, what I have done over the last few months. Ignoring her, ignoring Wyatt, and not exactly being the best husband and father I can be. That part I know I have to change.
Just before the sun rises I sneak up into my bedroom and tiptoe over to the bed. I strip off all my clothes and carefully slip into my bed before I wrap my arms around my sleeping wife. Her breathing is still steady and she doesn't stir. I continue to appreciate her soft skin under my hands as I reach my hand under her cotton camisole and across her stomach. A soft groan from her tells me she is enjoying herself, even in her sleepy state.
I smile against her neck and slide my hand higher until I find the swell of her breast. Mia instinctively arches her back into my hand and pushes her firm ass against my aching erection. I move my hand slowly south; between her legs that are parted as she sleeps more on her stomach than her side. As my fingers slide between her folds, I can feel her heat against my palm. Her sticky, sweet core clenches around my finger as I slowly enter her. Although she doesn't give any indication she is awake, she pushes against my hand as though she wants more.
After I gently pull off her panties, I position my body as close to hers as I can and run the tip of my engorged cock along the seam of her ass until I find the spot I am looking for. Mia rolls onto her stomach and spreads her legs wider, granting me the access that I so desperately need right now. I have not had this type of connection with her in so long. I need her to feel me. I need to feel her. I need us to connect in a way we have not done in so long. I tilt my hips back, then forward, filling up the beautiful woman beneath me in slow, lazy strokes.
"Luke." She breathes
I lay my body over hers, resting my weight on my elbows. "Yes, baby. It's me. I love you, Mia."
I slowly pull back and sink into her again and again. I can feel her tightening around me. "Stop." She whispers, breathlessly.
I stop mid thrust and kiss her shoulders. She twists underneath me so we are face to face. "Make love to me, Luke. I want to kiss you as you make love to me. Like we used to."
My head dips until I find the soft lips of my beloved. Our bodies move in sink with our mouth and with each dip of my hip, I slide my tongue into her mouth. With each retreat, she does the same. Our bodies move in rhythm with our hearts. I open my eyes mid kiss and see my wife staring back at me, eyes glassy and wet.
"I missed this, Luke. I miss us," Mia confesses.
"I know, baby. It is going to be better from now on. I promise. I will be better," I reassure her.
Mia smiles up at me as I lay my forehead on hers. I watch my wife's expressions change a dozen times as my slow calculating pace brings her pleasure. Her pleasure is my pleasure. Her happiness is my happiness. It may have taken me a long time to realize how much her and my son mean to me, but I am the luckiest sonofabitch alive, to have them both.
The first thing I see when I enter he house with Gail, is the mess Gideon has left behind. Despite my orders, that she not clean it up, Gail ignores me and begins to clean the mess all around the house. There is shit everywhere. How the hell did he live like this?
The first order of business is to get as much intel on Madeline as I can. I need to find out everything about her and her son. If there are any more secrets this woman and her father have, I want to know about them right away. No more surprises.
"Gail, please. You don't have to do this," Ana says as she steps into the kitchen.
"It is no bother. I will have it cleaned up in no time. Why don't you relax?" Gail instructs as she points toward the living room.
"Actually, Ana, I want to talk to you in the study. Got a minute?" I ask.
Ana nods and leads the way to the study. It is messy but nothing like the rest of the house. Mostly empty glasses and scattered papers. I watch as Ana looks over them. They appear to be reports and photos, probably from a PI.
Guess we did a good job and hiding after all.
Ana settles into the chair behind the desk and absentmindedly rubs her stomach. "What's wrong, Taylor?"
"Nothing. I just want you to know that I am going to do everything I can to find out about Madeline and her son."
"I appreciate that. I want full background checks. If this boy and his mother are going to be around my daughter, I need to know that she is on the up and up."
"Already on it. We can't have any more surprises. I'm getting old and my heart can't take much more." I joke.
"Taylor, if the next few months can go by smoothly, I would be the happiest woman in the world."