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Authors: 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys (mf)

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BOOK: 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys
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Rand's big body moved closer to hers, his expression changing from anger to something else. "I'll think about it,
but you stay away from him."

She'd about had it with his bossiness. "You can't dictate who I talk to."

"Our deal says I can," he bit out, the anger returning in a flash.

"I don't think—"

"If you want to have lunch with him in three days' time," he said, his words overriding hers, "hell, if you want to have sex with him, I'll have nothing to say about it, but until then, you're
my woman."

She couldn't believe he'd said that. Did he really not care if she went from his bed to Carter's? She shook her head in denial of that truth.

Rand's expression turned feral. "In your own words, Phoebe,
a deal is a deal.

Are you going to stick by the terms, or not?"

Right now all she wanted was to curl up in a hole and cry her heart out. She didn't care about the deal's terms. She didn't even care if Rand and Carter ever found their way to being a family. She just wanted to get away.

She yanked herself from his loose hold and stumbled backward.

She'd been an idiot to think for even a second that a real relationship could evolve from a week of uncommitted sex. Oh, damn it! She was not going to cry.

Not in front of him.

She gritted her teeth against the sobs that wanted to tear out of her throat and spun on her heel, heading toward the bedroom. She started throwing clothes into her suitcase even as Rand came storming into the room after her.

"What the hell are you doing?"

She wasn't answering such a stupid question.

He grabbed the suitcase and yanked it out of her reach. "We still have three days left."

She spun to face him. "Don't worry, I'll see my lawyer in the morning. You'll get your deed, but this part of the deal is over." She swept her hand in an arc that encompassed the bed and the rest of the room where she'd given him her virginity and he'd given her so much pleasure.

Rand went gray. "You want to go to Carter now?"

"I don't want to go to Carter at all! But I don't want to stay with you either."

The words hurt her to say, but only a true masochist would continue building memories that would torment her in the empty loneliness to come, she now realized.

"You wanted a week with me."

"I changed my mind."

"Because I won't talk to Carter?" Rand's hands fisted at his sides. "If it's that important to you, I'll talk to him, all right?"

He acted as though he really cared if she left early, but she couldn't let herself be deceived by her hopes again.

"I truly hope you'll give Carter a chance to be your brother, but I can't stay here anymore." She lost her battle with the tears, and they spilled over, burning a path down her cheeks. She reached for the suitcase. "I've got to go."

Strong fingers peeled hers away from the suitcase and sent it tumbling to the floor. Then familiar arms wrapped around her, his face nuzzling into hers. "I can't let you go, baby."

She turned her face from his kisses. "I can't stay for three more days." But he was making it almost impossible to leave.

The insistent peal of the bell broke through the carnage going on between her and Rand. "You'd better get that."

"No. We need to talk. Whoever it is can go away."

"It might be Carter."

"If it is, the doorman knows better than to key up to the penthouse level again."

But the ding of the elevator coming from the other room indicated the doorman had done just that. "Maybe a different one is on duty."

From the expression on Rand's face, she was glad she wasn't the hapless soul in the lobby, no matter who it was. In fact, she could feel gratitude not to be in Carter's shoes at the moment. Rand looked ready to commit murder.

He turned to go, but stopped at the door. "No more packing. You aren't going anywhere."

Her heart split a little wider. "I have to."

"No. We have to talk."

"What good will it do?"

"Carter left you standing practically at the altar, but you had lunch with him, don't I even deserve a half an hour of your time to sort out our relationship?"

They didn't have a relationship, and he'd made that very obvious, but she couldn't deny him. "I won't leave just yet."

He nodded and left.

She considered following him, but wasn't sure if her presence would be better or worse for the two brothers to speak. Only the voice she heard coming from the living room was not Carter's deep tones, but the high-pitched tones of a very angry woman.

"How dare you insinuate yourself into my son's life?" Cassandra Sloane's freezing question hung in the air between them as Phoebe came careening into the living room.

"Mrs. Sloane, what are you doing here?"

The distaste that came across the old biddy's features was enough to send what was left of Rand's patience packing. "I don't know what she's doing here, but she's just about to leave."

"I am not leaving until you promise me you won't steal your brother's birthright!"

The sound of his father's wife yelling was enough to shock Rand speechless.

Not so Phoebe. "Rand isn't trying to steal anything. Carter wants him to have part of the company because they're brothers and your husband should have left it to both of them to begin with."

A look of bitter satisfaction filled Cassandra Sloane's eyes. "He couldn't. His father saw to that, and it was only right. A man's mistress doesn't inherit, nor does her illegitimate son."

"Rand is Hoyt's son, too!"

"Yes, he is. He's also my brother, and this has nothing to do with you, Mother."

Rand hadn't heard the elevator ding again, but his brother was there, glaring at his mother.

She turned on Carter, her mouth twisted like a prune. "You dare say that to me?

Your father may not have left me anything, but it is your responsibility to support me off of the income from Sloane Electronics."

"I can support you off of half the company just fine."

"You're being stupidly sentimental. This man has no place in your life. He never has had."

"He does now." Carter met Rand's eyes. "If you want one, that is."

"Of course he does." It was Phoebe's turn to step in apparently.

"Stay out of this, young lady. It's none of your concern."

"I care about both Rand and Carter; that makes it my concern."

If she cared so much about him, why the hell was she leaving him three days early?

"Mother, the only person here who has nothing to add, is you."

"Oh, really? You think I have nothing to add?" Mrs. Sloane's tone was one shade shy of total hysteria.

Rand didn't care what Mrs. Sloane had to add. He didn't think she would be so angry if Carter didn't mean what he'd said, which indicated he really did want a relationship with Rand. However, right now was not when Rand wanted to get into that. He was facing Phoebe walking out on him.

"Look, if you really want to give me part of your company, we can talk about it later, but right now is not a good time."

"You will discuss it with me, though?" Carter asked, hope burning in eyes that mirrored Rand's in shape and expression.

"Yes."

"If you're so set on giving away your inheritance, why don't you find your younger brother and give him part of the company, too?" she demanded, rage riding her hard.

"Younger brother?" Carter asked, his voice faint.

"Yes!" She turned to glare at Rand. "You thought your father loved your mother? Not likely. Hoyt Sloane didn't love anyone but himself. He had affairs, and one of them bore fruit."

"I've got another brother?" Carter demanded.

"Yes, and I suppose you're going to want to give him part of the company, too!"

"Sounds good to me."

Mrs. Sloane looked ready to have an apoplectic fit. "You're insane."

"Maybe, but unfortunately for you, I'm not certifiable, and Sloane Electronics belongs to me."

Mrs. Sloane didn't bother to answer but swung on her heel and headed to the elevator.

Carter looked at Rand. "Have lunch with me tomorrow. It looks like we've got more to discuss than the company."

So many emotions were swirling through Rand, he wasn't sure what to do with any of them, but his brother was right. They did need to talk. "Yes."

Carter followed his mother, slipping into the elevator with an expression that said he was going to get to the bottom of the bomb his mother had dropped on them all.

When Rand turned back from watching his brother leave, Phoebe had gone back into the bedroom.

A strong hand closed over hers on the suitcase. "I thought we agreed no more packing."

"What's the use of me staying?" she asked him, her emotions still too close to the surface to meet his gaze.

"I need you."

The words would have been all she wanted to hear just an hour ago, but now she knew they meant something very different than what she needed them to mean. "I can't be a body in your bed anymore. I don't know why I ever thought I could."

He spun her to face him, his expression fierce. "How can you believe that?"

She swiped at tears that had started the minute she'd begun packing again.

"How can I believe anything else when you tell me you don't care if I go to Carter's bed in three days' time?"

His body went completely motionless, and if his complexion had been gray earlier, it was pasty now. "I don't want you to go to Carter at all."

She took a deep breath, but it shuddered out again on tears she couldn't seem to stem. "You don't care who I sleep with when you're done with me."

"Done with you?" he asked hoarsely. His face spasmed with some internal pain.

"I'll never be
done
with you."

She stared at him, entranced by the emotion burning in his gray eyes.

He swallowed convulsively, suspicious moisture making those eyes seem darker than they were. "I thought my heart was rock-solid, but you taught me I can still bleed. If you leave me, I'm going to hemorrhage."

"I don't want to go. I love you," she admitted, knowing only that she had to tell him, at least once.

His arms tightened, and she found herself wrapped up against him as close as two bodies could get without making love. "I loved Susan."

"I know."

"It hurt to lose her and our son, more than I thought I could ever hurt, but when you threatened to walk out, I took a body blow that felt like it was going to kill me. When Mrs. Sloane and Carter showed up, all I could think of was getting rid of them so I could work things out with you."

Was he saying he loved her? His heart was beating fast against her ear. Was it a heart that had turned from stone to living, pulsing flesh?

"But the deal… " It had been all that mattered a few minutes ago.

"I want new terms for our deal."

She pulled away, blinking back the tears and trying to see him without the haze of their moisture in her eyes. "What terms?

"I want you for a lifetime."

"I thought you didn't want to get married again, or are we even talking marriage here?"

"We're talking marriage." His eyes softened, warmed with silver lights she'd never seen before. "I decided six years ago that love, marriage and fatherhood were unattainable dreams in my life. Dead dreams."

"That changed?" she couldn't help asking, her hopes, her own dreams, pinned on his answer.

"Oh, yeah."

"Say it," she pleaded.

He leaned down and kissed her oh, so softly. "I want to sleep with you every night for the rest of our lives, but I want so much more than that, baby. I want your friendship. You've been the most important person in my life for four years, and I didn't even realize it."

"That sounds like you love me," she said with unconcealed awe in her voice.

"Love you. Adore you. Want you. Need you. Phoebe, when I took you to bed the first time, I knew you were orange blossoms and white roses. It didn't stop me from making love to you that first time, or any time after."

"You wanted me."

"I loved you."

"But you kept yammering on about the deal."

"It took me a while to figure out that the risk of letting you walk away was greater than the risk of begging you to stay."

Begging? To a man like Rand, admitting he needed her was probably as close to begging as he'd ever come.

"I love you, too." She'd been dying to give voice to her love since the first kiss, and now she could say the words as much as she liked. He
wanted
to hear them.

"Oh, I love you so much!"

His lips caught hers, and his mouth swallowed the words.

They made love with a fierce passion that superceded even what they had known before, and her completion sent her into a dead faint. When she opened her eyes, he was looming above her, a look of masculine triumph glowing with the love in his eyes.

"So, are you going to marry me, or what?"

She smiled, too exhausted to laugh. "Wasn't that enough of a yes for you?" she asked, meaning the time they'd just spent making love.

"I need to hear the words, baby. I'm a businessman. I want a verbal contract."

"Yes."

Two weeks later, Rand walked into their apartment just after Phoebe got off the phone with her aunt.

"I'm seriously considering eloping. What do you think of flying to Vegas?"

He laughed before leaning down to give her a very satisfying kiss. "Your aunt giving you a hard time about the wedding, baby?"

"Not a hard time, not really. It's just that she wants to do everything. She wants to hire a full orchestra for the wedding reception."

"So?"

"So, the one she wants isn't available for two months."

BOOK: 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys
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