Excerpt from Out of the Box 6

“It was all very well orchestrated,” I said, the words bittersweet on my tongue. “Having me talk to them, and share a drink, and even dancing… But I’m not interested. Not in either of them. And you can’t make me sleep with them.”

That last claim was no louder than a whisper, but Anando heard it; the way his eyebrows rose made it quite clear.

“When did I ever force you to do something you didn’t want to?” he asked, and now he sounded hurt.

I didn’t have to think before I answered. I dropped my eyes to my glass and raised it to my mouth. I returned it to the coaster without doing more than touch my lips to the wine. “Never.”

“I thought I had earned your trust.”

He had, in a dozen ways since the first night we had met. I was beginning to feel silly. “You have.” I looked back at him, relieved when he returned my slight smile. “I guess… I guess I was imagining things. I’m sorry.”

He reached over and picked up my hand from the counter, pulling it up to his lips for a brief kiss to my knuckles. He didn’t let go afterwards, and linked our fingers together. Our joined hands rested on the counter between us, a sign that my fears hadn’t ruined everything. At least, not yet.

“Don’t be sorry, Virginia. You weren’t completely wrong.”

I could do nothing more than stare at him, too shocked to move or say a word.

“I do think you’d enjoy having two men take care of you,” he continued. “I was going to suggest it. But I’d never force you to do anything.”

I shook my head, not because I didn’t believe him—I did—but to reiterate that I wasn’t interested. “I don’t know that guy. He’s nice, but I’m not—”

“Attracted to him,” he finished for me. “Yes, I noticed. And as delightful as you are, he wouldn’t be interested anyway. I had someone else in mind. Brett only wanted to talk to you—to us, I guess—before he gave his permission.”

With every new sentence he uttered, I was becoming a little more lost. “Permission?” I repeated, both confused and fascinated. “What do you mean?”

Anando must have heard something in my voice because he grinned and took his time answering.

“Brett lives with two vampires. I don’t pretend to know what kind of agreement the three of them have, but I know one thing. He has to approve of any lover his male companion might want to take.”

Part of me was intrigued. I had seen the way Brett looked at Lisa, I had heard him talk about her, and I was sure he loved her. Where did that leave this ‘male companion’? What kind of relationship did they share for them to have rules about taking other lovers?

My curiosity wasn’t enough, though.

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want it, with his permission or without. I’m not interested in anyone—”

I cut myself short before I could add “except you.”

“Then I apologize, Virginia,” he said without missing a beat. “I must have been mistaken. I thought I had noticed you looking at Leo that way, and you didn’t seem all that repulsed when I hinted at him joining us before. I won’t mention it again.”

At first, I didn’t understand why my heart was suddenly thundering inside my chest, or why my mouth felt dry. Of their own accord, my eyes looked for Leo, at the other end of the bar, and the meaning of Anando’s words jumped at me. It wasn’t just any man Anando was trying to bring into the bed we shared. It was a man I had had a few lustful thoughts for, a man I imagined myself with all too easily.

… continued in Out of the Box 6

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