Authors: Mandy Harbin
Surrounded By Secrets
Copyright © January 2013, Mandy Harbin
Cover art by For the Muse Designs © January 2013
Formatting by Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Charlotte, NC 28227
No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from Amira Press.
Jack stared at the photo he’d taken from his father’s desk weeks ago, when he’d stumbled upon it during a conference call with Lillian Caldwell. He’d been verbally sparring with the infuriating—and mesmerizing—neighbor about her desire to work for his family’s tree business full-time, rather than contracted as needed, when he’d discovered this picture of Lina Woods.
She was frozen in time with several other people he hadn’t recognized. She looked beautiful, though. Timeless. Of course, he’d always known she was a captivating woman. Up until her death, Lina’s presence in any room commanded attention. And his father, Thomas, was always putty in her paws. They were mated, and a mated pair’s bond was an unbreakable force fueled by love and respect, a lesson that had only been reinforced by watching Jack’s brothers mate with their females.
His parents had never discussed the dynamics of their mating because it was a personal experience meant to be shared with no one. Besides, talking about mating and their heritage was pointless because Thomas’s parents had died when he was young, the history of their kind dying with them. It seemed Jack and his brothers would be doomed to struggle with the possibility of mating on their own. But Josh, Toby, and Rob had beaten the odds. They’d all found mates who loved them. Eric’s story was another matter entirely. He’d taken a mate against her will, and they’d fought to the death.
Jack figured if he were ever to be lucky enough to find a woman who wanted to spend her life with him, it would go one of two ways.
Thankfully, the compound Ariel had created seemed to be working.
. Krista had coerced her sister into coming onto the land, and once she fussed around with the mood recipe to where Jack could stomach it, he’d been doing well on it—though he’d never truly forgive himself for stopping the meds and almost raping his brother’s mate. He had a lot to prove to his family after that major fuckup.
And to himself.
Sighing, he put the photo away in his nightstand and grabbed his worn work boots. He needed to talk to Josh about that photo, but the timing just never seemed right. Jack knew the real reason he’d avoided the conversation before was he’d been keeping his nose down, focusing on his work, hoping it might make it easier to face his family. Though hiding behind that mistake was just an excuse. Failure wasn’t something he was accustomed to, but he needed to be a man and not a chickenshit. He wasn’t known as the hard-ass around here for nothing. Besides, trying to constantly make amends had opened up a whole other can of worms.
Because Lillian Caldwell was getting her wish.
Today was her first day as an official employee of his family. And hell if that didn’t make his life even that much more problematic. She was fucking beautiful, a true vision of all that he’d ever thought made up the physical appearance of his ideal woman, curvy and blonde. Damn, he was in some serious trouble now. All those conference calls with her had done nothing but worn out his right hand for hours. He’d thought that after attacking Ariel he’d be a cold fish, but oh no, he couldn’t be
lucky. His dick still knew what it wanted, and his lion still yearned for a mate. But his brain knew better, and this had catastrophe written all over it. Not only did he get to see his personal siren in the flesh, but he got to work with her. Rather, she got to work for him. Indefinitely. God, the last thing he needed to add to his mistakes was a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Lillian Caldwell, in all her physical perfection, was off-limits. His dick, and his lion, would just have to get over it.
* * * *
Lillian looked in the mirror. Red thong? Check. Matching red bra? Check. She cupped her breasts and shook her head. Lordy, her boobs were too big. It’d be nice if she could walk into Victoria’s Secret and buy off the shelf, but unfortunately, she had to get her bras at the big-girl store. At least she’d found a sexy one. Knockers this size usually required her to wear a grandma bra. But that was unacceptable for today. She needed something sexy in case the hottie with the body got her clothes off. Jesus H. Christ, but Jack Woods was sex on a stick.
And come hell or high water, she’d have him in her bed. It wasn’t often she set her sights on a man, but there was just something about Jack that got her body humming. It’d been too long since she’d been truly pleased by a man, and she was long past due for a righteous big O.
There was only one real reason Lillian had strong-armed the Woods clan into giving her a permanent position with their tree farming business, and she wasn’t too much of a flake to admit that. She wanted to see the hottie with the body nekkid.
She hadn’t lied when she told them there weren’t that many jobs around here, but they were right in that she didn’t need the money. They had offered her dad plenty of money for his land. She’d tried to stop the sale at first, but her dad really did need a break. He seemed so distracted lately, so she hoped unloading the responsibility of their tree farm would help him. It definitely freed up his time.
He had flown out yesterday to visit her grandma for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, when she’d told him she’d taken a full-time position with the Woods family, he hadn’t seemed that upset. Actually, he was almost happy for her. Little did he know that selling their land had opened up another, more physical, opportunity for her, too.
An opportunity she was going to grab by the balls.
Not that she didn’t have other offers. Lillian had broken up with her ex-boyfriend a few months ago, but the dickhead was still hounding her about going out again. Maybe she would if David knew how to please her sexually, but he was a little too passive in between the sheets. The notches on her belt were limited to just a few men since she was incredibly choosy, but David had been a major disappointment. He was tall with dark blond hair and green eyes. Muscular. Tanned. Gorgeous. But when it came to sex, he was a little too submissive for her liking.
, and when he came, the sounds he made were a total turnoff: whiny, whimpering, weak. Such a contradiction to his strong, manly presence out of bed. Jack wouldn’t sound like that. She just knew it. He’d growled at her several times during their arguments, and each time her panties got wet. He just oozed sexual dominance.
And that was just what she needed.
She slipped on her tight jeans, put on a lacy shell, and then donned a fitted flannel shirt, leaving the top few buttons undone so the camisole, and her cleavage, peeked through. She shifted. Thongs weren’t really work attire, but she’d deal with the discomfort. She was on a mission.
No pain, no sex.
She slipped into her boots. She’d considered trading them out for something a little more fashionable, but she was going to be there to work. Wearing new shoes was a rookie mistake, so if she wanted to be taken seriously, she’d have to wear her old work boots. Besides, blisters were not sexy, and new shoes had to be broken in before being acceptable as work-wear attire.
Lillian grabbed the keys to her four-wheeler and trotted out. She didn’t need to bring a purse or anything else since she’d faxed her driver’s license and Social Security card to them last week. And since she lived next door, she wouldn’t have to pack a lunch.
She climbed onto the wheeler and started it. After revving it a few times, she kicked it into gear and headed down the trail to the Woods estate. Within a few minutes, she’d passed the gate that had been left open and made it through the clearing. Surprisingly, she wasn’t feeling nervous at all.
Under normal circumstances, she didn’t chase men, but for some reason, she knew she’d have to make the first move if anything were to happen with Jack. And that helped her resolve.
There he was. Standing next to a large pine tree that started a section of new growth stood the hottie with the body. She pulled right up to him and killed the engine. Okay, so there were some butterflies swimming in her now because, holy Christ, he was way hotter in person.
“Lillian.” He nodded to her and took her hand as she started off the wheeler.
His voice was like rough silk. She loved hearing him talk over Skype, but that paled in comparison to hearing him speak now. And the feel of his hand sent electrical sparks arcing through her. Oh yeah, she was going to fuck him. Tonight.
Once she was clear of her four-wheeler, he let go of her hand and stepped back while he slid that hand through his hair. His gorgeous blue eyes held her.
He cleared his throat and shifted. “I apologize for being so difficult about you working here. I shouldn’t have—”
She waved her hand, dismissing the comment. “No need. I’m here.” She took a step closer. “Now where do you want me, Jack?”
She smiled at him and raised a brow, knowing her comment was borderline suggestive, and hoping like hell he thought so, too.
He looked to the right and indicated the nearest patch of trees. “I figured I’ll show you around the farm and tell you the years when each section is to be harvested and replanted, make sure you know your way around before setting you loose.”
Hmm, he didn’t even flinch at her suggestive tone. And she had her hands on her hips, thrusting her bodacious tatas in his direction. She wasn’t used to playing the vixen. Maybe she was doing it all wrong. A panicked thought of her making a fool of herself in front of her new boss almost paralyzed her. Then she chastised herself. She wouldn’t know if she didn’t try. But she needed to take it down a notch. This was just going to be harder than she’d thought.
Lillian nodded and tried to seem nonchalant. “Sounds good. I’ll just follow you on my wheeler.”
When she turned to her four-wheeler, she noticed a tic in his jaw. Odd.
“You shouldn’t wear perfume to work. It can attract insects,” he practically barked at her.
At that, she had to laugh as she straddled her ride and looked over at him. “Don’t worry, big guy. I know the drill. I don’t wear perfume. There’s nothing artificial about me.”
Heat flared in his eyes before he quickly banked it. Well, well, well, maybe this wasn’t going to be so hard after all. Time to sink or swim.
“Since this is my first job outside of my family business, I think drinks are in order tonight. You can pick me up at eight.”
She started her wheeler, not letting him answer. She saw the warring in his eyes. He was going to try to turn her down.
Good luck with that, hottie with the body.
Tonight, you are mine
Jack stomped to the dining room of the main house. Drinks with Lillian? Why hadn’t he turned her down?
You tried, asshole. She was too stubborn to take no for an answer
He’d never met a more infuriating woman. Working with her proved just as heated as their conference calls. She’d argued with him on just about everything. From the way they’d spaced out their rows of trees to the types of pesticides they used. She was too fucking opinionated.
And that didn’t do a damn thing to cool his ardor. Every time she’d bent over, he’d studied her ass as though he’d be tested on it later. Visions of him ripping off her clothes and thrusting into her bombarded him all day. And her breasts . . . the online meetings they’d had hadn’t done those assets justice. If he wasn’t picturing her bent over a log, the wheeler, a rock, or the nearest object so he could take her from behind, he was envisioning her flat on her back, with him shoving his cock between her milky mounds.