Home > Going Down Fast (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)(12)

Going Down Fast (Billionaire Bad Boys #2)(12)
Author: Carly Phillips

He was beginning to get worked up all over again, and since he’d spent the last hour trying to cool himself off, he knew he had to think about other things.

“Take off your shoes!” Maxie said, already leaning down and unbuckling her sandals.

As it was a too-hot late September week in Manhattan, they were both in lightweight clothes and no socks, making the process of slipping off their shoes easier.

“Did you read that there are eleven thousand pounds of confetti-colored sprinkles in there?”

He was more focused on the signs around the pool. Dip at your own risk and Caution: May cause spontaneous happiness, something he was experiencing himself. Except he had a feeling it was more the company than the place.

Still, he secretly admitted feeling like a kid again. Even if the Sprinkle Pool was a large area of plastic beads and not real ice cream sprinkles. Lucas didn’t know if he was relieved or not that the experience was diluted and no more than a kids’ activity.

He followed Maxie into the cool plastic pellets that were slipperier than he’d anticipated. She took a step and laughed, the sound light and wrapping around his heart. She made her way forward, and her foot slipped out from under her. He grasped her waist, catching her before she fell on her ass.

“Thanks,” she said, turning around, her eyes alight with laughter. The bottom half of her body brushed against his, causing a jolt of pleasure to which his body reacted.

Knowing they were surrounded by people, he had to refocus himself. “Let’s move on to the next stop,” he said, just as a toddler squealed and wrapped his hands around Lucas’ khaki pants, leaving a chocolate handprint in his wake.

He disappeared and his mother ran off after him, shouting an apology back at Lucas but her mind on her speeding child. He grinned at the sight. Someday he wanted that for himself. A wife and children. A family that was stronger and more cohesive than his had been. One where one child wasn’t favored over the other. Where bullying and teasing weren’t tolerated.

He glanced at Maxie, whose gaze followed the little boy, and his focus shifted as he read her mind, assuming she was focused on her loss. But when she glanced back at him, she was still laughing, pointing at his hand-painted pants.

“What’s next?” he asked, following her out of the pool and back toward their shoes, where they quickly put them on. If she wasn’t thinking about the past, he wouldn’t be the one to bring it up.

“I want to check out the Miracle Berry place,” she said, doing the last strap on her sandal.

He’d read the information earlier and shuddered. “A pill to change my taste buds?” he asked.

“Are you afraid to eat a lemon sticking out of ice cream? You don’t think you’ll really taste sweet not sour?”

He didn’t feel like finding out. He shrugged, embarrassed. “I’d rather try something else.”

She laughed. “Okay, chicken, there are helium balloons near the spun sugar. What about that?”

“Why not?”

She led him where she wanted to go. After they made silly helium noises with teenagers who thought it was all too funny to make sex sounds, he grabbed Maxie’s hand and directed her toward the Willy Wonka–themed Chocolate Chamber.

They entered through a curtain of brown satin, music playing in the background. He glanced around and caught sight of a huge beanbag chair, diving into it before anyone else could take the seat and pulling Maxie down with him. Cocoa bean fragments intentionally littered the floor around them, and the scent was pure heaven. A chocolate-themed movie played on a screen on one of the walls.

She leaned back, arms spread wide, and smiled. “This is magical. Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

“Good job grabbing this bag.”

He grinned. “Video games honed my killer instincts.” She laughed and punched him lightly on the arm. “Silly.” Her smile faded as she met his gaze. “Mind if I ask you something?”

He shook his head. “Of course not.”

“I saw you look at me in a panic when that little boy grabbed your leg.”

He winced. He’d hoped he’d been subtle.

“Do you think I’m still fragile?” She bit down on her lower lip. The same lip he’d tasted earlier, and it was all he could do not to groan and kiss her again.

But this was a serious conversation. One that was long overdue since, after the night at the hospital, Keith had made certain they were never alone again. At least, that was Lucas’ take, since Maxie had avoided him like the plague… until his brother passed away. Despite her grief, she’d been less skittish around him after Keith was gone.

He grasped her hand gently. “No,” he said, forcing his mind back to her question, which he knew was important. “I don’t think you’re fragile. I didn’t think you were fragile then, either. You were just—”

“Broken,” she said softly. “And guilt-ridden.”

Her words surprised him. “Why in the world would you feel guilty? The doctor said there was nothing you could have done to change the outcome.”

Her eyes shimmered with tears. “Your brother didn’t believe that. He blamed me. He said I worked too hard, and if I hadn’t been putting together the crib, there wouldn’t have been physical stress on my body and—”

“Are you kidding me?” Lucas exploded, causing people around them to stop and stare, and Maxie jerked back at his harsh tone.

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