This is a short featuring Emmie from The Rocker… Series and is UNEDITED.

 

It should NOT be read unless you have already read HOLDING MIA to avoid spoilers.

 

Nik shifted in bed, turning onto his stomach. The covers fell down his bare back, showing off the ink that took up most of it and the top of his firm ass. Even at fifty he kept his body in amazing shape, something he had to do since he was in the public eye so damn much. But I definitely enjoyed the rewards of seeing my delicious husband naked …….

Nik shifted in bed, turning onto his stomach. The covers fell down his bare back, showing off the ink that took up most of it and the top of his firm ass. Even at fifty he kept his body in amazing shape, something he had to do since he was in the public eye so damn much. But I definitely enjoyed the rewards of seeing my delicious husband naked.
I licked my lips, seriously contemplating climbing back into that bed with him and waking him up.
But if I did that, then I knew I wouldn’t leave the hotel room for anything other than to meet Mia for dinner later. It also meant I wouldn’t be going to the bar alone.
And I needed to do this alone.
If I waited and Nik went with me, I would chicken out. Fuck, I might chicken out anyway, but at least if I was by myself I could shed a few tears without driving my husband insane with the sight of me crying.
Taking one last lingering look at Nik, I grabbed my phone and a key card before walking to the door and quietly leaving the hotel room.
Downstairs I handed over my ticket for my rental to the valet attendant and stood back to wait for it to arrive, sorting through the dozens of emails already waiting for my attention even though I’d cleared the inbox only an hour before. There was never a free moment in my busy day.
It felt weird standing there all on my own. Anymore, I was never alone. It was either Nik or one of the bodyguards with me. It had taken some getting used to having Rodger and Marcus around so much, but in the long run I’d come to appreciate them at my side.
One didn’t get as far in the world as I have and not make a few dozen enemies along the way. And after that bullshit with Helena all those years ago, I was more than a little cautious when it came to my safety. Letting Mia come all the way to Virginia all on her own had given me nightmares, so I understood why Nik had done what he’d done with hiring Barrick and his two cousins to shadow our daughter.
Didn’t mean I was happy about it though. For the week she’d been heartbroken, I’d contemplated strangling my husband. When one of our kids was hurting, and there was nothing I could do to fix the situation, all my Momma Bear instincts commanded me to destroy the things that were causing them pain.
Thankfully, Mia was getting over the whole thing. For the most part, at least. She was back with her Barrick and she’d actually hugged her dad the other night at her birthday dinner. I was going to call that progress, since she’d asked me if I even needed to bring him to that same dinner only a few days before it took place.
But I couldn’t worry about my baby girl and her Demon daddy at the moment. What happened with them, happened. Just as I understood Nik’s need to protect her, I understood her inability to completely forgive him for his part in breaking her heart. Barrick should have told her what was going on, but Nik was the one most at fault in this whole shit show. He only had himself to blame for putting this rift in their once close father-daughter relationship.
No, I had my own father to handle at the moment.
The SUV was parked in front of me and I exchanged the keys for a tip to the college aged guy who gave me a quick salute in thanks before running off to collect the vehicle for the couple who had just come out behind me. I got into the driver’s seat and pulled up the GPS then opened my phone so I could punch in the address for Jameson’s.
My stomach tensed seeing my maiden name on my screen then the address of the bar the man who was supposedly my father owned.
I hadn’t thought about the name Eddie Jameson since I was a kid, but when Mia said his name the other night and it had been haunting me ever since. Then at dinner the night of her birthday, she dropped the bombshell I had instinctively known was coming.
She’d met her grandfather.
Those words had sounded so alien coming from her lips. She’d never had a grandparent. The only thing she even had close to resembling one was maybe Cole Steel, and the guy was too much of a hardcore rocker ninety percent of the time to act much like a grandfather to his own grandkids, let alone any honorary ones.
We were a close family, so my kids had never seemed to have missed out on what some of their friends had when it came to being spoiled by grandparents. There were so many aunts and uncles, that both Mia and Jagger got all the spoiling they could possibly want from them all.
So it wasn’t like Mia had gone out searching for a grandfather. He’d just fallen into her life.
Fate.
That was what had brought her and Barrick together. Just as it was what had made her fall into Eddie Jameson’s life.
And now I had to decide if I wanted him in mine.
Instinct told me to run, and take Mia with me. Parental love was something I’d never experienced firsthand. And if it ever had been, it was something that I couldn’t remember having. Fuck knew my mom had never cared about anything but getting high. That and trying to break me, make me cry, showing her that she had the power to tear me apart.
I’d rarely given her that satisfaction. There was only so much physical pain a child could take before they began to shut it all down. After a while, her beatings didn’t even faze me. Her words rolled off my back unable to penetrate the thick skin she had forced me to adapt to.
For that I guess I should have been thankful. She’d given me the ability to face any situation head first without flinching when it came to business.
In my personally life, however, the least little change had always scared the absolute fuck out of me.
Having my father tossed into the middle of a conversation, a man I’d completely forgotten about, then realizing he was very much alive and living in the same town my daughter went to college was enough to make me shut down completely before I had a full on panic attack.
Fuck, but if all my enemies could see me now, they would laugh at just how weak I was behind the mask I put on. At the scared little kitten I really was, instead of the fire-breathing dragon most of my clients called me behind my back. I always laughed at that nickname, and relished it. But if they could have seen me in that moment, fighting not to cry as I drove through town, they would have dropped over dead in shock.
All too soon I was parking in front of the bar. It was early afternoon, way too early for the bar to be busy. Yet there were still a few other vehicles in the parking lot already. The OPEN sign was on and I could hear faint music playing from inside.
I sat there, just looking at the building and flashing signs, telling myself I didn’t have to go in there if I didn’t want to. But the truth was, I did want to. I wanted to know what Eddie Jameson looked like. I wanted to know what his voice sounded like. I wanted a memory of the man who I shared DNA with, because I didn’t have any from when I was a kid other than my mom bitching at me that I was just like him.
From the report I’d gotten that morning from Seller, I knew Jameson’s was the most successful bar in this college town, as it had been for decades. Eddie Jameson wasn’t hurting for money, not by a long shot, so I knew he wouldn’t be asking me for a loan or any other handout if I introduced myself to him.
I also knew he didn’t have a girlfriend, and hadn’t married again after his divorce to my mom was finalized. As far as Charles Seller could find, I had no siblings or even a cousin, not even an uncle or an aunt. He was all alone. Eddie paid his taxes on time every year, donated to a local women’s shelter and bought presents for all the kids in a few of the underprivileged parts of town.
All of them. Not one single kid in those neighborhoods went without.
When I read that in Seller’s report, I might have had to blink back tears. Not that I was ever going to admit that out loud. But knowing that the man who was my father seemed to be one of the good guys…
It only made me want to meet him that much more.
Or at least see what he looked like.
Gathering my courage, I opened the driver’s door and stepped out. The wind held a chill to it, blowing the ends of my ponytail over my shoulder, and I put my hands in my jacket pockets as I walked to the front door, glad to have a reason to hide the fact that my fingers were trembling.
Stepping inside, the first thing I saw was the bouncer sitting on a stool behind a podium. “No cover this early, lady,” he said after giving me a quick once over. “Just need to see your ID to make sure you’re legal to drink.”
“I’m not drinking,” I informed him, not wanting to show him my driver’s license. I didn’t want him to see who I was then cash in by calling the paps. It wasn’t so much that I worried about having to deal with those fuckers, but I didn’t want them snooping around this town and finding out Mia was a student living in the area. She wouldn’t get any peace.
Not that I would have drank anyway. Other than the occasional glass of wine, I rarely drank. After seeing how alcohol could control a person, I didn’t have much of an urge to drink away my problems.
His brows furrowed, and he gave me a look that asked, “what the fuck you doing in a bar then, woman?” and I felt my lips twitch with a ghost of a grin as I took the stamp on the back of my hand he insisted I needed.
Not wanting to cause a scene, I let him do his job and then walked further into the bar. It was a big place, two floors, a dance floor, and enough seats to fit at least three hundred people comfortably. There were maybe ten people in the place now, including the man standing behind the bar pouring a mug of draft for the three suits in front of him.
The three men were laughing, from what I could hear of their conversation, telling dirty jokes. I doubted any punchlines they thought were funny and crude were ones I hadn’t already heard. In my line of work, I had to deal with all kinds of shit out of guys’ mouths. But most of them knew I could toss it right back, twice as dirty.
My attention was on the bartender, not them, and I saw the way his eyes crinkled ever so slighting as he tried to grin at them, but I could tell his heart just wasn’t in it. As if his mind was a hundred miles away and he was just going through the motions on autopilot.
I walked up to the bar several seats down from the three suits. The sound of the stool scooting back caught all four men’s attention, but I calmly sat, placing my phone face down on the bartop before sitting back and crossing my legs.
My eyes were on Eddie, and I saw the moment recognition hit him. His throat bobbed and he practically threw the mug in one of the suit’s direction before walking away. As he approached, I took in every feature, every minute detail of his appearance.
He wore jeans and a shirt with his bar’s logo on the upper left side. His hair was just as red as mine, only streaked liberally with red, and there was no denying I’d gotten my eyes from him. They were just as big, just as green, but I could see the jaded memories of his past flashing in them the closer he got.
He was taller than me, his face weathered by time and experience, his beard more gray than red and neatly trimmed. But it was his voice that had me fighting the iron hold I tried to enforce on my tears. I remembered that voice if nothing else.
“My Emmie girl.” He said it reverently, as if he’d ached for this one moment in time. To just say my name as he looked into my eyes.
I swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump from my throat so I could speak without seeming like the weak little girl who missed her daddy. “You must be Eddie.”
Sadness filled his eyes, but his lips titled in a half smile. “The one and only, sweetheart.” He placed his forearms on the bar top between us and leaned forward. “What can I get you to drink?”
“Just water,” I murmured, still taking in every single inch of his face, memorizing this first sight of him.
“Give the lady a glass of your best wine, Eddie,” one of the suits called over. “Put it on my tab.”
My eyes didn’t even flicker in the suit’s direction. “No, thank you. Just the water.”
I heard his friends snicker, laughing at him for getting shot down so quickly. Inwardly, I cringed, hoping that didn’t become a problem. It had been years since I’d had to deal with someone on my own. Either Nik or one of the guards were always at my side, so I hadn’t had to deal with unwanted male attention since before I got married. And even before then, Nik or one of my other Demons made sure no one ever got close.
Outwardly, I didn’t even blink when the suit told Eddie that anything I wanted, he was buying. My face remained cool, impassive as I turned my green eyes on him while Eddie set my glass of water in front of me. “I said no thanks. I can pay for my own drinks.” I didn’t need any man paying my way, not even my husband.
Nik and the guys still made millions of dollars every year even without touring, but I made more money than the four of them combined. I’d come a long way from the little girl who lived in that rundown trailer park, who had holes in her secondhand clothes and ratty old shoes on her feet.
The suit muttered something I didn’t catch, but I could easily imagine it wasn’t flattering. Eddie straightened to his full height, anger rolling off him in waves. “The lady said she doesn’t want your money, pissant. Drink your beer and get the fuck out of my bar.”
Angrily, the suit tossed some cash on the bar top. “Let’s go. Won’t be coming back to this shit hole again, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, good riddance,” Eddie snarled as they walked away. “And just so you know, dickhead. A guy’s cock isn’t supposed to bend the way you keep saying yours does when you brag about all the pussy you get. Pretty sure you should see a doctor about that.”
A laugh escaped me before I could stop myself, and I felt the hate from the suit as he stormed out of the bar with his friends. I was still laughing when Eddie walked around to sit beside me.
“Sorry about those assholes, Emmie girl.” He shook his head, scratching at his beard in disgust.
I waved his apology off. “I’ve dealt with worse than that over the years. In my line of work, I’m sure I have more stories to tell than you do.”
He leaned back, his eyes full of pride as he looked at me. “I bet you do, darlin’.”
I took a slow drink of my water, trying to gather my thoughts, taking my time replacing the glass. “Mia tells me you’ve followed my career.”
If anything the pride in his eyes only doubled. “I have. Every award, every new contract that has made the news. Every accomplishment my little girl has ever made, I made sure I got the magazine article or the newspaper clippings of it.” He sighed heavily. “Scared poor Mia half to death when she saw your picture all over my office in the back.”
“Yeah, well she has reason to be cautious when it comes to possible stalkers.” I shuddered, the memories of nearly losing my little girl not once but twice haunting me.
Eddie caught my hand, his touch warm and firm as he gave my fingers a gentle squeeze. “I followed that too, Emmie girl. Nearly got on a plane and flew out there to California when I heard she was taken. Only thing that stopped me was I could see how shattered you already were and I didn’t want to add more stress to your load.”
Surprising myself, I gave his hand a squeeze in return, taking comfort from his touch. “You were right not to come. I probably wouldn’t have trusted your sudden appearance back then.”
“You never did like surprises,” he said with a sad twist of his lips. “Not even when you were a toddler.”
“Yeah, that hasn’t changed,” I voice I knew and adored said from behind us, and I turned my head, my heart melting at the sight of my baby girl walking toward us.
Mia’s green eyes met mine as she approached. “Somehow I knew you would be here. Where’s Daddy?”
I lifted one shoulder. “Left him in bed back at the hotel.” I glanced behind her, expecting to see Barrick or at the least his cousin Braxton, but she seemed alone. “Where’s the muscle?”
“Working out is my guess,” she said with a shrug of her own. “I skipped a class, so he won’t be looking for me for another hour.”
Her eyes turned to Eddie who was glancing between the two of us like he was watching an interesting sitcom. “What?” I tossed at him.
Laughing, he shook his head. “Sorry, darlin’. I’m just trying to figure out if I’m dreaming this or not. Been wishing for this moment for a damn long time, so it feels surreal to me is all.”
Mia touched his shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “It’s real, Eddie…” Her lips twisted as she trailed off, then blew out a frustrated sigh. “What do I call you now? It seems kind of wrong to call you by your first name. Like if I called Momma, Emmie.”
“You call me whatever you want to, girl,” he told her. “I don’t care as long as you talk to me.”
“We don’t have to figure that out right now,” I murmured, picking up my water again to distract myself from how nervous I was all of a sudden. Mia calling Eddie ‘grandpa’ made this even more real and I needed a timeout from all the sudden changes that were being dropped on me. “I’m sure we have plenty of time to sort out titles and names.”
Mia pulled Eddie into conversation and I sat there listening while I sipped at my water. Soon I was added my own voice to stories that Mia was telling him about her childhood and what a hellion her brother was. I could talk for hours about my children, if it was to the right person, and I felt comfortable talking about them with Eddie. He seemed genuinely interested in their lives, and I didn’t get the vibe that he would take our memories and sell them to the highest bidder in a tell all about the Armstrong family.
Before we realized it, over an hour had passed and Mia’s phone was continually getting blown up with calls and texts from Barrick.
I bit my lip when she finally gave in and answered. “Hey…” Her eyes widened when she met my gaze and I could hear Barrick’s deep voice coming from the other end of the phone.
“Where the fuck are you, firecracker? I’ve torn up this entire building looking for you.”
“I couldn’t concentrate on the class so I skipped it. I’m at Jameson’s with Eddie and Momma…”
“I’m on my way,” he growled, sounding a lot like the Beast he liked to be called in the underground cages he fought in for fun.
“Tell him to pick up your dad on his way,” I told her, seeing I had a few texts from my Demon.
“Stop and get Daddy,” she told him. “We can all hang out a little while before I have to go to work.”
It was weird to think my kid had a job. She shouldn’t be old enough to be in earning a paycheck, yet she was only a year away from being twenty. Fuck, she made me feel old when I thought about just how grown up she was now.
“Okay. I guess I need to get Braxton too. Just…stay with Eddie until I get there. I hate it when you’re not protected.”
I hid my grin behind my drink. He got just as freaked out about her going without a bodyguard as her father was. It warmed my heart how much he obviously loved my girl. I didn’t doubt for a minute that Barrick was going to be my son-in-law one day.
“I’m not helpless, Barrick,” Mia sassed him. “I can cross the street all by myself. I don’t need someone constantly babysitting me.”
“We’ve already had this conversation, firecracker. I don’t want to argue with you about it now.”
“Whatever,” she muttered, a pout already making her bottom lip stick out.
“Baby…” I heard him sigh. “You’re so precious to me. I just worry about you. Please, for me, will you stay with Eddie until I get there?”
“Yeah, okay,” she said, losing the pout. “Drive carefully. I love you.”
“Fuck, baby, I love you too.”
She hung up, a dreamy little smile lifting at her lips and Eddie and I both pretended like we hadn’t just overheard their entire conversation. Over her head our gazes locked and we shared a small grin, both of us happy for the girl who meant the absolute world to me.

***

Over the next few days I spent more time with Eddie, and when it was finally time for Nik and I to return to California, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go. My heart felt heavy as I finished packing my bag and looked around the hotel room to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Nik’s arms wrapped around me from behind, his lips touching my neck, exposed from my ponytail. I shivered, just as I always did whenever his lips touched any part of my body.
“We could stay one more day, if you want to,” he offered, his voice soothing something inside of me. “Jagger is fine staying with Jesse and Layla.”
I blew out a sigh and shook my head. “No, we’ve been here long enough. Mia will get frustrated with us soon. We’re interrupting her schedule, and I don’t want to do that to her. Besides, I have work to do.”
“Okay, baby doll. Whatever you want to do. I just want you to be happy, Em.” He kissed the back of my head and released me. “That’s all I care about.”
I caught his hand, entwining our fingers. “I know, babe. Thank you. That means everything to me. You know that right?”
His ice-blue eyes filled with heat and love. “Yeah, I know.”
We needed to go so we could catch our plane, and not for the first time I was considering buying our own jet like Cole Steel had so I didn’t have to schedule my life around someone else’s takeoff time. But I couldn’t leave without saying one last goodbye to Eddie.
The night before we’d had dinner with Mia and her friends, and said our goodbyes then, but I hadn’t seen Eddie since the afternoon before and it felt wrong to go without seeing him one more time.
With Nik behind the wheel, he stopped out in front of the bar. “Take your time. We can get a later flight if we have to,” he assured me.
“No. This won’t take long.” Leaning over the center console, I brushed my lips over his. “Be right back,” I promised.
“I’ll be right here.”
He’d spent time with Eddie over the last few days too, but he knew I needed to do this on my own, and I loved him even more for knowing when to step back and let me do what I had to on my own and when I needed him to hold on to me a little tighter.
The place was just opening and not even the bouncer was at his usual place when I walked in. Eddie was behind the bar as usual, and I walked straight up to where he was stocking beer in the huge fridge behind him.
“Hi,” I murmured, and he turned, surprised to see me standing there.
“Hey there, Emmie girl. Didn’t hear you come in, darlin’.” Dusting off his hands, he walked around to where I was standing.
“I didn’t want to bother you, but we’re heading to the airport and I… I just wanted to say ‘goodbye’.” Nervously, I clasped my phone in one hand, wishing I had something else to hold on to with the other. Fuck, I hated this anxiousness in the pit of my stomach. It made me feel like a scared little girl all over again and I despised that feeling.
Sadness filled Eddie’s big green eyes. “I’m gonna miss you, Emmie girl,” he muttered in a choked voice.
“I-I’m going to miss you too,” I told him honestly, and blinked back the tears that were suddenly burning my eyes. “But…” I paused and cleared my throat. “But I was hoping you would come out to visit us for the Holidays. I throw this big party at our house Christmas Eve and our entire family is always there. I would really love it if you could join us this year, Eddie. I… You could meet Jagger and my brothers and…” And I was rambling. Shit. I needed to shut up before I started crying or worse. Begged him.
“I would love to,” he said without hesitation before I could embarrass myself. “You tell me when and I’ll be there, darlin’.”
I blinked up at him in surprise. “R-Really?”
A large, wrinkled hand lifted and cupped one side of my face. “Really, Emmie girl. Nothing could possibly stop me from spending Christmas with my baby girl. I love you so much. I always have. All you ever have to do is tell me what you want, what you need, and I’ll make it happen.”
I swallowed back a sob, letting the first tear fall. “All I want is you to come visit me,” I whispered. “And maybe… maybe a hug.”
Before I could even finish the sentence his arms were wrapping around me in a hug so tight it was like being squeezed with a vice for a moment. Quickly he loosened his hold, but continued to hug me and my own arms wrapped around him. “Gonna miss you, Emmie girl,” he said in a rough voice close to my ear.
“I’m going to miss you too…Dad.”

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