No More Secrets

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Bedtime Story


Carter Pierce swore ripely when his grip on the wrench slipped and knuckles met cabinet. To add insult to injury, the pipe spat another drop insolently in his eye.


“Everything okay under there?” his mother and current task master, Phoebe, asked from her position at the kitchen island.


He shook out his throbbing hand and tightened his grip on the bastard wrench. “Just peachy, Mom.”


“The sarcasm is strong with this one,” Elvira Eustace, Phoebe’s best friend in the world, quipped into her wine glass.


Two good turns later, the leak was vanquished. Carter slid out from under the sink and tossed the wrench back in his tool tote.


Phoebe shoved a plate of cookies at him, a sweet smile brightening her pretty face. Her hair was cut in a sleek chin-length bob. A new look for her. But the glasses and the blue eyes behind them were the same.


“Have I told you you’re my favorite son?” she asked playfully.


Carter rolled his eyes and turned on the faucet to wash his hands. “When I got here and told you not to worry about calling a plumber. But I also heard you sharing the same sentiment with Beckett last week when he updated your will and Jax yesterday when he was kissing your ass by mowing your lawn.”


“But you know I really mean it with you.”


He grinned at her. It was an old game she played with them all. And somehow, she made him and his two younger brothers feel like it was true. They were all her favorite.


Carter dried his hands on the rooster dish towel looped over the oven handle and snatched a cookie off the plate. “Isn’t it a little early to be drinking?” he asked, eyeing the wine glasses she and Elvira were clutching.


“We’re retired, and it’s five o’clock somewhere,” Elvira announced.


“Yeah, well in Blue Moon it’s 12:01.”


“Of course, it is. Otherwise it would have been Bloody Marys,” Phoebe explained, helping herself to a cookie.


“How’s life, my favorite son?”


Carter fired up Phoebe’s coffee maker and shoved a mug under the spout. “Life is just about perfect,” he said, noting with a glance around his mother’s kitchen that his life wasn’t the only one on the upswing. Phoebe and her husband, Franklin, had built this house on the family farm with the intention that it would comfortably hold every member of their loud, extended family. The wide open first floor—with kitchen spilling into living and dining spaces—and upstairs bunk room accomplished just that.


“I saw Summer and the twins in town getting custard this week. You have a beautiful family.” Elvira raised her glass, her eyes twinkling.


“I certainly do.” He thought it funny that even after all this time he still got a thrill when someone mentioned his wife’s name. It was a daily reminder that he’d landed the woman of his dreams—once she’d gotten out of her own damn way—and built a life with her.


“You look at Summer the way John looked at your mother,” Elvira sighed.


John Pierce, Carter’s father, had been a man among men. He’d raised his sons on the tenants of integrity, respect, and service. And when he’d died, their community grieved with them.


Phoebe smiled fondly at the memories. “Your father certainly had a way of making me feel very special. Whether he was doing the dishes for me or we were sneaking some afternoon delight in the coat closet—”


“Mom!” Carter mopped the coffee out of his beard.


“Carter!” Phoebe rolled her eyes. “You’re over thirty. You don’t need to pretend to be so prudish about sex.”


Elvira joined in on the ribbing. “It’s true, Carter. You really need to expand your horizons. Why just the other night Phoebe was telling me that Franklin likes to—”


Carter clapped his hands over his ears. “For the love of God, I’m begging you both to stop.” He knew his mother and her husband had an active sex life. The first time he met the man, he’d been crawling out of Phoebe’s bedroom window onto the roof of the front porch. He loved that she was happy again. He just didn’t like to think about the specifics.


They exchanged sly looks, all innocence. “Sorry,” they chorused.


“So how is Summer?” Phoebe pressed. “You two have been so busy lately; I hope you’re still making time for each other.”


“She’s good. Better than good. We’re great.” And they were, he thought. Between the twins and the farm and Summer’s online magazine, they were thriving. Their days were full, but so were their hearts. Sure, some days went by a little too quickly, or the to do lists were a little too long, but they made it work.


“I hope you’re still reminding her how lucky she is,” Phoebe said.


“Just like she reminds me,” Carter grinned, sipping his coffee.


There had been times in the not-so-distant past that Carter had wondered if he’d ever find the light again or if his scars, both physical and mental, were too deep. And then along came Summer. A breath of fresh air, a hit of sunshine.


“She’s five years cancer-free today,” Carter told them. The notification in his calendar had surprised him this morning. But Summer was already at work, and he was wrestling the twins into the car for daycare.


“Five years?” Phoebe shook her head. “It feels like yesterday when she showed up on the farm interrogating you.”


“How are you celebrating?” Elvira asked.


"Well, since you mentioned it..."


--------


“I’m so, so sorry,” Summer gasped, shoving through the screen door of the kitchen, her rescued Great Dane Valentina on her heels. “I got caught on this conference call. And the advertiser was on the west coast, so of course they have all the time in the world. Granted, the package they’re agreeing to will pretty much cover college for Meadow or John.”


Meatball the beagle waddled out from under the dining table and plopped down at her feet. Summer gave him a stroke between his silky ears before he led Valentina on a lazy jog around the first floor.


She paused to take a breath and notice the quiet of the house. Carter, her devastatingly handsome husband that she never got tired of looking at, was grinning at her while he finished up the dishes in the sink.


He tossed the dish towel over his shoulder and managed to look sexy doing it. Carter nodded toward the glass of wine waiting for her on the island. “How about you take that wine, and I take this beer, and we go enjoy them outside?”


“Where are the twins?” Summer asked, cocking her head and listening for three-year-old chaos that usually echoed through the house.


“Mom took them overnight.”


“Really? What’s the occasion?” Summer asked, following Carter’s fine denim-clad ass through the door onto the porch.


He slung an arm over her shoulders and pulled her in close, guiding her toward the back yard. She loved the smell of him—all fresh air and sunshine—the feel of him against her. Everything about Carter Pierce made her feel safe, protected, loved.


“Beautiful night,” he commented.


Summer gave the beauty of the night sky a cursory glance and frowned at his evasion. “I feel bad when Phoebe and Franklin take them overnight. The kids aren’t exactly a walk in the park, and Meadow’s been waking up before six this week.” Mentally she began to tick down the reasons why she should have gotten her ass off the phone at a more reasonable hour.


“Mom raised three boys. One of them being Jax. I think she can handle Meadow and John for a night. Besides, you have plans tonight.”


“I do?” She was ready to launch into the questions when Carter stopped.


He’d plugged in the string lights they’d strung from the back patio to the huge oak. A fire crackled in the fire pit he’d put in last summer. Tucked behind the house and next to the garden, it offered up an unobstructed view of rolling meadows and tidy fence rows. There was a patchwork quilt spread over the grass next to the fire. The rest of her bottle of wine was tucked inside an ice bucket. Music, something soft and low, played from a wireless speaker.


“Carter! What is all this?” She looked up at him trying to read what had gotten into her husband.


He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I was feeling lucky today.”


“Stuff like this makes me feel lucky every day.”


He led her to the quilt, and together they sat, Summer with her back to his chest, his arms around her. She took a deep breath of the night air and exhaled slowly.


“And there’s my girl,” Carter said, nuzzling her neck. 


Her husband had dedicated himself to finding creative ways to force Summer’s Type A mind into relaxation mode. He was ingeniously good at it.


“It’s so beautiful out here,” she sighed, the tension and energy of the day slowly seeping out of her muscles. Fireflies danced over the dark fields while crickets sang. The sky, a moody navy, was filled with the twinkle of stars and the silver sliver of moon. An owl hooted from the tree line. 


“Why don’t we do this every night?” she asked, sinking back against Carter’s warmth.


“Because we have two three-year-olds.”


“And two dogs,” Summer added.


“Four cows, a goat…”


“A very large extended family…”


“Two-hundred acres and an online empire.”


She shifted, resting her head against his shoulder. “It’s pretty perfect, isn’t it?”


“Honey, everything with you is…” Carter searched for the words.


Summer turned against him, slipping her legs over his thighs and wrapping her arms around his neck. “I know exactly how you feel. Thank you for all of this.”


“Do you know what today is?” he asked, skimming lips over the line of her jaw.


“My lucky day?” She felt Carter go hard beneath her and relished the ache that ignited within her. “Because I think every day I get to wake up next to you and all your homegrown hotness is my lucky day.”


He gripped her hips, big hands digging into the fabric of her skirt.


“Five years,” he said, his voice low. “Cancer free.”


She grinned at him, scooting higher on his thighs. “God, I love that you keep track of things like that.”


“Things like that?” he asked gruffly. “There isn’t much bigger than that.”


“Oh, yes there is, Carter Pierce,” she argued. Summer laid a hand over his heart. “This right here is bigger than that.”


Ever so gently, he brushed a strand of her stick-straight blonde hair back from her face.


“This,” she said, grinding against his rigid length, “is much bigger than that.”


She opened her arms wide and tilted her head up to embrace the darkness. “This, is much bigger than that.” Their life, complicated and messy and full of barely controlled chaos, was a bigger dream than she’d ever dared to allow herself.


“There is nothing more important to me than you, Summer,” Carter breathed, pulling her back into his arms. And with those words, he single-handedly destroyed her. Steadfast, loyal Carter was a ruthless lover.


Her mouth found his in a greedy kiss, tempered only by the tenderness with which Carter held her. He made her feel treasured, worshipped, desired. And Summer knew that no matter what happened in their life together, she could always count on Carter to be by her side. And right now, she wanted to show him exactly how he made her feel.


“I want you right here, Carter,” she said, breaking contact with his lips just long enough to whisper the words. 


She felt his mouth curve against hers.


“I was hoping you’d say that.”


Summer sent her hands racing over her husband’s chest, over the soft cotton of his worn tee, and lower to the button of his jeans.


He stilled her hands with his own. “Honey, we have all the time in the world tonight.”


She laughed softly. “I forgot. I’m so used to naptime sex or the-kids-aren’t-awake-yet sex.”


“Well, allow me to remedy that,” Carter said, sweeping her off his lap and onto her back on the quilt. Her hair spilled out beneath her like a pillow.


Summer shivered when his fingers slipped under the hem of her sleeveless cashmere shell. He trailed them over her belly, taking his time to slowly raise the fabric higher and higher on her ribs. Goosebumps. The man gave her goosebumps with the wisp of a touch. If twins hadn’t murdered their sex life, Summer was confident they could enjoy this for the rest of their lives.


“So, beautiful,” Carter said, leaning down to press a kiss to the flat of her stomach.


Summer shivered.


“Are you cold?” he asked, stroking up the sides of her ribs until his hands came to rest just beneath her breasts.


She shook her head. “So warm,” she promised.


He returned to his purpose, sliding her shirt over her head and tossing it onto the corner of the quilt. The man knew her well enough that she’d yell over cashmere in the dirt.


“Mmm.” He approved her purple satin La Perla with a rasp of breath.


Reverently, he skimmed his hands over the satin, over the curves of her breasts. She loved his hands on her. Loved the way he looked at her. Hungry. Craving.


“I want to make love to you all night, Summer,” he said. “I want to feel you come until you’ve got nothing left.” His hands abandoned her breasts for her thighs where he nudged the soft jersey of her skirt up to ride on her hips. More of the same purple satin welcomed his gaze there.


“Lose the shirt, Carter. I want to touch you,” Summer demanded, her pulse skittering. She needed something to anchor her here before her husband’s hands carried her into oblivion. With one swift move, he pulled the shirt over his head and, without missing a beat, flicked open the front clasp of her bra.


She gasped as those rough hands took their fill of her breasts.


Just a few years ago, if someone had told her she’d be on her back under the summer night sky on a farm being seduced by her farmer husband, she’d have laughed until she fell out of her Jimmy Choos. She still had the Jimmy Choos, but she’d gotten a lot more by walking away from New York and the empty promises of a fashion magazine. 


There was nothing empty about here. About Blue Moon.


With a burst of strength, she pushed Carter over onto his back, covering his bare torso and its scars with her body. Bullet holes could heal. So could cancer. And fear. And they healed with the kind of love they’d found in each other.


Summer reached between their bodies and opened Carter’s fly. Anticipation zinged through her veins as her fingers found him iron hard. She was already wet for him, already needing him inside her.


Carter stroked his thumb lazily over the damp spot on her underwear, drawing a shiver of pleasure from Summer. Determined to slow them down, Summer leaned over and captured his lower lip between her teeth.


The blur of a shadow caught her eye on the path behind the 


barn.


“Oh, sweet Jesus! What the hell is that?”


Carter rocketed up, sweeping her off his lap and shoving her behind him. He always put himself between her and whatever threat materialized, a nerf gun wielding three-year-old, a muddy enthusiastic Great Dane, a runaway goat…


“Fucking Clementine,” Carter groaned, flopping back down onto the quilt.


“How did she get out this time?” Summer wondered, staring after the departing shadow. The damn goat was basically Houdini reincarnated.


“Who knows? Maybe she ate a power saw and cut through her stall doors when no one was looking.”


“She’s headed toward the stables,” Summer said, squinting in the dark.


“Probably going to scare the piss out of Jax,” Carter predicted.


Summer hid her smile. Clementine the goat had an agenda where Carter’s youngest brother was concerned. It was a hate-hate relationship between the two.


“I should probably go catch her before she eats another pair of jeans,” he sighed, but he wasn’t looking at Clementine anymore. He was looking at Summer’s naked torso.


“Probably should,” she agreed, biting her lip.


“Of course, Jax doesn’t know that we know that she got out.”


“Plausible deniability.”


“And it’s dark. We can’t be sure it was her."


“So, maybe we have some time?” Summer asked, slipping her hand back into Carter’s jeans. She wrapped her fingers around him, gripping his thickness.


“What goat?” Carter breathed.