He strained wildly against the restraints, but the metal only cut into his wrists, adding a trickle of blood to the sweat that coated his clammy skin. The blindfold kept him from seeing, the ball gag kept him from crying out, but nothing could keep the walls from pressing down on him, crushing him beneath their relentless weight. He fought for a lungful of air, but he couldn’t catch his breath, couldn’t stop the trembling that shook him as the dark and the cold and the silence closed around him. He’d buried him here, and he’d never get out, never get away....
A hoarse cry broke the stillness of the late summer night. Devon Aldridge’s arms flailed against empty air as he struggled, shivering when the warm breeze wafted over his sweaty skin. His arm struck something and he recoiled wildly, pulling away with another raw sound.
Knocked out of a sound sleep by Devon’s harsh cry and a glancing blow of his elbow, Kit Webster shook his head, trying to wake up enough for rational speech. “Devon?” he asked softly, not wanting to wake their third lover if Devon’s cry had not already done so.
“Devon?” Jonathan Braedon muttered groggily, pushing his hair out of his eyes as reached for where his lover should have been lying curled against him. His eyes fluttered open when his hand met only empty space and cool sheets. “What’s wrong, babe?”
Kit shrugged. So much for not waking Jonathan. Since they were all awake anyway, he leaned over and switched on the lamp. His eyes widened when he saw Devon huddled in one corner of the bed, knees drawn up to his chest, shivering violently. Pushing back the covers, he knelt up, trying to catch Devon’s eye. “What’s wrong, luv?” he asked.
Devon blinked as the voices penetrated his nightmare—warm voices, caring voices—his lovers’ voices. The sudden snap of the light revealed not the dank crawlspace of his nightmare, but the familiar bedroom of Jonathan’s rental house. Kit and Jonathan stared at him with wide eyes and worried expressions.
Jonathan couldn’t imagine what might have disturbed Devon so much, but it didn’t matter now; he had to do something to ease the panicked look in his lover’s eyes. He slid over the sheets, reaching forward slowly to stroke Devon’s leg, his touch as gentle as if he were calming Hengroen, the horse he rode in his role as Arthur in the Camelot mini-series that had brought them together. When Devon didn’t pull away from his hand, he moved closer, pulling the shaking man into a loose embrace. “It’s okay, babe,” he murmured, his voice low and as soothing as he could make it. “Ssshh, it’s okay.”
Devon allowed himself half a dozen heartbeats resting in Jonathan’s strong arms before swinging his legs off the edge of the bed and sitting up. “Sorry about that,” he muttered, trying to force his voice to sound light-hearted. “Probably shouldn’t have eaten that leftover curry right before bed—bloody indigestion’s giving me the heebie jeebies!”
Kit frowned, looking to Jonathan for guidance. It seemed an awfully pat answer for what appeared more than just a simple nightmare. He wanted to push, to insist on a better explanation, but he wasn’t sure that was the best path to follow.
Shrugging at Kit’s questioning gaze, Jonathan returned his attention to the man beside him. He’d dealt with a pre-teen son long enough to recognize an attempt at distraction when he saw one. Tugging unconsciously at his earlobe, he moved next to Devon, putting an arm around the bigger man’s shoulders, relieved that at least they were no longer shaking. He tried to think of a clever response to draw Devon out, but he was too worried to be subtle. “Don’t try and bullshit us, Devon, that wasn’t something you ate giving you agita. What’s going on?”
Kit scooted to Devon’s other side, his arm going around his fellow countryman’s waist, waiting for an answer.
Devon really didn’t want to have this discussion, but he knew Jonathan wasn’t going to let it drop that easily. Rubbing his hand through his hair, he sighed. “It was just a nightmare, Jon. Maybe a delayed reaction to the bloody helicopter ride or something.”
“That was over a week ago, Devon!” Jonathan protested. He knew how much Devon hated flying, even when it was the fastest way to rescue him and Kit from the mudslide that had trapped them on their way to location filming, but he couldn’t believe that was still bothering Devon. His hands traced over his lover’s shoulders, feeling the tension in the set of the broad muscles. “At least tell us what the nightmare was about,” he urged, kneading the tight deltoids with gentle pressure.
“My mum always said talking about a nightmare took away its power,” Kit added. “It always worked for me. It isn’t as frightening when you think about it calmly.”
Feeling like the world’s biggest prat for making the two of them worry, Devon shook his head. He should have been stronger, should have been able to keep his reaction inside, but Robert’s call had shaken him even more badly than he’d realized. “It was just… I was trapped. Underground. You might have noticed I don’t do small spaces well.” He swallowed hard, hoping at least part of the truth would be enough to convince his all-too-perceptive lovers that it was just a random bad dream.
Devon’s answer was too calculatedly casual, but Jonathan didn’t know what good it would serve to push any further. Obviously, the other man didn’t intend to share whatever was troubling him. Trying his best not to feel shut out, Jonathan settled for pulling Devon back down beside him on the wide bed. Holding him close as Kit spooned against their lover’s other side after flicking off the light, Jonathan ran his hand through the tousled golden hair. “Go back to sleep, babe,” he whispered, too wide awake himself to close his eyes. “We’ve got an early call.”
Kit didn’t know what was going on, but Devon had been off his game all day. His takes had gotten a little better as lunchtime neared, Lancelot’s persona winning out finally over Devon’s fatigue, but then, during lunch, Kit saw Devon on the phone, talking very agitatedly, and it seemed he never had recovered. Concerned, Kit decided to see if he could catch Jonathan alone for a minute. Fortunately, Niall was finished with Lancelot, but he wanted to shoot an interaction between Arthur and Percival one more time, giving Kit the opportunity he sought as they walked back to the trailer once the director was finished with them. “Did Devon seem to be acting odd to you?” he asked.
“I thought at first he was just tired,” Jonathan agreed, rubbing his beard with the back of his knuckles. “Even after he fell back asleep last night, he was pretty restless. But he’s pulled some all-nighters before this and never blown his lines the way he did today. He wasn’t Lancelot, and that isn’t like Devon at all.”
Kit sighed, a mixture of relief and concern. At least he wasn’t the only one who’d noticed. “He was doing better right up until he got a call at lunchtime,” Kit added, not sure Jonathan had seen Devon on the phone. “Do you suppose it was his ex-wife calling and making problems over the divorce?” They had talked about Devon’s divorce on more than one occasion. It was one of the few things that really seemed to tear Devon up.
“Maybe, but usually when he’s dealing with the divorce he gets quiet. Today he seemed”—Jonathan paused, searching for the right word—“brittle, maybe, like he was angry but trying to hide it by joking around.” He shook his head with a frown. “Whatever it is, he obviously doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“So you think we should just ignore it?” Kit asked, surprised. “I mean, he seemed really upset. I hate to see him like that.” He paused, thinking for a moment. “You know what it reminds me of?”
“What?” Jonathan asked. He didn’t want to just ignore something that was troubling Devon so deeply, but he wasn’t sure what they could do to help if their stubborn lover wouldn’t confide in them.
“The day we went to the beach house,” Kit replied, “when Devon was in such a mood. You remember, he told us a little about his”—he looked around to make sure no one was within earshot—“past. It reminds me of the mood he was in that day.”
Jonathan nodded slowly, considering Kit’s insight. Not for the first time, he thought how much the people who only saw Kit’s beauty and charm underestimated the younger man. He had a sensitivity to the emotions of others that Jonathan envied. “But once we got him to the beach, he was fine,” the actor reflected. “I thought we’d convinced him we didn’t hold his past against him—in fact, I thought we’d made it pretty clear that under the right circumstances we even enjoyed it.” He couldn’t hold back a small grin as he remembered just how much they’d all enjoyed Devon’s dominance that weekend.
“So what changed?” Kit mused. “Could we have done something that triggered another memory? Or I could be miles off the mark, and it could be something totally different. I really think we should at least ask him.” He paused outside the door to their trailer, wanting to be in agreement with Jonathan before they stepped inside and faced Devon.
“You’re right,” Jonathan agreed, “we have to ask. I’m just not sure that in the mood he’s in he won’t think we’re ganging up on him.”
“Do you want to talk to him alone?” Kit suggested, seeing the sense in Jonathan’s concern. “Or I could, if you’d prefer.”
“Let’s see how he’s doing now that filming’s done for the day first,” Jonathan suggested. Kit’s idea made sense, but a part of him didn’t want either of them to question Devon alone. As unlikely as it seemed at the beginning, they’d managed to make their unconventional threesome work, and his gut told him whatever the problem was, they needed to solve it together.
Kit nodded and opened the door. Stacy and Carol were inside waiting for them, but there was no sign of Devon. Putting on his best face, Kit stepped into the trailer and smiled at the girls. “Is Devon finished already?” he asked, playing up his surprise.
“He was here and gone in about fifteen minutes,” Stacy confirmed. “He didn’t say much, but I got the impression he was in a bit of a hurry.”
“Yeah,” Carol agreed, “he didn’t even tease us about our plans for the night the way he usually does.”
Jonathan’s eyes met Kit’s over the pictures of his son that covered one corner of his make-up mirror. The fact that Devon hadn’t waited for them worried him even more than his unusual edginess during the day. Something was definitely wrong, and whether it upset Devon more or not, they needed to find out what it was.
Kit saw the determination on Jonathan’s face and nodded slightly. They would finish up here and get home as quickly as possible so they could get to the bottom of this. Pasting on a passable smile, he looked at Carol. “So, what are your plans for the evening?”
Jonathan closed his eyes and let his mind drift as Stacy worked, only half listening to Kit and Carol’s chatter. He couldn’t help but worry that their confronting Devon would only serve to drive their prickly lover further away. They had no choice but to try, though. They’d just have to make Devon see that they weren’t trying to pry—their concern for him was based in love. He was startled when Stacy broke him out of his reverie with a nudge of his shoulder. “Go home and get some sleep in your own bed, Jonathan,” she teased.
“Who says he’ll be anywhere near his own bed?” Kit replied with an impish grin. “Last I heard, the King had plans for the evening.”
“My only plans right now involve finding some food,” Jonathan laughed, careful before the make-up girls to keep his tone teasing. He picked up Excalibur from where it leaned against the side of their wardrobe closet, having gotten in the habit of taking it home with him when they left the set so he could practice his swordplay during their rare free time. “C’mon, Percival, let’s see if we can hunt down the King’s champion and see if he’ll join us.”
“I could eat,” Kit agreed, levering himself out of his chair and heading toward the door. “See you tomorrow, girls,” he added as he stepped out into the cooling night air, shutting the door behind them when Jonathan joined him.
Inside the trailer, Stacy paused in putting away the cleansing supplies and straightening the counter. She met Carol’s eyes speculatively. “You think…?” she asked.
Carol looked at the door, then back at Stacy. “Nah,” they said in unison after a moment, returning to their work so they could get on with their own plans for the evening.