The edge of dominance, p.33
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.33
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  looked afraid, and who could blame her? It seemed as if something new happened to them every damn day that ripped away the foundation beneath their feet.

  “We’ll be waiting,” Raine promised.

  God, she looked so tired, so small and fragile. He doubted Liam had slept all weekend, either. They’d been through enough in the last few months, and Hammer felt guilty as hell to be putting more stress on them.

  “Liam has arranged for a bondsman to meet me in the clerk’s office,” Sterling explained. “So if you’re prepared, O’Neill…?”

  “I brought enough to get you out, mate.” Liam patted his pants pocket.

  “How much?” Hammer darted a glance between the two men.

  “A hundred and fifty thousand up front,” Sterling advised. “But you’ll also need to put up another million three in collateral to the bondsman.”

  “I’ll sign over the condo in San Juan,” Macen said. “It should be worth at least that.”

  Raine gasped, clearly shocked.

  Yeah, there was a whole lot she didn’t know about him because he’d never opened up and shared himself with her. Oh, he’d expected Raine to vomit out her all her truths, but Hammer had never reciprocated. He’d had his reasons, but that didn’t make keeping her in the dark the right thing to do. Now especially, he owed her more. Everything.

  If Wellington’s lying-ass witness was convincing, Hammer might never get another chance to confess his past to Raine so she could understand the man he was today. The future wouldn’t matter because his would be totally fucked.

  “Sounds good. I’ll have my secretary file the proper paperwork with the clerk’s office right away. We should be able to get you home this afternoon.” Sterling slapped him on the back as the bailiff came forward.

  He held up his hand to the uniformed officer. “I need another minute.” When the cop nodded, Hammer turned to Raine, arms open. “Precious.”

  She ran to him and cuddled close as he closed his eyes and clutched her soft body. He inhaled her scent. A lump of emotion lodged in his throat. Then Liam’s arms banded around him and Raine, gathering them together in a tight circle. Hammer willed back the tears that stung his eyes. This was where he belonged.

  “I love you both,” he confessed in a hoarse murmur.

  “We love you, too,” Raine whispered, clutching the lapels of his suit as if she’d never let go.

  “We do, brother.” Liam’s voice teemed with emotion.

  As much as he wanted to linger with them, Hammer forced himself to pull away. “I’ll be with you as soon as I can.”

  “We’ll take you home when you’re ready,” Liam promised.

  As the bailiff led Hammer toward the antechamber door, he turned and looked back.

  Liam waved, and Raine blew him a kiss.

  He needed them, maybe a whole lot more than they needed him. Hammer clenched his jaw. He’d find a way out of this fucking mess if it killed him.

  Without a word, he left the courtroom.

  After a shitload of paperwork and waiting that had Hammer gritting his teeth and ready to smack heads, Liam and Raine were waiting for him in the hallway just outside the processing office. He’d never been so happy to see them in his life. His heart pounded as the three of them clung to one another as if they’d been apart for months. Hammer kissed Raine senseless. Liam gave him a hearty slap on the back.

  With their girl between them, they headed out the door.

  Lost in the sweet relief of the moment, Hammer wasn’t prepared for the throng of reporters that swarmed them and barraged them with questions.

  “Liam,” he barked. “Put Raine behind us.”

  But his friend had already moved into position, protecting her as Hammer pushed his way through the crowd.

  “Mr. Hammerman, when did you start molesting children?” One reporter shoved a microphone in his face.

  He clenched his teeth and shot the prick a killing glare. “No comment.”

  “Miss Kendall, did Mr. Hammerman rape you as a child?” a blonde bitch in a suit asked. “Is he your pimp? Why don’t you ask the police for help escaping these two deviants?”

  Raine buried her face in between the sleeves of their coats and refused to say a word.

  “Back off, you bloody mongrels,” Liam roared.

  They still barked questions. Raine clutched him tighter.

  Hammer wrapped an arm around her, pressing her between him and Liam. “No fucking comment, you vultures!”

  With a shove, they burst from the press, then sprinted to Liam’s SUV. He hoped they got some damn peace so they could enjoy their time together and figure out who the hell was persecuting him…but Hammer had his doubts.

  * * *

  Raine stepped into the kitchen to find Liam and Hammer with their heads together, talking in low tones. They both stopped abruptly and stared when she entered.

  Her suspicions launched. Her dread crashed. “What? Has something else happened?”

  They glanced at one another in that silent communication they shared. Then they both shook their head.

  “No, love.” Liam gave her a gentle smile.

  “I’m not buying it.” She shook her head, hands on hips. “You’re either up to or protecting me from something. I need to know.”

  Macen sighed. “It’s nothing. The phone was ringing off the hook earlier. Fucking reporters. We took care of that.”

  A glance over at the handheld unit and its accompanying answering machine proved that someone had yanked it from the wall—literally. And taken a hunk of drywall with it.

  Liam grimaced. “I might have lost my temper a wee bit. I’ll fix it later.”

  As long as they were on the subject… She plucked her new cell phone from the pocket of her skirt. “I had to turn mine off. How did they get this number so quickly? I got four calls while I was trying to nap.”

  They both took theirs from pockets and set them on the counter. The screens were blank.

  “We did the same, precious.”

  “Those bloody leeches could give stalkers lessons,” Liam cursed.

  “I should have expected them to be waiting for us.” The fact that he clearly hadn’t bothered Hammer.

  “I knew but…I was too excited to have you back. I wasn’t thinking.” Raine caressed his arm in silent comfort. “Let’s have a nice dinner in tonight and ignore the rest of the world. Any preferences? Your mom has done so much of the cooking, Liam. I’d like to prove that you won’t starve when your folks go home.”

  “They know, love.” Liam pressed a kiss to her cheek. “But you needn’t worry about us. I’m going to take my parents out for a nice dinner and gossip about the brood back home.”

  “But…” Disappointment nipped at her. “It’s Macen’s first night back. We should all be together. We—”

  Hammer cut her off with a kiss. When he eased back, she felt slightly dizzy. But the air of gravity around him righted her head again.

  “I want to talk to you. Alone. Liam knows why.”

  Whatever Hammer had to say was important. Immediately, fear told her he meant to leave her. But Liam looked placid, almost happy. If Macen had any intention of packing his bags, they’d be fighting now. She had to trust that, after everything they’d been through, he wouldn’t just walk away.

  “All right.”

  “Excellent.” Liam clapped Hammer on the shoulder and brushed a kiss over her lips. “We won’t be quick. Enjoy.”

  He exited the kitchen, leaving her alone with Macen, who wore a determined expression she couldn’t quite decipher. What did he want?

  “So it’s just us for dinner?” she whispered into the suddenly thick tension.

  “Yeah. What’s fast to prepare?”

  He closed in, palm whispering up her arm, settling at her nape. He snared her with hazel eyes, making all kinds of demands without uttering a word. She sensed what he wanted wasn’t purely sexual.

  “Stir-fry.” Raine swallowed, wondering why she was nervous.
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  “Can you have it ready in ten minutes?”

  “Less.”

  She’d done all the prep the other night and just hadn’t mustered the energy to cook. With surprisingly unsteady hands, she heated the wok, took out the chicken she’d already marinated, and started some quick rice.

  Behind her, Hammer clung to her hips and watched, sprinkling kisses up her neck. She wanted him. Hell, she couldn’t be in the same room without aching for the man. But the long caresses of his fingers and the reverent press of his lips tugged at her heart, too.

  “Macen?” She turned to him. “What’s on your mind?”

  He gave her a wry smile. A few months ago, she would never have been able to decipher that expression. He could be deadly hard to read. Now…she could see he was something close to nervous.

  “Besides everything?” he quipped.

  She tossed chicken into the hot pan, satisfied with the sizzle. Absently stirring with one hand, she turned to him. “I’m here for you. You know that.”

  “And I thank God every day.” He brushed a thumb across her cheek. “I need to tell you something I should have a long time ago. I just didn’t want to disappoint you. Disillusion you. I didn’t want you to see my weaknesses, faults, and imperfections.”

  A corner of her brain realized the time had come to add the vegetables. The rest of her was completely attuned to the man who’d captured half her heart years ago. “You could never disappoint me.”

  He took the bowl from her hands and poured the mushrooms, onions, and peppers into the meat mixture. “Stir.”

  Absently, she did, but she couldn’t take her eyes off him. “What is it?”

  The rice beeped. The stir-fry steamed. Raine didn’t move. He wasn’t severing his ties with her and Liam…but whatever he had to say was big.

  “I should tell you about me.” He pulled back and grabbed a pair of plates from the cabinet, then two forks from the nearby drawer.

  Anticipation gripped her. Raine held her breath. Was he finally going to let her in?

  She’d asked him endless questions about himself and his past the first couple of years at Shadows. He’d refused to give her more than vague answers. He’d grown up in New York. He hadn’t been close to his parents. He’d gone to college but hadn’t finished. Hammer had never been willing to divulge more than that.

  Raine quickly dished food onto the plates and walked them to the breakfast nook, surprised to see he’d already set out a couple of placemats and napkins.

  “You and Liam planned for us to be alone tonight?” she asked as she set the dishes down.

  “Yes.” He held out her chair.

  She sat, unable to take her gaze off him. “I’m here. I’m listening.”

  “Eat. Liam says you’ve done a poor job of that lately. The doctor will scold you at your appointment tomorrow morning.”

  With everything going on, she’d completely forgotten. “Will you be there?”

  “Liam and I both will. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

  That filled her with a bit of relief. She mixed her food together and forked in a bite gingerly. With her stomach jumping nervously, she wasn’t sure how much she’d get down, especially if Macen wouldn’t end her suspense. “Thank you. Would you just tell me already?”

  He smiled, relaxing a little as he swallowed a bite. “It’s good.”

  “I’m glad,” she snapped. “You’re stalling.”

  Macen shook his head. “No, I’m going to tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know and more. I love you and I owe you. But you know I find your impatience adorable.”

  Raine wanted to be annoyed, but part of their dynamic was this push-pull. A mutual poke. She mouthed off; he found a creative way to correct her…at least until they repeated the cycle because it was too delicious to ignore.

  “You’re messing with my temper, Macen.”

  He took another bite and shook his head. “Just hoping you still look at me the same way once you know everything. This will tell you a lot about who I am…and why.”

  “You mean like having a condo in San Juan? I had no clue.”

  Hammer waved that information away. “I haven’t been there since before Juliet died. I should have sold it years ago. It’s been nothing but rental property for a long time.”

  Raine understood that it wasn’t meaningful to him, but Macen Hammerman knew everything about her—the vitamins she preferred, the fact that she got weepy on the anniversary of her mother’s disappearance, her obsession with Caramel Caribou ice cream, the way she liked to nap on rainy days. He’d known every one of her cycles for six years. Her bra size was a given. He’d even bought her shoes that fit like a glove without her trying them on.

  Finally, this man who’d been such a mystery to her might let her solve him. It didn’t matter that she knew his favorite brand of underwear or could make all his favorite foods without looking at a recipe. She didn’t know the name of his childhood pet, what he’d been like as a teenager, or why he never spoke to or about his parents.

  Hammer ate every bite she’d made for him. Raine could only manage to get down half. Her stomach was in knots when she pushed her plate aside.

  “Tell me. Everything.”

  With a sideways glance at her food, he frowned. “Will you promise to try your dinner again before bed? I’m worried about you.”

  She’d promise him a quickie on the moon if he’d just tell her already. “I will. Just…”

  “Get on with it.” He nodded and rubbed his palms together as if trying to decide where to start. “My parents were extremely wealthy. My grandfather was a physicist who worked with this brilliant guy named Noyce.” He studied her face. “Not ringing a bell? Patent 2,981,877? The world’s first silicone-based integrated circuit. My grandfather saw the potential and invested in the company that sold them, Intel. He also invested in the Texas Instruments version, too. Why not hedge your bets? He grew a few hundred thousand dollars into—”

  “Millions.” She’d guessed he came from money but… “Wow.”

  “Hundreds of millions,” he corrected. “The money began rolling in when my dad was a teenager, and he came to adulthood spoiled and entitled, a lot like I did. His dad had money, so why work? My grandfather died a couple of years before I was born, and my father inherited half his fortune. Apparently, I have an aunt somewhere I’ve never met who got the other half.”

  Raine shook her head. “I had no idea…”

  “The only other person on the planet who does is Liam.” Hammer tapped his fork on the table and gave her a tight smile. “And he only knows because I got drunk enough one night early in our friendship to tell him.”

  “So your dad inherited a lot of money. When do we get to you?”

  “After he married a woman almost exactly like him, and they partied their way across nearly every continent, spending millions and millions. But somewhere through the haze of booze, drugs, and travel, she got pregnant. They were self-absorbed, and I cramped their style. So I was basically raised by staff while my parents circled the globe.”

  “You grew up lonely.” She reached for him.

  He set his jaw as if he didn’t want to acknowledge that, but he squeezed her hand, and Raine knew she was right. Her heart ached for him.

  “I felt trapped in our house on Park Avenue. I couldn’t go anywhere without having to be carted around by our chauffer or
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