Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
TWO HOURS LATER, THE doctor found her. "Hello, Megan. Dirk had a heart attack. Three arteries are blocked about one hundred percent. We've scheduled surgery for the morning. He's on medication and resting comfortably so I suggest you go and see him now, then go home, and get some sleep. We're taking him to the OR at nine," Dr. Brown said.
"Thank you," Megan uttered.
"Right this way." Megan spared a glance for Joe and then turned away. She followed Dr. Brown back to her father's room. At first, she could only stand in the doorway and look at him. Dirk's six-foot-five-inch frame took up the entire bed. The years of drinking had aged him, and he hadn't appeared healthy in a long time. Seeing him lying so still in that bed made him somehow shrink before her eyes and seem small. He was only fifty-five, still young enough to overcome this.
Megan moved to the side of the bed and grabbed his hand, squeezing it gently. "Daddy, I'm here," she whispered as tears cascaded down her face.
He was going to die. No matter what the doctors said and did, it wouldn't be enough. She couldn't explain how she knew, she just did. Her stomach tied in knots and her mind whirled at the thought. Nausea made her hunch over. Megan sucked in air, filling her lungs, and let the breath out, praying she wouldn't vomit.
They hadn't been close since before her mother died, and now they'd never get the chance. The father she once knew and loved would be gone, and the gap between them would never close. Megan bolted out of the hospital, the situation more than she could bear.
AFTER A QUICK STOP at the liquor store, Joe drove her home and came inside. Megan was used to coming home to a quiet house, but she hated it. Tonight's silence seemed different, more permanent. She tossed her keys on the table by the front door and dropped her purse on the floor.
Crossing the room, she plopped down on the brown couch, the springs groaning in protest. The beat up piece of furniture had seen its day a decade ago. She closed her eyes, wishing this were all a dream.
"Drink this," Joe said.
Megan snapped her eyes open, and looked at the amber liquid in the glass, her sworn enemy for so many years. She shook her head.
"I'm not going to get you drunk, I know you hate the stuff, but it will take the edge off." He held the glass for her, and she finally reached out and took it.
She brought her lips to the glass and took a big gulp. Her throat burned, so bad that she sputtered on the drink, which made her cough. Megan sat forward on the couch, her eyes watering as she dragged in a heavy breath.
"Slow down." Joe took the glass and set it on the table. "Small sips, okay."
Megan smiled up at him. "Thanks for being here, again. I do appreciate it."
Joe reached for her hand, holding it in his. "I'll always be here for you." He sat beside her and pulled her into his arms.
Megan relaxed, let out a sigh. The encounter with Corey flashed through her mind, flipped to her father collapsing, returning the rawness back to her emotions. She pulled away from Joe and took the glass. Nothing could make it better, and maybe it was time to experience first-hand this fascination with alcohol. Megan held the glass in her hand, swirled the liquid before emptying it. Setting it on the table, she grabbed the open bottle, refilled her cup and then Joe's.
An hour later, the whiskey bottle empty, the effects of the alcohol took over. It was as if Megan could float if she wanted too. She laid her head in Joe's lap, smiling up at him.
"You know, you’re cute. It's a shame you're still single."
Joe stroked loose strands of hair off her face. "You could change that," he whispered.
Megan giggled. "I can't do that," she sang.
Joe's face lowered toward hers. "You could try," he suggested.
His lips met hers, and she kissed him back. Megan needed to know if there was a chance, even a slim one, that she could love someone other than Corey. Wrapping her arms around him and pulling Joe closer, she deepened their kiss.
COREY SAW HER COMING. The oversized, purple T-shirt she wore blew in the breeze exposing her upper thighs. His groin tightened and he cursed for the lack of control. He stood mesmerized as if noticing her beauty for the very first time.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Megan demanded. Planting her hands on her hips only pulled the fabric tighter around her body.
Her irritated tone roused a smile. “Someone needs to take care of the horses. I thought you could use a hand.”
“I don’t recall asking for your help and if I needed it,” she scowled, “which I don’t, you’d be the last person on earth I’d ask.”
He mounted the fence of the small corral and marched toward her at a rapid pace, his heart beating like a jackhammer while his body throbbed with a need so strong he had to do something about it. What would happen if we took a chance on one another?
Megan stepped backward and then froze in place. Her mouth hung open as her hazel eyes widened in surprise. Her eyes seared into his dark ones as he continued on this path, the morning sun beating down on them. Corey reached out and grabbed her hips pulling her close, looking down into her shocked face when their bodies brushed up against one another. For a quick moment, Dirk’s warning crossed his mind.
“Stay away from my daughter, Brady. She’s too good for the likes of you, too innocent.” Dirk jabbed his finger into Corey’s chest. “You heed my warning, boy. Yer Mama wouldn’t be happy knowing where I found you and Dex.”
Corey swallowed hard and forced the words out of his mind. He bent down and scooped her up into his arms, and then strode toward the house.
“Put me down this instant,” Megan ordered. When he ignored her request, she kicked her legs and pounded on his chest with her small fist.
His arousal was both stunning and unexpected. Seeing her wearing almost nothing stirred things in him that he didn’t want to contain. It wasn’t that he couldn’t control his sexual urges; in all honesty, he wanted her and he wasn’t going to wait any longer than necessary to have her. Those constant dreams of her taunted him, dreams he couldn’t shake and dreams that now shaped his future.
He flung the screen door open and moved over to the brown couch setting her down. Gazing into her sweet face, the hunger built as her eyes raked over him. The longing he noticed in those impassioned eyes sent blood flowing through his body and pooling in his groin. Corey bent and kissed her with tenderness, one hand brushing the hair from her face. Megan clutched his shirt, pulling him closer. His mouth explored hers, their tongues dancing together. She deepened the kiss, and Corey couldn’t help but take in that sweetness.
Grasping his shirt tighter, arching into him, they were chest to chest. He tore his lips from her mouth and moved to her neck, trailing a lazy wet path down to her breasts. His fingers grasped the fabric and slid it up and over her torso, exposing both bare globes. Megan gasped when the pad of his thumb skimmed over her nipple like a feather, her excitement pushing him on. She wanted him just as much as he wanted her, he could feel it.
Corey sat back, unbuttoned his shirt and slid it down his arms before tossing it aside. Anticipation burned deep as their eyes met in a heated stare and locked. She bit her lower lip while she focused on his every movement. Her hands went to his chest, lingering over his hardened nipples. She flattened one hand over his heart, a soft smile taking over her red lips. Megan got on her knees and leaned closer to him, her lips brushing over his skin, the boldness something new and unexpected from the dark-haired beauty. Her trembling fingers slid down his chest to his hips, her tongue circling the outer edges of each nipple. Corey sucked in a ragged breath, lost in the moment.
“Megan,” he whispered.
She looked up so sensual and inviting that he captured her mouth, his lips hard and insistent as he stroked the depths of her hot one. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer, falling backward onto the couch. Megan tumbled down on top of him, the fiery kiss never broken. Her fingers plowed into his hair as she slithered up his frame.
Corey’s hands moved down her back and to her bottom. Megan wrenched her mouth from his and gasped as she looked down into his face. Just as their lips met again, the beep of a car horn tore them apart. Corey cursed, grabbed her hips, and pushed her back as he jumped up off the couch. He snatched his shirt up from the floor and held it in his hand, trying to regain control.
“Joe’s taking me to the hospital,” she mumbled, stood up giving him one long, lingering glance, then turned and fled the room.
He watched her disappear around the corner, his body pulsating madly. Thrusting his arms into the shirtsleeves, he began buttoning the shirt when Joe came through the door.
He continued to concentrate on the task at hand, not ready to look at the man who vied for Megan’s affections. “She’ll be out in a minute. I’d better finish up outside.” He tramped to the door, hoping for a quick escape.
Joe grabbed his arm preventing him from crossing the threshold. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Corey jerked his arm loose, and glared at Joe. “I’m fine, thanks for asking.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Joe muttered, gritting his teeth together. “You don’t love her, but you constantly come around and screw with her head.”
Corey leaned closer. “What I do with Megan is none of your damn business.”
Joe took one-step forward, an inch remaining between the two. “Leave her alone,” he ordered.
Corey set his jaw as he balled his fists at his sides. Anger coursed through his veins, driving away all sexual desire. No one would tell him what he could and couldn’t do when it concerned Megan, not anymore. He wanted her, and he was finally willing to fight for what he wanted.
“Who’s gonna make me?”
“I won’t sit back and let you destroy her life again.”
“Is everything all right?” Megan asked coming into the room.
“I hope the surgery goes well,” Corey said and marched out the door.
JOE LOOKED AT HER and forced a smile. “I’ll never understand why you let him walk all over you.”
Megan walked to the doorway and looked up at Joe, searching for the right words to make him understand. Joe pulled her into his arms and kissed her hard on the mouth. Stunned by his startling action, Megan froze. Her arms were crushed at her sides making it impossible to move and hard to breathe. When his tongue slid into her mouth, she expected to feel…something. None of the mind-blowing sensations she experienced with Corey, no warm bursts on her skin, no magic, nothing.
Joe tore his mouth from hers. “We’d better get going,” he said, turned and headed out the door.
Megan grabbed her purse from the floor beside the small wooden table next to the front door and followed.
FOUR HOURS OF WAITING took its toll on Megan. Exhausted, hungry and on the brink of tears, her thoughts should’ve been on her father, but consuming images of Corey filled her mind.
Finally, Dr. Brown appeared in the room. “He’s in recovery and they’ll keep him for about another hour until his room is ready in the Critical Care Unit. We had a few complications. He arrested twice on the table, but we were able to get his heart started again. His recovery is going to take some time.” He stared at Megan. “The next 48 hours are crucial, so visits will be brief.”
Megan’s gut clenched and she closed her eyes. Her father dangled at death’s door and her focus remained on Corey Brady, being with him, making love to him. What’s wrong with me? What kind of person thinks about having sex when their father is dying? Shaking her head and all visions from her mind, Megan resolved herself to focus on Dirk’s situation and nothing else.
“I said,” Dr. Brown stated, his powerful voice filled with authority. “Has Dex come home?”
Yanked back from a mental lashing, Megan shook her head. “I’ll call him when I get home later.”
Dr. Brown’s eyes widened with shock before his gaze narrowed as he studied her. “I’m sure he’d want to be here for the both of you.”
“I promise I’ll call him soon.”
“The nurse will take you to see him.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
“You can go back and visit, but only for ten minutes now,” a pretty, redheaded nurse said a short time later. “He’s still coming out of sedation and needs his rest.”
“I’ll wait for you,” Joe assured her.