Audrey had always been a gypsy, had a wandering soul. She went where the problems were, stayed until she’d fixed them, then moved along again. Haven was different. They didn’t just have problems, they had Troubles, and she had a knack for helping to solve them. She had a purpose there, friends, a partner. And frankly, all of that was a first for her.
“Oh, come on,” she huffed, banging a fist off the dash of her car. Just because it was the first true home she’d ever had didn’t mean it wasn’t a pain in the ass sometimes. Their latest Troubled gummed up electronics, occasionally resulting in explosions. “This was not how I wanted to start my day.”
Before she could start banging her forehead against her steering wheel, there was a polite tapping against her window that still scared the bejeezus out of her.
She cracked open the door and Nathan asked, “So about that ride to work?”
Audrey sighed, then swung out of the car. “We’re gonna catch this guy today,” she announced, matching his long strides as they walked towards his truck. “Before everybody knows.”
She turned as she heard a familiar laugh and saw Duke lounging in his deck chair, wrapped in his favorite ugly old man sweater. He raised his mug and blew them a kiss as Nathan said wryly, “It’s a small town, Parker. Everybody already knows.”
Her smile at Duke’s antics drifted away with a sigh, but she still blew him a kiss in return as Nathan pulled away from the docks.
*** *** ***
“There should be a law,” Audrey muttered, trying to shake something green and a little slimy off her hand, “against bad guys going through the woods to get away.”
Nathan pulled a few twigs out of her hair as Duke said, “I’m pretty sure evading arrest is illegal, any way you put it.”
Nathan allowed his fingers to drag along the side of her neck, pretending to chase a leaf as she returned a volley of, “Going through the woods, though. That should be even more illegal.”
It shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise, that he was touch starved, not with his particular brand of Troubles, but he felt like an addict, craving every stray touch and accidental brush of skin that Audrey gave him.
Duke started tugging at her shirt, trying to help pull the sodden thing off, and Audrey’s fingers captured his hand, twining through his fingers, causing Nathan’s skin to flare with heat as lightly callused fingers slid through his and pressed along his hand, until she stepped away, yanking off her shirt by herself.
“I’m going to shower,” she said, grimacing. “I think something just slid into my underpants.”
“Sexy,” Duke said, laughing as she hurried from the room. He turned to Nathan, smile going sharp, and said, “You’re looking a little soggy there yourself.”
He grabbed the bottom of Nathan’s shirt, just as he had Audrey’s, and there was nothing where there should have been the scrape of rough fingers against the soft skin of his sides, the brush of Duke’s knee against his thigh as he stepped closer, and Nathan grabbed his wrists because it was hollow mimicry after Audrey’s touch.
Audrey bustled back into the room saying, “I forgot something,” and pressed her palm into the exposed skin of his spine.
Nathan’s joints when to jelly, his fingers clenching around Duke’s wrists, and his mouth dropped open a little on a soft gasp as the nothing he’d been feeling burst into Everything. Duke’s fingers tightened, eyes going dark as he took in Nathan’s reaction, and he started to tow him into him. Audrey’s fingers swept along his back as she grabbed whatever she’d forgotten, then scrambling back towards the bathroom, taking Nathan’s ability to feel with her.
It was okay now, though, Duke pulling him off center and into him. Nathan dodged a kiss, pressing his forehead into Duke’s shoulder and wrapping his hand around the back of his neck, thumb sliding along the shell of his ear.
“So that’s what you look like when you feel,” Duke murmured and Nathan knew he’d slipped his hands up because his shirt was bunched up around his arm pits. Nathan squeezed his hand a bit and Duke took a gasping, shuddery breath. He liked it when Nathan was rough, searching for something, anything.
Nathan pulled back, giving him room to lift the shirt over his head and toss it in the vicinity of the bathroom. They’d always been careful to keep this thing between them, whatever it was, kind of separate, very Audrey-and-Duke, Duke-and-Nathan, and Nathan-and-Audrey, never Audrey and Duke and Nathan.
“I bet we could make you beg,” Duke muttered into a kiss.
Nathan knew they could.
*** *** ***
“Oh, gross,” Audrey said and Duke pulled away from Nathan to see her lifting her foot out of Nathan’s soggy shirt.
She gave him a dirty look when he snickered, then she and Nathan were clambering as their cells rang, their freak of the week undoubtedly making more mayhem. Duke stepped back out of the way, lifting the whiskey he’d poured just before they had descended, Audrey bitching pleasantly and Nathan long-sufferingly tolerant.
The two amigos hustled towards the door, Audrey pausing briefly for a bruising kiss, Nathan waving a sharp goodbye from the door as he pulled it closed behind them.
Duke took a drink and told himself, yet again, that those two were endgame and he was just along for the ride. He ignored the twist in his gut that that thought always gave him with the ease of a natural born liar, quickly shifting his attention to business that was best done when Nathan was off the boat.
He didn’t watch the clock or listen for the phone or worry about what electricity could do to the nervous system because he wasn’t their boyfriend, just their friend. He told himself that, too, as he clipped his cell phone onto his belt as he left for a shift at the Gull.
Even liars had to give it up when the sound of familiar laughter in a crowded bar lifted their spirits, though.
Audrey appeared, face lit up with good humor, Nate following in her tracks with a wry smile. She took a barstool, propping her chin on her hand, and asking, “What’s a girl gotta do to get a drink around here?”
Angus choked on his drink, shot her a wide-eyed look, and abandoned his seat for somewhere safer. Nathan’s smile grew as he slipped onto the stool beside her.
“See? Everybody knows,” Duke said with a smirk as he handed her a shot of Jack.
*** *** ***
“How does everybody know?” Audrey asked, her leg stretched out so she could run her toes along Duke’s calf, Nathan shivering lightly as her thigh rubbed along his with each sweep of her toes.
“Small town gossip,” Nathan said, tightening his arm around her waist even as his fingers kept ghosting over Duke’s skin.
“There are no secrets here,” Duke said, rolling so that he was facing her, cheek cushioned against Nathan’s shoulder. “Unless it’s the Troubles and everybody that needs to already knows about those.”
Audrey rubbed her cheek against the shoulder she was resting on, then reached out to trace Duke’s bold features with her finger as she said, “Nobody’s really acting all that different.”
“That’s just Haven,” Nathan said, his shoulder moving in a shrug under her cheek.
She had the feeling that even if Haven wasn’t plagued by the Troubles, it would still be a strange little town, which made it the perfect place for her . And while she’d learned to expect good things to come to a quick and grisly end, and she knew that Duke doubted his place with them, and Nathan was afraid of the things he craved, she also knew that they would each steal as much time together as they could.