Sweet addiction, p.37
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       Sweet Addiction, p.37

         Part #6 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
Page 37


  “Ren, oh God no, Ren,” Cole said hoarsely. “No, no darling. That isn’t it at all. Oh God, you have to listen to me. ”

  He tried to tug her hands away from her face but Ren resisted and turned away, hunching into a miserable ball.

  She was naked and vulnerable and not in the physical sense. She had no care for her actual nudity. It was just flesh. But her soul was flayed open. Her heart lay in shreds. She’d never been so intensely vulnerable in front of someone else in her life. Not even in complete submission. The most intense scene. No matter what paces she’d been put through. No matter how wholly she gave her obedience. Never had she felt so stripped of her self before. And it wasn’t a good feeling.

  She felt ugly, dirty, used …betrayed. Betrayed by the very men she trusted and loved with everything she possessed.

  She turned then to Lucas because her anger was a terrible thing, wrapping her in its heartless embrace.

  “How could you let this happen? How could you do it? You knew how badly he hurt me. I told you everything, Lucas. Everything. You were supposed to protect me. You asked me to marry you and then you let him come here and use me and throw back in my face everything I’m trying to forget. How will him walking away a third time make me anything but more miserable?”

  Those damnable tears slid endlessly down her cheeks. She wiped furiously, wanting to remove the signs of weakness. She wanted to be strong, now of all times. She couldn’t afford to be weak when the very men who swore to always keep her strong had utterly failed her.

  “I’m not leaving you, damn it!” Cole roared. “Goddamn it, Ren, I made a mistake. One I’m never going to repeat if I can goddamn well help it. ”

  She pulled her gaze from Lucas to see Cole towering over her, bristling with anger and frustration. But when she met his stare, all she could see was endless pain and despair, a perfect match to her own.

  Lucas slid his fingers over her chin, gripped her jaw and gently turned her back to face him. “I would never do anything to hurt you, Ren. Not intentionally. I love you. You’re my fucking life. Neither of us deserves your trust right now but I’m asking you to listen to us. Listen to what we have to say. Please. ”

  The please threatened to shatter her control. Lucas never asked for anything. He certainly never begged but this was as close to him being down on his knees before her as it was possible for him to get without actually being there.

  There was a rawness to his eyes that grabbed at her gut and twisted hard. What she saw in his gaze made her ache all the more because it wasn’t confidence, arrogance or even anger she saw. What reflected in those dark eyes was vulnerability and fear. Two things she’d never imagined seeing in this man’s face.

  And then to her utter shock, both men moved in unison. Both knelt awkwardly in front of her, down on their knees so they were on eye level with her.

  Lucas reached for her hand and brought her palm to his lips as he bowed his head. “We’re at your feet, Ren. Give us a chance to explain. It’s all we ask. ”

  Cole took her other hand, threaded his shaking fingers through hers and pulled it to lay over his heart.

  “I’m not too proud to beg,” Cole said hoarsely. “For you I’ll get on my knees. I’ll do or say whatever it takes to make you give me one last chance. Just one, Ren. It’s all I’ll ever ask of you again. ”


  Ren stared back at the two men on their knees before her and a fresh round of tears squeezed from her already burning eyes.

  “Please don’t cry,” Lucas said in a tortured voice. “You’re killing me, Ren. I’d do anything in the world not to make you cry. ”

  “What is it you both want to say?” she asked in a husky, strained voice.

  Relief was stark in Cole’s eyes. His grip tightened around her hand but she could still feel the tremble in his fingers. He seemed terrified. Nervous. More unsure than she’d ever imagined him looking about anything.

  “There’s a decision we want you to make,” Cole began.

  She sucked in her breath and jerked her gaze between the two men as panic welled in her chest. Choose? She’d never be able to choose between them. How could she?

  Lucas touched her cheek and wiped away the dampness from underneath her eye. “We aren’t asking you to choose between us, love. Never that. What we’re asking is if you can submit to two very dominant men. ”

  She looked first at Lucas and then to Cole before moving her bewildered gaze back to Lucas. “I don’t understand. ”

  Cole moved in closer, his hand sliding across her leg to rest on the top of her thigh. “What we’re asking isn’t easy. But then what ever is when it comes to love? If you chose to submit to us both, it would be difficult at times. We’re both demanding. You’d be pulled in opposing directions though we’d vow to work together as often as possible to alleviate any stress on you and our relationship. ”

  “Relationship?” she croaked. “Cole, I’m confused. What are you asking me here? Are you wanting to trade me back and forth? A week at your place then a week at Lucas’s?”

  Lucas made a strangled sound and his lips came together in a thin line. “Hell no. We want you with us all the time. The both of us. What Cole is so delicately trying to say is that the three of us would enter into a relationship. Together. With you as the common glue, to put it crudely. You would be what binds us all together. We’d live together. Work out our differences. We’d swear to love you always and do everything in our power to make you happy. ”

  “Oh. ”

  It came out as a shocked whisper. It was the very last thing she’d imagined they’d say. A rush of hope so powerful that it made her dizzy blew in but close on the heels of that bittersweet emotion came doubt and a hundred questions.

  “You asked me to marry you,” she whispered.

  Lucas nodded. “I did. I want and need that commitment from you. ”

  “Then how?” she took a breath because her head had begun to pound. She rubbed at her eyes and then dug her fingers into her temples.

  “We would still marry, Ren. As a couple we’d be inviting Cole into our lives. As a permanent member. Instead of one man in your bed, you’d have two. Instead of one husband, you’d essentially have two. ”

  Ren found Cole’s gaze, needed desperately to know his thoughts. What was he thinking? How could such an arrangement work when he was basically an outsider looking into a legal, established relationship?

  “I made a mistake,” Cole said in a tortured voice before she could voice her own question. “I thought I was doing the right thing. I wanted you to be happy. I swore I’d never walk away again but then Lucas came for you and I saw how that affected you. I saw how happy you were. How relieved. And then I realized that making you choose would make me the biggest asshole in the world and I couldn’t force you to do something that would, in the end, make us all miserable. I hoped by me walking away that you could find happiness with Lucas. But I can’t let you go, Ren. I can’t be the better man here because I’m only better if I’m with you. ”

  Her breath left her in a silent exhale, her chest caving in at the agony in his voice. “Is this what you want? Would you be happy in such a situation? You’re okay with sharing me with another man?”

  Her heart was about to beat out of her chest. So many questions. So much uncertainty. The only thing she knew for sure was that she loved both of these men, heart and soul. And if there was a way …any way …of her having a life with both, she’d be a fool to walk away, wouldn’t she?

  His expression became fierce. His eyes sparked with determination and when he spoke, the conviction in his words was crystal clear.

  “I love you, Ren. I love you so goddamn much I can’t sleep, I can’t eat and I’ve got a hole in my gut that’s never going away. So yeah, if I’ve got even a small chance at having a life with you? Then yeah. Hell yeah. I’d share with you Satan himself. ”

  “I hardly think I’m the equivalent of Sata
n,” Lucas said dryly.

  She smiled and oh God, did it feel good. She wanted to weep again but now of all times she didn’t want to dissolve into another weepy mess. This was too important—the most important moment of her entire life.

  Hesitantly she turned to Lucas. “I don’t think we should get married. ”

  Lucas blinked. Then his brow furrowed. He opened his mouth, no doubt prepared to argue but she put a gentle finger over his lips to silence him.

  “Think how you would feel if Cole and I sat in front of you talking of marriage and inviting you into our relationship,” she said gently. “If this is going to work—if it has a prayer of working—the relationship has to begin on equal footing. I don’t ever want Cole to think that he’s less important in my eyes. I don’t want you to ever think you’re less important. ”

  Cole’s hand tightened around her leg and when she glanced from Lucas to him, she was shocked to see a glitter of tears in his eyes.

  “Do you have any idea how much I love you right now?” he whispered.

  “I want you to marry me,” Lucas said stubbornly. “I’ll find a way for you to marry us both if that’s what has to happen. But I want you tied to us, legally, emotionally, physically and mentally. ”

  “Now the man is speaking my language,” Cole muttered. “And finally we find common ground. See Ren? The one thing that unites us is you. You’re the one thing we both love beyond reason. You’re the one reason we’ll put aside our stubbornness and be willing to compromise. Because neither of us wants to face the prospect of losing you. I’ve lost you twice. Two of the most goddamn miserable moments of my life. The one thing I can promise you above all other things is that I will never willingly walk away from you again. You may not trust that yet, but in time, I’ll prove it to you. I swear it. ”

  It was hard to believe they were on their knees in front of her having a perfectly civil discussion about entering into a relationship where both men would have to share the woman they loved with each other. The amount of sacrifice involved boggled her mind.

  She turned to Lucas and stared a moment at this hard, unapologetic man. Her throat knotted again at what she suspected and she was moved to find out. She needed to know if her suspicions were accurate.

  “Was this your idea? Did you go to him?”

  Lucas sighed. “Does it matter?”

  She nodded. “Yeah, it does. ”

  “I may have gone to see him to inquire as to whether he’d be open to such an arrangement. ”

  She launched herself into Lucas’s arms, knocking him flat on his back. She kissed him and then hugged him tight. “I love you so much,” she whispered. “You’ve always understood me better than anyone. ”

  He stroked her hair and kissed her long and leisurely, seemingly content to lay there on the floor with her perched atop him. “I love you too, Ren. I want you to be happy. We want you to be happy. ”

  She pushed herself back up and glanced shyly at Cole. He stared back at her, his heart in his eyes for her and the world to see. So much love. And honesty. Vulnerability. In that moment she realized how much power she truly had over both men.

  It wasn’t a moment of triumph where she relished victory or was smug to have such power. It was more a quiet awe and a vow to always respect the hold she had on them.

  “I love you,” she said simply. Because what other words held as much power?

  Cole’s eyes lightened and joy flushed away the wariness. “I love you too, my Ren. We’ll work it out. It may not be solved tomorrow. Or next month. But we’ll get there. As long as I have you, I can bear anything. ”

  She went into his arms and circled his neck, hugging him tightly as she burrowed her face into his shoulder. He squeezed her to him until she could feel each ragged breath burst from his chest.

  “Can this really work?” she whispered. “I’m so scared. And excited. And terrified. And happy. I don’t know how to feel or what to think. ”

  Cole pulled her away and then eased her back onto the ottoman so she sat in front of the two men once more.

  “We’ll make it work,” he said simply. “What else is there for us to do? We love you. You love us. ”

  She smiled then, relief sliding through her heart.

  “Come here, Ren,” Lucas said gruffly.

  It wasn’t the command of a dominant to his submissive. It was the low growl of a lover desperate for his mate. Slowly she stood, naked but not nearly as vulnerable as before. Lucas rose to stand in front of her and then he swept her off her feet, cradling her in his embrace.

  He strode toward the bedroom and deposited her on the mattress. He and Cole made quick work of their clothing. In seconds they were both naked and both bearing down on her. Lucas came down on her left, his eyes tender and loving. Cole settled on her right, warm desire shining in his blue eyes.

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