Their Virgin's Secret, Masters of Menage 2

Two Men on a Mission

Security Professionals Burke and Cole Lennox have shared women before but never meant to fall in love with one. Their lives are precarious, always on the edge of trouble. But Jessa Wade is too tempting, too perfect, to let go. They’re on a dangerous mission, but they can’t help but get close to the beautiful, innocent artist. When their mission takes them to a foreign land, they reluctantly leave their love behind, promising to return for her one day.

A Woman with a Secret

After her lovers disappear, Jessa Wade bravely moves on with her life, protecting her secret. But when she becomes the target of one of Burke and Cole’s enemies, the men leap into action, vowing to save their woman and to never leave again. As danger stalks all three, they must come together and face the mistakes of their past. On the run and out of time, Burke and Cole will fight for their future with Jessa. But will Jessa’s secret bring them together….or tear them apart?

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Reviews

I loved the way Ms. Black and Ms. Blake blended current time with the events between this trio over a year prior in Their Virgin’s Secret. I totally identified with Jessa’s reluctance to believe Burke and Cole when they came back into her life and applauded the way she made them jump through some hoops to get back into her good graces. If you love romantic suspense with BDSM thrown in, you have to get this book. ~Victoria, TwoLips Reviews, www.twolipsreviews.com

Excerpt

(The following excerpt is for adults only!)

Present Day – Virginia

Burke Lennox stood outside the two story house, his eyes narrowed in study. The gorgeous Victorian practically glowed, a warm welcoming sight in contrast to the frigid wonderland surrounding it. It was a huge damn disparity to the distress signal they’d received earlier. Right now, everything about this place looked perfect and cheerful. Beautiful—a lot like the woman who lived here.

Looks, Burke had learned over the years, could be very deceiving.

“She’s still not answering her phone.” His brother’s voice cracked harshly through the chilled air as he tucked his phone in his pocket.

Cole was bone-deep tired. Burke could feel the weariness coming off his brother in waves. He was certain he reflected the same back, and that Cole felt it, too. Their mother had termed their odd, silent communication “Wonder Twins” powers. Burke didn’t need to ask Cole how he felt. He simply knew. And they shared other feelings tonight. Desperation. Edginess. They both shook a little like an addict who’d been on the wagon for a long time and realized that he might just get one more coveted taste.

No doubt about it, they were both addicted to Jessa Wade.

“Should we knock?” Cole asked, sounding more uncertain than Burke could ever remember.

Cole was the darker one. He usually plowed through any given mission without ever letting on that he wasn’t one hundred percent confident. But Jessa had knocked him on his ass, and just over a year later, Cole hadn’t quite recovered.

It had been that long since either of them had laid eyes on the lovely girl. Burke still remembered the last time he’d seen her, naked in a hotel room bed, rumpled sheets around her. Her auburn hair had been a sensual contrast to the white pillow. She’d looked like an angel.

When he closed his eyes, he could still remember the scent of that room. Jessa always smelled like citrus, sweet and sharp. And that night she’d smelled like sex, like him and his brother because they had spent the whole evening inside her. In her pussy, her mouth, her ass. They had taken her over and over again, as though they could imprint themselves on her.

She’d been the most gorgeous thing he’d ever seen, ever touched.

He’d left her there with a promise that he’d be back. Cole had made the same promise, kissing her deeply before they’d gone.

In the last year, everything had gone to shit. God, sometimes that amazing night felt like a fucking lifetime ago.

“Why would she leave us a distress message then not answer our calls? Shit. What if she can’t answer the phone because that fucker she married is stopping her?” Cole asked as they walked across the yard.

Yeah. The fucker she’d married. Angus.

According to the reports they’d received from the investigator they’d hired to keep tabs on Jessa, she hadn’t let the grass grow under her feet before moving on. Less than three months after they’d left, she’d traveled to Scotland, apparently met and married some guy named Angus, then returned to the States with him in tow.

Burke could still remember the day their fantasy of Jessa waiting for him and Cole had come crashing down. Their dutiful personal assistant of five years, Hilary, had kept Lennox Investigations running during their long operation in South America. They’d returned home, ready to hop a plane to New York and claim Jessa for good, but their assistant had delivered the terrible news their private investigator had dug up: Jessa was married. He winced at the memory and tried to console himself with the knowledge that he’d given Hilary an extra holiday bonus to atone for their bad behavior that day.

“He doesn’t take good care of her,” Burke muttered, wishing he could take something apart with his bare hands. God, he knew he had no right to be, but he was really fucking bitter that she’d married someone else. “He doesn’t even shovel the damn walkway. She could break her leg just trying to get her mail.”

“Which she clearly retrieved as soon as the storm let up.”

Burke’s gaze tracked the dainty footsteps in the snow directly to the mailbox, then back to the front door. It was so damn cold those footprints had frozen in the powder.

It hadn’t been cold in South America. The weather had been hot, so humid he could still feel the thick air clogging in his lungs. The chill of the Virginia night should have been a welcome change, but it only brought home the fact that he’d spent the worst year of his life in a tropical hellhole doing a job that had cost him and Cole the only woman they would likely ever love.

But when they’d gotten the urgent call twenty-four hours ago, they’d come running for Jessa, anyway.

Last winter, as their case had led them to South America and they’d realized just how deep undercover they would have to go, they had left behind a phone number for Jessa to contact them in case she needed anything. While abroad, they’d left that phone with their friend and sometimes employer, Dex James of Black Oak Oil, along with instructions to keep it charged and to contact them immediately if Jessa called. Dex owed them a couple of big-time favors, and it seemed more appropriate to task the man experienced with security—and ménage relationships—than their assistant. That poor woman had enough to keep up with in their absence.

God, he hadn’t expected to survive the op in South America. In fact, neither one of them really had thought they would make it. In the back of his head, Burke had hoped that Jessa would reach out to them. But she hadn’t called. Finally, nearly a year after they’d last seen her, she’d sent a simple text, which Dex had relayed.

Please. I need to see you. As soon as possible.

Burke had instructed Dex to call and find out what she needed, but she hadn’t answered. She hadn’t replied to a text back, either. Three planes, thousands of miles, and not a wink of sleep later, they stood outside her house, wondering what the hell was going on. If she needed help, why wasn’t she turning to her husband?

Unless he was the problem… Had Jessa brought home a man who hurt her, who scared her so much she would reach out to two men who had left her so abruptly after a few brief days of heaven?

“There’s no way to know until we find her and ask.” God, he’d faced down some of the most dangerous men in the world, but one sweet-faced five foot three inch woman had him trembling.

Perhaps because that sweet-faced woman held way more in her hands than his life. She still held his goddamned heart.

He stared at the front door, his breath puffing out in little clouds. Jessa was behind that door. She’d built a whole new life for herself while they’d worked that op. She’d left New York and her school, found someone new. Jessa had utterly moved on, while he and Cole hadn’t even begun to try yet.

The wrongness of the situation hit him. It felt like a blow to the chest. Jessa hadn’t just moved down the road, but from one state to another, from one relationship to another. From one life to another.

“According to Dex, she didn’t give us her new address. How did she expect us to find her?” How had he missed that? His brain was overloaded with possibilities.

Cole turned to him with troubled blue eyes. “She can’t possibly have a clue that we know where she lives because we’ve kept tabs on her. Was she trying to get us to New York? Is this some kind of fucking game? It feels all wrong.”

Burke was about to agree. Then the lights went out, all at once. Every last one of them.

“What the hell?” Cole tensed.

Burke could feel him shift. One moment Cole teetered on the edge. The next, his brother was a predator, his every muscle tense and every sense on high alert.

Scanning the area, Burke focused on small clues. Despite the fact that the house had suddenly gone black, the snow and the moon worked in tandem to illuminate the yard. He could see his and Cole’s boot prints. They had already noted the line of smaller prints that ran from the front door to the mailbox and back. He would bet his life they were Jessa’s.

But he saw another larger set that led from the side yard, then around the porch. The husband’s? Why would he be creeping around the house and onto the outdoor space in January after a fucking snow storm? Keeping as silent as possible, he pointed them out to his brother.

Cole nodded, already on it. His stare followed the line of prints. Thick, heavy. They were made by boots Burke estimated were somewhere around size twelve, maybe bigger. Definitely not Jessa’s. Probably not Angus’s, given the location. Then who?

They followed the footprints and found something that scared Burke even more. Someone had stood by her big elm tree. From the number of cigarettes dotting the snow like nasty little scars on a blanket of white, that someone had been there for a while. Five butts. One still spiraled smoke into the frigid air.

“We need to get inside,” Cole whispered. “Now.”

Burke knew it, too, felt the wrongness. Something nasty was about to happen. The world seemed too quiet, as though simply holding its breath and waiting.

And then he heard the sharp female scream.

Burke took off, Cole right beside him. He hit the porch at a run and tried the door. Locked.

Another scream, high-pitched and primal. Jessa. Sweet Jessa, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, was screaming. No words, just screams, as though the horror could only be conveyed by yelling.

Cole hit the door with his full force. It held strong. The door looked solid, and the glass in the middle was a thick stained glass. But the windows nearby looked to be regular glass.

There was a heavy potted plant sitting at the doorstep. With a grunt, he hoisted it up and tossed it through the big bay window. The glass shattered, the sound splitting the air. He hated making their entrance obvious, but he didn’t see another quick way in.

Cole followed his lead, using his foot to shove glass free. He kicked at it, trying to make a man-sized hole. This maneuver had the potential to slice him wide open. Not getting to Jessa was far worse. Her screams echoed through the house now, followed by a loud thud. Burke leapt through the window, wincing as protruding glass cut him. The thick coat he’d bought for way too much money at Dulles protected most of his torso, but his knuckles burned with pain. He ignored it.

There was a loud hissing sound, and then Burke was assaulted by a ball of fur and rage. Big green eyes. Claws. He couldn’t see it as more than a blur of moving animal parts, but that hiss registered as cat. Again, he was deeply grateful for the parka as the big feline clawed the Goretex, trying to climb Burke like a tree. Wishing he’d bought gloves, he reached for the animal. The cat scratched at him, but Burke took it by the back of the neck and tossed it across the room. It fell on the floor with a thud.

“Is that loud fucker a…cat?” Cole asked, SIG Sauer in hand, pointed at the animal who snarled and shook.

“Yeah. Probably Jessa’s.” She’d talked about buying a house in the country and getting a kitten. Apparently she’d done just that after meeting Mr. Fucking Right.

The furball whined, assuring Burke that it was still alive. He reached into his holster and pulled his own gun. The weight was reassuring in his hand. He flicked off the safety. “Where is she?”

Cole pointed toward the back of the house. “The scream came from the back, but not the second floor.”

They ran together on nearly silent feet. It was difficult to see in the darkened house. The only light came from the windows of Jessa’s kitchen, casting ominous shadows.

“Basement.” Cole pointed down the hall.

Another scream had Burke running down the hall. His brain assessed the situation, asking all the questions. Was this a domestic situation? If so, how many pieces could he reasonably get Angus’s body into with his bare hands? Or was it an intruder? If so, one or more? What did they want?

Was Jessa still alive? God, please let her be alive.

Cole kicked in the basement door. It was dark down there, too. The sharp scent of chemicals assaulted Burke.

Jessa screamed again, the sound so much louder as they closed in. He charged down the shadowy stairs, his feet taking each step with a short jerk, his hand holding the railing. Cole was hard behind him. No damn way to be quiet now. Whoever was here could hear that they were coming.

What was that awful smell? Turpentine? Yeah, and a lot of it. He felt the moment his feet hit the bottom, his body jerking to stay balanced. A thin stream of light whirled around, seeking. Burke couldn’t duck fast enough and was nearly blinded when it hit him, his eyes accustomed to the dark. He threw his arms over his face and pressed forward, nearly tripping over something that lay squarely in his path. A body. There was no way to mistake it for anything else.

“Get out! Get out! I already called the cops!” Jessa’s voice sounded hoarse and shaky.

“Sweetheart, it’s us.” Burke took a step toward her.

“Get out! I have a gun.” She wasn’t listening. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he could practically feel the panic screaming off her. And she was lying. He hadn’t heard a shot, and Jessa didn’t know shit about guns.

“Jessa,” Cole barked in that voice that always let Burke know he was taking control and wouldn’t tolerate an argument. “Stand down. You’re safe, baby.”

“Cole?” Her voice suddenly sounded so small. “Burke?”

“Yes.” Burke breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, sweetheart, it’s us. You’re safe. We won’t let anything happen to you.”

There was an ugly laugh from behind him. “Shows what you know, Lennox.”

The voice made his blood freeze instantly. Who the fuck would know his name without seeing his face? Unless this someone else had sent the text, not Jessa. And this someone had expected them to come running. Had they walked into a death trap?

“Give me some light on him, Jessa.” Burke thought his heart rate would slow once he knew Jessa was alive, but now his pulse jacked up all over again.

The light shifted and illuminated the man lying on the floor. There was an enormous gash on his head, blood dripping everywhere, and he held his hands over his eyes.

“Who the fuck are you?” Cole asked.

“I’m no one. I’m nothing now that this bitch beat me in the head and caught me. Doesn’t matter. I already planted the charges. This whole place is going to blow, and there’s not a damn thing you can do. I didn’t mean to go down with her. Fucking bitch.”

“Charges?” Jessa’s hand began to shake, the light bouncing.

“I recognize that asshole,” Cole snapped. “He worked for Ricardo Delgado. What the fuck is going on? Delgado died almost a year ago in prison.”

Burke’s stomach turned. He’d assumed the world would be a safer place without Ricardo Delgado. How was the asshole reaching out with his violent fist from beyond the grave?

“Later,” he snapped. “We need to leave before this house blows!”

The flashlight dropped, and Burke felt something whiz by him.

He picked it up and aimed the stream of light up the stairs. Fuck. Jessa was running. He didn’t know where she was headed, but they had to get her out of the house damn quick.

Cole turned, his body a ghostly shadow in the darkened room. “Who the hell sent you?”

“Don’t, Cole,” Burke snapped. He had no idea when the charges were set to go off. It could be right fucking now. He didn’t know if they were on a timer or a remote. The whole house could explode at any minute, and Jessa was running to god knew where. “As much as I’d love to interrogate this asshole, we don’t have time. We have to get Jessa out of here.”

“You’ll never make it.” The man on the floor groaned. “Bitch is going to get what’s coming to her. Well, what’s coming to you. Did you think you could fool anyone? You better pray my bombs kill her. If my boss catches her instead, he’s gonna have a real good time with her.”

Boss? His stomach turned. If this guy had been working for Delgado and was talking about a new boss… Fuck, this organization hadn’t died. It had more lives than a fucking cat. Was there a new boss out for revenge? How could the bastard know about Jessa and the few precious days they’d spent with her?

He had a million questions, but no time to ask. They had to get Jessa out. If the man on the floor wasn’t lying, they were all in grave danger. With a deep and angry regret, he turned and darted up the stairs just behind Cole, locking the fucker in the basement.

“Jessa!” Burke shouted.

“I can hear her going to the second story.” Cole took off after her.

The light was better upstairs. Jessa had left the drapes open, and moonlight drenched the hallway in an eerie silvery glow. Burke ran beside his brother. They caught Jessa at the top of the stairs, Burke’s arm going around her waist.

He’d dreamed of holding her again, touching her. Not once in those dreams did she kick and scream and fight like hell.

“No! Let me go, damn it.”

“Jessa, calm down.” Burke demanded.

“Let me go. I have to get him!” Jessa’s voice sounded strangled in her throat. He could feel her hot tears hit his hand.

Her husband. She was fighting for him. She was clawing at Burke, scratching and fighting to get to another man. His chest buckled. His heart fucking ached. Jessa was in love with someone else and willing to die to save this douche she’d married who’d left her alone to fend off an intruder in the basement by herself.

“I’ll get Angus, Jessa,” Cole growled. “Where is he? You let Burke get you the hell out of here.”

“Angus? Oh, god. He was in the living room sleeping earlier.”

“On it.” Cole turned and ran down the stairs.

“Oh, god. Please. Let me go. I have to get Caleb!” Jessa fought again, bringing her foot forward, knee up to her waist, and kicked back with all her might.

Caleb? Burke groaned as her heel met his cock with surprising force. He released Jessa and dropped to his knees.

She wasted not a minute. As Burke strained to get to his feet, she disappeared around the corner.

Goddamn it. Burke forced himself up. From downstairs, he heard a loud hissing and Cole swearing. Apparently his brother had found the damn cat again instead of Jessa’s husband. He let it go. If Cole couldn’t handle a kitty cat by himself, then all those years as a SEAL had been for nothing. Ignoring the pain, he ran after Jessa.

Who the fuck was Caleb? Another lover? Why hadn’t the investigator’s report mentioned him? And why did Jessa think he was worth dying over?

He lurched down the hall. There was no question where she had gone. Only one door was open at the end of the corridor.

Rage churned in his gut. She’d obviously never loved him or Cole. He’d tortured himself nightly with visions of her, sweet and warm and loving, while she’d run happily off and apparently found not one but two men. Well, he and Cole had shown her the pleasures of ménage. He guessed it was all their fault. She’d taken to it beautifully even though she’d been a virgin at the time.

Yet he couldn’t walk away. He was going to get Jessa, Angus, and this Caleb person out of here if it was the last fucking thing he did. Then he was going to find some way to get on with his life.

He stalked into the room, unwilling to take no for an answer. This time he would be ready for her struggles. He would drag her out, kicking and screaming if he had to. He opened his mouth to explain to her just how this was going to go. Then he stopped dead in his tracks. He’d expected to be in her bedroom. This room was filled with stuffed toy puppy dogs and smiling lions. And a crib.

Jessa stood, tears coursing down her face as she grabbed a swaddled, slightly fussing baby to her chest. She’d slung a big tote bag over her shoulder.

“I’m ready. We can go,” she headed for the door. “As soon as Cole gets Angus. You should warn him. Angus gets twitchy around new people. He scratches. Uhm, and he throws up. He’s really a terrible cat.”

Cat? Angus wasn’t her husband, but a cat. And Caleb was… Even in the dark, he could tell the baby was small and very young. He came to one stunning, jaw-dropping conclusion.

Caleb was their son.

* * * *

One year earlier, Christmas Eve – New York City

Jessa Wade eyed the ladder.

“Ah, my nemesis. We meet again. Don’t think you’ll best me tonight. This time, I will use you and put you away and come out of the experience unscathed.”

Fat chance of that happening. And, awesome, she was all alone on Christmas Eve, talking to a ladder. Nothing said “pathetic” quite like that.

She glanced around the bar of the Hotel DuMonde. Her aunt owned the place, but she was off in Barbados, her usual holiday haunt. Jessa had been invited to go, but she’d had the ridiculous dream that her parents would get into the Christmas spirit and call her home.

Clearly, that wasn’t happening. So she was alone in the hotel bar, cleaning up and doing inventory. And dealing with a ladder that had it in for her.

She picked up the martini glasses. They belonged on the highest shelf. The DuMonde’s bar was a magnificent concoction of glass and silver and mirrors that reached to the top of the twelve-foot ceiling. On a normal night, she wouldn’t have to climb up there. Those glasses on the highest level were almost decorative, but the night before had been a blowout of the highest order. Some corporate party. Every damn glass in the place had been used, and the cleaning crew had only just finished with the dishes.

She sighed. She’d sent the bartender and the waitress home. She’d always heard that Christmas Eve was a big night for bars, but she didn’t have any customers. It hadn’t seemed right to keep those two away from their families when the money would be crap.

“Miss, a Scotch, please? Single malt.”

She nodded, grateful for the distraction. Working would keep her mind off the fact that her mother and father had turned her out, and the only relative still speaking to her in the world was currently windsurfing in the Caribbean. She turned to look at her new customer and practically forgot to breathe.

He stood at the bar, six feet four inches of pure sex. Dark hair, vibrant blue eyes, shoulders that seemed to go on forever.

“Miss?” He stood there with a knowing smile on his sensual mouth.

Jessa forced herself back to reality with an inward sigh. He knew how ridiculously hot he was. And she knew she was a waitress who needed to lose a couple of pounds. Her mother’s admonitions came back to haunt her. She would never land a man at a size 12. Her mother, the bulimic. She viewed throwing up as a socially polite way to stay thin. Why had she wanted to go home for the holidays?

Jessa turned on her best sassy-girl smile. “There’s no poor single malt. So you get your choice of expensive or even more expensive.”

“Oh, a sarcastic one. Cole, we hit the jackpot.”

There were two of them? A second wretchedly hot man walked up to the bar, identical to the first. This one shrugged out of his coat. It took all Jessa had to not fan herself despite the cold.

Cool blue eyes assessed her. She stared back. The two brothers weren’t totally identical now that she really looked. There was something more reserved about this twin. The first had a sensual ease about him. She found nothing gentle in Cole. He was pure predator.

So why didn’t she want to run? Why was she wondering what it would be like to be caught by him?

“Saucy, huh? Well, I know how to fix that.” His smile was razor sharp, dangerous. “Now, we’ll both take two fingers of the Glenlivet, fifteen year.”

So richer. Even more expensive. She reached for the bottle, catching two of the heavy crystal glasses the bar reserved for premium beverages. She poured the Scotch out, measuring carefully before sliding them toward the men.

“Here you go. Feel free to sit anywhere. It looks like you’re my only customers tonight.” She tried to give them a friendly but dismissive nod. She might be inexperienced, but she wasn’t an idiot. If they weren’t with family, one or both of them might be looking for a lonely heart to share the sheets with tonight. If so, they would hit on her because she was the only woman available here. Best to sidle away now. “Just yell if you need a refill.”

The first man leaned forward, smiling. “Why should we yell when we could sit right here and talk to you?”

Yep, they were definitely going to hit on her. She opened her mouth to shut them down, but Cole put out a hand to stop her. He looked at his brother, and she could see them having a whole conversation with small facial tics and raised eyebrows. She stared in fascination.

Finally, they looked back at her. Cole seemed to have won the silent argument. He nodded her way, his hand on his glass. “Thank you, Miss. We’ll let you know when we’re ready.”

She watched as they walked to the corner of the bar. Damn, their back sides were just as nice as their fronts. Each man wore tight jeans that molded to perfectly formed butts.

She sighed. They were way, way out of her league. She didn’t even have a league anymore. Once it had been the debutante circle, but she’d hated the wealthy social whirl she’d been brought up in. She’d hated it so much that she’d turned down a job with her father after the prescribed years at Wharton Business School. She’d played the dutiful daughter, but she couldn’t stomach the idea of working in big business. She’d just wanted to paint.

And her parents didn’t want an artist for a daughter. They had cut her off with the ruthless precision that had gotten her father to the top. They wouldn’t take her calls or allow her on the grounds of their estate until she came around and accepted a job with the corporation. They had thought she wouldn’t last two weeks on her own, but a year later, she could see the end of the tunnel.

In a few months she would turn twenty-three, and her trust fund would kick in. Her parents couldn’t stop it, couldn’t touch it. Thank you, Grandmere.

Jessa turned away from the hotties. They weren’t for her. She had a job and a life. That would have to be enough. Well, she had a job anyway, and right now it involved the hated ladder. She could see herself grimacing in the mirror. Yeah, that was attractive. She grabbed the last of the martini glasses and prayed for grace.

She started up the ladder, every step a careful move. She passed the rows of vodka and whiskey, rose above the gin and tequila. She stole a look toward the bar. The men sat there, leaning toward each other, speaking in whispers, in their own world. She wished she had a sister or someone to talk to. Despite the heady freedom of the last year, she had to admit she was lonely. She’d pulled into herself and her work, shutting out everyone.

Would it be so bad to get hit on? Would it be so horrible to finally give in to a man? She was twenty-two years old and out on her own. There hadn’t been time for a relationship, and she’d clung to the idea of true love. Well, that wasn’t anywhere on the horizon. Did she really want to turn another year older without knowing what a man’s touch felt like? No. Ugh, she sounded pathetic. She felt pathetic, too.

And clumsy. Her foot slipped on a rung. She hadn’t been paying attention. The glasses fell out of her hand, crashing to the floor. The ladder teetered and she began to lose her balance. She groped but had nothing to hang onto. She began to fall.

Crap.She didn’t have the money to pay for an ambulance, and she’d need one for sure after she fell ten feet. She shrieked and braced herself for impact. She was going to land on shattered glass, cut herself wide open, and break something vital. It was going to hurt so freaking much.

She woofed, the air thudding from her lungs as she landed not on hard tile, but in two strong arms. She looked up into Cole’s eyes, her heart racing. He was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen, even more so up close. The only one who matched him was his twin, who stood behind him, a slight smile on his gorgeous face.

“What’s your name, baby?”

“Jessa,” she breathed. The way he’d called her baby made her shiver.

“Well, Jessa. You should be more careful,” Cole said.

Yep, she should definitely be more careful because right now, it felt like she was in big trouble.

* * * *

The woman was serious trouble. Cole knew it the second he laid eyes on her. He’d been a man who cleaned up messes for too long to not be able to recognize that a mile away. He’d done it first for the Navy, then with his brother privately for a lovely fee. This little waitress was the softest, sweetest mess he’d ever had the pleasure to hold.

Pure, gorgeous trouble.

The firelight illuminated Jessa’s soft features, making her creamy skin look warm and inviting. She took the drink in her hands, still shaking a bit.

“Thanks. I shouldn’t be drinking.” She took a little sip anyway. Her face twisted up in the most adorable grimace. “Ugh. People pay top dollar for this?”

“Scotch is an acquired taste, but it’ll get rid of the shakes. Sip a little.”

Burke sank into the couch opposite from Cole and Jessa, a knowing smirk on his face. His little brother was just loving this, Cole knew. Burke had wanted to pounce on the redhead the minute he’d laid eyes on her. Sometimes his brother thought with his cock. But they were too close to Delgado right now. Six months on the case and they were finally going to meet the man who had taken their clients’ cousin. They couldn’t get involved with any woman, no matter how beautiful or sweet. No matter how her big green eyes pulled at him or how sexy her curves were. They couldn’t.

“I swept away the broken glass. Everything is fine now.” Burke grabbed his own drink. He didn’t struggle with the liquor the way Jessa did. Burke could imbibe it all night and never notice the effects.

Thanks,” Jessa said quietly. Her attention moved between them as though trying to pick apart their differences. “I still shouldn’t be dipping into the stock.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t tell,” Burke said with a wink.

Cole had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Burke was using his seductive voice. He wanted this girl bad.

“Tell me something, sweetheart. Why aren’t you at home with your husband?”

“Smooth,” Cole said under his breath. One of Burke’s shoulders came up in a negligent shrug.

Jessa’s lips curved up in a smile. She held up her left hand. “No husband. And before you come up with a subtle way of asking, no boyfriend either. I’m on my own this Christmas. My family, well, let’s just say they aren’t exactly in the picture.”

Cole didn’t like the sound of that. She didn’t look like she could be much over twenty-two or twenty-three. She was living in midtown Manhattan on her own? “Are your parents gone?”

She shook her head. “No. They don’t approve of my choices. I decided to pursue art instead of big business. So they cut me off. Luckily, my aunt runs this place. She gave me a room and a job.”

“So you live here?” Cole heard himself asking. He needed to make sure she was okay, then haul his brother upstairs to their room so they weren’t tempted to linger all night and work their way inside her. Yeah, that was a solid plan. Instead, he found himself settling into the comfy sofa and inching closer to her delectable body. She would be small in between them. She could nestle in the middle, her breasts against his chest, her ass cradled against Burke.

He glanced at his brother as Jessa talked about her room and the view of Central Park. Burke arched a brow. Come on, brother. She’s right here. She’s gorgeous and she’s alone. We can take care of her. We can make her feel good tonight.

And what about tomorrow? They’d had the argument moments before Jessa had taken a header off that rickety ladder and almost broken her neck. Cole had just finished his “we’re-undercover-and-things-could-get-dangerous” spiel when he’d seen her begin to fall. He’d moved faster than he had in forever, getting there just in time to catch her.

Not that Jessa Wade wasn’t tempting. And so fucking luscious she made his mouth water. She was attractive in a way no woman had been to him before. She also wasn’t a good-time girl. That fact was stamped all over her face. She was the kind of girl a man dated and cared for. Eventually married. She absolutely wasn’t the kind of girl a man shared with his twin brother for the night. She looked so innocent. Hell, she would probably run from a ménage if he even suggested it. Not that many women truly wanted one. Sure they fantasized, but when push came to shove…not so much. Then when he added his other proclivities on top of it… Cole winced. Definitely not.

Of course, he mused as she and Burke chatted, his friend Dex had found a woman to share with his two brothers. And they all topped her. Hell, he and Burke were practically normal compared to the James gang.

But that wasn’t the real issue. He and his brother were knee-deep in a case involving missing girls being sold into sexual slavery.

At the mental reminder, he sat back up. Jessa didn’t need to get involved in that. God, she really didn’t need to get involved with them, but fuck if he wasn’t salivating over her. He’d met her thirty minutes ago, and he already wanted to know about her childhood, her favorite foods, and how she’d feel around his cock. Too damn dangerous.

“Gosh, that’s enough about me. I’m going on and on.” She blushed, the color invading her skin like a rosy blanket. He’d been surrounded by tough women for too long. Jessa’s softness was getting to him.

“We don’t mind, do we, Cole?” Burke’s question was pointed like a dagger. Don’t fuck this up. I want her.

Cole wanted her, too, but he was more realistic. Burke was an optimist who thought the world crapped rainbows and that the sun really fucking would come out tomorrow. Cole refused to believe that shit until he saw it. Burke seemed to have gotten all the positive DNA their parents had to give, leaving Cole the broody realist. Still, his mouth moved as though it agreed fully with his cock, rather than his wholly sensible brain. “No, we don’t mind, baby.”

She shook her head. Her gorgeous hair was a deep, burnished auburn. It would look beautiful spread across his pillow while she took his cock. “I’m boring. Poor little rich girl. Not so rich anymore, but that’s okay. Where are you two from?”

“Dallas,” Burke replied. “We grew up in the suburbs, but we live in the city now.”

They had a very nice condo with a great view. It had three bedrooms. One for Cole. One for Burke. And one ridiculously oversized master bedroom for the women they shared. They hadn’t shared in a while beyond the occasional one-night stand. Cole was sick of them. He wanted more. But now wasn’t the right time. Jessa wasn’t the right girl, as much as he wished otherwise.

The conversation flowed, more easily than ever before. Cole found himself drawn out. Usually he let Burke do the charming and he just joined in for the sex. But he really talked to Jessa. He and Burke joked about their childhood and the twin pranks they’d pulled on friends and teachers alike. God, he’d forgotten the fun they used to have. He’d been so mired in the job, the danger. How long had it been since he just relaxed?

He took another long sip of the Scotch as a slow Christmas song began. Burke got up and held out his hand to the woman in front of him. Damn, his brother was smooth.

“Dance with me?” Burke asked, a hint of a smile on his face.

Jessa looked around as though assuring herself that they were truly alone. “Sure, but on once condition. I get to dance with Cole, too. Don’t say no. It’s Christmas Eve, and I want a present.”

He never danced. He wasn’t sure he could. And yet after Burke finished twirling her around, Cole found himself standing and taking her in his arms, his hand curling around her little waist. He practically sighed when she put her head on his chest.

What the hell was he doing? This was a bad idea. But the moment she snuggled closer, he knew there was nothing he could do except sway to the music. The snow fell on the streets of New York just outside the window and, despite the danger and the world’s seedy underbelly awaiting him, Cole Lennox felt happy for the first time in what felt like forever.

Copyright 2011 Lexi Blake and Shayla Black