Authors: Anne Mercier
HE DIDN’T COME
back to any of the buses last night,” Lucy whispers to Sera.
“She’s likely with Lucian.”
Again with Lucian. Fucker.
“Do you think…” Lucy drifts off.
Sera shrugs. “She’s an adult and Lucian’s really
Those eyes alone are enough to turn nipples into razor blades.”
“Did someone say nipples?” Xander asks, boarding the bus.
“He’s got radar for that shit,” Kennedy states from the sofa where he’s strumming his guitar.
“Fuck yeah,” Xander says, taking a seat next to Lucy. He reaches over and rubs the babies. Lucy’s resigned herself to the fact that we’re all going to touch her belly as much as we want to and she can’t stop us. At first she was shocked, then she got irritated, now she finds it ‘sweet’.
“Nipples. Tits. Pussy. Ass. Those are my keywords right there,” Xan announces.
“Don’t forget fuck, sex, cock…” I trail off, already heading toward the swear jar.
“Yeah, can’t forget those. Mmm,” he murmurs.
“You owe the jar, asswipe,” Kennedy tells Xan.
“Shit. I said the F word?” he asks.
“Yep,” I reply.
“They just slip out and I don’t even realize I’m saying it. This no F word stuff is fu- freaking difficult as hell,” Xander says.
“You’re telling me,” Jesse says, walking onto the bus. “And I could hear you all talking about nipples and cock. You shouldn’t be saying shit like that around the babies.”
“Please,” Sera says, rolling her eyes. “You talk dirtier than that when you’re fucking.” Sera reaches into her pocket and grins. “A very necessary F word.”
“She’s right,” Lucy admits.
“I can’t help it. When you’re naked and we—” Jesse starts.
“Gah. Stop,” Sera says, holding up her hands. “There are some places we just shouldn’t go together and that’s one of them.
“Even though we hear them,” Kennedy mutters.
“Even though,” I agree with a nod.
I know Coley’s pretty innocent. I don’t know if she fucked before or not, but even if she did, she hasn’t screwed randomly like we all have.
“What if she screwed Lucian last night?” Lucy questions, asking the question I don’t want the answer to.
“Then she did, babe. She’s a grown woman and Lucian… Well, as much as I hate to say it, he’s changed. Cage was right,” Jesse admits.
“Of course he was,” Sera says. “He doesn’t bullshit. You should know that by now. Whether or not Lucian and Burners were drug-free, they’d be on this tour if that’s what he wanted and you could bitch until you were blue in the face and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Cage is Batman and he makes the rules.”
“Dude, I bet he makes some really hot rules when you’re fu—boning,” Xan says, correcting himself and grinning as he does.
“Oh God. Boning? We have to hear words like that now that we can’t use the F word?” Lucy mutters. “Maybe we should just use the F word.”
“Nope,” I say. “Those babies don’t need their first word to be the F word.”
“True that,” Ethan agrees, stepping up with a yawn. “Misty, you got any coffee?” he asks. She nods. “Bless you. I slept like shit last night.” Misty hands him a cup of coffee, giving him a come-hither smile. Ethan either doesn’t notice or he ignores it because he just turns and sits down next to Kennedy.
“What’s up?” Ethan asks.
“Coley didn’t come home last night,” Xander announces.
Xan nods. “We’re thinking she and Lucian were playing hide the salami.”
I can’t help it. I laugh as Lucy groans.
“Nice one,” I tell Xan and we fist bump.
“I’m digging down deep for these.” And he’s damn proud of each one, too, from the gleam in his eyes.
I sit back and roll the cigarette through my fingers.
“Are you smoking again?” Jesse asks.
I shake my head. “Thought about it.”
“What’s going on?”
I shrug. “Just stressed out.”
Jesse meets my gaze. “Stay away from the hard stuff.”
I glare back. “Burners don’t do that shit anymore, and even if they did, I’m long past that bullshit.”
At his nod, I relax, tipping my head back to rest on the back of the couch.
“What was that about?” Lucy asks Jesse.
“Nothing to be worried about.”
“Hmm. You sure? If Coley’s going to be spending time with them—”
“Nah,” he tells her. “She’s fine. Plus, I bet she could kick their ass if they messed with her.”
Sera snorts. “Likely. She’s one tough cookie.”
“A cookie Ben wants to eat,” Xander blurts out. Fucker.
I wake up sweating. I try to move to kick the blanket off of me, but I quickly realize it’s not a blanket making me hot. It’s Lucian. His arm wrapped around my waist and his leg entwined with mine tighten, pulling me closer.
Oh shit. Lucian. I take a steadying breath. I feel a little like a slut. I mean, I didn’t have sex with him but we’d done pretty much everything else… and it was fantastic. I’m a little ashamed and I’m going to die of embarrassment when Lucy asks me a million questions—because she will. Lucy’s quickly taken to mothering me. She’s too young to actually be my mother so I just think of her as a protective big sister. I gasp. I let my guard down with her. It’s impossible not to and I let her get too close. What if—
“I can hear you thinking,” Lucian mumbles against my neck before pressing a kiss there.
I sigh. “It’s one of my faults, I’m afraid.”
“Hmm. If that’s the worst of it…”
I laugh. “Hardly. I have way worse.”
“You were sexy and a bit of a dirty girl last night. Did you like it?” he asks and I feel the flush rising from my chest to my cheeks.
“Mmm. For someone who hasn’t been around the block much, you sure know your way around.”
I shrug. “Like I said—”
“Yeah, I remember. Hospital porn.” He chuckles and shakes his head.
I turn over to face him and suck in a breath. Jesus, he’s beautiful. His inky black hair is mussed, his blue eyes a bit darker than his normal ice, and the stubble growing on his face. Holy Hannah.
“Do you like what you see?”
I roll my eyes. “Yep. You’re so damn hot. How are you single?”
He shrugs. “Never met the girl who I wanted to settle down with.”
“What about you? Have you had any boyfriends?” he asks.
“One, when I lived in Wisconsin for a few months. I could have fallen in love with him. He’s tall, built, a football player, gorgeous face, and his personality… oh, shit.” Light bulb moment.
I swallow. “His personality is a bit like Xander’s. Not as goofy, but still Xan-like.”
“Well, that explains a lot.”
“Why you don’t like him.”
“I’m not getting it.”
“He reminds you of someone you could have loved but didn’t get the chance, someone you’d likely still be with if that were possible,” he tells me, running his hand up and down my arm.
Can that really be it? “You think that’s why I don’t like Xander? I mean, I like him, but there’s just something about him that rubs me wrong. I’m not sure. I think it’s more along the lines that he’s fake sometimes,” I admit.
“How do you mean?”
“It’s like he’s putting on a show for everyone. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes sometimes. I don’t know why people haven’t noticed this yet, especially Lucy.”
“Who says she hasn’t?”
I shrug. “Maybe she has but it doesn’t seem like it. Instead of the fun-loving guy he tries to be for everyone, I think deep down inside there’s something more going on that we don’t know about. I prefer honesty.”
“Maybe he’s not ready to share that. Maybe it’s too personal.”
I snort. Shit, I’m starting to be like Sera too. “Too personal? Them knowing all about my medical history? That’s too personal. Them knowing about my lack of family? That’s entirely too personal. I didn’t have a choice. Neither should they.”
“I’m sure he’s not the only one on those buses that hasn’t shared everything.”
“No, he’s definitely not, but the rest of them don’t try to be completely the opposite of how they feel. Of the guys, the one who’s been the most honest and open with me is the one who’s the quietest around everyone else.”
“Kennedy? No way.”
I nod. “He’s like a big brother to me, taking me under his wing so to speak and helping me through things when I first got here and I had no idea what they expected of me—not that he knew either. He just told me it was okay not to know and not to worry about it or be embarrassed. That the answers would come.”
“And did they?”
“Yeah. If I could pick my family, Kennedy would be in it.”
“Don’t you know that family isn’t always blood? Family is where you make it.”
“Like Justin and the guys are your family?”
“Exactly like that.” He nuzzles his nose in my neck and I sigh.
“No time for fucking this morning,” Justin says through the door. “We’ve got soundboards to fix Nikki.”
“Ugh. Don’t call me that. I hate that nickname,” I tell him.
Lucian chuckles and I hear Justin doing the same. I can almost see his smile through the door. Those white teeth, short blonde hair, hazel-green eyes that know way too much, those full lips, and a body full of tattoos.
I flop back.
“Get a move on, Nikki.” At my growl he laughs. “You never shoulda told me you hate that nickname. From now on you’re gonna be Nikki,” Justin taunts.
Lucian leans up on one elbow and looks down at me.
“Are you okay with what happened last night?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I just know you were thinking there for a little bit and I was hoping those sighs you were letting out weren’t sighs of regret.” He reaches up and straightens my scarf.
“Thanks. And no. They weren’t sighs of regret.” I can’t tell him everything. He’ll see me as a little kid and that’s the last thing I want him—or anyone—to think of me.
“Then what were they, Nicole? Talk to me.”
I recognize the stubborn look in his eye. It reminds me of my Uncle Frank when he wouldn’t settle for less than the truth.
“Fine. I’m a little ashamed of myself.”
“What the fuck?” Justin says through the door, then the door opens and I squeal, pulling the sheet up. He laughs. “You’re already covered.”
I look down. Oh, yeah. Lucian put his t-shirt back on me when I caught a chill last night.
“What the fuck is this ‘ashamed’ bullshit?” he asks.
“Justin,” Lucian warns.
“What?” he asks.
“Maybe this is a private conversation,” Lucian tells him.
no private conversations on this bus. So, let’s hear it,” he says, leaning back against the doorjamb.
“Oh God. Seriously?” I ask, then scrub my hands over my face. “Okay. While it seems like longer, I just met Lucian yesterday.”
“So?” they both say at the same time.
“So, I don’t do things like that,” I admit with a blush.
“You didn’t do anything to be ashamed of. You’re both adults… consenting adults. You didn’t even fuck. People do a hell of a lot more than that when they haven’t even spoken two words to each other,” Justin tells me.
“Like you, you mean?” I ask.