Authors: Madison Layle & Anna Leigh Keaton
You’re scaring her.
Though he said it, Reidar wasn’t so sure he believed it. Despite her furious demands, she hadn’t once said her safe word. Still…
Back the hell off. Now. Before I step in.
She’s not scared. She’s aroused. And if you step in I’ll castrate you.
“I said get out,” she repeated, the volume much lower than earlier, her tone lacking conviction.
Kelan kissed Beth. She fought him for a moment, but soon softened, and Reidar relaxed. She wasn’t as opposed to Kelan’s high-handedness as she first seemed. Then she moaned and wrapped her arms around Kelan’s neck. No, not opposed at all, Reidar thought with a smile.
Reidar didn’t know what to make of his brother though, what to think of Kelan’s attitude. But Reidar was sure of one thing. Beth was theirs. They just had a few little issues to work out. He couldn’t quite define the one thing that made her different, but he felt it deep in his gut. He knew, and he suspected Kelan did too. But his brother had said only hours earlier he wasn’t ready and still had life to live before they searched for
His brother would have to get ready, because if Reidar’s suspicions were true,
had found them.
The sex had affected him deeply, but it had been much more than experiencing sexual pleasure with a woman. There’d been a connection, an almost linking of souls, when they were both inside of her. Despite the many women they’d shared over the years, nothing had felt this right. Perfect. As if the three of them synced somehow.
Kelan had to have felt it. If he hadn’t, his brother wouldn’t be acting quite so beastly.
Reidar sat on the edge of the bed and picked up a dinner roll. Food always helped him think, and he had a lot of thinking to do. Not the least of which would be getting past the family alpha with a woman Axel disliked upon meeting. And then there was her job. Not even he was thrilled about that, and he knew without a doubt the rest of the Falke family would oppose any union. How would she, a scientist whose career ambition included the study of animals—of mountain lions no less—react to their family secret? How could they hope to have a relationship with her and not reveal that secret?
He glanced at Kelan and Beth against the wall as he bit into the yeasty roll. This was going to get complicated.
Across the room, Beth’s thoughts were scrambled. One minute she was furious. The next she was…hot and confused. Kelan’s lips and tongue didn’t give her time to catch her breath, and yet she clung to him to keep the kiss going, her short nails raking his back. She’d happily die of asphyxiation before she’d shove him away. A whimper escaped to protest his move when he stopped the kiss.
“This isn’t a game, hon. This is for real, between you and me. What I want and need…” He pressed his lips to hers briefly and traced her bottom lip with his tongue. “You know your safe word. All you have to do is use it. So, do you still want me to leave?”
“Then take off the fucking robe.” He caught her lip between his teeth, while he pulled the towel from her head, spilling her damp hair around her shoulders. As he renewed their kiss by thrusting his tongue back into her mouth, she slid the terrycloth robe off her shoulders and let it drop at their feet. She’d give him everything he needed as long as he didn’t stop the exquisite torture.
“You still hungry?” he asked, his fingers ripping at the fly of his jeans.
She didn’t have enough air in her lungs to answer, so she nodded.
“Me too.” He dipped his head and pressed kisses along her jaw, down her neck. At the same time, he shoved his pants and underwear down then lifted both of her hands overhead. While one hand pinned her wrists to the wall, he skimmed his other palm down her arm, her side, over her hip and lower. “Hungry for you.”
He hitched her leg up around his hip and met her gaze.
Oh. My. God.
He never looked away as he ever so gently eased into her, one maddening inch at a time.
control, tantalized her, baffled her and left her needy for more. Wild and passionate, yet strong and domineering. Slow and thorough. He was what
“You were saying?” His jaw ticked, and his hazel gaze bore into her as she shook her head.
“I’ve no idea.”
He withdrew and thrust in again, solid and deep. Her breath caught, and her lids grew heavy.
“No. Look at me.”
She did as he fucked her with a deliberate, steady rhythm that left her breathless.
“Having fun now?” he teased, but his tone was serious, his voice barely more than a growl.
He ground himself a fraction deeper, picking up the pace. “That’s it, hon. Don’t fight it. Feel me.”
The tension grew, the rhythm quickened and her climax was imminent, spreading through her.
“Look at me, Beth.” The instant she did, he plunged in to the hilt once, twice, and shoved her over the edge. He claimed her mouth, drinking in her orgasmic cry, as he slammed into her a third and final time, filling her with his warm release.
Beth stretched her arms over her head, pointed her toes toward the window and groaned in delight as special places ached that hadn’t in way too long.
She glanced around the room, but she needn’t. They were gone. Though she hadn’t heard them leave, the room felt empty. They seemed to fill it, take up all the space, all the air, and she’d liked it that way.
With a smile, she rolled to her side, pulled one pillow to her chest and smiled when she got a good whiff of Reidar’s scent.
She wasn’t sure who that woman had been in her room last night with the Falke brothers, but she liked her. Never had she been so bold, so forward, so very comfortable. They weren’t giving her attention because of her profession. They didn’t want to sit and talk science, DNA and genetics. Reidar and Kelan had wanted to fuck her. Then feed her. Then fuck her some more. And hold her…
She moaned as her pussy clenched, and she reached between her legs to press the heel of her hand against her mound. How could she still have any desire left after last night? They’d literally fucked her into unconsciousness somewhere around two-thirty in the morning.
She grinned again, and a laugh slipped out. Never in her life had she been so turned on. By their dominance. Even by Kelan’s high-handedness. He had done things to her she’d only read about. And the way Reidar looked at her when he kissed her so beautifully was the stuff of romance novels.
She closed her eyes and pictured the two men sitting at the tiny table in her hotel room, eating the food they’d brought for her. Reidar had been playful, endearing, and Kelan had been quiet, but the heat in his eyes when she caught him looking at her had warmed her to her toes. Especially since they’d wanted her to sit naked and eat. Which, of course, she did, because they promised more pleasure if she “obeyed” their wishes. It had been naughty and fun.
Oh, the way Reidar had snuggled with her beneath the sheets, his strong arms wrapped protectively around her, his steady heartbeat playing a sleep-inducing cadence beneath her ear. She could get used to giving them anything they wanted.
And that concerned her.
She was only here for the summer. Possibly not even here, but in the vicinity of the Wenatchee National Forest, and after a few meetings and one spectacular night, she could feel herself falling for them. Both of them.
Individually, each man was devastating. Together…
She sighed. The Falke brothers were definitely a dangerous combination to a woman’s psyche, her libido and her hea—
A quick, hard rap on the door made her jump. She glanced at the clock on the bedside table and realized she’d overslept then lay there daydreaming for who knew how long.
knock, knock, knock
, sounded again. “Elizabeth.”
“Shit,” she muttered as she jumped from the bed. “Coming,” she called, grabbing her robe off the floor where she’d dropped it the night before when Kelan had told her—made her do it. And Reidar watching…God, she seriously had to stop thinking of the Falke brothers and get her brain in gear for work. When she snatched open the door, there stood Professor Whitmore and Tim, both wearing almost identical frowns, though James Whitmore was a good six inches shorter than Tim, thirty years older, a little thick through the middle and almost completely bald, so his frown lines seemed to travel halfway up his pate.
“I’m so sorry, Professor. I overslept.”
“I see that,” he said with obvious disgust, his lips puckered as if he’d eaten a lemon. “Get dressed and come to the lab. Tim says you have something interesting to show me.”
She couldn’t help the smile that spread over her face. “I do! I will. Ten minutes, Professor. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
The professor gave a single nod and turned away, but Tim remained, frowning at her.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then snapped it shut and shook his head. “You never oversleep.” Then he also turned away and headed for the stairs.
Beth didn’t have time to worry about Tim’s reaction, and Professor Whitmore was always uptight, but she wished she’d set her alarm last night. Since she only had a few minutes, she forwent a shower—she’d had two the night before anyway; the rushed one alone before dinner, and a leisurely one with both brothers after dinner—and scrounged a clean pair of khaki shorts, underwear, socks and tank top out of her luggage.
She stopped as she pulled her shirt over her head when a thought occurred to her. Reidar had been creative in his foreplay and was extraordinary when it came to oral sex, but Kelan was the only one who actually had vaginal intercourse with her. Three times. And with no protection. She closed her eyes and mentally slapped her forehead.
Unprotected sex with a virtual stranger.
She was on the pill. Pregnancy wasn’t on her mind. But how freaking stupid was she?
She didn’t have time to worry about that now. After putting on her socks and boots, she grabbed her glasses and purse and dashed out the door, making it to the lab in a little over five minutes instead of ten.
Out of breath, she jogged up the steps and through the open door.
“This is very interesting,” Professor Whitmore said to her, staring at the computer screen in front of him.
Beth cast Tim a scowl. They hadn’t waited for her. That was her information to give the professor, not Tim’s.
“Isn’t it?” she said, nudging Tim out of the way to stand next to the professor and pointing to the screen. “What these blood tests show is completely impossible, but I ran them three times.”
“Tim tells me this animal is a domesticated pet.”
“Yes.” She scowled. “He belongs to a bunch of brothers who own a sporting goods place on Front Street, and he’s a beauty. Even if they are dumb enough to keep a mountain lion in town as a so-called pet.”
“We need another blood sample to make sure this one hasn’t been tainted,” the professor said with a shake of his head as he used the mouse to scroll through the lab reports she’d typed up.
She wasn’t offended that he’d suggest her sample was tainted. A good scientist always double- and triple-checked his research, but getting additional samples from a cat they no longer had access to…“That might be a problem.” She licked her lips. “In fact I’m fairly certain it will be a big problem. I ticked off the oldest brother pretty badly by shooting one of the others with a tranquilizer. It was an accident, but he’s not going to let me near the animal anytime soon.”
Tim snickered, and she cast him a hard look.
He raised his hands in an act of innocence. “You didn’t tell me you shot one of them.”
“I was aiming for the cat.”
Professor Whitmore leaned back in the chair and swiveled to look at her, his index finger over his lips—his trademark “I’m in deep thought” action. After a moment, he said, “So, what are you going to do next?”
Her eyes widened, and she struggled to hide her smile. She’d been afraid he would take over all the work on this project, and she might need his help with the oldest Falke, but last night made it obvious not everyone in the Falke camp held grudges. So, she said with much happiness, “I want to talk to the town vet, or vets—there’s only one clinic listed in the phonebook—and see if they know anything about Falke. I assume if he’s domesticated, he’d have to have a shot record or something the same as dogs need in a city. They might be willing to share any past medical data. We need to learn as much as possible about the cat’s history.”
Professor Whitmore nodded. “A good place to start. What did you find out about locations for the lab?”
Beth dug into her purse and pulled out a map she’d gotten from the state forestry representative. She handed it to the professor after unfolding it. “This place,” she said, pointing to a location on the map, “is only ten miles from here. It’s a forestry base camp for fires that has electricity and well water. We can stay in town in comfortable beds for a while. At least until we play out the area and have to move again.”
“What about the pet puma? Won’t it have an impact on this area?”
“I thought about that. But I think it’s still worth a couple of days here at least,” she said, tapping the spot on the map, “especially if they usually keep it closer to town. I think the base camp a little farther away offers the best place to start. We can work outward from there and still be close enough to town to follow up on the Falke cat. I have identified five more possible spots too, but only one has electricity. We’ll have to run the generators on the others, which means hiking farther to be away from the noise.”
She felt as if she were rambling, so she stopped and waited.
The professor examined the map, then nodded. “Very good, Elizabeth. You’ve thought this out well.” He looked up at her. “Since you fixed the problems before I arrived, I’ll not question you on letting a cougar loose in my lab.”
anything loose. She kept her expression neutral, then gave a tight-lipped smile. “Thank you, Professor. Let’s just say that I learned a few things about cougars and captivity.”
“Oh?” He glanced back at the map.
She cast Tim a look of disgust, wishing she could shove him into the cage behind him. “They don’t like it much, sir.”
The professor chuckled. “No, I suppose they don’t.” He sobered quickly. “But it’s a good thing the one that got loose was somewhat domesticated.”
“Yes, sir, it is.”
“What’s the name of that store you said the brothers own?”
“Yes, of course. All right then. Go on now. See if you can get any information from the vet. Tim and I will move the lab to your first choice location.”
“Thank you, Professor. I’ll meet you out there as soon as I know anything.” She headed out into the warm, early morning sunshine and to her Jeep parked next to the hotel.
She turned her head toward Tim as he approached her vehicle. “What?”
He halted at the ticked-off look she gave him. “Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was a secret or anything.”
She sighed. “Of course it wasn’t a secret, and I would have told him eventually, but you tattled, and that’s not cool.”
“Sorry.” He did look contrite, but then went and ruined it by saying, “I’ll buy you dinner to make up for it. Okay?”
The hopefulness in his expression had her shaking her head. “Don’t worry about it, Tim. No harm, no foul.”
“You sure? I heard of a place that does great steaks, and since I didn’t get you your fast food yesterday—”
“We’ll see,” she said, trying to gently brush him off. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she didn’t see him the way he obviously saw her.
“Oh, hey, I got the camera installed last night.” He glanced up at the window above them—of her room—and her insides tumbled. Had he been out in the lab when she’d been upstairs with Kelan and Reidar? She tried to recall if the curtains had been opened or closed, and couldn’t remember.
“Yeah? That’s good. Thanks.”
“Yeah.” He moved his attention back to her. “I’ll help you install all the software on your computer tonight…if you’re not busy.”
She swallowed hard when his gaze slipped to her hotel room window one more time. Though he hadn’t admitted seeing her, his tone and actions had her experiencing an emotion very close to embarrassment for getting caught being naughty. She wanted to know if he’d seen something, or whether her mind was playing guilty tricks on her, but she didn’t have the guts to ask outright, which would amount to a confession.
“Thank you, Tim. That’d be nice. I’ll see you guys up at the base camp in a while. I can bring my laptop, and you can do it then.”
“Oh. Okay. Sure,” he said backing up a few steps so she could get into the Jeep. “See you in a while.”
“Tim,” Professor Whitmore called. “Let’s get a move on. I’d like to get a lay of the land.”
Tim turned away, and Beth closed herself in the silent safety of her Jeep.
Damn, damn, damn.
Her tryst with the brothers was supposed to be her secret. Not something she needed Tim knowing about.
Maybe he hadn’t known. Maybe…Oh, hell, what did it matter? What she did on her time was nobody else’s business but her own. But if he did know or suspect, she didn’t owe him any explanations. He was just her lab partner.
And his talk of dinner made her realize she was hungry.
Beth started the Jeep and drove the two miles to a greasy spoon diner that promised breakfast for $2.99. She doubted the town’s one and only vet was open at seven-thirty in the morning. Grabbing a newspaper off the rack just inside the diner’s front door, she sat herself—as the hand-written sign instructed—turned the coffee cup right side up on the table and glanced around at the dozen or so other patrons. Old men, most of them, wearing jeans, overalls and baseball caps of various colors and cleanliness. Locals, she surmised.
She smiled at a couple who glanced her way, and one raised his coffee cup in silent salute. Leavenworth was such a friendly town. A nice place to raise a family.
Her eyes widened at her wayward thought, and she opened the newspaper to occupy her brain.
“Hey there, honey.”
She glanced up to see a man in his sixties, wearing an apron smeared with God only knew what, and a carafe of coffee in his hand.
“Hi,” Beth said.
“You want a menu, or the special?” he asked as he poured coffee for her.
“Take the special,” someone called from another table, and everyone else laughed.
“I guess the special,” she said, worried now about what she might be eating in a few minutes.
“Good choice, since that’s all I make.” The old waiter/cook sauntered toward the doorway to the kitchen.
“Don’t mind him,” another man said from two tables away. “He’s had a bug up his butt since his wife left three years ago. You get the eggs special for breakfast, cheeseburger, fries and soup for lunch, and whatever he decides to make for dinner.”
Half of the other patrons had plates of food in front of them, so she assumed they deemed whatever the special was as edible. “Three years is a long time…” And these were a lot of people eating the same thing every day.