Their virgin princess, p.10
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.10
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         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
Page 10

 

  “That’s where you’re making your mistake,” Rafe said. “If you want Alea, you better behave like brothers. Blood or no, be a cohesive unit. You have to take care of each other and work together. ”

  “Yeah, you’ve got to do that if you’re going to survive your wife. Trust me, Cole’s the dumbass. He’s always hiding behind me when he says something stupid. ” The Lennox twin on the right pointed to his other half.

  Yeah, Dane would like a word with Cole. “He might want to hide behind you now. ”

  A single eyebrow arched on Cole’s face. “You’re pissed that I talked to Landon? Well, someone had to. You guys are fucking this up and hard. ”

  The urge to kill flared up again. “Is that right?”

  Tal held up a hand. “Before you kill Mr. Lennox, perhaps you should understand a few things. ”

  “Like he could kill me. ” Cole rolled his eyes.

  Burke shrugged. “Dude, we’ve spent the last year hauling our son around, not training for battle. He would probably take you down. ”

  “Please. I could take him down with Caleb strapped into his baby Snugli across my chest. ”

  “The fact that you just used the word Snugli proves how out of the game we are. ”

  The Lennox brothers continued to argue, but Dane looked to Tal. “What do you mean?”

  “I mean what you’ve tried hasn’t worked. You’ve all come at her in different ways, and she is going to require a coordinated assault where you leave her absolutely no way out. It’s imperative the three of you work together. And be smart for a fucking change. I believe she’ll respond to how gentle Landon can be, to Cooper’s playfulness, and I absolutely believe she needs you most of all. ” Tal looked pointedly at Dane. “But you’re the one who’s holding back the most. ”

  Tal could accuse him of a lot of things, but not that he’d been holding back. Something crashed in the background, and Dane looked over his shoulder. Landon had Cooper pinned to the ground, getting ready to bash his head in with what was probably a priceless vase. Idiots.

  Cooper kicked up and Lan groaned as his balls met with a steel-toed boot. Every man in the hallway moaned, and Lan started a long fall to the floor.

  Yeah, this was fucking helping.

  Dane moved in to avoid utter catastrophe. The last thing he needed was to get billed for damaging historical art or some shit. He caught the vase just before Lan hit the floor.

  Cooper and Landon were both on the carpet, chests heaving and blood dripping. They had done numbers on one another.

  “You two, stay the fuck down or I will get involved in this,” Dane promised. Maybe Rafe was right and they should start considering themselves brothers. If they did that, Coop and Lan better understand that Dane was the big brother, and they were going to have to fall in line.

  For now, they seemed content to lie there and focus on breathing.

  “Sorry. ” He handed the vase back to Tal. “I’ll talk to them. ”

  Tal nodded. “That was a start. ”

  “How the hell can you say I haven’t been trying with her? I’ve been on walks with her almost every day. I try talking to her, coaxing her out of her shell. I’ve brought her treats, complimented her… Everything I should. ”

  “Everything a vanilla man should. Alea requires more, and you know it. ”

  Fuck. “She’s fragile. ”

  “She’s also submissive without a firm Dominant. She’s in free fall without a safety net. Rafe, Kade, and I have stood back, hoping you three would get your act together, but…” Tal shook his head.

  Damn and hell. Tal wasn’t telling him anything about Alea he hadn’t already known. Every instinct in his body told him to top her, but she just kept shoving back. He didn’t want to push her too hard. He’d been down that road with Kelly, and it had only ended in divorce.

  “I can’t force her to see what she needs,” Dane argued.

  “I’ve watched you with Alea,” Kade said, stepping up. “You’re at your best when you tell it like it is. But you’ve been very careful with her. Hell, we all have. My brothers and I have resolved to stop now. You have to do the same. I’m not telling you to force her to your will, but you should be open and honest about everything you can do for her. What the three of you give her. ”

  “We’ve tried so many things,” Rafe added. “We’ve brought in therapists, given her charity work to take her mind off things, surrounded her with family and friends from her past who can help her remember happier times. None of it has worked. She pretends to be content, but she doesn’t connect with people anymore. ”

  Coop pushed himself off the floor. “She’s got a terrible self-image. She thinks she’s ugly and frigid. We can’t work on that from a distance. ”

  Lan got to his feet as well, wiping blood from his mouth. “I hate to admit it, but I agree with Cooper. What we’ve been doing so far hasn’t worked. We’ve been treating her like she’s too fragile. We’ve almost convinced her that she is, too. But she won’t break. She just needs to know that we’re strong enough to handle her. ”

  Dane looked at his two best friends. They had beaten each other stupid, but now they were standing together. Maybe that’s what real brothers were like. And maybe it was time to start following his instincts. Alea was floundering. Her world had been broken in a way that she couldn’t put back together all alone. She didn’t know how to ask for help and was afraid to need it. She was damn straight terrified to open her heart.

  He’d worked plenty of operations where he couldn’t just walk through the door, guns blazing. The key was strategy. Find a sneaky way in. He could manage that. A two-pronged approach would work. He could start doing exactly what Tal had suggested, tell Alea everything she was missing, everything they could give her in the filthiest language possible. He wouldn’t hold back. He wouldn’t be polite. And he wouldn’t let her get away with anything.

  And then, when she couldn’t stand another second, they would deliver on their promises. They would show her just how beautiful they thought she was, how hot they could make her, how high they could send her soaring. Once her body belonged to him and his brothers, her heart wouldn’t be far behind.

  “Go get cleaned up,” Dane said to Landon and Cooper. “We have a lot to talk about. Tal, please have the investigators send me the report. We’ll will regroup in the morning and figure out exactly where to go from here. In the meantime, were going to figure out new protocols for the princess. ”

  Tal held out his hand, shaking Dane’s firmly. “The backup security team can handle the rest of the evening. It’s winding down anyway. Consider your team reassigned. You’re completely in charge of Alea’s security from now on. Good luck. ”

  Tal and his brothers, along with their friends, filed down the stairs, heading back to the ballroom, leaving Dane alone with the two men who had watched his back for the last two years. There wasn’t anyone else he would rather go into battle with.

  This was the mission of a lifetime, and Dane didn’t intend to fail.

  Chapter Four

  Alea nearly cursed when she heard the soft knock on her door. The last thing she wanted was more conflict. At least she was dressed this time, having donned silk pajamas after a punishingly hot shower. “Please, Dane, can we talk about it in the morning? I’m so tired. ”

  Dane would be the one they sent. He always delivered bad news or a lengthy lecture on how stupidly she was behaving. She knew putting him off wasn’t right, but she couldn’t handle another confrontation tonight.

  The door opened, and a pretty brunette in a designer gown floated in. Piper al Mussad stood halfway in the room, her hands raised in a silent gesture that pleaded for peace. “It’s just me. Don’t blame me because my husbands are nitwits. ”

  Alea couldn’t help but smile. Despite the terror, uncertainty, and shame of the last hour, Piper was a breath of fresh air. Her cousin-in-law was one of those people who lit up the room simply by walking into it
. “You really should have had their IQs checked before you decided to marry them. ”

  Piper shrugged. “Give a girl a break. I was blinded by their hotness. ”

  “Okay, as a girl who remembers them during their prepubescent years—ewww. ” But Alea smiled. Piper had been so good for her cousins. She’d become the sun they all orbited around. It reminded Alea of the joy her aunt and uncles had once shared and how happy the palace had been during her youth.

  Piper closed the door behind her, her radiant face suddenly serious. “Are you all right?”

  Alea was so far from all right that it was ridiculous, but she didn’t need to drag Piper any farther into this mess. And she wasn’t about to cause problems in Piper’s marriage. “I’m perfectly fine. My cousins have always been protective. I’m positive they would’ve told me in the morning. ”

  “You’re taking this way better than I would have. I have to confess, when Talib admitted what had happened, I thought about shoving something up his backside. ”

  “Piper!”

  She shrugged. “It’s his favorite form of discipline. We should see how he likes it. ”

  Alea felt her face flush. She shook her head as she sat on the couch in the living area of her apartment. “I don’t understand how you can talk about things like that. ”

  Piper eased down beside her. “Because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Tell me something. Was your aunt very proper? I know when she was the shaykhah she was every inch a lady in public, but was she reserved in private? I’ve only known her in private and she’s so open. I’m wondering how she dealt with the public side of this life. ”

  Alea laughed. Her aunt had been the same whether cameras were on her or not. “She used to tell us that she wouldn’t hide how much she loved my uncles. She’s very British, my aunt, but that stiff upper lip completely softened around her husbands and children. She is a lovely woman. She was the perfect queen in her day. You actually remind me a lot of her. ”

  “Thank you. ” Piper smiled. “I’ve heard enough stories about when their fathers were alive to know that my husbands weren’t raised in a household that lacked warmth. When they were children, their parents often displayed their affection and told my husbands that they were loved. So were you. She still loves you. ”

  “My aunt and uncles created a wonderful environment to grow up in, though I missed not really knowing my own parents. ”

  “Do I offend you when I talk about my intimate life with Tal, Rafe, and Kade? It’s not my intention. You’re my closest friend here. I’m afraid I like to talk about everything. It helps me process all that’s happened. The last few months have been full of change for me. ” She laid a hand over her still-flat stomach.

  “Oh, god, Piper, you don’t offend me at all. I just can’t understand. ” And Piper was such a sneaky woman. Now Alea understood why she’d been asking about the family. Piper had been backing her into a corner, and it was easier to simply answer the question she knew would eventually come. “Yes, I grew up in an open household, and yet I’m very reserved about sex. I’m sure it’s because of what happened to me in South America. I’ve been to several of the world’s best therapists. I know what my problems are. ”

  Shrewd eyes stared back at her. “But you don’t seem interested in fixing them. ”

  Alea stood up every time she talked about it, she got restless, uneasy in her own skin. “I don’t like who I am right now. It’s weird because I can remember the girl I used to be, the one who didn’t blow up at everyone, the one who wasn’t isolated. But it feels like all of that was a dream and I had to wake up. Believe me, if I could forget what happened, I would. ”

  “You’ll never forget, Alea. Forgetting shouldn’t be your goal. But it’s up to you whether or not you allow them to win. Though I admit, watching you continually give in to your captors is painful. ”

  “I’m not letting anyone win, damn it. ”

  Piper sent her a skeptical stare. “Tell me you don’t want those men who guard you, Lea. ”

  Everything always came back to Dane, Cooper, and Landon. Since the moment she’d seen them, it seemed as if her thoughts had started to revolve around them, if not her world. If she’d been the same exuberant girl who’d left for New York, she would have had all the confidence in the world to try a relationship with them. But this was now.

  “I don’t want them. ”

  Piper sighed. “You can lie to yourself, but I know the truth. I think they know it, too. ”

  Tears welled, unbidden, unwanted because she wasn’t that girl anymore. “It doesn’t matter. ”

  She didn’t see how she could possibly be pretty enough, sensual enough, or healed enough for them—ever.

 
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