“I can’t believe it’s over,” I whispered for what had to be the hundredth time as I leaned against Nikolai. His lips skimmed my temple. “This one is,” he said softly. “But you can’t become complacent, Jude. Your relationship with Cliff means there could be another Kevin around the corner. I don’t mean to scare you—” “No, you’re right,” I said with a shake of my head. My fingers squeezed Nikolai’s. “You’ll teach me,” I said as I turned enough on the bench of the SUV’s back seat so I could look him in the eye. “You’ll teach me how to make sure I come home to you every night.” Nikolai’s expression went dark for a moment and then he was leaning down and sealing his mouth over mine. I knew what he was feeling because I was feeling it too. Forever wasn’t guaranteed. I covered the hand Nikolai had on my cheek as I returned his hungry kiss. “I love you,” I breathed against his mouth. “It was too close today, Jude,” he said when he broke the kiss. His eyes were closed. He shook his head just a little and whispered, “Too fucking close.” I knew what he was talking about. In that moment I’d been staring down the barrel of Kevin’s gun, I’d been beyond terrified. But not for myself. No, in those painfully long moments I’d spent nearly every second of them silently praying to anyone who was listening to spare Natalia and Nikolai. I wrapped my arms around Nikolai and pressed a kiss to his neck. “Never again,” I promised. And I meant it. I’d do everything in my power to make sure I never put the man I loved and his family--my family—in danger ever again. The SUV came to a stop all too soon. Even though the danger had passed, Cliff had sent the car and driver to the hospital once he’d found out what had happened. I’d also received a very angry phone call from the man when he’d learned I’d ditched my security detail but the emotion in his voice had been proof that he hadn’t been angry. He’d been scared. The knowledge that there were now several people in the world who worried about me was so foreign I couldn’t yet wrap my head around it, but after spending the last several hours getting hugs from every member of Nikolai’s family as we’d dealt with the fallout of the afternoon’s events, I knew I would never get tired of any of it. “We’re here,” Tony announced. “You guys have a good night.” “You too, Tony,” Nikolai said as he reluctantly pulled himself from my grasp. My heart swelled when he took my hand as we got out of the car. Despite the immediate threat to my life having ended, Nikolai was still on guard as he led me into my apartment building. I had a feeling it was something he’d always do… it was just who he was. As horrific as the events of the day had been, Nikolai had insisted we return to my apartment rather than go to his and I knew why. He wanted me to be in my own space so I could relax and come down from the events of the day. I hadn’t put up much of a fight since little Natalia and Elena would be staying at the hospital in Maks’s room and Nikolai’s parents were returning to their home to get some much-needed rest. I followed him into the elevator. He punched the button for my floor. Before the doors even finished closing, Nikolai was on me. I let out a cry of relief as he kissed me hungrily. His hands went to my ass and then he was lifting me. I instinctively wrapped my legs around his waist. He pressed me against the wall of the elevator and used his body to hold me there. There was a handrail beneath my ass which meant Nikolai’s hands were free to roam my body. “Missed you so much,” he croaked as his mouth pressed hungry kisses into my flesh. “Love you, Nikolai,” I returned and then we stopped talking with words. I didn’t know how Nikolai was even cognizant enough to realize we’d reached my floor but as soon as the door opened, he released me and then he was leading me to my apartment. My fingers shook as I tried to unlock the door but that was mostly because Nikolai’s big body was pressed up against mine and he was kissing the back of my neck. And his hands… God, those were everywhere. I somehow managed to get the door unlocked. The second Nikolai kicked it shut, clothes began to fly. I won the who can get naked first contest which meant I was the one who got to tease and torture as he tried to finish getting undressed. “Fuck it,” he finally snarled as he tried to unbutton his pants, then he was grabbing me again and I was once again being lifted like I weighed nothing. I loved the sensation of Nikolai’s pants rubbing over my hard cock as he walked us to my bedroom. But the feeling was short-lived because as soon as he dropped me onto my back on top of the soft bedding, he was on his knees and his mouth was sucking my cock to the back of his throat. “Jesus, fuck!” I cried as I thrust my hips up and buried my fingers in his hair. Nikolai hoovered my dick until I was begging for release. But he wouldn’t send me over. Instead, he crawled back up my body and kissed me softly. “I need you,” he murmured. I opened my mouth to tell him to take me the fuck already when he repeated the words. “I need you, Jude.” His eyes glittered with emotion and passion. My heart caught in my throat as what he was saying sank in. “Are you sure?” I asked. “The only thing I’ve ever been more sure of is that I knew the moment I saw you that you were going to change everything for me.” He paused and held my gaze. “These eyes,” he said softly. Then his mouth was on mine again. Thankfully, my body went on autopilot as I rolled Nikolai onto his back. I took my time cherishing every inch of him with my mouth and my touch as I finished undressing him. By the time I reached into my nightstand for the bottle of lube, we were both sweating and panting. Since Nikolai had already had my finger in his ass a few times, my nerves didn’t really kick in until he began begging me for more. Instead of lubing up my dick, though, I carefully eased a second finger inside of him. “God, fuck,” Nikolai said harshly. I could hear the tension in his voice and knew it meant he was feeling that sting of pain… the one that left you questioning if it would be worth it. Although I knew bottoming wasn’t for everyone, my gut was telling me it was something that would take Nikolai’s pleasure to a whole new level. But instead of explaining any of that, I dropped my head and closed my mouth over his cock. “Jude, fuck, yes!” Nikolai shouted as he lifted his hips. I used my free hand to press his belly down so he wouldn’t inadvertently hurt himself on my fingers. I sucked him hard at the same time that I gently fucked him with my fingers. It wasn’t until pre-cum began sliding down my throat that I lifted my head and looked at a very shaken Nikolai. “I can make you come like this,” I said to him. He didn’t even hesitate. “No,” he responded. “I want it all.” My heart exploded with love and I gently pulled my fingers from his body. I settled my weight on top of Nikolai and kissed him. Soft, deep kisses that I hoped could convey what words seemed so incapable of doing. He returned every kiss with fervor. I somehow managed to lube up my cock at the same time, though more of the sticky substance ended up on the rest of our bodies than anywhere else. I shifted enough that I could place my dick against his hole. “Breathe out, baby,” I murmured. His beautiful eyes held mine as I began to push into him. He moaned and immediately closed his eyes, then threw his head back. I knew what he was feeling. The pain that was almost too much but strangely not enough at the same time. “Relax for me, Nikolai,” I said. He opened his eyes and blew out a breath. Just like that, his body became looser and the muscles trying to keep me out relaxed enough to let me push forward. “Fuck,” Nikolai whispered. “Almost there,” I said before I sealed my mouth over his. Nikolai kissed me back with no hesitation whatsoever. I reached my hand down to lift his leg. The move opened him up to me that last little bit. Nikolai groaned as his fingers bit into my arms where he was holding on to me. “It’s done,” I reassured him as I kept completely still so he could adjust. Nikolai took several deep breaths. His eyes were closed but I could still see the myriad of emotions going through him. I didn’t move until he opened his eyes and I saw that they were alight with wonder. I dropped my mouth to his and began to move. No more words were spoken after that. Our bodies did all the talking. Nikolai wrapped himself around me or maybe it was the other way around. It didn’t matter. We were one as we moved, as we sought that perfect pleasure that few people were ever truly fortunate enough to find. We came at the same time, but I still managed to watch the pleasure consume Nikolai. He was beyond beautiful as it took him over completely. I would never tire of giving this to him… of being the one to watch over him and protect him when he was at his most vulnerable. It was a gift I would never squander. My own orgasm, as intense as it was, felt almost like an afterthought as I dropped all my weight onto Nikolai’s body. It seemed to take forever for both of us to catch our breaths. When I made a move to pull my sated dick from his body, his hand settled on my ass. I found myself smiling because now Nikolai understood why I always wanted him to stay buried inside of me for as long as he could. I pressed a kiss to his lips and ran my fingers through his damp hair. His eyes held mine when I pulled back just a little. “I’m not going anywhere,” I told him, though my words had nothing to do with being balls-deep inside of him. After things had calmed down at the hospital and the police had left, there’d finally been enough time for Nikolai to update me on Maks’s illness and treatment plan. I’d cried silent tears along with Nikolai as we’d contemplated the battle the little boy was about to face. That we were all about to face. Because it was like I’d said. I wasn’t going anywhere. “Do you hear me?” I asked, my voice firm. I wasn’t about to put up with any bullshit about it not being my problem or that he could handle it on his own. Nikolai was used to taking care of everyone else, being the strong one, but I wasn’t going to let him fight me on this. To my surprise, though, Nikolai nodded his head and then cupped my cheek. “I hear you, Jude.” Then he pulled me down for a deep, intense kiss that spoke volumes. We were going to win this battle and we were going to do it together. We’d win this battle and then the next and then the one after that and when it was all over and we’d won the whole fucking war, we’d still have each other. Today, tomorrow, and for however long our forever would turn out to be.