Authors: Allyson Young
2014 Allyson Young
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of
this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are
fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
My thanks to author Jennifer Simpkins, beta
reader and critique partner.
I can’t wait for us to write that book together!
Marking Time, 1
Oh lord, she was mucking this all
up. She’d waited until the celebration of her homecoming from vet school was
over, lain awake in her lonely bed all night thinking about this moment, waited
for her men—she hoped—to finish morning chores and join her for this offer.
Sinclair Renton stared up at the
two most beloved faces her world encompassed, both boasting strong, handsome
features, bronzed from all the hours working outside on the ranch. Two pairs of
eyes, one the blue of the prairie sky in full summer, the other the midnight
blue of late fall evenings, stared back at her with identical expressions of
shock … and something else. Something she wasn’t experienced enough to
interpret, but what she thought—hoped—was a spike of desire and longing. Ashton
hid his feelings better than Craig, but she was sure he felt things for her.
And there was a shimmering flicker in his brother’s gaze. Please Lord that she
hadn’t misinterpreted all those signals over the years. She’d waited so long.
Waiting until she had something to offer, more than only herself.
The lust consuming her every waking
moment around them
, right now, seriously
undermined by Craig and Ashton Russell’s predominating incredulity. Sinclair
hoped her interpretation of those other, muted, responses was accurate and
would save the day. If only she could do this right…
Rose, their housekeeper, was away
visiting family, so there would be no one to cramp their style. She’d even dressed
for the occasion and thought she had the convincing argument.
You can’t know what you’re saying here. We’re your brothers.”
“You aren’t.” She desperately
strove to calmly reason with Ash. As the elder brother, twenty-nine to her
almost twenty-two years, he was the one to convince initially. “You’re my
I’m not a little kid anymore.”
“No, Sinclair.” Craig weighed in,
his face taking on a somber look, his gaze now an inscrutable deep indigo. “You
were raised with us, like a sister. It’s not right you have these feelings for
us. You’re confusing them with … something else.”
Seizing on his hesitation, she
burst into speech. “I’m not confused. I’m definitely not. Yes, I grew up with
you, thanks to our—your—wonderful parents. And yes, you came to look out for me
and treated me like a pain in the ass little sister. But that started to change
when I hit puberty.”
Not that she could fault them in any of their behaviors. No one could.
They were honorable men in all their dealings. She loved them for that quality,
too, and so many others.
How could an indistinguishable
arctic chill freeze both of them into formidable, offended, hunks of manhood?
insinuated they had crossed some kind of line. She hurried to correct it.
“It was me. I developed different
feelings for you, and while I know you probably thought it was some kind of
adolescent crush, those feelings haven’t changed. Not over the years. Well,”
she amended, “I’m an adult now and presumably have adult needs and desires, but
essentially I feel the same things about you.
Both of you.
Even if you never gave me reason to think you were interested.”
Until she went away to school and
their happiness and pleasure during her infrequent visits back home told her
something different, no matter how they stuttered and corrected themselves. Not
to mention the very frequent phone calls and email contact. As brotherly as
those were set out to be, she knew it went beyond familial feelings. And then
there was the way she caught them looking at her when they thought she was
Like she was lunch.
The same way she
Craig lowered himself onto a dining
room chair as if his legs would no longer support him, and Ashton followed
suit. She watched as they exchanged a long look, and she waited for Ash to take
the lead. He was the more dominant of the two, although she’d never make the
mistake of thinking Craig was a pushover. She’d always been able to more easily
manipulate the younger brother, but Craig had a line a person never crossed.
She wondered if they were aware of how well she knew them. Not that her
understanding was helping her ineffectual performance. Where was the speech
she’d practiced over the past week, especially on the drive here? One look at
the two of them had driven that perfect explanation clear out of her head. She
was consumed with the need to kiss those chiseled lips and trace her tongue
over those delineated
and six packs. The memory
of them without shirts, heaving bales and hauling feed made her weak.
“Let me sum things up here, honey.”
Ash stared right into her eyes, obviously ignoring the sexy little outfit she’d
donned in preparation—or back-up—for this conversation. She wanted to stamp her
foot, but was determined to maintain her adult perspective.
She fought down the urge to tug at
the short shorts, and now wished the top wasn’t so clingy, outlining the cute
demi bra that did marvelous things for her breasts. The brothers had devoured
her with their eyes when she walked into the room, and even a woman with as
little experience as she possessed recognized sexual interest when it was that
obvious. Didn’t matter they kept their eyes focused on her face afterward. What
was the problem? Ashton cleared his throat, a sure sign he was going to attempt
a lecture. She was going to listen carefully and counter any argument. It was
now or never. Her sinking stomach aside, she wasn’t a quitter.
“You came home for two reasons,
One to finish out your vet school practicum, and
secondly, to establish a ménage with me and Craig.
Do I have it right?”
Put like that, Sinclair knew she’d
messed up. Had she really put it that way? Being in their proximity made her
brains turn to mush. “You have things in the wrong order.”
Craig barked out a laugh before
visibly swallowing it back. She longed for one of his hugs, the type where she
surreptitiously stole the imprint of his fit chest and inhaled his familiar
scent. He always kept his lower body away from her. “I’m curious about the
ménage part,” he said.
She knew her head had tilted in exasperation,
even as she narrowed her eyes on him. Did he really think he could play that
game? Tease her and make fun? Make this less than it was? That was his way of
building distance, using humor, and she well knew it.
“I’ve known about you and Ashton,
… interest in sharing, since I was sixteen,
When I saw you in the barn with Melinda Roberts.”
“Jesus.” Craig wasn’t laughing now,
and a nerve ticked in Ashton’s jaw.
“And you’ve never married. You date
separately for the events around
somebody different on your arms, but you always do the same girl. Together.”
“That’s personal, little one,” Ashton
“He asked.” And now she sounded
like a ten-year-old.
“Jesus.” Craig couldn’t seem to
find any other words.
She decided to go for broke,
although in her fondest imaginings she’d seen this play out very differently.
Craig and Ash would hear her out, recognize how
sincere she was and sweep her up into their lives.
they’d live happily ever after, and to hell with convention.
profess their love—and lust—for her, just like in all her daydreams.
“I love you.
I don’t want anyone else but you. I’ve know it for years. I want
to be … whatever it is a woman is in your life. I hoped for forever, but I’ll
take whatever you’ll give me.”
Ashton ran a hand through his close cropped hair and got a grip, literally. The
slight pain confirmed he was wide awake and this was no nightmare. His brother
was still gaping at Sinclair as though she’d spoken in tongues. How in hell
hadn’t he seen this coming?
you told yourself—and Craig—for so long, that Sinclair was your little sister
in order to quell those urges you both felt, and you ignored all the signals
she gave off these past years.
Sinclair had graduated high school a
year ahead of others her age, a bright star his parents had agreed to raise
when her teenaged birth parents couldn’t parent a fly. He’d been nearly
fourteen when the six year old had infiltrated his life, a whirlwind of a
child, so affected by benign neglect she had no filter and no boundaries. Both
he and Craig hadn’t been pleased to share their home with such a brat, but had
come to appreciate the feisty, engaging kid she became, surviving without
direction or guidance all her formative years. His mother, a social worker who
specialized in children, and who had worked her magic on the girl, had
explained it all. His father ensured they treated Sinclair with care and
respect, if they couldn’t love her like a sister.