Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Multiple Partner Contemporary Erotic Romance
“Are you listening to yourself? Do you love your brother or hate him?”
“Of course, I love Charlie! You know that!”
“Then how could you urge me to play some kind of game with him and his best friends?”
Kat laughed. “Oh, honey, did you learn nothing from our little visit with River?”
Tara shook her head. “River is the exception to the rule. Plus, her…relationships…are new. The shine hasn’t worn off yet. Do you really think she can maintain a relationship with three men for the long term?”
“You can’t be serious?”
“Why can’t I? River looked pretty damn happy to me. I think we could use some of that happiness, as well. And why not? Besides, let me share a little secret with you that I’m not supposed to know about.”
“Is this something I want to hear?”
“It’s something you need to hear. Charlie, Dasan, and Sam have been friends since we were all kids. Hell, they’re like brothers to me.”
“Yeah, that’s not really a secret, Kat.”
Kat snorted a laugh. “Oh, shut up and listen! I snuck out one night. I was pissed off and wanted to ride, clear my head. But I found more than my horse in the barn.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear this.”
“Oh, yes, you do. I found Charlie, Dasan, and Sam…sharing an interlude with a girl.”
“You spied on your brother?”
“Little sisters have been doing it for years.”
“So all three of them?” Tara questioned. Her mind was exploding with possibilities, all of which included her as the centerpiece.
“And let me just say, the girl looked very…satisfied…to me.”
“Oh, my God! Why are you telling me this?”
“Because that girl could be you. All you have to do is go for it.”
“Stop thinking, Tara. Just stop. You came here to relax and recover. So relax. Really relax. Like multiple orgasms relax.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“It could be. Just think about it.”
“Yeah, I’ll try to in all my spare time.”
Kat sighed and sat back down. “Charlie has feelings for you. He’s holding back, which is very unlike him. I’m guessing it has something to do with worrying about how accepting you’d be of his proclivity to share with his closest friends.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“Makes sense.” Kat shrugged her shoulders. “Just saying, it’s something to think about.”
As if Tara would be able to think of anything other than that from now on. She couldn’t deny her attraction to not only Charlie, but Dasan and Sam, as well. Now, Kat was telling her she didn’t have to fight it. She could embrace it. The question was did she have the courage to do so? There was one thing she still hadn’t shared with even her best friends. The real reason she couldn’t seem to let Raymond rest.
Someone was doing his best to keep him alive in her mind. Every day since she’d arrived, something was sent to her phone. Each number traced to a throwaway cell phone. Easily bought. Easily discarded. And left no trail of who was using it.
Someone was angry that Raymond Marino was dead. Whoever it was had sent her a photo of his obituary and a photo of him in his coffin, which had creeped the hell out of her. Plus, other photos—older ones from when he was younger and more recent ones taken just before he’d died. Then there were the crime scene photos. Old and grainy. She had no idea who it was, but the stalker’s agenda was coming across loud and clear. He was determined she would pay for taking Raymond’s life.
“Tara?” Kat interrupted her thoughts.
“You mind if I just crash in here with you tonight?”
Tara knew what she was doing. It was Kat’s way of staying with her, watching over her, like she hadn’t the night Raymond attacked Tara. It wasn’t Kat’s fault, but she was determined it wouldn’t have happened if she’d been with Tara. Kat had demons of her own where Raymond was concerned. All three of them did—River, Kat, and Tara.
“I’d like that,” Tara admitted. “We haven’t had a slumber party in a long time.”
“I’ll go grab some junk food from the kitchen. You hit the den and get us some movies. I’m feeling like action or horror tonight. Steer clear of the chick flicks please!”
Tara laughed. “Sounds like a great plan.”
They headed down the hall together, parting ways at the bottom of the stairs. Tara headed to the den and the wall of movies Charlie kept there. It was dark, but she knew where the lamp was and headed straight to it. She leaned over the chair, groping for the lamp string, and felt hands close around her waist.
She inhaled a gulp of air, preparing to scream. Then his scent hit her. Charlie. Her fingers found the string, and light cast a gentle glow over them just as he tumbled her into his lap.
“Looking for something?”
There was no denying what she saw in his eyes this time. He wanted her. His look seemed to be asking her if she’d come downstairs searching for him. At the moment, she really wished she had.
“Movies,” she managed. It was hard to focus when she was draped across his lap. His upper body was still bare, and she could remember all too well the feel of his hair-spattered chest beneath her cheek.
“Are you sure?”
She nodded her head. Disappointment filled his eyes for a brief moment. He helped her sit up on his lap, making it easy for her to slip free and grab what she wanted. She surprised them both by doing just that, grabbing what she wanted.
She turned around, lifting her leg, so she could straddle his lap and face him. Slowly, giving him plenty of time to react, she lifted her hands to cup his face and leaned in. Holding his gaze with hers, she brushed her lips over his. Once. Twice. Then flicked her tongue out to trace over his bottom lip.
His hands had been clenched tight, resting beside her hips. But with a groan, he lifted them to touch her, pull her close. One closed in her hair, angling her head just as he took over the kiss, slipping his tongue inside and exploring her. It was everything she’d anticipated and more. She imagined his hands wandering over her body. Both of them naked with the smell of lust and sex in the air.
She pulled free, holding his gaze once more. Neither of them said anything for a long moment.
“What would you do if I kissed Dasan like this? Or Sam?”
“Do you want to?”
Honesty. It was always best. She nodded her head. Now seemed like a good time to test Kat’s theory, to see if Charlie was still into sharing with his buddies like Kat said he once was.
His smile was slow and easy. “I don’t mind if you want to kiss them. I don’t mind if you want to have sex with them. I just want to make sure you want me too.”
She lifted her brow. “What are you saying?”
“I think you know exactly what I’m saying,” Charlie answered.
“I want to be clear. Spell it out for me.”
Soft hands touched her shoulders, and she jerked a bit in surprise. Dasan was behind her. He was so quiet. She hadn’t even known he was in the room.
“He’s saying we’re okay with you wanting all of us. We’re not greedy. We like to share.” His lips found the shell of her ear and traced a path that had her shivering. “I’m right here if you’d like to give me a kiss,” he whispered.
She turned her head. He took possession of her mouth and owned it in that moment. He might be the quiet one, but there was nothing held back while he kissed her.
“We heard about your friend River,” Sam’s voice spoke softly from just outside the circle of light. “Charlie thought maybe you might be ready to think about having something similar for yourself.”
She sucked in air when Dasan freed her from his kiss. She was panting, her breasts heaving as she reminded her lungs to work.
“And what if I’m not ready?” she finally managed to ask.
“Well, then,” Sam said as he sauntered over to stand beside them. His finger traced her lips, still dewy from Dasan’s kiss. “We’ll just do our best to persuade you.” He leaned low and touched his lips softly to hers. “We can be very persuasive,” he promised.
She was counting on it.
Tara looked at her phone as if it was a coiled snake. She told herself to ignore it, but she couldn’t. What if it wasn’t another picture? What if it was a legitimate message from someone she knew?
“Fuck,” she muttered and grabbed the phone.
She gave a startled yelp and almost dropped the phone.
She yelped again and swore she jumped about a foot off the ground.
“Don’t sneak up on me like that, Kat!”
“I didn’t sneak up. I walked.” She made a dramatic show of picking her feet up and stomping them back down on the floor. Then while Tara was distracted, she grabbed the phone from her. “What the fuck is this?”
“Don’t be a smart ass, Tara. Who sent this?”
“I don’t know.” She gave a weary sigh. “If it’s anything like the others, it came from a disposable cell.”
“You don’t recognize the number?”
“What do you mean others?”
Tara reached for her phone, but Kat batted her hands away as she accessed the stored pictures and scrolled through them.
“Holy shit, Tara! How long have you been getting this crap? Lots of Raymond and crime scene photos like this one.”
Tara sighed and sank down along the wall until she sat on the floor, her legs folded beneath her. “The first one came a few days after I killed Raymond.”
“And you didn’t say anything?”
“I traced it. If I’d found anything, I would have told you. But I didn’t see the point in making you worry. For God’s sake, you’re still recovering from a bullet wound.”
Kat rubbed her shoulder. “I’m fine.”
Tara doubted that. Physically? Kat would be fine. Mentally? Emotionally? Detective Marino had left his mark on all of them.
“You should have told me about this. Immediately.”
“I’m handling it, Kat.”
“Handling it? How? You yelped like a ghost had spooked you or something.”
“Not exactly what I want to find on my phone.”
Kat shook her head and slid down the wall to sit cross-legged beside Tara. “No one would expect to see that. It looks recent.”
Tara shuddered. “It does, doesn’t it?” She glanced back at the photo she’d opened on her phone. With the shock faded, she could see what Kat must have noticed immediately. The previous pictures of women had shown the same type of murder scene. Each revealed a woman bound with her throat slit, but those photos had appeared grainy and old, looking as if they’d been taken from a Polaroid camera.
Then there were the numerous pictures of Raymond. The first had been a copy of the crime scene photo taken of him after she’d shot and killed him. Then there had been photos from the funeral, followed by older ones of him, when he was still alive. It was a sick, twisted game someone was playing.
“It’s different,” Kat said.
“How can you tell?”
Kat shook her head. “Look at her. Her throat is slit like the other photos, but she’s not tied up. Her arms are free.”
Tara looked at the photo again, focusing on everything except the victim’s throat. “Why is someone sending these to me? Why?”
“Several of the papers painted you to be a hero for saving us. Some made it seem like you were the villain.”
“So are these photos a cry for help? Or a threat for vengeance?”
“I don’t know, but I plan to find out.”
“Do you think I haven’t been trying?”
“Trying alone. You have help now. Plus, you’ve hit a wall with the numbers. Throw away phones. We need to dig a little deeper, and I know just where to look.”
“Where it all started.”
“I thought we weren’t going back there.”
“We have to go back eventually. We have cases to wrap up, an office to pack. Besides, there’s nothing there that can hurt us.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Kat nodded. “I’m sure. I…I think I need to go back there. To prove something to myself. Do you understand?”
Tara did understand. It was just how Kat was made. “I’ll go with you.”
“No,” Kat argued with a shake of her head. “You need to stay here. If you go with me, it might make it easier to get to you. If vengeance is on this person’s mind, I want it to be as difficult as possible to get to you.”
Tara shuddered again, wrapping her arms around her waist. “I killed him, Kat. I pointed my gun and emptied it into him.”
“After he shot me,” Kat reminded her. “After he threatened to kill all of us. You had no choice.”
“I didn’t have to kill him.”
“You weren’t exactly thinking clearly at that point.”
“I’m trained. I knew what I was doing.” Tara finally admitted the truth. “I could have shot for his hand, his knee, any number of places, which would have incapacitated him. But when I looked at him, all I could see was that night. All I could feel were his hands on me, touching me. He shot you. I heard you yell, and…I wanted to kill him. I wanted him dead. So I killed him.”
“You did what you had to do. Don’t ever doubt that.”
“No,” Kat snapped out, interrupting. “Just no. He doesn’t get to hurt us anymore. Not anymore.”
“Kat?” Tara was stunned as her friend crumpled beside her, sobs racking her body, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. Tara pulled her close, and Kat rested her head on Tara’s shoulder. “We’re okay. We’re okay.”
“I couldn’t stop him. He hurt River. He hurt you. And I just stood there, powerless.”
“Oh, Kat.” Until that moment, Tara hadn’t really seen just how deeply he had hurt Kat.
“You don’t understand,” Kat wailed. “It’s all my fault, all my fault.”
“No, it’s not. None of us could have controlled anything he did.”
Kat wailed louder. “You’re so wrong.” She choked off her sobs, wiping furiously at her face. “I did this. Raymond hit on me at one of the parties. And I…I sent him sniffing in River’s direction. I told him she was more his type. This was entirely my fault.”
“Kat, that’s ridiculous. I don’t care if you made a neon sign that pointed toward River. You didn’t make him do the things he did.”
“No,” Tara stated emphatically.
Kat sniffled in a breath of air and sat up. Wiping more tears from her face, she nodded her head. “I will find out who is sending you these messages. Find the bastard and make him stop. I need to do this.” She grabbed Tara’s hands and squeezed them. “I need to do this.”