Excerpt Of Chosen By Blood
CHOSEN BY BLOOD (BOOK 1 IN THE PARA-OPS SERIES)
EXCERPT (For adults only; may contain explicit language):
A firm knock interrupted them. Muscles pumped as if for battle, Knox slowly stood. He didn’t turn, not even when Mahone called for his visitor to come in.
“I came as soon as I—”
It didn’t matter that he was in Mahone’s office, that Mahone was watching him, or that he and Mahone had just been discussing something as important as his clan. He hadn’t been in the same room with her in years, but his body’s reaction to her presence was the same as it always was: instantaneous. Her scent hit him like a sledgehammer and was followed by a wave of longing so intense it almost felled him. His skin prickled and his fangs ached as he fought to keep them sheathed. He couldn’t stop the hardening of his dick, however, or the urge he had to grab her and transport her to the Dome. To his bed. To someplace where duty and time dissolved, and he could just be with her.
She didn’t gasp or take a breath. Her words simply stopped. Something rare crystallized inside him.
Had she gotten over him? Had she found someone else? Another emotion—pure, undiluted rage—filled him at the thought of her with another. It made everything else, every other emotion he’d ever felt, seem innocuous. Made him want to rip off his clothes—the luxurious symbols of civility that he normally loved—and make her see him as he truly was—primal, lethal, and fucking ready to prove to her that she was his, once and for all. Instead, he took a deep breath and willed himself to calm. He opened his mind. Just a hair. Just enough to sense the desire buried beneath her resolve. Enough to dismiss that foreign emotion of fear and tamp down his rage.
When he was assured of his control, Knox slowly turned and faced the human female he’d wanted to bite from the moment he’d seen her. She was dressed conservatively in a white oxford shirt and navy blue pants, her auburn hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. Taller than most females, she was neither delicate nor bulky. While most would consider her average in looks and sex appeal, Knox saw what most didn’t.
He saw the strength in her supple body.
He saw her courage, her compassion, and her integrity.
And at that moment, he saw the fiery sensuality that flared in her eyes before she banked it and stared at him with a practiced look of mild curiosity.
Felicia had always tried to hide her attraction to him, but she’d always failed. Nevertheless, he’d abided by her wishes and kept his distance. But not anymore.
He didn’t speak the words, but given the way her eyes widened, she’d guessed at his thoughts. Knox dipped his head in a courtly bow. “Hello, Felicia. Imagine running into you here.”
Excerpt Of Chosen By Fate
CHOSEN BY FATE (BOOK 2 IN THE PARA-OPS SERIES)
For adults only; may contain explicit language:
Caleb’s hands moved swiftly and efficiently as he set up the mobile radar equipment he’d spread out on the roof. The building below his feet had been swept and a perimeter established. Now all Caleb had to do was determine who was in the room with Mahone and whether Mahone was still alive.
Briefly, he glanced at Ethan Riley, leader of Hope Restored Team Blue and the four men, skilled in entry and perimeter surveillance, who’d accompanied them here. “Did you get in touch with the Para-Ops team?”
Riley looked up from checking his rifle. “They’ve detained the vampire Dante Prime. Devereux said he tried to teleport here, but he’d depleted his powers in Korea . . .”
Caleb snorted. “No shit.” Although vamps could teleport to and from anywhere in the world, provided they’d been there before, that kind of travel drained them. Before he and the rest of the team had interrupted the Vamp Council to question Dante Prime for treason and conspiracy to commit murder, Knox had spent several hours teleporting between North Korea and the United States. Each time, he’d carried a wounded Other or one of his team members back with him. It was a wonder the vamp was even capable of talking at this point...
His fingers moved faster. Almost there. Glancing at his watch, Caleb clenched his teeth and felt a bead of sweat trickle down his temple. He knew they couldn’t go in blind but—
“What about your wraith? Was she what you expected her to be?”
Caleb paused for only a fraction of a second before continuing his task. “She’s not my wraith. She’s a wraith who decided to keep the name Wraith, just to be ornery. And she’s exactly what I expected her to be.” What he didn’t say was that she was also far more than he’d expected. A heinous bitch, yes, but one whose attitude and mouth was designed to hide something textured and complex and . . .
Disgusted with himself, Caleb pressed his lips together and pushed thoughts of Wraith out of his head.
Get Mahone out. That’s all he could think about right now.
“Finally!” Snapping the last wire in place, Caleb flipped on the power and adjusted the radar settings, then scanned the building’s interior until the radar picked up body heat. “Bingo.”
Caleb immediately zoomed the camera in and got a good look at Mahone.
Dear Essenia, he thought, automatically invoking the name of the Earth Goddess to give him strength—strength he was clearly going to need to help Mahone. Although humans believed Essenia was an Otherborn deity, few knew Earth People—like the Native American tribe to which Caleb belonged—had prayed to the same deity for centuries.
With his wrists shackled to chains hanging from the ceiling, Mahone looked like he’d gotten into a fight with a chipper machine and lost. His face and body were covered in blood, and what was left of his clothes hung on his battered body in shreds. From his position on the rooftop above, Caleb once again adjusted the settings on the mobile radar equipment. The image on the screen zoomed out, losing detail and focus until it shaped the entire room, and provided grainy outlines of Mahone, a desk, a table, and one other individual, whose silver hair, height, and slim build proclaimed him to be a vampire.
When Caleb and the five members of Hope Restored Team Blue had arrived at the isolated warehouse twenty minutes earlier, Caleb had figured Knox, leader of the Para-Ops team, had made a mistake by not sending any Others with him. That, or Knox simply had faith in Caleb’s ability to take down anything that got in their way, human or not. Either way, Caleb was getting Mahone out and he planned on both of them to be breathing when he did it.
Caleb thought of the first time he’d met Mahone and the vision he’d had. He’d had the same vision several times since and the moment he’d met Wraith, he’d become convinced that the black-and-white aura that hovered near his own had to be hers. Upon their meeting, he’d felt a sizzling arc of connection that had only intensified with time. Apparently she hadn’t. In fact, she seemed to have no use for him and spent most of her time pushing him away. Maybe the aura belonged to Mahone, instead, and the vision had been a premonition of this very moment, Mahone straddling the line between life and death, waiting to see whether Caleb could save him.
Luckily for both of them, Caleb had come prepared. He looked at Riley. The man might be a little more chatty than Caleb liked, but he’d had no problem taking Caleb’s lead on the current mission. He was smart and he was a clean shot. That’s all that mattered right now. “Mahone’s in bad shape. We need to get in there fast. I’m hoping the vamp will teleport as soon as he knows he has company, but I need you and your team to cover me in case he decides to stick around. Are your shooters set up around the perimeter of the room?”
“They’ve all checked in and are in the crawl space, with their weapons ready.”
“Obviously your bullets won’t kill him but, along with the Hyperion gas, they may buy me enough time to get to Mahone and extract him.”
“How long does it take for the Hyperion to immobilize a vampire?”
The Hyperion was something Caleb had developed toward the end of the War. The government hadn’t known about it and he’d only used it a few times before peace had been declared. The testing he’d conducted had been limited, but he felt fairly confident it would work.
At this point, he figured his odds of getting out with Mahone were only slightly below average. “Usually about sixty seconds, but that’s with a vamp who’s been weakened by the effects of the vampire vaccine. From the looks of this one, he’sad pure blood recently. Still, he might not be at full strength.”
“If the vamp’s immobilized by the Hyperion, how do we keep him contained while we take him in?”
“We don’t. That’s not what we’re here for. Our sole objective is to rescue Mahone.”
Riley nodded, but looked troubled. “You said he’s doing bad . . .”
Caleb tried to keep his expression blank. “Doing bad” was an understatement. Mahone probably had less than five minutes of life left in his broken body. “Just get me to him. I’ll take care of it from there. You ready?”
Riley communicated with his men, then nodded. “It’s a go.” Slipping the small gas pellet from his pocket, Caleb held it up. “Remember, you have to stay back. Help me hold back the vamp, then get your men out. You’re maintaining the perimeter, not going in. This gas immobilizes vamps and weres, but it does far worse to humans once enough of it is absorbed in your blood stream.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve built up a resistance. It’s not extensive, but it’ll give me the five minutes I need. If we don’t make it out, it’ll take two hours for the gas to dissipate. Don’t come into the room until that much time has passed. Understood?”
Riley nodded and held out his hand. O’Flare shook it, then strode to the door that would lead him from the roof to the room below. He moved quietly, his breathing low and shallow, his gun held at the ready with the gas pellet in his other hand. He’d activate it as soon as he got close enough and it could work its magic on the vampire.
When he entered the room, he immediately saw Mahone. Even the radar’s enhanced imaging hadn’t prepared him. The vampire wasn’t touching him, but Mahone’s facial features were contorted in agony, his body writhing and jerking even as he remained silent. Fuck, Caleb thought when he saw the blood seeping out of Mahone’s eyes and ears.
“Hey vamp,” he shouted at the same time he threw the pellet, which would emit a toxic but invisible gas. The vampire whirled around, his eyes flashing red the instant he saw Caleb. He bared his fangs and came at him, his feet gliding above the ground. Caleb fired a round directly at his chest, causing him to fall back. At the same time, Riley and his men fired as well. As the vamp jerked with the impact of the bullets, O’Flare ran for Mahone. He reached up and felt his pulse.
It was barely there. He literally felt the man’s life bleeding out of him.
Laying his hands on Mahone’s bloody chest, Caleb closed his eyes. Bullets still fired around him, some coming too damn close. Damn it, Riley’s men had to get out before the gas reached them in the crawl space. “Get out!” he yelled.
“The vampire teleported,” Riley shouted. “We’re clear.”
With a sigh of relief, Caleb willed his consciousness into a trance and called to his ancestors for their healing help. He saw them in the colors that swirled behind his eyelids and felt their presence in the heat that immediately suffused his body. Their voices chanted low and soothing, directing him to keep one hand directly over Mahone’s heart but place the other over his eyes. Caleb willed the healing heat building within his body to transfer to Mahone. As it did, he took some of Mahone’s pain into himself.
He felt his own heartbeat slow.
His limbs weakened.
His body began to shake with the effort of remaining upright and he clenched his teeth, sensing he needed to maintain contact far longer than he ever had.
Come on, come on, he urged himself. Hang in there.
The dizziness came next. Then the nausea. He could feel his lungs filling with the gas that swirled around them and knew his time was running out.
His body jerked as he coughed and the movement threatened to pull his hands away from Mahone.
They had to get out of there, but if he disconnected too soon it would all be for nothing. Mahone would die. Hell, Caleb would probably die, as well, too weak from the healing to get out on his own.
But then he felt Mahone’s chest rising strongly and his pulse beating regularly and he knew it had worked. The heat slowly left his body and the voices of his ancestors faded. Caleb whispered his thanks, then opened his eyes. Swiftly, he reached up and unhooked Mahone’s chains from the manacles around his wrists. Mahone groaned and slumped over just as O’Flare caught him and threw him fireman-style over his shoulder. Caleb staggered a few steps before he turned, intending to carry Mahone to the doorway. Halfway there, his knees buckled. Caleb lost his grip on Mahone, and the man slipped and rolled a couple of feet away. Grunting, Caleb fell on all fours, his head hanging, his lungs seizing up.
He’d waited too long. They were both going to die in this warehouse just like those scientists. He looked up, eyes watering, searching the room, thankful that Team Blue had obeyed his orders even as he regretted the fact no one was going to be able to help him.
But then he saw her. Wraith. Running toward him. He tried to open his mouth. To yell at her to stop. He didn't know how the gas would affect a wraith. Since it worked so well on vamps, immortality had nothing to do with it. But he couldn’t make a sound and Wraith kept coming. She knelt beside him and pulled him up. She was yelling something and he tried to make it out.
“—have to walk! I need to get Mahone. Can you walk, O’Flare?”
She was looking frantically between him and Mahone, the indecision on her face readily apparent. She couldn’t carry them both out of there before the gas ended them.
“Leave me—” he tried to say, but again no sound came out. It didn’t matter. Wraith understood.
She grabbed him by his shirt and shook him, hanging on when he began to slide, practically keeping him on his feet. “No fucking way, O’Flare. I didn’t survive Korea just to come back and lose you in the States. Stay on your feet and move. You’re walking out of here. Got it?”
The vehemence in her voice roused him enough to nod. She released him and, although he swayed on his feet, he didn’t fall. Quickly, she grabbed Mahone, carrying him in the same lift O’Flare had used. Then amazingly, she positioned herself next to him and ordered, “Lean against me if you need to. Start walking. Now.”
Caleb walked. He didn’t know how he did it, but he managed to put one foot in front of the other. At one point, he did have to lean on her and he sensed how it slowed her down, but she didn’t move away. She stayed with him.
Until they made it out into the open air. He heard shouts and the sound of stomping feet just as he collapsed.
When he came to, he was being loaded into an ambulance. Riley’s face hovered above him. “Mahone?” Caleb rasped out.
“Still alive,” Riley said. “But I don’t know if he’s going to stay that way.”
From the worried expression on the man’s face, Caleb knew his own chance of survival was also in question.
“Wraith?” he asked, grabbing on to the man’s shirt when he didn’t answer. “What about the wraith?”
Riley shook his head. “I don’t know. She passed out, same as you. No pulse, remember? No breath. No way to tell if she’s alive or dead. They took her in another cab. Your guess is as good as mine.
Excerpt Of Chosen By Sin
CHOSEN BY SIN (BOOK 3 IN THE PARA-OPS SERIES)
Warning: May contain adult language.
Dex jerked awake to the shrill sound of his cell phone. He groaned as he tried to move, his limbs as heavy as bags of cement. His muscles, his skin—hell, even his hair—ached. Blinking the haze from his eyes, he took in his surroundings—a swank hotel room designed in minimalist chic. Despite his slowness to wake, he knew exactly where he was and who was supposed to be next to him, yet he was the sole occupant of the bed.
He scanned every corner of the room and strained his ears—maybe she was in the bathroom—but his instincts told him he was alone.
The vamp had wrung him dry then left.
He tried to sort out how he felt about that, but his blasted cell phone continued to ring, making his temples throb.
Growling, he rose, staggering slightly before his feet were steady beneath him. Shit, he felt hung over. Woozy. The same way he always felt whenever he let a vamp drink his blood during a night of frenzied sex. Granted, it hadn’t happened in several years, but it was a feeling he never forgot, just like he never forgot the euphoric spike of pleasure that threw him into full-out orgasm the moment a vamp’s fangs penetrated his skin. Even so, he didn’t remember Jes biting him last night. He checked, but felt no tenderness or puncture marks on his throat.
Apparently, it didn’t matter. Sex with her had been more intense than any he’d ever experienced. Even now, just thinking about it, his growing hard-on was threatening to throw off his recently-found equilibrium.
With her, inside her, time itself had changed. It had raced on, filling him with a desperate fear that he’d never be able to get his fill of her. Simultaneously, the clock had stopped ticking, allowing him to savor each sensation and every caress until his body had vibrated with something he’d never felt before. He’d emptied himself into the condoms he’d worn, yet when he’d let slumber take him, he’d felt filled with what had always eluded him.
But those feelings were distant memories now, taunting him with the proof of her absence. Mocking him for his weakness.
Pull yourself together, Hunt. She was a fantastic lay. That’s all. Anything else you felt was just your imagination.
He dug his ringing cell phone out of his jeans pocket and checked the time: 2 a.m.
Still naked, he stepped into the bathroom. “Yeah. This is Hunt.”
“Hunt,” F.B.I. Director Kyle Mahone snapped. “Where the fuck are you?”
“Where the hell do you think I am?” He saw the note taped to the bathroom mirror and ripped it off.
You were even better than you looked. Jes.
He frowned at the flippant words of praise. What had he been expecting? Her phone number and an invitation to call? He filled a glass with water, then took a long swallow. Mahone’s voice crackled out from the phone he still held in his other hand, reminding him that he hadn’t even questioned her about the shape-shifters the way he was supposed to.
“Damn it, Dex. Did you hear what I—”
He lowered the glass with a thud. “I’m still in Los Angeles with the team.”
“You sure as shit aren’t with the rest of the team. If you were, you’d know there’s been an attempted murder on a shape-shifter. The culprit, another shape-shifter, got away. Lucy’s going to the hospital to talk to the victim.”
“Los Angeles Memorial.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I—”
But Mahone had already hung up. “Shit.” Once again, Dex reached out to turn on the faucet, this time to splash some cold water on his face, but a sound drifted toward him from the bedroom.
He froze. Whoever it was hadn’t come in through the hotel room door because that was next to the bathroom and Dex would have seen him.
Of course, Jesmina was a vampire with the ability to teleport. Maybe she’d forgotten something. Maybe she’d decided she hadn’t had enough of him. But he knew that wasn’t the case. She was long gone and now someone was out there while Dex was in the bathroom, buck-ass naked without a weapon.
“Dex, my boy, aren’t you going to come out and say hello? Or are you shy now that the lady vampire’s gone?”
Despite the months since he’d seen him, Dex immediately recognized the male voice as one belonging to a Feral gang member. At one time, the man’s brother had been Dex’s best friend. That had been before Dex had killed the man for crimes he’d committed at the were orphanage. “Rurik,” he called as he scanned the bathroom for a potential weapon. “What brings you to L.A.?”
“Just seeing the sights with some of the other Ferals.” Rurik’s voice got louder as he approached the bathroom. “Imagine my surprise when what I spotted was you. And the vampire who met you at the door? Nice.”
He didn’t bother asking how the were had gotten inside. A third floor balcony would be child’s play for Rurik. Dex’s gaze landed on a toothbrush, still wrapped in plastic, next to the sink. He snatched it up. “Sorry, but if you were hoping to join in, she’s already gone.”
“Too bad. Could’ve been fun. But vamps were always your thing, not mine. Guess I’ll just have to settle for killing you.”
He was right outside the door. Dex drawled, “Your brother was a pedophile who liked abusing little boys. He deserved exactly what he got.”
Dex heard Rurik’s roar a split second before he barreled through the bathroom door. Dex grabbed the shower curtain, ripped it off the rod, and flung it toward the large werebeast lunging toward him. Rurik’s gun rattled to the floor but he kept coming, barreling into Dex and sending him stumbling back. The back of Dex’s knees hit the commode just as he pushed Rurik back into the bathtub. Instantly, he flipped the faucet nozzle so water streamed out of the showerhead, the water preventing Rurik from shifting into his wolf—and immortal—form.
Rurik flailed at the clingy fabric. Just as he swiped a portion away from his face, Dex punched the hard plastic handle of the toothbrush into one of the were’s eye sockets. Rurik howled but Dex didn’t pause. He slammed Rurik’s head against the tub several times until he was unconscious.
Swiftly, Dex patted Rurik down, but the were had nothing on him. Dex grabbed Rurik’s gun off the floor. It was loaded with tranquilizers, not bullets. So Rurik’s mission hadn’t been to kill Dex but kidnap him. Why? So he could torture him first?
“Wake up,” Dex growled. He shook the were, then slapped his face several times. Rurik didn’t stir.
Damn it, he wanted to question Rurik, make sure he hadn’t done anything to Jes, but he needed to get to the hospital, too. He scanned the room as if searching for an answer.
From his position low to the ground, he saw the hairdryer under the sink that he’d failed to spot earlier. He grabbed the hairdryer and ripped the cord out of the appliance. He turned, intending to tie Rurik’s hands and ankles, but heavy fingers wrapped around his wrists and wrestled him for the cord. Caught off guard, he sprawled backwards, giving Rurik the chance to twist the cord around his neck. Dex barely managed to keep his fingers between the noose and his flesh.
Abandoning the cord, Rurik wrapped his fingers around Dex’s throat, squeezing the air out of Dex’s lungs far too quickly.
He grabbed Rurik’s thick wrists and tried to pull them away, but the pressure didn’t lessen. From the corner of his eye, Dex saw the hairdryer he’d tossed aside. Gasping, he stretched out the fingers of one hand. The appliance was just out of his reach. Dots appeared in front of him and his vision began to dim.
With a frantic lunge, he grabbed hold of the hairdryer’s handle and slammed it against Rurik’s temple. At the same time, he grabbed the dangling end of the cord, the one that still had the socket prongs attached, and punched the metal into Rurik’s other temple. With a vicious twist, he snapped the were’s neck.
Rurik collapsed. When Dex rolled him off him, Rurik’s eyes were open and unseeing. Dex stared impassively at the gruesome sight. “When you get to hell, tell your brother I send my regards. I’ll see you both soon.” He turned to retrieve his phone just as it rang. . .
Excerpt Of Shades Of Desire
Shades Of Desire, Book 1 in the Special Investigations Groups Series (HQN)
“Are you all right?” Mac repeated. Natalie Jones just continued to stare at him, eyes wide and unblinking, chest heaving underneath her thin T-shirt. His own heart was still knocking against his ribs and his muscles were tensed in preparation for an attack. His eyes swept over her, noting both physical traits and bodily condition. Tawny, brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. A lean, lightly muscled frame that signaled strength even as her pinched expression indicated she was in pain. She had red marks on her legs and cheek, but they were nothing compared to the fresh bruises on her neck, or the numerous bruises on her arm that looked older.
Frowning, he readjusted his hold so that his fingers barely brushed her soft skin, but he didn’t let go completely. He felt the same irrational wave of protectiveness he’d experienced when he’d heard her scream. He hadn’t hesitated or stopped to confer with Jase before breaking through her door. He’d acted instinctively, drawing his weapon, sparing no thought for procedure or exigent circumstances or even his own safety. He’d acted like a man whose woman or child was in danger when she was a total stranger to him.
For a split second, a wave of something unfamiliar but frighteningly good shot through him. Before he could identify it, she trembled and pulled back. Instinctively, he tried to hang on, but then deliberately let his hand drop. As soon as he broke contact, he felt normal again.
Had she felt it? Had she felt the loss of it? Maybe, because her eyes looked panicky. “Easy,” he soothed. Or at least that was his intent, but she flinched. “I need you to answer me. Are you okay?”
She opened her mouth but nothing came out. With absolutely no make-up and her hair plastered away from her face, she was all eyes and lips. Big caramel colored eyes with a green ring around the iris, the color still compelling despite the ocular blood hemorrhages that were common in victims of attempted strangulation. Long lashes much darker than her hair. Bare, pouty, swollen lips, slightly parted to reinforce the impression of confusion and vulnerability.
And bruises. Cuts and bruises scattered across her face, fresh and old.
He saw other things, too. Subtler things. He saw the small creases beside her mouth, which hinted that she liked to smile, and the deep, impenetrable wall of sadness in her eyes that told him she no longer knew how. Everything about the woman was a contradiction, as mysterious and uncomfortable as the intense desire throbbing through him. For a crazy second, he wondered what she tasted like.
Maybe she’d hit her head when she’d fallen, but what was his excuse? Good thing he had the best poker face of anyone he knew.
He tried to stand, but something wouldn’t let him. It was as if an invisible chord linked them together. It forced his gaze to yet another part of her body, this time her damp T-shirt, which clung to her full breasts. “If you don’t answer me, I’m going to call a cab.”
Her brows crinkled in confusion.
“An ambulance,” he clarified. “We call them cabs.”
Whoa. He saw her muscles tense. She looked ready to bolt.
“Ch—chair….” she whispered, trying to push herself up. Mac shifted his grip so he cupped her elbow and easily helped her to her feet. Mindful of her slow, stiff gait, he led her to the green sofa set back several feet from the treadmill. “Water. Please,” she croaked out as she sat down.
“The bedrooms are clear,” Jase said as he walked into the room. From behind her, Jase shot him a questioning look. “I’ll be right back. Stay with her.” Mac went into the kitchen, rifled through a couple of cabinets that were sparsely and immaculately ordered, but couldn’t find any glasses. He crouched down to check drawers. “Where are your glasses?” he called.
He barely heard her soft reply. “Paper cups on the counter two steps from the microwave.”
He grabbed one and filled it with filtered water from her refrigerator. She lifted her hand as he walked into the room and took the cup he offered. She took one long gulp, then several smaller ones.
She lowered the cup, keeping it clasped lightly between her palms, and stared at it. “Why are you here?”
“We’re with the California Department of—”
She lifted her face and looked at a point over his shoulder. “You said you’re a police officer.”
“Technically, yes. A detective, but for the state, which is why I’m called a special agent.”
“Whatever your title is, I already gave my report to Officer Munoz yesterday. Did you catch the man who attacked me? Is that why you’re here?”
The woman had been as wobbly as a wet noodle, covered in sweat, struggling for breath. In a manner of seconds, she’d gotten herself together. It was as if drinking a cup of water had filled her with a cool, calm composure—and a hint of animosity towards them. Why?
He chalked it up to some people just not liking cops, even though those same cops were actually trying to help them most of the time.
Jase cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows as if to ask, “Are we going to stand here all day?” Mac’s eyes returned to the Jones woman. She stared unblinking, almost as if she was playing a game of chicken with him. She’d trembled beneath his touch. What would she do, what would Jase do—hell, what would he do—if he reached out and touched her again? As he’d predicted, as he’d hoped wouldn’t be the case, his reaction to meeting her in person was twice as intense as his reaction to researching her on the Web. He didn’t like it. Not one damn bit.
Shaking his head in an attempt to clear it, he said, “I’m here to talk to you about the man who attacked you last night. But first...do you know Lindsay Monroe?” To determine if you have any link to another one of his victims, a Miss Lindsay Monroe,” his voice more gruff than he’d intended.
She frowned. He wondered if she could fake confusion as easily as she faked calm. “Who?”
Her voice was stronger now, with a hoarseness that again evidenced the violence she’d suffered the day before. Somehow he knew, however, her voice would be naturally low. Sultry. And he needed to get back on track here.
“The name doesn’t sound familiar to you? Not at all?” he asked, testing her.
She scowled and crossed her arms over her chest even though one hand still held the cup of water. Her arms plumped her breasts up, and he vaguely wondered if she’d done it on purpose.
“Why don’t you stop playing games and tell me what this is about, officer?”
“Special agent. Or detective,” Mac replied absently, his eyes still focused on her chest. Realizing that, his gaze immediately found hers, but she kept her own averted. “Patrol officers usually wear uniforms.” For some reason, that brought a flood of color to her cheeks.
“Listen,” he said. “I apologize for breaking in, but I heard you scream. I’ll send someone over to fix the door. But right now, I want to ask you some questions. We can go to the local police station if you prefer…”
If possible, her face closed up even more. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Her vehement response made Mac pause. And instantly made him more suspicious. Why the hell was she being so prickly? “Is there something about me that troubles you, Ms. Jones?”
She licked her lips. “Other than you forcing your way into my home and scaring me half to death? Of course not. I already told you, I don’t know a Lindsay Monroe. And even if I did, what does she have to do with a burglar trying to kill me?”
“Quite a lot considering your burglar might have actually killed Lindsay.”
Excerpt Of Shades Of Temptation
To Carrie's surprise, Jase had moved closer and was practically looming over her. He hardly ever stood this close, as if he was trying to intimidate her with his sheer masculine presence. His body heat blasted her with the intensity of a raging fire. His scent, fresh and clean but with a hint of cologne, overpowered her. Desire rushed through her veins, making her dizzy, making her panic. Automatically, she took a step back and barely stopped herself from taking another.
She pushed a wayward strand of hair back over one ear and licked her lips. “Careful, Tyler. Your date might not like it if you stand so close to me. I mean, not that she’d view me as a threat or anything, but you know how silly most women can be.”
Jase’s fingers flexed. Absently, she noted he’d removed them from his pockets. He had big hands. Long, elegant fingers that belonged on some kind of artist rather than a cop. He had big feet, too. Although he had more than his fair share of height, he lacked the sheer bulk of some of their teammates, especially Liam “Mac” McKenzie and Simon Granger. And while he was handsome, Jase was more pretty boy than ruthless masculinity. It often made people underestimate him, shocking them when he transformed from dazzling charmer to dangerous bad ass right in front of their eyes. Sometimes even Carrie forgot how ruthless he could be. When that happened, he’d inevitably remind her by apprehending a dangerous suspect or responding to one of her snarky comments with a scathing retort. Tensing, she waited for such a retort now.
It didn’t come. Instead, he lifted one of those big hands of his and lightly brushed her cheek with his fingertips. Her heart beat wildly. Immediately, she was tempted to close her eyes and lean into him. As it was, she recalled the first and only time he’d kissed her, just a week ago, when Mac’s girlfriend, Natalie Jones, had been assaulted and ended up in the hospital. Jase’s kiss had been one of comfort, a light, brief touching of lips, over too soon. But its affect on her had been as forceful as a blow. Just as his touch was now. She couldn’t help it. She trembled, and from the way his eyes heated and narrowed, he didn’t miss her reaction.
“Regina should definitely view you as a threat,” he said softly.
Her eyes widened. No. Surely she’d misheard him. She tried for a mocking laugh but it came out breathless instead.
“I want to kiss you again, Carrie,” he said before she could respond. “But this time I want to do it right.”
The air completely left her lungs. She stared into his eyes, searching for signs that he was drunk but finding none.
His fingers trailed down to her jaw while his thumb lightly pressed against her bottom lip. When she gasped, he gave a shaky sigh and lowered his hand to shove it back in his pockets along with the other.
Excerpt Of A Vampire's Salvation
EXCERPT (For adults only; may contain explicit language).
Frankie touched her lips as she remembered the kiss Jake had given her just before he’d dropped her off last night. It hadn’t resembled a first kiss, at least not one she’d ever received. It had been a claim on both their parts. It had been all tongues, teeth and racing hands. A no-holds-barred message that the dinner and conversation they’d had beforehand had merely been something to get through so they could get to that point in the evening. And what had come afterwards.
As she watched her reflection in the mirror, her skin turned a rosy color, and her chest began to skitter up and down as she struggled for breath. Her eyes looked wide and dazed, her mouth red, her nipples hard. Dear God, she was ready to orgasm just remembering that kiss. She whimpered and squeezed her thighs together, trying to ease the ache that had begun to throb there.
She was sure if she’d let him into her apartment last night, he would have been inside her in ten seconds flat. As it was, he’d had her pressed against the door and her legs wrapped around him before she’d even known what she was doing.
That’s what had made her stop—the fact that anyone could have come by and seen them, and she hadn’t cared at all. As much as she ached to invite him in and fulfill every fantasy she’d ever had, she’d felt too out of control to let it happen. She’d spent the night getting her control back and thinking about how to proceed. Part of her was willing to take a risk, but a calculated one.
They’d have sex tonight, but on her terms. When she was ready. And in a way she was ready for.
She’d touch his body. Kiss him everywhere she’d dreamed. She’d relish every moment with him while it lasted, knowing that it was safe. That they both had the same expectations.
Sex, not love.
Pleasure, not commitment.
She’d slake her desire with him while never jeopardizing her heart.
And if the act felt slightly hollow afterwards, she’d force herself to remember what had happened the last time she’d thought she was in love. She raised a hand to her cheek.
And how it had ended.
Jake hesitated outside Frankie’s door, telling himself he was a civilized vamp. He might want to kick in her door, rip off her clothes and throw her on a bed, but clearly he couldn’t do that. Not yet, at least.
And not because she didn’t want him, but because she’d gotten it into her head that that’s all he wanted from her. And all she wanted from him.
He’d been both surprised and pleased when she’d openly indicated a willingness to be with him. However, a part of him had been immediately cautious. It had been too easy, his mind had told him. But his body, for the first time in awhile, had effectively stifled the voice.
Shut up, it had said. She wants you. So he’d let down his guard and had almost choked on his “wine” later than night—in truth, it was a vintage AB negative the restaurant owner only shared with a select few vampires—when she’d told him the terms of her acceptance.
“Just sex,” she’d said. Anything between them was to be just sex. It was also to be completely secret. And it was to end when she said so, with no questions or protestation from him.
He’d been so stunned he hadn’t been able to respond. She’d simply smiled when the waiter had appeared and then she’d ordered her food. When they’d both turned to Jake, he’d recovered enough to give his own order—steak, rare, something he could eat in small doses, though it did little to nourish him. Then he’d given her a reply.
“Why?” he’d asked. “You don’t seem the type of woman to be into casual affairs. You haven’t even dated anyone in the six months we’ve worked together.”
She’d raised an eyebrow and shot him a teasing glance over her own glass of wine. “As far as you know.”
He’d frowned. Was she saying she’d had lovers? The very thought enraged him. Made his muscles tighten and his fists clench with the need to kill the bastards, then fuck her until she remembered no one’s touch but his. Instead, he’d maintained his cool and nodded. “All right. It ends when you want it to end.”
Not missing a thing, she’d narrowed her eyes. “When I say it’s over,” she’d clarified.
Jake had hummed, and she’d looked ready to pin him down. For a moment, he’d been tempted to use his persuasion powers on her. To make her agree to accept more from him than sex. Of course he hadn’t, for the same reason he rarely used his persuasion powers. He wasn’t that weak or that dishonorable. Barring a life or death situation, if he wanted something, he could damn well get it without resorting to coercion. And while part of him knew he’d die if Frankie refused to mate with him, he was nowhere near ready to concede he needed to play that dirty to win her.
Besides, making her fall in love with him using his persuasion powers would only be temporary, and it would be useless when it came to the bonding ceremony. Plus, as she’d clarified the terms of their so-called understanding, he’d realized what a sheer turn-on her spunk was for him. And finally, Jake knew that he had other powerful means to persuade her—when it came to capitalizing on their mutual desire for one another, he was willing to play as dirty as he had to.
Lucky for him, or maybe for her, the waiter had chosen that moment to arrive with their orders.
Thus began the most agonizing meal Jake had ever had to sit through. He’d chatted with her about work and answered her questions about his “family” as best he could while watching her sip and bite and pierce and scoop her way through dinner. She didn’t pick at her food like most women he knew, but unapologetically savored her meal, almost as if she was starving for the sensory satisfaction after a long day of work. His eyes had nearly crossed when she’d slipped her spoon of chocolate mousse into her mouth time and again, moaning each time her tongue absorbed the sweetness of the lush dessert.
He’d driven to her apartment like a man in a daze, and when she’d turned to thank him, he hadn’t been able to hold back a second longer. He’d opened her mouth wide, breaching it with his tongue so he could still taste the remnants of the chocolate mousse. Her breathy moans had spurred him on, and his hands had suddenly had a mind of their own, caressing her breasts and hips, and diving under her skirt before he could stop them.
She hadn’t seemed to care. In fact, her hands had done their own exploring, testing the strength of his upper body before dipping down to cup his shaft through his pants.
He’d ripped his mouth away and said her name—Francesca—and suddenly her eyes had cleared as if she’d realized what she was doing. She’d scrambled down from her perch and immediately began to adjust her clothes.
When she’d said goodnight and that she’d see him tomorrow, he’d wanted to howl in agony. But instead, he’d nodded and walked away.
He was exercising amazing restraint with her, something his brethren would find hilarious. It was what she needed right now. But he knew it wouldn’t last much longer.
He knocked on the door and listened to her footsteps as she approached the door. It swung open. Time ground to a halt.
He had the impression of hair and heat. Of sultry perfume and creamy flesh. Of dark, mysterious eyes, and glossy lips.
He watched her mouth move. Heard her voice. “Are you ready to go? I thought we’d—”
Her eyes widened when he growled. And then he was on her.
All restraint gone.
A man out of control.
A vampire pushed past restraint.
A lover ready to show his mate that she was his.
Bedding the Wrong Brother
EXCERPT (For adults only; may contain explicit language):
“Do you want to—” Melina raised a hand and pressed it against his shirt. “—you know. Undress?”
“Is that what you want?” When she nodded her head, he moved to step back, but then froze. He couldn’t let go of her yet. He kneaded her neck, loving the way her eyes glazed over and she bit her lip with strong, white teeth. “Do you want to know what I want?”
She cleared her throat. “Of course. That’s why I’m here, remember?”
Right. She was here because by some miracle, she wanted to know what turned him on. As with magic and most other things, action was his favorite means of communication.
He bent down, and her eyes narrowed in that adorable semi-squint again. When his closed lips touched hers, they fluttered shut completely. Thinking she had the right idea, he closed his eyes and savored that first moment of contact.
It was like diving into heaven. Her lips were soft. Her breath even softer. Gently at first, his tongue sought hers. Rubbed. Parried. Thrust. When her breath hitched, he growled and opened his mouth wider, angling his head for optimum penetration.
Her mouth was so sweet, her taste so intoxicating, that he immediately imagined how sweet she’d taste in other places. Beneath his pants, his cock swelled to such stiff readiness that his ragged groan sounded tortured. Shakily, he pulled away. “I need more of you. Need to feel you against me.”
Her eyes were fixed on his fingers as he unbuttoned his shirt, but when he finished the last button, he reached for her. “Let’s get you comfortable first,” he said. To his surprise, she shook her head.
Instead of backing away from him, however, she moved closer, snaked her hands inside his open shirt, and placed her palms against his chest. With a look of wonder, she slid her hands up, then down, then up again. “You’re so—” She swallowed audibly. “You’re so warm and hard.”
He wasn’t just warm. He was hot, and her hands on his bare skin were burning him alive. “Melina,” he groaned. Wrapping his fingers around her wrist, he dragged her hand down to his throbbing dick. “Here. Just for a minute,” he pleaded. “Please touch me here.”
He let go of her hand but she didn’t move, and he wondered if he’d moved too fast too soon. But then she cupped him through his jeans and rubbed gently. His head fell back, and he gritted his teeth at the pleasure.
“Does that feel good?”
He glanced down, but she wasn’t looking at him. At least not at his face. Her gaze was plastered to her hand and what it was doing to him. “It feels like heaven,” he gasped out. “Better than heaven.”
That made her look at him. “What could be better than heaven?” she teased from beneath heavy eyelids.
He couldn’t resist touching her anymore. He cupped her breasts, pushing them together and deepening her cleavage before he buried his face in it. Kneading her breasts gently, he dipped his tongue inside her top and into her soft skin. “So sweet.” Slowly, one hand dropped down to the hot spot between her thighs, making her jerk. “So hot. Are you wet, Melina?”
He raised his head to look at her. “Are you?” he crooned.
She just shook her head.
She shook her head again. “I—I—“
“It’s okay,” he said. “How about I find out for myself?”
He curled his fingers around and underneath one leg of her underwear. He groaned when her juices immediately covered his fingertips. She whimpered. “Oh yeah. You’re wet. Just like I’ve always imagined.” He found the hard nub of her clitoris and pressed firmly against it.
“Oh my God,” she panted. “What are you doing? I’m supposed to be pleasing you.”
He chuckled. “Believe me. Nothing pleases me more than knowing that you’re wet and hungry for me. You hungry, Melina?”
Slowly, he pushed one finger inside her. The hand cupping his dick tightened then dropped away completely, moving to grab his wrist. She didn’t try to pull his hand away, just held him in a tight grip as if she wasn’t sure what she should do.
Good thing he knew exactly what he was going to do.
A second finger joined the first, and he twisted them, curving them to find the spot that made her head drop onto his shoulder and her moans louder. She was trembling hard, but he suddenly realized that he was, too.
Abruptly, his patience left him, and his need grabbed him by the throat like a wolf going in for the kill. “You know what else I like, ladybug? A big, soft bed underneath me when I make love.” When he tried to withdraw his fingers from her, her grip on his wrist suddenly tightened and tried to keep him where he was. He bent down and kissed her, using his teeth this time to add a new dimension to her pleasure. Slipping his wrist from her hold, he swung her up in his arms, carried her to the bed, and gently tossed her down. “Undress. Now.”
Excerpt Of It Started That Night
John’s little apartment was trashed. The smell of pizza and beer and other things made him dizzy, and all he wanted was for the last few stragglers to leave. Especially his ex-girlfriend, Stacy.
Tormented by the hurt look on Lily’s face before she’d run away from him, John nudged Stacy toward her roommate. “But I don’t wanna go, Johnny. I wanna shtay here with you.”
Patting her arm, he passed her into her roommate’s arms along with twenty bucks. “The cab’s waiting. Here’s enough for the fare and tip.”
“Hey! Where’s the party?”
Three men John vaguely recognized jogged up the walkway. Gritting his teeth, he blocked the doorway. “Sorry,” he said, although his tone telegraphed the opposite sentiment. “Party’s over.”
One of the men punched another in the chest. “I told you we shouldn’t have stopped.”
His friend rubbed his arm. “Like you didn’t want to know why there were cop cars swarming down the block!”
It was unsettling how fast John thought of Lily. He lunged and grabbed the guy’s shirt. “What are you talking about?”
Eyes wide, the guy jerked his thumb in the direction of Lily’s street. “We—we saw some cop cars in front of a house. A murder, it sounded like. The neighbors said the Cantrells lived there.”
John released him with a shove and started running. He ran as if his life was in danger. He ran faster than he’d ever run in his life.
Heart pumping, John’s legs wobbled every time his feet hit concrete. He pushed himself to go faster, ignoring the terror stiffening his muscles and hitching his breath.
She’s fine. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. She’s fine.
But when he turned the corner to her street, he knew Lily wasn’t fine. Three police cars were parked haphazardly in front of the house. An ambulance. A white van imprinted with the word Coroner in large, block letters. Yellow tape bordered the front walk, keeping out the crowd that had gathered there.
Guilt flooded through him. If he hadn’t messed with her feelings, she wouldn’t have run off. Had he put her in danger? Had she been hurt because of him? John stumbled, moving forward, pushing through the crowd and shouting Lily’s name.
A uniformed cop grabbed at his arm, but he jerked away and dodged around him.
Relief washed over him when he saw her. She was sitting on the front stoop, her eyes dull and vacant, her body painfully frail under an oversized long-sleeved shirt and sweats.
She didn’t look up at his call, but the cop standing next to her did. He rushed forward and planted himself on the sidewalk, blocking John’s view of Lily.
“I’m sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all, “but you need to leave.”
John craned his neck and caught sight of Lily’s father standing just inside the doorway. Their eyes locked and John instinctively flinched. Fear. Grief. Anguish. There were no words to describe the other man’s torment. Blood stained the foyer’s white walls.
“Lily!” He tried to push past the cop standing in his way only to be shoved back.
“Knock it off, or I’m going to have to take you in.”
Mindless with worry, John tried to dodge to the left, grunting when the cop got him in a choke hold. “Lily,” he gasped, needing to know. “Is she hurt?”
The cop shook John’s head like a maraca. “She’s not hurt. But she’s in shock. Now ease up, man. You are going to back off. Do we understand each other?”
John’s panic subsided just a hair. “Yeah,” he breathed. “Okay.”
Slowly, the cop loosened his grip. “What’s your name?”
“My name is John Tyler. We’re—we’re friends.”
Before the cop could respond, an EMT jostled by them and guided Lily to her feet. He led her down the walkway toward the ambulance, passing within two feet of John.
Lily walked slowly, almost robotically. She stared straight ahead. Didn’t acknowledge him in any way.
All John could think about was her declaration of love and the way he’d thrown it back at her earlier that evening. “Lily,” he murmured. She stopped.
John held his breath, waiting for her to speak. Scream. Cry. Anything.
Tentatively, he reached out and touched her face, surprised when the cop didn’t stop him. “Lily. It’s John. Are you okay?”
He saw a flare of recognition in her eyes just before she reached out and slapped him.
Staggering back, John felt someone grab his arm to steady him.
Grief flashed in Lily’s eyes. And then there was nothing.
The EMT walked her to the ambulance and helped her in. Her father quickly followed. John watched the ambulance drive away, then collapsed to his knees. In his peripheral vision, he once more saw blood. Then he threw up.
Excerpt of Dangerous To Her
Warning: Excerpt may contain adult language.
Dominic Jeffries stared at fellow detective Cameron Blake, wondering if he was dreaming. It was only a little after six in the morning, less than eight hours since he’d finished his latest undercover op and stopped to have a quick drink with his best friend, Joel Bustamante. Despite Dom having been gone for six months, their drink together had been quick because Dom had been focused on getting three things: a bed to sleep in, a woman to hold for a few hours, and then his next assignment before he was tempted to examine his life and exactly where it was going a little too closely. Likewise, Joel, newly promoted captain and perpetually starry-eyed honeymooner, had been anxious to get back home to his new wife, Tawny.
After talking business and then listening to Joel extol the virtues of settling down with one woman, Dom had finally gotten the bed, had lost interest in the woman, and had been prepared to nail down his next assignment—and not the one Joel had wanted him to take—later today.
Now? Standing in his living room, shirtless and in baggy sweats, his hair falling in eyes that were still half blurry, Dom locked his knees to keep them from collapsing.
He’d had a brief premonition of trouble before leaving Joel last night. Hard not to when Joel had been hinting at placing Dom on forced leave with the only alternative being Dom playing babysitter to a judge who was either in danger or dirty. Dom had dismissed the premonition as paranoia. After all, he’d just spent six months living in deep cover with a group of ruthless criminals. But not once in those six months had he felt as defenseless as he did now.
Because this wasn’t a dream. It was his life and, true to form, Dom had once again lost someone very important to him. For a flash, an image of a beautiful young girl with wild corkscrew curls flashed in his head.
Ruthlessly, Dom pushed it away, but then all he saw was Joel—dedicated cop, loyal friend, happier than he’d ever been.
“Dom? Did you hear what I said? Joel’s dead.” Cam’s voice was pitched low but rubbed against Dom’s skin like a jagged blade.
“When—?” was all that Dom managed to croak out.
“Around 3:00 a.m. He was—” Cam looked away, swallowing hard. “He was shot in the abdomen with his service weapon.”
“His weapon? How’s that--”
“There’s talk of suicide.”
The nasty word pounded into Dom’s brain, obliterating the fog and replacing it with a wash of rage. Cam’s blue-blood British accent held a trace of something Dom didn’t miss—disdain. Dom growled and suddenly he had Cam pinned against his living room wall, his arm against the man’s throat. “Take that back.”
Although his features reflected the shock Dom felt, Cam didn’t resist. Didn’t fight him. He simply stared at Dom, his muscles relaxed, his eyes shadowed. “I didn’t say I believe it,” he whispered. “He was my friend, too, Dom.”
Instantly, Dom took three steps back and lowered his arm.
“Look, we’ve reason to believe Mark Guapo was involved. That—”
At Cam’s mention of Mark Guapo, a buzzing started in Dom’s ears. Once again, his mind swept back to his conversation with Joel. Joel had been filling him in on the latest goings-on in the office—in Dom’s undercover absence, one of their fellow detectives had gotten separated and another had just been served divorce papers—as well as the scoop on recently convicted drug lord, Mark Guapo. Prison, it seemed, wasn’t keeping the man down. Last week, Guapo’s men had thrown their boss’s defense attorney off a twelve-story building. Chief Masters was afraid the judge from Guapo’s trial would be next…only Dom had sensed Joel holding something back. When he’d pushed, his friend had dropped several small bombs.
“Something’s bothering me with his whole Guapo case,” Joel had said last night. “ I mean, the affidavit Manelli filled out for the warrant was tight. It laid out more than enough probable cause for us to search Guapo’s place. But after Guapo’s defense attorney was killed, I ran his phone records and noticed something. A phone call made to Judge Butler’s chambers just hours before his estimated time of death.”
“Judge Butler was the judge who sentenced Guapo to prison. So what was it? A plea for help?” Dom asked.
“Or a warning. Judge Butler said it was simply a personal call—they’re golf buddies—and there’s no reason to think the judge is lying or hiding anything. But either way, someone on the inside might be able to tell us if the judge needs further protection or if he—or someone on his staff—is receiving information relevant to a murder. Plus, despite Guapo’s conviction, his operation is as strong as ever. There’s talk that he’s expanding beyond drugs and stolen cars to firearms. That’s why, if you continue to fight me on taking some time off, I want you to go undercover as Judge Butler’s bailiff. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious. I’ve already talked to the chief and he’s on board.”
Stroking his chin, Dom tried to ingest it all. “And the Sheriff’s Department? How do they feel about Sac PD infiltrating their territory?”
“The Sheriff’s Department knows you’re coming, but only the heads know why. As far as everyone else is concerned, you’d be going in as who you are, a cop suffering from imminent burnout who needs a low-stress assignment for a month until we can figure out what to do with you.” It wasn’t the first time Joel had insisted Dom needed to take a break—but he sensed this was the first time Joel, now that he’d been promoted to being Dom’s boss, was willing to follow through and make it happen. Pose as a bailiff or take some time off. For some reason, the latter held the most appeal. Maybe Joel was right, he thought. Maybe he could use some time to rest. To think. Lately, he’d been struggling against a strange sense of restlessness. An urge to dispense with the games and simply be himself.
Now why would he want something like that? He barely even knew who he was.
With the thought came a sudden cramping in his gut that had plagued him for the past week. His damn ulcer was acting up again. Refusing to rub it, refusing to acknowledge it, Dom gritted his teeth until it went away. A few seconds. Same as before. Which meant it was nothing. Just like his restlessness was nothing.
“Don’t worry about the bailiff assignment being too boring for you,” Joel interrupted his thoughts. “Danger seems to follow you no matter where you go. Plus, you can always hope someone recognizes you from a previous undercover op. That would certainly spice things up.”
“Quit trying to make me feel better,” Dom growled, playing along even though Joel’s attempt at humor sounded strained. “No one would recognize me once I’m out of this getup.” With his hair dyed black and the dark contacts, Dom could have passed for Joel’s brother. Once he was close-shaven, with blond hair and blue eyes again, no one, not even his last lover, would recognize him. “So what are the chances I’ll actually see action on this?”
“Slim to none,” Joel admitted. “This is all speculation. Chances are you’ll probably just be doing regular duty for the entire month.” Which was why, in the end, Dom had said he’d think about it—he hadn’t been able to decide between bored and deathly bored but working. Joel had handed him a stack of files and told him to look at them before they talked later today.
But he was never going to be able to talk to his friend again. Just like with Mattie, the only woman Dom had ever loved, he’d have to settle for memories. Memories that were never enough to comfort, only to hurt. To remind him why loving others and being an undercover street cop was so damn dangerous—eventually, chances were someone ended up feeling exactly the way he was now.
Excerpt Of Shades Of Passion
Available March 26th.
“So,” Nina said, reaching up to lightly trail her fingertips against the outer wrist of the hand Simon was touching her with. She liked the way his eyes immediately darkened.
“Were you being honest when you said you’re attracted to me?
When you said something happening between us is unavoidable?”
“Yeah. I was.” He frowned and pulled his hand away from her touch. Interesting. Despite having more than his fair share of hutzpah, was he actually scared of the very attraction he’d just copped to? Actually scared of little old her?
“But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a say,” he explained. “I think you’re attracted to me, too, but if you don’t want anything to happen, all you have to say is no and nothing will.”
“But you doubt my ability to say no?” She smiled slightly. “You’re very perceptive, Detective.”
He narrowed his eyes. Those same eyes that had caused her to wax so poetically in her own mind when Karen had asked about them. Steely gray, they should have been remote. Hard. Instead, they reminded her of velvet. And how much she loved the feel of velvet.
“Meaning?” As if against his better judgment, his hand slowly lifted again. Instead of cupping her chin this time, he cradled her cheek in his palm.
Her breath quickened and she moistened her lips. His lips parted slightly as he watched her.
“Meaning, we aren’t working together. Not yet. If ‘something’ is going to happen between us anyway, maybe—” When she paused, he swiped his thumb slowly against her lower lip. Automatically, she gasped at the pleasure that small touch brought her.
He shifted ever closer, brushing her body with his. “Maybe…what?”
“Maybe we should—grab the bull by the horns, so to speak.”
He smiled, not just with his mouth, but with his eyes. Eyes that were focused intently on her mouth. “Exactly what part of me—or you—is the bull is this scenario?”
“What I mean is, maybe we should try to diffuse any tension by satisfying our curiosity now. Our curiosity about kissing,” she amended quickly. “Not anything more. But a first kiss? That’s bound to be on our minds. Considering we’re attracted to each other, I mean.”
“Right.” His gaze remained on her mouth. “Seems reasonable,” he said.
“Right. Especially because—well, maybe what we’re anticipating won’t live up to the fantasy. That’s almost always the case. If we kiss, chances are we’ll see this—this—“
“Connection?” he asked.
“Yes, chances are we’ll see this connection between us isn’t anything special.”
He brought his gaze up to hers. He looked doubtful, then amused, but simply said, “Hmm. I’m willing to give it a try if you are.” He arched a challenging brow.
She swallowed hard and said, “I—Yes. Yes, I am.”
Instead of lowering his head and kissing her right away, however, he continued to stare into her eyes. He rubbed his thumb against her lip again. His stare combined with his roughly gentle touch had her trembling. It was so much better than trembling with fear, the way she had been when he’d first arrived.
“There’s just one little problem, though,” he said.
She struggled to concentrate. “What’s that?”
“What happens when a kiss blows our mind? What happens when it isn’t enough? Because I’m pretty certain that’s what’s going to happen.”
“Well, you’ve been so honest with me. And I have to be honest in return. We can’t sleep with each other. It would complicate things. But this…maybe we can have this. And hope that’ll be enough?”
He didn’t agree with her. She hadn’t been expecting him to. And though she’d said the words, though she’d meant them and knew they had to be said, she didn’t quite believe them herself.
“Well, here goes…” he said.
And covered her mouth with his.
Kissing Nina Whitlow felt fresh.
Like he’d never kissed a woman before, and for a man of Simon’s experience, that was saying something. It troubled him at first. Made him hold back. But when she seemed to melt—her mouth parting, her body relaxing into his—he couldn’t hold back any more.
Groaning, he opened his mouth, slanting it to get at her better. Deeper. His tongue didn’t so much invade as it took with confidence of its welcome. She’d admitted she wanted him. Hell, she’d initiated and justified this kiss even as she’d warned him he couldn’t have more. That thought grated at him. Spoiled the pleasure he was experiencing more than he wanted to admit. But he forced himself to push his agitation away.
Here. Now. They could have this, she’d said. And he was going to take advantage of every last second of it.
God, he’d missed this. The closeness of a woman. Her softness. Her scent. They highlighted his strength and cautioned him to be gentle even as they urged him to let down his defenses. Yet even as he wallowed in the familiar feeling of intimacy, he was acutely aware, once again, that this was different. She felt different. Tasted different.
Better than anything or anyone he’d ever had before.
Her tongue tangled with his, rubbing almost shyly against him, and he lowered his hand to the small of her back, urging her closer. Her breasts pressed against his lower chest, and though he’d thought something about her car and then her house didn’t quite fit, that wasn’t true for their bodies. They fit. Divinely.
He was breathing fast and his skin prickled and he wanted more. He wanted to strip her. He wanted to pick her up and carry her to her bedroom. He wanted inside her. Now.
“Simon,” she gasped, and he became aware of her hands, not pulling him closer but holding him away. He pulled back. Or tried to. His body didn’t cooperate the way he was expecting it to.
Not that he could blame it, really.
His hands had fallen even lower to cup her ass and his lower body was pressed tightly against hers. That warm, sweet juncture between her thighs cradled his erection and without his conscious thought, he was pushing into her, as if he could get through the barriers of their clothing and into her warm moist heat by sheer will. Her eyes were wide. Slightly shocked.
And he felt that same shock rippling through him.
Excerpt Of Deadly CharadeAvailable May 2013
Linda Delaney woke feeling optimistic about life and love. Even so, the comforting haze of sleep beckoned to her.
She pushed it aside, longing for her lover’s embrace. Nothing felt as good as being in his arms.
She shifted, intending to burrow closer to Tony under the warm, protective haven of the sheets, but only coldness greeted her. With it came an immediate sense of panic. Dread.
Her eyes popped open and she sat up, alone in her bed. A quick glance at the clock confirmed it was the middle of the night, not even three o’clock. The bedroom door was slightly ajar, allowing tendrils of the illuminated hallway light to sneak inside, much the same way she imagined Tony had snuck out of bed, cautious not to wake her.
For a moment she closed her eyes and fought it off. The suspicion. The feeling of betrayal. The knowledge of what she had to do. But it was no use.
Tony could be watching television. He could be reading. He could be doing a multitude of things, each of them perfectly respectable and ordinary, but deep down she knew he’d snuck away for a more nefarious purpose. To get in touch with his supplier. To exchange money for the painkillers that would take away the man she loved and replace him with a stranger.
According to Tony, the last time he’d used had been a year before they’d ever met. She’d chosen to believe him, but a small part of her had always suspected he wasn’t telling the truth. Or that even if he was, it wouldn’t last.
And she’d been right.
God, she wished he wasn’t using again. But she knew better. She’d seen the signs of his relapse—his restlessness, the sleepless nights, his increasing agitation—but had simply chosen to ignore them. She’d prayed she was wrong. That he’d keep his promises to her in a way her father had never been able to.
She stood and went looking for him. He was in the kitchen, his elbows on the table, his head cradled in his hands, staring down at a plastic bag filled with pills. Hearing her, he looked up, his gaze tortured.
She sat in the chair beside him.
He shook his head. “I haven’t taken one.”
Not yet. He didn’t say it, but she heard it anyway. It was only a matter of time. He’d gotten hold of the drugs, obviously. That evidenced his intent to use them. And he would, no matter how hard he tried not to. He would.
“I know,” she said softly. She reached out and touched his arm. Desperately he pulled her toward him and she went willingly, wrapping her arms around him and cradling him close. He was shaking. His body vibrating with need—need for the drugs, she realized sadly. Not her.
His mouth sought hers and she opened it to him as automatically as she opened up her heart. Their tongues surged against one another, and she wished she could infuse him with strength, but his addiction was a dark, monstrous force.
It gave him something she never could. An unnatural high. Forgetfulness. Oblivion.
And that’s what hurt the most.
They were together. She loved him, more than she’d ever loved anyone. Loved him enough to have stayed with him, despite her job as a criminal prosecutor. But he wanted the drugs more than he wanted her.
Automatically she pulled away, shoring up her courage to ask him to leave.
Obviously sensing that, he pulled her back. “No, not yet,” he stated. “Stay with me. You’re more important to me than these pills. You know that. Be with me. Please.”
One last time. Again, the words went unspoken. And truthfully maybe he didn’t even realize that’s where this was headed. But he’d inadvertently reminded her what a losing battle this was. Her father had used to say the same thing to them—her, her sister, Kathy, and their mother. “You’re more important to me than anything. You know that.”
In the end it had all been a lie. And that’s why they’d had to cut him out of their lives.
Just like she’d have to cut Tony out of hers.
The finality of her thoughts had her panic and despair spiking, so much so that when he cupped her breast in one hand she felt nothing. Given her body’s addiction to Tony’s touch, that told her more than anything that it was time to let him go. But despite the seeming absence of true desire, her love for him was still there, and she couldn’t walk away without telling him—no, showing him—how much she loved him. How much she’d always love him. Even if they couldn’t be together.
She led him back to their bed, relieved he went without once looking back at that bag of pills. She straddled him, not wanting to dominate him, but to give to him. Even though it wasn’t enough, would never be enough, the desire that had been absent just minutes ago washed over her like a tidal wave.
Her hands caressed him. The strong shoulders so gracefully padded with muscle. The defined grooves in his chest, lightly dusted with hair. The smooth curly locks that had first drawn her to him.
Their breaths grew ragged the longer she touched him, and she was aware of his hands on her hips, lightly gripping her as he arched beneath her. He was hard and she moaned at the sharp spark of pleasure that twisted through her. Frantically she reached down and guided him into her welcoming heat.
She bit her lip at how thoroughly he filled her.
Why, she longed to cry. Why couldn’t this be enough for him?
But she kept the words inside. Later, they’d talk. Later, he’d seek to reassure her. To reason with her that he hadn’t actually taken a pill. To tell her that he loved her and always would and would never jeopardize what they had together.
He’d mean every single word he said. And she’d be tempted to believe him, even though she couldn’t.
All she could have was right now. His body in hers. Her body over his. Loving him enough for a lifetime when all they had left together was tonight.
Excerpt Of Molly Wants A Hero, from the Love Bites Anthology
Molly was almost to her car when a voice sounded from just behind her.
“Mawwwwwlleeeeeeeee,” it singsonged.
Involuntarily, she screamed and dropped Gator’s cage, which tipped over on its side. Dimly, she heard Gator’s piercing shrieks as the cage rolled away. She jerked around and caught a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. Instinctively, she tried to turn, but it was too late. The hooded figure was almost on top of her.
Strong fingers dug into her arms.
Under the dim parking-lot lights, most of what she saw was black. Black clothes. Black ski mask over her attacker’s face. But she also saw two tiny patches of white where his eyes shone through the mask’s eyeholes. Terror seized her, but then her previous self-defense training clicked in. “You bastard! Let go of me!”
He jerked her closer. “Shut up!” he muttered, the strong odor on his breath escaping from the mouth hole in his mask. For a second, the distinct scent made her freeze, but then she continued to struggle.
“You damn—” But his words choked off when she kicked out, catching him in the groin. She’d hoped his grip would loosen, but it tightened instead. She fought to wrestle away, but a second later she felt a stunning blow to the side of her head.
Through her dizziness, she lunged forward, trying to bite the man’s neck or chest, anything she could reach, but he grabbed a hank of her hair, yanked her head back and punched her in the face. Her body slumped and she almost blacked out. Dimly, she was aware of Gator shrieking and her feet dragging against the asphalt as the man hauled her away from her car.
Suddenly, light blazed directly in her face, blinding her. She heard the heavy, panicked breaths of her attacker just before he cursed and shoved her forward. She fell face first toward the ground, scraping her palms where she caught herself, but her torso and head hit with painful thuds anyway.
She heard the pounding of running feet. A deep, masculine voice just over her head shouting for backup to apprehend a fleeing suspect while he checked on a victim. Then gentle hands touched her shoulder.
“Shhh. You’re okay, darlin’. He’s gone.”
When she whimpered and flinched back from the hands touching her, they retreated. A victim, he'd called her, when she'd never wanted to be a victim again.
She lay there for a few seconds, the newcomer crouched down next to her, his hands deliberately hanging between his knees where she could see them, as if he wanted her to know he wasn’t a threat. Her eyes wandered upward until she could take in his dark blue police uniform. In the background, blue lights flashed, and she registered it was from his patrol car.
“Are you okay?”
Groaning, she forced herself to move and slowly brought her knees under her. It was harder than she would have expected. She raised a shaky hand to her temple, wincing as the raw scrape on her palm met her tender eye and cheek.
"Is he gone?"
“Yes, you're safe, ma’am. He was wearing a mask. Did he say anything? Any idea who he was?”
“N-no. I mean, he said my name. Told me to shut up. But he used a weird tone. I didn’t recognize his voice.”
“Okay, so it wasn’t a random attack. He knew who you were. Do you work here?”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Molly— Molly Peterson.”
“Molly, it's me. Officer Wade King. We talked earlier, remember? You’re safe now, don't worry.”
She stared at him. Despite the trauma she’d just suffered, she wasn’t too far gone to notice he was just as gorgeous as she’d imagined. Sandy-blond hair. Brown eyes—dark, deep orbs that reminded her of mink. A firm, square jaw, a full bottom lip and a slightly cleft chin. The first word that popped into her head was yum.
But despite all that, it was really his voice she focused on.
That voice. She recognized that voice.
“Molly, I said you’re safe. Did you hear me?”
“Yes, yes. I’m safe. And you’re—you’re hot.”