“I almost died because some asshole shot me,” I state, raising my eyebrows.

“He was aiming for me. You took a bullet that was meant for me.”

“I did,” I remark, nodding. “I didn’t think I could ever save you from a bullet. I totally undersold myself. You better buy me something nice, Morelli.”

He is not amused. “Meg.”

“Mateo,” I return, holding his gaze.

“You could’ve died.”

Squeezing his hand, I point out, “But I didn’t. I’m going to be okay. Our baby is going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.”

Releasing my hand but remaining by my side, Mateo looks at the empty spot on my neck where his death necklace used to hang, and seemingly before he can change his mind, he says, “I’m not giving you the necklace back because you no longer require a reminder. A warning. Whatever you want to call it. I’m not going to make you stay with me. I would never hurt you, Meg. I never could. And I’m about to unleash hell on everyone associated with the Castellanos family. Things are going to get more dangerous. If you want to leave, if you want to take Lily and go back to a normal life, you can. I’ll set you up financially—”

I stop him, grabbing his hand before he can continue. There was a time not so long ago that I would’ve taken him up on this offer, regardless of my attraction to him, but it’s so much more than that now. I’ve gone way past the point of no return with this man, and I’m not about to take an easy out now that he finally offers one.

I also know Mateo, and despite my admiration for him, he’s not wrong when he says he’s not a noble man. For him to offer to let me go, to give me up, to make a painful sacrifice for me? Well, if I ever doubted he loved me before, I never will again.

“Mateo, no.” I shake my head, frowning at him. “I don’t want that. Thank you, but no thank you. I want to be with you.

“It’s dangerous to be with me, Meg.”

“Good thing I don’t scare easily.”

He takes my hand, bringing it to his lips and just lingering there before he says, “I thought I was going to lose you.”

“You’re never getting rid of me,” I tell him, attempting a faint smile.

He nods, looking slightly relieved, but not entirely. “If you ever change your mind, the offer stands. I don’t want to own your freedom. I want you safe and happy.”

I take his hand and hug it close. “You make me feel safe and happy. And I want my ring back.”

He glances at my now-empty ring finger. “I didn’t take that back to make a statement, I had to when they took you. There was… blood everywhere.”

It makes me feel a bit sick just recalling it. It was the greatest night, and then that had to happen. “We can stay in for date nights until this Castellanos shit is resolved, though,” I tell him.

He leans in and kisses me so softly, so tenderly. If I could, I’d fall a little more in love with him, but I’m pretty sure I’m in about as deep as you can get.

“I still want to marry you,” he tells me.

“You better,” I tell him. “I’m basically a Morelli now; we don’t allow take-backs.”

“Meg Morelli,” he says, running his thumb across my hand. “I do like the sound of that.”

“It has a great ring to it,” I agree, grinning. “We’re sure the baby’s okay?”

He nods. “Luckily you’re not very far along yet; the bullet wasn’t even close.”

I close my eyes, leaning my head against the pillow, and just breathing. “We’re all okay.”

Caressing my face, he says, “I love you, Meg.”

I open my eyes, smiling up at him. “And I love you. A whole lot.”

“Enough to take a bullet for me, apparently,” he says wryly.

“I think I love you even more than Adrian does.”

Mateo rolls his eyes.

“He came back for you,” I continue. “Like a last minute change of heart at the airport in a chick-flick. He totally loves you.”

“All right, I’m telling the doctors to bring these pain meds down a notch, you’re clearly starting to get delusional.”

“He better be your best man,” I state.

Rolling his eyes, Mateo takes a step toward the door. “I’m letting Vince and Mia in.”

“Wait.” I hold up my empty ring hand and wiggle it. “I want my ring back first.”

He makes a detour, reaching into a black leather duffel on the floor by the wall, bringing over the ring box. He cracks it open, and the sight of it makes me grin again. I hold out my hand and let him slide it back on, then I moon at it for a minute while he heads for the door.

Tags: Sam Mariano Morelli Family Erotic
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