Sweet addiction, p.35
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       Sweet Addiction, p.35

         Part #6 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
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Page 35

 

  “Are you telling me you wouldn’t feel threatened by the fact she loves me?” Cole demanded. “Because I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it for a minute. You’re way too intense of a guy. You’re way too possessive. You’re way too bloody like me for it not to bother you. ”

  “Sit down, Madison. You and I have a lot to discuss and I’m not going to stand here like two circling wolves all damn night. I don’t like leaving Ren alone for this length of time and in particular when I know she’s not herself. ”

  Cole froze and some of the irritation fled. He lowered himself onto the couch as Lucas did the same in a chair across from him.

  “How is she?” Cole asked hoarsely.

  “Not good,” Lucas returned. “But that’s to be expected. She’s in love with two assholes who’ve done everything wrong. Which is why I’m here so that maybe, maybe we can do something right for a change. ”

  Cole couldn’t even take offense. Holt was dead right. They were two of the biggest assholes on earth. They’d manipulated, played with and hurt Ren. And yeah, maybe it was time to step up, work together and fix the situation.

  “How is this supposed to work?” Cole asked wearily. “You’re dominant. I’m dominant. Ren’s only one person. ”

  “I’m not asking you to submit to me,” Lucas said in amusement.

  Cole’s lip curled up at the corner and he glared at the other man. “Ha-ha, very funny. ”

  “Look, I don’t have all the answers. It’s something we’d have to work at, and more than that, be committed to working at. Every damn day. I don’t expect it to be easy. What is? What I do know is this. I love Ren. I’m not letting her go. You love Ren. You let her go because you thought it was the right thing to do. Ren loves us both and is hurt by the idea that you walked away from her and that I gave her to a man who’d already hurt her once. That makes us both dumb as shit assholes who have a hell of a lot to make up to her. ”

  Cole sighed. Damn but the man was making way too much sense. He wanted to hate him. He didn’t want to respect him. But the fact that Ren was at the forefront of his every thought had already earned him Cole’s regard.

  “Ren would be submitting to two men. Not just one. And I don’t expect it would always be easy with us pulling her in two different directions, which is why we’d have to set aside our differences and work together to make sure she’s taken care of and not overwhelmed. In the end, it has to be her decision because her life changes the most. ”

  “It should be her decision anyway,” Cole said quietly. “You and I have already made too many decisions for her. I’ve walked away from her twice because I thought it was best for her. But I never asked her what she thought was best. ”

  Lucas nodded. “And I brought her to you because I thought it was best for her to face her past. I think it’s time we stop thinking for Ren and let her make her own decisions. ”

  “Yeah, agreed. ”

  Lucas rose from the couch. “I’ve been away from Ren for too long. She’s not been herself. She goes through the motions. She needs the routine and the discipline of submission but her heart’s not in it. ” He stared hard at Cole. “Think about what I said, Madison. Think hard about it. Then whatever objection you have or however you think it’s going to affect your life or whatever sacrifices you think you’ll be making, consider Ren, and ask yourself if your objections are worth more than a life with her. When you make up your mind, give me a call. We’ll approach her together. Until then I won’t say a word to her. ”

  Cole watched Lucas go, unsure of whether he was supposed to thank him, curse him or dismiss him all together.

  What a goddamn mess.

  Or was it?

  Was it a mess or was it the solution to an impossible situation?

  In a perfect world, Cole would have Ren to himself and he’d never have to share her with anyone. In the shitty world where he currently existed he didn’t have Ren at all. Lucas did.

  That there was enough to make compromise not look so damn bad after all.

  He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and punched the contact button for Micah. Micah would at least understand the situation and he could likely offer Cole some been there done that if nothing else.

  He had a feeling this was going to involve a lot of alcohol.

  CHAPTER 37

  “Marry me. ”

  Ren stiffened in Lucas’s arms and pushed away from his chest to stare at him. “What?” She couldn’t have heard him right. Ren didn’t even equate marriage with Lucas. It was traditional. Lucas was anything but. He was a free spirit. Liked things his own way. He wasn’t one to uphold tradition. He was much too likely to forge his own, separate from the ideals of the majority.

  She didn’t doubt that he loved her. His confession had been painful and almost angry. But it had been raw and honest and she knew without a doubt he spoke the truth.

  But marriage? She couldn’t even wrap her head around it. For that matter, she wasn’t sure she was a traditionalist in that sense.

  “Marry me,” he said again softly.

  Her brain synapses were firing but she couldn’t seem to get her tongue to work.

  Lucas chuckled. “I see I’ve managed to make you speechless. ”

  “Marriage?” she finally managed to croak out.

  “Yeah, you know, that thing that people do when they’re in love and want to commit to a future together? It’s customary to participate in a ceremony of sorts, exchange rings or other meaningful symbols of their love and they make promises to remain faithful, et cetera, et cetera. ”

  “Smart ass,” she muttered. “I know damn well what it is. I just didn’t imagine that you were the marrying type. I’m pretty sure you’ve told me in the past that marriage wasn’t an institution in which you were swayed to participate in. ”

  He grimaced. “Sometimes I can be a dumbass. And other times I’m wrong. I want us to get married, Ren. I want that commitment from you but more than that, I want to offer my commitment to you so that you’ll know without a doubt that I’ll love and cherish you for the rest of my life. ”

  She made a sound of impatience. “Lucas, if you’re doing this so that I’ll feel secure, I assure you I don’t need a gesture so grand. ”

  “It’s what I want, Ren. Okay?”

  She blinked. “Well okay then. In that case …” She bit her lip, suddenly overcome with the magnitude of the moment. This wasn’t something to be taken lightly even if she’d never quite imagined herself in such a position.

  But isn’t it what she wanted? Deep down? Hadn’t she dreamed of love and children and happily ever after? She certainly had once with Cole.

  “In that case?”

  She took a deep breath. “Perhaps we should wait. Just a bit. Maybe when things aren’t such a …mess. ”

  He cupped her cheek and stared into her eyes until she was disconcerted by the intensity in his gaze. “Tell me something, Ren. What is your first impulse? What was that very first gut reaction telling you right before you started to overthink the situation and come up with reasons why you shouldn’t?”

  She licked her lips nervously. “I would have said yes. ”

  Triumph gleamed in those dark, delicious eyes. A predatory smile carved the hard lines of his mouth.

  “Then that is what you should do. ”

  “You would marry me even knowing that I was in love with another man?” she asked quietly. She hated to bring Cole up again but it wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t at least take her feelings into consideration before making such a huge decision.

  Lucas kissed her gently, his lips moving warm and tender across hers. “Do you love me, Ren?”

  “You know I do,” she said huskily.

  “Then that’s all that matters to me. ”

  She drew in a deep breath. “All right then. If you’re sure. Then yes, I’ll marry you. ”

  Even as she said the words, it felt like she was closing a concrete seal
over a tomb. Her heart ached with grief. For Cole. For a man she had loved and did love. Would always love.

  But perhaps in time it would dim and fade and she wouldn’t think of him so much. She’d done it once. Had gotten on with her life when she hadn’t been able to imagine doing so. And she hadn’t had Lucas then. Not for nine long years. But she had him now and no matter what she felt for Cole, she did love Lucas with all her heart and soul.

  A kernel of peace settled over her soul. In time she wouldn’t feel so raw. She just had to get through the present.

  She smiled up at Lucas, her heart full of love.

  He smiled back and gathered her hand in his. He traced a line around her ring finger with the tip of his.

  “It’s customary for a man to give his intended bride a glittering, expensive token of his love and devotion. ”

  She laughed. “Indeed it is. ”

  “I think perhaps we should choose one together. I would want you to have a ring you’re happy with. ”

  She leaned forward to kiss him. “You make me happy, Lucas. Not a ring or a promise. Just you. ”

  His expression became serious. “You’ll be happy again, Ren. Trust me to ensure it. ”

  “I do,” she said softly. “Just be patient with me. ”

  He kissed her, his mouth sweet and possessive. “Always. ”

  Cole stood outside of Lucas’s home and stared up at the cozy mixture of stone and wood. Somehow he’d expected something a little more imposing. More in keeping with Lucas’s aloofness. But the house was warm and inviting. It had the look of an English country cottage. Only bigger. The grounds were immaculately rendered. Even in winter, the shrubbery was bright and alive with the promise of spring blooms.

  It was a place that looked like it would be alive with love, laughter and children running about shrieking with delight and playing hide-and-seek.

  There was a hole in his stomach that seemed to yawn wider with every minute he stood here trying to make up his mind whether to go in or not. Lucas had been explicit. Show up or don’t show up. But this was it. Do or die. If he didn’t take the opening now, it would never be extended again. The door would effectively be shut on Cole forever.

  Even after an all-night conversation with Micah, he didn’t feel wholly reassured. Micah had been sympathetic to Cole’s position but thought he was crazy if he didn’t leap at the opportunity to have a life with Ren even if it meant sharing her with another man.

  But then to Micah, the arrangement seemed almost normal. He wouldn’t even blink an eye over the nontraditional arrangement. If only Cole could embrace it as easily.

  He curled his fingers into tight fists at his sides. Inside the large wooden doorway just a few feet away, Lucas was positioning Ren. He was taking her through the paces of a scene that Lucas had carefully constructed. All that was missing was Cole.

  All he had to do was walk in that door and he’d see Ren again. But fear held him back. What if she had no desire to see him again? What if he’d used his allotment of second chances?

  What if Ren really was better off with Lucas?

  Ren walked to the center of the living room and stood in front of the stone fireplace facing Lucas, who sat sprawled in an armchair. He was in a mood tonight, one she couldn’t quite figure out.

  He’d bathed her, pampered her endlessly, brought her wine in the tub and fed her bits of cheese and fruit. And when she was done, he’d dried her and brushed her hair until it sparkled and shone.

  Once he was finished, he’d instructed her to come to the living room in just a dressing robe. Then he’d left her in the bedroom and gone down ahead of her.

  Her skin tingled in excitement as she stared into his enigmatic eyes.

  “Disrobe. ”

  The simple command made her shiver. She tugged at the tie holding the lapels of her silk robe together and then shrugged out of the sleeves, letting it fall to the floor.

  The warmth from the flames warmed her back but it was Lucas’s gaze that warmed her from the front. There was approval, lust and …love in his eyes.

  She stood proudly before him, her head a little higher than it had been in the last week. It was still hard for her to sleep at night but Lucas had brought her a measure of peace with his attentiveness.

  Standing here looking at him and seeing what she now recognized as love on his face, she was tempted to break discipline and throw herself into his arms. Hold on and never let go.

  But pleasing him was more important to her and now more than ever she needed his quiet dominance.

  “You’re lovely, Ren. I could sit here watching you all night. There is such an elegance about you. Your features are so striking. But I think what I love most is your smile. You’ve not had much to smile about in recent weeks, but tonight I hope to remedy that. ”

  There was an odd note to his voice. Almost caressing. She basked in the warmth in his tone, unconsciously leaning forward as he spoke.

 
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