No. This would not be a repeat of the past. He would not let her fall through the cracks just because he wasn’t strong enough to resist her. At the very least, he hadn’t gotten her pregnant and abandoned her like his father would have—even if someone else had done just that.
“I want to be here with you, even if it complicates matters. You make me feel things I didn’t know I was still capable of feeling. The way you look at me...I was never a son, never really a husband. Just an employee. A bank account. When I’m with you, I feel like...like the man I was always supposed to be, but never got the chance to.”
She clutched him even tighter. “You never treated me like I was an afterthought, a welfare kid. You always treated me with respect and made me feel like I could be better than my folks were. That I was better.”
He tilted her face back. “I will not fail you, Serena. This complicates things, but I made you a promise. I will keep it.”
She blinked, her eyes shining. “I know you will, Chadwick. That means everything to me.” She kissed him, a tender brush that was sweeter than any other touch he’d ever felt. “I won’t fail you, either.”
The next kiss wasn’t nearly as tender. “Serena,” he groaned as she slipped her legs over his thighs, heat from her center setting his blood on fire. “I need you.”
“I need you, too,” she whispered, rolling onto her back. “I don’t want to look at you in a mirror, Chadwick. I want to see you.”
He sat back on his knees and grabbed one of the condoms. Quickly, he rolled it on and lowered himself into her waiting arms. His erection found her center and he thrust in.
She moaned as he propped himself up on one arm and filled his other hand with her breast. “Yes, just like that.”
He rolled his thumb over her nipple and was rewarded when it went stiff. Her breast was warm and full and real. Everything about her was real—her body, her emotions, her honesty.
Serena ran her nails down his back as she looked him in the eye, spurring him on. Over and over he plunged into her welcoming body. Over and over, waves of emotion flooded his mind.
Now that he was with her, he felt more authentic than he had in years—maybe ever. The closest he’d ever come to feeling real was the year he’d spent making beer. The brewmasters hadn’t treated him with distrust, as so many people in the other departments had. They’d treated him like a regular guy.
Serena worked hard for him, but she’d never done so with the simpering air of a sycophant. Had never treated him like he was a stepping stool to bigger and better things.
This was real, too. The way her body took his in, the way he made her moan—the way he wanted to take her in his arms and never let her go....
Without closing her eyes—without breaking the contact between them—she made a high-pitched noise in the back of her throat as she tightened on his body then collapsed back against her pillow.
He drove hard as his climax roared through his ears so loudly that it blotted out everything but Serena. Her eyes, her face, her body. Her.
He wanted her. He always had.
This didn’t change anything.
“Serena...” He wanted to tell her he loved her, but then what did that mean? Was he actually in love with her? What he felt for her was far stronger than anything he’d ever felt for another woman, but did that mean it was love?
So he bit his tongue and pulled her into his arms, burying his face into her hair.
“Stay with me,” she whispered. “Tonight. In my bed.”
“Yes.” That was all he needed right now. Her, in his arms.
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