Their virgin princess, p.17
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.17

         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
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Page 17


  “Damn straight, brother, but we shouldn’t have to. I found some rope. I was able to tie most of the luggage together. I’ll haul it in. ” Lan’s previous nerves had morphed into pure, grade-A special ops arrogance.

  That was exactly what they needed because they didn’t have anything left except for the stubborn belief that nothing and no one could take them down.

  Dane stood at the door, braced himself, and threw it open. He stared down into the blue void below and prayed their stubborn arrogance was enough.

  * * * *

  Alea felt her stomach roll, but forced the bile back down. She’d never particularly loved flying, even when she’d learned how to do it. She’d taken the lessons for the same reason she did everything; it had been expected of her. Her cousins had learned, so she had, too, even when her hands had shaken. Even when everything in her body had screamed at her to stay on the ground. She’d conquered her fear and learned to fly.

  Now she was going to learn how to crash.

  Cooper’s concentration was absolute. After the first couple of minutes, he’d settled in and was now nothing but cocky confidence. “Brace yourself, baby. We’re going to hit the water hard. ”

  She settled into the seat beside him and strapped herself down. On the horizon, she saw a tiny piece of land, yet another green jewel in a sea of blue. They would land as close to that little patch as possible.

  Her hands shook. Nerves. Stress. God, she’d been given some kind of drug. She hated drugs. She’d fought so hard to get off them. She wanted to shove her fingers down her throat just to purge the rest out of her system. Now wasn’t the time. Everything was still a little hazy, but she could remember plastering herself all over Dane. But she’d deal with that humiliation later.

  Dumb slut. No one wants you. When the money runs out, we’ll just kill you and no one will miss you. You’re worthless.

  God, she hated those voices, but they were always in her head, just waiting for the perfect time to start replaying and take her down. When she heard them, she just went to bed with her iPod on and her ear buds firmly in place. And she tried to forget. She couldn’t do that now. She had to stay in the present.

  No, more than that. She had to be useful. Alea refused to be another piece of luggage they had to haul around. They would do it. They would really put her on their backs and swim so they didn’t leave her behind.

  God, these men of steel with iron will and big hearts, would never leave her behind. Would they if they knew the things she’d survived? Probably. They would save her if only because they were good to their cores. And they would feel sorry for her.

  They couldn’t know the whole truth. She wouldn’t be able to stand their pity.

  Cooper fought with the yoke, trying to angle the plane to ensure their best chance at survival.

  A loud bang shot through the little plane.

  “Dane? Lan?” She started to tear off her seat belt. She had to help them.

  Cooper didn’t look away from the horizon. “Stop right there, Princess. They’re fine. I bet Dane just blew the door. That shit-ass island doesn’t come equipped with a runway. I can’t put us down on land. The trees are too thick. Unless… Baby, go back and sit with Dane. ”

  Her jaw dropped. Alea knew damn well what he was planning, and it wasn’t happening. “Yeah, sure. I’ll leave this seat when you land. In the water. ”

  His jaw tightened. The plane jerked again. “It would be best if I set us down on land. That way you’ll have the plane to take refuge in, and the metal can be seen from above. ”

  “I’m not stupid, Cooper. The chance of the cockpit not folding in and killing everyone inside is miniscule if you take us into those trees. I’m staying where I am. ” He wouldn’t play the martyr if it meant killing her, too. No way. No how.

  Yes, they would lose the plane, but they would all have a shot at living.

  And suddenly she knew deep down how significant that was. The question had floated through her head for a long time, since the moment she’d been taken…was living really important? She’d fought to survive in Colombia, but mostly because instinct had urged her. The human animal fought for its life, for the right to continue breathing from one moment to the next. But Alea had wondered in the darkest recesses of her soul whether she actually wanted to live. Because living was more than taking her next breath. Living meant being brave. Living meant taking chances.

  Yes. She wanted to live.

  She wanted a chance to be like the woman she’d once been, a little bold, mostly unafraid. She couldn’t go back in time, but she could move forward. In some ways, she’d never really left the dank, filthy cell of her captivity. Piper had been right.

  It was time to shed the pathetic Alea who had hidden in her room, burying her head in the sand and building walls around herself to keep out everyone who tried to help her. She needed the Alea she’d been before, the one who strove to be the best, studied the hardest, helped those around her. That Alea had been in a coma, but it was time for her to wake the fuck up. She might not deserve a shot at happiness, but she wanted one.

  “I’m not moving, Coop. ” She wouldn’t leave any one of them to die the way she’d left that girl. Gritting her teeth, she shoved the image away. “So you better set us down easy. ”

  “Damn it, Lea. One of these days—soon—I’m going to spank your ass bright red. ” Cooper pulled the yoke and the nose came up again.

  The plane shuddered. She braced herself. He would let the tail touch to slow them down. That’s what she would do in his place. They wanted the plane to float for as long as possible.

  Time seemed to speed up as the island loomed closer and closer. Distance and time meshed together in a horrifying carnival ride. The sound of the plane screamed against her ears, blocking out the rest of the world. The skyline tilted, a brief flash of greens and browns. Then she was thrown back. Alea’s head slammed against the headrest as the plane went almost vertical. It stood there for one terrifying moment and then belly flopped, striking the water with bone-jarring force.

  “Let’s move, Princess. ” Cooper had hit his head at some point. A thin trickle of blood streamed down his face, but he moved with surety, unbuckling his belt, then her own. “We’ll have to swim for it. ”

  Yes, but they were alive.

  She nodded and jumped up. The plane was bobbing in the waves, white foam cresting up the window.

  “You’re hurt. ” As soon as they reached land, she needed to dress and clean that wound, stop the bleeding. Infection was their enemy, so she had to prevent it. She had antibiotic ointment in her first aid kit.

  “Coop? You two okay?” Dane staggered to the doorway, his big body taking up all the space. Alea wanted nothing more than to throw herself into those strong arms and hold him, but they had to hit the water and swim for land.

  “We’re good, but we won’t float forever. If we’re getting stuff off this plane, we need to do it now. Come on, Lea. We’ve got to move. ” Cooper turned her, pressing her toward Dane.

  She nearly tripped over the body of the pilot. She forced her gaze away from the dead man and allowed Dane to pull her into the cabin. The door was open, and Landon was already in the water, surrounded by pieces of luggage and bags he’d tied together forming a long train of survival gear.

  “It’s a good five hundred yards to the beach,” Lan shouted up. “I swam out a little. There’s a beast of an undertow. ”

  She wasn’t the greatest swimmer in the world and she was still hazier than she’d like. Dane had one of the cushions in his hand and he’d used some rope to tie it around her, placing the cushion on her back. “Swim as long as you can. When you get tired, flip over on your back and I’ll drag you in. Just keep your head up and lose the shoes, baby. There’s no need for Prada here. ”

  Alea slipped out of the shoes, her hands shaking despite the heat she felt shimmering outside. Dane dove into the water, then she stepped forward. Landon
was starting for shore, dragging the train of luggage behind him. It looked like he’d tied the rope around his waist. His body moved swiftly despite the undertow, showing no signs that the added weight held him back at all.

  Dane surfaced, slicking his hair back and holding a hand up for her to join him. Despite the horrors of the last few minutes, he paused to encourage her. “Come on in. The water’s warm. ”

  The water was also a clear, crystal blue. As she stood in the doorway, she could see down into the water, despite its depth. A coral reef lurked below. She couldn’t tell how far down it was, but it was farther than Dane’s kicking feet. That had to be good enough.

  “Go on, Lea,” Cooper said. “The water is about to start coming in the door. Once that happens, the plane will sink fast. Go!”

  Alea sucked in a deep breath and jumped. In seconds, warm water surrounded her. Almost immediately she felt the floatation device around her waist yank her to the surface as surely as Dane’s hands. He helped her right her body and pushed the wet hair from her face.

  Deep blue eyes stared into her own, silently demanding her focus. “Stay with us. I’m going to tether us together so you can’t drift off. ”

  In the distance, Landon was almost to the shore. Cooper splashed in behind her, then came to her side. Dane swam to the other, and together, they started for the shore. Alea kept pace, not wanting to fall behind or drag them down. She looked back, but only briefly saw as the plane that was supposed to take her to freedom began to sink to its watery grave.

  She stared forward resolutely. She’d brought them into her nightmare. She wasn’t going to let them down.

  Chapter Seven

  As the sun started to sink over the horizon, Cooper thought about running from Alea. And then he thought about it again. But the truth of the matter was, she would only find him. And she’d only be more pissed off.

  “Don’t move. I just want to clean it. ” She walked up to him with a small red kit in her hands.

  According to Cooper’s watch, two hours had passed since the plane had sunk below the surface and into the ocean. In two hours they’d managed to build a fire, gather palm fronds and bamboo for an eventual shelter, and scout around what was now their base camp. The island was tiny. It had taken Landon a whole twenty minutes to jog the circumference.

  But in that two hours, the one thing he’d managed not to do was give in to Alea’s sudden desire to play nurse. It looked like that time had come to an end.

  “I’m fine. Really, I used to be a medic. This little cut is nothing. Just hand me a bandage and it will be fine. ” Cooper went back to sorting through the food and water.

  “It’s only a little cut until bacteria gets inside. Then it becomes a flaming septic pus-filled wound that kills you within forty-eight hours,” Alea explained, wielding her first aid kit like a sword. “I won’t even go into all the bugs that would just love to burrow under your skin and make a nice home for themselves. ”

  Cooper shrugged. “I got saltwater all in it. Salt can be very purifying. ”

  Alea looked over his shoulder to where Dane was digging a pit. “Can’t you command him or something?”

  “I tried to command you to get out of those wet clothes,” Dane said. “It didn’t do me any good. He’s a damn fine medic, as well as the absolute worst patient who ever walked the earth. He’s a complete pansy when it comes to stuff like this. Oh, you can shoot him and he won’t complain, but try taking off the band aid and he’ll howl. ”

  “It’s a different kind of pain,” Cooper grumbled.

  He hadn’t really had a choice the couple of times he’d been shot. The assholes who’d shot him hadn’t brought him in for a consult on the situation. He looked up at Alea, his brain processing what Dane had said and finding something he might be willing to endure that sting to get. She was still in clothes. Despite the heat of the day, it was humid. They stood under the shade of the trees. She was still soaking wet.

  The rest of them had immediately stripped down to their boxers and laid their clothes out to dry. Though Alea had unpacked some of the clothes they’d salvaged, they were wet, along with everything that hadn’t been wrapped in plastic. She’d fashioned a clothesline by tying some rope between two palm trees and hung their garments to dry. But she was still in her skirt and top.

  “Cooper Evans, you are going to let me clean and dress that wound,” she said, her mouth firming.

  Somehow, after years of fighting with his older brothers and dealing with Special Forces commanding officers, the gorgeous set of curves in front of him just wasn’t very scary. Sexy? Hell, yeah. And it was about to get a hell of a lot sexier. “Negotiate with me. ”

  “What?” Her mocha-colored eyes narrowed.

  “Life is a negotiation, Princess. You took all those political science courses. You should know plenty about that. ” Yeah, he liked this idea. It had been a crapfuckingtastic day. This could make it all a little nicer. “So let’s negotiate. ”

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