Tira has loved Nic and Duke for years. But she's a seer who's had a vision of Nic's death and she's determined to keep her distance. Nic and Duke want to share their life with Tira and she must make a choice—grab love while she has the chance, or watch Nic die from afar and lose Duke forever.
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“Is she okay?” Nic finally asked.
Blessed Goddess, he hoped so. “She’s worried about you.”
Nic huffed, frustration beginning to show in the slit of his eyes. “But is she okay?”
How the hell did he answer that? He didn’t have a clue. Everything was fucked up now.
“Duke, you scazzacazzo, if you—”
Nic’s mouth snapped shut as his gaze cut to the door. The knob turned a second later and Tira walked into the room, so quietly Duke barely heard her.
She caught Duke’s eyes then quickly looked at Nic. Her chin lifted, as if she were going into battle and Duke wanted to hit something. If she thought she had to worry about being in the same room with the two of them, he’d—
“Nic.” Her lips curved in a tentative smile as she moved closer to the bed. She stopped at the end, her hands gripping the footboard until her knuckles turned white. “How are you feeling?”
Nic smiled, making sure not an iota of his anger with Duke showed on his face for her. “I’m fine. Still a little tired but Tam says after a few days of rest, I’ll be just fine.”
Tira’s eyes fluttered, as if she might cry. Then she took a deep breath and she nodded. “Good. That’s great.”
“Tam wants me to stay here,” he continued, “But I told her, since I’m feeling okay, I’m gonna go back to the bunkhouse. I’ll be more comfortable in my own bed.”
Her face screwed up in a frown. “Is that safe? I mean, will you be able to take care of yourself?”
Duke’s eyes narrowed as Nic’s smile widened. Duke knew that smile. Nic was up to something.
“I’ll be fine.” Nic made a motion to sit up then tried to hide a grimace.
And that, of course, was his plan.
You sneaky bastard…
Tira’s eyes widened. “No, you won’t. You need to stay here where Tam can keep an eye on you.”
“Sweetheart, I’m a grown man. I can take care of myself.”
The doc hadn’t given Tira the complete run down but Duke knew just how injured Nic was. He had internal damage that would require him to spend time flat on his back to heal. Cracked ribs, bruised spleen and liver. His shoulder had been dislocated and he had a concussion in addition to fractures in both legs.
The doctor was worried that shifting into his wolf, which would heal almost all injuries, in his condition might actually do more harm than good because of the swelling in his brain.
Nic needed a few days in bed and he knew it. And he was playing on Tira’s sympathies big time. The question was why?
Tira turned to him, as if Duke could make him change his mind. “Are you going to stay with him?”
And the light bulb went off.
Damn, Duke had to give it to him. The guy should be stroking a hairless cat with a pinky at his mouth.
He had a split second to decide whether to kill Nic’s plan…or go along with it.
Duke shook his head. “Not all the time. Somebody’s got to figure out what happened and since dickhead here let the ceiling fall on him and Kaine’s still out of commission, I guess that’s me.”
Her distress grew by the second and Duke had a flash of guilt that they were forcing her to make a choice, one they shouldn’t ask her to make—care for her mother or care for the man she loved but couldn’t touch. With the man she’d fucked constantly underfoot.
“But,” she frowned at him, “you’re not up to that yet either.”
Her concern made the tightness in his chest ease just a little. “I’m fine. He’ll be fine.”
Duke aimed a warning glance at Nic but Nic seemed to sink even farther into the bed when Tira glanced back at him.
Son of a bitch.
He opened his mouth to call Nic on his bluff and put Tira out of her misery but she huffed and walked to the window. “Let me talk to Eraia and Seramo, see if they can stay with Mamma for a few days.”
Duke heard the emotion in her voice, could practically feel the indecision radiating from her in waves.
Damn Nic. This was not the way Duke wanted her to be with them.
And yet… this morning, hadn’t he practically coerced her into having sex with him?
He shook his head and turned for the door. “I gotta go. If you want a ride, be ready in three minutes or I’m leaving, babe.”
Then he walked out.
Nic watched Duke leave, knowing by the rigid set of his shoulders that he was pissed.
Fuck him. He’d get over it.
Just like he seemed to have gotten over his adamant refusal to seduce Tira.
Bitter anger tried to rise up from his gut but he couldn’t let it. Shit, how could he be angry when he knew, if he’d been in the same position, he would’ve jumped at the chance to take her to bed years ago?
“I guess I better get going,” Tira said, drawing his attention back to her. “He won’t wait for me if I’m late.”
“You know that’s not true.” Duke had been waiting for her for years. So had Nic. They were done waiting. If this worked…
And if it didn’t…
A faint smile on her face, Tira walked back to the bed, her hands clenched in fists at her sides. As if to keep herself from touching him. “No, I don’t. Nic…”
He looked into her eyes and saw tears forming there. He wanted to pull her into his arms and onto the bed next to him, let her body curl against his like a lover’s.
That bitterness rose up again, quickly followed by determination. Either his plan worked or… Or what? He gave her up?
He’d never had her. He’d never felt those beautiful hands caress his body. Had only felt her lips on his twice. Both with disastrous results. Had never felt the soft silk of her sex surround him as he sank deep into her.
And by all the fucking gods, he wanted to.
If this didn’t work, he figured that vision of hers would be coming true soon enough and he wouldn’t be around to know otherwise.
Forcing a smile for her, he nodded toward to the door, not having to feign the weariness creeping through him. “I’ll see you when you get back, sweetheart. I just need to close my eyes for a little while.”
She nodded, pausing only for a second before walking out. Leaving him alone to contemplate the absolute mess he could be making of things.
Yeah, his plan could blow up in their faces. But nearly dying yesterday had made him realize they may not have much time left.
Tira’s vision of his death, the one that kept her out of his arms, out of their arms, was bearing down on him. He swore he could feel his time running out.
Not just on his life, but with her.