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Home > The Book of Spells (Marriage to a Billionaire #4.5)

The Book of Spells (Marriage to a Billionaire #4.5)
Author: Jennifer Probst

SECOND CHANCES

A short story with Alexa and Nick from The Marriage Bargain

Nick Ryan lay down next to the fire and stroked the back flank of Old Yeller. He found the sweet spot and smiled when the dog’s leg quivered, and began beating the floor in the familiar rhythm of sudden ecstasy. After a few moments, he lost the momentum and slumped back into sleeping mode, his chest lifting with shallow pants.

He was sick.

Nick felt the wrongness in his bones. Yes, he was older. Since Alexa had taken him from the shelter, his age was a rough estimate, and the dog could be anywhere from ten to fifteen at this point. They’d assigned him an age and an October birthday so Nick estimated an approximate age of twelve years old. Optimistically. Old Yeller never had boundless energy, probably from his rough past and the air of dignity he wore like a royal cloak. Simba tortured him with love, rough play, and tumbled affection, but Old Yeller preferred the quiet moments in life like Nick. A good meal. A hot fire. Beautiful music. Simple fulfillment.

He never wanted to open himself up to loving an animal this much. Alexa had broken through his walls and strolled right into his heart, burying herself so deep she was pretty much a part of his anatomy. His beautiful daughters were a natural extension of their shared union and love, and he’d surrender everything for their happiness.

But this old, strange hound dog had always haunted his soul. Once he let him in, the idea of losing him shook his foundation. He sensed a sickness other than arthritis in Old Yeller’s tired bones, especially this past week. Nick needed to step up and get him to the vet.

It was time.

Warm hands slid around his waist, and the body that had carried two of his children pressed against him. “He’s still not better, is he?”

Nick sighed and rubbed the dog’s half torn ears. “No. I’m going to take the morning off and take him to the vet.”

“I can do it. I know you have a big board meeting tomorrow.”

Nick allowed himself to lean back into her quiet strength. “Yeah, and you know how much I despise them. I’ll love having an excuse to back out.”

Alexa laughed. She covered his hand and they both stroked the dog that had brought them together. “Ok. Maria has Musical Munchkins class, Lily has dance, and I only have to go into Bookcrazy for a few hours. Why don’t we have lunch afterwards?”

“Done. We haven’t played hooky in a while.”

“We haven’t played anything in a while.”

Nick grinned and twisted around. In one smooth motion, he flipped her over so her back pressed into the thick carpet and he loomed over her. The familiar surge of heat gripped him and he hardened instantly. His wife’s gasp was full of pleasure and excitement. His veins pumped with heat and the desire to claim. “You’re right. Maybe it’s time we correct that.”

Blue eyes widened, but he took note of her hardened n**ples and the way her thighs opened to welcome him. “What if the kids wake up?”

“They’ve been asleep for a while. I doubt they’ll come downstairs if they need something. We’ll hear them checking our bedroom first.”

“I don’t know, Nick, I haven’t shaved my legs and I wanted to put something pretty on for you and, oh!”

He shut her up the best way, with his mouth over hers. His tongue parted her lips and delved deep, while his hands tugged down her stretchy yoga pants. Her panties followed, until she was half nak*d, and the scent of her arousal drifted to his nostrils. Oh, yeah. She was hot for him still. He didn’t give a crap about sexy lingerie, or perfect legs, or anything other than possessing his wife completely.

He tore his mouth from hers. Shaky little breaths puffed from her swollen lips. “You must be very quiet, Alexa,” he whispered. “Do you think you can do that? We don’t want to wake the children.”

“Of course, why. Oh, God—“

He slid down, pushed open her thighs, and dipped his head. Her musky scent swarmed his senses and he encountered gorgeous wet heat when his mouth finally hit the sweet spot. Her choked cries drifted to his ears like music, and her orgasm shattered through her and filled him with a primitive triumph he never tired of.

God, he f**king loved this woman.

* * *

“We found a mass.”

Nick hated doctors. Hated the sterile environments that reminded him of the ability to die, get sick, and screw with a happy life. His palms dampened, and he fought the urge to wipe them on his jeans. It had taken him a long time to become confident enough in his ability to love, and trust, and believe that his family and wife wouldn’t leave him. Now, other terrors danced in the dark, taunting him. What if something happened he couldn’t control and he was left alone again? What if something happened to Alexa? His kids? His sister? And his beloved dog?

Nick cleared his throat, and dug for control. “Ok. Can you give me the details? Can you make him better?”

Dr. Jack was an older man, obviously in the business for a number of years, and emanated a friendly compassion Old Yeller was immediately drawn to. He was an obvious animal lover, and Nick liked the way he spoke to his dog, as if he wasn’t a piece of meat but an actual living patient that deserved respect. The doctor peered over his glasses, his eyes sad but kind. “I’ll need to do a biopsy. The tumor is close to the stomach area so it’s a delicate procedure. Then depending on the test results, we’ll need to go over our options.”

Icy fear trickled down his spine. “What type of options?”

“If it’s cancer, we try to remove it. With Old Yeller’s age, we’ve got the odds against us. It’ll be a long recovery, He may need chemotherapy, which I wouldn’t recommend. I’ve had owners who took a holistic approach, with herbs and acupuncture to lessen the pain, but again, with the age of the dog we need to look at other options.”

“I’m not putting him to sleep.” The stubborn words escaped his mouth before he had time to bite them back. As if with his own determination to save the dog, it would all work out.

Dr. Jack nodded. “I understand. We’ll explore all options but let’s wait for the test results first.”

“How long?”

“They have to go to our main lab so forty-eight hours.”

Nick rubbed his forehead. “Any way to get them quicker?”

“I’m putting a rush on them. But we’ll need a full two days. As soon as they come in, I’ll call. For now, keep his regular schedule.”

“Treats, ok?”

Dr. Jack smiled. “Treats are always ok. I have a new shipment of the greenie bones dogs’ love. You can pick them up at the front desk.”

“Thanks.” The lab tech led Old Yeller in. Nick noted his head hung a bit lower, almost as if he was beginning to give up. The blue and orange Mets bandanna around his neck had been cleaned and ironed so it looked fresh against his brown fur. “Come on, buddy. We’ll get you some goodies and go home.”

He purchased a bag of bones and headed his dog out the door.

***

“How did it go?”

Alexa was waiting for him at the door. She shifted back and forth on her bare feet, as Simba dodged in and out of her legs in a game he’d made up when he was a puppy and refused to abandon. As soon as Old Yeller entered, Simba let out a joyous howl and they bumped noses in greeting. Nick kissed her briefly and went into the kitchen. “They found a mass. Doctor is running tests to see if it’s cancer.”

“Oh, my God.” Alexa bit down on her lower lip, the lines of her face strained. “What if it’s cancer?”

“The doctor will look at different options. Let’s not panic yet. The tests come back in two days and then we’ll take it from there.”

His wife dropped to her knees and murmured the dog’s name. Like a rat entranced by the Pied Piper, Old Yeller trotted over to her and snuggled in. Nick still enjoyed the way they bonded together. When the shelter dog first came to them, he’d been haunted, starving, and vacant. Nick knew how he felt, and every day battled his own need to respond to his wife’s loving openness. But the joke was on them. Alexa was too much of a force to fight, so eventually they had both surrendered and never looked back.

The short tail thumped. Alexa murmured loving words, stroked his ears, until Simba got jealous and bum rushed her. She fell back in a tangle of licking fur, laughing. “Get off me, you maniac. Look, daddy has greenies.”

The dogs got off Alexa and sat perfectly positioned in front of him, awaiting their treat. “There you go, guys.” He placed the bone in each of their mouth’s and watched them race back to the living room to eat them in their favorite places. “Are you ready for lunch?”

“Sure. Unless you want me to just make something here.” She closed the distance and peered into his eyes. He tried to keep his face in a mask of calm, refusing to let her worry for both of them.

“No, let’s go to Umberto’s. We haven’t had a good Italian meal since we visited Gavin at La Mia Casa.”

Alexa stroked his cheek. “It’s going to be ok.”

He forced a smile. “I know.”

But the inner voice that had been quiet for so many years burst into vibrant life.

No, it won’t. It’s never going to be ok again...

***

“I’m worried about Nick.”

Maggie lifted her cup of cafe mocha to her lips and paused. “What’s up?”

“Old Yeller’s sick. We’re waiting on test results to see if it’s cancer.” Alexa pushed aside her croissant, too upset to even enjoy the buttery treat. Her best friend noticed the gesture and concern darkened her cat green eyes.

“He’s nuts about that dog. Who would’ve thought the man transformed from hating a fish to animal advocate? Can I do anything to help?”

Alexa nibbled her lip. Odd, she knew her husband to the core, and the darkness from his past. Both Maggie and Nick had suffered at the hands of two selfish parents who gave them no love and made their existence hellish. But they’d both grown and opened. Maggie was now happily married to her friend Michael, and Nick had changed from a cold, distant figure to a man filled with warmth and love. But lately, her husband was pulling way back, as if trying to protect himself from bad news in the only way he’d learned to cope when he was young. Foreboding washed over her in some crazy mystical surge. As if the worst was yet to come, and she’d need to watch over her husband carefully.

“Just be there for him, Mags. We both know how the past can sometimes come back and haunt you. Something’s going on with him, I can sense it.”

Maggie nodded. “I’ll call him later for a check in. Promise I’ll be here if we need to do an intervention. I’m hooked on that A&E series and know how to run one. And trust me, it’s hardcore.”

Alexa laughed. “Good to know.”

“And always remember the almighty secret weapon we all hold.”

“What’s that?”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Dude, haven’t I taught you anything? Sex, of course.” The thought of their passionate encounter in front of the fire flashed in her vision. The stroke of his tongue, the nibble of teeth, the urging of his fingers toward orgasm, the release exploding through every muscle to her core, seeping with heat and that glorious melty caramel feeling he always coaxed from her body. “Aha, I can see by your face you got that part covered. Nice job.”

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