Second Chance Scandal Read Online M. Robinson

Categories Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Sports Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 1
Estimated words: 74457 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 372(@200wpm)___ 298(@250wpm)___ 248(@300wpm)

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Second Chance Scandal

Author/Writer of Book/Novel:

M. Robinson

Book Information:

From Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author M. Robinson comes a second chance sports romance.

Blackmail isn’t the most romantic way to propose, but with the history between us … I had no choice.

Long story short--I broke her heart and pushed her away. Years later we reconnected, and this time she walked away.

Neither of us knew she was pregnant.

So when we had a second chance to be a real family, I led her to believe our marriage was fake— that one football season by my side was the only way to prevent another scandal for my career.

We were a publicist’s dream. I was football god and she was a world famous romance author.

The world would fall in love with our story…

But the truth was…

I was never letting them go.
Books by Author:

M. Robinson




“How does it feel to be known as the greatest of all time?”

I smiled at the reporter’s question. “It feels great.”

I'd spent the last hour at this damn press junket, and all I kept thinking about was getting the hell out of here. I needed to unwind and have a fucking drink.

For the next twenty minutes, question after question was thrown in my face. The more personal it was, the better the ratings were. I knew how this game was played, having a love/hate relationship with the press since I’d began playing for Miami five years ago.

“Jax,” the same reporter called out. “Do you think you’re ever going to settle down?”

I grinned. “Not anytime soon.”

The same journalist added, “Do you see yourself getting married maybe? Starting a family? A son who could possibly carry on your legacy?”

I resisted the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.

“Have any of the models you’ve been seen with this past month finally caught your attention enough to possibly become a girlfriend?” another reporter asked, bringing my attention over to her.

“I don’t have time for any distractions that include anything more than no strings attached.”

My answer seemed to appease them. They didn’t ask about my personal life for the rest of the interview. Instead, we spoke stats which was always my favorite.

Once the conference was over, I jumped in my truck and hightailed it out of there. I was ready to get my night started with some booze and women. I wasn’t a big drinker, but with the way I had been feeling I needed it. I wanted to let go for the evening, craving liquor and pussy.

It wasn’t hard for me to pick up groupies—they threw their panties at me. Especially when they saw me out on the town. By the time I’d made it to the bar, it was packed to the rim with people, some I recognized and others I didn’t. I ordered a Jack and Coke before meeting up with a couple teammates. We hung out, drinking and shooting the shit about nothing in particular, before I needed a break from the stifling atmosphere.

Excusing myself, I made my way out onto the empty balcony, wanting a change of scenery for a few minutes. It was hotter than Hell in there, and I wasn’t a fan of big crowds beyond the stadium. I leaned against the railing and rested my elbows on it, taking in the people dancing inside, when all of a sudden the music changed to a much slower beat. I narrowed my eyes, trying to get a better look at the girl in the center of the dance floor with her back to me.

Her long hair cascaded down her back as her hips seductively swayed to the rhythm of the song. She was wearing a tight backless white dress that accentuated all the curves of her body, leaving very little to the imagination. I stood there amazed and in awe of the woman dancing, with all eyes on her as she slowly worked her hands up toward her head to run her fingers through her hair, holding it up off her back.

Biting my bottom lip, I imagined her doing exactly that while she rode my cock and screamed out my name. The way she danced was so unbelievably fucking sexy, but it wasn’t like every other girl I was used to seeing. She wasn’t dancing for anyone but herself. She rocked her hips and spun around, finally turning to face me.

Describing this woman wouldn’t do her justice. The lighting in the room was dim, and I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted to. Her eyes were closed, oblivious to all the stares that were solely fixated on her. She didn’t give a flying fuck who was around, who was talking, who was dancing which only drew my attraction to her more.

I swallowed hard, my mouth suddenly becoming dry from the vision before my eyes. My gaze traveled down her body. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and I could see her nipples peeking through her clingy dress. She had the tiniest waist and curvy hips. An hourglass figure, exactly how I liked. The front of her dress was a deep V down her chest. My eyes wandered up to her face at the exact moment we locked eyes from across the room.

It was like she could feel my intense stare focused on her. I actually sucked in a visible breath, seeing her eyes for the first time. She looked so angelic, although I could tell she was anything but pure simply based on the way she was eye-fucking the shit out of me in that moment.

She cocked her head to the side and narrowed her gaze, taking me in as much as I had taken her in seconds ago. The music changed to a much faster beat, and the dance floor quickly began filling up again. Crowds of bodies started to surround her, but she didn’t let that deter her regard over me.

A sense of familiarity filled my bones.

Do I know her?

Slowly, she walked in my direction, parting through the men and women. She never broke our deep connection. I was still leaning against the railing, one leg placed over the other as I raised my glass to my lips, imagining the way her skin would feel beneath my mouth.

She was as intoxicating as the liquor in my hand.

I watched the way her hips swayed, the way her tits bounced, the way she licked her lips, making my dick twitch at the mere sight of her striding toward me with a finesse I’d never seen on another woman.

She stepped out onto the balcony and slid the door closed behind her, angling her body in a way that only made me want to devour every last fucking inch of her.

From her lips.

To her nipples.

To her fucking clit.

The smell of the night air, the aroma of her mixed in with a scent I couldn’t place—something tempting, sinful, devouring all my senses, and the only thing I could think about was how much I wanted to kiss her mouth.

Without saying a word, she gradually eyed me up and down with a fascinated expression until she locked eyes with me again. Grinning like a damn fool, I waited. Trying to play it off like she wasn’t having an effect on me when, in fact, she was consuming every last fiber of my being.

I’d been drinking a lot, my head was hazy, and now with the lighting brighter I started to recognize her.

With wide eyes, I stood there frozen.

Until she declared, “Cat got your tongue, Quarterback?”

It was then that I knew I was right, and it all made sense.


“Are you saying you don’t recognize me?”

I hadn’t seen her since the night I’d broke her heart. She’d always been a beautiful girl, but now she was every bit of a stunning woman.

“The line at the bar is at least twenty people deep. How about you be a gentleman and share your drink?”

I didn’t give it a second thought. I nodded for her to come over to me, and she didn’t waver. In four strides she was standing in front of my face, and I knew right then and there…

I. Was. Fucked.




“How the fuck did this get out, Caleb?” I slammed the Sports Illustrated magazine on the table. There in front of our eyes was a ten-page spread on my future with the NFL.

All hell broke loose with the news of my trade from Miami to Fort Worth, spreading like wildfire in a fucking forest. There was no hiding it anymore. It was all over social media, and the press was eating me alive.

My agent, Caleb, held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. “I’m handling it, Jax.”

“You’re handling it?” I scoffed out in a snide breath. “If you were handling it, then I wouldn’t be on the front cover of every magazine with the headline ‘TRAITOR’ in big, bold lettering!”

“I didn’t leak the story, Jax.”

“Well, someone sure as shit did, and it’s your job to figure it out—so why are you standing in front of me with your dick tucked in between your legs? You should be out there doing damage control! How could you let this happen? I pay you to make sure shit like this doesn’t happen behind my back. What part of that do you not understand?”

He deeply sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You knew the consequences of your decision to trade, Jax.”

“Yeah, Caleb! On my fucking terms! Instead, I was blindsided this morning with bullshit that shouldn’t have hit the press for another two weeks.”

Caleb inhaled another deep breath before dropping his hand to look at me.

“Whether it was today or two weeks from now, the headlines wouldn’t have changed. We’ve discussed this several times this past year, so these headlines shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. You’ve been playing for Miami since the start of your career, which is almost thirteen years ago. Your diehard fans are going to be pissed regardless of when the news was shared, and you know it.”

I angrily threw myself back into my office chair, knowing he was right. Nothing would soften the blow of my choice to leave a team that was like my family.

The only one I’d ever known.

“You need to relax, alright? I’m handling it. This isn’t the first time you’ve been caught in a scandal, Jax, and we both damn well know this isn’t going to be the last.”

I shook my head, narrowing my eyes at him. “I can’t help the fact that women love to make up stories about me to the media, Caleb.”

“Well…” He adamantly nodded. “Maybe if you stopped fucking them over, they wouldn’t have a reason to make up stories about you. I know, crazy concept and all.”

“Or maybe”—I nodded at him, fully aware of where he was going with this—“if they stopped thinking they could change me, it wouldn’t feel that way to them. I make no secrets of who I am, Caleb. If they want to put me up on a pedestal and think I’m their happily ever after, then that’s on them, not me.”

“I’m just saying it’d be great if you kept your dick in your pants for once.”

I shrugged. “I don’t pay you to have an opinion on where I thrust my cock, Caleb.”

“Let’s make something perfectly fucking clear, Jax. I don’t give a rat’s ass where you stick your dick as long as you don’t shit where you eat. Understood?”

“How many times do I have to tell you that I have no interest in fucking any coach’s daughter?”

“As many times as it takes for it to stick in your thick skull.”

I scoffed out another snide breath. “I haven’t done it yet, and trust me, the opportunity has definitely presented itself on more than one occasion. Besides, I make no promises to the women I casually hook up with, and it’s bullshit you’re even comparing the two. The women are petty scandals. If the press wants to talk about my bed-hopping ways to sell magazines, then so be it. This”—I lifted the Sports Illustrated cover in between us—“is attacking my character. I didn’t trade for the money, Caleb! I don’t give a shit about the money, and that’s the narrative on every single cover story.”

“They’re going to write what makes them sales, Jax. At the end of the day, drama makes money. I know that, and so do you. I’ll fix it, okay? Don’t I always?”

I nodded because he did. In whatever way, shape, or form, Caleb always came through with the best contracts, the best contacts, the best everything and anything. He fought for me and with me, being my biggest ally and best friend since he’d become my agent at the start of my NFL career.

We met in college through our fraternity. He was a few years older than me. A senior when I became his little brother my freshman year. This had always been our dynamic. We fought like brothers.

It was what happened when you put two alphas together in one cage.

No matter the situation, I knew he always had my best interest at heart. Just like he knew I’d always be there for him at the drop of a dime if needed. We were family, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to wring his fucking neck for allowing this to happen under our noses.

The press didn’t mind their own damn business on a normal day, let alone on an occasion like today where all eyes were on me. For the past year, rumors of my trade ran rampant in the media. It was the question of the hour—everywhere I went the press hounded me about my future with Miami.

Trust me, the decision to leave wasn’t one I ever took lightly. I’d been considering it for years, and when the opportunity presented itself to finally take over a team that I could not only lead, but coach, it wasn’t something I was willing to overlook or pass up.

Miami wasn’t listening to my demands, and after almost thirteen years, it was time for us to part ways. I wasn’t just a quarterback—I was the best quarterback in the league and had been since the beginning of my career. I knew my worth, and this wasn’t me being cocky—this was me being honest.

Reporters were already talking shit and running their mouths, saying I traded for the money, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I had more money than I knew what to do with. This had nothing to do with my salary, and everything to do with the thrill of it all. The challenge and victory of taking something from nothing and making it the best it could be.

Football wasn’t just my job—it was my life. I’d been playing since I was five-years-old, and Miami wasn’t allowing me the liberties I felt owed, so I found a team that would. Now having it be my hometown was just a bonus to sign on the dotted line.

Caleb brought my attention back to him, adding, “So how about instead of jumping down my throat, you say hello to the woman who’s going to save our asses.”

Before I could ask him to elaborate, the familiar sound of a woman’s heels connecting on my hardwood floor shifted my eyes over to my office door. As soon as I saw her bright red hair walking into my space, I couldn’t help but arch an eyebrow.

“Autumn,” I announced, surprised with the turn of events. “What are you doing here?”

She smiled, nodding at me. “To put it bluntly, as your agent said, I’m here to save your asses.”

I grinned. “Is that right?”

Autumn was known as the best publicist in the industry. She’d been one for over ten years. The last time I saw her was when I was visiting my best friend Kinley in our hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Kinley still lived there with her husband, Christian, who was Autumn’s older brother. Autumn was married to Julian, best known as Alpha CEO with his businesses, and he just happened to be Christian’s best friend.

We all grew up together, although Autumn was younger than us by a few years. Her brother and I weren’t exactly what you’d call friends.

However, over the years, we hated each other less and less. When we were in high school and college, he hated the fact that Kinley and I used to have sleepovers, often fighting over his then girlfriend’s attention.

After they got married, when we graduated from college, we still didn’t really care for one another. A year ago, they were getting a divorce, but life had other plans in store for them.

I made a mental note to have my assistant book a flight out to meet their newborn son soon. Kinley was the only woman in my life I never fucked or fucked over. She was like my sister, and I, her brother. We looked out for each other, both of us coming from broken homes.

She was in and out of foster homes, and I didn’t feel like I ever had a home. My father was never around, constantly traveling for work, and cheating on my mother was what he did best.

In fact, the night before I was moving to Miami to start football camp for the new season, my whole world was turned upside down.

Due to his high paying career, my mother was a pro at looking the other way toward his indiscretions. As a result, we lived in a huge house in a wealthy neighborhood where we never wanted for anything. Buying our affection helped ease his guilt of being a shitty father and husband.

A lot of the time it was just my mom, me, and the staff who helped with the daily management of our house. My mother drowned her sorrows with wine and her friends from the country club while I was being raised by my football coaches. I was the only child, and I saw our housekeeper, Miss Carlisee, more than I saw my parents since she started working for us when I was nine-years-old.

Anytime I thought about that house, though, I couldn’t help but remember her daughter Sophie, and how she wasn’t the first or last woman I’d fucked over. However, sometimes it felt like Sophie got back at me years later. I tried not to think about how she could have been the one who got away.

Whatever the hell that meant.

“Yes, that’s right,” Autumn declared, tearing me away from my reckless thoughts while she sat in one of the chairs in front of my desk. “But I’m not going to lie you, I definitely have my work cut out for me when it comes to you, Jax Colton.”

“Why are you talking to me like you don’t know me?”

“Because in this sense I don’t. I know you as the guy who pisses off my brother every chance he gets.”

“The feeling is very much mutual, sweetheart.”

“Oh, I know. You both act like children when it comes to Kinley.”

I chuckled despite feeling like the walls were caving in on me. I hated not being in control, especially when it came down to what was being printed about me for the whole world to read.

“But I’m not here to talk about you and my brother’s friendship.”

“Or lack of.”

She smiled. “I’m here to make sure Mr. Greatest of All Time stays that way.”

“You don’t need to kiss my ass, Autumn, so let’s not waste any more time and get right down to business. What are you going to do for me, Red?”

She leaned forward on my desk, resting her elbows on the edge before stating, “Now you’re speaking my language. I’m here to do what I do best, and that’s making the world fall in love with you again.”

“Like you did for your husband?”

“If I can change Julian’s public persona to a family man, trust me, you’re child’s play.”

She was the woman who was able to accomplish what many had tried and failed, completely changing Julian’s image to the world. In a month he went from being a cutthroat, broody entrepreneur to a family man. The woman could move mountains just based on him alone.

“I’m hearing a lot of talk and no action,” I argued. “What’s your pitch?”

“Alright.” She smiled wider. “I’ll batter up.”

I never expected what would come out of her mouth next. Never in a million years did I predict the words…

“We need to find you a wife.”

* * *

To ever be directed at me.



“Your solution to my scandal is to ball and chain me?” I asked, completely thrown off with where this conversation had suddenly turned. Looking over at Caleb, I questioned, “This is what you call the best?”

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not in the room, Jax.”

With my eyes once again focused on her, I replied, “Don’t patronize me like you know what’s best for me, Autumn.”

“Actually, I do know what’s best for you in terms of your career and public persona, or I wouldn’t be here. Your agent called me, not the other way around, Jax, so let’s make that crystal clear.”

“All you’ve accomplished is to further piss me off. If that was your game plan, then you’ve succeeded.”

“Then how about I talk to you in terms you understand?”

“By all means”—I gestured to her—“continue on your delusional theory on what a wife can do for me.”

“You know how to throw a touchdown. Well, I know how to play defense, and right now you need to show the world that you’re trading for a team that is not only your hometown, but also where your fiancée lives.”

“So now this mystery woman is my fiancée?”

“Yes, we can go two routes. The first, you get married in a big ceremony where your fans feel like they’re part of your special day or the second, you elope, and we leak pictures of your nuptials along with your love story that will have your fans chomping at the bit for every detail that they forget your ‘quote, unquote’, traitor status.”

“My fanbase is men, Red. They don’t give a fuck about fairy tales. The only happily ever after they want from me is to win the Superbowl for them.”

She smirked while pulling out what looked like a spreadsheet with graphs from her bag.

“Quite the contrary, Jax. Yes, your primary fanbase is men, as you see here on this bar.” She pointed to it. “But look at the bar right next to it.”

I did, shocked at what I was seeing. “This can’t be real?”

“Oh, come on, Jax. You can’t be surprised that women love you just as much as their husbands or boyfriends do. You’re easy on the eyes, and your notorious playboy reputation has bad boy written all over it. You’re literally a book boyfriend to women who spend most of their Sundays reading while their significant others watch you do what you do best on their screens. You’re on their televisions once a week for five months out of the year, if you’re not in the playoffs, and let’s face it, you’re Jax Colton—you’re always in the playoffs.”

I shook my head, unable to process what was happening fast enough to believe this was suddenly my reality.

“This can’t be right.”

“It is,” Caleb intervened. “I pulled these stats for her this morning after the news broke out, and I called her to do damage control. She flew out immediately.”

“Numbers don’t lie,” Autumn boasted. “I know football is the love of your life. It’s been that way since I first met you when I was a kid. I’m not asking you to stay married forever. Divorces happen every day, and I already have a plan of action for when that time comes.”

“So you’re saying I need a fake fiancée, who will become my fake wife, for our fake marriage?”

“It will only be fake to you, not the public. Your marriage license will be real in case reporters pull it for their ten-page spreads on your nuptials. I have a list of the best journalists I’ll be reaching out to, so they can break the news internationally. This is a foolproof plan, Jax. Your love story will override your trading. If your male fanbase is reluctant to forgive you, your female fanbase will convince them to. They’ll welcome you back with open arms for Sunday night football. After the season is over and you’ve won the Super Bowl, we can hit them with your divorce.”

“The season? I only have to be married for half a year?”

“Give or take.”

I arched an eyebrow. I didn’t know what was crazier: what she was planning, or the fact that I was considering it.

“After you win the Super Bowl with the team that no one saw coming, we can begin the steps of your imploding divorce. Where, of course, we will play the heartbroken card. We’ll work the angle of you being a diehard workaholic and football will always remain your number one priority. You’ve sacrificed your marriage and the love of your life for your devotion to the game. Again, Jax Colton will come out on top, and from what I hear, it’s your favorite position.” She wittingly smiled, allowing her words to sink in. “Now how about that for some action?”

I cocked my head to the side, thinking.

“Do you need more action?” she baited. “How about all the endorsements you will get from your marriage and divorce? Since I’m not only fixing your traitor narrative, but I’m also making you a much richer man. To me,” she pointed to herself, “that sounds like a damn good game plan.”

“It sounds far-fetched to me.”

“Why? People want to see love flourish. They want to believe that it exists. That if it’s possible to tame you, the eternal bachelor, then it’s possible to tame any man. Women want the hope, the excuses to keep screwing the guy who won’t ever settle down with them. The one who plays the game, the man who fucks them over time and time again. They want to believe that love can conquer all. It’s truly that simple.”

“Simple isn’t the word I’d use to describe what you want me to do.”

“I know. I didn’t say this was going to be easy on your part, but think of it as a role you’re playing for a movie or a commercial.”

“I’m an athlete, not an actor.”

“Well, the whole world’s a stage, Jax.”

“I have no interest to perform for the public, Red. This is a blatant lie. They’ll see right through it. They’ll know it’s a publicity stunt to take heat off my trade.”

“Some will think that—I’m not going to pretend like they won’t. You’ve always been a very private person despite being who you are. Your fans, even your diehard ones, don’t really know who you are. At least not the man behind the football. I think it’s time you let them in on your life.”

“That’s not my life—it’s a lie.”

“You’re telling me you’ve never lied to get ahead?”

“I’m telling you I don’t want to lie now.”

“Why not? We’re letting them in on your terms. You’ll control this narrative. It may be fake, but you’ll still have final say on how far we take it. It’s one season, Jax, not the rest of your life. I mean, unless you do fall in love with each other which could always happen.”

I bit, “Your theory is more delusional than I thought.”

“Hey! Crazier things have happened. Just look at Julian and me.”

“You and Julian go way back, there’s a huge difference.”

“Then ask someone you have history with.”

“The only woman I have history with that is still in my life is your sister-in-law, and she’s already married to your brother.”

“There has to be a woman in your life who was important to you at one time?”

“None who matter.”


Both our gazes flew to Caleb’s outburst, and for the second time in a matter of minutes I wanted to wring his fucking neck again.

Ignoring his remark, she continued, “Your fans will love to feel like they’re part of your life outside of football. Not only have they been with you since the beginning of your football career, but now they’ll be part of your love life too. People love to feel like they’re part of something. She’ll be the first woman who has had the power to tame your bed-hopping ways, and that alone will make people curious.”

My mind was spinning. It was a fucking whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t want to get married. Love didn’t exist. It was bullshit bought by a Hallmark greeting company built on propaganda and illusions.

But what if she was right? Could I do this?

As if reading my mind, she asked, “Your playbook must be filled with endless names of women who would at least do this for money?”

“Money? Isn’t that bribery?”

“She’s doing a job, filling a role for you. It’s no different than paying an employee.”

“I don’t pay women to sleep with me, Autumn.”

“I didn’t say anything about her sleeping with you, Jax. In fact, I think it’s best that you leave your dick out of the equation. Keep it strictly business. You’re pretending to be married. You’re pretending to be in love. In turn, she gets paid to pretend to be the love of your life.”

I deeply sighed.

“I know this is a lot to take in.”

“No, Red. This morning was a lot to take in. Your proposal is just adding insult to injury.”

“I’m trying to uncomplicate your life.”

“By adding marriage which is my definition of complicated?”

She shrugged. “You want the scandal to blow over? This is the best way to do it. Unless you want people booing you in the stands once the season starts. Your call, Quarterback.”

Caleb chimed in, “I’d do what she says.”

“You of all people want me to get married when yours failed?”

He grimaced, instantly making me feel like shit.

“That was out of line,” I expressed, looking only at him.

Caleb’s divorce was only finalized a few weeks ago. He caught his then wife fucking the pool guy while he was at an away game with me.

The sad part was I never really thought he was in love with her. She was a gold digger who got pregnant and trapped him. He said the right thing to do was marry her. That was one thing about my best friend—he always tried to do the right thing.

Fucking fool.

They had a seven-year-old little boy and a five-year-old little girl who were his entire world. They were cute kids, and I was a godfather to both.

“You know who you could ask, Jax. The only woman you’ve ever spoken to me about.”

“Caleb, don’t—”

“Oh…” Autumn intervened, eating this shit up. “The plot thickens. I was right? There was a woman?”

“Why don’t I just leave the room, so you two can continue to gossip like schoolgirls at a fucking slumber party?”

“And he’s getting defensive? Now I’m really intrigued,” she exclaimed. “Who is she?”

“None of your business. I’m not asking her. I don’t even know where she lives. I haven’t spoken to her in who knows how long.”

“I know how long,” Caleb disclosed, incessantly pissing me off. “It was right after the press conference when you punched the reporter in his face, and I had to bribe him with paying his daughter’s college tuition for the next year.”

“In my defense—”

“There is no defense, Jax. You have a short fuse, and you often let your temper get the best of you.”

“I warned him to get his fucking camera out of my face, did I not?”

“It’s his job to have his camera in your face. The day reporters don’t harass you with their cameras in your face, we have a bigger fucking problem than you and your rage.”

“He caught me at the wrong time. I was having a bad day.”

“You fumbled the ball. It was more than a bad day.”

“Are you my friend or foe, Caleb? Because quite honestly since Autumn walked through the door, I can’t for the life of me figure out whose side you’re on.”

“Jax, I’m always on your side, and you’re purposely changing the subject and picking a fight with me so we don’t have to talk about Sophie.”

“Sophie?” Autumn repeated. I could see it in her gaze, she was trying to figure out where she’d heard that name before. “Oh shit! Wait a second! Sophie? Baby Sophie? Your housekeeper’s daughter?”

“She’s not a baby anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. She was older than you.”

“Only by four years and everyone called her baby back then. She always looked younger than she was. Oh my God!” Her eyes widened. “She always had the biggest crush on you!”

“Mmm hmm…”

“That’s all you have to say for yourself?”

“There’s nothing else to say.”

“Jax just doesn’t want to admit that she left him high and dry after fucking him senseless the night before.”

I glared at Caleb, but it didn’t stop him.

“I spent over a month trying to find her, only to turn up empty. It was like she vanished into thin air.”

“As much as I’m enjoying this conversation…” I abruptly stood up. I’d had enough of this bullshit. “I’m going to have to pass on your pitch, Red.”


“I said,” I sternly repeated. “I’m going to have to pass on your pitch, Autumn.”

With that, I snapped around and stormed out of my office.

* * *

Pissed as fuck was an understatement.



Two days later and I was walking into Kinley’s home in Fort Worth. I didn’t think I was going to make their first gathering with their family and friends since the birth of her son, but I made time in my schedule to see her and meet him.

After the stunt Caleb pulled with bringing Autumn in on the worst game plan known to fucking man, I needed to distract myself from what could only be described as one disaster after the other.

She was in the backyard with Christian, and on my way toward her, I ran into her mother who was holding their boy.

“Hi, Miss McKenzie.” I kissed her cheek.

“Jax, how many times have I told you to call me Linda?”

After the toxic relationship Kinley had with her mom growing up, she’d changed and was finally the mother she needed her to be.

“Is this the man of the hour?” I questioned, grabbing him out of her arms.

I was always good with kids and, to be completely honest, I could see myself being a father over ever being a husband.

“Hey, little man. Do you have any idea how long your parents have wanted you?”

In response to my question, he threw up all over the front of my shirt as his face turned bright red.

“Oh my goodness!” Miss McKenzie announced, taking him from my arms. “Are you taking a poopy?”

“I guess like father like son.”

“Don’t take offense. He did it to me this morning too.” She lovingly smiled at him. “Let’s go get you cleaned up.”

I watched her leave before making my way out to their backyard. From the corner of my eyes, I saw Autumn in the living room talking to her husband. I knew she’d be here, and as much as I wanted to pretend like her pitch never happened, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t consumed my mind for the last forty-eight hours.

Which was why I was there in the first place, I needed to talk to my best friend. Kinley was always my voice of reason, and her opinion mattered to me. I wanted to see what she thought of the situation.

I opened the slider, overhearing their conversation.

“Maybe next time we can have a little girl,” Christian suggested.

“A little girl, huh?”

“Yes.” He grinned against her mouth. “One who looks exactly like you.”

“But what about when she gets older and boys start calling the house?”

“Over my dead body.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but I intervened. “You know how much I hate agreeing with Christian, but they’re going to have to face Uncle Jax to get through to her.”

Christian groaned into her neck, hearing me call myself Uncle Jax was a kick to his balls. Exactly how I wanted it to be.

“Did you just get here?” Kinley asked.

“Yeah.” I nodded. “Your mom handed me your son, and he shit and threw up on me.”

Her eyes widened, and Christian didn’t miss a beat. Locking eyes with me, he simply stated, “That’s my boy.”

Kinley laughed, throwing her head back.

“Kinley, I thought you were on my side?” I looked down at my shirt. “Do you have a shirt I can change into? This one’s covered in God knows what? What the hell are you feeding that kid? How does something so big come out of something so small?”

“I’ll go see what I can find,” Christian replied, kissing her one last time before he left us.

“Your mom looks good, Kinley.”

“I know. Asher is obsessed with her. She’s the only one who can get him to stop crying. She’s like the baby whisperer.”

“Motherhood suits you. You’ve never looked better.”

“I wish I could say the same to you.”

I sighed. “Am I that obvious?”

“I’ve known you since I was twelve, you have that look about you. Is something wrong?”

Leaning against the counter of her outside kitchen, I gripped the edge, and the expression on my face quickly turned into one she hadn’t seen before. Instantly making her worry for me.

“What, Jax? You’re freaking me out.”

“I know. I don’t know how to say it other than…” I hesitated before confessing, “I royally fucked up, Kinley. And now I need your help.”

“Is this in reference to your trade?”

“So you’ve heard?”

“I think the whole world has heard. You’re Jax Colton, it’s been front page news and all-over social media since the news broke. I was going to call you, but I know how you get, and giving you space was the best thing I could do for you.”

I nodded. She did know me best.

“I know you’re probably wanting to bash your head in at this point, but selfishly I can’t tell you how excited I am that you will be moving back home.”

“Have you talked to Autumn?”

She jerked back. “About what?”


“Why would I talk to Autumn about you?”

“Because Caleb called her in for reinforcements.”

Her eyes widened. “That’s a good thing, though, right? Autumn is the best at what she does.”

“That’s yet to be determined.”

“You sound angry.”

“I’m livid.”

“Why? What did she suggest?”

“You’re going to need to sit down.”

“That bad?”

“It’s a fucking train wreck. Are you ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

I didn’t waver. “She wants me to get married.”

Kinley faltered, stumbling back. “What?”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Married? To whom?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“Oh wow.”

“Took the words right out of my mouth.”

“Why does she think you need to get married?”

“To take the heat off my trade.”

“Through your marriage?”

“Yeah. She has some delusional theory that love can conquer all or some shit. Including my current scandal.”

“I don’t even know what to say.”

“Great. Considering that’s the only reason I’m here.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but quickly shut it. It was obvious she was as stunned as I was with the news I’d suddenly hit her with. Not that I could blame her. This was life-changing. Especially for a man like me. I’d never even had a girlfriend before, and now Autumn wanted me to take on a wife.

“I’m going to need a minute to process this.”

“You could always divorce your husband and be my fake wife?”

She chuckled, fully aware I was kidding. “I think that would be an even bigger scandal, and then they’d label you a homewrecker.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it.

“Plus, Christian would probably kill you, and it would cause this downward spiral from there. He’d go to prison, and I’d be raising our son alone. Also, I’m madly in love with him.”

“I’m not going to try to pretend like I understand that.”

“What, love?”

I nodded.

“You think you’re not capable of being in love with someone?”

“I don’t know if I’m made that way, Kinley.”

“Of course you are. You just haven’t met the right woman yet.”

For some reason I couldn’t explain, I saw Sophie’s face and as quickly as it appeared, I shook it away.

“I told Autumn no.”

“I’m sure she loved that.”

“Probably as much as I loved hearing her pitch.”

“I see.”

“Is that all you have to say?”

“No. Yes. I don’t know. I mean, you married?” She cocked her head to the side. “I’ve never considered it before.”

“You just said I haven’t met the right woman yet, so it’s clearly crossed your mind.”

“It has in the sense of me hoping you’d settle down with someone. I don’t want to see you end up alone.”

“I have no problem keeping my bed warm, Kinley.”

“Yes.” She smiled. “I’m aware of how often your bed is warm, but I’m talking about real intimacy. Someone to share your life with. The ups, the downs, the good times and the bad. Your own family maybe? You’ve always been great with children. You do that football summer camp with all those kids every year since you started your career, and they absolutely adore you.”

“I don’t have time for a wife or a family.” I folded my arms over my chest, leaning against the column between the porch and pool. “Football is my life.”

“Right…” She hesitated for a second. “For now. But you’re going to be thirty-five this year. Which means, what? You have four to five? Maybe six more years left in you before you retire? What are you going to do for the next half of your life when football isn’t—”

I subconsciously growled, pushing off the column.

“I know this is the last thing you want to talk about.”

“I don’t know a life without football, so let’s not add insult to injury, alright?”

“Your body can’t take those hits forever, Jax. How many concussions did you have last season?”

“I’m not here to talk about my health, Kinley.”

“I know. I’m just trying to help.”

“By discussing my worst fears? Doesn’t sound very helpful to me.”

“Jax, you know retirement will eventually come?”

“Are you purposely trying to piss me off?”

“I’m trying to state facts to give you some clarity on your future. Maybe a fake wife would help you decide one way or another on where your future lies.”

“You mean before or after we get a divorce at the end of the season?”

“You only have to be married one season?”

“According to Autumn’s timeline. I’m only getting married to take heat off my trade.”

“Then what’s the problem? Everyone loves weddings, and I think it would definitely help ease the betrayal people might be feeling by being part of your love story.”

“Then you think I should do it?”

“I think you should do what feels right for you.”

“That’s the issue, Kinley. I don’t know what the fuck does. This isn’t a scandal that involves a woman claiming I knocked her up or cheated on her, or whatever lies the press is printing this week. They’re claiming I’m a traitor when I live and breathe the field.”

“I know. I can’t imagine how you must feel right now.”

“Quite honestly, I’m ready to start swinging.”

“Well, it won’t be the first time you’ve lost your temper on a reporter. Just take it out on the field like you always do.”

“That doesn’t help my situation and making it right.”

“If Autumn thinks getting married will make it go away, then I don’t think it’s the worst idea. It might even be good for you. At least you’d have a woman around for more than a night or two, and who knows, maybe a spark will go off between you two. Do you know who you’d ask?”

Before I could reply, Autumn interrupted us by stepping out from the slider and once again suggesting, “Sophie Hayes.”

Our stares shifted to her.

“Christian said you needed this.” She handed me his shirt, and I put it on before she declared, “I found her for you, Jax.”

Those six words almost knocked me on my ass, and we immediately locked eyes.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You heard me, but I’ll say it again. I found her for you.”

“You found Sophie?”

“I did.”


“In Seattle.”

“She lives in Seattle?”

“She has a few homes, but one of them is in Seattle, and she’s there visiting right now. She primarily lives in Texas, closer to Dallas, though.”

“How did you—”

“I called in a favor.”

Seconds, minutes, hours could have flown by, and not once did I form a coherent thought until my phone rang. Caleb’s name lit up my screen, and I hit ignore. Unable to talk to him too. I was too wound up with Autumn finding Sophie.

After all this time.

All these years.

She. Found. Her.

“I didn’t ask you to look for her, Red.”

“I know, but sometimes my job is just knowing what’s best for you, and right now, you need her.”

When it came to Sophie, I’d locked up my emotions long ago. I didn’t expect us to cross paths again. The day I moved to Miami, I’d left everything behind and never looked back. I knew she loved me, telling me all the time, but it wasn’t hard to notice. Her ability to blush over the simplest gestures was one of my favorite things about her.

Her innocence was my other.

She was different from the girls I was used to, and it was always my initial draw to her from the very start. She didn’t move into the guesthouse where her mom lived on our property until she was seventeen and I was eighteen. She was living with her dad before moving to Fort Worth and attending my high school.

She was shy.



However, the woman I ran into randomly five years later was nothing like the girl I remembered from back home. She was completely different, from her appearance to her personality—it was like night and day.

Gone was the innocent girl and in her place stood a fucking vixen. The effect she had on me was instant. In a matter of seconds, she held all my attention in a way that only she ever could. Not only was I captivated by her, but I was also infatuated from the moment I laid my eyes on her.

She was beautiful.

Fucking breathtaking.

Stealing all the air from my lungs as if it belonged to her.

“So, Jax Colton, do you normally stand outside on the balcony at parties and stare at women dancing?”

“Jax, did you hear what I said?” Kinley asked, interrupting my memory of the night she came into my life again.

Instantly, I shook away the emotions that the mere memory stirred inside of me like they never existed to begin with. My mind was a jumbled mess of what the fucks. Spiraling with more thoughts and questions with each second that passed.

“Is Autumn talking about your housekeeper’s daughter?”

“Yeah,” was all I could muster.

“Why would she be talking about Sophie? I thought nothing happened between you two?”

I opened my mouth to respond, but Caleb called again.

“Jax,” Autumn exclaimed. “I have—”

“Why does Caleb keep calling me?” I answered his call. “I’m in the middle of som—”

“Did Autumn tell you?”

I hit speaker on my phone, looking at her. “Did Autumn tell me what?”

Her jaw clenched.

“What’s going on?”

“I wouldn’t normally dig this deep, but given the fact that Caleb said you guys ran into each other in September of 2015—”

I glared into my phone. “For fuck’s sake, Caleb. What else have you told her behind my back?”

“Autumn, did you show him?”

She stepped toward me. “I was about to, but you called.”

“What the fuck is going on?”

Autumn didn’t falter, handing me her phone. “You need to see this.”

I stared down at her cell phone as if it were an atomic bomb about to explode in my face. Reluctantly, I set my phone on the counter while grabbing hers out of her grasp.

Swiping the screen on, I couldn’t have been more accurate. There in front of my eyes was the woman who’d left my bed seven years ago. She was still able to take my breath away.

Damn, she was gorgeous.

Her long brown hair cascaded down the sides of her face, accentuating her hazel eyes and pouty fuck me mouth. And trust me, she definitely deep throated my cock.

My dick twitched at the memory of her lips wrapped around my cock. I couldn’t help but think of the way her body felt beneath mine.

The smell of her hair.

The feel of her skin.

The taste of her pussy.

She was addicting, and like an addict, I wanted another hit. Another taste. Another moment to get lost inside of her. Where nothing else mattered but making her come and scream my name.

“Jax … harder … please…”

Autumn revealed, “My contact just texted me those photos, so I could confirm that he did indeed find the right Sophie Hayes.”

Her words tore me away from the past and into the present where she’d actually found her.

“Why did you want to know the date of when we last saw each other?”

They say that everything happens for a reason. That your life was already predetermined, and everyone served a purpose. I always imagined Sophie’s purpose in my life was to show me that you could share a deep connection with someone. That maybe love could exist if I gave it half a chance.

When Autumn didn’t answer my question, I instinctively swiped her screen to the next picture. For the second time in my life, it felt as though I was having an out of body experience.

I was there, but I wasn’t.

“Jax, are you seeing what we did?” Caleb asked, still on speakerphone.

My heart was pounding.

Thrashing against my chest.

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t fucking breathe.

It wasn’t just Sophie I was seeing for the first time after all these years.

It was her kid too.

Her son.

He looked just like her.

But he also had my eyes.

I never thought Sophie’s purpose in my life was to make me…

* * *

A father.




The first time I met Jax Colton I was seventeen years old, and he was eighteen.

From the moment I saw him, I think I fell head over heels in love with him. It was one of those significant moments you had in your life. One that you’d remember forever.

After years of living with my dad in Louisiana, after my parents’ divorce when I was two, I decided I wanted to live with my mom instead of seeing her on and off like I had been through the years.

My dad had sole custody of me—at the time of their divorce, my mom didn’t have stable employment or the means to support me in the way she wanted.

It was best for me to live with my dad since he had an established career. He helped my mom in whatever way she needed, but she was determined to make it on her own and not be a burden on him. Despite not seeing her on the daily like most kids, I still had a great relationship with her and my father.

This year I was entering eleventh grade, making us re-evaluate who would have sole custody of me. I was getting older, I needed my mom and they both agreed it was time, so I moved to Forth Worth, Texas to be with her.

She was the housekeeper of this huge estate and had her own place. She was living in the guesthouse that was behind their main home. I had my own room, along with our own kitchen, living room, and eating nook. It was perfect for just the two of us.

I loved living on the property from the moment I stepped onto the grounds. It was incredible, from the landscaping to the rose garden, to the huge lake that surrounded the home. The inside of the estate was just as stunning as the outside.

My favorite was the library that housed all the greatest literary classics of all time. I’d always been a book nerd and to see two floors filled with novels by some of the best writers in history was another memory I’d never forget. Their library was the only room I ever hung out in, and I was lost in the world of The Great Gatsby.

When out of nowhere, a familiar rough voice asked, “Want to watch a movie with me?”

My eyes met his, and for a few seconds I thought I was imagining him leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest.

Jax Colton.

His hair was wet. It was either from the shower or him swimming laps in the pool. He swam laps almost every night. Sometimes I’d watch him from the library or the guesthouse. His body would simply glide through the water as if they were one. I’d never seen an athlete like him. Everything he did looked effortless, as if his body was made to move.

Now he was suddenly standing in front of me.



Looking at me like I wasn’t just the housekeeper’s daughter.

We’d never said more than a couple words to each other. I sat there dumbfounded with what was happening.

Was this real?

I lost count of how many times I’d dreamt about this very moment.

Was I hallucinating?

I narrowed my eyes, turning to look behind me in case there was someone else there.

“Is that a yes, or does Jay Gatsby have your undivided attention for the night?”

I peered over at him, confused. “You are talking to me, right?”

He chuckled. It was deep and throaty. “Who else would I be talking to? You’re the only one in the room.”

I nervously laughed, desperately trying to catch my bearings.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re adorable when you’re awkward?”

“Umm…” Unsure of how to respond, I rambled on, “The Great Gatsby is my favorite book. I’ve probably read it a hundred times at this point. It’s also my favorite era. I love everything about that time, especially Daisy’s jewelry.”

He grinned.

“And I don’t know why I just told you all that.”

“Again, you’re adorable when awkward.”

I pretended like my heart didn’t skip a beat to hear him say it again. “Are you sure you still want to watch a movie with me?”

“Now I want to watch a movie with you more than I did before.”


“Is that a yes, okay, or a go fuck yourself, okay?”

My eyes widened. I wasn’t much for swearing. “The first one.”

“For a second I thought Jay Gatsby was suddenly my competition.”

“You know Jay Gatsby?”

“I’ve read almost every book in this library.”

I quirked a brow. I wasn’t expecting him to reveal that. “You have?”

“How else do you think these books got here?”


“Oh?” He arched an eyebrow. “You think I don’t know how to read?”

“Well,” I teased. “You are a jock.”

He laughed, big and throaty again. “Cute.”

How one word could make my stomach toss and turn was beyond me.

“I actually enjoy reading.”

“Me too. It’s pretty much my hobby.”

“I can see that. You’re always in here.”

“Oh,” I breathed out as the anxiousness rose from my chest into my throat. “I’m sorry if I’m in your space. I asked your mom, and she said I cou—”

“You talked to my mother?”

“Yes. I’d never come into your home, let alone one of the rooms without asking for permission first.”

“Does this house feel like a home to you, Sophie?”

I wasn’t shocked by his abrupt tone. I hadn’t met his father, so it was easy to assume it had something to do with him not being around.

When I asked my mom about him, she said he worked a lot. Then she reminded me to stay out of their house unless I was reading in their library, and even then she preferred that I read in the guesthouse.

She was constantly telling me to stay out of their way and to stay away from Jax. She said he was trouble.

I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to get to know him in a way I didn’t think anyone did. Feeling daring, I threw his question back at him, “Does this house not feel like a home to you?”

If he was surprised by my question, he didn’t show it. “It’s just a house, Sophie.”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s not a no.”

“Is it because your dad isn’t around?” I regretted the question as soon as it flew out of my mouth. “I’m sorry.” Shaking my head, I added, “You don’t have to answer that. It’s none of my business.”

“So tell me, Soph? Do you make it a habit to apologize for things you don’t have to?”

I shrugged. “I just don’t want to upset you. I’m in your house, and you’re technically my mom’s boss.”

“If I’m your mom’s boss, then what am I to you?”

“Umm…” I bowed my head. “I’m not sure. What do you want to be?” I waited on pins and needles for his answer.

Never expecting him to admit, “I need to be the guy you stay away from.”

“Oh…” Feeling brave, I challenged, “What if I don’t want to?”

His eyes dilated, and he didn’t try to hide it from me. He wanted me to know I was having an effect on him, and for a brief moment, I felt powerful.

As quickly as it was there, he snatched it away. Pushing off the doorframe and acting unfazed before he asked, “You like popcorn, Soph?”

Despite feeling disappointed, hearing him call me Soph was doing all sorts of things to my stomach. I stood on shaky legs, hoping he didn’t notice the effect he had on me too.

Trying to play it cool, I nodded. “I like popcorn.”

I’d only been living there for the last month, but I already felt like I knew a lot about him. Especially when it came to girls, they were constantly walking in and out of his house. Sometimes they were the same girls, most of the time they weren’t.

Jax was one of the most popular guys at our school. Everyone knew who he was, and rumors about him ran rampant in the halls. Every day it was something different. The most recent was that he’d lost a bet to his teammate Ryan, and he had to get his dick pierced.

My stomach fluttered just thinking about it. I might have been inexperienced, but I wasn’t stupid.

“Let’s go make Baby Soph some popcorn, huh?”

“Baby Soph?”

He stayed mute until we were standing in the kitchen. “Everyone calls you baby, right?”

Setting the stove on for the kernels, I simply nodded. There I was thinking he was calling me baby in an I’m hitting on you kind of way.

I’m so dumb.

“You don’t have to call me baby like everyone else does. It’s just a silly nickname that started in first grade. I’ve always looked innocent, and you know, younger, and since I’m a petite girl it kind of just stuck.”

What happened next was right out of one of my many dreams about him. He gripped onto my waist and lifted me up onto the counter to stand in between my legs. His grasp never left my sides, and I thought I’d stopped breathing.

“I like throwing around, Baby Soph. Look.” He peered down at his hold. “My hands can touch around your waist.”

I swallowed hard.

“So tell me, Sophie? How innocent are you?”

I licked my lips, my mouth suddenly dry.

What could I say? The truth?

He’d laugh at me.

I could feel my cheeks burning, and when he dug his fingers into my waist a little harder, it felt as though he was holding back from something as well.

Did he want to kiss me? No. Why would he want to kiss me?

I cleared my throat, wanting to break this intensity between us. It was a connection I’d never experienced with anyone before, and the way he was making me feel was too much of everything. Gazing back toward the stove, I changed the subject.

“Are you going to get the kernels?”

He smiled, and it lit up his entire face. I could tell he knew I was avoiding the question.

For a moment, I got lost in his eyes. I’d never seen a guy who looked like Jax. He was gorgeous. Had the all-American boy vibe nailed with bright blue eyes that almost looked teal against his skin. His chiseled jawline, blond hair, and perfect white teeth finished off his handsomeness.

His body was lean and muscular. He was tall, probably around 6’4, maybe 6’5 to my 5’5 frame.

I looked so tiny against him.

When he backed away from me, I resisted the urge to groan before we both reached for the kernels in the jar beside me at the same time. Our fingers brushed against each other, triggering electricity to spark along my skin.

Ignoring that too, I got off the counter and quickly pulled my hand away from his, taking the jar with me. I poured some kernels into the pan, pitifully trying to distract myself from every emotion known to man. Feeling them one right after the other with a force of a hurricane tearing down everything in its path.

“You’re making it wrong,” was the last thing I heard him say before I felt his chest press against my back.

In one swift movement, his arms caged me in as he took the jar out of my hand. The heat of his chest had me weak in the knees and dizzy in the head.

“You have to separate the kernels, or they’ll burn. Unless you want to eat burnt popcorn, Baby Soph?”

I tried to pay attention to what he was saying, but for the life of me I couldn’t pay attention to anything other than his body against mine. This was much closer than his hands around my waist. My heart was once again pounding against my chest. I could feel it in my ears.

Was I having a heart attack?

His chest felt firm against my back. Despite his muscles feeling hard, his skin still felt warm.



I wanted to say so much, but I couldn’t get the words to come out. I silently wished he could read my thoughts, but then I realized he’d just think I was a baby like everyone else.

I wanted him to see me differently—I felt different around him. The second I felt him abruptly back away, I missed the warmth of his touch and the emotions they evoked throughout my entire body.

Except it was cut short when my mom’s voice boomed, “Sophie, what are you doing?”

My eyes locked with hers. She was supposed to be having dinner with friends. I knew this wasn’t going to end well. She’d warned me to stay away from Jax.

Thank God he intervened. “I was just showing your daughter how to make popcorn, Miss Carlisee.”

Her gaze shifted from him back to me. “We have bagged popcorn in the guesthouse, Sophie. You shouldn’t be bothering Jax.”

“She wasn’t bothering me. She was actually keeping me company.”

“She has no business doing either.”

Could this get any more embarrassing?


“Let’s go, Sophie. Now.”

I looked over at Jax, feeling two feet tall. “Thanks for the cooking lesson.”

He smiled, but I could tell his guard was back up.

“Goodnight, Jax.”

“Goodnight, Baby Soph.”

Bowing my head, I followed my mom to the guesthouse. Once we were inside, she shut the door and didn’t waver. “How many times have I told you to stay away from him?”

“I know, but it’s not a big deal. He was just showing me how to make popcorn.”

There was no point in telling her we were going to hang out. She was already disappointed in finding us together. It would only get worse if I told her the truth and hated that I was keeping this from her.

I never kept anything from her.

“This is why I was hesitant about you moving here with me, Sophie. Jax is a charmer. He’s a flirt. You see all the random girls who come in and out of the house.”

“I know.”

“Do you?”

“I do.”

“Then I don’t need to worry about you staying away from him?”

I shook my head.

“Promise me you’ll stay away from him, baby.”

I nodded.

“I need to hear you say the words. Promise me, Sophie.”

“I promise.”

This was the first time I’d ever lied to my mom, and when I got out of the shower the next morning, I knew it wouldn’t be the last.

The Great Gatsby I was reading in his library last night was sitting on my bed.

And I knew with everything in my heart…

* * *

Jax had left it there for me.




I was exhausted.

Benjamin was only six, and he was already proving to be a rebel without a cause. Every week it seemed like it was something different with him, getting in trouble for one reason or another.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on with him, but getting into mischief seemed to be his current pattern. Taking away his video games and grounding him wasn’t working, and I was at a loss with how to fix what was bothering him.

My son was a typical boy and hated talking about his feelings. He was as stubborn as he was loving, and he had me wrapped around his little finger. I ran seven miles on the treadmill, hoping to run off the stress and worry I felt about Ben to no avail.

After I finished my workout at the gym in our condominium, I made my way back up to our place. We were vacationing in Seattle for a few weeks, and I owned the penthouse suite of the tallest building in downtown Seattle. The whole top floor belonged to us.

Unlocking the door to our home, I walked inside and quickly made myself a smoothie. I was unable to shake the intuition that something else was happening with him. Once I was done with my shake, I set the dirty glass in the sink and inhaled what felt like my hundredth deep breath of the morning.

While walking toward my bedroom, I looked out the floor-to-ceiling glass sliders that wrapped around our entire home. I appreciated the view of downtown Seattle like I did every day. It was one of the reasons I bought this condo in the first place. I loved that you could see outside in every spot you stood in.

Although I had multiple properties, this one was one of my favorites. I was a New York Times bestselling romance author, writing under a pen name. Nobody but my closest friends and family knew what I did for a living, and I preferred it that way.

However, it was becoming harder to hide my identity from my readers. They wanted to know who I was, and I couldn’t blame them. With social media being at our fingertips, I was constantly worried that someone would figure out who was writing these love stories behind their e-readers.

They hadn’t yet, though. My team spent a lot of time making sure of it, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the truth of my identity was revealed. All I could hope for was it would be under my terms, and I wouldn’t be forced to make myself known for one reason or another.

I couldn’t imagine not writing books. It was my life—it had always been my life. My love for reading turned into my passion for writing. I’d published forty books in the last ten years, and living vicariously through my characters was what I did best. It was why I owned several properties around the world. I needed the inspiration they evoked, and this view never failed me.

I decided to take a shower to try to loosen the tension continuously building in the forefront of my mind. In my en suite bathroom, I turned on the shower before taking off my leggings and sports bra. Grabbing my cream silk robe from the closet, I hung it on the hook by the shower and then stepped inside.

Welcoming the heat against my tensed frame, I pressed my hands against the shower wall and leaned my forehead against the cool stoned tile. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t shake the anxiety I was feeling.

It was more than Benjamin. I just felt off. My mind ran wild as I stayed in the shower until the water ran cold over my skin. When suddenly, my doorbell rang after I turned off the water.

I smiled, knowing it was Bradley.

He was in town on business, and since Ben was with his friend who lived in Seattle for the day, I told him to stop by. My boy never met any guy I’d dated over the years. It just didn’t feel right with any of them, and I refused to push something that didn’t feel perfect. I was an overprotective mom, a trait I’d received from my own mother. My life consisted of writing and Ben. I desired it that way.

Throwing on my robe, I wrapped the ties around my waist and knotted it off in a bow. Smiling from ear to ear, I walked to the door and opened it. Revealing a very handsome Bradley wearing a three-piece suit and an addicting grin.

“Hey, there.”

“Hey, gorgeous.”

He didn’t hesitate in gripping onto my ass and carrying me up onto his body, wrapping my legs around his waist.

Kissing my lips, he rasped, “I missed you,” against them.

Bradley worked in the stock market, and he lived in New York. We met a few months ago while I was there for a meeting with my publisher to discuss my next book. He was just a hook-up. Even though we were long distance, it worked for us.

Ben was my priority, and Bradley being a workaholic worked in my favor.

“You’re all wet,” he rasped in between kissing me. “Here I thought I was going to be the one to do it.”

I giggled, sliding my tongue into his mouth.

My kitchen was next to the front door, and in two steps he was sitting me on the edge of the island. Getting right down to it, he started to undo the sash on my robe.

Making me practically moan in his mouth, “I don’t think I shut the door.”

“You didn’t.”

In less than a second, my world as I knew it was suddenly crashing down on me. Causing all the blood to drain from my face as I sat there frozen.


Shocked and nervous.

His familiar, once comforting, deep throaty tone filled the room like he was talking into a microphone. I swear it echoed off the walls and vibrated intensely through my bones. My stunned gaze immediately flew to the direction of his voice, and we locked eyes for the first time in seven years.

There in the doorway of my home stood the only man who’d ever hurt me in more ways than one.

Jax fucking Colton.

Was unexpectedly back in my life.

* * *


* * *

I. Was. Livid.

“Oh my God!” Sophie exclaimed, moving the motherfucker who’d just had his hands all over her away. “What are you doing here?”

Not only was her robe somewhat see-through—it was also slightly open, and I could basically see everything. Incapable of resisting the everlasting beauty that was Sophie Hayes, I eyed her with a predatory regard. I didn’t give a flying fuck her boyfriend was standing there beside her.

There was no ring on her finger, but that wouldn’t have stopped me if there was. It didn’t matter who had her after me.

I would forever be her first.

No one could take that away from me, not even her.

The photos that were texted to Autumn didn’t do her justice. Sophie looked better in person, if that was even possible, and I found myself getting hard at the mere sight of her standing in front of me.

Looking disheveled.


Her awkwardness had always been a huge fucking turn-on for me, so realizing I still made her nervous wasn’t a sentiment I was willing to overlook.

Continuing my pursuit, I deviously grinned at her, still not saying a word while I allowed my eyes to do all the work for me. My greedy stare traveled from her hazel eyes that appeared almost green in this lighting, to her pouty lips that were swollen from kissing the son of a bitch who hadn’t moved an inch in my direction.

If I’d seen any man gaping at my girl the way I was with her, I would have started swinging already.

She narrowed her eyes, following the trail of my relentless gaze over every inch of her body. It was obvious I was making her uncomfortable.

Her frame was unsteady, and the pulse on her neck throbbed while her thighs clenched closer together.

After all these years, I saw what I craved.



My effect on her was alive and thriving, simply reminding me of all the times I captivated her attention when I shouldn’t have. Her lips puckered, watching my every move. Triggering memories of how many times she’d watched me be consumed by her.

My heady stare lingered down her mouth and toward her tits which caused her nipples to harden until my regard found her pussy. Tapering my gaze, I prolonged my visual assault of her luscious thighs, envisioning them wrapped around my face while she begged me for mercy.

“Please, Jax … I can’t come anymore.”

“You can, Sophie. I’ve only just started.”

I licked my lips, tasting her on my tongue, and that was when she had enough. She harshly tightened her robe, holding it closed against her chest.

“Your robe is see-through, Soph. Not that it matters, I’ve already fucked you senseless.”

Her mouth dropped open. “After all these years that’s the first thing you say to me! You shameless bastard!”

Her boyfriend was in my face before she got the last word out. “What did you just say to her?”

“Oh.” I connivingly smiled, eyeing him up and down. “Now you want to man up? Not when I was just eye fucking the shit out of her?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

There was no hesitation on my part, I declared, “I’m her kid’s father! Who the fuck are you?”

Sophie loudly gasped, her eyes wide and stunned.

“Yeah, sweetheart.” I sternly nodded. “I know. So unless you want me to lay this guy out, I suggest you tell him to leave. Now!”

Her chest was rising and falling while her eyes rimmed with fresh tears. She wanted to breakdown, and for a second I felt bad. Then I remembered she’d hid my son from me for the last seven years, and all I felt was anger.




She cautiously backed away, peering at Bradley. “You need to go.”

“I need to go?” he argued, only looking at her. “Is it true? Is he your kid’s dad? Because you told me he wasn’t around, and he had no interest in—”

“Let’s get one thing straight, Bradley. I’m here to ask her to marry me. Does that sound like I’m not interested, asshole?”

“Marry you?” She gasped. “Have you lost your mind?”

“No, but I’m sure as shit about to lose my temper if he doesn’t leave. Which would you like to see first, Soph?”

“Stop calling me that!”

“You used to love it when I called you that. Especially when my cock was in your—”

“Oh my God! Do you have no filter?”

“You, more than anyone, know I don’t. I’m not going to repeat myself again, Sophie. You know what…” I was done playing games. In one quick move, I forcefully gripped onto his arm. “Since you won’t leave, I have no problem throwing your ass out.”

She went for my hands. “Stop it!”

I didn’t listen to her. I was used to three-hundred-pound men trying to tackle me to the ground. This was nothing compared to what my body went through on the daily.

In three strides, I tossed his ass out the door and slammed it in his face before I snapped around to get into hers.

“You need to go change because I can’t talk to you when your tits are in my face!”

In a matter of seconds, her hand was flying toward my face, but I caught it midair.

“Sophie,” I snarled, hanging on by a very thin thread. “I have no patience left. I’ve reached my max. Now go fucking change!”

She yanked her wrist out of my grasp. “I guess nothing’s changed, huh? You still think you can boss me around?”

“When you act like a child, you leave me no choice but to treat you like one.”

“Child?” she boomed, rip-roaring mad.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it. Pissed off Sophie was always my favorite.

“I’m a grown-ass woman! I am not that naive girl you fucked over, Jax!”

“That’s rich coming from you, considering you’re the one who left my bed and vanished into thin air seven years ago. So tell me, Soph, out of all the times I was inside of you that night, which time did we make a baby?"

Her jaw clenched, and her hands fisted at her sides. “I already told you. He’s. Not. Yours.”

* * *

I was going to make her regret that lie.



I walked away from him and went to change, needing a minute to compose my thoughts. The anxiety I felt all day wasn’t from Ben, it was from him.


Even after all these years, I still felt him.


It didn’t make any sense, but nothing ever did when it came to him. The audacity of that man to just show up and bark orders like he had a right to. The brass balls on him never ceased to amaze me. I couldn’t believe he’d kicked Bradley out of my home, and what was worse was that Bradley just left.

Jax could be a serial killer for all he knew, and he’d left me for dead.

Way to pick them, Sophie.

I had the worst taste in men.

My mixed emotions were all over the place. I couldn’t keep up with the hurricane Jax was stirring in my life, and I hated that he had that much control over me as if I was still that little girl completely devoted to him.

How did he find out? After all this time? All these years? Who told him?

I threw on jeans and a white shirt while counting to ten, trying to calm my overly anxious nerves.

“I’m here to ask her to marry me.”

Those eight words rang over and over in my mind with no end in sight. He couldn’t be serious. Inhaling another deep breath, I opened my bedroom door and made my way back into the kitchen. Except Jax wasn’t where I’d left him. Instead, he was standing in front of the fireplace, holding the picture of newborn Ben in my arms.

I’d just had him, and my mom snapped that picture. She was the one in the delivery room with me.

He didn’t turn around when he heard me walk into the room, all he said was, “Why?”

“Why what, Jax?”

“Don’t play games with me, Sophie.”

“Me not play games?” I scoffed out in disgust. “From what I remember, all you ever did was play games, Jax. How’s it feel?”

He snapped around to face me. “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”

“Why would I tell you if he’s not yours?”

“You’re really going to stand there and continue to lie to my fucking face?”

I didn’t want to fight with him. I barely wanted to speak to him. “You need to get out of my house.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me the truth.”

“I owe you nothing. After the stunt you just pulled, you’re lucky I don’t call security to escort you out.”

“Sweetheart, you should be thanking me. You want to be with a man who’s a complete pussy?”

“You had no right.”

“I have every right in the world to protect what’s mine.”

I adamantly shook my head. “I’m not yours, Jax.”

“That’s up for debate, but I’m not talking about you.” He lifted the frame. “I’m talking about him.”

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“Well, I have plenty to say to you.”

“Great. Except I don’t care to hear it.”

“You either hear it from me, or you’ll be hearing it from my lawyer.”

“Your lawyer?” I bit out, overwhelmed by the turn of events. “What does your lawyer have to do with anything?”

“By law, Sophie, he’s mine.”

“You don’t even understand the meaning of that word.”

“I understand what will happen if I go before the judge and request a paternity test.”

“You fucking asshole!”

“There she is. There’s my feisty girl coming out to play.”

“That’s all this is to you, isn’t it? Just another game! You can’t barge into my home and start making demands, Jax! I don’t care who you think you are! This is my house. Now get the hell out!”

“I’ll leave as soon as you tell me he’s mine. Don’t force my hand, Sophie. You won’t like the consequences.”

My anger exploded.




I grabbed the first thing I saw, which happened to be the roses Bradley sent me, and chucked them at his head.

Of course, he ducked and was in my face in three strides. Backing me into the wall, he caged me in with his arms next to my head.

I didn’t back down, holding my chin higher in defiance. “I’m not scared of you.”

“That’s interesting because I’m terrified of you. How could you keep him from me?”

“I didn’t. He’s not yours.”

“You’re lying. You want to know how I know?”

“I don’t want to know anything. All I want is for you to leave. Now!”

“You blink when you lie.”

“I do not.”

“You do.”

I groaned in frustration, shoving him away, but he didn’t budge an inch.

Fucking quarterback.

Despite my refusal, he kept talking. “The first time I figured it out was when you told me you didn’t want me to kiss you. You were lying then, and you’re lying now.”

I shook my head, perplexed by his statement. “How do you even remember that?”

He swept the hair away from my face, placing it behind my ear. “I remember everything about you. From the way you couldn’t look me in the eyes when other people were around but I had your complete devotion when we were alone. Or how I couldn’t graze your skin without your face getting flushed, exactly the way it is right now.”

“If my face is flushed it’s only from you pissing me off!”

“You want to know what I remember the most?”


He ignored my response, stating, “The way you taste in my mouth. How wet you’d get when I’d barely touch you.”

“Stop it.”

“Stop what? Telling you the truth?”

I couldn’t process everything he was confessing fast enough. It was like one affirmation after the other. He was blowing my mind, and I hated him for it. All I wanted was to be part of his life, and he was so adamant about making sure I wasn’t.

For years he’d played me like a fiddle, and I’d stupidly let him. If he thought he could just show up out of nowhere and be everything I’d ever wanted, then he had another thing coming.

I wasn’t that girl anymore.

He made sure of it.

“My absolute favorite memory of you was—”

“I’ve heard eno—”

“Is how you lit up my world with just a fucking smile.”

* * *


* * *

Her eyes widened, taking in every word I was saying. For a minute, I forgot how fucking furious I was with her. Getting lost in this consuming connection we’d always had from the first time I’d laid eyes on her as I watched her step out of her mom’s car from my bedroom window.

She was angelic.


Fucking perfect.

“What do you want from me, Jax?”

“You know what I want, Soph. It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“Stop pretending like you don’t know me.”

“I’m not pretending. I don’t know you, and I never did.”

“That’s bullshit, and you know it.”

“I want you to leave.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me the truth.”

“I already did. He’s. Not. Yours.”

Hearing her lie to me so easily wasn’t something I was prepared for. Instead of continuing this back-and-forth argument, I decided it was best for me to go.

I warned her.

What happened next would only be her fault. Her eyes never left mine, waiting for my next move. She had no idea what she was in for. This was only the beginning.

Step by step, I backed away toward her door until there were no more steps to take. Instead of letting my words speak for themselves, I allowed my actions to take over. Pulling out what was in my pocket, I showed her his hairbrush that I’d grabbed out of his bathroom when she was changing.

I didn’t want to do this, but what other choice did I have?

Her mouth parted, seeing the blatant truth in front of her gaze. “Please don’t do this.”

“Tell me the truth and I won’t.”

She closed her eyes and looked away, knowing I’d called her bluff.

“Your silence speaks volumes.”

“Yeah, well your audacity makes me sick.”

“Sweetheart, you haven’t seen anything yet. I’ll be back tomorrow morning. And just to make it clear...” I opened the door, speaking with conviction…

“With his DNA test proving I’m his father.”

* * *

Meaning every last word.




It was late by the time I walked into the Halloween party dressed in my jersey and jeans. This was the extent of my costume. The house was packed with people from our school, drinking and acting a fucking fool. The party was just how I’d expected.

The place was crowded, alcohol flowing loosely, and the music was blaring. I wasn’t much for booze. My life revolved around football, and the last thing I needed was to wake up hungover to run laps around the field at five am.

I was constantly training and staying in shape. It was how I remained the best quarterback in our state. Last week, I finally made my choice to play college ball for Texas. I wasn’t ready to leave my hometown, knowing I’d eventually have to move for whatever team drafted me into the NFL.

Kinley was ecstatic with my decision to stay put for a while, at least the next four years. We’d be graduating from high school in the spring, and I for one couldn’t wait. All I ever wanted was to play pro ball. It was what I’d worked so hard for, determined to make it happen for myself no matter what. It didn’t feel like a sacrifice to be missing out on normal stuff guys my age were doing.

I played football, and I fucked.

To me, that was enough.

“Hey!” Kinley greeted, walking up to me. “You made it.” She was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.

“Is Christian the Big Bad Wolf?” I teased.

“And don’t you ever forget it,” he replied, handing Kinley a drink.

I chuckled, taking his fresh beer out of his hand. “Thanks.”

“You’re drinking?” Kinley asked, rubbing Christian’s back. Fully aware I was baiting him.

“A beer won’t hurt me.”

She smiled. “Maybe not you, but it’s definitely working for your housekeeper’s daughter.”

I arched an eyebrow. “What?”

Kinley nodded behind me, and I never expected to see what I did when I turned around. Sophie was dancing on a table, dressed in a fucking cheerleading uniform. It was the first time I’d realized she could dance.

“And you live with her?” Christian taunted, causing Kinley to slap him on the chest.

All I could do was shake my head in disbelief, mesmerized by the way she rocked her hips to the beat of the music.

“The fuck?” I breathed out, frozen in the spot I stood.

In the middle of my own personal hell, I watched as one of my teammates Derrick tugged on the pleat of her skirt. In the blink of an eye, she started shaking her ass above him. Her cheeks were completely on display for all to see.

In one second, I went from being shocked to fucking livid.

I hadn’t talked to her since last week when I’d asked her to watch a movie with me. I was busy with football and didn’t have time for anything else. It wasn’t until she crouched in front of him, getting close to his face, that I truly lost my shit.

They looked like they were about to kiss, and I sprang into action, hauling ass toward them.

“Jax!” Some chick threw her arms around my neck. “There you are! I’ve been looking for you!”

Sophie must have heard my name because her head turned in my direction, jerking back when she saw me coming…

Right. For. Them.

“Jax,” she coaxed in a wary tone. Only triggering the beast inside of me in a way I’d never experienced before.


My hands were around her thighs, pulling her off the table and throwing her over my shoulder.

“What are you doing?” she shrieked, trying to fight me off.


She jolted, taken aback by my stern tone. I’d never yelled at her before, but I was beyond the point of reason. She was bringing out this jealousy in me I didn’t even know existed.

“No! Put me down! You’re embarrassing me!”

“You’re embarrassing yourself!”

She kicked her legs, flailing her body around. I did the only thing I could, I spanked her ass.


She yelped, and I didn’t waste any time. I carried her out of the house and toward my truck, adamant about driving her home. Any common sense I had seemed to fly out the damn window with her ass in my fucking face.

“Jax, you’re being ridiculous! What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m taking you home.”

“I told my mom I was staying at a friend’s house. If you take me home, all you’re doing is getting me in trouble.”

“Not any more than you were getting yourself in.”

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong! I was just dancing!”

“Don’t fucking try me, Soph. I know exactly what you were doing, and Derrick was seconds away from sticking his tongue down your throat and his fingers in your pussy.”

She gasped. “You can’t talk to me that way!”

Pressing the button on the bed of my truck, I waited until the tailgate was down before slamming her ass on it to stand in between her legs.

My lips were now inches away from her mouth. “Who’s going to stop me, Baby Soph?”

“You’re acting like you’re jealous.”

“Maybe I am.”

Her gaze widened, surprised by my response.

“Yeah, you and me both, Soph.”

Neither one of us said anything, and the silence was deafening between us. However, it was the turmoil I felt seeing her dressed in this fucking uniform, dancing like she was just another slutty cheerleader that was wreaking havoc in my mind.

Whatever was happening between us was almost too much for me to understand. I barely knew this girl, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to protect her from my teammates who would only fuck her and leave her. Not that I was any better… I was just like them. She needed to stay away from me too.

Though it was becoming obvious I couldn’t stay away from her.

The thick black eyeliner on her alluring hazel eyes was messing with my head. Along with the glossy shine on her pouty lips, making them look bigger than they were. She smelled like cotton candy, and I wanted a taste.

Her hair was in pigtails, and I couldn’t help but envision gripping onto them while she sucked my cock.

There was no resisting the gravitational pull she had on me.

I was at her mercy, asking again, “How innocent are you, Sophie?”

“Why does it matter?”

“Because it does … to me.”

She licked her lips, fucking provoking me.

My hands didn’t move from her tiny waist, and just to hear her whimper, I gripped a little harder. She gave me what I craved, though she wasn’t answering my question.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m at a party, Jax. You know, it’s what people our age do.”

“Why are you dressed in this fucking uniform?”

She looked down at herself. “You don’t like it?”

“I hate it.”

“But you’re always with cheerleaders.”

“Is that your way of admitting you wore this for me?”

She shrugged.

Zeroing in on her, I tried to keep my temper in check. Pissed she thought I wanted her to look like the chicks I hooked up with.

“Is it because I don’t fill it out like the girls you’re used to?”

“You don’t get me at all, do you? I like that you’re petite. It means I can put you where I want you.”

“Like on the bed of your truck?”

“Would you prefer the bed in my room?”

“Is that where this is going?”


“Why not?”

“You need to stay away from me, Sophie.”

“I’m not the one who threw you over their shoulder, am I? I’m just trying to fit in, and you just humiliated me in front of most of our school. Do you have any idea how hard it is to be seventeen and never been—”

“Never been what, Baby Soph?”

“I hate it when you call me that. I’m not a baby, and it sucks that you see me like one.”

“Trust me, if I thought you were a baby, you wouldn’t be against my chest right now.”

“Prove it.”

“I can’t.”

She rolled her eyes. “Then you’re lying! You do see me as a baby!”

“For fuck’s sake.”

I never expected what happened next. With all her strength, she pushed me away and I let her. Once she was out of my hold, she jumped off the bed of my truck and started to march her little ass back toward the party.

“Fine! Have it your way! If you won’t kiss me, then I’m sure someone will!”

I groaned, grabbing my face in frustration. “You’re acting like a child!”

“And you’re acting like an asshole!”

“Sophie, get your ass back over here!”

“Stop bossing me around! I can do what I want, and right now I want my first kiss to be some random guy at this party!”

“First kiss,” I uttered to myself.

It was worse than I thought. She was more innocent than I could have imagined.

“Maybe after I’ll let him take my virginity too! But don’t worry! I’ll make sure he wears a condom!”

“Fuck me…” Before I even knew what I was doing, my feet were moving on their own accord.

And what did the little shit do?

She began fucking running from me.

Since I had no choice in the matter, I tackled her to the ground and made sure she fell in my arms before I flipped us over. Her body was now beneath mine, and I caged her in with my arms around her head, holding my body up so I wouldn’t crush her tiny frame.

She glared at me. “Was that really necessary?”

“You should never run from a quarterback unless you’re looking to get hurt.”

“Can’t be any worse than you turning me down.”

“That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Whatever. I don’t even want you to kiss me anymore. Can you get off me now?”


“I’m being serious. I don’t know why I wanted you to kiss me in the first place. From what I hear, you don’t really kiss the girls you hook up with. You’re probably horrible at it.”

“Now you don’t want me to kiss you?”

She blinked, lying, “Nope. Not at all.”

I leaned in, closing the small distance between us. Slowly, I rubbed my lips over hers. Barely touching her mouth, just enough to prove my point that she did want my lips on hers.

“You sure you don’t want me, Soph?”

“Mmm hmm.”

Back and forth, my mouth brushed along hers as I reached up and grabbed ahold of her face. With my thumbs caressing the soft skin of her cheeks, I dug my own grave.

Growling, “Well, since you won’t give it to me, I’m going to have to take it.”

And then I slammed my mouth onto hers.

* * *


* * *

They say when you had your first kiss, you saw stars. Jax didn’t just make me see stars, he made me see the whole galaxy.

It was bright.



Words couldn’t describe this moment in time. For a second, it seemed like the world stopped spinning and it was only us. Right there, on the grass, with him on top of me, I felt everything. From his lips to his chest to his dick—he was mine.

My eyes shut tightly, my breathing hitched, and I went along for the ride that was Jax Colton.

His lips were rough but smooth against mine. My heart beat so fast, I could feel it pounding in my skull, in my bones, in my soul. Trying to follow the movement of his mouth, I slowly parted my lips as he pulled me closer to him as if we already weren’t close enough. My hands slid down his arms to his chest, wanting to see if his heart was beating as fast as mine.

It was, making me smile against his mouth.

I followed his rhythm.

His movements.




He set the pace for us.

His tongue touched my lips, causing this tingling to come alive in the core of my body. As soon as his tongue sought out mine, I was done for. Getting lost in the spell that was his scent, his taste, he was all-consuming.

A soft moan escaped my mouth, and he kissed me harder.


Leaving me breathless and wanting more.

Incoherent thoughts ran rampant in my mind. One right after the other, it was a hurricane of confusion and in its wake was him, standing in the eye of the storm with me in his arms.

I’d never forget what he whispered next…

It would forever be a part of me, like he was slowly becoming. Something told me it was exactly what he wanted. What he affirmed next would only prove my point.

“There, Soph, I just took what belonged to me.”

* * *

From that day forward, I was his.




Since I was expecting Jax to show up bright and early, I was prepared this time.

Except … so was he.

We were sitting at my dining room table. I was at one end while he was at the other with our lawyers by our sides. Jax brought his entire team. In attendance were his agent and publicist, Autumn, who I recognized, which made me nervous. I knew she was the best publicist in the industry, and having her there felt like an ambush.

“It’s good to see you again, Sophie.”

“I wish I could say the same.”

She nodded. “I understand that you’re weary of me, but I can guarantee you I mean you no harm.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Jax didn’t tell you?”

My scowl locked with his from across the table. “No. He’s just full of surprises these days.”

His attorney got right down to business, pulling a document from his briefcase. He stated, “We have the results of your son’s paternity test.”

Narrowing my eyes, I looked down at the form he laid on the table.

“As you can see, we tested twenty-one DNA markers between your son and Mr. Colton to see if they share a genetic makeup.”

I wasn’t paying attention to anything he was saying. My eyes were glued to the bold black number at the bottom of the report.


Verifying Jax was the father of my boy.

“Did you hear what I said, Miss Hayes?”

My stare shifted to his lawyers.

“This DNA test proves that my client is indeed the biological father of your son.”

His attorney announced it so easily, like it wasn’t a big deal when it was a huge one. Like that one statement didn’t just ruin my life and turn everything I’d worked so hard for upside down.

My career.

My identity.

My boy…

He never asked about his father, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the questions would come knocking on my door. I wasn’t prepared to face the truth of Jax. When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t know what to do.

What to say.

Where to even start.

I never thought about having kids until the pregnancy stick turned pink with a positive sign. I was twenty-six and at that point in my life, I thought I was over him. Then I was hit with the reality of a daily reminder of the man who broke my heart and didn’t give a shit about it.

One of my favorite things about Jax was his eyes, and my son had inherited them.

What was I going to say to him?

Ben loved football, and now he was about to learn his dad was the greatest of all time.

I groaned at the thought until my lawyer tore me away from them.

“My client wants this to remain amicable between you two.”

“I want full custody.”

My eyes snapped to Jax’s at his statement. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

“Does it look like I’m joking?”

“You have no right.”

He picked up the DNA test. “This proves otherwise.”

I peered at my attorney. “He can’t do this! Tell me he can’t do this!”

“I won’t have to if you agree to marry me.”

My gaze flew back to Jax. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“I may have heard you, but I sure as hell don’t understand you. Marry you? Have you lost your mind?”

“Quite the opposite, Sophie. I’ve never been more certain of anything in all my life.”

“What is this about? What do you want?”

“For you to be my wife.”

I shook my head, utterly confused.

“What Jax is trying to say,” Autumn chimed in, bringing my attention over to her, “is that it would greatly work in both of your favors if you agreed to be his temporary wife.”

“Now you’ve completely lost me.”

“Right.” She paused, pulling out more documents. Except this one appeared to be a contract. “This agreement will help ease your mind. You can look it over, and if you have any stipulations, anything you’d like to add or change, we can work it out.”

“We can work it out? Am I marrying you or Jax?”

She reassuringly smiled. “You’ll be marrying Jax, but we’ll be working closely together to make sure you’re comfortable with everything. I’m serious. I promise you. You pull the strings.”

“What strings? I don’t understand why we have to get married in the first place? We’re not in love.”

“Speak for yourself.”

My eyes once again flew to Jax. “You don’t even know the meaning of the word. I’m not a child anymore. You can’t manipulate me like you used to.”

“I wasn’t manipulating you then, and I’m not now.”

“Bullshit! I marry you or else you’ll fight me for full custody? That’s very much manipulation, Jax!”


Autumn held up her hand, interrupting him. “I’m sure you’ve heard the news of his trade?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“It has to do with everything. The media has labeled him a traitor, and you and I both know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jax lives and breathes football, he always has.”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“We’re trying to take the heat off his current situation by having him get married. Your marriage will be fake.”

“Fake marriage? Then we don’t have to really get married?”

“No,” Jax bit. “You’ll marry me, Soph. You’ll carry my name, and so will our son.”

“And if I refuse? You’ll what? Take me to court for Ben?”


I cleared my throat, meeting his eyes. “It’s his name. Benjamin Hayes.”

“What’s his whole name?”

“I just told you.”

“I’m asking for his middle name?”

I looked away.

“Can you get me his midd—”

“It’s Jax!” I screamed at him, and the son of a bitch had the nerve to smile at me. I glared at my lawyer. “Why are you even here if you’re not going to do anything? Can’t you object or deny or tell him to eat shit?”

“I don’t remember you having such a dirty mouth, Sophie.”

“What can I say, asshole? You bring out the worst in me.”

“Well, you bring out the best in me.”

“I’m immune to your bullshit charm, Jax. I’m not going to fall for it again, and I’m offended that you think I would.”

“You had no problem with it the night we made Ben.”

“Because I wanted to get back at you!”

“Back at me?” He pinned me with a confused glare, and I hated that I had shared too much.

“I’m not marrying you. I don’t care if it’s fake—I won’t do it.”

“Then I’ll have no choice but to take Ben from you. You hid my son from me… The judge will take my side. It won’t take much to paint you in a negative light, Sophie. Don’t make me do it. As furious as I am with you, it’s the last thing I want to do.”

I whimpered, holding my head in my hands. It felt like my whole world was caving in on me. “You can’t do this.”

“Be my wife, and I won’t.”

I gritted out through a clenched jaw, “For how long?”

It was Autumn who answered. “Until the end of the season. It’ll be about half a year.”

“Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening. How is this happening?”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Soph.”

I looked up at him. “Then why are you? Ben doesn’t even know you. Can you think about him for one second?”

“Now you’re concerned with Ben? What about him being raised without a father? That didn’t concern you?”

“What kind of father would you have even been, Jax? You see your lifestyle! You’re with a different woman every night, and how many of them have claimed you knocked them up? I didn’t want him to just be another name on your roster, okay? You live and breathe football. You have no time for him, and I refused to have you hurt him in any way. Especially for your time. I didn’t tell you because I was trying to protect him. All you do is use people, exactly how you’re trying to use me right now, and I won’t stand for it!” With that, I abruptly stood from the table and knocked my chair over in the process.

I needed a minute to compose my thoughts and figure out what I was going to do. Instead of continuing this pointless argument, I walked out to my balcony to breathe in the fresh air. Leaning against the railing, I laid my head on my hands.

My heart was pounding, and my head was aching.

I was screwed.

“I know how hard this is for you, Sophie,” Autumn sympathized as she was suddenly standing next to me, leaning against the railing, mimicking my position.

“You have no idea what you’re asking.”

“Actually, I do. I know exactly what you’re going through because I went through something similar with Julian.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

“I imagined you would. We were front-page news, but that wasn’t the true story. Julian being Julian, spun it to his advantage.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a long story, but cliff notes version is he didn’t know we had a daughter after he’d left town.”

I jolted back, not expecting her to say that.

“You have your reasons as to why you didn’t tell Jax, and I respect that. He doesn’t have the best reputation with women, and there’s probably a woman every other month claiming she’s pregnant with his kid, but I can assure you you’re the only baby mama he has.”

I scoffed out a chuckle despite still wanting to wring his neck.

“I know how hard it is to feel backed into a corner, and I promise I’ll be on your side the entire time, Sophie. Whatever you need or want, I’ll make it happen, but you have to do this for him.” She shrugged. “You owe him, don’t you think?”

“There’s more to it than just Ben, Autumn. I have a career—”

“I know.”

“What do you mean, you know?”

“I know who you are.”

“And here I thought Jax was the one with all the surprises.”

“I’m a publicist, Sophie. It’s my job to know everything.”

“How long have you known?”

“A couple of days. I found out after I found you.”

“You found me?”

“Yeah. After your night with Jax, Caleb spent the next month trying to find you for him.”

My mouth dropped open. “You’re lying.”

“Go ask him yourself.”

It was like one blow after the other. My head was spinning with the overload of information she was sharing.

“Caleb didn’t find you, but I did. I understand why you were hiding your identity. You had a son to think about. From one mother to another, I know how important it is to keep him out of the limelight. This industry can eat you up and spit you out. It’s the risk you take by being in the public eye. Jax is by far one of the most famous athletes of our time. He’s going to go down in history as the greatest of all time, and that’s a lot for a child to take on. The press hounds his every move, but you know at the end of the day, drama sells. Most of the stories you read about him are false. I know you know that.”

“I don’t know anything. Least of all, what’s the truth or lies when it comes to Jax. I thought I knew who he was, I hoped I did, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t know him at all.”

“What happened between you two?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. It doesn’t matter. I’m not that girl anymore, and Jax is sadly mistaken if he thinks I’m going to be.”

“I understand.”

“I don’t think you do. I can’t do this. I can’t be his wife, even if it is fake.”

“Why do you think that is, Sophie?”

“What are you getting at, Autumn?”

“Maybe the fact that you don’t want to do this for him is because you’re scared that you’ll fall in love with him again?”

I shook my head. “That’s not it.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive.”

“Alright, then do it for your fans. If Jax takes you to court, it’s all going to come out, and I won’t be able to protect you. Your fans believe in love, it’s why they read your books. If they find out you kept your son from his father, I don’t think you’ll be able to bounce back from that. Regardless of your reasons.”

“So what you’re saying is marry Jax, or my fanbase is going to turn on me?”

“Something like that. You’ve worked too hard to let that happen. Besides, your fans want to know who you are, and I don’t blame them. Your books are amazing.”

“You’ve read them?”

“You’re one of my favorite authors.”


“Listen, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and this is perfect timing. Jax marrying a romance author, it couldn’t get any better if I had made it up. The public is going to lose their ever-loving mind, and your fanbase is going to grow by the millions. Women are obsessed with Jax, and you’re about to take all that on. You couldn’t pay for this kind of publicity.”

I inhaled another deep breath, trying to gather my bearings and sanity. It felt as though I was losing my mind.

“I’m going to give you a few minutes to yourself. When you’re ready, I’ll show you the contract. We can work out the details and schedule a timeline to start with your engagement party.”

“Engagement party?”

“Yes. The whole nine yards, Sophie. Your friends and family need to think this is your fairy tale happily ever after.”

“Oh my God.”

She rubbed my back for a second before she spun and left.

I didn’t give it a second thought, doing the only thing I could. Grabbing my phone from my jacket, I called the one person who might be able to do something in my favor. I knew he was in town on business. We were supposed to have dinner with him tonight.

He picked up on the second ring, and I didn’t hesitate in admitting…

* * *

“Daddy, I need your help.”



Sophie walked back to the table. She was out on the balcony forever, making me lose whatever little patience I had with this situation. I was minutes away from just throwing her over my shoulder and locking her in my house until she agreed to marry me.

I didn’t know why I thought this was going to be easy, nothing with her ever was.

When she started walking toward the door, I snapped, “Where do you think you’re going?” Waiting for her to haul ass out of here.

She knew more than anyone that I had no fucking problem chasing her down and tackling her to the ground if I had to.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she replied, opening the door.

I blinked, and she revealed the man I least expected. Acknowledging him, “Thanks for coming, Dad.”

“Dad?” Caleb exclaimed. Frozen in the spot he was sitting. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?”

Sophie smirked, locking eyes with me. “You know my dad, right? I mean…” She shrugged. “Afterall, he is your new football coach.”

“Oh shit,” Autumn rasped, looking back at me.

“I thought you know everything, Red.”

Her surprised stare didn’t waver from mine. Although she remained calm and collected, I could see the wheels turning in her head. Immediately going into damage control, thinking how she could spin this and use it to our advantage.

Sophie’s father didn’t delay. He walked in with two men by his side dressed in suits. Nodding to Autumn, he ordered, “My lawyers want to see that contract.”

She handed it right over to him while my lawyer informed, “My client has every right to his son.”

Her father’s eyes met his as he passed the contract off to his men who went right to work. They walked out of the room, taking the agreement with them.

“I’m just trying to catch up here. I was in town for some business with my lawyers,” he explained, his gaze looking at all of us including his daughter. “Sophie and Ben were going to have dinner with me this evening, and now I’m hit with the news of Ben being yours. I want to start off by saying that all of this is news to me. I didn’t know you were Ben’s father. If I did, this circumstance wouldn’t be happening right now. I had no clue. Sophie only told me about half an hour ago. Up until then, I thought Ben was the result of a one-night stand.”

“He was,” Sophie agreed, only further pissing me off which was never a good thing.

Her father was my new coach, and the last thing I needed was to get on his bad side, but I wouldn’t surrender.

It wasn’t in my nature.

“You said you barely knew the father, Sophie.”

“I didn’t, Dad.”

“You lived with Jax. How long had this been going on?”

“Since the moment I saw her step out of her mom’s car.”

She glared at me before looking back at her dad. “I didn’t live with him. I lived in his guesthouse.”

I resisted the urge to remind her she also loved to sneak into my bedroom. I lost count of how many times she was waiting for me, laying on my bed. Ready to talk until the early hours of the morning. It was always our time together, when the world was sleeping, and we were wide awake.

“Someone needs to start talking and tell me what the hell is going on? Sophie says she’s being blackmailed into marrying you?”

I opened my mouth to reply, but Autumn stood with her hands in the air, silencing me. “I think this is a good time for me to intervene.”

Better her than me.

“I’m sure you’ve seen what the press is saying about your quarterback?”

“What does that have to do with anything? There’s a scandal with him every month.”

“Right, but this is different. They’ve labeled him a traitor, and let’s face it—you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with fans booing him at your first game. And as it turns out, he’s now your grandkid’s father. The press is going to eat him alive if we don’t spin the story. Not to mention, what they’ll say about your daughter when they find out Jax is the father, and she didn’t tell him.” She paused, letting her words sink in. “I know what’s best for both of them, him being your quarterback and her being your daughter, it’s literally media gold. The press, the fans, they’re going to lose their minds when they find this out. It doesn’t get any better than this, sir.”

“Yeah, except I don’t want to marry him. I don’t care what they say about me.”

Autumn turned around to face her. “You’re going to care when your fans turn on you. And trust me, they will. Their favorite romance author hides her son from his father? That’s just career suicide, Sophie.”

“Romance author?” I questioned, leaning back into my chair. Hating the fact that I was once again taken by surprise.

Autumn smiled, fully aware of what I was thinking. “I was going to get to that after Sophie sat back down with us.”

“You should have told me before we walked through the door, Red.”

“Hello!” Sophie shouted, waving her hands in the air. “Can we please stop talking about me like I’m not standing right here?”

“I’m sorry,” Autumn apologized to her. “I know this is a lot to take in, but I swear to you that I’m working with your best interest at heart, Sophie. You’ve worked too hard to let this bite you in the ass now.”

I could see it in her eyes, Autumn was getting to her. As if on cue, her father’s lawyers walked back into the room, informing, “It’s an ironclad contract and pretty straight forward, sir. They’re not trying to pull one over on your daughter. She only has to be married to him for one season.”

Sophie’s dad grabbed her hand, nodding to us. “I need to speak to my daughter alone.”

With that, they left the room, and Caleb didn’t waste any time coming for me. Not that I expected him to. I could only imagine what he was thinking.

“How many times have I told you not to fuck the coach’s daughter, Jax?”

“Does it look like I knew she was the coach’s daughter? I’m as surprised as you are.”

“She never told you?”

“No. I mean, she told me about her dad, but she never mentioned he was a football coach.” My gaze shifted to Autumn. “Nice spin by the way. You’re quick on your feet, Red.”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, but what are the odds of her dad being your new coach? Way to start off on the wrong foot, Quarterback.”

“Yeah…” was all I could respond. “So she’s a romance author?”

“Not just any romance author. She’s a New York Times bestseller. She sold over three million copies of her last release alone.”

“Is that right? Then why haven’t I ever heard of her?”

“She writes under a pen name. Nobody knows who she is.”

“What does Baby Soph want to do with the rest of her life?”

She beamed. “Spend it with you.”

I shook away the memory of one of our nights together, not wanting to live in the past, but unable to get away from it. We had a history, a friendship, and I’d fucked it all up. I broke her heart, and I had to live with that mistake. The only thing I could do was focus on the future and how I could make it up to her.

After all these years.

All the memories.

I didn’t know…

She was my endgame.

* * *


* * *

I followed closely behind my father, knowing he was upset with me. However, keeping secrets was what my family did best.

Once we were in my bedroom, he closed the door and took one look at me before asking, “How could you keep this from me?

“Please don’t be mad at me,” I begged, hating that it felt like I had no control.

“I’m furious with you. How long has this been going on between the two of you?”

“I don’t know how to answer that.”

“I want the truth.”

“I don’t have it.”


“What?” I shook my head. “I’m being serious. I honestly don’t have it.”

“Were you two messing around when you moved there?”

“How can I explain us to you when I barely understand it myself. Jax isn’t who I thought he was, okay?”

“What did you expect? You see the stuff that’s printed about him. How could you fall for that?”

“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell him about Ben, Dad. I do know who he is. It’s why I didn’t tell anyone he was the father. I was stupid and fell for his charm. I thought… I don’t know. I guess I just thought I meant something to him back then, but I didn’t, and I know that now.”

“Did you know that the night you got pregnant with his baby?”


“Sophie Marie Hayes, why on earth would you sleep with him then?”

I shrugged, feeling like a little girl. Talking to my dad about casual sex wasn’t a conversation I ever thought I’d have with him.

“I want the truth. Now!”

I jolted from his sharp tone. “Because he’d broke my heart, and I just wanted to get back at him.”

“Oh, Sophie…”

I bowed my head, feeling ashamed. “I know it’s so stupid. I’m so stupid. I never thought I’d get pregnant though. We used protection. I was on the pill. He has like super sperm or something.”

He grabbed the bridge of his nose. “The press is going to destroy you for this, baby.”

“Is there anything you can do? Can’t you threaten to bench him or something if he makes me go through with this?”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Why? Why can’t you do this for me?”


“Why does football always have to come first? This is exactly why I didn’t tell Jax about Ben. I didn’t want my son to become me.”

“I thought we were past this, baby. You know I love you more than anything in this world.”

“Not more than your team.”

“That’s not fair.”

“None of this is. Please tell me you can do something.”

He deeply sighed. “I’m sorry, baby. My hands are tied. I have to do what’s in the best interest of my team, and as much as I hate to admit it, the redhead’s right.” Reaching up, he grabbed ahold of the back of my neck in a comforting gesture. “I wish you would have told me the truth about Ben, Sophie. We wouldn’t be in this situation if you had. You’ve backed yourself into this corner, baby, and the only thing I can do to help you is agree that you need to marry Jax.”

I grimaced. “You can’t be serious?”

“It’s only for a season.”

My whole life was imploding, and now my only ally was turning on me.

“Besides, think about Ben. He’s going to want to know his father, and at least this way you’re there with him.”

“Us getting married is just going to confuse him. He’s going to think we love each other.”

“There are worse things he could think, and if the press hears the truth, he will hear all sorts of awful things about his mother. Do you want that for him?”

“Of course not.”

In a stern voice, he repeated, “It’s only for a season.”

I backed away, my blood boiling with an endless stream of conflicting emotions soaring through my mind and tearing at my heart. Confusing me even more when it came to him, but in a much different way than before.

It wasn’t just about my career anymore. It was about his life and how I’d fit in it. How we’d fit in it. When everything in my mind was telling me, screaming at me, that I needed to stay away from Jax. That I needed to keep Ben away from him.

For years I’d tried, and now I’d failed.

I closed my eyes for a mere second, too consumed with decisions I didn’t know how to make. What was wrong was right outside my bedroom door, sitting in my dining room with a smug expression on his face that I wanted to smack off. I tried ignoring the looming feeling in the pit of my stomach, focusing on the fact that it would only be half a year.

Six months.

A hundred and eighty-two days.

By signing that contract, I was willingly signing my life away to a man who didn’t deserve it. My thoughts never stopped racing as I desperately tried to seek refuge in myself.

I couldn’t help but remember why I’d fallen for Jax in the first place. He seemed so honest, so real, especially when he let his guard down with me.

The way he looked at me.

Spoke to me.


Every smile.

Every laugh.

Every word that fell from his lips felt like it meant something.

It didn’t matter how big or small. I felt like I mattered.

It was a lie.

He was an illusion.

One that I’d created out of pure loneliness to feel a connection to someone.

To him.

And now it was biting me in my ass.

Whether I wanted to be or not…

* * *

I’d have to become Mrs. Colton.



Sophie and her dad walked back into the room.

I was still sitting where I was when she’d left. Except now I had our contract placed in front of me. She sat at the other end of the table, nodding toward the agreement.

I understood her silent demand, sliding it over to her. Despite trying to remain composed, I could still see the slight clench of her jaw and the vein on her neck protruding as her gaze went to the first page of the contract.

“Dad.” She peered up at him. “I know you have a busy schedule, and you’re catching the redeye home. You can go. I can handle it from here.”

“Are you sure?”


He kissed the top of her head before looking at his lawyers. “You two stay and make sure she gets everything she wants.”

Autumn didn’t miss a beat. “I’ll make sure she does, sir.”

His stare moved from Autumn to me. “And you, I’ll see you in a few weeks for camp.” I could see it in his eyes, this conversation was far from over.

I nodded, watching as he left the room.

“Does this mean you agree to marry Jax?” Caleb questioned, bringing my attention back to him.

“He’s left me no choice.”

For the next twenty minutes, Sophie looked over the contract.

I gave it a few more minutes until I finally asked, “Are we good?”

“No. We’re far from good, Jax. Let’s get one thing straight, shall we? I’m not doing this for you. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am in my career to let you ruin it for me. Understood?”

For a moment I just sat there staring at her. Even when she was pissed at me, she was still fucking stunning.

“I know you’re going to insist on getting to know my son—”

“Our son, Sophie, and don’t you forget it.”

Her jaw tightened again. “At least this way I’ll be there to make sure you don’t fuck him over like you did me.”

Unable to hold back, I demanded, “I want everyone to leave. Now.”

“Jax, I don’t think—”

With one look, I rendered Autumn speechless.

“We’ll meet you back at the hotel,” Caleb agreed, grabbing his suit jacket.

Autumn and my lawyer followed while her father’s attorneys waited on Sophie to tell them what to do. She let them leave as well, and once everyone was gone, I didn’t waver.

Expressing, “If I could go back to that time, Soph, I would have—”

“Save it. I don’t want to hear it. In fact, I want to add that stipulation to this contract. You’re not allowed to talk to me about the past or whatever you would or wouldn’t have done. I don’t want to go down memory lane with you, Jax. I don’t want you to bullshit me with your charm and lies. I’m agreeing to this fake marriage against my will. You’re forcing your hand like you’ve always done. Jax Colton doesn’t lose, right? I’m just another game to you, and don’t for one second think I don’t know it.”

I arched an eyebrow, reeling in my temper, but somehow, someway, Sophie always knew how to push each and every one of my fucking buttons.

“While we’re on the subject of stipulations, I also want to add that I have my own bedroom with a shower furthest away from your bedroom, and I’ll only be living in your home after we get married.”

“I have full-time staff, Soph. You’re going to have to sleep in my bed if we’re going to keep up our pretenses.”

She glared at me. “I’m not sleeping in your bed.”

“Why not? Baby Soph used to love to sleep in my bed.”

“Jax, stop calling me that.”

“Old habits die hard.”

“Well, you can bury it into the ground along with your assumption that I’ll be sleeping in your bed.”

“After we’re married it will be your bed too, sweetheart. What’s mine is yours.”


“How will you explain to Ben why his parents are sleeping in different rooms?”

“Fine. I’ll sleep in your bed. You can sleep on the floor.”

“You see…” I leaned into the table, setting my elbows against the edge. “I have all these concussions, and it’s not good for my recovery to sleep on hard surfaces. I shouldn’t have to hinder my healing for the season since you can’t control yourself from sleeping on top of me.”

Her mouth dropped open. “That is not the case!”

I shrugged. “I can’t help it that you love to cuddle.”

“Oh my God! You’re the one who would pull me to you, buddy. How many mornings did I wake up with your dick in my ass, Jax?”

“Not as many as I woke up with my mouth on your pussy, Sophie.”

Her eyes widened.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart, I have no problem waking up to eat you for breakfast. In fact, I insist we add it to the contract.”

“Wow. Just when I think you can’t be more of an arrogant asshole, you go and prove me wrong.”

“It’s one of my best qualities. I’m sure you remember how this arrogant asshole made you come all over his face.”

“Moving right along.” She scratched out the next clause on the agreement. “I don’t want a honeymoon. We don’t need one, and if reporters ask why we can tell them you have to report to camp like a good little boy.”

“Sophie.” I smiled. “There’s nothing little about me.”

She snidely scoffed out, “That’s not what I remember.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

I mockingly grinned, cocking my head to the side. “Again, I have no problem reminding you how much of my dick you can’t take. If you’d like, I’ll bend you over the table right now and have you not walking for days.”

“No thanks. I’d hate to wreck your illusion of how little you rocked my world.”

“How about I wreck your pussy like I did when we made Ben? Maybe we’ll be two for two, and I can knock you up with a little girl this time instead.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“What’s ridiculous is that you think there’s nothing between us anymore.”

“Oh, trust me, there’s nothing between us anymore.”

I deviously smiled, leaning back against my chair. Little by little, I began taking her in.

“I know you’re full of shit, Soph. How quickly you want to pretend like I still don’t have an affect on you. I took your first kiss, your first touch, your first fuck… I taught you everything you like and love. Do you want to test that theory now, Soph?”

Her skin flushed, and she bit her bottom lip.

“You can continue to pretend with this little game you have going on, but it’s only a matter of time until you’re riding my cock again.”

“In your dreams.”

“You’re not a dream. You’re my reality and soon to be my wife. I know how to please you, Baby Soph.” I didn’t hesitate in adding, “I also know how to love you.”

* * *


* * *

It was like a bullet to my heart.

“Stop throwing around the word love, Jax. You’re using it exactly how you used me.”

“You need to trust me when I say I won’t hurt you again.”

“Trust you? I can’t believe you have the audacity to ask that of me after how badly you hurt me.”

“I know. I fucked up.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. It was a long time ago.”

“I looked for you, Sophie.”

My heart skipped a beat.

Stupid heart. Don’t fall for it. Use your brain. You know he’s just trying to manipulate you.

“You’re getting what you want, Jax. You don’t need to tell me what you think I want to hear.”

“I’m telling you what I want you to know. I thought…” He shook his head. “The night we ran into each other, I thought we were starting fresh. I never imagined I’d be waking up alone and you’d be gone. Was that your plan the entire time? Fuck me and leave me?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I didn’t know you were going to be there that night. Besides, it took you a minute to even recognize who I was, so save the, ‘I know how to love you,’ act. I’m not going to fall for it this time.”

“Have you taken a look at yourself lately? You look nothing like you did in high school. Especially considering what you wore that night. Your little white dress left nothing to the imagination

“You remember my dress?”

“I told you, I remember everything about you. Why didn’t you ever tell me about your dad being a football coach?”

“It wasn’t relevant to any of our conversations.”

“What else are you not telling me?”

I thought about it for a minute before I stated, “None of your business.”

“It’s going to be my business when you become my wife.”

“Fake wife.”

“Either way, you’re still mine.”

“For six months, Jax.”

“We have a son, Soph. You’re forever tied to me.”

“And that’s another reason I didn’t tell you. We’re nothing more than property to you. Just another trophy you can add to your shelf.”

“I know you’re upset for how I handled things back then, but for fuck’s sake, do you think this is easy for me? Put yourself in my shoes. I’ve missed out on six years of my son’s life! I’ve missed all of his major milestones, his birth, his birthdays. There’s already so much I can’t get back. You may think I’m being a vindictive prick and the truth is, I am. I’ll own it, okay? I’m not going to apologize for that. Especially when you show absolutely no remorse for hiding him from me in the first place.”

“Don’t pretend like you know what I feel. There were so many times I wanted to reach out and tell you about him, but then another scandal would break about you. Just in the past year alone, how many women have claimed you knocked them up, Jax? Can you put yourself in my shoes for one second? I’m not trying to play the victim. I know what I did was wrong, but I can’t go back to the past any more than you can when it comes down to us. I loved you. Wholeheartedly. You were my everything. I cherished the ground you walked on.” My eyes rimmed with tears, unable to hold them back.

“You hurt me in ways I didn’t think you’d ever hurt me. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to get over you? You broke my heart. I thought…” I shook my head, wiping away a tear. “I thought you loved me. I thought what we had meant something to you. I never expected you to do what you did, and it killed me to realize I was just like every other girl to you. You got what you wanted. All of my firsts. For what? Huh? Why would you take it all from me; if you were just going to fuck me over in the end?”

“Sophie, I didn’t want to fuck you over. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but it happened anyway, and all I can say is my life was so messed up back then. All I had was football.”

“That’s not true. You had me, Jax. You. Had. Me.”

“I know.” He nodded. “There’s a lot you don’t know, and I’m not ready to tell you yet, but I will. Just give me time, alright?”

“I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter. Why are we even talking about this? I already told you I don’t want to talk about the past. It’s done and over with. We speak about the present and the future. That’s it.”

“It matters to me. Were you ever going to tell me about Ben?”



“My dad’s your new coach. I didn’t even know you were coming to play for Fort Worth. I found out when the world did. It’s not like my father and I discuss his team. He wouldn’t have told me anyway. I knew it was only a matter of time before I told you. I just wanted it to be on my terms. Now that’s shot to shit, and here we are. You’re once again using me and expecting me to just roll over and take it like I’m still that young girl waiting on you hand and foot. I’m not that girl anymore, and I never want to be her again. So let’s make one thing crystal clear—I’m only doing this because you’re making me. I don’t love you, Jax. I don’t want us to be friends. I don’t want us to be anything other than Ben’s parents. We can co-parent, but that’s the extent of our dynamic.”

His jaw tightened for a second before he asked, “Does Ben know who I am?”

“Everyone knows who you are. He’s obsessed with you like everyone else.”

“He watches football?”

“He lives and breathes football. My dad had him on the field from the moment he could crawl. He wants to be just like you.”

He smiled, beaming.

“He’s really good at throwing a football. You’d be proud, which brings me to my next stipulation. I don’t want an engagement party or a wedding. We can go to the courthouse and get married or have someone come to your home and marry us there. We’ll take pictures, do the whole charade. I don’t want to say, ‘I do’. I don’t want to walk down an aisle. I don’t want my friends or family to even be in attendance. We can tell everyone we eloped. This isn’t real, and I don’t want to pretend like it is. You either take it or leave it. If you refuse, then I won’t agree to this, and you can tell the world the truth. I’ll deal with the consequences. It won’t be the first time you’ve fucked me over.”

His jaw clenched again before he reluctantly nodded. “I can work with that.”

“Great. Now for my last stipulation.”

“There’s more?”

“Yes. I tell Ben on my own that you’re his father.”

He sighed, eyeing me warily. “When are you going to tell him?”

“I’ll tell him when we fly back to Fort Worth next week, and you can meet him then. I think it should be on neutral territory for both of you.”

“And what does Baby Soph consider neutral territory?”

I smiled for what felt like the first time that morning.

* * *

Stating, “The football field, of course.”



For the past week I tried to soak up as much alone time as I could with Ben. Our lives were about to change full force, and I wasn’t prepared for any of it. We’d flown back to Fort Worth yesterday, and tomorrow morning I’d be taking him to meet his dad.

The only person who knew the truth was Jax’s team and my father. I hadn’t told my mom yet, and I was nervous for her to hear the news. She had never been a fan of Jax, and it hadn’t changed over the years.

If anything, it became worse.

“Mom, are you okay?”

My eyes shifted to Ben. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be okay?”

He shrugged, getting into his bed. “You’ve been standing at my bookcase forever.”

“Oh,” I anxiously laughed.

This was our night-time routine. Every night, we’d switch who picked out his bedtime story for me to read. Ben inherited my love for reading. Probably because I started reading to him while he was still in my womb. It was our bond. He had three bookcases in his room, all filled with different genres of stories.

His favorite books were always football-related, though. He was obsessed with the sport. Knew more than I did when it came down to it.

“I think maybe tonight we try something different for a change. What do you think about that?”

“Ummm…” He nodded. “Okay, Mom.”

I smiled, placing the book I had in my hand back on his shelf before I made my way to his bed. He scooted over for me, and I sat in my usual spot beside him. Pulling him closer onto my lap, he laid his head on my legs like he did every night.

Ben loved getting back and head scratches, reminding me so much of Jax. Jax would lay the same way Ben is now, and we’d talk all night while I scratched his head and back. There were quite a few ways that Ben was like his father. The older he got, the more personality traits he seemed to take on from Jax without even meeting him.

His stubbornness.


The ability to have me wrapped around his finger with a simple smile.

Not to mention, he was already showing characteristics of becoming an amazing athlete. I wasn’t exaggerating by any means. My dad was determined to make him the next G.O.A.T. in the football league.

After he was sprawled out on my lap, I began his bedtime story.

“Once upon a time, there was this young girl who moved to Fort Worth to live with her mom in the home where she was the housekeeper.”

He giggled. “Mom … that sounds like you and Grammy.”

“You’re too smart for your own good.” I kissed the top of his head. “She lived in the guesthouse of their estate, and from the moment she laid eyes on the son who lived there too, she fell madly in love with him.”

“What was his name?”

“His name was Jax.”

“Hey! That’s my middle name.”


“What happened next?”

“Well, one night she was hanging out in their library, reading The Great Gatsby, and all of a sudden she heard his deep voice ask if she wanted to watch a movie with him. Of course, the girl was shocked because she had the biggest crush on him, and he was suddenly asking her if she wanted to hang out.”

“Did she?”

“They were going to, but as they were making the popcorn the girl’s mom interrupted them, so they didn’t get to hang out for very long.”

“Did the mom not want them to hang out?”

“The mom was super overprotective of her daughter.”

“Like you are with me?”

“Exactly like I am with you.”

“Whoa. That’s a lot.”

I chuckled. “It is.”

“Then what happened?”

“They didn’t see each other for a few weeks.”


“He was busy with football.”

“Football?” That made him sit up to look at me with wide eyes. “He played football like me?”

“He was the best.”

“Like the greatest?”

I nodded.

“Wow. What happened next?”

“They saw each other at a Halloween party, and she was dressed like a cheerleader to impress him, but he didn’t like her costume. So he threw her over his shoulder and marched them out of the party.”

His gaze lit up.

“Once they got to his truck, she wanted him to kiss her, but he refused.”

“Ewww ... kissing’s gross.”

I laughed. “You won’t think that forever. One day you’re going to kiss all the girls.”

“Mommm...” he whined. He was still at the stage where he thought girls were yucky. If he was anything like his father, it wouldn’t last long.

I ruffled his hair, continuing on, “Since he wouldn’t kiss her, she went to find another guy to be her first kiss, and he didn’t like that very much.”

“Did he beat up the guy like a Power Ranger?”

“No. He kissed her instead.”

“And then they lived happily ever after?”

“Not quite. They became good friends, spent a lot of time together. He was her first love.”

“Was she his too?”

I didn’t know what to reply, so instead I moved on. “They were close for years until one day they weren’t anymore.”

“What happened?”

“He left and became the biggest, best football player ever.”

“Wow. Like Jax Colton?”

My heart was breaking. I didn’t think it was possible, yet there it was. Shattering into a million pieces.

“Just like Jax Colton.”

“One day I’m going to be like him too! Right, Mom?”

“Yeah, baby. You’re going to be just like him.”

“What happened next?”

“They didn’t see each other for years, and then one night they randomly ran into one another.”

“They did?”


“And then they lived happily ever after?”

“No. They made you.”

He cocked his head to the side. “Me? You mean a boy like me?”

I shook my head, fresh tears forming in my eyes.

“Mom, why are you sad?”

“This story, Ben. It’s not make-believe. It’s the story of me and your dad.”

“My dad?” He beamed. “You mean my dad plays football?”


His mouth parted. “Who is he? Do I know him? Does Grampy?”

Why did this have to be so hard?

It wasn’t until Ben wiped the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs that I realized I was crying.

“Mom, don’t be sad. It makes me sad.”

I grabbed his little hands, kissing them repeatedly.

“Are you sad because of my dad? Does he make you sad?”

“I’m not sad.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“They’re happy tears,” I lied.

“Please don’t cry, Mom.”

I picked him up, placing him on my lap to look deep into his eyes.

“I want you to know that I love you so much. Your dad didn’t know about you, but he’s excited to meet you, and he loves you very much.”

“He does?”


“Why didn’t he know about me?”

“We can talk about that some other time.”

“Who’s my dad, Mom?”

“Your dad is…” I hesitated for an instant. “Jax Colton, Ben.”

I’d never forget the expression on his face. This was one of the best moments of his life, while it was one of the worst of mine.

“Mom! Are you for real?!”

“I am.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

“You swear?”

“I swear.”

“My dad is Jax Colton! My dad is Jax Colton!” he repeated over and over again, jumping up and down on his bed and making me sick to my stomach.

“This is the best day ever! My dad is Jax Colton!”

I didn’t know how much time went by until my phone dinged with a text message. Grabbing it off his nightstand, I swiped the locked screen.

Jax: Did you tell him?

There in front of my eyes was a text from his father. We’d exchanged numbers last week, and for the most part, Jax left me alone. I wanted to believe he was giving me space. It was the least he could do after what he was putting me through.

I texted back.

Sophie: I just did.

The bubbles appeared on the screen.

Jax: How did he handle it?

I reluctantly filmed a video of Ben, still jumping and screaming on his bed that his dad was Jax Colton, and texted it back to him.

Seconds later, the bubbles appeared again.

Jax: I appreciate you sharing that with me. Are you okay?

I narrowed my eyes at his response before typing back.

Sophie: I’ll see you tomorrow, Jax.

I leaned my head against his headboard, dreading tomorrow for all sorts of different reasons. For the next hour, Ben didn’t talk about anything other than Jax. He wanted to know everything. The only way I could get him to go to bed was by telling him that the sooner he went to sleep, the faster he would get to meet him in the morning.

The asshole had suddenly become Santa Claus.

By the time I laid down to go to sleep, it was well past three in the morning when another text came through. I didn’t have to wonder who it was, I just knew. This was always our favorite time to talk in his bed. The world was sleeping, and we were the only two wide awake.

Jax: Do you hate me, Soph?

Taking a deep breath, I texted back.

Sophie: I wish I did.

Seconds later, another text came through.

Jax: I’m going to make you love me again.

And the truth was…

* * *

I was terrified he could.



I didn’t sleep worth shit last night. Sophie didn’t reply to my last text, not that I expected her to. I was on top of the world, ready to meet my boy for the first time. You’d think I’d be nervous, but I wasn’t. I never had a problem with the possibility of being a father one day.

However, I wasn’t willingly trying to knock up any of the women I was casually sleeping with either. It was nothing more than fucking, but with Sophie, it had always been different. From the first time I was inside of her to the last. I couldn’t get enough of her, and the feeling was mutual.

I was out on the field by five AM, needing the distraction of what laid ahead. Four and a half hours later, I watched as Sophie walked down the stands, holding Ben’s hand.

My heart soared with emotions I’d never felt before. Seeing him in person for the first time was a feeling I could never put into words. I loved him immediately.

He waved as they reached the last step, and I waved back. Once they were on the field, he let go of Sophie’s hand and hauled ass toward me. My boy could run, making me feel so damn proud of him being able to move fast.

“Ben!” Sophie chased after him, and for a minute it felt like my family was running to me.

My whole world.

Sophie Hayes had always been such a huge part of who I was, the man I wanted to be.

For her.

I crouched to his level, and he didn’t hesitate to jump into my arms. It was such a surreal, overwhelming feeling to have him be in my embrace. This little man we’d made. Where he was suddenly the most important person in my life.

From that moment forward, nothing else mattered but him.

I didn’t know how long I held him against my chest, lost in the feel of his skin, the scent of his hair, and all the sentiments he pulled out of my entire body. I’d forever remember this day as one of the happiest times of my life.

When I looked up, Sophie was hovering above us with big, huge tears streaming down her gorgeous face. One right after the other. I kissed the top of Ben’s head, letting my lips linger on his soft hair. I didn’t want this moment to end, not for one second.

He was the first to pull away, grabbing onto my face with his little hands.

“Hi,” he greeted, smiling wide. “I’m your number one fan.”

Instantly, my eyes rimmed with tears. Five words were all it took for me to lose all sense of control when it came to him.

“Is that right?” I coaxed, trying to hold back the emotion coursing through my veins with no end in sight.

“Yeah. I’m Benjamin Jax Hayes.”

I winced, hating that he didn’t carry my last name.

“My mom says she named me after you.”

Never breaking eye contact with him, I stated, “Well, I’m honored.”

He beamed, throwing my stats at me. “You hold six hundred and twenty-seven passing touchdowns, and you’ve gone to forty-five-playoffs, and won eight Super Bowls.”

I nodded, smiling. “That’s right.”

“You’re the greatest of all time.”

“I’ve probably had thousands of people say that to me, Ben, but none of them meant as much as hearing you say it to me right now.”

He didn’t hesitate in replying, “My mom says you’re my dad.”

Feeling an immense sense of joy, I responded, “I am.”

“Wow … that’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. Jax Colton is my dad. Can I tell all my friends?”

“You can tell whoever you want, bud.”

“Can I call you dad?”

I was wrong … those five words were enough to make me lose control.

“Bud, I would love that.”

He smiled, wrapping his arms around my neck. “You’re the best. I love you, Dad.”

I blinked, and tears slid out of my eyes. “I love you too, Benjamin.”

My gaze met Sophie’s again, and the first words she mouthed to me were, “I’m so sorry I kept him from you.”

I breathed out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding until that very moment, needing to hear those words from the mother of my son too.

Soon to be, Mrs. Colton.

* * *


* * *

Jesus this was hard.

I didn’t remember the last time I cried this much. I was basically an emotional wreck for the rest of the day. We’d spent hours on that field. Ben was insistent on showing Jax everything he could, and I’d never seen Jax prouder than he was with Ben showing him his natural talent and skills.

“Damn,” he celebrated, catching the football Ben had just thrown at him. “He’s got some arm on him.”

They’d been tossing the ball back and forth for the last hour, and it didn’t seem like they had plans to stop anytime soon. I was sitting on the sidelines near Jax, watching them play. Surprised at how much I was truly enjoying it.

They looked beautiful together, so effortless and easy.

“Trust me.” I nodded. “I’m fully aware. He’s basically my dad’s prodigy.”

“I’m glad he had your dad.”

“Yeah, me too. He definitely has your genes, Jax. He also has your stubbornness and your ability to have me wrapped around his finger.”

“How do I get that ability again?”

I side-eyed him. “I walked right into that one.”

“Can you tell me about him?”

“What would you like to know?”

“How about we start with your pregnancy? How was it?”

“Oh … well, I gained like five hundred pounds.”

“Really? Where?”


He looked over at me with a predatory regard that made me self-conscious.

“Stop looking at me like that.”

He grinned. “But you’re my favorite thing to look at.”


“You know what? You’re right. Your breasts are bigger.”

My face flushed.

“I love that you still blush when I’m hitting on you.”

“Stop hitting on me.”

“Your hips are wider too.”

“Awesome. Anything else?”

He nodded to me. “Your ass, that’s bigger too.”

“Wow. This is a great conversation.”

He chuckled. “You’re still tiny, Baby Soph. Don’t worry, I can toss you around and put you where I want you.”

“Okay, moving right along…” I ignored his blatant flirting. “My water broke while I was in the shower, so for a good hour I didn’t know if I was actually in labor, or if I’d peed myself.”

He laughed, throwing his head back. Even after all these years, he still had such a great laugh.

“My labor was thirty-six hours.”

“That’s a long time.”

“Yeah, well, your son likes to do things on his own time. He can’t be rushed. Sound familiar?”

He smiled.

“He was seven pounds, six ounces, and he was twenty inches long.”

“That must have felt nice coming out of your tiny pussy.”

My mouth dropped open. “Oh my God! You can’t say things like that to me!”

“What, Mom? What is he saying?”

“Yeah, Mom,” he teased. “What am I saying?”

“Nothing!” I shouted to Ben. “Why don’t you go long?”


“I’m serious, Jax. You can’t say stuff like that to me.”

“Try to stop me, Sophie.”

I rolled my eyes. “Anyway, if you must know. I barely tore. I only needed three stitches. Happy?”

“Depends. Did you get a daddy stitch too?”

I was taken aback. “How do you know about the daddy stitch?”

“Locker room talk.”

“Ah. Speaking of, how’s it feel to be back in Fort Worth?”

“Like I never left.”

“Your parents know you’re back?”

“I don’t want to talk about my parents.”

“Good to know things that haven’t changed with you and them.”

“How’s your mom?”

“Let’s change the subject.”

“Does she know about our marriage?”

“Our fake marriage,” I reminded, knowing he needed to hear it. “I haven’t told her yet.”

“What are you waiting for?”

“The earth to fall so I don’t have to go through with it.”

“Don’t hold your breath, Soph.”

I rolled my eyes again.

“Was Ben a good baby?”

“He was the best.” I smiled, thinking about how adorable and chubby he was as a newborn. “He slept through the night almost immediately. He was always a good eater. Only cried when he needed a diaper change and loved to cuddle. I was very lucky.”

“Did you breastfeed?”


“Is that why your tits are bigger?”

My eyes widened, shaking my head. “Stop looking at my chest, Jax.”

“I’d do more than look if you’d give me half a chance.”

“And moving right along…”

This was what we did for the rest of the day. Jax asked me every question known to man about Ben, and we hung out like a family.

* * *

And I’d be lying if I said, I didn’t cherish it.




“Jaxey,” Mom exclaimed, pulling me into a tight hug. “You look so handsome, baby.”

I was dressed in a tuxedo for her annual Christmas party that she’d hosted since I was born. It was her way of proving to the town that we were the perfect family despite all the rumors of my father’s infidelities. He played his part of the doting husband every year, and being extra attentive to my mother and their guests was what he did best.

“Mom, I hate it when you call me that.”

She pulled away, adjusting my bow tie. “Don’t be a sourpuss, Jax. You look incredible. Angela picked out your tux. I’m so glad it fits.”

Angela was her personal shopper.

“I swear you’re just growing like a weed. Look at these shoulders and these arms, Jaxey. My boy is built like his daddy.”

“Speaking of, where is he?”

“His plane just landed. He will be here soon, and our guests will too. Be a doll and go make sure Miss Carlisee is ready for our guests and that her daughter’s uniform fits.”

I jerked back, confused by her request.

“What?” She mirrored the expression on my face. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Why is her daughter wearing a uniform?”

She smiled. “Sophie’s helping tonight. She’s going to be carrying around the appetizers, drinks, making sure our guests have everything they want and need.”


“What, Jaxey? What’s the problem?”

I bit my tongue. She was so oblivious to my life. I couldn’t remember the last time she’d attended one of my football games, let alone knew who I was friends with.

Since I’d first kissed Sophie two months ago, we’d been hanging out any chance we could get. Football season was in full swing, and like always, it consumed my life in every way, shape, and form.

The only time we could spend together was late at night. She’d sneak out of her bedroom window after her mom was asleep and crawl into my bed. We didn’t do anything but talk until all hours of the night. Sometimes we’d make out, but most of the time we just talked about the most random things.

I’d tell her about football, and she’d talk about the newest story she was reading. The girl could read a whole ass book in one night, it was crazy how much she loved it. Her face would light up anytime she started speaking about her stories. It was by far her favorite thing to do.

I’d learned so much about her through her books alone. She was a hopeless romantic, thinking that true love existed and soulmates were a real thing. Saying some shit about destiny and how everyone had a person they belonged to in this world.

It was adorable, her view on love and life.

Although her parents were divorced, she didn’t allow it to change her mind on what she believed in, and I respected that about her. Slowly but surely, she was making her way into my heart, and I never thought that’d be possible for a guy like me.

I was used to not giving a shit about a girl’s thoughts. They were a means to an end for me, but with Sophie it was so different. I wanted to know everything about her. The more we hung out, the further my feelings for her developed.

It was so unfamiliar to me, the emotions she’d evoked.

The only girl I ever cared for was Kinley, and she didn’t even know about Sophie. Nobody did. She was my best-kept secret. I didn’t want to share her with anyone.

Not even my best friend.

“Mom, Sophie doesn’t need to be working for us.”

“Why not? Her mother works for us.”

“No, her mother works for you.”

“And who cleans up after you? Who does your laundry? Cooks your dinner? She works for our family, Jaxey. I don’t understand the issue with having her daughter help out tonight.”

“She’s my—” I caught myself before I said too much.

“She’s your what, Jax?”

“Nothing. Never mind.”

“Okay, great.” She patted my chest. “Now go make sure everything is set for the party and that Sophie’s uniform fits.” She kissed my cheek, walking away.

I shook my head, instantly making my way toward the guest house. My mother was clueless in every sense of the word. However, she was nothing like Sophie’s mom, who watched her like a fucking hawk. I couldn’t blame her for ordering her daughter to stay away from me. Over the years, I’d lost count of how many girls she’d seen me with in this house.

Sophie did need to stay away from me, but I was finding it hard to stay away from her. We just had to be careful not to get caught, which was why a lot of our time together was when her mother was sound asleep.

At school, we kept our distance from each other, but there were a few times my temper was tested when I saw her.

Sophie was a beautiful girl, shy and quiet. Guys flocked to her more than I would have liked, including some of my teammates, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

One afternoon, I actually followed her into the girls’ bathroom. She came out of the stall and jolted when she saw me standing there, leaning against the door, making sure no one could get in.

“Oh my God!” she shrieked, holding her hand over her chest. “You just scared the crap out of me!”

“I’m going to do more than just scare the shit out of the guys I keep seeing by your locker, Sophie.”

She rolled her eyes, walking up to me in a flirty manner with mischief written all over her face.

“Oh, Jax,” she mocked in a high-pitched tone. “Let me just press my huge boobs over your big, strong chest. Is my cheerleading skirt short enough for you? Or do you need me to give you my bra and panties too?”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Cute, Baby Soph.”

She smirked, feeling proud of herself. “Did I get it right, or do I need to be sucking on my finger?”

“Don’t worry, I can give you something to suck, sweetheart.”

She blushed, and my cock twitched.

Grabbing ahold of her chin, I brought her lips up to my mouth. Our kiss started out innocent enough until I gripped onto her ass, making her wrap her legs around my waist. In the blink of an eye, I spun us around and pressed her back against the door instead.

She moaned into my mouth, and I groaned into hers.

“I’ll take those panties,” I rasped in between kissing her. “But not here, not now.”


“Sophie, what the fuck are you doing to me?” I growled against her lips. “If a teacher finds me in here with you, Coach will make me pay for it at practice this afternoon.”

She slid her arms around my neck. “Then we better make it worth your while.”

The fucking minx.

On my way to the guesthouse, I saw her mom in the kitchen. The coast was clear to go check on Sophie without having to worry that her mom would catch us. Once I got to their front door, I realized it was open and walked inside.

“Soph?” I called out to no avail.

Moving quickly through their house, I knocked on her bedroom door.

“Sophie?” I hollered again, knocking one last time before I turned the knob and opened her door.

Sophie was standing by her bed.

Except she wasn’t dressed in a uniform—she was fucking naked instead.

As soon as she saw me standing there, gawking at her like it was the first time I’d ever seen a girl naked, she squealed, “Jax!” grabbing her uniform to cover her body.

I held my hands up in the air. “I knocked.”

She pulled the earbuds out of her ears. “I was listening to an audiobook. Oh my God! Turn around!”

I chuckled, grabbing the back of my neck as I spun.

“What are you even doing here? If my mom saw you in—”

“She’s busy in the kitchen.”

“That doesn’t answer my question as to why you’re barging into my room to begin with, Jax.”

“Soph, I swear I knocked.”

“Well, then you should have knocked harder.”

“What’s the problem? It’s not like I’ve never seen a girl naked before.” I regretted the words the moment they left my mouth.

“Of course you have. I’m sure you’ve seen every girl in this town naked.”

“Shit, I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes, you did. Can you please go now?”


“I mean it. Go!”

I reluctantly did, pissed at myself.

For the rest of the night, I couldn’t unsee Sophie naked in front of me. Even with that fucking uniform on, all I could envision was her perky tits, her slender waist, her luscious thighs and bare pussy.

And just knowing she’d never been touched was doing all sorts of things to my cock.

The evening couldn’t get any worse, and having to pretend to be a gracious host while watching Sophie cater to our guests wasn’t sitting well with me at all. I hated seeing her as another employee. It made me feel like a piece of shit for letting this happen in the first place.

I should have said something to my mom. I could have stopped this from happening. I almost lost my shit when one of my dad’s business partners brushed his knuckles against her cheek.

Her eyes connected with mine from across the room like she felt me.

My jaw clenched, my hands fisting at my sides. I wasn’t a jealous guy by any means, and this girl was making me feel like I didn’t know who I was anymore.

She backed away from him, courteously smiling before walking away and toward the kitchen. My feet were moving to follow her and demand that she go change. She was done playing hostess. I’d deal with the consequences. I was done with this bullshit.

“Jax.” Dad grabbed my arm from behind me. “Come with me into the library. I need to speak to you.”

“I’ll meet you in there.”

“No, now.” I could tell by his sharp voice that whatever he wanted to discuss wasn’t good for me or anyone else for that matter.

With one foot in front of the other, I followed him into Sophie’s favorite room in our house.

Once he was in the room, he snapped around. “What do you think you’re doing?”

I stopped dead in my tracks, barely making it into the room.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jax. You think I don’t see what’s going on under my own roof?”

“Considering you’re never here, I find it hard to believe you see anything under your own roof.”

“Jax, I’m not your mother. She may not see what’s happening between you and that girl, but I sure as shit do.”

I played it off. “What girl?”

He bit, “The housekeeper’s daughter.”

“Her name’s Sophie.”

“I don’t care what her name is. What I care about is that you even know her name. Since when do you know the name of any girl, especially the hired help?”

“She’s not the help. Her mother is.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Have you slept with her?”

“Since when do you care about any girl I sleep with?”

“Jax…” he warned in a harsh tone. “I let you do whatever you want in this house. I treat you like a man. I always have, and I always will.”

“Well, I’m the only man in this house. You’re never here.”

“I’m working, so that you can have this cushy life and everything you want, and don’t you ever forget that.”

I scoffed out, “I don’t give a shit about any of this. You’re not working for me. You’re working for yourself. Let’s get that clear.”

“Who’s going to pay for your college, huh? Your apartment? Your books? Your food? You ungrateful brat!”

“I have a football scholarship.”

“Oh...” He cocked his head to the side. “I see. So you think you don’t need me? Is that it? I can just cut you off then?”

“I don’t need your money. I can take care of myself. I have been for years.”

He glared at me. “Stay away from the girl. Do you understand me?”

“And what if I don’t?”

In one stride, he was in my face. “Listen to me, you little shit. A girl like that, she’s just waiting for a meal ticket like you. Don’t be stupid! Think with your head for once and not your dick.”

I adamantly shook my head. “You don’t even know her.”

“Jax, I won’t tell you again. Stay away from the girl.”

“I told you her name’s Sophie.”

“And I told you I don’t care what her name is. Don’t make me tell her mother. Or better yet, don’t make me fire her.”

I jerked back.

“Oh, that got your attention?”

I stepped up to his face. “You really want to parent me right now? You’re the world’s shittiest father, not to mention a sorry ass excuse of a husband.”

Before the last word left my mouth, his fist was in the side of my face as a loud gasp erupted from the doorway. I stumbled a bit, quickly catching my footing.

“Don’t you ever talk to me like that again!” He deviously pointed to Sophie. “Stay away from my son.” With that, he turned and left, leaving me standing there with my hand on my jaw. I moved it all around as I heard Sophie take a step in my direction.

I couldn’t let her see me like this.

I refused.

Unable to turn around to face her, I ordered, “Don’t.”

“Jax, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Are you okay?”

I despised her pity more than anything. “Just go, Sophie.”

“Please, just let me make sure you’re alright.”

“I’m fine.”


“I said I’m fine.”

“Why are you being like this?”

Her question triggered me to snap around. “Why are you even here? Aren’t you supposed to be flirting with men old enough to be your father, just to make a tip?”

She grimaced. “That’s not what I was doing. I’m just being polite to your guests.”

“These aren’t my guests, they are my parents’ guests.”

“I know you’re upset, but taking it out on me isn’t going to make you feel any better. Your lip is bleeding. Just let me help you.”

“I get tackled by men double his weight on the daily. I don’t need your help.”

“You’re being an asshole.”

“Yeah, well you’re being a pain in my ass.”

“Fine!” She threw the washcloth she had in her hands at me. “Have it your way. But don’t think for a second I don’t know what you’re doing. You want to let your dad come between us, then you’re not the guy I thought you were if you scare that easily!”

I watched her leave, resisting the urge to go after her.

The truth was, it wasn’t my dad who scared me…

* * *

It was my feelings for her that did.




One week later and I was standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror in Jax’s bedroom, wearing a white lace wedding dress, swallowing the huge lump in my throat.

Today was the day that I’d become Mrs. Jax Colton.

We weren’t having a wedding, but we still needed to take pictures for the press. The officiant was waiting in his living room for us to sign our marriage license to truly make us official.

In the forefront of my mind I knew this was fake.

However, in the back of my mind, it felt very much real.

“You look gorgeous,” Jax breathed out, suddenly standing behind me.

Our stares locked through the mirror. He was wearing a black suit, looking handsome as ever.

“Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before we get married?”

He smiled. “I have something for you.”


“Turn around, and I’ll give it to you.”

“That sounds dirty.”

He grinned. “It’s not, but I like where your mind’s at.”

“Jax, what are you doing?”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“You lost my trust a long time ago.”

“I thought we weren’t allowed to discuss the past anymore?”

I sighed. He was right. “Is it something I’m going to like, or is it going to make me want to strangle you more than I already do?”

“Turn around and find out.” He deviously winked. “I dare you.”

I groaned, anxious he was going to try to pull the rug out from under me.

“The girl I knew used to be fearless.”

“More like naive.”

“Can you please just turn around? You’re ruining the moment.”

“There’s a moment now?”

“Sophie, I promise it’s something you’re going to love.”

“Fine.” With a defeated expression, I turned around to face him, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When he pulled a ring box out from the inside of his suit jacket, I gasped, “Jax…”

He didn’t pay me any mind, ordering, “Let me see your hand.”


“Either you give me your hand, or I’m going to take it, and we both know how much you love me taking things from you.”

I inhaled one more deep breath, holding up my right hand for him to take.

“Your other hand.”

“If this is what I think it is, I’m definitely going to want to strangle you.”

Instead of lifting my left hand for him, he reached over and grabbed it himself.


“Relax, I know my girl.”

I ignored his remark, following the movement of his fingers as he slid a 1920’s style diamond down my ring finger. I gasped at its beauty. It had a marquee center surrounded by a cluster of diamonds with baguettes covering the sides, making it look like a snowflake.

Shaking my head, I stared at the ring in amazement. “I can’t believe you remember.”

“I think about that night often. I remember walking by the library and being drawn to the way you were reading. You looked so unbelievably captivated, and it was almost like you were part of the story. Your eyes were sparkling, and you had the most enticing smile written across your face. I had to stop and talk to you.” He gazed down at the ring. “Does Baby Soph approve of her Daisy Buchanan-inspired ring?”

I snatched my hand away. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“I’m not trying to be malicious, Sophie. I wanted you to wear something you’d love. That’s all.”

“No, you’re trying to mess with my head, Jax. You’re the king of mind games, and this ring doesn’t change the fact that this is a fake marriage. Do you understand me?”

“I was just trying to do something nice for you.”

“This is too much. It’s huge! How many karats is this?”


“Seven? Are you insane? How much did that cost you?”

“You’ve got to be the first bride who’s ever complained about her wedding ring being too big.”

“Bride?” I repeated, standing my ground, even though I loved the ring.

It was perfect.

It was exactly what I would have wanted had this been a real engagement. I couldn’t believe he did this for me, and if I let it go, he wouldn’t stop. He’d buy me a whole damn island if he thought it would make me love him again. He was charming like that. Money was never an issue for Jax.

Needing to remind him of the truth, I added, “I’m not a bride.”

“Says the woman who’s wearing a wedding dress.”

“For pictures, Jax! This isn’t a real wedding. We’re not saying, ‘I do’, to each other. We’re simply signing our names on a marriage license, and that’s the extent of this charade. Stop trying to make this feel real. It’s not. How many times am I going to need to remind you of that?”

Out of nowhere, the sound of helicopters vibrated off his bedroom walls.

“What the hell is that?”

“It’s reporters.”

“Reporters?” I was taken aback. “What are they doing here?”

“I guess you haven’t been online today.”

“Why do I need to go online?”

He pulled out his cell phone from his pocket. “See for yourself.”

I grabbed it out of his hands, feeling sick to my stomach. Swiping over the locked screen, I hit the Safari button. Not having to search for one damn thing.

Right there in front of my eyes was the headline, Quarterback Jax Colton falls in love with New York Times Bestselling Author Sophie Hayes, also known as…

I couldn’t read the rest, instead throwing his phone onto the bed.

“I thought this would come out tomorrow! Why wasn’t I told that it was going to be today? Where’s Autumn?”

“Why does it matter if it’s today or tomorrow?”

“Because I haven’t even told my mom yet! She’s going to—” Her ringtone on my cell phone blared off the nightstand, cutting me off. “I can’t answer that.”

Jax didn’t miss a beat, walking toward my phone. “I’ll deal with her.”

“Oh my God!” I stepped out in front of him. “No!”

“She’s going to keep calling unless you answer, Sophie.”

“What do I say?”

He smiled. “That it’s the happiest day of your life.”

“This isn’t funny, Jax! She’s going to kill me!”

“Do you need me to remind you that you’re not a kid anymore? You’re a grown-ass woman. She can’t order you to stay away from me like she did back then. Just pick up the phone and tell her what’s going on.”

“Do I tell her the truth?”

“I don’t think that’s the best idea.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t trust her not to go to the press and tell them the truth.”

I nodded, hating that he was right. I didn’t trust her to not do it either. Once the call ended, it immediately began ringing again. Before I gave it another thought, I walked over to the nightstand and answered her call.

I didn’t get to say one word.

“Sophie Marie Hayes!” she shouted. “What the hell is going on?”

“Hey, Mom.”

“Don’t ‘Hey, Mom’ me, young lady! You have a lot of explaining to do! When did you start seeing Jax again?”

“Ummm… I … it’s… I…”

Jax snatched the phone out of my hand, hitting the speaker button.

“Good morning, Miss Carlisee.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“Nice to talk to you too.”

She blew him off. “Is it true? Are you guys getting married?”

“We will be in about twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes?! What?!”

“You heard me.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing! I didn’t know you two were dating, and now you’re getting married, and I’m not there! This is a slap in my face, Jax! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Believe it or not, this isn’t about you. It’s about us.”

I never expected what he shared next.

“Miss Carlisee, I’m in love with your daughter. I have been since the first time I laid eyes on her.”

She gasped. “I knew it! You two were together back then too, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, we were.”

My jaw fell to the floor, and I slapped his arm.

I could barely process what he’d said for the first time before she questioned, “Are you getting married because you knocked her up with another one of your babies?”

My eyes widened as Jax slowly cocked his head to the side.

“You knew?”

“Of course, I knew.”

“Mom, don’t—”

“I told her to stay away from you! She’s too good for you, Jax! Ben didn’t need to have an absentee father in his life. How many bastards do you have by other women, Jax? I lost count—”

He hung up on her. With his anger focused in my direction, I awaited his wrath. I knew this wasn’t going to end well…

Some fucking wedding day we were having.

* * *


* * *

Trying to keep my temper in check, I asked through a clenched jaw, “Is she the reason you didn’t tell me?”

She sidestepped me. “I don’t have to answer that.”

I gripped onto her arm, halting her descent. “The fuck you don’t.”

“Let go of me!”

I pulled her closer to my chest. “Not until you answer me. Is she the reason?”

She tried pulling her arm away, but it was no use. She wasn’t going anywhere unless I wanted her to.

“Jax, I mean it! Let go of my arm!”

I yanked her closer to my face. “Was. She. The. Reason?”

“She was only part of the reason!”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t owe you an explanation. I’m already marrying you, aren’t I?”

“Sophie, I’m trying to keep my cool. Do you see how hard that is for me? Now tell me what the hell is going on?”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. You know about Ben. There’s no need to hash it out. Now let go of me!”

When I didn’t, she roughly tried to shove me away. She was pissed I wasn’t budging an inch.

“Stop it! Let go of me!”

“I want to know the truth! If there’s another reason you didn’t tell me about Ben, then I want to know what it is!”


I didn’t hold back, spewing, “’Cause I’m trying to forgive you!”

“Well, I don’t need your forgiveness!”

Her answer infuriated me to the brink of insanity, and I unwillingly let her go. She instantly lost her footing, almost falling backward if I hadn’t caught her around her waist.

The momentum of our movements suddenly had my mouth inches away from hers. Her breathing quickly became erratic while her chest was rising and falling against mine. We stood there for what seemed like forever, lost in our own thoughts. In our demons.

I wanted to hate her.

Punish her.

Control her in a way I never had before.

Make her see reason, the truth of how I felt in the depths of my being. As much as I wanted to make her pay, I also wanted to kiss her senseless.

As if reading my mind, she was the first to break the silence between us.

“You got what you wanted, Jax. You always get what you want—I’m marrying you, even after everything! All the running around you did on me! The cheating—”

“Sophie, I didn’t—”

“You didn’t what?” she bit. “You’re just going to stand there and lie to my face? I guess it’s easy for you since you spent years lying to me about all the women you were fucking behind my back!”

I growled deeply, hanging on by a very thin thread.

“How many were there, huh? How many women did you sleep with when you were with me?”

“You have it all wrong.”

“Bullshit! You really want to go back to that night?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Great.” She pushed me away, and I let her. “I don’t want to go back to the reason I didn’t tell you about Ben either. So now we’re even!”

I wanted to say so much, but I couldn’t.

Not here.

Not now.

Not like this.

I didn’t stop her when she walked away. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change the past. At this point all I could do was focus on the future.

Our future.

Although, I was damn sure I was going to get to the bottom of why she didn’t tell me about our son. We didn’t speak for the next hour. Instead, we played the newlywed couple as the photographer Autumn hired snapped photo after photo of us dressed like a bride and groom.

“You guys look amazing!” the photographer exclaimed, standing by the fountain in my backyard.

Our wedding pictures were mostly outside. Autumn staged a setup for us where we supposedly exchanged our vows under a white rose archway that was surrounded by more white roses.

Autumn was inside with the wedding officiant, making sure he understood the terms of his NDA since Sophie didn’t want to exchange vows. Caleb was with her. They were both our witnesses for this so-called wedding, the only two people in attendance. The less people there, the less the chances were of the details of our “fake marriage” getting out.

The helicopters were still flying over my estate, taking their footage of our private ceremony.

We hadn’t told Ben yet. We were waiting until tomorrow. Sophie was adamant about him not being part of this facade. She said he was too little to understand, and it would be better to just tell him we got married on a whim.

I went with what she wanted. She knew Ben better than I did. But I hated that he wasn’t there with us. For the past week, I had the interior designer who designed this property put together Ben’s bedroom, making sure to add all his favorite things that he told me he loved so he’d feel at home in my house.


It always felt like I didn’t have that four-letter word, and now this house was about to be one for our son. I tried to focus on the direction the photographer gave us for the photos, but my mind was spinning with the unexpected news that Sophie’s mom had dropped.

What other reason could there be as to why she didn’t tell me about our boy?

The question plagued my thoughts, and I couldn’t simply shove it away. Which led back to the memory of the last time I saw Sophie before I’d left for Miami. I never intended to fuck her over, but life had other plans.

The photographer tore me away from the reckless images of a heartbroken Sophie that kept crossing my mind as if it was happening right then and there.

“Let’s get a few pictures of the happy couple kissing.” She nodded to me. “Jax, pull her a little closer to you and dip her back a bit.”

I did as I was told while deeply gazing into her eyes.

“Now lay one on her.”

I didn’t have to be told twice, gripping onto the back of her neck. I kissed her for the first time in seven years. This was the moment that truly confused me. I knew she was playing a part, but her eyes were telling me something else that I couldn’t quite place.




Slowly, gently, I claimed what still felt like mine. Kissing Sophie was like coming home.

The anger.



It was all felt in that one kiss.

Grazing her lips, I teased her with the tip of my tongue.



My tongue sought out hers.

I took my time with her, not wanting to lose a second between us. Needing it as if she was the air in my lungs, the beat in my heart, and the love of my life.

I kissed her with everything left inside of me, wanting her to understand my shame and remorse. The pain I’d caused her wasn’t ever supposed to happen. I didn’t know she’d show up at my apartment.

With each stroke of my tongue, she felt the weight of my truths fall upon her. There was no running away from them, silencing the error of my ways and the devastation I’d inflicted by my father’s choices.

With one last kiss, I let my lips linger for a few more seconds before resting my forehead on hers. My hand was still clutched onto the side of her face. Her eyes were closed as she heavily panted for air. When she finally opened her eyes, all she saw was me staring intensely at her.

Seeing my future in her hands.

Knowing this wasn’t the end of us…

* * *

It was only the beginning.




It was past two in the morning when I walked into my bedroom from hanging out at a friend’s house. I was immediately shocked as shit that Sophie was sitting against the headboard of my bed with a book in her hands.

“Hi,” she greeted, innocently smiling at me.

We hadn’t spoken since my parents’ Christmas party two months ago. I was trying my hardest to stay away from her. The last thing I wanted was for my father to follow through on his threats.

She asked, “Do you know what today is?”


Smiling wide, she informed, “It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I nodded, unsure of where she was going with this.

“Were you with a girl?”

I shook my head no.

“Where were you then?”

“At Kyle’s.”

The expression on her face went from worried to relieved as she grabbed a huge bag of peanut butter M&M’s from beside her. They were my favorite.

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Not allowing her to deter my willpower to keep my distance, I questioned, “Sophie, what are you doing in my room?”

“This is where we talk and hang out, remember?”

“You need to go.”

“I don’t want to.”

“If your mom cat—”

“She’s passed out. Don’t worry about her.”

Determined to stay away from her, I walked toward my dresser to grab a pair of gym shorts.

“I’m going to take a shower. Please be gone when I come out.”

For some reason, I thought she might actually listen to me, but she was sitting in the exact spot I’d left her in. I should have known better. She was as stubborn as she was beautiful.

“Hi.” She waved when I walked out of the bathroom.

“You’re relentless.”

“I go after what I want. I’m sure you can understand that.”

With those two sentences she was able to convince me that her insistence was enough to have me order, “Scoot over.”

She beamed, realizing she got her way. I never stood a chance, and if it weren’t for football keeping me busy, I probably would have given in before tonight.

Fucking Valentine’s Day.

She pulled the covers back while I crawled to her. Getting under the sheets, she laid down, and I followed suit. Except, I laid my head on her stomach, demanding a head and back scratch.

She giggled, and the second I felt her nails dig into my scalp, I groaned, “Fuck, that feels good.”

“How was Kyle’s?”

“Nothing too exciting. How’s your book?”

“It’s amazing.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a historical romance that takes place during World War II. It’s set in Russia. I’ve probably read it a hundred times.”

“Then why are you reading it again?”

“It’s one of my favorites.”

“You have a lot of favorites.”

“I do, but this one is extra special.”

“Why is that?”

“Because the hero reminds me of you.”

“I’m far from a hero, Sophie.”

“That’s something Alexander Barrington would say.”

I felt jealous immediately. “Who the fuck is Alexander?”

She laughed. “Oh, you know … just the guy I’m in love with.”

“Are you fucking with me?”


“Baby Soph,” I coaxed, rubbing the stubble on my face against her stomach. “If you don’t tell me who he is, then I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands.”

“Well, I can’t have that now, can I?”

“I’m waiting. I won’t ask again.”

“You sound like you’re jealous.”

“I’m going to sound a hell of a lot worse if you don’t tell me who he is before I lose my patience.”

“Hmmm…” She held her finger up to her mouth. “You have patience? I’ve never seen it. But since I don’t want to see The Hulk come out, I’ll tell you who my beloved Alexander Barrington is. He’s the hero of the book I’m reading.”

“You little shit.”

She smirked, feeling proud of herself.

“Are you going to tell me why he reminds you of me?”

“There are a few reasons, but the most accurate one is that he’s stubborn and protective like you. He’s also a super over-the-top alpha.”

“I see. Is the heroine a pain in the ass like you?”


“Does she need to stay away from him too?”

“She does, but they can’t stay away from each other. Even though he’s dating her sister.”

“Doesn’t sound like much of a hero to me, Baby Soph.”

“It’s a long story.”

“It always is.”

“It’s actually three very long books.”

“And which one is your favorite?”

“The last one?”

“Why is that? Do they end up together?”

“They do, but they go through a lot to get there.”

I knew she was referring to us and using her book as an example. The sudden silence between us was deafening. We stayed quiet for a minute until she broke the silence.

“Are we ever going to talk about what happened that night with your dad?”


“Has he done that before?”

“What? Try to parent me?”

“No. Hit you?”

I leaned into her nails. “Not like that.”

“I’m so sorry that happened, Jax.”

“And I’m sorry I took it out on you.”

“Is that why you’ve stayed away from me?”

“You know why I’ve stayed away from you, Sophie.”

“My mom wasn’t a problem before that night.”

“It’s going to be a problem if he fires her because of us.”

“So we’ll be more careful.”

I looked up at her. “What do you think is going to happen here?”

“What do you mean?”

“With us.”

“Oh … well, we’re dating, right?”



“You think we’re dating?”

“Aren’t we?”

I didn’t know how to reply. I’d never dated anyone before, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

“Regardless,” she added, sensing my hesitation. “We’re friends, right?”

“You want to be my friend?”

“Of course. I don’t want us to end. Do you?”

“I don’t know what I want.”

“Do you want me?”

“More than I’ve ever wanted anyone before.”

“Then that’s it. We’ll just have to be more careful not to get caught.”

“You sneaking into my bed isn’t what I would call careful.”

“But your bed is so comfy, and you’re so warm and cozy.”

“Is that right?”

“Plus, I like the other stuff we do.”

I grinned. “What other stuff?”

She blushed, and I took that as an invitation to move up her body until my mouth was hovering above hers.

“You mean this?”

I kissed her lips, loving the feel of them against mine after all these months.

“You feel so damn fucking good in my arms, Soph.” Rubbing my nose against hers, I baited, “Is this what you want? Me laying on top of you?”


“And then what? What does Baby Soph want from me?”


“If you say my name like that again, I’m going to have a hard time not making you scream it.”

She smiled. “I wouldn’t mind that.”

Caging her in with my arms, I hovered above her petite frame. Our legs were entwined, rubbing together, and I couldn’t resist when I was this close to her. I started kissing along her jawline and neck, deliberately making my way down her chest.

Her breathing escalated as she grinded against me, creating friction on my dick.

She moaned, and I painfully groaned, “Fuck me, Soph. I have to stop.”

My intention was to lay with her and catch up, but the desire I had for her made my balls ache and my cock throb. I needed to slow down. She always felt amazing and smelled so fucking good. Up until this moment, I held onto my restraint, though it was becoming apparent that I wanted her in more ways than just hearing about her day.

There was this buildup I’d never experienced before. This anticipation deep in my bones.

Our flirty banter.

Her smile.

Her laugh.

How easy it was to fall back into this place where the lines were blurred and the future unknown. She wanted more. However, Sophie wasn’t just a girl you fucked—she was one you made love to, and that concept was beyond foreign to me.

I didn’t even know what the fuck it meant. I didn’t believe in love. All I knew was that I’d never taken a girl’s virginity before. I didn’t want the emotions and bullshit that were attached to it.

Yet with Sophie, I couldn’t imagine not taking it.

Claiming it.

Making her mine.

It fucked with my head. More than I could have ever imagined. She was more than I could have ever imagined. I always proved to have more pride than sense, and I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it.

Bottom line.

I wanted to take her virginity.



Women were nothing but disposable to me at any given time. I was used to the emotional detachment.

The sex.

The fucking.

The raw, animalistic nature to come.

I was a man.

Pussy meant nothing to me, but Sophie meant something in every last part of me. Once my mouth reached the top of her chest, I loudly groaned and placed my forehead on her cleavage.

“Do you have any idea how bad I want to fuck you right now?”

“Umm…” She panted, making my dick twitch. “I have some idea based on … well, you know.”

Looking up at her through the slits of my eyes. “My hard dick?”

Her face turned thirty different shades of red before she answered, “Yeah, that.”

I laughed, kissing her nipple through her top, and her back arched off the bed. Instead of continuing my journey of exploring her body, I laid my head on her stomach. I needed to stop what was happening between us.

The truth was, she was ready.

I was the one who wasn’t.

Within seconds, her nails slid across my back, leaving tingles in their wake.

“If I don’t stop, I’m going to take something else from you, Sophie.”

“What if I’m giving it to you?”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“If not you, then who?”

“Some guy who can actually be your hero.”

“Who says you can’t be?”


She paid attention to the hard tone in my honest response. “You need to give yourself more credit than that, Jax.”

“I’m no good for you, Sophie.”

“Let me be the judge of that.”

“Your opinion of me is skewed.”

“Not any more than yours is of yourself. I mean, look what you just did, you literally stopped when you could have kept going, and I would have let you.”

“I’m a selfish asshole, and I want you all to myself. I don’t want to share you with anyone.”

She smiled. “You don’t have to. I’m yours. I wish you could see what I see in you. You’re a great guy, and I’m happy to have you in my life.”

“You’re too sweet for your own good.”

“And you’re too hard on yourself.”

I gazed up at her. “So how did they get their happily ever after in your book?”

In one sentence she rendered me speechless. “He was lost, and she finds him.”

For the next hour we spoke about nothing and everything until I fell asleep on top of her. I woke up with her in my arms before the sun came up. It was the first time I’d ever slept like that with anyone. I wasn’t the only one taking firsts—Sophie was taking mine too.

After I woke her up so she could sneak back into her room, I laid there wide awake.

Already missing the shit out of her.

* * *

And terrified of where this was going between us.




I sat in our private box at the first football game of the season. The crowd didn’t just chant for Jax when he ran out with his new team, they stood and applauded. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was crazy to be experiencing it firsthand with him.

The energy and love he was receiving didn’t surprise me. Jax always had this ability to make people fall in love with him without even trying. His charisma radiated off of him through the stands. It was quite a sight to see. Jax was born for this life, and it was obvious to everyone including me.

In the last month since we’d signed our marriage license, everything about my life had drastically changed overnight. The number of reporters calling my publisher for an interview was insane. They couldn’t keep up with the demand of the calls. It became so intense they decided the best thing to do was to put together an event where readers and the press could be in attendance.

Next month would be my first public appearance to meet my fans. I’d sign their books and answer questions for them and then participate in a live Q&A where they could ask about my career and personal life.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I’d never met a reader before. I’d lived behind my computer screen, and that was the extent of my job. I didn’t know what to expect. What they would ask, how would I answer… It was overwhelming to say the least, and the fact that Jax would be there with me did nothing to relax my anxiety.

If anything, it made it worse.

My publisher and team were insistent on having America’s newest sweethearts together in one room. The media had turned into a circus. Every day there was something different being said about us. It never ended.

The press was already trying to knock me up. Speculation for my baby bump watch was surreal. Only a month into our fake marriage and they already wanted another sibling for Benjamin.

The way we handled the unexpected news of Jax Colton suddenly being the father of a six-year-old boy was by telling the world he had been taking care of him behind closed doors since we’d found out I was pregnant. Years later, we simply found our way back to each other. The media labeled us as the best second chance romance of all time.

Since Jax had always been a private man, they didn’t think twice about us being able to hide the fact that he had a son for the last six years. Autumn wasn’t kidding when she said the world would fall in love with our love story.

They did.

Hook, line, and sinker.

Nobody doubted our love for each other. We were on the cover of every international magazine. I couldn’t go out the gates of Jax’s estate without the paparazzi following my every move. It got so bad Jax had to hire bodyguards to accompany me anywhere I went.

My life used to be private, and now it was the topic everyone was discussing. I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like after we announced our divorce. I tried not to think about it, focusing on getting through this fake marriage and not actually falling in love with Jax again.

He was laying it on thick. Despite him not being around a lot due to his football schedule, he still found ways to be with me.


He started leaving me love notes all over the house to find. They were quotes from some of my favorite books. The most was a quote from Alexander Barrington. I couldn’t believe how much he’d remembered. Especially since so much had happened in the last sixteen years from when we’d first met.

On top of the love notes, last week I woke up to my very own library in his home. I thought the remodel for that room was for his office, it was what he said it was for. Thinking back on that morning made my stomach flutter like it was occurring right then.

Slowly, I spun around taking in its beauty. Book after book lined the two-story floor along with a bright gold ladder. The shelves were filled with my favorite stories and then some.

Shaking my head, I breathed out, “I can’t believe he did this.”

His husky voice filled the quiet space. “I’d do anything for you. The bookshelf in the corner has all your paperbacks and hardbacks.”

I couldn’t turn.

This was too much, but when he asked, “So tell me, Baby Soph. How many books did you write where I was your muse?”

I abruptly snapped around. “You didn’t…”

He arched an eyebrow. “I’m making my way through them.”

My mouth dropped open. “You can’t read my books!”

He grinned, pushing off the doorframe. “But they’re so entertaining. Who would have thought that my innocent Baby Soph would grow up to be such a dirty girl?”

My eyes widened before I covered my face with my hands. I was humiliated.

“Oh, with me you’re all shy and reserved, but romance author Sophie has no problem getting my dick hard.”

“Jax, you weren’t supposed to read my books.”

He moved my hands away from my face. “I don’t know if I should be flattered that I’m your biggest muse, or if I should demand royalties for all the inspiration I gave you.”

“Check your ego, it isn’t you.”

“Are you really going to try to deny that I’m not your fantasy?”

Of course he was shirtless, wearing only gray sweatpants. He was a living, walking wet dream standing in front of me.

“Why aren’t you wearing clothes?”

He looked down at himself, making me gaze down with him. My eyes were glued to his abs and that V on his lower hips that always did something to me.

Grabbing my chin, he made me look into his eyes instead.

“I’m just giving you more inspiration for your next book.”

I shook away the memory, hating the effect he still had on me.

“Mom! Did you see Dad run down the field? He’s as fast as Superman!”

I nodded, zeroing in on my boy. Thinking back on the morning we told him we’d gotten married. His little face had the most adorable expression I’d ever seen on him.

“You’re married like in Shrek?”

“Yeah,” was all I could respond.

“Does that mean we’re going to live with you in this house, Dad?”

“That’s exactly what it means. You want to see your room?”


After they played with his toys for the next few hours, out of nowhere he asked Jax, “Dad, do you love Mom?”

Our eyes locked from across the room. I was trying to clean up after the disaster that was Benjamin while Jax helped him create the mess.

“I love your mom as much as I love you. You guys are my family now, and I’ll always take care of you.”

He beamed, looking over at me. “Mom, do you love Dad?”

Jax grinned, leaning back against the wall where they were sitting and playing cars.

“Yeah, Mom. Do you love Dad?”

I glared at him for a second, but Ben didn’t notice. “Umm … love is … well it’s … complicated.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you can be married to someone who you…”

The confusion on his face was evident, and I didn’t want our son to think we were in a loveless marriage.

The grin on Jax’s face only amplified as he watched me stumble over my words, trying to find an answer for him.

I responded with the only truth I had. “I love him because we made you.”

It wasn’t what Jax wanted to hear, but it was enough to appease him for the moment. I watched as he hauled ass up and down the field. I couldn’t believe his body could still endure the grueling and taxing pressure that was this sport. Seeing him get tackled to the ground was never fun. I didn’t enjoy it then, and that hadn’t changed over the past sixteen years.

“Mom!” Ben shouted from the other side of the box seats. “Did you see?! Dad just made another touchdown!”

I nodded. “I saw.”

Caleb smiled and walked over to stand by me. “How’s it going?”

“Oh, you know. Just peachy keen.”

He chuckled. “You look concerned.”

“I can’t believe he can still take hits like that is all.”

“It’s why they call him the G.O.A.T.”

“When was his last concussion?”

“Two years ago.”

“How many more years can his body take this?”

“We’re talking about Jax Colton. If it were up to him, at least another ten.”

“Ten?” I jerked back. “What’s the average age of a quarterback retiring?”

“Around thirty-seven, maybe thirty-eight.”

“Jax is going to be thirty-five this year.”

He smiled.



“That’s not a nothing face, Caleb.”

“I just think it’s funny that you’re so concerned about his well-being.”

“He’s the father of my son. I’d like to see him be around for a while.”

“Is that the only reason?”

“I don’t know what you’re implying.”

“I’m not. It’s just an observation.”

“Which is?”

“You care about him.”

“Of course, I care about him. Again, he’s the father of my kid.”

“I think it goes deeper than that.”

“I think you’re an agent not a therapist, so you should stay in your lane.”

He laughed. “Noted.”

Before I knew what I was asking, I blurted, “Did Jax really have you look for me?”

If my question surprised him, he didn’t show it. “For an entire month.”


“What do you mean?”

“Why did he have you look for me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

I shook my head, waiting for a reply.

“He’s in love with you.”

“Jax doesn’t know the meaning of the word, so try again.”

“You’d be surprised how much he knows the meaning of that word.”

“That was vague. How about you elaborate for me?”

“Maybe instead, you should just ask him. He is your husband.”

“Fake husband.”

“Either way, you’re legally married. You have a right to know.”

“Or you can just tell me.”

“It’s not my story to tell, Sophie.”

I sighed. “So now there’s a story?”

“There’s a lot you don’t know.”

“Can you please stop with the cryptic messages and just tell me?”

“Jax will tell you when he’s good and ready.”

“Now you’re freaking me out. Is it bad?”

“It was for a while, but he worked it out. He’s a good man. You’re lucky to have him as the father of your son. Jax doesn’t turn his back on family. He’s very loyal to the ones he loves.”

“Loyal isn’t a word I’d use in reference to him.”

“What would you use?”

“Cheater. Asshole. Liar. Heartbreaker. Those are just to name a few.”

“Quite the labels you have there, Sophie.”

I shrugged. “He taught them to me.”

“Again, there’s a lot you don’t know.”

“Whatever.” I shook my head, feeling like there was a missing piece to the puzzle that was Jax Colton. “Anyway, what about you?”

“What about me?”

“Do you have a girlfriend? Wife?”

“I was married, but we’re divorced now.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. She was fucking the pool guy.”

“Yeah, I know how that goes.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You think Jax cheated on you?”

“I don’t think, I know.”


“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Let’s go back to you. How long have you been his agent?”

“Since the start of his career.”

“How did you meet?”

“Fraternity in college.”

“Interesting. He never talked about you, but then again, Jax didn’t tell me much about anything back then.”

“He’s a private person.”


“But he does love you, Sophie. More than you know.”

“I find it funny you think he’s in love with me, considering he’s never said those words to me.”

“Not even back then?”

“Especially not then.”

“Then what was your draw to him?”

“You know Jax better than I do. He’s a charmer. He always has been.”

“Well, you left quite an impression on him. After all these years, he thinks you’re the one who got away.”

“He told you that?”

“He doesn’t have to. As you said, I know him better than he knows himself. Jax only has one fear in life.”

“And what’s that?”


I cocked my head to the side. “Jax has always had a ton of friends. In high school he was one of the most popular guys. I don’t think—”

“He doesn’t let people get close to him for a reason. You’ve met his parents?”

I shook my head. “Yes.”

“Exactly, he’s never had a real family, and now you’re what he always wanted.”

“It’s fake.”

“You sure about that?”


“Mom! Dad won! He just scored the winning touchdown! I’m gonna go see him, okay?”


He was out the door, running toward the field before I could stop him.

“Ben!” I screamed after him, trying to keep up with his pace.

He could run like his daddy.

“Ben, get back here!”

I swear he ran faster until Jax saw him hauling full sprint toward him.

“Dad! You won! You won, Dad!”

He instantly picked him up off his feet, throwing him up in the air, and the crowd went wild. Once I was standing a few feet away from them, I stopped. Waiting for I didn’t know what.

I should have known better.

Jax placed Ben on his shoulders, and he was over to me in three long strides. My hands instinctively went to his chest, wanting to push him back, but from an outsider looking in, it appeared as if I was simply caressing his torso.

The fans lost their minds, and Jax didn’t hesitate to grip onto the back of my neck and crash his mouth onto mine.

This kiss was different—it felt intimate.



My head was dizzy, spinning with the hurricane that was Jax Colton.

He pecked my lips one last time before he looked deep into my eyes. I desperately tried not to get lost in his lies again as I stated, “You were always good at pretending.”

Yanking me forward, he spoke with conviction in my ear…

“I didn’t pretend then, and I’m sure as hell not pretending now.”

With that one statement, he made me realize that maybe Caleb was right. There was more to the story of why he broke my heart and never gave it back.

* * *

And I was determined to find out why.




Four and half months came and went, and I graduated from high school. The last time I saw or spoke to Sophie was a few weeks ago. Not from lack of trying. I was moving into my new apartment near campus, in the same complex as Kinley.

It took up a lot of my time. When I wasn’t packing and unpacking, I was at football camp, getting ready for the season come August. Being away from Sophie wasn’t something I wanted, but it was definitely what I needed…

I hated that more than anything.

I missed her ridiculously contagious laugh. Her infectious smile. Her hazel eyes that held more expression than any other person I knew. I missed the way she felt in my arms. The sound of her voice and the smell of her hair. I basically became a fucking pussy. Dreaming about her was my new normal.

I. Missed. Her.

All of her.

From beginning to end.

I read some of the books she told me about, just to feel close to her. Memorizing her favorite parts she always spoke about. Feeling nostalgic, I grabbed the picture I had of her in my drawer, looking at it as I laid on my bed.

The last time she slept in my arms, I snapped a photo of her and printed it out at the university library. Impulsively, I texted her, hoping like hell she would answer this time.

Jax: I’m thinking about you.

Was all I said.

The last couple of texts I sent her, she didn’t reply, and I knew it was because she thought I was once again trying to stay away from her. Maybe a part of me was, especially now that I didn’t live at the house anymore.

It was easier to keep my distance, but to her it probably felt like I was fucking her over again. It was what I was known best for. I was beyond frustrated when it came to her, not knowing what the right or wrong thing to do was.

For once, I wanted to do the right thing.

Throwing my phone onto my bed, I went to take a shower. I didn’t expect her to text me back—Sophie was a stubborn little shit like that. After I was finished, I tossed the towel that was around my waist onto my desk chair and grabbed a pair of gym shorts from my dresser.

All of a sudden, my cell phone dinged with a new text message from her. I opened it, and a video started downloading on the screen. She didn’t send videos of herself ever, so I was immediately intrigued.

Cocking my head to the side, I waited for the video to come through, and I was almost knocked on my ass from what was playing out in front of me.

She was in the arms of another guy. His face wasn’t on the screen, but hers sure as shit was. She was smiling at me while both of his arms were around her body from behind her.

“What the fuck?” I rasped to myself before replying.

Jax: What are you doing?

It didn’t take long for her to answer.

Baby Sophie: I’m on a date.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I roared out loud.

Jax: Where are you?

I waited for what felt like forever with no response.

Jax: Don’t fuck with me. Where are you?”

Still no answer.

I paced around my bedroom, raking my hands through my hair, wanting to rip it out of my head. I looked at the video again, realizing she was laying on her bed. Making me see nothing but fucking red.

Quickly, I threw on a shirt and grabbed my keys to haul ass over to the guesthouse. It was almost nine by the time I pulled into my driveway, realizing her mom’s car wasn’t where she usually parked. It was Saturday night. Her mom must have been out with some friends.

With one foot in front of the other, my feet stomped against the pavement toward her place.

My heart was pounding.

My head was throbbing.

For the first time in my life, I feared what I would see when she opened the door. Already thinking where the spare key to the guesthouse was, I didn’t think she’d answer, but to my surprise, she actually did.

Her eyes were wide as she questioned, “What are you doing here?”

Ready to lay his ass out, I barged inside. “Where’s your date?”

She arched an eyebrow, looking at me like I was crazy, and I was. I’d totally lost my fucking mind, but thinking of her with another guy wasn’t anything I’d ever expected.

She cunningly smiled. “You just missed him.”

I inhaled a deep breath, stepping away from her, finally able to see straight.

“Does your mom know you had a guy here while she’s out?”

“Does my mom know all the times I crawled into your bed while she was sleeping?” She shut the door, walking back toward her bedroom, and I followed her, losing all sense of reason.

Exactly the way she wanted me to.

Closing her bedroom door behind me, I leaned against it before folding my arms over my chest. Watching as she sat on the edge of her bed, I noticed she was only wearing a thin white t-shirt.

My glare shifted to her hair that was a disheveled mess, along with the sheets that were scattered on the bed.

Thinking the worst, I accused, “Did you fuck him?”

She smirked. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.”


“What does it matter? Why are you even here? You’re supposed to stay away from me, remember? I mean, you’ve been doing such a great job since you moved out. Why not keep going?”

“I wasn’t blowing you off.”

“Great, because I was blowing someone.”

My jaw tightened. “Let’s try this again. Did you fuck him?”

She put her finger up to her lips, peering up at the ceiling. “Did I fuck him?” she mocked, causing me to flinch. I wasn’t used to hearing her cuss.

“If by that you mean, did he touch me, or did I touch him?” She thought about it for a second. “There was definitely touching.”

My fists clenched at my sides to the point of pain. “Did. You. Fuck. Him?”

“Does it count if he made me scream his name?”

And that was all it took for me to completely lose my shit. In an instant, I was in her face. My abrupt movement caused her to fall back onto her bed.

Hovering above her, I bit, “Was it the first time?”

“It wasn’t the last.”

I growled, gripping her neck.

“Don’t look so worried, Jax. He was everything I ever wanted.”

I jerked back like she’d slapped me across the face. I saw it clear as day, the motherfucker taking what was supposed to be mine.

My eyes glazed over like a possessed man as I spewed, “Is that right?” Unable to resist, I tore off her panties, causing her to gasp.

I threw them on the ground and unbuckled my jeans next. “So tell me, Baby Soph?” Pulling out my dick, I watched her eyes take me in for the first time.

“Wow,” she breathed out. “You really are pierced.”

Fisting my cock up and down, I snarled, “Did he make you come?”

With her stare still locked on my dick, she replied, “More than once.”

I was going to make her regret her choices. The urge to remind her who she belonged to was too much to control. I gave up control, handing it over to her. I couldn’t believe she’d fucked some guy, and thinking about his hands all over her was eating me alive.

Not just his hands.

His mouth.

His tongue.

His cock.

The only thing I knew to be true was in that moment I had to erase him from every last inch of her body.

With my hands.

My mouth.

My tongue.

But first, it was my cock that was going to claim her, like I should have already.

Remorse consumed me. My mind raged war with itself. I couldn’t stop seeing him touching her, kissing her, fucking her…

“Did he touch you tonight?”

She moaned.

“Answer me.”

“Not tonight.”

In one swift, sudden movement, I was down on my knees in front of her pussy, inhaling her addicting scent before I slowly licked from her slit to her clit.

“Fuck…” I exclaimed, sucking her nub into my mouth.

Her back arched off the bed as her legs spread wider for me.

She panted.

Her thighs clenched.

Her breathing became erratic.

She was willingly giving me what I desired.


Couldn’t live without.

Still, I couldn’t shake away the motherfucker who’d had her before me. Taking my frustration out on her pussy instead, I showed her no restraint.



With more determination.

I devoured her, making sure there would be no mistaking me for him.

“Jax…” she loudly moaned, slowly falling apart on my tongue. She came in my mouth, down my chin, and on my chest.

There was no taking my time with her, that was long gone, and in its wake was a man on a fucking mission. Through hooded eyes I watched her body wildly shake.

Knowing I did that to her, no one else but me, filled me with so much fucking pride.

Allowing a minute for her to catch her breath, I stood and grabbed my metal wallet from my back pocket. Pulling out a condom, I ripped it open with my teeth. She realized what I was doing, and her eyes lit up like a goddamn Christmas tree.

“You want me, Sophie?”


“Tell me how bad you want my cock inside of you.”

“I do. Please…”

I slid the condom down my shaft.

“It won’t break with your piercing?” she asked, watching the condom roll down my dick.

“Not with the jewelry I’m wearing.”

“I trust you.”

I smiled, despite still feeling on edge of snapping. “I’m not even going to get undressed, Soph.” Roughly, I gripped onto her thighs and tugged her further down the bed until her ass was past the edge. Putting her where I wanted her, I placed my cock at her opening.

“I’m going to ruin you for every other man.”

“You swear?”

Grabbing onto her waist, I growled, “Baby Soph, that’s a fucking promise.”

In one thrust, I was deep inside of her, and she immediately yelped out in pain, jolting off the bed. Which wasn’t the reaction I was expecting.

Far from it.

“Sophie…” I warned, already knowing the answer. “No you fucking didn’t?”

The truth was staring me in the face. She was still a virgin, and I’d just played into the palm of her hand…

Precisely the way she’d planned.

* * *


* * *

I wanted it this way.

It was the only way he’d ever take it. I needed to push him to the brink of insanity for him to claim me. Jax didn’t like to share—he was selfish. His ego was bigger than his reasoning in this situation, and I knew I’d get what I wanted out of him. There was no going back. I was his now.

The way I wanted to be.

The way he wanted me to be.

I spoke from the heart. “I love you, Jax. I’m yours.”

“Fuck…” he scoffed out, starting to remove himself from me.

“No!” I grabbed onto his arms. They were the only thing I could reach. “Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

“Was there another guy?”

I shook my head.

“Then who did you take the video with?”

“Melissa was here with her boyfriend, and she let me use him for the video. I told her I was seeing some guy, and I wanted to make him jealous.”

“You lied to me.”

“Don’t be mad.”

“I’m furious with you.”

“Then take it out on my body.”

“For fuck’s sake, Sophie! Did I… Are you… Shit, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“I could have really hurt you.”

“It’s nothing compared to what you’ve been putting me through.”

He thought about it for a second, shaking his head.

I couldn’t tell if he was disappointed in himself or me, it was probably both, but I didn’t care.

I wanted him.

Even if this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, it was ours. This moment he couldn’t take away from me.

In a sincere tone, he shared, “I wasn’t purposely staying away. I’ve just… I’ve… I’ve thought about you every day. You never leave my mind. You’re always there. I see your face, I hear your laugh, I can feel you in my arms, smell you on my fucking pillow. You’re everywhere. There’s no escaping you. You’re embedded in my head, and I’m at a loss with what to do.”

“What about your heart? Am I there too?”

“I don’t even know what love is. All I know is that I think about you all the time. I missed you, Soph. I missed you so fucking much it hurts to be away from you.”

I smiled. It wasn’t the three words I wanted to hear, but it was as close as I was going to get to them.

For now.

I moved my hips, hoping that he would understand my silent plea. When his fingers moved to my clit, I started to feel that haze in my mind.

That trembling in my legs.

The quiver in my stomach.

As I began to relax, Jax asked, “Is that better? Does it feel good, Sophie?”

“Yes… Please keep going… Don’t stop…”

Slowly, he pulled out and thrust back inside of me. It burned, ached, but his fingers moved faster and more precisely with each thrust of his dick. Little by little, I felt myself begin to fall apart again.

At his mercy.

His demand.

He was relentless.

“Fuck, you’re so tight. Yeah, just like that, Soph, take my cock in that tiny pussy.”

Jax’s dirty mouth was enough to drive me over the edge. My eyes rolled to the back of my head, coming with such a force that I couldn’t help but take him with me.

I shuddered, seeing stars, the moon, the entire galaxy. Riding the high for as long as I could, and not wanting to go back to reality where he didn’t live here anymore.

Would he stay away again? Did this change anything between us? Would he break my heart?

Would I let him?

Question after question tore through my mind when Jax gently kissed my lips.

He rasped, “Don’t ever lie to me again.”

“I won’t.”

I resisted the urge to tell him the same, feeling like there would come a time when he’d lie…

* * *

Just to push me away.




“Oh my God! I’m your biggest fan!”

I smiled, sitting behind the signing table for the sold-out event.

The place was packed to the brim with readers all wanting to meet me. It was such a surreal feeling I never thought I’d get to experience.

“You’re my favorite author! I’ve read all your books! Where do you get your inspiration for your heroes? They’re the best! I love them so much!”

I opened my mouth to reply, but Jax interrupted, sitting next to me.

He winked at her. “She gets all her inspiration from me.”

I kicked him underneath the table.

“I knew it!” She looked at her friend, standing beside her. “I told you! I knew Jax Colton was her biggest muse. You can totally tell in her books that she’s pulling all the alpha traits from her husband.”

He grinned at me, loving the fact that my readers were fawning all over him. A little part of me thought they’d only shown up to meet and take pictures with Jax, only wanting me there to sign their books.

“Can Jax sign it too?”

So much for that assumption.

“I guess if he wants to,” I replied, meeting her eyes. “What’s your name?”


“Normal spelling?”


After I was done, I passed it over to Jax.

“You don’t mind?” he whispered into my ear, stirring tingles to course down my neck.

Leaning away from him, I hoped he didn’t notice the sensations he ignited, but I still appreciated that he’d asked. “You’re good.”

For the next three hours this was what we did. Readers stood in line to meet us, and I loved every second of it. I took pictures, signed books and swag while also receiving the best gifts they could bring me. The amount of time they'd put into their thoughtful presents wasn’t lost on me. I cherished every moment of it, and this would definitely go down as one of my favorite memories.

Once the signing was completed, I grabbed a glass of wine from the hotel bar, chugging it down in one long swig. Ordering two more, I drank those down as well before I made my way onto the stage for the live Q&A.

I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t fond of being the center of attention, let alone answering questions about my personal life. Considering that our marriage was one big lie, I didn’t want to mess anything up by offering the wrong response.

Autumn had spent the last three days coaching me on what to say if they asked about Jax and me. Based on the signing alone, it was obvious the questions were going to be geared toward our relationship. They were fascinated with our relationship, and Jax didn’t miss a beat in giving my readers everything they wanted to see and hear.

He was being extra attentive with me, paying attention to what I needed or wanted. Whether it was food, a drink, or having to use the restroom, he made sure I was comfortable at all times.

Not only was he playing the role of the perfect husband, but he was also soaking up the affection. Kissing me every chance he could get. Holding my hand. Rubbing my leg under the table.

A few times he got close to my upper inner thigh, just grazing the skin by my panty line. I messed up a couple of readers’ names because he was so damn distracting. Of course he noticed, squeezing my leg to prove that his touch still had a huge effect on me.

To be honest, I was surprised he’d cleared his schedule for this event. The season was in full swing. Two months in and so far they were undefeated. His calendar was jampacked with football, so knowing he purposely took the day for me meant more than I’d admit to him. Having Jax there with me was my security blanket, despite everything we’d gone through. He still felt like my comfort zone.

The press was finally giving Jax all the notoriety he didn’t feel like he was getting playing for Miami. For the most part, my dad and him were on great terms. Although, I did overhear my dad threatening Jax when we’d invited him over for dinner a few weeks ago. Just thinking about that evening brought a smile to my face.

I was walking toward the backyard, stopping dead in my tracks when I heard Dad warn, “You’re my first-string quarterback, and for that, we’re family and a team, but don’t think for one second I won’t have your balls if you hurt my daughter.”

“I won’t hurt Sophie again. You have my word.”

“I don’t want to know what happened with you guys back then. All I care about is how you treat her now. You want her and my grandson in your life, you’re going to have to prove yourself to them and to me. Do you understand me?”

Jax agreed, “Absolutely, Coach.”

“Great,” Dad replied, adding, “You can start by showing me the man I know you can be.”

“Sophie,” my publisher called out, tearing me away from my thoughts. “You ready?”

I nodded, thanking God for alcohol. It calmed my overly anxious nerves as I sat in the chair on the stage. Jax was sitting in the first row along with my team and publisher. There were about five hundred people in the banquet hall, every last one of them there for me.

Taking another sip of my wine, I waited for the announcer to start the Q&A. Minutes later, she picked the first reader from the audience to ask their question.

“How does it feel to be a bestselling author? Did you ever think you’d be as successful as you are?”

I brought the microphone up to my mouth. “I think success is different for everyone, but for me, all I wanted was to write books. I’ve always been an avid reader, and one day I grabbed my laptop and started writing my first romance novel. I didn’t think it would top the charts like it did. I’m very lucky to do what I love because of everyone in this room. I truly can’t thank you all enough for making my dreams come true.”

Jax beamed, feeling proud of my response.

The presenter chose the next reader who asked, “If you could go back and do anything different in your life, what would it be and why?”

My gaze shifted toward Jax, who was looking at me with curiosity and intrigue.

I tensely chuckled into the mic. “Now that’s a loaded question if I ever heard one.”

Everyone laughed except for Jax.

With my eyes focused on the audience, I tried to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“I’m human, and I’ve made mistakes,” I said more for Jax, hoping deep down he knew how bad I felt for keeping Ben away from him.

Especially now with seeing how amazing he was with our son. Jax was a natural-born father, it came easy to him. Making our transition to living in his home was a lot easier than I could have imagined. He adored Ben, and the feeling was very much mutual. The bond they shared was instant, as if they had never been apart.

Jax had always been a selfish man, so to see him put Ben first was completely unexpected. It was hard being the reason they were apart, and I hated myself for it. I couldn’t change the past and what I’d done. The only thing I could do now was make sure he never missed another milestone again. Even if it meant I had to move closer to him after our divorce was finalized.

Shaking away the thought, I added to my reply, “I guess it would be to tell…”

I could see it in his eyes, the worry over what I was about to share with my reader base and reporters was written clear across his face.

I smiled at him, easing his concern. “All of you know who I am from the beginning of my career and not just two months ago.”

He breathed a visible sigh of relief, and it didn’t take long for a reader to ask if Jax could come up on the stage with me.

“I don’t think—”

“I’d love to,” he answered for me, making his way up the steps.

When the announcer requested for another chair, Jax waved her off. Instead, he grabbed my hand and pulled me up off my seat to sit down. Before I could ask for a chair, he gripped onto my waist and sat me down on his lap.

I’m going to kill him.

The audience went wild with a chorus of awes, only falling more in love with my husband.

Husband? Did I really just think that?

We spent the next hour answering questions.




Question after question was thrown at us. The more personal it was, the easier he answered. Talk about pressure to play the part of the supportive, loving wife. We portrayed the perfect couple, the ultimate family goals.

“Jax, how’s it feel to be married to a romance author?”

He reached for my hand, bringing it up to his mouth. He kissed it, smiling only at me. Fully aware I was dying inside, he did it to comfort me. It had the opposite effect and only made me feel worse that we were pretending to be something we weren’t.

“Sophie has always loved reading. I can’t tell you how many nights she spent talking to me about all the books she loved or what she was currently reading. The look in her eyes, the sound of her voice, the way she’d smile when she was passionately speaking about her latest book boyfriend. It’s normal to be jealous of a fictional hero, right?”

I chuckled with the crowd.

“It didn’t surprise me that she grew up to be a bestselling author, but to me, she’s always been the heroine of my life.”

His eyes still hadn’t wavered from mine, like they were suddenly fused together.

Was he saying this to me or them?

Nonetheless, we couldn’t tear our stares away from one another.

What was happening?

“When did you know she was the one?” another reader questioned.

He softly smiled, reminiscing right in front of my eyes.

“The first time she snuck into my bed at night.”

I swallowed hard, slightly gasping. Like the audience, I hung onto his every word. Waiting for what he’d say next.

“She was always fearless. Nothing could ever stop her from getting what she wanted. She went after everything she’d set her eyes on. Despite the odds being against us, she didn’t care. She always saw something in me that no one else did. I loved her innocence, her beauty, the way she saw the world and her thoughts on love. She was a hopeless romantic and it’s always been, one of my favorite things about her.” He lovingly smirked, caressing the side of my face.

“Jax…” I breathed out, loud enough for him to hear me.

“Baby Soph has always been my favorite thing to look at.”

Even the loud applause in the room didn’t steal this moment from us. My heart was beating profusely, pounding against my chest.

“Do you guys plan to have more kids?”

Jax wrapped his arms around my waist, giving the reporters something to gossip, he relayed, “Who knows? She might be pregnant already. I’d love a little girl, but knowing my genes… I only make boys.”

I laughed, shaking my head. Whispering in his ear, “That’s going to break the internet.”

Our eyes connected, as if we were the only two people in the room. There was something about the way he was staring at me.

With so much appreciation.



Like I was his most prized possession.

As if I was the only thing he ever wanted.

“One last question,” the announcer declared, nodding to the reader sitting in the third row.

“Jax, if you could go back to the past, what would you do differently?”

He didn’t hesitate in admitting, “I would have asked Sophie to marry me before I left for the NFL and moved to Miami.”

My eyes widened, blown away by his response.

It’s only for show, Sophie. It’s all for show. Nothing more.

I repeated it over and over in my head until we were sitting in the SUV with the driver on the way back to his estate.

“I can see the wheels spinning in your mind,” Jax suspected, pulling me away from my thoughts.

His stare was glued to my face before he pressed a button to lift the divider between us and the chauffeur.

Once we were behind the closed partition, he added, “You did great today.”

I nodded. “So did you. It was enough to fool me. You had me going there for—”

“Nothing I said today was a lie, Soph. In fact, I’ve never been more honest in any interview before today.”

Chills suddenly surged throughout my skin, causing the hair at the on my arms to stand straight up.

“Come here.”

I shook my head no.

He grinned. “Come to me.”

Still, I shook my head no. I couldn’t move, cemented to the leather seat beneath me.


“Why are you doing this to me?”

“Because you deserve to know the truth.”

“Why are you trying to make me hate you more than I already do?”

“You don’t hate me. You just like to pretend like you do.”

“None of this is going to change my mind. After the season’s over, I want a divorce.”

He didn’t back down, and I never expected what he threatened next.

“Then you’re going to be fighting me in court.”

“Court?” I scoffed out, completely shocked and blindsided. “I did what you wanted. I married you. I signed the contract. You can’t take Ben away from me now.”

If I weren’t already sitting down, his next words would have knocked me on my ass.

With his gaze sternly focused on me, he argued, “It’s not over Ben. You’ll be fighting me in court since I have no intention of letting you go.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“You’re my wife.”

“Fake wife!”

“I don’t give a shit. I’m not giving you a divorce, Sophie.”

I sucked in air, feeling as if he’d just shot me in the chest. “But you signed the contract agreeing that you would.”

“So fucking sue me, I don’t give a shit. I can guarantee you won’t win.”


“I’ve been patient with you, and I’m not a patient man. You’ve been sleeping in my bed while I’ve been sleeping on the lounge chair in our bedroom. You live in my house. You carry my last name. Bottom line—you’re mine now, whether you want to be or not.”

“You’re acting like a total caveman, Jax!”

He shrugged. “Well you can write it in your next story.”

“You shameless asshole!”

“So you’ve said. What do you want from me?”

“To give me what you agreed to in the first place. I never would have said yes to any of this if I thought for one second you wouldn’t give me a divorce in the end.”

“It’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.”

“Stop trying to say all the right things!”

He chuckled. “Pick and choose a side, Sophie. I can be the hero in your life, or I can be the villain. Either way, you’re forever my heroine. Till death do us part, sweetheart.”

I glared at him. “We did not exchange vows.”

“Just say the word, and we’ll have a vow renewal in the morning.”

“I can’t believe you. This is kidnapping!”

“Based on your books, you’re into that shit.” He smirked, nodding. “You’re welcome for making all your dreams come true.”


“Yeah, no shit. You walk around the house in your little outfits. Do you have any idea the restraint it’s taken me not to remind you who you belong to? I should get a goddamn jerking off award for how many times I’ve fucked my fist at the mere sight of you.”

I licked my lips, my mouth suddenly dry as I contemplated everything he was communicating.

In a stern tone, he ordered, “Now come here.”

“No, I hate you.”

“You can hate me all you want, but eventually you’ll thank me for fighting for you like I should have back then too.”

“We’re not talking about the past.”

“Then stop bringing it up every chance you get. You want to forget it happened, great. You want to focus on the future, I’d love that. How about we start with what it’s going to take to convince you to let us be a family?”

“You’ve confused the term family. It doesn’t have to include me. It’s Ben you want anyway, and I will never keep him from you again.”

“For fuck’s sake. You really believe that, don’t you?”

I shrugged, extremely conflicted.

“If I told you I loved you, would you even believe me?”

Would I?

Does he?

“I know you felt everything I did today. Why do you keep pushing me away? I’m right here. I’m finally right fucking here!”

“I can’t talk to you when you get like this.”

“Get like what?”

“A fucking alpha I want to—”

“Fuck? By all means.” He leaned back against his seat. “Ride my cock.”

Out of nowhere, the door to the SUV abruptly opened with our driver standing there.

“Thank God!” I went to step around him, but he wrapped his arm my waist and tugged me against his chest.

With his mouth against my ear, he spoke with conviction, “My offer still stands. When you’re ready to be a real family and my wife, I’ll be here waiting.”

He let me go.

And I’d be lying if I said…

* * *

I wanted him to.




Since I’d taken Sophie’s virginity over a year ago, we’d spent every second we could together when my life wasn’t consumed with football. Which, most of the time it was.

Now that she’d graduated from high school and was attending the same university I was, it made things a lot easier for us to be together. She was living in a dorm room on campus, and as luck would have it, my friend Kyle was dating the resident advisor on her floor. Sophie didn’t have to be back by curfew. She’d slept in my bed almost every night for the last six weeks alone.

She’d moved into her dorm right after her graduation for the beginning of summer session at school, and I was making up for lost time. There wasn’t an inch on Sophie’s body I hadn’t explored except for one place, and I had plans to take that too. In the meantime, we’d christened every spot in my apartment and her dorm.

Nobody knew about us.

She was my best-kept secret.

Kinley didn’t know either. She was consumed with Christian and classes. I didn’t see her as often as I would have liked. Her mom was also back in her life. They were spending a lot of time together, making up for the years she wasn’t around.

Now that the summer session was finally over for Sophie, I wanted to celebrate her ending her first semester in college with a 3.9 GPA. I was damn proud of her and decided to surprise her with a trip I knew she’d lose her mind over.

“Are you ever going to tell me where we’re going?”

I shook my head, kissing her hand. “We’re about to land. You’ll find out soon enough.”

“Do your parents know you’re whisking me off to another state?”

“Sophie, I don’t want to talk about my parents.”

“Oh, I’m fully aware. You never want to talk about anything, Jax Colton.”

I smiled. “I know everything about this motherfucker. What I don’t know is stuff about my Baby Soph.”

She giggled. “What would you like to know, Quarterback?’

“How about?” I kissed her lips. “When’s the next time you’re going to sit on my face?”

She instantly turned thirty shades of red. “I really need to stop blushing around you.”

“Please don’t.”

“You mean you like my blushing?”

“I like your shyness. It makes my cock twitch.”


“Alright, next question. How do you feel about me thrusting my dick in your ass?”

“Oh my God!” Her eyes flew all around her, turning a shade of red I hadn’t seen yet. “I think the old lady over there heard you. She’s looking at me funny.”

“She’s probably remembering the first time—”

She covered my mouth. “No more dirty talk until we’re alone.”

I smiled against her hand.

My parents didn’t know about this trip. I wasn’t using my dad’s money. I had funds left over from my scholarship that was dispersed every semester, and I wanted to spend it on Sophie.

Grabbing her hand, we walked off the airplane.

“Are you going to tell me where we are now?”

“Not a chance.”

“No fair!”

“All good things come to those who wait.”

From there, we went to pick up our rental car which didn’t take too long. The entire drive, she could barely contain her excitement, and once she saw the sign that read The Great Gatsby Airbnb on the front of the property she screamed, “No you didn’t!”

“I do what I can.”

“Jax!” As soon as I parked the car, she jumped out, running toward the house.

“Don’t you want to get your luggage?”

“I can come back for it!”

“The code to get in is 6538.” I laughed, grabbing her bag and mine before making my way inside.

For the next hour, Sophie walked into all the rooms, taking an obscene amount of pictures of everything she could find until the food I’d ordered for us arrived. She thanked me the entire time we ate, saying this was the best surprise I could have given her.

After we were done eating, she jumped in the shower, and I resisted the urge to walk in there and devour her. Instead, I called my coach, letting him know I was out of town for the weekend, and I’d be back on Monday for practice.

When Sophie walked out in a black silk robe, I deviously smiled.

“Like what you see?” she baited.

Gripping onto her ass, I wrapped her legs around my waist and carried her to the bed.

“I like what’s underneath, but first I need to shower.”

“I’ll be here, reading and waiting for you.”

I laid her on the bed, kissing her lips one last time before I left. Once I was done, I threw on a pair of gym shorts and made my way back to her. She was leaned up against the headboard with a book in her hands, looking like a fucking goddess.

I crawled toward her. “What are you reading?”

“A romance novel.”

“Is that right?”


“Did you get to the good parts yet?”

She smirked, slightly blushing. “Maybe.”

“Who would have thought sweet Baby Sophie would be such a dirty little girl?”

“Jax! It’s romance. There’s a storyline too.”

“I bet. Does reading your smut scenes get you wet?”

She smirked. “No.”

“No? I think you’re lying.”

“I read it for the love story.”

“Fucking can be loving.”

She shook her head, giggling. “You’re so romantic.”

Tugging her toward me, she laughed harder.

“Read me a scene.”

Her eyes flickered with nothing but lust, knowing where I was going with this. She grabbed her book and flipped the pages until she found what I wanted her to read to me.

“Are you sure? It’s pretty dirty.”

“Not any more than what I plan to do to you.”

Her gaze intensified for a second before she started reading, “He slowly slid my panties down my body, making sure to leave a wake of desire and lust with each stroke of his fingers running across my delicate, creamy skin.”

I proceeded to do exactly what she’d just read aloud. Her eyes caught mine. She seductively smiled as I slipped her panties down her legs before tossing them aside, waiting for her next direction.

“He spread my core open, watching with fascination as my face flushed from the forwardness of his actions. I didn’t speak—my body spoke for itself.”

Gently, I spread her legs open for me, licking my lips in anticipation for what was to come.


All over my face.

“My arousal was evident on my parted folds, and when he placed the palm of his hand to my throbbing nub, I let out a soft moan.”

My hand crept up her thigh to her sweet pussy.

“Keep reading.”

“His hand glided forward and backward on my clit, my wetness making it easy for him to do. The moisture pooling in between my legs was audible with each swipe over my clit, and I almost died of embarrassment. With his other hand, he slid his middle and ring finger into my opening, and my head fell back.

When I slid my fingers into her warm, wet heat, she let out the most incredible moan.

“Keep reading, or I’ll stop.”

She let out a breath. “He began to finger fuck me ever so slightly while he manipulated my bundle of nerves, driving me to the brink of insanity. Making me wild with need for his cock.

“I like hearing the word cock come out of your sweet, little mouth.”

Following what she’d read, I slowly moved my fingers back and forth, repeatedly hitting her g-spot.

“He did this a few more times until I couldn’t take it anymore, and my back arched off the bed from the powerful release of his skilled fingers.”

“Does Baby Soph want to come?”


“Should I let you come?”


“Why should I let you come?”

“Because I love you.”

“Well, who the fuck can say no to that? But first…” I coaxed, leaning into her mouth while I finger fucked her, and she rode my hand. “I want to take your ass.”

She froze. “Wait, what?”

“You heard me.”

Her wide eyes searched my face for any sign of humor. I wasn’t laughing. Far from it. This was the only thing I hadn’t taken from her, and I was adamant about making it happen.

I wanted all her firsts.

They were mine.

Moving my fingers faster and harder, we locked eyes as she started to come apart.

“Oh God…”

“I was the first man to kiss you, touch you, make you come. I’m your first fuck, your first love, your first everything, Sophie. You’re mine, so give me what I want.”

“Will it hur—”

“I’ll go as slow as you need.”

“Have you done it bef—”

Fully aware she wouldn’t like my answer, I fingered her with more determination.

Expressing, “Not with anyone who mattered.”

Before she could give it too much thought, I licked from her collarbone to her breasts, sucking her nipples into my mouth.

“Fuck my hand, Sophie. Yeah, that’s right … just like that. Ride my fingers like you do my cock.”

Her body arched, her eyes rolled to the back of her head, and her hands fisted the sheets, on the edge of release. I didn’t let up, knowing what she loved.

Until she screamed, “Jax!”

Her body.

Her soul.

Her heart.

It was all mine.

And I had no intention of ever giving them back.

For a moment, I allowed her some mercy, letting her catch her breath while I took off her robe and my gym shorts. I was far from done with her. Gripping onto her thighs, I didn’t hesitate to bury my face in between her legs.

Needing to taste her.

Eat her.

Fuck her with my tongue.

My rough, calloused hands sought out her breasts, kneading them and pulling at her nipples. I made her come undone with my mouth. Her body shook, and her legs squeezed the hell out of my face. Still, I didn’t stop. Instead, I held her down by her legs.



Fucking her with my mouth until she begged for mercy.

When her ass was covered in her wetness, I gently pushed my middle finger inside her ass. Her body locked up, but only for a second. My mouth became more urgent, more demanding, sending her spiraling into a frenzy. Making it easier for her ass to take my fingers.

Once I got her to focus on the pleasure, I began sliding in and out of her hole. She panted in a heady tone, not expecting how good I could make her feel. I groaned, watching her come so hard as I stretched her as best as I could.

She was perfection.

So beautiful.

So exposed.

So devoted to me in a way I never experienced before.

She peered up at me through dark, dilated hooded eyes. Watching me stroke my dick, jerking off harder to the mere sight of her.

Releasing her clit with a pop, I forewarned, “The next time you come for me it’s going to be from my cock in your ass.”

She licked her lips, waiting.

Slowly, I thrust my dick inside her hole. Causing her to gasp, she held her breath.

“Relax,” I stressed, moving my fingers to her overly stimulated clit. I worked her over, trying to ease her distress. “Sophie, you were made for me. You know that? You’re my beautiful girl.”

She breathed out, and I was almost seated completely inside of her.

A little deeper.

A little harder.

“Fuck,” I rasped, getting lost in the feel of her. “You look so beautiful with my dick in your ass.”

Her body relaxed, getting used to my size. Once her body was ready, I thrust in and out of her at a more rigorous pace.

It was seamless the way we came together.

Our bodies were made for each other.

“Baby Soph, this is the first time I’ve never worn a condom. How am I going to come back from this? I’m going to want to take your pussy raw next.”

“I love you,” was all she said, coming down my cock.

Taking me with her, I released my seed deep inside of her ass.

Growling, “I’ve taken every part of you. You’re mine.”

* * *

And I didn’t hesitate in adding, “Now and forever, Sophie.”




“Will you please stop pacing?” I asked, sitting on the couch of our living room.

Today was the day of our families coming together for the first time.

“How are you so calm?”

“Your mom doesn’t scare me.”

“Really?” Sophie stopped, meeting my eyes. “You could have fooled me.”

“I wasn’t scared of your mom back then either.”

“Then why did you stay away from me?”

“I thought we weren’t going to talk about the past anymore?”

“Ugh! Stop playing that card!”

“You’re the one who added it to our contract. I’m just playing by your rules.”

“Of course, when it’s convenient for you.”

“Despite needing to stay away from you, you know as well as I do that once you were in college you slept in my bed almost every night.”

“I wouldn’t call what we did in your bed sleeping, Quarterback.”

“You mean after I fucked you senseless?”

She blushed.

“Or when I fucked you with my mouth and fingers? Which, from what I remember, was always your favorite.”

“Well, you did have a lot of practice before me and after.”

“None of them ever compared to your sweet pussy, Sophie.”

She rolled her eyes. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Just say the word, and I’ll remind you.”

“Oh, trust me, I know.”

“And yet you still play hard to get.”

“I’m not playing hard to get, Jax. I genuinely have no interest in going down that road again.”

“How about going down on me instead? You always looked beautiful with my dick in your mouth.”

“Oh my God! Do you have a dirty mouth thesaurus?”

I leaned back on the couch. “What can I say? You bring out the best in me.”

“You’re truly shameless.”

“It’s one of my best qualities.”

“You’re just the best at everything.”

“I’m glad you finally agree.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“How about you bring that sarcastic ass over here and sit on Daddy’s cock?”

She busted out laughing. “You really know how to lighten the mood.”

“I do what I can, but I was being serious.”

“Mommy,” she played along. “Has no interest to sit on Daddy’s anything.”

“If you keep talking like that, Daddy’s going to have to take you over his knee.”

“Oh no,” she mocked, grabbing onto her chest. “Has Mommy been a bad girl?”

“On so many levels.”

“Too bad Mommy isn’t scared of you.”

“All the more reason to have Daddy spank that ass until it’s bright red.”

“The crazy thing is, I can’t tell if you’re kidding.”

“Based on your books, you’re into that shit too.”

“Jax! Stop reading my books!”

“Or what? What is Mommy going to do?”

Ben, being the cock blocker that he was, came running into the room.

“What’s Mommy going to do for what?”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Grabbing onto Ben, I pulled him onto my lap.

“Mommy isn’t being very nice to me.”

“Yeah … sometimes she’s not nice to me either.”

“Hey! This is not two against one.”

I smiled at Ben. “But us men have to stick together, right, bud?”

“Right, Dad.”

Sophie jokingly gasped. “What happened to Mommy’s boy for life?”

“I’m sorry, Mom. But I’m a man now.”

“Says who?”

“Dad and Grandpa.”


He jumped off my lap, rushing to her to throw his arms around her waist.

“I still love you, Mom. I promise.”

She beamed, sticking out her tongue at me. I reciprocated except I put my tongue in between my two fingers, mimicking a dirty gesture.

She shook her head, hiding back a smile.

Changing the subject, she asked, “Why did we decide to invite your parents and my mom again?”

“My mom has been asking to meet Ben since we got married three months ago, Sophie. I can’t blow her off anymore. My father is just tagging along.”

“Your dad doesn’t want to meet me too?” Ben questioned, walking back to me.

“My dad and I don’t have the best relationship, bud.”


“He wasn’t around a lot when I was growing up. Work took up a lot of his time, amongst other things.”

“But you work a lot too, Dad.”

“I do.”

“Are you not going to be around a lot?”

“I’ll always be here for you. You and your mom are my number one priority now.”

“What about football?”

“That comes second. My family will always be first now.”

Sophie eyed me skeptically. I could tell she wanted to say something but wouldn’t in front of our son.

“Dad, do you know why mom was crying on the phone yesterday?”


“What?” My gaze shifted to her. “You were crying.”

“I was not crying.”

“Yes, you were. You were biting your lip. You always bite your lip when you cry.”

I grinned, looking only at her. “Doesn’t she, though.”

“Enough with the two against one.”


“Yeah, bud?”

“When mom was crying, she said she was conflicted. What does that mean?”

“Ben!” Pointing toward the slider, she ordered, “Go outside!”

“But, Mom…”


“Fine.” He hopped off my lap.

“I’ll meet you outside in a few, alright?”

He smiled at me before taking off.

I waited until he was out of sight, and then I questioned, “Am I conflicting you, Baby Soph?”

She shook her head. “Not everything is about you.”

“When it comes to you it is. Are you going to tell me why you were crying?”

“I wasn’t crying.”

I stood, making my way over to her. “If you won’t tell me…”

She instinctively put her hands up in the air.

“Then I’m just going to have to take it from you.”


Leaning forward, I threw her over my shoulder, and she huffed out a breath, taken by surprise.

“Jax! What are you doing?! Put me down!”

I didn’t think twice about it. If she wasn’t going to willingly tell me, I’d follow through on my warning from minutes ago. Holding her in place by the back of her legs, I spanked her ass.


“Jax! Are you out of your—”

“Tell me, or I’ll do it again.”

“I’m not a child, asshole!”


“Jax! Stop it!”

“Tell me, and I’ll stop.”

“I’m going to kill y—”


I spanked her a little harder that time.

“Okay! Okay! I’ll tell you!”

“I’m waiting.”

“Yes! I’m conflicted because of you! Happy now?”

Slowly, I set her on the table in the corner of the living room and stood in between her legs. The second I did, she smacked my chest.

“I can’t believe you just did that!”

Arching an eyebrow, I placed my hands on the table on either side of her legs.

“Are you pissed that I spanked you or that it made you wet?”

She shoved me, and I barely wavered.

“You arrogant asshole!”

I grinned, slightly rubbing my thumbs on her skin.

“I hate you.”

“Do you need me to make it better? I can rub it for you.”

“How noble of you.”

“Now tell me why you were crying, or I’ll take you over my knee next time.”

She glared at me before reluctantly giving in. “You kept my pictures from our trip to The Gatsby house. I found them in your desk.”

“You were snooping?”

“No! I was looking for a Sharpie to sign some paperbacks. Why do you still have them?”

“Why wouldn’t I? Is that why you’re conflicted? Because you found those photos?”

“That’s not the only reason.”

“What are the others?”

“Everything about you is conflicting. Your voice, your dirty mouth, your touch, when you kiss me, when you hold me like you are right now. I’m trying my best to not fall for it again, but you’re making it so damn hard.”

“Why are you fighting it? I don’t know what more I can do to prove to you I’m all in this time.”

“You always know the right things to say. It’s part of your charm. The only reason you want me is because of the chase. You’re a lion, but the second you sink your teeth into me, I won’t be enough anymore. I wasn’t enough the first time, and that won’t change now. It’s who you are.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Bullshit. How quickly you forget that I was there that night before you moved to Miami. I found you with her, remember? Just tell me one thing: how many were there, huh? How many women did you cheat on me with?”

I pushed off the table, reeling in my temper. It was only a matter of time before she asked that question. And still, after all these years, I didn’t know how to answer.

“You want me to just forgive and forget, and the truth is, I have forgiven you, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. I don’t trust you not to hurt me again. You’re Jax Colton, women throw themselves at you. You’re at away games every month, and there’s temptation all around you.”

“I don’t want anyone but you. I never have, and I never will.”

“Yeah, now. That will change once you have me. It didn’t stop you then, so why would it stop you now?”

I inhaled a deep breath, feeling the weight of her words.

* * *

The only truth I could reply was, “I’ll never hurt you again.”



She opened her mouth to respond, but my mom interrupted. “Jaxey!” she exclaimed, making us gaze in her direction.

“It’s been too long!” she greeted, drawing me into a tight hug. “I’ve missed my boy so much!”

I hugged her back. “Hi, Mom.”

“Look at you.” She pulled away, grabbing onto my arms. “I swear the older you get, the more handsome you become. Look at my boy, he’s so big and strong.”

I smiled, trying to focus on the fact that my parents were there and not the conversation I was just having with Sophie. It tore at my insides, this feeling of regret. There was so much I wanted to say, so much I needed to tell her, yet I didn’t know where to begin.

My mom spun, gazing over at Sophie who was standing by the table, waiting for I didn’t know what.

“Sophie!” she announced with a huge smile on her face. “Oh my God! I haven’t seen you since your mom stopped working for me. When was that? Like nine, ten years ago?”

“Something like that.”

“You look gorgeous. You were always a beautiful girl, but now you’re simply stunning.”

“Thank you.” She smiled. “You look great as well.”

Mom walked toward her. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to meet my grandson. Thank you so much for allowing us to come over today to spend some time with him.”

“Of course.”

Surprising us both, Mom embraced her. At first, Sophie stiffened, staring at me with wide eyes and not knowing what to make of it.

My mother wasn’t a bad woman by any means, she was just selfish. At the end of the day, she was still the woman who’d given me life, and I loved her. She wasn’t as strong as she portrayed. My father was the love of her life, and she’d lost herself in him. I couldn’t imagine what she’d do if she didn’t have him.

He was her whole world.

Trying to calm Sophie’s anxiousness, I winked at her and smiled. She smiled in return. However, her gaze quickly went wide, and I didn’t have to wonder why.

I felt him.

Spinning around, I turned to face him. There he was, dressed in a black suit. I’d never seen him dressed like anything other than a businessman.

“Jax.” He nodded, extending his hand for me to shake.

I refused, losing respect for him a long time ago. He was lucky I’d let him come with my mom.

Seconds later, Ben came barreling into the living room.

“Hi!” he excitingly greeted. “I’m Benjamin Jax Colton.”

Hearing him say my last name instantly changed the tension between me and my father. Mom didn’t allow another moment to pass as she crouched to his level.

“Hi, Benjamin.” She adoringly smiled, looking at him with love in her eyes. “I’m your grandmother, but you can call me Meme.”

Ben didn’t falter, throwing his arms around her neck.

“Hi, Meme.”

My father was always a serious man. He didn’t have the same reaction to Ben, not that I thought he would. I couldn’t remember one time in my life when he’d hugged me or told me that he loved me or my mom.

He was a fucking bastard, and the longer he stood there staring at my son with such disdain, the further I wanted to lay his ass out for even trying me today.

Sophie’s mother shifted the mood, walking in next with a football in her hand.

“Benny! Look what I brought you.”

“Grammy!” Ben ran to her, thrilled to see her.

Right off the bat, I realized how close they were. The obvious comfort and ease between them, the way they looked at each other, they knew one another well. I made a mental note to ask Sophie how involved she had been with our son before I was around.

She made her way around the room, greeting everyone and saving me for last.

Nodding toward me, she expressed, “Hello, Jax.”

“Hello, Miss Carlisee. Nice to see you.”

It was all we said to each other.

Now that we were technically family, it was interesting to see everyone’s dynamic. Miss Carlisee and my mom got along great, they always had. She’d helped my mom run their estate for over a decade. My mom might have been a lot of things, but she treated her employees with grace and appreciation.

Everyone got along for the rest of the afternoon, except for my father who wouldn’t stop staring at my boy with an expression I wanted to knock off his fucking face.

Once Ben was playing outside with one of his friends from the neighborhood, I couldn’t hold back any longer.

Spewing, “What the fuck is your problem?”

“Jax!” Sophie chastised, standing beside her mom and mine. “What’s gotten into you?”

Dad didn’t cower, but I knew he wouldn’t.

“I thought I raised you better than this.”

“Rick,” Mom stated in a sharp tone, but he didn’t pay her any mind.

Glaring at Sophie, he bit, “How well do you even know this woman?”

“Are you referring to my wife?”

His seedy eyes met mine. “Please tell me you at least had her sign a prenuptial agreement?”

I jerked back from the impact of his question. “She’s the mother of my son.”

“And you’re certain he’s yours?”

“Rick, stop it!”

“Stay out of this! This is between me and my son.”

I shook my head. “I’m not your son. I stopped being your son years ago, and you know why.”

His jaw clenched. “What did you just say to me?”

“You heard me.”

“Jax, don’t be an idiot. I raised you better than this.”

“You didn’t raise me at all.”

“Well, you know what they say. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, seeing as you didn’t start raising your son until now.”

Sophie gasped, and my hands fisted at my sides.

“Rick! Don’t you dare—”

Cutting my mom off, he sternly pointed at Sophie. “That woman has been trying to get her claws into our son since high school.”


“Yeah, that’s right! They’ve been fucking since she moved into the guesthouse. I’m surprised she didn’t get knocked up sooner. I bet she did it on purpose. I’m not convinced her son isn’t a bastard, and she’s just conning Jax to raise him with her pussy!”

“Jax, don’t!” was the last thing I heard before my fist connected with his face. He flew back, immediately falling to the ground, but I didn’t stop. I gripped onto the lapels of his jacket, dragging him up.

“You piece of shit! Get the fuck out of my house! Better yet, I’ll throw you the fuck out!”

“Get your hands off me!” he roared, stumbling over his feet. “I’m your father!”

Nobody said a word as I hauled his ass across the house.

“You’re nothing but a sperm doner, you piece of shit! I’m nothing like you! I’ll never be anything like you!”

“I gave you everything!”

“You gave me nothing!”

“You ungrateful son of a bitch!”

As soon as we were at the front door, I shoved him away from me to open it.

“Just think about it for one second!” he argued, finding his footing. “How much do you really know about her?”

“More than I know about you, and the only thing I do know is that you’re nothing but a fucking liar! Now get the fuck out! I’m done with you!”

“You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I’ve never been clearer about anything in all my life. I cut ties with you a long time ago, and you know why. I did what you wanted, but I don’t give a shit anymore! You mean nothing to me! I’m done with you now!”

“You’re going to choose that slut over your fa—”

Not only did I knock his ass out, but I also threw him out of my home. He landed on the pavement and his body rolled across on the concrete until he was facedown.

With one foot in front of the other, I halted my steps when I was hovering above him. Crouching to his level, I roughly gripped onto his hair and yanked his head back to stare deep into his eyes.

There was only one thing left to say.

Through a clenched jaw, I snarled, “This is the last time I’ll ever see you again. I’m through with your threats. You’re dead to me now. Do you hear me?!”

He groaned in agony, and I shoved him away. His body laid limp on the cement. I meant every word I’d said. My state of mind was in one place only—I needed to make things right with Sophie. It was all that mattered to me anymore.

His power over me had ended. I hated that it had taken this long for me to realize what a mistake I had made, and letting him get to me was something I’d forever regret.

Backing away, I slammed the door before spinning around and glaring right at my mother.

“I don’t ever want to see him again! He’s nothing but a piece of shit, and I’ve known that for very a long time.”

“Jax, I… I…” Mom mumbled, shaking her head. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. I didn’t know he’d act like this. I would never—”

“You don’t know him at all! He’s a sorry-ass excuse for a father and a shitty ass husband! You deserve better than what he’s ever given you. I’m done being a fucking pawn in his lies and manipulation.”

“What are you covering for him? I don’t understand.”

“If you want to continue to ignore what’s been blatantly in your face, then that’s on you. I won’t keep you from seeing Ben, but don’t think for one second that he’s ever going to see my son again! I have spent years falling victim to his bullshit!”

“What are you talking about?” Mom stressed while my eyes focused on Sophie.

She was frozen.

Pale as a ghost.

Her eyes were wide, and her mouth was open.

The way she was looking at me, feeling me, still loving me…

I saw it written clear across her expression. She couldn’t hide it from me anymore. I wouldn’t allow it. The time had come to finally express what I should have spoken years ago.

Regardless of the consequences.

My gaze shifted back to my mom and Miss Carlisee, and feeling the weight of his lies, I set myself free.

Never breaking my intense stare, I spoke my truth, “I gave up the one girl who ever meant something to me, and it’s the biggest regret of my life. I won’t ever allow that to happen again. I know now more than ever that Sophie is the love of my life. Do you understand me?! From the moment she stepped out of your car, I have loved your daughter, Miss Carlisee, and I’ve never stopped. Time, years, distance! It never changed! I couldn’t tell her then, but I sure as shit can now!”

Locking eyes with Sophie again, I admitted for the first time, “I love you. I’m so fucking in love with you, and I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you how much I love you and Ben. I’m so sorry I didn’t fight for you then, but I’ll go to war for you now. No one is going to keep me from you.”

* * *

Staring deep into her eyes, I vowed, “Not even you.”




I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

I stood there shocked and dismayed, trying to process everything that had gone down in a short amount of time. It was one thing after another, and I couldn’t keep up with the turn of events.

His mom stayed quiet as she walked toward the door, but at the last second, she turned and threw her arms around him. Jax didn’t move an inch. I don’t even think he was breathing.

She whispered something in his ear before leaving.

I watched my mom make her way over to him next, and she just stared at him for a couple of seconds. Her shocked expression quickly turned to shame.

I never expected what happened next. Not for one minute.

“I’m so sorry, Jax,” she apologized, and I placed my hand over my heart, trying to hold it together when it felt like my life was falling apart.

“I was wrong about you. I thought…” She shook her head, and I knew what she wanted to address.

When her gaze settled on me, I shook my head, answering her silent question about what she was asking me.

With her focus back on Jax, she added, “I hope one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me for guiding Sophie away from you. If I could go back, I would… I’m just … so incredibly sorry.”

He slowly nodded, backing away from her before leaving the room. It didn’t surprise me that he couldn’t form words. Jax had always been such a private person, and airing his skeletons wasn’t an easy task for him.

What was he hiding for his father?

I racked my brain, making my way to my mom. Aware that Jax would need some space, I didn’t follow him.

Instead, I faced my mom.

“He doesn’t know?” she questioned, looking at me with regret.


“Are you going to tell him?”

“I think I have to now.”

She grabbed my hand, holding it up to her chest. “Sophie, I owe you an apology too. All I wanted was to protect you. I didn’t want you to go through what I did. I didn’t want Ben to go through what you did. I was wrong, and I’m so unbelievably sorry.”

“I know.”

“I thought he’d turn out like his father. I just…” She deeply sighed. “Can you forgive me?”

“It’s not me who has to forgive you, Mom.”

“Do you think he can?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t think he’s forgiven me either.”

She pulled me into a hug. “I love you, Sophie. I love Ben. Please don’t hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Mom. You only did what you thought was best.”

I returned her embrace, and we stayed like that for I didn’t know how long until she left.

Trying to find my bearings, I went to the neighbor’s house where Ben was playing with his friend. The little boy’s mother took one look at me, and I didn’t have to ask. She had no problem keeping Ben for the night.

I thanked her before going to find Ben. He was playing in their backyard, and I silently thanked God that he didn’t see what had happened between Jax and his father.

Playing it off like I wasn’t dying inside, I kissed Ben’s head and told him to have fun with his friend. He was busy throwing the football around and barely caught sight of me.

By the time I made it back inside, the sun was setting. My feet moved on their own accord, and before I knew it, I was standing by the door of Jax’s office. He was sitting at his desk with a drink in his hand which was unusual for him.

Jax didn’t drink, especially during the season.

Now it was my turn to stay silent, not knowing what to say or how to say it. He’d just chosen us over his own father. I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling. My heart was breaking for him. All I wanted to do was comfort him, fully aware nothing could take away the pain he was feeling.

I knew it well.

Except, he didn’t choose me like Jax just did. To my surprise, he broke the silence between us, expressing, “When we ran into each other again seven years ago, I thought this was it. This was our moment to truly be together. For the first time in my life, I believed what you had been telling me for years about destiny and soul mates.”

I swallowed hard, listening to every word he was sharing.

“I never wanted to fall in love. I saw what it did to my mother, and I refused to be that weak. I had one love, and that was football. I didn’t have to be anything for anyone. I did what came naturally to me, and I knew it was the only way I’d ever get out from under my father’s thumb. I wanted to prove to him that I didn’t need him like my mother did. That I could stand on my own without his money, his influence, and on all the important people he knows. It’s why I lived and breathed that field. Day and night, it was all that mattered to me until you came along.”

Slowly, I walked over to him. Sitting in one of the seats in front of his desk, I waited to hear the rest.

“I think my soul found yours from the second I saw you step out of that car. It was like it knew you were the one for me, and I spent years trying to pretend I didn’t love you. When in fact, I was head over heels for you.”

Suddenly, a tear escaped my eye.

“I fought against the love I had for you, and in the end, I lost you because of it.”

“Is that why you cheated on me?”

“Sophie, the only thing I can tell you right now is that I never cheated on you.”

“Jax, I was there. I saw—”

“I know what you think you saw.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know, but you will. I promise. Can you give me that?”

I didn’t hesitate in replying, “Yes.”

I wanted to believe with everything inside of me that what he’d said was true. Holding onto that hope only made me realize how much time we’d truly lost with each other.

Finding my voice, I apologized, “I’m so sorry I kept Ben from you. I know it doesn’t change anything. I know you can’t get back the years you lost. I know it all, but now I need to tell you the truth of why I kept him from you.” Taking a deep breath, I found the courage to confess, “My dad, the man who raised me, your coach…” Tears fell from my eyes, one right after the other.

There was no stopping them. This was the first time I was sharing this with anyone.

Nothing could have prepared me for this moment and the emotions it would evoke.

“He’s not my real father.”

Jax winced, not trying to hide it.

“Until I got pregnant with Ben, I thought the man who’d raised me was my father. When I told my mom I was pregnant with your baby, I told her I was going to tell you. I swear to you, I never had any intention of keeping him from you. It didn’t even cross my mind, but she got in my head. Telling me that my real father didn’t want me. He wanted her to have an abortion.” I paused, letting my words sink in.

“You see, my mom had an affair with this man. For years my dad wanted kids, and it didn’t happen for them. They found out later he was sterile and couldn’t have kids. He became withdrawn from her, so she found comfort in the arms of another man. She says she fell in love with him. She was going to leave my dad, but when she told him she was pregnant with me, he didn’t give a shit. He told her she was nothing more than sex, and she needed to have an abortion.” Taking another deep breath, I continued.

“She refused, even when he said he wouldn’t help her. He broke her heart, but my dad wanted a baby so bad, he decided he’d raise me as his own. They tried to make it work, but in the end, they got a divorce. My mom was messed up, she couldn’t forgive herself for cheating on him, and seeing me reminded her of all her bad choices. It’s why she left me with him and moved here to work for your mom. I think she was punishing herself by being away from me.”

“Jesus, Sophie.”

“I found all of this out after I told her I was pregnant with your baby. She confessed and told me you were going to do the same. I still didn’t listen to her. Instead, I flew out to tell you, but when I showed up to your house, I saw her with you.”

He grimaced, knowing who I was referring to.

“It was all I needed to see to think that my mother was right about you. Then throw in the shock and hurt by my real father’s actions. I didn’t want our kid to go through not being wanted. Then thinking about all the women who’d claimed you’d knocked them up. I didn’t want to be another problem you just paid off.”

“You honestly thought I could do that to you?”

“I did. The night we ran into each other, all I wanted was to get back at you. I wanted to hurt you like you’d hurt me. It’s why I left before you woke up. I couldn’t have gone through with it if I didn’t leave when I did. I still loved you, and it was evident that our connection was strong as ever. I wanted to hate you, and for a long time I did, but seeing you again only solidified how much I still loved you. I never intended on getting pre—”

“I didn’t use a condom.”

I jerked back, almost falling out of my chair.

The only thing I could utter was, “What? You purposely got me pregnant?”

“No. I think it was a subconscious decision. We’d been drinking a lot, and I didn’t realize it until the next morning. There were no wrappers from the condom, and fuck… I looked for you. I had Caleb look for you. You just disappeared.”

I sat there with wide eyes. “I know.”

“When Autumn showed me the picture of Ben, I think deep down a part of me wasn’t surprised.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I do. I fucking love you. I know you love me.” He abruptly stood, his chair skidding across the wood floor.

His sudden movement made me stand as well. In four long strides, he closed the distance between us with so much force, my body slammed against the wall behind me. I hit it with a hard thud.

Instantly, Jax caged me in with his arms, making me feel his love, his desperation, and his hate.

Not for me.

For himself.

“I mean it, Sophie. I love you, and I’m so fucking sorry I didn’t fight for you. Please tell me you believe me.”

“I do.”

“I’m done waiting.” He smiled, adding, “Give me another baby.”

This time it wasn’t Jax who came to me—it was me who willingly gave myself over to him. My mouth crashed onto his, and it was all he needed to lose control. Roughly, he gripped onto my ass, lifting me up to straddle his waist.

Our kiss was passionate.


Sending us into a frenzy.

I didn’t realize he was walking us into our bedroom until he’d laid me on the bed, spreading my legs to lay in between them before he lowered himself onto my heated body.

This was crazy, but Jax and I were always impulsive. Going from one extreme to the next. This wasn’t unusual for us. I’d wanted to give him what had been his the entire time.

My heart.

My soul.

My body.

He cradled my face, never once breaking our intense kiss. There was something different about him as he hovered above me in a way I’d never experienced with him before. Like he was trying to show me a side to him that he didn’t even know existed.

Tenderly, he kissed me deeply as his hands softly ran down my shoulders to take off my dress.

“Jax,” I rasped, trembling beneath him. He was barely even touching me.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Jax wasn’t the man who made love. He was always into hard, passionate fucking. This was different—he was different.

He deliberately took his time taking in my body. My thighs clenched together when I felt his stare heading toward my pussy.

“Fuck … you’re gorgeous.”

I could feel my wetness pooling in between my legs from his words and touch. Fueling my need to feel him, anywhere and everywhere, and all at once. He elicited another moan from my lips when I felt his hand slowly expose my clit.

“Please,” I shamelessly begged, rocking my hips.

He didn’t have to be told twice. Holding onto my thighs, he buried his face in between my legs. My back jolted off the bed, making him chuckle as he moved his head up and down, side-to-side, using his tongue to slowly caress my core.

“Mmmm… Jax,” I purred, grabbing ahold of his hair as he continued with his oral assault.

He never stopped working me over with his lips and tongue when he started to slide his finger into my wet heat.

“Oh, God…” I moaned, curving my back into the mattress beneath me. Entirely coming undone from his touch.

He devoured me with his tongue and fingers, making love to me with his mouth. Sucking harder and more demanding with each passing second, to the point I thought I was going to pass the hell out.

A loud, rumbling growl escaped from deep within his chest. He was losing control, and it was what made me completely surrender to the power he still held over me.

I came.

I came so damn hard I saw stars, and still, he didn’t let up, making me come over and over again, against his fingers and mouth. I started to convulse, my body moving on its own accord. He instantly locked his arm around my lower torso, holding me in place.

My back arched off the bed, my hands white-knuckled the sheets, and my body shook with so much force that I thought I would never stop coming down his chin.

“Oh, God … ahhh…” I profusely panted, my body turning on me.

Orgasm after orgasm. They were coming quick and fast, one right after the other with no end in sight.

“Please… Jax … please…” I squirmed, begging him to stop, tugging hard at his hair to the point I thought I was going to rip it out.

He released my clit with an unrelenting groan, not wanting to stop but allowing me mercy. Thrusting his tongue into my heat, he licked, ate, and swallowed all my juices.

He sat up with a pleased and satisfied expression on his face, grinning as he wiped his lips and chin with the back of his arm. Showing me precisely how much I came only because of him.

“Your pussy tastes as sweet as ever.”

His filthy words had as much effect on my body as his touch did. I wanted him to say more dirty things like that to me. I never wanted it to end. He tore his shirt off by pulling it up from the back and over his head, throwing it onto the floor beside the rest of our stuff, then he unbuckled his belt and jeans.

Smiling, he slid his jeans off, letting his hard cock jut free.

“You’re still pierced.”

“And I’m about to fuck you raw.”

He mischievously grinned, crawled up my body, kissing and sucking his way up to my lips. He kissed me hard, stifling my words, my thoughts, my entire being. My tongue sought his out, and our kiss quickly turned into its own thing, taking what the other needed.

There was something agonizing about the way we were moving—it was urgent, demanding, and all-consuming. We couldn’t get enough of one another, leaving us wanting more.

I wanted everything.


All or nothing.

He caressed the side of my face, my breasts, and the back of my thighs like he didn’t know where he wanted to touch me the most.

“I love you, Sophie,” he throatily rasped, causing another moan to erupt from my mouth.

I’d spent years hoping he’d say those three words to me, and there they were, like they were the easiest words for him to say all night.

“Jax…” I moaned in a tone I didn’t recognize.

“I know you love me, and I’ll wait as long as I have to, to hear you say it to me again.”

I placed my hand on his rapidly beating heart that was pounding against my chest, staring profusely into his eyes.

The devotion.

The adoration.

The love…

It was all there, staring right back at me.

“There she is … there’s my Baby Soph.”

In one thrust, he was deep inside of me.

“I’m so fucking in love with you, Sophie.”

Emotions I’d never felt before flew through my entire body while he took me slowly, taking what he wanted—no, needed—from me. His hips thrust harder and deeper into me with deliberate motion, knowing what I loved, he taught them to me. I couldn’t do anything but surrender to him. Submit to the only man I ever loved.

He adoringly kissed all over my face, along my jawline, my forehead, and on the tip of my nose. The room started spinning like it did when his face was in between my legs. My head fell back, and my breathing became heady, urgent, and I felt so damn good…

He immediately lapped at my neck and breasts, leaving tiny marks all over. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to enjoy the sensation of him being on top of me.

“That feel good, baby?” He made his way back up to my mouth.

I nodded, unable to form words. My arms reached around him, hugging him closer against my body, wanting to feel his entire weight on me. He leaned his forehead on mine and breathed out, “Open your eyes, look at me.”

I did, taking in how lively, thriving, and full of love his stare reflected back into mine. Our mouths were parted, still touching and panting profusely.

“Fuck, yes, Sophie … just like that… Come on my cock… Give me what I want.”

I was coming from my head down to my toes. Grabbing my leg, he inched it higher up his body.

“You like that?”

“Yes… Don’t stop…”

“I won’t. I’ll make love to you all night. You’re mine. You’re all fucking mine, and I’m not letting you go.”

My entire world spun out of control, and so did his as I shuddered beneath him, and his body tensed above mine.

One thing was for sure.

I still loved him, but I couldn’t say it yet.

Instead, I whimpered, “Swear?”

Taking me back to another place and time.

Where he vowed, “That’s a fucking promise.”

* * *

Exactly like he did right then and there.




I started to get out of our bed, but Sophie wrapped her arms around my stomach, holding me in place.

“Don’t go,” she begged, making me smile.

I’d spent all night inside of her, making up for the past seven years.

“I have to catch my flight to Atlanta for the game tomorrow night.”

“I know, but five more minutes. Stay. I’ll let you do things to me.”

I smiled, looking back at her. “I’ve been doing things to you all night.”

“All the more reason for you to stay.”

The breeze blowing the thin white curtains in our room did little to cool the heat between us. But damn, she was so fucking adorable when she was like this.

I laid back, and she immediately straddled my waist, bringing the white sheet with her to cover her bare breasts.

“You don’t have to hide your tits, Sophie. I’ve seen them, licked them, sucked them into my mouth. I’ve even fucked them.”

“Stop.” She giggled, blushing. “You know I’m shy.”

“How can you still be so shy when my tongue’s been up your ass?”

“Oh my God! Jax!” She smacked my chest. “You’re horrible!”

“What do you think is going to happen when you bend over in front of my face with no panties on?”

“Okay … next topic. What time is your flight?”

I grabbed my cell phone, looking at the time that read noon.

“Wow,” she breathed out, reading the time too. “I can’t believe we slept this long.”

I grinned, grabbing her hips. “I wouldn’t call what we did sleeping.”

“Well, you’re relentless.”

“Especially when it comes to your pussy.”

She grabbed my mouth, laughing. “No more dirty talk.”

When she lifted her hand, I demanded, “Then you’re going to have to sit on my face.”

Before she could object, I placed her where I wanted her. On my mouth. For the next hour, I ate her for breakfast and then made love to her again, unable to get enough of her. It was always like this between us, and I loved the fact that our connection was still intact.

If anything, it was better, more intense.

I took a shower, grabbed an overnight bag and filled it with a couple of things, while Sophie went to get Ben from the neighbor’s house. Now that I was alone, I grabbed my phone and dialed her number. Sitting on the edge of the bed by the nightstand, I waited for her to pick up.

“Hey, you,” she answered.

The guilt I felt was eating me alive, but I had to put a stop to this.

After all these years, it was time.

* * *


* * *

I walked back to the house with Ben.

“Did you have fun?”

“Yes! What did you and Dad do without me?”

I ruffled his hair. “We missed you terribly.”

He nodded. “I know, I’m a missable man.”

“You are. Now what would my missable man like for breakfast?”

“French toast!”

“Coming right up.”

I made extra French toast for Jax, and while Ben was eating, I brought it up to our bedroom to him.

Once I was at the door, I opened my mouth to call out his name, but stopped dead in my tracks when I heard him say into his phone, “I can’t do this anymore, Evie. We need to talk.”

Instantly, I hid behind the door with my heart pounding profusely in my chest.

Who’s Evie?

“I’ll be in town this afternoon. Can you meet me in my hotel room? I can call the concierge on my way to the flight and tell them you need a key.”

My hand flew to my chest. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“I’ll see you soon.”

Is this what dying feels like?

But it wasn’t until he stated, “Yeah, I love you too,” that I truly spiraled.

How could you be so stupid?

He told her he loved her… After, he’d just told me all night that he loved me.

How long has he been in love with her?

He wouldn’t tell me the truth if I confronted him. I needed to get to the bottom of this on my own. Putting on the best performance of my life, I walked into the bedroom with his breakfast.

“I made you French toast.”

He stood and placed his cell phone in his back pocket. “Look at you, already fulfilling your wifely duties.”

I wanted to smack that grin off his face. How he could stand there and pretend like he wasn’t just talking to another woman completely blew my mind. Jax always had the ability to charm his way out of anything. Images of last night tore through my mind.

What if I am pregnant?

“Hey.” He caressed my cheek. “Are you okay?”


“You look like you’re going to be sick.”

“Yeah.” I pulled my face away and turned my back to him. “I’m not feeling that great.”

He wrapped his arms around my waist.

Nuzzling my neck with his lips, he rasped, “Maybe it’s morning sickness.”

“It doesn’t happen that fast.”

“A man can dream, can’t he?”

His touch was burning my skin. Overpowering all my senses, blinding me. I could barely see, let alone think straight. Trying to rationalize what was going on but failing miserably.

“I think I’m just tired is all. What time is your flight?”

“I have to leave in a minute.”

“You’re flying to Atlanta, right?”

“Yes, is Mommy going to watch Daddy’s game tomorrow night?”

His flirty banter was making me sick to my stomach.

“Ben wouldn’t have it any other way.” Trying to sound nonchalant, I asked, “What hotel are you staying at?”

“The Marriott Downtown, why?”

I spun around, kissing him. It was the only way I didn’t have to answer that question.

He gripped my face, turning our kiss into a heated embrace.

“You’re making it really hard to leave.”

“You’re right.” I pulled away. “You need to go.”

He kissed my lips one last time. “I love you, Baby Soph.”

I pecked him back, smiling when all I wanted to do was to break down.

At least before he never told me he loved me. Hearing him express it now was just adding insult to injury.

As soon as he left, I jumped into a quick shower, trying to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. Calling my mom next to come watch Ben, I left him with the housekeeper and let her know my mom would be there soon.

“Have a great day, Mom!”

Ben waved from the couch, and I kissed the top of his head.

“Be good for Grammy.”

Hyperventilating as I exited the house, I hauled ass to my car. My was mind spinning, and I was suffocating in his lies. My heart, mind, sanity, it couldn’t take it anymore. I was shaking like a leaf, and my whole body felt like it was giving out on me. There were too many emotions happening all at the same time, and I couldn’t control any of them.

An hour later, I was jumping on a flight to Atlanta. Jax flew on a private charter with his team like always. The entire flight my mind was one big, jumbled mess of what-ifs.

My heart raced as the seconds ticked by, watching our whole relationship play out in front of my eyes. I took a deep breath, steadying myself before I stepped off the plane. I rushed through the airport, hailing a cab to take me to the Marriott.

“Pull over right here,” I ordered once we arrived.

The driver slammed on the brakes, and I threw money at him before the car even came to a complete stop, skidding to the curb. I ran into the building, heading straight to concierge.

Ducking my face under my hat, I kept my sunglasses on, wanting to go unnoticed.

The attendant recognized me immediately, saying she’d ring Jax that I was coming up to his room.

“No!” I eagerly shouted. “I want to surprise him. He doesn’t know I’m here.”

“Aww! How sweet, Mrs. Colton.”

Mrs. Colton… Talk about a shot to the heart.

She handed me a key fob. “He’s on the penthouse floor.”

Of course he is.

Smiling, I backed away and hurried down the corridor to the private elevator to his floor. The anxiety for what was to come still lived and breathed in my blood. It pumped in my veins, releasing a piercing vibration at my temples. I ignored the looming feeling that I felt in the depths of my core.

Instead, I focused on my task, catching him cheating on me for the second time. My hand was on the handle of the door. Slowly, I opened it, not wanting him to hear I was there. As if being pulled by a string, I made my way inside.

One step.

Six steps.

Nine steps.


“Yeah, Evie. Just like that.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Are you sure?” she replied, her voice echoed off the walls.

I gasped and placed my hand over my mouth, not wanting to be heard.

The truth blatantly slapped me in the fucking face again. I couldn’t stop my feet from moving, following the sounds of their voices.

Fifteen steps.

Nineteen steps.


Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see, about to feel. Sucking all the air from my lungs, taking my heart, the heart that he owned, and shattering it into a million pieces. Pain like this should never be experienced.

It was raw, excruciating torture.

As much as I urged myself not to leave, to run, it willed me to stay in place. My feet glued to the floor beneath me. I needed to remain strong. Act unfazed. Show no weakness.

When I came face-to-face with the truth, I loudly gasped.

They were sitting in the living room. Her hands were in his lap. Their surprised stare snapped in my direction.

It wasn’t Jax that my eyes were locked on.

It was her.


Was the same woman he’d cheated on me with before he left for Miami.

Throwing me right back to that night…

* * *

Where my world as I knew it came tumbling down on me.




I couldn’t believe the day had come when Jax would be leaving me to go play in the NFL. I always knew this day would come, I just never imagined it’d happen this fast. It felt like time had passed us by, and now we were saying goodbye to each other.

We talked about the future a couple of times when he was still trying to decide where he wanted to play. Every team wanted him. He was the best, first-draft pick straight out of college. He was twenty-two and about to take the world by storm.

Jax had already made a name for himself, but this would be a much different scale. He’d become the greatest of all time. I knew it like I knew my love for him.

Miami would be who he was playing for.

It was only a two and a half hour flight. I only had a year left of school. I could move there to be with him after I graduated. Although, we hadn’t discussed that. We’d only talked about visiting one another. I told him I loved him all the time, and he had yet to say it back to me.

However, I knew he was in love with me. He didn’t have to say it—I could feel it.

Through his touch.

His smile.

The way he looked at me.

His actions all screamed love and adoration.

I laid there in his arms. This would be the last morning I’d wake up in his embrace. He’d fly out early tomorrow morning for training camp in the Sunshine State.

With my back to his chest, he nuzzled my neck. “What are you thinking about over here?”


He stayed silent for longer than I would have liked before he stated, “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about tomorrow a lot too.”

I swallowed hard, hearing him admit what I already knew. Jax and I had a connection I couldn’t explain or understand. It had always been that way between us. This unspoken bond, where words weren’t needed to know how we were feeling.

He was my person.

My mind ran rampant with question after question I had yet to consider until this very second. As if he knew what I needed at that moment, he turned me to lay on my back and then hovered above me, caging me in with his arms around my face.

Kissing my lips, he said, “It’s a short flight away.”

“I know.”

“What are you worried about?”

“That you’ll forget about me.”

“How could I forget about my Baby Soph?”

I shrugged. “Out of sight, out of mind. You’ve forgotten about me before.”

“It was different back then.”

“What was different about it?”

“I had to stay away from you.”


He raised his eyebrows. “And I hadn’t taken your pussy yet.”

“Jax.” I tried to shove him away, but he didn’t budge an inch. “Now’s not the time to be dirty.”

“I can’t think of a better time. You’re sad. I don’t like seeing you upset.”

“Aren’t you sad or upset?”



“Sophie, you’re in my bed, in my arms—I’m on top of you. I want to focus on that and not what tomorrow will bring.”

I stayed quiet, not knowing how to reply.

Jax did what he did best, he made love to me again. After he was done having his way with my body, he jumped into the shower, and I threw on one of his shirts that looked like a dress on me. Smiling, I brought the hem up to my nose. I loved his scent. It was as addicting as he was.

I went into the kitchen, pulling out the food from his fridge that I’d brought over earlier to make his special dinner. He loved lasagna, and my mom had the best recipe. Once I was done laying everything out on the counter, he walked out.

“Great timing!” I exclaimed, pointing toward the top cabinet. “Will you grab that pot for me? I can’t reach it.”

He didn’t answer, causing me to turn and look at him.

“What?” I asked, taking in the solemn expression on his face.

“I’m sorry to do this to you, Sophie. I know it’s our last night together, and I wanted to spend it with you, but something just came up. I have to go.”

“Oh.” The disappointment was evident in my tone. “I can just wait for you until you get back.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just best if you go.”

I winced. “You don’t want me here?”

“It’s not about that.”

“I don’t understand. Did I do something?”

He shook his head.

“Where are you going?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll call you. Okay?”

“Ummm … yeah, okay.” I bowed my head, making my way into his bedroom to grab my stuff.

I was confused.


There were so many emotions in a span of a few seconds.

When I passed him, he grabbed my hand. “It’s not you, I promise.”

I nodded, feeling those words in the pit of my stomach.

“Keep my shirt. It looks better on you.”

I softly smiled and backed away, not knowing how to act or even what to say. I quickly moved around his room and grabbed my stuff, realizing just how many of my things were here. For some reason, it made me feel more uncomfortable than I already was.

Was this too much? Too real for him?

I didn’t understand, and the further I thought about it, the more I wanted to call him out on it.

We’d gotten so close… Is he pushing me away?

Question after question tore through my mind. My thoughts ruthlessly weighed in my head. His silence was deafening, and it spoke volumes as he watched me pack up all of my belongings. It didn’t affect him like it was affecting me.

Not for one second.

When I was finished, I gazed up at him. Feeling so tiny in front of his 6’5 frame.

“What time is your flight tomorrow?”

“Before dawn.”

“Do you want me to take you to the airport?”

He shook his head.

Although, he was standing before me, he wasn’t there with me. His mind was somewhere else entirely. I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to take away his normal demeanor toward me.

“So this is it? This is where we say goodbye? Like this?”

“Sophie, I…” He stopped himself.

Please say it. Just say the three words I’ve been dying to hear for the last five years.

“You what?” I baited, waiting on pins and needles.

He didn’t falter, stating, “I have to go,” in a stern tone.

“Right. Well, I won’t keep you any longer then.” I snapped around, and I expected him to stop me.

To say something.


He didn’t.

He simply watched me leave.

No kiss.

No words.


Leaving me speechless, I felt as if the ground was crawling up my legs and eating me whole. I went back to my dorm, empty and alone. Laying there in my bed, I stared up at the ceiling for I don’t know how long, repeating the last thing he’d said to me in my mind.

“I have to go.”

I wracked my brain for what felt like hours, contemplating where he had to go with such urgency until I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no way I could move forward without knowing where we stood, and it was unfair that he expected me to.

I needed to hear the words, to know that I wasn’t wasting my time on him. He was leaving, and I had no idea when I would see him again.

Not one clue.

I got out of bed and slipped on a hoodie and my shoes. Quietly opening my door, I made sure the resident advisor wasn’t making her rounds. She knew I stayed at Jax’s most of the time, but I still didn’t want to rub it in her face. The coast was clear, and I slipped out.

He was used to me sneaking into his bed at night. I’d wait for him like I’d done hundreds of times at this point. I was thankful I had a key to his place, focusing on that instead of allowing fear of the unknown to get to me more than I already had.

It was after one in the morning when I pulled up to his apartment. His truck was in its usual parking spot. With my heart in my hand, bursting, pounding, I unlocked his door. My stomach was in knots, feeling anxiety for what was to come.

Would he be mad that I came back?

I ignored the looming feeling I felt in the depths of my stomach. I barely had time to contemplate what I was doing before I was standing in the doorway of his bedroom. Jax was sitting on the edge of his bed with his phone in his hands, and for a moment I felt relieved like maybe he was calling me.

I was about to say his name when his bathroom door suddenly opened, and out walked a blonde woman I’d never seen before, wearing nothing but a towel. I swear I stopped breathing, and a rush of adrenaline shot through my core. It was like witnessing a tragic accident, wanting so badly to look away, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

She was gorgeous.

She must have felt my presence because her eyes shifted to my shocked as shit expression.

She shrieked and jolted back.

I scared her—the irony was not lost on me.

Jax instantly lifted his head, meeting my eyes.

His were wide and daunting, roaring, “Fuck,” as he realized I’d caught him with her.

His reaction triggered something inside of me. Our eyes never wavered from one another as I grasped what I’d truly interrupted.

I winced at the sound of his voice, and for a minute, my pain broke through the uncontrollable emotions. I strained, locking up, staying firmly rooted to the place I stood with the wind knocked out of me. Feeling like he’d just punched me in the stomach. It was obvious what was happening here. He didn’t have to tell me, and I refused to wallow in my own self-pity.

Violently shaking my head, I screamed, “You fucking asshole!”

With that, I turned and ran out of his apartment.

My heart.

My mind.

My love…

Was broken.

Snapping like a wrought iron chain. He was pulling every sentiment from my body, every last emotion I didn’t even know I had for him.

“Sophie!” he shouted, chasing after me.

He only added fuel to my fire, making me remember the first time he’d chased me and tackled me to the ground.

My first kiss was now a tainted memory.

My feet pounded against the pavement. I’d never run so fast in my entire life. I didn’t want to talk to him, see him, answer to him.

He deserved none of it.

“Sophie! You can’t outrun me!”

“Eat shit!” His words only had me sprinting faster.

I should have known better, there was no way I’d be able to outrun him. He did this every day of his life for football.

In three seconds flat, I felt his hand firmly grasp my arm spinning me around to face him.

“Don’t touch me!” I yelled, trying to knee him in the balls to get away from him, with no luck.

He blocked me.

“For fuck’s sake, relax!” he ordered, assaulting me with his whiskey breath.

He was drinking?

“Is that why you made me leave? Huh? So you could fuck her before you left?!”

“Sophie, calm down!”

“Calm down? You want me to calm down? I fucking love you! I gave you everything!”

“No, I took it from you.”

I pushed him as hard as I could. “You arrogant dick! I can’t believe I trusted you! I can’t believe I was ready to move to Miami to be with you!”

“I never asked you do that.”

“You didn’t have to!”

“You need to calm down.”

“You need to stop telling me what to do! How long? Huh? How long have you been cheating on me with her?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“That’s what you reply? Are you for real? What did you think was going to happen when you’re fucking someone else?! How many were there? How many women have you been sleeping with this entire time?”

“It’s not what you think.”

“Then what is it? Huh? What is she doing in your apartment at one in the morning? Coming out of your shower! In a fucking towel!”

He tried to grab my arms, but I ripped out of his grasp.

“Is that why you won’t tell me you love me? Because you love her?”

He rubbed his face, turmoil radiating off of him.

“Sophie, I told you from the beginning I don’t know what love is, and that hasn’t changed.”

“That’s your excuse for running around on me?”

“It’s not an excuse—it’s the truth.”

“Then why did we keep this going between us if you were just going to cheat on me? I haven’t been with anyone but you!”

He growled at the mere mention of me fucking someone else.

“You’re all I know, and I thought…” Tears welled in my eyes. “I thought you loved me too.”

“Soph, you know I’m crazy about you.”

“Not crazy enough to be faithful though? How do you know her? How long has this been going on?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does to me!” Unable to hold back my fury, I spoke with conviction, “I hate you! Do you hear me? I hate you!”

He frowned, feeling the sting of my declaration.

“I never want to speak to you again! I never want to see you! I just want to forget you ever existed!”

“You don’t mean that.”

“I’ve never meant anything more in all my life!”

He reached for my face. “Please don’t do this.”

I backed away from him. “I didn’t do this. You did.”

His eyes rimmed with tears, and his hands fisted at his sides.

Glaring at him with disgust, I spewed the only thing left for me to say to him…

* * *

“My mother was right about you. I should have listened.”




“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I seethed, spitting fire. “After all this time, you’re still cheating on me with her?! Even after what I told you last night?! How long has this been going on that she’s still around?!”

Jax stood with his hands in the air in a surrendering gesture.

“You need to calm down.”

“Calm down? I can’t believe you’re telling me to calm down again! There”—I grabbed the first thing I could, a vase, and chucked it at his head—“how’s that for calm!”

He ducked, and the blonde backed away.

“Wow,” she breathed out, holding her hands up as well. “I thought you said she was sweet and nice.”

“You’re talking about me to her?” I glared at her. “What kind of woman are you that you’re okay with this? How are you still fucking him when you know about me?”

“Whoa! I would tell you to calm down, but I don’t want you to throw anything at me.”

“Evie,” Jax coaxed. “Let me handle this.”

“Oh, I see. You’re protecting her now? That’s just great!” Looking back at her, I bit, “Did you know that he made love to me all night? And not only that. He’s trying to get me pregnant!”

“Yes, I did. Congratulations.”

I shook my head, utterly confused. “What?” I grabbed my head, feeling like it was about to explode. “I don’t understand. You don’t care that he’s in love with me? That we have a family?” I showed her my ring. “Better yet! That we’re fucking married!”

“Jax, just tell her.”

He smiled, folding his arms over his chest in a cocky demeanor. “I’m kind of enjoying seeing her like this. You don’t love me, my ass.”

I grabbed another vase, ready to chuck it at him again.

“Sophie,” he warned. “Put the vase down and step away from anything else you can throw at my head.”

“You’re lucky it’s only a vase I throw at you and not my fist in your face or my knee to your balls!”

“Kneeing me in the balls isn’t going to help us make a baby girl.”

“Baby girl? Do you honestly think I’m going to get back into your bed when I just found you with her again?! You have to be out of your mind! Actually, as soon as I leave here, I’m calling Autumn because I’m filing for divorce, asshole! I don’t care if it’s breach of contact! I dare you to sue me! All I have to say is that you were unfaithful, and the press would eat you alive! So think twice if you want to try me—I won’t hesitate to ruin you.”

He cocked his head to the side, arching an eyebrow. “My Baby Soph has claws. And you said I was the lion.”

“I was wrong—you’re a snake! But at least now you can be with your whore! I’m done with you. For real this time!”

“I am not a whore! Jax, if you won’t tell her, then I will.”


“I’m his half-sister!”

I didn’t just stumble back, I flew and hit the wall. Instantly seeing the last thirteen years replay in front of my eyes. Except this time…

It was laced with nothing but regret.

* * *


* * *

Sophie exclaimed, “What?”

I stepped toward her with my hands still out in front of me. She didn’t move. I didn’t even think she was breathing.

“You heard her, but I’ll say it again. She’s my half-sister, Sophie.”

“Oh my God.”

“I know, it’s a lot to take in.”

“Why are you just now telling me this?”

“Hand over the vase, and I’ll tell you everything.”

She gazed down at it before giving it to me.

Needing her to feel my love, I grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward me. She stumbled a bit, catching her footing. With her hand on my chest, I gripped the back of her neck and kissed her senseless.

Holding her face in my hands, I rasped against her lips, “I love you. I’ve always loved you, and I always will.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me the truth?”

“I’m going to give you guys some alone time,” Evie announced. “I’ll be at the hotel bar.”

I nodded, watching her leave. However, at the last second, Sophie spun to look.

She expressed, “I’m so sorry I called you a whore.”

Evie smiled, shrugging. “It’s fine. I can understand what it must look like. I mean, first you catch me in a towel coming out of his bathroom and now this? I’m surprised you didn’t throw the vase at my head instead.”

“I’m not going to lie, I almost did. But I’ve actually seen you three times. The last was when I flew out to tell Jax I was pregnant.”

“Oh no! I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“If you did throw the vase at my head, I wouldn’t hold it against you. I’m shocked that you didn’t.” Evie met my eyes. “You know where to find me.” She turned and left.

I didn’t waste any more time, leading Sophie to the couch where Evie and I were just sitting.

Once we were settled, I told her the truth. “I’ve thought about this moment for as long as I can remember, and now that it’s finally here, I don’t really know where to start.”

“How about the beginning? Where did you go that night before you moved to Miami?”

“My father’s office. He’s the one who called me.”


Taking a deep breath, I replied, “Evie showed up at his office, and he needed me to clean up his mess.”

“Did you know about her?”

“I was getting suspicious that something had been going on. After I moved out, he was home less and less. I knew work took up a lot of his time, but it was obvious that something else was going on. I just never expected that he would have a whole other family outside of us.”


“Yeah. Evie’s four years younger than me. He’s been with her mom since who the fuck knows at this point.”

“Is he still with her?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You don’t know?”

“Evie cut ties with her mom years ago. I’m all she has.”

“So what happened?”

“When I arrived at my father’s office, Evie was already there. At first, I thought she was just one of his fucks. She was only eighteen at the time, and I was disgusted he’d go that young. I called him out on it, but you see Evie’s personality. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. As I was screaming at my father that he was a piece of shit, she interrupted, saying she was my half-sister.”

“Oh wow.”

“I couldn’t believe what I’d heard, and I stood for what felt like forever, just lost in all the years he was absent from our lives. Evie argued that she was there because she wanted to meet me, but my father being the controlling son of a bitch that he is, took the matter into his own hands, calling me to come meet her.” I paused, letting my truth linger.

“I was pissed, and I told him that I was going to tell my mother. That this was the end of his lies and bullshit. My mom deserved better, and I wasn’t going to cover for him. He’d made his bed, and now he needed to lay in it. I never expected what happened next. He pulled a folder from his desk and demanded that I take a look before I did anything.”

Her eyebrows pinched together. “What was in the folder?”

Inhaling a deep breath, I shared, “It was your mom’s secret about your real father.”

She grimaced, gasping.

“He threatened that if I told my mother, then he would tell you that your dad wasn’t your real father.”

“How did he know?”

“After the Christmas party when he ordered us to stay away from each other, he started digging into your mom’s life. You know he’s a powerful man. He found out the truth and has been holding it over my head this entire time. I didn’t know your mom had confessed to you. If I had, I would have moved heaven and earth to find you.”

“Oh my God. I can’t believe he kept us apart this whole time.”

“I called Evie this morning and told her to meet me in my hotel room. She lives in Atlanta but wants to move to Texas to be closer to me. She also wants to meet Ben and have a relationship with him and you. She’s been begging me to just tell you the truth, but I couldn’t do it. I know how much you love your dad. He’s my coach… I was in between a rock and a hard spot. As much as I wanted you to know that I never cheated on you, I couldn’t hurt you again. I refused.”

“Jax, I don’t know what to say. This isn’t what I expected when I heard you on the phone with her this morning.”

“So you Nancy Drewed your way here?”

She smiled, loving the book reference. “Yeah.”

I laughed. “You got some arm on you.” I referred to her throwing the vase at my head.

“My dad always wanted a boy.”

I nodded, continuing, “I wanted to talk to Evie and tell her that you knew the truth about your father, and I was going to tell you everything when I got home after this game.”

“I feel so stupid. I can’t believe I thought you cheated on me.”

I swept the hair away from her face. “I don’t blame you. My reputation speaks for itself.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I should have trusted you. We wouldn’t have lost all these years if I had.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. We’re here now, and all I want is a future with you and Ben. I want the life I always dreamed of having with you.”

“Really? You dreamt about that before you moved to Miami or after?”

I didn’t hold back, professing my last truth…

“That night before my dad called, I was going to tell you I loved you and ask you to marry me, Sophie.”

“What? Is that why you were so calm and nonchalant about moving? I thought you just didn’t care we weren’t going to see each other every day anymore.”

“It was the only way I could leave you, knowing you were going to be my wife.”

“I’m speechless.”

I grabbed her hand. “The ring you’re wearing, I bought it for you then.”

“Jax,” she breathed out, shaking her head. “This ring is extravagant. How did you afford it?”

“The trust fund my grandfather left me before he passed away. I couldn’t touch it until I was twenty-one. He was my mom’s dad, and he fucking hated my father. I think he knew I’d eventually want to cut ties with my old man, and he was helping me in the only way he could. My mom kept the trust from my father. He didn’t know about it.”

“I feel like my head is spinning.”

“I know. I can’t tell you how relieved I was last night when you told me about your dad. Finally, I could tell you the truth. I’d been wanting to for the last thirteen years. But I want you to know that I laid awake every night missing you. There was this huge hole in my heart where you used to be.” I grabbed the sides of her face, and she leaned into my embrace.

“You’re my Baby Soph.”

Her mouth parted, and I glided my thumb across her bottom lip. “I’m so sorry for everything I put you through. All the tears, the pain, breaking your heart, walking away. I should have fought for you. It will forever be one of my biggest regrets. I’m so fucking sorry for everything.”

She slid her arms around my neck. “I’m sorry too, Jax. For everything. We’ve both made mistakes, but in the end, we’re here now.”

With my hands framing her face, I kissed her slowly, softly, desperate to make her feel my remorse for the past I couldn’t change.

In between kissing, I rasped, “Let’s make a baby.”

She smiled against my mouth as I placed her on my lap. Gripping onto her ass, I stood and wrapped her legs around my waist. Kissing her deeper, I carried her onto the bed, laying her down before I placed my body on top of hers.

Our hands started to roam everywhere, trying to decide where we wanted to touch each other the most. When her hand found my cock, she moaned.

“Fuck,” I growled, scooting her up toward the headboard as she stroked me up and down, her hand barely closing around my shaft. In seconds, I had her naked. My mouth instantly sucked on her nipples.

“Don’t stop,” she murmured, pulling down my jeans and briefs. I helped her, kicking them off, and then took off my shirt.

My hand found her pussy. “You’re so wet.”

Her hips moved against my fingers. Kissing along her jawline, I took in the blush of her face, the moans descending her lips, every movement burning through her body.

“Tell me…” I bit her bottom lip. “Tell me what I want to hear.”

She peered deep into my eyes, breathing out, “I love you. I never stopped, and I never will.”

I immediately placed my face between her legs, needing to taste her.

“Oh God.”

I sucked.


Devoured her until she was writhing and begging me to make love to her.

My mind raced as I kissed my way back up to her face. Grabbing her leg next, I angled it upward, bending her knee so that her foot rested on my ass.

In one thrust, I was deep inside of her.

“Oh God,” she breathed out. Keeping her eyes open even though they wanted to close.

She grabbed the back of my neck and kissed me with so much power and passion, I returned it tenfold.

The feel of her.

Taste of her.


Baby Soph.


For some reason, my mind went back to another place and time. The night we made…

* * *

Our son.




“How does it feel to be known as the greatest of all time?”

I smiled at the reporter’s question. “It feels great.”

I'd spent the last hour at this damn press junket, and all I kept thinking about was getting the hell out of here. I needed to unwind and have a fucking drink.

For the next twenty minutes, question after question was thrown in my face. The more personal it was, the better the ratings were. I knew how this game was played, having a love/hate relationship with the press since I’d began playing for Miami five years ago.

“Jax,” the same reporter called out. “Do you think you’re ever going to settle down?”

I grinned. “Not anytime soon.”

The same journalist added, “Do you see yourself getting married maybe? Starting a family? A son who could possibly carry on your legacy?”

I resisted the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.

“Have any of the models you’ve been seen with this past month finally caught your attention enough to possibly become a girlfriend?” another reporter asked, bringing my attention over to her.

“I don’t have time for any distractions that include anything more than no strings attached.”

My answer seemed to appease them. They didn’t ask about my personal life for the rest of the interview. Instead, we spoke stats which was always my favorite.

Once the conference was over, I jumped in my truck and hightailed it out of there. I was ready to get my night started with some booze and women. I wasn’t a big drinker, but with the way I had been feeling I needed it. I wanted to let go for the evening, craving liquor and pussy.

It wasn’t hard for me to pick up groupies—they threw their panties at me. Especially when they saw me out on the town. By the time I’d made it to the bar, it was packed to the rim with people, some I recognized and others I didn’t. I ordered a Jack and Coke before meeting up with a couple teammates. We hung out, drinking and shooting the shit about nothing in particular, before I needed a break from the stifling atmosphere.

Excusing myself, I made my way out onto the empty balcony, wanting a change of scenery for a few minutes. It was hotter than Hell in there, and I wasn’t a fan of big crowds beyond the stadium.

I leaned against the railing and rested my elbows on it, taking in the people dancing inside, when all of a sudden the music changed to a much slower beat. I narrowed my eyes, trying to get a better look at the girl in the center of the dance floor with her back to me.

Her long hair cascaded down her back as her hips seductively swayed to the rhythm of the song. She was wearing a tight backless white dress that accentuated all the curves of her body, leaving very little to the imagination. I stood there amazed and in awe of the woman dancing, with all eyes on her as she slowly worked her hands up toward her head to run her fingers through her hair, holding it up off her back.

Biting my bottom lip, I imagined her doing exactly that while she rode my cock and screamed out my name. The way she danced was so unbelievably fucking sexy, but it wasn’t like every other girl I was used to seeing. She wasn’t dancing for anyone but herself. She rocked her hips and spun around, finally turning to face me.

Describing this woman wouldn’t do her justice. The lighting in the room was dim, and I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted to. Her eyes were closed, oblivious to all the stares that were solely fixated on her. She didn’t give a flying fuck who was around, who was talking, who was dancing which only drew my attraction to her more.

I swallowed hard, my mouth suddenly becoming dry from the vision before my eyes. My gaze traveled down her body. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and I could see her nipples peeking through her clingy dress. She had the tiniest waist and curvy hips. An hourglass figure, exactly how I liked. The front of her dress was a deep V down her chest. My eyes wandered up to her face at the exact moment we locked eyes from across the room.

It was like she could feel my intense stare focused on her. I actually sucked in a visible breath, seeing her eyes for the first time. She looked so angelic, although I could tell she was anything but pure simply based on the way she was eye-fucking the shit out of me in that moment.

She cocked her head to the side and narrowed her gaze, taking me in as much as I had taken her in seconds ago. The music changed to a much faster beat, and the dance floor quickly began filling up again. Crowds of bodies started to surround her, but she didn’t let that deter her regard over me.

A sense of familiarity filled my bones.

Do I know her?

Slowly, she walked in my direction, parting through the men and women. She never broke our deep connection. I was still leaning against the railing, one leg placed over the other as I raised my glass to my lips, imagining the way her skin would feel beneath my mouth.

She was as intoxicating as the liquor in my hand.

I watched the way her hips swayed, the way her tits bounced, the way she licked her lips, making my dick twitch at the mere sight of her striding toward me with a finesse I’d never seen on another woman.

She stepped out onto the balcony and slid the door closed behind her, angling her body in a way that only made me want to devour every last fucking inch of her.

From her lips.

To her nipples.

To her fucking clit.

The smell of the night air, the aroma of her mixed in with a scent I couldn’t place—something tempting, sinful, devouring all my senses, and the only thing I could think about was how much I wanted to kiss her mouth.

Without saying a word, she gradually eyed me up and down with a fascinated expression until she locked eyes with me again. Grinning like a damn fool, I waited. Trying to play it off like she wasn’t having an effect on me when, in fact, she was consuming every last fiber of my being.

I’d been drinking a lot, my head was hazy, and now with the lighting brighter I started to recognize her.

With wide eyes, I stood there frozen.

Until she declared, “Cat got your tongue, Quarterback?”

It was then that I knew I was right, and it all made sense.


“Are you saying you don’t recognize me?”

I hadn’t seen her since the night I’d broke her heart. She’d always been a beautiful girl, but now she was every bit of a stunning woman.

“The line at the bar is at least twenty people deep. How about you be a gentleman and share your drink?”

I didn’t give it a second thought. I nodded for her to come over to me, and she didn’t waver. In four strides she was standing in front of my face, and I knew right then and there…

I. Was. Fucked.

Since I’d left, I hadn’t looked back. I couldn’t. If I did, I wouldn’t have made it out alive. Sometimes my mind would drift to her bright hazel eyes, and as soon as the thought occurred, I’d shove it to the back of my mind where it belonged.

The way she looked at me still consumed me in ways I never thought possible, but that wasn’t what captured my attention the most. It was the sincerity in her gaze. She wasn’t looking at me—she was staring through me like she always could.

It felt as though no time had passed between us.

Our connection.


Was still very much there, breathing life into me after all these years.

She bit her lip like she could read my mind. Handing her my drink, she took a couple sips before giving it back to me. She left a lipstick stain around the glass where her mouth had been, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to drink from the same spot just to taste her mouth again.

It had been too fucking long.

“Does Jax Colton normally stand outside on the balcony at bars and stare at women dancing?”

If she wanted to play this game of lion and prey, I had no problem chasing her down until she was in my bed. I’d done it before, and I sure as hell would do it again. Thinking about the memory of her first kiss made my cock twitch.

Eyeing her with a predatory regard, I responded, “Only when they look like you. Besides, I wasn’t the only man who was enamored by you. Should I go fuck them up?”

“Imagine the scandal that would be.”

“Not any worse than what is already written about me.”

“You always were quite the ladies’ man.”

I winced, it was quick, but she saw it.

Trying to lighten the mood, she smiled and arched an eyebrow. “Do you like what you see then, Quarterback?”

“I more than like, I’ve taken everything.”

She zeroed in on me, reminiscing before my eyes. Despite the lust that was evident in her gaze, I could still see the pain I’d caused her floating through my lies.

I shook away all the memories that could destroy me, turning around to face the view instead. She stood close to me, spinning to observe the sight in front of us like I was.

However, I couldn’t keep my eyes from gazing at the side of her face, wanting to look at her for as long as I could. She was always my favorite thing to look at. I cleared my throat and swallowed hard, knowing that her heart was beating just as fast as mine. I was having the same effect on her too, and it not only pleased me—it made me so fucking happy.

I wanted her.

I’d never stopped.

She was mine.

Once again, playing this game of cat and mouse, I asked, “Are you from around here?”

I could see her trying to hide back a smile. “No.”

“Where are you from?”


The pull she had on me was also still alive and thriving. I resisted the urge to claim her mouth, craving to remind her who she belonged to.

“What are you doing in Miami?”

“I’m here with a friend.”

“I don’t see your friend.”

“She left with some guy.”

“And you stayed by yourself?”

“I wanted to dance.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

Her eyes connected with mine. “Do you think I need protection?”

“With the dress you’re wearing, abso-fucking-lutely.”

She looked down at herself. “What’s wrong with my dress?”

“Where’s the rest of it?”

She smirked, peering up at me through her long black lashes. “You didn’t seem to have a problem with my dress a few minutes ago when you couldn’t take your eyes off me.”

“I still can’t take my eyes off you.”

“You don’t have to worry. The only man I need protection from is you.”

I grimaced again, not trying to hide it. “How long are you in town for?”

“None of your business.”

“What if I’m making it my business?”

“Then you’re in for a rude awakening.”

Unable to resist, I blurted, “Where did my Baby Soph go?”

If my question bothered her, she didn’t show it.

Changing the subject, she questioned, “Why are you here alone?”

“I’m not alone. You’re here with me now.”

“I won’t call you the G.O.A.T like I’m sure most of the women you fuck do.”

“No problem. I’d prefer you call me God.”

She smiled. “Humble much?”

“Sweetheart.” I leaned in, close to her lips. “I wasn’t referring to the way I can throw a football.”

She giggled, licking her lips, and the scent of whiskey and her assaulted my senses.

“Then you’re referring to the way you can throw your dick around?”

I laughed. “It wasn’t my dick I threw around. It was you.”

Her eyes dilated.

“But if you want to continue playing this game of you run and I chase, then there’s only one way for you to find out.”

“Wow. You’re already throwing yourself at me,” she playfully taunted.

“Would you prefer I lie and say I don’t want to fuck you until you can’t walk in the morning?”

“So I’ll be staying until morning?”

“I wouldn’t let you leave if you wanted to.”

“I see. I don’t usually sleep with men who are so clingy.”

I growled from the instant jealously I felt from hearing her say that.

“Are you saying you sleep with random men?”

She winked. “Once or twice.”

My chest locked up, jealously radiating off of me.

“How many men have you been with, Sophie?”

“Isn’t that kind of a personal question?”

“Considering my cock has been in every hole in your body, no.”

“Hmm…” She brought her fingers up to her mouth. “I don’t really remember what you’re talking about. You must not have been that good.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Is that right?”

“It’s okay. From what I read in the press, you have no problem scoring with women. I’m sure your cock was memorable to them.”

“How about I take you home with me and remind you just how much I can make you come for me?”

She backed away. “Thanks for the drink.”

Not allowing me a chance to object, she turned to leave, but I grabbed onto her arm, holding her in place.

“Where do you think you’re going?” It felt as if my whole world was about to walk away from me.

Before I could give it too much thought, I pulled her toward my chest, bringing her into my arms. In one fluid motion, I gripped the back of her neck, tugging her closer to my lips.

I didn’t falter—I loved the way she was looking at me.

“Come home with me, Baby Soph.”

I could see it in her eyes, the internal battle she was fighting. Knowing that I might lose, I went to war with her mouth.

For the first time in five years, I kissed her until the earth stopped moving and time stood still.

Claiming her.


When I pulled away, I looked deep into her eyes. Fully aware I’d won.

Inhaling a deep breath, she whispered against my lips, “Lead the way, Quarterback.

I drove us back to my house where we spent the rest of the night drinking, laughing, fucking. It like was old times. From the moment she climbed into my truck, I felt like this was destiny. The amount of times Sophie had talked about fate was not lost on me as I reached for her hand, pulling it into my lap.

All night, I thought this was the moment everything would change for us. We’d move forward and forget about the past. I’d figure out how to tell her the truth about Evie without my father threatening to expose her mother’s secrets.

I wouldn’t lose her again.

I couldn’t.

She meant too much to me.

She slept in my arms, and I stayed awake until the sun started rolling in. Taking in her long, messy, unruly hair partially covering her face, to her pouty, pursed lips swollen from my relentless and insatiable assault on her mouth. Her flushed, naked, bare skin only reminded me of how many times I’d lost myself inside of her.

The scent of sex hung heavy in the room, fueling the memories of how many times I’d made her mine during our time together.

Her beauty held me captive.

She was glowing.


Fucking breathtaking.

I fell asleep, holding her closer to my heart. My soul. The only woman I’d ever loved. I woke up hopeful for the future.

Except she was long gone.

I didn’t realize this until later when I couldn’t find her anywhere. That night wasn’t our second chance…

* * *

It was her goodbye.




“I can’t believe you brought us here.”

Jax smiled, holding Ben on his shoulders.

We were in Miami for the Super Bowl tomorrow night. The Fort Worth Big Horns had been undefeated all season, and now they were playing against Jax’s former team, the Miami Sharks who had the home field advantage. I was definitely nervous about how tomorrow night would go.

The last thing I wanted was for Jax to get booed by fans who still believed he was a traitor for leaving Miami to play Fort Worth. Jax didn’t have the same apprehension I did about the game. He was calm, cool, and collected. Seeming unfazed about how the season turned out in general.

A lot had changed in the three months since Jax told me the truth. Evie did end up moving to Fort Worth, and she lived a few miles away from us. Ben adored her. He was so happy to have an aunt who spoiled him rotten. On top of my mom and Jax’s, they were both just as bad when it came to giving him everything he asked for.

To our surprise, Jax’s mom filed for divorce from his father. After he told her the truth about Evie, she didn’t think twice about it. They didn’t have a prenuptial agreement, so she was entitled to half of all their assets. She didn’t need it, though. She was born into a wealthy family.

Our relationship with his mother had done a complete one-eighty. What she didn’t do for Jax, she made up for with Ben. She was present in his life on the daily, taking turns with my mom to watch him for me now that I was back in the cave. It was my term for writing my next book.

They were a huge help. I was beyond grateful to have the support. I knew Jax appreciated it as well. His dynamic with both our moms was also different. Slowly but surely, they were forming a bond with each other.

“Dad, what is this place?”

“This is where your mom and I ran into each other the night we made you.”

“Oh…” Ben looked around the restaurant/bar. He made the most adorable expression, asking, “How did you make me?”

I chuckled. I couldn’t help it. “I knew that was coming. You fell right into that one, Daddy.”

Jax grinned, winking at me. “Well, son. Your mom has always had the sweetest p—”


“What?” He teasingly smiled. “I was going to say personality. Mommy only has one thing on her mind.”

I playfully glared at him while Ben questioned, “What’s that?”

“She wants to give you a sibling.”

“Really?!” Ben gasped. “I want a brother!”

Jax walked out onto the balcony where there were tables set up for lunch.

Placing Ben in a chair, he countered, “Hopefully a baby sister.”

“Eww! I don’t want a sister. Girls are gross.”

“Girls are gross?” Jax looked over at me. “What have you been teaching our son?”

We sat down.

“To not be like his daddy.”

“But, Mom… I want to be just like Dad. One day, I’m going to be the G.O.A.T. Right, Dad?”

Ruffling Ben’s hair, he retorted, “I will happily pass the torch.”

“Speaking of passing the torch,” I added, using this opportunity to ask the burning question of the hour. “Any idea on when you plan to retire?”

“From what?”

I rolled my eyes.

He jerked back. “Football?”

“Yes, football. What else would you be retiring from?”

Grabbing the kids menu and crayons, he gave it to Ben.

“I have no plans on retiring anytime soon.”

“Jax, you’re going to be thirty-five soon, which is the average age of quarterbacks retiring from the NFL.”

“Is that supposed to sway me?”

“You’re undefeated this season. You know you’re going to win the Super Bowl. Don’t you want to retire on a high?”



“What is the real issue of you wanting me to retire?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you’re the father of my child, and I don’t want you to end up in the hospital again with another concussion.”

“I haven’t had one in two years, Sophie.”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t get another one.”

“I barely get tackled on the field. You have nothing to worry about.”

“We’re trying for another baby. I’d like for my two kids—”

“I want five.”

“Five what?”

“Kids.” He thought about it for a second. “Maybe six.”

“Umm … are you saying you want me to be pregnant for the next seven years?”

He kissed me. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

* * *


* * *

“Ben, there’s building blocks over there. Why don’t you go build us something?”

He beamed. “Okay, Dad!”

Quickly, he ran toward the corner of the balcony where he was still in our sight.

“This can’t be good if you made Ben go away.”

I chuckled. “Mommy knows me so well. Caleb is going to watch Ben for a few hours when we get back to the hotel.”


“You’re ovulating.”

Shocked, she responded, “I’m sorry, what?”

“You heard me.”

“How do you even know that?”

“I have an app on my phone that tracks your cycle.”

She stared at me dumbfounded.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“How long have you known my cycle, Jax?”

“Why is that relevant?”

“Because your wife wants to know.”

“My wife, huh?”

“I mean, that’s who I am.”

“Well, your loving husband has known your cycle since we got married.”


“My intention has always been to knock you up as many times as I can.”

“I’m not a gumball machine, Jax.”

I smiled. “I can’t wait to see you pregnant.”

“You’re not going to be saying that once the hormones kick in.”

I didn’t want to waste any time. We’d already wasted over a decade. She would have been pregnant with triplets if I had my way. I wanted to end this chapter of our lives and start a new one with her.

“I heard pregnant women are extra horny. My cock will enjoy your insatiable need for him.”

“Horny, hungry, needy, moody, pretty much every emotion under the sun.” She smiled. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, Quarterback. I know you’re just trying to change the subject of you retiring.”

“Sophie, it’s not up for debate. I plan to play for at least another ten years.”

I snapped, “Ten years? You can’t be serious.”

“You knew who I was when you married me. Now you’re stuck with me.”

“I married you under false pretenses. I had no plans on staying married to you.”

“Good thing I wasn’t ever going to let you go.”

“You really would have denied me a divorce?”

“Ask Autumn and Caleb.”

“Wait, what? They know?”

“Caleb is like my brother. He knows everything.”

“You still didn’t tell him about us.”

“I’m a selfish bastard as you know. I didn’t want to share you with anyone, and now I have to share you with the world. But I do have a question for you.”

“What’s that?”

“Your pen name. Are you going to continue writing under it?”

“I haven’t really given it much thought. Why?”

“Do you even have to ask?”

She smirked. “No, I just want to hear you say it.”

I leaned in, getting close to her mouth. “Since I’m not getting royalties for being the muse in all of your stories, I want my last name on your book covers. Understood?”

“You’re so bossy. What if I want to write under Sophie Hayes.”

“I’ll bribe your publisher to change it to Sophie Colton.”

“That’s very barbaric of you.”

“Well, we both know how much you’re into that shit.”

“Not all of my heroes are based on you.”


She giggled. “How many books of mine do you have left to read?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“I’m not going to lie, watching you holding my book in bed is quite a sight.”

“I’m fully aware. You suck my cock every time.”

She smacked my chest.

“I do have one demand.”

“I’m afraid to ask.”

Getting close to her ear, I whispered, “Daddy wants to fuck my mommy’s ass again.”

We locked eyes.

“That’s not how you make a baby.”

“I didn’t say I had to come in there, but I like where your head’s at.”

“Maybe if you win the Super Bowl.”

“Now I definitely have to win.”

“You’re literally undefeated this season. I have no doubt that you’ll win and bring the trophy home to Ben.”

“I did tell him we could put it in his room.”

“I know. He hasn’t stopped talking about it.”

“Have I told you how much I love you?”

“Not in the last thirty minutes.”

Smiling wide, I expressed, “I fucking love you. Then, now, always.”

“Dad!” Ben called out from the building blocks. “Look what I built!”

“I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The day couldn’t have been more perfect. It helped ease the worry about the big game. I wanted to win it for my team.

For her dad.

For my son.

The next evening came quickly, and as I stood in the locker room about to go out onto the field I’d played on for thirteen years, I couldn’t help but count all of my blessings. I had everything I’d ever wanted. Everyone I loved was in the family suite, waiting for me to run out on that field.

My mom.



Kinley, who was there with Christian.

Even Autumn and Julian were in attendance.

“You ready?” Coach questioned, bringing my attention to him.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

He nodded. “You’re going to destroy them.”

“That’s the plan.”

“Before you head out, I just want to tell you as your coach and father-in-law, I’m damn proud of the man you’ve become. Now get your ass out there and show them why you’re the G.O.A.T.”

“Thanks, Coach.”

I made my way out to the stadium with my heart in my throat. This was what I did best, play football. As soon as I walked into that stadium, the crowd went fucking wild in a way I’d never experienced before. This was the moment that I proved to the world why I’d left Miami to play for the Fort Worth Big Horns.

I’d made a team from nothing, and now we were going to win the Super Bowl.

* * *


* * *

This was by far one of my proudest moments for Jax. Feeling the adrenaline and hype of his fans sent a surge of happiness coursing through my body.

Once the game started, he looked like a god out on that field. Sweat dripping off every inch of his muscular body. It was truly amazing what he could do. When he looked up at our box, he nodded and mouthed, “I love you” to me.

I never thought I’d hear the words, and now he expressed them every chance he got. We’d both made mistakes, and I would forever regret the years we’d lost, but we were making up for all that lost time. I’d give him six babies if that was what he wanted.

Before I knew it we were down to the final seventeen seconds of the game. Fort Worth Big Horns were down by three, and Miami had the ball on their own thirty-seven yard line. It was the fourth down, with seven yards to go when Miami brought out the special teams to punt. The kicker lined up and punted the ball, and Fort Worth’s punt returner received the punt and ran it back to Miami’s thirty-five yard line.

The clock had ticked down to seven seconds with no time-outs left in the game. I could feel my palms sweating in anticipation for the final play—would we be able to pull out the win, bringing the Super Bowl victory home to Fort Worth?

To my surprise, Jax and the Big Horns offensive line returned to the field instead of special teams, in hopes of winning the ball game. I could only imagine the pressure Jax felt in this moment, but they didn’t call him the GOAT for nothing. Jax took the snap and faked a play-action hand-off to Williams, the running back and then threw the ball two yards backward to Hunter, the receiver. Jax didn’t miss a beat, not that I expected him to. With the speed of a lion, he sprinted down the sideline and turned just in time to catch the pass from Hunter, just as his feet crossed the endzone! TOUCHDOWN, baby! The stadium lost their shit as the final second ticked off the clock.

“Mom! Did you see that flea-flicker Hunter just passed to Dad!” Ben shouted, jumping up and down.

I couldn’t contain my excitement. The crowd around us was electrifying.

I high-fived Ben. “Yes, little man. That was awesome!”

“My dad is the GOAT! We won the Super Bowl, Mom! I’m going down to the field!”

Ben darted out the door, and I followed him, just as excited as he was.

My heart pounded profusely while my mind raced, and my chest heaved with each passing second, escalating with every step that brought me closer to my husband.

Ben jumped into Jax’s arms, and Jax placed him on his shoulders before he turned to me, catching my body next. I kissed him with all the love I could muster for him.

Murmuring into his ear, “I guess you get my ass after all.”

He grinned. “I would have taken it regardless.”

From that moment forward, the press circled around him like bees to honey.

“Jax!” one reporter shouted. “How are you going to celebrate winning the Super Bowl?”

I swear, for a minute I thought he was actually going to say something about taking my ass. I never imaged he’d reply…

* * *

“I’m going to give my wife the wedding she deserves.”



“I, Sophie, take you, Jax, as my lawfully wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” I slid the band on his finger, and the officiant then nodded to him.

“I, Jax, take you, Sophie, to be my lawfully wedded wife.” He slid the band on my finger. “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”

I smiled wide, feeling an endless amount of emotions. Each one more potent than the last.

“By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss your bride.”

Jax grabbed the sides of my face and claimed my mouth like we weren’t in front of our loved ones.

Slowly, he kissed me one last time and whispered, “I love you my Baby Soph,” against my lips.

Jax didn’t hold back on the expense of our wedding. It was everything I’d ever wanted and more. He’d made all my dreams come true, making sure to have every last detail I’d requested.

The theme was my favorite.

It was The Great Gatsby.

He wore a tux, and I wore a white gown that was inspired by Daisy Buchanan’s dress. It was custom made along with Jax’s tux that was identical to Jay Gatsby’s.

We were married on our property. Jax was adamant about having it there, saying this was the first time he’d ever had a home. We told the world that it was our vow renewal, but to us it felt like our wedding day.

Autumn was my maid of honor. I couldn’t have asked anyone else. She was the reason we’d found our way back to each other. Caleb was his best man, but Kinley was the only groomswoman he had, and Evie was the only bridesmaid I had. Ben was our ring bearer, and my dad gave me away.

It was perfect.

I didn’t think I’d ever been happier.

If I had learned one important lesson in all of this, it was how much love truly prevailed through anything. I’d always known Jax was my soul mate. I’d fallen in love with him when I was seventeen and almost eighteen years later, I loved him more than ever if that was even possible.

The reception was just as lovely, and we spent the whole night dancing until it was time to throw my bouquet.


All the women screamed.

I turned around and tossed it over my head, quickly spinning to see who caught it.

My mouth dropped open when Evie caught it, jumping up and down.

Jax growled, not liking the fact that his little sister was next.

“Relax.” I smiled at him. “She’s not even dating anyone.”

We’d become close. I loved her. She was the sweetest person, very loving, attentive, would do anything for anyone.

“I love you, Sophie Colton.”

I beamed. “I love you too.”

* * *


* * *

Before I took my gorgeous wife upstairs, my mom grabbed my arm.

Holding my face in her hands, she said, “I’m so sorry for not being the mother you deserved when you were growing up.”

I nodded. “Mom, you don’t have to apo—”

“No, I do. I just want you to know that I love you with all of my heart and soul. I’m so proud of the man you are. I’ve always been so damn proud of you. I know I should have been there for all your games and milestones, and I’ll never forgive myself for losing so much precious time with you. You and your family are my entire world. I promise I’ll never disappoint you again.”

I didn’t know I needed to hear her say this to me until that very moment.

I kissed her cheek. “I love you too, Mom.”

By the time we’d made it to our bedroom it was past midnight. Our families were staying in the spare bedrooms of our estate. The house was over twelve thousand square feet with eleven bedrooms. We had more than enough room. It was why I bought this property in the first place.

My life was finally complete, and I owed it all to the woman who was walking toward me in a white nightie.

“I have something for you.”

I narrowed my eyes as she showed me the book she was hiding behind her back.

“No, you didn’t…”

There in front of my eyes was a paperback of me shirtless on the cover of her next book with the title Second Chance Scandal above her New York Times #1 bestselling author title. What was below that caught my attention the most.

Sophie Colton.

“Read the dedication.”

I opened it, reading:

To the love of my life who promised he would ruin me for every other man, and now he’s the biggest muse for all of my heroes. This is our love story.

“Do you love it?”

“More than you can imagine.”


Gripping onto her ass, I laid her on our bed and made love to her as husband and wife for the first time that counted.

* * *


* * *

“Jax… I have to get my cell phone. Your sister has it. She was adamant that I had to be in the present, and she took away my phone.”

“Why do you need it? Everyone you know is here.”

“Because I need to make sure the caterers are on their way for brunch that’s in three hours.”

He held onto my waist tighter.

“Just use my phone.”

“You don’t have their number.”

He reluctantly sighed. “Fine, but bring your ass back to my bed when you’re done. I want to eat you for breakfast.”

“Oh! I like that meal plan.”

I jumped out of bed and threw my silk robe on as I left before he changed his mind. Evie was staying in the guesthouse that was behind our main home. It was still early. I knew she’d be sleeping.

Quietly, I opened the door, careful not to wake her. I tiptoed through the living room, extra cautious when I was opening her bedroom door. Which immediately went to shit as soon as I walked into the room.

I loudly gasped, “Oh my God!”

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d catch her in bed naked with none other than…

* * *