Their virgin secretary, p.30
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       Their Virgin Secretary, p.30

         Part #6 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
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  problem?

  “Belle’s fine. You’re the one with the problem.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean that Belle’s surrender is inevitable. She won’t hold out on us forever.”

  He hadn’t really thought about it. The truth was he’d been happy the last couple of days. Well, he’d been happy at night when they took her and he could be close to her. There had been a deep sense of loss every time the sex ended and he left her bedroom, but he couldn’t do much about that. Sleeping next to her seemed even more intimate than fucking her, so staying the night cuddled up beside her would be implying a promise he couldn’t make.

  And now he realized just how little time he had left with her…maybe with all of them. “Do you think her belief that the house is haunted will send her back to Chicago with us?”

  If she came back, Kellan had no doubt she would move right into Eric and Tate’s house. What would he do then? Show up for sex? He couldn’t see that working for long. And the night she finally shut the door in his face would fucking hurt.

  “Hell, no. I don’t think anything will induce Belle to leave this house. I’ve been thinking… Next week, I’ll be applying for my license to practice law in Louisiana. I’ll take the state bar exam as soon as possible.”

  Kellan felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. “Are you serious? What about Tate? Have you told him?”

  “No. I just decided today.”

  “Tate won’t leave Chicago,” Kell pointed out.

  “He fears change and always has. Do you know the anxiety he went through when I bought a different brand of toilet paper? But there’s only one thing he fears more and that’s losing Belle. She’s going to soften and let us into her lives. Once she does, he’s going to give in. It’s inevitable. She’s the one. At least, she’s the one for us.”

  “Oh my god,” Belle stuck her head back through the door looking more animated than she had in days. There was an excited light to her eyes. “I saw a shadow person tonight. Tate just found all this information. It’s so cool. Apparently when really bad things happen in a space, sometimes energy lingers and forms this creepy paranormal entity that appears as a black mass. It can sometimes feed off of negative energy in the house or the bad moods of people in it. Isn’t that amazing? I also ordered a ghost hunting kit off the Internet. It gets here tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a dictation tape recorder. I’m going to see if I can capture some EVPs.”

  “What?” Kell wondered if she’d suddenly decided to speak a foreign language.

  “Electronic voice phenomenon. Even if the human ear can’t detect them, recorders have been capturing compelling sounds and voices for decades.” Tate poked his head in, looking just as excited as Belle.

  “Ghost voices?”

  “Yeah.” Belle nodded. “It would explain so much around here. I mean, when Gates first brought up the idea that the house might be haunted, I didn’t want to believe it, but…it really makes sense.”

  Eric laughed indulgently. “Then I guess we’re going into the ghost hunting business, baby.”

  She bit her bottom lip, looking almost apologetic. “Is it wrong that I’m a little excited?”

  Eric shrugged. “I’m getting used to having my ass patted.” His face went blank. “Yeah, there it went again.”

  “I think that particular ghost is harmless, babe. Come on. You have to see what we found out.” She gave them a brilliant smile and ran back toward the living room.

  No doubt about it. She was the one. He just wasn’t good enough for her.

  When should he pack up and leave? Tonight? Tomorrow? Maybe she’d grant him one last night.

  Eric put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go and try to figure this out. Ghost or no ghost, I think an actual person left the message on Belle’s bedroom wall right after we arrived. I would feel better if we found out who wants her gone from here. Maybe we should research the house and see if we can find out if any of our suspects have hidden attachments to the place.”

  “Eric, there’s an app!” Belle yelled.

  Kell stared, astounded. Eric’s smile could only be described as joyful. “Man, ghost or not, I’m just happy to see her smile.”

  He walked away, joining Tate and Belle.

  For a deathly quiet moment, Kellan stared at the place where his friends and his love had been before they’d left him behind.

  His time was running out.

  His neck jerked again, this time stronger than the last. It felt like someone had just roughly smacked him upside the head. “Goddamn it.”

  He really needed to get that looked at.

  * * * *

  Tate stretched as he closed the laptop and glanced at the clock. It was after two in the morning, but he’d found an enormous amount of information on the house he now lived in—and possibly shared with a bunch of creepy shit and one slightly sexually forward ghost grandma. Was he really thinking about ghosts? And was he really thinking about bringing some psychic in to do a house cleansing? All the sites he’d read had suggested he should, though some of the same sites also told him what to do in case of a Bigfoot attack.

  Where was he going to find the psychic equivalent of a Swiffer?

  “Hey, why don’t you come to bed?” Belle stood in the doorway. She and Eric and Kellan had gone upstairs an hour before, but he’d stayed behind, his brain running too fast to sleep.

  She looked gorgeous standing there with her hair mussed and a sleepy expression on her face. Clearly, she’d been tossed a time or two, and his dick got hard, despite his weariness. It was never tired around Belle.

  “I’ll be up in a minute. I just want to make some notes for when I head over to the city records building tomorrow.” He’d discovered some very interesting facts about the house, including several rumors that the girls who committed suicide had actually been killed by their father. The incident had happened back in the fifties, before Belle’s grandmother had bought the place. In fact, after the father of the dead young women had passed on himself, two other people had bought the house. Both had sold it again within a year. Belle’s grandmother had paid far below market value for the house. That explained how she’d managed to afford it. But Tate felt sure he was missing more, something that explained who wanted Belle gone from here now. He needed to delve into city records to see if he could find any clues.

  He also needed a little space. He’d gotten close to her again tonight and not in a physical way. Over the last several days, he’d managed to put distance between them. She wanted him in bed. He wanted her, too. He could handle that. He could fuck her every night and do his job in the morning, putting her out of his head until it was time to fuck her again.

  When she was safe, he would walk away and sink himself into building the firm. He would keep all of his relationships purely physical. Eric could date, and if the lady felt adventurous, Tate could join them for sex. At least that had been the plan he’d been brewing for days. Hearing her scream tonight, holding her and researching crazy shit with her—yeah, that had screwed with his perfectly good strategy.

  She moved in behind him, cupping his shoulders in her gentle hands. “I’m having a hard time sleeping without you. I’ve gotten used to having someone on both sides of me.”

  “Well, maybe you can get a body pillow.” He hated the fact that he sounded like a sulking kid, but he hurt inside in a way he hadn’t for a very long time. Maybe when she saw how childish he could be she would kick him to the curb and put him out of his misery. Staying here with her was like living in purgatory.

  She wrapped her arms around his neck, laying a kiss on his cheek. “A body pillow wouldn’t be as warm as you. Nor would it be as sweet or funny or perfect. Come upstairs with me. I hate the thought of you down here alone.”

  He sighed, unable to stop himself from letting his head roll back until their cheeks brushed. He closed his eyes, damning himself. He was addicted to her. He could keep telling himself he’d walk away, but e
very time she offered him even the smallest taste of her, he took it greedily with both hands.

  “I’m not alone,” he said. “I have Sir. He sleep barks by the way. And I think he’s sleep running. His paws keep twitching.”

  Belle laughed and let him go, moving around the desk to see Sir asleep on the couch. “Thanks for letting him stay in here.”

  He’d gotten used to the mutt. Another thing he would miss when he was back in Chicago. He was getting used to New Orleans, used to living with her…used to having this little slice of heaven. “No problem.”

  Belle scooped up her puppy, who looked at her with sleepy eyes before giving her a lick. “Did I ever tell you about what happened the day my dad died?”

  He sat up straight, his whole being focused on her. She so rarely talked about her past that he knew she was about to tell him something important. “No. I know there was a car accident.”

  She nodded, stroking Sir as though finding comfort in the action. “Yes. I was just a kid. It was raining that night, but I wanted to go to my friend’s slumber party. I didn’t usually get invited to stuff like that. Kinley did, and she talked this girl into asking me, too. I think her name was Brianna, but I can’t remember. How sad is that? I can’t remember her name. I should remember everything about the night my dad died.”

  “You don’t have to, baby. All you have to do is remember he loved you. What happened?” He had an inkling, but she needed to say it.

  Her eyes took on a far-off look as though she wasn’t really there with him, but lost in the past. “My mom thought the storm was too bad to drive in. She told me I couldn’t go. She wouldn’t drive me. My dad came home from work early and I cried and threw a temper tantrum and I got my way.”

  “Baby, it was not your fault. You were a child.”

  She sniffled a little. “He lost control on his way home. He died at roughly eight pm according to the police reports. I was playing with lip gloss and listening to music when he died and do you know how I found out? She came and got me the next morning. She didn’t even tell me that night.”

  His heart ached for her. “Maybe she was trying to give you one last night.”

  “I wish. She claims she had a lot of things to do concerning the accident and dad’s body. She said she thought it would be best to tell me after I got a good night’s sleep.” Belle shook her head. “That wasn’t it. She shut me out, Tate. She pulled her grief around her and she wouldn’t let me in. She blamed me.”

  He couldn’t keep his distance when she looked so miserable. He stood and crossed the empty space between them. “Baby, it wasn’t your fault.”

  She sniffled, tears welling in her eyes. “One day I was a kid with two parents who loved me. The next day my mother resented me, and I was alone.” Her voice shook. “Tate, I’m so scared it could happen again.”

  He hugged her and sighed, an odd relief filling him. They were finally at the heart of the matter. “You think if Kellan leaves, we’ll resent you.”

  She closed her eyes, letting her forehead rest against his. “You guys are so close. You all need one another.”

  Belle was also afraid she would lose the little family they’d formed. She was afraid she would be all alone again with no one to blame but herself. Tate wanted to rail at his own idiocy. He’d been so hurt by her rejection—seemingly like every other one he’d been dealt—that he hadn’t thought to look for the real reasons behind Belle’s refusal to let them close.

  “Do you know what I’m going to feel if Kellan leaves us? I’m going to feel sorry for him, Belle. I’m going to pity him because here’s the truth: we could have an amazing family and a beautiful life.”

  “But—”

  “No, let me say this. Eric and I have been talking. If you’d let us, we would be together for as long fate allows. If anything happened to one of us, we’d cling to whoever is left because that’s what family is supposed to do. Mine didn’t. My parents’ version of love and support was to punish me when I didn’t perform perfectly. Eric was only valued athletically. We could be different. We wouldn’t have to do anything the way they did. In fact, we wouldn’t. If you agree, we’ll figure this out. The one thing I do know is that I won’t hate you if Kellan leaves. You didn’t push him out the door. He’s a grown man choosing to let his past hurt him. That’s not your fault.”

  Tears splashed on her cheeks, and Tate knew he was making the right decision. Now he just needed to make Belle understand that he wasn’t walking away. Too many people had disappeared from her life. He refused to be another.

  He tilted her chin up, forcing her to look in his eyes. “If you let me into your life, Annabelle, I will never leave you. I love you. I won’t regret anything except losing you.”

  Her eyes closed briefly. “I hope you mean that.”

  It wasn’t exactly what he wanted to hear. She hadn’t told him she loved him back. She hadn’t agreed to marry him, but she also hadn’t run away. She stood here with him. As long as she was in his arms, he had a shot and he intended to take it.

  Sir lay between them, but he didn’t seem to mind being squished. The puppy simply chose the most important moment of his life to start licking his ankles. “Belle, look at me.”

  Her eyes opened and widened before she laughed. “Sir, stop.”

  Instead, Sir pranced with a happy bark, then tried to mount his leg. Tate sighed. “I’m pretty sure he licks his own butt, and I may die of some horrible puppy venereal disease. Would any man who didn’t love you to the core of his being allow himself to be molested like this?”

  “Definitely not. Will you come to bed with me?”

  He would go anywhere to be with her. He would even study for another damn bar exam. “Yes.”

  He took her hand and led her up the stairs.

  Chapter Sixteen

  Kellan frowned as he looked down at the massive stack of information Tate had compiled in a short period of time. “I don’t see how this changes anything.”

  Afternoon light filtered through the stained glass, making the floors Belle had splurged on to have sanded and stained again absolutely gleam. Another knock sounded at the door, and he heard Eric begrudgingly welcome back the electrician inside the house again.

  “Where’s Belle?” Mike asked with a grin.

  Kell wanted to punch him until he lay flat on the floor. “Busy.”

  Mike shrugged. “Tell her I said hi.”

  “Maybe we should try someone new,” Tate muttered as Mike made his way toward the stairs. “I don’t care how old and complex the wiring is in this house, he should have fixed it by now. And you should really read all of that info before you start telling me I’m wrong.”

  Between the endless contractors and Tate’s newfound belief in the paranormal, Kellan’s day was rapidly going to hell. “I don’t see how a bunch of rumors help us figure out what’s going on in this house. I don’t need to know the history. I need to know who’s trying to scare Belle out of it right now.”

  Eric shouldered his way back into the kitchen. “That’s an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, and some woman with a god-awful amount of something she calls swatches. Belle’s trying to pick between five colors that all look the exact same to me, but apparently they have different names so the decision is massive. Who are our most likely suspects here?”

  So many people walking in and out of the house. Every single one of them was a suspect in his mind. “Don’t forget the landscaper she brought in. And someone’s coming in today to look at all the old photos. Belle wants to restore some she found in the attic. I put them over by the copy machine.”

  The photos didn’t matter now. “Process of elimination. Who was here that first day? Mike, Gates, Captain Ron—”

  “Who?” Tate looked confused.

  “Mullet guy,” Kell supplied. “Big belly, lots of crack.”

  “Oh, the plumber.” Tate sighed. “Who else was here that first day? The interns.”

  “They haven’t been back,” Eric pointed
out.

  “And nothing else has happened.” Kell crossed his arms over his chest. “Any one of them could have done it and none of them appear to have a motive. This isn’t getting us anywhere.”

  “Wow,” Tate exclaimed, looking at a framed photo in his hands before he passed it over.

  Kell took the big black-and-white picture of Belle’s grandmother and a bunch of women. They were all standing in front of the house, smiling and looking like they were ready for an evening at the disco. It had been taken in the seventies from all
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