Hard to Love Page 11

They caught sight of me watching, and Alexa straightened, pulling her shirt down to cover the bare flesh of her back.

“Lexa, you can have a bath and use my bubbles when I’m done, if you want,” Lily said.

Alexa’s eyes went wide, blush rising in her cheeks. She gave the little girl a tremulous smile. “Oh, no thanks, sweetheart. It’s okay.”

“Finish up. It’s bedtime,” I growled.

They turned at the gruffness of my voice and Alexa’s eyes lingered on mine. “Come on, lets rinse you off,” she instructed, her voice just as shaky as mine.

Alexa tucked Lily into bed and met me in the living room. Without a word or a single moment of hesitation, Alexa crossed the room, and lowered herself on my lap. I cupped her ass, tugging her in closer, and kissed her. Her soft, tender kisses were messing with my head. This no longer felt like we were just fooling around. It felt like more. Much more.

Chapter 14


Cade had turned on a movie under the ploy of us cuddling on the couch, but the way his body was pressed firmly against my backside, and he nuzzled and nibbled at my neck was a teensy bit distracting. I could feel his heartbeat against my body, and relaxed into the comfort he provided, even if it couldn’t last forever.

“Where do you live, Lex?” he asked softly.


He absently twirled a lock of my hair around his finger.

“Across town.” I yawned. “Why?”

“I don’t like you having to drive home late at night in the dark.” His gentle concern hung in the air around us feeling out of place, but sweet nonetheless. “But if you stayed here… Lily would ask all kinds of questions that I’m not ready to answer.”

What he meant was, he wasn’t yet ready to discuss where this relationship was heading. Were we even in relationship territory? God, I really needed to get a grip. “It’s fine Cade. I live in a safe building. I have underground parking and a doorman.” I didn’t mention the on-site fitness center, spa and twenty-four hour concierge, knowing they were a part of my life that Cade wasn’t used to.

He didn’t press the issue further, but I could tell my answer hadn’t satisfied him. He draped a heavy arm around my middle and tugged me in tighter against him.

“How is it possible you’re still a virgin, cupcake? You’re sexy as hell.”

I considered not only his question, but also my answer. It wasn’t something I’d planned on. “I went to an all-girls private school, and the few dates I had were mostly chaperones to my dances, arranged by my parents. We spent Christmases in Aspen, summers at our lake house, and I guess there just really wasn’t time.”

I shifted, snuggling in closer to his warm body. “I decided to stay nearby for college rather than moving away and finding my own path like I’d promised myself I would. And I guess I just kept right on the living in the mold my parents had created. Stupid, huh?”

“Not at all, baby. That’s not what I meant.” He gave me a squeeze, holding me close. “I know I’m not the type you usually date, but maybe…just for now…”

“Shh. Let’s just go with it, Cade.” I laced my fingers with his and brought them to my lips to press a kiss to the back of his hand. He chuckled against my ear, sending a warm whisper of breath down the back of my neck.

“I can think of something I’d like you kissing better than my hand.” His voice was low and rough.

I reached behind me to feel the growing erection in his jeans and he sucked in a ragged breath. I rolled over on the narrow couch so that I was facing him. His eyes were dark and intense, and full of desire. Wordlessly, we each began unbuttoning the other’s jeans while our tongues collided in a frantic kiss.

Cade yanked my jeans down my legs, taking my panties with them. I tugged his pants and boxers down just enough until I felt the warmth of his solid cock pressing against my naked belly. I grasped him in both hands, plentiful as he was, and carefully stroked him.

“Fuck that feels good.” He watched my hands work up and down, growling low in his throat. He tugged at the hem of my shirt, and I released him momentarily to lift my arms above my head, allowing him to remove the offending piece of fabric.

He hauled me on top of him so I was lying flush against his body, his tense erection nudging at my opening. We were so close, just a few millimeters more and he would be inside me. His dark gaze collided with mine and held me speechless. I rocked my hips against his, sliding his cock against my wet folds. I felt his body tense and when I opened my eyes, his were squeezed closed and he was breathing unevenly.

The sounds of soft whimpering drifted from Lily’s bedroom. We pulled apart, our eyes searching each other’s.

“Caden!” Lily cried out.

He hopped up, tugging on his jeans, and jogged from the room.

I sat up on the couch and pulled on my clothes. The moment was gone. I could hear Cade’s low voice murmuring soothing endearments to Lily.

I slipped on my shoes and jacket. It had been a long day, and my warring emotions over Cade and fussing over Lily had left me feeling exhausted.

Cade returned a few minutes later, looking worn out.

“Is she okay?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, she’s fine. Just a bad dream. I put her in my bed.”


He eyed my jacket and frowned.

“It’s getting late,” I explained.

He nodded. “Yeah, I suppose so.” He crossed the room in two easy strides and pulled me to his chest, planting a soft kiss on my mouth. “Good night.”

“Night,” I whispered, breathless from his kiss.

He walked me to the curb and stood near the car door when I climbed inside.

“So tomorrow, right? What time?”

“Six. We’ll meet in front of the Sherman Oaks Country Club.”

He shook his head. “Damn, cupcake…”

I knew I’d conveniently left out the part about the dinner being at my parents’ club. I grinned at him sweetly. “Oh, and Cade? Wear a tie.” I closed my car door on his stunned expression and pulled away. How we went from porn-star-slash-patient to pseudo-boyfriend, I had no idea. Despite the cozy domestic day we’d shared, I couldn’t forget that Cade and I came from very different walks of life, and knew that dinner with my parents would test whatever relationship we’d developed.


I spotted Cade right away. He was dressed in a white button-down shirt and navy tie, with navy slacks to match. He looked sexy as sin, but I couldn’t help but notice how out of place he looked in the entryway of the hoity-toity club, his tattoo playing peek-a-boo with his shirt collar. And he must have felt it too, because his eyes darted around the parking lot, searching me out and the set of his shoulders only relaxed when his eyes met mine.

He appraised me with a sexy grin as I approached, my stiletto heels clicking against the brick walkway. He pressed a hand to my lower back once I was near and drew me close, dropping a kiss to my throat. “You look sexy, cupcake,” he growled.

I blushed at his compliment, looking down at the fitted black dress I rarely got the chance to wear anymore. “Thanks.” My eyes searched the parking lot and when I spotted my parents’ approach I pulled away from Cade’s embrace.

My mom wore a pale-blue pantsuit and my dad was in his customary Sunday attire—chinos and a navy blazer, collar unbuttoned, no tie. It was the only day of the week he went sans-tie, considering he worked nearly twenty-four seven. But I knew Cade wearing one would make the right impression.

As they approached, Cade leaned in towards my ear. “Why did I have to wear a tie if he didn’t?”

I elbowed his ribs, fixing a smile on my face as my parents approached.

A man in a suit approached from our left, tossing a set of keys into Cade’s hand. “Hey, keep it running, I’ll be back in a few.”

Cade’s eyes met mine, full of irritation. Oh! My confusion cleared and I realized he thought Cade was the valet.

Cade grumbled something at the man, and tossed the keys back to him just as my parents stopped beside us.

My mom and I exchanged kisses and I gave my dad a quick hug before introducing them to Cade.

They smiled at him politely and he and my dad shook hands.

“What was that?” my dad asked, tipping his head towards the guy now waiting by the curb for the actual valet.

“Just a misunderstanding,” I interjected quickly before Cade could open his mouth, and fixed a smile on my face.

This felt strange. Way strange. Go with it, Alexa.

My mother’s eyes roamed over my dress and her mouth pinched closed. I tugged at the hem of my skirt, willing it closer to my knees. Cade noticed what I was doing and took my hand in his, giving it a firm squeeze before releasing it. I took a deep breath and trailed behind my parents into the dining room.

The hostess seated us at my parents’ usual table near the windows overlooking the golf course. Seeing how fall was settling in, not many golfers were braving the course today, but for a few dedicated souls just finishing the back nine.

Cade was ever the gentlemen, seeming to have moved passed the valet mishap, and pulled out my chair before settling in his own. He frowned at the expansive quantity of silverware at his place setting and I gave his knee a gentle squeeze underneath the table.

“Alexa’s never brought a date to our Sunday dinners,” my mom said, suspiciously eyeing Cade.

Cade, thinking quick on his feet, grasped my hand on top of the table. “Well I’m happy to be here.”

My mom settled back into her chair, her back still ramrod straight, but seemingly satisfied with his response.

The server came by for our drink order, beginning with Cade—he ordered a bottle of beer. I winced. We never drank at Sunday dinners. It was sort of a thing with my parents. The rest of us ordered iced tea.

When the server returned with our drinks, Cade waved away the suggestion of a pilsner glass and I thought my mother’s eyes were going to pop out of her head. But when he tipped his head back and drank straight from the bottle, exposing a little section of his tattoo, my mother sucked in a gasp and gripped the tablecloth in front of her.

I wanted to go to the bathroom and hide. It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d done so. The farthest stall back on the left side of the ladies’ room had served as a disappearing place a few times over the years when I needed to escape my mother’s meddling.

Dad finally asked the question I knew had been on his mind since meeting Cade. “So, what do you do, Cade?”

Cade pulled back another fortifying swig of this beer before answering. “I work construction. Roofing mostly.”

“Hmm,” my mother pursed her lips.

My dad simply nodded. “You enjoy working with your hands? I never was much good at it. Hell, I practically have to call an electrician just to change a lightbulb.”

Cade smiled, relaxing just a bit into his chair. “Yeah, I like seeing the tangible results of my work. I do all sorts of things, carpentry, electrical—let me know if you ever need a hand. I draw the line at plumbing, but the rest I can usually figure out.”

I’d never really heard Cade talk about his work, I realized. I liked hearing him describe it. It was the same way I felt about nursing. I liked the notion of helping to improve something, leaving it in better condition than the way I found it. Sure, my work was with people, and Cade’s was with inanimate materials, but I still understood what he meant. I doubted my dad could relate, balance sheets weren’t exactly exciting. But I liked that he nodded and smiled, at least trying to relate to Cade.

The waiter was soon back, taking our order. “The prime-rib special Mr. and Mrs. Blake?”

My parents nodded in agreement. Cade handed over his menu without looking at it. “You have burgers here?”

The waiter nodded. “Certainly, sir.”

Without knowing what possessed me, perhaps it was the carefree chicken-wing-eating Lexa making her comeback, I followed Cade’s lead. “I’ll take the burger too.”

“But you always get the prime rib—” my mother interrupted.

“I know, but I’m in the mood for a burger tonight.”

“Don’t be silly, she’ll have the prime rib,” my mother told the waiter.

The waiter’s gaze bounced between me and my mother, seemingly unsure of who to listen to, when Cade interrupted. “Alexa’s a big girl, she knows what she wants.” The statement was laced with deeper meaning and we all knew it.

I couldn’t help but smile at him before turning to the waiter. “The burger, please. Well done with gouda cheese.”

Cade leaned back, draping his arm over the back of my chair, casually sipping his beer.

“Have you seen much of Peter, dear?” my mom asked.

Nice timing Mom.

Cade’s gazed flicked to mine, clearly interested in my response.

“No, mother,” I said in a clipped tone, sending her a drop it glare.

The rest of the dinner passed without further drama. My dad and Cade tried to find topics to discuss, and after several false starts with 401k investments, and then politics, they finally settled on something on which they could both agree—Chicago Bears football. They were soon animatedly discussing draft picks and the quarterback’s latest arrest.

My mother ate in silence, stabbing at her dinner and pushing it around her plate. My burger was delicious, and I wondered why I’d never ordered for myself before. I ate every bite and was nearly bursting from my dress by the time we left the restaurant a short while later.

Cade and I lingered in the parking lot after my parents pulled away. His pickup truck stuck out like a sore thumb in the parking lot full of luxury sedans and SUVs. My own included.

“Is Sophia watching Lily?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Do you have time to come over for a drink? I don’t live far from here.” I liked the idea of him seeing where I lived, not to mention, I was eager to finish where we left off last night before we were interrupted by Lily’s nightmare.

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