“To thirty years of awesomeness and many more!”
Lexie Hayes and her two best friends, Rosie Hobbs and Lynette Montgomery, clinked their shot glasses in a toast and downed the whiskey in one deliciously fiery gulp. Not a bad way to celebrate my thirtieth birthday
. Sure, it wasn’t how she had thought it would be—out somewhere nice with Dean, her husband, before trying to get pregnant with those kids they’d been talking about for the past two years. But spending some girl time with her next two favorite people at one of the newer clubs in downtown Houston was not the worst way to spend a Friday night.
Her husband was, of course, out of town on business. He was a generator specialist who traveled often to work on malfunctioning equipment. Being gone so often didn’t exactly help with the whole getting-pregnant plan. When was the last time we tried?
Lexie shook her head, trying to dislodge that thought as she glanced at her wedding ring. It was probably just that fourth shot of whiskey settling smoothly in her tummy, right?
“Are you okay, Lexie?” Lynette asked with a toss of her blonde hair, concern evident in her blue eyes. Lexie glanced up just in time to see Lynette’s eyes follow the path of her gaze to her wedding ring, then slowly make their way back to her face.
“Yeah, where are you? The party is over here!” Rosie snapped her fingers with the beat of the music, shaking her butt back and forth in her chair as she scanned the room for man candy.
“I’m here, I’m here!” Lexie forced a laugh, although it didn’t sound quite as carefree as she would have hoped. She eyed her friends and wondered how much, if any, she should disclose about her current situation. Where would she even begin? Actually, girls, I’m not here at all. I’m really laughing about how I once thought having children would help us feel like a family, but then I realized he doesn’t even care to sleep with me, much less knock me up. I mean, truly, I had to get myself ready, and then five minutes later, when it was over, I’d lie there wondering if it was enough to make me pregnant. Oh, did I come? Oh no, no, no. I mean, you don’t really have to come during sex, right? There’s so much more to it than that, right? So I went to see Conner this morning and filed for a divorce. Yes, ladies, my marriage is over. Happy birthday to me!
Yeah, she’d stick with not confiding in them at all. Not that they couldn’t be trusted, but there were some things one didn’t dare speak of. Some things were just too embarrassing. Or shameful. Not having an orgasm with her husband since they’d said “I do” four years prior? Yes, that was definitely one of them. Not being sure she actually wanted those kids they had supposedly been trying for? Okay, that too. Coming to the conclusion she didn’t truly love her husband anymore, pretty darn positive he didn’t love her, and then going to see Lynette’s brother for help with a divorce? That one took the cake. She’d tell them, eventually, but not tonight.
Lynette interrupted her thoughts. “So, Dean’s still out of town, huh? How long has he been gone this time?”
“I’m not sure. No longer than usual.” Lexie hated lying to her friends but desperately wanted to avoid the current line of questioning at all costs.
Rosie shot her a doubtful glance before pinning up her dark-brown hair and turning back to the dance floor. “Lexie, you just need to let off some steam. There are plenty of men here. Just pick someone. Don’t worry, we won’t tell Dean. It’ll be our secret for life.”
Lynette laughed and rolled her eyes at the joke as Rosie stood and made her way to the bartender.
Was it a joke? Lexie wasn’t so sure. While Rosie never came right out and said it, she’d never exactly hidden her distaste for Dean, and she didn’t know the half of it. Either way, soon Lexie would be single and free to be with anyone she wished. The thought of her failed marriage stung, but she brushed it off and turned toward Lynette. “How’s Jenna?”
Jenna was Lynette’s older sister, and had been battling cancer for as long as Lexie could remember. She’d been in remission twice, and now it looked like it was back again. Jenna was one of the most genuinely nice people Lexie had ever met. A single mother of two little boys, she’d always managed to keep it together for her family, and to see this happening to her was just horrifying.
Lynette shook her head slightly while her lips formed a tight line. “She had a biopsy and is waiting for the results, but the doctors are pretty positive the breast cancer is back. Momma and Daddy are trying to stay positive, Conner too, but I get this gut-wrenching feeling that this time it’s not going to be okay.”
Lexie squeezed Lynette’s hand as Rosie came back with three new shots.
“Holy hell, I just met the sexiest guy, the one over there.” Rosie turned to smile at the pierced and tattooed gentleman, who grinned back. “That would be Aaron, and mark my words, I plan to climb him like a tree.”
“And on that note, I think it’s time to dance. Let’s go, ladies,” Lynette yelled over the music as she took the drinks from Rosie.
Shots slammed, Lexie let her friends pull her to the dance floor to, hopefully, forget about reality for just one night.
As she let the music take over and started to sway her hips, she took in her surroundings. She loved the club. A black dance floor made up most of the first level with the exception of the huge bar area where they had been sitting. The bar stretched along the entire wall, while the second level seemed to be more chairs with tables and couches, very lounge-like and chill. Deep red walls and a gorgeous staircase separated each level. That gorgeous staircase was the last clear thought she had before she felt the liquor completely take over.
BLISS. PURE. FUCKING. Bliss. Jonathon Hayes watched Lexie from his spot in the corner of the bar, willing to bet money she hadn’t felt that relaxed in a long time. In the past, she’d always been tense, as if she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Seeing her like this was a thing of beauty. Dancing and laughing with her friends, not a care in the world, shaking her ass and probably never realizing that all it did was tease every poor bastard’s cock in the room. His included.
His sister-in-law was the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen. Dark hair fell halfway down her back, accenting even darker eyes, and her soft body had just enough curves to have a man on his knees begging for a taste.
He still remembered the first time he’d met her. His douche bag of a brother Dean had taken her to a party at a hole-in-the-wall bar five years ago. How Dean had managed a catch like Lexie was still lost on him. Jonathon had shown up and stayed long enough to be introduced—he used
to make an effort back then—decided she was too good for his brother, and promptly shoved his tongue down her throat when she left the main area to go to the bathroom. Dick move? Absolutely. But in the few minutes he’d spent with her, he’d known instantly Dean would destroy her. Take everything she had to offer and leave her empty and broken in return. He’d do anything to keep her from that fate, even if it meant him coming off as a total creep. He’d fully expected her to kick him in the balls, but instead, her face had transformed into one of desire and need, and he’d panicked. He’d gotten too close to the sun and knew it would set him on fire, so he summoned up his best smart-ass chuckle and said, “Damn, baby, I guess you’ll wet your panties for just about anyone, huh?
God, what a prick
. Yeah, he’d acted like a complete ass, and he hadn’t blamed her one bit when she’d told him to fuck off. He hated that his words had hurt her. But he never expected her to marry
his brother the next year. Hadn’t she seen what an asshole he was? Jonathon might have a hot temper and be a little overprotective, but he was damn sure better than his brother. And not fucking dangerous
. Which was why he’d tried to scare her off.
Now here he was, staring at her for the past three hours while she drank with her friends and danced around like she was truly happy, although he suspected that not to be true. He knew what his brother had been up to, and the pensive expression she wore was enough to tell him she had an idea something wasn’t right.
“Another beer?” The bartender threw a hand towel over his shoulder.
“Yeah, man, why not? One more should be good.” After paying for his beer, he took a drink and turned just in time to see Lexie heading off to an empty hallway, her friends still on the dance floor, having picked up some random guys.
Jesus. Doesn’t she know not to fucking walk alone in these places?
He watched her go, looking around to make sure nobody got any bright ideas. Even though it was almost time to close and the crowd was thinning out, there were still plenty of people lurking around. He wished she would be more aware of her surroundings. He didn’t want to give his presence away, but if someone presented himself as a threat to her, he wouldn’t hesitate to step in. Didn’t girls always go to the bathroom together or some shit like that? Just then he saw a big guy with a shaved head and a black T-shirt eye-fuck her as she walked by. Jonathon watched and waited. He didn’t like the idea of someone leering at her, but he’d let it slide as long as it stopped there. Unfortunately, the son of a bitch got up, glanced around, and proceeded after her. Jonathon saw red.
* * * *
Okay, Lexie, you have no idea where you are going
. Lexie giggled as she walked down the hallway in search of the bathroom. Oh, well. She was enjoying her buzz and wasn’t going to let her awful sense of direction stop her good time.
She was about to turn around and head back when something pushed her hard from behind and flattened her into the far corner of the hallway. She yelped as her clutch went flying and pain radiated from the right side of her head. A large hand grabbed her wrists, pinning them above her head, while an arm wrapped around her waist.
“Shut up!” a male voice growled in her ear. “Shut the fuck up right now, and I won’t hurt you.”
“You won’t hurt me?” Lexie whispered back. She’d always been feisty, and no way was she changing now. “Something tells me you’re full of shit. What do you want?” Her heart raced, fear taking hold of her with every liquor-filled breath he sent her way. Fear gave way to panic when the arm around her waist slid down until he was holding her mound through her skirt.
“You know exactly what I want. It’s what you want too. That’s why you’ve been showing it off all night like a wh—”
Suddenly, he was off her.
Willing herself not to panic, she turned around in time to see another man pin her assailant in a chokehold. Eyes widening in surprise, she stared at the one man she detested. The only man who’d taken up residence in her wet dreams.