Authors: Angela Castle
"I don't understand, and neither do you. You don't know who I am, you don't know the danger you face by kidnapping me. If they ever found out…" She drew in a shuddering breath. "Please, for everyone's sake, just let me go, or we're all in danger."
"Sweetheart, tell us, who is it you're afraid of? Who wants to hurt you? Who was it who shot you?"
She gasped, suddenly and violently struggling between them. This time Andy and Hamish did back up to give her some room, but not enough to let her go entirely. "How do you know I was shot! How do you… He sent you, he sent you!" She was panicking, her chest heaving, her body shaking.
"Slow deep breaths, Juniper. We are here to protect you…calm down."
Andy walked to the back of the Wrangler and grabbed the blanket, handing it to Hamish, who wrapped it around her body. He lifted her, placing her in the back seat of the car, before sliding in and pulling her into his lap.
"We need to get her home. We need to clear up the confusion and the only way to get her to trust us is to tell her the truth of who we are." And they needed to find out who this 'he' was, and kill the bastard.
Andy nodded, hurrying around, sliding in behind the wheel and starting the Jeep.
Hamish stroked her back and kissed the top of her head. "We're not your enemy, Juniper, we are going to help you."
"You don't know, you can't, no one can," she mumbled, pressing her face against his chest, her breathing slowed as she calmed.
"If nothing else, trust that you are safe. We will not let anyone hurt you, I swear on Andy's life."
"Hey!" Andy glanced over his shoulder.
"Not your life?" She raised her head, her delicate eyebrow arched above soft, green eyes bright with watery, unshed tears.
He smiled his most mischievous grin. "Nah, that's Andy's job to commit my life to protecting you."
"Damn straight," muttered Andy, as he navigated the roads, leading back to Black Town. She pressed her face against his chest again, but he didn't miss the ghost of a smile on her lips. He loved holding her; she fit so comfortably in his arms. Nestled exactly where she belonged.
"Where is the Panther?"
He rolled his eyes at Andy's chuckle.
"We'll tell you about that when we get home; don't worry, they are fine, I promise, just rest now."
She'd need her strength when they showed her their cats, how to explain his loss of control when he'd seen her naked was another matter. He'd jump that hurdle when they got to it.
"Oh, can't wait for that, cat-astrophe, or will it send her cat-a-tonic?" Andy quipped from the front.
"Lame, Bro, lame. Ignore him, baby girl, my jokes are way better than his."
"You couldn't tell a joke if your tail was on fire."
Juniper shook her head, again hiding a small smile. He was glad she at least found them amusing.
~ * ~
Snuggled in Hamish's arms was strangely comforting. She kept her eyes closed, resting her head against his chest, listening to the strong rhythm of his heart.
Emotionally she was all over the place and still confused over just what the Brown brothers wanted with her. Why would they choose to protect a stranger? Why did they keep proclaiming that she was 'theirs'?
Physically she couldn't deny what Andy had said earlier. There was a strong attraction, pulling her towards both men, but that was wrong, wasn't it? She heaved a deep sigh.
Could they really protect her? The others said they could protect her, and where had it gotten them? She shuddered, thinking back on that horrific night.
Hamish hugged her tighter as if sensing her fear. "It's okay, baby girl, we'll never let anything happen to you."
But it wasn't okay, she didn't know if it would ever be okay. Apart from being kidnappers, the Brown twins seemed to genuinely care for her wellbeing.
Hamish insisted she take sips of water from the bottle Andy had passed him.
Her stomach growled from hunger by the time the car rolled to a stop. "Come on, time we feed you properly. When was the last time you had a decent meal?"
She refrained from snapping, '
none of your business
.' But he already knew. "Last night, the chicken."
"I made sure she ate the whole thing too." Andy had already climbed out and was yanking open the door. "How do you know I ate the chicken?"
"Because I was there, eating it with you." Andy tugged her out of Hamish's arms; her feet never hit the ground as he lifted her into his own arms.
"Easy, Andy." She heard the warning growl behind Hamish's tone.
"You two are crazy, that's what you are."
Andy's grin was wide, and drop dead sexy. Damn, why did her kidnappers have to be so charming and handsome? Shouldn't she be resisting more? Hating them?
"Absolutely crazy, crazy for you." He turned; she hooked her arms around his neck, nodding towards their house. "This is our humble little home and your home too, now."
Juniper's jaw dropped at the two story, majestic Edwardian, red brick house, leavened by exquisite lacework balconies. To the side of the main entrance was a large octagonal shaped room. Tall trees and vines growing over the building added to the statement it had been there a long time.
"Our parents built this before we were born; we've lived here all our lives, and modernized it as the times changed. Recently we've put in a nice little den with a few big screen TVs."
She heard the pride in Hamish's tone and eyes as he gazed on the beautiful old building. He hurried ahead and opened the front door. Andy carried her inside. Her eyes moved about a delightful little vestibule of lead lights and gleaming, polished wood. She tilted her head up to see intricate painted ceiling roses and tessellated tiles, with ornate cornering and luminous timber trim.
Within the generous space of the entrance way opened four doorways at various points of its pentagonal shape. Set in the centre, she gazed over the fine timber stairs.
"Hang on, your parents built this? But it has to be over a hundred years old."
"Hundred and thirty give or take a few years."
"You're not making any sense."
"We will soon." He carried her down a long hall. The smell of hot cooked food wafted in, just before they came into a large white and black marbled kitchen with a huge centre island. Gleaming silver appliances sat on the black marble top bench tops.
"Looks like the ladies have been here." Hamish moved to inspect several pots on the counter. He ripped off a little white note as Andy finally set her on her feet. He yanked out a black chair with leather padding.
"Sit, we'll organize everything."
"We heard of your plight and thought you would enjoy some home-cooked meals," Hamish read the card aloud.
"We'll have to thank them." Andy nodded, pulling out plates from the gleaming white cupboards.
"No doubt they'll be around soon enough, wanting to meet her."
Juniper's head was spinning with so much conflicting information. Her temper hit the boiling point, she'd had enough. She threw off the blanket, jumped to her feet and screamed. "What the hell is going on?"
Twin sets of eyes turned to her. Her body shook with her fury. Were they all completely insane?
"Sit down, Juniper." Her butt hit the seat at his dominating, no-nonsense tone. She gaped at him. Andy moved in and loomed over her; he bent and placed a kiss on her lips. "Good girl, we need to take care of you properly, and we take our duty seriously. Do you understand?"
She nodded, shuddering a little at the carnal gleam in his eyes. It vanished and he smiled, back to happy go lucky Andy. "I promise we'll answer your questions after a good brunch." She flushed as she realized she was sitting there half-naked, both Andy's and Hamish's gazes raking over her exposed body. She bent and snatched the blanket off the floor, quickly wrapping it around herself.
The stereo chuckles from the brothers was freaky. Hamish went back to getting the plates and setting them out, while Andy collected the glasses then fetched a carton of juice from the big silver refrigerator. Within moments they had the table laid and were piling scrambled eggs, warm scones and sausages onto her plate, as well as their own.
Hamish took the seat to her right and Andy the one on her left, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"There's enough here to feed an army." Her mouth watered as she grabbed her fork and dug into the scrambled eggs, which were also loaded with cheese, onions and peppers. It had been a long time since she'd eaten anything this good.
She moaned in pleasure, and then glanced up, startled as they were again staring at her, their eyes hooded with pure lust that kicked her own back into gear.
Hamish cleared his throat, snapping Andy from his stare.
"We tend to eat a lot." Hamish ate his own eggs.
"High metabolisms." Andy bit into a sausage.
She finished her eggs and drained her juice. Then nibbled on the scone, and waited until they had finished their large piles of food.
Brunch finished, Andy was feeling as satisfied as one could with good food warming his belly, but there was still a lot to come today. He led their little mate around the ground floor of their home with a quick tour.
"And this is the rumpus/game room. We've got an
, in the cupboard under the TV. I, of course, rock at
. Hamish has yet to beat my score."
"That's because you cheat."
"Nu-uh, Bro, that's because I'm awesome."
Juniper groaned, rolling her eyes, and Hamish chuckled. "She's getting to know you already."
"I'm starting to think this house isn't big enough for just Andy and his ego."
"Yup, she's got you pegged." Hamish squeezed her around the shoulders, guiding her to the overstuffed, soft sofa in the corner by the window.
"Juniper, it's time to reveal some truths about us, and who we are, and just why we took you."
Hamish sat beside her; Andy could see her hands trembling in Hamish's. He wanted to touch her, needed to touch her. His snarling Panther still paced restlessly in the back of his mind, and would not settle until he—they—had properly claimed her.
He sat down on her other side. Her hair was just shy of her neck. He brushed his fingers along the lovely curve of her neck.
She shuddered under his soft touch, tearing her gaze from Hamish to glance up at him. "Just admiring your beauty."
When she opened her mouth to no doubt protest his words, he pinned her with a dominant glare, daring her to contradict him. Her mouth snapped shut. He smiled his triumph; he wouldn't stand for any more derogatory words coming out of her mouth.
He stole one of her hands from his brother, turned it over and pressed a kiss to her wrist. Her breathing hitched when he ran his tongue over her skin, tasting her. By the Goddess he wanted her, badly.
Take her, claim her! I'm working on it, buddy.
"Your past has nothing to do with why we took you. Andy first bumped into you at the café. For us, it's natural instinct to know the ones we are destined to be with. To us you are our one true mate," Hamish explained.
"Mate?" Her head swiveled back to stare at him.
"It's a bond stronger than marriage, it lasts more than a life time," Andy added. "Although it's not common for two of us to gain one mate, but it has happened. For our people, more often than not, our children are born in sets of twins."
"And the fates have given you to both of us."
"Fates, mates? Do you realize how crazy this sounds? Your people? Are you a part of some kind of cult?"
Hamish chuckled. "Far from it, while we believe in the mother Goddess, we are as cult-less as they come. But, we do protect our own."
"And just what is your own; who are
Hamish caught Andy's gaze. "Would you care to show her your Panther first?"
"Oh, where are your Panthers?" Juniper gazed up at him with eagerness.
She loved the damn Panther more than him.
Ah hell, who was he kidding? He was already head over heels in love with her. She was his mate. What was there not to love? But best not to reveal that little bit of information yet.
"I get to be show and tell boy, one Andy coming up." It took great strength to pull away and stand. He toed off his boots, swiftly removing his shirt and shucking his jeans.
Juniper's eyes widened, her cheeks filling with color as he stood naked, and grinned. Hamish had put his arms around her, getting ready to hold her tight if she launched into another panic attack. "You see, Juniper, we're not entirely human. Andy and I are shifters, we turn into Panthers. The Panther who invited himself into that shack you called a home back in Sydney, is Andy here."
Her nose scrunched up, confusion in her gaze. "You are crazy, and he is naked and crazy!"
Hamish's smile was gentle and knowing. "Watch him, baby girl."