The edge of dominance, p.8
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.8

         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black
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  taking the stairs two at a time. At the top, they hurried to the bedroom and burst through the door, panting, frantic, scared.

  Raine lay curled up on the mattress, sound asleep.

  Relief slammed through Macen like a gale-force wind. He slumped against the wall and swallowed the panic that had lumped in his throat. Thank fucking god.

  Liam exhaled audibly, obviously grateful as well, as he climbed onto the bed next to Raine. On the other side, Hammer kicked off his shoes and sank down, too, never taking his gaze from her delicate face. God, he hated to wake her and rip away her serenity. But they couldn’t wait to warn her about River. He already had a bad feeling they should be braced for a shitload of trouble.

  * * *

  Raine lay on a silken cloud of comfort, enveloped by her two men. They both lavished her with tender caresses and velvety kisses. The low, husky murmurs aroused her. Individually, their virile scents were heady, but together they made her swoon. With a little moan, she writhed softly, aching to feel their hands stroking her, their mouths consuming her, and their hard bodies driving her to paradise.

  As she reached for Liam and Hammer with open arms and an open heart, they faded away.

  Consciousness crept in. It had just been a dream.

  Raine crawled up through layers of sleep. She cracked one lid open. A beam of afternoon light danced on the bedroom ceiling. Her men weren’t home…yet their distinct musk lingered. So did their problems. Hammer couldn’t seem to resolve his past, and Liam had chosen not to tell her he belonged to a big, boisterous family who might—or might not—welcome her and their baby.

  Closing her eyes, she hoped sleep would take her and give her escape again, even if just for another hour or two. Because the reality was, she had no idea how to fix her life, and it was killing her.

  Warm fingers suddenly caressed her cheek. Raine gasped and jerked toward the touch. Hammer lay beside her, hazel eyes unusually tender and concerned. What was Macen doing home this time of day?

  Body heat behind her beckoned. She flipped her gaze over her shoulder. Liam lounged on her left, head propped on his hand, watching her with a darkly gentle expression.

  Their scents swirled, combined in the air. If she’d been standing, her knees would have turned weak.

  Then Raine remembered she was supposed to be angry. Did they think she’d let them out of the doghouse so soon?

  When Liam captured her naked hip in his heated palm and stroked his way up to her bare breast, Raine’s breath caught. Clearly, he did…

  How easy it would be to close her eyes and let ecstasy sweep her away. But they couldn’t rely on sex to patch over their deep, very real issues. Her therapist had taught her that, too.

  Pushing her way up between them, Raine grabbed the sheet and sat against the headboard. Now that she really looked, they both appeared surprisingly anxious.

  “I wasn’t expecting you for at least twelve hours, Macen.” If even then. When his expression suddenly turned somewhere between angry and grim, Raine’s pulse quickened. “What’s going on?”

  “It’s your brother. River conned his way inside Shadows. He broke into your room.”

  Raine gaped. Nothing Hammer said could have shocked her more. River had returned after twelve years of silence?

  “Did you talk to him?” She pushed out of bed and plucked up her undergarments, wriggling into them. “Is he downstairs, waiting for me? I want to see him.”

  She reached for the yoga pants and T-shirt she’d draped on a nearby chair, butterflies swarming her belly. She hadn’t seen her brother since he’d been a gangly teenager. Puberty hadn’t even set in for Raine yet. His last night in the Kendall household had been loud and ugly, punctuated by accusing curses and angry fists. Then River had slammed into his room, grabbed all his things, ruffled her hair on his way to the door…and left for good.

  She understood full well wanting to escape Bill. All the Kendall children had chosen to, in their time and way. But she’d never understood why he hadn’t once checked on his younger sisters instead of simply leaving them to the dubious mercy of a violent man. Maybe, after he’d gone, River had made a conscious choice not to give a damn about his family. Or maybe something else had kept him away. The brother she’d known had always wanted to be a hero.

  Thunder rolled across Liam’s face. “There’s no way in hell we’ll be letting that bastard anywhere near you.”

  “Absolutely not. We threw him out of the club.” Hammer’s face hardened. “If he knows what’s good for him, he won’t come back.”

  Menace rolled off her men. Naturally, they wouldn’t be thrilled River had wormed his way past club security, but their fury zipped way past irritation.

  Dread dumped into the gaping pit of her stomach. “What happened?”

  Liam’s eyes narrowed. “You should have heard the accusations he hurled at us.”


  “Well, I’m the pedophile who’s been debauching and pimping you out since I brought you to Shadows as a minor, and Liam is the john who raped you repeatedly while I watched until he got you pregnant—simply for our sick amusement, of course.”

  Her clothes fell out of her numb fingers. Yeah, the pedophile accusation wasn’t new. Bill had been fond of it, too. But the fact that River agreed with any of that creep’s opinions made her wary.

  “You set him straight, right?”

  A jerk of Liam’s head conveyed more anger. “He gave us no chance.”

  River had always been a hothead and more than a bit impulsive. The two of them had that in common. Maybe if she explained…

  But when she glanced at Hammer’s forbidding expression, he clearly was not in the mood to listen.

  “No chance at all.”

  Raine winced. The whole confrontation must have been wretched. “Damn it.”

  Liam loosened his tie, looking hot under the collar. “The fuckwit seems hell-bent on ‘rescuing’ you from us.”

  “Fuckwit is putting it nicely. River is batshit crazy.” Hammer glowered.

  Raine’s head buzzed with shock. Her only brother thought she was a pregnant hooker being taken advantage of by two perverts. It made her sad—for her, for River. For Liam and Hammer, who had tried to love and protect her.

  Then again, what would she have thought if she’d found one of her siblings in the same shoes?

  “Okay…he jumped to terrible conclusions. But think about how it must look on the surface. Liam, if one of your sisters, as a minor, had been living with a man more than a decade older than her, who owned a club like Shadows, what would your first thought be?”

  “That I’d kill him and get her the hell out of there,” Liam admitted. “But I’d have bloody talked to her first, asked what was going on. River had already made up his mind. Nothing we said was going to change it.”

  “In his position, I’d probably assume whatever you two had to say was crap, too.”

  “He spent two months digging through our lives, so he should have rubbed a couple of brain cells together and come up with a better conclusion. He seemed to know about everything else, especially Gwyneth.” Hammer gnashed his teeth. “And Juliet.”

  Raine winced. “I can see where he might think you two have a…colorful track record with women and assume the worst.”

  “Colorful, is it?” Liam quirked a brow.

  Hammer jerked his coat off. “He can go fuck himself.”

  “River twisted half-truths and lies into damning accusations. It was all we could do not to strangle the bastard.”

  “So the conversation didn’t go well. He doesn’t understand the situation, guys. But I’ll make him see. Tell me.” She reached for her clothes again. “Where can I find him?”

  “You’re not going after him,” Hammer insisted. “Not in this lifetime.”

  “I have to. Be reasonable, Macen.”

  “I am. The fucker is still alive.”

  Liam scowled. “Which wasn’t my first choice.”

  Raine rol
led her eyes. “My brother just needs to see that I’m finally happy. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. I’m not asking to spend time alone with him.” In fact, it was better if she didn’t right away. Yes, River might have misunderstood the turns of her life since he’d gone, but for all she knew, he’d inherited Bill’s delusional streak. “You’ll be with me every moment.”

  “I don’t care if you have a whole SWAT team with you, you will not see, talk to, or be within fifty miles of that prick,” Hammer roared.

  “Exactly.” Liam’s dark eyes blazed with insistence. “We mean it, Raine. Don’t test us.”

  Clearly, after Bill and the horrific end she’d almost suffered, it was too soon to ask them to be calm or reasonable. “It’s a misunder—”

  “We don’t give a shit,” Hammer said. “You won’t be seeing River, even if I have to chain you to the fucking bed. That’s final.”

  Liam nodded. “It’s obvious that the nut hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

  “It’s an apple,” Hammer hissed.

  Liam scowled. “What?”

  “The saying, dumb ass. It’s an apple.”

  “Whatever. In this case, nut pretty well sums River up, I’m thinking.”

  She crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not a little girl who needs her two daddies’ permission. He’s my brother, the only family I have left. I have to resolve this.”

  Hammer yanked her against his body. Disapproval rumbled across his face. “Oh, but you do need our permission. You’re our submissive to protect. And we want you safe.”

  The terror Bill had subjected her to had affected them all, Hammer especially. She knew that now. She understood. But their stubbornness pissed her off.

  “I can’t live in a cage, be your perfect little sub, and say, ‘Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir,’” Raine shot back. “I know my brother upset you. But I’m not giving up. When you’ve cooled down, we’ll talk again.”

  She whirled around and headed for the bathroom.

  Liam grabbed her arm before she could get away and glowered at her. “We’re not done talking to you, Raine. Sit and listen.”

  Hammer didn’t say a word, merely pointed to the bed, then crossed his arms over his chest—a sure sign that he wasn’t going to budge.

  With a sigh, she sank down. “I think you’re overreacting as much as my brother did.”

  Hammer bent and grabbed her chin, hovering close until they were nearly nose to nose. “I’m not a judgmental, narrow-minded piece of shit. He wanted to make a deal with us for you, precious, just like Bill did.”

  “Indeed,” Liam added, fingers tangling in her hair until she looked at him. “We’ve been down this road before. We’ll not be going back.”

  Raine gasped. “He asked for money?”

  “No.” Hammer shook his head. “He wants you away from us ‘freaks.’ In fact, he demanded we hand you over today.”

  “He threatened us,” Liam growled. “That makes him no better than your father.”

  Threatened? Hell no. River had gone too far with that. People lost their tempers. Sometimes they even made wild accusations. But with the Kendalls, threats usually meant retaliation. She didn’t want more violence or intimidation. She certainly didn’t want another Bill in her life.

  “Now you want to keep assuming that River is rational or harmless?” Hammer challenged.

  That had Raine shaking her head. “Maybe not.”

  “Of course not! He means to take you from us.” Liam clenched his teeth. “I don’t care what excuse he bleats on about. Give him half a chance, and we’ll never see you or our baby again. I won’t risk it. You’re not to talk to him.”

  Was the brother who hadn’t troubled himself with her welfare for a dozen years really worth upsetting the tenuous peace in her new, growing family? Especially when, for all she knew, he might be Bill’s clone?

  “All right.” She sighed, wishing she could come to some other conclusion. “I won’t seek River out. For you two.”

  “Thank god, love.” Liam pulled her into his arms. “I couldn’t endure again wondering if you’re alive or if some mongrel who shares your blood in his veins is going to murder you. The thought of what he could do to you and our child… I know family is important to you, and I’d hoped for your sake that River could fill some of the empty space left by your mother and sister. I’m sorry.”

  “Thanks.” Raine nodded, then looked Hammer’s way. The relief on his face filled her with a guilty satisfaction. “I’d never want to worry you.”

  “We appreciate you compromising. I’m simply worried we haven’t seen the last of River.”

  “My brother. Liam’s sisters…” It was a lot to take in. The day had already been exhausting and it wasn’t over. “Why can’t we just have some peace?”

  “We will. Everything will work out.” Hammer caressed her cheek. “Precious, I’m sorry about this morning.”

  She blinked. He almost always avoided apologizing, like it choked him as much as wearing a shirt collar that was too tight. But he’d offered up his sincere atonement without any prompting at all.

  Raine wanted to say that she understood because she could grasp how guilt had been gnawing at him. If their situations were reversed, she would feel awful. But she also wouldn’t have kept anything as important as another pregnancy from him.

  “I needed that. There’s nothing you can say that will make me love you less. You don’t have to bear the pain of the past alone. But hurting me by walking out like that is inexcusable.”

  “You’re right,” Hammer agreed without hesitation.

  Then she turned to Liam. Six freaking sisters she’d never heard of until today…

  With that thought, she zipped a gaze back to Hammer. “Wait. How many siblings do you have?”

  He arched a brow at Liam and smothered a laugh. “None, precious. I’m an only child.”

  Hammer might have been guilty of a lot over the years, but at least he hadn’t intentionally buried his family tree.

  Raine tucked her arms over her chest and pinned Liam with an expectant stare. “Did you remember anything else I should know?”

  “Watch yourself,” Liam warned. “You’re likely to end up with a smacked bottom.”

  “Promises, promises.” She sent her two men a saucy stare, then threw her arms around them.

  Surrounded by the two people she loved and trusted most, Raine let their warmth sink into her and tried not to think about River. But he lingered, and she hated to imagine that the last surviving Kendall male might possibly become her next nightmare.

  Chapter 5

  Wednesday, February 13

  * * *

  By Wednesday morning, Raine was ready to escape her own house.

  Beside her, Hammer steered his Audi down the street, toward her highly anticipated, hour-long respite. She was grateful Liam had stayed home. She didn’t need another over-testosteroned protector hovering.

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