Audra immediately felt transparent when she saw him, especially since he’d become the object of her poker obsessions and a few fantasies, too. A spark of nervous energy inspired a few hairs to stand up on the back of her neck. Just feeling his warm palm in hers, even if it was only for a moment, did things to a woman that should’ve disqualified her from the tournament.
Soon after she took her seat, Audra posted the big blind and waited. She planned on folding her cards once she saw them but no one raised the bet so she stayed in the hand. The dealer dealt the first three community cards and after she saw the flop, Audra knew she owned the hand. She felt it in her gut or at least she thought so, and she’d played enough cards to earn rest assurance, to an extent.
She felt fairly confident until the man seated at the opposite end of the table decided to talk her right out of a comfort zone. Naturally, he would.
“You gonna call me, baby?” Max tossed in his chips with a raise around the same time he let go of the question. The man with the notorious reputation emerged and he didn’t waste time doing it.
As luck would have it, Audra became the center of attention. She swallowed hard. She hated to be taunted at the tables but knew how to deal with Reynolds. Even though the man she first met in Tunica didn’t remotely resemble the tough-talking poker player staring back at her now, she’d watched him play. She was ready for him because deep down she knew she needed to prepare for moments like these and men like Max.
“If I decide to call you, you’ll know it,” she fired back while trying to maintain some level of composure. Just hearing him say the word ‘baby’ shook her a bit but it didn’t rattle her enough to avoid a feisty comeback. Maybe it was because she anticipated words exchanged or maybe it was possible to sit there and imagine him in his underwear, an old trick she used back in high school whenever she stood in front of crowds. No, she didn’t think stripping him down to boxers worked, absolutely not. If she let her mind move too fast then she’d picture him at bare bones and her hours there would be limited. She tried to focus and just breathe. Most of the time the concept worked, she had nearly twenty-four years to serve as proof.
A player’s player, Max wasn’t just a dominant force at the poker table, he gained the respect of a true card playing powerhouse. From what Audra had heard, his skills reached far beyond the casino floor too, and one thing seemed certain, he earned quite the reputation with the opposite sex. In fact, his notoriety for being a ladies man proved legendary. A point she found hard to ignore after she began following his career.
Crossing his arms, he leaned back in his chair. “I’m right here waiting for you when you do,” he continued to tease her. Midnight blue eyes pierced through her with fierce intensity. Some would say they were as cold as the icy waters he often represented, but Audra saw something else beneath them, too. Thank goodness for Ray-Bans. She made a mental note to remember them on a daily basis now, right along with her iPod. If she covered her eyes and ears, then ignoring Reynolds wouldn’t present much of a problem.
“Waiting on a woman,” her voice hitched and the words spilled out like a song, “I imagine it’s something you’ll never tire of, kind sir.” She tilted her sunglasses down on the bridge of her tiny nose and tried to find a seductive smile—one just for him. She hoped it worked.
The men around the table appreciated the war of words. Snickers were followed by a couple of sound effects, not to mention outright laughter. The man seated on her immediate left slowly rippled his chips. Already, he irked her. It was a decision she reached in record time right after she sat down. His careful gaze, creepy really, made her very uncomfortable. Soon after she’d joined the table, the young man tried to profile her as she removed her chips from the rack.
Most of the time, profiling wouldn’t bother her. Players always tried to sum up the competition, but today wasn’t a day like any other, which is why she tilted the rack over. She even took her time to fumble around before gathering the fallen chips. Max chuckled on cue when it happened. He realized it was deliberate. The profiler didn’t have the brains to understand. He took her for a novice; a dumb brunette who had the audacity to show up at his table with boobs.
“How much you got there?” Max nodded at her chips after an awkward silence lapsed.
“More than you can handle,” she fired back before peering down at her chunk change.
“You tell him, Audra,” one of the men commented.
“Put him in his place,” another player added. She appreciated the older man’s support. In fact, on further observation, she recognized him. She’d put him in his place once or twice. Two years ago in Atlantic City—different town, same game. The world of poker often brought old friends and acquaintances back together for brief reunions.
Steady fingertips brushed over stacks of poker chips before she met his eyes again. “I have enough to make the call, if I decide you’re worth it,” she openly flirted with him. Whatever works.
She reminded herself who sat at the opposite end and tried to avoid stare tactics, not because she wanted to but because if she didn’t, she might cream her pants right there. The man had it in him to push a woman’s buttons. Max pressed hers without trying.
If anyone, male or female, spelled out beautiful, Reynolds did it without a problem. In fact, he likely inspired countless synonyms for the word. Sure, the man had a lot of self-confidence, which only upped the ante for women who wanted his attention, but his physical features were out-and-out perfect.
Regrouping again, Audra tried to think back to the way Reynolds played various hands on television. Finding mental clips from the big games at The Bellagio or the Australian tournaments proved simple enough in the past, but she wasn’t able to recall them now.
Her straight flush was almost unbeatable. That is, unless he held the mother hand—the royal flush. The way he seemed to mock her with daring eyes while teasing her with a deliberate tongue implied a significant meaning. Audra faced off with a true pro. The game’s finest.
Quick wit and dancing eyes undid the best of poker players, because regardless of his opponent, Max’s expressions and demeanor never changed once he made up his mind to take a player out. Max possessed those two qualities and nailed them down to a creative art form. She’d been fair warned by several women players who knew of his abilities—on and off the felt.
“Wha’cha holding over there in the hole, baby?” His words drifted across the table again. She felt them slide her way with sleek and arrogant sophistication. She thought about peering back at her hole cards but quickly decided against it after his comment suggested maybe she needed to take another peep.
He’s smooth. Dapper Don in the flesh. She couldn’t concentrate for his babbling. Her eyes focused on the board. The dealer deserved a standing ovation. The cards came down and formed a beautiful flop and if anyone else, anyone other than Max that is, was in the pot with her now then her confidence of a sure win would’ve been at an all-time high.
The ten of Hearts quickly led to the Jack and Queen of the same suit. It was without a doubt, absolutely gorgeous. Anyone would think so, especially if they held the suited eight and nine. The only thing better would be the royal flush.
Audra continued to stare at the three cards in the middle. What were the chances of the royal? Pretty slim.
Max pressed on. “I hear you play it pretty tight, little lady. Is it true or are you going to let go of it just for me?” Max’s ability to shake her left nothing and everything to the imagination, a skill which showcased some measure of calculated talent. Right now, she thought of it as an annoyance.
His choice of words proved he wanted her weak in the knees. Her legs weren’t jelly yet but the chill bumps existed there. He did have one thing right. She played it tight—all the way around.
She watched him only closer now. Oh yeah she did, and he was right there waiting for her when she finally tilted her chin upward in order to defy her better senses.
Glaring back at her, she saw a man with a woman’s means. She blinked. Damn it all, she did. Now, she was forced to look away from those broad shoulders and muscular arms because she didn’t find one inch of reassurance there.
She meant to give him a longing stare, one to channel some of the initial flirting back to the source but it wasn’t going to happen today. His light rose-colored shirt all but flaunted a glorified tan and the man just looked too sexy-hot for pretty in pink.
Now, her throat was dry and she felt a wave of heat, too warm for comfort. Someone must’ve messed with the thermostat. She focused on the fact until she voiced her sentiments. “Blistering,” she whispered quietly but someone heard a softly spoken word or better yet, focused enough on her lips to read them.
“Hot.” He snapped his teeth. Letting it slide must have been out of the question.
Max’s charming way with the ladies threw many of them off their game so fast their heads, and undoubtedly their bodies, would spin. It only required a few seductive words, a tongue swipe across very kissable lips or a provocative look. He’d have a woman stripped down to her thong in record time, but before the clothes came off, he wanted her chip stacks and he typically took those with a smile.
“Call.” Audra preferred to sit there all day and try to figure out what cards he held but the best thing to do was play her hand and move on. She wanted to see if he still had the balls to play. Her hand remained steady as she counted out the precise amount she needed to place the bet.
“It’s four hundred fifty thousand to make the call,” the dealer informed of the amount needed.
Audra nodded, continued the count and then moved the chips forward to indicate a placed bet.
Max looked over her shoulder and smiled for the cameras. They were playing at the featured table and Audra knew by his notorious theatrics, he thought he most definitely won the hand. He wanted to be sure the crowd believed in him too before they made it to the showdown.
The turn card came down and when it did, everyone could’ve heard a card fall from the table. King of Hearts.
Max’s shoulders shifted. He almost did a little dance movement. He stretched, yawned and then grinned even bigger than before. He certainly knew how to play it if he didn’t hold the Ace. “Baby, how much you got left over there?” Another round of conversation didn’t take long to start. Max and patience didn’t have a close personal relationship and those in the audience loved him for it.
Audra thought about how she wanted to finish out the hand. If he had the Ace of Hearts, which certainly seemed possible now, she’d lose and her tournament dreams would end. If she folded, she would take a substantial hit and start the following day off at a big disadvantage. She would spend the first part of the next day trying to make up for the loss. She didn’t like to play from behind or start the day bringing up the rear with the short stack.
The other players at the table shook their heads. They chuckled and waited. Everyone glared at the looming evidence of possible combinations as if the cards themselves revealed the winner. In the crowd, side-bets were most likely placed on who had the winning hand. If so, Max stood as the running favorite. She was a long-shot.
She decided to play his way. She just hoped like hell he would either fold or give away his hand. “I have enough to steal your lead today.” She finally answered him with a good comeback and she flashed a smile too, just for the camera crew.
“Ouch!” one of the other men responded. All eyes around the table turned back to Max.
The superstar leaned forward and focused on her chest with a cold stare before he offered a sudden flirtatious wink. He tortured her with his long, leisurely gaze, and then pressed his lips into a slow pucker. Upon smacking them in a makeshift kiss, he informed the dealer, “I think she has about three hundred left down there.” He nodded in Audra’s direction.
“I’ll raise for you baby.” He tossed his chips like three hundred big ones meant nothing to him. His words, never mind the tone he used or the quick show of tongue that followed, were thick with implication.
“Fine, but don’t expect me to roll over and play dead. I like to feel a little heat when a man decides to rise for the occasion.”
Breakfast by the Sea—An Amazon Best Seller
She tried harder and ran faster, controlling her breathing and pushing herself forward, wondering why Jeff hadn’t given up the chase. He was still on her tail and closing in again.
For over a month, Adam had limited where she could run, making sure she ran where they could see her, refusing to let her swim more than half a mile out in case they needed to save her. Now, they had Jeff on her. Damn Adam for this.
Is this why Adam had assigned Jeff to take care of her? Was he the only one who could keep up with her?
“Woman! Wait!” he yelled.
Jeff’s broken voice chimed right at her ear. She plunged forward, taking a last opportunity to swerve to her right. Maybe he could keep up on land, but he’d never catch her in the water. Long before she became a dedicated runner, Paige swam on a regular basis. Kicking off her shoes, she stripped her shirt over her head, losing her bra just for spite.
“Damn, baby, when you play, you play hard!”
The guttural way he called her by a pet name spiked her interest, but she didn’t look back. She wasn’t playing. She was teaching him a lesson. He needed to know who he could and could not control.
She heard the splash behind her and never glanced back. She swam freestyle until she reached the breaking point of the low-tide waves. That’s when she dipped underwater and lost herself in one stroke after another. Heading right, she hoped Jeff would keep swimming straight or hedge to the left.
Seconds later, she came up for air. A hand closed around her foot.
“Let me go!” she screamed, gasping for air. Breathless from the exercise, she fought back, trying to break free.
“Relax! I’m not going to hurt you.”
“The hell you aren’t!” she screamed, thinking Jeff underestimated her. After their initial meeting, she’d done her homework. Adam’s team seemed to know so much about her, and from what she’d gathered from Callan, Jeff was to blame. He must’ve established inside connections the rest of them didn’t have. He’d done his research. Well, so had she!
Over the past few weeks, Paige called in favors from some of her father’s old contacts. She’d discovered harrowing tales about Jeff Jacobsen. He was considered a heartless operative, a loose screw, a man who followed his own rules and didn’t have a soul or a conscience to speak of.
“I said let me go!” She somehow kicked him and wiggled free at the same time while he tried to protect his lower body. She made a clean break, but much to her surprise, Jeff was a strong swimmer.
When he bracketed his arms around her hips and pulled her against his chest, he hissed, “This is ridiculous. You will calm down, or I’ll yank your shorts down and fuck you where we stand.”
She gulped. How many times had she heard Ramone threaten similar things? How often had she run only to have Ramone’s men haul her back to him again? And why the hell did she find Jeff’s threat so arousing?
“That’s my good girl,” Jeff said, stroking her head. “Now, let’s get you back on the sand so we can lay down some ground rules.”
He used one arm to carry her, refusing to let her go. She went limp against his body, tired of the struggle and worn out from the strenuous exercise. Her labored breathing and the lapping of waves were the only sounds in the air, producing an erotic conflicting melody.
When they finally made it to ankle-deep waters, he released her. “Walk,” he ordered her, pointing toward the beach.
“I don’t have to do what you tell me,” she blurted out, feeling like a child defying authority. Her breasts bounced heavily enough to remind her she was topless. She didn’t give a damn.
Jeff seemed unaffected. He didn’t stare at her chest. Instead, he gritted his teeth and looked her in the eye. “I really don’t care if you go willingly or with great resistance, but let me explain something to you.”
He struggled to speak, still catching his breath. When he finally squared his shoulders, he pointed his finger directly in her face, and said, “I’m not Adam. I’m sure as hell not Callan or Miles. You may have all of them running around with their noses tilted in the air, waiting for that mating call, but not me. I’m not interested. I’m here to do a job. If I receive the order to snap your pretty little neck, I’ll listen to the pop and consider it a job done. Are we clear?”
Paige glared at her captor. He was the epitome of a hard man, all right, but he wasn’t as tough as he wanted her to believe. So he was better than the men he worked beside. He could keep up with her. He liked the chase, too, the challenge. That’s what got him going. He was, in many ways, like her—an adrenaline junkie.
“You’re lying,” she said finally, walking behind him.
“You think so?” He stopped abruptly, and she walked right into his bare back. A masculine sound escaped his lips, and he jerked.
She immediately backed off, covering her breasts with her hands. “Yes,” she said, taking another effort at a steady breath. “Your eye twitched when you said you could snap my neck. You might have been able to do that when we first met, but…”
“But what?” he asked, turning around and stepping into her.
Rather than push the right buttons in the wrong man, she said, “How can you keep up with me when the others can’t? I don’t see you overexerting yourself with daily exercise routines.”
He started walking. A few steps down the beach, he retrieved his shirt and shoes. At that point, he looked at her. Paige believed it was a telling moment. Jeff Jacobsen finally saw her as more than an obstacle and far more than an ever-present threat. He undoubtedly saw her as a woman, and maybe even his equal.
* * * *
He felt like he’d just laid eyes on her for the first time. He started at her chin, noticing the way the dark brown hair curved under her jaw, a lock of hair so delicate but there nonetheless, like it was clinging for dear life. Was that what Paige was doing? Was she frightened? Was she running scared?
His gaze traveled down her long, slender neck. He admired how she held her head high, the structure of her slender collarbone leading to a bare chest with plenty for a man to enjoy. Before he indulged too much, Paige knelt down and retrieved her clothes, shrugging into a sports bra, one she had to yank over those full mounds in order to secure them.
Damn. She was right. Snapping that neck of hers would be a terrible waste.
That’s when his mouth watered. Why hadn’t he gawked when she’d been topless?
And why did he find her sexy as all fucking hell right then?
Her flat stomach made him itch. He’d love to kiss around her sunken belly button and insinuate a slow sex act, make her arch for him, beg him for more.
Finally, he studied the band of her shorts. What he’d give to lick and tease his way a little lower, strip away those spandex and show her what she’d been missing. Maybe in her body, he’d find what he’d been looking for all along. Perhaps he needed to fuck a woman he wasn’t later expected to kill. Then again, he couldn’t be so sure that order wouldn’t come.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
“No,” he replied, storming ahead of her. Suddenly, he wondered why she followed him then when she hadn’t trailed behind him before. He stopped, turned around, and shook his finger again. “Don’t you dare run. I’d like to have breakfast before we do that again.”
“Okay,” she agreed, catching up and walking beside him. “Want to answer my question now?”
“How can you keep up with me?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he growled.
“I’m in great shape.”
“I can tell.”
Jeff stopped at the bottom of the steps. “Is that you coming on to me?”
She sashayed by him. “No, Jeff. That was me trying to figure out how I can outrun you next time.”
“There won’t be a next time,” he told her, grabbing her from behind and slamming her against the steps, bracing her back with his large hands.
His breath matched hers. The move knocked the wind out of both of them.
“I’m not going to kiss you,” he said, thinking he wouldn’t put up much of a fight if she laid one on him.
She moistened her lips. “I didn’t think so,” she whispered, arching her neck. “What if I kiss you?”
“Is that what you’re planning to do? You have the rest of these guys by the balls, and since I’m not turning tricks to taste the pudding, what ’cha gonna do, darlin’, offer me a spoon?”
“I don’t understand your riddles,” she stated flatly, licking those full, enticing lips once more.
“Let me give you a warning. I’m the real thing, sweetheart. I’m in Jekyll Island to work. It’s something all of us do very well when we don’t have a distraction. Now, since I’ve been assigned to you for the time being, I’m setting you straight. You’ll do what I tell you, and you’ll do it with a wide smile to boot. Understand?”
“Or you’ll what?”
“I told you what I’d do. If you want to see how much I enjoy skinny-dipping, pull one of your stunts again. I’ll drag you into that ocean and make sure every tourist within ten miles hears you when you scream.”
“I already heard the guys talking. You wouldn’t rape me,” she said, narrowing her gaze and proving then that she wasn’t so sure.
“Rape? Hell, no. You’ll respond to me like a bitch in heat. I have a way about me.”
“Really? Who would’ve thought?” she asked diabolically, moving her lips to his ear. “Who can I ask to verify this? Hmm? Have you left any of your past lovers alive? Because if you have, I’d love to give them a call and invite them to join me for tea.”
When she marched away from him, her eyes lowered and she set her jaw. He swallowed once, wondering what she’d found out about him, contemplating whether or not she’d discovered more about his past than the fellows on his team.
No, she was bluffing, grabbing at straws. Wasn’t she? Sure, that must have been the case. How could she know every woman he’d ever had in his bed had been a target? Well, without survivors around to confirm her theory, there was just no way.
Steam Toys—A New Amazon Release
“You haven’t slept with a lot of women, have you Edward?” she asked, unbuttoning her jacket and sliding her arms free at the same time.
He moistened his lips. “I don’t have time for a woman.”
“Hmm,” she whispered, propping her head on the leather seat and wiggling out of her dress pants.
“What are you doing?” he squealed, eying the driver now looking in his rearview mirror.
“Everything all right back there, Mr. Brady?”
“Yes,” he snapped, hitting the button for the partition glass. The divider window separated him from the driver. “Thanks to you, everyone will think I’m crazy!”
She grabbed his belt and immediately pulled free the leather strap. A wave of her hand and she had his snap popped and zipper down. “I’m not making anyone think anything.”
“Yes, you are,” he said, moaning when she tugged him free of his shorts.
“No,” she retorted. “You’re doing a fine job of that all on your own, Edward. You didn’t need my help.”
“Stop,” he said, grabbing her hands and holding her.
“Why?” she asked. “We don’t have an audience now. Seems a shame we should waste the drive back to the loft, don’t you think?”
“Why are you doing this?”
She lowered her head and licked the top of his cock. “Because I can and because I’m damn good at it.”
Edward leaned back and let her have him. Her hot mouth enveloped his cock and his hips shot off the seat.
“Relax,” she mumbled, tapping his balls. “I’ve given head a few times in my life.”
She raked her fingers across his thigh and in a matter of seconds, she was bobbing over his cock. “Damn,” he crooned. “I thought you might have been out of practice.”
She stopped and looked at him. For a few unspoken moments, they were held captive by one another’s eyes. She crawled up his belly and gave him a hot kiss, leading the way with her inspiring little tongue. When she finished delivering quite possibly the most sensual kiss Edward recalled, she reached down the length of his body and pumped his cock, staring into his eyes as she fondled him.
A few seconds after the hand-job, she tucked him in his pants and redressed quietly. He stared at her in disbelief. “You are most definitely a tease.”
“No, Edward. I’m not,” she assured him, adjusting her simple sleeves.
‘Then do you mind telling me why you didn’t finish what you started?”
“Of course not,” she said, crossing one long leg over the other. “Lesson number one is just for you, Edward. You may have a whore in your lap, with your cock in her cheek, but you never, ever make the implication you believe she’s old, used and cheap.”
“I made you feel that way?”
She tilted her head down and with wide eyes, she confirmed it. “Yes you did, Edward.”
“You’re the one that said you’d given head a few times. Not me.”
She smiled, placed her hands in her lap and looked straight ahead. When they pulled into the parking lot of the towers where Edward lived, she said, “And you suggested I may have been out of practice which was a direct slam to my age.”
“It was, Edward,” she said, pushing her hair over her shoulders. She tilted her head toward the driver approaching them. “Try not to act like a scorned lover when you get out of the car. Remember, he can’t see me. I’ve learned from experience those employees closest to you are the first to run their mouths when things begin to spiral out of control. The last thing you need is your driver telling a reporter you’ve lost it.”
The limousine driver opened the door. Edward stepped out. He was brewing. Not only did he have a hard-on, he had a complicated woman to credit and blame. Not only did he have someone to blame, he couldn’t publicly point an accusing finger her way.
“Did you have a nice dinner, sir?” the driver asked, trying to make small talk while Edward retrieved his wallet.
“We did,” he reported. “Thank you.”
The driver accepted his tip and arched a brow. “Did you meet friends while you were out?”
Heidi studied her fingernails. “You didn’t listen.”
“How the hell was I supposed to listen when I’m standing here with blue balls?”
“I beg your pardon, sir?” the driver fired back.
Heidi yawned. “Since your dick seems to be the only thing you can think with, see if it can help you worm your way out of this. I’m waiting upstairs.”
She was gone in a flash and Edward wished he could disappear just as rapidly.
“Sir, are you feeling okay?”
“No, Truman,” Edward replied. “I’m not. I apologize for the outburst. I’m hearing voices tonight.”
Truman frowned. “Sir, I’d strongly advise against telling anyone else about voices. You know how people like to talk.”
Cowboys for Christmas—A New Amazon Release
“What the hell did you try with her?” Brandon asked, closing the bedroom door behind him.
“Don’t worry. She survived.”
”In case you’ve forgotten, there’s over a foot of snow out there. I’ve been listening to the radio. Tennessee is about as well prepared for a snow of this magnitude as we are in Texas. They can’t even get their trucks out to salt the roads. The northeastern corner has been dubbed a state of emergency. If she kicks us out, we have nowhere else to go!”
“I don’t think she’ll ask us to leave in this.”
“Do you mind if I take a look inside that crystal ball?” Brandon asked, seething. “Let’s try and avoid a train wreck. If we stay off the tracks that don’t belong to us, we shouldn’t have any problems securing an invitation to stay over.”
“I didn’t do anything you wouldn’t have done.”
“And just what is that supposed to mean?”
“I tried to kiss her. Big damn deal. Thanks to my slip, though, you get to play Mr. Nice Guy. Julie thinks I’m the biggest player in the world, but she’s not threatened by me yet. If you act like your typical self, she might question how safe she feels with overnight houseguests. You need to find a way to assure her we’re not here to bring her any harm.”
Brandon grinned. He liked the sound of that. “Go on.”
“You’ll smooth things over or else, as soon as she warms up, she may kick us out on our white cowboy asses.”
“Are you sure you’re telling me everything?” Brandon asked, narrowing his gaze. This wasn’t like Quinn. He didn’t pick up women and take them home for a quick romp. He rarely flirted openly and most women loved him. Adored him, actually. Yeah, his approach was sickening, but Brandon was used to their differences. Quinn took the good girls out to a movie while Brandon fucked the bad ones in the backseat. That’s the way it had been since high school.
“We were in a coal bin under Mr. Thomas’s house. She had soot all over her face and I can’t tell you when I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman. She looked up at me with those big, sincere eyes and I was a goner, man. A real goner.
“The way she handled that old man was something else too. I’ve never met anyone like her, that’s the thing. And I didn’t think about consequences. There was an opportunity. We were alone. I tried to kiss her.”
“It’s not an opportunity when you don’t stand a chance.”
“Since when did you become so philosophical?”
“Since I saw that,” Brandon said, pointing toward a photograph of Julie and some well-dressed fellow on the nearby mantle.
“Maybe he’s her brother,” Quinn suggested.
“Look at his left hand. He’s squeezing her ass.”
“Maybe he’s an ex.”
Brandon released a deep breath and then a whistle. “Damn, I hope so.”
“Don’t even think about her.”
“Because, I’m not backing off so you can pursue her.”
“And what if I’m interested too?”
“Well then, I guess we have a little problem.”
“I have a solution,” Brandon said thoughtfully. “If the weatherman is right and this is the blizzard of the century, we may be here a while. What do you say we make the most out of our situation?”
“I say we won’t get very far,” Quinn said. “Julie wouldn't go for something like what you have in mind.”
Brandon’s gaze drifted toward a bookshelf located above a messy desk in the kitchen. After skimming over the titles from a distance, he moved closer. “Wait a minute.”
“What are you doing? Taking up a new hobby while we’re snowed in?”
Brandon pulled a few books free of the compact line-up, rubbernecking enough to study the binding on each book. “For an innocent woman, she sure reads a lot of naughty romance.”
“Put those back. You’ll embarrass her if she catches you looking at her private book collection.”
“She shouldn’t read this stuff if she can’t take ownership.”
Brandon waggled his brows, showing off the cover of one red-hot ménage. The woman on the cover, a beautiful busty blonde, was sandwiched between two warriors. The title led him to believe it was a spicy historical book.
“I’ve heard of Carla Carrington,” Brandon said, studying the book. “I saw a special on one of the major networks a while back. She’s one of the raunchiest writers in America. She’s been on every best seller list worth climbing.”
Quinn browsed through Julie’s book collection and chose a large paperback with a provocative cover. “Wonder why a woman like Julie would read a book like this?”
Brandon snickered. “I wonder.” He flipped about halfway through one book, tossed it down, picked up another and read, “She spread her legs for them, arching her back in acceptance, pleading for more, begging for harder thrusts, deeper penetration, anything to soothe the burn deep inside her pussy.”
Quinn gulped. “You’re kidding me. Women like Julie don’t read stuff like this.”
Brandon slammed the book closed. “I guess women like Julie don’t have sex either. I mean with a body like hers, why bother, right?”
“So this Carla Carrington is an adult romance author?”
“She’s the Dr. Seuss of hot romance. He wrote about green eggs and Carla Carrington writes about prime beef.” Brandon grabbed his front bulge. “At least we know what kind of woman opened up her home to us.”
“Don’t get too excited. Not only did she put me in my place in that coal bin, but she also informed me that she wasn’t opening up anything more than her home as a means of hospitality.”
Brandon stuffed the books back where he found them, squeezing them in between other hardback and paperback titles. “At least we know she wouldn’t oppose the idea of two men, ya know?”
“I don’t think she’d go a ménage a trois.”
“You might be surprised. Come to think of it, she may be waiting for us now.” He stroked his chin and added, “If I’m not back in a minute, grab one of those Carla Carrington titles and see if you can’t find a way to entertain yourself. You know, since Julie probably wouldn’t dream of inviting two fellows in to her bed.”
A minute later and Brandon headed down the hall toward Julie’s room. He knocked. By that time Quinn stood next to him. “Suspense is killing you too, huh?”
“Julie?” Brandon knocked. “Are you okay?”
He knocked again. This time, the door parted and they could easily see the outstretched body of one incredibly sexy seductress. Only she didn’t look like she’d taken the position on her floor as a means of seduction.
Behind the Game—New to Amazon in December!
Ally already understood the importance of time. They were out of it.
Marcel would hit the door at the Miami office later that afternoon and he wouldn’t look back. Steve confirmed Marcel knew where they were and in a matter of a few short hours, he’d be on his way to Key West.
The chokehold around their situation tightened because Steve was called back to work on an important case. He had less than forty-eight hours and Ally realized Marcel Fernandez was behind the request. If he was going to pursue her, he wanted her unprotected. Marcel didn’t want to go up against two trained agents. He liked the odds a little better, apparently, with Steve out of the way.
“Everything is out of both rooms,” Steve informed as he walked out of the small Key West motel.
Ally searched through the outside pockets of her luggage. “Did you happen to see my gold watch?”
“No. Do you think you left it in the room?”
“It’s possible. The latch needs repair so it could’ve slid off my wrist at some point. I’m not sure. Let me run back inside and check.”
Steve handed her the room key. “I’ll wait here.”
After she took the key, Ally hurried to the first floor room located right around the corner from the front office. She unlocked the door and walked inside. Standing in the middle of the room, the best looking man she’d ever seen in her life held her watch out away from his body. A devilish smile tilted his full, thick lips.
“Looking for this, Mrs. Dorsey?”
Ally reached for her gun. Concealed in her belt, hidden well by the navy blazer, she drew it with ease. He never flinched.
“I’m not the enemy. Go get your sidekick and let’s chat. We’re running short on time.”
“Who the hell are you?” Ally kept her gun pointed at his chest. She observed the twitch in her arms. She never shook when she drew her weapon but for some reason, this man made her nervous.
“Tanner sent me.”
“I doubt it.” She laughed as she considered it. Tanner was far too possessive to use a messenger who looked like the man in front of her.
“I can prove it if you’ll lower that piece.”
“Not a chance.”
“I have to get something out of my pocket.”
“Which one?” She stepped closer.
“The right front pocket.”
“Pants, I’m sure.” Her sarcasm laced through a thick tone. She kept the gun directed toward him and moved to his side.
“Sugar, it’s been said I don’t have to charm the ladies out of their skirts, I’ll find a way to entice them into my pants.” His dark black eyes danced with mischief.
She shoved her hand into his front pocket and right before she retrieved an envelope, a stiff jab poked her hand. “What the…”
The hunk in front of her growled. “Sorry, baby. It’s a natural reaction. One I can’t control, given the obvious.”
Ally snarled. “Let me give you some free advice. If Tanner sent you, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: he might use you to carry a message but he wouldn’t—”
She let her guard down while she fumbled to open the letter. The gun tilted away from the messenger and it was all the leeway he needed.
Before she realized what happened, the tough guy in front of her turned the tables. With a flick of his wrist, he held her gun and she was pinned against the wall with the crumbled note in her hand, a hard body holding her in place.
“I’m not Dorsey. I’m not your brothers, either. I don’t play games with women. I protect them. When the need arises, I fuck them. What I don’t do is take orders from them or explain myself. Now, I’m going to release you and you’re going to go fetch a weasel for me. You know the one. The one who was man enough to run around the country with you for eight weeks or so without so much as laying a hand on you—I think that’s his room over there.”
He turned his cheek and glanced at the adjoining room. Then he rubbed his lips with the pad of his thumb, undressing her with his eyes. “What a dumb fucker he is.”
Waking up the Arguably Dead—New to Amazon in December!
Funny how quickly life changed. Addison had gone from being a virgin to watching an erotic video and acting out what she learned.
She thought about the continual transformations she’d gone through and grew skeptical. Since Drake Valentine came into her life, she’d been very sexual, in tune with desires she’d never even experienced, much less acted upon.
Had he somehow manipulated her? Why was she three doors down from the men who’d taken her to bed, watching the clock and counting down the minutes until they would rise and start the same activities all over again?
Something was certainly out of whack! She had turned into a sexual creature with insatiable desires.
There was a sensible explanation, of course. She was like a pregnant woman. From what she’d been told about pregnancy, some women experienced heightened sexual awareness in one of their trimesters, she forgot which one and it didn’t really matter. Maybe dying young women had the same problem, especially those who waited until their mid-twenties to have sex.
Rationalizing the progressive way she’d turned into a sex kitten, she decided to pick up the phone and call her doctor. Propped against several pillows, she listened to the continual ringing. Finally, a receptionist answered. “This is the office of Dr. Lenny Michaels. How may I help you?”
“This is Addison Deveraux. May I speak to Dr. Michaels please?”
“Sure, you may, at some point anyway. He isn’t here right now.”
“Oh,” Addison said. “Well I have a question. Can you help me?”
“Depends on the question. Is it regarding medications, an appointment, or general health?” Each word, the receptionist pronounced slowly, enunciating every syllable.
“Sexual health,” Addison said bluntly.
“Uh, oh, um well, I could sure try and answer your questions,” she said. “This is Melissa. What can I do for you, Addison?”
Melissa Garretson. Addison should’ve recognized her voice. Who would’ve thought the town slut would turn into the one and only receptionist and LPN Dr. Michaels employed? Well, Addison mused, it took one slut to answer the questions of another. She cleared her throat. “Is this confidential?”
“Sure darlin’,” she drawled. “I may have a mouth on me but I use mine for delivering more sensual messages, if you get my drift. I ain’t one to gossip around town.”
Great. “Well you see, I was a virgin until a couple of days ago—”
“How did you do it?”
“Well, you know the guy, so I won’t tell you all the details but anyway, I guess we did ‘it’ like anyone else. Uh,” she paused, “well, you know, he was on top and hard, of course, and he—”
“No!” Melissa exclaimed. “Not that, girlfriend. I mean, how did you wait until your twenties to have sex? Heck, I lost my virginity as soon as I could talk.”
“Really?” Addison gasped.
“No,” she drawled in her country hick accent. “I was a little older. Think somethin’ like seventeen or eighteen. Don’t rightly remember. Just remember hearing all the guys talking one night calling me all sorts of names. I figured if I had the reputation, I might as well get busy and earn it, ya know?”
“Yes, well, you did a good job making good on that.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“Listen girl, you ain’t gonna hurt my feelings. So tell me, what’s the problem?”
“Well, you know I’m sick right?”
“Yes, I heard something about you having fibromyalgia. I hated to hear that. Is there anything I can do?”
Addison sighed. She remembered having a few classes with Melissa back in high school. She was such a likeable person and easy to talk to. Why not just tell her the truth, get it over with? It would be far easier to describe her problem on the phone to Melissa than to go in and talk to Dr. Michaels.
“The truth is, I lost my virginity to one guy and the next night I slept with two.”
“Oh. My. God,” Melissa drawled. “You trying to make up for lost time?”
“That’s what I thought too, at first. Now, I’m starting to think it’s something to do with my medication. Since I seem more promiscuous than normal, I thought there might be a side effect you can tell me about.” She should’ve elaborated, and explained all she thought about these days was sex.
“Hmm,” Melissa hummed. “I can see where you’re concerned. You’ve sat on that thing like it’s gold and now you’re opening up the mine and letting all sorts of fellows dig. That could get out of hand. Hang on, sugar. Let me pull your chart. I’ll see what I can find out.”
“Thank you,” Addison sighed in relief, wondering how Melissa translated two guys into anyone. She wasn’t sleeping around with just anybody.
A few minutes later, Melissa returned to the line. “Nope. Can’t sue any of these drug companies in civil court.”
“It’s a joke. Everybody wants to sue a drug company for their problems. ‘Course you really don’t have a problem if you’re screwing two guys. By the way, did you do ‘em at the same time?”
Addison wondered if she should answer Melissa.
“I mean, it ain’t like it’s any big deal. Once, when I was in college, I went to a tailgate party. Somebody asked me if I wanted to ride a train. I’d had a few beers and didn’t know what they meant but anyway, next thing I know, the fellas are lined up and boy oh boy, by the time they finished me, I felt like a caboose. You know, that little red car that brings up the rear of the train.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Oh honey, let me tell you, it was so exciting I would’ve followed that train anywhere. From then on, I thought of myself as a caboose, and I’ve been itching for someone else to mention riding that train!” she exclaimed, obviously proud of the fact she was passed around.
“Well, that’s interesting, Melissa.”
“I thought so,” she sighed. “So what’s the problem?”
“I just wanted to be sure I was normal and an over-active sex drive wasn’t a side effect of my medication.”
“Getting it on with two men doesn’t mean it’s a side effect of anything sugar, except maybe you had clogged hormones or something.”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s a real problem for women our age. Read a few men’s magazines and you’ll understand. It’s kind of like blue balls only women don’t have, well you know…balls.”
Addison realized Melissa was as batty as she had been in school. “Well thanks a bunch for the information.”
“You’re welcome, sugar. You call me anytime, you hear?”
“Sure thing,” Addison said, feeling better than before even though she felt the information supplied lacked accuracy.
“Take care and uh, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do?” She laughed mirthlessly. “Choo! Choo!”
Addison replaced the receiver and stared at the phone. Addison thought she had problems? Next to Melissa she was practically ready for sainthood.