Their Virgin Mistress, Masters of Menage 7

One wild night leads to heartache…

Tori Glen loves her new job as an image consultant for Thurston-Hughes Inc. The trouble is, she’s also in love with the three brothers who own it, Oliver, Rory, and Callum. They’re handsome, successful, aristocratic, and way out of this small-town Texas girl’s league. So she remains a loyal professional—until the night she finds a heartbroken Oliver desperate for someone to love. Tori knows she should resist…but it’s so tempting to give in.

And a desperate plan…

Callum and Rory have denied their desire for Tori, hoping she’ll heal their older brother, who was so brutalized by his late wife’s betrayal. But when Oliver cruelly turns Tori away in the harsh light of day, she tenders her resignation. Rory and Callum realize that to save their brother, they must embrace the unconventional sort of family they’ve always wanted—with Tori at its center. And it all starts with seducing her…

That could lead to happily ever after—or murder.

Isolated with the brothers at an elegant English country manor, they begin awakening Tori to the most sensual of pleasures. But consumed with regret, Oliver won’t be denied the chance to embrace the only woman worth the risk of loving again. What begins as a rivalry veers toward the future they’ve only dared to dream of. But a stranger is watching and waiting for a chance at revenge. Can the brothers come together to embrace the woman they love and defeat a killer?

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Reviews

These ladies always keep me on my toes with the sensual, passionate, and intense scenes, as well as the gripping suspenseful scenes. A highly erotic page-turner, THEIR VIRGIN MISTRESS just might be my favorite of the series to date. With the way they are moving, these stories just keep getting  better, and the authors consistently blow my expectations out of the water. I will never get enough of this series. ~ Shayna, Shayna Renee’s Spicy Reads, shaynareneesspicyreads.com

Five Stars. Shayla Black and Lexi Blake are the queens in writing hot and sexy romance menage stories. ~ Abigail Books Addiction, lindaabigailbooksreview.blogspot.com

Their Virgin Mistress had everything I’ve come to expect from this series – a sassy heroine that I can admire and respect; three hot, sexy, alpha men that I want for my own; emotions that pull at my own heart; and enough seduction and passion to leave me hot and bothered. The series just keeps getting better and better. ~ Robin, Sizzling Hot Books, sizzlinghotbooks.com

As with the other Masters of Menage series, this book has it all-hot sex, yummy men, a complex, intriguing plot and a story line that draws in the reader and keeps them turning the pages. As always, Lexi Blake’s wacky humor adds to the story, while Shayla Black draws a picture of the men that leaves the reader wishing her own man was nearby. Books just don’t get any better than this. Purest Delight, Shadow, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, guiltypleasuresbookreviews.com

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Melinda Torrance Glen glanced across the elegantly appointed table, watching her sister pour steaming brew into delicate cups. “You look almost graceful serving tea. Lots of practice these days, I suppose. Remember when you broke the play set Mom bought us, and she had to glue it back together?”

Piper al Mussad, now known as the Queen of Bezakistan, still flashed the same bright smile she had growing up in rural Texas. Though she wore designer clothes and sat in the penthouse of one of London’s most exclusive buildings, Tori still saw Piper, first and foremost, as her older sister.

“I cried until she repaired it, as I recall. Mr. Bear simply couldn’t be without his afternoon tea.” She glanced back at the bodyguard waiting in the background. “Thank you so much, Tanner. I’d like to be alone with my sister now.”

The massive bodyguard frowned. “Dane gave me strict instructions not to let you out of my sight.”

“I need to talk to my sister about girl things. He’ll understand if you wait just outside the door. We’re sixteen floors up, and the windows in this building are bulletproof. Dane made certain of that when we bought the flat. The only way in is through a private elevator, and any intruder would still have to pass multiple guard stations. My husbands wouldn’t have left me or our sons here unless they felt certain we’d be safe.”

The guard didn’t move.

“All right, then. I hope you can be discreet, Tanner.” Piper sighed and turned to her. “You know, Mindy, since I last gave birth, I’m struggling with my vaginal walls contracting painfully during sex. It’s been difficult, and I wonder if you have any advice.”

The door slammed as the guard disappeared.

Tori pressed a hand over her mouth to smother her laugh. Despite her sister’s now regal polish, she glowed with happiness. She had three gorgeous husbands and two precious sons. She’d been blessed.

Piper had married the Sheikh of Bezakistan, Talib al Mussad, and his two brothers, Rafiq and Kadir. In Bezakistan, the practice of brothers sharing a wife was both ancient and common—very unlike the West where primogeniture, which meant the first-born son inherited all the wealth and land, had been the norm. But Bezakistani nationals preferred to honor all their sons, keeping the riches within the whole family through the practice of polyandry. The world seemed utterly fascinated by the queen and her three sheikhs.

Tori constantly reminded herself that she didn’t live there and having three husbands would be quite frowned upon in London, even more so in the great state of Texas where she fully intended to return in a few months.

“You’re so bad,” Tori teased her sister. “You probably scarred that poor man for life.”

Piper giggled. “One of these days Dane will realize that a female guard would be so less easy for me to handle than these ex-military types. Then I’ll be in trouble. For now…” She shrugged. “It’s amazing how quickly they run once I start talking about the royal vagina.”

“You’d better hope Dane never figures it out,” Tori agreed. “If he does, he’ll tell Tal, Rafe, and Kade. Then you’ll have hell to pay.”

Clearly aware of that fact, Piper pressed a finger to her lips. “Shh.”

Tori just shook her head. “So, how is Dane doing? I heard Alea had another baby.”

Alea al Mussad was Piper’s cousin-in-law and had married the head of Bezakistan’s royal guard—all three of them—Dane Mitchell, Cooper Evans, and Landon Nix.

“Yes, a girl. She’s beautiful,” Piper groaned. “I want a girl, but it seems my husbands only produce male sperm. I might try one more time, but then my womb is closed for business. Two boys is enough. Three would be more than any woman should have to handle and keep her sanity. Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with a princess next, but if not, surely my little sister can give me a niece to spoil, right?”

“Me?” Tori reared back. “I’m not even dating anyone, much less married or looking to become pregnant.”

“Hmm.” Piper sent her a speculative stare. “I see the way Oliver looks at you. If he hasn’t already, he’s going to man up and ask you out.”

The mere mention of Oliver Thurston-Hughes made Tori’s heart flutter. The eldest of the three British brothers she worked for was a golden god of a man in a perfectly pressed three-piece suit. When she’d met him six months earlier, she’d been dazzled by his good looks, but his sharp intelligence and ruthless business acumen had truly lured her in. He did his best to maintain a wide distance and make others believe he was heartless, but over time, Tori had come to know him—the employer, the brother, the friend. She’d seen under his harsh façade. And she’d fallen in love. The only trouble was she could say the same for his two brothers, Callum and Rory. Athletic and model-gorgeous, Callum could be funny and surprisingly sweet. According to rumor, he was magnificent in bed. Brilliant Rory had the most intense focus of any man she’d ever met, and the idea of being the center of his attention made her shiver.

But Tori didn’t live in Bezakistan and couldn’t have them all. She reminded herself of that every single day.

“He’s not going to ask me out.” She answered her sister with what she hoped sounded like a matter-of-fact tone. “We work together. So if he did, of course I would turn him down. And you’re the only one in the whole world who still calls me Mindy. Can you stop it?”

She’d started using her middle name when she’d realized that going to med school wasn’t for her, after failing organic chemistry. Instead, she’d gone into public relations. Torrance Glen sounded far more worldly and professional—exactly what she needed to become a competent image consultant.

Piper’s nose wrinkled. “You’re my kid sister. You’ll always be Mindy to me. Now stop trying to change the subject. You know I care about Oliver. I think you do, too.”

“Yes, but as the Brits would say, it’s bad form to shag your boss. I’m already considered young in a game usually won by seasoned vets. I don’t need any whispers circulating that I slept my way into this lucrative job. I took on this challenge precisely to build myself some professional credibility.”

Her decision hadn’t had anything to do with being close to the Thurston-Hughes men. Well, not much.

“Oliver needs a woman to love far more than he needs a PR consultant.” Piper paused, as if trying to weigh her next words. “I was there that terrible day Yasmin nearly killed him and destroyed his life. Even when I visited him in the hospital afterward, I could tell he was a changed man. If you can look past his gruffness—”

“I have,” Tori assured softly. She’d seen Oliver’s heart underneath, no matter how desperately he wished to conceal it. “But he’s not over her yet.”

His late wife, Yasmin, had not only lied to and cheated on him, but she’d taken betrayal a step further and aborted two of their children during the marriage. At the end, she’d attempted to kill him. As past lovers went, she was kind of the be-all and end-all of badness.

“Then you could help him.”

Tori shook her head. “I don’t know that he will ever be over her, and I can’t get caught up in his damage. I’m sure that sounds cold. I like Oliver a lot, probably more than I should. But a personal relationship would ruin our professional one. He’s nice to me now because we merely work together, but the man has built an invisible wall around himself, and I think if I ever tried to breach the sucker he would defend himself. It wouldn’t be pretty.”

Piper leaned in with a sigh. “Under all the hurt, he’s a good man with a big heart.”

Yes, but Tori didn’t dare want more with Oliver. “Do you know why Claire Thurston-Hughes hired me?”

The brothers’ sister had recognized how badly the company needed an image consultant. Since Tori had already done some work for the Bezakistani royals, which had led her to a few high-profile European jobs, Claire had assured Tori that she would be a good fit for the Thurston-Hughes company.

“I know the stock has taken a hit in the last couple of years,” Piper replied. “I heard Tal talking to Kade about it.”

“Most of the financial problems had everything to do with the slowdown in the world economy and nothing to do with management. The strange thing is, the quarterly reports are actually on an uptick, but no one wants to hear that. They want to hear about Oliver Thurston-Hughes getting into pub fights. They seem to enjoy focusing on him acting more like a hooligan than a CEO. Then there’s Rory. He’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever met in my life, not to mention rich and incredibly interesting. Apparently, that combination is kryptonite for females. He goes through a six-pack of supermodels each month, like he’s consuming beer, not women. And he’s incredibly generous with them all.”

“I haven’t seen Rory mentioned in the press for a few months.” Piper reached for a scone. “So you must be doing an admirable, if not heroic, job of keeping the gossip about him quiet.”

If Piper thought that, she clearly hadn’t seen the tabloids for the last week. Rory, it seemed, had suddenly embraced his old habits because it looked as if he had a new bedmate. Tori hurt with a physical pang every time she saw photos of him with a “date.” Every woman he showered his time and attention on seemed more interested in fame and fortune than in the man himself. “He’s been more circumspect since I pointed out how much of his trust fund he’s spending on what amounts to high-class hookers.”

Piper’s eyes widened. “You did not say that to him.”

Tori shrugged. She shot straight with her clients and saved her tact for the press. Candy coating a situation rarely benefitted the one signing her checks. She was there to make them look better, not feel better. “Actually, I believe I told him he’d spent the GDP of a small country on the last Slutasaurus Rex he called girlfriend and if he didn’t quit, he’d be both broke and foolish.”

Her sister’s mouth hung open. “Seriously?”

“I stand by my judgment. She was about eleven feet tall and weighed ninety pounds soaking wet. And those teeth could seriously kill a man. I have no idea what he saw in her, except breasts done by the best surgeon England has to offer.”

“You sound jealous,” Piper pointed out.

Tori sipped her tea, hoping the cup hid her grimace. God, she needed to keep her mouth shut. Piper was both astute and happy, so if her sister knew how deep her feelings for her bosses ran, she wouldn’t hesitate to play matchmaker. And if Piper learned how far she’d gone to keep herself “safe” from the Thurston-Hughes brothers, she would gasp in horror. Her sister wasn’t big on lies, even for the greater good.

“I’m simply pointing out that while Rory is an amazing man, he’s got issues, just like his brothers, that I don’t want to deal with,” Tori murmured.

“Even the soccer player? Excuse me, the football god.”

She sometimes forgot that what she’d called soccer all her life was football over here. And Callum Thurston-Hughes had been one of the best—Manchester United’s star player until a career-killing injury had taken him out the year before. But Tori gave him credit. Rather than being bitter, Callum treated every new day like a gift to be used to its fullest. It sometimes made him reckless, dangerous. “You must have heard that I’m dealing with a paternity case for him. It’s all over the press.”

“All right. That headline was hard to miss,” Piper conceded. “Hey, at least they’re keeping you busy.”

Tori scoffed. “I just love the phone ringing at three in the morning with some new Thurston-Hughes surprise that ruins my night of sleep.”

“Well, if you won’t consider your very hot bosses as potential mates, Dane has hired a couple of new guards who are smart and funny. I think you’ll find them attractive. My husbands also have some cousins who would love to meet you. I have to warn you, though. There are five of them and they’re very traditional.”

Tori felt her jaw drop. Had her sister lost her damn mind? “Five? I don’t know where you put three.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Piper began. “One in—”

“Stop.” Sometimes her sister overshared, and Tori didn’t need to hear more of this. “I don’t want to know. I would like to keep my ears as virginal as the rest of me.”

Piper froze. “You’re kidding. Still?”

“You were a virgin until you got married. I don’t understand the shock.”

“After Dad died, I had you to raise, so I didn’t date. What’s holding you back?”

How did she explain her choices to a sister who had been swept off her feet and made a queen literally? “I watched a couple of friends get their hearts seriously broken by guys who used them for sex. I don’t want to end up like them.

Tori refused to give up that piece of herself to someone who didn’t value her. Her friend Brooke had once had a one-night stand. Nine months later, it turned into a battle for child support fought by two parents who couldn’t stand each other. But it wasn’t simply pregnancy or single motherhood that worried Tori.

“You have to take a chance at some point.” Piper sat back, her eyes soft with empathy as she looked her sister over. “You can’t hide away all of your life. Mom and Dad had a great marriage.”

Of course Piper had to bring up the one subject guaranteed to send her into a tailspin. Unfortunately, not even that kept her from thinking about the Thurston-Hughes brothers—all three of them.

“Yes, until Mom died and Daddy turned into a shell of himself.” Tori took a long breath. Her chest tightened, as it always did when she thought about her parents. For most of her life they’d been blissfully happy. Then her mother’s long fight with cancer had ended. Afterward, her father had faded away until a car accident had stolen what had been left of his life. “Do you ever wonder?”

Piper sniffled, her eyes glazing over with a sheen of tears. She didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “If he let it happen because he wanted to end his suffering? All the time. He knew those roads like the back of his hand.”

Had their father driven off that road so he didn’t have to live without his beloved anymore? “The thought of a love like that scares me, Piper.”

“Sweetie, life is basically meaningless if you don’t love like that,” Piper argued. “Dad wouldn’t have taken back the years he had with Mom, even if he’d known how they would end. He wouldn’t have chosen to spend his life with anyone else. We don’t know what happened the night he died, Mindy, but he was a good father. Shouldn’t we give him the benefit of the doubt?”

Tori nodded because she didn’t want to talk about this anymore. It was easier to deflect this subject with the Thurston-Hughes family. They didn’t know her the way Piper did. Tori easily handled them with a fake engagement ring and a couple of phony calls to her “fiancé.”

She used that pretend engagement like a blunt instrument. It worked best on Oliver. Callum and Rory still flirted, but the moment Oliver had heard the “news,” he’d become chillingly polite. Every now and then, she still caught him looking at her like a hungry lion. Whenever that happened, she flashed her cubic zirconia rock, and poof, they were merely work associates again.

“Tell me about Sabir’s birthday party,” Tori said, completely changing the subject. The elder of her two adorable nephews was having his birthday soon, and Tori intended to forget her romantic issues for a while and play auntie. It was her favorite role.

For a moment, Piper looked like she would press the subject, but she finally stirred her tea again and sipped. “I’m so glad you’re coming. I hope you can stay for a while. The boys miss you. I think we’re going with a pirate theme.”

While her sister chatted away, Tori thought about the men she should never, would never touch.

 

* * * *

 

Oliver Thurston-Hughes clenched his fists and tried to quell his urge to punch someone. Then again, a day rarely went by that he didn’t feel it. “What do you mean?”

“I need a place to stay temporarily.” His younger brother Callum leaned forward, wearing an earnest look on his sun-bronzed face. “Just until the crack pot births her spawn and I get the results of the DNA test. Apparently, I can’t force her to do one until the nipper makes his actual appearance, so we’ve got some months to wait.”

Oliver bristled. “You’re talking about a child, potentially your own.”

Yet his brother treated the baby as if he or she meant nothing.

Callum’s remark gnawed at Oliver’s brain. The rage that constantly seethed inside him rose. He breathed through the violent urge but couldn’t deny the fact that he’d enjoy beating his brother right now. Usually he preferred strangers, but the former footballer would be a nice change of pace and provide a good challenge besides.

Drawing in a steadying breath, Oliver stood and looked out the rain-splattered window over St. James’s Park from the office that had once been his father’s. What would Albert Thurston-Hughes do if he could see his three sons now? Likely shoot the lot of them and start over.

Outside, everything looked peaceful, and he tried to find his calm. A light drizzle fell. Down below, pedestrians hustled about. Women held umbrellas over their prams as they rushed to shelter where their babies would be dry and warm.

Oliver gripped the sill. His children would be too old for prams now—or would have been if that bitch had allowed them to be born.

“Nothing against the baby,” Callum assured. “But I couldn’t possibly have fathered that insane woman’s child.”

He turned back to his younger brother, brow raised. “So you’re telling me you didn’t sleep with her?”

Callum paused, giving Oliver precisely the answer he’d expected.

With a shake of his head, he stared out the window again, refusing to look at his brother. The rage grew, and he needed to find an outlet to release it. He’d been a perpetual volcano set to explode ever since he’d realized Yasmin had betrayed him and he’d learned his whole life was a lie. “You have a flat worth millions. Why can’t you stay there?”

“Because she knows where I live and keeps popping ’round,” Callum admitted. “She’s mental, I tell you.”

“Maybe you should have figured that out before you shagged her,” a familiar feminine voice offered.

Oliver turned slightly to find Rory and their sister, Claire, entering the room. The entire family was now here. Hurrah for him. Younger than Callum and older than Rory, Claire tended to be the voice of wisdom. Most of the time that was a good thing, but on the days when pent-up violence nipped at his gut, Oliver didn’t want to hear reason.

“Then again, he’s always liked the crazy ones,” Claire went on.

Oliver glanced back out the window. Below, a yellow umbrella caught his eye. He was fooling himself if he thought for an instant that he stared out the window because he couldn’t stand to look at Callum. He was staring because he was waiting for her.

It seemed that everyone else in London carried a black umbrella. Tori looked like a bright canary amongst all the crows. She disappeared as she walked into the building. Only then did Oliver turn to the others and step into the middle of the room to join them.

She was safe now. He could focus on the meeting at hand.

Oliver had no idea what he would do when she returned to the States and her fiancé. Watching Tori Glen had become his favorite pastime. After his last brawl, he’d come away with a black eye and split lip. He’d told Tori he had gotten pissed at a pub and started a fight. Oliver still wondered if he should admit that he’d beaten the holy hell out of a bloke who’d been stalking her. When she’d gone down the wrong alley, the bastard had whipped out a big knife and followed.

Tori had never noticed that he’d put her would-be attacker in the hospital. Instead, she’d just blithely gone her way. The following day, she’d told him about her misadventure, laughing that she still sometimes got lost in London.

She was going to be the death of him, and he wasn’t so sure he minded.

Only two things kept him from taking her bright light for himself: One was James Fenway of Texas, her loving and endlessly patient fiancé. The second was the fact that he was a black hole, which tended to consume and destroy all light in its path.

“I didn’t know she was cray cray before I slept with her. Also, I might have had a wee bit to drink. However, I can assure you that the baby is not mine,” Callum said.

“Cray cray? What is that nonsense you’re spouting?” Oliver glared at his younger brother.

Callum waved him off. “It’s an expression Tori uses. I very much like the way she talks. In fact, I appreciate the way she does everything. We need to discuss her.”

“First, explain how this can’t be your child,” Claire demanded.

“I’d like to hear this as well.” Rory took a seat beside Callum. “You know condoms break. Did she tell you she was on the pill? I know you think no one would ever lie to their favorite footballer, but really... Do you even watch telly?”

Callum groaned. “Yes, Mummy and Daddy, I did use a condom, and I know how it feels when one breaks. This one stayed solid. But I know this baby isn’t mine because I haven’t had sex with the woman in almost a year. If fact, I haven’t slept with anyone since the injury.”

Oliver felt his jaw drop. “You’ve been celibate all this time? Impossible. Unless something is wrong. Anything we don’t know? Has the medication adversely affected your…sex drive?”

Callum chuckled, his expression open, happy even. Oliver didn’t understand how his brother had survived such a backbiting, throat-slitting profession with his ability to smile like that still intact but he appreciated it.

“No. Little Cal is in perfect working order, thank you. I’ll admit that at first I was somewhat depressed, but I’ve come out the other side of that. I haven’t shagged anyone because I’m only interested in one woman, and until very recently, she was off limits. But did you note that I couldn’t possibly have fathered whatever beast is in Thea’s womb? She claims she’s two months pregnant. I will admit to seeing her at a party at Reggie’s a couple of months back. She started the creepy stalker stuff then. But my willy stayed firmly behind my zip all night.”

Oliver sighed with relief and sat behind his desk. That was one worry out of his way. His younger brother might make a hash of his life on a regular basis, but he was honest about it. The tabloids would calm down once the results of the DNA test were in. Directly after, they could ensure the woman stayed away from Callum. “All right, then. You can stay at the Heights. There’s a vacant one-bedroom, I believe.”

He couldn’t miss the way Callum’s whole face lit up as though being told he could go from his posh digs in Chelsea to a nondescript building that temporarily housed visiting workers was a godsend. “Brilliant. I’ll take my suitcases over there tonight. You have no idea how grateful I am, Oliver. I promise once this is all over, you’ll see I’m a changed man.”

“Happy to hear you’re in proper working order…” Rory stared at Callum with narrowed eyes. “But who are you interested in? It best not be the woman I told you to stay the bloody hell away from.”

Wearing a calming expression, Claire stood, stepping between them. “Stop it, both of you. Sit down and work this out like brothers.”

“Have you touched her?” Rory ignored his sister, leaping to his feet, fists at his sides.

“Not yet,” Cal admitted. “But I intend to very soon.”

Rory looked ready to kill. “Don’t you dare.”

Oliver held up a hand. “I’m a bit confused. Who are you two arguing over?” He frowned at Rory. “I thought you were seeing some actress.”

“I was,” his youngest brother admitted. “I broke it off. It was never serious.”

“I’ll touch her if I want to.” Callum ignored him to warn Rory, then turned to Oliver. “He’s seeing at least three different women. Or rather, he’s seen at least three so far this week.”

Claire scowled. “I always thought Cal was the walking venereal disease.”

“Not at all,” Callum assured their sister. “I’m perfectly clean. All the doctors’ reports say I’m STI free. Perhaps I should have a button announcing that fact made for my lapel.”

“Being disease free for the moment hardly makes you prime relationship material,” Oliver shot back.

“At the very least, it should be on every girl’s checklist. I know it’s on mine.” Claire sat once more, obviously hoping she’d seen the last of her brothers’ theatrics for now.

Oliver tsked. “Rory, we pay Tori for a reason. Have you heard a word our publicist has said? You’re supposed to be discreet.”

“I assure you, I am. You won’t find any YouTube videos of me drunkenly dropping my trousers at a bar in Brazil to shag a girl on a stool.”

“That was nearly two years ago,” Callum objected. “I’ve matured since then.”

Rory shot him a skeptical glance.

Oliver wanted to punch them both now. “This isn’t about Cal, and you know perfectly well that dating three women in a week isn’t discreet.” Rory needed to grasp the bloody concept. “Our stock is still unstable. If we’re not careful, the stockholders will soon ask for my head. Do you want to watch the company our family spent decades building crumble around us?”

Rory and Callum both backed down.

“You know I don’t.” Rory sank into his seat. “I’m not indiscriminately dating women, just escorting a few girls around as a favor. One is an old schoolmate’s sister who’s working on a movie here. He asked if I would take her to a few dinners. For her, the publicity is helpful.”

“And for you, it’s toxic. For all of us, in fact.” Oliver pressed his thumb to his forehead, massaging between his eyes, though he knew it wouldn’t stave off the inevitable headache. “I understand that I’m more than a bit to blame. I started this cycle.”

All three of his siblings went on the attack then. Or rather in defense of him, all talking loudly over one another. Oliver managed a grim smile. It was good to know they didn’t believe him at fault for the Yasmin incident. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

“Stop,” he insisted. “I married her even knowing that I didn’t love her. I didn’t want to deal with her, so I turned a blind eye to her behavior. And in doing so, I landed our family in every known tabloid. Now we’re synonymous with bad behavior. It needs to stop. This is precisely the reason we hired a publicist in the first place. We need to listen to her.”

And that meant he couldn’t pop in at the pub ’round the corner and pick a fight whenever the whim grabbed him by the balls. He couldn’t beat on someone deserving until the chap collapsed. Oliver knew he would simply have to find another way to burn off the angry energy bubbling in his blood.

A vision of Tori assaulted him. He could see her laid out on his desk, her legs spread, arms open and welcoming him inside.

He sucked in a breath, glad he sat behind his desk because the last thing he wanted his siblings to see was the fact that he had an erection. He liked to pretend he no longer got those.

“I agree.” Callum stood again and smoothed down his shirt. “Tori insisted that I start looking more serious. It’s why I’ve been working so hard these last few months. I think you’ll find that tomorrow night’s charity ball will be a smashing success. I’ve managed to lure a ton of press, and most of my old team is coming out to help. We’ll easily raise a hundred thousand pounds for the fund. I’ll prove that I’m more than a bloke who kicked a football.”

For as long as Oliver could remember, playing midfielder had been all Callum ever wanted. He’d practiced constantly as a kid. He’d made it to the top of his profession, and now, at age twenty-eight, that part of his life was over. Tori had advised him to give Callum a high-profile position within the company. Given both his brother’s contacts in entertainment and his charm, she’d suggested marketing. Remembering the debacle of his brother’s school years, Oliver had immediately shoved him somewhere he couldn’t do too much damage—the director in name only of the corporation’s charity wing. Thurston-Hughes had a long history of donating to good causes, specifically London’s children’s charities. It had been his mother’s lifelong passion.

If what Callum said about the charity ball was true, maybe he’d found another calling.

“I’m looking forward to it, but we must present a united front when the press asks about the paternity suit.” Oliver wished he could forget or ignore this unpleasantry, but they’d been planning this fundraiser for months and everyone looking for a scoop would attend. Hopefully the press—and the stockholders—would take note if the family united behind Callum. “In a bit, let’s ask Tori what we should and shouldn’t say when asked. Then tonight, you’ll move into the corporate housing. It’s got decent security. And stay away from this mad woman. In a couple of weeks, we can escape on holiday and head out to the countryside. Until then, let’s all keep a low profile.” Oliver frowned. “Callum, please tell me you’re not bringing someone new to the fundraiser.”

Twin flags of red stained his face. “I was planning to.”

“Don’t. The last thing we need is for you to be seen with another woman when you’ve supposedly already got one pregnant.”

“Fine, but I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m not waiting forever. Tell me when we’re meeting with Tori.” Callum stood to leave and headed for the door, looking back at Oliver. “None of us blames you. What happened with Yasmin was terrible, but none of it was your fault. I’ll do whatever I can to help right this ship.”

The door closed behind him, and Rory stood. “I will, too. I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

Oliver was left alone with his sister. He rather wished she’d left with the lads.

“What are you doing, Ollie?” She moved across the room, settling into the chair by his desk.

He flipped open a binder. “I’m reading through the latest R&D reports.”

“That isn’t what I meant, and you know it.” She crossed her legs at the ankle, every bit the elegant British lady. “You weren’t in a pub fight. If you’re going to lie, at least get your facts straight. The pub you mentioned was closed that evening due to a small fire in the kitchen.”

He stared at his sister—not as a brother, but as a man who didn’t like having his secrets pried into. “You checked up on me?”

“I have to. You lie. And before you tell me it’s none of my business, consider that you’ve just been grilling Callum and Rory about their personal lives. Now you weren’t in a pub fight that evening. Tell me what really happened.”

He didn’t want to give Claire anything else to worry about. “Nothing.”

“You sent that man to the hospital.” She bounced her Prada heel against the plush carpet as she spoke, almost punctuating her every accusation. “I started to put it together a few days ago. I watched you follow Tori after work. I didn’t mean to. I happened to be on the street when I noticed her walking toward Westminster Station, then saw you dash after her. I was curious since you’d said not half an hour before that you were heading home. You never go home that way. Imagine my surprise when you got on the Line 12 bus. She didn’t see you, did she? At first, I thought you two had some kind of assignation planned.”

Oliver felt the blood drain from his face. “Did you follow me?”

“Yes, in a taxi.”

“Tell me you stayed in the cab.”

“I would love to, but I’m afraid my curiosity got the better of me.”

“You walked around Peckham by yourself?”

“Never mind that.” Claire waved him off. “That thug was waiting for Tori, Oliver. It wasn’t random, but you knew that. Right? You were following her because you knew she was in danger.”

Her words nearly knocked Oliver over. He’d known no such thing.

“What do you mean he was waiting for Tori?” He’d seen the man creep up behind her. “She said she’d intended to visit a friend and got lost. She went down the wrong street and ended up in an alley where a predator awaited some unsuspecting prey.”

Claire reared back. “You didn’t notice that man followed her from Westminster on to the bus and then off when they reached Peckham?”

He hadn’t noticed anything but Tori. He’d been utterly fixated on her until the big man with the knife had crept after her in the alley. “How did he get between us?”

“He seemed to know the area. Somehow, he beat you there.” She shook her head. “If you weren’t trying to protect Tori, then why were you following her, Oliver?”

He didn’t have a reply and tried to answer his sister’s question with a shrug.

She pursed her lips in displeasure. “I was shocked by what you did to that man. When did you learn to fight like that?”

“Like what?” An animal?

Oliver stood and turned away from her. He’d never wanted any of them to see that side of him. Every day he had to fight harder to control it.

“You nearly killed him. Even when he was down, you kept beating him until the police came.”

“Are you the one who called them?” He’d been lost in blood rage, beating the man senseless for even having the notion to hurt Tori. Somewhere deep down he’d known the bloke was done, but he’d kept at it.

Oliver suspected he’d kill someone one of these days. Then he would get what he deserved.

“Yes. I’ll admit you truly frightened me for a minute. I needed to think about what I saw. I called the police because I didn’t want you to do something we’d all regret. I also noticed you didn’t stay around.”

He’d fled when he heard the sirens. He’d felt the blood pumping in his veins and he’d run. For a brief moment, he’d felt alive again. “I should frighten you. To answer your questions, I followed Tori because I’m a pervert and can’t seem to help myself. I kept hitting him because I was in a blind rage. I get them every now and then, ever since…”

“Yasmin nearly killed you. Ever since you found out what she’d done to you.”

“To this whole family.”

“Oliver, don’t distance. You’re fooling yourself if you think this rage is for the rest of us. It’s for you. She betrayed you on every level. And stop saying you didn’t love her.”

At least he could be honest in that. He turned back to Claire, settling his palms on the desk. “I might have thought I was in love, but it was a young man’s infatuation with an exotic woman who was very good in bed. It wasn’t love.”

“That’s the bitterness talking.”

“No, it’s experience. I know what it really feels like to be in love, and what I felt for Yasmin is nothing compared to what I feel now. This is a million times worse.”

“You’re in love with Tori.” His sister’s eyes went wide. “Oh, what a mess.”

Oliver felt his jaw tighten. “I won’t act on it. She’s marrying someone else. You must know that I, of all people, would never come between a man and his woman.”

He knew what it felt like to be the cuckold in that scenario. All too often, he looked into the faces of his former friends and wondered which of them had been his wife’s lovers.

Claire bit her bottom lip. “I know you won’t…but perhaps you should. She can’t be terribly mad for the man—or he for her. She hasn’t seen him in six months. Six months, Oliver, and neither has visited the other once. Her sister is both the queen of an entire country and mother to two boys—enormous responsibilities—and yet Piper has already visited Tori twice. I’ve been thinking about this fiancé of hers. We should look into him.”

His sister sometimes enjoyed sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. “Absolutely not. You’ll leave the situation alone. Tori’s contract ends in a few months, and she’s already said that she intends to return home. And that will be the end of it.”

“It won’t be. Can’t you see that? You’ve suffered this malaise for the past two years, Oliver. You can’t stay this way. How many other fights have you been involved in? Can’t you see you have a death wish, and she might be the only one who can save you? Do you think I haven’t noticed the way you look at her? I followed you because I was praying I would find out you’re sleeping with her, even with all the trouble that would cause between you, Rory, and Callum.”

“It’s not going to happen. I’m not good for anyone. I never will be again.” And he didn’t apologize for it. “As for the death wish, well…we all have to wish for something.” His brain finally caught on to the rest of her speech. “What did you mean, trouble between me and our brothers? What do they have to do with my ill-timed fascination with Ms. Glen?”

“You really don’t pay attention to anything, do you? Who do you think Callum was talking about bringing to the fundraiser? And why do you think Rory looked ready to take his head off? They both fancy her. Callum believes himself in love with the girl and he intends to make his move. If you tell them that you want her for yourself, I think they’ll back off. They love you.”

Oliver gripped the side of the desk, seething, his knuckles turning white. “He will not touch her. I’ll make sure of it.”

Rory would have to get in line to take Callum’s head off because if their middle brother laid one finger on Tori, Oliver would be more than happy to do the honors.

Without a backward glance at his sister, he strode out of the office, itching for a fight.

Copyright 2015 Shayla Black and Lexi Blake