Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre

  "Trying to help someone I had a hand in destroying doesn't make me a hero. Sending Darrell to career training classes, buying him and his wife a house, paying for the most expensive private school in town--none of that makes up for what I did. He won't ever get his eye back. And it won't make up for all the other people who got hurt because I wasn't tough enough to stand up to my father."

  "It wasn't that you weren't tough enough, Roman. You thought your father had your best interests at heart. You thought he was taking care of you. You thought you could trust him." She looked fiercely protective. "It's not what you did as a kid who was failed by his father that defines you, it's the fact that you refused to continue making those mistakes as an adult. And I'm not the only one who sees how great you are. Jerry saw it, even back when you were still fighting. All the kids who worship you there see it. Eddie sees it. My brothers see it. At least they did, until they flipped out about us kissing." Her lips lifted at the corners. "You're going to have to face it, Roman--you're a good man. A good man I love."

  "If I were actually good, I would have kept my hands off you." But even as he said it, he was running his hands over her, needing her softness. Her heat. Her love. "If I were truly good, I would have dreamed about you from a distance, would have remembered that you're too good for me."

  "On the contrary," she countered in her smart and sexy voice, "you're too good a man to leave a girl hanging like that. All that unquenched need, all those unrequited emotions, were already making me crazy. Who knows what would have happened to my company if you hadn't finally put your hands on me? I might never have been able to focus on getting my work done again. Although," she added as she leaned in so that her breasts rubbed against his chest, "I might never want to work quite so many hours again, now that I know how much fun taking time off with you can be."

  He didn't know if he was ready to concede to being full of shiny goodness yet, even though she had made some good points about his being a kid who had done the best he could in a shitty situation. But he wouldn't apologize for taking her away from her bruising work schedule.

  "You work too hard, Suzanne. I've been worried about you burning out, hitting a wall. Everyone in your family is worried too."

  "I know my dad is, but only because he told me so at the lake. But I thought my brothers were just on me because of the random calls and server attacks."

  The reminder of the threat against her--which now included an apartment fire they needed to get to the bottom of--made his gut twist. "You said it yourself out on the dock last night. You've tried so hard to be everything to everyone. And I've personally seen that extend beyond your family to your employees, your investors, your customers, the charities you do pro bono work for. You're extraordinary. The most extraordinary woman I've ever known. You're brilliant, beautiful, loving, and capable of conquering anything you set your mind to. But no one can do it all. Not even you." He ran a hand over her cheek. "I know I'm pretty messed up from my childhood, but I don't think I'm the only one."

  "No," she said with a hollow-sounding laugh. "You're definitely not." She sighed. "I decided a long time ago that surviving my crazy childhood wasn't enough. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to conquer the world. It didn't matter how many hours I worked, how little sleep I got, whether I forgot to eat or shower. All that mattered was making the mark on the world my mother never had, because she was never strong enough to step outside the box of being anything more than my father's muse."

  When a shiver went through her from talking about her mother, she nestled in closer to him looking for comfort. The same comfort she'd given him when he was telling her his story.

  "And it was okay to burn my candle at both ends, because I didn't have anything else that mattered more to me. Didn't have anyone to cuddle up with on the couch, or cook dinner with, or make love with in the middle of the afternoon." She shifted to look him in the eye. "Now I do. I want you, Roman, messy childhood and all."

  He wanted all those things too. He'd been fighting loving her. But now he realized he'd been fighting for all the wrong reasons. Yes, he still wanted the best for her, but despite his past mistakes, no one would ever love her more. No one would ever treat her better.

  And no one would ever love her the way he did. Deeply. Truly.


  "I want you too."

  Her eyes went wide with surprise, and she seemed to be holding her breath.

  "I love you." He'd never thought he'd say those words to anyone. Never thought he'd feel them all the way deep down in the center of his being. But he did. All because of Suzanne. "I still don't believe I'll ever be good enough for you, but I'll never stop trying. I'll never stop trying to make you happy. I'll never stop wanting to hear your laughter. I'll never stop wanting to make you gasp with pleasure. And I'll never stop needing to protect you--even though I'm going to be doing it as your boyfriend from now on, because I'm officially resigning as your bodyg--"

  Her mouth was on his before he could finish his sentence. So much love poured from her to him that he could have sworn her kiss was healing the wounds he'd just confessed from his childhood. He kissed her back with the same devotion, the same sweet purpose.

  "I love you," he said again in the tiny spaces between kisses. "I love you so much."

  "I already knew you loved me," she said, her wide smile filled with the kind of happiness he wanted to always see. "But now that you've resigned your position as my bodyguard, I also know you understand me."

  "You were right when you said you didn't need a bodyguard. But you do need to let the people who love you help you. Even the strongest people need backup, Suzanne."

  "Even you?"

  He brushed his cheek against hers as he admitted the truth. One that would have scared the crap out of him before he'd fallen in love with her. "Even me."

  "You've got me now. Which means you also get my whole family." Before he could point out yet again that her brothers currently wanted to have him drawn and quartered, she added, "The boys will come around. I know they will. Even if it takes some of them longer than others. As you know, we Sullivans can be a stubborn bunch. Especially me. You're right that I need to stop trying to do everything myself. I've been so adamant about being the strong woman my mother wasn't, I'm probably going to need some practice letting other people take the wheel sometimes. Just like I'm going to try to be better about admitting when I'm wrong." He could see how hard it was for her to say, "I'm done sticking my head in the sand, Roman, and acting like whatever is going on is nothing more than a nuisance. I do need help dealing with whoever is trying to hurt me and my company."

  "I'll do everything I can to help. So will your brothers. Your dad. Your cousins. Your friends. Your employees. Your investors." Which was why, though he wanted nothing more than to make love to her again, he couldn't ignore the fact that she had already lost too many hours of sleep this week. "You've had a heck of a week. One I've made more exhausting because I can't get enough of you." He stood, lifting her into his arms as he did so. "You need to rest now."

  "I can rest later." She gave him the bright, wicked smile he'd never get enough of. "Tonight, the only thing I need is you."


  Suzanne could get used to being carried up the stairs like this. And she could definitely get used to having her clothes stripped off by the most gorgeous man on the planet. Once she was naked, she started to head back toward the bed, but he pulled her toward the bathroom instead.

  "I want you in the shower." He laughed roughly as he palmed her breasts, her hips, ducking his head to scrape his teeth over her shoulder. "I want you everywhere. But I've had this shower fantasy all week--"

  "Yes, please."

  Shower fantasy was all she needed to hear. Okay, so she hadn't even needed to hear that, as she grabbed his hand and dragged him the rest of the way toward the marble and glass enclosure.

  It seemed to her that getting into the shower together was more than just a fantasy they needed to fu
lfill. They needed a clean start, needed to wash away anything hurtful they had said or done to each other before I love you, back when they were both working so hard to keep themselves safe from the harm they'd believed deep, passionate love would do.

  As soon as they were inside the bathroom, he reached for her again. But she was too focused on unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans to let him pull her against him. And when the faded denim dropped from his narrow hips to the floor, she couldn't possibly resist the instinctive pull to do the same.

  The plush cotton bathmat was soft beneath her knees as she marveled over his erection. She didn't waste any time putting her hands and mouth on him.

  "Suzanne." He groaned her name, his large hands tangling in her hair as she kissed the long, thick length of his arousal.

  She'd never get enough of hearing her name rumble from his chest. Every part of her sizzled from knowing how much she was pleasing him with the wet licks of her tongue over his hard flesh. Not to mention how much she loved making him lose even more of his hard-won control.

  She now understood why he worked so hard at it all the time--to take back the control his father had never let him have as a kid in the ring. But Roman didn't have to be like that with her.

  There was nothing he could do, nothing he could say, no way he could cut loose that would frighten her away. Especially when she wanted to cut loose with him in exactly the same ways. Suzanne was finally ready to give play to the deep passions, and the wildness, that she'd always kept caged up.

  Still, she wasn't surprised when he drew back from her mouth so that he could pull her back to her feet and inside the steamy shower. Tonight, they needed their lovemaking to connect them as deeply as possible, arms and legs twined around each other, hearts beating together.

  "If I'd known what you could do with that smart mouth..." He crushed her lips beneath his at the same time that he backed her up against the white marble, using one of his strong arms to pin both of her hands above her head.

  "You knew," she gasped the words out against his lips. "That was why you tried so hard to keep your distance, to stay in control. Because you knew that if we ever touched, if we ever kissed, we'd never be able to go back to the way we were before."

  Hot water rained down on them from multiple shower heads. It was so sexy being in the shower with Roman. Intense. Wonderful. Every dream she'd ever had come true as he stared into her eyes with so much passion, so much desire, so much love.

  "Never," he vowed as he bent to nip at her lower lip. "I never want to go back to a life without you."

  His raw, heartfelt words were almost better than sex. Lord knew they had the same effect on her, making her body ache for his, making her heart swell with love. She'd felt desire before, but when love combined with the wanting?

  It was more than she'd ever imagined it was possible to feel.

  Safe, unthreatening romances were all she'd believed she could have. But though Roman made her feel perfectly safe, and he would never let anyone or anything harm her, being with him--loving him--meant taking huge risks with her heart. The same risks he was taking for her.

  She wouldn't let him down. He'd been left to fly in the wind by his family, but he had her now. And her brothers and cousins and aunts and--

  The brush of his fingers along the inside of her thigh had her thoughts scattering.

  "Lost you there for a minute, didn't I?"

  "No, you'll never lose me. I was just thinking about how I'd do anything for you."

  "I'd do anything for you too," he said as his wandering fingers rose higher, closer to her sex with every passing second. "But now it's time for you to shut off that brilliant brain."

  Before she could take her next breath, his mouth was over hers, and he was sliding his fingers into her. She was so wet, so ready, so desperate for him that she arched wildly into his touch. The dark hair on his chest scratched the tips of her breasts in the most wonderful way and when he pressed his erection against her belly, she moaned into his mouth.

  She was hungry for release, hungry to feel the stretch of his thick shaft inside her, hungry to wrap herself all around him and know that he was hers.


  Joy combined with heat to send pleasure crashing through her as he rubbed, swirled, thrust his fingers against her, into her, so that she was barely coming down from one release before she climbed toward another.

  Abruptly, he shut off the water and lifted her into his arms. They were both soaking wet when he tumbled them onto his bed. She could barely wait for him to get protection, and the second he had it on, she wrapped her arms, her legs, around him, and took him inside.

  Every time they made love, it felt bigger, sweeter than before. And so right that she couldn't fathom how she'd lived thirty-one years without Roman in her life. She'd been happy, but she hadn't been whole.

  Now she was.

  As though he could sense the weight of her thoughts, he stilled over her and gazed down into her eyes. Even in the throes of passion, he was so honorable, so protective. Roman was already the best boyfriend, the most incredible lover, she could ever ask for. And one day, she knew he would be the best father in the world too.

  "I love you." She never wanted to keep her feelings from him again. "I love every side of you. Past, present, and future. Dark and light. Sweet and rough. Even," she added in a teasing voice, "the domineering side that wants to protect me at all costs. I thought I was happy before, but since I fell for you...I finally know what real happiness is. You."

  The kiss he gave her was so full of love that she didn't need him to say anything in response. Not when she already knew everything he was thinking, everything he was feeling.

  And yet, when he did draw back to speak, she realized how much he needed to tell her what was in his heart. He'd spent his whole life holding everything inside--she never wanted him to feel that way with her.

  "I didn't believe anyone could love me with all my darkness, my scars, my mistakes. Especially not a woman who could have anyone. But I still couldn't stop falling for you, couldn't keep from loving you more every day, every hour, every second."

  His body echoed his words as he wrapped his hands around her hips and thrust hard, sending pleasure exploding through her as he gave them what they both needed. Wild, reckless, desperate, wondrous lovemaking that sent their bodies--and hearts--soaring.


  Suzanne was already up and sitting at Roman's kitchen island behind her computer by the time the door buzzer went off at six thirty the next morning.

  "We're here for Suzanne," Alec Sullivan growled from the sidewalk below. "Let us in."

  All out of clean clothes from the bag she'd packed for Smith and Valentina's wedding, she'd chosen to put on one of Roman's long-sleeved shirts. She'd wrapped one of his belts twice around her waist and rolled the sleeves up to her elbows, transforming his shirt into something that looked like a dress. A dress he was already dying to strip off. Knowing she was wearing only a pair of his boxer briefs beneath his shirt didn't make it any easier to keep his hands off her.

  But if Roman was ever going to have a prayer of convincing her family to accept him as Suzanne's boyfriend--rather than the bodyguard who had overstepped his bounds--he knew better than to be caught pawing at her in his kitchen.

  He moved away from the coffee machine, where he'd been brewing them some much-needed caffeine. But instead of answering his doorbell, he put his arms around Suzanne from behind, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "So even if your brothers try to boot me all the way to hell to keep me from you, I'm not going anywhere."

  He'd said the same words to her at her father's lake house. But that was when he'd still been trying to convince himself that saying I'm not going anywhere was only about his job to keep her safe. The truth was that he'd always meant it on a much deeper level. He'd already been in love with her, whether he'd been ready to admit it to himself or not.

  Suzanne spun around on the stool to stand up in the
circle of his arms. "Trust me, they won't be booting you anywhere." She slid her hands into his and threaded their fingers together. "Not once they realize you're exactly the man they've been wanting for me all along."

  He wasn't nearly as certain that her brothers were going to accept him that easily, but since Alec, Harry, and Drake were waiting downstairs, he lifted their joined hands to his lips and pressed a kiss to the back of each one. The buzzer went off a good half-dozen times in rapid succession, with threatening sounds coming from Alec.

  "Although," she said with a little quirk of her lips, "letting them in before my brother busts a vein would probably be a good first step."

  He reluctantly let her go to hit the button that unlocked the thick metal door downstairs. "Come on up."

  After opening the door to his loft, Suzanne moved beside him to take his hand again. Though he knew the sight of their linked hands would be enough to rile Alec as soon as he walked inside, Roman didn't pull away. Instead, he drew her closer.

  She was smiling up at him when her family got out of the elevator, not looking at all worried about the fury heading their way. Her three brothers, her father, and Rosa were all there, along with her friend Calvin, the mayor from Summer Lake. Every one of them had come to support Suzanne.

  As expected, Alec immediately snarled upon seeing Suzanne's hand in Roman's. And when he realized she was wearing his shirt as a dress, he looked close to apoplectic, given that it obviously wasn't the sort of thing a woman did with a friend. Only with a lover.

  Releasing Roman's hand, Suzanne drew Alec in for a hug before he could throw any punches, and somehow managed to keep a hold on him while she hugged everyone else too. She might have told Roman she wasn't worried about how things were going to go down this morning, but she clearly wasn't taking any chances on fists flying either.

  As soon as the group hug broke apart, she went straight back into Roman's arms. Alec slammed the loft door behind him in fury, but before he could speak, Roman needed them all to understand what he wished he'd been brave enough to own up to at the lake, that night on the dock.

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