Carly Morgan clutched the crumpled scrap of paper tightly, trying to spread it out on the steering wheel and get rid of the creases enough to make it readable. The hastily scrawled note had been virtually illegible when the handsome stranger had first given it to her and now, nearly a whole year later, faded, worn and torn after so long stuffed in the back of her wallet, it was next to impossible to read. Growling in frustration, she threw it on the floor.
This was the road—it had to be. The signpost had long gone and the tarseal had turned to gravel ages ago. It was the only road around for miles. Narrow and winding. Leading to the middle of nowhere.
She could distinctly remember the turn left at the fork and head for the hills instruction spoken in that low, rumbly tone that even now, months later, made her stomach clench. This was the only fork in the road she’d come to in the better part of an hour and behind it were stunning hills. Foothills of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, with the snow-capped peaks of the mountains themselves beyond, towering above the valley. They were majestic, beautiful. It was gorgeous countryside out here, even if it was in the middle of nowhere.
Her mind went back to last year, when she’d first met her handsome saviours. She’d been desperate, waiting on the side of the deserted road for hours. The GPS she’d been following had taken her on this shortcut that really wasn’t, there was no cell phone coverage, and she’d discovered, too late, that her brand-new work car didn’t have a jack. She’d been beginning to wonder if she’d have to spend the night there. She’d spent the night in worse places and at least there was a stunning view.
The road had been so deserted that when the dust cloud thrown up by the battered red Ute with the huge wheels had slowly got bigger and bigger, she’d thought she was seeing things. Until she’d heard the rumble of the engine getting closer and closer. It had pulled up behind her and three big men, her heroes, had gotten out. Brothers, from Ryan’s Peak Station back in the hills. They’d all been tall, broad-shouldered, lean and muscular, and ruggedly handsome, and they’d made short work of changing her tyre. She’d stood on the side of the road and chatted to them as they worked, and casually mentioned that she wouldn’t mind seeing a high country station one day. “It must be so romantic!” she’d commented dreamily. They’d chuckled at that, all of them, but hadn’t corrected her. One of them, a part-Maori man, the tallest of the three, had invited her to the local pub with them for a drink, but she’d politely declined. She had to carry on, she’d said. She’d wasted enough time, stuck out here in the middle of nowhere; she wanted to be back in the city before dark. So they’d gone on without her, but not before another one of them had pressed a piece of paper into her hand.
“Here,” he’d told her. “How to find us.” The wink he’d given her had turned her insides to mush and she’d regretted her hasty refusal to have a drink with them, but before she could change her mind he’d gotten back into the Ute and they’d roared off, dust flying up behind them, and she’d been all alone once more.
“This has to be it,” she murmured to herself, taking the left fork. “Oh, well, here goes nothing.”
As well as being so dusty that tiny particles of dirt came in through the vents and stuck to her face and hair, the road was potholed and rutted. Her sedan wasn’t small, but it didn’t have big wheels like the Ute she remembered, and it jolted and bumped. She slowed to a crawl. “Damn, this road is awful!” she muttered, gripping the steering wheel tighter to navigate around the holes.
The road seemed to go on forever. What was it the barely readable directions said? 12ks? Surely she’d driven that far? She glanced down at the speedo: bang on snail’s pace. It would take a fair while to drive twelve kilometres at that speed.
She kept going.
And then she stopped, amazed. Just over the brow of the hill, to the right, the valley opened up to the most spectacular view she’d ever seen. A waterfall crashed over a cliff to splash into a little pool below. A stream meandered along the valley floor. Cattle were scattered along the river flats. Green grazing gave way to crops further back, with the hills turning into tussock beyond that. To her left the Southern Alps loomed, the snow-capped mountains standing forbidding and powerful. She was stunned. She’d lived in New Zealand her whole life. How had she not known places like this existed?
Forcing her eyes back to the road, she carried on. It couldn’t be much further now, surely?
Just around the next bend a narrow driveway went off to the left. Ryan’s Peak Station, according to the wooden sign standing tall and proud in the paddock. Was this it? It had to be! Butterflies in her tummy tried to make their escape as she steered the car over the cattle stop, bracing herself for the bumpy rumble. What was she going to do if this wasn’t the place? What if it turned out she’d come all this way for nothing?
Her clammy palms slipped on the steering wheel, but there was nothing she could do but keep on driving. Fences on either side of the driveway made it impossible to turn around and she wasn’t much chop at backing. Never had been. As long as she was going forward, she was a perfectly fine driver. But backwards… That had never made sense to her. And she certainly wasn’t going to attempt reversing over the cattle stop. Not when there were concrete barriers on either side just sitting there, waiting for her to hit. No. She’d rather take her chances with what was at the end of the driveway. She held her breath as she inched forward.
There were trees up ahead. The roof of a house was just visible through the leaves. On this side stood a huge shed, a corrugated iron monstrosity that had no doors and appeared to house myriad agricultural equipment. She recognised a tractor, but that was about it. Everything else inside was completely foreign to her. She swallowed nervously. She was so far out of her depth here. Why had she even come? What made her think they would even remember her? They probably rescued dozens of damsels in distress from off the side of the road.
Pulling up in front of the shed, she put the car into neutral and killed the engine. A little yappy dog, fox terrier by the looks of things, darted out of the shed, alerting the world to her arrival in the noisy way only dogs can. A part-Maori man, as tall and striking looking as she remembered, appeared through a gap in the trees before she’d even opened the door. He stood there with his arms crossed, just looking at her. Glaring, almost. A direct challenge in his dark eyes, daring her to get out of the car and face him, but at the same time demanding that she turn around and go back from whence she came.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped out. There was a shrill whistle and the little dog left his sniffing of her car, scurrying back to the security of the shed.
“We’re not selling.” His voice was harsh, cold. Nothing like the carefree rumble she remembered on the side of the road.
She flashed him a smile. “I’m not buying.”
“So why are you here?”
Two more men appeared; one came from behind him, through the gap in the trees, presumably, and the other one came out of the huge shed, the little dog at his heels. He wore his blue overalls as pants, the top half hanging down around his waist, the sleeves tied loosely around him, a singlet that had possibly once been white, but was now stained mostly grey, the only thing covering his broad chest. His shoulders were huge, biceps well defined. Grease was smeared across his face. Even from a distance she could see the dirt in his scruffy blond hair. He was a mess. But her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. He was a mighty fine specimen of manhood. He rested his hand up on the side of the shed and leaned against it, a casual stance that made the muscles in his arm flex. She felt his eyes on her, looking her up and down. He winked, a half-smile creeping slowly across his clean-shaven but very grubby face. There was a dimple right in the middle of his chin.
She racked her brain, trying to remember his name, all of their names. They’d all introduced themselves; they’d had quite a chat on the side of the dusty road, all those months ago. Clearly, a lot had happened since then. For all of them, her included.
The man at the back stepped forward. Josh. She remembered his slight limp. Although still a good six feet tall, he was the shortest of the three men, the leanest, a bit finer built. The grin he flashed her suggested he knew exactly who she was, and perhaps even why she’d come.
“I remember you,” he said simply. “The lady from the side of the road. Last year. We were on our way to the pub. A Friday night.”
A small tremor went through her as their eyes locked. She smiled. “That’s right.”
Josh pushed past the taller man blocking his way, rather roughly, she thought, using his shoulder as a bulldozer with just a bit too much force. He strode forward, stopped a bit too far away from her, extended his hand.
She had to step forward to shake it. His hand enclosed around hers, squeezed, held on just a fraction too long. She remembered his eyes, a startling blue. She couldn’t tear her gaze away.
“I wondered if we’d ever see you again.” His voice rumbled over her, as reassuring now as it had been then. There was a soft gentleness lurking in the rich baritone, a tender quality that immediately put her at ease and made her feel safe.
“Carly! That’s your name, isn’t it?” The man who’d spoken first, the one who’d been so keen to make sure she knew Ryan’s Peak wasn’t for sale, stepped forward. Now that he knew that she wasn’t in the market for the property his bearing was relaxed, far less imposing and intimidating than it had been at first. He was still a big man, tall, broad, muscular, and he set her heart racing just with his looks and his sheer physical presence.
He stuck out his hand. “I’m Davo.”
The strength of his grip, the calluses on the base of his fingers, the leathery texture of his rough palm as his hand closed around hers, all confirmed the first impression she had of him. This man meant business.
The last man let go of the shed and came over too. Close up, he was even more handsome than what she remembered. And even grubbier than she’d first thought.
“I’m Mike,” he said. Like the men before him he reached out to shake hands with her, glanced down at his grease-covered palm, wiped it on the leg of his overalls, inspected it, then let it drop to his side with a sheepish grin that made her insides squirm with lust. “I’m the one who actually changed your tyre.”
Without moving, she returned his grin. “I remember. You were a bit cleaner then, though.” She cocked her head to the side and looked at him, taking in the dirt and grease, the sculpted muscles, the fine-looking body that she just knew was underneath the clothes. “From memory, you scrubbed up alright.”
He swept both hands up and down his body before winking rakishly. “Are you saying there’s something wrong with the way I look now?”
Carly hesitated, one eyebrow raised. “Well… you’re not exactly clean, are you?”
He shrugged. “Clean’s overrated.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “Dirty does look good on you.”
Mike chuckled, a husky, throaty laugh that made her laugh even more. “You sound like our kind of girl.” He waved toward the gap in the trees. “Come inside, have a beer. It’s nearly knock-off time anyway.”
Nursing her beer, Carly stood at the huge sash window with the colourful stained glass at the top, looking out over the lawn. It was much bigger than she’d expected it would be, and the garden edging it looked a bit rundown and neglected now, but had clearly been well loved for many years. Beyond the lawn were green paddocks and beyond that, the mountains. Peaceful. Serene. Perfect for writing her grandma’s memoir that she’d been dreaming of doing for years. Perfect for healing. If only they would let her stay…
“So.” It was Josh who spoke, his startling blue gaze looking her up and down. “We made quite an impression on you, too, huh?” He winked, sending a bolt of electricity shooting through her. Impression was an understatement. Truthfully, she’d tried so hard to force the men from her mind. She’d gotten on with her life in the city, carried on with her job as top sales rep for a multinational corporation, led an active social life. But the whole time, the ruggedly handsome men she’d met on the side of the road stayed there in the back of her mind, just out of reach, unsettling her busy city life. And then when everything had turned on its head, leaving her broken, bruised, and destroyed, she knew this place, its remoteness and solitude, would be perfect to help her heal.
She felt herself blush, just slightly, at Josh’s words. They had made an impression on her, absolutely! There was no denying that.
“Well, you obviously kept those directions and came here specially. With us being this far off the beaten track it’s not like you were just passing through,” he pointed out.
“You got me,” she admitted. She turned to focus on the men, leaning back against the solid wooden windowsill. “I got made redundant at my job and I just thought…” How much should she actually tell them? She didn’t want to lie, but she couldn’t tell them the truth. Not yet. Maybe not ever. She took a deep breath. “I thought this would be the perfect place to do something I’ve wanted to do for years—write my great-grandmother’s memoir. It’s beautiful here, peaceful… perfect.” It wasn’t a lie—she did want to write the memoir. But most important, it gave her a cover for the memories she was trying to escape from. Something to focus on, to really throw herself into, might silence the flashbacks that tormented her soul.
“Ah. You want to use us,” Mike piped up.
“No!” she denied quickly, hotly.
“Maybe we like being used?” Davo said, innuendo heavily lacing his tone.
Her face felt hot. She’d been blushing before, but now… spasms rocked her pussy at Davo’s words. Now blushing was an understatement. If her face got any hotter, she’d burst into flames.
“I do find it slightly concerning that you came all the way out here by yourself.”
At Josh’s stern tone, Carly glanced up at him. He had one eyebrow raised in a frown of disapproval, his arms folded across his chest. Her heart skipped a beat.
“So do I,” Mike told her. “It was a very reckless, dangerous choice you made, coming all this way by yourself. There’s no cell phone coverage, you have no way of calling for help if you need to.” He glowered down at her fiercely, his arms-folded-against-his-chest stance mirroring Josh. She shrank back slightly under his stern stare.
“How did you know we aren’t axe murderers?” Davo growled, his deep, rumbly voice clearly conveying his displeasure. “Or rapists, or some other unsavoury characters?”
“I met you,” Carly pointed out, lifting her chin defiantly, bravely looking each one of the men in the eye. “I would have known, on the side of the road, if you weren’t good men. My instincts about that sort of thing are never wrong.”
“I see.” Davo stepped closer to Josh and Mike and crossed his arms across his chest too, forming a bulky, masculine barrier in the middle of the room, just a few steps away from her. All three men fixed their eyes on her, their expressions stern. They oozed alpha male dominance. “So what are they telling you now?” Davo asked.
Carly’s heart pounded. She opened her mouth. Closed it again. The air was too thick to breathe; she couldn’t form words. The line of men directly in front of her heightened all her senses, set her nerve endings on fire. They were so hot. All of them. Individually, they were sexy men. But together, united in their stern unhappiness about her recklessness, they were like molten lava. An avalanche of deliciousness she couldn’t tear her eyes away from.
Then she remembered what, exactly, had brought her here in the first place. The cute grin, the rakish wink, as he’d handed her the hastily scrawled note. The sexy voice that had washed over her as he’d pressed the scrap of paper to her palm, closed her fingers around it. “Here. How to find us.” The message had been clear.
“Hang on a minute.” Her hands automatically went to her hips, glaring at each of the men in turn, before pointing at Josh. “You were the one who gave me that note. Instructions on how to find you. Your intentions were very clear. And now you have the audacity to scold me for following directions?” She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
The line of men took a step forward, their folded arms still pressed against their broad chests. The sinewy forearms, rippling muscles, now that much closer to her. She swallowed a lungful of heavy air. They were intimidating, imposing. But she wasn’t cowed. She’d worked in sales for too long to back down easily.
“Audacity has nothing to do with it, young lady,” Josh rumbled.
“It’s your safety we’re concerned about,” Mike added. “You should have brought someone with you, at the very least. For safety.”
“You were reckless, darlin’,” Davo growled. “And recklessness deserves a scolding.”
The ‘young lady’ bit got her hackles up, but it made her tummy flip in excitement at the same time. Her nipples suddenly felt too sensitive against the soft fabric of her bra. The air around her was electric.
Back and forth they went, taking turns to scold her some more. She tuned out their words, but their stance and their stern tones made her weak in the knees and her legs turn to jelly. Heat shot to her core.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Carly?”
“I… uh…” She didn’t even know who spoke, but the question remained unanswered, lingering between them in the heavy air. She didn’t have anything to say for herself. She didn’t have anything to say at all. And even if she did, her mouth was too dry to form the words. Her spine tingled. Her pussy ached with need. These incredibly sexy, dominant men were unlike any other men she’d ever encountered in her entire life. They were way outside of her experience of almost a decade in the business world—and she’d met thousands of people in that time. These men were something else. They left her speechless, powerless, and wanting.
“Well?” Josh demanded. “We’re waiting.”
She shook her head, looked at the floor. She wished it would open up and swallow her whole, right then. They made her feel like a small, naughty child. But at the same time, they turned her on so much. Could they notice her arousal? She hoped not. How embarrassing! She wanted to leave, but she wanted more at the same time. It didn’t make any sense. None of this did. She was totally confused.
“I don’t know,” she whispered. She held her breath. The room was still, the tick-tock of the ancient grandfather clock in the corner the only sound.
“Okay, let me ask you another question.” Josh again. “You didn’t even ring, you just rocked up. By yourself.” He glared at her as he said the last two words. “How did you know we would even be here? And what would you have done if we weren’t?”
Finally, a question she could answer. Taking a deep breath, she straightened up, pulled back her shoulders, lifted her chin defiantly, and looked Josh straight in the eye. “Easy,” she said. “I couldn’t read the phone number, the paper got all creased in my wallet and it was virtually illegible. But I couldn’t get you guys out of my mind. I just had to come. So I took the risk. Yes, silly, I know—I’ve just spent the last several minutes listening to you all explaining to me how silly it was—but I had to do it. I couldn’t not! If you weren’t here, I would have just turned around and left again.” She shrugged, trying to portray how much she really wouldn’t have cared if this turned out to be a wasted trip. “No big deal. My flatmates haven’t replaced me yet and I have nowhere else to be.”
“So you don’t mind turning up at strangers’ houses unannounced?” Mike asked.
Carly’s mouth turned up at the corners in a slight smile. He seemed so shocked by the idea that she found it amusing. Did he really think she was so helpless and shy, like a scared little bunny? She wasn’t sure whether to be insulted, or brush it off as cute and caring.
“Of course not!” she told him. “I worked in sales for years. Turning up at strangers’ houses, and heaps of different businesses unannounced, was my job. It was what I did every single day. It’s truly no big deal to me.”
“It’s not safe,” Josh growled.
Carly shrugged. “I never came to any harm.”
The stare Josh levelled on her was so stern, so dominant, so sexy, a ripple of lust went through her right from her head all the way to her toes.
“I’d say you were lucky.”
There was silence for a moment as sparks of electricity zinged through the room, the air so alive it was almost crackling. Her skin tingled. Her breasts tightened even more, so sensitive that the lace of her bra now felt almost as rough as sandpaper.
“So this memoir you want to write. Is that the only reason you came here?” Once again, Davo’s question was full of innuendo. Carly bit her lip as she felt her face flame even hotter. How much more could she blush before she self-combusted?
“Uh… no,” she admitted. “I think this place will be perfect to allow me to do that, but no. That’s not solely why I came.” She fidgeted nervously, tapping her fingers against the side of her beer bottle.
“Why was it?” Mike demanded. “The truth, Carly.”
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” she admitted. “All of you.”
There was total silence as the men digested her words. Carly held her breath.
“All of us?” Mike asked.
“Yes,” she breathed, her whisper so quiet, it was a wonder the men heard it. Cautiously, she looked up, meeting each of their eyes in turn. Josh’s startling blue eyes were electric. Davo’s smouldered with passion. Mike’s glinted dangerously.
“So you’d want to share us?” Mike’s voice was husky. “Interesting. We’ve never shared a woman before.”
“But we’d be willing to give it a go,” Davo announced.
“Yes,” Josh agreed. “We know plenty of ways to pleasure a woman.” He winked rakishly at her, making her heart flutter wildly. “I think you’ll be satisfied, here with us.”
To avoid answering, Carly brought the beer bottle to her lips and tipped her head back, skulling the rest of the drink in one go. If her face got any hotter, it would burst into flames. She was used to far more subtle pickup lines, and far less dominant men. And three men at once? Holy hell. That hadn’t even been what she’d been thinking, not really, but now that they’d mentioned it… she squirmed at the wetness gushing between her legs, the pounding of her racing heart. Three men? The idea of that was smouldering hot. Much hotter than the plan she’d had, of getting to know them all then take her pick of the best one. No, three men at once was much better than that.
“We’d expect you to follow our rules, though,” Mike told her.
“And submit to our punishment if you don’t,” Davo added.
She froze, beer bottle still up to her lips, and almost choked on the bitter beverage. “What?” she spluttered, absolutely dumbfounded. “What did you just say? Something about rules? And punishment?”
She didn’t know which one of the men spoke. It could have been any of them. They all exuded the same masculine, dominant alpha male aura as they stood there, shoulder to shoulder. They all wore stern, but sexy expressions. The chemistry in the room was electrifying. She wanted to be outraged. She wanted to throw down her beer and stalk out of the room in disgust. To turn around and leave. But she couldn’t. Something about the way they’d taken it in turns to scold her and leave her pussy wet and clenching made her stay right where she was.
“You do know I’m a grown woman,” she pointed out. “I don’t need rules.”
“Yes, you’re a grown woman,” Mike agreed. “A very beautiful one. And if you’re going to stay here, with us, we’re going to enjoy making you into our woman.” The emphasis he put on the word our left her in no doubt what he had in mind. They were clearly thinking of much more than simple companionship.
“We’ll take care of you,” Davo said. “Of all your needs.” The rakish wink he gave her left her in no doubt as to which of her needs he was talking about, specifically.
“And there will be rules,” Josh insisted. “But they’ll be to keep you safe. Things are a lot different up here to what they are in the city. Your safety will be our priority.”
“As will your pleasure,” Mike added. “Sometimes we might make rules to enhance your sexual gratification.” He paused, then winked, before adding, “And ours.”
“And you will be punished if you break our rules,” Davo said sternly. “No matter what they are.”
Carly wasn’t sure whether to turn and run or stay right where she was. Her head told her to run. Her traitorous body, pussy dripping with her juices, clammy palms trembling with excitement, pounding heart, lungs near bursting from being unable to breathe the thick air, told her to stay. The way the men spoke, one after the other without a break, unified them in a way she’d never experienced before. It was like they’d rehearsed this before but she knew they hadn’t. Their masculine dominance had her captivated, hook, line, and sinker. Together, they made her world spin on its axis.
She couldn’t leave. She knew that if she did, she’d never, for the rest of her life, get this encounter out of her mind and she’d always regret not staying to see where it led. Because right now, it sounded very, very intriguing.
She took a deep breath and steeled herself, flicking her hair around her shoulders with a gentle toss of her head, plastering a flirtatious smile on her face. She looked each of the men in the eye, briefly, in turn.
“So what rules did you have in mind, then?” she asked. “And what punishments?”
All three men broke into a grin at exactly the same time, smiles lighting up their eyes, laughter lines relaxing their faces and making them look even more sexually appealing.
“That can all be discussed,” Mike drawled, his voice husky with arousal. The eyes he fixed on hers shone with passion. He’d taken off his overalls and stood before her now in a filthy singlet and stubbies. She tore her eyes from his and let her gaze travel down his body instead, taking in the grease, the muscles, the bulge at the front of his shorts. A shiver rippled its way down her spine.
She swallowed. Nodded at the three men. “I’m in.”