But this . . . I hadn’t needed to be scared of this. I had been worried about Micah being hurt. But instead Micah got others who love him and want to be a part of his life. The fear of what would happen to him if I died wasn’t as heavy anymore. I had always lived with that constant terror. Micah was going to have a family. One bigger than just me. A group of people who he could trust to be there for him.
“I sent letters . . . pictures,” I said, mostly for my benefit, to remind myself I had tried to tell her . . . to tell them.
Dewayne nodded. “I believe you. I do. I just know my momma didn’t get them.”
That was the Tabby Falco I remembered. The one who Dewayne insisted would have been there if she’d known. The one who wouldn’t have let me live in Fort Worth in a house with an aunt who didn’t approve of me being a pregnant teen but who wasn’t going to force me to give up my baby. She had given me a roof over my head and a ride when I needed it, but she hadn’t been warm and kind.
I wiped at my now-wet face and took a deep breath to calm myself. Dewayne was right. Micah wouldn’t understand my tears, and he’d be upset. He didn’t like seeing me cry. I think it scared him.
“If they want to be a part of Micah’s life, I want that for him. He needs family. He wants it.” I swallowed and concentrated on not breaking down again when I said this to Dewayne. “He has always wondered where his grandparents were. Other kids had them, and he didn’t understand why all he had was a momma, and an aunt who he wasn’t very close to. She was more like a landlord.”
Dewayne looked pained. “They’re gonna adore the kid. He will have the best damn grandparents on earth. Just give them a chance. If you can do that, you may save them both. Micah is what they need. He’ll bring back the joy that Dustin took with him.”
Micah and I needed to talk first. “Give me time to help him understand. And then I’ll call you and let you know we’re ready. But I need to make sure that your mother didn’t get those letters. Because I sent them . . . and if she got them and . . .” I trailed off. I hated saying to her son that she could have known about Micah and hid it from Dewayne and his father. I’d sent those letters. They couldn’t have just vanished.
“She didn’t get them. How did you send them? Did you mail them from your aunt’s?”
I nodded. I had put them in the mailbox in the mornings.
“Would your aunt have taken them?”
No. Why would Aunt Cathy take them? She didn’t want us there with her. She was taking us in because she didn’t want us on the streets. I shook my head. “I can’t imagine she would have.”
Dewayne frowned. He didn’t look convinced. “Momma didn’t get them. Something must have happened to them. It’s possible someone intercepted them.”
I hoped he was right. Because more than anything, I wanted the Falcos to be a part of Micah’s life. I wanted him to know the people who were a part of his father. I wanted him to see pictures of his father growing up. All those things. I wanted them for him.
“You find out if she ever received those letters, and then I’ll talk to Micah. I need to know they want to be a part of his life first.”
Dewayne nodded and shoved his hands in his front pockets. “I’ll talk to Momma and let you know as soon as possible. But can we go ahead and confirm that I’m hanging out with Micah on Saturday mornings while you work? I want that time.”
Micah needed that, and it would save me money. I nodded. “Yes. That’s good. If you can’t one Saturday, just let me know at least a week in advance so I can make other arrangements.”
Dewayne grinned. “When you tell those people across the street that Micah is Dustin’s son, you will have free child care whenever you want it.”
Something else I wasn’t used to.
We said our good-byes, and I watched as Dewayne turned and headed for his truck. I may have watched his ass as he made his way to the truck, but that was my secret.
* * *
“What did he want?” Micah asked the moment I walked inside. He was sitting on the sofa with his arms crossed over his chest and his feet dangling because they couldn’t touch the floor yet.
“You were supposed to be playing in your room,” I reminded him as I made my way over to sit down beside my little man.
“I was watching out for you,” he said simply.
I reached over, pulled him against my side, and hugged him to me. It had been just us for so long. This past year had he started acting like he was the one protecting me instead of the other way around. A month ago he had asked me who kept me safe since I didn’t have a husband to do it. I informed him that I kept me and him safe. I assured him I was very good at it.
He’d changed that day. I was seeing it more and more every day. It was as if he’d realized I needed someone to take care of me, and he was doing that job. Sweet little boy of mine. I kissed his head and inhaled his outdoor smell.
“Did you enjoy your day?” I asked him.
He nodded slowly. “Yeah, but if Dewayne was mean to you, then I don’t want him to come back.”
He was about to have a whole new world opened up to him. One that would change his life. I squeezed him. “Dewayne wasn’t mean to me. Dewayne wants what I want. He wants you safe and happy.”
Micah leaned back and looked up at me. I could see the confusion in his little face. He wasn’t sure what I was saying, and the little bit of hope in those eyes of his just about undid me. He didn’t want me to know how much he wanted a man in his life, but I knew it and understood it.
It wasn’t time to tell him just how much Dewayne wanted him in his life and why. I still needed to know that Tabby Falco hadn’t gotten those letters. I had to be sure she was unaware of Micah. Because as much as Dewayne believed his mother would never do this, I knew I had sent her letters. They had to have gone somewhere.
“Will Dewayne come back again one day to play?”
He wanted Dewayne to come back. It was in his hopeful expression. I was glad he had enjoyed his time with Dewayne. “Yes. Every Saturday morning Dewayne wants to hang out with you while I work.”
A bright smile lit up his face. “He does?”
I nodded, and Micah punched his fist into the air with a cheer and jumped down from the sofa. I watched as he ran off to his room. Our conversation was over now. Smiling, I stood up and went to fix myself a sandwich.
“You want lunch?” I asked him.
“Mac ’n’ cheese,” he called back.
“You’re gonna turn into mac ’n’ cheese,” I replied.
“Good! Then I’ll eat myself.”
Shaking my head, I laughed and fixed my son some mac ’n’ cheese.
If I went home tonight, I’d only think about shit. So I went out to Live Bay, where I knew I’d have friends. People to distract me. It was where some of us always showed up on weekends. Even my married-with-kids friends.
I sat back with a beer and watched as Krit Corbin sang while eye-fucking his girlfriend. It was like some strange turn in the universe. When Preston Drake had fallen in love with our best friend’s little sister, I’d thought he had lost his ever-loving mind. Now the Sea Breeze man whore and lead singer of Jackdown was completely fu**ed over a girl. The world was going to shit.
“I love watching him watch her,” said Trisha, Krit’s older sister and Rock’s wife. Rock had also been one of my best friends since elementary school. Trisha had been a part of our lives since Rock had locked himself around her when we were seventeen. I had once made the mistake of asking if she had a magic pussy. Rock had leveled my ass in one swing. I hadn’t even seen it coming.
I didn’t talk about Trisha’s pu**y again. Lesson learned.
“He’s fu**ing whipped,” I said before taking another swig of beer. I had a good thirty pounds of muscle on Krit, though I’d seen his ass go crazy once when he thought Blythe had left him. So I wasn’t talking about her pu**y in front of him. Dude would lose his shit, and I didn’t have that kind of energy.
“You’re so jaded,” said Trisha, who was sitting on her husband’s lap.
“Honest, sweetheart; I’m just brutally honest.”
Trisha rolled her eyes. “One day, Dewayne Falco, you will fall, and when you do I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of watching it.”
She was wrong about that, but I didn’t want to argue. I was trying not to smoke. If that shit did kill people, then I needed to save a few years. I had a nephew who needed me now. I hadn’t had that before. But motherfuck did I want a cigarette.
“We’re here! Sorry we’re late. Bliss was not in the mood to stay with a sitter tonight. Cage had to rock her to sleep first,” Eva York said as she sat her beautiful ass down on a stool beside me. She slapped my knee. “Hey, you,” she said with the smile that had been Cage York’s downfall. He’d taken one look at Eva, and the player once known as Cage York had transformed. Eva had that magic pu**y too. Only fu**ing explanation for that shit. Cage was a daddy now, and he was happy about it. You asked him about his baby girl and his face would go all soft and dreamy. Crazy shits. All of them.
I leaned over toward Eva and winked. “Just waiting on you to show up, sugar,” I told her in a low voice, just to piss Cage off. Dude was funny as shit when he went territorial on Eva’s hot ass.
“Fuck you, Dewayne,” Cage growled, and he pulled Eva onto his leg and nuzzled her neck as if they were horny and dating instead of married and parents.
“Amanda called and said she had the kids,” Eva said, giggling from Cage’s attention.
Trisha nodded. “Yep. Preston wanted the kids tonight, so we took them over there and came to hear Krit. I thought I might get to visit with Blythe, too, but he won’t let her out here. He’s keeping her back there with him. It’s why he keeps singing to someone offstage. He rarely takes his eyes off her.” The pleased sound in Trisha’s voice was hard to miss.
“I love that. They are adorable,” Eva said, looking up at the stage and at Krit Corbin singing to the woman no one could see offstage.
Cage slipped his hand over Eva’s stomach, and she laughed and tried to move away from his groping. He was getting a little carried away, which was normal.
“I’m all about watching, but I don’t know if that’s legal. Might wanna pour some cold water on him,” I said with a smirk.
Cage shot me an annoyed glare. “Jealous, Falco?”
I glanced over at the blonde who had been sending me flirty signals all night. She wasn’t dressed in much, and she had that look in her eyes. She was at the beach to party.
I crooked my finger at her, and that was all it took. She bounced her perky little ass over to me.
“Hey, sugar, you’re trying to get my attention pretty damn hard,” I said, sliding a hand around her waist. She snuggled up to me, and I could smell the beer on her breath. She was nice and lubed up. I cut my eyes at Cage. “New pu**y every damn night,” I whispered to him over the top of her head, then pulled her face to mine and took a taste.
“One day, Dewayne. One day,” Trisha said, but I ignored her taunting and enjoyed the willing young blonde in my arms. Her curves were nice, and her ass wasn’t as plump as I liked—I grabbed it with one of my hands—but she would do.
“How old are you?” I asked before taking a bite of her neck.
“Nineteen,” she breathed. She looked nineteen and she felt nineteen. I’d require an ID before I stuck my dick in her, but I believed her. That was enough for now.
“You good with that mouth?” I asked her, slipping my hand farther over her ass until my fingers touched her crotch. The whoosh of breath that came out of her told me she was ready.
“I can be good at anything you want me to be,” she said breathlessly.
I liked this one. “Then sit that sweet ass on my leg and let me visit with my friends,” I told her. As I reached for my beer she did exactly as I told her. She was like all of them, the beauties who came to the beach looking for a good time. A good time they could leave behind here in Sea Breeze once they went back to their lives. I was more than happy to give them a memory to take back with them.
I just had two rules. Never at my place. I didn’t f*ck them at my place. And never overnight. We fucked, and if it was good, we fu**ed a couple of times. Then I left. It was over. I didn’t even need their names.
Relationships took too much thought. They took time. They took a shitload of stuff I didn’t want to give. Sure, I got why each of my friends had fallen under his woman’s spell. They each picked beauties with something more than a nice pair of tits. They had the whole package, and I was happy for them. I just didn’t fu**ing want to be them.
“You hear that, Dewayne? I expected a snide comment,” Rock said, breaking into my thoughts. My hand had made its way between the blonde’s legs, and I was busy working her up while I made her sit here.
“Jess is pregnant,” Trisha said with a look of pride.
Jess was Rock’s cousin, and once she’d been one sweet little piece of tail. Then she’d run off with a rock star’s brother. He’d fallen in love with her and taken her from her life here and changed everything for her. I wouldn’t admit it, but I was happy for her. She had a good heart, and I used to worry she was going to end up giving it to Krit, who would never be faithful to her. But he wasn’t owned by her, and I didn’t think he could be faithful—until he’d met Blythe.
“Jess as a momma,” I said, then laughed. That was hard to picture. The girl had the body of a fu**ing p**n star, and before Jason Stone had walked into her life, she’d used that body to bring men to their knees.
The girl in my lap let out a soft moan, and I remembered I had my hand up her skirt, playing around. I better get her out to the truck. That was as far as we were gonna make it. I wasn’t in the mood to go back to this one’s hotel room.
“Looks like I got to go put out a fire. I’ll see y’all later,” I said, standing up. I took the girl by the h*ps and moved her through the crowd.
“You wet, sugar?” I asked as I pushed her out the door and into the cool night air.
She nodded and looked up at me with hooded eyes. Problem was, I wasn’t in the mood to fuck. I hadn’t fu**ed in two weeks. Not since I’d been informed that I had a nephew. It had screwed with my head, and I couldn’t focus on anything else. Not even the very willing woman in my arms. I’d worked her up, though, and I needed to fix that.