Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(15)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(15)
Author: Marie Force

“I’m not surprised. I expected some backlash.”

“But since you and Mrs. Cappuano will be their legal, custodial guardians, they’re entitled to protection, and we recommend they have it.”

“Agreed.”

“If it meets with your approval, I’ll work with headquarters to coordinate their protection.”

“It does. Thank you.”

“Very good. I’ll see you in the morning, then.”

“You should take a day off one of these days.”

“And do what?”

“Get a life?”

Brant laughed—as hard as Nick had ever seen the always-serious agent laugh. “That’ll be the day. My life is protecting your life.”

“That doesn’t count as a life of your own. We need to see about getting you a girlfriend.”

“Good night, sir.”

Nick wished he could see if Brant was blushing. He wouldn’t be surprised. “Good night, Brant.” He finished his drink and went upstairs to join Sam in bed, even if he didn’t feel tired. He rarely did without some form of medication that made him groggy the next day.

Sliding into bed next to his beloved, he snuggled up to her and took comfort from her nearness, her scent, her heat, the silk of her hair and the softness of her skin.

Freddie would keep an eye on her at work. He would keep an eye on her at home. Together, they would get her through this. Whatever she needed, whatever it took. He would be there for her—always.

CHAPTER NINE

AFTER SAM AND Nick left O’Leary’s, Gonzo pointed to the door, letting Christina know he was ready to go too. Tomorrow morning, she would return him to the rehab in Baltimore. His parents had taken Alex for the day and night so they could tend to their friends. That gave him a night alone with Christina that he wasn’t about to waste.

He’d been thankful throughout the days of mourning that no one had asked him where he’d been for the last week or when he’d be back to work. He had been prepared to tell them he was dealing with some fallout from Arnold’s death, which was true, but it wasn’t the entire story, and he wasn’t comfortable blaming his late partner for the mess he’d made of his life all on his own.

The temptation to self-medicate his way through the relentless grief that followed Arnold’s death hadn’t gone away. Gonzo struggled through each unmedicated day full of raw emotions and painful memories. His counselor at rehab had told him there was no shortcut he could take to speed up the process of coping with tragedy. He had to experience each emotion, no matter how painful, and that muting those emotions would only extend the ordeal.

Intellectually, he agreed with the theory. Emotionally, he was drained, even more so after the funeral for Skip Holland, a man he’d loved and respected.

As they stepped into the chilly autumn evening, Gonzo put his arm around Christina, hoping the gesture would be welcome. She’d been present but distant since picking him up two days ago, most of her focus on their son while she kept her word about spending every minute with Gonzo so he wouldn’t fuck up again.

That was what it had come to—the cop being policed by his own fiancée. Not that he didn’t deserve the scrutiny, because he did.

She didn’t shake him off as they walked to the car, and he took that as a small victory.

He held the passenger door for her. “One hell of a day.”

“It was an amazing show of respect. I’ll never forget it.”

As he went to close the door, he caught the uncertain, wary look she directed his way, as if she wasn’t sure whether she could trust this version of him.

It would take time and persistence on his part to get things back on track with her, but he was determined to try. They drove home in tension-filled silence and trudged up the stairs to their apartment. After they hung their coats on a tree in the foyer, he turned to her. “Did you hear from my mom?”

She nodded. “Alex had a good day and was asleep by eight. He’s asking for you. Your mom told him he’ll see you tomorrow. They’re going to bring him home early so he can see you before we leave.”

“The poor kid isn’t going to understand why I have to go again.”

“We’ll get through it.” She sounded exhausted.

“Hey, Chris...”

She was on her way to the bedroom but stopped and turned to face him.

“I’m really sorry for what I’ve put you and Alex through. I’m trying to do better.”

“I can see that, Tommy. I really can. I’m proud of you.”

He shook his head. “You shouldn’t be. Not yet anyway. But hopefully, someday...”

She came to him and rested her hands on his chest, her right hand next to the gold badge he wore so proudly, even after everything he’d experienced on the job. The good still outweighed the bad, even if the bad had gotten the upper hand lately. “I’m always proud of you, of the difficult job you do so well, of the way you care so much about the people you work with that the loss of one of them nearly killed you too. As hard as it’s been to watch you go through that, knowing you love so deeply makes me feel very lucky to be loved by you.”

He put his arms around her and held her tightly, breathing in the familiar scent of her hair and skin. “I love you so much. I’d be lost without you and Alex.”

“We can’t wait to have you home again, but we want you whole and healthy. I pray for you to find some peace, Tommy.”

“I want that too. More than just about anything.”

“Come to bed with me.” She took his hand and led him into the bedroom.

When he would’ve begun to remove his uniform, she stopped him. “Let me.”

He dropped his hands to his sides and let her tend to him, watching as she worked with determination to unbutton, unhook and undress him. She stripped him down to his boxers, laying each piece of his uniform over the back of a chair. “My turn.”

She turned to give him her back and he unzipped the black dress that was demure, respectful and sexy. The dress dropped to the floor. He rested his hands on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. “Thank you for standing by me through all of this, babe.”

Turning to face him, she gazed up at him with the big eyes that had captivated him since the night they met, almost two years ago now. “I love you. There’s nowhere else I want to be than smack in the middle of your life—and Alex’s.”

“Despite how it may have seemed recently, there’s nowhere else I want to be than in that life too.”

She raised her hands to his face and brought him down for a kiss that quickly spiraled into desperation.

He couldn’t recall the last time he’d kissed her this way or made love to her or even wanted to. He’d been so numb for so long. Desire came roaring back to life in a tidal wave of want and need. “Chris...” Overwhelmed by the emotion, he wrapped his arms around her and held on tight. “I’m so sorry for everything.” His eyes burned with tears that he struggled to contain.

“It’s okay, Tommy.” Her soft voice soothed him as she caressed his back. “We’re going to be okay.” She gave a gentle tug to guide him into bed with her where she welcomed him into her loving embrace. The silk of her skin brushing against his triggered a craving for more of her.

“Do we need a condom?” Before Arnold was killed, they’d been trying for a baby. It shamed him to realize he had no idea if she had gone back on birth control.

“If we don’t want to chance pregnancy we do. If we don’t care, we don’t.”

“Do you still want to have another baby?”

She gazed up at him with her heart in her eyes. “I want everything with you.”

“I want everything with you too.” He kissed her. “After I get home, let’s get married.”

Combing her fingers through his hair, she said, “You don’t think we ought to wait until things settle down a bit?”

“Things are never going to settle down. I want to be married. I want you to officially adopt Alex. I want us to be a family.”

“We already are a family.”

“Then let’s make it official. Planning a wedding will keep you busy and out of trouble while I’m gone.”

Smiling, she said, “You don’t think taking care of a two-year-old will keep me busy enough?”

“Marry me, Christina.” Kissing her again, he poured his heart and soul into showing her how much he loved her. He could only hope that, over time, he could make up for being absent from their life for so long. “I promise I’ll never again take you or what we have for granted.”

“Yes, you will. And I will too.”

He entered her slowly, giving her time to accommodate him. “I won’t take you for granted. I mean it when I tell you I want to be better for you and Alex.”

She ran her hands down his back to cup his ass and gave a gentle tug to bring him deeper into her body.

“Love you so much.” He touched his lips to hers. “You’ll never know how much. I want you to be my wife. I want my ring on your finger and you right here with me, where you belong forever.”

Tears leaked from her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Please don’t say no. Please don’t. He wasn’t sure he could handle that on top of everything else.

“For once in a very long while, nothing is wrong.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“Because I’m happy. I’ve missed my Tommy so much.”

He couldn’t contain his own tears as he made love to her. His tears mixed with hers as he experienced genuine joy for the first time since his partner’s murder. The feeling gave him hope, something that had been in short supply over the last nine months. He tried to last, but it had been so long that his control was sorely lacking.

And when she cried out in pleasure, he let himself go with her, clinging to her, his life raft in the storm. He was wise enough, after what he’d been through, to know the storm was far from over, but he had a new reason to believe that they might emerge on the other side stronger for the struggle.

   
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