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Episode Twenty

Please note these episodes are unedited.


As the heels on Clara’s boots stomp across the wooden floorboards in the hallway, I run a hand over my throbbing head. I will admit I handled the situation poorly. It’s been a long couple of months, and my usually well-governed astuteness is waning. I haven’t had a decent night sleep in months, and it’s showing on both my face and in my judgment.


I rub my tired eyes while pacing toward the bed. Even with my temples thumping from tiredness, the foreignness of a dozing woman in my domain is still amusing. I’ve never had a female spend the night, not even during the months I dated Ophelia. We were together, but for the most part, our lives were lived separately. She had her life in Hopeton, and I had just started mine in Ravenshoe. 


At the time, I thought it was ideal. I had multiple business adventures in the works as I struggled to commence my empire, a college degree to finish, and the underground fights that funded my business capital hogged every Friday night. My time was stretched extremely thin.


Don’t misconstrue. I loved Ophelia, so I made time for her, she just never solely stole my focus from the goals and aspirations I had been striving to achieve since I was a child. Only one lady has done that. It’s the same one I plan to share a bed with for the second time even without us being intimate. The very same woman I haven’t touched despite the numerous silent pleads from her body. 


Even while sleeping, Isabelle’s body can’t help but respond to my meekest touch. Every fine hair on her body bristles to attention when I run my index finger down her exposed arm and across the small portion of skin exposed between the waistband of her tight pencil pleated skirt and the hem of her fitted shirt. Her breathing shallows and the scent I become besotted with in an awfully short time doubles in strength. 


I slant my head to the side when I notice the elastic in her skirt has marked her beautiful skin. Her outfit wasn’t designed for sleeping, and the realization has me moving for my luggage to find her something more comfortable to wear. I could have one of the staff at Mummo Koti fetch her suitable nighttime wear, but the thought of her in my clothing inflates my cock so fast, I cross the room at the speed of light. Isabelle’s scent is already intoxicating, so I can only imagine how invigorating it will become when intermingled with mine.


With a plain white shirt I usually wear while running crumpled in my hand, I return to Isabelle’s half of the bed. A reminder as to why I don’t sleep with inebriated women smacks into me hard and fast when the lowering of the zipper in her skirt doesn’t cause the slightest bit of strain to fetter her features. She remains perfectly still, proving without a doubt that women under the influence are not capable of rational decision making. 


After raising the bedding to maintain her modesty, I slide her skirt down her slim thighs before shifting my focus to her top half. Although her shirt looks painted onto the luscious curves of her chest, it comes away without too much trouble. 


After dumping it onto the floor with her skirt, I pull my shirt over her head, tug it down her body, then carefully pull her hair out from the collar. As stated earlier, I’m not familiar with the protocol for overnight visitors, but I have enough female acquittances to know wearing a bra to bed isn’t kosher, so with my eyes glued on Isabelle’s gorgeous face, I nimbly unlatch the clips in her bra, slip the lacy material down each arm, then pluck it out from beneath her shirt.


My nostrils flare in an endeavor to cool my rapidly rising body heat when Isabelle’s rosy pink nipples bud against her shirt. The material is thick and made from quality cotton, but her body’s response to the scraping of my hand down her stomach makes it seem as if it is as thin as tissue paper.


Walk away, Isaac, I demand to myself, equally frustrated by the thickening of my cock as I am understandable of it. Isabelle is a beautiful woman. She fascinates me like no one ever has, so not only do her constant denials of her body’s every want have me enthralled by the chase, it also strengthens my determination to win.


I’ve never wanted anything more in my life, and since I don’t understand the words ‘give up,’ I must place distance between us before I do something I’ll regret.


I’m partway across the room when a subtle groan leaves Isabelle’s mouth. It isn’t necessarily a pain-filled whimper, but it isn’t a noise I ever want to be murmured by her cupid’s bow lips while in my presence. 


I don’t know if instincts or my naturally engrained protectiveness are to blame when I move back to the bed to lift Isabelle in my arms. She slept more restfully in my arms in the back of the limousine than she has the past couple of hours in a bed, so perhaps that’s it? 


Whatever it is, there’s no uncertainty that the massive groove running down the middle of her forehead relaxes the instant she’s cradled into my chest. She is scared about how her body responds to me, but when she lets go of her inhibitions, her head trusts me as much as her body craves me. 


With the sun fallen, and Isabelle’s breaths on my neck as natural as me governing a boardroom, the tiredness of a long two months soon overtakes me. I fall asleep with Isabelle in my arms, only waking hours later when a stern knock projects through the door of my room.


After ensuring Isabelle’s legs are covered by the bedding, I instruct my caller to come in. I could answer the door, but since I would have to remove Isabelle from my arms to do that, I don’t. With any luck, the edge of arrogance in my tone will give my unexpected guest the hint it isn’t an appropriate hour for a visit. 


Any callousness I’m harboring for my early morning caller is forgotten when Cormack enters the room. With his working hours adjusting to that of a baker the past two months, and his sister creating more waves of havoc than pleasure for him of late, his sleep has been as lagging as mine. He looks truly exhausted, like more than Clara’s antics have him burning the candle at both ends.


“Hey,” he greets me before dropping his tired eyes to Isabelle. “How is she going?” 


If it were anyone but him eyeing the top half of her body hidden by nothing more than a plain white T, I would have freed him of more than his substantial assets, but since it is Cormack, a man I trust with more than my life, I keep conceitedness from my tone while replying, “She’s good. Still sleeping.” When a flare of concern darts through his eyes, I ask, “What’s up? Are you just getting up or going to bed?”


I drift my eyes to the alarm clock to check the time just as Isabelle lets out a painful groan. There’s no suspicion this time around that her murmur was fueled by pain. It screws up her beautiful face and causes her legs to scissor.


“Breathe through the pain, Isabelle…” I suggest while running my hand down her dark locks in a soothing manner, hopeful my touch subdues her as much as it instigates reckless yearning. “Nausea is a common side effect of a Xanax and champagne combination.” 


The more I talk to her, the less pained her face becomes. Within seconds, her breathing returns to normal and her legs stop wiggling beneath the bedding.


I continue weaving my fingers through her silky hair until the lines marring her beautiful face fully soften, then I divert my focus back to Cormack. He’s staring at me like I have a second head, and the indecisiveness in his eyes is heard in his words. “Ah… I was… umm… thinking about taking Harlow for a ride tomorrow.” He pauses to give himself a stern talking before he continues, “I can arrange an extra set of bikes if you and Isabelle want to join us.”


My lips lift into a smile. I either smile or berate him for thinking four in the morning is an appropriate time to plan out our day. Furthermore, the eccentricity of our exchange has me wondering if Clara’s bid for the top spot at Attwood Electric is responsible for his tiredness. Perhaps Harlow slotted into his family’s unique dynamic better than anticipated. 


Despite the early hour, the contemplation of that is worthy of a grin. It’s been a tough couple of years for Cormack. Grief can be handled in private, but charges so murky your name will be permanently stained by them aren’t as easily forgotten. 


I’m glad he’s found someone who sees him for who he truly is. He isn’t a billionaire or a trust fund baby wanting to fill his father’s shoes. He’s a brother striving to stop his siblings from facing the same injustices he did, and a friend who’s willing to encounter a stern knock to the chin to ensure Isabelle isn’t solely responsible for pushing me out of my comfort zone this weekend. 


Although I appreciate his offer to include Isabelle and me in his plans today, there’s no way I will ever accept his invitation. “Thanks, but you’re never getting me on those death traps.” 


I’m not a fan of motorbikes. Ophelia died while protected by a seatbelt and a ton of seemingly impenetrable metal and glass, so I can only imagine how inevitable death is when there’s nothing between you and the asphalt but a thin bit of plastic.


I stop recalling the crumbled wreckage Cormack and I stumbled upon while leaving my final underground fight six years ago when Cormack says, “All right. Well, let me know if you change your mind?”


I dip my chin. “I will.”


Not wanting him to see the guilt that I didn’t fight harder for Ophelia, I drop my eyes to Isabelle. I don’t feel responsible for the traffic accident that killed Ophelia. I was miles away and not behind the wheel of the car that was forced over the ravine by a tired driver, but I do accept responsibility for her increase in speed and lack of concentration. 


If I hadn’t fallen for Col’s tricks, she wouldn’t have been rushing her barely conscious brother to the ER to have the injuries I inflicted on him assessed, she wouldn’t have been on that section of road at that time of night, and she wouldn’t have looked away when CJ commenced choking on his tongue. If she hadn’t done any of those things, she wouldn’t have needed to see the B-double truck that crossed onto the wrong side of the road because the driver was asleep behind the wheel. She would have still been at Buck’s diner, dipping her French fries into her chocolate milkshake. 


Ophelia’s death taught me that there’s more than one way to kill a person and that real men take accountability for their actions. 


Only cowards try and fool people into believing differently.



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