Connor placed his hand on mine as I released my light grip. “Baby, that’s not nice, and we’ll discuss it when we get home.”

“You bet we’ll discuss it when we get home; just not with words.”

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“Oh God,” he whispered.

I paid for Camden’s birthday gifts and the four of us walked out of the store. As Connor pushed the stroller, I looped my arm around his and smiled.

While we were waiting for our food to be served, I asked Connor how he knew we were at FAO Schwarz.

“Babe, you told me last night you were going there, and when I talked to Denny, he said he’d just dropped you and Julia off.”

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“But we had already been in there for over two hours. How did you know we were still in there?”

“I took my chances, Ellery. What’s with the million questions?”

I shook my head and apologized. Something wasn’t sitting right with me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Oh my God! I completely forgot to tell you, Connor!” I exclaimed.

“What?”

“The reason Julia and I were coming to see you at the office. Sal called me and his brother is opening an art gallery in Chicago, and he wants me to do a showing with five of my paintings.”

“That’s great news, Ellery.” Cassidy smiled.

“Baby, that’s wonderful. I don’t think you have five paintings done, do you?” Connor asked.

I looked down as the waitress set my club sandwich down in front of me. “No, I don’t. I need to start painting, and quick.”

“When’s the opening?” Cassidy asked.

As I gave her a perplexed look, I bit down on my bottom lip. “I don’t know. I was so excited, I forgot to ask.”

“I’m so happy for you.” Connor smiled as he leaned over and kissed me.

While eating our lunch, we talked about Camden’s party and then Cassidy had to go and say something she shouldn’t have.

“Ben’s coming to Camden’s party.”

Julia began to whine, so I reached over and took her from her stroller. I didn’t want to look at Connor because I knew he was going to be pissed.

“Don’t give me that look, Connor. I’ll have you know that he’s a very nice guy, and I like him. In fact, we’re going out tonight, with Camden.”

Connor leaned across the table. “You’re letting him into Camden’s life?”

“I like him and, from what I can tell, he likes me.”

“Does he know about Camden?”

“Of course he does! Do you think I would hide that from him?”

Putting my hand on Connor’s arm to try and diffuse the situation didn’t help. Cassidy stood up and threw some money on the table.

“I think I’d better leave before you or I say something we’ll regret. Ellery, I love you and we’ll talk later,” she said as she kissed me on the cheek.

She walked out of the restaurant, and I looked at Connor. “Are you happy now?”

Connor shook his head and rolled his eyes. “She had no reason to get upset like that,” he said.

By this point, Julia was tired and getting fussy. “I don’t want to talk about this now. I need to get Julia home for a nap.”

“Come here, baby girl,” Connor said as he took her from me. “You’ll never get mad at your daddy.”

“Just wait until she’s a teenager and wants nothing to do with you,” I said.

“Ellery, don’t say things like that,” he said with a shocked looked on his face.

I smiled as we got up from our seats and walked out of the restaurant.

Chapter 17

Connor

Denny was waiting for us outside the restaurant. Once we reached the limo, I handed Julia to Ellery and I folded up the stroller and put it in the trunk. Ellery buckled in Julia as I slid in and shut the door. When I looked over at her, she was staring at me.

“What?” I asked.

“What is your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem, Ellery.”

“Yes, you do, Connor. Why would you start about Ben?”

“I didn’t say anything about Ben. I simply asked if he knew about Camden. That’s all.”

“You gave Cassidy a look of disgust when she told you he was going to be at the party.”

“Listen, I love my sister and Camden very much. She needs to be careful of who she brings into Camden’s life.”

“Wait a minute,” Ellery said as she glared at me. “You’re afraid that Camden will push a guy away and break your sister’s heart.”

As I looked out the window, I couldn’t say anything. She was right. I only wanted Cassidy to be happy, but if Camden didn’t like someone or felt threatened, he could be a handful. I didn’t want my sister getting attached and then having her heart broken when the guy left because of him. Ellery reached over and grabbed my hand.

“Connor, I understand that you’re concerned for Cassidy. Trust me, I don’t want to see her or Camden get hurt either, but she’s a grown woman and is capable of making her own decisions.”

“I know she’s capable of making her own decisions, Ellery. I just don’t want her to get hurt. I’ve always protected her and Camden, and I’m not about to stop now because some guy wants a piece of ass.”

“Connor!” Ellery snapped. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

As Denny pulled into the parking garage, I opened the door and took out Julia’s car seat. Ellery grabbed the diaper bag and followed me into the elevator.

“I’m sorry I said that. Maybe I didn’t mean it. Hell, I don’t know what I meant. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But I promise you this: if he hurts her, he’ll have me to deal with.”

Ellery looked over at me and smiled. “Or me, and I’m not really sure which one of us is worse.”

“Oh, that would be you, my love.” I smiled as I stepped off the elevator.

Ellery slapped me on the ass for that comment, and I felt a twinge below. “You shouldn’t have done that, baby.”

“Calm down, Black. I have a baby’s diaper to change.”

While Ellery took Julia upstairs to change her diaper, I went into my office. A few moments later, Denny came in, shut the door, and sat down.

“Are you going to tell Ellery about Ashlyn?” he asked.

“I don’t feel like I have to. I’m keeping her in the loop about the trial and she seems content with that. I don’t want to upset her any more than she already is.”

“But you promised her no secrets, Connor, and this classifies as a secret.”

“She can’t focus on Ashlyn and the trial anymore. She’s going to be doing a showing at an art gallery in Chicago, and they need five paintings. She needs to focus on that without any distractions. Between painting and Julia, she’ll be too busy even to think about Ashlyn and the trial.”

Denny sat there and shook his head at me. “Will you ever learn?”

“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“You know what you’re doing about what?” Ellery asked as she opened the door and stood there.

I had to think fast or she’d start asking a million questions. “Damn it, Ellery. You ruined the surprise,” I said.

Denny glared at me. I held out my arms for her and told her to come sit on my lap.

“Denny and I were just talking about your art studio.” I smiled.

A beautiful smile graced her face as she looked at me. “What art studio?”

As I glanced over at Denny. He rolled his eyes. “The one I’m building you so you can paint.”

Ellery threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. “Connor, I’m so excited! So tell me about this studio of mine!” she said excitedly.

“Yes, Connor, tell Ellery your plans for the studio,” Denny said smugly.

“We can discuss it later,” I said as I tapped her on the nose and shot Denny at look. “You’ll love it, but I have to finish something up. Please let me surprise you, baby.”

“Okay, but you know how impatient I am.”

“Yes, I know you are,” I said as I heard Julia cry.

Thank God for Julia, I thought to myself. Ellery got up from my lap and walked out of the office. Denny got up from his chair and shook his head. “You better get moving on those plans for that art studio you just promised her.”

“I’m going to do that right now,” I sighed.

I pulled out my phone and dialed Paul. It went to voicemail, so I left a message for him to call me back right away. He could locate a place for Ellery’s art studio.

As I walked out of my office and passed the living room, I noticed Ellery sound asleep on the couch. I grabbed a blanket from the closet and gently covered her with it. I needed a scotch, so I walked over to the bar and poured myself one. The smoothness going down the back of my throat soothed me, as did the sight of my sleeping wife. My eyes gazed at her as my mind was punishing me for keeping something from her. A few moments later, she opened her eyes and looked at me from across the room.

“How long have I been sleeping?”

“I’m not sure. You were asleep when I came out of my office,” I said as I walked over to her, sat down on the edge of the couch, and pushed a few strands of hair from her face.

When she sat up, she took the glass from my hand and took a sip. As always, she made the same face when she drank it.

“Why do you take a sip when you don’t like Scotch?”

“I was thirsty.” She smiled.

I leaned closer towards her and brushed her lips with mine. Her lips responded seductively as she hardened our kiss. Just as I laid her back and hovered over her, kissing her passionately, my phone rang. Taking in a sharp breath as I broke our kiss, I pulled my phone from my pocket and saw that Paul was calling.

“Baby, we have to continue this later. I have to take this; it’s Paul.”

“It’s all right. Go ahead and take your call. I’ll go check on Julia.”

“Hey, Paul,” I answered as I walked into my office and shut the door. “I need you to find me a space that I can convert into an art studio for Ellery.”

“I’ll get on that right away, Connor. Do you have a certain area in mind?”

“Somewhere close to the penthouse. I think she’ll like it better if she’s close to home.”

“Got it. I’ll call you when I locate something.”

I had a good feeling about this art studio. It was something that I should’ve done a long time ago, but with Ellery’s illness, the wedding, and now Julia, she didn’t really paint too much, and I didn’t give it any thought. Perfection was what I needed the studio to be. It needed to be a distraction from the daily grind of the trial.

Chapter 18

Ellery

As I picked up Julia from the changing table, my phone started to ring. I held her up over my shoulder and walked over to take it from where it was sitting on her dresser.

“Hi, Peyton.”

“Hey, Elle. I thought we were going to see that bitch in jail.”

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