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She melted in my hands, kissing me back with a tiny whimper.

My lips worked against hers, and I darted my tongue out, sliding between her lips to explore her sweet, delicious mouth. She moaned, kissing me back deeply. I groaned, a wildfire of desire burning through my body. I pulled her closer, kissing her harder, deeper.

Kissing her was just as amazing as I remembered, but so much better.

My cock throbbed painfully in my pants, my entire being buzzing with need for her, to taste her, to touch her, to feel her surrounding me completely. I’d waited so long to see her again, and tonight, I was going to make her scream my name.

“Jesse… Please,” she whispered, her mouth opening into a tiny little ‘o’ that only made me harder. I bent my head, my fingers still tangled in her hair as I kissed her again, harder this time, the heat between us was building to a near uncontrollable level.

She was fiercely kissing me back, but without warning her entire body suddenly stiffened against my embrace. She pulled back, her eyes flashing with anger as she slapped me hard across the face.

“Fuck!” I yelled, looking at her in shock.

Her hand flew up to her lips, and she looked just as shocked as I felt. Tears filled her eyes and she turned and ran to the front door, flinging it open and leaving me standing there alone with a stinging cheek and the most painful erection I’d ever had in my entire life.


in my car in complete shock, tears streaming down my face, and my nipples hard as a rock beneath my bra. Talk about confusion. I was a hot mess.

What the fuck had just happened?

What the fuck happened to being professional?

What the fuck kind of weak, lonely, needy woman was I?

What the fuck was I going to do now? I’d messed everything up so badly that there was no way in hell it could be repaired?

I certainly couldn’t treat him now. I’d surely be fired. Even if Jesse didn’t report me for slapping him like a hysterical freak, then I’d still be fired for refusing to see him again.

Because I knew I couldn’t see him again. That much was clear. He was too cocky, too forward, too fucking full of himself. And I hated myself for not being able to resist him. How could I have kissed him like that?

God, it seemed like it went on forever, or like time stopped, or both at the same time, which is just absurd, I know. But he was making me so crazy that I couldn’t even think straight, let alone chronologically.

He turned my insides into a jumbled, melted, gooey mess of everything I hated. I wasn’t the kind of woman that let her feelings rule her life. No, I was the one who took charge of every situation. I was the one that rebuilt my life from scratch, allowing only the things I valued to be a part of it, and discarding the rest with a complete and utter disconnect from any guilt or uncertainty.

But that woman up there in Jesse’s penthouse? The one who’d opened her mouth and let him deep inside? She was not me! I didn’t even recognize her.

Or, maybe I did. But she was a little girl the last time I’d seen her, a little naive eighteen year old girl desperate for attention and love. She’d thought she’d found it in Jesse’s arms, and maybe she had for a brief moment, but that wasn’t real. That didn’t last. That was so over and dead.

And so was that little girl.

I was a fucking woman now, a strong one, one that decides what path her life travels down. And Jesse fucking Colorado wasn’t a part of it. He’d never been a part of the plan.

Neither had Maddy, but that was a different story. Maddy was a gift. A beautiful blessing that I would never have turned away in a million years.

Maddy was what had turned that naive little girl into the woman I was today.

And Maddy was exactly the reason I needed to remember who I was. I couldn’t just revert back to some naive kid who didn’t know any better. I had someone counting on me…

I started up my car, the engine sputtering and coughing.

“Come on…” I prodded, begging the engine to turn over.

It took three tries before it finally started in a puff of black smoke that exploded from the muffler. I sighed, shaking my head and heading home.

I’d make some excuse up for Larry. Maybe I’d tell him I caught the flu.

I needed time alone. Away from work. Away from Jesse. Away from his damned sexy eyes and prying questions.

Away from that kiss.

Those hands that had felt so good caressing my face.

I shuddered with desire, my body completely at odds with my brain. I wanted Jesse. I wanted so much more than his kisses. It was undeniable how strongly my body reacted to his touch. It always had…

He was sexy and charming and funny in his own silly way, and so fucking gorgeous it almost hurt to look at him. He was everything I wanted in a man, if I allowed myself to actually want one in the first place. All he had to do was flash those clear blue eyes at me and I was breathless. If he was anyone else, I’d have given into him in a heartbeat.

But he wasn’t just anyone.

He was Jesse.

And going there with him threatened everything I’d worked so hard to build. I couldn’t take the chance for just one night with him. Jesse was off-limits.

Jesse was the biggest danger to the thing I loved the most and nothing in the world meant more than that.



y cheek
still stung from Maisey’s slap, and my cock was still hard as rock. I’d hobbled over to the window after she left, watching from the window as she scurried across the parking lot to her car like a scared rabbit. Her car drove off in a cloud of black smoke that drifted off into the air long after she’d disappeared around the corner. Kissing her had only peaked my thirst for her. I wasn’t going to stop until I had her just where I wanted her.

Obviously, she was determined to make me work for it.

That’s fine,
I thought,
that’s just fine.

I was up for a little challenge, ready to engage in the chase a little bit. It would be a nice change of pace.

This girl was a tough nut to crack, and I knew damn well I wasn’t going to win her over until I figured out what was going on inside her head. Obviously, she enjoyed that kiss just as much as I did. Her body didn’t lie. But right before she’d slapped me, something else flashed in her eyes. Fear.

So why the hell is she afraid of me?

I couldn’t figure it out. There had to be something holding her back, and I was going to figure out exactly what that something was…

After her car disappeared from view, I called Stan, my attorney. He answered on the first ring just like he always did.

“Colorado, how’s it hanging?” he asked. I could hear the sounds of partying in the background, and I smiled. He was the hardest working attorney in Denver, and yet he always seemed to be having a better time than me.

“I’m good, Stan. How’s your Mom?” Stan’s mom had been in and out of the hospital lately, and we’d almost lost her.

“Her BP has been steady the last few weeks. Looks like she’s going to pull through for now.”

“I’m happy to hear that. Give her a kiss for me, okay?”

“Of course. And thanks for those flowers you sent,” he said.

“My pleasure. Hey Stan, you know that private investigator you used last year, in that insurance case you told me about?”

“Sure, Maria Gold. Best damn investigator in the state. What about her?”

“I have a job for her. Can I get her number?”

“Sure thing, Jesse. I’ll text it to you right away. Anything I can help with? Everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, for sure. Nothing serious at all. Just a private matter I want to look into…”

I hung up the phone, my thoughts drifting off as I replayed kissing Maisey a million times in my head. The sight of her hurrying away from me in fear wouldn’t leave me all night long. I didn’t like it at all, the last thing in the world I wanted was for her to be afraid of me.

I’d never wanted to make someone feel safe before, but there it was. A need to protect someone other than myself. A need to keep her close, to comfort her, to make her hands stop trembling when she touched me. Whatever had gone wrong in Maisey’s life, I wanted to make it right.

Don’t get me wrong, I also wanted to make her quiver and squirm on the end of my cock, but I wanted her to be smiling at the same time.

Because she deserved it.

She might be stubborn, but so am I… Especially when I
wanted something.

And there was nothing in the world that I wanted more than Maisey Jayne.


t happened suddenly
. That’s how it always happened. And I hated it. I wished there was some warning, even a small one, just a quick moment to prepare before panic set in and chaos ensued.

But it just wasn’t like that at all.

When Maddy had an asthma attack, it happened totally out of the blue. Usually, when we were having fun, enjoying life, and having half-forgotten about her problems…

I say half-forgotten because completely forgetting just didn’t happen.

It was always there. Lingering in the back of my mind.

Tonight, it happened at the movie theater. That was the worst… Maddy always got embarrassed whenever it happened in public.

She was such a trooper, though. She always was. So much calmer than I ever was. I mean, I tried, I did, but there was something about your own child gasping for breath that shoots right through every layer of toughness you possess.

Maybe I didn’t look like it. Maybe if you were watching me when it happened, you would only see a mom moving in practiced motions, doing whatever was necessary to help her child. Maybe you’d think I was the smartest person in the room because I knew what to do, what to reach for, what to look for.

But I wasn’t.

I was just the most afraid person in the room. And that momentous fear was like an electric jolt that shocked me into action. There were no choices for me. No fight or flight. Just go. Move. Help.


She was everything to me, and it wrecked me every single time. The attacks happened more times than I cared to count. I didn’t even want to know the number anymore. It was in her records. I couldn’t keep up with all the information, and finally, one kind doctor one night who had seen me struggling to remember everything stopped me, reminded me that every detail was written down meticulously, and that remembering wasn’t my job. Maddy needed me to be her mother, not her doctor. So that’s what I did.

And every time she had a bad asthma attack, off to the doctors we went so they could document the incident and exam her again. We knew the routine. That part we were used to. That part we could handle. It was the part during the actual attack that was unnerving, because we never knew how bad it was going to be, if this was the one that we needed to call an ambulance for, if this was the one that….well. We tried not to go there.

We never said those words out loud…

I’d be lying if I didn’t think about it. How awful it would be if it didn’t stop. If whatever medicine she was on didn’t work. If it quit working…

Catastrophic thinking
, my therapist would call it. I did it all the time. I was supposed to redirect my thoughts, remind myself that right now, in this moment, Maddy was okay, I was okay. Most of the time it worked before I let myself get too far down the rabbit hole.

A lot of the time, it didn’t.

Most of all, I made sure not to let Maddy see that. I put on my ‘you’re-going-to-be-fine’ mask and suffered through it. Sometimes, I was sure she saw right through me. If she knew where my thoughts led, she was brave enough not to admit it.

I just hoped she didn’t go to the worst place in her head, too.

That was my greatest fear, on top of - well, you know. I was afraid that she’d let fear get in the way of living her life. I wanted her to know that her illness didn’t define her. It didn’t have to get in the way of her enjoying the world and doing whatever made her heart happy.

She wasn’t like the other kids. She wasn’t sporty, she wasn’t strong. Not physically, anyway. She had the will of a bull, and that’s probably the one thing that kept her going, kept her optimistic, and kept her believing in herself. She wasn’t about to give up. She might cough her way through it, but she was determined to do everything the other kids did in school.

Honestly, I admired her more than anyone I’d ever known.

She’d had trouble breathing for a while, and the doctors kept insisting it was asthma. First, it was exercise induced, they said. But after she had an attack while sitting next to me on the sofa watching a movie, they changed her diagnosis and said she must be allergic to the strawberries she was eating, before quickly going back to a general asthma diagnosis. To me, none of it made sense.

She barreled through, she pretended she wasn’t as tired as she was, but I knew better. I could see her struggling.

I’d insisted the doctors do all kinds of testing, and they’d insisted over and over they didn’t find anything. It was maddening.

Once a doctor told us she might grow out of it, and I’d been clinging to that hope for a while now. But every time there was another attack, that hope was shattered.

“Do you want to go eat in the cafeteria after we leave?” I asked Maddy. We were sitting in one of the rooms in the ER at Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital. We knew most of the nurses on the floor by name since we’d been here so many times and they were always so wonderful with Maddy.

“Okay, sure. Maybe they have the same chocolate cake they did last time?” she said.

“Maybe. We’ll see,” I said, hugging her close, and wishing for the millionth time that I could make her better myself.

But I couldn’t.

We were in this together, and so far, there was no end in sight.

The doctor walked in and I knew by the look on his face, he had no new answers for us.

“How are you feeling now, Maddy?” he asked.

“I’m okay, now. The oxygen machine always helps,” she said.

“That’s good,” he nodded, turning to me. “So, Ms. Jayne, all the tests came back the same as they always do. Unfortunately, we still don’t know anything new. Did you notice any new factors that contributed to this latest attack?”

“No, not at all,” I replied. I was beyond frustrated, I was exasperated. I felt helpless, and that was the worst feeling in the world when it came to your child.

“Well, let’s just keep at what we’re doing,” he said. I resisted the urge to yell at him, to tell him he didn’t understand because it wasn’t his daughter that was sick.

“Yeah, right,” I replied. “So, basically, do nothing until it happens again.”

“Unfortunately, until something new happens, yes,” he replied. “I know it’s frustrating, Ms. Jayne. I know this isn’t easy. Unfortunately, it is reality, though. You’re doing great. So are you, Maddy.”

“Thanks, Dr. Taylor,” she said, with a smile. I was amazed at her strength, her ability to smile even in the midst of such frustration. She accepted things so much better than I did. I wanted change. I wanted a cure. And I wanted it right fucking now.

“Of course. Hopefully, I won’t be seeing you anytime soon, okay?” he said, patting Maddy’s arm.

“Let’s hope not!” she exclaimed, hoping off the table. “Can I go get cake now?”

“You sure can,” he said. “Take care of yourself, Maddy.”

“Bye, Dr. Taylor,” I murmured, gathering our things and walking out of the room, holding back tears of frustration and anger.

Maddy slid her tiny hand in mine and we walked through the large hallways of the hospital together. I sighed and smiled down at her.

“I love you, baby,” I said.

“I love you too, Mama,” she smiled up at me, the events of the past few hours seeming to fall away into the past so easily for her.

I had a lot to learn from Maddy.

But most of all - I needed to take care of her.

I’d rushed out of Jesse’s penthouse as if I didn’t have a job I needed to keep. I’d let him get under my skin. I’d weakened and let him too close.

For Maddy’s sake, I had to keep my job… Even if it meant I had to endure him rattling my cage from the inside out.

For Maddy’s sake, I’d do whatever it took to keep our foundation from crumbling beneath our feet, because without that, we had nothing.

But there was more than just motherly duty building inside me. That stupid kiss had woken up a piece of me that I thought was gone forever. For the first time in a long time, it felt like I might not have to face everything alone. Maybe I could tell Jesse my secret… Maybe I could make him understand.

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