Rough Cut by Caitlyn Willows

RoughCut-NoLogo

ROUGH CUT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Romantic Suspense
August 2016
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter

The only thing six months of undercover work have gotten FBI Agent Tony Driscoll is a chronic case of the hots for Blythe Smithers—an itch he definitely decides needs scratching.

Blythe’s been waiting for Mr. Right, but what harm is there in a little fling with the sexy massage therapist while biding her time?

A tryst turns into teamwork as Tony and Blythe search for smuggled diamonds—a fortune someone is willing to kill to possess. As love nudges lust aside, can Tony and Blythe live long enough to enjoy it?

NOTES: Re-release, previously titled Undercover Lover, re-edited and better than ever!

Finalist-2006 Golden Quill Award
Finalist-2005 HOLT Medallion
Finalist-2006 EPPIE Award

BUY LINKS

Excerpt:

Tony left the building as he’d arrived—through alleys, side streets, and many blocks between it and where he’d parked. Massage clients waited.

He passed the morning working absentmindedly, longing for the day when he could put this undercover assignment behind him. Most of his clientele were rich, pasty white, and overweight. The only bright spot in this whole business had been Blythe, and she had been from the start. His problem now was how to hang on to her once his work here was done.

More guilt tweaked him. He was using her now to get to the Cambridges, and he sure didn’t feel good about that. Plus, once the Cambridges were behind bars, she’d be out of a job. He didn’t feel good about that either and knew he definitely wouldn’t be one of her favorite people after that happened. Hell, she didn’t even know his real name. Somehow he had to find a way to tell her what was going on. Trent would have a fit, thinking he’d compromised the investigation. But Tony’s instincts told him he could trust Blythe. With her close connection to the Cambridges, she might be able to help. That also meant putting her at risk, so she had the right to be fully informed.

Tony kneaded a roll of fat on the middle-aged woman before him. She grunted like a pig. With every day that passed, he hated this work more and more. Trent wasn’t the only one who was impatient for results. Right now, the only woman he wanted to lay hands on in any manner was Blythe.

“Okay, Mrs. Powell, all done for today.” He wiped his hands on a length of toweling while he gave her wide berth.

She tucked the sheet around her. “So soon? Feels like you just started.”

Felt like hours to him. Tony forced a smile he didn’t feel. “I know what you mean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A little before noon.

Just enough time to get to Stephanie’s office building before Blythe left. If he hurried. He reached the place with no time to spare. Watching from the far side of the parking lot, his breath caught when Blythe walked out. A raging hard-on shot to life seconds later. Blythe was dressed in hot pink capri pants with a matching floral camp shirt. White sandals graced her slender feet. Sunglasses covered her eyes.

He shifted in his seat as he palmed his erection, trying to find a more comfortable position that simply didn’t exist. Blythe always had that effect on him. In the months before, he’d been able to handle it. But now that he’d had her? Misery. It was all he could do to stay in the truck and not rush her.

The image of him dragging her to the truck, throwing her in the backseat, and fucking her until the struts cracked under the pressure was sweet. Something to put on their to-do list—when it was dark and not in a public place. Although forbidden sex and the danger of being caught would certainly make things hotter. He bet he wouldn’t have to do much talking to convince Blythe.

He pulled his wandering thoughts to a screeching halt and tried to focus on the job.

After a quick look in both directions, she crossed the street. Now all he had to do was get past the security guard, who was what had made entering at night impossible. Blythe’s presence during the day had hindered Tony’s chance to search Stephanie’s office.

He waited until he saw Blythe’s cherry-red Sentra turn the corner, then strode into the building like he did every weekday—ready to give Stephanie her daily massage. The guard never challenged him, and building security didn’t require anyone to sign in. It was almost as if the guard was there for show, a visual deterrent to anyone coming in who shouldn’t. Tony nodded a greeting the man’s way and continued on.

So far, so good.

The hallway was deserted. Like all the other times he’d been here. In less time than it took to think about it, he had the lock picked and was in.

Tony stowed his table and bag near the door. Where in the hell should he start? He had one hour to hit pay dirt. A sign on Blythe’s desk invited customers to ring the bell because she was in back.

He glanced that way. Light from an open closet door caught his eye. He edged toward it, scanning piles of papers, files, and samples as he went. Nothing looked promising.

He pushed the door open wider and smiled. It wasn’t a closet after all. It was a huge workroom cluttered with furniture in various stages of upholstery. Rolling steel doors covered the delivery entrance. It wasn’t the safest place to hide diamonds, but Stephanie sure didn’t lack for niches to do so.

Tony aimed for the workbench against the wall. His foot hit something hard in his haste. Metal skittered across the tile—a tack hammer. He glanced around and saw a black Naugahyde sofa. Each seam was edged in sparkling gems.

It’s too simple. Too obvious. And perfect. No one would ever guess they were diamonds. The smuggled gems were supposed to be rough. There was nothing to say they hadn’t been polished. Stephanie did have acquaintances in the jewelry business. Someone could be convinced to do her a favor, for the right amount of money.

He retrieved a jeweler’s loupe from his duffel bag of tricks, then hurried back for a closer look. Damn. Rhinestones, every single one of them. Even the ones in the bowl holding the supply.

Back to square one, and time was running out.

* * * *

Blythe pushed her lettuce around her plate. She’d been unable to concentrate for most of the morning. At least at the office she could mindlessly do finish work on the Caplin sofa while every other thought focused on Tony.

She missed him, couldn’t wait to see him again, craved him more than the richest chocolate. Silly, when they’d only been involved less than a day. After watching him all these months, trying to avoid him now was useless. He was every fantasy come true and then some.

Fling, my ass. She was already stuck on the guy. For all she knew, she had been all along.

Blythe cursed herself a thousand times over. He wasn’t what she wanted. Yet the idea of ending it tore her in two. She didn’t know what the hell to do.

“I swear you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

She looked Eileen Cronkite’s way. A frown had pulled her perfectly arched eyebrows together. Frustration darkened her blue eyes as she flicked back a wayward strand on her long, black hair. They went to lunch once a month, jabbering the hour away. Eileen sure got a raw deal this time.

“Something’s on your mind. Give it up.”

They’d known each other since high school and had always shared their darkest secrets and desires. Why should this be any different?

Blythe set her fork aside. It was different. It felt too private, too special to share. “All right. I’ve met someone. No. I’ve met the someone. We are absolutely, positively sexually compatible in every single way. He’s charming, considerate, funny, great looking.”

“But?”

God love her, at least Eileen didn’t cheer. “He’s lacking on the career issue.”

They waited while the waiter cleared their plates.

“He sounds like everything you’ve ever wanted.” Eileen’s voice was low, for Blythe’s ears only.

She nodded. The memory of him set her body thrumming for attention, and not just for the sex. Their camaraderie over breakfast kept tugging at her heart.

“Is his job so important?” Eileen’s question was softly spoken.

Blythe had been asking herself the same question all morning. She laughed lightly. “I guess I wanted someone with a little more ambition.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a masseur. Door-to-door. Like a salesman.”

Eileen shrugged. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any ambition. They can make good money. His way means little overhead. Maybe it’s what makes him happy. Isn’t a happy sex god more important than a self-centered, power-hungry maniac?”

She had a point. “I’m afraid, Eileen.”

“Of what? Of falling in love?”

She nodded. “Of being hurt. Of making a mistake. Of having a broken heart. You name it.”

“Of living?” Eileen stirred her straw through her iced tea. “You’ve never mentioned any man before. Obviously, this is someone you’ve just met. Aren’t you jumping to conclusions?”

“I’ve known him for about six months. I’ve just avoided him.”

“Until now.”

“Yeah. I caved. I couldn’t help it. I was like a time bomb ready to explode. And he…” Blythe couldn’t put it into words.

“Tell me about him.” Eileen flicked her long fingers through the air. “Besides the sex stuff.”

Blythe had always admired her friend’s hands—smooth, long fingers with perfect nails. Eileen took care of them too, sometimes to obsession, changing the polish every day or several times in one day. Even during tax season, when she worked hellacious hours.

Blythe pulled in a breath as she struggled for the words to explain Tony. How she wasn’t afraid in his arms. The comfort and warmth she felt curled beside him at night. How thoughtful he was to have coffee ready. His consideration and respect in not rushing out, in wanting to date. She was offering free sex, and he wasn’t biting. Damn it, Tony seemed to want more. But the only thing she could tell Eileen was, “His kisses make me want to melt.”

Eileen rolled her blue eyes. “Oh boy, you’ve got it bad.”

“I told him I don’t want him to kiss me anymore.”

Eileen laughed so hard heads turned their way. “And you think that’s going to help?”

Blythe covered her eyes with one hand. It sounded ridiculous, even to her ears, even knowing how one kiss destroyed her senses. “What am I going to do?”

“Why try to analyze it? Why not take what comes? Enjoy the great sex, the princess treatment I assume he’s offering you, and let nature take care of the rest.”

Easier said than done. It wasn’t Eileen’s heart they were talking about here.

“It could also be that you’re so horny, anything will get you going. It’s been forever since you’ve gotten any.”

Blythe removed her hand and shrugged. “No one’s caught my interest.”

“Well, I’d say you’re plenty caught right now. Take advantage of it before the next long dry spell. If there is one.”

Sound advice. Maybe she was overanalyzing this. It was just that Tony was so different from what she’d expected. She’d seriously misjudged the man. Every bad thing she thought about him was wrong. He was caring, funny, charming, attentive, and right now, she sorely regretted having blown him off for lunch.

Blythe laughed to herself. There’s an image for you. She should have “blown him off” for lunch. It sounded much more intriguing than picking apart a relationship that might or might not exist. This was new, fun, exciting. He was everything sexual she craved in a man and had never found. And here she was, missing out on a great nooner to complain to Eileen.

With any luck, she might just be able to catch him before his next client. Surely Stephanie had his phone number somewhere.

She tossed some bills on the table. “Sorry, Eileen, gotta run.”

“I bet I can guess what you’re about to do.”

She smiled. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Luck was with her. Every light was green on the way back to the office. Excitement pushed the accelerator just beyond the speed limit. Once she arrived, it was all Blythe could do to keep from running into the building. She nodded a greeting to the guard and hurried down the hallway.

Please, let him be available.

She shoved the key into the lock, ducked inside, and froze. His massage table and bag were propped against the wall.

“Tony?”

SHIT. HE WAS caught. He glanced at his watch. She was back way early. He had to think of something fast.

Tony grabbed a length of drapery tassel. “I’m in the back. Are you alone?”

He looped the ends over brackets in the wall, then twisted his wrists through the silken cord and waited for her like a sacrifice.

“I am. How did you—”

Blythe stopped short of the door. Her smile was quick as she raked her gaze over him. “I’m liking this.”

“I stopped by on the off chance you might’ve changed your mind. The door was unlocked.”

“Really? Odd. I’ll be right back. I need to make sure that door is locked this time.”

By the time she returned, Tony’s hard-on pulsed for freedom.

Smiling, she knotted his wrists to the brackets. A flick of her fingers opened the button on his jeans and sliced his zipper down.

“Now, Mr. Blake, about that blowjob. You are about to have the best one of your life.”

 

RoughCut.jpg

Advertisements

Forbidden Fruit by Caitlyn Willows

ForbiddenFruit

FORBIDDEN FRUIT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Contemporary – Novella
July 2016

Abby Strickland has always had crush on Richard Braddock, her best friend’s father…her father’s best friend. With Richard’s divorce six years before, that crush turned to longing, longing to love. If only Richard knew. At Melanie Braddock’s wedding, Abby decides it’s time to get this out of her system. No matter how forbidden, Abby knows she’ll regret it more if she never tries.

Richard Braddock hasn’t seen Abby Strickland in six years, and he blesses the distance those years have given him. Not only can he see the beauty in the woman she’s become, he can also fully appreciate it…and want her more than he’s ever wanted a woman. And while Richard knows he risks the wrath of their families if he acts on his feelings, he also knows he cannot resist a taste of forbidden fruit this sweet.

BUY LINKS

 

REVIEWS

FIVE ANGELS! Caitlyn Willows has written a very moving and sexy story. Forbidden Fruit is a book that you will want to read over and over. The story is very moving and shows that love can conquer about anything. Ms Willows is a very talented author and she can write some very hot and sexy love scenes. They just keep getting hotter and hotter. Forbidden Fruit will leave you hot. ~Moonluster, Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE STARS! Both Abby and Richard Braddock are wonderful and sexy characters. Ms. Willows does a fantastic job as always in bringing together a wonderful story full of heat, interesting and dynamic characters whose sex appeal leaps off the pages, and a believable plot. In this instance Ms. Willow tackles the difficult topic of falling in love with a much older and sexy man who also happens to be a family friend and neighbor. There is also a suspense subplot that is woven into the story to keep readers on the edge of their seats. All these elements continue to make this book one captivating read…a true winner. ~Aggie Tsirikas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

4.5 BLUE RIBBONS! FORBIDDEN FRUIT is an awesome read. Love knows no boundaries regardless of age. Caitlyn Willows did a perfect job of portraying these two characters; it’s almost as if she took a page from my life. This is a book I will be recommending to everyone I know. ~Shayla, Romance Junkies

FOUR HEARTS! Caitlyn Willows has penned an adventurous and explosive erotic romance with Forbidden Fruit! Abby and Richard’s growing bond is very beautiful and very sensual. Ms. Willows has once again captured my attention with this heartwarming and truly romantic story of a timeless love, ready to be explored at any and all ages. ~Sarah W., The Romance Studio

4 CUPS! This is fabulous romantic tale, with real life situations and complications. The characters have depth first and you are kept entertained by the secondary characters as Richard and Abby discover each other, and on your toes as danger is involved. A fast paced romance with plenty of action and hot spicy sex scenes. Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

I loved that this was not a typical older man/younger woman story; there was a certain history, and more happiness at stake than just Abby’s and Richard’s. Sometimes the best things in life start out forbidden. ~Cerise, Joyfully Reviewed

EXCERPT

Make this right, Richard reminded himself when he finally found Abby at the Golden Nugget. She was hunched over one of the quarter slots. Even from where he stood Richard could see the machine was paying out. Abby was raking up credits big time. The wins didn’t translate to her face. She looked sad, lost. All he wanted to do was wrap his arms around her. That roused the beast in his pants. As it hardened he also stiffened his resolve and took the seat next to her.

“You look like you’re doing very well.”

Abby snapped her head his way. A second later she gave him a smile so bright her whole body glowed. “This is a nice surprise.”

At least she wasn’t upset. In fact, she twisted around to face him more fully.

“Mom and Dad with you?”

“They went to see Lance Burton.” He pointed to the machine. “You’re up to a two thousand credits.”

Abby glanced at the digital display. “So I am. I hadn’t noticed.”

Lovely as this innocent conversation was, it didn’t solve the problem. Richard didn’t know if Abby was still mad and just making nice or what. It didn’t matter. It was time to fix this. “I’m glad I found you. Actually, I was looking for you.”

She cocked her head to one side. “Really?”

Richard reached for her hand, then pulled back. Touching her would really mess everything up at this point. “I wanted to apologize for earlier.”

Abby curled her fingers over his arm, much in the same way he’d seen Erin do to Ron earlier. He wondered if it had the same effect on his friend as it did on him—a conduit of electricity straight to his cock.

“It was my fault. I shouldn’t have baited Pam.”

“No, no.” He took a chance and placed his hand on top of hers. “Not Pam, me. I wanted to apologize for my… Look, Abby, you’re a beautiful woman. I haven’t seen you in six years. I can’t control how my body reacted, but I never should have—”

Her soft fingers against his lips cut off his words. “You think you insulted me? No.” She shook her head, locking her gaze onto his. “Trust me, you have no idea how thrilled I was to find you interested. I’ve wanted you for so long.”

The last came out on a whisper. Richard struggled for something coherent to say. Nothing would come out. All he could do was stare into her sparkling brown eyes.

“The only reason I came to the wedding was to see you.” She traced her finger against his chin. “I had to know if you looked as great and tempting as I remembered. You look better, by the way, and more tempting than ever. I didn’t know what to say, how to tell you.”

She dusted the other hand along his thigh, sending tiny shock waves to his groin.

“Then you wrapped your arms around me and I felt you.”

She started to drift upward to his crotch, then stopped.

“I thought it was just a reaction, but your thumbs… I knew then. You want me too.” Abby laughed lightly and eased away. “I had this grand seduction scheme in my head. As I was sitting at the table, I thought of how upset the families would be if they found out. So I told myself I was stupid to consider it in the first place. That hurt too.”

“So you left.”

Abby nodded and glanced down. “I’ve been sitting here calling myself a fool for that too. Then you showed up.”

He lifted her chin on the pads of his fingers. “Our families don’t need to know. This is our business.”

A sigh loosened the tension in her shoulders. Dropping his hands to her knees, Richard bunched up the dress slowly until he could reach bare skin. It was silky, warm. A hint of her arousal drifted to him, urging him to take what she offered—as if he needed encouragement. He circled his thumbs against her thighs, stopping halfway to his goal.

“I want to love you, Abby,” he said softly. “I want to take you upstairs and feel you quiver beneath my touch when I make you come. I want to love you as a woman was meant to be loved—thoroughly. I want to bury myself in your heat and lose myself in the wonder of your beautiful soul.”

“I want that too,” she breathlessly replied. “Just one night, Richard. I don’t want to tie you down or make you promise forever to me. Just one night to fulfill my dreams.”

“Then let’s make it a night we’ll never forget.”

She nodded and pushed to her feet as he stood.

“Are you forgetting something?” Smiling, he pointed to her winnings.

Abby giggled and punched the “cash out” button. The machine made the sound of coins dropping. When that show was over, it printed her receipt. She smiled. “Five hundred dollars. Not too shabby from one twenty dollar bill.” She stepped up to the redemption machine nearby and in less time than it took to think about it, she was holding her cash.

“So, your room or mine?” she asked.

“Have you eaten?”

“No, but…”

“Dinner first. I didn’t eat much either.”

“But, I thought…”

Richard leaned forward, his mouth close to her ear. “Relax, sweetheart. There are many ways to make love that have nothing to do with sex. This is our night. Let’s explore them.”

“On one condition… My treat and we splurge.” She shoved half of the money deep into his front pocket, setting his cock on definite overload.

“Your wish is my command, ma’am. I know just the place.”

She rewarded him with a smile. “Lead the way. I’m all yours.”

He was going to make sure of that.

 

Thief of Hearts by Caitlyn Willows

ThiefHearts

THIEF OF HEARTS
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Historical Novella
July 2016
Cover Art – Trace Edward Zaber

Rafael Ortega and Pilar Duran have been betrothed since the cradle, a fact that hasn’t exactly pleased them. Little did they realize what a difference a two year separation could make. During the trip from port to the families’ ranchos, they are watchful for the thief who’s been plundering the countryside. But Pilar knows a greater threat–one to her heart. Tell that to her traitorous body. Little does she realize how close she truly is to the thief. And this one is definitely out to steal her heart.

BUY LINKS

REVIEWS

FIVE ANGELS! I always like to read a book by Caitlyn Willows. She has a way of weaving robust and vital characters that make the read most enjoyable. Even the well-blended secondary cast added a good addition to the story. Thief of Hearts is not only well-written but flows beautifully, adding such in-depth scenery that just opens up like a lovely garden springing to life. Could Pilar and Raphael get any sexier? I love the way her Aunt Beatriz wishes to protect her young and how Raphael notices how she is quick to safeguard Pilar. The scenes were often mixed with wit and added a great blend to the story. I found this entertaining read filled with romance, passion, a bit of intrigue and wonderful characters that leaped from the pages. ~Linda L., Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE MAGICAL WANDS! Another sure-fire hit from Ms Willows, I really enjoyed this hot, steamy tale of love and lust set in a time when a woman’s purity and honour were paramount. This short novella was full of sensual detail and exciting characters. Aunt Beatriz, the girls’ chaperone, was especially good. With some sizzling sex scenes and a great deal of tender love, this story comes well recommended. ~Audiotalo, Enchanted Ramblings

FIVE FLAGS! Thief of Hearts is a charming story and poor Aunt Beatriz is hilarious! The sexual tension between Rafael and Pilar sizzles and the love that they have for each other is beautiful. Thief of Hearts has all three H’s – history, humor and heat (not necessarily in that order)! This book was one delightful surprise after another – I really enjoyed it and strongly encourage you to read it. Now…to get to work on perfecting the silent orgasm… ~Kerin, Euro-Reviews

FOUR STARS! I enjoyed reading this delightfully sweet, romantic love story as well as the mystery and intrigue in this action adventure. I was also thrilled by the surprise ending that was especially satisfying. Thief of Hearts by Caitlyn Willows is romantic dynamite. I loved watching Pilar’s love for Rafael grow in stages as he charmed her and sexually devastated her senses. I enjoyed their adventurous spirits in sneaking time and discovering unusual places to make wild passionate illicit love together. I thought the escapades funny and delightfully inventive. I was impressed with Pilar’s resourcefulness in finding ways to pleasure herself, no matter where she was, even in public. If I were to sum up this story in one word, the word would be entertaining. From beginning to end I was pleasantly entertained. I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys an entertaining, steamy, passionate read. I know you’ll love it as much as I did. ~Karen H., Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FOUR CUPS! This is the author’s version of the tale of Zorro with an incredibly erotic twist. The sensuality and seduction that rises off each page is as hot as a California summer day. Pilar and Raphael’s attraction to each other sizzles on nearly every page. Adding in Raphael’s secret life only spices things up more. This was a savory, steamy read. ~Charissa, Coffee Time Romance

This is a very short yet satisfying read. Ms. Willows weaves a great deal of sensual detail into the interaction between Pilar and Rafael. The added historical context brought a certain perspective and depth to the story. The character development and pace was wonderful; one could not help but get caught up in the drama. Overall this book was a great read and something I would recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining book. ~Vianna Renaud, TCM Reviews

Caitlyn Willows always manages to capture my attention. Thief of Hearts is an enjoyable read with intense feelings from the characters. Pilar dreaded her reunion with the boy who used to drive her crazy but once she sees him again, she realizes that Rafael still drives her crazy… only in a different way now! Even while they are on constant watch for a local thief on the way to their families’ rancheros, they somehow manage to get to know each other. The sexual tension mounts quickly but it is the development of their feelings for each other that really makes Thief of Hearts interesting. Caitlyn Willows fans will not be disappointed and neither will anyone looking for a quick, hot read. ~Georgia, Joyfully Reviewed.

EXCERPT

California

May 1849

Pilar Duran had always known what her duty was. Every woman in Alta California knew her place. That didn’t mean she had to like it. And it certainly didn’t mean she had to embrace it as her sister did. Oh, she’d do her duty to her family. It was, after all, the only true way to ensure their rancho remained theirs. But she definitely would not submit willingly.

She glanced at Florencia from the corner of her eye. Her older sister leaned so far over the railing of the ship one bump from behind might send her tumbling headfirst into the harbor water below. She’d already lost her lace rebozo. The onshore breeze had caught the scarf and sent it aloft. Florencia had been too absorbed in watching the bustle of men on the docks to catch it in time and merely laughed when it happened. In fact, she hadn’t stopped laughing since they’d left Mexico.

Pilar didn’t fault her for the excitement. Her sister had been in love with Luis Ortega since the cradle. They’d not seen each other for over two years. But the correspondence had flown between them as if delivered on the wind—enough to fill a chest with his letters. A chest Florencia had insisted must come with her on this, their final trip home.

Florencia had been inconsolable when their parents shipped the sisters off to Mexico once war broke out. Luis was just as devastated. But their safety and the perpetuation of the family lines was at stake. The women had to be safe in order to beget the hoards of grandchildren the Durans and Ortegas wanted.

At the time it was all Pilar could do to remain silent. One needed a man to beget those children. How was saving the women of any benefit if the men were to remain behind? She’d somehow managed to keep the retort to herself. After all, the last thing she wanted was to have Rafael Ortega come with her to Mexico. That would have meant marriage immediately. Pilar wanted to avoid it as long as possible.

She closed her eyes and inhaled the ocean air. At least they were finally on land. Pilar didn’t travel so well onboard the ship. The rolling ship made her queasy more times than not, and her aunt’s raucous snores made sleeping at night impossible.

Nothing bothered her sister. Love and anticipation had kept Florencia alert and well, just as dread and doom had conspired with the other maladies to bring Pilar down. She remembered Rafael as the boy who’d pull her hair and tease her. Their marriage had been planned since her birth. He never wasted a moment holding their future status over her head.

“You must do as I say, Pilar. I am to be your husband.” Doing as he said might involve anything from climbing a dangerously high cottonwood tree, to not being allowed to dance with any other boy at festivas.

“I am older than you.” As if two months’ difference gave him special status.

And the equally annoying, “Females cannot do as males can. Return to your woman’s work.” Of course, she always had to prove him wrong by doing exactly as he did, no matter how unladylike.

In hindsight, Pilar often wondered if his taunts weren’t said for that purpose—to get her to do what he really wished. How unfortunate she hadn’t realized it at the time. As things were, she had to grudgingly—and secretly—thank him for her riding skills, not to mention shooting, roping, and fencing skills. Not that those had helped her so far, but a lady never knew what she might need for survival.

He’d attempted to steal a kiss from her only once. Pilar thwarted him with her fist to his chin. She didn’t know who was more shocked—Rafael or herself. He’d merely stared down at her, then smiled and walked away…after he’d said the strangest thing. “Nicely done, querida.”

She wanted to throw back that she was not his querida. But the words wouldn’t move past her suddenly choked throat. The whole episode had rattled Pilar in ways she couldn’t describe. It still gave her odd chills whenever she recalled how the endearment had rolled off his tongue. She and her sister had left for Mexico a week later, and she was glad of it.

Pilar rubbed the bridge of her nose against the sudden rush of tears. What was she to do? He wasn’t even what one called attractive. He towered over her like a menacing giant—a skinny one at that. He’d always been wiry, with a mop of dark brown hair that refused to be tamed. As a child he was always dirty, whether that be from play or work. She’d never seen a more active person. She might have even respected that trait, if he hadn’t been so annoying.

“They are here! They are here!” Florencia sounded like a seagull gone mad.

At least someone was getting a love match out of this. Her gleaming dark hair bounced against her back with each little jump. She hoisted her blue satin skirts in one hand and made ready to dash for the gangplank.

“Hold, mija.” Aunt Beatriz hoisted her bulk from the shaded bench against the ship’s staterooms.

The look Florencia flashed at the woman screamed of betrayal. Still, she remained in place as their aunt waddled over.

“It is not good to let him see you so anxious.” She wagged a scolding finger with her tsk.

Florencia’s laughter drifted over the breeze. “Auntie, after all this time, I do not think my feelings are a mystery to the man.”

Aunt Beatriz’s massive bosom quivered with the breath she exhaled. “Go,” she said, lifting her hand in dismissal.

Pilar’s sister took off like a bullet shot from a rifle.

“And you?” her aunt asked.

Pilar retreated to the shade her aunt had vacated. “The meeting will come soon enough. Rafael knows where to find me should he wish to.”

Again there was that tsk. “I cannot say who is more foolish. Florencia for wearing her heart on her sleeve, or you for denying yours.”

Pilar plucked at her yellow skirt, smoothing the folds until the butternut colored inner panel was perfectly aligned. Then she adjusted the lace cuffs on her matching gloves—gloves she’d tatted herself. Now there was a skill Rafael could not boast of having. “There is nothing to deny. I have never cared for Rafael.”

“And never made the effort to do so.”

She pulled up her chin in a defiant stare. “There is no need to fear, Auntie. I know my place and will do my duty, as would any good daughter.”

“But you are not above creating a little misery for all those in the process either, I suspect. Remember, mija, marriage is forever. Forever is a long time to be in misery.”

Her parents should have thought of that before arranging the unions. All they cared about was—

“Oh my!”

Aunt Beatriz’s gasp pulled Pilar back to the rail. The gangplank rattled with Florencia’s blind run. Sailors and dockhands turned to smile. But no smile was greater than that of the man weaving through the throng to reach her. Impossible as it seemed, Luis Ortega had become more handsome in the last two years. Black hair was the perfect complement to his brown skin. Broad shoulders filled out his short jacket of gray broadcloth. His smile was as bright as his eyes—both were focused on Florencia. He reached her before her toes could officially touch land, swinging her into his arms in a tight hug while they laughed. The affection brought smiles from everyone around, and another tsk from Aunt Beatriz.

“It is good the wedding is so soon. Still, they will bear much watching until that time.”

No one could argue that point. A pity no one had considered the possibility before their departure two years ago. As it was, Aunt Beatriz guarded a treasure long since plundered.

Hiding her smile, Pilar watched Luis set Florencia at arm’s length. One hand remained at her waist. The other pointed in the direction from which he’d run. Pilar glanced that way. Wagons were lined along the cobbled street on which supplies from just-arrived vessels were being loaded. She spied their black leather trunks among them. A man with a sheaf of papers clutched in his hand directed the trunks to two of the wagons, then he moved on to the next stack of goods. He dwarfed the smaller man hurrying to keep up with his strides. His muscled thighs flexed beneath his tan breeches.

By his height alone this could be no one else. But Pilar could hardly call Rafael Ortega wiry any longer. Years of work in the sun had darkened his skin to a rich hue and added muscle to his once scrawny frame. No longer did his clothes hang loosely. Each inch of fabric was filled. Confidence poured from him as he directed the loading of goods. The men deferred to him without hesitation.

Pilar passed a leisurely gaze down his body. His upper torso was a perfect V, punctuated by a round backside she found herself itching to cup. A flush of heat surged over her at the thought, stealing her breath away. Then, as if sensing her gaze upon him, Rafael glanced up. Pilar jolted from the impact.

A semblance of a smile touched his lips. He passed the papers on to the smaller man, then started toward the ship. Not once did he take his gaze from hers, not as he weaved through the crush of dock workers, not as he passed Luis and Florencia, not when his slow, measured step took him up the gangplank.

Pilar felt her body quiver with each shaky breath she drew. She turned as he approached, staring at him as he did her. Then he was before her, making her feel small and vulnerable, and very needy.

“Rafael.” His name came out in breathless wonder.

“Pilar.” Dark brown eyes glistened, eyes that smiled a lot, judging from the crinkles in the corners. He slipped her right hand in his and drew it to his lips. Then he slowly peeled back her glove and planted a lingering kiss to her bared flesh.

Her knees quaked, threatening to topple her to the deck. That troublesome spot between her thighs pulsed and moistened.

“The years have been generous to you. A beautiful woman has replaced the willful child.”

Willful child? How dare he! If only she could think of an appropriate retort. If only her body would stop trying to lean toward him.

“As I recall, Rafael, you were a bit willful yourself,” she somehow managed to say.

His smile washed over her. “Indeed the years have matured me as well. I hope you can forgive the transgressions of a boy.”

She inclined a nod his way and forced herself to take a small step away from his heat. Pulling in a deep breath, Rafael did the same. He turned to Aunt Beatriz.

Doña Beatriz.” As he had done with Pilar, Rafael lifted her aunt’s gloved hand to his lips. This time the glove stayed in place. “You haven’t changed, except perhaps to look younger.” He followed up with a devilish smile that set her aunt to giggling.

“And I see you’ve learned the gentlemanly art of flattery since we last met.” She gave him a playful shove. “Watch this one, Pilar. He might very well manage to steal your heart after all.”

Rafael’s gaze slid over Pilar. She swallowed down a throat gone dry. She’d been counting on hating him, on him being as reprehensible as she recalled. Her aunt could very well be right. This Rafael bore watching, as did her traitorous body.

 

Across A Sea Of Stars by Caitlyn Willows

AcrossSeaStars

ACROSS A SEA OF STARS
by Caitlyn Willows
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance
June 2016
Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber

A night of debauchery has made Kes realize how much he’s wasted his life. Fate delivers him a chance to turn things around. All he has to do is retrieve a stolen Planet Skipper and deliver the culprits responsible for its theft. Once the task is accomplished, his entry into the Interplanetary Commission is guaranteed. But the Universe has another plan—Anne Sherwood.

Anne has always believed that everything happens for a reason. She prides herself on being open-minded. A world of possibility and wonder lay open to those who were willing to accept. But even she has her doubts when she learns the hot-as-heck man she’s spent the night with reveals he’s from another planet.

Through Kes, Anne discovers a power of her own she’d never imagined—the ability to control energy. It’s a power that’s growing by the minute. A power that could get out of control if she allowed it to do so. Now someone from Kes’s past is aware of it, too. And he wants it for himself.

BUY LINKS

REVIEWS

“Five Shooting Stars! When a jaded space traveler meets a starry eye romantic they get a beautiful love story. I loved Across the Sea of Stars by Caitlyn Willows. It is a great love story that made me smile and really have a lot of aww moments too. Plenty of heat between the characters too to keep me reading.Kestral he is tired of one night stands that mean nothing. He wants his life to have more meaning than that. He blocks out his fears and disappointments in life by having sex with random strangers. He has one last chance to prove he can follow his dreams. He is going to change his life and take that chance. He knows this is it for him all or nothing and he is willing to gamble it all to win.Anne she is from Earth. She is upbeat, optimistic, dreamer. She sees a shooting star she loves watching the night sky. When she is attacked in the parking lot by a group of drunk men, Kestral saves her.They hit it off right from the start. But Kestral wonders if Anne can handle who he really is and will pursuing her cost him his dream job or not.Over all this is one sweet story I couldn’t stop reading. I will have this one on my keeper shelf.” – Redz World Reviews.

EXCERPT

Anne Sherwood sorted her tips by denomination. Two hundred dollars! A great night! But then, paydays for the military community normally were. She stuffed the wad of money deep into her big black leather tote and smiled up at her coworker.

“Ready to call it a night, Peggy?”

“I’ll say.” She tucked a strand of her platinum blonde hair back into place in its braid. “My feet are killing me.”

“They did keep us running tonight. But it was a good night.”

“Little Miss Mary Sunshine as always.” Peggy laughed lightly. “I swear, if a customer left you a quarter, you’d still think it was a good night. You even dealt with that problem table wearing a smile.”

Anne couldn’t help it. It was so much easier being happy than sad. If a person looked hard enough, they could always find something good in a situation.

She steered Peggy toward the door. “You need to get home to that man of yours. That’ll put a smile on your face.”

Peggy glowed with anticipation. “Your plans?”

“I’m off for groceries, then home to my menagerie.” She swung open the glass door and stepped into the late summer night.

“Damn it to hell,” Peggy muttered. “The streetlight’s out again. Find some good in that.”

A flash across the sky caught Anne’s eye. “Look.” She jerked her hand toward the disintegrating meteorite. “A shooting star.”

Peggy merely shrugged. “Is there a night when you don’t see one?”

Eyes wide, Anne scanned the heavens for more. “Hardly. I love watching them, wondering where they came from, how old they are. There’s going to be one heck of a shower tonight. Are you going to stay up to watch?”

“At one in the morning? Are you crazy?”

Anne glanced at her friend. Peggy’s eyebrows had shot up to her hairline, or close to it.

“Life’s too short to spend it sleeping. This is an event.”

“Yes, and it happens every year. So what’s the big deal?”

“It’s…celestial.”

The awe with which she’d said the word earned Peggy’s laughter. “Yes, and magic, too. Like the comets.” Peggy tossed a hug around her shoulders. “See you Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend. We’re spending ours in Vegas.” She walked on to the parking lot.

“Enjoy.” Anne lifted her hand in a wave the other woman didn’t see, while she scanned the sky again. Two more meteorites shot across a star-kissed field of black. It was going to be a spectacular show later on. She couldn’t wait.

“Well, well, well. Look what we got here.”

The deep voice drifted to Anne from the shadows of the building. Three men stepped from the inky depths. Fear crawled through her body. She shot her gaze to the parking lot. Peggy was already gone. If Anne hurried, she might be able to make the safety of the restaurant. Two deputy sheriffs were finishing up dinner inside.

As if anticipating her move, the men surrounded her, chortling with glee. They were the problem table she’d dealt with earlier. They’d been drunk then and were worse now. She ticked off identifying characteristics—white males, slender, early twenties, baggy jeans and sports jerseys, black knit caps.

“It’s our cheery little waitress,” one said.

“Wonder how friendly she really is,” said another.

“Come on, sweet thang.” The man in front of her gestured toward her tote. “We could use a little sumpin, sumpin. Gonna give it up without a fight?”

Anne sucked in a breath, ready to scream her lungs out. A big hand clamped over her mouth from behind. The man reeked of french fries, stale beer, and cigarettes. He clamped his arm around her waist, while his friend tried to peel her fingers away from the purse straps.

“Yeah, fight, baby. That’s the way I likes it. Fight it hard.”

A green glow lit them like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Anne clicked her gaze skyward. A meteorite zoomed low overhead, shooting green flames as it traveled from east to west. It was a truly phenomenal event.

The hand over her mouth loosened. Anne saw her chance. Pulling power from deep within her gut, she prepared to unleash a blood-curdling scream.

“I think you’d better let the lady go.” Another man stepped into their circle. His voice was low, firm, and music to her ears. Help was here. Judging from his stance, he wasn’t going to put up with any shit.

Anne watched the green ball slowly disappear over the horizon. Its remnants highlighted the gold and red in the man’s tousled brown hair. He wore light-colored khakis and a pullover shirt she swore matched the fading meteorite.

“Yeah? And who’s gonna make us?”

Anne saw the flash of metal.

“He’s got a knife!”

They charged him as one. The man crouched low and snapped out his palms. With a muttered oof, two were hurled against the brick wall. Gasps for breath followed. Her savior whipped a fist around to their partner.

Anne had to blink twice. She swore she saw light pulse as he made contact. The mugger tumbled backward, hitting the ground hard. Eyes wide, he scrambled to his feet and took off. His friends wasted no time following. Anne listened to their footsteps beating a path to safety.

“Are you all right, miss?”

Long fingers curled around her upper arm. What she could only describe as energy coursed through her, lifting every baby-fine hair she possessed. Deep brown eyes studied her. His eyebrows tugged together as he waited for her response.

Anne was mesmerized by his sharp, angled features—the long, straight nose, the squared jaw, the hint of shadow carved just under his cheekbones, his full lips. What was his smile like? Were his teeth white and perfect? She wanted to stretch to her toes and kiss him, to wrap her arms around his waist and nestle her head against his broad chest. His touch, his nearness made her feel safe, protected. Desire overwhelmed her. Nothing was a more powerful aphrodisiac than heroics. But this felt like so much more than about sex. Yes, his nearness made her thrum, but there was safety and calmness that said things she’d never imagined. Things she’d believed existed only in stories. Trust, love, forever. Words like the one, love at first sight, and happily ever after danced on the edges of her mind.

“I’m fine, thanks to you,” she finally managed to say.

“Fortunately, I just happened to be in the area.”

He caressed his thumb over her arm in slow circles. Anne’s blood thrummed with each round. She imagined the calloused digit on her nipple, flicking it back and forth until it was hard. Then he’d wrap his full lips around it. His breath would be hot, his tongue wet, his touch…

“We should probably call the police.” He dropped his arm, breaking the sensual spell, but not the connection she felt.

Anne hugged herself against the sensations and tried to focus on the attack. Nothing was stolen, she wasn’t hurt, and they were long gone by now, so why bother? Her conscience intruded. If they did this once, they’d do it again. She had to notify the deputy sheriffs.

She glanced at her watch. What about her groceries? It was getting late. Her animals needed her.

“Do you have a cell phone?”

His question cut through her thoughts. “Yes, but there are two deputies eating inside. I could report the incident to them. But…”

Head tilted slightly, he waited for her to continue, then prompted her with a, “Yes?”

Anne looked up at him again. His eyebrows were still inched close. “I have to get to the store before it closes. My animals need me and food. Reports take forever to fill out.”

Worry faded with his bright smile. Anne’s legs wobbled. The man was gorgeous!

“These creeps need to be reported. I’ll go to the store for you, Anne. Just give me a list.”

She narrowed her eyes. “How did you know my name?”

Light laughter swirled around her, caressing her skin into goose bumps. “Your name tag.” He tapped the plastic badge.

Feeling foolish, she laughed. “Of course. Anne Sherwood.” She extended her hand to his.

“Kestral Dermot. It’s a family name. Friends call me Kes.” His hand wrapped around hers. Warmth spread up her arm, through her body. Her breathing quickened. “I’ll be glad to go to the store for you while you file your report. A list and some cash is all I need.”

Was it an underhanded trick to take her money and run, or a genuine desire to help her? Her instincts and heart screamed trust. Logic be damned.

A spate of shooting stars burst over his head. An omen to back up those instincts. The stars had yet to fail her when she searched them.

“Thank you. I do want these men stopped before they hurt someone.” She dug through her tote for the list, then handed it and her hard-earned tips to him. “It’s probably more than you need—”

“Then you’ll get a receipt and change back. Mind if I borrow your car? Mine’s down. I was headed to a pay phone when I saw you. My cell phone’s dead.”

Anne slipped him her keys, her trust, and her heart.

My Salvation by Caitlyn Willows

MySalvation_medium

MY SALVATION
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotica – Short Paranormal
April 2014 (previously released in November 2006)
Cover Art © Lacey Savage

A traffic accident took away Aaron’s salvation, his fiancée Melinda. Lost and grief-stricken, he plunged back into his former days, drowning his grief in mindless parties and drunken debauchery, until a random accident of his own threatens his very soul. Trapped at the crossroads of heaven and hell, he finds himself in limbo, waiting for the Powers That Be to determine his fate. Now, as his soul hovers between eternal bliss and endless damnation, Melinda returns from the grave to help him earn his salvation once more.

BUY LINKS

REVIEWS

FIVE HEARTS! Beautiful, amazing, enthralling-I cannot think of enough words to describe this magnificent short story! I found myself intrigued and aroused-my, oh my Melinda and Aaron had erotic sex. They pulled me along with them in their graphic sex. Then there were the parts of plot where I just wanted to cry. Ms. Willows has an unbelievable ability to wring emotion out of her readers. Melinda, who is dead and Aaron, who wishes to be dead are surprisingly well described for a short story. The plot flows absolutely seamlessly, even when twists come in the story. I cannot remember a story ending which I have enjoyed more. Brava, Ms. Willows! ~Marcy Arbitman, The Romance Studio

4.5 BLUE RIBBONS! Caitlyn Willows takes us on a fascinating journey of self-discovery with this short tale. I could have easily cried for Aaron, his beloved Melinda and the life that they should have had together. It’s very easy to understand his disappointment and how simple it would be to slip into his old ways after such a loss. At the same time, you get the feeling that Melinda may have physically died but she never truly left him in spirit. Ms. Willows brings us the life after death experience in a beautiful heart-touching way that readers won’t soon forget. ~Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies

[A] heart-wrenching story that is sure to pull heavily on your emotions. There were moments where I was teary eyed, instances where I shook my head in shame and times where my spine was tingling with heated passion. My Salvation was so engrossing that I read it in one setting. I could easily see the love shared between Melinda and Aaron. Their chemistry was very passionate and expanded across time. There is not much more I can say without giving away the plot; however, I took great pleasure in reading Melinda and Aaron’s story and I am sure once you discover My Salvation you will enjoy it also. ~Nikita Steele, Joyfully Reviewed

EXCERPT

Aaron Crane hoisted the bottle of Absolut to his lips and chugged it. He’d passed the buzz-stage quite some time ago, yet he still maintained a death grip around the neck. The vodka dulled the pain in his heart, filled the void in his soul, and faded the memories that assaulted him even in his dreams.

“Are you taking a leak or what?” Joe Sanchez hollered back.

“Keep your panties on,” Aaron yelled back.

He heard the other three snicker in response, most probably because Aaron had used the word “panties” rather than for the insult he’d intended. God, they really were an immature bunch. None of them had evolved beyond the mentality of a college freshman. Fun was belching contests, seeing who could piss the farthest, and laying down quarter bets of whatever game was on TV, while they scratched their balls and scarfed pizza. Aaron was the only one of the bunch who held a steady job. If he kept partying with these guys, he’d be standing behind them in the unemployment line, and he knew it. Insurance companies liked their claims adjusters alert and attentive, not to mention timely, and he’d been none of those lately. Hungover, emaciated, and perpetually tardy were more likely descriptions.

And yet, in his grief, Aaron had chosen to return to this comfort zone rather than setting out on his own. The more time he spent with these four, the more he disliked them…and himself. But then, he’d hated life and himself since the night Melinda died. The only thing he wanted was to be dead, too. That’s how he felt inside—dead.

He tossed back another drink. Who the hell got the bright idea to stop off in the middle of the desert? They were halfway to Vegas. Why the fucking side-trip?

“Screw it.”

Aaron sank to the nearest boulder and stared across a landscape silvered with the light of a full moon. A warm breeze washed over him. They’d made love under a moon like this once, with only the wind as their blanket. Melinda had wrapped her legs around his. They’d clutched each other as closely as two people could as they soared to the stars watching over them.

He’d loved everything about her from the moment they’d met—her beauty, her goodness, her laughter, her mind. Melinda made him want to be a better person. Hell, he had become a better person, shrugging off his errant ways to be the man she’d want. She was his salvation. Everything he’d dreamed of had seemed to fall in his lap once she’d beamed her smile over him. Paths Aaron never knew existed opened. The world, the future, was golden.

The day he proposed they’d scoured the Internet for the perfect honeymoon spot. There was really only one choice—Desirata. Melinda had read about the idyllic island chain in a travel magazine; a tropical paradise where all a person’s needs were met. It was off the beaten tourist path, exclusive, private—visitation was granted on a person’s needs, not their wealth. Melinda filled out the application, her eyes shining the whole time.

“I know they’ll accept us,” she’d said.

Aaron didn’t care where they went. As long as they were together, he’d give her the world if he could. What better place to start than on a white sand beach perched on the edge of a crystal blue-green ocean?

And just like that…she was ripped away from him. All because some fool blabbering on a cell phone ran a stop light at sixty miles per hour. She’d died clutching the envelope containing the Desirata application.

Grief had torn him in two. He’d tried so hard and for what? To bury the woman he loved? It was all for nothing. In the end, that’s all he had…nothing.

Aaron had quickly reverted to his previous ways, hoping to drown out the unrelenting pain that haunted him day and night. He hated life, hated the four rowdy friends who couldn’t wait to pull him back into their fold. Where once he’d found some measure of joy in the constant partying, now it was merely an escape from the horrors of an unjust world.

He closed his eyes as the breeze brushed over him, lifting the hairs on his arms. His mind drifted with the sensation, imagining Melinda was here with him, gently dancing her fingers against his skin. She’d kiss her way down his throat, while she toyed his nipples into hard dots meant for suckling. While her lips played there, her hands would wander to his cock, stroking, kneading…

Aaron clutched at the erection that burst to life. “Not now…please.”

In his present state, relief wouldn’t be possible. He was too drunk. The fact he had a hard-on at all was a shock. But with memories of Melinda assaulting him, his dick refused to obey the rules. All he could think about was how great her lips felt around him, how tight her hot pussy felt when he was inside, and how painfully lonely the world was with her gone.

Emotion clogged Aaron’s throat. Tears welled up behind his eyelids. Hand shaking, he lifted the bottle to his lips. A sudden gust of wind knocked him off-balance. Arms flailing, he toppled backward. The vodka bottle shattered against the boulder.

Aaron sat on the hard cushion of sand. Moonlight glinted off the shards of glass. Fear welled up inside him. He needed the forgetfulness in that bottle. The pain in his heart was too much to bear without it.

He hugged his knees to his chest. That’s when he noticed the blood. His hand was cut and he hadn’t—still didn’t—felt a thing. Heartache was more than he could bear, but a cut like this…nothing. It was really bleeding, too.

Wonder if it needs stitches? In his fogged brain he tried to calculate the distance to the nearest hospital. A coyote’s howl nearby snapped him upright. He was just pondering whether they could scent blood like a shark when he heard Joe stomping back his way.

“What the fuck, man. You comin’ or not?”

“I fell. Jesus, cut me some fuckin’ slack.”

Aaron shoved himself to his feet. He staggered there for a second or two, then followed Joe. At least the hard-on was gone. He glanced down to make sure and stumbled over his feet, nearly plowing into the other man.

Joe caught his shoulder to steady him. “You okay? Jeez, what happened to your hand?”

Aaron pulled away when he reached for it. “Bottle broke. It’s just a cut. It’ll stop bleeding soon. What was so all-fired important that we had to stop in the middle of nowhere?”

“Check it out.” He motioned to where the other three stood, just beyond a sign that read, “Government Facility. Restricted Area. No Trespassing.”

What little morality Aaron had remaining reared its head. He pulled Joe back. “Are you nuts? This is a restricted area. You’re going to have us thrown in jail.”

“Like we’re gonna get caught way out here. And since when did a little something like rules stop you?” He trudged onward.

Aaron followed reluctantly behind. God only knew where they were. Visions of Area 51 gendarmes swooping down on them filled his head. They weren’t in that area, were they? He’d paid no attention to the direction in which Joe had driven. His only interest had been in reaching the bottom of the bottle.

“What is it?” he asked as he crept forward. Please don’t let it be an alien, his drunken brain whined.

“Take a look.” Joe pointed to six rectangular boxes. They looked like—

“Are those caskets?” Aaron asked.

“Sure enough.” He actually sounded proud of the discovery. “I found them the last time I came through. I was looking for a place to take a leak and there they were. Suppose it’s a desert cemetery someone dug up?”

Aaron frowned. They were old coffins, nothing more than pine boxes. But they didn’t have the aged look he would have associated with a desert cemetery. Still…it was night. “Where are the bodies that were inside?”

“Ewww…” Joe adopted a spooky voice. “Maybe it’s a vampire lair.”

“Shut the fuck up, idiot. Let’s get out of here.” He turned to go.

“Scaredy-cat. I’ll pay you fifty bucks to lay down in one.”

The other three snickered—their comment on everything.

So, that’s what this was all about. Aaron tossed up his hands. “Whatever. I’ll play your stupid game.” Anything to get out of here and on the road. The bleeding hadn’t stopped. He really needed to find a hospital.

He staggered over to the nearest coffin. A wave of dizziness overwhelmed him. Shaking his head to clear it, Aaron hoisted himself inside and stretched out.

“Satisfied?” he asked. “Pay up.” But he couldn’t move. Weakness overwhelmed him.

I’ll just close my eyes for a minute.

His mind slipped into the limbo stage of twilight sleep. Soon the nightmares would take him and there was nothing Aaron could do to stop them. He drifted on a sea of nothingness. Two tunnels lay ahead—one dark, one light—and there he hovered, waiting…waiting…waiting.

 

Unfettered by Caitlyn Willows

Unfettered-NoLogo

UNFETTERED
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Novella – Supernatural/Paranormal/Fantasy/Witchcraft/Magic/Time Travel/BDSM
April 2016
Cover Art by Dar Albert

Isabelle has long loved and cared for the dilapidated Victorian house on the hill. So when she decides to cast a spell to give her sexual expertise and the perfect mate, what better place to go than her beloved Victorian—a house of dubious reputation. But she learns all too soon that it pays to be specific in spell-casting. Everything she’s asked for is hers…back in 1901. Oh, and one more thing—she forgot to ask to keep them.

The woman of his dreams sifts through Daniel’s grasp like the fine grains of salt sprinkled on his floor. He’s known a few spell-casters in time, but for a cautious man to dare something so…impossible…well, it wouldn’t be the first time his mother considered having him committed. With the help of friends, he sets out to do the impossible—go to Isabelle. A feat seemingly doomed by calendar quirks.

Would the Fates be so cruel to keep them apart—like the Sun who always chases the Moon? Only the mercurial grandfather clock holding court in the Victorian can tell…if anybody would bother to listen…

NOTE: Unfettered was previously released by another publisher. It has been revised and re-edited for this version.

 

BUY LINKS

 

EXCERPT:

Isabelle looked up at the old Victorian house centered on the grassy, oak-shaded hill. She’d always been fascinated by this place. Built post-Civil War, the history surrounding it was sketchy. Rumor had it the original owner was the widow of a wealthy collector who had made the home into a museum in homage to her husband.

She wasn’t so certain, since she’d found no documentation to back up that story. There were plenty of tales of it being haunted as well. Someone always claimed to know someone who knew someone who had experienced ghosts in or around the place. Isabelle had spoken to several old-timers in the area. They all agreed the stories were true, and that they’d heard them from their parents and grandparents.

The moon glinting off a window caught her attention. Isabelle often wondered if the tale of ghosts had been generated by one of the loose ladies of the house during its presumed brothel period and perpetuated by adults since then to keep adventuresome kids away from the property. The brothel rumor held some weight. Ghosts…she wasn’t so sure. She’d experienced no hauntings in all the times she’d been there.

Spanish moss draped among the ancient tree limbs waved a greeting to her on the summer breeze. Its presence helped lend a sense of spookiness to the area, as did the cemetery, whose ravaged marble tombstones no longer bore the names of those buried there.

A winding cobblestone driveway large enough for two cars to pass threaded its way up the sloping rise to the house. A more direct stairway built into the lawn from the road also led straight to the driveway.

Isabelle slung her backpack over her shoulders and took the steps two at a time. She’d planned this night for months, counting the days until school was out and she had no responsibilities to take up her time. And no parents hounding her every step to talk about their “darlings.” Light from the full moon guided her way.

For some reason, upkeep on the property had ceased about twenty-five years ago. She’d toiled to keep the stairs and the driveway accessible, had even hired someone to come by once a week to trim the lawn and someone else for pest control. A house this beautiful deserved care, and she’d been doing that in some fashion for thirteen years now—ever since she was twelve years old.

She knew everyone thought she was nuts. As the years passed, the comments and the weird looks that came her way died off. Everyone seemed to accept that she’d become obsessed with the place. A few family members, even some friends, had tried to find out who owned the property so she could purchase it. Isabelle sighed. That would have been a dream come true. But the aloof owner—the mysterious Daniel Braddock Estate—wasn’t interested in selling. Odd that her attempts to purchase it never brought him—or her, or them, or any representative thereof—around to investigate her handiwork on the place. She’d always fantasized the owner would be so grateful for her meticulous and loving care that he would have no choice but to grant her the deed. After all, she visited it nearly every day and had yet to see another soul there besides the handyman and exterminator. Even her hope to snatch it up in a tax-lien sale hadn’t come to fruition. The taxes were always paid on time, in full, every year by the estate. She looked around as she crossed the lawn. If they loved it so much, why did they stop taking care of it?

Trying to find out was driving her nuts. What little information she could find only led to more questions. Upon the wealthy widow’s death, the house had passed into the hands of Penelope Marsden, a single woman of presumably ill repute. She’d owned and operated the Victorian around 1880. Upon her death eighteen years later, it had passed into the hands of Thomas Braddock. He seemed to have disappeared around 1900—no record of death, just disappeared. He did, however, have the foresight to deed the house to his younger brother Daniel…who’d also disappeared two years later. That didn’t help the house’s reputation any. Given the house’s scandalous reputation, its lack of repair, absent owners, and the missing prior owners—it all coalesced into tales of murder, mayhem, and all manner of nefarious doings, which added even more grist to the rumor mill.

Isabelle scrunched up her nose as she puzzled through her thoughts. People didn’t disappear without a reason. Although, considering what she’d found in the basement… She shook her head. No. They had moved away, died, procreated. The Daniel Braddock Estate was evidence of that. Someone had obviously planned for something, had an heir or heirs. Someone somewhere had answers, and they were being very tight-lipped about it. She shook her head again to get rid of the rambling thoughts. Her mind needed to be clear tonight, not jumbled with a puzzle that had thwarted her for years.

She paused at the edge of the lawn. Moonlight bathed the three-story house in a wash of silver that was almost magical. She took that as a sign, a blessing for what she was about to do. At night, the wear on the place wasn’t as apparent as it was during daylight. Alas, her expertise and pocketbook only went so far. She could keep the interior clean and pest-free—quite a feat when there was no running water or electricity—but outside, the best she could do was keep the yard up, brush the cobwebs from the shingles, and nail the loose shutters back into place. Oh…and keep the windows sparkling, at least the ones she could reach. She’d even replaced those broken by time and hurled rocks.

Determined, she refused to give up. One day this house would be hers. Her efforts had to win her that right. She refused to entertain the possibility of failure or how illogical her actions might seem. She was desperate. Where else could she turn except to the house she’d loved all these years? She’d cared for it as if it were her very own, loved it as no one else did. Surely that devotion would be returned.

Isabelle crossed the cobblestone drive and retrieved the skeleton key from beneath the garden rock where she’d first found it thirteen years ago. Her parents would have had a fit had they known she’d been inside the house back then. She never told them, although they knew she frequently visited the place. She’d seen them follow her a time or two, but they’d never stopped her visits.

She trotted up the marble steps and, once she stood on the old wooden porch, she paused to look back. In its heyday, she imagined it was quite impressive to see carriages dispelling visitors at these steps. Day or night, it would have been wondrous.

The creak of the slowly rocking swing in the corner of the porch caught her attention. How many lovers had sat there? She could almost imagine their ghostly presence as they watched her. In all the years she’d been coming here, no spirit had ever made its presence known.

Isabelle shoved the key into the lock. The door swung open on well-oiled hinges. Amazing what two cans of WD-40 could do to make the squeals and groans disappear. She wished she could have done something like that about the wooden floors. They creaked with every step she took. But at least they were clean.

Her first visit inside the house had left her a dust-covered, cobweb-draped mess. Every visit left her that way until she’d finally decided to clean it years later. She’d dusted, swept, and polished everything she could. Scrubbed the grime from the windows inside and out. Everything might be threadbare and worn, but it was at least a little cleaner. Well, at least as clean as could be, given twenty-five years of neglect. The rugs, drapes, and upholstery had been too fragile, so she’d left them as is.

Isabelle shut and locked the door behind her and set her backpack on the floor. The grandfather clock always greeted her first upon entry, its hands frozen at the twelve o’clock position. She remembered the day she’d polished it until the dark wood gleamed. Fixing it, though, was way beyond her expertise. She’d flirted with the idea of hiring someone to get it working again, but since she didn’t own the place, she wasn’t sure that was a wise move. No one minded that the yard and house were kept in order. That benefited the neighborhood by keeping the rodent population at bay and the yard from being a true eyesore as well as helping resale values in the area. However, openly acknowledging that she’d actually breached the front door—that she had been inside the house on multiple occasions—was a different issue. While the temptation to do so in the hope it would drag the owner out made her consider it, the threat that it might backfire and she’d lose access to the house stayed her hand.

She brushed her hand down the side of the huge clock. Midnight or noon? What momentous event had stopped time? The voices of the past were as silent as those mysterious trustees who held the ownership reins.

Isabelle inhaled. The wild-berry air fresheners she’d placed there three days ago had put a crisp, fresh scent throughout the house. She stood there and absorbed the house’s energy. A feeling of warmth surrounded her. Maybe those voices weren’t so silent after all.

She picked up the box of safety matches from the Queen Anne console across from the clock and lit the new candles in the sconces on the foyer wall. Using them for light, she wandered into the main parlor and lit all the remaining candles there as well. Faded mirrors reflected the golden, flickering flames, adding coziness to the warmth she’d perceived earlier.

It was going to be a wonderful night. She just knew it. By the time she left in the morning, all her needs and most of her wishes would be fulfilled.

Dark, gleaming stairs beckoned her upward when she returned to the foyer. Was that how previous occupants and guests felt? Drawn into the very heart of the house? Or did they prefer to wander into the basement playroom just off the empty wine cellar to engage in harder sex play? She didn’t know much about that aspect of sex but was pretty sure that every bondage toy in existence back in the day was down there.

Isabelle laughed. She’d thought it was a dungeon when she’d first seen the room. Whips, chains, collars, cuffs, tables, and racks—they’d stirred something deep inside her. She’d like to say it was curiosity, but her pounding heart and raised pulse told her it was much more than that. Even as young as she’d been when she’d first stumbled upon them, aspects of the room had inspired her imagination and excited her in ways she’d eventually learned were sexual in nature. That room and its contents had given Isabelle her first taste of adult horny.

She’d spent as much time exploring that naughty basement playroom as she had the rest of the house. She had even indulged and had lain naked on the rack, her arms and legs spread wide and her eyes closed as she’d imagined the flogger being laid across her bare ass.

Her breath quickened at the thought. Her pussy moistened with the throb of her clit. Yes, she’d imagined the fire building in her ass until she couldn’t stand it any longer. Then she’d remove the soft leather strap from its nearby hook—the strap she’d bought to keep there—whip herself with it, then rub it over her clitoris until she came.

How many others had “suffered” such a fate down there? Or maybe upstairs in one of the many lavishly decorated bedrooms with those sturdy four-poster beds?

If the rumors were true, thousands had been pleasured in those bedrooms. Judging from the fact that the basement toys did exist, Isabelle had no reason to doubt those particular tales.

Set away from the main city and protected by the many oak tree sentries around the property, it would have been a popular brothel. Discreet. There were those who claimed Penelope Marsden was a madam who had passed the house into the hands of her nephew—or son, depending on who told the story. Thomas Braddock presumably added to the home’s hedonistic history with grand orgies and parties, where bondage and discipline were as prevalent as the food and wine that freely flowed.

As for the man himself, no one seemed to know what had become of Thomas or his successor. Daniel Braddock simply disappeared one night in the early 1900s. Some said he ran off with the daughter of a wealthy banker. Some thought he might have met with an untimely end, perhaps while strapped to the very rack Isabelle indulged herself on. Some hinted that he’d gone into service during World War I and either died or met a French bride and stayed in Europe. Maybe both men had served in the war, and their stories had become entangled over the years. Maybe that explained why the house still remained with the estate—perhaps a descendant had kept the place for sentimental reasons. That was so much more pleasing than to think the heirs battled over the old place. If only that person would come here, could see how much she loved this house…

Her rambling thoughts had distracted her again. At this rate, she’d never get to the point of her visit. She needed to hurry so that she could take advantage of every second that still remained.

Isabelle retrieved the backpack and returned to the parlor. Candlelight reflected off the mirrors around the room, brightening it as well as electricity would. Out of the whole house, this was her favorite room. Threadbare gold brocade flecked with splashes of red covered the chairs and the love seat, while remnants of matching curtains flanked the windows. A black-marbled fireplace veined with gold dominated the far wall. She’d love to see it alive with a toasty fire. She pictured herself entwined in the arms of a lover before it. A good lover, one who knew how to stoke a woman’s desires. Not like the men she’d known thus far.

She glanced up at the portrait hanging above the mantel. Now there was a woman who knew what good loving was about. Black hair tumbled down her back, revealing a glimpse of creamy white skin beneath. Her face was turned away, barely visible from the shadows of whatever blocked the light. But it was obvious from the arch of her body that she was in the throes of pleasure. She stretched on the red covering that draped over her breast and one hip. Isabelle had found the remnant of what she thought was the covering upstairs.

The woman in the painting had been real.

That was what Isabelle wanted—intense pleasure at the hands of another. She’d even let her own black hair grow into a cascade of curls, hoping to somehow channel the woman’s spirit. Her long hair had definitely gotten her male attention, but none had possessed the skill her body craved.

With any luck, that would change after tonight. She’d have not only the knowledge but also the experience to get what she needed in the bedroom. A little luck wouldn’t hurt either. Or a lot of magic.

The alarm on her watch alerted Isabelle that midnight was fast approaching. She had little time to prepare. Everything had to be ready, so she could execute the spell when the full moon was at its zenith.

Isabelle unzipped the backpack and started to lay out her materials. She’d done a little preparation the day before—moving furniture, rolling up the rugs she’d prayed wouldn’t fall apart—and had exposed a large section of the bare wooden floor. She wanted to do this spell before the fireplace with the woman’s portrait in full view. Her desire was simple—to increase the sexual quality of her life and find the perfect match for her. What better way to draw that to her than by appealing to the notorious qualities of this house?

The spell was sure to work. In fact, she was sure it would. Madam Delores at the New Age shop where she’d purchased the spell kit was more than adamant of its success as long as Isabelle followed the directions.

She’d written down everything she wished for and had committed the words to memory. Madam Delores had also insisted that Isabelle give her the words to write down along with the instructions.

“Things happen in the heat of the moment, in the rush of the mystic vortex,” she’d explained.

As Isabelle placed her white votive candles in a wide circle, she repeated the words again in her mind.

 

 

Flames From Ashes by Caitlyn Willows

FlamesFromAshes-NoLogo

FLAMES FROM ASHES
by Caitlyn Willows
Contemporary – Erotic Suspense Romance
February 2016
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter

Sandy knew from the second she laid eyes on Clint from across a crowded bar that he was the man for her. It didn’t take her long to realize that he was a keeper—a really great guy. It’s a fact he reaffirms with every second they are together. He’s there when she needs him most, holding her against the fears that plague her, loving her until they are too exhausted to move.

Sandy’s his gift for finally getting his life in order. Clint’s the one who keeps her calm, safe, and settled. Admittedly, both come with baggage. Now it’s time to help each other unpack. That’s when the skeletons of the past come out to threaten them.

It takes a really great guy man to love a strong woman. A man who isn’t afraid to let his woman be the hero. A man who isn’t afraid to unleash his dark side and take down anyone who dares to harm her. There’s little Sandy can’t do all by herself…including fighting for the man she loves—a really great guy whose arms feel like heaven.

Related stories are:
Wrapped In Flame
Flames From Ashes

BUY LINKS

EXCERPT:

Clint rasped his fingers over his morning whiskers. A wise man would have walked away and said to hell with it. But no one had ever accused him of being a genius. Few things were stupider than lying in wait outside a woman’s workplace, hoping for…

Hell, he didn’t know at this point. He sighed. Sandy Freeman didn’t owe him any explanations. In two months of dating, they hadn’t progressed beyond kisses and him feeling her up, despite the fact they’d spent every available moment together. Not that it mattered. He’d appreciated the buildup, and the kisses were hot enough to melt his brain. He knew they’d set fire to the sheets when they were finally together. At some point, his goal had shifted from wanting to get in her pants to wanting to keep her in his life. Now he knew the reason she was cautious, the reason why she’d put up shields two weeks into their fledgling relationship, and why sex had been off the table.

He wanted to kill the son of a bitch who’d hurt her.

All this time, Clint had wondered if he’d done something wrong. If only it’d been that simple. Instead, she’d been suffering and never said a word. No, he’d had to hear about it on the morning news. A gut punch had lesser impact.

Clint wanted to blame himself for not understanding the signs. But why would he, when the truth was so far-reaching, it never occurred to him that she’d been raped? The times when she was the most distant, he’d worried instead that old rumors from his past had resurfaced to turn her away from him.

He laughed at the irony. Here he was, pissed that Sandy didn’t talk to him, and yet he hadn’t bothered to talk to her, even though he knew one day he’d have to do so if their relationship developed as he wanted it to. He wanted time. Life in a bubble of bliss before the world intruded. He wanted Sandy in his arms, his bed, and his life. He wanted nothing to intrude. He wanted that slow build and the bonding that went with it.

It appeared that dream had been doomed before it really started. Six weeks of wondering why the light in her eyes had dimmed. Weeks of agony each time she pulled away from him and said good night, and he’d been left to beat off to the fantasy of what might have been.

If it were any other woman, Clint would have been out the door long before now. But he’d known from the second he saw her across the bar, shooting pool with her girlfriends while she sucked down 7UP and bitters, that Sandy Freeman wasn’t just any woman. There was a vitality about her that pulsed in waves to everyone who came into her orbit.

And that son of a bitch snuffed it out.

Clint did want to kill him, slowly and painfully. It was a wonder the other firefighters she worked with hadn’t done so already. That’s when he’d realized—Sandy hadn’t told them either. If she had, the man wouldn’t have still been working at the fire station. How could she have done it—continued to work with the bastard? Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe she’d changed her shifts. He shook his head. It didn’t matter. The son of a bitch was dead now. A victim of a house fire. Clint could see why the police considered the entire fire department persons of interest. They all had motive to see Keith Randall dead. It’d been all over the news too. The talk of their small town. And if Clint had known about Keith Randall’s attack on Sandy before this morning, he would have been a suspect as well. Proudly.

The thought of all she’d endured made him sick inside. His vibrant lady—because she was his lady even if they’d yet to seal the deal—had suffered in silence. Now this double whammy. This time he was making a stand. She would not deal with this alone, and he intended to make it very clear he wasn’t doing this as a friend. Sandy had friends—not that he’d met them or she his or even each other’s family. They’d been wrapped up in that bubble—private, happy, and building toward something awesome—until the real world burst it. He was doing this now as a man, one who wanted her beyond reason, one who planned to fight for whatever that something was that had drawn them together in the first place. She’d felt it too. Despite everything she’d endured, Sandy hadn’t completely shut him out. Yet. He’d been dancing around her for two months. No more. Pushing her now could very well blow up in his face. So be it. At least he would have tried, and that was a hell of a lot better to live with than sitting on the sidelines, waiting for life to happen.

All he had to do was get to her. He looked out his truck window. Hard to do when she was at work.

Clint studied the circus of reporters crowding the street across from the fire station. Going in guns blazing would be all over the news in seconds, followed by Clint getting his ass kicked out of said fire station if the firefighters perceived him to be a threat.

He pulled his phone from the console between the front seats and hit the speed-dial number designated for Sandy. She’d had the number-one spot since their second date, moving his best friend Danny down to two. Doubt flickered when three rings passed without a pickup. His rational side argued that she was at work. Just because the trucks were in the bays didn’t mean the firefighters weren’t busy. She’d given him a rundown of daily tasks that boggled his—

“Hi,” she answered.

“Hey.” Surely he could do better than that. “We need to talk. I don’t want to wait until you get off-shift.” It was day one of a three-day shift. Her schedule was posted on his calendar. He hated the long shifts. Hell, he hated any shift that put her out of his reach for twenty-four hours.

“Gina took my shift today. I’m not doing so good.”

“I know. I saw.” And heard and felt his heart rip from his chest. How the hell were they going to get past this?

“I’m sorry you had to find out that way.” Her voice trembled.

“Me too.”

“I couldn’t… I didn’t…” She sniffed. “My stomach has settled, and I was about to leave but saw the reporters were still out there. I can’t deal with them.”

“I’m right outside. I’ll pull up to the side door, and you can hop right in. I’ll take you away from all this. We can come back for your car later. Surely they would’ve found something better than this to chew on by then.”

“Why aren’t you at work?”

“You were more important.” Now to make her understand that.

“Oh, Clint.” More sniffles. “I have baggage.”

“Don’t we all?” He was no exception. “I’m headed to the side door now. If you need me to come inside and help you—”

“I’ll meet you there.”

They disconnected simultaneously. By the time Clint pulled to a stop outside the side door of the fire station, Sandy was waiting. Her oversize blue-denim tote hung off one shoulder—her go-bag. He swore she could—and did—fit a week’s worth of stuff in the thing. She’d worn pink shorts and a tank top along with her sneakers today, always preferring to change into uniform when she arrived. Normally pink looked great on her. She was one of those dark-haired lookers with ivory skin. Today, though, it highlighted her pallor. She looked like death warmed over—dark circles under her eyes, ivory skin gone sickly pale, sweat spiking the short bangs across her forehead. Clint wanted to kick himself yet again. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen her looking unwell. He’d always passed it off as being tired from a long shift. Experience should have told him something was wrong. He should have asked, pushed her for answers instead of ignoring it. No more.

In one fluid motion, she was safe inside his truck. “My place or yours, or somewhere else?” he asked.

Sandy glanced at the reporters, some of whom were edging toward their news trucks, most likely to follow. “They already know where I live. I’d prefer to keep you out of this.”

“Obviously, since you didn’t bother to tell me in the first place.” He held up his palm when she drew breath to speak. It might be brutal to throw that at her right now, but he had to let her know how he felt. “We’ll deal with that in a bit because number one”—he held up a finger—“I’m pretty pissed about how I found out.” Another finger joined the first. “Two, I’m hurt beyond words.” Tears slipped down her cheeks. Clint put up a third finger. “Three, if he wasn’t dead, I’d find him and kill him, right after I cut off his dick and balls and shoved them down his throat.”

Clint pulled in a breath and cupped her cheek with gentle care, brushing his thumb over the tear tracks. “But right now, all I want is you safe and secure.” He wanted to kiss her so badly, to hold her and never let go, but the media’s presence prevented it. “Them learning where I live isn’t going to cut it. Feel up to a ride through the national park?”

The hint of a smile twitched her lips. She pressed her hand over his. “That would be great.”

“If those cameras weren’t pointed in our direction, you’d be in my arms.”

More tears. She plucked tissues from the box in the console to blot them away and blow her nose. “Just get us out of here.” She snapped her seat belt in place, closed her eyes, and leaned against the headrest.

Cameras followed their departure, but the news trucks didn’t move. He heaved a sigh of relief. As on edge and protective as he felt right now, Clint couldn’t trust his temper not to get him into trouble. The reporters’ very existence threatened Sandy’s peace. Him making a scene wouldn’t help either. He wondered how long it would take them to run his plates.

He glanced Sandy’s way when they arrived at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park five minutes later. She was sound asleep and didn’t stir when he stopped to pay the entrance fee. More guilt. It wasn’t the first time she’d fallen asleep on him. Chances were she wasn’t sleeping well when alone, if she slept at all.

Idiot.

Clint took his time driving through the national park. It was one of their favorite places to go. A lot of their dates found them hiking the many trails. They’d even discussed signing up for rock-climbing lessons. He loved her strength and stamina, and that she could keep up with him. Of course, in her job, fitness was a priority—one she took seriously. She was solid without the bulk but not skinny. She had the body of a gymnast—well-muscled and tightly packed without an ounce of fat. He loved the feel of her in his arms. Loved the way she coiled against him when they kissed.

He shook off the memories and forced his attention to the scenery instead. Counted off the other trails they’d yet to explore. Wondered if circumstances would allow them to do so or pull them apart forever. Melancholy filtered in. He prayed for the right words and actions to guide him, knowing he had to support her, not judge. Her decision, not his. His heart broke a little more when he realized the turmoil she’d faced alone. No wonder she hadn’t slept. It said a lot about their comfort level that she felt secure enough to do so when she was with him. Humbled him, even. At least they had that. As for the rest, even he didn’t know.

Clint took his time driving through the park, turning a forty-five-minute drive from one entrance to the other into two hours and pissing off a lot of people who didn’t appreciate his leisurely pace. Cars whipped around him like the devil was on their tails. He couldn’t care less. Sandy slept the entire time. She stretched awake when he stopped at the ranger kiosk to check out, then turned a lazy smile his way right before he drove on. A smile he longed to see first thing in the mornings with her next to him. A smile that promised to light up her eyes the way it used to before it happened.

“Morning, bright eyes.” He pulled the truck over to the shoulder and twisted her way, draping his arm as best he could over the back of her seat. “Sleep good?”

“I did.” Her eyes—God, her beautiful, deep-blue eyes—smiled at him. The things that did to his heart.

“Hungry?”

She leaned against his forearm. “I think I am.”

“Anything in particular?” Considering her condition, it had to be her call.

“I’d kill for a cheeseburger, but I can’t stand going into any place to get one. The smell of anything greasy…” She left the obvious unsaid.

“Then let’s grill our own.” Her place or his, Clint didn’t care. He’d take her there, feed her, or tuck her into bed for some more rest—anything she needed.

“Sounds wonderful.” Another smile.

He released his seat belt and leaned over to drop a kiss on her lips. Her breath caught. She cupped his cheek, deepening the kiss and awakening his cock. It never took much. She could rouse him with a look. Clint reluctantly pulled away and reconnected his seat belt.

“We’ll stop at the store on the way home. Your place or mine?”

“Mine, but I’d rather pick up my car first. Suppose you could make a grocery run without me?”

“Whatever you’d like.” He meant it, but he couldn’t keep the hard edge out of his voice. Her sigh told him she’d noticed.

“What about what you’d like, Clint?” she asked softly.

He flexed his fingers around the steering wheel, judging his response. Skirt the issue, or be blunt? There was only so much dancing around a subject a man could do before he lost his breath. His anger built fast from that deep hole the morning news had burned in his gut. Somehow he managed to bank the force of it, to make his words slow and measured.

“I’d like to have you naked against me, to be under the covers and losing ourselves in each other. I’d like you to have told me the truth and not have my world ripped out from under me courtesy of the morning news. I’d like to think I deserved at least that much. I’d like to think I meant something to you after all this time, but—”

“You do.” Sandy touched his arm and leaned his way. “I’m sorry. There’s no excuse I can make. Could we please not do this now in the truck, on the road?”

“Fine. But I won’t be put off again.”

“You won’t be. I promise.”

She pulled her fingers away slowly. Tingles wiggled straight to his balls. He shifted in his seat, trying and failing to find a comfortable position. They said nothing during the twenty-minute ride back to the fire station. Reporters still hovered about. Cameras turned toward his truck when Clint pulled into the parking lot and stopped near her sky-blue Prius.

“I guess if they follow, they follow,” Sandy said with a beleaguered sigh. “They already know where I live, and my car is fairly obvious.” The pretty color made it stand out.

“They probably know where I live by now too.” Most definitely where he worked, since his white FURNITURE FIXERS sign was on both sides and the tailgate of his dark-blue truck. “But there’s nothing to say we have to make it easy for them. Turn south instead of north when you leave. I’ll block their exit. It might throw them off to think you’re headed somewhere other than home.”

“Not for long,” she said.

“Long enough for you to get in your house without being harassed,” he replied.

She nodded, released her belt, and started to open the door.

“Kiss me,” he said.

Sandy looked at him, eyes wide. Her gaze drifted from the reporters to the fire station, then back Clint’s way.

“Fuck them,” he said. “Kiss me, damn it. Kiss me like you mean it. No more of this behind-closed-doors shit. Kiss me like you own me.” Because she did, whether she realized it or not. If they could recover from this hell-of-its-own-making stumbling block. And it was hell, pure and simple.

He pushed his seat back as far as it could go, giving her full access to him. Her gaze dropped to the erection swelling his jeans. He watched her pulse flutter in her neck. It matched the hard beat of his heart. There was hunger in her eyes when she looked up at him, but Clint had seen it before and felt the walls she’d thrown up between them. Knowing why she’d done so had him second-guessing every move he wanted to make. The choice had to be hers. The action had to be hers. Oh, he’d lure and dare her, make her want him enough to work past her fear, tempt and gently push her, even, but in the end, the lead role would be hers. Unless she said otherwise. He prayed for patience.

She shifted in her seat, coming to her knees. He slipped his arm around her waist when she leaned over the console, and cupped her hip. Parted lips took his. Her tongue slid deep, torching his soul. There was another shift, and then she was cradled in his lap. He loved the feel of her in his arms—a strong woman with lean muscles.

Sandy clutched his neck, holding tight as she deepened the kiss, rolling into him. Clint’s heart leaped. He brushed his fingers down her thigh, paused, and eased his hand between her knees but no farther. They were, after all, in public.

Yellow Ribbons by Caitlyn Willows

YellowRibbons-NoLogo

YELLOW RIBBONS
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense – Military – Erotic Romance – BDSM
November 2011
Cover Artist – April Martinez

He saw her across the room, a beautiful offering strung between the pillars awaiting a master to bring her the rush of bliss. That’s when Greg Landess knew no one was going to have his captain but him.

Lani Hollister didn’t have a clue what release was like until Greg claimed her. Calling it magic didn’t come close. He’d captured more than her body that night, he cradled her heart in his big, wonderful hands.

Their relationship was a secret they kept from the world. Their love a secret they kept from each other. Fraternization between officer and enlisted, between supervisor and subordinate, are strictly forbidden. Neither expected a call to a murder scene would jeopardize their affair and make them the enforcers of the very rules they’ve broken.

BUY LINKS

REVIEWS:

4-1/2 STARS! Everything about Yellow Ribbons exceeds expectations, including a believable military scenario, scorching erotic elements and thrilling suspense. The relationship between Greg and Lani is incredibly emotional, and readers will connect with the conflict of keeping secrets and the turmoil of living lies. Each character has a solid backstory, interactions are well thought out and the pacing is even — all details which strike a perfect balance between erotica and suspense.~Anna Dougherty, RT Book Reviews

EXCERPT:

Lani started awake from a nightmare she couldn’t remember. Strong arms wrapped around her, and Greg swept his hand over her hip, scattering her fears.

“It’s okay,” he mumbled. “I’ve got you. Go back to sleep.”

He was dead to the world a nanosecond later. The man could fall asleep in an instant. She could too, when he was by her side. When he wasn’t, the nights were long, lonely, and cold.

Lani relaxed against him, treasuring the security of his body next to hers and his warmth, her own minifurnace. What a treat in the winter. Come summer, she’d be sweltering next to him and loving every second. If they made it to summer.

God, what a dangerous game they were playing. No, not a game. Lani was very serious about him, and that’s what was going to wind up destroying them both.

She glanced at the bedside alarm — 4:01. They could get another hour and a half of sleep before Greg had to slink away. She missed him already. In the light of day, in public, at work, neither could acknowledge what they truly were to each other. Regulations forbade every aspect of their relationship. It was only going to get worse. In light of tonight’s events, or rather…last night’s, Lani could predict what was going to happen next. She didn’t want to think about what was going to go down at work in less than four hours.

Greg mumbled something in his sleep and rolled to his back. The sheet, blanket, and bedspread were bunched at his hips. Lani turned onto her side to enjoy the view, feeling blessed and cursed at the same time. Lucky to have him, sad it had to be a secret.

Night light from the wall plug rippled over his chest. His pecs looked like desert mesas, the puckered nipples remnants of ancient peaks. Abs resembled rolling valleys, and the dark hair trickling to his navel a shadowed wash. Lani pressed her lips together to try to hold in a gasp. He did that to her — took her breath away. All he had to do was walk into a room. She’d played hell every time fighting her reaction — how her body tightened and sang for his touch.

He knew so much about her. Knew what she needed and when she needed it, and he thoroughly indulged her body’s demands. It was her heart that Lani guarded, that and the biggest secret of all — one even Greg could never know.

She couldn’t pinpoint the moment things shifted. Somewhere in the last six months they’d gone from fulfilling a mutual need for bondage and discipline play into making love. All Lani knew was that Greg held her heart in his big, wonderful hands. Maybe he had from the start, when fate put them both at that private, exclusive event hosted by Oliver Holbrook at his Palm Springs estate. If she lived to be a million years old, Lani would never forget Greg’s words when he saw her there.

“The woman is mine.”

He’d claimed her, his long legs closing the distance between them, chamois flogger dragging the floor by his side. He’d worn soft black pants that rippled over his muscled thighs. The long-sleeved ivory shirt had been open at the throat, loose. He’d looked like Heathcliff stepping off the moors. If she hadn’t been spread between the pillars, Lani still wouldn’t have been able to move. Then he’d reached her side and burrowed his face below her ear, inhaling her soul.

“No one touches my captain but me,” he’d whispered.

He’d ordered her released and taken to a private area where…

Lani shivered at the memory.

Greg stirred and rolled her way. “Cold?”

She should have felt guilty for waking him but didn’t. “No, just…remembering our first time together.”

His penis swelled against her stomach, nudging her belly button. He skimmed his fingers over her ribs and down her spine, then rested them on the curve of her ass. His breath quickened, but he didn’t say a word. She knew the memory danced in his head. God, how she’d wanted him fully that not-so-long-ago night. Well beyond what her body needed from the endorphin bliss. She’d needed him. Wanted him. A month passed before they crossed that line, a month of release at the hands of a true master. Lani didn’t have a clue what release was like until the first time they’d come together outside their roles of Dom and sub. Calling it magic didn’t come close.

Her nipples hardened. She slid her hand over his tight buttock and closed the whisper of space between them.  Greg kneaded his fingers oh-so-gently while he ground his cock into her belly.

“I love waking up to you.” He nuzzled her ear and nipped at her lobe. “Love how you feel in my arms.”

“Mmmm.” Lani arched her neck to his wandering lips. Electricity scored down her body when he crawled his mouth over the tendon under her ear.

Somehow she managed to press her palms against his chest. The barest push urged him to lie back. Greg didn’t hesitate, nor did Lani. She raked the covers to the foot of the bed with her toes. He cupped her cheek, then combed his fingers through her long hair. His lips were parted, eyes half-closed while he waited for her next move.

“You’re mine.” She skidded her hand over his chest, back and forth between his hard nipples. “Just like I was yours that night. God help the woman who steps between us.”

Lani meant it too. Though in reality there was nothing either of them could do about it without giving away the nature of their relationship and facing career-ending courts-martial as a result.

His hand tensed, but his grip on her head remained light. His expression lost the dreamy quality. Something had upset him. Her words?

“And while we’re on that subject… What the hell was that with Jordan last night?”

Her heart alternately ached and cheered at this spark of jealousy from him. “I have no idea.” It was the truth. She and Jordan were coworkers, casual friends. His move last night was…disconcerting. “I didn’t like it,” she admitted. “It threw me off.”

“I was beginning to think I was going to have to throw him off you.” Lani watched as he clenched his jaw, saw his eyes blaze.

You make me feel like a woman. Your woman.

“Frankly, so was I,” she finished in a whisper, lips poised over his nipple.

His tension faded. She stole a gasp from him when she traced a circle around his nipple. Any other man would have tried to shove her head toward his dick. Not Greg. He was always content to let her play, even if it meant permanently wrinkling the sheet in a tight-fisted, sweat-drenched grip.

She plucked his nipple between her lips, loving how it hardened and strained for more. Lani moved to the other one and idly caressed the line of hair running down his chest, stopping just short of the erection waiting for her below. Greg released a shuddered breath and dropped his hand to her hip. His fingers flexed.

“God, you test a man’s control.” His voice was rough, a true testament to the words he’d spoken.

Lani smiled and licked the muscle cut under his pecs. She feathered her fingers downward, skirting his penis to tickle his thighs. Greg spread them, a silent request she couldn’t deny. She moved lower and flashed her tongue over his smooth sac, loving how he shaved there just for her.

“Ga!” He smacked his palms onto the mattress and wadded the sheet.

She slid over him until her shoulders were between his thighs. Greg lifted his knees, then spread them wide onto the bed. Lani sucked one testicle into her mouth, tongue laving circles over it. She pressed her thumbs upward, promising a touch to his erection that she never gave. Greg writhed beneath her. His soft groans made her juices flow, her clit swell. Releasing his sac, she ran the flat of her tongue up his penis.

His hold on the sheet faltered. Fingers flailed to grab her, then fell to her shoulders. He rubbed frantic circles over her skin. Lani flashed her tongue over the tag of flesh near the crown, blew over the tip, sucked in the precum gathered there, and wandered downward once more. Greg whimpered. His sac was harder now, hugging his body. She loved when he got like that, like he couldn’t wait to empty himself in her. She wrapped her hand around the top and tugged his testicles gently downward.

“You’re killing me,” he gasped.

“Am I?” She used her tongue to separate his balls, then sucked the other one into her mouth.

She felt his cock twitch as heat swamped his groin, his body locked. Lani eased away.

“I want you inside me.” She came to her knees and ran her hands over her breasts. Greg’s hands replaced hers, molding around her tits until her nipples were ripe and swollen. God knew her clit was.

She crawled astride his hips and rubbed her pussy over his erection. Greg grabbed his cock with one hand, raking the tip over her clit while his other hand tweaked her nipple. Now she was on the brink, so close to coming, she could taste it. Hands braced on his chest, she rode the oncoming wave.

Greg grabbed her hips and lifted her slightly. “Put it where you want it, sweetheart.” He rubbed his erection over her slit. They found each other at the same time and eased together as one.

“Damn…” He ground into her. “I swear I could fuck you a thousand times and your pussy just keeps getting better and better. So tight. So hot. So wet.” He thumbed her clit. “Ride me. Make us come, baby.”

Her brain shut down, and her body took over. He moved in time with her frantic gyrations, each thrust harder and hotter than the one before.

Lani’s orgasm built, stoked by the relentless drive of his thumb and cock into her, her clenching vaginal muscles. They climaxed at the same time, straining into the force, letting the tension rattle their bones and the blessed release sag their muscles.

Emotion hit her from out of nowhere. A gasp. Her heart squeezed. A sob. Tears.

“Shh, it’s okay.” Greg hugged her close and rolled her beneath him, kissing her, caressing her, soothing as only he could. “I’ve got you, sweetheart. I’ve got you.”

If only he knew how true that statement was. If only she could tell him.

 

Lies That Bind by Caitlyn Willows

LiesThatBind-NoLogo

 

LIES THAT BIND

by Caitlyn Willows
Contemporary – Erotic Romance – Menage – BDSM
March 2014
Cover Artist – Dar Albert

After a year’s absence, Tessa returns to the Texas ranch and two cowboys she left when her life turned inside out. She’s here to bury a friend, cut her ties with this town, that’s all. That may be all that Tessa’s planning, but Rex and Tyler want their woman back and they’re not going to make it easy.

If one good man is hard to find, two are even harder to resist. Tessa’s determination to shut them can’t withstand the fire of their mingled passions. Pretty soon, the fire draws them back to each other. How can she leave when it feels so damned good tucked up nice and tight between them?

It’s not long before Tessa realizes she’d rather bend her pride to be with her men than live the hell of loneliness without them. Also not long before someone else starts threatening their new romance by killing anyone who’ll expose this town’s dirty laundry. Not long before Tessa’s secrets make her a target herself…

BUY LINKS

2015_EBook_WINNER-sm

REVIEWS:

5 out of 5! I was totally hooked several pages into the story. Who doesn’t love a good mystery, romance and toss a bit of kink in as well?! The dynamic between Tessa, Rex and Tyler was great. Wasn’t sure what to expect, but the Dom/sub roles and interchanging between Tessa and Tyler were awesome. Loved how the murder mystery and who did it theme runs through the book in conjunction with the kink. Made for a very easy read, and I couldn’t put the book down. Lots of hints of what happened with Tessa during the year that she was gone from the ranch, would be interested in seeing the secondary characters in a book of their own. Congrats and well done! – Cat, BDSM Reviews.

FOUR STARS! [A] terrific novel by Ms. Willows that combined incredibly hot sex with a cozy little mystery to create a must read for fans of erotic suspense stories. the suspense and mystery in this book were excellent and had me trying to figure out whodunit almost the entire time. I loved the red herrings Ms. Willows throw out there and wound up appreciating the villain more for it. And the sex…seriously. It was out of this world. The reunion scene between Tessa and Tyler and their light BDSM switch roles…OMG, it was fantastic! – Delta, The Romance Reviews.

EXCERPT:

Derek Ford was dead. What that had to do with her, though, was a mystery that dug under Tessa Fairchild’s skin, trumped only by the question of why she’d bothered to come back here in the first place. She’d cut her ties to the ranch and everything that went with it a year ago. The last thing she needed was this haunting sense of déjà vu by returning to the place where it all started. Yet here she was, answering the summons of a dead man. Tessa told herself she was here out of respect. After all, Derek had been as much a victim as she was. Two lives ruined in one fell swoop.

She glanced out the cockpit at her destination below.

Rustlers Retreat, an experience you’ll always remember.

The innocent promotional tagline screamed volumes. She had a wealth of experience from the few years she’d worked on the dude ranch. That one revelation, though, delivered a year ago, had not only erased all the good experiences—it had also chased her away and forever branded her with a horrid reality she’d never be able to forget.

God knew, she’d tried.

Tessa wanted nothing to do with the ranch or the people involved with it. Yet at the sight of the white Suburban pulling away from the large Victorian inn and heading toward the runway, her body trembled and said otherwise. Rex Williams and Tyler Coltrane were coming to greet her.

She hated that she’d missed them so much. Hated herself more for the way she’d left. When she’d cut her ties to Rustlers Retreat, she’d cut her ties to them too. Completely. No harsh words spared.

Had they missed her as much as she missed them?

Not possible. A sudden spate of nerves coiled in her stomach. She wished she’d taken better care in what she’d worn. A threadbare T-shirt from Catalina Island, jeans, and sneakers when she hadn’t seen them, hadn’t had them, in over a year? Tessa laughed at herself and the image that came to mind of her flying the aircraft in fuck-me-now attire. Those nerves broke free of her stomach and trickled over her skin, igniting goose bumps.

“You all right?”

Nate Bridger’s question over the headset—the first words he’d spoken since they’d taken off from Palm Springs—startled her.

“I thought you were still asleep,” she replied, avoiding the question.

He flexed his shoulders. “I heard the landing gear deploy. Appreciate the nap, though. It was a long night.”

For both of them. By rights, flying today wasn’t a good idea. Tessa didn’t care when the only one she had to worry about was herself. Nate had decided to hitch a ride at the last minute. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and she didn’t have the energy to fight him. Besides, she had to admit she liked the safety net of having him along. Her pilot’s license wasn’t that old, and going solo wasn’t her favorite thing to do, especially when thunderstorms could and did pop up in the blink of an eye between California and Texas this time of year. Plus, she’d need all the emotional support she could get.

“Not a problem. So why, exactly, did you insist on tagging along?”

“Precaution?”

“Avoidance is more like it,” she countered.

“True enough,” he admitted. “I definitely needed a break while I figure things out.”

Tessa almost asked what things? But she already had enough on her plate to worry about. When Nate wanted to talk, he knew he could come to her. That was what friends were for, and Nate was one of the best.

“I felt you shouldn’t fly alone.” He rolled the kinks from his neck. “I know how tired you are. You might think you’re fooling everyone, but I saw how you reacted when you heard about your friend.”

Yes, her shock had been real. Fortunately, Tessa had been able to hide the other emotions that roiled through her—anger, despair, hurt—and the bone-deep hunger that had struck her at the sound of Tyler’s voice on the other end of the line.

“We’re there for each other in other ways. This is no exception. You’d do it for me.” He cracked his knuckles. “And wouldn’t take no for an answer either.”

Again, Tessa couldn’t argue. The casino ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling her latest design hadn’t been the most convenient time or place for the call. But then, was there ever a good time to hear someone you cared about had died? And Tessa did care about Derek. They were friends, and he hadn’t deserved what had happened any more than she did. Nate had kept the hounds at bay last night while she’d dealt with her emotions and tried desperately to get a flight out of Palm Springs. Weekend traffic and weather delays made that impossible. Thank goodness she had the option of using this private plane.

“You never said how he died.”

Because talking about it opened the door to other questions she didn’t want to deal with. Like how she knew him. Why she’d left Rustlers and cut ties with the two men she could barely live without. But then, wouldn’t Nate be asking those questions once he saw Rex and Tyler? Once he saw how much they meant to her? How much she missed them?

Nope, she didn’t want to open those floodgates. And just because she got all fluttery at the thought of Rex and Tyler didn’t mean they fluttered back. After all, a year was a long time to go without. She sure hadn’t. They wouldn’t have either. And while she hadn’t moved on, men like them…

“Earth to Tessa. Earth to Tessa.”

She snapped her attention into focus. “Sorry. He was killed in a fall from his horse, but I don’t have the details,” she finally replied. No one did at this point. “It doesn’t make sense.” Nothing had since the day Mike Ford died, and the life she and Derek had once known died with him. “He was more skilled than that.” But accidents didn’t play favorites. Unless…

Tessa bit off another round of rambling thoughts. She had a plane to land. Focus had to be 100 percent. She flexed her fingers around the controls and focused her attention on landing the aircraft. She watched Nate from the corner of her eye, waiting for him to say something. His silence forced her to glance his way.

“Nice spread.”

She watched as Nate scanned over the acres of prime Texas hill country real estate from behind his dark aviator glasses.

“It is that.” Acres and acres of rolling green dotted with cattle in the distance, a sprawling ranch house, the three-story Victorian-style inn, and the aviary that had brought her to the ranch in the first place three years before. All upwind of the livestock, of course, and a good distance from the runway. It looked like a small community with all the outbuildings and private guest houses spread around the place.

White oyster-shell roads threaded their way through the green fields to each building. Ancient oaks ringed the property and were also scattered throughout the pastures, providing well-needed shade for cattle and a great haven for picnickers…or lovers. Although most of the time, people took refuge in the climate-controlled aviary.

Scattered ponds mirrored blue sky and fluffy clouds. The nearby creek was filled to capacity and running hard, evidence of the heavy storm that had hit the area early yesterday morning. Wind, hail, and tornado warnings had also played havoc with air travel, thwarting her attempts to book a flight because of overflow filling the planes.

“Is that aviary your design?”

“It is. Mike Ford commissioned it on word-of-mouth recommendation. It was my first major job outside of California. I was beyond thrilled.” But her parents weren’t. Now she knew why. “He’d wanted a little oasis for his wife. Inside there’s a small brook, small waterfalls, glades for picnics. Even a large storm shelter beneath it.”

“Outstanding. She must have loved it.”

“She never lived to see it. Cancer took her first.”

“Damn.”

That about summed it up. She hadn’t known Mary very long but had really liked her.

“How close were you to being finished?” Nate asked.

“I had the blueprints, and that was it. Mike still wanted it built.”

“Derek Ford is his son?” he asked.

How to answer that one. “Born and raised here.” That much was the truth. “Mike died a year ago.” Shortly after she’d finished her work.

“I’d like to say it’s nice you were able to maintain a friendship with his son, but somehow, I’m not sensing that from you. So who is Derek to you? Friend, business associate…lover?”

“Friend.” Yes, they were that. “It’s complicated.”

“It always is, isn’t it?”

Nate sounded sad, resigned, and she couldn’t help wondering what had or was complicating his life. Everyone had their secrets. Secrets that sometimes ruined the lives of others. Tessa wished Mike had kept his secrets to himself.

“I’ve got this.”

Nate folded his big hands around the controls, and just like that, he took the plane from her. Relief seeped into her muscles.

“Here we go.”

The wings dipped as he banked into the final turn to approach. Blue sky and fluffy clouds stirred her memory of fresh-cut grass, hot cowboys, a want that grew every second she was with them, and the reality that had ruined it all.

“The welcoming party’s arrived.” Nate’s chuckle reverberated through the headphones. “Oh ho…cowboys. No wonder you wanted to come alone.”

Another jolt of want wiggled through her. Her heartbeat triple-timed. Her nerves tingled. “I didn’t say I wanted to come alone. I said I didn’t expect to be here long.”

Nate leveled out. The runway was dead ahead. Tessa riveted her attention on the white SUV and the two men standing next to it. They grew closer by the second, giving her a view so startling, she swore she could feel the heat of their bodies, smell the sweat on their skin. Both were dressed in dusty boots, well-worn jeans, and long-sleeved western shirts—Rex in chambray blue, Tyler in tan plaid. Tan cowboy hats shielded their faces from the sun. Sunglasses hid their eyes. Six-foot-somethings with shoulders made to cling to and raw muscle no material could ever hide. No matter what the circumstances, they still were and always would be irresistible. The challenge of stripping them bare and having them laid out for her pleasure—or she theirs—churned her blood and raced her heart.

Rex and Tyler gave as good as they got and then some. It was the then some that had played through her mind the last year, making her reach for her toys at all hours of the day and night, or lure a friend—aka Nate—into easing her woes. No, she hadn’t wanted Nate along. Awkward about summed it up.

A shiver coursed through her. Enough of that. Her body didn’t listen. Her mouth watered. Her clit throbbed, parting the flood of juices below. Tessa had a serious weakness for these cowboys and their calloused palms, wide belts, and strong thighs used to long hours in the saddle. Her insides thrummed at the thought of hot cowboy flesh pressed against hers.

“They’re Derek’s partners in Rustlers Retreat, Rex Williams and Tyler Coltrane.” At least that was the plan when she’d hauled ass out of there a year ago—full partnership in the ranch and inn, rather than the inn alone.

“How do you fit into the picture?”

Very nicely right between them.

Nate’s chuckle hinted he knew what she was thinking. The plane bounced with the landing, a deliberate maneuver meant to rattle her, just like his laughter. Tessa didn’t appreciate it in the least.

“Your landing sucks.”

Nate laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

She kept her mouth closed, eyes riveted on the cowboys monitoring their stop.

Nate cut the engines and shut down the controls. “I have to say, they don’t look too happy.”

No, they didn’t. Rex’s scowl almost broke her heart. She’d done this—deserted them, walked out like they didn’t matter, like what they’d shared in the time she’d been there was nothing. “They just lost their friend. Their business partner.”

“I’m pretty good at reading people, Tess. I’m not seeing grief. One’s pissed, and the other one’s got walls up.”

True enough. Worse were the feelings stirring inside her at the sight of them—not the ones that curled her toes and plummeted her stomach, but rather the ones that forced her to mirror their actions. Yeah, she might have walked out, but if they cared for her as much as they said they did, they’d understand.

“You spoke to one of them yesterday after the lawyer called, and everything seemed fine.”

The richness of Tyler’s voice over the phone had seeped into her veins, triggering so many emotions she’d wanted to weep. The memory of all the good times they’d shared had lingered throughout the night and had helped take the edge off the ordeal to come. Envisioning his tongue tracing idly through her…nether regions sweetened her dreams in what little sleep she’d managed to get.

“Maybe something’s happened since then,” Nate said. “I’m just saying, having your guard up might be a good idea.”

“No problem there.”

Tessa made the mistake of glancing toward them. She bit her bottom lip.

“I don’t think looking like you want to jump their bones is what you were going for.” He chucked her under the chin.

She flashed him a glare. “Maybe I’ll jump yours instead.”

“I’m crushed you’d use me as a substitute for what you really want.” The glint in his eyes said differently.

Tessa unsnapped her seat belt. “That never seemed to bother you before.”

“Aha. Now you admit you were thinking of someone else whenever we were together.”

“And you weren’t?” She snickered.

“Point made. But”—he pulled off the headphones—”that’s what friends are for, right?” He gave her a wink, released his seat belt, and started to stand.

Tessa fisted his T-shirt, holding him in place. “I need you to have your game face on.” That no-nonsense look that scared the piss out of people and made linebackers quake.

“Why? To scare them off so you won’t be tempted? To teach them a lesson?”

He didn’t have to thread that hint of laughter through the words. “Something like that.” Damn, did her cheeks heat with that statement?

“I’ll consider it.” He whipped up his right index finger. “But if there’s any hint they’re gonna beat me up—”

“What’s so intimidating about two cowboys? You could take them.”

“I don’t know, Tess. You tell me.”

Heat definitely flushed her cheeks this time, giving her away.

Nate’s laughter filled the plane. Tessa was fairly certain Rex and Tyler heard it too.

“Well, well, well.” He leaned into her space. “This should be interesting.” He peeled her fingers from his T-shirt but didn’t release her hand. “All right, then. Game face on for the moment. But I’m not getting in the middle of this. Unless you want me to,” he added with a wide grin, his innuendo loud and clear.

Tessa jerked her hand free. “We’re wasting time.”

She pushed from her seat, anxious to put as much distance between them as possible. He’d scrambled her thoughts, churned her emotions, and hadn’t really helped one damn bit. Some friend he turned out to be.

Tessa released her hair from its haphazard ponytail and fluffed out the long strands. She stuffed her scrunchie into her pocket, then grabbed her carry-on and exited the plane. Texas heat and humidity slammed into her full force, making her wish she’d shoved vanity aside and left her hair up.

Sure strides took her toward Rex and Tyler. False bravado but bravado nonetheless. No one needed to know her emotions danced a fine edge. Too many thoughts conspired against her control. Tessa fought every one, only too aware of the man coming up behind her and the two cowboys in front of her.

Her breath hitched. She wanted to run to them, toss her arms around them both, and feel them press her between them, shielding her from the world. Tessa shoved the emotion back where it belonged, behind her walls, and yanked her badass persona to the forefront. It was her protection against the world. The one that made her a formidable and well-respected businesswoman.

Both men relaxed their rigid stance as she neared, making her second-guess herself. A hint of dimples kissed Tyler’s suntanned cheeks. Rex’s square jaw was set but not clenched. Seeing their eyes would have helped her judge them better. She could tell a lot from a person’s eyes, especially theirs.

She pushed her sunglasses up, using them as a headband. Tyler snatched his off, stuffing the stem into his shirt pocket, lowering his defense shields, as it were. Seeing his chocolate-brown eyes and the hint of sparkle in them helped. Maybe things weren’t as they seemed.

It was Tyler who moved first, stepping forward to close the distance between them. Tessa quickened her pace, her arms opening of their own volition. In seconds he’d swooped her into a hug, lifting her sneakered toes off the ground. She held on for dear life, eyes closed, her face burrowed into his neck, inhaling the scent of one of the men she’d loved yet left. Strong, calloused fingers slipped under her T-shirt and spanned her back.

“God, I’ve missed you.”

His voice rumbled in her ear. The swell of his erection against her stomach backed up the words.

“I’ve missed you too,” she whispered. So much.

He kissed her cheek as he eased them apart. All too soon, three feet of space stood between them. The distance killed her. She wanted to grab his face and seal her lips to his.

“Sorry, we’re a little sweaty.” Tyler swept his hand down his flat torso. “We had a tour group arrive this morning.”

Despite the tragedy, it would still be business as usual. Tessa wondered if any of the guests realized one of the owners had died.

“They’re on a trail ride and picnic.” Tyler pointed to a line of oak trees far to the left. “Our in-house guests are—”

“Smart enough to stay inside in the middle of a hot August day.”

Rex’s deep voice rivaled thunder. There’d be no hugs from him. He wasn’t happy to see her. Judging from the scowl he shot over her shoulder, he wasn’t happy to see Nate either.

Tyler squeezed her shoulder—a touch Tessa took as a silent apology for Rex’s behavior—then let go.

She tried to soothe Rex’s ruffled feathers with an introduction. “This is Nate Bridger.”

“Your lover of the moment?”

Jealousy? So he did care. A pity he’d used a snide tone that ruffled her feathers. She stared Rex down. “And it’s your business because…?”

Rex fidgeted enough to let Tessa know she’d won the round. She didn’t gloat. Somehow she suspected it was the first of many. Rex definitely liked to be in charge. Well, so did she. Being at war gave her the distance she needed to stay away.

“I was asking because of accommodations.” Rex braced his hands on his lean hips. “We’ve got a full house at Rustlers. I’d planned to have you stay in my bungalow for the duration of your stay. I’ll bunk at the ranch house.” One eyebrow lifted behind his dark glasses. “Unless you’d prefer to stay there.”

Ah, the ranch house. The scene of the crime. A reminder that her life wasn’t what she thought it was, that she wasn’t who she’d thought she was. He had a lot of nerve. The cut hurt. Words failed her. Her lower lip betrayed her emotion first, quivering. All the willpower in the world wouldn’t stop it. Her carefully erected walls crumbled.

Tears blurred her vision. She reached for her sunglasses to cover her eyes. A tear had the nerve to trickle down her cheek before she could do so. Gaze locked on Rex’s shadowed eyes, she felt the droplet wiggle toward her chin but refused to acknowledge it by wiping it away.

“The ranch house would be perfect.” She slipped her sunglasses into place. “Be a dear and fetch my bags.”

Tessa walked on to the Suburban, knowing at least two men watched her go and that neither of them was Rex. That was fine with her. She didn’t need him to notice she measured every step, using the energy to shore up emotional buttresses, and that one trip would mire her in a wasteland of agony so great, she’d never pull free.

Wasn’t that already the case? Mike Ford had seen to that a year before.

Buddy System by Caitlyn Willows

BuddySystem-NoLogo

BUDDY SYSTEM
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Romantic Suspense
November 2006
Cover Artist – S.L. Carpenter

What started out as just sex has now shifted to love, but admitting that publicly awakens the jealous beast, one who isn’t afraid to kill to keep what he or she considers “MINE.”

Declan Trent and Pam Donaldson are both divorced and neither is anxious to become entangled in another romantic relationship. But then there’s the sex angle. How can they obtain satisfying sexual liaisons without the entanglements that go with it? The answer is simple—they will become sex buddies.

It’s an arrangement that works exceedingly well. In fact, it sizzles. Never has either met a person they were more sexually compatible with—trust, adventure, play, and soul-screaming fulfillment. Do they dare take the step they swore they’d always avoid? Why not?

Then the murders begin. One by one Declan’s patients are being eliminated. How far will their trust of each other go now? As the pieces of the puzzle come together, they realize someone else has an agenda. Someone who will do anything, kill anyone, to keep Declan.

BUY LINKS:

DUE TO PUBLISHER CLOSING, THIS STORY ISN’T AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME. IT WILL BE RE-RELEASED SOON.

REVIEWS:

FIVE HEARTS! What a fantastic suspenseful book! The emotions the characters experience are artfully written and make the reader understand what motivates their actions. The author has written several twists into the plot to keep you guessing as to who the murderer really is. Overall, this is a fantastic suspenseful book with lots of hot, spicy sex scattered throughout. ~Lisa Freeman, The Romance Studio

FOUR STARS! This riveting, emotional book expertly blends highly developed characters with murder and romance. The romance is based on a strong, enduring friendship, and love scenes vary from playful to hot and sensual. Readers will not be disappointed by this complex tale of passion, betrayal, trust and frienship. ~Keitha Hart, Romantic Times

Caitlyn Willows pens a thrilling, roller coaster ride of a story with BUDDY SYSTEM. Declan and Pam are perfect for one another both in bed and out. And both fear rejection so therefore, they keep their true feelings bottled up inside. The sex is highly explosive and beautifully written with emotion and spiciness. I so love stories where the hero and heroine start out as friends and then progress to the next level. Both characters are multifaceted with each layer uncovered, revealing a little more about the inner person. Secondary characters include Pam’s partner and best friend, Gloria, who is about to marry District Attorney Remy Sanchez; Pam’s ex-husband, Hank, Declan’s ex-wife Connie, and Declan’s friend and colleague, Mark Roberts. Quite a menagerie of people, some open and honest while others have a hidden agenda. Interesting if I do say so myself. Suspenseful, erotic, and enthralling are words this reviewer uses to describe Caitlyn Willows’ BUDDY SYSTEM. Her in-depth characterization, and steamy sex scenes make this one hot read. ~Sinclair Reid, Romance Reviews Today

4½ LIPS! With so many twists and turns, this suspenseful story had me guessing until the very end and I STILL had it wrong. Buddy System is a dynamic story that doesn’t allow the reader a single dull moment. If it wasn’t trying to figure out who was doing the killing, it was reveling in the love and deep connection between Pam and Declan. The manner in which they instinctively knew what to say or do in order to make their mate happy and bring them comfort was refreshing and beautiful. Their chemistry ignited the pages and the love scenes were both sensual and erotic while being sexy and creative. Caitlyn Willows is truly phenomenal and I’ll never look at a necktie the same away again. ~Kerin, Two Lips Reviews

FIVE STARS! Without a doubt, Buddy System was the best-written, well thought out story I have read in a long time. The plot was fast paced and kept you guessing with each twist and turn that Caitlyn Willows threw out. I thought I had the answer and then bam! another piece of the puzzle was revealed and had me second guessing myself. The characters were fascinating, including the secondary cast and the background characters. I could not put this one down until I read the last word, then I hated that it was over. Declan and Pam had a sex life that would put low budget porn movies to shame! There wasn’t much that they were not willing to try with each other, and that gave me some great ideas of my own. Be prepared to squirm while reading this–they love sex and they love to spice it up in ANY room they are in–with any object they had on hand. Anyone reading this story will love the beginning, middle and end-it is that good. ~Stacey Landers, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FIVE STARS! What an enthralling book! Both Pam and Declan stepped right off the pages and spoke to me. Descriptive and fascinating, these characters as well as the secondary characters are very well-written. Pam and Declan’s graphic sexual relationship has a significant place in the story. The sexual interaction between them is extremely loving, more importantly they pulled me right into their lovemaking. When doubts occur, their lives together stretch, but do not break. There are secondary characters, such as Declan’s secretary and Pam’s former boyfriend who add drama and suspense to this book. Ms. Willows has an amazing facility to plot a story and then allow her characters to tell it. I kept reading, finding myself more confused about “whodone it” all the time. When the denouement came, I had just about figured out the mystery. Ms. Willows wrote an engrossing story and I am incredibly eager to read another of her books. ~Marcy Arbitman, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

Caitlyn Willows impressed me with this one! Buddy System pretty much consumed my entire life for almost six hours as I read a wonderful plot, highly intense sex, and wracked my brain as to who the bad guy was. Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t who I thought it was. It stumped me to the very end and I love when a book does that! I am filing this one under “W” on my keeper shelf! ~ Talia Ricci, Joyfully Reviewed

EXCERPT:

Pam Donaldson scissored her crossed legs while she casually flipped through a three-month-old issue of Good Housekeeping. At least she hoped it looked like she was being casual. Waiting like this fired her up until it was all she could do to sit still. She wondered what Declan Trent’s prim little secretary — oops! admin assistant — would think if she jumped up and started pacing a mean streak back and forth across the burnished-gold carpeting.

Probably call the paramedics to have me hauled away. Pam suspected it wouldn’t take much to freak Trish Wallace out. She’d die on the spot if she knew why Pam was really here.

The woman sat on the edge of her seat, perched over her computer keyboard as if she had a pole up her ass. Hair spray welded every strand of her shoulder-length blond hair in place. No wave, split end, or frizz dared disobey. Her cotton-candy-pink suit was just the right length, just the right size, and just the right shade to match her perfectly manicured nails. Real nails, not acrylics. How many women would kill to have nails that perfect? Pam’s nails were nice, but they weren’t that perfect. With her light blue eyes, Trish looked like a china doll someone would seal behind protective glass, pretty to look at, but nothing you were allowed to touch or, heaven forbid, play with.

Pam wondered if that was a façade Trish showed to the world. If behind the hands-off automaton exterior lay a woman of wild and uninhibited passion. It was hard to reconcile that picture with what Pam saw here.

Trish kept her desk perfectly ordered, not one folder out of place. Pam had been tempted a time or two to link all the paperclips in Trish’s lead crystal bowl together just to see how the woman would react. She certainly had the opportunity. Each time Pam visited, Trish would go to the ladies’ room at precisely eleven-twenty. At heart, she couldn’t be that cruel, no matter how much the woman’s idiosyncrasies grated on her nerves.

So Trish was obsessive-compulsive. Why should Pam care? In fact, she was in the perfect occupation to seek counseling for her problem if she wanted. As psychiatrists go, Declan Trent was one of the best. For all Pam knew, maybe Trish was a patient, especially if two diverse personalities existed in that prim and proper mind of hers. If so, Declan sure had his work cut out for him. Pam had never seen anyone so uptight.

She wondered if she should tell Declan that Trish actually raked the footprints out of the plush carpet each time the waiting room was vacant. Pam had caught her in the act shortly after she’d started seeing Declan. That’s when Trish’s little habits started to burrow under Pam’s skin.

Little Miss Perfect. Pam knew from experience the woman was most probably a ticking bomb. She’d seen it too many times in her line of work — women for whom perfection was a lifestyle, a religion. However, it was never enough to keep their husbands from straying or their children out of trouble. Problem after problem pounded against the illusion they’d created, slowly loosening each brick until the foundation crumbled and they were staring down at the blood-splattered butcher knife — or smoking gun — in their shaking hands.

Just the week before, Pam had responded to a homicide at just such a house, an art deco mansion perched back from the winding curves of the Hollywood Hills. The wife made the 9-1-1 call in perfect, orderly fashion. “I’ve just killed my husband and would appreciate it if someone would stop by to remove him.” They’d arrived to find her mopping up the crime scene, rubber gloves and a bucket full of Mr. Clean at her side.

Pam would hate to see Trish turn out that way. She was a good person, pleasant and sociable to all Declan’s clients, and very efficient. All Declan needed to do was think about it, and Trish had it done. Pam wanted to snatch her up by the shoulders and give her a hard snap-out-of-it shake. The last thing she wanted was to arrive at a homicide call and find Trish on her hands and knees cleaning up blood spatter.

She tossed the magazine to the glass-topped table beside her. Trish jumped at the loud smack it made. Then, like clockwork, she pushed away from her desk for her eleven-twenty trek to the ladies’ room.

“I’ll just be a moment, Detective Donaldson,” she said in a smoothly cultured tone that never varied; neither did the words.

Pam gave her a nod as she walked by. Even her shoes were pink.

Just let it go, she told herself. She was here for one reason and one reason only. That should be her focus.

She crossed her arms and slowly rocked her leg back and forth. Without panties, the action gently rubbed her moist labia over her swollen clitoris. Every part of her was primed for her visit with Declan, but if she didn’t pace herself, she’d wind up coming right here.

Pam forced her legs apart. God, she could smell her arousal! Maybe going without panties wasn’t such a good idea. She tugged her black pencil-skirt to her knees, then adjusted the cuffs of her smoke-gray silk blouse. The skirt and the three-inch black heels were a departure from what she normally wore to work, but she considered it more appropriate since she had to testify in court this afternoon — with panties, of course. Besides, she really liked the naughty feeling of coming to see Declan bare-bottomed.

The thought made her smile. What would he do when he found out? A shiver wiggled through her. Trish’s return shattered her reverie. Pam shifted her focus to studying the waiting room.

Cream-colored walls brightened the place. Matching leather chairs cradled visitors in comfort. Watercolors of varying landscapes — rolling hills, seashores, deep forests, mountains — helped create an aura of tranquility. No music flooded the room, just the soft, steady click of Trish’s keyboard.

Pam cocked her head to one side. Maybe that was it. Maybe Trish was part of the illusion of order in the turmoil of some clients’ lives. She’d never thought of it that way. In retrospect, it made perfect sense. Perhaps it was by Declan’s design that Trish behaved as she did. Pam had just let the horrors of her own job spill over. She wouldn’t be the first cop to become jaded by the discouraging vicissitudes of life.

The door to Declan’s office swung inward. “Now remember, Carol, the group session for tomorrow night is cancelled. I’ll be at a conference.”

The buxom redhead glanced up at him with wide brown eyes. “Oh, dear. I’d forgotten.” She draped her fingers over his bare forearm as she stepped into his personal space. “What will I do?”

Declan gave her a soft smile — the one that always turned Pam’s insides to mush — and placed his hand over that of the redhead’s. “You’ll do wonderfully. You’ll see. I wouldn’t go away if I thought otherwise.”

Pam smiled when the woman’s face lit up. That’s one of the things that was great about Declan. He instinctively knew what to say to patients to bolster their self-confidence, or when a gentle touch would ease their concerns and give them hope. Sadly, it was that bedside manner that had ruined his marriage. Connie Trent lived and breathed jealousy and had made Declan’s life a living hell in the process. Despite that, Declan remained friendly and compassionate toward others.

“Yes. Yes, I will be fine. Thanks to you.” Shoulders back, Carol walked to Trish’s desk to schedule her next session.

Pam’s gaze remained riveted on Declan. Even after six months, he still had the power to take her breath away. His dark brown hair scuffed the collar of his white dress shirt. Long fingers smoothed down his blue-striped tie as he raked his gaze over her from head to toe. A smile lifted one corner of his mouth, brightening his golden-brown eyes. She could scarcely breathe. Then he shut the door.

She forced herself to sit still, to wait until Trish called her to go in. Did he realize what he did to her? Of course he did. It was all part of the game.

She tucked her arms tighter over her chest. Already her nipples were poking their little noses against her bra, making their presence fully known to anyone who’d care to look. God, how they ached! Had it really only been fourteen hours since she’d had sex? It felt like forever.

As Carol left the office, Trish’s intercom link buzzed. She lifted the phone in what felt like slow motion.

“Yes, doctor?”

Jeez, her voice actually sounded like a purr. Pam was definitely more than little over-sexed today. But that’s what being with Declan did to her.

Trish smiled as she replaced the receiver. “Dr. Trent is ready to see you now.”

And Pam was more than ready to see him. She flashed Trish a smile and forced herself to walk, not run, to the connecting door. The knob turned easily under her hand. The door opened on silent hinges. The pale gold, vertical blinds were closed against the California midday sun, but brass candlestick lamps on the white pine tables cast a welcoming glow. Declan sat behind his oak desk, chin resting on the points of his fingers as he quietly perused her from the huge black leather executive chair.

Pam shut the door behind her, then leaned against it as she let her shoulder bag slide to the floor. The soft, black leather landed with a plop. Her heartbeat thudded with the rush of her heated blood. All she could see, all she could think about was him. That half smile lifted one corner of his mouth again. His gaze mentally stripped her clothing away.

“Detective Donaldson.” His voice drifted over her, beckoning, caressing like fingers against her hot skin.

She maintained her position. “Dr. Trent.”

Two could play the waiting game. The rewards were still the same. She twisted the lock closed on the door. The click echoed in the room.

“Are you armed, detective?” he asked.

“Yes. My weapon is holstered and in my bag. And you? Are you armed?”

“Cocked and ready, ma’am.”

Pam tried not to laugh, but the giggle came out anyway. “Oh, really?”

Declan leaned back and tugged the knot loose on his tie. “Yep, I’ve been hard as a rock since I saw your name on the schedule this morning.”

“I couldn’t let you go away to a conference without a proper send-off. And I know how you like surprises.”

“I do.”

“How fortunate you can find room in your schedule to accommodate me.”

“I’m always willing to squeeze in you.”

Pam parked her hands on her hips and laughed. “Stop that. This is supposed to be a seduction. I can’t do the come-hither look and fuck-me walk if you have me laughing.”

He tossed back a laugh of his own. “Sorry. Proceed with the come-hithering and fuck-me stuff.”

“Thank you.” She took a step toward him.

He held up his hand, halting her progress. “No closer, Pam. You know the rules. You know what I want.”

Damn it, he knew how to fire a woman up. “Refresh my memory. Tell me.”

He pressed his lips together, then licked them as he pulled the tie free. It whispered against his shirt, a soft sigh that wiggled deep into her core. He twined the length of silk through his long fingers, tying a knot every inch or so in it as he pondered his next move.

“I see you’re wearing hose today. And I love the heels.”

“A concession for court.”

He tsked. “And here I thought they were for me.”

She mirrored his earlier smile. “Well, the hose are thigh-highs and –” She dropped her tone to a sultry purr. “– I have no panties on.”

That earned her a big grin. “My, aren’t we daring and naughty. That’s almost like begging for a spanking.”

“You have repeatedly assured me your office is soundproof.”

“Indeed it is.” He flicked open his belt buckle. Seconds later the leather hissed through its loops. Declan doubled it over and placed it on his desk, the knotted silk tie beside it.

Pam’s knees quivered. So far they’d never gotten into the spanking thing here; just the threat was enough to turn them both on.

He truly was the best sex she’d ever had. Six months and she still couldn’t get enough of him. If only …

“Undo your blouse … slowly,” he ordered.

One by one, she slipped the tiny pearlized buttons through their holes. With each one Declan’s breath became more labored. She knew what his desk hid — an erection that would have made a horse proud. With the last button freed, Pam shrugged the blouse from her shoulders. It wafted to the floor behind her.

“And now the bra.” His voice had deepened with his lust.

Pam reached behind her and undid the hooks. Rather than let the bra fall as she had the blouse, she looped her fingers around the straps and slowly pulled them down, caressing her flesh as she did so. Fully exposed, she dropped the undergarment and kneaded her breasts, plumping them together to form a deep cleavage.

“You want to fuck my tits, don’t you?” she asked. “Nestle your cock into the warmth and pump away?”

“You’re determined to make me come in my pants, aren’t you?”

Pam laughed and twirled her nipples into elongated beads.

“Damn it, Pam. I am going to spank you.”

“Promises, promises.”

“Enough teasing. Skirt off.”

She sliced the zipper down, wiggled her hips free, and stepped out of the garment.

“Good girl.” He pushed his chair away from the desk. “Leave the heels and hose on and come here. You know what I want.”

Did she ever! She’d never been more in tune with a man. Sex was a wondrous adventure with Declan. Nothing was forbidden as long as they wanted to explore. Trust they’d built during their long-standing friendship had shifted easily over into this facet of their relationship. They were free to explore every sexual fantasy they’d ever had without embarrassment, risk of disease, or pregnancy. Who knew agreeing to be sex buddies would be so rewarding?

His wrinkle-free trousers did little to hide his burgeoning erection. If anything, the light gray color enhanced it. His cock was a long ridge behind his zipper and actually managed to cast a shadow from the lighting.

Hot fingers cupped her ass as she straddled his thighs. As she had her blouse, Pam slowly unbuttoned his shirt. Inch by inch the bronzed plane of his chest appeared. She loved to trace her hands against it, to dust her fingers through the light smattering of dark hair that nose-dived into his trousers.

Declan’s breath was ragged. So was Pam’s. She indulged her need to caress his strong shoulders as she peeled the shirt from him. His scent surrounded her, warm and laced with the hint of Old Spice. She leaned in, pressing her lips against his neck, dancing her tongue across his collarbone while her fingers flicked against his nipples.

His soft groan escaped on a gasp. Pam wiggled lower, grazing her teeth over his nipple while her fingers eased his zipper down. He lifted his hips, helping her tug trousers and shorts down. His erection fell against her breasts. She squeezed them together, cradling him, then bent her head down and lashed her tongue against the salty droplet that awaited her.

Declan cried out. Combing his hands deep into her long hair, he held her head in place, desperately seeking the full comfort of her mouth while he thrust between her breasts. Still she teased with feathery flicks over the slit and around the head.

“If you don’t suck me soon …” A long groan cut off the rest of his words as Pam pulled him deep in her mouth.

He pumped her lips in wild abandon. She looped her fist around the base, giving him that extra squeeze and stroke he loved so well — that touch that said, “I might let you come, but then again, I might not.”

More pre-cum salted her mouth. He was close. She wiggled her free hand between his thighs to massage his sac. It was the final push he needed. She felt the twitch on the underside of his cock that signaled his approaching orgasm. Still, the temptation to taunt him was too much. She gave an extra hard squeeze to the base of his cock.

“Nooo,” he cried out. “I swear I’m going to …”

She sucked him hard, yanking the orgasm from him.

Declan shuddered as the release spurted into her mouth. She milked him until the wave subsided, then slowly released him with dotted kisses as the erection faded.

Panting for breath, he grabbed her around the waist and hoisted her to his desk. “Lie back and relax.”

She watched through hooded eyes as he picked up his knotted tie. Tightening it between his hands, he lowered it to her crotch and raked it over her slit.

Pam arched her hips off the desk as the knots rubbed over her clit. “Oh, God!”

He sawed back and forth, gathering momentum as she climbed higher to the peak. Her fingers flexed spasmodically on the smooth wood surface, desperate to clutch at something, anything to help her ride to the top. All she could do was take it. Each swipe swelled her to the breaking point.

Almost there. Almost … 

Her body was rigid with anticipation. Just when she saw the edge, Declan stopped.

“No!” She smacked her palms against the desk.

He merely laughed and thrust two fingers deep and high into her cunt. Pam reared upward with a gasp. A third finger burrowed into her tight ass. He lashed his tongue over her clit as his fingers pumped into her. She cradled his head with one hand while the other toyed with her nipple, tweaking it hard. Then he sucked her into his mouth.

Fire raced across her skin seconds before Pam’s orgasm struck. She quaked with the release, then collapsed against the desk.

Declan dotted kisses over her inner thighs as he gently pulled his fingers free. She’d never felt more relaxed. He always had that effect on her.

Grasping her hand, he helped her up. At least that’s what she thought. Before Pam realized it, she was facedown over his lap. The tinkle of his belt buckle alerted her to his full intent.

“How many, sweetheart?” He danced the leather over her bare ass. Just the feel was enough to turn her on once more.

“I want … I want …”

“To feel your warm ass the rest of the afternoon? To think about it when you’re sitting outside the courtroom while we wait to testify?” Over and over the soft leather caressed her.

Pam spread her legs a little wider. “You know what I want.” He always knew, just as she knew for him.

“Indeed I do.”

He started slow, warming her for the harder strokes to come. With each smack against her bare bottom, her clit swelled more, begging for attention of its own. She wiggled around until she could ride his knee. Declan pulled her gently back into place, wedging his free hand under and straight to her pussy.

The strokes came harder now, faster, her hips lifting of their own accord for each of them. She came quickly, only to be instantly back at the peak. Pam rode his hand while smack after smack heated her backside, and one orgasm after the other rolled through her.

Declan growled low in his throat and tossed the belt to the floor. Hauling her upright, he pushed her facedown on the desk. She raised her hips high, spreading her thighs as far as she could. A hard thrust seated him deep. He froze there for what felt like forever, the head of his cock plugged into her cervix. His fingers dug into her hips, shaking with the effort to maintain control.

Pam kept herself as still as possible, wanting the moment to be as supreme for him as it was for her. Finally, he pulled back, then in again. He shifted his fingers back to her clit. She rocked in rhythm with him, taking and giving back each thrust with equal fervor. Contractions rippled along the steel inside her.

“I’m going to come, Dec,” she panted out.

He gasped. “Me, too.”

And in that instant, they did.

They sagged together in the aftermath, both lazy and sated. Then, reluctantly, they pulled apart and wandered into his adjoining bathroom to clean up.

The tiny room was designed for function — sink with mirror, toilet, tiny black-and-white tile — definitely not for two people. Nevertheless, sharing the bathroom was part of their after-sex routine. Somehow, this snippet of bonding had slipped under their “rules” radar, along with cuddling. So far, neither had brought that violation to the other’s attention.

“I owe you a tie,” she said.

“I’ll just send it to the cleaner.”

Eyes wide, she jerked up her head and locked gazes with him in the mirror over the sink. “Don’t you dare!” she said with a laugh. “They’ll want to know what they’re pre-spotting and …”

His laughter cut her off. Tugging her against him, he dotted kisses along her shoulder. “I’ll seal it in a brown paper bag and toss it in a Dumpster five miles away.”

“After you burn it and stir the ashes. Better yet, I’ll take it and destroy the evidence.”

“Deal.” He stepped away to pee.

She plucked several paper towels from the receptacle, wet them, and cleaned away the evidence of sex.

“You’ll be gone the rest of the week?” How could she begin to tell him how much she was going to miss him during that time? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. They’d set rules. And yet …

“Yeah, I’ll be back late Friday. Want me to call or just come over?”

Pam smiled as his reflection reappeared in the mirror. “Coming over is fine. Doesn’t matter how late.” She didn’t have plans. Hell, she hadn’t had plans since they’d started up.

“Good. I’ll come right over, then. Stinky from the drive and everything.” He smiled back and patted her butt as he slipped the wet towels from her fingers to use on himself.

That’s what she called bonding. “And I’ll have a hot shower and a hot woman waiting for you.”

“Every guy’s dream come true.” He bent forward as if to kiss her, then pulled back. “Sorry. I almost forgot.”

Pam wished he had forgotten and kissed her. That was one of the rules they’d agreed on when they decided to be sex buddies — no kissing. Where the hell had her head been? It seemed a great idea at the time: no kissing, no dating, no spending the night. How in the world could she have possibly thought she could have great sex with a man and not have emotional involvement? Her hormones had obviously been running her life then. And now?

Well, they were still running her life, but her heart was demanding some equal attention. Which left her with quite a problem. Did she risk what they had going and tell Declan she’d made a mistake? That she wanted to move up to the next level and actually have a romantic relationship as well?

They’d been adamant, both of them. Once badly burned, twice shy. Bad marriages had that effect on people. But that was then, when they were both so horny they couldn’t bear it. When teaming up with a trusted friend for sex seemed a better solution than throwing themselves into the treacherous world of dating where your heart was sure to be trampled on.

“So I’ll see you then.”

Pam snapped her thoughts back to the present. “Yes, Friday.”

Declan laughed. God, she loved his laugh. “Well, yes, Friday, but I was talking about this afternoon at the courthouse.”

She blinked. “Yes, of course.”

“Were you a thousand miles away just then?” He wrapped his arm around her waist and hugged her against him.

Pam forced a smile she suddenly didn’t feel. “Looks like.”

She didn’t have the courage to tell him. They had a good thing going. Why risk it by telling him that at some point during the last six months, her heart had ignored the sex buddy rules and fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with him?