He heard a door close in the distance, and he stood and walked out of the study to see if it was Zane. It was, and he called out as Zane headed for the stairs.
Zane turned and looked inquiringly at him.
“How did it go in San Antonio?” Seth asked.
Zane put his foot down from the step and ambled over to where Seth stood. “Good. Got two bookings and several maybes. They were impressed by my presentation. Could be a good year for us.”
“That’s great,” Seth said, though he knew his voice lacked enthusiasm.
“Is everything okay?” Zane asked sharply.
“Jasmine was hurt today. Esme threw her.”
Zane’s eyes widened. “Is she all right? Why didn’t you call me?”
“Because by the time I found her, there was nothing you could have done anyway.”
“Found her?” Zane asked in a strangled voice. “Was she missing?”
Seth rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Esme came back without Jasmine. I called J.T., and he and one of his deputies came out to help me look. I found her out about a mile. Got a knock to her head and a bum ankle.”
“You didn’t take her to the hospital?”
Seth made a face. “You know how stubborn she is. She just wanted to come home.” It was on the tip of his tongue to tell Zane what happened, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to see how his brother would react. Maybe he wouldn’t care. Maybe he would. Seth didn’t have any desire to find out.
“Where is she?” Zane demanded.
Zane turned and without a word headed toward the stairs. Seth watched him go, his hands tense. He knew Zane would go up, touch her, make sure she was okay. Probably get into bed and hold her. Something she’d asked Seth to do earlier. He closed his eyes and turned away, unable to stand the thought of Jasmine in his brother’s arms.
As soon as Jasmine became aware of the hard body wrapped around her, she knew it wasn’t Seth. Her eyes fluttered open to see Zane staring down at her, his blue eyes filled with concern.
At what point had Seth left and Zane arrived? Instead of being put off, she drew such comfort from knowing that both had stayed with her. Both taking care of her, loving her, just as in her dreams, her most wonderful fantasies.
For a minute, she didn’t say anything. She merely burrowed into Zane’s strong arms, content to live in the moment.
“Are you okay, Jaz? Seth said you hurt your head and your ankle.”
She pulled away. “What time is it?” she mumbled.
“In the evening?”
“In the morning,” Zane said. “You slept all night.”
Her brow furrowed. She vaguely remembered Carmen waking her at two different intervals. She’d grumbled but Carmen had insisted that she wake and answer questions. She’d complied then immediately fallen back asleep.
“Jaz,” he prompted. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m good,” she said. She stretched and flexed her ankle experimentally. Pain shot up her leg, and she couldn’t control the grimace.
Zane latched onto it like a pit bull, yanking the covers down. He took her foot in his hands and brushed his fingertips across the swollen skin.
“You need to stay off this,” he said grimly.
“Now show me where you hit your head.”
She sighed again.
“Jaz,” he said pointedly.
She lowered her head and pointed to the spot that ached. He burrowed his fingers gently into her hair, parting it so he could see the wound.
“Ouch,” he said sympathetically. “Why the hell didn’t you let Seth take you to the hospital? You probably need stitches. That’s a hell of a gash.”
She put her hand to his and pulled it away from her head. “I’m fine, Zane. Really. I’ve told Seth that until I’m blue in the face. I’m sure I’ll walk around like an old woman for a day or two, but I’ll be just fine.”
“You shouldn’t have been out riding Esme alone,” Zane grumbled.
She arched an eyebrow and smiled at his concern. He certainly never used to mind her hell-raising ways. Heck, she’d taken off by herself more times than she could count. Half the time, she’d wound up at Tucker’s only to be hauled out by J.T. But now Zane looked at her like a woman. His woman. It gave her a ridiculous thrill for him to be so worried and protective.
She put a hand on his cheek and coaxed him down so she could kiss him. “I love you. I missed you.”
“I should have been here with you.”
“Seth took care of me.”
She sucked in her breath as the words fell. She hadn’t meant to say it, even though she’d never made an effort to hide anything from Zane. But she didn’t want to do anything that could potentially hurt him.
Zane seemed to read her worry. He kissed her tenderly, his lips melting over hers. “I’m glad he did, baby.”
She sagged in relief.
“Now would you prefer breakfast in bed or do you want me to carry you downstairs so Carmen can fuss over you in the kitchen?”
She grimaced at the idea of spending the day in bed. “How about you leave me to take a shower and then I’ll join you downstairs.”
He gave her a doubtful look, but she shoved at his shoulders. “Go on. I can make it.”
“Okay, but if you need help, holler.”
She nodded. “I will. Now go. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
He left her and disappeared out the door.
Jasmine scooted to the edge of the bed and swung her feet over the side. She tested her ankle, gingerly standing on her good one and then slowly putting her hurt foot on the floor.
Her knees nearly buckled when she put all her weight down. Pain shot up her leg and she wavered precariously. Damn, maybe she should have let him carry her.
With a barely suppressed grimace, she hobbled toward the bathroom determined to take a long, hot shower to remove the stove-up feeling in her body.
Fifteen minutes later, she stood at the top of the stairs. She wasn’t sure exactly why she wouldn’t let Zane take her down, but she didn’t want to flaunt her relationship with him to Seth, even though Seth was well aware of her feelings for him. There was no sense waving the red flag in front of the bull.
She gripped the railing and stepped down with her good foot. Three steps later, she put too much weight on her sprained ankle and let out a cry of pain. Not a second later, Seth appeared at the bottom of the stairs and stared up at her.
He sprinted up, taking them two at a time. “Jasmine, what the hell are you trying to do? Fall down the stairs and kill yourself? Why in God’s name didn’t you call for me or Zane to carry you down?”
He didn’t wait for a reply. He probably didn’t want one anyway. He scooped her up in his arms, and she made a grab for his neck as he made his way carefully back down the steps.
They ran into Zane as Seth carried her into the living room. Zane took one look at her and bit out a curse.
“Hard-headed heifer. Didn’t I tell you to call for me?”
“Uh, well, Seth sort of found me,” she said.
“Going down the stairs,” Seth said, scowling at her.
He set her down on the couch, and she stared up at him and Zane. She was getting a glimpse of how it would be with them. Both fussing over her, loving her, taking care of her. It created a powerful yearning deep within her. God, how she wanted both of them. Loved them. Needed them so much.
Zane got a pillow and propped her foot up on the coffee table with it while Seth positioned cushions behind her back. Emotion knotted in her throat until she thought she was going to break down and blubber in front of them both.
“Does your head hurt?” Seth asked in a low voice. “Do you want me to get you something for it?”
“Some ibuprofen would be great,” she said, trying to control her shaky voice.
“Carmen is fixing breakfast now,” Zane interjected. “I’ll bring you a tray. We can all eat out here to keep you company.”
Seth looked discomfited by the suggestion, and he turned and walked rapidly toward the kitchen. She met Zane’s gaze, and for a moment they both stared. She had the strangest feeling that Zane was united with her in her effort to win Seth over. She didn’t dare hope for it, and yet the idea gave her spirits a huge lift.
Zane smiled at her, his blue eyes softening as if he could see right into her darkest fears and biggest dreams.
“I’ll go help Seth get the food. I’ll be right back.”
She watched him go, so afraid to believe. Despite her best effort not to nurture that hope, a small kernel unfolded within her. If only… If only they could both love her. It seemed so much to ask and so little all at the same time.
As they returned, trays in hand, she relaxed, determined to enjoy the morning with them both. It was almost like old times. But now when she looked at them, she did so with the knowledge of a woman, of the passion they could and had given her.
As content as she was with their lovemaking, the wild, insatiable part of her wanted to have them together. Their mouths on her body, their hands. Touching her, loving her, together and separately.
She nearly moaned aloud as the image burned brightly in her mind. Seth between her legs, Zane in her mouth. Zane behind her, thrusting into her. Seth in front of her, sliding into her mouth, his hands in her hair. One with his mouth on her pussy, the other’s lips around her nipples.
She squirmed and closed her eyes, trying to shut out the barrage of arousal flooding her senses.
They ate and though Seth was largely silent, it wasn’t as awkward as Jasmine feared. At one point, Zane reached over and slid his hand over her knee and up her leg. Seth’s eyes tracked Zane’s movements, and then he looked away as if unable to bear the sight.
Jasmine ached for him. For her. For all of them. She didn’t want this to hurt. Love shouldn’t hurt, though it did all too often. She wanted to make them happy. Both of them.
With an unhappy sigh, she pushed away her food, only half-eaten.
Seth stood and seemed all too content to take her tray and retreat to the kitchen. Jasmine leaned back against the cushions and closed her eyes. The medicine she’d taken still hadn’t kicked in, and now her headache had worsened. The dull ache had blossomed into a sharp pain in her temples.
“Let me take you back to bed,” Zane said softly. “You shouldn’t be up.”
She nodded, having no desire to argue the point. She did feel exhausted, and her earlier distaste for spending the day in bed vanished as the idea suddenly held a lot more merit.
She curled her arms around his neck as he picked her up from the couch. As he made his way to the stairs, she buried her face in his neck, absorbing his smell, the feel of him, his strength.
He rubbed his cheek over the top of her head in a comforting gesture as he walked up the stairs to her room.
He deposited her on the bed, tucked her underneath the covers and then kissed her lightly on the forehead. “You rest, Jaz. I’ll come check on you later.”
He’d always been so adept at reading her, and he’d obviously sensed her desire to be alone for a while.
“I love you,” she managed around the tightness in her throat.
“I love you too, baby. Now get some rest.”
After two days of being an invalid, Jasmine was ready to crawl out of her skin. Zane and Seth both fussed over her, but Seth seemed more distant with each passing day.
Her head no longer ached quite so vilely, and her ankle, while a little stiff, was no longer as swollen and so tender. She could manage quite nicely on her own, though she’d be lying through her teeth if she denied loving Zane and Seth carrying her around.
She stretched in her bedroom, flexed her ankle and walked around the room in circles. It was something she’d done each morning before one of the guys walked up to carry her down. This morning, though, she knew there was no point in leaning on them any longer. Her ankle was fine.
She stopped her pacing to stare out the window at the clouds rolling in from the southwest. They were in for a thunderstorm. It was a perfect day to stay in and listen to the thunder clap and the rain patter. She hoped it set in and wasn’t just a quick shower.
After glancing at her watch, she grimaced. She’d napped way late. In another hour or two, Carmen would have dinner ready. If she went down now, she’d avoid being carried down later, and she could also sit and visit with Carmen in the kitchen and hopefully watch it rain.
After showering and dressing, she headed for the stairs, pleased when she navigated them without so much as a twinge. The living room was quiet and empty and Carmen hadn’t taken up residence in the kitchen yet.
She’d take the opportunity to catch up on email and see if Wildscapes had faxed her contract to her yet. She’d almost forgotten about it with everything else that had gone on.
When she neared the study, she saw the door was open two inches, and she heard the murmur of conversation from within. She was about to push open the door and sing out a hello to Zane and Seth when she stopped cold.
She put her ear closer to the door, not sure she’d heard correctly. Were they talking about her family? Surely not.
“I think we’ve done her a disservice by shielding her all these years,” Seth said. “We should have tried to locate her brother from the beginning.”
“Maybe so, but I don’t regret keeping her here,” Zane said.
“I’ve made enquiries about him,” Seth continued. “We owe it to Jasmine to make sure she has options.” She heard the rustle of paper and then Seth resumed. “She turned down a position with a magazine. They wanted to hire her to do a regular column. She didn’t even tell us about it. What else is she giving up because she thinks she wants to be here with us? I thought the year in Paris would do her good, but now I’m not so sure.”