Dedication: To my readers. May you find all you desire in your destined heart.
Chapter: A New Origin
When you hold me like this, so many memories fill my eyes
The first time we kissed, the times we nearly said goodbye
But, still, here we are, tested and tried and still true
And stronger than we ever knew
- Marc Anthony, Love is all
Jacob checked the safety, then set his gun on the kitchen counter. After what had happened in the Keys, they kept them close by at all times. A snowplow trudged along the mountain road, clearing out a path for traffic. Another hour or so and they'd be able to head down to Gatlinburg for dinner.
The sunshine had already begun to melt the white powder, leaving a thick layer of gray sludge along the edge of the road and sidewalks. It was turning out to be a gorgeous day. But something gnawed at his gut and made him nervous. He'd discovered as a SEAL to trust that feeling, and he paid a little more attention to his surroundings than normal.
Adjusting his flannel shirt, Jacob turned to face Paul who stood at the counter making coffee.
"Nessie in the shower?" Jacob asked.
"Yeah. I think that was where she was headed."
Jacob nodded and turned his gaze back out the window. Watching Paul and Nessie earlier in the hot tub had been arousing as hell. She'd looked so beautiful with her flesh flushed in passion, her body undulating against Paul's. There had been no jealousy, no regrets. Only love and desire for a woman he couldn't imagine his life without.
"You all right, Jake?" Paul asked as he hit the Power button, turning on the coffeepot. The scent of caramel filled the room as it began to brew Nessie's favorite Barnie's coffee.
"Yeah . . . no," he said with a sigh. "I didn't want to say anything with Nessie down here, but something doesn't feel right."
Paul immediately came to attention and stood straight. "About what?"
"I'm not sure. But I've learned to trust my gut, and my gut says something is about to happen."
Paul nodded and moved to join Jacob at the window. A large black Hummer pulled into the driveway, easily pushing snow out of its way. They glanced at each other with a frown.
"Well, guess your gut was right," Paul said, then moved to grab his pistol from the end table.
Jacob grabbed his from the kitchen counter and slipped it in the waistband at the back of his pants. Glancing back out the window, Jacob noticed Director Marcus climbing from the back of the car, along with Scott Folks, who stepped from the driver side, and a third man neither recognized, but who bore a striking resemblance to Nessie.
"The admiral?" Paul mumbled close to Jacob.
"Possibly. But what the hell are they doing?"
Paul went to open the door and allow the three men inside. "Director. What are you doing here?"
"Paul," he said with a nod of his head as he preceded the other two men into the cabin. "Where's Nessie?"
"She's in the shower," Jacob said.
Marcus nodded and waved a hand toward the tall, older man behind him. "This is Admiral Cullen, Nessie's father. Admiral, these are the two men who have been watching over your daughter. Paul Bradley, our computer specialist, and Jacob Black, our ex-SEAL."
"Is she all right?" the admiral asked.
He appeared tired and weary. With green eyes, he stared at Jacob expectantly. That feeling in his gut intensified.
"Yes. She's fine," Jacob replied.
"Black," the admiral murmured. "You're the one who was hit with armor-piercing rounds in the Middle East. The one who almost died."
"Yes, sir," Jacob said with a frown. "I didn't know my incident was so widely known."
"When bullets pierce our vests the way they did yours, people know about it."
Marcus narrowed his gaze toward Cullen in warning, making Jacob frown. What the hell was going on here? Something wasn't right. Paul must have felt it too. He crossed his arms and glared at Marcus.
"What's going on? Did you find the man responsible?"
"You could say that," Marcus said, the corners of his lips lifting in a slight grin.
Jacob caught a movement by the admiral. Using subtle hand signals used by the SEAL teams, he let Jacob know to be on guard. Immediately, Jacob tensed, worry for Nessie gripping his chest.
"Jacob, get Nessie," Marcus ordered. "We need to talk to her."
Jacob's gaze flicked back to the admiral. There was a slight shake of his head, almost unnoticeable, but Jacob caught it and understood. At least he thought he might.
"She's upstairs. I'll be right back."
Turning, he headed up the stairs at a run, toward the master suite. Nessie was just climbing out of the shower. Her hair was damp, her skin sparkling with water droplets. Grabbing a towel off the rack, he tossed it to her, hitting her in the small of the back.
"Dry off quick, Ness," Jacob ordered, then glanced back toward the bedroom door making sure no one had followed him.
"What's going on?" she asked with a frown.
"Marcus is here with your father."
She smiled and began to dry off in earnest. "Daddy's here?"
Brushing past him, she headed toward her clothes lying on the bed. Jacob grabbed her elbow and spun her around to face him. "Listen, Ness. Something's going on. But what, I'm not sure. Just be on guard and do what I tell you without argument. Understand?"
"What's wrong?" she asked, her brow creasing in worry.
"I don't know. Just trust me on this."
"Of course. I trust you."
He cupped her face and smiled down at her. "I love you, Ness," he whispered. "I want you to know that."
"I do know that." She smiled. "What do you think is going to happen, Jacob?"
"What the hell is taking you so long?" Scott demanded from the hallway, and Jacob turned to shield Nessie from his view as he stormed into the bedroom.
Nessie gasped and moved to stand close to his back. Jacob reached around, lightly touching her hip in support.
"What the fuck are you doing, Scott? I told you she was taking a shower," Jacob snapped.
"Well, well," Scott drawled, and leaned against the door frame. He crossed his arms over his chest with an arrogant grin, making Jacob grind his teeth in disgust. He'd never liked Scott. The man was an ass. "Hard to believe someone like the admiral could have a daughter that looks like that. Interesting that she's so comfortable around you naked. Been having a little fun on this job, Black?"
"Fuck you," Jacob snarled. "Now get out so she can get dressed."
"Sure," Scott said with a leer. "See you downstairs, gorgeous."
Anger raced through Jacob as he made a move to go after Scott, but Nessie's hand on his wrist stopped him.
"Don't," she whispered. "Who was that?"
"That was General Scott Folks. He's Army and a damn jerk."
Nessie nodded and quickly dressed. Her hands shook slightly as she tried to button her blouse. Jacob stepped over and brushed her hands aside. With a small smile, he finished buttoning it for her.
"Is my daddy okay?" she asked.
"Seems to be."
"Good." She sighed.
Giving her hands a gentle squeeze, he handed her a pair of shoes, and then they headed downstairs. Nessie spotted her father immediately and breathed a sigh of relief. He looked so tired, so ragged. She was used to seeing him in his uniform, impeccably dressed and spotless. Not like this. Torn jeans, faded T-shirt, messed-up hair that seemed just a little grayer than before.
"Daddy?" She sighed, then ran down the stairs, throwing herself into his strong, outstretched arms.
"Renesmee." He sighed. "Thank God."
Her father held tight, then leaned down to whisper softly in her ear. "It's Marcus. You're in danger."
She pulled back and stared up at him in shock. He brushed his finger over her lips for a brief second, indicating she should be quiet. She nodded and gave him a sideways smile. Her insides began to tighten in knots. Marcus was involved? What did that mean exactly? Were they all in trouble now?
"I think that's enough reunion for you two," Marcus said, then stepped forward and grabbed Nessie's elbow in a punishing grip.
With a jerk, he pulled her aside and spun her around to face her father. Something cold hit the side of her neck, and she stiffened in fear when she realized it was the muzzle of a pistol. Jacob and Paul both tensed in anger, each reaching for his weapon.
"I wouldn't if I were you," Marcus drawled. "Put your damn guns on the floor and slide them over here."
To her side, Scott also drew a weapon, pointing it at Jacob and Paul. Both men stilled, their gazes jumping back and forth between her and Scott.
"You son of a bitch," Paul snapped as he set his gun on the tile floor, Jacob following suit. "It was you all along?"
"I'm one of many," Marcus drawled. "The codes, Admiral. Now."
"Why? They've already been changed. They were changed the day Nessie went into protective custody," Cullen argued back, folding his arms over his chest.
Nessie didn't miss the anguish in his gaze as he watched her, and she swallowed a sob of despair. How were they going to get out of this?
"I don't want those codes," Marcus snarled, tightening his angry hold on Nessie. Her ribs hurt from the pressure of his arm around her middle, and she gasped for any breath of air she could inhale.
"What blasted codes do you want?" Jacob snapped.
"Oh, God," Nessie groaned as she realized what he was asking for. "He wants the access codes to the schematics. Who are you selling the blueprints to?"
"Anybody who wants them," Marcus responded. "I'm tired of risking my life and running myself ragged for an ungrateful government. I get nothing from them, and I'm taking what I deserve."
"No. What you deserve is a stay in a maximum-security prison," Paul snarled.
"Not going to happen," Marcus said with a nasty grin.
"Wanna bet?" Jacob mumbled and took a step back toward the kitchen counter.
His gaze flicked to Nessie's, and she knew immediately what he was about to do. There was a gun hidden in the kitchen drawer. It was the one they'd taken from her in the Keys. Her heart began to pound furiously in her chest as she tried to think of a way to distract them. Anything.
"You know you won't be able to hide from them," Nessie argued, then squealed when he pinched her flesh just below her breast.
Her father stepped forward, until Marcus growled, indicating he should step back.
"I won't have to hide from anyone. As far as NCIS has to know, you were killed by the thieves. I tried to help, but you were already dead when I arrived. The killers got away with access to the blueprints. The military will shut down the project, and I'll keep going, a little heavier in my pocket."
"You're insane," Paul growled.
"No, just pissed and tired of being taken advantage of."
Nessie kept her gaze on Jacob as he crept ever closer to the counter. Even if he got the gun, it would be two against one. The odds of him pulling this off were not good. Fear for Jacob swam through her veins. Fear for all of them.
Glancing to her father, she realized he knew what Jacob was doing, as well. He'd crept closer to her and Marcus, and she didn't miss the subtle messages the two were sending each other. Now that she'd seen it, she realized they were silently communicating. But had Marcus seen it too? She struggled, trying to think of something to do that would distract Marcus and Scott.
Wiggling, she ignored the crushing pain in her ribs and struggled against his tight hold. "Let me go, damn it. We're not giving you anything!"
"Your father will talk now if he doesn't want to see your blood splattered all over his face," Marcus drawled.
Nessie gasped and stomped her foot down on his. "Fuck you!"
Marcus grunted and reached up to pinch at her breast. Hard. Nessie cried out, but couldn't move from his punishing hold on her nipple.
"Stupid bitch," he snarled. "I should shoot you right now, just for the hell of it."
Paul made a move to come at them, but Marcus cocked the gun being held at her throat. "Don't, asshole, or I do it."
Immediately, Paul stopped, his fearful gaze locking with Nessie's. She swallowed hard, trying her best not to cry.
"I love you," she mouthed silently, and Paul nodded, silently mouthing it back to her.
"Aw, isn't that sweet," Scott drawled, and Nessie turned to glare at him. "You must be some kind of girl, Nessie. First I find you upstairs naked with Jacob, and now you're whispering sweet words of love to Paul."
"She was getting out of the shower, you ass," Jacob snarled from behind the counter.
He'd made it to the drawer, but would he be able to get it open without them realizing it?
"All right," her father shouted. "I'll give you the code, but I want Nessie by my side first."
Marcus snorted. "No."
It was all Jacob needed. Nessie watched from the corner of her eye as his hand slid stealthily into the drawer and pulled out the gun. Every muscle in her body tensed as the action began to unfold in slow motion around her. Jacob fired, hitting Scott, but not before Scott fired, sending Jacob flying backward as a bullet ripped through his stomach. Nessie screamed for Jacob as her father rushed forward and grabbed Marcus's hand that held the gun.
Marcus had to let her go in order to fight with her father. The second his grip loosened, Paul shoved her out of the way, knocking her to the floor. With a sob, she crawled forward toward Jacob's motionless form lying just a few feet away. She tried not to look at Scott's dead body, his chest open and seeping blood. The scent of death and gun smoke filled her lungs, making her gag. The distance seemed to go on forever as Paul and her father struggled with Marcus.
The shot startled her and she stopped, turning with dread to see who'd been shot. Marcus's eyes widened with shock, and he fell to his knees, his hands grasping the seeping hole in his chest. His gaze locked with hers as he fell forward, the air gurgling from his lungs.
Jacob groaned, drawing her attention from Marcus, and she stumbled to her feet, trying to get to him. "Jacob," she cried as she dropped to her knees by his stomach.
The bullet had hit his side, but there was so much blood. Her hands shook as she opened his shirt, allowing her to see the wound. "I need a towel, a shirt . . . something to stop the bleeding," she shouted as she pressed down on the wound with her palm.
Jacob grunted and opened his eyes. "Damn, that hurts," he groaned.
"What were you thinking?" She sighed, relief sending tears streaming down her cheeks. At least he was alive and the wound didn't appear to be life threatening.
He shrugged, then winced at the movement. "I've already been shot six times. What's one more bullet?"
"Christ, my Jacob." She sighed, then grinned. "Ever the comedian."
"Anything to see you smile," he whispered, then closed his eyes.
Nessie thought he'd passed out, but he shifted, attempting to find a more comfortable position. He grunted in pain, his face scrunching up.
"Be still, Jacob," Paul ordered from behind Nessie. "I've called an ambulance and they're on the way."
"Who . . .?" Jacob swallowed, then tried again. "We need to find out who else was involved."
"I have a few names, one of which is Korean."
"We may have killed the Korean in the Keys, as well as one more," Paul said.
"Actually," Jacob mumbled. "Nessie killed the Korean."
"Be quiet," she and Paul ordered at the same time.
Jacob sighed as he glanced around his stark white hospital room. He'd been here for three damned days and was bored out of his mind. If he didn't get out of this room soon, he'd go stark raving mad.
Paul had worked with Nessie's father, going through hours of grilling questions from NCIS and JAG officials.
Nessie had remained by his side, taking care of him and making sure he had whatever he needed. She was his angel, and for the last day and a half all he could think about was sinking between her beautiful thighs. Even shot and in pain, he wanted her.
"God help me." He sighed toward the ceiling.
"God help you with what?" she asked in amusement as the door to his room shut behind her. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid. Pearl earrings dangled from her ears. The black slacks and white shirt made her appear innocent and conservative. He almost snorted at the conservative image. His Nessie was as wild and willing as they came.
Smiling down at him, she placed another delivery of flowers by his bed.
"God help me if I have to look at another vase of flowers."
Nessie laughed. "You're a popular guy, Jake. Enjoy it."
As she brushed by, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her down on the bed next to him. "How are you doing, Ness?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she said with a smile. "Much better now that I know you'll be back to your normal self in no time."
Jacob smiled and softly touched the side of her face. "I'm a tough bird to get rid of. I love you, Ness," he whispered.
"I love you, too. So much."
"Have you talked to your dad?"
Nessie sighed and glanced down at her hands clasped on her thigh. "Only about what's going on with the agency. Not about you and Paul."
"You don't have to."
"I know. But I know if I don't tell him, he'll realize something isn't quite right. I mean, look how I handled this whole you getting shot thing. He knows I have feelings for you, and he also knows I told Paul I love him." With a sigh, she glanced up toward the ceiling. "He'll never understand."
"You should have a little more faith in me, sweetheart."
Nessie jerked around and stared, wide-eyed, at her father standing in the doorway. He was back in his uniform, his hair cut and properly groomed. This was the father she knew.
Paul was behind him, his smile wide and full of love. "I talked to your father," Paul said.
"You what?" She gulped, her face heating in embarrassment.
"It's okay, Nessie. I may have some adjusting to do, but if this is what you want, I know the two of them love you and will do whatever they can to make you happy."
She didn't speak. She couldn't. She could only stare at her father in stunned silence. Paul had talked to him? Jacob shoved at her lightly, and she turned to look at him. He smiled, inclining his head toward her father. "Go to him," he whispered.
He was right. It had probably taken a lot for her father to do this. To try and understand. She stood and walked toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Her father held tight, sighing into her neck. "I love you, Nessie. You're all I have left of your mother, her beautiful eyes . . . and I don't want to lose you, too. Not over something as trivial as this."
Tears streamed down her face as she fought hard not to sob out loud. For a man who had a hard time showing emotion, it was the most he'd opened up to her in a long time. "I love you, too, Daddy," she whispered.
"I have another confession to make," Paul said from his stance at the doorway. She pulled away from her dad and stared at him.
"What?" she asked.
"Well, not really a confession, but an apology. I was wrong about Alice." Opening the door, he smiled as Alice stepped into the room.
Nessie squealed and ran to embrace her friend in a huge hug. Alice hugged her back with a laugh.
"I'm so glad you're okay," Alice said.
"I always knew you couldn't have had anything to do with this."
"Paul told me what he thought." Leaning closer, Alice whispered. "You are so damn lucky. When we're alone you have to tell me what being with two men is like."
Nessie laughed at her friend. Alice would never change, and Nessie wouldn't have it any other way.
My romance doesn't have to have a moon in the sky
My romance doesn't need a blue lagoon standing by
No month of may, no twinkling stars
No hide away, no softly guitars
My romance doesn't need a castle rising in Spain
Nor a dance to a constantly surprising refrain
Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true
My romance doesn't need a thing but you
- Carly Simon, My Romance
Nessie stood between Paul and Jacob on the soft sands of the Caribbean beach. The warm sun slipped below the horizon, casting the clouds in shades of red and gold. The tropical breeze blew, bringing with it the scent of ocean and tropical flowers and whipping her white lace dress around her ankles.
Paul and Jacob both looked incredible in navy blue Dockers and white shirts. They wore them open to halfway down their chest. The white was a stark contrast to their dark tans. Paul's longer hair blew in the slight breeze, while Jacob's short, cropped locks remained firmly in place. The sunlight highlighted his dark tendrils and she reached up to touch it with a smile.
Behind her stood Alice and her father as she exchanged vows with Paul officially, then Jacob unofficially. The two slipped a ring on her finger together. It was a one-karat diamond with an emerald on each side, just a little smaller. The diamond represented her, always surrounded and protected by the emeralds. It was a beautiful ring and an even more beautiful sentiment. Just like her bracelet, which she'd worn every day since Jacob had given it to her.
Her life couldn't be any better.
Once the ceremony was over, Alice and her father came up to hug her, wishing her happiness. Her father even shook Paul's and Jacob's hands, finally giving his approval to the union, before they headed to the yacht Paul had reserved for their honeymoon.
But Nessie had one surprise she hadn't shared yet.
She was pregnant.
But whose baby it would be, she had no idea. Maybe it was fate's way of telling them they didn't need to know. She'd been on the Pill, but didn't even realize until days later that she'd left the pills in the Keys, completely forgetting them in her haste and nervousness.
She remained tense until the yacht pulled away from the dock. For two weeks they'd travel from one island to another—sightseeing and shopping. It was a honeymoon she looked forward to. But what she looked forward to the most was the time alone with her two husbands. Well, alone except for the small crew taking care of the boat.
Worried about how they would take the news of her pregnancy, she steeled her spine. With a deep breath for courage, she joined Jacob and Paul in the living room. Large windows provided a beautiful view of the water and moonlight glistening on the waves. Jacob stood at the bar, his shirt hanging out of his pants, the buttons undone. With the view of that trim waist and amazing chest, she almost forgot what she wanted to tell them. Paul sat on the couch, his shirt also undone and his arm lying along the back. In his hand was a cup of steaming coffee.
"Hey, beautiful," Jacob said with a grin, and she returned his smile with a hesitant one.
"Is something wrong, Nessie?" Paul asked as he watched her in concern.
They always seemed to know when she was upset or worried. It was at times unnerving, and at others, so comforting.
"Not wrong, really." She sighed. "I'm just not sure how you guys are going to take it."
"Take what, baby?" Paul asked.
"I told you when we were in the Keys that I was on the Pill."
"You lied so you could trap us," Jacob teased, but when she didn't deny it, his smile faded.
"I didn't lie," she started. "I was on them at the time, but when we left, I forgot them and didn't realize it right away."
"Nessie . . ." Paul began as he set his cup on the glass coffee table. "Are you trying to tell us you're pregnant?"
"Yes." She wrung her hands in front of her. "And I don't know which of you is the father."
She watched them, her heart skipping in her chest wildly. They turned to each other, the shock evident on their faces. Would they be happy? Upset? Would they demand to know which one of them had fathered the child?
"I know it's not the way it was supposed to happen, but we can do DNA testing to see who the father is. I want the baby, guys."
Paul frowned and stood, stepping toward her. "Nessie . . ." He stopped and covered his mouth with his palm. Dropping to his knees, he kissed her stomach, laying his forehead against her. Jacob walked over and placed a soft kiss on her cheek, his eyes smiling in happiness.
"You guys are okay?" she asked.
Paul grabbed her hands and tugged her to her knees. Cupping her cheeks, he smiled at her. "More than okay. You know what? I don't think it matters who is really the father."
"I agree," Jacob said as he settled on his knees next to her. "It will be both of ours. A baby we all created together."
A tear slipped from the corner of her eye and slid down her cheek. She sighed in relief and quickly kissed each of them. "I love you both, so much."
"We love you, too, baby," Paul whispered and placed his large hand over her belly. "I'm afraid to touch you now."
Nessie laughed. "You better get over that real quick, mister. Because it's my honeymoon and I want to be made love to. By both of you."
Paul and Jacob both smiled.
"Gently," Paul whispered as he placed soft, featherlight kisses along her jaw.
"And very slowly," Jacob said as he nipped just behind her ear.
She shivered in anticipation. She could handle gently and slowly. Most definitely.