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He wrapped his other arm around me and hauled me up his chest so we were face to face.

He was grinning when he stated, "Can't stop sayin' it, gypsy. Honest truth. You seem made for me."

"You've said it. Sentiment communicated. It undoes me. Kindly stop because I can't handle it."

"Most women would like hearing shit like that."

"I think, me being the only one allowed to use your key and bring over a Crock-Pot, we've also established I'm not most women to you."

"This would be true," he muttered, his eyes again at my mouth, his mouth being where his hand at my hair was guiding me.

I pushed back. "Deke."

He stopped guiding my head and his eyes came to mine.

"Yeah, baby?"

"I'm being serious."

"So am I."

"If you don't stop being gushy, I'm going to have to write another song about you."

His eyes flared and he pulled my face closer in a way I couldn't resist.

"Baby, you think that's a deterrent, you are seriously fuckin' wrong."

I loved that he liked "Chain Link."



Loved that.

But it was time for more serious, that being him understanding what he just got himself into.

"The world finds out you're 'Chain Link,' Deke, I'm no Lacey Town. But still, just saying..." I let that hang.

"Justice, you felt the draw of me in Wyoming that I felt from you when you walked into Bubba's, you think I give a shit about the world knowin' that, you're wrong. When I say I don't want anything to do with your fame I say it so you know what we got don't got dick to do with that. That don't mean I don't get that you earned it and how you earned it. The things a man would be proud of his woman bein' able to do, know I'm proud of those things in you. It's just that a whole load of people know how good you are at doin' 'em too. And that worries me because some of those folks can think they own a piece of you. But mostly, it's just dead fuckin' cool that's a part of you."


He was always just...so...damned...Deke.

I dropped my head, it collided with his jaw but was cushioned by whiskers, and I muttered, "Fuck, you're gonna make me cry again."

"Before you get mushy," he said in my ear, his tone changing, going low, "you protected against pregnancy?"

I closed my eyes. "Uh, not so much."

His hand still tangled in my hair wrapped around the side of my neck. "Right. Shit happens, we'll deal."


That was surprising.

That was it?

We'd just deal?

I lifted my head and looked at him.

"You got a problem with the Pill?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Only taking hormones when I'm not having sex regularly."

"Jussy, you're gonna be having sex regularly."

I pressed my lips together but still smiled through the press as I nodded.


We now officially were looking at a future together.

I guess we'd just deal.

He watched my mouth, his own lips quirking, but looked into my eyes when I quit pressing.

"You, um...protected against other things?" I asked.

"Didn't find her, that didn't mean I wasn't looking," he said strangely in answer. Then he went on to explain the strange. "She proved difficult to find. Still was lookin' and not about to bang some woman ungloved and pass on shit I wouldn't want her to have. This is good seein' as one day she just upped and walked into Bubba's." His hand (with my hair) shifted so he could stroke my jaw with his knuckles. "And now she's here and I got nothin' but clean to give her. And babies, if she doesn't get her ass on the Pill."


I dipped close and touched my nose to his.

"You're doing it again, Deke."

"Whatever, Jussy," he muttered. "Get used to it." He then rolled me so he was on top and asked, "You bring the condoms?"

"Two boxes enough?"

He grinned at me.

"We'll make it work," he said, his mouth coming toward mine.

"Cocky," I muttered.

That was all I got out.

Deke kissed me.

The two boxes were definitely enough. Deke was a powerhouse in bed but he wasn't supernatural.

Still, I made a mental note until I got a doctor's appointment that we needed both locations stocked up so there were no worries.

Just happy.

Chapter Seventeen

In Deep


The next morning, I got sidetracked from getting dressed to make the bed. Thus I had on my bra, panties and jeans while smoothing covers when I heard Deke get out of the shower, a place that was so tiny, no way we could share (the only strike against Deke's trailer). I even wondered how Deke could fit in there by himself.

He unusually didn't come right into his bedroom area to get dressed, but I was on a bed-making mission so I didn't look to see where he went.

I was busy fluffing and placing pillows when he came to me.

And when he did, he got right behind me, sliding a hand across my belly, slanting it up and pulling me to straight so I felt the heat of him, the hardness of him at my back before I felt something else.

Something cold with an edge that was scraping along the skin under the material of my bra between my breasts.

I looked down and saw the key Deke was positioning there.

I drew in a breath and forgot to let it go as tingles shivered at the skin there, over the tops of my breasts, up my shoulders, down my arms to sizzle all the way to my fingertips.

That was when I felt Deke's lips at my neck.

"Anytime you wanna set up the Crock-Pot, gypsy, or anything you wanna do. My space is yours and you're free to be here anytime you want."

That key was the key to his trailer.

The home he set up by a lake because his mom couldn't.

God, he was totally killing me. I knew it by the sting at my eyes.

Root myself in you

That was it. All I could think.

I wanted to root myself in Deke.

And it could not be expressed, even by the poet I fancied myself to be, how glorious it was that it seemed Deke wanted the same thing.

"Jussy?" he called when I said nothing.

"I'm gonna Crock-Pot the shit out of this winter."

He moved away but not far, only far enough to turn me into his arms again, this time front to front.

And when I looked into his face, I saw and felt that he was silently chuckling.

The breath I breathe I only get when you're laughing

"Crock-Pot is a verb?" he teased.

"It is now," I told him.

"Can you top Steph's chicken?" he asked with more than mild curiosity.

I could not. I knew one Crock-Pot recipe.

Plans for that day: Troll the Internet to find kickass Crock-Pot recipes.

"Not yet, but I will," I answered.

He was grinning but said through it, "We got a problem."


There were no problems.

Another day had dawned where I wanted Deke.

And Deke wanted me.

And we were together.

There was no room for problems.

I felt the frown form between my eyes. "What problem?"

"When you're bein' cute, I wanna fuck you. Since you're cute all the time, this means I wanna fuck you all the time. This is a problem 'cause, when I settle in for the winter, I work and I work hard so I got money to hit the road when that time comes. And I can't earn if I'm not workin' and instead constantly fucking you."

I took this as good news, not a problem at all since I liked that he thought I was cute and I wanted him to want to fuck me all the time since he just had to breathe for me to want to fuck him.

To communicate that last part, I slid a hand up his back and pushed closer. "I think Max is the kinda guy who understands delayed start for morning nookie."

I actually did think this, though I had no idea if it was true. But if my theory was correct, that these mountain men had libidos that matched their good looks, his was as out the roof as Deke's. So I figured he'd not only understand that, he'd champion it.

Deke dipped his face closer and it had that soft look, that look I'd seen before. That look that right in that moment I knew I'd understand whenever he gave it to me. Which meant it was a look I treasured for more than one reason, because it meant I was cracking the nut that was Deke.

That look being the look Deke gave me when he was going to do something he didn't want to do. That being communicate he wasn't going to give me what I wanted.

"And I think that Max takes me on every time I come home," he said in a voice as soft as his look. "He pays good. He throws a shit ton of work my way. And he's been cool about all that's gone down, Jussy. But the bottom line of that is, I work for him. You bein' in a situation, he's gonna get. You bein' out of that situation, comin' out of it as my woman, he's not gonna be feelin' a lot of love that I'm bangin' the client and not gettin' work done."

I curled a hand around the side of his neck.

"Although I would prefer a delayed start, you're right." I grinned at him. "And you getting work done means me closer to having a kitchen where I can do more than kick the shit out of a Crock-Pot."

Deke grinned back at me, his arms tightened around me and I took his cue.

I lifted up on my toes as he dropped his head toward mine.

And he kissed me, as soft as his look, but wet, so also hot, and since he couldn't give me what I wanted-morning nookie-he gave me something else.

A long, soft, wet, hot kiss with Deke in nothing but a towel and me wearing no shirt but having the key to his trailer tucked in my bra.

It wasn't as fabulous as an orgasm from Deke.

But it was still a kiss I'd never forget.

* * * * *

Deke was alone upstairs with the paint sprayer, no help today.

But they'd finished the entire downstairs and one side of the upstairs yesterday. I'd eventually timed it, and not including setting up the sprayer, or cleaning it after, it took them all of nine minutes to spray an entire room.

Nine minutes.

That was it.


Deke at work, I wandered out to my deck, lit the fire pit and settled in with my phone.

It was early October, definitely chilly, but I was warm inside.

Warm inside because of what had happened last night. Because of Deke knowing "Chain Link" was written for him and how he'd reacted to that. And because Deke had shared with me his plans for the rest of his time working alone at my house.

This being, after he finished spraying the paint, he was going to lay the floors in my study, then hang the doors, finish off the outlets, put in the light fixture, install the baseboards-in other words, complete that room.

"Gettin' cold, Jussy," he'd said in his truck on the drive to my house. "Cold in the mountains can mean anything, including snow. You need a warm space to hang. Get that study done, you contact your designer today. Tell her to send the shit you ordered for that room. Boys'll be with me on Monday, work'll go a lot quicker. But you still got a few weeks before the majority of space is livable. You got another room, you can be inside, choice of change of scenery, close the door, you're all good."

That was Deke. Even in ways I didn't consider, he did and he looked out for me.

So I settled in beside my fire pit that Deke gave me, put my feet up on the edge so the pit toasted the bottoms of my cowboy boots, and I texted my designer that she could send the stuff for the study whenever she was ready.

Then I did what I'd been meaning to do for a couple of days.

I called Joss.

Surprisingly, since my mom was always busy, she answered on the first ring.

And she answered with, "Good timing. I'm at a photoshoot with Kenzie Elise, a woman who's decided to embrace the nonexistent rock chick within in the hopes of reinventing herself...again. A woman who also works my last nerve. And her manager gives me the serious creeps. So I'm not looking forward to today but I am looking forward to telling her she's gotta wait while I take an important call from my daughter seeing as it's high time you share with me all your Chain Link's talents."

Hearing her words I knew that I shouldn't have waited this long to call Joss. Like any mom or best friend (and she was both), juicy news like me hooking up with Deke wasn't something she'd be hip on waiting for.

And by the by, Kenzie Elise was an actress. Reportedly a difficult one to work with on all levels. Not Joss's usual client. She did musicians, mostly, not actors. But if someone was going to pay her, Joss didn't tend to turn any gig down.

We could just say she'd made shopping her living for a reason.

"You do know I'm not gonna go into detail about that," I shared.

"How 'bout you going into detail about how one second, the dude didn't know you and the next, he's so close to you when you're on the phone, I hear his voice like it's him on the phone?" Joss only semi-suggested since mostly she was demanding that I go into detail.

"It's a long story," I told her.

"The more I can make Kenzie wait, the happier I'll be. So spill," she told me.

I looked from the fire, turning my head to stare into the trees.

I had until April there. If Deke and I kept going as strong as we were (and stronger), when the weather turned, I'd be on the back of his bike.

That gave me a happy shiver and while having that I thought I had plenty of space at my place to park his Airstream.

Then again, if we parked his trailer here, we wouldn't have the lake.

I needed to give Deke his time at the lake.

"Justice!" Joss snapped, bringing my attention back to her.

"He likes me," I said softly, not able to stop my lips from curling up while saying it.

"You're likable," Joss replied. "Then again, you were probably likable the first second he clapped eyes on you again and didn't remember you."

"Well, uh...there came a point when he remembered me," I shared. "This point being before my drama with Anca's psycho."

"Let me guess, this was around the time you hit social media kicking the shit out of Ronstadt."

I blinked at the view before I turned my head again to not quite focus on my knees.

"What?" I asked.

Joss didn't say anything for a few beats before I actually heard her sigh over the phone.

Even though I heard that, she still didn't say anything.

So I repeated my, "What?"

"Baby, you sure this guy didn't remember you?"

I straightened in the chair at what she was insinuating and again asked, "What?"

"You know," she said gently and carefully, "there are those who can play the long game."

At that, mildly ticked, reminding myself that Joss had not yet met Deke so she didn't know what the hell she was talking about, I took my feet from the side of the pit and put them to the deck.

I leaned forward and put my elbow to my leg as I hissed, "That's not Deke."

"I hear you're pissed, Jussy, but I'm your mother. I worry. I have not met this guy. And you sound..." She paused before she went on, "I don't know how you sound because I've never heard you sound this way before."

This was because I'd never been in the throes of falling in love with a mountain man before.

Or any man, mountain or not.

I didn't tell her that.

"You think I can't spot a player?" I asked.

"I think he's 'Chain Link,'" she answered.

"As you know, he is 'Chain Link,'" I returned.

"And I think if he knows he's 'Chain Link'..."

She let that lie.

I did not.

"Joss, he's..." I shook my head and sat back, lifting my feet to the edge of the pit again, forcing myself to stay calm. "If you met him, you wouldn't say this kind of thing. He's not that guy."

"There are a lot of those guys out there, baby girl," she reminded me cautiously. "And they're all real good at making you think they're not that guy."

"Yes, and Deke's not one of them," I told her firmly.

"What does he do?" she asked. "Who is he? Because I know what you do. I know who you are. I know what you have. And some dude who works construction who knows that too can-"

I cut her off, informing her, "When Mr. T introduced himself to Deke, he did it as Bill."

"Holy fuck," Joss breathed.

Yeah, she knew how big that was.

"Unh-hunh," I mumbled. "And when Deke rolled up to my house the morning I got attacked, he saw the police cars and drove right back into town, right to the police station. And I don't know if they told him he couldn't see me or what. All I know was that I was talking to the detective and then I heard Deke shouting. Shouting for me. He was out of his mind with worry, Joss. The way you would be. The way Dad would be. The way Lace would be. I didn't recognize it when I ran out to get to him because I was out of my mind about something else. But I've looked back and he was out of his mind with worry. About me."





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