Keys To My Cuffs

By: Lani Lynn Vale

“Right dear,” Nonnie said, patting the younger woman’s hand. “Let’s go. I made you late enough.”

The woman gave me a fleeting smile as they walked away, and I was well and truly caught.



1 year later

“I’m not that man,” Cleo said to me, his hand on my face. “I’ll never be that man. I’m sorry baby.”

Cleo was my best friend. My confidant. The person who I turned to when I needed it.

In all ways but one.

He didn’t do relationships.

I knew he loved me, and I loved him.

However, something held him back. Something always held on to that last tie. That one single piece of him that kept him from taking that final step.

He said it was the fact that he was never here.

I knew better.

It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he was, a PJ, a pararescue jumper, and everything to do with the fact that he lost his father at a young age, and then his mother at a time when he needed her the most.

He was jaded to love.

Not because he was betrayed by a woman, but because he was loved too much by one. Which was reciprocated in kind by him.

His mom.

The same went for his sisters. They were so tight, that sometimes it was hard to get in.

I was the fourth woman in his life, and he didn’t want to chance loving me, and then losing me.

He could tell himself whatever lie made him sleep at night, but I knew better.

It didn’t help that every man on his particular jump team was either divorced or single. They didn’t have a single successful relationship between the six of them.

He didn’t think it was possible, and he was too stubborn to see otherwise.

“Please,” I whispered against his lips. “Please.”

He groaned in defeat, grasping me by the hips with his large hands, and pinning me up against the wall with his large, muscular body.

Mikhail ‘Cleo’ Caruso was the epitome of perfection. Tall, with hair black as midnight, and eyes, the color of charcoal.

He had perfect, long lashes that women only wished they could have, and a perpetual bad attitude.

He was a dick and a half to everyone that came into contact with him...except for me.

I gasped when my shirt was yanked off my body, and then unceremoniously tossed to the floor.

“You want me? You’ve fucking got me,” Cleo snarled.

Then he was on me.


I woke the next morning to my body deliciously sore, and my mind a hazy mess from the blissful overload of the night before.

Then my mind came back online when I realized that Cleo was no longer there, and I knew that I’d fucked up.

I knew as soon as I’d slept with him that he’d leave. I just thought I’d be awake to convince him not to go.

Here I was sleeping through his exit, and I had only sore muscles to show for it.

I’d gotten to know Cleo through my many visits with my grandmother to the gravesite to visit my Papa. On some of those occasions, her Alzheimer’s wasn’t acting up, but most of them, she couldn’t remember who I was.

I loved that woman with all of my heart, but I knew I couldn’t take care of her anymore. My full time home health nurse gave her two-week resignation yesterday, which meant that I was on my own.

When Nonnie was lucid, I loved having her here, but when she wasn’t, it was a nightmare.

It was hard to see someone you love with all your heart, go through that.

It was even harder to admit that I couldn’t take care of her anymore.

It’d been with Cleo’s help that I’d done as well as I had for so long, but I had a very bad feeling that that support had just jumped out of the proverbial helicopter, and didn’t have plans of returning.

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