“Pop quiz,” I say in a ragged breath. “One word to describe what you’re feeling. Only one.” I remove her lace panties from her mouth, and her breathing deepens as if trying to catch the air she didn’t have.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” I tell her. “You have a nose to breathe through. Or have I f**ked your anatomy knowledge right out of you?”
Instead of glaring, her lips lift and her eyes lighten. I press my fingers underneath her chin and lift her gaze. “You like that,” I say, not asking. “You like me f**king you so hard that your brain empties of all those traversing thoughts.”
She sways on my lap like she might fall backwards. I hold her tighter, one hand on her back to keep her upright while I slip my fingers into her collar, gripping it forcefully to support her head.
“One word,” I remind her. “Even if it’s as ineloquent as the word cock. Right now.”
She licks her bottom lip and my eyes train to it. Don’t move, Connor. But it’s a struggle. Everything she does makes me want to take her hard and fast. And then she gives me her answer in a single, soft breath.
My eyebrows rise. “That’s a big word.”
She gleams with pride. Oh no, Rose. That was not a compliment. I pull her collar and she leans forward on my command. My lips brush her ear. “You’re still thinking properly,” I tell her. “Apparently I haven’t f**ked you hard enough.”
I feel her sex tighten around my erection in quick, short pulsing motions. Her mouth needs to catch up with her body. It has no trouble begging for me.
I don’t move yet. I let her soak and squirm while I wait, trying my best to harness my own aching needs. “One word,” I say again. My fingers dig into the soft skin on her hip and then I slide my fingers, edging up the length of her thigh.
“Lascivious.” Her pronunciation slurs on the end and her head falls back, her eyelids fluttering as I begin to thrust again.
I stop after two short pumps. “One word.” I yank the collar and her eyes shoot open.
I let go of the collar and place both hands on her hips, and then I lift her off my shaft. I watch the way her body responds in distress. Not liking that I’m taking her away from me. When I bring her back down, filling her up, I do it hard. Our bodies make noises together. Flesh on flesh. Groans against moans. Ragged breathing that fills the silent air. I do it three more times, basically bench pressing her on my dick.
It might be my second favorite position. Right behind having her spread apart, tied up, gagged and left soaked and waiting on the bed.
On her third or fourth sharp gasp, I pause again, keeping her motionless with me deep inside. “One word.”
She doesn’t hesitate. “Fuck.” There we go.
I take her in my arms again and make sure it’s the last word she remembers.
* * *
We talk for a while, Rose on her stomach, the comforter at her waist while I have an elbow propped on my pillow. I run my hand over her lower and upper back, massaging any tense muscles and engraining the velvet of her skin in my mind.
I adore these moments after sex, almost as much as the actual act. Her stress has been reduced to a minimum. Even when she talks about her to-do list—her worries and fears—it’s with an easy breath, not a strained one.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to keep Daisy with us after the show ends,” Rose says softly. “I talked with my mother, and she won’t let her leave.” She has her cheek on her pillow, turned to me. “Maybe if there’s a season two, she’d be able to live with us.”
A season two? Another six months dealing with Scott, with invasive cameras following our every move? “You’d want that?” I ask.
“No,” she says frankly. “I already have what I wanted out of the show. Fizzle stocks are high. A couple retailers are looking to store my pieces. People sympathize more with Lily than they ever have.” This last fact has her smiling. “That’s the best part,” she admits.
It’s hard to deny Lily’s love for Loren or his love for her when they’re always together on the show. “They’re easy to root for,” I say, kissing her shoulder. “You just have to understand them first.” That’s the hard part. Being willing to look past their addictions and see a person.
She shuts her heavy eyes for a second, but I don’t want her to sleep just yet. I have to ask something important while she’s in a complacent mood.
“About the wedding,” I start. And before I can finish, she interjects, her eyes shooting open.
“Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you, I showed Lily her wedding gown the other day, and she was happy, Connor.” Rose smiles like it’s a fantasy. My stomach twists in knots. She supports her body on her forearms to look at me better. “She squealed and bounced like she was excited. I think she’s finally ready to get married.”
“That’s great,” I say, not able to control my stilted voice. “I’m happy for her.”
She frowns, and then she hits my arm. “You don’t sound happy.”
My hand stops on her lower back. “I’m with a girl who refused to take part in childhood games of marriage, and now you’re fawning over someone else’s wedding.” She’s told me before that when Lily and Lo pretended to get married as little kids, she destroyed all of the flowers by ripping them off the stems, and then she called everyone “stupid” and stormed away.
“If you’re worried whether I’ll mutilate the flowers at their wedding, don’t be. I picked them out. They’re having orchids.”
“I changed them.”
Her eyes jolt further open, and she sits all the way up, holding the sheet to her chest. She points at me. “If my mother swayed you to orange lilies and teal ribbon—”
I cover her mouth. “I didn’t consult your mother on any of the final arrangements, I promise.”
“Then what’s this about?” she asks. “You look like you failed a math test.”
I edge close to her and kiss her temple. “I was just thinking about us.”
She freezes. “And it upset you?”
I’ve always been the most confident, the most prepared, but never the most forthcoming. And all of these are being overturned. How can you be confident when someone else holds your fate? I can’t make my own if she’s won’t deal me some cards.
“I’m all in,” I tell her. “I want the kids. I want the wedding ring on your finger. I want all of it with you, Rose. Where’s your head at?” We haven’t talked about this in months. The last time we did, she denounced my vain concept of children, but after dealing with Daisy, Lily—she has to see that we’d be good together, beyond academic rivals, beyond great sex. We’re compatible in life. And that’s what matters most.
She shakes her head as she stares off in thought.
My chest constricts, and I try to make this easier for her. “Imagine yourself in two years. What do you see?”
After a long silence, she says, “I see you working for Cobalt Inc. beside your mother, and I see us taking vacations together with my sisters and their boyfriends or husbands, whatever they’ve done in two years.” She rolls her eyes but smiles at that future.
I wait for her to finish, but that’s it. “What about Calloway Couture?”
“I don’t know. I’d probably have more employees to help me. I wouldn’t be so focused on it, or at least, I don’t want to be.”
I frown, not expecting this answer at all. “But you love fashion.”
“You loved Wharton.”
I shake my head at her. It’s not the same. And I’ll show her why. “Can you really quit your business, Rose? Would that make you happy?”
She lets out a deep breath like she’s combatted with this all before. “No. I would be miserable without Calloway Couture, but I’m miserable trying to keep it running. I have no control in what happens to the line once it goes in the store. It could be pulled in a year, less than that. And then I have to work hard all over again. For what?”
“So that women may wear your clothes, darling.”
“It’s not even close to that, Rose,” I tell her with narrowed eyes. “You give women clothes that they can feel confident in. You empower them in a way you know how, and that will never be foolish. That’s beautiful and brilliant and something you can’t forget.”
And then she kisses me. Her hand clenching my hair as her lips press against mine. I smile and urge her lips open for a second, our tongues meeting in an embrace that clutches my mind and refuses to let go.
But she breaks first, holding my cheek in a delicate hand. “Thank you,” she says. “You’re right—” She puts her fingers to my lips. “Don’t you dare gloat.”
I try not to grin too much.
Her lips rise. “I’m going to try to find a way to be happy with what I have. I don’t want to keep thinking it’s never enough. And I’m not ready to give it all up either.”
I grab her hand, dropping it from my mouth. “That’s a smart decision.” I brush the bottom of her reddened lip. “And in ten years, when your sisters and their husbands have children and families of their own, what do you picture for yourself?”
“I can’t look that far,” she refutes.
“Lies,” I scoff with the click of my tongue. “You’ve mapped out your life already.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s what you and I do. We envision our futures and we make it happen.”
She squeezes my knee. “Now you make us seem utterly shallow and vain.”
“We are,” I say. “But in the best way.” I grin and wait for her to tell me. I want to hear it.
“I see you and me together, and we’re eating Thanksgiving at our house. Loren and Lily come over. They don’t have kids, but they’re happy with that. And Daisy will arrive on her motorcycle with some drifter boyfriend we all hate. Ryke won’t be there. He’ll be…climbing some mountain in another country, backpacking or something insane. And you and I will be drinking wine by the fire after everyone goes to bed.”
Anywhere. Not even for her sisters.
That’s how scared she is. “What frightens you about having kids?” I ask her, skimming her palm with my fingers, tracing the lines while she comes to an answer.
She goes rigid, and I sit all the way up and rub her legs that peek beneath the sheet. “Failure,” she says with a tight voice. “What if they hate me? What if I don’t show them the love they deserve? What if I turn out like my mother and suffocate each one?” She pauses. “I don’t want to ruin a human being, Richard.”
I stroke her hair, pinning a strand behind her ear. “You won’t, Rose. I’ll be here to help you, and I have no doubt that you’ll love each of our children as much as the next one.”
I wait for her to refute. To shoot me a dark glare and snap about me not knowing anything about kids since I have none. But I know her, and I know she’d be a great mother if she allowed herself the chance to be one. And to believe this—all anyone needs is a glimpse into how she treats her sisters. With compassion, dedication and soul-bearing love. She gives all of herself to the people she cares for.
“In our late thirties, if we’re ready, if you help me, I can imagine a little girl or two…” She trails off as she stares at my face. “What?”
My mouth has fallen, and then my surprise transforms into the purest f**king joy. I smile so bright; I can’t do anything but kiss her on the cheek, on the lips. I tackle her on the bed and pin her to the mattress.
“Richard,” she says with a smile. “Stop for a second.”
I grin. “You want children?” She said yes.
“When I’m thirty-five or older,” she retorts.
She wants children.
I kiss her deeply.
“You have to help me,” she says between kisses.
Help. She’s asking for help. A girl who struggled to take my college blazer to hide a stain is willingly opening her arms to me—to us. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was be on your team, Rose.” I laugh as I remember. “You, Miss Highest Honors, were the one who chose to be my rival by attending Princeton.”
She tilts her head. “I like competing against you.” She sits up on her elbows, her lips so close to mine as she says, “But I like being your teammate more.”
“Me too, darling.”
[ 46 ]
7 days – Mom
I try not to let the countdown alter my mood anymore. I’m more upset that Poppy, my oldest sister, decided not to come to Lily’s bachelorette party. Since we’re spending the weekend in Vegas with the cameras—and Scott, tall villainous Scott—she chose to stay back in Philly. At least she wants to be a part of the wedding.