As soon as Layla notices me, her eyes light up, and she starts to squirm in Marie’s arms.
“Dadadada…” Layla babbles, flailing her little arms around like a little bird about to fly out of the nest.
“All right, all right.” Marie laughs as she hands my daughter to me.
Christmas might be tomorrow, but I swear I got the best gift of all a little over a year ago. Cradling Layla’s body against my chest, she melts like butter and snuggles against me. Setting her head on my shoulder, she clings to me like her life depends on it. My heart clenches in my chest, and I hold her a little tighter, listening as she sighs softly.
Rubbing my hand up and down her back gingerly, I almost miss the moment her mother appears at the top of the steps. The air in my lungs stills, and the world beneath my feet seems to shift. Dragging my gaze up her body, I see she is wearing a bright-red sparkly formfitting dress with a neckline so low I can see her stomach. The fabric hugs her curves like it was made for her.
She’s breathtakingly beautiful…but she’s also showing way too much fucking skin, and I’m probably going to shoot someone tonight.
Her dark hair falls in gentle waves down her back and over her shoulders, curling slightly at the edges. Some sparkly pins are artfully arranged on one side of her head, pulling her hair away from her face.
Gorgeous. Perfection. And all fucking mine.
“Beautiful!” Marie cheers beside me.
“You look wonderful, dear,” Celeste says next.
I still can’t say anything. It’s like my brain and mouth aren’t connected anymore. It isn’t until she starts to descend the stairs that I can get my mouth to work.
“I’ve never seen a more beautiful woman in my life,” I growl, wanting to take her upstairs and tie her to the bed. Forget the fundraiser. I’d rather spend the evening between my wife’s thighs.
Elena’s cheeks redden a bit at my compliment, but I know she believes me.
“Are you ready to go?” she asks when she reaches us.
I lean into her ear. “Yes, but are you? Where the hell do you think you’re going in that?” I grit out. I’m going to have to kill someone tonight, no doubt about it.
Elena rolls her pretty green eyes and takes our daughter from my arms. Giving her a kiss and hug, she whispers something in Layla’s ear before handing her off to Marie.
“Do not worry, we’ll take good care of Ms. Layla tonight. Enjoy yourselves and have fun,” Marie says gleefully while practically shoving us out the door.
Paranoia skates down my spine, and for one brief second, I consider calling the entire night off, but then Elena’s small hand connects with mine, and the warmth of her skin brings me back to reality. No matter how afraid I am, I can’t keep her trapped in this cage forever. No matter how much I want to.
We have to get out and enjoy time together. I have to allow her to go places and do things, or I risk losing her, and if I lost her, I might as well be shot through the heart with a gun. Tugging me forward, Elena drags me toward the door, which makes me laugh.
“You think you can push me around?”
“Push you around? No. Tug you out the door before you cancel tonight because you’re worried about something happening, yes. Let’s go before Layla realizes we’re leaving and you change your mind.”
At her words, we head out the front door to where the car is waiting. Opening the door for her, I help her inside and stare at her backside, wanting so badly to strip her out of that dress and taste all the silky flesh beneath it.
Climbing inside the SUV, I take her hand in mine, tugging her into my side. Like a man possessed, I lean into her neck and inhale deeply, letting her sweet scent coat the inside of my nostrils. She is my own personal drug, the antidote to the mayhem that’s barely contained inside me.
The drive to the fundraiser takes less than thirty minutes. The event is held at a ritzy hotel two towns over. When we arrive, Nick—my driver—pulls up to the entrance. He moves slowly, mainly because of his age, as he exits the SUV and walks around to open our door a moment later.
Climbing out, I adjust my suit and reach inside for Elena’s hand. Her slender fingers wrap around mine as I help her out of the back seat while making sure she is not showing too much skin.
“Don’t worry, this dress is going to stay where it is, covering everything it needs to.” She giggles.
“I really hope so.” For every attending man’s sake.
As soon as she steps out of the car, all eyes seem to gravitate toward us. I both love and despise it. There are already people here, some lingering outside the building, talking. I grasp on to Elena’s hand tightly and tug her into my side. She looks up at me, smiling before averting her attention ahead.