Donovan glanced at Eve, taking in her reaction to Garrett speaking of his and Eve’s relationship like it was a done deal. A fait accompli. Her cheeks were flushed but she didn’t seem embarrassed. She seemed . . . happy. A fact that made Donovan every bit as happy.

Her acceptance was the only obstacle in their relationship. As ridiculous as that sounded, given the fact that she was a wanted criminal and she and her siblings were on the run from an abusive asshole, but those things could be overcome. Her acceptance couldn’t be forced. She had to give that freely and of her own accord no matter how Donovan wished that he could will it to be.

“Come on. I’ll walk you out,” Donovan said, eager to have his family to himself again. He wasn’t ready to share them with the rest of his family. Not yet. That would come. And he most definitely wanted to introduce them to his big, boisterous, loving family. But for now he just wanted to hide them away and savor the shine of something so new and very precious.

Garrett said his good-byes and then headed toward the door, Donovan on his heels. When they got outside, Garrett turned to Donovan, his expression serious.

“She’s beautiful, man. And you’re right. Very fragile. Christ, I look at her and it pisses me off that some asshole had his hands on her.”

“It’s worse,” Donovan said, anger bubbling in his chest. “He was making moves on Cammie when Eve intervened and got them out of there.”

“What the fuck?” Garrett roared. “Jesus Christ, she’s a baby! And her own father was trying to molest her? Did he succeed? I’ll take the son of a bitch apart myself. Over my dead body will he ever get near Eve or Cammie again.”

Donovan shook his head. “I don’t know. Eve doesn’t think he did. She’s questioned Cammie, albeit vaguely and very gently. She doesn’t want to upset her or plant suggestions. But Travis is the one who called Eve. It’s a long story and one I’ll share with you and the others when I get a chance. But he was a controlling bastard who had everyone around him under his thumb and when Eve bucked that control, he punished her and made her life miserable. And when he killed Eve’s mother, he expected Eve to step in and take her place in his bed.”

“The little bastard,” Garrett growled. “I’d like two minutes alone with him. I’d take off his balls and choke him on them.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Donovan said. “You’ll have to wait in line for your shot. I plan to get to him first.”

“I was serious about the rest of the family, Van. They all want to meet Eve and Cammie and Travis. They’re worried about you, but I think once they meet her, those worries will evaporate on the spot. I know they did for me. I can’t say I blame you one bit now. I don’t know of anyone who could look at them and not have the reaction you did. They’re good kids. Especially Travis. He acts a hell of a lot older than fifteen.”

“Buy me a little time, man. Okay? Give me today at least. Maren will be over in a while to check on them all and she’s bringing more IV solution for Cammie, so things will be hectic today anyway and I’d really like some time with them and let them settle in before the family descends.”

Garrett nodded. “I’ll call them and explain. Once I tell them I met Eve and the kids, they’ll be somewhat appeased until they can check her out themselves.”

“There’s one other thing,” Donovan said. “Eve’s stepfather has already shown up at the hardware store. Rusty came out earlier to tell me he was nosing around, asking questions. He knows Travis was there, so Rusty didn’t even try to lie to him. She played it good and did what she should have. She admitted he’d worked there a few days. She was up front about everything except where they are now, so he wouldn’t get suspicious or suspect she was lying to him or trying to hide something. But you need to pass the word. I don’t want Rusty in that store by herself anymore. Nor do I want Dad there alone either. Sean is aware of the situation and he’s going to arrange drive-bys and he’ll check in periodically. But until this is all resolved, I’d feel a hell of a lot better if you could get with Sam and arrange for one of us or one of Nathan and Joe’s team to be at the hardware store at all times.”

Garrett’s expression became thunderous. “The little fucker is here already? How the hell did he find them so fast?”

“He’s got a lot of money and resources, not to mention connections. Sean did some digging. Eve is wanted for kidnapping and her stepfather created medical records documenting her supposed history of mental illness. He’s methodical. I have to give him that. He made it so he has proof that she’s unstable and a danger not only to herself but to anyone who comes into contact with her.”

“Son of a bitch. That sucks, man. Any idea what you’re going to do yet?”

Donovan shook his head. “No, not yet. I’m taking it one day at a time and as bad as it may sound, right now my focus is on getting her in my bed and making her realize that this is the real deal. She has to trust me first before I can do anything to help her. I’m afraid she’ll run, so I want to be damn sure she’s in this with me as deep as I am.”

Garrett nodded. “Makes sense. I’d do the same thing.”

Donovan chuckled. “I know you would. Hell, you did.”

“Yep. And I don’t suffer one iota of remorse. It got me what I wanted. Sarah. The only thing I regret is not being up front with her a hell of a lot sooner and her finding out what she did the way she did.”

“It worked out. That’s all that matters. And now you’re married with a baby on the way.”

Garrett’s face split into a goofy, idiotic grin. His entire face lit up and joy reflected in his blue eyes. He looked like a kid who’d just gotten exactly what he wanted for Christmas.

“You see now why I wanted what you and the others have?” Donovan asked softly. “Think about how you feel about the fact that the woman you love is pregnant with your child and that she’s in your bed every night and she’s there waiting every time you come home from a mission.”

“Yeah, I get it. I just didn’t want you to . . . settle. I didn’t want you to jump at the first opportunity because you were afraid it would never happen for you. I—we all—just want you to be happy.”

“I understand, but Garrett, I’m not settling. Eve is the one. It hasn’t happened for me before now because I was waiting for her. She’s it and I can’t explain it any more than that. I can’t explain it any more than you can explain why you took one look at Sarah and knew she was the one, why Nathan knew from the start that Shea was it for him. Like Sam knew Sophie was his and pined his dumb ass for her for months before we pulled her out of the lake. He was a hell of a lot more stubborn than the rest of you and he resisted more, even going so far as not to trust Sophie when she showed up begging for help. I’m not going that route. Eve is it for me and I’m not going to fight it at all. Hell, I want it too much. I want . . . her.”

Garrett smiled and then bumped fists with Donovan. “Oorah, man. Oorah.”

Donovan grinned. “Hell yeah, oorah! None of that hooyah bullshit.”

“Okay, get back to your family. I’ll run now and don’t worry. I’ll call off the dogs and tell them to give you some space. I’ll fill them in as much as I can from what little I’ve observed, but just know that Ma is going to be even more determined to meet Eve and her newest grandchildren the minute I tell her you’re serious about Eve.”

Donovan waved, feeling a ridiculous thrill over the fact that Garrett had said get back to your family. Hell yeah, his family. His. And he wasn’t going to ever give them up without one hell of a fight. Fuck a fight. He’d breathe his last breath before ever allowing them to be taken from him.


DONOVAN quietly looked in on Travis and Cammie, who were both sleeping soundly. He was taken with the image of the two snuggled up, Cammie cuddled into Travis’s side, her arm thrown trustingly over his belly.

Her head rested over his arm and she was nestled under his shoulder. Travis’s head was turned to the side so his chin was a mere inch above Cammie’s tousled curls.

Maren and Steele had come by so Maren could check in on Travis, Cammie and Eve. She’d adjusted Cammie’s IV medication and was satisfied that she seemed to be making good progress and was no longer running a temperature. Travis was still experiencing pain and discomfort, though he tried to mask it. Maren had insisted on giving him another injection and then told Donovan that he could switch to oral pain medication for the duration of his recovery.

She’d given Eve a clean bill of health after examining her head and questioning Eve at length about her symptoms.

Afterward, Maren and Steele had left, and Maren had said she wouldn’t return unless Donovan thought she was needed. That after the latest piggyback of antibiotics, Donovan could discontinue Cammie’s IV and monitor her progress.

Once Maren and Steele had departed, Donovan, Eve, Travis and Cammie had lounged in the living room watching movies until it was evident that Travis and Cammie both were ready for bed. Garrett had evidently kept his word about having the rest of the family stand down, because no one else had stopped by, a fact Donovan was grateful for. He savored every moment of the evening alone with Eve and her siblings. He looked forward to many more evenings just like this one.

Donovan stood in the doorway, watching them a moment longer, taking pride in the sight of his family. His kids. Sure, this wasn’t the way a lot of men wanted to start a relationship. With a ready-made family. Taking on a four-year-old and a teenage boy wouldn’t be easy. But Donovan had fallen in love with them all and he looked forward to the day he could officially call them his and give them his name.

Cammie and Travis Kelly. He liked the sound of it. Tested it quietly on his lips.

Eve Kelly sounded even better. He was jumping the gun in a huge way. They had a long way to go before they could consider marriage. But it didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking about the day he made it official.

In his eyes they were already his. And in his family’s eyes, they were one of them. But he wanted the world to know it. And that couldn’t happen until any and all threat to them was eliminated.

He backed reluctantly through the door, closing it quietly behind him, and then he walked down the hall to where Eve was. Tonight he would make love to her. He’d make her his, and he was aching to make it happen. He ached to hold her in his arms while he made love to her. Watch her come apart underneath him, her eyes on him, them locked together in the most intimate way two people could be joined.

He wouldn’t push her if she wasn’t ready, but he hoped to hell she wanted him half as much as he wanted her. He’d wait forever if that was what it took, but every part of his soul prayed that she was ready.

When he reached her door, he knocked softly, listening for her summons. When he heard her call, he pushed in, his gaze automatically seeking her out.

She was perched on the bed, clad in a pair of pajamas one of his sisters-in-law had sent over with the rest of the clothing they’d gotten together for her. He’d thank them in person for their generosity and willingness to help out a total stranger, but right now his entire focus was on Eve and spending time with her alone, without outside distractions.

She found his gaze, and color flooded her cheeks. Was he that obvious? She looked adorable, sitting up against her pillows, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around her legs. But what he didn’t see was any evidence that told him she wasn’t open to what he planned.

He walked over to the bed and sat right next to her hip, scooting her over just enough that he could perch on the edge of the mattress. Then he reached for her hand, pulling it to his lips to press a kiss to each of her fingers.

“I want to make love to you, Eve,” he said bluntly.

There were probably better ways of seducing a woman, but he was a get-to-the-point, blunt kind of guy and that wasn’t ever going to change. Besides, she knew what he wanted. He’d certainly made himself clear enough, so there was no need for silly, coy games.

“Will you let me?” he asked softly.

Her pupils dilated and her color heightened further. She nervously licked her lips, and he almost groaned out loud.

“I don’t have much . . . experience,” she whispered. “I don’t want you to be disappointed.”

His heart lurched at the uncertainty written on her face.

“Honey, you disappointing me isn’t possible. I just need to know one thing and one thing only. Do you want me as much as I want you? Do you want to make love with me tonight?”

Slowly she nodded, an adorably shy expression blooming on her delicate features. She was, in a word, beautiful. And she was his. He had to quash the urge to haul her into his arms, put her on her back and plunge as deep as he could into her body. But he harnessed his inner caveman and forced himself to use restraint.