Their virgin princess, p.26
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.26

         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
Page 26


  He sank down into the sand, his head in his hands. He’d walked into that little piece of paradise and he’d turned into a kid again. He’d been eight fucking years old and his brothers had been taking what he wanted just because they could, so he’d lashed out. How pathetic was he?

  “Dane?” A soft voice pulled him out of his misery.

  Alea stood looking at him. She was wearing Cooper’s T-shirt, her golden legs bare and her feet sinking into the sand. He’d expected to see rage on that gorgeous face, but she was looking down at him with doe eyes.

  And all he could do was beg for forgiveness. “I am so sorry. ”

  She sniffled a little before sinking into the sand next to him. “At first I was going to throw things at you like a warrior princess. I think I’d better leave the battling to you guys because all the enemy has to do is look sad and I give up. ”

  Her heart would always be too soft for real war. She proved it by sliding her arm against his. He was willing to take any warmth she would give.

  “I jumped to conclusions and said things…” Dane sighed. “I was a complete ass. ”

  She nodded slowly. “You were. We weren’t trying to shut you out. I know that’s what you think. But for once in my life, I was in the moment. So much of my life is planned out for me—schedules, appearances, even my meals. I didn’t want this to be planned, too, Dane. I was swimming with nature, basking in the sun…and I felt so free. I wanted to keep that feeling. I wanted to share it. ”

  She hadn’t done anything wrong. He kissed the top of her head, loving how she opened up to him. He’d been the one to fuck up, yet she was still here with him, offering his dumb ass comfort. “I want that for you, too, Lea. ”

  She pulled back slightly so she could look up at him. Her gorgeous face was so grave, he would have done just about anything to get the softness back. “Are you sure you want this kind of relationship?”

  He hadn’t in the beginning. At all. “I wasn’t taught to share, Alea. But, yes, I want this. I screwed up today. I can only say I’m sorry and it won’t happen again. ”

  “How can you be sure? Dane, I know about your wife. ”

  “She’s not my wife. ” He couldn’t even stand to think about her now.

  “Your ex-wife. She left you for your brother, right?”

  “My brother turned out to be the better bet. And he didn’t need to tie her up to get off. ”

  “You needed to tie her up?” Alea frowned. “I mean, like always?”

  She sounded daunted by the prospect. “No. Not always, but toward the end I realized I wasn’t in love with her, so sex became a game. There was no making love in that relationship. There was an exchange of goods and services. When I got cut off from the family money, she found another way to tap into it. ”

  “I can’t make up for what she did to you. But this is the kind of relationship where jealousy just can’t have a place. ”

  “I wasn’t asking you to make up for what happened to me. ” Was he?

  “I can’t fix what she did, either. Dane, I believe this relationship can work, but not if you’re going to make me choose. I grew up differently than you. I know this will require a shift in your thinking, but I’m crazy about all three of you. My aunt and uncles were so happy, and I want that for myself. I want that for us. But it can’t work if you don’t believe that I’ll care for you all wholly and equally. ”

  “I’ve done everything I know to make this work. ” The accusation stung. He’d been the one to bring them all together. He’d been the one to pull Lan out of his damn shell and to soothe Coop’s doubts. He’d been the one to get Alea talking. Sure she didn’t like discussing her abduction, but she at least opened up about how she felt now.

  For his effort, he should have had her first.

  Goddamn it. She was right. Dane cursed. He wasn’t looking at this from a “family” point of view. He’d been selfish and dumb and he’d ruined it for her. He’d been the one to tell her to go with the fucking flow. He’d just been sure the flow would bring her straight to him.

  He had forced all of them to try to face their demons, but he hadn’t even started to face his own.

  There was a part of him that wanted to slink away. He could go to the other side of the island and not have to deal with any of this shit. He could be alone. It was what he deserved, but was it what she deserved?

  What she deserved was a man who was fucking brave enough to tell her the truth. He hid behind his Dom role so often that he forgot she needed a place in this family, too and not just the one on her back. She wasn’t a blow up doll they were going to pass around. If he wanted to know her, really know her, he had to let her know him, too.

  Families were so fucking scary. His own had let him down. He would rather face down ten guns than risk heartache again. Unfortunately, when he forced himself to acknowledge the truth, he couldn’t deny that he yearned for a family more than anything. He wanted this family—Alea and these brothers.

  “You have,” she agreed. “But…”

  “But I’m having a hard time trusting it. ”

  “Explain that. Make me understand. ” She turned her face up, those dark eyes full of sympathy.

  Dane knew a whole lot of his friends would have backed off then and there, sympathy equaling pity in their heads, but Dane took it for what it was, an offering from a deeply kind and loving woman. He hadn’t known a hell of a lot of love and kindness in his life. He latched on to it now, taking her hand in his and holding on for dear life. The man his father had created wanted to pick up his shit and run to the other side of the island and let bitterness be his only friend, but Dane knew that would make him miserable. Instead, he was going to be the man Alea needed, the kind who embraced happiness. It was a gamble, and if he lost, well…at least he’d have the consolation of knowing he’d given it his all.

  “The whole family thing. I think that’s why I tried to be the one in control of all of it. If you all needed me, then you wouldn’t get rid of me. ”

  She leaned closer, her skin warm against his, and he felt all the ice in his chest starting to melt. He’d tried to put her in this very position, to need him, but fuck, he needed her.

  “I would never get rid of you, Dane. Why would you think that?”

  At her sweet words, he relaxed a little, shocked by just how nice it was to talk. “Besides the fact that you’ve been trying to fire me since I got hired?”

  “I’m awfully glad I didn’t succeed. ” She pressed against him, their hips touching, her arm through his, then she looked up at him for a long moment. “Tell me. It’s about more than just your ex, isn’t it?”

  Her perceptive question stunned him, but the beauty of this place and the intimacy of sitting beside her settled him. He’d sat with lots of women, had plenty of lovers, but somehow Alea made him breathe easy. Something about sitting with limbs entwined, the sound of the surf rolling on, brought up a deep well of peace in him. And that made it so much easier for him to talk. He’d thought he would never discuss Kelly with Alea, but she needed to understand. And he was shocked at how good it felt to let go and tell her about his damage.

  “It’s not just her, baby. It’s my whole life. My dad was a military man. He believed in running his household like a war camp. He was a Darwinist of the highest order. ”

  “Survival of the fittest?”

  “Yep. He thought getting the shit kicked out of me on a regular basis would make me a man. He didn’t hit me himself, just didn’t really stop it when my older brothers did. And yet I still tried to please him, tried to keep up with my brothers. I got married because she was beautiful and my dad liked her. Said she’d make a fine military wife. I didn’t love her. I thought I did, but I didn’t even know who the hell I was. How could I love her? And then the long deployments started, and my team was shipped to Afghanistan. ”

  “They kicked you out because of what happened in the Korengal Valley, didn’t they?”

  He turned to her, a little startled. “How do you know about that? It’s supposed to be classified. ”

  There was not an ounce of shame on her face. “I snuck into Tal’s office and read your files. He has a very good relationship with the US. They sent him over a lot of stuff on the three of you that no one should know. You did the right thing, Dane. That CIA agent was an asshole. ”

  “He was covering his own ass. Things didn’t go down the way they should have. We were working on faulty intel, but make no mistake, Lea. I knew what I was doing and I knew I would be out. I made the decision to get those civilians out of the line of fire thereby blowing an undercover op. ”

  “You saved them,” Alea said, her cheek against his arm. “I think it makes you a hero. ”

  “And I blew a multi-million dollar op. When I flew home, I expected my wife to be waiting to drive me home from the airport. I knew it was going to be a rough conversation, but I didn’t even get to say a word. She wasn’t there. I got served with divorce papers the minute I stepped off the plane. They were right there in an envelope with a note from my father disowning me and a key to the storage place where they’d shoved all my worldly possessions. ”

  Cooper had been standing next to him. He’d been ready to board a plane for Denver to get back home, but he’d stayed with Dane. And eventually they had found Landon, then made it to Bezakistan, to Alea.

  To this island where he just might finally get the family he deserved if he wasn’t an insecure prick.

  “I want this so badly, but I’m afraid I can’t be what you need. ” There it was, all out there for the world to see.

  She moved, shifting away from him. He thought for a moment that she would leave, but she cupped his face as she moved, positioning herself between his legs. “Take it easy on me. Let’s go slow and see where it’s heading, Sir. ”

  Sir? The word caused his cock to tighten. “No, Lea. It’s okay. I’m going to shelve that shit. ”

  He could do it for her. He wasn’t sure if he could be as passive as Lan had been, but he could try.

  “It’s not shit, Dane. It’s what you need. You were out of control all your life. I can see that. Even when you were grown, you were still at the mercy of everyone else. You need one place where you have complete and utter control, and I trust you to take care of me. ”

  “And you need control, too. ” That was the problem with their relationship, the basic, never ending, no-solution-at-all problem. They were both damaged, and he wasn’t sure how to fix it.

  She frowned at him. “Not like you mean. It’s different for me. I didn’t grow up scared the way you did. I had a great family. The sex stuff is hard for me, but being here has given me a lot of time to think. You said that how I eventually dealt with this would be the measure of what kind of woman I am. ”

  He remembered it like it was yesterday. He’d been standing in the background watching Alea with Piper on the evening she became the future queen. Alea had thrown a bunch of bile his way, and Piper hadn’t understood. “I said those things to Piper. You had stomped off in a blaze of rage and sequins. ”

  A little smile curled her mouth up. “I didn’t stomp very far. I listened. ”

  “You eavesdropped. ” Little minx.

  “Another lesson from my childhood. Dane, I listened in on a lot of things. Why do you think I was always in the garden or the hall or wherever the three of you happened to be? Because I couldn’t let myself believe you wanted me and I couldn’t really convince myself that I didn’t want you. I didn’t choose Landon. I went with the flow and made love with my men. This is the way of life in my world. I can’t set up a schedule. I can only promise that I need each of you. ”

  He didn’t want a schedule. God, not at all. “I guess I’m wondering why you need me. Landon is like your knight in shining armor. Cooper makes you laugh. I just seem to make you mad. ”

  “You make me think. You make me get off my ass and fight. I’m not dumb, Dane. You’ve been topping me from the minute we landed on this island. Oh, you put it in questions and circle it all back around so it sounds like it’s my idea, but I know what you’re doing and I need it. I think it’s what I’ve been missing for a very long time. I know I’ve pushed a lot of people away and made it hard to help me, but you’ve found a way to do it. If you want something to shelve, make it the jealousy. ”

  His cock stirred because that last line had been said with a tone of perfectly intended brattiness. She knew exactly how to provoke him.

  “I’ll always be possessive. ” It was his nature. No amount of beat downs by his brothers had taken that away from him. He’d just gotten good at hiding what he wanted to keep and he’d gotten really fucking good at fighting dirty. But he didn’t have to with Lan and Coop. “Did they send you here?”

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