Forbidden pleasure, p.48
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       Forbidden Pleasure, p.48

         Part #8 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
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Page 48

 

  “We have you, sweetheart,” Mac murmured raggedly, his own cheeks damp from the feeling of helplessness that swept through him.

  That same feeling swamped Jethro. They had left her alone. They had let that bastard get to her. How the hell had he gotten to her?

  “How?” He whispered against her hair. “How did he get in?”

  “He was under the fucking bed,” Mac snapped. “Under the goddamned bed, Jethro, where he had somehow managed to wedge himself into the box springs. ”

  The horror of that miscalculation swept through Jethro. They had checked under the bed. He remembered bending down, looking for a body, and seeing nothing. Because the body hadn’t been on the floor, but somehow had been above the floor?

  Because of their mistake, she could have been dead. It could have been her lifeless body lying on the floor of the bedroom rather than Bridges’ wounded body.

  “He said—he said no one checks the box springs,” Keiley hiccupped then. “He said that all the women, he laid under their beds like that and no one checked. No one checks under the box springs. ”

  Not when the rooms were monitored and supposedly secured. Jethro knew he himself had rarely checked beneath a bed because it was so damned obvious. Too obvious. And that arrogance had nearly cost Keiley her life.

  “Pappy has a listening device on his collar,” she whispered then. “That’s how he knew everything. When to strike, when we were gone. He was using Pappy. He always used Pappy. ”

  The dog. Mac blinked furiously against the dampness in his eyes as he realized how easily Bridges had managed to maneuver all of them.

  “Let’s get her downstairs and get some whiskey in her before she goes into shock. Before the sheriff gets here. ” Jethro moved back, staring at Mac with the remnants of the horror still racing through his system reflecting in his friend’s eyes.

  “You take her downstairs. ” Mac lifted her to her feet and gave her to Jethro.

  “Mac. No. ” Her hands reached out for him, her voice shaking. “You’ll do something you’ll regret. I know it. ”

  “Go with Jethro. ” He leaned forward, whispered a kiss over her trembling lips, and then stepped away. “I have to find out who he is, Kei. Go on. I promise. I won’t kill him. ”

  Wes would wish he were dead though, of that Mac would make certain.

  “Mac,” she whispered again, her voice filled with fear. “If you do something violent, then I’m going to hurt you. I mean it. I really will use that baseball bat on you if you get put in jail. I swear it. ”

  A smile touched his lips. She kept him centered. As he stared at her, he found the control to push back the rage.

  “I won’t do anything to risk our lives, Keiley. I swear it. Never again will I risk your life or your happiness. Never. ”

  Her wide hazel eyes held his as Jethro wrapped his arm around her and led her from the bathroom.

  The bastard had hid under the fucking bed. Mac wiped his hand over his face and breathed out roughly. Right there beneath their noses, all he had to do was bend down and look, and he hadn’t.

  He stepped into the bedroom, staring at the bloodstained carpet, then at that bed. Like all the beds in the house, the frame itself was higher than most. He stared beneath it, tilted his head, and wondered how the hell he hadn’t seen anything.

  The first thing he had done was looked around the edges of the bed. He hadn’t bent down and checked beneath it because only a child could have hidden there without being seen.

  He knelt down, laid on the floor, and stared beneath it.

  And there was why he hadn’t seen anything, why Jethro hadn’t. Why no one would have seen anything unless they laid on their backs and looked.

  At some point the box spring itself had been carved out and reinforced. Just enough to allow someone to wedge inside it and, with enough leg and arm strength, hold himself out of sight for the amount of time it would take to check a room.

  He lifted up, braced his hands on his knees, and stared at the bloodstained carpet. This was why the Playboy had been able to get so close to his victims. Because he had somehow learned how to reinforce the inner springs after cutting part of them out and make himself a secure hiding place when he needed it.

  Son of a bitch. He pushed his fingers through his hair and breathed out tiredly. That was it. Every bed in the fucking house would be tossed out and they would sleep on the floor if they had to. This would never happen again. Never would he let Keiley be at risk in such a way again.

  Moving to his feet, he clenched and unclenched his fists as he heard the sirens in the distance and shook his head. At least he knew the sheriff. The same man who had once been a boy and kept his mouth shut about the horror Mac had lived with as a child.

  Tobias Blackwood knew how to keep his mouth shut. And he would keep his mouth shut this time. Because Mac intended to do a little interrogating now.

  27

  Keiley’s gaze flew to the gun, and Wes’s followed. She saw the realization on his face the minute she jumped for it. She was closer. She had a chance. Oh, God, all she needed was a chance.

  The phrase “everything moved in slow motion” and the cliché that one’s life flashed before one’s eyes at such moments had always seemed a little far-fetched to her. But not now.

  Now she saw Mac and Jethro, their expressions creased in desire and wonder as they made love to her. She saw her own emotions, felt them overwhelming her, filling her, giving her a strength she hadn’t known she could find. Because her knees were shaking and her heart racing so fast, it should have weakened her as she jumped for the gun.

  The safety was on. She remembered that as her hand fell on it and she felt Wes’s breath on her neck. Her thumb fell into position, flipped it as she brought it up.

  The knife glittered above her head as she heard her own screams and the sound and the feel of the weapon discharging, throwing her hand up even as she stumbled to throw herself out of the trainer’s way.

  And she watched him fall. Slowly. Shock rounded his eyes, parted his thin lips. It was a curse that croaked from his lips as the knife fell to the floor milliseconds before his body did.

  And then she saw the blood—

  “Keiley! Wake up, Wake up now!”

  Jethro and Mac were yelling at her as hard hands shook her shoulders, bringing her from nightmare to reality with a jerk.

  She stared up at Jethro, fighting to breathe, seeing the emotions that washed over his face the moment he realized she was awake. The emotions displayed there were heartbreaking. Fear. Remorse. Love. He loved her, just as fiercely, just as possessively as Mac loved her.

  “God, you’re going to give me a heart attack at this rate. ” He jerked her into his arms, his powerful, naked body shuddering once as his hold tightened on her briefly.

  “I’m okay. ” She was shaking, shuddering in the aftermath of the nightmare that had come two days after the attack.

  The day before had been filled with questions, from the FBI, the local sheriff, and the reporters who had caught the story.

  She didn’t think the house was ever going to empty of people. She had finally collapsed in exhaustion at midnight while Jethro and Mac were still compiling information on Wes Bridges, alias so many different variations of the name that she had lost count.

  “Is she okay?” Mac stood in the doorway, already showered and dressed, his gaze concerned as he moved to the bed where Jethro held her.

  “You could ask me, you know. ” She pushed back from Jethro, dragging her hand shakily through her hair as she swallowed back the remnants of fear.

  “Are you okay, Kei?” He sat down beside her, reaching out to brush a tear from her cheek as Jethro collapsed back against his pillow.

  “Stupid nightmare. ” She shook her head. “I’m fine. ”

  He watched her carefully for long moments before slowly nodding. “If you two want to get
a shower, I’ll fix breakfast. We need to head to D. C. later this afternoon to give our depositions and finish up some red tape. ”

  “Great,” she muttered as she looked over at Jethro. “Why is he still in the bed? I thought he got up with the chickens with you. ”

  Mac glanced over at Jethro with a smile. “He was up later last night. ”

  She looked at Jethro suspiciously. “Why?”

  A frown etched over Jethro’s brow as his eyes opened. “I had things to do. ”

  Keiley glanced back at Mac, barely catching the concern in his eyes before they became shuttered.

  “Get a shower. I’ll put breakfast on while you two have your coffee. ” He rose from the bed before leaning forward and kissing Keiley’s lips gently, “I’ll see you downstairs. ”

  Evidently someone had decided that she got to deal with Jethro’s early-morning grouchiness.

  She turned and stared back at him silently.

  He was staring at the ceiling, avoiding her gaze, his muscular body tense, as though prepared for battle.

  “Are you coming home when we’re finished in D. C. ?” she finally asked, terrified of the answer.

  His gaze sliced back to her before moving away again.

  “Should I?” he finally sighed, his thick black lashes shielding his eyes.

  “What does that mean?”

  She pulled the sheet over her breasts and stared back at him in apprehension.

  His lips tightened, his jaw flexing as though he were holding back what he wanted to say, what he wanted to feel.

  “So, you’re just going to walk away?”

  “That’s what a third does, Keiley. They leave. ”

  “You aren’t a third,” she said painfully. “You know you’re not a third. You’re a part of us. You made yourself a part of me, let me think you would stay, and now you think you can just walk out and everything will be fine?”

  “It will be. You have Mac—”

  “You fucking coward. ” She didn’t raise her voice. It wasn’t an accusation. It was a statement.

  His gaze snapped back to her, the blue of his eyes glittering in anger.

  “What the hell did you say?”

  “I called you a coward, Jethro,” she repeated ruthlessly. “You’re too scared to stay here and be a part of me. This has nothing to do with who my husband is or feeling like a third. It has to do with your fears. ”

  “Bullshit. ”

  “Bull yes!” Flinging the sheet away from her body, she blinked back her tears and jumped from the bed. “Fine. Run away. Go play the badass agent and remember what you can’t ever have again if you walk out on me. Because I’ll be damned if I’ll give you another chance at my heart. ”

  “Mac likes ménages, Keiley. ” He caught her at the bathroom door, dragging her around to face him as he pressed her against the wall. “There’ll be another third, and when he’s gone another—”

  Her hand swung out, connecting soundly with his cheek as he stared back at her in surprise.

  “Shut up!” she yelled furiously, tears filling her eyes. “Mac doesn’t just like ménages, you asshole. Do you think he would ever share me with just anyone? Do you think I would let him?”

  “Sharing isn’t love. ”

  “Neither is cowardice,” she snapped. “You’re terrified to make that commitment, aren’t you, Jethro? That’s why you’ve always let Mac find the woman and you’ve stayed on the sidelines. That way you don’t have the responsibility. ”

  “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snarled.

  “The boy who was rejected, thrown out, and shoved through a cold unfeeling system” she whispered. “You were orphaned and so wild, so full of adventure that you were shuffled from one uncaring foster parent to the next, weren’t you, Jethro. ”

  He stared back at her bleakly.

  “You would care, and then they would turn you away. Until you stopped caring. Until you started walking away first. ”
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