/ Language: English / Genre:love_erotica,

Between Friends

Lolita Lopez

For months, LA fashionista Whitney Montcrief has secretly lusted after her roommates, super sexy trauma surgeon Mick O'Loughlin and rough, tough and drop-dead gorgeous SWAT sergeant Eddie Dillon. Eddie craves Whitney's touch. Her sweet smile tempts him like none other-and it terrifies him. He's been burned once before and has no desire to relive the pain of rejection. His heart walled off, Eddie denies himself the very thing he wants most. But Mick is tired of tiptoeing around the obvious sexual attraction between the three of them. He wants Eddie and Whitney in his bed. He's ready to play with fire, even if that means dragging Eddie, kicking and screaming, right through the flames behind him.

Lolita Lopez

Between Friends

Copyright © 2011

Letter to Readers

Dear Readers,

If you have purchased this copy of Between Friends by Lolita Lopez from BookStrand.com or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.

Chapter One

“Shit! Eddie, we’re never going to get this finished before Whit gets home.” Mick didn’t bother disguising the distress in his voice as he cast a quick glance at his paint-splattered best friend and sometimes lover.

“Well, standing there bitchin’ about it isn’t going to get this done any faster.” Eddie globbed more paint onto the fuzzy roller. “Need I remind you this wasn’t my idea? I tried to tell you renovating this part of the house in two weeks was impossible, but you wouldn’t listen.”

Not wanting to hear another round of Eddie’s I-told-you-so routine, Mick shot him the finger. “I heard you the first nine times. But…seriously…what are we going to do?”

“No idea.” Eddie shrugged his bare shoulders. The house was unbearably hot, and the two men had stripped down to shorts to keep cool while working frantically to patch up the nightmare they’d created. With every stroke of the paint roller, the muscles of Eddie’s well-defined back rippled. Apparently those workouts with his fellow SWAT members were paying off in spades.

Mick’s gaze lingered on the tantalizing sight a moment too long. Eddie shot him a frown. “Dude, focus!”

Mick tore away his appreciative gaze and tried to suppress the wicked images now flickering in his mind. There would be time for that later. Right now, they had a serious problem to tackle.

His stomach soured as he studied the living room and what he could see of the dining room. A long slab of plywood balanced across a pair of sawhorses served as a makeshift worktable and held paint cans and roller covers. Sheets of clear plastic covered the floor, protecting the bamboo planks he’d mistakenly installed before finishing up the painting. He cringed at the memory of Eddie’s delighted guffaws at his amateur move.

Jagged edges of Sheetrock marked what had once been a wall and was now a glaring, gaping hole looking into the dining room. Exposed concrete waited for its new hardwood covering. The boxes of flooring sat stacked in a corner of the dining room with assorted other boxes of renovation supplies. The hardwood planks were the wrong color, of course, and needed to be returned and exchanged.

“Christ, what the hell were we thinking?” Mick rubbed his face and immediately regretted it. He felt the slick smudge of wet paint on his cheeks. “Great. Just fucking great!”

Eddie laughed his deep belly laugh and leaned against the long pole attached to the paint roller. “Sage is a good look for you.”

Mick shot both fingers this time. He blew out a rough breath. “Whitney is going to flip when she sees this-and not in the way we’d envisioned.”

For months now, their roommate Whitney had been dropping hints about making some changes to the house. Mick and Eddie had resisted. With the plunging real estate values, they were almost upside down on the mortgage. Things were finally settling down, and they’d been able to refinance at a lower fixed rate. The idea of renovating no longer seemed quite so daunting. It was doable so long as they stuck to their budget.

And it would make Whitney happy.

Mick took another look at the mess and wondered when things had gotten so complicated. Had he ever done something so stupid for a woman? Would he have taken on such a project for anyone else?

No. The answer was swift and sure.

Whitney Montcrief was one of a kind. When she’d answered the roommate listing, Mick’s first instinct had been to say no. For starters, she was female, and they’d originally planned to stick with another guy to preserve the all-male dynamic in the house. Throw in her pale blonde hair and those arresting green eyes, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Two bisexual men and a nubile young woman sharing a house? Worst. Idea. Ever.

Some days the sexual tension threatened to blow the roof off the place. For twelve months, they’d been tiptoeing around the subject. Eddie wasn’t the kind to take risks, not after the Miranda fiasco. He liked things simple and straightforward and safe. Mick, on the other hand, enjoyed a little risk, but the thought of crossing that line and hurting Eddie kept his desire at bay. Mick honestly didn’t know if their friendship would survive another Miranda.

So here they were, tearing up their home in the hopes of impressing the woman neither of them were ballsy enough to go after. Yeah. Smart. Real smart.

“Maybe if we just get the living room finished, she won’t notice the rest.”

Mick’s hopeful tone seemed to amuse Eddie. The corner of his mouth curved in a smile. “Maybe she’ll be so blinded by our wonderful paint job she won’t see this ugly-ass hole where that wall used to be. Yep. Sounds like a plan, Mick.”

Mick gritted his teeth and counted to five. “Look, if we move around the furniture, we can probably block most of the missing wall with the entertainment center. We’ll stash all the construction crap in the dining room and shut the doors.”

Eddie considered his suggestion. “If she’s really tired from her flight that might work tonight. Maybe she’ll just walk by the dining room and not ask any questions, but tomorrow morning?” Eddie shook his shaved head. “We’re fucked. You know she likes to eat her scrambled eggs and toast in the dining room while she checks her blogs and newspapers.”

Actually Mick didn’t know that. His shift at the ER started before Eddie or Whit were awake in the mornings. He typically grabbed his breakfast on the way into work and missed that quaint scene of domestic bliss. A small flare of jealousy irritated his already frayed nerves. “So what do you suggest?”

“We work our asses off to get this done or as close to done as possible.” Eddie picked up his paint roller and headed back to the wall. “And hope for the best.”

Mick stared at Eddie for a second and then grudgingly got back to work. There really was no other option.

Together they managed to finish painting the living room and were installing the new ceiling fan when Mick heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching car. Eddie’s paint-stained hands went still. The screwdriver clamped between his teeth fell to the floor with a noisy clatter. Mick was certain he displayed the same oh-shit expression reflected on Eddie’s face.

“Is that Whit?”

Mick hopped off the stepladder and rushed to the window. His stomach dropped like a runaway elevator. “Yeah. In a taxi.”

“We weren’t supposed to pick her up for hours.”

Mick rushed back to the stepladder and snatched up the screwdriver. He climbed up to help Eddie rush the installation of the ceiling fan. Seconds sped by so quickly. Their fingers fumbled and slipped. Eddie cursed a few times before finally securing the base on the ceiling mount and getting the last screw in place. Mick stepped off the ladder a fraction of a moment before the front door swung open.

“What is all that crap in the front yard? It looks like Home Depot exploded on our sidewalk.” Whitney’s confused voice drifted in from the hallway. In a few seconds, she’d come around the corner.

Mick’s knotted stomach ached fiercely. Eddie stood frozen on the stepladder. Luggage wheels thunked, and high heels clacked on the entryway tile. “I took an earlier flight from Miami. I couldn’t wait to get home and relax with my two favorite-”

Whit’s voice trailed off as she appeared in the arched doorway. A flirty white sundress contrasted the warmth of her sun-kissed skin. Her fingers slowly drew down the designer sunglasses perched on her nose. Those soft green eyes widened as she looked around the demolished living room and dining room. Shock filtered across her pretty face.

Mick shot a quick glance at Eddie, but his friend’s gaze was fixed on Whitney. Mick silently prayed Whit wouldn’t blow up on them. Eddie was the kind of guy who would race through hell with a cup of gasoline just for the thrill of it, but that roughened exterior hid an incredibly sensitive man. One cross word from Whitney and Mick just knew Eddie would be crushed.

Whitney shoved her sunglasses onto the crown of her head. She left her hot-pink suitcase standing in the doorway and took a slow tour of the mess. “Well”-she put her hands on her hips-“I’ve seen worse.”

Mick exhaled with relief. She wasn’t pissed. Annoyed? Hell yes. But she wasn’t angry, and that’s all that mattered.

“We wanted to surprise you.” Eddie stepped off the ladder. “We just didn’t figure on a number of setbacks throwing us off schedule.”

“You’ve always got to account for Murphy.” Whit spoke with the authority of a young woman responsible for coordinating some of the biggest fashion shows in New York and Los Angeles. “If something can go wrong, it absolutely will.” She paused and flashed them a smile. “I appreciate the effort, though.”

Mick’s stress melted. He sensed Eddie was at ease now.

Whitney pointed to the stacks of hardwood flooring visible through the gaping hole. She wrinkled her cute little nose. “Those have to go back. They are way too dark for the dining room.”

Mick laughed, not the least bit surprised she’d noticed. “We were planning to take them back later.”

“So what’s the story of the half-nakedness?” Whitney frowned and fanned her face. “Why the hell is it so hot in here?”

Mick cringed as Eddie chuckled and slapped him on the back. “Doctor Know-It-All fried the A/C. Too many plugs in one outlet.”

Whitney shot him a knowing glance. “Imagine that.”

Mick’s face grew warm with embarrassment. He offered a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

Whit shook her head. “So we have no living room, no dining room, and no air conditioning.”

“The kitchen is a mess. We have a lot of equipment and supplies stashed in there.” Mick avoided her annoyed frown.

“And one bathroom,” Eddie added reluctantly.

Her eyebrows lifted. “Excuse me?”

“Your bathroom is stuffed with extra furniture and lamps and stuff.” Mick motioned toward Eddie. “The master bathroom between our rooms is open.”

“I don’t need to hear any more.” She held up her hands. “For what it's worth, I can tell you put a lot of hard work into this, even if it didn’t go exactly as planned. We can get this place whipped into shape in no time.” She assumed her naturally bossy tone. “You two can throw those boxes of flooring in Eddie’s truck, and I’ll exchange them while I’m at the store.”

“You’re going to Home Depot?” Mick asked, not at all thrown by her take-charge attitude. If there was one thing Whit did well, it was boss other people around.

“Well, I sure as hell am not going to roast in my bedroom all night. And I’ve had enough of hotel rooms. I want to sleep in my own bed. So until we can get an HVAC guy out here, I’ll enjoy the cold breeze of a window unit.”

Mick and Eddie did as she’d instructed and carried the boxes of flooring out to Eddie’s truck while Whitney impatiently tapped her foot.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Mick asked when they reconvened in the living room.

“No. You and Eddie get to stay here and clean up your mess because you’ve been very naughty boys.” She sauntered over to Eddie and brazenly slipped her hand inside the front pocket of his board shorts. A flicker of lust licked at Mick’s lower belly. His groin tightened at the sight of Whitney’s hand buried in Eddie’s pocket. An expression of shock and arousal flitted across Eddie’s face.

With a teasing smirk, Whitney produced the keys to Eddie’s truck. She took a step back and lowered her sunglasses into place. “Get a move on, boys. I expect to see this mess cleaned up by the time I get back-or else.”

Seemingly unaware of the raging hard-ons she’d just inspired, Whit flitted from the room and escaped out the front door. Eddie unleashed a loud groan and wiped a hand down his face. Somewhat envious of Whit’s hands-on approach, Mick decided to poke a little fun at his friend. “I thought you were going to come in your pants.”

With a grunt, Eddie headed into the dining room. “So the hell did I.”

Mick smiled and glanced toward the entryway. Something had just happened between the three of them. The dynamic was shifting and quite unexpectedly. Whitney was…different. More carefree and relaxed. What had happened in Miami and Paris?

Maybe this disaster of a renovation had a silver lining after all.

* * * *

Eddie watched Whitney drive away in his truck. She looked good in the front seat with the windows down and the breeze ruffling her blonde hair. She always looked good, damned good. Too good.

She tempted Eddie in ways he hadn’t experienced in some time. Whit invaded his dreams, his thoughts. She’d ignited his lust and made him want to break rules he’d set after the whole Miranda fiasco.

And that wasn’t a good thing. It was a terrible thing. He’d put those rules into place to protect not only himself but Mick, too. Their friendship, their love for one another, had barely survived the hurt and pain of that messy affair. Eddie never wanted to go there again. He never wanted to experience that kind of raw anguish and disappointment.

So he stayed away from Whit.

Well. He tried.

He allowed himself the small pleasures of sharing breakfast or accompanying her on shopping trips. He liked cooking dinner with her and even folding laundry together on the couch. Enjoying her company was one thing. Taking it a step further, touching her, was another. That was the line he couldn’t cross.

The line she’d just crossed with her saucy pocket exploration.

His still-raging hard-on pressed against the uncomfortable confines of his boxer briefs. That wouldn’t fade anytime soon. Whit’s unexpected touch had nearly sent him into a full-blown orgasm. He felt like some horny teenager about to experience his first frustrating dance with pre-ejaculation. At thirty-six, that oh-god-not-now feeling was definitely an alien sensation and one he didn’t particularly like.

Eddie inhaled a deep and cleansing breath. Control. He needed to regain some control.

“She seems different.” Mick tapped Eddie’s shoulder with the screwdriver he’d dropped earlier. “Right?”

“Yeah.” Eddie took the screwdriver and headed for the stepladder. “She’s relaxed. Fun again.” He climbed a few steps and started tinkering with the ceiling fan. “Like she was when she first moved in here, before the stress of the new boss and the style-house merger and all that.”

Mick hummed in agreement and stepped up to help him support the weight of the fan. His hot chest pressed against Eddie’s arm, sparking another round of indecent thoughts. First Whit teasing him and now Mick. Was the torture ever going to end?

Eddie shifted to allow his friend more room. He snorted in amused disbelief as the stepladder rocked from the added weight. “You’d think a trauma surgeon could read the warning plastered on the side of this thing.”

“It’s not a long fall. Besides”-Mick playfully whacked Eddie’s backside-“you’ll likely fall flat on your ass anyway.”

“And take a ceiling fan to the face.”

“Nobody dates you for your face.”

Eddie guffawed at his friend’s zinger and resisted the urge to elbow him off the ladder. “Nice. Thanks.”

They worked in silence for a few moments. Aligning the tiny screws proved trickier than either had expected and took some grunting and cursing to get into place. They clambered off the stepladder and studied their work.

“Looks good,” Mick said with an approving nod. He cast a searching glance around the room. “What next?”

“You heard the woman. She wants this place clean when she gets back.” Eddie motioned toward the messy spots. “Just pick something, and get to work.”

“Yes, sir, Officer Dillon!” Mick snapped to attention as he barked a reply. “Right away, Officer Dillon, sir.”

“It’s Sergeant Dillon, smart-ass,” Eddie corrected. “And you could use a little discipline.”

A spark of interest flitted across Mick’s face. “Is that an offer?”

There was no mistaking the blatant flirtation in his question. A blaze of lust burned through Eddie’s belly. The sawhorses and rolls of tape littering the living room spawned dirty visions of hardcore loving, the kind of primal, pushing-the-boundaries sex he lived for.

“Whit could walk in that door any moment.” Eddie battled his raging desire. “She wouldn’t understand. She’d probably be scarred for life.”

“I don’t know about that,” Mick replied. “We mixed up our Kindles a few weeks ago, and let’s just say that girl has some interesting reading tastes. Threesomes, bondage, submission, violet wands, forced orgasms…” Mick shook his head. “One of those stories even had a pony-play scene.”

Eddie didn’t know how to respond. For the first time in his life, he was flabbergasted. Sweet, seemingly innocent Whitney had a secret hankering for kink.

It probably shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. He’d run into women in the local BDSM scene who worked as school librarians and even church secretaries. Sexual fantasies and fetishes had a funny way of leveling the playing ground, so to speak. In his experience, it was always the stiff, uptight, prudish types who liked the dirtiest, kinkiest stuff.

Of course, Whit wasn’t exactly a prude or stiff. She was modest, reserved. With her job in fashion, she always dressed impeccably and stylishly but never too revealing. A peek at her cleavage, a little leg, but never too much skin. In a way, that made Whitney even more appealing and sexy. There was a hint of mystery about her.

Just the suggestion Whit craved the kind of gentle discipline he liked to dole out made Eddie instantly hard. He cursed under his breath and frowned at Mick. “I wish you hadn’t told me that.”

“Why? Because now you want her even more?” Mick wore a daring look. “You ever think maybe she wants us? I have a hard time believing she felt you up right here in our living room without any ulterior motive.”

“And if you’re wrong?” Eddie’s stomach soured with the thought. He slashed the air with his hand. “No. I’m not about to play with fire.”

His emotions jumbled, Eddie turned hard and stalked toward the dining room. He needed some space to think, to sort out his wants and needs from reality.

“Well, get out your fire extinguisher and stand on the sideline because I’m about to play.”

Eddie whipped around at Mick’s parting shot. He clipped the side of a sawhorse and caught his foot in a length of extension cord. Try as he might, there was no averting the impending fall. Like some damned knight in shining armor, Mick jumped forward to steady him but just made things worse. Mick tripped over the suddenly taut extension cord. His fumbled grab threw their combined weight against the sawhorse. In a tangle of arms and legs, they slammed into the floor. A split second later, the teetering sawhorse dumped the open gallon of paint on their twisted forms.

“For fuck’s sake,” Eddie growled, eyes shut as paint dribbled onto his head. The cool, wet liquid slithered along his forehead and followed the curve of his face. It pooled along his ear, prompting him to shake his head wildly like a wet dog.

“Hey!” Mick yelped. “You’re getting paint on my face.”

Eddie cracked an eye to survey the damage. Mick’s back, shoulders, and arms were coated in sage green. His head and face had been spared except for the spatter of Eddie’s castoff.

As the initial shock of their fall and the ensuing paint bath passed, Eddie became acutely aware of their precarious position. Mick straddled his thighs with one hand planted next to Eddie’s head for support. His sweat-slicked, naked chest looked like something off of a romance novel cover. The weight of Mick’s body pressing down on his provoked memories of their bedroom antics. In his perpetually aroused state, it didn’t take much for Eddie to regain the full stiffness of an erection.

“Well, well, well…” Mick grinned and gave his hips a rock. The loose fabric of his shorts did little to hide Mick’s raging erection. Their cocks bumped together clumsily. Mick’s second swaying movement was more controlled, more precise.

Eddie hissed at the contact and wished the fabric separating their bodies would disappear. His control wore thin. The sensation of Mick’s encouraging hip movements was too much. He grasped the back of Mick’s head and drew him down for a hard kiss. Mick played hard to get, resisting Eddie’s gentle downward tug. He nipped Eddie’s lower lip. “Shower?”

“Hell yes.”

Chapter Two

“Crap!” Whitney tried to keep the bags of Chinese takeout from sliding off the window-unit box she held in her arms. She cast a pleading glance at the door, willing it to open. Where the hell were the guys? She’d expected them to come bounding down the sidewalk to help as soon as she pulled into the driveway.

She used her body to hold the box against the wall and fumbled with her house keys. Leaving the keys dangling in the deadbolt lock, she turned the knob and gave the door a little shove with the sole of her flip-flop. She lugged the box inside the house, careful not to disturb the delicate balance of takeout bags.

“Mick? Eddie?” She listened for a reply but heard only silence. In the living room, she discovered an even bigger mess than she’d left. A paint can rested near a sawhorse. Pools of paint congealed on the exposed flooring. Flecks of green paint marred the ceiling fan.

What. The. Fuck.

Whitney’s blood pressure skyrocketed. It was like living with a pair of toddlers. She’d just come back from the most stressful two weeks of her entire adult life, an impetus forcing her to take a damn hard look at her current situation, and had made a big, ballsy, and frankly terrifying decision.

And she needed her guys in her corner. She needed to sit down with them, share a bottle of wine and a few beers and talk this out. She trusted their intuition and respected their opinions. She needed them both to tell her it was going to be okay, that she wasn’t crazy to think about leaving her current job and joining a new venture.

Whit had expected to come home to her nice, cozy, if not somewhat boring, shared space, but instead she’d walked into this home-improvement disaster. As much as she’d wanted to grouch at the two of them, she simply couldn’t. She had been complaining about the need for renovations. The house was just gorgeous and so well built, but the layout lacked imagination. Too many walls made the living and dining areas feel cramped. The colors were less than inspiring. The carpet was flat-out ugly. The place had so much potential, but it needed some work.

And the guys had taken it upon themselves to do it while she was away on business. Even though their little plan had clearly gone awry, it was truly the thought that counted. The ceiling fan, paint colors, and wooden blinds were all things she’d picked out in decorating magazines. Apparently Mick and Eddie had been paying attention to the glossy pages adorned with red circles and hastily jotted notes.

Realizing they cared so much made Whitney feel so good. It had been a long, long time since she’d felt as if she was part of a family. Her parents had died when she was young. Her aunt had done her very best, but she’d struggled with her alcoholism and hadn’t been able to provide a very stable environment. Eventually Whitney had ended up in foster care and bounced around from home to home until graduating high school. A likeminded group of friends at college had temporarily filled the void, but after graduation they’d all gone their separate ways in search of careers and fulfillment. Facebook and Twitter and text messages only went so far to bridge the gap.

And then she’d found Eddie and Mick by way of a roommate ad. The upscale address and surprisingly affordable rent had caught her eye that morning in the coffee shop. She’d been desperate for a new living situation. Sharing a one-bedroom apartment with a coworker was less than ideal, especially when said coworker was an absolute slob.

She’d called the number immediately and reached Mick’s voicemail. He’d called her back around lunch, and they’d arranged an evening viewing and interview. As soon as she’d laid eyes on the Mediterranean-style house situated on a beautifully landscaped corner lot, Whitney had decided she’d do whatever it took to seal the deal. She’d have put up with just about anything to live in such a great place.

Meeting Eddie and Mick had been the icing on the cake. Sexy as sin. Funny. Sweet. Successful. One of them carried a gun and the other a stethoscope, so she always felt safe and secure. As a single woman in LA, that wasn’t a feeling she’d often enjoyed, living with her old roommate in that crummy apartment in a not-so-great neighborhood.

During that first meeting, she’d gotten a bit of a strange vibe from the pair. She’d assumed it was the fact she was a girl. They’d been totally upfront with her about their gender preferences for their new roommate but had decided to give her a chance because they felt the chemistry worked.

Later, she’d realized it wasn’t their iffiness about a female roommate but something else entirely. It hadn’t taken her long to pick up on the pair’s intimate level of familiarity. She’d put two and two together and realized Eddie and Mick were more than friends.

They were lovers. Well-sometimes. There was so much bed hopping going on in the house she often felt like Goldilocks. Mick in Eddie’s bed. Eddie in Mick’s bed. Some hot nurse in Mick’s bed. A girl from Eddie’s favorite bar in his. Both of them and the hot nurse in Mick’s bed. And every combination in between.

Not that Whitney was ever part of the bed hopping. She sat on the sidelines and stared on enviously as everyone else got a piece of the hot-sex pie. She’d been working sixteen-hour days for a solid year. Add in all the traveling to New York and Paris and Milan and Tokyo and, well, there wasn’t much time left for dating. Hell, meeting a straight man who wasn’t a stuck-up model was damn near impossible. Stylists, designers, buyers, publicists-the bulk of the men she met in her field had boyfriends or longtime lovers of their own.

Or they wanted short flings. Casual sex that meant nothing. Whitney couldn’t do that. She wasn’t a prude by any stretch of the imagination. She enjoyed rather-naughty erotica and even amateur porn on occasion. She’d had a handful of sexual relationships but never a one-night stand. She simply wasn’t programmed for no-strings-attached sex.

In many ways, Whitney was an old-fashioned gal. She wanted the stable relationship, the kids, and the white picket fence. She wanted a man who took charge but was sensitive and caring. She wanted someone well-read and rugged. A man who was just as at ease schmoozing at society galas as he was pitching a tent in a woodsy clearing and hiking a mountain.

Of course, the older Whitney got, the more she realized that maybe that perfect man didn’t exist. Maybe, just maybe, she was looking for two men. Two drop-dead-sexy, sweet-as-pie, perfectly compatible men who just happened to share her living space.

Speaking of said twosome, Whitney called out their names again and heard nothing. Annoyed, she carefully lowered the air conditioner box to the ground and rearranged the bags of takeout. She grabbed her keys from the deadbolt and locked the door behind her. Dropping her keys and purse next to the window-unit box, she went in search of Mick and Eddie.

Her eyes widened at the messes she discovered in the dining room and kitchen. They hadn’t been kidding. The place was wrecked. This was exactly the kind of bullshit that happened without a detailed plan and work schedule. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Shaking her head, Whitney poked her head into the office she shared with Mick, and then her bedroom. Eddie’s man cave proved empty, too. As she neared the two bedrooms at the end of the hallway, Whitney caught the sound of running water. Why the hell were they showering when there was still a huge mess to clean up out in the living room?

She raised her hand to knock but stopped when her knuckles were mere centimeters from the door. The unmistakable sound of a groan met her ears. Whitney went perfectly still as her ears perked to the noises coming from within the bathroom. Her belly quivered as deliciously dirty visions inspired by the moans and groans filled her head. There was no doubt in her mind that Eddie and Mick were fucking. Just who was giving it to whom was anyone’s guess.

Although, if Whitney were a betting woman, she’d put money on Eddie being the top. He had a definite dominant air about him. Sometimes he’d look at her in that serious, no-nonsense way, and she’d go weak in the knees. He had no qualms about taking charge or being firm. She’d found Eddie a bit overbearing in those early days, but she’d warmed to his particular style after a few weeks. He wasn’t rude or condescending or a control freak. He simply had a big heart and liked to take care of the people who were important to him.

“Oh, god, Eddie.” Mick’s lust-filled voice penetrated the door. “Yeah. Yeah. Like that. Fuck me hard. Harder.”

“Take it! Take my cock!”

“Eddie! Ahh, ahh, unnnhh!”

“Touch your cock,” Eddie ordered. “Make yourself come.”

Whitney’s stomach trembled wildly. She placed a hand to the door and pressed her ear to the wood. It was naughty and wrong, but she couldn’t stop herself. She had to hear what was going on in there. Her thighs clenched, and her clit throbbed. She put her hand between her legs, cupping her fabric-covered mound. She had no doubt that if she slipped a finger inside her panties she’d find her slick juices coating her entrance.

The urge to strum her clit was too powerful to fight. Whitney’s hand moved under her skirt and dipped into her undies. She opened her thighs, widening her stance, and let her fingers drift over her stiff clit. Engorged with arousal, the nub pulsed with need. Whitney rubbed hard and fast, taking a different approach to her usual slow and easy pace. This tryst between the guys wouldn’t last long. She wanted to make the best of it.

“Do you like it when I fuck your ass like this?” Eddie’s voice was tight and low, almost a growl. The noisy slap of flesh against flesh echoed in the bathroom. Whitney’s head spun as she imagined the coupling. They were in the shower, their bodies wet and glistening. Maybe they were standing, Eddie behind Mick, Mick with his hands on the tile.

“Give it to me,” Mick begged. “Fuck my ass hard.”

“Jerk your cock,” Eddie ordered. “I want to come with my dick in your ass.”

The groans and grunts from inside grew louder and more frantic. Whitney’s entire body vibrated as she flicked her clit with her fingertips. Her eyes closed as she chased her orgasm. Her fingertips curled against the door. The muscles in her legs flexed and relaxed.

“Unhh. Unhh. Ahh. Eddie. Eddie.” Mick groaned loudly, and there was no doubt in Whitney’s mind that he was coming hard. Seconds later, Eddie growled, setting off Whitney’s explosion, pleasure bursting inside her overheated body.

When it was all over, Whitney inhaled a ragged breath and let her forehead touch the door. She pressed her wet fingertips to her still-throbbing clit and tried to catch her breath. The sound of low murmuring voices met her ears. She didn’t want to be caught with her hands in her panties, so she quietly and quickly stepped away from the door and returned to the living room.

She managed to squeeze by all the boxes of crap and home-improvement equipment in the kitchen to reach the sink and wash her hands. She took a second to inhale a steadying breath and hoped her body would calm down before the guys left the bathroom. Had she really just done that? Masturbated in the hallway as her roommates went at it in the shower?

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. There was no doubt in her mind that if Mick or Eddie saw her at that very moment they’d have known what happened. Best to get a hold on herself before the guys left the bathroom. Otherwise they would all be so embarrassed.

Hoping to avoid an awkward scene, Whitney grabbed a roll of paper towels and headed into the living room to attack the paint mess. She kicked off her flip-flops and wiped down the sawhorse and ladder. She moved the cleaned equipment to one side of the plastic-covered floor and looked around for a razor knife.

Blade extended, she knelt down and cut a wide swath of plastic around the paint puddle. She set aside the knife and carefully pulled together the four corners of the plastic. She spotted the nearby roll of duct tape and used it to secure the top. With the paint contained in the makeshift plastic bag, Whitney carried the whole mess to the garbage can on the other side of the room and dropped it in the bin.

She found the roll of plastic in the dining room and dragged it out to the living room to cut a new piece for the living room floor. She made sure to cut it much bigger than necessary so the overlap would offer extra protection. She used masking tape to secure the new piece in place and tested its hold with her toes.

The big roll of plastic went back into the dining room, and Whitney squeezed back into the kitchen for plates, cups, and iced tea. She ducked into the dining room and dug around in the side table until she found the happy yellow tablecloth she loved so much. She placed it in the center of the living room. Just because they had to eat on the floor didn’t mean they couldn’t do it in style.

“Whit?” Eddie called out her name as he came down the hall. “You home?”

A tremor of nervousness shook her core. Visions of Eddie and Mick in a sweaty embrace, their hard bodies rocking and bucking, filled her mind. She quickly cleared away the naughty image and tried to focus.

“Yep.” She surveyed her little floor table-scape. “Hey, would you grab those floor pillows from the office closet?”

“Sure.” He returned a few minutes later with the pillows in his big, muscled arms. Whitney tried not to stare at his naked torso or the towel tucked around his trim waist. His relaxed features went rigid as he frowned. “You cleaned up our mess.”

She took the pillows from him. “I’m hungry. I didn’t want to wait.”

“Yeah, but-”

“No buts,” she said, shaking her head. “Go get dressed before the food gets cold and gross.”

Eddie glanced toward the takeout bags. “Szechuan Palace?”

“Of course! Now shoo!” She snuck a glance at Eddie’s bare back and taut backside as he padded out of the living room and disappeared down the hall. She made quick work of setting out the containers of soup, noodles, and entrees. She placed the pitcher of iced tea Eddie made every morning in the center and ran back into the kitchen for utensils. Eddie’s chopstick skills were less than stellar, and he preferred a fork.

“Is that string-bean chicken I smell?” Mick rubbed his hands together as he strode into the living room.

“Yes, but you can’t have any because you didn’t clean up your mess.” She shot him a teasing smile. “You get to sit there and watch me eat all this yummy food.”

Mick pouted as he plopped down on a pillow. “Not fair.”

“Neither was me cleaning up a gallon of paint that I didn’t spill.”

He made an apologetic face. “Sorry about that. Eddie fell and knocked over the paint. We were both covered in the stuff, so we hit the shower.”

Whitney’s eyebrows arched as she questioned their reasoning. “So you would be squeaky clean when you wiped up the mess?”

“Errr…” Mick looked sheepish. “Yeah. That’s a good point.”

“Clearly planning isn’t one of his strong suits,” Eddie said as he came into the room and gestured at the mess.

“Kind of scary for a doctor,” Whitney said, needling her good friend.

Mick played up the puppy-dog eyes. “You’re mean.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t work on me. I’m immune after all this time living with you.”

“Thank god.” Eddie took the pillow closest to her and reached for the pitcher of iced tea. He filled her glass first then Mick’s and his. Rather shockingly, he leaned over and pecked her cheek. “Thank you for grabbing dinner and picking up the mess.”

“You’re welcome.” Whitney’s skin tingled from the warmth of his unexpected kiss.

“Hey! Don’t leave me out.” To her utter surprise, Mick leaned across the makeshift table and kissed her other cheek. “Thank you, Whit.”

“Anytime.” Whitney’s face blazed. Sure, as roommates, the three of them had constant contact, but never kisses, not even gentle, chaste ones like the two she’d just received. Something had changed. Had it been inspired by her transformation in attitude? She had been bold as brass and felt up Eddie while she grabbed his keys.

“So,” Mick said as he dished out food onto his plate, “how was Paris? How was Miami?”

“Miami was fabulous!” Whitney poked a pair of chopsticks into the nearest container of fried rice and pushed a serving onto her plate. “It was so nice to see the girls and lounge around the pool with a mojito and a good book. There are some amazing clubs down there. And the food!” She closed her eyes in exaggerated remembrance. “Delicious!”

“Clubs, huh?” Eddie’s tone caught her attention. She sensed a little jealousy. “You were careful, right?”

“I watched my drink like a hawk. I declined the shots offered to me from random dudes. I came in a group and left in a group. I kept my pepper spray and the rape whistle you gave me in my purse. We took a cab between the hotel and club instead of walking because it was late at night.” She squared her shoulders and held his gaze. “Does Sergeant Dillon approve?”

Eddie flashed a devastatingly sexy grin. “He does. Well done.”

She preened. “Thank you.”

“So did you meet anyone?” Mick focused on his egg-drop soup, but Whit could tell he was anything but disinterested.

“I met lots of great people, but if you’re asking whether or not I met a man”-she paused to gauge Mick’s response-“the answer is no. I wasn’t actually on the lookout for a hookup. I was a bit more career-minded on this one.”

Mick’s brow furrowed. “Are you thinking of switching jobs?”

“Sort of,” Whitney said, twirling noodles around her chopsticks. “I feel like I’ve gone as far as I possibly can at the style house. I want something different. I’ve worked my ass off since high school. I interned at fashion magazines and with some of the best designers around. I’ve done public relations and marketing. I’m not getting to use any of those skills right now. I’m just styling clothes for shoots and shows.”

“But you love styling,” Mick pointed out in between sips of soup.

“I do,” she agreed, “but I want to do something more.”

“Do you have a plan?” Eddie seemed concerned. “The job market is rough, Whit. I’d hate to see you leave a fairly well-paying and stable job for something that may not pan out immediately.”

“I do have a plan.” Her stomach fluttered with anxiety. She’d made her decision, but it didn’t make it any less scary. “An old mentor of mine is opening a public relations, marketing, and branding firm. It’s a big deal. She has lots of awesome, first-rate clients lined up already. And she wants me to head the styling side of things.” Whitney waved her hand. “I’ll work with clients on developing their brand, and direct and design photo shoots and shows around that brand.”

“Wow.” Eddie sat back, clearly impressed.

“Definitely a wow,” Mick echoed. “That’s a great opportunity, Whitney. And it speaks highly of how well regarded you are by your peers.”

“I guess,” she said, a little discomfited. “I just try to work hard and come up with new, fresh ideas.”

“That’s exactly why you’re being headhunted,” Eddie said. “Your mentor sees what we see. You’re brilliant. You have a great work ethic.”

“You obviously know fashion,” Mick interjected. “You busted your backside in college and earned double degrees on top of your internships. Your mentor would be crazy not to ask you to join her new venture.”

“So you think I was right to give notice and take the job?” Whitney desperately needed to know what they thought.

“Absolutely,” they said in unison.

“Good,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Because even though I’m excited about the new prospect, I’m really scared. I mean, I have enough money socked away to pay rent and-”

“Whitney,” Eddie interrupted, “don’t worry about the rent.”

“Eddie’s right,” Mick said with a nod. “If you find yourself in a tight spot, let us know, and we’ll cover your portion of the rent. We’re not underwater on the mortgage anymore. Eddie’s salary freeze was finally lifted. My salary increase will go into effect next month. We’re okay. Really,” he said, with a reassuring pat of her hand.

Whitney’s chest tightened. “Well, I mean, if you guys are okay on the cash flow front, does that mean you’ll want me to move out soon?”

No!” They answered uniformly and stridently. The pair exchanged looks. Eddie took the lead. “What we mean is that we’re very happy with our current living situation. Unless you want to leave, you’re welcome to stay.”

“You know, like, forever,” Mick said with a smile.

A thrill of excitement sped along her spine. “Tempting.”

* * * *

A few hours later, Mick smiled as he listened to Whitney boss Eddie around while they installed the window unit in her bedroom. No doubt Eddie could put the A/C in the window blindfolded, but he said nothing. Any other man would have snapped at Whitney by now but not Eddie. He just wasn’t that guy.

Although, knowing Eddie, he was probably itching to throw Whitney across his lap and spank her cute little ass. Like most Doms, he had a thing for spanking, but only women. Mick was A-OK with that. He didn’t get off on spanking and was only mildly interested in the BDSM scene. When he and Eddie slept together, they only very rarely dabbled in bondage or domination. A little here and there made things interesting. Every day? Not so much. At least not for Mick.

But judging by Whitney’s reading tastes, she’d probably enjoy Eddie’s hands-on training. Mick wouldn’t mind watching either. His groin tightened as he imagined Whitney’s bare ass up in the air as Eddie’s big hand smacked the supple flesh. Mick had always been a bit of a voyeur. Watching the man he cared about most and the young woman who had captured his affection in a kinky spanking scene would definitely rock his world.

Speaking of rocking his world…

Mick was certain Whitney had heard him and Eddie going at it in the shower earlier. She’d had that nervous and slightly guilty look on her face during dinner. Had she been conjuring up filthy visions to go with the noises she’d overheard? He sure as hell would have been if the tables had been turned and he’d overheard Whitney and Eddie going at it in the shower.

It probably wasn’t the first time she’d overheard their lovemaking. A few times, she’d given them both the stink eye after they’d brought women back to the house. She had a fair point, though. It wasn’t right that strangers-to her-were running free in her home. Had the roles been reversed, he and Eddie would have been less than pleased to see a half-naked man strolling between her bedroom and the kitchen.

Less than pleased was an understatement. Pissed. Jealous. Yeah. That was more like it.

Eddie’s jealous tone hadn’t escaped him when Whitney had been talking about the clubs in Miami. Eddie could say he didn’t want to play with fire until he was blue in the face, but Mick knew better. Eddie wanted Whitney something fierce. Their desire for Whitney was only rivaled by the connection they shared with one another.

Eddie feared the burn of another rejection, but Mick had the perfect salve. He wasn’t afraid to get back on the metaphorical horse and give it another go. More importantly, Mick believed Whitney was the girl for them. For so long, Mick and Eddie had struggled with the knowledge they came as a matched set. They naturally gravitated toward a ménage and needed a woman who craved that cozy spot between them.

That woman was Whitney. Mick believed down to the very bottom of his soul. The problem? How to breech the subject with her and convince Eddie to give love a chance. It wouldn’t be easy, but Mick was a natural problem solver. As a trauma surgeon, he was quick to think on his feet, calm under pressure, and adept at piecing together solutions.

From Mick’s point of view, Whitney was ripe for the plucking, so to speak. She’d just committed to a huge change in her life. She’d proven she wasn’t averse to risk and was open to trying new things. What better time than now to make his move?

Except he had to tread carefully, very carefully. Eddie’s wounds from the Miranda fiasco were still very raw. He tried to play it off, but Mick knew better. Eddie’s skittishness toward Whitney stemmed from that fear. Making the first move with Whitney would be easy for Mick, but Eddie would feel alienated, maybe even betrayed. He refused to hurt his friend, his lover, like that.

So Mick would have to be sneaky. He’d have to find a way to push Eddie and Whitney together without looking blaringly obvious. Eddie had to make the first move. Whitney had to want Eddie, had to choose him first, or else no dice. Whatever Mick’s feelings toward Whitney, he couldn’t, wouldn’t, act upon them if it meant hurting Eddie.

“Can you believe her?” Eddie asked, his face ruddy with exasperation as he barreled into the living room. He tossed down the empty box and put his toolbox on the floor. “Bossing me around like she’s an expert electrician.”

Mick laughed and clapped Eddie on the back. “Was she right?”

Eddie looked peeved. “Anyone can read an instruction manual and follow the directions.”

“So she was right.”

“Yes,” Eddie grudgingly admitted. “You want a beer?”

“If you can squeeze in there, yes.”

“Whit,” Eddie called out, “you want a glass of wine?”

“No, thanks.” She popped into the living room with an armload of beauty supplies and clothes. “I’m going to scrub up and brush my teeth and then head to bed early. I’ve got to run into the office first thing in the morning.”

“Oh.” Mick tried not to show his disappointment. “Well, we’ll try to keep it down.”

She quirked a smile, a deliciously naughty smile that confirmed Mick’s suspicions about her overhearing their tryst earlier. “See that you do.”

Mick waited until she disappeared around the corner and he heard the telltale click of the bathroom door closing. He turned to Eddie and took the opened beer extended his way. “She totally heard us.”

Eddie paled. “You think?”

“I know.” Mick sipped the ice-cold beer and shrugged. “It’s not as if it’s the first time.”

“Yeah, but I was rough with you. And we were loud about it.” Eddie glanced toward the hallway. “I don’t want to scare her.”

“Eddie”-Mick touched his arm-“I don’t think she minds. Remember the books? I’m telling you. Whit is totally into BDSM. Or, at least, she’s curious.”

“Maybe,” Eddie said, his concern fading.

Mick realized this was his chance and seized it. What better way to push Eddie and Whit together than to stoke his jealousy?

“Hey, maybe you should take her to that club of yours. She could find a nice Dom there in that beginner’s-program thing they run there. You know some of the Doms, right? Work buddies and all that. Maybe you could suggest one of the guys to help her find her way.”

As soon as his suggestion hit Eddie’s ears, Eddie stiffened. Mick squashed the smug smile threatening to curve his mouth. Success!

“Hell no!” Eddie took a swig of beer. “She’s not going to submit to some random stranger.”

“If she’s curious, wouldn’t it be a safe way for her to feel out the lifestyle in a public club?” It was wrong, but he had to keep pushing until Eddie went over the edge. “She’d be better off letting someone spank her in a club filled with people than alone in some weirdo’s bedroom.”

Eddie shook his head. “If Whitney wants a taste of domestic discipline, it’ll be my hand spanking her ass.”

“What happened to your no-playing-with-fire stance?”

Eddie shot him a disdainful look. “I know what you’re doing, Mick. You’re trying to goad me into making a move.”

“Is it working?”

Eddie snorted. “Maybe.”

“Come on, big guy,” Mick said, smacking his friend’s back. “We’ve tap danced around this issue for months. She reads kinky books, so we know she’s at least open to the idea of a ménage and your particular flavor of loving. Plus she groped you right here in our living room. She’s into you, Eddie.”

“What about you?”

Mick grinned. “Have you ever met a woman who wasn’t into me?”

Eddie tossed his head back and barked with laughter. “You’re so fucking full of yourself.”

“Hell yes,” he agreed, “but I’m right. She’s into me. And you.” Mick turned serious. “It’s time, Eddie. We have to do this.”

“Have to do what?” Whitney asked, surprising them both as she popped into the living room. Her face was pink and bright from a good scrubbing. She’d let her hair down and changed into a pair of thin cotton pajama pants and a matching blue camisole. The little peek of tanned skin between her top and pants tempted him.

“We have to ask you for a favor,” Eddie said, quickly recovering from her unexpected appearance.

“Sure,” she said happily. “What is it?”

Eddie shot him a quick look of desperation. Mick made something up on the fly. “Uh, well, you know I screwed up the air conditioner, so we were wondering if we could sleep with you.”

Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

“Bed down with you,” Eddie hastily clarified. “You know, throw some sleeping bags on your floor.”

“Oh. Well…”

“I have a long day tomorrow,” Eddie continued. “We’re serving warrants on some pretty bad guys. I could use a good night’s sleep.”

Mick was impressed. Eddie was laying it on thick. Of course, he’d learned from the master.

“I guess that’s okay.” Whitney pointed at both of them. “But no funny business!”

Mick crossed his fingers behind his back and smiled innocently. “Promise.”

Chapter Three

Whitney stared at the ceiling. The lights had been off for almost an hour, yet she remained awake. Her mind raced with troubling thoughts. There was the uncertainty of the new job and the sadness of leaving her old one. She had to tie up a ton of loose ends at work. There was sure to be a mad shuffle as her colleagues vied for her position. She just hoped she wouldn’t be roped into the selection process for choosing her successor. That was a whole new level of drama she didn’t need.

Mick tossed and turned on the floor. He’d thrown down his sleeping bag and pillow and taken the open spot on the left side of her bed. Whitney had expected Eddie to take the right side, the one closest to the air conditioner, but to her surprise he’d chosen the spot at the foot of the bed. He’d deliberately placed himself between her bed and the door. It seemed Eddie’s need to protect trumped his desire for a blast of nice, cold air.

Whitney heaved a frustrated sigh as Mick’s sleeping bag rustled again. “Are you okay?”

He punched his pillow. “This floor is killing my back!”

Whitney rolled onto her side and hissed over the side of the mattress. “I didn’t tell you to sleep on the floor.”

“So I can get in your bed?”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it. You,” she emphasized loudly, “wanted to sleep in my room. I didn’t make you come in here.”

“Yeah, well,” Mick gruffly replied, “you’re the one who wanted us to repaint and redo the floors.”

“What?” Whitney’s ire skyrocketed. “Are you seriously blaming all that mess on me?”

“Children,” Eddie interjected, “no more bickering. It’s late. Now close your eyes, and go to sleep. Or else I’ll spank you both.”

“Yes, Daddy,” Mick answered in a singsong voice.

Eddie snorted, and a second later, Whitney heard the telltale whack-thump of a pillow slapping Mick’s legs. There was a minor scuffle that quickly quieted down. “Go to sleep,” Eddie ordered.

Shaking her head, she flopped onto her back and tried not to think about the way Eddie’s voice affected her. When he spoke like that, all powerful and strong, it made her belly tremble. He reminded her of the Doms in those books she loved so much. She replayed the way he spoke to Mick earlier in the bathroom. What would it feel like if Eddie took her like that, rough and commanding? Her thighs clenched. Could she give up control to him?

Yes. Hell yes.

Whitney considered their current predicament. It really was like something out of an erotic romance novel. Two devilishly sexy men sleeping on her floor. One bed. Sexual tension so thick it threatened to squeeze the air from her lungs.

So what to do?

This was one of those moments. She’d closed her eyes and jumped in with both feet when it came to the new job. Could she do the same now when it came to the two men she wanted most?

Heart racing, mouth dry, Whitney swallowed hard and rolled onto her right side. “So, um,” she faltered, unsure how to proceed, “I know the floor is uncomfortable and, uh, I know you both work on your feet all day, so, um, well, if you want, you can come up here with me.” She trembled with nervousness. “It’ll be a tight fit, but we can make it work.”

She bit her lip with embarrassment. Tight fit? Oh, god. Talk about your double entendres!

Mick didn’t need a second invitation. He’d pounced on the bed within three seconds flat of her offer. Eddie seemed a little hesitant. “Are you sure, Whit? I mean, it’s a king, but we’re big guys, and I’m a cover hog.”

Whitney laughed. “It’s okay. Really,” she added. “Come on up here.”

She shivered as the covers lifted for Mick and then Eddie to slide underneath. Both were shirtless, with Mick wearing cotton pajama bottoms, and Eddie shorts. Surrounded by their half-naked bodies, Whitney held her breath. Mick sidled up close to her back. Eddie was mere inches from her front. Body heat penetrated her skin, radiating through her tense body and relaxing her muscles.

Eddie’s hand settled on her hip, startling her. “All right?”

“Y-yes,” she stammered as her heart beat furiously. “Fine, just fine.”

Mick’s hand curved along her waist, just above Eddie’s. He gave her a little squeeze. “Good night, Whitney.”

“Good night, Mick.”

“Night, Whit.”

“Night, Eddie.”

The guys seemed so calm and at ease. Her skin burned beneath their touch. Her pulse pounded loudly against her eardrums. It seemed crazy that their nearness affected her so much. She was aroused, big-time. Her clit throbbed almost painfully. She squeezed her thighs together in a desperate attempt to assuage her growing need.

“What is it?” Eddie asked, his voice low and gentle.

“Nothing,” she lied. “I…uh…”

His hand left her hip to cup her face. When his thumb traced her lower lip, Whitney felt lightheaded. “Tell me what you want, Whitney.”

There it was, that commanding tone of his. Entranced, Whitney found she couldn’t deny him. “I want”-she gulped nervously-“I want you to kiss me.” She reached back and grasped Mick’s side. “I want Mick to kiss me, too.”

“Your wish is our command,” Mick whispered as he nuzzled her shoulder blade.

Whitney shuddered as Eddie’s lips brushed against hers. He claimed her mouth in a gentle, searching kiss, his tongue darting between her lips. Peppermint teased her taste buds. She opened wider, welcoming his deep, sensual kiss. Mick’s mouth drifted across her shoulder. He nipped at her neck and let his tongue swirl along a particularly sensitive spot. Whitney’s toes curled as she vibrated with excitement.

Their well-played onslaught made her dizzy with lust. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined it would feel like this. Four hands, two mouths, and all of them focused on her. Eyes closed, she reveled in the dueling sensations they evoked. She was putty in their very skilled hands.

“We’re going to make love to you.” Eddie’s statement rocked her. Her first instinct was to put her hands up and tell them no. It was too much too soon. Or was it? She’d known these men a long time. She cared for and trusted them. And she’d wanted them, wanted this, for so very long.

“Please,” she whispered, uncertain how to proceed. She didn’t know what to say or do.

“Just let go,” Mick said, his lips against her ear. “We’ll show you pleasure unlike any you’ve ever felt.”

Whitney nodded then realized they were in near pitch black. “I’m letting go. You’re in control.”

“Good girl,” Eddie murmured before kissing her breathless.

Whitney put her arms around his brawny shoulders and let her fingers drift over the rippling muscles of his back. As a SWAT officer, Eddie put in serious hours in the gym to keep his body in peak physical condition. She’d always enjoyed sneaking a peek at his sexy physique on those mornings when he came in from a run, his damp shirt dangling from his hand. Now she had the chance to touch and taste those delicious muscles she’d only been able to ogle. She wasn’t wasting one second.

Secure in Eddie’s arms, Whitney exchanged increasingly passionate kisses with him. Behind her, Mick slid his hands under her thin camisole and stroked her naked skin. His hands squeezed between her body and Eddie’s so he could grope and caress her front. She gasped when his hands found her breasts. He palmed her flesh and rubbed his thumbs over her stiff nipples. His skillful surgeon’s hands deftly tweaked and squeezed until every touch upon her breasts seemed to shoot an electric zing of energy right to her clit.

As if sensing her need, Mick’s hand moved south and dipped under the waistband of her pajama bottoms. Whitney moaned and tried to open her thighs for better access, but her pants were in the way. Like a hero to the rescue, Eddie grabbed her pants and tugged them down over her hips and legs, whipping them out of the way. The comforter and sheet soon followed. He tossed them down to the bottom of the bed, freeing their hot bodies from the stifling fabric.

“Arms up,” Eddie ordered as he grasped her camisole and pulled it off her body. She gulped when Mick and Eddie broke their intimate caresses to roll onto their backs and remove their pajama bottoms. When they returned to her, sandwiching her naked flesh between their hard bodies, Whitney shivered. Eddie’s big cock prodded her lower belly while Mick’s stiff shaft jutted against her bottom. She gave a teasing little shimmy and made them both groan.

“Careful,” Mick warned, his voice tight.

Emboldened by the realization she had such power over them, Whitney reached behind with one hand and in front with the other to stroke their thick cocks. Her eyes widened with surprise at the girth and length of each men. She’d had a couple of partners but never any as large as these. “Um,” she said nervously, “we should probably take this really slow.”

“We won’t hurt you,” Eddie said matter-of-factly. “If anything makes you scared or if you’re overwhelmed, you just tell us to stop and we will.”

“Absolutely,” Mick agreed. “We want to make you feel good, Whitney. Never hurt you.”

Whitney’s mind raced as she factored the possibilities two men and one woman presented with coupling. Her face flamed as she said, “And no anal.”

“Not tonight,” Eddie assured her.

Her stomach dropped. “What do you mean?” she squeaked. “Not tonight?”

Before she could say anything else, Eddie silenced her with a kiss, his fingers tangling in her hair. Her protest was quickly forgotten as Mick’s hands slid along her body again. His fingers blazed a fiery trail as he stroked down her hip, around her belly, and settled on her mound.

“Waxed,” Mick whispered appreciatively. “Not afraid of a little pain?”

“Not when it comes to beauty,” Whitney joked, her mouth dry as she trembled with nerves.

“Do you want Mick to eat that pretty pink pussy of yours?” Eddie nuzzled her cheek. “Do you want him to hold your thighs wide open while he tongue-fucks your cunt?”

Whitney’s jaw dropped as a thrill of excitement shook her core. She’d never heard such deliciously dirty talk from any man. The filthy words spilling from Eddie’s mouth turned her on so bad. She could feel her pussy getting wetter and wetter. Breathless, she said, “Yes.”

“Yes, what?” Eddie pushed, clearly taking delight in making her step outside her comfort zone.

“I want”-she swallowed hard, her tongue heavy and her embarrassment level high-“I want Mick to eat my pussy.”

“Very good, sugar.” Eddie kissed the tip of her nose. “Mick?”

“Happy to serve.” He chuckled and placed a noisy kiss on Whitney’s neck.

Eddie gently pushed on her shoulders until she was flat on her back. He rested on his side next to her, his elbow bent and head propped up on hand while the other petted the swath of skin from her breasts to her belly. “I know you’re nervous. It’s overwhelming the first time,” he said understandingly. “We’ll keep the lights off tonight so you can enjoy yourself without feeling self-conscious, but next time…”

“Next time,” Mick said, “I want to see this beautiful pussy as I slide my tongue into it.”

Whitney quaked with anticipation even as she let them know she was grateful for their understanding. “Thank you.”

“Anything for you,” Eddie said, his tone so very serious. “We’d do anything for you, Whitney.”

“Anything,” Mick echoed as he placed his hands on her knees and parted her thighs. She gulped and reached for Eddie’s arm. She needed something to hold onto, an anchor for support as she experienced her first threesome.

“I’m right here,” Eddie assured her. His big, strong fingers stroked her cheek with such gentleness. His touch, coupled with Mick’s teasing kisses along her inner thighs, calmed her nerves. Still, she yelped with surprise when Mick’s tongue dipped between her folds. Eddie laughed softly as he nestled his nose against her neck and planted a few kisses along the curve of her throat. “Relax.”

Mick’s fingers grasped her inner thighs, holding her wide open for his enjoyment. His tongue fluttered over her clitoris, the little nub so engorged from arousal the slightest touch was amplified a thousand times over. Holding tight to Eddie, Whitney consciously relaxed her muscles. As the tension fled her body, she discovered the sensations Mick’s tongue evoked were so much more powerful.

Mick’s tongue traced her labia before swirling around her clit again. He sucked the nub between his lips. She cried out and bucked her hips. Eddie squeezed her breast and played with her nipple. His head bent low, and he took the fleshy peak into his mouth, suckling her and teasingly biting her nipple. It was almost too much to process, Mick’s tongue flicking over her clit and Eddie’s teeth grazing her nipple.

“Her pussy is so wet,” Mick announced, his fingers probing her slick entrance. She gasped as he slowly thrust them inside her.

“I bet her pussy tastes like honey,” Eddie commented, his chin sliding side to side between her breasts.

“Here,” Mick said.

In the darkness, Whitney couldn’t quite see what was going on, but she felt Eddie’s head dip and then heard the telltale sound of suction. A red hot wave rolled through her body as she realized Eddie was sucking her pussy juice from Mick’s fingers.

“Mmmm,” Eddie hummed. “Delicious.”

“Oh, god,” Whitney murmured, her cheeks burning.

“Don’t be embarrassed.” Eddie kissed her cheek. “We’re flattered to know we excite you that much.” He claimed her mouth and let his tongue dance against hers, sharing the salty musk of her cunt. “And you do taste delicious.”

“So good I want more,” Mick said before delving into her pussy again.

Whitney shared wickedly sexy kisses with Eddie as Mick drove her wild with his tongue. He circled her clit and dipped between her folds. When his tongue slid inside her pussy, she broke away from Eddie’s kiss and cried out. It felt so fucking good.

“You like that?” Eddie asked as he nibbled her earlobe. “Do you like Mick’s tongue fucking your cunt?”

“Yes. Oh, god. Yes!”

Mick’s stiff tongue thrust inside her wet channel. The tip of his nose was just perfectly situated to stimulate her clit. In and out and round and round. Whitney clutched at Eddie while Mick ate her pussy like a starving man. He made the naughtiest sounds punctuated by moans and groans. She held onto Eddie for dear life as Mick drove her closer and closer to climax.

“That’s it,” Eddie cooed, his lips against her ear. “I want you to come.”

Whitney whimpered. “I’m close. Oh, god. Oh, god!”

“Come on Mick’s face,” Eddie commanded. “Come hard, sugar.”

Like a puppy answering a master snapping his fingers, Whitney did exactly as she was ordered. She came so hard she feared she might black out. Mick was relentless. His tongue slid from her hole to her clit and fluttered over the pulsing pearl. Nimble fingers replaced his tongue and thrust hard and fast. Her keening cries ricocheted around the room.

Eddie smothered her with a punishing kiss. He tugged on the strands of hair curled around his fingers, showing her how a little pain amplified the pleasure. She grasped his neck and bit his lower lip. Two could play that game.

He growled and kissed her even harder. She quaked with the aftershocks of her orgasm as Mick leisurely licked her pussy. Eventually, he abandoned her sex and moved up to claim her mouth. The knowledge he’d just used that wonderful tongue of his to give her a mind-blowing orgasm intensified their first kiss. She turned a little and slid her arm around his neck. The unique flavor of her pussy lent a debauched air to the exchange.

Like a well-practiced dance, Eddie carefully transferred Whitney to Mick’s arms, turning her hips and lifting her shoulders so Mick could slide an arm beneath. Mick kissed her deeply and stroked her hair. “You’re so beautiful.”

Whitney blushed. “Thank you.”

Eddie nibbled her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her waist. Mick’s arms slid around her just a few inches above Eddie’s. Whitney loved the way it felt to have their big, warm bodies surrounding hers.

“Whitney,” Mick said, his lips ghosting across hers, “I’m going to slip into my doctor’s white coat for a second, okay?”

“Sure,” she answered in between his kisses.

“Are you still on the Pill?” He’d picked up her prescription a couple of times, so of course he was familiar with her medication.

“Yes. Why?”

“Eddie and I have never had sex with another man, only each other. We’ve never had unprotected sexual intercourse with a woman either.”

“But you want to have it with me?” Whitney bit her lower lip. “I’m not sure.”

“We’re always very careful,” Eddie assured her. “We test every six months. Mick does the blood draws and has them run through the lab at his hospital.”

“And we haven’t had a sexual relationship with a woman in quite a while. Four months for me. Nearly six for Eddie. We tested last month and were clean.”

Whitney thought back. Had it really been that long since another woman had come into the house? God, it had been a while. Because of her?

“I haven’t had sex in a long time,” she confessed. “This is my first time since before I moved in here. And I’ve never done it without condoms.”

“Have you been tested?” Mick asked as he caressed her arm.

“At my annual a few months back,” she confirmed. “Dr. Torres does an STD panel as part of the routine exam. I’m clean.”

“So what do you think?” Eddie rubbed the soft patch of skin below her belly button. “If you’d rather not, I’ll run into my bedroom and grab some condoms. If you’re game…”

Whitney considered her choices. She’d always wanted to experience au naturel sex. It was a scary prospect for a single gal out in the big, wide world. There were lying creeps to dodge and well-meaning guys who probably had no idea they carried the Clap. Then, of course, there was the baby issue.

Eddie and Mick were dead serious about their sexual habits. They lived their lives out in the open and clearly had taken precautions. She didn’t doubt their assertions about their disease-free statuses for a second.

The idea of sharing something so special with them trumped that little niggling bit of fear in the pit of her tummy. If the least ideal thing happened and she somehow became pregnant, Whitney knew they’d stand by her. She wouldn’t walk the difficult road of motherhood alone.

She inhaled a steadying breath. “I’m game.”

* * * *

Eddie’s heart raced as adrenaline flooded his system. He couldn’t ever remember being this excited to make love to a woman. Whitney was so sweet and innocent. Everything about this experience was new to her. The way she responded to their touches, their kisses-it made him mad with lust and need.

He crawled over her and peppered a line of kisses down her front. His lips danced over the swells of her breasts and along the slope of her lean belly. He kneeled between her thighs and swept his hand along her stomach. He suddenly wished there was more light than the soft blue glow from the night-light in the hallway and the pale silver stream of moonlight shining through her wooden blinds. He wanted to see her face the first time he slid his cock into her.

“Turn on the lights,” Whitney practically begged. “I want to see you both.”

Mick didn’t have to be asked twice. He reached over and flicked on the bedside lamp. The three of them blinked a few times as they acclimated to the brightness. Thankfully the lamp’s light wasn’t too harsh. The low-wattage coiled bulb gave off a warm glow.

Eddie’s gaze skimmed Mick’s familiar naked form before skipping to Whitney. God, she was so beautiful. A blush of arousal tinged her tanned skin a nice pink. Her slightly dilated pupils and full, pouting lips told him she wanted this, wanted him, wanted Mick. All this time, Eddie had fought his attraction to her out of fear. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Just how much time had he wasted?

Resolved to make the best of it now, Eddie bent forward and captured her soft mouth. Her gaze flicked to Mick. He sensed she wasn’t sure how this would work. Wanting to show her that Mick would be just as involved, he leaned over and kissed Mick, too. Mick’s hand cupped the back of Eddie’s neck, holding him in place as their tongues mated. Eddie’s stomach clenched as he tasted Whitney’s cunt honey on Mick’s lips. God, that was a heady experience!

“Wow,” Whitney breathed excitedly. “I’ve seen men kiss before, but that? Oh, god. Do it again!”

Chuckling, Eddie followed her orders and locked lips with Mick again. He switched from Mick’s mouth to her smaller, sensual lips. She shivered beneath him and wound her arms around his neck. When he pulled back, Mick slipped in for another kiss from Whitney’s intoxicating mouth. He watched the pair make out as he stroked his cock. It throbbed almost painfully. A leak of shiny, clear pre-cum oozed from the tip. He couldn’t wait to sink his unsheathed cock in her hot, wet depths.

Sitting back on his heels, Eddie fisted his cock a few times before grasping it by the base and sliding it between the lips of her pussy. Her slick pussy juice coated the pink petals. He drew his cock up and down her slit then circled her clit with the blunt tip. Whitney panted as he stimulated her with lazy circles. “Eddie! God! Eddie!”

His cock was hard enough to pound through concrete. Too aroused, too excited to wait another second, he placed his cock at her entrance and thrust deep. He groaned as he sunk to the hilt in her tight pussy. “Fuck!”

“Oh, god.” She put her hands on his chest as if to slow him down. He stilled, suddenly afraid he’d caused her pain. “It’s okay,” she said, her gaze locked on his. “It’s just that you’re really big. Just give me a minute.”

“Take all the time you need,” he said, fully prepared to pull out completely. His size had always been something of an issue. For a woman with so little experience, Whitney probably had a harder time accepting him than most. Her tiny pussy accommodated him, but just barely.

“Go slow,” she urged, her face relaxing as she realized he wasn’t going to pound into her like a wild animal.

“Sure thing, sugar,” Eddie promised. He very gently pulled back and slid back inside her. Mick stroked her tummy and whispered sweet encouragement in her ear. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she whispered, relaxing completely. “It feels so good, Eddie. You feel so good.”

A streak of white-hot delight pierced his abdomen. She always seemed to know the right thing to say. It wasn’t just the sex she enjoyed. It was him, too.

“Is it everything you’d imagined?” Mick caressed Whitney’s belly and breasts and nipped at her mouth.

“Better,” Eddie ground out. “Tight. Wet. Hot. So fucking hot.” He pulled back until just the head of his cock remained in her pussy and then thrust forward again, the jarring force making Whitney slide across the sheets. He repeated the maneuver, marveling at the shiny juices coating his dick. Fuck, she was so goddamn wet! Her pussy squelched as he slid home, her slippery cream easing his way. He loved that she was so turned on by them.

“Eddie!” She cried out as he picked up the pace and hammered her pussy. Her neatly manicured nails scratched his biceps as she clawed at him. “Eddie! Ah. Ah. Unnhh.”

“Do you like it when I fuck you like this?” Eddie snapped his hips.

“Yes! Yes!”

“Do you want me to fuck you harder? Faster?”

“Yes! Oh, god. Faster, Eddie. Harder. Harder!”

He gave her exactly what she wanted. Grasping her hips, he hauled her up a little higher on his thighs and jackhammered her cunt. Mick licked his fingers and placed them between her folds. He kissed her while his fingers danced over her clit. She moaned and panted as they brought her to another orgasm.

Eddie’s jaw clenched as Whitney’s pussy grew impossibly tighter. He closed his eyes to shut out the delectable view of her bouncing breasts and open mouth. He recalled as much mundane shit as possible, made lists, and more. Anything to keep his impending orgasm at bay a little longer. Just a little longer…

“Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” Whitney shrieked like a banshee as she came. Her cunt spasmed wildly around his cock, rhythmically squeezing his shaft. There was no holding back now. He planted his hands on either side of her head and pounded into her, chasing the promise of a crazy orgasm. Mick’s hand remained between their bodies, his fingers flicking her clit.

“Whitney!” Eddie shouted her name as his body burst with pleasure. He slammed balls-deep as hot cum rocketed through the length of his shaft. His body tensed as he jerked and held his breath, each tremor of ejaculation rocking him with pure bliss.

When he could finally breathe again, Eddie sucked in a long breath. His shaky arms barely bore his weight as he nuzzled Whitney’s face and took her mouth in a lengthy, leisurely kiss. Mick snuck his mouth in for a bit of sugar, too. Eventually Eddie rolled off of Whitney and collapsed onto his back. His eyes drifted together as he enjoyed the warmth of afterglow.

Next to him, Mick made his move. Eddie smiled as Mick coaxed Whitney onto her knees and penetrated her from behind. Eddie slid over just enough to reach her mouth and exchanged wet, messy kisses with Whitney. He loved the expression on her face as Mick pounded into her. When he grabbed a fistful of hair, she practically purred. So she did like it rough…

“Slap her ass,” Eddie ordered. Whitney’s eyes widened, but Mick just grinned and did as he was told. She yelped as Mick’s hand made contact with her butt cheek. Eddie noticed the way she pushed back against Mick’s thrusts when he smacked her bottom. Her nipples were hard pebbles. Oh, yeah. She loved it.

Not much of a spanking man, Mick only took a few whacks before grabbing her hips and going wild. That was one thing Eddie loved about Mick. He had amazing speed when it came to fucking. There were just some positions that called for fast, deep strokes, and that was where Mick excelled. Already Whitney clawed at the sheets. She wanted to come, he could tell, but this coupling came too close on the heels of theirs. Her clit was far too sensitive and needed time to recover.

Still, she enjoyed every second of her mating with Mick. Whitney was far too honest to fake it. Her face betrayed every emotion she felt, good or bad. It was one of the things Eddie loved about her. She never bullshitted, never skirted the truth. She told it like it was, and he respected her for it.

Mick’s breathing hitched. Eddie recognized the telltale signs of his longtime lover. Another handful of thrusts and Mick would come. Eddie kissed Whitney as Mick plunged deep and spilled his load, her name falling from his lips like a litany. Mick fell forward against Whitney’s back. She reached behind her and clasped his arm.

Eddie guided them to the bed, helping them fall gracefully on their sides. Mick shimmied until he was leaning back against a pillow and hauled Whitney onto his lap, her back to his chest. She seemed confused as Eddie slid between the pair’s wide open legs. “What are you doing?”

Eddie petted her sex, the lips swollen and bright red with arousal. “I’m going to lick this sweet cunt,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“What!” She tried to close her legs, but he stopped her. “No. It’s…gross.”

Eddie frowned. “It’s not gross. Why do you think that?”

“Because you just, you know!” She waved her hand. “And so did Mick.”

“That’s what makes it special,” Eddie replied. “I want my turn.”

“So do it tomorrow, or let me shower first.” She seemed truly distressed. “You don’t have to do this.”

“No, I don’t have to do it. I want to do it.”

“But why?”

“Because I love the way Mick tastes and the way you taste, too.” He kissed her mouth. “Now hush, and let me eat your cunt.”

Whitney shivered and gulped. Finally, she relented. “Okay.”

Shaking his head and laughing, Eddie slipped down her body again. He’d never seen a woman fight oral sex so much. And calling it gross? There was nothing gross or shameful about sex or body fluids. It was a natural part of the process.

He and Mick would have to do something about that. She needed to feel comfortable with her body and theirs.

But, first, this…

“Oh, god!” Whitney arched up off Mick’s chest as Eddie’s tongue slid between her juicy folds. He savored the flavor of her pussy mixed with his and Mick’s essence. It was a heady combination that sent a rush of blood to his head. He suckled her clit, fluttering his tongue over the kernel before settling into a steady side-to-side motion. He probed her sopping-wet entrance with one finger, then two before adding a third. She was still so small and tight, but she seemed to really enjoy the stretching sensation.

Her body quickly responded to his thrusting fingers and stimulating tongue. It probably helped that Mick caressed her naked breasts and whispered dirty words in her ear. Every now and then, Eddie glanced up and locked eyes with Mick. He’d never seen Mick’s gaze so smoky with lust, not even with Miranda. Whitney truly was special.

Eddie pulled out his ring finger and curled the remaining two inside Whitney’s slippery passage. He found the raised bump of her G-spot and stroked it with a little pressure. Not too much but just enough to make her squirm. Back and forth and side to side, he rubbed her G-spot over and over as his tongue flicked her clit. Whitney clutched Mick’s thighs and breathed hard. She moaned and groaned and swiveled her hips.

“Oh, yeah,” Mick urged. “Eat her pussy, Eddie. Suck that clit. Yeah. Just like that. Fuck his face, Whitney. Fuck it.”

Eddie smiled as he slurped Whitney’s clit and traced it with his pointed tongue. Mick wasn’t a natural dominant, but he played the role very well when necessary.

Eddie sensed Whitney hovered on the brink of climax. Eddie’s first instinct was to hasten the pace of his tongue, but he held back, drawing out the anticipation of orgasm as long as possible. When she finally shattered against his mouth, it was incredibly powerful. Her pussy gushed around his thrusting fingers. She cried out again and again and bucked atop the mattress.

As her orgasm crested and she rode the subsiding waves, Eddie allowed his tongue to drift south. He sucked the nectar from her cunt, making her exclaim with surprise. He wiped his shiny chin on her inner thigh and lower belly before climbing up to lay beside her. Mick slid out of bed just long enough to grab a damp washcloth and hand towel. He carefully cleaned and dried Whitney before switching off the light.

In a tangle of arms and legs, they snuggled close and drifted off to sleep. Eddie held off longer than Whitney or Mick. His mind was a jumble of thoughts, some wonderful and others troubling. For the first time in a very long time, he felt perfectly content-and it scared him. He had Mick. He had Whitney.

And it would be so easy to lose them both.

Chapter Four

Mick stretched his aching neck and yawned. He glanced at his watch and grimaced. He should have been out the door twenty minutes ago, but a rather complicated surgery on an MVA patient had led to a shit ton of paperwork. Nothing like going head first into a windshield to fuck up someone’s day. If that guy’s mangled body wasn’t the perfect shot for a public-education campaign on the awesomeness of seatbelts…

His pager buzzed. One of the ICU docs wanted a consult on a post-op X-ray. Mick logged off and shut down his computer for the night. He grabbed his backpack, checked for his keys and wallet, and made a quick dash for the nearest elevator.

The consult was quick and painless. The guy had been circling the drain when he’d arrived via helicopter and had left Mick’s operating table in critical-but-stable condition. He seemed to be holding on fairly well, but only time would tell. If he made it through the night, Mick would be stunned. That kind of head and chest trauma didn’t heal easily and usually led to massive complications.

His consult complete, Mick made a quick getaway. Lingering in the hospital was a bad idea. He’d just get roped into taking an urgent surgery or covering for someone else. He wasn’t on call, and for the first time in months he really, really wanted to get home. He was desperate to see Whitney and Eddie.

The freeway was a fucking nightmare, so he hopped off at the first exit and crawled along side streets. Every traffic light taunted him, flashing red the second he drew near. Not one to tempt fate and run a red light, Mick not-so-patiently waited for the green lights, his fingers tapping the wheel or fidgeting with the radio.

All day long he’d been plagued with flashbacks of last night. Christ, the sex! It had been amazing. Mind blowing. Earth shattering. Whitney’s nubile body and Eddie’s domineering tone. Mick shook his head. There was some major, almost magic, chemistry among the three of them. He’d always known it would be good between them, but that good? Nope. Never in a million years.

Rather smugly, Mick preened like a peacock. He’d been right all along. She was the one for them. Like a missing piece to a puzzle, she’d slipped right into the empty spot and locked perfectly in place. Eddie’s fears were clearly unfounded. Now, Mick just had to pray there weren’t any ugly bust-ups.

The easiest way to avoid conflict and keep the relationship developing was to set out some ground rules. Eddie thrived on rules and regulations. If they made some decisions at the outset, there would be no questions about what was or wasn’t permissible within the bounds of the relationship. Better to get the uncomfortable stuff out of the way up front, he reasoned.

That was assuming Whitney wanted some kind of relationship with the two of them and didn’t consider last night a one-off kind of thing.

Mick’s gut soured. Fuck, if that was the case, Eddie would be inconsolable and a son of a bitch to be around for the next few weeks.

But Mick was sure that wasn’t the case. This morning when he’d awoken to the annoying chirp of his cell phone alarm, Whitney had been securely nestled between them, her head on his chest and her ankle crooked across Eddie’s calf. Mick had met Eddie’s gaze across the bed. His old friend had smiled warmly and carefully shifted Whitney onto his chest as Mick slid out of bed. He’d leaned over and pecked both Whitney and Eddie on the cheek before making his way to the bathroom for a shower.

When he’d checked in on the pair before heading out the door, they’d both been fast asleep. It had warmed his heart to see the two people he cared about most so tranquil and content. That was exactly what he wanted to see every morning when he left for work. That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it?

Mick’s heart raced as he turned down their street. Eddie’s truck was parked in the driveway again, so he assumed the other garage spot was still full of construction crap and killed his Mercedes next to Eddie’s Ford. He grabbed his backpack, slid out of the car, and slammed the door. He hit the button on his key fob as he hurried to the front door.

The delicious scent of Mexican food enveloped him as he stepped in the house. Whitney was a fabulous cook, much better than Eddie even, and had learned a lot of great recipes from her longtime foster mom, Lupe. Mick loved it when she took her turn in the kitchen. He was sure to gorge himself on delicious food and cold beer.

But, wait, if Whitney was cooking in the kitchen…

Taken aback, Mick hovered in the doorway between the entry and the living room. He’d been expecting the horrendous mess he’d left behind that morning but was shocked to see a scene like something out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. Eddie lounged on their comfortable brown leather sofa, the supple fabric seeming to gleam in the new space. He lifted his beer in a greeting. “Hey, you’re finally home!”

“What. The. Fuck?” Mick pronounced each word clearly as he toured the completely redone living room. The horrendous hole in the dining room wall had been perfectly cut out and shaped to form a beautiful archway. “This is like something out of one of those makeover shows on TV.”

“I know, right?” Eddie shook his head and sipped his beer. “I came home to find a crew hard at work and Whitney shouting orders over the speaker on the contractor’s phone. She came home with bags of curtains and throw pillows and new frames and knickknacks and put me to work.”

Mick dropped his backpack on his favorite low leather chair. He felt the cool kiss of a breeze from the overhead vents. He went still. “Is that the air conditioner?”

Eddie nodded. “She had the A/C guy here before I left for work. Said she couldn’t expect Miguel’s crew to work in this heat.”

“Well, I couldn’t,” Whitney said, bringing an ice-cold beer into the room. She started to hand it over to Mick then stopped. “Wait. Are you on call tonight?”

“No.”

“Good.” She smiled and handed him the beer.

“Thanks.” He reached out and hauled her close for a kiss. She melted into him, the taste of lime and mint filling his mouth. “Mmm,” he murmured appreciatively. “Mojito?”

“You know it,” she said, patting his shoulder. She carefully unwound herself from his arms. “Give me a few minutes in the kitchen to get everything together. Then you two can help me carry food into the dining room.” She headed out of the room and called over her shoulder, “Then we can talk.”

Eddie made a face. “I don’t like it when women want to talk.”

“Me either,” Mick agreed, “but I think it’s probably for the best.”

Eddie harrumphed. “I suppose.”

“Don’t you think it’s a good idea to get some ground rules laid out?”

Eddie considered that for a second. “Yeah. You’re right. We definitely need to talk.”

“Guys?”

Mick and Eddie rose and headed into the kitchen where they discovered a selection of platters and bowls overflowing with food. Stomach growling, Mick licked his lips. Before he could reach out to take a tortilla chip from a bowl, Whitney smacked his hand. “Uh-uh! Wash your hands first!”

“Yes, Mother.” Duly chastised, Mick walked to the sink and gave his hands a good scrub. He held them up for his inspection. “Clean enough?”

Whitney gave them an exaggerated once-over. “Yes.”

“You know I wash my hands at work all the time.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t keeping them clean at work,” Whitney replied. “But you’re still in your scrubs. I just don’t want you sprinkling MRSA all over my chips and salsa.”

“These are clean scrubs,” Mick assured her. “I changed into these after my last surgery of the day.”

“For what it’s worth,” Eddie interjected, “she makes me wash my hands the second I set foot in here, too.”

Mick narrowed his eyes in mock disdain at Whitney. “Germaphobe.”

“And damn proud of it,” Whitney retorted with a saucy little wink. “Come on. I’m starving.”

Mick and Eddie loaded up their arms with dishes and followed her into the dining room. The new décor looked even better up close. There was a faint smell of paint in the air but nothing the spicy scent of cumin and chili powder couldn’t cover. The inviting terra-cotta color on the walls complemented the dark wood of the table and chairs. Whitney had replaced the old curtains and plain rods with a more ornate bronze bar and cream-colored panels. All the old furniture looked so much better.

“I am so impressed, Whitney.” Mick leaned over and pecked her cheek. “I can’t believe how quickly you got this done.”

“Well, that’s Miguel for you,” she said, taking her seat. “He runs some of the best crews in town. When I got to run my first show, I had a so-called friend who totally stabbed me in the back and forgot to hire the construction crew to put the set together. I found Miguel, and his guys threw it together in a night. And it was good work, too,” she added. “None of that half-ass bullshit.”

“I bet he’s not cheap,” Mick commented, a little concerned about the mounting costs for the project.

“He’s not,” she confirmed. “But”-she smiled and helped herself to a steaming-hot tortilla from a Styrofoam container-“he owes me some favors and gave me a great deal. I can wipe it out with my bonus from the Paris show.”

“No,” Eddie said. “We’ll pick up the tab.”

“Whatever.” Whitney shrugged. “I’ll find the bill later, and you two can duke it out.”

Mick laughed, and Eddie snorted. They slipped into easy conversation about their workdays. Whitney’s boss was surprisingly supportive of her decision to switch jobs and had offered to slide into Whitney’s position after she left to guide her successor. Eddie and his team had served warrants without a hitch, most of it due to Eddie’s anal-retentiveness and thorough planning. There had been a violent bank robbery downtown that had the police worried. Mick hoped it was a one-time affair and not the first in a string of robberies. That was the last thing the city needed.

“And you?” Whitney asked.

“Same old, same old,” Mick answered. “Construction injuries. Car wrecks.”

Whitney’s pretty little nose wrinkled. “No details, please.”

Mick chuckled and scooped some refried beans onto a tortilla chip. “I’ll spare you this once.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re such a sweetheart.”

“I try.”

“So”-Whitney pushed food around her plate-“um, about last night.”

Eddie perked up and sat forward. “Yes?”

Mick listened with bated breath.

“I, uh, well”-she blushed-“I really enjoyed it. I was just wondering if that was, like, a one-time deal or…?”

Mick and Eddie locked eyes before turning their attention on her and replying in unison, “Not a one-time deal.”

She seemed relieved and sat back against her chair. “Good. I was worried it was one of those heat-of-the-moment things and that it was going to be weird and you’d toss me aside.”

“Never,” Eddie said forcefully. “You’re not disposable.”

“We want you, Whitney.” Mick reached over and took her hand. “We’ve wanted you for a long time.”

“Like a relationship?”

She seemed hopeful, so Mick pounced. “Yes. We’ve been looking for the right woman for so long.”

“And you think that’s me?”

“We know it’s you,” Eddie said. “But”-he inhaled a slow breath-“if you’re nervous or if this is too much too soon, we understand.”

“It’s just a little overwhelming,” Whitney admitted. “Can we take it a day at a time?”

“Of course,” Mick agreed. “Eddie and I were talking earlier, and we thought it might be helpful if we had some ground rules.”

“Like?” She swirled the ice in her mojito.

“Monogamy.” Eddie tapped the table with his finger. “When you’re with us, you’re with us and no one else.”

Whitney seemed affronted. “I’m not a cheater.”

“We didn’t mean to imply you were.” Mick shot an annoyed glance at Eddie. “We’ve been burned in the past.”

“I see.” Her gaze lingered on Eddie. “I’m not that kind of girl, Eddie.”

“I know,” he said, his voice thick. “I’m sorry I insinuated otherwise.”

“It’s okay.” She smiled and squeezed his hand. Looking thoughtful, she asked, “So what happens on a date? I mean, do I go out with one of you on, like, Wednesday and the other one on Friday? Do we sort of double date? Or do we not go out in public at all? Is this some kind of secret thing we don’t share with outsiders?” She chewed her lower lip. “I don’t know how this threesome thing works.”

“We do whatever you’re comfortable with,” Mick explained. “Obviously, this choice isn’t something a lot of people understand or support. Generally, Eddie and I keep our trysts on the lowdown.”

“So no dates?” She seemed a bit disappointed.

“No, we’ll take you out,” Eddie promised. “There are some places that are…friendlier than others.”

“And,” Mick chimed in, “if you’d prefer, we can always do one-on-one dates. I like the opera. Eddie hates it. Eddie loves paintball, and I hate that. There are plenty of things we can do with you without the other feeling left out.”

“On that note,” Eddie said, “I’d prefer if we avoided any one-on-one sex for a while. Just until we’re sure where this thing is going,” he added.

Mick snuck a glance at Whitney. She seemed a bit confused by Eddie’s request. He saw the flicker of realization in her soft green eyes. Yes, she understood. She may not have all the details, but she could tell Eddie had been hurt badly by someone.

“Sure,” Whitney agreed. “I’d probably feel kind of weird having sex with just one of you anyway.” She toyed with a few strands of golden hair. “So you guys won’t have sex when I’m not around either?”

“No, we won’t.”

“Um”-she coiled the hair tighter around her fingers-“what if I wanted to, you know, watch you?”

“We’d say name the time and place,” Mick answered with a laugh.

“Thirty minutes? Eddie’s bedroom?” She gave a little shrug. “He has the bigger bed.”

“Hell yes!” Eddie turned to Mick and made the universal gesture for Rock, Paper, Scissors. “Best of three gets out of dinner cleanup duty.”

Whitney giggled and pushed back from the table. “I’m hitting the shower. I’ll see you two in half an hour.”

Mick watched the sultry swing of her hips as she left the dining room. His attention reverted to Eddie, who still waited for their first match. “How about we double team the kitchen so both of us can catch her in that shower?”

Eddie grinned deviously. “I like the way you think.”

In record time, Mick and Eddie cleared off the table, threw the leftovers in the fridge, tossed dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wiped down the counters. Eddie checked the front door and set the alarm while Mick hit the lights and ceiling fan. Like a couple of excited teenagers, they knocked shoulders as they hurried down the hallway.

Finger to his lips, Eddie warned Mick to be quiet as they listened outside the door of the bathroom between their bedrooms. It was much bigger than Whitney’s smaller private bath and had a ridiculously oversized shower.

Mick shucked his scrubs, socks, and boxer briefs. Eddie followed suit, stripping out of his jeans, tee, socks, and boxer briefs. Very carefully, Eddie opened the door and did a little recon. Smiling, he gave Mick the go-ahead to follow and entered the bathroom’s steamy interior. Whitney sang the lyrics of the latest Lady Gaga single. Mick fought the urge to laugh at her horribly off-key warble. It was cute but terrible.

Eddie reached for the handle to the glass door, but Mick stopped him. He mimed a nasty fall and the possibility of Whitney’s head whacking into the tiled bench inside the shower. Eddie made a face. He understood how dangerous it could be to scare her while she stood on the slippery tile floor.

Mick loudly cleared his throat and waited a full three seconds before opening the door and stepping inside the shower. Whitney didn’t seem all that surprised to see him or Eddie. She smirked knowingly. “That kitchen better be spotless.”

Chuckling, Mick wound his arms around Whitney’s waist and hauled her back against his naked body. His erection nestled between the cheeks of her pert ass. Eddie sidled up to Whitney’s front and slid his arms around both of them, his hands secured behind Mick’s back.

While Eddie kissed Whitney, Mick nibbled her neck and stroked her lower belly. Eddie stepped back and grabbed her sea sponge from the tile bench and lathered it up with Whitney’s citrusy body wash. Mick peeled the black elastic band from Whitney’s wrist and used it to secure a sloppy bun near the top of her head. They took turns washing her supple flesh. Their fingers pinched and caressed and tickled. Whitney squealed and squirmed and giggled.

When she was clean, she and Eddie tag-teamed Mick. He stood still, arms held out to his sides as his lovers got him squeaky clean. They snuck in a few teasing strokes along his cock and playful bites on his sensitive neck. After rinsing off, he joined Whitney in lathering up Eddie, letting their greedy fingers slide over his exceptionally well-defined muscles.

The scrubbing out of the way, the trio locked arms and exchanged kisses. Tongues danced. Fingers squeezed. Moans and groans echoed off the tile. Tension mounted between them. Lust filled the air. Mick looked to Eddie, silently urging him to take control and guide their tryst.

With a small nod, Eddie turned around and turned off the water. Water droplets glistened along his sexy physique. He caressed Whitney’s face. “Do you still want to watch us fuck?”

“Oh, god, yes!” She paused and seemed a little hesitant. “But I don’t want to be left out.”

“You won’t be,” Mick assured her, stepping forward to stroke her upper arm.

“Do you like to suck cock?”

Her face flamed with embarrassment at Eddie’s bold question. Mick found her innocent response rather exciting. “I’m not very good at it.”

Eddie frowned. “Whoever told you that is a jackass.”

She laughed. “Yes, I guess he was.”

“Why don’t you sit on the bench?” Eddie suggested and guided her over to the seat. “Mick, come here.”

Although not a true submissive by any stretch of the imagination, Mick still experienced a secret thrill any time Eddie turned that commanding voice on him. He’d noticed the way Whitney responded to Eddie’s tone and figured she felt the same way. Like a well-trained puppy, Mick practically scampered to Eddie’s side.

“Stand here.” He let Eddie guide him in front of Whitney. “Now,” he addressed Whitney, “show me how you suck a dick.”

Blushing, she licked her lips and leaned forward. White-hot heat streaked through Mick. His pulse sprinted as anticipation coiled low in his belly. Whitney’s soft, small hands wrapped around his shaft and balls. Like a curious student, she stroked and fondled. Mick reveled in the breathtaking sensation her dainty fingers evoked. She touched him perfectly, not too rough and with just the right amount of pressure.

He gasped when her pink tongue stole out to lick the head of his cock. It was a timid taste. She glanced up at him, uncertainty in her eyes, and flicked her tongue out again. Mick brushed his knuckles over her cheeks and smiled down encouragingly. Honestly, he could care less about technique. He just wanted her hot lips wrapped around his cock.

“Wet your lips,” Eddie gently coaxed. She followed his instruction. Very slowly, she took a little more of Mick’s cock into her mouth. “Keep your teeth covered. Yes, just like that. Good girl.”

She smiled happily at Eddie and attacked Mick’s cock with renewed confidence. She put her hands on Mick’s thighs to brace herself as she bobbed on his cock. Mick wanted to touch her face, but he worried she might get the wrong idea. He didn’t enjoy that kind of brutal throat fucking that some men forced on their partners. Eddie sometimes liked to flirt with that kind of subjugation, but Mick knew without a sliver of doubt he’d never pull that kind of thing on Whitney. Not anytime soon, at least. There was a time and place for that kind of rough play, and this definitely wasn’t it.

“Relax your jaw, and take him deeper.” Eddie’s thick fingers stroked Whitney’s neck. “If you gag, just pull back and try again.”

Mick gritted his teeth at the wild sensation of his erection sliding farther and farther into Whitney’s mouth. His toes curled against the tile as he fought the urge to pump his hips. Biology demanded he thrust for more stimulation, but his conscience refused. He wasn’t a caveman, after all.

Ever the perfect student, Whitney followed Eddie’s instructions without deviation. The first few times, Mick’s cock triggered her gag reflex. He pulled back quickly, not wanting to sour her on the experience, and she surprised him by gobbling him right up again. Soon she was deep-throating him like a champ. Mick groaned as he watched his shiny cock slide in and out of her wet mouth. Her tongue swirled around his shaft, and she applied the perfect amount of suction.

Christ, Eddie was a damned-good teacher. If he ever found himself short on cash, Eddie could sell his cock-sucking techniques.

“Faster,” Eddie ordered. “Concentrate right there at the top. Yeah. Right there.”

Mick looked down at Whitney. She seemed so excited. No doubt her pussy was dripping from arousal. Their gazes clashed as Mick surrendered to the building momentum of his orgasm. His balls tightened. A low hum of energy fizzed behind his navel. Muscles tightening, he sucked in hard, fast breaths. A couple more strokes…

Growling like a bear, he climaxed, the cum rocketing out of his cock and splashing her mouth. Blood pounded in his ears as he jerked so Eddie’s low murmuring was indecipherable. Whatever he said to Whitney, it worked. Mick’s knees wobbled from the sheer awesomeness of his orgasm.

When his spent cock slipped from her shockingly talented mouth, a little cum dribbled down her chin. Eddie bent forward and swiped the pearlescent fluid from her skin before kissing her deeply, his tongue darting inside her mouth. She moaned and slid her arms around Eddie’s shoulders. He scooped her up from the bench and handed her over to Mick.

Mick smothered her sweet mouth in kisses. He loved the salty taste of his cum on her lips. There was something so wickedly naughty about it. He kissed the tip of her nose. “You were amazing.”

“Yeah?”

“Fabulous,” he assured her. Mick caught Eddie’s gaze. “Bedroom?”

“Hell yes.” Eddie stepped out of the shower and held the door for Mick.

“Grab some towels,” Mick said as he carried Whitney out of the bathroom. She snuggled close to his chest. He brushed a kiss over her cheek before setting her down in Eddie’s bedroom. He caught the towel Eddie tossed his way and helped his friend buff the water from Whitney’s supple skin.

When she was dry, Whitney took the towel from his hand and attacked Eddie while Eddie turned on Mick. The logistics and mechanics of drying off daisy-chain-style had them all laughing. Soon the towels were discarded, and they stared at one another, each of them waiting for someone to make a move.

“Come here, sweetheart,” Mick said, pulling her into his arms. Very carefully so as not to cause pain, he unwound the black elastic holding her hair up and tossed it aside. Waves of mostly dry hair tumbled around her shoulders. Eddie buried his face in her blonde locks. Mick nuzzled her neck and inhaled her freshly showered scent. An idea formed as he considered how the three of them could continue their tryst. “Have you ever sat on a man’s face?”

She stiffened in his arms. He couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed, offended, or both. Whitney pulled back so she could look into his eyes. Her gaze darted from his face to Eddie’s and back again. “Like, while you give me oral sex?”

“Exactly like that,” Mick confirmed.

“No. I’ve never done that.”

“Would you like to?” Eddie wondered as he played with her silky hair.

She gulped and nervously drummed her fingers on Eddie’s forearm. “Could I suck you at the same time?”

Eddie’s eyes flashed. “Inspiration from those dirty books of yours?”

Whitney laughed. “Maybe.”

“Your jaw isn’t too sore?” Concern glimmered in Eddie’s eyes. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

“I’m fine. Really.”

Mick’s cock stirred back to life as he imagined his face buried in Whitney’s cunt while she wrapped her lips around Eddie’s dick. He couldn’t wait another second. “Get on the bed, Whitney.”

She happily complied, bouncing up on the bed like an overeager puppy. Mick climbed on and rolled onto his back. Eddie moved into position a few feet above his head and held Whitney’s hands as she threw a leg over Mick and straddled his chest. Her pussy dripped onto his skin, the dewy droplets betraying her lust. Mick grasped her hips and pulled her forward until her knees were planted on either side of his head. Her pussy smelled so good. He let his tongue steal out to swipe her soaking slit. Whitney whimpered and looked down at him. Their eyes met as his tongue circled her clit. She shuddered and reached for Eddie.

The mattress dipped a bit as Eddie rose to his feet. Whitney’s stature made kneeling awkward, so Eddie had to stand on the mattress to ease the strain on her neck. Mick held back as the pair above him got situated. Eddie took Whitney’s hair in one hand, like a cowboy would a horse’s reins. “Put your hands on my legs or waist,” Eddie instructed. “It’ll help you keep your balance.” He caressed her chin. “And if I go too deep or too fast, you slap or pinch the shit out of me. This isn’t about me. It’s about you, okay?”

“Yes, sir,” Whitney playfully replied. Mick couldn’t see Eddie’s face, but he was certain the Dominant in him had flashed to the surface upon hearing those words from Whitney’s mouth. Girlfriend was playing with fire.

As Eddie guided his cock between Whitney’s lips, Mick used his tongue to trace her juicy folds. He loved the way her cunt honey flowed so freely. His tongue dipped inside her pussy. She moaned loudly and pressed down against his face. Apparently she’d just figured out the major perk to this particular position. He kept his tongue stiff as she fucked it and then let his tongue flatten as she ground side to side.

Mick’s hearing was a little muffled by her thighs, but he could hear the sloshing suction of Eddie’s cock as it plunged in and out of her hot, wet mouth like a well-oiled piston. Mick’s own dick throbbed painfully. Eating pussy always turned him on something fierce. Hearing Whitney slurping Eddie’s cock only ramped up his lust.

He concentrated on Whitney’s clit, flicking the engorged nub with just the right amount of pressure and speed. His hands gripped her waist as he held her in place and went to town on her sweet cunt. His tongue fluttered over the kernel and then drew tight circles around it. Hungry for her pussy nectar, he ferociously attacked her clit, sucking and licking the tiny nub until she went wild and climaxed. Her pussy cream coated his chin as she snapped her hips and rode his face.

As her orgasm died, she leaned back, hands on his chest behind her, and gazed down at him. Panting, eyes dark with lust, she watched him lick the salty pussy cum from her inner lips. When she could take no more, Whitney groaned and fell off to the side onto the mattress, her legs over his chest.

Eddie had stepped off the bed and stood off to the right. He stroked his cock and stared at the two of them. Mick recognized the feral shine in his longtime lover’s eyes and rolled up onto his knees, presenting his ass to Eddie. Whitney sat up and let her inquisitive gaze drift over the pair of them. “Are you going to fuck him now?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you just, like, put it in?”

Whitney’s genuine curiosity amused Mick. “God, I hope not,” he said with a laugh. “I’m used to anal sex, but a little foreplay makes it better.”

“What kind?” she asked, scooting closer. “Like, um, rimming?”

“Sometimes.” Eddie grabbed a condom and a bottle of lube from the bedside table.

Whitney frowned. “Condom?”

“It’s safer,” Mick explained. “We’re STD free, but there’s still a ton of bacteria back there, and I’m sure Eddie would rather not have that wonderful burning sensation when he takes a piss.”

“Lovely,” Whitney said, her voice tinged with sarcasm.

“Sex isn’t all rainbows and ponies, sugar.” Eddie leaned down and kissed her. “Besides, I might have the urge to take my cock out of Mick and slide it right into you. A condom makes that possible because it’s a barrier I can quickly discard.”

She considered Eddie’s proposition. “Fair enough.” Her hands drifted along Mick’s back. “Show me what happens next.”

Eddie chuckled and slapped his big hand on Mick’s ass. Mick sighed and pressed back. He liked a little sting now and then. He shivered as Eddie’s fingers drifted between his cheeks and trailed along his balls and shaft. Eddie’s tight grip was noticeably different from Whitney’s gentle one earlier. Mick couldn’t decide whose grip he preferred. Not that it really mattered, he supposed. That was the whole point of two partners, wasn’t it? Best of both worlds, right?

At the first touch of Eddie’s tongue, Mick groaned. Goose bumps rippled across his skin. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of Eddie’s pliable tongue tracing his hidden pucker. Eddie’s tongue fluttered and swirled and stabbed deep. Mick growled and pushed back, wanting more, always more. Eddie grabbed two handfuls of Mick’s ass, pulled him wide open and delved between the cheeks with such enthusiasm it made Mick tremble.

He felt the bed dip and then, to his surprise, there was Whitney. She shimmied underneath him and looped her arms around his shoulders, drawing his head down for a kiss. Mick surrendered to the dueling sensations of being kissed and rimmed. It was a heady experience, to say the least.

Eddie’s mouth disappeared. Moments later, his tongue was replaced by a pair of fingers coated in cold lubricant. Eddie probed and stretched and prepared Mick’s anus for the coming intrusion. “I’m going to fuck this ass so hard.”

“Eddie.” Mick whispered his lover’s name in between Whitney’s kisses. She arched her back beneath him and wound her legs around his waist. Her wet cunt smashed against him, trapping his cock between their bodies.

When the blunt tip of Eddie’s condom-covered cock pressed against his hole, Mick consciously relaxed and thrust back against his lover. Eddie’s fat cock slid in with such ease. Their bodies were so attuned to one another. Eddie’s dick seemed made for him. “Oh, yeah,” Eddie growled. “Give me that ass.”

Whitney’s hands drifted down Mick’s stomach to grasp his cock. She used both hands to stimulate him. One cupped his sac while the other stroked the length of his shaft. She kissed him, her tongue sliding and swirling over his. Eddie’s thrusts grew more forceful. Mick fisted the comforter in his hands and shoved back to meet Eddie’s passionate movements. Whitney nipped at his chin and jerked his cock faster. The hand that had previously been fondling his sac slid up around his neck and cupped the back of his head.

“I’ve fantasized about this,” she murmured. “I used to lie in bed and rub my clit while imaging Eddie fucking you like this.”

“Christ!” Mick put his forehead against Whitney’s. He begged, “More pressure.”

She squeezed a little tighter as she caressed his cock. Her ringed fingers concentrated just below his head, right at the spot Eddie had told her about earlier. Christ, but she was a quick study!

Eddie shifted behind him, and suddenly his cock was slamming into Mick’s prostate over and over. Whitney bit his earlobe. Mick gasped in pain. What a saucy little minx!

There was no holding back. All he could do was grab on tight as Whitney and Eddie took him on the ride of his life. For the second time in half an hour, he climaxed so hard his vision went blurry. Eddie pounded his ass right through the orgasm. Whitney’s cum-covered hand continued to stroke him until he shuddered and pleaded for her to stop, to let him catch his breath, to let him return from that ethereal plane of ecstasy.

Eddie pulled out slowly and lovingly rubbed Mick’s backside. Mick fell onto his side next to Whitney. He watched in fascination as she drew lazy circles through the pool of semen on her belly. Eddie leaned forward and took her tiny hand in his massive paw. As if eating some delectable treat, he leisurely licked the cum from her fingers. Mick noticed the way Whitney’s eyes flashed. A bright red flush colored her skin.

Like a prowling cat, Eddie climbed over Whitney. She started to protest about the semen on her belly, but he shook his head. “Leave it,” he ordered and silenced her with a kiss.

Mick looked on as Eddie entered her slick sheath with his naked cock. The pair moaned. She hooked her legs around his hips and held onto his broad shoulders. Eddie thrust into her at a slow pace while he kissed her neck and breasts.

Still awash in post-orgasm bliss, Mick was content to watch them fuck. He marveled at Eddie’s stamina and orgasm control. The man was like the Energizer Bunny. He just kept going and going and going…

When Eddie sat back on his heels, Whitney gasped. She liked that angle of penetration, it seemed. Mick reached between their bodies and touched her clit. He nibbled her arm and sucked on her fingers. Eddie grabbed her legs and pulled them up so her ankles were hanging over his shoulders. “Fuck, baby, your pussy is so tight.”

“Eddie,” Whitney whimpered and clutched at him.

Mick laughed and locked his lips around her nipple. His tongue circled the stiff peak in the same way his fingers moved over her clit. Eddie fucked her faster. His hips snapped back and forth at a breakneck pace. The sound of flesh slapping against flesh filled the room. Mick concentrated on Whitney’s breathing pattern. He abandoned her breast and devoured her mouth. She broke away from their kiss and buried her face in his neck. Her hot pants buffeted his skin. She was close, so very close…

“Mick! Uhhhh. Unnnh. Ahh. Eddie. Eddie.” She scratched at Mick’s shoulders. “Mick. Mick. Mick!”

“Keep coming for me, sweetheart.” Mick whispered his encouragement. “Come all over Eddie’s fat cock.”

Eddie groaned. “God, Mick!”

Mick locked eyes with his big man. “You know you want to come inside that hot pussy. Fill her up with your cum, and I’ll eat it right out of her.”

Eddie and Whitney both cried out at that statement. Mick smiled as Eddie’s orgasm ripped through him. He slammed deep and spilled his seed before collapsing.

Mick gave the pair a few moments to calm down. They shared sensual kisses and petted and nuzzled on another. Eventually, Mick crawled over Whitney and licked and kissed his way down her beautiful body. When he reached the apex at the top of her thighs, she put her hand down to stop him. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I want to,” Mick assured her, parting her thighs for his pleasure. “Besides,” he grinned devilishly, “I never break a promise…”

Chapter Five

A week later, Whitney abruptly woke from a rather-annoying dream about work. She’d been trying to put a specific skirt on a model for a print-campaign shoot, but every time she grabbed the hanger an ugly-ass chartreuse ruffled number had replaced the sleek, gorgeous fuchsia one she wanted.

Inhaling deeply, she stretched her arms over head and made contact with Mick’s wooden headboard. She opened her eyes and expected to find Eddie next to her, but he was nowhere to be seen. Mick’s absence wasn’t surprising. He was always out of bed half an hour or more before them, even on the days he was off shift.

Like today.

Miffed they’d both left her alone, Whitney frowned and slipped out of bed. She considered making the bed but in her grumpy mood decided against it. Inside her bathroom, she started her morning routine with a hot shower and some mental note-taking for the upcoming day. There were so many things to do in preparation for her new job. Business cards, a better website, transferring her email, figuring out the parking situation, scoping out the eateries in walking distance of the new office. So much leg work, so little time.

As she flicked through the hangers in her closet, Whitney considered her day. She was styling a shoot for most of the morning followed by lunch with a junior fashion editor doing a piece on the new company. The afternoon would be spent meeting with her current roster of clients to assure them the transition would be smooth. Poaching a select few was tempting but totally against her contract. After work, she had to run by the graphic-design shop to check on her new business cards, and then there was that cocktail party where she planned to schmooze and network.

Whitney settled on a belted dress made of fiery-orange fabric. The box pleats along the neckline were her favorite element. She chose those outrageously expensive leather flats she’d scrimped and saved to buy over the flashy pumps she’d reached for first. With all the walking and standing she’d do, her feet would thank her at the end of the day.

She quickly accessorized with earrings, a bracelet, and watch and tucked her cosmetic bag into her purse. Her cell phone had recharged overnight, so she unhooked it and tossed it into her bag, too. She grabbed her iPad from her bed and left her room.

By the time she reached the kitchen, she was already hitting up Facebook and Twitter, searching for the latest fashion news. The tantalizing scent of French toast, bacon, and eggs made her mouth water. She looked up from her iPad to see Eddie at the stove and Mick filling glasses with orange juice. He swooped in for a quick smooch. “You look stunning.”

“Thank you, Mick.” Whitney placed her purse and tablet on the counter.

“Beautiful,” Eddie said, leaning over for a kiss. “Sorry I wasn’t there to hold you this morning.”

“I dragged him out for a run,” Mick explained. “I’m looking a little flabby around the midsection and needed the drill sergeant over there to kick my ass into high gear.”

Whitney giggled. “Flabby? You? There’s not an ounce of extra fat on your body.”

“I don’t know,” Eddie said, giving Mick a critical eye. “I’m pretty sure I grabbed ahold of a love handle last night.” Mick whacked him on the arm. “I kid. I kid!”

Whitney laughed and took the plate Eddie handed her. The guys trailed her into the dining room where they sat in their usual places. Mick made a second trip for the tray of juice and coffee and brought her forgotten iPad.

“So what are your plans for your day off?” Whitney asked Mick as she drizzled her favorite organic maple syrup over the fluffy French toast Eddie had made.

“Sleep. Catch up on some television.”

“Do some grocery shopping,” Eddie interjected, shooting him a meaningful glance.

Mick groaned and grimaced. “You know I hate the grocery store.”

“Cry me a river,” Whitney said, shaking her head. “You do the shopping, like, four times a year.”

“But the list is so long and complicated. And,” he added emphatically, “Eddie makes me use coupons!”

Whitney laughed. “God forbid we save a little money around here.”

“Some of us”-Eddie gestured between himself and Whitney-“didn’t grow up with a silver spoon tucked neatly between our lips.”

Mick narrowed his eyes and muttered over his glass, “I’ve got something you can tuck between your lips.”

“Yes, please,” Whitney said and offered her sexiest smile.

“Well, you can’t have any meat unless you finish your-”

“Not at the breakfast table, children,” Eddie scolded playfully. Whitney surrendered to a fit of giggles as she picked up her iPad and continued skimming the morning’s latest posts and tweets. Social networking drove the fashion business. She made sure she was an active participant.

Her next stops were the handful of gossip blogs she loved. She read out the particularly juicy bits to the guys. She had a feeling Mick was the only one even the slightest bit interested. Eddie didn’t get the obsession with famous folks. He also wasn’t a fan of gossip. Such a moral sweetheart, that one.

As Whitney polished off her eggs and bacon and toast, she landed on the local news. Her finger scrolled down the front page of stories. “Another robbery yesterday.”

“Yeah,” Eddie replied rather gruffly. “Two people killed. A teller and a guy making a deposit. Apparently they came in with shotguns and blasted up the place. Terrorized the whole room, got the money, shot up the vault, and then killed two people on the way out, both of them using their cell phones to text for help.”

Whitney’s full stomach churned as the horrifying vision filled her head. Eddie painted a truly frightening picture of violence.

“Sounds a lot like the old ’97 North Hollywood shootout,” Mick commented.

Eddie nodded, but Whitney shook her head. “I don’t remember that one very well. I was young and bouncing around between foster homes,” she clarified. “That’s the one with the semi-automatic weapons, right?”

“Yeah,” Eddie said, his voice tight. “They fired more than a thousand rounds at the cops outside the bank. Patrol cops who arrived on the scene first didn’t stand a chance against the robbers’ weapons.”

“One of them shot himself, and the other bled to death, right?”

“From wounds to the lower extremities,” Mick confirmed. “Nasty stuff.” He refilled his juice glass and poured more coffee in Eddie’s cup. “Do they have any leads?”

“None that I’ve heard,” Eddie said. “They seem to be somewhat professional but, you know, psychotic.”

“It’s sad,” Whitney murmured. “I can’t believe the way this crazy-ass economy has made some people lose their minds.”

“I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” Eddie replied. “When people are down on their luck, they steal diapers or a can of SPAM or something useful, you know? They don’t knock off banks and kill tellers. They aren’t interested in long prison terms. They just want to feed their kids or keep clean diapers on their butts. This?” Eddie leaned over and touched the screen of her tablet. “This is a different animal altogether.”

Whitney fiddled with her napkin. Eddie was SWAT, and those were the guys who were called to situations like bank robberies. If these perps were willing to kill for money, they’d have no trouble taking a shot at Eddie. “You’ll be careful, won’t you? If you’re called to one of these robberies in progress, I mean.”

Eddie sat back and shrugged. “Am I ever careless?”

“No, but it makes me feel better to say it.”

Eddie winked at her. “I’ll be careful, sugar.”

“Don’t be a hero,” Mick added. “Let someone else take a bullet for once.”

“For once?” Whitney frowned. “Wait. Is that where that gnarly scar on your shoulder came from, Eddie?”

He nodded. “And the one on my thigh.”

Whitney slumped in her chair and pouted. She felt so incredibly left out. “Why didn’t I know you’d been shot?”

“It was years ago,” Mick said, as if that made it better. “When he was serving in Iraq.”

“Fallujah,” Eddie clarified.

“And it never occurred to either of you that I might want to know that?”

Eddie seemed confused. “I don’t see why you’d need to know. It’s none of your business.”

“Eddie!” Mick’s eyes widened as he shot Eddie a frustrated glare.

“What?” Eddie threw his hands up. “It was a long time ago. It’s a period of my life I’d rather forget, okay?” He stood up and checked his watch. “I have to go.”

Mouth agape, Whitney watched Eddie stalk away without so much as a good-bye. She swallowed hard as she fought tears. It was silly, really, to feel so hurt by something so insignificant. Guilt soured her belly. She should have left it alone. Obviously Eddie didn’t like to dwell on that time in his life. Who was she to bring it up?

“Whitney,” Mick breathed her name as he walked around the table. He knelt at her side and cupped her face. “I’m sorry about that.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made a big deal out of it. I mean, really, it’s not like I have some right to know everything about your pasts.”

“I’m not so sure of that. I think you have every right to know about those kinds of things. We’re in a relationship, and it doesn’t do any of us any good if we’re keeping secrets or not sharing information.”

“I just feel like I’m playing catch-up, you know? You and Eddie have been together for, like, ever. Me? I’m new. I’m realizing I don’t know anything about either of you.”

Mick sighed. “You’re right. You do have a lot of catching up to do. You’ll never know everything, though. Eddie and I have been friends since kindergarten. We’ve been through it all. The good, the bad, the ugly, the amazing.”

Sadness filtered through Whitney. God, he was right. She really didn’t stand a chance. Mick and Eddie shared an amazing bond, one borne of years of friendship and romance. Even if they grew to love her, she would never have that with them. She couldn’t compete with that.

“Hey,” Mick said, playfully chucking her chin. “Don’t look like that. You’re breaking my heart.”

“Yeah…well…I’m afraid you’re both going to break mine,” she confessed with a sniffle.

“What?” Mick was taken aback. “No. Never. Why would you think that?”

“You said it yourself. You and Eddie have been together for ages. Where do I fit into that dynamic?” She shrugged. “Maybe this is the reason you two haven’t been able to find a third to complete your trio. No one wants to be the odd man out.” She scooted back her chair and grabbed her iPad. “Especially me.”

Mick didn’t say a word as she gathered up her purse, found her car keys, and headed out to the garage. She ignored the painful lump in her throat as she slid into the front seat of her car and hit the button on the garage door opener hooked to the sun visor. Somehow she managed not to cry as she backed out of the driveway and onto the street. Shallow as it sounded, the thought of having to fix her makeup held the tears at bay.

Whitney’s commute seemed shorter than usual. Her distracted mind made her nervous, so she continually fought to keep her focus on the traffic instead of the troubling thoughts swirling round and round in her head. Clearly, the honeymoon phase was over.

How could she have been so foolish? Jumping blindly into a new job and a new and very complicated relationship was just plain stupid. If she’d been a man, she’d have accused herself of thinking with her dick instead of her head. As it was, she blamed it on her overactive libido and those stacks of erotica she read. Everything was rainbows and ponies in fiction. In real life? Not so much.

Whitney parked her car in her usual spot and took a moment to check her reflection. She applied a quick coat of lipstick, grabbed her purse, and slid out of the car. The small red compact beeped reassuringly after she hit the lock button on her key fob. She sucked in a deep, cleansing breath and shoved her personal problems to the far corner of her mind. She had a job to do and refused to let her sex life interfere with her professional one.

* * * *

Still in a rotten mood, Eddie flopped down in a booth at his favorite diner and stared at the lunch menu. The rest of his team had given him a wide berth. He didn’t blame them. He was being an absolute bear. What he needed was a swift kick in the ass.

Eddie rubbed his hand down his face and tried to force the looping image of Whitney’s hurt expression from his mind. He’d been such a jackass to her. It was wrong, really wrong of him, and he didn’t know what to do about it. Apologize? Sure, but how?

He’d considered calling or texting, but he knew she had a very busy day. The last thing he wanted to do was rattle her nerves. He’d already done enough damage for one day.

Why had he snapped at her like that? He kept running the scenario, and it never made sense. Her question had made him uneasy, and he’d overreacted. He didn’t like to think about those tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three rounds of combat had done a number on him. If it hadn’t been for Mick and his insistence that Eddie attend private therapy, god only knew where he’d have ended up by now.

Probably staring into a bottle every night…

But he’d avoided that rather-ugly possibility. He’d learned to deal with the stress and trauma. He rarely experienced violent or painful dreams. His flashbacks were mostly gone and only very infrequently triggered. He avoided most violent films and video games. He made a point of talking out messy crime scenes with Mick who wasn’t afraid of a little gore and always listened without judgment.

Thinking back, Eddie realized he’d never spoken of the firefight that ended his military career with Whitney because she’d never asked. She wasn’t the typical woman with a near fetish for men in uniforms. Most of the women Eddie had dated liked to ask probing questions about his time in the Army. His usual tactic was to give a succinct answer and quickly change the subject. He didn’t want to be the star of some woman’s military fantasy. He didn’t want to relive the horrors of war to play into some gal’s sex dream or to satisfy morbid curiosity.

Eddie sat back against the cracked-leather seat. Whitney knew he’d been in the military. She’d commented on the pictures in his room once or twice in those early weeks of their roommate arrangement, but she’d never pried. She’d simply nodded and left it alone. Somehow she’d known it was off-limits.

And he’d yelled at her for finally feeling comfortable enough with him to ask.

God, he’d really fucked this one up.

His inner psychiatrist pushed for answers. Why had he blown up like that? Why had he told her it wasn’t any of her business when, clearly, it was?

Miranda.

He shuddered inwardly at the very thought of that lying bitch. She’d been one of those war-hero junkies. She’d been his nurse in the VA hospital where he’d been sent for treatment and therapy. Man, he’d been so blind and stupid. He’d fallen for her hook, line, and sinker.

And then she’d met Mick and had happily become the filling in their man-sandwich, so to speak. Eddie had allowed himself to dream. He’d envisioned all those things he’d been craving for so long only to have his hopes dashed.

Those old scars on his body were like the physical manifestations of the emotional wounds she’d inflicted. He didn’t like to talk about them because it brought up all those old memories of Miranda, memories he preferred remained buried.

But those were his hang-ups and didn’t give him the right to snap at Whitney like that.

He sighed heavily and dug in his pocket for his cell phone. His finger moved over the screen as he dialed the only person he trusted for advice.

“About damn time you call!” Mick’s irritated tone carried across the airwaves.

“I know,” Eddie agreed. “So-how do I fix this?”

* * * *

Whitney steered her car into the open spot in the garage next to Mick’s, noting Eddie had parked his truck in the driveway. Her stomach churned at the sight of his vehicle. That meant he was home, and they would have to talk about breakfast. The bigger question would also arise. Where the hell was this relationship going?

For a moment, she considered backing out and heading to a friend’s house to crash for the night. Running away from an uncomfortable confrontation was so much more appealing than facing it head-on. Oddly, Whitney had no problem with directness when it came to work. She’d fired lazy interns and told off pushy publicists without blinking an eye, but this? This scared the shit out of her.

She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel as she tried to decide whether or not to flee. After a minute of waffling, she growled in frustration and killed the engine. Her finger stabbed the garage door button, and she reluctantly climbed out of her car. She slung her purse over one shoulder and gathered her courage before marching into the lion’s den.

Whitney stepped into the kitchen from the laundry room and immediately noticed the brown paper bag on the counter. Cartons stamped with the logo of her very favorite Italian restaurant were stacked on either side. Someone had uncorked a bottle of wine. She snuck a peek in the fridge and discovered that delicious chocolate and caramel cheesecake she always ordered at that restaurant.

Her attention was drawn away from the delectable dessert in the fridge by the sound of voices from the living room. She placed her purse on the counter and went to investigate. What she found knocked her for six as her British girlfriend, Rebecca, would say.

There were collages everywhere. White poster boards covered in pictures sat on the couch and chairs and were propped up against the wall. Eddie kneeled next to a photo box and flicked through the contents. There were stacks of video tapes and CDs in jewels cases all around Mick’s perch on the coffee table. His laptop was out and surrounded by a dozen thumb drives.

“What in the world is all this?” She announced her appearance with a question and stepped into the living room.

Eddie hopped to his feet. “Whitney!”

Her stomach flip-flopped. “Eddie.”

Mick glanced from face to face. She glanced at him and then turned her focus back to Eddie as he crossed the distance between them. He tentatively reached out for her but stopped halfway. He looked almost afraid. Of what, she wondered.

Rejection. The word came to mind so blindingly fast. He was afraid she’d reject him.

She mustered an encouraging smile and took his hand. He visibly relaxed and interlaced their fingers. “I’m sorry, Whitney. This morning was inexcusable. I shouldn’t have snapped at you or shut down like that.”

“I shouldn’t have pushed. You’re right. It’s not any of my business.”

“No,” he said with a strident shake of his head. “It is your business. You’ve shared so much with me, with us”-he turned toward Mick- “about your life. You’ve even told us about the painful things, about your mother’s drug problems and her overdose, about your aunt abandoning you in the CPS office, and about growing up in foster care. The least I can do is tell you about my time in the military.”

She gestured around the room with her free hand. “So…this?”

Mick grinned and stood up. “After you left this morning, I started thinking about what you said. You’re right. You can’t compete with the history Eddie and I share.”

Her chest constricted at that admission.

“And you shouldn’t have to,” he continued. He pointed at the collages. “This is our past, our history, and we’re going to share it with you.”

“After this”-Eddie squeezed her hand-“everything we share is our new history. The history of us.”

Whitney melted like a pat of butter tossed in a hot pan. “You guys,” she said tearfully, “that’s so sweet. And super romantic,” she added with a sniffle. “Totally out of character for the two of you.”

“Hey,” Mick protested with a laugh. “We’re not that bad.”

“Come here, sugar.” Eddie pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly to his chest. She relaxed against the solid wall of muscle and let his body heat warm her skin. He smelled so very good. Mick sidled up to her back and locked his arms around them both. She enjoyed the security of their shared embrace.

Eddie tipped her chin and claimed her mouth. His tongue swiped hers-and then he pulled back rather abruptly. A slight frown curved his lips. “Have you been drinking?”

“What?” Mick turned her face and tasted her mouth in a quick kiss. He narrowed his eyes and sighed. “Lime. Mint. Mojitos.”

“So?” Whitney shrugged. “It was just one drink at a cocktail party.”

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been up to my elbows in the bleeding belly of a pretty young girl like you who just had one drink before getting behind the wheel?” Mick’s consternation was evident. “One drink is one drink too many to drive, Whitney.”

“If you want to drink, call one of us to come get you,” Eddie said, slowly spinning her around to face him again. “You’re much too precious to risk your life like that.”

“And the lives of others,” Mick interjected. “I’ve seen it so many times, Whit. Some drunk slams into a minivan full of kids.” He shook his head. “Could you live with something like that on your conscience?”

She felt so small as the two men chided her for admittedly stupid behavior. It was just one drink, but it was still alcohol, and that kind of blasé mentality could really get her into trouble. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“You better not,” Eddie warned. “Or else I’ll turn you over my lap and whip that pretty ass of yours.”

Her thighs clenched. “You wouldn’t!”

“The hell I won’t,” he replied in all seriousness. “Just give me a reason, Whitney. My hands are itching to get on your backside.”

She gulped. How often had she fantasized about Eddie disciplining her like that? Her pussy ached at the very idea of his big, strong hand smacking her soft ass. Oh, she’d have to think long and hard about this one. Maybe it would be worth riling up Eddie with some annoying little thing to get her bottom spanked.

“Down, boy.” Mick laughed and winked at Eddie. “There’s plenty of time for that kind of thing later. Right now, we’ve got stories to tell and dinner to eat.”

“Yes, dinner, definitely,” Whitney said, her stomach growling and her heart racing. Food seemed like a good way to diffuse some of the sexual tension. It was either stuff her face or crawl onto Eddie’s lap and admit she was a bad, bad girl in need of some serious discipline.

Feeling a little dizzy with lust, Whitney stepped out of the guys’ arms and headed toward the kitchen. “Living room or dining room?”

“Living room,” Mick decided. “We’ll nosh while we fill you in.”

“And later,” Eddie said with a sly smirk, “we’ll fill you up.”

Chapter Six

Hours later, they lounged together on the sofa. Whitney and Mick enjoyed a glass of wine while Eddie nursed his second beer. Her sides ached from laughter. The stories the guys had told! My god, she hadn’t giggled that hard in years. These two had gotten up to some serious shenanigans in their younger years.

She understood their bond so much better. She realized, too, that Mick was right. She didn’t have to compete with the past. It wasn’t some scary unknown now. It was a group of facts they’d shared with her, so she felt a part of them. Inclusion was so important in a polyamorous relationship. It was so easy for one partner to feel left out when there were three or more people involved.

Whitney sighed as Mick’s hand caressed her bare thigh. She stretched her aching feet. “Boy, my dogs are barking tonight.”

Eddie patted his leg. “Put them up here.”

She happily complied, turning her body so her back rested against Mick’s chest and her feet in Eddie’s lap. She’d kicked off her shoes before dinner, but that had given her poor abused arches little relief. Whitney groaned as Eddie massaged her right foot. “Oh, god, that feels so good.”

“You’ve really got to stop wearing those killer heels,” Mick advised in his doctor voice. “They’re terrible for your feet, honey.”

“I wore flats today.”

“You need something with more support.” Eddie concentrated on her arch. “You’re going to end up needing surgery by the time you’re thirty.”

“I work in fashion, guys. I have to rock the latest style.”

Eddie shook his head. “Whatever.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “I find it rather hilarious that the two of you are coming down on me for wearing high heels when you’re a SWAT officer, and you sometimes work twenty-four-hour shifts and expose yourself to HIV and all kinds of other infectious diseases.” She snorted. “I mean, really?”

“Touché,” Mick allowed with a little laugh. He planted a kiss on her neck and massaged her shoulders. “You’re tense, baby.”

“I’ve got a lot of stress at work. You two know how it is.” They both made noises of agreement. “I figure the next month or two will be really crazy, and then hopefully I’ll hit my stride at the new place, and things will ease up a bit.”

“Let’s hope,” Eddie murmured.

“Lean forward,” Mick instructed before sliding out from behind her. He used a throw pillow to prop her up. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to grab some stuff I bought today and see what you think.”

“Stuff?” Whitney wondered what he’d purchased. He’d grabbed everything on the shopping list she and Eddie had put together, so it had to be something other than groceries. She called out loudly, “Did you go clothes shopping?”

“Doubt it,” Eddie answered. “We know the rules. You have to approve our clothes before we buy.”

“And we wouldn’t have that rule if someone”-she gestured with her thumb toward the hallway-“hadn’t gone through that very unfortunate sweater phase.”

“I looked good in those sweaters!” Mick protested as he returned to the living room. “The layered look was totally right for me.”

“Sweetie,” Whitney said with a laugh, “take it from me. It really, really wasn’t.”

Eddie chuckled as he finished massaging her feet and let his hands slide up her calves. She hummed with enjoyment and settled back against the soft pillow.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Mick advised. “We’re just getting started.”

“Oh?” Her glance fell on the black gift bag and towel in his arms. “What’s in there?”

He presented her with the bag. “Why don’t you find out?”

Whitney took the bag. Mick cleared a spot on the coffee table and sat down. Anticipation high, she peeked into the bag-and nearly died. “Sex toys? You bought me sex toys?”

“Happy very early birthday,” Eddie joked.

Mick picked up one of the anal plugs. “We thought you could use some toys of your own before we started to play. I picked out some of the beginner models.”

“Well, I mean”-she fidgeted nervously-“I have some toys but none of these kind.”

“I told you!” Eddie grinned triumphantly at Mick. He caught Whitney’s gaze and sought confirmation. “Bottom drawer of your nightstand, right?”

“Boy, there’s no hiding anything from you, is there?” she asked with a laugh. “Yes, I keep my vibrators in that drawer.”

“Vibrators? Plural?” Mick wondered.

“Yes, plural. Two of them. A simple rabbit-style one and a Hitachi wand.”

“Whoa!” Mick looked surprised. “You don’t mess around! That Hitachi is high-powered.”

She shrugged. “It works beautifully.”

Whitney started pulling out the items inside the bag and placed them on her lap. A silver egg-shaped vibrator. A very thin pink anal plug. A wider black plug. A glass anal bead wand.

Her mouth went dry as she stared at the selection of carefully chosen toys. There was no missing the message. The guys wanted to play with her ass. Her belly quivered. She’d never had anything back there, not even a finger. It wasn’t that she thought it was gross or weird. She was afraid of the pain. She’d heard real horror stories from girlfriends who had given anal sex a try and been sorely disappointed.

“We thought we could go slowly,” Mick explained. “Let you get used to a small plug or beads before we try to make love to you that way.”

She gulped nervously. “I want to try, but I’m afraid.”

“Don’t be.” Eddie reached forward to stroke her cheek. “We’ll go super slowly. There won’t be any pain.”

“We’ll use lots of lube,” Mick added, showing her the pump bottle concealed in the towel. “Trust us, Whit. We’re experts in ass fucking.”

She couldn’t help but laugh at that. Leave it to Mick to ease her fears with an outlandish claim. “Well, I mean, if you’re experts.”

They all laughed. Mick reached for her first. “Stand up.”

She stood and stepped into his wide-open arms. He undid the belt accentuating her waist and let it fall to the floor near the end of the coffee table. He spun her around and lowered the zipper on her dress. The fabric slid down her shoulders. She stepped out of her dress and watched Eddie pick it up and drape it over the arm of a nearby chair.

Both men stared at her for a few moments, obviously enjoying the sight of her scantily clad body. She’d chosen a simple set of undergarments that morning, a pair of comfortable cotton hipsters and matching bra. They weren’t overtly sexy but rather innocent and everyday in their look.

Eddie rose and pressed against her back. His muscular arms enveloped her waist. He nibbled her neck while Mick leaned forward and kissed her tummy. Mick slowly dragged her panties off her body. Eddie cupped her breasts, his hands molding to the firm cups of her no-nonsense bra.

“Sorry I’m not wearing sexier undies,” she said, a little embarrassed to be caught in such practical gear instead of the flirty bits she kept in her drawers. “I’d planned to change into something sexier before we went to bed.”

“Shh,” Eddie whispered as he removed her bra and tossed it aside. “I like these just fine.”

“Personally I prefer the no-panties look,” Mick said with a smile and nipped at her waist. She hissed at the sensation of his teeth teasing over her skin. His mouth moved across her lower belly and then even lower.

“Eddie!” she cried out with surprise when Eddie grasped the backs of her legs and lifted her right off the ground. He held her legs open, her knees hooked over his forearms. She felt the cool kiss of air on her hot pussy. Mick leaned forward and swiped his tongue through her cunt. She shivered at the wild sensation of being held and forced open for another man’s pleasure. She reached back and looped her arms around Eddie’s neck. Mick kneaded her breasts as his tongue swirled through her folds.

Whitney closed her eyes and bit her lower lip. There was something so intoxicating about being manhandled like this. The feminist in her protested such treatment, but she couldn’t deny the way it made her blood pound.

Mick’s tongue dipped inside her entrance. She curled her fingers against Eddie’s neck and moaned. Mick slipped his fingers inside her pussy and thrust in and out while flicking her throbbing clit with his flattened tongue. He sucked her clit between his lips and finger-fucked her pussy a little faster.

“Oh. Oh. Ahhh.” Whitney panted as arousal coiled low and tight in her belly. Like an invisible wire, it was wound tighter and tighter until it finally snapped. A flood of blissful heat pooled in her core. Climaxing, she rocked her hips and clutched at Eddie’s head. Fingers tweaked her nipples while Mick’s tongue stabbed deep in her cunt and went wild. Her first orgasm quickly escalated to a second even more intense explosion. “Mick! Mick! Oh, god. Mick!”

When he finally took mercy on her and pulled away, she wilted in Eddie’s arms. He chuckled and noisily smooched her cheek. The next thing she knew, Mick was naked and scooping her out of Eddie’s embrace. In record time, Eddie stripped down and threw the towel onto the couch. Mick plopped down and kept Whitney firmly on his lap, her widened thighs braced on his.

“Look at this wet pussy,” Eddie murmured as he knelt between her legs and petted her sex like he would a cat. “So pretty and pink.”

He bent forward and placed a soft kiss on her mound. Mick caressed her belly and breasts while Eddie opened some of the sex toy packages. She vibrated with anticipation as he laid them out on the sofa.

Eddie explored her pussy with his fingers. He held her labia between his thumb and forefinger and stroked up and down. He slipped a pair of fingers inside her channel and leisurely pumped. Her clit was still so sensitive from her prior orgasms she couldn’t even think about coming again. Eyes closed, she leaned her head back against Mick, tucking her forehead against his cheek, and enjoyed the wonderful feelings Eddie evoked.

When she heard the pump and sploosh of lubricant hitting Eddie’s fingers, Whitney’s eyes flew open. Her heart skipped a few beats. Like a cowboy calming a skittish horse, Eddie stroked her thigh and kissed her belly. “It’s okay, sugar. We’ll take it nice and slow.”

She nodded bravely but was wobbling inside. Mick’s warm embrace helped some. He brushed his lips over her ear. “It might be a little weird at first, but you’ll get used to it. And then you’ll start to love that feeling of fullness.”

Eddie’s slick fingers circled her anus. The thumb of his other hand settled over her clit and rubbed up and down. When the first finger breeched her tight ring, Whitney gasped. Mick was right. It felt so weird to have a finger probing her bottom. Her body rejected the idea and sent crazy signals to her brain. Intruder alert! Intruder alert!

“Breathe in deep, and breathe out slowly,” Mick coached. “Relax. Accept Eddie’s finger.”

Whitney followed Mick’s instructions. By slow degrees she acclimated to the odd feeling of one digit thrusting in and out of her ass. Very carefully, Eddie inserted a second lubed finger next to the first. She instinctively tightened. His movements stopped as he waited for her to relax again. Whitney inhaled deeply and consciously willed her body to accept his probing fingers.

Mick’s skillful hands palmed her breasts. He kneaded the tender flesh and stoked the burning embers of her arousal. Eddie’s fingers plunged in and out of her ass. The slight stretching sensation felt surprisingly good. The rough pad of his thumb stimulating her clit helped.

When he replaced his thumb with the silver egg-shaped vibrator, she jumped. “Oh!”

Eddie grinned and slid the vibrator through her slick folds. The buzzing sensation made her pussy pulse with need. Eventually the vibrating egg found its way back to her clit. She clenched Mick’s thighs as the vibrator pushed her closer and closer to orgasm. Eddie’s fingers drove into her ass with more force and speed. It was the craziest feeling, and she couldn’t get enough.

“Faster, Eddie,” she begged, suddenly loving the way his fingers fucked her ass. “More. More.” Her belly wobbled as she approached orgasm. “I’m going to come. Oh, god! I’m going to come.”

Mick squeezed her nipples and let his lips dance over her shoulders and neck. His mouth was against her ear. “I want to hear your scream when you come.”

Mick’s words sent her over the edge. She yelled Eddie’s name as bursts of pure bliss rocked her body. Her asshole clamped down around Eddie’s thrusting fingers, making the sensation of being taken anally even stronger. The vibrator mercilessly buzzed her clamoring clit until she pleaded with Eddie to take it away and pushed it aside with her shaking hand. She groaned when his fingers left her ass, leaving her with a surprising feeling of emptiness.

“Put in the plug,” Mick said, his voice husky. “I want to fuck her pussy while her ass is stretched wide.”

Her eyes widened, and her belly clenched with fear. “No, wait. I’m not sure-”

“Trust us,” Eddie said as he stroked her face. “You’re going to love this.”

“I hope so,” she muttered. “If I don’t, you’re the one who’s going to get spanked.”

Eddie snorted. “I’d like to see you try.”

Her eyebrow arched. “Is that a dare?”

“Oh, god, I hope it is,” Mick said with a laugh. “I’d pay good money to see you spank Eddie’s ass.”

“Yeah?” Whitney glanced over her shoulder. “How much? I’ve had my eye on this pair of to-die-for suede pumps.”

Mick tweaked her nose. “Knowing your tastes in shoes? Not that much.”

She shrugged and gave an exaggerated sigh. “Oh, well. It was worth a try.”

“You’re stalling,” Eddie chided. He tossed the hot-pink plug back and forth between his hands. “The sooner you sit still and let me do this, the quicker we can get down to the really good stuff.”

Whitney rolled her eyes and huffed. “Fine. Whatever. Just put it in already!”

“Don’t sound so enthusiastic.” Eddie pressed the tip of the plug against her anus. The pink silicone glistened with the generous glob of lube Eddie had smoothed from one end to the other. She fought the urge to hold her breath and tried to remember how great Eddie’s fingers had felt buried in her bottom. Sure, the plug was wider and longer, but it would probably feel the same, right?

Not quite, she realized as the plug slipped into her ass. It was a different kind of fullness. There was a little sting as her anus stretched to take the increasingly wider base. She winced. “It hurts.”

Eddie stopped immediately. His big hand caressed her inner thigh. “Hurts or is uncomfortable?”

She started to snap back at him but hesitated. He had a point. There was ouchie pain, and there was annoying discomfort. This was more of the latter. “Uncomfortable,” she decided aloud. “It’s uncomfortable.”

“Give it a few minutes, and if you still don’t like it, we’ll take it out, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay, Eddie.”

And then the bastard leaned forward and licked her clit. All the weird discomfort of having a silicone plug shoved firmly up her backside was suddenly forgotten. His broad tongue lapped at her sex. He wasn’t trying to make her come again. No, this was all about teasing.

Her pussy seemed even more sensitized. Was it the plug in her bottom? Probably, she decided. Her nerves were firing rapidly. Everything tingled down south. “I’ve changed my mind. I think I like the plug after all.”

Eddie grinned smugly. “Knew it!”

Mick chuckled behind her. “You think that toy feels good in your ass? Let me show you something that will feel even better.”

She looked over her shoulder. “Okay.”

Mick pressed on her hip and urged her to shift until she straddled his thighs. His stiff erection had been sandwiched between their bodies. It stood at attention and begged for her touch. She let her fingers slide up and down his hot shaft.

“Put my cock in your pussy,” Mick ordered. “Take it slow, though. This is a new thing for you.”

New indeed, Whitney thought. Double penetration had been something she’d fantasized about for years. Actually doing it? Not something she’d ever thought would happen to her. Of course, this was just Mick and a sex toy, but if things progressed, soon enough she’d be taking Mick and Eddie.

At the same time.

She didn’t know whether to be excited or scared-or both.

Mick moaned as she clasped the base of penis and drew it back and forth between her pussy lips. Her slippery cream coated his skin and eased his entrance into her. She gave a little wiggle to get him in the right position and then lowered her weight. Inch by slow inch, she swallowed his cock. The anal plug firmly seated in her bottom amplified the sensation of Mick’s thick cock filling her up. When he was fully sheathed, she bit her lower lip. “Fuck,” she whispered in shock. “This is-”

“Amazing,” Mick finished for her. He sucked in a shuddery breath. His hands settled on her waist. He pushed her back and pulled her forward. The titillating movement stimulated her clit. The pink nub rubbed against Mick’s pelvis and sent little shockwaves of pleasure right through her core. She followed Mick’s rhythm as she rode him hard and fast. His hands slid down to her ass, his fingers digging into her plump flesh.

Whitney gripped his shoulders and bounced on his cock. Her thigh muscles burned from exertion, but she didn’t care. The incredible feeling of Mick’s dick thrusting in and out and the plug stretching her ass wide made her wanton. She tossed back her head and cried out when Mick sunk his teeth into the sensitive curve of her throat. He didn’t bite too long, just enough to mark her, as he grasped her hips and forced her to take a more rapid pace.

“Fuck! Whitney!” That was all the warning she got before he drove deep inside and shot his hot cum against the entrance to her womb. She swiveled her hips, milking his cock for all it was worth as he trembled and gasped.

No sooner had Mick spilled his seed than Eddie was lifting her off his friend’s lap and depositing her on all fours atop the coffee table. He slammed home with a hard thrust. Her knees squealed as they slid an inch or so across the table top. Whitney’s belly dropped. Her heart skipped a few beats as excitement took hold.

This, oh god, this was what she’d craved for so long. Whitney wanted Eddie to unleash his inner beast and fuck her senseless. He seemed to know exactly what she wanted. He wound his fingers in her long hair and pulled tight, tugging her head back and tipping her chin up. His other hand clasped her waist as he forcefully plunged in and out. Whitney grunted and scratched her nails across the coffee table’s surface as she reveled in the wild fucking.

“Do you like that? You like it when I fuck you rough?”

“Yes! Yes!” She shoved back to meet his thrusts. Her pussy gushed, and her clit throbbed. She reached between her legs and strummed the needy pearl.

“Yeah, rub that clit, sugar.” Eddie’s hand slapped her ass cheek hard. She yelped at the sting. Heat blossomed on her skin. His hand cracked down a second and third time. With each smack, her pussy clenched around his cock. She was so wet their coupling was accompanied by an incessant and very noisy squelch. There was simply no hiding just how much she loved his kinkiness.

Eddie pounded into her. She panted and groaned and flicked her clit. So close, so very, very close…

“Eddie! Unnhh! Unnhh! Ah. Ah.” She shrieked like a banshee as she came. Pleasure bubbled over and consumed her. She convulsed atop the table, her nerves firing rapidly and sending delicious trills of pleasure up and down her body. So lost in ecstasy, she was only vaguely aware of the moment Eddie sunk deep in her cunt and filled her with his seed.

When Eddie pulled out, she slumped forward. Her jelly-like limbs refused to support her weight. Mick’s arm appeared from nowhere. He picked her up and cradled her to his chest as he joined Eddie on the couch. For a long while, no one spoke. They were content to caress and pet and enjoy the simple pleasure of one another.

Mick finally broke the silence. “I’m beat. I vote we hit the shower and then the sack. We can tidy up in the morning. All in favor?”

Whitney and Eddie raised their hands and answered in unison, “Aye!”

Chapter Seven

“Scoot,” Mick said as he bumped Eddie’s shoulder with his hip. He plopped down in the spot between Eddie and Whitney on the couch. “Popcorn?”

“Mmm!” Whitney took a handful and munched happily.

Eddie shook his head and lifted his bag of licorice. “I’m good.”

“Blech!” Whitney stuck out her tongue. “That stuff is so gross!”

“It’s delicious.” Eddie leaned over to give her a kiss. Whitney squealed and swatted him away, but he persevered and landed a smooch on her lips. “See? Yummy.”

“Ew!” She wiped at her mouth. “Yucky!”

Eddie laughed and popped another piece of licorice. Mick shook his head and reached for his soda on the coffee table.

“Do we have to watch this fight?” Whitney wrinkled her nose.

“Yes,” Mick and Eddie answered seconds apart.

“You can watch your vampire show in my room,” Mick offered. “My TV is better than yours.”

She pouted and sighed. “I’ll just stay here. I’d rather spend time with the two of you than watch my show alone.”

“Aww,” Mick playfully replied. “That’s sweet.”

“That’s called settling,” she retorted with a bit of sass.

“Ouch!” Eddie feigned hurt and clutched his chest.

She rolled her eyes and elbowed Eddie. “Hand me my phone.”

As Mick and Eddie enjoyed the fight, Whitney answered email and read blogs. He marveled at the way her nimble fingers danced over the touch screen. Even as a surgeon with well-skilled fingers, he often fumbled when typing on his phone. He preferred his laptop with its full keyboard.

“Which one of you is going to take me to Christy’s wedding in two weeks?” Whitney asked during a commercial break. “You’re both off so you can thumb wrestle or whatever for the privilege of escorting me.”

Eddie snorted. “Sorry, sugar, but I don’t do weddings.”

Mick frowned at Eddie. “Wow, you’re such a romantic.”

Eddie shrugged. “I don’t like them. They’re long and hot and boring.”

“Gee,” Whitney muttered. “Aren’t you just a peach?”

Mick chuckled. “So is it black tie?”

Whitney nodded. “Wedding and reception are in the same hotel. It’s interfaith, so it should be interesting.”

“Okay,” Mick said. “I’m game.”

“Chicken, beef or fish?”

“Err…fish.”

“Really?”

He noted her leery tone. “What?”

“Catered fish at a big wedding? It’ll either be super dry or goopy with some weird sauce.”

Mick cringed. “Ugh. Never mind. Beef?”

“Much better choice.” She punched in their choices on the digital RSVP card and hit send. “Nifty, huh? Probably makes the planning so much simpler. I’ll have to make a note in my wedding folder.”

Mick’s belly clenched. Wedding folder? He shot a worried glance behind Whitney’s head to Eddie, who looked equally as stunned. He cleared his throat and tried to sound nonchalant as he asked, “Wedding folder, huh?”

Whitney’s gaze remained on her phone. “Yeah. I’ve been putting notes and pictures and fabric swatches in there for ages. You know me. I like to be prepared!”

There was a huge smile on her face when she looked up at him. Just as quickly, it faded. “What?” she asked, her voice a little tight. “Did I say something wrong?” She glanced at Eddie. “Is it weird that I have a folder?”

“Yes,” Eddie answered matter-of-factly.

“No,” Mick answered a bit louder. “It’s not weird. Just…unexpected.”

“Look, it’s just a folder. Seriously,” she added forcefully. “Please don’t think I’m trying to clue you two in or something, okay? I had the folder long before I had either of you.”

Mick sensed they’d hurt her feelings. “Whitney.”

“Just forget about it,” she grumbled and practically jumped off the couch. Mick barely caught the popcorn bowl before it dumped on the floor. “I changed my mind. I think I’d rather watch TV alone.”

Slack-jawed, Mick watched Whitney stomp off in a huff. He couldn’t help but wonder if she was nearing that certain time of the month. She had a tendency to get a bit testy when she hit the end of her third pack of pills. Or this was something else entirely and had nothing to do with a hormonal surge and the ensuing havoc it caused.

Eddie hit the mute button on the remote control. “I think we just stepped in it big-time.”

“You think?” Mick shot back sarcastically. “You don’t think she…you know…us?” He couldn’t even get the word marriage out.

“No,” Eddie said quickly. “Or…maybe?” He seemed just as uncertain. “But, I mean, it’s kind of quick, right?”

“Well”-Mick sighed-“we’ve lived together for a year. We’ve only been doing this relationship thing for a very short while, though. Whitney doesn’t do big life decisions on a whim. She thinks things through. She plans. So, I’m going to say no.”

“Oh, thank god.” Eddie slumped back in relief. “I care about Whitney. A lot. More than any woman before, but I don’t think the three of us are anywhere near ready to discuss the big ‘M.’

“Agreed.” Mick’s gaze remained on the empty hallway. “I think we should apologize again.”

“Definitely.”

“Big romantic gesture?”

“Yes.” Eddie switched off the TV, grabbed Whitney’s soda, his beer, and licorice.

Mick grabbed the popcorn and his drink and set off for Whitney’s bedroom. The door was ajar, and he could see the flickering blue light of her television. He knocked twice before pushing the door open and stepping inside.

Whitney narrowed her eyes at them. “What do you want?”

“To say we’re sorry,” Mick explained. “We shouldn’t have made a big deal out of your wedding folder.”

“And?” One perfectly tweezed eyebrow arched.

“And we wondered if there’s room for two more in your bed?” Eddie tacked on his best grin.

Whitney snorted and rolled her eyes. She patted her mattress. “Come on.”

Mick and Eddie climbed onto her bed and rearranged pillows to make themselves comfortable on either side of her. Whitney snuggled up between them and turned up the volume. Mick tried to follow the supernatural show, but he was completely lost. Eddie didn’t seem to be faring much better.

“So…er…vampires in Louisiana?”

“And werewolves and witches and fairies,” Whitney said.

“Well, who the hell is that guy?” Eddie gestured to the television. “And that one? Is that her brother?”

“He’s her…” She stopped and seemed to reconsider. “You know what? Never mind.” Smiling, Whitney shook her head and changed the channel. “Half-naked men beating the crap out of one another it is.”

“Yes!” Eddie playfully punched the air. He sat forward as the men getting down and dirty mixed-martial-arts style popped onto the screen. “Hot damn! Kick his ass! Sweep that leg!”

Whitney snickered and nestled closer to Mick. He pressed his lips to the crown of her head. “I’ll make this up to you.”

She laughed. “I’m counting on it.”

Mick stroked her soft skin as they watched the fight. He and Whitney weren’t quite as interested in the bloody beating. He ached for her touch, for her mouth on his again, and set the bowl of popcorn on the side table next to their drinks. His fingers drifted along her cheek and jaw. He claimed her mouth in a sensual kiss. She sighed and moved closer, lifting her leg and hooking it over his hip. His hand followed the curve of her back to her pert backside. God, she had the finest ass he’d ever seen!

Whitney bucked against him as his tongue stabbed between her lips. She sucked the tip of his tongue in the same way she did his cock. An electric zing traveled right to his dick. Mick cupped her breasts through her thin tank top. Her hard nipples poked through the fabric. He pinched the pebbled peaks through the cotton and nipped her lower lip.

She moaned softly as his hand traveled down the flat plank of her tummy and dipped beneath the waistband of her black capris. His fingertips encountered bare skin. He smiled approvingly and nibbled her chin. His forefinger traced her labia. Up and down. Up and down. Her hips pumped, and she panted against his mouth.

Ever so slowly, he parted her with his fingers and let the tip of one of them circle her clit. His dry finger needed a little wetness to ease the friction, so he let his hand drift even farther south. Her pussy juice slicked her entrance. He swirled his fingers in the slippery cream before thrusting them inside her tight, hot channel. His thumb strummed her clit.

Whitney buried her nose in his hair. Her lips were against his ear. He let her staccato breaths guide the pace of his pumping fingers. She responded so beautifully and so quickly to his touch. In no time at all, she gripped the arm of his T-shirt and climaxed, her mouth open but no sound emanating from her throat. He licked that sensitive spot right there below her ear and enjoyed the feeling of her pussy fluttering around his fingers.

When she slumped back against the pillow, Mick caught Eddie’s heated gaze. He’d long since abandoned the fight on television. His fat cock tented the crotch of his grey shorts. Mick pulled his hand from Whitney’s pants. Eddie reached over and took hold of his wrist. He dragged Mick’s fingers to his mouth and sucked the honey from his fingertips. Whitney shuddered and moaned. “Kiss him,” she begged.

Smiling, Mick leaned over and pressed his lips to Eddie’s. Like a wild man, Eddie grabbed him by the waist and hauled him clear over Whitney and into the empty spot between the two. He laid back and enjoyed the sensation of his two lovers tearing off his clothes. In no time at all, he was completely naked. Whitney and Eddie ripped off their clothes and threw them aside before attacking his body.

“Fuuuuccckk,” Mick groaned as Whitney’s tongue slithered along his ball sac, and Eddie’s big hand stroked his erection. He’d never had two people playing with him like this. It was insane.

“Lift your legs,” Eddie ordered. Mick did as he asked. His belly trembled as Eddie took hold of his ankles and pulled his legs even farther back. He knew exactly what was coming but didn’t want Whitney to feel pressured to do something she didn’t want to do.

He lifted his head from the mattress and held her gaze. “You don’t have to do this if it makes you uncomfortable.”

She smiled impishly. “Oh, I definitely want to do this.”

Mick’s head fell back to the bed as Whitney scooted down the mattress. Her soft fingers gripped his inner thighs. When her tongue swiped the patch of skin between his balls and anus, he almost died. “Oh, god.” He sharply inhaled. “God!”

Whitney giggled, the vibrations penetrating his skin. Her pointed tongue circled his puckered hole slowly. For a first timer, she knew all the right moves. Eddie sat to the side and coached her while his hand moved at a torturously slow pace over Mick’s cock.

“A little firmer,” Eddie instructed. “Let your tongue push against his hole. Now nibble his sac. Back down again.”

“Oh, fuck.” Mick’s head thrashed side to side as Whitney ate his ass. It was seriously the most intense thing he’d ever felt. And so deliciously dirty.

“Do you like licking Mick’s ass?” Eddie’s thick voice betrayed his arousal.

“Mmmm-hmmm,” she hummed and enthusiastically swirled her tongue around his pucker.

“Fuck!” Mick’s entire body throbbed with need. “I want to come. I need to come,” he pleaded.

“Whitney, get the lube,” Eddie ordered, his inner Dom let loose.

“Yes, sir,” she playfully replied and hopped off the bed. She knelt in front of the bedside table and dug around in the bottom drawer. “Here.” She tossed a pair of condoms and a tube of water-based lubricant on the bed.

“Get out your vibrator, too. The wand,” Eddie clarified as he moved between Mick’s thighs.

She nodded and grabbed the massive vibrator with the tennis-ball-shaped head. After plugging it in, she scrambled back onto the bed and waited for her next instruction. Mick noticed her flushed skin. Man, she really got off on this bossing around business. Eddie’s need to dominate had found its perfect recipient.

A ripple of pleasure traveled through Mick as Eddie probed his asshole with two well-lubed fingers. Whitney watched in fascination and stroked his chest. He let his fingers drift up and down her thigh.

“Put the condom on me.”

Whitney took the small package and carefully ripped it open. She bent forward and slid the latex sheath on Eddie’s pulsing erection. Her hand slid down to cup his balls. Giggling, she pecked his mouth and then sat back on her heels.

“Oh, shit!” Mick’s entire body scooted a few inches toward the headboard as Eddie shoved his cock deep on the first thrust. His hole burned from the sudden invasion, yet all he could think was more. He wanted more. “Fuck, Eddie. Harder.” He pushed back against his lover. “Faster.”

“You want it harder?” Eddie snapped his hips. “Faster?”

“Hell yes.” Mick closed his eyes and reveled in the wild sensation of Eddie’s cock slamming in and out of him. It was the unexpected and incredibly wonderful vibrating along the underside of his cock that had his eyes popping open again. “Oh. My. God.”

“You like that?” This time it was Whitney’s sweet voice asking him what he liked. The little minx held the vibrating ball of the wand against the head of his cock. Her fingers gripped the base of his dick and stroked up and down the thick root.

“So good. Oh. Uhhh. Uhhh. So good.” He was nearly incoherent. His brain shorted out as Eddie and Whitney drove him closer and closer to orgasm. There was only pleasure. Unbelievable, mounting pleasure.

Mick growled as he came, his balls tingling as cum exploded from his cock and splashed Eddie’s naked chest. Whitney exclaimed at the sight and excitedly leaned forward to lick it off. Mick groaned at the delicious sight. His head flopped back to the mattress. A wild ache took hold as he tried to regain his breath and recover from that shocking orgasm.

Whitney slid down beside him and nuzzled her nose against his cheek. “You okay?”

“Perfect, sweetheart.” He kissed her gently. “That vibrator is amazing.”

“I know!” She giggled and pecked his cheek. “It’s a little loud, though. I always turn on the TV or some music when I’m using it so you don’t hear.”

Mick chuckled and shook his head. “Understandable.”

He watched as Eddie, his raging erection no longer covered by the condom, crawled off the bed and headed to Whitney’s closet. He opened the door and stared at the over-the-door organizer holding a selection of belts, scarves, and hats. When he grabbed a pair of funky scarves, one pink with orange fringe and the other a busy blue-and-green print, Mick’s stomach tightened with excitement. He knew exactly where this was going and couldn’t wait.

“Er, Eddie?” Whitney warily eyed the scarves in the big man’s hands. “What are you going to do with those?”

He smiled devilishly. “We’re going to play.”

* * * *

Whitney’s tummy flip-flopped. She licked her lips. “Are you going to tie me up?”

Eddie put one knee on the bed. “Do you want me to tie you up?”

“Oh, god, yes,” she said, surprising herself with the enthusiastic tone that spilled from her lips. “I mean, uh…I’m interested.”

Eddie snorted. “Those dirty books have warped your sweet, innocent mind.”

She narrowed her eyes at both of them as she pushed herself into a sitting position. “How do you know about my reading choices?”

Eddie gestured to Mick. “Talk to Snoops-a-lot over there.”

“Hey!” Mick put both hands up in a defensive motion. “Look, I just picked up the wrong Kindle, okay?”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. It’s a free country. I can read whatever I like.”

“And do you like BDSM?”

“Maybe,” she said saucily. “Why don’t you come find out?”

“Honey,” Eddie said with a laugh, “you are playing with fire.”

“That’s okay.” She grinned mischievously and patted Mick’s arm. “There’s a doctor right here.”

Mick barked with laughter. “Careful, sweetheart. You’re riling the beast.”

Whitney tossed her hair. “Do your worst.”

Eddie’s eyes flashed. He pointed one finger at her. “On your back.”

A thrill of anticipation scuttled along her spine. She rolled onto her back and nervously waited for his next move. His fingers wrapped around her left ankle and lifted her leg high in the air. He took her left wrist and brought it forward. With the skill of a fast-roping cowboy, Eddie secured her ankle and wrist together and then repeated the process on her right side. Eyes wide, she stared at her bound limbs. The forced position strained her back a little, but the discomfort only heightened her excitement.

As if she weighed no more than a feather, Eddie picked her up and plopped her down in the center of the bed, close to the space Mick had vacated. She was now only a few inches from her headboard. Mick returned with a couple of belts and scarves from her closet. He handed them to Eddie, who made good use of them by hooking them around her bound limbs and securing them to the headboard.

“This feels weird.” Whitney struggled to adjust to the strange position. She felt like a human pretzel with her ankles pulled back and her wrists pulled forward. Her bonds allowed zero leeway. At first, she panicked, but then she reminded herself she was in good hands. Mick was a doctor, and Eddie would never do anything to hurt her. She trusted them both.

Whitney relaxed and discovered the belts and scarves connected to the headboard supported her bound ankles and wrists. She didn’t have to strain or flex to bear the weight of her legs. She caught Eddie’s gaze and smiled. “Thank you.”

He grinned back. “I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.” He stroked the backs of her thighs and placed a kiss on her heel. “Relax, sugar. I want you to enjoy this.”

“And what, exactly, is this?” Her heart raced as she wondered just how far Eddie would take this.

“Surrender.” He nibbled her arch. “Submission.” He bit her big toe. “Pushing boundaries.” He sucked her pinky toe. “Exploring new things.”

“Like?”

Eddie chuckled. “Part of the fun of bondage and submission is letting go, Whitney. I know how much you enjoy being in control and bossing other people around.” He caressed her calf. “Tonight, I’m the one doing all the bossing.”

Her belly quivered. She’d had fantasies that started like this. Living it was so much better. Her tied-up wrists and ankles and the sensation of helplessness made her pussy ache. Desire bubbled low in the pit of her stomach. She swallowed hard and nodded at Eddie. “Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“Master?” She guessed.

Eddie grinned. “Sir is fine, but master is even better.”

“Oh, yes, master,” she said with a giggle.

Eddie laughed and shook his head. “You’re something else, sugar.” Eddie laughed and shook his head. “But no more talking. The only things I want to hear out of that beautiful mouth are moans, groans, and if you’re afraid or something goes too far, the word ‘red.’ Got it?”

She started to talk but caught herself. She nodded instead.

“Good girl,” he murmured. His attention turned to Mick. “You want to play, too?”

“No.” Mick got comfortable in the plush reading chair she kept in the corner closest to her bed. “I’d much rather sit here and watch the master at work.”

Eddie chuckled and placed his hand on her lower belly. Whitney’s insides wobbled like JELL-O. She shook with anticipation as she wondered what he would do to her. Powerless to stop him, she embraced the role of submissive and settled fully into her wildest fantasy.

Eddie’s hand stroked down over the slope of her belly to her waxed mound. She yearned for his fingertips on her clit, but he didn’t give her the satisfaction. Instead he let his fingers slide down the right side of her pussy. He opened the petals of her sex and gazed down at the dewy folds. She shuddered under the intensity of his hungry stare. His forefinger probed her wet depths. A second finger joined the first and thrust in and out of her dripping channel.

Just when the rhythm got good, he stopped and removed his fingers. He rubbed them through her folds but avoided her pulsing clit. The little nub was so swollen it ached. She tried to buck her hips, to lift up and force his fingers to touch her right there, but the position of her hog-tied limbs made it impossible. She was forced to endure his torturous ministrations.

“Mick?”

“Yeah, Eddie?”

“Go get my bag.”

“Gladly.”

Mick disappeared from the room, leaving just the two of them. Eddie continued to manipulate her cunt however he saw fit. His fingers were inside her again. He found her G-spot and rubbed the raised bump there until she wiggled and squirmed. “Oh, please. Please!”

His fingers went completely still. “What did I say about talking?”

She cringed. “I’m sorry. Sir,” she added quickly.

He held up one finger. “You get one more warning.”

She nodded, uncertain whether responding to him would count against her. Mick returned to the room and tossed a red duffel bag onto the bed. Eddie kept his two unmoving fingers buried in her pussy while Mick unzipped the bag. Eddie dug around in it until he found what he wanted.

Her eyes bulged as he produced various clamps and clothespins. Fear lanced her belly. She wasn’t sure about this. Those metal clamps looked awfully pinchy. Painful. She shivered. No, definitely not.

Eddie’s fingers thrust in and out of her pussy again. For a moment, the pleasurable sensation overrode her fear. But when she felt the bite of a clothespin on her left breast, she clenched and tried to pull away. “No! I don’t like this.”

Eddie held her gaze. He looked surprisingly steady. “Have you ever done this before?”

“No,” she admitted. “But I don’t like it.” She wiggled futilely. “It’s pinching me!”

“Does it hurt? Or is it just new and different?”

“I…well…” Whitney considered his statement. It didn’t hurt, exactly, but it wasn’t comfortable. “I don’t know. It’s not ouchie pain, but it’s not ooh-that-feels-great either.”

He leveled a serious gaze. “Do you want to use your safe word?”

“No.” The word was out of her mouth in a heartbeat. Oddly enough, she didn’t want to stop, not completely.

“Then be quiet and feel.”

Feel? Oh, god, she was feeling all right. She was feeling kinky and scared and aroused and all kinds of jumbled emotions. “Yes, sir.”

“Good girl.” He shook his head. “And that was your last warning, Whitney. Talk again and I’ll gag you.”

Indignation burned through her. He wouldn’t dare!

He gave her the look. Apparently, he would.

She gulped and nodded. Her head rolled back as Eddie’s fingers worked their magic in her pussy again. Her engorged clit, so swollen with arousal, begged for attention, but he still refrained from giving her the release she so desperately sought. Instead he added more clothespins to her breasts. Soon, there was a line of four across each one. The clothespins squeezing her nipples were particularly bothersome.

But Eddie was right. It wasn’t painful pain but more irritating. And, more importantly, they seemed to heighten her sensitivity. Each thrust of Eddie’s fingers in her pussy or swirl through her juicy folds felt a thousand times stronger. With every sensual movement of his fingers, little sparks of electric goodness skittered across Whitney’s skin. She tried to lift her hips again, her need for his finger to brush against her clit so very strong, but she couldn’t. Those damn scarves and belts!

The surprising pinch of a clamp on her right labia startled Whitney. She yelped and tried to pull away from Eddie. “NO! I don’t like that.” She wriggled like a fish. “Take it off!”

“That sure doesn’t sound like the word red.”

Whitney swallowed hard. Oh, shit. “No, wait,” she pleaded. “I didn’t mean red. I just-”

“Clearly, this is too much for you to handle this first time.” Eddie’s fingers abandoned her aching pussy. He jumped off the bed and strode to the closet. He snatched the first scarf he saw, her beautiful baby-blue Hermes scarf, and came back to the bed.

“Hey! Wait!” Whitney protested as Eddie knotted the center of the ridiculously expensive scarf and prepared to use it as a gag. “That’s an eight-hundred-dollar-”

But she never got the rest of it out. With shocking speed and finesse, Eddie gagged her with the scarf, securing it behind her head. The knot was firmly fixed between her teeth and pressed against her tongue. She snapped at him, but her tongue was impeded and only muffled sounds came out. With no other recourse, Whitney glared at him and hoped her eyes were telegraphing her message.

Eddie snorted. “You don’t scare me, sugar.” He patted her head. “Now, since you can’t say red, grunt three times in a row, and I’ll know to stop immediately.”

She tried to yell an obscenity at him, but it came out mangled. She huffed and stopped fighting. Fine. Whatever. If he wanted to gag her, she’d just stop participating in this little game of his.

Eddie settled back between her legs on the mattress. He started to touch her but stopped to stare at her. “You spent eight hundred dollars on a scarf?”

He seemed so scandalized she couldn’t help but roll her eyes and laugh. “Eight hundred dollars,” he muttered. “That’s outrageous.”

“It’s beautiful,” she tried to say, but her words were indecipherable. Instead she shrugged and let her head drop back to the mattress. Right. No enjoyment. Just lay here and let him see that she wasn’t the least bit interested in this gagging business.

Only…she was. Whitney couldn’t believe it, but the idea of being bound and gagged had made her unbelievably wet. She’d felt the little gush of pussy cream when Eddie slid the gag in place. For a woman who liked to talk and tell other people what to do, having her words taken away from her was truly humbling. All at one time, she felt annoyed, angered-and aroused.

Eddie placed a clamp on her left labia, too. She hissed at the painful squeeze. Just as quickly, his fingers were inside her again. He prodded her G-spot, and her body hummed. When he leaned forward and blew on her clit, Whitney moaned. The forced air gusted across the throbbing nub again, and she thrust her hips forward. “Please,” she begged around the gag. “Please. Please.”

“What?” Eddie blew side to side over her clit. “You want this?”

She shook her head and groaned no around the gag.

“Or this?” His tongue slithered across the pulsing pearl.

Whitney cried out and tossed back her head. The ceiling looked almost fuzzy as blood pounded through her veins and made her dizzy. “Yes!”

Like a cat lapping milk, Eddie licked her clit fast, his curved tongue hitting just the right spot. Those wonderful fingers plunged in and out of her wet cunt and brushed over her G-spot again and again. The movement sent delicious shockwaves through her core and made her knees weak. The coiled energy of her orgasm turned and turned, growing tighter and tighter until finally, the trap sprung.

She howled around the gag as Eddie’s tongue flicked her clit at the same speed as his fingers pumped against her G-spot. Just when she thought she couldn’t take another moment of the climax, Eddie slowed the flutter of his tongue and the thrust of his fingers. He brought her back to earth and sat back on his heels.

Before she’d fully recovered, Eddie took hold of the vibrator she’d used to torment Mick and placed the ball-shaped head of the wand against her still-sensitive clit. He didn’t mess around with the lower setting. He went right for the powerful, pussy-rattling speed of the higher setting.

“Unnnnh! Unnnh! Unnhhhh! Ahhh!” Whitney screamed around the gag as Eddie’s two fingers became three in her dripping passage. Her slippery cream flowed from her core and lubricated his thick fingers. She’d never been finger-fucked like this. It was insane-and so damn good.

“Oh, look at your wet pussy, baby.” Eddie practically groaned. “So wet. So hot.” His nostrils flared. “You’re so slick I bet I could slide my other fingers inside your sweet cunt and fist you.”

Whitney’s gut clenched. Even the haze of pleasure wasn’t enough to mask her fear. That was a step too far for Whitney.

And judging by the amused look on Eddie’s face, he knew it. “Oh, don’t worry, sugar. Not tonight.” His eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Daddy’s just talking dirty.”

It wasn’t the dirty talk that scared her but the not-tonight bit. Yet Whitney sensed Eddie was just pushing her, feeling her out, and didn’t mean to ever take it that far. Not unless she asked for it, of course.

And, after the way his three big fingers felt sliding in and out of her pussy, Whitney couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to have all five inside her. Filling her. Stretching her. Pounding her.

But. No. Not tonight. Definitely not tonight.

Back in the present, the here and now, Eddie’s fingers seemed to know just how to rub her G-spot. The buzzing vibrations of the wand set her clit on fire. The strangest sensation took hold as Eddie’s fingers pumped inside her pussy. She tingled down south. Panic took hold. She needed to pee. Like right now.

Whitney tried to tell Eddie to stop, but the damn gag prevented it. She remembered his instructions to grunt and let two loose in quick succession.

“Whitney, let go.” Eddie ordered in his deep, dominant tone. “I know it feels odd, but just let go. Let it come.”

Eddie’s instruction filled her with a surprising sense of calm. She did exactly as he ordered. She let go.

The orgasm ripped through her body with such force it left her breathless. She convulsed atop the mattress. As pleasure exploded in her lower belly, she gushed around Eddie’s thrusting fingers. He growled excitedly. “Oh, sugar. Yeah. That’s it. Come on my hand. Come all over it.”

Whitney moaned. Her mind was totally blown by the experience. She’d read about the phenomenon in her books and even seen it on porn clips, but actually living it?

Oh. My. God.

It was beyond incredible.

She tugged at her bonds as spasms racked her body. The vibrator was merciless against her pulsing clit. Eddie mercilessly pounded her pussy with his big fingers. She came and came and came until she thought for sure she would pass out.

When Eddie switched off and tossed aside the vibrator, Whitney whimpered. He slid down and licked her pussy. His tongue explored her folds as he licked up her juice. She shuddered at the deliciously dirty sensations he evoked.

Chin shining with her lady cum, Eddie rose to his knees and slammed balls-deep in her slick cunt. The labia clamps were swiftly removed. Whitney screeched as blood filled the starved vessels. Eddie’s thumb glided across her highly sensitized clit. Suddenly pleasure was mixed with pain. The potent combination made her head spin.

Eddie gripped her hips and took her hard and fast. Her breasts bounced, the clothespins slapping against her bare skin. Every now and then, Eddie flicked one off. So gone with pleasure, Whitney barely felt the prickly sting of heat as the compressed areas were filled with blood once again.

He leaned down between her bound limbs and sucked her right nipple into his mouth. His teeth scraped the tender nub, and she groaned. He released the peak with a noisy pop and moved to her other breast, the pale flesh marked with red stripes from the pinch of the clothespins.

Rough and raw, Eddie fucked Whitney like a wild man. She craved this kind of domination. She found the idea of giving up control made her deliriously happy.

Eddie nuzzled her face. “Can you come again, sugar?”

Whitney rubbed her cheek against his and grunted yes through the gag. Eddie seemed to understand and shifted his body weight to his right elbow. His left hand slid down between their bodies. He flicked her clit with his thumb until she howled through the gag. Desperate to grip his shoulders, Whitney made do with bucking her hips and nestling her face against his throat. Eddie whispered her name over and over as she chased his climax.

“Whitney!” He drove deep and jerked hard as he shot his cum against her womb. He stayed still for a long time before finally rising up to stare down into her eyes. He gently caressed her face and pulled the gag from her mouth. His thumb slid across the corners of her mouth to wipe away the saliva that had accumulated there.

Eddie claimed her lips in a demanding kiss. Completely satiated, Whitney sighed and snuggled closer. God, could life get any better than this?

Eddie massaged and kissed her limp body as he carefully untied her ankles and wrists. He kneaded her tired muscles and nibbled the sensitive places, eliciting giggles and smiles from Whitney. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispered lovingly against her ear. “So pink and sweet.” He nibbled her lower lip. “Did you enjoy that?”

“Immensely,” Whitney answered with a grin on her face. A bit of movement off to her left caught Whitney’s attention. She craned her neck to see Mick sitting in the chair and stroking his rock-hard cock. “I think someone might need a little attention.”

“Yeah?” Eddie kissed her chin.

“Mmm-hmmm,” she hummed. “I think Mick could use a hand…or a mouth.”

“Or both?” Eddie suggested with a sly smile.

“Ooh.” Whitney nodded. “Definitely both.”

Chuckling, Eddie kissed her one last time and then slid off the bed. Eddie kneeled in front of Mick and pressed his lips to the other man’s stomach. Whitney rolled onto her side and fluffed a pillow as she got comfortable. The show wasn’t over yet-and she had the best seat in the house.

Chapter Eight

Eddie nervously paced the living room. His stomach churned with anxiety. Whitney was over an hour late and not answering her phone or replying to any texts.

“Will you sit down already?” Mick growled in frustration. “I’m trying to watch this game. Still tied, and we’re at the bottom of the ninth inning.”

Eddie bit back the urge to snap and asked, as calmly as possible, “How can you watch that when she’s this late?”

Mick shrugged. “She’s probably working.”

“Then why isn’t she answering her phone?”

“Who knows?” Mick sipped his iced tea. No alcohol for him tonight because he was on call. “She’s a grown woman, Eddie. She doesn’t have to report her every move.”

He grumbled under his breath. “She’s our girlfriend. She should keep us in the loop.”

“Do you call her every time you’re running late or heading out for a burger with your team?”

“Hell yes, I do.”

Mick seemed surprised. “You don’t ever send me texts or call me when you’re running late.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Please don’t pout.”

Mick squinted in annoyance. “Ass.”

“Look, it’s just different with Whitney. If you’re home alone, I don’t worry so much. You’re a man. You’re able to defend yourself. She’s tough, but she’s small and unarmed. I want her to be on her toes if she hears weird noises around the house. I’d hate for her to assume it’s me coming in from the garage when I’m still at the station.”

“Well, when you put it like that…”

Eddie dug his phone out of his pocket and checked for a message again. Still nothing. He punched in a quick text and hit send.

The rustling sound of Mick reaching into his bag of pita chips grated on Eddie’s nerves. The subsequent crunching was just worse. He left the living room for the relative quiet of the kitchen. His gaze landed on the dry-erase calendar Whitney had put up on the wall closest to the refrigerator not long after moving into the house. She seemed to thrive on schedules, calendars, and sticky notes. She’d assigned them all a different color. Red for Mick. Blue for Eddie. Orange for her. It was a quick way for the three of them to keep track of one another.

His focus settled on the loopy orange writing for today. Her last day of work. Dinner with the girls, whoever the hell they were. Hopefully she was out with “the girls” and not upside down in a ditch somewhere or worse.

Mick hooted wildly. Eddie’s fists curled at his sides. How the hell could he be so calm at a time like this?

Eddie wondered if it would always be like this. Now that things were getting more serious between the three of them, that is. Whitney’s particular occupation required lots of very late nights and traveling. She could be in LA one week, Paris another, and New York City the next. Eddie couldn’t possibly keep up with her every minute of the day. He wasn’t quite that crazy, of course. He had to take care not to come across as overbearing or controlling. That wasn’t his intention. Far from it, he wanted Whitney to enjoy life and see her friends and do her work.

It’s just that he knew what kind of horrible, loathsome people existed out there. He’d seen the very worst the city had to offer and shuddered at the idea of Whitney becoming the prey of some evil bastard. His need to protect her ran deep.

“Headlights,” Mick called from his perch on the sofa.

A few seconds later, Eddie heard the telltale whine and clank of the garage door opening. His tension ratcheted down a few notches. At least she was alive.

But when she came swanning through the laundry room without a care in the world, Eddie lost it.

“Where have you been?”

Whitney’s eyes widened. She stood still in the doorway. “Out with friends.”

“And your phone doesn’t work?” He crossed his arms and leaned back against the fridge. “I sent you a ton of texts and called twice and nothing.”

Whitney frowned as she entered the kitchen and put her huge purse on the counter. He didn’t know how she managed to carry that massive thing around without herniating a disc. She rummaged around in it and produced her cell phone. Her finger moved over the screen. “Oops!”

“Oops?” he repeated incredulously. “Oops? That’s all you have to say?”

She shrugged, the movement sending the spaghetti strap of her cocktail dress sliding down her shoulder. “I guess I didn’t hear it in the restaurant or club. Sorry.”

“Sorry?” Eddie tried to control his exasperation. “Whitney, I’ve been worried sick about you. For all I knew, you’d been whacked over the head, thrown into a van, and carted off to some empty warehouse for a gangbang.”

She visibly paled. “Boy, your mind sure goes to some dark places.” Whitney shook her head. “I was out with friends, Eddie. I was careful. I’m always careful.” Huffing, she slammed down her phone. “You’re always harping on me to watch this and that. Don’t drink that. Don’t go there. God!” She threw up her hands. “Stop trying to control me!”

He stepped back in shock. “Whitney, I’m not trying to control you. I worry about you. I want you to be safe.”

“Yeah, well,” she grumbled, “I worry about you, too. And Mick. I don’t request a minute-to-minute update of your day, though.”

Eddie sucked in measured breaths. Her points were valid. He was coming on strong. Maybe he needed to take a page out of Mick’s book and mellow out some. “You’re right, Whitney. I’m sorry if I came across as overbearing. I didn’t mean to.”

Whitney sighed. “Well, you’re right, too. I should have checked my phone. It wasn’t very considerate of me.”

“Come here.” Eddie took hold of her wrist and gently dragged her close. Her soft body molded perfectly to his. His lips ghosted over her temple. The smell of her perfume and shampoo engulfed him. His lips moved lower, and he tasted her sweet mouth.

And alcohol.

His jaw clenched. Gritting his teeth, he silently counted to three. “Have you been drinking?”

“Whitney!” Mick’s voice came from behind. Eddie hadn’t even heard him get up off the couch. The man sure knew how to move with stealth. “I thought we talked about this last week.”

Her lower lip wobbled. Guilt strained her features. “I’m sorry. I forgot.” She waved her hand. “You know how it is. Today was busy and bittersweet. I was a jumble of emotions. It was hard to say good-bye. Then we hit the restaurant, and I had a glass of wine. I didn’t even think about it when I got behind the wheel and hit up The Blue Door. I had another drink at the club,” she admitted. “And then I drove home.”

“That’s no excuse, Whitney.” Mick’s strained tone gave away his exasperation. “I have hard shifts all the time. If I want to have a drink with friends, I lock my car, leave it in the hospital lot, and call a cab.”

“I know,” she said wringing her hands. “I’m sorry.”

Eddie let out a noisy breath. There was nothing else to be done. He’d given her a warning last time. He had to follow through with the consequences he’d promised. “Lift up your skirt and put your hands on the counter.”

Whitney squeaked and took a step back. “What?”

“Don’t make me repeat myself.” He pointed to the counter. “Skirt. Hands.”

“No. Please.” She appealed to Mick with her best puppy-dog eyes. “Don’t make me do this.”

Eddie wondered if Mick would fold under such intense pleading. To his utter surprise, Mick stood firm.

Mick shook his head. “Last week you promised us you wouldn’t drink and drive. Eddie warned you he’d spank that little ass of yours if you broke that promise.” Mick squared his shoulders. “You’ll take your punishment.”

Whitney’s shoulders slumped with defeat. She practically trembled as she stepped up to the counter and lifted the back of her skirt. Eddie watched as she obediently placed her breasts and elbows on the granite, her palms stiff on the stone and fingers stretched wide. His cock twitched in his pants at the sight of her beautiful body properly positioned for discipline. As much as Mick swore he wasn’t into spanking, he couldn’t hide the interest on his face as he moved closer for a better look.

Eddie took up the spot just to her left and stroked his hand down the center of her back. The thin coral fabric of her dress felt so incredibly soft against his rough palm. He fixed the hem of her skirt, tugging it higher up her back to keep the flimsy fabric out of the way. He didn’t bother slipping his finger under the waistband of her pink thong to draw it down. Her pert ass cheeks were plainly visible and unshielded.

Whitney flinched when his hand swept along the curve of her right cheek. Eddie smiled as a bit of his inner sadist slipped out. It probably made him a bastard, but he enjoyed that little prickle of fear that submissives experienced right before punishment was doled out.

And she was submissive. There was no question in his mind. Perhaps she wasn’t as submissive as some women and men he’d encountered in the past, but Whitney’s nature was absolutely that of a woman who enjoyed submitting. She’d never be the type to wear a collar, but then again he wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.

But this? Oh, this was exactly the sort of thing he was interested in from Whitney.

“You’ll count each one. Do you understand?” He’d taken a look at some of the books on her Kindle as suggested by Mick. Many of them featured spanking scenes where the submissive counted out each whack. Sure, he was teaching her a lesson, but he also wanted her to find some enjoyment in it.

“Ye-yes, sir,” she stammered.

Yes, definitely a natural. He hadn’t yet asked for the honorific she’d bestowed. “Good girl.”

Eddie drew back his hand and let the first blow fall. It wasn’t very hard, but she still squealed. “Ow!”

“What was that?”

“I mean, one, sir.”

“Very good.” Eddie caressed her bottom, throwing off her anticipations. His second swat was harder than the first and the third even more powerful than the first two.

“Ow! Ow! Oww!” She squirmed as she cried out in a mixture of surprise and pain. “Two, sir. Three, sir.”

With the finesse of a skilled pro, Eddie spanked Whitney’s ass until it was bright red. She wiggled and protested and begged for him to stop. Soon the playfulness left her voice. “Are you going to drink and drive again?” he asked in between swats.

“No, no, sir,” she promised, her voice thick with tears. “I won’t drink and drive, sir.”

Eddie’s hand fell in rapid succession against her supple, blazing red flesh. Crack. Crack. Crack.

“Fif-fifteen, sir,” she sobbed pitifully. “Sixteen, sir. Seventeen, sir.”

“What are you going to do the next time you want to have a drink with the girls?” Eddie swatted her backside again.

“Eighteen, sir.” She tearfully counted. “Call you or Mick or get a cab.”

“Very good answer.” Eddie spanked her two more times. “Have we learned our lesson?”

“Nineteen, sir. Twenty, sir.” She inhaled a shuddery breath. “Oh, yes, sir. I’ve learned, sir. I won’t do it again.”

Eddie believed her. Twenty whacks had reduced her to tears. Whitney had to know he’d give her at least double that number the next time. A little pain could be a good motivator for a girl like Whitney.

Never one to spank ’em and leave ’em, Eddie dropped to his knees and planted gentle kisses on her flaming backside. The red, blotched skin was hot to the touch. He’d been spanked a few times by a Domme and Dom when learning the ropes and knew what the aftereffects were like. Where there was pain, there was also intense pleasure.

Eddie nipped at her pink bottom and let his tongue slide over the flushed skin. She whimpered and pressed back against him. He smiled against her plump ass. Eddie palmed her cheeks and pulled them apart. She hissed with surprise when his tongue slithered along the crevice there. The moment his tongue touched her anus, she gasped and pulled away. He grabbed her hips and pulled her right back. “Don’t move-or else.”

Whitney went stock-still. Eddie chuckled and returned to her asshole. He and Mick had been dancing around the issue all week. She’d loved their fingers and the plugs in her bottom. Tonight, Eddie decided, was the night they’d take the next step.

She moaned and breathed hard as his tongue circled her pucker. His hand slid along her inner thigh. He tugged aside her thong and let his fingers follow her waxed slit. Sure enough, her pussy juices slicked his fingers. She was so fucking wet. He couldn’t wait to get his tongue on her clit, too.

He twisted around so that he was sitting on the floor and slid up underneath her wide-open legs. Eddie was tall enough and Whitney just short enough that her juicy cunt was his for the taking. He held aside her thong and stabbed his tongue into her pussy. She moaned and wriggled.

Eddie probed her sopping-wet cunt with a pair of fingers and sucked hard on her clit. She purred like a kitten and pressed against his mouth. He could tell she was close. Apparently a little spanking went a long way with Whitney. He thrust fast and hard into her pussy and went wild on her clit, swirling his tongue over the stiff nub until she cried out and pulsed around his fingers. Her sweet cunt honey flooded his tongue. He loved her taste and hummed hungrily as he lapped at her core.

Her legs collapsed, but Mick was there in an instant. He scooped her up in his arms and nudged Eddie with his bare foot. “My bedroom?”

“Now.” Eddie pushed up from the floor and trailed Mick out of the kitchen. He remembered the garage door and hurried back to lock it, knowing Whitney hadn’t done so. He hit the lights in the kitchen, hurried to the front door, and checked it and the alarm before turning off the television and lights. He hightailed it to Mick’s bedroom and found his man stripping Whitney. He leaned against the doorjamb and watched the delicious sight of the pair getting naked. Two beautiful bodies, and both of them his.

He stepped into the room, and the pair turned toward him. “Oh, don’t stop because of me. I like to watch.”

Grinning, Whitney pushed Mick onto the bed and climbed over him. She straddled his thighs and nipped down his chest. Eddie toed off his shoes and pulled off his socks as his hungry gaze moved over the couple. He shucked his jeans and tee and boxer briefs. His fat cock stood ready and rigid. He fisted the ruddy head as he watched Whitney wrap her soft lips around Mick’s dick. The dewy lips of her sex were parted just enough to give a most-tantalizing view. Her still-red ass wiggled invitingly as she bobbed up and down.

Never one to turn down an opportunity, Eddie made a quick detour to Mick’s bedside drawer for condoms and lubricant before moving behind Whitney. He slathered the slippery gel on his fingers and smeared it over her puckered hole. She stiffened with surprise, but Eddie stroked her back as one might a skittish horse. She relaxed under his warm palm and resumed her cock sucking.

Eddie probed her anus with one finger and then two. She was so unbelievably tight. He doubted he’d last long at all once he got inside that snug passage. As he worked her ass, she relaxed and pushed back against him. Her hips shimmied excitedly as the digits of his other hand strummed her clit.

“Oh, baby,” Mick said with a loud groan. “No more.” He sounded almost pained as he pulled out of that sweet mouth. “I don’t want to come yet.”

Eddie grinned, certain Mick was thinking the same thing as him. “Trade me spots, Mick?”

“Gladly,” Mick said and slid out from beneath her.

Whitney tossed a curious look over her shoulder as Eddie removed his fingers from her bottom. “Care to clue me in?”

“It’s time.” Eddie held her gaze. She gulped and nodded understandingly. “You’re going to control everything, okay?”

“Okay.”

Eddie climbed onto the bed and rearranged some pillows to give him support. He sat in the center of the bed and leaned back against them. A condom package was quickly ripped open, and he sheathed himself. He picked up the bottle of lube, squeezed a large dollop in his palm and covered his erection in the slippery stuff. Mick’s discarded shirt caught his eye. He wiped his hand on the green cotton.

“Thanks, dude,” Mick said sarcastically.

“Anytime,” Eddie replied with a laugh. With a gesture to his throbbing cock, Eddie urged Whitney to come closer. “Straddle my hips, but face Mick.”

She complied with his instruction and moved into position. He could tell it was a bit awkward and grasped her hips to help. “Is that better?”

“Yes,” she said with a little giggle.

“Take my cock in your hand and press it against your asshole.”

She shivered at his blunt words. The fine hairs on her arms stood right up, and goose bumps blossomed on her silky skin. Eddie loved that he could affect her that way.

Ever the good student, Whitney reached behind her and grabbed his pulsing cock by the base. He wished he could have watched her face as she maneuvered his erection into place. Judging by the expression on Mick’s, it was quite a tempting sight.

The head of his cock prodded her clenched entrance. He sat up a little straighter and grazed his lips over her back. “Relax, sugar.”

“Easy for you to say,” she groused. “No one’s trying to shove something the size of a baseball bat up your ass.”

Eddie snorted. “I’m flattered, really.”

She laughed. “You would be.”

“Just take it nice and slow,” Mick said as he knelt between Eddie’s legs and put his hands on her waist, a few inches above Eddie’s. Mick nuzzled her neck and took her mouth with those sensual, soothing kisses of his.

“Oh!” Whitney’s exclamation accompanied the first inch or so of Eddie’s cock sliding past the yielding ring of muscle. “Oh. Oh. Ow!”

Fear and guilt lancing his belly, Eddie started to pull out, but Whitney stopped him with a slap of her hand. “Wait,” she pleaded. “Just give me a few seconds.” She wiggled and breathed deep. “God, Eddie, you’re huge!”

Any other time, the compliment would have puffed out his chest, but right now he felt terrible. Maybe Mick should have gone first. Of course, he wasn’t all that much smaller than Eddie.

“Is it wet enough?” Mick nibbled her neck. “We can slather on more lube if you need that.”

“It’s just new and scary, and I think I’m just way too tense,” Whitney explained. “I know it can feel good, though.”

Eddie wondered if she was trying to convince herself or them. “We can stop and try again some other night, sugar.”

“No,” she answered quickly. “I want this. I want this so badly.” She pressed down tentatively. Eddie bit back a groan as his cock slid a few more inches inside her hot, tight ass. Christ, this was so much better than he’d ever imagined. He battled the urge to ram his cock hard in her ass. His penis wanted more friction, more movement, but Eddie’s head prevailed.

“You know what?” Mick caressed her face. “Shift your legs a little.” He clasped her calves and pulled gently on her legs until they were basically sitting atop Eddie’s. She whimpered as Eddie’s cock slid even farther into her back passage. Eddie didn’t have the heart to tell her there was still a good amount to go.

“Oh. My. God.” Whitney shouted to the heavens as Mick’s tongue probed her pink nether lips. Eddie grinned and did his best to hold perfectly still while Mick worked his magic on that yummy cunt. He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed and licked her shoulders and the side of her neck. His hands found her pert breasts. Not too big, not too small, just right. He rolled her stiff nipples between his fingertips as she panted and moaned.

Whatever Mick was doing was working perfectly. Whether she realized it or not, Whitney was rocking back and forth and swallowing more of Eddie’s rock-hard cock. The sensation of being accepted into her virgin ass made Eddie’s head spin. Knowing he was first awakened something primal within him.

“Oh, god. Oh, god.” Whitney practically growled. “I’m going to come.”

Mick made a hungry noise that drove her over the edge. Eddie saw stars as Whitney’s ass fluttered around his buried dick. He couldn’t hold back anymore and moved his hips. He thrust slow and shallow, moving only a few inches of his length back and forth as she came. It seemed to be exactly what Whitney needed. She let loose and howled as she came for the first time with a cock in her ass and Mick’s tongue flicking her clit.

She’d no sooner collapsed against Eddie’s chest than Mick was pushing up to his knees and lining his cock up with her pussy. He slid home in a forceful thrust that made Whitney snarl like a wild cat. She clutched at Mick’s shoulders as he thrust back and forth. Eddie held still, waiting for some indication that she was ready.

“Fuck me, Eddie,” she begged. Reaching back, she clawed at his forearm. “Take me. Make me yours.”

Groaning with need, Eddie planted his heels against the mattress for leverage and timed Mick’s strokes. Every time Mick pulled out, Eddie sunk deep and vice versa. Whitney accepted their dual loving like no woman he’d ever seen. She seemed crafted for this kind of mating. A new and wicked side of her bubbled to the surface. Like a golden belly dancer, she gyrated between them. Eddie had never seen anything like it. His lust skyrocketed.

“You like Eddie’s cock in your ass?” Mick’s gravelly voice made Eddie shudder.

“Yes! Oh! Yes.”

“And me in your pussy?”

“Oh, god, yes. Feels so good. So…good.” Her answer came in short, panted bursts.

“Love fucking this wet pussy. Can’t wait for a chance to get in your ass, too.”

“Mick!” She clasped his shoulders and hauled his face down for a kiss. Clearly Mick’s dirty talk made her hot.

Breathing hard, Eddie slammed his cock in and out of her tight ass. Mick showed no mercy up front either. The rougher it got, the more Whitney seemed to love it. She urged them on with her words and her hands, gripping and scratching and pleading for more, more, more.

When her hand slid between her body and Mick’s, Eddie knew the end was near. He’d never met a woman who came so beautifully and so easily as Whitney. Balls tingling and groin tightening, Eddie focused on the vaulted beams overhead and tried to hold his orgasm at bay.

“Mick! Eddie!” She grounded her bottom against Eddie. “I’m close. So. Close.”

“Oh, honey, come for us,” Eddie urged. “Want to feel your hot ass clenching my cock when you come.”

A guttural growl exploded from her throat as Whitney climaxed harder than he’d ever seen. Eddie had no chance. Her cries of ecstasy and the incredible sensation of her ass milking his cock was too much. He thrust balls-deep and filled the condom with his seed. Mick finished a split-second later.

The trio slumped together. Mick’s hands found Eddie’s, their fingers intertwining as they hugged Whitney between them. Mick kissed Whitney first then leaned around to press his lips to Eddie’s. The intensity of Mick’s gaze knocked the air from his lungs. Love burned brightly in the other man’s eyes. Love for him. Love for Whitney.

Eddie wondered if Mick would make his declaration but instead he nestled his nose against Whitney’s throat and softly whispered how wonderful she was. Part of Eddie was disappointed, but most of him was relieved. He wasn’t good at that kind of thing. In all the years he and Mick had been together, Eddie had always had a problem admitting his love. Mick didn’t seem to mind much, but Eddie wondered if maybe it was a bigger issue than he realized.

And what happened if Mick told Whitney he loved her first? Whitney was much like Mick in so many ways. They were both emotionally open and unafraid.

Suddenly all those old, ugly memories of Miranda clawed their way to the surface. Her shrill voice stabbed his brain. What had she said? That he wasn’t capable of love. That he was cold and heartless. He’d forced her into Mick’s welcoming arms. Mick, who always knew the right words and owned his feelings.

Eddie’s gut clenched. He cared so much for Mick and Whitney. If he screwed this up, he’d never forgive himself.

Mick pulled out of Whitney and climbed off the bed. While he disappeared to the bathroom, Eddie gently lifted Whitney off his wilting cock and tucked her close to his side. She nestled against his chest and kissed his chin. “That was amazing, Eddie.”

He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Are you okay? Not too sore? I was afraid I went too fast there at the end.”

She shook her head. “You didn’t hurt me. I ache, but it’s a good ache, if that makes sense.”

He smiled and swept her damp bangs from her face. “Sure.”

Mick returned with a couple of washcloths and made quick work of tidying them up. He turned off the lights before climbing into bed. Eddie lifted his arm as Mick snuggled close to his other side. His heart threatened to burst with happiness as the two people he loved more than anything in this world burrowed into his warmth and fell asleep.

Now, if only he could work up the nerve to tell them…

Chapter Nine

“Holy crap!”

Whitney swiveled in her desk chair to see what Kadie, their style intern, was exclaiming over now. She knelt on the floor next to a clothes rack and stared at her cell’s screen. The girl was supposed to be steaming clothes for Judy’s shoot but had a terrible habit of getting lost in an endless stream of Twitter and Facebook updates on her phone. “What now?”

“There’s been another bank heist! At my bank,” she added in utter horror, her eyes as wide as moons when she looked up from her cell phone.

“That’s terrible,” Whitney said, her stomach churning as she worried over Eddie. Realizing Kadie was about to hyperventilate, she added, “Well, look at it this way. If they’ve already knocked off your bank, they won’t be coming back, right? That’s not their M.O. They hit a bank and move on to the next one.”

“Oh.” Kadie considered for a moment. “Hey! Yeah.” She beamed happily. “That’s right. I’m safe.”

Safer, Whitney thought, but didn’t say anything. The poor little Kansas transplant was still recovering from the shock of big-city life. No reason to terrify her any more than she was already.

Instead, Whitney rose from her chair and crossed the distance between them. She loved the new open floor plan of their office space. Whitney could see from one end to the other and could keep an eye on things.

“I’m doing a branding consult with a new design firm this afternoon if you’d like to come,” Whitney offered. She remembered what it was like to be eighteen and a lowly intern hungry for experience. Opportunities offered by her superiors had shaped her career. She wanted to continue the cycle.

Kadie’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Sure.”

“Do you think I’m ready for a big meeting like that?”

Understanding her hesitation, Whitney leaned her hip against Kadie’s desk and said, “Years ago, when I was Delilah’s intern at the magazine, I felt so out of place. I came from a very poor background. My clothes were straight off the rack from thrift stores. Seriously, shopping at Target was a big deal for me.

“Wow.” Kadie shook her head. “I didn’t know that. I mean, you’ve got it together, you know?”

“I didn’t always. My early attempts at being fashion forward were a disaster. Just terrible,” she admitted with an embarrassed blush. “But one day, Delilah pulled me aside and talked to me about finding personal style and, more importantly, confidence.”

“So you think I need to work on my confidence?”

“Yes, definitely. In this business, perception is everything. You’ve got to own your look and own your ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up in a meeting, okay? You’re here to learn and expand your knowledge base. This internship is supposed to complement your education at the fashion institute. This”-Whitney gestured around the room-“is where you get your hands-on training.”

“So if I have an idea it’s okay to speak up or make suggestions?”

“Absolutely.” Whitney smiled. “At my first New York Fashion Week, I got to sit in as the designers arranged their models and the producers put the shows together. I took a chance and pointed out that the shoes at one show were totally wrong. Wrong color, wrong style, just wrong all around. And you know what?”

Kadie leaned forward like a little kid hearing a campfire tale. “What?”

“The designer took my advice and let me choose the new shoes for the show. The write-ups all mentioned the way the shoes made the outfits pop, and the shoe designer, a little nobody back then who I’d run into down in the Garment District, was literally an overnight success. And guess what happened next?”

“Tell me!”

“I landed my first paid job as a stylist’s assistant.”

“Wow! Thanks for the pep talk.”

“Anytime.” Whitney glanced toward her desk. “I have some shots of the new line on my desk. I’ll go grab them so you can familiarize yourself with the designers we’re visiting this afternoon.”

Whitney headed back into her office, the clack of her heels echoing in the warehouse-like space. As she reached for the glossy pages, Whitney heard her phone buzz. She glanced at the screen and saw Mick’s smiling face. Her heart sped up at the sight.

In the last few weeks, things had gotten progressively more serious between Whitney and her men. Her well-used body still hummed from the night prior’s amorous activities. Mick had been almost wild when he’d taken her as Eddie watched on from his bedside seat. Her pussy clenched at the memory of his dirty words and that talented tongue of his.

“Hello?” She held the phone against her ear as she gathered up the pages.

“Hey, sweetheart.” Mick always sounded so happy to hear her voice. “How’s your day? You’re not busy, are you?”

“No, no. I was thinking about grabbing some lunch. Are you free?”

“Sorry, but no. Actually, that’s why I’m calling.” He paused. “Um…about tonight…”

Whitney sighed. “You’re kidding me, right? This wedding date has been on our calendar for two weeks, Mick.”

“I know. It’s just that Sam came down with food poisoning, and I’m the only trauma surgeon available to cover until tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got a call in to Maggie, but she isn’t answering.”

She squeezed the bridge of her nose as she tried to be understanding. “It’s okay, Mick. I know how frustrating scheduling conflicts can be.”

“I really am sorry, Whitney. I so wanted to see you in that sexy new dress. I even had my tux dry-cleaned and everything.”

“Well, maybe you can take me out somewhere special and get some use out of that spiffy clean tux.”

Mick chuckled. “Name the place and date and I’m there, baby.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

“I’ve got something else you can hold.”

Whitney snorted. “Behave. You’re at work.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” Mick sighed. “Speaking of…I should get back on the floor. I ducked into my office to call you, and my pager is going crazy. I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

“All right. Get some rest, if you can. You worked all last night and now today.” She winced at the idea of how tired he probably was already. “And eat something,” she added quickly. “I know how you forget, and then you get grumpy, and no one likes a grump.”

Mick laughed. “Yes, dear.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “I’m hanging up now.”

“Bye, babe.”

“Bye.”

Whitney hung up and considered what to do next. She hated attending weddings solo. It was so depressing. Plus she’d have to spend the whole night fending off drunken groomsmen. No, thank you.

There was only one option. And she’d drag him to the wedding kicking and screaming if she had to.

Whitney thumbed through her list of contacts until the right name popped up on the phone’s touch screen. She hit the call button and waited for an answer.

“Whit-whit!” Julian Primero’s familiar high-pitched voice hit her eardrum. “How the hell are you, girl? I heard you jumped ship and started a new business with Delilah Kant.”

“You heard right.” She leaned back against her desk and made chit-chat with her old friend. They’d been style interns at Teen Vogue years earlier before heading different directions. He’d gone directly into design after college and worked for one of the top new labels for a year before joining a celebrity styling firm that handled everything for their clients, including award shows.

“So what you need, Whit-whit?”

“You remember that tux you put on that linebacker for the big sports award thing a few weeks back?”

“Of course!” Julian sounded as if he was about to swoon. “Fitting that big hunk of sexiness with my snazzy tape measure? Biggest thrill of the year.”

Whitney giggled. “Nice, Julian. Really. Nice. So obviously you remember that tux.”

“Sure do. Why?”

“You know that favor you owe me?”

Julian laughed. “Tell me when and where you want it, sweet cheeks, and it’s yours.”

* * * *

Eddie wiped the sweat from his face with the hand towel looped over the side rail of the treadmill. He and his teammates were nearing the end of their daily workout. It had been a surprisingly slow week for SWAT. No warrants. No crazies taking hostages. No drug busts gone bad.

He found the calm unsettling. In his experience, these moments of quiet were usually followed by all hell breaking loose. Another bank had been robbed that morning, and yet again the robbers were in and out so fast even the beat cops hadn’t made it there in time to get a glimpse. They’d really shot up the place, but there were no deaths this time. Eddie found that rather curious. Were they changing up their M.O. or had something happened during the robbery to spook them?

Maybe he’d see what Carol knew. A ball-busting detective and truly one of LAPD’s finest, she was working the case. For some reason, the old crone had a soft spot for Eddie. Maybe he could work her for a few interesting tidbits on the case.

“Yo, Sarge!” Jackson, one of the desk cops from downstairs, stepped into the gym. “You got a visitor.”

Brow furrowed, Eddie punched at the treadmill’s display. His heart rate had slowed some, but he’d only managed two of his usual five cool-down minutes. A long whistle of appreciation pierced the air. Eddie glanced at the nearby mirror as he stepped off the treadmill and nearly tripped over his own feet.

Whitney strode into the room in those killer heels that made her legs look so damn sexy. The tanned skin gleamed under the bright lights of the gym. Her blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders in loose waves. She’d squealed this morning when he’d walked into her bedroom without knocking and discovered her in those big, scary rollers. He’d dodged a thrown shoe as he beat a hasty retreat. Apparently Whitney wanted to preserve the mystery of just how she emerged from her bedroom looking good enough to eat.

His mouth curved downward as he took in the short hemline and low neckline and bared shoulders of the dress. There were short sleeves to the pale-blue number, but they were split down the middle and fell on either side of her arms. Way too much bronzed skin on display, he decided. It was one thing if he and Mick were benefiting from the skimpiness of her clothing but quite another when every other male-or female, for that matter-could partake of the visual buffet.

Eddie shot a dirty look at Danny for that whistle. Whitney wasn’t a piece of meat to be barked at. She was his woman and deserved respect. “Stow it, Danny.”

The younger man paled. “Sorry, boss.”

Whitney’s eyes flashed as he neared her. Heat rolled low in his belly when she gave him one of her sinfully sexy smiles. Her fingertips brushed his forearm. “I thought you only used that tone with me.”

His cock stirred at her touch and the reminder of the way she reacted to his Dominant side. “It’s a multipurpose gruff.”

She laughed. “I see.”

His gaze moved to the garment bag tossed over her right shoulder. Her hanger was crooked over her fingers. “What is that?”

“It’s your tuxedo and shoes,” she said matter-of-factly and swung it off her shoulder. “Here.”

Eddie took the heavy bag and held it at arm’s length. “My tuxedo?”

“Yep.” She grinned impishly. “You’re taking me to the wedding tonight.”

“Oh, I am?” He groaned inwardly. The last thing he wanted to do was go to a wedding. Lowering his voice, he asked, “I thought Mick was taking you?”

“He was, but one of his colleagues has food poisoning so he has to cover the night shift.” She stepped closer and put her small hand on his chest. When she turned those big doe eyes up at him, Eddie melted. “Please?”

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Okay. What time?”

“Seven, but we should probably meet up around six. You mind heading over to my office? We can take my car. It’ll be easier for the valets to park than your monstrosity.”

Eddie chuckled. “True.” He jiggled the bag. “How the hell did you find a tux so fast?”

“Honey”-Whitney petted his chest-“I’ve got connections.” She got serious. “But don’t spill anything on that, okay? It’s a loaner from a friend’s styling closet. Dribble steak sauce on the jacket or scuff those shoes and you’ve just bought yourself about three thousand dollars’ worth of clothing.”

He blew out a stunned breath. “What? Is it lined with gold?”

“No, it’s very well made.” She touched his jaw. “And it’s going to make you look deliciously sexy.”

“Deliciously sexy, huh?” He grinned at her teasing remark. The desperate urge to run his fingers through her soft hair and kiss those sweet lips made him antsy. He was keenly aware of the curious stares from his coworkers.

“I should go.” Whitney checked her watch. “I popped over here on my way back to the office from a branding meeting. I left our intern in my car.”

“Did you crack the window?”

Whitney snorted and smacked his arm. “Be nice! She’s a sweet kid. Such a hard worker and really smart. Kind of reminds me of me when I first started in the business. All starry-eyed and eager.” Whitney shook her head. “God, those were the days, huh?”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Yeah because you’re so old.”

“I’m staring twenty-six in the face, Eddie. My life is rushing by, you know? Professionally, I’ve made it.”

His gut clenched. “And personally?”

The happiness in her eyes warmed his heart. “I’m getting there.”

“Glad to hear it.” A calm sensation settled over him. He reached out and took her hand. “You look beautiful today.”

“Oh?” She gestured to her dress. “I got the feeling you weren’t all that impressed with the outfit today.”

Eddie grunted. “It’s nice. I’d prefer to keep you covered from neck to ankle, but what do I know about fashion, right?”

She giggled. “Exactly.” Whitney glanced around. “Can I give you a kiss or is that, like, prohibited here?”

“Well…”

“Not even a small one?” She held up her fingers with an inch of space between them.

The hopefulness in her voice got him. “Okay. A quick one.”

“Jeez”-she laughed-“don’t sound so enthusiastic.”

“Come here, woman.” Eddie slid his arm around her waist and hauled her close for a chaste kiss. Even without tongues and only minimal touching, Eddie felt the familiar zing of arousal. As if electrified, his body vibrated with desire for her.

Whitney seemed to feel it, too, and took a step back, breaking the connection. Her flushed cheeks made him smile. “I’ll see you later.” She squeezed his hand. “Be safe.”

“I will.”

“Bye!”

“Bye, sugar.”

Eddie titled his head as he watched the wicked swing of her hips. She tossed a wink and kiss over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner. Groaning, Eddie decided a cold shower was in order. Like now.

“Goddamn, boss!” Danny swore and shook his head. “Where the hell do you find girls like that?”

“There aren’t any other girls like that.” She’s a one of a kind, he thought to himself. “Besides,” he added with a smile, “she found me.”

Chapter Ten

Whitney touched up her makeup and fingered the tousled waves of her hair. The office-bathroom counter held her beauty supplies. She checked her reflection. The deep V-neckline and spaghetti straps of the cerulean silk dress complemented the fitted waist and slim-fitting skirt. There were ruffled petals adoring the waist and bodice. When she’d spied the dress on a hanger, Whitney had been skeptical. It seemed a bit busy for such a small piece, but once on her body, it looked totally different.

Satisfied, Whitney stepped away from the counter. The dress gaped in the back because she couldn’t reach the zipper, but she didn’t pay it much mind. Hopefully Kadie or Judy were still hanging around out in the office.

She packed her things into the backpack she’d carried into work that morning and grabbed the gold heels she’d chosen for the outfit. Heels dangling from her fingers, she left the bathroom and made her way down the hall to her office space.

As she came around the corner, Whitney caught sight of Eddie. She gasped at the transformation. He looked drop-dead sexy in the tux. And uncomfortable, she realized, as he fidgeted with his cuff and stretched his neck.

“Eddie?”

His gaze snapped to her. His face relaxed. “Wow! You look amazing. I mean…wow!”

“You look so hot. I’m blown away. Really.” Whitney smiled and strode toward him. She spun around and presented her back. Lifting her hair, she asked, “Can you zip me up?”

“Sure.” Eddie slowly tugged the zipper up her back. His big, strong hands settled on her shoulders. The caress sent goose bumps rippling along her skin. “You smell so good.”

Whitney hummed as Eddie’s lips ghosted across her bare collarbone. Heat flooded her core. She worried about getting too turned on before the wedding and stepped away. “Let me get my things, and we’ll head out.”

Eddie trailed her to her office area. “I like this. It’s nice and open.” He glanced around. “But how do you do meetings?”

She pointed toward the ceiling. “We have conference rooms upstairs.”

“I was happy to see a guard downstairs. Especially since you work late some nights,” he added.

Whitney smiled as she switched off her computer monitor and slipped into her heels. Leave it to Eddie to size up the place for safety and completely ignore the beautiful architecture. “This building houses mostly women and a lot of us work late. Delilah and Isabel, the founder of the graphic design firm on the top two floors, share the costs of security.” She handed her backpack to Eddie. “And, yes, I do ask George or Nate to walk me out to my car when it’s dark.”

“Good girl.” Eddie pecked her cheek. “You got everything?”

“I think so.” She cast one final glance at her desk before gesturing toward the elevator. They made small talk about their days as they rode down to the ground floor and left the building. Whitney searched for her keys as they approached her car. “You want to drive?”

“Yes.” He happily took the keys and walked around to the driver’s side. Whitney hadn’t expected anything less. Like Mick, Eddie nitpicked when she drove. According to the pair, she was too fast, too quick to switch lanes, and never properly signaled. Mick swore he lost ten years off his life the first time he rode with her to the grocery store.

Whitney slid into the front seat as Eddie placed her backpack in the back. She watched with amusement as Eddie tried to squeeze himself into the seat. His knees were jammed up to his chest. He looked like a giant. His hand slapped around between the seat and the door. “Where the hell is the button to adjust this thing?”

“It’s down here.” Whitney leaned across the center console and ducked her head down by his legs. She felt around until her fingers found the raised ridges of the buttons. The seat slowly moved back and down. “Better?”

“Your head is between my legs, sugar.” He grinned wolfishly. “Of course, I’m better.”

Whitney sat up a little and nipped at his chin. Her hand curved along the inside of his thigh. She grasped as much of his huge package as possible in her small hand and gave a seductive squeeze. “Ever fucked in a parking lot?”

Eddie groaned. “You’re going to kill me.” He reluctantly moved her hand away. “And, no, I haven’t and don’t plan to try it out anytime soon. I’m an officer of the law, Whitney. I just can’t.”

Pouting, she returned to her seat and buckled her seatbelt. “You’re no fun. Mick would have knocked back the seat and told me to hop on for the ride.”

Eddie frowned as he turned the ignition and put the A/C on blast. “Yeah, well, Mick is a hotshot surgeon with plenty of cash to burn through. Me? Not so much. One ticket like that would tank my career.”

Guilt slashed at her. She’d been unfair to Eddie.

“I’m sorry.” She reached across and touched his hand. “You’re right. That wasn’t a fair comparison to make. Anyway”-she smiled-“I like that you’re always the responsible one.”

“That makes two of us.” Eddie started out of the parking lot. “Where we going?”

Whitney gave him the name of the hotel and the directions. He knew of a faster way to get there, of course, and they sped out of the parking lot. Like always, they disagreed over what radio station to listen to as they drove across town. Eventually, Whitney acquiesced to Eddie’s preference since he was driving. She wasn’t happy about listening to hair metal but reminded herself it was better than Mick’s favorite talk radio any day.

As they joined the line of cars queuing up for the hotel’s valet, Whitney spotted friends and waved. She loved a good party! Eddie seemed less than enthusiastic as he inched forward slowly.

“What’s wrong, Eddie?” She stroked the back of his neck.

He shrugged. “I’m not good at this kind of thing.”

“Social events?”

He nodded. “I always feel out of place.” His gaze followed a couple getting out of the car in front of them. “I mean, look at these people. I’m not one of them.” He swallowed hard. “This is more of Mick’s crowd, you know? Educated. Polished. Movers and shakers.”

“Eddie,” she said softly. Before she could find the right words, they were moving forward and stepping out for the valet.

Despite his assertion that he wasn’t polished, Eddie did everything right. He curved a protective arm around her waist and led her into the hotel’s opulent lobby. Whitney noticed the turned heads as they made their way to the ceremony room. She couldn’t blame them. Eddie in a tux was a mean combination. Hard and lean and so ridiculously sexy. She’d have to keep her hand on him all night or else he’d be the one fending off drunken bridesmaids.

Whitney loved seeing so many old friends. She hadn’t seen many of them since the fall shows in New York. The busy pace of the fashion world made it so difficult to keep up long-distance friendships. Weddings and baby showers seemed to be the tent poles holding up their relationships.

She made sure to introduce Eddie to everyone. She loved the way they were all so surprised and interested by his profession. Whitney hoped Eddie could see himself the way other people saw him. So what if he didn’t have a doctorate or a six-figure salary? He put his life on the line every day and was a true hero.

They found seats in the middle on the bride’s side. The room had been exquisitely decorated. Whitney marveled at the flowers. A small string quartet sat in one corner of the room and played a selection of soothing music. The change in tunes signaled the arrival of the bridesmaids not long after the groom and his party filed into place.

As a group, the guests stood and waited with bated breath for the bride’s entrance. Whitney felt tears prickling her eyes as Christy headed down the aisle on her father’s arm. She looked stunning in the simple lace sheath.

When they resumed their seats to watch the ceremony, Whitney was surprised by Eddie’s arm curling around her shoulders. So much for his weddings-stink stance. Mr. Tough As Nails apparently had a soft side.

His thumb stroked her shoulder as the couple exchanged vows and rings. Her heart soared with happiness for her friend as the minister pronounced them husband and wife. She stood and joined the rest of the guests in applause as the pair stood as a married couple for the first time before their family and friends.

And then it hit Whitney like a freight train barreling down the tracks.

That was something she would never have with Mick and Eddie. It simply wasn’t possible. Two men and one woman couldn’t get married. Not legally, of course. It was one thing to keep their relationship behind closed doors, but eventually people would find out and gossip would spread and then what?

The fashion world would probably be more open to such an alternative lifestyle choice, but Eddie’s cop buddies and Mick’s medical colleagues? Oh, god. She couldn’t even bear to think about how terrible the two would be treated if the truth about their threesome came out. Eddie would probably face the most problems in such a macho, testosterone-heavy field.

Her belly lurched. Such a beautiful moment ruined by reality. She held tight to Eddie’s arm as he led her out of their aisle and out to the reception in the ballroom. There was nothing to do about it now, she decided. Best to plaster on a smile, have a drink, and try to forget.

For now, at least.

* * * *

Grateful to be home, Mick flopped onto the couch and toed off his Crocs. His tired feet throbbed as he propped them up on the arm of the sofa. He draped his arm over his face and enjoyed the quiet peace. Soon, Eddie and Whitney would be home from the wedding. He just hoped they weren’t hoping for some late-night nookie. He’d have to plead a headache and exhaustion just this once.

Mick’s back and hands ached fiercely. Hours upon hours in surgery patching together the victims of a god-awful bus crash had taken its toll. Of course it happened when they were down a trauma surgeon. Thankfully, Maggie had gotten back into town early from her anniversary trip to Napa Valley with Charlie. She’d been an absolute doll to come in and take over for the night.

Although he desperately wanted a beer to take the edge off, Mick was on call and had to settle for a handful of ibuprofen washed down with a glass of chocolate milk. He considered going to bed but didn’t have the energy to drag himself off.

“Fuck, I’m getting old,” he declared aloud. Just a few months short of thirty-six, Mick was finally starting to feel his age. Those crazy-ass hours he’d worked without complaint as an intern and resident were hell on his body now. At least he had Whitney and Eddie to come home to every night. That made it all a little easier.

Speaking of the devils, he thought as the garage door opened. He only saw one set of low headlights and decided Eddie must have left his truck at the hotel or Whitney’s office. He wouldn’t have to worry about one of them blocking him if he had to run out in the middle of the night to answer his pager.

“Look, just drop it, okay, Eddie?”

Mick frowned at Whitney’s upset tone. Her high heels tapped against the hardwood floor. Wincing in pain, he pushed up off the couch and rolled his feet to the ground.

“No, Whitney. I’m not going to drop it.” Eddie’s heavy footfalls echoed loudly in Mick’s pounding head. “Just tell me what’s wrong!”

The couple burst into the living room. Whitney threw her purse into the nearest chair while Eddie tossed his tuxedo jacket on the end of the couch. He tugged at his bowtie and finally seemed to notice Mick. “What the hell are you doing home?”

Taken aback, Mick put up his hands. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you, but keep me out of it.”

“I thought you had to work?” Whitney put her hands on her hips. “Did you ditch me for a night home alone?”

“What?” Mick shot to his feet. “No! Of course not, Whitney. Maggie was able to come in and cover tonight. I got home like ten minutes ago. If you don’t believe me, go feel the hood of my car. I bet it’s still hot.”

Whitney seemed embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Mick looked back and forth between the pair. “What’s going on?”

“Ask her.” Eddie gestured angrily toward Whitney. “One moment everything is okay at the reception and the next she’s crying in the bathroom.”

“What did you do?” Mick demanded.

Eddie gaped. “Me? Why do you automatically suspect I did something wrong?”

“Because I know how you can be,” Mick shot back. “Need I remind you of the breakfast incident?”

“That’s fucked up, Mick.” Eddie practically growled. “I made my amends for that morning. Screw you for throwing it back in my face.” He crossed his arms. “I forgot that you never make mistakes.”

Mick suddenly felt like shit. “I’m sorry, Eddie.”

“Whatever.” Eddie shook his head. He faced Whitney. “If you don’t tell me what’s wrong, I’m going to throw you over my lap and paddle your ass.”

“Oh, that’s your answer for everything, isn’t it, Eddie?” Whitney snapped. “Violence solves all problems, huh?”

Eddie’s head snapped back as if he’d been hit. “I’ve never been violent with you or Mick or any person I’ve lo-cared about.”

Mick sensed this discussion was going south fast. He stepped between the fighting pair and put a gentling hand on Whitney’s arm. “Honey, what happened at the wedding?”

Her lower lip wobbled. She hugged herself and shuddered. “I realized that I’ve been living a stupid fantasy.”

Like a punch to the gut, Mick watched Whitney sink down into the chair, crushing her purse between her thigh and the cushion, and break down into wracking sobs. He wanted to comfort her but was actually afraid to touch her. What did she mean? Living a stupid fantasy?

He shot a worried glance at Eddie. The other man’s face was pale and drawn. Oh, Christ. It was Miranda all over again.

“This has been fun, but it’s not reality, you know?” Whitney cried pitifully. “I want to get married someday. I want to have kids.” She shook her head and shrugged. “How do you do that with two boyfriends? I can only marry one of you. And kids? You can’t raise kids in a three-parent household.”

Mick didn’t know what to say. He snuck a quick look at Eddie and saw his old friend shutting down. “Whitney,” Mick said urgently.

“No,” she said and held up her hand. “It’s true, Mick. Kids can have a mom and dad or two moms or two dads, but a combination of three? Yeah, right. Can you imagine how much teasing and bullying the kids would suffer?” She sniffled and pointed at them. “And what about you two? Do you honestly think the people you work with would accept the three of us?”

Mick gulped as a painful lump stretched his throat. “Whitney,” he said honestly, “I don’t have the answers.”

“Yeah, well, neither do I.” She rose slowly and gazed at both of them for a long moment before grabbing her purse and disappearing down the hall.

He heard the telltale click of the lock on her bedroom door and cringed. Eddie’s Adam’s apple moved a few times as he tried to choke back tears. Mick had never seen the big man so obviously distraught. He took a step forward to console him, but Eddie threw off his hand as if it were offensive. “Don’t touch me.”

Mick’s eyes widened. “Don’t touch you?” he repeated in shock. “What the hell did I do?”

“This is all your fault.” Eddie poked a finger in Mick’s chest. “If you had just gone to the damn wedding, none of this would have happened.”

“Eddie, it wouldn’t have mattered which one of us went with her tonight. She was going to have this reaction regardless.”

Eddie’s jaw clenched. “Well, I hope you’re happy.”

Mick threw his hands in the air. “Happy? Are you fucking serious? I’m devastated, Eddie.”

“I don’t know why,” Eddie said as he gathered up his jacket. “We both know she’ll pick you.”

Mick’s chest constricted as if squeezed by a vice. “That’s not true, Eddie.”

“Isn’t it?” Emotional pain shadowed Eddie’s face. “They always do. Who the hell would choose me when they could have a rock-star doctor like you?”

Eddie stormed out of the living room, and Mick’s vision skewed to the left. He nearly lost his balance as his world crashed down around him. He reached for the arm of the couch and righted himself before collapsing onto the leather cushion. His chest ached as heartbreak took hold.

Nausea roiled in the pit of his stomach. It was all he could do not to break down into tears. With such finality it made him hurt, Mick realized he was going to lose everything this time.

Chapter Eleven

Whitney stepped into the cold confines of the bank and glanced around the lobby. This wasn’t her usual branch, but it was the closest one to her new office. It was the bank’s main LA location and suitably upscale inside. Lots of gleaming marble, modern gray furniture, and updated teller counters. She dug around in her purse for her wallet as she joined the shortest line.

That morning she’d realized her paycheck still hadn’t hit her account. A couple of phone calls confirmed there was a problem with her direct deposit but not on the employer side of things. She’d contacted the bank, but they couldn’t help her over the phone. It was an issue that had to be dealt with in person, of course.

She fought with the plastic sleeve holding her bank account card. The copies of the direct-deposit paperwork were in the inner pouch of her purse. She pulled them out and returned her wallet to the dark abyss of her purse. Her gaze shifted around the busy bank. It was lunchtime and packed, which meant the lines were moving slowly, giving Whitney way too much time to think.

For the last four days, thinking was something she’d done her best to avoid. That cringe-worthy night after the wedding played over and over again in her mind. She did everything possible to stay busy. Working late had never been such a relief. She’d thrown herself into brainstorming the branding for the new street-inspired Chess & Perry line. As a young girl obsessed with pop culture, Kadie was the ideal buyer, and she had so many great ideas. Whitney loved incorporating them.

Working with Kadie was the perfect excuse to stay out of the house. She just couldn’t stand the weird vibes around the place. Eddie had been gone by the time she’d woken up that next morning, and she’d only seen him twice since. Both times, he’d remained tight-lipped and done his best to avoid her. He seemed to be working an awful lot of overtime.

Mick wasn’t much better. He’d tried to talk to her over a very awkward breakfast, but she just couldn’t do it. He’d been kind and let the subject drop. A few times they’d tried to have a meaningful conversation, but nothing came of their attempts. In the end, they’d been reduced to text messages about picking up a gallon of milk or dealing with the neighbor whose dog crapped in the front yard again.

Whitney hated to even consider it, but if the three of them couldn’t sit down and talk this out, she was going to have to find a new living situation. Perhaps it was a bit premature to be thinking about worst possible outcomes, but better to be prepared than tossed out on her ass, she figured. Frankly, Eddie and Mick had been an item before her and would probably continue after her. She was the interloper in this situation, and the only way she was coming out of this relationship was as a single woman.

And it broke her heart.

Whitney couldn’t remember ever crying as hard as she had the last few nights. She loved Eddie and Mick. When she was with them, she felt secure and safe. The two of them had given her the illusion of family she’d so long craved.

Maybe it wasn’t an illusion. Maybe it was real. Or had been, at least. After her breakdown, she’d shattered whatever chance they had to be happy. She’d never forget the look on Eddie’s face or the way Mick looked afraid to touch her. She’d hurt them both so much. Probably in ways she couldn’t fix.

Whitney rubbed her face and forced away the troubling thoughts. She couldn’t function like this. Something had to give.

Stomach still churning with the pain of loved lost, Whitney inhaled a steadying breath and tried to focus. She moved up a few more steps and patiently waited her turn. Finally, she was summoned to the teller’s open window. “Good afternoon, ma’am. How can I help you?”

Whitney smiled, introduced herself, and explained her predicament to the teller. “I was told I needed to come down here to clear this up.”

“Yes, Ms. Montcrief,” the teller said, “but you’ll have to speak with someone in our electronic-banking division.” She pointed to a set of desks across the lobby. “They’ll be able to sort out the issue for you.”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes and huff. Instead, Whitney smiled again and thanked the teller for her help. She stepped aside and tried to decide which desk to try. Both had nearly equal lines waiting behind the ropes. She judged the bankers’ faces and decided the older woman seemed nicer and more helpful.

As Whitney crossed the lobby to join the new line, she noticed the double doors to the lobby opening. The security guard’s shout barely registered. No, it was the eardrum-busting shotgun blast that finally caught her attention. As if in slow motion, she turned her head just in time to see the red splatter of blood hit the wall behind the guard who hadn’t even had time to pull his holstered weapon.

“GET ON THE GROUND!”

Before the instructions could even sink in, the quintet of bank robbers began firing their shotguns and automatic weapons at the ceiling. On instinct, Whitney threw herself to the hard marble. Pain shot through her abdomen and chest at the sudden impact, but she paid it little mind. She figured if she was still feeling pain, she was alive.

Her gaze flicked to the heavily armed men garbed in black tactical outfits similar to the kind she’d seen Eddie wear. These men were not fucking around. Snippets of the news articles popped into her head. Fear squeezed her heart. Oh, god. Please, please, please don’t let them kill us.

Chunks of ceiling tile and shards of glass rained down around her. Busted-up lights sparked. Bullet casings or whatever those metal things were called pinged as they bounced off the marble floor. Only the knowledge they were shooting above her head kept Whitney from straight-up hyperventilating.

“Tellers out on the floor. Managers, loan officers, all of you. On the fucking floor now!”

Whitney watched the herd of employees scurry out from behind the counters and desks as ordered. Without having to be told, they held their hands high and said nothing as they filed out and lay down on the ground. She wondered if that was part of their “What To Do In The Event of A Hold-Up” training.

“Keep your eyes down. Put your hands on the back of your head. Now!”

Whitney did exactly as told. This wasn’t the time to try anything cute or brave. These guys wouldn’t hesitate to pump her full of lead. She remembered what Eddie had said that morning about the guys sending text messages. She hoped none of her fellow hostages were thinking of doing anything similar.

“Move one fucking muscle and you’re dead.”

She kept her gaze planted on the floor. Boots hit the ground all around her. She prayed the robbers were able to get their money fast and get the hell out. That’s what had happened at Kadie’s branch, right? She’d seen that story, too. Shots fired but no deaths. Maybe these guys were wising up and doing things differently.

“You the manager?” Whitney heard a scuffle as someone far off to the left was yanked off the ground. “Where’s your assistant?”

“O-o-over there,” the man stammered in fear.

There was another scuffle as the assistant manager was hauled to her feet. Whitney could tell it was a woman by the sound of her scared whimpering. She felt so badly for the woman and prayed she would cooperate.

“Open the vaults.”

She heard two of the gunmen escort the managers out of the main lobby and into a back area. She desperately wanted to sneak a peek but squashed the urge. Movement meant death.

The other three robbers walked around the lobby and harassed the other hostages. They were sick and cruel with their taunts. She tried to black them out and not pay attention to the ugly words they spewed.

Glass crunched as one of the gunmen moved closer to her. Whitney’s gut clenched when she felt the toe of a boot touch her outer thigh. Her breath caught in her throat when the gunman used the still-warm muzzle of the firearm to push her skirt up. Humiliation soured her belly. He gave a low whistle and pushed the firing end of the gun against her butt. “You wear these sexy panties for me?”

Her fingers curled, and her nails bit into her scalp as he leered down at her. The tip of his high-powered rifle traced the cleft of her ass. “Want to go into one of the back rooms and play with me, hot mama?”

Whitney didn’t know what to say. Whatever she said would be the wrong answer. And speaking caused movement, didn’t it? Was this one of their screwed-up head games?

She yelped when he grabbed a fistful of her hair and jerked her up onto her knees. Bitter coffee breath assaulted her nose. “You think you’re too good to talk to me?” His open palm cracked the side of her head. Pain stabbed her skull. “Answer me, you skinny bitch!”

“Please,” she whispered tearfully. Her mind short-circuited as her fight-or-flight response took hold. “Please.”

“Please what, you cunt?” He shook her brutally and made her teeth knock together. “Please let me suck your cock?” He mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “Please take me into a back room and fuck my ass?”

Whitney sobbed as frantic panic rocked her to the core. All around her, the whimpers and crying of her fellow hostages started. The entire room vibrated with primal fear. Whitney shrieked in pain and terror as the masked man started to drag her across the floor by the hair. She kicked and clawed at the hand tangled in her hair, no longer caring if they shot her or not. If he got her into one of those rooms, it was all over for her.

An elderly gentleman bravely came to her aid, rising up on his knees and hooking his cane around her attacker’s ankle. The gunmen went down with a noisy thud, and Whitney quickly scrambled free. Another masked robber stepped forward and slammed the butt of his gun into the old man’s temple. He crumpled and hit the ground hard, blood oozing from the wound.

Whitney didn’t get far before her would-be rapist latched onto her arm and dragged her back to his side. Her pumps scratched at the floor, and her bare skin squeaked against the slick marble. The gunman angrily punched the side of her head. Whitney’s ear rang, and she tasted blood as the inside of her cheek smashed against her teeth.

“What the fuck is going on in here?” The man Whitney assumed to be the ringleader strode back into the lobby. “Put that girl down, and get in here. There’s a shitload more cash than we expected. Armored car was late for pickup.”

The almost-rapist roughly shoved Whitney forward and then kicked her in the back. She oophed as she fell forward on her face. Pain radiated up her spine and into her shoulder. She was sure he’d bruised a kidney…or worse.

As Whitney fought for breath, the gunmen took turns carrying duffel bags of cash into the middle of the lobby. She placed her shaky hands on the back of her head as ordered earlier and prayed they would leave her alone. She hoped they would just take the damn money and get the hell out.

But her prayers weren’t to be answered.

One of the robbers headed to the front doors and let out a string of expletives. “Fucking cops, man,” he said finally. “Cops fucking everywhere.”

A gunman grabbed one of the tellers and shook him wildly. “Which one of you pricks pushed the silent alarm? Was it you?”

“No,” the teller quickly denied.

“No?” The gunman threw him down and grabbed the back of another teller’s shirt. “Maybe it was you?”

The woman shook her head and sobbed.

“Who gives a shit?” The ringleader snarled. “The cops are here now. We got to deal with them.”

“Out the back, boss?”

“Yeah. Plan B.” He kicked a bag of cash at one of his cohorts. “Grab what you can carry. I’m going to blow the back wall.”

Whitney didn’t like the sound of that. Her mind conjured up visions of explosives. She supposed they had some kind of underground access planned. A sewer or even an abandoned subway line. She didn’t know and didn’t really care. The sooner they were out of here, the better.

“Shit!” The robber manning the door sounded particularly agitated. “Fucking SWAT, man.”

SWAT? Whitney’s heart leapt. Eddie? She experienced a wild mix of emotions. On one hand, she was relieved, but on the other, she was afraid for him. Sure, he’d probably walked into crazier situations than this, but she’d never had to witness it firsthand.

A loud explosion rocked the back of the building. Whitney covered her neck with her still-trembling hands and hoped to god the building wouldn’t fall down around her ears. Not twenty seconds later, a louder, brighter explosion ripped through the front doors. Stun grenades followed quickly.

Whitney shielded her eyes and tried not to breathe the acrid smoke too deeply. She assumed tear gas would follow. Suddenly she wished she’d asked Eddie more questions about his work. She had no idea what to expect in a situation like this. The fear of the unknown just made everything worse.

A gunfight broke out above her head. Whitney’s entire body went stiff as she listened to bullets whiz and pop. This didn’t seem right. Why in the hell were the people meant to be rescuing them firing over the heads of the hostages?

Whitney flattened her body to the floor. She cried out as a heavy boot smashed her fingers. One of the robbers had backed up onto her hand. She tried to pull it free but couldn’t budge the man’s weight. Rolling onto her side, Whitney tugged hard.

And then she felt it, the searing pain of a bullet ripping through her shoulder. A second bullet slammed into her stomach. Amped up on adrenaline and nerves afire from the damage caused by the first two bullets, Whitney hardly felt the impact of the third. The crushing blow of the gunman’s limp body, however, she felt fully.

As Whitney struggled to breathe under the weight of the dead man’s body, she experienced the worst kind of regret. Mick and Eddie would never know just how much she loved them.

* * * *

Eddie leaned back against the hood of the black SUV and watched the narcotics guys lead the cuffed subjects out of the house he’d just stormed with his SWAT team. Like most well-planned ventures, it had gone off without a hitch. He prided himself on preserving the safety of his men while performing their tasks at the very highest caliber.

“Another good bust, Eddie.” Santos, arguably LAPD’s best narcotics officer, smacked him on the back. “In and out. No fatalities. This is why I always request your team over that pinche O’Halloran.” Santos shook his head. “Thinks he’s a fucking cowboy with a gun.”

Eddie caught himself before he agreed with his colleague’s assessment. Although he had strong feelings about O’Halloran’s team, it wasn’t a good idea to air SWAT’s dirty laundry with the drug guys. O’Halloran tended toward recklessness, but as of yet he hadn’t made any fatal mistakes. There had been some close calls, too close for Eddie’s comfort, but then he wasn’t that team’s leader. Clearly they were more comfortable with that level of risk.

“Every team has a different method,” Eddie said finally. “We prefer to keep things low risk and plan for the worst.”

“And that’s why we all want you guys doing our entries.” Santos elbowed Eddie and gestured with his chin to the petite brunette hauling one of the gang members out of the house. “Look at her, man. Doesn’t take shit off anyone.”

Eddie thought she looked familiar. He tilted his head and studied her features. “Holy shit! Is that the Chief’s daughter?”

Santos laughed. “With his second wife. Sadie is tough. Damned good officer.”

Eddie figured she was something else to get that kind of high praise from one of LAPD’s senior officers. A man like Santos, who had seen and done it all in the name of protecting and serving, didn’t give out compliments like that unless they were earned. Eddie made a mental note to keep an eye on the girl. She had the look of a SWAT officer. Might be time to do a little headhunting, Eddie thought. After all, his team could use a little diversity.

“You going to the softball tournament this weekend?” Santos pulled his vibrating cell phone from his pocket.

“Hell yes,” Eddie answered quickly. “We’ve got to defend our title.”

Santos rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, man. We got some fresh talent on our team.”

“Let me guess,” Eddie said with a laugh. “Chief’s daughter played softball in college.”

Santos nodded. “We’re going to wipe the field with you guys.”

Eddie grinned at the good-natured taunting. “We’ll see.”

“Did I tell you that old Rico-”

Santos was interrupted by the static of the radio. Eddie only heard the last bit of the transmission.

“…211 in progress. Shots fired.”

Eddie leaned over and stuck his hand through the open window of the SUV to hit the volume on the radio. All around him, fellow police officers did the same thing. The transmission was repeated again by the dispatcher who asked for response from all available officers in the area. Not two seconds later, a separate call for his team as SWAT backup for O’Halloran’s team came through.

Training kicking in, Eddie and his guys jumped into their vehicles and sped out of the gritty neighborhood. As Eddie buckled his seat belt, he queued up the incident commander for more info. Five guys, heavily armed and loaded for bear, entered the bank. Multiple shots were heard by bystanders outside the bank. Guard was killed. Unknown number of hostages inside the bank.

“Our ETA is ten minutes, at least,” Eddie informed incident command. He made contact with the SUV behind them and made sure everyone was on the same page. They’d probably be assigned rear entry once on scene. “Anyone familiar with this bank?”

Craig piped up from the backseat and told Eddie what he knew about the branch. He’d only used it once, popping inside to hit up the ATM before going to that big new IMAX theater a few blocks down.

Suddenly Eddie realized why the address sounded so familiar. He’d driven past that bank a few days earlier on his way to meet Whitney at her office. That was her bank, wasn’t it?

Heart racing, he lifted the Velcro flap of the pocket along his thigh and dug around for his phone. He punched the speed-dial key assigned to Whitney. Her beautiful, smiling face lit up his screen as his phone dialed and tried to connect. It went to voicemail after a few rings.

“Whitney, it’s Eddie. Please call me or text me as soon as you get this. There’s a robbery in progress at the bank down the street from you. Stay inside your building and wait until you hear from me again to leave.”

“That your girl?” Danny asked as he weaved through an intersection after blaring the air horn to clear the lanes.

“Yeah.” Eddie didn’t even hesitate. Whatever had happened between the three of them, Whitney was still his girl. He loved her. Desperately. And he’d made a complete ass of himself the other night. Instead of being open and honest, he’d clammed up and dodged her. Real mature, he thought angrily. She deserved better from him. All she’d done was confide her deepest fears, and he’d blown it out of proportion. He’d hurt not only Whitney but Mick, too.

As soon as this day was over, Eddie promised himself he’d make things right between the three of them.

O’Halloran’s voice came across the radio and yanked Eddie right out of his thoughts. He kicked up the volume in disbelief as O’Halloran announced his team was making a forced entry. Without backup. Without proper planning.

“Shit!” Eddie swore as Danny punched the gas and swerved in and out of traffic, lights and sirens blaring. His stomach quivered. He had a really bad feeling about this one. Flashbacks to the ’97 shootout news coverage raced to the forefront of his mind. “Floor it, Danny. They’re going to need us.”

But it was too late. Eddie and his guys listened in utter shock and horror to the firefight blasted over a keyed radio mic. One of O’Halloran’s team members must have clipped his radio with the butt of his rifle. The uninterrupted transmission of gunshots played out as Eddie and his team raced to the scene of the bank.

The SUV had barely slowed to a stop before Eddie hopped out and rushed to the incident command truck. Their captain’s face was beet red as he listened to the clusterfuck of a response happening inside the bank. Heads were going to roll after this one.

Just as quickly as the firefight started, it came to an abrupt stop. Eddie heard O’Halloran’s team clearing the building and confirming the robbers were all either dead or wounded but secured. “We’ve got three civilians wounded. Need EMS ASAP.”

“Son of a bitch!” Captain Diaz looked to Eddie. “Get in there. Get the hostages out. Get EMS in.”

Eddie nodded and motioned to his guys. “Craig, Kevin, wait here for EMS. The rest of you with me.

They rushed to the front of the bank and entered the ruined interior. It looked like something out of a war zone. Acrid smoke irritated his lungs. The busted-out glass of the front doors and windows let in fresh air so the room was clearing fast. A pair of gunmen writhed on the ground. They’d suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and arms. Hostages sobbed as they skittered out of the lobby accompanied by SWAT. They slid on glass and tripped over chunks of roofing tile.

“Christ!” Eddie shook his head. This was exactly the kind of bullshit Rambo-wannabe response that put innocent lives at risk and got officers killed. His jaw clenched. O’Halloran had to go.

“Oh, fuck.” Danny’s distraught voice echoed in the lobby. “Here’s a fourth civilian. She’s hurt real bad.”

Eddie glanced over to his rookie team member and watched as he dragged a dead robber off another person. There was a wounded civilian pinned underneath, so he started over to help. His gaze drifted to the orange pumps on the victim’s feet. They seemed so familiar. God, he really needed to quit reading over Whitney’s shoulder. All those fashion magazines were finally starting to take over his head.

And that dress, he thought, as the brown and pink and burnt-orange paisley print came into view. He’d seen that dress somewhere.

Danny crouched down next to the female victim and looked up at Eddie with pain in his eyes. “Oh hell, boss. It’s your girl.”

Eddie stumbled over his feet as Danny’s words registered. His gaze snapped to the woman’s face. Bloody and bruised, but there was no mistaking her. “Whitney!”

Eddie fell to his knees beside her battered body and gathered her into his arms. She breathed raggedly and was only just conscious. Blood seeped from the wounds in her belly, chest, and shoulder.

“Boss, lay her out flat.” Danny’s take-charge voice snapped Eddie out of his panic. Danny immediately put his hands on the shoulder and chest wound and pressed hard. “We need EMS. Now!”

Eddie put his hand on the gushing belly wound and added pressure. “Whitney, sugar, can you hear me?”

“Eddie,” she whispered, her eyes wide and lips ghostly pale. “They sh-sh-shot me.”

“I know, sweetheart, but we’re going to get you all better, okay? Just hang on, sugar.”

Craig skidded in next to them and dropped an emergency kit. “EMS is a minute or two out.” He ripped open trauma dressing packages and tossed them onto Whitney’s body. Eddie grabbed one and pushed it against her belly. Danny did the same with two others.

“Old man,” Whitney said, her shaking hand trying to point somewhere over Eddie’s shoulder. “Tried to help me. Gun butt to the head.”

“Okay, sugar,” Eddie said. “We’ll make sure someone gets to him.” Eddie glanced over his shoulder and saw one of O’Halloran’s guys dealing with an elderly man. “He’s okay,” Eddie assured Whitney.

Her teeth chattered. “Co-co-cold.”

Eddie’s heart clenched. He knew shock when he saw it. There was just so much blood. It pooled around her body, soaking her silky blonde hair and turning her dress a shocking maroon color. “We’ll get you warm as soon as we get you in an ambulance.”

“Sleepy,” she murmured, her eyelids drifting together.

“No! No, Whitney.” Eddie stroked her face with his blood-stained fingers. “Stay awake, honey. I need to you to focus on me and stay awake, all right?”

“Ca-ca-can’t,” Whitney replied so softly he barely heard her. “Tired.”

The wail of ambulance sirens lowered Eddie’s skyrocketing blood pressure a few degrees. Help had arrived. A pair of medics rushed in with a jump bag and dropped down beside Eddie and Danny. Craig backed away to give them room. Eddie reluctantly turned over care of Whitney to the female medic and her male partner.

He held Whitney’s disturbingly cold hand and looked into her eyes. Her lips started to move as if she was trying to tell him something. He couldn’t make out the words. Her eyes flashed with such seriousness. Whatever it was, she was desperate for him to understand.

The exertion took its toll. She coughed loudly a few times and then gurgled. Eddie’s heart skipped a few beats as he watched frothy blood bubbles dribble from the corners of her mouth. He sat back on his heels, paralyzed with horror as the medics suctioned bloody fluid from her mouth and intubated. A fireman appeared with a gurney, and Whitney was quickly tossed onto the stretcher.

Danny pulled Eddie to his feet and took Eddie’s rifle. “Go, boss. Go with your girl.”

Nodding, Eddie cast a quick glance at Craig. The other man gave him a reassuring look. He’d deal with everything here.

Eddie trailed the stretcher and medics to the ambulance. The female paramedic stopped him as he tried to climb into the back of the ambulance. “Are you family?”

“Closest thing she has to it.”

“Fiancé?” The medic guessed.

“Yes.” He didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t a lie, really. He loved her, wanted her as his wife, and would ask her as soon as possible.

“Get in, but stay out of my way.”

Eddie’s estimation of the paramedic rose even higher. A take-no-bullshit attitude like that? Usually a sign of competence. He’d take that over wishy-washy any day.

He settled onto the bench seat at the end closest to the double doors to stay clear of the two medics working on Whitney. While the male medic compressed the blue bag attached to the intubation equipment and delivered breaths, the woman cut the front of Whitney’s dress enough to bare her chest. She cut through the bra and removed the pieces of lingerie before attaching leads to Whitney’s chest. She punched the keys on the heart monitor. Eddie’s gut clenched at the sight of the very weak heartbeat.

“Where we going, Tamara?” The fireman poked his head through the small window between the cab and the box.

“Take her to Mick,” Eddie instructed.

“Mick?” Tamara glanced at him and frowned. “You mean Dr. O’Loughlin?”

“He’s our roommate and…friend,” Eddie answered. God, Whitney was right. It was sticky as hell trying to explain their relationship to others. “His hospital is closest, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” Tamara said. “Best goddamn trauma surgeon in this city.”

She gave the fireman his driving orders, and they sped out of the parking lot. Eddie braced his foot against the gurney to keep from sliding around in the back of the box. He desperately wanted to help, but there was nothing for him to do. Tamara and her partner had things under control, and Whitney was holding on-for now.

Eddie slipped his hand in his pocket and pulled out his phone. His finger trembled as he punched in Mick’s speed dial key and tried to figure out how the hell he was going to tell the man he loved the woman they both wanted as their wife had been shot.

* * * *

Mick plastered a smile on his face as his colleagues bullshitted around the lunch table in the cafeteria. He poked at the salad on his plate. Lately everything seemed unappetizing. He missed dinner with Whitney and Eddie so much. He’d tried to have a simple bowl of cereal with Whitney the other morning, but it had been disastrous.

Something had to change. Whitney and Eddie were both so stubborn. He’d have to be the one to make the first move. Stage a Come-to-Jesus meeting or something similar. They needed to sit down and talk and figure out a way to move on-together.

Mick truly believed the three of them could make it work, but they were probably going to have to make some hard decisions. Whitney was correct. She couldn’t marry both of them, but she could marry one of them legally. Which one was up to her, of course. The non-legal spouse could be married to the other two in a private commitment ceremony of sorts.

But first, he had to get Eddie and Whitney in the same room again and keep them there long enough to say his piece.

“Well, hell,” Joe Edgemont said with a sigh as he stared at his phone. The Pediatric Emergency Medicine specialist shook his head. “There’s another robbery in progress according to the news. Shots fired. Lots of police and ambulances on the scene.” Joe scrolled down on the screen and rolled his eyes. “Shit, we’re the closest trauma center to this one.”

Mick groaned and shoved back from the table. His colleagues grumbled and did the same. They’d been slammed the last week with a rash of gunshot victims from a gang turf war. It seemed that every summer the old feuds were reignited. One-hundred-plus-degree temps and bad tempers did not mix.

All at once, the pagers clipped on the waistbands and pockets of Mick and his other emergency-room colleagues beeped. He tossed his uneaten salad in the trash and checked his pager. Three gunshot victims, two critical, with an ETA of four to seven minutes.

As Mick fell into step behind Joe, his cell phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket and saw Eddie’s name. A ripple of panic burned his belly. God, what if Eddie had been called to the scene? Was he one of the victims? They never separated perpetrators from victims in the pages or radio reports.

He slid his finger down over the screen to answer. “Eddie, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Eddie’s voice sounded unnaturally tight and thick. “It’s Whitney.”

Mick’s stomach dropped. “What happened to Whitney?”

“They shot her, Mick.” Eddie’s voice cracked. “It’s bad.”

Mick placed his hand on the nearest wall to steady himself. Whitney? Shot? What the hell was she doing at that bank? Not that the details mattered at the moment. “How bad?”

“A round to the chest, another to the belly, and one to the shoulder. She was conscious when I got there, but she faded fast and there was so much blood, Mick. It was even coming out of her mouth.”

Mick’s gut lurched at that last bit. Had the bullet punctured a lung or worse? The fear in Eddie’s voice only heightened his anxiety. “Are you in the ambulance?”

“Yes.”

“Can the medic take the phone?”

“Uh, hang on.” There was a shuffling sound, and a few seconds later a female voice came across the line. “Yeah?”

Mick recognized the woman’s voice immediately. “Tamara?”

“Dr. O’Loughlin?”

“Oh, thank god it’s you.” Mick breathed a bit easier. Tamara was one of the best paramedics in the whole damn city. She’d served in Afghanistan and Iraq and had saved lives out on the mean streets of LA that shocked even Mick. Girl had mad skills, and he was grateful she was using them on Whitney. “Give me a rundown of my-the patient’s-injuries.”

Mick listened intently as he hurried to the emergency room. Phone squeezed between his ear and shoulder, he gowned up and grabbed some gloves. He snatched a pair of safety glasses from the bin, too. His stomach heaved as Tamara mentioned Whitney’s down-trending vitals. She didn’t have to say anything more. Whitney was circling the drain.

“We’ll be on your doorstep in less than a minute.”

“Yeah, I hear you,” Mick replied, the wail of a nearing siren bouncing off the nearby buildings. He snapped his phone shut and stuffed it in his pocket. Turning to the charge nurse, he said, “Page Allison. I’m going to need my cardio goddess on this one.”

From Tamara’s description, Mick felt sure Whitney’s lungs were collapsing. They’d probably sustained some kind of damage from a ricocheting bullet. If Whitney’s chest had to be cracked, he wanted Allison to be the one to do it. She had the magic hands, after all.

Mick slipped on his safety glasses and tugged on the gloves as the ambulance pulled into the bay. He followed Sally and Desiree out the doors and met the stretcher on the sidewalk. Eddie’s ghostly white face was bad, but the sight of Whitney’s limp, bloody body struck him hard. For a few moments, all he could do was stare at the sight of the woman he loved so much.

Shaking himself from the stupor of surprise, Mick took charge. He issued commands to get an OR prepped while they stabilized and got the stretcher rushed into the nearest trauma room. As he did his initial assessment, Tamara gave her report again, and Sally cut off Whitney’s clothing. Mick ordered the necessary X-rays and other tests while Desiree established a second IV line.

“Lots of bleeding here, Doc.” Sally shook her head as she wiped at Whitney’s belly with gauze squares. “Should I page Dr. Cardenas?”

At Sally’s prompting, he glanced at Whitney’s abdomen. Paging an obstetrician-gynecologist suddenly sounded like an excellent idea. “Yes.”

There was just so much blood. Mick worried about what he’d find once he got her belly open. With that amount of hemorrhaging, there had to be a major vessel involved or something very vascular…like the uterus.

His gaze moved back to the monitors. Her blood pressure was tanking. She had decreased breath sounds on the right, and her oxygen saturation levels were uncomfortably low. He didn’t like it one bit.

“Not good,” Allison said as she strode into the trauma room, her focus on the monitors. She unlooped the stethoscope from around her neck and stuck the ear pieces in place. She listened to Whitney’s chest and made a face. “I don’t like this, Mick. What are the wound trajectories like?”

“Three entrance wounds on the front,” Mick said, judging the angle of the wounds. “Let’s roll her so we can count exit wounds.” He needed to know how many bullets were possibly embedded in her tissues or organs.

Mick, the nurses, and Allison took hold of Whitney and rolled her onto her left side. Almost immediately, alarms clanged. Whitney’s blood pressure plummeted, and her heart rate took off wildly. He quickly scanned her naked back for exit wounds and found only one. “Belly wound was through and through. The other two are still in there somewhere.”

They dropped her back down, but her blood pressure and heart rate remained at dangerous levels. Allison listened to her chest again. “This lung is collapsing. Get me a chest tube tray.”

Mick assisted Allison as she placed a tube in Whitney’s chest to relieve the building pressure of free blood. A gush of dark red blood filled the tube and poured into the attached container. Although there was some immediate relief, it wasn’t enough. Whitney’s lungs were in bad shape.

“I need to get in there as soon as possible,” Allison decided. “Get those X-rays, and meet me in the OR.” She gestured with her head to the adjacent trauma room as she stripped out of her bloody gloves and yellow gown. “Let me check this guy out and I’ll be on my way up, okay?”

Mick nodded and turned his full attention on keeping Whitney stable. Alarms continued to clang. Blood flow eased up a bit in the chest tube but not by much. He ordered packed red cells and hoped she would hold on just a little bit longer.

Sally picked up the ringing phone and spoke for a few seconds before hanging up. “Dr. Cardenas is heading into the OR for an emergency C-section, but she’ll pop into your OR when she’s finished. Lancaster is up on the L &D floor if you need him before then.”

Mick preferred Daniela, but Lancaster would do in a pinch. “Thanks, Sally.”

Another nurse popped her head into the room. “OR three is ready.”

“Let’s go.” Mick kicked the brakes on his side of the gurney and waited for his team of nurses to get the equipment ready to go. As they rushed out of the room, he caught sight of Eddie hovering in the doorway. He couldn’t ever remember seeing Eddie look so scared. Mick paused just long enough to catch Eddie’s gaze. He desperately wanted to reach out and touch his arm, but his gloves were bloody.

“She won’t die.” Eddie’s jaw clenched and released. “She can’t leave us.”

“I’ll do my best.” Mick couldn’t promise anything more. He’d seen patients come into his operating room in far worse shape than Whitney and walk out of the hospital two weeks later. At the same time, he’d seen patients come into the ER talking and laughing and leave the hospital in a body bag a few hours later. Nothing was certain inside the walls of this place.

Eddie nodded and stepped aside. Mick continued on with the gurney but cast one final glance at the man he’d loved so long, before stepping through the double doors leading to the staff elevator. Their gazes held a moment before Eddie shoved off the wall and headed out of Mick’s line of sight. He said a silent prayer for Eddie’s well-being and then added another for Whitney.

God, guide my hands, he thought as he stepped into the elevator. Let her live.

Chapter Twelve

Eddie shifted slowly in the uncomfortable chair so as not to wake Mick. He’d drifted off an hour earlier, finally succumbing to exhaustion, and snored softly. The rhythmic beep of a heart monitor and the hiss, click, and suck of a ventilator filled the room. Whitney lay motionless in the ICU bed. There were tubes and wires everywhere. IV bags, some close to empty and others full, hung from poles. Automated machines controlled the speed at which the fluids dripped into Whitney.

Eddie just stared at her. Mick had said the first twenty-four hours were the most critical. So far, all had gone well. Eddie had to believe she would remain stable. To consider anything else was too painful.

Mick twitched and made a strange noise. Eddie put his hand on Mick’s forearm and patted him as one might settle a sleeping child. His gaze flicked to Mick’s haggard face. He’d worked so hard to save Whitney’s life and then turned right around to save the life of one of the bastards who had taken her hostage.

Renewed rage burned through Eddie. He’d nearly puked as Danny and Craig recounted the witness statements. One of those pigs had tried to rape Whitney. His fists curled in his lap at the disturbing image of Whitney, scared and screaming, being dragged across the bank. Thank god for Elmer Sanderson!

Eddie had tracked the older man down in the emergency room to shake his hand and thank him for standing up for Whitney. The old codger came from a different era, a time when men took chivalry seriously. Eddie could only hope he’d be full of piss and vinegar when he reached his eighties.

A shooting pain lanced through his hand. He unclenched his fingers and stared at the bruised knuckles of his right hand. O’Halloran’s jaw had been harder than he’d expected. The pain of purple, swollen knuckles was worth it, though.

When Mick had shown him the bullets pulled from Whitney’s body, he’d seen red. All his life, he’d heard that description, but until that moment he’d never experienced such blinding fury. Instead of matching the rounds used by the gunmen, the bullets taken from Whitney’s body matched those issued by the department. She’d been hit by friendly fire.

Once the chief had taken the jar of bullets from Eddie’s hand, it had all been over for O’Halloran. The dick was toast. Unfortunately, he’d probably take his team with him. For now, the guys were suspended with pay pending investigation. Sad, too, because there were some good men on that team.

“I should get you something for the swelling,” Mick said, his voice a bit a gravelly. He rubbed his face and sat up in the chair.

“No.” Eddie reached over and squeezed his arm. “It’s fine. You need to rest.”

“And you need to have that X-rayed, but you won’t.” Mick smiled and shook his head. “Let me grab an ice pack and some meds.”

Eddie knew better than to argue with Mick when he was in doctor mode. He stood up and checked Whitney’s IVs and the monitors before leaving the room. A few minutes later Mick returned, slapped a couple of pills into Eddie’s hand, and dropped an ice pack in his lap. “Break that, and give it a shake.”

Mick walked over to the sink and filled the pink plastic cup from the pitcher set. He grabbed a washcloth from a cabinet and brought both over to him. “Here.”

Eddie accepted the cup of water and tossed the pills into his mouth. He swallowed the cool liquid and set aside the cup. Following Mick’s orders, he broke the plastic ice pack and shook up the contents. It felt instantly cold.

“Give me your hand.” Mick prodded the swollen knuckles and made a noise. “Probably not broken, but if that swelling doesn’t go down, you will go for an X-ray.”

“Yes, Doctor.” Eddie watched Mick drape the washcloth over his knuckles to protect the skin and then placed the ice pack on top of it. “Thanks.”

Mick cupped Eddie’s jaw and brushed his thumb over his cheek. He slid back down into his chair and gazed at Whitney. “She’s doing okay. I mean, I realize how this must look to someone who doesn’t see people in dire straits every day. But, really, Eddie.” He turned his head and gave an encouraging smile. “She’s doing well.”

“If you say so,” he said, a tad unconvinced. “She looks like hell to me. Do you think she’ll wake soon?”

Mick shook his head. “We’ll keep her sedated for the night, probably most of tomorrow. Allison did a lot of work on that right lung. Keeping her out and on the ventilator is the best thing for her heart and lungs. Let them rest, you know?”

Eddie nodded. “Makes sense.”

“In the morning, we should take turns going home and taking showers and changing. Tomorrow is my day off anyway, so I’ll be here.”

“I’m off shift for three days,” Eddie said, his mind recalling his schedule. “We’re going to have to take time off, though, aren’t we?”

Mick nodded. “While she’s in the hospital, I can pop in and out during the day to check in on her and you can come in after work and spend the evenings with her. Once she’s out of here, she’s going to need help, especially with all this going on,” he added, his fingers drawing a line down the center of his chest.

Eddie’s stomach had rolled when he’d seen the incision between her breasts. The reality had hit him hard. Mick and Allison had had their hands in Whitney’s chest. They’d patched up her lung and a whole host of other organs.

“How are we going to tell her about the ovary?” Eddie cringed at the thought of telling Whitney she’d lost such an important piece of herself. Her spleen had been removed, too, but honestly, who missed their spleen? But an ovary? A woman would definitely miss her ovary.

“The same way we tell her about everything else,” Mick said matter-of-factly. “We don’t make a big deal out of it or freak her out. Yes, her fertility will be diminished by the loss, but she still has one good ovary, and the repair to her uterine artery was good.”

“Will it be dangerous for her to get pregnant?” Eddie worried about her future. She’d made it abundantly clear she wanted to be a mother.

“Not once she’s healed.” Mick scratched his chin. “Daniela”-he looked over-“Dr. Cardenas, did a consult while we were in the OR. She’s a damned fine OB/GYN. She tells me that in a year or so, Whitney’s risk would be very low. She’ll be monitored a bit more than other women, but there’s no reason to anticipate problems.”

“I’m glad,” Eddie said with a breath of relief. “I want her to have everything she wants.”

Mick smiled and reached over to take his hand. “I know you do.”

Eddie got quiet as guilt gnawed at him. “I feel like a lot of this is my fault.”

Mick frowned. “You’re fault? How the hell do you figure that?”

“I should have spoken up about O’Halloran. I should have asked the chief to make him wait before rushing into that damn bank.” Eddie swallowed hard. “I shouldn’t have blown up the other night. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to the bank. Maybe she’d have been out having lunch with you or me.”

“Or maybe she’d have stepped onto a crosswalk and caught a bus in the face.” Mick scowled and shook his head. “Eddie, shit happens. This isn’t your fault. It’s not my fault. It was a bunch of dumb-ass robbers and a jackass SWAT guy. Let them shoulder the blame.”

Eddie smiled at Mick. He always knew exactly what to say. All those worries and regrets from earlier in the day hit him right in the solar plexus. Today he’d faced the stark possibility of Whitney never knowing how much he loved her. Never again, he decided, and leaned over with his good hand to interlace his fingers with Mick’s.

“I love you.” The words came out a bit more gruffly than he’d intended, but they were out.

Mick grinned. “I know you do.” He pecked Eddie’s cheek. “I love you, too.”

“Well, don’t get all mushy on me,” Eddie said with a little growl. He wasn’t big on public displays of affection.

Mick snorted and rolled his eyes. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Eddie chuckled softly and settled back against his chair. His anxiety for Whitney had lowered substantially. She wasn’t out of the woods yet, but he had reason to hope she soon would be. Mick’s assessment of the situation calmed him. He trusted in Mick’s professional judgment.

Eddie inhaled deeply and enjoyed the sensation of Mick’s fingers against his. He leaned his head against the headrest and let his eyes close. For the first time in almost a week, Eddie was surrounded by the two people who owned his heart. It wasn’t as nice as sharing a bed, of course.

But it was close enough.

* * * *

Whitney struggled against a weird blanket of confusion. She hovered in a dreamlike state, half awake yet still half asleep. Her eyelids fluttered. Every blinking movement scratched her dry eyes. Bright light burned her retinas when she finally opened her eyes fully. She winced and closed them again.

As the fog lifted, Whitney became aware of a dull, deep ache in her chest. The annoying beep of a machine drilled into her eardrums. There was a strange low hissing sound, too.

And something in her throat.

Panic gripped her belly. Her eyes flew open as she raised her hand to slap at her face. She encountered a strange tugging sensation along her elbow and looked at her arm. An IV line ran from the crook of her elbow, over the rail of a bed, and up to a pole. Wild and afraid and still confused, she glanced around the room. The thing in her throat hurt and made her gag. She wanted it out. Now.

“Whitney,” Mick’s calming voice filtered through the fear. “Don’t do that. Just relax.”

Her gaze whipped to the left side of the bed where he sat. Slowly, Mick rose from the chair next to her bed. He brushed hair from her face and smiled down at her. “We’re weaning you off the ventilator, sweetheart. I know it’s uncomfortable, but it won’t be much longer. Maybe an hour or so.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re doing so well, honey.”

She tried to swallow but gagged again. Her eyes watered. That panicky feeling punched her gut. She didn’t know if she could last another hour.

Mick placed his cheek against hers and stroked her face. His lips hovered near her ear. “I’m right here, Whitney. Breathe deep through your nose. Relax your throat.”

Even in the frustration of that moment, Whitney thought of how terribly tawdry that sounded. Mick must have recognized it too because he chuckled. “Sounds like something Eddie would say, huh?”

Whitney would have laughed, but that damn tube down her throat made it impossible. She clutched Mick’s shoulder, her fingers curling in the blue fabric of his scrubs as she held on for dear life and prayed the doctors would decide to remove the tube soon.

Mick talked in that soothing voice of his. He told her about coworkers who had come to visit and the plants Eddie had taken home and repotted for her. He gave her the latest gossip from her favorite bloggers and the rundown on the missed episode of her vampire show. Somehow she made it through the ventilator weaning, and just when she thought she wouldn’t make it another minute, a new doctor entered the room with a young woman in tow.

The doctor smiled and introduced himself. “I’m Dr. Penkala. This is Terri, the floor’s respiratory tech. You’re doing beautifully, Miss Montcrief. The ventilator hasn’t kicked in once to breathe for you, so we’re going to pull this tube, okay?”

Near desperation, Whitney nodded. Mick stepped aside to let Terri squeeze in beside the bed. She punched some keys on the ventilator’s screen and started unhooking tubes. Whitney closed her eyes, not really wanting to see any more of this than necessary, and waited. There was an odd sensation in her throat as if something had deflated.

A few seconds later, Dr. Penkala instructed her to breathe deep and then cough as the tube was removed. Someone put a pillow against her chest as if to brace her. Whitney did as told and coughed as the tube slithered out of her poor, abused throat. Discomfort was an understatement. She gagged and nearly puked as the tube came free. Inhaling deeply, Whitney felt that strange ache in her chest.

Dr. Penkala stuck the business end of his stethoscope in his ears and leaned forward to listen to her chest. She glanced down for the first time and saw the ugly incision mostly covered by the ugly hospital gown. Her gaze shot to Mick’s face. She hoped her eyes telegraphed how upset she was. What the fuck is this?

“Don’t try to talk just yet,” Mick said and rubbed her arm. “Your vocal chords have been through a lot. Let them rest.”

Whitney nodded and made a drinking motion. Mick glanced at Dr. Penkala who shrugged. “You know the drill, Mick.” He gestured to Whitney. “I’ll let you fill her in on the surgeries and recovery. I’ll come back later and answer any questions you have, Whitney.”

Again she bobbed her head. Without being able to speak, there wasn’t much else to do. The doctor smiled and left the room. Terri dragged the unplugged ventilator behind her as she exited, leaving Mick and Whitney alone.

He poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the nearby stand and held it to her lips. “Small sips. We don’t want you to choke or vomit, okay? You have to take it nice and easy the next few days.”

She took tiny drinks and let the water roll around in her parched mouth before swallowing very carefully. Her throat burned. Maybe this drinking thing wasn’t such a good idea.

Mick set aside the cup and sat on the edge of her bed. He took her hand in his and petted her in a comforting motion. “You’ve been in the hospital for five days. Three in ICU and yesterday morning we brought you down here to the cardiac step-down unit. If everything goes well, you’ll be out of here in another day, and then you’ll head to one of the private rooms for a week or so.”

His fingers skimmed her cheek. “Whitney, do you remember the bank robbery? The shooting?” When she nodded, he continued. “You were hit three times. Eddie arrived on scene after the first SWAT team breached the bank. He rode with you all the way to the hospital and made sure you were brought here. Do you remember that?”

She experienced blurry flashbacks. Eddie kneeling at her side. Eddie pushing hard on her oozing belly wound. Eddie holding her hand and begging her to stay awake. Eddie terrified but strong.

Whitney nodded again, and Mick told her about the extent of her injuries and the surgery required. Allison, the cardio goddess as he called her, had saved her battered right lung, but he’d had to take her spleen and repair some other damage in her belly.

“Your uterine artery was nicked, and we had to take your right ovary, Whitney.” The quiver of horror stabbing her belly must have shown on her face because he quickly added, “The surgery was very successful, and I took my time. I had one of my colleagues, a highly respected OB/GYN, come into the OR for a consult. She is positive you’ll heal very well and be able to have children.”

Relief flooded her system. For a second there, she’d imagined the very worst outcome. Considering she’d taken three bullets, Whitney figured she’d come out of this okay. She still had both of her lungs, one ovary, and her uterus. Who needed a spleen anyway, right?

She touched her sore chest. In a strained whisper, she asked, “How long?”

“Before it heals? Six to eight weeks is what we tell people. You’ll be able to return to work part-time around then. Full time by twelve weeks, I’d guess. No heavy lifting or overexertion, obviously.” Before she could protest, he held up his hand. “And, yes, Eddie already talked to Delilah. We know you’ll probably have to miss the fall shows in New York and Paris, but that’s just tough, sweetheart. Besides, Delilah agrees your focus should be on your health. It’s not as if there won’t be more shows in the spring.”

Whitney pouted. She didn’t like the thought of everyone else making decisions for her. Yes, she’d been shot, but she wasn’t an invalid. Her gaze drifted down the hospital bed. Well. Mostly.

“Don’t look like that, Whit. We’re just trying to make this easier for you. We don’t want you stressing about anything.” Mick checked his watch. “I really need to get back down to the ER. Eddie will be here when he gets off shift.” He bent down and kissed her forehead. “You’ll get some more pain meds soon and likely fall right back asleep. Enjoy the rest while you can.”

Mick stood up and unwound the call button from the rail. He moved it close to her hand. “Punch this button to call for a nurse. This one works the TV if you get bored.” He pressed a lingering kiss to her forehead. “I love you.”

She closed her eyes as the warmth of his words settled over her. “I love you, too.”

Mick pulled back and gazed down into her eyes. “I’m so glad you’re awake.”

Whitney touched his cheek and smiled weakly. She watched him leave, his reluctance clear as he hesitated in the doorway. He waved before disappearing from sight. Whitney stared at the empty doorway for a while as she tried to wrap her mind around everything Mick had told her. The realization of just how close she’d come to death sent a chill down her spine.

But she couldn’t focus on that. She had to think about getting better, about getting out of this bed and out of the hospital, about getting back to work and back into the arms of the two men she loved so desperately.

But first, she thought sleepily, a much-needed nap.

Whitney woke some time later. Her gaze flitted to the windows. The blinds were still open, but it was dark outside. A rustle to her right caught her attention. She glanced over and found Eddie rising from his chair. He set aside a magazine, probably one filled with football players and bikini-clad models. His happy smile sent a swarm of butterflies through her belly.

He gently eased onto the bed and interlaced his fingers with hers. Her gaze fell to his hand, and she gasped. There were splotches of purple and yellow over his knuckles. “Your hand,” she croaked in shock.

Eddie glanced at it and shrugged. “It’s nothing, Whitney.” She gave him the look, and he laughed. “Really. It’s nothing.”

She sighed, realizing he wasn’t going to tell her what person or wall he’d punched. She touched his face. He looked so tired. Knowing Eddie, he’d probably worried the whole time she was unconscious. “You’re going to give yourself an ulcer.”

He made a so-what face. “You’re worth it.”

His jaw clenched and unclenched a few times. Stunned, Whitney realized he was about to cry. “Eddie,” she whispered and caressed his cheek.

He swallowed hard and turned his face so his lips were against her palm. He sucked in a shuddery breath and said, “Whitney, I love you so much.” He exhaled loudly. “When I saw you there, bleeding on the floor, I couldn’t stop thinking about how stupid I’d been. I freaked out when you panicked and almost let you die without telling you how I feel.”

Eddie shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “I need to be more like Mick, I guess. I need to, you know, communicate and all that crap.”

Whitney snorted. “Something like that.”

He chuckled and then sobered almost instantly. “I hate that it took something so drastic, so…terrible to make me realize how badly I’d fucked things up.”

“Well, I’m not exactly blameless in all this, you know?” Whitney spoke softly so as not to aggravate her still-irritated throat. “I was all crazy emotional and panicked and then closed both of you out.” She smiled as her head moved side to side. “Poor Mick! He tried so hard to play referee, but we’re both so hardheaded.”

“Probably why he loves us,” Eddie said with a laugh. Then a bit more serious, he added, “I am so glad you’re going to be okay. I really thought…I worried…”

When he couldn’t find the right words, Whitney squeezed his hand and smiled reassuringly. “I know. I thought the same thing.” Then smiling, she added, “Just remember I said I love you first.”

He frowned. “When?”

“At the bank.”

His jaw clenched and relaxed as if he was trying hard not to get emotional. “When you were dying on the floor, I saw your lips working but couldn’t make out the words.” He gulped. “I had no idea.”

Clearly needing to change the subject to something less heavy, Eddie cleared his throat and inhaled. “Mick had to go home tonight. The hospital wants him sleeping at home so they can be sure he’s well-rested.” Eddie rolled his eyes. “Because I’m sure he’s sleeping so well all alone in the house.”

“And you?” Whitney took a longer look at him and then around the room. She spotted his big black duffel bag and a garment bag hanging on the bathroom. “Are you sleeping here?”

He nodded. “Mick’s here for you during the day, and I’m here at night.”

“Eddie, you need quality sleep, too. You can’t possibly be comfortable in that chair.”

“It reclines.”

“Eddie, go home and sleep.”

“No.”

She stared at him. His jaw was set, and he’d lifted his shoulders. She recognized that stance. There was no winning this one. “Well…just keep the snoring to a minimum, okay?”

Eddie laughed and slid off the bed. He checked his watch. “Nurses will be in soon for your vitals and to swap out your IV bag.” He thumped the almost empty bag hanging from the nearby pole. “So Mick told me he talked to you about your injuries, but apparently all the drugs they’re giving you may make you foggy, so if you forgot anything or were confused I’m supposed to answer any questions.”

“I remember enough.” She caught sight of the water pitcher and motioned toward it. “Can I have a little water?”

“Sure.” Eddie fixed her a glass and held it as she sipped. “You’re still not allowed to eat, though. I guess they’ll probably put you on punishment rations for a few days and slowly work you back to real food.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Hospital JELL-O! Yummy!”

“It’s not that bad. Or, at least, the stuff they had at the VA hospital was okay,” he clarified.

A troubling thought occurred to her. She was taking in a lot of fluid via the IV and a little by mouth, but she couldn’t go to the restroom. Whitney gave a little wiggle and confirmed her worst fears. She lifted the sheet covering her to the waist and found the clear tube appearing from underneath her gown and running down the side of her bed to a collection box. “Oh, god! How embarrassing!”

“Whit.”

“No, Eddie. It’s gross!” Her face flamed. “You’re, like, watching me pee.”

He frowned. “Hardly.”

“I want this thing out of me.” She sounded irrational, but this was just too much.

“Whitney.” Eddie spoke her name in that low voice that made her melt. “You need the catheter. You can’t get in and out of bed right now. When you’re able to move around some, they’ll pull it, and then Mick or I or one of the nurses will help you use the restroom.” He held up a hand when she started to protest at the degradation of sharing her bathroom trips with another person. “You’re just going to have to get over it. You’re going to need help as you recover. Better to deal with one of us helping you in the restroom than falling and injuring yourself again, right?”

She grudgingly nodded. “It’s still gross.”

He rolled his eyes. “It’s a natural body function.”

“Yeah…well…whatever.” The drugs made her loopy, and her usual witty comebacks deserted her.

Eddie slid back into his chair, signaling the discussion was over. “You want to watch TV, or do you want me to read to you?”

“Depends on what you’re reading.”

He held up the magazine he’d been looking at earlier. Whitney giggled at the sight of the fashion magazine she’d once worked at in his meaty hand. He grinned and opened it back up. “So, apparently, blazers are going to be big this fall.”

Whitney grinned. “Really?”

“Uh-huh,” Eddie confirmed as got comfortable. “Jewel tones, whatever the hell those are, will be hot, but no stripes…”

Chapter Thirteen

Nine Weeks Later

Mick stepped out of his car and walked around to the front door of the house. Whitney’s car hadn’t moved from its spot in the garage in over two months, and Eddie had beat him home and taken the other space. As he slung his backpack strap over one shoulder, Mick considered the possibility of renovating the garage to make room for another space or even buying a whole new house. If the three of them were staying together permanently, the current bedroom setup was kind of a nuisance. Maybe a different layout altogether would be better.

The delicious smells of basil and sage tickled Mick’s nose as he entered the house. Italian meant Eddie was cooking. No one made pasta like the big man.

“Whitney! Get off that stepladder. Now!”

Mick groaned as the two of them started in on one another in the kitchen. He tucked his backpack in the hall closet and slipped off his Crocs. Shaking his head, he wondered how much longer they’d continue to snark at one another. Ever since Whitney had come home from the hospital, she’d been pushing the boundaries and Eddie had been dragging her back inside the metaphorical fence, kicking and screaming.

Loins girded, Mick entered the kitchen. He stopped a foot or so inside the doorway and watched the snapping and arm-waving. God, this was just ridiculous. “Enough! You two sound like a couple of toddlers squabbling in the sandbox.”

“Tell her to stay off the stepladder.” Eddie gestured wildly with a slotted spoon. “She shouldn’t be climbing.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Whitney cursed in exasperation. “I’m not a china doll, okay? I won’t break.”

Mick rolled his eyes and stepped forward to referee. They both had valid points, so he had to play this one carefully. “Whitney, Eddie is right. You could lose your balance and hit your chest or strain too far with your arms and hurt the healing muscles.”

“But-”

“No,” Mick cut her off. “And you”-he pointed to Eddie-“need to stop hovering like a helicopter parent. It’s been nine weeks, Eddie. She has to start returning to her normal routine.” He eyed Whitney. “Slowly and carefully.”

The two of them pursed their lips and returned to their tasks. God, they were so much alike and so predictable. Mick tried not to laugh as he scooted between them to wash his hands at the sink.

He leaned against the counter as he dried his hands and looked them over. Eddie had changed into his usual post-shift outfit of athletic shorts and a tee. Whitney had on a simple pink cotton dress. Both were barefoot, which annoyed him to no end considering they were in the kitchen. How many times had he asked them to put on shoes while cooking?

Mick dropped the towel and shoved off the counter. He moved closer to Whitney. He slid his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck. She leaned her head back against him as he whispered, “I missed you today.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmmhmm.” He kissed her cheek. “What did you do today?”

“Kadie was here bright and early, so we worked for a couple of hours and had lunch. Natalie dropped by for an hour this afternoon. The rest of the time I caught up on e-mail and did some brainstorming for that new line I’m helping launch in a few months. I watched my judge shows, too.”

Mick laughed. Since her hospital stay, Whitney had been hooked on a three-hour block of judge shows. He was glad to hear she’d done some more work with Natalie, a private trainer who specialized in helping clients regain strength after major surgeries or trauma. She’d worked with a buddy of Eddie’s who took a bullet to the shoulder during a routine traffic stop, and so far Whitney seemed to enjoy her.

“Did Natalie work you hard?” Mick stepped away and headed to the refrigerator for something cold to drink.

“Nah.” Whitney dug around in a drawer in search of a utensil. “We did twenty minutes of walking on the treadmill, some arm work with those tiny five-pound barbells, and then some stretching and yoga-type stuff.”

“You feel okay during the workout? No dizziness or pain? Did you make sure to stay well hydrated?”

Eddie snorted and elbowed him. “I thought we weren’t supposed to helicopter parent?”

Mick smiled sheepishly. “Oh…yeah.” He glanced at Whitney. “Sorry.”

She laughed. “It’s okay, and yes to the staying hydrated and feeling okay. No to the pain or dizziness. Natalie takes very good care of me.” She motioned to the cabinet. “Grab some plates and silverware. I’ll carry this to the dining room.” She playfully narrowed her eyes at Eddie as she lifted the salad. “Unless the sergeant thinks it’s too heavy?”

“Watch it, sugar.” Eddie slapped the spoon against his open palm. “There’s nothing wrong with your ass.”

Her eyes widened, and Mick chortled. Eddie had a point. They had to be careful with her belly and chest, but there was nothing to prevent Eddie from bending her over a table or chair and paddling that perky ass.

Ever the saucy minx, Whitney just shrugged and tossed her hair over one shoulder. “That goes both ways, Eddie.”

Mick guffawed as Whitney sashayed out of the kitchen. The very thought of Whitney spanking Eddie made him laugh so hard he thought he might pass out. The look on Eddie’s face didn’t help matters. It was a mix of shock and arousal.

“Down, boy,” Mick urged with a pat on Eddie’s arm. “We agreed no sexy times until she’s completely healed.”

“Yeah, I know.” Eddie shifted as if uncomfortable and pulled on a pair of potholders before grabbing the pasta dish from the stove. “And it’s killing me.”

Mick grunted in agreement. He wasn’t faring much better. He’d had four wet dreams in the last week. That was more than he’d had in the last two years combined. Not getting any from Eddie or Whitney was wreaking havoc. His libido hadn’t dropped just because the two of them were temporarily unavailable. He’d even had to give himself a hand in the shower a couple of mornings a week just to get his raging morning woods to go the hell away.

Something had to give.

Mick grabbed the dishes and silverware and made his way to the dining room. He set the table and returned to the kitchen for Whitney’s lemonade and his iced tea. He placed Whitney’s drink in front of her and took his seat.

Dinner had turned into one of his favorite times of the day. The three of them sat around the table and talked and laughed. It was so nice to come home and unwind after work. The counselor Whitney and Eddie had been seeing had suggested setting aside three or four nights a week dedicated to food, conversation, and even board games to help the threesome reconnect. With their busy schedules, it was so easy for something as simple as a shared dinner to be forgotten.

“You see the counselor tomorrow, right?” Mick speared a couple of penne with his fork. “Do I need to pick you up, Whitney?”

She shook her head. “We switched our appointment time. Eddie and I are heading in right after breakfast so he only misses an hour of work or so.”

“A buddy of mine is going to cover my shift until I get in to the station,” Eddie explained. “Plus I’d rather just get it over with than wait all day for the appointment.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “Graham is not that bad, Eddie.”

“He’s nosy.”

“He’s a therapist.”

“Yeah, well, he doesn’t need to know about all the women I’ve dated since high school or the first time Mick and I got together.”

“I think he’s trying to make sure our romantic dynamic is, like, healthy or whatever,” Whitney replied. “I mean, yes, we went there to deal with any post-traumatic stress we might have been feeling after I was shot and you had to see me bleeding to death on the floor, but I don’t see a problem with addressing our relationship.” She gestured between the three of them. “Mick thought so, too, or he wouldn’t have come to that session a couple of weeks ago.”

Mick swallowed his mouthful of pasta. “I really don’t think he’s trying to be nosy, Eddie. Whitney summed up my feelings nicely. If anything, you should be glad a therapist thinks our relationship works and is positive for all of us.”

“I just don’t like people prying into my business.” He stabbed a chunk of romaine. “Thank god this is one of our last sessions.”

Whitney deftly changed the subject to something Eddie liked to talk about-mixed martial arts. Apparently there was a big fight coming up next week, so she’d pre-ordered it on pay-per-view. Eddie looked like a little kid on Christmas morning as he received the news. Mick’s thoughts circled back to the last time Eddie had tried to watch a fight. That night had ended a hell of a lot different than they’d expected.

Mick’s cock twitched at the memory. He quickly recalled less-lusty thoughts. Surgery, piles of hospital paperwork, that weird mole on that ICU nurse, Harvey’s, neck…

“Mick?” Whitney’s eyebrows were lifted as if expecting a reply. “What do you think about me driving again this weekend?”

“Uh.” He shot a quick glance at Eddie, who was mouthing the word no, and then back to Whitney, who looked so eager. Best to go with accepted medical practice on this one. “I don’t see a problem with it. If your chest and arms feel stronger than they did when you tried to drive a couple of weeks ago, you should be fine. We tell people six to eight weeks or whenever they feel comfortable.”

Mick smartly avoided Eddie’s gaze, but he could feel the heated glare burning into his cheek. Well, tough, Mick thought. Whitney needed to get fully back into her routine, and that included driving. If her shoulder and chest felt better, there was no reason to hide the keys.

Whitney twittered on as they finished dinner. When she started to gather up the dishes, Mick shook his head and sent her away to the living room to put her feet up and rest. “You cooked dinner, so we’ll do the dishes.”

“We?” Eddie frowned. “I cooked, too.”

“Then come join me on the couch,” Whitney invited. I’m going to watch Project Runway.”

“You know,” Eddie said, “I, uh, I think I’ll help Mick clean up.”

She laughed and left the dining room saying, “Whatever.”

Mick helped Eddie clear the table. They split up in the kitchen to conquer the mess faster. Eddie packed away leftovers while Mick rinsed dishes and stuck them in the dishwasher.

“I think you should have backed me up on the driving thing,” Eddie said finally, his annoyance still fresh.

“And I think you need to back off Whitney and let her move forward in her recovery at her own pace.” Mick tucked the last few pieces of silverware into the dishwasher basket. “She’s doing remarkably well, Eddie. She has a good head on her shoulders. She’s not the type to go all gung ho and push forward when she should be pulling back.”

“It’s not Whitney I’m worried about, Mick. It’s the assholes in the other vehicles. Have you seen how some of these people around here drive? One fender bender and she could injure her chest again.”

Mick sighed as he dug around in the cabinet under the sink for a dishwashing tab. “And what are the odds of that, Eddie? I mean, seriously,” he said as he rose and ripped open the plastic package.

“Probably a hell of a lot higher than her getting shot in a bank,” Eddie shot back angrily.

“Well, you’ve got me there,” Mick conceded. He put the tab in its little cubby and closed the lid before shutting the dishwasher’s door. “But we can’t treat her like a child, Eddie.” He turned on the dishwasher. “The world is full of risk. You, better than anyone, should know that. And she has to go back out there and live.”

“I want her to live, Mick. I want her to go back to work and go out with friends and make love to us and all that wonderful stuff.” Eddie’s hands clenched and released at his sides. “But I…I find it very difficult not to worry.”

Mick crossed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist. Eddie dipped his head until their noses were touching. “It’s normal, you know? To worry about the people we love. But”-Mick sighed-“we have to temper that worry with trust. I trust Whitney to make good decisions just as I trust you to make good decisions when you’re at work and facing off against the scum of this city.”

Eddie cupped Mick’s cheek and rubbed his thumb back and forth over the skin. Mick knew they were playing with fire, but he couldn’t stop himself. He let Eddie tilt his face up and welcomed the other man’s lips against his. Eddie’s tongue traced Mick’s lips before stabbing between. Mick groaned with hunger and slid his hand up to clasp the back of Eddie’s neck.

Their tongues tangled. Mick pressed hard against Eddie’s muscled body. There was nothing soft about the man and especially not his rock-hard dick jutting into Mick’s belly. God, it had been so fucking long since Mick had been this close to Eddie. He craved the closeness and heat of the other man’s body.

They’d been separated at night the entire time Whitney was in the hospital. Once she’d come home, they’d taken turns sleeping on her floor in case she needed help during the night. Only recently had the three of them started sharing a bed again, but Whitney was always between them, and both men still worried about knocking into her and hurting her during the night.

Mick’s hand reached between their bodies. He grasped Eddie’s cock through the fabric of his shorts and stroked the length. Eddie shuddered and playfully nipped Mick’s lower lip. Mick’s hand moved a little farther south to fondle Eddie’s balls.

“Fuck.” Eddie pulled away with a groan and rubbed his cheek against Mick’s. “Feels so good.”

Mick wanted to make him feel even better. He let his second hand slide down to join the other and worked Eddie’s shaft and sac at the same time.

“Whitney,” Eddie said suddenly.

Mick felt a tinge of guilt. “I know we promised not to until-”

“No,” Eddie interrupted. “Whitney.”

Mick realized Eddie’s arm was moving and followed his pointing finger to the doorway where Whitney stood. She leaned against the jamb and watched them, her eyes glazed and smoky. The palest blush colored her cheeks. She licked her upper lip. “Please don’t stop.”

Mick didn’t need to hear anything more. Whitney’s permission seemed to do the trick for Eddie, too. He relaxed in Mick’s arms and bent down for another kiss, this one deeper and more passionate. Mick shivered as Eddie devoured his mouth. There weren’t many people who could hold a candle to Eddie’s kissing. When it came to the art of swapping spit, the man had mastered it.

Burning up with desire, Mick dropped to his knees and pushed up the hem of Eddie’s tee. He nibbled and kissed the swath of skin below Eddie’s navel and licked down his happy trail while his hands tugged at the waistband of Eddie’s shorts and boxer briefs. That thick cock he loved so much sprung free and begged for some hot and heavy oral attention.

“Shit,” Eddie growled as his hands slapped at the counter behind him. Mick flicked his tongue around the purpling head of Eddie’s dick, getting the skin nice and wet before sucking it between his lips. He twirled his tongue around the blunt tip while bobbing up and down. His own erection throbbed as he swallowed Eddie’s deeper and deeper into his mouth.

Movement to his left caught Mick’s attention. Lips still wrapped around Eddie’s cock, he glanced over and saw Whitney sidling up to Eddie’s side. She lifted his shirt over his head and tossed it aside. Her greedy fingers ran up and down the muscled ridges of his stomach. Eddie’s hand disappeared in the loose waves of her hair as he drew her mouth to his and kissed her with what looked to be nearly ravenous need.

Mick braced himself on Eddie’s thighs and went to town sucking the bigger man’s cock. He deep-throated until his nose was nestled in Eddie’s crisp pubic hairs and then pulled back to slurp the crown. Eddie and Whitney continued to make out like horny teenagers in a borrowed car. Eddie had one hand on Whitney’s breast and the other on Mick’s head as he pumped his hips. Mick welcomed the plunge of Eddie’s dick as it slid in and out of his mouth.

When Whitney’s hand grasped the base of Eddie’s cock, Mick smiled. So she wanted to help? Mick concentrated on the ultra-sensitive head of Eddie’s cock, especially that little bump on his frenulum, while Whitney stroked the bottom two-thirds of his shaft. It didn’t take long for their tag-teaming effort to drive Eddie over the edge. He roared as he came, his hot cum jetting from the slit in his cock and spraying the inside of Mick’s mouth.

Eddie slid in balls-deep. Mick worked his head slowly side to side as he pulled off Eddie’s cock. Before he could swallow, Whitney was bending down to kiss him. Surprised by her wanton action, Mick parted his lips and felt her tongue slide between. He’d never figured Whitney for the type to enjoy snowballing, but she seemed rather enthusiastic as she let her tongue move around the inside of his mouth to gather Eddie’s cum.

When Whitney broke their kiss, she swallowed and licked her lips. Eddie let loose a low moan at the deliciously naughty sight. Mick’s cock ached and demanded attention. Eddie fisted the front of his scrub top, hauled him to his feet and spun him around until his back hit the counter. While Eddie dropped to his knees and untied the drawstrings of his scrub bottoms, Mick shared increasingly more-desperate kisses with Whitney. He couldn’t get enough of her or the salty taste of Eddie’s cum clinging to her tongue.

“Christ!” Mick exclaimed as Eddie attacked his cock. The suction was just right, the depth perfect. Eddie fondled Mick’s balls, rolling them back and forth between his fingers the way Mick loved.

Whitney pawed at his chest and sucked his lower lip between her teeth. She applied a little pressure onto his soft flesh, just until it smarted, and then let it free. Her tongue flicked against the spot she’d just nibbled and then delved inside his mouth again. Her fingers walked down his tummy and then even lower to clasp his cock in the same way she’d done Eddie’s. Mick moaned into her mouth as she caressed his stiff length in the perfect dance with Eddie’s mouth.

Eddie’s cock-sucking was too good. Mick thrust his hips and fucked Eddie’s hot, wet mouth until both men were gasping for air. Whitney’s fingers squeezed a bit tighter as she stroked his shaft. Mick’s toes curled against the floor as his balls tingled and drew up tight against his body. There was no stopping his orgasm. Like a runaway freight train, it slammed into him and knocked the breath right out of his lungs. His knees wobbled as he jerked and shot ropy bursts of cum into Eddie’s receiving mouth.

Blissed out of his mind, Mick watched Eddie swap his cum with Whitney in the most intimate of kisses. She clutched at both of them, her fingers gripping their forearms as she let Eddie kiss her until she was breathless.

Mick wanted nothing more than to fall to his knees and bury his face in her pussy, but she stopped him. Even Eddie seemed a bit thrown by her reaction. Her voice husky, she explained, “This is enough for me tonight.”

“You’re sure?” Mick didn’t like the idea of Whitney going to bed unsatisfied.

“Positive.” She smiled at them and allowed Eddie to draw her and Mick into his big bear hug. “I’m not ready to go any further right now. I need some time.”

Mick finally understood. It was common for patients who’d escaped near death to experience some level of sexual dysfunction. “That’s okay,” Mick hurried to assure her. “You take all the time you need, sweetheart.”

Eddie kissed her temple. “We’ll be right here waiting when you’re ready.”

Chapter Fourteen

Whitney stepped out of the shower and onto her plush bath mat. She pulled the towel from the nearby rack and buffed her skin and squeegeed her hair. The towel went back on the rack, and she slipped into her bathrobe. She left her damp locks loose as she left the bathroom and settled into the chair in front of her vanity.

The front of the robe gaped and revealed the shiny, pale-pink scar running down the center of her chest. She pushed the robe open a little more and let her fingers slide down the raised bump of tissue. When she’d first spotted the ugly incision, she’d been horrified at the thought of being disfigured, but the scar was pretty as far as scars went.

Apparently suturing had come a long way since the days of the Frankenstein-like stitching she associated with big wounds. There hadn’t actually been any sutures on the top layers of skin, just some kind of glue and Steri-Strips. Once the strips had peeled away on their own, the wound healed as beautifully as Mick had promised. The hard and unnatural feeling of metal along her breastbone still freaked her out occasionally, but she was getting better about it.

It had only been four months, but Whitney had all but gotten used to the thin line peeking out through the necklines of her tops and dresses. Her coworkers didn’t even seem to notice it anymore. When she met with new clients or people she hadn’t seen in a while, they tended to stare a bit and then look away as if embarrassed. Some of them asked questions, but most didn’t dare. There seemed to be some kind of unspoken rule about inquiring about those kinds of things.

She peeled back the sides of the robe to look at the other scars marking her once-flawless skin. The bullet wound in her shoulder had healed much like Eddie’s. The incision on her belly wasn’t quite as nice as the one on her chest. Long and curved, it looked a bit gnarly in spots. She’d never be able wear a bikini without it taking center stage, but that was okay. Better to endure interested stares than, you know, death.

She laid her hands on her tummy. Her first post-shooting period had finally arrived the week prior. It had been a bit more uncomfortable than normal but over rather quickly. She’d switched her OB/GYN care to Dr. Cardenas, Mick’s friend, and liked the woman much better than her old doctor who seemed to be in and out the door of the exam room in three minutes flat. Dr. Cardenas sat with her for a full fifteen minutes, discussed Whitney’s concerns, and even walked her through the possible methods that might be required to get her pregnant in the future. She’d left that initial meeting calm and content and no longer afraid of what the bullets had done to her lady bits.

Of course, Dr. C hadn’t had a definitive answer as to why Whitney’s libido had tanked. Counseling had done little to bring that spark back. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She got hot watching Mick and Eddie go at it like horny weasels, but then who wouldn’t? Two ridiculously sexy men bumping and grinding? Uh, yeah, she’d have to be made of stone not to get turned on by that.

It wasn’t exactly the turning on that was the problem. It was the coming.

Whitney had tried a few times in the privacy of the shower or her bed to get her juices flowing again, so to speak. She’d think of Eddie hammering Mick or Mick’s lips sliding along Eddie’s cock while she rubbed her clit or played with a vibrator. She always got wet, but then nothing happened. It was frustrating as hell and made her want to punch someone in the face.

Deep down inside, Whitney suspected it was fear. Fear her heart might short-circuit if it beat too fast. Fear her still-healing lung would burst from all the hard breathing. Fear the long-since-healed artery feeding her uterus would tear and she’d bleed to death.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

And she was sick of it. Just absolutely disgusted. Enough was enough, she decided. It was time to live again. Really live.

As if on cue, her cell phone chirped. Whitney walked over to her bed and picked up the phone. Her finger tapped the screen and brought up the text message. It was an invite to a private party at The Blue Door, one of LA’s most exclusive clubs and her favorite haunt. There were some great perks to working in the fashion industry, and super-secret invites like this were part of them.

Whitney made a split-second decision and texted back her friend. She was going to this party and would bring a plus one.

She tossed the phone back on the bed and left her bedroom. The clack of fingers dancing across a keyboard led her to the office where Mick sat behind his desk. Stacks of medical books and printed pages clamped together with multicolored binder clips covered the surface. He’d been knocking back iced coffees from the looks of the dregs in the clear plastic cups.

“Busy?” she asked with a teasing smile on her face.

Mick looked up from his laptop and smiled. He rubbed his jaw and stretched his arms high overhead. “Not anymore.”

She walked over and sat on the edge of his desk. “Any chance you’d like to blow off this study for the rest of the night and go out for dinner and dancing?”

Mick’s gaze flicked from the pile of work on his desk to her. He didn’t hesitate. “Love to.” His wheeled chair squeaked as it moved closer to her. “I’ve had just about enough of collating data today.”

“You should get an assistant.” A frisson of excitement shook her belly as Mick’s hand rode the curve of her calf up and over her knee and then disappeared beneath the hem of the robe.

“I’ve got a gaggle of interns I could rope into this,” Mick said thoughtfully as his fingers stroked her inner thigh.

“You’d be surprised at how quickly you’ll get volunteers to sift through all of this. You remember what it was like when you were an intern hungry for recognition and opportunity, right?”

“Mmmhmm,” Mick answered as his lips danced over her knee cap.

She enjoyed the sensation of his soft mouth pressing kisses to her leg but gently stopped him when he started to explore further. “Later,” she said with a hint of promise in her voice. “But first I want dinner.” She slid off the desk. “And dancing.”

“Yes, dear,” Mick said with a laugh. He shut down his laptop, turned off his desk lamp, and followed her out of the office. “May I pick out my own outfit this evening, Mother?”

“Behave.” Whitney smacked his arm. “Yes, you may but no sweaters!”

As Mick sarcastically laughed behind her, Whitney returned to her bedroom and went straight to the closet. She flicked through the hangers until she found the perfect flirty number. Black. Slinky. Ruched. The kind of dress that transitioned seamlessly from restaurant attire to club wear.

She plucked a pair of strappy heels from her shoe rack and then dug through her lingerie drawer for something sexy. Eventually, she picked a pair of cotton-lined black lace boyshorts and a matching pushup bra with padded cups and feminine lace overlay. She slicked on a layer of coconut-and-lime-scented lotion before slipping on her undies and sitting down to fix her hair. She went simple with a little smoothing serum to tame frizz and a quick blow dry to create waves. Makeup took a bit more time but not much. No watch or necklace, she decided, but definitely the bracelet Mick had given her for Christmas and the earrings Eddie had picked out for her birthday.

By the time she got around to picking through the contents of her big purse for the must-haves, Mick was standing in her doorway. She glanced over and gave him a critical once-over. He’d gone for the classic look with black pants, a white shirt, and a black jacket, double button front with a notched collar. Whitney whistled appreciatively and transferred her cell phone, wallet, keys, and small necessities-only makeup bag into a clutch.

Mick laughed as he crossed the room. He surprised her by kneeling down to put on her shoes, his nimble fingers fastening the straps without fumbling. Quite a feat for any man considering the teeny-tiny size of the buckles.

“I’m impressed,” she said with a smile.

“I’m a surgeon,” he replied matter-of-factly and rose to his feet.

She giggled. “Well…there’s that.”

Mick took her hand and led her out of the house. They played musical cars as she backed out and slid into the open space where Eddie’s truck had been that morning and Mick backed out of the spot she’d been blocking. Whitney got into the front seat and buckled her seat belt.

“So what would you like for dinner?”

“It’ll have to be some place quiet. It’s Saturday night, and we don’t have reservations. You know how rough that can be at the hot spots.”

Mick made a face as he turned off their street. “No joke. Have you been craving anything? Mexican? Thai? Indian?”

Whitney’s nose wrinkled. “I’m not sure I’m up for all that spiciness tonight.”

“What about that yummy burger place that does the upscale sliders?”

“Oh! The place where Eddie took us, right? Oh my god. They had the best beer there!”

“It was Czech I think.”

“Sorry you’re driving tonight.”

Mick laughed. “Yeah, sucks for me.”

“Too bad Eddie had that training thing this weekend. He’s going to be so pissed when he finds out we ate at his fave burger joint.”

Mick shrugged. “So take him next week. I switch to nights on Monday, so he’ll have you all to himself most nights for the next few months.” He reached over and held Whitney’s hand. “I’m glad we’re getting out tonight. Kind of a last hurrah.”

Whitney pouted. “I wish you weren’t switching around your schedule.”

“Maggie’s baby is due in the next five weeks, and I feel like it’s the right thing to do to give her days for a while. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier for her and Charlie to deal with daycare and all that if she isn’t on nights.”

Although Whitney hated the wrench this new scheduling would throw in their routine, she secretly was happy Mick had stepped up to help out his colleague. A lot of men probably wouldn’t have given up their cushy day schedule that they’d earned via seniority for a new mama. It spoke volumes about how much Mick valued family.

Mick eyed her as they sat at a red light. “What you thinking about, Whit?”

“You. Chivalry. Kindness.” She lifted his hand and kissed his knuckles. “Stuff like that.”

“Aw,” he said with a playful gleam in his eye. “I’m touched.”

She snorted. “You’re a dork.” She pointed to a side street. “There’s better parking on that side, remember. Eddie even found a space for his truck.”

“The man is like a walking GPS. Knows every street, every shortcut, every construction zone.” Mick shook his head as they looked for parking. “Don’t know what we’d do without him.”

“Get lost. A lot.” She spotted an open space. “There’s one!”

Mick hit his blinker and scooted into the space. Whitney checked her lipstick as she waited for him to come around and open up her door. It was one of those things that it seemed only Mick and Eddie did. In all her years of dating, no other man, save those two, had opened her car door.

His hand settled in the small of her back as they headed into the cozy little place. There was a mixed crowd, mostly dates it seemed, and most dressed to head out for dancing or a movie or maybe even the theater. They were seated in a corner booth and ordered their drinks, peach iced tea for Mick and a beer for Whitney.

“Look at all these people on their damn cell phones.” Mick frowned as he scanned the restaurant. “That is so rude.”

Whitney caught sight of a nearby diner’s phone. “They’re playing that word game. I hear it’s addicting.”

“Word game?”

Whitney leaned across and plucked his cell phone from the inside pocket of his jacket where he’d tucked it away before leaving the house. She went straight to the app market, located the game, and selected the free version. While she waited for it to download, she tried to go back to the main screen but accidently swiped her finger twice and went a screen too far. Internet search results for engagement rings popped up.

“Shit,” Mick swore and quickly took the phone from her. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”

“Um…sorry?” Her mind reeled. Engagement rings? Did Mick want to marry her? Or was he helping Eddie shop?

Stunningly, Whitney discovered the idea of getting engaged, of marrying one or both of them, no longer scared her. If anything, it lent her an amazing sense of calm and completeness. With everything they’d been through, there was no doubt in Whitney’s mind they all belonged together. All those other things that had troubled her, the logistics of kids and the views of others, no longer mattered. She’d come to the realization that she couldn’t live her life in fear of offending or making others uncomfortable. If she was happy, that’s all that mattered.

“So…er…yeah.” Mick rubbed the back of his neck. He looked incredibly uncomfortable. Even his cheeks were flushed. “I guess I’ve, uh, ruined the surprise.”

“No.” Whitney touched his fingers. “I ruined the surprise. That’s what I get for messing around on your phone.”

Mick humphed. “So…uh…well. I mean, you know.” He growled in aggravation as he fought to find the right words. “Are we totally off base here? Are we going too fast?”

She shook her head. “No. Just right.”

Mick visibly relaxed. “Okay. Great.”

“I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but have you two decided which one of you will do the proposing?” It was a heavy conversation topic, so Whitney tried to lighten the mood. “Are you going to Rock, Paper, Scissors for me?”

Mick threw back his head and laughed. “Honestly, it may come to that. Of course, I’ll have to cheat.”

“To win?”

“To lose,” Mick clarified as the waiter returned with their drinks.

Thrown by that admission, Whitney stumbled through her order. When the waiter left, she stared at Mick. “Why don’t you want me?”

His eyes snapped wide open. He hurriedly grasped her hand. “Whitney, that is so totally not what I meant. God, I love you so much. You are everything to me.”

“But?” She couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t want a chance to be her husband if he loved her so much.

“But marriage isn’t as important to me as it is to Eddie.” He winced as he spoke. “I know how terrible that sounds, but it’s true. To me, marriage is just a piece of paper. I love you just as much today as I will tomorrow and fifty years from now. I don’t need someone else to tell me our commitment is ‘real.’” He drew air quotes. “What we have is already real enough for me.”

“I see.” And she did. Whitney understood his view. It made sense for a man like Mick, but Eddie? No, Eddie was a very traditional sort of man.

“Eddie needs to get married. He needs the wedding and the rings and all that jazz. He wants to give his last name to the woman he loves. It’s very important to him.” Mick squeezed her hand. “And because it’s important to him, it’s important to me.”

Whitney melted as Mick explained his reasoning. “You’re a good man, you know that?”

He cocked his head and bobbed his shoulders. “Yeah, that’s what I hear.”

“You realize I’m going to have crazy, wild sex with you when we get home, right?” Mick spluttered into his drink at her brazen confession. She laughed and picked up her beer. “But first dinner and then dancing.”

* * * *

Eddie leaned his head against the tile and let the hard, pounding spray knead his aching muscles. His wrists and ankles itched something fierce. Damn chiggers and mosquitos! The training grounds had been swarming with the evil little bastards. Thank god they’d finished up their night-assault drills early and had been cut loose. They were lucky to have made it out alive. If they didn’t all come down with West Nile virus, Eddie would be stunned.

He switched off the water and grabbed a towel. He dried off and draped the wet towel over the rack. He didn’t bother with clothing. Home alone, there didn’t seem to be much point. Instead he padded into Mick’s dark bedroom and flopped down in the center of the humongous bed. The ceiling fan spun overhead and cooled his still-overheated body.

Trying to ignore the irritating itch, Eddie thought of Mick and Whitney. He’d expected to find them when he got home, but they’d skipped out for dinner, apparently. Whitney had sent him a text a few hours ago, but he’d heard nothing since. Neither answered their phones when he called to let them know he was on his way home a night earlier than expected. Thankfully the two were together, so he didn’t have to worry. Between the two of them, they could handle things.

He turned over and pressed his cheek to Mick’s pillow. It smelled of Whitney’s shampoo and Mick’s antiperspirant. His cock stirred as the familiar scents ignited something primal within him. He’d always been a smell man. Weird, but there it was.

Eddie considered reaching down to stroke his stiffening cock, but those goddamned bites were driving him batshit. There was no way he could sleep like this. Growling, he rolled over and climbed off the bed. He stalked into the bathroom in search of something, anything, to help with the frustrating itch.

As he dug through the medicine cabinet, Eddie heard the unmistakable sound of the front door unlocking. He went totally still as he listened. Whitney’s high-pitched giggle floated through the house. Mick’s low laugh followed. He heard keys hitting tile, muffled sounds, and then a moan.

What. The. Fuck.

Miserable and itching like crazy, Eddie stomped out of the bathroom and headed toward the living room. He caught Whitney and Mick making out fast and furious in the archway between the entry and living room. Her slim legs were wrapped around Mick’s waist, her skirt kicked up to reveal lace panties. Mick’s hands gripped the backs of her thighs.

So much for the ground rules they’d laid out on day one, Eddie thought angrily. What happened to no two-partner sex? He wondered if this was the first time the two of them had gone at it like this.

“Oh, Dr. O’Loughlin, I have a fever and a terrible ache.”

“I bet I have the perfect medicine for that fever.” He pumped his hips. “Probably need a little physical therapy for that ache, though.”

“Whatever you say, Doctor.”

Mick laughed and kissed her noisily. “We should go find Eddie. Let him hear the good news.”

“You’re right,” Whitney replied excitedly. “Can’t wait to tell him we’re getting married.”

Eddie’s gut clenched painfully. The contents of his stomach lurched, and that gross burrito he’d shoved down threatened to make another appearance. It was fucking Miranda all over again.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Eddie stepped out into the living room, revealing himself fully to the canoodling pair.

“Eddie!” Whitney’s eyes brightened. “You’re home.”

“Hey, man.” Mick lowered Whitney to the floor. “Rocking the no-clothes look tonight?”

“Oh, fucking stow it, Mick.” Eddie’s hand slashed the air. “I heard you, okay? I know what’s going on here. You stole Whitney from me the same way you stole Miranda.” Jaw clenched, Eddie fought the urge to punch out Mick’s lights. “Well, screw the both of you. I’m out of here.”

He spun on his heel and stalked to his bedroom. Whitney called his name, but he didn’t stop. He wasn’t about to wait around for another pitying rejection. He’d had enough of those, thank you very much.

He flipped on the light as he entered and cast a glance around the room. What he needed tonight was a suitcase and enough clothing to get him through a few days.

“Eddie, stop. Right. Now.” Whitney’s furious tone chilled him. “You turn around and talk to me or else I’m going to throw you face down on that bed and use your own belt to whip your ass.”

Slowly, Eddie turned to face her. Her face was beet red, and her eyes flashed. He was suddenly struck by the idea he might have gotten it all wrong. Well. Shit. He’d screwed up again. He’d promised Whitney he would do better, and he’d broken that promise. Real smart, he thought. Now he’d probably lose her for good.

Sighing, Eddie flopped down on the bed and put his head between his hands. The bed dipped as Whitney sat down next to him. Her cool palm caressed his back. He heard her murmuring and glanced over to see her lips moving. “What in the world are you doing?”

She narrowed her green eyes and froze him in place. “I’m praying for wisdom to understand you, love to forgive you, and patience for this crap you sometimes pull. But I’m not praying for strength because if I do, I’ll probably beat you to death.”

Mick guffawed from the doorway. “Amen, sister! Amen!”

Eddie started to tell Mick to fuck off, but Whitney gasped. “Oh my god! Your wrists!” She leaned forward. “Your ankles!”

Eddie lifted his head as she dragged his arm onto her lap. “Chiggers or mosquitos or both.”

“Mainly chiggers,” she said, studying the bites. Like a general, she looked at Mick and ordered, “Go into my bathroom and grab that box of antihistamines, the mouthwash, and some cotton balls.”

Mick frowned. “What the hell are you going to do with mouthwash?”

Whitney scoffed. “And you went to medical school?”

Mick rolled his eyes. “Again, surgeon. Not a dermatologist.”

“Neither am I,” she whispered as she studied Eddie’s red skin. “These must hurt so badly.”

“They itch, mostly,” Eddie replied. He swallowed his pride and added, “I, uh, I think I need to apologize for what just happened.”

“Yes, you do.” Mick handed Whitney the mouthwash and cotton balls before sitting down beside Eddie. He tossed the box of antihistamines onto the night stand. “I’d give you these now, but they’ll probably make you drowsy.”

“Later,” Eddie said. “I’ll take them later.” He blew out a hard breath. “I’m sorry, Whitney. I’m sorry, Mick. I came into the living room and saw the two of you going at it, and I lost it. It was ridiculous of me.”

“It’s okay,” Whitney said with an understanding smile. “I’ve been so skittish lately with the whole sex thing. I can only imagine how that must have felt to see Mick and me pawing at one another when I’ve been turning you down for the last month.”

“And I know what you’re thinking,” Mick chimed in, “and the answer is no. Whitney and I have never slept together without you. We all agreed to three-partner sex, and we’ve stuck to that promise. What you saw tonight was just foreplay.”

“Well,” Whitney interjected with a frown, “not exactly. I was planning on having sex with you.” She shot Eddie an apologetic frown. “I’m sorry.”

Eddie shook his head. “Mick and I were ready to get it on in the kitchen without you that one time.” Eddie’s face was hot with embarrassment. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t right for me to jump to conclusions and snap at you two, especially since I was just as guilty of initiating a two-partner tryst.”

“It’s all right.” Whitney said in her sweet, forgiving voice. “We all make mistakes. We just have to communicate better, okay?”

“Okay.” Eddie watched Whitney unscrew the cap on the bottle of mouthwash and soak a cotton ball in the bright orange fluid. He pulled back when she tried to dab his wrist. “What are you doing?”

“It helps. I promise.” She crossed her heart. “When I was a kid, one of my foster families was all outdoorsy, and we spent, like, the whole summer touring national parks and camping. I hated it at first, but after a while it really grew on me.”

“And you had your first run-in with chiggers?” Eddie guessed.

“Yep. Mrs. Grantham knew all of these folksy home remedies.”

Mick took the bottle from her and studied the ingredients. “Huh,” he said, seemingly surprised. “I bet it’s the benzoic acid.”

“Sure, why not?” Whitney shrugged. “Whatever it is, it works.”

She took hold of Eddie’s arm and held it still while she dabbed at the red patches of bumps on his wrist. Eddie hissed in pain as the liquid stung some of the open spots he’d scratched, but then, blessedly, there was immediate relief of the pain.

“Oh, hell, that feels so good.” He happily complied with Whitney’s directions to hold still as she continued doctoring him up. He shot a teasing smile to Mick. “So much for that MD of yours.”

Mick glowered. “Blow me.”

“Happily,” Eddie said and reached for Mick’s crotch. He yelped when Whitney slapped his hand. “What was that for?”

“We’ll play later. Right now, I want the two of you to tell me about this Miranda person.” Whitney screwed the cap back on the mouthwash and set it aside with the cotton balls. She squeezed in between Eddie and Mick. “Well?”

Eddie sighed loudly and launched into the tale. Whitney listened patiently and never once interrupted, quite an achievement for her. When he finished, Whitney took his hand and Mick’s and said, “I’m not Miranda. I’m Whitney Montcrief. I don’t mess around with people’s emotions. Barring infidelity or domestic violence or something crazy horrible, I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

“Got it,” Mick said and pecked her cheek.

“Okay,” Eddie answered. But what he’d overheard nagged at him. “The marriage thing.”

Whitney huffed and thumped his bicep. “If you hadn’t freaked out, I could have clarified.” She touched his jaw. “I’m going to marry you.”

Eddie replayed what he’d heard earlier and realized he’d misinterpreted her words. We’re getting married. She hadn’t meant her and Mick. She’d meant the two of them.

He looked over at Mick and was surprised to see such joy in the other man’s eyes. “You’re okay with this?”

“I’m thrilled,” Mick answered honestly. “You know me and marriage, Eddie. I love you. I love Whitney. The two of you return that love. That’s enough for me.”

“I’m not choosing,” Whitney clarified. “Marrying you doesn’t mean I love Mick less or vice versa. I don’t want just one of you. I want you both.”

“Good thing,” Eddie said and kissed her. He broke away and took Mick’s mouth, too. “We come as a package deal.”

He wasn’t sure who made the first move, but soon fingers were tearing clothing and undies were flying. Naked and nearly mad with lust, the three of them fell back onto Eddie’s bed with Whitney strategically placed between the two men. Mick clutched at Eddie’s waist as Whitney nibbled his pecs and let her tongue draw lazy circles around his nipples. Eddie met Mick’s hungry gaze over Whitney’s head, and the two of them silently communicated.

“What?” Whitney exclaimed in surprise as Mick pulled her onto her back and Eddie straddled her thighs, pinning her to the bed.

“You first, sugar.” Eddie nipped her lower lip. “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard you scream my name.”

Mick kissed her silly as Eddie worked his way down her body. He licked and bit and kissed every inch of her gorgeous skin. He faltered once, when he came eye to eye with the scar arcing along her belly, but quickly recovered. He pushed the thoughts of that terrible day from his mind and focused on the here and now. And on the stunning beauty who would soon be his wife.

Eddie’s heart threatened to burst. Finally, everything was coming together. He’d have the wife and husband he’d always wanted. The family, the kids…it was perfect. And a bit scary.

But Mick was right when he’d reminded Eddie that some things were simply out of his control. He couldn’t dwell on the risk of everyday life. His energy was far better used loving the people who meant the very most to him.

His tongue dipped into Whitney’s navel and then zigzagged down the sloping plane of her tummy. The musky scent of her arousal engulfed him. He put his hands on her inner thighs and opened them wide. His tongue watered from pussy deprivation. He couldn’t wait to slide his tongue between her juicy folds and suck that pink clit right between his lips.

He parted her pussy with his thumbs and stared at the dusky flesh. Slick, shiny cream dripped from her cunt. He bent down and swiped her opening, gathering the salty fluid on his tongue. The taste of her pussy made his groin tighten. He could eat her all day long and still want more.

She bucked her hips and cried out against Mick’s mouth as Eddie’s tongue flicked over her clit. He took his time stimulating the bud. Slow and easy, his flattened tongue moved up and down and side to side. Above him, Mick caressed and squeezed her breasts. He played with her nipples and made Whitney squirm.

Eddie’s tongue changed pace. A little firmer. A little faster. He slipped two fingers inside her tight channel and pumped shallow. It had been a long while since Whitney had been penetrated. He didn’t want to go in guns blazing and hurt her. Slow and steady wins the race and all that.

She responded so quickly to his thrusting fingers. Her hips swiveled, and she panted in between Mick’s deep kisses. Eddie followed her cues. He suckled her clit, pulling the engorged pearl between his lips and fluttering his tongue over it until she shrieked. Spasms rocked her cunt, her orgasm so strong he felt the pulsation against his lips. That just made him harder and more excited. He didn’t let up on the sensual torture. No, he attacked her pussy with more fervor and made her come again.

Whitney slapped at his head, desperate for him to stop after the second orgasm ripped through her spent body. He relented and lapped at her cunt honey while she caught her breath. He loved the silky sensation of the slippery nectar on his tongue.

Mick slid off the bed and dug around in one of Eddie’s bedside drawers until he found condoms and lube. Since Whitney’s lung was still healing, birth control pills were too risky, so Mick and Eddie had agreed they’d glove up for the foreseeable future to protect her and give her body time to fully heal.

“My turn,” Mick announced as he rolled on a condom.

Eddie laughed and moved over to make room. Grinning, Mick reached for Whitney and repositioned her. She squealed with delight as Mick loomed over her. He took his cock in hand and explored her pussy with the sheathed tip. She moaned and clutched at him, her fingertips grazing his ribs.

Mick thrust inside her, and Whitney rose up to meet him. Eddie nestled close to her side and turned her face so they were nose to nose. She traced his lips with her tongue before kissing him. He palmed her small breast and rubbed his thumb over the hardened peak. She brushed her lips over his. He caught the spark of mischief in her eyes. “What?”

“I want you to take Mick while he takes me.”

A sizzling burn of excitement raced through his groin. He glanced at Mick and received an encouraging smile. “Do it.”

Eddie practically jumped up on his knees and crawled down the bed to get behind Mick, who had gone still inside Whitney. She squirmed impatiently as Eddie globbed lube onto his fingers and prepared Mick. His longtime lover relaxed easily and was soon begging for Eddie’s cock.

“Just fuck me, Eddie.” He reached back and clapped a hand on Eddie’s hip. “Fuck me hard.”

Eddie applied a condom and slathered more lube on the outside of the latex. You could never have enough lubricant when playing around the back door. Besides, it made the experience so much better for everyone involved.

Grasping Mick’s trim hips, Eddie lined up and slowly eased inside his tight hole. Mick groaned as he pushed back against the hard shaft and swallowed inch after inch. Eddie’s head pounded from exhilaration. There was nothing better than watching his cock disappear in Mick.

Eddie sank to the hilt and relished the squeezing grip of Mick’s ass. When Mick thrust forward into Whitney, Eddie followed through and thrust forward, too. It took less than a minute to establish a rhythm that worked for all three of them. Eddie slid an arm around Mick’s chest and curled his fingers around the other man’s jaw. He teethed the sensitive stretch of skin along Mick’s exposed neck as he fucked him hard and deep.

Whitney met his gaze over Mick’s shoulder. Her green eyes smoldered with lust. Her fingernails scratched down his chest. She wanted wild. She wanted dirty. Eddie was more than happy to oblige.

Eddie pushed on Mick’s back until the other man was chest to chest with Whitney. Taking hold of Mick’s waist, Eddie snapped his hips and took him at a breakneck pace. The hammering spurred Mick on in his quest to drive Whitney over the edge. Her heels knocked against Eddie’s ribs as she writhed under Mick, grinding her clit against his pelvis as he rocked in and out of her sweet cunt.

Mick exploded first, his asshole clamping down on Eddie’s plunging cock as he pumped fast and deep in Whitney. Eddie clenched his teeth and breathed slow as he held his building orgasm at bay. Whitney’s shrieks of pleasure nearly undid him. She wriggled underneath Mick, seeking stimulation as she rode the cresting waves of her climax.

Breathing hard, Eddie carefully pulled out of Mick and kissed the other man’s shoulder. Mick looked back at him, his features relaxed in that satiated post-orgasm bliss Eddie recognized so well. Their lips met in a slightly awkward, searching kiss.

Mick turned back to Whitney, stroking her face and brushing hair from her eyes before nibbling her mouth and telling her how much he loved her. Eddie took advantage of the lull to change his condom and then happily slid into the place Mick vacated. Before he could slide home, Whitney put her hands on his shoulders to stop him. “On your back.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He replied with a broad smile and flipped onto his back. If she wanted to hop on for a ride, he was more than happy to play the role of stallion.

Whitney threw her leg over his thighs and pushed up onto her knees. She lifted her backside and took hold of the base of his cock to guide him inside her dripping-wet pussy. He threw back his head and groaned at the amazing sensation of being sheathed in her heat again. Too long, it had been too long.

Eddie wanted it to last. He fought the urge to thrust up or grasp her backside and control her rhythm. No, he let his hands roam her soft body as she swiveled her hips like an exotic dancer. Mick sidled up to Whitney’s back and swept the hair from her shoulders off to one side. He sucked the curve of her neck, probably hard enough to give her a hickey, and cupped her breasts. Eddie’s hands found their natural place on her backside. He clasped the plump cheeks and allowed his hips to lift off the bed to meet every downward movement.

Whitney strummed her clit as she bounced on his dick. Her tongue stole out to lick her lips as she panted. Like a jockey, she rode Eddie for all he was worth. Bouncing, swiveling, snapping-she damn near made his eyes roll back in his head. Her juicy pussy slicked his balls, the sac taut and pulled high against his body. His groin tightened and feet flexed as he tried to stave off his climax. Another minute, he told himself. Thirty seconds. Five. Oh, Christ. Just hold on…

Whitney screamed his name as she came. Mick pinched her nipples and tugged her earlobe between his teeth as she keened. Eddie gripped her waist and hammered into her from beneath. His primitive instincts took hold. Fuck hard. Fuck fast. Push deep.

Growling, he watched her beautiful face contort in ecstasy as his semen rocketed the length of his shaft. It had been a few days since he’d last come, so he worried he might leak out of the condom. With Whitney unprotected, that wasn’t a good thing.

Very gently, he lifted Whitney off his body and transferred her to Mick’s waiting arms. Eddie sucked in a long, steadying breath and waited until he could feel his legs again before sitting up and pushing off the bed. He tidied up after himself and Mick and made a quick segue into the bathroom to dump the used rubbers in the trash. He cleaned himself and brought back two clean washcloths for Mick and Whitney.

The not-so-sexy stuff out of the way, Eddie headed back through the house to check all the doors and shut off lights. He adjusted the A/C a few degrees lower because he was blazing hot and grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen. Back in his room, he tossed back the antihistamines waiting on the bedside table, switched off the lights, and slid into bed.

Whitney snuggled up to his chest and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I love you so much, Eddie.”

“I love you, too, sugar.”

Mick leaned over and pecked Eddie. “Night.”

Eddie returned the kiss. “Night, Mick. Love you.”

“Yeah, I love you, too.” There was a noisy smooch in the dark. “And you.”

Whitney giggled and Mick murmured something low in her ear. Eddie was surprised that he didn’t feel the usual flare of jealousy at being left out of their private moment. Then he realized he wasn’t being left out. He was as much a part of them as ever. Maybe that nosy-ass therapist was right. The dynamics of their relationship were just fine.

Not that Eddie was surprised. Love between friends was the best kind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

While browsing bookstore shelves as a teenager, Lo discovered the erotic writings of Anaïs Nin and A.N. Roquelaure. Certain her mother would not approve, Lo smuggled the books home and squirreled them away in the most likely of places: under her bed. Late at night, she delved into the sensual worlds both writers created.

As a co-ed studying biochemistry and genetics at Texas A &M University, Lo dabbled in creating naughty tales to entertain her friends. Study for a midterm or pen a deliciously dirty story to delight her small band of fans? Not surprisingly, Lo is now on an extended sabbatical from college.

Luckily, Lo stumbled onto the world of erotic romance publishers. She realized there were other readers and writers who loved and craved breathtaking romance with the spiciest of love scenes. She took a chance and submitted her first novella. The rest is history.

Lo lives in Texas with her husband, daughter, and big blubbering Great Dane with mommy issues.

Lolita Lopez

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