After the untimely death of her parents, Lacey finds comfort with their best friend. Grief brings them together and changes their love into something deeper and more mature. Despite their age difference, she knows she wants to make a family with Gavin, but can she persuade him to ignore his reservations and give her the baby she wants so desperately?
This is a QuikRead and the perfect length to finish during the morning commute or while waiting for an appointment. No cliffhangers!
Lacey waited for Gavin in his den, where he’d waved her to stay when she arrived a few minutes ago. Now, she wandered around his private sanctum as he finished up a call with one of his suppliers in his office down the hall. She stopped in front of the pictures on the wall, rubbing her chest at the physical pang that shot through her. Her parents were in many of the shots, since Gavin and Daniel had been best friends since junior high. Alisa had joined the trio when she started dating Daniel in high school and married him after graduation.
There were pictures of Lacey too, starting from the time when she was just an infant in her nineteen-year-old mother’s arms. She let her gaze linger on the pictures of her with her parents, but skipped over the ones where she was with Gavin. They made her uncomfortable, to see her looking like such a baby or little kid compared to him. The last thing she wanted was for him to view her as a child.
She liked the one of her from senior prom though. On what had ended up being their last shopping trip together, Lacey’s mom had helped her select a sophisticated black and silver sheath, rather than the girlish ball gowns many of her friends had worn. She stood beside Gavin, with his arm around her waist, a look of pure adoration on her face. They looked like peers in that photo, rather than a young girl standing beside an older man.
It seemed impossible that he hadn’t noticed she’d had much more interest in remaining at his side instead of joining her date. Ron had certainly noticed and hadn’t asked her out again after that night—not that she had cared. Her thoughts had been too preoccupied with Gavin for her to give him, or any other boy, a fair chance. Then her parents were taken by a drunk driver just two months later, and she hadn’t been able to think about anything besides her overwhelming grief.
That had been five months ago, though it still felt like yesterday most of the time. Still, she was coming back to life, albeit slowly, and considering what she wanted out of her future.
Gavin picked that moment to join her, and she gave him a small smile as she looked at him with appreciation. There was certainly more silver at his temples and streaked through his brown hair than he’d had even just a few months ago. No doubt, the added worry of being her support structure, coupled with losing his best friends, had added the liberal sprinkling of gray.
She liked it though. It made him look distinguished. He’d always had a young face, and that hadn’t changed, though there were more lines these days. The touch of silver was a nice contrast and made his blue eyes look darker.
They moved together simultaneously to embrace. She snuggled closer to him, breathing in the spicy tang of his cologne and pure masculine scent. God, she had missed him so much the past three months. He had talked her into going to school as she had planned before the accident, but she’d hated every second of it, being so far from home. So far from him.
His arm still around her waist, he led her to one of the overstuffed leather sofas in his man-cave, and they sat down together. She laid her head on his chest and basked in his presence.
“How are you, sweetie?” He ran his fingers through her red curls as he asked, his voice tender.
Just like that, the tears she’d kept in check for a few weeks overwhelmed her. Again, she tasted the salty bite of grief on her tongue as the tears leaked down her cheeks and into her mouth. It was natural to curve against him, burying her face in his throat as he stroked her back and head soothingly.
“Oh, baby, I’m sorry you’re hurting. I miss them too.”
His confession, tinged with sorrow, made the tears come harder and faster, and she burrowed closer, finding herself on his lap. It wasn’t entirely accidental when she grazed her lips down his neck in a ghost of a kiss. She was too weak to resist the temptation in her shattered state.
He stiffened, but didn’t move away. She nuzzled closer. “I miss having a family.”
“I know.” Gavin cupped the back of her head gently. “You guys had the perfect family life.”
She nodded. Daniel and Alisa had been amazing parents, the ideal example of how she wanted to be. “I want that back.”
“Me too, honey. I think about them every day.”
She sobbed as the reality crashed in on her again. “I’ll never see them again. It hurts so badly, Gavin.”
He continued to pat her back in slow circles. “What can I do, Lace? How can I make it hurt less?”
She stilled for a second, knowing it was the right time to verbalize what she’d been thinking, if she was actually going to do so. If she did, she might lose him, but if she didn’t, she would never have what her heart told her she needed to feel alive again and move forward. “Give me a baby,” she whispered against his throat.
Gavin almost groaned when her lips accidentally brushed against his neck, and he chastised himself for having inappropriate thoughts about his best friend’s daughter, especially in her moment of grief. It certainly wasn’t the time to get breathless because she’d touched him a way he’d fantasized about too many times for his conscience’s comfort.
When she shifted in his lap, he had to grit his teeth and count to ten in order to stave off the erection trying to form. Her hips were the perfect resting place for his hands, and his thoughts were making it hard to focus on their conversation.
That was why he was sure he’d misunderstood her when he asked how he could make it hurt less. Gavin cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t hear you right.”
She lifted her head, tear tracks staining her cheeks. Even with redness marring the whites, the green of her eyes was as intense as ever. “You did,” she whispered, tongue touching her swollen lips in a shy way that made him redouble his efforts to avoid getting hard.
Gavin shook his head, forcing a smile. “No, I’m sure I didn’t.”
“What do you think I said?” Her head tilted to the side.
He shook his head, unwilling to verbalize what his screwed up brain had heard. “I’m not sure.” That pink tongue touched her plump lips again, making him groan aloud.
“I asked you to give me a baby.” After making that request, she dropped her gaze to his chest.
He frowned. “Uh, I’m not sure what you mean, Lacey? You want me to help you adopt a baby?”
She shook her head, curls rustling gently as she did so. “I want your baby inside me, Gavin. I want a family again.” Her gaze darted up through her eyelashes.
He squirmed. “Lace, you don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I do.” She spoke firmly. “I’ve given it a lot of thought—usually when I’m supposed to be paying attention in my college courses that I don’t give a damn about.”
His heart was hammering away, and he strove to sound logical. “You’re too young to have a family that way just yet, sweetie.”
She shook her head again. “I’m not. Mom was only nineteen when I was born.”
“Yes, but she didn’t mean to get pregnant then. You need to plan for your career and future—”
“Mom was the regional manager of twelve supermarkets, Gavin, so having a baby didn’t hold her back. I know what I want in my future. I want to have a family and be the kind of parent mine were.” She clutched handfuls of his shirt in her intensity. “I’m ready to have a baby. College doesn’t matter to me right now. Nothing does except feeling like I’m part of something again.”
“There are other ways to feel included.”
“Name one,” she challenged.
Gavin struggled to think as the mingled desire and loss in her gaze stole his thoughts. “What about volunteering? You could do that AmeriCorps thing, or Peace Corp. You could join the military.”
“I could do those things to take care of other people, which is noble, but not what I want. I want to care for my own family, not someone else’s.” Her fists tightened, tugging at his shirt. “Can you understand that?”
He softened. “Of course I can, Lace.” Gavin pushed hair off her face with one hand, the other still pressed against her mid-back. “It’s only natural after losing your parents to want to build a new family, something with purpose that gives you meaning.”
Her lips trembled. “You do understand.”
Framing her face with both hands, he said, “Of course I do, but I also can see you aren’t thinking clearly.”
Her mouth tightened, and he recognized her stubborn expression with a small sigh of dismay. “I know what I want and with whom.”
“Why me?” He exhaled. “I’m thirty-seven. I make you feel safe, so you think I’m the best person to ask, but I’m not. You’re too young to have a baby.”
She practically exuded obdurateness. “I’m not. I want to have a baby because I’ve realized how short life can be.” Her green gaze grew warmer as it moved along each of his features. “We would make beautiful babies.”
Gavin swallowed a curse. “Of course we would, but you can’t really want me. If you’re serious, there must be a hundred boys who’d want you.”
“Yeah, a hundred boys who want sex, but not a baby.” She loosened her hold on his shirt slightly. “I want a man who wants a family and is ready for that responsibility. I want you, Gavin Scott. I love you.”
He shook his head, unable to believe what she was saying. She was simply too young. It had to be the grief talking, and he couldn’t take advantage of that. Even though his body ached for her, and his mind had conjured this image too many times in the past few months, he had to deny both of them for the sake of doing the right thing.
Trying to be gentle, he pushed her off his lap. “Someday, you’re going to thank me for stopping this, Lacey.”
She scowled. “No, I’m not.”
He sighed. “I just can’t do it, Lacey.”
Tears welled in her eyes, and she shook her head. “You don’t love me like a woman.” She scrubbed at the tears on her cheeks with what seemed to be an impatient motion. “I’ll always be a little girl to you.” A sob tore from her. “I can never have what I want because my goddamn birthday is nineteen years too late.”
Gavin watched, feeling helpless, as she got to her feet and straightened her sweater and jeans. After a moment, he realized she was planning to leave. “Where are you going?”
She shrugged, looking angry, hurt, and a tad bewildered. “What does it matter? I’m sure I can find a hundred boys who will let me crash at their house, at least for tonight.” Her scowl deepened. “Or I’ll just sleep in my damned car and get an early start back to school in the morning. I’m not feeling particularly festive right now.”
He frowned. “You’re supposed to stay here for Christmas break. Your parents’ house sold months ago, and it’s too far for you to drive back to school tonight.”
She glared at him. “Don’t pretend like you care, Gavin.”
Anger flashed in him. “I care, Lacey. A whole lot more than I should, and in a way I shouldn’t. Don’t you dare tell me I don’t love you when I’m doing this because I love you.” His chest heaved, and he got to his feet to stare down at her.
That damnably sexy tongue flicked out again, making him want to lean forward to catch it with his own, pin it between his teeth, and bite gently. “What way do you love me?”
He groaned, trying to fight her and himself. “You know.”
She shook her head as she moved closer. “I don’t.”
She wound her arms around his neck, pressing her curvy little body against his. “Do you love me like this, Gavin?” Leaning forward, she licked his neck, making him jump. “Or like this?” Her mouth moved higher, brushing up his skin in a deliberate way as she approached his mouth.
“Dammit, Lacey, you’re playing with fire.”
She laughed softly. “And I’m ready to get burned.” Her mouth reached his at the same time she cupped the hard bulge pressing against his pants.
Gavin groaned in defeat as he captured her lips with his. Guilt and conscience weren’t enough to make him pull away. Fuck doing the proper thing when having her in his arms felt so right it damned near made him want to weep.