Forever (This)(2)

By: J.B. McGee



The coachman, whom I’d totally forgotten was in front of us, glances over his shoulder as he pulls the reigns back. “Whoa, boys.” He nods. “We’re here.”

Joe climbs out, extends his hand, and I accept it without hesitation. A pit grows in my stomach. “Thank you for the ride.”

Joe helps me down the steps, and I stop once I reach his side. Celia, the wedding coordinator, is waiting on us. “Sam. Joe. Follow me this way.”

We obey the orders, not touching. “For what it’s worth,” I whisper, “I appreciate most of what you said.”

“You didn’t appreciate all of it?” He glances down at me.

“Right. Specifically the part about my sex life.” I laugh, trying to lighten the mood. “Could have lived without that.”

He shrugs. “Well, I think I asked about your stress relief. But since you bring up sex, it’s only fair conversation. If you were mine, you’d never have a care in the world. I said I take care of the people I care about.”

“Actually, you said you”—I do little air quotes with my fingers—“protect the people you love.”

He shakes his head. “No, I didn’t.”

“Uh huh. Yep. You did. That’s what you said. Verbatim, even.”

“I think you like putting words in my mouth, Sam.” He clears his throat. Is Joe Adams speechless? “And to be clear, I was using you as you in general not you specifically.” He nudges me. “Just what kind of guy do you take me for anyway?”

“You strike me as a bad boy.” My heart races. “Dangerous. Threatening.”

“Pfft. Then we’ll need to spend some quality family time together so you can get to know me better. Turns out you have no clue who I am.”

Family time getting to know Joe better? The problem is I’ve already gotten to know him through our phone calls and pretending to not care today has been easier than acknowledging just how much I’d like to get to know him better. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t started to like the electrifying pings throughout my body over the course of the day, the way he smiles at me, or how easy laughter can come after tears. What was that all about?

When we reach our destination, marked by Celia pointing to a spot, I glance back to see Ryan walking with Carmen, Bradley’s sister. They are enthralled in conversation and laughter, and I don’t even think he notices me. But Joe does. “Do yourself a favor and try not to fall much more in love with him than you already have.”

“Seriously?” I shake my head. “Maybe you need some stress relief yourself.”

The sparkling lights reflect off one side of his face, while the other is completely dark. “My stress level is very well managed. Thanks for your concern, though.” He nods his head in Ryan’s direction. “He’s never going to marry, settle down. He’s in love with his work. And he’s a constant flirt.” He shoves his hands in his pockets, crossing his leg over his ankle. “You deserve better.”

“Wait a minute. Are you sure you’re not describing yourself?” I wrap my arms around my waist, a chill sending shivers over every square inch of my body. I peer at the water, then into Joe’s eyes as they wander to my cleavage, and I squeeze my upper body tighter.

His lids become hooded as he licks his lips. “Careful, Sam. You don’t know anything about me other than what I allow you…the world…to see.”

“You’re the epitome of the word player, Joe. Except, the only one playing your game is you. Grow the hell up.”

He sucks in a breath, and a low rumble of a man’s voice booms as music blares from the speakers over our heads, drowning out the words he mumbles. My heart’s in sync with the beat, pounding in my chest like a caged animal waiting to be released to defend itself from its attacker. Joe’s jaw ticks, and I fear he has the ability to annihilate me in all the best and worst ways. And he’s practically family. So, I’m effectively screwed.





Turning in a circle, my eyes survey the books lined on the shelves surrounding the television, the cabinet below it full of movies, and the knickknacks and picture frames on top of the mantle. I don’t think I ever realized how much junk I had until it was time to move. My cell rings, and I smile as I see the number. “Hey.”

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