Quotes from Yours to Keep

Shannon Stacey ·  201 pages

Rating: (13.2K votes)

“Josh: Just because you’re not looking for something doesn’t mean you won’t find it.
Sean: Well, aren’t you quite the fucking fortune cookie.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“He could do this. He'd survived boot camp. He'd survived combat and the harsh weather of Afghanistan. He could survive broccoli. Probably.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Now she had to pretend not to love the man she was pretending to love while pretending she wasn't sleeping with him.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Oh yes, Sean Kowalski. Your amazing kisses have made all rational thought fly out of my besotted brain. If only you could fill me with your magic penis, I know we'll fall madly in love and live happily ever after.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Of course I’m getting ideas. You’re hot and I’m not dead. But I know enough not to confuse lust with anything else.”

She snorted and looked out her window. “Oh yes, Sean Kowalski. Your amazing kisses have made all rational thought fly out of my besotted brain. If only you could fill me with your magic penis, I know we’ll fall madly in love and live happily ever after.”

The truck jerked and she glanced over to find him glaring at her. “Don’t ever say that again.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Bobby ran up on the deck and skidded to a stop in front of them. “It’s time for the Kowalski Fourth of July Football Game of Doom!”
Cat laughed and pushed herself out of her seat. “We’ll talk about this some other time, Emma. Go have fun.”
“I’m not sure I want to play football. Especially if there’s doom involved,” she said, but Bobby grabbed her hand and dragged her off the deck.
They were divvied up into teams roughly by size, each with an assortment of men, women and children. Emma was on Sean’s team, which was good. She’d just hide behind him, because the only thing she knew about football was that it involved a lot of hitting.
It only took a few plays to see that the Kowalskis played by their own rules and the few they had were fluid. Mostly they served to ensure the smaller kids didn’t get plowed over, victims of the adults’ competitive streak.
Five minutes into the game, Emma somehow ended up with the ball. She squealed and looked around for somebody—anybody—to hand it off to, but there was nobody. Well, there was Danny, but he was doubled over in laughter.
“Run, Emma,” Lisa yelled.
She ran in the direction her friend was frantically waving her hand, but she only went a few feet before two very strong arms wrapped around her waist and then she was falling. Luckily, she landed on a body instead of the ground.
“I love football,” Mitch said, grinning up at her.
Emma grimaced and managed to get one of her knees on solid ground so she could push herself to her feet. He was quicker and freed himself to stand and help her up.
“They should give you the ball more often,” he said, his blue eyes sparkling and the grin so like Sean’s—but not quite as naughty—in full force.
“Hands off my girl,” Sean told him, pulling on Emma’s elbow.
“You should do a better job of blocking for her.
“Let’s go,” Brian shouted.
The very next play, Mitch intercepted Mike’s pass to Evan and turned to run toward the other end zone. He was halfway there when Sean took him down hard. They hit the ground with a bone-jarring thud that made Emma wince, and came up pushing and shoving.
When Sean drew back his arm to throw the first punch, Mary blew her whistle from the sidelines. “Boys! Enough!”
Instead of heading straight for the huddle, Sean walked to Emma and pulled her into his arms for a hard, almost punishing caveman kiss that made her skin sizzle and her knees go wobbly. Then he glared at his brother for a few long seconds and went back to his team, leaving Emma standing there breathless and discombobulated.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“So Lisa as your matron of honor and Stephanie as bridesmaid,” Cat was saying. “Do you know who Sean wants as best man?”
“No. We haven’t gotten that far yet.” He didn’t hear any tension in Emma’s voice, but he guessed she was feeling it. Planning a wedding that wasn’t going to happen was weird, to say the least.
“Maybe we could ask Mike’s oldest son—Joey, right?—to be a groomsman so he can escort Stephanie.”
“I don’t know,” Emma said. “I don’t think it’s very fair to ask one of the boys and not the others.”
“True. Maybe they could be ushers and then join their parents once everybody’s seated.”
Sean had just decided to beat a fast retreat back to the living room, when he heard a chair scrape back.
“We can talk about that later, Gram. Right now I should go wake Sean so he’s not still groggy when we ask him to fire up the grill.”
He didn’t have time to escape, so he leaned against the counter and twisted the top of his beer. Emma paused when she saw him, and then grabbed his hand and dragged him down the hall to the living room.
“Where did you disappear to?” he asked.
“What? Oh, a client had an emergency. But—”
“There are gardening emergencies?”
She blew out an exasperated breath. “Yes. When you’re rich, everything’s an emergency. But did you hear what Gram was saying?”
“Yeah. How the hell are guys supposed to pick a best man, anyway? I’ve got three brothers and I like them all. And what about Mikey? Or Kevin or Joe? It seems easier to pick a stranger off the street so you don’t have to play favorites. I guess maybe I’d ask Mitch. He’s the oldest, so most of what the rest of us know about catching a woman we learned from him.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, you haven’t actually caught a woman yet. And it doesn’t really matter who you choose, because there is no wedding.”
She was wound up like an eight-day clock, so he didn’t dare laugh at her. Her cheeks were bright and she kept spinning her ring around and around on her finger. Since there was nothing he could say to make her feel better about Cat wanting to plan their fake wedding, he slid the hand not holding his beer around her waist and hauled her close.
“You worry too much,” he told her.
“And you—”
He kissed her to shut her up. And because all he’d been able to think about since the last time he’d had his hands on her was getting his hands on her again. And, most of all, because he liked kissing her. A lot. Maybe too much, if he thought about it.
So he didn’t think about it. Instead, he lost himself in the taste of her mouth and the softness of her lips and the way her hands slid over his lower back, holding him close.
“Oh,” Cat said from behind him. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No,” Emma said. “We were just…talking.”
“I can see that.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“When she rolled her eyes, he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at her. “Why don’t you let me push the fridge back and I’ll take you out to lunch.”
“Because you clean when you’re upset and taking a toothbrush to the back of the fridge means you’re on the ragged edge. I’ll take you down to Concord for a Jasper burger. They can fix anything.”
She laughed, but it was on the bitter side. “Yeah, ’cause I need more Kowalskis in my day.”
“Hey, whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”
“I’m just not in a good mood today.”
He grinned and rocked back on his heels. “This is because of my magic penis, isn’t it? Four nights of it too much for you?”
“Ha. Don’t flatter yourself, Kowalski. I’m only having sex with you so I can sleep in my own bed again.”
The renewed color in her cheeks let him know she was full of crap. “So if I offered to do you right here on the kitchen floor, you’d say no?”
“I’d have to say no just to prove my point now.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Technically, nothing was better than sex with Sean, but the burger had the edge right now because it wasn’t complicated. It tasted amazing and it didn’t screw up her life beyond her having to make a half-assed promise to herself to eat more salads to make up for it.
Sex with Sean was screwing up her life. As promised, the orgasms were very real and very numerous, but there should have been fine print. By accepting the orgasms, she’d also agreed to accept a level of intense intimacy she didn’t think either of them had expected.
With mind-blowing sex came the tender touches. The way he’d capture her gaze with his and she couldn’t look away. And he was a talker, always murmuring to her about how good she felt and how he never wanted it to stop. And there was the life-screwing up part—she never wanted him to stop, either.
“You’re thinking about my magic penis again, aren’t you?”
She almost choked on a fry. “No, I am not. And stop saying that.”
“You started it.” He leaned across the table. “And, yes, you were. I see that flush at the hollow of your throat and the way you’re looking at me. You’re all hot and bothered, right here in the bar. I was right about you.”
“I am not an exhibitionist,” she hissed.
“Oh, shit.” She followed his gaze and saw that Kevin and Beth had just walked in and Kevin had spotted them. “Just be cool.”
“Be cool?” She laughed. “We’re having lunch, not planning a bank robbery.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“After they left, Emma returned to her Jasper-burger consumption with gusto. She’d asked Lisa once to find out the recipe for their seasoning mix, but Kevin wouldn’t give it up. Plus, as Lisa had pointed out, it wouldn’t do Emma any good to have it since she couldn’t cook worth a damn, anyway.
“So about what I said before,” Sean said after he’d wolfed down his food, “about not wanting them to know we’ve had sex. It’s not that I’m trying to hide it, I just…”
“Don’t want them to know.”
“That makes sense.”
His face brightened. “Really?”
“Damn.” He’d finished his beer, so he took a swig off the glass of water she’d requested with her meal.
“Under normal circumstances, I’d want everybody to know we’re sleeping together. Trust me. I’d put a sign on my front lawn.”
“But these aren’t normal circumstances.”
“Not even in the ballpark. I have this bet with my brothers I’d last the whole month and I don’t want to listen to them gloat.” Of course he’d have a bet with his brothers. Such a guy thing to do. “But it’s more about the women.”
“The women?”
“In my family, I mean. Aunt Mary, especially. They might start thinking it’s more than it is. Getting ideas about us, if you know what I mean.”
Emma ate her last French fry and pushed her plate away. “So we have to pretend we’re madly in love and engaged…while pretending we’re not having sex.”
“Told you it complicates things.”
“I’m going to need a color-coded chart to keep track of who thinks what.”
He grinned and pulled his Sharpie out of his pocket. “I could make Sticky notes.”
The man loved sticky notes. He stuck them on everything. A note on the front of the microwave complaining about the disappearance of the last bag of salt-and-vinegar chips. (Emma had discovered during a particularly rough self-pity party that any chips will do, even if they burn your tongue.) A note on the back of the toilet lid telling her she used girlie toilet paper, whatever that meant.
He liked leaving them on the bathroom mirror, too. Stop cleaning my sneakers. I’m trying to break them in. Her personal favorite was If you buy that cheap beer because it’s on sale again, I’ll piss in your mulch pile. But sometimes they were sweet. Thank you for doing my laundry. And…You make really good grilled cheese sandwiches. That one had almost made her cry.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Sean walked in with a plate of ham steaks and then stopped, as if his man radar had just pinged on the level of feminine drama in the room. “Everything okay?”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Then came Dani’s turn to read a question. “‘Who’s in charge in the bedroom?’”
Much to the group’s amusement, none of them got a match, and Sean didn’t think they would either as he held up his notepad. “‘I am, since I carry the big stick.’”
Emma read hers with a remarkably straight face. “‘Sean, because he has a magic penis.’”
“Wow. Um…so Sean and Emma have a point,” Dani said as the men nearly pissed themselves laughing.
No way in hell was he leaving that unpunished, and he winked at Emma when Kevin read the next question. “‘Where’s the kinkiest place you’ve had sex?’”
The fact that Joe and Keri had done the dirty deed on the back of his ATV led to a few questions about the logistics of that, but then it was Emma’s turn. “‘In bed, because Sean has no imagination.’”
Roger threw an embarrassed wince his way, but his cousins weren’t shy about laughing their asses off.
Sean just shrugged and held up his notepad. “In the car in the mall parking lot. Emma’s lying because she doesn’t want anybody to know being watched turns her on.”
Her jaw dropped, but she recovered quickly and gave him a sweet smile that didn’t jibe with the “you are so going to get it” look in her eyes.
Beth asked the next question. “‘Women, where does your man secretly dream of having sex?’”
Keri knew Joe wanted to have sex in the reportedly very haunted Stanley Hotel, from King’s The Shining. Dani claimed Roger wanted to do the deed on a Caribbean beach, but he said that was her fantasy and that his was to have sex in an igloo. No amount of heckling would get him to say why. And when it came to Kevin, even Sean knew he dreamed of getting laid on the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park.
Then, God help him, it was Emma’s turn to show her answer. “‘In a Burger King bathroom.’”
The room felt silent until Dani said, “Ew. Really?”
“No, not really,” Sean growled.
“Really,” Emma said over him. “He knows that’s the only way he can slip me a whopper.”
As the room erupted in laughter, Sean knew humor was the only way they’d get through the evening with their secret intact, but he didn’t find that one very funny, himself.
It was the final answer that really did him in, though. The question: “If your sex had a motto, what would it be?”
Joe and Keri’s was, not surprisingly, Don’t wake the baby Kevin and Beth wrote, Better than chocolate cake, whatever that was supposed to mean. Dani wrote, Gets better with time, like fine wine, and Roger wrote, Like cheese, the older you get, the better it is, which led to a powwow about whether or not to give them a point. They probably would have gotten it if they weren’t tied with Keri and Joe, who took competitive to a cutthroat level.
When they all looked at Sean, he groaned and turned his paper around. They’d lost any chance of winning way back, but he was already dreading what the smart-ass he wasn’t really engaged to had written down. “‘She’s the boss.’”
The look Emma gave him as she slowly turned the notepad around gave him advance warning she was about to lay down the royal flush in this little game they’d been playing.
“Size really doesn’t matter,” she said in what sounded to him like a really loud voice.
Before he could say anything—and he had no idea what was going to come out of his mouth, but he had to say something--Cat appeared at the top of the stairs.
“I hate to break up the party,” she said, “but it’s getting late, so we’re calling it a night.”
Maybe Cat was, but Sean was just getting started.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“She started in on him the second he crossed the threshold from the living room. “I was wrong about you all these years. I always thought you were a smart boy, but you don’t have the brains God gave a jackass.”
“Aunt Mary, I—”
“Don’t you Aunt Mary me, Sean Michael Kowalski. I should go get my wooden spoon and thunk some sense into that thick head of yours.”
Sean sighed and tried to school his expression into something closer to contrition than belligerence. Not that she wouldn’t see through it, but he made the effort regardless. “I’m just helping her out for a few weeks so that—”
“Helping her lie to her grandmother, you mean.”
“I know it sounds bad, but—”
“Because you were raised better than that.”
He’d known this wouldn’t be easy, but he’d been hoping to at least finish a sentence or two. “Can I talk? Please?”
“When you have something sensible to say.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Joe grinned and slapped the side of the truck. “Come on, cousin. You know we’ve always got your back.”
“Yeah, that’s usually where you stick the kick-me sign.” His cousin was still laughing when he backed out of the driveway.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“I’ll write the recipe down for you.”
“I’ll just screw it up, anyway.”
Gram laughed. “All you do is mix the ingredients together, pour it in a bag with the salmon and half an hour later give it to Sean to throw on the grill. He cooked the salmon to perfection tonight.”
Of course he did. As he’d told her earlier, she had nothing to worry about because the Y chromosome came with an innate ability to master the barbecue grill.
“The salad was good, too,” Sean said.
“Thanks,” Emma muttered. “Even I can’t screw up shredding lettuce.”
The man looked incredibly relaxed for somebody who'd probably been raked over the coals by his aunt and was now relaxing with two women he barely knew. She, on the other hand, felt as if she was detoxing. Jumpy. Twitching. A trickle of sweat at the small of her back.
Sean stood and started gathering dishes, but held out a hand when Emma started to get up. “You ladies sit and visit. I’ll take care of the cleanup.”
Once he was inside, Gram smiled and raised her eyebrows. “He does dishes, too? No wonder you snapped him up.”
It was tempting to point out a few of his less attractive traits, like the fact that he was a sexist baboon who wouldn’t let her drive. But he was doing a good job of convincing Gram he was Emma’s Prince Charming, which was the whole point, so she bit back her annoyance with the Saint Sean routine. “He’s a keeper.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Know what would make me happy?”
“If I buy a more manly brand of toilet paper?”
“No. Well, yes. But we can talk about that when we’re not naked.”
She draped her arm over his shoulders and ran her fingertips over the sweet spot at the back of his neck. “What should we talk about while we’re naked?”
He groaned and rolled onto his back, but he took her with him so she was straddling his hips. “Let’s talk about how you look working in the sun, with your skin all shiny and a smear of dirt on your nose.”
“Does me being all grubby and sweaty turn you on?”
“Watching you work turns me on. You work hard and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty. I like that in a woman.”
“Flattery will get you—” she swiveled her hips, brushing over his erection and making him suck in a sharp breath “—everywhere.”
He reached up and cupped her breasts, rubbing his thumbs over her nipples. “Don’t wanna be anywhere but here.”
The man knew all the right words. He definitely had all the right moves. And he was a quick learner, so he already knew all the right ways to touch her to drive her out of her mind. He had a way of looking at her with those intense blue eyes that made her feel as though he’d been waiting his entire life just to make love to her.
And, as long as she wasn’t stupid enough to imagine she could see forever in those eyes, she’d take it.
He ran one fingertip down her forehead to the bridge of her nose. “You’re frowning. What are you thinking about?”
She shoved the word forever out of her mind and ran her hands over his rippled abdomen. “I was wondering why you’re not inside me yet.”
“Because you’re frowning at me. Gives me confidence issues.”
Reaching between their bodies, she stroked the hard length of him. “Confidence is never an issue for you.”
He grinned and flipped her onto her back. “I’m confident I can have you whimpering my name into your pillow in five minutes or less.”
“I don’t know,” she said as his hand brushed over her stomach and kept going south. “I’m not an easy woman to please.”
His mouth followed the trail his hand had marked against her skin. “I never could resist a challenge.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“But I want to hear more about Sean.”
“Um…like what?” She knew he didn’t like broccoli or peas.
“Oh, I don’t know. How does he like working for you? Since you’re the owner, will he be a stay-at-home dad once you have children?”
Emma was pretty sure Sean’s ideal wife would be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen with a baby on her hip and a laundry basket on the floor, but she didn’t say so. “His working for me isn’t really long-term. He’s just not sure what he wants to do yet. And we’ll figure out the baby thing when the time comes.”
In other words, she had no clue, but she hoped Gram wouldn’t figure that out.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Keri answered the door, looking frazzled and not having the best hair day he’d ever seen. “Hi, Sean. I was just thinking, gee, I need more Kowalskis in my life right now.”
He laughed and stepped into the big foyer. “Baby acting up?”
“I thought the Kowalski men were royal pains in the ass—no offense—but you guys have nothing on the girls.”
“Joe writing?”
She blew out a sharp breath and put her hands on her hips. “No. Joe is pretending to write so I won’t dump Brianna in his lap, but he’s probably playing some stupid game.”
From the other room came a pissed-off howl that Sean hoped was their daughter and not a wild animal foraging for table scraps. “So he’s in his office?”
Keri nodded and waved a hand in that direction before making a growling sound and heading off to appease her daughter. Welcome to the jungle, he mused before heading to Joe’s office. He rapped twice on the door, then let himself in.
Joe looked up with a guilty start and Sean knew his wife had him all figured out. “She knows you’re only pretending to write so you don’t have to deal with the kid.”
“You know what really sucks? Everybody keeps saying to just wait till she’s older. Like it gets worse. How can it get worse?” Sean lifted his hands in a “don’t ask me” gesture. “For years I’ve been writing about boogeymen and the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. I had no idea there’s nothing scarier than a baby girl.”
Sean laughed. “She can’t be that bad. What does she weigh? Ten pounds?”
“Fifteen. But it’s fifteen pounds of foul temper and fouler smells. Trust me.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
Joe leaned back in his leather office chair and sighed. “Let’s talk about your life. She still on the couch?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Good. I said you’d last three weeks.”
Maybe, but Sean wouldn’t bet on it. Or he shouldn’t have bet on it, anyway. Especially a whole month. His balls ached just thinking about it. “You guys come up with a plan for the kids for Saturday yet?”
“Yeah, but it’s going to cost you.”
“Not a problem. I’ll just take it out of all the money I’m going to collect from you idiots at the end of the month.”
Joe grinned. “You keep telling yourself that, buddy.”
He was. With as much oomph as he could muster. And he’d probably keep telling himself that up to the minute he got Emma naked.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“If I’d known we were just going to sit around and watch the plants grow today, I would have brought my book.”
Emma jerked her attention from the columbine plants she’d been checking on and back to Sean. “Sorry. Zoned out for a minute. Did you get the weed blocker done?”
“Yeah. I don’t get why they want the pathway to the beach done in white stone. Don’t you usually walk back from the water barefoot?”
“Not this couple. It doesn’t matter how practical it is. All that matters is how it looks.”
“Whatever. It’s going to take the rest of the day to get all that stone down, so stop mentally tiptoeing through the tulips and let’s go.”
Emma wanted to tell him to shove his attitude up his ass, because she was the boss, or at least flip him the bird behind his back, but she didn’t have the energy. Living a fake life was a lot more exhausting than she’d anticipated.
She didn’t even want to think about what it was like trying to sleep every night with her boxer-brief-clad roommate sprawled across the bed only ten feet away, so she thought about Gram instead. Gram, who was, at that very moment, on her way into town. The town that had heard the rumors of her engagement, but never actually seen her fiancé.
If Gram returned from town still believing Emma and Sean were headed to the altar, it would be a miracle.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“We’ve got the house all to ourselves. Maybe after I run that hot bubble bath for you, I’ll help you wash your back.”
“As filthy as I am, I’m going to have to make do with the shower or I’ll leave two inches of mud in the bottom of the tub.”
“We should conserve water and shower together,” he said as he followed her into the house.
“Gee, I couldn’t do that. I’m a nice girl, remember?”
He groaned and bent forward to untie his filthy boots. “There was nothing in your owner’s manual warning about your unnaturally good lip-reading ability.”
“But then I wouldn’t know you think I’m a nice girl, but…”
He wasn’t even sure what he was in trouble for. “I was trying to make him see the difference between him and his wife, and you and me. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Relax,” she said with an impish gleam in her eyes. “I swear, it’s so easy to push your buttons.”
“You have a really twisted sense of humor.”
But he forgave her when she unzipped her jeans and wriggled out of them right there in the hall. She probably didn’t want to track trail dust all through the house, so he’d do the same. But he’d watch her first, since he wasn’t one to pass up a striptease by a beautiful woman.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“The couch is shorter than I thought. But I’m getting used to it.”
“There’s room in the bed.”
She forced herself to keep shoveling stone into the wheelbarrow. If she didn’t look at him, she didn’t have to see on his face whether or not he was serious. If he wasn’t, she might whack him with the shovel, after all. If he was…
“That’s a bad idea.”
He laughed. “So is filling your wheelbarrow so full you can’t move it, but you did it, anyway.”
“Crap.” She’d mounded the stone so high she’d have to dump half of it out to budge the damn thing.
“I’ll wheel it down for you.” He winked at her. “This time.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“I don’t think I’ve had real fried chicken since I turned fifty and Flo dragged me in to have my cholesterol numbers checked,” Russel said.
“We’ve only got so many years left, so I intend to enjoy them. If I can’t have eggs and hash and cheese once in a while, I may as well lie down and start decomposing.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“He had a mouth full of toothpaste when the door opened and Emma walked in, rubbing her face. She was carrying a bundle of clothes and squinting against the light, even though in her half-asleep state she still slapped her hand at the wall switch—and almost walked into him before she noticed his presence.
“Oh.” She stopped and blinked at him. “I thought you were still in bed.”
He spit out the toothpaste and grabbed the hand towel to wipe his mouth. “I usually make a bigger lump.”
“I don’t look, because you throw the covers off and—” She broke off as her eyes drifted south to the towel, where bigger lump took on a whole new meaning. He’d thrown miles of punishment at his body for no reason. “Oh.”
Rather than dwell on deciphering the tone of that oh, he took her by the shoulders and guided her far enough to the left so he could get by her. Once he was free, he closed the door behind him and swore under his breath.
The only way that could have been more awkward was if his towel had slipped off in front of her.
After getting dressed in record time, he flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. This was the kind of story a woman would share with her best friend. And her best friend was married to his cousin. His cousin had a big mouth. The story would be embellished. It was only a matter of time before one of his brothers called, asking why he was naked with the woman he wasn’t supposed to be naked with.
With a sigh, he pushed himself off the bed and headed downstairs. One, he wanted coffee. And, two, he didn’t want to be sprawled on the bed when Emma got around to leaving the bathroom. The only thing more awkward than being caught in a towel that didn’t do much to hide an erection was talking about it.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“He shouldn’t have walked out, because now the awkwardness was going to fester until she felt a need to talk about the incident in the bathroom. He could have laughed it off as morning wood, making it clear the pronounced lump had nothing to do with her. That would have been a lie, of course. He’d been up for several hours and it most definitely had something to do with her. But she might have bought the story and not had to talk about it.
The kitchen felt claustrophobic all of a sudden, what with the two women he barely knew and the elephant in the room, so he took his coffee and muttered about catching the morning news. He turned on the TV in the living room and sank onto the couch with a sigh of relief. It would take a few minutes to make the French toast, so he had a few minutes of normal.
“Can I talk to you for a second?” It was Emma, of course, and there went his normal.
He sighed and moved over on the couch. “Knock yourself out.”
She sat down, far enough away so none of their body parts touched. “I get the whole guy thing. Morning…you know, and I don’t want this to be weird.”
“It’s no big deal.”
“Okay.” She took a sip of her coffee, then wrapped both hands around the mug. “We’ll probably have more moments like this if we’re going to live together for a month. Probably best to just laugh them off.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Actually, when a guy’s standing in front of you, fully hard and wearing nothing but a towel, laughing might not be the best way to handle it.”
“True.” Her cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink and she laughed softly. “If we were in a movie, the towel would have fallen off. Could’ve been worse.”
“With my luck, I’m surprised it didn’t.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Gram left in the direction of the kitchen and Emma stood, intending to get out of Sean’s way, but when he stood, he grabbed her elbow and spun her around.
His mouth met hers, hot and hungry, and she wrapped her arms around his neck as she responded in kind. So what if he was temporary? She’d enjoy it while it lasted. His hands were on her hips and he pulled her closer—close enough so she could feel he wasn’t pretending to want her.
The kiss was incredible and she stood on tiptoe, reaching for more. Her fingertips found the back of his neck and she stroked him from the knot at the top of his spine and up into his hair and back.
Sean pulled away from her so fast she almost fell over. “Shit.”
“Flattering.” Her senses were still so overwhelmed by him she didn’t trust herself to say more.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“In her hurry, though, she’d forgotten to grab her pajamas, which was a dilemma. She could either go out and get them and return to the bathroom to change, or she could go out there and put them on. If Sean didn’t like it, he didn’t have to watch.
After leaving the bathroom, she turned off the overhead light in the bedroom, but it didn’t do much good. The night was clear, the moon was bright, and she knew she was all too visible when she undid her jeans and shimmied them down over her hips.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Changing into my pajamas.”
“You always do that in the bathroom.” His voice was low and rough, but she noticed he didn’t look away.
“I forgot them, and there’s no point in going back in there.” She kicked off the jeans and was going to pull on the shorts before changing shirts, but then she remembered his stupid answers to the stupid questions in that game and changed her mind.
“The point is that you don’t do it in front of me.”
“Oh, did you forget? Being watched turns me on.” And she pulled her T-shirt over her head.
She had to bite down on a surprised yelp once she was free of it because suddenly Sean was standing in front of her, wearing nothing but blue boxer briefs and a scowl. “You said I had no imagination.”
“And having no imagination is so much worse than your best friend’s family thinking you’re an exhibitionist.”
“And we’re not ever going to talk about the other thing you said. Ever.”
He was crowding her personal space, so she put her hands on his chest to push him back, but he caught her wrists. Standing there with her palms pressed against his naked skin, she could feel his heart beating at a quickened pace that matched her own and she knew she had two choices. Walk away or end up in bed with him.
She leaned her body a little closer and splayed her fingers across his chest. “Which thing aren’t we talking about? The fast-food-joint bathroom or—”
“Don’t push me too far, Emma. It’s been a long time for me.”
“How long?”
“Too damn long.” He lifted her hands from his chest, but didn’t let go of her wrists. “And I never even got to scope out the dating situation here before you showed up at my door with this half-assed scheme.”
“And since we… You haven’t…”
“The last thing I need is to get caught cheating on a woman I can’t tell anybody I’m not really in a relationship with.” His gaze dropped from her face to her lacy white bra and he sighed. “You’re killing me.”
“Lying awake on the couch every night, wondering what it would be like to slide into bed with you has been killing me for two weeks.”
“Yeah.” He let go of her wrists and slid his hands up the back of her neck and into her hair. “I’ve thought about that, too. A lot. Pretty much constantly, actually.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“Sean had to get out of the house or he was totally going to lose it. He wasn’t sure if that meant punching a hole in the wall or tossing Emma over his shoulder and carrying her off to bed caveman-style, but either was a bad idea.
Time to go for a ride and get some space, but first he stuck another sticky note to the mirror and uncapped the Sharpie.
You can hold my hand or pat my head or scratch my belly but don’t rub the back of my neck again unless you want to get naked.
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“How’s fake almost-married life treating you?”
“I kissed her.” He chugged down a quarter of the mug.
“Yeah, so? Engaged people do that sometimes.”
“I kissed her after Cat left the room. I didn’t kiss her because we were pretending. I kissed her because…Hell, I don’t need to draw you a map.”
“When did that happen?”
Sean looked at his watch. “About a half hour ago.”
Kevin gave a low whistle. “She still sleeping on the couch?”
“Yes. And she’s staying there, too, goddammit.”
“Did she punch you in the face? Knee you in the balls?”
Kevin grinned. “So what’s the problem? You want her. She can at least tolerate you. Get it out of your system.”
He was afraid sleeping with Emma wouldn’t get her out of his system, but get her a little further under his skin, instead. “Bad idea.”
“Call it a fringe benefit.”
“She’s already pretending she’s in love with me. Throwing real sex on top of that could get it all mixed up in her head.”
“You worried about her mixing it up…or you?”
That was ridiculous, so he snorted and swallowed some more beer. He had no interest in settling down—signing his life over to somebody else so soon after getting it back from Uncle Sam—and he sure as hell wasn’t planting flowers until retirement age. Assuming he didn’t lose his mind and suffocate himself in a mound of mulch before then.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“You took a good whack to the thigh,” he pointed out while she filled a couple of frosted mugs with water.
She twisted around so she could see the bruises. “Yeah. It’s a little tender to the touch but nothing major.”
“You should let me check the rest of you over.” She gave him a cold glass of water and an arched eyebrow.
“For bruises, I mean, though you do look sexy as hell with a dirty face, wearing nothing but a T-shirt.”
Putting a hand on her hip, which drew the hem of her T-shirt up a tantalizing half-inch, she scowled at him. “When I made you my fake fiancé, I had no idea you had this weird dirty-face fetish.”
“I didn’t have it before I became your fake fiancé.” He took a long drink of water. “And it’s not a fetish. I told you, it turns me on that you work hard and you play hard. The dirt’s just a visual representation of that, I guess.”
“That’s very deep of you.”
“Plus, it means you’ll be showering soon and I like you all soaped up and slippery, too.”
A slow flush burned up her neck. “Dirty. Clean. Doesn’t matter to you, does it?”
He was going to tell her no, it didn’t matter—that he’d take her any way he could get her—but he kept his mouth shut. It was true, of course, but nothing good would come of her knowing that. She didn’t need to know that sometimes when they were curled up on the couch watching television or arguing about white versus wheat bread at the store, he would sometimes forget they were pretending to be a couple.
And she really didn’t need to know it sometimes bummed him out when he remembered.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

“She opened her eyes and then frowned. “Why are you dressed?”
“Because I got up and got dressed so I could find some coffee, but I changed my mind and I’m coming back to bed.”
“Fully dressed?”
“Yes. No shoes, though.”
It was too early to follow along with his crazy bouncing ball of logic. “Did Gram put a pot of coffee on yet?”
He groaned and threw his arm over his eyes. “Not exactly.”
“What is wrong with you this morning?”
“I just ran into your grandmother. She was sneaking into the house…in the same dress she wore last night.”
“What?” Emma sat up, aches and pains forgotten. “You caught Gram doing the walk of shame?”
“Yes, and it was awkward and now I’m going back to bed.”
She pushed his arm off his face. “What did she say?”
“She said good-morning and told me she was going to take a quick shower and then start breakfast.”
“And what did you say?”
“I muttered something about taking her time and then ran like a girl.”
Emma flopped back onto her pillow and stare at the ceiling. “Wow.”
“I probably should have broken it to you better, but I’m not sure how I could have.”
She didn’t know what to say. Go, Gram, a part of her was thinking, but another part wanted to hide under the covers with Sean and not deal with the fact her grandmother was currently taking a shower after doing the walk of shame. That was obviously the side of himself Sean was currently listening to.
“We have to go down eventually,” she said. “I need coffee. And food.”
“I’ll wait here. Bring some back.”
She laughed and slapped his thigh. “If I can face her, so can you. She’s not your grandmother.”
“It was awkward.”
“I’m sure it’s awkward for her, knowing we’re having sex, but she’s an adult about it.”
That just made him cover his face with his arm again. “That’s different.”
“Why? Because she’s sixty-five?”
“No. Because, as you just said, she’s a grandmother. Your grandmother.”
“Come on. We’ll go down together.” She slid out of bed and walked toward the bathroom. “Stop making it such a big deal.”
Gram was still in the shower when they went past the bathroom on their way down the hall. They could tell because she was whistling a very cheery tune that made Sean wince.
Emma grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the stairs. “Coffee.”
They got a pot going and sat at the table in silence until enough had brewed to sneak two cups from it. Emma put the kettle on and dropped a tea bag into Gram’s mug.
The woman of the hour appeared just as it whistled, looking refreshed and cheerful. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” they both mumbled.”
― Shannon Stacey, quote from Yours to Keep

About the author

Shannon Stacey
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