.I didn’t know how it ended up this way.
One minute, we were popping champagne with Stella’s family and toasting our engagement.
The next, we had family and friends flying in from all over the country to join us at a yacht club—a yacht club of all places—for a quote-unquote real engagement party. Apparently, people did this. They had a party to celebrate an announcement, which was curious as the announcement itself signaled a party to come, one with vows and tuxedos and cake. It was a party for a party.
As far as I could recall, we’d smiled and nodded and chugged that champagne, and Stella’s sisters had taken that as a sign of approval to go batshit crazy in planning this bridal bonanza.
And it wouldn’t have been a problem for me if the bride—my bride—was anywhere to be found.
I’d circled the patio twice and braved the crowd feasting on the raw bar inside and still hadn’t put eyes on Stella. It was like we were moving in opposite directions and changing course every time our paths nearly crossed.
It was really fucking annoying because it wasn’t just tonight. It’d been the whole fucking week. It’d started off with Stella in New York City for meetings. Then, I’d clocked almost thirty hours at the hospital with a pack of disasters I hadn’t wanted to hand off to anyone else.
As if that hadn’t been enough, my mother and sister had flown in from Oregon and of course I was happy to see them but I hadn’t been happy Stella and I had to spend our first evening together in four days entertaining my family. And thirty hours at the hospital plus four hours of polite conversation equaled me falling dead asleep while Stella brushed her teeth last night.
The morning had been hopeless too, between haircuts and dry cleaner runs and a million other things that didn’t involve Stella and I sharing space for more than minutes at a time.
It was like we were riding a strange chastity merry-go-round where no one was allowed to get off.
And now, surrounded by two hundred people and several meters of shucked oysters and some goddamn yachts, I couldn’t even whisper perverted things in her ear because all these well-wishers had gobbled her up.
All I needed was a minute alone with her. A minute—or ninety. That was it. I just needed to look at her and touch her and get one of those full-on dimple smiles I loved so much. And if it wasn’t too much to ask, I wanted to be inside her while she smiled.
That was the singular thought in my mind as I pushed my way through the crowd, ignoring the partiers calling for my attention and the bow-tied waitstaff offering signature cocktails and dainty food. For fuck’s sake, there were cookies with our names hand painted onto them in icing. Cookies.
I didn’t know how it ended up this way, I really didn’t. When Sophia and Serina, my future sisters-in-law, had insisted on throwing us an engagement party, I figured they meant a backyard barbecue. One of their regular homestyle shindigs. That was the Alessandro style. Folding tables and mismatched chairs and home-cooked food with names like “that chicken and mushroom dish Mom made for the D’Arcangelo funeral” and “some of those spicy new meatballs” and “the good bread.” Hell, I’d assumed our wedding would be soaked in that Alessandro style and nothing would’ve made me happier.
I was beginning to understand I was extremely wrong about my presumptive happiness.
I yanked at my tie, once again annoyed I was wearing the damn thing in the middle of July. There was no godly reason to wear a tie in the summer. I was irritable enough to rip the damn thing off and toss it in the ocean. If Stella hadn’t picked it out on a trip to Vancouver last month, I would’ve done just that. But I gave it another rough tug and scanned the area for her.
She had to be around here somewhere. Had to be. Unless something was wrong, in which case—I checked my phone and pager but found nothing from her. When I looked up from my devices, I blinked hard, not believing my fiancée was ten feet away from me, deep in conversation my sister and a pair of surgeons. I hauled my ass right over there.
“You’ll have to excuse us,” I said, scooping my arm around her waist. I felt better already. “Everything’s fine, just a small emergency requiring the bride’s attention.”
As I dragged Stella away from them, she asked, “Small emergency?”
“It’s rather large but I didn’t want to alarm anyone.” It would’ve been faster to pick her up and carry her through the yacht club but that would’ve alerted more attention that I wanted. Truth be told, I didn’t want anyone to notice we’d slipped away or anyone else to come looking for us. With any luck, the liquor would flow freely enough to keep everyone from asking after us for a solid thirty minutes.
Once inside, I headed down the first dark hallway I found. There had to be an empty office or broom closet around here somewhere.
“Is there any chance this emergency is taking place in your trousers?”
“The emergency is”—I pushed a door open and peered inside—”you were lost for twenty minutes.”
She huffed out a little sigh when I yanked her inside. “I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was.”
“You were lost to me.” I kicked the door shut and fiddled with the lock before turning back to her. “You were lost to me and I just need a minute without someone stealing you away. Okay?”
She gifted me with a perfect smile—all dimples—as she gathered her arms around me. “It’s been a day. And a week.”
I wrapped my fingers around the red ribbon belt knotted at her waist. This damn dress. It was killing me, what with its long, flowy white skirt and lacy little sleeves that barely glanced over her shoulders. And the neckline was outrageous. There was a tiny dip in the middle that awakened all of my depraved thoughts. But it was the white—of all things—that fucked me right up. I was certain it was rooted in some vintage purity garbage but that knowledge failed to shake off the drumbeat of conquering and possession.
In a sense, it was no different from my reaction to her blasted raincoats, all prim and tidy as they shielded her from the elements. She could wear them all she wanted but she was still getting wet when I was around.
I tugged her closer. “It’s been one hell of a week, sweet thing.”
She tipped her chin up then, her eyes narrowed as she looked me over. “Why are we in this”—she studied the dim space around us—”coat closet? Storage room? Flex space for growly grooms?”
I traced her ribbon around her waist as I held her close, swaying a bit with the music vibrating through the walls from the patio. I wanted to complain about this carnival of opulence, about us being separated in the chaos of it. And I wanted to fuck her with that white skirt bunched up around her waist and then get the hell outta here.
But—ahhh, fuck. Just because I hated this didn’t mean Stella did. And I remembered something Serina and Sophia had said, something about them throwing this party because Stella deserved it after everything she’d been through and the years she’d denied herself this kind of forever. Fuuuuuck, I’m being a whiny bastard about this. “Are you having a good time?”
A warm pink bloomed over her cheeks. A smile curled up the corners of her lips as she lowered her lashes and nodded. “But I know they went crazy.” She sank her teeth into her lower lip before glancing up at me. “It’s too much. You hate it, don’t you?”
“No, Stella, no.” And I meant it. It didn’t matter whether this was a party in advance of another party. I didn’t care about wearing a tie in July. We could have a party like this every Saturday for the rest of my natural life and I’d enjoy the shit out of it if that meant Stella was happy. I’d make noise about the ties but I’d enjoy it—for her. I ran my hands down her arms, settled them on her hips. “The only thing I hate is losing you so we need to put a stop to that. Stick with me out there, all right?”
She shook her head once before flattening her hands on my chest. “I’m not letting go of you.”
I brought my hands to her backside, squeezed over that soft white fabric. Squeezed a bit harder. Had to be white, didn’t it? “I don’t want you to miss anything. We should get back out there.”
A corner of her mouth quirked up. “What’s the rush? Since we’ve found this cozy hideaway, we might as well make use of it.”
And this was only one of the many reasons I loved this woman.
I dragged a hand over her hip and down, between her legs, cupping her through the dress. “I don’t know much about weddings. I’ve never paid attention,” I added as I backed her against the door, my palm still snug against her cleft. “You should tell me now if you’re going to be wearing dresses like this for the foreseeable future.”
“We haven’t even set a date,” she breathed.
I shook my head as I worked her over the dress. “We haven’t.”
“This could go on for months.” She dropped her head back against the door. “Parties and showers and who even knows what else? I’ll have to stock up on new dresses.”
I hooked my arms under her thighs and boosted her up as I rocked against her. Her legs tangled around my waist and I did my damnedest to hold back a growl but failed. She clawed at her sides, scraping the dress up, over her legs and around her waist like I wanted. “Only if I get to do this while you’re wearing them.”
Laughing, she answered, “Always.”
I glanced to the ceiling as I took mental inventory of everything in my possession at the moment, Stella included. I had everything—save for the one thing we actually needed. “Baby, I don’t have a—”
“Don’t need one.”
She pressed her knees into my flanks as she laughed. “Since right now.”
“You mean—you want—you’re ready—this is—okay, so—we’re doing this? We’re ready for-for whatever happens?”
She raked her nails over my shoulders, down my back. “Yes.”
It was possible Stella continued speaking after that yes but I didn’t hear it and I couldn’t pry myself away from the crook of her neck and I couldn’t think beyond the challenge implied in that yes. Though through it all, I did manage to tear open my trousers and shove them down to my knees.
“It’s nice to see we’re on the same page about this,” Stella said, a laugh winding through her words.
I ran open-mouthed kisses over her neck as I tugged the bodice of her dress down to reveal the valley between her breasts. I bent, my palm cupping her breast and my thumb teasing her nipple, and I bit over the fabric. It was nothing more than a small bite, a gentle nip. And she smelled like summertime and saltwater and forever.
“Cal,” she whispered, her fingers twisting in my hair while I visited the other nipple. “Cal.”
“Yes, Stella?” I dragged my lips up, gliding over the rise of her breast. I didn’t bite, didn’t scrape my teeth over her. I wanted to but her dress wouldn’t cover those marks and they belonged to me.
She dragged a hand over my head and brought my lips to hers for a fast, impatient kiss. “If you want to put a baby in me, you have to start by putting your cock inside me.”
“Good to know,” I breathed.
With her pinned hard against the door, I worked a hand between us and edged her panties aside while she was busied herself with kissing my neck and murmuring helpful comments like “hurry up, I want you” and “please fuck me right now” in my ear. In other words, I was going out of my damn mind.
When I finally had the position right—which was more difficult than most people realized when this much physics was involved—I pressed myself between her legs and stayed still for one glorious moment. “Just need to feel you for a second, sweet thing,” I said, the rough words bursting out with each snap of my hips. “Just give me this second.”
Stella looped her arms around my neck as she gave a tentative buck of her hips. “Take all my seconds and minutes and hours, Cal. My days and months and years too. I know you’ll keep them safe.”
“Tell me again,” I barked. “Tell me this is—that you want this.”
“Yes,” she murmured into my neck.
If I hadn’t felt her breath on my skin, I would’ve believed I’d imagined her response. I tapped my shaft against her folds with a growl. “Yes?”
“Yes,” she replied, still into my skin but a bit louder this time. She glanced up at me, met my gaze, ground her center against me. “Yes, Cal. Of course.”
And that was it. That was the end. We were getting off this merry-go-round right fucking now.
I teased her opening again and a rush of arousal met me, slicking my length, my hand. I dragged the head of my cock around her clit. Watched the exact moment when I hit the right spot and her lips parted on a silent moan.
I hiked her knee higher up my waist to open her wider, anchored it there with a squeeze. Pressed my hand to the small of her back to keep her steady. Bowed my head to the rise of her breast and offered it one tender kiss before I slammed into her in one desperately possessive motion.
And that was what this was—possession. And goddamn me if I thought procreative sex wasn’t hot as hell. Sex for fun was awesome but sex as a test of virility was some next level shit.
“Cal,” Stella groaned, her nails carving divots into the back of my neck. “Oh my god, Cal.”
I pulled back slowly, dragging my cock from her channel and reminding myself it didn’t matter how much I wanted to tear this dress in half, I shouldn’t. Couldn’t. As I moved, I looked down at the white fabric bunched around her waist, at my fingers digging into her thighs, at the place where I lingered inside her, where her flesh stretched to accommodate me. I nearly came at the sight of us, thick, wet, throbbing.
She whispered to me, a chorus of ohhhh and yesssss and fuuuck and more and Cal, Cal, Cal. And I thrust, hammering her hard enough to rattle the hinges of the door at her back. I wanted more, wanted deeper, wanted her body spasming out of control. But I really didn’t want to break the door in the process.
“I love you so fucking much, Stella,” I said, the words faltering as her inner muscles pulsed around me. My hips rolled against hers, fast and demanding. In the distance, I heard music thumping, glasses clinking, people talking. And none of it mattered. The only thing in the world was this tiny room and the rest of the world could wait while I fucked my forever girl.
“I love you too, Cal. So fucking much.”
That was when I felt it. The throb deep in her cunt, the rush of hot and wet. I didn’t stop, didn’t slow down as her body quaked.
After the week we’d had, lasting this long was heroic.
“Please,” she whispered. “Please don’t stop.”
“As if I would.” I looked up, ran my scruffy chin over her neck. The ripple and pulse of her inner muscles sent a shiver through my shoulders and a laugh tumbling from my lips. There was nothing funny about this—it was really fucking overwhelming—but sex with Stella had a way of ending in laughter. It was as if the very best parts of life swirled around us in these moments. “Do that again, sweet thing. Give me those giggles again and I’ll fuck this baby right into you.”
“Why do you love that so much?” she asked, still laughing, still strangling my cock. “It’s not because I have a sexy laugh and you know it.”
I twisted my hand in her long skirt, barely holding back the urge to destroy everything pure and precious about this dress. “You want the real reason, sweet thing?” I asked, the words ground out through my rigid jaw.
“Yes, yes, yes.”
And there it was. The sighing-chanting-giggling chorus of yes, the one she always offered when she was mindless with pleasure, the one that never failed to flip the switch inside me send my release barreling through me with animalistic snarls and groans. “Here’s the real reason, Stel. I love the way your cunt chokes my cock when you laugh, when you come.”
A gorgeous, glowing grin swept over across her face, popping her dimples, parting her lips. “I can’t believe you said that out loud, Cal.” She was still laughing and that was a special kind of torture. And I loved this lady so much. “But I like it too. I like your rumbly-grumbly-filthy thing almost as much as I like your bossy put-a-baby-in-me thing. Didn’t know it until now but I’m into it.”
And I was done. Out of words, out of breath, out of my goddamn mind—all of it, done. I stood there, Stella’s legs around my waist and her dress twisted in my fist, heaving ragged breaths into the crook of her neck while my cock pulsed and twitched inside her. Stella said nothing else, only smoothed her hand down my back and rubbed her lips over my jaw, my neck, my shoulder.
I brushed my lips over the birthmark under her ear. “How was that? Are you all right?”
“I’m quite wonderful.”
“I should get you some water. And you should sit for a while. It would be better if you elevated your hips but I’m not sure how we’d manage that.” I rubbed my thumb over her bottom lip. “We need to talk about a multivitamin too. Did you see Andersen out there? She’d know the best formula. If not, I’ll give her a call on the drive home tonight.”
“Cal. Honey.” Stella huffed out a laugh, her breath warm on my skin. “There’s, like, no chance at all of me getting pregnant tonight. The timing’s off.” She glanced at the wet mess between us. “But you have to admit the practice round was phenomenal.”
It was my turn to laugh because holy shit, this woman knew how to walk me off a short pier.
“We’ll try again,” she started, her hands soft and steadying as they buzzed over my shoulders, “and again and again.”
“Of course we will, sweet thing,” I replied, the words low and raw. “I’ll put that baby in you soon enough.”
She nodded once. “I know. I know.” Another nod. “Cal?”
“Yes, my love?”
She folded her lips together, humming quietly. “Do you think you can do that thing where you drag me along and I don’t have to put any effort into walking? Maybe you could drag me along to the ladies room so I can put myself back together before our families and colleagues and friends get a look at my sex hair? Because I’m going to look like a newborn goat trying to walk right now.”
“Do you think you can do that thing where you don’t get lost at parties and make me tear up the place looking for you?”
With an adorable salute, she said, “Absolutely.”
“All right, then. Let’s haul your goat legs down to the bathroom, mama.”