Amourisa Press and Kit Tunstall, writing as Kit Fawkes, reserve all rights to Baylee and the Beasts. This work may not be shared or reproduced in any ...40 downloads 341 Views 768KB Size
Amourisa Press and Kit Tunstall, writing as Kit Fawkes, reserve all rights to Baylee and the Beasts. This work may not be shared or reproduced in any fashion without permission of the publisher and/or author. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. © Kit Tunstall, 2017 Cover Image: Depositphotos.com and Period Images Cover design by Amourisa Designs Edited by N.G. and CM Editing Services Join Kit’s Mailing List (www.kittunstall.com/newsletter) to receive notification of new releases and access bonus chapters for your favorite books. You get six free books just for signing up! If you prefer to receive notifications for just one, or a few, of Kit’s pen names, you’ll have the option to select which lists to subscribe to at signup.
Baylee and the Beasts
BLURB When Baylee answers an ad to restore the library at an old estate, it’s a way to escape her obsessive ex. She doesn’t expect to find two handsome men waiting to seduce her. Duncan and Nick, her bosses, are sexy and charismatic, but it’s clear they’re hiding something from her. Why does she never see them after dark, and what about the beasts that wander their land at night? Unraveling the mystery will either leave her in grave danger or lead her to twice the happily ever after.
CHAPTER ONE Her new employers were even more attractive in person. Baylee Edwards knew that was an inappropriate thought to have as they introduced themselves, but she couldn’t stifle it. All week, since she’d interviewed via Skype with Duncan Fitzhugh and Nick Wellington, she’d been thinking of them far more than she should. Her thoughts had focused on them rather than on the temporary job she was taking at their estate. As she shook Duncan’s hand, she had to resist the urge to push back strands of reddish blonde hair that was presently obscuring one of his blue eyes. Then she had to resist the urge to throw herself against him as heat sparked up her hand and spread throughout her body. As quickly and as discreetly as possible, she pulled her hand free and turned to Nick Wellington. When his fingers touched hers, she barely bit back a moan. She had the same reaction to her dark-haired, dark-eyed temporary boss as she’d had to the other one. Her heart was galloping in her ears, and once again, she released his hand as quickly as possible. “We’ll show you to your room, and then the library. As we mentioned in the interview, it’s a disaster. It hasn’t been modernized or catalogued.” She nodded at Duncan’s words. “I’ll be happy to evaluate it as we discussed, Mr. Fitzhugh.” That was the first step to organizing it. She was here for however long it took to modernize the estate’s extensive library collection. It was a live-in position, and with Sam being persistent, she was happy to get away from the city for a few days, or perhaps even a few weeks, depending on the scope of the job. “Call me Duncan,” he said as he put a hand on her lower back to steer her in a polite fashion toward an impressive set of stairs. They were at least four times wider than a standard set, and the polished wood shone with a mellow patina of age. She couldn’t help caressing the wooden banister and found it as smooth as it looked. “And you must call me Nick,” said her other boss. He gestured for her to go ahead of him. It was a bit nerve-racking to climb all the stairs and be aware of them just a couple of steps below her. She had a vivid mental image of tripping and falling backward. If she injured her new bosses, she imagined that would be the end of the assignment. The flight of stairs felt like it went on forever before they reached the second landing and found two more staircases. She cast a glance over her shoulder at Duncan, cocking her eyebrow in question. “Keep going straight. These stairs lead to the left and right wing, but the library and your room is in the main wing.” She climbed more stairs, feeling the burn in her thighs. She wasn’t exactly a couch potato, but she wasn’t an avid exerciser either. She preferred yoga and swimming, and only grudgingly went to the gym upon occasion when her girlfriends guilted her into it. She was feeling the consequences of that choice now, and it was a relief to reach the second floor. “To the right,” said Nick. He had already turned that way, as had Duncan. Now, she followed behind them again, and when she should have been paying attention to her surroundings, instead she was admiring the view. Both men were dressed casually in faded denim jeans that hugged their bodies lovingly. She quickly reached the conclusion they both had very fine buttocks.
Fortunately, she wasn’t so engrossed in staring at their asses that she kept walking and stumbled into them when they stopped. She smothered another groan when she realized it was yet another set of stairs, though these steps were more conventional, being narrower and less fancy. When they reached the top, both men turned to the left, and she followed them. She was hoping she would remember how to find her way back to the main area with all the twists and turns. Nick stopped in front of a set of French doors and pushed one open. The gleaming gold handle complemented the pearlescent white paint. This time, when they stepped inside, she couldn’t hide her gasp. “This is my room?” It was huge, with delicate Victorian furniture, and a massive four-poster bed that could have easily held all three of them. She blinked at the thought, subtly shaking her head to clear it as she tried to focus on why she was there instead of allowing herself to indulge in unrealistic fantasies. “It’s lovely.” “We’ll leave you to settle in, and then we can show you the library in a little while.” She waved a hand. “That’s not necessary, but thank you. I just need to get my luggage from the car, but that can wait. Right now, I’d like to see the library.” Duncan nodded. “If you prefer, we’ll show you the collection, and then we’ll bring up your luggage.” She supposed she should protest, or tell them that wasn’t necessary, but the idea of dragging her three suitcases up all the stairs was enough to have her acquiescing without protest. “Thank you. I’d appreciate that.” Moving almost as one, they turned back to exit her room, and she fell into step behind them. Going down the stairs was a lot easier than going up them, and the view was just as nice, if not better. Watching their muscles flex with each step was making her heart rate increase, and she was embarrassed by how hardened her nipples had grown. She was thankful for the thick sweater she wore that surely hid the evidence of her arousal. They only descended the one utilitarian flight of stairs, walking down the landing and straight past the staircase that led to the main entrance. She followed behind them as they bypassed several other doors in the hallway before pausing before a set of French doors similar to the ones gracing her own room. Duncan pressed down the handles on both doorknobs simultaneously and pushed the doors open with a flourish. She crossed the threshold, and her eyes widened at the size of the library before her. It easily rivaled the suburban library where she had worked until budget cuts had forced them to reduce staff. It was almost as large as the university library where she had spent so much time getting her degree in Library Sciences. Just looking at it, she was certain she wouldn’t be finished in a matter of days. Neither Duncan nor Nick had followed her inside, and she turned to look at them. Before she could ask, Nick said, “We’ll leave you to get familiar with everything, and your bags will be in your room shortly.” Nick glanced at his watch. “Mrs. Farley usually serves dinner at five, since we like to eat before it gets dark—early risers, know—so that gives you about four hours to look things over and settle in. Please don’t feel like you have to work here in the library for all those four hours.” She nodded her appreciation and watched them leave. After the door closed behind her, she let out a long sigh. She couldn’t decide which was more exciting about this temporary assignment—her employers, or the books.
At least the books were a sure thing, and she wouldn’t humiliate herself by approaching them. Casting a rueful glance down at her short, curvy body, she reminded herself neither one of her bosses were likely to find her as attractive as she found them. They were both outstanding specimens of manhood, while she was on the plain, average side. She certainly wasn’t a size two, and she wasn’t the type to make men swoon. Abruptly, she recalled Sam telling her she needed to be more enthusiastic in bed to compensate for her flaws. She flinched before snorting aloud. Sam had been an ass, and he’d been all wrong for her. She needed to remember that any time one of his small barbs worked its way through her memory. With any luck, she wouldn’t have to think about Sam much at all. Now that she was out of the city, and she had changed her phone number, she was unlikely to have to deal with him again. That thought left her in a cheerful frame of mind, and digging into the books only improved her mood. Duncan and Nick hadn’t exaggerated when they’d told her it was a mess. Nothing was in order. Someone hadn’t even taken the time to alphabetize the titles, let alone group them under the Dewey Decimal System for the nonfiction works. Someone had kept them clean though, because each book she pulled out randomly to determine just how out of place it was came out clean and dust free. She was pleased someone had taken care of the books, but puzzled by why they hadn’t cared enough to restore some semblance of order. There was a large grandfather clock in the library, and abruptly, she realized it was four-thirty when it chimed again. She had lost herself in the project and the pleasure of all the books. There were so many first editions that it made her head swoon, and they had obscure works in every classification. Realizing dinner was going to be served soon, she stood up, getting off the floor where she’d been seated to examine a shelf full of books on the occult. Those had appeared more thumbedthrough than the others, and she wondered if one of her employers had an interest in the subject, or perhaps it had been one of their ancestors. This library was clearly at least as old as Midvale Manor itself, which she pegged to be at a few hundred years old. Dusting her hands down her pants, though they were remarkably clean after dealing with all the old books, she left the library and returned to her room. There wasn’t time for a shower, but she did spend a few minutes freshening up and applying a light layer of makeup. Baylee debated about changing for dinner, but ultimately decided against it. For one thing, she was short on time, and for another, she hadn’t brought anything fancy. She had one little black dress with her, but after a day of driving and exploring the library, she really didn’t feel like expending the extra effort to dress up just to eat. She might feel awkward or out of place if she arrived in the dining room and found her employers dressed to the nines, but she decided she’d rather underdress than overdress. Her khaki pants and sensible pink button-down shirt would just have to do. It was surprisingly easy to navigate her way back to the main floor, though she had been concerned about getting lost. When she reached the first floor, she found Nick and Duncan lounging against the wall, clearly waiting for her. She was startled by their thoughtfulness and smiled at the both of them. She was also relieved to note they were as equally casual as she was. In fact, they still wore the clothes they had worn earlier, and that was certainly nothing to complain about. If all jeans fit all men like that, they would be her new favorite clothing.
Each held out a hand to her, and she was indecisive on whose to take as she walked forward. They solved that problem by both taking her hand and leading her to the left, down another long hallway. “I wasn’t expecting an escort.” “We didn’t want you to get lost. Midvale Manor is ridiculously large,” said Duncan. “Hey, it’s just right,” said Nick, though there was laughter in his voice. “His relatives were a bit pretentious,” said Duncan in a pseudo-whisper. “Says the second son of Laird Fitzhugh. Didn’t you say your family’s castle was at least twice the size of Midvale Manor?” “My ancestor’s castle,” said Duncan, his gaze meeting Nick’s. She wasn’t certain what message was conveyed, but Nick nodded, and the conversation switched topics as they entered the dining room. She’d been expecting some ridiculous monstrosity, with the table spanning fifty feet and capable of seating a hundred. Instead, it was a cozy dining room with only room for six chairs around the reasonably sized table. Before she could ask, it was like Nick had read her mind. He said, “This is the informal dining room. There’s a formal one farther down the hall, and it seats fifty, but we never have call to use it.” She looked around the charming space. “This is just lovely. It’s enough to be remarkable and remind me I’m in a house that has its own name, but not so ostentatious that I feel like a child sneaking over to sit at the adults’ table.” It was only when they reached the table that she realized both men still held her hands. It had felt so natural to walk between them that she hadn’t even realized they had maintained contact long past the point when politeness dictated they could let go. As soon as they dropped their hands, she clenched hers at her sides, struggling with a sense of loss that swept through her. What was wrong with her? Her stomach growled as she sat down, allowing Nick to push in her chair for her, and she seized on that explanation. She was simply tired and hungry from her long day, and it was making her act irrationally. That was all. They had been seated only a moment or so when a curvy woman in her fifties entered the room, pushing a trolley. As she lifted the cloche from the first dish, the smell wafted to Baylee’s nose, and she almost sighed in pleasure. Whatever it was, it smelled delicious. A moment later, the woman placed a plate before her. She caught her eye and smiled her thanks. “Mrs. Farley, this is Baylee Edwards, who will be staying with us for a while. She’s tackling the library.” Mrs. Farley’s lips pursed lightly, but she nodded. “It’s lovely to meet you, Ms. Edwards.” “Please call me Baylee.” “Mrs. Farley is the genius who runs the household, so if you need anything, ask her. Of course you can ask us too, but we’re fairly incompetent when it comes to accomplishing domestic chores.” Mrs. Farley snorted. “Lord, ain’t that the truth.” Her tone was thick with affection, and it was obvious she enjoyed a close relationship with her employers. There weren’t extensive courses, and it was surprisingly just like a meal she would share with her friends or her roommate in her apartment in the city. Conversation was light, and she quickly discovered her employers were both charming and amusing.
As Mrs. Farley cleared the remnants of their perfectly done roast and vegetables, Duncan asked, “So what do you think of the library?” “It’s amazing.” She suspected she sounded like a wide-eyed, gauche schoolgirl, but she couldn’t hide her enthusiasm. “You have books about everything. Every subject, every author practically… If I owned that library, I’d never leave it.” Nick laughed. “We do love it, but you can see why it needs help. It’s so disorganized.” She nodded her agreement with that assessment. “It certainly is, and it’s going to take me at least two weeks to organize, and that’s a conservative estimate. It could take even longer. I hope that’s all right?” Duncan and Nick nodded without consulting each other. It was fascinating to see how they sometimes moved as almost one person, like they were twins instead of just friends. Were they just friends? She had no idea what their relationship was, and she started to speculate that maybe they were closer than friends. That sent a slight surge of disappointment through her. She didn’t care about their orientation, but if they were gay, there was no way they would have any interest in her. That was for the best anyway, because she’d come to organize their library, not hop into bed with both of them. Her eyes widened, and she choked on the sip of water she’d just taken. When had her fantasies taken her to that point, that she was imagining sleeping with both of them? That wasn’t like her at all, and it certainly wasn’t like her to be imagining having both of them at the same time while seated at the table across from them. She hoped her coughing fit explained the sudden flush of color in her cheeks. It was attributable to her own embarrassment and lusty thoughts, but she was content to let them think it was lack of oxygen. Once she’d regained her breath again, she nodded to assure them she was fine when they asked. “You should stay as long as you need to. We want the job done properly, and there’s no need to rush.” Duncan’s assurance sent a wave of relief washing through her. It was nice to have job security, even if it was only for a few weeks. It was even nicer to have an excuse to stay away from the city for a while longer and let Sam cool down and finally accept she wasn’t going to marry him. As Mrs. Farley served them chocolate mousse in parfait glasses, she said, “I’m looking forward to getting started on my project.” There was an intensity in Nick’s eyes that was difficult to explain, along with an almost animalistic growl in his tone when he said, “As are we.” She dropped her gaze from his and focused on the chocolate, deciding it was probably better not to try to ascertain what he’d meant with his ambiguous statement. It seemed a little too eager to be related strictly to having their library in order, but she couldn’t read too much into it. As Sam had pointed out on more than one occasion, she was awkward in social functions, and she had a difficult time evaluating and reading people. He was a thoughtless ass for pointing that out, but it didn’t make it less true. She had enough difficulty deciphering the intents of the guys she knew, and they were nowhere near as sophisticated or complex as she suspected the two men who had hired her were. The smartest thing she could do would be to keep her head down, avoid their notice, and
finish with her library project as quickly as possible. They were paying her enough for the project that it would give her at least six months to find another position, so the sooner she finished, the sooner she could sort out a more permanent future. Yes, that was the wisest course of action, and she wouldn’t allow herself to deviate from it. *** She woke in the middle of the night, her body shaking from the intensity of the orgasm that had overwhelmed her in her sleep. Baylee sat up, gasping for breath as the sensations coursing through her body gradually slowed. She’d never come in her sleep before, no matter how intense the dream. Then again, she hadn’t dreamed about taking two men as her lovers simultaneously before either. She could recall with vivid clarity every detail of the dream, and just thinking about it was enough to make her already overheated body start to perspire and send a pulse of need through her despite her recent release. Feeling the need to clear her head before she cleansed her body, she slid from the bed and walked to the balcony attached to her room. It opened with glass-paned French doors, and she only bothered with one before stepping out into the chilly night air. There would soon be snow, especially in this part of upstate Maine, and she could almost taste it in the air. It was too cold to be out in the thin nightgown, but it was refreshing in a crisp way and helped clear the lingering cloud of arousal from her brain. Her body was still slick, but sated, and she could focus again. She wasn’t certain whether to be amused or appalled at her sexy dream and its unintended fruition. It was a sad commentary on her sex life that the fantasy/dream of her two employers taking her so robustly had given her a better orgasm than any sex she’d actually had with another person. Briefly, she wondered how reality would compare to the dream, but reminded herself that was the wrong line of thought. She couldn’t stop her subconscious from dreaming about them, or creating wicked fantasies, but she didn’t have to actively indulge in them when she was awake and alert. Movement at the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she swung her gaze in that direction. Midvale Manor was in the middle of a clearing, but surrounded by thick forest. It had been a little gloomy driving up the long driveway, and that had been in the middle of the afternoon, when there was still ample light out. At first, she wasn’t certain what had caught her attention, and she was about to look away when she saw movement again. The leaves rustled, and eyes turned in her direction. She gasped at the sight of them. They glowed faintly red in the illumination provided by the half-moon. She was even more startled to realize its gaze appeared to be focused on her, and the animal looked like it was staring up at her, capturing her gaze with its own. She shook her head and looked away, moving from the balcony and back into her room. She locked the door after closing it behind her and drew the blinds so that they covered the French doors. A chill of fear, combined with a genuine chill from being outside in her thin nightgown, made her body shake. She returned to her bed and dove under the covers, pulling them up above her ears as she huddled into a ball in an attempt to get warm. It was an unsettling experience and definitely ended the night on a sour note. She made a soft sound of distress that she buried against the comforter when she recalled the eerie red eyes. They had been almond shape, and while not fiercely red like blood, they had still been the
strangest thing she’d ever seen. She knew animal shine was common with all animals, but she’d only ever seen green or gold. Making a mental note to ask her employers about whatever might lurk in their forest in the morning, she finally managed to fall back asleep. After all, whatever that animal had been, it couldn’t get to her. She was safely on the third floor of Midvale Manor, behind locked doors. There was nothing to be afraid of, and no reason to let its presence on the grounds frighten her. *** When Baylee woke for the day, she made her way downstairs and went to the dining room first. Her plan was to seek out the kitchen, and perhaps Mrs. Farley, if there was no food waiting in the dining room. Her hunch had proven correct though, and she entered the room to find several dishes spread across the table in a tempting display. She also found her bosses sitting with empty plates in front of them. As she pulled out a chair to sit down, waving away Duncan and Nick when they both rose in an attempt to help her, she said, “This looks delicious. I guess I had perfect timing.” “We were waiting for you,” said Duncan. “Please don’t feel like you have to do that.” As Nick loaded bacon onto his plate, he grinned at her. “We’re certain you’re worth the wait.” The words were an innocent flirtation, at best, and completely meaningless at worst, so they shouldn’t have made her blush and squirm in her chair. Abruptly, she remembered last night’s dream, which only made her blush harder. In an effort to clear her thoughts and reduce the redness in her cheeks, she switched the subject. “Do you have wild animals in the forest around your home?” Nick and Duncan shared a look before Duncan nodded at her. “The usual, I’m sure.” Remembering the red eyes, she shuddered slightly. “I saw something I wouldn’t necessarily classify as the usual last night. It had glowing red eyes.” Both men stiffened, and Nick asked, “What else did you see?” She shook her head. “That was it. It was dark, and I wouldn’t have noticed the eyes if the moonlight hadn’t reflected off them. I’ve just never seen red eyes on an animal before.” “It was probably wolves,” said Duncan in an easy fashion. He appeared to dismiss the whole thing. “We have a small pack in the forest, so make sure you stay in at night. It isn’t safe out there.” Baylee took the plate of eggs Nick passed her. “Believe me, I will. I have no desire to run into a pack of wolves.” The rest of breakfast passed with light conversation, and she was in the library soon after. She immersed herself in books, quickly losing track of the time. It could have been minutes or hours later when the doors to the library opened, startling her from her perch on the ladder. Nick swept into the room with a silver tray in his hand bearing a teapot and cups. Her stomach rumbled abruptly, and she guessed it was closer to hours than minutes since she had begun work. He set the tray on the table near one of the couches before approaching. “I thought you could use some morning tea.” She grinned down at him as she started to climb down the ladder. “I could really use a Starbucks, but tea sounds fine too.”
He grinned at her. “Sorry, but there aren’t any Starbucks within quite a distance. Mrs. Farley bemoans the fact as well from time to time.” She’d only taken a couple of steps down the ladder when she felt his hands on her hips. Baylee froze, uncertain what to do. A moment later, he lifted her off her current rung to set her on her feet. As he did so, he brought her close to his body, sliding her down with excruciating slowness. She shivered at the contact, and when she felt the full press of his arousal, her eyes widened with shock. When he set her on her feet, she couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze, so she stumbled away from him and toward the couch. Her heart was pounding when she collapsed to the velvet cushion. She glanced up through the veil of her lashes as Nick sauntered closer, seemingly completely comfortable with what he had revealed, or perhaps oblivious to it. That didn’t seem likely, so she had to guess perhaps he was trying to put her at ease. It wasn’t really working—a fact established by the way her hand trembled when she accepted a saucer and teacup from him a few moments later. With a frown of concern, he took it back just as quickly before taking her hands in his. “Are you all right? Do you feel ill?” She shook her head, incapable of speech. The feel of his hands around hers was only making her reaction to him that much stronger, which served to further throttle her ability to speak. His voice dropped an octave, taking on a smoky edge. “You look flushed. Are you overheated?” Slowly, she nodded. In response, he slid closer, releasing her hands with one of his to put his arm around her shoulders instead. He took advantage of the fact she had unthinkingly chosen the middle cushion to press against her. Baylee knew she should pull away, but she seemed incapable of moving. From the way he’d position them, she knew Nick was about to kiss her. His head was descending, and his lips were softly parted. In response, she licked her own and still didn’t move. She couldn’t have if she wanted to, and she definitely didn’t want to. She wanted him to kiss her with every fiber of her being. The sound of the library door opening made her jump, and she finally broke the paralysis enough to jerk away from him slightly. With a sigh, Nick pulled back and turned more fully to face the table with the tea. Duncan came to sit on her other side, his hand casually on her knee. It did nothing to help clear her head or decelerate her heart rate. “Sorry I’m late. I was wrapping up a call.” As he spoke, he took a cup of tea Nick offered with a nod of his head. After a couple of deep breaths, she leaned forward to take the tea cup and saucer Nick had set aside when he had taken it from her hands a few minutes before. She was proud that it didn’t rattle this time, though it required more strength of will than it should have to simply hold on to a teacup. She took a moment to sip, hoping to regain some of her equilibrium. “What is it that you do, Duncan?” she asked after finishing the sip of tea. It was Nick who answered. “We manage our inherited wealth.”
It was a vague answer, but she had no wish to learn the finer economic intricacies of maintaining a vast sum of wealth. She was certain her employers had to be wealthy to live in this home. “Are you two brothers?” “Friends,” said Nick. “Former enemies,” added Duncan with a grin. She couldn’t imagine that, so she rolled her eyes. “Of course you are. That’s why you share a home together.” After another sip of tea, she asked, “Does your business take you into the city very often?” As she uttered the question, she realized her motivation for posing it wasn’t strictly casual conversation. She was trying to determine if she’d ever have an opportunity to see them again after her assignment ended. “We never go into the city,” said Duncan with an air of finality that suggested the topic was closed. She wanted to ask more, but she didn’t dare from their suddenly serious expressions. She wondered how they could manage to avoid going into the city completely, but their postures made it clear they wouldn’t entertain questions about that. She searched for another topic of conversation, but drew a blank. It was a relief when Nick asked about her progress in the library, and she was able to relax in her seat. As she was talking to them about organizing their first-edition collection, she abruptly realized Duncan’s hand was still on her leg, having moved higher up her thigh, and he was twirling strands of her hair around his other hand. Her mouth went dry, and she stopped speaking in the middle of her sentence. Her throat was too dry and made it impossible to speak. She barely stifled a moan when Nick put his hand on her other thigh. Baylee was certain she wasn’t imagining the changed atmosphere around her, and she didn’t think she was reading the wrong thing into their intentions. It felt like they were trying to seduce her, and she was honest enough with herself to admit they wouldn’t have to try very hard. A surge of disappointment filled her when instead of continuing, they both withdrew and stood up. Looking regretful, Duncan said, “Our break is over.” She licked her lips and cleared her throat. “Yes, mine too. I need to get back to the books.” As they departed, she watched them leave and continued to stare at the door for a couple of moments after it had closed behind them. Eventually, she returned to the ladder and the books she had been sorting, but this time, she couldn’t lose herself in the task. She still went through the motions and performed her job, but her thoughts were focused heavily on her employers rather than the books she was being paid to restore to proper order.
CHAPTER TWO Three days passed before she knew it, and it was almost a surprise to realize time had flown by. She was enjoying the assignment, but she was enjoying her employers’ presence even more. They were funny and charming, and they were treating her like a friend rather than an employee. That wasn’t entirely true though. They were treating her as more than a friend. With their casual touches and obvious flirtation, she’d grown convinced either one of them would have been happy to take her as a lover. She could have taken either one of them as well, but she couldn’t bring herself to choose, so she couldn’t find any bravery that would allow her to move forward. So they were in limbo, somewhere between friends and lovers and it left her frustrated. She was certain that was why she couldn’t seem to fall asleep, though she’d been tossing and turning in an attempt to do so for the last few hours. Finally, with a disgusted sigh, she shoved back the blankets and stood up out of bed. The stone floor was chilly under her feet, and she slid her feet into the slippers waiting for her. Deciding warm milk or a cup of hot cocoa might be what she needed to put herself to sleep, she slipped from her room. As she made her way down the stairs, she recalled there was a bar in the library, cleverly hidden in a large globe. She’d discovered it yesterday, and she was certain she had seen brandy among the bottles. Perhaps a nip of that added to her cocoa would be just the thing to help her sleep. Either that, or about twelve orgasms, but since that seemed unlikely, she’d have to settle for an adult hot cocoa. She stumbled to a halt when she reached the kitchen, palm on the swinging door that she didn’t push. The sound of her name had made her freeze, and her eyes widened when she realized they were discussing her. It was surprising to find them awake this early in the morning, or late, depending on one’s perspective, but it was downright shocking to hear the gist of their conversation. “I don’t know how much longer I can wait,” said Duncan. Nick groaned. “I understand. She’s just perfect, curves in all the right places, and that mouth…” He groaned again. “I keep imagining it wrapped around my dick,” said Duncan, his voice a rough rasp. “I hope Baylee gets over her shyness soon.” She flinched at the sound of her name. Of course she’d assumed they were talking about her, since they had just spoken her name a moment before, but hearing the confirmation was completely different. Her heart rate accelerated, and she grew slick between her thighs. “She smells so good, and I bet her pussy is as sweet and juicy as she is.” That part of her anatomy pulsed in response to his words, and she eyed the kitchen door uncertainly before glancing reflexively at the nearest window. It was a few minutes past dawn, and light was overtaking the shadows rapidly. She had spent most of the night unable to sleep and tossing and turning fitfully due to her desire for the two men on the other side of the door. From their conversation, it was obvious they didn’t mind sharing her, and the only thing separating her from them was a piece of wood and her own uncertainty. She could do the smart thing, which was turn around and go back to her room and try to forget that she’d overheard their conversation, or she could do what was probably the wrong thing, but felt right. She could
push open the door, step into the kitchen, and take what she wanted. She was certain they would give it freely. “It’s torture having to wait,” said Duncan. It was the perfect moment, and she surrendered to instincts, doing her best to block any fear or uncertainty as she pressed her palm against the swinging door and pushed it open. “You don’t have to wait any longer, if you don’t want to.” They were both clearly startled, but recovered quickly. With a speed that made her head spin, they were out of their seats at the kitchen table, closing in on her in a flash. She was still aware enough to notice neither one of them wore any clothes, and she frowned. “Why are you naked?” “We were out for a run,” said Nick. “In the middle of the night with no clothes?” “Clothing only gets in the way of freedom,” said Duncan as he reached her. He put his arm around her waist, and Nick mimicked the motion from her other side a second later. She forgot about the questions in her head. Everything disappeared except for the two men holding her. She trembled in their embrace even as her arms moved to their waists, embracing them both against her. “Are you cold?” asked Nick. Baylee shook her head. “I’m just nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before.” “Like what?” asked Duncan before he ghosted his lips down the column of her throat. “A ménage a trois. I’ve never even fantasized about one before. I have some girlfriends who always buy the latest Marie Carney novel, but I’ve never even read one. It just seemed messy and impractical.” Nick moved his mouth to her shoulder, nibbling softly before he spoke. “Sure it will be messy, and things could get complicated, but it’s worth it.” “Have you done this before?” “Shared a woman?” asked Duncan. At her nod, he nodded in return. “Aye, we have.” She wasn’t certain how she felt about that. On the one hand, she was glad they had experience with such a thing, but on the other hand, it bothered her to know they had shared a woman in the past. In fact, it sparked a sensation with which she was unfamiliar—pure jealousy. She’d never felt possessive of Sam, nor of the boyfriends she’d had before him. She hadn’t been so emotionally invested that she had really cared if they had cheated on her. In fact, recalling her spectacular break-up with her second boyfriend ever, who’d had been angry when she didn’t get worked up over a woman flirting with him, it was definitely strange to feel so jealous now of someone who had been in Duncan and Nick’s past. Before she could ask more questions, Nick and Duncan seemed to communicate via some unspoken method as they lifted her simultaneously and carried her to the table. She wanted to protest or suggest they go to her room, where she had that huge bed, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak or lodge an objection. There was something decadent about them wanting her so badly that they had to lay her on the nearest surface rather than spend a few extra minutes getting her to her room. Their mouths and hands were everywhere, making it difficult to keep track of who was touching her where. Rather than struggle to keep up, she simply closed her eyes and surrendered
to sensation. Even when one of them ripped off her gown, she didn’t flutter so much as an eyelash. She just laid there and enjoyed their kisses and caresses. A set of lips touched hers, and though she didn’t open her eyes, she was certain from the scent and the slight scruff of beard that it was Duncan, who often had a five o’clock shadow by early afternoon. She parted her lips and accepted his tongue as it thrust inside, sweeping through the confines of her mouth to taste every bit of her. She responded in kind by massaging his tongue with hers before pinning it against the side of her mouth and sucking lightly. A moan escaped her when two hands covered her breasts, both twirling and tugging lightly on her nipples in a contrasting, but complementary, pattern that had her writhing with need on the table. Another hand went between her thighs, shoving aside her panties in a rough motion before a finger slid inside her slick heat. Baylee arched her hips as she continued kissing Duncan, though it was difficult to concentrate with all the various stimuli coursing through her body. One of the hands at her breasts disappeared, replaced by an eager mouth, and yet more heat spread through her. The finger inside her moved in a rhythmic fashion that matched the suction at her breast. She forgot how to kiss or do anything but surrender to the sensations as she bucked her hips against the finger pressing against her clit. A low moan escaped her, rising in pitch as she drew closer to the crest. Duncan’s mouth had left her, but she was positive it had simply switched to a different location. The mouth at her breast had never ceased, so Duncan was the one who moved between her thighs, his tongue slipping inside her to join the finger already there. She gasped raggedly when the hand inside her pussy slid down, the finger sliding into her opening along with one of its mates. Duncan’s mouth moved higher, and his tongue swirled around her clit. As he inhaled against it before exhaling sharply, her hips arched completely off the table, and she was certain she was screaming their names, though she couldn’t decipher the incoherent sounds coming from her. As one, fingers probed deeply as the tongue focused on her most sensitive spot. The beginnings of an orgasm caused her to tremble under the force of it, and when Duncan applied firm friction by sucking on her clit, the world around her dissolved in shock waves of pleasure. She writhed and moaned on the table, barely recovering from her first orgasm before they were giving her another, and then another. When she collapsed against the table a few minutes later, the hand and mouth between her legs finally departed. She opened her eyes when she heard Nick chuckle, looking up to see him bending over her again. “Did we break you, love?” She managed a tired nod, completely overwhelmed by pleasure, yet oddly eager for more. She should have been too sated to even contemplate the idea. Abruptly, she realized they were both still hard and eager for attention too. She lifted her arms, groping blindly to find their cocks. They hissed simultaneously when her hands reached their destinations, and she started rubbing them lightly. They were both slick with pre-cum, easing the passage of her hands, and she was certain she would bring them to completion in no time.
It was a surprise when, as one, they both took her hands and carefully pulled them away from their cocks. She gave them both a questioning look, directed first at Duncan and then Nick. “Don’t you want…?” “Aye,” said Duncan, a hint of brogue his tone. Apparently, passion brought it out. “We want more than that though. May we take you to bed?” She nodded her permission and was relieved when they took it upon themselves to lift her from the table. Nick held her in his arms, and she cuddled close to him. She was still in the blissful haze of aftermath, and she might have found it difficult, if not impossible, to walk on her own. He seemed to have no trouble navigating the stairs even with her in his arms, and Duncan preceded them. He opened the door to her room a few moments later, and as Nick carried her across the threshold, it felt almost like a groom carrying his bride in homage to tradition. He laid her on the bed, and they dropped down beside her. Once more, their hands and mouth explored her, roaming freely, and she reciprocated. She was in search of their cocks, but they proved elusive when they shifted positions. Again, she allowed her eyes to drift shut and just lose herself in sensation. She was sure it was Duncan between her thighs, which meant it had to be Nick who was carefully straddling her chest. His erection brushed against her lips, and she parted them to flick her tongue out for a taste of his pre-cum. He was salty, yet sweet, with a tang all his own. She licked him again, eliciting a harsh groan from him. “Are you protected?” asked Duncan, the head of his cock nudging against her folds. She turned her head slightly away from Nick’s shaft to ensure Duncan could hear her when she said, “Yes, I’m on the pill.” “Thank fuck. I didn’t think I could wait any longer.” As he spoke, Duncan surged inside her before freezing. He sounded shocked when he asked, “Are you a virgin?” She shook her head. “No, but it’s been a while, and my ex-boyfriend was nothing like you.” She hadn’t gotten a good look at Duncan’s cock yet, but she remembered the feel of it, and she could tell from the way it fit snugly inside her that he was literally twice the man Sam had been. Within a moment, she softened and conformed to him, and Duncan slipped the rest of the way inside her. Once he was fully seated, she turned her head back to Nick and opened her mouth, accepting his cock as it slid between her lips. At first, she sucked him slowly as she savored his flavor in his every response. As Duncan’s pace increased inside her, it fed her own frenzy, and she started bobbing her head and sucking more forcefully. Nick was thrusting into her mouth, and she opened her eyes to look up, thrilled by the wild passion she saw on his face. Knowing she was the reason for it sent her flying over the edge just as much as Duncan slipping a hand between their bodies to stroke her clit as he surged deeply inside her while he started to come. Nick followed suit a few seconds later, and she swallowed his cum as Duncan filled her with his release. Her body was strung taut as a bow as she reached the apex of her climax. Abruptly, all of her muscles loosened, and she trembled under the force of her release. She was only slightly aware of Nick and Duncan trading places. Their stamina shocked her, but not as much as her own capacity to keep up with them. Nick slid inside her slick heat as Duncan’s cock pressed against her lips. She yielded just as eagerly to them in their changed positions as she had when the three of them had first come together on the bed. Baylee was certain she couldn’t possibly muster another orgasm, but they
soon proved her wrong, sending her flying over the edge at the exact moment both men attained their own fulfillment. By the time she came back down, they were both lying on either side of her, legs twined with hers, and arms across her waist and her hips. She put a hand on each of their sides and let her eyes close. The sleepless night, combined with the vigorous lovemaking, caught up with her, and she fell asleep minutes later.
CHAPTER THREE Baylee woke later in the day feeling stiff and sore, but in a good way. She was disconcerted to wake alone, and she tried not to be hurt about that. They had likely woken before her and not wanting to disturb her, had slipped away quietly. It still made her apprehensive as she took a quick shower before dressing to head downstairs. Walking down the stairs gave a sharp reminder of just how she had used all her muscles earlier in the morning. She was feeling it now, but had no regrets—at least about the physical endeavors. She found them waiting in the library, and they were both reading. There was a tray waiting for her, and she sat down in a wingback chair, holding the plate on her lap. Now that she was with them, she found it impossible to look at either one of them. The air was thick with tension, and the aftermath was awkward as hell. She’d never had a one-night stand before, much less with two people, so she didn’t know the proper etiquette. She didn’t even know if it was strictly a one-night stand, or if there was more to it. Though she had been hungry when she had taken the plate to sit down, she found it impossible to eat as her thoughts weighed on her. The silence stretched, and she swore the ticking of the grandfather clock amplified in her brain until it was all she could hear. She blamed that on how violently she startled when Duncan spoke her name. Baylee managed to advert catastrophe in the form of dropping her plate, but it was a near thing. She clutched it harder than she had as she lifted her head and looked in his direction, but didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Yes?” “Everything’s fine. There’s no need to feel awkward around us.” She hadn’t imagined she’d been able to hide her reaction, but hearing confirmation of her failure deflated her. With a sigh, she leaned forward to place her plate on the table in front of her, finding she couldn’t eat with them present. “How can it not be awkward? What we did… All three of us…” She shook her head, trailing off. How could they not feel the awkwardness and tension? “Are you ashamed of what we did?” asked Nick. She looked at him, summoning the courage to meet his eyes as she shook her head. “No, of course not. I just don’t know how to act or think this morning. I’ve never done anything like that before.” “Over the years, Duncan and I have learned to share, and I think we’ve both learned there’s no right or wrong way to react. If you’re feeling awkward or weird about things, we’ll give you space. Not too much space though. Last night wasn’t just a one-off thing for us.” She was reassured by his words, and she nodded. “Come on, Duncan. Let’s give Baylee some time alone.” She watched them go, and it wasn’t until the door closed behind them that she realized what he had said in its entirety. Over the years, he had learned to share with Duncan. That meant they did this sort of thing all the time. What was a combination of strange and special for her was commonplace for them. A new wave of anxiety spread through her, along with a stirring of jealousy that she didn’t want to feel. She didn’t know how to process what had happened, or how she should react in the long run. ***
She didn’t see them again until dinner, and while she still hadn’t sorted everything out, at least she was calmer about the situation. She felt compelled to ask them as dinner progressed, “What did you mean when you said you’ve learned to share?” She had practically blurted out the question after several moments of silence, so it was only fair they both looked startled for a moment. Duncan was the first reply. “When Nick and I were first…maneuvered into becoming partners, we didn’t really like each other.” Nick snorted. “That’s an understatement. It took us a while to get past our rivalry and focus on our shared goals. Once we did, it started to feel natural to do things together.” She took a sip of wine before asking, “Including taking women to bed together?” He shrugged a shoulder. “To be blunt, we’ve been looking for the right woman for both of us.” She frowned at him. “You’re deliberately seeking out a woman who will be with both of you? Am I understanding that correctly?” At their nods, she frowned. “But why? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just find your own girlfriends?” Duncan’s expression had closed, and Nick made it clear from his tone that he was done discussing it. “We have our reasons, and that’s all you need to know for now. The most important thing is, if you can live with what we want.” She still held her wineglass, but hadn’t taken another sip. She stared into the rich red color as though it would give her the answers she sought. “How long are you wanting to share someone?” “For the rest of our lives,” said Duncan. “So you’re looking for a wife for both of you? Or whatever the proper term would be?” When they both nodded simultaneously, a wave of relief swept through her, and she hadn’t even realized she’d been on edge as she’d waited for their answer. The situation was unorthodox, but it was strangely reassuring to know they were looking for a long-term, permanent partner rather than indulging in a sexual fetish. She wasn’t certain if she was the right fit for them, but it was easier to let go of her concerns and concentrate on possibly building something lasting and meaningful once she knew their intentions. She was quiet for the remainder of dinner, her thoughts heavy, but when the meal ended, and Duncan asked her if they could escort her to her room, she had surprisingly little hesitation when she said, “Yes.”
CHAPTER FOUR The next few days passed in a haze of sensual bliss. It was like living out every fantasy she’d ever had, along with several she hadn’t realized would appeal to her. Duncan and Nick focused solely on her, and it wasn’t all about sex. It soon became obvious they were trying to win her over in every aspect of her life. Of course there was hot, mind blowing sex like she’d never experienced, but there were also quiet moments of cuddling during deep conversations, or lighthearted teasing, along with answering questions that allowed them to know her better. Only three things had dimmed her happiness the last few days. The first was she’d realized they were far more evasive with answers to her questions than she was. It wasn’t that they didn’t answer them, but it was as though they were holding back and not giving her the full truth. She wasn’t certain how she was supposed to trust them to build a foundation for a longer commitment if they were holding back from her. The second problem that bothered her was they never stayed in her bed with her, and they hadn’t invited her to either one of theirs. Other than the first time they had all made love, when they had fallen asleep early in the morning and rested through part of the day, she hadn’t slept with either one of them again. They always made love to her after dinner, but slipped away before bedtime. She tried not to let it hurt, but it left her feeling used for sex and nothing more. She had that reaction during the nights, when she felt lonely. Even reminding herself of how much they cuddled with her and randomly touched her throughout the day, often interrupting her work in the library to bring her food, massages, and perhaps sex, did little to mitigate the loneliness of spending her nights in an empty bed. The third thing that diminished her happiness was the persistent text messages from Sam. She wasn’t certain how he had gotten her new phone number, but he’d already filled her mailbox three times, and he kept texting on an hourly basis. She was tempted to just shut the phone off, or throw it out the window, but with her father’s heart condition, and him having had a heart attack less than a year ago, she was afraid to disconnect the lifeline to them. She had yet to see a landline in the house, and it seemed too intimate to ask to pass along Duncan or Nick’s phone numbers to her parents. She didn’t want to explain the situation or the relationship to her mom and dad, and she was embarrassed by Sam’s behavior. How had she misjudged him so completely? He had seemed so sweet in the beginning of their relationship, but as soon as he’d won her over, he had started spending less and less time with her. She could have dealt with that, but when he started trying to dictate how she spent her time when she wasn’t with him, warning bells rang in the back of her mind. She’d hung in there for another few weeks, hoping he would calm down, but then there had been that disastrous date at the restaurant. She’d chosen a public place with the intention of breaking up with him, and he had chosen it with the intention of proposing. He hadn’t taken her refusal well, and she was certain he had been humiliated. Baylee had been embarrassed herself when he’d made such a production of it, and then she’d had to say no. More than one person had scowled at her, but she wasn’t going to accept a marriage proposal from a man she had planned to break up with just to avoid a little public embarrassment among strangers.
At first, the messages had been cajoling, but they quickly turned nasty. She didn’t bother to listen to the voicemails in her mailbox any longer. She simply deleted them, but she grew tired of having to continuously empty her box. She tried to avoid reading the text messages too, but it was hard not to see at least a few words. Tonight, as she prepared to delete the latest volley, her eyes widened with horror when she realized the vitriol he was spewing. She was certain it was all anger and hurt feelings from her rejection, but that didn’t make it any more palatable to see proof of his mental instability. She made the mistake of reading one message in its entirety, feeling ill at the way he was trying to lay claim to her. She glared at the phone when she reached the line where he added he couldn’t live without her, and he wouldn’t let her live without him. Melodramatic much? With a snort, she cleared the messages and laid the phone on her nightstand. She was suddenly restless and felt the urge to be outside. She hadn’t yet undressed for bed, so she slipped on a light jacket to offset the chill in the autumn air and left her room. She exited the house a few minutes later, and it was only when she was standing outside near the edge of the forest that she recalled seeing the wolf on her first night there. Freezing in mid-step, she decided not to venture into the forest. Just as she was about to turn away, one of the wolves appeared at the edge of the trees, its body mostly obscured by underbrush, but revealing enough to tell her it wasn’t a wolf. She gasped when she made out the massive form with its shaggy head, long fur, and fierce-looking teeth that sprouted from its lips even without it posturing aggressively at her. The eyes had the same red shine as she remembered, and she started backing away slowly. When a second form joined the first one, she spun on her heels and ran, hoping it wouldn’t trigger a predator instinct that would lead them to chase her. Her heart was pounding in her ears by the time she returned to the house, closing the door and leaning against it with her heart thumping in her ears. She pressed a hand to her chest as though she could hold in her galloping heart and took several deep breaths. The fear remained, and she needed comfort and reassurance. She also needed to inform Duncan and Nick that it wasn’t a pair of wolves on their property. They were something far stranger and unknown to her. She went up the stairs, heading in the direction of their wing of the house. She hadn’t been formally invited to either of their rooms, but she knew the direction in which they lived. When she reached that wing, she started opening doors at random, finding a series of bathrooms and impersonal-looking guestrooms. It wasn’t until she reached the end of the hall that she found two bedrooms across from each other with doors similar to the ones that opened her room. She chose the one on the left randomly, knocking on it first. She couldn’t explain why she knocked when she had just opened the doors of the previous rooms, other than she sensed someone actually inhabited this room. When there was no answer, she twisted the handle and eased the door open. “Hello?” Upon receiving no answer, she stepped into the room, searching for the light switch before finding it. She blinked when the light came on, chasing away most of the shadows, and stared around the recesses. It was neat, with everything in its place, but it still had a lived-in air. As she moved closer to the large bed, she recognized the hunter-green sweater that belonged to Duncan. He had worn it at dinner. It was folded neatly at the edge of the bed, along with his jeans. She was hoping he was simply preparing for bed, so she moved deeper into the
room, heading toward the two doors she could see. The first one revealed the walk-in closet, and it was empty. The second door hid a spacious bathroom, which was also empty. Feeling slightly irritated that he wasn’t available, though she recognized that as an irrational response, Baylee left his room and went across the hall to the one she presumed was Nick’s. She lifted her hand to tap on the wood, but received no response. She opened the door and slipped inside as she asked, “Nick, are you in here?” There was no answer. She fumbled for the light switch and turned it on, revealing a room similar in setup to Duncan’s, but with a different style of bed and color scheme. Moving closer, she saw the white button-down shirt and jeans he’d worn to dinner tossed haphazardly over a chair near the bed. Checking the doors in his room revealed a walk-in closet and a bathroom, and he wasn’t in either one. Flummoxed, she exited his room and stood in the center of the hallway between the two. They had to be back soon, right? She didn’t know much about the stock market or trading, but it occurred to her that they were perhaps making business calls to another part of the world, where it was daytime. Feeling frustrated and lonely, she ended up sitting down in the hallway as she waited for them to come to their rooms. At some point, she must have nodded off, because she dreamed about the beasts that she had seen at the edge of the forest. It wasn’t a nightmare though. In her dream, she was simply running with them, and she didn’t feel frightened until she looked down and realized she was also a beast. That realization rocked her, and she woke up with a gasp. Her heart was pumping as intensely as it had when she had seen them in person earlier in the evening. After drawing in several deep breaths, Baylee finally felt calm. She got to her feet and checked each room again, though she didn’t really think she had slept through Nick or Duncan’s arrival. If either one of them had come to their rooms, surely they would have woken her to inquire why she was on the floor asleep. She returned to where she’d been seated, ignoring the ache in her lower back from the hard wall, as she waited for Duncan and Nick to make an appearance. As the time passed, her thoughts grew more fanciful, and influenced by the need to sleep, which clouded her thinking, she found herself reaching a conclusion that should have terrified her—or had her questioning her mental state. What if Nick and Duncan were the beasts she had seen in the forest? The idea sent a mild shock of fright through her, but it wasn’t terrifying—likely because she wasn’t seriously entertaining it as a true theory. Was she? It made an odd sort of sense, and it would explain why she never saw them at night. As she thought about it, she realized she’d never seen them during darkness. They weren’t in their rooms, and they hadn’t seemed alarmed by what they had identified as wolves roaming their land. They claimed Mrs. Farley served dinner well before dark because they liked to rise early, but she’d never seen much of them before eleven a.m., or so, at the earliest. She shook her head, both in an effort to clear away the need to sleep, and to try to dismiss the crazy thoughts. Telling herself there was no way it was possible, that it was completely contrary to logic and reality, she tried to dismiss the notion. It was far more likely that if Duncan and Nick knew anything about the beasts on their land, they were keeping illegal pets, either in an attempt to save a species at risk of extinction, or because they were drawn to danger. The first
goal was admirable, while the second would be off-putting. Either way, she was going to wait until they turned up and gave her an explanation. It was a long wait, and she was on the floor most of the night. It was only when she saw the first rays of dawn peeking through a nearby window that she realized she had sat there all night, sometimes dozing off, but never sleeping deeply. She was somehow unsurprised when she heard the sound of the front door opening a few minutes later, followed by quiet steps coming up the flights of stairs. She almost laughed when she saw their expression as they realized simultaneously that she was there and stumbled to a stop. They were both naked. Getting to her feet, she was about to ask where they had been, but as they moved closer, there was something in their form and the air surrounding them that reminded her of the beasts she’d seen last night. Recalling her sleep-impaired theory that the men before her were the beasts, she couldn’t so easily dismiss it even in the light of day. As they reached her, she was certain that however farfetched and fantastical the idea, the beasts she had seen last night were now standing before her in human form. Before she could think better of it, or censor her words, she blurted out, “I saw you two last night in those forms. You definitely aren’t wolves, so what are you?” Duncan and Nick’s eyes widened, and they shared a look before turning back to her. “I’m not sure what you think you saw—” started Nick. She put up a hand. “Don’t even try to convince me I didn’t see that. You were both huge, massive beasts, and you had red eyes. The second day I was here, I told you about seeing those eyes, and you told me there was a wolf pack on your land. You aren’t wolves.” “Baylee, what makes you think that was us?” She turned her attention to Duncan, giving him a scoffing look. “It sounds ridiculous, but all the facts add up. If I hadn’t seen the beasts with my own eyes, I never would have reached this conclusion, but it’s obvious. It’s in the way you both move, and the way they stood. Your eye color is different, but there’s something in your eyes that reminds me of the beasts, and vice versa. How did this happen?” She was startled by her own persistence for answers, and even more surprised to discover she wasn’t afraid of Duncan and Nick, despite what she had figured out. She didn’t know how this could be possible, but she was confident that they meant her no harm. “Let us get dressed, and we’ll have a discussion about everything,” said Nick. She nodded, stepping back a bit so they had room to enter both of their bedrooms, but she didn’t go anywhere. She waited for them to emerge, and they joined her shortly. They had both opted to slip on robes and nothing more, though the last part was pure speculation. Imagining them wearing nothing but the fleece covering their body was somehow more erotic than seeing them fully naked a few moments before. She cleared her throat and tried to push away the thought. Now wasn’t the time to focus on sex. “Okay, so start talking.” “Let’s at least move somewhere more comfortable,” said Duncan. He held out a hand to her, and he seemed startled when she put hers in his with only a brief hesitation. She was a little startled herself, but still convinced they wouldn’t hurt her. She followed along between them as they moved a few doors down the hallway before opening one. Duncan slipped inside first, and she followed him. Nick brought up the rear, closing the door behind himself. Duncan had dropped her hand, so she moved to a chair situated in an inviting arrangement in
the small sitting room. After sitting down, she waved a hand toward the other furniture before saying, “Start talking.” “It’s a long, strange story, and you probably won’t believe it—” She laughed softly, interrupting Nick. “Actually, I think I will. Having seen it with my own eyes, it’s difficult to pretend like I didn’t. I know what you are, but I don’t know how you became this way. Were you born like this?” Duncan shook his head. “No, we weren’t. I was born in 1792 in Edinburg, second son to a Laird.” “And I was born in London in 1794. My father was a nobleman, and my mother was from a rich family of Spanish merchants,” added Nick. Her head reeled, and she realized the explanation was going to be even stranger than she had anticipated. “You’re telling me you’re both more than two hundred years old?” “Aye,” said Duncan. “It was part of the curse.” She blinked again. “What curse?” Nick shot his friend a quelling look before looking at her. “He’s jumping ahead. Duncan and I had never met, but we were both similar in that we wanted adventure, like young men often do. We persuaded our parents to allow us to come to America, and though we arrived here a year apart, our journeys were basically the same. We integrated into society, and I soon fell for a woman named Ellshonna Hapervic. My affections were returned, and I assumed we would be married.” Duncan interjected then. “I also fell for Ellshonna, meeting her at a party. I courted her for months, but when I proposed marriage, she was evasive. She started pulling away, though I was convinced she still loved me, and I loved her. I was suspicious of her behavior though.” “I was still oblivious at that point,” said Nick. “I often avoided parties and stayed here at my estate. I found my excitement in gambling and duels, and in seducing women before Ellshonna.” “I followed her from the city one weekend, finding her here.” Nick said, “She was due to stay with me for the weekend, and though it was all very proper, including her own chaperone, I was hopeful that she might finally accept my proposal of marriage.” Baylee swallowed, doing her best to organize her thoughts and keep track of the story they were telling. “So this Ellshonna woman had turned you both down for marriage?” A slight chill went through her as she recalled just how unbalanced Sam had been after her rejection. Was she dealing with two more men cut from the same cloth? That gave her the first hint of apprehension she’d experienced since confirmation that they were the beasts. “Yes. She claimed it was too soon, but I was hopeful that she would finally relent.” Duncan snorted. “I couldn’t contain myself for long after I followed her here, and I burst in on them. She was in his arms, and I immediately challenged him to a duel.” Nick shook his head. “I was eager to return the challenge, until it finally sunk in that he was challenging me because he thought I was stealing his woman—the woman I thought was mine.” “We turned on her together, demanding an explanation.” Duncan snorted. “She told us she’d fallen for both of us, and she didn’t mean to lead us on, but she couldn’t possibly choose.” Nick shook his head. “We insisted she make a choice, and when she refused, we both told her we wanted nothing more to do with her.”
Relief swept through Baylee at his words, and she was happy to realize they hadn’t been cursed, or whatever the circumstances that had changed them into the beasts, because they had been stalking her or trying to force Ellshonna to take them. “I guess she didn’t like that much?” Duncan and Nick shared a look before they both laughed. It was kind of a rueful, almost bitter sound, but it still held amusement. “No, not at all. Ellshonna did not like rejection, and she revealed to us that she’d been keeping more than one secret.” “She was a witch, and she cursed us that we would be our beastly side that we had kept hidden from her by night and live until we found a woman we could both share, who loved us in return. Then she left us.” “We went after her,” said Duncan. “Not because we had changed our minds about sharing her, but because we wanted to ensure there wasn’t really a curse.” “As soon as we stepped out into the moonlight, our clothes ripped away, and we became the forms you saw earlier tonight. It didn’t take long to discover that if we tried to leave the lands here, we were beasts all the time. So not only had she cursed us to do something that we loathed the idea of before we could be free, but she had made it as difficult as possible. We’re tied to the estate until the curse is broken.” “It took almost a hundred years for us to reach the point where we could consider sharing a woman,” said Duncan. “It got easier as time passed, but we didn’t find that special connection with anyone. “Over the years, we found ways to meet women, but none of them felt right,” said Nick. “How have you met them?” asked Baylee. Duncan look slightly embarrassed when he said “You aren’t the first librarian we’ve hired. After they’ve reorganized our library, we always return it to a disorganized state. We’ve also found other reasons to invite women to the estate over the years, and the Internet has made that easier. But until you, we haven’t felt the missing connection with any of them.” A dart of pain shot through her. “I’m just a convenient female that you’ve settled on to break the curse.” Nick frowned. “Of course you aren’t. We care about you.” “Me and the zillion other women you’ve invited before me. Did you just pick me at random?” She sniffed, trying to hide her hurt. That she was just one in a long line of many that they had test-driven to break their curse sent a shard of agony through her chest. “I’m just here for your convenience.” “No, that isn’t it at all. If we were just picking randomly, there were at least fifteen hundred other resumes on LinkedIn that we could have selected that met the criteria, which is a female around our age. We looked through all of the profiles, and it wasn’t until we both saw your picture and had a strong reaction to it that we decided to invite you. We were hoping you were the one, because we reacted so strongly to you even before we met you.” Baylee bit her lip. “I want to believe you, but I need time to think about all this. I can’t just be a convenient substitute, or a warm body. There has to be something more for this to work.” “Don’t you feel it too?” asked Duncan, sounding agonized. She hesitated for a moment. “I definitely feel something, but now I’m not sure what it is. I’m questioning everything. I just don’t know what to do or think.” “Is it because we’re beasts?” asked Nick with an air of resignation that suggested he was fully prepared for that possibility.
“No, that’s actually the least of my concerns. I feel like my entire world has tilted on its axes, and there’s a lot I’m going to have to change about my belief system, including incorporating the existence of magic, but that isn’t the biggest fear.” She couldn’t verbalize the biggest fear, which was loving them deeply only to have them not love her the same way in return. If it was a simple matter of them both agreeing on the same woman, and getting her to accept them, then how could she ever be sure that they wanted her and loved her for her, and not just as a means to break the curse?
CHAPTER FIVE As she often did in times of distress, Baylee turned to books as a means of escape. There seemed little point in continuing with reorganizing the library until she had decided if she was going to stay with them. Otherwise, they would simply hire another librarian and hope she was the mate they sought. The room still became her refuge over the next two days as she tried to sort out her thoughts while avoiding Nick and Duncan. They maintained a respectful distance, which she appreciated, and even had Mrs. Farley bring her trays for food. It was obvious they weren’t trying to push her, but in a way, that made it even harder to decide. If they had been encroaching on the time she asked for to consider the situation, she would have been more certain of their assertions that they needed her and cared deeply about her. That was an unfair stance, since she had specifically requested time and distance, but the thing she had asked for was leaving her raw and aching. She missed them, and the connection they had found, and it was leading her toward trusting the bond forming between them. She just wished she could be absolutely certain that it was her specifically they needed to break the curse, rather than being a convenient warm body to whom they were both attracted. Her phone buzzed, and she pulled it from her pocket with a frown. She had begun to dread looking at the screen, and she wasn’t at all surprised to see Sam had sent her a text message. It was at least the third one of the day, and it was barely after noon. She started to delete it, but her gaze moved to the words as she tried to figure out what had caught her attention. She did her best to look through the aspersions on her moral character, and his favorite word of whore, which he used several times. Her stomach was queasy from the sheer hate in the message as she forced herself to read it twice before she realized what had felt wrong about it the first time. Only a whore would screw two men at the same time where anyone could see. Her heart stuttered in her chest as her face flushed. He must be watching her to know she had taken two lovers, and the easiest way for him to have seen that was three days ago, when Duncan and Nick had taken her for a picnic when they’d had a surprisingly nice fall day. It had been a little chilly, but they’d soon found ways to keep her warm, and the three of them had made love on the blanket—where anyone who was spying could have seen them. At the time, she had thought Mrs. Farley was the only other person on the grounds, and the men had assured her she was in the kitchen, so she’d allowed them to seduce her, since she had wanted it too. She scrambled to her feet, contemplation forgotten in her need to seek out Duncan and Nick. They needed to know Sam was somewhere around. Until recently, she wouldn’t have feared Sam despite his attempts to control her, but in light of the texts and the fact that he had followed her here, she knew he was dangerous. Her lovers needed to be warned. She hurried from the library and spent ten minutes searching their wing of the house, but neither were in attendance. She was growing concerned for them as she moved down to the main floor, seeking out Mrs. Farley, who was in the kitchen. The older woman gave her a kindly smile as she kneaded bread dough. “If you’re looking for a bite to eat, there are several options in the refrigerator.”
She shook her head. “I actually need to find Duncan and Nick. Do you know where they are?” “They’ve gone fishing, Ms. Edwards.” Baylee blinked, having a difficult time imagining Duncan and Nick as the fishing type. “Really?” At Mrs. Farley’s nod, she asked, “Where are they fishing?” She already knew it couldn’t be off the property, or they would have immediately turned into the beasts. “If you head due east, you’ll come to the river that runs across the property at the edge. You’ll find them there.” Baylee debated the wisdom about going outside alone, but the idea of Nick and Duncan out there alone, with no knowledge of Sam’s presence, spurred her onward. She was certain they could take care of themselves if they knew there was a threat, but she didn’t know what method Sam might use to attack, or if he would even target Duncan and Nick. There was a visible path through the forest, and as she reached the edge of it before entering, she knelt down and picked up a sturdy branch. It was light enough for her to carry, but heavy enough to do damage to Sam if he appeared. With a deep breath, and the branch in her hand, she stepped into the gloom of the afternoon forest. The canopy was thick and lush, blocking out the sun in places and reducing it to little more than a pleasant haze in others. It wasn’t too dark to navigate, but it was dark enough to be nerveracking. She moved her head continuously, eyes constantly scanning the area around her. When she stepped into a clearing near the stables, which appeared to be in disuse, she breathed a sigh of relief. The river was still about a mile away, and that meant reentering the forest after the clearing, but she was more confident in her journey now that she’d accomplished part of it. Maybe she was overreacting, and Sam wasn’t lurking on the property somewhere. Perhaps he had tricked her parents or one of her friends into telling him where she was working and had driven up to see her, and had instead found her with Duncan and Nick. Maybe he’d been so angry and hurt that he had turned and gone back the way he came, but she wasn’t going to cling to that hope. In light of his increasingly violent text messages, and his overall creepy behavior, she figured it was more likely he was on the property somewhere. She only hoped he wasn’t watching her right that minute. She crossed the clearing, moving toward the stables, though not approaching them. The slightest smell of musty manure remained in the air, indicating it had probably been years since they had kept horses on the property. She eyed the building uncertainly as she walked past, but didn’t feel the sensation of being watched, at least not any stronger than she had ever since stepping outside the manor house. Two minutes after she had entered the clearing, she was back in the forest again, and she remained vigilant, but saw no sign of Sam. She continued walking forward before crying out sharply when something created a stinging sensation in her hip. She angled her body slightly to look at the spot, having expected she had caught herself on a thorn or something. Instead, there was a dart extending from her flesh, and she picked it up, wincing as she pulled it out. For a moment, her brain couldn’t make the connection between what it was and how it had gotten there, but as she swayed, she realized it was a tranquilizer dart. She didn’t see Sam as she collapsed to the floor of the forest, but she was certain he was there, and he was the one who had shot her. She could hear footsteps approaching as she fought off the wave of unconsciousness, but she passed out before they had a chance to reach her. ***
She woke with the smell of old manure in her nose, and scratchy straw against her cheek. Without thinking, she groaned as she lifted her head before awareness returned, dictating she should appear unconscious for as long as possible. It was already too late as evidenced by footsteps approaching. Her head spun as she forced herself to turn over, already knowing the identity of the person standing over her even before she saw his face. “Why are you doing this, Sam?” Her voice was raspy, and she cleared her throat several times before she could speak normally. “This is downright crazy.” His expression tightened, making his normally model-perfect face take on a chilling edge. Maybe it was the way the shadows highlighted his face, illuminated by the lantern he held, but he appeared to be a creature crafted from darkness and rage rather than a human being. She shivered at the sight, finding him far more terrifying than she ever had Duncan or Nick, even when she had seen them as beasts before realizing it was them. “What’s crazy is throwing away what we had. You could have been the perfect wife and partner if you’d allowed me to mold you and guide you.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m not a lump of clay, and I had no interest in being shaped to your version of perfection. Whatever we had is over, and it was before I came here. It’s been over for a long time, but I didn’t have the sense to end it formally until recently.” His expression tightened even further, and he knelt down to backhand her. “It’s not over until I say it is, but I agree with you. It’s definitely over now, slut.” Her head was reeling from the blow, and she blinked as two images of him blurred before gradually merging again into one. “If you feel that way about it, then why are you here? Stalking me is not compatible with ending a relationship.” He tried to hit her again, though this time she managed to bring up an arm and slightly block the blow. Unfortunately for her, Sam was a great deal larger than she was, having been an athlete throughout high school and college, and still playing softball on the weekends. Despite her hand blocking a good portion of the blow to her face, it still jarred her sharply. “I don’t care what happens to you now, slut. I’m here for the beasts. When I saw what they were, and what they could do, I knew they’d be of great value. I have pictures, but those can be dismissed. I won’t be accused of being crazy again. I need proof, and that comes in the form of capturing one of them alive.” Her eyes widened, and she struggled to deny what he was saying. “That’s crazy. What are you talking about? What beasts?” He grasped a handful of her shirt and dragged her to her feet, pressing his face against hers. “Don’t call me crazy.” For emphasis, he shook her before shoving her away. Baylee stumbled backward, but managed to catch herself in the pile of hay bales that had long since turned to straw, which kept her from sprawling on the floor again. She eyed him warily as he paced in front of her. “I only need one of them alive, so I’m going to kill the other one.” He stopped and faced her with a cold smile. “I’ll even let you pick which one lives and which one dies. Since you’ve been in bed with both of them, you should be forced to choose, you disgusting whore.” She glared at him as she straightened her spine and stood upright. She was still a little woozy, but she didn’t think she was in danger of collapsing. “I’m not a whore, and they aren’t beasts.” “I’ve seen the proof with my own eyes.”
She shrugged. “Fine, but how do you think you’re going to trick them, or capture them? They’re too smart for you.” “But maybe not for you.” His grin was chilling as he marched toward her, grabbing her with one hand as he started to hit her with the other. She tried to block his blows, but had little success. Soon, she could taste blood in her mouth and feel it dripping down her forehead and into her eye. Finally, he stopped hitting her and pulled back. One of her eyes was swelling shut, and the other had blood in it that obscured her vision, but she was certain he looked smugly confident. He sounded it too when he spoke. “The smell of blood should draw them in. All animals respond to that. It’s almost dark, so it won’t be long. I guess I’d better get you in position. If they don’t devour you in their beast forms, and you survive to the end while they’re eating you, I’ll even shoot you between the eyes when it’s over. I’ll give you a quick end in honor of what we once had.” “You’re a real prince.” Her lips throbbed when she spoke, and a cut at the corner of her mouth wept freely with blood. She brought up one of her hands to try to wipe it away, but he intercepted it before she could. She tried to tug away, but only delayed him in fastening a pair of handcuffs around her wrists. Using the cuffs, he dragged her behind him, not allowing her any quarter even when she stumbled. If she wasn’t on her feet marching with him, he dragged her along on the ground. When they left the stables, he pulled her to a tree, where there was a section of chain lying beside it. She struggled to escape, and he pulled her head forward before slamming it back against the tree with casual cruelty. Baylee wasn’t completely unconscious, but she also wasn’t aware enough to keep fighting him as he wound the chain around her several times before finishing off by wrapping it around her neck twice to the point where it restricted her oxygen, but didn’t quite suffocate her. He sounded pleased when he said, “I should still be able to hear you scream. You owe me a few of those.” She would have been brave and told him to go to hell, but it hurt too much to talk with her lips broken open and bleeding. They stayed there for several minutes, and she grew progressively more uncomfortable. She could make out dusk descending into nightfall with her one semi-good eye, and a few minutes after he had chained her, she heard howls unlike anything she’d ever heard in her life. They weren’t wolf-like, or like any other creature. Since there were two of them, she was certain they were Nick and Duncan in beast form. They were either calling out to her because they hadn’t found her, or they were calling out because they had scented her blood and were following her trail. She fervently hoped it was the latter, because she was certain they wouldn’t hurt her, but they might be able to rescue her from Sam and thwart his plans for them. Thinking of the other man’s name forced her to open her eyes as far as she could, blinking away blood as best she could as she searched for him. She didn’t see him out in the open, and she figured he was hiding either in the stables or in the trees. The howls came again, this time closer, and she held her breath for a moment before exhaling as they called out a third time,
closer still. She was certain now that Duncan and Nick had detected her scent, and they were coming for her. Unfortunately, they didn’t know what they were walking into. They probably thought she had been injured in some way and were coming to rescue her, planning to get her medical attention. It was unlikely they would suspect Sam’s involvement, especially since she’d never mentioned a crazy ex-boyfriend. Would they detect the scent of another person? Would that be enough warning for them? She didn’t know. When they were closer, at least close enough that she thought she could hear them crashing through the forest in their haste, she summoned her last reserves of strength enough to yell, “It’s a trap,” as they burst into the clearing. At her words, Duncan and Nick skidded to a halt, their claws scrabbling on the ground as they took defensive positions, their rumps against each other to guard the other’s back. Her voice was thready, and she realized her neck was swelling against the chain, likely from some damage inflicted during the beating Sam had given her. “He has a gun. Tranq darts. Probably bullets…” She trailed off, unable to continue speaking with the chain pressing against her neck and the pain each word caused her. A shot hit the earth inches from where Nick stood. They moved apart, and she winced when she heard the crack of the rifle preceding another shot. This time, the bullet appeared to strike Duncan, and she whimpered in protest. He didn’t fall, so if he had been struck, either it wasn’t too serious, or adrenaline allowed him to push through it. She slumped against the tree, not able to track the motion of the men as they became the hunters. She could feel a difference in the air, and she wondered if Sam felt it too. Was he currently shuddering with fear as he realized he had betrayed his position by shooting at them, and that while he had bullets and tranquilizer darts, they had vicious claws, sharp teeth, and a determination to protect their mate on their side? She let her eyes close, but she could still hear rustling in the forest. Less than a minute later, she heard Sam cry out, and it was a shrill shriek. At first, it sounded like fear, but as it prolonged and intensified, it took on a sharp edge of pain as well. Listening to him scream and plead for his life, she could well imagine what Duncan and Nick were doing to him, but couldn’t seem to summon the energy to care. They were simply doing to him what he would have done to them, and to her. In her mind, it was strictly self-defense. When they emerged into the clearing a few minutes later, she could see blood on their coats, and she hoped it wasn’t theirs. Duncan walked with a limp in his front right paw, and as he drew closer, she could make out a wound in his shoulder. That appeared to be the worst of it, and Nick looked unscathed. Despite the pain in her lips, she managed a small smile for them. “I knew you’d come, and I’m glad he didn’t get you.” Trapped as they were in the beast form, they couldn’t speak, but they leaned against her for a moment. Then Duncan went to one side of the chains, and Nick to the other. They clawed and hacked the tree and the chains until the links finally broke as the tree made a splintering sound. A jolt shot through her, but then she collapsed forward and onto the grounds, the broken chains around her. Working together, Duncan and Nick carefully took mouthfuls of her shirt between their jaws, dragging her away from the now-unstable tree. When she had reached a safe distance, they
stopped and allowed her to lie down to rest. They curled up on either side of her, and she appreciated their body heat and the softness of their fur. Their heads were on either side of hers. She turned to look at one, then the other. She reached out with her hands to stroke their sides. “I love you both.” After that, it was a bit of a blur. Time must have past, because she was suddenly lifted into a pair of male arms instead of cradled by beastly paws. Baylee managed to force open the eye that wasn’t completely shut, looking up to see a nearly full moon above them. Something about the fact it was still night while Nick carried her teased the back of her mind, but she couldn’t make the connection of why it was strange. Instead, she snuggled against him and surrendered to the need to sleep. *** She woke in her own bed sometime later, with sun streaming in through the window. Her head ached, and only one eye would open when she tried to blink. It took a moment for everything to come into focus, and she quickly realized Duncan and Nick were looming over her, wearing twin expressions of concern on their very different faces. “Ah, good. You’re back with us, young lady.” At the sound of an unfamiliar voice, she turned her head as far as she could to the right to see him with her left eye. “Who are you?” He was an older gentleman, and he had a reassuring smile. “I’m Dr. Barro. Duncan and Nick sent for me, and I can see why. You’re in rough shape. I think you should be in the hospital.” No,” she said firmly, which echoed their negative response as well. “I’d rather be here unless I need surgery or something?” The doctor shook his head, white hair springing wildly around his face. “No, nothing like that. I’d just feel better if you were on pain medicine through an IV and under continuous monitoring.” “She’ll get continuous monitoring here, from us,” said Nick firmly. “We aren’t going to leave her side,” added Duncan. The older man laughed, and he sounded indulgent when he did so. “Yes, yes. As you’ve said. Since the patient agrees with you, there’s not much that an overly cautious old man can do to persuade you otherwise.” “Is anything broken?” she asked, wincing when her lip split again. Dr. Barro shook his head. “You’ve been banged up a bit, and that brute cracked one of your ribs, but nothing’s broken. There’s no internal bleeding. If there were, you would have been in the hospital hours ago. I have no doubt these men would have insisted on it. They would have carried you themselves, I’m certain. Truly, you’re fine to be here as long as they maintain constant vigilance, and I’m only a half-hour away if the need arises to call me again. Otherwise, I’ll be in to check on you frequently over the next few days, and I’ve left an ample supply of pain medication to see you through.” Shortly after that, the doctor took his leave, and Nick walked him out. She turned her head to Duncan, who sat on the edge of her bed and took her hand. His shoulder was in a sling, and she could see a white bandage peeking through. “You were shot.” It was a statement, not a question. Duncan shrugged the uninjured shoulder. “Aye, but it’s not too bad. It’s more of a flesh wound, and it went straight through. The doc had to pack the wound and do a little stitching, and I’ll have to take some antibiotics, but I’ll be fine. I think we’ll all be fine once we heal.”
Nick returned then, closing the door quietly behind himself as he came to sit on the other side of her bed. As one, both men took her hands in one of theirs, and she clung tightly to them. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Sam sooner. I thought he was just being petulant. I didn’t realize how unhinged he was, or that he was going to follow me and decide to capture the beasts.” She closed her eyes as dread swept through her. “He took pictures. I don’t know if he posted them or shared them anywhere, but what if—” “It’s all right,” said Nick. “The beasts are gone.” Her eyes felt like they were bulging against her sore lids, and even the one that was swollen shut seemed like it wanted to open at the words. “Gone? What do you mean?” “Last night, as soon as you said you loved us, the beasts faded away. We were men again in the middle of the night, and that’s how we got you back to the house,” said Nick. She looked at him for a moment, searching her memories. “I remember that. Kind of. I remember you carrying me, and I saw the moon, but I didn’t realize why that was significant at the time. The curse is truly broken?” “Aye,” said Duncan as he leaned closer, brushing his lips against her swollen cheek in a very gentle kiss. “Your love freed us, and in more ways than one, Baylee.” “So even if Sam somehow disseminated the images he captured with his camera, and someone comes poking around if they’re foolish enough to believe the pictures were authentic, they won’t find anything. Not anymore,” said Nick with a purr of satisfaction. “The beasts are gone, and the curse is lifted. We’re free to be together for the rest of our lives without that dogging us.” “The rest of our lives?” She licked her lips and then winced when her tongue touched an open spot, and her saliva made it sting worse. “How long will that be?” They shared a glance, and then Nick shrugged. “We aren’t sure, but from the research we’ve done over the years, and the books on magic we’ve collected, we think it’s a safe bet that we’ll just have our normal lifespans. What we would have had before the curse, I mean. We were forced to live as long as the curse remained in effect, but I don’t believe we’re immortal any longer. We’ll eventually grow old and die.” He sounded relieved by that. She clung tightly to their hands. “Let’s not be in a hurry to do that though. I just found you, and I can’t imagine losing you. Either of you.” She wasn’t certain how her family would take the news of her being involved in a triad, but she had no intention of hiding it, or pretending to be involved with only one of them. She imagined her parents would be resistant to start with, but they would come around when they saw how happy she was with Nick and Duncan. “We should let you get some rest, love,” said Nick. She held tighter to his hand and squeezed Duncan’s too. “I’d rather you rest with me. Will you just stay here while I sleep? Maybe hold me if we can find a way that doesn’t hurt myself or Duncan?” “Aye,” said Duncan as he curled against her, seemingly unbothered by the possibility of injuring his shoulder further. “We’ll gladly hold you whenever you want.” “And make love to you whenever you desire, once you’re fully healed,” said Nick. She wanted to protest, to insist she could make love right then—because she was certainly moved by the need for them—but reality intruded. She wanted them, but she was in no position to take them at the moment. She would have to settle for cuddles and tender affection, which was not settling by any means at all. She was positive now they hadn’t settled on her, and she
certainly hadn’t settled on them. Their joining was meant to be, and their union would be a happy one. ****** If you enjoyed this story and would like to receive notifications of new releases or access bonus chapters for your favorite books, please join my Mailing List. You’ll also receive six books just for joining! If you prefer to receive notifications for just one, or a few, of my pen names, you’ll have the option to select which lists to subscribe to at signup.
AUTHOR BIO Kit Fawkes is the pen name USA Today bestselling author Kit Tunstall uses when writing steamy paranormal (especially shifter) romances. It’s simply a way to separate the myriad types of stories she writes so readers know what to expect with each “author.” Kit Tunstall lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons. She enjoys writing several genres and subgenres, but almost everything she writes has a strong romantic element. A fan of postapocalyptic, zombie, and dystopian books, she prefers to read or view such stories from the comfort of her living room and never, ever in person.