The Bold and the Dominant, p.1Part #3 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black
December 5, four a.m. — Liam’s lodge
“Hammer. Wake up,” a familiar voice whispered in his ear. “There’s a problem.”
Macen “Hammer” Hammerman jackknifed up, the fog of sleep dissipating. Liam O’Neill stood above him, leaning over the bed.
Why the hell was his best friend waking him up in the middle of the night?
With a frown, Hammer rose on one elbow. “What?”
Liam’s stare fell on Raine Kendall in the rumpled bed they’d all shared last night. Hammer glanced at the woman they both loved. Images of her moaning, melting, and writhing between them flashed through Hammer’s brain like a sensual strobe. Thankfully, she was still asleep, her inky lashes fanning over her rosy cheeks.
But Liam’s face tightened, the man’s tense expression giving him pause. “Tell me.”
“She’s exhausted. Let’s not wake her.” He jerked his head at the open door. “Bathroom.”
Hammer scowled. Had something happened after he’d crashed? Had Liam and Raine fought? No, he wouldn’t have slept through that. Whether she was upset or in the throes of passion, she never held back.
What if Liam had reconsidered their arrangement and refused to share her anymore? That idea whacked Macen with fury. After years of denying himself her touch, he couldn’t wait to have her again. If his Irish pal thought she still belonged exclusively to him simply because she’d once worn his collar, he’d lost his fucking mind. Hammer had rescued the scared runaway from an alley and taken care of her for six years. That damn well counted for something.
Besides, Raine needed them both. She’d only begun to lower those towering walls around her heart in the past two days, when they’d finally started working together. Sharing her might be a new arrangement, but he and Liam had been down this path before, though not with her…and not with success. Still, Raine made them better men—and partners. Hammer knew Liam had sensed the same perfection when they’d held her. Would he really want to mess with that?
Before Hammer could say a word, Liam grabbed his trousers, donned them, and stomped to the bathroom.
Hammer brushed his lips over Raine’s forehead. “I won’t let anything or anyone come between us, precious. I promise.”
Feeling a twinge of pain in his jaw where Liam had punched him the night before, Hammer stood and worked it from side to side. Their fight had been inevitable. Jealousy and resentment had brewed for the past month, ever since Liam had taken an interest in Raine. Hopefully, the brawl had finally cleared the air between them.
Sighing, Hammer yanked his pants up and joined Liam, shutting the door behind them. In the light, Macen noticed his friend’s nose was slightly swollen, but neither of them looked too worse for wear.
“I’m listening. What’s the problem?”
Liam sighed. “Gwyneth just called me.”
What did Liam’s ex-wife want? The British beauty looked like every man’s wet dream, but under the pretty exterior, she was his worst nightmare. “You keep in touch with that bitch?”
“Hell no.” Liam reared back. “You know I changed my number after the divorce. I did it so she couldn’t call me.”
“How did she find you, then?”
“No bloody idea.” But he didn’t look thrilled.
“So…she called you. Why is that a problem?”
Liam hesitated. “She’s at Shadows.”
“What?” That declaration jolted away the vestiges of sleep. He raked a hand through his mussed hair. “I thought Gwyneth lived in London. Why did she drag her skanky ass across the pond and park it in my club?”
“She said she needs to see me.” He rolled his eyes.
If his ex-wife simply wanted to shoot the shit—or even ask for more money—she wouldn’t have flown over five thousand miles to do it. Foreboding gonged through Hammer’s gut.
“Any idea why?”
“She says it’s life or death.” Liam sent him a dry stare. “She bawled it, actually.”
If Gwyneth meant her death, it wouldn’t be a huge tragedy.
Hammer crossed his arms over his chest. “And that concerns you how?”
“She wouldn’t explain, just said she needs to see me right away.”
In other words, Gwyneth was staging more theatrics. Hammer scoffed. “Surely you’re not thinking of meeting her.”
“I’d rather not, but I doubt she’ll leave of her own accord, and I can’t think you want to leave her in your club.”
“Not for five minutes. I’ll call Pike and have him kick her out.”
Liam gritted his teeth. “Fine by me. She’s the last person Raine ever needs to meet.”
“Absolutely.” Gwyneth had a razor blade for a tongue. No way would he let the bitch slice Raine open.
Hammer reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to call the Dungeon Monitor he’d left in charge. He hoped this would fix their problem, but he knew Gwyneth. She wouldn’t be there if she didn’t intend to stir the shit pot. No one had a bigger spoon.
Gwyneth despised him, so if she’d come to his club and was willing to deal with him to see Liam, she wanted something badly.
“If she’s after more money, she’s got a lot of nerve hitting you up. She cheated, and you still gave her a generous settlement.” Hammer glanced at his phone. Sixteen missed calls and three text messages. “Shit.”
Liam leaned over to read his screen. “Bloody hell. Here we go.”
Pike: Call me ASAP.
Pike: Liam’s wife is here. Help!
Pike: What a cunt! BFP.
“BFP?” Liam asked.
“Big fucking problem,” he explained. “Obviously, he hasn’t thrown her out because he thinks she’s still your wife. I’ll set him straight.”
Pike answered on the first ring. “Thank fuck it’s you, Hammer. What am I supposed to do with this…woman?”
“Show her the door. Gwyneth is Liam’s ex-wife. She’s got no business at my club.”
“I’ve tried to get her to leave, but she’s not budging.”
“Call the cops. She’s trespassing.”
The Dungeon Monitor hesitated. “If I do that, what happens to the baby?”
Hammer froze. “The what?”
He couldn’t possibly have heard that right.
“What is it?” Liam frowned.
He thrust a hand in his friend’s face and focused on Pike. “Say that again.”
“A baby. She’s got a fucking baby. I assumed it was Liam’s, so I put them in your office.”
Oh, holy shit. No. That was impossible…right?
Hammer eyed his friend, his brain whirling like a cyclone. Liam, a father? That would be news to everyone—especially to Liam.
“I’ll call you right back,” Hammer barked and hung up. Then he turned to Liam and pointed to the toilet. “You should probably sit down.”
Liam scowled. “Why? What’s going on?”
Hammer hoped he’d jumped to conclusions. Pike had only assumed. Liam and Gwyneth had separated over two years ago, so it shouldn’t even be possible. In theory.
He pinned Liam with a heavy stare. There was no delicate way to ask this question. “When was the last time you fucked your ex-wife?”
He gaped at Hammer as if he’d lost his mind. “Why the hell would you ask me that?”
“Because Gwyneth arrived at Shadows with a baby. Please tell me there’s no chance that’s your kid.”
Liam paused for a long moment, then turned white as a ghost and stumbled back, sliding onto the toilet seat as if all the air had escaped his body. “Oh, fuck me…”
Hammer gnashed his teeth. “Apparently, she already did.”
* * *
Liam rubbed a hand over his face, his thoughts whirling. A baby?
“I last saw her at a benefit about a week after our divorce was final. Because I helped a local children’s hospital with fundraising, I received a community award. Gwyneth walked in, and I couldn’t leave. So I got shitfaced. Next thing I know, it’s morning. I’m naked in her hotel room, and she’s going on about how we’d shared the fuck of the century.”
Hammer cringed. “Did you?”
“No.” He paused, trying to stay calm and logical. “At least I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so? Either you put your dick in her or you didn’t.”
“I was bloody drunk. I don’t remember.”
“But you don’t know for sure?” When he shook his head, Hammer looked as if he wanted to hit something. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
Liam broke out in a cold sweat.
“Exactly how long ago was the benefit?”
He wished he could forget. “A year ago this past October.”
Mentally, Liam counted out the months and watched Hammer do the same on his fingers.
“That would make this baby…what, five or six months old?” Hammer shook his head. “Hang on. Your ex isn’t the kind of woman to endure nine months of pregnancy and a minute of single motherhood in silence.”
“You’re right,” Liam agreed, grateful for Hammer’s common sense.
“If this baby is yours, why did she wait until now to say something?”
“That’s a fine question. Did Pike happen to mention how old the baby was?”
“I was too shocked to ask.”
Liam shook his head. “I won’t believe the kid is mine until Gwyneth proves it because she’s too crafty to have come all this way with some half-baked notion. She’ll have spun a tight timeline, like a fucking spider determined to trap me in her web.” He swallowed the ball of unease lodged in his throat. “Christ, I need a drink.”
“Sounds like you also need a paternity test and a damn good lawyer. But you know…maybe she’s not here to claim this kid is yours. Maybe she’s here for something else.” Hammer didn’t sound like he believed that.
Neither did Liam.
If the child was his, he’d be a good and loving father. Whatever his beefs with its mother, the baby shouldn’t suffer. But if this was another of Gwyneth’s manipulations, she might not survive his wrath.
Hammer clapped him on the back. “Let’s move this downstairs before Raine wakes up and overhears us. We’ll talk in the kitchen. And get you that drink.”
With a nod, Liam staggered to his feet and exited the bathroom, pausing to stare at Raine. She looked beautiful in sleep. Peaceful. She’d had so little of that in her life, and he refused to let Gwyneth destroy it.
Last night, he and Hammer had gotten Raine between them for the first time. He’d never felt such pleasure as he had sharing the woman he loved with his best friend. Finally, they’d managed to open her heart, and she’d unfurled so passionately between them. That nagging jealousy had plagued him again afterward, but he’d shoved it down. He and Macen balanced one another to be exactly what she needed. If they could just drown in Raine’s soft body again, love and protect her, he’d work through that issue.
But his ex-wife’s sudden appearance—only hours after they’d committed to Raine—put all that on hold. Bloody terrible timing… Liam wanted to howl at the injustice.
“Come on, man,” Hammer urged.
With a reluctant nod, Liam turned and followed him downstairs. Once they reached the kitchen, he sat at the table, trying to force a calm he didn’t feel.
Hammer prowled through the liquor cabinet in the adjacent living room, then held up a bottle. “Scotch?”
He’d love some liquid oblivion, but hadn’t that gotten him into trouble in the first place? “I’d better not. I need to keep my wits about me.”
“Especially if you’re going to tangle with that snake.” Hammer stashed the bottle and wandered back into the kitchen, pacing.
“Agreed.” Encroaching rage and panic threatened to overtake him, but he couldn’t succumb. “I’ll head down the mountain and handle this mess Gwyneth is trying to lay in my lap. I’ll be back by nightfall.”
“Are you crazy? If you leave to see your ex now, Raine will be devastated.”
“Why?” Liam reared back. “She knows that Gwyneth cheated on me and that I don’t love her.”
“In her head, yeah. But in her heart?” Hammer shook his head.
“If this baby is mine, it was conceived well before I met Raine. It’s not as though I strayed.”
“The baby won’t upset her. You leaving now to see Gwyneth will. Remember, you uncollared her five days ago. You did it for the right reasons, but it cut her to the bone. If Raine wakes up and you’re gone, what do you imagine she’ll think?”
Liam groaned. “That I mean to dump her again, this time for my ex and our ready-made family.”
“Yep, and all of her abandonment issues will resurface. Besides, I’d rather not leave you to deal with that bitch alone. I may have kept my distance these last few years, but we’re in this together. I won’t fail you again.”
Liam gave a little sigh of relief that Macen had his back once more. “That means a lot to me, but I don’t need you to hold my hand. Gwyneth is my ex-wife. My mess. I’ll clean it up. I don’t want it touching you or Raine.”
“There must be another solution besides you leaving. After we pried her open physically and emotionally last night, she’ll be vulnerable for days. Despite the shit ton of progress we made last night, a few hours of bliss isn’t enough for her to change the way she thinks. She’ll shut down. God knows how hard it will be to open her again.”
Bloody hell, Hammer was right.
He pinched the bridge of his nose to quell the developing ache behind his eyes. “I need to find out if that’s my kid.”
Macen scowled, looking downright ruthless. “Let me go to the club. I’ll sort Gwyneth out and get you an answer.”
“I don’t think that will work any better. If you leave now, what will Raine think of that?”
Hammer paused, then cursed. “That the conquest is over, and I’ve moved on to find another. Damn it.”
“Precisely. That’s why I want to sit her down and explain. I’ll reassure her that I mean to be back by tonight.”
“Explain what? We don’t have any facts except that your ex-wife is in town, she’s brought a kid, and she wants to see you.”
Liam rubbed a palm against his aching forehead. “We have to tell Raine something. Keeping her in the dark is asking for trouble. After two days of drilling the importance of honesty and communication into her head, we promised her the same. Surely you haven’t forgotten how she just handed us our balls because we weren’t walking the walk.”
“How could I?” He snorted. “I don’t want to be dishonest, but it’s our duty as her Doms to protect her. Gwyneth’s sudden appearance will incite Raine’s worst insecurities.”
The Bold and the Dominant by Shayla Black / Romance & Love have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on45 votes