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Seduced, Page 27

Melody Anne

  “What? I don’t understand, Shane. I know you quit after four years,” she said. He heard the mistrust in her voice.

  “It’s complicated, Lia, but I am still part of the military and I have to keep it private. I really can’t talk about it,” he said, his arm tightening around her when she wriggled against him, tried to pull free.

  “Let go, Shane. I want to see your face,” she demanded.

  With reluctance, he loosened his grasp and she sat up, pulling the blanket with her to cover her chest as she stared down at him. Feeling at a disadvantage, he moved upward, sitting against the headboard.

  “I’m sorry, Lia. I know I should have said something earlier, but I couldn’t without going into a lot of detail. I…I don’t really know how to explain this. My hands are tied. ”

  She gazed at him as if trying to figure out whether anything he was telling her was the truth.

  “If you don’t want to be with me, Shane, you don’t need to make up a story. I’m a big girl and can handle it. I’ve been broken up with before, but I have to tell you, this is the most original story I’ve heard yet,” she snarled.

  “It’s not a story, Lia. I don’t want to leave you. For the first time, I don’t want to go, but I have no choice,” he said and tried to pull her close.

  She recoiled from him, not allowing his hands to wrap around her. Shane blew out a breath in frustration. Nothing with Lia was easy, but then he wouldn’t love her as he did if she weren’t such a strong woman.

  “So, you want me to believe that you’re some special agent with the military, and you have to go on a top-secret mission. You’ll return when you can, but then you may just be swept off again when the time is right,” she said, her words oozing with sarcasm.

  “I don’t expect you to be happy about it, but I’ve never lied to you, Lia. Not once,” he said, looking her square in the eyes.

  Page 102


  “I guess I wouldn’t know that, Shane. You’re doing a damn fine job of looking me in the face while you tell me this story right now. ”

  “It’s not a story, Lia. I have to leave for a while, but I shouldn’t be gone more than three weeks tops. ”

  “Wait! All those times you were supposedly in other countries building homes and helping the poor — were you on missions then, too?”

  “Not every time, but yes, often,” he answered.

  “Then I guess you have lied to me, Shane, because I thought you were helping people,” she snapped.

  “I am helping people. Do you know the lives we save?” he thundered in frustration. He risked his life every time he suited up for a mission. She was acting as if what he did was wrong, was selfish.

  “Well, I don’t believe you, Shane. I think you are just freaking out because things have moved too fast between us. I knew this would happen. When we were on the deserted island, just the two of us, it was easy to believe that everything was perfect, that nothing else mattered. Now, we’re back in the real world again, and you’re getting cold feet. That’s fine. I don’t care. I’m a big girl and can take care of myself. However, I’ve known you far too long for you to disrespect me with a story like this. If you were in the military, I would know. Hell, Rafe would know, and that’s something he wouldn’t keep from me,” she said.

  He knew he must have a guilty expression on his face, because her eyes narrowed and she looked at him with dawning horror.

  “He does know, doesn’t he? You’re actually telling me the truth!”

  “Rafe and I go back a long way. He knew me when things were rough in my life. He’s my brother, Lia,” he tried to explain.

  She threw her hands in the air, forgetting that she was clutching the blanket to her chest. It fell, exposing her perfect br**sts to his view. He knew it wasn’t a smart decision to stare at their beauty, not when she was so pissed off, but he couldn’t help himself. He’d held their weight in his hands, tasted them on his tongue. It was impossible not to look.

  The hard slap to his face showed him the error of his ways.

  “Don’t you dare look at me like that, Shane. I am so beyond mad at you, I don’t think you’ll ever have the privilege of touching my body again. And it’s your loss!”

  With that, she scrambled from the bed, not bothering to cover herself up as she stormed to the bathroom and slammed the door.

  She just needed time to cool off. That was all. Everything would be fine. He could understand that she was mad that Rafe once again knew something she didn’t know. It wasn’t as if he’d wanted to keep it from her; it was just difficult always to have to think about what he could and couldn’t say.

  Everything was much simpler if people just didn’t know. Of course, that wasn’t an option when it came to Rafe. Shane had needed someone to talk to, someone who could understand when he needed to vent.

  Some of the things he had to deal with gave him nightmares. He’d learned over the years to tune a lot of it out, to erase it from his mind, but some of it still got through. Rafe had always been there for him when those times came up.

  Lia had been too young, and then when he started becoming serious about her, he hadn’t wanted to burden her.

  No. That was crap. He hadn’t wanted to skate around the truth, think about what he could and couldn’t say to her. He’d wanted to just be free to be himself, and to relax with her — just love her and have her love him.

  Once she knew he had a secret life that she couldn’t be a part of, then that’s all that she’d ever think about, and it would always come between them.

  When the door opened again, Lia was dressed.

  She approached the bed, glaring down at him. “I’m going home. ”

  She turned on her heel and began marching toward the door. Shane was fed up with what he considered her tantrum. He leapt from the bed and caught up to her before she made it to the door, pushing her against the solid wood as he blocked her with his body.

  “We need to talk more, Lia. I don’t want to leave with this between us,” he said as she struggled against him, her arms trapped against the side of her body.

  “I told you I’m through talking tonight, Shane,” she replied through gritted teeth.

  “Don’t act like a baby. We’re in an adult relationship, and couples fight. We need to face it, not run away,” he said, wanting to lean forward and kiss her into submission.

  That wasn’t going to happen, and he knew it. He also knew he really should learn to think before speaking, because it seemed he was doing nothing but digging himself a deeper hole. He was sure she’d love to bury him inside of it when he was finished.

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  “Believe me, Shane, I am anything but a baby. I have claws, and if you don’t let me go right now, I’ll show you how sharp they are,” she spit.

  “Damn, you are stunning when you’re pissed off,” he gasped, his body hardening as he pressed against her.

  He watched desire spark in her eyes as she felt his erection against her stomach. He also saw the determined glint behind the desire. He wasn’t going to get to alleviate his hunger tonight.

  “Let go now. ” Her voice was eerily calm. She refused to acknowledge his version of you’re so cute when you’re mad.

  For him to keep holding her would be wrong. Taking a quick step back, he tried one more time.

  “Let’s just talk this out, Lia. ”

  Her eyes drifted down his body, taking in his aroused state before coming back up and stopping at his face.

  “Why don’t you think about what you really want? I’m not just a quick and easy lay in the sack no matter how many times I’ve fallen all over myself to have you inside me. You’ve lied to me, kept information from me, and in the process treated me with disrespect. I’m a catch, Shane, a damn fine one. I won’t be treated so poorly. ”

  With that, Lia opened the door and walked through, shutting it with a final clic

k behind her.

  Shane knew he could chase after her, stand outside her door if he had to until she agreed to talk to him. But, knowing Lia, he would just be wasting his time. She needed to cool off, speak to her sister and realize that what he’d done wasn’t so bad.

  They had tomorrow. He could talk to her again. If not, then they had the wedding. Didn’t weddings make people all sappy? She’d surely want to make up before he left.

  Shane went back to his now empty bed and lay down. As he looked over at her pillow and inhaled her sweet scent, he knew he wouldn’t get any sleep.

  Letting out a groan, he got up, threw on some clothes and decided to go for a run. He’d wear himself out to the point that he passed out, even if it took him half the night.

  The only thing he knew for sure was that he couldn’t leave on bad terms with Lia. She had to realize he was in love with her, wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. She would, he assured himself. She just needed to cool down first.

  Chapter Forty-Four


  “This is ridiculous, Ari. I am too old to have a stupid bachelor party,” Rafe said as he held Ari in his arms on the couch.

  “Shane threatened to tie up anyone who got in the way of this ritual, Rafe. He pointed out that it’s his duty as your best man to ensure that you have a smoking good time on the last night before the wedding. I did, however, threaten to hang him by his toes if you came to the ceremony with a hangover,” Ari said, then kissed his jaw.

  “I would much rather just spend the night with you in bed,” he said, grabbing her head and kissing her.

  Ari wasn’t thrilled at the idea that Rafe would be hanging out with a bunch of rowdy men, drinking too much, and having women there to entertain them all, but Shane assured her they would keep the party PG. Still, she didn’t trust Shane. He liked to have a good time just a little too much.

  The thought of Rafe ogling half-naked women set her blood to boiling. She trusted Rafe fully, but she still had to admit to some rather irrational insecurities.

  “You’re late, Rafe,” Shane hollered as he walked into the house.

  Ari had the sudden urge to grab on tight and not let Rafe go, but she refused to be one of those clingy, desperate wives who so justly earned the scorn of the world. There was no point in starting out their new life together if she didn’t trust him enough to send him off to a simple bachelor party.

  “This is so ridiculous, Shane,” Rafe grumbled as he extracted himself from Ari’s arms and stood looking down at her one last time.

  “Time’s wasting. We will see you tomorrow, Ari,” Shane said with a wink.

  Ari was concerned when she looked at Shane. He had dark circles beneath his eyes, and though he was smiling, it was obvious that something was wrong. She was about to ask him, but he turned and began leading Rafe away.

  Soon, she was standing in Rafe’s large living room all by herself, and she had to fight off a little anxiety before she got ready to head home. After all, it was bad luck to stay the night at Rafe’s place, and with the bad luck they’d already had, she didn’t want to jinx the wedding.

  This was silly. She had the journal she could pore over, or she could call her mom and go out for dessert before heading home. She absolutely refused to allow Rafe’s comings and goings to affect her this much.

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  As she moved toward the library, she heard the front door open, and her heart skipped a beat.

  “Come on, Ari, we have work to do. ”

  Ari turned to find Lia and Rachel standing in the living room, both dressed in tight skirts and revealing tops, and with their hair and makeup done to perfection.

  “What’s going on?” she asked with no little trepidation. They’d already had her bachelorette party the night before. It had been a great time, though she’d never admit to Rafe that they’d watched a performance of the Chippendales dance troupe.

  He’d be furious if he knew that one of the dancers had basically given her a lap dance. After she’d had a few drinks, against her usual rules, she hadn’t even minded.

  Yes, she knew it was a double standard that she’d seen male strippers but didn’t want him to have the same privilege with women dancers, but female strippers lost all their clothes. The male ones kept their “naughty bits” covered, leaving that for the imagination. So there, Rafe! And besides, men were always thinking below the belt, but did women ever do that? Hmmm. Never mind.

  “We’re crashing the bachelor party,” Rachel said with glee.

  “There is no way I’m doing that. I had to practically force Rafe from the house to go to his party at all. I don’t want him to think I don’t trust him,” Ari said.

  “Shane hired a stripper to jump out of a cake,” Lia informed her.

  Ari’s eyes narrowed, and she glared toward the door. She hoped Shane felt the heat in his back.

  “He promised me the party would be PG,” Ari said.

  “He lied. Apparently, he does that often,” Lia said, and Ari had a good idea where Shane’s dark circles had come from.

  “I still can’t…” Ari began, though she wasn’t happy.

  “Look what we bought. We’re going to trade the stripper out for you. Then the only person dancing on your fiancé’s lap will be you. Unless you don’t mind some young, fake-breasted Barbie doll wriggling all over his…lap,” Rachel said with feigned innocence.

  She was holding up a tiny little skirt and sequined bra, plus a few other items Ari doubted she could fit into.

  “I can’t wear that in public,” Ari gasped.

  “Suit yourself. We can rent a movie and get fat on popcorn and chocolate,” Rachel said, plopping down. The witch knew Ari was going to go crazy even thinking of another woman all over her fiancé.

  “Fine, then,” Ari said. She snatched the bag from Rachel and marched herself into the bathroom.

  Fifteen minutes later, she was staring at the mirror in horror. The bra left her br**sts half exposed. The skirt barely covered the lower part of her backside, and the garter belt made her legs look a mile long. She actually liked the way she looked — she would love to wear the outfit for Rafe in private, but there would be a lot of men at his bachelor party.

  In fact, Rafe would kill her if anyone saw her like this, but desperate times took desperate measures. Well, here goes nothing, she thought as she opened the door and made her way back to the living room after dousing herself in her favorite perfume.

  “Oh, my gosh, Ari, you look like a wet dream come to life,” Lia gasped and made Ari do a spin to show off the outfit.

  “Here’s the final touch,” said Rachel, holding up a pair of five-inch red stiletto heels.

  “I will end up killing someone with those,” Ari said, eyeballing what she considered weapons.

  “Well, then, the man will die a very happy death,” Lia assured her.

  “Unless I’m the one I kill with those monstrosities,” Ari said. “It will be a miracle if I manage to stay upright. ”

  “You probably won’t stay upright for the entire evening in that getup,” Lia joked. “Rafe will see to that. ” She sat Ari down and began putting her hair up while Rachel applied a thick layer of makeup.

  When the two women were satisfied with their handiwork, they gave Ari a coat and marched her out the front door, pushing her into the car waiting for them.

  As they approached the private club where the party was being held, Ari’s nerves went through the ceiling. She really didn’t know how Rafe was going to react, but the girls wouldn’t let her change her mind.

  They sneaked in through the kitchen, and paid off the stripper standing there.

  “I need to check my makeup,” Ari said, and she rushed toward the bathroom. The girls followed her, not giving her a chance to run away.

  “Just breathe. ”

  Ari looked at herself in the mirror and a blush stole over he
r cheeks. She couldn’t believe she was about to step — no, leap — into a room full of men wearing practically nothing and give her husband-to-be a lap dance.

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  When she was almost ready to talk herself out of it, the door opened and a sharp whistle made her jump.

  “Damn, girl! Too bad Rafe’s blindfolded. You look hot. I can’t wait to see his reaction when the blindfold comes off. ”

  “Why is he blindfolded during a striptease?” Ari asked, puzzled.

  “’Cause I called Shane and told him we were doing a swap,” Rachel told her proudly.

  “I can’t believe he went for that,” Lia grumbled.

  “He’s kissing your butt right now, Lia. I just told him that you insisted,” Rachel said smugly. Lia didn’t respond, just muttered something before turning back toward Ari.

  “I’m trying to calm myself down, Rachel. You’re not helping in the least. ”

  “Oh, c’mon, you’re a gorgeous sex goddess who makes him drool. I think you’ll be fine,” her friend replied with a roll of her eyes.

  “It’s not Rafe I’m worried about. I’m a bit terrified to shake my ass in front of his two hundred friends. ”

  “Believe me, girl. They’re all going to be wishing they could switch places with him. Hell, I’m thinking of switching teams. You are rocking that outfit. ”

  “OK, I can do this. Thank you,” Ari told her before adjusting her br**sts, which were perilously close to falling from the skimpy top. Then she stepped inside the cake and the DJ immediately started playing appropriately sleazy music.

  “Good luck,” Rachel called right before the contraption was wheeled out. Ari wondered how she’d gotten herself into this mess. Trapped in another contraption. Her heart thundered as the crowd exploded in cheers. She couldn’t see a thing, and she didn’t know whether she’d be able to do this or not.

  Taking a deep breath, she waited for her cue. She was committed now. She didn’t have a choice but to follow through.

  Chapter Forty-Five


  “Come on, Shane! This is stupid. ”

  “We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but it will happen. ”

  Rafe looked into his best friend’s eyes, trying to determine how serious he was. When Shane didn’t back down even a little, Rafe knew this would be a battle to the very end. Though he was frustrated and more than a little bit sick of this bachelor party, he figured it would be better to get the event over with.