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Marriage Material(9)

By:Alexa Riley

Kent doesn’t even bother to respond to Anderson as he glares at me. He takes a step into the house and points his finger in my direction. “Is that a hickey on your neck?”

Oh shit. Anderson’s hand flies out and lands on Kent chest.

“Don’t even think about it,” he tells him, not letting him come in any farther.

I didn’t know there was a hickey there, but Anderson kept kissing my neck when he was on top of me, so it’s a strong possibility. I move from my spot and walk over in between them.

“Stop it both of you.” I glare at my brother in warning. “I bet you want your daddy, don’t you?” I say sweetly to Charlotte. She gives me little smile, and though I hate to let her go, I know this will calm everyone down. Well, at least it will stop anyone from throwing a punch. I hold Charlotte out to Anderson, and he glares at me because he knows what I’m doing. “She misses you.”

I have to defuse this situation, and it’s the only thing I can think of. I want Anderson like I’ve never wanted anyone before, and that means I can’t let him and my brother end up in a fight that could make them hate each other forever. I already have an uphill battle as it is, so we don’t need that added in. And if this gets worse, Anderson may not want anything to do with me because of the drama my brothers bring. I’ve learned by now most men run the other way, though Anderson looks to be fighting back. Who knows what he’ll think once the dust settles and he has time to process all of this. Maybe I’m not worth the trouble. He has enough on his plate and I’m supposed to be here to help him with it, not add to it.

“You’re coming home,” Kent says, and I turn to look at him. I can tell he’s all kinds of worked up and there’s no talking him down right now. Once he cools off he’ll see what an A-hole he is.

“She is home,” Anderson throws right back, and my heart flutters. His words feel so right. That’s why it makes this so hard.

“I’ll come home,” I sigh, knowing there’s nothing else I can do right this second.

“What?” Anderson growls from behind me, and I turn to the side so I can look at both of them.

“I have to because they won’t stop,” I tell Anderson. “My brothers will keep coming, and the next thing I know my dad will show up. It’s not like you can call the cops or something because he is the cops.” I point at my brother, who is in his uniform even at this early hour. From the looks of it he worked all night.

Anderson flicks his gaze to Kent. “Don’t under underestimate what I can do. If you want to play dirty, Kent, by all means let's do it, but you don’t know who you’re dealing with. I’ve worked with some powerful men who owe me a lot of favors.” He cocks his head a little to the side. “Men like Governor Drebin.” He looks down at Charlotte. “Isn’t that right, baby girl? Nobody messes with what’s mine.” His eyes come straight to me, and I stand there shocked for a moment. Kent looks just as surprised as I do.

I reach out and touch Anderson. “I have to,” I say again. “If you want to do this.” I point between the two of us. “I need to go home and talk to them.”

“I’ll come with you,” he pushes, and god, he has no idea what it means to me that he would. He’s fighting for this and it makes me feel stronger.

“This is family business,” Kent grits out. “You’re not family.”

“Kent!” I reach out and smack his chest. “I’m not playing with you.”

Heat rolls across my skin and for the first time I’m truly mad at him for saying Anderson isn't family. He must recognize it because he actually mumbles an apology.

“I’ll call you in a few hours.” I soften my voice when I talk to Anderson, then I lean up on my tiptoes. I don’t want any more threats or fighting, and relief hits me when he meets me more than halfway to brush his mouth against mine.

“A few hours,” he repeats against my mouth, and I nod. He wants me back here even after the shit my brother is causing. I kiss the top of Charlotte's head and breathe in her sweet baby smell.

“I’ll be back, sweet girl,” I whisper to her, not wanting to leave but knowing I need to.

I have to for all of us. This time I’m not backing down from my brothers. I have something worth fighting for and maybe I have a little of my brothers in me, too. I step back and give them both one last look before I turn and walk out the front door and towards my brother’s cruiser. I don’t stop until I’m seated inside and buckled in, because if I do I might change my mind and run back into the house. I reassure myself that I’ll be back soon as my brother says something to Anderson before he finally gets into the car. I wonder what he could have said to him.

I look out the window as we pull away, and the long silence drives me insane. “How did you find out?” I finally ask.

I want to know how he found out about Anderson being single. I knew it was only a matter of time, but at five in the morning? That’s a little ridiculous.

“I made a call about the new family you were staying with after Ma phoned at four in the morning freaking out because someone nailed an envelope full of pictures to our parents door.” He reaches for something and tosses it into my lap.

I pick up the clear plastic ziplock bag to see it has pictures of me in it. Tons of them from over the last month, but the one on top catches my eye. It’s Anderson and me from last night. I’m asleep on his shoulder and he’s kissing the top of my head. You can tell the picture was taken outside the window in the living room. I swallow when I read the words written on the bottom of the picture. SHE’S MINE! In big black letters.

“It wasn't him,” I blurt out. I don’t want anyone to think something bad of Anderson. Even if I already know my brother hates him. It couldn't be him because I was with him all night.

“I know that, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s taking advantage of a young girl who he’s paying to live with him.” My mouth hangs open. “Yeah, Ma spilled the beans about you moving in over there in her panic about you having a stalker.”

I toss the bag away. I don’t want to look at it. Someone’s been following me and taking my picture. Why would anyone want to do that? All I want to do is go back to Anderson, but I know I have to go home and talk to my family.

“You won’t take this from me,” I tell my brother as I fold my arms over my chest. “I’m going back to him.”

“I know,” he grunts.

I turn to look at him and he glances away from the road for a moment. “If you ruin this for me I’ll never forgive you.” My words hang in the air.

“I just want to keep you safe.” He says the same thing he always says when he tries to force me to do what he thinks is best. His words are so much softer now and laced with something I can’t name. Regret maybe? I don’t respond to him and he calls my name, but I still don’t look his way. He mutters a curse before silence falls between us once again.

Chapter 8


“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” I say as I pace the living room. “What do you think?”

Charlotte wiggles her fists from her baby swing like an adorable angel.

“Yeah, me too.”

It’s been hours since Robin left, and I haven’t heard a word from her. I’m sure her family is trying to talk her out of staying here and maybe even helping me out. But it’s beyond that for me at this point. I don’t want her here because of a job, I want her here because I can’t imagine anyone else by my side. I never believed in love at first sight until it happened to me.

From the moment I looked at Robin I knew that she was different, that she was the one. There have been only a handful of times in my life where something good has happened to me and I felt in my soul what the right decision was. When Charlotte came into my life my world turned upside down, but I knew that was what I’d been working towards without even realizing it. And now it’s the same with Robin. It’s like the universe gave me my little girl and pushed me to this small town just so I could meet the woman of my dreams at the exact right moment. I’m not about to waste my chance.

“All right, let’s do this,” I say as I grab Charlotte’s car seat and her diaper bag.

When we’re loaded up, I drive to where Robin told me she lived, and I see the sheriff cruiser parked in the driveway. I park, then I grab the baby and we make our way to the front door. It’s a big old farmhouse that’s similar to the one I bought. It’s got a wraparound porch with a pile of shoes by the door and plants lining the steps. The place looks lived-in and homey, and for a moment I kind of love it and hope that my place looks like this one day.

The sound of shouting on the other side of the door snaps me out of my daydream, and I knock on the door. After only a second the door is flung open and I’m greeted by the sight of a short, grey-haired woman who looks a little stressed.

“Mrs. Honeydew?” I ask, and she nods as she wipes her hands on her apron.

“I’m Anderson Davis.” Her eyes light up and she smiles sweetly at me.