Unexpected fate, p.20
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       Unexpected Fate, p.20

         Part #1 of Hope Town series by Harper Sloan
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  “Actually, I can promise that. I’m out, baby. I let them know that I was leaving the program two days ago. I still have some shit I need to tie up with them, but I won’t be leaving. ”

  Her eyes go wide, and she looks at me in shock before—much to my surprise—she lets out a pitiful noise and drops her head, wrapping her arms around my body and holding me as tight as she can while she loses her shit.

  “Dani-girl, you need to calm yourself. ”

  She doesn’t stop, just sobs harder.

  Helpless and unable to stop her from drowning us both with tears, I bring her body close and wait for her cries to end.

  “You’re not going to leave us?” she questions after a few minutes.


  Her and our child.

  “Never. ”

  “My God,” she cries. She looks up at me in awe, those eyes I love so much taking in every inch of my face. “You have no idea how happy that makes me. ”

  “Yeah, the tears were a little questionable,” I joke.

  “You’re going to be here . . . every day?”

  “Every day from here on out. ”

  She smiles and cuddles her body close, relaxing instantly in my arms.

  “We need to talk about what happened today, Dani. ”

  I probably could have timed it better, but the calm that was rolling down her body like a blanket evaporates the second I open my mouth.

  “You don’t have to repeat that shit, baby. I know everything, but we do need to talk about what you think. What you think and what your gut is telling you about these things happening. I don’t fucking like it one bit, and until we figure out who’s behind these threats, I don’t want you leaving my sight. ”

  She opens her mouth to complain—I’m sure—but I stop her before she has a chance.

  “I won’t waver on this, Dani. I just won’t. Not when it comes to you and our child’s safety. You can just think of it as us making up for lost time. Like it our not, I’m your new shadow, baby. ”

  Her face scrunches up, and I wait for her to speak, my fingers trailing over the soft skin of her back.

  “I hate this. I hate feeling powerless and terrified to even look out the window, Cohen. ”

  “I know you do. But this shit will end. I won’t stop until I find out who has been making you feel like you aren’t safe. I won’t let anyone take you from me. ”

  We lie there in silence until she speaks again.

  “Who do you think is doing this?” she whispers into the darkness.

  “I’m not sure, but rest easy that I’ll find out. ”

  She nods her head against my shoulder and settles in deeper as if her body needs to get as close as possible to feel safe. I feel her stomach press against my side and smile into the darkness.

  “A baby, huh?”

  “Yeah,” she breathes. “I know we didn’t plan this, but I couldn’t be happier. Knowing that a part of us is cooking away in there gives me the biggest sense of completion I’ve ever felt. It helped me fill the void that your being gone had left, but it wasn’t until I had your arms around me again that I realized how right this feels. ”

  “My Dani-girl is having my baby. ” I let that settle around us before another thought quickly takes its place. “Your father really is going to kick my ass. ”

  Page 76

  Her giggles float around us, and with a smile, I fall asleep. And for the first time in almost seven long months, I sleep peacefully.

  COHEN DIDN’T LET ME OUT of his bed for two days. Of course, he kept me well fed and hydrated, but other than that, we spent the two days that followed his homecoming locked in his room with our bodies connected in every way possible.

  The phone had long stopped ringing and it seemed that our family and friends were content to wait us out and give us the time we needed to become us after too long apart.

  I asked him once between one of our long lovemaking sessions if he felt like it was weird that we came together so quickly. He laughed and told me that if we hadn’t been dancing around it for so long, I would have been his years ago. There was no doubt in my mind that I was right where I was meant to be.

  “Dani,” I hear him call from the other side of his shower curtain. “I think they’ve given us as much space as we’re going to get. Your brother called to give me a heads-up that our parents should be here in about twenty minutes. ”

  Ugh. So much for staying wrapped up in each other.

  “I’m surprised they lasted this long,” I mumble and rinse the shampoo from my hair.

  “Me too,” he says, and I jump when I realize that he’s stepped into the shower with me.

  “You just took a shower,” I say lamely.

  “Yup,” he responds and takes my conditioner from my hand. “Turn. ”

  I do what he says and spin, giving him my back. I hear him groan as his free hand palms my cheek. “I love this ass,” he says and gives it a light slap.

  “So I noticed. ”

  “We have twenty minutes, baby. ”

  I look over my shoulder at him and raise my brow in question, wondering where he’s going with this.

  “I wonder how many times I can make you scream my name in that time. ” He drops the conditioner, forgotten on the bottom of the tub, and pulls me against his hard, naked body.

  Thirty minutes later, he has made me scream his name four times, and even while the front door is being pounded on by our expected visitors, he takes my body until I give him one more.

  I glare at my father and continue to attempt to brush the tangles out of my wet hair. Since I didn’t use conditioner, the long locks have become almost unmanageable. My father, having noticed that we were both wet when we opened the door, hasn’t taken his eyes off Cohen.

  Cohen, who I’ll press, hasn’t let me away from his side. When our parents filed in his doorway, I gave each of them a hug, and then he had his arm around my shoulders and my body pressed against his. I offered to get everyone something to drink and he just said no and pulled me onto his lap when he dropped down on the oversized chair in this living room.

  Where I’m currently sitting, glaring at my father.

  “Dani has agreed that it’s best if she took some time off work,” Cohen says to the room, and I snap my head to his.

  “I did?”

  “Sure you did,” he says, looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.

  “I don’t remember that. ”

  “That’s because you’ve been busy,” he says with a wink.

  I snap my eyes over to the corner where my father is standing with his arms crossed over his chest when I hear him growl. “Did you really just do that?” I snap at him.

  “Axel,” Mom warns him.

  Cohen brings his arm around my waist and rests his palm on my stomach, and I can’t even enjoy that, because once again, my father is acting like a dog, growling and all but frothing at the mouth.

  “Seriously, Daddy!” I exclaim. “That’s a bit much. ”

  “Axel,” Mom tries again, walking over, placing her hands on either side of his face, and attempting to bring his gaze to hers.

  He doesn’t budge though; his eyes stay locked on Cohen.

  “Seriously?” she huffs. “You’re acting like a caveman, Axel Reid. Time to stop. ”

  Cohen seems to have a death wish, because his other hand moves from where it was lying against the armrest and his long fingers curl around one of my jean-clad thighs.

  Daddy moves like he’s about to push off the wall only to stop when my mom pushes against his chest. I look over at Cohen’s parents, and my eyes widen when I see his mom wink at me and giggle softly, which earns her a squeeze by Greg.

  “As I was saying,” Cohen continues. “Dani is going to be taking some time off work. I’ve already talked to Sway, and in light of the other day’s events, he agrees that is the best move. I’ve already talked to Chance
and let him know that, as soon as Dani finds a house she feels works for the baby and us, we’ll be moving out. I say we because I don’t plan on her going anywhere until said house is found. He also sees the wisdom in this plan. ”

  Page 77

  “The fuck you say,” Daddy says, finally having enough and snapping. He pushes past my mother so swiftly that she almost tumbles. His arm shoots out and he helps her steady her footing, never once removing his heated gaze off Cohen. “The fuck. You say!”

  He prowls forward, and when he gets about halfway to us, Cohen pats my thigh and indicates that he wants me to shift so he can stand. I do so, mutely, and wait to see how this plays out, knowing that it has to play out for us to be able to move forward.

  “You knock up my girl. Demand that she move in. And not even plan on making an honest woman out of her?” he fumes.

  Cohen stands toe-to-toe with him, their eyes almost level, but even with Daddy having a few inches on Cohen, he doesn’t back down. His chest heaves, but for the most part, he remains calm.

  “I didn’t say that, Axel. I plan on marrying your daughter the first chance I get, but that is something that is between the two of us. I respect you enough that I had planned on coming to you privately to ask for your blessing, but I have to be honest with you—I will be marrying my girl whether you give that to me or not. With all due respect, I love your daughter and I couldn’t really give two shits if you want to bless that or not. ”

  “What did you just say?” Daddy turns and looks over at my mom. “What did he just say to me?”

  “You heard him, honey,” she says with a smile. “I think it’s time you took that alpha male down a few notches, big boy. ”

  My gaze shoots from my mom to my dad to see his reaction, and then it lands on Melissa when she throws her head back and laughs loudly.

  “Hush, beauty,” Greg tells his wife. “Son, I think you need to tread carefully here. I like your head right where it is. ”

  Melissa snickers even louder at that.

  “You don’t care for my blessing?” Daddy tosses back at Cohen, and there’s no mistaking his body language—he’s ready to kill. His hands are flexing and his face is beet red.

  “Ax—” Mom tries.

  “Don’t you dare ‘Axel’ me, Izzy. Don’t you dare. Did you hear him? He just said he didn’t give two shits!” he roars. “You’re walking a tight line here, Cohen. ”

  This is getting out of hand. I know there won’t be a good outcome if I let the two men I love the most fight over this. Standing carefully from my seat, I give Melissa a wobbly smile when she nods her head in encouragement before I go to stand in front of Cohen and face my father.

  I feel Cohen move, and before I can speak, I’m behind him and he’s once again between my father and me. My eyes go from his solid back to the only two people I can see—his parents. Cohen’s move of dominance and protection is one I know didn’t go unnoticed by my father because I see Greg nod and Melissa smile so huge that it looks unnatural. I grasp his shirt in my hand and try to get his attention.

  “Cohen,” I start.

  “Not now, Dani. I get you think you need to protect me from your father, but this needs to happen and it needs to happen now. ”

  I sigh, drop my hands from his shirt, and do the only thing left I can. I wrap my hands around his stomach and spread my palms wide against his abs. It’s another move I know doesn’t go unnoticed because Melissa’s smile gets even larger, and when I move my eyes to Greg’s, I see that his are shining bright and his smile matches Melissa’s in size and happiness.

  “Are you going to do anything?” I ask him.

  “Nope. My boy knows what he’s doing. ” He leans back and pulls his wife to his chest, and they just watch with those big, loopy-loo smiles as Cohen stands his ground with my father.

  The father who I know could kill him with his bare hands.

  I gulp.

  “I’m going to tell you this once, Axel. I love your daughter. I’ve loved her before it was right to feel that way. I fought those feelings until she was ready for me, because I’ll tell you this. It was never a question that I was ready for her. What we have is something I will never feel worthy of. Not of her love. Something she gives me without hesitation. I know she deserves the best that life can hand her. You do not have to remind me of that. But even though I don’t think I’m good enough for her, I’ll spend my life making sure that she knows she’s the best thing I will ever have. Do you understand that? I will make sure there isn’t a day that passes that she doesn’t know how much I love her. I’ll spend every second I have left on this Earth giving her everything I possibly can. I waited, out of respect for you and for her, until I couldn’t wait a second longer, and I will not—not for you—give up even a sliver of time with her now that she is mine. ”

  Page 78

  I hold my breath and wait. I keep my eyes on Cohen’s parents for some sort of clue of what’s happening beyond the wall of Cohen’s body.

  It feels like a lifetime passes before I hear my father’s laughter boom through the room.

  What in the hell?

  “Well. Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?”

  I repeat; What in the hell?

  “You didn’t really give me a chance, Axel,” Cohen says.

  “Right. Well, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk. ”

  Jesus Christ. I’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

  It doesn’t take long for us to settle back down. Cohen turns and gives me a kiss, and when I hear my father’s growl again, I pull back and look over at him. He throws his arms up and gives me a tired look back.

  “What? You don’t expect me to just flip a switch and turn it off, do you?”

  “Crazy old man,” I mutter.

  Cohen takes his seat again and pulls me back onto his lap. One hand goes to my belly and the other is resting back on my thigh. Without a thought, I wrap my arms around his shoulders and settle in for what promises to be a long chat.

  “My dad filled me in on everything that’s happened between the letter, flowers, and . . . yesterday. ” He pauses to look down at me. “I want to be fully briefed so that I’m able to understand this from every angle that I’m sure you have worked. My gut tells me that it’s someone she knows. Someone she trusts. But until I have all the intel, I’m not comfortable making that call. I’ve been told that the police also have run into nothing but dead ends?” He looks between my father and his and they all nod. “This bastard is slick, I’ll give him that,” Cohen mutters.

  “Slick, but he’ll fuck up. I heard from my contact at the department that there was a print lifted from the bag. Dani’s has been ruled out, so they’re running it through their database to see if they get a match. ”

  Cohen nods his head at my father’s words but doesn’t speak.

  “I agree with you, son. This is too personal of an attack for it to be someone that she hasn’t come in contact with. ”

  I shiver when Greg’s words hit me. Someone I know? I can’t even think about who it might be.

  “You think it could be a client?” I ask. “I have plenty of male clients, but until yesterday, no one really knew about the pregnancy. Until recently, I wasn’t really showing much and I had been able to hide it well. I . . . well, yesterday, with the cameras back, I wanted to show my belly off. ”

  “Client, or someone that you’ve been in contact with. However brief, it doesn’t matter. They’ve latched on, and judging by everything that’s been said with the two messages, they aren’t happy that you’re in a relationship with my son—well, anyone for that matter. You’ve always held back, Dani, and until Cohen, you didn’t really date seriously. I don’t think that this person saw a threat until Cohen. ”

  I try to make sense of what Greg just said, but I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around it.

  “Little princess,” my daddy says gruffly. “Think about this. T
he flowers started when Cohen left. I don’t want to know details, but if this person has been watching you, it’s reasonable to believe that he saw the connection between you, and when Cohen left, he pounced and attempted to make his feelings known with the flowers. When that didn’t work, something triggered that first note. I’ve been over this with your mom, and she told me that you two had spent that afternoon discussing the seriousness of your relationship with Cohen. I have no doubt that, if he’s that close, he didn’t handle overhearing that very well. ”

  I nod, following so far. Cohen’s breathing has gone wild, and I look up into his eyes to see that he’s having a hard time holding on to his cool after hearing all of this.

  “After that, things calmed down, but the flowers continued,” Greg adds.

  “Right,” Daddy starts and looks between Greg and Cohen. “Dani, you don’t know this because, between all of us, your brother, and Liam, we were able to grab most of the deliveries before you even knew they had come . . . but they never stopped. I think they would have probably continued until Cohen came home and, once again, that threat against whatever he sees in his sick mind of you having with him is back. That is until you went out with your belly the focus and he realized that something he considered his had been touched by another. ”

  “Oh my God,” I gasp.

  “I tell you, sweetheart, this motherfucker will pay. Not only has he threatened you, but as of yesterday, he’s now threatening my grandbaby. ”

  Page 79

  “Agreed,” Greg says forcefully.

  “I agree with what Cohen’s said. You need to stop working for a little while. Stay home and enjoy the rest of your pregnancy. After the baby is born, then you can decide what to do about work, but until this fucker is caught, it would make everyone feel a lot better if we could limit the people you’re around. Being at Sway’s with everything going on with clients in and out as well as that show being filmed, just isn’t safe. ”

  I nod, seeing the reason in this.

  “I’m not going to say that I agree with you two moving in together, but I know Cohen is trained well to take care of you and he’s proven that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep you safe in my eyes. Kills me, baby, to admit this, but you’re better off staying put right here. ”

  Oh wow. “That must have been hard to say,” I say, trying to make light of how big this moment is.

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