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Authors: Kate Watterson

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BOOK: Beautiful Triad
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Was it possible somehow she’d fallen in love with two men? She hadn’t even realized it was happening with Rob. The attraction had been very real and there from the beginning, but part of the reason she’d been so bothered about his presence was the way her feelings had grown. He was intelligent, considerate, steady, and the physical side of what she felt was only part of it.

“Lauren? The eggs aren’t that bad, I promise.”

She realized she was just sitting there staring at Rob, her fork still sitting by the side of her plate. In a quiet voice, she admitted, “I am still…in shock a little, I think. What I did last night…what
we
did last night…”

Her voice trailed off. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“I know.” His smile was a little rueful. “Believe me,
I know
. I think I’m a traditional kind of guy. I live by rules and this relationship is breaking all of them.”

Relationship? Was that what she wanted? A relationship with
one
man was hard enough, but two? It was gratifying and a relief to know Ebook piracy is stealing. It is a federal offense.

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56

Kate Watterson

he didn’t just think she was an easy lay or something—because she wasn’t—but wrapping her mind around a romance involving one woman and two men was a bit staggering.

“As the free spirit of the group, I think I see things a bit differently.” Drew broke a piece of bacon in half in his long fingers, his expression neutral. “You’re an actuary, Lauren, and Rob is a computer engineer. You think in terms of order. Finding neat slots for everything; going to work from nine to five. That’s all fine and good, but life doesn’t necessarily work that way. Slots exist, but if you don’t fit, don’t sweat it.”

Free spirit definitely described Drew, who didn’t mind flying off to China, spending three weeks exploring the countryside, eating exotic native dishes while he waited for the boring executives to conclude their business and need transportation home. Of course, that was part of the problem, too, since he wasn’t around very much. Most of the time, his job took him out of the country.

“How
does
it work?” Lauren had to ask the question, her feelings completely in flux.

“We have this time to find out, right? We’re alone, it’s private here, and no one cares what we do. Why not forget the rules for now and go with what feels right instead?”

As always, his straightforward approach tended to be on the simple side. She doubted it would be that easy, but maybe he was right, maybe she shouldn’t overanalyze the whole thing for the next few days.

Maybe she should just…enjoy.

The sound of a car pulling up outside broke into the discussion, making all three of them glance at each other. Rob murmured, “So much for being alone. Who the hell can that be?”

* * * *

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Beautiful Triad

57

The sheriff’s deputy licked the tip of his pen, which was a mannerism Rob could never understand. Surely ink tasted like shit.

The young man glanced at Lauren. “When was this, ma’am?”

She frowned, looking impossibly pretty in a silk sleeveless top and tan shorts, her hair loose around her slender shoulders.

“Yesterday. In the late morning.”

“You’re sure he took a boat from the property next door?”

“I’m sure.”

“Can you describe this man?” The deputy jotted something down.

There was no hesitation. “Yes. Under thirty, blond but with very short hair, prominent nose. If I saw a picture I would recognize him, I think, but the thing I most noticed is he wore a shirt and tie, which seemed really seemed inappropriate for going out in a boat.”

Rob looked at Drew and they both seemed to register the same reaction. He said slowly, “Did you say you’re looking for a missing woman?”

“Yes, sir.” Short and freckled, his face ingenuous but his eyes holding a shrewd intelligence, the officer nodded. “Regina Heaton hasn’t been seen for two days, but her car has been found.”

“We heard what could have been a scream night before last.”

Drew straightened away from where he leaned against the wall by the front row of windows. “We thought it might be a bird and didn’t hear it again, so we didn’t think much about it.”

“What time?”

“Just after nine.” Rob remembered clearly enough because Lauren had abandoned her dinner and gone up to bed. He’d known then it was going to be a very long week, but that was before everything had changed.

Before they’d made love the night before, which was indisputably the best sex of his life. He didn’t know if it was because it felt forbidden with Drew right there, because he knew she wanted it—like he did—even though they shouldn’t, or because he might be in love for the first time in his life.

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Kate Watterson

This was not going to be as simple as Drew thought it would be, and Rob knew Lauren felt that way, too. Maybe Drew was right, they thought differently, but then again, their lives were not a series of take-offs and landings in exotic places.

“…if we need more information, we’ll be in touch.” The deputy stood, flipped the notebook shut, and nodded. “We appreciate the help. If you think of anything else, let us know, please.” He inched a card out of his pocket and handed it to Lauren.

She accepted it. “Okay.”

The sound of the patrol car starting as he left seemed to stir them all into activity. Lauren got up and said something about them cooking and how she should clean up. Drew watched her, his expression thoughtful as she walked to the kitchen. He glanced at Rob. “You go help her. I’m going to get our fishing gear together and put it all in the boat. I’ll just wait down there. If you two need a chance to talk, this might be a good time.”

They probably did need to talk one on one about the new slant to their relationship; the one that had drastically changed for all three of them. “She seems pretty quiet.”

“She liked it. It’s a problem for her.” Drew’s succinct assessment was made with a hint of humor. “Just like she couldn’t figure out why she was attracted to you in the first place, this isn’t easy to rationalize in her overly analytical brain. Which is why I am going to let
you
talk to her about it. For my part, I wasn’t jealous. I thought it was fun to see her enjoying herself with you. It was a turn on, in fact. I’ve come to terms with this. It’s you two who need to work on it.”

Rob gave his friend a rueful smile. “Yeah, well, you like to oversimplify things, Fletcher.” The truth was, it had been arousing for him, too, to watch.

Go figure.

“Nope, I just don’t sit around thinking about details all the time.

At any rate, I’m heading down to the boat. Come along once you’ve talked to Lauren. Take your time.”

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Beautiful Triad

59

For someone who didn’t do a lot of analyzing, Drew had a pretty good grasp on things usually. Rob walked back to the kitchen and saw Lauren running water into the sink, the soapy egg pan in her hands.

He said, “I can do that.”

“No trouble. Breakfast was great.” She didn’t look up but rinsed it and set it aside. “That’s pretty frightening about the missing woman. I hope they find her soon. It’s so peaceful here.”

“Maybe she’ll turn up safe and sound. That happens more often than the other way around.”

“What about the scream?”

“I’m not convinced it was one. If Drew and I really thought that, we’d have gone out there and checked it out, you know that. It was pretty faint and I’d still guess it was a bird.”

“I hope so.” She started to wipe the counter and kept her face averted.

How the fuck was he supposed to do this? He was as much out of his depth as she was. Honesty seemed best, but a blunt approach was more Drew’s forte. He stood there and studied her lovely profile, the set of her slim shoulders, the sweep of her shining chestnut hair and was…moved.

He was lucky. And unlucky because it was going to be complex.

And about one thousand things in between.

Did this mean he’d only have half of her? No, he didn’t think so.

All of her for both of them? Well, in the bedroom anyway, if last night was an indication, but he wanted more than a lover. Sex he could get if he wanted it.

Suddenly, he knew what to say. “This is going to seem like the most tired line ever, Lauren, but I have never felt this way before. It is the only reason last night happened for me.”

She froze. After a moment, she turned and gave him a level look.

“I do love Drew. But I can’t stop thinking about you either and it has been driving me crazy.”

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60

Kate Watterson

“I think of Drew as a brother, if not closer. How do you think I felt when I realized I wanted you more than anything?”

“Like you were a little bit out of your mind?” There was just the hint of a wobble in her voice.

He nodded.

“We’re in the same place then, I guess.”

“Pretty close.” He smiled at her, the luminous uncertain look in her blue eyes really getting to him. “Let’s not misunderstand each other, okay? This isn’t casual.”

He should have said it wasn’t casual for him. But the way he phrased the sentence was exactly right, he realized. It wasn’t casual.

Period. Lauren wasn’t built that way. If she slept with him, she had definite feelings about him.

It seemed entirely natural to step forward and take her in his arms. The sponge slipped from her hand and hit the floor as she slid into him like silk. When she lifted her mouth he took it, the resulting kiss a mixture of hunger and discovery. Her lips were soft and warm, and he could feel the pliant weight of her breasts against his chest through the thin cloth of her blouse and his tee-shirt, the sensation evoking a clear memory of how it felt to be inside her.

Jesus
, he thought as he finally pulled back and took a deep breath.

No, this wasn’t causal
at all
. Lust had taken on a whole new meaning since he’d met her, and couple that with all the other complicated emotions he’d never had before, it was no wonder he was completely off-balance.

“Lauren.” He managed to sound like a teenager, his voice breaking. He tried again, fighting an embarrassed, self-deprecating laugh. “Lauren, we’re going to figure this all out.”

She stepped back as if she also needed to put a little space between them. “I hope so, because I don’t want this to ruin what I have with Drew, and I absolutely don’t want it to destroy a friendship you two have had for over twenty years. I know what that would do to Ebook piracy is stealing. It is a federal offense.

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Beautiful Triad

61

both of you and if I was in any way the cause, I’d feel guilty probably only for the rest of my life.”

Rob wasn’t sure how, but it was the truth when he said, “We seem okay with this. Maybe that’s why. Drew and I know each other. It isn’t a competition, either. As a matter of fact, we were getting pretty tense with each other over just the opposite, and last night took care of all that.”

She brushed a tendril of silky hair back from her cheek and her gaze was direct. “When you invited us to come along with you and Karen, did you imagine this?”

There was no way he could blame her for being a bit suspicious. It was probably obvious he and Drew had discussed the possibility of both of them sleeping with her ahead of time. He shook his head in decisive denial. “No. First of all, if I had, I would never have invited Karen. Second, though I might have dreamed often enough about making love to you, I
never
imagined it would happen. If Drew hadn’t caught on about how I felt, I would never have said a word or made a move. Yesterday he confronted me about it and said he thought maybe you were having the same problem.”

“I was,” she admitted on a small sigh after a moment. “I was not very enthusiastic over coming down here, to be honest. I figured it would be worse than ever if I had to be around you all week and it definitely started out that way. Now I don’t know how to feel. I’m relieved, but I’m also…confused. My whole life I’ve thought things between men and women don’t work this way.”

“You aren’t the only one.” He bent over and retrieved the sponge to toss it in the sink. “But, when it comes down to it, Drew is right.

What we do is no one’s business but ours.”

“That mindset might work for the rest of this week when we’re all hidden away here, but real life is waiting out there.”

“I know.” He reached over and took her hand, interlocking their fingers. “We’ll deal with it. Drew doesn’t seem worried. Maybe we shouldn’t be.”

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Kate Watterson

“Maybe.” She finally smiled and there was a teasing lilt in her voice. “I have a feeling most women would lie, cheat, maim, and kill to be in my position anyway. Tell me, if Karen had come along, what would you have done?”

He lifted his brows. “Would I have slept with her, you mean, when the entire time I was thinking about you? No. I was trying damned hard to not be honest with myself when I invited her in the first place, but when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in casual sex.”

Her face changed and slender fingers tightened on his. Indigo eyes held a soft light as she gazed at him. “That’s a pretty smooth line, Mr.

Hanson. Drew is very straightforward. I take it you’re going to be the romantic one.”

Rob grinned. “I try.”

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BOOK: Beautiful Triad
12.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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