Treasure Hunters by Caitlyn Willows

TreasureHunters

 

TREASURE HUNTERS
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense
Copyrright 2005, 2017

Crushed by the emotional and financial burden as guardian of five children, newspaper reporter Rika Kiley struggles to make ends meet. And just when she’d met the most incredible man.

Ryan Fletcher isn’t about to let anything come between him and the woman of his dreams. He’ll do whatever is necessary to help keep Rika’s family together. Why can’t Rika realize and accept what he’s offering?

A two-million-dollar sailing race is the answer to Rika’s problems. But it is the real deal or a scam? With Ryan right by her side, she is determined to find out. Now all they have to do is survive a grueling race when someone else is just as determined to see them dead.

Author Note: This is updated version of a story originally released in 2005.

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REVIEWS

FIVE BLUE RIBBONS!!!A truly magnificent story… It pulled at my heart strings when Ryan lets Rika know that he is her partner in all ways, even facing the responsibilities of raising her family. No matter the dangers or challenges Ryan and Rica face their love just seems to grow stronger. I could not wait to turn the page to see how their unconditional love and devotion to each other would help them face their next challenge. This story is so fantastic I cannot wait to see what Ms. Willows comes up with next. ~Briana Burress, Romance Junkies

FIVE STARS!!! [A] scorching contemporary erotic romance…. The sex is hotter than the sands on a Florida beach in August. The scenes are beautiful to read, there are a lot of them and you will be reaching for every toy you own. Treasure Hunters is a fully developed book with great characters and really sizzling lusty sex. ~Julie Esparza, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

RECOMMENDED READ!!! FIVE ANGELS!!! Ms. Willows has given us another great book to sink our teeth into. The suspense will keep the reader on the edge of their seat, biting their nails, and waiting to see what happens next. The sex between these two is so hot and steamy that the reader will be looking for the first snow bank they can find. Rika and Ryan are both strong and loving characters that readers will have an easy time identifying with them. If you love a good romance with suspense, then this is the book I highly recommend you read. ~Donna, Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR STARS!!! The chemistry between Rika and Ryan is hot from the beginning to end. TREASURE HUNTERS is fast moving and entertaining story with its passion and suspense. ~Cassandra Buckles, Coffee Time Romance

FOUR UNICORNS!!! This story was a really good read. The story keeps you on your toes wondering what was going to happen next. This author out did herself with this book. It has it all, hot sex, love and oh yeah Hot sex again. ~Nicole, Enchanted In Romance

EXCERPT

Ryan brushed his thumb over her silky cheek. “Suppose you can wrangle a week’s vacation out of that editor of yours? There are a couple of beaches in Hawaii with our names on them.”

Her eyes brightened. “What about your work?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Man can’t work day and night, especially if he has a beautiful woman waiting for him.” He danced his other hand up her ribs. “Besides, I was thinking a weekend back here at least once month might be in order. I hate the idea of being away from you for six months.”

Rika laced her fingers around his neck. “I’d like that very much. Who knows? Maybe I can manage a long weekend every month too. I’ve got a little tucked away, and there’s always plastic.”

Ryan wanted to cheer. They were on the same page. Not that he liked the idea of her going into debt for him. He’d see she didn’t. But—damn—she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her. This was it. She was the one.

“Why don’t you grab our wine and we can plan.” She dropped kisses along his jaw.

Ryan captured her lips in a deep kiss, then pulled away. “Be right back.” He kissed her all the way down her body.

After tossing the spent condom in the trash can beside her dresser, Ryan walked on to the kitchen. The telephone blasted out a ring, startling him.

“Want me to get that?” he asked.

“No, let it go. It’s probably Mom about going shopping tomorrow. Mom can truly shop till she drops.”

He grabbed the bottle of wine and their glasses, listening as the answering machine picked up. There was a choked sound, then a man’s voice.

“Damn it, Rika. Where the hell are you? It’s Andy. Mom and Dad…” He smothered what sounded like a sob. “Becky…Dan… There was a car wreck. They’re dead, Rika. They’re all dead.”

Ryan stared in dumbstruck silence for what seemed like hours, searching for the words to tell the woman he was falling in love with news no one should have to hear.

“What’s taking so long?” she called out. “Are you talking to my mom?”

He wanted to cry. Setting the wine aside, he returned to the bedroom. Rika sat up the second she saw him. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Ryan sat beside her, pulling her hand into his, forcing himself to meet her gaze. “Honey, that was Andy…”

*          *          *

Rika sat on the edge of her parents’ bed and fingered the diamond solitaire necklace at her throat—a Christmas gift from Ryan. More guilt. She hadn’t gotten him a thing. It was all she could do to make sure the kids had what they needed for Christmas. He’d brushed it off by saying she’d had much more important things to worry about, like five children who were suddenly under her guardianship. If only he knew how bad things really were.

She blinked back tears. That was something she was determined to hide from him. Knowing Ryan as she now did, he’d try to fix it all. That was hardly fair to him.

He’d been a godsend to her these last two weeks—helping her with funeral arrangements, dealing with the parade of people and sympathetic phone calls, sitting by her side in court while she got guardianship of her sister, youngest brother, nephew, and two nieces. He’d even had their Christmas dinner catered by Fletcher’s. Everywhere she went, everything she had to do, all she needed was to turn and his shoulder was there.

Ryan loved her. He didn’t have to say it, Rika knew. She loved him too. That’s why it made this so much harder to do. She had no choice.

“Ryan’s here.”

Rika glanced up at her twenty-one-year-old brother. People didn’t believe she and Andy were related. His hair was golden brown, his eyes a brown that merely hinted at green depths. The only other sibling who’d had red hair was Becky, and Becky was gone. She hadn’t even passed that trait on to her three children. Rika was the odd one now. All the rest looked like Andy.

She had to protect him too. He deserved the same opportunities Rika and Becky had had in life. He didn’t need to know Rika had spent every dime, and then some, on hospital bills and the funerals. The fools hadn’t even had health insurance and forget life insurance.

“Thanks.”

“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?”

She wanted to laugh. God knew, she wanted to laugh. The truth hurt too much. “Yes, I probably am.”

“Then maybe you need to do it at his place. I can watch things here.”

Rika shook her head. She’d made her decision, painful though it was. It was best to get it over with. She forced herself to stand, then prayed her legs would hold her. “I’ll talk to him on the patio.”

Andy muttered something under his breath. Rika strongly suspected he was calling her an idiot and lacing a few curse words in there as well. If he only knew how much this was breaking her heart.

Blinking back tears, she walked into a living room sprawled with bodies. Ryan sat in her father’s recliner, flanked by her young nieces. Kristi and Amy adored him. What child wouldn’t? He talked to them on their level, paid attention to what they had to say. She’d never in a million years forget how they’d cuddled under his arms after the funeral, telling him their fears, crying until they’d fallen asleep.

Yep, she was stupid all right. But how fair was it to ask him to take on this burden?

He smiled when she entered the room. That smile faltered when he saw the look on her face. He knew. Rika buried her face in her hands and started to cry. In an instant, his arms were around her. He kissed the top of her head and drew her out the back door.

“You’re scaring the hell out of me, honey. Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

That made her cry all the more. “I have to, Ryan. Relationships take time and work—”

“But I—”

“Please don’t say it. Don’t make this harder than it is.” She burrowed deeper into his arms, weeping against his chest. “I’ve got five children to take care of. How do I possibly find time for…”

“I’m here for you, Rika. I can help. We can do this.”

She glanced up at the pain in his eyes and damned the light from the kitchen window. “You’ll be in Hawaii for six months. I’ll be here. I can’t just pick up and go. This can’t work.”

“And I say it can. Damn it, I don’t want this to end. I need you. I want you. I l—”

She clamped her fingers over his lips. “Please don’t. It’s not fair to you to ask you to take a backseat. It’s not fair to you to ask you to put up with all of this.”

He kissed her fingers and pulled her hand into his. “Even if I want to?”

“It won’t work. Even the best of established relationships would have a hell of a time. You’ll be gone for six months. It’s best to end it now.”

“Just like that.”

She forced herself to nod. “It kills me to say it, but…yes.”

“This isn’t over, Rika. It can work. It will work.”

If he kept this up, she’d cave. Why couldn’t he understand it was better to get this over rather than drag the heartache out?

“Give me a chance. Give us a chance.” He kissed the curve of her neck at that spot he knew weakened her resolve. Desire welled up with her sigh. “Matt or Kevin can take over the job in Hawaii.”

Rika forced her senses back in order. “You leave tomorrow. How is that fair to them to have them uproot their lives and families at the last minute?” Reluctantly, she stepped from the warmth of his arms. “You have responsibilities just like I do, and people who’ve depended on you a lot longer than I have. Please…just go.”

She reached to unclasp the necklace. His hands stopped her.

“Don’t. There’s enough pain in my heart right now without you doing that.”

Tears drifted down her face. Ryan kissed her lips, then brushed by her and left. Rika waited until she heard his Cherokee start up, then sank to the patio chair and cried what was left of her heart out.

She didn’t know how long she sat there in the cool night air—long after Andy and their next younger sister, Robyn, had put the little ones to bed. She didn’t have the will to move. Her heart had walked out the door with Ryan. Yes, it was her doing, but that made it all the worse—not only had she broken her own heart, but that of a wonderful man. She heard the back door open and half prayed he stood there. It was Robyn instead.

A clear match to Andy, the seventeen-year-old held out the cordless. “Ryan’s on the phone. Apparently, you’re not answering your cell.”

Rika’s shaking fingers wrapped around it. Robyn ducked back inside.

“You don’t give up easily, do you?”

“Not when there’s every reason not to. We’re good together.”

He was so right about that. “With everything the way it is, I don’t see how we can survive the time and distance…for one thing. For the other—”

“Let me prove to you we can weather this. Every relationship has its tests. Ours just came a little sooner than we might have liked.”

“How can you prove—”

“Find a private room. Go in it and lock the door.”

He was going to wear down what little resistance she had left by talking. She should hang up now and end it. It seemed too cruel an act. Ryan deserved better than that.

“All right.” Back inside, she debated on whether to use the bathroom or her parents’ room. With only one bathroom for all of them, the bedroom was the better option for a few minutes of privacy. Ignoring Andy and Robyn, she walked inside, then shut and locked the door behind her.

“Are you there?” he asked.

“Yes.” Her voice came out on a ragged sigh.

“Is the door locked?”

“Yes.”

“No chance of interruptions?”

“The children are asleep. Andy and Robyn are still up.”

“Good. Touch your breasts for me, honey.”

Rika gasped. “I—”

“Close your eyes and touch them. Pretend your hands are mine. Pretend my lips are around your nipples.”

She sank to her knees. “My bra—”

“Unhook it. You know how you love my hands on your tits.”

“I do,” she breathlessly replied. One hand shook as she released the hook. Once free, she closed her eyes and cupped her breast.

“Tell me how it feels, sweetheart.”

“Soft, hot. It…it wants your mouth.”

“And it’s there, wrapped around your nipple.” He sucked in a breath. “God, I love how it gets hard under my tongue. I love how you arch into my mouth, begging for more with those sweet sounds you make.”

Rika swallowed her shyness. “And your dick feels so hard against my…against my…”

“Say it, sweetheart. Say how much your pussy wants my cock.”

“Is it in your hand? Are you stroking it slowly?”

“Just like you would, honey. Touch your clit. Play with it. Tell me how sweet and swollen it is.”

Rika shoved her hand into her jeans. “I’m so wet.”

“Who makes you wet?”

She sucked in a breath as she slowly massaged her clit. “You, Ryan. You make me wet and horny. I want you fucking me all the time. Are you hard for me?”

“Always. I’m going to come fast, honey. That’s what you do for me. But I want to wait for you. I want to hear you come. I want us to come together.”

“I’m close. I’m so close.”

“Do it, sweetheart. Give your pussy what it wants.”

Her fingers swirled faster. “I’m going to come.” The moment exploded on her. Rika bit back the urge to cry out. Hearing him come on the other end of the line heightened her release. The feeling subsided by small degrees.

“I love you, Rika,” he said through pants of breath. “I love you and I’m not going to let you go. Give us time, honey. Please.”

“I love you, Ryan, so much. But—”

“No buts, sweetheart. Time. Please.”

She found herself nodding, then realized he couldn’t see. “Time…okay.”

“I think I’ll see about getting us headsets.”

She laughed lightly. Maybe they could get beyond this. Ryan being gone might work to her benefit. She’d be able to get things under control without him seeing her implode. “I should come over and give you a proper send off. Think you’re up to it?”

“I’m crushed you’d ask that.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. I’m on my way.”

Rika punched the off key and stared at the phone. A lot could happen in six months. She was panicked, that’s all. There was no reason to drag Ryan down with her. She could handle this just fine. He’d never need to know.

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Another Chance, Another Time by Catherine Snodgrass

AnotherChance

ANOTHER CHANCE, ANOTHER TIME
by Catherine Snodgrass
Paranormal Romance (Reincarnation)
December 2002

He has spent an eternity trying to protect and provide for the love of his life. Each time he has failed…miserably. Now fate has given them another chance. Will Alec Edwards and Dani Morgan learn from the mistakes of their past or repeat them all over again?

Winner for Best Romance – Independent Publishers Award
Winner – 2002 Dream Realm Award – Speculative Fiction – Romance
3d Place – Paranormal – 2003 Laurel Wreath Award
Finalist for Best Paranormal – Golden Quill Award
Silver Chalice Award Nominee (Best Fantasy and Best Overall Paranormal)
4th Annual Orange Rose Award Finalist

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REVIEWS:

FALLEN ANGEL RECOMMENDED READ! FIVE ANGELS! …a bitter-sweet romance about love and reincarnation. …a story that is just captivating. …very thought provoking and I enjoyed that with this book. The story stays with you, long after you’ve finished the book. ~Jaymi, Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR CUPS!!! [A] well written, twisting tale of love lost and gained throughout the ages. ~Charissa, Coffee Time Romance

[A]n engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable story that challenges traditional beliefs and brings rise to the question of life, love, and hatred after death. Whether our lives are predestined to travel the paths that have been tread before, or whether we choose our own path, is a wonderful journey that this book takes us on. With a romance and passion that spans even time itself, I found every minute and every twist and turn of this unexpected plot a great read! ~Cassidy, Joyfully Reviewed

A romantic and suspenseful tale that will have you asking if reincarnation is possible. A fast read that reels you in, a story that keeps you turning the pages. A classic plot with several new twists. A fine book with which to pass away the nice spring-like days. ~Diana Risso, Romance Reviews Today.

FOUR STARS!!! A cleverly written reincarnation romance with an absorbing mystery. Readers will be enthralled as the story unfolds along tightly written prose. ~Susan Mobley, Romantic Times.

Truly a seamless plot with believable characters and enough suspense, danger and romance to keep the reader interested until the very end. ~Moni Draper, PNR Reviews

An Intriguing Tale of Mystery and Fate. Ms. Snodgrass does a wonderful job of pulling together the mystery, suspense, and romance as Alec and Dani fight to break the tragic pattern of the past and the dreadful fate that awaits them should they fail to discover the killer’s identity in time. This tale is complex, full of ironic twists, and a villain is so crafty that the reader will be stunned at the lengths he or she will go to get Dani out of the way. With enough red herrings thrown in, I doubt if anyone will realize the killer’s identity until it is revealed. Indeed this gripping plot will keep the reader on the edge of their seat until the last word is read. ~Leslie Tramposch, PNR Reviews

ANOTHER CHANCE, ANOTHER TIME is a complex reincarnation romance that sub-genre fans will fully enjoy as the delightful lead couple research their past (via hypnosis), confront their present, and pray for their future together. Though the flashbacks are cleverly interwoven into he plot to give substance to the eerie multiple life, some readers might find that disruptive. Still with a powerful story line starring two giving individuals (past and present), the paranormal audience will want to read this tale and seek future works by Catherine Snodgrass. ~Harriet Klausner

A heart warming read about two loves who have just never gotten it quite right. Alec and Dani`s love for each other is so powerfully portrayed that reaches out and tugs at the reader`s heart strings. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel that was full of witty characters, paranormal events, and a really great bad guy that you love to hate. If you like time travel, paranormal, or just a really great romance then read this book! ~Jen, A Romance Review

Lots of romance and some suspense to make a thought-provoking story from the pen of Catherine Snodgrass.~Marilyn Heyman, The Road to Romance

Another Chance, Another Time was an exceptionally well- written book. The language was rich, the characters interesting and instantly compelling, the plotline beautifully thought out. The notion of a pair of lovers, who repetitively come together, with a secret nemesis that forever interferes, has never been done better. This is the first of Ms. Snodgrass’s books that I’ve read, and I’m now a complete fan. She is a wonderful writer.~Janet Miller, PNR Reviews

FIVE HEARTS!!! This is a wonderful book about reincarnation, about lovers who are destined to live again and again until they can get it right and get together. It takes that feeling that we get when we meet someone the first time, but feel like we have known them forever and gives us a reason why that is possible – a remembrance of a relationship we’ve had before. I very much recommend this book as it has everything you could want – love, sex, suspense. Lisa Wine, The Romance Studio

EXCERPT

Alec Edwards stared into the blinding rain. Traffic crawled along Interstate 10. Typical Los Angeles traffic. At this rate he’d never make it to the fund-raising dinner, and that was fine with him. As Alec left the hospital that evening, Walt Rushmore let it slip that his daughter Andrea would be joining them.

Somehow Alec managed to keep from wincing. The Rushmores were playing matchmaker. As far as Alec was concerned, it would be a match made in hell. An abortive relationship with Andrea four months ago proved that. For some reason, the Rushmores and Andrea couldn’t understand Alec just wasn’t interested. Tonight was going to be pure agony. The weather seemed to agree.

Traffic slowed, cars wedged bumper to bumper, horns blared from all directions to no avail—nothing was going to move this traffic along. They were stuck here for God knew how long.

Alec smiled. Maybe there was justice in the world after all. The hospital already had his money for the benefit tonight and now he wouldn’t have to bear Andrea’s company.

As he thought that, the crawl of cars ground to a halt. Headlights from on-coming cars zoomed by and bathed him in eerie yellow light. They moved a little too quickly for Alec’s comfort. He blessed the concrete divider that stood between him and the eastbound lane. Still, his gaze remained riveted to those mesmerizing lights.

Through a sheet of rain, Alec watched in horror as a car broke free from those coming in the opposite direction. It careened off the center divider and sailed through the air.

Alec snapped open his seat belt and dove for the passenger side.

It was silent except for the beating rain, and then came the explosion of metal and glass.

When silence descended once more, Alec eased up, looking for damage. He was safe. The car behind him was a shambles. He shoved his shoulder into the door and sprinted to the wreckage.

Others did the same. A patrolman from the eastbound lane squealed to a stop, leaped the divider, and ran forward.

“There’s a medical bag in my car! Get it!” Alec pointed to his car.

Relief washed over the young officer’s face.

Alec stared at the tangled heap of vehicles and wondered if there was any hope someone was still alive. The first car, a beat up Colt, had plowed headlong into the windshield of the second, a late model Cougar.

Crawling up, he wrenched open the door on the Colt. The stench of liquor took his breath away. A pair of gaping, vacant eyes stared back at him. Nevertheless, Alec felt for the man’s pulse. Nothing.

He jumped down, expecting the same from the Cougar. The door groaned in protest as he forced it open. A woman was behind the wheel, her face, neck, and chest sliced by shards of metal and glass. The Colt’s bumper had missed decapitating her by mere inches. He gingerly felt for a pulse and then sighed in relief. She was still alive.

Her eyes fluttered open and focused on him. There was a catch in her breath, an awareness in those deep brown eyes of hers. She grappled for his hand and then curled her bloodied fingers around it.

“It’s…you.” Her voice was no more than a whisper. “God, how I have missed you.” She braced her cheek against the seat and drifted off, a touch of a smile on her lips.

Alec stared at her hand still nestled in his. Warmth radiated up his arm until his body was engulfed. Not even the chilling rain could diminish the heat pulsing through him. Who was she? He racked his brain trying to place her. They had never met, had they?

“Here’s your bag.” The policeman set the black satchel near the open door.

Alec turned to thank him. Shock paralyzed the other man.

“She’s going to make it.” His tone warned the officer to say nothing to the contrary.

Finally, the man forced himself to nod. “And the other one?”

“He’s already gone.”

The officer glanced around. “The paramedics are on the way, but with this rain and traffic it might take a while.”

“Some butterfly kisses will hold her in place until—”

“Kisses?”

Alec blinked. Where was his head? “Sorry, I meant stitches.” When he tried to extricate his hand, her hold tightened. He leaned closer, cupping his free hand over both of theirs. “It’s all right. I need to help you. I’m right here. I won’t leave.”

“Yes, you will. You are never there when I need you most.” A sigh heaved her chest and her hand slipped free.

“Not this time.” Alec had no idea who she thought he was, but he knew whoever it was, she had to have faith that person would help. It was up to him.

He decided against paper stitches and used gauze instead to bind her injuries until he could get her to a hospital. At this point with all the blood, it was hard to tell the extent of her wounds. Around him he was conscious of the officer directing traffic and the pounding rain, but that was all. Every sense was focused on the woman before him. It was only the two of them, as if the world spinning around them had ceased to exist.

Each time he recalled those brown eyes upon him, Alec shivered. She knew him, trusted him. And he would swear he had never met her in his life. Now he was her lifeline, and although Alec had never been one to assign himself god-like qualities, he knew in his heart he was the only person who could save her now.

Another patrol car pulled up. Minutes later, the officer sidled up to him.

“How is she?”

“Fine. She’s going to be just fine.”

“Paramedics are almost here.” He ducked away.

Alec bent over his patient once more to examine his handiwork. He smoothed back her blood-matted brown hair and felt a bump just above her forehead. A possible concussion was added to the list of injuries. That would explain her confusion when she saw him and her unconsciousness now. There was little more he could do for now.

Reaching over to the other seat, he snagged her purse. Her driver’s license listed her as Danielle Morgan, age thirty, height five-three, weight one-twenty. She was smiling. Her hair brushed her shoulders in a feather-like embrace. A pink dot on the license indicated she was an organ donor.

Alec gritted his teeth. He refused to allow it to come to that. He shifted through the contents of her purse once more and found a passport where another bright smile shined from her photograph. A plane ticket with itinerary was nestled inside the passport. Alec took a peek and didn’t know whether to smile or cry for her.

She had been on her way to LAX to catch a flight to Europe. That would be his vacation of choice. Trouble was, he had never taken the time to do it, and never found anyone he wanted to go with. Whoever was waiting for her at the airport was probably frantic.

He waved one of the officers over and shoved the ticket into his hand. “Better call the airline and let them know what happened. They can notify anyone waiting for her there. Any word on that rescue unit?”

“They’re about a mile away. I can see the lights from here.”

Alec looked in the direction he pointed. Flashing red lights wove along the median toward them. He squatted down and picked up the woman’s limp hand. This time, she didn’t stir. Her pulse was thready. They were running out of time.

“Hang on, Danielle.” No, that wasn’t right. He didn’t care what her driver’s license said. “Dani, hang on.”

Alec thought he felt the slightest pressure as she squeezed his hand in response. Impossible. It was his imagination wanting her to be all right.

The sirens ground to a halt in front of the cars. Footsteps beat a hasty path to reach the victim. For now, Alec was in the way. His job would begin again once they got her to the hospital.

He watched the firefighters cut her out of the car with the Jaws of Life. Then the paramedics eased her onto the gurney.

“Coming, Doc?” one asked.

“We’ll get your car to you,” the officer said as he gathered Dani’s possessions.

They didn’t have to ask him twice. He slipped the officer his keys. Then with the right afforded his occupation, he crawled into the rescue squad beside her.

“Radio ahead. I’m going to need X-rays, blood typing, and a surgical team.”

“Got it.” The paramedic radioed the instructions to the hospital.

Everything was in place by the time the ambulance reached the emergency room doors. The hospital staff wheeled Dani Morgan away to prep her for surgery, X-ray for broken bones, and run necessary blood work. Then it would be up to Alec, and he was going to be good to no one unless he calmed down.

He stopped long enough to slug down a cup of water, before marching off to scrub up. Dr. Kevin Samuels was already there, stripping from his street clothes into surgical scrubs. The rain tightened his red hair to clumps of curls. His blue eyes danced with mischief when he saw Alec.

“If I’d known this was a formal occasion, I would have dressed in something better than jeans.”

Normally Alec would have come back with a jibe of his own. Tonight he just wasn’t in the mood. He threw his damp suit into a wad at the bottom of the locker. Kevin had the good sense to let it go.

“I was on my way home when you arrived. Thought I’d stay and help.” He jerked his head toward the operating room. “She’s a mess. Damn fine thing you were there. I understand it was over an hour before the paramedics could get to the scene.”

An hour? Had they really been there that long?

“The other driver died on impact. Frankly, I was surprised to find her still alive. You know, she was on her way to the airport. Going to Europe.”

Kevin looked up. “So she was conscious during all this.”

Alex slipped his blue scrubs on. “No. I was searching for identification and found the tickets.”

“So she never spoke at all.”

He straightened. Two strides took him to the sink. “I never said that either.”

Kevin was on his heels and nearly bumped into him when Alec started to scrub up.

“What did she say?”

“What does it matter?”

He shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t if she didn’t say anything about any medical conditions.”

Alec drew in air to steady his nerves. “She didn’t. She just mistook me for someone else.”

“Is that what has you rattled?”

Yes. That was it. The whole thing spooked him. Dani Morgan hadn’t just thought he was someone else, but she knew him, and Alec couldn’t for the life of himself understand how.

“I guess so.”

Kevin’s gaze was sharp, appraising. “Are you going to be all right to do this?”

He had to be. She was depending on him. By some instinct he couldn’t explain, he had to help her. He was the only one who could save her.

“I’m fine. Let’s do it.”

Together they pushed into the operating room. Dani looked pale next to the white sheets that draped her. Shock and blood loss had taken their toll. The rest of the team surrounded her. The anesthesiologist was at her head.

“Is she out?” Alec studied her face, deciding where to start first.

“Almost.”

“Let me know when, Joe. Anything else?”

“No broken bones, Dr. Edwards,” the nurse said. “No Hepatitis. No drugs or alcohol in her blood. But there are more lacerations on her torso.”

“Then we’ll start there.” Alec lifted the sheet and blanched. A deep gash followed the curve of her right breast. He tried not to reprimand himself. Because of the position of the other vehicle, there had been no way to check for other injuries.

That’s no excuse, logic argued. You should have checked her again in the ambulance.

“Ready, Doc.”

“Thanks, Joe. Okay, people. Let’s get to work.”

* * *

Dani Morgan felt herself slip further into that dark place in her mind. She was aware of where she was, what had happened, and that she was very badly hurt. None of that mattered. They couldn’t put her under. They just couldn’t. No one understood what it would mean.

She had gone there once before when she had her tonsils out as a child. It had terrified her ever since, yet she could speak of it to no one. Now she had to. But the words wouldn’t come. Dani couldn’t make them understand.

And slowly she went back to that place. That place where she had died.

Menace To Society – Caitlyn Willows

MenaceToSociety-NoLogo

Menace To Society
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense- BDSM
October 2017
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter

Eileen thought Lance had run out on her, only to find him inadvertently bound for their mutual pleasure. Who knew they’d have so very much in common? The two make one heck of a team in bed and out of it. But there are secrets and then there are secrets.

Lance feels Eileen is his gift for finally getting his life back in order. Sharing his past will only destroy what they’ve got going on between them. But it isn’t his past Lance needs to worry about–its Eileen’s and the twin sister she doesn’t remember. A twin who brings murder, mystery, and the promise of a legacy with her.

If she’s to have any future at all–especially one with Lance–Eileen must face a legacy she wants no part of. A legacy that’s too much a reminder to Lance of his own failings. A legacy that comes with parents she must defeat in order for her, Lance, and her sister to survive.

Related stories are:
Rough Cut
Menace To Society

 

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EXCERPT:

“It hurts my heart, Lance,” she called out. “All that time I was told Tildy was nothing more than an imaginary friend. I might have only been five, but I remember crying myself to sleep in Mom’s arms, the frustration that no one believed me, being so confused, then finally accepting what everyone was telling me. I felt…lost.”

She walked his way as she slipped her arms into a fluffy pink robe, then tied it shut.

“Now I feel betrayed, then guilty because I know my parents had my best interests at heart. I want it all to go away.”

“Do you really?” He tucked his shirt into his trousers and zipped up. “This is new and a shock, but what about a year from now? We might not have known each other long, but I think I know you well.” Her emotions were written all over her body in every movement and expression. “You can want her gone from your life, but she will always exist. At some point you’re going to want answers. You’re going to want to compare notes with her. As hard as it is, this is your chance to get off on the right foot with her.”

She sighed heavily. “I’ll get your coffee ready.”

End of discussion. He finished dressing, then grabbed the evidence bag and walked into her kitchen. Eileen leaned against the counter, coffee mug in one hand, brownie in the other.

“Don’t worry. I put a couple in a bag for you.” She jerked her chin to the travel mug and plastic baggie on the table.

“I’m thinking I might have to keep you around for a while.” He braced his palms on the counter on each side of her, kissed her quickly, then turned his attention to the envelope with the key. “Sure about this?”

“I am.”

He put it in the evidence bag, noted the information on the label, then tucked it into his jacket and picked up his breakfast.

“If your lunch plans fall through, call me.”

“I will.”

Another longer kiss said what he couldn’t find the words to express. That he couldn’t wait to see her again. That he’d play hell focusing on work because he knew he’d be thinking of her. That if he didn’t leave right this very second, he’d be buried so deep inside her…

“I’ll see you later.” He gave her tight ass a final squeeze and walked off.

“Lance?”

Fingers wrapped around the doorknob, he looked her way. She stood in the kitchen doorway, arms tucked under her breasts.

“Yeah?”

“I want you to know that I really, really like you a lot.”

He swore his grin split his face. “I really, really like you a lot too.”

Her returning smile washed over him in warm waves. Not once in his career had he ever put pleasure before duty. Not even when he was married. Eileen might be the exception.

“Want me to flash you before you walk out the door?” Mischief danced in her eyes.

Lance laughed and motioned to his crotch. “I’ve got enough going on down here already. Are you trying to kill me?”

“Never.” She winked. “Talk to you later.”

When she ducked back into the kitchen, he hurried out the door.

Happiness put a bounce in his step. Lance couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this high on life. He was falling hard, and he was falling fast. There was no sense wondering about where this would lead. Living in the here and now was all that mattered. For the first time in forever, Lance felt like he was living rather than merely existing.

His feel-good lasted through commuter traffic, morning greetings and bullshit at the station’s coffeepot, and his partner’s scowl.

“Where is my partner, and what did you do with him?”

Rick growled over the rim of his coffee mug. He’d never been a morning person.

Before Lance could reply, their lieutenant barked at them to come to his office. The tone of his voice didn’t mean good news. Lance’s instincts went on high alert, shoving his joy aside. He and Rick grabbed their coffee and walked into what had to be certain doom. Sure enough, a US marshal was standing to one side in their commander’s office, dressed to crisp perfection in a pinstriped suit, white shirt, and a gray tie. Lance wondered if he’d been pulled off courtroom duty to be here and how that affected him.

Lieutenant Baldwin sat behind his desk, hands laced together so tightly on his desk blotter, it turned his dark-brown knuckles a shade of caramel.

“Detectives, this is Marshal Dillon.”

Rick spewed coffee. Lance pressed his lips together to keep from laughing.

“Save it,” Dillon told them. “I’ve heard it a thousand times. And my first name’s not Matt, nor do I know anyone named Kitty.”

Lance didn’t feel sorry for him. He’d heard Sir Lancelot too many times in his lifetime.

Baldwin jerked his head toward him. “Mr. Dillon—”

Marshal,” Dillon said through bared teeth.

So the lieutenant was pissed Dillon was here. Good. They were on the same side. Not that it would matter.

“We’re to stand down from the murder at Store It Now. Marshals Service is taking over,” Baldwin said.

“Why?” he and Rick asked at the same time.

“Not your concern,” Dillon replied. “We’ve got it from here. I want all your evidence immediately.”

“Then you’re in the wrong place to get it.” Rick slurped his coffee, loud and long.

Dillon cringed. “I’m well aware of that. This was a courtesy call. We finished here, Lieutenant?”

“No, but you are, Marshal Dillon. A patrolman is waiting up front to escort you out. I’m sure you can find your way to the crime lab. I’d warn them of your arrival, but I suspect they’ve already been made aware through official channels.”

Which was how they should have been notified as well. The only reason Lance could see for Dillon coming here personally was to flex his muscles.

“Thank you for your time.” Dillon shot glares at Lance and Rick, then stormed off.

“What the fuck’s going on, Lieutenant?” Several theories were running through his head, and Lance didn’t like any of them.

Baldwin leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled under his chin. “All I managed to get from the chief was that your shooting victim was a US marshal.”

It had to be a witness-protection issue. Something in that storage unit would expose whoever was in WITSEC. Why else would Carter tell Tildy to leave it alone? But according to Eileen’s father, there were only family pictures and albums. Or that’s all that had been in there twenty-five years ago. Things could have been added over the years. The unit could be empty now, for all they knew. Or it would be soon. The marshals wouldn’t leave evidence like that behind.

“I recognize the look in your eyes, Driscoll,” Baldwin said. “We are off this case. There’s not a damn thing we can do.”

“Not regarding the murder,” he replied slowly. “But all things considered, wouldn’t you agree that Miss Moore might be in some measure of danger and need of protection? She’s clearly stumbled upon something of which she was unaware. We cleared the crime scene last night. Once the facility is open, she’ll want to retrieve the items inside. Already she’s been threatened. Do we want to take the chance that will happen again with fatal results?”

Standing beside him, Rick tapped his finger against his mug but said nothing. Neither did Baldwin.

“The least we can do is give her protection while she gets her things.” They had to move fast. There was no doubt in his mind that unit would be Dillon’s next target.

Baldwin leaned forward. His steady gaze pierced through Lance’s.

“Who is Eileen Cronkite?”

Fuck. So much for that little secret. Damn patrolman had blabbed about his misstep at the scene—confusing Tildy for Eileen. Word trickled up the chain fast. Baldwin hadn’t gotten where he was without having an ear to everything around him.

“My girlfriend.” Lying wasn’t going to get him anywhere, and there was no way in hell he was going to deny his relationship with Eileen. He was damn proud of it. Damn proud of having her in his life. “Eileen and Miss Moore are twins. They were adopted out when they were five. Eileen knew nothing about any of it until last night. You can imagine her shock.”

Baldwin nodded slowly.

“You know this has to be a WITSEC issue,” Rick said. “Though I can’t for the life of me understand why the girls were split up and adopted out.”

“For their own protection, according to Eileen’s father. Because when Eileen’s parents learned there was a twin, they tried very hard to get her as well and were refused for that reason,” Lance told them.

Baldwin sighed and rubbed his wrinkled forehead. “Could be their parents were found and killed.”

“Maybe by now, but not when the girls were adopted. According to Miss Moore, their mother gave them keys for the unit with instructions to use them when they were thirty. Tildy had hers. Eileen didn’t.” He wasn’t about to reveal he had her key tucked in his pocket.

Baldwin’s eyebrows met. “She remembers this from when she was five? And kept it all these years?”

Lance raised his palms. “I agree it’s far-fetched. I’m around kids enough to know they can’t find anything even if it’s only two feet in front of them. And I’d call her on it if it wasn’t for the fact that Eileen’s father had her key. He brought it over last night after she confronted her mother about the adoption. Even better, he was in the unit twenty-five years ago and indicates it held only photo albums and baby pictures. Nothing more. He took the baby pictures of Eileen and left the rest.”

“Odd that he was able to get into the unit without being challenged,” Rick said. “I would have thought, if anything, that the items would have been more protected back then.”

“I didn’t say it made sense. But if the women were separated for their own protection, and now one of them is in the middle of a murder—”

“All right.” Baldwin slapped his palm on the desk. “I agree. It’s logical to presume that under the circumstances, they’re in danger once more.”

Rick snorted. “But not enough for the Marshals Service to take watch over them.”

“We’re not investigating the crime,” Lance said. “We’re merely providing protection while the ladies retrieve their property.”

“Set it up.” Baldwin stood. “I want them there when the place opens. I’m going with you too. Make your calls to them in here.”

“Yes, sir.” Now to convince Eileen. He pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Put it on speaker. I want to hear these women so I can get a read on them.”

Oh, hell no. “With all due respect, Lieutenant. You might have a death wish, but I don’t.”

“Then blame me. I need a handle on this situation, and the best way for me to get that is by hearing their reactions.”

“You’ll be able to judge when you see them.”

“Forewarned is forearmed. On speaker, Detective.”

“Remember, you asked for it.” There was no telling what would come out of Eileen’s mouth. Lance looked forward to the exchange and the men’s reactions.

To Die For by Caitlyn Willows

 

ToDieFor

 

TO DIE FOR
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense – Novel
June 2017
Totally Bound
ISBN – 978-1-78651-155-3

The sound of her voice saved a cop’s life…and put a target on her back.

Zoe White’s got a voice to die for and the full-figured body to match it. Sad that it’s taken another officer’s near tragedy to spur Detective Frank Ludwig into finally making his move. Now that he has, Frank’s determined to be Zoe’s hero when her unselfish act skylines her to a killer. It doesn’t take him long to realize Zoe doesn’t need a hero. She’s a survivor, perfectly able to defend herself…and Frank, too, when the chips are down.

What’s a guy to do when his woman “man’s up” before he does?

Then he learns just how much Zoe has sacrificed to recover from past demons, and how determined those same demons are to destroy her again. He realizes there’s more to being a hero than fighting bad guys. A true hero helps the woman he loves retrieve the final fragments of her shattered life. Yes, Zoe can clearly defend herself. Now he’s depending on her staying alive long enough so he can be the hero she needs.

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Publisher’s Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Totally Bound Publishing.

EXCERPT:

Fear clawed at Zoe’s gut, fighting its way to the surface. Prickles of the monster she’d buried zinged beneath her skin, searching for a way out.

People. She had to be around people. If she went home, another monster might be waiting. Zoe wouldn’t risk it—not until she had control firmly in her hands, not until she could face whatever hell awaited her with dignity and strength. Having her .38 in ready reach wouldn’t be bad either.

Gun trumped knife every time. Too bad she’d gotten out of the habit of carrying the weapon. Zoe would rectify that once she got home. Being without threat had made her careless. If she wasn’t diligent…

Dead. She’d be dead.

No. That was why she had the black belt—to protect herself.

Could she keep her wits about her and remember how to use those skills? Besides, all the martial arts moves in the world couldn’t win over a gun. She needed that weapon in her possession.

Zoe gasped for breath, fighting hyperventilation.

Burt’s Diner. That was where she could go. Open all night. Always someone there. A favorite place for cops. She’d grab a bite and order her thoughts—make a game plan.

Zoe scanned the jumble of signs, looking for that familiar red one. Have I passed it? She’d been so upset that she barely remembered leaving the station. Where the hell am I? Certainly not pointed toward home. She nearly wept with relief when she spied her beacon a block ahead. A Holiday Inn Express was across the street from it. That was an option she hadn’t considered. She’d check in for a night—maybe two—get a room on the top floor and hole up until this was over.

She snorted at her foolishness. This was never going to be over—not until one of them was dead. Zoe didn’t plan on that being her.

She eased into the parking lot and found a spot next to the restaurant. Maybe luck was on her side tonight. Pulling in slow breaths to calm her shattered nerves, she cut the engine. Xavier didn’t know where she lived. Chances were slim he’d recognize her on the street—as long as she kept her mouth shut. The encounter had been an isolated incident. Why would Xavier care? He was rattling her to show he was a big man, nothing more. Old fears ran deep, though. Too deep.

He knows where you work now.

True. Zoe wondered if her subconscious had steered her to take an alternate route home.

Silly. The shooting was across town. There’s no way he could—

She cut off the thought. There was always a way for a determined person, and he’d sounded damned determined. Thank goodness, her parents were vacationing in Maui and her sister visiting friends in New York. They were safe from him. Xavier couldn’t have picked a better time to make his move. For another panicked moment, Zoe wondered if he’d planned this. Just as quickly, she dismissed the idea. Xavier never planned anything. He was volatile, driven by rage and a very short temper.

Damn it all. She’d thought this was in the past. Now she’d inadvertently crossed paths with him. His threat wasn’t an idle one. Xavier would hunt her down. It was only a matter of time.

Not if the cops get him first.

Zoe was counting on that. Talk about determination. Xavier had killed a police officer tonight, seriously wounding another. He was a marked man. She prayed they got to him before he got to her.

Athorough look around the parking lot confirmed her safety. Still, she didn’t let her gaze or attention wander as she looped her purse strap over her shoulder, clutched the hobo bag against her side and stepped from her F-150 truck. Her rubber-soled ankle boots thunked on the sidewalk. Zoe wasted little time getting inside. Once the doors closed behind her, she let the hostess’s smile scatter the dark shadows lingering in her mind…at least for the moment. The woman’s nametag identified her as Jennifer.

“One?” she asked.

“Yes, just one,” Zoe said.

Jennifer plucked a menu from the box attached to the pedestal behind her. “Table or booth?”

Under normal circumstances, her answer would be ‘table,’ but Zoe didn’t want to be that exposed tonight. “Booth. Away from the window.” Her back against the wall with a clear view of the entrance.

“Right this way.” Jennifer led her down the aisle, nodding to other diners as she took Zoe into the bowels of the restaurant.

Zoe saw the men and women too late. Twelve police officers and detectives occupied a large section of tables in the back room where Jennifer intended to seat her. Zoe plucked at the woman’s long white sleeve in a vain effort to subtly catch her attention. Again, too late. One by one, the men and women stopped what they were doing, all gazes latching on to Zoe. Chairs slid over the carpet as they stood and applauded her.

She wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. The only thing that kept her feet rooted in place was the pride on Frank Ludwig’s face. Zoe’s heartbeat triple-timed.

“Come join us.” Officer Joanie Robertson yanked over a chair from a nearby table, while Frank’s partner, Theo Garcia, waved Zoe toward them.

Only that morning, Robertson had gone out of her way to avoid her. Zoe was their hero tonight. Tomorrow, things would go back to how they had been. Zoe didn’t want to muddy the waters by socializing.

She’d heard what some of her coworkers said behind her back. A few even said it to her face. Some of them meant well, but others didn’t. Zoe’d learned to live with scathing remarks, dirty looks and kindhearted suggestions. After all, she had only herself to blame for the way she looked. She wasn’t a small girl. But Frank—hot Frank who shared her bed in Zoe’s nightly fantasies—accepted her with no questions, no attempts to change her. Their friendship was unconditional.

“No, thank you.” She combined her refusal with a polite smile she didn’t truly feel. “It’s been a long shift. I need to decompress.”

Jennifer motioned to a booth just inside the room. “How’s this?”

“Perfect.” She could sit with her back to them and still have a clear view of the front door. She slid onto the narrow seat and accepted the menu from Jennifer.

“Anything to drink?”

A bottle of your cheapest wine—and put a straw in it. “Iced tea, no lemon.”

“Coming right up.”

Zoe stared at the menu. Conversation behind her fell to whispers. Words swam before her eyes. Damn. She was going to start bawling right here. A shadow blocked the light. The second she glanced up, Frank slid in beside her.

“Scoot over.” He butted his hip against hers.

“What are you doing?” Zoe refused to budge.

“I’m sitting with you. What does it look like?”

She flicked her fingers toward the opposite seat. “Then sit there.”

“You know I can’t sit with my back to the door.”

“It looked to me like that’s what you were doing over there.” She motioned to the party behind them.

Frank shrugged. “I lost the toss. Only fair way to determine seating when you have a table of cops.” He nudged again. “Scoot.”

It occurred to Zoe that she could move to the other seat, but that meant depriving herself of the brief joy of having Frank next to her. The man made her feel all kinds of crazy happy inside—safe and sheltered, small and feminine. Worry and fear didn’t dare bother her with Frank by her side. His sheer personality warned them away. She wanted to lean into his solid body and cry her heart out.

“How nice you ran into your husband.” Jennifer put down a tall glass of iced tea.

Reality slapped Zoe’s daydreams to bits. “Oh, he’s not my husband.”

Frank plopped his hand over hers and squeezed. “Not yet.”

Jennifer’s smile drained the power grid. “When’s the wedding?”

“We’re not engaged, either.” Zoe slipped her hand from under his and grabbed her straw.

“Not yet.” Frank dropped his hand to her thigh, shocking Zoe senseless. Her clit cheered at how near he was to it. Juices flowed in anticipation of more. “I’m still trying to get her to notice me.”

Jennifer’s gaze ping-ponged between them. Her smile dimmed while she probably pondered a response—or planned how she could get Frank for herself. Although he was a bit old for her. Hell, he was a bit old for Zoe, too, but that didn’t stop her from lusting after him. She’d calculated around a ten-year age gap. Her fantasies of him pressing her to the nearest wall and fucking her senseless didn’t care. A thread of jealousy twined its way to the surface. If Jennifer started flirting—

“Then I’m guessing this will all be on one ticket?” Jennifer finally asked.

“Absolutely.” This time Frank draped his arm around Zoe’s shoulders and squeezed.

Zoe steeled herself against the rush of emotion. What the hell is he up to? She was going to have to stock up on batteries before she went home tonight—if she went home—and she just might send the bill to Frank.

“We still need a few minutes,” he told Jennifer.

“I’ll make sure your server knows.”

Zoe waited until Jennifer’s back was turned then shrugged his arm away. “Quit joking. I’m not in the mood to be played with.”

A lie. Most nights, she wanted nothing more than for Frank to play with her. She stabbed her straw amid the ice cubes then took a long sip. Although at the rate her horniness was building, dumping the glass into her lap might be a better idea.

Frank rested his forearms on the table, body half-turned her way—which was quite a feat since he took up as much space as Zoe. “I’m not joking or playing. Consider this our first date.”

She stirred the ice, refusing to meet the gaze burning a hole through the side of her face. Tolliver’s death was going to have long-term repercussions. “Look. It’s been a long day. I know how grateful you are that—”

“It’s got nothing to do with gratitude.” He leaned closer, his warmth surrounding her. “Open your eyes, honey.”

She was clueless and didn’t feel like dancing around whatever he was hinting at, so she let her silence build a wall between them.

Frank eased away, taking that warmth with him. Zoe’s heart cried for the loss.

“I don’t think she could’ve seated us at a smaller booth.” Frank planted his feet on the floor and pushed the booth back. “That’s better.”

“Is that even allowed?” she whispered.

“What’s she going to do? Lock me up? I’m the poe-lease.” He thumbed his chest.

Zoe snickered. She knew she shouldn’t encourage him, especially when she was still displeased over his previous antics. She pretended her tea held more interest, which earned her his body bracketing hers once more. This was how it’d feel if they had sex—Frank looming over her, taking charge of their pleasure. God, she ached.

“Sure you don’t want something a little stronger than tea?” he asked.

“Driving.” Zoe drew her finger through the moisture beading her glass.

“I’ll see you get home safe and sound. After what you did today, you deserve a drink…or two.” His arm brushed hers. She’d rather have it around her again, even if he’d meant it as a joke.

“My truck—”

“I’ll either make sure it gets to your house or I’ll pick you up in the morning.” He traced his long fingers over hers. “You’re shaking.”

Fear coupled with a looming adrenaline crash does that to a person.

“What can I get you two cuddlebugs tonight?”

Zoe and Frank jumped at the server’s appearance. Norma hovered at the table, pad in hand, gray hair combed back in a tight ponytail that dangled in its mesh bag, making it resemble something pulled from a bathroom-sink drain. Zoe didn’t bother to correct Norma’s assumption they were a couple. What harm could come from pretending?

“The lady would like a glass of merlot. We’ll have patty melts with fries.” He glanced at Zoe for confirmation. At her nod, he told their server, “And an order of onion rings.”

“Coming right up.” Norma shot off.

Zoe had never seen anyone move so fast.

“I’m going to need the wine to scrub my veins from this high cholesterol meal.” She pushed her tea aside.

Frank took it for himself. “It’s comfort food, and we damn well deserve it—you, especially. We’re alive. It’s time we started taking advantage of that.”

He’d closed her in again, his body nearly surrounding her. Zoe didn’t give an inch. This was what it felt like to be near the man. She soaked it all in for her fantasies later.

“You saved a man’s life tonight, Zoe. That sweet voice of yours gave DiCarlo hope to hang on. Because of you, he’ll see his wife and kids again. There isn’t a cop on the force who hasn’t heard about it or listened to it play out over the radio.”

Did they also hear Tolliver’s last gasping breath? She hadn’t been able to save him. It had been a miracle she’d stopped Xavier when she had—a quirk of fate. Him hearing her voice had intrigued him enough to spare DiCarlo…and made her his new target.

Ay, chicasuch a pretty voice, like an angel in the night. Maybe I come see you, eh? Clip those wings again. Your friend here… He ain’t gonna last. I cut him deep. Try, bitch. You’re next, and I’m gonna make it hurt.’

“I’ll bet the sound clip’s already gone viral,” Frank said. “You know the newshounds have glommed on to it.”

Yes, they’d already started swarming the station for information as I was leaving work.

Zoe grabbed the merlot when the glass appeared and gulped down half.

“Easy, honey.” Frank put his arm around her, fingers tracing soothing circles on her shoulder. “The guys are on it. They’ll figure out who this asshole is and put him behind bars.”

Oh God. “They don’t know who he is?” A drop of wine splashed on the back of her hand. She was shaking, but she couldn’t loosen her death grip on the glass.

“Not yet. He wore gloves, had on a ski mask. Took the knife with him. Left no trace.”

Shit. Now what? She stared at that drop of wine, frozen on her skin as if time itself had stopped waiting for her to woman-up.

“I… I know who he is.” Zoe barely heard the words herself, so surely Frank hadn’t. She wasn’t sure she could dredge the courage to say them again.

“What? How?”

Her pride took a nosedive, but it was a small price to pay for taking a cop killer off the streets.

“Xavier Sanchez. We lived together years ago. I’m the reason he was sent to prison in the first place. That threat he made to me over the radio was real.” She drained the glass and signaled Norma for another.

 

 

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.”

 

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