Life Renewed Chapters 10-19

sm life-renewed.jpgLife Renewed (Chapters 10-19)

By StefB

Sara Collins had finally come to terms with the changes that occurred to her on her eighteenth birthday and built a comfortable life for her and her son but seeing the twin sister of the woman who turned her world upside down brought on an onslaught of painful memories.
Her life changes drastically afterwards but through the joy and the pain she sees the chance at a life renewed.
This story takes place within my Goddess Realm

This is the second part of a new storyline taking place within my Goddess Realm. It is not necessary to read Saved by a Goddess or Saved By a Goddess: Gifts to enjoy this story but admittedly it does help and is recommended.

Thank You LorasPa6 for your wonderful help editing and being there to bounce ideas off of.

Chapter Ten

I looked to Tina for some type of assistance while trying gather my composure but she was no help at all, she just stared at Adam all googly-eyed.

I forced a smile as I sat up straight before cocking my head around to look up at his perfect face. I summoned the sweetest voice I could muster. "You are absolutely right, what are you drinking?"

"Jack and Coke babe." Adam replied with a grin that might have caused someone to need to mop the floor beneath me if I weren't still mad at him.

I snapped my fingers in Tina’s face to get her to focus on me. She was so obvious I couldn’t help but to laugh. "Hey! Zeus needs a Jack and Coke, put it on my tab."

Adam’s eyes narrowed at me. "That was not what I had in mind."

I smiled innocently but he couldn't miss the contempt in my eyes, "I know full well what you had in mind but this is the least I could do for the great Zeus."

His voice rose slightly, "And just what is that supposed to mean?"

I rolled my eyes and waved my hand in front of me dismissively, "Oh nothing at all. I just figured after I left last night Britney gave you all the thanks you needed. I assumed you got that itch scratched didn't you? I mean she looked ready and willing to stow your thunderbolt."

His reaction left little doubt to the fact that I managed to get under his skin. He looked as if he was going to pop. The fire in his eyes matched the flames tattooed on his biceps.

Anger and frustration were apparent as he spoke. Spoke might be an understatement, actually he screamed at me. "What did I do to you? I bought you a few drinks. BIG DEAL! YOU were the one who hit on me last night… It was YOU who walked up behind me and put YOUR arms around MY neck… It was YOU who nibbled on MY ear… It was YOU who initiated the kiss with ME. In fact I believe YOU pulled ME closer, so tell me Sara just what have I done to deserve your contempt?"

He moved suddenly and I flinched when he grabbed his drink, sloshing part of it onto the bar, before turning away. "And thank you for the drink. Have a nice night Miss Collins."

Wow, I did NOT expect that. I felt as if I had been slapped. He was absolutely right; he had done nothing wrong at all. He only responded to signals I had given and I was projecting my past experiences on him. I felt tears starting to form in the corners of my eyes and sniffled trying to hold them back when Tina pushed another margarita to me before wiping off the bar where Adam had spilled part of his Jack and Coke.

"Here Libs I think you need this. I have to tell you, I've known Zeus for years. He may not look it but he's a great guy. Every girl who meets him falls under his spell and lays at his feet, except you. I may be out of line but weren't you kinda cold to him?" Tina stopped long enough to hand a customer a beer before she continued, "I don’t know what's going on with you two, and I’m not sure I want to know. Please correct me if I'm speaking out of turn but weren’t you a little harsh? I mean you're one of the sweetest people I've ever met and you just went full on bitch on him."

Tina was right. I was being awful. I was directing all my anger in his direction unjustly.

Why is it ever since I laid eyes on that man everything I do is wrong? I took a deep breath to reign in my emotions. "Thanks, I think I owe him an apology. Don’t let anyone get my seat."

Tina smiled warmly, "Gotcha girlfriend."

When I approached Adam’s table I noticed he was with three rough looking guys who were having a great time. There were 5 girls at the table focusing on his friends. To say Adam looked unhappy would be the understatement of all time. I walked up behind him and tapped his shoulder. He greeted me with such a glare I felt myself cower.

"Can we talk?" I asked timidly, "I owe you an apology."

His anger softened somewhat but did not dissipate. "I guess." He stood then nodded toward the front door.

I meekly followed until we were standing outside and I stood nervously looking up at him. After taking a deep breath I started rambling. "I have no excuse for how I've acted and I really am sorry. You only acted on the cues I gave you. I was out of line but I need you to understand that you are everything I find physically attractive in a man and I let that desire get the best of me last night."

I held my hand up to stop him when it appeared he was about to speak. I needed to get everything out before I lost my nerve. "And you're also every man who has ever hurt me. I projected the anger and hurt of my past onto you and that was unfair. I really hope you can forgive me. I’m not some psychotic bitch who gets her kicks by leading men on all night only to leave them in a huff. I feel terrible about this. What can I do to make it up to you?"

I took a breath and his eyes softened with understanding. Kevin may have been cute but Adam was breathtaking.

So what if he was just a doorman at a club, I make more than enough money and it’s not like I’m going to marry him. Okay I may have a problem with all his groupies but I usually just have to sneer at other girls and they scatter. It was another advantage to being an Amazon.

Adam smiled at me with such kindness that it warmed my cold heart. "How about we start over?" He extended his right hand. "Hello my name is Adam Carson it's very nice to meet you."

"Hi Adam, my name is Sara Collins and the pleasure is mine." I was giggling as I placed my hand in his. I loved how his large palm made mine look tiny in comparison.

"Miss Collins I have to be back at the club in a hour or so. It would be an honor if you would accompany me to grab a bite to eat before I go."

I nodded graciously, "I'd be honored. Let get my purse from Tina and pay my tab then I'll be ready."

I was as happy at that moment as I was upset not five minutes prior.

Adam turned toward the door. "I'll inform my associates then call us a cab."

I shook my head. "No need for a cab, my car is around back."

He held the door open for me to enter. "Great, then I'll be waiting for you right here."

I rushed to Tina and delight radiated from every pore of my body. "I need to settle up and tell Ellie to text me when she gets out tonight. Adam and I are going to grab a bite to eat."

When Tina handed my credit card and receipts back she was wearing an odd grin and shaking her head from side to side.

"What?" I asked defensively.

"You've gone from no dates to two dates in one day. Dates with two of the most desired men in town no less." She sniffed then faked wiping away a tear with her bar rag. "My little girl is growing up so fast."

I stuck my tongue out as signed one receipt and pushed it toward her and placed the other in my purse. A silly laugh escaped my lips. "I may be out late Mom, don’t wait up!" I tossed air kisses her way as I walked away.

She laughed as she returned them, "Bye babe."

When I stepped out of the club Adam was waiting as promised. Actually, better than promised, leaning with his broad back against a pillar smoking a cigarette with one of his long legs cocked beneath his perfect butt for support. An otherworldly glow surrounded him from the setting sun behind his back.

The scene momentarily took my breath away. It has to be a crime to look that good without trying.

He appeared to be deep in thought so I dug a penny out of my purse and placed it in his free hand. He looked at me puzzled.

"It’s for your thoughts."

He laughed and shook his head. "Oh it was nothing important."

"You ready to go or do you need to finish your smoke?"

Adam flipped his cigarette in the receptor, then turned to me and bowed. "After you my lady."

Walking behind the club I hit my key fob to unlock the doors to my Mini.

Adam smiled as he opened my door for me. "Nice car, my best friend had a grey one as a rental and a neighbor has one almost identical."

I laughed watching this hulking specimen of a man fold himself into my tiny car as I sat down and started it. As usual for when I'm driving alone my CD player was turned up loud. Adam reached across and turned it down.

"Sorry about that. Not a fan of Xenolith?" I asked. They were my favorite band at the moment. They had a retro feel that was close to the music I listened to when I was in high school. I also loved how they also incorporated theatrics into their act. Every member of the band wore wild makeup or masks to hide their identity. They claimed it allowed them to focus on the music.

Adam chuckled, "They're not bad. I just never would have pictured you as a fan. Not many people in the U.S. have even heard of them."

I laughed. "My son turned me onto them. He's a huge fan. His favorite is the guitar player who dresses in a toga. He's such a fan I've bought him a guitar just like that guy uses for his birthday next week."

Adam smiled shyly, "Yeah, a lot of people like that guy I think. What other music do you listen to?"

I tossed Adam my CD case as I pulled out on the street. "Pick anything you like. Call me old school but nothing quite feels like pulling out the liner notes to read while listening. How does Italian sound to you?"

Adam looked through the case. "I couldn't agree more. Italian sounds great. You have wonderful taste in music. I may want to borrow a few of these. Not to make copies but just to listen."

I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, which was only a block away. "Help yourself."

I've never seen a man move as fast as Adam did when I parked. Before I had a chance to remove my seatbelt he was already out of the car and opening the driver's side door for me.

I smiled brightly. "Aren't you the gentleman? Thank you."

He placed his hand in the small of my back. "I have my moments."

I eyed him amusingly. "I'm sure you do."

His laughter was boisterous as he held the door open. "I can be a gentleman when a lady is worthy of such attention."

I bumped his shoulder as we made our way to the table. "So how do you decide who is worthy?"

His brows rose as he smirked. "I don't. Most women let me treat them however I want but once in a while I will meet one who will let me know I'm being an ass."

I blushed. "Is that what you think I did last night?"

His tempting dark chocolate eyes studied me for a moment as he pulled out my chair. "Yes and even then I didn't get the hint. You had to give me another slap today for me to realize that if ever there was a woman worthy of being treated with respect, it is you."

His words were unexpected and caught me completely off guard. I couldn't help but to place my palm on his cheek as I smiled up at him. "Thank you."

I stared at him as he quickly moved to take his seat opposite me. Gone was the arrogant, tough, self-assured, beautiful man who had women falling over themselves to be near him and in his stead was simply a man. An unbelievably gorgeous man, but a man nonetheless.

He started to squirm under my scrutiny and reached into his pocket before presenting me a penny. "For your thoughts. I have to know."

I smiled and continued to gaze at him unabashed. "You are nothing like I initially thought."

He picked up his menu to hide his face. "What were your thoughts?"

I laughed and removed the menu to regain my view of his delicious eyes. "I thought you were bad news and I needed to run as fast as I could."

He frowned slightly. "You're not altogether wrong. Why didn't you?"

I shrugged. "I let Ellie talk me into it."

He didn't seem convinced. "I don't believe that. You don't look like the type who can be talked into doing something you don't want to do."

I frowned and looked out the picture window. "You'd be surprised what I've let people talk me into."

Thankfully the waiter interrupted our conversation to take our order. He was quite friendly and endeavored to impress us with a lame attempt at speaking Italian. Adam didn't attempt to hide his amusement when the waiter became tongue tied after I spoke it back to him fluently.

"You are a very fascinating person." Adam said as we were waiting for our meals.

I twisted the napkin I had placed in my lap. "What do you mean?"

"Well, so far I have met four different versions of you. Each one quite interesting by themselves." Adam paused and the smile that crossed his lips was beyond compare. "But none of then shocked me more than you did at the club. I was sitting in there trying to talk a band into performing and look over at the bar. To my astonishment, there you were carrying on with the girls like they were your best friends. I think seeing Mother Theresa sitting on stage in sparkly pasties would have surprised me less. Were you there to see Elle?"

It did not take me long to realize how different Adam was from my initial thoughts. He was honest and direct. He was more perceptive that he let on and was not going to play any more games.

I nodded my head, "Yes, Ellie's my cousin and best friend. We grew up together and have been through so much. I'm friends with a lot of the girls so I sometimes hang out while waiting so we can go out afterwards." I paused to take a drink before addressing the rest of what he said.

"I believe I explained my behavior a few minutes ago at the club. I may go into more detail at a later date but I'm not comfortable doing so right now. I will say that I have my reasons for being how I am."

Adam leaned back in his seat. "Elle is your cousin? You two sound nothing alike." He looked at me bemused. "So are you from here too?"

I laughed. "Yes, born and raised but I moved away as soon as I could." I went on to explain how I ended up moving home.

"What do you do?"

"I am an executive vice-president for Moretti and Associates."

Adam appeared impressed. "You can't be as old as I am and yet you hold a prestigious job."

I laughed lightly and I gave him a confused expression, "How old do you think I am Adam?"

Without hesitation or any hint of fabrication he replied. "Yesterday at lunch I would have said twenty nine or thirty but now my guess is twenty five or so."

My laughter intensified. "Bless your heart. That's the nicest thing anyone's said to me in a long time."

Confusion was the prominent emotion radiating from this gorgeous man when he next spoke. "How old are you then?"

I was basking in the moment and enjoying every sweet second of his bewilderment. "Now Adam, you know never to ask such things. I'll give you a hint. My son is about to be thirteen in less than a week and I was far from a teenager when I became pregnant."

I watched him do the math in his head with great amusement. His look intensified and he steered the topic away from my age. "Are you dating Kevin?"

I shook my head. "No, it was a business meeting. We are hoping to do business with his record label."

"Did he give you the contract?"

I stared at him defiantly. "What? Why do you want to know that?"

"Just curious, pieces to the puzzle."

"You don't like Kevin do you?"

Adam shrugged. "I don't trust him, he always has a hidden agenda. Do you have any other kids?" Adam's change of direction startled me again. Maybe he was testing his boundaries.

I shook my head. "Just Hunter. He’s my world. Do you have any kids?"

"Not that I am aware of." He laughed at what he perceived as a witty reply before firing his next question. "How long have you been divorced?"

I shook my head again. "Never married. Don't believe in it. You?"

His brows escalated and he leaned forward. "I've been divorced a year and a half. You get more interesting by the minute."

That answer didn't ring true so I chose to ignore the last part of his reply. I decided he had asked enough and it was my turn for questions.

I leaned forward til our noses almost touched mid-table. "A year and a half huh? I don't think it's been that long. Her idea or yours?"

He did not look happy that I commandeered the direction of our discussion. He paused and his scowled deepened when the waiter brought our food before he continued "Hers."

If he was going to be bold with his questions I decided to be bold as well. "Thought so. Are you over her?" I took a sip of my wine and sharpened my focus. "I don’t think you are. Not even close."

I hit a nerve. Pain flashed in his eyes and he squirmed in his seat before locking me into his gaze. "No but I'm getting there. My life has been turned upside down recently and I'm still trying to make sense of it all."

I remained stone faced. "That would explain all the coeds. My guess is you're trying to fuck the pain away. What do you want from me?"

Adam leaned back again and laughed. "Now we get to the point don’t we?" He rubbed his forehead. "I don’t know, I’m not sure. You're an enigma Sara. I have never met a woman who gives off mixed signals quite like you do. All I do know is you intrigue me and not many women do that."

Before I had a chance to respond he grabbed my hand and lightly rubbed the back with his thumb as he took charge again. "What do you want from me?"

My answer was an easy one. I had no place, nor desire for a man in my life. "Me? I want sex." When his eyes started to bulge I felt the need to add a caveat. "But I want it on my terms."

If he had a drink in his perfect mouth he would have been spitting it all over when he started coughing. "Alright then. I believe we can come to agreement that will be satisfactory for both of us." He glanced at his watch. "Can we discuss the terms later? I need to get to the bar."

I hadn't even noticed the time. We were so deep in conversation I barely touched my fettuccini. It was just as well since it wasn't that good. After eating authentic Italian cuisine prepared by a true Italian who lived to cook, most dishes paled in comparison. Knowing Hunter would probably enjoy it, I decided to take it home.

"Do you need me to drop you off at the club?" I asked as the waiter approached.

His gaze became mischievous, "Only if you promise to come in."

I completely understood his reasons for wanting me there and was not sure it was a good idea. All we established was that I wasn't deliberately mean to him and that he was a player, not quite over his ex, who wanted to know me better.

I had yet to set the parameters.

He sensed my hesitation. "I'm not asking you to go home with me yet. I'm asking you to come hang out. No expectations other than a night of stress free fun without expectations."

I studied his eyes. They didn't show anything other than honesty and an offer of friendship. "Won’t you be at the door all night?"

He grinned. "It’ll be fun I promise."

I looked down at what I was wearing. "Can I go home and change if I promise to come back? I can't wear this."

Adam shook his head. "I think you look fantastic."

My voice came closer to pleading than I intended. "I was there last night so I've seen what women wear. I won’t feel comfortable in this."

He thought for a moment before he reluctantly consented. "If you promise to come back."

"I give you my word." I responded as the waiter returned with a box for my food and the check.

Adam reached for his wallet but I wasn't sure if an unplanned dinner was in his budget. "I insist on paying since this is my apology to you." I handed the waiter my credit card before Adam had a chance to argue.

Grudgingly he nodded and allowed me to pay but I could tell he was not happy about it.

Chapter Eleven

During the short trip from club to my condo after dropping Adam off my arousal was rising in anticipation of the night ahead. Unwittingly, my mind drifted to my first sexual experience as a woman.

As another part of my baptismal by fire, it also happened on my eighteenth birthday…

"How did you get talked into working on your birthday?" Matt asked as I started setting everyone's drinks on the table.

I shrugged. "I need the money since Snake won't let me work at the bike shop anymore. The band is apparently over since Razor quit and took Tim with him so when Tipsy himself asked if I wanted to work tonight, I couldn't say no. We need a place to live you know."

I was also afraid what I might do to myself if I allowed myself to drink and focus on what I had become. I figured if I stayed busy I could delay the reality of the situation that had me wearing a black leather mini skirt and strategically torn club tee shirt that barely covered the important parts.

Matt shrugged embarrassingly. "You're right. I'll go job hunting tomorrow morning."

I smiled at my friend, not believing a word he said. He was not costing me anything to sleep on my couch and I knew I would be lost in self pity without him to distract me. "Keep focusing on your music, even if it is just the bass."

Matt laughed and threw a napkin at me as I turned quickly to get away.

I was almost knocked down when I ran into Johnny, one of the hottest actors of the day. His face was on the cover of all the major magazines and he could not go out alone anymore but to us he was just another struggling musician who happened to have a great day job.

"Well hello." He said in his deep but soft voice.

I smiled nervously as I looked at him. I had known Johnny for about six months and for the first time I really looked at him.

He was shorter than me at five foot ten and had the sexiest brown eyes. He was both accessible and enigmatic. He looked tougher in person than he did on screen, and his hair was stuffed into a woolen hat. He had a natural perversity about him which I found very appealing.

Surprisingly I found myself filled with desire as I smiled at him. "Hi, sorry about that."

He smiled at rubbed his chin while his eyes drifted up and down my body. "Don't be. I rather enjoyed it. Actually if you wanted to do it again I would not complain."

Even though my mind was screaming no, my body moved closer to him. "We could step in the back."

The young actor smiled mischievously as he glanced at a woman waiting with his entourage. "We will have to make it quick. I hope you don't mind."

Even though I wanted to scream no, my new body was screaming yes as it filled with desire.

"After you." I said seductively.

It ended up being fast, dirty and ultimately humiliating to my psyche as I realized truly how little control I had over my urges. I wanted desperately to cry afterwards but instead I smiled after he finished and thanked him with a kiss.

"Thank goodness I eventually learned how to suppress those urges." I said to myself as I pulled into my parking spot.

---

What to wear? What to wear?

I made up my mind on the way home to drop any apprehension I had concerning Adam and just see where the night took me. I was just going to follow Ellie's advice and get laid.

My mind ceded all decision making to my hormones.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

I decided that, at least for tonight, I was going to see if I could make him forget about any girl but me. I knew his type and knew her well. I may have abandoned his scene years ago but that didn’t mean I had forgotten how the game is played.

As I looked through my closet I became frustrated because nothing seemed right.

After what felt like an eternity and a trip to my back office to dig through old clothes, I finally decided upon a solid black halter-top accented with sequins that I could never allow myself to part with from back in the day and a pair of black distressed jeans also accented with sequins that were now so tight they looked like they were painted on. I rarely wore the jeans because they drew far too much attention to my rounded butt when I had them on. I topped it off with my short red leather jacket and put on my red three-inch stilettos. I double checked my hair and added larger silver hoops to my ears.

I washed my face and reapplied my makeup adding a sultry night time look to my eyes in addition to a light blush and dark red lipstick. When I stepped in front of the full-length mirror in my bathroom and I was very satisfied with the result. There was only one place in town my outfit would work without looking tacky.

Luckily that was the place was Anthracite.

I stepped out of the cab in front of the club and from the look of the line outside it was going to be a packed house. Adam’s stare became hungry as soon as he noticed me. He motioned for me to join him at the front, this gesture on his part garnered me dirty looks from almost everyone in line. He pulled me in close and before he realized it, my lips locked onto his. His eyes shone with a passion that caused me to melt in his strong arms. He reluctantly pulled away before he whispered into my ear "My God woman you are unbelievably gorgeous right now. Did you do all this just for me? I told you there were no expectations."

I smiled and nodded as I nervously licked my lips. "I know but I thought I'd try to tilt the odds in my favor."

As if suddenly struck by a stray thought Adam smirked when he looked into my eyes, "You definitely did that. I need to see your ID?"

He just saw it last night, I didn't understand. "Why?"

With mischief in his sexy eyes he replied, "It's the law."

I laughed when I realized what he wanted. I retrieved my license from my purse and handed it to him. "I'm thirty-six. Happy now?"

He nodded and reached under the small podium in front of him to remove a single red rose. "This is for you. I told Jane that I'm taking care of your drinks tonight and she saved you a seat. Go have fun, I'll be up shortly."

I accepted the beautiful flower and nibbled on one earlobe while gently caressing the other with my fingertip. I could feel his smile when I whispered. "Thanks sexy, come see me when you get a chance."

I couldn’t help but smirk at the jealous stares of almost every woman in line when I headed up to the club. Once I reached the top of the stairs Jane motioned me to a chair at the corner of the bar. Before I could even take my seat she walked over. "Damn, you look amazing. You want Sex tonight?"

I looked at her and laughed, "Thanks. Yeah I do but I'll settle for a strawberry margarita til he gets off work."

I caught Jane off guard with my response when she started laughing. "I can tell already we're going to be good friends."

Jane and I chatted every chance she had. I really liked her, she was so funny and had a no nonsense aura about her. I found out she married really young but her husband died soon afterwards and her parents died a couple of years ago in a car crash. A single brother was all the family she had left. She struck me as a strong woman who would not only be a fierce friend but also a friend for life.

The band was great; they were mainly playing covers from the late eighties and early to mid nineties, which I loved. I was having so much fun singing along to a Poison song and dancing in my seat that I didn’t notice a microphone in my face prompting me to sing until it was too late.

I don’t know what came over me, if it was the alcohol or just my lighter mood but I leaned into the microphone and kept singing as the lead singer stared at me in shock. I don’t think he expected me to be able to hit the high note as well or as long as I did. Suddenly he seized my hand and pulled me to go with him. It had been years since I was on a stage but I decided to go with the moment. As soon as I was in front of the crowd I grabbed the mic from his hand and took control. The moves came naturally as I simply repeated the steps I had developed years earlier when I was in the original video.

After the song ended I stepped off the stage to massive applause and was surprised to see Adam in the back with total admiration in his dark hungry eyes. I smiled as I worked my way through the crowd and accepted more than my share of drunken compliments as I tried to get to him. After finally reaching my destination, Adam wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted my feet off the ground. "What was that? You were amazing! I had no idea you could sing."

Jane leaned over the bar so Adam could hear her. "I did, you should have heard her last night. She has a great voice."

Adam nodded, "I can tell. She was fantastic."

Before I resumed my place at the bar, I removed my jacket then turned to drape it over the back of the stool, as I leaned over the bottom of my halter-top rode up.

"Sweet Baby Jesus! You have tattoos!"

Oh shit, I forgot my top was backless… and short. I turned back to face him. His eyes were full of wonder.

My face soon matched the color of my jacket. "Yeah, I kinda have a few of them"

"Why are you embarrassed?" Adam asked while he traced the outline of the butterfly that was between my shoulder blades. "I think a woman with tattoos is sexy. Do you have just those two?"

I shook my head self-consciously. "No, I have six."

His eyes bulged with excitement. "Can I see them?"

I winked, "Not right now, there are some in places not meant for public display."

His lips turned up into a wicked smile, "And I thought you were Miss Uptight and Stuffy when we met. You're full of surprises. I can’t wait to get you out of here."

I noticed Jane had provided a fresh margarita and after enjoying a long slow drink I leaned in and ran my cold tongue up his neck and purred, "I can’t either."

His body stiffened. "I’d love to go now but I can’t leave for another hour, want to shoot some pool?" The way he shifted so he could readjust himself told me he needed a distraction.

"I haven't played in years. I’d rather watch you play." I looked at him puzzled, "Don't you have to work the door?"

Adam pulled me close as nuzzled my neck. "Nah, I got one of the guys covering for me. After seeing you onstage I figured if I left ya alone someone would steal ya away. You sure you don't want to play? It'd be fun."

I filled with joy at hearing him become worried about other guys, as if any guy could compare to him. I momentarily basked in the warmth of his substantial body next to mine.

I stepped away only slightly so he could get a good look at me. "I have no doubt but I'd rather just watch. This outfit might not be the best for bending in public." I leaned forward and wiggled my chest to emphasize my point.

Adam started laughing while eyeing me closely. "I might have to agree with that assessment. Although it’s a damn fine sight, I’d end up in a fight as soon as one of these drunks hit on you."

When we approached the pool table Adam walked over to two guys sitting at a corner table and glared at them. With a scowl he nodded his head toward the main area to get them to move. They left quickly.

Okay, he is the jealous type and can scare guys with a look. This nice guy routine he is playing with me must be an act.

I took one of the vacated seats watching Adam rack up the balls for the break when I felt my phone vibrate. I looked down and saw a text from Ellie finally asking where I was. I quickly replied telling her to come to the club and she immediately responded letting me know she would be there in five minutes or so.

The sound of the pool balls cracking brought my attention back to Adam. He had removed his jacket and was leaning next to the pool table using his cue to prop himself up. I knew he was mine for the night when a young attractive blonde walked up to him trying to get his attention and he ignored her advances.

He looked scrumptious standing there in tight faded jeans and a tight black tank with Anthracite logo and snakeskin cowboy boots. The tank emphasized his ripped chest and tattoos. The entire package was an awe-inspiring sight. His eyes were dark and narrow and his lips were set in a straight line as he concentrated on the game in front of him.

When it was his turn to shoot, he leaned over the table and swung his head to move his long hair from his eyes. I blinked twice as his long mane floated to the right side of his chiseled face. The sight in front of me was one of the sexiest I had ever witnessed in my life. My breathing became ragged as pure unadulterated desire coursed through my veins.

Oh the things I planned on doing to that man.

My fantasy was interrupted when I heard Ellie scream my name. I jumped up and ran to give her a hug. Greg, her boyfriend of the week was with her.

Greg was not exactly her usual type but still rather attractive in a low-keyed way. He was close to our age, if not older. I found him to be quite the departure from the young studs I had grown accustomed to her being with. I towered over him in my heels as he stood five foot eight with a slim, but fit, build. He made me feel uncomfortable with way he ran his hand through his short brown hair and just stared at me with narrow hazel colored eyes as if I was an alien from outer space.

"What are you wearing? I can’t believe you still have that halter! What's up with your hair?" As Ellie bombarded me with her questions and it was obvious I shocked her.

I panicked and started patting my hair. "Why? What's wrong with it?" I became worried but Adam seemed to like it.

"Nothing at all. I just thought you left this girl in L.A." she motioned to all of me.

I smiled because I knew what she was trying to say. "She wanted to come out tonight so I let her. I can’t believe all this still fits."

"Of course it still fits silly. How many times have I told you. You ain't aged like you think you have." Ellie gasped suddenly. "You're not wearing a jacket!" She knew I hated showing my tattoos anymore. It only reminded me of a time better off forgotten.

"Please don’t make me over think this. I'm having more fun that I've had in ages"

Ellie spun around to her date with embarrassment. "Oh, this is Greg." Her face told me that I had stunned her to the point she'd forgotten he was there.

"I already figured that out." I laughed as I extended my hand to him. "Nice to finally meet you."

Greg looked up to me with what could best be described as bafflement in his eyes. "Nice to meet you as well. I must say you aren't what I was expecting from the way Ellie described you."

Ellie looked horrified and punched him in the arm.

I suspiciously eyed my cousin. "Uh oh, what did you expect?"

Without the slightest hint of embarrassment, and almost a look of disgust, Greg replied. "I don't know, a wallflower of some sort. Someone shy and quiet. Whatever I was expecting was definitely not this."

I immediately didn't like him but I kept my feelings to myself since I figured he wouldn't be around long and played nice for Ellie's sake. "I’m sure but I promise I don’t usually look or act this way."

I felt Adam put his hands on my hips while his thumbs traced the heart on my lower back. I turned and he kissed me lightly on the corner of my lip. "I like you looking this way."

I lit up as he said it and rested the back of my head on his shoulder. "I’m sure you do but I’m not confident this is appropriate attire for the office."

I motioned to my right. "Adam you know Ellie and this is her boyfriend Greg."

Ellie wore such a happy grin on her beautiful face as Adam extended his hand to her boyfriend. "Nice to meet you Greg."

Greg returned his handshake, "You too Adam." Greg looked as if he was completely out of his element.

The contrast was great between Adam’s large build and height compared to Greg’s slight stature. I tried hard not to laugh at how uncomfortable Greg appeared to be. Ellie shot me a look that told me she was thinking the same thing.

I don't know if it was my lightened mood or the fact I just didn't like Greg but I finally gave in and snickered while looking at them.

Greg's eyes narrowed at my amusement. "Did I miss a joke?"

Without me having to say a word, Ellie knew I didn't like him and shot me a pleading stare that was a request to let it drop.

I chose to ignore Greg and looked up to Adam hungrily, "Are you still playing?"

"Yeah, just waiting for a new rack. You wanna go back to the bar?"

I shook my head and bit my bottom lip. "No, I like watching you play."

I moved in closer and whispered, "Your butt looks cute when you bend across the table."

His high cheekbones turned an adorable shade of pink. "I don’t think anyone has ever told me that before."

I licked my lips slow and deliberately, "I don’t know why, I could watch you all night."

The guy Adam was playing against tapped him on the shoulder to let him know the rack was ready. Before returning to his game Adam spun me so I faced him and planted one of his earth-shattering kisses upon my willing lips. My knees seemed to forget their purpose but thankfully Adam held me close.

He winked at me as he sat me down in my seat. "I need to get back to the game. You have fun watching."

As he turned to head back I slapped his ass making him jump. He looked back at me amazed and I winked and bit my bottom lip seductively.

I was so busy staring at Adam and his game I did not notice when the lead singer from the band appeared at my side. "Hi, I'm Jett. You were amazing up there. I wondered if you'd like to sing another song with us tonight?"

I smiled at Jett kindly, "Nice to meet you, I'm Sara. I'm flattered you'd ask but I'll have to pass. That was a spur of the moment thing. I don't usually sing in public."

Jett placed his hand on my shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You should, you have an amazing voice. Come one, just one song."

As has been the case with me for many years, such a simple gesture caused my entire body to tense up. "Thanks, I'm honored because your band is great but no. I'm sorry."

Jett's shoulders slumped in defeat although his smile didn't face. "Okay, but know it's a standing offer. Anytime you feel like singing just let us know."

"Thanks Jett, I'll keep that in mind. It was nice to meet you." I said as I politely dismissed him.

"Nice to meet you too Sara."

Ellie leaned into me as Jett walked back toward the stage. "Spill it Lib, what has gotten into you? You sang tonight? You swore you'd never do that again. What about Kevin? You could have a future with him."

I rolled my eyes. "What about him? He's a Kevin for God's sake. I can't have a future with someone like him."

My cousin stared at me. "What's that supposed to mean?"

I smiled. "Have you ever met a Kevin that wasn't fat or bald or both by the time he's forty? I'm not looking for anything long term. I just want to have a little fun."

Greg glared at me and Ellie shook her head nervously trying to contain her laughter. She moved closer and started to whisper. "Greg's middle name is Kevin just so you know. I'm going to ask again, what has gotten into you?"

"It’s not what has gotten into me, it’s more like what I’d like to get into me. Like if you had your choice between the two, you wouldn’t pick Adam? Kevin's cute and all but that man makes my kitty purr." I tilted my head in his direction as I took another drink.

"Listen to you! You ain’t right" Ellie squealed while laughing. "I know you’re drunk when you go country on me."

I smirked at her while she attempted to regain her composure. "Look girl I thought about what you said and you're right. I need to find a balance."

My best friend pushed my shoulder almost causing me to fall from my seat. "This ain’t balance, this is you going off the deep end!"

I knew she was right but I had let my hormones take control for the night. "You're wrong. I'll be a tight ass again Monday morning and will probably regret tonight ever happened, but tonight I'm going to have fun." I pointed at Adam, "Tonight, I'm going to have that!"

Ellie knew better than to push the subject so she gave me her ‘I understand’ smile and dropped the subject.

After Adam sank the eight ball in the corner pocket he strolled over wrapping me in his strong arms. "Hey babe I just need to finish a couple of things in the back and freshen up, then I’ll be ready to go. Give me ten minutes."

He kissed the top of my head.

I smiled seductively at him and ran my hand through his hair close to his ear. "Sounds good, I’ll be right here."

As Adam strolled through a doorway behind the bar I shifted myself toward Ellie, "Looks like we're getting ready to leave." I crossed my arms across my chest while crossing my fingers. "Wish me luck."

Ellie pulled me into a hug. "I saw the hunger in that man’s eyes. The only luck you will need is that you’ll be lucky if you can walk in the morning. I have to work tomorrow night but I'll call you when I get a break and you better answer your phone cause I'll want details!"

I giggled. "Yes ma’am, I'll keep my phone by my side. I love you."

"I love you too, have fun tonight."

Chapter Twelve

Adam emerged from the back office and sauntered toward me looking delicious in fresh clothes and damp hair.

I had no idea they had a shower here.

Instead of his tank and jeans he was wearing a white linen button up shirt and black dress pants.

"You hungry?" he asked as he reached my side.

I chewed on my bottom lip as I stared at him. I was very hungry but not for food so I shook my head. "I was thinking we could go to my place but if you want something to eat that's fine or maybe we could combine them and go to my place and I can fix you something."

Adam’s eyebrows lifted "I believe I like your last idea. Do I need to follow you?"

I shook my head again. "I took a cab since I wasn’t sure how much I'd drink so I can ride with you if that’s okay?"

Adam offered his hand. "It would be my pleasure, let’s get out of here. My car is out back."

I grasped Adam’s large hand and he led me behind the stage and down a hall past many doors.

Wow I had no idea the place was so large.

I waved to the band who was in one of the rooms partying. They rushed out to speak to me as we walked by. I laughed to myself as Adam held me firmly to his side marking his territory.

Once we finally stepped outside I looked across the parking lot trying to figure out which car was his. There was a silver Volvo S60R that was obviously too pretentious pretty boy to be his, a new bright green Camaro SS that could be his but struck me as too flashy. I eyed a nice baltic blue Range Rover Evoque identical to the one I parked next to every day at the Terrazzo that was obviously too expensive to be his and a red Audi A3 hatchback that had girl car written all over it. I laughed when I saw a beat up old van with the band's name spray painted on the side. There were a few others but it was an older black Ford extended cab 4x4 pick-up that caught my eye and looked his style.

I headed toward the truck.

Adam pressed a button on his key fob and the lights blinked on the Evoque. My eyes widened in shock.

A bar worker does not drive a vehicle like this.

Seemed I was not the only one who is full of surprises.

Adam noticed my reaction and grinned as he read my mind. "You thought I drove the truck didn’t you?"

I couldn’t help but to laugh at my embarrassment and nodded. "Honestly yes. Looks like I’m not the only mystery in need of solving."

Adam laughed loudly and his eyes lit up with amusement as he opened my door. "Where to Miss Collins?"

"Terrazzo please sir"

Adam couldn't hide his amusement, "No shit? You live in the Terrazzo? I pictured you in a ranch house with a picket fence."

"Looks like we're both doing a lot of misjudging lately."

He nodded as he started the vehicle and backed out of his spot before I continued, "I loved living in New York, everything being in walking distance, the noise, the excitement, the anonymity. That's what I'm used to now. I grew up in the perfect country setting with the picket fences but the quiet would drive me crazy now. If I get the itch for that life I just go stay with my parents and consider it scratched. I like my life just as it is."

Adam peered at me out of the corner of his eye inquisitively. "Do you ever see yourself moving back to New York?"

I shrugged, it was a question I've been asking myself since I moved home. "Maybe after Hunter, my son, grows up. For now, though, he enjoys it here and he likes being around his grandparents."

After Adam pulled into the parking garage he punched in a code and the gates to the area restricted to residents opened. My mouth dropped in shock as he parked next to my Mini.

I turned to him astonished. "We're neighbors?"

He started laughing. "You thought I just worked at the club didn’t you?"

I felt my cheeks blazing as all the blood in my body rushed to them. I didn't have to do anything to affirm his suspicions.

"My sister Jane and I had the idea to open the club after my, um, divorce. She said it would help me get my mind off things to do something I enjoyed."

I gasped as I stepped out. "Jane is your sister? No wonder it felt like she was sizing me up, she was deciding if I was worthy."

Adam was having so much fun with this. His eyes flittered with amusement as he walked around toward me. "That's probably true, she was stunned when I told her to comp all your drinks last night and tonight. I haven’t done that before. I think you passed though. She gave me the thumbs up as we were leaving." He grabbed my hand. "Come on. I’m hungry."

When we entered the express elevator I hit the button for my floor and as the door closed he pulled me into an embrace. I loved the fact that I had to actually look up at a man for a change.

"Which floor do you live on?" I asked.

Adam looked at me nervously, "Um, one floor above yours."

I whistled. "Woohoo, Mr. Penthouse. Quite the bachelor pad I bet. The perfect place for all your leggy blondes."

He looked utterly embarrassed from my teasing then relieved when the elevator doors opened.

---

"Welcome to my humble abode" I said as we entered my apartment.

I knew it probably paled in comparison to his penthouse but this was the nicest place I had ever had and I was proud of it. I paid considerably less for a three bedroom with all the amenities here than I did in New York for a two-bedroom walkup.

Adam looked around with an appreciative yet oddly intimidated look. "Wow, you have made it so homey. I love it." He noticed all my pictures of Hunter. He grabbed the one of Hunter I had taken recently while he played his guitar. "Cool kid, must take after his Mom."

I beamed, I always beam when Hunter's the topic, "Yeah he is the coolest, and he’s my world."

He studied the picture a moment longer. "You are going to have your hands full as soon as the girls start noticing his eyes."

I laughed. "Oh they already have. One just asked him to the school dance next week."

Adam decided time for small talk was over as he replaced the picture on the wall. He turned and pulled me into his strong arms. His mouth moved to my neck and started planting a trail of kisses that continued to my ear.

I felt my desires growing within. I knew if he kept going there would be no food and he already said he was hungry. "You want something to eat?"

As he was paying special attention to my ear he purred. "Yes… you." I melted as he pulled my jacket off, tossing it onto my sofa. I grabbed his head and tilted it so that I could have access to his delectable mouth. Once our mouths met I allowed his tongue to enter and felt his expert hands rubbing my back.

I pulled back just long enough to utter, "Not here."

He nodded as I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the stairway to my bedroom. After we were inside we resumed our kiss with more passion than before. I pulled off his jacket then he grabbed the hem of my halter-top and lifted it over my head. He kicked off his boots while I removed my stilettos.

I went to unbutton his pants and release his zipper. I hungrily reached for the top of his pants and the band of his black boxer briefs at the same time and pulled them down in one swift motion.

My GOD he was endowed. I gasped at the sight of it as I pushed him down on my queen-sized bed. Once he was lying on his back I took him in my hand and leaned down to kiss it.

This was the first time I could remember that I wanted sex for me. Not as an attempt to feel love, not because it was easier than saying no and definitely not because of some sick rule that said I was to act the way I would have if I had been a girl from birth.

Adam stared at me with amazement. He gasped as I captured him in my willing mouth and began working up and down managing to take in more of him with each succession until I could feel his well-maintained pubic hair on my nose.

His moaning increased as I moved faster becoming accustomed to his size. It did not take long before I could feel him trying to remove me but I was too close to my goal and I refused to be stopped.

He shifted from side to side in the hopes of dislodging me but I was on a mission. Before long I felt him tense as he began begging me to stop. He wrapped his large hands in my hair as he moaned my name and became rigid, simultaneously I was rewarded with his salty sweet extract and I didn't lose a single drop.

I slowly rose to my feet while licking my lips with a seductive smile. I looked down on this amazing man with such lust.

He stared up at me and wore a look of awe mixed with satisfaction as well as deep desire.

Still on his back, he propped himself up on his arms as he looked up and in the deepest, most seductive voice I ever heard said. "Strip for me."

How could I refuse him?

I turned on my bedside satellite radio player before I reached up and released the front clasp on my bra and held my hands as if I was about to release my breasts. His eyes grew wide in anticipation as I slowly swayed in time with the music coming through the speakers. I slowly leaned forward until I was over him and tantalizingly liberated my mounds just inches from his mouth.

He tilted his mouth up to meet them as I stood up with a wicked grin wagging my finger side to side. "No, no. Not yet"

He smiled as I stood up straight and extended my leg to push him back with my toes. He placed his hands behind his head clearly enjoying my show as I undid the button on my jeans, freed my zipper then turned my back to him as I ever so slowly wiggled out of my denim casing. Once they passed my hips I bent over at my waist, keeping my knees locked. I pushed my jeans downward until they reached the floor.

While still bent at the waist I peered back at Adam who had sat back up on the bed staring with unbridled desire and gave him a wink.

I rose and stood before him in just my pink satin and lace thong. Unable to resist any longer, he reached out and pulled me into his lap in one quick motion. I squealed with delight as he drew me to his mouth.

"You are without a doubt the… sexiest…woman…I…have…ever…met." He flipped me off his lap and onto the bed before straddling my body leaning into my ear and declaring, "Now it’s my turn."

Adam started at my ear slowly nibbling as he purred like a cat. The effect was immediate. I could feel the goosebumps running down my spine.

He ever so slowly began to leave a trail of kisses down my neck while cupping one of my breasts into his hand.

His path to my pleasure was a true one as he continued to work his way down, trailing his fingertips along Hunter’s name that’s runs down my ribs. He only stopped long enough to comment about the sunburst tattoo around my belly button before he worked his tongue over the stars on my hip until he reached my promised land.

He seductively removed my thong before he launched an assault unlike any I had experienced before. His masterful tongue worked in ways I had never thought possible. I swear it felt as if his tongue caressed my belly button from the inside.

I was in ecstasy as Adam was bringing me to heights my mind could not fathom were even possible before that night.

He gently explored me with one of his large fingers and soon a second finger joined inside while his masterful tongue continued its assault on my hot spot. I buried my hands in his hair and screamed his name as I tumbled full force over the edge.

I have experienced many orgasms in my life but none as intense and he didn’t let up.

He continued to assail upon me and as soon as I started coming down he pushed me back over the edge again. After my third orgasm I begged him to stop.

Adam finally leaned back with a sultry ‘I have you now’ look upon his face as I tried to catch my breath. He slowly traced an outline of the razor someone had inked on the inside of my right thigh. "A razor huh? This one must have some meaning."

My mood immediately darkened "Yes it does." I snapped.

"Not a pleasant meaning I take it?"

"You could say that." I grimaced.

Adam crawled back on the bed until we were face to face. He ran his fingers through my hair.

"Then I believe I need to drop the subject as tonight is all about pleasure."

I felt my smile returning, "I couldn’t agree more."

I placed my hands in his hair and pulled his mouth greedily to meet mine.

As we proceeded to let our hands explore every inch of the other’s bodies I could feel his impressive manhood against my lower body.

Ellie was right when she said I’d be lucky to walk tomorrow.

I was getting more anxious to feel him inside me and wiggled to let him know. Adam reached down for his jacket which had fallen just within reach of his long arms and pulled a condom out of the inside pocket.

He jumped up straddling me once more as he removed the condom from the wrapper and placed it on with such precision that left little doubt to his experience and prowess.

His eye locked into mine as he entered me.

"Please be gentle, it’s been awhile." I pleaded.

I gasped, as I couldn’t remember being with anyone quite as endowed.

His long hair was tickling my face. I reached up to caress his stubbled jaw. Every nerve within me was firing double time as he began to move in a soft gentle motion.

I pulled him down to me so I could taste his lips and mouth but he resisted. My look to him was pleading and he shook his head. "You're so sexy I want to look at you."

His eyes were dark with desire and I had never felt as I did at that moment.

I felt so wanted, so full, so desired.

Most guys I had been with were only about pleasing themselves and as such, I was a means to an end. But this man, this sexy man, on top of me was all about pleasing me.

He could have almost any girl he desired on any given night but on this night he chose me.

I was the one turning him on.

I was the one he wanted to look at.

I was the one he was with.

For only the second time in my life I truly savored being a woman.

My thoughts were my undoing as I felt my body releasing yet again.

It seemed as if only seconds had passed before I could feel Adam tensing within as he called out my name before collapsing on me.

We stayed together awhile longer still panting heavily before he gently removed himself to lie at my side.

I gasped at the sudden emptiness I felt inside.

Adam moved my hair away from my face. "That was amazing, thank you."

I blushed, "I believe I should be thanking you. I now understand why you are called Zeus." I kissed him again passionately.

He said nothing but continued our kiss when I heard his stomach rumble.

I rubbed his belly, "I promised you something to eat. Come on."

I hopped out of bed and put on my pink robe from the bathroom and headed to the kitchen as Adam pulled his pants back on.

Once in the kitchen I opened the refrigerator door pondering what to fix.

Adam joined me looking over my shoulder. In my bare feet Adam towered over me, I liked that.

I looked up at him "See anything you like?"

"Mmmmm, yes I do" He grabbed my butt playfully.

I giggled, "I meant food silly."

"Oh that, anything is fine with me I’m not picky."

"Is that why you're with me tonight?" I asked teasingly.

Adam swatted my behind. "That’s not what I meant and you know it."

I laughed again then peered back into the fridge. "How hungry are you? I can make something quick or I can whip up some chicken fried steaks that are to die for."

"Chicken fried steak sounds great but it seems like too much work for this hour. Something quick is fine with me." Adam responded.

"How about grilled ham and cheese?"

"That sounds great, I haven't had one of those in years."

"Coming right up sir."

I placed everything I needed on the black marble countertop and turned back to the fridge. "Would you like something to drink? I have beer, wine, sweet tea, kool-aid or water."

Adam couldn’t hide his amusement. "Chicken fried steaks? Sweet tea? You really are a southern girl aren’t you?"

I turned to him and in my best southern accent replied, "I may be cityfied but I am country fed and country bred. & I’ll be that way ‘til I’m country dead!"

Adam burst out laughing. "I use that line myself. Tea will be fine, thanks."

I poured Adam’s tea and started preparing the food when he started talking again. "Who are you Sara? I mean who are you really?"

I spun around quickly with a certain amount of dread filling my body. "What do you mean?"

"I pride myself in getting a good read on people but you have me completely stumped."

I still wasn't sure what was the point he was trying to make. I turned back to check on our sandwiches before I replied. "How so?"

Without hesitation Adam continued, "Allow me to expand on our conversation at the restaurant. When I met you at lunch yesterday, you were rather uptight but nice and so confident in a businesslike manner. You appeared to be in your element. I only walked up because I wanted to meet you but you carried an air of ‘I’m attractive but out of you league.’ So I backed off."

I turned around in shock that he thought I was out of his league.

"Then you came to the club, you looked and acted so completely different. You had a totally different attitude. I didn't recognize you at first because it was like you had a personality transplant. You were so shy and unsure and I was captivated, which was why I called up to Jane to take care of your drinks." He sighed and rubbed his neck. "When Jane called down and told me how you were carrying on and who you were hanging out with. That didn’t gel with either version of you I had in my mind."

I stared at him and his confused expression echoed his words.

Adam stood and walked around the bar before embracing me again. "But it was when you came down the stairs and put your arms around me that really grabbed my attention. When you did that you were the most confident woman I had ever met. You were sexy and you knew it. You had me in your clutches and enjoyed every second of it. Your kiss was nothing short of amazing. You had me questioning again if I was good enough. The thing that confused me the most was that as soon as we broke our kiss you looked around and that confidence went away."

I was in shock, this man had really thought about me.

How can someone I just met know me so well?

I frowned thinking about what happened after the kiss. "What did you think after we went across the street?"

"When I went to get you a drink and you went mental on me?"

I nodded embarrassingly.

"I thought someone had damaged you. I never had a woman walk out on me like you did. I've had women leave me but they always slipped away with a lame excuse or before I noticed they were gone. I confronted you about it and instead of making up a lame excuse you owned up to what you were doing and called me on my bullshit."

My mouth dropped almost to the floor.

How can he know that I have been damaged?

"And it turns out I was right about someone hurting you, you confirmed that to me tonight. Not only with your words but with your actions. Normally I would just cut my losses and walk away but there's something about you that draws me in. I want to know you better."

Wants to know me better?

Oh no this can’t happen.

It’s just Hunter and I versus the world.

I began to speak then Adam placed his finger on my lips. "No let me finish. When we went to dinner tonight I noticed you dropped some of your defenses and the person I saw was as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. You are so smart and funny. Normally I have girls hanging on my every word but with you, it’s me hanging on what you have to say."

I smiled warmly as he continued.

"I was worried when you dropped me off that you would flip on me again and wouldn’t come back but when you did I was in shock. Once again I saw a side of you I couldn't have imagined existed. You took sexy to a new plateau and yet you looked more comfortable like that than at any point prior. When Jane called down telling me to get upstairs quick I wasn't prepared for the sight of you singing and dancing on stage, it was like you'd been doing it your whole life. You've got a stage presence that rivals most professional artists. You had Jett in shock. He can work a crowd better than most and he knows it, but you put him to shame. I have to give him credit, he was smart enough to just let you go with it and I was glad he did. You reminded me of someone but I can’t for the life of me place who it is. I've never been so turned on in my life."

I blushed as I thought about what he was saying and turned to check on the food. I did have fun and tonight I was more myself than I had been in years. I didn't have to think about what I was doing, I just did it. It was exciting and scary at the same time.

I removed the sandwiches from the stove and placed them on plates before carrying them to the breakfast bar where Adam had been sitting.

Adam allowed me to sit before he continued, "You came off the stage and your smile was breath taking. Most people would've been hyped up but you were completely relaxed. You finally let down your walls and then you removed your jacket and I saw your tattoos. I would have never guessed you as the type to have one tattoo, much less six. You handled all the drunks hitting on you like a pro and the way you looked at me while I played pool had me torn up. Then we come here and have incredible sex. It was amazing, life altering, I could go on for weeks describing it but nothing would come close. I have never experienced anything like it. You have cast quite a spell on me in a short time. My guess is that tonight I saw the real you."

I took a bite of my sandwich and used that time to think.

I needed to get a hold of this situation quick.

I could fall for this walking sex machine sitting next to me rather easily. I couldn't let that happen. He already knew me too well and to make matters worse, he liked what he saw. The problem was, I never liked the person he saw.

I placed my hand over his, "I enjoyed myself tonight, I mean really enjoyed myself." I moved my hand to his bare chest. "I got lost in the moment, got lost in you. Tonight's been great but I hope you understand that while I’d love to do this again I’m not the person you saw tonight and I’m not looking for anything serious. That girl you saw is fun to let out every once in awhile to play but she’s not me anymore. I've worked too hard to get away from her."

It appeared almost as if Adam breathed a sigh of relief which I found confusing and in contradiction to what he just said. "I’d like that alot. So friends? Maybe with something extra every now and then?" His eyes looked hopeful.

I smiled and kissed his cheek. "Yes I’d like that very much."

After taking the last bite of his sandwich Adam took a drink then pulled me into him planting another toe curling kiss before asking "You up for another round?"

"I thought you’d never ask."

He grabbed me off my chair and tossed me over his shoulder as if I weighed nothing and carried me back up the stairs to my bedroom with me shrieking happily the entire way.

Chapter Thirteen

My phone ringing brought me from a very odd dream.

I wiped the tears away from my eyes and could not understand why my heart felt so broken.

Adam had left at about six to go home which was ok with me as I wasn’t sure what time Daddy would be bring Hunter home and I didn’t want Adam to still be in bed when he did.

I looked to my bedside clock noticing it was only nine, which was too early to be Daddy or Ellie. I found myself suddenly in a panic as my nightmare came into focus I looked at the display on my smart phone to see Mom’s picture.

I filled with dread as I answered. "What's wrong Mom?"

Mom sounded as if she was crying and I immediately sat up in my bed.

"Honey, there’s been an accident. You need to get to the hospital immediately."

"Is Hunter okay?"

"Just get here as soon as you can but please be careful."

No God, not Hunter. Please Lord let him be OK. Don't let my dream be his way of telling me good-bye.

Please Lord let him be OK. I’ll do whatever you ask just let my baby be okay.

I didn’t even look at the clothes I grabbed before putting them on and running for the door.

I prayed all the way to the hospital while also cursing every traffic light or car going slower than me. The fact it was raining didn't help either.

I ran into the emergency room and dashed to a receptionist. I explained who I was and asked where my son was as she punched his information into the keyboard.

I felt my panic reach new heights when her face turned pale before she replied in a somber tone, "Yes ma’am you need to go through the doors to my right then the second door to your left and one of the nurses there will help you."

I turned and sprinted in the direction she told me, not even thinking to thank her. As soon as I reached my destination I saw my mother sitting in a chair weeping. I rushed to embrace her as she sobbed.

"He’s gone baby, he’s gone."

I felt all breath leave my body. "Who’s gone Mom? Is it Daddy? Hunter? Who is gone Mom?"

God this can’t be happening.

Mom looked into my eyes saying again, "He’s gone baby, he’s gone."

I shook her, "Who is gone Mom? Are they both gone?"

Mom was beside herself as she finally said the words no parent ever should have to hear.

"Baby its Hunter, he didn’t make it."

I let out a primal scream before falling to the floor and curling into a ball. My reason for living was gone.

What am I going to do?

No, this can’t be right.

How am I going to survive?

He can’t be gone.

His birthday is next week.

This has to be a bad dream.

I just saw him yesterday, he was full of life and excited.

He's going to be in a band with his friends.

He’s too young.

No, this isn’t happening.

Mom has to be mistaken.

He has his first date this week.

Why did I have to let him stay an extra day?

He has too much life ahead of him.

Someone made a mistake, he’s not really gone.

What am I going to do without him?

My baby can’t be gone.

I felt weak and as darkness closed in I could hear my own voice wailing. "Why God why?"

---

When I opened my eyes, everything felt like a blur. I was in a white room, in a hospital bed and as my eyes focused I saw my Mom, Daddy and Ellie.

Daddy looked bad, really bad.

He was on crutches and had a bandage on his head. He had cuts and bruises all over his body. All three appeared to be crying and it all came back to me in a flood.

Hunter was gone. My precious boy was gone.

The one reason I was happy with the life I had been given was taken from me.

I start sobbing as Ellie engulfed me in a hug.

"Please tell me this isn’t really happening." I howled into her shoulder.

She gently ran her fingers through my hair as she rocked back and forth, trying to ease my intense heartache. "I’m so sorry, I'll help you get through this. I can’t imagine what you're going through but please know I love you and I'm here for you always."

"My baby" is all I could manage to get out.

I tried to get out of bed suddenly. "Where is he? I need to see him." I was shaking and the tears wouldn’t stop when Daddy grabbed me in his arms and made me look up at him.

He was as bad emotionally as I was. This man who always made me feel safe rubbed his trembling hands on my back. "Liberty, You don't want to see him like that. I can't let you have that burned into your mind, that's a load I'll bare if it means you'll never have it. I want your last memory of him to be when he was playing yesterday."

My strong father buried his face in the top of my hair and wept. "I never saw the semi truck. He ran the light and I couldn't stop before he plowed into the passenger side where Hunter was sitting. I am so so sorry. I wish it were me instead of Hunter. It’s not fair, why couldn’t it be me? I’m so sorry Lib. Why couldn’t it be me?"

I had no words of encouragement for Daddy, I had no words for anyone at the moment, all I could do was pull him into a hug and we sobbed together.

My mother rushed over and took me from my father's arms and guided me back into the bed and climbed in beside me. "I'm sorry baby, just let it out. We'll get through this together."

I laid there beside my loving mother and let it all out but no matter how many tears I cried it wasn't enough to wash away the pain of losing the best part of myself.

---

The funeral was a blur. Mom made the arrangements since I was in no shape to do so.

The only real memory I have from that time, aside from my parents, my best friend and my boss, Gabriel Moretti with his wife Anna being there the entire time was when Adam walked in with the petite red-haired woman and the woman who looked just like Polina.

I jumped from my seat and rushed to them as soon as they came into view. I looked at the sister with pleading eyes. "Do you have powers like your sister? Can you give me my son back? Please, I'll do anything. If she can turn me into this then surely you can bring him back to me."

The woman looked at me with sad eyes and my panic eased somewhat. "I am sorry but no. That is not something we can do."

I dropped to my knees in front of her. "Please, I am begging you. You can take my life but give him back his. It is not fair that I have to continue while his time was so short."

The short woman I suddenly remembered being named Cali dropped to the floor beside me. "I really wish we could do that for you but it is not how the universe works. We want to help you but we can't do that."

I glared at her. "Then why are you here? Want to see me suffer the way her sister did? Is it some sick family trait? Let's go watch the freak fall apart. Well both of you can go to hell. Get out of here if you can't help."

Cali started to protest before I pushed her toward the door. "I said get out! You don't know my son and if you can't bring him back then I don't need anything else your kind has to offer. You are all the devil."

Cali wanted to say something else but Adam placed his hand on her shoulder and shook his head. Without another word being said the three turned and left.

The rest of the time spent at the funeral home I was sitting in front of Hunter’s closed casket hugging his favorite teddy bear from when he was a baby while someone from my family hugged me. Between the five of them I was not left alone for a second.

I refused to leave Hunter's body, even staying at the funeral home overnight. I refused to let my baby be alone is such a strange place. I stayed up all night reading his favorite books aloud to him. Despite everyone's best efforts, I didn’t eat or sleep for three days. I only had a limited amount of time left with him and refused to waste a second of it.

I think a lot of people came to pay their respects but to be honest I don’t remember. My only real memories from that time were pain and intense sorrow.

It was raining the day we buried him. I can't explain why but it felt comforting to think the heavens were sharing my sorrow and crying with me. At the gravesite I didn’t want to leave my baby in the cold ground, it broke my heart to leave him alone in such a scary place. I wanted to stay with him. Mom insisted I come home with her but I refused and sat in the mud at the head of his plot. I rocked and sang to him while still hugging his bear. The only thing I wanted was to stay with my boy. If possible I would have crawled in the ground with him.

After a few failed attempts to get me to leave, Daddy finally had some of his friends physically carry me to their car with me kicking and screaming the entire time.

My parents tried making me stay with them but I refused and called a cab to take me home. Once in the confines of my condo I buried myself in a bottle while looking at picture albums or watching old videos. I constantly hugged the pillow from his bed because it still smelled of my beautiful boy. I could still smell his favorite cologne, Curves for men, that he made me buy after a girl at school told him she liked it.

Halloween was unbearable seeing all the kids out trick or treating. My darling boy loved Halloween and was planning on going as a member of his favorite band. His costume still hung in his closet with the tags on it. He had big plans of attending his first boy/girl party and my heart broke all over again thinking of all the firsts my only child missed out on in his all to brief life.

I sat a bowl of candy outside the door to avoid seeing the other children and opened a new bottle of whiskey. It was gone by the time I went to sleep.

On his birthday, the third day of November, I was inconsolable. I baked his birthday cake, decorated it and placed thirteen candles on it and let them burn all the way down before tossing the cake across the kitchen into the wall.

I looked at all his presents I refused to let him have early with so much regret.

If I'd known, I would have let him have them as soon as I bought them. I picked up his brand new Les Paul Silverburst electric guitar that he'd been begging me for and started strumming it. As soon as my fingers made contact with the strings I felt peace, almost as if he were in the room with me. I walked over to the piano and pulled out an old notebook I used from time to time to express my feelings and spent the next few hours playing and writing.

My days consisted of dragging myself to the office and putting on a happy face. I threw myself into my job more than ever before since it was all I had left. After work I would go to Hunter’s gravesite until dark and then home to crawl into a bottle and cry myself to sleep in his bed, only to repeat the process the next day.

I wanted to limit my business lunches since I wasn't feeling very sociable. Unfortunately, one in particular I could not avoid was with Kevin.

He was a perfect gentleman but I couldn't keep from breaking down when he asked how I was holding up. I tensed and ran out of the restaurant when he attempted to give me a comforting hug. Seeing him reminded me of allowing my son to spend an extra night with my parents so I could have drinks with him.

The rational side of my brain kept telling me that I would have allowed Hunter to stay regardless but the irrational side needed someone to blame and since he was someone I could keep at a distance, he got the blame.

Weekdays became tolerable but weekends were the worst because I didn’t even have work to distract me from my pain. Friends would call to check on me but I never answered.

I rarely talked to Mom since she had started drinking again and her meanness had started to seep through with force. From the way she acted you would have thought her pain was stronger than any I could have experienced. She told me I couldn't begin to imagine the loss of a grandchild. I wanted to scream as she told me my son was more important to her than I ever was. I was hanging on by a thread and my mother was holding a pair of scissors.

Daddy, in spite of my best efforts, had become distant because he blamed himself for everything. It hurt because he had always been the one man I could depend on in a crisis. I knew it wasn’t his fault and told him so often but he wouldn’t listen. His guilt built a wall between us that I didn't have the energy to tear down.

It wasn't long before I stopped answering Mom's calls and eventually I stopped reaching out to Daddy out of self-preservation.

The memories of my time in Los Angeles started dominating my thoughts whenever I was alone. I once again hated the woman I was turned into. I wanted desperately to talk to one of my oldest friends, Matt, but I had not heard from him in over six months.

He told me he was going to an island and take a technological sabbatical with his new boyfriend so they could connect on a spiritual level. I wanted to be mad at him for not being here for me but he couldn't help if he didn't know. Besides, if anyone deserved to be happy, it was my Matty.

I sighed as I remembered how I found out he was gay. It was the afternoon of my eighteenth birthday…

A sense of relief flowed through me when I walked up to the door of my apartment. It might have been a dump but it was my dump.

I walked in expecting to see Matt sleeping on the tattered couch but all I found were two sets of clothes on the floor. I shrugged and walked to my bedroom to lie down and hopefully wrap my mind around everything.

I heard some noises coming from my bedroom and as I inched forward I quickly realized my roommate was entertaining company in my bedroom. I laughed because the guttural noises he was making did not even sound like him. I had no idea his voice could get so deep.

Deciding to let him enjoy himself, I went back out to the living room to lie down on the couch.

Tears flowed freely as my mind once again dissected the morning in finite detail. As crazy as it seemed, I had somehow become a beautiful woman. No matter how much I wanted to act like my old self, my new body would not cooperate and I could not talk about what happened with anyone but an asshole that I could not stand.

Before I could even start to make any sense of what was happening to me I heard two sets of footsteps coming in my direction. I looked up to see a couple of very nice looking and very naked men standing in front of me.

Not knowing what else to say, I attempted to make a joke. "Is this my birthday present? If so then I approve."

Matt appeared horrified as he gathered the clothes and rushed both of them back toward my bedroom.

I now understood why he was always pretending to be someone else and why he never really responded to the women hitting on him. I also realized that him being gay did not change how I felt about him at all. He was still the same cool person I met when I first moved out here.

I was so worried for my friend that I momentarily forgot about my problems as I rushed to him when he tried to run out of the house after he got dressed. "Not so fast, I think we need to talk."

He sighed and dropped his head as he dejectedly let me lead him back to the living room as his partner quietly slipped out the door.

"Why are you running from me?" I asked.

Refusing to raise his head he replied in his normal accent. "Because I knew you would want me out after catching me doing that."

I placed my finely manicured finger under his chin and tilted his head so I could look into his sad eyes. "Have I ever said or done anything to make you think I would react that way?"

He shook his head. "No you haven't but everyone I have ever told about this side of me has rejected me."

Once again I was mildly pleased I was in a female body because I somehow doubted that Sean could give him the hug he so desperately needed.

I held him in my arms as he started to cry. "Shh." I said softly. "I'm your friend no matter what and I need you too much for you to leave me right now. Promise me you aren't going anywhere and I promise I will stay by your side through anything."

He snaked his arms around me and held tightly. "If you want me to stay then nothing could drag me away."

Once he calmed down he sat up and we switched places with me lying in his lap. Matt started running his fingers through my hair. "Now that you know my darkest secret, what is yours?"

I thought for a moment and decided to test Polina's warning about telling others. If anyone were to know my darkest secret I would want it to be Matty since he already knew everything about me.

"If I were a guy and you were to hit on me I don't think I would say no." were the words that came out of my mouth instead of me telling him what had happened earlier.

Matty laughed and kissed my forehead. "I am honored Sara."

I sighed and leaned back into him so I could sulk without him seeing my face.

---

Ellie, as always, was vigilant in being there for me and I knew that if I didn’t answer she would come over.

My boss Gabriel and his wife Anna called often as well, but since they never saw me I was able to make them believe I was as fine as someone who lost a child could be.

Thanksgiving was horrible as it consisted of extended family offering condolences all day. I lost my appetite when I saw everyone flock around the extra Oreo truffle dessert I brought. Out of habit I made two because I knew it was my son's favorite and I usually left one at home for him to snack on.

Hunter’s beloved Giants played on television. I always got a kick out of how Daddy rooted for the other team just to rile his only grandson up. I couldn’t be in the living room watching my father look miserable while obviously thinking of the same memory. I ended up going home early and drinking until I passed out.

Christmas was almost the death of me. I decorated our tree just the way Hunter liked it and set out his stocking. I openly wept under the tree Christmas morning when he wasn’t there to open his presents. I still don’t know how I made it, the thought crossed my mind many times to just give up.

More than once I had the bottle of sleeping pills the doctor gave after Hunter died in my hand but I could never seem actually go through with it. Instead I made my way to the piano and started pouring my heartache into the ivories. I paused soon after I started playing when I caught a small whiff of Hunter's favorite cologne but it felt like I was being urged to continue so I did.

New Years Eve I turned off my phone, downed a bottle of tequila early and slept through it all.

Chapter Fourteen

Slowly life picked up some semblance of normalcy. The heartache, while never disappearing, seemed to not be as front and center as it had been.

Immediately following the accident, Adam and Jane both called with Jane calling more often but I never answered. After awhile all the calls stopped. Ellie told me they were at the funeral. I remembered seeing Adam but Jane being there was news to me but then again, I did not remember much from that time. She also told me she thought Kevin had found a steady girlfriend since he rarely came by the club anymore.

I started hanging out in the bar that was located in the ground floor of businesses at the Terrazzo. I would sit in a corner and drink til I was inebriated enough to face my empty apartment. Once I was sufficiently numb I would head to the place that no longer felt like home.

Ellie tried and tried to get me to go out with her but I refused. I had managed to push her away enough that our daily phone calls were our only contact.

It was on a Monday night in late January as I was leaving the bar that I ran into Adam in the elevator. Unsurprisingly, he had a tall attractive young blonde on his arm.

It was obvious I was wasted as I slurred. "Adam hiiiii."

"Sara, what a pleasant surprise" His appearance changed from happy to see me to concerned once he got a good look at my face. I had lost twenty pounds from my already thin frame since Hunter's passing. "Are you ok?"

I stared at him and put on my best fake smile. "I’m good thanks, you look well."

He still looked so hot.

"You've lost weight." Adam appeared troubled as he grabbed my hands. "Seriously, how have you been getting along?"

I could feel my tears start to pool. I took a deep breath to steady myself, "I’m surviving the best I can."

The elevator dinged to notify me that I had reached my floor granting me an escape.

"It was great seeing you again Adam. You two have fun." I added without malice, nodding toward his arm candy.

I rushed out of the elevator, barely making it inside my door before completely losing it again.

I had been doing so well, it had been at least a week since I shed massive tears like this. Seeing Adam brought it all back. One of my best nights ever followed by the worst day of my life.

Will those two always be linked?

"Get it together girl!" I said to myself as I stumbled toward liquor cabinet. "Hunter wouldn’t want you to spend all your time crying like this."

I mixed myself a drink and tried to dry my eyes but it wasn't working when I heard my doorbell.

I tried to ignore it but whoever was at my door was persistent. I finally stumbled back to the door and opened it.

Surprise was evident in my voice. "Adam what are you doing here? I thought you had a date?"

"You looked like you needed a friend," He pulled me to his chest and wrapped his massive arms around me. He stepped into the apartment while maintaining the embrace and closed the door.

I let go and sobbed into his chest. Strangely it felt comforting to cry with someone instead of crying alone.

"I've been so worried about you but I haven’t known what to say."

I looked up at him, "What did you do with your date?"

Distress washed over his face. "After seeing you on the elevator I explained to her that I needed to come check on you. She wasn’t happy but she understood. You don’t look well, have you eaten today?"

I meekly shook my head and he escorted me to a seat at the breakfast bar and poured my drink in the sink before he grabbed all the empty liquor bottles and tossed them in the trash. "You have had enough to drink tonight. Let me fix you something to eat." He then moved to the refrigerator and cursed to himself as he opened it.

He grabbed the box of leftovers from the dinner we shared that I had brought home. He opened it and closed it quickly turning toward the trash can.

"Put that back it's Hunter's!" I screamed to him.

He opened the refrigerator again and returned the box to where he retrieved it from before he scanned the contents. "You have no food in here!"

I shrugged and spun my hair around my index finger. "I haven't felt like eating lately."

"I'm not going to let you do this to yourself. Just because whiskey is made from corn, that doesn't make it a food." Anger and concern were combined in his voice as he grabbed his phone and hit a number.

"Jane, hey do me a favor, can you grab some food from Puckett’s and bring it to Sara’s apartment…one floor below mine but same door…get a variety cause I’m not sure…not good…worse than we ever imagined…thanks sis love ya…bye."

I squinched my nose, "I'm okay. You don’t have to do this." I absolutely did not need him, of all people, worrying about me.

"You are far from okay, you're skin and bones." He looked at the mess that was my apartment. I had not cleaned it since the funeral two and a half months ago. "Ellie told me you were in bad shape but I had no idea it was this bad."

I was surprised he talked to Ellie, she hadn’t mentioned it to me. "When do you talk to her?"

"I see her when she comes by Anthracite or when I go to Charley’s."

"Oh, I see." I sighed, "She's been trying to get me to go out but I haven't felt like it."

"You should go, you can’t stay cooped up in here all the time." Adam waved his hands around the apartment. "It will drive you crazy."

I laughed bitterly. "I think I reached that destination awhile ago."

He grabbed my hands as he gazed into my eyes "I can tell, I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?" His eyes were full of genuine concern. It was humbling to know he cared.

I began to tear up again as I spoke. "Thanks but I'm beyond help."

The doorbell chimed and Adam jumped up, "That'll be Jane."

He hurried to answer the door and usher her in.

Jane froze as soon as she laid her eyes on me. "Oh girl, you look terrible!"

Adam grabbed the bags from her hands and rushed into the kitchen.

I smiled through my tears, "Gee thanks Jane, it’s good to see you too."

Her lips curled up then she wrapped her arms around me. "I’m sorry. I’d ask how you're holding up but I can tell. I tried and tried to call you, why don’t you answer your phone? I've been worried about you."

I shrugged, "I haven’t felt much like talking."

She squeezed me tighter. "From the looks of this place you haven't felt like much of anything. From now on you better answer my call or I'll come bang on your door til you let me in do you understand?"

I sniffled. "Yes Ma’am."

While Jane and I had been talking Adam sat out all the food. He handed me a plate. "I didn’t know what you liked so I had Jane get a variety."

His expression hardened. "Eat up. That's an order." His tone was one not to be taken lightly.

As I surveyed the spread I noticed that I had developed some appetite so I placed a fried pork chop and some mashed potatoes on my plate along with a small spoonful of green beans and a piece of cornbread. I took a seat at the breakfast bar and Jane poured a glass of tea from the jug she had brought.

The three of us sat and they made small talk while I nibbled at my food. It was nice. I found myself laughing for the first time in months as they shared embarrassing stories from their childhood in rural Kentucky.

It wasn’t long til I helped myself to a second helping. Jane and Adam both smiled at each other as I did so.

They continued telling stories until I noticed it was almost eleven. It amazed me that time had flown by so fast.

I felt happy and relaxed for the first time since the wreck. Their small act of kindness had me feeling, if only for a moment, as if I might make it.

Adam and Jane prepared to leave but before they could get to the door I pulled them both into a hug. "Thank you guys, you have no idea how much you have helped me tonight."

Jane grabbed my chin and tilted my head down so that I was looking in her eyes "I haven't lost a child but I have lost someone who was my world so if you need to talk, I'm only a phone call away. If you need anything at all, I'm here for you. Do you understand?"

I nodded and smiled.

Adam chimed in as he pulled me into a hug all my own. "Same goes for me too."

"Thanks again guys. I needed this." I said to them as they walked out the door.

That night I managed sleep without the tears or nightmares I had grown so accustomed to.

---

Life became more manageable after that night. I found myself able to smile more. I even caught myself laughing on a few occasions.

Ellie seemed to be relieved that I was becoming my old self again and true to her word Jane called every night. We became close over our respective losses. Even though I had never met her husband Jason I felt like I knew him and she was the same about my Hunter.

Adam would come by almost every night with food in hand or would insist on taking me for a bite to eat. I don’t think he trusted me to feed myself but in all the time we spent together he never once made a pass at me nor did he mention that night we shared.

We discovered we shared many common interests, music being the main one. We both played piano and guitar while Adam also played drums and bass. I told him he could be a one-man band.

I figured out quickly he was a lot like my Daddy; he was all bark and no bite, a big teddy bear beneath his rough exterior.

I found myself looking forward to my time with Adam more and more. He had become a good friend. More than once I entertained the thought of us becoming more but would dismiss those thoughts quickly as they were too painful.

I started going out most nights since I still hated being alone in my apartment. Usually I found myself sitting at the corner of the bar at Anthracite talking to Jane. It was on one such night that she broached the subject of her brother.

"So what's the deal with you and Adam?" Her look was serious.

"I’m not sure what you mean? He’s a great friend." I knew where she was going but had no desire to go there.

"Just a friend?" She raised her eyebrows suspiciously.

"Yeah, I mean we had that one really amazing night together, but that was the night before" I started to choke up. "The accident."

Jane placed her hand on mine. "I’m sorry girl, I didn’t mean to bring that up. I wasn’t thinking."

I gathered my emotions. "No, it’s ok. It’s just that he's never tried again and to be honest I’m not sure I could respond given the memories attached to that night and the connection to the next day."

I sighed before continuing, "He’s a great guy, a really great guy. He's nothing like I first thought. Any woman who captures his heart will be lucky. I just don’t know if I can ever get past the connection. Does that make sense?"

Jane gave me a sympathetic nod "Yes it does but I wish you could. He has a good heart and I'd love nothing more than for the two of you to end up together."

"I’m sorry Jane, I wish I could but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Besides, why would he want to give up his plethora of women? I can't compete with them. It seems he has a definite type and I’m not it."

Jane walked around the bar and placed her arm over my shoulder. "I know Adam better than anyone. He may like his mindless blondes but he needs you. Deep down he knows this but he’s scared."

"I’m scared too but this conversation is useless. We have both placed each other firmly in the friend zone. I don't hold a candle with these girls." I felt a tear trickle down my cheek as I noticed Adam ascending the stairs with a couple of girls following close behind.

I tilted my head in his direction, "See what I mean?"

Adam approached with a huge grin on his ruggedly handsome face. "What are you two talking about?" His smile faded as soon as he noticed my red eyes. "You ok Sara?"

I wiped the tear away as I squinched my nose and put on my best fake smile. "Yeah, I’m fine. I still have my moments from time to time."

Adam pulled me into a hug, "I understand. I’m just happy to see you feeling better for the most part."

Jane reached across and jabbed me in the ribs. "I am too."

I smiled and this time it was real.

---

On a Tuesday after I left work I stopped by Hunter's grave as usual. Since it was St. Patrick's Day I left a stuffed leprechaun on his headstone and as I was leaving my phone rang. I glanced down to see Ellie calling.

I answered cheerily "Hey girly, what’s happening?"

"You are, whatcha doing Friday night? I think it’s someone’s birthday."

I grimaced at the thought. I hated birthdays, especially mine. It was only a yearly reminder of what had been done to me. I also did not need a special day to tell me that I was getting older. "Uhg, I quit having those years ago. I don’t have any plans why?"

Ellie laughed. "I took the night off and just thought we could grab a bite to eat then get totally shit faced."

I giggled, "I think I could manage that."

"Sounds like a plan then. How about I come by your place at seven? Make sure you dress like a slut."

I was seriously laughing at that point. "So what you're saying is that I need to come by your place to borrow some clothes?"

Ellie playfully snapped back. "Heck no, get your own slut clothes. I bet you still have some in the back of your closet."

"Nope, hate to disappoint you but those aren't slut clothes. If it will make you happy I'll get right on that, where is it you shop at again?" I teased.

"Uh huh, I've seen your back office. I gotta go. Love ya girl."

I laughed mainly at myself for forgetting her amazement when she found all my mementos and clothes from the time we shared in L.A. For some reason I could never rid myself of them. "Love you too."

Chapter Fifteen

Friday came far too fast for my liking and as I walked through the Hunture building and into Moretti and Associates I noticed my coworkers had remembered. They had always been nice but they became even more so since the accident.

My office was decorated with pink and white streamers and balloons. Along the wall behind my desk hung a huge banner wishing me a happy birthday. Everyone in the office as well as my former coworkers in New York had signed it. This took some serious effort and thoughtfulness. I found myself welling up.

Jill, my secretary, noticed and came running up with a box of tissues. "I hoped you would like it."

Jill Abernathy was great at her job. At twenty-two, this was her first job out of college. She stood five foot nine with long honey blonde hair and blue eyes. She was efficient and intelligent and possessed a bubbly personality that many found infectious.

She really stepped up for me after Hunter’s death. I could learn a lot about embracing life from her.

She told me the day I interviewed her than she was a transsexual which took me by surprise because I had only met one other person who had become a woman willingly and neither of the women showed any traces that they were once male.

The other TS I knew had also worked for me…albeit for not very long. Renee Crews was the first hire I had made for the Nashville office and I considered myself lucky to have her, but after her brother passed away she traveled to her hometown and reconnected to her first love. The following week she returned with a large, quiet, red haired man by her side and told me she had eloped. I was sad for me but happy for her when she informed me she was moving back home to build a life with her new husband.

I was starting to figure out that the way television portrayed women like Jill and Renee was filled with stereotypes. Neither woman was overly female, nor were they overtly male. They were just women trying to live the life they were deprived of because an extra appendage in the middle of their body when they were born placed a different set of rules and expectations on them.

I let my gaze drift back to the beautiful young woman and the pride in her eyes as she stood next to me. The banner took tremendous effort and organization to arrange and I wondered if I was wasting the woman's talent having her be my secretary.

I looked at her with appreciation. "Did you arrange this?"

Jill nodded. "I mentioned it and everyone else jumped in. Mrs. Moretti made sure everyone in New York signed it. This is a group effort. We know it has been a rough year and wanted you to know you are appreciated."

My tears began flowing freely as I hugged her. "It’s perfect, thank you. I know it couldn’t have been easy working with me lately."

Jill returned my embrace. "Oh Miss Collins, we understand. I doubt anyone could hold up as well as you have."

As soon as I walked in my office I took a seat behind my desk and called Gabriel’s private line. To my surprise Anna was the person who eagerly answered. "Buon Compleanno! caro amico."

I laughed and thanked my dear friend for her gleeful birthday wish. "Grazie il caro amico."

"We were hoping you would call. Have any plans?"

"My cousin and I are going out tonight and tomorrow I'm going to Mom and Dad's. She's cooking me baked rigatoni."

Anna showed her distain for how she perceives non Italians attempting to cook meals from her homeland. "Is her rigatoni as good as mine? Your cugina Ellie is a good girl. We like her very much. She looks after you."

Even though I'd never actually tell Anna, I think my Mama's rigatoni is the best thing in the entire world. Anna's was excellent but to me nothing compared to my mother's. "Don't be silly Anna. You know yours is fabulous and I agree Ellie is great but I'm lucky to have many friends who look after me."

"Such as?" Anna always wants to know every detail of my life so it did not surprise me she wanted to know about my other friends.

I decided to tease her a little. "You and Gabe."

Anna didn't like my evasive answer. "Yes yes but we don't count. We are too far away to properly look after you anymore."

"You want names?"

She was persistent as she pressed on. "I want to know i Suoi amici."

If it where my own mother submitting me to this inquisition I might have gotten slightly angry but I could never be mad at Anna even if I wanted to. Even though her and my mom were the same age Anna had a grandmother quality to her. "You want to know all my friends? Oh dear Anna you worry too much. My two closest other than Ellie are Adam and Jane. They really stepped in and saved me after Hunter."

"They sound like buone persone. Si sono sposati"

"Yes they are very good people. No they aren't married, they are brother and sister."

Anna's matchmaker side kicked in. "So this Adam, is he bello?"

I laughed again at her asking about his looks. I told her he is very handsome. "Si, lui ᨠmolto bello."

"Tell me about him."

Lord I love this woman who cares about me so much. "I know what you're trying to do but he is just a very good friend, nothing more. I need to get to work. Thank you for the banner."

Anna took the hint and dropped the subject but I knew next time we talked she would try to weasel more information from me. "You are welcome sweet girl. Ti voglio molto bene."

"I love you very much too. Send Gabe my love. Miss you."

"Miss you too."

The rest of my day progressed as normal except for the chocolate birthday cake that Gabe and Anna arranged to have delivered at lunch. It was delicious.

After lunch I tried to reach Gabe to thank him.

"Thanks for the cake it was perfect." I said as soon as he answered.

"Prego. Are you having a good birthday? Anna said you have plans."

I cringed wondering if Anna was getting Gabe to do her dirty work. "So far so good and yes Ellie and I are going out."

"Who is this Adam Anna told me about?"

Yep, she is.

I couldn't help but to laugh. "Not you too. I successfully evaded Anna's questions, don't make me have to do the same with you."

Gabe sounded concerned. "We just worry about you. You need a good man to protect you."

I loved his protective nature but I tried to reassure him. "I have two good men to protect me. I have you and my Daddy, what more can a girl ask for?"

Gabe sighed. "We are not the same. You are so alone cara."

"I'm fine. I promise. I have done pretty well in my life without a man."

He was unrelenting and was beginning to upset me when he spoke again. "A beautiful woman like you needs a good man in your life to make you happy."

I finally voiced my frustrations. "Gabe, this is supposed to be a happy day for me and you are making me feel like an old zitella."

"You are no spinster sweet girl. I'm sorry. You take off early and go buy yourself something nice on the company card. I insist and have fun tonight."

His offer flattered me but I could not accept. "I'm not going to spend your money, I have plenty of my own thanks to you."

"Yes you will because it is my present to you and when I get the statement next month I better see a purchase for a new outfit or ci sará  l'inferno a pagare."

I laughed when he told me there'd be hell to pay if I didn't go shopping on his dime. "If you insist. Thank you. I love you."

"Anch'io ti voglio bene. Happy Birthday."

I followed the boss's orders and left right after we ended our call and went shopping before heading home. I chuckled to myself, thankful the statement would not show what I actually bought. If it did then he would regret his gift.

---

After a long hot bubble bath and a couple shots of Petron I started to get ready. I put on my new black strapless bra and matching panty. I leaned over to blow my hair out, giving it maximum body and then over-did my eyes as I put on my makeup. My eyes really stood out in contrast.

I put on my new blue silk cami with black lace trim and new black leather mini skirt. I stepped out of the bathroom and sat on my bed so that I could pull on my new black stockings. I then pulled on my new black knee high boots before adding my old short black leather jacket. I admired myself and my thinner frame when I heard my door chime.

I stepped to the door and opened it quickly. "Is this slutty enough for you?"

Ellie laughed. "Yeah I think that covers it. You look great!"

She looked great in her obscenely short little black dress that left little to the imagination. I wished I had the body to pull that look off. "You do too, I hope you got that at a discount since it's only half a dress. You look amazing."

Ellie slapped my shoulder. "You're one to talk, if not for that jacket you'd show more skin than me." We hugged as Ellie wished me a happy birthday.

While eating sushi we laughed and joked til Ellie's expression turned serious. "Are you doing ok? You seem better but is it real or is it an act?"

I looked at her baffled, she knew me better than anyone. "I'm much better, I think it’s real. I still have my bad days but they aren’t as often as they used to be. Why do you ask?"

She sighed. "No reason, I just worry about you."

I smiled as I placed my hand on hers. "I know you do and I love you for it. You've always been there for me and always will be. I promise I'm doing better. Between you, Adam and Jane ya'll have pulled me out of my funk. I'll never be the same, that’s just not possible but I'm as good as I can possibly be and I owe a lot of that to you."

A relieved smile fell across Ellie's beautiful face. "Good and I know you would do the same for me."

I giggled, "You know it girl."

Ellie became serious again. "What's going on with you and Adam?"

I sighed and rubbed my head, "Not you too. You sound like Jane. He's just a great friend."

She placed her hand over mine. "He likes you a lot girl."

I pushed my plate to the side. Ellie's new topic caused me to lose my appetite. "I like him too…. As a friend. I feel like a broken record. I can't compete with the girls that hang on him all night, every night."

Ellie continued pressing the subject but fortunately her tone remained soft and caring. "You look better than those girls. How many times do I have to tell you that? I've seen how he looks at you when you aren't paying attention. He likes you as more than a friend. You need to give him a chance. You two are perfect for each other."

I felt a tear start to form. "I don't know, I'm not his type."

Realizing she wasn't getting anywhere she let the subject drop. "Let’s hit the clubs, we’ll hit Anthracite first and last, how does that sound?"

"Sounds good to me, let’s go."

As usual there was quite the line outside Anthracite when we stepped out of the cab and as usual Adam waved us to the front as soon as he saw us.

His eyes lit up as we approached. He stepped off his stool putting me into a bear hug "Wow, you look hot tonight birthday girl. Happy Birthday" He planted a warm kiss on my cheek.

I was confused since I hadn't told him when my birthday was. "Thanks, how ya been sexy?"

"I’m good, go have fun. Drinks are on me tonight." His smile was so bright it could have been seen from space.

I gave him another hug "Thanks, you’re the best" I kissed his cheek before turning toward the stairs.

I noticed he gave Ellie a wink as we walked past and I felt a tinge of anger.

Why was he winking at Ellie?

Why was I mad about it?

When we reached the top of the stairs I realized why he was winking.

Instead of the large bail bondsman banner that normally rested over the bar there was a huge Happy 29th Birthday Sara banner in its place. I laughed when I saw it.

I noticed Jane standing with an enormous smile motioning me over as she stepped from behind the bar.

I yelled to her and pointed to the banner. "I believe you're off by a few years."

She ran up and embraced me. "Happy Birthday, are you surprised?"

Hell I was in shock. They'd decorated the club with pink and black streamers along with balloons in the same colors all over the place. "Um, surprised is an understatement. I can’t believe you guys did this!"

Ellie joined in, "You like it?"

Happy tears started to flow. "Yeah, I love it."

Jane handed me a strawberry margarita. "Drink up birthday girl."

Jane and Adam had put up a sign over my usual seat that said ‘BIRTHDAY GIRL’ and it had arrows pointing down. All night long, as soon as Jane noticed my drink was close to empty she put another in my hand. By the time the band started I was feeling no pain.

Everyone who walked by was wishing me a happy birthday with many commenting how I didn’t look twenty-nine. I rolled my eyes and Jane laughed every time it happened.

"See, told ya you haven't aged like you think." Ellie teased after the fourth such comment.

I suck my tongue out at her. "Shut up, they're just drunk and the lighting's bad."

Right before the band went to intermission I looked up to see Adam on stage at the microphone. "I believe we have a birthday girl in the audience tonight. Sara will you join me on stage."

I froze in my seat but Ellie and Jane each grabbed an arm and dragged me to Adam who then lifted me on stage easily.

"Ladies and gentlemen I’d like your help in wishing Sara a happy…" While dramatically overacting he looked to the banner. "Twenty-ninth birthday."

The band started playing and the crowd joined in singing Happy Birthday to me. I stood in front of the horde of drunken revelers red faced until the song ended. When I thought the humiliation was over I turned to run back to my perch next to the bar but Adam didn’t release my hand.

With a loving look he started to speak again. "Sara, you're an amazing woman. You have been through so much this past year yet you are standing strong. I consider myself lucky to be able to call you a friend. I hope this next year grants you everything your heart desires and more."

I don’t know if it was the emotion in his words or all the alcohol in my system but before I realized what I was doing I launched myself into Adam, staggering him backwards as he took hold of me to try and gain his balance.

The crowd whooped and hollered as I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. He hesitated for a second before he pulled me into a tight embrace.

Once he released me, I peered deep into his darkening eyes, "Thank you for everything. I don't know where I'd be right now without you."

His expression became serious. "I’d do anything for you."

He released me from his embrace, grabbed my hand and led me back to my seat.

Once Adam made his way back down to the door Jane and Ellie leaned into me quizzically. "What was that?"

I started rubbing my temples. "I don’t know honestly, it just happened. I wasn’t thinking, it was like my body had a mind of its own."

Jane gave me a knowing look. "Seems to me your heart is trying to tell you something."

"Or it could be I'm drunk and your brother is insanely hot and too sweet for words." I responded, trying to play it off.

Ellie laughed, "Could be that too but I doubt it."

We were still laughing when a really cute guy approached. He looked at me with a frown. "I don’t feel too good."

"Why? Too much to drink?" I asked.

He shook his head and rubbed his stomach. "I feel like I have an elephant in my stomach."

I faked a shriek of horror. "A what?"

He looked down. "I think his truck is trying to get out."

Jane looked horrified and Ellie appeared to be stifling a laugh as they both stared at me wondering how I would react to his lame pickup attempt while all of the cute guy’s buddies were standing behind him egging him on.

I gazed seductively into his eyes as I placed my hand on his crotch and gripped it firmly. His eyes appeared ready to pop from their sockets as I spoke. "You have nothing to worry about honey, looks to me more like you swallowed a mouse and that’s his tail. That thing couldn't hurt anyone."

His face turned a nice shade of bright red as everyone around us started laughing. He turned to stomp off as his friends started calling him mouser as they followed.

Jane and Ellie were wiping tears away as Jane turned to me. "I loved that, I had no idea how you'd react. Most girls would just freak out."

Ellie stepped in, "Not me, I couldn’t wait to hear what she said, you should have seen the way she dealt with guys like that back in the day. I forgot how funny she can be when she tears a smartass down."

As the night wore on Ellie and I were having the time or our lives. I kept catching myself looking for Adam while I fended off drunken advances from more than a few of the guys. On the occasions our eyes met he seemed to be looking at the drunken men around me in the same way I glared at his groupies.

I was relieved when finally he joined us, taking a seat on the other side of Ellie. I found myself wanting to be closer to him.

This was my birthday

I did not want to go home to my empty apartment.

I wanted Adam for my birthday!

A little after midnight Greg walked in and it occurred to me that I didn’t even know he and Ellie were still dating. They must have been serious, I made a mental note that I had not been a good friend and that I needed to start asking Ellie about her life more. I also regretted not being nicer to him the first time we met when he once again gave me a disapproving look.

I had been wallowing in self-pity long enough.

Ellie ran over to greet Greg and I motioned Adam to the seat beside me that had just been vacated, he eagerly accepted.

I released a contented sigh as I rested my head on his broad shoulder and looked up. "Thank you for everything. This has been a wonderful night."

Adam placed his arm around me and kissed the top of my head "It's been my pleasure. You look wiped out, you want me to give you a ride home?"

I looked to him skeptically, "Don’t you have to close tonight?"

"No, Jane said she'd take care of everything." He reached behind my chair to retrieve my jacket.

Adam took my hand as I stood. "Let me tell everyone good-bye."

"Of course."

Adam first led me to Ellie and Greg where I gave her a hug, "I’m heading home. Thanks so much for everything. Love you."

"Love you too girl." She replied, "I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon. Hope you had a great birthday."

I bent down so we were eye to eye "It’s been the best birthday bar none."

Greg pulled me into a very awkward hug. "Happy birthday Sara, sorry I didn’t get here til late."

I smiled at him and decided to offer an olive branch. "It’s ok, thanks. The three of us need to grab a bite to eat one night to get better acquainted. Take care of my girl."

He nodded as I stepped away from them to see Jane standing next to Adam. I immediately embraced her, "Thank you for helping make this day special. You’re the best, I love you."

Jane smiled. "Love you too. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Sounds good."

Adam guided my arms into my jacket and placed his arm around my waist in the same protective way he did the first night we met. "You ready?"

I swung my arm in front of us, "Lead the way sir."

Chapter Sixteen

At the door of my apartment I turned to Adam, "Would you like to come in for a drink?"

He shook his head. "I think you need to get some sleep, maybe some other time."

I looked over at him, using my best puppy dog eyes. "Please come in, I don’t want to be alone."

He stared down at me with hesitancy being his prevalent emotion.

I placed my head on his shoulder and pouted at him though my lashes, "Please."

Adam smiled, "Sure, one drink. Okay?"

My eyes lit up. "Thanks, come on in."

Adam took a seat on the couch as I moved toward the fridge "I have beer, white or red wine, tea and water. If you want something stronger you can look in the bar in the corner."

"A beer would be good."

I snuggled up to him on the couch after returning with his drink. He placed his arm around me and I buried my head into his spansive chest taking in his aroma. "Mmmmm" I murmured.

Adam gently stroked my hair "I don’t think this is a good idea, you've had entirely too much to drink."

I lifted my head from his chest to his mouth and attempted to place a kiss on his sexy lips before he pulled away.

Adam exhaled a heavy sigh before placing his hands on either side of my face. "Sara, I want this. God I've wanted this since the last time, but not like this. I want you clear headed when you decide."

Undeterred, I sat my drink on the table in front of the couch. I straddled him and ran my fingers over his chest and tried to kiss him again and again he pushed me away.

He took a deep breath and as I stared at him with rampant wanting he appeared conflicted. "No, I can't, no. I get that us being together has bad memories for you, Jane's told me as much and I never want to do anything that adds to your hurt. You lost a child and your memory of losing him is closely tied to your memory of me I get that, I really do."

I winced at his words and snuggled closer to him running my fingers through his hair.

He kissed my forehead before continuing. "I treasure the friendship we have. I'll take you any way I can get you and us doing something tonight will jeopardize that. My days don't really start until I see you smile at me. I won't do anything that would take that feeling away. I don’t want you to wake up in the morning thinking I took advantage of you. I don’t know what I'd do if you thought that."

Adam cared, he cared more than any guy I had ever met. I wondered if I could get past this, I hoped I could get past this.

If I was to ever get beyond the terrible connection I had one night to do it. Otherwise I might never have the courage to do so again.

I moved from his lap and sat on my knees beside him on the couch. I took his hands in mine as I gazed into the eyes that were so full of emotion. "Adam, you're right, I’m not going to lie. I have issues. Issues I need to work through but I want this too. I need this."

I paused to make sure he was really paying attention to what I said next, "If I am ever going to get past this then I… need… to… do… this. Yes I am drunk but I'm not so drunk that I won’t remember anything that happens tonight. My drunk is one that allows me to lower the walls I have built."

I stopped for a second to gather my thoughts. I needed to say this and say it right so that he understood. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.

"I overthink things Adam. I always have, I always will. Ask Ellie she'll tell you. For the first time in a long time I'm thinking with my heart and not my head. I've been hurt… badly… in the past and because of that my head won’t let anyone close to my heart. You're worried I'm too drunk and yes I'm very drunk, but what all that drinking has done is cloud my head and allow my heart to take charge. I don’t want to be alone tonight and if I just wanted a warm body I could've had one. You saw the guys who hit on me but it’s you." I pointed to his chest. "You are the only person I want to be with. Please don’t make me beg because I will."

Relief washed over Adam as I leaned in to kiss him. His kiss was timid at first, but as I placed one hand on his sculptured back and the other into his long locks the intensity picked up. I stood, breaking the kiss and gripped his arm to lead him up the stairs to my bed.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Adam asked hesitantly once we were standing at my bedside.

I quickly pulled his shirt over his head. "No I’m not but I need to do this. Just promise me you will still be here in the morning. I don’t want to wake up alone."

The hunger as well as the understanding in Adam’s eyes was palpable. "I promise."

I grinned up at him, "Now I want to do this." I emphasized want as I said it.

We hastily undressed each other, our desire reached a fever pitch. Once completely exposed to each other we embraced again as we fell to the bed.

The feel of his ripped bare chest against my exposed breasts was exhilarating.

As his hair mingled with mine and our lips touched I could feel his impressive proof of manhood against my stomach.

Oh why was it I didn't want this again?

He tilted his head and started nibbling on my neck as I ran my long nails down his back.

He peered straight into my eyes. "You are the most beautiful creature God has ever created."

I rolled my eyes as I writhed underneath his sculptured body, aching for him to be inside me but he was no hurry. He worked his mouth from my neck to my breast, cupping it in his large hand as his lips engulfed my nipple. His teeth gently bit down and I moaned in pleasure. After what felt like an eternity of exquisite torture, he released my breast before guiding his tongue down the center of my abdomen circling the sun burst around my belly button before exploring further.

I quivered as his mouth encompassed my sex and he manipulated my sensitive spot. I started gasping for breath as he alternately suckled then blasted me.

I wasn't able to hold out for long before I felt the wave of pleasure start at my toes before washing all over my body. My entire body shook and I screamed out his name as I climaxed. The feeling left me elated but wanting more.

I wrapped my fingers into his hair and pulled him up to me then rolled him to his back as I straddled him. Adam handed me the condom he had removed from his pocket earlier.

I ripped the packet open and removed it’s content. I squeezed the tip and gently rolled it into place before guiding his erection to my willing opening.

I placed my hands on his chest, tracing each sexy tattoo with the tips of my nails as I started to slowly rock back and forth. His now black eyes were focused on mine. I bit my bottom lip as I took in all this gorgeous man had to offer.

Wanting to increase the pace he grabbed my hips guiding me forcefully as my motions reached a frantic pace. My head was tossing to and fro as pleasure surrounded me.

I reached down and dug my nails into his ripped chest and that proved to be his undoing. He moaned loudly and I felt his body start to tense and that proved to be my undoing. I screamed out his name once again when I felt his release. I fell onto his chest panting, both our bodies drenched with sweat.

Once our breathing returned to normal he shifted me to his side and removed himself from my inner sanctum. I flinched from the sudden emptiness as he escaped from my confines.

He moved his hair from his face with his fingertips then did the same for me before again kissing me lightly on my lips. "That was amazing."

I smiled sweetly and nodded, "Yes, amazing is exactly what I was thinking"

A yawn escaped uncontrollably. The combination of a long day at work and a night of partying followed by delicious lovemaking had taken a toll.

"You look tired baby, get some sleep."

I gently caressed his cheek. "Will you be here when I wake up?"

Adam smiled and nodded his head. "Yes."

"You promise?"

He kissed my nose. "I promise."

I smiled as I leaned in for another kiss before turning my back to him and snuggled in as he wrapped his massive arms around me and pulled me close. He reached up and tenderly guided my hair from my face. Just as consciousness escaped me I could have sworn I heard him softly whisper, "I love you baby." I’m not sure if it was part of a dream or if he had really just said it but it left me wide awake. Love was a word I used freely with friends and family but not with a man.

I only ever told one man I loved him and he used my love against me.

---

I stretched as the sun shining through the window welcomed me into a new day. The events from the night before entered my mind making me smile. I stretched once more and reached over beside me to find an empty bed. I sat up immediately anxiously looking around before I heard a noise coming from the kitchen and the aroma of bacon reached my nose. I jumped out of bed and eased into my robe before going to find him.

"Good morning gorgeous." Adam greeted me cheerily as I walked in.

He was wearing his jeans that he had zipped up but did not button and nothing else.

That was a look I could get used to seeing every morning.

I eased over to him and wrapped my arms around his waist then kissed him on the cheek. "Good morning, there should be a law against someone looking this good so early." I rubbed his stomach. "You scared me when you weren’t in bed when I woke up."

Adam smiled, "Oh ye of little faith. I told you I'd be here, I was hoping to have this finished so I could bring you breakfast in bed."

I giggled at him using my words back at me before I wiggled my hips against him, "I have faith in you. Never doubt that. But I know what I’d like in bed this morning."

"Don't you worry, you'll get it." Adam said as he patted my bottom. "But breakfast is almost done and I hate cold breakfast. You sit your cute little butt down, I have this."

I took my seat at the bar and watched him move around the kitchen with ease. "You cook often?" I asked.

"Yeah, it’s relaxing. Nikki, my ex, wasn’t much of a cook and I hated eating out every night so I taught myself."

"You don’t talk about her much, what happened with you two?"

He shrugged nonchalantly, "There’s not much to tell, in many ways it feels like it all happened in a different life. I met her in California when I was with, um I mean, on the road as a… touring musician. I thought she was everything, we were inseparable but after awhile things changed and I got tired of the grind, it was such a crazy time. You have no idea how crazy life on the road can be. I hated everything about it except for playing, which unfortunately was only about two hours a night. We were hitting a rough patch and eventually I grew tired of all the time away from home so I quit the band."

Adam sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "It went downhill after that. She wasn’t much for the role of housewife. She missed the excitement and the attention of the road. I enjoyed being home and not having so many demands on my time but we realized as we spent most of our days together without distractions that we really didn’t have much in common. We drifted apart slowly and she eventually ran off with a former bandmate."

I nodded sadly. "That couldn’t have been easy, especially with it being a friend. What band were you in?"

"It was very difficult and I took it hard but thankfully Jane got me through it, even dropping everything to help start the club to keep my mind off things."

I noticed he failed to tell me the name of the band. I didn't push the subject, figuring he would tell me when he was ready.

I smiled teasingly, "All the girls throwing themselves at you doesn’t hurt either."

Adam chuckled, "Not at first it didn’t, it was what I needed but then something happened and suddenly my carefree lifestyle felt hollow."

Feeling concerned, I looked up. "What happened?"

Adam turned away not saying anything and started back cooking.

"Adam, what happened?" I asked again.

He shrugged and rubbed his neck again before turning to face me. "You did."

I gasped. "I did? How did I change anything?"

Adam leaned across the bar grabbing my hands. "I met you and you had it all together. I didn’t think anything of it at first. I knew I was attracted to you, I mean who wouldn’t be? I made the mistake of approaching you like I do every other girl but you taught me quickly that you don’t suffer fools lightly and called me on my shit." He smiled at me and lifted his eyebrows.

His expression turned serious again. "We had that incredible night and you didn’t want more than a buddy. I was so relieved when you told me that because the feelings you stirred scared me and I figured I could have my cake and eat it too with what you wanted. Sadly your world changed the very next day and you shut down and shut everyone out."

I frowned at the memory.

Adam squeezed me hands. "I don’t know how you made it, I really don’t. That night I saw you in the elevator scared me to death. I saw this strong independent woman I had gotten to know all too briefly and she was shell of her former self. I knew I needed to help somehow. Thank goodness you let me, and the more I got to know you the more I learned that we have so much in common. We both play guitar and piano, we enjoy the same types of music, love the same movies, laugh at the same jokes. You call me on my shit; you keep me on my toes. The list of things we have in common is endless. You challenge me and make me better. I thought we could be just friends and I'd be happy with that but after awhile I wanted more. I'm a selfish man and I want a life with you. I just didn’t know how to approach it given everything you've been through."

Once more I felt tears prick the corners of my eyes. I had given up on being with anyone and suddenly I could not picture being with anyone but him. He had been there for me. He and his sister were the main ones who brought me out from my darkest moment. I knew I loved him as a friend but now I felt as if I could love him as more. I had nobody to live for but myself and I sincerely believed Adam was the one man who could make me happy.

Hunter would want me to be happy, that much I knew. Even if Adam hurt me at some point, it couldn’t be worse than the pain I had endured in the last six months.

Yes, I wanted this too. I wanted a life with Adam.

I squeezed his hands "I'm selfish too. Are you sure you know what you're getting into?"

Adam’s eyes widened and he nodded sincerely. "Sara, I think we're doing this right. We were friends first. You can't build on a better foundation."

I smiled and leaned across to kiss him. "I think so too but to be clear, we are exclusive. No more little coeds for you."

Adam laughed loudly, "Like any of them could hold a candle to you. I promise, just you and me from here on out." He leaned across the bar and started to speak again. "I lo.."

I kissed him to halt the words I wasn't ready to hear. "Shh it's too soon for that."

Adam nodded then practically jumped over the bar to embrace me before swinging me around in a circle. "Oh Baby, you just made me happier than I can remember being…ever!"

He set me down and rushed back to the stove to put our breakfast on plates and set them down on the bar. As we started to eat he looked at me lovingly before asking, "What do you want to do today?"

"I'm supposed to go to my parents for lunch, Mom always makes baked rigatoni for my birthday. I'd invite you to come along but I'm not sure they could handle the shock. They haven't seen me with anyone since… ever. I need to prepare them."

Adam smiled, "I understand. Why don’t you call me after you get home and we can do something."

I grinned at him. "Sounds like a plan."

From the living room I heard my phone ring, I rushed to get it and saw Jane’s face on my display. I smiled and handed the phone to Adam. "You wanna answer it? It will so mess with her!"

Adam laughed and grabbed the phone. "Hey sis what’s up?… what do you mean you didn’t mean to call me?… Why are you calling Sara?… Are you trying to find out if I was a gentleman or something?… No I’m good, great actually…. OK, love you too…bye."

Adam laughed as he hung up. "Wait for it, wait for it, and NOW"

At that moment the phone rang again.

"Hey sis, why do you keep calling me?"

I couldn’t contain my laughter as I snatched the phone from Adam, "Hey girl, what’s happening?"

Jane was laughing on the other end "Why did my brother answer your phone? Where are you?"

"I’m at home why?" I replied as if Adam being here was the most natural thing in the world.

"Why is my brother there?"

I snickered, "Jane, you're a big girl, do we really need to have that talk?"

I had to hold the phone away from my ear as Jane squealed. Adam heard it and started laughing again.

Jane sounded excited. "Oh my GOD, he spent the night?"

"Yes."

"And you're good?"

I stared into Adam's loving eyes as I whispered into the phone, "Better than good."

"Are you two like a couple now?" It sounded as if she was bouncing around her room.

I looked to Adam with a huge smile, "She wants to know if we are a couple."

Adam laughed, "I sure as hell hope we are." His deep voice responded loud enough for Jane to hear.

Jane squealed again, "I am so happy for you two, I hoped this would happen."

"I’m happy too."

"You deserve to be and tell my brother if he hurts you he'll have to answer to me."

I giggled, "Yes ma’am."

"I’ll let you go, Love you."

"Love you too."

As I hit end on my phone Adam looked at me "Sounds like Jane is as happy as we are."

I nodded. "I think she’s happier if that’s even possible."

Adam pulled me into his lap. "You are so beautiful."

I laughed at his words. "Have you already started drinking this morning?" I kissed his nose, "You sir are the one who is beautiful."

Adam hugged me tight. "The only thing I'm drinking this morning is the sight of you."

I shifted uncomfortably in his lap. "Stop it okay. You already have me, no need to pile it on so thick."

He looked at me as if I were insane. "You have no idea do you?"

"Please stop. I might be above average but I'm far from beautiful."

Adam rubbed his nose over mine. "You have the cutest button nose."

I laughed. "Of course you'd notice the youngest part of me first."

He pulled his head away so he could look at me. "What do you mean?"

"It's only twelve years old. I was… in an accident and they had to rebuild it."

"What kind of accident?"

"It doesn't matter, the point is, it's not really mine."

His kissed me. "How about your lips? Are they yours?"

"Sort of. They've been reconstructed too."

He placed his hand over my left breast. "How about this? The heart that's in there is the most beautiful part. You can't tell me it's not yours."

I smiled. "Yes that's all me but it's been damaged so much you're going to have to be gentle with it. I don't think it can handle much more."

He leaned over and kissed my chest ever so gently. "I promise to take care of it."

I was ready for the conversation to end so I jumped to my feet and tugged on his arm. "Come on, breakfast is getting cold."

After we finished eating the delicious meal I peered over at Adam with a sly grin. "Do you know the proper etiquette concerning whether dessert is allowed after breakfast?"

Adam returned my grin sinfully. "I believe not only is it allowed but it's required."

I shrieked happily as he tossed me over his shoulder and carried me back up the stairs to my bedroom.

Chapter Seventeen

My father greeted me as I stepped out of the cab in front of his home. "Happy Birthday Baby Girl."

I smiled as he gave me an all-encompassing embrace. "Thanks Daddy."

"Something wrong with the Mini?"

I shook my head. "No. It's supposed to be pretty all week so I wanted to drive the 911."

He grinned. I can't begin to describe the joy of seeing a positive emotion on his face as he said, "Sure thing. I'll get it out from under the cover and have it ready for you."

I leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thanks. I'm going to go see if Mom needs any help."

He released me and turned to the garage with a frown. "Be careful in there. She's in a mood today."

I sighed loudly. "When is she not in a mood lately?"

Mom glared at me as I strolled in the kitchen. "What are you doing here?"

I smirked, still riding the high of seeing Daddy smile as well as the promise of a relationship with Adam. "Gee Mother. Don't act so happy to see your only child."

"Why do you look so happy?"

I smiled contentedly. "For the first time since everything happened I feel like I can make it."

Mom started to wash a pan in the sink. "Glad someone feels that way. Is there a person who is causing this happiness?"

I blushed.

Mom dried her hands on a towel before rolling her eyes. "I shoulda known, who is he?"

I inhaled a deep breath and braced for the Southern inquisition. The Southern inquisition is much like the Spanish inquisition minus the bloodshed plus the dungeons are much cleaner.

"His name is Adam Carson."

I could see Mom's mind working overtime. "Adam? I've met him haven’t I?"

I nodded as I leaned against the wall. "I think you may have. He was at Hunter’s funeral."

Her eyes widened as recognition set in. "Wait, is he the big guy with all the tattoos? I remember him." She started laughing hysterically.

Where was Mom going with this?

I eyed her warily. "Yes that’s him, he has long black hair."

Mom wiped her eyes, "Oh yeah, nobody can accuse you of not having a type that’s for sure. You'll never change."

I tried to laugh to prevent myself from raging at her. "I guess you're right."

In typical Mom fashion she looked up at me again with an evil grin as she reached in the cabinet for a bottle of Vodka. "That's a whole lotta man you got. Is everything big about him?"

I glared at her. My God it's not even noon yet. "Isn't it a little early to be drinking?"

She started again laughing uncontrollably. "Your pretty clothes and money doesn't hide a damn thing from me. You're still the same little whore you've always been. Why are you here anyways?"

I felt my tears coming. "He's the only man I've been with in almost fourteen years. I don't know why I'm here. I thought you invited me over for my birthday but heaven forbid you'd actually crawl out of your fucking bottle long enough to give a damn about me. You'll never change."

Mom stormed over with her fist drawn. "I'll knock that smart mouth right off that pretty face of yours."

I straightened and reached for her arm and bent to her face. "Go ahead if you think you can. I have a big surprise for you mother, I'm not that same scared little girl anymore and I fight back now."

Her fiery eyes never left mine. "Get out of my house."

I laughed. "I'll leave when I'm ready. You forget who paid for this house."

"ENOUGH! Let her go Liberty." My father's voice boomed from the doorway.

I looked up at my dad angrily. "You better teach your wife I'm not her punching bag anymore."

He walked over and placed his arm around my waist. "Let's go outside so everyone can calm down."

I released my mother and pulled away from my father's grasp before I stormed out to the yard and headed towards Mom’s flower garden.

I noticed the ceramic frog Hunter insisted we buy her and sat down beside it and ran my fingers over the green tiles covering it. I laughed before I started crying again as I remembered that day…

"Mom, Mom, Mom look at this!" Hunter, who was nine at the time, exclaimed as he held up a God-awful ugly mosaic color stone decorative frog he had found at booth as were strolling a craft fair in New York.

"Hunter! That's the tackiest thing I have ever seen!" I shrieked.

Someone had taken a small concrete frog and glued small pieces of different shades of green glass all over it even going so far as to glue small blue circular glass stones where the eyes should be.

"No it’s not Mom, it’s cool! Granny would love it in her garden." Hunter defiantly defended.

I laughed, "Hunter Robert Collins your Granny would NOT like that thing."

Hunter stomped his foot like he always did when he had his mind made up. "Yes she would Mom, she loves anything I give her. She told me so."

I giggled because I knew we were buying Mom an ugly frog. I could never say no to him when he was like that. He was going to make me buy it for her and truth be told, I couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when she saw it and realized she'd have to display it proudly.

Hunter put his hands together, "Please Mama, can we get it for her?"

I smiled and nodded my head, "Yes, we can get it but we'll have to wait until we visit next month to give it to her. I’m afraid it might break if we try to mail it." My reasons for waiting were two-fold. I wanted to be there to see her expression. Plus, knowing my mother, she'd see it, throw it away and swear up and down it was lost in the mail.

Hunter jumped up and down and hugged my waist. "Thanks Mom, I love you."

"I love you too."

The horrified look on Mom’s face as she opened the present Hunter so proudly gave her was priceless. I had no idea why I said no to begin with.

"Oh Hunter, this is really…" Mom looked down at her grandson’s happy face and paused. "Something special. I…I…I love it. Thank you."

Daddy laughed loudly as she removed it from the box. I couldn’t help but to laugh as well.

She shot us both dirty looks over Hunter’s shoulder as she hugged him.

I decided I needed to speak up. "He saw it at a craft fair and insisted we get it. I told him you wouldn’t like it but he guaranteed me that you'd love anything he got you."

Mom grimaced at me before smiling at Hunter. "He was right. It’s just perfect, thank you so much."

Hunter grabbed the frog in one hand before taking his grandmother’s hand with the other. "Come on Granny, I know just the place for it."

"Wait!" I yelled, "I need to get a picture of you two and the frog."

Hunter took the frog and held it out proudly in front of him as Mom stooped down beside him and put her arm around his side.

"Say ribbitt." I told them before snapping the picture.

Mom shot a ‘Help Me’ look in my direction as Hunter dragged her out the door. All Daddy and I could do was laugh as they left.

I felt my Daddy’s strong hand on my shoulder bringing me from my memory. "You know, your Mom panicked when you told us you were moving back because she had forgotten where she put that ugly thing. She knew he expected it to be right where they put it when he came back."

I chuckled. "Yeah, he would've been upset if it hadn't been here."

"Now, she wouldn’t move it for anything in the world. It’s one of her most prized possessions."

I sighed, "I know she wouldn’t. I’d be upset if she did."

Daddy’s grip tightened on my shoulder, "Baby girl, I'm so sorry." I could hear the pain in his voice.

I jumped up and wrapped my arms around his neck "Oh Daddy, it’s not your fault. Please stop blaming yourself."

Daddy embraced me and as soon as his huge loving arms wrapped around me I felt safe. I don’t think I had let him hug me like this since I was little, I'd been such a fool. Daddy started crying. "If I'd gone a different direction, if I'd gone a little faster or a little slower this wouldn’t have happened."

My heart shattered to see him like this. "No Daddy No." I lifted my head from his shoulder so I could look into his piercing blue eyes so much like mine and so clouded by pain. "It’s not your fault. God decided he needed Hunter for something special. It’s not our place to question it. I had hoped to grow old and have grandkids bouncing on my knee but God had other plans. I don’t understand it but I don’t blame you. You have to stop blaming yourself."

Daddy regained himself and wiped his eyes as he pulled me to his side. He wasn't going to listen to me. I knew he wasn't saying anymore on the subject. "So, did I overhear correctly? You have a boyfriend?"

I sniffled. "Yes I do."

"It’s about damn time, when do I get to meet him?" He was his pleasantly gruff self again.

I giggled. "I’m not sure if I'm ready for you to scare him off just yet."

"Who is he?"

I rolled my eyes to Daddy’s insistent questioning. "His name is Adam Carson, he and his sister own a bar downtown."

Daddy seemed deep in thought then suddenly his expression changed to shock "Wait, is he the big guy with the long hair and tattoos? I met him at the funeral I think."

Something about the way he said it struck me as funny and I started to laugh. "Yes Daddy, why do you sound so surprised?"

Daddy shook his head and sighed but he still wore a grin, "I don’t know baby girl. It seems like the more things change the more they stay the same. He seems to be a good man. You need to bring him around cause he's one I couldn't scare off if I wanted too."

I giggled and he pulled me in close before he smiled at me. "It's warms my heart to hear you laughing again. I thought after all this I'd never hear it anymore."

I was clinging to the one man in my life that had never let me down when he started talking again. "You can't let your mother get you worked up like that."

I started to cry once more. "Why does she hate me so much?"

"Oh Baby Girl, she doesn't hate you. She loves you more than anything on this earth but she's hurting and lashing out at the person she loves the most. The problem with that is you two are so much alike that you both know the exact buttons to push."

I hugged him tighter. "I'm barely holding on as it is Daddy and I can't take it. I'm going to have to keep my distance from her if I want to survive." I looked up to stare into his sad eyes. "I hope you know that when I stop coming around it has nothing to do with you. You can call me anytime you want and maybe we can go riding on the weekends like we used to do but I can't be around her when she is like this."

My father sighed. "I know Lib, I know. I don't blame you at all."

My phone rang and as I looked to see who it was Daddy told me he was going out to the garage. I nodded as I answered Ellie’s call.

"Hold on girl."

I looked over at Daddy. "Is the 911 ready yet?"

He shook his head. "I followed you in the house afraid of how your mother would act. I'm heading there now to take care of it."

"Thanks Daddy." I turned my attention back to the phone. "Hey, sorry about that."

"What’s up girly?" Ellie sounded happy.

"Not much, spending the day with Mom and Daddy"

She groaned. "How's that going?"

"Mom's in rare form. I won't be making the same mistake in the near future. She forgot it's my birthday and didn't even remember inviting me over."

"Oh I'm sorry girl."

"No bigs. I'm used to it."

"Enough about that. Did you have fun last night?"

I smiled at the memory and sighed contently, "I had the best time."

"I’m glad. Hey wait, did you just sigh? I know that sigh! Something happened between you and Adam after you left the club didn't it?"

Dang she knows me too well

I giggled. "Yeah, you could say that something happened and it happened again this morning after he cooked me breakfast."

"Spill it, you slept with Adam again didn’t you?" Ellie sounded as excited as Jane.

"Yes I did, it was great. We are going to try for a relationship."

I could feel her happiness for me through the phone, "He loves you girl. He has for a while. You finally landed a good guy."

I was having a good day so I let what she said about Adam loving me slide. "I think I did. Speaking of guys, how serious are you and Greg? You usually don’t keep one this long."

Ellie giggled. "I can’t get into that right now, I'll tell you when I see you."

"He doesn't like me does he?"

"I wouldn't say that."

"What's with the vague answers?" Then it dawned on me. "He’s beside you isn’t he?"

"Yeah" She giggled again.

"In that case I'll let you go."

"OK, tell Uncle Rob I said hi. Love you."

"Love you too."

I walked to the garage to see that Daddy was in the middle of dropping the top on my Porsche so I pulled my hair into a ponytail as I walked over.

"It's got a half tank of gas in her but it's old so you'll want to top her off before you go home."

I smiled and kissed my father. "Thanks Daddy. You're the best."

He smiled as he opened my door. "No Baby Girl, I'm just a grumpy old man who happens to love you more than anything."

I laughed as I sat behind the wheel. "I love you too."

I called Adam as soon as I hit the open road. "Hey baby, whatcha doing?" I asked as soon as he answered his phone.

"Waiting for the most beautiful woman on the planet to call." he replied smoothly.

"Oh, in that case I should let you go so you don’t miss her call." I teased.

"Don’t you dare! I meant you and you know it." Adam growled. Growling Adam was sexy.

"Awe, aren’t you sweet."

"Where are you? Sounds like you're in a wind tunnel."

I laughed, "I'm in my convertible. I decided to drive it home since it's so pretty out."

Adam chuckled, "I didn't know you had another car."

"Yeah, it's my summer car. You want to drive me to grab a bite to eat? I'm starving."

"You want to eat again? I thought you just ate." Adam sounded surprised.

I sighed. "I don't want to talk about it. Just meet me at the entrance in about twenty minutes. How does fast food sound? I want something quick so we can get to dessert."

Adam's voice dropped a couple of octaves when he realized what I was proposing. "Sounds good, let me hop in the shower then I’ll be waiting."

The look on Adam's face was priceless as I pulled to the curb in front of the Terrazzo.

"This is one hell of a summer car." He said as he inspected it closely before getting in.

I smiled wildly. I've loved this car since the day I got it. "It's my favorite but I won't take her out in bad weather."

His gorgeous brown eyes shimmered with almost the same amount of passion I thought had been reserved for me. "I don't blame you. When are you going to let me drive it?"

I laughed so loudly that people walking on the sidewalk turned to stare. I stepped on the gas and shot into the road so quickly that it threw us back into our seats. "Do you think you could handle it?"

I was half expecting him to be scared when I glanced at him but he was the complete opposite. He laughed as he placed his hand on my leg. "I can handle anything you've got baby."

---

After eating and sharing "dessert" we were lying in a postcoital glow. I started looking closely at his tattoos. I noticed a wolf, an angel, an eagle, a cross, a bell, more tribal markings, an American flag waving and a heart that looked like it had a name covered up with images of it breaking.

I traced the heart on the left of his chest, "Was that originally your ex?"

He sighed. "Yeah."

I then pointed to the cross in the center of his chest. "What about this?"

"I got that right after my parents were killed."

I pointed to the angel. "I thought that was for them."

He shook his head sadly. "I don't want to talk about that one."

I didn't know what it signified but I knew it was something bad so instead I traced my fingers on the bell over his heart. "And this?"

He laughed. "That was my first one. It’s kind of silly."

"How so?"

My strong man actually looked embarrassed and I found myself giggling as he responded. "There was this girl that was in all the best videos back in the day. Oh my God she was gorgeous. She had long blonde hair and legs for days. She eventually started her own band. She was so hot. She had the face and voice of an angel. Her name was Belle. You remind me of her in some ways. I had such a huge crush on her. I’d see pictures of her partying in the mags and I fell into a teenaged version of love. Good God I used to dream of her. She's the reason I started playing."

I shifted uncomfortably hoping he didn’t notice. "You got a tattoo for some girl you never met?"

Adam smiled shyly "I told you it was silly, I wanted her close to my heart. She was my first kiss. I always dreamed I would meet her again and she would fall head over heels for me."

I looked at him puzzled. "First kiss?"

Adam laughed fondly as he shared his sweet memory with me. "Yeah, I was thirteen at the time and carried a sign that said Belle please be my first kiss. I didn't even know if she would be there because she was just a back up dancer for a group called Annihilation then. I made Jane and uh I mean I made Jane, wait with me by the back door hoping to see her go to the bus and sure enough she did. I screamed her name and waved the sign."

Adam's eyes lit up with such joy. "She turned and walked toward me. I was too star struck to move. Jane, who was real bitch back then, shoved me towards her telling me she wasn't anything special along with a few other things I won't repeat. Belle looked at me and with the cutest southern accent said. "Your sister's right. I ain't nobody special but it would be an honor to give such a good looking young man a kiss." She leaned down and kissed me on the lips. I was in heaven as she hugged me tightly and in love even more than I was before."

Adam's mood suddenly soured as an obvious unpleasant memory surfaced. He attempted to turn away but I gripped his hand tightly. "What are thinking of now?"

He shook his head. "Nothing important."

I moved so we were face to face. "Yes it is, something's bothering you. What is it?"

His beautiful eyes started to gloss over. "On the way home from the concert we were in a really bad wreck. It messed me up pretty good, the memory of her kiss was what kept me going when I wanted to give up. Jane used her as motivation to keep me going. She would say, 'How are you going to kiss Belle again if you just give up?' or when I refused to do my therapy she would yell, 'Do you think Belle would kiss a quitter?' It kept me going." Adam became embarrassed again and buried his face in my hair. "I told you it was silly."

I was overcome with emotions as I hugged him as tight as I possibly could. "Doesn’t sound silly to me, it sounds sweet. I bet she'd love to know she actually had a positive impact on someone." I turned to kiss his nose. "That must have been one hell of a kiss."

Adam's hand gripped the back of my hair as he refused to let me pull away. "It was, but compared to yours it was nothing."

I melted with his words and kissed him again and again and again.

Adam pulled me away after awhile and stared at me. "Baby, can I ask you a question?"

I laughed. "Is this the get to know you better pillow talk?"

Adam smiled and gently stroked my arm. "I guess you can say that."

I rolled to my side and draped my leg over his lower body. "What do you want to know?"

"What color are you eyes?"

I shifted nervously. "What do you mean?"

"I know you are wearing colored contacts. I've always wondered what they really look like. I know they are a shade of blue cause I've seen them shift before"

If I really want this man to be a part of my life then at some point he's going to find out anyways. I crawled out of bed and turned to him. "I'll be right back, don't go anywhere." I rushed to my bathroom and removed the lenses and with more than a little trepidation I walked back toward Adam and stared into his eyes.

He gasped slightly. "Why would you hide those? They are breathtaking."

I shifted nervously before he pulled me to him in my bed. "You're going to have to get used to compliments sweetheart because I'm going to shower you with them."

My eyes perked up. "Did you say shower?" I wiggled my eyebrows. "That could be fun."

My man didn't need any further prompting. "Race you there."

Chapter Eighteen

The next two months flew by as Adam and I continued to get closer. While I was still afraid to say it out loud there was no doubt in my heart that I loved him more than I ever thought I could love a man. He knew I wasn't comfortable saying it so he didn't push me and tried not to say it to me but occasionally it would slip out before he realized it.

We showed our love without words and his constant compliments caused my confidence to flourish. With his gentle prodding I started dressing in more flattering outfits for work and wore my hair down almost constantly.

I found myself hanging at Anthracite more and more. It was there that we had our first fight.

After an exceptionally bad day during the wrong time of the month I was walking back from the restroom when I saw a tall leggy blonde approach Adam and place her arms around his neck. It might have been my mood but Adam was not quick enough to brush off her advances for my liking. I angrily stomped over to them when I witnessed her give my man a kiss on the cheek. Adam quickly moved away from her as soon as he caught a glimpse at me.

I glared at him, "Why don’t you introduce me to your friend Zeus?"

Adam stumbled over his words, "Sara, this is Kaylee. Kaylee this is my old lady Sara."

Old Lady? What the fuck? I’m not that old!

Before anything else could be said I bolted to the bar for my purse then turned on my heels and stormed out the back with Adam following close behind.

"Baby what’s wrong?" Adam asked as I walked away.

"Nothing." I screamed and didn’t slow down.

Adam grabbed my arms, halting my progress. "Baby, STOP."

I turned to him, "What?"

"Why are you so mad?"

I glared at this idiot I loved. "You don’t know?"

"She’s just an old friend saying hi. Why are you so upset?"

I glared at him. "Oh I don’t know. Sometimes seeing a beautiful tall young blond wrapping her arms around my boyfriend who only introduces me after I make him do so upsets me." I smacked his chest. "Then to make it worse he introduces me as an old woman." I turned to walk away again, "You’re right, I have no reason at all to be upset."

Adam looked bewildered. "Am I missing something? I introduced you as my girlfriend so she'd know we're together."

I spun around as I screamed in his face. "No you didn’t! You introduced me as your old lady."

"Same difference." Adam said defensively.

I tried to calm myself. "No it’s not. Your girlfriend is someone you care for and are committed to. Your old lady is someone you are stuck with while you wish you were with someone younger."

"I don’t see it that way. Hell honey you look just as young as almost any girl that comes in here."

I dropped my posture in defeat. "I do Adam, the way I see it is you are just holding on to me until something better comes along. I've seen the type of women you go for and I’m not it. You like them tall, you like them young and you like them blonde. I'm only one of the three."

I sighed before I continued, "I often wonder why you're with me. I worry everyday that you're going to leave me for your usual type and what you did and said in there only reinforced my insecurities."

Adam gazed at me with hurt and understanding. He pulled me to his chest. "I'm sorry Baby. You really think I could just turn off my feelings like that. How can I wait for someone better when I'm already with the best? I had no idea. Is that why you won't let me tell you how I feel?"

I nodded shyly, "I've heard those words before but they've never meant anything to the person who told me."

He held on to me as if he needed me to survive. "You mean everything to me. I adore you, I cherish you, I love you and only you. I honestly meant it as a term of endearment but I’ll never call you that again. I’m not going anywhere. In my defense I am a man so I'll probably continue to look but I give you my word I will never touch and if I do, you can cut off something I need."

I laughed through my tears and launched my lips toward his, "I may hold you too that. I’m sorry for getting so upset."

Adam hugged me tightly. "There's nothing to be sorry about. I should have been more understanding."

After that Adam was vigilant in ignoring the advances of the many women who hit on him, especially the tall blond ones. He was also quick to introduce me as the ‘love of his life’ to women and as his girlfriend to men. Jane often laughed when he did it but I loved him all the more because of his efforts to put my mind at ease.

My jealousy eased but did not dissipate after that. One particular night I was talking to Jane about a fight her and Adam were having as a leggy blonde and her brunette friend approached the bar for a drink. I had been having a really good day until I came to the bar and had to play mediator, both were being unreasonable and it shot my mood to hell and back. While waiting for Jane to fix their drinks I overheard the girls talking.

"Oh my God Courtney, I’d so do Zeus but I hear he has a girlfriend now." The blonde said to her friend.

"Come on Katie, like that matters, he doesn’t have a ring on his finger. Seriously, I hear she's old and she can’t be as hot as you. I say go for it. He'll respond cause I bet she's not taking care of him anyways." Replied the brunette.

"I think you’re right." Katie said as she smoothed her mini skirt and adjusted her impressive breasts. "She can’t be as hot as I am."

This would have made me mad on a good day but since I was already in a foul mood my blood started to boil and I clinched my fists. This egotistical bitch was about to get it.

The entire scene didn’t escape Jane’s notice.

Jane tried to diffuse the situation but even I had to admit she might have lacked tact. "Just a piece of friendly advice sluts." She warned the girls, "He does have a girlfriend and it would be in your best interest to just forget about him if you know what’s good for you."

Katie began to laugh, "Yeah yeah, whatever you say mom, I think I’ll let him decide. Why wouldn’t he want a shot at this?" she then motioned over her body.

Jane laughed at the blonde's comments. "Oh I don't know. Maybe he has taste."

Courtney glared at Jane. "This isn't any of your concern. Just keep you minimum wage opinions to yourself and get our drinks."

Jane gave me a 'sic em' look and at that moment I caught sight of Adam walking up the stairs. The blonde noticed about the same time and turned to walk to him.

Before she had a chance to even take one step toward my man, I jumped off my stool and grabbed a handful of her bleached hair and yanked her back toward me. She was much shorter than me so I had to lean down to get in her face.

"Bitch if you take one more step toward him it will be your last." I grumbled.

"What the hell is your problem?" Courtney screamed as she charged at me with her fist drawn.

"You aren't saying anything new about me but you better quit being such a bitch and leave my boyfriend alone." My wild past stepped to the forefront when I shoved the blonde into her friend causing them both to stumble before I hit the brunette with everything I had. When Katie lurched at me I used her momentum to smash her face into the bar before dropping her next to her friend on the floor. I stood over the pair and used a very calm voice. "You two are my problem if you think you're going to hit on my man and get away with it."

Both sets of eyes widened in alarm as Katie spoke. "You are Zeus’s girlfriend?"

Adam witnessed everything and rushed to my side wrapping an arm around my waist. "Yes she is, why?"

The blonde spoke again, "Um, no reason. We were just leaving. Come on Courtney."

As they scampered off the floor and hurried down the stairs Adam looked at me with great amusement in his eyes. "What was that about?"

Jane wore a confused look on her face before she high-fived me over the bar and I glanced at the clearly amused love of my life with a mixture of anger and desire in my eyes "Oh nothing at all honey. I just didn’t agree with their plans for the evening."

Adam started laughing harder. "Baby, are you jealous?"

"No! Well maybe, but only when they start talking about what they want to do to you right in front of me."

Adam rubbed the back of his neck. "Fair enough, I’d be the same way but you don’t have to worry."

Jane slid Adam a beer. "Remind me to never piss off your girlfriend, she has a scary temper."

"You didn't know?" Adam chuckled, "You don't even want to be on the receiving end of it. Trust me."

I playfully smacked his chest. "I'm not that bad."

Adam pulled me in close for a kiss. "Nooo baby. You don't have a bad temper at all. On a totally different subject I was wondering if you'd want a job as a bouncer on the weekends?"

Jane laughed at the sarcasm that dripped from her brother 's words. "Careful there, looks like you're pissing her off."

Ellie darted up the stairs with a puzzled look as she motioned to the door with her thumb. "What was that about? Those two girls looked scared to death."

Adam and Jane laughed while I buried my head in my man's broad shoulder so Ellie couldn't see my flustered state. She walked over and wrenched me away from Adam to get a look at my face. She started to laugh, "Oh my God! You broke red on them didn't you?"

I couldn't help but to laugh. Ellie always said when I get mad the redneck in me breaks out.

She shook her head, "Dang, I told Sapphire to hurry up. If she had I could've seen it."

I spun my head around, "Where's your car?"

Ellie started to stammer. "Um. I was just a little short on gas so she gave me a ride."

I eyed her incredulity, "Uh huh, you suck at lying. What shop is it in?"

She straightened her back and her voice took on a defensive edge. Another sign she was lying. "I do not!"

I laughed, "If you had said her car broke down and you had to give her a ride I might have believed you. You need to borrow the Mini?"

Completely ignoring my question she turned to Adam. "So hot rod, what did you do to get your girl so worked up she kicked some ass?"

Adam laughed and took on a defensive posture. "I didn't do anything this time. I was downstairs til the very end. You need to ask Jane."

---

The next morning I left for work a little early and stopped by Manny's to see if he had Ellie's car, and as I suspected he did. She needed a new car but I knew my hard headed cousin well enough to know that there was no way she'd let me get her one so when I went in to pay him I told him to go over the car and replace anything that might look like it could go bad within the next year. I asked him if he had told Ellie how much the bill was yet and when he told me no I told him to tell her it was something very minor and not charge her much. I made it very clear that she wasn't to have any idea I had been there and he promised he wouldn't.

If she ever found out what I did she'd be beyond livid but I loved her too much to take a chance on her breaking down in a bad area of town. It was another issue of mine after my little Fiero stranded me in bad part of L.A. once and put me in a situation no woman should be in.

I looked over at the custom motorcycle shop next door when I walked back out to my car and couldn't help but to admire all the beautiful bikes out front. I remembered fondly all the times I rode on the back of one as a little girl and as a teenager. My Dad and Ellie's dad both rode and they often took us along plus a lot of my boyfriends in high school rode. I even still have a small Honda Rebel street bike in my Daddy's garage that he'd bought me so I could ride along side him. My plan had been give it to Hunter when he was old enough. Even though I have not ridden a bike in eighteen years, I still kept my motorcycle license… just in case.

I walked across the lot to get a closer look when a gorgeous custom bike caught my eye. It was a chrome and gunmetal gray metallic Harley with upward curved handle bars and a wide back tire. I could tell it had been made for a tall man with the forward placed pedals. Its powerful stance made it look mean and sexy and it reminded me of my man. Visions flooded my mind of his strong hands gripping the handle bars while my arms were holding onto his rock solid body.

"I'm not sure you could ride that one sweetheart. It's a little big for you."

I looked in the direction of the voice to find a big burley man about the same age as my father, wearing an old Harley tee and faded jeans. For some reason his long salt and pepper hair pulled into a low ponytail, boots and wallet attached to a chain on his belt felt familiar to me. He walked closer and his expression became amused, "But then again now that I'm standing next to you maybe you could. Most women wouldn't be able to reach the handlebars."

I laughed as I recognized the man who once fired me for my own good. "Yeah, reaching things aren't really an issue. What about the frame? Is it custom?"

I spent many years hating the man for firing me but as I stood before him older and wiser, I realized how right he had been, If I continued hanging out at that shop I would have been no better than my mother.

He perked up. "That one is mainly an oh five softtail. I did the customizing myself. Know about bikes do you? No offense but you look better suited for that Porsche next door than a bike."

I smiled up at him. "Actually that is my car. I better know scooters or my Daddy would disown me."

"Who's your old man? Maybe I know him."

I laughed again. "Come on Snake. I became the woman you wanted me to be and now you don't recognize me?"

Snakes eyes grew wide and he immediately pulled me into his crudely tattooed arms. "Holy shit Liberty! I thought that car looked familiar, it stayed at your dad's place for years. I was so sorry to hear about your son, how is your Dad holding up?"

I cringed, not only from the mention of my beloved son and Daddy's mental state but also the unexpected hug. "Daddy's recovered from the injuries but is having a rough go of it. He keeps blaming himself."

Snake looked on sympathetically. "I'm sorry to hear that. How are you holding up?"

"I'm little better than him but not by much." I remembered how Daddy could be in the worst moods but after a trip on his bike he'd come home happy. "Do you think you could call him up and try to get him to go riding? That used to always cheer him up."

Snake looked embarrassed, "Yeah, I should have done that already. I just haven't known what to say but I'll call up some old friends and we'll all ride out there this weekend."

"Thanks, now about that bike. How hard would it be to change the seat? I've seen some that almost look like a stair step. I want one of those and I need pegs on the back for a passenger."

"The fender that's on there wouldn't work. I'd have to get a new one to put on another seat. Why?"

My mind was focused on business so I ignore his question. "How much for the bike with a new fender and a seat?"

"You're serious aren't you?" He said as his posture straightened.

I nodded and looked into his weathered eyes. "I am if you can get it all done by next Saturday."

Snake studied me closely and rubbed his chin. "Since it's you and I've known you your whole life, I'll let you have it for twenty bills but if it was anyone else it would be twenty-five."

Twenty-five thousand was about what I was expecting so to get it five grand less was a great deal to me. I had not splurged on anything in a long, long time and I was due.

I smirked at him. "Thanks Snake, Let me go ahead and pay you."

"You can wait. I trust you Lib."

"I trust you too Snake and I know you have to pay for the parts to make it the way I want it."

Snake laughed, "Suit yourself, I'm never one to turn down money."

When we walked into the office I noticed a gas tank that had been accented with tribal marking that closely resembled Adam's tattoos. "You have a blank sheet of paper and a pen?"

Snake nodded and reached into his desk the retrieve the items.

I leaned on one of his cabinets and quickly sketched out the tank with marking that were identical to Adam's then drew the fender and added the cross that apparently held a special memory."

I handed the paper to Snake. "How much more to add those to the tank and fender?"

Snake sat behind his desk and leaned back. "A grand should cover it since I have to paint the new fender anyway. You have some talent there girl."

I nodded. "Thanks. Sounds fair and you'll tag and title it for me or do I need to do that? Do you take credit cards or do I need to run to the bank?"

"I gotcha little darlin'. I'm your one stop shop, a credit card is fine. Just leave me your number and I'll call ya when it's ready."

I smiled as I handed him my credit card. "Sounds good. Just let me know."

---

That night at the club I discovered what I always knew but never saw firsthand. Adam had a jealous side of his own.

I was at my usual perch minding my own business when this nice looking, but not very bright guy approached and offered to buy me a drink. He introduced himself as Trevor and casually placed his hand on the wall behind me. I caught Adam glaring at him out of the corner of my eye. I politely declined his offer but that didn't deter him from attempting to strike up a conversation.

I tried explaining to him that I had a boyfriend, yet he continued undeterred and moved closer with the excuse that it was difficult to hear over the band. Before I had the chance to move away from Trevor, Adam approached and pulled me off my stool. While placing one hand on the back of my neck, and the other hand on my butt he kissed me, deep and with purpose. He worked his hands against my body in a way he usually reserved for when we were alone. I couldn’t help but to allow my hands to roam freely over his broad sculpted back.

"Hey Baby." he whispered as he broke the kiss.

I found myself so completely turned on by his display I was barely able to speak. "Hey yourself."

Adam peered at me with a sly smirk. "Who's your friend?"

I lovingly placed my head on his shoulder, still not recovered from our kiss. "Nobody important. I think he was just leaving."

Trevor, wearing a combination of shock and fear on his attractive face, got the hint and walked away.

I could still taste the whiskey Adam had been drinking and knew immediately Trevor better watch himself. If anything brought the redneck out of Adam it was brown liquor. He must have only just started drinking since he showed such restraint by not pummeling my admirer.

I patted Adam's chest, "You might want to lay off the Jack tonight."

Adam smirked, "Don't worry Baby, I can handle it."

Later on Ellie and I were out of the dance floor when a very drunk Trevor walked up and started dancing behind me. We tried to walk away but Trevor placed his hands on my waist pulling my back towards his front. It infuriated me that he felt he had the right to touch me. I turned to slap him but before I had the chance, Adam charged his way over and smashed his fist straight into the idiot’s face.

The force of Adam's punch sent Trevor flying backwards. In an attempt to maintain his balance, Trevor reached out and grabbed my top causing it to rip straight down the front. The force of his pulling my tee took me to the floor with him. Once splayed across the floor, I started to scream. I felt something warm and wet on my hand. I turned to look and shrieked even louder. I was half naked and my entire right side was covered in blood. I looked at Trevor who had his hand covering his face, blood gushed out between his fingers flooding the black and white tiles.

Adam jumped on top of him and released a series of punches while the crowd around us stepped back. I jumped on Adam's back to try to pull him off but he flipped me off him as if I were a knapsack.

I looked up again and noticed one of Trevor's friends charging at Adam so I launched myself at him. I connected with my shoulder to his ribs causing him to momentarily lose his breath. As I was about to straighten up and return to Adam when the man lifted me off the ground and tossed me across the dance floor.

I screamed even louder as my head slammed into the stage causing Adam to look up. He jumped to his feet and knocked Trevor's friend out with a single punch before turning to me. Panic filled his eyes as he lifted me up into his arms and carried me to his office while security lifted Trevor and his friend off the floor and escorted them down the stairs.

Once in the office Adam looked me over "Are you ok Baby?"

"Hell no I’m not ok. I’m covered in that asshole’s blood and I have a knot on the back of my head." I grabbed a book off his shelf and threw it at him. "Damn, you could have at least waited til I was out of the way before you did that."

I caught sight of myself in his mirror and saw that my pants were soaked red and my white tee shirt was ripped and my pink satin bra was splattered with blood. I reached around for another book and I hit my mark as it clocked him on the right side of his head. "Shit, I look like I just stepped out of a slasher flick because you can’t control your damn temper. That's it. No more brown liquor for you."

Adam gazed at me apologetically and pulled me close to make sure none of the blood on me was my own. "I'm sorry Baby but he had his hands on you. I can’t just sit back and let that happen."

I pushed him away. My anger showed no signs of dissipating. "I know honey but if you had waited ten more seconds you would have seen me punch him myself. Normally you would have waited but since you've been drinking that shit all night you lost control and could have hurt me in the process." I wiped my hands with one of the clean bar rags stored in the corner. "You don’t see me punching every girl who puts their hands on you do you?"

Adams laughed quietly as he rested on the corner of his desk, "No, not every girl."

I walked towards him and smirked, "Shut up. I'll do it you know. I have no problem laying the smack down on some of these sluts around here."

His laughter was getting louder. "Oh hell no Baby, that won’t be necessary. You can trust me."

I peered into my man’s gorgeous eyes. "Good because I’d never have time for anything else. You can trust me too." I kissed him on his forehead. "I'm yours and I don’t hesitate to let everybody know. No more brown liquor from now on. I'm serious, it's a deal breaker for me. You scare me when you drink it."

Adam stepped behind his desk and handed me a tank top and a pair of shorts his waitresses had to wear. "I’m yours too. I promise I won't drink it anymore. Go take a shower and change into these. You can’t get into your car wearing those."

I stepped out of the shower feeling foolish. Jane had the body for these clothes but I sure didn't. It looked like I had two miles of legs and since my bra also had blood on it, I had to set my small C's free under the tank. I pulled my still damp hair into a ponytail and walked out of the bathroom to find one of Adam's oversized tee shirts. To my dismay there was nothing but more tank tops.

I looked around for Adam but apparently he had gone back out into the club. I instantly regretted wearing a pair of three inch black stiletto sandals as it made an already slutty looking outfit completely whorish.

Embarrassed, I made my way back to the bar to get my purse from Jane. The stares from all the men made a bad situation worse. Out of nowhere Adam appeared and tossed me over his shoulder before carrying me straight back to his office.

Once inside his eyes were full of hunger as he stared at me. "I should have ruined your clothes before now."

I pushed him away. "Stop it. I need one of your shirts, I can't go home looking like this."

"I'll say you can't. I'll have to whip a few more asses if you do."

"Shut up. I look like an idiot in this."

"The hell you do. You look hot, come here." Adam grabbed my arm and snatched me to his chest. He ran his hungry hand over my stomach before cupping my breast and nuzzling my neck. "I want you."

I felt my anger being replaced by lust. "We can't do anything here. I'm still mad at you." His teeth nipped at my earlobe sending a chill down my spine. I tilted my head to allow him easier access. "What if somebody comes in?"

He started growling in my ear like a tiger. My defenses dropped further. "You're an animal. Can't you wait til we get home?"

Adam released me and walked over to the door and clicked the lock. "No I can't. I have to have you now."

He rushed to me showing none of his usual gentle ways as his hands roughly roamed my entire body. My essence responded as I groped him with the same fervor. "Don't think this changes anything. I'm still furious."

Adam only responded with a grunt as he reached down and released the button on my shorts and reached inside to touch me. He released an audible gasp when he realized I was commando before teasing me with his large middle digit.

I hungrily ran my hand between his legs and massaged him through his tight jeans which in turn had him leaning to roughly bite at my nipple through the soft cotton of my tank top.

He quickly removed his hand and dropped my shorts to the floor before spinning me around and bending me over his desk. I heard the sound of his zipper falling before he entered me completely and without warning. I screamed in pleasure as he tightly gripped my hips and furiously slammed into me.

I reached to my sides to grab his hands, lifting them to cup my breasts while I turned my head to stare into his gorgeously lust filled eyes. I loudly commanded him to lean forward so that our lips could meet and I could muffle my screams.

Just when I knew my orgasm was close at hand he suddenly pulled out and turned me to face him. He placed his hands under my arms and lifted my body off the ground before lowering me back onto his throbbing manhood. I wrapped my legs around his waist as he slammed my back into the wall and continued to assail his will upon me.

When I couldn't take the pleasure anymore I dug my nails into his back and bit his shoulder to mask my cries of ecstasy. That proved to be his undoing as he fell with me under him onto his couch and filled me with his release.

We stayed in that position for what felt like an eternity before Adam timidly glanced up. "Are you still mad at me?"

I ran my fingers through his mussed up mane. "How can I be mad at a man who can love me like you do?"

Adam smiled and lovingly placed his lips on mine. "I really am sorry. I would never do anything to hurt you."

I stared into his beautiful brown apologetic eyes. "I know Baby but I was serious about no more brown liquor."

Adam's expression remained remorseful. "I promise, never again."

Adam stood first and it was then that I realized all he had to do was button his pants to be dressed. "Look at you, just run a brush through your hair and nobody would know what we did."

Adam stared at me with a wicked grin. "I'd rather look at you. You look so hot in just that tank and stilettos. We may have to go another round."

I smiled and ran my hand over his chest. "We've been gone long enough. Jane's going to give me hell as it is. Anything else will have to wait for later."

I walked back into the bathroom and cleaned up again. When I walked out Adam was picking up everything we threw off his desk to make room. He looked up and the desire was still just as strong as his eyes took me in.

I smiled and walked over to him. "Calm down big boy. I'm not sure I can handle rough again tonight. Do you have a tee shirt I can wear over this?"

Adam frowned. "No, I only have tanks."

I playfully slapped his chest. "By the way you owe me a pair of jeans."

Adam laughed and pulled his billfold from his back pocket before pulling out a credit card. "Here you go, get something sexy while you're at it."

I smacked his hand away. "I was just teasing you. Come on, I need a drink."

Adam stared at me. "Ain't no way I'm letting you sit at the bar wearing that!"

I glared at him and all apprehension I had about my clothes disappeared. All of a sudden I was ready to walk out of the door with my head held high. "Why not? You let your sister stand behind the bar wearing it. Stop with the jealousy already."

Adam remained adamant. "Jane's different, besides she doesn't wear it quite as well as you do."

I laughed. "Do you really think after what happened, any man in here will even look in my direction?" I placed a hand on my infuriating man's cheek. "Plus I've seen my face and everyone is going to know what we've been doing in here. I have the FFL all over me."

Adam looked at me puzzled. "FFL?"

"Yeah baby I have the fresh fucked look. You couldn't mark your territory more if you hiked you leg and peed on me."

Adam chuckled. "Yeah I guess you're right. Let's go."

We walked out to wolf whistles from both Jane and Ellie and I laughed as I took my usual seat when Jane yelled out. "Damn, you two look satiated. No wonder it took so long."

The amount of teasing I received from my two best friends was relentless but I didn't care because what happened in his office was worth any joking anyone wanted to dish out.

Chapter Nineteen

The following Tuesday Snake called my cell. "I have it ready for ya darling."

I was hoping that was why he called. "Sweet! Thanks and thanks for going to see Daddy, it helped a lot."

"Glad to do it. It was great to see him again, I hate not being there when he needed me."

Even though he couldn't see me I smiled knowing Daddy's circle of friends was expanding again. "How late will you be there today?"

"As late as you need me to be."

"I'll be there around six if it's okay."

"See ya then."

After work I rushed home and dug in the very back of my walk in closet in the spare bedroom. I found myself so happy that I had not regained all the weight I lost after Hunter passed when I was able to tie the front of my old leather pants with very little effort. I dug out my white t-back tank to put over my black bra knowing it would drive Adam wild when he saw me. Finally I put on my riding boots and tied a red bandana around my hair. I learned at an early age that helmets could wreak some serious havoc on my hair.

The cab driver was extra attentive on the way over and when I arrived at Snake's shop the office door was locked so I entered through his shop.

"Holy hell Libs, you could warn an old man before you come walking in here looking like that!" Snake exclaimed after I walked in. "You're gonna send me to hell for thoughts I just had about my friends daughter."

I laughed, "Sorry about that Snake, still think I'm better suited for the Porsche?"

Snake smiled, "Heck no, don't take this wrong but you look more at ease in that than what you had on last week."

I stared at him confused. "Huh?"

"In my business I see a lot of RUBs. They buy a sled and try to dress the part. It makes them look like fools but you're just the opposite?"

He knew I understood that a RUB was a rich urban biker, someone who only buys a bike to look cool instead of the joy of riding. The part that confused me was how am I the opposite? "What's that supposed to mean?"

He motioned over what I was wearing. "I didn't even notice before but last week you were the pretender. This is who you are." He pointed to my tattoos which were visible through my thin tank. "Someone doesn't ink themselves this much only to keep it hidden."

I laughed and patted his shoulder as I walked to the door. "Awe Snake you're just remembering how I used to be. I've grown up since then. Come on, show me how to ride this thing."

Snake gave me a skeptical look as he joined me. "Just keep telling yourself that darlin'."

I sat down on the bike as Snake explained things. "It's hasn't been modified too much so just make sure to give yourself a little extra room to turn."

I nodded. "One down and four up?"

Snake shook his head as he explained how to change gears. "This is a six speed doll so it's five up. And be careful using the front brake, it's touchy."

I started it up and the deep rumble of the bike and the vibration between my legs did things to me. I smiled as I took a few trips around the lot to get a good handle on it. "I need a couple of brain buckets too." I said as I pulled back up next to him.

"Yeah I figured that." He ran into the shop and came back out with two half helmets that were gunmetal gray with matching tribal markings and matched the bike perfectly. "Your dad told me about your old man so one of these is an extra large."

I loved them. I did not think I could have picked out anything better if I tried. "Those are perfect! How much do I owe you for those?"

Snake shook his head, "Your old man covered these after I told him what you bought. He came down here to see it and seems to think you didn't buy it for yourself." He pointed to a cherry red Harley Sportster I had noticed last week. "He said that one's your style."

I laughed. God I love my Daddy. I never could get anything past that man. Mom yes, Daddy no. "He knows me too well. It's my boyfriend's birthday next week."

"Damn, that's a hellava present."

I smiled as I nodded. "Well, he's a hellava man."

Snake suddenly became serious. "I know your Dad thinks a lot of him, he told me that man of yours gave you reason to keep going when everyone thought you were about to give up."

My eyes started to gloss over. "He really did."

Snake leaned down to give me a hug. "Look at me making you cry. You need to hit the road sweetheart and show that man of yours how lucky he is and then later you can show him his new sled."

---

Adam was eyeing the bike wantonly when I pulled it up on the sidewalk in front of Anthracite. The look of shock on his face when he realized it was me climbing off was priceless. He jumped up from his stool and said something into the walky-talky he kept to communicate with the other employees. He rushed to me with eyes hungrier than a lion with a slab of raw meat dangling in front of his nose before grabbing me tightly in his strong arms. "Damn you look unbelievable. Sweet sled babe, whose is it?"

I leaned in and greeted his lips with such passion. I wanted him so badly in that moment that if he tried anything on the sidewalk I wouldn't have stopped him. "It belongs to my boyfriend. I knew this would probably be the only time he'd let me drive it."

Adam stared at me confused til I shook the key in front of his face. "Happy Birthday!"

I never thought it possible but Adam was speechless. He did nothing but gape at me with his mouth hanging wide open while holding the keys to his new motorcycle.

I laughed and grabbed his helmet and shoved it in his chest. "Take it for a spin and I'll watch the door til you get back."

Adam regained his faculties and sat the helmet on the seat before he grabbed me close. "To hell with the door, Gus is on his way down to watch it. Why did you buy me this?" He sounded as if he might be angry.

I became worried. "You don't like it?"

Adam shook his head while he looked over all the chrome and ran his fingers over the custom paint. "I love it but you had no business buying me something like this. It's too much."

I pulled away and placed my hands on my hips as I stared into his eyes. "Do you like it?"

Adam nodded his head. "I love it."

"Will you ride it?"

"Every chance I get."

"Will you take me with you when you ride?"

He reached out to pull me into his loving arms. "Of course."

"Then it was money well spent so shut up and take it for a spin."

Adam laughed and lifted me off my feet and spun me around. "You are amazing. You know that?"

I laughed and kissed him on the nose. "Just so long as you think so I'm happy."

He sat he down and our lips met again passionately. "I love you. Thank you."

"You're welcome." I grabbed his helmet and placed it on his beautiful head before pressing the key into his palm. "Give yourself a little extra room to turn and watch the front brake."

The smile on my man's perfect face paired with the love in his eyes for me made it worth every penny. He grinned at me as he started his bike and yelled, "I love you so much. Hop on."

I shook my head, "Not til you get used to it. Take it around the block a couple of times then come back to get me."

Adam laughed lightly, "I forgot who your Daddy is. Good idea babe, I'll be right back."

I laughed watching him pull away and walked back to recline against the wall next to the door to wait for him. I no more leaned back before Jane called my phone. "What are you doing down there dressed like that and whose bike did Adam just take off on?"

"It's his birthday present so he's taking it for a spin."

Jane snickered at me. "Damn, you over the top bitch. His birthday isn't til next week."

"I know it's not but I still have Hunter's presents in my closet from where I bought them and never had the chance to see his face when he opened them." I didn't mean to but my voice started to crack as I explained my reasoning. "Besides, where could I hide that thing?"

I heard Jane say something to someone and next thing I knew she was by my side. "I'm sorry sis, I didn't think about that." She eyed me closely, "Damn, I almost didn't recognize you when you first pulled up."

I smiled, "It didn't feel right to wear anything else while riding."

Jane continued to stare at me suspiciously. "This is not a new outfit, what are you not telling me?"

I laughed, "My Daddy rides and I used to ride all the time when I was young."

Jane punched my shoulder, "And you can still fit in them? I kinda hate you right now."

I stared at her as if she were crazy. "In case you forgot I lost a lot of weight recently."

Jane blushed. "I'm sorry. I forgot."

I heard the rumble of Adam's new bike and turned to see him pull back up. I leaned into Jane, "Think you can spare him an hour or two."

Jane laughed, "Yeah but please get him back before ten. It's supposed to get crazy tonight."

I ran to my man and straddled the seat before putting on my helmet.

He took off like a shot and I screamed in delight as I hugged him tightly. I could feel his elation as he made his way through town and headed toward Percy Priest Lake.

I still found it hard to believe we were only fifteen minutes from downtown when I looked over the large expanse of water while enjoying the cool breeze. I hugged my wonderful man tighter relishing the ideal afternoon.

Adam pulled over when we reached a small semi secluded picnic area and shut down the bike. He looked so sexy in the small glow of the distant street lamp as turned to kiss me. "Thank you Baby. This is perfect, just like you."

I sighed contently, "You're welcome." I removed my helmet before reaching up to remove his. "Jane says I have to get you back by ten. Would you like to ride some more or can I ravage you like I've been wanting to since I straddled this seat wishing it was you?"

Adam grinned wickedly. "What kind of boyfriend would I be to leave my love with such wanting?"

The next hour was spent in a wild mixture of delirious love making in an erotically public setting. The time spent alone with the man I adored in nature connected us in ways I never thought possible. There was something different between us, something more. I couldn't explain it but I knew it was there.

I sat on the bike watching him adjust himself for the trip back to the bar. The feelings I felt for this wonderful man besieged me and tears started to fall.

He quickly rushed to my side. "What's wrong Baby?"

I shook my head. "Nothing, it's just that I love you so much it overwhelms me sometimes."

He gasped and embraced me almost too tightly. "I know what you mean but for me, it's overwhelming in a good way."

---

"That must have been some trip." Jane said to me when I took my usual seat at the bar upon our return.

I leaned back and gave her a magical grin. "It really was. I wish I had the words to describe it."

Adam strolled by and winked at me as he made his way down the stairs. The expression on his perfectly masculine face mirrored mine. Jane's eyes scanned both of us, "You don't need words. Anyone can see what you're talking about."

---

As time went on I continued my pattern of working, visiting Hunter’s grave, calling Ellie to see what she was up to and depending on her schedule either going to Charley’s or Anthracite. Most nights though I ended up at Anthracite. Sunday's were reserved for bike rides. Adam and I would hop on in the morning with no destination in mind and not return until after dark.

I'd been working late on a big project at work one night. It still wasn't due for a couple of weeks but experience taught me that when my creative juices started to flow I needed to run with it. Before I left the office I had all the mock ups done and ready to go.

I only made a brief visit to my son and didn't bother to go home to change before I went to Anthracite. I greeted Jane and took my usual seat. "Hey sis, where’s my man?"

She didn't exactly seem happy to see me as she shrugged and pointed to the door. Adam's mood the last few days must have gotten to her too. "He’s in the back going over the final details with the guys from some retro band. We're hosting an after party for that concert tomorrow. He’s like a kid at Christmas."

I rolled my eyes scornfully, sharing her pain. "Yeah, he's kinda shut me out lately because he’s so focused on it."

Jane nodded sympathetically, "He does that. He starts a project and it gets all his attention. Don’t sweat it he’ll be himself again when it’s over. You don’t seem excited, Adam said you didn’t even want to go to the show."

I sighed. "Yeah well, I lived that scene for a few years when I was in LA, I don’t miss it."

Jane looked at me quizzically. "You talk about growing up here and you talk about your time in New York but you rarely mention there. From what Ellie's told me it must've been wild."

I shrugged my shoulders. "You don’t know the half of it. No offense, but I don’t like talking about it. I was a different person back then, I ran with the wrong crowd and did things I’m not proud of. The only good thing that came from back then was Hunter."

I had not cried tears of sadness in months but I felt moisture starting to build in the corners of my eyes.

Jane gave me a knowing look. "I’ll let it drop."

After bringing up bad memories I wanted the comfort being close to my man provided. "You think Adam would mind if I popped in to let him know I’m here?"

Jane shook her head nervously. "I don't know. Maybe you should go home and change, by then he'll be finished up."

I started to pout. "I just need to see him. Surely he wouldn't get mad."

Jane appeared conflicted as she sighed loudly before she placed her hand on my shoulder. "Actually I was supposed to tell you that he wanted you to come on back but I was being selfish since he seems to be hogging all your time lately. He'll love seeing your sexy secretary look you've got going on with your hair pulled back and the glasses are a nice touch."

I looked down and smirked. Between the tight fitting black skirt that rested firmly on the border of short and too short and the white silk top that I had tucked into my skirt I definitely possessed the look Jane implied. Rectangular narrow framed black glasses that I forgot I even had on and my hair being twisted behind my head and held in place by a pencil only reinforced it.

I grinned wickedly while releasing the top few buttons on my blouse. "I’ll be back in a few to keep you company."

Jane grabbed my hand. "Maybe you should just go on home and change. He should be finished by the time you get back."

I laughed, the idea of getting Adam all hot and bothered in front of others turned me on. "No way. It won't take but just a minute."

I slinked into Adam’s office and noticed an old video playing on the fifty-inch flat screen that’s mounted on the left-hand wall. I froze when I saw the blonde dancing on the screen spun around showing a butterfly tattoo between her shoulder blades. I looked over to Adam who was staring at me with his mouth agape; his expression was unreadable. I was trying to gauge his reaction when to my right I heard a voice from my past.

"Bumpkin? What the hell is with your hair? Damn you are looking good."

I gasped and quickly turned to find the source of the voice that sounded frighteningly familiar.

Holy fuck!



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