More Desire, Oklahoma

Desire Unleashed: A Bond Strengthened

Desire Unleashed: A Bond Strengthened

(More Desire, Oklahoma 9)

Reluctant Desire: Mastering Charity

(More Desire, Oklahoma 8)

Erotic Romance, Contemporary, BDSM, Romantic Suspense, Small Town, MF, HEA

Charity Parrish was madly in love with her sexy as hell husband, Beau, and thought things couldn’t get any better between them.

But lately, Beau had begun to exhibit a need for a more.

So she did what her sister would do.

She provoked him.

His reaction had the desired effect, his shock and anger unleashing the Dominant inside him with a vengeance.

Beau knew Charity to be calm and logical, with a soft heart, and feared that the need to possess her in ways he hadn’t before would scare the hell out of her.

In his playroom at Belle Fleur, his estate in Louisiana, they began a journey that drew them closer than ever.

He needed her to look to him for strength.

She needed to be all to him.

They found it in each other, and an intimacy that carried far beyond the walls of the playroom.

Excerpt

He ran a hand through his hair and met her gaze, his hands light on her waist. “I’m sorry.”

Stiffening, Charity closed her hands on the edge of the table. “What are you apologizing for?”

Beau offered a small smile, one filled with tension and self-depreciation. “For being so…intense.” He looked down at the photo of her. “Just the thought of any other man seeing you like that drives me crazy. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Deflated, Charity slid from the table and walked around it, closing her laptop and shoving it into her bag. “You didn’t scare me, Beau. You aroused me.” Glancing at him, she picked up the picture she’d been so proud of and ripped it to shreds. “Evidently, you don’t think I’m woman enough to handle that darker side of you.”

After tossing the pieces of the photo into the trash can, she hooked her purse over her shoulder and grabbed the bag holding her laptop. “I’m not stupid, Beau, and I’m not as weak as you seem to believe. I wouldn’t marry you until I knew that your playfulness didn’t mean you took our relationship lightly. You’ve shown me that love can be playful. You showed me another side of myself and made it clear that you wanted all of me.”

Beau stepped closer, holding out a hand to her. “I do, my love. I love every part of you.”

Ignoring his outstretched hand, Charity forced a smile. “Meanwhile, you hide part of yourself.”

His eyes narrowed. “It’s not that I’m hiding a part of myself. We play, Charity. I told you how important I think it is to play.”

“There’s more.” Charity lifted her chin, her insides clenched so tightly it hurt. “I’ve seen it. I’ve tried to encourage it.”

His eyes narrowed. “You try to piss me off. You try to make me lose control.”

Charity smiled faintly, wishing she knew how to make him understand. “At times.”

Beau sighed, running his hand through his hair again. “Baby, it’s not something I want to subject you to. I’ve always liked to play, but since…you—hell.”

“Since me…what?”

Beau closed his hands over the top rung of the chair. “I want more. You’re right. It’s a dark part of me that I thought ended when I met you.”

He lifted his head, something dark and tormented in his eyes. “With you, I’ve learned that wanting is much more intense when it’s built on love. You’re mine. You wear my ring. You bear my name. It should be enough. It was enough.”

“But it’s not anymore?”

“I love you.” Shaking his head, he grimaced. “Hell, that used to sound so profound to me, but now it doesn’t come close to describing what I feel for you. I love to take you slowly and give you the tenderness I need to show you and that you deserve.”

His eyes glimmered with something so stark it took her breath away. “I love when we play. But there are times when I want more. I want primitive. Raw. I want to drive you insane with hunger and show you just how much I want you. How much I need you.I want you to feel that hunger.”

With a sigh, he clenched his hands so tightly on the back of the chair that his knuckles turned white. “The need to possess you, have complete control over you is so intense that I have to walk away. It’s not something you signed on for. It’s getting harder and harder to contain. But I’m scared of setting it free. If you saw that part of me, it would probably scare the hell out of you.”

Closing the distance between them, Charity lifted a hand to his chest. “Do you think I don’t see it? How can you be so blind? How can you not see how much that darker side of you excites me?”

Dropping her hand, she tugged her purse higher on her shoulder. “How can you expect me to settle for any less than all of you?”

“Charity, you have all of me.”

Dropping her hand, she shook her head sadly. “No, Beau. I don’t, and it’s creating distance between us. That’s what scares me.”

“There’s nothing to be scared of.”

“Well, I am. You’re already holding part of yourself back from me. Eventually, it’ll be more and more. I can’t live like this, Beau. You always say that I’m impatient. Maybe I am, but I feel like I’ve been patient for months, and you still pull away.”

In a move too fast to anticipate, Beau gripped the back of her neck and yanked her closer, his lips hovering over hers. “Charity—”

Charity waited, the feel of his warm breath against her lips, the look in his eyes unlike anything she’d ever seen before.

The intensity in his look both excited and scared her, a look she’d seen only glimpses of in the past but now appeared more frequently.

Recognizing it as a part of him, a dark hunger for more dying to break free, Charity realized how much of himself he’d kept hidden from her.

She held her breath as the look in his eyes sharpened even more, the hand at the back of her neck holding her close, her face lifted to his.

His eyes suddenly became shuttered, and releasing her, he stepped back. “I won’t keep you from your plans. I have things to do myself.”

Sucking in a breath at the pain his cool tone inflicted, Charity nodded, finding she had to swallow the lump in her throat before speaking. “I’m meeting Hope for lunch. I’ll see you later.”

She went outside, closing the door behind her before releasing the breath she’d been holding, feeling better now that everything was out in the open.

And the different ways it could play out really scared her.

Submission to Desire: For Their Love of Brenna

(More Desire, Oklahoma 7)

Contemporary, Menage, BDSM, MFM, HEA

Royce Harley and King Taylor loved their wife’s playfulness, especially in the playroom, but had begun to sense a desperation in her submission that worried them.

They realized her need to play was her way of reassuring herself that they wanted her and not the submissives that visited the club they ran.

Anxious to reassure her, they changed tactics, desperate to establish the intimacy the three of them so desperately needed.

The flood of emotions pouring from her had them falling in love with her all over again, their tenderness getting through to her when nothing else could.

Happier than ever, they didn’t realize that the biggest threat to Brenna didn’t come from the submissives, but from a Dominant with an axe to grind.

They’d taken his submissive from him, so he would take theirs.

And since they loved her, the pain he inflicted would be even worse.

Excerpt

Brenna Harley-Taylor looked up from her dinner, eyeing her two husbands, who both smiled back at her. “You know, sometimes I still have trouble believing that I’m married to both of you.”

Royce Harley could have made a fortune as a model, his lean muscular physique, shoulder-length curly black hair, and a face that appeared to have been carved by the gods themselves made him so good-looking that his loving smile still had the ability to make her heart beat faster.

King, on the other hand, had more masculine features and could chill with a glance.

He wore his dark blond hair short in a military-style cut and had a body covered with corded muscle.

Both stood much taller than her, were sexy as hell, and made her feel deliciously feminine.

Royce reached out to run his finger over the emerald stone attached to the collar she wore, one that matched the stones in her wedding band, his eyes dancing with amusement. “I would think you’d be well adjusted to that fact by now.”

King raised a brow, his lips curled. “It’s a lesson I don’t mind repeating. Does this have anything to do with the bag you brought home with you from the lingerie store?”

Smiling, Brenna slid a hand from the stone on her choker downward, following the material of her low-cut dress to the curve of her breast, amused and aroused that both Royce and King followed the movement with their eyes. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. Do you always have to know everything?”

King smiled faintly and took a sip of his beer. “Concerning you? Absolutely. So what’s our surprise?”

Smiling and already aroused at the thought of their reaction to her purchase, Brenna reached for her wine. “You surprise me all the time. This time, I want to surprise you.”

Sitting back, she slid her foot from her high-heeled shoe and ran her toes up King’s leg. “You’re going to be busy tomorrow and tomorrow night with the auction. I see how eager they are to get one or both of you for themselves.”

King frowned and reached down to caress her ankle. “You don’t really think we’re interested in anyone but you, do you?”

Brenna shrugged, hating that she couldn’t help but doubt her ability to hang on to two such amazing men. “I know how much you like variety. When you’re surrounded by all those naked women, I want you to remember that you have a wife upstairs who’s more than willing to satisfy those decadent hungers.”

Royce smiled, raising a dark brow. “Decadent hunger? Is that what you call it?”

His eyes glittered with amusement and heat, his long hair loose now, the curls touching his shoulders, but it would be tied back when he walked into the playroom.

Brenna smiled when King caught her foot and lifted it to his lap. Turning to him, she wiggled her toes. “What would you call it?”

Leaning closer, Royce ran a fingertip over the back of her hand and down to her wedding band. “I call it love and lust for my incredibly sexy wife, with whom I get plenty of variety.”

She pouted, aware that both of her husbands’ gazes settled on her bottom lip. “Do you still feel that way? Maybe you’re getting bored with me.”

King took her foot and pressed it against his erection. “Never. I knew we should have gotten a privacy booth.”

Royce shrugged. “They were booked. Besides, our little sub is too loud when she comes to take her here.”

King smiled and ran his hand up her leg, running his fingertips over her silk stocking and to the spot at the back of her knee that drove her crazy. “Even when we gag her. Do you want dessert, Red?”

Brenna giggled, her pussy clenching. “I don’t think what I have on under this dress is going to allow that.”

Royce sat forward, his eyes narrowed, the look of a Dominant. “What do you have on under there?”

Brenna smiled. “I know how much you like dressing me in black.”

King’s eyes narrowed. “You’re wearing black under that dress? Black what?”

She’d bought a leather corset with cutouts at her breasts, slit, and bottom, trimmed in the lace that matched the top of her stockings.

Unable to stop smiling, she pulled her leg from King’s grasp and straightened, reaching for her wine again. “A little leather. A little lace.”

Royce lifted his hand for the check, his eyes raking over her. “Your bag was from the lingerie shop.”

Brenna ran her fingertip over the rim of her glass. “I stuck the bag from Logan’s Leathers inside.”

King’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “We take you to Logan’s store ourselves.”

Amused, Brenna sipped her wine again. “You don’t have to worry about him measuring me. He has all of my measurements on file.”

Reaching out, she ran her fingertips up his arm. “Besides, the places you don’t want him to measure are cut out.”

Raw Desire: Alison’s Awakening

(More Desire, Oklahoma 6)

Contemporary Menage a Trois Romance, MFM, HEA

Married to Dillon Tanner and Ryder Hayes, Alison found a love and happiness she’d never expected to find.

But found she couldn’t completely trust.

Her unplanned pregnancy brought all of the insecurities from her past relationship back to the surface with a vengeance and she found herself watching and waiting for her husbands to realize they no longer wanted her.

Dillon and Ryder were delighted to find out Alison carried their child, and struggled to give her the reassurance she needed.

As her body swelled with their child, they found themselves even more enthralled with her and adjusting mentally for the responsibility of a growing family.

When a threat from the past reappeared, the sense of protectiveness sharply intensified, overriding everything else.

She and the child she carried belonged to them—and they would do whatever it took to keep them.

Excerpt

Marshall Garrison, one of Desire’s new deputies, squealed tires as he came to an abrupt stop on the side of the street. He jumped out and rushed toward them, moving fast for such a big man. “What the hell? Jesus! How bad is it?”

Alison breathed deeply, fighting off the nausea caused by the pain in her hip and upper arm. “I just got a little dizzy. I’m fine.”

“Sure you are.” Marshall frowned down at her, the furious glint in his eyes sending a chill through her. “Did you call—never mind. They’re here.”

Dillon shoved his way through to her, his expression wild. “Ally? Baby, everything’ll be okay. Thanks, Rio. Give her to me.”

The anguish in his tone made her smile. “I’m fine. Just a little sore.” The pain had begun to get worse. “Please put me down. My hip and arm hurt.”

Holding her against his chest, Dillon studied her features, his own grim and pale. “Hang on, baby.”

“I’m fine. Please put me down. I’m starting to hurt, and you’re moving so fast that it’s making me sick again. My arm and my hip feel like they’re on fire.”

“Throw up if you have to, but we’ve gotta move.” Dillon strode back the way she’d come. “We’re gonna get you to Doc Hansen’s. He’s waiting for us.”

Alison pushed against Dillon’s chest. “Everyone’s staring. Put me down.”

Marshall followed them, opening the back door of the pickup as he disconnected his call. “Ambulance will meet you at Doc Hansen’s office.”

Grimacing, Dillon nodded and got into the back seat with her, cursing when she cried out in pain. “Thanks, Marshall. Did you get him?”

“He’s already in cuffs. I’m staying with you.”

Seeing Rio again, Alison gasped in horror when she saw that his T-shirt was drenched in blood. Fighting dizziness, she tried to lift her arm to point toward him, but it proved impossible. “Why are you worrying about me? Dear God! Rio’s been shot!”

Dillon ripped off his T-shirt and pressed it against her hip while Ryder, his eyes filled with fear and rage, tied a towel around her upper arm. “Rio hasn’t been shot. That’s your blood, baby. You’re the one who’s been shot. We’ve got you. I need you to calm down.”

Ignoring the pain in her arm, she focused on her hip, the one that had been broken when she’d fallen down the stairs. “The baby!”

Dillon kissed her forehead, holding his T-shirt to her hip. “Everything’s gonna be fine.” His voice, raw with agony, rumbled in his chest. “I need you to calm down. We don’t want you going into labor until it’s time. Lie still. I’m trying to slow the bleeding.”

The baby had stopped moving, which scared the hell out of her. Fighting not to panic, she forced herself to breathe as slowly and evenly as she could, flattening her hands on her abdomen and willing her baby to move.

A sob escaped. “The baby was moving before. He stopped. Oh God! What have I done?”

Ryder roared down the street, following closely behind Marshall, who used his lights and siren for the short journey. “Just calm down, baby. Everything’s gonna be fine. You didn’t do anything.”

“I yelled at him and told him to go to hell.” She sucked in a breath at the combination of pain and the fear in Ryder’s eyes and whipped her head around to see the same fear and rage in Dillon’s. Leaning forward, she touched her lips to his jaw. “You’re scared. I’ll be okay.”

Holding his T-shirt to her hip, Dillon pressed his lips to her forehead. “I know you will. Ryder and I won’t let anything happen to you or the baby.”

Struggling to hide her pain and her own fears, she leaned into him, growing weaker by the minute. “I know. This baby’s too important to all of us. With you and Ryder with us, we can get through…”

Her head began spinning, and darkness closed in.

Dillon stiffened when her voice trailed off and she slumped again him. “Fuck! Ally? Ally!”

Panicked when he saw that she’d passed out, he held on to her for dear life as they pulled into the doctor’s parking lot behind Marshall. He met Ryder’s terrified gaze. “She passed out!”

Marshall opened the door and stood aside, his eyes going wide when he saw that Alison had lost consciousness. His hard features hardened even more. “She’ll be all right. Let’s get her inside.”

Dark Desire: Earning Hope’s Submission

(More Desire, Oklahoma 5)

Erotic Contemporary Consensual BDSM, M/F, HEA

Hope Tyler had married the man of her dreams–the stern-faced sheriff of Desire, Oklahoma. She loved him, and his dark desires, but feared that surrendering herself completely to him would lead to him becoming bored with her, so she challenged him at every opportunity.

Ace Tyler understood his wife’s fears, probably better than she did. He’d discovered her need to submit completely, but understood her reluctance to do so, but knew, deep down, that neither one of them would be completely happy until they each gave in to their own needs.

Her demands, and an ultimatum that sent him reeling, handed him the perfect opportunity to set his plans to earn a deeper submission from her in motion.

Dominant in ways he never had with her before, he led her deeper into the world of erotic pleasure, and to a closeness that each of them desperately needed.

Excerpt

Hope stiffened and pushed away from him, getting up from his lap and putting several feet of distance between them. “You’re rich, Ace. You own Tyler Oil with your brothers. You could work with them.”

Raising a brow at the whine in her tone, he rose and started out of the room. “If I had to work there, I’d go out of my mind.”

Following him down the hall to the kitchen, she tugged at his forearm. “Then don’t work at all! You don’t need to.”

Keeping a tight rein on his temper, he shrugged her off and reached into the refrigerator for the pitcher of sweet tea. “Not working at all would make me even crazier.”

“I can’t stand it anymore, Ace! I want you to quit.”

After filling her glass and his, he set the pitcher on the table and slowly turned to her, raising a brow. “Excuse me? Quit what, exactly?”

Hope swallowed heavily and set the plate of fried chicken on the table, taking a deep breath before lifting her chin. “I want you to quit your job as sheriff.”

“No.” He went to the refrigerator, retrieved the coleslaw, and took it to the table before looking at her again.

Hope spun, slamming the bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. “No? Just like that?”

Ace inclined his head, keeping his tone calm and controlled. “No. Just like that.”

“You won’t even discuss it?”

“We just did. You knew what I did when you married me, Hope.”

“You never got shot at before!”

He waited until she dropped into her seat before lowering himself to his. “You’re so naïve, baby. Of course I’ve been shot at before. I’ve even been shot before. It’s part of the job.”

Hope’s eyes went wide. “Well, I never knew about it, and I’m not naïve. I thought the most dangerous thing you ever did was breaking up bar fights. You handle the Dominants from the club, give out tickets, and help round up horses that have escaped.”

After setting a piece of chicken on her plate, he set one on his. “Did you ever ask about my job?”

Lowering her gaze, she shifted restless in her seat, her face flushing. “Well, no.”

“Of course not. You were more interested in making sure that I accepted you as a submissive than learning more about me. I knew you were too young, but your innocence intrigued me, and I found you too irresistible.”

Raising a brow when she gasped, he let his gaze linger on her flushed cheeks before continuing. “You were raised by a mother and three very overprotective fathers who tried to shield you and your sister from the ugly side of life.”

“Like you do?”

Ace shrugged. “It’s only natural for a man to try to protect his woman, but I’ve never lied to you. I knew who you were when I married you. I knew that you were exactly what I wanted. I love you, but I won’t quit my job, not even for you.”

Jumping to her feet, Hope stamped her foot. “Damn it, Ace!”

Ace had had enough. Pausing in the process of scooping mashed potatoes onto his plate, he clenched his jaw. “Stamp your foot at me again, and I’ll put you across my knee.”

Her eyes flared with desire, the passions inside her too strong to contain. “That’s your answer? Sex?”

Confident in his ability to handle his wife’s passions—including her temper—Ace raised a brow. “Who said anything about sex? You’re acting like a brat and obviously need to be spanked.”

Hope gasped, her eyes going wide. “A brat?”

Ace reached for the coleslaw. “A brat. You’re demanding that I quit a job I’ve had most of my adult life—a job that I love. A job that I had when you married me.”

Hope sighed. “I worry.”

Ace inclined his head. “I know that, and I do everything I can to make things easier for you.”

“Sometimes it’s not enough.”

Knowing this was an issue that couldn’t be resolved, Ace dug into his dinner. “People die in car accidents every day. Do you want me to stop driving, too? You drive like a maniac just to get my attention—an unnecessary danger that scares me but that you do on a whim.”

Hope’s face flushed again. “I won’t do it again.”

Ace nodded once, pleased that he’d made his point. “Good.”

She dropped into her seat again with a sigh. “I don’t know if I can live this way anymore.”

Fear turned his stomach to ice, and setting his silverware aside, he kept his tone low and cold. “Is that an ultimatum?”

Losing her wasn’t an option, but he couldn’t allow his wife to deliver ultimatums and expect to get away with it.

Lifting her chin, she met his gaze squarely, her bottom lip trembling. “What if it is?”

“You know that I don’t respond well to ultimatums.”

With her chin still lifted, Hope wrapped her arms around herself, the combination of defiance and defensiveness a testament to the contrary woman herself. “What if I said that I would leave you if you don’t quit?”

Sitting back, he smiled coldly. “Then I would give you the spanking you so richly deserve and tell you that you’re not going anywhere. Are you sure this is the tack you wanna take?”

More Desire, Oklahoma, Volume 1

(Includes “Desire for Three: Winning Back Jesse” and “Blade’s Desire: Adoring Kelly”)

Desire for Three: Winning Back Jesse

Living in Desire, Oklahoma, and married to two incredible men, Jesse Erickson felt her world was perfect, until she walks through the door of her home one day and has her world turned upside down.

Shocked to the core, and with her world crumbling around her, she runs, too shaken to cope.

Clay and Rio Erickson hate keeping secrets from Jesse, but didn’t have a choice

They certainly hadn’t expected their wife to assume the worst and run.

With the help of a friend, they find her, only to face the horror of almost losing her again.

Scared and shaken, they get her home, still reeling from the thought of losing her. Determined to show her the power of their love won’t be easy, but they know just how to get their wife’s undivided attention.

Allowing their dominant sides to rule, they will plow through her insecurities once and for all.

 

Blade’s Desire: Adoring Kelly

Kelly Royal has learned the pleasure of submitting under her husband’s gentle, but firm, hand, but Blade’s interest in dominating her seems to be gone forever. Going into labor a month early scared the hell out of her, and despite Blade’s efforts, he couldn’t hide his own fear—especially when things go terribly wrong.

Unable to forget the image of her pale and unmoving form in the hospital bed, Blade can’t even imagine taking her back into his playroom, and as soon as he brings her home from the hospital, he empties the room, vowing to never dominate her again. His fragile wife has been through enough, and he can’t imagine taking her the way he did before.

Kelly, though, has other plans. She wants her husband back, and frustrated that he thwarts her attempts to take her the way he did before, she takes matters into her own hands.

Excerpt

Desire for Three: Winning Back Jesse

Clay wanted nothing more than to hold his wife in his arms and comfort her, to feel her soft and warm against him so he knew she was safe. With a warning look at his brother, Rio, to keep his temper to himself, he put the phone on speaker.

“Of course we’re worried about you, baby. Please, just tell us where you are so we can come and get you.”

“No, Clay.” The trembling sob in her voice tore him up inside.

With his heart in his throat, he turned, meeting the cold, hard stare of Lucas Hart, one of the partners in Desire Security Systems—and more than that—a good friend.

Lucas had been giving him dirty looks since they’d arrived a little more than an hour ago, clearly blaming Clay and Rio for hurting Jesse.

Clay blamed himself even more.

He’d hoped, prayed, that Jesse would answer the phone and that Lucas could use some of his vast array of equipment to find her.

Clenching his jaw, Lucas motioned for Clay to keep Jesse talking.

Clay had no intention of letting Jesse hang up, especially after spending the last few hours out of his mind with worry.

“Jesse, what do you mean, no? What happened, honey? We don’t even know what’s wrong. It’s not like you not to talk to us. If you’re mad at us for something, I’d rather you just give us hell like you usually do. It’s not like you to run away.”

“I guess you’re tired of having a woman who stands up for herself.” She said it in such a low voice that Clay almost missed it, but she continued on before he could say anything.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. I just need to be alone tonight.”

“You don’t need to be alone. You need to be with us!” Clay winced inwardly as the knot in his stomach turned to ice.

He kept his voice low, struggling to speak calmly when he was anything but. “You said you’ll be back tomorrow. You didn’t say you were coming home. You’re scaring the hell out of me, Jesse. If you think I’m letting you go, you’re very much mistaken. Just talk to us. Let me explain.”

Her silence scared him, and for several heart-stopping seconds, he feared she’d hung up. When she spoke again, the weariness and distance in her tone frightened him even more.

“Clay, I really don’t want to talk about this tonight. I’ve got to go—”

“No. Don’t you hang up on me, Jesse Erickson!” He scrubbed a hand over his face, praying that Lucas would be able to pinpoint her location before she hung up. Worry for her ate him alive.

“Baby? Are you cold? You left without your coat. Please tell me you’re someplace warm, honey.”

The sob in her sigh tore at him, the effect also apparent on both Rio and Lucas as they listened.

Rio sank into a chair, hanging his head, his hair mussed from running his hands through it countless times in the last few hours.

A muscle worked in Lucas’s jaw, his steely gaze holding Clay’s and his stonelike expression even harder and more intimidating than ever.

Jesse’s voice, so sweet and with a tremble in it that brought another lump to Clay’s throat, came over the speaker, softer now than before.

“I’m fine, Clay. I’m a big girl, remember? I’m not one of those sweet little things that fall all over you. I’m used to taking care of myself, or have you forgotten?”

The reminder of the cold, withdrawn woman he’d met two years earlier, a woman that had thought herself incapable of loving or being loved, nearly took him to his knees.

“I haven’t forgotten a single thing about you.”

The ice in his stomach seemed to spread, making him cold all the way to the bone and stiff with fear.

Her tone, a tone he’d never hoped to hear again, sounded so much like the one she’d used when he’d first met her that his heart skipped a beat and he actually felt dizzy for a moment.

Losing Jesse would kill him.

He didn’t even try to keep his frustration and fear out of his voice, hoping to get through to her.

He had to get through to her.

“Jesse, of course I’m worried about you. You’re my wife. You disappeared into the night without no coat and no dinner. I’m sure you didn’t eat anything. I know you, baby. When you’re upset, Rio and I have to practically force you to eat. That means you’re cold and hungry and I can’t get to you to make you eat, or to keep you warm. You’re hurting and I can’t hold you.”

His arms ached to hold her close.

“Please tell me where you are, Jesse. We need to talk, to straighten this out. I can’t stop thinking about the way you looked at me.” That look of confusion and hurt in her eyes would haunt him forever.

Jesse’s choked sigh cut his heart to shreds. “We’ll talk, Clay. Tomorrow. Look, I’m sorry I acted like a coward and ran off that way, but it was such a shock. I’ve been stupid and never saw it coming. I should have paid more attention. I should have realized that you felt neglected.”

Her voice lowered, so low he had trouble hearing her.

“I’ve always suspected it would end some day. I knew better. I just thought I would see it coming.”

 

Blade’s Desire: Adoring Kelly

“You look very sexy tonight. Of course, you always look sexy, but when you dress for the club…”

She didn’t want to think about the women that would be there. Scantily clad, if they wore anything at all, and probably all stunningly beautiful. Thin.

“Hmm.” Blade nuzzled her neck in a particularly sensitive spot that he’d mastered long ago. “It’s nice to know my beautiful wife thinks I’m sexy, especially since I think she’s the sexiest, most desirable woman on earth.”

Turning away, she blinked back tears, angry that he would never see her as sexy again, scared that he wouldn’t be able to find the pleasure in her he had before. “Don’t patronize me, Blade. I’m fat and I waddle.”

She tried to push him away, but he cuddled her closer. “Let go of me.”

God, she wanted him so much.

It was a need that would go unsatisfied. Blade had stopped making love to her months earlier, too scared of hurting her and causing another miscarriage.

“Never.” Sliding his hands higher, he began to massage her breasts, his touch soothing on her aching body. “You’re mine forever. I’ll never let you go. Still sensitive, baby?”

Moaning at the pleasure, she slumped against him, the heat of his body against hers easing her aching body. “Hmm.” Turning her head, she lifted her face to his. “Yes, but don’t stop. I ache everywhere. I’m so fat that I can’t even get out of a chair without help. Very sexy, huh?”

Wincing at the tightening around her abdomen, she stiffened. Not wanting to worry him, she bit back a moan, grateful when it passed almost immediately. “You’ve spent months handling me with kid gloves. I was scared of you when we met, even though I was attracted to you—had feelings for you. You were so patient with me, until I could let go, and be what you needed.” Smiling she closed her eyes. “What we both needed.”

Opening her eyes again, she sighed. “But ever since I got pregnant the first time, it seems all you’ve been doing is taking care of me. Handling me as if I’ll break. I’m sure this isn’t what you expected when you married me.”

Blade rubbed her abdomen, his lips warm against her ear. “I got even more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Turning her in his arms, he frowned down at her, his eyes full of concern. “Kelly, you’re my life. You know how much I love you, don’t you?”

Love for him swelled inside her. Reaching up, she flattened her hands on his chest, flexing her fingers into the hard muscle she knew so well. “Blade, you’ve been so wonderful through my pregnancies and miscarriages. You’ve been my rock.”

Blinking back tears, she clenched her jaw when another pain hit her—like a rubber band tightening around her abdomen. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“You’ll never have to be without me, baby.”

Scared now, she looked up at him through her lashes, and voiced the fear that had been choking her for months. “We’re never going to be the same, are we?”

Blade stilled, his eyes narrowing. “Kelly, what the hell are you talking about?” Wrapping an arm around her, he led her to the bed, urging her to sit. “You’re tired, honey, and you’re in pain.”

Wincing at the ache in her back, she laid on her side, curling her body as she searched for a comfortable position. “I know you love me, Blade. I know how much you want this baby. I’m just afraid. You haven’t touched me in months. I see the way you look at me. Something’s missing. I miss that look.”

Blade positioned himself to lean over her protectively. “Of course I want this baby. I want you, too, Kelly. I’ve never stopped wanting you.”

Blowing out a breath, he laid a hand on her abdomen as he knelt on the floor beside her. His expression softened, but his eyes narrowed in concern. “You’re tired, baby, and uncomfortable. Just stay here. I’ll call the club and tell them—”

She didn’t want him to see her this way. She hated the fear in his eyes. Knowing he needed a break from all the tension, she forced a smile. “No. Just go. I’ll be fine. I feel better already. I’ll just lie here for a while.”

Leaning close, Blade cupped her jaw, brushing his lips over hers. “I always want you, Kelly, but we both have to be patient. You really don’t expect me to spank your gorgeous ass while you’re pregnant, do you? Or put clamps on already tender nipples?”

Kelly swallowed the lump in her throat. It had been so long since he’d done either of those things. “Blade, you love sex. Love to play, but you haven’t touched me in months. Even after I have the baby, it’ll be a while before I recover. Then, I’ll be nursing. You’re never going to want me that way again. You’re too scared of hurting me now. I see it in your eyes.”

A sob escaped before she could prevent it. “Love isn’t going to be enough for us, is it? I’m going to lose you.”

“Kelly, that’s enough.” The impatience in his tone scared her.

She’d never known Blade to be impatient about anything.

Cursing, he ran his hand over her abdomen again. Closing his eyes, he blew out a breath, before opening them again, holding her gaze with his tortured one. “You’re getting all worked up over nothing.” Frowning, he glanced at her stomach before meeting her gaze again. “You’re having contractions, aren’t you? You’re in even more pain than I thought. Were you even going to tell me?”

He shot to his feet, cursing soundly. “We’ll deal with that later. Stay here. I’m going to go call your doctor.”

Rules of Desire: Protecting Erin

(More Desire, Oklahoma 4)

Siren Ménage Everlasting:Erotic Menage a Quatre Romance, M/F/M/M, HEA

Marriage to three men once seemed nothing short of insane, but now it has made Erin Preston happier than she could have ever imagined. Jared, Duncan, and Reese changed her life, and giving birth to their child made them even more complete. She never expected, though, that an incident from her past would jeopardize everything they’d built together.

Nelson Stark, an accountant in the oil company she used to work for, had embezzled a fortune, and Erin was the one to catch him. Even though he’d vowed to get even with her, she considered him harmless. But then Wes Cramer, the attorney she’d worked with to get Nelson convicted, appeared on her doorstep, enraging her overprotective husbands, so she didn’t tell them about the missing money…or that the FBI was involved.

It was a mistake she’d regret—one that would put her life in danger and kick her husbands’ protectiveness into high gear.

Excerpt

Erin woke once more to the feel of a tight band around her swollen abdomen.

She’d had cramps on and off for the last several hours and had tried to ignore them.

She couldn’t ignore them anymore.

They’d woken her several times during the night but had eased quickly, allowing her to drift back to sleep, warm and comfortable between two of her husbands.

It was bad enough that she had to get up two or three times a night to use the bathroom, and she couldn’t wait to get back into bed and be warmed by her husbands’ hard bodies on either side of her.

With her head pillowed on Duncan’s chest, his arm around her, and Jared at her back, she was cocooned in warmth and didn’t want to move.

It would seem that her baby had other ideas.

Another tightening of her abdomen, one that hurt worse than the last made it clear that she couldn’t lie there much longer.

When she felt a rush of moisture between her thighs, panic set in and she knew the time had come to wake her husbands.

But she didn’t want to panic them.

Tilting her head back, she looked up at Duncan, taking in his handsome features and sleep-tousled hair with a smile.

Another contraction and the fact that she was uncomfortably wet had her pressing a hand to his chest.

“Duncan.”

The arm at her back tightened. “Hmm? Need to go to the bathroom again?” He started to sit up and reached for her to help her out of bed, his tone groggy, one that she knew would change quickly.

Their room-darkening curtains made it impossible to know the time, but a glance at the clock told her it was just a little after five.

“My water broke.”

“Hmm. Okay.” His entire body stiffened, all traces of grogginess gone. “What? The baby?” Reaching out, he turned on the light, bathing the room in a soft glow.

Jared jerked upright, kneeling next to her with a protective hand on her swollen abdomen, his eyes searching hers. “The baby? You okay?”

Erin struggled to sit up, with Duncan and Jared both reaching out to help her.

“I need to take a shower.”

Duncan, usually the most playful of her husbands, was already shaking his head. “No.” He stood, naked, and went to the closet. “We need to go. We’ll wrap you in a blanket.”

Wearing just a pair of sweatpants that hung low on his hips, Reese rushed into the room.

“What’s going on? The baby?”

Duncan shook out a blanket and came toward her. “Yeah. Her water broke. I’m gonna get her wrapped in the blanket. We all need to get dressed.”

Reese came to kneel beside her, his smile tender but his eyes dark with concern. “Does it hurt, baby?”

“Not much.” She swatted at Duncan’s attempts to wrap the blanket around her. “No, Duncan. I’m wet and need a shower.” With Reese’s help, she rose and started for the bathroom. “I’m getting dressed. I’m not going to the hospital in a damned blanket.”

When another contraction hit, she stopped, holding on to Reese until it passed.

“Enough of this.” Still naked, Jared bent and gently picked her up. “Let’s get your damned shower. Reese, call the doctor. Duncan, get her suitcase out of the closet.”

Another contraction hit while Jared washed her, and pausing, he held her to him, rubbing her back.

“Christ, I wish I could take the pain for you.”

Once the contraction passed, Erin laughed to ease the tension emanating from him.

“That’s a picture I’d like to see.”

Jared’s eyes narrowed, his smile not wiping away the concern in his eyes.

“You callin’ me a pussy, darlin’?” He finished rinsing her and turned off the water, keeping a supporting arm around her.

Leaning back against him, she smiled up at him over her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t dare.”

Reese, already dressed, opened the shower door, holding a large bath sheet.

“Come on, baby. Let’s get you dried off and dressed.”

He gathered her close when another contraction hit, frowning as he wrapped the bath sheet around her. Once it passed, he carried her into the bedroom where Duncan turned from her closet.

They both hurriedly dressed her in her most comfortable dress before Duncan lifted her in his arms, smiling and dropping a soft kiss on her lips.

“Let’s go have a baby.”

When another contraction hit, Reese grimaced and closed in on her other side, covering the hand she pressed to her abdomen with his own.

“Oh, baby.”

Jared, who’d already thrown on jeans and a T-shirt, slid a pair of her fuzzy socks on her feet. His tousled hair told her he hadn’t done more than run a towel over it, leaving it hanging rakishly over his forehead.

“Let’s go.”

“Damn, you look sexy when you’re tousled.”

Jared stilled, his eyes going wide. “What? Are you okay?”

“I’m pregnant, not blind.” Another contraction hit, much harder than the last.

Exchanging looks with Duncan and Reese, Jared clenched his jaw. “Let’s get her to the hospital.”

Creation of Desire: Reassuring Rachel

(More Desire, Oklahoma 3)

Siren Ménage Everlasting: Erotic Ménage a Trois Romance, M/F/M, spanking, sex toys, HEA

Running a business and caring for a sick baby didn’t leave Rachel Jackson much time or energy for her beloved husbands, a fact that hit her hard when she learned that her husbands’ ex-lover had been calling them for days, and neither Boone nor Chase had told her.

She believed them when they told her that they’d kept it from her to protect her, but their deception hurt her and shook her confidence.

How could she hope to compete with such a beautiful and sophisticated woman—a woman who’d had the ability to hurt them deeply?

Mona’s appearance brought back the insecurities Rachel had spent months struggling to hide—the fear that Boone and Chase had only married her because she carried their child.

While trying to reassure Rachel that Mona meant nothing to them, they dismissed their ex-girlfriend’s persistence as a nuisance, underestimating her determination to get them back.

It was a mistake they regretted, one that almost cost Rachel her life.

A Siren Erotic Romance

Excerpt

Despite her exhaustion, Rachel smiled at the rush of heat his devilish smile sent through her. They hadn’t made love in days, and she missed it, but she was so tired that every time she closed her eyes, she fell asleep. She didn’t have the energy to make love anymore and it scared her. “Thank you. I won’t be long. I want to finish my coffee first, though. I need all the caffeine I can get today.”

“I know. You’re going to drink it all day and make yourself sick.” Rubbing Theresa’s back, he rocked back and forth, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Something tells me our chat is going to be a little one-sided, but I’ll get her dressed and change her diaper again while we have a nice long conversation.”

Watching him go, Rachel sighed and finished her coffee, listening to the sound of Chase’s low voice as he disappeared down the hall. She could still hear the shower running, and hurried to join her other husband, Boone, before he got out. Hoping the shower would help her wake up a little more, she smiled at the thought of running her hands over Boone while he was naked and wet. He’d gone without sex for more than a week, and it had to be frustrating for him.

She started out of the room, pausing at the sound of a cell phone ringing.

With a curse, she followed the sound to Boone’s cell phone on the counter. The knowledge that he and Chase used their cell phones for their construction business had her grabbing the pen and paper they kept on the counter before answering.

“Hello?”

“Hello.”

Rachel stiffened at the husky feminine voice, alarm bells going off in her head. It wasn’t unusual for women to hire them, but something about this one set her teeth on edge. “Yes, can I help you?”

After a brief pause, the woman blew out a breath. “Put Boone on.” The demand in the sultry voice had a surge of adrenaline rushing through Rachel’s veins.

“He’s busy.” Gritting her teeth, she forced a cool politeness into her tone. “May I take a message?” When she caught herself trying to smooth her hair and straightening her stained nightgown, she inwardly cursed at her own insecurity.

“Oh. He’s probably still in the shower. I thought he’d be showered and dressed by now.” The other woman laughed softly. “He’s magnificent in the shower, isn’t he? They both are. If Boone’s busy, let me talk to Chase. God, he’s so playful and inventive in bed, isn’t he?”

Finding it suddenly difficult to breathe, Rachel pressed a hand to her stomach, struggling to keep her coffee down. “Who is this?”

Dizzy, she clung to the counter.

It had happened to her mother, and Rachel had sworn to herself that she’d never let it happen to her.

“I’m Mona. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” Her voice dropped, the challenge in it unmistakable. “Boone’s and Chase’s lover.”

Rachel’s hand tightened on the phone, bile rising in her throat as she recognized the name from their past. “I believe you mean ex-lover.”

Even though she told herself that this woman had to be lying about being their lover, her knees shook, the fear of losing Boone and Chase so intense, it actually made her stomach hurt.

Mona’s twinkling laugh grated on her nerves and made the pain spread. “I can see they haven’t told you that we’ve…renewed our acquaintance. Hmm, interesting. Well, I’m sure they’ll tell you when they’re ready. When I talked to Boone last night, he told me that it was a bad time to talk and to call him this morning. I’m sure he’ll call me as soon as he can.”

Gritting her teeth again, Rachel glanced toward the doorway. She would have liked to believe that neither Boone nor Chase would ever cheat on her, but they’d had a relationship with this woman in the past—something Rachel knew she would be stupid to ignore. “I’ll be sure to tell him you called.”

She definitely would.

Later—when she wasn’t so damned tired, and when she figured out just what to say.

Mona sighed. “I really do feel sorry for you, you know. Boone, Chase and I are so good together.” Mona’s voice lowered and took on an edge that sent another chill through Rachel. “Don’t try to get in the way. You played it real good—getting pregnant and forcing them to marry you—but you had to know it wouldn’t be enough to keep them.”

Rachel gripped the counter tighter. “Good-bye, Mona.” Disconnecting, she cursed and started to toss the phone onto the counter, pausing at the last second. Lifting the phone again, she quietly went to the doorway and listened to see what Chase and Boone were doing.

Mona had gotten to her, and she was already spying on her husbands.

Chase still spoke to Theresa from the nursery. “Yes. You’re Daddy’s little girl and when you’re older, and those boys come sniffing around you, Daddy’s going to scare them all off. Yes, he is. You think that’s funny, do you?”

Smiling at his sing-song tone, she blinked back tears, hoping that he would still be around when Theresa was old enough to date.

Tuning him out, she listened for Boone, jolting when she realized that she could no longer hear the shower running. Her heart raced at the sound of drawers opening and closing in the master bedroom, and she knew she didn’t have much time.

Calling herself all kinds of a fool, and cursing Mona’s small victory, she searched through Boone’s phone for incoming calls, her heart lurching when she saw that Mona had called several times over the last several days.

Neither Boone nor Chase had said a word about it.

Blade’s Desire: Adoring Kelly

(More Desire, Oklahoma 2)

Erotic Consensual BDSM Romance, sex toys, HEA

Kelly Royal has learned the pleasure of submitting under her husband’s gentle, but firm, hand, but Blade’s interest in dominating her seems to be gone forever. Going into labor a month early scared the hell out of her, and despite Blade’s efforts, he couldn’t hide his own fear—especially when things go terribly wrong.

Unable to forget the image of her pale and unmoving form in the hospital bed, Blade can’t even imagine taking her back into his playroom, and as soon as he brings her home from the hospital, he empties the room, vowing to never dominate her again. His fragile wife has been through enough, and he can’t imagine taking her the way he did before.

Kelly, though, has other plans. She wants her husband back, and frustrated that he thwarts her attempts to take her the way he did before, she takes matters into her own hands.

Excerpt

“You look very sexy tonight. Of course, you always look sexy, but when you dress for the club…”

She didn’t want to think about the women that would be there. Scantily clad, if they wore anything at all, and probably all stunningly beautiful. Thin.

“Hmm.” Blade nuzzled her neck in a particularly sensitive spot that he’d mastered long ago. “It’s nice to know my beautiful wife thinks I’m sexy, especially since I think she’s the sexiest, most desirable woman on earth.”

Turning away, she blinked back tears, angry that he would never see her as sexy again, scared that he wouldn’t be able to find the pleasure in her he had before. “Don’t patronize me, Blade. I’m fat and I waddle.”

She tried to push him away, but he cuddled her closer. “Let go of me.”

God, she wanted him so much.

It was a need that would go unsatisfied. Blade had stopped making love to her months earlier, too scared of hurting her and causing another miscarriage.

“Never.” Sliding his hands higher, he began to massage her breasts, his touch soothing on her aching body. “You’re mine forever. I’ll never let you go. Still sensitive, baby?”

Moaning at the pleasure, she slumped against him, the heat of his body against hers easing her aching body. “Hmm.” Turning her head, she lifted her face to his. “Yes, but don’t stop. I ache everywhere. I’m so fat that I can’t even get out of a chair without help. Very sexy, huh?”

Wincing at the tightening around her abdomen, she stiffened. Not wanting to worry him, she bit back a moan, grateful when it passed almost immediately. “You’ve spent months handling me with kid gloves. I was scared of you when we met, even though I was attracted to you—had feelings for you. You were so patient with me, until I could let go, and be what you needed.” Smiling she closed her eyes. “What we both needed.”

Opening her eyes again, she sighed. “But ever since I got pregnant the first time, it seems all you’ve been doing is taking care of me. Handling me as if I’ll break. I’m sure this isn’t what you expected when you married me.”

Blade rubbed her abdomen, his lips warm against her ear. “I got even more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Turning her in his arms, he frowned down at her, his eyes full of concern. “Kelly, you’re my life. You know how much I love you, don’t you?”

Love for him swelled inside her. Reaching up, she flattened her hands on his chest, flexing her fingers into the hard muscle she knew so well. “Blade, you’ve been so wonderful through my pregnancies and miscarriages. You’ve been my rock.”

Blinking back tears, she clenched her jaw when another pain hit her—like a rubber band tightening around her abdomen. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“You’ll never have to be without me, baby.”

Scared now, she looked up at him through her lashes, and voiced the fear that had been choking her for months. “We’re never going to be the same, are we?”

Blade stilled, his eyes narrowing. “Kelly, what the hell are you talking about?” Wrapping an arm around her, he led her to the bed, urging her to sit. “You’re tired, honey, and you’re in pain.”

Wincing at the ache in her back, she laid on her side, curling her body as she searched for a comfortable position. “I know you love me, Blade. I know how much you want this baby. I’m just afraid. You haven’t touched me in months. I see the way you look at me. Something’s missing. I miss that look.”

Blade positioned himself to lean over her protectively. “Of course I want this baby. I want you, too, Kelly. I’ve never stopped wanting you.”

Blowing out a breath, he laid a hand on her abdomen as he knelt on the floor beside her. His expression softened, but his eyes narrowed in concern. “You’re tired, baby, and uncomfortable. Just stay here. I’ll call the club and tell them—”

She didn’t want him to see her this way. She hated the fear in his eyes. Knowing he needed a break from all the tension, she forced a smile. “No. Just go. I’ll be fine. I feel better already. I’ll just lie here for a while.”

Leaning close, Blade cupped her jaw, brushing his lips over hers. “I always want you, Kelly, but we both have to be patient. You really don’t expect me to spank your gorgeous ass while you’re pregnant, do you? Or put clamps on already tender nipples?”

Kelly swallowed the lump in her throat. It had been so long since he’d done either of those things. “Blade, you love sex. Love to play, but you haven’t touched me in months. Even after I have the baby, it’ll be a while before I recover. Then, I’ll be nursing. You’re never going to want me that way again. You’re too scared of hurting me now. I see it in your eyes.”

A sob escaped before she could prevent it. “Love isn’t going to be enough for us, is it? I’m going to lose you.”

“Kelly, that’s enough.” The impatience in his tone scared her.

She’d never known Blade to be impatient about anything.

Cursing, he ran his hand over her abdomen again. Closing his eyes, he blew out a breath, before opening them again, holding her gaze with his tortured one. “You’re getting all worked up over nothing.” Frowning, he glanced at her stomach before meeting her gaze again. “You’re having contractions, aren’t you? You’re in even more pain than I thought. Were you even going to tell me?”

He shot to his feet, cursing soundly. “We’ll deal with that later. Stay here. I’m going to go call your doctor.”

Desire for Three: Winning Back Jesse

(More Desire, Oklahoma 1)

Living in Desire, Oklahoma, and married to two incredible men, Jesse Erickson felt her world was perfect, until she walks through the door of her home one day and has her world turned upside down.

Shocked to the core, and with her world crumbling around her, she runs, too shaken to cope.

Clay and Rio Erickson hate keeping secrets from Jesse, but didn’t have a choice

They certainly hadn’t expected their wife to assume the worst and run.

With the help of a friend, they find her, only to face the horror of almost losing her again.

Scared and shaken, they get her home, still reeling from the thought of losing her. Determined to show her the power of their love won’t be easy, but they know just how to get their wife’s undivided attention.

Allowing their dominant sides to rule, they will plow through her insecurities once and for all.

Excerpt

Clay wanted nothing more than to hold his wife in his arms and comfort her, to feel her soft and warm against him so he knew she was safe. With a warning look at his brother, Rio, to keep his temper to himself, he put the phone on speaker.

“Of course we’re worried about you, baby. Please, just tell us where you are so we can come and get you.”

“No, Clay.” The trembling sob in her voice tore him up inside.

With his heart in his throat, he turned, meeting the cold, hard stare of Lucas Hart, one of the partners in Desire Security Systems—and more than that—a good friend.

Lucas had been giving him dirty looks since they’d arrived a little more than an hour ago, clearly blaming Clay and Rio for hurting Jesse.

Clay blamed himself even more.

He’d hoped, prayed, that Jesse would answer the phone and that Lucas could use some of his vast array of equipment to find her.

Clenching his jaw, Lucas motioned for Clay to keep Jesse talking.

Clay had no intention of letting Jesse hang up, especially after spending the last few hours out of his mind with worry.

“Jesse, what do you mean, no? What happened, honey? We don’t even know what’s wrong. It’s not like you not to talk to us. If you’re mad at us for something, I’d rather you just give us hell like you usually do. It’s not like you to run away.”

“I guess you’re tired of having a woman who stands up for herself.” She said it in such a low voice that Clay almost missed it, but she continued on before he could say anything.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. I just need to be alone tonight.”

“You don’t need to be alone. You need to be with us!” Clay winced inwardly as the knot in his stomach turned to ice.

He kept his voice low, struggling to speak calmly when he was anything but. “You said you’ll be back tomorrow. You didn’t say you were coming home. You’re scaring the hell out of me, Jesse. If you think I’m letting you go, you’re very much mistaken. Just talk to us. Let me explain.”

Her silence scared him, and for several heart-stopping seconds, he feared she’d hung up. When she spoke again, the weariness and distance in her tone frightened him even more.

“Clay, I really don’t want to talk about this tonight. I’ve got to go—”

“No. Don’t you hang up on me, Jesse Erickson!” He scrubbed a hand over his face, praying that Lucas would be able to pinpoint her location before she hung up. Worry for her ate him alive.

“Baby? Are you cold? You left without your coat. Please tell me you’re someplace warm, honey.”

The sob in her sigh tore at him, the effect also apparent on both Rio and Lucas as they listened.

Rio sank into a chair, hanging his head, his hair mussed from running his hands through it countless times in the last few hours.

A muscle worked in Lucas’s jaw, his steely gaze holding Clay’s and his stonelike expression even harder and more intimidating than ever.

Jesse’s voice, so sweet and with a tremble in it that brought another lump to Clay’s throat, came over the speaker, softer now than before.

“I’m fine, Clay. I’m a big girl, remember? I’m not one of those sweet little things that fall all over you. I’m used to taking care of myself, or have you forgotten?”

The reminder of the cold, withdrawn woman he’d met two years earlier, a woman that had thought herself incapable of loving or being loved, nearly took him to his knees.

“I haven’t forgotten a single thing about you.”

The ice in his stomach seemed to spread, making him cold all the way to the bone and stiff with fear.

Her tone, a tone he’d never hoped to hear again, sounded so much like the one she’d used when he’d first met her that his heart skipped a beat and he actually felt dizzy for a moment.

Losing Jesse would kill him.

He didn’t even try to keep his frustration and fear out of his voice, hoping to get through to her.

He had to get through to her.

“Jesse, of course I’m worried about you. You’re my wife. You disappeared into the night without no coat and no dinner. I’m sure you didn’t eat anything. I know you, baby. When you’re upset, Rio and I have to practically force you to eat. That means you’re cold and hungry and I can’t get to you to make you eat, or to keep you warm. You’re hurting and I can’t hold you.”

His arms ached to hold her close.

“Please tell me where you are, Jesse. We need to talk, to straighten this out. I can’t stop thinking about the way you looked at me.” That look of confusion and hurt in her eyes would haunt him forever.

Jesse’s choked sigh cut his heart to shreds. “We’ll talk, Clay. Tomorrow. Look, I’m sorry I acted like a coward and ran off that way, but it was such a shock. I’ve been stupid and never saw it coming. I should have paid more attention. I should have realized that you felt neglected.”

Her voice lowered, so low he had trouble hearing her.

“I’ve always suspected it would end some day. I knew better. I just thought I would see it coming.”