Ending the Game, an all-new forbidden new-adult second book full of heat and heart in The Risks We Take Duet from bestselling author Bella Matthews is available now!
Nobody warned me what it’s like to look back with regret. To be left wondering, What if…?
I’ve never been that guy. The one who questioned his choices. Who didn’t have a purpose.
If I wanted something, I worked harder than everyone else and made it happen.
I had my life planned out until Carys Murphy changed the game.
She was my best friend’s little sister long before she became my stepsister. Loving her was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But not all love stories have happy endings.
With the risks higher than ever, and the flames rising around us, can we find our way back?
Or will we crash and burn?
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When I find room 309, the door is cracked open, so I knock quietly before walking in. What I see is a sucker punch to the gut. Carys is curled up in a recliner, wearing a tank top and sweatpants, with a tiny little baby lying against her chest in nothing but a diaper and a big pink bow. My heart screams mine, while my brain screams run.
Her eyes are closed, and she’s humming a soft song while both the baby and Emerson sleep.
When I close the door behind me, Carys’s eyes slowly open, and a tender smile spreads across her gorgeous face. Every ounce of hurt I hold over this woman washes away in an instant, and I want nothing more than to wrap her in my arms. But that can’t happen now.
“Hey,” she whispers.
I take a step closer and stare in wonder at the tiny baby. “Hey. How are you doing?” I ask just as quietly.
“Well,” she whispers, smiling, and my entire body relaxes. “I’m not the one who gave birth, so I’m doing pretty well. A little tired.” She shrugs. “And my hand may never quite heal from the insane hold Em had on it last night, but . . .” She angles herself to give me a better view of the sleeping baby. “Little Miss Elodie was worth it.”
“She’s beautiful.” I trace a finger gently along her tiny arm, and her fingers spread wide open, startled. “She looks like Linc,” I whisper in awe.
“Wait until she opens her eyes. They’re all Emerson. But everything else is all her daddy.” Sadness creeps into her voice as she adjusts Elodie and stands from the chair. “Do you want to hold her?”
I shake my head. “I don’t want to break her.”
Carys laughs at me. “You won’t break her, Coop. Sit down, and I’ll lay her in your arms.”
I hesitate for a moment before sitting down and then hold still as Carys carefully transfers a sleeping Elodie into my arms. The baby roots around for a minute until she gets comfortable, then yawns so big, I half expect her jaw to come unhinged. Her warm skin is soft under my hand, and for a moment, I forget about the shitstorm currently surrounding us.
Forget that I’m furious with the woman in front of me.
Forget that Linc isn’t about to walk through that door and hold his daughter.
But that peace is short-lived.
Carys takes a step back and covers her mouth with her hands. “You look really good holding a baby, Cooper.” Pain laces her voice, and the vise around my heart tightens.
“I never cared about that, Carys. We could have adopted. We could have fostered. We could have used a surrogate.” She closes her eyes, but I don’t stop, making sure to keep my voice calm and quiet so I don’t wake Elodie or Emerson. “We could have had as many years together as we wanted before we had to figure it out. But we would have figured it out together because I loved you.”
She gasps just as I realize what I said.
“Loved.” She holds my eyes as tears well in hers. “Past tense.”
“We can’t do this here, Carys. It’s not the—”
“No,” she cuts me off. “You wouldn’t talk to me at the hospital. You wouldn’t even look at me yesterday. Don’t tell me now’s not the time, unless you’re ready to tell me when that time will be. I need to talk to you, Cooper. I still love you. I always have, and I always will. I shouldn’t have taken away your choice when I did. I was so wrong to end things. You have to believe me.”
Her words loosen the tightness I’ve been holding onto for a month, but there’s nothing I can do about them now. “Believing you isn’t the issue, Carys. Trusting you . . . That’s a different story.” Saying the words feels wrong, but if I want to keep her safe, I need to keep her at a distance while we figure this shit out.
Carys flinches and steps back as if I physically hurt her. She runs her hands through her hair and turns away for a moment. When she turns back, a determined glint dances in her green eyes. “You can be as angry as you want, Cooper Sinclair, but I love you, and I know you love me too. So be pissed. Be hurt. Be as mean to me as you want. I’m not going anywhere this time. I’m not making that mistake again.”
The spark I love in this woman is firing in a million vibrant colors as she fights for us.
I just wish she’d have done it sooner.
Bella Matthews is a Jersey girl at heart. She is married to her very own Alpha Male and raising three little ones. You can typically find her running from one sporting event to another. When she is home, she is usually hiding in her home office with the only other female in her house, her rescue dog Tinker Bell by her side. She likes to write swoon-worthy heroes and sassy, smart heroines with a healthy dose of laughter thrown in.