Authors: Pam Champagne
Tags: #Romantic Suspense
FBI Special Agent in Charge Caitlin Chaney believes in doing things strictly by the book. It’s the only way to prove she’s earned her rank despite her father’s position in the federal government. Just her luck, she’s been teamed with an agent who’s known for following his instincts, not the rules. To her way of thinking, Agent Jake LeFevre is a screw up and bound to trash her operation—and career.
Jake is used to running undercover ops his way, and he’s not too happy with his new boss—an accountant, no less, whose undercover experience is limited at best. He needs a partner who can hold her own, not a prima donna.
At first the sparks that fly between them aren’t the good kind. From the very beginning, their cover as madly-in-love newlyweds at a New Orleans casino is tested to the max. But as they work together to find a missing whistleblower in a money-laundering scheme, their admiration grows to respect—and something more.
Then Jake discovers the casino CFO is someone he loved as a teenager. If the woman recognizes him, things could go sideways, and fast—and in a way that could leave their bodies—and hearts—in pieces.
“Better.” He shuffled around in the kitchen, opened a cabinet, then set a couple of cups on the counter. “Mind if I turn on a light?”
“Go ahead.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her bare feet on the cold wood floors sent a shiver through her body; she pulled her PJ top tighter. “Coffee smells good.”
He avoided her gaze.
She said, “There’s no reason to feel awkward about our sleeping together. Nothing really happened.”
“Something did happen. The connection between us—it’s real, but you’re right. Getting involved is a bad idea anytime and with another agent—my boss?
“I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I feel too much to hide it anymore.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. The stubble against her fingers, the hard plane of his face—when had he grown so dear?
He captured her hand and kissed the tips of her fingers. “Still a bad idea, Kate.”
But he didn’t let go. Instead, he pulled her closer into a kiss, a long senses-drugging kiss. His lips were hard and demanding. She opened her mouth to him and met his tongue, battling for dominance. The warmth in her belly flamed into a fire. All will, all resistance was for nothing. Her knees weakened. His body was hard against hers.
She’d thought to comfort him, yet his presence and his scent comforted her like nothing she’d ever known. She managed to whisper his name as he picked her up and carried her to the bed.
“Are you sure? Still a bad idea.”
“But nothing in life is sure. I just feel…”
“Chèr, you have it right. Feelings are all that matter.”
is all that matters.”
He settled her carefully on the bed, but she pulled him down with her. Poised over her, he unbuttoned her pajamas slowly, prolonging the torture. She wanted him. The backs of his hands grazed her nipples. They tightened into tiny nubs as he slipped her PJ top off her shoulders.
“You’re so beautiful. Like I always imagined.”
“You imagined me naked?”
“Many times. Dreamed ’bout doing this, too.” He bent over and kissed her neck. “Only you didn’t talk so much.”
“Then shut me up, Jake.”
He let out a low growl. His mouth fastened on hers and a thrill ran though her body. He tasted of chicory. His tongue swept against hers. He tugged his shirt free and whipped it over his head while sunlight played over his chiseled muscles. She reached out and caressed the hard muscles of his chest, and it was his turn to shiver.
He kissed her again, this time like a man starving with a deep hunger.
A hunger as fierce as her own.
He slipped a hand between their bodies and touched the damp folds between her legs. Heat blazed again, flushing her body with fire. A whimper forced its way through her lips.
“Did I hurt you?”
“No,” she gasped. “I need you. God, I need you so much.”
He groaned and buried his face between her breasts. “Soft. So soft.” His teeth fastened gently on her nipple and tugged.
Pain, an exquisite pain, morphed into whirlpools of pleasure and swirled from her tightened nipples to her groin. She moaned. He was too slow; she wanted him to fill her…she wanted the heat of his body against hers. Through his jeans, his rigid hard-on pressed against her thigh.
“Take ’em off.” She fumbled with the button and zipper of his jeans. Levered on one elbow, he arched away from her slightly and freed his dick. She grasped his firm length; his shaft jerked and pulsed at her touch.
“Easy,” he warned. “Or this’ll be over too soon.”
She managed a gasp. “We wouldn’t want that.”
“No, we wouldn’t.” A chuckle rose deep from his chest.
He reached back and shoved his jeans below his knees, then kicked them off.
The heat of his skin against hers sent a thrill though her entire body.
His body. Warm. Hard…and so close.
She pressed upward and gasped his name.
He stilled her with a slow, sensual kiss, then, his breath warm against her ear, he nibbled the lobe. “I’ve wanted you for so long…from the first moment you walked into Jose’s office.”
“Hush. Show me.” What was it about him that turned her into a pool of need? No man had ever stirred her emotions like Jake.
“Anything for the boss.”
“You have to get over that.”
“I’m gonna get over
, chèr.” He nudged her thighs apart and slid two fingers deep into her wet core. “’Bout the time I break the bank at Monte Carlo.”
Her inner muscles clenched tight around his fingers as he moved them in and out of her slick folds. He raked the back of her thigh with his thumb.
She bit the inside of her bottom lip as a surge of pleasure ripped though her.
Why this man? Why could he touch her like no man ever had? Not just her body but her heart.
And she could get used to sharing a bed with him.
Kate McAuley once thought Lucas Barone loved her, and returned that love for all she was worth—until the day he walked away without a word. Now, four years later she answers a knock on her door and finds Luke on her doorstep, broken, bleeding and unconscious. He brings with him all kind of emotions, and all kinds of questions. Where has he been? Why did he leave? And what’s an accountant doing with wounds like these?
As a covert ops specialist with the U.S. government, Luke deceived, betrayed and conned so many people he couldn’t keep them straight—except Kate. Their time together was magical, until the call came and he was forced to walk away. For four long years, memories of her have kept him alive and sane. Now, hunted by his own government, desperate and injured, Kate is the only one he can trust.
Kate’s innocent phone call for help sets in motion an evil that reaches the highest echelons of political power. With accusations of murder and treason hanging over their heads, it’ll take every ounce of Luke’s training, intelligence—and Kate’s trust—to keep them alive.
She stiffened. “I don’t paint anymore.”
Luke sat back, his earlier nervousness gone. He was in his element now, a master at retrieving information. And he was determined to find out exactly what had happened to her dreams. “Oh?”
“I, um.” Her gaze lifted to his then skittered away. “I’m a bartender.”
It took him a moment to stop reeling from that bombshell and to absorb the implications. “You’re a painter, Kate. You draw beautiful, emotionally charged pictures, not drafts.” Anger rolled through him at the thought of her dodging the wandering hands of drunks. She was a painter, damn it. A great painter. Well on her way to becoming famous.
She stood suddenly, gathering her plate and his, avoiding his glare. “I’ll clean up since you cooked.”
“Tell me why you’re not painting.”
Pain flickered through her eyes right before she closed them. An answering pain twisted him into knots. Just what had happened to her? His leaving wouldn’t cause the pain he’d seen in her. Something else, something terrible had happened and he needed to know because he wanted to help.
“I, um… It wasn’t paying the bills.”
Her eyes flew open and she pursed her lips, anger darkening her expression. For a second Luke didn’t know if she intended to throw her plate at him or take it to the sink.
“You have no right,” she said, her voice wavering. “You left. And you didn’t come back. You have no right to question my decisions, how I live my life.”
“I can’t pretend not to see your pain, just like you can’t pretend not to see mine. What happened?”
Tears welled in her eyes, overflowed and dripped. “Damn you!” She put the plate down and swiped at her cheeks. “I don’t paint anymore! Is that what you want to hear? I’m a bartender. I pour drinks and listen to people’s pathetic stories. Or at least I did. I’m sure I’m out of a job by now.” Her shoulders shook. “Just when I finally get my life back on track, you come falling through my front door and tear my world apart again!”
She whirled around and ran out, closing the door so hard the boat rocked. Luke stared at the dirty dinner dishes, at the overturned saltshaker and the empty iced tea glasses.
With shaking hands, he picked up his plate and took it to the sink. She had her secrets. He had his. Yet, he couldn’t force her to tell him her secrets when he refused to divulge his. What a pair they made. Haunted, hurting.
He looked out the window over the sink, staring into the dark night, not seeing anything but his own reflection in the glass. He didn’t like what he saw. He scrubbed a hand down his face but the action didn’t erase the man he was.
Kate stood on the dock, staring into the dark recesses of the forest. The breeze whistled through the branches, the leaves rustled in the trees, the lake lapped against the side of the boat and the crickets chirped.
She shouldn’t have said those things, even if they were the truth. Luke couldn’t help it that someone was after him and she was glad he’d been there the night Hank Stuben broke into her house. Of course, Hank Stuben wouldn’t have broken into her house if it hadn’t been for Luke.
She took a deep breath of the still-stifling night air. She should go back and apologize. The look on Luke’s face right before she’d turned around and left indicated her words had cut deep.
But she couldn’t go in. Because she was afraid. Afraid he’d bring up her painting. Afraid of his questions. Afraid of her answers. Afraid to divulge the awful truth of what she’d done. Afraid he’d hate her if he knew.
She stepped off the dock, her feet landing on hard, firm ground, and turned to look at the houseboat. Lights shone from the windows. Up top, the string of party lights created a festive rainbow, beckoning her to return from the dark night.
Luke’s form floated past the kitchen window. The lights backlit him until he was nothing but a dark shadow against bright yellow.
She could have sworn their gazes touched, but that was impossible. She couldn’t really see him and he probably couldn’t see her. A breeze brushed past her and she shivered, clutching her arms about her waist and rubbing her elbows.
She felt more alone out here, looking inside Luke’s houseboat, than she ever had in her entire life. In the past, she’d always had her family to turn to. She and her brothers fought like cats and dogs, but when one needed the other, they were always there.
Now every time she returned home, she thought she saw the condemnation in her family’s faces. The accusations.
She looked away, toward the black void of the lake.
“Kate?” Her head snapped back to the boat. Luke stood on the other side of the dock. “Come back inside, Kate.” His voice was disembodied, husky, beckoning, calling, inviting. She shivered again. “I promise I won’t ask any more questions about your art.” Now his voice held defeat and sorrow.
Kate took a hesitant step toward him, then another and another until they stood inches apart. Silently he held out his hand and she grabbed onto it.
Together they walked back into the light.