“She threw me out!” Samuel Wilde dumped a large green duffle bag in the middle of Joe’s living room floor with a clunk, leaving the front door wide open. He was the shortest of the Wilde brothers—Joe, Logan, Ben, and Jake—standing at six foot two, and he was also the one who lived on the edge, with longish hair touching the collar of his shaggy leather jacket. Make no mistake, though: He was still a damn handsome man.
Margaret came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishcloth. Her husband, Joe, stepped behind her, setting his large, callused hand on her shoulder. Before she could take another step, he slid his solid arm around her and pulled her close so she could feel all his hardness, every warm part of him that drove her wild at night, in the morning, and every time they were together. His arms were so solid and strong that she believed they could shelter her from anything bad that came her way.
Margaret was tall for a woman, standing at five foot seven in flats, but her husband still had five inches on her. When she turned in his arms, she had to glance up, and her stomach did that funny fluttering thing it did each time she took in the sharp, handsome features that took her breath away. He set a kiss to her lips as she scraped her fingers over the shadow on his chin. He still hadn’t found time to shave that day.
“Are you two listening to me?” Samuel stalked past them on the hardwood floor, which creaked under his weight, his hiking boots tracking dirt into the kitchen—Joe’s kitchen. Margaret still had the house down the road, which she’d inherited from her grandfather, and they had yet to agree on where they were going to live. Actually, Margaret realized, there was a lot that still hadn’t been decided since their wedding two days before.
“Who threw you out?” Joe asked.
Margaret turned in his arms again so she could see Samuel. Joe tightened his arm around her, flattening his hand possessively on her stomach so she couldn’t move one inch away from him. She found it so easy to be with him, to love him. She took in Samuel, the law student with lighter hair but the same swagger and heart-stopping good looks of all the brothers, complete with the linebacker shoulders and everything. He had the whole package, and Margaret suspected women couldn’t help themselves from stopping and taking a second or third look. Samuel started opening cupboards in the kitchen, rummaging until he seemed to find what he wanted. He pulled out a box of cookies, Joe’s favorite chocolate chip ones.
“Deena, my girlfriend, remember?” He ripped open the bag and crammed a couple cookies in his mouth, gesturing as if Joe should know.
Margaret stared at the ripped bag, wondering if Samuel was planning on eating the whole thing. She rested her head against Joe as he rubbed his hand over her purple T-shirt, to the waistband of her jeans, and then over her hip, and she swayed a bit. She was fast losing interest in what Samuel was saying. She wanted to turn around and lose herself in Joe, letting him drag her back to bed, rip off her clothes, and do all those wonderful, delicious things she knew she’d never tire of. She tilted her neck and glanced up at Joe, taking in his puzzled expression.
“I thought you and Jill were still together,” he said.
“Who’s Jill?” Margaret asked. She hadn’t even known Samuel had a girlfriend—obviously not a serious one, since he and all the brothers had come stag to the wedding.
Samuel gave her a distracted glance and turned all his attention to Joe, his expression now a little irritated. “Jill and I parted ways months ago. Deena was the girl of my dreams! We were living together. Remember the chick I met at the bar after Jill and I split? I took her home and, well, we clicked.”
Joe was still frowning. “Did I ever meet her?”
“Don’t you remember, at Mom and Dad’s, last summer? Right before you and Ryan left, I showed up as you were loading your truck. I introduced you.” Samuel gave Joe an odd look as he shoved another cookie in his mouth.
“Oh yeah, the chick on the back of the bike, the blonde. I thought that was Jill. They look alike,” Joe said, running his hand across Margaret’s ribs, skimming the underside of her breasts. She wondered if she gasped as she fought the urge to let her eyes roll back in her head.
“They’re not even close,” Samuel said. “Jill had short hair. Deena had hair down to her waist and was stacked.” He paused, glancing over at Margaret and shrugging almost apologetically. “No offense, Margaret. It’s a guy thing.”
“Evidently.” She cleared her throat when Joe’s hand skimmed the underside of her breast again, as if to make a point. She knew he appreciated her C-cup size, because she could see the heat in his eyes every time he undressed her. He lavished worship on the generous swell of her breasts with his hands, his mouth, his lips, again and again. He believed they were his to play with, as if he had every right.
He chuckled, his warm breath feathering against her cheek, before kissing her lower on her neck. She cleared her throat, feeling her face warm. Samuel smirked and then winked, not bothering to turn away, and she squirmed.
She finally wiggled free and set her hand on Joe’s chest. “Stop,” she murmured. She felt her face heat and tilted her head toward Samuel, and she stepped away when Joe reached to pull her back against him.
“Why? We’re on our honeymoon. We just got married,” he added, and she didn’t miss the odd look from Samuel.
“Honeymoon? Come on, brother, seriously? A honeymoon isn’t keeping your wife at home with a teenager who could walk in on you at any moment. You’ve got to take her somewhere, somewhere hot and nice. Where are you two going, anyway?”
Actually, Margaret wanted to know the exact same thing. Just then, the front door slammed shut and Ryan, Joe’s fourteen-year-old son, hobbled in. He had gotten tall and looked gangly in his baggy jeans, a ball cap stuck on his head.
“Camping,” Joe muttered.
Camping, seriously? Margaret thought. She was still trying to wrap her head around that idea as she took in the irritated, glowering, wronged expression that Ryan seemed to be able to snap on his face quicker than the wind could change directions. She realized the meaning of what Joe had just said: bugs, the cold, and a hard ground?
Before she could say anything, the front door opened again, and Logan, Joe’s eldest brother, a former marine, stomped in and sent the door slamming shut behind him.
Margaret opened her mouth to say something before Logan hollered after Ryan: “Hey, come on back here, Ryan! It’s not the end of the world, and moping around isn’t the way to deal with it.”
“What’s going on?” Joe said, holding Margaret’s hips for a second, sliding his hand around her waistline. That simple touch was like a drug, and then he stepped away, leaving her feeling empty and cold as he followed his brother.
The door to Ryan’s room slammed shut. Logan was right behind him, trying to open it, but the door wouldn’t budge, obviously locked. He started pounding on it, and Margaret angled her head to look down the hall, which led to all three bedrooms and one bathroom, the walls painted a dingy white and scattered with framed photos. Logan was tall, solidly build, and hunky, and he carried himself as if he were the leader of the Wilde brothers. He was totally ripped, from what she could tell, exuding an energy that could knock a person flat on her ass. She wondered at the way he pounded on the door again, shaking the pictures on the walls, and then jerked the locked knob as if he was about to send the door flying open.
“Ryan, open up now!” he said in a voice that reminded her of Joe. He stepped back as if to examine the door before putting his shoulder to it, and it crashed open, splintering part of the frame.
Seriously? She watched the scene, her jaw slack, as Joe gestured in his annoyed way, striding now toward Logan.
“What the hell is going on? Shit, Logan, you broke the door!” he said. He had totally forgotten their honeymoon now.
“Ah, knock it off, Joe,” Logan said. “I’ll fix it. Besides, your kid here is acting like a big wuss.”
“I’m not a wuss!” Ryan shouted. “Don’t call me that just because I didn’t want a haircut. It’s my hair. If I want it long, that’s my choice.”
Both men muttered something that sounded like “Hell no” or another crude response. Margaret opened her mouth to say something as she started down the hall, glancing over her shoulder to Samuel, who was following, grinning like a fool. He started laughing as if he found the whole situation funny and completely normal.
Ryan stormed out of his room, brushing past Logan and Joe and pulling off his ball cap, exposing less than an inch of hair. He now had a buzz cut similar to the kind worn by guys in the military, and Margaret winced. His ears stuck out a bit in an odd, unusual way, and his long hair had hidden that defect quite nicely.
“Okay, Ryan, knock it off. You needed a haircut anyway,” Joe said, turning to Logan, now serious after taking in the sight of his son. “Did you have to get him a buzz cut?” he said in a low voice.
“What? It looks great, easy to take care of. He’ll use less shampoo.” Logan pointed to his own hair as if the question was a no-brainer.
“Looks awesome, just like a billiard ball,” Samuel said. He rubbed his nephew’s head and slung his arm around the kid’s neck, pulling him closer. “Here, have a cookie.” He shook the bag, and Ryan shoved his hand in, taking one before shrugging away from his uncle and dropping into the easy chair in the corner to mope.
Margaret wasn’t sure what to say or do as she took in the brothers, who were like three overgrown boys. They filled the average-size home, making it feel way too small. She started to speak, but Logan gestured between her and Joe, his jean jacket rustling. The blue-gray of his piercing eyes made the gray speckled through the sides of his hair really stand out.
“Aren’t you two going on a honeymoon or something?” he asked.
Ryan was still sulking, and Samuel added, “Yeah, apparently Romeo here is taking his new wife camping.” He spoke with his mouth full, cookie crumbs dribbling and falling to the hardwood floor. Margaret’s eyes went to the mess—not that she was about to clean anything. In fact, as far as housework went, well, she’d rather clean out a barn. Margaret crossed her arms, about to ask Joe if he was kidding, when Logan started again.
“Seriously, camping? Hmm, intriguing, a woman who likes camping,” he said, turning to Margaret as this had been her idea.
“Can I talk, here?” she said. “Joe, are you kidding? We’re going camping?” When she heard “honeymoon,” she had been thinking someplace warm, with a beach, not that she was the type to hang around on a beach, stripped down in an itsy-bitsy bikini, even though she had the body and could probably pull it off. Frankly, as she thought about it, she would be more comfortable with one of those one-piece numbers that could hide all her imperfections, with a big bulky T-shirt draped overtop, and maybe one of those big-brimmed sunhats to keep the sun off her head. She frowned as she remembered that the last time she’d tried to sun herself, five or six years earlier, she’d gotten badly sunburned.
“What’s wrong with camping?” Joe asked. “I put a lot of thought into it. We’ll saddle up the horses and pitch a tent up by the lake with no one around, just the two of us and the great outdoors.”
“And the bugs, and the weather,” Samuel added. “It’s spring, Joe, and still chilly at night—or is that your plan, to warm up your bride?”
“Do you mind?” Joe said. “Hey, since you’re here, why don’t you stay and help out with Ryan? Logan, you’re hanging around a few more days, right?”
“Yeah, I could do that,” Logan said. “I’ll hang out with my nephew once he decides to shake off that big old chip on his shoulder.”
Ryan said nothing as he crossed his arms over his chest, hunkering back in the chair. Margaret took in all three of these men as they talked about her honeymoon as if she wasn’t even here.
“Sure, I’ll stay,” Samuel said, shrugging as if it was nothing.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” Logan asked. “I thought you had to get home. Didn’t you leave?” He stepped up to Samuel and tapped him on the chest, looking down at him. The height difference was noticeable as they crowded around each other, and then Logan ripped the bag of cookies from his hand.
“Hey!” Samuel barked, brushing the crumbs from his wine-colored shirtfront. “Deena threw me out.”
Logan glanced over his shoulder to Joe. “Who’s Deena?”
Samuel appeared irritated, and Joe slung his arm around Logan’s shoulder. “I’ll fill you in while you help me sort out the camping gear and ready the horses.”
Margaret started to say something and even raised her hand in front of her, but they went out the door without a second glance.
Samuel touched her shoulder and said “Have fun!” as he reached for his bag and started down the hall. “I’m taking the spare room. Tell Logan he gets the couch.”
Margaret sighed as she dropped to the sofa across from a sulking Ryan. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’ll grow back.”
He gave her a hard, withering look as he reached for his ball cap and stuck it back on his head.
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