Honest to God, he never expected this—expected her.
Which was probably why the moment he woke up, he always found himself checking her out, almost like he was making sure she was real and that she was there.
The last two months had been heaven.
And they’d been hell.
He hadn’t even begun to work through the shit. Maddie’s betrayal and her death was still too raw. Sometimes he and Julia talked about it. Not often. His brothers never brought it up. The same could be said for their father and the truth of who his paternal children were. It wasn’t discussed, because what was there to say, to dwell in?
Besides, Gabe had his own shit to deal with, and based on the shouting from last night and the odd, highly suspicious silence the followed the slamming of one door afterward, he knew his brother had his hands full.
Who the hell knew what was going on with him? He’d grown more remote and emotionless than before, and shit, Lucian hadn’t believed that could be possible.
Something was changing in his eldest brother.
Something not good.
Lucian didn’t want to think about any of that right now. Today was a big day. Both of them needed to get their asses out of bed and get moving, but first . . .
Soft sunlight crept in under the blinds, seeping toward their bed. Julia was lying half on her side, half on her belly with one hand under the pillow and the other curled loosely by her bare breasts. His gaze tracked over the rosy, pebbled peaks and then over the dip of her stomach, to the flare of her hip, and finally the beautifully curved ass. His hand followed his gaze and he grinned when she murmured in her sleep, her back unconsciously arching as he palmed her breast.
Lucian kissed the smooth skin of her shoulder as he dragged his hand from her breast, over her soft stomach. He was on the move, blazing a hot, wet path of kisses down the line of her spine as his hand dipped between her thighs, cupping her.
Spreading her legs, Julia moaned into the pillow as he slipped a finger deep inside her. “Morning,” she murmured, her fingers splaying across the bed as he pressed down with his palm, right on the spot he knew she liked.
“Morning.” He lifted his head, nipping at the sensitive skin of her neck.
Julia shifted slightly, tipping her hips back against him. “Do you have something for me?”
“Always.” He grinned against her skin as he settled a hand on her hip.
A second later, he was sinking deep into her warmth. Her moan was lost in his groan. Bodies moving together, he took his time, bringing her to the brink of release over and over until he couldn’t hold back any longer. She came before him, crying out as she ground her ass against him. Those tight tremors dragged him right over the edge, and he was lost in her—lost in a way he never wanted to be found.
Somehow, Julia ended up on her back, one arm loosely wrapped around his neck as she lifted her head, kissing him on the cheek and then the mouth, lingering there for a few moments. “You’re my favorite kind of alarm.”
He chuckled as he eased on his side beside her. “I’m your favorite everything.”
“True.” She rolled so she was facing him. “What time is it?”
“Almost time for me to get down on my knees in the shower and make sure you spend the rest of the day thinking how talented I am with my tongue.”
She giggled. “You’re ridiculous.”
“You won’t be saying that in about ten minutes.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “But seriously, we do have to get moving. We need to be in the city by eleven.”
“And we need to get to the airport,” she reminded him. “My parents’ flight arrives at three.”
“We’ll be there.”
Julia tipped her head back and grinned up at him. “I hope you’re ready. Mom and Dad are excited to meet you.”
He kissed her cheek. “They’ll love me.”
“Because you’re irresistible?”
“Well, yes, but that’s not the reason.” He kissed the bridge of her nose. “They’ll love me, because I love their daughter.”
Not entirely surprising, they were late leaving the house and getting into the city to meet the Realtor friend of Lucian’s. Not that Julia was complaining. She so enjoyed the time spent in the shower.
Looking over at him as he easily navigated the slightly less crowded streets of the Garden District, her breath caught in her throat. Months and many, countless hours with him, and her breath still did that. Just as her heart would sometimes swell like there was a balloon tethered in her chest.
He was concentrating on driving, but he was holding her hand, his thumb idly gliding back and forth over her palm. He’d been quiet since they left the de Vincent mansion, and she knew where his mind had gone.
Over the weeks since that night on the rooftop, Julia had learned to recognize when he was getting stuck in the past and swept up in all the things he couldn’t change. In the very beginning, it was several times a day. Now there’d be a couple of days in between those moments he made her heart ache and bleed for him and all the answers he would never have.
But Lucian was moving past it, and she was helping and would continue to be there. That was what today was about.
Julia squeezed his hand, and he glanced over at her. One side of his lips kicked up. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She brought his hand to her lap, holding it tight. She couldn’t wait for him to meet her parents. He didn’t appear nervous about it at all, but she was because, well, she was Julia. She still got nervous over stupid stuff. Like the fact she was applying for nursing jobs and she was worried about the interviews.
Lucian was totally supportive of her going back to work, going as far as offering to set up interviews with several of the clinics and hospitals. With the de Vincent name, he could guarantee her a job, but she made him promise to not get involved. She needed to find and obtain a job on her own.
But she had thoroughly enjoyed the little vacation.
They hadn’t spent every day at the mansion. They’d traveled, Lucian taking her to places she’d never in her life dreamed of.
Sometimes she couldn’t believe that this was her life—that this was her. That happened a lot.
“We’re here.” The car slowed and then turned, pulling between two stone pillars. A gate was already opened, welcoming them.
They still had a couple of hours before they met her parents at the airport and one very important thing to finish first.
Julia was hopefully seeing their new house for the first time.
He’d already been here a few times, scoping out the upgrades and whatnot, making sure it was “good enough” for her to see. It passed his inspection, and so here they were, in the historical, beautiful Garden District.
The pavers of the driveway led right up to one of the most beautiful homes Julia had ever seen. The moment the car stopped, she was throwing the door open and climbing out.
With wide eyes, she took in the wrought-iron fencing, the courtyard and polished, white columns. The antebellum home was nowhere near as large or overwhelming as the mansion. From the outside it still looked spacious and she loved the bushy ferns hanging from the second-floor porch.
Lucian was coming up behind her as she walked toward the porch. The Realtor opened the door, waiting for them. She looked over her shoulder. “I love it.”
He laughed. “You haven’t even been inside yet.”
“I don’t care,” she insisted. “I love it.” She paused as she looked to where the Realtor stood. “Just as long as it’s not haunted.”
“Well . . .” Lucian folded his arms around her from behind. “It is New Orleans. You can never be too sure.”
“Don’t tell me that.”
He kissed her cheek. “Why don’t we get inside first before you make up your mind? And if you don’t like it, we’ll find another place. We’ll find something.”
She had pretty much already made up her mind based on what she saw of the outside, but she didn’t say that as she leaned into Lucian’s embrace. Julia wasn’t even thinking about the house at the moment or anything that had happened with his family. They could move into this house or stay at the mansion. They could leave Louisiana or decide to stay here. None of that really mattered.