Forbidden pleasure, p.39
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.39

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
 
Page 39

 

  First and foremost had been the early information that Delia still lusted after Mac, and the fact that Delia was Victoria’s daughter-in-law, Keiley knew, placed the older woman in a delicate position. A position she didn’t want to have to test.

  “What in the world is going on?” Maxine muttered beside her as Victoria’s gaze lingered on Keiley before turning away.

  “Who knows?” Keiley answered on a sigh. But she did know, and Keiley had a bad feeling she might know more than Keiley wanted her to.

  “Mac’s told her something, hasn’t he?” her friend asked.

  Keiley snorted. “Do you honestly think Mac could keep a secret from her?”

  “Only if he really wanted to. ” Max shook her red head. “They have a soft spot for each other that goes way back. I swear, if it hadn’t been for Victoria’s intervention when he was a child, Mac’s father would have destroyed him along with his mother. ”

  Keiley knew about that intervention. How Victoria had befriended Mac and applied subtle pressure to his father, of the financial sort, to ensure that Mac wasn’t hurt. At least not physically.

  “Well, he must not have wanted to keep his silence, then,” Keiley sighed. Not that she resented the older woman having the knowledge. It would stay silent, secure. Victoria would do nothing to harm Mac in any way, and Keiley knew it.

  “Is he any closer to catching that creep?” Max kept her voice low, her gaze carefully tracking anyone who would have listened.

  “Let’s hope so. ” Keiley nearly shuddered at the memory of the shooting. Her system was still frayed, her nerves ragged. She didn’t need to be here. She needed to be with Mac. She needed to know he was okay rather than in full view of a bastard with a gun. “Let’s pray so. ”

  Max’s hand settled on her back, her touch compassionate, sympathetic, but Keiley had never felt so alone.

  As Victoria took her place at the small podium at the front of the room and called the meeting to session, Keiley found her seat, sat back, and tried to relax. As she faced the women of the charity committee, she realized she didn’t give a damn about the gossip. Let their tongues wag. Let them talk. The gossip meant nothing. Hell, even if they knew the truth, it meant nothing. There were two men awaiting her outside, both determined to protect her, to keep her secure. Both supremely confident in their abilities to do not just that, but also to love her equally, to share her without remorse, without bias.

  How many women had the chance to hold the hearts of two men such as Mac and Jethro? As the meeting progressed around her, Keiley admitted that for the first time since her father’s suicide, she didn’t care what those around her had to gossip about. She definitely didn’t care if they suspected what was going on in the privacy of her bedroom.

  That was her bedroom. If she held the hearts of two men, two men willing to share her love, then it was her business. It wasn’t theirs. And if they wanted to make it their business, then let them have at it. She had seen too much, known too many lonely days and nights before she met Mac, to ever want to return there. She wasn’t throwing away something she wanted, something she needed, because of gossip.

  Finally, blessedly, the meeting came to an end. Victoria Staten released them with a graceful nod to the buffet and snacks set up in the back of the ballroom with a pointed reminder that everyone should attend the next meeting, which would finalize the details for the booths.

  Keiley rose hastily to her feet, waiting impatiently as Victoria left the podium and moved for the ballroom doors as a maid moved to open them.

  “I have some things to see to for just a moment,” she informed the room at large. “I’ll return in a bit. ”

  And Keiley had every intention of escaping. But seconds after Victoria left, Delia stepped in front of her.

  “Keiley, could you come to the committee board?” She extended her hand to the long table where the women of the committee still stood. All but Victoria Staten.

  “Of course,” Keiley murmured before following the other woman suspiciously.

  She didn’t trust Delia, and she didn’t trust the glitter of triumph in her gaze.

  “Hello, ladies. ” Keiley nodded to the six women who hadn’t bothered to stand as she approached. “What can I do for you?”

  “You can resign from the committee. ” Delia laid a resignation form on the table in front of her as Keiley stared back at her, trying to hide her incredulity.

  “Resign? Delia, why would I want to do anything so insane?” She would lose heavily if she resigned now. Not only would she lose the money she had invested in the charity booth, but she would have to pay a heavy loss for walking away.

  “I believe you’ll consider it in your best interests when you see this. ” The other woman removed a picture and slapped it down on the table in front of her.

  Keiley felt the blood drain from her face. For a moment, the room darkened, and she had a horrifying fear of losing the strength in her legs.

  Nothing could be more incriminating. The picture had to have been taken from a crack in the curtains over the wide living room windows of her home. It was positioned perfectly to catch the full view of Mac, Keiley, and Jethro. Naked. Obviously engaged in a full ménage act, their expressions tight with ecstasy.

  Keiley picked up the picture, watching the print shaking in her hand and realizing her fingers were trembling violently.

  “Where did you get this?”

  “Does it matter where I got it?” Delia questioned snidely. “I have it. And so will everyone you know if you don’t sign that paper. ”

  They would have it whether she signed the paper or not. She lifted her gaze and met the condemning stares of the other head committee members.

  She could feel the heat of humiliated anger rising in her face and refused to bow down to it. This picture was an invasion of her privacy, of her home, of her life.

  “Are you truly this vindictive, Delia?” she asked, even though she knew the other woman was. “Is your life truly so pitiful that you have to destroy others to make it seem worthwhile?”

  She looked at the other woman, watching as a flush of fury mounted her cheeks.

  “You’re not wanted here, by any of us,” Delia snapped. “You should have never married Mac and you should have never come here. You don’t fit in and sluts like you are not wanted. ”

  “What about the slut who is so hot for another woman’s husband that she’ll resort to this?” Keiley retorted, indicating the picture as she stared back at Delia. “Do you think for one second you’ll ever have Mac?”

  Her lips thinned, and for a moment Keiley glimpsed the gloating satisfaction in Delia’s gaze. Delia didn’t care at this point if she managed to snag Mac to her bed or not. The point was, Mac had rejected her all those years ago. He was the only man to have done so, the only thing she had wanted that she couldn’t have.

  “I’m not resigning. ”

  “Then this picture will hit the Internet within hours,” Delia drawled smoothly. “Everyone in Scotland Neck will see it and they’ll know you for the whore you are. ”

  “You’re such an amateur, Delia. ” Keiley shook her head sadly as she folded the picture and secured it in her purse. “You should be certain when blackmailing a person that they give a damn about the blackmailing material. Of course, I’m just the slut having sex in my own home. I’ll be sure to give Mac your demands and see how he feels about it. ”

  Keiley watched her composure slip marginally then. Delia hadn’t anticipated this. Though why she hadn’t, Keiley couldn’t understand.

  “If I post that picture he’ll be humiliated,” Delia snapped.

  Keiley shook her head. “You really don’t know Mac, do you, Delia? The first thing he’s going to do is come down on your husband’s head like a ton of bricks. Then he’s going to call his very good friend, your mother-in-law, and he’ll come down on her head like a ton of a bricks. And then. ” S
he looked at each of the other members. “He’s going to come after the rest of you. You should really research your victims closer and make sure they give a fuck about the blackmail material. ”

  Keiley was aware of the fury vibrating in her voice then. She knew it was shaking through her, shuddering violently through her insides. Her stomach knotted with rage and the flashback to the helpless teen she had been when a community had turned against her tore through her.

  She could see the nervous uncertainty working through the other women of the committee then. The heads of the charity committee, mostly older women, certain in their morality and their judgments. Certain that Keiley would be as horrified by her secrets coming out as they would have been.

  Victoria had made a mistake in choosing these older women, and especially in choosing her daughter-in-law as the only younger member of this group. Because Delia didn’t have a clue about her own peers. Alternate sexual lifestyles among her age group were not that uncommon.

  “This will ruin you,” Delia snarled. “No one in Scotland Neck will work with you and you’ll definitely not be wanted within the organizations you’re a part of now. You’ll be an outcast, Keiley. ”

  “So cast me out. ” Keiley smiled coldly. “I don’t need you or the fine people of this county to work. And I promise you, Delia, my clients don’t give a damn who I sleep with. All they care about is the bottom dollar, and I bring that in excellently. ”

  “And Mac?” Delia sneered. “What about him?”

  Keiley gave her a pitying glance. “You obviously don’t know Mac very well. By time he’s finished with the husbands of this fine group, no one will dare ostracize him or me. Get a clue here, Delia. He has friends in the FBI. Friends who, I promise you, wouldn’t blink at the picture. Or at the hell they can make your life. And yours. ” She turned to Victoria’s sister-in-law. “Or yours. ” Victoria’s best friend. “Or yours and yours and yours. ” Each member of the committee was staring back at her in horror. “Cut your losses, ladies,” she sneered. “Because if you don’t, I promise you, Mac will make certain you wished you had. ”

  She wasn’t wasting so much as another moment here. The longer she stood here, the more the demons of the past bit at her. The humiliating memory of trying to be so good, of trying to redeem herself in the eyes of a community where she had never sinned. Of paying for her parents’ sins and realizing she would never be good enough, never rise about her father’s thievery or her mother’s weakness.

  She had been so young, too young to understand what she now knew. It didn’t matter when people wanted to see a sin. When they wanted to condemn a person, then the condemnation didn’t have to make sense. There were no laws to govern the thoughts and hearts of those with petty, vindictive minds.

  Keiley refused to try again. She wouldn’t lower her head to Delia. She would not give into blackmail. Never again would she be so weak that she would run and hide because those around her thought she should.

  She believed in taking responsibility for her own actions, at all times. She enjoyed the path her life was taking. She enjoyed sparring with both her lovers, and she enjoyed the hell out of the challenge that would come in keeping them in line.

  Keiley Hardin McCoy was not a fainting miss, she assured herself as the maid whisked opened the ballroom doors for her and she swept into the huge marbled foyer.

  “Keiley, you aren’t leaving. ” Victoria’s voice called from a wide door at the end of the foyer as she stepped out. It wasn’t a question, it was a demand.

  “Sorry, Victoria. ” Keiley lifted her chin. “I believe it’s time for me to leave. ” Getting out of there before she ripped every hair out of Delia’s head out was imperative.

  A frown instantly snapped between the other woman’s brows as her green eyes narrowed.
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