Her fantasy men, p.16
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       Her Fantasy Men, p.16
 

           Shayla Black
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  with just one of you, and you all clearly aren’t going to be happy sharing me. Everything between us has changed, and we can’t go back. Tell my mother I’ll call and explain. Jeremy, I’m resigning, effectively immediately. Rhys, please water my yard until the house sells.”

  Jerking free of their touches and wiping away fresh tears, Kelsey fought the urge to hug and kiss them good-bye. Would she ever see them again? Could she be in the same room with them again and not fall into a lovesick puddle at their feet? No, and she’d best leave here now before she lost her resolve and forgot how much she was hurting everyone instead of remembering how much she loved them.

  Jeremy grabbed her arm again.

  Kelsey looked back, knowing her shattered heart was on her face. “Please. Let me go ...”

  A long moment passed. He reluctantly released her.

  Biting her lip, Kelsey ran down the hall, dragging her rolling suitcase. She grabbed her purse and opened the front door. Go. Leave! she told herself. She couldn’t do it without looking back at them one last time.

  They looked devastated. Tucker’s heartbreak shone from his eyes. Desolation swept across Jeremy’s dark face. Rhys clenched his jaw and his fists, looking a breath away from real tears. Her gut clenched. Her knees buckled. She’d done this to them. Now she had to leave so the healing could begin.

  “I’m sorry it couldn’t work. I love you all.” She swallowed. “Be happy.”

  A week dragged. Then another. And every time Jeremy walked out of his office and saw his temporary paralegal sitting at Kelsey’s desk, anguish pounded him all over again.

  Damn it, he wasn’t sleeping. Or eating. Or focusing on anything except Kelsey.

  Where the hell had she gone? Of course, he’d called Garrison the next morning to ask if Kelsey had accepted his job. Bastard refused to say, but his smug tone told Jeremy all he needed to know. Or so he’d thought. But his quick trip to Miami a few days ago and a thorough search of Garrison’s office had netted no proof that Kelsey worked there. Or planned to. The job his rival had interviewed Kelsey for had been filled by another paralegal. But Jeremy felt down in his gut that Garrison knew exactly where Kelsey was.

  Jeremy had no fucking clue. None of them did. Unfortunately, she’d changed her cell phone number. Deleted her e-mail account. He’d used every contact he knew to see if Kelsey had started a new paralegal job. And according to Tucker, her parents weren’t talking, either. Rhys had used some of his cop and PI friends to try to find her. All to no avail.

  She’d well and truly left them. Jeremy couldn’t avoid the truth that he was largely at fault. Fuck, she’d warned them all along that she couldn’t choose . . . and they’d refused to believe that they couldn’t use time, money, sex, and love to force her. He’d been a jealous bastard and driven a wedge between them.

  Now, he regretted it like hell.

  A dull headache beat between his temples. Jeremy looked at his watch. Eight P.M. He’d been at work for the last fourteen hours, eaten next to nothing and accomplished even less. But why the hell should he go home to an empty condo, even with his views of the lake, and take stock of just how fucking empty his life was without Kelsey Rena?

  A knock on his door made him look up. Rhys and Tucker both stood there. He hadn’t seen them since the terrible evening Kelsey had left them. He’d spoken to each once—long enough to extract a promise to call him if she contacted them and for them to secure a promise in kind.

  “Have you heard from her?”

  Tucker rubbed his hands nervously. “Yes. When she knew I’d be working and away from my phone, Kels left me a voice mail. She’s due in town for her cousin’s wedding this weekend. She’s asked to see us all at ten o’ clock on Saturday morning at her house.” His shoulders dropped on a big sigh. “She was very clear that we should not assume this means she’s coming home to stay or wants to resume a romantic relationship with any of us.”

  Jeremy clenched his jaw. That was Kelsey, unflinchingly direct when she chose to be. “So what does she want?”

  Rhys shrugged. “Other than maybe wanting another chance to read us the riot act, I don’t know.”

  “Me, either.”

  A long, silent moment ensued, and Jeremy turned that last evening with Kelsey over in his mind again.

  “What happened that night? Really?” He glared at Tucker. “You couldn’t think for even a second that I’d actually hurt her.”

  Tucker’s jaw dropped, suggesting to Jeremy that he’d surely lost his mind. “What the hell else would I think? You’d restrained her so that you could hit her. Where I come from, that’s abusing a woman, and I wasn’t going to stand there and watch.”

  Had the asshole never heard of BDSM? “Rhys verified that she was very much enjoying herself.”

  “I don’t see how.” Tucker shook his head. “Her ass was bright red. I clearly saw your handprint on her fair skin. She had tears running down her face, for fuck’s sake.”

  “From coming so hard! Are you that blind? That unaware of what it means to be dominant with a female?”

  “Hey, I’m plenty alpha.”

  At Tucker’s objection, Jeremy shook his head. “Not the same thing.”

  “It’s not,” Rhys supplied.

  “What, are you on his side?” Tucker snapped.

  “I’m on the side of whoever can figure this shit out and get her back here,” the fireman pointed out.

  “So stop being sanctimonious,” Jeremy snapped. “I saw how you looked at her. You were pissed . . . but you were also hard.”

  Tucker’s eyes narrowed. “She was naked. I was furious, not blind. Don’t you dare suggest that I’d get off on hitting a woman.”

  “Punching her, no.” Jeremy shrugged. “Slapping her ass and watching it turn red for you, yeah, I think you might.”

  “You’re wrong,” Tucker insisted.

  “I don’t care about Tucker’s kink or lack thereof,” Rhys cut in. “The truth is, something happened that night and none of us handled it well. She’ll be back in three days and wants to see us. This might be our last shot.”

  Rhys’s words shot dread through Jeremy, but damn it if he wasn’t right. “I’m assuming we are all still in love with her?”

  “Yes,” Tucker confirmed.

  Rhys nodded. “Damn straight.”

  Jeremy swallowed. Now reconciling got difficult. But if he didn’t embrace her wants and needs over his own, didn’t love her enough to man up, she’d come and go on Saturday, perhaps never to appear again.

  If it was within his power at all, he needed to ensure that didn’t happen.

  “Good,” Jeremy asserted. “Until we fucked up, she wanted all of us. Kelsey doesn’t change her mind or heart that easily, so let’s work from the assumption that’s still true.”

  Tucker nodded. “And you’re now okay with that?”

  “Being without Kelsey is far, far worse than sharing her. If she needs us all ...” He sighed. “I want her happy and need her in my life. Since we all still love her, we’re going to have to learn to work together, get along.”

  Rhys’s jaw dropped. “Wow. I wasn’t sure you’d ever get there. You really do love her.”

  “Yes.”

  The fireman slanted Jeremy a challenging stare. “If she agrees to stay, you know that means we’re all going to fuck her, probably every day. And you’re going to have to deal.”

  “I know.” Not that he loved the fact. But it was reality. “Her happiness is most important, and I know you’d never hurt her.”

  “Wish I could say the same about you.” A deadly note crept into Tucker’s voice.

  “Goddammit, you thick-headed cowboy! Dominance isn’t about beating a woman into submission; it’s about earning her trust. It’s a Dominant’s job to understand his submissive’s deepest desires and give them to her. Part of doing that means he rewards the compliant behavior and punishes the undesirable. She grants trust, and he exercises it, proving he’s worthy, so he earns more and can get to t
he deepest core of her needs.”

  “He’s right,” Rhys concurred.

  “How do you know?” Tucker whirled on him, brow furrowed.

  The fireman shrugged. “I did the D/s thing with a girlfriend in college. Loved it.”

  Tucker rolled his eyes. “Is there anything sexual you haven’t tried and haven’t liked?”

  Rhys thought. About two seconds later, he shook his head and smiled. “Nope.”

  “I don’t get it.” Sighing, Tucker scrubbed a hand across his face. “But I’ll try to.”

  “Think with your dick and not your Southern gentleman upbringing.” Some of Jeremy’s anger drained away. “I pushed Kelsey’s boundaries, and she proved to me that she was every bit ready and happy for more.”

  Tucker didn’t say anything for a long minute. “I’ll try to be okay with that—provided she even gives us another chance. I don’t know . . . I’ll at least promise to ask questions before I hit you again.”

  Jeremy laughed, feeling lighter than he had in weeks. “That’s a good start, and I’ll do the same . . . but I think I have an idea, too.”

  CHAPTER | TEN

  Kelsey smoothed a hand down her skirt for the tenth time in the last five minutes, then pressed a hand to her fluttering stomach. She tapped her toes in a nervous gesture. The guys were due here any moment, and it was all she could do not to lose the contents of her stomach.

  How would they react to what she had to say? She’d run a thousand scenarios in her mind but still didn’t know. The next hour could be the longest of her life.

  At precisely ten o’clock, the doorbell rang. Her stomach jumped, cramped. Drawing in a deep breath, she tried to find a Zen moment as she approached the door and opened it.

  On the other side stood three wonderful men. God, they were all stiff and quiet, their faces silently yearning. Tucker’s expression held so much regret. She’d never seen Rhys this somber. Jeremy looked flat exhausted. He’d never been one to reveal his emotions, but today he wore his heart on his sleeve.

  Kelsey closed her eyes for a moment. Finality resounded inside her like a death knell. This was going to kill her.

  “Good morning.” She stepped back. “Come in and . . .”

  The living room had too many memories. Bad ones. Every time she passed it, all she saw was punches thrown. She heard the echoes of hurled threats and insults.

  No, not here.

  “Let’s go to the den,” she murmured.

  They followed in silence. Rhys was right behind her. Funny how she knew his musky scent so perfectly. Tucker followed. The way he shuffled when he walked was distinct. Jeremy fell in last—a surprise. She’d expected him to barge in first and demand the most. What was up with him?

  Once they reached the family room, she purposely sat in the room’s lone recliner. The men all stopped in front of the sofa and sat reluctantly. Without a word, they knew that what she had to say was going to change everything.

  “I know you’re wondering why I called you here.”

  “Wait.” Tucker leaned forward, looking like he’d burst if he didn’t get to speak. “I’m sorry for everything. I thought before I acted—”

  “Thank you. But it doesn’t change anything.”

  “Actually, we hope it does,” Rhys replied. “We’ve talked. We know we fucked up bad.”

  She sighed. “It wasn’t just the fight.”

  “You’re worried about everything behind it; we understand,” Jeremy assured.

  Then her former boss rose to his feet, crossed the room. Kelsey watched, wide eyed, as he came closer.

  “Don’t,” she protested.

  She didn’t have the strength to resist him—any of them.

  “Shh. I won’t . . . touch ...” Sighing, he dropped to his knees at her feet. “Please. Just hear us.”

  The toughest, most go-for-the-jugular attorney in Texas begging? She didn’t know what to say. She swallowed. The ice around her heart was already cracking. How the hell could she stop it when Jeremy looked at her like she held his heart and soul in the palm of her hand?

  “I know whatever you’re going to say is . . . final.” Tucker folded his hands in his lap. “You’ve got that look on your face. But before you say it, we’d like to try to set things right—”

  “It won’t work. I can’t—won’t—choose, and you can’t share, even temporarily. So let’s just . . . not hurt each other more.”

  “I know you won’t choose. We won’t make you try,” Jeremy vowed.

  “Eventually, you would. Especially you.”

  “You’re not just mine,” Jeremy blurted, taking her hands in his. “You’re ours. I was putting my demands above your happiness. I know now that I can’t. I’ve never shared well.” He shrugged and sent her a tight smile. “Only-child syndrome, I guess. But you looked . . . radiant when you were with all of us, and I’m sorry I thought I could take that from you. If you’ll give us a second chance, I will never come between you and the others again.”

  She sucked in a breath. A stunning promise. Huge. Her heart jumped with possibilities . . . before reality crashed in. “It’s easy to say . . . and hard to do. You’ll tell me whatever you think I want to hear now, but you don’t really mean it. Like last time—”

  “Last time we all made love to you at once, I was thinking that I would grant you this one fantasy before I claimed you for my own. Now, I know better.”

  Did he? Really? “But when our situation tests you—”

  “Test us now,” Jeremy insisted. “As long as you love me, I can deal with anything.”

  He looked so honest that Kelsey did a double take. “And this isn’t some ploy to make me choose eventually?”

  He shook his head. “I swear.”

  “This is us wanting to love you, baby,” Rhys supplied. “However you need to be loved. As long as you’ll love us back.”

  Seriously? Had they really talked about what had gone wrong?

  Maybe she shouldn’t get her hopes up. She knew she wanted a lot from them. And they still had more barriers between them.

  “What about you, Tucker? Can you accept what I need from Jeremy?”

  Something crossed his face as it tightened. Resolution. He stood tall, squared his shoulders. His caring blue eyes hardened as he looked at her with demand.

  “Stand up. I’ll show you exactly what I can accept, honey.”

  Tucker? No denying the command in his voice made her pulse race, echoing between her legs.

  Slowly, uncertainly, she stood. “What is it?”

  “Faster next time. Now lose the skirt.”

  Her eyes nearly popped from her head. That order had come from her sweet friend Tucker? And his tone . . . deep, snapping like a lash, insistent.

  Kelsey felt herself go damp, but forced herself to rein in her desire.

  “I don’t know where you’re going with this, but we have really important things to—”

  “Lose. The. Skirt.” Tucker took a heavy step toward her, his expression hot and impatient.

  They’d planned this. Kelsey understood that now. The three of them really had talked about the problems between them and each tried to accept responsibility. Jeremy swore he would share her, Rhys vowed they’d love her however she needed, and now Tucker had adopted a dominant mantle to please her.

  She bit her lip. Was it possible they really meant to make it work?

 
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