Originally published as part of the USA Today bestselling anthology Eye Candy, So Much More is the perfect addition to New York Times bestselling author J. Daniels’ Alabama Summer series!
All four couples from the Alabama Summer series—Ben and Mia, Luke and Tessa, Beth and Reed, and CJ and Riley—come together on Halloween night in this thrilling addition to the series. Between unexpected surprises, haunted mazes, sexy stolen moments, and good old-fashioned trick-or-treating, this Halloween promises shocks, thrills, and happiness for the beloved Alabama Summer crew.
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About the Author
J. Daniels is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sweet Addiction series, the Alabama Summer series, and the Dirty Deeds series. J grew up in Baltimore and resides in Maryland with her family.
Read an Excerpt
"Happy Halloween, Daddy!"
I wince when Nolan — my six-year-old — pounces on top of me, his bony knees digging into my sides and his elbows jamming between my ribs.
"Halloween's tomorrow," I say, peeking an eye open.
Dressed in his Captain America costume, minus the mask, Nolan presses against my chest and sits up tall. "No, it isn't. Mommy said it was today. She showed me on the calendar." Worry pinches his eyebrows together. "It's today. I know it is."
I smile and bend my arm up underneath my head.
"Daddy, are you fibbing?" Nolan leans closer to me and studies my face. "You're fibbing, aren't you?" I squeeze his side until he giggles.
"I knew it! I knew today was Halloween!"
"Are you excited to go trick-or-treating?" I ask.
"Oh yeah!" He pumps his fist into the air. "And to go to the party tonight! I'm gonna get so much candy. Mommy said I can have whatever Chasey can't eat, so that's gonna be a lot. I'm gonna be set for life, I think."
I glance at the empty side of the bed and sit up, yawning and scrubbing my hands down my face. "Where is Mommy?"
"She's in the bathroom with Chasey trying to get him to pee." Nolan shakes his head. "I don't think he's ever gonna stop using diapers, Dad. He's just not getting it like we did."
Laughing, I rustle his dark hair. "He's only two. Give him time. He'll get there."
"I don't know ... Mommy said he's stubborn like you."
"Yep. I heard her. She said it."
Mm. Stubborn, huh? I'll show her stubborn.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Chase yells, running into the bedroom wearing his pajamas.
"Nobody is ready except me," Nolan grumbles.
"We have, like, eight hours, Nolan. Relax."
"That's not a lot of time."
I lean over and pull Chase up onto the bed when he struggles to climb up by himself. "Did you go potty, little man?" I ask against his cheek.
Nolan sighs. "See? I told ya."
"Captain 'Merica!" Chase bends sideways and reaches for his big brother. I let him go, and the two of them giggle and tumble over together onto the bed.
I smile watching them.
They look alike and they don't. It's the dimples that tie them together. And the big gray eyes they both share. Other than that, Nolan looks more like me, and Chase resembles Mia. He has her full lips and milk-chocolate-brown hair. He acts like Mia too. Chase gets quiet when he thinks, where Nolan will tell you every thought that's going through his head as he's thinking it. There isn't anything he won't share with you.
"I gotta poop."
I laugh under my breath, watching Nolan scramble off the bed and run out of the bedroom.
Chase giggles around the thumb stuck in his mouth and looks over at me. "Poop," he mumbles.
"Yeah. He's going potty like a big boy. Are you gonna go potty?"
I grab his ankle and pull him closer to me, biting his belly until he squeals in delight.
"Mom!" Nolan hollers down the hallway. "I gotta get in there! Hurry up!"
Mia says something I can't make out, and then Nolan is running back into the bedroom with the top part of his costume hanging around his waist, mumbling something about Mia taking forever. He darts into the master bathroom and slams the door shut.
The hallway bathroom is the kids' bathroom. They use it. We don't, unless we absolutely have to. Anyone with little boys knows what goes on in their bathrooms. It's like a war zone in there. Nolan's been potty-trained for years, and he still gets distracted when doing his business. If he hears the slightest noise outside that door, he's turning around mid-stream to check it out and pissing all over the place.
So why is Mia using it right now? That doesn't make sense.
I stand from the bed and tug on my sweatpants, staying shirtless for now, then I pick up Chase. "Come on, little man. Let's go get Mommy."
He wraps his hand around my neck and watches me closely as I carry him out into the hallway, blinking those big, round eyes at me while he continues sucking on his thumb. He giggles when I slowly lean in.
Goddamn, I got the cutest kids.
"Mia?" I knock on the bathroom door. "You better not be cleaning in there. You know I'll do that."
Mia does everything else. I think it's only fair I handle the piss accidents.
The door unlocks and swings open, and before I have the chance to say anything else, question what Mia was doing in there, or simply take another breath, she's grabbing my face with both hands, pulling me down, and kissing the shit out of me.
I no longer give one fuck about what she was doing in that bathroom.
Mia shoves her tongue inside my mouth and moans when she feels mine. I grip her soft waist through the shirt of mine she's wearing, and tilt my head when she tilts hers. I tug her against me, groaning. She tastes like coffee and that sweet vanilla creamer she uses. So ... fucking ... good. And I'd keep kissing her. I would — it doesn't even bother me that Chase is watching this happen. I'm sure he's seen it plenty of times before. My boys should be immune to the PDA that goes on in this house. Besides, we're clothed. Mostly. Mia isn't wearing pants, but she's covered. But she seems to get enough and drags her teeth across my bottom lip before finally dropping her arms and pulling away.
"Happy Halloween," she says softly, grinning from ear to ear and looking like a damn temptress doing it.
I adjust my dick. "Jesus. It's starting off good, that's for sure."
Mia giggles and looks at Chase when he reaches for her. "Hi, baby boy," she coos, kissing his hands. "My little stubborn man. Are you ready to go trick-or-treating and get some candy?"
"I'm ready!" Nolan hollers, walking toward us. "We don't need to wait until it's dark outside. I'm pretty sure people are ready for us now."
"We're eating breakfast first, Nolan. No candy before breakfast," Mia says.
"And we'll go when it's dark outside," I tell him. "A lot of people wait to buy candy until the last minute. If you go too early, you'll get what they have laying around, like apples and canned food."
Nolan scrunches up his face. "Like those beans Mommy makes? They really give those out?"
"Gross. Forget it. We'll wait."
"Baby," Mia plucks Chase out of my arms, kisses his cheek, and then sets him on his feet. "Go with Nolan. You boys go ahead downstairs and play. Daddy and I will be down in a second."
I give Mia a look. Quickie?
She blushes, her fingers pressing to her lips, and shakes her head no.
Nolan grabs Chase's hand and tugs him along. "Come on, Chasey. Let's go make some pancakes."
"Nolan, do we need to have another talk about messing with the stove?" I ask.
My son is in a hurry to be a man. He's always doing shit he shouldn't be doing yet.
"I was just kidding!" he yells. "I'm not gonna cook anything."
Arms drawing across my chest, I shake my head and watch my boys disappear down the stairs.
Just kidding my ass.
I know my son. He's one unsupervised meal away from burning the house down.
I turn back to Mia and watch her slowly back away so she's standing inside the bathroom again. She crooks her finger at me.
I cock an eyebrow.
She bites her lip.
I move quickly, grabbing her waist and pressing her up against the sink. She moans when I lick her neck. Her fingertips dig into my shoulders.
"Ben." She's breathless.
Mia gasps when I bite the soft skin above her collarbone. I squeeze her ass until she's standing on her toes and tipping into me, her hip rubbing against my hard cock.
I groan. "Fuck, Mia ..."
We fucked twice last night, but you wouldn't know it. This need — this overwhelming desire to taste and touch and fuck this woman — never goes away. Never lessens in the slightest. It's always there. A plea whispering in my ear. An itch underneath my skin. I need her.
I need this. Us. Always.
She reaches behind her back, and when I hear objects moving I think Mia's clearing a space and giving us room to do this fast and now, right now, and I swear to God, I'm not going to last, but then she's bringing her hand between us and whispering in my ear, "Look," as she presses something hard against my chest.
I lean back enough to see what she's trying to show me. I look at the object in her hand.
I blink again ...
What the fuck?
Her soft laugh lifts my head. She has tears in her eyes and she's nodding and telling me, "Yes," like she knows what I'm going to ask her.
And I do. I need to ask. I need to hear her say it ...
"Are you ... holy fuck, are you sure? Really?" I take the test from her and look at it again, studying the two pink lines in the tiny window. I bring it closer to my face.
Why the fuck can't they make this shit any bigger?
"Ben," Mia giggles, grabbing my face with both hands and forcing me to look at her. "I'm sure. Two lines means I'm pregnant. I'm very pregnant. Look."
She twists sideways and allows me to see the counter behind her. There's another test lying there next to the sink.
"You took two?" I ask, setting the test in my hand down next to the other and studying them both now.
Four lines. Plain as day. Right there.
Holy fuck, this is happening.
"I wanted to be sure," Mia answers, her hand wrapping softly around my arm. "I have more. I've been hiding them in here so you wouldn't know I've been taking them. They're in a bag underneath the sink."
She shrugs when I meet her eyes. "I wanted to surprise you. And I didn't want you worrying if they weren't positive. You know how you get, Ben."
I straighten fully and give her a look, making her smile. "How long have you been taking tests?"
"Not long. Three months. No ..." She tilts her head. "Four. I've been taking them for four months."
What the fuck? How did I not know?
I knew Mia stopped taking her birth control five months ago, the weekend of Reed's wedding. We decided then we wanted more kids. And even though it's not something we talk about every second, it's constantly on my mind.
It's there, in the back of my head, every time we're together.
Did it work? Is this it?
How did I not know she was in here worrying all alone about this for the past four months? Where the fuck have I been?
"Ben." Her hands cup my face again, lifting it.
I look at her, at the one person I would do anything for, no questions.
It wasn't always like this between us. But it's strange — I can't remember all those years I spent hating her when we were kids. It's like she was never my sister Tessa's annoying best friend. She was always my Mia, the way she is now.
My mind goes quiet when her thumb tenderly strokes my cheek.
She's like a drug. Just Mia's touch alone can still me. She calms me down and eases my mind, even when I don't necessarily want her to. Like now. I want her to know how I feel about her being alone in this the past four months, but I don't. I can't. I stare deep into her eyes and ask in a hoarse voice, "Yeah?" When I'm really saying, "Anything. I'll give you anything."
"Hey," she whispers, her thumbs sweeping over my cheeks. "Talk to me. Are you happy?"
I blink. "Yeah. Fuck yeah, I'm happy. Are you kidding?" I grip her waist and pull her closer, feeling her body relax. "Sorry. I'm just thinking about you being in here by yourself taking these. I don't like it."
"Were you sad? Disappointed?"
She shrugs. "I don't know. I guess I was a little disappointed when the tests would come out negative." She links her hands behind my neck. "But I knew we'd get pregnant again eventually. I wasn't worried."
Her brow furrows. "What doesn't matter?"
"You were disappointed, Mia. You were in here alone feeling that. I should've known about it. You don't go through anything without me. Nothing. Not even this."
"But I wanted to surprise you."
I dip my head and get closer to her, explaining, "I would've been surprised standing here staring at that test with you every time you took it. And when it was negative, I would've held you the second you felt anything. I didn't get to do that."
Mia stares up at me, eyes soft and tear-filled. "Fuck. Sorry." She shakes her head, blinking fast. "I'm sorry."
"Fuck?" I chuckle, running my nose along hers. "Yeah? You wanna?"
She bumps her fist against my chest, sniffling, her tears falling past her cheeks. "I messed it up."
"No, you didn't. Hey." I get her eyes again. "We're having a baby. How could you mess that up?"
"We're having a baby," she echoes, smiling up at me as her worry leaves her. "I'm so happy, Ben."
"Me too, angel."
"Do you want to tell the boys with me? I know it's like, really early. I'm probably only a month along, but I really want to tell them. I think Nolan will be excited."
I smile, picturing his face.
"Yeah, we can tell them. In a minute though." I drop down to one knee and lift her shirt to expose her stomach.
She gasps watching me. Mia loved when I did this when she was pregnant with Chase.
I press my lips to her skin, whispering, "Hey" and "We can't wait to meet you." I close my eyes. I can't stop kissing her.
Mia pushes her fingers through my hair. She doesn't rush me. She gives me this, knowing I need it, knowing me, and only suggests we get downstairs before Nolan gets tired of waiting after I stand and pull her into my arms.
"I love you," I say into her hair.
"I love you more."
She tilts her head back, gives me a long, adoring look, and softly kisses me. "Let me love you more today," she requests against my lips. "Just today, Ben. Let me have that. Please?"
I look down at her and brush my thumb along her cheek. "Just today," I tell her, knowing she needs this. Knowing Mia.
I can give her a day.
She smiles and kisses me once more. "I know you're excited and probably want to tell everyone the second we get to McGill's tonight, but let me talk to your sister first, okay? I want her to find out before the group does."
Tonight is the Halloween party Beth, Reed's wife, is throwing together. She works at McGill's Pub, a bar we all frequent, which is owned by her aunt and uncle. We're all meeting up there later after trick-or-treating. It should be a good time. I know Nolan's excited about it.
"You can't call my sister now?" I ask, thinking we can handle this ahead of time so I don't have to keep my mouth shut when we get there.
Mia's right. I want to tell everyone, and I don't want to wait.
"No. I want to tell her face-to-face. It's important," Mia explains. "I know she'll be happy for us, but with her and Luke having difficulties getting pregnant ... I don't know. I just feel like she should find out before anyone else, you know? I'm just thinking about her, that's all."
I know how hard things have been on Tessa. And I get Mia's reasoning. That's her girl. She'd do anything for my sister.
I would too.
So, I agree to this while thinking of a way I can help ease her mind. "Yeah. All right."
"Promise me you won't announce it the second we walk in the door."
I smile. I can't help it.
She narrows her eyes. "Ben ..."
"I'm excited, Mia. I might not be able to control myself."
"Well, I suggest you do, or no funny business later with me in my costume."
I cock an eyebrow. "Funny business?" I chuckle. "You mean fucking?"
"Are you gonna put on that hot-as-fuck angel getup you bought and deny me, baby? That's just cruel."
Her cheeks warm instantly.
Yeah fucking right. We both know I'm getting some later.
"I can try," she says, sounding determined. She smiles and gives me another kiss before stepping out of my arms and moving around me. "Let me go put on some pants, then we'll go downstairs and tell the boys."
"I'd prefer you didn't."
She gives me a cheeky look over her shoulder on her way out of the bathroom.
And ... cue erection.
Yep. Like fucking clockwork with her.
We find the boys in the kitchen after Mia pulls on a pair of sweats.
They're sitting at the table — Chase on his knees as he pushes his toy truck back and forth and Nolan across from him, his drawing pad opened and colored pencils nearby.
I watch him flip to a blank page, and I know he's getting ready to draw another picture for that girl he's absolutely fucking crazy for. I know it before he even taps out the pink colored pencil to use.
He's in love. Full-blown, out-of-his-mind in love already at six years old. And if this was any other kid, I'd laugh, knowing they didn't mean it.
Six-year-olds don't feel love like this. Little kids don't meet one time and feel what adults feel. It isn't possible.
But this is my son. And I know he loves that little girl as much as I love Mia. Crazy, but it's true. He hasn't been this obsessed with something since the first time he saw a knight on TV.
Mia kisses the top of Chase's head and looks across the table at Nolan. "What are you drawing, baby?"
"I don't know yet. I'm still deciding." Nolan lifts his head and looks at me. "Daddy?"
"I'm gonna marry Ryan."
Mia gasps and grabs hold of my hand as something warm spreads underneath my ribs. "I know you are," I tell him, smiling proudly.
"I really am. I mean it. She says she's my friend, but I just love her so much. Do you think she loves me too?"
"Ben," Mia whispers.
Excerpted from "So Much More"
Copyright © 2018 J. Daniels.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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