Menace To Society – Caitlyn Willows

MenaceToSociety

Menace To Society
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense- BDSM
October 2017
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-395-7

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.

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Always Faithful (Book 1 – Rules of Engagement) by Caitlyn Willows

AlwaysFaithful

 

ALWAYS FAITHFUL
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romantic Suspense
September 2017
Totally Bound
ISBN 978-1-78686-244-0

They hunt a killer who will stop at nothing to protect his identity, even if that means threatening the one link between them—their son.

When Staff Sergeant Rowan McKinley is charged with murder, she wants the best defense counsel the Marine Corps has to offer—Captain Phillip Stuart. Seeking his help means opening old wounds. It’s a risk she must take to save herself.

Phillip swore he’d never have anything to do with the one woman who had not only broken his heart but had crushed it. Helping her was personal suicide. But professionally, it could be the coup de grace of his career—that next rung on the ladder, the next challenge he was looking for.

The love and passion each thought gone sparks to life—only now it is forbidden by military law. Knowing the rules and adhering to them are very different matters. But who should make the sacrifice when both are destined to soar to the top of their ranks?

The choice might be taken from their hands. There is a killer with just as much to lose who will stop at nothing to protect his identity, even if that means threatening the one link between Phillip and Rowan—the son Phillip never knew he had.

Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere and has been revised and re-edited for re-release.

BUY LINKS:

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Amazon

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Kobo Books

EXCERPT:

Always faithful. Semper Fi. Captain Phillip Stuart shook his head at the term. ‘Faithful’ didn’t include forcing yourself on young girls or stealing cash out of a platoon buddy’s locker when they were out to sea on a training mission.

What has the Marine Corps come to? Thieves, murderers and rapists? The lot of them should be taken out and shot.

Of course, doing so would put military lawyers out of a job. Heaven forbid the little slime balls didn’t get a fair trial. Phillip was eternally grateful he no longer dealt with defense cases.

Shifting slightly on the hard courtroom chair, he straightened his papers and listened to the continuing drone of the defense attorney’s voice as she pled her client’s case. He didn’t know why she bothered. The look on the jurors’ faces indicated they had already found him guilty. It didn’t matter what extenuating or mitigating matters she threw out. Her client would go to jail for a very long time. He shifted again and let the squeaking wooden chair show his annoyance.

Laura Cushing shot him a glare from where she stood before the members. Good. He’d broken her concentration. Not easy to do. She was a tough opponent. But this long, drawn-out trial was stretching all their nerves to the breaking point.

After a few closing words, Laura sat, looking satisfied with herself. She was good. He was better.

Phillip stretched to his full six-four height and flexed his shoulders. With all the stealth of a jaguar stalking its prey, he approached the center of the courtroom.

Intimidate the witness. Impress the members. That was half the battle. A deep breath, a casual glance toward his opponent’s table, then…

He attacked, going straight to the heart of the case. He dissected Laura’s defense point by point, pulling apart the pieces with the precision of a surgeon. He let his words drift into the minds of those military members seated as the jury. Then, with the same lack of speed, he resumed his seat. The chair groaned under his weight.

Phillip sliced a glance at the defense table. The accused sat there, a fresh-faced young man all of nineteen. His big hands were clasped before him as if in prayer. It set Phillip’s teeth on edge. What right does he have to pray? Those young girls had begged and prayed before he’d forced himself on them. Had he listened?

Laura snapped to her feet and marched forward to take his place. It was no use. All the golden words she summoned could not save her client. Phillip knew it and so did she. After thirty minutes of deliberation, the members of the jury and the rest of the courtroom had realized it, too.

Phillip listened to the sentence with smug satisfaction. Twenty-five years at Leavenworth. That was what he called justice, although castration might not be a bad idea either.

In the back of the courtroom, one set of parents cried while the others—those of the victims—sighed with relief. The accused—the guilty—let his head drop. It was the only display of emotion he showed. No tears. No regrets. He didn’t flinch. Phillip fought the urge to demand to know if the man felt remorse for anyone but himself.

Once the judge had left the courtroom, the prisoner escort came in. Then the young Marine started bawling. Yeah, he had regrets—that he’d been caught. His father refused to look his way while his mother rushed to his side. She wrapped her arms around him in a hug he refused to return.

Rather than watch the guy be hauled away in shackles, Phillip celebrated his victory with a cigar on the back steps of the military justice building. How many times had he reflected on past and future glories in such a way? Lately, though, the battles left his stomach sour, more often than not.

There wasn’t much he hadn’t heard over his career. Most of it sickened rather than shocked him. Now, prosecuting the rabble of the Marine Corps tired him. Time to reach for the next rung on the ladder.

After graduating law school, he’d thought the way had shone clear, focused, his career path set. He shook his head. His goals had been regimented at the time. They had been all he’d had—a means to forget.

Unfortunately, they were still all he had. Phillip wasn’t sure he wanted those same goals anymore.

The door opened behind him. A rush of cool air brushed over his shoulders and back then stopped when the door closed. Phillip knew without looking that it was Laura. He could smell her perfume—an elusive scent that evoked memories of a long-ago time and someone else he wished he could forget.

She dusted off the step and eased down beside him, careful not to snag her hose on the concrete. Resting her forearms on her knees, she stared ahead.

“Congratulations. Another victory for the great and powerful Phillip Stuart.”

He chewed on his cigar and absorbed the view of the gray mountains surrounding Camp Pendleton.

“Sarcasm, Laura? How unlike you.”

“Cut the crap. That boy didn’t deserve twenty-five years in prison and you know it.”

“Please save me the she-asked-for-it speech. You didn’t have to listen to the sobs each and every time those girls told their stories before trial. Don’t tell me it was faked every time. I know better.”

She tilted her head his way. “Come on, Phillip. He’s only nineteen, still a teenager himself. It was consensual. Daddy caught them and she cried rape. If that girl shed tears, it was only because she got caught. This has been nothing but a witch hunt with an excellent cast of performers. The girl’s past conduct showed that.”

“Irrelevant. Forensics evidence proved their story.”

“It proved they had sex. There was no evidence to support assault of any kind.”

“We’re not talking about one girl here. We’re talking about six. There’s no way you’re ever going to convince anyone all six of them were lying. Get your bleeding-heart head out of the sand, Laura. We’ve had this discussion before. It’s over. Case closed.”

“Obviously, but have you asked yourself this? When you were nineteen, can you honestly say you could resist the charms of a willing sixteen-year-old?”

He leveled a frosty stare her way.

Laura gave an exaggerated wince. “What was I thinking? How dare I suggest you would be less than perfect?” She slowly shook her head and gave a soft, humorless laugh. “You are the most handsome man I’ve ever met—Mister Perfect, aristocratic features, golden hair. Poster Marine all the way. But you’re dead inside. You have no feelings, no compassion. Your eyes are the coldest gray I’ve ever seen—like a frozen pond in the dead of winter. I pity the woman who winds up with you.”

He blew a puff of smoke into the air. “I take it then that you’re saying it’s really over between us?”

She gave a small, bitter laugh. “Don’t flatter yourself and don’t play that game with me. It’s been over for quite some time now. It was never anything more than an occasional dinner with a friend, as far as I’m concerned.”

But the remorse in her eyes told a different story. He had regrets, too. He’d wanted her to be the one to erase the memory of another, to make him love and care and see goodness in the world once more. In the end she, like the few other women he’d dated over the last nine years, fell short of that need. She had been a stand-in, nothing more. Comparing Laura to—

No. Don’t go there. It hurt too much. It always did. If he lived to be a hundred, he doubted the pain and bitterness would ever die.

Phillip looked away to give her some shred of dignity. Or was it to hide the guilt seeping to the surface like a festering wound?

Laura pushed to her feet and slipped quietly inside the building.

He ground out his cigar on the cement steps and returned to his office. Victory no longer tasted sweet. Behind his gray metal desk, some stability returned.

His gaze drifted around his office, taking in the mementos of his career with the Marine Corps—his Amphibious Warfare School awards, the jump school medals in their rosewood frame, a souvenir shirt commemorating his time served in the Mediterranean aboard the USS Boxer. If there was an opportunity, he’d taken it. Anything to further his career. Somehow it still wasn’t enough. Even though his career was flourishing, he felt an emptiness he could not define.

The small picture of his family shoved into the corner of his desk caught his eye. The four Stuarts stood together at his graduation from Naval Justice School, looking uncomfortable. His father exuding aristocratic disapproval. His mother and sister Claudia smiled uncertainly as the camera caught them in such an atypical family moment.

They’d never understood why he’d had to do it—why he’d turned his back on the Stuart fortune. Phillip hadn’t bothered to explain. The year before, Claudia had come to the same realizations he had. Like her brother, it had taken a broken heart to open her eyes.

He turned the picture face down. On second thought, he shoved it into his drawer under a pile of paperwork. With everything else going through his mind, the last thing he needed to resurrect was his relationship with his family—particularly his father.

“Excuse me, sir?” His clerk stuck his head in through the office door. “There’s a package for you. It just arrived from the Commanding General at Twentynine Palms. Must be important because they made sure I signed for it.”

Phillip tore his gaze from the closed drawer. “Thanks, Corporal.”

He shut his mind to his family and accepted the bulky envelope. Once the door closed, he rummaged through the desk for his platinum letter opener, a concession gift from his father upon graduation from law school. Phillip kept hoping someone would steal it.

Then why keep the damn thing? The answer came too quickly. It was a trophy—a reminder of what his father was and what Phillip prayed he would never be.

With a flick of his wrist, he sliced open the envelope. The contents slid out onto the desktop and bold type near the middle of the page leaped out at him.

The accused, Staff Sergeant Rowan A. McKinley, requests your presence as independent military counsel…

Phillip’s face drained of color. His gut twisted. Breathing was out of the question.

Odd, when he had been thinking of her only minutes before. But then, when didn’t he think of her?

Beautiful, talented Rowan McKinley… The one woman he held up against the others. The one who hadn’t bothered to return his heart before she’d walked out of his life.

What the hell is she doing in the Marine Corps? More importantly, what had she done to need the services of a Marine defense attorney?

Time stopped as he grappled for the stack of papers—or maybe it took a giant step back. In either event, Phillip couldn’t put two coherent thoughts together. Before he could read on, the door to his office flew open. The tan, inquiring face of his best friend and fellow attorney, Captain Zachary Taylor, poked around the doorjamb.

“I got a call from a friend of mine at the base in Twentynine Palms. There’s been a murder involving a staff sergeant, some woman by the name of—”

“McKinley,” Phillip muttered. Afraid Zach would see the true depth of his feelings, he kept his gaze locked on the papers. “The case has been offered to me.”

Zach lunged for the papers, snatching them out of Phillip’s grasp. “Well, aren’t you Mr. Popularity. Let’s have a look-see.”

He scanned the request form, eyes widening. “Why you? You’re not a defense counsel. This staff sergeant could have any military attorney at that base or even a civilian lawyer, providing she could afford one.”

Zach glanced up before Phillip could mask his feelings. The teasing stopped as Zach’s deep brown eyes narrowed with suspicion. He knew Phillip too well. A definite downfall in having a best friend.

“What is she to you?”

“What was she, you mean.” Phillip met Zach’s steady gaze with one of his own. “She was once the most important person in my life.” His mouth twisted and he whispered, “The bitch.”

Zach tossed the papers back to the desk. “That’s funny. I’ve known you for over eight years and you’ve never mentioned her.” He dropped into the chair across from Phillip, resting his feet on the edge of the desk. “Why the big secret? What’s the story?”

Phillip sighed and copied his friend’s position. Zach’s ability to focus on and unearth information was uncanny. Now those relentless abilities were focused in his direction. He forced a deep breath and sketched out his turbulent history with Rowan McKinley.

* * * *

Rowan drew her knees up against her chest and wrapped her arms around them in an effort to control her shaking. Nine hours of confinement in this tiny cell and she still hadn’t been allowed to speak with or see anyone—not that they would listen to her, anyway.

Fools.

She took pride in her work. Her record reflected that. Legal administration might not be the blood and guts of the Corps, but it was important. Every separation, every investigative report that crossed her desk was dissected until nothing was left in question. So why would her word be doubted when she suspected foul play in the Lava training area?

Imagining things. That was what Rowan had been told over and over again, despite the five seemingly unrelated incidents that had come across her desk in the last month. Only Charlie would listen and now he was dead.

She was sure the command would see she was right, but the finger of blame was now pointed in her direction.

Rowan rested her head on her knees then winced as the bruised and swollen side of her face protested at the contact. Rocking back and forth on the metal-framed cot, she tried to quell the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. It was so close in the holding cell and she was so alone.

“Stop it!” She pushed the words through clenched teeth. “This isn’t going to help you at all.”

She flicked her gaze to the camera mounted in the corner of the room on the other side of the cell partition. Its baleful eye watched her every motion, allowing her no privacy. This portion of the room was small, too small. The cell’s dimensions barely spanned ten feet across. Even the dim light in the hallway didn’t help.

Rowan closed her eyes. Breathe. Take deep breaths. No hyperventilating.

Phillip was her only chance at getting out of this. She had to be strong—strong enough to endure the claustrophobia closing in, strong enough to face him again.

Phillip. She had forgotten nothing about him. How could she when she lived with his image every day? The way the sun gleamed off his golden head, the ready smile and his eyes.

God, those eyes! They could burn like quicksilver when his temper flared or glow a soft, satiny gray when they made love.

She was probably a fool for contacting him after all these years. But there was no doubt she needed his help and she would accept whatever consequences resulted from having him back in her life. Only Phillip could save her now. That was, if he accepted her request for his services.

The hallway door opened. The roar of the evaporative coolers lessened. A military policeman walked in and glared at her through the bars. “Your request for counsel has been expedited. They’re waiting for the captain to either accept or decline the case.”

“How long will that take?” Rowan fought in vain to keep the quiver from her voice. “When will I be able to contact my family?”

“You work in legal. You tell me.” He lowered his voice. “Frankly, I hope you get what you deserve. He was a friend of mine, murderer.”

He slammed the door in his exit, putting pressure back on the cooler. The roar this time was nothing compared to the pulse of blood in her ears.

“Yeah, he was a friend of mine, too,” Rowan replied to no one.

She tucked herself into the farthest corner of the cot, her despair as smothering as the walls surrounding her.

 

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.

BUY LINKS:

Totally Bound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo Books

Google Play

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.

 

 

Secrets We Keep by Caitlyn Willows

SecretsWeKeep

SECRETS WE KEEP
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotica – Contemporary (Menage) – Novel
March 2017
Cover Art – Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68262-308-7

Secrets we keep from our spouse, our lover, each other…ourselves. Secrets buried inside, some to fester, some to bloom. Secrets on a collision course that can’t be avoided and must breathe the light of day…

Dylan Mitchell is dedicated to two things: his wife and his job. He’s the agent who does whatever it takes to get his man, even if that means literally getting his man. It’s part of the job, his duty. Besides, Dylan gets to hook-up with his hot-as-hell wife, Susan, once a month for a night of unfettered sex. It’s all good. Right?

Ah…but those secrets.

It’s not just a job anymore. Emotions are involved—his, Susan’s, and Cabot Logan’s, the man Dylan is supposed to put behind bars. His two worlds aren’t about to overlap, they’re going to collide. Real world and undercover. Secrets revealed. Secrets Dylan’s kept from himself.

But Susan has a secret of her own. So does Cabot. Those secrets and that of others are on a collision course of their own. And the aftermath will change everything…forever…

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EXCERPT:

“Well?” he demanded when Hank answered on the first ring.

“It’s set and in place. Leave through the front door. Take her with you. Gabriel and Sanchez are posing as plainclothes detectives downstairs and waiting to arrest you both for prostitution. That’ll get you off the street and back with us. We’ll take the scenario from there and build up the necessary front once you come in.”

“No cuffs.”

Susan’s eyebrow lifted.

“No booking on the records. No mug shots. No—”

“For someone demanding extraction, you’re being awful picky,” Hank snapped.

“This is my wife. I did trust him, and he sure as hell didn’t deserve it.

The elevators opened on the first floor. Marble tile mirrored every step. The revolving doors were just ahead, ready to spin them back to their lives. Bellmen hovered to escort guests inside. Traffic was light but steady. Taxis would be just out of sight. Valets whisked other vehicles away the minute the drivers stepped out. It was a protected area, away from the public’s prying eyes. Gabriel and Sanchez were most likely waiting for Dylan to step outside. They’d pull up and invite them into the car, after they made it clear to eavesdroppers they were being arrested. No scene. No publicity. No embarrassment for the hotel.

Dylan wished to hell he was armed. He’d had to leave all weapons behind when he went undercover.

They reached the sweep of revolving glass doors. Susan glanced up at him. He offered her what he hoped was a smile of reassurance to go with the squeeze around her waist. They stepped into together.

One…two…three steps and they were outside.

A shiny black limo zipped to a stop at the curb. The back door swung open. Sky blue eyes peeked out from inside. Dread crawled down Dylan’s spine.

Cabot Logan had one paint-splattered sneaker out of the limo. Gabriel and Sanchez were just pulling into the hotel drive and stuck behind three taxis.

“Get in now,” Cabot told him. “Hurry.”

Dylan gently pushed Susan away from him—better to save her than himself—and started for the car.

Cabot’s gaze darted to Susan, widening a bit before he shuttered his expression. “Both of you. Now!”

Dylan braced himself for the rush of bodyguards forcing them inside. Survivor instinct, he supposed, like the muscles bunching to dive if he heard the click of a handgun chambering a round demanding he comply with Cabot’s order. The privacy window between driver and passengers was down. Jorge was behind the wheel. No one else appeared to be inside, only those sky-blue eyes calling him into the vehicle. There was a panicked edge to Cabot’s voice Dylan had never heard before and he couldn’t quite place what it was. Anger would be more appropriate than fear. It was both those…and something more. What the fuck?

Anger swept everything else away. There was only one way Cabot would know about that. Okay, several ways. All of which pointed to the fact the investigation was screwed and Dylan along with it.

If he turned and walked away right now, would he get a bullet in the back for his effort? Should he play again and see what he could salvage? The thought made him laugh at the irony. Minutes ago, he wanted to dump it all and leave. Now he was trying to fix it?

Right now he had a much bigger problem. He had to find a way to leave Susan behind and safe. Gabriel and Sanchez would pull her in as planned and get her home.

“The woman’s not a part of it,” he told Cabot.

His lip curled at the corner, deepening the curve bracketing it. “Oh, she’s very much a part.” He jerked his head toward the car. “In. I’d hate to have a scene. I’ve risked a lot to save your ass tonight.”

Not nearly as much as Dylan risked right now. Both his worlds hadn’t just overlapped, they’d collided. Implosion was imminent.

He pressed his hand against the small of Susan’s back, urging her forward. She moved without question, trusting him when he didn’t deserve it. Soon it would all be over. There wasn’t much Dylan could do to stop the train wreck. Not that he’d be alive to see the aftermath. But she would. He’d make sure of that. He’d rather her live out the remainder of her life hating him than to have her killed for his acts.

Susan ducked into the car. Dylan slid onto the leather seat beside her.

“No”—Cabot sat down and shut the door—“I want her between us.”

It was Susan who moved, crawling over Dylan’s lap, then wiggling into the space between the two men. Dylan shifted so his body turned toward them. It gave Susan room to put some distance between herself and Cabot, and Dylan better positioned to protect her, if necessary. She clutched her small purse with both hands, gaze focused exclusively on Cabot. Dylan considered sliding over to the opposite bench seat, but didn’t want to upset him any further.

Cabot leaned toward the driver. “Jorge, could you please take us to the marina?”

“Anything. It is my pleasure.”

“Thank you. Sorry to shut you out, but we need to discuss a few things.”

Cabot closed the privacy window between them as he fished his cell phone from the pocket of his khaki cargo pants, also paint-splattered. He’d been working at one of the houses the Tristan Foundation was renovating. Jorge must have stopped by and offered Cabot a ride.

Wicked tonight. There will be other times.” He ended the call and dropped the phone back into his pocket.

“I wonder if her mother is as interesting as yours seems to be,” he said.

Dylan fought the urge to wrap a protective arm around Susan and pull her closer. He’d given Cabot the excuse he always did during these monthly trysts—that he was visiting his mother. The soft interior lighting didn’t help Dylan read the man. It cast shadows and highlighted the mix of emotions on Cabot’s face. Cabot was more closed off than ever, all walls firmly in place. Dylan didn’t like it, for many reasons. Guilt and fear were at the top of his list, the horrible knowledge he’d hurt this man—this seemingly good man—deeply.

“Here I thought you wearing the tie I’d given you was to impress your mom.” Cabot reached over and hooked his finger under the blue silk.

A whiff of Susan’s juices drifted Dylan’s way. Cabot couldn’t help but smell it too.

His eyebrow lifted while he absorbed that fact. “Clearly, you found other uses for it tonight.” He dropped the tie and leaned back. “When I heard you were going to be arrested for prostitution, I couldn’t believe it. I thought…” He shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t suppose it matters what I thought. This”—he waved his finger at Susan—“explains so much and leaves so many more questions.”

He traced his finger down Susan’s cheek, down her throat, down to the valley of her breasts. Dylan didn’t know whether he wanted to break it or push it more firmly into place. Her nipples hardened, creating little shadows over her breasts in the passing light. Her breath changed to that little quiver she always got when aroused. Dylan’s cock stirred at the thought.

“She’s very beautiful.” Cabot followed the upper curve of her breasts, then wandered to her collarbone and the slight hollow above.

Her fingers flexed around the purse. Dylan watched her pulse flutter along her neck.

“I presume you have a name?”

“Does is really matter?” she replied.

Dylan applauded the fact she could speak and stay in the character she was supposed to be. Then Cabot curled his hand against her jaw and pressed his thumb on the point of her chin.

“Oh, it matters. It matters very much.”

“Susan.”

Goddamnit, baby. Not your real name.

“Wholesome, pure, simple. Not Suzie or Sue?”

She shrugged one shoulder. “Some shorten it to Sue. Some people put nicknames on everyone.”

 

Risk-Reward by Caitlyn Willows

riskreward

RISK-REWARD
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense- BDSM
November 2016
Cover Artist – Valerie Tibbs
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-237-0

What Casey Sullivan wants Casey Sullivan gets. And she wants David Deacon back. But how can she convince the hard-charging district attorney that they are better together than they are apart? How can she convince him that they have the life experience now to overcome their past demons? Easy. By offering him a reward for every risk he dares to take.

Wanting her had to be a sin. Having her could mean her death. It was why Dave had walked away all those years ago, and why he’d avoided her since. Yet the universe clearly had plans of its own. Plans that pushed them together more and more as their respective careers soared. upping the game when that lure failed to tempt him by constantly throwing him in her path. He couldn’t resist any longer. A one-night stand to get her out of his system, that was his plan, until Casey grabbed him by the heart and reminded Dave that for every risk there is a reward.

But the demons of the past linger, reminding them both of a risk neither has ever been able to face. It’s hard to see a reward when all that exists is a fear that all the life experience in the world can’t seem to banish.

Buy Links:

Loose Id

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Excerpt:

Casey woke to an erection poking against her backside, David’s lips nibbling her neck, his hand wrapped around her breast, and his thumb flicking her nipple. Sunlight trickled through a part in the drapes. The bedside clock proclaimed it to be nine o’clock. Late for her, even on a Sunday morning. Her phone next to the clock agreed. It flashed a rainbow of colors announcing missed calls, texts, and messages. But she hadn’t fallen asleep until five, and not because of her lascivious bedmate.

“I presume you have a plan for my morning breath?” she mumbled. His smelled minty fresh. Cheater.

“I do.”

He rolled her facedown, pulled her to all fours, and plunged his cock inside her.

“Your foreplay is a little lacking. But I’ll allow it.” Casey wiggled her hips. “Make it quick. I need coffee.”

David nipped her shoulder. “And I need you.”

Hot fingers brushed over her belly and stopped over her swelling clit. She nestled her cheek into her pillow, riding his strokes to a quick, sweet orgasm that left them both out of breath. He dotted kisses down her spine before rolling free.

“Let me get rid of this thing, and the bathroom’s all yours.” He kissed her and left the bed. “There’s a carafe of coffee over there.” He pointed to the table and chairs across the room.

“You could have led with that when you woke me.” She crawled out of bed and stumbled for the coffee.

“I didn’t want you to come that quickly. Pour a cup for me, would you?”

“My pleasure.” Casey leaned over the table and filled the two mugs. The sweet ambrosia of coffee filled her senses. David had even remembered she liked half-and-half.

“All yours.”

She glanced up to find him knotting the belt on the white robe she’d given him downstairs. “What? No breakfast pastry?”

David laughed and landed a solid swat against her backside as he sank into the chair. She let out a yelp and jerked upright.

“You do know how to live dangerously, don’t you? Don’t start something you can’t finish.”

“Oh, I can finish it. After I’ve had my coffee.” He winked and blew the steam off his mug.

“We’ll see about that, mister.” Casey placed her palms on the armrests and leaned in. “I’d be willing to bet you don’t even realize what you have started.”

“You might be surprised.”

That lift to his eyebrow challenged her. “Indeed.” She pushed away and headed off to take care of her own needs.

Behind closed doors, her thoughts intruded. David had slept without issue, deeply and soundly. For all her talk about being able to protect herself, she’d been hypervigilant to his every sound and move. She’d pushed to have him back in her life, thinking it wouldn’t matter, that she had a handle on what had happened. Fear ruled the great and powerful Casey Sullivan instead. She was supposed to be the strong one. Hell, she was the strong one. Not this time. That she was vulnerable and human knocked her down more than a few pegs.

That long-ago night had played in her mind over and over. It had happened so fast. One minute she’d been sound asleep. His scream had awakened her a second before his hand had clamped around her throat. She’d clawed for freedom and thrashed around for a weapon—the bedside landline—and hit him as hard as she could. David had jolted awake on a “What the fuck?” Casey had rolled away and turned on the lights. Terror had filled his eyes. They’d fallen into each other’s arms, sobbing.

She glanced in the mirror and found tears trickling down her cheeks. David couldn’t see her like this. It would involve too much explaining. Telling him would cause her to lose him all over again, and that was the last thing she wanted. But to live like this, with this constant fear? Now she knew how David felt. He’d lived with it openly all this time while she’d buried her head in the sand.

“Goddamn it,” she muttered, frantically flicking away tears. “Stop your fucking crying. Casey Sullivan does not cry.” Apparently this Casey Sullivan did and was making up for lost time.

She spun away from the mirror and charged into the shower stall. The glass door banged closed behind her. She twisted on the double showerheads and sank onto the marble bench set in the wall between them. Palms pressed into her eyes, she doubled over and let her agony out. Her dreams of a happily-ever-after with David taunted her. She’d been so cocky and sure of herself, never for one second imagining she was vulnerable.

“Oh, baby, what’s wrong?”

Casey jerked her head up. David shrugged off the robe and stepped into the shower. He reached for her, or she reached for him, or… Hell, she didn’t know. She’d been so lost in her agony she hadn’t even heard him walk in. Now that he was here, she didn’t want to let go. Ever.

David took the seat and cradled her on his lap. He soothed her with soft words and gentle caresses. It made her cry all the more. Not once did he press her for information. Maybe on some level, he already knew.

“Come on.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s get you cleaned up and out of here before the hot water runs out.”

There was little chance of that. Still, she let him care for her—washing her and her hair, turning the water off, towel drying her, even combing the tangles from her hair. Her love. Her man. Her heart and soul. And the one thing that scared her half to death. She’d been a fine one to talk counseling when she hadn’t done the same for herself. She hadn’t thought it mattered. She was wrong.

“Into the robe.”

David guided her arms through the sleeves, tied the rob shut, and then put his own robe back on before scooping her into his arms and carrying her back to the seating area. After sitting in his chair, he cradled her on his lap and handed her the mug of coffee. “If it’s too cold, I’ll dump it and pour you a new one.”

Casey sipped. It was too cold. “No, it’s perfect.” You’re perfect. I’ve missed you so much. I love you.

“Did I hurt you last night?” He brushed his hand over her thigh.

“No. You slept very well.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.”

“Because you were afraid I’d attack you.”

“Yes.” Damn, she couldn’t look him in the eye. This wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have. It would mean they were truly over. He’d never be back. Everything was lost.

Under the circumstances, isn’t that for the best?

Her heart screamed no while logic said yes.

“I guess even having kick-ass martial-art skills isn’t enough to chase the fear away, is it?” He reached for his mug.

Casey used the distraction to slip into the chair next to him. “I wasn’t expecting it,” she freely admitted.

“I can understand that. We talk about having control, but the fear is always in control. At least that’s how it is for me.”

She drained her mug and reached over him to set it on the table. “What do we do about it?”

David put his mug aside as well and pulled her astride his lap. “I don’t know.”

At least he hadn’t said I told you so. He brushed his thumbs against her sides. Judging from that worry line between his eyebrows, his thoughts were elsewhere. She could feel his walls going up and didn’t know how to stop that, or if she wanted to.

“I hate doubting my instincts.” Casey curled her fingers over his shoulders.

“Which ones? The ones that insisted you lure me to your bed, or the ones telling you that you’ve put yourself in a potentially lethal situation? Before you answer”—he pressed his index finger over her lips—“I have a war inside me too right now. One part of me says this was a big mistake. The other one…” He cupped her head to his shoulder. “I need time to think. You need some sleep.”

In other words, he was leaving. It tore her heart into itty-bitty pieces. She raised her head and kissed him, long and sweet, saying good-bye and begging him to stay at the same time. When their lips parted, he patted her on the butt and lifted her from his lap and onto the cushion.

“Take the Cherokee.” She tucked her feet under her and poured another mug of coffee. “I’ll arrange to get it later.”

“Thanks.”

He dressed quietly and efficiently. Casey drank her fill of him while she could. She felt like a coward, letting him go this way. Another alien concept. She was the one in charge, the one with the answers, the one who made everything all right.

David’s last act was to drape his jacket and tie over his arm. All told, it had taken him less than five minutes to prepare to walk out of her life again. He looked devastatingly handsome with his white shirt open at the collar. Temptation urged her to lick the hollow of his throat. That would lead to her unbuttoning the shirt, exploring his chest, cupping his crotch, dragging him back to bed. It was David who took action, though, bracing his hands on the armrests as he leaned in to kiss her good-bye. It started as a gentle touch of lips, then he thrust his tongue inside and deepened the kiss.

Casey bunched her robe in her fist and fought the moan welling up in her throat. He pulled away on a sharp gasp and butted his forehead to hers.

“I’ll call you. Okay?”

Somehow she managed to nod. He drew in a sigh as he stood, stared into her eyes for a couple of heartbeats, then walked away. Casey strained her ears for his passage through the house but heard nothing. The place was acoustically perfect. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Fifteen.

Finally she unfolded herself from her nest. Her phone rested on the nightstand. She’d lose herself in work, practice schooling her expression to neutral the next time their paths crossed in the course of business. Crawling into bed, she scrolled through the list of missed calls first. Connie, of course. They spoke at least twice a day. He’d called five times and left a CALL ME RIGHT NOW! text. She didn’t know whether to be alarmed or annoyed. Annoyed won out. Conrad Baxter might be a killer in the boardroom and dripping money, but he could also be one hell of a drama queen. Casey didn’t think she had the patience to deal with it right now. She had her own problems.

She heaved a sigh. Who better to tell her troubles to than Connie? He’d laid the world at her feet, helped her be all she was, and she him. He and Seth were her best friends and confidantes. Whatever meltdown he was having, he could damn well wait while she dumped her stuff on him for a change.

“Well, well, well,” he chortled when she called.

“Long night, angel?” Seth added.

Damn it all, they had her on speaker.

“You called?” she replied.

Laughter burst over the phone.

“Distant and snotty,” Connie said. “I love it.”

“Don’t play coy with us.”

She could almost see Seth wagging his finger.

“You and lover boy made the paper,” Seth said.

“Political section. Lovely night shot. A hot embrace. Captioned Lawyers In Love?” Connie added.

Fuck! “In the Times?”

“Oh yes,” they replied.

“Is he still there? Have we overstepped? Was it all you—”

“Stop it, Connie. Everything is all fucked up!” Her tears welled up again.

“Then spill all, darling. Need us there? We’ll head out right now.”

Suddenly, she was too spent emotionally to share confidences. “Not now. I’ve got work to do.” And a newspaper to grab from the driveway. She’d have to call David and warn him. There’d be fallout of some kind, even if it was only teasing. The district attorney hooking up with the people’s advocate was big gossip.

“I want to meet him,” Connie said, all humor vacant from his voice. “And if he doesn’t already know about us, you need to tell him before someone else does.”

He didn’t know. Enlightening him now was unnecessary. It was over. Even if David was able to overcome his fear, he wouldn’t be able to overcome hers. “Please. He hasn’t bothered to check on me in all these years, he certainly doesn’t need to be privy to our secrets now. It was a one-night stand, nothing more.”

“The picture says differently, angel,” Seth softly replied. “I’ll send you a snap of it.”

“Heat of the moment,” she snapped. “The moment’s over.”

Teamwork by Caitlyn Willows

teamwork

TEAMWORK
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Romantic Suspense (BDSM, menage)
October 2016
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN: 978-1-68252-228-8

FBI Special Agents Matt Oliver and Allie Quinn have a reputation for doing whatever it takes to stay alive and get the job done. It’s an added plus that part of their undercover assignment includes unfettered sex. Little do they realize what doing anything will involve when they come together for what is supposed to be a simple job…or how distracting that “anything” will be.

A short vacation keeps those sparks flying, but as they reassume their fake identities, each wonders if they can maintain that do-anything reputation now that love is barreling their way. Doing whatever it takes to complete an undercover mission holds new meaning to a man in love with his partner—a partner he now has to share with another man.

Bonus Story – Never Too Late: Simon Petrocelli and Emily Keating lost everything dear to them, including each other. Will Fate grant them another chance or is it too late?

NOTE: Re-release, re-edited and better than ever!

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id

Amazon

REVIEW:

4-1/2 STARS!!! Scorching BDSM, ménage and voyeuristic sex scenes combine with a continuing love story to fill the pages as only Willows can do…proving this erotica author has staying power. – Lisa Kelly, Romantic Times

EXCERPT:

Matt Oliver sank into the chair in his closet of a room and scrubbed his hand down his face. Holy shit, she was a hot woman. And one hell of an agent on top of that.

He’d worked with a lot of agents over the years—male and female. They all did what they had to in order to get the job done and stay alive. But this one? She was his other half, crazy as that sounded. She not only did whatever it took, lived the part she was playing, but she made him believe it too. They’d played off each other, instinctively trusting and knowing what the other was aiming for. No signals. No prearranged scenario. Just going for it.

Gordie wasn’t lying when he’d said she was a looker. Matt’s dick had noticed her walk in the second his eyes did. That long, gold-brown hair tumbled around her shoulders, the slight sway of her hips as she walked toward the cluster of chairs, that flash of her tits. God, he wanted to see them, suck her nipples until they were puckered and hard, knead them over and…

He rubbed the back of his neck. Twice he’d fucked her and still he had a raging hard-on. She was in his blood from the second he’d thrust his cock into her. But he really knew he was lost when he’d knelt between her thighs to hide the flash drive in her pussy. The taste of her he’d taken wasn’t just for Sumner’s cameras. All Matt had wanted to do was bury his face in her juices and feast. He wanted to feel what it was like to love her without spectators, to stretch out in a bed and lose himself in the heat of her body, to hear her cry out his real name, to have her clutch him and come over and over again.

Sumner was right. She was a very big distraction. Matt couldn’t think straight. The way she’d wrapped herself around him when he’d nailed her against the wall. The way she’d taken the punishment Sumner decreed like she enjoyed every bit of it. He sucked in a sharp breath and tried to squeeze his erection into submission. He’d love to have her in a big bed, them loving each other until they collapsed from exhaustion, only to wake up and do it all over again. No worries but him and her.

Matt jumped up and started to pace. He had to think, to somehow force his craving for her aside and focus. Gordie and his wife were dead if he didn’t think of something to save them. One thing Sumner liked was the complete submission of another person. The threat of punishment followed by anal sex kept his men in line. Gordie and Eva Kidwell were screwed, literally.

The flash drive with all the information on Sumner’s activities was now with—God, what was her real name? It was going to drive him crazy until he found out.

He prayed he hadn’t hurt her during any of this. He’d pulled back on the paddle as much as he could. But then she’d started wiggling that sweet ass of hers. Careful as Matt had tried to be, he’d be the first to admit it had turned him on big time. They were lucky Sumner gave her to him, instead of taking her for himself. The man would have shown no mercy, especially believing she was a hooker.

Thank God he’d managed to think fast enough to give her that cover. He hid his smile from Sumner’s ever-watching camera. She thought as quickly as he did. When this was over…

Matt stopped in mid-stride. Fuck! He’d forgotten to pay her for services and she didn’t ask. Thanks to Eva, Sumner would be extra diligent and notice the lapse.

Think!

The train came to a full stop. He had to act now. Maybe there was a way to end all of this now.

He whipped open the door and stormed for the nearest exit. The conductor scowled when he pushed by.

“I’ll catch up at another stop. I’ve got unfinished business with a certain lady. Long light brown hair, short skirt, killer body.”

The conductor pointed her direction. Matt took off in hot pursuit. His actions and the story should appease Sumner. If everything went well, there wouldn’t be a party to rejoin.

There wasn’t a sight of the woman, but that was fine. He wasn’t looking for her. He was searching for something more elusive. A fucking pay phone. One that couldn’t be seen from the train.

He took the stairs to the street two at a time and found his objective. A quick call to 911 set things in motion. He’d wait long enough to make sure all went according to his plan and prayed it was in time to save the Kidwells. Then and only then would he pursue his next objective—to find her. And nothing was going to stand in his way.

* * * *

Allie slid the flash drive across the desk to Herb. All she wanted was to duck her tired body under a hot shower and wash the day away. She’d spent the trip back to the office worried about Matteo and Gordie. Eva too, although she couldn’t help feeling the bitch got what she deserved. Much as she wanted to find a way to help them, she knew her primary goal—her only goal—was to get that drive back to headquarters. Knowing that still didn’t make the job any easier.

“Good job.” Herb returned her badge and weapon to her.

Allie tucked both into the hidden pocket at the bottom of her tote. “I don’t think Gordie made it. There was a major complication.”

“Would that have anything to do with the bomb threat someone called in on that train?”

Her mind blanked. “What?”

“Someone called in a bomb threat. Said gambling was a sin and no charity should be forced to take tainted money. The train was stopped in D.C. and all passengers evacuated. Sumner and his men were arrested on assault charges. Caught in the act. This should help keep them in jail.” He held up the drive. “And, of course, the bomb threat gives us a good excuse to search those railcars with a fine-toothed comb.”

Other evidence would be rolling their way. “And Gordie?”

“He and his ex are in the hospital, but it looks like they’ll be all right,” Herb said.

Damn, Matteo was good. He’d gotten the information out and saved all their lives in the process. She wondered what had happened with him. Had he been arrested with the rest of Sumner’s men? If not, what ploy had he used to get out?

Herb laced his hands behind his bald head and leaned back. “Did you make the call? Sounds like a trick you’d use.”

Allie smiled. “Nope, not this time. Must’ve been that infamous inside man. I’d love to know how he managed it. Any clue who he is?”

“None.”

She thought about the panties lying in the bottom of her tote. His DNA was on them as well as hers. An analysis would give her his name. Somehow it didn’t feel right to do that, especially if it might jeopardize his current situation.

“Do you have a list of who was arrested with Sumner?”

He snapped his chair upright and typed a few words into the computer. “Here you go.” He pointed toward the monitor.

Leaning over the desk, Allie scanned the list. Matteo’s name wasn’t on it. “Was anyone killed or injured during the arrest?”

“Other than Gordie and Eva Kidwell, there was nothing.”

“Damn, he’s good.”

“The inside man?”

“Yeah, first time I’ve ever worked with a fellow agent I was absolutely certain would do whatever it takes to stay alive and protect the mission. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.”

“If it’s more work you’re looking for…”

Laughing, Allie stood. “Later. I’m going on vacation. I really need a break after this one.”

“Intense, was it?”

“You have no idea.”

* * * *

Matt allowed himself a triumphant smile. There she was, the woman who’d haunted his dreams and his cock since he fucked her up against a wall. She lay in the shade of a beach cabana, eyes closed while a masseur slowly rubbed oil over her almost nude body. She wore a scrap of white material that passed for a bikini, and she wore it damn well. Actually, judging from the way the man’s hands skimmed over her, she only wore the bottoms. Two days in the tropical sun had already tanned her skin. He wanted to lick every inch of it.

The second Matt saw his ploy had been successful, he went in search of her. His demands led him to Herb Walker. That was the easy part. Convincing her supervisor to give up her name and present location took…

Matt laughed to himself. It had taken the truth, more or less. One, that he wanted to work with her again. Two, that he wanted to make sure there was no ill-will between them. That had made the man smile. Apparently, she’d indicated a desire to work with him as well. Three, that she was hot as hell and Matt wanted a shot.

Now, here he was, mere feet away from Allie Quinn, nursing a hard-on that he had a hell of a time keeping under control. Anyone and everyone on the beach could see it bulging against his navy blue swim trunks. Let them look. He was proud of every inch of it.

Determined strides carried him to her cabana. The masseur stopped when Matt’s shadow blocked the light from the entrance. Allie hoisted herself onto her elbows a second later, peering over her shoulder to see who had the nerve to interrupt her session. A sultry smile curved her lips when she realized it was him.

“Hi, honey. I see you made it,” she said, settling back down onto the narrow table. “How was work?”

Matt laughed and tossed his beach towel to the vacant lounge chair. “Same old stuff. And you?”

“Another day, another dollar-fifty.”

He slipped the bottle of oil from the masseur’s hand. “Thank you. My lady and I would like some alone time now.”

The man flashed him a knowing smile, tugged the knots free on the ropes holding the canvas door open, and left.

Matt squeezed a little oil on his hands. “Wow, I hardly know where to start.”

“Your real name would be nice.” She groaned when he stroked his hands down her back.

His hard-on throbbed all the more. “Matt Oliver. Walker told me where to find you.”

She grinned. “I did make him aware I wanted to work with that amazing inside man again.”

“So I understand. You’re pretty amazing yourself. Shall I count the ways?”

“No, just lavish your attention and adoration on my body.”

“It would be my pleasure, or should I say our pleasure. I need to lie low for a bit, so I figured—”

“You can lie with me high or low.”

God, he loved her smile.

“I was hoping you’d say that.” He breached her bikini bottoms, smiling when she lifted her hips for him to tug them down. Tan marks clearly defined her creamy butt. Relief poured through him. “I’m glad to see you’re no worse from the incident. You don’t know how badly I felt.”

“It was preferable to a bullet in my head. You were as careful as you could be under the circumstances. I’d say they all got the show of their lives. Judging from the wet spots on their trousers, the memory will probably keep them warm behind prison bars. Besides”—she gave him another naughty smile over her shoulder—“I don’t have a problem with a little discipline every now and then, properly applied, with the skill and precision you seem to possess.”

“Oh, baby, you are a dream come true.”

 

Rough Cut by Caitlyn Willows

 

ROUGH CUT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Romantic Suspense
August 2016
Cover Artist – Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN: 978-1-68252-182-9

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:

Loose Id

Amazon

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.”

 

Yellow Ribbons by Caitlyn Willows

YellowRibbons

YELLOW RIBBONS
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense – Military – Erotic Romance – BDSM
November 2011
Cover Artist – April Martinez
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-61118-580-5 (ebook)
ISBN 978-1-61118-826-4 (print)

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

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

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

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo Books

REVIEWS:

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

EXCERPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The woman is mine.”

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

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

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

Lani shivered at the memory.

Greg stirred and rolled her way. “Cold?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You make me feel like a woman. Your woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re killing me,” he gasped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Into The Lair by Caitlyn Willows

IntoTheLair

INTO THE LAIR
2007 Dream Realm Award
Book 1 – Into The Heart Series
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Paranormal
October 2007
Cover Artist – Marci Gass
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-59632-578-4

Sebastian and Lauren Garner think it’s the chance of a lifetime when they are invited on a unique expedition to search for the secret of long life. But it’s an experience that holds more adventure than they anticipated. It’s a chance of a lifetime, all they have to give up is their souls. Deep in the Yucatan jungle, the Garners are running out of time to save themselves. Does the key to salvation lie in an ancient one who has cast his spell over them, or does he too have an agenda of his own? Who do they trust when all seems lost? What do they chose when the promise of the world and forever is within their grasp?

Buy links:

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Amazon

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Barnes & Noble

REVIEWS:

FIVE STARS! [A]n incredible book, with all of my favorite elements; love, sex, mystery, sex, adventure and, oh, did I mention sex? Lauren is a beautiful, intelligent young woman who is desperately in love with both her husband and her career. Sebastian is equally in love with Lauren, equally intelligent and a HUNK! They are having a wonderful time being back in civilization, so that they can have all the sex that they want. My, do they want a lot of sex! They have graphic, kinky, erotic and elaborate sex that they couldn–t have on the dig because there were too many people around them. I felt orgasmic just reading about their sex. Even better, they loved only each other. The many secondary characters help the plot move seamlessly along. The mystery began early in the story and continued on throughout the plot as the adventure continued. I kept thinking that I knew what was going to happen, but Ms. Willows was too good for me and did not allow me to figure out the mystery until the book’s end. Brava, Ms. Willows, you have given us another wonderful read!~Marcy Arbitman, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FIVE ANGELS! Don’t be fooled into thinking a book about an archeology adventure or mystery will be boring or tame; this is an erotic story! Lauren and Sebastian have sex in every location, position, and opportunity they find. The couple is very creative and this is a sensual tale that will leave you needing a way to cool off as you read! But the book has more than hot sex to appeal to the reader. This is a very imaginative story that includes shape shifters, possession, and an evil plot to steal souls from someone on the expedition. Lauren and Sebastian sense that something is wrong from the beginning but they are not sure who can be trusted and who are the bad guys however, people other than them depend on the funding for their main project so they feel compelled to go and insure the continuation of their life’s work. I loved the characters of Lauren and Sebastian and hope they will appear in the sequel that is the story of two of the secondary characters from this tale. I can’t wait to read book two, titled Into the Night! Ms. Willow’s imagination is so creative and fun that I will watch for other works by her and read them. I hope she plans to write more books for this series! ~Stephanie B, Fallen Angel Reviews

This novel has it all…a loving relationship between the married characters, deceit, betrayal, long held ancient secrets, poisoned darts and deadly villains. The multiple secondary characters give great depth to the piece, helping to keep the plot interesting and suspenseful. As the story progressed, I kept wondering what the Prentices were up to and why, but Ms. Willows well written story kept me guessing until the very end. Good work! ~Pam, My Book Cravings

Oh my! Grab a fan and your man before commencing to read Into The Lair. This is one hot story. I really loved reading about a long-time married couple who were still lusting for each other as much as when they were first wed. The devotion between the two made the novel special. Solid pacing, interesting characters, and an original plot topped it off. If you enjoy erotic romance with a splash of m/f/m interaction, you’ll take pleasure in Into the Lair. ~Chris, Joyfully Reviewed

FOUR STARS! A young couple is swept into a world of danger and betrayal in this creative and entertaining story. Their chemistry is explosive, and the steamy erotic encounters are hotter than the jungle setting. The secondary characters are all well developed and add to the mystery to a plot that will keep you hooked. ~Gail Pruszkowski, Romantic Times

EXCERPT:

Prologue

He watched from the shadows that dusk cast over the land. The cool San Diego night beckoned people to the Prentice Museum in droves. What better way to camouflage one’s actions than in a crowd? The innocent and unwary wound their cars up the hill as the sun set; last rays glinting off the windshields made them look like diamonds.

Clouds in the distance hovered over the Pacific Ocean, teasing with the hint of thunderstorms that had yet to materialize. All they’d gotten during the day was sweltering August heat and humidity. Mother Nature had made up for it with a colorful display of purples, golds, and pinks against the clouds and the kiss of a cool breeze. It didn’t matter. The atmosphere was heavy with desperation and foreboding. He would have felt it in any weather.

His nostrils flared as they arrived. The perfect couple — young, intelligent, beautiful…irresistible. Tonight would be the night they’d be marked. He could smell the hunt hovering in the air. It was woven with the scent of the woman’s pussy, punctuated by the testosterone cloud hovering around the man.

He stroked the erection thrusting up insistently before him….and wanted them…wanted his life back. And they were going to help him achieve all of that.

This time, no mistakes.

Chapter One

Chillbumps dotted Lauren Garner’s skin. Her stomach tightened with the creepy-crawly feeling someone was watching her. She’d felt that way since she and Sebastian had arrived at the Prentice Museum. Which was ridiculous, because they were the guests of honor. Naturally, all attention was on them.

But this…this was different. More like something was watching, not someone.

She clutched her husband’s strong forearm and stretched to her tiptoes. He smiled when her breath caressed his ear.

“I need to go to the ladies room,” she whispered. “Come with me…please.”

He gave her a single nod and lifted his champagne flute to the ladies surrounding them. “If you’d all excuse us for just a minute…” He set the glass on the tray of a passing waiter, cupped Lauren’s elbow, and steered her toward the restrooms down the far corridor beyond their exhibit.

“What’s wrong?” he asked when they’d gotten out of earshot.

“I feel ‘off.’ Nervous. On edge. Like I’m being watched.”

“Of course you’re being watched.” His voice deepened, falling over her like a sensuous caress. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the room. Every man wants you. Every woman wants to be you.”

She turned into him and ran her fingers beneath his tuxedo jacket, felt the hard chest beneath. “Only because those women want you.”

“Mmmm…” He twisted open the door to the handicapped restroom and gently pushed her forward, locking it behind them. “Do you know how much I want to fuck you right now? I’ve had a killer of a hard-on since we walked into the place.”

“Are you sure that’s not just nervous energy?”

He grabbed her hand and placed it on his cock. “Does that feel like nervous energy to you?”

Her pussy clenched with want. Moisture soaked the cotton liner in her pantyhose. That’s what she needed — him. Now!

“I can’t let you go back out there like that, now can I?” Hiking up her silky black dress, she grabbed the waistband and peeled her pantyhose down and off one leg.

Sebastian didn’t hesitate. One hand freed his erection while the other hoisted her bare leg up and around his waist. Lauren braced herself against the sink, gasping when he impaled her. His fucking was raw, hard, fast…and just what she needed. All she could do was hold onto his massive shoulders for dear life.

He reached between them and pushed her clit against his cock. Each stroke raked over it, pulling her tighter and tighter. Orgasm rolled over her sweetly, relaxing those tense muscles, scattering her unease. He seated himself on a hard thrust and grunted with his release. They stood there for long minutes, draped around each other in the wonder of the moment.

“We really need to get back out there.” He squeezed her ass and carefully slid free.

Lauren laughed to herself. The last thing they needed was a semen stain on his dark tux or her dress.

Using wet paper towels, they cleaned up quickly.

“You okay now?” he asked as he tucked in and zipped up.

Lauren smiled and kissed his chin. “More than okay. It was just what I needed. You go on. I need to pee.”

He captured her lips in a kiss, then winked, wiped her lipstick off his mouth, and left.

Lauren locked the door behind him, laughing at that earlier creepy feeling. She was on edge, that was all. Nothing like an orgasm to settle a girl’s nerves.

She took care of her personal needs and fixed her makeup. The biggest night of their lives and she was in the bathroom having sex.

“Mom would be so proud.”

She might look killer-hot, but she felt like a freaking Barbie doll. And these pantyhose were smothering her.

“Screw it.” She peeled them off and tossed them into the trash. Of course, that also meant she was now bare-bottomed.

Wearing panties might have helped. It was one of her greatest conundrums. Panties with pantyhose? She’d always considered it redundant. If they were pantyhose, why wear panties? Out of all the things she’d ever discussed with girlfriends, the topic had never come up. Sebastian was worthless on the subject. The fewer clothes she had on, the better he liked it.

“Like anyone will notice.” The focus was supposed to be on the artifacts on display.

Clutching her tiny purse, she swung open the door and left. At the end of the corridor, she felt the first trickle make its way down her thigh. She did an abrupt about-face back to the ladies room to sop up the remnants.

Sebastian’s knowing smirk greeted her when she finally returned to the exhibit wing. He lifted his glass in a private toast. Lauren snagged a crystal champagne flute from the tray of a passing waiter and followed suit, giving him a knowing smile of her own.

Content once more, Lauren sipped her golden champagne. It was light with a hint of sweet, not too dry; the perfect complement to what she hoped would be a perfect event.

She twirled the glass between thumb and forefinger and wandered toward her favorite of all the Maya artifacts she and Sebastian had unearthed in the last two years. Restored and on display in all its glory, the blue-green jade idol gleamed as it had when first carved. The phallus was an eye-popping ten inches long and three inches in circumference, jutting out from the proud figurine that bore it — the envy of every woman at the exhibit.

The artist had shown intricate attention to detail, using the stone to its full potential. Veins of gold naturally running through it became veins of the idol’s penis. There was a slit in the glans with precum at the tip and no hint of foreskin, which made it extra unique considering its age. The scrotum was wrinkled and full, close to the body. Fingernails and toenails were present, musculature well defined, as were eyes, ears, nose, and the sloped Maya forehead prevalent for the culture at that time. The artist had even managed to capture the male’s grimace of pre-orgasmic pleasure.

The idol was made for grasping. Inspection had revealed ancient fingerprints over it, which they’d meticulously documented before cleaning. Lauren could appreciate its being well used. Once in the place it was intended, the idol looked guaranteed to provide extreme pleasure. The hilt would nudge a woman in just the right spot. A skilled lover could manipulate it to perfection, or the lady could ride the sucker like a horny cowgirl and get herself off easily.

Lauren would be lying if she’d said she wasn’t tempted to try it out — no matter how many thousands of years old it was. At those times when she thought no other members of her archaeological team were looking, she’d unwrap the statue from its protective nesting of straw and caress the bulbous head, stroke the massive erection…and wonder.

She drew in another sip and studied the gathering. Clumps of people crowded around the Maya artifacts, oohing and ahhing over it all. There was still a wealth of material trapped beneath the Yucatán soil. The problem was finding enough capital to continue the dig, and then getting back to the site before poachers took it all. Hence the exhibit of what they’d found to date.

It’d come as a surprise to them that funding was an issue. Until now the Braden Institute had been known and revered for its deep, never-ending pockets. To discover otherwise was a bit…unsettling. When the digging season ended in the Yucatán, she and Sebastian were informed there would be a showing of their discoveries to date. That was six months ago, and they’d been working nonstop in preparation for it since then. At some point money was mentioned, and the exhibit became a fund-raiser while the rest of their team waited, bags packed and ready, to return to the site and continue. And the clock was ticking. She and Sebastian felt more pressure than ever. Their dig crew was depending on them.

Considering the crowd milling about, Lauren had to admit the exhibit seemed a rousing success. Barry Page darted through the guests like a cartoon ferret OD’d on espresso.

She bit back a laugh. Barry did look like a cartoon ferret — dark hair slicked back, pointed nose leading the way, bug eyes never still as they searched out the next target. No one pursued funding for the Braden Institute more aggressively than Barry. But with each day that passed, he became a bigger pain in the ass. If she heard him say, “It takes money to make money,” one more time, she’d pop his head off.

From the beginning, she’d been more than reluctant to do this fund-raiser. Barry’s aggressive pursuit of contributions made her more so. She didn’t like crowds, and she didn’t like being the center of attention. Plus, the mere thought of leaving the quiet haven of field work made her nervous. She hadn’t worn a dress, much less high heels, since she married Sebastian five years before. And dressing up for Sebastian meant Dockers and a pullover shirt.

But, man oh man, look at him tonight.

In his black tux he looked good enough to eat. Lauren wasn’t sure who got more attention — Sebastian or her well-endowed jade friend. Considering some of the obvious touching going on, Lauren wondered if Sebastian shouldn’t have been sealed in security glass like the artifacts. Other than their dash to the restrooms, neither of them had spent a second alone since they walked into the exhibit wing. Everyone wanted to press hands with the couple who’d made the discovery — archaeology’s new rising stars.

Lauren wasn’t sure how true that was, but it was definitely a huge career boost for them. And any notoriety that helped them continue their work was fine with her. Obviously, the institute felt that way as well. Once word got out about the artifacts, the Prentice Museum offered to display them and provide the level of security necessary to protect them during their stay. Liam Prentice had spared no expense. Why he didn’t just donate the money to the dig and leave it at that…

She assumed the man had an agenda of his own. Didn’t everyone? Considering tonight’s success, the Prentices would be the talk of the town for months to come, if not years. That talk would generate more visitors to the museum. More visitors meant more money, more investors for him. She couldn’t fault a person for that; after all, wasn’t that exactly what she and Sebastian were doing tonight?

Lauren took another sip of champagne, smiling as Sebastian laughed at something a matronly redhead half his height and twice his width said. Damn, he was handsome. His skin was golden from years in the Yucatán sun. All except his cute, milk white ass. His dark brown hair was trimmed neatly for a change, rather than straggly from one of her field haircuts. Those deep brown eyes sparkled, like he was having the time of his life. No one would guess he was as nervous as she was about all this.

His long fingers cradled the crystal flute. Every so often he’d absentmindedly brush his thumb along the side, reminding her of how often they played against her breast. Need curled into her belly at the thought. After ten years they were still going strong. She prayed they never grew tired of each other.

Sebastian’s gaze shifted her way. His smile deepened into that I’m-going-to-fuck-you-until-we-both-collapse look. She swore he could will her clothes to drop with that hot glance. And they’d just had a quickie!

Wait ’til he finds out I’m bare-bottomed.

Would he scold her for being a “naughty girl” and promise a spanking later? Haul her off to the first available storage closet and give her some more quick and thorough loving? Either and both sounded good to her.

“I can remember when my wife used to watch me with hungry eyes.”

Lauren glanced up at the man beside her. She’d been so absorbed in thought she hadn’t noticed his approach, but she had no trouble recognizing Liam Prentice. Those sky blue eyes alone made him memorable. Silver blended nicely with the blond, making his hair look like precious metals had been spun there. From what she’d heard, he had the personality to back up those distinguished looks, too. He and his wife, Viola, were charming, wealthy, connected, and damned good-looking. Lauren hoped she and Sebastian were as lucky when they hit their fifties.

“Mr. Prentice, a pleasure to meet you. I’m Lauren Garner.” She offered her hand to him.

He didn’t hesitate. A handshake said a lot about a person. His wasn’t a condescending girly squeeze, or a bone crusher. He shook her hand like a colleague, someone he respected.

“Your reputation and that of your husband’s precedes you, Mrs. Garner. Everyone is talking about you.” His gaze never left hers. She wasn’t sure if she appreciated his directness, or found his steady perusal unnerving.

“Lauren…please…and thank you. It’s wonderful to know our work means so much to others.”

“Probably more than you realize. Viola and I had the chance to tour the exhibit privately this afternoon. What amazing discoveries. We’re in awe of your accomplishment.”

Coming from a man of his caliber and deeds, it was quite a compliment. “Thank you, Mr. Prentice. I’m honored you feel that way. I don’t know what to say.”

“First names with us as well, Lauren. Viola and I aren’t much on pretense. We leave the snobbish displays to some of our so-called friends.”

Lauren fanned her fingers at the base of her throat and laughed.

Liam leaned closer, humor dancing in his eyes. “If they only knew what we really thought of them.”

“Somehow I suspect you don’t waste a lot of time with them, though.” And he most probably let others do his dirty work if he was displeased. He struck her as the type of man who would smile in your face, then order your head on a platter behind your back.

“Very perceptive, Lauren.” He tapped her shoulder. “I knew I’d like you the instant I saw you across the crowded room.”

Lauren sipped her champagne as she fought the urge to give him a playful push. “Now, Liam, that almost sounds like the beginning of a very bad pick-up line.”

He tossed back a contagious laugh. “It really does. I’m so sorry. I’ve been watching your and Sebastian’s work for so long, I feel like I know you.”

Lauren was at a loss for words. She and Sebastian knew who the Prentices were — only a hermit living in a time warp wouldn’t — but they hadn’t thought much about the couple until this exhibit.

“Now you’re going to think Viola and I are stalkers.” His eyebrows scrunched together with what looked like regret. “Please don’t. We’ve continued to follow archaeological discoveries after we left the field, even built this museum to help display them. We certainly can’t begin to rival what the Braden Institute offers, but we do like to help fund those few scientists we find to be extraordinary — like you and Sebastian.”

Was he saying what she thought? That he was ready to fund their dig? She forced herself to retain some level of professional demeanor and not squeal…or get too far ahead of herself.

“Again you have me at a loss for words.”

“Then I’d say it’s the perfect time for you to tell me firsthand about your discoveries, starting with this intriguing little statue behind you. Although calling it little is definitely a misnomer.”

Lauren felt her cheeks heat. Her comfort level nosedived.

“I’m sorry. I did it again.” He cupped her elbow, gave it a quick squeeze, then swept his arm out. “Come meet Viola. Looks like she’s already waylaid your husband. It’s the perfect time.”

Lauren glanced in Sebastian’s direction. Viola Prentice had his attention, every word and action monitored by the throng growing around them. She matched Liam in looks, though hair dye most probably hid her gray. Both were fit and trim. Her calves looked like she was used to walking, well-defined with no hint of fat. Lauren couldn’t tell if her legs were really suntanned, or if that was merely the color of her pantyhose. In either event, it was too dark a color and the one thing about her that was unbecoming.

She wore a black dress like every other female there — understated elegance in the silk fabric that hugged her slender curves. An omega necklace gleamed around her throat, matching bracelets flashed around her wrists from under her long sleeves. More gold shone from her earlobes. She wore the jewelry like it was an extension of herself, like a queen. It was hard not to compare herself to the older woman. Sebastian’s smile her way told her she measured up just fine.

“Ah, yes, more hungry eyes,” Liam said with a laugh. “If only to be twenty years younger…”

She smiled up at him. “And know what you know now?”

“Exactly.” He added a nod and lifted his hand to his wife. “Viola, dear, quit hogging our good-looking friend and let the Garners give us a detailed tour of everything.”

Viola turned a sultry smile Liam’s way.

“Talk about hungry eyes,” Lauren muttered to him.

“Indeed.” Liam beamed. “Maybe your and Sebastian’s influence is rubbing off on us. One can only hope.”

* * * * *

Damn, Lauren was killer hot tonight in her little black dress and come-fuck-me black heels. Their quickie in the restroom hadn’t kept his erection away long. All he had to do was glance her way, think of those high-heeled legs tossed over his shoulders, and he was hard again. He couldn’t wait to leave this agonizing event and go home.

Though he tried to hide it, Sebastian had never felt more out of his element. He smiled, shook hands, engaged in mindless chit-chat…which he discovered was fairly easy if you could get the other person to talk about themselves. All he had to do then was smile or laugh or nod at intervals, answer a few questions.

While guests crowded him with mindless chatter, Sebastian focused on Lauren’s collarbones. On how her skin would taste when he’d trace his tongue over them. On how she’d sigh with pleasure and stretch her tight body against him. On the brush of her floaty hem against shapely legs. He couldn’t wait to peel her naked and feel her quiver beneath his touch. Couldn’t wait to see her surprise, hear her laughter, when she saw the present he’d had made especially for her.

There wasn’t a woman in the room who compared to Lauren, and Sebastian had seen every one of them close up…with the exception of Viola Prentice.

The Prentices were their benefactors for this event, though they’d never met. The institute arranged everything, with specific instructions that the Garners were to extensively woo them in the hope they’d help fund the dig. Sebastian and Lauren weren’t stupid. They knew a good thing when they saw it, but neither of them appreciated the added pressure. Pressure made more intense when the Prentices weren’t here when the Garners arrived.

Barry Page had nearly had a coronary over their absence. His heaved sigh of relief was a little too obvious when the Prentices made a quiet entrance thirty minutes later. They’d paused for a second, scanning the gathering. Body language said a lot about them, how close the two were — his arm around her back, her standing in the cove of his body. Sebastian liked to see that in a couple who’d been married a long time. It was like a glimpse of what he hoped he and Lauren would have in twenty-five years — still crazy in love, still so hot for one another the kindling could be used to start a fire.

A smile had sent the Prentices on separate paths, weaving into the crowd after they’d snagged champagne flutes from a passing waiter. Barry had wasted no time nailing Sebastian with a look that clearly told him to corner Liam Prentice. Sebastian promptly ignored it.

Barry was great at his job, but there was a time and place, and attacking Prentice the second he walked in the door wasn’t it. Sebastian had too much professional respect for Prentice to do that. After all, Prentice had paid for this event, donated a portion of his museum with extra security, even added the draw of champagne, open bar, and heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet on the patio. He deserved Sebastian’s and Lauren’s thanks, not to be hit up for more money. Sebastian planned to do just that once Lauren finished her quiet perusal of her Mr. Happy idol…and Sebastian could politely slip away from the redhead’s lengthy story of a bout with Montezuma’s Revenge on her one trip to Cabo San Lucas twenty years ago. His brain shut down amid her graphic descriptions of all the barfing and pooping she’d done. His smile frozen in place, all Sebastian could do was nod while he prayed for an opening to excuse himself.

Then he saw Liam Prentice approach Lauren. The gaggle of people perpetually gathered around Sebastian parted at the same time. The redhead’s rambling dissertation screeched to a halt the second Viola Prentice stepped forward, her smile open and welcoming. She was a striking woman, gracious in the face of the power she possessed yet didn’t flaunt here.

Sebastian thrust his hand her way. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Prentice.”

She slipped warm fingers into his, grasping them firmly as she edged closer. “The pleasure is mine. Please…first names. It makes life so much more pleasant. I read a story once about an elderly woman named Mary Grant. She was asked if there was anything she missed most, having reached ninety-five years. She responded that no one ever called her by her first name anymore…always ‘Mrs. Grant.’ I never want to be in that position or put others in it.”

Sebastian could appreciate that, though he’d never considered it before. “Then first names it is, Viola.” They dropped hands on a simultaneous nod. “My wife and I would like to express our sincere thanks for all you and your husband have done.”

“We should be thanking you.” She motioned to the displays like Vanna White turning letters. “This is a breathtaking find. Makes me crave to go out in the field for one last hurrah.”

“From what I’ve heard, you and your husband were quite a force thirty years ago, amassing a nice resume of spectacular finds.” Then they’d retired to the estate those discoveries, and an immense inheritance, had built.

“Viola, dear, quit hogging our good-looking friend and let the Garners give us a detailed tour of everything,” Liam called out, interrupting her from any reply she might have made.

“An excellent idea.” She gave her husband a sultry smile, then turned to Sebastian. “Shall we?”

“It would be my honor.” Sebastian offered his arm to escort her. Viola wasted no time looping her hand through it.

“You and your wife make a striking couple,” she said as they strolled in that direction.

He gave a soft laugh. “Thank you. I was thinking the same thing of you and Liam when you walked in.”

Laughter bubbled out of her. “Oh, goodness…it’s nice to know we’ve still got it after all these years. I imagine Lauren was excited for the chance to dress up for a change.”

Her comment nearly brought him to a halt. Viola must have noticed he faltered because she put her other hand over his arm and squeezed.

“Look how breathtaking she is.” Her gaze slowly swept over Lauren, appraising, comparing, judging. If Viola had been a man, Sebastian would have called it lecherous. “She’s probably thinking the same about you, judging from the lust in her eyes. Most men bitch about the monkey suit, but there isn’t a man alive who doesn’t look devastating in a tux. Fires up those juices. Don’t get me wrong…being able to work together day in and day out is wonderful. But being away from the grind, the grit of field work… Well, that sort of thing grows old after awhile, and we women do like a bit…more.”

Sebastian’s feel-good disappeared. Is that what Lauren wanted…more? For the first time in their ten-year history, he wondered if he’d somehow let her down. She never said. In fact, she’d seemed happy to be digging for past civilizations…didn’t she?

He took a mental step back. What had he given her? Other than their professional accolades, they had nothing to speak of. Most of the money they earned was tucked away in savings and investments, hoarded for a rainy day. They had a small apartment that was more for storage than for living. They lived out of suitcases. Correction…backpacks, duffel bags, and crates. He’d had to rent the tux, which was the norm for most men. But Lauren didn’t own pantyhose, much less a nice dress and heels, and she hadn’t been too thrilled with the idea of having to shop for those items.

Sebastian smiled her way. Seeing her killer hot took his breath away. Her long brown hair drifted down her back, gold highlights catching the light. He wanted to comb his fingers through it over and over again, mine it for gold while his cock bored a tunnel into her cunt. Sparkly rhinestones dangled from her ears, begging him to nibble. He found himself wishing he had given her diamonds, instead of a canvas tent in a sweaty jungle.

Odd how Viola’s innocent comment could knock him off-kilter and spark doubt. Now that the seed was planted…

He extended his hand to Liam Prentice as they approached. “Sebastian Garner, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” He kept his smile bright, hoping it would dissipate his unease.

“Trust me,” Liam said. “It’s my pleasure. Everything you’ve uncovered…amazing. A lot of hours. A lot of hard work.”

“Definitely.” Viola extended her hand to Lauren. “I feel I know you so well through your work that I should hug you.”

“One can never have enough hugs,” Lauren said with a smile.

“My feeling exactly!” Viola tossed her arms around Lauren’s neck with no further warning.

Sebastian saw Lauren’s eyes widen with surprise. Clearly she wasn’t expecting Viola to carry through with such an exuberant embrace. All she could do was laugh with her and return the affection. As they parted, Lauren gasped and pressed her fingers against the curve of her neck.

“Oh, dear,” Viola tsked, “it looks like the catch on my bracelet scratched you. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay…really.” Lauren glanced at her fingers. It was all Sebastian could do to not pull her hair aside to see the scratch for himself, especially when the smile she gave the other woman didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“See? No blood.” Lauren lifted her fingers to show them as if to back up her words. “If it’s visible, my hair should hide it. No harm, no worries.”

The glance she gave Sebastian begged him to not make a big deal out of it. Though he agreed, giving her a slight nod, he still didn’t like it.

“Still…” Viola unlatched the heavy gold bracelet and shoved it deep into Liam’s trouser pocket. “There…that’s that. Now,” she looped her arm through Lauren’s. “Tell us everything. I want to hear about every speck of dirt you brushed away to find these treasures.”

Liam touched his wife’s shoulder. “Not every speck, dear. I believe they’re ready to open the buffet.”

Viola cast a worried frown toward the double doors leading to the large glass-enclosed patio. “A quick tour then.” She flashed him a smile and turned Lauren toward the exhibits.

Liam gave him a palms-up shrug that said, “What can a guy do?”

Sebastian smiled with his nod, and they fell in step behind the women. Barry tracked every movement. Sebastian hoped to hell he kept his distance. He and Lauren needed this moment, and not for the potential money it would bring. They needed the break from the crowd, to be able to talk quietly about their discoveries and not the mindless garble they’d had to spew since they’d arrived.

Hands clasped behind him, he was content to let Lauren take over the tour. She had a sweet tone to her voice that could mesmerize howler monkeys, squalling children, hysterical females, and rampaging men…all at the same time. One-on-one, Lauren was excellent. She froze up when she had to give group presentations, though. Just the thought of standing behind a podium made her sweat. Teach, yes. Lecture, no.

They’d finished the circuit as the caterers were opening the doors to the patio. Sebastian hated the idea of going back into schmooze mode. Judging from Liam’s resigned sigh, he did, too.

“What’s the term? ‘Into the breach’?”

Viola giggled. “Is it such a burden to be polite?”

“Sometimes,” he said with an overdramatic sigh. “Especially when we’re having such a great talk.”

“Come on.” Viola looped her arm through Liam’s and tugged him toward the patio. “I’m sure we can worm a private table for the four of us from the Mother Hen.”

Sebastian tried his best to cover his laughter with a cough into his fist. It was impossible. The description of Barry was too accurate.

Liam smirked. “Has he made your life a living hell?”

Lauren squeezed her arm around Sebastian’s waist, silently reminding him of his manners. “He’s just doing his job,” she said.

He conceded the point with a nod. “And he does do it very well, no arguing there. But Viola and I know how annoying it can be to be yanked from your element and displayed like show dogs.”

“Well, we won’t lie about that,” Lauren said. “It’s been awkward and tense.”

“And only the beginning, from what we’ve been told,” Sebastian added. “If we want to continue doing what we love.”

Liam pulled in a deep breath through his nose. “What if I were to offer you a solution?”

Sebastian wasn’t sure how to respond to that. It sounded like Liam was saying he was going to fund for the dig. But it couldn’t be as easy as all that?

“What type of solution?”

Liam paused for a sip of champagne, then smacked his lips. “Viola and I are putting together a unique expedition. We’d like you two to join us. We feel you’d mesh well with us and the rest of the potential team.”

“And how would that be a solution?”

He was glad Lauren had asked that question. Sebastian had a dozen more running through his head.

Liam smiled. “Join us for the weekend, and you’ll see. Others will be there, too. Acquaintances of yours, I believe. No strings. I’ll lay out the plan then. You have nothing to lose, and at the very least, you would have had a couple of days to relax away from our friend before returning to your dig.”

Fortunately, Liam didn’t use the spiel “you have everything to gain.” If he had, Sebastian might have walked away.

“I’m…intrigued,” he finally said.

“Hopefully we can keep you that way.” Liam grinned and hoisted his glass. “Come on. Let’s eat before the herd decides to stampede.”

Sebastian tucked his arm around Lauren’s waist as they followed the older couple out. That’s when he realized…

“You’re not wearing your pantyhose,” he whispered against her ear.

A pink flush colored her cheeks. “I’m not wearing any panties either,” she whispered back.

Now he had two intriguing possibilities to think about.