Authors: Karen Nichols
“They like you.”
“They being….” His head swiveled, following her gaze around the room to various women looking at them. “Alright. And I see a few guys eyeing you with more than brotherly interest. They can all look as long as they don’t touch,” he said firmly, meeting the puzzled expression with a half grin. “You alright to drive home? Nick was worried….I called and told him you’re alright.” His palm went beneath her chin when she tried looking away. “No guilt, Brea. This isn’t your fault. None of it and we’ll fix it together. Trust us….please.”
“I do trust you. You’ve both been nothing but….nice….gentlemen….but those people….I don’t know what they want! I don’t know why….” Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “I….I did something, Jase! I….it was like the dream and two guys went flying away from me! And….and….”
“Do not even feel sorry for those bastards, Brea,” he told her, taking the empty cup and tossing it to the trash. “Let’s go home. Nick’s worried about you and his jag.”
“It’s really fun to drive,” she said with a crooked. sexy grin.
“Do us both a favor and don’t tell him that with that look on your face,” he said with a laugh, his arm around her shoulders once they were on the street and walking toward where the bike and sports car were parked. “Give him a little time to adjust to sharing his baby with you.”
“I don’t know anyone named Sullivan, Jase,” she finally said as they approached the parked vehicles.
“I know. But whoever he is, he seems to know you. We just have to figure out 118
how, Brea. We’ve got a few discrete inquiries out,” Jase opened the door and handed her the keys, framing her against himself and the car after taking his jacket back.
“Don’t run from us, Brea. Please. Give us a chance. Just talk to us. I swear, we can work it through, whatever it is.”
He waited only long enough for her to nod before he leaned in and kissed her.
Neither tentative or hesitant, his mouth covered hers, hungrily tasting the tea and Brea, the soft stroking of her tongue sending his blood boiling. When her fingers tangled in his hair, he gave up the long, low groan, growling softly and backing up a step.
“In public….” He breathed heavily and closed his eyes. “Do a U-turn, Brea and head home. I’ll be behind you as soon as I can get my jeans to bend and I can get on the bike,” he raised a brow at the little giggle she let free before sinking into the sports car.
Jase watched her pull out and opened his phone.
“She’s on the way home.”
He snapped it closed and shrugged into his jacket, zipping it up before reaching for the helmet. With a surge of power, he hit the accelerator and roared off down the road toward the house, keeping his eyes on vehicles around him and around her ahead of him.
Jase pushed a long breath between his lips.
She did like her speed, he thought, watching her hug the curves on the inside and ease into the straight-away without hesitating. Just like his partner.
He had to admit, while Nick turned a little pale at the thought, he was surprised 119
Nick wasn’t up and on the bike to follow her. Jase laughed and cruised behind her up the driveway. She had the car inside the garage by the time Nick came to the kitchen porch, hands in his pockets, just watching her.
Brea knew her feet were dragging. Just a little. She swallowed, feeling Jase coming up behind her as she approached the porch and the dark eyed man watching them both.
“Are you going to yell at me?” She expected it. A part of her knew she might even deserve it. But letting people….strangers….possibly get hurt because of her wasn’t acceptable. How did she make them understand her fears?
Yet they didn’t feel like strangers. She blinked, swallowed hard and watched Jase stop with one booted foot on the lowest step.
“Do we come across like the yelling types?” Nick asked calmly.
Brea peeked up at him through her lashes. “How’s your ear?”
“That was justified yelling,” he returned, his fingers up and gingerly touching the spot. He saw her lips twitch, just a little, before her palm covered her mouth and she was shaking her head, eyes squeezed tightly closed.
“Don’t…..please don’t make me laugh,” she inhaled slowly. “Right now it’s just around the corner from a total melt down and I don’t want to do that to you,” she whispered, running up the stairs and into the house without looking back.
Jase dropped to the top step, his head back and eyes closed.
“He called me a shifter. I don’t know if she heard it or not.” Nick leaned against the railing. “We shouldn’t leave her alone.” 120
Jase opened one eye to look at him. “Why do you make it sound like I should have an answer?”
“Hell, you’ve always been the Alpha.”
“Unless you feel like fucking with me,” he threw back, pushing to his feet and striding up the stairs and into the house.
“Yeah, well, there is that,” Nick locked the back screen.
“What we know about this kind of permanent is what we’ve seen or what we’d like out of it,” Jase said quietly. “Our parents….friends….we’re lucky to have the wolf know what we need even when we’re too stupid to realize it.”
“Then we can’t leave her alone,” Nick concluded and both of them continued down the hall to her bedroom. Both of them realized the importance of the fact that her door wasn’t closed to them. The doors in the house had always all been left open.
Brea had shed her shoes and was sitting cross-legged in the center of the bed, facing the window and just staring. She really didn’t want to think. Her lashes closed, the soft sounds of shoes hitting the floor behind her told her they were there before they each took up a position across the bed.
Jase went for the headboard, leaning against it and watching her. Nick went to her other side, stretched out on his side and leaning up on one elbow.
“You two like to live dangerously,” Brea whispered softly. “I wouldn’t wish me on anyone right now.”
“I have an answer to that, but I’m not sure you’re ready to hear it yet, Brea,” Nick tugged on a brightly polished toe.
“Sometimes the universe throws things at you whether you’re ready or not,” she countered with a little shrug. “You adjust. Adapt. I’m fairly certain nothing could have prepared me for you two.”
“You’re handling an awful lot right now,” Jase agreed carefully.
“I hurt people.” Came the soft, regret filled words edged in tears.
“You defended yourself,” Nick returned flatly. Now and this topic was something she had to get past to survive. “Do you think they would have been nice and sweet if they’d had their way?”
Jase arched a brow and shook his head with a long sigh. “Subtle.”
“Screw subtle. If someone attacked your parents and you could have stopped 122
them, would you?”
Instantly anger filled eyes swung on him and he watched a flash of gold around the edges of those too beautiful eyes. And he caught the sudden look on Jase’s face, his eyes gesturing down at the surface of the bed.
Which was now about four feet below the three of them.
Nick swallowed hard and tried again.
“Brea….if people….or things….are hurt because you chose to live and fight, it’s their fault, not yours,” Nick searched frantically for the right words and the abrupt urge to flail like a girl. “Did your parents teach you self-defense?” Brea sighed and returned to staring out the window.
“Close your eyes for me, babe,” Jase decided it was his turn before panic set into the big bad shifters now floating five feet off the bed. “No one has the right to hurt you.
And I know if someone came after me, and you could stop it, you would.”
“I don’t know what I did, Jase,” she answered weakly. “It….I just knew they had to leave me alone. I don’t know who they are or why they want to hurt me. I just don’t know and I feel stupid and I don’t want to feel helpless, hiding behind your doors and your kindness! And I feel the anger and it’s like a thin stream of red lava just under my skin and someone like those guys in the alley happen….and…..augh!” she fell forward, almost tucked into a ball.
Jase was glad they were back on the surface of the bed.
Nick was fascinated at how limber the woman was.
“What kind of self-defense did they try and teach you?” Jase asked, grinning at the muffled answer.
“All the martial arts stuff. Dad is…was….a big believer and had black belts in a few things. I was terrible. It was so embarrassing. Finally, mom just handed me a baseball bat and said never leave home without it,” Brea sighed and sat upright. “He even tried boxing…I was twelve…..” her head shook, eyes rolling back slightly. “We spent three hours trying to get his nose to stop bleeding and mom to stop laughing.” She looked up, sighing and listening to their laughter.
“Brea….no one starts their day believing they’re going to hurt someone,” Jase said when he stopped laughing. “There’s nothing wrong with having a kind heart as long as it doesn’t stop you from living your life. No one has the right to hurt you.”
“I know that. But that means the only way to deal with violence is violence….I think it’s the one lesson my parents never got through to me,” she said regretfully. She straightened up slowly, weighing one of the many questions inside her. “Is this a game to you? Me….am I a game?”
Brea looked immediately from one to the other as the single word had come out as if spoken by one, yet she heard them both say it and say it adamantly.
“But you’ve done it before,” was the quiet statement.
“We’ve never wanted a woman to live with us, Brea. And we’ve never brought anyone to our home and we’ve lived here a little over four years,” Jase answered honestly.
“Why are you letting me stay then?” She couldn’t look at them. Couldn’t honestly even tell herself the answer she was looking for in an attempt to understand too many things at once.
“I’m not sure you’re ready for the answer,” Nick spoke softly, watching as she basically unfurled, long legs stretching out behind her before she rolled to her back and stared up at the ceiling. Which was, thankfully, back where it belonged, he thought.
“I’m thirty. This morning I had two men ready to….and you’re both telling me on more than one topic, that I’m not ready for the answers,” she closed her eyes.
“Alright. You’re right. Answers,” Jase said with a long breath. “You asked why we came in here….knowing you weren’t in a good mood. Because you don’t abandon your mate because she needs something to strike out at. You talk until it’s worked out between you and if she needs to hit something, you hold her until it passes. And you’re here with us because we want you in our life.” Both men watched her pull her lip between her teeth, her eyes still closed.
“You’ve done this before.” She repeated softly.
“We’ve never taken a mate, no. If you believe the…..mythology….there is only one per lifetime,” Nick answered gently.
“I don’t think I’m human,” she whispered painfully. “I don’t know what I am.
How can you sound so certain….both of you….”
“We trust our instincts,” Jase said with a shrug. “I don’t have a better answer than that.”
“And you believe I’m your mate….to both of you….at the same time?” Brea 125
worked to stop her voice but it rose a little higher than normal on its own.
“You didn’t seem to mind this morning,” Nick teased.
“I thought I was dreaming,” was the really quiet answer.
“I don’t think you would have responded as you did if you didn’t feel something for us, Brea,” Nick brushed the loose strands from her face, frowning when she winced.
“My shoulder….that guy kind of twisted me wrong, I think,” she rolled to her stomach and flexed her shoulder, her hand up and rubbing her scalp. “I’m sure he pulled out some hairs, too.”
“What happened out there?” Nick was up, reaching for the hem of her shirt, his hands stopping when she slapped at him. “Let me see it,” came the low growl.
“I didn’t get there in time,” Jase pushed the words through his teeth, clearly blaming himself. “She stumbled and hit the ground. He yanked her up by the braid and twisted her arm up behind her back. Then he hit a tree. A couple times.”
“Nick, it’ll be fine,” Brea slapped at his hand again until she found both hands above her head and her shirt pulled up. She couldn’t see it, but the low, savage growls she heard told her it wasn’t pretty. “It’ll heal….it’s just a little stiff.”
“I’ll get the ice pack. That’ll take away the pain,” Nick was off the bed and striding down the hall before she could respond.
“Is it really bad?”
“An interesting collection of colors,” Jase managed to speak without too much snarling.
“Why didn’t you kill the bastard?” Nick had the cold pack wrapped in a towel and laid it on the large bruised area above her shoulder blade.
“It would have upset Brea….and then there’s the whole hiding the body thing,” Jase liked the little giggle she offered.
“I think I would have risked her wrath,” Nick stretched out at her side again.
“Grrrr….” Brea let the growl free. “Just watch your ears, mister. My wrath….not something to be messed with.”
“This coming from the woman opposed to violence,” Jase murmured, laughing when she pushed her face into the mattress and sighed.
“That alone should tell you how messed up my head is,” Brea groaned, her head popping up when a palm ran over her back and onto her ass. On both sides.
“You present us a delicious target like that and expect us not to touch?” Nick leaned closer, dragging his tongue along her throat. “That’s just plain wrong, beautiful.”
“You have the power, Brea,” Jase told her, his mouth next to her other ear.
“I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it,” Nick chuckled. “Are you afraid of us? After that bite you gave me, you believe we’d hurt you?”
“No….no that isn’t…..no,” she breathed softly and shivered beneath their caress.
“You smell sweet….sexy….like the woods we were running through this morning,” Jase whispered, tugging her shirt to the side and biting down on her shoulder. Just barely enough pressure to send a hard course of tingles through her.
“I have the power?” She whispered curiously, feeling the sensual web trapping 127
“Never doubt that, Brea,” Nick murmured, his tongue swirling around her ear seconds before his teeth nipped the stone studded lobe.
“But….but it’s not….it isn’t…” she swallowed wanting a word that wouldn’t offend them.
“Conventional? Standard?” Jase chuckled against her skin. “Normal for who, Brea? Maybe we want you for our own……commune.”
“We’ve never been the sort to care what other people want. It’s our life. Our choice,” Nick told her easily. “You…..are our choice, Brea.” Brea grit her teeth and pushed up on her hands and knees, backing up and sitting at their feet between them. The cold pack fell and she held it between her hands.
“I’m not normal,” she turned slightly and pulled her shirt up and twisted to the side to show them. “It’s already gone,” she showed off the now creamy flesh, not a sign of a bruise. Her head shook slightly. “You’ve made a mistake. You don’t want someone who’s broken and doesn’t even know….doesn’t even know what she is.”
“Brea….we have an idea what you are,” Jase watched the interest in her eyes.
“Can you be honest enough to admit you feel something for us? Both of us.”
“I shouldn’t….I don’t know which would hurt more….to hurt one of you or myself.”
Nick leaned up, taking her hand in his and tugging gently. “Are you afraid of the power? All in this soft little hand.”
“Why do you keep your hair bound up all the time?” Jase reached for the band on the end of the thick braid, pulled it free and watched the uneven weaves unravel.
Brea groaned, sitting between them on her knees, she felt the thick mass being set free.
“Because I like it neat when I’m in the kitchen. I’m thinking of getting it all cut off, actually…..” a gurgle of laughter burst from inside her at the looks on their faces.
“Don’t we get a vote on this decision?” Nick asked hopefully.
“I thought I had the power?” One brow went up at both groans. She leaned slightly forward, her voice low. “I was teasing. I like it long, just not in food I serve customers.”
And she hastily backed off the bed and went toward the kitchen. Humming as she went and digesting the words about having power.
“Well….I think we cheered her up….” Nick winced and straightened his jeans.
“Damn, she’s got one sexy voice when she turns it up.” Jase picked up the melted ice pack, following down the hall at the same time the sound of the outside chimes echoing through the house.
“Mariana?” Jase looked at Nick. “I doubt the demon types who tried taking her would bother knocking.”
“Yeah...it’s Mariana,” Nick had the hardwood door open and activated the gates, letting the old modest looking four door cruise to the house.
“Damn, I smell chocolate,” Jase almost ignored the stately blonde and went 129
straight to the kitchen.