I have a confession to make.

But let me explain first…

When I write a book, my first concern is — “do I like this?” my second concern is — “will readers like this?”

However, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t stress over writing a book readers will love.

In the beginning, it wasn’t like that. I wrote books because I loved writing. I had nothing to live up to. It was easy.

Now, I worry about letting readers down. It’s natural, of course. I think all authors go through this.

I am extremely grateful that I have readers who want to read my books… but I wanted a creative outlet where I could just write and not worry about something bombing. If I enjoyed the story then that was all that mattered. In order to do this, I decided I needed to have a pen name. I would write and not worry if anyone read it. Writing the story would just be for fun. No stress to meet expectations attached.

There were several flaws to this plan. The main problem was I am busy enough being me. I didn’t have time to be someone else too. Why I thought I could do this — I don’t know. But I also didn’t expect readers to enjoy the first novella so much. When I knew I couldn’t keep this pace up I pulled the first novella down. I really didn’t think anyone would notice or care.

I was so very wrong.

Readers cared. They cared a lot. The two bloggers who were in on this and had helped with the idea got emails asking what happened to Effy Vaughn? When is the next episode coming out? The questions kept coming and I knew I had to do something. Readers couldn’t be left hanging on this series.

So, after much discussion and thought we decided this was the best idea. I would come clean for starters and tell you that I found out the hard way– I wasn’t Superwoman. Kind of bummed me out for awhile because I had started to believe I just may be. Rude wake up call.

Then my next decision was to finish the series. However, I would post the episodes on my blog for free. The next episode will post within the next two weeks. I’m working on it now. For those of you who haven’t read the first one and would like to read this series as I post episodes on my blog then you’re in luck. I’ve posted it below.

My lesson has been learned. I’ll never pretend to be anyone else ever again. I will also stop walking around with my cape on. I looked ridiculous anyway.

 

Asher Book Cover copy

Asher
The Boys South of The Mason Dixon
Episode one
By Effy Vaughn (AKA Abbi Glines)
Copyright © 2014 by Abbi Glines

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes. If you are reading this book and you have not purchased it or won it in an author/publisher contest, this book has been pirated. Please delete and support the author by purchasing the ebook from one of its many distributors.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Cover by: Chase Kennedy

Welcome to The Boys South of the Mason Dixon

 

Dixie Monroe

The paper bag in my hands was being abused. The death grip I had on it from the moment I noticed that old blue Ford truck slowly pulling through the caution light on main street was causing my hand to go numb. I hadn’t been ready to see that truck. Not yet. Steel hadn’t warned me about this.

But then… Steel may not know. I glanced back over my shoulder to see if the truck was going to drive by so I could breathe again. The heavy beat of my heart sped up as I saw the truck pull into a parking spot outside Harrod’s Pharmacy. He was getting out.

I needed to look away. I didn’t want him to catch me staring at him. It was pathetic really. Completely pathetic. Asher had destroyed me. I shouldn’t care that his face was more beautiful and his body was that from every woman’s dreams.

Before I could gather my common sense and self-preservation kicked in, the truck door swung open and long jean-clad legs stepped out onto the pavement. The dark hair I used to run my fingers through was cut short only highlighting his perfectly chiseled face. Stumble covered his jaw making him seem like a dangerous angel. The flannel shirt he was wearing was faded and pulled tight over his chest. A chest I knew all too well was beyond perfect.

“Don’t go there, Dixie,” Scarlet North, my best friend since middle school, whispered in my ear. Her hand clamped around my arm and she tugged at me hard enough to snap me out of my Asher gaze.

“Evil. Remember that, Dixie. He’s evil. More beautiful than any one man has a right to be but pure evil. You know that. Besides, don’t forget about Steel,” she said in a voice so low only I could hear her.

Gossip in a small town was bad. In Malroy, Alabama it was so much worse. This place was the mecca of gossip. Everybody knew everything. There was a good chance that people were peeking out of their windows to see if I would even look Asher’s way. There was enough talk in this town about the two of us to last a lifetime. And two years away at college didn’t change anything. Asher Sutton hated me. And I had no idea why.

“I didn’t know he was coming home,” I said simply trying to calm my heart rate at the sight of him. I hadn’t seen him in so long. He hadn’t come home last summer. He had stayed in Gainsville, Florida and taken summer classes at the University instead.

“He’s probably just here to see his momma. He’ll leave soon. Steel woulda told you if Asher was coming home for the summer,” Scarlet assured me.

I managed to nod and held the bag close to me as if it were a shield. Asher was back. I wasn’t even sure how to deal with this information. What was I supposed to expect from him? Would he keep pretending like I didn’t exist? Could he even do that now? Would Steel tell him? Would Asher care?

No. I knew that answer. Asher wouldn’t care at all. He had made it very clear to the entire town that he didn’t want me. He didn’t care who had me. He was done with me. I went from being the other half of the “golden couple” to the discarded girl who must have done something horrible for Asher to turn from her so quickly and easily.

He had once been my safe place. I was secure in his love. I gave my innocence to him knowing it would only be him forever. Then one day he rejected me. Completely out of the blue.

The people who I thought were my friends turned from me too because they all believed it must have been my fault. They all worshiped the football star that had put our town on the map. Asher Sutton had led his team to a State Championship win two years in a row. He could do no wrong.

Without a word he had turned everyone against me.

Everyone except Scarlet.

“He’s a giant asshole. Full of himself. The great and mighty Sutton,” she snarled.

I rolled my eyes and turned to look at her. “Don’t act like being a Sutton boy is a bad thing. You’re so in love with Brent Sutton you can’t see straight,” I pointed out.

She grinned then shrugged. “Yeah. Well ain’t all Sutton boys bad. Just that one.”

I agreed with her. The Sutton boys were a big part of my life. They always would be. Our farms were beside each other. Our families were intertwined.

I glanced down at the tiny diamond on my left hand as it sparkled in the sunlight. “No they aren’t all bad,” I said.

Scarlet let out a sigh and shook her head. “Why are you wearing that? I thought you were thinking about it.”

I glanced back at the blue truck, unable to act like it wasn’t there. My heart twisted painfully. He still had some crazy hold over me and it was unfair. “I wanted to see how it felt,” I admitted before glancing back down at the ring that Steel had given me two weeks ago. It hadn’t been a traditional proposal. But then our relationship was complicated. That blue truck reminded me why I hadn’t been able to say yes to Steel.

“Stop looking,” Scarlet growled in frustration.

“Do you think he’ll care… about the ring, I mean?” I asked. Only Scarlet got to see how incredibly vulnerable Asher made me.

“Oh, Dixie,” she sighed and pulled me into a hug. “You know he won’t. It’s been three years. You have got to let Asher go. For good.”

I closed my eyes and let her hold me a second because I felt like I needed support. She was right. She was always right. “How do I forget?” the catch in my voice only made Scarlet sigh again.

“Let yourself love Steel. He loves you. Be the girl he deserves,” Scarlet said and then pulled back to look at me. Both her hands clasped my shoulders as she looked me in the eyes. “Asher Sutton broke you. Forget him. Steel Sutton adores you. He’s nothing like his brother. He gave you a ring, sweetie. It’s time your heart let go of the oldest Sutton boy and fell in love with the Sutton that deserves its beauty.”

 

Asher Sutton

Momma hadn’t told me the doctor wanted to put her on blood pressure medication. I had remained calm while Frank Harrod told me how happy he was that Momma had decided to take the medicine. He’d gone on and on about how dangerous it was at her age not to treat high blood pressure. Why the fucking hell hadn’t Doc John called me before now?

I pulled my truck into the gravel driveway outside the farmhouse I’d grown up in and took a deep breath. I hadn’t been here since Christmas. Even then my visit had been a short one. I had wanted to run as far away from here as possible. The memories haunted the hell out of me when I got near this place.

A loud banging startled me and I jerked my head around to see Bray grinning like a fool. “You’re home, motherfucker!” he said gripping the door where the window was rolled down.

Bray was only twelve months younger than me and seeing him smile was rare. He was one of two. Brent was his twin and he was the happy one. A grin was always on Brent’s face while Bray normally scowled. Not much excited my younger brother. Which only made me feel guilty for staying away so long.

I opened the door and grabbed the bag with the meds I had picked up and intended to force Momma to start taking. I couldn’t lose her. There was a lot of fucked up in my life but my momma was the one person I depended on being there. I would say no one knew I was such a momma’s boy but the truth was everyone knew. But it wasn’t just me. All four of my brothers loved our momma. She was our home. We knew as long as she was here in this house we had a place to run to.

“Don’t look too excited to see me. I might think you missed me,” I teased Bray who only grinned bigger. He didn’t even try to hide the fact he was glad to see me.

“Fuck that. I’m just glad you’re here. ‘Bout time you came home.”

“Holy hell! That can’t be my long lost brother who thinks he’s too good to come home,” Brent called out from the front porch before grabbing the rail and swinging his legs over in one swift move we had all perfected over the years. When his feet hit the ground, he took several long strides before grabbing me and pulling me in for a hug.

This was the happy twin. All was right with the world. As glad as Bray had been to see me he hadn’t been as excited as Brent. He slapped me on the back and stepped back. “Momma’s gonna be the happiest woman in Malroy,” Brent said.

“No, the happiest woman in Malroy is Jenny Wilson. I spent a good thirty minutes with my head between her legs last night,” Bray drawled.

“Dude, fuck, you did not just say that,” Brent replied.

I just shook my head and chuckled. I missed this. Being away from my family was so damn hard. Unable to help myself, I lifted my gaze to look out over the field toward the white picket fence that surrounded the house just over the hill. I wondered if she was still living at home with her folks. If she looked older… I shook my head. Fuck. That was fucked up. Only here did this get to me. I couldn’t go there in my head.

“Momma is inside putting up some strawberry jam. She won’t let any of them strawberries go to waste so she’s been at it for two days. We’ll have good ole strawberry jam with our biscuits all year long,” Brent said with his dimpled grin.

“Reckon with you being home we can get her to use some of those berries to make us some fried pies. Been craving one of them pies,” Bray piped up.

I wanted to talk to Momma alone. This shit with her not wanting to take her meds was serious and I had to fix it. Then I needed to leave. Run like hell because right now all I wanted to do was look back at the godforsaken white picket fence.

“Where’s Steel and Dallas?” I asked Brent as he fell into step beside me and we walked toward the front porch.

“Uh,” he replied and glanced back at Bray before replying. I knew that look. Something was up. Fuck. I’d been gone too long. What other shit did I need to fix before I could leave?

“Uh, probably at the feed store. We were low on some stuff. Steel said he’d go get it. Sure Dallas rode with him. The white truck is gone,” Brent replied. He was lying. His tone gave him away.

“Motherfucker, you suck at that,” Bray said shaking his head and walking past us. He took the steps two at a time then went to the front door as if he was in a hurry to get away.

“What am I missing? ‘Cause I sure as hell am missing something,” I said stopping on the steps and looking from Brent’s deer in the headlights expression to Bray’s stiff back.

“Just tell ‘im,” Bray said without looking back at me.

Brent didn’t say anything and we all stood there for a few moments The silence was deafening. “If something is wrong with one of them, I need to fucking know,” I said the angry roar just under my breath.

Bray dropped his hand from the door and turned to look at me. The hesitation I had seen in Brent’s face wasn’t in his twin’s. There was an annoyed glare instead. “They’re fine. Everyone is just fucking fantastic. So calm your shit down,” he said shifting his gaze from me to the yard behind me. I could see him trying to control his temper. That was another thing that set him and Brent apart. Brent didn’t lose it easily. Hell, you were lucky if you could actually piss him off. But Bray… he was a loaded gun. He’d blow the hell up on someone real easy. I’d bailed his ass out of trouble more times than I’d care to admit.

“Where are they,” I repeated looking at Bray.

Bray didn’t look back at me. The muscle in his jaw ticked as he kept his gaze on the empty yard. He was thinking this through whatever it was. I didn’t like to be kept waiting but I also didn’t want to come home and end up in a brawl in the front yard with my brother before even giving my momma a hello hug.

“Steel has been dating Dixie for almost a year now,” Bray said calmly but the warning didn’t go missed that I’d heard in his voice. He was protecting our younger brother. But he had no idea what he was protecting him from.

My world felt like it had just been sent spinning and I grabbed the railing beside me to steady myself. This wasn’t happening. I had left to protect a secret… to protect Dixie. But this… holy fuck.

I couldn’t destroy her but I couldn’t…. this couldn’t be fucking happening. I’d lost everything. I had walked through hell and I was still walking through it daily. Every dream she appeared in reminded me that no one else would ever be enough. Deception had ruined my life. I wouldn’t let it ruin hers and I sure as hell wouldn’t let it ruin my little brother’s.

“Don’t fuck this up for him. He worships you. He would do anything for you. But he loves her. Don’t screw this up for him,” Bray said as he glared at me.

He didn’t know what he was saying. None of them did. No one knew but me. I wasn’t about to lose my shit because of jealousy. I had learned to live with the jealousy that ate me alive anytime I thought of someone touching her.

“Have they….” I couldn’t even say it. My throat closed up and I wanted to yell at the cruelty of this world. The tightness in my chest and rage pounding in my veins were emotions I knew well. Emotions I shouldn’t be feeling. The idea of Dixie sleeping with someone else ripped me apart but then I’d been living that nightmare for three long fucking years. The unfair cruel fact was that I shouldn’t be jealous. I should be sick. I should be horrified that keeping my mouth shut led to this. I should be a fucking lot of things but all I could think about was Steel touching my Dixie.

“Fuck!” I roared before stalking back to the yard needing distance from everyone. My heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was about to beat out of my chest. The range of emotions churning through me pounded in my head. “Motherfucking hell!” I yelled tossing the bag of my momma’s meds to the ground and grabbing my head to keep it from exploding.

My knees went weak and I let them give way as I squatted resting my elbows on my thighs and holding my head as the pain shot through me. Pain that I had tried so hard to escape. I had run to save me and her. Being here was too hard. But in order to save her from the same pain that would haunt me the rest of my life, I had let my brother walk into the same horrible sin. I hadn’t protected him. Holy hell, how could I tell him this? How could I let him turn into this shell of a person I had become?

“Asher?” Momma’s voice rang out loud and clear over the front yard and I let my hands fall as I looked up at her. She was standing on the front porch with her apron on and her hands on her hips. The pinched look on her face meant she was upset. The stained red spots all over her apron reminded me of happy times. Days when sneaking a berry without Momma looking was the only problem I had.

“You two had to go and tell him before he even got in the door? You little shits. I haven’t seen my boy since Christmas and you go and upset him,” Momma scolded Bray and Brent before shaking her head and pointing at me. “Get up from there for God’s sake. You’re too big to act like a five year old throwing a tantrum. Come see your momma and then tell me why the hell you went and got meds for me that I didn’t ask for. I’ll make you a fried pie while you explain,” she said in a tone that we all knew meant business. “And you two,” she said waving the towel in her hands between the two of them. “Y’all outa be ashamed. Ain’t the way to do things.”

I stood up letting the numbness wash over me. It was the only way I could get through this. I made a decision three years ago that my little brother would now pay the price for. The dark hole in my chest where my heart used to be grew bigger as I picked up the bag of Momma’s meds. Without letting myself think about it anymore, I walked slowly back to the porch and into my momma’s open arms. When her five foot seven frame held me tightly, tears stung my eyes. I hadn’t cried since the night I realized I’d lost it all. Or more accurately, the night I realized it had never been mine. But having Momma hold me made me want to break down.

 

Dixie

I stood on the porch looking out over the field. I could only see the roof of the Sutton house because it was on the other side of the hill. But I knew it was there. I stood out here often and let my gaze settle on that tin roof. Memories would always come back to me haunting me and breaking my heart all over again.

When I had bumped into Steel last August outside the grocery store, I had dropped my bag and the contents had rolled free causing both of us to scramble to catch them. When Steel had grabbed the can of soup and handed it to me, the smile on his face had been so similar to Asher’s that it had taken my breath away.

Steel had been in my grade in school. He was the Sutton boy that I should have grown up attached to but he hadn’t been. Asher had been all I could see. From the time I turned 13 and he had given me a ride to school in his truck, I had been completely consumed by him.

He didn’t feel the same way, of course. I was too young for him then. But we had grown up running through the same fields and swimming in the same creek. He was my friend. Even though he was the most popular boy in town.

That entire year I had worshipped him from afar. When he asked if I needed a ride, I always said yes. Then that summer before ninth grade my body had decided to grow up on me.

My first day of high school, Asher had been my shadow. If any guy even looked my way, his presence had them scurrying away. I loved it. Because I loved him. He stayed beside me at lunch and always gave me a ride to school. When he’d asked if I wanted to wait on him to finish football practice so he could take me home, I had said yes. Being near Asher was all I had ever wanted.

It wasn’t until that February when I turned fifteen and Asher Sutton backed me up against his truck and placed his hands on either side of me that I knew it was all about to change. His lips touched mine and I lit up like a firecracker. We were inseparable after that. He took a football scholarship at the local junior college instead of going to a larger school just so he could be near me. He said he’d wait for me. When I graduated, he could always go to a big school then.

But that didn’t happen. None of that happened.

One night he was loving me and telling me he wanted me forever. The next day he couldn’t look me in the eyes. And he never told me why.

The crunch of gravel under the tires snapped me out of the trance I’d let myself fall into. I squinted against the sun to see Steel’s white truck coming down the drive. He was here to tell me Asher was home. I expected this visit. I just wasn’t sure what he wanted to do about it. When Asher had come home for Christmas, I had gone to Oklahoma to my grandmother’s. I hadn’t had to face him then. But now… if Asher was home I would have to face this. Face him and my relationship with Steel.

The truck stopped and I watched as Steel jumped down from his jacked up truck. His worn jeans looked good on him but he didn’t compare to Asher. Not in looks. No one did.

I mentally shook myself out of that thought, hating myself for it. Steel didn’t deserve this. Not from me. Not when he had been so good to me.

“Hey,” I said forcing a smile I didn’t feel as Steel walked up the steps of the porch. His serious expression was on me.

He ducked his head a moment and then gave it a small shake before looking back at me. “You already know, don’t ya?” I didn’t think it was really a question. I was sure it was all over my face.

I just nodded.

He let out a deep sigh and stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I ain’t seen him yet. Bray called me to warn me he was here and he knows. Bray told him.”

He knew. About us? There were a million questions I wanted to ask from why Bray told him to what he said and how he reacted. But I didn’t.

“Okay,” was all I said.

Steel took one more step until he was standing only a few inches from me. His light blue eyes looked so much like Asher’s, but the golden color of his hair was different. “We’re gonna have to face him. Both of us. Bray don’t think he’s leaving soon and I don’t want him to. I miss him, you know. I want him around. I know Momma wants him around. I think he needs us. So, this thing between you and me,” he said with a small grin tugging on his lips, “it’s something he’ll have to deal with. I think he’s gonna be okay with it. We just need to get it over with. You both need some closure.”

Closure. That was something that Scarlet had been saying I needed for three years now. What was closure really? If Asher told me why he stopped loving me, would that really make it all better? Would I then be able to move on? I seriously doubted it. The wound it would rip open might never heal. At least now it was scabbed over and I was living again.

“Come on, baby,” he said reaching out to take my hand and tug me gently toward him. “He’s my big brother. I want this to be okay with us… and him. Because I love both of you.”

His honest belief that I could live life with him while I remained half a person because my heart had been damaged so badly by Asher that it couldn’t be repaired showed just how much he didn’t know about me.

“You go spend time with your brother. We will deal with bringing me into things after you’ve caught up. I don’t want to cause anyone to be uncomfortable.”

Steel pressed a kiss to the top of my head. “He’ll be okay with this. Once he realizes how I feel, it will all be good. I promise.”

I knew that Steel completely believed this and I let him. Maybe he was right. What did I know? It wasn’t that Asher verbally said he hated me. He just never acknowledged me again. When I had gone to his house, after calling him several times and him not answering, he had looked right through me. Then he’d left. He had gone to stay at his uncle’s in Texas for a month. No one had an answer for me. They all looked at me with pity in their eyes.

When Asher returned, it was as if he didn’t know who I was. The Asher who had loved me so fiercely was gone. In his place was this emotionless cold person. My Asher never came back. This one remained. This one finished junior college, got a scholarship to the University of Florida and left without looking back.

And I… I was still trying to claw my way out of despair. Just when I thought I had, he walked back into my life. But for how long?

 

Asher

Dallas had let his black hair grow long and it was now pulled back in a ponytail. When I had been home for Christmas, he had been tucking it behind his ears but it hadn’t been pulled back just yet. He had our mother’s green eyes and her mother’s Native American coloring. She had always said Dallas was the baby and the prettiest of the lot.

He was also fucking spoiled by any and all females. Including my momma. I took a big drink from the glass of milk Momma had fixed me and took in my baby brother’s grin. He was anxious for Steel to get back because Dallas thought I was going to fight him. And Dallas loved a good fight. The boy placed bets on underground fights all the time and he thought I didn’t know about it. Stupid pretty boy fucker. I knew everything he did. I might be living miles away but I kept tabs on all of them. Except for Steel, apparently. No one had been willing to admit to me Steel was seeing Dixie.

“You want another pie?” Momma asked me, glancing over her shoulder as she dropped another pastry into the frying pan.

“No, thanks. I’m good.”

“I want one, Momma. Fighting makes me hungry,” Dallas drawled and Brent shoved him causing him to stumble sideways before he cackled with laughter.

“Ain’t no fighting going on around here. And you two stop rough housing in my kitchen,” Momma frowned at Brent and Dallas.

“Can I still have another pie?” Dallas asked. Seriously? He was seventeen and he was going to fucking pout over a fried pie?

“Of course. Go sit and be good,” she replied and Dallas winked at her causing her to roll her eyes and go back to frying the pie.

“You’re a dipshit, you know that, don’t you?” I said as he pulled out a chair and turned it around before straddling it.

“Missed you,” he replied using his charm on me like he did on the rest of the world.

“Your pretty face don’t work on me,” I replied and took another drink of my milk.

“He’s here,” Bray announced as he walked into the kitchen. “Just saw him drive up. You gonna play nice?” he asked me looking directly at me.

I wasn’t mad at Steel. I was angry because this shit was going to touch him too. He’d be changed forever just like I had been. I wanted to keep them all safe but I had failed. Leaving hadn’t helped anything. It had just made it worse.

“I’m good,” I replied when I realized all four pairs of eyes were on me.

The screen door opened again and this time it was Steel who walked in. He looked straight at me and stopped. He’d come in looking determined but now that he was actually here, he looked nervous.

“About time you finally got home,” I said casually then stood up.

He took a step back.

“I haven’t seen you since Christmas,” I said closing the space between us and pulling him into a hug. “Missed you, bro.”

The tension in his shoulders eased as he hugged me back. “Glad you’re home,” he finally said and it sounded like he meant it.

“Awww da—crap,” Dallas whined catching himself before he cursed in front of Momma. “I was hoping for some action. You two are gonna be all mushy and sh—stuff.”

“Stop being a douche,” Bray growled at Dallas.

Momma spun around and pointed her spoon at Bray. “You say ‘douche’ in my kitchen one more time and I’ll send you to the store to buy some douche. You got me, boy?”

Momma didn’t seem to care that we were all men now. She treated us all like we were still her little boys. Bray nodded and mumbled an apology. Once, he had called Brent a pussy and Momma took him to the grocery store and made him buy her tampons. When they got to the checkout, she made him hand them to the cashier and then take the bag once the lady bagged them. For a thirteen-year-old boy that had been traumatic. But Bray had never called anyone a pussy in front of Momma again. In fact, he hadn’t used that word again until he finally got some pussy a few years later.

“Since we’re all together and everyone is good with things, why don’t we leave Momma to her television shows and a bottle of wine and take this party down to Jack’s. It’s Karly Walsh’s birthday and everyone’s headed there tonight.” Brent said as his eyes met mine. He still didn’t trust us to sit around with Momma here to see it in case I decided to say something to Steel.

“Sounds good! I’d forgotten about Karly’s party,” Dallas said jumping up with a big goofy grin that women loved.

“Watch him. He ain’t old enough to be going to one of them parties or Jack’s, for that matter,” Momma said looking pointedly at me. She always expected me to keep them all safe and out of harm’s way. Even with me being gone, she still turned to me to look after them when I came back home.

“I’ll keep him out of jail,” I promised as we all stood up and headed for the door.

‘Take this fried pie,” Momma called out after Dallas who turned around and took the fried strawberry pie she had wrapped up in a napkin for him. He kissed her cheek and she grinned up at her six foot three baby and patted his cheek.

Some things never changed. Except the fact that my baby brother was now as tall as me.

 

Dixie

Steel’s hand tightened around mine as we walked into Jack’s. He had texted me to meet him here. Jack’s was a bar but it was also a pool hall. Everyone came here to play pool. And they didn’t serve alcohol to minors, or at least that was what they told everyone. I had seen a waitress bring a Sutton boy a beer more than once in my life. When I drove up and saw Asher’s truck outside, I called Steel. He came outside to meet me. He assured me Asher was fine with us being together and he had been all smiles.

Was it wrong of me to feel disappointed that Asher was happy I was with his brother? Shouldn’t I want him to be okay with this? Steel loved me. Steel wanted to marry me. Steel wasn’t going to toss me out like yesterday’s trash.

But…

Asher was home.

I scanned the crowd. I could lie and tell myself I wasn’t looking for Asher, but I was. I needed to see him. I had to get a handle on this. If he was fine with me dating Steel, then good. Good for him.

Brent’s loud laughter caught my attention and I knew Scarlet was with him, but my eyes didn’t seek Brent or Scarlet. They sought Asher. He was sitting on a bar stool holding a pool stick as he watched Brent taunt Bray. The smile on Asher’s face wasn’t the heart stopping one I had once loved so much. Instead, it was a sad one. Did coming home make him sad? Was it because he wanted to come back home? Once, I would have been able to wrap my arms around him and ask him what was wrong and he would have told me.

“Want a Coke?” Steel asked as he pulled me in his brother’s direction.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

I shook my head and Steel bent his to kiss the top of mine. “I swear, babe, it’s okay,” he whispered.

He thought I was worried about Asher being upset. I was really worried about how I would react to being near Asher again. Would I be able to breathe? Would my heart explode? Could I physically do this? I looked for Scarlet, but I only saw Brent.

Brent looked up from the pool table where he was watching Bray sink a ball and his smile wavered. He wasn’t sure about this either. Great. Was Steel wrong about this? “Guess we’re all together again. About damn time. Scarlet’s on her way,” Brent said with a smile, then he winked at me before picking up his stick and walking over to the table.

Bray stood up and glanced back at me. His concerned frown told me he wasn’t on board with this idea. Well, neither was I. This was something Steel had wanted.

“Hey, Em, why don’t you come entertain Asher while I take his place in this game,” Bray called out to Emily James. Damn him. Was he doing this on purpose? I had watched Emily James finally paw all over Asher for an entire year after she had panted after him for years. I hated it then and the idea made my skin crawl now.

“What the hell ever,” Steel said grinning. “If Asher is out, then I’m in. You had your turn. I’m up.” Steel left me to walk over to the pool table. My safety net was gone.

I refused to glance over at Asher and Emily Freaking James. I knew she was tall with legs longer than the average female’s and I knew she had nice big fake boobs her momma had bought her when she was eighteen years old. I also knew she had spread those legs for Asher more than once. Word had gotten around and it didn’t hurt any less now than it did then.

“He’s not even paying Em any mind. Stop tensing up or Steel’s gonna notice,” Dallas whispered in my ear. The youngest Sutton boy was also the biggest. He was also the most astute of them all. He never missed a thing. “Ash ain’t into fake titties anyway,” he added with an amused smirk.

I glanced up at him and he shrugged as if to say, “What? You know I’m right.”

“Nothings fake about her legs though,” I replied in a bitter tone I hated.         Dallas’s gaze flicked over my shoulder in the direction of Em’s voice and where Asher was sitting. “Yeah, true, but once a pair of legs has been wrapped around every male in the county, those legs don’t seem like the glory land anymore.”

I couldn’t stop the laugh that burst out of me. Dallas’s eyes met mine again and he grinned, obviously pleased with himself for making me laugh. “That’s more like it. Don’t none of us want to see you all frowning and shit. We love Ash and we’re fucking thrilled he’s home, but we want us all to be okay again.”

In other words, I had to get over Asher.

I nodded. “Me too,” I replied honestly. Because there was nothing I wanted more in the world than not to feel the pain that sliced through me every time I thought of Asher. Three years was a long time to be affected by someone. When would it end?

“Come here, baby,” Steel said drawing my attention over to him. He was holding out his pool stick. “Show this smartass how it’s done. I’m sick of watching Bray beat the shit outta everyone.”

Steel. I was here with Steel. He loved me.

I walked over to him and his hand slid around my waist pulling me to him. We were always like this, but having Asher a few feet away from us made it feel like I was on a stage being judged. I hated that feeling.

“I’m gonna head out. I’ll see y’all back at the house,” Asher said standing up and walking away without another word. The silence that fell over everyone as he left only made this even more awkward. He hadn’t wanted me here. He never wanted me around.

“Guess I was pushing it. My bad. I shoulda eased him into this,” Steel said looking over at Bray. When Asher wasn’t around, it was Bray that the rest of the Sutton boys looked to. He was the second oldest, even if only by five minutes.

“Yeah, probably shoulda not called her ‘baby’, dipshit,” Brent said as he slapped the back of Steel’s head and reached for his drink. “He was just starting to relax.”

Steel groaned and ran his hand through his hair. “I’ll talk to him. Damn, this is fucked up. He shouldn’t care anymore.”

I didn’t want to be standing here listening to this conversation. I was the problem and I felt even more out of place and in the way than before. “Maybe I should go on home,” I finally said speaking up and reminding Steel that I was here. Listening to this entire thing.

He looked up at me and grimaced. “Sorry about this. But, yeah, I need to go and talk to Ash. I don’t want him running off again. Momma would be heartbroken if he didn’t stick around awhile. And we all miss him.”

I nodded. I understood. I really did but I just wished it wasn’t this way. But then again, I’d been wishing for a lot of things for as long as I’d known Asher Sutton.

 

Asher

My bedroom remained the same. It had once been the attic. But when I had turned thirteen and got tired of sharing a bedroom with both Brent and Bray, I had made a deal with momma. If I cleaned out the attic and turned it into a bedroom, she would get me a window unit put in up there so I would have heating and air when needed.

It had taken me a month, but when I had it all cleaned up and my things moved in, momma had kept her word. The other boys complained that I got a room to myself, but Momma reminded them I was the oldest.

When I had moved out, no one had tried to take my room. I had expected the twins to fight over it, but surprisingly they didn’t. Guilt tugged at me. Was it because they all hoped I would come back home? Did they want me here? Was I missed?

I threw my duffel bag onto the floor and sank down onto my bed. I missed home. I loved it here. I loved having my brothers with me and working on the same land that my father had worked on. This was my life. Or it had been until the day it all came crashing down around me.

I had taken the secret with me but I wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret any longer. Steel had to know. His heart would be broken, but mine had been shattered beyond repair. He would survive this.

The nagging thought that Dixie had so easily fallen in love with someone else was driving me crazy. Just because I couldn’t find someone to fill the void in my life didn’t mean she wouldn’t be able to move on. I did want her to be happy. Knowing this was going to hurt her only made it worse.

Heavy footsteps alerted me that I had company. I was expecting Steel. I knew when I walked out of Jack’s that he’d follow me home. Part of me wanted him to, but not for the reason he was thinking. Yes, I had gotten jealous when he’d called Dixie ‘baby’. But that wasn’t why I walked out. The reasons why was so fucked up that it had been hammering in my head and I knew I had to tell him. I couldn’t just sit back and watch this. He had to know.

Lifting my gaze from the floor, I met Steel’s concerned yet determined expression. He was up here to fight for her. To keep her. To make sure I didn’t ruin this. I had to tell him. Maybe it wouldn’t have to leave this room. Maybe there was a way to hold this pain inside so that at least Dixie would be spared.

“I love her,” my younger brother said breaking the silence.

“She’s easy to love,” I replied.

Steel’s lips formed a tight line. He didn’t want to feel as if he had to compete with me. “You crushed her and then left her. She’s mine now, Asher. She’s mine. I will fight for her if you make me.”

I stood up and watched as Steel tensed up. Did he really think I would lay a hand on him? I’d protected him and beat the shit out of more than one bully over the years for him. He was my brother. I wanted him to be happy. If letting him have Dixie were the only problem we had here, then I would have walked away and let him have her. Damn it all to hell… that was not the problem.

Walking over to the far corner of the attic, I moved a loose board from the floor and bent down to pull out an old shoe box. My world had been shattered upon the discovery of this box three years ago. Every good memory and moment I had had in my life at that point was centered around Dixie. The contents of this old box had taken those away from me, leaving me an empty man.

I dusted it off. It hadn’t been touched since the day I had found it while moving around some furniture so that the bed wouldn’t hit the squeaky board directly over the living room. I had been making plans to sneak Dixie up here that weekend.

Sinking back down on my bed, I held the box with care. It was a source of agony just to touch it knowing what was inside. There was no doubt or question whether what it held was true. Looking up at Steel, I knew I wasn’t just going to end any hope he had of a future with Dixie, but that every memory he had of our father would also be altered. Just as mine had been.

“I never deserted her. I never stopped loving her,” I said and then lifted the lid off the box. “I found this three years ago, Steel. I never wanted to have to share this with anyone but I never planned on one of my brothers falling in love with my girl,” I shook my head. “She’s not my girl. She can’t be my girl.” Reaching into the box, I took out the letters that had been folded and unfolded so many times the edges were worn out. “She can’t be your girl either,” I said, then held the papers out to my brother.

Steel was watching me with a fear in his eyes as if he had understood the horror before he even looked into the box. “What is this?” he asked in a voice that was shaky and unsure.

“It’s the reason why I left her. It’s the reason why I can’t have her. Why you can’t have her.”

Steel opened the first letter. I couldn’t watch him as he read it. I dropped my head into my hands and waited in silence. His world was going to be forever changed. Just as mine had been. And I was powerless to save him from the pain.

All the letters but one were written by Dixie’s mother. In each letter she tells the man she is writing to how much she loves and misses him. She begs him to take her away from her life so that they could start a new one. The passion in her words would have been moving if each and every one of those words weren’t addressed to my father. A man I had admired. A man whose name I had been proud to bear. A man I had mourned. A man who deceived us all.

“This is,” Steel said in a tight voice, then I felt the mattress sink as he sat down beside me. “I can’t,” he muttered again.

“Keep reading,” I told him as the acid in my throat burned.

I had memorized the last letter she had written to him. Every word was burned into my brain.

Vance,

                  I won’t keep writing these letters to you. Not if you’re going to continue ignoring me. I don’t agree with the words you said to me. I believe we can have happiness together. This child inside me deserves us both. It will be a part of you just as those boys are. You said you loved me. You said being with me made you feel young again. Complete. But now, I’m carrying your child and you won’t speak to me. Is it because she’s pregnant again? I know she’s your wife but I have a husband too. One I am willing to walk away from. One I am willing to leave for you.

       Does that mean I love you more? Because I am willing to tell him the truth. That I love you. That this child inside me is yours. Proof that the passion we have for each other is worthy of a chance. I won’t keep you from your boys. I know you love them as you should. But you don’t love their mother. You love me.

       Be with me, Vance. Fix all the mistakes of our past. We messed up all those years ago when we went our separate ways. My heart has been yours since I was fifteen. It will always be. Don’t leave me. Don’t turn your back on our child.

       Love you forever and always,

      Millie

 

My father had cheated on my mother.

Dixie was my sister.

The sickness slammed into me again as I let the words in that letter replay in my head. I’d made love to Dixie. I’d been inside her and it had been a heaven like I’d never experienced again. Yet it was sick and wrong. It was sordid and I more than anything wanted to turn that emotion off in my head, but I couldn’t.
“Did you show these to Mom?” Steel asked. His voice sounded strained. I understood what he was going through.

“No. And I never will,” I replied dropping my hands into my lap and looking over at my brother.

He was staring straight ahead at the wall with the letters clasped tightly in his hands. “He was a bastard. A lying bastard,” Steel’s pain was heavy with each word.

“Yeah, he was.” I wasn’t going to argue that. He had also allowed another man to raise his child as his own. These letters were all dated months before Dixie’s birth. Before Steel’s birth. The final letter was one from my dad. It had erased any doubt that I might have had about the truth in those words. Dad had claimed her as his, but he’d said he loved us more. He wanted my mother and his boys. He couldn’t leave us and he had told her she needed to let him go. Her child would be Luke Monroe’s.

There wasn’t another letter after that, at least not in this box. Dixie’s mother had run off when Dixie was a toddler, leaving Luke to raise her alone. When Dixie had been five, Luke Monroe remarried a woman named Charlotte who adored Dixie. Charlotte became the mother Dixie had never had. And although Charlotte loved her fiercely, Dixie had always wondered about her real mother. She planned on finding her one day. She longed to know why she had left her.

I never wanted her to find Millie Monroe. I hoped the woman was dead and had taken this secret with her. Dixie could never know. She’d had too much loss and pain in her life. It was why I had suffered silently. To protect her. Always to protect her.

“Why didn’t you tell her?” Steel asked me.

I turned to my gaze to his and studied him. His pain was there. The disbelief in his eyes as he realized his happy world was crumbling. But what I saw most was his lack of need to protect her. No need to keep Dixie safe.

“Because I would die to keep her from this kind of pain,” I replied. Because I love her more than you ever could. I didn’t say those last words aloud, but we both knew they were there.

“I can’t tell her, can I? You aren’t going to let me explain this to her? I just have to hurt her like you did?”

I stood up and moved away from him. I needed some distance between us. He was thinking about himself. He wasn’t thinking about her. That infuriated me. He had planned on making a life with her, yet he wasn’t willing to sacrifice himself for her.

“The pain you would cause her by breaking it off with her is nothing compared to this kind of pain. I… made love to her. I’ve been inside her. I took her innocence… and I’m her brother, dammit. That’s fucked with my head. That’s ripped me in two. It sickens me, yet breaks me over and over again. Because… I. Love. Her.”

Steel sat there and stared at me silently for several minutes. I waited for him to argue with me, but he didn’t say a word.

Finally, when he stood up, he held the letters out to me. “I won’t tell her. I won’t tell anyone,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I love her too… fuck, this is sick. Does Luke not know? He’s let us both date her. Hell, I’ve asked her to marry me.”

I shook my head. “Of course, he don’t know. He woulda never let us date Dixie. This whole fucked up shit happened because the only two people who knew are now gone.”

I took the letters and held the words that I hated more than anything in this world. “How am I supposed to hurt her?” he sounded so torn. I had been there once too. I had wanted to explain. Every time she had looked at me with those big sad eyes, I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, but it was wrong. This would only hurt her worse. She adored Luke Monroe. Not only would telling her mess her head up, but it would take away the security of knowing her daddy loves her. It would destroy her.

“This will kill her. You know that,” I told him.

He shook his head and then buried his face in both his hands as we stood there in silence. I understood what he was feeling. I’d been there too. I lived it every day. I missed her with every breath I took. This wasn’t going to get easier for him. But Dixie would heal and she’d find happiness. That was all I had to hold onto. Knowing one day she would get the life she deserved. All the fucking happiness in the world. My girl belonged in the sunshine. I wanted her there. This sick twisted darkness had been mine to suffer through. Now, my brother would share it with me.

Steel turned to leave. I didn’t stop him. I knew he needed time. Being alone was best for now. I stood there listening to his footsteps as he started walking away from here. From this room and these letters. He would have to hurt her now. Again. She’d suffer because of this sin.

“Be gentle with her. Please,” I said, unable to stop myself.

Steel stopped at the top of the stairs. “Nothing about this is gentle. I don’t know how I can be,” he replied.

I hadn’t been able to even look at her once I knew. There were so many things I wished I could have done differently. She deserved more from me than what I had given her. “Hold her when she cries,” I told him. Because more than anything that is what I wished I had done.

 

Dixie

Steel hadn’t called last night and he hadn’t come by today.

I could have gotten angry with him, but then I hadn’t been able to put the ring he had given me back on after taking it off yesterday. Before seeing Asher again, wearing that ring hadn’t been hard. But now… it felt wrong. Like I was betraying Asher even though he had been the one to turn away from me.

I walked out to my car and glared down at the Sutton house. Why did I let Asher affect me? Would I ever stop caring that he tossed me away after I gave him everything? I jerked the door of my red Jeep open at the same time my phone started ringing in my pocket. I stopped and pulled my phone out.

It was Steel.

Finally.

But I didn’t want to answer.

It continued to ring. Finally, on the fourth ring I gave in and said hello.

“Hey,” he said, then paused. With just one word I knew something was off. His tone was tense. “We need to talk.”

Asher. This was all because of Asher.

“Why? Did you talk to Asher? Is he not okay with…us?”

Steel didn’t reply. His silence spoke volumes. This was about Asher. But why? Why did Asher care? Why was I letting the fact he might care affect me? Why was I not able to wear that damned diamond ring and risk hurting Asher? Why was this so royally fucked up? And why didn’t Asher love me anymore?

I glanced down at my knuckles as they turned white while I gripped the car door. He hadn’t even spoken to me in three years, yet he still ripped me to pieces every time he was back in town. I needed my closure. I needed some kind of closure between us so I could move on.

“Fine. We’ll talk but I have somewhere I need to be right now. Later? I’ll call you? Is that okay?” I said not really caring if it was okay or not. I wouldn’t talk to Steel again until I had found Asher and talked to him.

“Uh, okay, yeah,” he replied, sounding nervous.

“Good. I’ll call you later,” I said, then quickly ended the call before he could say more.

Climbing into my Jeep, I chose not to think about what I was going to say. If I did, I would have talked myself out of this. Instead, I turned my Jeep down the hill and toward the Sutton house instead of town. Asher had been running from me long enough. He needed to face this. Us. What he did and what we were.

Steel’s white truck was gone when I pulled around the house and toward the barn. Asher’s blue truck was parked where he had always parked it. Just to the right of the pump house. He had always said he could see it from his bedroom window when he parked it there. That way one of his brothers couldn’t sneak off with it.

I stopped beside it and turned off my Jeep, but that was as far as I could get. Facing Asher was terrifying. His rejection and refusal to look at me had always felt like someone plunging a knife right through my heart. I needed a moment to mentally prepare for this. I couldn’t do this with him and walk away unscathed. I was asking for punishment by being here.

The knock on my window startled me and I turned to see Bray standing there frowning at me. I knew that if I didn’t open my door now, I would have never gotten out. With one more deep breath, I closed my fingers around the metal latch and opened the door, then jumped down.

“Steel ain’t here, but then I’m guessin’ you know that seeing as how you’re parked right next to Ash.”

Bray’s tone was one that held a warning. He didn’t want me messing up his brothers’ relationship. He thought I was here to cause trouble. I wasn’t. Not any more than Asher had caused when he walked back into town and sent my heart into a tailspin again.

“It’s past time I got some closure, Bray. Back off and let me go get it. He’s had three years to get his head out of his ass. Now, I’m ready to move on and I need to close this… this… thing that was left unsaid between us.”

Bray stood there a moment then he sighed and stepped back so I could get past him. “You’re right. This shit needs cleared up. Momma’s gone with Brent to get some feed and some flowers for the front pots. Asher is

“Right here,” that deep familiar voice that still taunted me in my dreams interrupted Bray. Asher had seen me drive up. I expected that. It was why I parked here. I wanted him to know I was coming.

“Fix this shit,” Bray said glaring at his older brother, then turned and walked away toward the house, leaving us standing there alone for the first time in years.

I had come to demand closure and now that I had his complete attention I couldn’t move. I couldn’t form any words. Asher stood only a few feet away from me wearing a pair of worn jeans that hung low enough on his hips that those sexy lower obliques that made a perfect V-cut into his jeans were in clear view. Where the hell was his shirt? For crying out loud, this wasn’t exactly fair.

As if he could read my mind, the black cotton fabric of his tee shirt fell down over those muscles I liked to think were made for sex, back when I was the one he was having sex with. Lifting my eyes, I took in his wet locks and freshly shaven face and realized he had just gotten out of the shower.

“You talked to Steel?” he asked and my knees went weak. Why were my knees going weak? Why was being close to him like this as insanely consuming as it had been three years ago? He had tossed me out like trash.

“Not exactly. We are meeting up later to talk. Before I talked to him I wanted to talk to you.” It had taken all my strength to speak calmly and not scream at him asking him why he hated me so badly.

“You need to talk to Steel. Not me,” Asher said, then he turned to walk away.

Just like before, he was blocking me out. Refusing to acknowledge me. I hated him again. I hated how he used me and then could so easily forget me. I hated that I loved him. A scream tore out of me and I lunged at him grabbing his arm to stop him from leaving.

This time I wouldn’t stand here and take it. This time I would tell him what a horrible person he was. “No!” I roared as my hands wrapped around the hard arm that had once held me like I was something precious. Shoving those memories away, I squeezed his arm and jerked him toward me as hard as I could.

Asher stopped and his entire body tensed. Asher Sutton was not a small guy. He was all hard lines and muscles. Broad shoulders and a narrow waist. Thighs that made women drool. Yet here I was screaming at him and yanking on his arm like a kid throwing a tantrum.

“Not this time. You won’t walk away this time,” I swore in anger but trying to make it sound more like determination.

Asher slowly turned back around and I let his arm go as if it had suddenly caught on fire. When his eyes met mine, the suffering reflected in them took my breath away and I had to take a step back.

“Haven’t I done enough? Can’t this be all I have to endure? Do you want me to continue killing us both?”

He didn’t try to replace his pain with a mask of indifference he had used with me for so long. He stood there vulnerable and took the last bit of my heart I had left. Because all I cared about now was holding him and making that look in his eyes go away.

“Why? I need to know why?” I said as I stood where I was. I wouldn’t go to him because I knew he would push me away. Even though he had allowed me to see that this affected him, that this was clawing away at him too, he wouldn’t have let me touch him. Not now.

“I can’t be who you need. I can’t be who you deserve. I thought once that I could, but I found out a little too late that I made a grave mistake. One that we can’t take back,” he closed his eyes tightly and muttered a curse before opening them back up and leveling them on me. “If I could erase the past, our time together, I would. I would take it all away. Every moment, Dixie. I would give it up every goddamn moment. So that you could move on and forget me. Just walk away from us. This place. You were never meant to belong to a Sutton boy.”

 

Asher

Her beautiful face crumpled from my words and I hated myself for it. Death would be too kind for me. I hated the air that I breathed. I hated that all I could ever do was hurt her. When all I wanted to do was cherish her. Love her. Own her.

“No,” she said shaking her head. “No,” she repeated as tears flowed freely down her face now. “I don’t believe that. You’re pushing me away. You’re trying to hurt me. I won’t listen to you. You’re lying. This hurts you too. I just can’t figure out why you’re doing this. Why you’re destroying us both,” she said as she took a step toward me and I took a step back.

I didn’t trust myself to get too close to her. I wanted to wrap her up in my arms and tell her everything would be okay, when I knew it never would be.

“Please, tell me. Tell me why you left me. At least give me that, Asher. I gave you everything and you threw it away like it meant nothing to you. I loved you and I gave you my innocence. You were the only person I wanted to touch me. I thought we were forever. You told me we were forever. You told me that you would never want anyone else. That I was everything to you”

You were!” I roared. I couldn’t keep listening to her. I couldn’t stand here and let her tell me how much I had let her down. How much I had hurt her. I knew that. She had to leave. This had to end. “You were it for me. Dammit, Dixie, you probably always will be. But we can’t be. There are things you don’t know that make this impossible. Things I won’t tell you. I will go to the fucking grave before I hurt you anymore. This hurts. I hurt you and I’m sorry. I will be sorry for the rest of my life. But you will move on and fall in love with a guy who can love you. I can’t.” I paused as Steel’s white truck came around the house. He had to face her now. This had to end. “And neither can Steel.”

“Steel loves me,” she said as her voice cracked.

“Of course he does. Anyone that gets a chance to know you loves you. You’re… you, Dix. You’re you,” I was going to say too much. I stopped talking and clenched my teeth as Steel parked his truck and climbed out.

He looked pale. Like he’d been sick. He had to be stronger than this. Facing this shit was something no one should ever go through. But we had to, thanks to the man who we had once thought hung the moon. He’d left behind a legacy of lies. One that would leave me soulless for the rest of my life.

“Steel, what’s wrong?” the concern in her voice made me jealous. I was ridiculous. Dixie was my sister and I was still jealous over her. This disgusting twisted life we had been thrown into was unfair. So fucking unfair.

I could feel Steel looking to me to help him. I couldn’t do this for him. He had to end it. He had to send her away. “Remember what I said,” I told him hoping that he understood I wanted him to hold her when she broke.

“I can’t,” he said shaking his head.

I wasn’t sure what he meant. What was it that he couldn’t do? He couldn’t stay with her. That was a fact. What was he needing from me?

“Dixie, you’re our sister.” The words fell from his lips before I could register in my head what he meant. He just said it. He just told her.

I heard her gasp and as if in slow motion, I watched as confusion filled her eyes and she looked back at me. I had to fix this. He couldn’t do this. Not to Dixie. She’d never recover. He was going to ruin her too. She’d be as empty as I was and I couldn’t stand that.

“Your mom

“NO!” I yelled, stopping my brother from saying anything else. Why had I trusted him? What the fuck had I been thinking? I had given him the power to hurt my Dixie. “Don’t do this,” I told him as I moved toward him.

“She had an affair with our dad.”

Those words were the last thing he got out of his mouth before my fist slammed into his jaw, knocking him back against his truck. If it had been anyone other than my brother, I would have continued to pummel him until he blacked out. Until I knew he couldn’t speak again. But Steel was mine to protect too.

I stood over him as he grabbed his jaw and glared up at me. “She deserved to know,” he said with a slur.

“She didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this,” I told him.

“Asher?” her soft voice came from behind me and I tensed hating the fact I had to face her now.

“Fucking tell her. She knows now. Finish it,” Steel said as he stayed on the ground holding his face.

A hand touched my arm softly and I winced. I didn’t want her to touch me. I couldn’t stand the memory of that. When she grabbed me before, I had felt her anger and that was okay, but her gentle touch was unbearable. “You don’t want to hear this, Dixie,” I said, unable to turn around and face her.

“Yes, I do,” she replied.

“Don’t, Dix. Just leave. Run like hell and don’t come near us again. Go home to that house up there and let your daddy hold you tight. Remind yourself you’re loved and you deserve a fucking fairytale. Not what you’ll get down here. We can’t give you… anything,” I backed away from her and Steel not wanting to look in her eyes.

“Is he telling the truth? Did your… am I…” she trailed off, her voice sounding like it was far away.

“Our sister, Dixie. You’re our sister,” Steel said again and I charged him.

Two arms wrapped around mine jerking me back. “Don’t. He’s right. This shit is something she needs to hear. It’s her life too,” Bray’s voice was strained as I pulled against him wanting to shut Steel up. “Can’t believe you kept this goddamn shit to yourself,” Bray said, the pain etched in his words.

“Go home, Dixie. Go home, please,” I begged her before Steel could say anything more.

She shook her head and backed away from both of us. Her face had paled and I realized that driving probably wasn’t safe for her right now.

“Wait, don’t drive. Not like this. I’ll drive you and walk back,” I said jerking my arms free of Bray’s hold.

“How do you know?” she asked.

Telling her anything more would only hurt her more. The people who had conceived her had both abandoned her. This was all worse for her than it was for us. Didn’t Steel understand that? She was losing so much more. I wanted Dixie to live the life I couldn’t give her. The one I had planned on. The life where she was cherished and never once doubted how special she was or how loved she was. Not this… never this.

“This,” I said pointing at Steel. “You’re gonna ignore this,” I said, as if just saying it could make it all disappear.

“How?” she asked staring at me with a hopeless look in her eyes. The light that I loved seeing there was completely snuffed out now. Steel had destroyed her soul. I would never be able to forgive him for this. “You won’t tell me anything. How do I even know this isn’t some stupid mistake? Who told you this, Asher?”

If I told her about the letters, she would demand that I show her. I didn’t want this touching her anymore than it already had. I preferred letting her walk away not believing us. “Go home to your daddy,” I repeated.

“He found letters. From your mom to our dad. He found them under a floorboard in the attic three years ago. He didn’t tell anyone because he thinks he’s protecting you,” Steel said as he stood up, keeping his eyes leveled on me.

Bray’s hand clamped down on my shoulder. “She deserves to know this too. Stop trying to protect her,” he said.

“Letters? You have letters?” she asked, her eyes now glistening with unshed tears. “You have letters saying that my daddy isn’t my father? You have…” she stopped and covered her mouth letting out a sob that shredded me.

Her knees buckled and I started to move toward her but Bray stopped me. “No, I got her,” he said stepping around me. I let him go. He loved her too, but he loved her the way a brother should.

Bray pulled her into his arms and held her as she tucked her head under his chin and sobbed pitifully. Someone was holding her. That was all I had wanted. Someone to hold her the way she needed it.

“She deserved to know,” Steel said reminding me that he was still out here.

“No one deserves this,” I replied, then turned and walked to my truck. I had to leave. I couldn’t stay here and watch Dixie fall apart. Just when I thought I couldn’t hurt any more, I’m was proved wrong. Knowing that Dixie would now live this nightmare was more than I could handle.

 

Dixie

For three years I had wanted answers. Countless nights I had lain in bed thinking that just knowing Asher still loved me would have made everything okay. Nothing else would have mattered. Nothing could hurt more than Asher not loving me anymore.

I had been wrong.

So very wrong.

“Come on, Dix. Let’s take you home,” Bray said as he started moving me toward my Jeep.

Home. My home. Was it still my home? Did Daddy know this? Did he love me anyway? Could I tell him?

“Does my daddy know?” I asked Bray.

He reached around me and opened the passenger door. “I didn’t even know. So I’m not sure who knew, but it won’t make a difference to your daddy. He loves you and has loved you all your life. In his heart, you’re his little girl. That’s something I’m fucking positive about.”

I let Bray help me up into the Jeep. I felt as if I was walking through fog. Nothing made sense. I had watched as Asher’s truck drove away but I didn’t see Steel leave. I couldn’t look at him now. He had been the one I hoped could heal me, but he’d just made it worse.

“Why would he keep this from me?” I asked staring out the window at the field of hay.

“Because he has been protecting you since he was a kid. He would do anything to protect you. It wasn’t the right decision, but it was because he loves you, Dix. He’s suffered alone with this for three years because he loves you. He didn’t want you to know this. He wanted you happy.”

He wanted me happy? He had broken my heart. How had that been making me happy? “He can’t love me. His actions prove differently.”

Bray let out a deep sigh and cranked the Jeep. “His love ain’t normal when it comes to you. Never was,” he replied. “But don’t doubt that he loves you. Damn, Dix, he smashed in our little brother’s face because he was trying to protect you. Asher has never hit one of us. We’ve hit each other and he’s broken it up, but he’s always protected us. He picked you over Steel. That’s fucking huge. Be mad at him for not telling you, but don’t think he doesn’t love you.”

I couldn’t listen to this. He was my brother. Asher was my brother. The horror of that one fact washed over me and a wail filled the truck as I curled into a ball and let the sorrow consume me.

 

Steel Sutton

Asher hadn’t come home last night. Bray and Brent had gone to look for him but they’d come home after two in the morning with no luck. Momma was going to notice this morning that he wasn’t here. Keeping his disappearance from her would be hard. I could smell the bacon now and I knew we’d have a big breakfast waiting on us.

I had done the right thing. Dixie needed to know. It was wrong to keep that kind of thing from her. Why couldn’t he see that? I couldn’t just desert her the way he had. She needed to know the reasons. Asher hadn’t been thinking clearly. He hadn’t looked at the big picture.

Dixie would have found out one day on her own and we wouldn’t have been there to help her deal. She planned on finding her real mother one day and that is the kind of thing Dixie needed to know before she was blindsided by some bitch who didn’t love her. Not like we did.

And I did love her. That hadn’t changed.

I wasn’t sure it ever would.

“His room’s still empty,” Brent said as he walked into my room.

“Truck’s gone too. But his shit is all still here,” Dallas said following Brent into the room. He’d gotten up early to go work out in the barn. It was his morning routine.

“Momma ain’t gonna be happy about this. What are we gonna tell her?” I asked looking to Bray.

He shook his head and walked over to the window. “Hell if I know. Can’t tell her the truth. It would kill her.”

“Sure didn’t matter to Steel that it would kill Dix,” Dallas said as he shot an annoyed glare my way. He had been pissed when he realized Asher had kept it a secret from Dixie to protect her and I’d told her. But Dallas thought Asher could do no wrong. Dallas didn’t really remember our dad. Asher had always been the oldest male in his life. So, to him, Asher was God.

“Dixie needed to know,” Bray said looking back at Dallas.

“Really? Cause you want to keep it from Momma to protect her. Ever think that was what Asher wanted for Dixie?” Dallas shot back. He was two inches taller than Bray and his shoulders were wider. We still saw him as the baby though. No one else in Malroy would mess with Dallas… but us.

Shut up, Dallas! You don’t understand.”

“The fuck I don’t! I understand Asher told that dipshit a secret and trusted him to protect Dixie and he didn’t do it!” Dallas said as he pointed at me.

“Take it down a notch or ten,” Brent said as he walked into the room squinting against the sunlight coming in from the window. He was still in his flannel pajama pants and his blond hair was sticking up in several directions. He rarely went without a shirt because of the tattoo on his ribs he was still hiding from Momma. Brent was the last one of us anyone expected to get a tattoo. Other than us and Scarlet, no one knew he had it. The word “yesterday” was inked on his right hip bone.

No one knew what it meant. Except possibly Bray because those two rarely had to verbally speak in order to understand each other. The twin bond had always been their thing.

“Sleeping beauty, glad you could join us,” Bray drawled.

“Woke me up. Momma had to have heard y’all too,” Brent grumbled and flopped back on Dallas’s unmade bed.

“And for the record, I think it was a shit thing to do for you to tell her too,” Brent said lifting his head up from the pillow to look at me before dropping it back down.

“Majority vote is you suck,” Dallas added.

Bray groaned and turned around to shoot his angry moody glare at all of us. “It’s done. Shut up and let it go. She knows now and Asher has got to get a fucking grip. We can’t let him fall off the deep end because he was pretty damn close before this happened. He’s carried this shit around on his own for three years. Our goal is to find him. Not sit here and discuss if Steel did the right thing or not.”

I glanced down at my phone. Dixie hadn’t texted me. I had almost expected something from her. We’d been fucking engaged… almost. Now we were related. My stomach turned again. The only thing keeping me from losing my shit was the fact we hadn’t had sex. We had come close but she always put the brakes on it and as pissed as I was getting, I am damn sure she did.

Asher had to live knowing he’d slept with her. Not just that but he’d taken her damn virginity. Fuck… I couldn’t imagine that.

“The screwed up stuff going on in my head is fucking with me. I can’t imagine what he’s been dealing with for three years. All I want to do is go drink so much I can’t feel anything.”

Bray’s scowl deepened and he headed for the door. “I’m going to find him,” he said simply before leaving us all sitting around watching him.

“Guess that leaves us to explain their absence to Momma,” Dallas said heading for the door.

“I should go with him,” Brent said sitting up. He wasn’t a morning person and Bray had looked like a man on a mission.

“You’ll be in his way. He’ll be gone before you can get on a pair of jeans. Let him go. You go charm Momma with pretty boy,” I said nodding my head toward where Dallas had gone.

 

Brent nodded and headed out to hopefully grab a shirt before going down to the kitchen with Dallas and Momma.

Asher

At seven this morning, I had been sitting in my truck that I had parked behind the high school’s football field, when I got a text from Dixie. She’d asked me where I was. I had sat there and stared at it for ten minutes before responding. She didn’t ask me why I was here. She would know. I felt safe here. It was deserted this time of the year, with school being out, and it was the only place I could think of to be able to just park and know I would be left alone.

Thirty minutes later the passenger side of my truck opened and Dixie climbed inside. She didn’t knock and I had expected her. When I told her where I was, I knew she’d come. I knew Dixie better than I knew anyone else. I loved her more than I loved anyone else. I’d proved that yesterday to Steel.

Steel.
I loved him but I couldn’t be trusted near him right now.

“You been here all night?” Dixie asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“You sleep any?”

“Nope.”

I hadn’t even been able to close my eyes. I wanted to. I wanted to escape from this even just for a moment. But I hadn’t been able to do that last night. All I saw when I closed my eyes was Dixie sobbing in Bray’s arms. Then I had to fight the urge to go find Steel and beat the shit out of him for doing this to her.

“Bray came by late last night looking for you.”

I had ignored all their text messages and calls. Putting my phone on silent, I put it away and sat here alone. They wanted to make sure I was alright ,but I hadn’t been alright. I never would be.

“I was mad at you. Yesterday. I hated you for a moment. For not telling me. For keeping it from me,” her soft voice cut through me. I knew she hated me. She had so many reasons to hate me. But hearing it from her lips wasn’t easy.

“I know,” I managed to croak out through the emotion clogging my throat.

“I get it. I thought about it all night and I get it. I do,” she said, then her hand touched my hand causing me to flinch from the contact.

“Just wanted to protect you,” I said needing her to know that I never meant to hurt her. I’d do anything to keep her from hurting again.

“I know that now. Everything… I let myself remember it all. Stuff I had blocked out because it just was too painful, I remembered it all last night. How you used to be… how we used to be. How sure I was you would love me forever. Then you just turned away without a word. I never understood. It was something that haunted me. I loved you… I loved you so much. But you loved me too. It’s why you did it. I get it.”

Fuck, this was hard. It was past time we did this, but it was hard. The familiar smell of coconut and honey filled the truck. It had been so long since I’d been close enough to Dixie to smell her. Her scent reminded me of how good she had felt in my arms. How her skin was soft like warm satin. And how when I sank into her nothing had been that perfect. The pleasure on her face had made my heart pound with possession. She was mine.

“I can’t do this. You… I need you to leave. Being this close to you, I’m not ready for that. I don’t think I will ever be. My heart doesn’t seem to understand I can’t have you,” I sounded desperate. I couldn’t look at her. I just needed her to leave.

Dixie moved but she didn’t open the truck door. She scooted closer to me and her smell wrapped around me making me light headed. Fuck, she had to get out.

“Dix,” I warned gripping the steering wheel.

“I’ll leave. But first, would you hold me?”

How did I tell her no? And how would I let her go if I allowed myself to touch her?

“Please, Ash. Just hold me this once. I need this closure.”

I learned a long time ago that I would sacrifice my soul for this girl. Now she was a woman and it was no different. I let go of the death grip I had on the steering wheel and slid an arm around the back of the seat. Dixie cuddled against me, then laid her head on my chest.

Closing my arms around her I inhaled deeply and let her warmth fill me this one last time. We didn’t get a goodbye. I didn’t give us that. She was right. This was the end we had needed back then, but I hadn’t been ready to give it to her.

“I think I’ll always love you. I can’t help that,” she said quietly.

I knew I’d always love her but telling her that would just hurt her more. Dixie had to move on and find that sunshine she belonged in. The man who would love her and give her happiness and children. The man who would make her dreams come true. The man who’d better treat her like a princess or I would make him wish he had never been born.

I would never have a wife. I couldn’t do that to someone. Not while my soul belonged to the same girl since I was a sixteen years old. No amount of lies and sin would take that away. What I felt for Dixie was pure. It was a simple truth. One I didn’t even want to change. I would watch her live her life from afar and make sure it was everything she deserved.

When I didn’t respond, she didn’t say anymore. We just sat there for the next hour. I enjoyed holding her in my arms one last time and I made plans in my head to make sure I righted every wrong done to her. It was the only thing that was keeping me sane.

The sound of tires on gravel and the diesel engine of Bray’s truck broke us apart. Dixie moved over, opened the truck door and stepped out without a word. We had said all there was to say. I watched her as she walked over to her Jeep. She didn’t acknowledge Bray. Instead, she climbed inside and drove away.

I waited for Bray to get out and come to me. He’d obviously found me. I was surprised it took him so long to think about this spot, but I was thankful it had. When I saw him approaching my door, I rolled down the window and waited on him.

“Y’all talk about it?” Bray asked with a scowl.

“She got her closure,” I said meeting his scowl with one of my own.

“Been looking for your ass all morning and most of the night. Momma’s cooked a big breakfast.”

I cranked the truck. “Not sure I’m ready to see Steel.”

Bray sighed. “He thought she should know. Maybe she did. The girl never moved on. The way you left it wasn’t an ending for her. She wasn’t healing.”

“She was engaged to Steel,” I reminded him. Dixie had moved on. She had been able to put me behind her.

“Shit. She hadn’t even said yes. I don’t think she would have been able to say yes until she saw you again. That’s all pointless now.”

Dixie was going to be okay. Her daddy would love her and reassure her. She’d find a man to love her. I had to believe that.

“Let’s go home and eat before Momma comes looking for the both of us,” Bray said.

With a nod I shifted gears. “See you there.”

 

Dixie

I hadn’t asked to see the letters. I had needed that moment to be just about us. If that was the last time Asher Sutton would hold me, then I needed it. Nothing else but that.

I wasn’t sure I even wanted to read those letters. I didn’t know my mother. She hadn’t been around long enough for me to remember her. Reading words from her didn’t mean a lot to me. There was someone else I wanted to talk to. Someone who could tell me the truth. And if he didn’t know the truth, then we could find it together.

The man who had raised me and loved me was my father. Even if he wasn’t my blood, he was my father. Nothing could change that. I just hoped that the same was true for him. Because I had to face this with him. I couldn’t face it with Asher or Steel.

Daddy was out at the stable with his newest purchase, a pretty quarter horse that Mom had seen and wanted when they’d gone to the stock yard to buy some cattle. Mom had married daddy when I was little and she was a wonderful woman who made my daddy happy. She loved me and we loved her. My family had seemed perfect.

Losing that knowledge wasn’t easy. The last thing I had to hold onto in my life felt like it was teetering on the edge of a cliff. Maybe a normal person wouldn’t be determined to face the truth. Holding onto the love and security I had was the easy way, but I needed to deal with it. Ask him why he had loved me anyway. Raised me as his own. How could he stand to look at me?

When I thought there was a monster under my bed as a kid, I grabbed a baseball bat and went looking for it. I never backed down and hid. I faced my fears. This was no different. It was the biggest fear I’d ever faced.

“Hey, buttercup,” Daddy called out when he stepped out of the stables and noticed me headed his way.

“Hey,” I replied and my voice cracked as tears filled my eyes. Apparently this wasn’t like fighting the monsters under the bed. This was scarier. I loved this man and trusted him with my life. I trusted him to be there for me no matter what.

His smile fell. “Who the hell do I need to beat up? Why’s there tears in my angel’s eyes?” he asked taking three long strides, then grabbing both my arms and looking down at me. “Is this another Sutton boy job? Cause if it is, I’m gonna go burn that place down. I swear to God I am sick of those boys hurting you,” he roared.

The fact that he didn’t know the truth was even more apparent as he spoke. He couldn’t know. I had to tell him. I had to destroy the love this man had for me. Could I do that? Oh god… I felt my knees go weak. I couldn’t lose my daddy.

“Alright, buttercup, you’re scaring me. Is your momma okay?” he asked glancing back at the house.

I nodded. “It’s not about her,” I managed to say without sobbing.

“Talk, darling, because you’re scaring me. I can’t fix this if I don’t know what I need to fix.”

My daddy wanted to fix this. He always fixed my problems. Except he hadn’t been able to fix my broken heart when Asher had turned away from me. He wouldn’t be able to fix this either.

“I heard Asher Sutton was home. Is this about him?” Daddy asked, his voice laced with anger. “He’s a man now. I don’t have a problem beating the hell outta a man.”

“Daddy,” I said interrupting him from his angry tirade about Asher. “Did you… did you know…” how did I ask my father whether he knew his wife had slept with another man? I couldn’t do this. Could I? God, this was too much.

“Did I know what, baby? What is bothering you?” his words had gentled as he pulled me closer to his chest like he was protecting me. He didn’t even know from what.

“My… mother… did she…” I stopped and swallowed hard. I felt sick. Hearing this was one thing, but repeating it was another.

“You said this wasn’t about Mom,” he said looking back up at the house again with concern. He didn’t understand.

I shook my head. “No, the woman… my real mother,” I said and his body tensed. We never talked about her. Ever. Not once. Did he know something? Had she left because of an affair. Did he just not realize that I was the product of her affair?

“Has she contacted you?” he asked in a tight voice.

I shook my head. I had once planned on finding her. Now, I never wanted to see her. She’d ruined my life. She’d left lies behind that destroyed everything. “Did you know she had an affair with Vance Sutton?” I asked before I could stop myself. Closing my eyes tightly, I suddenly wanted to take those words back. I didn’t want him to know this. I loved him. He was my daddy. I couldn’t lose that.

“She wasn’t mentally well, honey. But yes, I knew. How did you find out about this?” His words surprised me. I hadn’t expected him to know that much. “Do the Sutton boys know this?”

I nodded. “Yeah, Asher found letters from Millie to Vance. They said some things…” tears spilled free and rolled down my face. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I’d faced this fear and now I had to wait.

Daddy stared down at me with a concerned frown and then slowly understanding lit his eyes. He closed his eyes tightly and muttered a curse then pulled me against him and squeezed me. “Oh no, baby. I know what you read. That’s not what you think, buttercup. You’re my princess. You hear me. You’re mine. I got proof of that. Those letters were from a mentally unstable woman. A woman who hurt others as if life was a game. Millie’s beauty was something she used as a weapon of destruction.”

I pulled away from him and searched his face. “I’m not Vance Sutton’s daughter,” I repeated, needing to make sure we were understanding each other.

“No,” Daddy said fiercely. “Hell, no. You’re mine. Although Millie tried to destroy me and Vance Sutton with her lie. I had a paternity test done when you were born because Vance demanded it. He wanted proof you weren’t his. But understand this, from the moment they handed you to me minutes after you were born, you became mine. You stole my heart. A heart I didn’t think could ever heal, you healed it in your first few moments on this earth. I wouldn’t have cared what that paper said, you were my baby girl. I was willing to fight for you. I wanted you. Millie had broken me but you, Dixie Monroe, you saved me. You were my miracle.”

For the second day in a row I sobbed.

 

Asher

“You better eat them biscuits. I didn’t get up and fix them for you to mess over,” Momma said as she stared at my plate that I had barely touched. My appetite was gone.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied before forcing a bite into my mouth.

Steel had hurried up and finished his breakfast, then left. He hadn’t looked me in the eye either. That was good. He needed to keep his distance until I was able to calm down.

“Can I have another?” Dallas asked like a damn five-year-old.

“Go get it yourself. She’s not your waitress,” I snapped at him.

His eyes went big and he stood up with his plate and headed to the stove.

“Okay, what’s got you all tied up in knots? You weren’t here this morning and Bray was out looking for you while the rest of them tried to be a distraction. I did raise every one of you. I know when one of you don’t come home at night and I know when Dallas is trying to charm me so someone else can get away with something.”

Dallas chuckled as he sat down with another plate piled high with biscuits and tomato gravy. “Figures,” he said with a grin.

I refused to tell Momma what was wrong. There was no reason for her to suffer that kind of pain now. She had good memories of my dad and it needed to stay that way. Telling her wouldn’t make it better for her. It did nothing but hurt her for no reason.

“I’m adjusting to being home again. Steel broke it off with Dixie and I’m not gonna lie. I’m glad. Dixie needs to move on and not with one of my brothers.”

I hoped my voice didn’t betray me.

Momma cocked an eyebrow and sat down across from me with a cup of coffee in her hand. “I call BS,” she said simply and took a drink of coffee while studying me. “BS, you hear me. I don’t buy it,” she said making sure she got her point across.

“Momma, let’s just leave him alone,” Bray said. He was the only one brave enough to say something like that to Momma apart from me.

Momma turned to look down the table at Bray who was now looking like a little boy with his hand in the cookie jar. If I hadn’t been so damn fucked up, I would have laughed. Dallas and Brent both laughed.

“I don’t recall asking you what to do. I carried him for nine months and went through ten hours of painful labor to birth him. Then I cleaned his nasty butt, nursed him when he was sick, held his hand while he got stitches and let him puke all over me while I held him when he got food poisoning. So do not tell me what I can and can’t do. If and when I want to know about one of my boys, I will ask. And you might be next, so shut your mouth and eat your breakfast.”

Bray dropped his head in a defeated stance. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

Momma swung her attention back to me. “Now, last time I checked you tossed that sweet Dixie Monroe to the curb without a backwards glance. Wouldn’t talk about her or look at her. I was worried about you getting too serious so young, so I didn’t push it. But three years later when you should be attached to some girl you’ve met at college, you’re back here still solemn and lonely. Ain’t right. When a man looks like you he has the women beating down his door. But you’re alone. Explain that to me. ‘Cause it has to be you pushing them away. Steel loves that girl. He’s bought her a diamond ring God knows he can’t afford and now he’s broken up with her two days after you get home. I smell S. H. I. T.”

I glanced down the table at Bray, but he was eating and not looking our way. Momma had put him in his place. Brent was watching us with a concerned frown. He knew I couldn’t tell Momma the truth. They all did. But not one of them was trying to help me out here.

“Maybe he didn’t love her enough. Maybe he didn’t love her enough to fight for her and make sure she was protected from everything that could hurt her. Maybe he didn’t love her enough to sacrifice his happiness for her. Maybe…” I stopped and stood up. “Momma, I love you but I can’t talk about this. Not right now,” I said leaving my plate on the table and heading for the door. If Steel could run out, then so could I. Facing Momma right now wasn’t possible.

“You found them letters, didn’t you,” Momma’s words stopped me just as my hand touched the screen door and I froze. Letters. She knew about the letters. Then she knew…

What the fuck?

       Turning around I looked at her and saw the sadness in her eyes. “What letters, Momma?” I asked needing her to confirm to me that she knew about those letters. The ones that meant she shouldn’t have let me or Steel anywhere near Dixie Monroe.

“The letters from that woman to your daddy. I didn’t know where he hid them. But three years ago you found them,” she nodded as if I had confirmed this. “I wondered once back then when you looked so miserable and heartsick, but then I thought no, surely not. If you found something like that, you’d ask me about it. But you didn’t, so I figured it was something else. But I see I made a grave mistake.”

Dropping my hand from the door I stared at my mother. She knew. But she… “Why would you let us… let me… be with her that way if you knew?” I asked trying to process the fact that my mother had knowingly let me commit incest.

Momma stood up and shook her head. “I’d have never let such a thing happen. That girl ain’t your daddy’s child. Luke Monroe has a paternity test that proves she is one hundred percent his child. Millie Monroe was the most beautiful woman in the county. She could seduce a sane man like nothing I’d ever seen, but that woman was insane. Mentally screwed up. She set her sights on your daddy and that meant she was gonna have him.

“Your daddy was a man. That’s the only excuse I got for him. I forgave him a long time ago. Understand that. He never stopped trying to make it up to me. He did love me. He just let sexual temptation get the better of him.”

If my daddy were still alive, I’d go kill him right now. Listening to my momma talk about him being seduced by another woman infuriated me.

“Millie came to the barn one day when I was gone to the doctor and well… she did some things any man would have a hard time turning down. Your daddy made a mistake. Then,” she sighed, “Millie came back and did it again a few more times and your daddy was weak. So, when Millie got pregnant, we didn’t know. We all knew it could be your daddy’s child. He admitted it to me. Everything he’d done. I was pregnant with Steel. I had three babies I was taking care of and money was tight. Your daddy used Millie as an escape from the reality of life. I thought I’d leave him for awhile, but he was so pitiful and I loved him so much. It took a couple years but I finally forgave him. Anyway, when that little girl was born, I wanted a paternity test and so did your daddy. If that baby was his, we needed to know. But it wasn’t. She was all Luke Monroe’s.”

“Holy fuck,” Bray swore, reminding me we weren’t alone. My brothers were all sitting there listening to this too.

“Can’t believe I was even born. You shoulda killed him,” Dallas muttered.

Momma turned around and faced them. “I loved that man. He loved and adored all of you. He was a good man who had a weak moment. He made a mistake and I forgave him. It don’t change the fact you were his whole world. He loved each of you.” Her hard tone was determined. She meant what she was saying. I wasn’t sure I could ever forgive the man but he was gone now and being mad at him was pointless. He’d left us in the end anyway.

Momma turned back to me. “Where were those letters?” she asked.

“Loose floorboard in the attic,” I told her.

She nodded. “I should have checked that place out before I let you move up there. I knew you were sweet on that girl. She looks just like her momma but she ain’t a thing like her. She’s got her daddy’s heart and Luke Monroe is a good man. He tried to make it work with Millie even when he knew she was crazy. Millie ran off and left him with that little girl and it was the best thing that could have happened to Dixie. She didn’t need that woman in her life. She turned out to be a fine woman,” Momma paused, then reached over and squeezed my arm. “A woman your brother loved enough to propose to her. Remember that, okay?”

Remember that.

 

Dixie

Scarlet’s white Camaro came down my long driveway. I sat in the porch swing watching as she made her way to the house. We hadn’t talked much in the past two days. She seemed to get that I needed some distance with Asher being back.

She really had no idea how crazy things had gotten.

When she stopped and her car door swung open, I realized that she may be my best friend, but there were some thing I just wasn’t ready to talk to her about. I wasn’t telling anyone about this until I got myself mentally ready to tell Asher that we weren’t related. Once I realized that my daddy was my daddy and that he loved me even more than I had even known, I was left knowing that this horrible secret that kept Asher from me was no longer there.

Running to him had been the first thing I thought of doing, but then I remembered Steel. I had to deal with Steel. And what if… what if this had been too much for him and Asher didn’t love me that way anymore. I just… I had to think. I sat on my porch and listened to my mom humming as she cooked lunch, knowing that I was safe. This life wasn’t about to be pulled out from under me.

“Since my best friend couldn’t pick up a phone and call me or heck even text me, I figured I better come check on her. The Sutton boys got you in a tangled web yet?” she asked as she walked up the steps to the front of the porch that wrapped around my house.

“Sorry. I’m spending a lot of time with my thoughts,” I told her patting the empty spot on the swing beside me. “Sit. Talk,” I said.

Scarlet flicked her red hair behind her shoulder and smirked. “Fine, but only ‘cause you’re sexy,” she teased, then sat down beside me. She gave the swing a big push with her legs then pulled them up in front of her tucking her knees under her chin. “Brent said there’s been some drama.”

I nodded. “Yeah, you could say that. But right now I just want to stay away from it and get some peace. I have to talk to Steel, but not yet.”

Scarlet sighed. “Please don’t tell me you’re gonna break it off with him. He loves you. Don’t mess it up because of Asher’s sexy ass. He ain’t worth it.”

She didn’t know. Any of it. But hearing her talk about Asher like he wasn’t worth fighting for was hard. He was so worth fighting for. Steel did love me and I had to figure out if what I had felt for him was love. I knew without a shadow of a doubt I was in love with Asher. I adored him. He was everything I’d ever wanted. But he was also dangerous. He could hurt me so easily. And he might not want me.

Steel did. At least I thought he did before he found out the truth.

“You talked to Brent today?” I asked her wanting to change the subject.

She nodded. “Yeah,” she replied then looked out at the front yard. “I talked to Bray too.”

The fact she had talked to Bray wasn’t a big deal… or it wouldn’t have been if she hadn’t said it like she felt guilty of something. I studied her a moment and wondered if I had been so wrapped up in my own life that I had missed something important in hers.

“Yeah, why did you talk to Bray?” I asked trying to sound casual.

She didn’t look at me, but the way her shoulders tensed wasn’t good. Not good at all. “Scarlet?” I asked wanting her to look at me.

“Do you ever wonder what Bray’s thinking? He’s so guarded. He rarely smiles,” she paused and a small smile touched her lips. “But when he does smile, it’s really something.”

Whoa. This was seriously bad.

“Scarlet, um, is there something you need to tell me?”

She let out a long sigh, then turned her head and rested her cheek on her knees. “Probably shouldn’t. It’s bad. I’m bad for even thinking about him. What kind of person does that? He’s Brent’s twin brother. But they’re so different. He’s… moody, and snarly and mysterious and he’s got this sexy angry look that makes me feel funny in my stomach, you know?”

The Sutton boys were trouble. Beautiful trouble. Lots of stinking trouble.

“Bray isn’t like Brent and that’s good. Because Brent loves you. Bray likes girls and he likes getting blowjobs. You’ve heard the stories. The guy gets off on girls dropping to their knees and he is rough with them. Remember what Jenn said about him gagging her and calling her names while he was doing it?”

Scarlet grinned and then pressed her lips together. “Yeah, but she also said it was sexy and she went back for more and more.”

What? “Scar, please tell me you are kidding me,” I said. Nothing about that sounded sexy.

Scarlet lifted a shoulder in a little shrug. “The idea of Bray talking dirty to me while getting off makes me kind of excited,” she squeezed her eyes together tightly. “That makes me a slut, doesn’t it? I sound awful even just saying that.”

I had no answer for this because I didn’t think that sounded exciting at all. The rumors about Bray and his sexcapades were rampant. Not just in Malroy but the entire county. Girls loved him, but they said he wasn’t sweet and easy. He took what he wanted.

“If Asher,” she said lowering her voice, “pushed you down to your knees in front of him and shoved his dick in your mouth and told you that you had a dirty little mouth, and then called you his bad girl and said you were naughty and needed to be punished… that wouldn’t turn you on?”

I couldn’t respond. The idea of being on my knees in front of Asher and being able to bring him pleasure made my heart race and my body feel feverish. Okay, maybe she had a point.

“But you love Brent. Why would the idea of Bray doing these things excite you?”

She turned her gaze back toward my yard. She wouldn’t look at me. What was she not telling me? Had I missed this completely? “He’s different. I like it when I can make him smile. He doesn’t smile enough.”

We were two peas in a pod. Both torn between two Sutton boys. Maybe our reasons were different but who was I to judge. I wrapped my arm around Scarlet’s shoulders and rested my head against hers.

With a shove of my feet I got us swinging again, then pulled my feet up under me. “Bray can’t be trusted with your heart. You know that, right?” I told her.

She didn’t reply right away. We listened to Mom humming and the sound of the tractor out in the field. It was peaceful. Until Scarlet replied.

“Just like Asher can’t be trusted with yours.”

She was right. I knew that. But I hated hearing it.

The front door opened and Mom stuck her head out and smiled at us. “I have peach cobbler hot out of the oven and vanilla ice cream. Y’all want me to bring out two bowls?”

Seeing her smiling blonde head, slightly wide hips and makeup free face beaming at me with such love, made me want to get up and go hold her tight. She wasn’t what the world would consider beautiful but to me she was. She was beautiful on the inside where it counted. She’d loved a little girl who wasn’t hers and made all her bad dreams go away. She’d been there the day I started my period and was terrified of it, and she’d held me when Asher had turned away from me. She was my mom and I was the luckiest girl in the world.

“We’ll come inside and eat some with you,” I told her standing up.

“I need some cobbler,” Scarlet agreed.

I walked over to Mom and wrapped my arms around her. “I love you,” I told her as I swallowed the emotion.

She gave me a quick squeeze and then kissed my cheek. “I love you more, princess. Just remember that,” she replied. That had always been her response when I told her I loved her.

 

Asher

I hadn’t seen or spoken to Steel in two days. I knew that Bray had told him all that mother had told us. Bray let me know that Steel knew the truth about Dixie now. Going to Dixie and telling her was the only thing I had been able to think about once I got my emotions under control. But then I realized it wasn’t my place.

Steel had proposed to Dixie. Momma had been sure to point that out to me. So I waited. For something to happen. Anything. But Steel didn’t come to find me. I was tired of waiting on him to do something.

He had left early to go mend the south fence. Bray had said it was Steel’s turn to mend fences when I had asked about him at breakfast. I had to talk to Steel because I wanted to go to Dixie, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t free to do that. The idea that I could hold her. That I could love her was there taunting me. The way I felt about her wasn’t wrong or messed up. It was okay. It was completely okay that I worshiped her. That she owned my soul.

But I was waiting on my little brother to do… something.

When I got down to the barn, I could see the farm truck headed this way and I knew Steel was in it. The posts he hadn’t needed were clanking around in the bed of the truck as the diesel engine rumbled to a stop behind the barn.

Steel climbed out of the truck and slammed the door before looking at me. The anger in his gaze wasn’t what I’d been expecting to find. I hadn’t done anything to piss him off. He was the one who had hurt Dixie.

“What?” I asked meeting his angry glare.

He let out a hard laugh. “What?” he repeated. “I’m waiting on you to tell me you’re going to see Dixie. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To tell me you are going to talk to her. To warn me you’re about to swoop in and give her what she wants. What she’s wanted all her life.” He pulled off his work gloves and threw them down on the ground. “What the fuck do I do with that? I can’t compete. Go get her, Asher. Go fucking take her.” He turned and stalked toward the barn.

He loved her. Maybe not the way I did, but he loved her. And I loved him. He was my little brother. I had been there when he needed me. I had taught him how to throw a football and how to hit a baseball.

And I loved Dixie. But my chance was over. Steel walked in and was there for her when she needed someone. I had walked away without a word. I didn’t deserve her. Steel was the better man.

“Steel!” I called out and he stopped just before he entered the barn.

He turned back and the anger was gone now, but the pain in his eyes cemented my decision. “What?” he replied.

“Go get her. She was yours. She hasn’t been mine in a long time. I’ve lived three years believing what I had with her was wrong and sordid. You only had a day to live that hell. The love you have for her is still pure. It’s still strong enough. It’s you she needs. Not me. I’m pretty sure I’m broken beyond repair.”

Steel’s tense stance fell away and his eyes turned to those of a worried brother. “You’re not broken. You’re a good man. A great one.”

He was wrong but he loved me. Steel’s love was special and I wanted that for Dixie. She wouldn’t be faced with the dark demons that had taken over my life. The ones I wasn’t sure would ever go away. Finding out the truth didn’t magically fix me. It freed me but it didn’t fix me. That required something I wasn’t willing to take. Dixie’s love.

“Thanks,” I told him. “But I’ll be leaving come fall. She needs a man who will be here for her. One that will show her the sunshine every damn day of her life. I have too much darkness in my soul to give her the sunshine she deserves.”

Steel stood there staring at me and then he finally nodded. “Okay,” he replied.

“I do love her.”

“I know,” I assured him.

He wiped his hands on his jeans, then flashed me a small smile before jogging down to his white truck. Watching him go wasn’t easy but it was right.

The barn door opened and I glanced back to see Dallas standing there wearing nothing but a pair of white shorts and boxing gloves. He was looking at me. I hadn’t known anyone was inside the barn.

“I love all my brothers. But just to clarify, you’re the best one. We all know it. Even Steel,” Dallas said with a sad smile. Then he nodded his head toward the inside of the barn. “Come on in and beat the shit out of the punching bag. I just finished and I’m about to lift some weights. The bag is all yours.”

Hitting something sounded really fucking good. I walked up to the barn door and Dallas pulled off his gloves and slapped me in the stomach with them. “Here you go, old man.”

I grabbed the gloves and felt a grin tug on my lips for the first time in a really long time. “This old man could beat your ass,” I told him.

Dallas chuckled and pointed at himself then flexed his very impressive arms. “Dude, you looked at me lately? I’m a beast,” he said.

Then I laughed. I really laughed.

The surprised expression on Dallas’s face was fleeting, then he was grinning too.

 

Steel

Pulling onto the dirt road that connected our driveway with Dixie’s, I noticed Bray’s truck parked out in the field. Slowing down I checked to see if he was okay and didn’t need anything. Then I saw a red head and a pair of what I was sure were tits. Grinning, I shook my head and headed to Dixie’s. That sorry bastard had a girl out there in the middle of the day and he was fucking her. Dude was crazy.

Dixie and I hadn’t had sex and since we’d been in a relationship for nine months, I had now gone through my longest stint of celibacy since I was fifteen and Brenda Vickers showed me her eighteen-year-old tits. Then Brenda had shown me just how good it felt to slide my dick into a hot wet pussy. Sex had become as important as oxygen. After that, I’d fallen in love with Dixie and waiting on her had become more important. Turning down willing women wasn’t easy sometimes. But Dixie was worth it. She was better than one night with some easy lay.

Seeing Bray getting some in the middle of the day did make me a little jealous. I was getting tired of pumping it out in the shower. But what he was getting was something that would be cheap and over soon. I had something more. Something worth sacrificing for.

Dixie’s Jeep was outside and I breathed a sigh of relief as I made my way to her front door. I hadn’t wanted to wait any longer. It had been two days. Dixie hadn’t called or texted me. And I hadn’t been able to tell her what we had found out from Momma because I had been so damn sure Asher would come over here and take her. I believed Dixie loved me. She’d told me she loved me. But I wasn’t sure she loved me as much as she’d loved Asher.

He wasn’t planning on coming to her though. He was letting me keep her without a fight.

The front door opened and Dixie stepped outside wearing a pair of cut off jeans and a plaid shirt tied in a knot at her stomach. She was barefoot and she looked like every southern boy’s fantasy. “Hey,” she said with a small smile.

She didn’t look like she was hurting. None of the pain I had seen in her eyes two days ago was there now. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I didn’t want her hurting, but I also wanted her to want me. To still love me.

“How are you?” I asked wanting her to give me some hope.

She shrugged. “Good. Better. I talked to my daddy.”

The way she said “my daddy” with a touch of security and relief in her voice told me her father had cleared up the lies we’d all believed.

“So you know the truth then,” I said.

A small frown touched her eyebrows and she nodded. “Yeah, but it isn’t what Asher thinks.”

I nodded. “We know. Momma cleared it up for us.”

Dixie’s eyes went wide and she glanced down toward our house. “Oh. When?”

“Two mornings ago. I would’ve been here sooner but we all kinda needed time to deal. You know.”

She slowly turned her eyes back to me and the sadness there made me want to kick myself. Why did I tell her I had known for two days and hadn’t come to her? How stupid was that?

“I’m sorry,” I added.

She forced a smile and shook her head. “No, it’s okay. I knew too and I didn’t come there. I just…” she paused and swallowed nervously. “Never mind. I’m not making sense. It’s been a crazy few days, I guess.”

“Yeah, it has,” I agreed and then reached out to take her hand in mine. “But I never stopped loving you. I loved you even when I thought it was wrong. I couldn’t cut that off.”

She stayed tense and her gaze flicked back toward my house again.

This was about Asher. She was waiting on him. I should have expected this. I should have known this would happen. He was the one she’d lost and never gotten over.

“I waited on him,” I told her. “He’s the reason I didn’t come until now. I was giving him a chance to come to you. But he came to me this morning and told me to come see you. Not to make you wait. That I loved you more than he ever could and you deserved that.”

The pain in her eyes was back and I wanted to roar at the unfairness. Why did she have to do this to me? I had waited on her. I had been faithful because I loved her. Why did she have to want him more? He had sent me. He had let her go.

I was here.

“Oh,” she said unable to look up at me. She studied our hands instead.

Oh. Not “I love you too” or “I missed you”. Just a fucking “oh”.

“Dixie, do you want this still? Us?” I asked willing her to look at me. To give me something.

Finally, she raised her gaze and looked up at me. “Do you?” she asked.

Did she even have to ask? “More than anything, Dixie.”

She didn’t respond right away. Instead, she waited a few minutes before she let out a soft sigh. “Okay. Yes, I want this too.”

Relief washed over me and I wanted to pound my chest. I had won. She was mine. Dixie Monroe was the most gorgeous woman I’d ever laid eyes on and she chose me.

“I’ll make you happy, Dixie. I swear, baby.”

She nodded then she took a step toward me and laid her head on my chest. This was what I had needed. What I wanted more than anything else. I could do without sex until she was ready. Just knowing it would be my bed Dixie was in one day made it all okay.

 

Dixie

The next week I saw Steel everyday. But not one time did I see Asher. His truck was parked outside by the pump house, but when I was there he never came around. I didn’t ask and Steel didn’t bring it up. I felt like Steel was waiting on me to ask and if I did ask, I would have failed some test of his.

Scarlet said I had to find a way to let go of the past. I didn’t know how to do that. Asher was more than just my past. He was a part of me. A piece of my heart and possibly the biggest piece was his. You couldn’t just let go of that. Even when he didn’t want me enough to fight for me.

The moment he crooked his finger, I feared I would drop everything and go running to him. He had that much power over me. But it was as if he were gone again. Scarlet said she had seen him two days ago working in the barn with Bray. They had been doing some renovations. He had laughed and he seemed less burdened than he had been in the past.

I was glad he wasn’t living with the darkness that had eaten at him for the past three years. But I missed him. I wanted to see him like this. I wanted to see the old Asher again.

“Damn, he’s at it again,” Steel muttered drawing me out of my thoughts. I turned to look at where he was frowning. I saw the back of Brent’s head and the familiar red curls of Scarlet’s in the back of Bray’s truck. Smiling, I shook my head. Did they think parking out there was an actual hiding place?

“I swear Bray can’t get a full day of work in without getting him some,” Steel said.

Frowning, I turned to tell him it wasn’t Bray, that it was Brent, but I stopped and looked back out over the field and squinted. The sun and distance made it hard to see. That was definitely my best friend’s red hair. It was a unique red. I would have known it anywhere. And that was Brent… wasn’t it? I mean, it had to be Brent if that was Scarlet. She was attracted to Bray but she wouldn’t actually sleep with him.

“You want burgers for lunch or seafood? I’m good with either. I just need something, I’m starved,” Steel said snapping my gaze off Bray’s truck and I looked straight ahead. He didn’t seem to notice that was Scarlet and until I knew what was going on, I wasn’t going to point it out.

“Uh… seafood is good,” I replied.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and sent Scarlet at text.

“Please tell me that was Brent.” Was all I sent. She’d know what I meant.

 

Scarlet North

“Did you fuck him?” Bray growled in my ear as he jerked my panties off and threw them on the floorboard of his truck. “Did you?” he asked again angrier this time.

I shook my head no. Finding words was hard when Bray was like this. It excited me and I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t seem to stay away from him. I craved this. I craved him.

“Open these sweet thighs,” he ordered shoving my legs open and baring me to his full view. “Fuck, it never gets old. I swear you’ve got the prettiest pussy I’ve ever seen.”

I panted with anticipation as Bray ran a finger up my slit, then back down slowly. I wanted to buck my hips and cry out but if I did, he’d get mad. He liked control. It was part of what I loved about him. About this. He was in control.

Lifting his finger, he slipped it between his lips and sucked before pulling it out of his mouth with a loud pop. “Always taste so damn good,” he murmured in a soft voice. It was a deceiving voice. He would drop that soon when he was done tasting me and touching me.

“You like this, don’t you, Scar? You like me touching your greedy little pussy. I shouldn’t be touching it,” he whispered and this time barely brushed my clit with the tip of his finger. “It’s not mine to touch.”

I whimpered.

His eyes flashed with that look I knew meant he was close to snapping. He was about to give in and take what he wanted. He couldn’t be nice for long. Sex made him crazy. “I don’t want him touching your pussy, Scar. I want this hot cunt. Just me,” he said and shoved a third finger inside me hard causing me to cry out. “Yeah, that’s it. There’s my naughty girl who can’t keep her mouth shut. She opens these pretty thighs for me and she shouldn’t. She should keep them closed. But she lets me inside them and I fucking love these thighs.”

I shivered. “Please,” I finally begged. I couldn’t take it anymore. Keeping quiet was too hard.

He sat back and rested his hand on the back of the seat as he looked over at me through his hooded lashes. “You want my mouth on that pussy?” he asked me in a husky tone. The things he could do with his mouth were beyond wonderful. I nodded and scampered to move. I knew what he wanted from me.

“Then suck,” he said grabbing my head and shoving me down toward his crotch.

This was the part that should turn me off. This was the part that a normal girl would run from. Would be disgusted by. Unless the guy ordering you to suck had a body you wanted to beg to lick. And Bray Sutton had that kind of body. Those blue eyes of his were almost covered up by thick black lashes as he gazed down at me as if I were the most fascinating thing in the world.

That kind of power was intoxicating. To make a man like Bray look at you like that. His bottom lip was wet and swollen from where he’d bitten it earlier as he touched me. Now his mouth was slightly open as he waited for me to finish unsnapping his jeans and pulling them down.

His hard length pressed against the black boxer briefs he was wearing and I was like a kid in a candy store trying to get it out of its packaging. Once I had the smooth hot skin under my hands, I squeezed and Bray hissed lifting his hips. “Mouth, now,” he growled.

I would do anything for him. I filled my mouth with him until the head of his cock slid down the back of my throat. His hand fisted in my hair and he shoved me down further. He would keep on until I gagged, then he would hold me there for a second. When he pulled me back, he would tilt my head back and look at me with awe on his beautiful face.

His thumb brushed my bottom lip as he wiped up my saliva ,then he lowered my head back over him again. I licked at him several times. “It aint’ a fucking lollipop,” he snarled and pushed my head down.

Smiling I opened up and let him gag me again but not before I sucked the length of it on my way down causing him to groan and praise me.

“Magic fucking mouth, baby,” he moaned as he pulled me up again. “Best mouth I’ve ever had. Ain’t fair you got such a delicious pussy and your mouth feels like nirvana.”

My body tingled under his praise. I ached for more. I wanted him to gag me some more, then when he was ready, I wanted it rough. I loved watching him as he took me hard and with abandon. I always got off just by the look on his face when he slammed into me the first time.

“Can’t keep fucking this mouth,” he panted. “All I can think about. I see your mouth and all I can think about is this. Those big eyes looking up at me as I bury myself in those full lips. Gotta stop this, Scar. We gotta stop it.”

No. I didn’t want to stop. For the first time in my life the void in me was filled. The part of me I thought was broken was fixed. I didn’t cringe when I thought of sex, I didn’t believe I was broken for not having orgasms because I was getting several every time I was with Bray.

He pulled my head up and slung me backwards against the seat. His eyes went to my breasts. “Love them tits,” he said reaching out to gently touch one, then he slapped it instead. The gentle rub that came after was a way to soothe it. “Fucking love it when they jiggle and are red from my hand,” he said in a low rumble, then slapped the other one and watched it do exactly as he said.

“Turn over, Scar and stick that ass up in the air,” he said shoving his jeans down. I hurried to do as he said and the slap was instant on my right butt cheek. Then my left one. Then he repeated it. He kept spanking me until it stung so badly I cried out.

“Fuck, it’s red,” he said running his hand over my tender skin gently. “It’s got my hand print all over it. Makes me crazy, baby.”

I grabbed the back of the seat and the edge of it to hold myself.
“You’ve been so bad, Scar. Letting me touch you and sucking my cock until I saw stars. This is wrong,” he said and slapped my sore bottom again. “But you make me need you. Walking around shaking this ass so I can see it in those little shorts. I know how pretty it bounces when I fuck you. Makes me hard. You make me hard.”

His hands grabbed my waist and he pulled me back. I barely had a moment to take a deep breath before he slammed into me. I screamed out in pleasure mixed with pain and whimpered his name.

“That’s right. Say my name, Scar. Who’s fucking this girl? Hmmm? Who makes her pussy cream? Say it baby,” he was lost now to the sensation. I loved it when he was like this.

Then he was out of me and before I could complain, the wet heat of his tongue slid over my folds making my legs tremble. He licked me from my clit all the way back to the tiny tight hole he loved to lick and tease. He kept telling me he was taking it one day too. I was ready for whatever he wanted. I trusted him with my body completely. He teased me by flicking his tongue over my swollen bud, then ran his nose inside me and inhaled. “Love this,” he said, then pressed a simple kiss to my pleasure pulse.

Bray’s mouth was gone and he was inside me again with one move.

I cried out his name over and over as he fucked me hard. Every time I said his name a growl of satisfaction tore from his chest. This hadn’t happened overnight. We didn’t just one day decide to start fucking. It had been a gradual thing… but once we both got a taste and realized we understood what the other needed most, we couldn’t stop. Even when I started dating Brent, I hadn’t been able to stop.

I had been trying to get Bray to commit to something more than just sex with me. But I had found myself falling for Brent in a different way. Bray owned my body though. I was afraid he always would.

 

COMING SOON the second episode…

 Bray