To Thine Own Self
Linda Louise Rigsbee
Prologue

Alex paid for his ticket and tucked the wallet inside his suit jacket.
Mrs. Kenan smiled. “Thanks, Mr. Barnett. I’m sure Carmen will be glad you’re home.”
Alex nodded as he turned toward the auditorium door. Everyone he met tonight was aware he had been gone for two weeks. Carmen was incredibly naïve about people. After the stabbing, she should realize that living in the country didn’t exempt them from crime. She had been raised to believe people were basically good. Maybe most were, but there was that percentage – no matter where you went - who were looking for easy victims. In seven years of marriage, he had not been able to teach her how to avoid being one of them.
He opened the door to the school auditorium. The school was sponsoring a play with reversed roles – students playing the part of parents and vice versa. Carmen and Jonathan were both in the play, as well as Katie’s twins. His decision to stay at the hacienda last night had nearly caused him to miss it, but that was another story altogether.
He shut the door and straightened his suit while his eyes adjusted to the dim light. Somewhere in that sea of people was his family – including his sister and her husband. Katie and Bill would be watching Natalie, Matthew and Destiny.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he started down the side isle. He spotted Katie & Bill on the second row and waited for an opportunity to catch Katie’s attention.
The audience laughed and he glanced up at the stage. Carmen was dressed in a short pink dress and white tights. She had an oversized lollipop in her hand and her two front teeth had been colored out. Her long curly blond hair had been pulled up in pig tails and tied with huge bows. Jonathan was dressed in a dark suit and had a mustache and goatee. Evidently remembering his lines wasn’t near as difficult as keeping his face straight.
As Alex made his way down to Katie, Carmen left the stage. The curtains closed and the lights came on. He walked around the front row and squeezed down the shortest route. Destiny spotted him first and stood on her chair, bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Look! Daddy’s here!”
The echo of little voices inspired several snickers from around them.
He plucked Natalie from her chair and sat down between Katie and Destiny. Matthew leaned out from between Katie and Bill.
“Daee,” he cooed, reaching for him. His brown eyes were intent as he tried to navigate Katie’s lap.
Katie giggled and assisted him so that he could hug his daddy, but kept him in her lap. Alex hugged Matthew and kissed him before turning his attention to Natalie. She was quiet and reserved for a two year old. Her gaze was fixed on him, something obviously going on behind eyes that couldn’t decide whether they were green or blue. Mums said that was what Carmen’s eyes looked like when she was a baby. One of Natalie’s fingers twisted a curly blond lock while the other hand held a thumb firmly in her mouth.
Destiny grabbed Alex around the neck and planted a wet kiss on his cheek.
“I missed you, Daddy!”
Her auburn curls were drawn up into a decorative band at the side of her head. Gray eyes studied him, waiting for a response.
He kissed her. “I missed you all too, sweetheart.” He hugged her for a moment and then released her. “Now sit down. They’re getting ready to open the curtains again.”
Katie smiled at him. “I thought you were going to miss it.”
As the curtain lifted, the props had been changed so the room looked like a kitchen, with cardboard cut-out’s of stove, sink and refrigerator. A table had been placed in the middle, and Jonathan sat at it, disguised as a man with graying hair. A student in a gray wig and exaggerated backside was at the sink, pretending to wash dishes. She turned to Jonathan and asked where Susie was. He replied that she was still primping.
Carmen arrived on stage with an energy that kept her ponytail bobbing. She was dressed in typical teenage garb and her large amethyst eyes were accentuated with heavy makeup. She wore black leggings and a mini-skirt with a dropped waistline. The halter top she wore exposed her trim midriff. In spite of the fact that she was now 32, she actually looked like a teenager. Being petite helped, but she still had the smooth lines of a young girl.
He barely noticed the others as Carmen played her part. She was still beautiful - still had that innocent look about her. No wonder they selected her for the part. It was a skit about the typical problems faced by both adults and students. Jonathan was doing a surprisingly convincing job on his part.
Katie leaned toward Alex. “She’s so cute, and Jonathan looks like a little man.”
He nodded, not removing his attention from Carmen.
Katie lowered her voice. “Do you want me to watch the kids tonight?”
He glanced at her, his neck growing warm.
“No, I haven’t seen them in two weeks.”
Katie shrugged. “Well, if you change your mind ...”
“Where are Jim & Tim?” he asked.
She made a face. “You missed them. Our twins were in the first skit.”
“I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “It’s alright. Carmen was a little disappointed, though. She’ll be glad you got to see the rest of it.”

When the play was over, he left the children with Katie and Bill and went back stage. He found Carmen talking to the principle. Her head was tipped back so that she could see his face and her excitement was personified in the dancing of her pony tail. She looked so lovely in that garb that he simply stood and watched in silence.
The principle glanced up and saw him and Carmen followed his gaze. At first she looked surprised, and then her eyes lit up like two gems.
“Alex!” she exclaimed and ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck. “Oh,” she gasped. “I missed you SO much!”
He gripped her waist with his hands, preventing her from getting an inch closer or further away.
“You look beautiful,” he said.
She smiled up at him sweetly, that tiny dimple playing at the corner of her mouth.
“How did you like the play?”
“You all did a good job,” he said. “Are you ready to go home?”
Carmen turned and looked at the principle. “I need to help clean up.”
The principle waived a hand. “Go on. You’ve done your part.”
Carmen looked relieved. Every emotion she experienced used to be written on her face. Tonight was like that. It was a pleasant reminder of the innocent bride he once knew.
Carmen moved to his side and put an arm around his waist. Gazing up at him, she sighed.
“I was afraid you would miss it all, but I was glad to hear you decided to spend a little more time with your father.”
He squeezed her shoulders with one arm. Let her think that was the reason for his delay. He was sworn to secrecy anyway.
“I’m starving. Why don’t we stop and get pizza?”
She smiled. “I’ve got everything ready for supper. I just need to warm it. I’ll get Natalie, Matthew and Destiny. Can you get Jonathan? I’ll have supper on the table by the time you two get home.”
It seemed an unlikely prospect, but on issues where the children were involved, she was generally correct. She had once told him that children were her greatest dream ... next to a husband, she had amended. Her expression confessed that the first statement was true, though. Once that fact had gnawed at him, but he had come to terms with it. She had the children now and she was still a devoted wife. They had been through a lot, and she had stood beside him. He was a lucky man – but not because he had a wife who wanted him to be in control, as Katie believed.
Carmen had been raised poor by aging and conservative parents who were old time religious. She had been protected from outside influence – partly by having no television and partly by the fact that neither of her parents worked away from the home. Her father farmed 80 acres and her mother worked hard. From what Mums said, she generally did without any of the luxuries that other women took for granted. That might explain why Carmen was content with so little, but some people brought up in those circumstances would be even more determined not to live that way. Carmen was one of the most selfless people he had ever met – probably much like her mother.
Carmen was certain that her parents would have loved him, but he wasn’t so sure. More likely they would have thought he was leading their daughter astray. Maybe he was. He had talked her into surrogacy even though she believed it was wrong. Even now he was helping Katie push her out into the wicked world. He had spent years encouraging her to become involved with the rest of the world. Now that she was doing so, she was becoming more independent. That was a good thing – or so he kept telling himself. Unfortunately, the more independent she became, the less she listened to his advice.
Katie insisted that Carmen had been a door mat where he was concerned. To his way of thinking, Carmen drifted his way most of the time because she either agreed or it didn’t matter. Katie had reason to know how stubborn and spirited Carmen could be when she did care. Katie was right about one thing, though. Carmen had withdrawn from the world outside their home and he had been enabling her.

It took nearly a half hour to find Jonathan and another fifteen minutes to separate him from two attractive girls. Jonathan was poised to enter his teens in style and a deformed left arm wasn’t going to hold him back. No surprise there. It never had. Still, he was a good looking boy – tall for his age and lean. Carmen said he had learned the gift of gab from his Dad, but Jonathan had always been perceptive about people. Maybe he had learned it from his mother, or maybe he had inherited the tendency.

Jonathan was silent so long on the way home that Alex prodded him for a reason.
“Are you tired?” Alex asked, keeping his eyes on the road.
“No ...” Jonathan hesitated.
Alex glanced at him and raised a brow.
Jonathan shrugged. “I’m just thinking.”
Alex said nothing. When he was ready, Jonathan would talk.
Jonathan stared out the window for a while. Finally he spoke.
“I’m trying to get a group together for a band.”
He was good enough with the violin now. The band wasn’t a bad idea – as long as he wasn’t doing it to impress the girls. School was out for the summer, but by the time they could get a band going good, it would be time to go back. Carmen would want to encourage him in this and Katie would consider it a social achievement.
Alex rubbed the back of his neck. “Have you talked to your mom about it?”
Jonathan nodded. “She said to ask you.”
He was the default for most of the decisions she felt uncomfortable about making, but those decisions rarely included the children. Maybe he was supposed to lecture him about girls again. A father could go only so far with things like that until the son would cease to listen. If it were something specific, it would be one thing, but Jonathan was a good boy and he didn’t want to stifle him the way Carmen’s parents did her.
He maneuvered a turn. “Don’t let your grades suffer.”
Jonathan’s blue eyes sparkled as he smiled with relief. “I won’t.”

By the time they arrived at home, Carmen had supper on the table. She had changed her clothes and washed the makeup from her face. Katie had been helping her select clothing and she certainly knew how to make the most of Carmen’s soft curves. The lavender striped knit top exposed soft shoulders and the beginning swell of generous breasts as modestly as it did her smooth flat midriff. The faded jeans circled her slender hips slightly below the naval. Every inch of her was firm from working outside, and the tan simply put a finishing touch to all of it.
When his gaze returned to hers, she was smiling – enjoying the attention. There was a time when she would have blushed, but that time was gone. Sometimes he missed that innocence.
Supper was the usual savory cuisine and pleasant conversation. Much as he wanted to talk to Carmen, he opted for a ride afterward. There were things he still needed to sort out and Carmen was a distraction – a delightful one for sure, but a distraction all the same. It wasn’t unusual for him to unwind after a trip by taking a ride and Carmen accepted it with the usual grace.
The Appaloosa tossed his head in anticipation. He could depend on Carmen to take good care of the stallion in his absence, but the horse missed him – or maybe it was the other way around. Their relationship went back a long way – almost twenty years. A gift from his Dad, Ed had always been a good friend and listener.
The evening was already casting long shadows when he leaned down from the saddle and opened the gate to the south pasture. He breathed deeply of the early summer air and closed his eyes, enjoying the smell of the horse and sound of creaking leather. A whippoorwill was calling down by the creek, beginning each chorus with a kiss. Tree frogs were chirping so abundantly that they sounded like crickets. This was home more than any place he had ever lived.
As he rode, problems bobbed to the surface of his mind like driftwood released from quicksand – ready to be plucked from the surface and worked into something useable. He had intended to spend a few hours with his family in Texas while he waited for his flight out of Houston. That was the plan, but after talking to his father and Morino, he decided to stay the night. They had decided that their discussion that night would stay between the three of them for a while. It would upset the girls if they knew and there was nothing they could do about it anyway. At least for the present, the fewer people who knew, the better.
Yesterday he had been numb with shock, but today his mind had been painfully active. Mortality had been uppermost on his mind during the flight back – first his own and then Carmen’s. Still, a person could go only so far in planning their life. After that, luck took over.
This was one time he wanted to talk to Carmen. Ultimately it would probably impact their lives and she would have insight he needed. In the meantime he had been placed in the center of a controversy he alone couldn’t resolve. In fact, the two most important people had been left out of their confidence. It wasn’t forever, though. He had promised not to tell anyone until later. Until then he could only wait and see how things played out.
In the meantime he needed to encourage Carmen to become more careful about her own safety. That wasn’t going to be easy. From the day he met her – when she needlessly challenged the fox in the chicken house – it had been apparent that she needed his protection. Carmen plunged into things courageously without taking the time to think things through. It had been so with the wild dogs - and the bear. Even her loyal defense of Brutus against the wild dogs had included a needless risk to her life. He couldn’t protect her all the time, though. He had created her dependency on his judgment and now it was up to him to make sure she learned to defend herself. The phone call from Gerald yesterday provided the perfect opportunity.
Gerald and two other men wanted to rent Carmen’s house for three weeks this summer. It was the perfect excuse to teach Carmen how to handle a gun. She would need to guide the men up into the hills. He would be at work, so she would be on her own. In any case, the house rental was her business and she needed to gain the confidence of running it without his direction.

By the time he returned to the barn, it was getting dark. He unsaddled Ed and rubbed him down before putting him in his stall. He tossed in some fresh alfalfa hay and glanced around the barn. It was tidy – and empty. It seemed strange to have only Ed in the barn. At least that was one way Carmen had shown initiative. She had finally separated Ed from his daughters before inbreeding began. The mares were now kept in the renovated dairy barn and they ran in a separate pasture. Ed wasn’t too crazy about the arrangement, but castrating a 23-year old stallion wasn’t something he would want to do even if it wasn’t his friend. Ed was still a good stud, throwing a majority of quality fillies.
Alex turned the light off in the barn as he left. Carmen was waiting and he was ready to give her his full attention – as soon as they got the children to bed.

Chapter One

Carmen watched from the porch as Alex leaned down from his horse and opened the pasture gate. He looked so elegant in that suit, and yet he moved as if the horse were part of him. Alex was an accomplished horseman – a fact she had discovered when they visited his father’s ranch in Texas. In the two years since, he seemed to be getting closer to a normal relationship with his father, so when he called to say he was staying an extra day, it was a relief. Yet something was wrong. There was nothing unusual about Alex riding Ed to unwind after a trip, but this was the first time he had done so without changing his clothes.
She sighed heavily and glanced down at Matthew. His tiny fist clutched the outer seam of her jeans. His chocolate gaze was fixed on her face, exploring every inch of it. He was so much like Alex. She lifted him into her arms and opened the door to the house. Alex would be back when he finished working out his issues.
“Mommy’s little angel,” she whispered to Matthew, and kissed his soft dark hair.
Inside, she sat down on the window seat with him. Immediately Natalie joined them, climbing onto her lap. Natalie pushed at Matthew, struggling to find equal place in mama’s arms.
“Don’t shove Matthew, honey.”
Carmen shifted him to one arm and allowed Natalie to settle into her lap. All of the children missed Alex when he was gone, but it seemed that Natalie missed him the most. Maybe it was the age. Destiny was that way when she was younger. Now nothing seemed to trouble her for long. She was interested in everything and everyone. She was such a happy girl. Jonathan had a pleasant nature as well. Maybe it was because Alex was such a good influence. He was so confident and seemed to always know what he wanted. A man with a plan – that was Alex.
She picked up a book to read to them and rested her back against the wall. Matthew snuggled against her, trying to get into a position to suckle. Carmen shifted her body, foiling his attempt. Alex had warned her against nursing him too long, but it seemed right at the time.
Natalie shoved a thumb in her mouth and stared at the book. Matthew whined a little, but finally settled down, lulled by the sound of her voice as she read.
By the time Alex returned, the twins were asleep. Alex helped her put them in bed before Destiny latched on to him. When he sat down in his recliner, she brought him her favorite book. Carmen and Jonathan folded clothes while they listened to him read.
It was good to have things back to normal again. His deep voice was so much better than television. Jonathan nudged Carmen’s arm with his elbow and snickered softly. Destiny’s eyelids kept drooping and then she would open her eyes wide as if afraid she might miss something good.
When Destiny finally fell asleep, Alex carried her to her room. Jonathan picked up his clothes and said goodnight before retiring to his room. A few minutes later the soft refrain of a violin drifted into the kitchen. Carmen listened while loading the supper dishes in the dishwasher. He was getting so good.
Alex came back into the living room and glanced at her before striding to his chair. Within seconds he was absorbed in the evening paper. He’d tell her what was on his mind eventually – when he was ready.
She sighed. Katie wouldn’t approve of that attitude. Katie accused her of allowing Alex to make decisions because she had no confidence in herself – and that Alex was taking advantage of her because he had a controlling personality. Alex did like to be in control, there was no denying that, but he certainly didn’t dominate her. They discussed things. He simply had the final say – most of the time. Alex was better educated and had more business experience. That was fact, not lack of confidence speaking. If she felt more comfortable with him at the helm, he could hardly be accused of controlling her. Still, maybe Alex was tired of the responsibility. More important, she wasn’t going to gain experience by leaving it all to him.
Under Katie’s tutelage, she was gaining confidence. Still, Alex was her knight in shining armor. Sure, he had faults – like being secretive. Mums always said that you had to learn to look over their faults – forgive them as you would want them to forgive yours. Still, in most ways Alex was the perfect husband. He was sweet and thoughtful, protective and an ardent lover. Yet from the beginning, too many important facts had been shrouded in secrecy. First it had been his inability to have children; then money; and finally, a family. What next? As Katie had pointed out, if she had shown a healthy interest, she would have detected something. Maybe so, but she didn’t want to be a nosy suspicious wife. If you trusted a man, you allowed him some privacy. As it turned out, nothing he had kept secret was actually detrimental to their relationship. She had protested the morality of AI until she lost her uterus, finally giving in to surrogacy a few years ago. Children had been a possibility after all. The wealth he had never concealed. In fact, he had repeatedly encouraged her to browse his financial records. She had refused because money had no part in her attraction to him – or maybe because she was afraid he would think that was why she married him. Those things he didn’t hide, but he did hide his family. Alex was the reluctant heir to an enormous amount of land and money. Sometimes it was difficult to accept that he actually preferred this lifestyle. It had occurred to her that he was avoiding responsibility. Yet Alex was the most responsible person she had ever met. Still, people did change. He might decide to accept that inheritance. Where would that leave her? Of course, she was his wife and she would follow him to the end of the Earth - but what about him? Would he grow tired of her?
Maybe that was why both he and Katie were encouraging her to change. Certainly it was the main reason she was trying to improve – to keep him interested. At first it was exciting, like playing dress-up, but now it felt insincere and she was afraid he would see through the façade. Alex always seemed to know what was on her mind. Maybe he knew and thought she would adjust. Maybe she would. Still, what was it Dad used to say? “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Was it even in her? She had to try ... for Alex.
She closed the dishwasher door and turned it on. Pouring two cups of coffee, she headed for the living room. She set one steaming cup on a coaster beside him and placed hers on the window sill. Sinking to the window seat, she watched him read the paper. She had missed their evening chats in the last two weeks. Still, these seminars helped him stay competitive with his veterinary clinic. Alex was competitive by nature, but being a veterinarian had always been his dream. If you loved a man, you shared his dreams.
Alex methodically folded the paper, his gaze roving over her face. He rose from his chair and removed his jacket, carefully folding it and laying it over the back of the recliner. Next he removed the vest and placed it neatly beside the jacket. He loosened his tie and rolled his sleeves up, exposing weather darkened forearms.
The charcoal gray trousers made the most of his lean torso. He was a delight to behold.
He picked up his coffee and met her gaze with a touch of humor. With feline grace, he strode across the room. Placing the coffee cup on the window sill, he ran a hand through thick black hair that curled in all the right places. He was uncomfortable for some reason. He kicked his shoes off beside the window seat and sat down on the opposite end from her. Picking up his coffee cup, he finally settled back against the wall. His gaze drifted over her face before settling on her eyes. The smooth bronze features were sober as he spoke.
“They’re all asleep now except Jonathan, and he’s in bed.”
As she met that sweet chocolate gaze, her pulse did the usual dance. He was so good looking and had such a sexy voice. He was the whole package, for sure. Once again she was struck by their mysterious attraction to each other. They were total opposites in many ways.
“I missed you,” she said.
“I missed you too, sweetheart.”
She sighed and leaned back against the wall.
You must have had a lot on your mind tonight.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid I lost track of time while I was riding.”
She smiled. “I meant because you didn’t change your clothes before you went for a ride.”
“Oh.” He glanced down at his clothes. “Actually, the suit is comfortable enough - the oxfords, not so much.”
He was drawing the subject away. Why?”
“So how was the visit with your father? Did the two of you get along okay? Is he bugging you about the inheritance again?”
“We got along fine.”
It was hard to tell whether he was being secretive or there simply wasn’t anything to tell.
“How was the seminar?”
He sipped his coffee before responding.
“Informative – worth the trip, I guess.”
She smiled. “How about the visit with your father? Did you two talk much?”
He shrugged. “For a while.”
“How are Felipa and Alondra?”
“They’re doing fine.” He sipped his coffee again. “You’re looking especially nice tonight.”
“Thank you.”
He obviously didn’t want to discuss his visit to the hacienda. It was frustrating, but the only thing she was accomplishing with this interrogation was making their conversation stiff and formal.
She leaned forward and launched a new subject.
“While you were gone I had the sign painted on Dad’s old truck.”
His brows lifted. “AWS?”
She nodded. “And then in smaller letters below it: American Wildlife Safari. I chose silver for the lettering. It looks so nice on that electric blue.”
He took another sip of his coffee and then absently set it on the window sill. Something was troubling him and he was trying to figure out the best way to approach it.
She sighed. “You wanted to make the arrangements yourself?”
He glanced up quickly. “No. I’m sure it looks great. In any case, it’s your truck – your business.”
Actually, technically it was their collective business, but there was no point in getting into that right now. She nodded.
“Yes, it’s my truck, but you’re the one who had it restored.”
His smile was wry. “For you.”
She shrugged. “It was a nice birthday present. I’m sure Dad would have loved to see his old ’65 Ford restored like that.”
He shifted his attention to the window and stared out into the moonlit night. He had restored the truck and the house. Was he agonizing about leaving them behind? Did he want to tell her they were moving to Texas?
He cleared his throat and met her inquiring gaze.
“I talked to Gerald. He wants to rent your house – he and a couple of other guys. I told him you were ready.”
So that was it. He had booked some customers for her. This wouldn’t be like their annual snowbirds who simply wanted to escape the cold winters up north, though. The Sanders had even helped her with the chores sometimes. It wouldn’t be that way with his friends.
“But I’m not ready,” she said.
His brows lifted and a faint smile touched the corners of his lips.
“Sure you are. All you need is a little confidence. You’ll build that as you work. I’ll take you up to the mountain to scout out a safe trail. You need to do a little target practice too. I’ll help you with that.
He’d help her alright. He’d show her how he wanted it done. Would it ever actually be her business? How would he feel if she started organizing his clinic? But that wasn’t fair. He was merely protecting his investment. If she had secured a loan to get her business started, they would have made their own stipulations. At least this way she had no loan payments – no set business income to meet every month. And yet, her childhood dream of a horse ranch had fizzled out. He would be disappointed in her if he knew. She still wanted horses, but how could she tell him that she had stolen his dream – that the safari was her greatest interest now? Maybe it was simply that she had achieved her dream of a horse ranch and was moving on to the next – taking over his dream. She forced her mind back to the current issue.
“When is he ... are they coming?
He shrugged. “That’s up to the two of you. I gave him your cell phone number.”
She sighed again and leaned back against the wall, gazing out the window at the old renovated house. The cream colored siding looked iridescent in the moonlight. The windows were blank. The Sanders had been gone almost two months now and she had made no attempt to rent the house. She should take more interest in it – if only for his sake. Then again, if she gained more confidence, maybe it would make both Alex and Katie feel that she wasn’t a lost cause. It was her responsibility now and having a job would give her the opportunity for a more modern approach to being a wife and mother. It would be good for the children as well. It might prevent them from feeling as out of place as she did in her youth.
His voice startled her out of her thoughts.
“I think Jonathan really enjoyed the play tonight.”
He picked up his coffee cup and took a drink.
She smiled. “He was very good. I think right now he’d do anything to get the attention of the girls.” She made a face. “The only thing boys his age think about is propagate, propagate.”
Alex choked on his coffee and set the cup back on the sill. His eyes sparkled with humor and the dimple appeared under one eye.
“Carmen!” he finally exclaimed.
She grinned. “You know what I mean.”
He chuckled. “I think I speak for all men when I say that word never crossed my mind.”
She sobered. “Maybe it would be better if it crossed his.”
He nodded and sobered. “I’ll talk to him.” His voice lowered and he spoke softly. “Now let’s forget about everything else for a while.” He sat up straight and motioned her to join him on his side of the window seat.
His sultry expression quickened her pulse. He smiled, obviously well aware of her unspoken thoughts. The rest of the night was theirs to spend as they pleased.
She slid to his side and snuggled against him. When his arms surrounded her, the world outside them ceased to exist. He smelled of expensive cologne and felt warm against her chest.
His index finger lifted her chin and he softly kissed her forehead.
“Mi pequeña flor.“
She closed her eyes and sighed in contentment. “Which flower?”
He chuckled. “Es importante”
She shrugged. “I guess not.”
At the moment his French lesson was unwelcome. If she wanted to learn French or Spanish, she’d take lessons. Right now it was enough to hear his deep voice, regardless of which language he spoke. She tipped her head back, inviting his lips to join hers. When he kissed a hot trail down her neck, she moaned with pleasure.
“Oh Alex, I love you so much.”
His reply was a soft groan as his fingers caressed their way down her back. He guided her closer, his lips seeking hers in hungry response.
The one good thing about Alex being gone for two weeks was the way he made up for lost time. He had always been a good lover, but maybe absence did make the heart grow fonder.

Continue to Chapter 2
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