“Forget the television! It’s too heavy. Grab the iPad!”
Conner opened one eye and quickly shut it against the glaring afternoon sun. Dammit. In his exhaustion, he’d forgotten to close the bedroom shades.
“Don’t worry about the clothes or the cheap stuff.”
Conner rolled onto his stomach, tossing a pillow over his head to block out the two female voices from across the hall. Telling himself he didn’t give a damn what they were about. After twenty-two hours in the dank cargo hold of a C-17 with two hundred other men on a flight from Afghanistan to Washington with a five-hour layover in Germany, he didn’t care if they were murdering someone next door, all he wanted was sleep.
“What about the bastard’s PlayStation?”
“Fucking smash it to pieces!”
That’s it, thought Conner. Murder was one thing, but standing by while another man’s PlayStation was destroyed, even a stranger’s, was another. It was guy thing. Jumping out of bed, heedless of his half naked state, he confidently strode across the small apartment. Promptly smashing his toe into some random boxes in the middle of the living room floor.
“God Damn it!” he ground out as he limped for a step or two.
The short burst of pain not improving his already sour mood. The apartment was not his. Having gotten in a little after 3:00 am he didn’t get a chance to really get the lay of the terrain before face planting in the bed. Having no home of his own, Conner was crashing at a buddy’s during a five week leave. Knowing his friend, he should have guessed the place would be barely furnished and littered with half empty moving boxes. His friend spent almost as much time deployed overseas as he did. Ten years ago, Conner walked away from a tenured professorship to become a Marine. His friends and family blamed his failed marriage. Said he was just confused and going through a phase. Bullshit. Men didn’t go through phases.
It was simple. He married the wrong woman when he was too young. Fate stepped in and saved him. Well, fate in the shape of a rich, car dealer. His wife wanted pretty, sparkly things, and he wanted more out of life than a shallow wife who only wanted pretty, sparkly things. All’s well that ends well. The ink dried on his enlistment papers before it dried on his divorce papers. He sold everything he owned and lived only for the Corp ever since. He had never been happier. His life had purpose. He made a difference. He relished his role as protector and fighter. Although, at this particular moment, there were two unknown females who were going to need protection from him.
Sage was breaking the law. It was for a good reason, but for some reason, she didn’t think the cops would see it that way if they got caught.
It was all in the service of her long-time friend, Melissa. Sage loved her friend dearly, but she also dearly tried her patience. For all her intelligence, Melissa had rubbish taste in men. This last one was a real doozy. After two weeks of dating, her friend was in love and had moved in with “Ricardo.” It took half that time to realize Ricardo was not his real name… shocker! Her friend’s Lying Latin Lover had also run up her credit cards, put a mysterious large dent in the passenger door of her car and stolen her iPhone.
The last straw for Sage was when Melissa showed up at her apartment with a black eye. It had taken two bottles of pinot grigio, one disgusting roll of raw cookie dough and both The Notebook and Sleepless in Seattle but Melissa finally agreed to leave the lying, probably cheating bastard. The only problem was, the apartment was technically his. So they had waited till he left for work to sneak in/break in to retrieve her stuff and well… perhaps do a little payback while they were there.
Sage was desperately shoving Melissa’s belongings into a tiny Hello Kitty suitcase she found next to the sofa. Why a twenty-eight-year-old woman had a Hello Kitty suitcase was a conversation that would have to wait for another time. During the euphoric high from too much wine and ridiculously raised romantic expectations (she blamed Hollywood), this all seemed like a great idea, but now Sage was terrified Melissa’s somewhat large, violent boyfriend could return at any moment. She needed to get Melissa out of here. Grabbing a teddy bear from the bureau, then sliding her arm along the top to dump all Melissa’s makeup, jewelry and random hair crap into her backpack, Sage rushed back into the living room.
At that moment, the front door crashed open. Sage’s heart stopped. Filling the doorway, was over six feet of very angry male. Correction. Over six feet of practically naked, very angry male. Good lord! The man was a huge wall of solid muscle, from his broad chest to his thickly, toned arms. He even had the deep ridges from six pack abs that you usually only see in magazine underwear ads.
Speaking of underwear. He was wearing navy blue Calvin Klein’s that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Sage reflexively swallowed. If that’s what his cock looked like slack, it must be positively frightening hard and fully aroused! The illicit thought sent a deep flush to her already pink cheeks. Needing to distract herself from the stranger’s large cock, Sage dragged her eyes up to his face. Big mistake. Christ! The man was gorgeous. Right down to his slightly crooked nose. Probably broken in a fight, Sage mused. Yes, a fight. Where he got all sweaty and worked up… and… and…
“What the fuck is going on in here?” Conner growled.
The deep, masculine voice startled Sage out of her school girl daydream.
“Your eyes match your underwear,” she blurted out.
“What?” he asked, thoroughly confused.
Sage just stood there, mouth agape. Mortified.
While it was true his eyes were a deep blue that perfectly matched the dark blue underwear that still hugged his considerable package, she had no intention of telling him so! She had no choice but to go on the offensive.
“I meant… just who do you think you are barging in here?” Sage ordered in her most haughty, commanding voice.
Conner ran his hand down his face. Reaching deep into his training for calm and discipline. First some recon. This apartment was larger than his buddy’s, but the layout was similar. Unlike his buddy’s, it was filled with furniture and various belongings, most of which seemed to be tossed on the floor. In the corner was a female in her late twenties, rather tall with curly red hair. She froze the moment he entered, which was good since she had a PlayStation suspended over her head.
It was the second female who really caught his attention. Also in her late twenties, she was petite with wavy, honey-brown hair cut a few inches above her shoulders. It seemed to twirl and bounce every time she moved her head. The early afternoon sunlight played off what he was certain were faint pink highlights, showing she had a bit of a wild streak about her.
Despite her small stature, she had nice tits which were gloriously on display in a tight, baby-doll t-shirt which also showed off her small waist and curvy hips. Conner would need to think of a reason to make her bend over so he could check out her ass. It was a good thing he didn’t become too distracted by those amazing tits and finally looked up to see her face, otherwise he would have missed those gorgeous, big, brown eyes checking out his cock. He felt his shaft stir to life. Down boy. He still needed to assess the situation. The last thing he needed was a raging hard-on while possibly confronting two thieves, regardless of how beautiful one of them may be. The red head moved, raising her arms higher, preparing to drop the PlayStation.
Conner pointed a menacing finger in her direction and said in his most authoritative voice. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to put that down, right now.”
Melissa lowered her arms and looked to Sage for guidance.
“You can’t tell her what to do!” cried Sage. “Smash it, Melissa!”
Melissa raised her arms again.
“Ma’am, I’m warning you.”
Melissa lowered her arms.
“Don’t call her ma’am!” ordered a frustrated Sage, arms akimbo. “Melissa, if you don’t smash that, I will.”
The little one was quite the spitfire when she was angry, thought Conner with a smile. That kind of energy was usually equally as fun in bed. He really did enjoy a woman with spirit. He had to admire her loyalty to her friend as well, not many women would face larceny charges in the service of a friend. Not to mention face down a complete stranger who was as intimidating as himself. Melissa raised her arms again.
“Ma’am is a sign of respect which I am trying to show you despite the fact you are probably both thieves,” said Conner as he took a step further into the room, his eyes focused on the petite one.
Without turning his head or losing focus, he warned Melissa again, “Put that damn thing down before I lose my patience.”
“Sage, I can’t hold it any longer. It’s heavier than it looks,” whined Melissa.
Sage? Conner laughed. “What the hell kind of name is Sage?”
Sage drew her shoulders back, affronted. The offended movement was lost on Conner since it only served to push her breasts out more prominently. Sage had been teased about her odd name her whole life. She would be damned if she would explain to this arrogant ass about her unorthodox upbringing with her two chef parents. Besides, Sage was the lucky one, just ask her sister, Damiana, named after a Mexican aphrodisiac herb her parents enjoyed before Damiana was conceived.
“Forget it. Just grab your stuff and let’s get out of here,” directed Sage to Melissa. “We have already wasted enough time.”
The last part was uttered with a disgusted look directed at Conner. She didn’t care if he was one of the sexiest men she had ever laid eyes on. He was distracting them from their purpose, which was to grab Melissa’s stuff, destroy a little of Ricardo’s crap and get the hell out of there.
“What exactly is going on here?” he asked again. Trying to keep his attention on the matter at hand and not on her beautiful pink lips and all the possibilities with them that came to mind.
Clearly they were not going to make a clean get away until this man got his explanation thought Sage. Sensing he had a very low tolerance for bullshit, she decided that an abridged version of the truth was her best bet. She also needed to get as far away from him as possible, as soon as possible, before she truly embarrassed herself by staring too long or saying something really bad like blurting out please fuck me! Besides, they had already done enough damage to the Lying Latin Lover’s apartment.
“Not that it is any of your business,” responded an exasperated Sage, “but my friend just broke up with one of your asshole kind and we are here to retrieve her stuff.”
Conner raised an eyebrow, taking in the completely trashed apartment behind her.
Without missing a beat, Sage said archly, “We were in a hurry.” By way of a completely, unapologetic explanation.
“Uh… huh,” said Conner, trying to look serious and failing.
The fact was, he was a Marine, not a cop. He didn’t even know the poor bastard these women had targeted. As long as they weren’t leaving with the television or anything really expensive, he didn’t see why it was his business to get more involved.
Turning to Melissa, he stated, “Well, ma’am, on behalf of my asshole kind, please accept my apologies. Carry on.”
Conner turned to leave. Just as he was crossing the hall, he could hear the spitfire’s friend loudly whisper, “Why didn’t you ask for his number?”
“Are you serious?” asked Sage.
“Why not?” said Melissa. “He’s hot.”
“Um… maybe because he caught us in the middle of committing a felony and we’re lucky he didn’t call the cops!” rejoined Sage. “Now, grab this stupid Hello Kitty suitcase of yours, and let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Melissa was right. The guy was incredibly hot but it wasn’t just the circumstances that were all wrong. Sage could tell he was one of those arrogant take-charge types. She was far too independent to ever even consider dating a guy like that. Plus, the whole felony larceny thing would probably be a deal breaker anyway.
Conner closed the door on the rest of their conversation. Making his way back to the bedroom, careful to avoid the pile of boxes this time, he collapsed on the bed. The moment he closed his eyes, a vision of almond-shaped, doe brown eyes and large pink lips assailed him. Grabbing a pillow, Conner smashed it against his face and groaned. He was only in town for a few weeks before he left for training, then more than likely, another deployment. He needed a woman who was game for a few laughs and a quick fuck with no strings. Any idiot could see Sage was not that kind of a woman.
Despite being grouped together with his temporary unknown neighbor, he was not the asshole kind. As a Marine, he was a man of honor. He took that seriously. It was why, despite their obvious attraction, he didn’t pursue it. Didn’t try to ask for her number like he wanted. A woman like that deserved some steady nine-to-fiver like an accountant. Someone who would wine and dine her. Not fuck her and leave her.
“Fuck, he’s back early. Quick, get in the car, Melissa,” cried out Sage.
Conner was on his feet in an instant. He heard Sage through the open living room balcony door. She was out front in the apartment parking lot. Dammit. The asshole-kind, bastard boyfriend must have returned. Throwing on a pair of jeans, he started for the front door.
“Get your hands off her, asshole!” screamed Sage.
No time for doors thought Conner as he turned and headed straight for the balcony door. Bracing his hands, he vaulted over the railing, thankful it was a first floor apartment with only a short ten-foot drop. Landing in the soft, slightly wet grass with his bare feet, he ran the quick distance to the parking lot. There he found a stocky, Hispanic male wrestling with his Spitfire and her friend.
The guy had her friend by the upper arm, trying to force her to drop that ludicrous, pink suitcase. “Let go, bitch!” he growled.
“It’s mine!” “You owe me, bastard!” yelled Melissa. “I’m taking the Hello Kitty suitcase!”
“Seriously, people?” blurted out Sage. “You are both adults! Are you seriously arguing over a little girl’s suitcase in the middle of fucking parking lot right now?”
Melissa was so ashamed at her friend’s chastisement, she suddenly let go of the handle. Unfortunately, the Lying Latin Lover Ricardo did not expect it. The suitcase swung in a wide arch, hitting Sage squarely in the chest, knocking her onto the asphalt.
Sage launched to her feet, spitting mad. Just as she sprung at Ricardo, claws bared, there was a crushing weight against her stomach, and a powerful force hauling her backwards. From the top of her head to the curve of her bottom, all she felt was solid muscled heat.
“Easy, Spitfire. I got this,” whispered an amused voice warmly against her ear.
Shocked, Sage looked down to see a large toned arm wrapped securely around her waist. Tilting her head back—way back since the top of her head barely reached his shoulder—she stared into the presumptuous blue eyes of the stranger from across the hall.
“You again,” she sputtered.
Conner’s lips quirked up in the right corner in a half smile. Thoroughly enjoying how his arm had pushed the top of her full breasts up above the neckline of her tiny tee, he chuckled, “Me again.”
Shifting her slight weight to his right side, Conner once again leaned down to whisper suggestively in her left ear, “You can think of way to thank me properly later.”
Ignoring Sage’s indignant retort, Conner turned his attention back to the unknown male and her friend, Melissa, who had resumed their struggle over the suitcase. He assessed the male. Taking in the scuffed combat boots, the hint of a beaded chain around his neck and the faded regiment tattoo on his forearm, he would say Army. The guy was also out of shape, needed a haircut and obviously lacked discipline. Ex-Army. Definitely not a former officer; more than likely a grunt.
“Heel, little Doggie,” Conner barked out, knowing the derogatory term the Marines used for Army soldiers would get his attention.
He wasn’t wrong. Ricardo immediately swung his attention to him. “What the fuck did you just say?”
His eyes glowing with anger. Sage, who had been heretofore struggling to no avail to get out of Conner’s grasp, stilled. Sensing how the tension ratcheted up to a scary degree, she shot glances between the two men.
“It figures an Army grunt would need a command repeated,” said Conner with a smirk.
The animosity between the Marines and the Army was well known. Even if this guy hadn’t been Army, Conner would have had an issue with him. The hit to Sage was enough, but he also now noticed the faint bruise under her friend’s eye that makeup failed to cover in the bright daylight.
“Get the fuck out of here, Jarhead,” Ricardo sneered. “This is none of your business.”
“I’m afraid that’s where you and I disagree. Now, you are either going to clear out and give these ladies a chance to load up, or I’m going to beat you to a pulp with my bare hands… and then you’re going to still clear out and give these ladies a chance to load up. This should be a decision so easy even an ex-grunt can make it,” snarled Conner, his warning and stance radiating danger.
Conner would like nothing better than to just skip the options and beat the man bloody for hitting a woman alone, but it was strictly against military code to engage in a fight with someone who was now a civilian. Unless, of course, the piece of shit was dumb enough to throw the first punch, thought Conner with a derisive smile.
Sage was not fooled. Plastered against his side, she could feel the coiled tension radiating from his body. He was poised for a fight. It was almost as if he were eager for one!
Slinking away from the threat of a fight with the large Marine, Ricardo turned to the easier target of Melissa, pointing in her direction he warned, “This isn’t over, bitch.”
“Oh, it better be, dude. I literally know where you live,” threatened Conner.
Ricardo turned on his heel and ran to his car with Melissa shouting curses in his wake. The threat of a fight gone, Conner turned his attention back to the squirming little package in his arms, settling her more firmly against his chest.
“You can release me now,” she stated through clenched teeth.
Sage was alarmed at her body’s reaction to him. He was too… too male. It was almost primal. She was a modern woman for Christ’s sakes! Not some cave woman swooning at the thought of her man swinging his big club around. Speaking of big clubs, she could feel his pressing against her stomach, it both frightened and aroused her.
“What if I don’t want to?” he teased.
Sage refused to take the bait. She tried shifting her hips and shoulders to dislodge Conner’s grip, the move only seemed to arouse him more. She raised shocked eyes to his amused ones.
“Don’t look at me,” he laughed. “You’re the one rubbing up against me.”
“I… I…” Sage was at a complete loss for words for the first time in her life.
Her cheeks flamed a bright pink as she became even more aware of their situation. The heat from his naked chest caused her nipples to become erect through her simple silk bra. Judging by his knowing smirk, he could feel their hard outline pushing across his skin. Conner rubbed her bottom lip with the tip of his finger.
“Any thoughts on how you want to thank me for saving you?”
All his earlier good intentions fled the moment he felt the warmth of her body against his own. The moment he smelled the sugared orange scent of her skin as he whispered into her ear. When he felt her pulse race, heard her breath catch and watched her pupils dilate at his closeness. She could protest all she wanted. Her body told him all he needed to know.
“Saving me?” she asked, incredulously. “I had the situation perfectly in hand before you barged in. Thank you very much, Mr… Mr…”
“It’s Conner,” he offered.
“Mr. Conner,” she stated primly, despite her lascivious pose draped across his front.
“Just Conner. Sage.”
She didn’t like how her name sounded more like a promise than a name coming from his lips.
“Please release me, Just Conner.” She smirked knowingly.
“No,” he stated bluntly.
“No?” she sputtered. “You can’t say no!”
Conner shrugged his shoulders. The movement caressing her already aroused nipples, sending a frisson of awareness crashing up her spine. “I just did,” he challenged.
Sage pushed against his chest, trying to create a space between her skin and his own as she desperately looked around for assistance. Spying Melissa across the parking lot deliberately trying to look busy packing the car. She knew she would get no help from that quarter.
“See here. You can’t just keep me trapped here,” she reasoned.
“What are you offering?” “Offering?” “For your freedom”
“This really is too much!”
“I have all day.”
“What do you want?” Sage asked, exasperated.
Conner raised his eyebrow suggestively as he swiveled his hips forward, brushing her stomach with his painfully aroused shaft.
“Not that!” She blushed.
“How about a kiss?”
“I believe that is the customary tribute for a knight in shining armor when they rescue a damsel in distress.”
“I was not in distress, you…”
Her argument was cut off by his finger across her lips.
“Do you want me to release you or not?”
Sage sighed. “Fine.”
She tilted her head back and screwed her lips tight in a rather uninviting purse. Conner laughed. She really was an adorably, feisty little thing.
Without warning, he reached into the low neckline of the t-shirt that had been teasing him all afternoon. Grasping a warm handful of soft breast, feeling the graze of her nipple along the center of his roughened palm, he squeezed… hard. Shocked, Sage opened her mouth in a gasp. Conner attacked. His other hand, which had been securing her waist, swept up Sage’s back to cradle her head, gripping her hair. Pulling down, her head fell back, giving him access to her vulnerable mouth. His full lips descended on her small pink ones, overwhelming her. His tongue swept in, taking possession of her mouth. Playfully swirling his tongue around her own. Taking her lower lip between his teeth, he gently bit before moving to lick down her neck, wanting to see if she tasted like sweet oranges.
Pressing his lips to her skin, he murmured, “Kiss me back, Spitfire.”
“I…I can’t,” she whimpered.
Christ! It was too much. Digging her nails into his strong chest muscles, Sage barely clung to her sanity. His hand guiding her head. His mouth on hers. His other hand gripping her breast. It was all too much. He didn’t just take control of her. He took complete possession of her every sense. Suddenly frightened of her response, Sage tried to push away; he only tightened his grip.
Conner could feel her body quake and stiffen. She was fighting him. Fighting her response to him. He wouldn’t let her. Releasing his hold on her breast and head, he moved both hands to her ass. Gripping her by the underside curve, he lifted her feet off the ground, crushing her hips to his own. Pushing his tongue into her mouth in a punishing rhythm, he made sure she felt every inch of the rigid length of his cock as it pressed between them. After several minutes that felt like an eternity, he set her back on her feet, but kept her plastered to his front.
Forcing the fingers of his right hand between her clenched thighs from behind while his left hand still squeezed her bottom cheek, he whispered harshly against her cheek, slightly out of breath, “Just because I can’t feel your wetness through these jeans doesn’t mean I don’t know it’s there, Spitfire.”
Sage felt her knees buckle as his fingers pressed up against her swollen clit, using the harsh fabric of the denim to his advantage. She closed her eyes, trying to get her equilibrium back. When she came back to her senses, she was standing in the middle of the parking lot with Conner lightly stroking her upper arms. She took a step back, relieved when he let her go.
Conner watched her intently as if he expected her to flee at any moment. Smart man. He took a step forward. Sage took another step back. He took another step, but this time with a warning look. Sage hated herself for heeding it. When he was once again directly in front of her, he took her by the chin and forced her to meet his gaze.
“Give me your number,” he demanded.
“Do you really need to ask?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she stalled.
The truth was he scared her. Sage had never responded to a man like that before… had never relinquished control. Taking this further would be a bad idea.
“Sage,” sighed Conner, impatiently. “I didn’t ask. Give me your number.”
He knew why she was hesitating and it was bullshit. Attraction like this didn’t happen between people often. She was running from it because it scared her. Marines didn’t run away and they didn’t get fucking scared.
Keeping her gaze lowered, she muttered, “202-639-8700.”
“Good girl,” he said with a quick kiss on her lips. “Go see to your friend.”
Sage practically ran to Melissa who was already waiting in the car.
“Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!” yelled Melissa as she laughed and beat on the steering wheel.
“Will you please stop?” groaned Sage.
“Do you have any idea what you two looked like? Oh my god! I came just looking at you! Girl, I am so jealous!”
“Well, don’t be,” said Sage. “I have no intention of ever seeing him again.”
“Are you crazy? Don’t be a stupid bitch. You have to see that hotty again.”
“Nope,” Sage said with more determination than she felt. “It would never work. He’s too controlling. Too arrogant.” Too primal. Too sexy. Too dominant. Too scary, she thought.
“But you gave him your phone number,” argued Melissa. “What are you going to do when he calls?”
“That won’t be a problem,” said Sage.
“Don’t act like you weren’t all into him, ‘Miss your underwear matches your eyes,’ ” laughed Melissa.
“Oh god,” moaned Sage. “That’s just another reason why I will never set eyes on him again! Besides, can we please talk about you?”
“Do we have too?” pouted Melissa.
“Look, sweetie, I don’t know what kind of Freudian, daddy-issue crap you’ve got going on that makes you choose winners like the Lying Latin Lover back there, but you are going to get yourself in real trouble one day… or me!” lectured Sage.
“You didn’t have to come with me,” sulked Melissa.
Sage reached over and stroked her friend’s shoulder. “You wouldn’t last two minutes in prison without me.”
“Not true! I watch Orange is the New Black!” laughed Melissa.
Sage laughed with her, then quickly sobered. “You know you’re going to have to tell your father about this.”
“Melly! It might not have been by the police, but we still got caught. What if that guy reports us? What if Ricardo does?”
“Ricardo isn’t going anywhere near a police station, and that big, hunky Marine could care less about reporting you to the cops. He would much rather get in your pants,” said Melissa with a suggestive wink.
“Nice. Real nice,” smirked Sage. “I still think you should tell your father.”
“Trust me. The last thing Senator Taylor cares about is his disappointing daughter’s latest boyfriend troubles,” responded Melissa with a self-deprecating smile.
Sage gave her close friend a sympathetic look. Melissa’s story was so stereotypical it was practically a Lifetime movie. Rich senator’s daughter acts out because she never gets enough love or attention from her powerful daddy. It had all the required elements. A deceased mother. A beautiful daughter whose poor taste in boyfriends exacerbates her father and causes no end of trouble. A cold, unfeeling father. Usually this is the part in the movie where you see what a spoiled brat the daughter is and how she deliberately sets out to make her father miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Melissa was sweet and kind. She worked hard and didn’t take a penny of her father’s money. She also went out of her way to make sure that none of her scrapes or poor choices wound up in the press so as to avoid embarrassing her politician father. Melissa was a great girl… if only Sage could fix her taste in men!
Not that Sage was an expert… far from it. At twenty-five, her longest relationship had been with her high school boyfriend, Timmy. Did it even count as a relationship if you both had your braces on and never got past “second base?” Sage wondered. If not, well then, she was really pathetic. She couldn’t even use work as an excuse. She loved her job, loved knowing she made a difference in the world. Helping schools retain their art and music programs with grant money might not rate as high as curing cancer or fixing world hunger, but she knew it made a difference in the quality of the education those children received, and she knew that made a difference in the long run.
But even so, one would hardly call her a workaholic. Although far from vain, Sage knew she was pretty enough to get a date if she wanted. She just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t worth the free meal to put up with some random guy talking only about himself or his current ranking in Call of Duty. Or worse, showing only just enough interest in her to get her into bed. All the men she met were just so tiresome and boring. Well not all the men she met. Somehow Sage knew the very last thing Conner would be was boring. Hell, he didn’t have to play Call of Duty, he lived it! He also didn’t strike her as the useless small talk type. No, a man like Conner was a man of action. The type who took what he wanted. Sage felt a small thrilling flip deep in her stomach at the thought. That was so bad! She should be ashamed of herself. Getting excited at the thought of a man like Conner grabbing her by the shoulders… pushing her against a wall… forcing his tongue into her mouth… thrusting his…
NO! Bad modern female! Bad!
Actions like that went out with the fifties. Next thing you knew, she would be daydreaming of meeting the arrogant man at the door in an apron with a martini! Besides, the whole thing was pointless. She was never going to lay eyes on him again.
Ricardo stormed into his apartment. Ignoring the chaotic mess, he marched straight to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. Popping the tab, he slugged half the contents back. “Fucking bitch,” he muttered as he scanned the living room, taking in the scattered cushions and overturned storage bins.
At least the crazy bitch didn’t smash his PlayStation he thought with a wry smile as he saw the console tossed aside on the dining room table. None of this mattered anyway. The bitch would get hers in the end. He had all the dirt on her he needed anyway. Strolling down the narrow hallway to his bedroom, Ricardo smirked at the thought of how Melissa was going to react when he showed up on her doorstep with his demands. Oh the bitch was going to pay all right. More to the point, her precious daddy was going to pay… and pay big.
Avoiding the over-turned drawer near the doorway, Ricardo crossed to the bureau. It was gone. “Fuck!” he yelled as he fell to his knees not caring about the beer spilling onto the carpet.
Scrambling through the pile of discarded clothes, he searched in vain. Crawling on his knees, he looked under the bed. In a desperate last ditch effort, he tossed through all the pillows and blankets on the bed. It was no use. The teddy bear was gone. The bitch had taken the teddy bear… along with the SD card from the hidden nanny cam inside. Hours of blackmail material… gone. He had to get it back.
Taking a deep breath, Ricardo grabbed his phone. With a sinister slant to his mouth, he started to text Melissa how very sorry he was for their fight.
Later that day, not giving a damn about conventional dating wisdom and not wanting to wait to see Sage again, Conner dialed her number.
“Domino’s Pizza! Will this be a pick up or delivery?”
Laughing, Conner hung up the phone.
Game on, Sage
Here is a glimpse of the Hero I am currently writing in my latest #darkromance Victorian.
Corinne gasped as the man turned his attention to her.The impact of his gaze felt like a physical hand squeezing the breath from her body. His eyes! His eyes bore into her. Shining black as polished onyx. Their expression filled with the dark promise of destiny.
A tall, imposing man, he was at least two heads taller than the cardinal. Impossibly broad shoulders were cloaked in an expertly tailored black frock coat. An intricately tied cravat at his throat tapered to a deep purple brocade waistcoat, emphasizing his narrow hips and long legs. As she followed Mother Superior up the aisle, his features came into focus. Thick, ink black hair swept back from a widow’s peak framed a handsome yet rigid face. Lowered brow, aristocratic nose, angular jaw. The only softness, his lips, which showed just the hint of a knowing smile.
Stunned, Corinne tripped over the white marble step leading up the alter.
Large, warm hands spanned her ribcage. Saving her from a fall. Lifting her high till the toes of her slippers skimmed the smooth floor. The man placed her before him. Craning her neck back, Corinne dared a glance at his eyes. Frightened of being pulled into their black depths, she quickly averted her own. Desperately she tried to pull air into her body but the feel of his hands, the warmth radiating through the thin silk, prevented anything but a feeble gasp. His touch. The sensation of it. Her limited experience did not give her words to describe, could not prepare her, for such a soul bearing emotion.
“Lord Talon, may I present Corinne,” intoned Mother Superior with reverence.
Lord Lucian Talon, Duke of Ebonhurst. A wealthy peer with extensive landholdings throughout the British Isles in Northumberland, Devon, Somerset and Cumbria. His ancestral home was in the harsh, unforgiving lands of Cornwall. The ruthless rocky terrain and brackish winds forging a commanding lineage of powerful, influential men who never quite shook off the primal impulses of their conquering ancestors. Like his father before him and his father’s father, Lord Lucian took what he wanted without apology, did what he wanted without hesitation and demanded complete subservience without penitence.
The Rebel’s Secret is the third and final book in USA Today Bestseller Zoe Blake's Western Trilogy, The Ride Hard Series which include The Cowboy’s Revenge – Book One and The Gunfighter’s Pursuit – Book Two. All three books can be read as stand-alones.
She was determined to claim her revenge. He was determined to claim her. Michaela Armistead had only revenge in mind when she stepped into that frontier saloon. Disguised as a boy, she had been on her father’s murderer’s trail since the end of the War Between The States. What she hadn’t counted on was Major John Thomas Brice, commanding officer of the nearby fort, taking her prisoner!
One look at those flashing violet eyes and Major Brice knew this was one little rebel who needed to be taken in hand. He would be damned if he allowed her to continue on her dangerous quest for revenge. She needed to learn, in this part of Texas, his word was law. If that lesson came at the end of a leather strap, then so be it.
Problem was, his feisty Rebel was not going to give in without a fight!
Ride Hard Series – Three Soldiers, One Single Purpose
Three soldiers who don’t give a damn about the War Between The States or that they were all on the losing side. All they care about is it’s over… they can finally seek their revenge.
Here is a quick excerpt from my latest WIP.
Corinne will never forget her first glimpse of Ebonhurst Castle.
If she had been fortunate enough to grow up at her mother’s knee, she may have compared it to a fairytale. Imagining chivalric deeds, knights on white horses and ancient magic. Alas, Corinne’s childhood was spent in a cold Abbey surrounded by relics of dead saints and stern warnings of damnation. With such a limited experience, she could only view the imposing fortification with its crowned turrets, somber gray walls and unwelcoming facade through the same eyes she viewed its master. With fear and trepidation.
As the coach rumbled along the uneven path, swerving dangerously close to the cliff edge with each turn, she could hear the rushing of the sea as it crashed against the jagged rocks. The icy dark waters swallowing all reflected light. With each winding twist of the road, the castle crept closer into view. Perched almost defiantly at the tip of a rocky peninsula which stretched out over the black sea, it seemed to mark the end of the world. As if the castle guarded the gate between society and the pagan past.
Corinne hazard a glance from under her thick lashes at the man who sat silently across from her. She wondered which world he represented. His title, wealth, even the fine cut of his clothes bespoke him a gentleman in every respect. Yet, his demeanor, his actions, his stated intentions towards her screamed of a primal nature that would disregard the laws of man and perhaps even God at whim. He had made it clear she was more possession than wife and would be treated as such. What kind of life awaited her in this forbidding castle with the even more formidable Dark Duke?