Authors: Aliyah Burke
She shook her head. “Sorry.”
He furrowed his brow. “Why not?”
“I don’t see you having meals with the other pilots. So why me?”
I don’t trust myself to be that close to you.
“You know damn well why you. I don’t want to fuck Eric or the others.”
“And you’re not going to fuck me,” she said through clenched teeth. “I told you—”
“I know, you don’t mix business with pleasure.” His words were low and dangerous. “Tell me, Alyse, that you don’t lay awake at night, missing my touch. The feel of my hands running along your skin. My tongue exploring and lapping between your legs as you clamp your thighs around my ears, holding me there.”
She had a hard time swallowing. Damn him. She wouldn’t give in. “Okay. I don’t lay awake at night. Not to mention, Wild, there are a lot of men in this town. If I have an itch it isn’t hard to get it scratched.”
He went rigid. Her insides clenched as she held perfectly still. She knew that look as if she could see his eyes without the shades. He went from teasing and coaxing to predatory in the flash of a blink. Fury emanated from him and she didn’t have to be a genius to tell he was beyond pissed.
“Don’t joke about things like that, Alyse.”
She clamped her mouth down on her response, knowing better than to push him further. And no, it wasn’t that she was afraid he would hurt her, that wasn’t it at all. Wild was pure alpha male and there were just some things it wasn’t smart to antagonize him with. That would be one of them.
“Good-bye, Wild.” She opened the door and slipped in the—thankfully—warmed interior, still keeping one wary eye on him. He hadn’t moved a muscle, not even when she watched him in her rear view.
Alyse followed Karen into the kitchen and rubbed her hands down her pants legs as she laid her eyes for the first time on Mrs. Wilder.
“Sarah,” Karen said. “This is Alyse.”
The woman backed out of the fridge, set the platter of sliced meats down on the counter, and wiped her hands on her apron. Her smile, wide and welcoming, calmed Alyse’s unease.
“Alyse,” she said. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you. I have heard much about you.”
They shook hands and Alyse smiled back. “Thank you, ma’am. You have a lovely home.”
“So, which of my sons is after you?”
Karen turned her head to hide her smile and Alyse blinked a few times. “Excuse me?”
“You’re single, right?”
“So, it stands to reason one of my three unattached boys would be after you. Which is it?”
“I work for them, ma’am. I’m not available to any of them.” Alyse wanted to sink below the tiled floor.
“Hmm, a good way of saying nothing at all to answer my question.” She shrugged. “I’ll find out eventually.” She waved both Alyse and Karen over. “Help me carry this stuff to the table.”
Dutifully, Alyse did as ordered. When she and Karen were out of earshot of Mrs. Wilder, Alyse said, “Really? Didn’t think I may want a bit of warning before I got the questions like that?”
Karen laughed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think she would say that. Of course, it could have been worse, as it was for me. My first introduction was after Rhodi and I had been caught by Derek having sex in the janitor’s closet. And you know he can’t keep his mouth shut, so she knew. I had to face her with that knowledge.”
She placed the tray down. “The janitor’s closet? Really, Karen? Couldn’t stop the elevator or hit it in his office?”
“Shut up, you,” she teased, her skin turning a delightful shade of red.
“You’re right, I do feel better now.”
“So glad I could help,” she drawled.
Alyse leaned closer. “I understand, though, I’m guessing you just couldn’t wait to get to him. I know that closet isn’t far from your desk.”
Karen punched her. “Hush.”
The guys entered with Brayden, minus Derek and Wild. Derek had an excuse, being as he was gone. Alyse had no idea where Wild was but she refused to ask. She also wasn’t going to question why the other pilots weren’t there.
“Where’s Wild?” Sarah asked as she cut cake after the singing of Happy Birthday to Brayden.
Alyse perked up for the answer all the while doing her best to pretend it didn’t matter at her.
“He’s not elsewhere, is he?” A mother’s concern laced her question.
“He’s home, Mom. Not sure where he is.” Adam sliced his gaze to Alyse and she stared blandly at him.
I don’t know where he is, bud. Not sure why you’re looking at me like I should be able to produce him for you.
She’d learned that Adam was the overbearing one. He cared deeply for his brothers and had—in a way—taken over the role of father.
Alyse had no idea where Wild was. From the corner of her eye she spied Rhodi spying her as well. She took the piece of cake offered her with a smile for Sarah. In her dark eyes, Alyse saw pain—only briefly—but it had been there.
Is there a problem between Wild and his mom?
She chastised herself. She wasn’t here to get involved in familial affairs, she had a job to do and with each passing second she was beginning to think that her arriving to this thing, a family affair, had been a mistake.
The afternoon was spent laughing and talking. Alyse had a wonderful time despite her hesitation on the brilliance of her attending. After convincing Sarah to rest in the living room and enjoy her grandson, Alyse and Karen cleaned up. The brothers were outside tossing around a football, she could see them out the sliding door.
“Thanks for inviting me, Karen.”
“Please, there’s no need to thank me. I wanted,
wanted you here.”
“I appreciate it. I had a wonderful time, it’s a great family.”
She glanced out the door and saw Wild stride up to the two siblings who were present. Adam got right in his face, Wild refused to back down.
“I see he finally showed,” Karen said as she carried more dishes to the sink.
“He usually late?”
Karen didn’t respond so Alyse faced her friend who cast a nervous looked between the obvious escalating tension with the brothers and the doorway to the living room. She moved closer and lowered her voice.
“Yes. He doesn’t feel welcome because he looks so much like Mr. Wilder and therefore believes all he does is remind their mother of what she no longer has in her life. Sad, really. I know she loves him but there is a rift there. One which seems to grow daily.”
Wild shook his head, gesturing with broad strokes of his hand. Adam wasn’t standing still himself. In moments, Rhodi stepped between them and placed a hand on each of their chests.
“What’s up with them? Is this about to be an Army-Marine pissing match?”
“With them, who knows?” Karen went back and cleared the remaining dishes from the table.
“I imagine there are a lot of those skirmishes.”
“More than you could believe.” Sarah approached, a sad smile on her face. “With each son in a different branch of the military plus with boys being boys, they were always bleeding from one thing or another.”
Brayden reached for his mom who took him and walked away.
“You didn’t talk about your family, Alyse. Do you have siblings?”
Tearing her gaze from Wild—let’s be honest, he was the one she watched—she gave Sarah her full attention.
“Get out of my face, Adam.” Wild hadn’t wanted to punch his brother this bad in a long time. But he was being an ass. A condescending ass.
“Get over yourself, bastard. How is it you couldn’t make it to your only nephew’s first birthday party?”
Wild ground his jaw. “It’s been a really long night, Adam.” He shoved Rhodi’s hand away from his chest. “Back off, Air Force.”
“Alyse made it.” Adam’s comment drew his attention from his brother who’d served in the Air Force and put it back on the Army soldier.
Wild stepped toe to toe with his brother, Adam. He stood about two inches taller but Wild knew he outweighed Adam by a bit. “Watch your tone, Adam, before you push me too far.”
“Can you two just get along for the time? It’s my son’s birthday party. I’m not as pissed about his tardiness, Adam. Let it go. He’s here now.” Rhodi sounded put out. “This is getting old between the two of you.”
Wild waited, unmoving until Adam looked away first. Then he turned and walked to the house, doing his best to calm himself before he got there. He spied Karen in the kitchen with Brayden as he crossed the deck to the sliding door.
“Wild,” she said with a small smile.
He liked her, a lot. She was good for Rhodi. “Hey, bud, happy birthday.” He chucked Brayden on the cheek as he kissed Karen’s.
“Living room with your mom.” She readjusted her hold on Brayden.
“Thanks.” Wild paused in the doorway and stared at the two women. Alyse held a family picture. He couldn’t see it but he knew it by the space on the mantle.
“Wild looks a lot like his father. The others take after you.”
That familiar unpleasantness cropped up in Wild’s stomach.
“He does,” she said softly, fingers tracing the image. “So much.” His mom shook her head. “Takes after him as well. Stubborn as well, never gives up on what he wants.”
“You must be proud of him. All of your sons.”
Wild held his breath when his mom turned her head slightly and pinned him with her dark gaze. “I’m very proud of him and the man he’s become.” She looked away. “Now it’s just you and your brother, no parents?”
“No, ma’am. They were older when I was born and I lost them my first year after high school. My nephew has brain cancer and so I do what I can to help ease my brother’s burden. We’re close, I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like to but we talk often.”
She touched Alyse’s arm. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“Thanks.” Alyse replaced the picture. “You have a lovely family and home, Mrs. Wilder. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your grandson’s first birthday.”
His mom placed her hand along Alyse’s cheek. “Honey, you are part of this family. We have breakfasts together once a week and dinners two to three times. You are now expected.”
Alyse began to shake her head. “I don’t think that’s fair, not when the other pilots aren’t here.”
“Honey, that’s because Wild has no interest in any of the other pilots. He’s picked you. You’re family now.”
Sarah laughed gently and lowered her hand from her cheek to take Alyse’s hand. “I knew one of my sons was after you. The fire in your eyes and the way he’s trying really hard not to say anything as he stands over there, tells me it’s Wild. I’m glad to see he’s finally settled down. More grandkids is always a bonus.”
When Alyse’s gaze widened he stepped forward. “Mom.”
She shrugged without repentance. “Just calling it like I see it. Glad to see you made it, Wild.”
He kissed his mom and she walked out of the room whistling under her breath. Then he focused on Alyse. She looked positively stricken.
Wild reached out to touch her. “Are you okay?”
“No.” She stepped away from him. “I just had your mother…I can’t, nope, just can’t. I need to leave.”
“I just got here, sweetheart, where are you going?”
“Not in the mood, Wild.”
He held up a hand. “Okay, I’m sorry. My mom can be a bit straightforward in her speech. Don’t let it get to you.”
“Don’t let it get to me? She basically told me she’s waiting for me to pop out some grandkids for her.” She worked her jaw. “I
for this company, do you have any idea how it feels to have the mother of my
tell me that?”
So he’d not thought about it that way. “Look, I’m sorry about that.”
“Right. Sure you are. You’re so used to having things your way, I’m sure you were really concerned how telling your family we slept together was something you gave a damn about.” She slashed a hand through the air. “I mean, why stop with the night in Belize? Did you also tell them about the night I ran into you here before my first flight with D.A.R.K. and all the sex we had then, or was that for your next family dinner?”
Lord, her fire, it had him so ready to do things to her that had no place for his family to even be in earshot. He sensed them behind him, listening avidly.
“I didn’t, no,” he said, working hard not to smile. “I do believe, however, you just informed them of that.”
Color leeched from her skin and she looked around him, eyes growing wide again. “Shit,” she muttered. “I’m leaving.” Lifting her chin, she took a deep breath. “Thanks for having me.” She skittered to the door like a fawn running from something that scared it.
He glared at his family who stood there with shit-eating grins on their faces. Whirling around, he struck out after her and caught up to her as she opened the door to her vehicle.
She whipped back to face him, hand on the frame of her door. “What?”
He ignored the telltale sign of tears in the corner of her eyes, determined to find out later why she had them. “I came late because I was dealing with something for work. I need you.”
Her entire persona changed. She was alert and dare he say it, even a bit deadly looking. “When are we wheels up?”
He checked his watch. “Forty-five minutes work for you?”
“I’m ready now. I have a bag in the back of my SUV so I can go at a moment’s notice.”
“What about alcohol?” He gestured back to the house. “I know they had drinks there.”
She shook her head. “I do drink but not when I’m on twenty-four hour call. I had water and tea.”
“Let’s go then.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
He shook his head. “No need. I’ll ride with you, my Audi can stay here. Mom has an extra set of keys.”
The moment he settled in she drove away. “Why don’t your brothers seem to be aware of what’s going on?”
“Derek called me for help. I told Adam and Rhodi outside, they aren’t happy but I don’t care. I’m going in to help my brother.”
“Okay.” She dropped it concentrating on driving through the accumulated snow which fell from the sky.
He admired how she handled herself. As he took care of a few things inside, he knew she was out doing a final check. The snow fall had increased and he wondered if it would be a problem in taking off.