“You look tired.”
At those words, Abby Gaines delivered a glare toward Christian
Sanchez, the good-looking Latino man sitting next to her who
just happened to be one of her dearest friends.
“Gee, thanks,” Abby replied. “Remind me to return the compliment
one day when you start to lose your hair.”
“Don’t you even dare put that out into the universe.” Christian
ran a hand through his raven locks. An obviously exaggerated
shudder shook his frame. “And here I thought we were friends.”
A chuckle rumbled through the big man sitting next to Christian.
“Don’t worry, babe.” Jonah Roberts, Christian’s partner, leaned
over and pecked a kiss to the side of Christian’s head. “I’ll
still love you, bald or not.” He stayed close to Christian
and whispered in the man’s ear, “And I’ll still fuck you through
the bed every night too.”
Abby tried to control the blush working its way over her
cursed pale skin. She didn’t know if Jonah had intended for
her to hear that comment -- the man had a tendency to say
inappropriate things sometimes without realizing they were
so -- but his words had reached her, and she couldn’t help
the slice of envy it cut through her…or the images of two
other men it conjured in her mind.
Rodrigo Santiago and Braden Crenshaw.
Abby groaned on the inside. She told herself it was a groan,
anyway, and not a moan accompanied by a throb and moisture
pooling between her legs.
After going nearly three years without feeling the slightest
attraction to any man, Abby had met these two guys ten months
ago and could get neither out of her mind.
She hated it. Hated what both men stirred in her, something
long dormant, something she would rather not feel. Not the
sexual attraction -- she could suppress that well enough.
She had successfully been doing so since pretty much the first
day she’d met tall, dark Rodrigo, and then a few days later,
Detective Crenshaw, with his cool pale green eyes, which Abby
suspected hid amazing heat and fire. She could handle a healthy
case of lust.
But vulnerability? No. Each man dredged up that uncomfortable
sensation individually. When together, they pretty much knocked
her on her ass.
Not ever again.
Images from the dreams that had started again a few weeks
ago assaulted Abby right where she sat -- sounds of gunshots,
the internal scream of cramped muscles from crouching and
shivering for an extended period of time, the red stickiness
saturating the carpet under her bare feet, the ice-cold feel
of her mother’s cheek…
“Abby?” Christian touched her shoulder, and Abby jumped about
a foot out of her chair. “Are you okay?”
“You look pale,” Jonah added. He shifted forward on the couch
and studied her through a narrowed gaze. “More than normal,
I mean.” His jaw immediately clenched. “Sorry. I didn’t say
Abby reached out and squeezed Jonah’s forearm. “It’s all
right. I am tired.” She tried to scrub grit from her eyes
that had been there all day. “But I’m fine.”
Christian didn’t look convinced. “I’m worried about you.
You’ve been tired a lot lately.”
“I’ve been busy. Have too much on my mind to sleep.” At least
that was technically true. “Maybe it’s time to try get to
bed early and see if that helps. Thanks for the dinner invitation,
guys” -- Abby grabbed her purse off the floor and got to her
feet -- “but I think I’m going to pass.” She dipped down and
pressed kisses to Christian’s and Jonah’s cheeks. “Tell the
boys hi for me.”
Even better. Maybe the nightmares would serve one
good purpose after all. I don’t have to sit across from
Rodrigo and Braden for three hours and pretend I don’t notice
every move each of them makes.
Christian shot upright and strode with Abby to his front
“You don’t have to go,” Jonah added, towering right behind
“Yes, I do. It’s not you two.” She gave them each another
squeeze. “The truth is, I am exhausted. I accepted your dinner
invitation because I love you both but also because I’m avoiding
going up to my rooms alone.” She detected only the slightest
strain in her voice and was proud of herself for that. “I’m
going to have to do it at some point. It might as well be
now, when I can maybe lie down and catch up on some sleep.
Otherwise, I’m just avoiding it until midnight.”
A ding went off somewhere in the house just then.
“That’s me.” Christian backed down the shotgun hallway toward
the kitchen. “The mojo pork is finished. Are you sure you
don’t want to stay and eat? You look like you’ve lost a little
bit of weight.”
Abby rolled her eyes at Christian and then looked up at Jonah.
“Can you go kiss him or something and shut him up for me?”
That flash of life that Christian had told Abby he had fallen
in love with appeared in Jonah’s eyes right then. “Will do.”
He winked and already started walking backward toward his
man. “Talk to you later, sweetheart.”
She hung still for a moment, the front door open at her back,
watching as Jonah tugged Christian to him. Jonah took Christian’s
mouth with a kiss that had Christian moaning and wrapping
his arms around Jonah’s waist in a pair of seconds. As Abby
stared, the image of the two men blurred and morphed into
a tall Colombian being ravished by an even taller brown-haired
man with a badge. Rather than Christian and Jonah, Braden
now held Rodrigo’s jaw with a white-tipped grip and ate at
his mouth like the man needed it to survive. Rodrigo clung
to Braden just as hard and dug his hands into the back of
Braden’s jeans, pulling him somehow closer to grind their
crotches together. Abby saw the two men kissing, clear as
day, in her mind. Then it changed, and she saw herself walking
toward them, completely naked. The moment she joined in and
they both turned to kiss her, her pussy throbbed and swelled
in response right where she stood.
No! Stop. Recently Abby had taken her unwanted attraction
to Rodrigo and Braden and, in her thoughts, had them turn
that desire onto each other. She’d created some powerful fantasies
that had driven her to a handful of insanely intense climaxes,
wherein she shouted each man’s name as she came. Apparently
she’d done it so many times she was starting to bring that
dream out of her bed and into the real world. No more.
I have to get out of here.
She closed the door, spun away, and came face-to-face with
the flesh-and-blood versions of her most recent vision.
Holy Mary, full of grace.
Abby almost could not breathe.
A handful of steps ahead of Braden, Rodrigo led the way up
the porch, and he was stunning. Abby had spent time with this
man for nearly a year now, and she still had trouble swallowing
each time she took first sight of him. The man owned his own
contracting business. He spent most of his days doing the
physical labor of refurbishing houses, and his body showed
it. He possessed a near-perfect physique that came from hard
work; Abby had seen Rodrigo without a shirt on and could personally
attest to the wide shoulders, taut chest, and flat abdomen
hidden under his clothes. She’d seen his deeply tanned skin
covered in a sheen of perspiration and could picture it, right
now, under the button-down shirt, dark brown leather jacket,
and jeans he wore.
Abby’s heart rate sped up, and her skin started to heat under
her clothes. She jerked her stare away from Rodrigo, to land
it on the only other man she found as arresting as she did
Braden Crenshaw, with his intense eyes, slightly crooked
nose, and stubble-covered jaw, often had Abby thinking about
what his already harsh face would look like in the throes
of a mind-shattering release. The winter months had taken
away some of Braden’s tan, but he still had her pale coloring
beat by a mile. He owned an inch or two on Rodrigo’s height,
which was no small feat. Standing somewhere around six-feet-three
or four, Braden had lanky cowboy legs, right now encased in
dark jeans; a lightweight, snug sweater covered a long torso,
sinewy shoulders, and swimmer’s arms. A chill hung in the
January Florida air but Abby didn’t have to rub herself against
Braden to know he would be toasty warm.
She squeezed her hand around the screen door’s handle as
both Rodrigo and Braden made it to the porch. Together, they
crackled the air around her, and Abby instinctually leaned
in to breathe the combined scents of almonds and juniper.
She caught herself just seconds before sticking her nose into
each man’s nape, and she jerked back, fixing her gaze on her
car parked on the side of the road beyond them.
Yeah. I don’t have my game face on firmly enough to handle
these guys tonight.
Taking a figurative deep breath, Abby pushed past both men.
“Later, boys.” She employed her lightest, brightest tone.
“Can’t stay. Have a good night.” She traipsed down the first
“Hey.” Rodrigo grabbed her arm but went down with her a couple
of steps rather than jerking her back to him. “Where are you
running off to, Bit? Scared to sit across from me?” His fingers
burned through her sleeve worse than a brand, and Abby felt
naked against his onyx gaze. She always did when he looked
“You still haven’t let me finish telling you why you need
me to renovate that hellhole of a building of yours,” he added.
Verbal sparring was part of Rodrigo’s MO with her. On most
days, it charged Abby up, and she relished getting in his
face and giving it back just as good as he gave. Tonight,
she thought one good jab from him might take her down in a
Can’t let that happen in front of him.
Abby planted her free hand on her hip and glared up at the
stubborn man. “My place passes every inspection and has never
had a code violation, Rodrigo.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s the best it can be.” Rodrigo shot
that statement back to her before she finished speaking his
name. “Or its most appealing to your customers.”
“My business does just fine.” Abby tugged against Rodrigo’s
hold and heard herself growl. She didn’t tell him how to refurbish
and flip houses; he damned well better not think he knew how
to sell vintage clothes or design jewelry better than she
did. “Thank you very much.”
Rodrigo bared his teeth right back at her. “I wasn’t implying
you don’t, Bit, and you fucking well know it.”
“Don’t call me that.” She pulled against his hold again.
Braden stepped closer. With his additional height, plus the
fact that he remained on the landing, he towered over Abby
and Rodrigo. “Let her go, Santiago.”
Rodrigo flashed those dark eyes up at Braden. “You back off,
Crenshaw. You know nothing about this subject.”
This time, Braden wrapped his hand around Rodrigo’s arm.
His jade gaze could not have been icier. “Not tonight.” He
spoke through clenched teeth. “Let. Her. Go.”
A battle of wills seemed to war between the two men for a
half dozen heartbeats, and something new instantaneously ramped
up the electrical charge already in the air. The zap of it
sent a tremble through Abby. She darted her gaze between Rodrigo
and Braden and felt singed by the invisible fire licking between
the space of their bodies.
They could kill each other or fuck each other right now.
Might not matter which.
Abby gasped as the truth hit her. Whether these men knew
it or not -- and she suspected they didn’t -- they wanted
each other. Except she’d been with enough men before her dry
spell to know about chemistry and could sense when a man had
some sexual interest in a woman. She’d gotten that vibe off
Rodrigo and Braden both -- toward her. Only now the sparks
flying through the air were definitely between these two men.
The image of each of them tangled with her and then wound
all around each other, with cries of completion and raw words
of encouragement sounding in her ears, took Abby over completely,
making her whimper and terrifying her to her core.
I can’t know this about them. Or me. Not right now.
Rodrigo suddenly ripped his hand away from her as if someone
had burned him. “I apologize.” He reached out, looking as
if he wanted to touch her arm where he’d held it, but then
snapped his hand back to his side. “I didn’t mean to hurt
Hearing the slight gruffness in Rodrigo’s tone forced a small
smile out of Abby. “You didn’t. I promise. But I have to go.”
She touched his arm, hardly daring to brush more than her
fingers over the hard muscles, let alone give him a reassuring
squeeze. It would have to be enough. “Good night.”
Without waiting for another word, Abby tore down the stairs
to her car. As she started the finicky engine, praying that
the car would run, she didn’t dare look back at the two men
she could feel still watching her from the porch.
Between the nightmares plaguing her again and the fantasies
she continued to conjure about herself, Rodrigo, and Braden
becoming rapidly more explicit by the day, Abby didn’t know
what was real or just her imagination anymore.
What is happening to me?
Rodrigo watched Abby drive away from Christian and Jonah’s
house, and he could barely contain the storm brewing inside
him. He glared down at the hand wrapped firmly around his
forearm and just now couldn’t care enough to freak out that
the fingers Braden Crenshaw dug into his flesh seared right
through Rodrigo’s clothing and marked him with fire.
The twist in my belly doesn’t matter either.
Rodrigo lifted his stare from Braden’s crushing hold and
met a pale gaze that too often made him sweat. “Take your
fucking hand off me, Crenshaw.”
Instead of releasing Rodrigo, Braden glanced toward the door
at his back and then pulled Rodrigo down the porch steps to
the front yard. He spun Rodrigo around until they faced each
other before finally letting him go.
Braden leaned in, narrowing the already small distance between
them. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He kept his voice
hissing low. “Couldn’t you see Abby wasn’t up for your brand
of charm tonight?”
“I’m not a complete jackass.” Christ, forget the butterflies
in my stomach. Now I just want to slug him one in the mouth.
“Of course I could see it. The problem is, she hasn’t been
up for it in weeks, which is exactly why she needs it.” Rodrigo
let his line of sight shift down the street, but Abby was
already long gone. His chest tugged at the memory of the too-bright
light that hadn’t quite covered the clouds in the woman’s
deep blue eyes. “Something is eating at her, Braden.” Rodrigo’s
voice lost some of its edge as Abby slipped front and center
into his thoughts. “She’s starting to hide. Whatever is bothering
her, it won’t help to keep isolating herself from her friends.”
“And your constant poking while she’s dealing with some personal
issue is going to get her to open up?” Braden leaned back
on the heels of his dark boots and settled his arms against
his chest. “Is that what you think?”
His jaw clenched, Rodrigo stepped in and eliminated half
the distance between them. “I don’t actually expect her to
open up to me.” He gave Braden a once-over and, for
the moment, ignored the fact that his gaze lingered on strong
arms and long, work-roughened fingers for just a hair too
long. “Or even to you. However, there are two guys
in this house” -- he stabbed a finger toward the front door
-- “she might confide in if forced to be in their company
for more than five minutes.”
“So that’s why you were trying to get her to stay,” Braden
said, fully focused on Rodrigo.
Rodrigo rubbed the back of his neck to settle the raised
“It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that you get
half-hard every time she rises to your bait?” Braden glanced
down, and Rodrigo followed him to the unmistakable start of
a bulge pushing against Rodrigo’s jeans. “It’s purely altruistic,”
Braden said as he blinked and met Rodrigo’s gaze with knowledge
shining in his own. “Right?”
Heat surged through Rodrigo; he had his hand twisted in Braden’s
sweater and the man hauled up against the base of the porch
in two moves. “How hard anyone makes me for whatever reason
is none of your goddamn business.” Rodrigo gritted his teeth
and shoved even closer into the bastard. “You hear me?”
Each breath Braden took rolled his chest in a wave under
Rodrigo’s hand and brushed warm air over Rodrigo’s lips. Their
bodies touched in other places too, and Rodrigo prayed the
half wood he sported for Abby covered the unwanted twitching
he could not control right now, something he feared was happening
entirely due to Braden.
Adrenaline is still pumping and has me getting harder
because of Abby. That’s all.
“You’re right. It’s not my business,” Braden finally said.
A small catch in his voice had Rodrigo narrowing his gaze.
“And I know you genuinely care about Abby. It was a cheap
shot to bring in the fact that you are so obviously attracted
to her just to make my point.”
What the fuck?
Rodrigo suddenly felt like Abby on the other side of one
of his taunts. “Are you baiting me now, Crenshaw?” His blood
sped up more than a little at the thought.
Braden searched Rodrigo’s face for the longest time, each
flick of his gaze instilling the sensation of a roller-coaster
ride in Rodrigo’s stomach.
“Maybe,” Braden said, making the word feel like as much a
caress as his scrutiny did. “Maybe I’m just envious.”
Rodrigo reared. “What?” Of me, or her? He untangled
his hand from Braden’s sweater, horrified at his thoughts.
He wasn’t gay, for God’s sake. Neither was Braden, for that
matter. Rodrigo took a half dozen more steps back, searching
for air that didn’t have this man’s scent mixed in it. “Why
would you say that?”
“Because Abby obviously likes you back.” Braden smoothed
his hands down the front of his sweater. He didn’t move, and
Rodrigo was grateful for it. “She gets all flushed when you
guys go at it. Something lights up in her when she’s close
to you. She wouldn’t do that if she didn’t care about you
and like you for who you really are beneath this macho guy
who thinks he knows what’s right for everyone.”
Rodrigo bit down the sharp retort building inside him, boiling
to explode. He fucking owned his own business; of course he
was used to telling people what to do and being the boss.
This man wouldn’t get under his skin twice in ten minutes.
“I don’t know about that,” Rodrigo said. Images of a tall,
creamy body, fiery long hair, and ocean blue eyes filled Rodrigo’s
mind and once again got his balls swelling in the snug confines
of his jeans. “About Abby, I mean.”
“I do,” Braden answered. “Just like I know you’re right when
you say something is troubling her. Just because I don’t spar
with her the way you do doesn’t mean I can’t sense the distraction
in her too.”
Son of a mother.
Rodrigo went back to wanting to strangle this man. “Then
why the fuck did you let her go?”
“Goddamn it, man.” Braden ran his fingers through his dark
hair, exposing the strands of silver mixed in, most prominently
at the temples. “Because she wasn’t ready to talk about what
is plaguing her, that’s why. If you could have stopped yourself
for one minute and stepped back from your certainty that you
were right, you would have seen that.” The guy scratched at
his neck, silent for a moment. When he spoke again, his tone
had lost most of its edge. “Give Abby time, Rodrigo. When
she’s ready for help, she’ll ask.”
A snort escaped Rodrigo. “You don’t know Abby so well after
Braden linked his hands behind his back and didn’t so much
as blink. “I think I do.”
The quiet certainty in Braden’s tone and the intensity in
his stare ignited a flame of jealousy in Rodrigo. It also
delivered the shock of a phantom hand -- coarse and big, like
another man’s -- down his spine.
Why does this keep happening to me around him?
Rodrigo tore his focus off Braden and wiped his hand over
his mouth. “Listen, I need to get out of here. Tell Chris
and Jonah sorry for me, will you?” He turned and started jogging
to his truck. “Let Chris know I’ll give him a call about our
next job in a few days.”
“I know you too, Santiago.” Braden’s voice -- so fucking
even and smooth -- carried across the front yard and stopped
Rodrigo dead in his tracks.
Fucking A. No way did you figure me out. Please.
“Don’t follow her home,” Braden added, and Rodrigo started
breathing again. “She won’t thank you for it.”
With one twist of his lower half, Rodrigo did an about-face
and cleared the distance between them once more. “Maybe you
don’t know me as well as you think you do, Crenshaw.” He couldn’t
resist wiping that slash of a secret grin off Braden’s face.
“I’m not going to Abby’s.”
The man’s pupils barely flared. “Convince me.”
Once again, Rodrigo tamped down the rise of heat inside him
and kept his hands unclenched. “You have no right to my personal
business. I don’t have to say a word. But since it’s the only
thing that will take your arrogance down a notch, I will tell
you.” Discomfort that reached further inside Rodrigo, a hundred
times deeper and a thousand times different than what Abby
or this man brewed in him, had Rodrigo shifting his gaze to
the streetlight highlighting his truck. “While on my way here,
I talked to my” -- he still stumbled spitting out the word
-- “father on the phone, and we made loose plans to meet for
a late dinner.” Rodrigo rubbed at the tension lines forming
over his brow. “I’m not really up for that either, though,
so I’m gonna cancel it and go home. I have plenty of work
I still need to do before I start my next house.”
“Hey,” Braden said, his voice suddenly soft. He tugged on
Rodrigo’s jacket and drew Rodrigo back to him. “How’s it going
with your dad?”
Six months ago, out of the blue, a man had contacted Rodrigo,
claiming to be his father. The guy seemed certain and definitely
knew things about Rodrigo’s late mother that would have been
tough to research. Rodrigo had still needed proof. One DNA
test later and Rodrigo suddenly had a new parent.
The open interest in Braden tugged Rodrigo closer. “It’s
strange. I never thought of myself as having a father somewhere,
even though I know I wasn’t an immaculate conception.” Shaking
his head, Rodrigo let out a rough chuckle. “Gotta say, I never
looked in the mirror once and saw a…a…”
Braden quirked a brow. “A redneck looking back at you?”
“A white man,” Rodrigo clarified, “period, let alone a rural
good ol’ boy.” Nothing in Rodrigo’s physical appearance, except
perhaps his height, bore any resemblance to the man he’d met
with multiple times now. “I always figured he must have been
another Colombian who maybe got deported or something. Shit,
I don’t know. I’m thirty-four years old. It’s” -- Rodrigo
gestured with his hands, as if the motion would help find
the right words -- “bizarre and surreal to look at this person
I never knew existed and know that half my DNA is from him.”
Braden dipped down and made eye contact with Rodrigo. “Are
you okay with knowing him?”
Rodrigo shrugged. “Getting there. It’s still awkward a lot
of the time. We have the blue-collar, hard-labor thing in
common, so that helps some.”
“You have plenty white collar in you too, Rodrigo. Don’t
downplay your accomplishments for anyone. Long-lost father
Braden didn’t move a muscle, but Rodrigo swore he could feel
the man’s hand gently run down his back in support.
“Believe me” -- Rodrigo reached up and undid the button suddenly
choking him -- “every time payroll and taxes come around,
I remember just how much white starches this thing around
my neck.” He flashed an alpha-dog smile. “Got too much ego
to ever forget that I’m the boss, remember?”
One step and Braden nearly rode Rodrigo’s front. “That’s
right. You are.” The man curled his hand around Rodrigo’s
neck, and Rodrigo jerked at the contact. Braden stayed with
him, gazes locked in laser mode, as Braden manipulated the
necklines of Rodrigo’s shirt and jacket. “Just straightening
that white collar for you,” Braden said. He slid his hand
around to the front; before he moved away, the tips of his
fingers lingered against the column of Rodrigo’s throat. “Looks
Holy shit. That is totally the kind of flirty move I
would put on Abby. Isn’t it?
A whole lot of blood rushed south, killing Rodrigo’s ability
to think rationally. “Th-thanks.”
“I’ll tell Christian and Jonah you had to leave.” Braden
loped up the steps to the porch. “Good night.”
“Yeah. Later.” Rodrigo spun and strode to his truck, climbing
in without looking back, just as Abby had done with him.
The truth was, that clever son of a bitch Braden had been
right. Rodrigo had intended to go check on Abby. Rodrigo hadn’t
lied, though. He had exchanged a “maybe we can grab a burger
together later” conversation with his father, but Rodrigo
easily could have dropped in on Abby first.
Rodrigo figured it was damn near impossible for Abby to be
anything less than beautiful, but he knew what tired looked
like on a face. Knew what fear looked like too. He’d seen
it in Abby more than once in the last few weeks. Nobody who
was tired and scared should be left alone to sit and dwell
on the things making him or her exhausted and afraid. Rodrigo
just wanted to help, even if he could only do it by distracting
the woman with conversations that infuriated her.
Braden might have figured me out, but I still can take
a quick peek.
Rodrigo would just drive by Abby’s building. She had her
business on the ground floor and made her home in the rooms
on the second level. He would just take a look. If the lights
were off, he would leave her to her sleep. Simple as that.
One friend keeping an eye on another.
Once Rodrigo settled on his course, half the tension eased
out of his frame.
Braden was responsible for the portion that remained. Rodrigo
didn’t know what the hell to do about the fucking strange
reactions the man conjured up in him. Half the time Rodrigo
sported wood these days, it was for Braden Crenshaw as much
as Abby Gaines.
He had to get the fuck over it before something happened
and someone got hurt.
He’s not quite ready.
Braden closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, still able
to scent both Abby’s and Rodrigo’s unique notes of strawberries
and almonds mixed in with the nip in the air.
Abby is close, but Rodrigo still doesn’t understand what
he’s feeling. Or that it’s okay to feel it.
The man would have to get right with it soon. Braden didn’t
know how much more celibacy he could take. It had been two
years since his previous partner had ended their relationship
-- entirely Braden’s fault. This time, though, he intended
to get things right.
He could have pursued Abby months ago and probably convinced
the stubborn woman to take a chance on him. It would have
been amazing too. He could sense the raw, sensual adventurer
living inside the leggy redhead who claimed she didn’t believe
in romance or love. Crawling into bed with her, sinking into
her wet heat, alternating between fucking her and making love
to her… It would be incredible and extremely satisfying. And
when it eventually happened, Braden intended to savor it.
This time, though, when he invested his time and heart in
a relationship, he wanted it to last.
That was where Rodrigo came in.
When Rodrigo had grabbed Braden and shoved him against the
porch, Braden could have thrown Rodrigo off in a heartbeat
-- if he’d wanted to. He hadn’t. He liked sharing that small
space of air with Rodrigo and feeling the man’s hand curled
into a fist against his chest. He liked imagining that dominating
man bent over and crying Braden’s name just as loudly as he
would shout Abby’s.
Because as much as Braden desired the lovely and sharp-witted
Abby Gaines, he responded with equal ferocity to the dark,
controlled Rodrigo Santiago.
Braden’s appetites went both ways, and from the moment he’d
set eyes on Abby and Rodrigo -- both at the same time, at
this very house where he now stood -- Braden knew his friend
Ben’s advice had been right.
“Find a man and woman who can give you what you need,
together. Enough bouncing back and forth. Stop thinking that
one right person will come along and settle this need inside
you. Denying who you are is hurting too many people along
For two years Braden had struggled with the pain he’d caused
Ben, and with believing it was even possible to find a man
and woman who would not only want Braden but also each other.
The thought of opening his dual desires to a man and woman
at the same time, risking humiliation, rejection, and possibly
even disgust, terrified him. It still made Braden sweat a
bit when he pictured himself suggesting a ménage to
two people when he’d never experienced one firsthand to tout
its benefits. If he took a chance and failed, if he tried
with a man and woman and couldn’t turn a threesome into a
successful relationship… Jesus, Braden didn’t want to think
about living with the certainty of a failed ménage.
It would take away his abstract hope that it could one day
be real. He didn’t want to have a harsh reality crush his
fantasy and then have to live the rest of his life bouncing
between men and women, hurting people, and always knowing
that in the end he would be alone. The fear of killing this
newly planted dream had kept Braden from ever taking Ben’s
threesome suggestion seriously.
Then Abby and Rodrigo had come into his life. Instantly,
Braden has sensed the attraction between them. Just as fast,
he’d picked up on Abby’s curiosity in him. Rodrigo’s interest
had been less organized, more challenging to read. The guy
had clearly never been with another man and undoubtedly didn’t
understand that he could desire one while still wanting a
Ben’s words of wisdom had come rushing back to Braden in
a torrent while standing in the kitchen in this very house.
For the first time in Braden’s life, he started to believe
he could have it all.
A man. A woman. Passion between all of us.
Maybe even love.
Braden chuckled. One step at a time. He hadn’t even kissed
them, let alone gotten them naked and in the same room together.
Something in the air had changed tonight.
Thank God. Finally.
Braden was tired of going to bed alone…