Chapter Thirty



I’m staring at Boston fucking Haynes and trying to figure out why the hell it’s taken him a week to turn up on Lorelei’s doorstep. I know everything there is to know about this man, including the details of his relationship with Lorelei, but I’m wondering what kind of man leaves it seven days to visit the woman he still loves when he returns to the city where she lives.

Because he does still love her; that much is clear. It’s obvious in the way he’s looking at her and also in the way he’s glaring at me.

“Who the fuck are you?” He demands.

I take a step closer to him to fill him in on just who the fuck I am, but Lorelei stops me when she quickly inserts herself between us. I take great fucking pride in the fact it’s my chest her hand lands on, not his. And also in the fact it’s my eyes she searches for first, before turning to face him.

“I thought you were in the States,” she says. Her words sound more like a question than a statement, and her voice wobbles with confusion.

Boston eyes her hand on my chest. He scowls as he meets my gaze, but that scowl disappears when he looks at her a moment later. “Amber was in a car accident so I’ve come home to help her out for a while.”

Amber is his sister, and the car accident he mentions has left her unable to run her business or her life. I know this, too, because Jessica is a fucking rockstar at her job. Amber owns a chain of stores that sells guitars. She also runs a school that offers guitar lessons, and a recording studio. She’s the best in the business in Sydney and it’s a smart move to call her brother home, because the music world is also his world. Boston will be able to smooth over any problems caused by her absence.

“Is she okay?” Lorelei asks. Her tone rises with concern and she grips my shirt. I know from Jessica that she was close to Amber. Sliding my arm around her waist, I pull her against me in an effort to comfort her.

Boston’s jaw clenches when she easily moves into my embrace, and I work hard not to show my sense of victory. I’m an asshole—I want to claim Lorelei as mine in front of him so he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that she isn’t his anymore. But I keep a tight leash on the asshole in me and simply hold her. I remain silent while she finds out what she needs to know from him.

“Besides a broken leg and arm, and some cuts and bruises, she’s fine. But she needs help with her business and at home, so she asked me to come help her.” He pauses for a brief moment before adding, “I’d been planning to come back anyway. To see you.” I don’t miss the way he says those last two words, and my body tenses while I fight the growl of disapproval working its way through me.

Lorelei’s body tenses, too, as she says softly, “Boston…” Her voice drifts off and she doesn’t finish that sentence, but even a fool could work out that she’s not convinced seeing him is what she wants.

Boston draws a long breath and exhales sharply while he runs his fingers through his hair. I get the impression this definitely isn’t going the way he planned. “Can we talk, Lorelei? Just the two of us.”

Over my dead fucking body.

I step forward, keeping Lorelei in my hold but moving in such a way that she ends up further away from Boston than I do. “The time for you and Lorelei to talk has long passed. And besides, she’s busy tonight; I’m about to take her out to dinner.”

The scowl returns to his face at the same time as his shoulders square. “I still don’t know who the fuck you are.”

“Ashton Scott. And the only relevant thing you need to know about me is that Lorelei is mine now. So—”

Lorelei cuts me off when she wiggles out of my embrace. “What Ashton is trying to say is that we’re dating now,” she says, with a hint of annoyance as she glares at me for a beat. “And in answer to your previous question, I don’t think we have much to talk about, Boston. I’m going to check in with Amber, but you should go now.”

Boston’s gaze shifts between Lorelei and me. He seems unsure of his next move, which only proves to me that he is not the man for Lorelei. If he were, he’d know exactly what to do in this situation. And that sure as hell wouldn’t be to fuck around trying to figure out what to say or do.

Finally, he says, “I’m not giving up here, Lorelei. I want you back.” He moves close to her and whispers something in her ear that I can’t hear.

The combination of his hands on her body while he speaks, and his mouth so close to her face causes a level of possessiveness I’ve never known to surge through my veins. Unable to stop myself, I bark, “Take your hands off her, Haynes.”

He is slow to react, which infuriates me. When he finishes speaking into her ear, he pulls his face away, but as he does this, his lips brush across her cheek. His eyes meet mine and in them I see the challenge he’s laying down. He may infuriate me, but in no way do I view him as an equal here. Lorelei is mine; Boston Haynes has no chance of winning her back.

“Please don’t do that,” Lorelei says to him as I reach for her. I have no idea what she’s referring to, but what I do know is that she easily moves into my hold again.

Boston doesn’t reply to her, but rather he glances at me and says, “Don’t get too comfortable, Scott. Lorelei might be yours for now, but she was mine for three years. We’ve only been apart for five months; that’s not long enough for her to have fallen out of love with me.”

I’m about to tell him exactly what I think of that when Lorelei pushes out of my arms and mutters, “Oh, for God’s sake, you two can have this pissing contest without me.” With that, she stalks inside her apartment, slamming the door after her.

After the door slams closed, I glare at him. “You don’t think five months is enough time for a woman to figure out who she wants in her life? Tell me, have you heard from Lorelei since you left?”

His jaw clenches again, but he doesn’t answer my question.

“I thought so.” I move towards the door and turn the handle to enter Lorelei’s apartment. Looking back at him, I say, “Don’t come back here, Haynes.”

A moment later I’m inside her apartment and he’s out of my sight. In a perfect world I’d never see him again, but I know he’ll be back. Lorelei Winters isn’t the kind of woman a man gives up on easily.

“Lorelei,” I call out as I walk down her hallway in search of her.

She runs into me when she exits her bedroom in a rush. Eyes wild, she places both hands on my chest to steady herself and says, “Just so we’re clear, I’m not anyone’s property, Ashton.”

My arms circle her as I back her up against the wall. “I never said you were.” I ignore the way she pushes against me in an attempt to separate us. There’s no way in hell I’ll allow that. Right now, the only thing on my mind is making sure she knows I’m not going anywhere.

“You may not have used those words, but you did everything except throw me down on the floor and show Boston that I’m yours.”

“I don’t need to throw you down to prove to him that you’re mine. The man’s not blind, Lorelei. Everything about the way you are with me shows him that.”

“Well, you don’t need to rub it in his face.”

“He needs to know where you stand, and that is beside me.”

She presses hard against my chest, still trying to move out of my hold. “Yes, but I can only imagine what you said to him after I left, and I bet it was something to do with reminding him that I didn’t choose to marry him. I don’t want you to do that. I’ve already hurt him enough.”

Marry him.

That information was not in Jessica’s notes about Boston Haynes. It’s the kind of knowledge I would have preferred to have because it slants this situation in a new light.

Her ex will need to think again if he’s planning on convincing Lorelei to agree to marriage this time. She might not be my property, but she is most definitely mine. And I always keep what’s mine.



Chapter Thirty-One



I drop my keys on the kitchen counter and turn to face Ashton. We’ve just arrived back at my apartment after he took me to dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. Looping my hands around his neck, I say, “Thank you for dinner.”

He watches me in the way he does when he wants to discuss something important. His eyes hold that glint that tells me whatever it is, he won’t let it go until he’s gotten what he wants from me. “Why didn’t you marry Boston Haynes?” He asks as his hands slide around my waist and settle on my ass.

He surprised me when he didn’t bring the subject up over dinner, but I’m not surprised he’s doing it now. The possessiveness he’d exhibited earlier when Boston arrived at my front door seemed extreme, so I’ve been waiting for him to broach the subject again.

“It’s a long story. One we don’t have time for because I’m about to get naked.” I may have been waiting for him to ask me about Boston, but it’s the last thing I want to get into with him tonight.

“Lorelei,” he says, his tone issuing a warning. “I don’t care how long the story is. I want to hear it.”

I sigh. “No you don’t. You just want to know whether Boston is a threat, and I can tell you he’s not.”

His eyes flash with determination. “I’m aware he’s not a threat, but until you start talking, neither of us are getting naked.”

I inhale a deep breath and stall for one last moment, needing it to gather my thoughts. This conversation needs to be approached with care. Exhaling, I say, “Fine, but just remember that it was you who asked for this.” I attempt to move out of his hold, but he refuses to let me go. Raising my brows, I pull a face to signal my irritation, but still he doesn’t budge. I’m not sure why I’m being so weird about this, except for my concern that if even I can’t fully explain my decision not to marry Boston, how can I expect him to understand? And how then can I convince him that I don’t want Boston in my life anymore?

A look of frustration crosses his face before he bends to my ear and says, “I have half a mind to take you over my knee.”

The last time he mentioned this kind of thing, I was turned on. This time, I’m annoyed. It’s one thing to spank dirty thoughts out of me; it’s another to use it to get this kind of information. My eyes widen as his gaze meets mine again. “You wouldn’t.”

His nostrils flare. “Try me, Lorelei.”

I straighten and drop my arms from around his neck, resting my hands on his chest. “I was with Boston for three years. I thought he was the man I would spend the rest of my life with, but when he asked me to marry him, I couldn’t say yes. I didn’t know why, but it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do at that time in our relationship. We didn’t break up, though, and he said he’d wait for me to be ready. That lasted for three months until the day we had a huge fight and I left him. A couple of weeks later, he moved to the States for work, and I haven’t heard from him since.”

Ashton watches me intently, his mind clearly working fast to process all that. “Why did you say no?”

I press against his chest, and he surprises me by finally letting me go. Taking a step back, I say, “I told you, it wasn’t the right thing for us.”

“No, you said you didn’t know why. You’ve had time to figure that out now.” He pauses for a beat. “What was the real reason?”

I stare at him for a long few moments. He stares right back, pinning my gaze to his. The man just doesn’t give up. Always pushing me to give him my truths that I don’t want to share with anyone. It’s one of the things I both love and hate about him. “I have this fear of losing people,” I say softly. “So sometimes I push them away before I have the chance to lose them.”

“That may be so, and I don’t doubt it because you’ve tried repeatedly to push me away, but it’s not the full story here.”

I frown. “I’m not lying to you, Ashton, if that’s what you’re trying to say.”

He shakes his head as he closes the small distance between us again. Placing his hand under my chin, he tilts my face to his. I can’t help but notice the way his eyes have softened. “You’re not lying to me,” he murmurs, “But are you lying to yourself?”

If everything about him right now didn’t scream his genuine care for me, I would push him away and tell him where to go. But there is none of his bossiness or dominance in sight. Instead, it’s like he’s truly trying to help me see something. So I run with it and attempt to explain myself to him. “I’m not lying to anyone. I’ve spent time analysing this. Losing Mum at such a young age kinda screwed me up, and I still haven’t conquered that demon.”

His hand snakes around my waist, and I lose the ability to breathe for a moment when he says, “If you hadn’t conquered that demon, we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation. Your walls are high, and you did your best to keep me out, but here I am breaking them down brick by brick. And as much as you try to keep me out, and as much as we fight over that, you’re not going anywhere, and you know that.” His lips brush my ear when he adds, “There’s something I’m giving you that Boston never could. And I’m betting it’s the one thing you really need from a man.”

His deep voice commands every one of my senses. He is all I can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell right now. The world doesn’t exist when he has me like this. And that scares me because I never want to give anyone that kind of power over me. So I do my best to take some of it back. “You’re right, my walls are high. But the reason they’re falling down is because I’ve decided to let them. I don’t want to keep pushing people away.” I shoot him a sexy smile as I trail my finger down his chest. “Boston is in the past. You are my future. Now, can we please stop talking so we can start getting naked?”



Chapter Thirty-Two



She’s fucking killing me here. I want to keep pushing her to open up to me, because everything about this fucking Haynes situation is telling me there’s more to it than just her need to control the losses in her life. But fuck, maybe I’m imagining something that isn’t there at all. Maybe I’m the one off base here. It wouldn’t fucking surprise me. Lorelei has me by the goddam balls. In a way that no other woman ever has.

I take in the smile she’s giving me—the one that is begging me to fuck her—and I struggle to think straight. For the last couple of hours, I’ve been going over and over the fact Lorelei said no to Haynes’ marriage proposal, trying to figure out why she wouldn’t want to marry the man she’d given years of her life to. The reason she’s giving me doesn’t make sense, and fuck it, I have a burning need to know the truth. I know deep in my gut that Haynes is back with a mission—one that involves not giving up until he has Lorelei back in his arms. And the one thing I know about winning a war like this is that you need to be armed with every last scrap of knowledge you can get your hands on.


Lorelei’s voice draws my attention back to her desire to get naked. Wanting to forget all the thoughts plaguing my mind, I lift her into my arms, turn, and back her up against the wall in her kitchen. Her legs wrap around me as I drop my lips to her collarbone. I’m a starved man after not having her for a couple of days. Controlling my urge to rip her clothes off and sink myself as deeply inside her as I can is proving almost impossible.

“Mmmm,” she moans, angling her head back to give me full access to her neck. “God how I’ve missed you.”

Those words tip me over. I grip her hair with one hand, pulling her head back further, while snaking my other hand up her body and over her breast so I can wrap it around her throat. Not tightly so she can’t breathe. Rather, I apply just enough pressure to gain her full attention. When those beautiful green eyes of hers meet mine, I see the same raw need there that I have for her.

“I’ll never forget that first day I laid eyes on you.” My declaration catches her by surprise, and a smile dances across her lips at what I say. “I knew then that you were a ballbuster. I just didn’t realise it would be mine you’d be busting.”

The surprise on her face intensifies as her mouth falls open. “You flustered me so much in that meeting and then you pissed me off. If there was anyone that needed their balls busted, it was you.”

I grind my cock against her, needing the friction. Fuck, I need more than that. I need every goddam thing she has to offer. “Well, beautiful, you excel at it.”

“You bring out the best in me, Ashton. I have to admit, though, that I wouldn’t have thought sharing this kind of information would be in your playbook.”

My gaze pierces hers. “Haven’t you learnt by now? I don’t have a playbook where you’re concerned.”

I let go of her neck so I can slide my hand under her top, taking pleasure in the way her back arches when my fingers brush her skin.

“I’m not sure about that,” she says, unbuttoning my shirt in the sexy way she’s perfected. Neither slow nor fast, the way her fingers move over my shirt arrests my attention, keeping it hostage and distracting me from my own goal. “I think Ashton Scott has a carefully considered strategy for everything in life.”

I pull her hair a little harder and kiss my way up her neck to her ear. “I do,” I growl. “Just not with you.” As I admit this, I find her breast under her top and slip my hand inside her bra.

Her hips rock against mine as a moan falls from her lips. “If you’re telling me this to get me hot, it’s working. I am so ready for you to fuck me.”

I pinch her nipple and grind against her. She has no fucking idea what her dirty mouth does to me. “I’m telling you this because I want you to know how I feel about you. This isn’t just some fun for me, Lorelei. I’m one hundred percent in this with you. Hell, you could hand me a playbook that would work for you and I’d still not use it, because I don’t want to chance fucking this up. Everything I say and do with you is completely honest. I’m not bringing any bullshit to this table. When I say I want you, I fucking want you.” I draw away from her slightly to meet her gaze fully. “And when I say you’re busting my balls, I mean it. I want you to know that’s the power you have over me. That’s the power I’m choosing to give you.”

Her body stills and she sucks in a breath while staring at me for a long few moments. Her lips search for mine once she composes herself, and her kiss almost wipes every thought from my mind. That’s what she does to me. Her touch, her kiss, her body, her mind—it all eases something in me. I’m clueless to label exactly what just yet, but I do know there’s an ache deep inside that only she can soothe. And I’ll be damned if I ever let her take that balm away.

When her mouth leaves mine, she meets my gaze again, our faces close. “I know you’re not a strategist where I’m concerned, but just so you know, that kind of honesty will win me over every time,” she says softly, her voice a wash of vulnerability.

She doesn’t realise it, but that’s what I’ve been looking for. A piece of her own raw honesty that reveals I’m not the only one with my dick swinging in the wind here.

I step away from the wall where I have her and turn to walk us down her hallway. “Now we can get naked and you can continue talking dirty to me.”

Her mouth spreads out into the kind of smile I’d do anything to see every day. Threading her fingers through my hair, she says, “No, I want you to talk dirty to me.”

We reach her bedroom, and I throw her down on the bed. Without stopping for even a second, I undo my belt and rasp, “My mouth is going to be too busy to be talking dirty, Lorelei.” And if I have anything to do with it, my mouth is going to be busy for most of the night.




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