Forbidden pleasure, p.32
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.32

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 32


  He saw the betrayal in her eyes, the fear. Hell, he hadn’t expected to have things become so damned complicated. But they were. She had every damned right to be outraged.

  “I knew you would never take another man into your bed without it,” he told her then. “Keiley, you’re not a casual woman, I always knew that. From the first day I met you, I knew you would never be the type of woman to play games like this with a succession of different men. And I knew I could never handle that. ”

  “You couldn’t handle that?” she grated out, staring back at him as though he were a stranger. And perhaps he was. He had never shown her the parts of himself that mattered. He had kept them hidden away, kept them tucked carefully in a dark little box until they had grown too hungry to stay put any longer.

  “What’s going on here, Mac? Did you suddenly decide you’ve had too much of married life and decide to find a man you approved of for me? Are you ready to leave? Are you missing something I’m not giving you?” Her voice rose with each question, betrayal and pain filling her tone as his eyes narrowed on her.

  “Never,” he bit out, reaching out for her, gripping her shoulders with his hands as he gave her a small, firm shake. “Do you hear me, Keiley? I will never let you go. ”

  “Stop manhandling me. ” She tore out of his grip, putting distance between them once again before turning back to glare at him. “What did you think you would accomplish here, then? Is there something going on between you and Jethro that I need to know about? What?”

  Mac’s head jerked up incredulously. “Are you asking if me and Jethro are bisexual, Keiley?”

  “I think that about sums it up, Mac. ” Her arms crossed over her breasts as she threw her hip forward in confrontation.

  She had no idea how hot it made him, having her defy him, having her anger meet his dominance head-on.

  “Not even a chance in hell. ” He grinned tightly. “The only ass I have a mind to fuck is yours, sweetheart. ”

  “Not even in your greatest fantasy. ” Her arm struck out, her finger pointing back at him furiously. “You can shove your dick up your own ass for all I care. If you’re not bisexual, then what the hell did you hope to gain? Is your wife loving you too much pressure? What? What in the hell would possess you to attempt to make me fall in love with another man?”

  “I’d like to hear that answer myself. ” Jethro stepped into the room, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression controlled, his eyes glittering with anger.

  Mac almost smiled. These were the two people he loved most in the world. Jethro was like a brother to him, and Keiley, hell, she was his soul, but Mac knew himself. Just as he knew his friend.

  “How many women have you shared since I got married?” Mac asked him.

  “That has nothing to do with this, Mac. ”

  “Answer the damned question,” he snapped. “How many?”

  Jethro glowered back at him. “None. ”

  He turned back to Keiley. “When he’s gone, will you let another stranger in your bed? One I’m not certain how far to trust with my wife rather than a lover? Don’t you think you’ll sense that discomfort?”

  “As Jethro said, what the hell does that have to do with anything?”

  “Connection and bonding,” Mac snapped back at them both. “Sometimes it takes three to make a whole. There’s only one man I trust enough to hold you without me, and that’s Jethro. And I know Jethro. He was half in love with you when I met you and too damned stupid to do anything about it. This way, we all get what we want and we’re damned happy with it. ”

  “Happy with it because it’s what you decree?” Keiley yelled back.

  “Hell, yes!” That one shut her up. She stared back at him, her lips parted in shock, her eyes wide with it. “I’m sick to death of denying what I am. And by God, you try telling me you’ll ever let any other man in your bed with us!”

  “And what about Jethro?” she cried out. “Don’t you think he deserves a woman who loves him? Just him?”

  “Is that what you want, Jethro?” Mac asked him.

  “I have what I want,” Jethro answered softly.

  “What about me?” She was seething now, like a volcano ready to blow. “Do you think I want to live my life putting up with two fucking pricks rather than one? Well, you have another damned think coming, you son of a bitch. At this moment, I’ll be damned if I’ll let either one of you back in my fucking bed. ”

  Damn, he was in trouble now. She wasn’t just screaming, but her face was flushed, her eyes a chocolate brown, and she was cussing. A lot. Keiley wasn’t much of a cusser until she was ready to brain some idiot male who had finally pushed her patience to the limit. Even Jethro was watching her warily now.

  “You could have tried discussing this with me first,” Jethro muttered.

  “Wouldn’t have been as effective. ” Mac shrugged, keeping his eyes on Keiley as she stared between them as though observing some strange, alien set of creatures.

  “I’m married to a crazy man,” Keiley muttered, shaking her head as she continued to stare at him in dumbfounded confusion. “Mac, have you lost your mind somewhere in the cow shit lately?” Her voice sliced through the air like a razor.

  His lips twitched. She was at her most confrontational, her most defiant.

  “Not lately,” he assured her.

  “Somewhere in the past, then, and I didn’t notice it?” she asked with false sweetness.

  His eyes narrowed on her further as he heard the anger in her tone, her confusion.

  Keiley glanced at Jethro. This time, he was the one leaning lazily against the wall, watching the exchange thoughtfully. But Jethro’s thoughtful expression was a bit more menacing than Mac’s.

  Keiley breathed in deeply, smoothed her hands down her dress, then stared back at her husband as confusion swamped anger and left her helpless before the regret she saw in his eyes.

  “Why, Mac?” she finally whispered. “Why in God’s name would you want me to love another man?”

  “Because it completes all of us,” he answered her gently. “Because it’s the only way I can be certain that no part of the past remains inside me. It’s the only way Jethro can fully give himself. And it gives you a balance, a freedom you wouldn’t have otherwise. Because without it, I wake up shaking with the thought of what I could do to both of us. Without it, Jethro would continue on the same damned path he returned to when I left. Not giving a damned damn about life, one way or the other, because the balance is gone. ”

  “And you think you can just make this decision for us on your own?” She shook her head, staring back at Jethro as he lowered his head, his expression rueful as he shook his head slowly.

  “Do you love her, Jethro?” Mac didn’t take his eyes off her.

  Jethro’s head jerked up, and Keiley saw it. She saw the emotions raging through him, things she hadn’t wanted to see before.

  “If he left tomorrow, Keiley, would you cry?”

  “That’s not love, Mac,” she whispered, shaking her head herself now. “That’s not love. And I’m not playing this game with you. Not anymore. ”

  She turned and walked out of the bedroom, moving slowly, aware of the two men following her, their expressions counterpoints to each other.

  Counterpoints. Balances. A team in a way Keiley had never imagined and couldn’t fully understand.

  She moved down the stairs, aware of Jethro edging around her, moving in front of her, checking each room before she entered it. But the knowledge was distant, just as the awareness of the two men was distant. Suddenly, Keiley felt more alone than she had ever been in her life. Held suspended, watching events that she couldn’t understand how she had become a part of.

  As she moved to the stove to check the roast boiling merrily, she was aware of Jethro leaving out the back door, but Mac stayed behind. Her house was becoming a merry-go-round of two men shifting and revolvi
ng around her.

  Behind her, Mac pulled out a chair, and she heard his sigh as he sat down.

  “I was five when I first realized what hatred was,” he suddenly said.

  Keiley swung around in surprise. He always refused to discuss his childhood.

  “Dad was insistent that I make friends with this kid on the other side of town. Tobias Blackwood. ” He wiped his hand down his face. “A shadow of a kid, though I didn’t realize then the ghosts he lived with or the reason my father insisted on the friendship. See, Dad liked an audience when he really got wound up, and showing another kid what a pussy his son was made him feel like a man. ”

  Keiley felt the horror reflected in Mac’s eyes.

  “It was late. After dark. Tobias and I had stayed outside as long as we could. We didn’t talk much, batted around the hills some, played some halfhearted basketball. But then we couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to go in.

  “He got started on Mom during dinner. He asked her what she had done that day. See, he had sent her to the store for groceries while he did chores outside. ” His expression became distant. “She told him what she did, who she saw, how much the groceries cost, and the state of the damned vegetable bin. And I could see the fear building in her eyes. Was the owner there, he asked her. She shrugged and said she hadn’t seen him. And that crazy light lit his eyes. And I knew what was coming. ”

  As Mac spoke, he stared around the kitchen. Once, the table had sat where the washroom was now. His mother had kept eating, small bites that she pushed into her mouth as her husband accused her of fucking the grocer. How long had it taken? How many times did she think she could do it and not get caught? He couldn’t walk in the store without the grocer smirking in amusement. Didn’t she know what a whore she was? An embarrassment.

  Mac had chanced to look up at Tobias. The motherless boy was staring at his plate, his hands in his lap, unable to eat. And then Mac’s father had glanced at him.

  You fucking bitch, look how you’ve ruined that kid’s meal. You ruin everything. I’ll have to go to another town just to buy groceries because you can’t keep your skirt around your fucking knees.

  Tears had streaked her face and he had raged over that. As the meal drew to a close he turned to Mac. Johnnie, make sure your woman’s not a whore when you get one.

  Then he had just stopped. His expression had evened out, and he began talking as though he hadn’t been raging for nearly an hour. As though he hadn’t just revealed the hell Mac lived with in front of another kid. A kid who could tell it. Who could go to school and relate his mother’s shame.

  “He never said anything. ” Mac shook his head. “Tobias never told, and I made sure I never had company after that again. But I learned hatred. And I swore it wouldn’t happen to me, Kei. ”

  He didn’t whine. He didn’t beg. He lifted his head and he stared back at her, his jaw clenched.

  “I’ll never speak of this again. I never want to discuss it, ever again. Over the years, it grew steadily worse until one day Mom got sick. ” He couldn’t look at her. He inhaled roughly, remembering his fragile, timid little mother. “She got a fever and tried to say it was just a cold. Three days later she couldn’t get out of bed. Dad picked her up and carried her to the truck and took her to the doctor. They wanted her in the hospital, but he wanted her home. So she came home. She died the next evening. ”

  “It wasn’t your fault,” she whispered. “She should have left him. She should have killed him. ”

  His lips twisted. “I told her the same thing. ” He raised his gaze to hers, the pain and fury at the pain crashing over him. “She said she made the vow. It was her mistake. In sickness, in health, for better or worse. It was her mistake and God would take care of her when she couldn’t live with it any longer. ”
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