“I can tell you’re awake.” Duke’s soft whisper tickles my ear.
I nod. “I am.”
“What do you think about the two of us making breakfast? We can bring it back up here.”
Shifting so I can see him over my shoulder, I smile into his blue eyes. “That’d be nice.”
He kisses my cheek. “I’m gonna brush my teeth. I’ll meet you downstairs in the kitchen.”
Five minutes later, I pad down the stairs and find Duke with a look of concentration on his face. “What are we making?”
He glances up with a perplexed smile. “Well, at first I thought waffles, but I don’t have a fuckin’ clue if we have a waffle iron.”
I laugh, clapping my hands in amusement. “Pancakes it is!”
“Right.” He shakes his head at my antics.
“Pancakes are easier, anyway.” I shoot him a wink and smack his ass as I walk behind him to pull out a griddle that I’d seen in the cabinet when I was putting a frying pan away.
He chuckles. “Okay. Ingredients. How about you check the fridge for juice, milk, an egg, and maybe some berries or something. We might be in luck. We had a grocery delivery a couple days ago. I’ll get the rest.”
I press my lips together, watching as he disappears into the pantry before I pull open the fridge. Sure enough, we have everything he asked for, plus bacon and whipped cream.
I set everything on the counter, go to the double wall ovens, and turn both on—one for the bacon and the other to keep the pancakes warm as we cook. Rummaging in the cabinet, I find a colander and put the strawberries I’d found in there to give them a quick rinse.
As I turn around with them, Duke’s got all the dry ingredients in his hands, and carefully nudges the pantry door shut with his foot before setting everything on the counter.
I walk over and stand right next to him, leaning my hip against the counter. I study his serene face, so different from last night when we were all worried like crazy about how everything would go down. But now, he’s relaxed and … happy. I fucking love this Duke. “I like you like this. It’s really sweet and … it feels like the authentic you.”
He shoots me a funny look, his lips curving into an uncertain smile. “What makes you say that?”
“You’re thoughtful and kind.” I step closer. “You don’t like for everyone to see it. But beyond that always-in-control exterior, you have a soft spot for the people you care about. Me, Mase, and Bear, mostly.”
He huffs out a laugh. “I still don’t know what I did to get you all mushy and emotional.”
My eyes flick to the side. “The pantry, Duke. You know it’s a problem for me and purposely made it so I wouldn’t have to go in there.” I glance at everything on the counter. “And making breakfast for everyone today after we had a long night.” I snort. “The longest night, considering we didn’t sleep much at all. That’s awfully sweet, too.”
He rests his hands on the counter, meeting my eyes. “There was a moment in that club when I thought you were going to let them hurt you to try to get what you knew we needed out of them. Mase and Bear had to hold me back. I was two seconds from charging in there.”
I crinkle my nose at him. “What’s that have to do with what we were talking about?”
He wets his lips, turning to face me, then hooks a finger in my sleep shorts and tugs until he deems me close enough to him. He cups my shoulders and looks down at me, blue eyes searching mine. I almost lose myself in them before he speaks. “Because, Lennon, you’re stubborn, fierce, and strong. My beautiful star.” He huffs out a quiet laugh “You’ve kept me going when not much else has.” He reaches up to tuck a tendril of hair behind my ear. “I love you. For all those reasons and more.”
My heart bursts as happy tears fill my eyes. “I never in a million years thought you’d be capable of telling me. But I’m so glad you did, because I love you, too.”
He lowers his mouth to mine, kissing me soft and slow and sweet. I kiss him back fiercely and with everything in me. Our tongues tangle, tasting, as we coax moans from each other. His hands slide down to my ass, and he lifts me, depositing me on the counter. “Love you, Lennon,” he whispers before he kisses me again.
“What do we have here?” Mason’s delighted chuckle breaks us apart.
I don’t let Duke stop kissing me so quickly, but finally nip at his lip and open my eyes to find both Mason and Bear watching us intently from the end of the kitchen island.
Bear smiles softly at me, then gestures to the mess on the counter. His brow arches. “We cooking or playing?”
Catching Bear’s drift, Duke picks up the whipped cream that I’d set on the counter and squirts a bit directly on my lips before swiping his tongue over it. He grins at me, pleased with himself as I swat at him. Mason swipes the canister from him, putting whipped cream right on Duke’s neck before snatching up a strawberry and dipping it in the mess. He takes a bite, then lowers his mouth to lick Duke clean, moaning all the while.
I guess I should have seen it coming, but a moment later, Bear’s joined us, and he tugs my sleep shirt out of the way, putting a sizable dollop directly onto my nipple. His lips curve into a lust-filled smile as he lowers his mouth to my breast and sucks for all he’s worth.
This is my life now. I’d woken up this morning to a world where the people who have hurt me can no longer do so. I’d opened my eyes in a place I call home, where I feel safe and cared for. I’d found myself in a bed filled with three guys who love me.
My Bastards of Bainbridge Hall.