Worth the Fight
by Bella Matthews
Book 2 in the Risks We Take Duet
Carys Murphy was the air I breathed.
She was my best friend’s little sister long before she became my world. Then with one sinful taste, she owned me.
But that was before . . .
Before the heartache.
Before the pain.
Before everything changed.
With the risks higher than ever, I refuse to let us crash and burn. Even if I have to fight my way back, she’ll know she’s always been mine.
Before I begin, I need to begin by asking Bella Matthews a question.
Linc? Seriously? *runs to corner and weeps*
For those of you aware that this book features characters in Hannah McBride's Mad World series, I'm not talking about the Lincoln from Mad World. There are two Lincoln's. haha.
But Bella. Why did you do that to my heart? UGH.
As emotional as this made me, and as much as I loved Worth the Risk, I didn't love the conclusion as much as the first book. Honestly, I think it is because there is a "big bad" that shadows over the book, and while I normally like that sort of thing, I felt is distracted me from the relationship between Cooper and Carys. For the sake of connecting this duology to the Mad World books, it was necessary, but it kind of gave me whiplash. The first book is so centered on their forbidden romance, and this one, it's in the open, their family is upset, I feel like it lost its focus a bit.
Still loved the drama of it though. haha
Honestly, despite not loving this book as much as the first, I'm going to say the same thing I said in my review of Worth the Risk; if you in the mood for a forbidden romance, brothers best friend, angsty romance, you will enjoy this duology.
OH OH WAIT! I ALMOST FORGOT! For those of you who have read the Mad World Books, and these ones - anyone else get some potential future storyline for Emerson and Rook? It triggered my spidey-senses, and I know Hannah McBride is continuing the Mad World series with the other characters, soooo .... maybe?
I still love her. I always will. But when all this is over, I’m gonna spank her ass for pushing me away. Family comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And sometimes they’re the only ones who are willing to tell you what you need to hear even if you don’t want to admit they’re right. One night of feeling like shit for myself was more than I should have indulged in. I’m alive. We don’t all get to be here and say that. Jessie: “You guys should head up now. Jack and Theo just left, so it’s not too crowded.”
She smacks Ford’s ass, and her smile grows.
Jessie: “And you should be quick about it, because I have another twelve-hour shift tonight. And once I crash, there’ll be no waking me up until I need to shower and get back here.”
Ford wraps his arms around her waist.
Ford: “Oh, I can be quick.”
Rook coughs into his fist.
Rook: “Not something to be proud of, brother.” Cooper: “You were my first thought when I woke up in the hospital. My brain is still a little foggy on everything that led up to that point, but you were my first thought when I woke up.” Carys: “Loving you was the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was everything else that got in the way because I let it. But I’m not going to make that mistake twice.”
My fingers flex against his chest, sizzling from the close contact. But I force myself to take a step back. Then another.
Carys: “I’m going downstairs.”
I turn away from him and take a few steps before stopping and tilting my head.
Carys: “If that sounded familiar, it’s because you said it to me once, and I never forgot it. And I’d bet my life neither did you.” I’m not sure how much time passes, but as I finally feel myself drifting off to sleep, I hear Cooper whisper,
Cooper: “I’ll never stop loving you, Carys.” Rook eyes Elodie like a suicide bomber as Carys places her in his arms.
Rook: “What the hell, Carys?”
Carys: “Support her head,”
she tells him as she adjusts his hold.
Carys: “There you go.”
She turns back to the counter and grabs the formula.
Carys: “She’s hungry. Just give me a minute.”
Rook growls as Elodie’s face turns into a tomato before she lets out a loud grunt, followed by a smell that could clear a football stadium. Carys and I both take a step back, and Rook’s eyes grow ten times in size.
Rook: “Take her back. She exploded.”
And she did. Moisture is soaking through the polka dots on her back. Carys giggles and takes a step back.
Carys: “Come on, soldier boy. You can’t handle a little baby poop?”
This shit’s so funny, I don’t bother correcting her, but Rook is losing his patience.
Rook: “It’s sailor, not soldier. And I don’t clean up baby shit.”
Carys laughs harder.
Carys: “And I should because I’m a girl?”
Emerson: “Jesus Christ.”
Emerson storms down the steps, having changed into one of Linc’s shirts and stretchy black pants.
Emerson: “Give me my daughter.”
She takes her from Rook’s hands.
Emerson: “She’s the size of one of your big, fat hands, Rook. Seriously.”
She rolls her eyes, then points to the bag.
Emerson: “CC, can you grab that bag?”
Carys nods, then her wide eyes dance between Rook and me as Emerson takes Elodie upstairs, mumbling about who’s the bigger baby.
Carys: “Pretty sure she’s talking about you, Rook.”
Carys pats his chest before she darts up the stairs with the bottle and the bag. Rook waits until both girls are out of sight before he steps behind the counter and washes his hands.
Rook: “How can such a little body produce such a foul fucking smell?” I catch my bottom lip between my teeth and nod.
Carys: “I gotcha. Thanks, soldier.”
Rook: “You do it just to piss me off, don’t you? You’ve got to know the difference between a soldier and a sailor by now.” Nattie: “Talk to me, Cooper. We used to tell each other everything. I miss that.”
There’s a quiver in Nattie’s voice, and I hate knowing it’s my fault.
Cooper: “I love you, Nat. But around the time I realized girls had boobs, I stopped telling you everything.” Emerson: “I know I’ve been a mess, but I’m an adult. I’m a fucking mother. Do not handle me, Sinclair, or you won’t be happy with the result.”
She pulls Elodie out from under the blanket and throws it over her shoulder as she burps the baby.
Emerson: “And I’m not going to smother my baby under a blanket just because two grown men can’t handle boobs.”
Rook walks back in and rolls his neck before a wicked grin stretches across his face.
Rook: “Those aren’t boobs. Those are watermelons on steroids, woman.”
I expect her to catapult herself over the couch and attack, but Elodie exhales a burp that puts the rest of us to shame, and we all burst out laughing. Emerson looks at her chest, like it’s the first time she’s seen it, and pulls some little circular pad thing from her bra, then throws it at Rook, smacking him in the face.
Emerson: “Asshole. They’re the best goddamn watermelons you’ll never get to taste.”
He holds up the soaked circle.
Rook: “What is this?”
Carys walks back downstairs with her sketch pad in hand. She grabs the circle thing from Rook and winces.
Carys: “Why do you have Emerson’s nursing pad?”
Rook: “Her what?”
Rook’s expression transforms from confusion to mortification pretty damn quick. Carys bites her bottom lip, trying to mask her laughter, then pats Rook’s chest with her free hand.
Carys: “When a woman nurses a baby, her other boob leaks. This sucker . . .”
She holds it up in front of Rook’s face.
Carys: “Is drenched with breast milk.”
Rook: “Fucking gross,”
Carys: “It’s nature, Rook. Get over it.”
She slaps the pad back into his hand, then moves next to the couch. Elodie farts, then makes a noise that sounds like she’s laughing at herself. Can babies laugh? I look down at her, and her violet eyes are staring back at me, wide open.
Cooper: “So that’s what you think of me, huh, kid?”
I stand from the couch and sway side to side the way Emerson and Carys do when they’re holding her. Hoping it keeps her happy.
Cooper: “Your dad used to laugh when he farted too. He liked to make us all laugh, and he was good at it. He was good at a lot of things. He loved you. Your mom sent him pictures of you in her belly every week. Just so he wouldn’t miss a thing. He wanted to give you all the things he never had. Talked about it all the time.”
He should be here now, holding her. Not me.
Cooper: “I promise I’ll tell you all about him, okay?”
I kiss her head when she fidgets against me, and my heart melts as she stills. Those eyes are Emerson’s, but man, she looks so much like Linc. Cooper: “Don’t ever say anything like that about her again, or I will fucking kill you.”
His words are calm and controlled. Spoken slowly, making them even scarier.
Cooper: “I love you, brother, but I love her more. Don’t let there be a next time, or I will rip your throat out with my bare hands. Do you understand?” Carys: “Oh, big brother. Every single time you torture us about being stepsiblings, I’m going to torture you in a totally different way. You already caught Mom and Coach banging in the kitchen. I’ll make that look like a Disney movie.”
I sit down next to Aiden and lay my napkin back down in my lap. His face pales.
Aiden: “You wouldn’t.”
Carys: “Oh, but I would.”
Two can play at this game. Cooper: “You are the air I breathe, Carys Murphy. Did you ever really doubt it? I needed to get my head on straight.”
I run my nose along her neck, inhaling her.
Cooper: “You’ve got to realize we’re still in the middle of a storm, baby, but I never stopped loving you. You—loving you, protecting you above everything else in this life—that will always be my top priority.” Carys: “I’m always ready for you, Cooper,”
I whisper as I feel him filling me.
Carys: “I was made for you.”
Cooper: “You’re fucking right you are.”
He jackknifes up and wraps his arms around my back, bringing us chest-to-chest as I rock against him. Clinging to each other.
Cooper: “You’re the other half of my soul, baby. The air I breathe.” I throw my arm across the back of the couch and run my fingers over her head, massaging it until she moans.
Carys: “God, that feels good.”
Rook joins us, bitching,
Rook: I’m glad you two figured your shit out, but you’re not exactly the porn I wanna watch, okay?”
Carys: “If that was your idea of porn, I guess I understand why you’ve been single the entire time I’ve known you.”
He sits down in one of the reclining chairs at the end of the sectional.
Rook: “That’s by choice.”
she mocks him.
Carys: “Sure, it is.” Cooper: “Carys Murphy, are you sketching me?”
It’s not as good as her lingerie sketches, but it’s pretty damn obvious it’s me.
Carys: “Don’t let it go to your head, Coop. You’re pretty when you sleep.” I bend over and place my palms flat on the deck, deliberately placing my ass in front of his face and hoping to distract him. But he smacks it instead, sending a jolt to my core.
Cooper: “Don’t be a brat, Carys. That’s not playing fair.” She crosses the room and presses her lips to mine.
Carys: “I love you, Coop.”
Cooper: “You are the air I breathe, Carys.” Emerson: “Sorry, CC. I need to give this baby a boob, or she’s going to grow horns and a tail and stab me with a pitchfork. Carys: “You ready to go home?”
Cooper: “You are my home, Carys.” She emerges from the laundry room with a pile of sheets in her hands, laughing at something Maddie says. When they spot Declan and me, the laughter turns devious, and the two of them slide past us and up the stairs.
Declan: “What do you think that was about?”
Declan catches one of his daughters when she dive-bombs him from a few stairs up.
Everly: “They’re talking about boys, Daddy,”
Everly guilelessly tells him.
Everly: “I heard Aunt Carys say Uncle Cooper likes—”
I swing Everly out of Declan’s arms and cover her mouth.
Cooper: “Who wants to play helicopter?” Declan: “Always, Coop. But if you really want to thank me, take my kids for a night so I can have some time alone with my wife.”
I shake my head, laughing.
Cooper: “I’ve faced down terrorists who are probably easier than dealing with your kids. You know that, right?”
Declan: “Yeah . . . well, they love you, so suck it up.” Brady: Call your sister. She’s driving me crazy.
Cooper: You can’t return her now. Brady: Yo Coop, when you get married, will your kids be siblings or cousins?
Cooper: Ha Ha Ha . . . very funny, shithead. Get it all out now.
Murphy: NO . . . No. No. No. Do not get anything out now. I don’t want that thought in my brain.
Cooper: Not as much fun now that the shoe’s on the other foot, is it, Murph?
Murphy: I’m gonna shove my shoe up your ass, Sinclair. Cooper: That sounds like a you problem, Murph.
Murphy: Says the guy in love with his sister.
Cooper: Yup. I have no problems with being too tired.
Murphy: Oh gross. Fucking stop.
Cooper: Happily. Night guys. I’m going to bed.
Brady: Hey Murph – he’s going to bed with your sister.
Murphy: Assholes. Damn. Her ass looks fantastic in that skirt. A roll smacks me in the face.
Cooper: “What the fuck?”
I glare at Murphy, who’s laughing like an ass, with Brady and Declan trying to hide their faces. Murph picks up another roll.
Murphy: “Stop looking at my sister’s ass.”
Nattie: “In all fairness, she’s his sister too.”
My eyes snap to Nattie, who just grabbed a piece of pepperoni bread from the island.
Cooper: “You little traitor.”
I glare at my evil twin, but she shrugs her shoulders, then gives me the finger.
Nattie: “How about you come up with another way to say I’m the size of a house, and we’ll see what else I can come up with?”
One point, Nattie. She definitely won that round. Dad: “I’m not sure I’m ready to know, let alone see, what any of you are looking at,”
Dad teases. Declan glances around the room.
Declan: “More than half the women in here are pregnant, Dad. It might be a little late for that.”
Dad takes the beer out of Declan’s hand, takes a sip, then hands it back.
Dad: “There’s knowing, and there’s seeing for yourself. Two very different things, son.”
Murphy sprays the beer in his mouth out through his nose as he chokes.
Murphy: “Yeah, Coach. Pretty sure I found that out the hard way.”
The rest of us laugh.
Cooper: “Yeah, Dad. That kitchen table looks new. Doesn’t it, Murph?”
I goad him. The tales of Murphy walking in on Dad and Katherine having sex on the table will never get old.
Dad: “It actually is, Cooper.”
Dad leans in close and drops his voice.
Dad: “Because the old one wasn’t sturdy enough to do what I wanted to with your girlfriend’s mother.”
He takes my beer bottle and taps it to the top of Murphy’s so the foam rises and spills over the sides. Dad walks away while Brady absolutely loses his shit because he’s laughing so hard.
Brady: “And that, my friends, is a mic drop moment.” Aiden: “Do you know when you’re gonna pop the question?”
I shake my head, and he holds his bottle of beer up, waiting for me to do the same.
Aiden: “To my favorite sister marrying my favorite brother.”
He taps his bottle to mine, and I shake my head.
Cooper: “You really are an asshole,”
Aiden: “Yeah well, are you gonna be my brother-in-law or my stepbrother?”
I ignore his stupid jokes.
Cooper: “I’m going to be the man who loves your sister every day for the rest of her life.”
Aiden: “Good answer, Cooper. Good answer.” Cooper: “Sixty years from now, when we’re old and gray, sitting outside on this lake, I want to look back and know I’ve lived a good life. A worthy life. I want to be a good man who’s worthy of you. And if I only do one thing right in this life, I want you to know that I love you completely. Fiercely. No holding back. With no regrets.”