Three of Cups
Ellen stood outside the old mansion and stared at the façade. With a deep breath, she took in the beauty of the tall pillars and shutters worn from years of neglect. It looked haunted, but she knew better.
Hell, she knew lots of things. More than she ever wanted to know.
Ellen opened her palms in front of her and closed her eyes, her face lifted to the highest peak of the mansion. She centered herself. A breeze blew by and ruffled her hair as she smiled. The mansion was exactly as she had always pictured it would be.
There was more magic in the air than any place she’d ever been. She wasn’t the only person with something at stake tonight. The mansion was filled with mystery.
When she’d calmed herself, she opened her eyes. A man stood on the top step in front of her. “You coming in?”
She nodded and scurried up the steps behind him. He held the door open. She’d never seen him before, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t the one she was here to meet. Or … the ones…
The invitation to the Halloween party at Dacre House had come a month ago. To the best of her knowledge, she knew no one at the party. That didn’t matter either. She would know someone very well when she left. Two someones.
The inside of the mansion was also an exact replica of the one in her visions. She smiled as she stared at the cages hanging from the ceiling. That explained her visions. She’d never understood the bars as a child. How could she have?
She’d been only nine when the visions started. Dreams, really. Pleasant imaginings of meeting her Fate here.
Her grandmother had also been a seer. Ellen had spent many evenings during her childhood, sitting with her grandmother and soaking up everything she could from the woman. The psychic ability had skipped a generation. Neither of her parents could see the future. But Ellen could, and this night had always been the most powerful of her visions.
Now, at twenty-five, she’d known the moment she opened the envelope containing the invitation that her destiny had finally arrived.
It wasn’t anything particular on the card that indicated her fate—after all it was simply a tarot card, and half a tarot card at that—but rather it was the feeling the invitation invoked as she handled the mail. There’d been a tingling. The sun had shone brighter. The colors had become sharper around her.
She’d waited impatiently for this day to arrive.
Seeing no one she knew in the ballroom, she wandered around the many rooms, soaking in the atmosphere. People watching. She wasn’t worried about finding whomever she was destined to meet. It would happen in its own time. Instead, she decided to commit every detail to memory, knowing instinctively she’d want to keep the memory of this evening for the rest of her life.
As she leaned against a pillar in the main lobby, Ellen watched a man order a drink. He flirted with the bartender and the bartender flirted back. She smiled. They were testing the waters. When they parted, she felt bereft for the man’s loss. But, it wasn’t meant to be. The man at the bar had a different destiny.
The bartender … oh, God… he would play a part in her destiny. But not yet. She’d stay away from the bar for now. Something was still missing from the puzzle.
It would upset the balance for her to approach.
From where she stood, she watched the bartender as he worked, efficiently filling several orders at once. He was cute. Clean cut. Blue eyes she could see from across the room. Dark hair that fell across his forehead in disarray.
Ellen was paying too much attention to the sexy bartender. When the other man who had just gotten his drink bumped her arm, she glanced up.
He steadied her. “So sorry.”
She smiled and lifted the mask off her face. “I’m Ellen.” She held out her hand.
Jake, whose fate lies with another man. Not the bartender. And that other man is here also.
In fact, Jake came with the other man. Why had he flirted with the bartender?
Ellen made small talk with Jake about the tarot cards. She kept one eye on the bar the entire time.
After Jake walked away, Ellen stared down at her card. The Three of Cups is about family, being in tune with the people around you. Ha. She was in tune with people around her all right. Way too in tune.
Why had she chosen to shake hands with Jake? She knew better than to touch people. It always led to far more information than she wanted.
It had been a spur-of-the-moment decision. You know good and well you were secretly hoping he might know something about the bartender. Don’t even try to deny it.
Ellen spent the next hour wandering. So many things were happening; she was bombarded with too much information.
It seemed everyone in the place managed to brush against her at one point or another.
Was it a coincidence she held the Three of Cups? She chuckled to herself. Nothing was ever a coincidence in her world.
Ellen knew tarot cards as well as any reader. Joyful, superficial social contact. Yep, that described her to a tee. Everything with her was superficial. She couldn’t form deep relationships with anyone. She knew too much.
Besides the sexy man behind the bar, who else was she supposed to meet?
Her dreams had always presented another man. The other man had red hair and green eyes. The lines at the corners of his eyes were from laughing. He was tall and slender, but built. She always fancied him an athlete.
Two-of-Wands Jake left the mansion with a defeated look on his face. Ellen smiled at his retreating back. His destiny was outside, waiting for him. His frown would flip over in no time.
She wandered toward the bar. She wasn’t easily confused, but something was off about this situation. Whoever the second fated player was, he wasn’t in the mansion. And she didn’t have a clear reading on what to do about it. It was time to sidle up to the bartender.
“Hi.” He smiled broadly and leaned on the edge of the counter. “I’ve been watching you.” He winked. “You don’t drink?”
Ellen grinned back. She could smell his breath. Minty. She peeled her mask off her face once again.
He’s been watching me? Her cheeks flushed.
His smile reached his eyes. Did he smile at all the girls like that? Or, did he feel half as much for her as she felt for him with just this first contact?
Ellen swallowed. “I drink. But not when I’m meeting someone.”
She had enough trouble keeping her thoughts her own when she was sober. The last thing she needed was alcohol, especially tonight.
Blue Eyes straightened, his smile fading to a strained grin. “Oh, I didn’t realize you were with someone.” He glanced around as he wiped the counter.
“I’m not.” She sat on a stool, put her elbows on the hard wood, and leaned toward him. Would it be easier to lay her cards on the table, so to speak? The pun made her chuckle inside.
That’s also how often she told people she was a seer. Never.
“I’m Ellen.” She held out her hand for the second time tonight. Hell, for the second time in a year.
“Rafe.” He set his towel down and took her fingers in his.
Warmth spread immediately through her body, like an electric current only stronger. Did he feel it too? She had to cross her legs against the pool of desire that flooded her.
“Have we met?” He tipped his head to one side and narrowed his gaze. “Surely I would remember you.” He reached for her curls and twisted a lock around one finger. “The blond ringlets are distinct. And your eyes… They go on forever.”
Ellen stared into his blue pools and soaked up everything she could about this man. He was compassionate. A true friend. Deeply thoughtful. Intense when working at his easel. Rafe was an artist. A painter.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Ellen reached into her back pocket and pulled out the half of a tarot card. She set it face up on the bar.
Rafe stared at the card and then back at her. He pulled a card from his back pocket, set it gently on the bar, and scooted it with two fingers until it lined up with hers.
There was still a section missing. They each only had about a third.
“I gave the other half to my roommate so he could get in later.” Rafe lifted his gaze to her. “It never occurred to me this silly game would have some truth to it. Jamie had to run tonight before he’d come out.” Rafe rolled his eyes. “All the man does is run. He can’t even pause one night for some fun.”
A runner. She smiled. “It’s okay. He’ll get here when he gets here.” She leaned her chin on her palms.
“An item,” she offered.
Rafe swallowed. “Yeah. How’d you know that?”
“I’m intuitive.” She held his gaze.
“Yeah?” He leaned a hip against the bar and frowned. “And what does your intuition tell you about the three of us?”
She winked. “Let’s just wait and see.” He’d be there soon. “Do you flirt with all the customers, Rafe-who-has-a-boyfriend-at-home?”
Another man walked up behind Rafe just as she finished speaking. He placed a hand on Rafe’s back and leaned in toward Ellen. “Rafe is a habitual flirt. His boy toy knows it. Don’t let him fool you. He’d never cheat.” The man winked and walked away.
Rafe blushed. He lowered his gaze and gave an embarrassed chuckle. “It’s true. I’m outed.”
“Good. I’d hate to think you were a player.”
Rafe shook his head. “You’re an enigma, you know?”
He cocked his head again. “I get off in a few minutes. Maybe we could—”
“Flirt while we wait for your boy toy?”
Rafe laughed, harder this time. “Nothing gets by you, does it?” He reached above the bar to pull down a glass as another customer yelled for a draft beer. Rafe flipped the lever and began to fill the order, his gaze still locked on hers. “For the record, if Jamie hears you call him my boy toy, he’ll have my head. He likes to think it’s the other way around.”
Rafe walked away to deliver the drinks. He didn’t glance back. He knew she’d still be there when he turned around.
What the hell was he doing? Playing with fire, that’s what.
Never. That’s how many times he’d even considered cheating on Jamie. Never.
But the sexy, sleek blond with the long ringlets and green eyes the color of moss had him by the balls. He hadn’t been so stiff since … since he’d first met Jamie in college.
He’d always known he was bi, but it had been a long time since he’d been tempted by a woman. And a tiny pixie of a woman at that. Her feet didn’t even reach the ground as she sat at the bar.
Her slender body was curvy in all the right places. This wasn’t a secret since she wore the sexiest tight-fitting red corset he’d ever seen. It made his balls pull up just thinking about it. Were her nipples as rosy as the shirt? Hell, tiny spaghetti straps barely held the bodice up. Or maybe they were just there for decoration. He wanted to pull down the top and nibble a path through her cleavage.
The black leather skirt she wore with the corset hugged her ass to perfection. And he’d seen his fill. He’d been watching her as she’d wandered past the bar several times.
She’d only spoken to a few people, and seemed to be looking for someone. Had she given up and decided to give the old bartender a shot?
Rafe’s hands shook as he filled the next order, a martini. He’d made ten thousand martinis in his life, but this time he struggled to remember the ingredients.
God, I have it bad.
And Jamie would be there soon. Then what?
Maybe Jamie would like her, too?
What the hell was he thinking? A threesome? Geez. Jamie hadn’t agreed to this.
The partial puzzle of tarot card pieces sat on the bar. It seemed as if there was a spotlight aimed at them. They called to him, as did the sexy blond fingering the edges of the pieces. Every time she glanced at him, Rafe melted a little more. At this rate, he’d come in his pants and not need her or Jamie to help do the deed.
Will he get here already?
Rafe glanced at the entrance to the ballroom as he wandered back toward Ellen. He wasn’t even sure why he wanted his partner to show up. Self-preservation? Maybe if he had Jamie by his side, he could forget Ellen and redirect his attention to the man his heart and body belonged to.
“He’ll be here soon. No worries,” Ellen said as he handed her a glass of water.
He flinched, sloshing the cold liquid over his hand. “Who?”
“Jamie. Your roommate.” She giggled. “Remember him?”
Was this woman a witch?
Rafe filled another order. The bar wasn’t as crowded as it had been earlier, but there were still customers to be served.
When he turned back around, he stopped in his tracks.
There was Jamie, standing so close to Ellen. His head was thrown back in laughter at something she’d said, and he set his hand on her shoulder as he angled his face toward hers.
What the hell? Rafe had been gone two seconds. How had Ellen managed to lure his roommate into her web in that amount of time? Or had it been the other way around? Had Jamie been as attracted to the sexy sprite as Rafe had?
“Rafe.” A voice behind him had him spinning on his heel. “You can go. You’re shift is over.”
He nodded at the boss and ducked under the flip top section of the bar. By the time he made his way around the bar to the place Ellen and Jamie had been, they were both gone. The two pieces of the tarot card were still there, but no sign of Ellen or Jamie.
He grabbed the cards and found a napkin under them with a note on it.
That was all it said. Room four. What the hell?
There were private rooms throughout the mansion. They could be reserved by anyone as long as they were available. With as many activities as were happening tonight, he was surprised either Ellen or Jamie could snag a room with no notice.
He weaved through the crowd. His pace was hampered by the number of attendees. He glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight.
Wait. Rafe froze. People bumped into him when he stopped walking. They pushed and shoved and worked their way around him, but he was too caught up in his thoughts to care.
Memories worked their way to the surface of his mind. Flashes of a day at a county fair when he was nineteen years old. He’d gone to the fair with Jamie. It had been their first date in fact.
They’d laughed, eaten fried food until they were sick, ridden every ride, and then…
“Holy shit.” He spoke out loud, not caring who heard him talking to himself.
Could it be?
Rafe picked up the pace, squeezing between people to get to the hall of private rooms. One. Two. Three.
He was breathing heavily when he reached Four. He paused and set both hands on the door. What would he find on the other side?
He couldn’t believe any of the images running through his mind. This isn’t possible. It can’t be.
There was only one way to find out.
Rafe took a deep breath, fortifying himself, and then turned the knob. He stepped inside the room and shut the door behind him.
“’Bout time you got here. What took you so long?” The sparkle in Jamie’s eyes was mischievous. And then his lover laughed.
God, Rafe loved that laugh. It had gotten him through many days of frustration as he’d tried to make it in the world as an artist.
“Did you finally remember?” Jamie stood and reached a hand toward Rafe, his grin infectious as usual.
Rafe swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Is this real?” He blinked several times to see if the image in front of him would go away.
The room was decorated like a honeymoon suite. The lighting was dim. The round bed in the middle was covered in glossy red silk. Ellen sat in the center, her legs tucked under her to one side.
Jamie stood next to the bed. “We waited for you.”
Rafe licked his lips. “So, it’s true? I’m not dreaming?”
“Nope. It’s true. I knew it the minute I walked in the ballroom.” Jamie stepped forward and took Rafe’s face in his hands. “She’s exactly how I pictured her.”
Rafe whipped his gaze to the woman on the bed. She tipped her head and batted her eyes in a coquettish way. “It’s unconventional. I know. But what can we do?”
“How did you manage to get a private room?” Details. Rafe always worried about the details.
Jamie chuckled again. “I booked it weeks ago.”
“You knew about this? And didn’t tell me?”
“Of course. Didn’t you?” Jamie stepped back. “You did forget. I’m shocked. Rafe—the king of organization—forgot about November 1, 2013.”
“It’s not that I forgot. It’s just that I didn’t heed the words of some old fortune teller at a county fair.” He glanced at Ellen. She was exactly what the seer had described all those years ago.
He could hear the woman’s crackly voice in his mind as though it were yesterday. “She’ll be just a pixie of a thing, but you’ll know her immediately.” The woman had closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair with her palms open on the table as she spoke. “She’ll be wearing a red corset, much too tight for her figure mind you, and a black leather skirt. But you won’t notice those details right off. No, what you’ll see first is her glorious blond curls and then her deep green eyes.”
Rafe’s jaw fell open as he remembered the woman’s words. “Be good to her, gentlemen. She’s my granddaughter.”
“It’s you.” He stared at Ellen as he approached. “How did I miss this?”
“Because you’re normal,” she teased. “Normal people don’t remember the words of a fortune teller for years and years. It’s okay.”
“I have the same skills as my grandmother. I knew this night would come. I didn’t know when as you did. She never gave me a date. But I recognized the time had come the moment I received the invitation.” Ellen bit her lower lip.
Rafe climbed onto the bed and moved to the center on his knees. When he reached her, he took her face in his hands and kissed her on the lips. The kiss started out gentle, soft. He just meant to taste her. Hell, he’d not been able to stop himself. He’d been dying to have her lips on his since she walked into the mansion.
As he claimed her mouth, Jamie crawled behind Ellen and stroked her shoulders. “So soft. Like porcelain.”
Rafe broke the kiss. He set his forehead on hers. “Where did you come from?”
He had the sensation she’d materialized from thin air.
“I live in an apartment on the east side of town. I work for a private investigator.” She shrugged. “It pays the bills.”
“You mean you find people? You … you use your … powers or whatever to find people.”
She nodded, that lower lip making its way back between her teeth. He wanted to bite that lip, and he would, as soon as he got this damn corset off her so he could see more of her.
Jamie must have had the same idea, because his head was bent behind her, messing with the ties. “How on earth did you get this thing on?” he asked.
Ellen giggled. “It wasn’t easy.” She wiggled under Jamie’s fingers, her breasts bouncing inside the front cups.
“This is so strange, but I feel I need you. I need to … claim you in some way. Jamie?” Rafe glanced at his partner.
“Absolutely, man. The sooner the better… There.” He pulled the last of the leather laces free of the holes and the red silk bodice fell away to reveal the most glorious tits Rafe had ever seen.
He cupped them in his hands. When he stroked his thumbs over the rosy nipples—just as he’d imagined them—they stiffened. Ellen moaned.
“Are you okay with this?” He paused, his thumbs still grazing her skin.
She let her head fall back against Jamie’s chest as his partner’s hands massaged their way around her shoulders. “I’ve waited my entire life for this night,” she murmured. “I’ve never been more ready for anything.”
Jamie kissed her temple. “Did your grandmother tell you specifically what we would do to you?” He lifted his gaze and raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, hell no.” She giggled again. “She only got me in the door. The rest was up to me.”
Rafe had a thought. He swallowed. “But she knows. She knows even now what we’re doing to her granddaughter.” That didn’t set well with him.
“She might have, but we’ll never know. She died four years ago.” Ellen arched her chest toward Rafe and he squeezed her breasts with both hands before pinching her nipples between his fingers.
Thank God. No, he didn’t mean to thank God that her grandmother was dead. You doofus. Just that she wasn’t around to bear witness to her prediction.
“Pull her skirt off.” Jamie lifted her tiny frame, and Rafe swung her legs toward the front and tugged on the leather until it slipped free.
The scrap of red between her thighs was hardly enough material to be considered a thong. Thin silk strips hugged her shapely hips.
Her head fell back into Jamie’s lap as Rafe spread her legs and stroked her pussy through the edges of the thong.
Ellen moaned, the sweet sound music to his ears. He wanted to hear that sound every day and night for the rest of his life.
He glanced at Jamie who’d wrapped his palms around her luscious breasts and now flicked his fingers over her erect nipples. “How’d we get so lucky?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not about to question Fate.” Jamie grinned and then bent his head to take a nipple into his mouth.
Rafe squirmed out of his clothes, tossing them to the side. He’d gone commando tonight. Fate.
“I’m so hard, I’m gonna come just looking at you.” He stared at Ellen’s pussy and then yanked the thong from her body. It didn’t take much effort to break the delicate strip of silk. “I’ll buy you another.”
She groaned. When he looked at her face, he found her eyes half-lidded. Her cheeks were flushed a deep red to match the silk sheets, the bodice of her corset, and the thong. Red was the color of the evening.
Rafe held her gaze as he stroked a finger through her pussy. “So wet.” He reached inside her and drew out more of the moisture. “So fucking tight.”
She lifted her hips. “Stop teasing. I’ve been hot for you for hours.”
He chuckled. “Hang on. We’ll get there. No rush. We have our entire lives.” He grasped her thighs with both hands and spread her wider. Her pussy was swollen and pink. He longed to taste her.
“Yes. We do.” She stared at him, squirming against his hands, and then looked at Jamie. “All three of us. Why are you still dressed?” She glanced up and down his frame.
Jamie whipped his shirt over his head. “Yes, ma’am.” He grinned huge as he unzipped his jeans and let his cock pop out.
Rafe licked his lips. He loved that cock, had enjoyed loving it for eight years. And now he would share it with this sexy woman between them. “Come here, Jamie.”
Jamie crawled toward Rafe on his knees. When he stopped, Rafe released Ellen to wrap his palm around Jamie’s cock. With his other hand, he stroked through Ellen’s folds. Rafe glanced back and forth at both of them. They each held an expression of rapture under his touch, their eyes slits, their lips separated, their cheeks red.
“Stop teasing. I need you both.” Ellen bucked again, digging her heels into the mattress. She grabbed Jamie’s wrist with her tiny hand and tugged. She licked her lips as she pulled Jamie toward her. She turned her head to one side and licked the tip of Jamie’s cock.
It was the hottest thing Rafe had ever seen. Who knew he’d share Jamie with a woman in this lifetime?
“Please, Rafe, fuck me,” she begged just before she sucked his partner into her mouth.
Rafe grabbed a giant pillow and stuffed it under Ellen’s hips. He wanted her writhing beneath him before he took her. With one hand he held her open. With the other, he circled her clit until she arched upward. Holding his cock in his hand, he stroked the tip through her folds. She was ready. She opened her thighs wider and lifted her hips, silently begging him to enter her.
Shit. Protection. He grabbed his jeans and struggled with shaky hands to extract a condom from the pocket. The two pieces of the tarot card fell out. He smiled and left them lying next to him on the mattress.
Seconds later, he was sheathed and ready. He lowered his torso over her and pressed into her warmth.
God. Her tight, hot pussy clenched around his length. Her face looked so fucking sexy when he entered her, and her eyes widened as she moaned around Jamie’s cock.
Jamie groaned and held himself above her face with his hands braced on each side of her head. “I’m gonna come.”
“Go for it.” Rafe pulled out of her tightness and then eased back in. It felt too good. He didn’t want to rush it. His balls had drawn up tight against his body before he’d even entered. “I’m so fucking close.”
He gritted his teeth and tried to hold back the orgasm, but it was no use. He reached between their bodies and stroked Ellen’s clit. Her body stiffened, her mouth still sucking Jamie, and her hips arched off the bed as her pussy gripped his cock and pulsed around him.
Rafe hadn’t had a chance against that visual or the feel of her coming on his cock. He pushed himself into her to the hilt and let go, crashing over the edge until his vision blurred.
From the noises coming from Jamie, he knew his partner had also climaxed.
Breathing heavily, they all collapsed in a row on the bed. Rafe wrapped his leg over Ellen’s body on one side and Jamie did the same from the other.
When Jamie leaned over Ellen to take Rafe’s lips in a kiss, his eyes went huge. After a quick peck on Rafe’s mouth, Jamie scrambled to grab his pants.
“What’s…” Ellen’s word hung in the air.
Rafe merely smiled.
From the pocket of his pants, Jamie pulled out his piece of the tarot card and set it on Ellen’s flat belly. Rafe grabbed the other two pieces from behind him and added them to Jamie’s.
“A perfect fit,” he declared. “Just like us.”