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Hawk’s dimples made an appearance then disappeared when I couldn’t see them anymore because his head dropped and his lips gave me a light kiss.

Then he lifted his head and asked all around, “Anyone else?”

“Me,” Tracy put in.

“I already gave my order,” Elvira added.

“A white wine, honey, if you don’t mind,” Meredith stated.

“Cuba libre, querido,” Maria muttered.

“I’ll go with you,” Gus offered and Hawk and Gus walked away but Maria got in my space, so close, it was surprising and I looked down at her.

“My boys,” she started, “look like their father, act like their father and he gave them something else,” she paused then finished on a huge grin, “good taste.”

I stared at her a second then threw my head back and laughed.

Dinner was over but the party (in other words the drinking) was not.

I was sitting beside Leo but listening to Mrs. Mayhew and Erma, both hilariously tipsy, as they shared stories of Dad and Meredith’s anniversaries past with their other audience member, Elvira.

Suddenly, Leo took my hand and my head turned, my eyes going to his face to see he was gazing across the room.

My eyes followed his and my heart warmed. Cam was standing with Meredith who was holding Cam’s hand by the fingers admiring the diamond Leo had slid on earlier that night when he’d asked her to marry him.

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The reason they were late.

“Lingerie parties, darlin’,” I heard Leo whisper in my ear, I smiled and turned to face him. “You promised,” he finished when he caught my eyes.

I squeezed his hand and whispered back, “You happy?”

“She is, so, yeah,” Leo answered.

That was a great freaking answer.

“Love you, babe,” I told him softly.

“Lingerie,” he replied.

“Gotcha,” I whispered on a smile.

“Gwen, can I have a moment?”

Leo and I both twisted our necks and tipped our heads back to see Troy standing there, his face set, looking unhappy.

Shit.

I nodded, squeezed Leo’s hand again and then stood. Troy moved in putting his hand to the small of my back and leading me out of the room. I searched for Hawk as I went so he’d know where I was going and who I was with but I couldn’t find him.

We made it to a hallway and I turned to Troy.

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“Troy, I –”

“Just wait a second, Gwen, would you?” he asked tersely and I wondered what was on his mind and why he seemed in such a foul mood. Though it wasn’t hard to guess. Hawk was not shy with public displays of affection and this was coupled with him being an alpha male which meant PDA was liberally mixed with possessive branding moves such as curling his arm around the back of my chair while we were seated or running his hand over my ass when he saw a man’s eyes on that ass, shit like that.

Shit that I’d noticed, as the night wore on, Troy didn’t like much.

We turned a corner and both of us stopped dead on the carpet when we saw Hawk, his back to us, about eight feet down the hall. There was one female hand at his bent head, one arm tight around his back.

I sucked in a silent, searing breath and felt my head reel as Troy’s arm curled around my waist and held tight.

Maybe a nanosecond later Hawk moved, the woman’s arms disappeared and it hit me that he’d set her away and he’d done it roughly.

“What the f**k?” he clipped, his voice so harsh, it was acid and it was a wonder the wallpaper didn’t melt off the walls.

“I –” a woman replied.

“You told me you wanted to talk about my woman and your man,” Hawk went on.

“I –” she repeated.

Hawk cut her off again. “Jesus, f**k, what’s the matter with you?”

“I –” she tried yet again and failed yet again.

“Give me one good reason not to go back into that room and tell your man you put your hands and your f**kin’ mouth on me,” Hawk demanded.

“He won’t believe you,” she got out and my body froze solid as Troy’s did the same at my side.

That voice was Troy’s whiney, annoying, grasping girlfriend, Hanna.

“You’re right,” Hawk replied. “He won’t, which, I gotta tell you, woman, sucks because he’s a good man and he could do a lot f**kin’ better than you.”

Oh God.

I had to end this for Troy and I had to do it now.

“Cabe, honey,” I called and Hawk’s body jerked around to face us. I saw his eyes were narrow, his jaw hard and his gaze slid over me to Troy.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

Hanna was staring at Troy, her eyes huge, face pale.

“Troy,” she whispered.

“I hope you have money for a cab,” Troy replied.

“Uh…” She took a step forward but I moved into Troy, turning into his side, my arms going around his middle and I pulled him a step back so she stopped. “Troy, it isn’t what –” she tried.

Troy interrupted. “Stop, Hanna, it was. Don’t add being a f**king liar to being a f**king slut.”

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Hanna winced. I gave Troy a squeeze. Hawk studied Troy and when no one said anything further, his head turned to Hanna.

“I think that’s your cue to get the f**k outta here,” he prompted, she looked up at him, her pale face got whiter and she nodded.

Then she scurried toward Troy and me as I glared sharp, lethal daggers at her, none of which, unfortunately, formed and drew blood. She skirted us because neither Troy nor I moved and she hustled around the corner.

Hawk approached, his eyes on Troy and he stopped in front of us.

Then he looked down at me and asked softly, “You got this, baby?”

I nodded up at him. He lifted his chin, glanced at Troy and then walked around us on my side, his hand sliding along my hip as he did it.

See. Total alpha male possessive branding moves even when no one was around to see them!

Then Hawk disappeared.

I moved into Troy’s front, not letting him go and looked into his stony face.

“Do we need beer, tequila or a trip to the firing range?” I asked quietly and Troy’s arm around my waist gave a reflexive squeeze.

“Shit, Gwen,” he whispered.

I pressed my cheek to his shoulder and held on tighter.

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