A lot of readers have asked me to post the Chasing Perfection epilogue that was written specifically for the Box Set. Of course I will be happy to. So here you go. Hope you’ll enjoy it. 🙂
Chasing Perfection Epilogue
The sun wasn’t up yet, but I knew I’d never be able to get back to sleep. I hadn’t slept more than a couple hours every night this week. A quick glance in the hallway mirror told me that my lack of sleep was starting to show, starting with the dark circles under my eyes.
I didn’t need to keep looking to know what the rest of me looked like. Big, dark brown eyes that I’d used more than once to get something I wanted. Coloring that I’d been told was exotic. I’d always had long black hair, but I chopped it off last fall, right after…
I shook my head and tried to push the thoughts back. I wasn’t successful, but that didn’t surprise me. Thoughts of that mid-November day weren’t always at the forefront of my mind the way they’d been right after it happened, but they’d been coming back more and more over the last week.
It made sense, I reminded myself as I smoothed my hand over my stomach. I’d been this far along when I lost…her.
I forced myself to think of her name. Bethany Elizabeth Jensen Ricci.
I sometimes wondered if I had made the right choice, agreeing to the delivery, seeing her, but a part of me knew that if I hadn’t, I would’ve regretted it the rest of my life.
I entered the nursery, my feet following the same path they’d taken the last few nights. I looked at the boxes resting against the pale yellow walls, none of them open. Before I came home from the hospital last November, we’d hired someone to repaint the room from the sea foam green we’d originally chosen. Carrie and Gavin had packed up the room at the same time, and at our request, had donated everything to a charity for needy families. DeVon and I hadn’t had the strength to do it ourselves.
I walked past the boxes and opened the French doors that led out to a small balcony. The cool breeze caressed my face as I stepped outside. Summer in LA could be brutal, but the nights were relatively cool out where DeVon and I had purchased this house. We’d done that shortly after I discovered I was pregnant.
I didn’t realize my hand was rubbing over my stomach until I felt movement beneath my palm. I closed my eyes as tears burned against my eyelids. I hadn’t really been overly emotional during this pregnancy…except when I thought about…before.
“Let’s just get through this week,” I whispered, opening my eyes again. I wasn’t sure if I was talking to myself or…
Before, I’d had no problem using the word baby. She’d never been anything else to me. This time, however, I tried to keep myself distant, not get attached. I told DeVon that I hadn’t wanted to know the gender because I wanted to be surprised, but I had a feeling he knew that once I knew, it would no longer be an it, but a him or her.
Losing a child broke apart more marriages than I wanted to think about, and while DeVon and I weren’t married – or even engaged – losing Bethany could’ve broken us. Instead, we’d let it bring us together.
In every way but one.
As soon as my doctor had approved sex after the miscarriage, DeVon and I had started working towards regaining some sense of normality. For us, that meant getting our sex life back. Not just making love, but fucking.
All of that was part of the world that brought DeVon and I together, that made us who we were, both apart and together as a couple.
I truly believed it saved us.
We’d worked through our grief, comforted each other.
And then I’d needed antibiotics for a bout of bronchitis, but, in a moment of passion, had forgotten that they made my birth control pills less effective.
Now, I was twenty-one weeks along, which was when I’d lost Bethany.
I hated that word. Like I’d misplaced her or something. Like I didn’t know exactly where she was. Where she’d be forever.
DeVon’s quiet voice cut through my thoughts before the dark cloud could settle over me. His hands slid around my waist, moving over the gentle curve of my stomach to settle there. He kissed the top of my head, but didn’t say anything else.
He didn’t have to. He knew why I hadn’t been sleeping, why he’d found me in here the past two nights. We hadn’t talked about it, but I knew he was thinking about it too. His concerns had to be worse than mine, but we still didn’t talk about it. If he wanted to know what I knew, he’d ask me.
I knew why Bethany died. While it didn’t take away my anxiety, it did change it. When the doctor offered us the chance to read the report, DeVon had refused. I read it though. DeVon hadn’t been angry with me, but I knew he hadn’t understood why I’d done it. Why it had been so important for me to do so. I hadn’t realized it myself until I’d gotten the doctor’s confirmation that I was pregnant again.
“Come back to bed.” DeVon kissed the space behind my ear.
“Will you make love to me if I do?” I asked the question without looking at him.
His body stiffened, and that told me his answer before he spoke. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
We stood in silence for a few more minutes, and then he pulled away. I let him go, knowing he would do what he’d done the last few days. Shower, then work. My question would go unanswered.
Except, tonight, things would be different.
Tonight, I intended to use every trick I knew to convince the man I loved to sleep with me.
If I didn’t, I might just explode.
It wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine to find sexy lingerie for pregnant women. I’d opted for simple, so that had given me more of a selection. I didn’t want to freak DeVon out as soon as he saw me. I knew I had to approach this in just the right manner.
DeVon had always been protective of me, even though he knew I could take care of myself. He treated me as an equal partner, always took my opinions into consideration, and he never held back in the bedroom. But when I was sick, he treated me like I was made of glass, almost to the point where he drove me nuts.
It wasn’t entirely his fault, I knew. When he’d been eleven, his mother had died from an illness his father refused to discuss even more than twenty years later, only telling DeVon and his brother, Franco, that it wasn’t genetic.
The loss of his mother had hit DeVon hard, but not as hard as it had a few years later when he’d discovered that his parents had hidden the sickness from the boys, and that his mother hadn’t tried to seek out treatment. She hadn’t tried to live.
The first time I’d gotten sick, I quickly learned that if I didn’t put my foot down, I’d be in for a hospital stay for a case of the sniffles.
The last time I was pregnant, he’d been attentive, but not even close to paranoid. He’d gone with me to the doctor’s appointments, asked questions, but never once had he actually treated me differently. We’d made allowances for my changing body and hormones and all that comes with carrying a baby, but there’d been no fear that he’d lose me.
Until the morning I’d woken up and realized something terrible was wrong. He’d kept it together for me, never panicking, never breaking down, not even after the doctor wasn’t able to find Bethany’s heartbeat.
DeVon had been my rock, holding me together while we grieved. And I’d known he’d been mourning with me, but I hadn’t realized just how deep it had gone until I’d woken up in the middle of the night and found him sitting in a chair in the corner of my hospital room, sobbing.
When I started suspecting that I was pregnant again, I’d been almost as scared of DeVon’s reaction as I had been of the test results myself. I’d kept it to myself when I’d taken two home tests, and even when I’d gone to the doctor for the blood test. Only when I’d been absolutely sure had I told him.
He’d immediately asked how I was, calm and cool as ever, but I’d seen the shadow on his face, in his eyes. He’d been terrified. No matter how many times the doctors had reassured him – and I’d even gotten second and third opinions at his request – he’d become almost suffocatingly overprotective.
We’d fought about it so many times in those early couple weeks that I hadn’t even realized we weren’t having sex until I’d finally told him that I needed him to treat me the same as he always had. I didn’t know if it’d been him actually agreeing, or him not wanting to upset me, but either way, it’d gotten him to relax a bit.
Only after we’d settled those initial issues had I realized that our sex life had shifted. For the first couple months, we still had sex, but it was always slow and gentle. We’d lost the parts of it that had made it ours. I wasn’t into actual pain, but he’d taught me how to enjoy the rougher aspects of sex…spanking, flogging, clamps. I might’ve been too independent to be considered a true Sub, but in those ways, I was definitely into the bdsm lifestyle.
DeVon had been in it longer than I had, and he was a Dom through and through. He wanted to be in control. He was a true Dominant, understanding that caring for his Submissive was his priority, and he’d always done that.
We’d hit a block.
As I’d gotten closer to the time when it happened, I’d found him initiating sex less and less. When I initiated, he’d make sure I came, but it had been gentle and tender. While I did like that side of him, the one only I got to see, I missed the other side of him. I craved a rougher touch, but I’d resolved myself to wait it out.
Then, two weeks ago, DeVon announced that he didn’t intend to have sex with me again until after the baby was born. I hadn’t bothered arguing with him, thinking that he’d change his mind. I’d never known DeVon to go more than a few days without sex, certainly less than that after we’d moved in together. Then I’d tried to initiate sex with him last week, and he turned me down.
Today, however, I was determined that I’d get what I wanted…or he’d have to watch me get myself off, because I wasn’t going to sleep completely frustrated tonight.
I’d taken the day off work because I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and while DeVon was there for the sonogram, we hadn’t left together, so I’d been able to hang back and get what I needed from the doctor. All of the papers she’d given me were sitting in a folder on the bed. Proof of everything I was going to tell DeVon when he arrived home in a few minutes. They were part of my plan, but not all of it.
The other part was all me. I’d done my hair and make-up, keeping it simple, but accentuating my eyes and mouth. The nightie I’d chosen was lace and silk, a rich crimson that complemented my coloring. It hit me mid-thigh, leaving most of my long legs bare. The top was half sheer lace, hinting at the tops of my nipples while the slightly heavier material covered the rest of my breasts. They were already heavier, more sensitive than they had been before, and the sensuous slide of material hardened my nipples into points.
When I heard the door open downstairs, I went to the door so I could be sure DeVon heard me.
“I’m in the bedroom,” I called. I moved back inside and took a seat on the bed, resting against the pillows to give my back support.
“Why are you up here?” DeVon asked as I heard him hurry up the stairs. “Is everything okay…?”
His question trailed off as he stopped one step into the bedroom. His dark eyes widened, heat flashing across them as they ran down my body.
“Krissy, what the hell?” His voice was weak, so weak it made me smile.
I gestured toward the bed, patting a spot beside me. “Take a seat. We need to talk.”
I was pretty sure I was going to explode.
I’d always been a bit…enthusiastic about control, always considered myself to be in control. And I was stretching that almost to the breaking point at the moment.
It wasn’t just the sex either. I was still perfectly capable of relieving my own sexual tension, but it was less satisfying than it had ever been before. Aside from the obvious fact that there weren’t any bdsm elements when I was jerking off in the shower, I missed the connection to Krissy.
Sex had never been about connection for me, not before Krissy. I’d been all about getting off, and being in control in the process. Even making sure my partners reached climax had been all about me, about my prowess as a lover, my ability to bring them to orgasm. Over and over.
Then I’d met Krissy and my life changed. Everything I wanted, everything I thought I needed…shifted. The moment she told me she was pregnant, things had changed again. My world no longer had a single center, but two points that I revolved around.
And then one of those points was gone.
It’d been almost a year since Krissy had woken me up, terrified. I’d fought to keep myself from completely breaking down when Krissy needed me the most. Sometimes, it had that surreal quality that made it seem like it’d happened to someone else. Sometimes it felt like it’d just happened yesterday. The pain wasn’t constant, wasn’t as excruciating, as it had been.
But there was still a place in my heart that would always belong to Bethany.
I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples. I’d had a headache when I woke up this morning, and having to turn Krissy down for sex hadn’t helped matters much. I wanted her so badly that it hurt. The physical aspect of it was bad enough, but knowing that my refusal had hurt her was even worse.
I didn’t know what to do, and it was driving me nuts. I always knew what to do, always knew the right actions to take. There was always something I could do. I spent years working my ass off to get where I was, to get my reputation. I’d always been the agent who’d been able to get things done. I never did anything illegal, never crossed any lines, not exactly anyway. I knew where to apply pressure and who to apply it to. And I applied it well.
But there wasn’t any pressure to be applied here, nothing I could do to ensure that Krissy and our baby would be safe. I hadn’t been able to save Bethany. No amount of money or yelling or threatening could’ve done anything to stop what happened, and nothing I could do or say would be able to keep it from happening again.
But, dammit, I would do everything within my power to make sure things went differently this time.
An unfamiliar voice came over the intercom. My assistant, Melissa, had taken a couple weeks vacation so she could finally go on the Alaskan cruise she’d been wanting to take. I had a temp replacement whose name I still didn’t know.
“Your five o’clock canceled,” she said. “He said he’ll reschedule next week.”
“And you have a call from Steven Morrison on the line.”
I frowned. Steven should’ve been working with the prep team on the second season of Hard Wire, the dramatic series he and I were producing together for one of the biggest premium cable channels. He usually didn’t call unless there was a problem.
“I’ll take it now,” I said, picking up the phone. “Hey, Steven.”
“DeVon! Hey, I thought for sure you would’ve called me as soon as you heard, but that gorgeous woman of yours was probably busy congratulating you, am I right?” Steven’s voice boomed over the phone.
Short and stocky, he looked more like a used car salesman than an award-winning director and producer, but he was one of the best in the industry. And he was one of the few people I liked.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. I could hear people cheering in the background and wondered which scene they were shooting today.
“You don’t know?” Steven asked. “Holy shit! I guess I get to be the one to tell you then.”
My head was already spinning by the time I arrived home. It was a much longer drive to the house than it had been to the penthouse, but Krissy and I had both wanted to raise our children outside the city. As soon as the door closed, I heard Krissy calling from upstairs.
Immediately, panic went through me. Why was Krissy in our bedroom? Things had gone well at the doctor’s office, I thought, but she’d taken the rest of the day off. I’d assumed she’d been tired and had wanted to go home and take a nap. She’d done it before. But she’d never still been in bed when I’d gotten home.
I took the steps two at a time, bursting into the bedroom with the question half-way out before I registered what I was seeing. Krissy was sitting in bed, wearing a fairly simple, but extremely sexy nightgown. A need too sharp to merely be called arousal spiked through me.
“Krissy, what the hell?”
I barely registered her telling me to sit down, but I definitely heard her saying those four dreaded words – we need to talk. I was confused and emotionally exhausted, unable to reconcile the words that should’ve signaled the end of a relationship with the way she was dressed. I sank to the edge of the bed.
“Don’t look so freaked out,” she said as she reached over and took my hand. “I just felt like it was about time the two of us had a talk.”
My eyes narrowed as I started to make connections. “We’re not talking about that, Krissy. Sex is off the table until…”
I couldn’t say it. I knew it was silly, but a part of me felt like talking about it would somehow jinx things.
“Off the table?” Krissy’s full lips curved into a devious smile.
As I watched, she used her free hand to slowly pull her nightgown up her thighs. She shifted, parting her knees until I could tell she wasn’t wearing any panties. And, fuck me, she’d shaved.
“Krissy.” I let a warning note creep into my voice.
“And this is why we needed to talk.” She released my hand and gestured toward a stack of papers I hadn’t noticed until now.
I picked them up, but didn’t open the folder. Something told me there were things I didn’t want to see in here. If she hadn’t been so clearly trying to seduce me, I would’ve worried that she’d just given me divorce papers.
“At the doctor’s today, there were a couple things I asked her to look for.”
I tensed. I really hoped she wasn’t going with this where I thought she was.
“And there were questions I knew you wouldn’t ask, so I did.”
She pulled her feet up under her, leaning over until she could rest her chin on my shoulder. Her full breasts pressed against my arm, and my cock went from half-hard to full mast in seconds.
“In there, you’ll find an embarrassingly specific list of things that are perfectly safe for us to do, as well as how far into the pregnancy we can do them.”
I closed my eyes.
I was torn. I wanted her, but I also didn’t want to do anything to endanger our child. As painful as my erection pressing against my zipper was, there was no question what I was going to choose.
I shook my head. “It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to risk–”
“Another paper in there,” she kept talking over me. “Are the test results saying that our baby is perfectly healthy.”
My heart caught in my throat as I opened my eyes. She’d said baby. Something had changed. Until this moment, she’d said the pregnancy or it. Never baby.
“I know you don’t want to know what happened…before, but I think we need to talk about it.” Her voice was soft, gentle.
I didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to think about it, but the love on Krissy’s face made me stay where I was. I pressed my lips together. I wasn’t going to stop her, but I wouldn’t encourage her either.
“Anencephaly,” she said.
I gave her a puzzled look.
“It’s the condition that our…that Bethany died from.”
I automatically reached for her when her voice wavered, wrapping my arm around her shoulders. I pressed my lips against her forehead and waited. She wasn’t done talking yet.
“I did research on it, and all of it’s in that file, but the important thing part is that nothing we did could’ve caused it. Not travel. Not sex.” Her hand rested on my knee. “Not even how we do it.”
I swallowed hard. I wanted so badly to accept what she was saying. She picked up my hand and put it on her stomach.
“Risk comes with the territory,” she continued. “But the doctor said that what happened before…there’s no evidence of that being the case now.”
I turned toward her, letting my fingers curve across her belly. “You have no idea how badly I want you.”
The hand on my knee moved to my crotch and I stifled a groan.
“I think I have a pretty good idea.”
I started to shake my head again. “Babe, we can’t…”
“I’m not asking you to tie me up and spank me, DeVon.” She gave my cock a gentle squeeze. “I understand if you’re not comfortable with any of that, but I want you to make love to me.”
I wasn’t sure how I could say no to that.
“DeVon.” She brushed her lips across mine. “I need you inside me.”
I sighed, closing my eyes. I certainly couldn’t say no to that. And if I was honest with myself, I didn’t want to refuse her. I wanted to be inside her.
“Up on the bed,” I said softly as I made up my mind. My eyes met hers and I let her see that she’d won. Then again, if it meant I got to be with her, I won too.
She slid back toward the pillows as I quickly shed everything I was wearing. I climbed onto the bed, my stomach tightening when I saw Krissy’s eyes slide down, growing darker when she reached my waist.
I grasped her hips, gently maneuvering her into the exact position I wanted. She didn’t say a word as I settled between her legs, spreading them until I was able to put them over my shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” I said, brushing my fingers across her golden skin, then followed the path with my lips.
Krissy chuckled, a sound that made me even harder. “Babe, I think you may be the first man to apologize for refusing to have sex.”
I laughed too, but it didn’t last long. “I’m not apologizing for that,” I clarified. “Not exactly.” I looked up at her, letting myself appreciate the full beauty of the woman I loved. “I’m sorry that I didn’t stay with you to hear what happened. That you had to go through all of that alone.”
She gave me a soft smile, her hand reaching down to brush over my hair, to run her fingers through it. “No regrets, okay? We move forward. Partners.”
She nodded, emotion crossing her face. “Family.”
After a moment of holding each other’s gazes, I lowered my head. I hadn’t gone down on her in two weeks and the first pass of my tongue made us both shiver. I licked her slow and deep, taking my time with every inch of sensitive skin. I held her in place as she writhed and keened, calling out my name as I felt her come against my mouth once, twice.
I pushed myself up so I could lean over her body, desperate to taste more of her. I pulled down the front of her nightgown, baring her magnificent breasts. I cupped her in both hands, brushing my thumbs over her hard nipples. She panted as I lowered my head, licking and sucking the sensitive skin even as I lowered my fingers between her legs.
She moaned my name, her hips moving against my hand as I slipped a finger inside. When I scraped my teeth over her nipple, she whimpered, her fingers fisting in my hair, holding me against her. When she came again, her nails dug into my scalp, sending delicious pricks of pain racing across my nerves.
I pulled back, letting her nipple go even as I grabbed her hips again. She made a sound of protest that turned into a wail as I buried myself inside her. I moved with slow, steady strokes, taking my time with each one. I wanted to make this last.
I lost all track of time, focusing only on Krissy and making up for two weeks of not taking care of her the way I should have. My own pleasure rode the line of pain as I used every ounce of my self-control to stave off my own orgasm.
“Please, baby,” Krissy begged. Her nails raked down my back, across my ass, leaving trails of fire on my skin. “Please come with me.”
I looked down at her, our eyes locking. I ran my thumb across her bottom lip, then slid it into her mouth. Her teeth scraped the pad of my flesh and I sucked in a breath. When she sucked on it, my hips jerked. I felt my control slipping and one look at Krissy’s face told me that was exactly what she wanted.
Then she was raising her hips to meet me, driving me deeper, harder. And then I was coming, spots dancing in front of my eyes. I swore, squeezing my eyes closed as I emptied inside her.
Some time later, when my legs started working again, I got up and headed for the bathroom. I came back with a damp washcloth, putting Krissy’s nightgown back into place as I cleaned her up. When I finally crawled into bed, pulling her tight against me, I realized that something inside me had eased.
It was still early and neither of us had eaten dinner, but for right now, I was completely content just to lay in bed with my arms around the woman I loved.
After a few minutes, she broke the silence.
“So, babe, how was your day?”
I laughed, pressing my lips against her shoulder. “Actually, something interesting did happen…”
I wasn’t sure which was more surreal, the fact that I was going to be a mom in about a month or that I was getting dressed to go to the Emmys.
When DeVon and Steven had come up with the idea of making a television show starring some of Mirage’s top clients, we’d known it’d be a risky business venture. In all honesty, we hadn’t really thought it’d get very far. The concept was based on a series of books I’d read and had mentioned once to DeVon. When he and Steven had started throwing the idea around of making a tv show, I’d said they should use the books.
Things had gone much faster than any of us had anticipated at that point, and we’d found ourselves getting in just under the cut-off date for this year’s Emmys. Not that we’d thought anything of it…until mid-July when Steven had called DeVon to congratulate him on news that DeVon hadn’t even heard.
Hard Wire had been nominated for five different Emmys. Landon Sully, the lead and one of our closest friends in LA, was up for lead actor in a drama series. Lena Dunn, one of my first clients when I’d come to work at Mirage, was up for lead actress for her role as Landon’s boss. We had one nomination for best writing and one for best direction for Steven. And the whole show was nominated for best drama series.
We’d suspected we’d get a lot of acclaim from critics for casting Landon since he’d been Hollywood’s newest hot commodity after having publicly come out. Despite a lot of people thinking it’d hurt his career as an action star, it hadn’t. At all. In fact, he was so busy that I doubted he would’ve taken the time from movies to work on a tv show if it hadn’t been DeVon and I asking.
The craziest part of all of this was that Hard Wire wasn’t just a hit with the critics. We’d acquired not only the fans of the books – who’d loved our interpretation for the most part – but legions of new fans who’d tuned in either because of Landon or because they’d been intrigued by the story. These were fans who didn’t just think the actors were hot or who simply enjoyed a show or two. These were the kinds of fans who knew the names of every single person involved with the show, including DeVon and I. To the point that we were getting baby name suggestions on fan sites.
“Don’t worry,” I murmured as I smoothed my hand over my stomach. “We’re not going to name you Legion of Darkness, no matter how much the fans want it.”
“You talking to me, babe?” DeVon came into the bedroom, still fiddling with his tie.
I shook my head. “Nope. Talking to the love of my life.”
His smile was full of the sort of tenderness and love of which most people never would’ve thought DeVon capable. He crossed the room, tie forgotten as he put his hands on my belly.
“And how are the two most important people in my life?”
It may have sounded like a cliché question, but I knew better. DeVon had been doing much better when it came to being too overprotective of me, but I knew he was just worried. I was too. Granted, all of the tests we’d had done had been huge in putting our minds at ease, but I knew that neither of us would completely relax until we were holding our child in our arms.
“We’re doing well,” I said, tilting my head up for a kiss. He obliged, making it more than a mere brush of lips, but less than one of his scorching, take-me-to-bed kisses.
His arms slid around my waist, which was no small feat at the moment, and his expression sobered. “Are you sure you’re feeling up to going?”
“I’m feeling as well as an eight-month pregnant woman can feel,” I assured him. To lighten the mood, I added, “And if you’re worried about showing up with your pregnant girlfriend on your arm, I can call Landon. I’m sure the two of us would cause more of a stir on the red carpet.”
DeVon laughed and his arms tightened around me. “I don’t care if his boyfriend was just named one of the sexiest men alive, my date is still hotter.”
“Damn right.” I kissed his chin. “Now, fix your tie while I finish up. The limo’s supposed to be here in ten minutes.”
His eyes darkened and I nearly squirmed under the intensity of his gaze. “The things I could do to you in ten minutes.”
“Really?” I raised an eyebrow. “Do tell.”
“First, I’d have to decide if I wanted to take off that dress or leave it on.”
I loved this dress. My PA, Tracy, had spent weeks looking for the absolute perfect outfit. I’d told her not to bother since I was going to look like a giant hot air balloon no matter what I wore. As soon as I’d seen this dress, I was glad she hadn’t listened.
It was a deep, rich purple that really did make me look like one of those glowing pregnant women everyone always talked about. Combined with simple jewelry and a pair of wedge shoes that were stylish but also allowed me to walk, I felt almost like my normal self again.
“So,” I said. “In the dress or out of it?”
“Can’t I have two fantasies?” he asked.
I shivered at the sound of his voice. I loved hearing him talk like that, his Italian accent thickening as his arousal grew. I’d often thought that he could make me come from talking alone.
“Ten minutes isn’t long,” he continued. “So if I wanted to lick you open, make you come on my mouth before taking you, hard and fast over the edge of the bed, I’d probably leave the dress on, just shove it up to your waist.”
My pussy clenched. Shit.
“But then I wouldn’t be able to see those gorgeous tits.” He slid his hand up to my neck, resting his thumb on my rapidly increasing pulse. “So if I wanted to tease you a bit, I’d strip you down to your panties, bend you over the chair.”
I liked where this was going.
“Then I’d spank you until your ass was red, until I knew you’d be feeling it all through the show tonight. After I was done, I’d pinch and twist your nipples until even silk was rough against your skin.”
I made a small sound in the back of my throat. It’d be a long time before my nipples could handle any of that again.
He wasn’t done yet. “I’d work you up to the edge, but never let you go over. Then I’d fuck you, hard enough that every time you moved, you’d feel me. But I wouldn’t let you come. I’d make you sit like that all night, hovering on the brink.”
I caught my breath, my nipples tightening under my dress, my body throbbing in response to his words, to the images they created.
“Maybe I’d make you wait until we got home to finally give you release.” He traced my jaw with his fingers. “Or maybe I’d take you at the afterparty, sneak into one of the guest rooms. Maybe in the limo on the way there, make you suck me until I was hard, then ride me until we both exploded.”
I closed my eyes. His lips brushed against my forehead, and then he was stepping back.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
I opened my eyes to see an annoyed look on his face.
“I hope the limo’s not early.” He looked down at the very obvious erection straining against his pants. “Otherwise, this could be a bit embarrassing.”
I knew what he meant. My entire body was flushed and I was pretty sure I’d have to change my panties now.
He started for the bathroom to work on his tie, but I stopped him before he got too far.
He looked over his shoulder.
“Add them to the list.”
His eyes darkened even further. “I will,” he promised.
I turned back toward the mirror and wondered if I should add some concealer or if the blush would fade by the time we arrived. If I let myself think about the list, I knew I’d be hot and bothered for hours.
Both DeVon and I were more than willing to curtail our sex life these last few months, but it hadn’t been easy, especially since we’d become accustomed to using sex to relieve tension and frustration. Half as a joke, I’d started a list of the things I wanted us to do when we were able. Then DeVon had added to it, and it had grown from there. It was half-humor, half-promises, and it was full of all sorts of decadent, delicious things.
I ran my hand over my prominent baby bump again. “I don’t regret you,” I whispered. “Not for a moment. But I can’t deny that I’ll be happy when Daddy and I can play again.”
I smiled as the baby rolled under my hand, then winced at the sharp kick. There was no way I would miss tonight, but I wasn’t going to be very comfortable either. I just wasn’t planning on telling DeVon that. This was his night, and nothing was going to spoil it.
I shifted in my seat, trying to avoid making a face. While we weren’t relegated to sitting in folding chairs, any seat was bound to become uncomfortable after a few hours, especially when there happened to be a baby dancing on my bladder. I’d already been to the bathroom twice, but I didn’t think that was the issue now.
Only a little while longer now. Our other categories had already gone. The writer had lost out to the series finale of one of the decade’s biggest shows. Lena had lost to the lead of that same show. Steven had won best director and Landon had just sat back down after having won his award. All that was left was best dramatic series, and that was coming up next.
Just a few more minutes.
“You okay?” Landon leaned over, a concerned expression on his handsome face.
I nodded. “Just restless.”
“That doesn’t look restless to me,” Landon said. He put his hand on my arm. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
I glanced at DeVon who was involved in a discussion with Steven about a new development in a contract dispute.
“I’m…uncomfortable,” I said, lowering my voice. “Probably a little more than I should be.”
Landon’s eyes widened as his gaze dropped to my stomach. “Are you…I mean, it’s not…”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s probably nothing. Gas. Braxton Hicks.” My hand moved over my belly. “I can feel the baby moving, but…I don’t know.”
“We need to get you to a hospital,” Landon said.
I shook my head. “After.”
Landon’s eyes narrowed. “Krissy…”
I glared at him. “If you say one word to him, I’ll personally write a scene where your character wakes up in a bed of snakes. And I’ll make sure they’re live ones.”
“That’s not funny.” He sat back in his seat. “If you get to be anything more than uncomfortable…”
“I’ll make the call myself,” I promised.
The expression on his face said he didn’t believe me, but I was telling the truth. If I thought something was wrong, I would’ve left that second, but I didn’t have any reason to think it was anything other than the usual false labor pains most women had.
Then the presenter for the last category came forward, and I pushed everything else aside to offer DeVon my full support. I took his hand, and he glanced at me, giving me a tight smile. He’d been excited about tonight, but no one other than me had seen how anxious he was about it too.
He’d worked so long and hard to get where he was professionally, and I knew the idea of failure wasn’t something he liked. Not that he would really see losing as a failure. After all, the fact that the show had even been nominated was a big deal, and DeVon knew that. But I knew he wanted to win. It was in his personality.
Just as the presenter was opening the card, several things happened at once.
A sharp pain went through me.
I managed to keep smiling, but I couldn’t stop my hand from tensing around DeVon’s.
He turned toward me, eyes widening.
The word popped out as I felt a rush of hot liquid.
My eyes met DeVon’s. “My water just broke.”
For the past couple hours, I’d been aware of Krissy fidgeting in her seat, trying to get comfortable. I’d tried to convince her to stay home and rest, but she’d insisted on coming. And I really did want her there with me. Even restless, she helped keep me grounded.
It’d been a fight these last nine months not to go completely alpha male over protective on her, and I’d learned my lesson. If she said she was fine, she was fine.
Except the moment I felt her hand squeeze mine, I knew she’d been holding back. Not outright lying, but she’d definitely fudged the truth a bit. I turned toward her, even as I heard her swear.
Then all hell broke loose.
Well, technically, it was her water that broke loose, but it had a similar effect.
I could hear people around me talking, saw security rushing over, but the only person I was focused on was Krissy.
“I’ve got you.” I wrapped my arm around her and helped her up.
Landon was at her other side, and the two of us made our way through the path the security guys cleared for us. Someone – I assumed Steven – had called for our limo to pull back up front. A voice behind us shouted that they’d called for an ambulance, but I wasn’t about to wait. I knew LA traffic, and I was pretty sure my driver could get through to a hospital before an ambulance could get to us.
And I was also fairly certain that Krissy would kill me if I made her wait to be carted out on a gurney with thousands of paparazzi cameras flashing.
So Landon and I got her into the back of the limo and he shouted to the driver where to go. As Krissy settled into the seat, the car took off. I knelt in front of her, balancing through the first few sharp turns as the driver got us onto the main road.
“Shoes off?” I asked, surprising myself with how calm I sounded.
Krissy nodded without opening her eyes. I eased off each shoe and tossed them aside. I felt her muscles tensing and waited for the contraction to ease. My own pulse was racing, but I had to stay relaxed and in control, for her. Fortunately, being in control for Krissy was something I did well.
“Did we win?”
I looked up at her, my eyes meeting hers. “What?”
“Did we win?”
I stared at her. “Are you kidding me?”
“You don’t know.” She sighed. “I waited, and we don’t even know if we won or not.”
“You waited?” I heard the sharp note in my voice as I moved up to the seat next to her. “What do you mean, you waited?”
She waved a dismissive hand, but I could see the strain on her face. “I thought it was false labor. It’s too early.”
My stomach clenched and I had to push back the panic that threatened. “It’s going to be okay. Babies are born early all the time.”
She nodded, but the way she grabbed my hand told me that she wasn’t as reassured as I wanted her to be.
I raised her hand and kissed her knuckles. Her fingers were cold. “It’s going to be okay.”
“I need you to distract me,” Krissy said. “Seriously, DeVon. I can’t think about all the ways this could go wrong. Talk to me. Call Steven and see if we won.”
My hand was in my jacket pocket before I thought about it, but it wasn’t my phone my fingers curled around. And, at the moment, what was in my hand was much more important than any award or any professional accomplishment.
It was probably a hell of a lot more distracting too.
“I actually have to call someone other than Steven,” I said. Krissy gave me a sharp look, and I quickly explained, “I need to call Carrie. She’s here. So’s Gavin and the rest of them.”
“Why are they here?” Krissy winced, hissing air out from between clenched teeth.
I waited out the contraction, trusting her to tell me when she needed me to count breaths with her. When it passed, I pulled my hand out of my pocket.
“They’re here to celebrate with us,” he said. “And I don’t mean the award. I asked them here because I knew you’d want them to be the first to know.” I held up the small box and opened it. “Will you marry me?”
Krissy stared at me for several seconds. “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
Okay, not the answer I’d been looking for.
“You’re seriously asking me to marry you while I’m in the middle of having a baby?”
I could feel the smile tugging at my lips, but I pushed it back. I had a feeling I’d regret it if I smiled now.
“You asked for a distraction.”
If looks could kill.
“I planned on doing it tonight all along,” I said. “It’s been on my mind on and off for a while, and after that night this past July, I knew I wanted to ask you before the baby was born. If we put two last names on the birth certificate, I want it to be because you want to keep yours after we get married, not for any other reason.”
“Almost there, sir!” The limo driver’s voice came over the intercom.
I ignored him. “Okay, so maybe the circumstances aren’t the best, but it doesn’t change the fact that I love you, Krissy, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don’t just want to be our baby’s father. I want to be your husband too.”
Another contraction and the limo screeched to a halt.
I held up the ring even as I heard the driver’s door open. “What do you say?”
Krissy’s eyes met mine, and through the pain and anxiety, I saw love. “Give me the damn ring and then get me some drugs.”
I’d been through a lot in my life. Losing my mother. Moving to a new country where I barely spoke the language. Caught my fiancée in bed with my best friend. Thought I’d fathered a son with a crazy ex. Fell for the most amazing woman. Lost a daughter.
But standing at the side of the woman I loved, hearing her pain and knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it…I hadn’t known I had that kind of strength. And I was pretty sure I really didn’t have it, that I’d only managed to find something inside me I could use because it was for her.
It hadn’t been an easy birth, but when our daughter finally made her appearance, I finally got it. All of it.
Four weeks early, she was put in an incubator to help with her lungs and keep her warm, but the doctors all said she was doing well. And while Krissy was understandably exhausted, she was doing well too.
By the time I went out to the waiting room where our friends were waiting, I’d been up for nearly thirty-six hours. Meeting with them and everything that happened after was a blur, and then, suddenly, I was sitting in a chair in the corner of Krissy’s hospital room, waking up as a nurse came in.
I jerked awake, disoriented for a moment as I looked around the room. Krissy was still sleeping, the steady beeping of the heart monitor a soothing sound.
“Mr. Ricci?” The nurse spoke quietly as she pushed the incubator into the room. “Would you like to see your daughter?”
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her that was a stupid question, but instead I simply nodded. My throat tightened as the incubator stopped in front of me. The nurse gave a couple quick instructions and then left me alone with my wife and my fiancée.
“Ciao, bella,” I whispered around the lump in my throat. I didn’t want to wake Krissy, not yet. Our daughter was thin and wrinkled and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. “Sono tuo padre.”
I cleared my throat as I stood, but I didn’t wipe my eyes. There was no shame in the tears I felt burning down my face. I pulled the incubator over to the bed so Krissy could see.
“She’s beautiful,” I said as I leaned against the bed. I brushed the hair back from Krissy’s face. “And so are you.”
She didn’t contradict me, but I was pretty sure it was more because she couldn’t take her eyes off our daughter rather than agreement on her part.
“Our friends headed back to the house to finish setting things up for us,” I said. “And Carrie’s going to take care of calling our families. I’m guessing we’ll at least have a couple days before they can get here.”
“That’s good,” Krissy said wryly. “I want her to meet our families, but it’ll be nice to be just us for a little while.”
“Our family,” I said. I reached over and took her hand. “The most important people in the world to me.”
“Damn right,” she said. Then she grimaced. “We’re going to have to watch our language, aren’t we?”
I chuckled. “I guess so.”
There was a moment of silence and then she spoke again, “Everything in our life just changed tonight, didn’t it?”
“Yes.” I kept it simple.
“And you’re okay with that?”
I looked down at Krissy so she would see exactly how I felt when I answered her. “Yes. You and Hope are everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“Hope?” Her eyes slid to our daughter. She’d suggested the name a couple days ago, but we hadn’t made any decisions yet.
“Hope,” I repeated. I leaned down and kissed the top of Krissy’s head. “And I’m thinking Emmy for her middle name.”
“Emmy?” Krissy said, looking up at me again.
I grinned. “I figured it was fitting, you know, since we won.” I brushed my lips across hers. “But I’m pretty sure you going into labor was the bigger news.”
She gave me a dirty look, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I looked at my daughter. I had a feeling I wouldn’t stop smiling for a long time.