Sustained, p.16
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       Sustained, p.16

         Part #2 of The Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase
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  write up a list of offenses and punishments. You know, curse and you lose your phone for the day. Fight, and you have to pick up the dog shit. A McQuaid Penal Code.”

  She snorts, red-eyed and runny-nosed. “That’s not a bad idea.”

  I step closer, nudging her legs apart to stand between them. I touch her jaw. “Do you feel better?”

  Chelsea sighs dejectedly. “No.”

  I tilt her face up to me and lean down. “Then let’s see what we can do about that.”

  Her lips are warm. She sinks into the kiss, opening for me, taking my tongue with a gasp and gently offering hers. It’s just a kiss—it won’t lead to more. But if it feels half as good for her as it does for me, than it’s done the job.

  I pull away, just an inch. “Feel better now?”

  And she smiles. “Almost. We should work on that a little more.”

  I chuckle. “Let’s do that.” Then I press my lips to hers again.

  Some days, I get insanely turned on watching Chelsea. Just the way she moves, smiles . . . bends over to pick toys up off the floor. And if I’m lucky, the opportunity presents itself to act on it. But we have to be sneaky.

  There was one evening when Ronan fell asleep early, Riley was reading in the living room, and Rosaleen and Regan were watching Rory and Raymond play Xbox.

  I grab Chelsea’s arm, dragging her toward the stairs.

  “Boys—watch your sisters,” I call.

  And a few seconds later, I’ve got Chelsea in the bathroom of the guest room upstairs. I turn on the shower for cover, and the sink faucet, then I press up against her back, running my nose up her neck, inhaling the sweet fragrance of her skin and her want for me. She turns her head, kissing me with tongue-dueling vigor, gripping the sink so hard her knuckles turn white.

  “What are we doing?” she pants.

  “I can make it quick,” I promise. “And I can make it good.”

  Then I drop to my knees behind her. Lifting her skirt, dragging white lace panties down her legs. And my mouth is on her, enveloping her pussy, pressing into her, licking like a starving man. My nose skims between the delectable cheeks of her ass—goddamn, that ass.

  When I have more time, I swear I’ll give that particular area all the glorious attention it deserves.

  I knead with my hands, probe with my fingers, getting her hotter—making her wetter than she already is. She moans above me, leaning forward. So ready and beautifully fucking eager.

  I stand up, unbuckle my pants, and slide into her wet softness in one smooth thrust.

  “Christ,” I groan. “Nothing should feel this good.”

  Chelsea whimpers encouragement as I start to thrust against her, the buckle on my belt jingling with every push. She stays upright, her hands reaching back to caress anywhere she can touch, and that angle makes her even tighter.

  Splaying a steadying hand across her hip, I cup her face with the other, turning her head so I can kiss her, taste that sweet tongue. Our lips clash and nibble, our moans mingle. Pumping faster, I move my hand to her shoulder, my arm crossing her chest, holding her right where I need her. Chelsea’s hand disappears downward, touching herself, rubbing quick circles on her clit as I slide in and out from behind.

  And I lose it.

  “Oh fuck . . .”

  She gets there with a high-pitched whimper, her knees going weak, but I hold her up, my thrusts losing their rhythm, turning to hedonistic jerks as I come gloriously inside her.

  Afterward, we fix each other’s clothes, touching and kissing. Chelsea’s creamy cheeks are beautifully flushed as she laughs against my mouth. “My God . . . I really like quick.”

  And I think I just might love her.

  17

  Although the majority of the night is spent in her bed, I don’t actually sleep at Chelsea’s. I go home before the kids wake up—we’ve talked about it; she doesn’t want to confuse them or set a bad example. So, early one morning, after my run and a shower, as I’m threading my tie around my neck, my phone lights up with Chelsea’s name. I bring it to my ear.

  “Let me guess—you’ve found a nanny who makes Mary Poppins look like a slacker and she’s agreed to take the kids for a whole week, so you need me and my hard cock at the house ASAP?”

  Her throaty laugh comes through the speaker. “That is a lovely dream—but just a dream. I’m calling about something else—something that’s actually more wonderful. Are you sitting down?”

  Curious, I sit down on the closed lid of the toilet. “I am now. What’s up?”

  “Listen to this.”

  There’s a rustling—the sound of her adjusting her cell phone. Farther away I hear her voice. “Regan, did you learn a new word?”

  Then, loud and clear, comes Regan’s tiny voice. “No.”

  “Are you sure?” Chelsea asks.

  “No.”

  “Regan, say no.”

  “No, no, no!”

  By the time Chelsea gets back on the phone, I’m laughing too. And pride—ridiculous, knee-weakening pride—surges through me.

  “What do you think of that?” Chelsea asks, a huge smile in her voice.

  “I think we’ve got a fucking genius in our midst.”

  • • •

  On a day in early April, Chelsea has a meeting with Janet at the CFSA offices. She brings the two little ones with her and I cut out of work early to be at the house when the other kids get home from school. I’m sitting in the front courtyard when Rory and Raymond make their way up the driveway. And before he even reaches me, I spot a bright red welt on Raymond’s cheekbone—fresh, but already starting to bruise.

  “What happened to your face?”

  Raymond’s eyes flick to his brother, then back to me. “I fell walking up the stairs at school. Hit my cheek on the metal railing.”

  I motion to the chair next to me. “Sit down.” Then I grab a decent-size rock from the garden, come back, and start tapping his knees—watching them jerk on impact.

  He adjusts his glasses. “What are you doing?”

  “Checking your reflexes.”

  “Why?”

  “Because you’re nine. And unless a person is very old or ill, the body’s automatic reflex when falling forward is to protect the face and vital organs from injury by softening the impact with the hands. So . . . before I accuse you of being full of shit, I want to make sure you don’t have a brain tumor.” After another tap, I put the rock on the wrought-iron table and look him in the eyes. “Everything appears normal. So—who punched you in the face, Raymond?”

  Rory exits the conversation, walking onto the front lawn, and his brother sighs. “You can’t tell Aunt Chelsea.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because she’ll call the principal and we’ll have to have a meeting and it’ll just make everything . . .”

  “Worse.” I nod my head, totally getting it.

  “Yeah.”

  I lean forward, bracing my elbows on my knees. “I won’t tell your aunt—but you’re gonna start talking to me. Right now.”

  “His name is Jeremy Sheridan. He hates me.”

  “Is he an athlete?” I guess. “Gives you a hard time to show his friends how awesome he is?”

  “No—he’s in all my advanced placement classes. The National Honor Society too. He doesn’t play sports.”

  A nerd bully? That’s new.

  Times have changed since I was in school.

  “But my GPA is higher than his. I always score better than him on tests—so he hates me,” Raymond explains, his voice melancholy.

  “When did this start?”

  He thinks back. “January. It was little things at first—him messing with my locker, knocking my books out of my hands, tripping me. But lately things have . . . escalated.”

  I nod slowly, anger sizzling like a long fuse. “And how do you react when Jeremy pulls this crap?”

  He shrugs, embarrassed. “I just try to stay out of his way. I’m thinking of throwing my grades. I didn’t
want to resort to that, but maybe he’ll leave me alone if he can be number one in class.”

  It’s then that I notice Rory, still on the lawn, bending down every now and then, a plastic bag in his hand.

  I cup my hands around my mouth. “What are you doing?”

  “Collecting It’s shit,” he yells back.

  “Why?”

  “So I can put it in a bag and set it on fire in Jeremy Sheridan’s locker.”

  Well . . . that’s one way to deal with it.

  “Your heart’s in the right place, but I don’t think that’s a smart idea.” I wave him back. “C’mere.”

  I have another strategy in mind.

  I look Raymond over appraisingly. “You’re thin . . . weak.”

  “Yeah,” he sighs. “I know.”

  “But . . . if you can be fast, if you know the vulnerable spots to hit . . . that won’t matter.”

  “You want me to hit Jeremy?”

  “The next time he comes at you? I want you to break his fucking nose. I guarantee he won’t come at you again after that.”

  Raymond stares at the ground, thinking it over. “My dad used to say violence is never the answer.”

  “It isn’t. But defending yourself isn’t violence—there’s a difference. Your dad would want you to defend yourself, Raymond.”

  He seems to agree with that rationale. “But . . . I don’t know how to punch.”

  I put my hand on his shoulder. “I do.”

  • • •

  After Chelsea gets home, I take the boys to my gym. We spend the next two hours hitting the bag—Rory using only the fist that’s not encased in a cast. I show Raymond how to aim, how to put his weight behind a punch, how to land one without breaking his thumb. As we walk out and climb into my car, he’s looking decidedly more chipper than when he came home from school.

  And then my phone rings.

  It’s the monitoring company.

  “Fucking Milton,” I spit under my breath. “Where is he?” I bark into the phone.

  They give me the address and I hang a U-turn. “Hold on, boys, we have to make a quick detour.”

  Fifteen minutes later, I pull up in front of a mansion. Not a big house that can be called a mansion—an actual fucking mansion. Groups of twentysomethings and people even younger are gathered in clusters around the lawn, holding red Solo cups and smoking cigarettes. Cars are parked haphazardly along the long driveway, and music pounds out from the lighted windows. Rory and Raymond are behind me as we walk in the front door.

  “Stay close to me, guys.”

  Their eyes go wide with wonder as we pass rooms with half-naked women—girls—walking around, amid screams of laughter. Their necks arch and turn at the sight of guys in baseball caps and expensive jeans snorting white powder from glass tabletops. In the hallway, a pretty blonde wearing nothing but Daisy Dukes and a bra stares at Rory.

  She reaches out her hand. “You’re sooo cute.”

  But I grab her wrist before she lays a finger on him.

  “Milton Bradley?” I ask in a low voice.

  “He’s in the card room—in the back.”

  I drop her hand and stalk toward the back room. And I make sure the boys are with me. We enter the card room, and through a fog of smoke I spot the dipshit himself—seated at a round card table, blond hair falling over his forehead, a tall glass of beer and a stack of black chips in front of him.

  His eyes meet mine. “Oh, shit.”

  He jumps to his feet, ready to bolt out the French doors behind him.

  “Don’t even think about it,” I say, warning him. “If you run it’ll just piss me off more—and it’ll be that much worse for you when I catch you. And believe me when I say I will fucking catch you.”

  Rory tries to be helpful. “For an old guy, he’s pretty fast, dude.”

  Milton’s shoulders droop.

  “Party’s over.” I crook my finger at him. “Let’s go.”

  Rory and Raymond buckle in in the backseat and Asshole sits in the front beside me. As soon as we hit the road he starts in: “I can explain.”

  “Which would matter if I was interested in hearing an explanation. I’m not.”

  But he keeps talking anyway. “I was celebrating! I’m allowed to be happy—they dropped the heroin charges against me.”

  “No shit, Sherlock!” I have to yell. “I’m the one who petitioned them to drop the charges. And let me just make sure I have this right—you thought it was a good idea to celebrate drug charges being dropped by going to a party where fucking drugs are everywhere? Do you really not see the problem with that?”

  He just shrugs.

  Twenty minutes of blessed silence later, I pull up in front of Milton’s mansion. With the car idling, I ask, “Where are your parents?”

  “I don’t know,” he answers petulantly. “France, I think. Mother said she needed a vacation.”

  Probably from the dumbass that is her son.

  But even still—his parents aren’t going to be getting any Parents of the Year awards.

  “So . . . you guys, like . . . wanna come in and hang out?” Milton asks.

  I rub my eyes. “No, Milton, I don’t want to fucking hang out with you.” I point my finger at him. “Just go inside, lock the door, and go to bed. Maybe you’ll wake up smarter tomorrow.”

  He pouts. “All right.”

  I make sure he gets into the house and then I pull away.

  After a few minutes, Raymond says quietly, “He seems lonely.”

  “He’s a fuckup.” No sympathy from me.

  “He seems like a lonely fuckup.”

  “Watch your mouth,” I bark over my shoulder.

  “You just said it!”

  “And when you’re thirty, you can say it as much as you like. Until then, keep the language PG.”

  “That’s, like, the definition of hypocritical, Jake,” Raymond argues.

  “Your point?” I shoot back.

  Rory’s unusually quiet during the ride. And I wonder what he thinks about the things he’s seen. His family doesn’t have the same kind of money to burn as the Bradleys, but they’re close. And without even realizing it, I channel the Judge.

  “Do you know why he’s a fuckup, boys?”

  “Because he drinks and does drugs?” Raymond tries. “Only losers do drugs.”

  There’s something wonderfully heartwarming about Raymond’s answer. So simply black-and-white—so innocent.

  “That’s true. But that’s not the whole reason.” I turn onto Chelsea’s street and continue. “Milton promised me he’d stay home. And then he broke that promise. When you take everything else away—money, clothes, nice cars, big houses—all a man has is his word. That he says exactly what he means, and he does what he says. If a man doesn’t have his word, he’s not a man.”

  They digest that for a moment. Then Rory asks, “Did your dad teach you that? Did he show you how to be . . . a man?”

  There’s a hint of worry in his voice. And I wonder if he’s concerned about himself and his brothers and sisters growing up without their own father. With no example to guide them. So all I can give him is the truth.

  “No, Rory. My dad was . . . the kind of man I didn’t want to be.” And then I add, “But there was another guy, a friend—the best kind of friend—who wouldn’t put up with any of my shit. He taught me everything I needed to know.”

  • • •

  Later that night, hours after the kids are in bed, Chelsea and I writhe between her sheets. It’s slow, almost sweet. Her long, pristine arms stretch out above her, glowing with smooth flawlessness. I kiss her neck, worshipping that skin, as my hips flex between her legs. I ride her in smooth, steady strokes, the muscles in my back tense with rising pleasure. She sucks on my earlobe, whispering how good it feels, and my thrusts quicken of their own accord. My body takes over—it’s mindless, carnal perfection that I never want to end.

  But what a fucking ending it is.

  Chelsea’s hands gr
ip my ass, pushing me deeper as her own hips rise to take me in. We go over the edge together—she stiffens beneath me as I go taut above her, pulsing inside her, both of us silently gasping.

  Afterward, I wrap around her from behind. She laughs at nothing and kisses my hands before tucking them under her cheek, like her own personal pillow. I inhale her scent as I drift off, my nose against the nape of her neck.

  But a small, scared voice breaks the quiet.

  “Nooo. Noooo . . .”

  It comes from Regan’s baby monitor. Chelsea jerks, opens her eyes, and starts to drag herself out of bed. Without thinking, I kiss her temple. “Go back to sleep. I’ll get her.”

  I slip on my pants and a T-shirt and pad barefoot up the stairs.

  Regan is sitting up in her miniature toddler bed, eyes bleary, hair a mess, her room illuminated by a Cinderella nightlight. She raises her arms up as soon as she sees me.

  And my mother’s words, from decades ago, come out of my mouth.

  “What’s the trouble, bubble?”

  I lift her up, her warm little body instantly clinging. I rub her back and smooth her hair. Regan’s lower lip trembles as she points to the long drapery in the shadowed corner of her room. “Nooo.”

  “Did you have a bad dream?”

  I move the drapes, showing her there’s nothing hidden, nothing to be afraid of. She squeezes my shoulders with tiny arms and lays her head down against me. I sit in the rocking chair beside her bed, patting her back and whispering softly.

  “There’re no monsters, Regan.”

  In real life there are, but not in this house. Not while I’m breathing.

  “I’ve got you, kiddo. You’re safe. Shhh . . . go to sleep.”

  I kiss the back of her head and rub her back, rocking her until she relaxes in my arms and falls back into a peaceful slumber.

  18

  A few days later, Rosaleen scares about ten years off of Chelsea’s life when
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