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Tough, dry-witted, and intelligent, Ming has worked her whole life to be a successful lawyer, great friend, and dutiful daughter. Her focus has been on her career, but now she's thirty-five, and the last of her friends to be single. Ming knows what she needs... A man who communicates, who won't be intimidated by her position, a partner. She knows this, but all she wants is him...After working side by side with his brother, Brock for years, Brady has followed his dream and become a police officer. Protecting and serving comes naturally to him, it's what he was born to do, which is why he doesn't know what to do with a woman who doesn't need his strength and protection.For 7 Months, Ming has accepted what Brady had to offer, secret nights of passion with no hope of a relationship,. But feelings have developed, and now she wants more. When Brady doesn't want things to change, Ming has to decide if being with the man she loves is worth sacrificing everything she wants.
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7 Months - Beta Copy
Copyright 2016 Bethany Lopez
Published Mar 2016
Cover Design by Makeready Designs
Editing by Red Road Editing / Kristina Circelli
Ebook Formatting by White Hot Formatting
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please don’t participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is also available in print at most online retailers.
Created with Vellum
1. Chapter One ~ Brady
2. Chapter Two ~ Ming
3. Chapter Three ~ Brady
4. Chapter Four ~ Ming
5. Chapter Six ~ Ming
6. Chapter Seven ~ Brady
7. Chapter Eight ~ Ming
8. Chapter Nine ~ Brady
9. Chapter Ten ~ Ming
10. Chapter Eleven ~ Brady
11. Chapter Twelve ~ Ming
12. Chapter Thirteen ~ Brady
13. Chapter Fourteen ~ Ming
14. Chapter Fifteen ~ Brady
15. Chapter Sixteen ~ Ming
16. Chapter Seventeen ~ Brady
17. Chapter Eighteen ~ Ming
18. Chapter Nineteen ~ Brady
19. Chapter Twenty ~ Ming
20. Chapter Twenty-One ~ Brady
21. Chapter Twenty-Two ~ Ming
22. Chapter Twenty-Three ~ Brady
23. Chapter Twenty-Four ~ Ming
24. Chapter Twenty-Five ~ Brady
25. Chapter Twenty-Six ~ Ming
26. Chapter Twenty-Seven ~ Brady
27. Chapter Twenty-Eight ~ Ming
28. Chapter Twenty-Nine ~ Brady
29. Chapter Thirty ~ Ming
30. Chapter Thirty-One ~ Brady
31. Chapter Thirty-Two ~ Ming
32. Chapter Thirty-Three ~ Brady
33. Chapter Thirty-Four ~ Ming
34. Chapter Thirty-Five ~ Brady
35. Chapter Thirty-Six ~ Ming
36. Chapter Thirty-Seven ~ Brady
37. Chapter Thirty-Eight ~ Ming
38. Epilogue ~ Brady
About the Author
Also by Bethany Lopez
Girls were screaming, shouting, calling out our names, but I blocked it all out. Instead, I focused on the music, on my drums, and tuned them out. I’d gotten good at it over the years, blocking out the women, ignoring the groupies… they weren’t the reason I played, I played for my brothers.
Truth be told, I’d much rather play with them in my garage, or Brock’s back patio, than in the bars we’d been playing for years. I loved the music, and what it felt like to share creatively with my brothers, but I could care less about the rest of it.
I didn’t want fame, or the limelight, and I certainly didn’t want the adoration of a woman who knew nothing about me other than that I rocked out on stage. I’d always left that to my youngest brother, Brendan, our lead singer and front man.
Brendan had always loved the spotlight, lived for it even, but now he was married and happy to go home every night to his pregnant wife.
And, Brock, our oldest brother, well, he was married with two kids at home.
Which meant, unfortunately, that I was now an even bigger target for the fans of Whiskey Heat.
The lone single brother. The only member of the band they had any chance of going home with… which was laughable, since I’d never taken a woman home after a set. I never even stayed to bask in their adoration. I always left alone, so they should know they had no chance of catching this fish… which only seemed to make me more desirable.
“Are you kidding me?” Brendan had joked before the show. “You’re tall, dark and brooding. You never pick up the panties they throw at you, and you ignore the cleavage they offer… you’re a challenge. You glowering at them from behind your kit, then leaving every night without a backwards glance, is half the reason why these women come to our shows. They get off on that shit.”
“Shut up,” had been my response, but my brothers had both just grinned at me.
I glared out at the crowd as Brendan introduced the next song, and I noticed Natalie was serving Bronagh, Brendan’s wife, and her friends Ming and Cass. I watched as she maneuvered through the throng of women, head slightly down as she averted her eyes, trying to disappear right in the middle of everyone.
Nat had been going through a rough time. She’d finally left her verbally abusive husband and was trying to get a divorce. It was difficult, because Zeke, her husband, had gone off the grid. Totally disappeared. It was hard to divorce someone you couldn’t find. I’d only spoken to her about it a couple of times, but my partner and I were keeping our eyes peeled and ears to the ground. We’d find that asshole eventually.
My head swiveled back and I caught Ming’s eye right as the song began to start and I closed my eyes.
I knew she’d seen me looking after Nat.
Ming didn’t miss a beat.
Intelligent, observant, and highly attuned to everything around her, Ming was Bronagh’s best friend and a damn good lawyer.
She’d had a crush on me since we’d met over a year ago. The way she watched me, as if I were a wild animal that she wanted to tame, had been strange at first, but I’d gotten used to it. Ming wasn’t my type, and I wasn’t hers, and we’d never had a serious conversation about anything, still, there was no denying that she was a very attractive woman, and I found her interest in me very flattering.
As the music consumed me and the drumsticks flew over my skins as if they controlled themselves, I thought back seven months to the night of my graduation party at Brendan and Bronagh’s.
I’d successfully graduated from the police academy and was feeling proud and a little nervous about what was to come. Brendan had invited everyone. All of the friends and people from the bar, people Brock and I had worked with at O’Malley Brother’s, which meant I was really uncomfortable.
Being in large groups wasn’t my scene. I’d go to the parties and barbecues, but I usually separated myself from the crowd and didn’t stay long. I knew my brother’s were close with Cal, Shelly, TJ, Sasha, Scott, and Gaby, but I wasn’t.
I mean, TJ was my boy… he was a talented mechanic and had restored my 1966 Chevelle Malibu. Plus, he was a funny dude. Sasha, his wife, was cool too, and I didn’t mind Cal and Shelly, although I didn’t know them all that well. But, Scott and Gaby? I never said it out loud, but could admit to myself that I’d never forgiven them for the way they’d screwed over Brock.
Yes, it had been a few years ago, and yes, Brock and Victoria were happy with two kids of their own, and I wouldn’t trade Tori and the kids in for anything. But, Gaby and Scott had cheated when Brock was with Gaby, and I couldn’t forget that betrayal.
So, suffice it to say I’d been uncomfortable at my own party and just biding my time until I could slip out the back.
I’d been about to do just that when Ming had found me in the kitchen.
“Congratulations,” she’d said softly. I’d never heard her speak softly before. Ming usually spoke in sharp tones with sarcasm, or dryly. I hadn’t been around her much, but I knew she was the strong one in her group, and that she didn’t suffer fools.
She was a no nonsense kind of woman. Both of my sisters-in-law were strong women and I loved them unconditionally, but that was not the kind of woman I went for. I was more of a provider, a protector… I didn’t want a woman to wear the pants, so to speak.
I needed a woman more like Nat, someone I could help. Someone who would need me and appreciate what I had to offer.
Still, I went home with Ming that night, and we’d been having sex ever since.
For seven months.
We met a few times a week. We didn’t date. She’d never been to my house, and no one knew about us.
It was just sex.
Primal. Raw. Unbelievable.
I felt the pain slash through my heart as Brady closed his eyes and lost himself in the music.
I’d seen him watching Natalie. He was always watching Natalie.
I got it, I did… He was the kind of guy who needed someone to save. He was drawn to vulnerability, and liked feeling needed, and Natalie was married to a douchebag who liked to use her as his verbal punching bag. I didn’t blame Natalie… I didn’t even blame Brady.
He’d always been a hundred percent up front about what we shared. He wasn’t a player, a jerk, or a liar.
It wasn’t his fault that I was in love with him. That I’d been in love with him for the past seven months. He didn’t even know, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him, or anyone for that matter. If I did, he might end what we did have… He’d want to protect me from the pain he’d inevitably cause, the pain he’d unintentionally been causing me for the past seven months.
Every time he left.
Every time we we didn’t talk, didn’t share, didn’t learn more about each other.
Every time I saw him looking at her…
It was like a knife to the gut, but it was better than the alternative.
I’d rather have Brady in my bed, in secret, than not have him at all.
Did I want more? Absolutely. Was I going to try and push him into something that I knew he didn’t want? Hell no!
So, I ignored the pain and watched Whiskey Heat, enjoying the music and spending time with my friends. I knew he’d be warming my bed later that night, and I’d continue trying to convince myself that it was enough.
“You okay?” Bronagh shouted over the sound of her husband’s voice.
I turned to my friend, plastering on the same smile I’d been giving her for the last seven months. I hated lying to her, and to Cass, but I knew they’d try and talk me out of what I was doing… having a non-relationship with Bronagh’s brother-in-law, who kept to himself and liked it that way.
They’d tell me that I deserved more, deserved better. That I should be with someone who wanted a relationship, a future with me. The same things that my parent’s had been drilling in my head since I’d graduated Law School.
The thing was, I didn’t want anyone else. I wanted Brady, I had since the moment I saw him, and if I had to keep my non-relationship with him a secret from my friends, well, I was willing to do so.
“Yeah, I’m good. Just working a tough case right now,” I answered, telling half of the truth.
“You work too hard,” she replied, and I watched as her hands moved gently over her swollen belly. “I’m glad you were able to break away tonight. I’ve missed you.”
I placed my hand over hers on her stomach and smiled warmly at my best friend.
“I’ve missed you too. I’ll do better,” I promised.
Bronagh had wanted children for as long as I could remember, and I was so happy that she and Brendan were pregnant. I needed to make more of an effort to share this time with her, but I’d been so wrapped up with work and Brady, that I hadn’t made much time for my friends.
“Brady’s on fire tonight,” Cass yelled as she danced, her arms above her head.
My eyes were drawn back to the stage, back to Brady as he played his solo.
God, he was so freakinghot!
Dark hair and tanned skin, his coloring favoring his mother’s Mexican heritage rather than his father’s Irish, eyes closed as he let the music flow from him. He was tall, built, and sexy as hell.
He’d always been fine, but after his time in the Police Academy and the subsequent months on the force, Brady was ripped.
“Can I get you ladies anything else?”
I tore my eyes from Brady to see Natalie standing next to our table, her tray full of empty glasses and bottles.
Natalie was beautiful in a fragile sort of way. Her hair was black, like mine, but she’d recently cut it all off into a cute pixie cut, which only made her sad eyes seem to take up more of her face. She always seemed to be poised to bolt, and kept her head down and shoulders hunched. I felt sorry for her, even though I was jealous of her.
Not of her life, her job, or her circumstances, of course, no, I was jealous of the way Brady looked at her. Like she was a delicate flower, whose petals could fall at any moment.
He never looked at me that way.
I knew he found me attractive. And the way he looked when he was turned on had kept me fully satisfied on my nights away from him. But the way he looked at her, like she was something to be cherished?
I’d kill to see it aimed at me.
Shaking my head, I tipped my lips up and answered, “No, thanks.”
Natalie lifted her head slightly in response, those big eyes seeming to look in my soul, then she turned and moved through the crowd.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Bronagh said with a shrug. She seriously peed every five minutes, so we were used to her constant trips to the restroom.
Once we were alone, Cass leaned in to me and said, “Can you get together next week to start talking baby shower?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” I replied, mentally looking through my schedule to see where I could fit it in. “Wednesday at lunch?”
“Yeah, I can do that,” Cass responded, then put her fingers to her lips and let out a shrill whistle when Brendan thanked the crowd for coming out tonight. When she was done she turned her head to me and asked, “You going home, or do you want to hit up a club?”
I looked to the stage to see Brady walking off and heading toward the back door.
“No, I’d better get home and turn in, I’ve got to get up early for work,” I lied, knowing full well I wanted to hurry home so that I was there when Brady came over.
Maybe it made me weak, sad, and girly, but I lived for the sound of his fist hitting my door.
I could tear a man apart on the stand, and loved the thrill of a good debate, but Brady O’Malley made me feel like a teenaged girl again, all giddy and excited… And at the same time, all he had to do was look at me with those dark brooding eyes of his, and my body lit on fire.
Being in a non-relationship with a man I loved who only wanted me for sex may be a bad thing, but being bad had never felt so damn good.
I was in my Chevelle, about to head over to Ming’s house when my phone went off.
“O’Malley,” I said as I pressed accept.
“Hey, Irish, sorry to interrupt your concert, but Smitty says they need us down at the station,” My partner, Tyler Dubois, said when I answered.
“Uniform?” I asked, wondering if I needed to go back home and change?
“Nah, it’s just a meeting.”
“Got it,” I replied, then pressed end as I turned my car toward the station.
Tyler “Doobie” Dubois and I had been in the Police Academy and Field Training together, and were now partners. We were still pretty green, but luckily we weren’t in a big city and hadn’t come across anything we couldn’t handle yet.
We’d had a lot of firsts already. First drunk wagon, patrol, arrest, crime report, field interview. The hardest so far had been a DUI, and everything seemed to require paperwork. Tons of paperwork. Thankfully, the paperwork didn’t bother me that much. Unfortunately, Doobie hated it, so I was often expected to do it all. That’s okay. He was good at communicating with people, while I wasn’t, so things evened out.
We made a pretty good team.
He talked a lot, but as long as he did his job and had my back, I could ignore his constant rambling.
When I parked behind the station, I shot Ming a text before heading inside.
Got called in to work. Won’t be by tonight.
I rushed inside, wondering what the late night meeting was about, while hoping I wasn’t the last one to arrive. I hated being late. Even if it was a last minute thing I’d just heard about, I still hated feeling like I was running behind anyone else. I’d come in to this job later in life, and I think that made me appreciate it more.
I’d chosen this job, after years of working with Brock at his painting business, it had taken everything I had in me to follow this dream. Knowing I’d be disappointing Brock killed me, but this was something I had to do for myself. So I wanted to be the best at it that I could be. Give it my all and do everything above board and by the book.
I wasn’t going to fuck this up.
“There he is,” I heard Doobie shout out as I rounded the corner into the briefing room.
I stopped in my tracks when I saw the room filled with everyone who worked at the station. There was a two-layer cake, some poorly wrapped presents, and a large balloon that said “Suck me” tied to a chair at the head of the table.
“What the hell’s this?” I asked, my eyes narrowed as I took it all in.
“Happy Birthday, Irish,” my old Field Training Officer, Smitty, said, his voice deep and gravely.
“It’s your first one with us here at DPD, and we had to celebrate in style,” Marsha, the Dispatcher said.
I looked at the clock on the wall, which read 12:04, then back at my co-workers as I tried to hide my shock.
“Nice threads,” Doobie said with a grin as he took in my well-worn jeans and sleeveless Whiskey Heat t-shirt. “Sorry to drag you away from all the ladies. You can go get laid after we have cake and hit the bar for some brewskies.”
“How old are you now? Twenty-five?” Smitty asked.
“Twenty-eight,” I replied, shutting my mouth tightly as I walked around to the chair they were all urging me toward.
I felt emotion rising within me, but fought it back the best I could.
As they all sang, I thought back to my birthday’s when I was little, and the way my parent’s always made a big deal out ‘em. For me, Brock and Brendan, there’d always be a special breakfast, our favorite dinner, and homemade cake. After they died, Brock kept those traditions alive and always did what he could to make our birthday’s special. Now, we always got together with everyone and celebrated with our now extended family.
But this… a group of people that I didn’t know just over a year ago, coming together in the middle of the night to do something special for me, a rookie cop? I felt something I’d never felt before. A sense of comradery. A feeling of acceptance and family that had nothing to do with blood or marriage, and everything to do with group of strangers who worked together toward the same goals, for the same purpose.
I choked down the emotion and worked to keep my expression bland, but as I made my wish and blew out the candles, I gave them all a tight smile and said, “Thanks.”
“Jeez, Irish, turn off the waterworks, you’re embarrassing us,” Doobie teased. Teasing was his specialty. Along with talking, joking, and goofing off. “Now slice up that cake so we can go out and get hammered.”
I chuckled as I cut up thick slices and put them on the blue paper plates, then I sat down and took a bite.
German Chocolate. My favorite.
“This is great,” I said, meaning it as I finished my piece in three more bites.
“Marsha made it,” Smitty said, and I turned to say thanks to the older woman, who was smiling broadly, a slight blush to her cheeks.
Marsha looked like what you would think of when you heard the word Grandma, but she’d never been married or had any kids. She often said the boys at the station were her kids, and had been working in her position as dispatcher for the last forty years.
“Thanks, Marsha, it’s delicious,” I said, lifting my chin as I licked my fork.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, then looked around at all of the empty plates and added, “Now, off with the lot of you. I need to go home and get some beauty sleep.”
Everyone rose and did what Marsha said, clearing their plates as they left, not wanting to incur her wrath if a mess was left behind.
“Who’s up for a beer?” Doobie asked, and when everyone made noises of agreement, I felt warmth spread through me. “C’mon, birthday boy, you can leave your baby behind and ride with me. I’ll be your DD tonight.”
“Thanks, Ty,” I replied, even though I knew I wouldn’t have too many drinks tonight. I was on shift tomorrow and then had my birthday dinner at Brock and Victoria’s tomorrow night.
“Anytime, partner,” he said, and the warmth settled in my gut.
To say I’d been disappointed when Brady texted me that he wasn’t coming over last night, would be an understatement, but, unfortunately, I was used to it.
At least I’d gotten a good nights sleep and had made it in to work extra early. I was making great headway on my current case, and was hopeful that this would be the one that secured me a position as partner in my firm.
I was one of, if not the, best prosecutor’s in town. I knew it, my peers new it, and the partners new it, and I was ready to finally achieve a goal that had been set for me by my parents since I was old enough to say the word lawyer.
“I’m running out to grab a quick bite,” I told my assistant, checking the clock as I pushed through the double doors and waited for the elevator.
It was Brady’s birthday, and even though our relationship wasn’t the type where we celebrated milestones or even exchanged Christmas presents, I’d seen the perfect gift in town and just had to get it for him.
Bronagh had invited me to his birthday party at Brocks. I was lucky to have been brought into their family, along with Bronagh, when she and Brendan got together, so I was always invited to all of their family gatherings.
I couldn’t deny that it stung when Brady didn’t invite me. It didn’t surprise me, but it did make me feel less than welcome, since it was his day they were celebrating. So, I told myself that I’d stop in, wish him Happy Birthday and say hello to everyone, then make my excuses to leave.
If Brady actually wanted me there, I assumed he’d say something, and I didn’t want to crash his party. But since I also didn’t want to be rude to my friends, I’d take the gift. I did want to see him on his birthday after all.
After picking up his present, I grabbed a sandwich then headed back to the office and once again submersed myself in work.
A throat clearing in my doorway had me looking up from my notes. One of my co-workers, Christian, was leaning against the doorjamb, his hands in the pockets of his expensive suit.
“Ah… A couple of us were going to go out for drinks later. Thought I’d see if you wanted to come along,” he said, looking uncharacteristically nervous.
I took in his perfectly styled hair and well-toned body, and thought how pleased my parents would be if I brought a man like him home. Of course, they’d like it more if he were Japanese, but liked to think of themselves as progressive parents. Christian had the looks, the style, the successful white collar job, and was probably a couple years older than me.
The total package.
“Thanks,” I replied with a small smile and shake of my head. “I have a party to attend for a friend, then I’ve got some more work to do.”
Christian tried to hide his disappointment, but I saw it flash across his features. He’d been inviting me out for a few weeks now, and I’d always made excuses for why I couldn’t go. As he nodded and turned to leave, I wondered if I was making a mistake not accepting his offer.
He was someone that I not only had a lot in common with, but a man who was obviously interested in getting to know mebetter.
Even as the thought flitted through my head, I shook it out. I wasn’t ready to give up what I had with Brady yet, even if it was purely sexual.
I was so caught up in what I was doing, that I was surprised to look up and see it was already after six in the evening. I left my paperwork sprawled out where it was, eager not to move anything I needed when I was in such a good groove and grabbed Brady’s present before locking my office behind me.
Our floor was quieter than usual, with most of the staff already gone for the day, but I could still see lights burning in a few of the offices of level 1 and level 2 lawyers, associates and partners. More than likely, most of them would still be burning when I returned later that night.
Being a lawyer was definitely not a nine to five job, you had to do it because you loved it or you’d get burnt out fast.
I noted all the usual cars as I parked outside of Brock and Victoria’s Spanish-style home. Brady’s car wasn’t there, but he lived just down the street, so he probably walked. No, I’d never been invited to his house, but that didn’t mean I’d never driven by and seen if from the outside. Not in a stalkery way, of course, but I passed it on my way out of the neighborhood. Simply logistics.
At least that’s what I’d told myself…
I knocked on the door, then laughed as the door swung open and Brendan threw his arms around me.
“How’s my second wife doing?” he joked as he pulled me into the house. “Ready to move in with me and Bronagh and become her sister-wife yet?”
When I started laughing he added, “You know, with the baby coming and all, we could really use the help.”
I slapped his chest playfully as Bronagh came up and wrapped her arm around his
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