“I can’t go back, Max. Renee’s probably already brought charges against me for kidnapping.”
“No, she hasn’t. Ice talked her into signing Cole’s guardianship over to me. She’s going to move in with her sister in South Texas. Mugg kicked her out and is divorcing her ass. You won’t be seeing that bitch again.”
Casey arched away. She didn’t care about where Renee went; her concern was for Cole. Before she could voice her worries, however, Max continued.
“Settle down. I’ll leave all the decisions to you. Do you think Renee will fuck with you when Cole’s guardianship is in my name?”
“No, she’s not that stupid,” Casey agreed, settling back against him.
“Mason won’t be bothering you, either.”
“He’s not a Predator anymore?”
“Mason betrayed Mugg, so he was dealt with. After we found out about Cole… Let’s just say Mason is the one in a rehabilitation center now. He’s never going to come hurt you or Cole again. Hell, he can’t even wipe his own ass.”
Casey could tell Max had been careful about his words, and she felt as though a huge weight was taken off her. “I had to protect him, Max. He always protected me. He was the type of person who couldn’t let someone weaker than him be hurt. He’s really special.”
“He’s a lot like his sister.” With that, Max was done talking. He kissed her as the waves began lapping at their feet.
“I love you, Casey. I’m going to take care of you and Cole.” He pressed her down on the sand, and her arms circled his broad shoulders. “I missed that.” Max buried his face in the curve of her neck.
“What?” Casey murmured.
“You, in my arms.”
“I missed it, too,” she confessed. “But I missed something more.”
“Your smile. I missed you smiling at me.”
“Casey? Whatcha doing?”
Casey looked up to see Cole standing over them with the Predators watching from the porch.
“It doesn’t look like much fun.”
Casey laughed lightheartedly as Max got to his feet then reached down to give her his hand which she took.
“I know something you would like more. How about we find some more shells that we can take home with us?”
“Max wants us to move in with him, if that’s okay with you?”
Cole studied Max, a worried frown on his face.
“I’ll teach you to ride a motorcycle,” Max blatantly tried to bribe him.
“No, you won’t.” But it was too late. Cole’s face was filled with excitement.
“Come on, Cole, you can help me find a big shell.”
Casey let it go for now. She would put a stop to it before Max actually tried to teach him.
They searched the beach for all the shells they could find, and even the other Predators joined in. She watched as the badass bikers took off their leather jackets and showed their finds to Cole, looking at his in return. Casey felt a lump in her throat from observing their gentleness with him.
Her dreams with Cole had been destroyed all those years ago. It was time for them to begin a new one… with Max.
“Look at me, Casey!”
Nervously, she had to force herself to give a carefree wave as Max drove Cole around the parking lot. She could barely see him through the bikers riding their motorcycles. The bike rally had brought hundreds for the cause to raise funds for adults with special needs. It had been Max’s idea to start a job training program in Queen City like the one which had benefited Cole so much. The Predators were giving rides on their bikes to the ones brave enough to try.
“Don’t look so worried. He’s in good hands,” Vida teased.
“Yes, he is.”
Casey was unbelievably happy. The past two months had given Cole even more confidence, thanks to Max. They had found a place for Cole to interact with others, and he loved being with his new friends. Mrs. Wesson was a widow who devoted her life and home to helping and keeping adults with disabilities so their caretakers could hold down a job while their adult children were cared for in a safe learning environment. Casey often found herself volunteering when she wasn’t working part-time at a bank close to the center.
She was content with the changes in her life. She had been drawn into the circle of Vida, Sawyer, Penni, and Grace. The only thing marring her happiness was lack of physical intimacy. Max hadn’t had sex with her since her return.
She slept in one of the bedrooms upstairs, next to Cole’s. Max slept downstairs in the master bedroom, alone. During the weekends, the boys shared a bedroom with Cole, their laughter filling the upstairs. She had more than once had to threaten them to go to sleep, but they would ignore her even before she could close the bedroom door, the sound of their loud voices picking right back up again. Maxie and she each had their own room, though they often would lie on her bed and watch movies until they fell asleep.