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What I didn’t know was how close he would bring me to death.
And that death would be a blessing.
Andrea has always been able to tap into messages from somewhere beyond. When she meets Ben, an unrelenting force draws them together. But it’s going to take some convincing to help Ben realise their potential. Ben never thought his friend’s little sister would be anything more than a nuisance. He was wrong. She’d always been so much more. And now, their bond could be severed and her pulse silenced forever.
*Recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content.*
Read an Excerpt
A cracker loaded with brie and quince paste was passed in front of my face as Lee handed it to Ronnie.
Brie. Sweet, sweet, unpasteurised, soft, bacteria-ridden cheese. Oh, how I’ve missed you.
I licked my lips, sucking in the smell as my nose followed the delicacy.
“Are you sniffing my food?” Wrinkles carved grooves into Ronnie’s cheeks.
“It has been nine months. Nine. Months. Yes, I’m sniffing the brie. I miss it.” My statement came out as a whimper.
Ronnie took a small bite before asking, “Can you still have soft cheese if you’re breastfeeding?”
“I don’t think so,” Lee answered, scrubbing the back of his freckled neck.
I arched my sore back. “What? Of course I can. Don’t tell me that.”
Ben wrapped his fingers around my ponytail and stroked its length. “I dunno. I think it might be too risky for the baby.”
I twisted to look at him. “Bullshit. You’re wrong.” I searched his serious expression for any hint of a joke. A twitch in the corner of his mouth. A change in his eyes. Nothing. He was stone-cold sober. “Don’t tell me I can’t eat the cheese. I want the cheese. Babe, you know I can’t do without the cheese.”
Ronnie rested her forearms on the table and leaned forward, her gaze glued to mine. “I read an article last week about this woman who did all the right things during the pregnancy and as soon as the baby was born, she gorged on all the cheese. Brie, camembert, blue vein—she went to town. She fed the baby a couple of hours later. The poor thing ended up in hospital with a nasty infection.”
“Are you shitting me?” I dropped my chin, mouth agape. If this was a joke, she was no longer my friend.
“Yes. Yes, Andy, we’re shitting you.” She leaned back with a huge grin on her face as Lee and Ben sniggered. “It’s way too easy.”
“I hate you.”
Ben tried to tuck me under his arm. I pouted and inched away. “You’re so mean to me in my vulnerable state. You know it’s my due date and I’m still fecking preggers.”
“He’ll be here soon. He’s just way too comfortable inside there.” Ben nuzzled my neck, whispering in my ear, “I don’t blame him. I wanna be inside you right now.”
I wriggled in my seat as a choking noise came from across the table. “Jesus, I heard that.” Ronnie scrubbed her hands over her ears, masses of dark curls bouncing as she did.
I didn’t give a shit that she’d heard what Ben said. I loved that he still found me desirable despite the fact that I’d swelled to twice my normal size and couldn’t see my toes, let alone touch them.
The loud clap of Lee’s hands made me jump. “Who wants prawns? Not you, Andy. I did a rolled turkey roast for you. Sorry.”
Prawns. Another thing I couldn’t eat. Yet. After this kid was out, I was going to fill myself with all the pre-prepped salad, shellfish, soft cheese, and wine I could get my hands on.
Lee dragged his chair back as Ronnie jumped to help him.
I rested a hand on Ben’s thigh. The delicious smell of our early Christmas dinner wafted from the kitchen. “Do you mind if we exchange gifts first? I can’t wait. We might have to run off to hospital at any moment.”
“You can’t hold off for another half an hour?”
Ben pushed his chair back.
“Babe, can you grab the presents for me please?”
“Already on it.”
He was the best.
Lee stood behind Ronnie with his arms around her teeny tiny waist, one palm spread over her stomach. They presented such a contrast. Her with sultry, dark features and caramel skin, and Lee with freckles and auburn locks. He was only just taller than her. She and Ben were eye to eye, but he was twice her girth, although they were both solid muscle. All three of my dinner companions could’ve done a Nike ad, while I was the Oompa Loompa in the background.
Not for much longer hey, baby boy?
Our hosts watched me from the kitchen. Something silently passed between them, evident from the way they held each other.
“Are you coming over here, or are you going to make me get up?” I raised a brow.
They returned to their seats with matching smirks.
Ben slid in beside me, placing down an envelope and a box wrapped with multi-coloured braided ribbons and topped with a pretty bow.
“Thanks.” I handed the envelope to Ronnie. “Merry Christmas!”
Lee had given Ronnie tickets to Sydney for her birthday two weeks ago. They were going before uni started back in March. As soon as I found out what he’d planned, I’d known what I wanted to give her for Christmas.
A smile tilted her mouth at one corner as her eyes flitted around the table. She ducked her chin and used her knife to open the present. Slipping out a piece of paper, her eyebrows scrunched before popping high. “A private ghost tour of Sydney.” Her shoulders kissed her earlobes. “I’m shitting myself. Thanks.”
“All the oldest buildings are haunted, but you already know that. I figured you could kill two birds with one stone. Face down your fear of spirits and get an inside view of some beautiful old buildings.”
“You’ll be with me. I’ll protect you, babe.” Lee kissed her cheek and she responded with a roll of her eyes.
He knew damn well she didn’t need protection. They were cute together. It was nice to see them both happy after the fucked-up shit that had gone down earlier in the year. She’d nearly died trying to save her friend from an underground sex cult. Nothing would ever clear those images from their heads, but they could create new memories—happy Polaroid moments, shining light into the darkest corners of their minds. Not that ghosts would provide particularly happy snaps necessarily, but Ronnie could handle anything that was thrown at her now. She was a badass.
“Your turn.” Ben pushed the box across the table to his mate.
“Did you wrap this?” Lee tried to hide a smirk.
“That’s all my handiwork, mofo. You know I’m good with plaits.”
My eye twitched as Lee fiddled with the ribbons, trying to delicately untie the bow. “Just rip it.”
“Yes! Jesus.” I almost dragged my hands down my face.
He yanked at the paper, tossing bits on the table. “Do you know what you’re gonna call Benny junior?”
“Sebastian.” I answered without thinking.
“Hell, no.” Ben frowned.
“Why not?” I thought we’d discussed this already, but maybe that had all been in my head.
His blue eyes pierced mine. “Sebastians don’t play rugby.”
I wracked my brain trying to remember if there’d been any players named Sebastian. Surely there were. I shook my head. “What if he doesn’t wanna play?”
Ben paused, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he blinked at me.
“Are you going to make him?” I asked.
“No?” It sounded like a question.
I took it as a definitive answer, rubbing my belly. “I’m relieved to hear it.”
“Is Stewart gonna make him play league?” Ben narrowed his eyes.
“Not if he knows what’s good for him.” My brother wouldn’t dare. I’d slap him if he tried to influence my child in any way.
He scoffed. “He has never known what’s good for him. I still can’t believe they let him into the police force.”
I couldn’t get over that one myself.
“Why Sebastian?” Ben frowned.
“I don’t know. I just have a feeling.” The moniker had been rolling around in my thoughts more and more lately. There was something attached to it, tangled strings that needed unknotting. Unfinished business. I’d never known anyone with that name, but it wouldn’t leave me alone. Our son had to be called Sebastian—I knew that much. I just didn’t know why. “It’ll grow on you. Trust me on this one, okay?”
Ben pushed a breath through flared nostrils. “Do I get to pick the middle name?”
“Absolutely ... as long as it’s Ben.” I smiled with all my pearly whites on show.
About the Author:
Author of smart, sexy characters, J.M. Adele loves to flit between the dark and light sides of romance. Somewhere along the way an almost constant procession of imaginary characters settled into her thoughts and she picked up a pen to share their stories.
She lives in Queensland with her three greatest loves, her children. When she’s not writing or being a mum, you might find her hiking up a mountain, singing in the car when nobody is looking, or curled up with a good book.
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