You did it! A huge thank you to everyone who helped me get to my crazy goal of 25,000 likes on Facebook. Here is the second chapter of Reckless for your enjoyment. The rest of the book will be releasing nationwide on March 5th, 2013. Much love to you all!
Falling in Love
Once the tears were expelled I felt better about the situation. I knew I was overreacting; it wasn't as if Kellan had just made the tape recently or anything. The shock of it had thrown me, was all. And the disgust. I couldn't stand the idea of another woman's hands on him, regardless of when it had happened. Having the memories of hearing him please other girls while I was across the hall was bad enough. The idea of watching it made me want to throw up. In fact, I held my hand over my mouth just in case.
When my sobs subsided, I heard murmuring downstairs. Dad was probably giving Kellan a piece of his mind. Knowing I needed to get over this, I tried to think of anything but Joey's yellow high heels wrapped around Kellan's torso. It was really difficult to push that image from my head, though.
Needing some help from the present, I slipped off my promise ring and stared at the tiny diamonds lining the sides. As I studied each diamond, I recalled all of the romantic and touching things that he had said to me and no one else.
I'd rather hold a beautiful girl than be all bruised tomorrow. I need to be close to you. Every girl is you to me. You're all I see . . . you're all I want. We could be amazing together. You wreck me. Stay. Stay with me. Work it out with me. Just don't leave me . . . please. I'm sure that I want my life to always have you in it. We're married . . . you're my wife. I love you.
By the time I heard a light rap on the door, my emotions and my stomach had leveled. I actually felt a little silly about the whole thing. Kellan cracked open the door but didn't enter the room. "Kiera . . . can I come in?"
Rolling over to face the door, I wiped my eyes dry and readjusted my short dress. "Yeah," I croaked out, my voice scratchy.
The door didn't open right away and I frowned at the closed wood. After another pause, Kellan asked, "You're not gonna . . . throw anything at me, are you?"
A chuckle escaped me, and hearing it, Kellan pushed the door open. I smiled up at his worried expression and shook my head. "No, it's safe."
Kellan quietly closed the door behind him, then walked over to the bed. His eyes locked onto the ring in my hand that I was still fingering. His steps slowed and his eyes glassed over. Not able to pull his gaze from my jewelry, he whispered, "Are you leaving me?"
As I searched his troubled face, I considered what my fidgeting probably looked like to him. I'd gotten upset, dramatically run away from him, and then he'd found me holding my wedding ring like I didn't want to wear it anymore. I immediately slid it back onto my finger. His eyes, still heavy with unshed tears, lifted to mine. My heart broke as I held my arms open for him. "No, of course I'm not leaving you."
He still seemed unsure, so I sat up on my knees and grabbed his T-shirt. Pulling him into me, I flung my arms around his neck. He instantly relaxed as he wrapped his arms around me. Inhaling his scent, I whispered in his ear, "I was remembering all of the reasons why I love you so much. I was appreciating everything you do, and everything you are. I was falling in love with you, all over again."
Kellan pulled back, amazement on his face. "You find out, the day after we get married, that I have a sex tape with another girl . . . and that makes you fall in love with me again?" He felt my forehead, like he was sure I was ill.
I laughed again and pulled him onto the bed with me. "Well, no, the tape doesn't thrill me, but"—resting my head on his shoulder, I stared up into his deep blue eyes—"there is so much about you that does, and I won't let this one thing ruin it . . . ruin us."
Kellan smiled and kissed my forehead. "Have I told you today how much I love you?"
Nestling into the crook of his arm, I tangled my legs with his and rested my cheek on his chest, right over the spot where my name was etched on his skin. "Probably, but I'll never get tired of hearing you say it."
Fisting his shirt in my hands, I took a moment to enjoy his comfort. His deep voice rumbled in my ear as he broke the silence. "I'm really sorry, Kiera. I never meant for you to find out about that."
I glanced at his hip, wondering if he still had the card in his pocket, then peeked up at his apologetic face. "I don't want you to hide things just because you think the truth will make me unhappy. We've gotten into trouble too many times that way already."
Kellan nodded, his eyes contemplative. "You're right. And I think I would have told you eventually . . . although, definitely not the morning after our wedding night. But, to be honest, I kind of forgot about the tape with Joey." His pursed his lips, clearly unhappy that Joey had un-fortuitously shown up and reminded him.
Fixing my gaze on his strong, clean-shaven jaw, I asked, "How do you forget making a sex tape with your roommate? I would have thought something like that stood out."
Kellan tensed underneath me, and I shifted my focus to his eyes. Before I could ask the question that was filling me with dread, Kellan sighed and shook his head. "I really am sorry, Kiera. She asked . . . I didn't care. I didn't really say no to a whole lot back then and she—" He clamped his mouth shut and closed his eyes. When he reopened them, he whispered, "I wasn't thinking about the future, about what I was leaving behind . . . and I'm sorry."
Getting a really bad feeling, I sat up. "That's not the only tape you made, is it?"
Kellan cringed, and I immediately had my answer. "I'm so sorry, Kiera," he whispered again.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I shook my head in disbelief. "Oh my God . . . I married Ron Jeremy."
Kellan struggled to keep his expression neutral, but he couldn't for very long. I smacked his shoulder when he laughed out loud. Grabbing my hands, he sat up and pulled my arms around his waist. Pulling me into his chest, he soothingly rubbed my back. My brief spark of anger died as he held me. Then a feeling of melancholy washed over me.
"They'll never all stay hidden, Kellan. Not once your band hits the airwaves. Not once your name is well-known. Once people know they can make money off of you"—I peeked up at his face—"those tapes will be everywhere."
His smile a sad one, he nodded. "I know . . . and I can't apologize enough."
Examining his expression, sympathy welled in me. "It's not my body being peddled, Kellan. You don't need to apologize for something you did years ago. I just . . . I feel bad that your intimate life is going to be so . . . public."
Kellan shrugged. "I don't care about that." He cupped my cheek. "I just don't want it to hurt you."
Leaning into his hand, I let out a long exhale. "Well, at least I'll be prepared for it." I smirked at him. "And it's not like I'm ever going to watch them." Kellan laughed, and I shook my head and closed my eyes. It stung a little that the world would eventually see my husband in all of his glory, but it didn't really matter. He wasn't that man anymore. He was my man.
Opening my eyes, I gazed at his concerned face. Wanting to ease his fear that I would reject him for this, I playfully muttered, "You're such a whore."
Shaking his head at me, he pulled me back down to the bed with him. After a moment, I remembered that we both had things to do today, people waiting for us. Just when I stirred, to remind Kellan that he needed to call Gavin, our bedroom door was tapped on. My mother's concerned voice asked, "Kiera, honey, is everything okay?"
Kellan stirred beneath me, moving me aside so he could stand up. Wishing I could pull him back into my arms, I sat up and adjusted my tight dress. "Yeah, come on in."
As she walked into the room, she glanced at Kellan with mixed emotions. I could tell she wasn't thrilled about what she'd heard downstairs. Mom liked Kellan a great deal, but she was just as protective as Dad, and Kellan made her nervous. Attractiveness, fame, youth, and monogamy didn't usually mix well. Even though she tried her best to have faith in my beau, she was certain he'd eventually stray from me.
But she didn't know Kellan like I did. And I was sure he wouldn't. He'd had that life already, and he was looking for something more. He was looking for a lifetime . . . with me.
I threw on a bright smile as she walked toward me. Kellan looked between us, then leaned over and kissed my cheek. "I'm going to go call Gavin . . . and check on my car. I'll see you in a minute." I nodded at him and kissed his fingers before he left.
Mom watched him go, then sat on the bed with me. She didn't ask me anything, but her earlier question was still clear in her green eyes. Putting a hand on her knee, I repeated my earlier answer. "I'm fine, Mom, really."
She seemed baffled by my response. "How can you be fine with him and that girl . . . ?"
She didn't finish her question and I shrugged. "It was ages ago, long before he met me. That tape doesn't have anything to do with me, and now that the shock of it has worn off . . . I'm fine."
Mom wore a look of confusion, and I laughed a little as I laid my head on her shoulder. "He's not that guy anymore and . . ." I paused, my own failings suddenly hitting me. "I can't hold his past against him."
Hearing my tone, Mom pulled back so that I had to look at her. "What about your past?" She scanned my face. "Do you want to tell me what really happened with you and Denny, honey?"
I blinked, taken aback. Mom and Dad had both accepted it when I'd told them that Denny had left me for a job in his home country. But Mom was observant, concerned, and curious, and had no doubt melded together guilty looks and hushed comments to form a Denny-Kellan-Kiera puzzle that was much bigger than the tiny piece that I'd admitted to her. I was sure she suspected the truth. Feeling my eyes well, I started to shake my head. No, I didn't want to tell her how horrible a human being I was, that she'd raised that sort of girl, that I was even more flawed than the man who'd made a sex tape with his ex-roommate. I would prefer it if she continued to think of me as sweet and innocent. But then . . . I would be a liar if I let her keep thinking that way.
Hanging my head, I whispered, "I had an affair with Kellan. Denny found out and . . . left me." Guilty tears coursed down my cheeks. Peeking up at her, I choked out, "I'm so sorry, Mom."
Her eyes were glossy as she watched my pain. I waited for her biting words of condemnation, but they didn't come. Instead, she tossed her arms around me and hugged me tight. That only made me cry harder. Resting my cheek on her shoulder, I let go of the dam holding back my remorse. I sobbed in her arms as she soothingly cooed in my ear and rubbed my back.
My tears subsiding, I lifted my head. "Do you hate me?" My throat closed up with my words.
Mom dried my tears with her thumb. A soft smile on her lips, she shook her head. "No, of course I don't hate you."
I shook my head at her. "Aren't you going to yell? Tell me how awful I am?"
I started to lower my head and she grabbed my chin. She held my gaze for long seconds before answering. "There's nothing I could say to you that would punish you more than you've already punished yourself." She shook her head, her long brown locks swishing around her shoulders. "Now, if you had no regret, than your father and I would take turns tearing you a new one." She smiled wider and cupped my cheek. "But this is obviously something that has torn you up inside, and I can't imagine that you would ever do this to yourself again."
I violently shook my head. No, I didn't want to ever go through that torture again. She grinned at me as she dropped her hand. "I'm actually more upset that you got married behind my back." Crossing her arms over her chest, she pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "You want to explain that?"
I sighed, knowing I wouldn't get out of this one quite so easily.
It took me a while, but I finally convinced Mom that I'd really only gotten engaged last night. Kellan and I considered our moment at the bar a marriage, but I knew the outside world wouldn't see it that way, and it definitely wasn't a legally binding ceremony. My message to Mom and Dad had been pretty short, with no explanations. I'd basically only told them that Kellan and I had gotten married and I wouldn't be home until the morning. It really was a miracle that Dad hadn't sent S.W.A.T. out after me.
Once Mom understood what we'd done, she laughed in relief. "Oh good, I was afraid you'd taken the red eye to Vegas and had some Elvis impersonator marry you." She shook her head as she grabbed my hand to examine my promise ring wedding band. "That's not a proper way to start a life together . . . if you're sure you want to spend the rest of your life with him?"
I nodded emphatically. That was one thing I was absolutely certain of.
A deep resolution marked Mom's features, then she smiled. "I guess we better get started on planning this wedding, then?" Her eyes brightening even more, she clasped her hands together. "We could do it in December, after Anna has her baby . . . oh, or in the spring, when everything is in bloom?"
My mind spun as Mom started ticking off things we would need to do between now and the wedding date she would surely pick out for me: my dress, my bridesmaid dresses, a guest list, invitations, flowers, music, the venue, a caterer, the wedding cake, tuxes . . .
The list went on and on and I put my hands over hers to stop her from continuing to ramble. "Mom, I don't need anything fancy." I smiled in a lovesick way. "Kellan and I are already married. We just need to make it legal."
Mom gave me a blank look, then asked, "Do you want to have it here in Seattle, or back home in Athens? Because all of our family is back there, and making them fly out to you wouldn't be very nice."
I sighed. Mom wasn't going to let this one go. I was going to be dolled up and paraded down a rose-lined aisle whether I wanted it or not. It twisted my stomach into knots just thinking about it.
Wanting to change the focus, I murmured, "I should go talk to Dad, calm him down." He was probably still a little thrown by the whole sex-tape thing, as well as the marriage thing. Poor Dad. Today was just not his day.
I decided to change into some comfortable clothes before I faced my father. This dress tended to hike up my thighs, and I didn't want to be constantly readjusting it as he scolded me. It also didn't allow for a bra thanks to its square, super-low cut neckline; a perk on my wedding night, but not so great for a one-on-one with Pops.
Mom was perky as she watched me throw on some jeans and a T-shirt; she was still planning the wedding details, going on and on about the ideal floral arrangement. Once dressed, I headed downstairs. Mom's description of my wedding ceremony never ceased, and her words filtered into my head with each step I took. As I plodded down the steps, I pictured myself walking down the aisle to my husband. When I reached the bottom step, Kellan was standing by the windows, nodding at my father with a solemn expression on his face. I imagined Kellan in a tux and me in a satin gown. In my mind, he was stunning, as usual, and I, for once, was beautiful. The thought of the room full of people made me a little nauseous, so I instead imagined that Kellan and I were alone. Butterflies started to tickle my stomach as the wedding march played in my head.
Kellan looked over at me and cracked a smile. I was pretty sure he wasn't having the same vision I was having, but the expression on his gorgeous face was filled with just as much love and wonder as mine. Flushing with the anticipation of how wonderful our wedding ceremony could be, I walked over to Kellan and wrapped my arms around his waist. Grinning down at me, he enclosed me in his arms and kissed my head. We were dopily staring at each other when my dad cleared his throat.
I snapped out of my romantic vision as I looked over at him. His brow scrunched in confusion, he asked, "Everything . . . okay?"
I smiled and nodded, and Dad sighed, clearly not understanding how I'd gone from one extreme to another in a span of twenty minutes. I giggled as I let go of Kellan and gave my dad a hug. Mood swings were just a fact of life around Kellan. He could lift me up or crash me to the ground. While I sometimes enjoyed the swings, finding balance with him was something I really wanted. We would need that calm if we were going to maintain a long-term relationship. And marriage was pretty long-term. For me, at least.
When I pulled back to look at Dad, he looked over my shoulder at Kellan. I clearly saw the division in his heart. Dad wanted me to be happy, but he wasn't thrilled about me being with a rock star. A rock star with a sex tape in his pocket. Leaning in, he said, "Kellan told me about your . . . marriage . . . at the bar." He frowned and glanced at Kellan. "Are you sure about this, Kiera?"
Smiling bright, I kissed my dad on the cheek. "Absolutely, Dad."
My response didn't brighten Dad's features any. In fact, he seemed to age right before my eyes. Seeing the sullenness in his frown lines, I clutched his arms. "Did Kellan tell you his father was going to come by for brunch?" Looking back at Kellan, I asked, "Did you get a hold of him?"
Kellan lifted the cell phone in his hand. "Just got off. He'll be here in a half hour." Kellan's deep blue eyes sparkled with joy. Positive feelings for a family member were a new emotion for him, and he'd been reluctant to let himself feel it. I think a part of him was still hesitant, like he was bracing himself for the inevitable emotional implosion that was coming. But, for the moment, he was being optimistic about it.
Still beaming, Kellan pointed at the front door. "My car's fine, too." I laughed at his relieved expression. He probably would have tracked Joey down if she'd damaged his baby.
While we waited for Kellan's family to arrive, Mom asked me about color themes for the wedding; the daggers coming from Dad lengthened with each question she asked. Kellan held my hand with an amused smile on his face as he listened to my mom. I was sure he would agree to whatever outlandish ceremony she proposed. He didn't mind being the focal point of everyone's attention, and he certainly didn't mind watching me be at the center of it either. He was constantly pushing me to be more confident and outgoing. While embarrassing, I loved that Kellan cared enough about me to gently encourage me to grow.
Gavin rang Kellan's doorbell right on time. Exhaling a slow, controlled breath, Kellan stood and wiped his palms on his jeans. I didn't see a bulge in his pocket when his hand brushed over it, and I thought maybe Kellan had thrown his sex tape away. I hoped so. I didn't ever want to see him being with another woman, but I knew, if I came across it, the curiosity would kill me. It was possible that it would drive me crazy enough that I would watch it. And there are some things you can't ever unsee. Kellan making his ex-fling squeal was not something I wanted burned into my brain. Just imagining it was bad enough.
Kellan was visibly edgy as he walked to his front door. It was adorable; he so very rarely got nervous. But seeing his father was a really big deal to him. I wasn't sure exactly what he was feeling, but if it were me, it would be a mixture of excitement, apprehension, and terror. So much can go wrong when you hold your heart out to another person, especially one who is related to you. Kellan was being immensely brave right now, and I couldn't have been prouder of him.
Like he was mentally fortifying himself, Kellan let out another short burst of air as he arrived at the door. Slapping on his effortless grin, he pulled the heavy wood inward. I stood from the couch as Kellan's father came into view. Gavin was so much like Kellan that their lineage was undeniable. Same build, same height, same shade of sandy brown hair, same deep, midnight blue eyes, same strong, right-angle jaw. Looking at the two of them side by side was like being given a glimpse into Kellan's future. And from all I could see . . . Kellan was going to age very, very well. Gavin was hopelessly attractive.
From beside me, I heard my mother mutter, "Oh . . . my . . . "
Mom and I exchanged knowing glances as Kellan and his father shook hands. Elation on his face, Kellan gestured inside his house. "I'm glad you're here. Come on in."
Gavin nodded and stepped inside. Right behind him were his two children—Kellan's half siblings. I waved at Kellan's sister, Hailey. Giggling, she waved back at me. Hailey was close to my age, maybe a year or so younger. She had also inherited her father's deep blue eyes, but, surrounded in natural light, I could now see that her light brown hair was a just a touch blonder than the boys'. Close on her heels was Kellan's little brother, Riley. Cute as a button, Riley looked to be around ten years old, just a couple of years shy from the age Kellan was when he'd first experimented with the opposite sex. I really hoped Riley hadn't yet; he was far too young. With eyes the color of a spring morning, Riley looked up at Kellan with awe on his face. Obviously, Riley already idolized his rock-star big brother.
Kellan rumpled Riley's hair as he walked through the door. Once the trio was inside, Kellan indicated his small living room. "Please, have a seat."
I stepped away from the couch so Kellan's father could sit there. My parents stood so they could shake Gavin's hand. My dad gave him a firm, hearty handshake. My mother tittered, then tried to cover it by clearing her throat. Dad was frowning as he watched his wife shake hands with the older version of Kellan. He wisely moved over so that he was sitting by Gavin on the couch and my mother wasn't.
Riley plopped down on the floor, stretching out his legs as he looked around Kellan's home. I'd recently enlisted my best friend Jenny's help in painting the living room. It had been a drab, off-white color for as long as I had been here. She helped me paint it a warm, beige color with a deep, red focal wall. Along the corners of the red wall, Jenny had used her artistic ability to freehand music notes. She had also painted lyrics from one of Kellan's songs. In big, bold letters above the sliding glass door, it said: Every single day I'll keep you with me, no matter how far from me you are. Kellan thought it was a little pretentious to have his own words on his own walls, but I thought it was beautiful and wouldn't let him paint over it. It was my home now too.
Coming up beside me, Hailey wrapped her arms around me. By the delight on her face, it was clear to see that she loved me by Kellan's recommendation alone. I found it almost laughable now that I'd once suspected Kellan of cheating on me with her. But he had been pretty secretive about discovering his birth father and hiding it from everyone, including me. I think most girlfriends would have leapt to the same conclusion I had.
I thought Kellan's face might split apart, his grin was so big. As his eyes settled over his parent having a conversation with my parents, he smacked his hands together. "Well, I'll get started on brunch, since it's getting close to lunch time." Laughing a little, he held his palms up to his father. "I'm sorry I was so late in calling you."
Gavin's deep blue eyes took in his son, then swung my way. As I felt my cheeks heat under his gaze, it was easy to imagine how this man had seduced a married woman. Sure, it was an awful situation—just as awful as the situation I'd found myself in a couple of years ago—but it was easy to see why it had happened. Gavin's face was not one that many women would say no to. I was instantly grateful that Dad was acting like a buffer between Gavin and Mom. Not that Gavin was going to hit on my mom while he was here, and not that my mom would go there, but still . . .
A warm smile lifted Gavin's lips as he nodded at me. "Yes, I hear you got married last night. Congratulations."
My cheeks felt even hotter as Hailey squeezed me tight and squealed. "You're part of the family now, Kiera! Like it or not!"
My dad sighed.
Walking over to me, Kellan extracted me from his sister and gave me a soft kiss. His eyes drank me in like he'd never seen me before. The way he looked at me made my knees wobble, my heartbeat spike, my breath quicken. He was amazing.
"Like it or not," he murmured before kissing me again.
Feeling sappy and romantic, I breathed, "Like."
My dad sighed again.
Wrapping an arm around my shoulders, Kellan faced our families. "We'll be in the kitchen. Do you guys need anything?"
Grinning as she stared at Gavin, my mother muttered, "No, we're just fine here." Dad peeked over at her and leaned forward just a bit, blocking her view of Kellan's father.
Oblivious, Gavin shook his head. "We're fine, thank you, son."
Kellan was chuckling when we walked around the corner into the kitchen. Leaning down to my ear he whispered, "He called me 'son.' "
I smiled up at him, ecstatic for the bond that was growing between him and his father. Kellan stopped us in front of his refrigerator, and the smile fell off his face. His perfectly soft lips pulled down into a frown. "What the hell do I make them to eat?" He peered down at me, his face a mixture of panic and concern. "I'm not the greatest cook."
Releasing me, Kellan pulled open the refrigerator door and aimlessly looked inside. Trying to think of any meals I'd made that were half-decent, I tossed out, "I can make eggs?"
Kellan's bright smile returned as he found a carton in the fridge. "Yeah, okay . . . that will work." Handing me the carton, he closed his eyes for a second. "Please tell me we have bacon." I was just about to tell him that I'd picked some up the other day, when he opened the freezer door and spotted it. His face flooding with relief, he exhaled, "Thank God."
Amused at his nerves, I set the eggs on the counter and cupped his cheeks. "Hey, relax. They're here for you, not the food."
Kellan let out a long, cleansing breath. "Yeah, I know. I just . . . I don't want to mess this up." Shaking his head, he looked down at the floor. "I mess up everything, Kiera."
My stomach tightening at the painful look on his face, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled his body into mine. "No, you don't." With a serious expression, I pulled back to look him in the eye. "You haven't messed us up."
His lips twisted into amusement, like he was sure that wasn't true. It wasn't true, though. Our dark parts couldn't be contributed solely to him. No, our troubles had been a group effort.
His voice soft, he pointed to the cupboard under his sink. "No? I just threw away a sex tape, Kiera."
My stomach did a strange sort of twist. I was thrilled it wasn't still in his pocket, and horrified to know exactly where it was. Making myself smile in as natural a way as possible, I released myself from Kellan. Grabbing a pan for the eggs, I told him, "Exactly. You threw it away." Finding a fork in the drawer, I playfully poked him in the chest with it. "Now, if you had stashed it in a drawer to watch later, then you'd be an asshole."
Kellan chuckled at me as he swatted my bottom with the freezing cold package of bacon.
Just as I was cringing away from him, his sister walked around the corner. "Who's an asshole?"
Rubbing my backside, I automatically pointed at Kellan. He frowned, then shrugged. "Me . . . apparently."
Hailey gave him a wide grin as she pulled up a kitchen chair. Sitting in it backwards, she watched us try and prepare a decent meal. Kellan thawed the bacon in the microwave while I made a pot of coffee. The surging gurgle of freshly brewing java mixed with the pop and hiss of greasy fat as Kellan's bacon slices went into the frying pan. I got started on the eggs, cracking several into a pan, then waiting a few minutes for the white part to turn a solid color. When they looked ready, I attempted to flip them over. Kellan peered into my pan as I broke the yolk on yet another egg. "Uh, I think they have to sit longer," he murmured.
Glancing over at his pan of sizzling meat, I noticed an unappealing dark smoke filling the air. Pointing at it, I retorted, "And I think you're burning the bacon."
He immediately went back to his own cooking while Hailey laughed out loud. "Good God, how have you two survived this long?"
Standing up, she walked over to where Kellan and I were butchering breakfast. "I got it from here. You guys just go relax somewhere."
Kellan gave her an apologetic smile. "Thanks . . . sis."
She smiled back at him after flawlessly flipping an egg. "Not a problem, big brother."
I couldn't help but note the similarities in their smiles as they stared at one another. It warmed me that Kellan's grin seemed to be genetic. Maybe he would pass that unbelievable smile on to our children? When we had children. Many years from now.
Kellan slung his arm over my shoulder and let out a happy sigh. Looking down at me, he shook his head. "I've been cooking for myself for years. I don't know why I can't this morning."
Grinning wide, I patted his stomach. "Welcome to the wonderful side effect of a really bad case of nerves, Kellan Kyle."
He frowned at my assessment. "I'm not nervous."
Hailey paused in her cooking to look back at him. "You're joking, right? I can practically smell the fear coming off of you." Amused at herself, she giggled.
Kellan's frown deepened. "I'm so glad I have siblings now."
Loving the playful banter between brother and sister, I wrapped my arms tighter around Kellan. Hailey was right about his nerves, wrong about his scent. He smelled just as fabulous as he always did. That marvelous aroma that was his and his alone filled my senses as I leaned against him. He smelled better than the coffee and the bacon.
Riley came into the room a few minutes later, an excited expression on his face. "Kellan, can you show me your guitar?"
Kellan smiled down at him. "Sure." He patted Riley's shoulder, then kissed my head. "I'll be right back."
I watched his backside as he left the room, feeling perfectly content. Then Hailey said something that cracked my contentment a little bit. Eyeing her little brother in the room with us, she asked, "Did Kellan really . . . make a tape?" Her eyebrows lifted meaningfully.
Hating that she'd overheard that, I cringed. Seeing my reaction, Hailey's eyes immediately widened and she returned her attention to the meal she was preparing. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked. I'm sure you don't want to talk about . . . that." She looked a little embarrassed.
Riley, not really understanding what she was talking about looked confused. "He's made lots of tapes, Hail." He looked up at me, pure innocence in his eyes. "There are tons of videos online."
I blushed and bit my lip. "Yeah, that's right . . . lots of tapes are out there." I sighed, knowing how true that statement was.
Hailey grimaced and mouthed, "Sorry."
I nodded at her. There was no point in worrying about all the footage of Kellan that was probably going to be leaked one day. It didn't matter. I could deal with it. The price was worth it. I could probably handle much worse to be with him. Not that I wanted to—but, push come to shove, I would take whatever crap came my way if it meant I got to be his wife.
Kellan came back into the room a few minutes later, the neck of his guitar in his hand. He was on a break from recording his album in L.A., and like always, he'd lugged his favorite instrument home with him. It was almost like a security blanket for Kellan, one he couldn't seem to part with for very long.
I smiled at him as he sat Riley in a kitchen chair and then gave him the cherished instrument. I thought Riley might pass out; he was so excited to hold it. There was a gleam in Kellan's eye as he watched the boy's exuberance, as if Riley reminded him of himself. I left the two to their bonding and tried to help Hailey with brunch. I found a fresh honeydew melon in the fridge and started slicing it into bite-size pieces as a disharmonious twang filled the air.
Kellan helped Riley adjust his technique, and as I listened to his instructions, I was reminded of Kellan's first attempt to help me play his guitar. The memory of his hands over mine and his breath in my ear made me smile. At the time, I'd felt really guilty over how much I'd enjoyed it. In truth, I did still feel guilty over it. I probably always would. What we'd done was wrong, and I knew it. I'd dressed up our flirting as nothing more than innocent caresses, but it had never been innocent. I'd wanted him, and he'd wanted me. I'd loved him, and he'd loved me. Nothing about what we'd done was right. But the memory still made me grin.
Over the sounds of Riley's strumming and bacon sizzling, I heard Gavin and my parents talking. Surprisingly, I heard my dad let out a mighty laugh. Gavin must be just as charming as his son—something else that ran in the gene pool. Lord help the female population if Kellan and I have a boy one day, I thought.
When the food was almost done, Gavin appeared in the archway that separated the dining room from the living room. He beamed as he looked over his three children. When he met my eye, I gave him a wide smile, happy that he was getting to experience the second chance with Kellan that he'd begged for. I knew all about the blessing of second chances, since Kellan had given me one as well. I nodded at Gavin as he sat in a chair next to Riley.
Riley glanced over at him. "Did you hear that, Dad? I finally got that section right!"
Gavin's prideful smile shifted to his youngest son. "Excellent! You're on your road to stardom already." His eyes shifted to Kellan. "Same as your big brother."
Riley returned to the instrument, but Gavin kept his eyes locked on Kellan. Lowering his voice, I heard him ask, "Can I speak with you a moment?"
Kellan's expression instantly turned guarded, but he nodded and indicated the hallway. Kellan gave me a kiss on the cheek as he walked by, then he disappeared with his father around the corner. I looked back at Hailey, but she only shrugged; she didn't know what Gavin wanted to tell him.
Finished with the melon, I hurriedly plopped the pieces into a bowl, then wiped the juice off of my hands with a towel. Curious, I left the kitchen and followed them.
Kellan and his father were just around the corner, near the doorway that held the laundry room and the downstairs bathroom. Standing close to Kellan, I heard Gavin say, "I didn't want to discuss this in front of Hailey and Riley, but—" He stopped talking when he noticed me. Kellan glanced up and gave me a brief smile, so I felt okay to walk over to him. Gavin looked unsure if he should speak with me nearby, but Kellan nodded at him to continue. "Um, well, Martin and Caroline told me about your visitor earlier. They said she was . . . sort of blackmailing you?"
Kellan sighed while my cheeks heated. Gavin looked between the two of us. "Is everything okay?"
Kellan grit his jaw and tightened his fists; his knuckles turned white. "Yeah, it's fine. This . . . is nothing. I'll take care of it before I leave tomorrow."
My heart dropped that Kellan was leaving so soon. I couldn't join him just yet. My parents were still in town for a few more days, and I had a job that I needed to quit. Pete had been good to me, so I wanted to do it right this time and give him a full two weeks' notice. I also had promised my flighty sister that I would go to her next doctor's appointment with her. So unfortunately, Kellan was returning to Los Angeles without me. But first, he was going to have to meet up with that . . . woman.