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SOMETHING NEW
Loose Id
Ménage/Mystery
July 2010

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A product of foster care, survivor Abby Gaines shields her heart and doesn’t believe in romance or love. Not even for Rodrigo Santiago and Braden Crenshaw -- the two men -- friends -- starring in her erotic fantasies.

Tough-as-nails Rodrigo wants Abby with a passion. Just being near her makes him hard. To hide his desire, Rodrigo trades barbs and challenges everything Abby says. Rodrigo’s secret? Recently, someone else has begun arousing heterosexual Rodrigo’s libido too. Another man. Braden Crenshaw.

Bisexual, Braden has bounced between men and women in affairs that never last. He’s tired of hurting people but has never believed ménage relationships can work…until Abby and Rodrigo make him start aching for something new.

When Abby begins dreaming of her parents’ brutal double murder, the visions unearth new elements that make Abby question everything she thought she knew about the crime. Once Braden and Rodrigo discover the nightmares haunting Abby, they vow to help her find answers whether she wants their assistance or not.

Working in close quarters -- not to mention sharing a bed -- reveal everyone’s most secret desires. If this threesome can let down their defenses, their shared attraction just might become an all-consuming love.

 

 

"…Something New is a novel that is definitely worth reading…Cameron Dane presents many tough issues in this book and handles them all respectfully and with great sensitivity…The sexuality in this book ranks 5/5. The longing, the patience, the understanding, the red hot passion and the sexy and sensuous scenes are amazing…The mystery of who killed Abby’s parents would rank equally high. This is a great murder mystery…In the final analysis this is a book less about death and more about life and love. It is about the triumph of love, deciding to give yourself permission to find happiness, and prioritizing your life so that unconditional love with your partner or partners is the most important thing in life."
-- Rated 5 Delightful Divas and a Recommended Read by Donna, Dark Divas Reviews

 

"…Ms. Dane’s fresh approach to a common plot makes Something New a unique and fascinating read. A tight plot, sizzling sex, and fully developed characters keep the tempo of the novel moving at a fast clip.…an incredibly sensual book with appealing characters, blazing hot sex scenes, and an intriguing mystery to solve."
-- Rosemary, from Whipped Cream Reviews

 

"…an explosively carnal ride… Cameron Dane has delivered the whole package with a book that’ll make you sweat, tug on your heartstrings, and keep you on the edge of your seat with its mystery… Abby, Braden, and Rodrigo… I cared about the three of them and because I did I was captivated… definitely something special, and for that reason I Joyfully Recommend it."
-- Shayna, a Joyfully Recommended Read from Joyfully Reviewed

 

"…Cameron Dane has written a five star, page turner. The characters are intense and hot, while the erotic aspects of the story seem to sizzle and pop on every page…Words build a picture that stay with the reader long after the book is finished. I am eager to read more from this amazing author..."
-- Kimberley, from SensualReads.com, a five star review

 

"…Something New was fantastic, intriguing and drool worthy. Cameron Dane created a believable relationship involving three very different personalities…add mystery, phenomenal sex and heart wrenching love and you have this wonderful story…This is a guarantee great read and has become on of my favorites."
-- Trudy Coleman, from Deviant Divas Erotic Book Review

 

"…Reading anything written by Cameron Dane is always a guaranteed winner. And that is exactly what her latest book Something New is, a winner!!"
-- Greendragon, from Night Owl Reviews, a five star top pick

 

"…Absolutely stunning! Once again the very talented Cameron Dane brings a compelling, dramatic and lush romance to readers eager to savor the richly detailed and riveting story…Braden, Rodrigo and Abby are complex, intense and riveting characters that are so well developed the reader will feel like they know them well. These memorable characters have exceptional emotional depth, a deep-seated passion for each other and who are honorable and realistic. The touching and passionate chemistry between the lovers is strong and real…The secondary characters are intriguing and add the perfect pitch to the plot as well as the protagonists…The ending is purely clever and readers won't see it coming but will be totally thrilled how Ms. Dane ties all the loose ends up for a thoroughly complete and satisfying ending…Ms. Dane once again sets the pages on fire!"
-- A 5 heart review from Shannon at The Romance Studio

 
 

Something New Excerpt: Rated PG-13 for language

 

Chapter One

Present day

 

“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 that right.”

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 door. “Wait.”

“You don’t have to go,” Jonah added, towering right behind Christian.

“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.”

“Bye, Jonah.”

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 him.

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.

Holy Mother.

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 step.

“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 at her.

“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 total knockout.

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 you.”

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 hairs. “Yes.”

“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 all.”

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 included.”

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 good now.”

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 the way.”

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 woman.

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.

Soon, though.

Something in the air had changed tonight.

Thank God. Finally.

Braden was tired of going to bed alone…

 

Copyright Protected Work
Cameron Dane, author. Loose Id, Publisher.

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