Have Mercy by Caitlyn Willows

HaveMercy

HAVE MERCY
by Caitlyn Willows
Contemporary Erotic Romance (BDSM, menage)
December 2017
Cover Artist – Trace Edward Zaber

Ike expects a lot from a woman. Someone who can match his own unique needs and then some. He’s been lusting after Mercy for months. It’s time to make his move or move on.

Past relationship disasters have made Mercedes damn scared to date. This time she’s playing for keeps, she’s playing for Ike, and he’s going to know upfront she plays hard.

His response to the news…Have Mercy! And she’s going to have him right back because she is one lady who can give as good as she gets.

NOTE: This is a reissue of a previously released story.

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Ike Campbell winced with every sour note that came out of Dottie Sullivan’s mouth. The DJ should have stuck with playing music and letting people dance under the strobe of colored lights twirling overhead. Karaoke was never a good idea when people were sober. Offering it after a couple of drinks was excruciating. At a party that was supposed to commemorate the merger of Sullivan Advertising and Byers Promotional Support…

Ike shook his head, and not for the first time. The joining of ad giants Sullivan and Byers was a big deal, but it seemed a little over the top to have the event happen on Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a marriage. It was a business venture. Still, everyone had been on edge waiting for the final papers to go through. The party was the bosses’ way of letting the employees blow off a little steam, have fun, and bond—Sullivan Advertising in Los Angeles, Byers Promotional Support in New York City. The problem was, most of them were overcompensating while they waited for the stroke of midnight on the east coast when the merger became final. Nerves, he supposed.

Despite that, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Awful as the singing was, Ike had to admire those brave enough to risk humiliation and get up there. He sure as hell understood the need to cut loose.

Since he’d transferred to the Los Angeles office six months before, he’d been one hundred percent focused on work. There were still boxes around his house that needed to be unpacked. The stress was starting to show. Not so much outwardly—he really didn’t like taking his frustration out on others—but he felt it crawling inside.

He’d been missing New York a lot lately. The visit to the family at Christmas had been just that, a visit. He hadn’t had any time to slip away to his favorite club and indulge his needs. He sure as hell hadn’t had any time to research any clubs locally. The offer he couldn’t refuse to transfer to Sullivan had started to feel like a prison sentence. No one was more relieved than Ike that the merger was finally complete. Come this weekend…

That made him smile. That’s exactly what he’d planned to do—come until his balls collapsed. All he needed was a place…and a partner…or partners. One particular lady came to mind.

Ike’s body tightened at the thought of having Mercedes Suazo over his lap, her sweet ass bared. He’d been mesmerized by her from the second he’d arrived at Sullivan Advertising, one of the largest and best ad agencies in the Los Angeles area. There was an aura about her that hinted of something more. At least, that’s what Ike’s testosterone-laden mind wanted to believe. Though they worked in separate departments, he’d done his best to see their paths crossed often. Working twenty-four seven made hooking up impossible. The best he’d been able to accomplish was wolfing down a quick lunch with her…and their coworkers. But the work was over. He was taking that shot…if he could find her again.

He craned his neck scanning the crowded room. again. He’d seen her when he’d arrived, looking so hot every cock in the place probably lifted its head in appreciation. After flashing him a smile he interrupted as let’s play, she’d disappeared into a group of women on the far side of the room, and he’d been dragged off to sit with the people from his section. He’d waited for her long enough. As soon as everyone toasted the merger, he was going to find her and explore that smoldering heat he’d seen in her deep brown eyes.

Eddie Kohler plopped down beside him. “God, that’s painful. Someone take the mic from Dottie. Please.”

His slurred voice was loud enough to carry over the music. Under normal circumstances, his nose was shoved so far up the boss’s ass that he couldn’t breathe. He was clearly too drunk to realize he’d insulted the boss’s wife…and everyone, including the boss, had heard him.

“Dottie’s having fun. Who’s cares?” Ike shot the man a glare. “If you think you can do any better, you go up there.”

Eddie snorted. “I’m not gonna go up there and make a fool of myself.”

“I can see your point.” Ike smirked. “Why waste the energy when you can sit here and do the same thing?”

Eddie smacked his beer bottle on the table. “You’re an ass.” Nevertheless, he shoved to his feet and staggered through the tables toward the stage. In less time than it had taken for Ike to issue his challenge, Eddie had the microphone in his hand. At least he’d had the presence of mind to wait for Dottie to finish.

“If you thought that was off-key, wait until you hear this. I guarantee I’d win any worst singer contest.” He snapped his finger at the DJ, and the music started—Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman! Any ill will Eddie’s previous comment had created dissipated in the explosion of laughter that followed.

“Now that’s painful.” Mercedes Suazo’s voice sank into Ike’s veins like warm honey.

Goose bumps rained over his neck and trickled down his body when her breath touched his ear. He’d been fantasizing about having her spread naked before him, and here she was. She’d come to him. It was all Ike could do to not grab her and hoist her over his lap. He swore the look in her eyes begged him to do just that.

Message received, baby.

The goddess slipped into the seat Eddie had vacated. The heat from her body radiated to him, scoring a path straight to the hard-on that raged every time he was near her, saw her, or thought about her. And he thought about her a lot.

She was the fantasy he beat-off to in the shower—her bare ass over his lap red from spanking, her standing over his bound body whip in hand. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d come thinking of her. Staring at her now, at her big brown eyes, those full lips that begged to be kissed, that silky fall of dark brown hair…

His cock throbbed for freedom. This was pain—this unrelenting ache of wanting her.

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Gypsy Fire by Caitlyn Willows

GypsyFire

 

GYPSY FIRE
by Caitlyn Willows
Paranormal Romance (Short Story)
August 2007
Cover Art ©Lacey Savage

“Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be. Whoever holds gypsy fire holds the key to riches beyond imagination. It is a powerful ally and a dangerous foe.”

That’s the family legend behind a mysterious coin owned by Riley Hathaway’s great-grandmother and left to her. But she felt the fire for attorney Patrick Spencer long before the coin sliced their fingers and mingled their blood. While her sisters fight for ownership of the coin and the riches they know it will bring, Riley learns its true wealth. Only Patrick can stoke true gypsy fire, and only he can quench it.

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Review:

This is a cool story; one with passion, fire, and genuine emotions throughout. The situation the couple finds themselves in only fuels the fire between them and makes them enjoyable. A wonderful quick read that leaves you with some unexpected twists that will delight the reader. Another winner for Ms. Willows. ~Matilda, Coffee Time Romance

EXCERPT

Patrick Spencer watched Riley Hathaway battle the grief threatening to overwhelm her. Even with makeup, pale freckles stood out against her otherwise porcelain skin. Freckles…the curse of every redhead he’d ever known. Of the three he’d had to deal with in the last month, he was ready to throw two of them into the Pacific Ocean with lead boots. The third one? Well, it was hard to believe she was related to the other two. He would have done anything to spare her this pain.

He’d known Fiona Hathaway since he was a boy filing pocket parts in the California Code Annotated at his family’s law office. Who would’ve guessed he’d be the one to handle her estate now? She’d been old then at seventy-five. Now approaching one hundred, her time left was measured in hours. She’d outlived everyone in her family except her three great-granddaughters.

When it came right down to it, her active lifestyle was what had brought her down. One misstep as she rushed out the door a month before had sent Fiona tumbling off her front porch when she hit a spot weakened by termites. Riley had called the exterminators that very day to have the place inspected and fumigated. Fortunately, they caught the infestation at the beginning—only that one spot would need to be replaced.

Unfortunately, Fiona had hit her head and broken her hip on the flagstone walkway. At some point pneumonia had set in and refused to leave, despite the regime of antibiotics the doctor had placed her on. She’d been fighting hard but losing fast. Her periods of awareness had been few and she’d been barely coherent during them. Each breath more labored than the one before it.

When his grandfather and father had asked, Patrick didn’t hesitate to take the lead in seeing her affairs ran smoothly during this time. He’d helped Riley settle her at home with a visiting nurse so Fiona could pass in peace in her own bed as she’d wished, and he was at the house almost as much as Riley. Once he realized what opportunistic bitches Heather and Jillian were, Patrick made sure he was always there when Riley was not. No one was going to take advantage of Fiona. He remembered her laughing blue eyes, sharp wit, quick smile, and the peppermint pillow mints she always carried for “good little boys and girls.” Riley had all of those qualities too, right down to the mints in her purse.

Her sisters, however, were a piece of work. Even now they paced the corridors outside Fiona’s bedroom, waiting like vultures for the old girl to draw her last breath. Part of his job was to see they didn’t pick her apart afterward—or rather, her estate. Fiona’s instructions had been clear. He was here to help carry them out.

While Heather and Jillian were greatly inconvenienced by Fiona’s lengthy stay on earth, Riley was heart-sick over her inevitable demise. She spent as many hours as possible by her great-grandmother’s side, holding her hand, tracing the blue veins showing through Fiona’s paper-thin skin, talking and reading to her, kissing her wrinkled cheek, falling asleep in the chair beside her. He’d caught Fiona’s smile focused on Riley more than once. Just as quickly as it appeared, it would fade as her body pulled back inside itself.

Fiona’s eyelids fluttered open, scattering his thoughts. His breath caught in fear that this was her last moment. He wanted to wrap his arms around Riley and shield her from the pain. To bury his face in her thick, red hair while he dealt with his own grief at the passing of one hell of a woman. So far he’d fought the urge to touch Riley in more than a casual manner, trying to keep a professional distance out of respect for her and his family’s business. But Patrick was losing that battle, just as surely as Fiona was losing the one she waged. He wanted to kiss Riley, slow and sweet, easing his way in and then pulling her tight against a body that had been hard as a rock since the second they’d met. He wanted their naked flesh burning against each other’s, fire whirlpooling around as they touched, tasted…

“Hi, Gram,” Riley said softly.

Patrick snapped his thoughts into place. His perpetual erection wasn’t so easily tamed when it came to Riley. He ordered it to physically subside, then did his best to ignore the throbbing monster.

Riley combed her fingers through Fiona’s silver-white hair. She’d kept it brushed and neat for her. Fiona had always been meticulous about her appearance—a trait all her great-granddaughters inherited. Heather and Jillian might be bitches from hell, but they dressed to understated perfection, as Riley did—not too much, not too little, just right for whatever the occasion might be. On this late fall day, when Southern California could be extra warm or cold depending on the minute, that was a thin sweater with slacks for the older sisters, a skirt for Riley. A skirt he desperately wanted to get under.

“Sweetheart, you look so tired.” Fiona’s voice was breathy, hard for her to get out.

She slid her gaze from Riley to him. The sparkle in her blue eyes had dimmed. Patrick admitted not seeing that glint of life scared him.

“You too,” she told him.

Her thin hand shook as she reached for the pendant that rarely left her neck—a silver coin with a silver chain threaded through a hole drilled at the top. She grabbed the coin too tightly, cutting her finger on the thin edge.

“Gram, here, let me help.” Riley’s hand shook as much as Fiona’s. “What are you trying to do?”

“Give to you. Yours now.”

“Oh, Gram.” A tear slipped down her cheek. The pain of her loss—his loss too—knifed through Patrick’s heart.

“Take it,” Fiona told her.

Riley snatched up a tissue from the box on the bedside table and blotted the blood from Fiona’s hand. The injury looked no worse than a bad paper cut. Riley plucked up the necklace and gently turned it around until the clasp was at the front. Her hands still shook too much to unlatch it.

“Here. Let me.” Their fingers brushed in passing. Sensation like liquid warmth slithered up his arm.

He thought he caught the semblance of a smile on Fiona’s lips as he unhooked the clasp. Once it was free, he cupped the pendant in his palm and let the chain slither down on top of it. Blood remained from Fiona’s cut. He watched the small spot settle in his heart-line.

Fiona wrapped her thin fingers around his wrist. Her grip was feather-like. “You’re holding gypsy fire. Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be.” Her chuckle was swallowed by a coughing spell.

He and Riley tried to prop her up to clear her lungs. When the fit had passed, she sagged into the pillows. “Send those other two in here. I want to speak to them alone.”

“Fiona—”

“Alone, Patrick. Riley needs some fresh air. See she gets it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He offered a smile and plumped her pillows behind her while Riley smoothed the bedcovers in place. She added a kiss to Fiona’s cheek, blinked away a rush of tears, and let him lead her from the room.

Patrick liked how she fit beside him—the right height at his shoulder, the right pace with his, the right everything, whether she wore flats like now or heels. He’d taken to having that proprietary touch of his hand to her back when he escorted her through doors. She’d never so much as flinched. In fact, he’d swear there were times she leaned into his touch. That action always made him feel omnipotent, as if he could conquer the world.

Her rust-colored sweater was tucked into a matching shin-length skirt, and he couldn’t help wondering if her skin was as soft as the sweater. With every step they took, her skirt brushed against his leg, distracting him all the more. He watched the way her shoulder-length hair kissed her neck and longed to pull it away and do the same, letting his lips memorize every inch.

Her sisters pounced on them when they walked into the hallway. Their gloomy presence could dim a supernova. They dulled the light in this otherwise bright old house. In the month he’d known them, Patrick hadn’t heard Heather or Jillian utter a kind word about anyone…unless it was a man they were interested in impressing. Both had tried over-the-top flirtations with him on that first day—hookers were less bold—then moved on to other fishing grounds when they learned he wanted nothing to do with the bait they tossed out. It didn’t take a genius to see these women were always looking for the easiest way, felt the world owed them a favor, and were out to get anything and everything they could grab. These were not nice women, a fact that detracted from their hot-as-hell looks.

That’s what made it so difficult to believe they shared the same genes as Riley. The older two had already blown through two trust funds and an inheritance and now circled, waiting for more. Riley had gotten a business degree, opened her own craft store, and tucked the rest away for the children she planned to have one day. She took care of Fiona too, making sure she had whatever she needed.

“Gram wants to see you,” Riley told them.

When Heather darted past her to go inside, Riley grabbed her arm and yanked her to a stop.

Don’t upset her.”

Heather’s always-icy blue stare chilled a few more degrees. She didn’t bother with a response, just jerked free and swung open the door. Jillian hurried to catch up.

“That goes for you too,” Riley told her.

Her middle sister ignored her and shut the door in her face.

“Come on.” Hand at her back, Patrick turned her away. “Let’s walk around the garden.”

It gave him peace when he did so, and he was sure it did Riley, since he’d found her there on more than one occasion.

Riley glanced at the door over her shoulder, then placed her hand against his chest, right over his blue-striped tie. Could she feel the thump of his heart beneath it? Could she sense he wanted her hand lower, pressed against yet another erection, just as she pressed against the silk tie? On impulse, he wrapped his fingers around hers and squeezed.

“I need…” She paused, lips parted. She focused on his mouth, then shifted her gaze to their locked hands. He realized he still had Fiona’s necklace in his palm.

“I believe this is intended for you.” Patrick folded the pendant into her hand.

Smiling, Riley closed her fingers around it. “I never thought I’d see the day it came off her neck permanently. She would’ve raised holy hell if she found out the staff had removed it at the hospital when she was admitted. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve it before she regained…” She gave a light laugh. “I guess I can’t say she’s ever fully regained her senses.”

Patrick touched the silver chain that dangled from her hand. “She was aware enough to know it was still around her neck. Imagine her upset if she’d found it gone.”

That brightened her smile. “True.” She rubbed the thin coin between her fingers.

“It was as much a part of her as the peppermints she carried in her purse. When I was a kid, I asked her if it was pirate treasure. She said…” He laughed lightly at the memory. She’d said then what she’d told them minutes before.

“It’s gypsy fire. Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be. Never forget that, young Patrick.”

Riley held the silver up between them. Age had worn the impressions on it to bare visibility and made it blade-thin. “Gypsy fire. That’s what she always called it.”

“I remember.” Patrick touched the surface next to her thumb. “It’s very old.”

“Centuries…if you believe the tale.”

“I don’t think I ever heard that one.”

Though Fiona had spun other stories for him when he visited the law office. She knew how to capture a child’s imagination. Even at the ripe “old age” of thirty-two Patrick still liked to hear them.

Riley’s eyes held some of the mischief he’d seen in Fiona’s. “Ages ago a necklace was forged over a campfire by a gypsy man for his gypsy love—”

“Over a gypsy fire.”

Riley giggled. “Exactly…and don’t forget this was in days of yore.”

He gave her a nod. “Of course. Continue, please.”

“He forged each coin from the finest silver, infused it with love. The hole in this one was drilled by his hand when he drilled the others to link. No one knows how many coins the necklace held, but it’s believed to have been a small fortune. On the night he was to give it to her, he found her ravished by another. He used the necklace as a garrote and strangled the man. It broke, scattering coins everywhere.

“Our lovestruck couple gathered as many as they could find and fled from the kingdom, for to stay meant certain death for one and banishment for the other. No one knows what became of them. Some say they lived happily ever after. Some say evil was attached to the coins once the man was killed. The coins are still found every so often, part of the gypsy fire, for there were so many on the necklace, the couple couldn’t take them all. One thing everyone does agree on is—”

“Once you’ve been kissed by gypsy fire, there’s no turning back. The quicker one accepts their fate, the happier they’ll be.”

“Yes. Gram always told us too, that whoever holds gypsy fire holds the key to riches beyond imagination. It is a powerful ally and a dangerous foe. Choose wisely.” She laughed. “Rather like in an Indiana Jones movie.”

This was the happiest he’d seen her since they’d met a month before. Damn, he wanted to kiss her. Those bright blue eyes so filled with life looked into his right then. Patrick couldn’t breathe, much less think straight. Their fingers were still locked around the coin. Bound, some part of his mind said. Her lips parted—soft, inviting.

Time slowed as he bent toward her. He felt her breath become part of his. He was hot. Gypsy fire.

Their lips touched, froze together. A sigh settled them into the tender caress. Then, in unison, their tongues reached out, became one. The kiss deepened. His mind folded in on itself. He felt the touch of her chest to his, then her pelvis. But the coin locked them as one, not their arms. He deepened the kiss but it was Riley who demanded it of him. He wanted to feel her flesh, the heat of it, the silk of it, inside and out.

The bedroom door whipped open, shattering the moment. Still, they didn’t jerk from the kiss, merely pulled apart.

“Where the hell is it?” Heather demanded. She zeroed in on the coin clasped between their fingers. “Give me that. I’m the oldest. It’s rightfully mine.”

She snatched it away before they could stop her. The edges sliced through Patrick’s fingers like a razor. Riley’s gasp mirrored his. She’d been cut as well. He caught her hand and pressed his wounded fingers over hers while he glared at Heather.

“Fiona gave it to Riley,” he told her.

“Don’t.” Riley lifted her uninjured hand. “It’s not worth fighting over. All that matters is Gram. I have all I could possibly want or need.”

“I don’t.” Heather held up the coin. “But I’m going to.”

“Then I hope you enjoy it.” Riley slipped free of Patrick’s hold and walked away.

Heather’s smirk of triumph led her back to her great-grandmother’s side.

Bring Me To Life by Caitlyn Willows

BringMeToLife

 

BRING ME TO LIFE
by Caitlyn Willows
Short Contemporary
December 2017
Cover Art – Trace Edward Zaber

Amy Thornton felt as if she’d died the night her husband was killed. Now, two years later, she’s ready to starting living again, and she knows just the man to help her do so. All she has to do is get him to admit he wants her as much as she wants him. One call to Colbert Escort and Security Services brings owner Josh Colbert running to her door and with him all the emotions she’d forgotten exist. Little does she realize the power in her hands–to crush Josh’s heart or to bring it to life.

Author note: This is a re-issue of a previously released title.

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Reviews:

FIVE LIPS! Bring Me To Life is a beautiful, sexy, exciting, and absolutely exhilarating love story that you don’t want to miss reading! I chose it because of the superb reputation of Caitlyn Willows as well as the intriguing storyline. I expected good, even great, and was rewarded with fantastic, riveting, delightful, and completely immersing! Josh is amazing. His insecurities are sweet, touching, and very real and Amy’s wants and desires, clear and focused. The way that these two come together is hot as well as poignant and moving. Between the tender emotion and entertaining banter, I loved Bring Me To Life and am confident that you will too! ~Kerin, Two Lips Reviews

FIVE HEARTS! What a wonderful story! Bring Me to Life is a novella with a unique plot and is told in such a manner that it is extremely easy to feel as if you are part of the narrative. The romance is explicit from the very beginning, but it is not so “over the top” that it becomes a tale of nothing but sexual encounters…. an incredibly sexy story about love the second time around and the mistakes made when two people are actually “too close” to the situation to realize the pitfalls which can sabotage their pending relationship. The book is captivating and one worthy to be read more than once. Good job, Ms. Willows! I appreciate the chance to read this and believe that others will be thrilled when they, too, read this book! ~Brenda Talley, The Romance Studio

BRING ME TO LIFE is sexually and emotionally charged. Amy and Josh have deep feelings for one another and it’s time they explored said feelings. Throw off the covers and get ready for some heat when you open up BRING ME TO LIFE. ~Sinclair Reid, Romance Reviews Today

FIVE HEARTS! This is a very touching, emotional story of two people who have held their feelings back, but in one night let everything out. It is a story that will have the reader turning the pages to see how their relationship turns out. The reader will certainly feel the heat between these two multi-dimensional characters as Ms. Willows brings them together very intimately. BRING ME TO LIFE is a very evocative story. This reviewer found this story very emotional. It gave her a warm tingly feeling at the end and made her sigh with content. Caitlyn Willows is a new author for this reviewer and this will certainly not be the last book she reads. Ms. Willows masterfully blends a great romance with emotion and sensual, erotic love scenes. This reviewer will be looking for more! ~Valerie, Love Romances And More

FOUR CUPS! Delightfully sexy and touching. Ms. Willows puts heart into this story as a widow decides to come back to life. Fabulous characters; this couple is perfect for each other and the author makes sure the reader feels it. Set at a steady pace with touching moments and wickedly erotic love scenes, this is truly a romantic romp not to be missed. ~Wateena, Coffee Time Romance

The chemistry between the couple was explosive and erotic in nature. Their love scenes are sure to leave you breathless with desire and panting for more. Enjoy! ~Nikita Steele, Joyfully Reviewed

Bring Me to Life by Caitlyn Willows is one tale that any reader will love from its sexy hero to Amy’s courage to continue going on and become stronger than ever. I loved Amy for here is a woman who has known heartache with a loving man to learn that it is not wise to stay secluded and hidden from life for the past two years. Now if there ever was a man to be her other half that is Josh Colbert. Here is a guy who knows what he wants and that’s Amy. These two are not only sexually compatible but man they heat up the pages even without the love scenes, and only Caitlyn Willows can bring two people like them together in a short story book. ~Lena C., Fallen Angel Reviews

FOUR STARS! [A]n interesting story about the aftermath of death and the start of living again. There are intense and arousing sexual scenes between Amy and Josh (read this out loud with someone you love!) I was amazed and aroused. The sexual encounters are important to the plot, but they also fit perfectly into Amy and Josh’s continuing love story. The characters are well written, including a secondary character that provides comic relief. I have again enjoyed a book written by Ms. Willows! ~Marcy Arbitman, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

BRING ME TO LIFE is a heart-warming story about a second chance at love. Josh and Amy are very interesting and independent characters who need each other in order to feel alive. Caitlyn Willows has written a wonderful story that touched my heart and made me root for these two characters to find the love they deserve. This is a story that should not be missed! ~Robin, My Book Cravings

Excerpt:

Amy Thornton’s hands shook as she read the newspaper ad for the fifth time. She couldn’t believe she was considering this act of desperation. She didn’t know what else to call it. Morning light streaming through the windows of her breakfast nook spilled over the ad. Was it calling her attention to it, or trying to make her see how stupid this was?

Perched on the edge of her chair, she jiggled her legs under the table, trying to expend nervous energy, while she weighed her decision for the thousandth time. She was lonely, sad, and all the sex toys in the world didn’t help ease that deep ache inside. She needed to be held, touched, loved on. With Dan’s death two years ago, she’d died too. She needed someone—anyone—to bring her back to life, and she knew just who that someone was going to be.

She pushed the newspaper back and returned to nibbling her raisin toast. Amy would be the first to admit it had taken her a long time to pull herself out of that pit of shock, grief, despair, and depression. It still strangled her heart each time she recalled that awful night. One minute she and Dan were standing outside Mario’s Trattoria waiting for the valet to bring their car around. The next minute Dan was dead, along with six other people—all victims of a driver who’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Yes, it’d been a very long time to crawl from the pit—eighteen months. But she was out now, ready to breathe in life once more.

Unfortunately, it appeared as though their friends and associates weren’t ready for her to do so. It didn’t take long for Amy to see the sad truth—most everyone respected Dan too much to make a move on his widow. Any men who smiled her way were snagged aside fast and told to back off. While Amy had appreciated that consideration during the first year, it had grown very trying later when she was ready to explore the world that awaited her.

But she was the widow of the sainted Dan Thornton—whose legend seemed to grow each day—and now the head of his multi-million-dollar production company. Her reputation could not be besmirched, or that of the company. A liaison with the wrong man could end in disaster for all, or so she’d been advised by her directors. She wondered if they were more concerned she’d marry and her new husband would attempt to take over the company. Not that anyone had said anything, but she could see worry in their eyes.

It was the same look she got that first day she’d walked into the boardroom and announced she’d be stepping into Dan’s shoes. She’d expected the cool reception they’d given her. It was the same frosty demeanor Dan had received when he’d taken over after his father’s death five years ago. It didn’t take long for him to win them over.

Amy followed his example and didn’t back down. The directors had eventually warmed to her when they realized she wasn’t a ball of fluff and knew what the hell she was doing. Now they guarded her like a queen in a fairy castle. Any white knight attempting to rescue her was drowned in the moat before a single digit touched her drawbridge.

Amy sighed and drew the paper toward her again. She didn’t need rescuing, she needed male contact. She needed to get laid. Was it asking so much? Out of the millions of men in Los Angeles, wasn’t there one with balls enough to scale the battlements and fuck her good and proper?

She buried her head in her hands. It was more than that. She wanted to laugh again, feel the warmth of another body next to hers as she slept, to not be single at a table of couples. She wanted Josh Colbert.

She couldn’t say when she’d realized Josh was the main person responsible for chasing away would-be suitors. She’d noticed it by accident two months before at a party. Some actor had cornered her over a platter of mini-quiches—a nice-looking man, with an interesting smile, who seemed capable of intelligent conversation. Amy had been intrigued. She’d turned away to set her champagne glass on the tray of a passing waiter. When she looked back, the man was gone. Josh had him by the arm, their heads bent in serious conversation. The actor moved on to other prey, studiously ignoring her.

Curiosity had her seek out another male at that same party. Josh wasted no time cutting him off. Then another and another, until Amy was fairly certain she had the answer she was looking for. Josh wanted her for himself. So she’d flashed him what she presumed was a knowing smile over the fresh champagne flute she’d toyed with. His brown eyes had dilated, his nostrils flared while his long fingers tightened around his glass. Her glance down had revealed his tux was considerably tighter across his crotch.

Yes, definitely interested.

Getting him to make a move, however, was a different issue.

Years of marriage had taught her a lot about male pride. She couldn’t come right out and confront Josh with how he felt, not when she couldn’t be sure how he’d react. Now that her eyes had been opened to the possibilities, she wanted him in her arms, not running the other way screaming denial.

Josh and Dan had been friends for a long time. Dan had given Josh part of the start-up money to help get the Los Angeles franchise of Colbert Escort and Security Services going. It had turned out to be a good investment. Dan had recouped his investment and then some in less than six months. Josh had been more than grateful for the help.

Amy needed to make sure that elephant was banished completely. Josh had to admit he wanted her because that’s what he wanted, not out of any feeling that he owed Dan, or, heaven forbid, that he had to protect Amy from all the men in the world, even himself.

Josh wasn’t inclined to let other men near her. He wasn’t inclined to approach her either. Someone needed a little prodding. She’d been alone long enough. They were going to resolve this. Either Josh would step up to the plate and admit his feelings, or he would step away and let Amy move on. Although doing the latter felt akin to another death all over again. Her heart and body were set on him.

Since that party she hadn’t been able to get Josh out of her mind. His smile, his laugh, the light in his eyes, the way the edges of his brown hair curled ever-so slightly against his collar. She’d seem him dressed to the nines and stripped down to swim trunks. His looks could devastate a woman’s senses no matter what he wore. Amy could almost feel herself tucked against that hard body as they danced. Could easily imagine his weight bearing her into the mattress as she wrapped her legs around him. Could almost taste his lips as they merged with hers.

Damn his stubbornness. The man needed a serious wake-up call.

It seemed like hiring an escort from his company was as good a place to start as any. Perhaps that would open his eyes.

Her palms sweated as she reached for her cell phone. She wiped them on her white shorts. There’d be no tennis with the girls today if this worked according to plan. The privacy of her home was a good place for a trial run. Her friends often teased her, but Amy was really glad now that she and Dan had never had live-in staff. The cleaning, landscaping, and pool maintenance services all came once a week. If she had a large gathering, which hadn’t happened since before Dan’s passing, she hired a caterer. It was one of the smartest moves she’d ever made. The one she was about to make remained to be seen.

She punched in the number before her courage failed her. A woman picked up on the second ring, answering in smooth, cultured tones. “Colbert Escort and Security Services, how can we help you today?”

You can get Josh Colbert’s tight buns over here.

“I’d like a dinner escort for this evening. I’d like to inquire about your special services and rates.”

That ought to get his attention. Colbert wasn’t a front for prostitution. Their agreements were very specific about the services they provided, and especially those they did not provide. But many of the escorts were trained massage therapists. The prospect of Amy nude with a man’s hands roaming her body ought to give him pause.

“Excellent. I’m Nancy and I’ll be more than happy to make the arrangements.” Her confidence boosted Amy’s. This ploy really might work. “Let’s start with the basics.”

That involved Amy’s name, address, phone number, billing information. They progressed to the evening’s date—where she wanted to go, if she wanted limo service. She opted for a quiet dinner in a romantic restaurant and no limo.

“Excellent.” She heard the keyboard tap out the information through the phone. “Now for our special service… Do you want male or female? Before or after the date, or for an extended period of time?”

Amy’s confidence faltered. What if this didn’t work? Suddenly being naked, even under innocuous circumstances with a strange man didn’t feel so enticing. The last thing she wanted was to set up a schedule for massages when she already had one.

“Let’s forget about that one.”

“Gone. If there should be a need, please know your escort is fully trained in all the arts.”

She resisted the urge to ask which ones. Getting Josh’s attention was one thing, making veiled innuendoes about his business was another. She wanted him in her bed, not pissed off.

“Now, what type of man would you like? Being as specific as possible will help us match your wishes.”

“Well, I’d like for him to not look like he’s fifteen.” She and Josh had frequently joked about how young everyone was starting to look to them.

Nancy’s soft laughter filtered back. “Boy, do I know what you mean. Lately, they’re all starting to look like high school students to me. Our boss teases me about that all the time.”

Amy smiled. She’d bet some of their older clientele liked them looking on the young side. Maybe she should really rattle Josh’s cage and pick the youngest escort she could find. No, this had to be believable if she was going to pull it off.

“No baby faces,” Nancy said, and Amy heard the click of the keyboard as the woman typed in the information. “What else?”

“No taller than six feet. No shorter than five-ten. More muscle than lean but not overweight. I also want him fit, not muscle bound. Brown hair and eyes. Strong hands, a good sense of humor, well read, a gentleman, punctual, and…” Laughter swallowed the rest of her list. “I guess I was a little too specific.” She’d pretty much described Josh.

“Not at all,” Nancy quickly assured her. “We want you to have a good time. You won’t be able to do that if you’re focused on some facet you find distressing. Anything else?”

“No, that’s all I can think of.”

“Excellent, give me a few seconds to access our files to see who’s available. Ah, here we are. Brian Ross. In fact, he just walked in and is nodding his acceptance as we speak. Would you like to talk to him?”

“No. That won’t be necessary. I’ll see him tonight.” Unless she missed her guess, Brian Ross wouldn’t get within five miles of her house.

“Good. Six it is. One of our representatives will be by shortly with paperwork for you to sign. We have to ensure you’re completely aware of the services you’ve requested, and of the ones we cannot provide. You’ll also have our nondisclosure agreement. We want nothing to distract from the evening. This gets it all out of the way before then to help keep the night enjoyable.”

“Wonderful.” Perfect, in fact. “Thank you. I appreciate your attention to the small details.”

“Thank you so much for calling Colbert Escort and Security Services.”

Amy set the phone down. Phase One complete. Now for Phase Two—wait for Josh to show up and pray her minimal acting skills held up.