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Chapter no 19 – Hannah

Bagging the Blueliner

IT WAS OFFICIAL. I was never leaving.

The yacht life had sucked me in; I was convinced this was the only way to live. The staff attended to our every need, and I was never without a drink in my hand. The minute I finished one, another magically appeared.

Right now, I was stretched out on the massive tanning pad on the yacht’s bow. The sun was high above us as we slowly made our way from Nassau to Jamaica, and with my eyes closed, it felt like I was wrapped in a warm blanket.

Natalie was lying beside me reading while Jaxon and Cal sat on lounge chairs, drinking beer and chatting, soaking up the sun. If you were looking for eye candy, you didn’t need to look much further. Shirtless, their muscles were on full display, and I had never been more thankful for the dark lenses of my sunglasses so I could ogle my man unnoticed.

Then, there were the tattoos visible on both men. Jaxon’s were sweet— his daughter’s name and footprints on one pec and Natalie’s older children’s birthdates and adoption dates on the inside of one bicep—but Cal’s were sexy. His right arm featured a half-sleeve from shoulder to elbow. The black ink swirled over his bulging muscles, the Norse symbols an homage to his Viking ancestry.

I bit my lip, thinking about how he had dominated my body last night, those tattoos front and center as he held his large frame over mine.

Liam joined us after a while, and Jaxon asked, “Where’s Amy?”

Dropping down into the open chair beside him, he took the beer Jaxon offered. “Napping. The jet lag hit her hard this trip. I haven’t seen it this bad since our first honeymoon when we zipped to the west coast and back in a single day.”

Natalie and I looked at each other. We both knew it wasn’t jet lag.

I could feel Cal’s eyes on me, so I lifted my sunglasses and gave him an imperceptible nod, confirming his silent question. I wasn’t betraying Amy’s confidence if he figured it out on his own.

Liam continued, “She couldn’t spend much time out here anyway. She burns quickly.” He spoke the truth. It was Amy’s plight as a redhead.

The crew brought us more drinks and a platter of snacks, placing it at the foot of the tanning pad. Natalie kept her e-reader in one hand while she snagged a bunch of grapes with the other.

Cal asked her, “What kind of tablet is that?”

Natalie’s eyes lit up. Cal had no idea the can of worms he’d just opened. “Oh! It’s not a tablet. It’s my e-reader. Jaxon got it for me for Christmas.” She flashed a smile at her husband. “He knows how much I love to read. I’ve been on Team Paperback for so long, but it’s hard when we travel. They are so bulky. This little thing can hold a thousand books! Can you believe that? And he got me this subscription service where I can download as many books as I want. Now, if only the authors would stop driving me crazy by jumping between series and write straight through. I can’t stand waiting two or three years for a series to conclude.”

I stifled a laugh. Natalie’s ranting wasn’t exclusive to when she was upset; it came out when she was excited, too. Pushing my sunglasses onto my head, I threw Jaxon a wink. The e-reader had been my idea and was clearly a huge hit.

Reading had always been Natalie’s escape, even when we were kids. She liked to lose herself in the pages, completely dependent on the happy ending she craved. I was glad she finally found hers after all these years.

Cal bit into the largest strawberry I’d ever seen, asking, “What do you like to read?”

Bless this man. It was as if he was born to set me up.

Natalie sat there like a deer struck in headlights, unsure how to respond. Casually, I offered up, “Don’t let Nat’s prim-and-proper routine fool you.

She devours word porn like it’s her day job. That thing is full of sex.”

Choking on the food in his mouth, Cal’s eyes widened before he croaked out, “Wasn’t expecting that.”

Jaxon smirked. “You won’t hear me complaining. Gets her all hot and bothered, and I get to come in and finish the job. I’d call that a win-win.”

“Jaxon!” Natalie yelled, her cheeks turning pink from more than the sun. Taking a calming breath, she explained, “It’s not porn. There’s a difference between erotica and romance, and comments like Hannah’s feed into the perception that reading romance is something women should be ashamed of.”

Riling her up was too much fun. I couldn’t help myself. “So, you’re saying there’s no sex in your books?”

If looks could kill, I would be dead on the spot. Through gritted teeth, she replied, “Yes, but there’s a plot.”

“And guys only read nudie mags for the articles.” I snickered.

All three men burst out laughing. I think it was fair to say I’d won this round.

Sorry, Nat.

Narrowing her eyes, she sized me up.

Oh, shit. I knew that look. Natalie was getting ready to strike back.

A slow smile crept onto her lips. “That’s a lot of judgment coming from a woman who has developed a fetish for fucking in front of windows.”

Cal spit out his drink. I’d told him that girls and I shared everything, but he was about to get a crash course in the dynamic we shared.

Jaxon gave a slow nod in Cal’s direction. “Nice.” He was promptly rewarded by a glare from his wife.

Oh, she was so going down.

Game on, girlfriend.

“Funny you should mention exhibitionism, Natalie. Aren’t you the one who usually sunbathes topless?”

Natalie’s jaw dropped.

Liam jumped up, putting his body between us. “Truce, ladies. Now.” His tone brooked no argument, and I knew he would physically separate us if need be. He’d done it before.

“Fine,” I grumbled.

“She started it,” Natalie accused.

Liam looked between us. “I don’t care. It’s over.”

Satisfied we wouldn’t continue fighting, he returned to his seat.

Jaxon chuckled to Cal. “Aren’t you glad you decided to come on vacation with us?”

Cal sat in stunned silence. He was getting a rare peek behind the curtain of the relationship I shared with my best friends.

Trying to break the tension, Liam remarked, “Can I say how disappointed I am that there aren’t teams this go around? Cal’s getting off too easy.”

Natalie and I both laughed, our fight forgotten. Liam made it no secret that he was butthurt over always picking the wrong team.

While I’d watched my best friends get paired off these past few years, it hadn’t come easy for any of them. Sometimes, it had been an all-out war to get what they wanted. We would create teams, breaking off into groups to brainstorm. Naturally, us girls were a force and far too cunning for the guys to beat us. By now, they knew better than to bet against us.

There simply hadn’t been a need for teams when it came to my relationship with Cal. If anything, we would be a combined team against my dad. That would be our ultimate obstacle—getting his approval, if and when we ever decided to tell him.

Settling back on the tanning pad, relishing the heat of the sun in the dead of winter, I shot back, “How about Team Mind Your Own Business?”

He scoffed. “Where was that team when Amy was sneaking into my room in the middle of the night?”

“Poor Liam,” I taunted. “Getting sucked off in his sleep by his hot wife.

Can you hear how ridiculous it sounds that you’re complaining?” Three sets of shocked eyes met mine.

Jaxon breathed out, “Whoa, hadn’t heard that one before.”

Liam’s jaw was set so tight I feared he might break a tooth. “You’re a bad influence.”

I rolled my eyes. “I believe the words you are looking for are ‘thank you.’ You got the girl. Let it go.”

Jaxon tilted his beer bottle in Cal’s direction. “Congrats, man. I think it’s fair to say you got the only one where what you see is what you get.”

“No kidding,” Cal muttered, shaking his head in my direction.

I blew him a kiss. Life with me would never be boring. That I could promise him.

 

 

Docking in Jamaica, we sat eating breakfast on the covered dining portion of the deck. Amy and Liam were notably absent yet again. They’d missed dinner last night, too.

I felt bad for Amy. She was struggling in the early days of her pregnancy and, so far, wasn’t able to enjoy our vacation. I wondered if they would make it on our waterfall hike this afternoon. It seemed doubtful.

Out of nowhere, Natalie gagged, running inside. Uh oh. This vacation was going sideways quickly.

Cal spooned a bite of cottage cheese into his mouth, muttering, “What’s her deal?”

I kicked him under the table, signaling for him to drop it. Looking at me, he caught my drift, and his blue eyes widened.

Jaxon was oblivious to our interaction, explaining, “Nat can’t stand to watch people eating cottage cheese. Something about it being chunky like vomit.” Wrinkling his nose as he peered at Cal’s bowl, he said, “Maybe she’s got a point. I better go check on her.”

Leaving us alone at the table, Cal craned his neck to double-check that he was gone before holding up two fingers and asking in shock, “Both of them?”

I shrugged. “Lucy, too, in case you missed that announcement.” He ran a hand down his face. “Jesus. What’s in the water?” “Just be glad you’re the only one who dodged that bullet.”

“No kidding. The guys have no clue?”

“No, and officially, neither do you.” I pointed my finger at him in warning. “You only have inner circle intel because you caught me at the pharmacy. So, keep that in mind, and keep your mouth shut.”

“Poor bastards,” Cal muttered, shaking his head.

“Oh, you have no idea. Natalie went into very graphic detail about all the ways she was going to make Jaxon pay. It wasn’t pretty.”

“I’m learning there’s much more than meets the eye with your friends.” I winked. “Admit it. You love me.”

The words flew out of my mouth without thinking. I’d said them the other day, too, during his freak-out session, but they were only a figure of

speech then. Jumping immediately into damage control, I rushed out, “You know what I mean.”

The silence stretched between us, and I began to sweat. I may have just fucked up the good thing we had going. We’d already taken a giant step this weekend, brokering exclusivity and dishing out labels—anything more could send him running for the hills.

Cal’s gaze was scalding. Why was he looking at me like that? I wanted to scream that I didn’t mean it. Why didn’t I have a filter? That was super inconvenient right about now.

Say something! Let me know where I stand! Did I fuck this up or not?

Standing, he dropped a kiss on my cheek. “I’m going to shower and get ready for our hike later.”

Then, he walked into the boat, leaving me alone.

What kind of reaction was that? I couldn’t tell if he had gotten my meaning or if he was going to overanalyze it.

I wasn’t like the other girls. I didn’t need the mushy sentiments that came with a relationship. What we had was perfect. We enjoyed spending time together in and out of bed. That was more than enough for me.

Developing feelings for each other would only complicate things. Closing my eyes, I silently cursed myself.

Me and my big mouth.

 

 

When we left for our hike, it was as if nothing had happened this morning. Cal was acting normal.

Maybe I was making too much of my comment. It would have been fine if I’d said it to anyone else. It had been meant in a casual way. But because we were sleeping together, it had the potential to mean more. I needed to get out of my damn head.

Everything seemed fine.

Much to my surprise, Amy and Liam joined us on the trek to the waterfall. Even after sleeping most of the past two days, Amy looked exhausted. Liam was attentive as always, holding her hand and helping her over the rocky terrain. He was wired to be overprotective, and if he were my man, I would have lost my shit by now. It looked stifling, if I was being

honest, but Amy took it in stride, always patient with him. Liam would turn into a guard dog on steroids when he found out she was pregnant.

Trudging through the rainforest, we made it to a clearing, and the sight we encountered was breathtaking.

Water cascaded over a cliff from high above, falling into the pool before us. Sweaty from the hike, I didn’t waste a moment shucking my tank top and shorts before wading into the cool water.

Sinking down, I dipped my head underwater and pushed off the ground, gliding further into the natural pool. Breaking the surface, I smoothed the hair back from my face. Strong arms circled my waist, and I leaned my head back onto Cal’s chest.

“Beautiful,” he whispered low in my ear.

“It really is,” I sighed before turning in his arms.

Cupping my cheek, he smiled. “I wasn’t talking about the waterfall.”

The way he was looking at me, I knew he meant it. After this morning, I didn’t know what to think about anything when it came to our relationship. Everything was still too new.

Deflecting, I teased him, “Are you sure I haven’t scared you off this weekend with my big mouth?”

Cal smirked. “Baby, your mouth might be my favorite part of you.” I raised an eyebrow in doubt, and he quickly corrected, “Okay, second favorite. But don’t you worry, if that mouth runs away from you, I know exactly how to silence it.”

Heat pooled between my legs despite the cool water caressing my body. He knew that I knew exactly what that punishment was. His words from the first time we slept together often filtered into my dreams, leaving me panting and needy when I woke.

You’re off limits, and that’s enough to tempt me, but goddamn that mouth of yours. It deserves to be punished for half the shit it says. Maybe my cock shoved down your throat will be enough to shut you up for five minutes.

A shiver racked my body, thinking of them now.

Dropping his hands to my ass, he slid lower to my thighs, urging them gently around his waist. My core lined up with the erection barely contained in his swim trunks.

Why did we bring our friends with us on this hike again?

Reading my mind, Cal nipped my ear, one hand teasing the edge of my bikini bottom. “I want you so bad.”

Running my hand through his thick blond hair, which had become lighter after days spent in the sun, I sighed, shaking my head. “Me too, baby. But we can’t.”

One finger slipped beneath my suit, teasing my heated flesh. “All I have to do is slide this to the side. No one would ever know.”

Tempting. So fucking tempting. My breathing became rapid as I tried to control my body. My mind needed to win this round.

Cal’s lips dropped to my neck, and I tilted my head, offering him greater access. “Come on, baby,” he spoke against my skin. “You know you want to.”

Damn him. He knew exactly how to play me. My hips rocked against him involuntarily as his words stroked the flames inside me higher.

“We both know I can’t be quiet enough to pull that off,” I whispered, breathless.

“Fuck,” Cal groaned. “I love making you scream.” He sank one finger deep inside me, and the last of my resistance melted away.

“Who needs Nat’s books when we are being treated to a live sex show?” Jaxon’s voice cut through my lust-induced haze, and I turned my head to glare at him.

Snarky, I retorted, “Maybe you should take notes.” Cal pinched my ass underwater, and I squealed in his arms.

Natalie clung to Jaxon similarly to the way Cal held me close. It struck me how nice this was—going on a couples’ trip with two of my best friends. The only thing that would make it better was if Lucy and Preston had been able to join us. Maybe next time.

Our heads snapped toward the waterfall when we heard Liam let out a whoop and then saw him pick up Amy and spin her around from behind the curtain of water.

“Looks like she told Liam,” Cal mused without thinking.

I threw an elbow into his ribs underwater, hissing, “Inner circle.”

He looked sufficiently chastised when Jaxon asked, “What was that?” “Nothing,” Cal replied.

“Didn’t sound like nothing.” Jaxon narrowed his eyes.

Natalie looked at me wide-eyed. Yeah, I’d have to explain the whole situation later. She didn’t help matters by gagging at breakfast. Cal would have only figured out Amy if it hadn’t been for that.

Liam was serious to a fault, but Amy brought out a softer side of him. Until she came along, I don’t think I’d ever seen him smile. Moving from behind the waterfall, they waded toward where we floated, a giant smile splitting Liam’s face.

I didn’t believe in true love, but watching my best friends with their husbands was almost enough to convince me to reconsider my stance.

“We have news,” Liam announced.

He looked to Amy, clearly waiting for her to share the news. She blushed with all the attention on her, ducking her head. “We’re having a baby,” she said softly.

Jaxon was the only one hearing this news for the first time, and it showed. His reaction was genuine, swimming over and extending a hand to his pseudo-brother-in-law. “Congrats, man! That’s amazing! The Remington dynasty lives on.”

When nobody else jumped into action, Liam eyed us. “You all already knew, didn’t you?”

Natalie tried to distract him, gliding through the water to hug him, saying softly, “I’m so happy for you.”

Liam shook his head. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. You guys already pick out names, too?”

“So dramatic,” I muttered with an eye roll.

Jaxon leaned over to Cal, keeping his voice low. “Looks like you’re off the hook, huh?”

Cal pretended to wipe imaginary sweat from his forehead in response. Jaxon was completely unaware of the baby boom coming for our small group. Cal might be off the hook, but he sure wasn’t.

Oh, to be the fly on the wall in the Slate house when those fireworks went off.

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