Authors: Becca Van
Elite Dragons 3
The Love of Three
Alicia Cobden yearns to have a relationship with three members of the Elite Dragons team, Stedman, Ward, and Bronsin Tiltman. They helped rescue her and three other women from certain death to the black market organ donor ring, and they have quickly worked their way into her heart.
She has been living with them for the last three months, but can’t continue to put her life on hold in hopes that they will develop feelings for her. So she begins to search for employment.
The three Tiltman brothers want Alicia in their lives permanently, but first they have to explain about their empathetic and other enhanced abilities, and hope she accepts them for who and what they are.
Evil follows them home from a mission and puts all of them at risk.
Will Alicia accept the three men, empathy and all, or will evil prevail?
Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal, Western/Cowboys
THE LOVE OF THREE
Elite Dragons 3
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
THE LOVE OF THREE
Copyright © 2012 by Becca Van
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62241-874-9
First E-book Publication: November 2012
Cover design by Les Byerley
All art and logo copyright © 2012 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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THE LOVE OF THREE
Elite Dragons 3
Copyright © 2012
“You two are so predictable.”
With effort, Stedman looked over his shoulder to see his brother Bronsin approaching with a grin. Beside him, his other brother, Ward, glanced back as well.
“Can’t think what you mean,” Ward said sarcastically.
Bronsin joined them at the wooden railing overlooking the pasture. It was a fine, clear day, and as Bronsin suggested, this was where Stedman and his brothers could often be found.
Wherever Alicia is, that’s where I want to be
She was out in the pasture working with one of the stud farm’s horses. Alicia had taken a particular shine to Starlight, and for the past few weeks she’d begun working with the horse every day. Though Alicia said she didn’t have any training with horses, her natural aptitude and her eagerness to learn were paying off. Stedman watched her shake the long rein in her hand as she walked Starlight in a wide circle over the short grass.
Bronsin was welcome to make fun of him for it, but Stedman could watch her all day. Alicia was petite and small, but he’d yet to see a horse, or for that matter a man, get the best of her. Her five-foot-one height made him feel huge. He stood at six three, and he was the shortest of his brothers. He had been afraid their size would intimidate her, but she never once looked like she was frightened of them.
He could still remember the first time he laid eyes on Alicia. Not that it was so long ago, but she had drawn him to her with her wide, beguiling green eyes, her long light-brown hair, and her pixie-like features. She’d looked so scared, pale, and cold. God, she must have been through hell after finding herself kidnapped and stashed in that dungeon-like basement beneath the house in the small town of Oxbow, in Canada.
She and three other women had been kidnapped by a black-market organ-donor ring. While one of the women had turned out to be allied with the kidnappers, two of the others, Brooke and Janie, had recently become involved with other members of the Elite Dragons. Brooke was married to the group’s leaders, Coulter, Trace, and Corbin Thornell, and Janie had just become engaged to Seton, Wolf, and Lander Garman.
Stedman wished he and his brothers could work that same magic with Alicia. She’d recovered from her ordeal, but she seemed to have no interest in them romantically.
The three brothers stood quietly for a moment, then Bronsin said in a low voice, “I’ve got bad news.”
Stedman looked over at him sharply. “What?”
“She’s looking for a job.” Bronsin grimaced. “You know what that means, don’t you?”
“How do you know?”
“She mentioned something to Brooke. Brooke told Coulter. Coulter told me.” Bronsin shrugged. “She seems to think it’s time.”
“But why?” Ward sounded dismayed. “She seems happy here.”
Stedman turned his attention back to Alicia and found her watching them. When their eyes met, her face flushed and she gave a little wave before looking away.
“The danger’s over,” he said, not taking his gaze from her. “We asked her to stay here with us while the organ smugglers were still active. She didn’t want to walk back into danger any more than we wanted that for her. But it’s been three months since she came here.”
“If that’s all that was keeping her here, I’m surprised she didn’t take off already. She’s obviously decided she can’t put her life on hold any longer,” Bronsin said grimly. “Why the hell did you demand that we leave her alone for so long, Sted? With her staying in our guest bedroom, we’ve had the perfect opportunity to woo her.”
“You know how shy she is, Bronsin.” Stedman shrugged with a nonchalance he didn’t even remotely feel. “If we’d been too forward with her, she would have run.”
“I don’t agree with that,” Ward said. “Sure, she’s shy and acts timid, but I’ve seen the steely backbone she hides beneath that quiet façade.”
“Just after Janie was kidnapped at gunpoint.” Ward rose to his feet and began pacing. “We got back here just as everything came to a head. She was standing on the front porch of the main house with a carving knife in each hand, and she had murder in her eyes.”
“I didn’t see that.”
“You were too busy making sure the other women were all right.”
“He’s right, you know.” Bronsin stepped forward to put his two cents in. “She looked like an avenging angel with those knives clutched in her little hands.”
“So you think she’ll be able to handle all three of us in a relationship?”
“Hold that thought,” Stedman muttered. Alicia was walking toward them with Starlight in tow.
“Am I interrupting something?” she called out. Her musical voice wrapped around Stedman’s cock, making it twitch.
“Not at all, honey.” Ward put a booted foot up on the bottom rung of the fence. “Starlight’s looking good.”
“She’s a good girl.” Alicia patted her nose. “I hope one of the hands keeps taking her out.”
Stedman’s stomach lurched. “Why can’t you do it?”
“Oh, well…” Alicia suddenly looked awkward. “I mean, I won’t be here forever…I mean, pretty soon I ought to go back home to Bismarck. I’ve been lazy long enough. I need to find a job and somewhere to live.”
It took some effort not to suggest that this was precisely what she should do. Forcing himself to speak calmly, Stedman replied, “You know you’re welcome here, don’t you, darlin’? You’ve already told us the room you were renting was sublet when you disappeared. All your things were shipped here when you contacted your ex-roommate to let her know what had happened.”
“I know,” Alicia sighed. “I can’t believe that bitch didn’t even wait a week to release my room. God, I knew there was a reason I didn’t like her. I sort of came upon the ad in the paper, and since the other place I was renting was to be closed for refurbishment I had to take whatever I could get. I didn’t like Shelley from the get-go, but I had nowhere else to go. But at least I was able to finish my bookkeeping course. I’d only had my certificate for six months before I was kidnapped.”
“What about friends, darlin’?” Bronsin asked. “Surely someone would be able to put you up until you find a place of your own. Or maybe they can keep an eye out for employment for you. Not that you aren’t welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
“I don’t make friends easily.” Alicia sighed and looked to the ground as she shifted from foot to foot. “I like my own company well enough.”
“Why is that, Alicia? A pretty little thing like you probably had more men asking for dates than you could handle,” Ward said.
“Well, actually no. I kind of keep to myself. Growing up in foster care in Bismarck sort of put me off interacting too much. Just as I began to make friends, I would be moved again. Most of the families I stayed with couldn’t handle having a strange child living with them. And because I was so quiet I think they thought of me as some sort of freak.” Alicia looked up again. “Don’t get me wrong, I was appreciative to have food in my belly and a roof over my head, but sometimes things just don’t work out.
“I went out occasionally while studying, but I was more interested in finishing my schooling and finding a job. It was important to me to be able to support myself. I’ve only ever had myself to rely on.”
“Did you ever try to find your parents, baby?” Stedman questioned.
“No.” Alicia sighed again. “I figured if they didn’t want me, then it wasn’t worth my time and effort to go looking for them.”
Stedman could read between the lines just as his brothers could. Alicia had withdrawn as a child and teenager after being pushed from home to home by the foster care system. He understood why she was so quiet and introverted at times. The poor thing hadn’t had a chance to really befriend or connect with other human beings. It must have been a hard thing for a child to deal with, making friends only to be ripped away from them or have them be taken from her. He’d heard the wistfulness in her voice as she told them some of her life.
No wonder she wanted to find employment and a place to live. But as far as he was concerned, she was staying for as long as he could make her. It was time to begin their courting. She was the one woman he and his brothers had been waiting for.
“In that case, maybe you ought to stay here until you can find something.”
“Yes. Thanks, guys. You have been so patient with me. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to go back home straight away.”
“Don’t worry about it, honey. We like having you around,” Stedman said.
“I’m going to brush down Starlight, and then I think I’ll go and help Martha and May in the kitchen. Brooke hasn’t been feeling well, and I don’t think she’s up to dealing with food at the moment.”
“Yeah,” Ward agreed. “The poor thing is suffering pretty badly from morning sickness. I hope it lets up for her soon.”
“I’ll take her.” Stedman vaulted the waist-high wooden fence easily. Alicia blinked at him, looking surprised by the jump, but she handed off Starlight’s reins.
Ward hopped over the fence, too. “Let me help, baby.”
He took hold of Alicia’s waist and lifted her up. She thumped her hands to his shoulders with a startled yelp but let him pass her over the fence. By the time Alicia had been delivered into Bronsin’s arms and let down to her feet, she had turned bright red.
“Um, thanks.” She gave them all a nervous smile and offered a backward wave of her hand. “See you all at lunch.”
Stedman rubbed Starlight’s nose again as he watched Alicia crossing back toward the main house. Only now that she was thinking of leaving did he realize how much she meant to him.
“There has to be something we can do to get her to want to stay,” he said softly. “What if we offered to hire her to work with the horses? She’s easily as good as any of the hands.”
“I know this is a sexist and rather conceited statement, but we have more than enough money. Alicia would never have to work a day in her life if she agreed to marry us.”
“The point is that she likes to work,” Bronsin said. “What makes you think she’d want to sit around here being bored out of her brains just because we want a relationship with her?”
Stedman made his way toward the barn with Starlight trailing behind him. His brothers followed him on the other side of the fence. “But we’re putting the cart before the horse. We have to convince her to have a relationship with us in the first place.”
Bronsin shook his head. “I’m going to do some work with the horses. If I stand around here talking with you two any longer, I’m gonna get a headache.”
Ward and Bronsin branched off for other parts of the farm, and Stedman led his mare into the stables. He loved the soothing work of brushing down and currying the horses. It gave him time to sort out his thoughts.
Like his brothers, he was all for pursuing Alicia, but he feared that their normal line of work wasn’t compatible with having a relationship. Even a few weeks ago, the stud had been little more than a cover for the Elite Dragons’ black-ops work. He hated the thought of having to leave Alicia for a mission. They’d worry about her being here without them, especially if trouble ended up at the stud and they were out on the hunt.
Missions like the one that had led to Alicia’s rescue had been the Dragons’ way of life for over ten years. The Elite Dragons were highly trained operatives, called out to fight the worst evils that infiltrated civilian life. Breaking up the organ-smuggling ring was their final mission, but Stedman still felt hesitant about bringing a woman like Alicia into that way of life. If they were called up for service again, he and his brothers would have to leave her here on the farm. Alicia, with her compassionate nature, would be bound to worry about them.