Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Multiple Partner Erotic Romance
“She has something to keep her here now,” Kat answered, startling River. “I was shot in the shoulder, not the head. I can see fine. And those three are fine. Which one is it? Or have you claimed them all?”
“No shit!” Kat exclaimed. “Go, River. Damn. All three?”
With a laugh, River nodded. “It is amazing.”
“Really? Three? And they’re okay with it?” Tara asked.
“It was their idea,” River told them.
“You lucky bitch,” Kat said with a grin.
River looked at her friends. Kat with a sling on, white bandages still covering where she’d been shot. Tara, paler, thinner, the shadows even darker under her eyes. Had River done this to them?
“Oh, God,” River whispered, fighting tears. “I’m so sorry.”
“Stop,” Kat ordered. “We make our own choices. You do not get to blame yourself for anything that happened.”
“But I’m the one who brought Raymond into our lives,” River said adamantly. “I did this.”
Tara shook her head. “No, you didn’t. Raymond did this. He gets the blame, all of it. Not you.”
“You get the blame for not calling. No postcards. Nothing.” Kat glared at her, but River could see the sheen of unshed tears in her friend’s eyes. “Don’t ever do that again.”
“I won’t,” River promised.
Tara pulled her close, linking their fingers. Then she reached out to link fingers with Kat’s good hand. “I’m so glad that’s over,” she admitted with a whisper. “I love you guys. You’re the sisters I always wanted growing up.”
“Me, too,” River agreed.
“Well, you’ve met my one sibling,” Kat retorted. “I’d have loved a few sisters to help me deal with King Charlie.”
They all laughed. Even a blind person would be able to pick up on how much Charlie doted on his sister.
“So are you planning to stay here for good?” Tara asked the question.
River shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I haven’t had a lot of time to think about anything since it all happened.” With the shooting and running back and forth to the hospital, the police station, and the guys working over the last four days, she’d barely seen them, much less spoken to them. They hadn’t even done anything but sleep, and she really wanted more. Needed more. But they were all so exhausted. With the weekend now on them, she was hoping for some alone time with the three of them.
“You’re always welcome at the ranch,” Kat said. “All of you.”
“I expect phone calls. Emails. Hell, I want daily texts!” Tara crossed her arms and glared. Then surprised them both by bursting into tears.
“Tara?” River questioned.
“I’m fine,” she sobbed, waving her friend’s concern away. “I’m just realizing that it’s over. The angels have disbanded before we ever really got started.”
They all got quiet, thinking about that.
“Well, we sure went out with a bang,” Kat retorted.
Tara gasped. Then they all looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Oh, my God. I was ready to shoot you myself for taunting him,” Tara admitted. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Really, Kat. Why would you taunt him, knowing how fucking crazy he was?” River demanded.
Kat shrugged then gritted her teeth at the pain of the movement. “I was trying to distract him, so we could think. I knew Tara had a gun on her. I couldn’t exactly go for mine.”
“He could have killed you, Kat,” Tara whispered.
“But he didn’t,” Kat retorted. “And that’s the end of it, and him. He will not haunt any of us anymore. Do you both hear me? He does not get to stay around. Let the bastard die. He doesn’t deserve to be remembered by any of us.”
“You’re right,” River agreed.
“Of course, I’m right,” Kat declared, making them laugh again.
Charlie walked in at that point, a smile on his face until he took in Tara’s tear streaked face. He was across the room in two strides, touching her chin and lifting her face to meet his eyes. “What happened?” He glared at Kat. “What the hell did you do now?”
River’s jaw dropped, and she was pretty sure Kat was fighting the same reaction.
“I didn’t do anything.” She gestured to her shoulder and the sling. “Remember me. The injured sister, the one who got shot.”
“I’m fine, Charlie,” Tara soothed. “Just a little emotional tonight.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
Tara nodded. “I’ll go to the restroom and splash some cold water on my face.”
“I’ll walk you,” Charlie said then turned his attention to Kat. “You need anything?”
Kat shook her head, not saying a word. River bit her lip to keep from laughing. They both watched as Charlie led Tara out of the room.
“When did that happen?” River wondered aloud.
“No idea,” Kat said. “I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even realize it.”
“How do you feel about it?”
Kat nibbled her bottom lip then grinned. “It will certainly give him someone else to focus on. He’d be good for her.” She sobered up. “I’m not sure she even realizes how broken she is inside. I’m worried about her.”
“Me, too,” River admitted. “Do you think I should come with you guys?”
“No.” Kat shook her head. “Leave your three hunks behind for some other woman to scoop up? Are you going crazy on me?” She grinned. “Stay here, River. Be happy. Life can be too goddamn short at times. Make the most of every moment you have.”
River nodded. Then giving in to emotion, she carefully hugged Kat and let the tears flow. “I was so scared. When he shot you, I swear my heart stopped beating.”
“I’m okay,” Kat said, squeezing back with her good arm. “I swear. I’m okay.”
“Why did you do that? Be honest with me, Kat. Don’t brush it off. Why?”
Kat looked over toward the window. “I wasn’t there.”
“You got shot. What do you mean you weren’t there?”
“When it counted. I wasn’t there. Not for you. Not for Tara.”
“Oh, Kat.” River sighed.
“Why didn’t the bastard come after me? Why pick Tara?”
“He was obviously all kinds of crazy, Kat, but not stupid enough to take you on.”
Kat only smiled, but it was tinged in sadness. “I’ll never forgive myself for not being there the night he attacked Tara.”
“He does not get to stay around. Let the bastard die. He doesn’t deserve to be remembered by any of us.” River repeated what Kat had said earlier. “Remember that. It goes for you, too.”
“I hate it when you turn my words against me,” Kat said with a snort, but the smile on her lips was no longer tinged with sadness. “I don’t think I’ll stick around home too long. You might have to call and say you need me or something.”
“I can do that. Why?”
Kat grinned. “I think Tara’s the one in need of Charlie. Not me. Might do them both some good.” She wiggled her brows suggestively.
River laughed. Kat playing matchmaker for her brother and best friend?
“What’s so funny?” Tara asked, coming back into the room.
“Where’s Charlie?” Kat asked instead of answering.
“He got a phone call and went down to the waiting room to take it.”
“Everything okay now?” River asked.
“Yeah.” Tara nodded. “I’m good.”
“I love you guys so much,” River blurted. “I won’t apologize again, or Kat will probably get out of bed and kick my ass.”
“Damn straight, toots!” Kat agreed, making them all laugh again.
“You know what,” River exclaimed, coming to a conclusion. “Angel Investigations is not dead. It’s just changed. Why can’t I do the same thing here? If I get something I can’t handle, I’ll call you or hire someone to help. You guys can do the same. And,” River shrugged her shoulders before continuing, “if things don’t work out for me here, then I’ll be back.”
“Don’t think that way,” Tara scolded her. “Be happy, River.”
“I’m going to give it my damnedest.”
“That’s a girl!” Kat enthused. “I like the idea. It could be the start of something so much bigger than we ever imagined. One condition.”
“What?” River asked.
“Only women,” Kat stated. “We only hire women. They’ll have to prove themselves capable. We’ll sit down and decide on our screening process. But think about it. A detective agency run exclusively by women.”
“Can’t we at least have a male secretary?” Tara suggested.
“You sexist!” Kat accused with a laugh. “No. Only women. We’ll make our mark, and start something amazing for other women. Long after we’re gone, Angel Investigations will still be strong.”
“I like the sound of that,” River agreed.
“It would be a great legacy,” Tara admitted.
“Then we’re all in agreement?” Kat asked.
River and Tara both nodded in agreement.
“Then not an ending, but a new beginning.” Kat grinned.
“I like the sound of that!” Tara gushed, echoing River’s earlier statement.
River stuck her hand out. “To new beginnings.”
Kat placed her hand on top of River’s. “New beginnings.”
“New beginnings,” Tara stated, placing her hand on top of the pile.
Charlie walked back in to their laughter. “Looks like things are better in here.”
“It’s fantastic,” Tara enthused, and River took note of the look on Charlie’s face as he took in Tara’s smile. He had it bad.
“Guess I’ll leave you ladies alone then,” Charlie said, walking to the bed where Kat sat up. Bending over, he kissed the top of her head. “You need anything before I head back to the hotel?”
“No.” Kat shook her head. “I’ve got my girls with me, and we’ve got some planning to do.”
“Planning?” Charlie asked with a lifted brow.
“Our new business venture,” Kat said.
“More of an expansion of our old one,” Tara explained. “I’m so excited.”
Once again Charlie’s gaze snagged and held on Tara. “Well then, I’ll leave you all to it.” He glanced back down at Kat. “Call if you need anything.”
“I will,” Kat promised.
“That goes for all of you,” Charlie said.
River and Tara nodded.
“I love you,” Charlie told Kat.
“Love you, too,” she responded.
“Behave,” he warned them as he headed to the door.
Their laughter followed him.
Kat and Tara were gone. River was in the penthouse apartment, even though none of the guys were home yet. She’d not been back to her apartment since the day everything had happened and she had no desire to. They’d given her a key to the penthouse. Rick had gone down and grabbed more clothes, surprising her. Luke had brought her food up and put it in their fridge. Phil had put her toiletries out in his bathroom.
They were all going out of their way to make her feel at home, to feel wanted. Was it what she was hoping for? Did they want her to stay? They’d had no time to talk, no time even for sex with everything going on. But she planned to change that today. Seduction was her plan for the day, and she’d spent the better part of the afternoon setting it up.
She’d found the contraption Luke had wanted her to be adventurous and try, and she was wearing it now. It fit perfectly, and she loved it. It was a fitted corset held together by little buckles in the front. It started under her breasts, plumping and lifting them. Skimmed down her waist to her hips. There were two more buckles, one on each hip and she grew wet knowing what they were for. Her wrists. She’d be secured and at their mercy when her hands were buckled in.
The corset was black, so she wore a pair of spiked black stilettos with it. She loved the shoes, couldn’t wait to see the guys reactions to her in this get up. Her hair was perfectly tussled to give it that just rolled out of bed look. Her eyes were made up to look deeper, darker, more sultry. Her lips wore a red pout that was smudge proof. She hoped to really put it to the test.
She heard the key in the door and jumped up, practically running to get behind the bar counter in the kitchen, so only her head would be visible to them, as long as she leaned forward and hid her naked shoulders.
Phil walked in first, followed closely by Rick and Luke.
“What a week,” Phil groaned, sinking onto the couch.
“I’m exhausted,” Luke admitted.
“Thank God we have the weekend off,” Rick moaned.
“Rough day?” River asked, and three sets of eyes found her. She could see the hunger, see the same need she felt. But none of them moved to act on it.
“How’s Kat?” Phil asked.
“On a private plane heading home with Charlie and Tara.”
“Are you going to be heading there, too?” Rick asked the question, but she could see it was on all their minds. Was that the hold up? Were they unsure if she was going to stay while she was unsure if they wanted her to?
“I’m not planning on it,” she admitted. “I thought maybe I’d stay here.”
“Here?” Luke asked quietly.
She nodded her head. “Unless you’re tired of me already.”
“Not possible,” Rick said, coming to his feet. She could see the bulge behind his zipper.
“We don’t want you to go,” Luke agreed.
“We know how much you’ve missed your friends though. With everything that went on this week, we didn’t want you to feel any pressure from us,” Phil admitted with a shrug of his sexy shoulders.
She smiled. Somehow, it made things easier knowing they were as unsure and nervous as she was. “I don’t want to leave.” Taking a deep breath, she put it out there. “I want to stay. With you,” she tacked on, so there would be no chance of misunderstanding. “I’m not sure how all this will work. The four of us. But I know I’ve never had anything like this before. I’ve never felt like this before. And I want to stick around. Explore the possibilities. If you guys want to.”
“Fuck yeah, we want to,” Rick grunted. “Do you know how hard it’s been to keep my hands off you this week, when all I wanted to do was strip you naked and reassure myself you’re okay?”
She caught her breath.
“We didn’t want to rush you, overwhelm you,” Luke explained.
“We wanted to give you time to decide what was right for you,” Phil said.
“You would have let me walk away?”
“Only until we could come up with a game plan to get you back,” Rick stated with no remorse.
“We’re not like Raymond,” Phil swore. “We won’t smother you, or try to control you.”