Today’s prize comes via the fabulous Beth Kery!
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Format: Trade Paperback
This time, he’ll never let her go…
Chicago Special Agent Shane Dominic was in love with Laura Vasquez until the day she left him and married another man. Thirteen years may have passed, but Laura’s never disappeared from his fantasies, or destroyed his desire to learn the truth about why she left him. When her husband, the criminal mastermind behind an international ring of thieves, is murdered, Shane knows this is his one last, desperate chance to learn Laura’s secrets. And he’s not above using their scorching hot passion for one another and a little domination to do it.
One look at Shane, and Laura’s own memories come back to haunt her. Her feelings run deep, but she’d never divulge her secrets—a desperate vow that’s compromised when Shane stuns her by taking her as his captive to a secluded cabin. Here, she will finally belong to him, be subjected to his every torturously erotic whim, and be forced to trust him with a shocking truth she’s hidden for so long—one that will expose them to a danger closing in on the both of them.
When he returned downstairs he found her in the kitchen leaning against the counter, the steam beginning to rise off a tea pot on the stove behind her. She studied him with those exotic, slightly slanted green eyes that still occasionally haunted his dreams… although with less and less frequency, thank God.
She’d removed her long wool coat and wore an ivory colored, soft-looking sweater and jeans beneath it. Her dark brown hair hung loose around her shoulders. He could just make out a chain on the side of her neck but the pendant hung beneath her loose sweater. Other than that glimpse of gold she wore no jewelry. She didn’t wear a trace of make-up.
Not that she required either.
He set the manila folder he’d found upstairs on the counter. The small bedroom where he’d found it appeared to be solely occupied by Laura. A surprisingly sparse amount of Huey’s clothing and personal items were in the master bedroom suite. The majority of his personal items were in the basement. Shane tried to ignore his satisfaction at the evidence of their separate existences within the house. Lots of married couples slept apart after thirteen years, after all.
He flipped open the manila folder, revealing dozens of travel brochures to exotic locations.
“Planning on going somewhere sometime soon?”
Irritation and something else—was it embarrassment?—flashed across her impassive face. She shut the folder quickly.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but the answer is â€˜no.’ I just like to…think about getting away.” Her gaze flicked up to meet his. “You know how Chicago is in the winter time.”
“Yeah, the snow in Banff, Calgary looks like it’d be much more relaxing than Chicago snow,” Shane deadpanned, referring to one of the brochures he’d seen. She merely turned away without responding in typical, infuriating Laura-fashion. “Were you in bed? When they called earlier about Huey?” he asked, thinking of the unmade bed he’d seen in her room.
“Yes. I hadn’t fallen asleep yet though. I had a show at my gallery this evening. It went well, but I was exhausted from all the preparation. I was in bed by ten.”
“What time did you leave your gallery?”
“I had a wine and cheese party for the showing. It started at six thirty. I locked up at around nine-thirty.”
He nodded his head slowly. She straightened from her leaning position, obviously sensing the tension that suddenly seemed to thicken the air between them.
“I thought you said you weren’t here to interrogate me.”
“I asked. You answered. Some people call that conversation. Don’t you think you could use something stronger than tea?” he asked, glancing pointedly at the teapot when it started to whistle.
“Huey has a bar downstairs if you’d care for something stronger.”
He frowned as he watched her pour the hot water into two mugs. He’d rather drink the probably foul tasting herbal tea she prepared than take a sip of Huey May’s premium party-time liquor.
She hesitated when she turned around to hand him the tea. “Would you…would you like to sit down in the living room?”
He nodded once and followed her into the subtly lit living room. She sat in an upholstered chair and he took a seat on the couch. When he glanced up after sipping his tea, trying to hide his grimace at the bitter taste, he noticed the queer expression on her face as she studied him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, the cup still an inch from his lips.
“I just recalled that Joey told me that you were going to be married earlier this year. I suppose by now congratulations are long overdue.”
He set down the tea on the coffee table in front of him. “Joey and you talk about me?”
She started in surprise at the question. “Not much. Occasionally. Why?”
He shrugged. “He and I never discuss you. Ever. He seems to think you’re a taboo topic where I’m concerned.”
“I see,” she said after a pause. He watched as she took a sip of the tea, momentarily mesmerized by the sensual movement of her throat as she swallowed. “Just like family, isn’t it? Never to talk out loud about their ugly secrets?”
He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. “Joey was never ashamed of you. You’re the one who kept the secrets Laura. And not the Vasquez family’s—Huey Mays’ secrets.”
She just stared at him, as calm and enigmatic as the sphinx. Years of frustration, fury and thwarted desire bubbled up to the surface. He found himself engaging in a full-fledged offensive when he’d never even planned for battle.
“You realize, don’t you, that your husband and his little gang represented everything that your father hated? All the government corruption, the selfish grappling for power and money at the expense of the people—all of those things he wrote about in his books…What he lived for to defeat?” Shane prodded, referring to Laura’s father who had been a Cuban political dissident. Shane had liked and respected Richard Vasquez enormously and he’d always sensed the regard had been mutual.
When Laura’s father was finally released from a Cuban prison he’d fled to the United States where he’d eventually become a respected professor at the University of Chicago. He’d published extensively on the topic of the crushing effect of corrupt government and dictatorships on the human psyche and spirit.
“And how could his daughter have turned around and married the devil? Is that what you’re thinking, Shane?”
Her quiet voice infuriated him even further.
“How his daughter could have bedded down with him, sold her soul to him, bent over for him or any one of his greasy pals whenever he demanded it. Yeah, I’ll bet your father’d love to know the answer to that if he were still alive. I know I’d give my left nut to hear that explanation myself—not that I’m holding out for any substantial answers. The only thing I warrant is that crap you fed me thirteen years ago after you married Huey about your undying love for your saintly husband.”
She set down her mug stiffly. “What are you talking about?”
“Electronic surveillance, Laura.”
“You had this house bugged?”
He shook his head in mixed frustration and disgust when he saw the last vestiges of color drain out of her face.
“That’s right. We were lawfully intercepting Huey’s phone and internet conversations for almost a year, but he was careful about what he revealed. He was a suspicious guy, your husband. I finally convinced a federal judge that wiretaps weren’t enough. We got a court order to listen in on his little playpen downstairs. It never paid off in regard to the case in the way that I’d hoped. It took an ex-jewel and fur thief who also just happened to be a Chicago cop for a period of time—a little weasel who’s in the witness protection program—in order to get the names, written documents and details that we needed to pin Huey. Everything about how they would use police computers to track jewelry, fur and rare coin salesmen’s car rental and hotel information, all the dirt on their little extortion ring…how they took regular payments from known criminals in return for keeping silent about their rackets.
“So the bugs down in your basement didn’t pay off in the way I’d hoped,” Shane continued, “but the agents who got assigned the monitoring detail weren’t complaining much even though it’s usually a shit job that nobody wants.” He leaned forward intently. Despite his intense anger, he kept his voice low although he couldn’t dull the bitter edge of his sarcasm. “Especially when Huey threw one of his little sex parties for his friends. You know about those parties. Don’t you Laura?”
She just stared at him, her silence and coldness sending his fury near the boiling point.
He stood up abruptly and grabbed her shoulders. She didn’t resist him when he pulled her up. He pressed her to him, crushing her full breasts into his lower chest, the sensation of her distended nipples making his cock harden with amazing alacrity. Her scent—soap mixing with the once-familiar underlying odor of sweet, succulent woman—entered his nostrils, sending him further into a spinning chaos of desire and rage.
He leaned down and spoke in a soft, vibrating voice just inches away from her parted lips.
“Nothing to say, Laura? Always so controlled. But you weren’t so silent down in the basement entertaining Huey and his friends, were you? You screamed and moaned and begged like a good little whore while they took their turns with you, double-teamed you—whatever Huey demanded of you, you did. Yeah, your father would have been so proud to know about his daughter’s generous hospitality to her husband’s friends.”
Her green eyes flashed. “How do you know it was me?”
He gave a harsh bark of laughter. “Let’s see—what was my first clue? Oh yeah—That’s right Laura, suck him nice and deep like a good little wife. Show him how nice we treat our guests.”
He blinked in shock when she slapped his cheek, the evidence of her crumbling faÃ§ade shattering his own brittle control once and for all. He grabbed the wrist of the offending hand and twisted it behind her back, pressing her tighter against him in the process. She cried out in surprise and discomfort.
“Is this how you like it, Laura?” he growled. Their eyes met briefly, her startled stare searing right through his shattered defenses. “How could you do it? How could you let those assholes touch you? You’re mine.”
He saw eyes go wide but he didn’t give her a chance to respond to his totally irrational proclamation before he covered her mouth with his own.
He drank from her furiously. Pain vibrated through his flesh. Not the discomfort of a wound or an injury, but the raw, searing pain that came from exposing a desire that had long been denied.
At that moment he needed Laura Vasquez just like he needed to breathe.
Later he wouldn’t be able to say at what point she stopped struggling, precisely when her tongue began to tangle with his, or when her hands rose to caress his neck and her fingers delved through his hair. She pressed against him almost frantically, the abrupt appearance of her need shocking him…and nearly blinding him with lust.
The sensation of the hard centers of her breasts pressing against his chest, the feminine softness between her thighs rubbing subtly against his hard cock, the incredible silkiness of her skin, all combined to form a powerful ward against logic.
Today’s question: Who’s your favorite edgy hero? Not a run of the mill nice guy, but a bad boy, a man with a dark past?
I’ll choose a winner from the comments tomorrow at noon pacific! Good luck, everyone and don’t forget winners have three days to claim prizes or I’ll re-draw.