Forbidden pleasure, p.30
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.30

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
 
Page 30

 

  As Mac showered, Keiley cut the roast into chunks before tossing them in the pot, covering them with water, and setting them back on the burner.

  That taken care of, she set about cutting and chopping the vegetables for the vegetable soup she had planned to fix.

  “You’re a good cook,” Jethro suddenly announced from behind her, causing her to glance quickly over her shoulder.

  He was staring at her broodingly, much the way Mac looked when he was debating a problem.

  “Thanks. ”

  “Did your mother teach you how to cook?”

  Keiley paused in preparing the vegetables, staring down at the celery she was destringing before a sad smile tugged at her lips.

  “Mom was an excellent cook. ”

  She had been. The perfect homemaker, a good wife and mother until her life had gone to hell.

  “You look like her,” he stated then.

  Keiley froze before turning to face him slowly.

  “I ran a check on you when I saw how fast Mac was falling in love with you. ” There was no apology in his expression, just that brooding, questioning gaze.

  “Great,” she muttered. “Thanks for letting me know. ” It was information she could have done without.

  “You rose above their mistakes. ” He leaned back against the wall lazily, though his expression didn’t change. “It must have been hard, though. ”

  “What must have been hard? Not embezzling when I had the chance? Staying away from the liquor when things got hard? Sorry, Jethro, but it was no chore at all. ” She sliced the celery with brutal strokes. “It was actually pretty damned easy. ”

  “You were eighteen when your mother committed suicide. Your father died of a heart attack a year later, in prison. From what I learned, the community you lived in pretty much ostracized you. ”

  Yes. They had. They had talked and gossiped and made her life hell by turning their backs on her and whispering whenever they saw her.

  “I survived. ”

  “Beautifully,” he said calmly.

  “What’s the point behind this, Jethro?” She laid the knife down carefully before turning to him and meeting his gaze directly. “Do you torture your lovers for the hell of it, or is it an added bonus?”

  His gaze flared. Brilliant pinpoints of glittering arousal suddenly filled it as his eyes raked over her body.

  “Are you my lover?”

  Keiley blinked back at him in surprise. There was a darkness in his tone that had her stepping back, a fierce, sudden vein of possessiveness in his voice.

  “I’m Mac’s wife,” she whispered. “But I would assume what’s been going on here in the past few days makes me your lover as well. For now. ”

  His lips quirked with a hard edge. “Yes, for now. ”

  The tension emanating from him was thick enough to make her catch her breath.

  “What about you?” She tilted her head curiously. “What would you call it?”

  “Disastrous,” he suddenly stated, raking his fingers through his hair and pulling free the elastic band that had held it behind his neck. It framed his face now, laying longer than Mac’s, and giving his expression a harder, more savage appearance.

  “I’ll agree with you there. ” She turned back to the vegetables, willing her heart to slow down, her pulse to stop choking her with the fierce, hard throbs she could feel at her throat.

  “Then why are you allowing it?” he suddenly snarled. “You’re sleeping with your husband’s best friend. You’re not even cheating, Keiley. You’re letting him pawn you out like a favorite shirt. ”

  “God damn you!” She rounded on him, the knife still gripped in her hand, fury racing through her now. “If you don’t like it, then pack your shit up and leave. I didn’t ask you to come here. I didn’t ask you or Mac to begin this debacle, and I’ll be damned if either of you will punish me for it. ”

  His curse was blistering as he turned away from her and paced across the room. “You didn’t deserve that. I’m sorry. ”

  “No, I didn’t,” she snapped back. “And you can shove your apology. If it can come out of your damned mouth, then you can stand by it. ”

  He swung around on her. “I apologize. ”

  “I don’t want your apology,” she informed him in disgust. “Let me give you a clue here, Jethro. The same one I gave Mac years ago. Just because you’re here, just because you’re sharing my bed, does not give you the right to spill trash out of your mouth and excuse it with an apology. Make that mistake again and you’ll leave. ”

  His eyes narrowed. “Will I now?”

  “Oh hell yes, you will,” she informed him. “All that he-man alpha stuff is real arousing. It’s even cute sometimes. But you can take your attitude somewhere else, because I’ll be damned if I’ll put up with it. ”

  And she meant it. Jethro stared at the anger in her eyes, the flush mounting her cheeks, and he would have smiled if she weren’t holding that knife like a weapon rather than a tool.

  His gaze flickered to it. “Are you going to use that?”

  “Don’t put it past her. ” Mac stepped into the room, his gray eyes gleaming with amusement but also a hint of anger. “What did you do to piss her off?”

  “Nothing. ” Keiley turned and began attacking the vegetables, as Jethro suspected she wanted to attack his head.

  “I said something stupid,” he answered for her. “She seems unwilling to accept my apology. ”

  He started back at Mac, meeting his friend’s eyes, knowing he had done Keiley an injustice even as those earlier words had slipped past his lips.

  “She’s bad for that. ” Mac shrugged. “She tossed me out of my own apartment at two o’clock in the morning before we even started sleeping together. ”

  Jethro watched as Mac eased over to her, his arm going around her, his lips at her ear as he whispered something that had a snort of a laugh erupting as she pushed him away with a look filled with exasperation and amusement.

  “Get out of here,” she ordered. “And take him with you. ” She pointed the knife over her shoulder at Jethro.

  “He stays,” Mac informed her, his voice firm. “I’m not leaving you here alone. ”

  She glared over her shoulder at him. “There might be bloodshed. ”

  “Just be sure to leave him in fighting shape. ” Mac shrugged. “If he’s dumb enough to tempt a woman wielding a knife, then he deserves everything after that. ”

  But he cast Jethro a warning look. Jethro folded his arms over his chest and stared back at him coolly before frowning at the knowing grin Mac finally gave him.

  “I’ll let you two fight it out, then. ” He patted Keiley’s butt, jumping quickly out of the way as she slapped at his hand.

  Still chuckling, he pulled his shirt on, buttoned it, and tucked it quickly into his jeans before pulling on his boots.

  “I’ll be around the stables and barns,” he informed them both. “I let farmhands leave a few hours ago and I want to make certain everything’s running smoothly before this evening. ”

  “I told you I would cancel that, Mac,” Keiley muttered.

  “She has a meeting with her charity committee tonight for an hour or so,” Mac said to Jethro. “We’re going with her. ”

  “That is not going to work,” she snapped.

  “We’ll sit in the truck and wait on you. You are not going by yourself and you’re not missing it. You look forward to this all year, Keiley. You’re not going to let Delia’s poison ruin it for you. ”

  “And you bitch about it all year,” she argued back. “So you can get out of it this time. ”

  “The hell I will!” Mac glowered back at her.

  The interplay was interesting, fiery, yet Jethro could detect the respect and bonding Mac and Keiley had developed over the years. It made him ache. Made him want to be a part of it even though he knew it was never going to happe
n.

  “Keiley, I’m not letting this bastard steal this from you. ” Mac’s voice suddenly softened as he stared back at her profile. “We’ll go to the meeting and then catch dinner in town. We’re not hiding. ”

  “Delia will be there. ”

  Jethro watched her fist clench on the counter.

  “So Delia will be there. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend you’re not my fucking wife for that bitch. Get that off your mind. If she hasn’t accepted the fact that it’s not going to happen between me and her in fifteen years, then you can pretty much bet she’s not going to figure it out, and you can go on with your life. ”

  She looked over her shoulder at Jethro. “She’ll be rude. ”

  “And then me and Victoria will have a little talk about the nature of the Bureau and exactly what she doesn’t want my friends looking into. ” Mac shrugged then. “Big deal. Do you want to hide for the rest of your life from the likes of her?”

  Keiley muttered a little curse that had Mac’s brow lifting and a smile tugging at his lips. “That’s my girl. I’ll be back in a little bit. Mind Jethro. He’s an asshole, but he knows how to protect you. ”

  “Thanks for the reference,” Jethro growled.

  “Welcome, bud. ” Lifting his hand, Mac punched in the alarm code before opening the back door, calling Pappy to him, and leaving the house.

  Moving behind him, Jethro reset the code and turned slowly back to Keiley.

  She was dumping the vegetables into a large bowl of water, her back still to him, the knife laying harmlessly on the counter.

  “Would you really use the knife?” he asked her.

  The look she gave him wasn’t a compliment. It was the look a woman gave a man she considered less than an imbecile.

  “No. I wouldn’t use the knife on you. ”

  “Mac seemed worried enough about it. ”

  “Because Mac knows I’ll brain him for being a moron,” she snapped. “I don’t handle the big strong male being stupid very well. ”

  “I was being stupid,” he agreed.

  She stared back at him silently, her expression pulled into lines of weary acknowledgment.

  “Maybe I deserved it,” she finally whispered as she turned back to the sink, dampened a cloth, and began wiping the counter down.

  She didn’t deserve it. She deserved a man who recognized what a treasure he had. A treasure that wasn’t meant to be shared.

  “Why do you say that?”

  He watched as she breathed in deeply before turning back to him.

  “I knew about Sinclair’s Club before I married Mac. ” She shrugged, the cloth clenched in her hand. “After I learned he was a member, maybe I let my own fantasies weave around it too much. ”

  Jethro felt his expression flinch. “What are you saying?”

  “I knew about you and Mac,” she snapped angrily. “I heard the rumors about the two of you, then I heard the rumor that he was a part of the club. Mac didn’t force me into this, Jethro. Mac hasn’t made me fantasize about it. And he didn’t pawn me off like an old shirt. I knew what I was doing. ”

  “You fantasized about me?” That surprised him. He hadn’t seen her since the first months after her marriage to Mac, and he had made certain not to so much as flirt with her during that time.

  “Sometimes. ” Her shoulders shifted defensively. “Look, Jethro, I love Mac. Heart and soul. He’s my life—”

  She broke off, her teeth biting at her lower lip as she quickly turned away.

  “But?”

  “But I knew this was a part of him when I married him,” she said softly. “I sensed it was a part he wouldn’t be able to leave behind him. ”

  Admitting that to herself was something that had been hard for Keiley to do over the past few days. Looking into herself and seeing that she had known this path was coming, whether she let herself realize it or not, hadn’t been easy.
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