When Jesse Reid needs emergency surgery, he calls his neighbor to come pick him up instead of one of his many family members. As the youngest of nine, Jesse is used to feeling like a leftover, and he doesn’t need their coddling.
Holden McRae is a big, beautiful man, everything Jesse wants. But Holden has made it clear he doesn’t want Jesse as a submissive.
Under the influence of Holden’s care, Jesse becomes bolder and makes Holden see what he’s been missing. The two men’s interests line up, and the attraction that has always been there is something they can finally act on. As Jesse heals, he shares parts of his life with Holden, and Holden helps him see he’s so much more than #9. Their love might not be the most conventional, but maybe it’s exactly what both men need.
“Hey, wait. I live over there.” I gestured sloppily to the left.
“Jesse, do you really think I’m going to let you stay by yourself tonight?”
I squinted up at him. “Um yes. Yes I do.”
He scowled, which I shouldn’t find hot, but I totally did. “Nope. Try again. You had surgery, Jess. You need help.”
“It was little surgery. Not big surgery. It’s fine. I’ll be fine.” I tried to pull away, but he was much stronger than I was, and if I fought too hard, I might hurt myself.
“It was major abdominal surgery,” he corrected, a hint of frustration in his voice. “Even if it was, what did you call it, ‘minimally invasive.’ I have the instruction sheets right here, and you’re gonna be seriously hurting for at least a couple of days. Someone needs to help. So unless you want to call one of your siblings or your parents, you’re stuck with me.”
I shuddered. “God, no. Don’t want to call them. But I don’t want to be a burden.” I frowned. “Well, any more than I already have been. Asking you to come get me. I didn’t expect you to take care of me afterward.”
“Yeah, well. That’s what I do. So can you just let me?”
I was going to argue. I was. But the fact was, I’d called him for a reason. I wanted him to be there for me. I wanted him to care for me. And even though taking care of me after surgery wasn’t what I had in mind, I’d take it. At least for a day or two. Just to see what it was like. Until I could convince him I was fine on my own.
“Don’t say that if you don’t mean it,” he muttered, his voice very low. He probably hadn’t meant for me to hear it, but I was practically smooshed against his chest. There was no way I couldn’t hear it.
“I mean it. I’ve always meant it. You just don’t believe me.”
He froze halfway in the house, and looked down at me with shock all over his face. It didn’t last long. After only a few seconds, that neutral mask was back in place. He shook his head.
“It must be time for another pain pill. You shouldn’t be this coherent.”
“They aren’t that strong. At least, not enough to really get me high. Which is a shame, really.” I laughed at the look he shot me. “I’m kidding, Holden. I don’t do drugs. I barely even drink. You know that.”
Holden didn’t seem to think that required a comment and he resumed our trek into the house, down the hall, and into a bedroom.
I knew it was Holden’s room the moment we walked in. Not only did it smell like him -- citrus and smoky -- but it felt like him. Warm and dominating. The furniture was big, and everything was done in dark browns with splashes of color -- in the art on the walls, in the red sheets, and in the throw rug on the hardwood floor. My body relaxed as I took it all in, and it wasn’t until he was trying to settle me on the huge bed that my brain kicked in.
“No, this is your room and I can’t take your bed,” I protested.
He looked at me with a placating smile. “It’s the only bed in the house. The guest room is used for ... other things.”
I had an idea what those other things were, but I wasn’t going to bring it up now. I knew he’d just shut me down.
“Then I’ll take the couch.”
“Like hell you will.” I saw a hint of anger rising and part of me felt awful at displeasing him. But most of me was gearing up for a fight.
“Then I’ll go home. I’m not taking your bed.” I tried to sit up, but he placed a firm, warm hand on my chest. I could have moved, he wasn’t holding me down exactly, but it would have been a struggle and that could tear my brand new stitches.
“It’s not taking if I give it to you. Now lie down, or I’ll tie you down.”
I sighed heavily, giving in. But only because I was suddenly too tired to do anything else. “Empty promise, that.”