Games of the Heart

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Authors: Kristen Ashley
the air.”
    He nodded right before he leaned in, twisted and took me to my back and when he settled, torso on me and hips between my legs, he asked quietly, “Your medium-sized vases sell for two hundred a go, that mean you can afford to get your ass on a plane to visit The ‘Burg frequently?”
    My heart skipped and it hadn’t done that in a long time. Beau never made it do that, not even in the beginning. It had been so long, I didn’t know which moron had made it skip last.
    But it skipped then. Definitely.
    “Yes,” I whispered.
    His eyes looked deep in mine.
    Then he whispered back, “Good.”
    “I’m glad you came to ream my ass and sort my shit out, Mike,” I shared.
    He grinned and returned, “Not as glad as me.”
    “No, I’m pretty sure I’m more glad.”
    His grin turned to a smile and he conceded, “All right, honey, you can be more glad than me.”
    “Thanks,” I said quietly.
    “Now, you gonna shut up and kiss me or what?”
    “Seriously?” I asked. “I think I already explained you’re good with your mouth. Do you think I’m gonna answer ‘or what’?”
    “You’re not shutting up,” he informed me.
    “Oh,” I whispered. “Right.”
    His smile got bigger right before I lifted my head to kiss him.
    Mike met me halfway.

Chapter Three
    The Food of Your People
    A cell phone ringing woke Mike up.
    It wasn’t his ring but he opened his eyes and looked across the empty bed. Dusty and her warm, soft body were gone.
    She’d slept snuggled close to him all night. As he usually did, starting when No was born, he woke several times. He did this just to scan the vibe of the house. Sometimes, even if his senses told him nothing was wrong, he’d get up and do a walkthrough. He didn’t do this frequently but he did it. Paranoid, maybe, but he’d seen enough shit, heard a fuckload more, he loved his kids, it didn’t take long and he fell back to sleep easily so he did it.
    And habit woke him three times in the night and each time Dusty was pressed close.
    She felt good there.
    Audrey didn’t press close. She did in the beginning but as things turned bad, he retreated. She got pissy and they ended their relationship with a yard of space between them in their bed. His back turned to her, hers turned to him.
    Fuck, their bed itself was an example of the reason why their marriage deteriorated. She’d bought a six thousand dollar bed and very shortly after he’d discovered it couldn’t be returned. So they had a huge-ass bed in which they could have a yard of space between them, her buying that damned bed being why the space was there.
    Since he’d got quit of her, he’d taken a number of women to bed but not his bed.
    Except for Vi.
    He hadn’t even invited any of the women he’d seen to his home. Although some of them he’d seen more than once, one he’d dated for five months. And he’d spent the night at their places but none of them he’d let snuggle him while he slept.
    He knew why this was. He was seeking distance. He was keeping them at arm’s length.
    Audrey did a number on his head, striking a blow to his ability to trust. Then came Violet who didn’t mean to strike her blow but she did it all the same. This made him wary. He wasn’t going to get too close. Especially not too close too fast.
    That was the mistake he made with Vi. He ignored the signs and allowed himself to start falling for her too damned soon. He knew he was in a game of hearts, his opponent her now husband and the father of her youngest daughter, Joe Callahan. Fuck, he even knew he had no hope of winning.
    He still went for it anyway.
    But that shit stung, losing her. He had her weeks and Audrey years and losing Vi marked him whereas getting quit of Audrey freed him.
    So he told himself, not again.
    But Dusty was something else. When he woke and found her pressed to him, he didn’t gently roll Dusty away. He left Dusty right where she was.
    The phone stopped ringing and he turned in bed.

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