Authors: Virginia Nelson
Tags: #Friends to Lovers;Ménage & Multiples;Small Town;Plus-Size Heroine
When two delicious men are on the menu, skip the appetizer and go straight to dessert.
Watkin’s Pond, Book 3
Carolyn Bannister lives the sweet life as co-owner and operator of a bakery with her two best friends. Small towns being what they are, though, she finds herself at a party one night, slinging back shots while trying to ignore the woman wrapped around her ex.
Grady Brooks and Ben Shipman have always taken care of their longtime buddy, and tonight is no different. Though they’ve shared women in the past, they never considered getting sexually involved with Carrie—at least not out loud. Why not get back at her douche of an ex by playing into the longtime rumors about the three of them being involved in a relationship?
Any initial hesitation goes up in smoke when faked kisses get all too real. Though they break apart, everything has changed. Now neither Grady nor Ben can pretend they don’t want the one woman they’ve always loved.
But in this gossip-ridden town, it’s not as if the three of them can openly date. Or…can they?
Warning: Contains two men and one woman up to their apron strings in repressed sexual tension. Throw in battery-assisted phone sex, and something’s definitely rising. Not all the decadent treats in this story are edible, but they’re guaranteed piping-hot—and calorie free. “Batter” up!
Must Love Cakes
For Bon Jovi
The popcorn tasted stale, the beer flat, and the movie could win an award for worst CGI in the history of mankind, but Ben watched it sideways anyway. “Did the ground dissolve under her feet as she was running, but neither she nor anyone else noticed, or did I blink past the explanation of that one?”
“I don’t think there was an explanation.” Grady spoke from somewhere above. “Remind me who picked this movie again, because they never get to pick another movie for movie night. They forfeit their right for making this thing something I can’t unsee, no matter how much brain bleach I apply, and for lowering my IQ at the same time.”
Carrie shifted her legs, dislodging Ben’s head, and the smack Ben heard suggested she’d hit Grady. “I picked it, asshole. I have a serious girl-crush on that actress and this is her early work. If you support an artist…”
Carrie trailed off, so Ben rolled to look up at her. From this angle, she was all tits, hair and chin. “You watch their crap stuff too?”
Grady laughed and Carrie dug her fingers into Ben’s side, tickling him mercilessly. He hated to be tickled, but she hated when he razzed her about movies, so it was a fair move. Grady smacked them both with pillows, attempting to break them apart. It worked, but they both turned their attention to tickling him instead.
Breathless, they all sagged back onto the couch. “So, you have a date with your handsome prince charming tomorrow, right? Friday night date night or some other trite bullshit commercial romance ritual, if I remember correctly. We should go over invoices before I head home, not that I’m not dying to see how this movie ends, unless you both want to do it in the office tomorrow.”
Grady sighed. “Or we could skip it altogether. Have I mentioned my loathing for invoices?”
The three of them ran a bakery together, had for a few years now, something which only cemented their longtime friendship. Back when they were kids, it was them against the world—a truth which had gotten them through death, depression and even divorce throughout the intervening years. The big Ds weren’t made easier because of their tight friendship, but they at least became survivable. Carrie was the brilliant one in the kitchen, rummaging through old family recipes to come up with her own twists on trusted family favorites, which set them apart from their competitors. Grady laid on the charm, handling a lot of their marketing with almost accidental grace, since there was something about him that always drew people in. Which left the accounting to Ben, something he’d have pointed out was a far cry from his actual life plans, if it didn’t satisfy him so much to do it.
Out of the three of them, he’d been the worst at math, yet he found he possessed a gift for figures when it mattered. It turned out real-life application of number crunching and the use of Excel had very little to do with the grade school version of the same practice, so he pleased himself more often than not with his skills, shocked at how much he liked seeing the columns match up…and the fact he never had to show his work.
“It needs to be done, is all I’m saying, so we can do it here, over stale beer, or in the office where we need to at least pretend a semblance of professionalism.” They’d long held the tradition of crunching numbers on Thursday evenings over beer and a movie, since it wasn’t fun for any of them in the beginning, not that it kept them from bitching when he turned the conversation that direction. Back when the goal was to simply not end the year in the red, the beer helped soothe the fear that they’d bit off more than they could chew. Now, with the business solvent, it made the mundane work more fun and reminded them all where they’d come from.
And where they planned to go.
Resting his head back on Carrie’s knee, Ben inhaled the scent of her. If the rest of the world outside blew up with apocalyptic force, he could be okay with them being the last three people left alive on the earth. Sure, he’d mourn the loss of some people, but his whole universe sat on this couch. They’d been his friends, his family, his salvation when he wasn’t sure which way was up.
Her fingers dug into his scalp, combing through his hair in an almost distracted way. Carrie might not mean to tempt him with her gentle ministrations, but lately…
He’d been tempted. He wasn’t a poacher, or he’d never considered himself one before, but her boyfriend was an asshole. Besides, no one Carrie dated would ever love her as much as he and Grady did. Sparing a look at his other best friend, he saw the way Grady’s jaw tightened as he leaned his head on her shoulder. He sensed he wasn’t the only one who began to ask himself the tough questions, the
“Well, you’ll both have to let me up if we’re crunching numbers. I’m going to need another beer to face the paint costs. Did we really need a new sign? I mean, I can’t be the only one who wonders these things.” Carrie punctuated her question by popping him gently in the forehead with the palm of her hand. “Move it, Bennie-boy.”
Rolling and groaning in complaint, Ben sat up and leaned against the back of the couch. “Grab me one too, since I’m pretty sure Grady is going to cry like a baby when I tell him how much that new distributor is costing us.”
Once she left the room, Grady’s head swiveled toward him. “She didn’t answer about date night because rumor has it there’s trouble in paradise.” Grady waggled his brows.
“No way. I thought she was really happy with him.” His response didn’t give away, he thought, the tiny surge of pleasure the idea of her single brought him. He hadn’t liked her asshole boyfriend and he didn’t mind the idea of him and Grady having her to themselves again, not one little bit.
“Yeah, you can save the bullshit for her. I’m thrilled the fucker is gone too. Manda told me, since she heard a rumor he’s been cheating,” Grady said, then chugged his beer. Raising his voice, he added, “Snag me another one too, Care-bear?”
“No problem! I’m making nachos too, if no one minds?”
“Sounds great,” Grady answered. Turning back to Ben, he snorted. “She burns nachos. I hate them from the microwave.”
Focusing his eyes on the lame movie, Ben didn’t answer right away. His mind was too busy playing out a hundred different fantasies featuring their best friend naked to immediately shift gears. “Then go make the nachos yourself,” he finally muttered. If he were being totally honest, fantasizing about Carrie was almost as routine as beer and bills on Thursdays. Lord knew he’d been practicing that particular hobby for about as long as he could remember, and he’d always been pretty good at ignoring his response to her touch…but he’d found it harder and harder to lock down his reactions to her touch now.
“Someone has his nuts in a knot. Ben, I’ve told you before, I think we should flat-out talk to her. Tell her how we feel and—”
Ben cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Look, any kinky shit we got into before was different. Sharing a woman? Yeah, that’s hot as fuck, but she’s not just a woman for us to screw. She’s our friend, our family, and we love her so—”
Grady snagged his shirt, tugging him forward so they were eye to eye. “If you were anyone else, I’d clock you for that little speech alone. Luckily, I know you’re aware that I love her as much as you do, and nothing that happened between us would be so simple as a fuck.”
Swallowing hard, Ben shrugged off Grady’s grip. “Which is why we can’t risk it. She’s too important. We can’t mess this up.”
Grady grumbled, but sat back on the couch as Carrie entered with a platter of nachos and three beers in her fist. “What are you two bickering about?”
“Sex,” Grady answered easily, his charming smile revealing none of their conflict from moments before. “We’re arguing over who gets to be on top when we turn you into the creamy center of our cookie sandwich.”
Licking her lips, Carrie carefully juggled to set everything down without dumping the nachos. “Yeah, well I was just fantasizing about the same thing. Har-de-har-har, you are both hilarious. That said, here’s beers, and hit me with your worst, Ben. How bad are the numbers?”
Dropping the conversation as they had so many times in the past, Ben reached for his laptop to show them. One of these days, they’d all stop joking about it and end up tangled naked in a pile. He couldn’t stop the questions from repeating in his head, even if he couldn’t bring himself to ask them aloud.
Could they really do this? Could fantasy ever become reality? In his experience, dreams were like soap bubbles, colorful and lovely but easily destroyed when breathed to life. Even knowing that, he couldn’t shake the tiny, niggling voice which asked if they could have something beyond his hopes and wishes and not ruin their friendship along the way.
But those were worries for another day. “Let’s start with the paint…”
Lying on her back, Carrie pointed her toes at the ceiling. The annoying voice coming from her laptop told her to breathe deeply, to find her center.
“Find my center?” she answered the video. Her mind, unhelpfully, didn’t seem to want to empty of all thoughts and find peace in the sound of waves on a beach overlaid with the occasional directions. The video online said find
and what she heard, instead, was a repeat of Grady’s voice from beer-and-bill night.
We’re arguing over who gets to be on top when we turn you into the creamy center of our cookie sandwich.
Sure, he’d been joking, but the idea of being in between her two best friends ignited a veritable firestorm of naughty thoughts—ones which both men would likely be appalled at if she ever admitted to them. The video told her to place her legs back on the floor. She complied, biting her lip and wondering what they would say if she told them to go ahead, bring it. If she crawled in Grady’s lap and bit his lip instead of her own, then pulled off her shirt in blatant sexual invitation.
Not that she would. Not in a million years.
But what if…?
Her phone chirped, advising of an incoming text, and she blew out a breath. “Focus on your center,” she advised herself. “Ignore the phone. Which you should have silenced. But whatever, no guilt resides here. Only peace. Find peace. Find your center.”
The phone didn’t care that she tried to find peace with herself and her overactive lust, it simply chirped again. The voice on the video advised she lift her hips, raising them toward the sun as if a thread attached through her stomach to the sky. She obeyed, thinking the position would be fabulous if she ever managed to become the center of their cookie sandwich. And damn, what a sandwich that would be.
“Shut up, phone. Finding peace here.”
But it wouldn’t. Whoever texted obviously wanted to talk now, based on the continued incoming chirps. Besides, the video wasn’t helping her forget the dream she’d had the night before.
About sex. With her best friends. While she was in another relationship, for God’s sake. She should be ashamed of herself.
Not imagining how yoga positions would be fun in threesome sex. Snagging her phone, she swiped it awake and did manage a few seconds of guilt. Freddie, her boyfriend, had sent her six texts according to the screen. Which was pretty weird in and of itself. He usually wasn’t a big texter, explaining to her repeatedly the flaws of cell phones and how they kept people apart rather than connected.
Opening the first, she read,
We shuld talk
The second said,
Gritting her teeth, she reminded herself that he wasn’t into books like her, which was fine and it didn’t mean he’d tried to get on her nerves with his spelling. Not intentionally, anyway. They didn’t have to have a lot of things in common for their relationship to work. He liked her, they sometimes had okay times together…and she liked him. He knew she hated being called Carolyn, but who could blame him for wanting her to behave with a modicum of maturity? She should probably go by Carolyn instead…
Even if it kind of made her twitch.
The third said,
RU ignoring me?
Scowling at the phone, she considered dumping it in her purse on silent. She didn’t have to answer him the moment he texted, right? Just because he didn’t usually text didn’t mean she should drop everything the moment he decided to send her a message.
Not one to put things off, she scanned the fourth message.
U know how I feel abt texting.
“Whatever, butthead.” Her earlier guilt dissolved a little with her increasing annoyance. He texted her and then seriously complained because she hadn’t texted back?
The fifth read,
I didn’t want to do this by text.
But I think we shld break up.
Tapping out an answer, she spoke to the video, which still babbled about finding her center. “That seems a bit of an overreaction to me not answering your text instantly, don’t you think? I was busy, finding my goddamned center.”
He answered fast,
Not about that.
“Is he seriously breaking up with me via text?” Dialing her best female friend, Carrie put the call on speaker while it rang and tapped back an answer to Freddie.
So what is it about?
“Hello?” Manda Watkin answered on the second ring. “Hang on one sec, doll. That writer is in the store. He’s telling off Brax and this is flipping comedy gold.”
“Oh, what else is new? We need to talk now. I think Freddie just dumped me by text message.” Carrie searched for sadness, for the place inside which would be hurt by his actions, but she honestly felt more surprised than bummed. “Which is weird on more levels than I can even begin to explain…”
A loud crash sounded in the background from Manda’s end. “He just threw a tub of nuts and bolts on the floor. Hang on, I’m diving in the back. No way do I want to clean that up anyway. So, uh, Freddie say why he wants to break up?”
“Not yet. Hang on, he just answered me.” Opening the message, she read out loud, “
I am not happy. I need more than you have to offer. We don’t work…physically.
I’m not sure I want to know what he means there.”
“Uh, I’ve told you I thought he was cheating. You didn’t believe me.”