Wicked ties, p.50
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       Wicked Ties, p.50

         Part #1 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
 
Page 50

 

  “Nothing,” she finally murmured.

  Brandon rose to his feet, until he towered over her. He’d definitely gotten the tall genes in the family, damn him. She was amidget by Hollywood’s standards.

  He grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him, effectively ending her agitated waltz across the floor. “I’ve seen you obsess about Turn Me On in the past. What you’re thinking about today has nothing to do with that, though, does it? Reggie has apologized for selling you out. Andrew’s funeral was conducted with a minimum of hype, and the press has no idea where you are. Already the gossip is dying down. You’re healing nicely. ” His gentle stare probed. “I can only think of one thing that would make you this crazy right now. Or should I say one person?”

  “I don’t want to talk about it. ”

  “You haven’t wanted to talk about Jack since you left the hospital. ”

  Morgan closed her eyes. “Don’t say his name. ” “You’re being stubborn, little sister. ”

  “I’m being stubborn?” She poked herself in the chest with an angry finger. “Excuse me, but I didn’t start this shit. He did. But now I’m supposed to live with it. ”

  “Live with what, exactly?” Brandon crossed his arms over his chest. “He shot and killed a man who would have ended your life without blinking. ”

  That’s it? That’s all he acknowledged? “Yes, he saved me, and I’m grateful. But did you forget the little part where he lied to me and took me to bed to get back at you? He sent you a film clip of—” She gnashed her teeth. “I still can’t believe that. He…” How the hell could she put the betrayal into words? “He acted like I meant something. None of that act was true. ”

  “I think it was. ”

  Morgan felt her jaw drop. “Why are you taking up for him?”

  Brandon shot her a self-deprecating smile. “We used to be friends, until I fucked it up. Jack wasn’t going to divorce Kayla without a good reason. Despite his…lifestyle, he was too Catholic. I pushed Kayla. And pushed and pushed. God, I wanted that woman. The one thing I never did was level with Jack and just tell him I was in love with his wife. And that she was in love with me. I just took her, and I didn’t care how wretched he felt because holding her made me feel better. I think he was just repaying the favor, little sister, letting me see how it felt to be on the receiving end. If you should be pissed at anyone, it’s me. ”

  “Do you have any idea what he did to me? At all?” “I hate to say this, but when I barged into that hotel room, you didn’t look like you were suffering too much. ”

  Morgan flushed twenty shades of red, she was sure, from both fury and embarrassment. “It wasn’t the way he touched me. ”

  Though, at times, that had been hard to take, to accept how much she loved it. “It was the way he pretended to care. ”

  A sudden knock on the door sent them both turning.

  Brandon cursed under his breath, then moved to open it. “God, I hope it’s not the press,” she muttered. “Vultures. ” Brandon cracked the door open, only as far as the security chain allowed. “What?”

  No response. The door blocked Morgan’s view, and she could only see Brandon raise his hand to take something from the visitor’s grasp. Then he breathed what looked like a sigh of relief. She looked down at the item in his hand. A videotape. The other videotape Jack had promised to bring Brandon?

  “Is this what I think it is?”

  The person on the other side must have nodded. Who was it? Could it be… No.

  “Thanks. Do you want to come in?”

  Morgan’s heart started to pound. Oh, God. Maybe… Was it Jack? Would Jack come here, after a week of total, devastating silence? Despite his betrayal, she ached for him. Her heart was a hollow, gaping wound in her chest. She strained to hear the sound of his voice late at night when she lay in bed, unable to sleep. And

  her body nearly vibrated at just the thought of him. She throbbed.

  Overly sensitive and tight in all the wrong places with the mere remembrance of him…

  God, what if he walked through that door now? Brandon drew the door back to admit the stranger, but it wasn’t Jack who filled the doorway.

  “Deke…” Disappointment stabbed her without mercy. “Hi, doll. Don’t look too excited to see me. ”

  “I am. I’m sorry. ” She did her best to paste on a smile. “How you doing?”

  She tried to shrug, then grimaced. Damn, would that shoulder ever stop hurting?

  Yeah, and probably long before her heart did.

  “I’m recovering,” she said. “How are you?”

  “Ready to get a miserable coonass off my back. Want to help me?”

  “With Jack? I doubt there’s anything I can do. He’s made my role in his life perfectly clear. ”

  “See, I don’t think he has. Since you left, he snarls and growls and gets drunk, then sleeps it off and starts over the next day. He knows you’re pissed. I told him he’s too chickenshit to see you. He told me—”

  “I can imagine what he said. ” Morgan grimaced. “It’s not pretty. He needs you. ”

  “He needs a beating,” she shot back.

  “If you were dishing it out, he would take it, doll. At least then, you’d be talking to him. ”

  Morgan didn’t know what to say. Part of her wanted to beat the hell out of Jack. He’d made peace with Brandon at the hospital…then left her without a single word while believing that she was unconscious. She’d been groggy and far too overwrought to respond—but she’d been awake enough to hear Jack’s every word.

  That kind of crap didn’t put him in the “nice guy” category.

  Bastard.

  “Forgive me if I don’t give a shit that he’s annoying you and giving himself a daily hangover. It’s the very least he deserves, Deke. I paid for his revenge with my heart and a piece of my soul. ” “For what it’s worth, so did he. ”

  Deke’s words were like a punch to the gut, like poking a stick at a wild animal. “Bullshit. ”

  “He loves you. He just has no idea how to win you back and doesn’t think he deserves the chance to try. ”

  “At least we agree on something,” she snapped. But in her heart, hope surged. Was it possible that he stayed away, not out of disregard but guilt?

  “Just talk to him, doll. You’d be doing me and Grandpa Brice a favor. ”

  Morgan hesitated, so damn tempted. “Why should I want to do a favor for the old man who brought me nearly nonexistent lingerie in an underhanded attempt to throw me Jack’s way?” “Because he thinks you’re perfect for his grandson. We all do. Even Jack. Pleassseee,” Deke wheedled. “Talk to him. Just once. ”

  “Grown men begging. ” She rolled her eyes.

  But she feared she wasn’t fooling anyone. The hunger to see Jack gnawed at her composure, her restraint. Yet the fear of getting sucked into his charisma again, of being duped by her own want, of stupidly clinging to him and giving him the power to hurt her again, kept her away.

  Deke shrugged. “Whatever works. ”

  “If he wanted to see me that bad, he knows where to find me. ”

  “He’s got the Catholic guilt thing down pat, Morgan. He knows he fucked up, and he’s not going to push his love on you. ” “He doesn’t love me!” she shouted.

  “He does,” Brandon cut in. “He told me himself, in two languages. I’ve never seen Jack care too much about any one person in his life. I had no doubt when I looked at the man that he loves you. ”

  Morgan sucked in a sharp breath. Was it possible she meant more to Jack than just a revenge fuck? Had she come to mean more than the means to fueling a vendetta?

  “I can see your thoughts all over your face, doll. Granted, spending one morning inside you doesn’t make me an expert, but—”

  “I don’t need to hear this. ” Brandon grimaced. “I’m pretty sure I know where your head is at,” Deke went on. “You aren’t going to get answers by hiding here. ”

&n
bsp; She mentally recoiled. First, the son of a bitch had to remind her about that awful, wonderful morning she’d spent squeezed between the two of them as they’d given her the ultimate pleasure. Her ultimate fantasy, despite Jack’s reservations. Then he tells her that she’s being a coward. Lovely.

  She could feel Brandon’s reproving gaze on her, too, and made a mental note to beat Deke’s ass later.

  Shaking her head to clear it, Morgan forced herself to focus. Even if Jack had put his fears aside, so much else had happened.

  A protest leaped to the tip of her tongue. No way, no how, was she going to talk to Jack.

  But…damn Deke, he was right. No one had the answers she wanted except Jack.

  “Talk to him,” Deke’s quiet command went straight to her common sense and made mush out of it. “Come with me. ” Her thoughts were so tangled, so jumbled. But one reality stood out for her: Jack was the strong, shrewd, sexual man her body and mind had been searching for all her life. She could either stay here and hide and always wonder what could have been. Or she could go talk to the man and find out where his avowals of “love” registered on her bullshit meter.

  “Fine. But no promises that I’ll be nice. ”

  “None expected. ” Deke grinned, those indigo eyes sparkling with mischief.

  “Give me ten minutes to get myself together. ”

  Deke grinned. “Jack was nursing a bottle of Tennessee whiskey when I left. Better make it five. ”

  Climbing into Deke’s enormous Hummer for the long ride out to Jack’s swamp cottage in Louisiana, Morgan reflected that, if she didn’t know better, she’d assume Deke had chosen such a vehicle to compensate for a deficit in masculine proportions. But she did know…

  Because of Jack. Because he’d granted her that fantasy. It seemed silly to turn the events of the last two weeks over and over in her mind. She’d done it a million times. Jack had reeled her in, duped her by tantalizing her with the lure of fantasies she’d always wanted fulfilled. He’d delivered. No disputing that. But for her, it had gone beyond pleasure. Way beyond.

  When she’d been with Jack, Morgan had believed heart and soul that it meant something to him. The knowledge that he’d done it all for revenge crushed her until she felt broken, unable to sleep, eat…breathe. Wondering how the hell she was supposed to go on with this pain.

  “You’re thinking too hard. I can almost feel the headache you’re giving yourself. ”

  She leveled a reproving stare at him. “As opposed to you men, who think of absolutely nothing but your little vendettas and your dicks?”

  To his credit, he didn’t wince. “Yes, I knew about Jack’s plan. But I think it stopped being about revenge for him very quickly. ”

  “Don’t make his case for him. I don’t want to hear it. ” Deke’s words only confused her, made her hope. She was going to see Jack for answers. Period. If she didn’t get the answers she wanted, she’d go on with life—alone. Somehow. Not that she expected Jack to be able to convince her of his undying love.

  Honestly, how could such a bond form in mere days, when everything around them had been all danger and lies? Impossible, right?

  So logical…except for the fact she’d fallen totally for Jack during their time together. And unlike anything she’d felt for any man previously in her life, this felt strong, unbreakable.

  Permanent.

  Damn.

  Deke blew through a yellow light on the outskirts of Houston, then pulled into the parking lot of an extended-stay hotel built like little condos with fresh paint and freshly planted flowers. “You need to pick up your gear before heading out?” she asked.

  “Not exactly. ”

  Deke parked, then turned to face her. “Jack intended to drive the copy of Brandon’s incriminating video straight to him. I ended up driving, since I didn’t think Jack and Jack made a good team on the roads. ”

  “Jack and Jack?”

  “Jack Cole full of Jack Daniel’s. ”

  “So he’s here?” she asked, her heartbeat suddenly zooming like a woman about to fall from a cliff.

  Deke nodded.

  “He came all the way to Houston to deliver the video and sent you to do it because he was too drunk? The son of a bitch chose to cozy up to a bottle, rather than possibly getting close to me?”

  “No. When we got here, we did a little recon. When he realized you were staying with Brandon, he wouldn’t go. He refused to bother you. ”

  Of all the crazy, asinine notions…

  Before Deke could say more, Jack opened the door of the room in front of him, gorgeously shirtless, dark hair disheveled. Sunlight glared in his face. He squinted and glared toward the Hummer.

  “Did you deliver the damn video?” Jack shouted, trying to shield his eyes from the sun.

 
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