The edge of dominance, p.22
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.22
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  Hammer shoved against Beck again. Liam surged forward to help him push the other man aside. Seth blocked his way. The swarm of wasps in his head buzzed louder. A red haze of fury filmed his gaze.

  “Take your bloody hands off me and get out of my way, Seth. I will lay your ass out.”

  “No, you won’t.” The big PI’s calm tone belied the vise-like death grip he had on Liam’s arm. “Give Kendall a chance to explain. If you don’t like what he says, Beck and I will help you kick his ass.”

  Seth’s offer did nothing to appease the rage surging through Liam’s veins. Instead, he tried to shove past his friend again while Beck and Hammer fought their own brutal struggle. Yells and curses filled the air.

  Somewhere in the back of Liam’s head, his mother tugged at his thoughts, chastising, as she darted down the stairs. He cursed under his breath.

  “—I mean it, damn it!” Raine stamped her foot angrily, her face a glowing red. “Will you two Neanderthals give my brother a chance to speak? I asked him to come here, and neither of you will undo in two minutes what took me two hours to accomplish!”

  Hammer snarled. “That son of a bitch can’t say anything that will change—”

  “I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you, Hammer. Liam,” River interrupted with a somber frown. “After seeing how concerned you were for Raine just now, I’m hoping you understand that I was out of my head with worry for my kid sister. She’s all I have left. And I’m only here because she told me to come and see your relationship for myself. Now I…understand what she’s been trying to get through my stubborn head,” River bit out as if eating crow burned his tongue. “You both love her.”

  “Of course they do.” Bryn suddenly appeared with a smile, Duncan by her side. “Now that we’ve cleared that misunderstanding up, why don’t you all sit down and chat?”

  Liam couldn’t breathe past his anger. He clenched his fists. The last thing in the world he wanted to do was look at River Kendall across his table and pretend he didn’t hate the home-wrecking bastard.

  “Pull it together, son,” Duncan said quietly in his ear. “It’s time to listen and heal.”

  It took all his will and strength to swallow his fury back long enough to nod his father’s way.

  “Great idea, Bryn.” Raine turned to Liam and Hammer. “Take a nice, deep breath. Act like adults and listen. Please?”

  “Watch yourself, girl,” Hammer warned.

  Rage still seethed under Liam’s surface. “You’re on thin ice.”

  “Behave, boys. I’ll make us some tea,” Bryn offered before darting away. “Duncan?”

  The pair left, and Liam wondered if they’d taken his only hope of sanity.

  “You good here, princess?” Beck asked.

  She hugged the sadist and sent him a dry smile. “I think we’ll be okay. I don’t know what the world is coming to when I’m the coolest head in the room, but we’ll make do.”

  Seth pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Go get ’em once more, tiger. You can do it. We’ll check in with you soon.”

  “Go take Heavenly to dinner,” she suggested.

  “I plan to.” Seth flashed a cocky grin. “Before I have her for dessert.”

  Beck looked dead furious. “No, you fucking won’t.”

  Beck and Seth argued all the way to the door. In the interest of not committing murder on Raine’s pale beige carpet, Liam let them go.

  He settled around the kitchen table with Hammer and Raine. River sat last. The animosity and blame still weighed heavily on Liam as Raine recounted everything that had transpired in River’s hotel room.

  His heart ached, knowing she’d once again had to relive the anguish she’d survived.

  “I only wanted my sister safe. What I saw from the kitchen just now…” River looked stunned. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen sooner.”

  “I know,” Raine softly whispered.

  River appeared contrite enough, but Liam wasn’t convinced the man could possibly understand the depth of love the three of them shared in a five-minute glimpse.

  “As touching as your apology is, it doesn’t solve the mess you’ve made of our lives,” Hammer hissed. “Or the fact that you upset your sister even more with this fucking stunt. They hauled her downtown yesterday for questioning. She’s pregnant, you stupid ass. And she had to put up with strangers calling her a whore and grilling her about her sex life.”

  “I’m sorry. If I could take it all back—”

  “The damage is done,” Liam snapped. “Unless you can fix it, I don’t think we have anything to say.”

  “I’ll do everything possible.” River met Liam’s sharp gaze. “I’ll visit Detectives Winslow and Cameron and explain that I should never have believed the bullshit my father fed me before he died. If Raine defends you, too, I don’t see how the police have a case worth pursuing.”

  Liam didn’t, either. Except the supposed witness and the missing security footage disconcerted him.

  Trying not to borrow trouble, he stood. “Don’t be letting the door hit your ass on the way out.”

  Raine blinked at him, mouth agape, while Hammer stared River down coldly. “Guys…”

  “No, it’s okay,” River insisted. “In their shoes, I’d be pissed off, too. Assumptions in war can save your life. In love…apparently they’re dangerous. I’ll fix things. I want to keep you in my life, Raine. And I want you happy.”

  “Then start by apologizing to our girl,” Liam demanded. “You fucking made her cry, you—”

  “Liam,” Raine interrupted, settling her hand over his. “Fear of losing Macen and the life we share is what made me break down. Well, that and hormones.”

  “You want to fix things?” Hammer challenged, obviously not quite believing River’s contrition. “Start by telling us who you’re working with inside Shadows. Who’s your mole?”

  River looked confused. “I don’t have an informant.”

  “Really?” Hammer scoffed. “How did you know about Raine’s apple spice muffins, then? And where the fuck are the missing security drives?”

  “I have no clue what you’re talking about,” River swore.

  “Bullshit.” Hammer looked ready to throw punches once more.

  River held up both hands. “I might be hardheaded, but I’m not a fucking liar. You wanted me to listen to you? I’m on it. But I’d like the same.”

  Hammer studied the man with a steely gaze, then finally gave a grim nod. Not seeing another option, Liam followed suit.

  But he knew they’d be putting their heads together later in private to figure this out.

  Raine sighed in relief. “Thank you.”

  “We like to make you smile, love.” Liam could at least say that with honesty.

  He didn’t trust River, but if the bastard was telling the truth, that was good for Raine…and bad for them all. His dread ratcheted up.

  “What are you doing tomorrow?” she asked her brother suddenly.

  Liam flipped her a scowl. Did she mean to invite the meddlesome git to dinner?

  “Looking for a job.” He shrugged. “But I’ll make time for you.”

  “Would you, um…” Raine bit her lip.

  Liam had a suspicion he knew what his lass was reluctant to ask. “Raine, you don’t have to—”

  “I do,” she countered softly, then regarded her brother. “I’ve never visited Mom’s and Rowan’s graves. I think I’m ready now. I’d like it if you came with me.”

  He and Hammer should be the ones to accompany her on such an emotional undertaking. Liam bristled. “Maybe you should wait until after the babe comes.”

  “The extra stress isn’t good for either of you,” Hammer pointed out.

  “Why don’t you all consider going?” Bryn bustled to the table, carrying a fresh pot of tea. “That way Raine and River can say their good-byes, and you two will be there to comfort her.”

  Raine darted a hopeful gaze between him and Hammer. They exchanged a silent glance.

mer sighed. “All right. We’ll go with you, precious.”

  “Thank you.” Raine’s smile looked both wobbly and tender. “How’s noon tomorrow?”

  “Great,” River said. “I won’t say I’m looking forward to it, but it’s time I paid my respects.”

  “Excellent.” Bryn kissed Liam’s cheek. “Sounds like you’re all getting along. Your da and I are going to pop out for an early Valentine’s Day dinner, then. We’ll be back in a bit.”

  After Mum hugged Macen and Raine, his parents left.

  Liam no longer had to be polite. He stood, hoping River would get the hint. “We’ll meet you at the cemetery, then.”

  Raine’s brother did, indeed, grasp his unspoken suggestion. “Okay. I’ll…head over to the police station and clean up the mess I made. Night, all. Happy…um, Valentine’s Day.”

  As Raine rose and enfolded her arms around the man, Hammer pinned him with an icy stare. Liam shot a warning glare of his own, promising a slow and painful death if River backstabbed them again.

  He and Hammer both wrapped a protective arm around Raine as they walked River to the door and watched him drive away.

  Once he was gone, Liam pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. “It seems I’ve been waiting half my life to have you back, love.”

  But he didn’t stop there. Liam also claimed her mouth in a slow, sultry kiss.

  She sent him a sweet smile when he lifted away. “I needed that.”

  “What you need is your ass spanked bright red,” Hammer growled before sinking a fist in her hair and pulling her mouth to his.

  Desire jolted Liam as he watched their heated kiss. And a feeling of something close to calm returned. If River followed through, maybe this nightmare would soon be over.

  As Macen reluctantly eased away from her lips, Liam faced him. “So now that we’re alone, what information did Sterling have?”

  “Good news…and bad. And speaking of Sterling, I need to call him and let him know that River intends to recant. Let’s change for dinner. Mélisse? I’ve got reservations. Or…” He sighed. “Mother Dough?”

  That was a huge concession for Hammer. He loved good food, but Raine had been craving pizza since her pregnancy began.

  Her eyes lit with excitement. “You’d do that for me?”

  His expression hinted that he should check his own sanity, but he nodded. “Pizza it is. While we’re eating, I’ll explain everything.”

  Chapter 10

  When Raine, Liam, and Hammer returned from a tasty Valentine’s Day dinner, they found a note lying on the kitchen table.

  * * *




  * * *

  “Looks like we have the place to ourselves tonight,” Hammer drawled.

  Raine giggled at his devilish grin, feeling lighter than she had in months. Knowing that Macen couldn’t be charged with most of the crimes he’d been questioned for and that her brother meant to undo the fiasco he’d caused filled her with relief. Her big, bad Dom still had some healing to do, but maybe she and her men could finally live, laugh, love. Grow old together in peace with their children surrounding them.

  “I’m glad you’re in a good mood. Because there’s still the matter of your punishment.”

  Raine blinked at Hammer. “On Valentine’s Day?”

  “It’s the perfect occasion to turn your pretty, heart-shaped ass red.”

  Though his hungry tenor had her aching with a pang of desire, she had something in mind. “But I had this whole plan—”

  “There’ll be time later.” Lust gleamed in Liam’s dark eyes. “After Hammer extracts his penance.”

  “All right.” Arguing would only make it worse. “Can I have a minute to hang up my dress so it doesn’t wrinkle? I’ll meet you in the dungeon.”

  Hammer eyed her suspiciously. “Don’t keep us waiting, precious. Or it will cost you.”

  “I won’t. I promise.” Raine raced up the stairs, into their bedroom. As she stripped off her dress and settled it on the hanger, she glanced regretfully at the lingerie she’d worn underneath. She should take it off. They had a standing order that forbid her any clothes in their private dungeon.

  But damn it, she’d been planning tonight’s sexy celebration for weeks, scouring everywhere to find just the right scrap of temptation. The thong—silky red and black secured in a tiny bow directly over her pussy—was a tad snugger than when she’d bought it. The transparent top was a frilly bit that flowed away from her body, exposing her navel and the hint of her growing baby belly.

  If she didn’t change, she might please the hell out of her men…or bait the bears. Either outcome meant she got to glory in their Dominance. And the looks on their faces when they caught sight of her would be well worth an extra spanking or two. Besides, they could all use a release of tension. Making love the other night had been exactly the balm they’d needed to reaffirm their commitment.

  Now she could give them a much-needed opportunity to reestablish their control.

  “No guts, no glory,” she muttered, then headed down the hall, still half-dressed.

  As she slipped into the dungeon, Raine darted a quick glance at both Liam and Hammer. Pleasure and pride spread through her at the mix of shock and lust etched across their faces.

  Trying to repress a smile, she knelt before them and cast her gaze on the carpet below. “Sirs.”

  “Raine, what made you decide to break the rules and prance in wearing this pretty bit of fluff?” Liam asked, not sounding particularly pleased.

  Damn, had she screwed up? “I bought this second gift, and I wanted to surprise you two tonight.”

  “So you chose to disobey us? You couldn’t wait until we got to the bedroom?” Hammer’s humorless chuckle sent a shiver down her spine. “Oh, little girl…”

  “I didn’t think we’d make it that long, Sir.”

  “Are you begging for more of our attention?” Liam’s voice rang sharp. “Or are you merely trying to provoke us?”


  “Like I told Macen earlier, I’ll take whatever punishment he gives me.”

  “Indeed you will, precious,” he assured. “Starting now. Stand.”

  Rising, Raine sucked in a deep breath and pressed down the anxiety bubbling in her stomach. They’d only been in this dungeon a handful of times. She knew Hammer and Liam had tried to give her time to heal after the ordeal with Bill. And while she was iffy on the bondage right now, she ached to submit to them—show them her growth, prove she was ready to surrender her control, and hope that someday soon she’d feel their collar around her neck.

  When Macen placed a possessive hand at the small of her back,
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