Something was off tonight. I wasn’t sure what, but something was not right. Marcus seemed nervous. Low seemed anxious, and I couldn’t concentrate on either of them because Eva seemed withdrawn. I took another long sip of my beer while I sat on the sofa, listening to Preston rattle on about next week’s game. I was fighting the urge to go grab Eva from the kitchen and drag her into another room to find out what was wrong.
Since I’d woken up from our nap earlier today to find her gone, something had been off. Eva had been all smiles and telling me about Low’s visit and invite for tonight, but she’d been worrying about something. I wanted to know what. I had to fix this shit. I didn’t want her worried.
“Cage?” Preston’s voice broke into my thoughts. I jerked my gaze away from the kitchen door and looked back at Preston. He was different now that he was with Marcus’s sister, Amanda. He used to be the playboy who was known to sleep with more than one girl a night. But then, that had been why we bonded. Once I’d been that guy too.
“What?” I asked with more of an edge to my voice than I had intended.
“Have you seen that game coach has of the Buccaneers from last week? Their pitcher is insane good.” We were playing the Buccaneers next week. Preston was stressing over losing for the first time this season to them. I had bigger issues.
“Yeah, we got it,” I informed him, then set my beer down and stood up. I had to talk to Eva. This was going to drive me nuts.
“Where you going?” Preston called out. I didn’t reply. I heard Marcus say something, but I ignored them both and headed for the kitchen.
As I pushed the door open, my eyes scanned the room until I found Eva standing at the sink, washing her hands, while Amanda bubbled on happily about something she was telling them.
Eva smiled, but I could see that her smile wasn’t real. Her mind was somewhere else.
“Hey, Cage.” Amanda beamed at me, and Eva’s head snapped up and her eyes locked with mine.
“Could I steal Eva for a minute?” I asked without taking my eyes off her.
Eva dried her hands on the towel beside the sink and glanced back at Low and Amanda. “I’ll be back to check on the biscuits in a minute,” she told them then walked over to me. I held out my hand until she slipped hers into mine, and I led her out the back door of the kitchen. I didn’t want to walk back through the living room. Preston asked too many damn questions.
“Are you okay?” Eva asked as I closed the door behind us. I turned to look at her.
“You tell me, because I don’t feel like you’re okay. Something’s wrong, baby, and I need to know what it is,” I said without letting go of her hand.
Eva started to say something then stopped. She closed her eyes tightly and let out a frustrated sigh. I was right something was wrong with her. I moved closer to her, ready to protect her from whatever it was that was bothering her. I hated not knowing when she needed something.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart? Let me know so I can fix this shit,” I whispered, letting go of her hand and grabbing her waist and pulling her even closer to me.
She opened her eyes and gazed up at me sadly. “I didn’t want to worry you. I wasn’t going to say anything to you about this. But you read me too well or I suck at keeping my feelings to myself.”
I didn’t like what I was hearing.
“I’m going to talk to Daddy on Thursday about paying for my tuition next year. I’m not positive what he’s going to say. Tennessee is a long way from here, and I’m not sure he’s going to trust you enough to let me go that far away from him willingly. I know I can just go without his blessing and I will. . . but I need the money. I need him to pay for it.” A small sob escaped her mouth, and she closed it, mumbling a curse. It was so cute, I would have smiled if I wasn’t so upset about her being worried.
“If he doesn’t pay for it, then I’ll f**king make it happen. Don’t worry about it. I can sell the apartment and use that money for your tuition. It’s okay. I don’t want you worrying about this. I won’t leave you behind, Eva.”
Big tears welled up in her eyes. “That’s just it, Cage. You have to go. This is your future. It is your dream. I also refuse to let you sell your inheritance to pay for my college tuition. That apartment is your security. I won’t do it. I just won’t.”
I cupped her face in my hands and brushed the tears away with my thumbs. “I won’t sell the apartment then if you don’t want me to, and I’m going because it’s our future. My dream is a life with you, Eva. This scholarship just secures that future. Nothing more. We will both go with or without your daddy’s money. I promise you that. Now, stop worrying. I’ll make it happen.”
“Okay,” she whispered.
“Trust me,” I begged. I needed her to let this worry go.
“I do. With my life,” she replied.
It was moments like this that I was left in awe that this woman loved me this much. I never imagined someone like her in my life. The fact that she was there and she loved me and I didn’t have to fear her leaving me made everything in my life okay. She fixed it all.
I lowered my mouth to hers and nibbled on her soft bottom lip before sliding my tongue into her mouth to taste her. My world was always centered when I was holding her in my arms.
Eva pulled back as soon as my hands slipped under her shirt. The grin on her face was a real one. “Cage, we’re supposed to be inside with our friends. Not out here making out,” she said.
“Why the hell not? Making out is a helluva lot more fun than talking to those jokers,” I replied before kissing the corner of her mouth and cupping one of her br**sts in my hand.
“Cage, stop,” she said in a husky voice that told me I was turning her on. Damn, now I wanted to leave. “We need to go eat with them. I think Low wants to tell us something. She’s very excited.”
Low and Marcus had been acting weird too. I remembered that now. I reluctantly let my hand slid back out of Eva’s shirt, and I reached down and laced my fingers through hers. “Okay, we’ll go back in there, but I’m gonna be thinking about that tight little p**sy of yours all through dinner,” I replied with a wink.
I was having a hard time eating. Cage kept slipping his hand between my thighs, and I was beginning to think this that skirt was a bad idea. Every time I pushed his hand away, he would flash me this wicked grin that was so ridiculously sexy, it was a miracle I could tell him no.
“You know you wanna open up for me,” Cage whispered in my ear, making me shiver. Damn him.
A lone finger trailed up my leg and slipped under my skirt. He was really a bad boy. I didn’t think that part of him would ever change. “Let me inside those wet panties.” His low whisper was indeed making my panties wet. I was going to end up letting him have me in the bathroom before this dinner was over.
“What are you doing to her, man? Damn, she’s all kinds of red,” Preston said from across the table. Cage’s head snapped in Preston’s direction, and I was torn between humiliation at the fact that everyone knew what was going on now and fear that Cage was going to hurt him.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but I know you’re not embarrassing my girl. Because if you are, I’m gonna kick your ass.”
Preston only chuckled, but I could see the panicked look in Amanda’s eyes.
“Okay, you two. That’s enough. Preston, shut up, and Cage, calm down. Damn psychos,” Marcus said from the head of the table.
At least I wasn’t ready to grab Cage and go screw him in the bathroom anymore.
“Before Cage and Preston come to blows over the dinner table, I want to say something,” Low said, smiling over at Marcus. That look of adoration gave away what she was going to say before she could say it. I knew what this was about now. I reached over and squeezed Cage’s hand.
“I went to the doctor yesterday. We’re going to have a baby,” Willow said with the biggest smile on her face I’d ever seen.
Preston let out a whoop. “Hot damn, you two. That’s awesome.”
Amanda jumped out of her seat and ran to hug Low, then she threw herself into her brother’s arms. I watched as Marcus smiled down at his sister, chuckling at her tears of happiness. When he had found out that she was dating his best friend, he had been furious. They all got along now. It helped that Preston worshiped the ground she walked on. Marcus liked that.
Low looked over at Cage for the first time. I wondered how he would take this. I knew he loved me, but he loved her too. Just as much but differently. He squeezed my hand then let it go before he stood up and walked around the table to pull Low into his arms and hug her. I saw him whisper something in her ear, and she laughed. I hadn’t understood their relationship at first. It was hard to grasp. Over time I realized that even though they weren’t related, their hearts were. That was something I could understand. I felt the same about Jeremy. I’d grown up with Jeremy and Josh Beasley. Although my heart had always belonged to Josh, I had loved Jeremy as if he were my family. When Josh died, I had grieved with Jeremy. We had that bond. So Willow and Cage made complete sense. They hadn’t loved the same person and lost them, but they had fought to live and survive together. The neglect from their families as they grew up was easier because they had each other. Losing Josh had broken me, but it had broken Jeremy, too. Josh had been his twin brother. His other half. We’d held on to each other to survive.
My heart was full. Cage had such wonderful friends. Every one of them had accepted me as part of their group with open arms.
Watching them be so happy for Low and Marcus made my heart swell.
I stood up and walked over to congratulate Marcus, then I turned to Low as Cage let her go.
“Congratulations,” I told her, and hugged her. “You’ll make a wonderful mother.” She was already a wonderful aunt. I’d seen her with Larissa, her niece.
“Thank you. I’m just so glad Cage has you now,” she whispered.
This was why she was worried about us. She knew her life was about to drastically change, and she couldn’t be Cage’s shoulder to lean on anymore. He needed me.
Cage’s arms slipped around my waist, and he pulled me against his side. I snuggled against him as Preston slapped Marcus on the back and called him Papa. Amanda was already asking Low about names for the baby, and I enjoyed watching it all. This was happiness. Being a part of it was an amazing experience.
“Are you happy?” I asked Cage as I gazed up at his face.
He looked down at me. “Completely. When we were kids, I always thought all we’d ever have was each other. But we got lucky. Low found Marcus, and I found you.”
I pressed a kiss to his chest and looked back at the others in the room. Even if my dad wouldn’t help me get to Tennessee, we would find a way. Marcus and Low had overcome something so much more difficult than money and location, and look at them now.