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"Deke, I don't get-"

"Come April, Jussy, snow starts thawing, weather turns, I'm gone and there ain't nothin' that can hold that back."

I slid away from him.

I had this reaction even though I knew this. He'd mentioned it during our night by the fire pit, how he'd take off, how he didn't stay put for long.

I just didn't know that it was something that might someday affect me.

I barely got an inch before his hand curled tight behind my knee and he jerked me right back.

"I go, Justice," he started, his voice low like a warning, "this keeps like it is with us, I want you with me."

I go, Justice...I want you with me.

More wet hit my eyes and didn't linger.

It slid right down my cheeks.

Deke watched it then looked at me.

"Think that's an answer, baby, but you gotta give it to me with words."

"I'd go anywhere with you."

It was then I felt Deke go solid as a rock.

"You make me happy," I told him something he knew.

But maybe he didn't know.

It was on the tip of my tongue to explain my poet's soul, to share that "Chain Link" was for him, when his hand left my knee. He bent to put his beer on the floor then he twisted to me, his hand coming up. He caught me at the back of my neck and pulled me to him. His other hand lifted and cupped my cheek, thumb sliding through the wet as he stared into my eyes.

"So fuckin' pretty, girl with all your hair, sittin' in a corner of a biker bar with her notebook, writing poetry," he murmured.

He was talking about way back in Wyoming.

His gaze shifted, watching his thumb move through my tears.

As for me, I was having trouble breathing.

His eyes came back to mine.

"You walked into Bubba's, you were different. Whole new girl. You'd come into you. Smelled the money on you, Jussy. Knew I wanted to tap your ass but was goin' nowhere near you because, I let you in, when I had to go, knew in my gut you wouldn't go with me and it'd tear me up, leavin' you behind, but it'd tear me up worse if I stayed."

"You thought that at Bubba's?" I asked breathlessly.

I watched his eyes grin. "Okay, maybe it was after your rant about buyin' me prime rib sandwiches, somethin' I'll note now, you have not done."

Mental note to take care of that ASAP.

"That first time at Bubba's, just wanted to tap your ass," he finished.

"You barely looked at me," I reminded him.

"Learned a long time ago not to look too long at somethin' you wanted you couldn't have. Served no purpose and only settled the shit in deeper that life was just mostly a lot of somethings you'd never have."

"Life's a lot more than that, honey."

He slid his thumb along my lower lip, not, I sensed, to shut me up.

Just to touch me.

And when he replied, he did it with gentleness, but the words still dug deep. "That right there, baby, is shit people like you say to people like me when we know more than you because we lived that difference."

It sucked, it sucked so huge it was impossible to process.

But I could not argue that.

"I don't want..." The words came out choked so I cleared my throat. "I don't want you to think you're a different type of people than me."

"Everyone's different, Jussy. That don't mean different is anything but that. Different. And I think we're proving that. And just to say, in order to make this shit clear we're talkin' about right now, I hope what we're proving keeps goin'. In other words, who we are might not fit but it can still work."

More tears filled my eyes and I didn't clear the hoarse from my voice when I said, "I hope that keeps going too."

"I get that, Justice. You haven't hidden you been into me from the start. Or, if you tried, you're shit at it."

That didn't make me keep crying.

I jerked my head back, my eyes narrowing.

Deke let my neck go but only to use that hand to grab my beer, put it on the floor and then he hooked me behind the back of one knee with his arm, scooping up the other along the way. He lifted from the couch as he did, taking me with him. He then dumped me on my back on the couch with him on top of me.

When I had his weight on me, his face in my face, he said, "Teasin' you, Jussy."

I wasn't in the mood to be teased.

I was in the mood to know for certain that Deke and I were where we needed to be.

Because I was falling in love with him.

And he'd given me indication that the same was happening for him with me and it was safe to say I loved that.

A whole lot.

But there were things unsettled, big things that might fuck up our future.

So now we had to get past that.

"So this talk you wanted to have boils down to something I already know, you like me," I declared. "And although you have some serious baggage in your life, stuff you lived through that breaks my heart, you're not letting it hold you back living that life. You do what you do and you want me to know when you get on with the part of doing that that puts your ass on the road, you want me with you."

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Something you knew I'd do because you knew I was into you."


"So I was nervous for nothing."

"Jussy, you're all about settin' up house. Can't say I didn't have a big fuckin' clue how you lived your life with your dad, all good with makin' home about him, that you get life on the road better than anybody. It still was not a given that you weren't done with that and ready to lay roots."

"So you were nervous too."

He grinned. "There was that, but mostly I figured I was good because you're really fuckin' into me."

"Sometimes your cocky is not hot," I snapped.

His brows went up. "There's times my cocky makes you hot?"

I didn't answer that.

He was sure of himself.

But I wasn't quite sure of us, what was happening in a future that I was hoping would be our future, and I really, really needed to be sure.

Or as close as I could get.

So I stated, "We've established you don't like rich people and want nothing to do with me being famous. I'm down with the road. It's part of my life and always has been. But, just to say, I didn't buy a house so I can leave it empty all the time."

"Settle in August, September, sometimes weather's good, October, Jussy. Sometimes that road comes with my trailer hitched to my truck so home goes where I go. Most of it's me on the back of my bike. Weather turns, most roots I got is me bein' rooted to Carnal for a solid six months. Sometimes more."

That was half a year.

I could totally do that.

"That's acceptable."

He grinned his cocky grin again.

"But you take me with you, Deke, just pointing out, the money, me being a Lonesome, that comes too."

"I don't have a crystal ball, gypsy. Cannot say however that hits me the first time it hits me I'm gonna know exactly how I'm gonna react. But I'm thirty-eight years old. I know the man I am. And this good we got keeps goin', it won't be about that. It'll be about you."

"That is me."

He shook his head. "Steph's chicken is you. Whatever went down with you and Krys in her Camaro is you. That isn't you. You now know the baggage I got that you've gotta put up with. That's the baggage you got I gotta put up with except part of it means you can lay down a load without blinking to buy a seventy-inch TV."

"So you want a future with me," I stated.

"No," he replied firmly, a strange look hitting his eyes.

It was a look I couldn't read, but it seemed unsure, and Deke never seemed unsure. So him giving me that answer to my question, that unsettled look in his eyes, my stomach clutched again.

But he wasn't done speaking.

"I'm gonna lay this on you and hope like fuck it doesn't freak you but you gotta hear it," he began.

I took a deep breath.

Deke kept going.

"I got a lotta friends I watched go down for the count and stay down because they like the feel of bein' stuck. And what I mean when I say that is they went down to the women they decided to spend their lives with. Watched that, dug that for them, straight up wanted it for myself. But I know the man I am and knew what that would take for it to happen to me. And never, not once, Justice, did I ever find one I even considered havin' this conversation with so the shit I'm tellin' you, baby, you gotta know up front not to take it lightly. And I'll share what I mean by sayin' that I don't want a future with you. Where I'm at right now, after seein' those cruisers at your house, is that I can't imagine a future without you."

I lay beneath Deke, staring at him, my mind filled with poetry.

Wither to dust, crumble like rust,

Only by your side.

Fresh air, cold beer,

Root myself in you,

Consider my life, you're all that's right,

Breathless to bring on the night.

Wither to dust, crumble like rust,

Only at your side.

Just what I need when I have everything,

The breath that I breathe,

I only get when you're laughing.

Chain links, worn jeans.

Wither to dust, crumble like rust,

With me at your side.

I could search 'til I'm done, 'til moon becomes sun,

To discover I know, you're the one.

There'll be only you, only you that's for me.

Through your eyes I finally see.

Holding your heart I can be.

At your side, I find peace.

Chain links, white tee.

Wither to dust, crumble like rust,

All I need is to be at your side.

"Jussy, need you to give me something, baby."

I focused on Deke.

He was watching me intensely and I still saw the uncertainty.

It was a thing of beauty.

God, he really, really, so totally liked me.

I lifted a hand and held it to his cheek as I whispered, "Please, honey, get off me."

Something passed through his eyes that I hated to see.

But I needed him up so I could give him something.

He angled off me and I wasted no time scrambling off the couch. I got my bag. I pulled my phone out of it and I dug in the side pocket to grab the wound-up ear buds I always kept with me.

I dropped the bag, plugged the ear buds into my phone and turned to him.

It took three steps to get to where he was standing, watching me, face blank, but I could see the distance forming. Perhaps he was confused at my movements but he didn't even want to give me that vulnerability.

He wanted an answer to the question he didn't pose but it was a question all the same.

One that meant everything to him too.

And I was going to give him one.

I got close, put my hand to his chest and put pressure on.

He was Deke so he gave me what I was asking for.

He sat.

I crawled into his lap and I saw relief strike through the blank as his arms started to curl around me.

That relief...

God, I was absolutely falling in love with this amazing man.

I lifted the ear buds, shoving one in his ear.


"Shh," I whispered.

I put the other one in his ear, cued up my music, found what I needed and looked to him.

"Listen," I said, looking again at my phone, making sure the volume was right (because I could blast my music).

When it was all good, I played him "Chain Link."

Deke slid his hand up my back to curl it around the base of my neck while his other arm curved closer around my hip, his focus blurred and he listened to me singing in his ears.

I watched his face then I watched my phone and focused on breathing as the dot slid along the line.

When it was over, I hit pause and looked to him, lifting my hands to pop out the ear buds.

And when I did, he said quietly, "Heard that before, baby. Pretty song. You got a way."

"You were standing by a chain link fence wearing worn jeans and a white tee the first time I saw you in a biker bar in Wyoming."

The hand at my neck and the arm around me caused pain as both tightened with all the considerable strength Deke possessed.

I didn't share he was hurting me.

I stared in hazel eyes burning into mine and I whispered, "Told you, baby. Sitting there in that bar before you brought me a Jack and Coke, I was writing lyrics."

Suddenly we were up, me in Deke's arms, and I dropped my phone so I could hold on to him as he stalked down the narrow hall, doing it sideways to accommodate us both.

When we got to his bed, he swung me out so he was standing at the foot but I was on my knees on the bed in front of him.

"Get naked," he growled.

I stared for just a beat into the heat of his eyes before I hurried to do what I was told.

Deke didn't take that beat. At the end of that beat, his arms slammed into the ceiling of his trailer as he yanked off his freaking...white tee.

I started trembling.

Both of us naked, Deke hooked me at the waist, yanking me up so I slammed into his body and he was kissing me before he bent us over the bed, climbing in, taking me with him.

I went down and Deke came down on top of me.

I thought it'd go fast, be frenzied, rough, hard, deep, intense, amazing.

It was frenzied. Rough. Hard. Deep. Intense. Amazing.

But it was that as we took our time.

I got to drag my tongue tight against both his nipples (and more). I got his cock in my mouth. I tasted his neck. The skin around his navel. Grazed the insides of his elbows with my teeth. Touched my tongue to the lobes of his ears. Pulled each of his balls deep into my mouth.

Deke took in just as much as me.

We didn't give and take. We gave while taking. We took while giving.

And we were so into it...

No it wasn't that.

There couldn't be anything between us when Deke finally slid inside me, his cock unsheathed.

I held him close, I held him with everything I had, including holding his eyes as he moved over me, moved inside me, became a part of me.

The orgasm wasn't hard and soul-shattering, tearing through me.

It came slow, it lasted long, and through it, clutching him tight to me, it knitted Deke into every fiber of me.

Deke ended his with his neck bent, his temple pressed to the side of my head, his labored breaths sounding sweet against my ear.

"Wish like fuck, Jussy, I didn't stand you up."

I closed my eyes and kept him held tight.

He wanted that time back.



He wanted to know years ago I was a bear in the morning.

I'd wanted that too.

But now...

Now I was just fucking happy that there was a now.

"I wish like fuck, Deke, that I could erase the life that covered you and your mom with shit and you two had more than your fair share of happy, us visiting her at her cottage on a lake," I whispered back.

I opened my eyes when he lifted his head and looked down at me.

But I wasn't done.

"Though, that said, I'd do it so you'd still end up a travelin' man, because what can I say?" I gave him a slight shrug and a big smile. "I'm a gypsy."

I felt the beauty of his sharp bark of laughter all through me right before he took my mouth in a rough, hard, deep, intense, amazing kiss.

He ended it and kissed the mark that was still on my shoulder, except fading, and I wished he'd bite me again, had even thought about getting a tattoo of his teeth marks so I could have that memory of our first time, that mark that was Deke's with me always.

He slid out, rolled off and rolled me into him.

I rested my cheek on his chest, drawing mindless patterns through the hair there, staring at a wall filled with Deke's history.

"I wanna be a part of your trailer," I blurted.

"Say again?"

I lifted up, resting my forearm on his chest and looking in his eyes.

"The wallpaper history of Deke Hightower on the walls. I want to be a part of it."

His face got soft and his hand did what it did a lot. It trailed up my spine, and along its path, he tangled it in my hair.

This time he used that hair to pull my face closer to his.

"So I take it that's official you wanna see about lookin' into a future with me."

"Yep," I replied immediately.

"Fuck," he whispered, his gaze falling to my mouth. "No bullshit. Out there. Open. My Jussy." He looked again into my eyes. "Made for me."

I felt more tears sting my nose and combatted them by slapping his chest so hard, the sound cracked across the room and the surprise of it made him grunt and his body jerk.

I ignored that and ordered, "You have to stop saying shit like that because every time you do it makes me want to cry and now I'm thirty-four, I am worldly, worldly-wise and a little world-weary and as such, I'm not a crier. Except," I hastened to add, "when the man I like...a lot," I stressed, "tells me he and his mom were homeless. Then I'm allowed to cry."





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