Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Multiple Partner Contemporary Erotic Romance
Kat. Juliana was talking about Kat and whoever she had watching her. Tara couldn’t stop, couldn’t panic. So she just kept talking, asking questions. “What do you plan to do with me?”
Juliana smiled down at her, then bent low and ran her fingers over the side of Tara’s head. “Anything I want, my dear. Anything I want.”
Tara reared up and caught Juliana unaware. Her first step was knocking the Taser gun out of Juliana’s hand and kicking it away. It landed in the water with a loud plop.
“No!” Juliana screamed. She slammed her fist into the side of Tara’s head, rolling them over on the ground.
Tara tasted blood. She kicked, clawed and fought like a demon possessed. Juliana was stronger than she looked, and Tara wondered if there were drugs in her system as well as insanity. Tara rolled and fought, knowing her life was at stake.
“Tara!” Sam hollered her name, and she was momentarily distracted when he stepped out of the trees across the pond. It only lasted a moment, but a moment was all Juliana seemed to need.
She wrapped her hands around Tara’s throat, cutting off her air. Tara scratched and fought, but she knew she couldn’t break the hold.
“Let her go,” Charlie’s voice called from somewhere on the right.
She tried to grip Juliana’s arms, but they were slick with blood from the myriad of scratches and cuts covering them both, and she couldn’t get a good hold. Lights were starting to dance around the edges of Tara’s vision as she fought for air. She bucked and wiggled, but madness seemed to give Juliana the advantage.
Tara blinked her eyes open and shut, open and shut. She thought she saw Dasan for just a moment, hovering over them, reaching out for Juliana. She wanted to warn him how dangerous the other woman was, but blackness closed in, and she saw no more.
Tara woke up with a killer headache and fire in her throat. It hurt to swallow, and any attempt to shift her neck or anything anywhere close to her neck, hurt like hell.
“Tara.” Sam was at her bedside. He turned to the back of the room. “She’s awake.”
“Where…?” It hurt to talk, and she moaned when she swallowed. “Where am I?”
“Hospital. Don’t try to talk. Your throat’s going to hurt like hell for a few days.” Charlie’s voice was rough too, hoarse as if he’d been yelling.
“Kat,” she whispered her friend’s name.
“We heard, and her protection is no longer watching her. They’re with her, every minute of the day,” Dasan told her. “I swear you scared ten years off of my life!”
“We thought we were going to lose you,” Sam admitted, and she could see the shadow of fear in his eyes.
“No,” she managed to get out. “Sorry.” Every word exhausted her. But there was more for her to say.
“Hush, baby,” Charlie crooned. “Get some rest. Everything will be fine now. It will all be fine.”
“Love you,” she tried to murmur, but her eyes were already closing again, so she wasn’t sure if she’d spoken out loud or not.
* * * *
It was a rough few weeks with her dozing on and off through most of them due to the medicine the doctor had her on. Other than some major bruising to her neck and a few minor scrapes and bruises, Tara was fine. Her throat would heal in time, but her neck would be a lovely shade of black and deep purple until it did.
Juliana was back in custody, and this time she would be in a different psychiatric facility. She refused to say anything about the man she’d taunted Tara with, only that he was watching Kat. The police believed he must have helped her with the murders she’d committed years ago. It was all coming to light now, and Tara was read the riot act for not notifying the police of the photos.
She deserved it. She did know better. But in her defense, she’d had no idea exactly where things would lead. And once Juliana stepped into the picture, Tara had every intent of contacting the police as soon as she could. She just hadn’t had the chance.
She learned that Charlie, Dasan, and Sam had come after her as soon as they’d received her messages. They’d been there long enough to decide to spread out and try to get to her. Charlie and Sam had planned to distract while Dasan snuck up on Juliana. Then Tara had gone down from the Taser and scared them in the process. They’d been terrified when Juliana began to choke her. It had taken both Dasan and Charlie to pull the other woman off. Sam had been across the pond and had run around to get to them.
But the nightmare wasn’t over yet. Someone was still out there, watching and waiting. He would either attack or go into hiding. And everyone seemed to think Kat was his target. Tara was afraid they might all be right. She could still hear the glee in Juliana’s voice when she said he was watching Kat. But who the hell was he?
The phone rang, breaking her from her thoughts. She’d been relegated to the den since coming back to the ranch from the hospital. One of the guys was always around to wait on her hand and foot. She had everything she wanted, with the exception of making love with her men. It seemed they were all a little afraid of touching her.
The phone rang again, and Tara reached for it. “Hello.”
“They’re driving me bat shit crazy. You have to put my brother on the fucking phone, so I can tell him to call off the dogs, and I do mean dogs.”
Tara heard a deep, masculine bark in the background followed by chuckles.
“I’m fine. Thanks for asking,” Tara said, knowing exactly how Kat would react.
“I’m sorry, Tara,” Kat said with a weary sigh. “I’ve been calling every day. The guys have been keeping me posted on how you’re doing.”
“Why the hell haven’t I spoken to you?”
“I’m guessing because you were asleep when I called. Nice pills they gave you.”
“I’m not taking them anymore.”
“Can I have them? I could use some help sleeping.”
Tara heard a masculine voice in the background, but couldn’t tell what he was saying.
“Fuck you, Rafe,” Kat replied to it.
Oh shit! “Rafe?” Tara whispered into the phone as if anyone other than Kat could hear her. “Not
“Yes.” The reply was obviously gritted out between Kat’s teeth. “Now you know why I want them gone. Talk to him for me, Tara. Please. I can’t take much more.”
“I’m sorry, Kat. They’ll never agree to calling them off while there’s a chance you’re still in danger.”
“It’s been weeks and nothing. Besides, I have police protection as well.”
“Can’t blame Charlie for not trusting them after all that’s gone on.”
Kat blew out a weary sigh. “I know. I just…”
“You can handle it, Kat. Please. You’re a goddess at putting men in their place.”
Kat laughed. “Yeah.”
“Other than that, how are you doing?”
“I’m hanging in there. No one seems to understand that if he’s really watching me, the best way to draw him out is for me to appear alone.”
“Not a good idea, Kat. You’ve seen the pictures. If he’s anywhere near as crazy as Juliana Martino is… Well, you don’t want to be alone with him.”
“I’m not good at sitting and waiting. I need action.”
Masculine chuckles sounded again.
“Well…” Tara prompted.
“I can’t. I just…can’t.”
Tara understood. Rafe had been Kat’s high school sweetheart. She’d lost her virginity to him. Then he’d joined the Army, and though they’d tried to make it work, they couldn’t. He’d turned up once just before Kat left the ranch. Tara wasn’t sure what happened, but it had been enough to send Kat running as far away as she could get. Now, Rafe was back, and Kat was acting skittish.
“I can come out on the first flight I can get. Keep you company,” Tara offered.
“As much as I’d love to take you up on it, I can’t do that either. For one, my brother would kill me for putting you in danger again. For two, I’d never forgive myself if something else happened to you. That’s twice I’ve failed you now.”
“Please. You didn’t fail me. I’m a big girl, Kat. You went where you needed to be.”
“I still can’t shake the feeling we almost lost you.”
Tara shivered. “I know. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I don’t want to think of what might have happened if the guys hadn’t been there.”
They were both quiet for a long moment, each lost in her own thoughts of what might have been. Then Kat interrupted with a soft question Tara couldn’t ignore. “Do you love them?”
Tara sighed and nodded, though, Kat had no way of seeing her. “I do.”
“I’m happy for you, Tara. Really happy.”
“Thanks, Kat. Maybe—”
“Let’s not even go there,” Kat stated softly. “I gotta go. I’ll call again if they don’t drive me insane in the meantime.”
Tara laughed softly. “Just let ‘em drive you to drink. I bet you could use a few now.”
“A bottle of tequila sounds great.”
“Take care of you,” Tara whispered.
“Take care of you,” Kat replied, and the phone clicked as her friend hung up.
“So what did Kat have to say?” Charlie asked as he walked in the room and sat down at the foot of the couch. He picked Tara’s feet up and began massaging them.
“Why’d you send Rafe to watch over her?”
Charlie paused for a minute then continued rubbing. “Because no one will watch her as closely as he will.”
“He’s in love with her. Always has been. Always will be.”
“You’re sure of this.”
Charlie looked at her and smiled. “I had my doubts a time or two myself. Threatened to beat his ass if he ever hurt my sister again. Sam popped him in the mouth once.”
“Don’t let his smile fool you,” Charlie said with a laugh. “He can show his temper every now and then.”
“What makes you think Rafe loves your sister?”
“He keeps coming back. No matter how many times she kicks at him with her words, trying to scare him away, he just keeps coming back.”
Tara nodded. She’d have to meet Rafe and judge for herself before she cut him any slack. She’d seen Kat cry over him more than once when they were deep into a bottle of tequila or rum.
“But why trust him to watch her? Wouldn’t it be better to send someone trained?”
Charlie laughed. “Rafe’s an Army Ranger. You can’t get much more prepared than the training he’s had. Plus, he’s not alone. Kat has three Rangers watching over her.”
Tara nodded her head. That sounded like a lot of security to her.
“I’ve missed you,” she whispered.
“I’ve been right here,” he replied, spreading his hands wide to indicate where they were.
She shook her head. “No, you haven’t. Not completely.” She sat up, pulling her feet from his lap and rising to her knees. She moved across the couch until she reached him and straddled his lap. “You’ve been holding back. You all have.”
“Tara.” Her name was a long sigh.
“I’m sorry I scared you. I scared myself too. But I’m better now. Much better. And I need you. All of you. I need you to touch me, to love me.”
“Tara.” This time it was a groan as she grabbed his face and leaned in, nipping his bottom lip and demanding entrance.
“Are you going to make me beg?”
“Did I hear talk of begging?” Sam said as he and Dasan entered the room.
Tara laughed. “I was just explaining to Charlie that I’m tired of waiting for the three of you to initiate things.”
“Tara, you were hurt. You’ve been on medicine,” Dasan reminded her.
“I know. I’m not on the pain pills anymore. I’m fine. More than fine. I’m alive, and I want to celebrate that. I want to celebrate with the three of you. And…I want to ask you something.”
“Ask us anything,” Sam encouraged.
She took a deep breath and went to push away from Charlie, but he stopped her.
“Say it from here. I need to feel you in my arms.”
“Charlie,” she sighed his name and leaned in for a soft kiss. Breaking the kiss, she turned to include all of them in what she had to say. “I meant to come here, stay a while, heal up and leave.”
“And you’re healed now?” Dasan asked.
“I am in every way that counts.” She could feel the tension in Charlie, see it in Dasan and Sam. They were afraid of losing her. The silly girl in her was tempted to see how far they’d go to keep her. The woman was beyond games and ready to admit what she wanted. “But I don’t want to leave. I find myself falling in love with the three of you. I want to see you first thing when I wake up in the morning and last thing at night. I want to hold you, touch you, feel your arms around me. I want to—”
“Stay,” Charlie interrupted. “We want you to stay.”
“We’ve talked about nothing else, except how to convince you to,” Sam admitted.
“None of us wants to lose you,” Dasan stated.
“I don’t want to lose any of you either,” Tara confessed. “I’ll admit I’m nervous. I’m still not sure how any of this will work out. But I’m no longer afraid to try. I want to be with you, all of you, for as long as you’ll have me.”
“A lifetime sounds good,” Sam said.
“I like the sound of that,” Charlie agreed.
Dasan nodded his head. “Just know this. We don’t run from problems. We argue. We get mad. We work it out. Quitting, leaving—those shouldn’t be options. We work it out.”
“I like the sound of that,” she echoed Charlie’s words. Dasan was telling her they were in it for the long haul. She’d be lying if she said it didn’t scare her. It did. But it was only because they meant so much to her. She didn’t want to lose them or what they shared.
Charlie ran his hands up her sides then in to cup her breasts and brush his thumbs over her nipples. “I believe you were asking us to make love to you.”
She nodded her head and caught her breath as he stood, sweeping her up high against his chest. He left the room behind and headed for the stairs with Dasan and Sam following them. It seemed they were just as eager to make love as she was.
Dasan opened the door to Charlie’s room so they could enter. Charlie crossed to the bed and lowered her on it. She couldn’t help but notice they were in Charlie’s bedroom again.
“It’s the biggest room on the ranch,” Charlie answered as if he could read the question on her face. “With the biggest bed. We all agreed this would be the room we use when we’re all together.”