I wasn’t angry that Thornton hadn’t told me about his discussions with Lark right away. I understood he wasn’t sure how to proceed in light of recent events, and I was still pissed at her for what she’d done. Every secret… Every deception… Everything she never said. It was all slowly driving me nuts!

“Betsey and Fred told me Lark suffered from depression as a child and took medication for ADHD since she was a young girl. Later, she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and they changed her meds several times. I don’t know what the fuck to make of it. There were times when she seemed to be really sad about something she wouldn’t discuss. Jude would stay with me full-time for a while, but within a few weeks, she’d come back around, and things would go back to normal for us. Hell, they’d be great, and we’d just go on with our lives,” I explained to Thorn. He held my hand and just listened, which was something I’d always admired about him.

I continued my rant. “I’m guessing that’s why she was taking all of those fucking pills. Maybe she was over-medicating to keep the lows from getting too low, and that’s the reason she had three different doctors. Hell, maybe she kept trying to find the right doctor and didn’t toss out the old meds she was prescribed by the one before? I’ll need to contact them—the doctors—at some point, but it’s just too fucking much right now,” I vented, feeling frustration down to my soul.

I glanced up to look into Thorn’s green eyes, seeing the concern. “What?”

“Has Jude shown any signs of ADHD or depression? I think you need to talk with Uncle Rob about the possibility he might be susceptible… I mean, it’s not impossible he could have some obstacles to face. A referral to someone you can speak with about it, and maybe someone for Jude to speak with about losing his mother is a good idea, don’t you think? If you’ll allow me, I can talk with Rob and give him a head’s up so he can do some checking,” Thorn offered.

It was yet another thing I hadn’t even considered. I knew nothing—abso-fucking-lutely nothing—about any type of mental disorders or disease, but then I took a step back and thought about it.

Yes, I did know about having mental, or genetic, disorders because I was an alcoholic just like my father. At least my son wouldn’t have that hanging over his head because he didn’t share my DNA, which was for the best. How to process the realization was a bit overwhelming at that moment. “I’ll add it to the list,” I stated flatly.

Thorn stood from the couch, went to the kitchen, and came back a minute later with a piece of paper and a pen. “Speaking of which, you know I’m a master of list making. If we put it on paper, or on your phone, we’ll be better organized at accomplishing everything that needs to be done. I’m more than happy to make calls on your behalf, but you need to tell me who to call. I can speak with Lark’s employer and alert them to her passing,” Thorn volunteered. It was like a blessing from the heaven’s to have him step up the way he was, and I couldn’t give voice to my gratitude at the time, so I nodded at him.

The handsome man grinned before he continued. “I can say you’ll be in touch regarding a memorial or gathering in her honor if you’d like. I can call the people on her phone, ascertain the relationships, and explain her passing. I won’t give away that she took her own life. I’ll just say it was an accident, or she’d been ill for a while, whatever you want. Most of them are probably casual acquaintances because my guess is anyone she was close with would have been calling if they haven’t heard from her. You need to tell me what you’d like her close friends to know, unless you want to speak with them directly.”

I watched Thorn scribbling away as he spoke, and I was indeed in awe. I shouldn’t have been surprised because it was so genuinely Thornton that I nearly laughed. The man had “take-charge” skills to rival the best event planner on God’s good earth.

“So, about the house and her things?” he asked.

I took a second to answer because it was hard to admit Lark was actually gone. “Betsey offered to go through her clothes and personal stuff to sort it for donation. The furniture and other shit, I’m going to leave it for a while so I can think about it with a clear head. I guess I’ll just sell her car rather than let it dry rot. I need to hack into her laptop and figure out her financial obligations so I can pay off any debts. I think her bank accounts, just like mine, are pay-on-death to Jude.” Thorn scribbled on his list before I continued.

“I need to arrange for the cremation tomorrow. I need to go pick out an urn for—well, two I guess. I need to check in with Rory regarding work, and I should call my secretary, Laurie. Lark was supposed to arrange summer camps for Jude. Shit! If she didn’t, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Should I take a leave of absence?” My mind and my mouth were going a million miles an hour in different directions. Unsurprisingly, Thorn appeared to be getting everything down.

He stood quickly and left the living room, returning from the kitchen with a pad as he reviewed his list and flipping between two sheets of paper. After a few minutes, he looked triumphant. He tore off the top sheet and handed it to me, and I perused it and saw that anything relating to my authority as the executor of Lark’s estate was on my list.

“What’s the other one?” I asked.

He ripped it off and handed it to me as well. It was entitled, Thornton’s List, and I noticed everything on the periphery was written there, including helping Jude organize his room since all of his things had been moved from Lark’s house. He also had activities to keep Jude busy while I was tending to the other stuff on my list. I was elated that his ability to step in and take control of a situation hadn’t vanished since college.

I was touched by his willingness to help me, and I was in awe of the fact he’d put all the bad shit I’d done to him aside and stepped up to help me deal with the madness. It touched my soul.

“Um, wow. You don’t have to…” Thorn reached over and gently clamped my lips shut before I could finish.

“I should have come back to you, Kennedy. I should have given you the opportunity to explain what you were feeling and why you acted on those feelings that day. I still hate what happened and would change it if possible, but we’re both adults, and it’s time to get over it. Plus, if it hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t have Judah, and I can’t imagine you without him. I told you I’m here to do anything you need, and I mean it. Now, it’s late. You need to get some sleep, and I need to go home because I’m out of underwear. I’ll be here in the morning after I run a couple of errands. If you think of anything else that needs to be handled, send me a text or call me. I don’t care what time, okay?”

Thorn rose from the couch and left the room, coming back a few minutes later with the bag he’d brought over the previous night. I so wanted to beg him to stay. I wanted to say he could have some of my underwear if he’d just stay and hold me, but it was far too soon for such requests. I wished he would do it because he wanted to be with me, not because he pitied me. I didn’t need or want his pity under any circumstances.

“Walk me out so you can lock the door.” He waited for me to get up off the couch, and when I stopped next to him, he took my hand, leading me down the hallway to my front door.

He turned to look at me and smiled. “If, at any time, you need anything, you know how to get in touch with me.” He leaned forward and kissed me gently. When he tried to pull away, I wrapped my hand around the back of his neck to hold him to me, deepening the kiss.

It was like drifting back in time when he wrapped his arms around my body and pulled me flush to his hard one. Our tongues danced, tasting each other as if for the first time—certainly, the first time in a long time.

My mind flashed to an eighteen-year-old kid who believed he’d met the man of his dreams on an elevator in his dorm, only to fuck it up horrifically at twenty with one wrong decision. Based on history, I seemed to be the king of bad choices.

Our heads tilted to accommodate each other, and our hands roamed the other’s hard planes familiarly. I walked Thornton backward until he was flush with the wall, and I pressed myself against him from head to toe… hard cock to hard cock.

I continued to kiss him, hoping I had him as senseless as he had me most of the time. Suddenly, he flipped me around forcefully and pushed me against the wall, moving my hands above my head and pinning them there while grinding against me, nearly driving me to lose control. He pulled away after several minutes, just as I was about to make a mess in my pants.

Thorn released my hands and took a step back. “Sorry about that. I should have warned you, I guess. I haven’t bottomed for anyone but you, and I’m a bit more aggressive than I used to be when it comes to sex. I suppose it’s something we’ll need to address at some point if things continue on this course. I’ll put it on the list. Goodnight, Kennedy.”

He winked at me with a sexy smile and let himself out because I couldn’t move from my spot against the wall. I was struck by his forceful behavior, and as I finally came back to my senses, I decided I didn’t hate that particular change in Thorn at all.


The next days were a whirlwind of activity. I’d wrapped up all of Lark’s financial affairs after hacking into her laptop, thankfully not finding any more surprises. I didn’t know if I could handle more blows at that point.

Thornton, however, had organized Jude and me to the point we both had calendars on the fridge. He’d contacted everyone in Lark’s phone and even the address book she had in the kitchen of her home. He’d been able to ferret out real friends from acquaintances. I remembered the brief discussion we’d had on Thursday morning about someone named Jennifer Gayle, who wasn’t someone I’d ever heard Lark mention.

“You don’t know Jennifer Gayle? She’s a good friend of Lark’s according to the sobbing cries I had to endure. Didn’t you and Lark spend a lot of time together? I’d have thought you’d have met her good friends,” he inquired.

No, babe, we didn’t. We did stuff together with Jude, usually, but I didn’t go out with her, and she definitely didn’t go out with me.” I didn’t elaborate on what going out meant for me but based on the look on his face, I didn’t need to be specific.

I’ll definitely put that on a list of things to discuss when life calms down,” Thorn stated dryly.

I wasn’t sorry life hadn’t calmed down yet because I wasn’t looking forward to the explanation of my exploits through the years we’d been apart. That wouldn’t be a fun conversation, but worse? Hearing about his exploits over the years we’d been apart.

Thorn had been able to get Jude into a soccer camp and a few others with various activities in which Judah had expressed an interest during some casual conversations. The man had even planned outings with a few of Jude’s friends from school to keep him busy over the summer, and I would be forever grateful. It was exactly what my son needed to occupy his mind. Something fun and familiar to focus on besides the loss of his mother was an incredible idea.

Nora and Rob had also been invaluable, assisting with things that needed to be handled. Nora helped Betsey pack up Lark’s house, and Rob found a child psychologist for me to speak with regarding how to help my son adjust to his new reality. Jude and I had an appointment that afternoon.

As I stood in the kitchen on Friday morning, I was staring off into space as the doorbell chimed. I went to answer it, thankful I’d put on a t-shirt until I opened the door. Thornton was standing there in low-rise jeans and a tight t-shirt with his hair slicked back, leading me to believe he’d just had a shower.

“Come on in. I slept in a little, but I just made coffee. Funny enough, I find it’s not my regular blend. Any idea what happened to my Folgers?” I teased, knowing damn well what had happened. Thorn, the coffee snob, had replaced it with some fancy dark roast I didn’t hate. Of course, I couldn’t let him get away with changing my coffee without giving him shit.

“Where’s Jude? Any more nightmares?” Thorn asked, remind me of how adept he was at changing the subject.

Jude had had a nightmare the previous night which was why I’d slept in that morning. I was beyond anxious to speak with the psychologist that afternoon because my sweet son was suffering, and I didn’t know what to do for him at all. I’d held him while he cried, but I knew I needed to do something more, something constructive to help him begin to process his grief. “Yeah, last night. He’s still sleeping. You want breakfast?” I headed to the kitchen and started pulling out things to make eggs and bacon.

As I placed the skillet on the stove and reached to ignite the burner, Thornton pushed up behind me and stilled my hand. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my neck, sweeping his tongue along it which sent a shiver up my spine and caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.

“Please, love, let me take you to bed. I’ve been craving the feel of your body next to mine.” He moved his left hand down my stomach and slipped it into my pajama pants, taking my hardening cock into his hand and gently squeezing. My eyes closed involuntarily as I sunk back into his muscular body, really fucking happy I wasn’t wearing briefs.

Thorn continued to stroke my cock to life while whispering in my ear, “I’ve been dreaming about being with you since I saw you standing in Rory’s office that day. I know the circumstances aren’t perfect, and we have some things we need to discuss, but I need to feel you, and I believe you need to feel me as well.”

I was losing my mind, and his words were only making it more difficult to resist him, so I didn’t. I was desperate to feel something more than grief. Thorn was right; I needed to absorb the heat from a warm body to remind me there were reasons to be happy in this life. His body next to mine was one of them.

I took the man’s hand to lead him back to my bedroom, grateful Jude had stayed in his bed the previous night after the nightmare woke him. I paused momentarily as we walked down the hall, happy to hear nothing from Jude’s room before I continued.

I led Thornton into my room, closing and locking the door behind us. He spun me around and kissed me hard on the mouth, more passionately than I remembered him ever kissing me before. In the past, he was always very gentle, but now, I welcomed his aggression. I craved it. I wanted someone else to be in control for a while.

Heaven knew I hadn’t had any control over anything recently. When I lost control, I didn’t stop spiraling until I was in the pit of hell, but I had faith Thorn could stop me.

I pulled at his shirt, and he allowed me to take it off, removing mine in the process. Once it was on the floor with his, he backed me up to the bed and pushed me down, climbing up next to me after he flipped open the buttons of his jeans to show he wasn’t wearing boxers. I licked my lips without a second thought, seeing the root of his glorious cock I hadn’t been privy to in years.

As I began moving up the bed, he grabbed the bottom of my pajama pants and held on to them as I wiggled out, leaving me naked and hard on my unmade bed. He slowly crawled up to where I laid, looking every bit the predator that I hoped he’d become.

He licked up the inside of my left thigh, taking my dick into his mouth, which was so fucking good I gasped at the sensation. It had been many months since I’d felt anything of the sort, and I didn’t remember the last guy’s name because we’d met on a hook-up app, and I wasn’t exactly bragging about it. I was convinced that nobody on that app gave real names; one went into the encounter to get your release and then get the hell out.

“Fuck!” I couldn’t help myself as his tongue licked up my shaft and his lips sucked the mushroom head into his mouth, sinking all the way down to the base and swallowing around me like he’d never done. We’d been virgins when we started out, but I could tell Thorn had developed some skills since we broke up.

My head shot off the pillow, and when I looked down, I saw him smiling with my cock in his mouth. He was always great at giving head, but he’d never done it like that. He released me and looked up. “Don’t ask. You know you don’t want to go there.”

I didn’t respond, and he went back to work on me, causing my eyes to roll back in my head. Just as I was about to shoot down his very appealing throat, he pulled off with a loud pop and grinned, leaving me panting and on edge. He moved lower and planted his tongue somewhere I’d never felt a tongue before in my life which had me speechless for the first time since I’d learned to talk.

When his enticing tongue entered my hole after circling the sensitive nerves to drive me to the edge, I covered my mouth to keep from crying out at the pleasure. After his tongue had pressed its way with me, a finger took its place as he moved up my body, kissing and nipping the whole way. When he finally landed a nibble and then a lick on my nipple, I pulled him up to my mouth, hungry for his lips.

After several minutes of passionate kisses and another finger slipping inside me, I remembered one crucial problem, so I pulled away. “Baby, I don’t have any condoms.”

He chuckled and offered a glowing smile my way. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. Thankfully, I stopped at the store on my way,” he whispered as he kissed me again.

He slipped off the bed and grabbed his jeans, pulling out a strip of condoms and tossing them on the nightstand. He reached into the Cherrywood drawer, knowing there’d be lube and nodded when he found it. As he stood next to the bed, his gorgeous, hooded cock just above me, I couldn’t help myself. I sat up and took it into my mouth, sweeping my tongue through the foreskin to circle the head, happy to feel him twitch at my efforts.

He pulled away and smiled as he settled himself between my legs and went back to preparing me. When I was writhing with need, he slipped on the condom and moved his tip to my entrance. “Are you ready, love?” he whispered.

“More than ready,” I told him as he slowly pushed inside me. The feeling, while pretty fucking uncomfortable at first, blended into the most beautiful dose of pleasure and pain in the world. The look on his face told me he was enjoying it immensely. I smiled at the thought that he was the only man to ever top me in my life.

He changed the angle and pegged my prostate stroke after stroke. He’d been great at hitting it when he was giving me head and had his long, talented fingers up my ass, but that was the last time I’d allowed any guy to invade my body in any way. Other than being with Thorn, I’d only felt it when I’d fingered myself as I masturbated. “Fuck,” I moaned quietly.

“Ah, I found it?” He moved back, plunging forward to hit it again. If he kept it up, I wasn’t going to last.

Yessss! I’m not going to…” I protested as he leaned back on his haunches and reached for my hard cock.

“God, I’ve missed this cock. It’s like steel encased in silk. Come for me, Kennedy,” he ordered as he began pounding into me from his precarious position. His left hand was on my knee, spreading my legs wider so he could go deeper while his other hand stroked me and brought me to the end of my control.

I felt the euphoria of release, and I covered my mouth to keep from shouting. “That’s it, baby. You look beautiful, baby,” he praised as he continued to fuck me harder. I had no idea when his assertive personality had made itself known. Hell, at that moment as I released onto my stomach, I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to enjoy the feeling, and when he pulsed inside me, several minutes later, I was completely blissed out.

He pulled away, holding onto his still semi-hard cock to grasp the condom. He slipped it off and went to the bathroom to dispose of it. He came back with a washcloth and a towel, cleaning me up which was not surprising of him.

Thorn crawled up next to me as I tried to calm my breathing. He pulled me into his arms and kissed my neck. “I think we need to do a little catching up. No details. Just… Have you always used condoms? Have you had any significant lovers? Are you seeing anyone seriously?”

I chuckled. It wasn’t the shy boy I used to know. He’d have analyzed everything to death. “Okay. Yes, I’ve always used condoms, and when I think back to the beginning of our relationship, we were stupid not to take advantage of both of us being virgins and skip the condoms. There haven’t been any significant lovers… Hell, there haven’t been any lovers. Nameless, faceless fucks here and there, yes. As far as seeing anyone seriously, I don’t think you need an answer, do you? I wouldn’t have allowed you to fuck me if I was with someone and it was serious.”

He stroked the back of his hand over my cheek as he pulled back, looking into my eyes. “I’ve had a few nameless, faceless fucks in a backroom or a bathroom as well. I’ve had only one long-term lover over the years. To me, it wasn’t serious, but to him it was.”

I sighed, not looking forward to the details. “In the book, you called the man Alec. What was his name?”

He moved to hover over me. “His name was Joseph, and he was an Italian interpreter I met while I was working on one of my ‘Winslow’ books. I don’t need to fill in the blanks because you read the manuscript, but I will add that it wasn’t as important as I made it out in the book. I tried to play it up a bit for the sake of the story, but it was never more than fucking, Kennedy. There was a physical need for release, but not the passion you and I have shared. I’m sorry you had to read about it, but he got tired of me using him, and I can’t blame him,” Thorn admitted.

“Did you just look him up in the phone book?” I pressed, sounding one-hundred-percent the jealous man I was certain I would always be when it came to Thorn.

He smirked at me just as I expected. “He’s a friend of Topher’s, Candace’s husband. He recommended Joey to me to help with some of the dialogue in the book, and Joey was a pleasant guy. That’s the best thing I can say about him. I liked him, but I never cared about him. It ended badly, as you can imagine, and he moved back to New York.”

Thornton looked deeply into my eyes. “I’m a horrible person for saying this, but there wasn’t one time when I was with him I didn’t close my eyes and see your face. He knew it, but he ignored it for a long time. I even called your name a couple of times in the midst of things which was cruel of me, but I never fucking got over you,” Thorn told me. I was sure my eyes nearly bugged out of my head.

Thorn brushed his index finger over my bottom lip before he continued. “Oh, I apologized to him the first few times I did it, but the words weren’t heartfelt, and he could definitely tell as much. He called me an unfeeling prick, and I couldn’t disagree. I was. I was exactly that, but I’m not that man anymore. I can’t be that man with you.” I was stunned silent by Thorn’s confession. After what I’d done to him, he still felt so deeply for me? No way was that possible.

What he didn’t say, and which I knew to be true, was he wouldn’t have been the kind of guy to be so cold and heartless to another human if not for my actions. The Thornton Marsh I met and loved in college would never have hurt another human the way he did Joey. It was yet another sign that my bad decisions rippled in ways I’d never imagined.

To be continued…

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