Lori waved and then opened her door, walked inside, and closed it behind her. She slumped against the cool wood and sighed. All her senses went on high alert, and she immediately pulled her gun from her harness, flicked the safety off, and walked through her condo, checking into closets and anywhere else someone could hide. No one was here, and as far as she could tell nothing had been disturbed, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of another presence.
She walked back through the two spare bedrooms and even checked the bathroom before heading to her own room again. She flicked the safety back on, holstered her weapon, and then she removed her holster, put it in her bedside drawer, and locked it. After removing her clothes, she walked into the bathroom and opened the opaque shower door.
Lori gasped and backed away as the gruesome scene stared her in the face. There, in the bottom of her shower, was a blow-up doll with a blonde wig with splashes of red paint in the shape of cuts and slashes all over it. Plastered against the tile shower wall was a message in red block letters on a black piece of cardboard.
“You’re the only one who sees me. We will be together, soon.”
Lori couldn’t believe she’d made a rookie’s mistake and hadn’t thought to open the shower door when she’d first searched her apartment. She knew if she didn’t get a full night’s sleep soon, she was going to make more mistakes and maybe even end up dead, now that this fucker was targeting her. She hurried back to her room, unlocked the drawer, retrieved her gun from the holster and quickly pulled her clothes back on. When she was dressed, she walked back to the main bathroom, and, pointing her gun at the shower, she yanked the glass door open and sagged with relief when she found it totally empty.
She knew she should call in a team, but she didn’t want to worry Darius more than he already was, and even though she felt bad about it, she wasn’t going to tell her new partner and neighbors, either. She could just imagine how angry all three of the Stanford men would be, and she didn’t want to end up having them as bodyguards twenty-four-seven.
No, she was having a damn hard time being around them after only one day, and trying to keep her hormones under control was a bitch. Lori didn’t trust anyone. She’d never had a reason to, and she wasn’t going to start now. The one and only person she did trust was Darius, and she could see him riding her ass about having someone with her at all times. There was no way she could handle that. She was used to being on her own and knew she would probably go stir crazy if she didn’t have her alone time.
Plus, she needed time away from those three men to keep her wayward libido under wraps and have the space she needed to shore up her defenses against them again.
Lori had never ever reacted to anyone the way she had Ward, Scott, and Colby, and she didn’t like it one little bit. But what aggrieved her the most was that she trusted them, and that scared the shit out of her.
Decision made, Lori grabbed her car and apartment keys and hurried back down to her car. After pulling her kit bag from the back seat, she went back inside and got to work. By the time she was done dusting her place for prints and finding not even a partial on anything, it was two in the morning. She was about to head to bed and strip off but then she realized if she didn’t clean up all the black powder and her neighbors came calling, they would know something had happened. So, with a tired sigh, she went to the kitchen, took another couple of painkillers to try and circumvent the almost constant headache, and got to work.
Two hours later, too tired to even bother about showering, she stripped off and got into bed with her gun beneath her pillow. But every time she closed her eyes, all she saw was the gruesome-looking blow up doll she’d deflated and packed into a large plastic evidence bag and the message on the black cardboard. By the time her alarm clock pierced the quiet, she hadn’t had any sleep and didn’t know how she was going to get through the day. But she didn’t have time to slow down, and she had a lot of work to do. Those deceased women deserved all her attention so she could put this sick fuck behind bars, and lack of sleep wasn’t going to stand in her way of doing her job.
* * * *
Scott and his brothers entered Lori’s office, and she didn’t even look up at them. In fact, she totally ignored them as her fingers flew over the keyboard and she stared at the computer monitor. The light from the screen highlighted her face, and he noticed that the dark smudges beneath her eyes were even darker. Her face was pale and drawn, and she looked like she could keel over from exhaustion at any moment.
He glanced at his brothers and saw them both frowning at her and knew they had noticed her pallor, too. Scott moved around her desk and behind her and saw that she was just completing the report on their latest victim.
“Damn, honey. What the hell time did you get here?”
Lori jumped and spun around and her hand immediately went to the gun in her holster the moment he’d started speaking. She released a sigh and almost slumped with relief in her chair. Once more, he glanced at his brothers and saw that they were both watching her intently.
“Do you have to sneak up on a person like that?” she snapped.
A finger stroked down the side of her face and then caressed over her chin and nudged it up. Warm fingers threaded through her hair until they were cupping the back of her head and neck, and then firm yet soft lips brushed back and forth over hers.
When Ward’s tongue swiped across her lips, she groaned, and then he pushed it into her mouth, swirled it around as if trying to taste all of her, and then back to glide along hers. She never felt or tasted anything so damn good, and she wanted more. Without conscious thought, her arms moved and her fingers gripped his head, threading through his soft, silky hair. He moaned, and she felt that sound reverberate throughout her entire body, making her toes curl under.
The quilt and sheet slid over her skin as they were pulled away, and she shivered when the cooler ambient air touched her heated flesh. Goose bumps rose up all over her body, and a shudder wracked her frame.
The mattress dipped near her feet, and when large masculine hands began to caress up and down her legs, she broke the kiss and gasped in great lungfuls of air, and her eyes popped open.
Ward was leaning up on his elbow, looking down at her with such heat in his eyes, it was a wonder he hadn’t singed the skin from her body. She took another deep breath and looked over her shoulder to find Scott in much the same pose as his brother, but in the mirror image. And that was when she realized that Colby had to be near her feet.
Swiveling her head, she looked down the length of her body and connected with his hungry gaze. She closed her eyes and slumped back onto the pillow and tried to get her raging arousal under control, but it seemed an impossibility when three sexy, handsome men were looking at her as if she was the answer to all their prayers.
Ward’s hand left the back of her head and neck, and then he stroked a finger down her nose. Her eyelids lifted, and she was once more looking into his heated gaze.
“We want to show you how good it can be between us, baby. Will you let us make you feel good?”
As much as she knew she was probably setting herself up to be knocked on her ass, a world of pain after they got what they wanted, she couldn’t deny them. The sexual chemistry between them was so intense, she couldn’t refuse Ward’s request. She wanted to know what it was like to be touched by a man, men. She wanted to know what all the poets and songwriters wrote about and what the women so often talked about.
Lori knew she was setting herself up for a fall, but she needed their touch right now more than she needed her next breath of air. Her body was on fire and had been simmering from the first moment these three men had walked into her office, but it wasn’t just physical desire for them that had her wanting their touch. Although that was electric and sparked her body whenever they were close. They had somehow managed to get under her skin, and even though she still had the walls up around her heart, she could feel them worming their way into that organ. The ice was slowly melting, and she didn’t think she could do a damn thing to stop it.
But right now her desire was so strong, it felt like it was consuming her, and she wanted them touching her.
“Yes,” she finally whispered her reply.
“Thank you, baby.” Ward kissed her softly on the lips. “We promise you’re safe with us.”
Lori just hoped that what he said was true, but then he leaned down and started kissing her and all thought fled.
This time, his kiss was rapacious and fierce as his tongue pressed into her mouth, tangled with hers, and she kissed him back just as hungrily. The T-shirt she was wearing was pushed up and over her breasts, and she actually felt her areolae ruche and her nipples harden. When a hot wet tongue laved over one sensitive peak, she cried out, only to have it swallowed up by Ward’s mouth.
Colby’s hands had been still on her legs while he awaited her answer, but they weren’t still anymore. One hand caressed the top of her foot, making her toes tingle, and the other one slowly rubbed up over her shin, knee, and thigh.
Ward broke the kiss this time, and then between him and Scott, they eased her from her side and onto her back.
“Help her up,” Scott said.
Ward lifted her shoulders from the bed, and then the T-shirt she was wearing was pulled up and off over her head, and she was eased back down again.
“Fucking incredible,” Ward said in a husky voice.
“So sexy,” Scott rasped. “I love those hard dusky berries. I wonder if they taste as good as they look.”
That was all the warning she got, because Scott swooped down and sucked one of her nipples into his mouth and drew on it firmly. Lori arched up into his mouth and cried out as zings of pleasure raced through her veins, heating her blood until she thought it would start boiling. But when Ward leaned down and started doing the same to her other nipple, she thought she would go insane from the interminable ache that intensified inside her.
When she felt Colby’s fingers dip under the waistband of her panties on either side of her hips, she lifted them up to help him get them off. And then his hands were on the inside of her thighs, pushing her legs apart. Cool air hit her wet heated folds, and then the mattress dipped, and hot air was blown across her dripping pussy.