Their virgin mistress, p.30
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       Their Virgin Mistress, p.30
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         Part #7 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black

  Tori sat up, scrambling to get to her clothes. “You’re supposed to be in bed.”

  “He barely needed stitches. He’s played with a concussion,” Rory grumbled as he got to his feet. It looked like his playtime was at an end.

  “My arm hurts something fierce, and I think the drugs the doctor gave me are affecting me.” Callum looked at Tori like a sad little boy. “I woke up without you.”

  Tori picked up Rory’s shirt, abandoning her own clothes. She hurried to reach Callum. “I won’t leave you alone again.” She took his good hand and started leading him out to the hallway. “I’ll take care of you.”

  Just before he disappeared, Cal looked back, giving his brothers a triumphant grin.

  “Bastard,” Oliver whispered with a shake of his head.

  “Well, that’s Cal for you. Leaving us with the rough work.” He started for the bathroom and heard a scream.

  “Did I forget to tell you the maid’s already here?” Oliver asked. “We’re going to have to warn the staff.”

  Rory grabbed his slacks. This definitely wasn’t his father’s staid home anymore.

  And hallelujah for that.


  Two weeks later, Tori sat in front of the fire, staring down at the pages of her father’s journal and wondering if she’d ever known the man at all.

  Her father had been a calm, sweet man. He’d been a great dad. And he’d been so passionate about their mother.

  He’d written page after page about how much he’d loved her, wanted her, needed her. He’d met her when they were seniors in high school and he’d scrapped his idea of going into the Army and followed her to college just to be with her. It had taken him three years to convince her to go out with him, but they had almost twenty years together.

  She hesitated to turn the page because she knew what came next. Her sister had given her three journals filled with their father’s words. She’d made it through the first two. Now she was halfway through the last one, but she knew the remaining pages were deceiving. Journal three had a lot of blank space, the symbol of a life cut short.

  She closed the book and stared at the fire. Did she even want to know? Did she really want to know how her father felt when her mother died? Did she want to know how that love and passion had turned to ashes?

  When Tori closed her eyes, she could see that man pointing the gun and firing at her. She’d felt time slow and watched as blood bloomed on Callum’s arm. In her nightmares, his arm hadn’t taken a bullet but his heart. In those terrible visions, she’d held him while the light in his eyes dimmed…then extinguished. She’d known beyond a shadow of a doubt that his death was on her conscience.

  The past two weeks had been a revelation. Not since childhood had she felt so secure and loved, but she knew that didn’t always last. Sometimes love could be torn asunder by something like a tiny tumor.

  “I wondered where you were.” Her sister-in-law stepped into the room.

  No, her name was Claire, damn it. Tori had to stop thinking of the woman as family. This was the insidious part of the Thurston-Hughes brothers’ plan. They’d tucked her away in the isolation of the gorgeous English countryside and insisted they play house. It was far too easy to forget she wasn’t actually married. Her concubine period still had another two weeks. Then she had to decide if she was going to move forward…or move on.

  “I’m hiding out. I don’t want any part in what’s happening with those lawyers.”

  “Callum thinks you’re mad at him.”

  She sighed. “I’m not. I just don’t want to incite a riot. I heard she insisted on being here.”

  Claire nodded shortly. “She refused to sign the papers if she didn’t get to talk to Callum one last time.”

  Thea had become the bane of Tori’s existence. She’d gone on every talk show possible, chatting endlessly about how Tori had stolen the father of her unborn child. She’d even blamed the fact that she hadn’t gained any weight on the stress of being apart from her lover.

  She believed Callum. They all did. Cal had never loved Thea. She even believed Talib’s report that the woman wasn’t pregnant at all, so the idea of paying her for bad behavior rankled.

  And she knew the news vans with their reporters were still camped outside the gates. They would still be there two weeks from now, waiting for her to tell the world whether there would be a royal wedding or a split.

  “I don’t think Thea should have had a choice.” Tori hated the fact that the woman was in her house. She stopped. In the Thurston-Hughes’s house. It didn’t matter that she’d started to love this place. That still didn’t make it hers. She’d even gotten used to the staff smiling at her and giggling at times. At first, that had been disconcerting. They knew she had sex with three men. She’d gotten the evil eye from some of the older staff members, but she’d overheard them talking in the kitchens. They didn’t dislike her for her morals. They simply couldn’t understand why she needed thirty days to decide to marry the brothers. According to them, any woman who needed that much time to decide didn’t have the sense to become their mistress.

  They were simply protective of the masters.

  “Have you told them that?” Claire asked, sitting down beside her.

  “It’s not my place.” She wasn’t certain she had a place.

  “All right, then. I’ll deal with it myself.” She stood abruptly and straightened out her skirt.

  “Deal with what?”

  Claire didn’t turn. “This is woman’s work. My brothers need someone to guide them. As it obviously won’t be you, I’ll see to this nasty Thea business. I’ll take care of them, as I have ever since my mother died. Apparently, I’ll continue to take care of them once you’re gone.”

  Tori wasn’t sure what had gotten under Claire’s skin. “I haven’t said I’m leaving at all. I simply don’t know that I have any business dealing with the problem.”

  “What do you think a relationship is? You know I like you, Tori, but I’ve come to believe you’re cold. You pretend to be this super-sweet woman who cares about everyone.”

  “I do care.” This conversation was running dangerously close to the one she’d had with Piper. Only she suspected Claire would be less understanding.

  “Only if it doesn’t cross some boundary in your head. You care…but not too much. You’re going to leave them in the end, so you should know I’ll do everything I possibly can to find the right woman for them.”

  Tori should have been happy that Claire was giving her blessing to leave if that was her choice. It should have pleased Tori to know that Claire would take responsibility for these men.

  But Claire was their sister, not their wife, and her words prodded a sore spot Tori hadn’t even known existed. It was her place to deal with Thea because Callum obviously hadn’t done enough to let the woman know she wasn’t wanted. When it came to matters of the heart, there were some things only another woman could explain.

  Tori saw plainly that Claire meant to take her rightful place.

  Claire stared at her for a long moment as though hoping Tori would do something. Instead, Tori felt glued to the chair. She was at a crossroads, and the idea of deciding the rest of her life within a handful of days was daunting. It was all happening way too fast. She wasn’t ready. She might never be ready.

  “All right, then,” Claire said with a sigh. “I wish you wouldn’t stay the rest of the time. They think you’ll choose them. Obviously, you won’t. You’ll use them until the time comes. Then you’ll crush their hearts when you walk off to your safe little world.”

  Every word seemed like a kick in the gut. “The world isn’t safe. I should know that better than anyone.”

  Tears glistened in Claire’s eyes. “I lost my parents, too. I also lost the man I loved. I never talked about it with my brothers. I met him at university. I dated him for over a year. He was killed walking home one night. Some idiot tried to rob him. He didn’t have any money. My parents would have been horrifie
d, which was why I didn’t talk about him. Now I wish I had. I regret that they never knew him. That’s the hardest part. I have no one to talk to about him because no one knew him.”

  Then Claire could understand. “You still feel his loss? It’s still an ache in your heart, right?”

  “Of course. It’s always going to be there.” Claire put a hand to her chest as though she wished it would stop.

  “Don’t you wish it would go away?” Tori asked.

  She shook her head. “That would mean I never loved him. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’m a better person for having loved him. You think you can hide from loss, but all you’ll get at the end of your days is a meaningless existence. When you look back, do you really think you’ll be happy you never loved? Never really loved. Do you think you’ll die with a smile on your face because you never felt anything? No, you’ll die alone and bitter because you chose to. Go home, Tori. There’s no place for you here and you only hurt them by staying. They need a woman, not a frightened little girl. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I really do wish you all the best. I’ll see what I can do about saving my brother from that awful woman.”

  She strode away, and Tori felt something break open inside her.

  God, what was she doing to her men? How could she ever possibly leave them? How could she even think about walking away from them?

  She looked down at the book in her lap. Would her father have done it differently if he’d had the chance? Would he have taken back the years of joy to avoid the horrific pain?

  She flipped to the back because she had to know. She had to know what he’d been thinking in those last days. Had he said good-bye to his girls with every intention of ending his pain?

  With trembling hands, she turned to the last page. Unlike the rest of the journals, which he’d written to himself, he seemed to have written this to their mother after she died. These pages read like letters to his lost love.

  The final entry was two days before his death. Two days before she’d lost her father. The words blurred as Tori read them.

  Dearest Wife,

  It’s been years. I could tell you the exact time to the second, but I’m going to stop that now. My heart aches, but I realized that I can’t mourn forever. I love you. That will never stop, but I have to get up in the morning and move forward. Not because I love you less, but because I realized all the best parts of you are here with me. They’re sleeping two rooms over and I’m failing them. Every moment I spend wishing I’d gone with you is a moment I lose with them and god, they are spectacular. Piper has your sweetness and your smarts. And Mindy. Oh, our Melinda Torrance has your guts. Nothing scares her, but losing her mother seems to have thrown a shadow over her brave soul. So tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and make them breakfast and we’re all going to learn how to live again. We’ll do it together because the last thing they should think is that we should mourn for the rest of their lives. So I’m ending this journal because I think it holds me back. I’m going to talk to them from now on. Good-bye, my love. Until we meet again…

  Tori remembered that morning he’d awakened her and Piper early for breakfast. He’d been more energetic. He’d even talked about their mom. Before that, he’d been silent about her for so long. When Tori had looked back at that morning, she’d assumed he’d merely been preparing to see her mom again. Never once had she imagined that Dad had decided to live once more.

  Fate had changed everything.

  She put the book down.

  She’d once been brave. Her parents had often worried she would die while investigating a sewer drain or climbing a tree she’d had no business climbing. Her sister had been the practical one, always pulling her back from the edge. Tori hadn’t feared anything. Somewhere along the way, she’d learned to be afraid.

  Maybe it was time to learn how to be brave again.

  Would she really push away three men who loved her—whom she loved desperately in return—so she didn’t have to feel pain? Did she really think that if she left them tomorrow that choosing to be without them would hurt less than fate making the choice for her? Either way, she would miss them for the rest of her days.

  Tori let out a trembling breath. Until now, she’d taken everything they had and given them very little in return. She had to change that.

  It was time to take her place beside them.

  She didn’t need two weeks. In fact, she didn’t need another moment. She loved them and they deserved more than the safe part of her heart. They deserved for her to grow the fuck up and be the woman she was meant to be, the woman they needed her to be.

  The woman her parents had raised her to be.

  With a silent thanks to her sister for once again showing her the way, Tori stepped out into the hallway. They wanted the real her? Well, everyone was about to see her—starting with that crazy bitch who needed to understand that no one came between a Texas girl and her men.

  * * * *

  Callum took a long drink. He was definitely going to need it. The crackpot was in his house. Just a short walk down the hall sat the bane of his existence. He’d rather thought he wouldn’t have to see her again, but naturally Thea leveraged what power she had and got her way. She was trading one last meeting with him for a million pounds and the promise never to speak his name again. The very thought turned his stomach, but this torture would be worth it if she went away for good.

  Unfortunately, he was fairly certain she wasn’t the only one who was going away for good. No matter how he tried to reach Tori, she seemed further away than ever.

  They made love to her every night, pushing her boundaries a bit more, preparing her for what they all wanted. She was loving and giving when they stripped her down, but the moment they donned clothes again, the careful distance she always maintained snapped back in place.

  Callum was beginning to ask himself if he could truly breach her walls. Given the rate of her progress now, two more weeks didn’t seem like enough time to win her.

  “Ah, you need fortification, too, I see.” Rory sighed and grabbed a glass. “Her lawyer alone is enough to drive a man to drink. Do you think she found him on a list of the most despicable solicitors in Great Britain?”

  Thea’s solicitor was a cadaverously thin prat with dark eyes that made Callum think of the Grim Reaper. “I hate all of this.”

  Rory poured himself two fingers of the fifty-year-old liquid. “It’ll be over soon.”

  “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

  Rory’s jaw tightened. “Don’t be. I was talking about Thea, not Tori. It’s going to be all right.”

  “How can you say that? She’s no closer to becoming our wife than she was before. She won’t talk about the future.”

  “She’s skittish, but she’s also smart. She’ll make the right choice.”

  “Or we’ll kidnap her again.” Oliver strode in. “We’re going to need more Scotch to get through this day.” He clapped a hand on Callum’s shoulder. “We’re going to take care of the Thea situation. Maybe then the press will settle down.”

  “We promised her. We told her if she would give us thirty days, we would let her go if that’s what she still wanted.” That vow haunted him, kept him up at night. But he was a man of his word.

  Oliver shrugged a shoulder elegantly as he poured himself a drink. “We promised her she could leave if she gave it a real shot.”

  Rory nodded. “Good point. She hasn’t done that. She’s enjoying the sex and holding herself apart the rest of the time. So our deal is off. I say we give it the thirty days, then we put her on a private plane back home. But, oh, it got diverted. That’s so sad. I’m thinking of that little island we own in the Bahamas. It’s quite lovely.”

  His brothers were ruthless. He might dominate in the bedroom, but they had the devious minds. “I don’t know if that will do anything but make her angry.”

  “She’ll relent after a few years. Also, oops, we accidentally left the condoms behind. After we impregnate her a couple of t
imes, she’ll settle right down,” Rory explained.

  Callum had to laugh. “What century are you living in?”

  “The one where we get the girl and we’re all happy,” Rory shot back. “I intended to play fair, but she’s not, so why should we?”

  Oliver leaned against the bar. “All of this is a moot point.
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