Asha’s face flushed from his comment, but she didn’t acknowledge it. “I can’t accept these. Every one of these is designer labeled. My whole wardrobe has never been worth what one single shirt in this collection costs,” Asha told him adamantly, looking up at him with a frown. “Why would someone I don’t know buy me clothes?”
Her brow crinkled when she was upset, making Kade want to smooth it out with his fingers and lips. “Because I asked them to do it and they wanted to do it. You don’t like the outfits?”
“They’re beautiful, but I can’t accept. You’ve done far too much for me, and you already gave me gifts.”
“Yeah, you can. They were a gift from your sister. And there isn’t a limit on giving gifts.” The stubborn woman needed clothes, and she was taking them.
“I don’t have a sister,” Asha answered warily.
“You do have a sister and a brother. And these are just clothes. It’s not a big deal. If it makes you feel any better, Maddie married one of the richest men in the world, Sam Hudson. She wanted to do this for you.” Kade knew Asha already knew the details about her probable siblings, but she obviously wasn’t ready to accept the reality. He didn’t have a doubt in his mind that she was related to Max and Maddie. Her mother had the same maiden name, and Asha had showed him a photo of her mother with her natural father, a picture that showed an older, but very similar, version of the photo that Max had of his natural mother, Alice. “Why is it so hard to accept that Max and Maddie are your sister and brother? I know it’s a shock. Maddie was surprised to find Max. But she was happy.”
Asha’s eyes started to water, and she turned her back on him and sat gingerly on the bed. “I’ve never had family. My foster parents fed me and clothed me, but I was never really one of them. They took me in before they had two children of their own. I never really belonged, and I felt the distance. It’s hard to explain without sounding like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m grateful to them. But I was never really part of the family.” Tears flowed down her cheeks, her eyes guarded. “I’m afraid, scared to believe in something that might not be true. What if I love them and they don’t love me back? What if I’m not really their sister?”
Kade’s chest tightened as he looked at Asha, small and vulnerable, yet strong enough to walk away from a relationship with nothing in order to save herself and her sanity. Had anyone ever cared about her unconditionally, just because she was an incredible woman? “You are their sister. And they’ll love you back.” How could they not? “Trust me,” he asked her huskily, knowing trust probably wouldn’t come easy for her, but he wanted it pretty damn desperately. In fact, he was beginning to covet it more than anything else he’d ever wanted.
Asha crossed her legs on the bed, her bare feet peeking out from under her jean-clad legs. She looked up at him wistfully. “Even if we are related, we’re so different. They’re incredibly wealthy and I’m used to being poor. They’re American and I’m Indian—”
“You’re American, too,” Kade growled, annoyed that Asha saw herself as “less than” compared to her siblings. “And even if you weren’t, it wouldn’t matter.”
“We were raised in different cultures. And they both look like our mother,” Asha answered quietly.
“Maddie was a foster child, passed around from family to family, none of them giving a shit about her. She worked her ass off to get through medical school, and she had no family either until Max found her.” Kade sat down on the bed and pulled Asha into his lap. “She’s excited about having a sister. And so is Max.”
“Poor Maddie,” Asha whispered sympathetically. “Is she really happy now? Is Max?”
Kade’s lips turned up in a small smile as he looked at Asha’s troubled expression, touched by how quickly Asha could feel remorse about Maddie’s earlier circumstances. She had a huge heart, just like Maddie. She was more like her sister than she knew. He’d told her everything about Max and Mia’s life, including the torture Max had suffered when Mia had disappeared for two years and was assumed dead. He’d seen the same sweet concern when he’d told her about that horrible time in all their lives.
“They’re both ecstatically happy,” Kade assured her, stroking the silky hair from Asha’s face. “They each married their soul mate. But neither one of them exactly had it easy. And they aren’t so different from you. Their difficulties were just different. They never really had family either, Asha. Give them a chance.”
Give me a chance, too.
Kade knew he was far from being emotionally healthy, but damned if he didn’t feel like being with Asha was healing some of his emotional wounds from his past.
“Do you believe in soul mates, relationships like Maddie and Max have with Mia and Sam? Do you believe there’s one person in every life made just for you?” Asha asked softly.
A few weeks ago, Kade would have answered with a resounding “hell no.” He’d always been the first one to give Max and Sam hell for being so nauseatingly sappy about their wives. Now, he just didn’t know. He’d been mysteriously drawn to Asha even before he’d met her, through their game of cat and mouse, and then through her drawings. She was like a balm to his battered soul, a remedy for his loneliness. He’d never felt like that about a woman before, and it confounded him. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I do,” he answered as he looked down into her eyes, losing himself in the swirling, molten brown of her gaze. Every cell in his body was calling out for him to claim her as his, and he had to clench his fists behind her back and in her hair to keep from stripping her naked and showing her what it was like to be really wanted by a man so desperately that he had to have her. He wanted to show her what it was like to be respected and cherished.
He didn’t care if she was related to Maddie and Max.
And he couldn’t care less if she couldn’t conceive a child.
He just wanted…her. And he wanted to stake his claim on her so badly that his big body shuddered with need.
“I think so, too. But what happens if you never find that person?” she asked thoughtfully.
You’ve found him. You don’t need to keep looking. You belong with me.
“I think it just happens,” he answered aloud. “If you’re destined to be together, you find each other somehow.”