Waiting in breathless anticipation, Mac Jordan stood in what little shadow existed in the ballroom, trying to hide a trouser-swelling erection he knew had left a wet spot.
Lori Belcher was the most beautiful woman Mac knew, and he knew a lot of women. Dated them, fucked them, lived with one or two, even considered marrying one in an attempt at what the world considered normalcy, which had failed before he'd executed the idea. Thank God.
No one compared to Lori. She knew his demons and desires. Knew firsthand what true horror was. They'd shared the climatic point of that nightmare years ago. An event that linked him, her, and Blake Patterson forever and eventually bonded them body and soul. The heart involved, the love, was never mentioned. Saying it out loud, admitting it, threatened control--Mac's, Blake's, especially Lori's--and Lori was very much about maintaining control over her life. And he and Blake loved her enough to let her have it, no matter how much they'd grown to resent her dominatrix persona.
It was probably a mistake to seek her out tonight, but Mac couldn't help himself. He had to be with her one more time while they still had the illusion of anonymity. That would all change come morning. Maybe even sooner.
Come morning, when the news media started rehashing "the Southland's most shocking murders," the three of them would be front-page news. Would the limelight reveal the three were a threesome? Probably not. They had been discreet, after all. But it would make future liaisons difficult, if not impossible, for a long time to come. So Mac had to see Lori tonight. Blake wouldn't be long in following.
A private call for her to meet them would have done the trick. Lori wouldn't have hesitated to meet them anywhere. But since she and Mac were both scheduled to attend Oliver Holbrook's fund-raiser for cancer research, why bother with the facade? The event was packed. Someone here was bound to make the years-old connection between him, Blake, and Lori in the days to come. A few would even know Lori as Soleil--one-third of Oliver's triumvirate of legendary dommes, a trio now minus one since Maneater had announced her retirement the month before.
Mac shrugged. People could think what they wanted. They would anyway. Mac needed Lori in his arms, in his bed. He literally ached to have her, physically and emotionally. Ached all the more because he couldn't do much to protect her from what was about to happen.
Hell, he couldn't protect any of them.
Lori's smile brightened when she spied him. How she managed to see him... Mac smiled back. The woman had excellent radar where he and Blake were concerned.
She truly did look like sunshine. "You are my sunshine." The song would always feel like a knife to the heart in bad ways and in good.
He shook the memories away and watched her thread her way around the tables toward him, pausing every now and then when a couple on their way to the dance floor stopped to speak with her. Each time she was gracious, patient, a true lady.
Her long blonde hair beckoned fingers into its depths and promised gold in return. Few men knew how soft and thick it felt; only those she truly trusted were allowed the honor. Mac could count that number on one hand.
Her red silk dress draped her body, hinting at generous curves rather than broadcasting them to the world. Understated elegance, unmatched beauty. The hem rippled above her perfectly cut calves; matching red high heels showed her legs to their full advantage.
Lori walked past the last table and picked up her pace. Her smile brightened. His heart did that little hiccup, liked he'd driven over a hill too fast. Mac reached for her at the same time she lifted her arms to embrace him. Then she was flush against him. Relief flooded his senses at the connection. This wasn't a social hug. It lasted too long, was too tight, too perfect. Anyone paying attention could see the bond between them. It was all Mac could do not to clamp his hand over her ass and grind his cock into her belly, kiss those full red lips.
"What a wonderful surprise." Lori nuzzled against his cheek and inhaled. Mac loved when she did that, like she was reimprinting his scent on her soul. It made him feel so male.
Lori drew back but kept her pelvis pressed to his. "Is Blake with you?" Her brown eyes sparkled with affection.
Mac slipped his hands to her waist, ordering his thumbs not to wander upward to her breasts. "Soon. Right now he's circling the wagons."
The light in her eyes dimmed. She'd been frustratingly stubborn over this whole thing, glaring into space with jaw clenched when they tried to talk about it. Mac knew doing so resurrected the memories Lori tried to bury.
"I see," Lori finally said. "And you?"
Mac managed a halfhearted grin. "Circling you."
She traced the smile line bracketing his mouth. "You worry too much." With a glimmer of mischief, she added, "Have you eaten?"
He chuckled and tapped his index finger against the tip of her nose. "Pot, kettle, black. As for eating, I could fill my answer with all sorts of naughty little innuendos--"
She feigned a gasp. "Is that what's wedged between us? An innuendo?"
"Well, I've never had it called that before," he said with a laugh.
"And certainly never little either." Lori winked and put some distance between them. "So...have you eaten? I can have the kitchen whip you up something."
He cupped her elbow, then tickled his fingers down her arm until he could lace them through hers. "All I want is you. I need you, Lori. Now. Tonight." Before everything goes to hell tomorrow.
"I'll get my purse." No question, no hesitation--that was the nature of the relationship the three of them had. They were always there for one another. She leaned in as if to kiss him, then whispered, "How do you always know exactly when I need you?"
The emotion her words churned was almost too much to bear. He drew in the scent of her, just as she'd done with him. Words escaped him. Mac gave her another hug, kissed her cheek, and spied Oliver Holbrook headed their way, her small red purse clutched in his hand.
"Looks like Oliver's anticipated our need." He kept his arm loosely around her waist as she turned.
Lori's heat shimmered around him. "Ah, he is the best."
Mac had to agree. Oliver anticipated everyone's needs and met them with unerring accuracy. The man was ageless. It seemed he hadn't changed in the fifteen years they'd known him. No gray dared to pepper his blond hair. No lines crept over his tan features. He was as fit and trim as the day Mac and Blake had met him. The man oozed class, whether in a tux and diamond cuff links or jeans and a T-shirt. One of the most influential men in California, if not the world. A business nod from Oliver Holbrook meant success, and he'd nodded at Mac Jordan and Blake Patterson years ago when he suggested they open up their own security and investigation firm. It was by far one of the best moves they'd ever made.
"I thought you'd want this." Oliver handed the purse to Lori. His subtle smile blessed their need for a private moment.
"Right as usual." Lori kissed Oliver's cheek. "Thank you."
"My pleasure." Oliver zeroed in on Mac. "I'll have room service send up a little something. I doubt you've eaten much today."
Two comments in the space of five minutes? Either they knew him too well, or he was looking emaciated. Mac had a feeling it was the former. He hadn't eaten much. His stomach was too twisted in knots.
Lori pressed her palm to Oliver's chest. "I'll call down later."
Oliver grunted a response, then lifted her fingers to his lips. "Have a good time. If you need anything, don't hesitate to call. But then, you both already know that." He dropped a quick kiss to her hand, then walked away.
Hand against her lower back, Mac guided her toward the exit. "I understand Blake finally got you to agree to stay here for the duration?"
"I let Blake book me a suite for a couple of days to appease you both. Plus it allowed me to enjoy a glass or two of wine tonight without having to worry about the drive home."
Oliver would have seen she'd gotten home. Mac didn't call her on what he suspected was a half-truth. If she'd caved to Blake's demand to lie low, maybe she was more worried about tomorrow than she let on. Or maybe she'd done it to shut them up.
"But I'm not missing work tomorrow," she added.
Okay...perhaps not so worried after all.
He and Blake should have taken a direct stand with Lori on this, convinced her to go somewhere safe with them until the media storm was over. Instead, Mac and Blake continued the pattern so ingrained in their relationship, giving Lori the control she needed in her life. There were times when that was the hardest thing to do. Lonely times. Scary times. Like now. Damn scary. If they fucked this up, he and Blake would never forgive themselves. How hard could they hold on to her before they risked losing her completely?
Mac couldn't bear the thought. That's why he'd come here now, while Blake planned a full and aggressive charge for tomorrow.
"Let us at least set you up with a bodyguard to help keep the wolves at bay."
Lori turned her head his way as they neared the elevator, where several others waited. "Don't." Command edged her voice. "If you came here tonight to wear down my resolve, you can leave. I agreed to the suite. Anything or anyone more is only going to draw undue attention to me. You know I can't have that. You're making entirely too much of this."
She glared up at him. What was the sense in arguing? He wanted the night in her arms, not them being at odds...again.
"So what is it?" she asked. "Stay or go? I left a lovely chocolate-raspberry cheesecake back there begging for my mouth."
Mac's neck hairs bristled. He hated when she used her domme tone with him. He was one of her men, damn it, not a client, although he more than enjoyed when she took the lead in the bedroom. There was only so much a man could take.
He drew Lori to a stop far enough away from the elevator to avoid being overheard. "Is that what I have to do? Beg for your mouth? If Blake and I beg you to be watchful and have a bodyguard, would you finally agree?" Anger welled up. Mac couldn't fight it. "Wait, I get it. You're the domme. It's your responsibility to see we get what we need. Well, we need you to--"
Lori pressed her palms into his chest, her forehead against his chin. "Not tonight, Mac. Please. I need this. I need you. I don't want to argue anymore."
He closed his eyes, breathing in her scent, absorbing the feel of her body next to his. "Agreed." Mac kissed her forehead, fought the urge to pat her ass, then moved them toward the elevator once more.
"Besides," she said in a low voice, "if it's the domme in me you want, then I'm the one who decides what you need. Are you willing to give me all the control in the bedroom?"
Mac managed a chuckle and bent near her ear. "Don't I always, sweetheart?"
Her sly smile chased the clouds away, and she picked up her pace, silently commanding Mac to follow.
The doors opened as they neared, and they crowded inside the elevator with ten other people. Everyone seemed to have the same destination--the twelfth floor. It made conversation impossible, but the tight quarters wedged Lori against him. She flexed her ass cheeks, somehow using the exercise to stroke his erection. He slipped his hand around her waist, splaying it over her belly, and anchored her against him. Dry humping her where they stood sounded like a damn fine option to him. Mac didn't mind an audience. The more the merrier.
Lori subtly rocked her hips over his erection. Mac braced himself against the wall and inched his hand higher until his thumb brushed the underside of her breast. He felt more than heard her gasp and nailed her hip in place with his other hand. He indulged in a pivot of his own. She turned her face toward his and licked her lips. By the time the doors opened, her eyes glimmered with the promise of hot sex. Mac could barely see straight.
Lori led the way to her corner suite with a stride that boasted the confidence she commanded as Soleil. He'd be lying if he said she wasn't intoxicating. Mac would never go the discipline route, but he sure as hell loved when Lori took the reins of pleasure in the bedroom. After all these years, all the times they'd been with each other, the want still existed stronger than ever. And when it was the three of them together...
A shudder down his spine threatened to make him come. Uncaring if anyone saw, Mac squeezed his cock into submission. He caught Lori's I'm-going-to-fuck-you smile from the corner of his eye. She fished the key card from her purse and handed it to him.
"Want to stick it in?"