Scotland Neck, North Carolina
Three years later
"Mac, did you see my comb?" Keiley called from the bathroom, her voice a little sharp with irritation and simmering with impatience.
"I have my own, Kei," he reminded her in the same tone.
She moved from the bathroom, naked as the day she was born, water still beading on her shoulders, her cap of dark hair mussed around her face as she began searching the tops of the dresser, the vanity, the bedside tables.
Delicate and fragile. That was his wife. At twenty-six she still captivated him, made him harder than hell, and made him think of fairies on a fantasy night. A sensual, sexy fairy sandwiched between two male bodies and gleaming with moisture.
He shook the image away, frustration surging through him as his control weakened further.
"It was just in there yesterday," she muttered as Mac cinched his belt and considered uncinching it just as quickly.
If he moved fast enough, he could be undressed, have her flat on her back and his cock sinking into the fist-tight heat between her thighs.
He was loosening his belt when her gaze sliced to him.
"Don't even think about it." Hazel eyes were still dark with lingering anger.
"I'm still in the doghouse, then?" Mac grinned as he fastened the belt before sitting down on the end of the bed to pull on the scarred work boots he wore on the farm.
He tended to indulge Keiley whenever he could, but he had to admit, there were times he was tempted to indulge more than just her feminine wiles. That glimmer of confrontation and defiance in her eyes often tempted him to indulge a dominance he had so far managed to keep strictly under control.
"However you want to consider it." She bent down, her delightful little tush sticking up in the air as she looked beneath the bed.
"Keep flashing that ass at me and I'll show you how short that stay in the doghouse is going to be."
He felt he owed her at least a warning. She had good reason to be a shade upset with him, after all. Standing a woman up for an intimate dinner at home, complete with candlelight, because he had become distracted at a horse sale wasn't a good idea. Especially when he had been warned to be home on time. He hadn't forgotten a damned thing. His control was just that shaky. He hadn't dared show up on time.
She had waited up on him, too. Dressed in scarlet red silk, thigh-high stockings, and heels. She met him at the door, told him good night sweet as sugar, then went to bed.
His dinner had been in the oven. The candles had burned to nubs. She had obviously eaten. And he had managed, for one more night, not to mention the hungers tearing him apart.
"Touch my ass and you'll lose your hand," she informed him as she straightened and looked around the room with an expression of confusion. "That was my favorite comb, Mac."
"Did you look under the cabinet?"
She had so much fussy female stuff in there that he sometimes wondered how she found anything.
"Of course I did." She shot him a frown that warned him he should have already known that.
He flashed her a grin that had better warn her that he was getting damned horny watching her run around naked. He wasn't above seducing her. She could protest until hell froze over, but they both knew that after the first kiss she was going to cave. It was a given. He knew it, she knew it, and his cock knew it.
She did beat a hasty retreat back to the bathroom as Mac drew in a silent breath of relief.
"You know, you need to get a handle on yourself," she told him, causing him to catch his breath again minutes later as she left the bathroom.
"That waistband is too damned low." He glared at the sight of her lovely hip bones above the elastic band of the shorts. And the so-called t-shirt wasn't much better. It flashed too much belly, and showed her navel ring. A navel ring that had been driving him crazy the past few months.
"Get used to it, Daddy," she pouted sarcastically. "Do I bitch over your t-shirts that stretch over your chest, or your ass in your jeans?"
"My jeans aren't low enough to flash my dick, either. There's not enough material to those shorts to keep yourself decent, Keiley."
Let alone him. He was almost panting now. His balls were tight. He was ready to fuck and he was ready to go for it now. She was tempting a hungry man. And she knew it. Over the past year his fiery wife had become a sexual force to be reckoned with.
"That's too bad. I'm sure you would get a lot of notice if they were." She eyed the bulging crotch before glancing back at him with sparkling amusement. "Arrested, too, most likely, but it would definitely be interesting."
"Not on your life."
She slid her feet into a pair of sandals and walked sedately out of the bedroom, her ass twitching in those damned too-tight shorts, flashing it at him like a matador flashes a red cape at an enraged bull.
She'd been doing that a lot lately. Tempting him. Defying him. Pushing the boundaries he had allowed her to set when they first married.
A part of him had watched the progression with anticipation. He knew what was coming. She was tired of waiting on him to push her sexuality. She was pushing it herself now.
Her boundaries and his.
Did she intend to go out in public like that?
Mac jerked his shirt on, working the buttons as he stomped through the hallway and downstairs to the kitchen.
"Where are you going today?" He asked as he came to a stop in the doorway, watching as she put coffee on.
"Noplace, unless you start demanding I change clothes first. Then, I don't know. Main Street shopping, or if you prefer, hooking the street corners." She blinked back at him innocently.
"Don't start, Mac." Her frown said it all.
"You might as well go ahead and forgive me, Keiley," he warned her.
"Why should I do something that stupid?" she asked incredulously. "This is three days in a row that you've come home late from some sale or meeting. Normally I'm in the bed asleep before you ever walk in the front door. If I did that to you, you would have a fit."
"I'd paddle your ass," he muttered.
"Don't tempt me, McCoy. I still have the baseball bat." Tense, narrow-eyed, and now spitting mad, she faced him like an enraged little fairy. All she lacked was the little gossamer wings fluttering for effect.
"Did you find your comb?" He changed the subject quickly.
She wasn't fooled, but at least she let it slide.
"No." Ruffling her fingers through her hair, that little confused look filled her face again before she turned back to the coffeepot and flipped it on. "I must have moved it without thinking."
Which wasn't like Keiley. Then again, the atmosphere between them had been more than a little strained lately. He shouldn't have stayed out late, no matter how hard he was trying to avoid looking at himself in the mirror. He just had to do it again the next morning anyway. And it wasn't as though he could forget the hungers that raged through his mind.
The missing comb bothered him, though. His mind refused to let it go.
"Have you lost anything else?"
"You're not an FBI agent anymore, Mac," she reminded him as she took cups out of the cabinet. "You are now a farmer and horse and cattle breeder. Remember?"
"You know what they say, Kei, you can take the boy out of the agency--" He shrugged.
"Well, un-agent." She pulled the refrigerator door open and collected eggs, butter, and bacon. "I've just misplaced the comb without thinking. That's all. I'll find it before long."
Maybe he was going a little overboard, Mac thought, but it felt funny. Keiley didn't just lose things. For all her fussy feminine girly stuff, she was so organized she made his back teeth clench at times.
"I've been distracted lately," she finally admitted. "It's been a long month."
He heard the note of censure in her voice and felt an edge of guilt. Guilt wasn't something he liked feeling in his marriage. It meant he was failing her. That he had hurt her, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt Keiley.
Hell, he had said one could take the boy out of the agency, but this had nothing to do with his work as an agent. It had to do with his sexual past. One could take the man out of the club, but the club still lingered in him. The needs were beginning to eat him alive. But if he wasn't wrong, Keiley's were now eating at her, as well.
Restraining the dominance knotting his gut was becoming harder by the day. Restraining his sexual hungers was becoming impossible. And it was giving his delectable little wife the impression that his back was made for her delicately shod feet to walk right over.
"I'll try not to be late again," he promised, watching her back tense as she laid bacon in a pan.
"Doesn't matter. I'll just make certain I don't make any more plans to surprise you."
Damn, that one hurt. Mac winced. He liked her surprises. When she met him in silk, stockings, and heels and smelling of a faintly musk and floral fragrance that made his dick pound and his hands ache to touch her.
No more surprises meant no more wild sex on the coffee table, the couch, or the chair. That didn't suit him at all.
"I could always surprise you instead," he suggested.
"You could." She nodded. "You could start by telling me what has you wound up tighter than one of your studs during breeding season?"
She glanced back at him too fast for him to contain his reaction. Hell, he had been out of the agency too long. He knew she caught the flash of guilt in his eyes, the telltale wince of his expression. The tightening of his lips.
"It's been a busy month, Kei." That was his story and he was sticking to it. For now. Until he knew for certain where she was headed with it. In the past three years he had watched her grow in sexuality and confidence. He'd pushed the boundaries needed to help her deal with the gossip and the people of a quickly growing community and helped guide her toward the friends he knew would aid in that. Now, Keiley was making her own steps. For the past year, she had been pushing herself and him.
And it appeared she was beginning to reach for an even higher goal.
His dick tightened painfully at the thought, every muscle in his body tensing in preparation for it.
"As I said, it would surprise me." She turned back to the bacon, but her shoulders were straighter, her back still tense.
That damned sleeveless t-shirt was riding up her back, too, flashing skin. Skin he could be kissing right now if he weren't such a jackass. If nightmares and desires weren't haunting his dreams and pushing his own tension higher. A tension Keiley was obviously reading well. And reacting to as their marriage progressed.
In the past three years she had found a place within the social structure that existed in Scotland Neck. As an independent computer analysis and programming expert, she had joined the Business Council in town. She was a part of several charities and worked several hours a week as a volunteer at the local women's shelter. She was thriving here. The years she had spent under suspicion because of her father's embezzlement at a high-level D.C. accounting firm, and his subsequent imprisonment and death, were slowly being forgotten.
On the surface, their marriage seemed perfect. In a lot of ways, it was perfect. If it weren't for the darker sexual hungers that filled him, then the unnatural stress beginning to grow between them would never have been there.
"Coffee." There was a note of thankfulness in her voice as the machine beeped to indicate it had completed the brewing cycle. "Sit down, Mac, you make me nervous hovering over me like that."
He wasn't exactly hovering over her. Just trying to get a little closer as he considered another attempt to get into those indecent shorts.
Instead, he did as she suggested and sat down at the kitchen table while she cooked. It occurred to him that while she was frying bacon might be the wrong time to risk making her any madder. She only fried bacon in black iron, and if she ever decided to use it as a weapon, he was in some serious trouble.
But he couldn't help the hunger gnawing at his insides, either. Over the past three years he had become something, someone, he wasn't. And it was beginning to leave a funny taste in his mouth.
He had always been an extreme lover. The dark sexuality that drove him had always been a part of his character. It was one of the things that made him a good investigative agent. He understood the darkness, the shadows that could drive a man to extreme acts.
It was a part of himself he hid from Keiley. And in hiding it from her, he was beginning to become wary of the press of darkness in his mind.
"I think you miss your friends in Virginia," Keiley announced as she set breakfast on the table, causing Mac to stare back at her warily.
Mac arched his brow, allowing his expression to shift momentarily with the hunger eating away at him.
It was beginning. He could feel it now; it was in the air as thick as the scent of bacon frying and coffee wafting beneath his nose.
The challenge was being laid on the table. Finally.
For years he watched her navigate the gossip that begun with their appearance in his hometown. Old would-be flames prodding at her. Innuendo, smug smiles, and outright lies concerning his activities away from her had gone from worrying her to amusing her.
Now, she was stepping into territory she had left unexplored when she escaped Virginia, and confronting the fear of his past sexuality. The fear was no curiosity. The gleam of it in her gaze had fire ripping through his body and for the first time since he realized what she meant to him, he let it free in his expression.
Keiley's lips parted almost in surprise, as though the arrogance and sexuality of the look had come as a shock to her. And it would have. Mac rarely allowed enough of a chink in his façade to let her see the shadows that tormented him.
She cleared her throat delicately. "You know, all your male-bonding guy things at Sinclair's Club."
She stared back at him with supreme innocence. Her hazel eyes were bright and compassionate, her expression sympathetic. As though she were talking about a baseball buddy or guys' night out at the local bar. But he saw the heat shadowing it, burning behind the blander emotions.
"There were no bonding guy things there, Kei."
"Do you miss it?" She tilted her head to the side, watching him curiously.
"You know what the club was," he reminded her. "I don't miss fucking other women, if that's what you're asking me."
Keiley kept him more than satisfied sexually. She knew how to tease him, how to make him crazy, and she was as adventurous as hell. More adventurous than she realized.
"That wasn't what I was asking you, Mac." She rolled her eyes before lowering them to her breakfast. "Just forget I mentioned it."
That wasn't going to happen.
"Why did you mention it?"
She stared back at him once again, her gaze reflective. "Because you're too tense. You have very few friends, and despite the invitations we receive, you never want to socialize. You weren't like this in Virginia."
"I'm busy, Kei."
"You're hiding," she told him. "And hiding never works. It's definitely not going to work with me. Are you missing your sex games in Virginia, Mac? Is that the problem?"
He wished he could have snapped at her. He wished he could have stood up and stomped out. He wished he could have avoided her.
But she was staring at him with that faintly frightened expression she had used the first time she asked him about the club. Wariness filled her eyes, and he felt like a jerk. Like a bastard. Like he was failing her. Pushing her. Stealing himself against it, he let her see the lie coming.
"I'm not missing any sex games." The lie didn't come easily to his lips. "Now eat your breakfast."
The curiosity blazed in her eyes then. He was daring her, whether she realized it or not.
"What was it like?" she asked, as he dug his fork into the scrambled eggs on his plate and fought the anticipation building inside him.
"What was what like?" The words nearly choked him.
"Sharing a woman with Jethro Riggs? Didn't you ever get jealous, Mac?"
Son of a bitch. He was going to come in his jeans!
Copyright © 2007 by Lora Leigh. All rights reserved.
Lora Leigh is the author of Live Wire and Enigma, among many others. Writing is her passion, her peace, and her lifeline, and she can often be found daydreaming and plotting and planning with the varied characters that fill her imagination. When she isn’t writing, she tends her flower gardens, watches horses romp outside her home, or spends time with the family and pets she fills her life with. She lives in the rolling hills of Kentucky.