Axel (Carolina Reapers 1) - Page 51

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“Oh, hell yes! Now that is a reason to get dressed up!” Echo high-fived her. “Congrats, woman! That’s amazing.”

“Thanks,” Harper said, settling back onto her stool. “You know what I like. Let’s keep the party rolling. And food. The Reapers need all the food.”

Echo winked. “Already have the chef on it,” she said. “Your three texts were enough of a warning. Grub will be out in five.”

“You’re a goddess,” I said, and Faith agreed as Echo proceeded to grab all our favorite drinks.

“You pull a double shift today?” I asked, taking my drink. She’d closed last night, too, and then had mentioned she’d be here in the morning.

Echo shrugged, focusing on the drink she poured for Faith. “Have to go where the money is,” she said.

No arguing with that.

Echo surveyed Sawyer, her eyes raking the array of muscles that were clearly on display now that he’d hung his suit jacket on the hook on the pillar across the way. In nothing but a tight, white button-down, the man looked ready to burst out of it if he crossed his arms the wrong way. Sawyer didn’t shy away from her super-strong-independent-woman gaze, either.

Nope. He held it like the best of them, like any of the Reapers behind me, and it was so damn rare to see that version of him. The flesh-and-blood male who didn’t have the weight of family responsibilities sinking his shoulders. I knew he’d switch back to the responsible, strong son he always was once he returned to Seattle, but I couldn’t be sad about the weekend freedom Harper and Noble’s event had given him.

“You want an appletini like Harper here?” Echo asked Sawyer, whose brows rose in question. Echo shrugged. “Assuming you’re one of the girls.”

I choked on my whiskey while Sawyer tilted his head, the move calculated and calm.

“What makes you say that?” he asked.

Echo motioned her head toward us. “This is where the Queens of Reaper Village sit.” She nodded toward the Reapers’ tables. “Usually they make the boys sit back there,” she teased.

“Ah,” he said, trailing his eyes over her before glancing at us. “Three-to-one ratio?” He smirked. “I love those odds.”

Faith, Harper, and myself were stunned into silence, content to watch this banter play out.

Echo appraised him before giving him an approving nod. “What are you drinking?”

“Bourbon,” he said.

Echo quickly had a drink in front of him, holding his gaze a bit longer than necessary before she glanced at us. “I’ll go check on the food.” She winked before heading back into the kitchen.

“Nope,” Faith said.

“Not a chance,” Harper said.

“She is way too much woman for you,” I finished for us.

Sawyer rolled his eyes. “You three have no clue how much woman I can handle. You only know me as your best friend.” He eyed Harper and Faith. “Or the U-Dub grad who almost made the Seattle Sharks’ roster.” He glanced at me. “Or the man who takes care of his mother.” Sadness and regret and worry flickered in his eyes for just a moment. One blink and it was replaced by a young fire I had never seen before. “That is not the only version of me.”

We surmised him in respectful silence.

“All right then,” I said, holding out my glass tumbler toward his. The girls joined in, and we all clinked our glasses together.

“To Harper and Noble,” Sawyer said. “Congrats again.”

We all echoed his sentiment before taking large drinks.

I let out a sweet hiss and set my glass on the bar. I was happy for the wind-down drink, but there was no chance in hell I would have more than I could handle again. Not when I had too much to look forward to when I got home.

I spared a quick glance in Axel’s direction, the massive man shaking with laughter at something Connell had said. Lukas clapped him on his back, laughing too. A Scottish man and two Swedes walk into a bar…

I chuckled to myself, drinking in the sight of Axel so…happy. Genuinely happy. Like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders from our time in Sweden. With the Reapers surrounding him, he seemed more in his element than I’d ever seen him before. My heart expanded once again, filling me so much I could hardly breathe as I turned back to my girls with a stupid beaming smile on my face.

Faith flashed me a knowing look, but I shook my head. Tonight wasn’t a night to talk complicated emotions regarding my…husband.

Tonight was about Harper.

And for two straight hours, we made sure she knew how damn proud we were of her.

After a short drive home, I moaned as I kicked off my pumps in the foyer. The long work day plus the hours of celebrating had left me physically and emotionally exhausted. It was all I could do to wiggle out of my ball gown and collapse on the bed in just my underwear.


Tags: Samantha Whiskey Carolina Reapers Romance
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