How about something from dirty/bad/wrong where Ava knows it’s the end…or is it?
dirty/bad/wrong by Lauren Dane
THREE TO TANGO Anthology
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
Ava’s hands shook as she shoved her clothes into her case. She’d worry about wrinkles once she got back home.
“Just hold it together,” she whispered to herself, trying to ignore the masculine rumble downstairs. She’d just say good-bye, thank them for the last week and go. There was no reason to come back to Petal again, so there’d be no reason to promise anything of the sort.
A clean, easy break was what they all needed. She could be an adult about it. It had been great sex, and they’d kept her from thinking too much about her mother and everything. It was silly to be upset, after all, no one ever made any promises to her.
“You’re such a fucking liar,” she sneered as she pushed to stand, heading for the bathroom to grab her toiletries.
Her things had sort of taken residence in his bathroom, she thought with a melancholy air as she grabbed bottles and tubes, sliding them into the bag and zipping up. Just that morning she’d thought how nice that looked, her brush next to his on the counter, Angelo’s hair-product tube snuggled with hers.
Stupid. That’s what she was.
When she turned to go back into the bedroom, Luca popped his head around the corner. “There you are. Time to drop it and just tell us what the fuck is going on with you.” He crossed his arms, making him look even more sexy, and she narrowed her eyes at him for looking so good.
Angelo was on the bed, stretched out like a big predator, his hair loose, like he knew she liked, bastard, his gaze on her like he had a right to get her all stirred up right before she rode off into the sunset so he and Luca could be alone.
“I hope you’re not going to propose one for the road. I’m a little sore.”
She dumped the toiletries bag on top of the clothes.
“Why are you being such a bitch, pretty bird?” Angelo’s stillness sent a shiver up her spine. She’d never make it through the day without masturbating, damn it.
“I’m not. I’m trying to go, and you two are acting as if you’re trying to stop me, which is silly, isn’t it?”
He whipped his head a bit. “Come again?”
“I get it! God!” Frustrated, she knew the tears would come no matter what, so she may as well just get it said.
“You get what? Baby, who are you? You left earlier today and you were our Ava. Beautiful and sad, but this”—he motioned, meaning the three of them—”was working just fine. You can’t deny that. And you come back and you won’t look at us. You’re mad or we hurt you, is that it?”
“I am not mad. I just, well, anyway, I’ve overstayed my welcome and now I’m in the way. Just let me leave without any more drama.” She heard the entreaty in her own voice, but couldn’t stop it.
“What are you talking about? In the way of what?” Angelo was up and standing before her in a flash. The heat of his body blanketed hers. “I feel like we’re speaking two different languages. But you’re not leaving here until we’ve resolved this.”
She tried to move her head, to look anywhere but up into those knowing brown eyes, but he wouldn’t let go of her chin.
The sting of tears burned her eyes, her throat closed and a sob broke from her lips. His eyes widened and then two sets of arms embraced her.
She had nothing left. She’d thought she’d rebuilt herself in the last decade, but having to walk away from these two men, these people she loved more than anything or anyone in the universe would kill her. Maybe she’d take one of those six-month cruises and lick her wounds. Take a lover or five.
She nearly snorted at that.
“You gonna tell us, or do we have to beat it out of you?”
“Baby, we want you to stay here, don’t you get it? You’re running out of here like a scalded cat, and I don’t know why until you tell me,” Luca spoke, his lips against her ear.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she demanded, trying to push away.
“What? Tell me and I can explain. But at this point neither of us knows what you’re talking about.” Angelo loosened his embrace enough for her to look up at him, or over at Luca, but she kept her gaze fastened on the floor.
“And look me in the damned eyes when you talk to me, Ava. For fuck’s sake, you’re not that girl anymore and I was never that guy.” Angelo’s voice was angry, enough to have her head up, chin out.
“Why are you both acting like you want me here when it’s totally obvious you are just fine without me? It offends me to be lied to.”
Tears had begun to run down her cheek, so she wiped her face on Angelo’s loose shirttail when he wouldn’t let her free. Served him right.
Luca finally spoke, “Fine without you? Is that what you think? I’ve spent the last week thinking on ways to ask you to stay here, thinking on a plan that could get us together somehow. All of us. I want you to stay here, Ava. I want you to be with me every single day.”
She stared at him. “Stop! Oh my God, this hurts way more than you think it helps. My heart is broken. I can’t take it. Please just let me leave before I embarrass myself any further.”
Angelo stared at her, stunned. He struggled to put together what she’d said, mainly because her crying had gotten to that stuttery, hiccupy stage and it was hard to understand her. He’d never tell her so, but seeing her this way got to him. Seeing this strong, nearly unbreakable woman break had burrowed under his skin, spiked his adrenaline to just fix her and make her happy again.
Fuckety-fuck, he was in love with her in the grand, I’d-slay-dragons way.
“Embarrass yourself how? What haven’t we done in front of one another? With one another? What do you have to be embarrassed about, and why do you keep saying you want to leave? Who broke your heart so I can I can pummel him?”
“I l-l-love you both so much.” She wiped her face on his shirt again, and he tried not to laugh. “Bu-uu-t I can’t be your beard. I just c-c-can’t. I can’t watch you love him and not me. It’s shallow and p-petty and tot-tally unworthy of you both, but I can’t.”
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