I heard Rock saying something in the distance, but my body was jerking as those aches and throbs reached a point where they exploded, just like I’d feared. Except it was beautiful. So beautiful I wanted this feeling forever.

It began to fade, and my mind was slowly processing the fact that I had lost myself for a moment and I wasn’t sure what I had done or said while I was lost.

Rock was staring down at me as I opened my eyes, and the first thing I realized was that his h*ps were settled between my legs and he was naked. The hardness I had felt through his jeans many times was now pressing against my oversensitive center, which was already getting excited over another round.

“That was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen. I swear, Trisha, nothing will ever compare to the look on your face just now,” he said, an intensity in his eyes that warmed my heart. “I want inside you. I want to make love to you. I want to be so deep inside you that you’re a part of me.”

Yes. All of that. Yes.

I nodded, and he closed his eyes and whispered what sounded like “Thank God.” When he opened his eyes again, he ran his lips across my collarbone, then up my neck, before he kissed the area behind my ear. “It’ll hurt at first. But I swear I’ll make sure you feel that sweet place again. Trust me.”

“I love you,” was my response.

“Fuck, baby,” he whispered as his hard tip entered me, stretching me in a way that felt right.

I let my legs fall open all the way, and his body shuddered over me. Then he eased in farther until the tight sharpness bit me just before I felt him break through the barrier. I grabbed his arms and held back the cry in my throat. I didn’t want him to stop.

He froze once he was completely inside me. I felt full as the sharp pain throbbed, until it began to ease.

“I’m okay,” I told him, and he inhaled sharply.

Then he moved and a slow burn began in me. With each move of his h*ps I lost my breath and made a noise.

“I love you. I love you so damn much. You make me crazy. You’re mine, Trisha. You’ll always be mine.”

His words warmed me. I slid my legs up the back of his and locked them around his waist.

“Fuuuuuck,” he groaned, and buried his face in my neck. “Them long legs of yours. Just damn, baby. I’m the luckiest son of a bitch in the world.”

Smiling only for a moment, I enjoyed knowing I had the power to bring this big man to this. He wanted me, and I had him as insanely wrapped up in me as I was in him.

The build that I had felt before began to grow again with each rock of his hips. I craved that feeling. Pressing into him, I let the pleasure rise in me. Just before it claimed me again, I begged for it.

“GAAAAHHHHH!” Rock’s roar and trembling and jerking of his body sent me spiraling off again.

“Trisha! Fuck!” he cried out, just before I lost my grasp on reality.


Six years ago . . .

Standing inside the one-bedroom apartment I had just paid a year’s worth of rent on in order to get approved for the lease, I realized I had done it. Working nights wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I had all the money I needed to move Trisha in with me. Telling my dad that I wasn’t signing with any of the four SEC football teams that were trying to get me was the last thing I had to face. He’d be furious and he’d kick me out. But that didn’t matter now.

I had a truck of my own and an apartment. I had a job that I was going to be able to work at more once I graduated in six months. Trisha wasn’t going to be left in that shithole with her wicked stepmother anymore. Once I rescued Trisha, I knew Krit would be gone too. He would have left already if it weren’t for Trisha.

Krit had already said he was moving in with Legend, an older guy in his band, the moment I got Trisha out of his mom’s trailer. Trisha didn’t like that idea, but her little brother was sixteen now. He was also six foot two and had grown into that tall lankiness. He could take care of himself. Convincing her of that was difficult, though.

Dewayne and his dad were bringing me some furniture Mrs. T said she didn’t need anymore and insisted I should take. Dewayne had told me that she was also sending me towels, pots and pans, dishes, rugs, and even a quilt. I didn’t argue with her, although I had a feeling she was giving me stuff she was going to have to replace in her own house.

Marcus was giving me his old bed and dresser. His mother had said she wanted to redo his room and I could have his old stuff. He was bringing it over later today. With their help, I didn’t think we would need anything. I was waiting until I had it set up and ready before I showed Trisha. I was also talking to Krit and making sure he was set up to move out too.

Fandora had gotten better about not letting the men in her life hit Trisha. But when they went for Krit, who was capable of beating the shit out of the f**kers himself, Trisha always jumped in and ended up hurt, if only a little, before Krit put a serious whipping on them.

I was ready to be able to sleep with Trisha tucked safely in my arms. Two years of sleeping with a phone in my hand and often sleeping on the floor of her room had been tough. I hated leaving her in that house. If Krit wasn’t a badass crazy shit, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But the boy had a temper, and anyone who pissed him off needed to get the hell out of his way. And his sister was the only person he loved on earth. I knew he’d kill someone before he let them hurt her.

“So this is it?” Preston asked. I hadn’t heard him walk in. My thoughts had been elsewhere.

“Yeah,” I replied, glancing back at him as he stood in the doorway checking the place out.

“You did good.”

I thought I had. I just wanted Trisha to think so too. She was all that mattered here.

“I think so,” I agreed.

He sauntered in and nodded toward the two doors to the left. One was the bathroom and the other was the bedroom. The rest of the apartment was right here. Living room and kitchen all together. “There’s only one bedroom. Where will I sleep?” he asked.

I chuckled. “Not here.”

“Damn. And we were supposed to be best friends. I’m wounded.”

“Sure you are.”

“You told your dad yet?”

I wasn’t telling my old man until I had my things ready to move out. Because he was going to lose it. My plan was to get everything in that house that I wanted to keep out first because my dad was likely to throw it all in the yard and light it on fire. The man talked nonstop about my college choices. He wanted me to go to Florida State. He was driving me crazy about choosing. I knew I wasn’t choosing any of them. I couldn’t take any scholarship that required me playing football. If I played ball, I wouldn’t be able to work as much. I needed to work and take care of Trisha.

“I’ll tell him once I have everything moved in,” I told him.

“Smart,” Preston agreed.

Two knocks on the door and then a “This ain’t shit. I’m impressed.”

We both turned to see Dewayne walking in the door with a grin on his face, followed by Marcus.

“Y’all aren’t allowed to have parties here unless I’m home from school. No fun allowed while I’m away,” Marcus said.

Marcus was leaving for the University of Alabama next year. He was the only one of us leaving town. We tried not to think about it often. Preston had a baseball scholarship at the local junior college. He had gotten scholarships to bigger schools, but he wouldn’t leave town. His siblings needed him.

“Shit. We’re throwing a Marcus-has-left-town party,” Dewayne drawled.

Marcus laughed and rolled his eyes.

“I always knew you’d be the first one to move out. When you admitted that you loved Trisha Corbin, I knew this was it. You’d move into your own place first and get married first. Hell, if you’re fast you might have a family before Preston,” Marcus said, smirking.

“What? I ain’t having no family,” Preston said, snapping his attention back to Marcus, who looked amused.

“Dude. You can only sleep with so many hundreds of women before you knock one up. It’ll happen,” he replied.

Preston scowled. “Don’t speak that shit. I’m always gloved.”

Everyone laughed at that. Getting smiling, happy Preston to scowl was always fun.

In a few months our lives would all change. We didn’t know what the future held, but we had each other. This was my family. The one I had leaned on since I was a kid. I could have taken a much different road in life, growing up the way I did, but having these three guys who gave a shit about me changed that. Somehow we had stayed out of real trouble. Marcus had always been there to remind us to keep it clean and stay out of jail.

I was going to miss times like this. But I had Trisha, and my future would always have her in it. That made the future exciting instead of terrifying. Since the moment she sat at that lunch table, laughing with the three people in the world who I considered family, I had known she was it.

She was my future.


Krit pulled up to an apartment complex and put Fandora’s car in park before looking at me. “Before we get out, I want to talk to you,” he said.

When he had woken me up this morning and asked me to get dressed and go somewhere with him, I hadn’t imagined this was where we would be going. I knew he wanted to move in with Legend, who was a year older than me and seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. But if he was showing me the place to talk me into letting him move out, he didn’t have to do that.

If he wanted out, then I was ready to let him go. I’d survive somehow. I was sure Fandora would kick me out, but I could figure somewhere else to go. I didn’t want to hold Krit back because of me. He hated living there. He hated her.

He didn’t deserve to live in hell to keep me safe. He looked like a man, but he was just a boy with so much potential. “Yes. If you want to move in with Legend, then yes. I want that for you,” I told him before he tried to sell me on the idea.

Krit frowned and tilted his head to look at me. I waited on him to say something. When he finally looked pissed, I wondered if I had said the wrong thing. “You mean that shit.” He shook his head and let out a hard laugh. “Dammit, Trisha. Do you think I’d do that to you?”

I realized I had made a mistake. Crap. I had to fix this.

“I just meant . . . I just want you to be happy, Krit. I thought bringing me here to an apartment meant you were going to try to talk me into letting you move out. I don’t want to hold you back. I want you to have it all. You deserve happiness.”

He ran his hands through his shoulder-length hair and slammed them on the steering wheel. “What about you? You’ve sacrificed more than anyone. You took f**king beatings to keep me safe as a kid. If I moved out and left you to that bitch, what would that say about me? It would make me a motherfucking ass**le who didn’t deserve to live. So, no Sis, I’m not asking you to let me desert you. I would sacrifice my soul to protect you. Don’t you know that? I only love you. I have never and nor will I ever love anyone else. Bitches can’t be trusted. You’re the only woman on earth I could love.”

Tears burned my eyes and I blinked them away. “I’m sorry. I thought . . . I just . . . I was wrong. I know you want to keep me safe. We’re family. We have each other. Always.”

Krit nodded. “But you have Rock now. And I am thankful you have him. He’s a big dude with scary-as-hell arms and a chest like a wall. He can keep my sister safe, and he loves you. Like I’ve never seen a man love, ever. That makes him worthy of you. He has the world’s finest treasure and he knows it.” He let out a laugh and shrugged. “I might need to correct something I said before. I think I love him, too. I love him for loving you the way you deserve to be loved.”

This time I let the tears burning my eyes free. I sniffled, then brushed the tears off my face. “I’m sorry,” I said, smiling. “You just don’t normally say things like that, so I wasn’t prepared for it emotionally.”

He smirked. “Before we can get any mushier in here, I just want to tell you that I am thrilled about what you’re going to see in a minute. It’s every dream and wish I’ve ever had. It makes me so f**king happy. Not just for you but for me, too. So know that when you start worrying about me.” He opened the car door and stepped out before giving me a chance to ask him what the heck he was talking about.

Krit closed the door and walked up to the entryway to the stairs, then looked back and waved for me to come on. I had no idea what he wanted to show me, and my mind was envisioning a million different scenarios. I made my way up to him, but he didn’t say anything. He just nodded and turned to the stairs. “Second floor.”

We walked up the one flight of stairs, then turned right and walked down three doors. Krit stopped outside 204. Then he knocked.

We were meeting someone?

The door opened, and Rock filled the doorway. He gave a Krit a nod, and then he turned to look at me. “Welcome home,” he said with a smile, and held out his hand for me.

“About moving in with Legend, yeah, I’m doing that tonight. Love you, Sis. Go live your happily ever after you deserve.” Then Krit bent down and kissed my cheek and whispered, “This man moved heaven and earth to make this happen. It’s one of the reasons I know he deserves you. Be happy.”

I started to say something, but Krit straightened and walked off the way we had come.

I watched him walk away, then turned to look back at Rock.

“I’m confused,” I finally said, still trying to piece everything together.

Rock stepped out, scooped me up in his arms, and carried me inside before putting me back down and closing the door behind him. I took in my surroundings. The sofa I remembered from the Falcos’ living room sat against the left wall with their coffee table and a black recliner I didn’t recognize. A small television sat on a table in front of them. I shifted my gaze to the other side of the room to see a small Formica table with fresh flowers in a vase in the middle and four matching chairs around it.

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