Their virgin mistress, p.17
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       Their Virgin Mistress, p.17
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         Part #7 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black

  time convincing her she can handle the pressure.”

  Put like that, her actions concerned him. “Do you think she believes we’re not worth it?”

  “I’m not certain she’s figured that out yet. I worry she won’t allow herself to. I suspect she intends to leave for America soon.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “I don’t. But I know how to run away from a problem, Cal. I’m an expert at it. Why do you think I’m here? I’m looking for closure so I don’t make the same mistakes again. I hate myself for what I did to Tori that night. I don’t want to hurt another woman the way I hurt her.”

  “How are you going to handle it once she’s married to Rory and me? I know you doubt it’s going to happen, but I can’t live without her. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

  “To be honest, I don’t know.” Oliver sighed. “That’s another thing I’m trying to figure out.”

  “There’s always a place for you with us,” Callum offered, hoping that Oliver truly listened. “Just think about it. You wouldn’t have to worry about who would take care of Tori if something happened to you. You also wouldn’t have to worry about her suddenly turning into Satan because I obviously have better taste in women than you.”

  “You think so?” Oliver laughed. “I will point out your fling with Thea.”

  Callum couldn’t argue that. “Yes, but I’ve come up in the world. Tori is nothing like Thea.”

  “She’s not Yas, either. I know that. I simply don’t know how I would feel about sharing her. I can be possessive.”

  Holy hell. They were talking about it. Oliver was actually talking about the possibility of sharing Tori. Callum wasn’t sure what his older brother had been doing whilst he was away, but it seemed to have done Oliver a world of good. “Rory and I are both figuring it out moment by moment. We want the same thing out of life. That’s a start.”

  “Well, it seems all the good places are taken.” Oliver deflected his seriousness with a smirk.

  “Oh, we rotate, brother, and that girl has a saucy mouth.”

  Oliver’s grin widened. “You’re quite creative when it comes to penetrating a woman.”

  “It’s a calling.” Callum winked, thinking that maybe Ollie wasn’t the only one who needed to apologize. “I’m sorry about the fight we had. I should have talked to you before I decided to claim Tori. I knew both you and Rory had a thing for her. I was being selfish. I hadn’t thought it through.”

  “I’m sorry about the fight, too. I lost my temper.”

  Callum paused, looking for the right words. “You know… I truly think sharing Tori is a good solution for all of us.”

  “I’m not certain of that. I’m not certain of anything except that I need to talk to her.”

  “Do you still want her?” Callum asked.

  “Yes, more than I want my next breath, but I’m not sure I’m good for her.”

  It was a start. “That’s the beauty of this relationship, brother. We bolster each other’s weaknesses. She’s always got the three of us.”

  Oliver seemed to ponder that for a long moment. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

  The door flung open suddenly, and Rory dashed inside, his eyes wild. He’d put on his tux, but his tie was undone and it looked as if his hair had endured a windstorm.

  Rory stopped short, staring at the two of them. “You’re not fighting.” He sounded shocked. “I realized Cal was gone and I figured he’d come here.”

  Oliver sent Rory a deeply superior stare. “Callum and I are adults and we get on quite well.”

  It was good to feel like they were on the same side. Rory could be very bossy.

  “That’s right.” Callum nodded.

  Rory frowned. “I don’t know that I like you two putting on a united front.”

  But he was smiling, most likely since it had been such a long time since they’d been united on anything. Not since before what had happened in this room.

  This very room. Callum hadn’t recognized it before. The whole place had been redone, but now he could see this was the room where Oliver had nearly been killed.

  Was he back to wallow in the past? Or had he truly come back for closure?

  “Rory, come here. You’ve made a complete mess of that tie.” Oliver took over while their youngest brother fussed back at him.

  One way or another, Callum would get his family back together. Starting tonight.

  * * * *

  “Is it time, Your High Ass?” Tori kind of coughed the last couple of words. Shortly after her sister had married the al Mussad brothers, Tori had taken a class on protocol and been told that she must always refer to her sister as “Your Highness.” That had not gone over well.

  Piper looked utterly luminous as she turned and smiled her way. “Oh, how I’ve missed your smart mouth. I almost thought it was gone.”

  “Never.” She was going to miss being on the same continent as her sister. And her nephews. Life wasn’t the same without them. “My sarcasm goes on and on.”

  Piper slipped her hand into Tori’s as they ascended the stairs. At the top, they would line up to step down into the magnificently elegant ballroom. The space really consisted of several rooms used for entertaining on a grand scale, including a massive formal dining room, the grand ballroom, and a large reception hall for splashy entrances. All of the guests, including many members of the press, were in the reception hall on the first floor of the public wing, waiting for them. These rooms were far from the other two wings of the palace, one each for business and residential purposes. All led to the amazing gardens that surrounded the palace. Tori planned on smiling and waving, then running straight for the shelter of the magnificent greenery outside.

  She would give it an hour before she disappeared to cozy up in her PJs and whatever ice cream she could find. She would turn on the satellite dish and try to find some juicy TV. Anything to make her forget about the three men she’d left behind in England.

  “You both look lovely.” Kadir stepped up and winked her way. “You know my cousins are here.”

  That was so not happening. “Please tell them I would love a dance.”

  She would be gone by the time the music started.

  “Liar,” her sister whispered.

  “I will tell them. They’ll be very excited.” Kadir turned to Rafiq, who was walking up with Talib. All three men looked resplendent in their formal wear. She couldn’t help but remember how the Thurston-Hughes brothers appeared so masculine and gorgeous in their tuxedos.

  Rafe winked her way as he tucked Piper’s hand into his own. “Abdul will be thrilled. He’s done nothing but talk about Tori since he first saw her picture. He’s told his brothers that you’re the one.”

  Unfortunately, there was no one for her. Even if she could have the three she wanted, she shouldn’t. She couldn’t handle the complexities of that kind of relationship the way her sister did.

  Tori stepped away and took her place at the back of the group.

  “A thousand Euros says she dances with none of them this evening.” Talib gave his brothers a superior grin.

  They started up the stairs. Ahead, she spotted Princess Alea and her husbands being announced. They entered, Dane leading the way. On either side of Alea, Landon and Cooper surrounded her. She was protected by them.

  Her sister’s husbands would enter in the same formation, Talib in the lead.

  And Tori would bring up the rear. Alone.

  “I’ll take that bet,” Kade said.

  “I don’t know. I think Tal knows something we don’t. Do you think our visitor will be a problem?” Rafe asked as they moved toward the top of the stairs.

  “Visitor?” Tori asked.

  “We have many visitors,” Tal explained. “Tonight we will celebrate Bezakistan’s founding. It should be a wonderful occasion. And very entertaining. Shall we? The boys are downstairs with their nanny. We’ll greet the party and let them make a brief appearance.”

  She so hoped her nephews pooped on a dignitary. Or the press. That would be fun. Maybe all her clients from now on should be babies. They were sweeter than most of her clientele and they rarely made as big a mess. Michael and Sabir’s dirty bottoms had nothing on a Thurston-Hughes scandal.

  She followed her family up the steps. At the top, they were presented to the guests with all appropriate pomp and circumstance. As they descended into the ballroom, guests clapped and cheered in support for the royal family. Tori hoped no one noticed she was struggling with her shoes. Piper had picked out a gorgeous strapless Gucci gown in a luscious cream color and to-die-for Charlotte Olympia shoes, but the dress was slightly too long, the heels definitely too high. And Tori wished she had a wrap. She was showing a lot more cleavage than she ever comfortably revealed.

  Breathe. She tried not to look out over the glittering crowd. During times like this, she realized how far her sister had come. Piper was regal, gracefully managing each step while she smiled and nodded to the crowd. She was at ease with their attention and the three men who made up her world. Tori bet her sister would have handled the situation with Oliver and Callum differently. Piper was strong. If she’d been caught in that conference room with Callum’s hand on her hoo haw, she wouldn’t have stood there in shame. She would have told Oliver to stop whining and join in or get the hell out and let her enjoy her time with Callum. Piper would likely have walked right up to Rory and kissed him, then laid out the law to all three of them.

  Piper could also weather the storm that would follow.

  No. She’d decided. She was going back to Texas. She would accept the Black Oak Oil job she’d been offered not an hour before. Eventually, she would find a nice guy and live a quiet life. That was her speed. No cameras. No paparazzi. No crazy headlines. Just her and a nice man and some very normal children.

  She made it to the edge of the last step, focusing on the back of Kadir’s shoulders rather than the waiting sea of faces, when she released the side of her dress. Then she somehow stepped on her hem. As she lost her balance and started to topple over, she heard the gasps of the crowd. Flashbulbs flared, and Tori could see the headline: Royal Celebration Ruined by Clumsy Sister. She was going to break a leg. She couldn’t watch. Her ankle was twisting as she went down.

  Right before she hit the floor, muscular arms surrounded her, cradling her from the fall. She opened her eyes ready to thank whichever al Mussad brother had caught her.

  “Are you all right, sweetheart?” Rory’s stare delved hers.

  Rory was here? Or had she taken a header down the stairs and conked her skull? Was she now seeing things? Maybe she had a concussion. Could those cause realistic visions?

  “Love?” Another familiar voice hit her ear. Callum.

  Flashbulbs popped again. Whispers and gasps all around them resounded.

  “Mindy, what happened?” Piper whirled around to her, then sent a warning stare to Rory and Callum. “What are you two doing here?”

  At least her sister hadn’t known.

  Tori tried to get to her feet, but Rory’s arms tightened around her.

  “They are my guests.” Talib took Piper’s hand. “And they seem to have the situation in hand. Gentlemen, I suggest you take her someplace private for a chat. This reunion does not require gawkers.”

  Talib had known, damn him. She pushed her way out of Rory’s arms, struggling to find her feet in the tight dress. “Your guests? You invited them here?”

  “Tori, please. The press,” Piper whispered.

  She glanced around. Everyone was staring. Oliver shouldered his way through the crowd, wearing a fierce frown. The whole gang was here. Yippee. They would all get to witness her humiliation.

  Oliver stepped in front of her and reached for her bodice.

  She slapped at him. “What are you doing?”

  “Slipping your nipple back into your dress. I think the press has more than enough photos,” he explained matter of factly.

  “Oh, my god.” When she’d fallen, part of her right breast had slipped free.

  “Please, Rafiq, have the orchestra begin as soon as possible,” Talib murmured.

  Piper tried to pull away from him. “I need to help my sister.”

  Tal leaned in, his voice quiet, but Tori could hear him. “The reporters will follow you, dear. Your sister has help. Allow her men to do their jobs. This is a request, habibti. Don’t make me command what you know is right.”

  Piper nodded and sent Tori a small smile. “It’s going to be okay.” She turned back to the crowd. “I think it’s time we gathered the princes for a photo op.”

  The minute she waved her hand, the nanny brought the two princes forward. Sure enough, everyone’s attention immediately went to the adorable royal babies. Her sister and Talib held the boys for pictures as Rafe and Kadir started on damage control.

  “I’ll try to secure the images, but I can’t take every camera.” Kade headed for the reporters.

  She’d messed everything up.

  Tori turned to start back up the stairs. If she were her own client she would tell herself to straighten her dress and paste on a smile and dance with her head held high. It was better to laugh off a mistake than to let the public see you cry. Maybe she could have done it if she’d had any experience with that personally and no one had seen how gauche and graceless she’d been.

  Rory gripped her hand. “You’re not leaving.”

  Anger flared through her. Leaving was better than suffering horrible humiliation. “You don’t have a say in what I do.”

  Callum was suddenly at her side as though ready to stop her should she climb any further up the stairs. “Darling, we need to dance. Smile and talk to the reporters. Nothing happened to you that hasn’t happened to every starlet in Hollywood. You had a wardrobe malfunction. It’s not the end of the world.”

  “It’s not your boob that’s going to be plastered all over the papers tomorrow,” she hissed back.

  Callum’s eyes went arctic cold. “Like hell it’s not. Now, stop acting like a brat or I’ll throw you over my knee and give the press a real story to report.”

  Oliver stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching them. “While that might be amusing, I think we should spank her privately. Do I have a vote? We haven’t talked about it. Is this a democratic ménage?”

  What was Oliver talking about? “Callum can’t spank me.”

  He leaned in, his voice right against her ear. “I can and I will. I already owe you for lying to me about your engagement in London. You’ll thank me when it’s over. I can be deeply indulgent, but I also know when to take control. You might be clever, love, but I can play a rough game and I always play to win. I might do it with an idiotic grin on my face, but that’s a mask. You keep pushing me and you’ll meet the real man.”

  A shiver went down her spine that had only the tiniest thing to do with fear. The rest was pure arousal.

  “Come on. We’ll put in an appearance. Then the four of us will go somewhere to talk,” Rory commanded. It wasn’t a suggestion.

  The hardness of his tone shocked Tori…but perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, Rory had taken over the company when their father died. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Rory had steered the ship while Oliver had gotten married and Callum had played football. He’d been the glue, and when Oliver needed something to occupy his mind after Yasmin’s betrayal, Rory had been strong enough to relinquish some of his power to his eldest brother.

  “We don’t have anything to talk about.” But she allowed Rory to lead her off the steps. She was still shaky. At least her ankle was feeling solid. She hadn’t sprained anything except her ego. “My brother-in-law sent you a check.”

  And she’d be repaying him until the end of time.

  “Which I promptly tore up,” Rory explained, looking so sleek in his tux. If he had a martini in his hand, he would remind her of James Bond. Sophisticated, gorgeous, and dangerous. He threaded her arm through his, stabilizing her. “Those shoes are
lovely, but you’re going to break a leg in them. You’ll need to take them off before we dance.”

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