Book 2 in the Montgomery Ink Series
The second in the bestselling Montgomery Ink series. He’s kept away from her for years, but now his best friend’s little sister is stepping up the game.
Decker Kendrick knows it’s wrong to have feelings for his best friend’s little sister, but that doesn’t stop his thoughts from going down that path. No matter how hard he’s tried to stay away from Miranda, once she gets her sights on him, there’s no backing down.
Miranda Montgomery might be the youngest of the Montgomery clan, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she wants. Namely–Decker. She’s loved him for as long as she can remember and won’t walk away until she gives it her all.
But once they give in, not all is at it seems. Decker’s father’s out of jail and someone from Miranda’s past isn’t happy with the new relationship. Even as they start to move on and overcome their pain, they’ll find that their inner obstacles are the ones they’ll have to face first.
Tempting Boundaries is Book 2 in the Montgomery Ink series
- Book 0.5: Ink Inspired
- Book 0.6: Ink Reunited
- Book 1: Delicate Ink
- Book 1.5: Forever Ink
- Book 2: Tempting Boundaries
- Book 3: Harder than Words
- Book 4: Written in Ink
- Book 4.5: Hidden Ink
- Book 5: Ink Enduring
- Book 6: Ink Exposed
- Book 6.5: Adoring Ink
- Book 6.6: Love, Honor, and Ink
- Book 7: Inked Expressions
- Book 7.3: Dropout
- Book 7.5: Executive Ink
- Book 8: Inked Memories
- Book 8.5: Inked Nights
- Book 8.7: Second Chance Ink
- Boxed Set: Montgomery Ink Box Set 1
- Anthology: 1001 Dark Nights Bundle Nine
- Boxed Set: Montgomery Ink Box Set 2
- Anthology: 1001 Dark Nights Bundle Fourteen
- Boxed Set: Montgomery Ink Bundle
- Anthology: The Bonus Ink Box Set
- Montgomery Ink Store Bundle
- The Full Montgomery Ink Store Bundle
The full series reading order is as follows:
There was just something about the scent of a grill, the feel of a cold beer in his hand, and the company of a family that truly loved him that made Decker Kendrick want to relax after a long day’s work. If he added in the fact that he could go home and have the woman at his side under him, over him, and all around him, it would be a pretty fantastic way to end the day.
Colleen, his date to the Montgomery family barbeque and engagement party, leaned into him and batted her false eyelashes. He had no idea why she wore them. He thought she looked decent without them. But whatever—it was her body to fake up any way she wanted to. He’d been seeing Colleen off and on for a few months, more often in the past month since he’d called her up, hoping to get his mind off a certain long-legged brunette he shouldn’t be thinking about in the first place.
The woman in question hadn’t shown up to the party yet, and Decker was grateful. Hard to ignore her and keep her off his mind if she kept popping up everywhere he went. Though that wasn’t really fair considering she was part of his family.
More like he was part of hers.
He was an honorary Montgomery, and she was the little sister.
Totally not for him.
He blinked and looked down at Colleen. Not the woman who haunted his dreams and kept him up late at night. Jesus, he was a bad man. A very, very bad man. Sure, he was keeping it casual with Colleen—something she’d put on the table to begin with—but he shouldn’t be thinking about a woman with long legs he couldn’t have when he was here with someone else.
That wasn’t the kind of guy he wanted to be.
“Colleen?” he answered back, keeping his voice low. He didn’t normally bring dates to the Montgomery family gatherings, and as such, he didn’t want everyone to hear everything he said. They were all nosy in the we-are-family-and-we-can-be-nosy-if-want-to sort of way, and he’d learned to deal with it. He hadn’t planned on bringing her at all, but when she’d called to ask him to dinner, he’d mentioned he had plans, and she’d sort of invited herself along. It hadn’t bothered him too much then, but now he felt kind of like an awkward ass about it. Since this was the first time he’d brought Colleen to any type of function with the Montgomerys, he’d been prepared to have the family question the two of them until they pecked them to death.
So far, that hadn’t happened, and frankly, that was more telling about what the others in his life thought of the relationship. Their politeness and lack of prodding meant they didn’t see a future. Considering Colleen hadn’t wanted a future to begin with when it came to her and Decker, that was just fine with him. He didn’t see himself marrying the woman anyway. They were friends. Sort of.
“You’re thinking too hard.” She rubbed the little spot between his eyebrows, and he frowned. She wasn’t usually so touchy-feely or attentive. Weird.
He pulled back, uncomfortable with the display of affection—or whatever it was—in front of the family that had taken him in so long ago.
“Just tired. Hauling a total of a half-ton of porcelain up and down stairs all day makes for a long workday. We also punched out our other project the day before. So I’m ready for a nap. Or another beer.”
She wrinkled her nose, probably at the mention of his work. Another reason he’d never get too serious with her. She hated the fact he was a blue-collar worker and not some suit-wearing businessman who could keep her in diamonds and silks. She worked her butt off at her job and wore the expensive clothes that came with her world. That wasn’t something he wanted in the long run. He worked for Montgomery Inc., the construction arm of the family businesses. He was the project manager right under Wes and Storm, the Montgomery twins who had taken over the family business when their parents, Harry and Marie, retired.
Wes was the OCD planner of the company and got his hands dirty daily with the bump and grind that came with being one of the top privately owned construction companies in Denver. Storm was the lead architect and a genius when it came to finding the right flow for a refurbished building or how to start from scratch with a piece of land that could be used carefully.
Decker had started out as a teenager working under Harry doing every kind of grunt work he could get his hands on. He’d gone to college only because the Montgomery twins had, as had his best friend, Griffin—another Montgomery—and because the state had helped him out. He wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise. He’d gone to the local university, busted his ass for his degree, then went right back to working for the family that had raised him when his own blood family had failed.
He ground his teeth.
Best not think about the others right then. Not if he wanted to stay civil—he looked down at the beer in his hand—and sober.
“Must you talk about those matters with me?” Colleen asked, breaking through his thoughts.
He shrugged. He honestly didn’t know why he’d brought her that evening other than because he was in a rut, and he hadn’t thought to say no. They liked each other well enough, but they weren’t in love. He hadn’t slept with her in months either. Despite the fact that his balls were so blue from lack of sex—his right hand could only do so much—he hadn’t wanted to sleep with one woman when his mind was on the other. Sure, he’d been trying to date to get those thoughts out of his head, but he wasn’t about to use another woman fully like that.
“I work with everything that goes in a house or building,” Decker said, his voice low. He had a deep, growly voice according to the-woman-who-shall-not-be-named, and when he got annoyed or emotional, his voice just got deeper.
Colleen didn’t care for it.
“Yes, dear, but you don’t have to talk about it.” She raised her chin and looked out at the yard. He’d helped with the initial landscaping years ago when he was trying to find his place within the business. He’d been better at digging the holes and lifting bags of mulch, rather than doing the actual planning. Marie was the brains behind that. She’d told them what to do, and he and her boys had hopped to it.
In the end, the place looked great with tons of vegetation that looked as though it was natural, rather than lines and perfectly square things that made no sense.
“Did you hear me, Decker? What is going on with you? I said don’t talk about things like that, not to stop talking at all.”
He barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Sorry to bother you,” he mumbled, not sorry in the least. “Why don’t you go talk to, uh, the girls over there while I get another drink?” He couldn’t remember the two girls who worked with Sierra, the newly engaged woman and star of the party, but they seemed to get along with anyone. Hopefully, they’d make friends with Coleen so this evening wouldn’t be a total waste.
She raised a brow and looked pointedly at his hand. Seriously? Jesus Christ. He shouldn’t have brought her here. Or rather, he shouldn’t have let her invite herself in the first place. She didn’t belong, and he didn’t know why he was kidding himself by trying to make it work when neither of them truly wanted it.
“I’ve had one beer, and I’ll have one more since we have a couple hours left. I won’t drink more than that.” He wouldn’t have had to explain himself to the Montgomerys. They knew enough about where he’d come from that him getting behind the wheel, even slightly buzzed, wasn’t an option.
“If you say so,” she clipped then strutted off to the girls on the other side of the backyard.
His shoulders relaxed marginally, and he cursed himself for it. He liked Colleen. He really did. She wasn’t a bad person. She just didn’t understand him.
Whose fault is that?
It wasn’t like he’d told her all that much about himself, and he’d never once mentioned his past.
“Shit, bro, you look like you ate something rotten,” Wes said as he walked toward him. He had the Montgomery blue eyes and chestnut hair, only his was neatly clipped and worked with his OCD persona.
Storm, Wes’s twin, walked beside him. While Wes was a bit lanky, Storm had more of a build on him. He was also a bit more rugged with his shaggy hair, light beard, and flannel shirt over another light shirt, while Wes had his button-up shirt over nice jeans. It never made any sense to Decker that the twin who worked with his hands more often than not as the other general contractor preferred dressier clothes on his day off while the twin who sat behind his desk drawing when he wasn’t in the field wore more rugged clothes. Well, considering each of them worked side by side with Decker and sweated their asses off regularly, it didn’t matter what they wore now, as long as they worked hard during the day.
Which they did.
“Bro?” Decker asked, a smile on his face. “You working with the kids at Austin’s shop now?” Austin was the oldest Montgomery and owned half of Montgomery Ink, the tattoo shop side of the family business, with their sister, Maya. It was also Austin and Sierra’s engagement party and the reason they were all at the barbecue that evening.
Storm snorted. “We say bro sometimes. Doesn’t make us some college kids who want bad ink.”
“I don’t do bad ink, asshole,” Maya snapped as she came up to them. She wrapped her arm around Decker’s middle, and he hugged her back. Why couldn’t he be this comfortable around all the Montgomery women?
She pulled back before he could squeeze her tighter. Maya liked her space, and Decker liked her all the more for it. Her dark brown bangs were severe across her forehead, and she’d done a weird eyeliner thing that made her look like some fifties rocker pin-up. The red lipstick just made her look like she’d smile at you—then kick you in the ass.
“I meant that he wants bad ink because he doesn’t know what good ink is,” Storm said, backtracking. Wes and Storm might be the second oldest in the family, but no one messed with Maya and walked away without a limp. “Not that you give bad ink.”
Wes laughed then shut up as Maya glared.
Decker, being the smart one of the group, kept his face neutral.
Maya narrowed her eyes at the three of them then nodded. “Okay, so tell me what’s going on. Jake couldn’t make it today, and I’m bored.”
“When are you just going to admit that Jake is your boyfriend?” Wes asked.
Decker closed his eyes. It was like the twins wanted to die by her hand tonight.
“He’s not my fucking boyfriend,” Maya growled then lifted her chin, speaking softer this time. “He’s my friend. I don’t know why a guy and a girl can’t just be friends without the rest of the world wondering if they’re fucking.”
Decker raised a brow then looked at the space between them.
Maya waved him off. “You’re a brother, not a friend. So the world wouldn’t ever think you’d be fucking a Montgomery girl. That’d be all kinds of wrong.”
He swallowed hard and tried to keep the frown off his face. Shit. She was right. No one would think he’d ever be with a Montgomery girl. Maya was like his sister, as was Meghan, the eldest girl. Meghan was even married to an asshole, but married just the same.
Miranda though…Miranda was his best friend’s little sister and had welcomed him into her family to boot.
There was no way he could ever think of her as more.
Or rather, he should stop thinking about her as possibly more.
“Anyway,” Wes continued, “we came over here to ask what’s up with Decker. He looked like he stepped in shit or something.”
Decker rolled his eyes. Wes really liked making things sound worse than they were. “I’m fine. Just a long day.” He rolled his shoulders, and the twins did the same. They’d hauled right by his side, and he knew they ached just as much.
“Tell me about it,” Storm grumbled. “I never want to look at another toilet again.”
“Charming,” Maya said dryly.
“So, have you found a new receptionist yet?” Decker asked Maya, changing the subject from toilets to the running joke of the family. The shop had been through four or five receptionists this year alone. They had fantastic artists and had even just promoted their apprentice, Callie, to full time. However, they couldn’t keep a receptionist to save their lives. The college kids always left for greener pastures, and the other ones thought it was fun to come in high around pointy needles. It might be legal to smoke, but that didn’t mean they wanted their staff lit up while working.
“You can’t have Tabby,” Wes put it. “She’s ours.” Tabby was the Montgomery Inc. receptionist and a goddess with organization. She and Wes were a team in OCD heaven.
Maya cursed under her breath. “I don’t want Tabby. She’d color code my ink in a weird way, and then I wouldn’t want to move anything around. And no, we haven’t found a receptionist. I don’t know what it is. This latest guy just wanted free ink. Free. I pay for my own tattoos, you know. I won’t let Austin do it for free because his work is worth my money. Wanting it free in our place just shows disrespect.”
Decker snorted. “At least you get the family discount.” Maya looked over her shoulder and discreetly flipped him off.
Decker frowned since she tried to hide it then smiled as Meghan’s kids, Cliff and Sasha, ran into the backyard, barreling toward their uncles on the other side of the yard. They’d be over here soon for sure to see the rest of them. He loved those damn kids.
“You get the discount too, brother mine,” Maya said. “But the discount isn’t all that much in the scheme of things. This idiot wanted it all for free. So he huffed away and found another shop most likely.” She shrugged. “Not as good a shop as ours, but whatever.”
“There’s no shop as good as yours.” He rubbed between his shoulder blades. “Speaking of, I need to make an appointment for the ink on my back.” Maya’s eyes brightened, and he cursed. “With Austin, hon. It’s his turn.” All of the Montgomerys took turns with the other siblings when it came to their ink. Both of them were talented, and picking one over the other was nearly impossible.
Besides, they both had nasty tempers if they didn’t get to be part of the siblings’ and parents’ art.
“Fine. I see how it is. You like him better.” She sniffed and wiped a non-existent tear at the edge of her eye. Not that she actually touched her makeup in the process, but the move worked for her.
Decker rolled his eyes then punched her softly in the shoulder. “Shut up. You just did work on my arm, and you get my leg next. It’s Austin’s turn now.”
She smiled, and he wasn’t sure if it was a good one or a you’ll be sorry one, but he rolled with it.
He looked over his shoulder to see Colleen in a conversation with one of Sierra’s girls so he let her be then looked at the empty beer bottle in his hand. “I’m going to get a refill. Any of you want something?”
They shook their heads, and he said his goodbyes before walking over to the cooler. Alex, another Montgomery—seriously, there were eight siblings and countless cousins so he was always walking over a Montgomery or two—stood by the cooler, a tumbler of amber liquid in his hand.
Decker looked over his shoulder at the crowd and frowned. “Where’s Jessica?” Jessica was Alex’s high school sweetheart and wife. When they’d first gotten married a few years ago, she’d always come to the family events, though she never exactly fit in. It wasn’t like she tried, either. The Montgomerys had tried on their part to welcome her into their midst, but for some reason, it never really took. Now, come to think of it, Decker hadn’t seen her at one of these events in awhile.
Alex snorted then took another drink. From the glassy look in his eyes, this wasn’t his first drink.
Well fuck. This wasn’t good.
“Like she’d come to one of these,” Alex drawled. He didn’t sound drunk, but Decker could never tell with Alex. The fact that he knew something was off at all was because of experience. He’d dealt with enough drunks and near-drunks to last a lifetime. “She’s off with her girls at the spa or something. She didn’t feel like celebrating Sierra and Austin’s engagement since she’s never actually met Sierra.”
Decker’s eyebrows lifted toward his hairline. “She hasn’t met Sierra yet? How is that possible?” Jessica was already a Montgomery, and it wasn’t like Sierra was new to the family. She already lived with Austin and was helping raise his son.
“It’s possible when you’re Jessica.” Alex took another drink and looked the other way.
Okay then. Conversation over.
Decker shifted from foot to foot. Alex had always been the one to joke and make people laugh. That wasn’t what Decker saw now, and it scared him a bit. The man in front of him looked angry…and drunk. Decker knew drunks. He’d lived with one off and on until he’d finally been able to break free.
He didn’t want to see it again.
“You want a water, Alex?” he asked calmly. Tiptoeing around it wouldn’t help, but coming right out and asking if the man he called his brother was an alcoholic wouldn’t either.
Alex gave him a small smile instead of getting angry, which surprised Decker. “I’m good.” The man didn’t leave to refill his drink, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do it once Decker was out of sight. He didn’t know what to do, but as long as Alex knew he was there, maybe that could help.
“Okay. Just…you know I’m here, right?” he asked softly.
Alex’s face closed up, and he lifted his chin. Damn. “I’m good,” he repeated.
Decker searched his face and couldn’t find a way past the barriers. He’d keep an eye on him though. This man was his brother, blood or no.
He got a soda instead of a beer, his stomach not quite ready for booze after that, and walked over to his best friend, Griffin. The man held the same look as the rest of the Montgomerys, dark hair and blue eyes, but with the same slender build as Wes, rather than the brick-house look of Austin or even Storm. Griffin was the easiest going of the family, the writer who spent most of his time in his own head, rather than in the real world. His mess of a house reflected that, but Decker loved him anyway. They were the same age, so they’d grown up like twins after a while. Decker might have more in common with Austin on some levels and work closely with Wes and Storm, but Griffin was the one he knew best.
“Glad to see you finally found your way over to me,” Griffin joked. He sat in one of the outdoor chairs and waved at the empty one. “Take a seat. I’m people watching.”
Decker laughed then did as he was told. “First, you could have come over to me. It wasn’t like I was blocking you. Second, this is your family. Why are you watching them?”
Griffin took a sip of his beer then shook his head. “You were with Colleen, and as I can’t stand that giggle of hers, I didn’t want to join in.”
“Giggle?” Decker asked, a little annoyed that Grif would judge his date. It wasn’t like he and Colleen were married, but still. Pointing out something like that didn’t seem right.
“Giggle,” Griffin repeated. “You know it. Whenever she giggles, your shoulders tense, and you get that little twitch at the corner of your mouth.”
Huh, now that he mentioned it… Nope, not going to think about it. He still had the rest of the night and probably more nights with the woman. It wouldn’t do to nitpick and then zoom in on those quirks for too long. He wouldn’t be able to get over it.
“You noticed all that?” he asked, draining some of his soda.
“Yep. I told you. I people watch. In fact, I’m watching that asshole and my sister right now. I really want to beat the shit out of him, but I’m not sure she’d appreciate that. She doesn’t like when the rest of us threaten to maim or murder her husband.”
Decker frowned then looked over at Meghan and her husband, Richard. Meghan was three years older than him and had always struck him as warm, friendly, and not to be messed with. She was like the mother hen of the clan and stood up for herself.
But not now.
Now she had her shoulders slouched and her head down. Richard was snapping about something, and each time he spoke, Meghan turned in on herself just that much more. Nope. This wasn’t going to do.
Decker stood up, set his soda down, and then rolled his shoulders. “You ready?” he growled at Griffin, who had stood with him. Like there was any other way to react when he saw someone he cared about being beaten down emotionally.
“Yep. Let’s not beat the shit out of him since their kids are here, and it’s Austin and Sierra’s time, but yeah, I’m ready.”
They stalked toward the couple, and Richard puffed out his chest as he noticed them. The man had once had a decent build and hair on his head. Now it looked like he was balding a bit, but he brushed it in just the right way that you couldn’t tell unless you’d seen him before. He also had a little bit of a gut that came with lack of activity. Though he wore suits that shouted their worth, the effect was lost at the straining button on his stomach.
“What?” the bastard snapped.
Decker smiled, but it wasn’t a nice one. He put his arm around Meghan, who stiffened. He let that pass and kept his arm on her. The more people who cared about her, the better.
“Just wanted to say hi to my sister, that’s all,” he said smoothly.
Richard scoffed. “She’s not your sister. You’re just the trash. Get your hands off my wife.”
He didn’t even wince at the word trash. He’d heard worse and usually from people who should have meant more to him than this sack of shit.
“Richard,” Meghan admonished, her voice gaining strength. Atta girl. “Decker is family.”
Decker squeezed her shoulders, but she didn’t relax. Damn.
“She’s right about that,” Griffin said easily.
“Well then, wife, you’re not a Montgomery anymore,” Richard said, baring his teeth. “You’d do best to remember that. Go get the brats. We’re leaving. We said our hellos to the happy couple—they won’t be happy for long knowing the way that brute is—so it’s time to go.”
Why the fuck was Meghan still with this man? He treated her like shit and beat down on her emotionally. Decker didn’t think Richard touched her with his fists, but one could never tell. Decker should know.
Flashes of meaty fists and breath tainted with cheap booze filled his mind, and he shook it off.
“Once a Montgomery, always a Montgomery,” Griffin said from his side.
“Pretty much,” Decker said smoothly. “If you’re in a hurry, you can head out and we’ll get Meghan and the kids home when they’re ready to leave.”
“She’s my wife. Not yours.”
“Decker. Griffin. Let it go,” she whispered.
Decker shook his head. “Sorry, hon, Austin and Sierra’s party just started, and we haven’t done the toasts yet. You should stay. If Richard needs to go, he can go.” He looked into her eyes and prayed she understood he meant more than for that one night.
“Fine. Keep the brats here.”
“I need the boosters,” Meghan whispered.
“Then you should come with me,” Richard snapped.
Meghan glared. Good. There was still some fire in her. “I’m not risking my children’s lives because you want to leave early.”
“Our children, Meghan. You best remember that.” He smiled coolly, and Decker froze.
So that’s why she stayed. For the kids. That motherfucker.
“We got boosters in the house,” Griffin said. “Mom and Dad keep them in case they have the kids.” He didn’t mention that Decker had bought them when Richard had left Meghan alone with the kids and taken her car one time.
She didn’t need to remember that. On second thought, maybe she did.
“Fine.” Richard didn’t even say goodbye to Cliff and Sasha before stomping away. Meghan visibly relaxed when the man left.
“Meghan…” Decker started, but she held up a hand.
“No. Not here. I need to take care of my children.”
He nodded, knowing she was stronger than his own mother. At least he hoped. “I’m here if you need me.”
“Me too,” Griffin added. “We all are.”
She cupped both their cheeks and smiled sadly. “I know. I love you both. Now go and talk to Austin or Sierra or something. I need a moment.”
Decker nodded before leaving her alone with Griffin. His friend would take care of her until she pushed him away because she thought she was too strong to lean on someone. He wouldn’t let her situation grow to be what his past had been, but he also knew there was only so much a person could do without physically pulling them away.
That wouldn’t help anyone.
“That prick gone?” Austin growled when Decker reached him. Sierra punched her fiancé in the stomach, and he winced before wrapping his arm around her.
“Watch your mouth,” she whispered and looked over his shoulder.
Austin and Decker looked as well. Austin’s son, Leif, stood near, his attention on whatever Storm was saying and not on Austin’s words thankfully. Leif had come to the family after his mother had passed and Austin had found out he was a daddy. Strange as hell to think of it all, but Decker loved the boy like he’d been raised with them from birth. He fit right in.
“Yep. That prick is gone. I’m worried about her. Alex too.” He might as well let it all out. Austin was his big brother, and Sierra was going to be a new sister. They were family.
Sierra shook her head. “We all are. They know we’re here, and if there’s anything we can do, we’ll figure it out.”
Decker pulled her from Austin’s arms and gave her a tight hug before pressing his lips to hers in a hard kiss.
“Hey, get your mouth off my woman.”
Decker pulled back and smiled at a flushed Sierra. “But she’s such a pretty woman.” He tucked her into his side. “See? She fits just right.”
Austin growled then pulled a laughing Sierra to him. “No, she fits against my side. You’re an ass.”
Decker grinned. “A hot ass. And you know it.”
“You two are idiots, but I love you.” Sierra laughed at her words, but Austin growled. “I mean I love Decker in a brotherly sort of way. I love you in a sexy, sweaty way. Okay?”
Decker raised his hands in mock surrender. “I so do not need to think about that. I’m going to go see how Harry’s doing. Let me know when you want help with your toast or something.”
Austin nodded, but his eyes were all for Sierra.
Fuck, what would it be like to have a love like that? A person who was by your side no matter what.
Decker didn’t think he’d ever have that. Not with the way his mind and body wanted the one person he couldn’t have. In his experience, love didn’t last, and marriages were only shackles he knew some people could never be rid of.
Of course, that wasn’t quite true since the couple he’d just left seemed to be on the right path, but he wasn’t sure yet. Then of course, the couple he was in front of had been together for over four decades and still looked like they were more in love every day.
But love hurt when one person was sick.
Harry Montgomery had always been larger than life. He was a big man with an even bigger heart. Yet the man in the chair in front of him didn’t look like that now. The extracorporeal radiation therapy—Decker had been reading up—that targeted Harry’s prostate cancer had taken a toll. The man looked so much smaller, weaker, and paler than Decker had ever seen.
The doctors told him they’d caught the cancer early and things were looking good, but the treatment looked like it hurt worse than the cancer. And now, in Decker’s eyes, Marie was forced by love, duty and circumstance to stand by her husband’s side as he grew weaker and weaker. How was that reward for love? How could that be worth it? The pain and loss that could come with growing close to someone didn’t make sense to him, and he wasn’t sure he deserved it in the first place.
“Come here, boy,” Harry growled out, a sparkle in his eye.
Decker crouched near him, his hands shaking. He didn’t know what to do. Did he hug him? It looked like, with just one hug, Decker would break the man he thought of as his father.
“How you feeling?” he asked. And damn if his voice hadn’t choked up.
Harry patted his arm as Marie came to Decker’s side, kneeling so she could hug him. He put his arm around her, inhaling that sweet Mom scent that had worked so well to calm him as a kid.
“I’m doing better,” Harry said softly. “It doesn’t look like it, but I’m not dying. Not yet.”
Decker felt like he’d been stabbed in the heart with those words. Jesus. He couldn’t lose Harry. He couldn’t.
“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” Harry said. “I told you all I’d be honest with you about my recovery. We caught it early. The radiation hurts like a bitch, but we’re pushing through. Now I wanted you to come over here because, one, you’re my son and I wanted to see you, and two, because you helped with that prick of a husband my daughter chose. I couldn’t get up to fix it, so thank you.” The slight helplessness in Harry’s eyes was too much.
Decker swallowed hard and willed his eyes not to fill with tears. Fuck.
“I’d have kicked his ass…” He shot a look at Marie. “I mean his butt, but the kids were there.”
“You can say ass when it comes to Richard,” Marie put in. “He is an ass.”
Decker threw his head back and laughed. “I love you both. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.”
Marie’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, that’s the sweetest thing. The sweetest thing. We love you too, baby.”
Harry nodded, and Decker leaned into the strong woman’s arms.
The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and he stood up slowly. He turned to see Miranda walking into the backyard, her long legs bare under her sundress.
Holy fuck, she looked amazing.
He willed his cock not to fill, considering he was standing between her parents. Griffin came up to his side, and Decker knew there was a special place in hell for a man who lusted after his best friend’s little sister.
Harry and Marie gave him a knowing look, and he held back a groan. Yep. He was going to hell. He was going to burn, and he’d deserve every moment of it.
Miranda turned to them and smiled brightly, her eyes twinkling.
He fought to keep his gaze on her face and not on her breasts or her legs that never quit.
He could do this.
This was Miranda Montgomery. The woman who was a girl no longer, and she was not for him.
He wouldn’t drool over her. He wouldn’t make an ass out of himself.
Griffin gave him a weird look, and Decker groaned inwardly.
Going to hell.
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