Chapter 1 of 'Angling for Love'
To those of you that didn’t laugh when I said I wanted to try writing a ménage. Thank you for believing and pushing me to go beyond my boundaries. It was a long road, but well worth it. This was a blast to write and I’m looking forward to writing Abby’s story next.
“Arin, what’s wrong, honey?” Abby’s concern flowed through the phone, making Arin’s heart ache more.
“I caught him in bed.” She hiccupped and snuffled, tears streaming down her face. They dripped off her chin, leaving round stains on her shirt. She wiped her nose with another crumpled tissue, throwing it onto the huge pile of used ones overflowing the trashcan.
The scene played through her mind again, squeezing her chest. When she’d come home from work a little early it had been to surprise Robert. She’d opened the door to her apartment and had heard the television loudly shouting from her bedroom. A naughty grin had turned her lips up. Silently, she’d slunk to the doorway and pushed the door open, hoping to catch him in the shower for a little wet nookie. That was the moment her world had collapsed in on itself.
Robert had been naked, ass muscles flexing as he pushed his cock into some equally naked woman. Blonde hair had streamed over Arin’s pillows. They’d been covering her sheets in their sweat, dripping sexual release onto her goose-down comforter. The picture of those two bodies working in a well-rehearsed play of muscle and grunts was branded in her mind.
“You caught who, hon?”
Arin shook her head to dispel the image from her mind, to eradicate the anger and fear that had pulsed through her as she’d stood and watched the only man she’d ever loved fucking someone else in her bed.
“I caught Robert in bed with some hussy. In my bed, Abby. In my apartment, in my bed.” A sob forced its way up her throat. The pain in her chest throbbed. “How could he do this to me? I loved him.”
“Oh, honey. Robert’s an asshole. I hope you kicked him and the bitch out on their asses.” A growl came through the phone, then Abby sighed. “Do you need me to come over? I could bring Ben and Jerry’s or some coconut rum?”
“No, don’t come. I made him leave with all his shit just a little bit ago. I’ve got laundry to do and sheets to burn and then I have a bunch of calls to make before he screws me over even more. At least we never combined bank accounts or anything.” A sniffle echoed through the room. It seemed so much emptier without Robert’s stuff cluttering her space. She stared out the window and sighed at the whimsical softness as the light shimmered through the gossamer and lace. “What am I going to do? I haven’t been without him since high school. And, shit. I have that trip booked for our anniversary and it’s too late to cancel it.”
Anger started to replace the hurt. It bubbled hot and thick in her heart. She’d done everything he’d ever asked of her and he still hadn’t been happy enough with her. Six years of her life had been devoted to his sorry ass. Six long, tortuous years listening to how fat she was, how she needed to lose weight, exercise more, trim down. Long, frustrating, irritating years of his ball-scratching and Neanderthal behavior. Fuck him. Yes, she was rounder than the stick figure he’d been fucking in her bed, but she wasn’t fat. Well okay, she was sort of fat, but in a pillowy, soft sort of way. Wasn’t that how all the romance novels talked about rounder women? The snort on the other end of the call pulled her from her thoughts.
“Go anyway. That’s what I’d do. Screw him and go on that vacation. You paid for it. Why not? You can take the time to get your thoughts together and come back refreshed.”
“I don’t know. I mean, I haven’t been fishing or hiking in a long time. I booked the trip for us because he was finally willing to do something I like to do, but I don’t know if I want to go alone.” Another sniffle escaped. Tears dripped off her chin, spreading the soaked area across her T-shirt. She roughly scrubbed the remaining wetness off with a swipe of her hands. “How could he do this to me? Didn’t I do everything he ever asked me? I give him everything and he goes out and does this?”
“Come on, Arin. You’re strong and resilient. You’re far better than that asshole and you know it. He was holding you back and now that he’s gone you can be you again.” Abby’s strong voice held Arin up, gave her the strength she needed.
Yes, he had held her back, made her question her own convictions and plans. Fuck him.
“All right, you’re right. I’m going to get cleaned up and perhaps burn some pictures. Then maybe I’ll do a little drinking.” She sighed. She needed to hang on to the anger and get through the night.
“Good girl. Call me later if you need to. And it sounds as if you need to get some packing done.” Abby giggled. “Maybe your fishing guide will be hunky and you can have a little rebound sex while you’re on vacation.”
“Right, like some outdoorsy guy is going to find my lumps and curves appealing enough to sex me up.” Arin snorted. “I don’t want any kind of anything right now, rebound or not. Abs, thanks. I don’t know what I’d be doing without you right now.”
“No worries. You’ve picked me up plenty of times from being dumped. Call me if you need me. And I mean it. I have to go before my boss yells. Love you, girly.”
“Love you too. I’ll talk to you later.” Arin hung up and took a steadying breath. Abby was right. There wasn’t anything wrong with her taking some time for a quick vacation to get her mind back in the right place.
Determination steeled her nerves as she wiped the last of the wetness off her cheeks. No more tears would spill for that asshole. She’d show him and the world that she didn’t need some abusive slime in her life. She’d invested enough time in a relationship that should’ve ended years ago. Giving him everything since high school obviously hadn’t made him see her for who she really was. Yeah, she was a little rounder than the media said was appropriate, but she knew that her body was nice to look at…maybe.
With a sigh, Arin opened the folder of brochures from Four Oaks Lodge. She’d been excited to plan the trip for them. It’d been the first time he’d ever seemed interested in doing anything remotely related to nature.
At one time she’d loved hunting and fishing, and had gone many times throughout her teen years with her father and younger brother. Over the years Robert had pushed her to drop the trips with “the guys”. She hadn’t gone to the family cabin or the stream with either of them in years. Maybe a little time spent in the great outdoors would help her to refocus herself. She flipped through the brochure and grinned at the pictures of the mountain streams. World-class fly-fishing for a week. What a way to rebound from a bad relationship.
She flipped her phone open and sent a quick text to the guide she’d booked to let him know it’d just be her in three days. She wasn’t in the mood to talk to some guy about why there’d been a change in plans. Pain lanced through her heart at the thought of Robert never being there again. She’d built her entire world around him. Every shirt, every pair of pants, every piece of furniture had been purchased to please him.
Pushing her shoulders back, she reminded herself that she wasn’t going to cry over him anymore. The picture of him slamming into that slut brought the anger back and helped her to build a defensive wall around her heart. She could make it through the rest of the day without falling apart.
* * * * *
“Hey Brent, we just got a message from the client due in on Friday. It seems she’ll be coming by herself.” Jared Stark, half owner and fishing guide for Four Oaks Lodge, leaned against the granite counter and grinned. “If she’s single now that might mean some rebound pussy for you.”
“Shut up,” Brent growled. Jared grinned even wider when his best friend and housemate turned a glare on him. He watched Brent shifted his attention from his laptop. “Why is she coming alone? Should we change the itinerary?”
“I’ll ask but she’s the one who told me last week that she’d fished with her pop for years. Sounds as if it’ll just be us going with her for the week. Might be nice to have a woman camping with us instead of men for a change. Bet after a day of hiking she’ll smell nicer too.”
“Well, whatever. She paid for two of us, so we’ll both go, and if it’s too much for her we can just hang at the lodge instead of going to the streams.” Brent ran his hands through his short brown hair. With a dismissive shrug, he turned back to his computer, concentration back on whatever he‘d been working on.
Jared stood for long moments staring out the picture window across the open living room, thinking about Arin and the possibilities. He and Brent hadn’t shared a woman in months and neither had had many sexual conquests during that time. It might be nice to have a soft female body between us again. He loved sharing with Brent. It was the only time he actually felt anything beyond lust. With Brent involved in romancing a woman, it allowed Jared to let down his emotional shields and enjoy the softer side of sex.
He sighed and hoped she was at least decent-looking. Maybe he could talk Brent into a few days of sensual distraction. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d gotten more done than fishing when clients came to the lodge. He made a mental note to pack some other forms of “tackle” just in case they wanted to get frisky.
With a grin, he opened his phone and sent a text back asking about the itinerary change. He had exchanged texts with Arin a few times over the last few months as she’d planned this vacation. She shared their sense of humor and had actually started sending him jokes a few times a week. He’d looked forward to those little messages more than he could admit. Maybe he should do a little flirting before she arrived to prepare her for them.
got ur text. Do u want 2 change plans or stick w itinerary as planned?
Now just to wait for her reply. His mind wandered to the last woman he and Brent had shared. They’d both been hoping she would be a permanent fixture in their lives, someone who would stay with them and form the strange little family both men craved. Samantha had been nothing like they’d expected once they’d spent some real time with her. Since that messy ordeal, they’d avoided women in general. Neither man would admit it, but Jared was emotionally chafed by the lack of understanding women seemed to have for their arrangement.
He scowled, remembering the pain her rejection had caused Brent. You were devastated too. Was it too much to ask that they find someone who would love both of them equally? He’d lived through so much. Maybe this was the universe’s way of settling the score. The pain and abuse they’d suffered had been caused by his cousin. Maybe Jared deserved to suffer a lonely existence. But not Brent. He deserved so much better. Without Jared’s family, Brent would’ve been normal. Not the twisted, hollow man who sat in the living room typing away on his computer. He’d suffered at the hands of Ronny too. He deserved some happiness and love.
The thought of being alone forever made Jared’s chest hurt. He’d hoped to forget the whole abuse thing and move on. But finding out that he wasn’t whole without Brent had made him reevaluate his plans. College had helped, but it had caused false hope. Everyone had wanted to have sex with them. Threesomes and expanding sexual experiences had seemed to be the norm. He’d hoped that they would eventually find one special girl who would stay, be theirs. As the years had gone on he’d become increasingly obsessed with finding someone for them to share forever. They’d built a huge lodge in the hopes of filling it with children. Every woman had torn a little more from his soul when she’d walked away.
Maybe walking away from Brent would be the best solution. On their own they’d surely find women to settle down with. Jared was sure he could fake the intimacy well enough to be mostly happy in a marriage.
Even the thought had fear coursing through his body. The spike in adrenaline had his heart racing and his palms sweating. He couldn’t do that to himself or to Brent. They were a package deal. He shook his head. Might as well get used to being alone with him and always craving something you won’t find. No woman is going to willingly take on the two of you once she knows your story.
Jared jumped when his phone beeped with Arin’s response. It pulled him from his thoughts. The past didn’t matter anymore. It’d happened. Now all he could do was try to find the woman that would put them together. If Arin wasn’t her, then he’d keep looking, but he needed to try.
He smirked at the perfect opening she’d given him to start the flirting.
Don’t change anything. I’m up for the full deal. Can’t wait to do some fishin’!
Jared’s fingers flew over the keys, a grin teasing his lips. We r up for it too *wink*
* * * * *
She turned her attention to packing and ensured she had everything she’d need for her week-long vacation. A wide grin spread across Arin’s face as she dug out the fishing gear she’d kept stored in the back of her closet. It felt as if she were seeing an old friend. Memories from her trips with her father streamed through her mind. The joy and laughter that had filled those times was imprinted on the fishing rods and tackle. This trip was going to be exactly what she needed, she just knew it.
Thoughts of the other men in her life had her pulling up short. She hadn’t even called her dad to tell him about Robert. And her brother Jason would be thrilled. He’d hated the asshat with a vengeance and had tried to talk Arin out of dating him many times. With a deep breath to fortify her nerves she called her father. She wasn’t ready to talk to her brother but she needed the comfort of her dad’s voice.
“Arin. Christ it’s good to hear your voice.” He paused and she held her breath. Would he be angry that she hadn’t called in so long? “Is there something wrong?”
“No. Actually, nothing is wrong. Um. Well…there is something important, though. I kicked Robert out this afternoon.”
Silence beat between them for a moment before her father’s whispered response. “Thank God.”
She wanted to cry at the sincerity and pain in his voice. But she swallowed the tears. She wasn’t going to cry. “Yeah, well.”
“So when are you coming home for a visit? I could come down tonight and stay with you. I’m sure Jason would take the weekend off and visit.”
She smiled. Love choked her up for a moment and made talking difficult, but the forced her voice around the lump in her throat. “Well actually, I’m leaving in a couple of days to go to Montana on a ‘get my life together’ fishing trip. But as soon as I get back we’ll get together. Promise.”
“You’re going fishing? Alone?”
She chuckled. “It was supposed to be an anniversary trip, but now that Robert isn’t going I thought I’d take the time to think and figure out what I want to do.”
“I could pay for Robert’s part and come with you. I miss you, sweetie.”
She thought about it. But taking her dad with her meant she’d be rehashing the last few years with him. She wasn’t ready for that. Yes, she’d screwed up, but she didn’t need to hear that from him. Not until she’d dealt with her pain and fear.
“Dad, I love you, but I really need some time on my own. I’m going to be crying and blotchy for days. Give me a week, okay?”
“Okay. I understand. Look, if there’s anything at all you need, let me know. I’m so proud of you.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Thanks, Dad.”
They talked for a while about life and what everyone had been doing. She could tell that her father was trying to keep it light and she was thankful for it. They finished up their conversation and she grinned when she pushed “end”. Hearing her dad’s voice had helped to level out her emotions. She’d missed him so much and was just figuring out how much.
Her phone beeped and she read the message from Jared.
“Wink? Really?” Arin stared at her phone for a good two minutes. A giggle escaped her lips. Flirting was such a foreign thing to her. She really was pleasantly surprised by it. And there wasn’t any reason for her not to respond. It wasn’t as if she was attached to anyone, and God knew her heart could use the boost in confidence. She grinned and, with an evil chuckle, she responded to his text.
Wink yourself, Mr. Stark. Perhaps I should be down for it, then? See you in a couple days.
She turned off her phone before he responded. What if she had read into his text and taken it the wrong way? Her fragile emotions couldn’t take rejection right now. She’d read his response later, after a glass of wine, and a handful of M&M’s in case he wasn’t flirting with her.
* * * * *
Jared sputtered, then let a full laugh echo through the lodge. “The little minx is actually playing along. I just sent her a text being silly and she responded right back. This is good, right? She might be fun to play with. Oh, and just so you know, she doesn’t want the itinerary changed, so we’ll just go ahead as planned.”
Brent looked up from his computer and scowled. He watched Jared rub his hands together like an evil scientist and mumble about to-do lists and plans of the diabolically sensual things he wanted to do to Arin when she arrived. Brent had watched the same reaction a dozen—no, two dozen times. Jared would get his hopes up that they’d found the one who could complete them. Then they’d meet the girl, spend time with her, slip down the path of love until she put the brakes on for one reason or another. Seeing the look again made anger and sadness vie for top spot in his emotional hierarchy.
He sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to calm his friend. “You need to stop it right there. I’m not going to watch you get all stupid over another woman and then mope for months after she breaks your heart. This chick is obviously coming out of a long relationship. She’d booked this trip as an anniversary present, right? Not the type you want to get involved with, right?”
Jared scowled for two heartbeats before the grin was back. “Hey, if we played it your way we’d never even try to find someone. Yes, we’ve had a lot of false starts, but man, I really like her. I mean she’s—”
“You don’t even know her.”
“Yes I do, and so do you, sort of. She’s one of the contractors you’ve worked with before. I even remember you chatting with her a few weeks ago on the phone and laughing.” His smug smile was enough to make Brent want to hit him.
“Okay, so what? She’s a geeky chick. That doesn’t mean she’s going to be a perfect match for us.” Even as he said it, he wondered who they were talking about. He went back over the weeks. Who had he been chatting with who was a woman? There had been that lady from Orlando or somewhere. She’d been funny, but hadn’t she been really old? He gave in and hated himself for it. “Okay, so who is she?”
Jared snickered then, with a grin, spilled. “Arin Walters. She’s the one who designed that logo you loved for Rick’s ranch. Remember? The siren. Isn’t that what you called her?”
Brent did remember. He fell back against the couch and closed his eyes. Arin Walters. The cute-voiced designer from Pennsylvania. She’d been so much fun to work with. She’d been smart and snarky on the phone, giving as good as she got when they were brainstorming. He’d gotten hard every time they’d talked and he’d had to jerk off after most of their conference calls. Just knowing he was scheduled to talk to her usually was enough to get him hard and achy. She’d called out to something in him. He couldn’t believe she’d lost the boyfriend and was coming to his ranch.
He looked up to find a silently laughing Jared staring at him, shoulders shaking and a hand over his mouth. Brent flipped him off but couldn’t deny that he was intrigued. Seemed as if they both liked this woman before she’d even stepped foot into their state. That could spell bad news for all of them. And he knew that both he and Jared would be devastated, again, if they fell for a woman and she didn’t reciprocate their feelings. He shook his head at his best friend and threw a prayer to the heavens that this wasn’t just another horrible-ever-after story.