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Overheard, p.1
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       Overheard, p.1

         Part #2 of Unspoken series by Maya Banks  
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  To Jess for heading up such a fun project.

  To Bianca and Gwen. Ganging up on Jess is awfully fun. We should do it again sometime.

  Chapter One

  The sun shone high overheard. The sky blazed brilliant blue, and not a single cloud marred the canvas. Sixty-five degrees on the first of February. It was what Gracie Evans loved most about living in south Texas. By the middle of the week, another cold front was poised to move through, dropping temps into the forties. Oh the horror.

  Gracie stretched in her lawn chair and watched lazily as Jeremy Miller tended the barbeque while his wife, Gracie’s best friend Michelle, hovered nearby.

  “Come on, Gracie, get up and play,” Wes Hoffman hollered from the yard.

  She looked over to see him and Luke Forsythe tossing a football back and forth. Boneheads. She was more than comfortable right where she was. After a long week at work and not sleeping worth a damn last night, sitting up to eat was about as energetic as she planned to get.

  Luke flopped onto the chair next to her. “What’s up, Gracie? You’re not usually such a stick-in-the-mud.”

  She shot him a dirty look. “Busy week at work. I’m just tired.”

  Of course, the worst part of the week had been last night. Her date with her current boyfriend had ended with the usual boring, obligatory sex, and quite frankly, she was tired of being disappointed in that area. She’d stayed up most of the night mustering the courage to call him this morning and break things off.

  He hadn’t taken it well.

  “Earth to Gracie.”

  She blinked and looked back at Luke. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “Lot on my mind.”

  Luke gave her a curious stare but seemed to sense she wasn’t in the mood to talk. He got up and ambled over to talk to Jeremy. Wes joined them on the patio, a beer in hand.

  Gracie let her gaze flit appreciatively over the men. Not bad considering they were her best friends and all. She wouldn’t mind finding someone like Luke or Wes. Problem was she usually ended up with the frogs. Ugh.

  Michelle eased into the chair next to Gracie, and Gracie looked over with a smile. “How you feeling, girlfriend?”

  Michelle returned her smile. “Good. Tired but good.”

  Gracie eyed Michelle’s cute little pregnancy pooch with a little jealousy. Jeremy was over the moon in love with his wife, and Gracie wondered what it felt like to have that sort of devotion. From what Michelle said, Jeremy was also dynamite in bed. Really, what more could you ask for in a man? Undying love and the know-how in the sack.

  Gracie shook her head. She was really going to have to up her standards when it came to boyfriends. Boyfriend. Maybe that was her problem. She didn’t need a boy. She wanted a man. Someone who could take her fantasies and make them reality.

  “You sure are quiet today, Gracie.”

  Gracie grimaced. “Sorry. I broke up with Keith this morning.”

  Michelle jerked around in the lawn chair and all but pounced on Gracie. “Gracie, you didn’t!”

  “Shhh,” Gracie hissed, looking up to see if the guys had heard. They already gave her a hard time about the men she chose to go out with. They’d be gleeful that her current relationship hadn’t worked out. The “I told you so’s” were already ringing in her ears.

  “What happened?” Michelle whispered.

  “I’ll talk to you about it later,” Gracie said, looking pointedly at the guys.

  Michelle huffed but she didn’t protest further.

  The two women lounged in the chairs while the men puttered around the grill. Gracie loved these times with the people she considered her best friends.

  They got together pretty much every weekend. During hunting season, they spent weekends at the camp and hunted the mornings and evenings. When the weather was warm, they spent all their time at the beach, fishing and soaking up the sun. Gracie loved their group. She felt free to be herself.

  Jeremy and Michelle had been married a year and they hosted most of the get-togethers. Jeremy and Wes were both local cops, while Luke was a building contractor.

  Wes was handsome in a carefree “I don’t give a shit” kind of way. He had blondish brown hair, and in the summer, it was liberally streaked with lighter shades. His sense of humor was what Gracie loved the most about him, that and he didn’t tend to get his underwear in a bunch at the least provocation. A more laid-back guy you wouldn’t find.

  Luke, yeah, he was good looking. Blue eyes, light brown hair, and abs you could bounce a nickel off. But he was also a pain in the ass. A mouth-wateringly gorgeous pain in the ass, but an irritant nonetheless. His and Gracie’s relationship was a study in competition. Neither could stand to lose, and neither would ever back down from a dare.

  Every year the outhunt and outfish contest usually boiled down to Luke and Gracie. Last year, Gracie had crowed when she’d bagged the biggest buck any of the group had ever killed. Luke had sworn to one-up her the following season.

  But still, she wouldn’t trade him for anything. The group worked well together. They were extremely loyal, and more importantly, they were always there for one another. Which was why she didn’t want the guys to know she’d broken up with Keith. They’d make a huge deal out of it, and she simply wanted to forget the whole thing.

  A shadow fell over her chair, and she looked up to see Wes standing over her with a beer in hand. He pressed the cold bottle to her arm, and she yelped and flinched.

  He laughed. “Thought you might want a beer, Gracie.”

  “Gee, thanks.”

  He handed the beer to her then winked and ambled off again.

  “Lug nut,” she grumbled.

  Michelle laughed. “You know you love him. He’s cute when he’s not being a pain in the ass.”

  Gracie nodded. “Yep, the two days of the year he’s not a royal pain, he is downright cute.”

  “I heard that!” Wes called from the grill.

  “You were supposed to,” Gracie returned sweetly.

  “I’m about ready to dish it up,” Jeremy said. “Michelle, if you want to set the table, I’ll have it up in about fifteen minutes.”

  “I’ll help,” Gracie said as she heaved herself out of her chair.

  Luke turned his head and watched Gracie follow Michelle into the house. Her auburn curls jiggled down her back as she walked. He’d always loved her hair. It fit her carefree personality perfectly. Only she didn’t seem so carefree today. He wondered what was bothering her. It wasn’t like her to be quiet and withdrawn. And he didn’t buy that line about a busy week at work. Gracie could do her job in her sleep.

  “Do me a favor and take this in to Michelle,” Jeremy said, ramming a tray into his gut.

  Luke looked down to see a platter of sausage.

  “Tell her the rest will be ten minutes.”

  Luke grunted. “Sure.”

  Luke walked toward the sliding door of the patio and eased inside. He strode through the living room and toward the kitchen. When he reached the doorway, Gracie’s voice stopped him.

  “I called him this morning and broke up with him.”

  Luke backed away and stood to the side. She’d broken up with Keith? Somehow that didn’t surprise him. The guy was a complete pussy. No way he could keep pace with someone of Gracie’s caliber.

  He strained to hear the rest of the conversation.

  “You called him the morning after you had sex and dumped him?” Michelle asked in disbelief.

  “Yeah,” Gracie replied.

  Whoa. Harsh. Luke couldn’t wait to hear why.

  “Good God, girl. That must have been crushing to his ego,” Michelle continued.

  Luke nodded his agreement.

  He heard Gracie sigh. “I don’t care, Michelle. I’m tired of hooking up with guys who suck in bed. And I don’t mean my tits either.”

  Michelle dissolved into laugher and Luke’s eyebrows shot up.

  “Was he that bad?” Michelle asked.

  “He wasn’t good,” Gracie muttered. She sighed again. “Damn it, Chelle. I want something…”

  Luke nearly hurt himself trying to press his ear closer to the doorway. What did Gracie want? This had to be good.

  “I want someone who lights my fires. Who makes me think of nothing but taking every stitch of clothing off him and licking him from head to toe.”

  Luke shifted, an uncomfortable surge of heat racing to his crotch. Damn if the woman wasn’t direct. He liked that in a girl. Didn’t like stupid games and fluttering eyelashes.

  “That’s the problem with you, Gracie. You always settle for men who can’t stand up to you,” Michelle interjected.

  Luke nodded in agreement. Michelle was right on there.

  Another sigh from Gracie. “I want someone who can make my fantasies come alive, Chelle. Is that too much to ask? A guy who can be adventurous in bed and not come across like a freaking fruit loop?”

  Fantasies? Luke shifted again and rubbed his palm across his shirt. Gracie had fantasies? Who knew?

  “What kind of adventures are we talking about here, Gracie?” Michelle asked in a cautious voice.

  Yeah, what kind of fantasies? Damn it, he only had a few minutes before Jeremy was going to come busting in with the rest of the food. Then he’d never find out what made Gracie tick.

  There was a long, silent pause.

  “Nothing illegal,” Gracie cracked. “At least I don’t think they are.”

  “Quit joking and spill it,” Michelle said. “The guys will be in soon.”

  “Oh, I fantasize about bondage, a little spanking, maybe a whip or two. The idea of being tied up gets me hotter than I’d like to admit,” Gracie said ruefully. “But…”

  But what? Luke wanted to yell.

  “More than anything I’d love to experience a ménage.”

  “Gracie!” Michelle exclaimed. “Really?”

  “Yeah,” Gracie said in a low voice. “Two sexy men, all their attention on me, pleasuring me? Yeah, I think about it a lot. I just don’t know how to make it happen.”

  “Holy shit,” Michelle whispered loudly. “Have you thought about taking out an adult ad or something?”

  “Yeah, I have,” Gracie replied. “I’ve thought about it a lot. But the thought scares me. Who knows what kind of freaks are out there.”

  Adult ad? Luke wanted to march in and throttle her. He would have but he was still thrown for a loop by what she’d admitted. Gracie, his Gracie, had triple X fantasies.

  “Face it, Chelle. I’m not sure there’s a man out there who can satisfy my needs in bed. Maybe I’m expecting too much. I just know I’m not settling for less ever again. I’m done with the Keiths of this world. If I can’t find a man, I’ll stick to my toys and self-gratification.”

  Not sure there’s a man out there who could satisfy her huh. Luke’s mind whirled with all he’d overheard. So she wanted a threesome. It was obvious Luke had spent far too much time looking at Gracie as a best buddy and a hunting/fishing partner. It certainly wasn’t every day he found a woman who wanted all the things that had gotten him tossed out of so many women’s beds.

  Ménage. She wanted a ménage. He couldn’t wait to talk to Wes. He had a feeling his buddy would be very interested in what their good pal Gracie wanted out of her sex life.

  Man enough? She didn’t realize it yet, but she’d thrown down the challenge. And damn if he wasn’t going to be the man to answer it.

  Chapter Two

  Gracie dug into her food, sighing with pleasure as the tender meat hit her tongue.

  “Good?” Jeremy asked.

  “Run away with me,” Gracie declared. “What does Chelle have that I don’t? We can live on your barbeque and be beach bums.”

  Jeremy grinned and started to reply.

  Gracie held up a hand. “No, don’t answer that. I’m not up for a list of the ways I don’t measure up.”

  Wes and Jeremy looked curiously at her while Luke made it a point to stare down at his plate. Gracie cringed. Instead of coming out jokingly as she’d intended, it sounded sad and resigned.

  She glanced over at Michelle and made an “oops” face the others couldn’t see. Then she focused back on her food, cutting another bite of the brisket.

  Her breakup with Keith bothered her more than she liked. Not only had the sex been a disaster, but his reaction to the surprise she’d planned still made her cringe in embarrassment. He’d made her feel like a freak. Not what a woman wanted to feel like when she was trying to be wild and sexy.

  Weren’t men supposed to like that sort of thing? Didn’t they all complain because women weren’t adventurous enough in bed? Ha! She’d yet to find a man who liked sex with the frequency and imagination she did.

  Maybe she was a freak.

  She cleared her throat and looked over at Luke. “How’s Ellie doing? I haven’t seen her much since the wedding. Jake seems awfully protective of her.”

  “He has a reason to be,” Luke said with a grimace. “But she’s doing good. They seem happy.”

  “Isn’t she going to counseling?” Michelle interjected.

  Luke nodded. “Yeah, that whole thing with Ray really fucked her up.”

  “Stupid son of a bitch,” Wes muttered. “I don’t trust that little breakdown he had on public television. Seems too calculating to me.”

  Jeremy raised his brow. “You think he’ll try something?”

  “Not unless he has a death wish,” Luke said. “Jake will kill him if he comes near Ellie again.”

  “And I won’t exactly be knocking myself out to stop him,” Wes said.

  Gracie shook her head. “Ellie’s a sweet girl. I hate that she’s been through so much. But Jake’s good for her.”

  “He’d be good for me, too,” Michelle broke in, a devilish glint to her eye.

  “Hey,” Jeremy protested as he reached over to tweak Michelle’s arm.

  Gracie laughed. God, she loved these guys. She could never stay down in the dumps for long around them. “If Chelle doesn’t want you, Jeremy, you’re welcome at my house.”

  “Are you propositioning my husband?” Michelle demanded.

  Jeremy rubbed a hand over his chin. “I kind of like being fought over.”

  “Cat fights are sexy,” Wes said with a snicker.

  Gracie rolled her eyes. “Like any girl has a chance with Jeremy. He’s so gaga over Michelle, it’s nauseating.”

  “Just like I like him,” Michelle said with a smug grin.

  Michelle stood and began clearing the table. Gracie got up to help and started collecting the plates. As Michelle began running water in the sink, she looked out the kitchen window and tensed.

  “Uh oh, Gracie.”

  Gracie didn’t like the sound of that uh oh.

  Jeremy evidently didn’t either. He went to stand behind his wife so he could look out.

  Michelle turned around to Gracie. “Keith just pulled up.”

  “Oh great,” Gracie muttered as she plunked down the plates she was holding.

  “Trouble, Gracie?” Wes asked in a concerned voice.

  She flashed him a reassuring smile. “Nothing I can’t handle.” She walked toward the door, determined to meet Keith outside rather than take the inevitable confrontation inside. “Y’all excuse me for a second. This shouldn’t take long.”

  Luke followed her with his gaze until she left the house with a bang. Wes looked over at him questioningly, but Luke played dumb. He didn’t want to let on that he’d overheard Gracie’s conversation with Michelle.

  “What’s going on with those two?” Jeremy asked Michelle as they continued to stare out the window.

  “She broke up with him this morning,” Michelle murmured.

  Wes got up from the table, carrying the plates Gracie had left. He walked to the sink and set them down before peering out the window himself. Luke was dying to do the same, but he made himself sit and appear only mildly interested.

  “Can’t say it surprises me,” Wes said with a shrug as he returned to sit at the table. “She needs a man she can’t run over so easily.”

  Luke looked at his friend in surprise. On that point they agreed, though they’d never discussed Gracie’s love life before. Hadn’t exactly been high on their priority lists.

  “He looks angry,” Michelle said anxiously.

  Both Wes and Luke shot to their feet and walked to the window to look out. They were all understandably wary after all that Ellie had endured at her ex-husband’s hands. No way would they stand by and let Gracie take the brunt of some punk’s anger. Keith did look pretty pissed and Gracie took a step backwards as they all watched.

  “I’m going out there,” Luke muttered. “I want to make sure the dickhead doesn’t get carried away.”

  “Jeremy and Wes are the cops, maybe they should go,” Michelle said, her frown deepening as she watched her friend.

  “More reason for me to go,” Luke said. “I can get away with decking the asshole better than they can.”

  He didn’t wait for a response. He strode for the door and quietly let himself out.

  Neither Gracie nor Keith must have heard him because they never turned around. Luke eased down the steps into the yard. Their heated conversation filled his ears, and he stopped so he could listen from the distance.

  “Damn it, Gracie, what was I supposed to do? You acted like some kind of a whore. I wasn’t expecting it.”

  Gracie clenched her fists at her side.

  “Just because I suggested we do something other than the usual suck your dick and missionary that makes me a whore?” she all but yelled.

  “Be quiet for God’s sake!”

  “No, Keith, I won’t be quiet. It’s over. I don’t know why you’re here, but it sure as hell won’t change my mind. I said all I had to say this morning.”

  “You’re dumping me?” he asked incredulously. “Shit, Gracie, you’re being unreasonable. You should have warned me or something. You had nipple rings of all things. Like some kind of cheap tramp. What on earth possessed you? Is that what you made me wait a month without sex for? So you could spring this weird ass surprise on me? And then you go on about how you want me to take control and for you not to have to decide how we do it all the time. Give a guy a break.”

  Nipple rings? Oh Jesus. Gracie had nipple rings. This most certainly was a new development. Luke had seen her in a bikini on many occasions, and he damn sure would have noticed nipple rings.

  So Gracie was trying to branch out and the pussy boyfriend had thrown a fit. Well, good for her for dumping him. He obviously didn’t deserve her.

 
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