Van, Becca - Re-awaken Me (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 11
The unexpected blow that landed across Pip’s cheek made her ears ring. She stumbled to the ground, landing heavily on her knees. She kept her head down, using her hair as a shield as she scanned the area. She caught a glimpse of Chip’s head as he ducked back around the corner of the shed and out of sight. She had glimpsed a line of blood streaming from his temple and down over his cheek. She felt anger rising in her body, directed toward Alex for hurting one of the men she loved. Alex yanked on her hair, pulling her to her feet yet again. The pain at her scalp made her furious, and she built up on that emotion until she was so angry she was shaking with it. As she regained her footing, she spread her legs shoulder-width apart and bent her knees, relaxing her stance in preparation.
Pip watched Alex from beneath her lowered eyelashes. He drew his arm back, the muscles in his shoulder bunching, his hand forming a fist as he prepared to knock her senseless. His blow never landed. As his arm began its forward motion, Pip drew her knee up and slammed as hard as she could into Alex’s groin. He released her hair, bending over with pain. Pip raised her arms, clasped her hands into his hair on either side of his head, and using his own motion against him, she raised her leg and slammed his face and head into her knee. The sound of bone crunching as she connected with Alex’s face made her stomach roil in protest. She let go of his hair, did a quick side step, and watched as Alex dropped surreally to the ground, totally motionless. She took a couple more steps away from Alex, leaned over, and retched.
Pip finally realized Chip was behind her, holding her up, trying to soothe her until her stomach finally settled. She didn’t realize how hard she was shaking until her body was up against Chip’s stable frame. He wrapped his arms around her, turned her into his body, and held on to her tight.
“It’s all right, darlin’. It’s all over now. He can’t hurt you again, Pip,” Chip said, running a soothing hand over her hair and then down her back. She had no idea how long she had stood in Chip’s arms, but she knew it had to have been quite a while. The sound of a siren in the distance seemed to echo in the now-dark, clear night.
“We have to tie him up, Chip. Please, help me. I can’t let him hurt anyone. I love you too much to let him hurt you or your brothers. Where are your handcuffs? Give them to me and I’ll put them on him. Oh God. He killed my parents. Can you believe that? A fifteen-year-old, insane boy killed my parents. All because his dad got caught embezzling money from the newspaper. Alex blamed my dad for his father killing his mother and his murder while in prison. How could he blame me? I was only a kid. I didn’t even know about it. How could he blame me for his parents’ deaths? Chip, you have to help me. Please,” Pip babbled, words tumbling from her mouth faster and faster the closer the sirens from his brother’s vehicle got.
Chip gently eased the front of Pip’s shaking body against the warmth of his once more. He made sure she couldn’t see Alex lying on the ground, his eyes open, staring blankly at the night sky. He picked her shaking body up into his arms, tucking her head against his shoulder and heading into the house. He had to get Pip into a hot shower. She was shaking and freezing cold from shock and an adrenaline crash. Her mind might not be ready to deal with Alex, but her body knew what she’d had to do to protect herself and the men she loved. He had them both stripped down to the skin and under the steady, hot spray of the shower in moments. The convulsing spasms of Pip’s body lessened, the heat of the water finally beginning to penetrate her bone-deep cold. He heard his brothers burst into the bathroom but shook his head, letting them know now was not the time for any questions. He watched Mason and Randy retreat and knew they were studying the crime scene, as well as contacting the coroner to remove Alex’s body. He knew the force of Pip’s blow had pushed the bone and cartilage into Alex’s brain, killing him instantly. He and Pip were going to have to explain what had happened, and he only hoped their woman was strong enough to go through the events of the night again. He was determined to cover for her if it seemed she wasn’t able to cope with the necessary procedures. He knew his brothers wouldn’t question him, but he also knew they would have ascertained the circumstances leading up to Alex’s death before he had Pip dried and dressed again.
Chip turned off the faucets when the hot water began to run out. He quickly and efficiently dried Pip off and dressed her in clean clothes before seeing to himself. When he was dried and dressed, he picked Pip up into his arms and carried her out to the kitchen. He placed her on a chair, making sure she was steady with a hand on her shoulder, and then drew a bottle of whiskey and two glasses from the cupboards. He poured liberal amounts of alcohol into the glasses, put them on the table, picked Pip up, and sat down with her safely ensconced on his lap. He picked up one glass and gently began feeding sips of the liquor to the small, precious bundle in his arms. When she’d drank half the glass, he set her glass on the table, picked up the other one, and downed the contents. The familiar burn of the warming alcohol made him gasp for breath, but it eased the tightness in his chest. He knew he was probably going to get hell from the doc for drinking before his head injury was seen to, but he didn’t care.
Chip had just tilted Pip’s face up to inspect her bruised cheek when the sound of footsteps sounded on the deck. Mason and Randy entered the kitchen, the doctor on their heels. He stared into his brothers’ eyes, knowing they would understand what he wanted without having to speak the words aloud. Mason, Randy, and the doctor took a seat at the table, waiting to see if Pip would be able to go through with the next part of the inevitable procedure just yet. The silence must have gotten to the doctor, because he moved his chair around next to Chip and Pip, gently lifting her face to his so he could inspect her bruised, swollen cheek.
“Hey there, little lady. I’m Doctor Toby Crane. I’ve known these three since they were boys. Just call me Toby, like these three do. I’m just looking to make sure your injury isn’t too bad. You may want to put some ice on that cheek to stop the swelling. I’m afraid that’s about all I can do for you, Phillipa. The sting should be gone by morning,” the doctor said. He then looked up at the cut on Chip’s face and frowned.
“Butterflies will be enough, Toby. It’s not that bad,” Chip stated, glaring at the doc, daring him to contradict him in front of his fragile bundle.
“Yep, those little butterfly bandages are pretty damn good. If you have any problems, you come and see me, young man. And I know I don’t need to tell you, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol,” Toby said.
The doctor cleaned the cut skin on Chip’s face with an alcohol wipe. He winced as the doc drew the skin together and placed the adhesive bandages over the wound, making sure they were secure. When he was finished, Toby turned to Mason. “Well, boy, get the bottle from the cupboard and some more glasses. I think we could all use a little drink right about now.”
Mason rose from his seat and retrieved the bottle of whiskey and three more glasses. Now that he and Randy were officially off the clock, they could imbibe a much-needed finger or two of the liquor.
Chip sat in companionable silence, watching his bothers and the doctor as they sipped their drinks, knowing they needed the alcohol as much as he had. The sight of Pippa’s bruised, swollen cheek and her winces as she sipped the rest of her drink was nearly more than Chip could stand. He could tell his brothers were as worried about her as he was. She hadn’t said a word since they had been in the kitchen, and he wasn’t sure how to go about asking her questions or if he should just let her begin talking in her own good time. He turned his head and looked down into Pip’s face at the sound of a giggle and a delicate sniff.
“How did he poison me?” Pip slurred out her question.
“We found traces of rat poison in the coffee at the newspaper. You must have only gotten a tiny amount in your system. Otherwise it would have affected you a lot sooner than it did. He had thrown away the rest of the coffee mixed with the poison, so no one else would get sick. He wasn’t as thorough as he thought. He forgot to empty the t
“Did you know what his father had done?”
“Yes, baby. I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. After he left that first message, I contacted Nate and got a list of every employee at the paper. Everyone was clean, but Alex was my main suspect.”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Mason? I could have been more prepared, more alert,” Pip said, her glassy eyes peering at him.
“We couldn’t do anything until we had evidence against him, baby. We had no DNA to place him at the scene. I only just got back the fingerprint analysis this afternoon. Obviously, that information was too little, too late.”
“He was insane, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, sugar,” Randy replied.
“I killed him, didn’t I?” Pip asked in an emotionless voice.
“You did what you had to, baby. It was either him or you, and I, for one, am glad you are the one still standing,” Mason said. “I love you, Pippa, and the thought that it could have been you out there laying motionless tears me apart. We should have protected you better. We should have taken you away, until we could find out who it was terrorizing you. Goddamn it. You could have been killed,” he yelled, slamming his fist onto the table.
“I killed Alex White. Oh my God. I killed a man.”
Pip jumped up from Chip’s lap and ran out of the room and down the hallway to the bathroom. Chip raced from the room after Pip, his brothers and the doc on his heels. He heard the loud retching as Pip lost the drink which had not been in her stomach long. After she finished being ill, the sound of her screaming and whimpering broke his heart. He saw her cover her ears with her hands, trying to drown out the sound of her own screams. It wasn’t until he picked her up that she stopped screaming. She didn’t stir as he and his brothers undressed her and placed her beneath the covers into bed, or as he kissed her on the cheek, told her he loved her, and left the room.
* * * *
Mason saw Toby was waiting in the kitchen for him and his brothers to return. He was glad the doc had taken it upon himself to pour another finger of whiskey for each of them and was waiting for them to settle into their seats.
“I want you to get that girl some counseling. She’s going to need it to get through the deeds from this night. You’re going to have to ease off of her. I don’t want you pushing her too hard too fast, or she just may break. Randy, make up a bed in the spare room. I’m staying here tonight,” Toby stated, leaning back in his chair.
“No problem, Doc. The spare bed is already made up,” Randy answered.
Mason, his brothers, and the doc sat around the dining table well into the hours of the night. The three brothers kept taking turns to check on their woman. The last thing any of them wanted was for Pip to wake up alone in the dark. It was early morning when the men finally took to their beds. The doc went to the spare guest room for the night, and Randy, Chip, and Mason all crawled into the master bedroom bed. They stripped down to their boxers and slid into bed, surrounding their woman with their heat and comfort. It seemed the three men had just drifted off to sleep when the sound of chirping birds and the sun streaming through the gaps in the curtains pulled them to consciousness.
Mason was the first of them to surface and open his eyes and was surprised to see Pip had left the bed. He listened for the sound of running water, but there was only the sound of his own breathing, as well as the deep, even breathing of his brothers. He pushed the covers aside, pulled on his jeans, and headed out.
Mason leaned against the doorjamb to the kitchen, watching as Pip went about preparing a full breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and toast. The sound of her humming as she worked was a delight he hadn’t thought to hear so soon after the previous night’s events. He must have made a sound, or maybe she was more attuned to him than he thought, because she turned around, smiled at him, and pointed to the coffee brewing.
“Grab a coffee. Breakfast is almost done,” Pip said with a smile, turning back to the stove.
Mason did as Pip suggested then took his coffee to the table, content to watch her bustle around his kitchen. She looked so right standing in the rays of the sun shining through the kitchen window. She looked liked a sprite of an angel, the sun creating a halo over the strands of blonde hair on her head.
“Morning,” Toby greeted as he headed to the coffeepot. He poured himself a mug of coffee, and Mason saw him sniffing the air appreciatively as he eyed the breakfast Pip was preparing. “Something smells good. I haven’t had a breakfast like that in I don’t know how long. How are you doing, little lady?”
“I’m good, Toby. Thanks for asking.”
“How did you sleep, Phillipa?” Doc asked once he was seated across the room.
“At first like a baby, thanks to whatever you gave me. I woke up just as these three were getting into bed and couldn’t get back to sleep.” She began placing platters of food on the table, and Mason saw her smile at Chip and Randy as they entered the room. “I kept going over in my head what happened last night, and though I will always feel sick at the thought of what I did to Alex, I know deep down in my psyche, it was either him or me. I have been obsessed with finding out who killed my parents since the age of twelve. I let that obsession grow until I had nothing and no one else. I think in the beginning I used the obsession to circumvent the pain of losing my parents in such a horrific, violent way, but then it just became a habit. The confrontation with Alex and his death, I think, was as horrific, but also cathartic. I don’t know why, but I think, as much as it pains me to say so, that confrontation was just what I needed to bring me back into the land of the living. Do you think I’m crazy for saying that, Toby?” Pip asked as she sat down at the table.
“No. No, not at all, little lady. What you say makes total sense to me. I think you’re going to be just fine, Phillipa Grovner. Yes indeedy, just fine,” the doctor answered.
Mason noted the atmosphere over breakfast had lightened considerably since Pip had spoken to Toby and sat down enjoying a meal with them all—the first meal she looked to be actually enjoying since she had arrived back home. Mason knew then that everything was going to be all right. Pip was coming back to them.
Pip and Chip cleaned the remnants of breakfast away as Randy and Mason saw Toby to his car. She could see her men shaking the doctor’s hand and wondered if they would be as solicitous as Doc was as they aged. She and Chip had just finished cleaning up as Randy and Mason walked back inside.
“You’re not going in to work today,” Pip stated rather than asked.
“No, baby. We’re staying here with you today,” Mason replied as he stalked toward her. Pip gasped as he pinned her where she stood with the heat of his stare, the sight of his tall, muscular body moving, his muscles rippling beneath his white T-shirt, making her panties damp with need. “How are you really feeling, baby?”
Pip gasped as Mason stopped when the tips of her breasts brushed against his chest.
“Horny,” Pip replied.
* * * *
Mason threw his head back and laughed at her bluntness. When he lowered his head once more, he could see the desire she felt for him and his brothers, but he could also see the mischievousness, as well as her passion for life, back in her eyes. Their little woman was well on the road to recovery. Sure, he knew things couldn’t be roses all the time. What relationship didn’t have its ups and downs from time to time? But he knew it would only make their relationship grow stronger over the years. If only they could get her to admit she loved them, wanted to be with them. They were going to have to convince her they were worth fighting for. The three brothers had planned to ask Pip to marry them today, and they had all been ada
Pip surprised him by taking his hand in her own, leading him to the living room sofa. She placed the palm of her hand against his chest and pushed him down. Mason saw her turn toward Randy and Chip and raise an eyebrow at them in a silent demand to take a seat, stepping away from the sofa so they could. Once Mason and his brothers were seated and she had their avid attention, she took a few deep breaths and began to speak.
“I know you all heard what I said to Toby this morning. I think as a twelve-year-old, I was just too young to cope with the loss of my parents in such a violent way.” Pip paused, took another deep breath, and then continued on.
“I haven’t been really living my life as I should have, and to have to face you three as soon as I came back home was a shock to my system. You began to chip away at the protective walls I had placed around my heart and mind, without even realizing what you were doing. You made me begin to feel again, and it was nearly more than I could bear. So I fought you. Not that it did me any good. You used my body, showing me I could feel again without the excruciating pain I had endured when I lost my parents. You showed me what it was to feel and love again. I thought I would never feel love from anyone ever again.” Pip paused, wiping away the tears from her cheeks. She held up her hand, palm facing Chip as he made to rise from the sofa.
“I haven’t finished yet. Please, I need to get this out. I want, no, I need, to try and explain to you what I was going through. I also never thought I would be brave enough to love anyone after the pain I experienced when I lost my parents. I love you all so much.” Pip stopped to take another deep breath as her voice hitched with emotion. “I have loved you three since the time I knew what love was. That love was of an innocent child, who knew nothing about the depths of true love between a man, or men, and a woman. I will love you all until the day I draw my last breath. Life is too precious to hold yourself back, afraid of what might come in the future. I love you all so much, my heart is so full of love, it’s almost too painful trying to contain the love I feel for you.” Pip paused again. She slowly knelt down in front of the three men, staring at them with moisture-filled eyes.
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