Copyright © 2013 Jayne Rylon
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“Hey, Jambs, come on,” Izzy shouted to her from the dance floor, waving to their group. The couples had split up a bit now that something other than endless love songs bleated from the speakers. All too eager to leave her dates, Jambrea shot to her feet.
Clint braced her when she teetered. Damn heels. She smacked his overly familiar hand before it could work any of its hornifying magic. Enough with the pheromones already.
Then she sauntered onto the floor in time to the beat and tried to burn off a little of the buzz she might have underestimated. Lost in the music and revelry, surrounded by friends, she forgot about some of her angst. Until Lacey leaned in and whisper-shouted, “Matt and Clint are about to choke on their tongues over there. Show me some hip shimmies!”
Screw them. Why not?
It wasn’t long before Lacey’s face lit up. “Incoming.”
“What?” Jambrea peeked over her shoulder. Sure enough, the two men she’d obsessed over for the past year or so stalked closer. She whipped her head back around toward her friends. “They don’t dance.”
“Maybe they will for you.” Izzy grinned as she ground her backside against her fiancé, who wrapped his arms protectively around her and the child she carried.
“I doubt it.” Jambrea refused to let them ruin her fun though. If anything, she redoubled the swivel of her ass and dug into the groove of the beat.
And then there were hands on her waist, turning her. From the way her captor’s thumbs nearly touched in the base of her spine, they could only belong to Matt. He tucked her close to the furnace of his body and rocked in a basic side-to-side step, mostly in time to the music. She closed her eyes and settled against him.
“Hey, mind if I cut in?” Clint asked.
Jambrea blinked when he reached out, cupping her ribs in his palms. Four hands on her at once nearly short-circuited her brain.
“Actually, I do,” Matt growled.
“Too bad.” The other man wasn’t retreating. Instead he pressed closer, flanking her with their gyrating bodies. Her breasts brushed his chest as she undulated, caught between rubbing herself on one or the other. Or both, after Clint took another half-step in.
Instinctively, she wrapped one arm around his neck while the other reached behind her to palm Matt’s ass. Her head fell back, resting on his chest. Clint leaned in and took a taste of her exposed neck. When someone whistled, they all jolted. What the hell was happening? Where were they again?
Oh, right. The reception. Jambrea shook her head, clearing the blazing desire from her mind as best she could. Unfortunately that only made the dance floor rock like the deck of a ship. Uh oh.
“I’ve got you,” Matt rumbled in her ear.
“No, we’ve got you,” Clint corrected.
For a few minutes, she stopped fighting and pretended that they meant it like it sounded. It was the best one-hundred-and-twenty seconds of the year so far. Then the song ended and the DJ announced the final dance. A ballad.
“We’re getting the hell out of here,” Matt proclaimed.
The guys corralled her toward the guests of honor. They exchanged congratulations one more time.
“Have a good night.” Lily’s sly grin didn’t allow any room for misinterpretation.
Before Jambrea could respond, her dates whisked her to Matt’s waiting black chariot. Clint didn’t bother to boost her into the truck. This time he encircled her waist and lifted her onto the seat as though she weighed nothing at all.
“What were you trying to prove out there?” Matt rubbed his jaw. “Every single guy in the room was drooling over you. You’ve had too much to drink to be advertising like that.”
So they hadn’t rushed her home to sample the wares she’d been hawking? No, they’d just planned to block any other interested man. The wave of disappointment that hit her made her feel sick. Fortunately, she only lived a few blocks away.
They spent the entirety of the ride in silence.
The teeter-totter they’d been balancing precariously on slipped from its fulcrum. She couldn’t take another minute of the erratic highs and lows, and especially not these weird, forced, blah middle points. No more.
Despite her protests, they insisted on walking her to her apartment. Granted, she lived in a relatively crappy neighborhood that had deteriorated bit by bit since she’d moved in nearly a decade ago, but she’d never had issues before. Her pair of cops were more dangerous to her than random thugs.
When they held the door, she couldn’t help making one last bid for what she felt slipping through her fingers. It was now or never.
“You know, I didn’t even see any other guys at the reception tonight. What do I have to do to make you like me?” She rubbed against Matt, uncaring about how pathetic she looked or how much she’d hate herself in the morning.
“Son of a bitch. I do like you. Too much.” He stared at her in horror as they squeezed together into her apartment, Clint close on their heels.
He groaned in the background. She spun on him. “Come on, tell me. What’d I do wrong? How did I screw things up? Am I supposed to pick one of you? Is that what this is? Some stupid male contest? Was it because I kissed you both? Was that some kind of test? Did I fail?”
“Jambi, no.” Matt spun her around again. The world tilted and she wondered when the last time was that she’d been so hammered. “You’ve got this all wrong.”
“Then why? Tell me what I did!” She couldn’t believe that she raised her voice, but it felt good to finally let off some steam so she kept ranting. “One minute you were sucking my face off and the next time I saw you, you wouldn’t even look me in the damn eye.”
“It wasn’t because of you. It’s…us,” Clint admitted as he and Matt exchanged a worried glance. Good, let them be afraid. They could share the sour stomach that had been rotting her from the inside since the fallout of that single reckless, yet addicting, moment became apparent.
She waited, but they didn’t elaborate. “Really, that’s the best you can do? Some talk. ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ never convinced anyone.”
“Maybe this isn’t the best time…” Clint hedged.
“It’s never going to be the right occasion. It’s been months already. You’re cowards, both of you. I never would have guessed it before. Go home, jerks!” She wrenched off her shoe, then threw it at Clint, catching him in the gut. His oomph held a note of surprise. “You’re not going to do this to me anymore. I’m tired of waiting, hoping, for something that’s never going to happen. If you won’t be honest with yourselves, at least be upfront with me. Tell me you don’t want me. Say it.”
“Jambi, you’re dr—” Matt cut off when she swung her furious glare toward him instead.
“No. Forget it. Shut up.” She flapped her arms, not caring that she’d lost her temper for the first time…maybe ever. Irrational fury barred them from conjuring some ridiculous explanation that would steal her thunder. “No more excuses.”
“I don’t think it’s smart to leave you like this.” Clint looked to his partner for backup.
“I’d rather be alone than babysat by you two. Unless you plan to come to bed with me, get out.” She yanked the hem of her dress over her head and launched the gossamer sheath against the wall. It slithered to the floor and lay crumpled.
One of the guys, or maybe both, cursed as they took in her silk lingerie. It only made her feel stupider that she’d pretended even for an instant that she’d get to display it in far more favorable circumstances tonight. When would she learn that just because she hoped something would happen, that didn’t mean it would?
She kicked off her remaining shoe, enjoying the clunk it made as it joined her dress, then stormed into her bedroom. Alone.