Today's excerpt is from REALITY EVER AFTER by Sharon Hughson.
We hope you enjoy today's tease!
Marcus rubbed his fingertips over the silky skin on the back of Veronica’s hand. They trudged down the hotel hallway toward their room. Overnight bags thumped along at his heels. The emotional day tugged against him, cooling the imaginations that had been brewing since Veronica had whispered in his ear. He was staying in the same room with her. His heart danced into his stomach.
It’s not like that. But his brain held no sway over the cells that hoped to make all those cold showers worth it.
She stopped beside the room and swiped the key over the lock. At the green light and click, Marcus turned the handle and pushed open the door. He followed her inside, still lecturing himself, and melted when she swiveled and leaned into his chest.
Marcus dropped the bags. One hand tracked into her hair, pulling the clasp free while the other massaged circles into her lower back. Her breath fanned against his collarbone. Every nerve ending in his body snapped to attention.
“You’re upset. Because of the baby? Or Jen?”
Veronica sighed, shoulders heaving as she pressed her forehead against his chest.
Heat raced from her luscious curves. Marcus focused on the hospital smell that lingered on her skin. That wasn’t arousing.
He kept his eyes open to banish his wildest dreams.
“I’m glad I’m here with you.”
Veronica edged back and tilted her face upward. His lips drifted closer, and the throbbing pulse in his neck seemed to egg them on. Marcus glimpsed helplessness in her eyes. Now was not the time for kissing.
“Veronica?” A husky whisper was all his tight throat managed.
She sighed, and he forced his gaze away from her chest.
“I’m glad you’re here because Tony needs me to be strong.”
Marcus’s befuddled mind tried to unsnarl the meaning of her words. She was getting strength from him? A bubble swelled in his chest.
“The prognoses for baby and mother are good, right?” Marcus couldn’t fathom what a strapping Marine would need from his sister.
Veronica nodded, slid her hand into his, and tugged him toward the lone chair in a corner. Marcus flopped into the chair and reached to pull her onto his lap. Instead, she weaseled away and perched on the foot of one of the queen-sized beds.
Don’t think about the beds.
His throat constricted, but he swung his gaze to hers. She needed to talk, if he could convince her to open up.
“That’s troubling enough, but …” Her chin dropped.
Marcus slid to the edge of the chair until his knees nearly brushed hers and lifted her hands into his, smoothing his thumbs across their softness. Silence mocked his resolve to forget the surroundings.
She gazed at him, and a shadow of hopelessness dimmed the intelligence beaming from her eyes. Tony must have said something when they were alone. Was it her mother? He opened his mouth to ask, but closed it when her shuddering breath grazed his skin.
“Tony doesn’t think he’ll be a good father.”
Marcus blinked, shook his head. He let the unexpected words replay in his brain. Why did this make her feel hopeless and helpless?
“Because he didn’t have one. And it’s my fault.” She stared at the floor.
Marcus slid to his knees in front of her. What words would lessen her guilt? The failures of the fathers in Tony’s past weren’t her responsibility.
“I shouldn’t have told him.” Her voice quivered.
Marcus lurched upward, encircled her with his arms. Her legs eased apart, and she rested against him.
How long would she blame herself for the past? One father abandoned her and the other abused her, but none of that was her fault. How could he make her believe that?
“If I could unsay it…”
Marcus leaned away, tilted her chin up so he could share the depth of her emotions. He shook his head. “You needed to get it off your conscience.”
“And now I have new burdens to bear.”
“Veronica.” His tone soothed, but he saw her withdrawing, unaffected by the love he tried to transmit. “Tony will get through this. He’ll learn to be a great dad.”
Her head nodded. “He will. I know.” The whispered words plunged into his heart like needles into a pincushion.
“What can I do?”
“You’re here. That helps more than I can tell you.”
“Tell me about your biological dad. Tony’s dad.”
Her eyebrows furrowed. “Where did this come from?”
“Maybe if I understood what happened there, I could help Tony.” Or you.