Her fantasy men, p.10
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       Her Fantasy Men, p.10
 

           Shayla Black
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  knew that.

  “Kelsey, just leaving us makes no fucking sense,” her boss argued. “You’re going to make us all miserable instead of making one bastard happy?”

  “Don’t you get it? You’d all be miserable. If I married you, would you let me be alone with Tucker again for five minutes? Ever?”

  She saw the answer in his face. He wouldn’t allow such a thing in a billion years.

  “See.” She stood. “You’d have a difficult time trusting me—not that I don’t deserve it. And being forced to cut the other two out of my heart to pacify a jealous husband would eventually change who I am and crush the marriage.”

  “I’d never make you choose,” Tucker said.

  “Then it would be your mistake,” she spit out in brutal honesty. She turned to Rhys and Jeremy. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but neither of you will give up easily or soon, even if I married Tucker, right?”

  “I’d have to take my last breath in order to give up.” Jeremy crossed his arms over his chest, his challenging gaze spearing Tucker.

  God, he looked ready to fight, here and now.

  “I’d never back down,” Rhys promised. “You may see me as your laid-back neighbor with the big sense of humor. But about you, I’m deadly serious.”

  “Which only proves my point. I knew better than to give in to my cravings for any of you . . .” She buried her face in her hands. “I feared you’d be hurt. I knew I’d be confused. I don’t see a way out of it except to leave.”

  Tucker grabbed her hand. “Kels, no—”

  “Don’t do this!” Anguish thundered across Jeremy’s face.

  Rhys, the closest, grabbed her face and planted a hard kiss on her mouth. “I’m not letting go without a fight.”

  Kelsey had known this scene would be difficult, painful. Even she hadn’t been able to foresee that turning them all away and ending everything between them would shred her guts and heart. Their expressions said she was doing the same to them. She slapped a hand over her mouth, watching them with a watery gaze.

  The doorbell rang, cutting through the tense despair in the little kitchen.

  “The real estate agent?” Jeremy snapped.

  Likely so. She nodded.

  I’m so sorry . . .

  Her only consolation was that she was ending their relationships now. If she stayed and tried to choose one or go back to the way life had been . . . No. There were too many feelings out in the open now. She knew how they felt inside her, about her. Going back was impossible.

  Before they could stop her, she darted past them and into the foyer, wiping away her tears. After brief introductions and a short tour of the formal living and dining rooms, she returned to the kitchen nook with the sharply dressed woman. By then, the guys had cleaned up the pizza box and beer cans, stashed the trash can, and folded their blankets. Their eyes were grim. Rhys clenched his fists. Jeremy ground his jaw. Tucker’s cajoling speech was on the tip of his tongue—and all over his face.

  Kelsey introduced them to the agent. The fifty-something woman looked confused by their presence, and the resulting silence quickly became awkward.

  “Can you guys excuse us? I need to show Barbara the house.”

  Another long pause, and Kelsey wondered if they were going to argue with her, despite the agent’s presence. Finally, Rhys gave her a sharp nod and stormed out of the room.

  “Call me, honey.” Tucker’s voice was a plea. “Please.”

  And where would a phone call lead except deeper under his spell?

  Jeremy saved her from answering. “This discussion isn’t over.”

  It was, and that fact was killing her. Jeremy knew it was over, too. He just didn’t concede defeat easily. That was one of the reasons he was so successful.

  “Good-bye.”

  Kelsey wanted to sink into the couch and wail out her heartbreak, but Tucker would use it to draw her into his arms, and Jeremy would find some way to use her weakness to his advantage. She didn’t dare succumb to tears now.

  “Let’s see the backyard, Barbara.”

  The agent nodded, clearly glad to be away from the men. Together, they went outside. When Kelsey returned with the other woman a few minutes later, the guys were gone.

  With a crushing sense of sadness, she wondered if she’d ever see them again. If she was smart and wanted to keep from breaking everyone’s hearts, the answer must be no.

  CHAPTER | SIX

  By some unspoken agreement, all three men found themselves in Rhys’s house. Probably so they could stare out the window and see when the real estate agent got in her Lexus and left. And they could all storm back over to Kelsey’s house.

  Jeremy wasn’t, for one minute, ready to let this go. As the beers and scotch dwindled over the next two hours, Rhys and Tucker also made it clear they didn’t subscribe to the if-you-love-something-set-it-free theory.

  He slammed his bottle on Rhys’s table. “Both of you knew I wanted her. I made that perfectly clear.”

  Rhys snorted. “You may be used to people giving you what you want in legal negotiations, but she is a woman. I wanted her every bit as much as you. More, even.”

  “That’s not possible,” Jeremy assured. After nearly twenty-five years of sexual activity, he could say without a doubt that he wanted Kelsey with an enduring intensity that he’d never felt.

  “I’ve known her my whole life,” Tucker groused. “I always hoped that our long-standing relationship would count for something . . .”

  Silence descended, and they all downed more alcohol. Diluting it with dinner would probably be a good idea, but it might also temper this angry buzz he had going, and right now, Jeremy wanted to feel how badly he’d fucked up. Miscalculated. He did his best thinking when he was furious.

  Rhys stood and paced. “Damn, I have to report for duty in six hours, which means I have to stop drinking.”

  But the fireman eyed his beer as if sobering up were the last thing he wanted to do.

  “To do that,” he continued, “I need to find some clarity. Let’s look at the facts.”

  “Fact one: She let each of us fuck her,” Jeremy said brutally. “You on Monday, me on Wednesday, and Tucker on Friday.”

  “She didn’t do it to be malicious,” Tucker argued. “But because she says she loves all of us.”

  Jeremy sighed. “That’s fact number two.”

  “Maybe . . . we’re making this about sex, and it isn’t,” Tucker suggested. “Maybe it’s just about her heart. She’s being honest when she says she loves us all, and we’re arguing about who’s sleeping with her.”

  “Of course she’s being honest. But where the hell does acknowledging that leave us?” Jeremy scowled. “There’s three of us and one of her. What the fuck are we supposed to do?”

  Tucker raked a frustrated hand through his fashionably shaggy hair. “We’re tearing her apart.”

  “No shit.” Jeremy knew the sarcasm wasn’t helping, but seriously, did Tucker think he hadn’t realized that?

  Suddenly, Rhys froze. “I got it.”

  “Got what?” he and Tucker both snapped.

  Rhys rolled his eyes. “The solution! We share her.”

  The words went off like a bomb. After the explosion, eerie silence reigned for a full dozen seconds.

  Then Tucker pushed back in his chair. “Pass her around like a lap dog?”

  “Let her leave my bed to crawl into yours?”

  “Look, do you want her to move away?” Rhys demanded.

  Jeremy tried not to grind his teeth. “No.”

  “Of course not,” Tucker muttered.

  “Then get over your own fucking egos.” The fireman started pacing again. “She says she can’t choose. So we don’t make her . . . at least right now. Maybe she just needs more time with each of us to make a more educated decision, so for now, we share her. Take all the pressure off.”

  Tucker’s fist tightened around his beer can. “How would that work?”

  Rhys blew out a breath
, clearly clueless about the practicalities. The fireman was big on ideas but short on details. “I think we have to let her choose who, when, where ...” He sent a pointed glance in Jeremy’s direction. “Give her all the power.”

  Jeremy tensed. That went against every instinct he possessed as a Dominant and a man. But as Rhys had so ineloquently pointed out, this wasn’t about his ego, and Kelsey would leave them permanently if they continued to press her before she was ready to make a decision. She had to relax and really experience him as a man, a friend, a life partner, before she could commit.

  “I don’t like it,” Tucker crushed the aluminum can in his grip. “But it makes a perverse sort of sense. We’ve all taken our relationships with her from platonic to intimate in the span of a few days. I asked her to marry me—”

  “Me, too,” Rhys admitted.

  What the fuck else can go wrong? Jeremy poured more scotch down his throat. “Make that three.”

  “So she must be incredibly confused,” Tucker concluded. “She went from having a friend, a neighbor, and a boss to juggling three potential fiancés in a handful of days.”

  “Too much too fast,” Rhys reiterated with a nod.

  As much as Jeremy hated it, they were right.

  Then again, he’d never feared competition, and he wasn’t about to start now. He could weed Rhys quickly out of Kelsey’s heart. She’d met the fireman last and leaned on him as a handyman; how deep could her attachment really be?

  Tucker would be more challenging to eliminate. It seemed possible that she felt guilty because her friend had confessed to deeper feelings that sensitive Kelsey wouldn’t want to eschew. She hated to hurt anyone. In time, Jeremy was certain he could make her see that her feelings for the other man didn’t extend beyond friendship. Mentally, he began a to-do list that would sweep Kelsey off her feet. All he had to do was whisk her away for a romantic trip to Paris, give her lots of attention, and plunge her into life as the sexy, perfect submissive he knew her to be. By then, he’d have her all to himself.

  No need to tell the others that.

  “I agree,” Jeremy asserted. “I’m in.”

  “As demanding and possessive as you are?” Tucker’s jaw dropped. “You’re the last one I would have imagined agreeing to this.”

  “Part of being a good negotiator is knowing which battles you can successfully fight, how far you can push them, and when to fall back. As we’ve already stated, she’s hurting, scared, and she’ll leave unless we find a way to help her relax so that she has the proper time and information. I want her to be absolutely certain when she finally chooses, and rushing her is counter to that goal. I don’t love this plan, but I see its wisdom.”

  “Exactly.” Rhys spun to face Tucker. “What he said.”

  Tucker glared at the fireman. “How will you feel, knowing he’s tying sweet Kelsey up and spanking her for his perverse pleasure?”

  Rhys frowned, then shrugged. “Well, bondage isn’t . . . all bad. I think her ass would look pretty pink.”

  Jeremy couldn’t resist the dig. “It does.”

  Tucker shot to his feet and lunged at Jeremy. “Damn you! If I find out that you hit her again—”

  “You mean paddled her ass just right so that she came for me? More than once?”

  “Lucky bastard,” Rhys murmured.

  Jeremy smiled. He had a partner in crime, albeit a temporary one. And Tucker had just given him the means to eliminate Kelsey’s best friend from the running. While he had a hell of a good time doing it.

  “I wouldn’t worry about what I do with her, if I were you,” he drawled as he tossed Tucker a challenging gaze. “I’d worry about how you’re going to keep up in the orgasm count.”

  “I’ll do just fine,” Tucker assured. “After last Friday night, I have no doubt. And Kelsey will end up mine.”

  Game on.

  “I have no doubt she’ll be mine.” Rhys smiled like he was the most confident bastard on the planet. “May the best man win.”

  Kelsey stared at her suitcase, pondering the two suits she’d laid out for her meeting with Mr. Garrison tomorrow afternoon. At least if anyone had seen her, that’s what they would have thought.

  But the truth was, she couldn’t focus on tomorrow’s job interview because she couldn’t get her mind off her men.

  Lifting the glass of wine to her lips, she took a deep swallow. Yes, she’d pay for this in the morning, and her flight would likely be miserable. Being tipsy would solve nothing. The idea, however, that she might never see the guys again—never mind hold or kiss them—made her stomach reel and her head spin. Why not give it a little alcohol-induced kick?

  She glanced at the clock. Nearly nine P.M. Sighing, she mentally reviewed the contents of her refrigerator. Eating would be good . . . especially since there was so much wine left in the bottle, and puking it all up before she had a really good buzz going would be a shame.

  Turning her back on the suitcase, she made her way to the kitchen and looked everywhere for something edible. Then she saw her sticky note on the freezer: GO TO GROCERY STORE. Which she hadn’t done. Damn!

  Laying her forehead against the freezer door, she closed her eyes. Rhys, Tucker, and Jeremy were all there in her thoughts, laughing, passionate, loving. Snatches of their time together flitted through her mind. The best times of her life. Now that they were gone, she realized she’d never felt more protected or more loved for who she was than when she’d been with them. How stupidly she’d taken all that caring acceptance for granted. Giving them all up would kill her.

  But it might save their hearts, and that’s what mattered.

  Wiping away her tears, she looked around for her phone book to find a pizza joint when she heard someone insert the key in her front door. The lock jangled. The door swept open.

  Tucker!

  As she rounded the corner, she didn’t just come face-to-face with one of her men, but all three. Wide-shouldered and tall, and determined—a wall of testosterone.

  Kelsey’s knees went weak. She was dangerously happy to see them. One last time, just a few minutes . . .

  “Guys . . .”

  “We’re going to talk,” Jeremy said in that commanding voice that made her shiver.

  “As soon as you’ve eaten,” Rhys said as he shouldered his way into the kitchen and set a plate on the table.

  “I’ll take that.” Tucker grabbed the wine bottle and frowned at it. “After this morning’s hangover, you don’t need another. And we’d rather talk to you when you’re sober.”

  They were melting her with their gruff caring and good food, because whatever they’d brought smelled damn good. Their kindness was wrenching her heart . . . and weakening her resolve.

  “Eat,” Jeremy demanded, hooking an arm around her waist and leading her to a chair at the table.

  Tucker poured the rest of the wine down the drain.

  “Hey!” she protested.

  He shook his head. “Saving you the headache, honey.”

  Annoyance wrapped around her nerves, which was actually a bit of a blessing. “You’re my friend, not my daddy.”

  Calmly, he filled a glass with ice and water, then snagged a coaster. He set both on the table with a smack, then looked her right in the eye. “I’m your lover.”

  Kelsey swallowed. Tucker almost never got angry. But he was riding the edge of his temper right now. Still . . .

 
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