Read an Excerpt
Wicked Pleasure: Part Two
By Lora Leigh
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Lora Leigh
All rights reserved.
"You're angry." Courtney led the way into the large sitting room of her suite and glanced at Jaci over her shoulder as Jaci was closing the door carefully behind them.
Jaci turned and watched as Courtney drew a bottle of wine from the minifridge and gathered two glasses.
"Has Ian shared you with Cam?"
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Jaci clenched her teeth and stood by them, though. She wasn't going to apologize for the question. So she crossed her arms over her breasts and stared firmly back at her friend.
Courtney rolled her eyes. "Really, Jaci, do you think I'd allow something such as that? I've known from the beginning what Cam was to you. I would never overstep those bounds. No matter how luscious he is." She winked shamelessly.
And Courtney wouldn't lie to her about it. Jaci knew that her friend, despite her often careless attitude, had a streak of honesty within her a mile wide. She might talk around a subject, she might lie shamelessly to her enemies, but with a friend, she was scrupulously honest.
"Come on, let's relax a bit," Courtney ordered, her voice firm as she plopped down on the couch, glasses and wine in hand. "I'll explain all the complex little rules of the world you've suddenly found yourself in. It's really quite unique and interesting."
Jaci sat down, accepted the wine, and watched Courtney warily. "Do I really want to hear this?"
"Of course you do." Courtney laughed. "Just imagine, Jaci, a group of men whose main focus, whose only thoughts are not just the pleasure but the protection of their women. In exchange for the greatest pleasure a woman can ever receive, by allowing their husbands, their lovers, a single sexual desire, whether they know it or not, they've gained the protection of hundreds. It's really pretty amazing, wouldn't you think?"
"It's really pretty far-fetched."
"But it isn't, Jaci. They have rules. Clear rules. And breaking those rules comes with quick, decisive punitive actions. Complete faithfulness, just to begin with. The men share their women, but those women never have to fear sharing their lovers or husbands, as long as they're with them. Spousal abuse is not allowed, and God forbid if one of those members should abuse his child. They protect their own and they punish their own, and the main reason for the club's existence is that protection. To provide a base of trustworthy men, single men who share the same needs, who understand the code the club was formed upon. A base of protection for themselves and their women. A place to come together with those who understand, and who can be trusted. The club has existed without detection for two hundred years because of that code, and because of the security they enact themselves. For our sakes. It really isn't so bad, being claimed by a member of the club."
"I won't be claimed."
"But my dear, Cam has already taken care of that. Already, members are contacting Ian, the whispers of the Robertses' campaign is drawing concern from them. They're ready to act in your favor, to protect you and to protect Cameron. It's too late to worry about being claimed, Jaci. That claiming is what allowed Ian to make certain you did get the job, despite the accusations the Robertses have spread against you."
Jaci lifted the wineglass to her lips and drained it before extending it for a refill. She didn't bother to reply until she had drained that one as well.
Maybe she needed something stronger than wine.
"Courtney, have you considered that perhaps this code you think the club runs by is no more than a thinly veiled illusion? Where's the honor, when a man expects his wife to take another man to their bed?" But she knew better, she knew Cam's hunger — trying to understand what drove it was making her insane, though.
Courtney eased herself deeper into the corner of the couch and drew her legs beneath her.
"There's honor in a pleasure so extreme, so all-consuming that a woman is left so completely sated she can barely move. Ian chose our third very carefully, Jaci. A man he knew was no risk to the emotional bond we share, one he knew would protect me, should anything happen when he wasn't around."
"And when that third decides to find his own lover or wife?" Jaci asked in disbelief. "What then, Courtney?"
"Then Ian and I will decide if another third is required or not." Courtney sipped at her wine. Jaci downed another half glass.
"Does he ..." She waved her hand as she flushed in embarrassment. "Is he bisexual?"
Courtney's eyes rounded before a burst of laughter escaped her. "Do you think Ian's bisexual, Jaci?"
No, she had to admit he didn't.
"God, I'm going to lose my mind on this job." She shook her head and held out the wineglass. "You could have warned me. I hate you for not warning me, Courtney. I'm going to hate you forever for not warning me." Of course, she really wouldn't ... maybe.
"Oh, really? Would you have believed me?" Courtney waved the accusation away.
Jaci had to admit, it would have been hard to swallow, but she would have believed it.
"You should have warned me," she said again. "You don't know what I'm facing here, Courtney. Dealing with the Robertses will be bad enough, but now Cam's determined to get answers. Fighting them both is going to be hell."
"Why not just tell Cam the truth? Come on, Jaci, let him protect you. Let the club protect you. This is why it was created, why it still thrives. Your reputation is beyond reproach, as far as they're concerned. But they can't protect you without knowing what they're protecting you from."
Jaci shook her head. She wished she could tell Courtney. Sometimes the need to share the horror of that night was like an acid inside her soul. And the only person who knew couldn't allow herself to be associated with Jaci. If she did, then the plan they had put together would never work.
"Why do you hold their secrets, Jaci?" Courtney asked quietly, referring to the Robertses.
Jaci breathed out roughly. "How far can I trust you, Courtney?"
Courtney watched her, compassion filling her eyes. She sighed heavily.
"Don't tell me what happened, or I'll have to tell Ian. I can't hide that from him, because I'm as bound by the club rules as he is. But anything else, that stays between us."
"Anyone who knows Cam, even years ago, knew he always kept his word. Whether it was a promise or a threat."
"His reputation still stands, then." Courtney nodded.
"He swore he'd kill any man who hurt me," she whispered. "He made it a warning and a vow, Courtney. And there will be nothing I can do to stop him if he decides it's deserved. I won't be responsible for it. This isn't his fight."
"Have you ever told anyone what happened?" she asked.
Jaci's laugh was bitter. "The first month, someone I believed was a friend came very close to knowing. I found out he was a very close friend of the Robertses. And he believed everything they said about me." She shrugged. "They beat me to the punch. Their lies came before I could ever tell the truth. Now I would look like a liar, covering my own ass, and Cam would do something incredibly male and incredibly stupid because he made a promise. I won't allow that."
"And his need to share you with Chase?" Courtney asked. "That's not why you're fighting a relationship with him, is it Jaci?"
She shook her head. "I came here determined to do this job, to face the Robertses and win. Then I was going to find Cam. But I can't deal with both issues at once. I won't deal with it. After the job is finished, after the Robertses realize that striking out at me is a wasted effort, maybe then I can see where this can go."
Courtney shook her head at that. "Cam won't wait on that, Jaci."
She finished her wine and sat the glass on the table before turning back to her friend. "He doesn't have a choice."
And to that, Courtney smiled. A slow, amused, sympathetic smile. "I think you're going to learn, my friend, that it's you who won't have a choice. Once a club member has chosen his woman, they rarely go back on that vow. Ian knows of only one, in the entire history of the club, to do so, and I promise you, he's regretting it each second of his life. Cam won't wait. And I don't think you want him to."
Her friend's eyes twinkled. "And some men do have some interesting ways of making certain that the word 'no' never passes a lady's lips again."
She was not going to ask. She was not going to ask. She didn't want to know what those ways were, or why Courtney looked so deliciously lost in thought over them.
"How did I know this job was going to make me insane?" She leaned forward, lifted her glass from the table, and held it out to Courtney once again. A refill. Just a little bit more false courage. "Anytime you're near, everything goes crazy."
"I know." Courtney smiled with smug satisfaction. "That's why I'm so much fun to be around."
"We might need another bottle after that comment."
Courtney laughed softly. "So, you'll be at the party tonight?" she asked, pouring Jaci another small measure of the fruity wine.
At that question, Jaci smiled. This time, it was her smile that caused concern to flicker in Courtney's eyes.
"I'll be there," she drawled.
"Only if he arrives at the same time I do." She toasted her friend with her glass. "And I wouldn't bet on that happening, Courtney. I really wouldn't."
She may have no choice but to attend the party, but Cam was going to find out that she didn't do orders very well at all. If he had claimed her, well, he could just learn what claiming her very well meant.
One of her greatest fears was being overwhelmed by his dominance and his sexuality. She had always feared she couldn't stand up to him, couldn't deny him. She was going to have to prove to herself and to him that she could. And she was going to have it do it at the same time that she was battling her nemesis.
Damn, why hadn't she just called Cam to begin with five years ago and let him wipe the floor with Roberts and have it done with? At that time, Cam might have restrained himself to beating the hell out of the other man, rather than killing him.
But she was afraid, very afraid, that after all this time, after all they had done to attempt to destroy her, Cam just might kill him after all.
* * *
Getting a woman's body and getting her heart are two different things. And gaining her trust is another problem entirely.
Cam wasn't exactly inept when it came to women, but for years, gaining their trust hadn't been one of his primary concerns. At least, no more than it had taken to get into their beds. That was an entirely different sort of trust, and he knew it.
And he didn't have Jaci's complete trust.
It was a startling realization, the knowledge that the woman he had claimed as his own didn't trust him enough to allow him to protect her.
He snorted at the thought of that one as he pulled the Harley into the underground garage of the converted warehouse he and Chase had bought just after accepting Ian Sinclair's offer five years before.
Two stories, cavernous and open; he and his brother had worked in their spare time for years, turning it into a livable space. The open rooms, tall windows, and spaciousness appealed to his need for freedom. After the ambush in Afghanistan, Cam had needed space, room to roam and to heal, after the military had returned him to the states.
Even worse than the need for space at that time had been the need for touch. It was then that he learned how finicky women could be. He and Chase had always appealed to women; it had been a shock to look in the mirror and realize the damage that had been done to his body, but even more surprising had been others' reactions to it. Everything from fascination to complete disgust. And he'd found, just because a woman wanted to live on the wild side for a little bit, it didn't mean that she had to appreciate the body that pulled her into the dark excesses that inhabited that side of her sexuality.
Yet, Jaci had touched him gently, with sorrow. And as she had, the need to take her without Chase had risen inside him.
His body tightened at the memory of that, as he moved quickly up the stairs to the first level of the "house." There, he strode first to the fridge and the cold beer waiting inside, twisted off the cap, flipped it into the garbage, then tilted the beer to his lips.
A long, cold drink later, he leaned against the counter and stared around the open room. There was an enclosed bathroom, shower, and Jacuzzi garden tub on the other side of the huge room. One side of the wall was thick, shadowed glass.
There was the kitchen and work island where he stood, just inside the doorway, then the room spread out into a living area, with sectional couches, thickly cushioned chairs, and a wide-screen television. There was a pool table and several old pinball machines behind that. Then, enclosed by filmy screens, was Cam's bedroom.
The king-size bed and matching unfinished furniture filled that corner of the room.
Upstairs was the weight room, home office, and Chase's bedroom and bath, as well as a kitchenette. As Chase had explained, sometimes a man just wanted a sandwich without trudging down the stairs.
And sometimes he needed his women alone. Sometimes he craved taking Jaci alone.
Chase didn't suffer from the darkness as often as Cam did. Sometimes Cam wondered if his twin couldn't live happily without ever sharing another woman.
Hell, Cam knew he could live without it. He did. Often. But sometimes, the memories crowded inside him, tore at him, and the need became a wrenching, brutal hunger that only increased the longer he ignored it.
Chase understood that hunger. He may not understand how Cam had come by it, but he knew the hunger.
He rubbed at the scars on his chest. The slashing scars weren't just from the bullets or the knife used during the attack. There were scars he had gained from the three days he'd spent as a prisoner of the small band of terrorists that had captured him and his team.
That agony was a joke, compared to other memories, though. Physical pain was a hell of a lot easier to forget than the broken memories of the three years of living hell after his parents had died and his aunt had been left to care for them.
His fingers tightened around the bottle as he restrained the urge to hurl it across the room. Hell, he'd just have to clean it up. And he'd long since grown tired of cleaning up the messes his rage had induced.
He relaxed his fingers slowly, inhaled deeply, and forced himself to remember the fresh, clean smell of Jaci's body, rather than the smell of fucking rose perfume, stale sex, and liquor.
He finished off the beer, breathed in roughly, then strode to the cordless phone at the center island. Jerking the phone from the base, he made a quick call to the exclusive boutique several streets from the hotel.
Speaking to the owner, he gave her his request — Jaci's size and coloring — and authorized the credit card transaction. Mrs. Lisette Miles, the owner of the boutique, was ecstatic with the sale, and more than happy to make certain the purchase was delivered to Ms. Wright at her hotel.
With that accomplished, he allowed a small, tight smile to touch his lips and moved quickly to the shower. Tonight he would try to seduce her into trusting him. Gaining her trust couldn't be that damned hard. Hell, she knew him, knew he would kill for her, knew he would do whatever it took to protect her. God help anyone who tried to hurt her, because he'd make certain they paid for it.
He'd stayed out of her life for seven years because he'd known she wasn't ready for him. Known he wasn't ready for her. She would come to him when she was ready. That was what he'd told himself over the years. He'd made certain her parents knew where he was, made certain he knew where she was working at any given time, and that she could find him if she needed him.
He wasn't a stalker. He wasn't obsessed. He just knew who his heart belonged to, just as he'd realized he may never have what he needed from her. The hardest part was the fear that he couldn't be what she needed. A part of him realized that, accepted it. He might never be the man she needed, but he couldn't walk away from her now.
He could have lived without her; he was living without her — until she arrived here, in his territory. She had come to him.
He shed his clothes and stepped beneath the shower, his teeth clenching as he fought back the dominance that raged inside him.
He had been living fine without her, but he was going to live better with her, and starting tonight she would learn that.
She was going to fight him, he could feel it, and it was more exhilarating than he could describe. She would challenge him, she would meet him head-on and make him work for what he wanted.
When was the last time he'd had to work for a damned thing, other than to get the information he dug up during the investigations he and Chase dove into? Sometimes that was work; but women had never been work. If one wasn't interested, then he could find another that was. No big deal, because none of them was Jaci.
Now, it was Jaci.
Excerpted from Wicked Pleasure: Part Two by Lora Leigh. Copyright © 2016 Lora Leigh. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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