Fever, p.35
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       Fever, p.35

         Part #2 of Breathless series by Maya Banks

  and leaned over to give her a kiss.

  “Scared the shit out of us, sweetheart.”

  She smiled up at him and then he enfolded her in a fierce hug.

  As soon as Ash let her go, Gabe pressed in with a ferocious hug of his own and then Mia latched on to her, hugging and babbling a nonstop stream that had Bethany’s head spinning.

  “Brought you supper. Well, brought it for all of us. Haven’t had much to eat during our vigil,” Ash said.

  “Thank you all for being here,” she said softly. “It means a lot to have people who care. I’ve never had that before.”

  Jace tightened his hold on her hand, giving her a fierce squeeze. Ash’s gaze softened while Mia looked as though she was going to cry. Gabe gave her another quick hug and then kissed the top of her head.

  “You’re family,” Gabe declared. “Maybe not the most normal family in the world, but you’re stuck with us now.”

  She grinned. “Can’t think of a better family to belong to.”

  Ash brought her a foam container filled with wonderful-smelling food. She peeked inside to see he’d loaded it down with finger foods. Fried cheese, crab wontons, barbecue riblets, French fries, Asian noodles and an eggroll. It was so unbelievably perfect that she could only stare as her stomach protested the fact she hadn’t dug in yet.

  When he produced a bottle of orange juice, however, she lost the battle and burst into tears.

  Ash looked horrified. Mia and Gabe exchanged panicked glances and Jace leaned in, concern flaring in his eyes.

  “Baby, what’s the matter? Is that not what you wanted? I’ll get you whatever you want to eat.”

  “It’s perfect,” she said with a sniffle. “It’s all my favorites and he remembered orange juice.”

  Ash cracked a grin and Jace sat back, relief soaring in his eyes. Then Mia and Gabe burst into laughter and Ash joined them. Soon Jace was chuckling and Bethany giggled, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

  “God, I’m such a dork,” she said. “I get the best food ever and I start crying like a moron.”

  “I’m with you,” Mia said, settling down with her own plate of yummy goodness. “Best food evah!”

  Ash took a seat at the end of her bed, his thigh resting against her feet. “Did you find out when she can go home?”

  Jace sighed. “In a case like this—well, I should say, when suicide is actually attempted, they put the patient under psychiatric evaluation, have the shrink come, wait for him to sign off, et cetera, et cetera. But in this case, given the circumstances, if all her tests come back okay, she can go home as early as tomorrow. The police have already taken a statement from Kaden, and they’ll likely be around to see Bethany later on this afternoon, but she doesn’t remember much so she can only provide information on the events just prior to her blacking out.”

  Bethany sighed, chewing on a cheese stick as sadness settled into her chest. Jace squeezed her knee and continued talking to the others about all the doctor had to say.

  “Is he in jail now?” She spoke up when Jace had finished.

  Jace gave her a look of sympathy. “Yeah, baby. They took him away right after I left your room to see about getting you something to eat. He agreed to go to rehab. I offered him a lawyer if he’d go into rehab and straighten out his shit. If the lawyer can work it out with the D.A., he’ll get probation under the condition that he checks into rehab.”

  “Thank you,” she said. “You didn’t have to do that. I know you’re angry and you have every right to be. But thank you for doing that for him.”

  “I did it for you, baby.”

  “I know,” she whispered. “And I love you for that.”

  His eyes went soft, like melting chocolate. “Love you too, baby.”

  She stifled a yawn and stuffed a crab wonton in her mouth, savoring the yummy flavor. She followed it with a forkful of noodles and then got barbecue sauce all over her fingers when she devoured a riblet. By the time she’d put a sizeable dent in the food Ash had brought her, the yawns were coming faster than she could eat.

  “We’re going to head out now,” Gabe said. “Bethany’s tired and we’re all exhausted as well. Going to head home and get some sleep.”

  “Thank you for being here,” Bethany said again. “It means a lot to me. Thank you for caring.”

  Gabe smiled and ruffled her hair before bending down to kiss her cheek. Mia gave her a huge hug and then Ash kissed her brow and gave her a big hug as well.

  “Catch you later, sweetheart. Rest up so you can go home tomorrow.”

  “That I can do,” she said with a smile.

  They all left the room and Bethany sagged back on her bed, her food container still resting on her lap. Jace cleared it away, setting it aside, and then he began lowering her bed so it was fully reclined.

  “Time for you to get some rest, baby.”

  “Are you staying?” she asked, worried he would leave and she’d be alone.

  He frowned. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to crawl onto this bed with you and you’re going to sleep in my arms.”

  She sighed with contentment. “Good. I really didn’t want to be alone tonight. Hospitals give me the creeps.”

  “You’ll never be alone again,” he said tenderly, his eyes full of love and promise.

  He climbed into bed with her, fully dressed, and positioned himself on his side, instantly pulling her tight against his body just as he’d done before. He kissed her brow and then rested his cheek against her forehead.

  “Love you,” she whispered.

  “Love you too, baby. Almost lost you. Not ever going to do that again.”

  She smiled and snuggled further into his embrace, feeling the security and comfort of his strong body. She was absolutely where she belonged.

  chapter forty-three

  “Jace, where on earth are you taking me?”

  He chuckled and led Bethany by the arm as they walked farther into the unknown.

  “You’ll find out soon enough. Is that blindfold on right? I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”

  “Yes, it’s on,” she said in exasperation. “I can’t see a thing! I’m going to kill myself in these shoes!”

  “Not going to happen, baby. I’m not going to let you fall. Besides, you look killer in those heels. Later, I’m going to fuck you in those shoes and nothing else.”

  A hot flush traveled from head to toe. Her nipples hardened and her clit tingled in anticipation. Jace had bought her the most awesome shoes ever. Full of sparkle with a heel so high she hadn’t been sure she could walk in them. But she’d known instantly that these were shoes she’d get fucked in later, which meant she was walking in them no matter what.

  “Like that idea, do you?” Jace murmured.

  “So not fair,” she complained. “You’re torturing me!”

  He laughed again and then halted. She listened for any clue of where they were, but there was only silence. He’d blindfolded her before they left the apartment and had led her down to the waiting car, bundled her inside and made her wear it the entire way to wherever he was taking her.

  The last few weeks had been so sigh-worthy. Ever since she’d been released from the hospital, he’d treated her like the most precious thing in the world. He’d taken a solid week off from work, leaving Gabe and Ash to clean up the Paris deal, which fortunately they’d salvaged thanks to an investor Gabe had located. And he’d spent every minute of every single day pampering her endlessly. Feeding her. Making love to her. Spoiling her absolutely rotten. She wasn’t complaining a bit. The weeks had been a slice of heaven.

  The only downer to the entire time had been Jack. But even that had its positives. True to his word, Jace had secured a lawyer for Jack and he’d worked out a plea agreement with the D.A. Ninety-day rehab program and then probation. Jace had secured a job for Jack when he got out and it would be up to Jack to turn his life around.

  Bethany had no idea if Jack would follow through, but he was the only one who co
uld change his life. No one else could do it for him.

  “Ready to see your surprise?” Jace asked.


  He reached up to remove her blindfold and the minute it was gone, she was greeted by the sight of Mia, Chessy, Trish, Gina, Caroline, Brandon, Gabe and Ash all standing around a table that held a ginormous four-tiered cake.

  “Surprise!” they all shouted. “Happy Birthday, Bethany!”

  Her mouth fell open and she stared at them in absolute shock. Then she turned to Jace as they all started to sing an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

  “How did you know?” she whispered. “I didn’t even remember it was my birthday.”

  “I have my ways,” he said smugly. “Couldn’t let your birthday go uncelebrated, baby.”

  Then he leaned down and pulled her into a scorching, toe-curling kiss. Complete with tongue and hoots and hollers from the others.

  When he finally released her, she was dazed and wore a stupid grin. She turned to the others with that goofy smile, joy filling every part of her heart.

  “You guys! I can’t believe this!” she exclaimed.

  “Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Ash said, coming forward to hug her.

  One by one, all the others came to wish her a happy birthday, hugging and kissing her until she was aglow with happiness.

  Jace caught her hand and tugged her toward the table.

  “There’s another reason to celebrate at this party, but first you have to open your present from me so we can get to that part,” Jace said with a huge grin.

  There was a mischievous glint in his eyes and he looked excited and . . . happy. Then he handed her a square wrapped present with a gorgeous ribbon and bow arrangement.

  “Open it!” Chessy squealed. “Oh my God, I can’t wait to see what you got!”

  The others chimed in with their encouragement, and Bethany tore into the pretty wrapping, more excited than a kid at Christmas. When she opened the box and found a small jeweler’s box inside, her heart started pounding. With shaking fingers, she opened the smaller box and then gasped when she saw the glittering ring inside.

  When she looked to the side for Jace, he had gone down to one knee, his hand already reaching for hers. He took the box from her, plucking the ring from its clasp.

  “I love you, Bethany. More than I could have ever imagined loving a woman. You’re my heart and soul and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

  She stared openmouthed down at him, her heart about to beat right out of her chest. Tears filled her eyes, happy tears this time when for so long they’d signaled sadness. She wanted this moment to last forever. It would forever be burned into her memories.

  “Oh, Jace,” she breathed. “I love you too. So much. And yes, I’ll marry you. Absolutely!”

  The room erupted in cheers as he slid the ring on her finger. His hands shook. Her hand shook. It was a wonder they were even able to get the ring on without dropping it. Then he stood and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her. He lifted and whirled her around and around before finally stopping and allowing her to slide down his body until their lips met in a heated rush.

  “Love you so much,” he whispered. “I’ll always love you, Bethany.”

  “I love you too,” she whispered back. Then she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and squeezed for all she was worth.

  He laughed and spun her around again.

  “Let’s cut the cake!” someone yelled.

  There, surrounded by her friends and newfound family, Bethany celebrated her twenty-fourth birthday. The very best birthday she’d ever had.

  As soon as the cake was cut and devoured, the bar in the ballroom of the Bentley Hotel opened up and a hired band began to play music.

  Two hours into the festivities, Bethany was buzzing on amaretto sours and was smiling so much her cheeks ached. She danced with everyone. Gabe, Ash, Mia, Chessy, Brandon, Gina, Trish and Caroline. Even Kaden and Trevor arrived to wish her a happy birthday and to claim their dances as well.

  But then Jace claimed his dance and swept her into his arms as the music slowed and became sultry.

  They swayed in the middle, uncaring of the others around them as they stared into each others’ eyes.

  “Can I ask for one more birthday present?” she asked hesitantly.

  Jace looked curiously at her. “Baby, you can ask for anything you want. If it’s within my power to give it to you, consider it yours.”

  She ducked her head shyly but he coaxed her chin back up with his fingers.

  “Baby, what is it?” he asked softly.

  She took a deep breath and put it out there. “I want to go to school. College. Get a degree. I’ve always wanted to but could never dream of affording it. I want to make something of my life. I know you’ll always have my back, always protect me and give me my heart’s desire. But I want to do more than just stay at home and be Mrs. Jace Crestwell. I want to do something. I want to make a difference.”

  Jace’s eyes warmed and he gave her a look so filled with love that she instantly melted.

  “I think that’s absolutely a wonderful idea,” he whispered. “You can be anything you want to be, baby. Just promise me that you’ll always be mine no matter what else you become.”

  “Always,” she whispered.

  Their mouths met and he kissed her so tenderly that those happy tears glittered on her eyelashes once more.

  Fairy tales did exist for girls like her. And she’d found her very own Prince Charming. She glanced down at the sexy, sparkly stilettos as Jace whirled her around the dance floor. She even had the shoes to prove it.

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