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Pen Your Pride

Chapter Thirty-Part One ~Travis~

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As quickly as Sanders' voice begins to register, "—not letting you pass. It's just not gonna—" sleep steps forward to drag me under once again.

"—you Brennan's guard dog now?" Danielle's words fight back against sleep's pull, forcing me into the present moment, where Maddie begins to shift in the same spot her body has remained all night...pressed perfectly against mine.

Sanders replies defensively, "No Danielle, I believe you referred to me as Brennan's cute, little sidekick. Remember? And my man has waited a long damn time to be with that girl. We're not waking them, not yet."

"Them?" Alex's voice joins in the conversation just outside our door.

Maddie shifts again, pulling my attention away from them and back to her. Her back is to my chest, her head tucked safely beneath my chin, and I breathe in, smelling her familiar scent. My arm remains in the same place it rested when we both fell asleep, wrapped in contentment around her waist. But it's only now that I realize my hand has had a mind of its own, finding its way beneath the fabric of her clothing, my fingers gently grasping the smooth curve of her hip.

A door opens and footsteps can be heard padding down the hall. Maddie begins to pull away from me but not wanting our time alone to end, I pull her back down and into me with a groan of disapproval.

"You're not going anywhere," I growl lowly into her ear, her head tucked comfortably beneath mine, and I feel her body softly shake as she quietly giggles against me.

"I didn't want them to wake you," she replies, low enough that only I can hear.

The footsteps in the hallway draw closer to our door and just as they pass, Aiden joins in their current banter, "Funny  sidekick. Not cute...funny," and his footsteps continue down the hall.

"No one asked for your opinion, Pretty Boy. And do us all a favor, put a damn shirt on," Sanders responds.

"Do us a favor and don't," Danielle chimes in, their voices disappearing down the hall as they carry their conversation into the other room.

Maddie spins around in my hold and rests her chin on my chest, a soft smile playing across her lips. "Good morning," she offers shyly.

"Good morning," I reply with a lazy grin. "How did you sleep?" My smile spreads even wider now as I take in my present reality, as I revel in this moment. Last night was real. She's real. It wasn't a dream.

There were so many mornings I'd wake up having just dreamt of her. Keeping my eyes closed, my mind would desperately search to recall each and every part, burning them to memory; and I'd attempt to lure myself back into a state of sleep so I could return to that space...a sacred place where I could see her again.

"Better than I have in really long time," she replies, her smile matching mine.

Turning her head so her cheek rests upon her hand, she begins to lightly trace the outline of my chest tattoo. I watch in silence as her slender fingers explore my skin...as she takes me in, growing more comfortable in each passing moment and with each delicate touch. In her eyes, I see the moment her thoughts are pulled away from me.

"What are you thinking about?" I ask, drawing a lazy path down the length of her arm with my thumb, hoping to gain access to her thoughts. But more than that, I'm asking her to share the parts of herself she's had to keep hidden from me...because of me...and my inability to be the man she needed.

I was scared. I see that now. Scared to fall even further than I knew I already had. Afraid to lay my heart on the line, knowing that once I fully gave in, it would no longer be my own. She would own it, and with that she would own me, completely. And then what if I lost her? How ironic that it took the very thing I feared happening for my stubborn mind to finally figure out what my heart knew all along...she already owned me. She always had.

"You. Us." She answers, gently pulling me from my thoughts. Looking up at me, smiling sweetly, she continues, "This is kind of crazy, lying here with you...I've dreamt of it a million times." Her face flushes but she continues, "Is it weird that it doesn't feel real? Like maybe I am dreaming?" She laughs at herself quietly. "I just can't believe this is really happening."

"Believe it," I say, startling her as I suddenly pull her body on top of mine, and then roll us over so she's on her back, and I'm lying on my side.

I rest my hand on her stomach and lean down to kiss her. She closes her eyes and a small sigh falls from her lips just as I make contact, her soft mouth pressing against mine.

I force myself to pull away, tugging her bottom lip between my teeth as I go.

I shake my head, smiling. "You...are trouble."

"I'm trouble?" she laughs but begins to pull me closer, proving my point.

A hard fist pounds against the door, ending our moment...ending our time alone.

"Waaaake up love birds," Sanders begins. "I've been out-voted, love shack time is o-ver."

And with that, I roll over onto my back, letting out a groan of frustration as real life invades, as all the shit we should be dealing with pushes its way back to the front of my mind.

I pull myself up from the bed and come to a stand, holding a hand out for Maddie. She grabs it and I pull her up next to me.

"Let's go," I say with a last, lingering kiss to her forehead before pulling her out the door, down the hall and into the kitchen with the others.


***Author's note***

This isn't the full chapter! But we're late and wanted to post something. Writing Travis's last chapter is hard!! And we want it to be perfect, so we're still working on it and hope to post the rest tomorrow. Thank you so much for all the support, you guys are truly awesome, awesome, awesome. <3

Thank you! <3

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