Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
Facing The Music
“I WAS WITH MEGAN.”
Anna squealed, quickly turned her back on them and picked up where Abby had left off. Corey rolled his eyes, wishing that his best friend would learn how to keep quiet for once in her life, but that was as likely as it was to snow in July, he knew all too well.
“Well, at least you weren’t drunk somewhere. I know you’re a grown man, but with the family history on both sides, and all the people that put everyone at risk when they get behind the wheel, I worry.”
Corey sighed and sat at the kitchen table. “I am aware of that, Mom, and I told you I wouldn’t do that again after the last time.”
Anna shut the water off, grabbed the muffin and stuffed it into her mouth. Corey suppressed the laugh that threatened to erupt, knowing Anna had to stop herself from saying something that would wind her up in trouble later.
“It’s been about a year since the last time,” Abby said, and then sighed. “So where did you take Megan?”
This time he couldn’t hide the smile, it took over and he let it. “I showed her the view.”
Anna speared him with those emerald eyes. “Oh. My. God. You are totally gone! When’s the wedding?”
Abby laughed, “How did Dex react when you brought her home this morning?”
Corey’s face fell as he processed that information. If people were waiting for him, he knew without a doubt that Megan couldn’t have made it into the house without Dex noticing, and once she told him what happened, he’d probably be on his doorstep any minute now.
“Oh, this is getting good,” Anna said. “Why I’d bet he’s on his way here now. What do you intend to say to him?” Her eyes danced, a wide smile stayed plastered on her pretty face as she waited for his response.
Corey pushed the chair back and stood. “The truth.” He stared at Anna, waiting, knew she wouldn’t be able to let that hang between them for more than a few seconds.
One eyebrow arched, she crossed her arms over her chest and bit her bottom lip, as if that move would keep her tongue in check. “Umm,” she shook her head and sucked in a deep breath. “Don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
Abby turned to Anna. “Why not?”
Corey couldn’t have planned this conversation better if he’d tried. She backed herself right into a corner, and he couldn’t wait to see how she talked her way out of what she was implying. “Yes, Anna, why not?”
Her eyes grew wide, moving from Corey to Abby and back again, her discomfort evident in the way she shifted her weight from one leg to the other. “Well, what I meant was…”
The silence stretched, and Corey was just about to let her have it when his mother started talking.
“Oh,” Abby said, before leaning toward her daughter-in-law and lowering her voice in a conspiratorial way, “you’re talking about the whole sex thing. I am aware it’s what you kids do, and at your age, I’d say you’d best get a move on and enjoy it while you can. I’m getting old, would like a grandchild before the arthritis sets in and I can’t even hold them.”
Corey closed his eyes, the embarrassment of his mother’s statement brought heat rushing to his face, but before he could do or say anything else, the sound of a car racing towards the house grabbed his attention. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath, knowing full well who would be here at this hour of the morning, ready to tear his limbs from his body. Anna raced past him and to the door as if she were a superhero ready to protect him from any threat. It was comical, and if the situation weren’t that serious, he would’ve laughed out loud, but knowing Dex had arrived made that impossible.
“Here we go,” Anna muttered, as the vehicle came to a noisy halt.
“I’ll talk to him,” Corey said, pushing past her and out the door, but true to form, Anna stayed on his heels, refusing to let him go into battle alone, and his mother wasn’t far behind.
DEX WAS ALREADY OUT of the car with his fists balled at his sides, each long stride moved him toward Corey. Corey went down the stairs and before he could say a word, Dex grabbed him by the shirt, his jaw tightened, and his face turned as red as a fire truck.
“What in the hell were you thinking?” Dex demanded.
Corey reached up to push Dex away, but the man refused to budge. “I know what you must be thinking, but…”
“The entire town will be talking about Megan!”
“Only if you tell them,” Corey quipped, doing his best to diffuse the situation, which only made things worse.
“You bastard! You know damn well Megan isn’t like other women. The least you could’ve done was put a ring on her finger before you had sex with her,” Dex shouted, his grasp on Corey’s shirt even tighter as their faces were mere inches from one another now.
Corey sighed. “I did.”
Anna gasped, the sound echoing in his ears. Dex’s eyes turned to slits as he stared at Corey. He’d managed to say the words, the words that he still had trouble wrapping his mind around. The shock of her saying no, then marrying him, and letting him explore every inch of her incredible body still clung to him and made him feel things he never expected to feel. In one word, he felt alive.
“You’re married?” Anna asked astonished.
“Oh Corey,” his mother said from the doorway.
Just the sound of the disappointment that came from her made his heart plummet.
Dex let him go and took a staggering step backward. “Why would you do that? Why would you marry her in secret? In the middle of the night? Unless…”
His words died off, the anger rearing its ugly head again as Dex stared at him. Corey was just about to open his mouth to tell him it wasn’t what he thought, but before he could, Dex’s powerful fist met with his jaw in one swift move.
“I thought you were my friend! I thought I knew you better. You knocked up my little sister and then think that marrying her will make it all right.” Dex loomed over him, ready to hit him again. “Who the hell are you?” he barked, and then reached down to grab him by the collar again.
“She’s not pregnant. Give me a little credit would you.”
“What?” Anna asked, moving in between them.
“Stay out of this Anna Wright. He doesn’t need you to fight his battles for him.”
Anna took a deep breath and stood taller, raising her chin to Dex in defiance. “That’s Anna Brady. I’ll fight whatever battle I feel the need to. You heard him, he made an honest woman out of her, leave him alone.”
Dex shrugged. “Why? Why did you run off and get married if there is nothing to hide? My sister deserved a church wedding, with her family by her side.”
“I know that, but things were complicated, and it was the only compromise we could make,” Corey said.
“Are you saying it was her idea?” Dex asked.
Corey shook his head. “All you need to know is, we both wanted this. I know it was spur of the moment, but now she’s my wife. I promise I’ll take care of her.”
“This calls for a celebration,” Anna said. “We may have missed the wedding ceremony, but damn if I’m gonna let you get out of having a reception.” She kissed his cheek and went back into the house.
If Anna was planning a party, the entire town would know he and Megan got married before noon.
“I love her, Dex. I promise I’ll do my best not to hurt her.”
Dex raked a hand through his hair. “She’s going to be pissed when she finds out I hit you. Sorry about that, buddy. I know you’ll take care of her.” He looked down at the ground and then speared him in the eye. “Where do you intend to live?”
Corey laughed. “Not with you if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Lucky for him, Dex laughed too. “Good to know. I’m sure your parents will be thrilled to have you both living here now.”
Corey cringed. He knew it was asking a lot, even Megan brought it up as a reason they shouldn’t rush the wedding, but he wanted her, and from the way she reacted to him pulling away, she wanted him just as much. Oh, she proved that once they hit the hotel. Just being with her, making love to her was everything he’d ever dreamt about and more. Thinking about how they came together he knew he would have to get Nolan and his crew up on that ridge pronto to start building their home. His little wildfire was noisy when they came together, and he’d be damned if he let living with his parent’s ruin that for him.
MEGAN HAD MOST OF her belongings packed and ready to go. It felt odd standing in the doorway to her bedroom, looking around at all the things she didn’t want to take with her. That room became her haven from Dirk’s drunkenness, from all her heartaches, her own little piece of the world where she had total control. Moving away from everything she knew had her wondering how different things would be for her now. What would it be like living on the ranch with his parents, waking up in Corey’s bed every morning? Just the thought gave her a delicious chill that raced down her spine. She was someone’s wife and that title came with expectations. She questioned if she could live up to what Corey would want and need from her daily.
Anna had called her early with joyous congratulations and given her the day off, so the only pressing thing she had to accomplish was packing, and that Megan finished faster than expected. She assumed Dex would be back by now, and her heart raced wondering what happened between him and Corey. Before she could even tell him they were married, Dex took off in a rage to confront Corey, yelling about virginity and rumors that would spread through town like the plague. At least Karen gave her a chance to explain, though it was easy to see the disappointment at missing this big moment in Megan’s life from her sister-in-law. She understood that what they did was huge, a once in a lifetime event—she hoped their union would last a lifetime anyway—and in rushing to get married she robbed her family of participating in her wedding.
When the front door opened, she closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to prepare herself for what was to come. She loved her brother, yet she hated being the one he was angry with, however brief. Five years they’d spent apart and so much had happened in that amount of time in both their lives. Megan steeled her spine and left the comfortable confines of her bedroom to go face the music.
Butterflies took flight in her stomach as she approached the dining room. Karen sat at the table, while Dex leaned against the wall, his head down. He turned in her direction when he realized she stood there, the heartache etching every line on his rugged face. Sadness rushed through her, her heart heavy and erasing all the wonderment of the incredible night she’d shared with the man she loved with her whole heart all her life.
“I’m sorry,” Megan said, a half smile tugging the corner of her mouth.
“I know. And before you get pissed at me, you need to know I took a swing at him,” Dex admitted.
Megan gasped, closed her eyes, and pictured the scene of her two favorite men fighting over her. As much as she might want to chastise Dex, she couldn’t. “You two left it on good terms?” Their friendship mattered, and Megan prayed that it would remain intact.
Dex ran a hand through his hair and laughed. “Yeah, and Corey promised he would take care of you. I’m holding him to it.”
Megan beamed, unable to hide the enormous smile that emerged. She had no doubts that Corey would stay true to that promise. He wasn’t the type of man to give his word lightly or go back on it. Her husband—oh the beautiful sound of that word—was an incredibly special man.
“I am sorry about doing things this way.”
Dex looked at her, a slight smile on his face. “I told you both I wouldn’t stand in your way. I wish I understood why you rushed this marriage.” He paused and stared down at the floor. “Hell, I even accused Corey of getting you pregnant,” he admitted.
Megan’s jaw dropped, shock rocketing through her. “How could you even think that?” She thought her brother knew her better, at least hoped he did. “Jesus, Dex.”
“I knew you were mad when you shot out of here, Honey, but you really need to learn how to stop yourself from jumping the gun,” Karen said.
“I wish I had your patience, but I don’t. That’s what I have you for.”
Karen and Megan both laughed.
“For all the good it does me,” Karen began, “you just bolt right past me like I don’t exist.”
“I’m not that bad,” Dex argued.
Karen roared with laughter, her shoulders bouncing. “Yes, you are. Ask anyone.”
“Oh stop, you’re going to give Meggie the wrong idea about marriage.” Dex winked at Megan.
She enjoyed listening to their banter. This house had been so quiet when they married and moved away, and just when they brought it flourishing back to life with love, laughter, and new décor, Megan prepared to leave. It was a bittersweet feeling that yanked on her heart and had her wanting to stay just as much as she wanted to run off to start her new life with her husband. She enjoyed living with them, getting to know her niece and nephew, becoming closer with her brother and sister-in-law. Megan hoped that once she moved out to the ranch and got into the swing of things with work and her new routine that their relationships would continue to grow and not tumble backward.
“I’m good, no worries. Just remember that I won’t be that far away. I expect visits, and to be called for babysitting duties so you two can get some alone time.”
Karen stood and moved to Dex’s side, resting her head on his chest. “Now that sounds like a plan to me.” She smiled at Megan before looking up at her husband, her eyes shining with so much love still.
Megan wondered if it would be that way with her and Corey. People didn’t seem to stay together long anymore, and just that mere thought made her heart race. Their relationship was still new, and hadn’t hit too many bumps along the way, though she knew hardships would come. If they worked on them together, she believed they could get through whatever life threw their way. At least she hoped they could.
“When you’re ready, I’ll drive you over. He’s waiting for you,” Dex said.
That made Megan smile. Her husband waited for her, and that tiny little thought made her body throb with a wanting she had only just begun to understand.
“I know that look,” Karen said, a bright smile plastered on her face.
Megan blushed, couldn’t seem to contain the thoughts that raced through her mind or the heat that took over her cheeks as thoughts of a naked Corey Brady zinged through her entire system.
“Please,” Dex scoffed, “I don’t want to know about you two doing the deed.”
The women laughed. “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Megan said. “And for the record, it’s not and I’m ready.”