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In His Keeping


Page 78




"They answered a doorbell on a snowy Christmas night and found . . . you. A beautiful little angel girl. And a note. Begging them to take you in and raise you as their own. That they were unable to provide for you and that you would always be in danger. Gavin and Ginger loved you instantly. And so Gavin took you and his wife out of the country where he began a systematic paper trail that documented a pregnancy, your delivery in a foreign country and your subsequent return to the United States.
"He sold off everything he owned prior to you, except one oil company, here in Houston. And they moved here, to begin their lives with you. That is the truth and the only one that matters. You were loved. You were wanted. You matter."
Ari slipped her arms around Ramie this time and fiercely hugged the other woman. "Thank you," Ari whispered. "You can't know what that means to me."
"I can well imagine," Ramie said softly.
Ramie cast Beau a look, her eyes softening as she took Ari's hand in hers, twining their fingers tightly. Then she held out Ari's hand in Beau's direction before looking back at Ari.
"I think there is someone who would very much like to hold you right now. This has been hard on him too, Ari. He found out some very difficult information as well. You should lean on each other."
Beau watched the myriad of emotions flash across Ari's face as she looked up at Beau. Then with an inarticulate cry, she ran across the room and threw herself into his outstretched arms, wrapping her own around his waist and hugging him for dear life.


"I'm sorry," she whispered brokenly. "I'm so sorry, Beau. You didn't deserve how I treated you. You're the last person who deserved it. Please forgive me. You are the only one true thing in my life right now. The only person I have complete faith in. The only person I trust. Please, please don't be angry with me."
He gathered her to him, crushing her, holding as tightly as he dared without breaking her bones. He buried his face in her sweet-smelling hair and simply held her in silence, his chest heaving with unshed emotion.
He wouldn't break down. Not here. Not in front of the others. Not when Ari desperately needed him to be strong for her.
When he finally pulled back, he framed her beautiful face and stared intently into her eyes, drowning, losing his very soul in her. He never wanted to be found. He was lost in her and he planned to stay lost for the rest of his life.
He kissed her. Just a gentle brush, the tenderest of kisses. Meant to comfort, soothe and reassure her that he was here. He was real. Solid. And he wasn't going anywhere.
She leaned her forehead in, resting it against the hollow of his throat so that his chin rested atop her silky hair. He could feel the fatigue emanating from her in waves. Knew she'd reached her absolute breaking point.
He reached down and gathered her hands in his. "Let's go to bed, honey.
Tomorrow we'll launch a full-scale attack. We'll draw the fuckers to us and then we'll extract the information we need no matter what it takes."
She shivered against him, and he knew that she was imagining the implications of his words. But she didn't react in horror or disgust. She simply drew her head away and looked up at him as if he was her entire world. And damn it, he wanted to be. When all of this was over, he was going to pour out his entire goddamn heart. He was going to cut it out of his chest and lay it before her. Make himself completely vulnerable to her and bare his very soul.
He could only hope that when he did that she wouldn't reject the only gifts he had to give her. His heart. His soul. His body.
His love.
TWENTY-SEVEN
BEAU sat straight up in bed, Ari literally falling from his arms back onto the mattress below. She murmured a sleepy protest but promptly snuggled into the pillow, never once opening her eyes.

"What the fuck?" Beau demanded, blinking his eyes as the room was suddenly flooded with light.
When he could see, Zack was standing there, rifle over one shoulder, two pistols in a shoulder holster, several flash bangs as well as grenades circling his waist. Another gun was strapped to the inside of his thigh, while the other leg had one strapped on the outside of his thigh so the pistols didn't bang against each other when he walked. If that weren't enough, he had at least three knives strapped at convenient, easily accessible areas on his body and yet another, smaller pistol secured around his ankle. He looked like he was fucking going to war.
Beau was instantly alert, out of bed before Zack could even open his mouth.
"Sitrep," Beau barked, already reaching for his own arsenal. He didn't reach for a shirt yet, only pausing long enough to pull on fatigues that were specially designed for his weapon preferences. He quickly secured a Kevlar vest around his torso and then yanked a black long-sleeved shirt that was invisible at night.
"They're coming at us on our own turf. They're mounting a major assault. They've already breached the perimeter and are just past outlying security and moving fast. I've already alerted the others but you need to get Ari to the safe room. Caleb is bringing Ramie there now."
"Fuck!"
After securing all his weapons and adding some perfectly illegal C4 to one of the pouches on his fatigues in easy reach, he ran to the bed, not even bothering to wake Ari up or even try to explain the situation. Time was of the essence and his first priority was to ensure her safety.
He hauled her up more roughly than he'd like and Zack preceded him from the room, providing cover, though by all accounts, the intruders were still at least four minutes out. Four very precious minutes in which they had to stash the women and decide the best course of defense.






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