De La Fuente #5
Leaving his job as a New York firefighter, Diego had settled back home in Montana, where he filled his days working his family’s horse farm, as well as volunteering on the local hotshot crew. Life had gone from crazy to simple, and until he set eyes on his brother’s best friend, he hadn’t realized that something was missing, something that he’d started to crave, and that was Rae Foster. With her fiery red hair, equally fiery temper, and gorgeous forest green eyes, she had him wanting more than he’d ever wanted before, if only she’d give him the time of day.
Rae was falling hard for Diego, and he made her crave throwing caution to the wind to see where being with him would take them. It wasn’t easy and with Diego only being five years older than her daughter, and his mother who never had a kind word to say to her, she felt her heart would always want what it could never have—she wasn’t even sure she deserved it.
Cover Design - Robin Harper, Wicked Cool Designs
Diego ~ Eight Weeks Ago
"Diego, you need to calm down,” the doctor insists and meeting my gaze, I see the impatience behind his eyes. “Do I need to remind you that I have a very sharp needle in my hand.” He holds it in front of my face and all I want to do is hurl as my stomach rolls.
I tightly close my eyes, and hiss, “Just get it over with.” When nothing happens, I open my eyes. “I won’t move,” I add through clenched teeth.
He pauses and then starts to work on my shoulder. I don’t feel much, he’d numbed it with some damn powerful drugs already, so I close my eyes again and try to concentrate on something else. I clear my mind and the image of Rae appears. Her stricken face as I ended up flat on my back on the floor of the bar while Kasey and the others got a hold on the guy responsible. The way the loose tendrils of her hair had softened her face and caressed mine. I remember her small hands as they’d cupped my face while tears fell down her cheeks to the full and rounded curve of her lips. It was almost worth getting stabbed to see her feelings for me written all over her face. She was upset that I’d gotten hurt defending her, I know that, but there was so much more to what I saw swimming in her eyes—and that gave me hope.
* * *
My eyes won’t open but I hear my mom talking to a doctor. I know this because every other word uttered from her mouth is ‘doctor’. She isn’t happy about something, and for now I’m more than happy to pretend I’m still asleep.
How I managed to fall asleep while having my shoulder stitched up is beyond me. I hate needles, which makes me wonder whether or not I fell asleep or passed out cold.
God, I hope I didn’t pass out.
“Diego, your mother is well aware that you’re awake,” the doctor informs me, his voice laced with amusement.
“I’m busted,” I grumble, opening my eyes.
“Why would you pretend to be asleep when you know I’m sat here worried to death?” my mom questions, the anger in her eyes fading, replaced by salty tears and a trembling lip.
I’m an ass.
“I’m sorry. My head aches and all I could hear was you shouting at the doctor so I figured it was easier pretending I was still asleep.” I shrug, gasping as fire races up my neck.
“How are you feeling?” the doctor asks, standing over me.
“Sore. Thirsty. Hungry.”
He nods his head.
“How did I end up in a private room?” I question, frowning.
“You passed out,” the doctor states.
My eyes widen in surprise. “I’ve never passed out before.”
“So I’ve been told.”
A loud beeping sound suddenly starts coming from one of the machines that I’m attached to, which the doctor quickly silences before he continues, “It was at that point when we realized just how much blood you’d lost—turns out the wound was deeper than we initially thought, so we put you out and took you in to theatre. Basically, you’ve been stitched back together from the inside out.” He pauses, letting his words sink in.
Taking my silence as his prompt to carry on he edges toward the door. “Providing you follow doctors orders, you’ll be out in a day or two. Back at work in a few weeks.”
I don’t have anything to add so I just nod. My mom clutches my hand and I vaguely hear her telling him thank you—dismissing him.
Alone with her, she leans over and kisses my cheek. “You worried me. Worried everyone.”
“I had no idea he had a knife.”
“You should have minded your own business,” she adds, her lips pulled tight.
My heart sinks. “Mom, Rae is Aiden’s best friend. She needed help and there was nothing to think about. Even if it wasn’t Rae, and it had been another woman, I would have still stepped in.” I keep to myself that it was because of Rae that I lost it. I wanted to hurt the fucker for putting his hands on her—no other woman would have drawn quite that reaction from me.
“I don’t know, but I’m not getting into that while you can hardly keep your eyes open.”
I only half listen to what she’s telling me about family because I’m desperately trying to come up with a way of asking to see Rae without setting her off. Just as I decide to just tell her what I want, I feel my eyes closing and nothing I try to do will keep them open.
* * *
“Mom, I know my family is out there waiting to see me, but before I do I need to make sure Rae is okay.” I’ve been arguing with her since I woke up from what appears to have been a thirty-minute nap. “So, unless you want me to get out of this bed and go out there myself, please go and ask her to come in here.” I glare at my mom and know she’s angry at my request. Well, I’m equally angry with her for trying to prevent Rae from coming in here.
She even went as far as telling the doctor that only family is allowed in my room, which I quickly put a stop to.
My mom believes Rae is the one responsible for putting me in the hospital, and it’s pissing me off. Yes, I was defending Rae, but it wasn’t her fault. It was the asshole who had the knife tucked into the band of his jeans who caused all of this. However, as I continue to tune my mom out, I realize that this probably has more to do with it being Rae than anyone else.
She hasn’t taken to Aiden’s friend from the get go. She’s relieved that I’m okay, but there is more to it than she’s letting on. I have a feeling it has everything to do with the obvious attraction between Rae and I—the age difference possibly being the big issue.
As she opens her mouth to speak, I silence her with my hand. “Mom, enough already. I want Rae in here within five minutes or I’m going looking for her.” I narrow my eyes as she tries to say something. “I mean it Mom. I’m a grown man not a child.” Silence follows because she knows that she’s hit a wall with me on this, that she can’t keep ignoring what I want.
“I don’t like this. I’ll go and ask her to come in here, but make the most of the visit because I’ll make sure she doesn’t come in again.” On her last word, she turns on her heel and quickly exits before I can say otherwise.
I rest my head against the pillow, breathing through the pain in my shoulder, and the frustration of wanting Rae. I’ve been distracted by her since the minute Aiden introduced us.
I smile when I think about her soft, sexy, and lithe body. She’s a hot little thing and she brings all my protective instincts right to the surface.
Her scent has been mulling around my mind since I held her close when I got the first call about the local forest fire. I’d kissed her forehead and felt the heat rush straight to my dick.
It’s been obvious since then that she wants me to keep my distance, but I’m not sure how when our paths are constantly crossing. Kasey thinks I just need to get laid to get my mind off the curvy woman. According to him it’s the lack of action that has me craving the forbidden fruit.
The sound of the door creaking as it’s pushed open slowly has me snapping my attention in that direction. I sigh in relief when my eyes land on Rae, and I do more than a once over. She moves closer and as our eyes meet, I notice her beautiful face is pale with fatigue. Her lips wobble and she turns away, rapidly swiping at her face with her fingers.
My heart hurts as she tries to hide her emotions, so I hold my hand out. “Rae, come over here.”
She shakes her head and avoids looking at me. “Rae, please. I’m in bed and in a lot of pain, so it’s going to hurt me a hell of a lot to get up and come to you.” Okay, that’s not entirely true. The pain in my shoulder is turning into more of a dull throb since the pain meds are starting to kick in, but I’ll say anything right now to get her closer.
Rae grabs some tissues and rubs at her face before she finally faces me. “I don’t know what to say, or why you insisted on seeing me first—”
“Because I needed you in here with me.” I hold my hand out again and sigh with relief when she takes it, allowing me to tug her closer.
My eyes search her face while hers run up and down my bed ridden frame, her eyebrows scrunching together as she takes in my pale face, that’s when I realize I need her in my arms.
“Pull this down.” I tug on the side of the bed and when it drops, I pat the side.
Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. “No way. I’m not getting in that bed with you.”
I smirk. “I’ve had enough dreams about you and what you’d feel like against my body, but unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do anything to explore those right now. So the least you can do is lie beside me and let me hold you.” I wink. “I promise to behave.”
She bites her lip, watching me, but once her decision is made, her boots are kicked off and she’s climbing up beside me. As soon as she’s in my arms, I tug up the side of the bed frame, which is a lot easier to pull up than take down. She isn’t going anywhere if I have my way.
“I shouldn’t be in here, Diego,” she whispers, snuggling deeper into my side.
I close my eyes tightly. It hurts that she thinks that.
“You belong in here, Rae. Please don’t let anyone stop you.” I hold her close and kiss the top of her head.
“What are we doing, Diego?”
“I don’t know. But it feels right having you here beside me.” I let the silence settle around us, and then I add, “In a way I’m glad that I got hurt defending you.”
Rae lifts her head and frowns when she meets my gaze. “Why on earth would you be glad about that?”
“Because I have you in my arms, a place that you wouldn’t have been otherwise.”
“Shhh, please don’t ruin it. Let me have this.”
I know when she gives in because all of the tension leaves her body and she feels soft and warm against me as she lets herself be closer.
Her breath whispers across my skin, making me break out in goose bumps.
My desire for this woman is so strong and grows every time I see her. I want her in ways I’ve never wanted anyone else, and that should scare the living fuck out of me, except I find so much comfort in it. What does scare me out of my mind is that she’ll pass me over for someone closer to her own age before she gives me a chance.
Tugging her closer, I turn on my side and clench my jaw at the stab of pain in my shoulder. Once I’m comfortable with Rae wrapped against me, the pain slowly subsides, and I forget about my family waiting to see me outside of the room.
It’s been a long time since I’ve woken with a warm, hard body wrapped around me and it feels so good that I don’t want to move away. I want to stay wrapped up in him.
I know exactly whose body it is that holds me snug. While I’m half asleep I can imagine that he really is mine to hold—I can pretend.
A tear escapes from between my tightly closed lids, followed closely by another. I know Diego can feel them because he stills from stroking my hair and his hand on my lower back presses me closer to him.
I’ve never felt as cherished as he’s making me feel, which only makes the tears come harder.
“Crap, Rae…what’s wrong?” Diego asks, trying to get a better view of my face, and cursing as the pain makes itself known again.
I try to sit up but he won’t let me.
“Let me help you,” I insist.
“No. I’m fine,” Diego hisses between clenched teeth.
“Then why do you look and sound like you’re in pain, huh?” I ask the stubborn man.
“Dammit… I want to keep you in bed with me.”
I glance up and meet his dark as midnight eyes. “I have to go, Diego…the others...”
“Like hell.” His arms tighten around me and I just want to stay right where I am.
“Kasey came in last night while you slept,” Diego admits. “He went out and told the others that I was out for the night… God, Rae.”
I drop my forehead to his and hold his gaze. “We can’t do this. You know that.”
“I don’t give a fuck about why we can’t do this. Nothing has ever felt so fucking right, God dammit.” His fingers slide into my hair and with a slight pressure behind my head, our mouths meet in a tentative kiss.
The first taste of his lips is a delicious sensation, and when I give him access to my mouth, the touch of his tongue causes shivers of desire to race through me.
Diego growls in the back of his throat and with a slight change of position, I’m sitting astride his lap with his hands on my bottom as his mouth holds onto mine hungrily. He slides me closer and pure white-hot fire rushes through my core at the feel of his erection pressing against me.
I undulate over him and gasp, panting for breath with the want and need being so close to the surface for this man…unfortunately my brain starts working again and I pull my lips away. Breathing deeply, our foreheads rest together as our eyes stay connected, and everything Diego is feeling is clear for me to see—lust, want, need…and something more that I can’t think about, that I won’t think about.
“There’s a connection between us,” Diego states, reaching up to brush my hair back from my face. “It’s there, Rae, whether you want it there or not.”
“You don’t seem bothered by it.” I make no move to climb from him. I’m not even sure that my legs would hold me up if I tried.
“I’m not bothered by it and I want to see where this between us goes. I’ve never had a woman drive me this crazy. God Rae, I want us to give it a chance.” Diego tugs me down onto him and wraps his arms around my back. “Please, Rae. I’ve never been in a relationship before, but I want to try with you.”
I close my eyes from the need I hear in his voice. The thought of being with Diego makes my heart sing, but I know that his family will make it difficult for him, and us.
My silence speaks for itself because slowly Diego withdraws and lies back against the pillow.
Tears hover on my lashes at the harsh words out of his mouth. “Dammit, Diego,” I hiss, and stumble from the bed. “Do you think walking away from you is that easy? Because it isn’t.” I pull my boots back on and glare. “I feel the connection, and I want you. I want to be with you.” I catch my breath as a cry escapes my lips. “This isn’t easy for me, Diego… My daughter is five years younger than you.”
Grabbing some tissue, I wipe at my tears. “Your mom hates me because of this.” I wave my arm back and forth between us. “You’ve no idea how much I wish that I was younger or you were older so then we might stand a chance.”
I grab my purse and dash to the door, but find I’m unable to leave without one last look at him. I rest my palm against the door and glancing over my shoulder, I see the distress on his face, which probably matches my own. “Please take care of yourself, Diego. It would break my heart if something happened to you.”
As my face crumples, I shove out of his room and stumble against the wall beside his closed door. I slide down and bury my face in my drawn up knees while my heart shatters.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been sitting on the floor crying, but a handful of tissue is shoved into my hands.
Mumbling, “Thank you,” I wipe at my face before I look at the man who silently stands in front of me.
He doesn’t smile or say anything, but he does reach down and securing his hands around my wrists, he tugs me to my feet.
Wrapping an arm around my shoulders, he leads me away from Diego’s room.
I don’t ask where we’re going because I’m not sure I can speak without tears drowning me all over again. So instead, I trust him and it turns out he’s taking me to the hospital cafeteria.
Moving over to an empty table, he pushes me gently toward the chairs and walks off. My eyes track his every move while he grabs two coffees and some food, carrying it all on a tray he makes his way over to me.
He places the tray on the table and sits opposite. “Breakfast rolls,” he adds as he passes me one of the packets. “Figured you’d need something having spent the night with Diego.”
Tears hover in my eyes and clog my throat as I accept the food and the warm coffee. Without adding milk or sugar, I take a sip of the dark liquid and sigh as it runs down my raw throat.
Kasey watches me while eating his own breakfast and all I see is compassion in his gaze. He isn’t judging me for wanting Diego, and that gives me the confidence to talk to him.
“I told Diego that we couldn’t be together.” I bite my lip and take another sip of coffee to try and keep my emotions from overflowing. “He means a lot to me, Kasey. A lot more than he should.”
Taking a bite of my roll, I slowly chew as Kasey screws his wrapper up now he’s finished eating. I haven’t really spoken to Kasey before. We’ve exchanged pleasantries briefly at their family home, but I haven’t seen much of him since.
He’s tall, over six feet, with a slim build and broad in the shoulders. The blond hair and short beard are in contrast to that of his brothers. Kasey plays for an NHL team, the New York Mavericks, which is why he isn’t around too much. He’s a handsome man, but no one turns my head the way that Diego does.
“My brother has never been serious about a woman before, Rae,” Kasey says resting his elbows on the table while holding my gaze. “I love him and want the best for him—”
“Which isn’t me,” I interrupt before he can finish.
His eyes flash with impatience before he continues, “I was going to say that you make him happy…although confused.”
“Confused?” I frown.
“He’s never had a woman who consumes his every thought. He’s never been so hooked that he’s jealous, until you. So yeah, he’s confused.” Kasey sits back and watches me closely. “You’ve hurt him now,” Kasey accuses.
“I’m hurting too,” I sob and grab a handful of napkins to cover my face.
“Fuck,” Kasey curses. “I didn’t mean that the way it came out. Well, I did,” Kasey stumbles over his words, “but I didn’t mean them accusingly. I was meaning that you have the power to hurt him, which should tell you that what you both feel isn’t something to just walk away from without even trying.”
I glance at him through the napkins, and he chuckles before adding, “I know mom isn’t going to be happy about it, but don’t you think you should at least see where it could go?”
“You have no idea how much I wish I could,” I admit. “He means a lot to me, Kasey, and spending time with him will only intensify those feelings. It will hurt all the more when we part company.”
“If you part company,” Kasey adds. “It also looks like it’s hurting a lot right now.”
“It is.” I inhale, and add, “Do you know that I have a twenty-three year old daughter?” I see by the surprise on his face that he doesn’t. “Her name is Andie and she’s away at College. She has a job out there, but she’ll be home soon.” I meet Kasey’s gaze. “There’s only five years between her and Diego.”
I gaze out of the window wishing that circumstances were different so that I wouldn’t be feeling so heart broken. I’ve laid myself bare to Kasey because I need someone to understand why I have to back away from Diego, even though it hurts the both of us to do it.
“I didn’t realize that there was more to you pushing him away than your age. Now I don’t know what to tell you.” Kasey closes his eyes and looks tired, as though he hasn’t slept.
“Are you okay?” My question surprises him.
He glances away before returning to meet my eyes. “I can’t talk about it.”
“Oh.” I sit back in my seat.
Kasey shakes his head. “It isn’t that I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve been asked to keep it quiet. Which means I can’t talk to family, or friends. I’m including you under friends.”
“Okay.” I smile, apologetically. “I’m sorry I pushed, but right now I think I need to leave, and you need to go and make sure Diego is okay… Please.”
Kasey nods and standing, he tugs me into his arms. Mine go around his waist. “If you need anything Rae, please call me. I know you have my number.”
Stepping back, I meet his gaze and frown. “How?”
He grins. “I snuck into Diego’s room last night while the others were in the waiting room. Diego had me program his number into your cell. I added mine as well,” he confesses.
I offer him a watery smile to say thank you.
“Take care of yourself Rae.”I nod and make my way out of the hospital to where the sun is already high in the sky. It’s another beautiful day and I’m going to end up wasting it inside, wallowing and hiding away from the feelings I wish I didn’t have.