Forbidden pleasure, p.36
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.36

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
 
Page 36

 

  And Keiley understood that concern. Jethro’s face was pale, his gaze too bright, too unsettled.

  “He needs to rest, Mac,” she told her husband fiercely. “He was shot. ”

  “I was nicked and I’m fine. ” Jethro’s voice became graveled, darker. “You’re going to that meeting Keiley. Mac’s right, this is the best way to deal with this small-town bullshit. Face them and tell them to fuck off before they have a chance to blindside you. ”

  She stared at him in surprise as his jaw suddenly clenched and he gave his head a brief, hard shake.

  “Let’s do this, Kei. Then when we get home, I’ll rest. I promise. ” He was making an obvious effort to restrain his impatience and his anger.

  Keiley glanced at Mac, seeing the heaviness in his gaze, the worry as he watched his friend.

  Damn him, he deserved to worry. By bringing Jethro into this relationship as he had he was awakening demons that the other man had obviously forced into hiding.

  “You’re damned right you’ll rest,” she muttered as she took his hand and let him lead her from the kitchen. “Or I’ll knock you out. ”

  He didn’t answer. Instead, his hand moved from hers, allowing it to settle in the middle of her back as they moved up the stairs. She could feel the heaviness of his emotions, a weariness that had her glancing at him nervously.

  “I’m not going to hurt you,” he blew out roughly as they entered the bedroom.

  “I never imagined you would hurt me, Jethro,” she sighed. “But you’re hurt—”

  His head lifted, his gaze spearing into her, silencing her. She could see so much more now that they were no longer with Mac. Arrogance, definitely. There were no two men more arrogant than Jethro and Mac could be. But she saw more. Years of loneliness, of aching dissatisfaction.

  He reached out and touched her cheek gently, his calloused fingertips stroking her flesh almost in regret.

  “I wish I knew how to show you what I feel,” he whispered then. “How to touch you so you know how deeply you touch me, Kei. How to know the right words to make you understand the gift you give me. ”

  Her lips parted in surprise. “Jethro—”

  He laid his fingers against her lips.

  “From the moment I saw you, suddenly I wasn’t a ragged five-year-old anymore. I didn’t feel the disassociation I had to force on myself to endure living with strangers, all the while knowing there were those who shared my blood, who my parents trusted to watch over me if anything happened to me. The ice that had grown inside me over the years melted the night I met you, and I haven’t known what to do with the emotions you made me feel. ”

  “What are you saying?” she whispered in horror. “You had family? And they left you alone?”

  “Family. ” The bitter curve of his lips was anything but amused. “Family sticks together. These people were related by blood. My father’s brother. My mother’s mother. They signed the papers that turned a five-year-old still covered in his parents’ blood over to the state. I attended my parents’ funeral with my social worker, while those exalted family members wept over my parents’ caskets. ”

  Jethro pulled his hand back from her, raking it through his hair as he turned away from her. Hell, he wasn’t a kid anymore. Those years were long behind him. But the moment he saw Keiley more than three years ago they had risen inside him again with a force that had terrified him.

  As a child he had forced himself to disassociate from his emotions. To watch and analyze others’. To understand what drove them rather than to participate in their emotions or their lives.

  When he met Mac, the other man had forced him to view life with a bit more participation. He pushed, he manipulated, and he bribed Jethro with the tender emotions of the lovers they shared. But not until Keiley had he actually been forced to love.

  “What happened, Jethro?” He stiffened as he felt her behind him, felt her arms wrap around his waist as she laid her head against his back.

  “My father had a brain tumor. It was affecting his emotions, his perceptions of reality. No one knew how bad it was until the day he killed his wife and then himself. ” He frowned, remembering his parents with a clarity that often raged inside him.

  His mother, Lucia, had been gorgeous. Long black hair, laughing blue eyes, and a smile that lit up the world. His father had been tall, strong, invincible, until the day he turned a gun on both his wife and himself.

  He heard himself talking, whispering the words to Keiley, but the memories held him.

  He had been secure. Happy. He had lived in the big brick home on a hill and his father had been building him a tree house when his world collapsed around him.

  “And when they were gone, everything was gone. ” He was finished, frowning at the lack of emotion he detected in his own voice. It should have been raging with emotion. It should have been an animal’s snarl of rage for all he felt as he let himself remember. “My parents had discussed what would happen if anything happened to them. Their will gave my uncle care and custody of me and anything they had. The state took the house for taxes and debts. But everyone I shared blood with washed their hands of me and let the state take me as well. ”

  “Everyone?” She heard the pain in his voice. “There was no one?”

  “No one. ” He turned, easing from her hold as he breathed in heavily. “I survived, though. I stopped caring. ” He stared back at her then. “I made myself stop caring. I couldn’t afford to hate, to hope, or to love. I wiped them out of my mind and I set about surviving from one foster home to another. Until I graduated and went to college. ” His lips edged into a grin then. “Then I met Mac. Mac doesn’t do anything by half measures, and I think the fact that I refused to feel just irked the hell out of him. ”

  He sat down, feeling an edge of weariness creeping over him. Then he reached out, amazed at how easily Keiley moved to his lap, allowing him to hold her, holding him in return.

  “Mac can be like that,” she said gently, her head at his shoulder as he buried his hand in her hair and held her to him.

  The soft weight of her, the warmth of her, it speared into his soul like sunlight.

  “Then came Keiley,” he whispered. “I took one look at you and felt the last of my defenses melting away. I couldn’t speak to you. I couldn’t go near you. You terrified the hell out of me, so I guided Mac to you. ”

  Because he had known Mac would complete her more than he ever could. She had the shadows of lost dreams in her eyes, and a wariness he knew he would only make worse. A wariness Mac could heal.

  “I thought he would call me within a few weeks. A few months. ‘Hey Jethro,’ he’d say, ‘come on over and play’” He felt his expression twist at the memory of the loss he had felt when that call hadn’t come. “Instead, he called and told me he was marrying you. ”

  “And you just accepted it?”

  “Yeah. I did. ” He nodded, heavily. “Because I love you both, Kei. Mac is my only true family, and you were my heart. You two suited each other. ”

  “You were too scared. ”

  Trust Keiley to get to the heart of the matter.

  “The big tough agent was too scared of a girl to even speak to her. ” Her voice resonated with the beginning heat of anger.

  “Yeah, he was. ” He could grin now, though it hurt. “You scared the hell out of me. Because you made me feel. With those big hazel eyes and that wary smile. Mac though, he knew how to fix what hurt you, whereas I would have pushed and hurt you worse. A part of me knew I just had to wait. Mac and I—we balance each other out. We’re both scarred, Keiley, but you heal us. I always knew you would heal us. ”

  “I’m possessive, Jethro,” she said then. “I’m so scared you’re going to realize this isn’t what you really want. That you need your own woman, one you don’t have to share. Your own family. ”

  “I have my family. ” His arms tightened around her. “You and
Mac are my family, Kei. You made me feel things I swore I would never feel. You made me dream of warmth and forever. Don’t take it away now, not if it’s in you to love me. ”

  Keiley heard the reservation in his voice then, the automatic defense against rejection and wanted to weep. God help her, what she was going to do with him and Mac? They were breaking every rule ever created for a relationship and making her think it could work.

  “Come on, you have to shower. ” He lifted her to her feet, rising behind her as he pushed her toward the bathroom. “Get in there. Or you’ll be late.

  She turned back to him instead. “I—”

  He laid his fingers on her lips. “You just needed to know the why of it, Keiley. Don’t make any decisions. Don’t worry about any of it. Decisions can wait, but sometimes, they come easier later if the understanding is there. I just wanted you to understand. ”

  Understand that everyone he should have been able to trust in as a child had betrayed him. As they had Mac. As she had been betrayed.

  “Damn, we make a hell of a trio,” she sighed. “I think dysfunction is going to be our middle name. ”

  A grunt of a laugh surprised him. She made him laugh. She made him smile. She made him forget the shadows that had followed him the better part of his life.

  “I love you, Kei,” he said softly then, watching the somberness that filled her gaze. “If you can’t love me, I’ll live. But nothing will change what I feel for you. And only for you. Now get that shower before the director demands my presence. Mac and I don’t have a problem sharing you between us, but if that bastard sees you naked and soft I might have to kill him. ”

  He pushed her gently toward the bathroom. “Go on sweetheart. Remember, decisions are for later. For now, we have the ogre of the Bureau to face. ”

  20

  “Director Williams, you remember my wife, Keiley. ” Mac held his hand out to her as she stepped closer.

  “Hello, Director Williams. It’s good to see you again. ”

  Richard Williams was a broad, rounded little man. He could have been a perfect St. Nick if his hair had been a bit more gray. His smile was wide, his cheeks ruddy, and sky-blue eyes twinkled back at her as he shook her hand.

  “It’s good to see you again, Mrs. McCoy. I’m just sorry it was under these circumstances. As I was telling Mac, I’ve sent several agents onto the property to check for any evidence the shooter may have left. I know he was uncomfortable leaving you here alone while he and Jethro took care of it. ”

  “Mac and Jethro will handle the circumstances,” she responded, aware of Jethro moving just behind her shoulder as Mac stood at her side. “But I appreciate the help. ”

  “Jethro. ” The merriment in the director’s gaze chilled as he glanced over his shoulder. “You were supposed to be on suspension, if you recall. ”

  “I’m enjoying my vacation greatly, Director Williams. ”

  She wondered if the director caught the slight edge of tension in his voice, though.

  He grunted at Jethro’s comment before turning back to Mac.

  “Tell me what you need,” he ordered then. His deep voice would have been booming if it weren’t for the control Keiley heard in it.

  “The files I requested as well as access to the Bureau’s database. I want to catch him while he’s here, Director. It’s time to end this. ”

  “I’m sure his other victims feel the same. ” Williams nodded as he pushed his hands into the pockets of his slacks, pulling his jacket back as he stared back at them. “I’ve reinstated Jethro for this. We don’t need any problems once the Playboy is in custody. We’ll discuss the disciplinary measures you ignored when you return to D. C. ,” he told Jethro.

  “Discussion is the spice of life, Director. You know how much I enjoy it. ”
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