Forbidden pleasure, p.38
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.38

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
 
Page 38

 

  She swung her gaze back to Mac. A silent demand that he do something about Jethro. It was all he could do to contain his grin. He spread his hands in a gesture of compliance. “I guess you’ll just have to deal with him later, darlin’,” he told her. “For now, though, you might want to do as he suggests. I think you know neither damned one of us cares if the whole world knows who shares your bed. But I know you do. For now. ”

  Rather than giving her a chance to argue further, Mac moved from the truck, aware of the women who stood outside the house watching them. He moved to her door, opened it, and stared back at her.

  “For now?” she hissed incredulously as she was facing him once again, refusing to accept his hand in getting from the truck. “Is insanity rubbing off this week?”

  Jethro shifted behind her.

  Mac watched as her eyes widened just enough to assure him that she had felt the sensual threat behind her. As Mac gripped her waist and set her gently on the pavement, he was aware of the feminine nails pricking into his jacket, reminding him that he had every intention of joining that meeting until she convinced him to await her outside.

  “This isn’t going to work. ” She watched Jethro warily as he unfolded his long legs from the pickup and stepped out.

  Right there in full view, he shrugged his jacket off, turning his back to reveal the holster-encased pistol at the small of his back.

  Twitters of gossip sounded behind them as he threw the jacket to the backseat and turned to Keiley with a rakish smile.

  “Oh God,” she whispered, rolling her eyes as she glanced back at the women gathered together at the entrance to the house. “Jethro, I’m going to kick your ass. ”

  “You can try. ” He shrugged as he moved to the front seat and lounged back. “Sure you don’t want us to go in with you?”

  “And cause even more of a scene?” she muttered. “I knew that the two of you together were trouble. ”

  “It was a given. ” Jethro smiled. “We’ll wait right here on you now. ”

  Mac stared back at the house at the sound of the door opened, watching with narrowed eyes as Victoria Staten stepped elegantly from the house, followed closely by her daughter-in-law, Delia.

  Mac had known there wasn’t a chance Victoria would let him get away from there without seeing him. She might be the queen bee in Scotland Neck, but she had a heart, unlike her daughter-in-law.

  “John McCoy. What kind of trouble are you causing now?” she asked as she stepped down the wide stone steps, as slender and graceful as she had been for as long as he had know her.

  “I hate both of you,” Keiley muttered as Victoria and Delia came closer.

  “Be a good girl now, Keiley,” Mac told her softly. “You can kick us when we get home. ”

  “John, you rascal. ” Victoria’s voice was filled with affection as she neared him, lifting her hands to accept his as he moved closer to her. “You have all the ladies atwitter here tonight. Please tell me that you and your very handsome friend intend to wait on Keiley rather than joining her? All that testosterone in the same room with those women might be too much for them to handle. ”

  Her smile was as gentle and warm as it had been the night she found him, cold and hungry, curled beneath a bench in the park in town when he was barely fourteen.

  “Victoria, you’re as beautiful as the day I met you. ” He kissed her wrinkled cheek gently, aware of the frailty of her body when before she had seemed as strong and enduring as the mountains around them.

  “Flatterer. ” She reached up, patted his cheek with a soft hand, then turned and lifted a brow as Jethro stepped from the truck. “And who is this handsome fellow?”

  “Victoria, meet a good friend of mine and my previous partner in the Bureau, Jethro Riggs. Jethro, this is Mrs. Victoria Leia Staten, the most gracious lady to ever step foot in North Carolina. ”

  A light flush mounted her cheeks as her green eyes sparkled merrily back at Jethro.

  “Mr. Riggs, you have my ladies gasping,” she informed him as he took he hand and bestowed a flirtatious kiss on the back of it.

  “That happens a lot,” he whispered back at her, wicked charm glittering in his eyes as Mac caught Keiley closing her eyes helplessly. There was no doubt that she wasn’t ready to strangle them both now.

  “I bet that nasty gun at your back helps. ” Victoria leaned closer with a smile that assured both men that she knew what a man was, and she knew well their weaknesses.

  “It does seem to leave an impression,” Jethro chuckled as she stepped back and he released her hand.

  “Mac, you remember Delia. ” Victoria introduced her as Delia cleared her throat rudely. “My daughter-in-law. ”

  Delia flushed at the reminder, her brown eyes darkening with anger as her flat cheekbones flushed in anger.

  Delia was as pretty as she had ever been, but Mac sensed she was more vicious than he had ever suspected her of being.

  He nodded. “Evenin’, Delia. ”

  Jethro leaned against his hip, watching the scene with a sense of mounting fury. He could see the edge of cruelty in Delia Staten’s lips and in the vengeful glitter of her eyes as she glanced at Keiley.

  “We heard you had a friend staying,” Delia drawled, brushing back a strand of long silken brown hair over her shoulder. “Keiley’s been very greedy keeping the two of you to herself. ”

  Jethro’s jaw clenched at the veiled insult of her voice and watched as Mac tensed. Keiley’s chin lifted as her hazel eyes narrowed and Victoria Staten seemed resigned.

  “Delia, dear, why don’t you round everyone up and get them into the ballroom?” Victoria suggested. “Keiley and I will be up momentarily. ”

  It was a very polite, very pointed command.

  “Of course, Victoria,” she gritted out. “Do hurry, though, we can’t begin the meeting without you. ” Her gaze when it flicked to Keiley promised retribution.

  Jethro watched as the woman turned, graceful, furious, her back ramrod-straight, her chin held high as she stalked off.

  “Mrs. Staten, no offense intended, but that young woman could do well with a nice little spanking. ”

  Victoria’s eyes widened as Keiley gasped. A second later, a rich, feminine laugh filled the air.

  “You could be right, Mr. Riggs. Unfortunately, my son seems unable to apply the punishment as needed, I fear. ”

  “Poor guy. ” He shook his head disparagingly. “She runs right over him, huh?”

  Victoria turned to Mac. “Your friend is a bit of a rogue,” she informed him with the cutest little bow-shaped smile for a woman her age.

  “He’s a bit of something,” Keiley muttered behind her.

  Jethro arched his brow as he caught her gaze, promising her, promising himself, later, he would show her the fine art of heating up her backside as he heated that hot little pussy.

  “Now, Keiley, I think he seems like a fine young man,” Victoria disagreed. “Like Mac. Powerful and very aware of his own charm. ”

  Jethro wasn’t certain if that was a compliment or an insult. He glanced back at her, a grin tugging at his lips as her astute gaze went over him once again.

  “I can guess why the two of you are escorting Keiley. ” The laughter left her face as she glanced first from him to Mac. “These ugly rumors making their way around?”

  “I hear Delia’s behind much of the commotion, Victoria,” Mac stated softly. “I want it stopped. ”

  Victoria sighed at the rebuke in his voice. “I have no idea where she’s getting her information from. I’ve made my son aware of the problem, and he’s promised to take care of it. If he doesn’t, then I shall,” she promised. “But remember, John, this is a small community. Games played in private are rarely ever kept in quiet. ”

  Mac stared back at Victoria. He could see the knowledge in her eyes, her awareness of the tension that existed between him, Keiley, and Jethro. S
he wasn’t a dense woman. She knew men and she knew women, and she knew that the nature of gossip began from a grain of sand and revealed the mountain in the mist.

  “And you know I don’t give a damn about gossip,” Mac reminded her, his voice hardening. “But I won’t have Keiley hurt. ”

  “And what makes the two of you think I need you stepping in to fight my battles?” Keiley stepped away, flicking both of them an irate look at that point. “I’m going inside. You can play the badassed agents all you want. I’ve had enough of it. ”

  “Your language, dear,” Victoria reproved gently. “A lady never curses in public. There are much better ways to handle the delicate male ego. ”

  Keiley paused. “With a two-by-four?” she asked.

  Victoria’s lips pursed as a smile tugged at her lips.

  “Only as a last resort,” she murmured humorously. “And never in public. ”

  Keiley shook her head. “If your delicate male egos will excuse me,” she said mockingly, “I’m going inside. I can deal with the gossips easier than I can you two. ”

  Mac watched as she turned and headed for the wide stone steps that led to the porch and the double doors into the mansion.

  His eyes were on her butt. Those sweet swaying curves that he swore had to be bare beneath that dress. He couldn’t see a hint of a panty line.

  “You’ve been married three years, John McCoy,” Victoria’s amused, chastising voice had his gaze snapping back to her. “You ogle your wife’s backside in public now. ”

  His brow arched.

  “And your friend shouldn’t be ogling it at all. ” She turned a frown on Jethro, who at least had the grace to lower his gaze despite the grin that tilted the corners of his lips.

  “Rascals,” she accused fondly. “You’ve definitely livened up these meetings of late. The ladies are all speculating on the exact reasons why Keiley has been absent. But I think I’m more interested in the exact reason why a helicopter supposedly bearing FBI markings landed at your farm earlier. ” Her gaze chilled over and her expression became warning. “Don’t make me have to strain myself to get the information, John. You know I won’t be pleased. ”

  That was Victoria. Equal parts demand and gentle humor. Jethro stared back at her, surprised. “How did you know?”

  “My dear boy. ” Victoria’s smile was sugar-coated steel. “I know things that would make your hair turn gray. Most really doesn’t interest me, such as your relationship with John’s wife. But if she’s in any danger, then this does interest me. I’m rather fond of the child, and I’m rather determined to have my answers. So do be brief and do be honest. ” She stared back at Mac knowingly. “Remember, son, I can pick out a lie a mile away. Now start explaining. ”

  The minute Victoria Staten entered the ballroom, Keiley knew Mac had told her about the stalker. It wasn’t anything she did or anything she said. It was the way the other woman looked at her, piercing, compassionate. It was enough to cause her to grit her teeth in frustration.

  Keiley was well aware of the affection the older woman felt for Mac. Victoria had made it clear to her three years before that she had a soft spot for Mac and that she expected any wife of his to take her place within the social sphere governed by the Statens. Mac’s farm was one of the more prosperous properties, and she considered social acceptance to be the forefront of personal acceptance. She demanded that Keiley have her hand in several different committees. Committees that would shield her from Delia’s viperous tongue and gossiping snideness while ensuring her social acceptance whether Delia wished it or not.

  Keiley was well aware that Victoria had added her own subtle approval to her fledgling efforts to fit into the county’s evolving social structure. And she appreciated it. Keiley had always appreciated what Victoria Staten had done for her, but she had been careful to keep a very steady distance from her.
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