Authors: Rachel Clark
Tags: #Menage a Trois (f/f/m), #Menage & More
A FUTURE FOR THREE
MENAGE AND MORE
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage and More
A FUTURE FOR THREE
Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Clark
E-book ISBN: 1-60601-711-X
First E-book Publication: March 2010
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
All cover art and logo copyright © 2010 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Letter from Rachel Clark
Regarding Ebook Piracy
I write because I love to create stories and characters, but to get published I go through several rounds of editing with the help of my critique partners, beta readers and editors, so that the story you read is the best it can be.
Sadly, my ebooks and thousands of others have been stolen and uploaded illegally to pirate websites. I have spent countless hours sending DMCA take-down notices requesting for the links to be removed, only to have them pop up somewhere else. It is a frustrating and painful process, and it takes up time that I'd rather use writing.
Ebook piracy is a serious drain on the industry. In a single day, more copies of Accidental Love for Three were stolen than were bought legitimately in the first month of its release. If you downloaded one of my ebooks for free, please understand that it is a stolen copy. I don't get royalties for stolen copies, and neither does my publisher.
Most authors are just hardworking, average citizens. Very few make enough royalties to earn a living with just their writing. With so many copies illegally downloaded and shared everyday, my dream, and the dream of many writers to work full time on their craft, will remain just that--a dream.
Please don't steal ebooks. If you see Siren-Bookstrand books being offered for free, or sold in bulk lots, chances are that they are stolen. Please don't download them. You can help by reporting illegal sharing to [email protected] and encouraging your friends and family to do the right thing.
With deep gratitude,
For my brothers who love me even if they don't understand me.
A FUTURE FOR THREE
Copyright © 2010
"You're late tonight."
Emma said it without turning around, busy washing vegetables so she could make sure her two ridiculously overworked roommates would get a proper meal at least once a day. She heard the chair scrape across the floor as it was pulled away from the table and glanced over to give Casey another lecture on looking after herself.
Vegetable peeler poised at the ready, she turned to her best friend and…swallowed the words when she saw the exhaustion written on Casey's features. Her face was pale, the skin beneath her eyes smudged a deep purple. She slumped in the seat, and it was obvious by her unfocused look and thinned lips that something was terribly wrong.
"Case?" Emma hurried to the table, noticed she still held the peeler, pitched it into the sink, and then dropped to her knees beside Casey. "Hun, are you okay? You look like hell."
"I'm fine." The words were mumbled out, but Casey obviously made an effort to focus on Emma and tried a small smile. "Seriously, I'm all right."
Emma must've been wearing her stern no-nonsense face because Casey, aka the queen of frivolous banter, looked at her more clearly and reiterated her words. "I'm okay."
"Who's okay?" Jason walked into the room, but his steps faltered when he saw Casey's face. He hurried over to the table, practically knocking Emma over as he pushed passed and lifted Casey onto her feet and into his embrace.
"What the hell happened?" He glared at Emma, his eyes narrowed at her as if she should be able to magically provide the answer.
Her own temper flaring, Emma snapped, "We haven't gotten to that yet. She says she's fine."
"She's not fucking fine. Look at her."
"I said I'm okay!" Casey wriggled out of Jason's arms and pushed past them both to go into the kitchen. Jason turned to Emma, glared his annoyance, and then moved to follow Casey. Emma followed a step behind, her concern for her best friend overriding her anger at Jason's reaction. She'd kick his ass for it later, but right now, she needed to figure out what was going on with Casey.
Her best friend stood at the refrigerator, staring at the contents as if she had no idea why she'd opened the door.
"Casey, talk to us. What happened?"
"I'm okay," she said again, barely glancing in their direction.
"Hun, it's obvious that you are not okay. You're about as far away from okay as you can get. Did something happen at work?"
Casey huffed at Emma's persistence but then closed her eyes as she mumbled, "There was a robbery. No big deal." When she opened her eyes again and saw the look of disbelief that Emma could feel on her face, Casey rubbed a shaking hand over her forehead and then breathed out tiredly, seeming to sag just a little bit more. "Look, its fine, and you are both very sweet to worry about me, but no one got hurt, so it's not a big deal. I just want to grab something to eat and have an early night."
Emma wanted to wrap her arms around the slim blonde, but judging by the way she'd pushed Jason away earlier, Emma didn't want to risk upsetting her further. They'd been friends since she could remember, and it really hurt to see Casey so exhausted and feel so unable to help her. Despite Casey's words, it was obvious that it had been a very trying day. Armed robbery at a large inner city bank branch
a big deal, and despite all the safety precautions the bank kept in place, it would still be a traumatic experience.
"Food. Good idea." Emma stepped back to the sink, attacking the vegetables with single-minded purpose. "Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes. Why don't you go have a shower, and I'll call you when it's ready."
Jason grabbed Emma's hands and glared at her, but stepped aside so that Casey could head toward the bathroom.
"What the hell?" he mouthed at her silently.
At Emma's confused expression, he grabbed the vegetable peeler, turned her around, and whispered, "Go help her."
Finally understanding his irritation, Emma leaned up to drop a soft kiss on his cheek before she followed Casey down the hallway. She stopped at Casey's bedroom, loitering in the open doorway, unsure exactly what to do next. She figured that offering to hold her best friend up while she took a shower probably stepped outside the realms of a best friend relationship, but short of actually offering to do just that, she wasn't sure what to do next.
"Stop hovering, Em. I'm fine, really. Just tired." Casey sat heavily on the mattress.
"I'm sorry. Jason and I are just really worried about you."
"The fact that you’re here and Jason is peeling vegetables says a lot." She smiled then, a tired smile, but a genuine smile nonetheless.
"Do you need some help? I could run a bath for you?" That sounded more within the best friend's duties area, didn't it? Casey looked up and smiled slightly.
"That would be lovely." As usual, Emma melted at the sight of that smile. Casey, even as exhausted as she was right now, had the most attractive features and a way of making any recipient of that smile feel like they were the only person in the world. Emma had spent the last fifteen years watching boys, and now men, trip over their own feet just to be the one Casey smiled at.
"All right, back in a minute." Emma closed her eyes briefly, trying to find the steady, easygoing friend personality that she wore whenever she and Casey spent time together. Loving your best friend while living as roommates
trying to hide the attraction was proving more and more difficult every day. Emma couldn't exactly pinpoint the moment the attraction started, but she sure as hell knew it was growing.
She hustled into the bathroom, quickly twisted the taps, and began filling the bath with water and the room with a great deal of steam. Emma grabbed the bath salts, dropped about a handful of the fragrant crystals into the water, and then decided to drop in some more. The soothing scents of lavender and vanilla filled the steamy room.
She glanced up to see Casey standing at the door, holding herself steady against the frame.
"Do you need a hand to get undressed?"
Frik! Best friend mode. Best friend mode
. The mantra played over and over in her head, but she couldn't help wishing that Casey would accept her offer. A strangled groan threatened to escape her throat, and she swallowed the noise before Casey could hear the distress in her tone. Casey needed her best friend right now, not some crazed stalker wanting to see her naked.
"Nah. I'm okay, really."
Emma stayed sitting on the side of the tub as Casey moved into the room and sat on the closed toilet seat a few feet away.
"Did you ever expect that you would do one thing in a crisis and then actually do another?" The words were soft, tired and spoken in an almost monotone voice.
"I'm not sure what you mean."
Casey shook her head and studied the floor tiles. "It doesn't matter. I'm tired, and I don't think I'm making a whole heap of sense." A soft laugh filled the room as she raised her head and looked directly into Emma's eyes. "I'm sorry, hun. A good night's sleep and I'll be fine."
"Uhm, well, I'll uhm…go get dinner ready while you have a good soak. I'll call you when it's ready." Emma escaped the bathroom, only to collide with Jason as she headed toward the kitchen. He grabbed her to stop her from falling, hauling her against his chest as she lost her feet. For a just a moment, he held her close, rubbing a warm hand up and down her back, and then he stepped away.
"Is she okay?"
Emma nodded and tried to push past him to get to the kitchen, but he stopped her with a hand on her upper arm.
She tried to stop the tremble in her arm muscle that she felt sure he could feel, she tried to hide the anguish she knew showed on her face, but he felt it and saw it anyway. Obviously confused, he pulled her against him, pressing her face against the warmth of his muscular chest.
"She'll be fine. She's got us, and we'll make sure of it."
She nodded against his chest, grateful for his confidence and reassurance. She resisted the urge to breathe deeply and drag his unique scent into her lungs. Hell, no wonder she couldn't stop shaking. In love with both of her roommates—talk about pathetic.
Emma squeezed her eyes closed, grinding her teeth against the onslaught of emotion. Jason held on a moment longer and then stepped back again to look at her. She stifled the urge to squirm under his gaze and looked up to his face.
"Vegetables are peeled. Anything else I can do in the kitchen?" He said it very seriously, but she smiled anyway. Jason had always been a disaster in the kitchen. He knew it, and he knew his roommates knew it too. If any of them wanted to actually eat tonight, Emma was their best chance.
"Thanks, but I can take it from there. Why don't you ask Casey if she wants a glass of wine? It might help her to relax."
He grinned then, the salacious bad-boy grin that she'd been seeing since high school.
"Did you just suggest I visit our very naked roommate in the bathroom?" She'd known him long enough to know what he was doing. He was trying to distract her, trying to put the
back into the evening, and she felt very grateful for his effort. Maybe she wouldn't kick his ass for his earlier behavior.
"Gutter brain," she said, using the insult she'd been using for almost fifteen years.
"Spoilsport," he countered, a huge grin spreading across his face.
Emma rolled her eyes at the absolute lack of remorse, swatted his arm, and turned back toward the kitchen. "Ask through the door—
opening it." She didn't quite catch the smart-ass retort as she headed into the kitchen, but she could always guess. Fifteen years was a long time in any friendship, especially when the three of them had lived in the same house for the last five.
She grabbed the knife from the chopping block, quickly sliced the vegetables, and dropped them into the water to boil. She turned to the refrigerator, grabbed the steaks she'd marinated earlier and dropped them into the broiler, glad to be moving, comforted by the normality of her actions. She loved cooking, had one day hoped to have a family including a few kids to cook for, but being in love with her two best friends, and having absolutely no chance with either of them, didn't really bode well for her future dreams.
Casey was beautiful, the quintessential example of blonde and gorgeous, with the perfect mixture of intelligence and caring. Emma had been half in love with her ever since they'd met as preschoolers. It hadn't been until a few years ago that she realized she was no longer only half in love with the woman. The startling, very private epiphany was quickly followed by an equally stunning realization that she loved Jason as well.
She must be a sucker for punishment. In love with two people so far out of her league that she'd need to grow a foot taller and lose fifty pounds to even be considered passably attractive, and of course, she was the homebody type, so that even when all her friends had gone off to college, she'd happily stayed behind, working at the local supermarket. She'd been dreaming of a home and family for so long, and been so convinced that it would happen just as she imagined it, that somehow she'd gotten to twenty-eight without really noticing.
Now she just felt pathetic.
Overweight, no career, bleak future, and two roommates who were barely home. Yup, pathetic. She grabbed the wine bottle from the back of the fridge, wrestled the cork out, and grabbed three glasses. She usually didn't drink alcohol. Not that she didn't like it. She just didn't really think of alcohol as necessary to her daily life. Her roommates on the other hand…
"Three glasses?" Jason's query over her shoulder was so unexpected that she jolted and poured wine outside of the second glass.
"Ah-ah. Wasting wine is a very big no-no." He grabbed the bottle and shooed her back to the cooking. "I'll do the honors. You see to the food." A few moments later, Jason placed a glass of chilled wine near her elbow, so she grabbed it quickly and took a large gulp. Well, not the brightest of ideas for a nondrinker, but she managed to mask the urge to cough and kept her head down until she was reasonably certain her eyes wouldn't leak.
But just to be certain, she waited for Jason to leave the kitchen before she opened the oven to check the steaks.
* * * *
Jason watched Emma from the corner of his eye as she tried to hide the effects of the alcohol. Both of the women in his life were acting strangely tonight. Okay, Casey was obviously tired and, despite her objections, traumatized by whatever had happened at the bank today, something he planned to deal with quickly. She might think she could handle it on her own, but she didn't have to. Both he and Emma would make sure of that.
No, the woman in his life acting the most strange was none other than his steadfast, reliable little homemaker. He'd never actually managed to tell her how much he appreciated that she'd stepped into such a role in his life, and maybe it was about time he tried again. He stifled a groan as he thought about how sweetly she filled his arms, her soft curves molding to him perfectly. He was fast running out of excuses to touch her, hold her, and a very small part of him was grateful for the events that had given him today's excuse.