Authors: Mia Zachary
“I have a strict policy against workplace relationships.”
“We’re nowhere near the P.I. agency now,” she pointed out. Stevie leaned around him, making sure her breasts brushed across his arm.
“You still work for me, Stevie.”
“No problem. I quit.”
“Resignation duly noted,” he said wryly. “But the policy is in place for a good reason. Sleeping with someone who works for you clouds your judgment.”
“So who said anything about
His nostrils flared and she saw his pupils dilate. She was standing close enough to hear the quick intake of breath before he shook his head. “Even if I accepted your resignation, which I don’t, that doesn’t solve anything. You asked me to take you on as a client. The same policy applies.”
“Not a problem,” she whispered, “you’re fired.”
Stevie Madison is smart, sexy and spirited. But even a tough girl has a tender side, as Emelio Sanchez soon discovers. She’s been sending him erotic notes signed, “Yours in Black Lace.” When the fiercely independent security expert goes on the run with the overprotective investigator, Emelio has to guard his heart against Stevie’s seductive charms.
It takes a special kind of hero to be matched with a strong and determined woman. Some of you may remember Emelio from my last book. Those who are meeting him for the first time, prepare to fall in love. Emelio offers Stevie exactly the kind of affection and understanding she needs to heal the wounds of her past.
Everyone wishes for a happy ending, and certainly Stevie and Emelio’s comes true. I wish you happy reading. I wish you joy. Please visit at www.miazachary.com.
I unsnap your jeans and slide the zipper down. Then I push them, along with your shorts, over your hips and down your thighs, leaving you naked at last.
I take my time, touching and tasting and enjoying you. I wait to hear you moan and whisper my name. Then, and only then, will I be…
Stevie took advantage of his distraction, using the time to study features she’d already committed to memory on her first day at January Investigations. It was a compelling face, a blend of cool reserve and masculine appeal too beautiful to be called handsome and yet devastatingly male.
Her eyes roamed over his strong jaw, regal nose and the high ridge of his cheekbones. His hazel eyes, she knew, were flecked with amber and green and the shadows of distant secrets. His lips were firm and full in a wide mouth that rarely smiled.
Just now, there was a slight softening of his normally brooding features. Had the contents of her letter gotten to him? She hoped so. Dreams about Emelio, about what she wanted to do with him, made for long, frustrating nights. Her pulse accelerated and a delicious longing settled into her belly.
She’d been lusting after her boss ever since she joined the agency. But only on paper. Women called the office for him all the time, so she didn’t stand much of a chance with a playboy who was already juggling at least three girlfriends. Still, she hadn’t been able to resist the urge to write down her fantasies.
There was power and magic in words, because once she dared to put her thoughts on paper, she started to give Emelio the occasional flirtatious glance or inviting smile at work. When the looks he sent her in return began to hold a bit more than professional interest, she took a chance and mailed him one of her letters. Over the past four months, she’d sent eight more.
But she hadn’t yet figured out when or how to tell him of her attraction. Somehow the timing never seemed right. And, truthfully, she liked controlling the situation for now. She wanted to seduce his mind before she risked going after his body. She’d changed a lot, was almost a completely different person than the girl who’d fled New Orleans five years ago. However, inside, the fear of rejection, of not being good enough, remained.
Stevie continued to admire the sight of him. How could any man look so good in a polo shirt the color of pistachio ice cream? The pastel green material offset the golden brown of his skin and emphasized his muscular shoulders and broad chest. The short sleeves wrapped snugly around rock-solid biceps. But Emelio’s hands fascinated her most.
Long, tapered fingers curved around the letter he held. His hands had a surprising eloquence that accompanied his words when he spoke. Those hands had haunted her for months now. She longed to feel them cradle her neck as he kissed her, then slide along her bare skin until his fingers delved lower, making her moan with pleasure.
She must have made some sound because his head came up fast, like a wolf sensing danger. His amber-green eyes shimmered with a sensual heat before the emotion vanished behind his professional mask. In the same instant, he turned the letter facedown on his desk and brought his left hand out of his lap.
Stevie assumed her words had caused his need for adjustment but suppressed a grin. She wished she could give in to the laughter but for one thing, Emelio had no idea she’d been mailing him the erotic notes. For another, she was too damn upset to laugh right now.
All last night, she’d lain in bed awake, startling at the slightest noise, fighting the restless urge to escape into a glass of wine. As a result, her skin felt too tight, as if all of her nerve endings were exposed. She clutched the envelope in front of her as she stepped onto the gray-and-black area rug.
“Did I disturb you, Emelio?”
He cleared his throat, but a trace of huskiness remained. “No. Come on in.”
Out of habit, she looked over at the original José Castillo paintings on the wall as she passed by. The bold slashes of color swirling across the canvases seemed out of place in the stylishly austere corner office.
“You always do that.”
Stevie shifted her gaze at the sound of his voice. “I know. It’s impossible to look away. The artist’s work is so…passionate.”
Passion. Lately the only passion he experienced was vicarious, through either art or words. Emelio leaned back in his leather executive chair and glanced down at the latest note from his secret seductress. Just as with the last seven letters, these erotic images burned themselves into his brain.
“Can you make time for a new client?”
Emelio pushed the
from his thoughts and sat forward, resting his arms on the edge of the desk.
“Of course. Who is it?”
Stevie settled into the guest chair, crossing her endless legs at the knee, and shoved the sleeves of her thin cotton sweater past her elbows.
He looked at her, really looked, for the first time since she’d walked in. Beneath a layered cap of hair every shade from honey to sand, her normally vivid complexion seemed pale against the turquoise-blue sweater. Otherwise, she was as striking as ever. Her skin was flawless and he imagined it felt as soft as a child’s. Her face was beautiful, despite an old break that marred the straight line of her nose. Her bottom lip was broader than the top, giving her a sensual pout.
Stevie’s mouth always looked ready to be kissed. And that was one temptation he couldn’t allow himself. The fact that she worked for him put her strictly off-limits. He’d once learned a deadly lesson about mixing business with pleasure, a lesson he would never forget.
The delicacy of Stevie’s features belied the enigmatic strength evident in her direct, almost aggressive, gaze. The color of her gray-blue eyes shifted like clouds across a summer sky. “Tiffnee signed for this yesterday before she shut down the phones for the night.”
Her watch, a man’s Timex that was too big for her slender wrist, clinked against the desk as she slid a packet across the surface. The plain manila envelope bore no address or postmark. “Madison” was written with black marker in letters uniform enough to have been stenciled onto the paper.
Disquiet slithered over him as he turned the envelope over and carefully removed the contents. Emelio stared at the glossy four-by-six photos. Surveillance photos of Stevie.
“Do you have any idea who sent these, or why?”
Her lush mouth twisted into a frown. “Believe me, I’ve been racking my brain all night. I thought it might be backlash from some case I’d investigated. Oh, wait, I forgot. I haven’t done any fieldwork yet.”
Emelio ignored the edge in her voice. “You were hired because we needed a security specialist.”
“Okay, well, I’ve spent ten months installing alarm systems and pulling guard duty for movie sets and society parties. Now I’m ready for an undercover assignment.”
He remembered some of the assignments from his days with the FBI. Undercover work wasn’t as glamorous as Hollywood made it seem. It was tense and tiring, lonely and frustrating. He looked at Stevie’s fresh, eager face and shook his head. “You’re not ready.”
He returned his attention to the first photograph. She wore a formfitting tank top and spandex shorts. She should wear spandex more often because the pliant material showed off one of the finest backsides he’d ever seen. Emelio forced himself to study the street, the pedestrians and the environment, searching for clues to the stalker’s identity.
“Tell me if you recognize anyone.”
“I was going into my gym. I know the women walking behind me. They’re regulars in my kickboxing class, but those pictures could have been taken almost any Tuesday night.”
He glanced up at her. “Kickboxing.”
She gave a sassy little shrug. “It’s part of my training program, along with Tai Bo and weight lifting. I want to be ready when you finally let me do real work.”
He rolled his eyes and looked at the next picture.
“Those were taken outside the grocery store. Judging by the outfit I had on, I’m guessing it was last Monday. But this—” she tapped a blunt nail against the next photo and her indignation almost succeeded in masking the catch in her voice “—this shows me leaving the bank and that was goddamn yesterday.”
He examined the last picture.
Emelio inhaled sharply and a hot rush of surprise and anger clawed at his chest. Barely visible in the corner of the photograph, he immediately recognized a man with salt-and-pepper hair and deceptively cultured features.
Rogelio Braga. The one who had got away.
Before starting January Investigations with Alex Worth, his partner and best friend, Emelio had worked for the Justice Department in the Special Operations Division. Braga liked to play the part of a quiet, respectable businessman, but he was in fact a money launderer and second in command of a notorious drug-trafficking cartel.
Emelio’s first undercover assignment for the SOD was to find proof that the Dominican cartel was moving drugs and cash through a Miami travel agency. The investigation had gone south when his informant betrayed him. His cover got blown, Alex was wounded and the informant had been killed. He shouldered his responsibility for the screwup and for the death, but it really burned him that Braga had skated on all charges.
“Do you recognize anybody in this one?” He forced the words past the cold rage threatening to choke him.
“Maybe.” Stevie cocked her head to the side to get a better look. She pointed to Braga. “I never forget a face, and I know I’ve seen his before, but I can’t place him.”
“There must be something. Think, Stevie.” He held the picture out to her, wanting to jar her memory.
She pushed it away. “Don’t you think I have been? Just because there’s no menacing note with those photos, doesn’t mean I don’t feel violated and threatened. Some creep is following me around, watching me…”
She squared her shoulders and gave him a challenging stare. “The question is, how do I handle it? I want to set up some kind of countersurveillance—”
“I think you should disappear.”
Her straight, golden eyebrows arched toward her hairline. “Excuse me?”
He slid the pictures back inside the envelope, handling them carefully by the edges. While his actions were slow and methodical, his mind raced with possibilities. Braga was sending a message, but damned if he knew exactly why, or how Stevie could be involved. He had to get her out of danger’s way until he could figure out what Braga was after.
“Whoever is stalking you may be a shy admirer, but more likely they mean you real harm.” Emelio glanced at the thin gold watch on his wrist. “You’ve got twenty minutes to wrap up whatever files are on your desk. Is there someplace you can stay?”
She shot to her feet. “Wait a minute. I’m a professional in an agency full of other professionals. I’ll admit to being a little freaked out, but there’s no reason—”
“Nineteen minutes and forty seconds, Stevie. Come get me when you’re ready to leave and I’ll drive you wherever you want to go.”
She crossed her arms defiantly, enhancing her cleavage as the cotton material stretched across her breasts. Her round, full, perfectly shaped breasts. Emelio dropped his gaze but found himself eyeing her slim hips and sleekly muscled thighs instead.
“I’m not running again.”
“Again?” He looked up.
Her eyes darted away, then back. Her tone had revealed more than she’d intended. “I did my best secret-agent impression to get a cab here this morning. It looks more fun in the movies.”
“Then don’t think of it as running. It’s a strategic retreat.” The telephone rang before she could retort. “Yes? Put her through, Tiffnee, thank you.” Emelio cupped one hand over the receiver. “Seventeen minutes, fifty. Go.”
This was unbelievable. She still wasn’t being allowed to do fieldwork, not even on her own case! She felt her temper shift from
Another good-looking, arrogant, overbearing male thought he could control her life.
Connie. How are you?” He shot a pointed glance at the door in a bid for privacy.
was on the horizon. Emelio had just blatantly dismissed her to take a call from one of his girlfriends, and she wasn’t going to stand for it. After giving him a nasty look, she flopped back down on the guest chair.
Emelio sighed and began to speak in Spanish. Stevie gave him the courtesy of turning her head, but she couldn’t shut her ears. His voice was affectionate and warm, and, though she didn’t understand what he said, his tone held an underlying tenderness that cut straight to her heart. She felt jealous, embarrassed at eavesdropping on his intimate conversation, but she wasn’t going anywhere, damn it.
Finally, he said, “Okay,
I’ll call you later, I promise.”
She snapped at him before he’d even hung up the phone. “You know more than you’re saying, Emelio. Since this involves me, tell me what’s going on.”
He held her gaze, searching for something, obviously debating how much to reveal. Then he set his features and lied to her, she’d swear to it.
“I don’t know anything, Stevie. I only suspect. So, you’re taking a leave of absence from work until I can get to the bottom of this.”
“I’m not some damsel in distress that needs a big strong guy to keep me out of trouble. It’s my life that may be in danger—”
“Trust me. You are in danger.”
She cocked her head to one side, baiting him. “But you just said you don’t know for sure. So let me do what I’ve trained for. I’m nobody’s victim, Emelio.”