Authors: Avery Gale
Colt pulled up a chair and watched the screen as Jenna sat in her car, looking lost in thought. When she finally got out of her car, he used the joystick to zoom in on her face and was shocked to see the dark circles that marred the smooth skin under her beautiful green eyes and the tiny strain lines around her mouth. Christ, what was she thinking not taking care of herself any better than this? Colt knew when she’d bolted before dawn the morning after Alex and Zach’s wedding that he’d pushed her too hard, but the woman would try the patience of St. Peter himself. Jenna’s wistful expression as she approached Henry’s Gatehouse had Colt leaning closer to the monitor as if that might get him closer to the woman herself. Even with her tired expression and melancholy demeanor, she was stunning. Jenna Lamont was one of those women who walked into a room and conversations between men, and even women, stopped. And amazingly, Jenna had never seemed to even realize the effect she had on people. She had always just gone about her business, never aware of the way men walked into walls and tripped over themselves vying for her attention.
Colt had met Jenna when she was only seventeen years old. He’d been twenty-six and had agreed to spend Christmas with his friends after they’d discovered he didn’t have any family to spend the holidays with. Colt had walked into Daniel and Catherine Lamont’s beautiful home and watched as Alex and Zach Lamont’s tiny bit of a sister launched herself into each of their arms, wrapped her long slender legs around each of her brothers, and hugged them hard enough that they’d both let out groans and told her to lighten up or they were going to expire from oxygen deprivation. Colt had chuckled, but they’d quickly assured him that years of ballet had left their little sister deceptively strong and sporting leg muscles that could squeeze you like a python. There had been an innocence about Jenna during that first visit that was conspicuously absent during his next visit to ShadowDance a year later. During his second visit, he became aware of Jenna’s newfound interest in kickboxing and any form of street fighting she could con someone into teaching her. Colt had always wondered what had happened to prompt her interest in self-defense and what had stolen her innocent aura, but had never mentioned it to Alex or Zach until they’d been drinking late one night not long before their wedding.
At Colt’s question, both brothers had sat back, lost in their memories, and had finally conceded that she had seemed distant that second year Colt had spent Christmas with them, but Alex and Zach agreed that at the time they had chalked it up to stress over college selections and what they’d so bluntly referred to as “girl stuff.” He’d known he’d sparked their curiosity, and knowing them both as well as he did, he hadn’t doubted for a minute they would address it at some point. He’d asked Jenna about the change himself during a rather intimate encounter after the wedding and had felt her completely shut down, both physically and emotionally, at the inquiry. He’d also stated that in his observation she was a true submissive, and the two things combined had been like dropping a match in a gas can. After she had unloaded on him, she’d gone to her small suite, and when he’d checked the next morning, he’d been told she had left the mansion before dawn. She’d not only run, but she’d been all but out of touch with everyone except Katarina during the past eight months.
“She looks sad.” Grayson’s soft observation spoken from over his shoulder was likely based as much on what he “felt” as on what he was seeing. Grayson’s sixth sense was legendary among team members, as spooky as it was, his “spidey sense,” as he called it, had never been wrong as far as Colt knew.
“Indeed she does,” was all Colt managed to say as he punched the button to swing open the steel gates so Jenna could proceed up the mountain drive. Colt knew Grayson had let both Alex and Zach know as soon as they’d seen Jenna drive up. Even though Katarina had begged them to call her also, Alex had said they had just gotten her settled and threatened to do them both bodily harm if they notified the very pregnant Ms. Lamont of her sister-in-law’s arrival.
God, it was fun watching Alex and Zach try to corral the tiny blip of a woman they’d married. She was just a little over five feet tall, and right now, she looked like she was hiding a basketball under her shirt. Even though she was convinced she “waddled like a duck,” Colt was amazed at how graceful she seemed to be, considering the fact she looked like she could topple forward at any moment. Just for the briefest second, Colt wondered what Jenna would look like round with his child, but he quickly shook off the thought. His first order of business with Ms. Lamont was to regain her trust. He’d enlisted Alex and Zach’s help when they’d made it clear they were not only aware of the sparks between their best friend and sister, but that they would help him in any way that stayed within the “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” motto they all followed as part of their BDSM lifestyle.
Colt had seen Mitch Grayson cringe when Alex had forbidden him from calling Katarina’s cell phone. She might be little, but she was hell on wheels when she was angry, and even though every man on the security staff towered over her, there was no doubt in any of their minds who’d win in a throw down. Smiling to himself, he was glad she’d cornered Grayson with her request.
“Sure, smile, you bastard. You know she’s gonna be five kinds of pissed off, and it won’t matter that I’m following my bosses’ orders…Fuck!” Grayson continued muttering to himself something about tiny, round blonde fairies that could throw fireballs as Colt laughed and left him to his ramblings.
* * * *
Alex, Zach, and Colt had brainstormed and strategized what they had jokingly started referring to as “Project Jenna.” They’d tried to anticipate all possible outcomes, but had not planned on having her stay away so fucking long. The brothers had finally enlisted their parents’ help. Well,
wasn’t really an accurate term since the elder Lamonts had only agreed to be unavailable to answer questions about the “emergency meeting” Jenna was being called home for. Apparently, refusing to answer was as close as either Daniel or Catherine were willing to get to actually lying to their beloved daughter. Colt was smiling as he descended the stairs to the Lamont twins’ office, he felt lighter than he had in months. Project Jenna was now officially a go.
Nearing the bottom of the stairs at the other end of the hall, Colt could hear Jenna’s outraged, “What the fuck do you mean the meeting has been postponed? You called me home from fucking Egypt! Do you know what a nightmare air travel out of the Middle East is like for a woman traveling alone? Of course you don’t, you two are just too fucking unbelievable for words.”
“Language, Jenna Beth,” was all he heard Zach say. Colt knew without even entering the room that both brothers were leaning against the stone mantle of the fireplace dominating an entire wall of their office as they watched their sister in full rant. He knew she was pacing the room because she could never sit still when she was mad, and her brothers had given her plenty of opportunities to exercise her pacing skills. Colt had positioned himself in a doorway behind a small alcove just outside the office. He wasn’t exactly hidden, but he wouldn’t be obvious to Jenna either. He planned to let her brothers lay it all out for her before he made his presence known.
“Don’t you ‘Jenna Beth’ me, you big galoot, boy oh boy, you two take the damned cake, you know that? If I’d pulled this shit when you were working Special Forces, you’d have skinned me alive. But oh, that’s different…because of course your work was ever so much more important that the financial future of Lamont Oil. I swear to you, if I didn’t care that my future niece or nephew actually
his or her daddies, I’d kick you both off a cliff. Hell, maybe I’ll still kick you off a small one, yeah, not enough to kill you…just enough to hurt you bad! Damn, I’m too tired to deal with you two assholes right now, shit, and now I’m too wound up to sleep…Fuck a duck….I’ll be in the gym kicking the ass of whichever unlucky jerk first walks through the door. Damn and double damn…”
Alex’s voice was calm but laced with steel. “Calm your ass down and sit, Jenna. We have some questions for you before you go off all GI Jane on some poor unsuspecting former soldier in our employ. And just so you know, they’ve all been briefed about you. After you cleaned the clocks of several of them last fall, word spread about how you’d snookered them and the pile of cash they lost when you laid them all out flat.” Alex had trouble hiding the smile that threatened to break through as he remembered hearing how she’d taken down four of their security team’s biggest members. When the men had heard she was headed their way again, they’d quickly warned the newest members to not be fooled by her small stature and willowy appearance. Looking up at Zach, he could tell his brother was biting the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
Jenna plopped down into a chair but was still muttering to herself. All he caught was “blabbermouth pussies,” but he decided to let it go. Once she ran out of steam, they’d get down to the business of finding out just what had happened between those two visits. Whatever it was, it had obviously changed Jenna forever. After they’d thought back, they realized that during their visit when she’d been a senior, she’d told them she’d been taking kickboxing lessons, and when she’d asked them to teach her street fighting, they hadn’t thought to question her. In hindsight, that should have been a huge red flag, because mixing those skills would have been unacceptable to any instructor. But they’d only asked her about the kickboxing, and she’d hedged that she wanted to be ready for college, but they’d been young and hadn’t pressed the issue. It was a mistake they regretted and didn’t plan to repeat.
Gaining Jenna’s trust would be enough of a challenge on a good day, but to earn it while she protected secrets she’d kept for years would be impossible. All three of them knew that if they were going to help Jenna recognize and accept her attraction to Colt, they were first going to have to find out what had happened to her.
* * * *
Since Zach was usually considered the more sensitive of the two, he’d been elected to take point in their “interview” of their sister.
“Jenna, it’s come to our attention that your sudden interest in kickboxing your senior year might have been a little more significant than we were led to believe.” When he saw Jenna’s posture become stiff and defensive, he quickly added, “Now don’t go getting all pissy, we’d just like to make sure there wasn’t some other reason for your sudden interest in self-defense. As I recall, you also expressed an interest in street-fighting skills, and Alex and I have spent a lot of time trying to remember things that happened during that time. The only thing we could come up with that stood out as being out of the ordinary was that one of our teammates spent a few weeks here that fall while he was recovering from a broken wrist.”
Both Alex and Zach watched her closely for any reaction, and there it was. Her jaw tightened, and her fingers clenched in fists for just a second before she caught and corrected her action. Bingo. To her credit, Jenna hadn’t looked away from him, but at Zach’s raised eyebrow, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” in a voice that was so out of character for her Zach was astonished she’d even consider they might believe her.
“Jenna, don’t lie to us, ever. You’re too strong of a woman to feel you need hide anything from us. Honey, you know we love you, nothing will ever change that, but please, don’t disrespect our relationship by trying to deceive us.” Alex had spoken quietly, hoping to get her to spill it without them having to pry for each piece of what was no doubt a painful memory.
* * * *
Suddenly Jenna felt like she was five years old again. Her parents had always seen nothing but good in their darling daughter. Anytime she’d been “busted” it had been her big brothers that had called her on it. And now, she felt like the walls were closing in on her as the memories of the night her whole world had changed came bubbling back to the surface. Jenna knew she was breathing too fast.
Oh shit, this is so not happening. I am not discussing this with my brothers, ever!
Jenna heard Alex and Zach talking, but they sounded so far away she couldn’t make out what they were saying, and she was too busy trying to clear the little black spots from her vision to really care right now.
* * * *
Colt had seen enough to know Jenna was about two beats from a full-blown panic attack. He’d heard the signs in her vocal pattern several seconds before he’d seen the rapid increase in the rise and fall of her rounded breasts, God, the woman’s body was a work of art. Stepping fully into the room, he’d shaken his head slightly to get her brothers to step back before he sat on the ottoman directly in front of Jenna and took her hands in his and said, “Breathe with me, Jenna. Let’s slow it down a bit, shall we? In two, three, four, and out, two, three, four…Again, in…now out…That’s it…No, look at me, don’t look anywhere but right here.” Gesturing two fingers to his eyes, he wanted Jenna to focus on him rather than her brothers and the information she knew they were going to demand. During his special ops training, Colt had discovered he had a real knack for interrogation, and it hadn’t seemed to matter if he was getting information from terrorists, petty criminals, witnesses, or victims. He had always just been able to get inside their protective walls and bring confessions and memories to the surface with equal ease.