The chemistry between the three is explosive, but it's Grae's desire to share the same level of intimacy he sees between Paige and Conner that puts real pressure on the threesome. And it may cause it all to crash and burn.More info →
He was dark. So dark, the rich, deep tone of his skin reminded her of a ripe plum. She couldn’t ever remember seeing someone quite so black. Because of this, her gaze kept drawing back to him. It was rude to stare, she knew, but she didn’t seem to have any control over it. She couldn’t keep her eyes off of him.
His head looked smooth and beautifully shaped. He had the type of structure which made bald look good.
Never a fan of facial hair, Paige Reed rarely liked it on a man. But this man’s goatee was neatly trimmed and fit his face perfectly. A thick gold hoop earring hung from his left ear. He wore a well-tailored suit. He probably had no choice but to get his suits either made for him or, at the very least, tailored to fit. His shoulders were broad, his thighs thick.
She thought her brother-in-law was built like a beast, but this man outsized him. He was enough to intimidate anyone crossing his path.
But not Paige.
He fascinated her.
“You find him attractive, don’t you,” her husband’s whisper came, close to her ear.
Not posed as a question, but she answered anyway, “Yes.”
“I’m not sure why you married me, then. I’m as pale as a person can get,” he teased.
Paige brushed her fingers through Connor’s dirty blond hair, ruffling it a bit. “No, you’re not. You worship the sun. And it was that sexy Aussie accent of yours that caught my attention.”
“It made you wet.”
Paige half-shrugged and gave him a smile. “Still does.”
Connor brushed away a strand of hair from her cheek. “Hmm. Good to know. But you like him.”
“He’s dark,” Connor stated.
“His skin tone is extraordinary. I like it too.”
“Should I be jealous?” she asked.
“Should I?” Connor’s vibrant blue eyes twinkled.
Paige laughed, shaking her head. “We’ve talked about this. Jealousy is not allowed.”
“I wonder what he’d say if he knew what we were talking about.”
“Or thinking,” she added.
“He’d probably run like hell.”
“I don’t know. I’d hope not.” Paige regarded the man across the room talking to her brother. “I’ve never seen him before. I wonder how well the guys know him?”
“Could be Quinn’s friend. Or a former co-worker of hers,” Connor suggested.
“Coming to Ty’s fortieth birthday party? I doubt it.”
“Maybe he’s related to Ty.”
“Maybe we need to stop speculating and ask,” Paige suggested.
“You want him.” Again, not a question. Just more of an, are you sure?
“Do you?” she asked.
“I like what I see. But I need to find out what’s up here.” He tapped his temple.
Suddenly, Tyson White slipped between the two of them and squatted. Even though the man had retired from the NFL years ago, he was still in extremely good shape, and his shoulders were wide enough to brush against them both.
Not that Paige was going to complain. She and Connor always flirted with Logan’s boyfriend, now husband. But it was always in good fun. Ty loved it and neither Logan or Quinn, their wife and mother of their child, minded.
Ty cocked his eyebrow at Paige. “Why are you staring at Grae like a piece of meat?”
“Was it that noticeable?” she asked, surprised.
“Uh, yeah. Hard to miss.”
Paige shrugged. “He’s hot.” Grae. What an interesting first name. She wondered what it was short for. Maybe it was a nickname.
Ty looked behind him for a second at the subject in question, then turned back to Paige. “Yes, he is.”
“Who is he?” she asked. “Current or former player?”
“Retired. Sort of. Left the NFL after a debilitating medical issue.”
“Like, I’m not telling you his secrets. You’ll have to find out for yourself. And anyway, why are you guys so interested?” Ty asked, suspicion thick in his question.
Hmm. The man was a mystery she might have to solve.
Connor spoke up, “Well, you know, there’s a certain man I’ve been trying to get into my bed for a couple years now, but for some reason, he keeps resisting.”
Ty lifted his left hand and pointed to his ring finger. “I’m married if you’ve forgotten.”
Connor chuckled. “I haven’t.”
“And I have a kid.” His face lit up. “And another on the way.”
“Oh, shit. Congratulations! You sure Quinn wants everyone to know?” Paige asked him.
“You aren’t everyone. You’re family. But keep it on the D.L. since it’s early yet.” Her brother-in-law pushed himself to his feet and stepped back from the table. “C’mon. I’ll introduce you to Graedon. I won’t warn him about the depraved things you two are probably planning for him.”
“Oh please,” Paige retorted as she stood and took Ty’s arm on one side, her husband’s on the other.
Ty escorted them over to Paige’s brother, Logan, who had been deep in conversation with this mystery man.
“Hey, hot stuff,” Ty greeted his husband. “Should I be jealous that you’ve been talking to this handsome hunk of a man for an hour now?”
Logan offered his hand, and Ty took it. Logan drew the darker man into his side, his arm slipping around his waist.
Darker, Paige thought, but not nearly as dark as this…Graedon. She liked the name on her tongue.
And that wasn’t the only thing she’d like on her tongue.
Wow. She shook her head. She normally wasn’t this depraved. Something about this man just drew her in like a fly to honey. Paige held out her hand. “Hi. I’m Logan’s sister, Paige.”
Graedon gave her a slight smile and, with a quick flick of his eyes, looked her up and down—didn’t that make goosebumps flood her body—before clasping her offered hand within his.
His grip felt warm and firm, and his hand dwarfed hers. Paige marveled at the contrast of their skin. Their clasped hands reminded her of a yin and yang symbol: opposites, but complementary.
Connor cleared his throat.
Paige released the man’s hand, heat climbing into her face, though it seemed Graedon was in no rush to break the contact either.
Logan waved a hand towards Connor. “Grae, this is my brother-in-law, Connor Morgan. The poor sap stuck with Shorty.”
Paige glared at her older brother. He knew she hated that nickname.
“Shorty.” The name rolled smoothly off Graedon’s tongue, and he seemed reluctant to pull his attention away from her to shake Connor’s hand. The men’s handshake was quick and firm. “Graedon Ward,” he introduced himself to Connor.
“Interesting first name,” Connor told him.
“Interesting accent,” Graedon remarked.
“Connor is Australian,” Ty explained.
“And Shorty’s husband,” Connor said, jerking a thumb towards Paige.
Paige whacked him in the arm. “You know I hate that nickname!”
“Well, I can’t tell him my other pet names for you.” Connor smiled at Graedon and wiggled his eyebrows.
“He’s got a thing for brothers,” Ty warned Graedon.
Graedon looked over at Connor in surprise. “Oh?”
“He’s not the only one,” Ty added, tilting his head toward Paige.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare so rudely,” Paige said, grimacing at Ty’s comment.
“Okay then! On that note, we need to go mingle, old man,” Logan said as he drew the birthday boy away.
“You’re older than me,” Ty griped.
“But I look younger,” Logan said, as they moved away.
Paige’s gaze bounced back to Graedon. “So…”
“You don’t mind your wife staring at other men?” It was a serious question but touched with a sense of amusement.
“Well…” Connor pursed his lips for a second. “It depends.”
“On what?” Graedon asked, once again clearly surprised.
“On who she’s staring at.”
Graedon shook his head, obviously confused. “You’re not worried she might be interested in the man she’s staring at?”
“Oh, I definitely know she’s interested in who she’s staring at.”
Paige waved her hand between the two of them. “Hello! I’m standing right here. Jeez.”
“I’m truly sorry, Paige,” Graedon said, bowing his head to her. “That was rude of us.”
She blinked. Rude? Not unlike her staring.
Now, since she stood next to him, she realized how large a man he truly was. Though she was small, or nicely put, petite, hence the “Shorty” nickname. She had to look from her five-foot-two inches up to Connor’s six-foot-one. But this Graedon, he had to be an inch or two taller than her husband. While Connor wasn’t skinny, the other man definitely outweighed him by—Paige guessed—at least fifty pounds. His hands were large, his fingers long. Good for gripping a football, of course. She wondered how old he was and how long ago he left the game. “How do you know Ty?”
“We played football together in college.”
“Ah. And you went on to be pro?”
“Yes, I was lucky enough to be drafted.”
Graedon hesitated for a few seconds, then answered, “Yes, a while ago.”
All right, she didn’t want to keep bombarding him with questions. She definitely wanted to get to know him better, but she didn’t want it to seem like an inquisition.
Oh, but she had so many questions on the tip of her tongue.
What do you do for a living now? How old are you? Do you live around here? Would you like to have sex with my husband and me?
The last one might be a little much. She certainly didn’t want to scare him away. And here she thought she would be bored at Ty’s fortieth birthday party, but then she spotted his man. She realized she was staring again and her face became heated. “I need to get a drink. Anyone else?”
“I’ll get it, honey,” Connor said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “What do you want?”
“Something with alcohol. Surprise me.” Connor knew her tastes well, so she wasn’t worried he’d come back with a drink she didn’t like. Wait. Had she ever met a drink she didn’t like? Oh, yeah. Gin and tonic. Blech.
“Anything for you Graedon?”
“A gin and tonic, please. Thank you.” He gave Connor a wide smile.
Paige swore it just lit up the whole room. Of course, he would want a drink she hated. But she wouldn’t judge him for it. Much, anyway.
“I’ll be back shortly,” her husband said, kissing her cheek then heading toward the makeshift bar in the corner of the large room.
Her eyes never left Graedon while her husband kissed her—while his, in turn, never left hers. Until her nipples beaded under the thin fabric of her dress—then his gaze dropped but quickly returned to her face.
“I don’t know how you can drink that awful shit.”
“It’s an acquired taste.” He studied her face.
Paige tried not to squirm as he ran his gaze from the top of her head to her chin, then just high enough to land on her lips. She unconsciously licked them and then tugged on her bottom lip with her teeth. “I don’t think any drink that you need to learn to appreciate is worth drinking. So many other choices.”
He stared at her mouth while she talked. She fought the urge to dig into her clutch purse to reapply her lip gloss.
“Choices are wonderful, but sometimes you want one specific thing. So, you work for it until you achieve it.”
“We’re still talking about drinks, right?” she asked.
He finally raised his eyes to meet hers as a wince of surprise and then clarity flickered in his gaze. Like he’d shaken himself mentally, getting out of some sort of fog.
She hoped it meant that he felt attracted to her.
Suddenly, he leaned toward her, and she froze. He reached out and whisked away something on her face with his thumb.
She stared at him curiously.
He held his thumb up. “Eyelash. Make a wish.”
Paige knew exactly what she would wish for. She pursed her lips and blew lightly, the eyelash spinning towards the floor.
“I hope your wish comes true,” he murmured, not breaking their locked gaze.
“Me too.” Little did he know he was her wish.
The seconds ticked by and neither even blinked.
His eyes were like very deep wells of dark brown. Dangerous if you fell in. His thick eyelashes were surely the envy of some women. His lips were dark and thick, reddish at the center like he’d been sucking on a cherry. Those luscious lips parted…
Paige waited for the words to escape, to flow over her. She just knew he was about to say something intriguing.
“Sorry, there was a line at the bar.” Connor approached, handing her a tall glass filled with pinkish-red liquid, a maraschino cherry, and a tiny plastic straw. He handed Graedon a short glass filled with ice, a lime wedge, a stirrer, and the clear toxic mix that made Paige scrunch up her nose.
Graedon nodded at Connor, thanking him.
He was such a gentleman, but one she bet knew how to be not-so-gentle at the right times. She covered her sigh by sipping on her drink. She had no idea what the concoction was, but it tasted fruity, and it went down smooth.
Connor upended a beer bottle and took a swig. Some local microbrewery. No piss water—what Paige called regular beer—for him.
“So, what do you do for a living, Connor?” Graedon asked after squeezing his lime wedge and stirring his drink.
Connor slid his arm around Paige’s waist and gave her a small squeeze.
Graedon’s eyes followed the gesture and didn’t raise until Connor answered.
“I’m a structural engineer.”
Graedon contemplated the answer. “Structural. Like bridges?”
Connor shrugged slightly. “Yes, bridges. But I mainly concentrate on sports complexes. Like stadiums, arenas, and what not. Anything sports related.”
Graedon raised his eyebrows. “Football stadiums?”
Connor nodded. “Yes, some.”
“Sounds like a very interesting career.”
“It is. But I have to travel a lot.”
“Is that how you met your stunning wife?”
Stunning. Huh. Paige never considered herself stunning. This had always been a description for leggy blondes who strutted down runways. Cute, maybe. She was short, with long brown hair. Then add some freckles, which didn’t make sense for her complexion. Her whole family had been confused about this. Mailman’s daughter, Logan had always teased her, which had always upset their single mother.
But it did make her wonder. Especially, since Logan was a foot taller than her and didn’t have a single freckle.
Connor gave her a look before answering him, “Yes. We actually did meet at a football stadium. She was with her brother when he was there to re-sod the field.”
Paige remembered that day. Logan’s business was just getting off the ground and, since she’d been helping him with the business’s books, he had asked her to go along because he didn’t have any employees at the time. It had been long days laying sod, and they were both filthy and exhausted come nightfall. She felt glad she no longer helped with the physical part of the business.
Then, she reminded herself, if she hadn’t gone, she never would have met the crazy, sexy Aussie, who currently had her pinned to his side. The rest was history. Connor picked up his life and moved to the states, gladly making her hometown his, and they got married a few years ago.
Now, with Quinn doing the books and Ty as Logan’s partner, the business was extremely successful, and Paige did whatever the guys needed her to do, either on the sod farm, in the office, or out on a job. A sort of Girl Friday/project manager with a great salary and benefits. If they needed coffee, she got coffee. If they needed her on site at a sodding job supervising employees, she was there. The job was never boring. The guys and Quinn relied on her. Sometimes to simply babysit their son Preston.
“Best day of my life,” Connor stated, giving her another squeeze.
“Yes, you’re certainly a lucky man,” Graedon said slowly, the words rolling off his tongue like molasses.
“You could be too.”
Paige elbowed her husband. Too soon.
Graedon tilted his head and studied Connor. “What do you mean?”
“I just meant one day you’ll meet the girl of your dreams.” Connor tripped over his words as he added, “That’s if you’re not already married. I shouldn’t assume.”
“I prefer women over girls. And, no, I’m not married.”
Paige’s gaze flicked to his left hand. The only ring this man wore was the one in his ear.
“Yes, a woman,” Connor murmured. “One that knows what she wants, when she wants it, and how to get it.” He shifted his left arm up to her shoulders.
Once again, Graedon followed his movement until he pinned his gaze to Paige’s lips once more. “And you, Paige?”
And me what? Oh. “I help out with Logan and Ty’s business.”
“I’m sure that keeps you busy. Their business is extremely successful.”
“It is. Who expected growing grass could be so lucrative?”
He cracked a slight smile. “I’ll have to come out and tour the farm one of these days.”
Paige tamped down the urge to rub her palms together in anticipation. ‘Will you walk into my parlor?’ said the Spider to the Fly. “Yes, please do. Just let me know, and I can personally escort you.”
Graedon tipped his head graciously.
“She’s crazy behind the wheel of the UTV. So, I’m warning you now…”
Graedon looked confused. “UTV?”
“Utility Task Vehicle. Like an ATV for farm use,” Paige explained. “However, don’t listen to him. I have a safe driving record.” ‘The way into my parlor is up a winding stair.’ “You’ll be perfectly fine in my hands.” ‘And I’ve a many curious things to show when you are there.‘
“I’m sure I will be,” Graedon murmured.
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘To ask me is in vain, for who goes up your winding stair-can ne’er come down again.’ “Why don’t I give you my number, and you can text me when you want to come out.”
His smile appeared and then disappeared as quickly as it came. A blink and it would’ve been missed. “Only if your husband doesn’t mind.”
“Connor doesn’t mind, do you, honey?” she asked her husband, without even so much as peek his way.
“No, not at all.”
Graedon dug out his cell from an inner pocket of his suit jacket. A few seconds later, he was ready. Paige didn’t hesitate to spill her digits.
She shook her head. “Reed. I didn’t change my name.”
Once again, he cocked a brow. Paige thought this might be a signature expression for him.
He slipped his cell back inside his jacket and pulled out a business card. “So you know it’s me calling.”
Paige tried to pluck it from his fingers, but he resisted just enough so her hand had to make contact with his. The brush of their fingers made her suck in a breath and warmth radiate from her core.
Damn. If this was her reaction to just a light touch, she couldn’t imagine how she would respond to something more substantial. But she didn’t want to imagine; she wanted to know. She let her hand drop, the card ignored in her grasp.
Connor placed his left hand at the small of her back and extended his right hand out to Graedon. “Excuse us, we need to go visit with Quinn. I don’t want her to think we’re ignoring her tonight.”
The larger man shook Connor’s hand, then turned to Paige. He dipped his head. “It was nice meeting you tonight. I look forward to the tour.”
“It was nice—” staring at “—meeting you also. Hopefully, it’ll be soon.”
Then with that, Connor steered Paige out of earshot. “What do you think?” Connor asked her, barely-contained excitement in his voice. “He’s intelligent, well-spoken, hot as fuck.”
“Oh, he’s a big fat yes. But I wasn’t getting any vibes from him other then he’s a het.”
“Yeah, he was hard to read except when it came to you. He was definitely drawn to you. I think I should be jealous.”
Paige bumped her shoulder into him as they walked. “Stop. If you need to make the rules, then make them. If I meet up with him and you don’t ever want me to have sex with him without you, then I’ll agree to that. I don’t ever want you to feel left out, honey.”
“We’ll discuss it. We’d have to find out if he has any proclivities toward men. If not, that shoots the plan all to hell.”
“Plan? Now we have a plan?”
“You had a plan the first second you laid eyes on him across the room, whether you knew it or not.”
Paige pursed her lips in thought. “Yes, you’re right. As soon as I saw him, I knew I wanted him.”
“But I want to try to get to know him better if he comes out to the farm. And I have this.” She lifted the business card so she could read it. “You could always ask him out for a business lunch or coffee.”
“I would need a good excuse other than, ‘my wife and I want you to join us in bed.’”
Paige snorted. “You never know, maybe he likes direct.”
“Yeah, like he wants to take you directly to bed. He’s definitely fascinated by you as well.”
“Well, that’s a good start.”
Connor pushed his way through French doors which opened to a dark patio. Outside, the breeze felt cool, and Paige shivered.
Connor removed his suit jacket and wrapped her in it, pulling her into his arms. “So, what does his card say?”
She held the crumpled card up. “Too dark to read it.”
Connor lifted a hold-on-a-second finger and dug his cell phone out. With a push of a button, the card was illuminated.
Paige tried to smooth it out a bit and peered closer. “Graedon C. Ward, College Scouting Director, Boston Bulldogs.”