Authors: Marie Mason
He watched as Remington turned away, taking a seat on the two-cushion couch. The look on his brother’s face was something he had never seen before. Loneliness? He sat on the only other piece of furniture in the room, a large chair that had seen better days. He pulled Julie down on his lap. No way was she sitting by Remington. “Did you find out anything?”
“Umm, maybe.” His eyes met Julie’s and Rafe felt, rather than heard her give a small gasp.
The two continued to look at each other for a long moment before Julie’s gaze broke away. She lowered her head and refused to look at either of the men again.
Rafe’s eyes darted back and forth between her and his brother. Remington just sat there a serious expression on his face.
“Want to tell me what the fuck is going on?” When Remington didn’t answer, he turned his attention back to Julie.
She sat on his lap, quiet as a mouse, twisting her fingers together in the hem of her shirt. He tapped one long finger beneath her chin until she looked up at him, her eyes searching his face. They were bright and seemed enormous in her suddenly pale face. Everything inside him stilled, knowing whatever she was about to say would change his life forever.
“Tell me, sweetheart.”
“There’s something you need to know, Rafe.”
“I kind of figured that, seeing how you’re about to shred your shirt and Remington is looking like he did when Roark and I took away his favorite toy when we were small.” He gave her a reassuring smile but didn’t pressure her to hurry.
Remington gave a fuck-you snarl and held up his middle finger, making Julie smile. Rafe didn’t say anything, letting her take her time. It was clear that she was having a difficult time saying it, whatever it was.
Rafe had known what she would tell him would be important, but he sure as hell hadn’t expected it to make the universe stop spinning. He couldn’t breathe. He tried to force the air back into his lungs. As hot as hell had gotten at times, he’d never felt as if all the oxygen had been seared from his lungs. Her words hit him hard in his gut, sinking in with the force of a two-fisted punch.
“You’re pregnant?” he demanded. “What the hell?”
“Don’t curse me,” she snapped a protective hand covering her stomach.
Damn, he thought seeing the gesture, remembering she’d made it more than once since he’d burst into the diner. He should have known. He should have fucking known. Drawing in a deep breath, he took in her scent. Granted he wasn’t a shifter, but all his senses were enhanced thanks to his combined demon-angel DNA. Again he breathed in… and there it was. The scent of his baby.
His breath grew short again, feeling as if a giant hand had wrapped itself around his chest, slowly tightening until he could hardly breathe. He stood up, Julie still in his arms. Bending down, he placed her gently on the chair he’d just abandoned. He couldn’t sort through the emotions racing through him fast enough.
The first one was fear as he remembered the encounters with the other supernaturals they’d already had today.
“Damn, shit, fuck.” Now he knew why Luke had put out a contract. And why it had been on her instead of him.
Julie was pregnant with the next generation of Conroy demons and Luke, the Prince of Darkness, wanted it bound to him.
No fucking way in h
ell that was ever going to happen.
Julie’s eyes widened as Rafe cursed and started to stomp around the room. In the short time she’d known him he’d never shown such negative emotions. Well, if she didn’t count the two times he’d threatened to kill someone today. His seemingly positive attitude and upbeat take on living was what had drawn her to him in the first place. Oh, he had a dark side, she’d seen that the first night they’d slept together. The things he had done to her, ordered her to do to him… The memories made her wet and achy between her legs. But he was also charming and witty. Something she’d so desperately needed.
She watched as he paced back and forth, mumbling to himself, running his hands over his head. He still kept his hair military short. She remembered the feel of it beneath the palm of her hand as he’d driven in and out of her, his cock driving her insane with desire.
Tonight the light from the lamp at the end of the sofa made the dips and hollows of Rafe’s utterly masculine face dance in and out of her vision. Not that she needed bright light to remember him. The shape of him, the details of him were burned upon the inside of her eyelids, and wouldn’t go away. His shoulders were broader than she remembered. Their width emphasized his tapering torso, lightly matted with dark curly hair all the way down past his navel to a taut, rock-hard abdomen. And below that…
She couldn’t prevent the groan that escaped as she remembered the size and strength of his cock. And how it had felt inside her, thrusting in and out—need shuddered through her. Shit, her eyes flew toward the other Conroy brother in the room. Could he sense—or heaven forbid – smell her need? His dark eyes met hers and he gave a grin that reminded her strongly of Rafe’s killer, let-me-get-you-out-of-your-panties, smile.
The other demon appeared calm, unlike his brother who was wearing a hole in her very thin carpet. But then, why should he care that someone had put out a contract on a human? Even if that human had slept with his brother.
She’d thought no one had known about the baby she carried. How could they? She’d hadn’t gone to the doctor, not even a free health clinic. She’d taken a home pregnancy test—about ten of them—and bought regular vitamins at a superstore. She knew she’d have to see a doctor eventually, but not yet. Not when everything was still such a shock and she was still so raw emotionally.
After a few more minutes, Remington finally broke the silence that had settled over the room like a blanket of heavy snow. “You wanna give the pacing a rest, Rafe?”
A fuck-with-me-and-you-die look was his answer. All it did was make Remington chuckle. Julie pulled her feet beneath her and studied both brothers. They were very similar yet so very different. Rafe was tall and broad shoulder, but Remington was even bigger. He reminded her of a small tank just waiting to kick into gear and do some serious damage. Rafe was more subdued, but not by much. Especially now. Before she could advert her gaze, he stopped his pacing and turned her way. Walking across the small expanse of floor, he stopped by her chair. She straightened from her slouched position, smoothing the soft knit material of her shirt over her expanded belly. No sense in hiding her baby bump now.
He stared down at her for a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity. In his eyes she saw their future. Him by her side, loving her like there was no tomorrow, surrounded by their children. She gasped and shook her head to clear away the image. That was not to be.
“May I?” His large hand hovered over her stomach, waiting for her permission to touch her.
She nodded, almost shyly, even though she didn’t know why. She was in this condition because of him. It had taken two do the tango after all. “Yes.”
Rafe watched as Julie’s beautiful eyes grew wide, becoming almost all pupil. Her apprehension hiding almost all of that beautiful brown. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want her to worry. To be afraid. He wanted to gather her into his arms and hold her tight, to smooth her hair, kiss her eyelids, and trace her mouth with his fingertips.
“Yes,” she said again as if he had hesitated too long.
Slowly, almost afraid he’d startle her with his touch, he pressed his palm against her belly. Now that he really took the time to look at her, he noticed the subtle changes to her body. Beneath her shirt, he could see where her breasts were spilling from the confines of the bra she wore. Her waist was thicker and the rounded curve of her stomach more pronounced. And firmer. Before, she’d been soft and cuddly. Now, there was a firmness to her stomach that could only be attributed to one thing—his baby growing inside her.
His legs went weak beneath him and he dropped to his knees beside her chair. When Roark had announced Kayley was pregnant, he’d given his brother hell for the look of fear that had crossed the other man’s face. Now he knew exactly how Roark had felt. Hopeless and so damn ferocious at the same time.
This had changed everything and changed nothing at all. He’d come to Riverton to find Julie, prepared to chase her around the world had she decided to flee. Why? Because she was his. He’d fought his way out of hell to be with her. Every feeling, every ounce of passion, every dream he’d had since he first laid eyes on her rushed through his mind. The tender and passionate feeling he felt for her in that moment sprang from the bottom of his soul. He closed his eyes, not certain he wanted to share that much of himself with her. Not yet.
As he caressed her stomach, her breasts swelled and her nipples hardened, taking his emotions, and his body, down a totally different path. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to rip open her shirt and remove her bra. Kiss her breasts, feel their shape and size in the palm of his hands now that they had changed. He wanted to spread her legs and taste her sweet juices. He could do that right now. He moved to part her legs when Remington’s voice cut through the sexual fog he found himself in like a sharp knife.
“Hey now, bro, I thought you said no threesomes.” Remington’s sharp reprimand reminded him that he and Julie weren’t alone.
And that someone was after his woman. And child.
HeLOOSENED HIS hold on herlegs and rose reluctantly back to his feet. Picking her up, he sat down in the chair with her in his lap once again. He wrapped his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her close for a kiss. As much as he wanted to ravage her, he kissed her softly, gently as was befitting for the mother of his soon-to-be child. He realized suddenly that she hadn’t said anything about the baby. “Are you happy, sweetheart? Do you want the baby?”
She bit her lip and slowly nodded her head. He had a feeling she wasn’t necessarily answering his first question in the affirmative. He squeezed the nape of her neck in reassurance before gathering her to him. He let out a sigh of relief when she allowed him to pull her close and nestled against his chest. In that moment, as both heaven and hell as his witness, he vowed to make her never regret her choice that day when she’d accepted his offer to buy her a drink and the consequences of that decision.
“So what do we do?” He turned to his brother, wishing that Roark was here with them. There was nothing the Conroy brothers couldn’t accomplish when they set their minds to it.
“Talk to Luke.”
Rafe snorted as he stroked Julie’s hair, loving the feel of the soft texture beneath his calloused palm. “Yeah, that worked out swell for Roark and Kayley.”
“Who’s Roark and Kayley?”
Rafe smiled down at Julie. “He’s our older brother and his mate. Or wife. Woman.”
“You mean there’s three of you?”
“That’s the same thing Kayley said.” Remington laughed just as hard as Rafe did at her comment. It drew a speculative glance from Rafe as if he hadn’t heard the sound very often.
“Your mother must be a saint to have raised three demon boys.”
“Nope, just an angel.” The men shared a grin and Julie knew they had given their mother… hell. Briefly, she wondered how that worked. Being married to a demon and all. Had they been raised in hell? Spent part of the year in heaven? Had their mother been some modern day version of Persephone?
No one said anything for a moment, then Remington spoke again. “You don’t happen to have a half-demon, half-incubus as a father, do you?” He directed his question at Julie.
She looked at Rafe to see if she should take Remington’s question seriously. The grave expression on his face told her she should. “I’m sorry, Rafe, I don’t think there’s any supernaturals in my family tree. I’m adopted.”
When she looked at him with such a look of despair, he explained Roark’s new father-in-law had been half-demon and half-incubus. “He followed Kayley down to hell when she went looking for Roark and gave Luke what-for. It was awesome to watch.”
“Why did Roark’s mate have to go to hell?” Julie sat up abruptly in Rafe’s lap, her voice holding more than a note of fear.
“Easy, baby.” Rafe rubbed his hand down her arm, easing her back against his chest, wondering how he should explain. “First, sweetheart, you aren’t going to have to go to hell.” He mentally crossed his fingers, hoping he wasn’t telling his mate a whopper of a lie. “She was the key to breaking the curse so she had to…” He trailed off, not really knowing how to explain.
Remington took pity on him. “Breaking the curse involved one of us falling in love with a witch.”
“I see.” Doubts started to bombard Julie. Was it so unheard of a demon falling in love? With a witch? Or maybe a human? She bit her lip.
“No, you don’t sweetheart, but you will.” Remington winked at her, ignoring the low growl that emanated from his brother. He loved flirting with his brothers’ mates. “Kayley had to deliver a writ of cessation to Luke in order to free Roark, and us, from our bonds of servitude. Naturally, Luke didn’t appreciate the fact that he was going to lose, if I may be so humble to say, three of his best bounty hunters.”
Julie felt like she had fallen into a fairy tale gone really, really wrong. There didn’t seem to be a happily-ever-after in sight. “And then what happened?”
“He made Roark admit he loved Kayley.” This from Rafe.
She turned her face up to look at him. “But I thought he did.”
“Oh, he did—does—but Luke wanted a deeper, more profound declaration.” Rafe paused and the two men exchanged a glance that Julie recognized easily enough. They were afraid she couldn’t handle the truth.
“Rafe.” His named carried a warning. If she was going to have to face down the Prince of Hell for the man she loved, she wanted to know everything. If Roark’s mate had stepped in to save the man she loved, she wanted to be able to do the same. And without any witchy powers, she needed every advantage she could get.
Plus, she had two souls to protect now. Instinctively, she placed her hand over her stomach.
Looking into Rafe’s face, his eyes dark and somber, his expression the same, she knew she would do anything for this man. And she meant anything. Even walking through the halls of hell.
Remington answered for his brother again. “When he threatened to behead Roark—”
Remington waved her exclamation away and she gave him a glare that said he’d answer for his attitude later. “Kayley didn’t like the way her boyfriend was being treated—”
“I wonder why,” Julie mumbled.
“—and she called her father.”
“The half-demon, half-succubus.” Remington and Rafe finished their story together.
“I’ve got to get her out of here.” Rafe jumped up from the chair so quickly, he almost dumped Julie in the floor. He caught her just in time and once again she found herself sitting in the chair while he paced the floor. To Julie, his eyes looked half-crazed and he looked more demon than she’d ever seen him. Remington must have thought the same thing because he stood up and placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Calm down, Rafe. There’s no need to panic.”
“No need!” Rafe shouted, running his hands over his head in the gesture she’d come to realize meant he was nervous. Her heart sped up a beat. Or scared. “My woman is pregnant and she has a bounty on her head. I think I need to fucking panic.”
“I really think the bounty was more of a way to get you back in hell, not to really harm her. You know Luke has a warped sense of humor.”
“Oh, that makes me feel lots better.” Rafe threw his hands up in the air as if to indicate his brother was crazy. Remington turned around and caught the smile forming on her face and winked at her. She shrugged her shoulders. What could she say? Rafe was damn cute when he was upset.
Rafe continued to pace and Remington just watched him. He had no idea how to help his brother over this latest hurtle in the drama that was the Conroy family. The family had wondered why Rafe had gotten a wild hair up his ass about breaking the curse that kept the brothers bound in servitude to Luke. Now, Remington knew why. She—they—were sitting on the chair behind him.
Rafe had a woman and a child on the way. Just like Roark. A wave of loneliness swelled inside Remington and threatened to drown him. His brothers were not only mated but had children on the way. Suddenly, his life sucked. Oh, he wasn’t one to usually bemoan his fate. Had in fact enjoyed most of the benefits of being on Luke’s payroll rather than a reluctant resident of hell. He had several nice fat bank accounts and had gotten as much pussy as his demon could have possibly handled.
He just hadn’t found a woman of his own.
For a moment, he thought about calling his mother, or Kayley. Or Clementine, his mother’s assistant. Another angel and a woman he tried to avoid at all costs. But, he’d be willing to put up with the prudish miss if it would help his brother’s mate. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. They should take Julie to heaven. It would take more than a wayward, ex-bounty hunter to make Luke darken the halls of heaven.
He opened his mouth to tell Rafe what he thought they should do when the air around them began to shimmer. Almost immediately, it felt as if an electric current had zapped him. He was more than familiar with that feeling. Out of instinct, he covered his eyes before the burst of light could blind him.
Blinking, he saw the fully formed figure near the door.
Clementine, his mother’s assistant. An angel in training.
And the woman he was becoming more and more certain was his.
“Hello.” The seductive silkiness of her voice was totally at odds with the long flowing white dress she wore that covered her from the neck down. Just that one word, spoken by her, had his body on full alert, just as it always had since she’d started working for his mother. A fact he’d been very careful to conceal from his family.
“Clementine, what are you doing here?” Rafe had stopped his pacing as soon as the other woman had appeared.
“Your mother wishes to extend an invitation to you and Julie.”
Remington noted Clementine didn’t glance his way. So what else was new he thought? She avoided him like the plague anytime he visited his mother in heaven, or whenever his mother came to hell and brought the curvy angel with her. Remington didn’t know whether to be annoyed or grateful as hell.
“It’s a good idea, Rafe. No one can get to her there.” He crossed his arms and straightened to his full height. Even though he wasn’t anywhere near her, Clementine took a step back as if his physical body intimidated her. It was no secret that Remington was the largest of the Conroy brothers. He had used his height and strength on more than one occasion to ‘convince’ a condemned soul to come back to hell, but he never wanted that reaction from her. From Clementine.
“Why don’t you go pack a bag, baby.” Rafe leaned down and gave Julie a soft kiss on her right cheek.
With a slow nod, Julie left the two men and the woman she could only assume was an angel in the living room, her head spinning at the events that had just taken place. The uncle of her child had outed her and told Rafe that she was pregnant. Then he’d sprung the news that Rafe’s former employer, a prince of hell, had put out a contract on her and finally, she’d was about to be introduced to the grandparents of her child—in heaven of all places.
In the bedroom, Julie hurriedly packed an overnight bag. What did one take to heaven? Would it be hot or cold? Were there seasons in heaven? Would there be snow on the ground? Or warm and balmy like the Florida Keys. She slapped a hand over her mouth to prevent a hysterical laugh from escaping. A warmer climate. The father of her child was definitely from a warmer client.
Stripping off the tee and knit bottoms, she pulled on a pair of jeans that barely still fit. She picked one of her more roomy shirts to wear, over which she placed a lightweight sweater. Out of habit, she continued to camouflage her ever expanding stomach. The bulge in the lower part of her abdomen seemed bigger every day. Added to her already generous curves and she was going to be as big as a house before this baby was born.
She placed her hand on her stomach, lightly stroking it. It really didn’t matter where she had to go, who she had to meet, as long as she kept her child safe.
Rafe’s mother welcomed him and Julie with open arms, not that he’d expected anything less. His mother really was an angel. Patient and generous. Oh, she could be tough when needed, that’s what made her such a great mother. His gaze landed on Julie as she stood at his side. He had no doubt she would be just as good a mother to his child. Immediately, his gaze was drawn to her belly. She had his baby growing inside her. It still caused him to break out in a cold sweat when he thought about it. Thought about all that could have gone wrong. Or might still go wrong.
“Son, it’s so good to see you.”
He returned his mother’s hug. As he drew back, he pulled Julie forward. “Mother this is Julie. Julie this is my mother, Rachel Conroy.” It took a moment for Julie’s attention to switch from gazing at the huge, white shimmering walls to the woman before her. He could understand her fascination. The walls appeared to move and sway in the bright sunlight. It was never dark in heaven, kind of like Alaska on steroids. Her attention finally returned to the situation at hand.
“Thank you for having me here.” Julie held out her hand to the woman before her. She was dressed in a flowing white dress that Julie had always imagined angels would wear. There were not, however, any wings in sight.
“Oh, sweet dear, where else would you go in your time of need?” Rafe’s mother hugged her as she had hugged her son. Warmth seemed to seep from her body into Julie and a sense of peace and contentment Julie had never experienced before washed over her.
“Are you really an angel?” She wanted to slap a hand over her mouth as soon as she had spoken. How rude could she possibly be.
“That’s a matter of opinion.” A big, booming voice sounded behind them before the woman dressed all in white could answer.
“Rav, that’s enough of that.” The woman looked at the man with a frown on her beautiful face before her lips curved into a smile. “Julie, this is Rafe’s father and my husband, Ravjeer. The devil in the family.”
Julie’s eyes widened at the woman’s description. Was there a difference between demons and devils? As the man came into view, Julie saw he was as tall and broad shouldered as his sons. He could pass for Rafe’s brother. But then, Rafe’s mother could be his younger sister, she looked so ageless.