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

 

  Nope. Pretty much all the time. From the minute he’d seen Princess Alea Binte al Mussad, his cock had been hard and his heart had taken a nosedive. She’d hit him like a bolt of lightning. He’d stood there staring at her, feeling like a damn fool, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. Then he’d looked at his two best friends, ready to tell them that he’d finally found the one woman he wanted to put a collar on—as crazy as that would have sounded—and realized they were just as head over heels. That quickly, all three of them were fucked.

  But they had all backed off, unwilling to step on each others’ toes. They had been through too much together. Coop and Lan were the only family Dane had left. Oh, there was a father and three brothers back in Georgia, but he’d come back from the Korengal Valley a different man. Shortly after his second tour, the family drama and his divorce had ended any affection or allegiance they had for him. In their head, Dane was as good as dead. Coop and Lan were his brothers now, and he couldn’t fight with them. They had been at an impasse.

  Until they had really understood the way relationships worked here in Bezakistan. It was tradition among the wealthy and the landholders in this small country for the brothers of a family to share a wife so they didn’t have to divide the family riches or leave any sibling to suffer poverty. After a few weeks, Dane had decided they could adopt the Bezakistani way. He, Lan, and Coop might not truly share blood and they might not be preserving a fortune, but they all wanted Alea and weren’t willing to stab a brother in the back to have her.

  So after a full month here, he’d decided he liked the idea of sharing. The families in Bezakistan seemed happy, and he wouldn’t have to relinquish his backup. He’d spent the majority of his adult life in the military, his whole childhood before that following his dad from base to base. The idea of having a family that functioned as a team really suited him.

  And then just as they’d settled everything between the three of them, they realized they had forgotten to talk to the most important member of the team. And Alea didn’t want anything to do with them. Or at least that was her story, and she seemed to be sticking to it.

  Landon touched his earpiece and suddenly his voice came on the line. “I want you to do a background check on that British fucker, Oliver Thurston-Hughes. Get me everything you can. I want to know it all, right down to what the asshole eats for breakfast so I’ll know what to poison. ”

  “Slow down,” Coop said. “Why are we going to poison that Brit’s oatmeal? Do they even eat oatmeal in England?”

  Lan ignored the question, getting right to the point. “He’s a little too interested in the princess. ”

  Fuck. If he was calling her “princess,” then their conversation had been a clusterfuck. “What’s going on, Lan?”

  His pal didn’t look back. Instead, Lan stared across the ballroom, never taking his eyes off her. “That cousin of hers is trying to get her to go to England. The princess walked out onto the balcony to get some fresh air. First Mr. Small Dick followed her, then Crazy Bitch crashed the party. They laid all kinds of guilt on Her Highness. ”

  “She’s not going to England. ” There was no way Dane would allow it. Especially now that he was pretty sure she was still in potential danger. He would talk Talib into putting her on lockdown if he needed to. And if, for some reason, she left anyway, he would have to quit and follow her because he couldn’t leave her unprotected and alone.

  “I don’t think she really wants to go,” Landon replied. “But the British fuckwad sure seemed interested in her being a bit more than a traveling companion. ”

  “I got a shot, boss. I can take him out in one,” Coop said, his voice serious.

  “I think that’s a damn fine idea, Coop,” Landon interjected. “Can you aim for his pecker?”

  “Don’t know, brother. I suspect that is a mighty small target, but I’m a damn fine marksman. ”

  Dane hated it when he had to be the voice of reason. “You can’t kill him. Not here anyway. I’ll run a check on him, guys, but seriously, we can’t go around assassinating every man who looks at her twice. ”

  “I don’t see why not. We’re good at assassinations. If Tal had let us take out Khalil when we wanted to, we could have avoided a whole lot of heartache. ” Coop sighed over the line. “Are our ‘friends’ here yet?”

  Lawson and Riley Anders were private investigators with the prestigious Anthony Anders firm. It was made up of the brothers, Lawson and Riley, and a badass named Dominic Anthony. They had come with the highest references from the two PIs who had tracked down Alea when she’d been kidnapped. Burke and Cole Lennox were good, but they also had married a really sweet girl named Jessa and now had one son with another on the way. They couldn’t do the kind of twenty-four seven work that Dane had demanded after the death of Khalil al Bashir.

  With the prime suspect dead, he had to know once and for all if Khalil had been the one responsible for Alea’s abduction. In fact, he prayed that Khalil had been the guilty fucker. That would set his mind at ease. But it didn’t add up.

  The report the Lennox brothers had filed had stated plainly that Alea had been held for months in a state of “training. ” She’d been moved from New York to Colombia and housed in a brothel. Yet the physician who had treated her after she’d been returned to Bezakistan had said there was no sexual abuse evident. According to him, Alea remained a virgin.

  So he feared the random act of slavery was bullshit. Dane’s guess was that someone had paid for her to be taken. Someone had wanted her to disappear and suffer. Money had been on the line. Money and maybe something else. Revenge? Pride? He couldn’t be sure until he had more information.

  Once, Khalil had seemed like the best suspect, but Dane hadn’t been able to connect him yet to the crime either via physical evidence or motive. He prayed that Law and Riley gave him the proof tonight. He would be thrilled to find out that Alea’s abduction had been a random act or that the asshole who had sold her out was dead.

  But it felt too fucking easy.

  Dane shook off his suspicions and brought himself back to reality, answering Coop about Riley and Lawson. “I have confirmation that they landed about half an hour ago. They should be here any minute. It’s bad timing, but this is the best window they could give us, given the tight schedule Dominic keeps. ” Plus, if the perp was still alive, he might well be attending tonight’s event and wouldn’t notice a few more visitors to the palace that might raise suspicion. “We’re going to meet in Tal’s office to go over what they’ve learned. ”

  “Won’t someone notice if the sheikh disappears from his wife’s coronation ball?” Coop asked.

  “Not for a few minutes. We’re going to make this short and sweet. Rafe and Kade will keep Piper occupied. ” In fact, Tal planned to give Rafe the signal, who would then make sure their wife was occupied on the dance floor until the meeting adjourned. The goal was to keep the party rolling as normally as possible so as not to alert Piper—or Alea—that anything potentially dangerous might be going down. If the news was bad, as Dane suspected, they would need a whole new game plan.

  “I’ll keep an eye on Her Highness,” Lan said.

  “What the hell did she say to you, buddy?” Coop asked.

  “Nothing I didn’t already know,” Landon grumbled over the radio.

  Dane was getting a headache. Nothing was going the way he’d planned. From the moment he and his friends had made a pact to go after Alea as a team, Dane had been sure they would succeed. He’d told himself back then it wouldn’t take more than a few months before she was surrounded by them, before they overwhelmed her. Over a year had passed, and he was starting to believe she would never be ready for a romance, much less one that involved three men.

  And he was beginning to understand that he might never be complete without her.

  The doors from the main hallway opened, and two tall, well-built men walked through. Law and Riley Anders hadn’t bothered with tuxedos.
They were dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts. One wore a blazer and the other a leather jacket. Even though the palace was in the heart of the desert, it got cold at night.

  The brothers nodded to each other and turned toward Dane. He quickly sized them up. Lawson Anders was just a slight bit taller than his younger brother, but there was a coldness to his eyes that Dane recognized. Law had spent time in the military, likely in black ops, though his dossier claimed he’d only been a communications officer. Bullshit. The man in front of him had obviously seen and done too much. “Communications” was code for “too classified to discuss. ”

  Riley Anders had gone the college route. Burke Lennox swore Riley was one of the premier hackers in the United States. It was a skill that would mean the world to an investigator. There was a lighter air to him, but Dane didn’t doubt he’d been trained well.

  “Lieutenant Mitchell?” Lawson asked.

  Dane winced inwardly. How fucking long would it be before he could hear military titles and not have his stomach go south? “It’s just Dane. I’m not in the Navy anymore. ”

  Law leaned against the wall. “Yeah, from what I hear, you got a bad fucking rap. But I understand. I got out because I couldn’t listen to the brass anymore, either. Now Dominic is the only person who bitches at me. I’m the idiot who gets his ass out of the military, then goes to work for his former CO. ”

  Riley shrugged. “Well, I’m the smart one who didn’t go into the military in the first place and I still end up getting my ass chewed out on a regular basis by your former CO. ”

  Dane didn’t have time for the Anders brothers comedy hour. “Do you have the information I asked for? I don’t understand why Dominic wouldn’t just send it to me. I could have saved you a very long flight. ”

  “Dominic never likes to give bad news over the phone. ” Lawson glanced down at the briefcase his brother carried. “Do you have some place where we can set up?”

  A knot formed in his stomach, and Dane wondered if he was really braced for the truth.

  “Should I give Tal the signal?” Cooper asked him over the radio.

  From the edge of the ballroom, Landon looked back. He stood in the shadows, watching over the woman they all loved. The woman who might still be in danger. Dane gave him a nod, and Landon edged closer to Alea. He would keep an eye on her so Dane and Coop could take this meeting.

  “Dane?”

  He was procrastinating. “Yeah. Get everyone into Talib’s office pronto. ”

  With a nod to the private investigators, Dane began to lead the way to a more private part of the palace. Behind him the brothers chattered on, throwing more annoying digs at one another.

  Dane was grim as he unlocked the office and turned on the light. It was past time to find out just how screwed they all were.

  Chapter Two

  Lan looked out over the ballroom and tried to imagine himself belonging here. It was an impossible task.

  Alea held out her hand, greeting some big wig. Schmoozing was probably politically important, but all he gave a shit about was that her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. He hated to see her so withdrawn. When she didn’t realize he was watching her, she gave in to pure joy. Then her dark eyes glittered and her pillowy lips curved into a smile that could light up the whole fucking world.

  But now she was faking it, flashing that annoyingly bland smile to the crowd, which she often did to people who didn’t matter. When she didn’t want anyone to look at her too closely. He didn’t even mind the little fit she’d thrown earlier because at least when she was pissed off at him, she was being honest. He would take her anger over nonchalance any day of the week.

  But she was right about one thing: he was a dumbshit who didn’t deserve her. He needed to remember that. He was here to do a job, which meant protecting her, period. No matter how much he wanted to take her in his arms and love her until she couldn’t think about anything else, she was a princess. He was pure Texas trailer trash. He was nowhere near Alea’s league.

  “Does Rafe have the target?” Dane asked over the tiny device in his ear.

  Lan quickly found the man they were talking about. Rafe took Piper’s hand, kissing it as he started to lead the shaykhah to the dance floor. The music had changed from a bouncy song to a long, slow grind. That was baby-making music, and Rafe grinned wolfishly at his wife.

  Alea stopped and looked out to the floor, longing plain on her face. God, he wanted to walk over to her, thread his fingers through hers, lead her out there. But he also wanted his two best friends to be there touching her, too. And that made him a fucking freak in most of the world. Bezakistan was different, so in Lan’s book, that’s what made the country great.

  “He’s got her. ” Piper was following Rafe onto the dance floor, her face shining up at him.

 
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