“Ellery, what’s wrong? Why do you look like you’re going to cry?” I asked as I wrapped my arms around her.

“I’m just so happy, that’s all; you’ve made me so happy,” she whispered.

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“You’ve made me happy too, baby; I can’t even tell you how much,” I said as I squeezed her, not wanting to let go. I kissed her on head and broke our embrace. If we didn’t get out of this hotel room, we weren’t going to make it to the funeral home on time. I grabbed our suitcases, and we headed out of the hotel.

We were driving along the interstate, taking turns listening to each other’s music when my phone started ringing. I had it sitting on the console that sat in between me and Ellery. We both looked over at it at the same time as Ashlyn’s name appeared on the screen. I took in a sharp breath because I knew Ellery was going to ask about her, and I was in no way ready to discuss my relationship with Ashlyn. I hit ignore and braced myself for the question I knew Ellery was going to ask.

“Who is she, Connor?” She asked as she reached over and turned off the radio.

“I knew you were going to ask me,” I heavily sighed.

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“Ok, then you must tell me about her if we’re going to move forward.”

Her tone was calm but commanding. I took her hand and held it up to my lips, “I don’t want to talk about her right now, Ellery. This isn’t the right time or place to do that.” There was no way I was ruining this trip by talking about Ashlyn. I had planned on explaining everything to her when we got back to New York.

“Fine, I’ll wait, and we’ll discuss her later. But whatever you tell me will be ok because things with us are different now, and we’re putting all our baggage in the past, right?”

I looked over at her and smiled, “You bet we are.”

“I have a question for you,” she said as she took the wrapper off her Twix bar. “Denny told me that you’ve been different since you met me.”

I rolled my eyes. Why is Denny telling her things like that? I’m going to have to talk with him.

“Denny shouldn’t be saying things like that, but it’s true. I was intrigued by you the minute I saw you in my kitchen. When I woke up and heard someone making a lot of noise, I walked downstairs to yell at whoever it was for being so loud. Imagine my surprise when I saw this beautiful stranger, standing there making coffee.”

“Yes, but you yelled at me about your rules.”

I shrugged, “Well, I thought that I’d brought you home from the club; I’m sorry about that.” She smiled and playfully smacked me on the arm. “When you told me what you did for me and gave me quite the attitude, it was that moment I knew I couldn’t let you walk out of my life. Denny knew it as well because I kept talking about you without realizing it.” She laughed and reached over to kiss my cheek, but instead she shoved the Twix bar in my mouth. I smiled as I took a bite.

We finally arrived in Michigan, and I noticed Ellery stiffen when she saw the sign. I reached over, grabbed her hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze to let her know that everything was going to be ok. I know this place isn’t a very happy memory for her; she’s experienced more pain here than happiness.

Ellery reached in her purse to grab her ringing cell phone, and it was Peyton. Ellery put her on speaker as Peyton was telling us all about her and Henry’s evening together. Ellery wasn’t bothered by how graphic Peyton was being because she was used to it. Even though I haven’t known Peyton very long, I liked her. She was a firecracker like Ellery, and I could see why the two of them are best friends. Peyton told me to live a little and to take Ellery to bed and show her all my sexiness. This was my opportunity to get back at Ellery for the incident at the seafood restaurant. I told Peyton that I already did and that Ellery made me do things to her that even shocked me. The look on Ellery’s face was priceless after that, and so was her smile. Damn that smile.

We pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home, and Ellery put her hand on my arm. I knew this was going to be hard for her, and I could only imagine what she was feeling at this moment. We both got out of the Range Rover, and Ellery took a deep breath.

“This is the same funeral home where we held the services for my mother and father,” she said as we stood in front of the double doors that led inside.

I put my arm around her. “You don’t have to do this; you can call your cousin and tell her you got sick or something.”

“No, that’s the coward’s way out. I can’t escape reality. Besides, I have you with me,” she said.

As we walked inside, we were greeted by Ellery’s cousin, Debbie. It was unfortunate that we had to meet under these circumstances. I gave her a hug as well as my condolences. She led us to the room where her mother and father were laid out. I held Ellery tight as we walked up to the caskets. I had an image of her standing in this very room in front of the casket that held her mother. Tears almost stung my eyes just thinking about it. She was only 6 years old at the time, and having to experience that was awful. Even though she had nobody to protect her then, I’m here to protect her now and heal her from all the pain that she experiences in life going forward from this moment.

Ellery kneeled down in front of the caskets and prayed. I clutched her shoulders with my hands to comfort her. Once we were done paying our respects, we walked around so Ellery could catch up with some relatives. She seemed to being fine until we began to hear the whispers of people talking about her and her father. Ellery heard someone say that she wouldn’t have attempted suicide if they would have taken her away from her father. She was enraged as she stormed up to them, shoved her scarred wrists in their faces, swore at them, and then told it wouldn’t have mattered. That’s my girl. It upset me to hear that bullshit they were talking about, but Ellery was someone who can take care of herself, and she certainly did. She made no qualms about being heard. I grabbed her hand, telling her that it wasn’t worth it, and then led her outside to cool off.

“I must say, you can put on quite a show,” I smiled as I hugged her to lighten her mood.

“I’m sorry, I just couldn’t take anymore; I knew this was going to happen if I came back here,” she said as she buried her face in my chest.

“It's ok, you’ve said your goodbyes to your aunt and uncle, you told off a few people, and now we can go; unless you want to stay?” Ellery shook her head and said she wanted to leave.

We hopped into the Range Rover, and I had my GPS search for a luxury hotel nearby. Ellery laughed and told me to reserve a room at the Athenuem Suite Hotel. I smiled because that’s the first hotel that came up on my GPS, so I reserved the Presidential Suite. I asked her where she wanted to go. I knew she wanted to visit her mom and dad’s grave, but I wasn’t sure if she needed to go somewhere else first. Our fingers were interlaced as she brought my hand up to her mouth and lightly kissed it. She was an amazing woman, and she made me feel so good.

We stopped at the flower shop, and I bought the flowers for her parents’ graves. She became angry at me when I wouldn’t let her pay; that’s the one thing that I loved most about her. She doesn’t love me for my money; it never did matter to her. She would rather buy something herself. I don’t care; I plan on spending every last dime that I have on her. She’s more than worth it, and I want to give her the world.

Ellery led me to where her parents were buried, and I stepped away to give her some privacy with them. I overheard her talk about me to them and how she believes that I would do anything for her. I smiled because she was right; I would do anything and everything for her, and I believe she would do the same for me as well. I know she loves me. Even though neither of us has spoken those three words yet, I can feel her love every time she looks at me, holds me, kisses me, and makes love to me. She’s completely taken over my heart and soul like I knew she would when I first laid eyes on her. I walked over to her, helped her up from the grass, and took her in my arms.

“You’re far too young to have experienced so much death, Ellery; it hurts me to know what you’ve been through,” I whispered as I kissed her head. “I can’t even imagine losing my parents, especially at such a young age. You amaze me with your strength, Ellery, because I don’t know if I could have made it through if I was in your place.” She let go of me and bent down to pull some weeds that were surrounding the grave area.

“That’s something you decide whether or not you’re going to do. You can move on and try to live your life as normal as possible, or you can make the decision to let go of life and let sorrow consume you. I’m a big believer of fate, and I believe God took my dad so his pain and suffering could end, and he could be with my mother again.”

This woman amazed me. Her strength and hope was incredible. I was in complete awe of her, and I planned on spending the rest of my life showing her. “You’re amazing; I don’t know what I did to deserve to have you in my life,” I said to her as I stroked her long blonde hair. She stood up, wrapped her arms around my neck, and kissed me. I picked her up and carried her to the Range Rover.

“What are you doing?” she asked with a smile.

“I’m taking you for ice cream,” I smiled back as she buried her head into my neck.

We stopped at a local ice cream parlor and got two cones. We sat across from each other at a wrought iron table inside the shop. She was turning me on the way she was licking her ice cream, and she knew it because she was smiling as she was doing it. Damn that smile. I’ve found myself being in a constant state of arousal when I’m with Ellery. Even when I’m not with her, I still am because I’m constantly thinking about her.

“You better hurry up and eat that because we need to get to the hotel immediately,” I said.

“Why the hurry, Mr. Black? Are you anticipating something?” She grinned.

“You have no idea what I’m anticipating, Ellery, but I will say it involves some panty ripping,” I whispered so no one would hear.

She quickly got up from the table, grabbed the ice cream cone from my hand, and threw both of them in the trash. She grabbed my hand and led me out of the ice cream parlor.

“You better make good on your promise, Connor,” she whispered in my ear before getting into the SUV.

Chapter 13

We arrived at the hotel and took the elevator up to the Presidential Suite. The expression on Ellery’s face was exquisite as I opened the door, and she walked in. I walked over to the fireplace and turned it on. Ellery walked over to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. “You feel so good,” she said.

I turned around to face her and held her tight. “Not as good as you feel, baby,” I whispered as I buried my nose in her neck, taking in her arousing scent.

“Dance with me,” she smiled.

“I would love to dance with you, but let me put on some music first.” I walked over to the stereo that sat on the table by the window and turned it on. I walked back to where she was standing and wrapped my arms around her waist. We held each other and slowly moved to the soft melody that was coming from the radio. This moment was surreal, and I didn’t think that I could become happier than I already was. We didn’t need words; we knew how the other felt just by the way we gazed into each other’s eyes.

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