Guilty pleasure, p.28
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       Guilty Pleasure, p.28

         Part #11 of Bound Hearts series by Lora Leigh
Page 28


  Below were more men. All security. The doors were closed securely to the rooms downstairs, but a few of the members watched curiously from their positions leaning against the walls.

  There was Cole Andrews, Tally Conover's husband, Lucian, her rumored cohusband Devril, and several others of the social elite, who seemed unconcerned by the fact that she had seen them. Men she had danced with at balls, whose wives she had gone to school with or sometimes lunched with.

  It wasn't surprising. She had known this crowd stuck together, but this should have been ridiculous.

  "Sorry to intrude. " She flashed them all a tight, falsely sweet smile. "See you at the next party. "

  With that she strode down the hall and out the double doors that a scowling doorman was holding open.

  She had no intentions of returning to the limo. She would have walked home first, but, thankfully, a black Lexus that drew to a stop in the driveway was very familiar to her.

  Former FBI agent Mac McCoy. That really shouldn't have surprised her, though it did. Mac was married and supposedly living on some farm several states away.

  He stepped out of the vehicle, his gray eyes meeting hers as the breeze played with his thick black hair.

  "Marty?" Incredulity filled his voice, affirming her sudden suspicion that he knew exactly what this club was all about. Of course he did; he was here, and that meant he had to be a member.

  "I need a ride. " She moved quickly to the passenger door. "Please, Mac, kinda quick, if you don't mind. Take me to my parents' place. "

  He slid back into the car as she opened the door, and jumped in. A second later he was speeding away from the front doors as Khalid and Shayne stood framed by the light behind them, their expressions filled with varying degrees of anger, concern, and frustration.

  The Lexus sped from the club grounds as silence filled the vehicle. Marty felt the heaviness in her chest as it expanded, filling her, sinking into her muscles and tendons, making the depths of her soul ache.

  She was a trained agent, just as she had stated. She had learned not just to look for lies, but to live a lie if she needed to. She had known Khalid and Shayne were hiding something, but she hadn't really expected her fathers to be involved in it.

  "Strange, I can't remember ever seeing a woman walk out those doors," Mac commented, as the car turned toward Alexandria and her parents' home.

  There was a note of curiosity in his tone. Mac had been a formidable agent during his time in the FBI. Strange, she had never imagined that he could be a member. There were times he had seemed so straitlaced and aboveboard.

  "I'm sure you'll never see it again," she reassured him, as she crossed her arms and rubbed her hands up and down them quickly.

  She felt chilled to the bone despite the summer heat. Emotion had forced her to flee, but she knew she should have stayed. She wanted to know what the hell was going on, and why Abram Mustafa, a suspected terrorist sympathizer, was meeting secretly with her fathers as well as with Khalid and Shayne.

  She had known Khalid was involved with whatever Shayne was up to. She should have realized it went much deeper than she had suspected. She had assumed he was helping Shayne with his operation, but she hadn't expected her fathers to be in on it as well.

  Khalid could claim her. He could fuck her. But he couldn't sleep through the night with her, and he sure as hell didn't bother to talk to her. God forbid that he should have to lower himself so far as to explain his actions to her.

  "Shayne and Khalid didn't look happy," Mac commented a moment later, when she said nothing more.

  "That so bothers me. " She shot him an instant glare. He was a man, a member of the club, and therefore most likely in on whatever conspiracy was currently ruling her fathers' lives.

  "I can tell. " He nodded seriously, as though he weren't being completely facetious.

  "You're a member of the club," she stated.

  "Not me. " There was a hint of laughter in his voice now. "I was meeting friends for drinks. "

  "Only members enter. " She glared at him for lying to her.

  At that, Mac shook his head. "Or former members. I was truly meeting friends for drinks, Agent Mathews, nothing more. And ended up playing white knight. " He flashed her what she was certain he thought was a charming grin.

  Marty clenched her teeth at the humor. Amusement wasn't high on her list of priorities tonight.

  "Let it go, Mac," she warned him. "I'm not in the mood. "

  "A white knight's job is never done. " He clucked his tongue as he shook his head and glanced back over at her. "Strange, I didn't imagine Khalid could get himself in so much trouble with you. I think he's been claiming you for so long that he's forgotten what it's like to realize that perhaps you don't really belong to him. "

  Marty turned and stared back at him in surprise and anger.

  "What the hell do you mean by that?"

  For a moment, silence filled the car. Mac took the turn that led to her parents' home and pulled slowly into the drive. Putting the Lexus in park, he turned to stare at her thoughtfully for long moments.

  "You were eighteen," he finally said. "Khalid let everyone who could possibly be a threat to his future relationship with you know that he considered your heart his own. He was a much darker person then, Marty. A man with a lot of demons. A man who even your fathers were wary of at that time. "

  Marty shook her head. "I don't believe you. "

  He shrugged nonchalantly. "Believe what you like. But this one you can take to the bank. Khalid will catch up with you. When he does, he'll show you exactly why he waited until he couldn't wait any longer to take you. He'll show you the demons that fill him. I just hope you're woman enough to accept them. "

  "Woman enough to accept the third he wants in that relationship? How about woman enough to figure out when he's fucking lying to me?" She sneered. "Do you have any idea just how pompous you sound right now?"

  "Woman enough to see beneath the actions, and to accept the truth of the man who just might not realize that he's given you his heart," he said softly. "And that, Marty, takes a woman who's not just strong but also understanding. I wonder if you can be both. "

  She couldn't be both, she thought, as she prepared to get out of the car.

  Turning from him, she threw the door open and stalked to the house as the front door opened and her mother stood framed in the doorway.

  Her mother was home. Her father must have called her, must have told her what was going on. Virginia looked well rested, but concerned and angry. Her gray eyes locked on Marty as a frown marred her still smooth brow.

  Marty wouldn't discuss this with her. Not yet. But she could hide here until her fathers arrived and she found out exactly what they were up to with Khalid and Shayne.

  Chapter 12

  Khalid remained calm, though doing so wasn't as easy as he had wished it was, while riding in the back of Joe Mathews's limo long minutes after Mac had taken Marty from the club. Joe, Zach, and Shayne were all silent. The silence wore on his nerves, nerves that were never tested this way until this night, until tangling with Marty.

  The only man who appeared unaffected by any of this was Joe. He sat back in the leather seat and simply watched Khalid.

  "This is a fucking mess," Zach muttered to Joe from where he sat at his side.

  "Of course it is," Joe agreed. "We let our emotions get involved. It's always a mess when we allow that. "

  Amusement touched Joe's voice as Khalid watched him coldly. Beside him, he could feel the tension radiating from Shayne. Tempers were simmering, and Khalid had a feeling that holding his own in check wouldn't last much longer.

  "Damn it, Joe," Zach cursed, his voice low. "She thinks we're all conspiring against her. "

  "You are," Joe pointed out. "All of you have been, by not giving her the answers she's all but demanded of you. I didn't make that mistake. "

"You trained her too well, Zach, if you didn't want her poking her nose in places you didn't want her. " Shayne sat watching them, his arms crossed over his chest, a scowl on his face. "And Khalid could have saved us all the trouble if he'd simply given her details rather than an insignificant portion of the events. "

  "I didn't ask for your opinion, you damned spook," Zach bit out angrily. "You only came back to the States to tell Khalid about his brothers, hoping that he would choose you as his third. And don't think we're not all aware of it. "

  "Enough. " Khalid watched as Joe's gaze glittered with interest as he stared back at him. "It ends now. Once we reach the house I'll tell her what we must. " Not that he wanted to. Hell, one question was going to lead to another, and before he knew it, the truth of his own past would come out.

  Joe's brow arched. "I'd say it's a little late for that. I'd suggest Kevlar, if I were you. She's ready to shoot us all. "

  "If she doesn't, then I just might. " Khalid forced himself to keep his hands in place at his side, rather than around Zach's neck for demanding that meeting, even though he knew Marty was with Khalid and Shayne.

  "I feel like I'm throwing my daughter to the fucking wolves. " Zach glowered at Khalid and Shayne.

  That was exactly what he had done; it was what he had done years before, when he had allowed Marty the opportunity to join the FBI.

  He had allowed his lover, Joe's wife, to convince him otherwise. He had given in to the woman and the child he had loved, and Khalid suspected he had regretted it every day since.

  "She's your woman now," Shayne reminded him quietly. "Would you do anything differently? And while you're contemplating your answer, Khalid, tell me, did you ever get around to telling her about Abram and Lessa?"

  "It's too late to consider what I would have done or what I have yet to do. " What he should have done. He never should have stayed away from her. He should have taken her when she was eighteen, when she was young enough to be convinced to be a lover rather than a warrior.

  And Marty was exactly that. She was a warrior, and she had years of training in facing the war she had chosen. Pulling her out of the fire wasn't going to happen now.

  "I wouldn't blame her if she shot all of us. " Joe wiped his hand tiredly over his face as the limo pulled into the driveway of his home. "God help us all. We're going to wish we were all dead now. Virginia's home. "

  "Then get ready to start praying," Zach warned him.

  "I started doing that weeks ago. " Joe stared back at his friend in irritation. "She'll kill you first, though. Think about that. She knows I would have never helped conspire in keeping anything from her. I've just never had the details. "

  "Because you refused to read the files," Zach said angrily.

  "For whatever reason. " Joe shrugged calmly. "Still, I covered my back. Let's hope you have as well. God help you if she asked you and you lied to her. "

  "I've never lied to her," Zach snarled.

  The limo rolled to a stop as Khalid leaned forward slowly, catching the attention of both men.

  "Her protection is no longer your concern," he stated, his tone icy, filled with purpose.

  "Khalid . . . " A frown line snapped between Zach's brows. He was a father first, Khalid had always known that, but in his efforts to protect his daughter he had done nothing but harm her.

  "She is mine now," he stated, his voice harsh. "You will not interfere in that, nor will you interfere in her life any longer. And the next meeting you arrange, you will do so in a venue that she can attend. No more secrets, period. "

  But he was guilty of his own secrets, and Khalid knew it.

  Joe groaned. "Taking her out of it now will be impossible. "
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