| 27| Fragments of a Shattered Fantasy ||

He placed his palm on his head, letting the clock ticking away calm him. His stomach growled, and then the smell of something delicious filled his senses.

When was the last time he ate? God, he was fucking starving.

He set up in bed and frowned. He shielded his eyes from the glaring sun streaming in through the spaces between the blinds. He tossed his legs over the side of the bed and got up. He was a little confused for a few moments because he didn’t remember making it upstairs, then he remembered palming Lacey’s ass all the way up the stairs sometime in the early morning despite her giggling protests.

He smiled at that memory while his sleepy brain pulled itself out of the foggy haze of sleep. He headed to the bathroom first to empty his bladder, then wandered down to the kitchen.

His mouth pulled up when he rounded the corner and saw Lacey humming while stirring something in a pot.

He leaned on the door frame, a flash of a memory or, must have been more fantasy than memory despite what it felt like, crossed his mind.

He wasn’t sure what possessed him to make his way over to her and didn’t even know that he had his arms wrapped around her from behind until her singing stopped. He kissed the side of her neck, and she leaned back into him.

She smiled at him over her shoulder, and he saw her affection for him in the depths of her brown eyes. He saw how much seeing him made her happy. That buoyed his chest and made the corner of his mouth lift. “What?” He asked, feeling heat fill his face from his stomach up. He squelched the jittering of his innards, uncertain how to deal with his reaction to her emotional depth. This was why he didn’t do mornings.

They spent the entire day before at his favorite place. He liked the peace and quiet. He liked the privacy, the seclusion of the Popes’ little farm cabin.

She reached up and stroked his cheek. “You are fucking handsome as shit.” She let out a silly girlish laugh that did something to him. Her joy was something he realized he never felt before from anyone else. It was foreign something that he and his brethren scoffed at, mostly because they were ignorant bastards. It was easier to do that than to take the risk that he had with Lacey. Letting her see him in a way that no one really had before, not even Stitch, was the hardest fucking thing he ever did. He smiled and stroked under her chin before kissing her soft lips. If Stitch could see his ass now, the man would never let him live it down.

He pushed the rogues out of his mind and wrapped his arms around Lacey tighter. He inhaled her floral scented hair and relaxed in the moment with her warmth against him.

“I had a vision that looked a lot like this, just one thing missing.” He confessed.

She glanced over her shoulder with a smile. “Oh yeah, what?”

He formed his hands over her flat lower abdomen. She frowned and found his eyes over her shoulder, and tears started to cloud hers. “Devlin―” She broke off, turning her attention back to her pot. “I-I uh―” She fell silent and pulled away from him.

The joyous high fell so fast and so far, he wondered if he was even up there, to begin with. “What?” He reached for her, but she dodged him. Memories of the night they had the argument about him staying with her filled his head. He hated not being able to touch her, hold her. “Lacey―”

“Jacob,” She started, and he rolled his eyes before crossing his arms over his chest. Would he not be rid of the damn man? “We t-tried.”

He looked down at his bare feet when the weight of her words settled on him.

“W-we saw the best doctors, fertility treatments, but eventually, tests told us that I―” She choked back her words and swiped some stray tears. He pulled her to him and held her close to his chest. He didn’t like seeing her like that. Seeing her hurting. He could almost feel her aching in his own chest.

Eventually, she pulled away and gazed longingly in his eyes. “I was the problem.” She got out of his hold and brought her focus back to the cutting board and chopped up the veggies. “Difficult if not impossible to conceive, they told us.” She turned on the pan and added olive oil. “Impossible.” She whispered, seeming more to herself.

He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on the counter more to refrain from touching her. What kind of comfort could he possibly bring?

She chuckled a little bit. “You want to know the silliest part?”

He hung his head then looked back up at her as she worked. He had no idea what the hell could be silly about anything that she was saying. She added the veggies and stirred them around the pan until they were brown and added her egg blend. She leaned against the counter and looked back at him.

“For a fleeting moment, I imagined having a little boy with black eyes and dark hair.”

Devlin frowned. He investigated Jacob a long while back after he found out the bastard was her husband. The man had light features: dirty blond hair and blue eyes, he thought. Then again, she had darker eyes, and despite her blonde highlights, he was sure her natural hair color was darker. “I’m sorry.” Kind of a lie. He was sorry that the experience was painful for her, but not that she never had another man’s child growing in her.

She shrugged. “I don’t think you understand.” She forced a laugh. “I was married to him and I―” she faced him. “I imagined a baby that looked like you.” She let out a shrill sound and shook her head before bringing her attention back to her task. She folded the omelet and let it cook a bit more.  “I was so worried about finding the perfect man I never thought about me not being the perfect wife.”

“Lacey―”

“No!” She turned on him. “I was fantasizing about having another man’s child.” Her face twisted in a look of disgust. She took a deep breath and rubbed her forehead with a manicured finger before turning back to the stove. She platted the omelet and started another one. “It was so vivid. So clear.” She continued, after a while of the veggies sizzling in the hot pan. “I’d stoop down, hug him and place him on the counter and he’d watch me cook, asking questions in the wonderfully curious way that children do.” He watched her drift off to that place in her mind. He could imagine it too. He could imagine watching both of them together.

After she added the egg to the pan, he pulled her back to him. “That could still happen.”

She frowned and looked at him over his shoulder. “How?”

“Is that what you want? A family?”

Her long lashes rested on her cheeks when she closed her eyes. “More than you can imagine, but they said―”

“Fuck what they said.”

“Devlin―”

“Fuck their ten-year degrees and educated ass guesses.”

She pulled out of his hold and tended the omelet. “I don’t know if you understand what y-you’re suggesting. A family takes work and we’re―” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I don’t actually know what we are, a-and I’m okay with that, for now, anyway. Or at least I’m trying to be as best I can.” She babbled.

He stepped in and grabbed the pan from her and the spatula. She moved to the side and leaned on the adjacent counter. He tossed the omelet in the pan, turning it over in the air and set it back on the stove top. “I might not be your ideal man, but I can still make you happy. Sometimes.” He looked over at her, still caught off by her disheveled morning beauty.

“I didn’t know you could cook.”

He shrugged displaying a roguish grin. “I was raised by my mother who was gifted in the kitchen. My sister wasn’t interested in learning any of it, so my mom taught me.”

The pretty woman gnawed on her bottom lip and let her head fall to the side. “I don’t know. It’s kind of sexy.”

He couldn’t help that his mind went right to him between her thighs and that set off a chain reaction, waking of his cock. He cleared his throat and looked at the omelet more to have a focal point that wouldn’t tempt him to fuck Lacey right then on the counter. They were trying to have an adult conversation, or at least he was. The devilish woman seemed to have different plans. He slid the omelet on an empty plate and turned off the eye. He stilled when she wrapped her arms around him from behind.

“Maybe, maybe I don’t know how to care for you the way you want.” He ventured.

She squeezed him tighter to her. The feel of her warm, soft body made him relax into her. “Devlin―”

“I’ll never be Jacob―”

“I know.” She said, over him. He glanced back at her over his shoulders. “I don’t want you to be him.”

He frowned. “Then what?”

She shrugged then buried her face into his back. “I just want more moments like this. Like coming up here to the Popes’. Like riding with you.”

He turned so they were facing each other and he leaned on the counter. “You like riding?”

She glanced up at him from under her lashes, and a mischievous smirk pulled up the corner of her lips. “Uh huh.” She cooed, sounding just like one of them damn sirens that lured sailors to their death.

He shook his head, revelling in the woman’s match for his devilry. It was an unexpected gift that she blessed him with five years past too.

She splayed her fingers on his chest and let them slide over the cotton shirt. “I had a good conversation with Mrs. Pope.”

He grumbled. “She tell you a million embarrassing ass stories?”

She laughed, and the sound made his smile.

“Just enough to make me see that I was wrong. I was wrong about Jacob. I was wrong about―” She broke off with a choked sob. “I was wrong about you. When I said yes to you, I knew there was something, but I was scared because you didn’t fit into this stupid box. I knew that you would never fit in it, but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t want you to.” She pulled away from him. “I-I-I plan. That’s what I do now for a living. I love it; it makes me feel good. This entire weekend was completely out of my control, and I-I was struggling at first, then somewhere on the ride up here, I just―” She turned to face him. “I just trusted you, and it’s been such an enjoyable experience. You’re so much more than I could have imagined, so layered with bad and good and shades of grey.” She was facing the counter, her back to him, deep in thought, deep in her analysis of their time together. With someone else, he would have found it strange, but the woman couldn’t stop calculating. “Your love for the Popes and their love for you has been a warm welcome. I’ve seen a side to you that I love.”

His chest was light hearing her say that.

“Because of that,” she continued, resting the palms of her hand on the counter. “I’ve been turned on and horny the entire time and it’s the last thing I should be―” She gasped, when he pulled her back into his front and pressed her against the counter with a slow thrust of his hips.

He wasn’t certain when he made the moves to get them in this position, but he was just fine with the outcome. He traced his hands along her arms, pulling them forward, bending her over the counter. He ground his erection into her ass. She groaned, leaned back against him and rotated her hips. He bared his teeth, loving her response to him. Loving her desire.

He traced back up her arms and along her spine until he was standing upright and she was still bent over the counter. She looked back at him and whispered his name. Her honey-brown eyes beckoned to him, secured in his mind that he’d find a way to make her all his. He formed his hands around her waist and pulled her back solid against him and thrust into her ass. The clothes separating their bodies was frustrating, and he had a mind to quickly make history of them, but he heard the back door open.

Lacey started pushing him away and righting herself.

He watched her fret. He loved making her frazzled. He loved that for some reason, she wanted the world to see her as this chaste, well put-together woman, when he knew better. He really liked, however, that she saved that dark, naughty temptress side for him. Just to know he could pull that out of her made him want her even more.

“I told you to get the eggplant if you wanted me to make that casserole that you like, but you were being cheap.”

“Eggplant shouldn’t cost that much.”

“It’s the winter time, silly man, any vegetable is going to be expensive.”

Ben grumbled. “They never taste so good anyway when they’re out of season.”

Nanny paused when she came into the kitchen and put the paper bags on the counter. “Well, it smells good in here. What you two cook― My goodness. You’re still not dressed?”

“What, you didn’t know we were spending another night?” Devlin said, with a smirk.

“Dear lord, not with all the noise you two were making last night.”

“Noise? What noise, Nanny?” Devlin took delight in Lacey’s wide-eyed look of terror. Oh yes, his little banshee was vocal, just the way he liked her.

“Oh, come on, Nan, there wasn’t no noise. You’re making them feel uncomfortable. They’ll never come back if you keep with your nagging.”

“Of course, you wouldn’t have heard anything, you sounded like a power tool all through the damn night, Ben.” The older woman was unpacking groceries.

The old man waved his wife off. “Leave those kids alone. Always with the nagging. Then you’ve got the nerve to nag me about never having company.” He addressed Lacey and Devlin. “You two are just fine. Don’t let this old bird make you think anything but.”

“Always with the nagging?” The older woman said.

“Uh oh, Ben, you’re in trouble.” Devlin pushed off the counter and helped put groceries away.

“Ah,” the man said, with a little laugh as his wife’s voice carried in the background. “I stay in trouble.”

Lacey, meanwhile, was beet red trying to keep her face concealed behind a mug of tea. He wasn’t certain where she got it from. Must have made it before he came down.

He didn’t understand exactly how the hell he was going to convince her to keep him, but he would find a way. A lot of the lovey-dovey, doe-eyed dreamy fantasy things he couldn’t wrap his mind around like she did with such ease, but a son?

That was something he could wrap his mind around, his arms around, that he could teach the boy how to ride, fix bikes, cook, and question authority. He laughed at the last thought. The boy’s mama wouldn’t like that one bit.

While Lacey was busying herself to hide her red face, Devlin, in his devilish shameless fashion, watched her much like a wolf might while stalking its prey. He had an idea who he might ask to help with the lacey-esque lovey tasks. He made his way to her and pulled her to him while the older couple kept arguing about who knew what at that point.

He cupped her cheek and took her mouth with sweet, deep tenderness. He wanted her to feel him and stop thinking about them or anyone else. “No need to argue over us,” he said, after finally releasing Lacey’s lips. The room quieted as the attention fell to them.

“I’ll just take her home with me then.” He grabbed her ass, and she squeaked and glared at him with a stern “Devlin.” But he saw the mischief in her eyes, saw that she’d make him pay dearly for his roguish move, and he was looking forward to it.

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