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Ice for His Ego: A Novelette

By Taren Elle

Copyright 2018 Taren Elle

Smashwords Edition


Smashwords Edition, License Notes


Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.


This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and situations are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously.


This book contains mature themes and is intended for adult audiences.


Cover by Taren Elle

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


Many thanks to everyone who helped and motivated me to finally get this book published. This has been a long time coming and I am so grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to expose my writing to the world. Thank you to all of my friends and family who provided me with so much feedback. You are all a shining light in my authorial beginnings and I love you all.


To Vernon Jackson—this one is for you. You are dearly missed.





TABLE OF CONTENTS


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

About the Author

Chapter One


Roxanna looked down at the time on her computer and sighed. A half an hour left. It was always the last hour that ticked by so slowly, especially when she was struggling with ideas for the company blog. She was ready to leave. Roxy was tired of looking at the computer screen. On any other day, she would’ve pulled out her notebook and flipped through the numerous pages of ideas she’d written down, or clippings of the latest fashions she’d pasted on the pages. Unfortunately, today she’d left her notebook on her desk at home. She needed some inspiration ASAP. She’d gone online and looked at some pictures to get some inspiration, but nothing, and at this point after working on it all day, she was probably just shooting herself in the foot. It also didn’t help that all she could think about was getting home and packing for her vacation. Her day was filled with all types of anxiety.

“Ugh, I can’t take it anymore,” Roxy groaned. Her head dropped to her oak desk with a thud. In an instant, the pen holding the bun together at the top of her head clattered to the floor and her long wavy dark brown hair tumbled around her like a curtain. That was when her cell phone vibrated. She pushed the papers scattered around on her desk searching for her iPhone. Pulling it from beneath a pile of her co-worker’s articles, she looked at the illuminated screen and smiled at her boyfriend’s name. Baron, her savior. He always had great timing.

“Hey babe, how’s work?”

She typed back, “Such a drag. I’ve been trying to write this blog post all day but I left my notebook at home.”

“That’s what happens when u rush 2 work.”

Sometimes Baron could be so rude. “I was late because of you!”

“’Cause I was givin’ it 2 u? You weren’t complaining then.”

Roxy threw back her head and a peal of laughter burst from her chest. She looked up, and her secretary Monica was staring at her from her desk. Glass walls separated all of the offices; there was no privacy at all. She waved a hand at Monica and shook her head, still chuckling.

Roxy replied, “Goodbye. I’m done with you for the day.”

“We’ll c about that when you get home. By the way, what’s 4 dinner?”

Roxy started texting Baron back and glanced up only to see Monica holding up a sheet of paper. She squinted. The sign read, “Finish the post!”

Roxy rolled her eyes and sighed. Monica wasn’t going to let her leave until she finished it. She set her phone on her desk, snatched a piece of scratch paper, and wrote, “I’m stuck. HELP!”

Roxy’s phone rumbled on her desk again.

“Chinese sound good?”

She deleted her incomplete text as she rolled her eyes and typed, “Chinese sounds good.”

“Meet u at home. Don’t work 2 hard. LOL.”

He knew she wasn’t working at all…jerk.

“I’ll be at the gym 4 another hr or so. Late client.”

“Tell her, your woman said you can’t stay long.”

“Assuming my client is a woman? Jealous, babe?”

Roxy shook her head at Baron’s teasing. After dating for a little over three years, he at 29 and she at 28, his teasing was a constant. She pushed her hair away from her face, bunched it at the top of her head and typed, “Not at all. Just reminding you who you belong to.”

“Mmm, I luv it when ur possessive.”

“I know you do. See you when you get home. Love you.”

“Luv u 2, babe.”

Roxy looked up from her phone and Monica was standing in her doorway.

“Okay, I know you’re going on vacation, but today is not the day to slack off. Tell Baron to stop distracting you.”

Monica leaned one arm against the threshold and propped her hand on her narrow waist. Her brown eyes were bright, shining through her red-rimmed glasses, and her caramel skin was radiant. She tipped her head to the side, her long dark ponytail falling with it.

Monica reminded her of her best friend Felicity, and Roxy wouldn’t trade either one of them for the world. Her bright personality was the only thing keeping her sane in her chaotic office. Fashion design was not for the faint of heart. The office was always going-going. Having to keep track of blogs and columns, constantly thinking of new ideas for the magazine, making sure everyone was on top of their deadlines, and keeping an eye on the slackers was exhausting. The irony of her complaint did not go unnoticed since today Roxy was the slacker. That was until she took a look at Monica’s black and white polka dot dress—no notebook needed. She could feel the inspiration.

“Thank you, Monica! Your dress is a lifesaver!”

Roxy spun in her chair to her computer and clickity clacked away at her keyboard.

“Really, my dress was what helped you?” Monica scoffed. “Unbelievable.”

Roxy ran through that half an hour in no time. After she sent the post to her editor for approval, she tidied her office and was just about to leave when Monica stepped into the doorway.

“Enjoy your vacation! Don’t break a leg!” How the girl could come in at nine in the morning and still be at one-hundred percent at six in the afternoon was amazing.

“Very funny. Now I’ll be thinking about all the ways I can injure myself skiing. Why are you still here?” Roxy started buttoning her black and white houndstooth pea coat. “You’re usually gone before me.” “I wanted to see you off. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you here.”

“You’ll do fine. I gave you everything you need.

Roxy stepped out of her office and closed the door behind her. “Keep an eye on Jared’s work. He’s been slow to turn in pieces for his column. I’ve had to constantly remind him about his deadline. Just keep on him.”

“Uh oh.” Monica went to her desk and grabbed a post-it and scribbled—probably making a note for herself.

Roxy leaned against her desk where she stuck the green post-it with the others strewn about her desk. “He can’t afford any more last-minute submissions. I’m tired of my boss breathing down my neck.”

“Will do, boss lady.”

“Thanks. See you in two weeks. You have my number. Call me if the building is burning down.”

Monica chuckled and Roxy winked at her before she pressed the button for the elevator and stepped in.


***


It was just a fifteen-minute walk from her office on 24th to the Chelsea loft that Roxy shared with Baron on 22nd.Even with the late January weather, the city was still bustling around her. Apparently, no one cared that it was freezing. Cars filled the streets, every other one being a yellow cab, and every other one blaring their horn. People filled the sidewalks going here and there, chattering away animatedly, and visiting local shops and boutiques. The nightlife was pulsing with energy.

As she continued down the street, she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. It was Felicity.

“Hey, Fe. What’s up?”

“Are you slaving away or can I steal you for the evening?” That was Felicity’s way of asking if she was working.

“That depends, what are you stealing me away for?”

“Oh, you know, just a little shopping.”

Even though Roxy was tired and she really wanted to start packing, when Felicity said shopping, all of that went out the window. Baron was going to be home late anyway.

“I’m just leaving the office. Where are you?”

“I’m on 25th and 6th.”

“Okay, stay where you are. I’ll grab a cab and come get you.”


***


“Right here,” Roxy leaned in next to the cab driver. “We’re going to grab her and then head to INA on 18th.

As the cab slowed to a stop, Roxy pushed open the door and gave a catcall, “Get in here sexy mama.”

Felicity’s attention turned towards the cab. Her white skin as luminescent as always, against her bright red lips. Felicity’s long, wavy blond hair bounced around her shoulders as she jogged over to the open door. Giving her only seconds to settle into the cab, the driver sped away from the curb. Felicity set her Coach bag on her lap and turned to Roxy, the mascara on her lashes and the coal lining her eyes made her blue eyes pop through the lenses of her glasses.

Felicity reached in for a hug. “I missed you.”

Just before Roxy leaned over and embraced her friend, she noticed the cab driver’s eyes flick up to the rear-view mirror. “I missed you, too. And I love these yellow pants.”

Felicity was one for bold fashion statements, with her being model and all. People couldn’t keep their eyes off of her, especially the men.

“I never see you.” Felicity mock wiped a tear from beneath her glasses, and just as quickly snapped her head up and glared daggers her way. “I’m still mad at you, Roxanna!”

Whoa, now she was Roxanna.

Roxy groaned and dropped her head back onto the headrest. “What are you mad at me for now?”

Felicity continued, “Between work and Baron, you’ve really been neglecting me, and I don’t appreciate it. You know, you dedicate most of your time to him and it’s really not fair. I could understand if the relationship was fresh but it’s been a little over a year now. Can there be some equality, please? Just yesterday, you told me about your winter vacation, which I might add, you’re leaving for tomorrow. What if you’d had a skiing accident and died. I’d have never known. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to finally see you, but you really do suck.” Felicity crossed her arms over her chest.

When Felicity was upset, she could really go all day. And what was with everyone and the skiing accidents today? But, Felicity did have a point. She was spending a lot of time with Baron, and she hadn’t thought about how it affected the people around her.

Her mom and dad called all the time to tell her how much they missed her, and how they’d wish she and Baron would come over for dinner sometime. But it’d only been a few months since his own parents were killed in a private plane crash in Europe, and she wasn’t sure if he was ready to be in that family setting just yet. It also didn’t help, that a couple of weeks from the night of his parent’s deaths, she repeatedly found him lying on the floor of their shared loft, wasted out of his mind. There was one night, in particular, she remembered when Baron had sobbed uncontrollably, and it showed how much the pain was really eating away at him.

She’d hefted him onto their couch, sat down next to him, and lifted his head onto her lap. Within seconds, Baron had confessed how alone he felt, and that he needed her to be there because he couldn’t survive the pain alone. Roxy wasn’t used to seeing him like that, and it disturbed her to no end. Baron had always been strong and independent. But that night, he was the complete opposite of everything she knew him to be. He was weak from the pain and vulnerable from the loss.

Roxy didn’t know if he remembered anything he’d said that night—or any of those consecutive nights—and if he did, he didn’t show it, and she was damn sure wasn’t going to bring it up. But, after that night, she’d unknowingly become his crutch. And her friends and family were making it quite clear that they were aware of the fact and not in favor of it.

“I’m sorry, Fe,” Roxy sighed. “I’ll make it up to you. Shopping spree on me?”

Shopping sprees were frequent occurrences considering how many times she and Felicity were upset with one another. Neither one of them could stay mad at one another for too long.

Felicity tilted her head and looked at Roxy over the rim of her glasses. “Oh, I don’t think you’re prepared for this shopping spree.”

Roxy rolled her eyes. “I’m never prepared for any of your shopping sprees.”


Chapter Two


Baron opened the door to his loft. It was dark which meant Roxy wasn’t home yet. He flipped the lights on, and moved down the narrow hallway and into the living room, his sneakers thudding against the wood floor. He flipped another switch and light illuminated the large living area, bouncing off the white walls. He dropped his gym bag at the corner of the hallway and set his keys and the bag of Chinese food on the black marble that topped the kitchen island.

The loft was spacious. The large kitchen alcove was decked with stainless steel appliances, red lacquered contemporary cabinetry, and black marble countertops. The entire opposite side of the loft was the original red brick of the building and its large windows. On the left of the loft was an office and personal gym and to the left was the master bedroom.

Baron grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and made his way to the bedroom. Downing the water, he briefly glanced at his watch. It was a little after 9:00, hopefully, Roxy would be home soon. He couldn’t stand the silence when he was home alone. He was absently going for the play button on his sound system when he noticed a picture frame face down on the shelf.

Baron set the picture back up and his insides cringed. It was a photo of his parents on the beach when he and Roxy traveled to the Hamptons with them. His mom’s brown eyes smiled back at him, and his father—whom Roxy always said was an older version of him—winked back at the camera, his arm wrapped tightly around his mom. Baron had never seen two people so in love. Damn, he missed them so much.

The day he received the call about the crash was a complete blackout. He remembered answering the phone, a woman talking to him, and then waking up that night next to Roxy. He’d blocked out the majority of the memorial service. The fact that there weren’t even bodies to bury was what destroyed him the most.

Several times throughout the first couple of weeks, Baron ended his nights with a drink in his hand and a blackout. He started his mornings in bed with Roxy next to him and a glass of water and an Advil on the nightstand behind him. Baron owed a lot to her. Who knew where he would’ve been if she hadn’t been by his side.

It took a couple months, but he was finally feeling like himself again. No more alcohol; no more blackouts. And, just last month, he’d finished up with his lawyer concerning all legal matters. His parents had written a will early on, so there was no confusion about what went where and who got what. To tell the truth, Baron really didn’t give a shit. It was a fucked-up hand that fate had dealt his parents. And it would take him a long time to truly accept that they were gone, but for the moment, he was in a good place.

Baron ran his fingers over the top of the weathered, light blue wooden frame and smiled. He straightened the frame and then pressed play on the sound system. The organ intro to Avenged Sevenfold’s Critical Acclaim chimed through its speakers and began filling the large space as Baron increased the volume.


***


Roxy lifted her arm and glanced down at her watch…9:30. A couple of hours had gone by. She completely lost track of time. She could get lost for days going from shop to shop, and then back to the ones she’d already been to because she couldn’t stop thinking about the one thing she didn’t get. And Felicity was no help, always encouraging her to buy what she liked. Some friend she was.

Roxy struggled out of the cab with her bags and paid the driver.

“Keep the change,” she said.

The driver nodded and sped off. Roxy looked down at the number of bags in her hand. Baron was going to have a conniption. He was always telling her how she didn’t need any more clothes because she was beginning to take over the little closet space that he had. So, what? You only live once.

Roxy shuffled through the doorway of the building, briefly greeting another tenant, before stepping into the elevator. The doors pinged open when she reached the top floor. She shuffled her shopping bags around and dug into her bag for her keys as she approached her door. When she got the keys in the lock and the door open, a blast of heavy metal assaulted her ears. She squeezed through the threshold and kicked the door closed with her foot. After fighting the bags to lock the door, she shuffled down the narrow hallway.

Roxy glanced around the living area and didn’t see Baron, but noticed his stinky gym bag in the corner. She quickly ran across the room on the balls of her feet, she pushed opened the sliding barn wood door that led to their bedroom. When she stepped into the room, she heard the light patter of water from the bathroom shower. Good he was in the shower. Perfect time for her to hide her bags in the closet. She dashed to the full-size closet and pushed her bags up onto the top shelf of her wardrobe, all the way to the back. Hopefully, Baron wouldn’t see it.

Discarding her coat and slipping from her heels, Roxy opened the door to the bathroom. The humid air immediately stuck to her skin. And although the shower glass was slightly fogged, she could see Baron quite clearly. The water ran over his olive skin in sensual rivulets. Over every dip and curve of his muscular back and over the globes of his tight ass. He turned around and his hazel eyes locked with hers. A hand reached up and pushed his short dark hair back from his forehead. His stare was intense but there was a smirk playing at the corner of his lips. “Are you gonna stalk me or join me?”

Roxy felt a blush of embarrassment rise to her cheeks. She was caught staring but wasted no time unbuttoning her blouse. She unhooked her bra and made a show of removing her slacks; her panties going effortlessly with them.

“Don’t make me come over there and get you,” Baron growled.

She peeked up through her lashes from her bent position. Baron was hard as a rock. His shaft jutted from between his muscular thighs. His hand stroked slowly but steadily up and down his thick length. Roxy’s heart thrummed in her chest. She and Baron always had an unshakeable chemistry. Always responding to each other just by mere proximity. Her nipples grew hard just from the anticipation. She needed Baron just as much as he needed her.

He pushed open the glass door to the shower, and the damp moisture enveloped her. As soon as she was less than an inch from him, Baron wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her over the threshold and took her lips into a wet, smoldering kiss. His lips ravaged her and his tongue slicked into her mouth—his hand at the back of her head held her firm. He was dominating her and Roxy was thirsty for it.

Their kiss broke for a moment, long enough for Baron to whisper against her lips, “God I missed you.”

Her forehead leaned against his. The air sizzled between them as they both worked to catch their breath.

“I missed you too, Baron.” Roxy’s hands ran over his broad shoulders and over his pectorals. She savored the feeling of the hard muscle beneath his flesh and watched as her fingers created an invisible trail as they moved over the plains of his abs. Sometimes she couldn’t believe she was with such a beautiful creature. Not only physically—let’s face it, she was completely obsessed by his physique—but he was such a wonderful man. Honest, loving, supportive, and absolutely protective. Roxy had been through at least one heartbreak in a lifetime—which to say was one too many—and Baron was the one who brought her back from a hole so dark and deep she didn’t think there was any coming out of it. He had shown her that there were things worth taking risks for even if she was afraid.

“What are you thinkin’, angel?”

Their foreheads still touched and Roxy’s fingers danced over the trail of dark hair leading down from his navel. She glanced up and he was looking right at her. His hazel eyes were so light that she always felt like he could see right through her; knew everything she was thinking or feeling. That he could see right to the core of her.

Baron chuckled at her silence and dipped down to take her lips into another kiss. She moaned into his mouth and he reached down and lifted her by her ass. Roxy wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his shoulders. She was average height and had curves in all of the right places but Baron lifted her like she weighed no more than a feather. Her fingers ran through his wet hair grasping fistfuls as if her life depended on it—or more like her lady bits depended on it. He always aroused her until she was nearly begging for it. He loved to tease her even when she didn’t need it. At the current moment, Roxy was aching to feel him inside of her.

She broke their kiss. Both of them panting. “Baron,” she whispered as she reached between them and grasped his hardness. Gods he was like a hot, thick steel rod. She could feel him pulsing in her hand.

“You know what to do, baby.”

This time it was Roxy taking him into a ruthless kiss. She placed the tip of him at her entrance and his hands on her ass tilted her up impaling her on his shaft as he pushed forward. Her fingers dug into his back and she moaned as she felt every single inch of him slide into her—stretching her. She was very used to having Baron inside of her but that initial penetration was always like heaven.

Baron bottomed out and she was so full of him. He groaned as his head fell to her shoulder.

“Babe,” he said breathlessly, “The way you feel. It drives me fuckin’ crazy every time—so fuckin’ tight.”

Baron’s hands tightened on her ass as he pulled out and pushed back in. His thrust went so deep, she could feel the rush in her toes. He thrust again and a tingle ran up to her fingers. Baron walked them back and the tile was against her back. Roxy opened her eyes and Baron was staring down at her. He was considerably taller than her and even wrapped around him at waist level, her view was only of him—his body, his spicy scent surrounding her making her crazed with arousal. His nostrils flared and his eyes watched her with intent. One of his hands came off of her ass and braced against the wall. Roxy moved her hips back and forth digging her heels into his lower back to get some leverage and just reveled in the feel of him in and around her.

This was what she needed at the end of the day. To get lost in her man and the pleasure he could give her. It was so easy to get lost in the judgment and the ideals of others—to get lost in her own doubts and concerns—but in the present when it was just her and Baron, everything seemed so much simpler. So much easier.

“Gods, you’re beautiful when you just take me.” Baron pushed her flat against the wall and gave her all that he had. Both of his hands tight on her ass now, gripping her—keeping her exactly where he wanted her. Relentlessly he pounded into her. Roxy moaned her head moving up and down the wall from the vigor of his thrusts. She would be sore and probably bruised later but she didn’t care. She just didn’t want him to stop. Her nails were probably embedded in his back she was grasping him so tightly.

His hand came up to her hair and at first, she thought he was going to cushion her from the friction of the wall, but no, Baron fisted a hand full of her hair, pulled her away from the wall a little and pulled her head back, baring her neck to him. She was completely at his mercy, bound by his will. His mouth latched onto her throat and he sucked and nibbled to his heart’s content. He lathered kisses all over her neck and to her chin. “I’m taking you to the bed.”

The water was off and he carried her to the bed in what felt like two seconds. Roxy didn’t even have a moment to complain about the sheets getting wet before he was thrust balls deep inside of her again. He took the air right out of her. But this, this was so much better. She arched back in ecstasy and the pillow beneath her head enveloped her. Baron still had his hand buried in her hair. His other hand pushed her knee up to her side allowing him to go deeper. He was pounding into her so hard her toes were permanently curled. Her moans were coming so fast, before she could realize it she was climaxing. Her climax obliterated every nerve ending in her body and Baron was right behind her with a deep groan into her neck. His weight gently settled on top of her and she welcomed it. Who wanted to be left cold and vulnerable after getting ravaged like she had.


Chapter Three


“Gotta love reheated Chinese food?” Baron said sarcastically. “You know next time I might just decide to go shopping when you’re bringing home dinner.”

Roxy rolled her eyes, “Right, because we didn’t just make love in the shower and the bedroom. This is all about me.”

He was being a jerk because he’d found the bags, and she was a bad liar. He never missed anything; she didn’t even know why she had thought he wouldn’t see them in the first place.

“That was not lovemaking. That was pure, unadulterated fucking,” he said around a mouth full of food.

Roxy slanted her eyes at him.Baron set his fork down on his plate after swallowing, “Babe, you can’t even be mad. You stuck your clothes on my side of the closet—the side you’ve been slowly taking over?”

Roxy laughed because he was so right.

It was times like these when she and Baron were sitting alone and enjoying each other’s company that made her love him even more. Even when she really wanted to punch him. She turned her head to the right, watched Baron smile and lean back in his chair. From the first time Roxy walked into Baron’s gym and he smiled at her, she was stuck. He had such an infectious smile. It always went straight to his beautiful eyes.

“How was work?” Roxy said.

“It was great as always. You know the women love me. And my last client, whew…she wanted to take me home, but I told her I had to get Chinese for my girl tonight. I told her I was willing to reschedule though.”

Roxy reached over to push Baron, but he caught her hand and dragged her from her seat and into his lap, screaming, “No! No playing at the table!”

Baron bent her over his arm kissing and biting her cheeks as she kicked and tried to squirm from his grasp. Eventually, he let her up.

Roxy wiped her face, in mock disgust. “Are you done taking advantage of me?”

Baron squeezed her cheeks and kissed her. “I’m never done taking advantage of you.”

The remainder of their earlier activities sent a shiver down her spine.

She watched him pick at a fancy napkin on the large Victorian oak table and glance at its other contents. “Why don’t we ever use this table? Didn’t you buy it to have family dinners?”

“Yeah,” Roxy hesitated.

“We should invite your parents over when we get back. No point in having a ten-seater when you don’t use it.”

Roxy draped her arm over his shoulder and tilted her head to look into his eyes, really trying to take him in. “Are you sure, babe?”

Baron’s eyebrows dropped across his forehead. “Why wouldn’t I...is this because...” He sighed. “Babe, I’ve had my time to mourn my parents’ deaths—”

“You can take as long as you want, baby.” Roxy interrupted.

“I know and I have. I’d love to have your parents over for dinner. Okay?”

Roxy nodded but she was still a little unsure.

“You’ve got to stop trying to protect me. I can’t have people walking on eggshells around me all the time. I’m fine.”

Maybe Baron didn’t need her protection. But she kept remembering that night when he broke down. Maybe he was past it. She propped her elbow on the table and dropped her head into her hand. Roxy didn’t know what to think. Baron grasped her chin and tilted her head to look at him; he just shook his head and grasped her hand pulling it to his lips. His long fingers wrapped tightly around her hand and she could feel the calluses on his palm against her soft skin. His natural Mediterranean skin tone was slightly lighter than her bronzed tone.

“Wanna see what I bought?” Roxy smiled up at him, trying to lighten the mood.

Baron chuckled and smirked, “Only if you’re modeling it for me.”


***


Roxy glanced over at Baron in the driver’s seat. The packed snow crunched underneath the Range Rover’s tires as they pulled up to the resort’s main lodging. He’d woken her up at the crack of dawn, or no…before the sun even had the thought of rising. He’d dragged her out of bed literally by the ankle—something about his second attempt—and pushed her into the bathroom to get ready. Baron had already been awake for a couple of hours. He was always awake before her; he was that irritating morning person. Roxy on the other hand, was not. She needed her coffee before any type of action could happen, hence the reason he’d dragged her from the bed.

After whining at having to get ready without her coffee, Roxy shuffled from the bedroom, and as soon as she opened the door, the smell of freshly brewed coffee assaulted her nose. When she came to the hallway, Baron shoved a thermos of steaming coffee into her hands and passed her coat. Like the gentleman he was, he’d already thrown her bags into their truck and was ready to go. Ugh, she couldn’t stand morning people, but he’d redeemed himself a little with the coffee. Now, she was only making him suffer a little with a little back-to-back of Rihanna. Her second wake up addiction.

It had taken almost four hours to get to their lodge, and by the time they arrived, Baron looked like he wanted to drive the truck over a cliff.

“On the trip back, that album,” he pointed to Roxy’s phone. “Is not an option—or anything else featuring Rihanna.”

Roxy chuckled as he put the vehicle in park and jumped out to get the lodging information and keys. Five minutes later, they were on their way to their cabin. She hated how they bumped along the road, especially in the snow. She always felt like the truck would go sliding into a ditch. But Baron, always the fearless one, pushed right through it. Roxy hated driving in the snow.

Baron pulled up right to the front door of the cabin. From the front of the steepled roof log cabin, there was a porch with a cute rocking chair by one of the symmetrical windows. Roxy turned to Baron just before he tossed the keys her way. He chuckled, watching her fumble.

“Thanks for the warning,” she replied.

He slid out of the truck and disappeared from her view, “Check out the place. I’ll bring the bags in. And if there’s a weirdo in there, scream. I’ll come running.”

Roxy rolled her eyes, opening the truck door. “Aren’t you the perfect man, so protective.”

Her black knee-high boots crunched into the snow until she stepped onto the wooden porch. She stuck the key in the lock and turned the knob. When she stepped into the cabin onto the rich wooden floor, the smell of pine and rustic cabin assaulted her senses. The space was an open concept with high steeple ceilings braced by sturdy wood supports, to her right sat an intimate living area decked with an area rug and its own fireplace, and a huge ancient kitchen in the far-left corner with a dining table next to it. She opened the first door to her left—closet, and the next—bathroom. The door in the far-right corner had to be the bedroom.

Baron walked into the cabin with bags in both arms as she took off her coat to lay it on the back of the sofa.

“Not so bad. So far looks better than the last one,” he said.

“So far. Haven’t seen the bedroom yet.”

The cabin they had rented last year was horrid. Proved to never trust the pictures online. Talk about rustic—the thing was practically falling apart. Needless to say, they picked another spot for this year’s trip.

Roxy turned the handle to the bedroom and pushed the door open. The room was nice and cozy with a king bed to her left and master bath to the right. Sweet and simple. She pulled her phone from her back pocket and shot a text to Felicity letting her know they arrived safely. Baron sat the suitcases next to the dresser across from the bed, and pulled his jacket off.

He yawned, “I know I only drove for about four hours, but I’m actually tired, babe. I think I’m gonna crash on the couch for a bit.”

“That’s what happens when you go to sleep late and wake up before the ass-crack of dawn.”

He chuckled. “Nope, this is what happens when you make your boyfriend drive and torture him with the same artist for four hours straight. My brain is on meltdown right now. It needs to recover.”

She tried to contain her sigh but it slipped out.

Baron walked over and kissed her on the forehead. “Don’t sigh. It’s all your fault.”

“Whatever, Baron,” she laughed. “I’m going to put the groceries away.”

“By the way,” he leaned back into the threshold. “Skiing all day tomorrow.”

Roxy whined. “All day? I don’t wanna.”

“I know you don’t. But just once I want you to go up with me.”

“We do this every year,” Roxy fell back onto the bed and slapped her hands over her eyes. “It’s scary. I’m not a professional snowboarder like you. You’re going to leave me at the top of the hill.”

A heavyweight came down on top of her and she felt fingers prying her hands from her face. When they succeeded and she opened her eyes, those mischievous hazel ones were gazing down at her.

“What’s so scary about it?” Baron shifted his weight to the side.

“You mean besides flying down a steep, slippery, snow-covered hill with really no way to stop? And don’t say I can point my skis together and I’ll slow down. That doesn’t work!”

Baron threw his head back and laughed. Roxy punched him in the chest.

“Ouch, okay I’m sorry,” he said rubbing the spot on his chest while trying to compose himself. “How about tubing you liked that last year.”

“I was terrified the whole time that I was going to slide off the tube and the ice was going to filet the skin right off my face.”

Baron grimaced at Roxy. Both of them were quiet waiting for the other to say anything. He always thought she was being dramatic about some of her fears but she was serious. These things could really happen.

“Roxy…”

“I’m serious.”

He scoffed. “I know you are. So why are we here? What are you gonna do when I’m hittin’ the slopes all day tomorrow?”

“Drink hot chocolate and lounge around in the main lodge in my cute boots.”

Baron threw himself beside her onto the mattress. “You’re killin’ me! I’m not winning this, am I?”

Roxy shook her head.

“Ugh,” he pushed himself from the bed. “I’m gonna make a hot pocket. I’m sure I won’t have a heart attack.” Baron was mocking her fear.

“You’re such a jerk.”

“Love you too, babe.”


***


The next day, way after twelve noon, Roxy watched Baron streak down the freezing powdery peaks in an orange blur.

“Baron, you’re going to kill yourself one of these days,” she whispered to herself. Even though Baron was a trained snowboarder, it terrified her every single time he strapped on that purple and white snowboard and hopped on the ski lift. The first time she tried skiing was with him. She remembered it as clear as yesterday. She sat next to him on the lift, and all the horrible possibilities of what could happen to the both of them ruminated in her mind. Meanwhile, he sat calmly, his arm draped over her shoulder. And when she glanced over at his bundled form—hat on and eyes covered by goggles—the most dazzling smile stretched across his partially frozen face and she couldn’t help but laugh, but the worry inevitably always came back to plague her.

Now, she stayed in the cozy lounging cabin where she belonged. Some of the other lodgers moseyed around or sat having animated conversations over lunch with others. Some shuffled around outside in the snow, renting skis or just having conversations. Everyone was with someone, whether it be children or adults. The majority of the children ran around throwing snowballs at each other. Some were learning how to use their skills to fight gravity, and others tubing—which to Roxy was more terrifying and dangerous than skiing.

Roxy sat next to the window, with a steaming cup of hot chocolate nestled between her hands, warming her palms. A flat-screen television was in front of her, mounted high in the corner showing some fast food commercial. She sat back in the recliner and propped her feet up on the small log table. She sat deliberately by the ceiling-to-floor windows to watch the skiers and snowboarders rush to the bottom of the hill. She loved people watching.

Roxy blinked back to reality. She began lifting her mug to her lips when a head dipped down and beat her to it. She knew it was Baron, but all she recognized was the helmet on his head and the goggles on top. He finally lifted his head and sighed in satisfaction, his signature smirk and dimples in place.

“Thanks, Babe,” his voice rumbled.


Chapter Four


Baron towered over Roxy, his snowboard tucked between his arm and torso. His hazel eyes sparkled with mirth as he bent down to capture her lips in a short kiss. At least that’s what he had intended until the sweet taste of her beverage touched his tongue and that intended short kiss turned into a much deeper sensual one.

His hand lifted to cup her chin; hers still held the cup of coffee. Baron released her lips and chuckled. “Not dazzled enough to let go of the coffee, huh?”

“You got that right,” she whispered, barely catching her breath. Her brown eyes gazed up at him expectantly, waiting for a snarky comeback.

Baron chuckled and just took in Roxy with the afternoon sun pouring through the cabin windows, casting a glow against her caramel skin. Her long chocolate hair was pulled into a ponytail tumbling over one shoulder in waves. She bit her lip, probably wondering why he was staring at her. She was beautiful. She was his solid ground, and she probably didn’t even know it. He didn’t know what he would do without her. All he had was her, and he damn sure wasn’t letting her go.

Baron bent over and kissed her again, and then he sat his board against the wall next to her before moving the empty chair to her right, flush against hers. He sat down, pulled his hat and goggles from his head, and unzipped his orange coat. He began to settle in his seat, his muscles relaxing from the snowboarding he had been doing all morning. It was nice to be able to hit the slopes every now and again. It was nice to escape from the constant bustle of the city. He threw his arm over the back of Roxy’s chair while he scratched his chin and looked around the lodge. The quiet that stretched over the Adirondack Mountains when he was on the slopes was such a reprieve, and if it were up to him, he would have planted a permanent spot right in the heart of it all. It was where he felt he was born to be.

Baron turned to take a glimpse of the happenings outside, but there Roxy was, staring at him. She tilted her head and lifted her hand to his face, her fingers smoothing down the edges of his goatee. “What were you thinking?”

“What’s right in front of me,” he whispered. His finger brushed the soft underside of her chin, bringing a smile to her lips.

“As thrilled as I am that you’re always thinking of me, I know that look. What’s bothering you?”

Baron hesitated then said, “Would you, stay here with me?”

“What?”

“If I wanted to leave the city and stay here, would you come with me?”

Baron watched as the idea ruminated in Roxy’s mind—always the over-thinker. Baron had the adventurous spontaneity that she didn’t have.

She shifted in her chair to face him. “Just drop everything and leave…everything?”

“Yes.”

“Your job as a personal trainer, that big fancy studio we live in?”

“I’d leave it all if you came with me.”

“I’m not so sure I’d leave my job.”

He ran his finger down her soft cheek. “I didn’t think you would but it was worth a try.”

Baron kicked his feet up on the table and crossed his ankles. Roxy’s head entered his view. “What’s this all about, Mr. Marchesi?”

He chuckled and sighed. “Well, Ms. Cruz. Just tired of the city is all. I’m always going-going. It’s nice to relax and not have to actually worry about anything. Work, traffic, you know.”

“That’s why we’re on vacation. There’s no need to just pick up and leave permanently.”

“Hmm…”

“Is there something else you aren’t telling me?”

No, there wasn’t anything else he needed to tell her. He knew she wasn’t going to just pick up and leave, but there was a small part of him that was really hoping she would surprise him.

“It’s nothing,” he assured.

She narrowed her eyes.

“Really, Roxy, don’t worry about. It’s all good, babe.” Baron kissed her on the forehead and folded his arms behind his head. “No worries.”

An hour or so later, they left the warm comfort of the lounge and stepped outside into the frigid cold. The evening sun was orange and yellow against the pristine powder, and Baron was itching to go up one more time before they went back to the cabin.

“One more time, babe, you and me?” he asked.

Roxanna sighed, her head dropping to her chest. He already knew she didn’t want to go.He gave her a quick kiss. “One more for me then.”


***


Roxy had watched Baron get on the ski lift, as usual, the same nervousness still and always running through her body as she waited for him at the bottom. Eventually, she spotted his bright orange winter coat speeding down the slope as he took a high jump, but something was wrong. Baron was clearly not in control of his jump and he was coming down fast and hard. When he hit the ground, she felt the impact in her bones. Clouds of snow flew up all around him as he slid and rolled down the remainder of the slope and slammed into a group of thick trees. Her body jolted at the second impact.

The moments passed in a blur of chaos. Ski patrollers were running over to Baron, and what she thought were seconds passing were actually minutes. The pulsating emergency lights of an ambulance eventually were flashing behind her, the vehicle parked on the only visible road leading from the main lodge. The medics quickly made their way to Baron, who lay motionless in the snow. Her eyes registered the people crowded around, curious as to what happened, but her body and her mind were not working together. She was frozen. Minutes passed and there was a subtle shift from Baron’s prone form. When he moved again, a loud painful yell reverberated through the air, but what disturbed Roxy the most was how still she was throughout the ordeal. She hadn’t even rushed to him before the paramedics arrived, to make sure Baron was alive.

When the paramedics began lifting him onto the stretcher and she heard Baron moan, her legs slowly began to move forward until she was at a dead run. Her feet slipped and her legs pushed up the hill through the thick, cold powder. Her heart was pounding from the effort, but more for the fear of Baron. She didn’t know what she would do if anything happened to him; she couldn’t bear it. For three years, she had watched Baron sprain wrists and ankles. Break arms, fingers, ribs, toes. But nothing like this. This looked bad.

When Roxy reached the crowd of ski patrollers and paramedics, she was hysterical. Baron was just out of her reach when a man in a bright red jacket stepped in her way blocking him from her view. “Ma’am, you can’t be here!” Her movements to get around him halted as he grasped her forearms, attempting to push her back.

“He’s my boyfriend. No!” she yelled. “Please, I know him. Let me see him!”

“I’m sorry but you can’t be here.”

Roxy yelled again, still attempting to escape the man’s grasp, “Baron, Baron.”

“Babe?” she heard his hoarse whisper. “I’m good…it’s okay. No worries, remember?”

He didn’t sound okay. “I’m here with you Baron. I’m not going anywhere okay.


When the man, whom she’d later realized was another ski patroller, decided to let Roxy go, and was convinced that she indeed did have some relation to Baron, she followed the paramedics and stepped into the ambulance. The ride to the nearest hospital was moderately quiet. The sirens were surprisingly muffled and the paramedic would ask her the occasional question. She glanced down at Baron. His form laid out on the stretcher, his normally bronze features were pale and his eyes were scrunched from the pain. Red scratches streaked the left side of his face and the medics were placing gauze on a gash on his forehead. His fists were clenched at his sides, and Roxy badly wanted to reach out and take his hand and make everything better, but she was afraid to touch him. There was no telling what damage had been done to his body, and she didn’t want to agitate anything further.

It was heart-wrenching sitting next to him, hearing the medics speaking to him asking questions with Baron barely able to respond. His breathing was shallow, and there were moments when his eyes would open and he would look at her and struggle to smile, even through the pain. Never in all of their years had she ever seen him like this, which made the guilt that much more painful. She should have gone up with him, he’d wanted her to go, but only thinking of herself, she had stayed behind. If Baron knew she was blaming her own actions for this, he’d be furious. He didn’t worry about the what ifs, it was either you do or you don’t, because there was no going back when it was done. Nevertheless, it was how she felt, and the guilt was relentless. They arrived at the hospital and Baron was immediately rushed to x-ray, leaving Roxy out in the waiting area. After a few tests and x-rays, a woman in a long white coat came out and approached her. Baron had suffered a mild concussion, fractured the tibia and fibula in his right leg, sprained his ankle on the left leg, and fractured a couple of his ribs, and it was considered lucky that the ribs hadn’t broken and punctured a lung. Of course, emergency surgery was necessary for his legs.

The hours dragged on and on and Roxy was getting restless. She paced back and forth in the waiting room, and it was clear that the other people in the room were becoming agitated by her constant movement. When the doctor returned and informed her that Baron was out of surgery and that she could see him, everyone was more than thrilled.

The doctor escorted her to Baron’s room and said, “Beware that he is heavily medicated, and you may not get anything out of him tonight.”

“Thank you,” Roxy replied.

She walked into the Intensive Care room that Baron occupied. The subtle beep of the heart monitor pinged through the otherwise silent room. His right leg was elevated and sheathed in a plaster cast, his left leg was wrapped is some type of black boot and elevated with a couple of pillows, and gauze covered the right side of his forehead. The color was slightly returning to his features along with the appearance of a few bruises, but all together considering his accident, he did not look as bad as she had feared.

Roxy pulled the chair closest to the bed and sat as close to Baron as she could. She looked down at his right hand, remembering her hesitant reaction earlier as she gently placed her hand on top of his. She glanced at his face to gauge any response, but he was soundly unconscious.

“I’m so sorry, Baron.” she sighed.


Chapter Five


Baron slowly awoke to the gentle caress of Roxanna’s fingers through his hair. It was one of the greatest feelings, considering the amount of pain he’d been feeling over the past couple of weeks since they’d returned home. Breathing was still a little painful from his fractured ribs, but the doctor advised him to lie on the fractured side to make breathing easier. It hurt like hell, so Baron ditched that idea and went with the pillows for elevation. On top of that with both of his legs practically out of commission, he was completely bedridden. Roxy hardly ever left his side, which was nice, but it wasn’t her typical behavior. Yes, she went to work, but when she got home if he needed anything, she was there to get it for him. He felt like an invalid, and it was not his favorite feeling.

Lying there, slowly beating down the grogginess of sleep, he looked around their lofty bedroom. After his accident, they’d left the cabin a couple of days early, cutting their vacation short. Baron hated that he couldn’t drive them back because there was nothing but snow, and Roxy hated driving in the snow. To her, snow was good for one thing…looking at. Truly, he was the only one really getting anything out of their ski trips.

This was one of those rare moments when he knew he had fucked up and the what ifs scratched at his brain. He hated it. If he had not gone for that last ride down the slope, he wouldn’t have taken that dumbass jump. He had questioned his sanity even as he approached the jump. It was going to take about twelve to sixteen weeks to heal, but even after that, he was going to need physical therapy. Then who knew when he was going to be able to go back to work.

“I suck for this,” Baron whispered. His anger at allowing his ego to get the better of him began to surface. When he saw the jump, he knew he shouldn’t have taken it, but he took it anyway.

Roxy shifted into his view and her hair fell over her shoulder. “What?”

“For doing this to you,” he motioned to his legs, hissing and wincing a little with the movement of his torso. “The adrenaline got to me. I shouldn’t have taken the jump.”

“Stop, this—it’s only a setback. A year of full recovery and you will be back on your feet in no time. Don’t feel guilty, please.”

Baron turned his head towards her. “Almost a year…”

“No worries, right? Isn’t that what you told me?” Roxy’s features were pleading with Baron.

“You shouldn’t have to do this. You shouldn’t have to sit here and take care of me. In a year…I’m still going to be like this,” his voice began to rise and with it, his anger. “And you’ll still be here…”

“Yes.”

“Helping me back and forth to the bathroom, giving me sponge baths because I can’t even stand on my own, bringing me food all day. Then what, nurse Roxy? Is that what you want to do?” He was practically yelling by this time.

Roxanna threw the covers from her body and stood. Baron looked up at her, waiting.

“Yes, this is what I want. I should have gone up with you, but I didn’t. I should’ve thought less of my fears and more about not being in the company of my boyfriend when he wanted me there. This is my fault!” Baron watched as she turned and left the room without another word.

She blamed herself for this? Of course. Typical of Roxy to blame herself for things that she had no control over. Baron would have gone after her, but unfortunately, he was lying in bed with two useless legs and three fractured ribs. That angered him the most. He couldn’t be there for his woman when she needed him. In a couple of months, yeah, his ribs would heal, but his legs—even after a year—would not be the same. It was going to take so much work to get his body back in shape, and his legs moving the way he needed them to. How was he going to work?

Baron took a deep breath and exhaled, his ribs screaming. His eyes moved to the little bit of window he could see behind their wardrobe. There was snow falling in Chelsea, and the moon was illuminating each fleck. Just a few steps away and he couldn’t even reach it.

The door to the bedroom opened, and Roxy stepped in with a glass of water in one hand and an ice pack in the other. He watched her silently empty two pills from a bottle of aspirin and hand them to him along with the glass of water. After he downed them, she took the glass, set it down, and lifted the sheet to place the ice pack on his ribs.

Baron hissed when the cold pack touched his skin. “Please don’t blame yourself, Roxy. This was not your fault. Remember, no what ifs, babe.” Even though he was questioning himself, he had to tell her something.

She sat on the side of the bed with her back towards him. Her hair obscured her face from him until she whipped her head around. “I can’t stand to see you like this. It reminds me of before…and I can’t take it. I can’t.”

Baron knew exactly what went unsaid. She was referring to his reaction to his parent’s deaths. He’d almost been catatonic for weeks—not speaking to anyone. At times choosing alcohol as his best friend, and when he wasn’t out of it, he was angry, taking it out on Roxy. He didn’t want that happening again.

Her hands went to wipe the streaming tears from her cheeks, but they fell too quickly. Baron struggled to push himself into a sitting position, cursing at the pain in his torso until he rested against the headboard.

“I’m bedridden, yes. But I’m alive. And considering that most people don’t come away from what I went through in the condition that I’m in, I have to say that I am grateful. Maybe not in the best mood,” he chuckled. “But I am grateful because I get to sit here and talk to my beautiful girlfriend about how we’re not going to cry about this any longer.”

Seeing Roxy cry was worse than breaking all of his bones. Before he’d seen her tears, he hadn’t thought twice about how lucky he was in the last couple of weeks. There was some type of revelation, not as profound as someone may think, but there was something and he was glad for it.


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