Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tainted Love by Caitlyn Willows



TAINTED LOVE
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance – Short Contemporary – M/M/F Menage
December 2017
April Martinez
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-454-1

They had it all and each other until one of them walked away.

Rock star Quentin Nash walked out on the loves of his life five years before and regretted it instantly. Pride and fear have kept him away. But lost, lonely, and burned out, he’s come back, and he’s praying they can forgive that he tainted their love.

The music world was a hell on earth for Mel and Tasha Keane. They left while they still had their sanity. Now it’s back on their doorstep in the form of the one man they’d lost their hearts to years before. There’s always been a place for him with them, but can they help Quentin find his way without losing their own?

Note: This is a re-release.

BUY LINKS:
Loose Id
Amazon
Kobo Books
Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT:

Quentin Nash slowed his rental car at the top of the winding palmed canyon. Peace had sifted into his blood on the drive up. He’d turned off the air-conditioning, rolled down the windows, and slowed his speed in order to hear the two creeks that paralleled both sides of the road. Nature’s music soothed his fractured soul.

Winter rains had filled the oasis above to overflowing and blessed the landscape with water, spawning a profusion of wildflowers in this desert canyon. Birdsong reached him from the towering palm trees and dense vegetation. If he was lucky enough, he might spot a small herd of bighorn sheep. Tourists crowded Palm Canyon Drive and every golf course, never realizing true wonder was in the mountain canyons that shadowed Palm Springs.

He wanted to weep at the beauty of it. Or was it fear that made him teary-eyed? Or exhaustion? Or the weight of people everywhere he turned taking pieces of them for themselves? He knew it was the latter. Fans clawed their way through crowds to reach him, to touch him. Agents, managers, and record producers wanted their pound of flesh as well. Everyone loved whatever they could get from Reno and didn’t give a shit about the real man behind the rock star.

He swallowed the heavy lump in this throat as he stared at the resort ahead. Diversions was off the beaten path. Only a small sign on the main road pointed the way to it. If a person didn’t know to look, they might not have noticed that. It was very exclusive. Their only advertising, other than a website, an article the year before in Travel Temptations, and a hit song Mesquite had in honor of the place, was a trifold brochure that promised to indulge the visitor in every luxury and assured no request would be denied. He knew from past experience the place was booked in advance. He’d also been told there would always be room for him.

Those words, given five years ago, had hovered in his mind. At first, they were his safety net. Now they’d become his lifeline.

Tears drifted down his cheeks. Success was hollow without Tasha and Mel. He had all the money in the world and had never felt lonelier. Everyone took what they needed from his Reno self, and Quentin got nothing in return except for more money, more work, more demands. He was Reno and everyone wanted him…now.

Tasha and Mel were the smart ones. They’d gotten out of the business years ago. Phoenix and Diego, Tasha’s and Mel’s personas in the group they’d called Three, had ceased to exist. They’d taken over the ownership of Diversions from Tasha’s parents, married, had each other.

Quentin wondered if they’d missed him as much as he’d missed them. If their invitation to stay was always open as they’d promised. Did they still look the same? Tasha with her waterfall of black hair. Mel with those ocean blue eyes that made you want to dive in? Did they crave him in the night as he did them? Did they curl into each other’s arms and miss the third body pressed to theirs? Had they replaced him in their hearts and lives? He didn’t think he could bear that, even though he’d tried that very thing over the last five years. He never lacked for willing partners. Those attempts had left him as empty as everything else in his life. If Mel and Tasha had found another… If they rejected him…

He smeared the tears from his face. Sitting here staring at the place wasn’t helping, and he knew he couldn’t turn around and leave. If for no other reason, Quentin needed the peace Diversions offered. He needed to heal his fractured soul before he jumped back into the fray. Leaving the music industry wasn’t an option for him. The legal ramifications alone would ruin him. He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to think about any of it.

Pulling in a deep breath, Quentin put the car in motion. The place reminded him of an old mission—white stucco, deep arches for windows and doors, red tiled roof. There was even a bell tower at the far edge of the red-cobblestone drive. The wide entrance circled around a statue of a couple caught in a coital embrace. It was the first of many statues scattered throughout the Eden-like grounds.
A valet greeted him with a smile and a wave the instant Quentin’s car came into view. Quick on his heels was Charles, the head of Butler Services at Diversions. The man was a constant who comforted Quentin. It seemed the man never aged. He looked as tanned and fit as he had the first time Quentin had seen him fifteen years before. Charles’s obsidian gaze flickered with recognition. Quentin thought—hoped—they sparkled a little as well.

The valet reached for the car door as soon as Quentin stopped. Quentin offered him a smile he didn’t feel. “A moment, please. I don’t exactly have a reservation.”

Charles stepped forward. “Indeed you do, Mr. Nash. A standing reservation as per Mr. and Mrs. Keane’s instructions. There is always a place for you here. Diversions is ready to wrap you in comfort.”

More tears welled up. All Quentin could do was nod and relinquish the car to the valet, while a bellman darted forward to retrieve his luggage. Nothing in their actions gave away that they knew he was famed rock star Reno. His real name had always afforded him some anonymity…until his face was plastered all over television and magazines. Still, he’d gotten this far in his trip without intrusion. Maybe Diversions was already working its magic.

Charles gave a slight bow. “This way, sir.”

Quentin followed without hesitation. Through the Spanish tiled foyer lined with potted plants. Down the flagstone path that twisted through the lush garden. Past more statues of lovers caught in orgasmic bliss. And when they walked beyond the main conclave of suites, awareness of their final destination nearly brought Quentin to his knees.

How many times had he traveled this route with them, all three wrapped in each other’s arms? How many times had they tangled themselves in the sheets of the suite ahead, or bathed in the hot tub, or soaped each other to heaven in the huge shower? Fed one another in the cloud-soft pile of cushions? Laughed, loved, planned a future that never came to be?

They’d once had a great love, unusual by most people’s standards, but it had worked well for them. Until he tainted it all with his greed and lust for more of something they’d already had plenty of—fame and fortune.

The first sight of the stand-alone cabana stabbed a pain of longing through Quentin’s heart. It looked as fresh as the first time he’d seen it. The Jungle Hut, appropriately designed to look like one on the outside. It had always been their room.

The bellman trotted up the three steps to the deep porch and opened the door. Did Tasha and Mel know he was here? If not, Charles would let them know as soon as he saw Quentin settled.

He paused at the bottom step, staring into the dark interior ahead. From the porch, Charles turned his way, his eyebrow lifted ever-so-slightly in question.

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather go in alone,” Quentin somehow managed to say.

“As you wish, sir.” The man stepped down to his level. “Please let us know if there is anything you need.”

“Thank you.” Quentin barely heard the words over the emotion strangling him.

Charles nodded and walked away. The bellman was seconds behind, not even pausing so Quentin could tip him. No one here would have their hand out. No one here would take pieces of him. The concept of peace and quiet was hard to grasp.

Heart pounding, he walked into the cabana, shutting the door behind. Ambient light filtered to him from the corners, like the sun coming into a forest canyon. Deep greens and muted browns greeted him. Quentin closed his eyes and leaned into the door. He didn’t have to look to know the big bed was hidden behind a veil of faux vines and leaves. Or that the living area was a sunken bed of cushions with the hot tub tucked into a jungle grotto niche beyond. A sliding glass door led to the private patio screened with bamboo. The bathroom contained a shower-tub combination made for love.

He didn’t need to see to know it was all the same. He didn’t need the reminder of the love he’d tossed aside, yet he needed the sanctuary it offered.


He sank to his knees and sobbed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

One To Grow On - Caitlyn Willows

ONE TO GROW ON
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic - Short Contemporary
November 2017
Cover Art - April Martinezr
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-424-4

Reese has something extra special planned for his wife's 30th birthday—the fulfillment of Judi's widest sexual fantasies...and maybe a few of his too.

Bad girl discipline and good girl treats. By his hand...or another's. With his body...or another's. In private...or very public. Judi knows Reese always gives her just what she wants...and needs.


And now, with two extra men at her (and Reese's) disposal, Judi can't wait to experience every body-quaking moment.

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id

Amazon

Kobo Books

EXCERPT:

Judi Osbourne’s gaze wandered to the thirty-one long-stemmed red roses arranged in the crystal vase that was perched on her desk. A rose for every year she’d been on this earth, plus one to grow on. A gift from Reese, and the promise of what was to come—her…multiple times.

Focusing on work was impossible when she knew he could call at any time to lay out in graphic and sensuous detail everything he planned to do to her tonight. The briefings, case files, and the myriad intricacies of legal documentation she had piled on her desk might as well have been invisible. Other than the folder that had been opened before her for the bulk of the afternoon, Judi hadn’t been able to touch a one. Her thoughts had been on Reese. His call would set in motion the events for the evening. Her every fantasy fulfilled—his birthday gift to her.

Her heart raced in anticipation. Lower, her body thrummed for attention, getting wetter with every passing second. Judi considered a trip to the ladies room to take the edge off her horny, but Reese had expressly forbidden her to touch herself in any way. Since he could spot a lie from ten miles away, and her flushed cheeks always gave her away where he was concerned, Judi complied, although the temptation to do otherwise and suffer his “punishment” was hard to resist. Being over her husband’s knee, bare-assed, his to do with as he pleased? Or spread and bound for the kiss of the chamois flogger?

A shudder of lust quivered straight to her crotch. Judi crossed her legs to quell the ache swelling her clitoris. She’d been slick with her juices since the roses had arrived after lunch. She’d swear she could smell her arousal over their delicate scent. Thank goodness she had a private office.

Smiling, she pulled a rose from the vase and brushed the velvety petals over her cheek, then down her neck. The scent was subtle, not overpowering. Reese was like that too. A hint dropped from his lips could melt her into a puddle. He always knew what she needed and never hesitated to give it to her. In a profession where she was required to be the aggressor, it was wonderful to know she could give the reins of control to him in their sex life. Not once had he disappointed her.

Her nipples tightened, nudging for freedom from her bra. Judi shifted a little, trying to rasp the material over them as she slowly began to swing her leg to and fro. It felt good, too good, too naughty. Maybe she should call Reese first and confess her lapse to him. He’d tsk and quietly spell out the discipline he planned to administer. She imagined him in his three-piece suit, thick erection hidden behind his desk…

A knock at her door shattered the daydream.

Judi stabbed the rose back into its vase. “Come in.”

Peggy Wilson breezed in a second later, a black dress bag dangling from her finger. “This was delivered for you. It’s from Reese. Another birthday present?”

She smiled. “Yes.” One of many to come. “We have a date tonight after work. Someplace special, I’ve been told. I let him pick something out for me.”

Peggy reached for the zipper. “Want to see it now?”

Judi wondered if she blushing? Her cheeks felt hot. Hell, her whole body was hot. “No. I’ll wait. Please put it in the closet.”

“At least it won’t be a long wait.” For a short person, Peggy could take some long strides. It seemed as if she flew to the small closet across the room. “It’s almost five.”

Judi glanced at her watch. Ten minutes to go. She’d spent ninety percent of her day thinking of the night and here it was. Her breath hitched. Her pussy throbbed with anticipation and her hard nipples rasped against her bra. Reese wouldn’t have to do much work to make her come tonight. She was three-quarters of the way there already.

Her cell phone tweedled as Peggy finished hanging the bag.

Reese!

People thought it was cute how she still got excited about the man after all the years they’d been together. They didn’t have a clue, and she wasn’t about to enlighten them.

Her assistant wasted no time leaving, giving Judi a good-bye finger wiggle as she dashed out the door. She snatched up the phone.

“Did you get everything I sent?” Reese’s voice was low and husky, a caress all by itself. If he were beside her, those words would have been brushed against her ear.

“Yes, the roses arrived noonish, and the dress a few moments ago. I haven’t had the chance to look at it yet, but the roses are beautiful,” she somehow managed to say over the catch in her throat.

“Soft against your skin?”

“Yes,” she whispered in response. “Like velvet.”

“Soft as the petals between your legs? I’ll bet they smell as sweet, but they can’t come close to matching your taste.”

“Oh, honey…” A gasp choked off her words.

“Better than honey,” he softly replied.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Menace To Society by Caitlyn Willows


MENACE TO SOCIETY
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense- BDSM
October 2017
Cover Artist - Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-395-7

Eileen thought Lance had run out on her, only to find him inadvertently bound for their mutual pleasure. Who knew they’d have so very much in common? The two make one heck of a team in bed and out of it. But there are secrets and then there are secrets.

Lance feels Eileen is his gift for finally getting his life back in order. Sharing his past will only destroy what they’ve got going on between them. But it isn’t his past Lance needs to worry about--its Eileen’s and the twin sister she doesn’t remember. A twin who brings murder, mystery, and the promise of a legacy with her.


If she’s to have any future at all--especially one with Lance--Eileen must face a legacy she wants no part of. A legacy that’s too much a reminder to Lance of his own failings. A legacy that comes with parents she must defeat in order for her, Lance, and her sister to survive.

Related stories are:
Rough Cut
Menace To Society

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id

Amazon

Kobo Books

Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT:

“It hurts my heart, Lance,” she called out. “All that time I was told Tildy was nothing more than an imaginary friend. I might have only been five, but I remember crying myself to sleep in Mom’s arms, the frustration that no one believed me, being so confused, then finally accepting what everyone was telling me. I felt…lost.”

She walked his way as she slipped her arms into a fluffy pink robe, then tied it shut.

“Now I feel betrayed, then guilty because I know my parents had my best interests at heart. I want it all to go away.”

“Do you really?” He tucked his shirt into his trousers and zipped up. “This is new and a shock, but what about a year from now? We might not have known each other long, but I think I know you well.” Her emotions were written all over her body in every movement and expression. “You can want her gone from your life, but she will always exist. At some point you’re going to want answers. You’re going to want to compare notes with her. As hard as it is, this is your chance to get off on the right foot with her.”

She sighed heavily. “I’ll get your coffee ready.”

End of discussion. He finished dressing, then grabbed the evidence bag and walked into her kitchen. Eileen leaned against the counter, coffee mug in one hand, brownie in the other.

“Don’t worry. I put a couple in a bag for you.” She jerked her chin to the travel mug and plastic baggie on the table.

“I’m thinking I might have to keep you around for a while.” He braced his palms on the counter on each side of her, kissed her quickly, then turned his attention to the envelope with the key. “Sure about this?”

“I am.”

He put it in the evidence bag, noted the information on the label, then tucked it into his jacket and picked up his breakfast.

“If your lunch plans fall through, call me.”

“I will.”

Another longer kiss said what he couldn’t find the words to express. That he couldn’t wait to see her again. That he’d play hell focusing on work because he knew he’d be thinking of her. That if he didn’t leave right this very second, he’d be buried so deep inside her…

“I’ll see you later.” He gave her tight ass a final squeeze and walked off.

“Lance?”

Fingers wrapped around the doorknob, he looked her way. She stood in the kitchen doorway, arms tucked under her breasts.

“Yeah?”

“I want you to know that I really, really like you a lot.”

He swore his grin split his face. “I really, really like you a lot too.”

Her returning smile washed over him in warm waves. Not once in his career had he ever put pleasure before duty. Not even when he was married. Eileen might be the exception.

“Want me to flash you before you walk out the door?” Mischief danced in her eyes.

Lance laughed and motioned to his crotch. “I’ve got enough going on down here already. Are you trying to kill me?”

“Never.” She winked. “Talk to you later.”

When she ducked back into the kitchen, he hurried out the door.

Happiness put a bounce in his step. Lance couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this high on life. He was falling hard, and he was falling fast. There was no sense wondering about where this would lead. Living in the here and now was all that mattered. For the first time in forever, Lance felt like he was living rather than merely existing.

His feel-good lasted through commuter traffic, morning greetings and bullshit at the station’s coffeepot, and his partner’s scowl.

“Where is my partner, and what did you do with him?”

Rick growled over the rim of his coffee mug. He’d never been a morning person.

Before Lance could reply, their lieutenant barked at them to come to his office. The tone of his voice didn’t mean good news. Lance’s instincts went on high alert, shoving his joy aside. He and Rick grabbed their coffee and walked into what had to be certain doom. Sure enough, a US marshal was standing to one side in their commander’s office, dressed to crisp perfection in a pinstriped suit, white shirt, and a gray tie. Lance wondered if he’d been pulled off courtroom duty to be here and how that affected him.

Lieutenant Baldwin sat behind his desk, hands laced together so tightly on his desk blotter, it turned his dark-brown knuckles a shade of caramel.

“Detectives, this is Marshal Dillon.”

Rick spewed coffee. Lance pressed his lips together to keep from laughing.

“Save it,” Dillon told them. “I’ve heard it a thousand times. And my first name’s not Matt, nor do I know anyone named Kitty.”

Lance didn’t feel sorry for him. He’d heard Sir Lancelot too many times in his lifetime.
Baldwin jerked his head toward him. “Mr. Dillon—”

Marshal,” Dillon said through bared teeth.

So the lieutenant was pissed Dillon was here. Good. They were on the same side. Not that it would matter.

“We’re to stand down from the murder at Store It Now. Marshals Service is taking over,” Baldwin said.

“Why?” he and Rick asked at the same time.

“Not your concern,” Dillon replied. “We’ve got it from here. I want all your evidence immediately.”
“Then you’re in the wrong place to get it.” Rick slurped his coffee, loud and long.

Dillon cringed. “I’m well aware of that. This was a courtesy call. We finished here, Lieutenant?”

“No, but you are, Marshal Dillon. A patrolman is waiting up front to escort you out. I’m sure you can find your way to the crime lab. I’d warn them of your arrival, but I suspect they’ve already been made aware through official channels.”
Which was how they should have been notified as well. The only reason Lance could see for Dillon coming here personally was to flex his muscles.

“Thank you for your time.” Dillon shot glares at Lance and Rick, then stormed off.

“What the fuck’s going on, Lieutenant?” Several theories were running through his head, and Lance didn’t like any of them.

Baldwin leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled under his chin. “All I managed to get from the chief was that your shooting victim was a US marshal.”

It had to be a witness-protection issue. Something in that storage unit would expose whoever was in WITSEC. Why else would Carter tell Tildy to leave it alone? But according to Eileen’s father, there were only family pictures and albums. Or that’s all that had been in there twenty-five years ago. Things could have been added over the years. The unit could be empty now, for all they knew. Or it would be soon. The marshals wouldn’t leave evidence like that behind.

“I recognize the look in your eyes, Driscoll,” Baldwin said. “We are off this case. There’s not a damn thing we can do.”

“Not regarding the murder,” he replied slowly. “But all things considered, wouldn’t you agree that Miss Moore might be in some measure of danger and need of protection? She’s clearly stumbled upon something of which she was unaware. We cleared the crime scene last night. Once the facility is open, she’ll want to retrieve the items inside. Already she’s been threatened. Do we want to take the chance that will happen again with fatal results?”

Standing beside him, Rick tapped his finger against his mug but said nothing. Neither did Baldwin.
“The least we can do is give her protection while she gets her things.” They had to move fast. There was no doubt in his mind that unit would be Dillon’s next target.

Baldwin leaned forward. His steady gaze pierced through Lance’s.

“Who is Eileen Cronkite?”

Fuck. So much for that little secret. Damn patrolman had blabbed about his misstep at the scene—confusing Tildy for Eileen. Word trickled up the chain fast. Baldwin hadn’t gotten where he was without having an ear to everything around him.

“My girlfriend.” Lying wasn’t going to get him anywhere, and there was no way in hell he was going to deny his relationship with Eileen. He was damn proud of it. Damn proud of having her in his life. “Eileen and Miss Moore are twins. They were adopted out when they were five. Eileen knew nothing about any of it until last night. You can imagine her shock.”

Baldwin nodded slowly.

“You know this has to be a WITSEC issue,” Rick said. “Though I can’t for the life of me understand why the girls were split up and adopted out.”

“For their own protection, according to Eileen’s father. Because when Eileen’s parents learned there was a twin, they tried very hard to get her as well and were refused for that reason,” Lance told them.
Baldwin sighed and rubbed his wrinkled forehead. “Could be their parents were found and killed.”
“Maybe by now, but not when the girls were adopted. According to Miss Moore, their mother gave them keys for the unit with instructions to use them when they were thirty. Tildy had hers. Eileen didn’t.” He wasn’t about to reveal he had her key tucked in his pocket.

Baldwin’s eyebrows met. “She remembers this from when she was five? And kept it all these years?”
Lance raised his palms. “I agree it’s far-fetched. I’m around kids enough to know they can’t find anything even if it’s only two feet in front of them. And I’d call her on it if it wasn’t for the fact that Eileen’s father had her key. He brought it over last night after she confronted her mother about the adoption. Even better, he was in the unit twenty-five years ago and indicates it held only photo albums and baby pictures. Nothing more. He took the baby pictures of Eileen and left the rest.”

“Odd that he was able to get into the unit without being challenged,” Rick said. “I would have thought, if anything, that the items would have been more protected back then.”

“I didn’t say it made sense. But if the women were separated for their own protection, and now one of them is in the middle of a murder—”

“All right.” Baldwin slapped his palm on the desk. “I agree. It’s logical to presume that under the circumstances, they’re in danger once more.”

Rick snorted. “But not enough for the Marshals Service to take watch over them.”

“We’re not investigating the crime,” Lance said. “We’re merely providing protection while the ladies retrieve their property.”

“Set it up.” Baldwin stood. “I want them there when the place opens. I’m going with you too. Make your calls to them in here.”

“Yes, sir.” Now to convince Eileen. He pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Put it on speaker. I want to hear these women so I can get a read on them.”

Oh, hell no. “With all due respect, Lieutenant. You might have a death wish, but I don’t.”

“Then blame me. I need a handle on this situation, and the best way for me to get that is by hearing their reactions.”

“You’ll be able to judge when you see them.”

“Forewarned is forearmed. On speaker, Detective.”

“Remember, you asked for it.” There was no telling what would come out of Eileen’s mouth. Lance looked forward to the exchange and the men’s reactions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Treasure Hunters by Caitlyn Willows



TREASURE HUNTERS
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense
Copyrright 2005, 2017

Crushed by the emotional and financial burden as guardian of five children, newspaper reporter Rika Kiley struggles to make ends meet. And just when she'd met the most incredible man.

Ryan Fletcher isn't about to let anything come between him and the woman of his dreams. He'll do whatever is necessary to help keep Rika's family together. Why can't Rika realize and accept what he's offering?

A two-million-dollar sailing race is the answer to Rika's problems. But it is the real deal or a scam? With Ryan right by her side, she is determined to find out. Now all they have to do is survive a grueling race when someone else is just as determined to see them dead.


Author Note: This is updated version of a story originally released in 2005.

AWARD RECOGNITION:

Finalist - 2006 Golden Quill Award

BUY LINK:

Amazon

EXCERPT:

Ryan brushed his thumb over her silky cheek. “Suppose you can wrangle a week’s vacation out of that editor of yours? There are a couple of beaches in Hawaii with our names on them.”

Her eyes brightened. “What about your work?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Man can’t work day and night, especially if he has a beautiful woman waiting for him.” He danced his other hand up her ribs. “Besides, I was thinking a weekend back here at least once month might be in order. I hate the idea of being away from you for six months.”

Rika laced her fingers around his neck. “I’d like that very much. Who knows? Maybe I can manage a long weekend every month too. I’ve got a little tucked away, and there’s always plastic.”

Ryan wanted to cheer. They were on the same page. Not that he liked the idea of her going into debt for him. He’d see she didn’t. But—damn—she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her. This was it. She was the one.

“Why don’t you grab our wine and we can plan.” She dropped kisses along his jaw.

Ryan captured her lips in a deep kiss, then pulled away. “Be right back.” He kissed her all the way down her body.

After tossing the spent condom in the trash can beside her dresser, Ryan walked on to the kitchen. The telephone blasted out a ring, startling him.

“Want me to get that?” he asked.

“No, let it go. It’s probably Mom about going shopping tomorrow. Mom can truly shop till she drops.”

He grabbed the bottle of wine and their glasses, listening as the answering machine picked up. There was a choked sound, then a man’s voice.

“Damn it, Rika. Where the hell are you? It’s Andy. Mom and Dad…” He smothered what sounded like a sob. “Becky…Dan… There was a car wreck. They’re dead, Rika. They’re all dead.”

Ryan stared in dumbstruck silence for what seemed like hours, searching for the words to tell the woman he was falling in love with news no one should have to hear.

“What’s taking so long?” she called out. “Are you talking to my mom?”

He wanted to cry. Setting the wine aside, he returned to the bedroom. Rika sat up the second she saw him. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Ryan sat beside her, pulling her hand into his, forcing himself to meet her gaze. “Honey, that was Andy…”
*          *          *
Rika sat on the edge of her parents’ bed and fingered the diamond solitaire necklace at her throat—a Christmas gift from Ryan. More guilt. She hadn’t gotten him a thing. It was all she could do to make sure the kids had what they needed for Christmas. He’d brushed it off by saying she’d had much more important things to worry about, like five children who were suddenly under her guardianship. If only he knew how bad things really were.

She blinked back tears. That was something she was determined to hide from him. Knowing Ryan as she now did, he’d try to fix it all. That was hardly fair to him.

He’d been a godsend to her these last two weeks—helping her with funeral arrangements, dealing with the parade of people and sympathetic phone calls, sitting by her side in court while she got guardianship of her sister, youngest brother, nephew, and two nieces. He’d even had their Christmas dinner catered by Fletcher’s. Everywhere she went, everything she had to do, all she needed was to turn and his shoulder was there.

Ryan loved her. He didn’t have to say it, Rika knew. She loved him too. That’s why it made this so much harder to do. She had no choice.

“Ryan’s here.”

Rika glanced up at her twenty-one-year-old brother. People didn’t believe she and Andy were related. His hair was golden brown, his eyes a brown that merely hinted at green depths. The only other sibling who’d had red hair was Becky, and Becky was gone. She hadn’t even passed that trait on to her three children. Rika was the odd one now. All the rest looked like Andy.

She had to protect him too. He deserved the same opportunities Rika and Becky had had in life. He didn’t need to know Rika had spent every dime, and then some, on hospital bills and the funerals. The fools hadn’t even had health insurance and forget life insurance.

“Thanks.”

“You’re going to do something stupid, aren’t you?”

She wanted to laugh. God knew, she wanted to laugh. The truth hurt too much. “Yes, I probably am.”
“Then maybe you need to do it at his place. I can watch things here.”

Rika shook her head. She’d made her decision, painful though it was. It was best to get it over with. She forced herself to stand, then prayed her legs would hold her. “I’ll talk to him on the patio.”
Andy muttered something under his breath. Rika strongly suspected he was calling her an idiot and lacing a few curse words in there as well. If he only knew how much this was breaking her heart.

Blinking back tears, she walked into a living room sprawled with bodies. Ryan sat in her father’s recliner, flanked by her young nieces. Kristi and Amy adored him. What child wouldn’t? He talked to them on their level, paid attention to what they had to say. She’d never in a million years forget how they’d cuddled under his arms after the funeral, telling him their fears, crying until they’d fallen asleep.

Yep, she was stupid all right. But how fair was it to ask him to take on this burden?

He smiled when she entered the room. That smile faltered when he saw the look on her face. He knew. Rika buried her face in her hands and started to cry. In an instant, his arms were around her. He kissed the top of her head and drew her out the back door.

“You’re scaring the hell out of me, honey. Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

That made her cry all the more. “I have to, Ryan. Relationships take time and work—”

“But I—”

“Please don’t say it. Don’t make this harder than it is.” She burrowed deeper into his arms, weeping against his chest. “I’ve got five children to take care of. How do I possibly find time for…”

“I’m here for you, Rika. I can help. We can do this.”

She glanced up at the pain in his eyes and damned the light from the kitchen window. “You’ll be in Hawaii for six months. I’ll be here. I can’t just pick up and go. This can’t work.”

“And I say it can. Damn it, I don’t want this to end. I need you. I want you. I l—”

She clamped her fingers over his lips. “Please don’t. It’s not fair to you to ask you to take a backseat. It’s not fair to you to ask you to put up with all of this.”

He kissed her fingers and pulled her hand into his. “Even if I want to?”

“It won’t work. Even the best of established relationships would have a hell of a time. You’ll be gone for six months. It’s best to end it now.”

“Just like that.”

She forced herself to nod. “It kills me to say it, but…yes.”

“This isn’t over, Rika. It can work. It will work.”

If he kept this up, she’d cave. Why couldn’t he understand it was better to get this over rather than drag the heartache out?

“Give me a chance. Give us a chance.” He kissed the curve of her neck at that spot he knew weakened her resolve. Desire welled up with her sigh. “Matt or Kevin can take over the job in Hawaii.”

Rika forced her senses back in order. “You leave tomorrow. How is that fair to them to have them uproot their lives and families at the last minute?” Reluctantly, she stepped from the warmth of his arms. “You have responsibilities just like I do, and people who’ve depended on you a lot longer than I have. Please…just go.”

She reached to unclasp the necklace. His hands stopped her.

“Don’t. There’s enough pain in my heart right now without you doing that.”

Tears drifted down her face. Ryan kissed her lips, then brushed by her and left. Rika waited until she heard his Cherokee start up, then sank to the patio chair and cried what was left of her heart out.
She didn’t know how long she sat there in the cool night air—long after Andy and their next younger sister, Robyn, had put the little ones to bed. She didn’t have the will to move. Her heart had walked out the door with Ryan. Yes, it was her doing, but that made it all the worse—not only had she broken her own heart, but that of a wonderful man. She heard the back door open and half prayed he stood there. It was Robyn instead.

A clear match to Andy, the seventeen-year-old held out the cordless. “Ryan’s on the phone.
Apparently, you’re not answering your cell.”

Rika’s shaking fingers wrapped around it. Robyn ducked back inside.

“You don’t give up easily, do you?”

“Not when there’s every reason not to. We’re good together.”

He was so right about that. “With everything the way it is, I don’t see how we can survive the time and distance…for one thing. For the other—”

“Let me prove to you we can weather this. Every relationship has its tests. Ours just came a little sooner than we might have liked.”

“How can you prove—”

“Find a private room. Go in it and lock the door.”

He was going to wear down what little resistance she had left by talking. She should hang up now and end it. It seemed too cruel an act. Ryan deserved better than that.

“All right.” Back inside, she debated on whether to use the bathroom or her parents’ room. With only one bathroom for all of them, the bedroom was the better option for a few minutes of privacy. Ignoring Andy and Robyn, she walked inside, then shut and locked the door behind her.

“Are you there?” he asked.

“Yes.” Her voice came out on a ragged sigh.

“Is the door locked?”

“Yes.”

“No chance of interruptions?”

“The children are asleep. Andy and Robyn are still up.”

“Good. Touch your breasts for me, honey.”

Rika gasped. “I—”

“Close your eyes and touch them. Pretend your hands are mine. Pretend my lips are around your nipples.”

She sank to her knees. “My bra—”

“Unhook it. You know how you love my hands on your tits.”

“I do,” she breathlessly replied. One hand shook as she released the hook. Once free, she closed her eyes and cupped her breast.

“Tell me how it feels, sweetheart.”

“Soft, hot. It…it wants your mouth.”

“And it’s there, wrapped around your nipple.” He sucked in a breath. “God, I love how it gets hard under my tongue. I love how you arch into my mouth, begging for more with those sweet sounds you make.”

Rika swallowed her shyness. “And your dick feels so hard against my…against my…”

“Say it, sweetheart. Say how much your pussy wants my cock.”

“Is it in your hand? Are you stroking it slowly?”

“Just like you would, honey. Touch your clit. Play with it. Tell me how sweet and swollen it is.”

Rika shoved her hand into her jeans. “I’m so wet.”

“Who makes you wet?”

She sucked in a breath as she slowly massaged her clit. “You, Ryan. You make me wet and horny. I want you fucking me all the time. Are you hard for me?”

“Always. I’m going to come fast, honey. That’s what you do for me. But I want to wait for you. I want to hear you come. I want us to come together.”

“I’m close. I’m so close.”

“Do it, sweetheart. Give your pussy what it wants.”

Her fingers swirled faster. “I’m going to come.” The moment exploded on her. Rika bit back the urge to cry out. Hearing him come on the other end of the line heightened her release. The feeling subsided by small degrees.

“I love you, Rika,” he said through pants of breath. “I love you and I’m not going to let you go. Give us time, honey. Please.”

“I love you, Ryan, so much. But—”

“No buts, sweetheart. Time. Please.”

She found herself nodding, then realized he couldn’t see. “Time…okay.”

“I think I’ll see about getting us headsets.”

She laughed lightly. Maybe they could get beyond this. Ryan being gone might work to her benefit. She’d be able to get things under control without him seeing her implode. “I should come over and give you a proper send off. Think you’re up to it?”

“I’m crushed you’d ask that.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. I’m on my way.”


Rika punched the off key and stared at the phone. A lot could happen in six months. She was panicked, that’s all. There was no reason to drag Ryan down with her. She could handle this just fine. He’d never need to know.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Always Faithful (Book 1 - Rules of Engagement) by Caitlyn Willows


ALWAYS FAITHFUL
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romantic Suspense
September 2017
Totally Bound
ISBN 978-1-78686-244-0

They hunt a killer who will stop at nothing to protect his identity, even if that means threatening the one link between them—their son.

When Staff Sergeant Rowan McKinley is charged with murder, she wants the best defense counsel the Marine Corps has to offer—Captain Phillip Stuart. Seeking his help means opening old wounds. It’s a risk she must take to save herself.

Phillip swore he’d never have anything to do with the one woman who had not only broken his heart but had crushed it. Helping her was personal suicide. But professionally, it could be the coup de grace of his career—that next rung on the ladder, the next challenge he was looking for.

The love and passion each thought gone sparks to life—only now it is forbidden by military law. Knowing the rules and adhering to them are very different matters. But who should make the sacrifice when both are destined to soar to the top of their ranks?


The choice might be taken from their hands. There is a killer with just as much to lose who will stop at nothing to protect his identity, even if that means threatening the one link between Phillip and Rowan—the son Phillip never knew he had.

Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere and has been revised and re-edited for re-release.

BUY LINKS:

Totally Bound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo Books

EXCERPT:

Always faithful. Semper Fi. Captain Phillip Stuart shook his head at the term. ‘Faithful’ didn’t include forcing yourself on young girls or stealing cash out of a platoon buddy’s locker when they were out to sea on a training mission.

What has the Marine Corps come to? Thieves, murderers and rapists? The lot of them should be taken out and shot.

Of course, doing so would put military lawyers out of a job. Heaven forbid the little slime balls didn’t get a fair trial. Phillip was eternally grateful he no longer dealt with defense cases.

Shifting slightly on the hard courtroom chair, he straightened his papers and listened to the continuing drone of the defense attorney’s voice as she pled her client’s case. He didn’t know why she bothered. The look on the jurors’ faces indicated they had already found him guilty. It didn’t matter what extenuating or mitigating matters she threw out. Her client would go to jail for a very long time. He shifted again and let the squeaking wooden chair show his annoyance.

Laura Cushing shot him a glare from where she stood before the members. Good. He’d broken her concentration. Not easy to do. She was a tough opponent. But this long, drawn-out trial was stretching all their nerves to the breaking point.

After a few closing words, Laura sat, looking satisfied with herself. She was good. He was better.
Phillip stretched to his full six-four height and flexed his shoulders. With all the stealth of a jaguar stalking its prey, he approached the center of the courtroom.

Intimidate the witness. Impress the members. That was half the battle. A deep breath, a casual glance toward his opponent’s table, then…

He attacked, going straight to the heart of the case. He dissected Laura’s defense point by point, pulling apart the pieces with the precision of a surgeon. He let his words drift into the minds of those military members seated as the jury. Then, with the same lack of speed, he resumed his seat. The chair groaned under his weight.

Phillip sliced a glance at the defense table. The accused sat there, a fresh-faced young man all of nineteen. His big hands were clasped before him as if in prayer. It set Phillip’s teeth on edge. What right does he have to pray? Those young girls had begged and prayed before he’d forced himself on them. Had he listened?

Laura snapped to her feet and marched forward to take his place. It was no use. All the golden words she summoned could not save her client. Phillip knew it and so did she. After thirty minutes of deliberation, the members of the jury and the rest of the courtroom had realized it, too.

Phillip listened to the sentence with smug satisfaction. Twenty-five years at Leavenworth. That was what he called justice, although castration might not be a bad idea either.

In the back of the courtroom, one set of parents cried while the others—those of the victims—sighed with relief. The accused—the guilty—let his head drop. It was the only display of emotion he showed. No tears. No regrets. He didn’t flinch. Phillip fought the urge to demand to know if the man felt remorse for anyone but himself.

Once the judge had left the courtroom, the prisoner escort came in. Then the young Marine started bawling. Yeah, he had regrets—that he’d been caught. His father refused to look his way while his mother rushed to his side. She wrapped her arms around him in a hug he refused to return.
Rather than watch the guy be hauled away in shackles, Phillip celebrated his victory with a cigar on the back steps of the military justice building. How many times had he reflected on past and future glories in such a way? Lately, though, the battles left his stomach sour, more often than not.

There wasn’t much he hadn’t heard over his career. Most of it sickened rather than shocked him. Now, prosecuting the rabble of the Marine Corps tired him. Time to reach for the next rung on the ladder.

After graduating law school, he’d thought the way had shone clear, focused, his career path set. He shook his head. His goals had been regimented at the time. They had been all he’d had—a means to forget.

Unfortunately, they were still all he had. Phillip wasn’t sure he wanted those same goals anymore.
The door opened behind him. A rush of cool air brushed over his shoulders and back then stopped when the door closed. Phillip knew without looking that it was Laura. He could smell her perfume—an elusive scent that evoked memories of a long-ago time and someone else he wished he could forget.

She dusted off the step and eased down beside him, careful not to snag her hose on the concrete. Resting her forearms on her knees, she stared ahead.

“Congratulations. Another victory for the great and powerful Phillip Stuart.”

He chewed on his cigar and absorbed the view of the gray mountains surrounding Camp Pendleton.
“Sarcasm, Laura? How unlike you.”

“Cut the crap. That boy didn’t deserve twenty-five years in prison and you know it.”

“Please save me the she-asked-for-it speech. You didn’t have to listen to the sobs each and every time those girls told their stories before trial. Don’t tell me it was faked every time. I know better.”

She tilted her head his way. “Come on, Phillip. He’s only nineteen, still a teenager himself. It was consensual. Daddy caught them and she cried rape. If that girl shed tears, it was only because she got caught. This has been nothing but a witch hunt with an excellent cast of performers. The girl’s past conduct showed that.”

“Irrelevant. Forensics evidence proved their story.”

“It proved they had sex. There was no evidence to support assault of any kind.”

“We’re not talking about one girl here. We’re talking about six. There’s no way you’re ever going to convince anyone all six of them were lying. Get your bleeding-heart head out of the sand, Laura. We’ve had this discussion before. It’s over. Case closed.”

“Obviously, but have you asked yourself this? When you were nineteen, can you honestly say you could resist the charms of a willing sixteen-year-old?”

He leveled a frosty stare her way.

Laura gave an exaggerated wince. “What was I thinking? How dare I suggest you would be less than perfect?” She slowly shook her head and gave a soft, humorless laugh. “You are the most handsome man I’ve ever met—Mister Perfect, aristocratic features, golden hair. Poster Marine all the way. But you’re dead inside. You have no feelings, no compassion. Your eyes are the coldest gray I’ve ever seen—like a frozen pond in the dead of winter. I pity the woman who winds up with you.”

He blew a puff of smoke into the air. “I take it then that you’re saying it’s really over between us?”

She gave a small, bitter laugh. “Don’t flatter yourself and don’t play that game with me. It’s been over for quite some time now. It was never anything more than an occasional dinner with a friend, as far as I’m concerned.”

But the remorse in her eyes told a different story. He had regrets, too. He’d wanted her to be the one to erase the memory of another, to make him love and care and see goodness in the world once more. In the end she, like the few other women he’d dated over the last nine years, fell short of that need. She had been a stand-in, nothing more. Comparing Laura to—

No. Don’t go there. It hurt too much. It always did. If he lived to be a hundred, he doubted the pain and bitterness would ever die.

Phillip looked away to give her some shred of dignity. Or was it to hide the guilt seeping to the surface like a festering wound?

Laura pushed to her feet and slipped quietly inside the building.

He ground out his cigar on the cement steps and returned to his office. Victory no longer tasted sweet. Behind his gray metal desk, some stability returned.

His gaze drifted around his office, taking in the mementos of his career with the Marine Corps—his Amphibious Warfare School awards, the jump school medals in their rosewood frame, a souvenir shirt commemorating his time served in the Mediterranean aboard the USS Boxer. If there was an opportunity, he’d taken it. Anything to further his career. Somehow it still wasn’t enough. Even though his career was flourishing, he felt an emptiness he could not define.

The small picture of his family shoved into the corner of his desk caught his eye. The four Stuarts stood together at his graduation from Naval Justice School, looking uncomfortable. His father exuding aristocratic disapproval. His mother and sister Claudia smiled uncertainly as the camera caught them in such an atypical family moment.

They’d never understood why he’d had to do it—why he’d turned his back on the Stuart fortune. Phillip hadn’t bothered to explain. The year before, Claudia had come to the same realizations he had. Like her brother, it had taken a broken heart to open her eyes.

He turned the picture face down. On second thought, he shoved it into his drawer under a pile of paperwork. With everything else going through his mind, the last thing he needed to resurrect was his relationship with his family—particularly his father.

“Excuse me, sir?” His clerk stuck his head in through the office door. “There’s a package for you. It just arrived from the Commanding General at Twentynine Palms. Must be important because they made sure I signed for it.”

Phillip tore his gaze from the closed drawer. “Thanks, Corporal.”

He shut his mind to his family and accepted the bulky envelope. Once the door closed, he rummaged through the desk for his platinum letter opener, a concession gift from his father upon graduation from law school. Phillip kept hoping someone would steal it.

Then why keep the damn thing? The answer came too quickly. It was a trophy—a reminder of what his father was and what Phillip prayed he would never be.

With a flick of his wrist, he sliced open the envelope. The contents slid out onto the desktop and bold type near the middle of the page leaped out at him.

The accused, Staff Sergeant Rowan A. McKinley, requests your presence as independent military counsel…

Phillip’s face drained of color. His gut twisted. Breathing was out of the question.

Odd, when he had been thinking of her only minutes before. But then, when didn’t he think of her?
Beautiful, talented Rowan McKinley… The one woman he held up against the others. The one who hadn’t bothered to return his heart before she’d walked out of his life.

What the hell is she doing in the Marine Corps? More importantly, what had she done to need the services of a Marine defense attorney?

Time stopped as he grappled for the stack of papers—or maybe it took a giant step back. In either event, Phillip couldn’t put two coherent thoughts together. Before he could read on, the door to his office flew open. The tan, inquiring face of his best friend and fellow attorney, Captain Zachary Taylor, poked around the doorjamb.

“I got a call from a friend of mine at the base in Twentynine Palms. There’s been a murder involving a staff sergeant, some woman by the name of—”

“McKinley,” Phillip muttered. Afraid Zach would see the true depth of his feelings, he kept his gaze locked on the papers. “The case has been offered to me.”

Zach lunged for the papers, snatching them out of Phillip’s grasp. “Well, aren’t you Mr. Popularity. Let’s have a look-see.”

He scanned the request form, eyes widening. “Why you? You’re not a defense counsel. This staff sergeant could have any military attorney at that base or even a civilian lawyer, providing she could afford one.”

Zach glanced up before Phillip could mask his feelings. The teasing stopped as Zach’s deep brown eyes narrowed with suspicion. He knew Phillip too well. A definite downfall in having a best friend.
“What is she to you?”

“What was she, you mean.” Phillip met Zach’s steady gaze with one of his own. “She was once the most important person in my life.” His mouth twisted and he whispered, “The bitch.”

Zach tossed the papers back to the desk. “That’s funny. I’ve known you for over eight years and you’ve never mentioned her.” He dropped into the chair across from Phillip, resting his feet on the edge of the desk. “Why the big secret? What’s the story?”

Phillip sighed and copied his friend’s position. Zach’s ability to focus on and unearth information was uncanny. Now those relentless abilities were focused in his direction. He forced a deep breath and sketched out his turbulent history with Rowan McKinley.

* * * *
Rowan drew her knees up against her chest and wrapped her arms around them in an effort to control her shaking. Nine hours of confinement in this tiny cell and she still hadn’t been allowed to speak with or see anyone—not that they would listen to her, anyway.

Fools.

She took pride in her work. Her record reflected that. Legal administration might not be the blood and guts of the Corps, but it was important. Every separation, every investigative report that crossed her desk was dissected until nothing was left in question. So why would her word be doubted when she suspected foul play in the Lava training area?

Imagining things. That was what Rowan had been told over and over again, despite the five seemingly unrelated incidents that had come across her desk in the last month. Only Charlie would listen and now he was dead.

She was sure the command would see she was right, but the finger of blame was now pointed in her direction.

Rowan rested her head on her knees then winced as the bruised and swollen side of her face protested at the contact. Rocking back and forth on the metal-framed cot, she tried to quell the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. It was so close in the holding cell and she was so alone.

“Stop it!” She pushed the words through clenched teeth. “This isn’t going to help you at all.”

She flicked her gaze to the camera mounted in the corner of the room on the other side of the cell partition. Its baleful eye watched her every motion, allowing her no privacy. This portion of the room was small, too small. The cell’s dimensions barely spanned ten feet across. Even the dim light in the hallway didn’t help.

Rowan closed her eyes. Breathe. Take deep breaths. No hyperventilating.

Phillip was her only chance at getting out of this. She had to be strong—strong enough to endure the claustrophobia closing in, strong enough to face him again.

Phillip. She had forgotten nothing about him. How could she when she lived with his image every day? The way the sun gleamed off his golden head, the ready smile and his eyes.

God, those eyes! They could burn like quicksilver when his temper flared or glow a soft, satiny gray when they made love.

She was probably a fool for contacting him after all these years. But there was no doubt she needed his help and she would accept whatever consequences resulted from having him back in her life. Only Phillip could save her now. That was, if he accepted her request for his services.

The hallway door opened. The roar of the evaporative coolers lessened. A military policeman walked in and glared at her through the bars. “Your request for counsel has been expedited. They’re waiting for the captain to either accept or decline the case.”

“How long will that take?” Rowan fought in vain to keep the quiver from her voice. “When will I be able to contact my family?”

“You work in legal. You tell me.” He lowered his voice. “Frankly, I hope you get what you deserve. He was a friend of mine, murderer.”

He slammed the door in his exit, putting pressure back on the cooler. The roar this time was nothing compared to the pulse of blood in her ears.

“Yeah, he was a friend of mine, too,” Rowan replied to no one.


She tucked herself into the farthest corner of the cot, her despair as smothering as the walls surrounding her.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

To Die For by Caitlyn Willows





TO DIE FOR
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense - Novel
June 2017
Totally Bound
ISBN - 978-1-78651-155-3

The sound of her voice saved a cop's life...and put a target on her back.

Zoe White's got a voice to die for and the full-figured body to match it. Sad that it's taken another officer's near tragedy to spur Detective Frank Ludwig into finally making his move. Now that he has, Frank's determined to be Zoe's hero when her unselfish act skylines her to a killer. It doesn't take him long to realize Zoe doesn't need a hero. She's a survivor, perfectly able to defend herself...and Frank, too, when the chips are down.

What's a guy to do when his woman "man's up" before he does?

Then he learns just how much Zoe has sacrificed to recover from past demons, and how determined those same demons are to destroy her again. He realizes there's more to being a hero than fighting bad guys. A true hero helps the woman he loves retrieve the final fragments of her shattered life. Yes, Zoe can clearly defend herself. Now he's depending on her staying alive long enough so he can be the hero she needs.

BUY LINKS:

Totally Bound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo Books

Google Play

Publisher's Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Totally Bound Publishing.


EXCERPT:
Fear clawed at Zoe’s gut, fighting its way to the surface. Prickles of the monster she’d buried zinged beneath her skin, searching for a way out.

People. She had to be around people. If she went home, another monster might be waiting. Zoe wouldn’t risk it—not until she had control firmly in her hands, not until she could face whatever hell awaited her with dignity and strength. Having her .38 in ready reach wouldn’t be bad either.

Gun trumped knife every time. Too bad she’d gotten out of the habit of carrying the weapon. Zoe would rectify that once she got home. Being without threat had made her careless. If she wasn’t diligent…

Dead. She’d be dead.

No. That was why she had the black belt—to protect herself.

Could she keep her wits about her and remember how to use those skills? Besides, all the martial arts moves in the world couldn’t win over a gun. She needed that weapon in her possession.

Zoe gasped for breath, fighting hyperventilation.

Burt’s Diner. That was where she could go. Open all night. Always someone there. A favorite place for cops. She’d grab a bite and order her thoughts—make a game plan.

Zoe scanned the jumble of signs, looking for that familiar red one. Have I passed it? She’d been so upset that she barely remembered leaving the station. Where the hell am I? Certainly not pointed toward home. She nearly wept with relief when she spied her beacon a block ahead. A Holiday Inn Express was across the street from it. That was an option she hadn’t considered. She’d check in for a night—maybe two—get a room on the top floor and hole up until this was over.

She snorted at her foolishness. This was never going to be over—not until one of them was dead. Zoe didn’t plan on that being her.

She eased into the parking lot and found a spot next to the restaurant. Maybe luck was on her side tonight. Pulling in slow breaths to calm her shattered nerves, she cut the engine. Xavier didn’t know where she lived. Chances were slim he’d recognize her on the street—as long as she kept her mouth shut. The encounter had been an isolated incident. Why would Xavier care? He was rattling her to show he was a big man, nothing more. Old fears ran deep, though. Too deep.

He knows where you work now.

True. Zoe wondered if her subconscious had steered her to take an alternate route home.

Silly. The shooting was across town. There’s no way he could—

She cut off the thought. There was always a way for a determined person, and he’d sounded damned determined. Thank goodness, her parents were vacationing in Maui and her sister visiting friends in New York. They were safe from him. Xavier couldn’t have picked a better time to make his move. For another panicked moment, Zoe wondered if he’d planned this. Just as quickly, she dismissed the idea. Xavier never planned anything. He was volatile, driven by rage and a very short temper.

Damn it all. She’d thought this was in the past. Now she’d inadvertently crossed paths with him. His threat wasn’t an idle one. Xavier would hunt her down. It was only a matter of time.

Not if the cops get him first.

Zoe was counting on that. Talk about determination. Xavier had killed a police officer tonight, seriously wounding another. He was a marked man. She prayed they got to him before he got to her.
A thorough look around the parking lot confirmed her safety. Still, she didn’t let her gaze or attention wander as she looped her purse strap over her shoulder, clutched the hobo bag against her side and stepped from her F-150 truck. Her rubber-soled ankle boots thunked on the sidewalk. Zoe wasted little time getting inside. Once the doors closed behind her, she let the hostess’s smile scatter the dark shadows lingering in her mind…at least for the moment. The woman’s nametag identified her as Jennifer.

"One?” she asked.

"Yes, just one,” Zoe said.

Jennifer plucked a menu from the box attached to the pedestal behind her. “Table or booth?”

Under normal circumstances, her answer would be ‘table,’ but Zoe didn’t want to be that exposed tonight. “Booth. Away from the window.” Her back against the wall with a clear view of the entrance.

"Right this way.” Jennifer led her down the aisle, nodding to other diners as she took Zoe into the bowels of the restaurant.

Zoe saw the men and women too late. Twelve police officers and detectives occupied a large section of tables in the back room where Jennifer intended to seat her. Zoe plucked at the woman’s long white sleeve in a vain effort to subtly catch her attention. Again, too late. One by one, the men and women stopped what they were doing, all gazes latching on to Zoe. Chairs slid over the carpet as they stood and applauded her.

She wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. The only thing that kept her feet rooted in place was the pride on Frank Ludwig’s face. Zoe’s heartbeat triple-timed.

“Come join us.” Officer Joanie Robertson yanked over a chair from a nearby table, while Frank’s partner, Theo Garcia, waved Zoe toward them.

Only that morning, Robertson had gone out of her way to avoid her. Zoe was their hero tonight. Tomorrow, things would go back to how they had been. Zoe didn’t want to muddy the waters by socializing.

She’d heard what some of her coworkers said behind her back. A few even said it to her face. Some of them meant well, but others didn’t. Zoe’d learned to live with scathing remarks, dirty looks and kindhearted suggestions. After all, she had only herself to blame for the way she looked. She wasn’t a small girl. But Frank—hot Frank who shared her bed in Zoe’s nightly fantasies—accepted her with no questions, no attempts to change her. Their friendship was unconditional.

"No, thank you.” She combined her refusal with a polite smile she didn’t truly feel. “It’s been a long shift. I need to decompress.”

Jennifer motioned to a booth just inside the room. “How’s this?”

“Perfect.” She could sit with her back to them and still have a clear view of the front door. She slid onto the narrow seat and accepted the menu from Jennifer.

"Anything to drink?”

A bottle of your cheapest wine—and put a straw in it. “Iced tea, no lemon.”

"Coming right up.”

Zoe stared at the menu. Conversation behind her fell to whispers. Words swam before her eyes.

Damn. She was going to start bawling right here. A shadow blocked the light. The second she glanced up, Frank slid in beside her.

"Scoot over.” He butted his hip against hers.

"What are you doing?” Zoe refused to budge.

"I’m sitting with you. What does it look like?”

She flicked her fingers toward the opposite seat. “Then sit there.”

"You know I can’t sit with my back to the door.”

"It looked to me like that’s what you were doing over there.” She motioned to the party behind them.
Frank shrugged. “I lost the toss. Only fair way to determine seating when you have a table of cops.”

He nudged again. “Scoot.”

It occurred to Zoe that she could move to the other seat, but that meant depriving herself of the brief joy of having Frank next to her. The man made her feel all kinds of crazy happy inside—safe and sheltered, small and feminine. Worry and fear didn’t dare bother her with Frank by her side. His sheer personality warned them away. She wanted to lean into his solid body and cry her heart out.

"How nice you ran into your husband.” Jennifer put down a tall glass of iced tea.

Reality slapped Zoe’s daydreams to bits. “Oh, he’s not my husband.”

Frank plopped his hand over hers and squeezed. “Not yet.”

Jennifer’s smile drained the power grid. “When’s the wedding?”

"We’re not engaged, either.” Zoe slipped her hand from under his and grabbed her straw.

“Not yet.” Frank dropped his hand to her thigh, shocking Zoe senseless. Her clit cheered at how near he was to it. Juices flowed in anticipation of more. “I’m still trying to get her to notice me.”

Jennifer’s gaze ping-ponged between them. Her smile dimmed while she probably pondered a response—or planned how she could get Frank for herself. Although he was a bit old for her. Hell, he was a bit old for Zoe, too, but that didn’t stop her from lusting after him. She’d calculated around a ten-year age gap. Her fantasies of him pressing her to the nearest wall and fucking her senseless didn’t care. A thread of jealousy twined its way to the surface. If Jennifer started flirting—

“Then I’m guessing this will all be on one ticket?” Jennifer finally asked.

"Absolutely.” This time Frank draped his arm around Zoe’s shoulders and squeezed.

Zoe steeled herself against the rush of emotion. What the hell is he up to? She was going to have to stock up on batteries before she went home tonight—if she went home—and she just might send the bill to Frank.

"We still need a few minutes,” he told Jennifer.

"I’ll make sure your server knows.”

Zoe waited until Jennifer’s back was turned then shrugged his arm away. “Quit joking. I’m not in the mood to be played with.”

A lie. Most nights, she wanted nothing more than for Frank to play with her. She stabbed her straw amid the ice cubes then took a long sip. Although at the rate her horniness was building, dumping the glass into her lap might be a better idea.

Frank rested his forearms on the table, body half-turned her way—which was quite a feat since he took up as much space as Zoe. “I’m not joking or playing. Consider this our first date.”

She stirred the ice, refusing to meet the gaze burning a hole through the side of her face. Tolliver’s death was going to have long-term repercussions. “Look. It’s been a long day. I know how grateful you are that—”

"It’s got nothing to do with gratitude.” He leaned closer, his warmth surrounding her. “Open your eyes, honey.”

She was clueless and didn’t feel like dancing around whatever he was hinting at, so she let her silence build a wall between them.

Frank eased away, taking that warmth with him. Zoe’s heart cried for the loss.

"I don’t think she could’ve seated us at a smaller booth.” Frank planted his feet on the floor and pushed the booth back. “That’s better.”

"Is that even allowed?” she whispered.

“What’s she going to do? Lock me up? I’m the poe-lease.” He thumbed his chest.

Zoe snickered. She knew she shouldn’t encourage him, especially when she was still displeased over his previous antics. She pretended her tea held more interest, which earned her his body bracketing hers once more. This was how it’d feel if they had sex—Frank looming over her, taking charge of their pleasure. God, she ached.

"Sure you don’t want something a little stronger than tea?” he asked.

"Driving.” Zoe drew her finger through the moisture beading her glass.

“I’ll see you get home safe and sound. After what you did today, you deserve a drink…or two.” His arm brushed hers. She’d rather have it around her again, even if he’d meant it as a joke.

"My truck—”

“I’ll either make sure it gets to your house or I’ll pick you up in the morning.” He traced his long fingers over hers. “You’re shaking.”

Fear coupled with a looming adrenaline crash does that to a person.

"What can I get you two cuddlebugs tonight?”

Zoe and Frank jumped at the server’s appearance. Norma hovered at the table, pad in hand, gray hair combed back in a tight ponytail that dangled in its mesh bag, making it resemble something pulled from a bathroom-sink drain. Zoe didn’t bother to correct Norma’s assumption they were a couple. What harm could come from pretending?

“The lady would like a glass of merlot. We’ll have patty melts with fries.” He glanced at Zoe for confirmation. At her nod, he told their server, “And an order of onion rings.”

“Coming right up.” Norma shot off.

Zoe had never seen anyone move so fast.

“I’m going to need the wine to scrub my veins from this high cholesterol meal.” She pushed her tea aside.

Frank took it for himself. “It’s comfort food, and we damn well deserve it—you, especially. We’re alive. It’s time we started taking advantage of that.”

He’d closed her in again, his body nearly surrounding her. Zoe didn’t give an inch. This was what it felt like to be near the man. She soaked it all in for her fantasies later.

"You saved a man’s life tonight, Zoe. That sweet voice of yours gave DiCarlo hope to hang on. Because of you, he’ll see his wife and kids again. There isn’t a cop on the force who hasn’t heard about it or listened to it play out over the radio.”

Did they also hear Tolliver’s last gasping breath? She hadn’t been able to save him. It had been a miracle she’d stopped Xavier when she had—a quirk of fate. Him hearing her voice had intrigued him enough to spare DiCarlo…and made her his new target.

'Ay, chicasuch a pretty voice, like an angel in the night. Maybe I come see you, eh? Clip those wings again. Your friend here… He ain’t gonna last. I cut him deep. Try, bitch. You’re next, and I’m gonna make it hurt.’

"I’ll bet the sound clip’s already gone viral,” Frank said. “You know the newshounds have glommed on to it.”

Yes, they’d already started swarming the station for information as I was leaving work.

Zoe grabbed the merlot when the glass appeared and gulped down half.

"Easy, honey.” Frank put his arm around her, fingers tracing soothing circles on her shoulder. “The guys are on it. They’ll figure out who this asshole is and put him behind bars.”

Oh God. “They don’t know who he is?” A drop of wine splashed on the back of her hand. She was shaking, but she couldn’t loosen her death grip on the glass.

"Not yet. He wore gloves, had on a ski mask. Took the knife with him. Left no trace.”

Shit. Now what? She stared at that drop of wine, frozen on her skin as if time itself had stopped waiting for her to woman-up.

"I… I know who he is.” Zoe barely heard the words herself, so surely Frank hadn’t. She wasn’t sure she could dredge the courage to say them again.

“What? How?”

Her pride took a nosedive, but it was a small price to pay for taking a cop killer off the streets.

“Xavier Sanchez. We lived together years ago. I’m the reason he was sent to prison in the first place. That threat he made to me over the radio was real.” She drained the glass and signaled Norma for another.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Heartbreakers by Caitlyn Willows





HEARTBREAKERS
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotica - Contemporary (BDSM, Menage)
April 2017
Cover Art - Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN - 978-1-68252-383-4

Talented, good-looking, and wildly successful, they’re the rockers every girl wants and every man craves to be. But success comes with its own price. Everyone wants a piece of the Tristan brothers but Brian, Paul, Caz, and Nick stick tight to guard themselves from the vagaries of the world. Who better to sneak under their defenses than four little heartbreakers made just for them?

What About Love? - A secret weekend, a loved denied—secrets of the heart are hard to bear alone.

Brian Tristan and Lexy Claremont parted by mutual agreement after a hot and heavy weekend neither would ever forget. An agreement each regretted the moment it was made. Imagine their shock when they learn they are still married, a revelation made on the heels of an announcement Lexy never wanted to hear, one that has both of them asking, “What about love?” and discovering someone else had a secret agenda of their own by keeping them apart.

Crazy On You - Soon after Paul Tristan laid eyes on Ceci Powers, he knew she was the one. Too bad she was his brother’s girlfriend. A good brother steps aside, and Paul always does the right thing even if it kills him.

The fire between Ceci Powers and Brian Tristan died as quickly as it was lit. In its place was a wanting so fierce, a love so intense, she could barely stand the ache. How can she leave one brother for another?

It takes a little bit of fate and a bawdy challenge to get Mr. Missionary and Ms. Vanilla moving. But a hard nudge is sometimes all someone needs to “go crazy on you.”

If Looks Could Kill - Caz Tristan and Brooke Hansen have made no secret of the fact they rub each other the wrong way. All the world knows if looks could kill, they would have done each other in years ago. Unfortunately for Caz, his brothers have out-voted him in their bid to hire Brooke as the new manager for Mesquite. Now, forced to work together, Caz admits he lacks control where Brooke is concerned, and if there’s one thing Caz prides himself on, it’s his control.

As a power player in a man’s world Brooke learned long ago she had to have bigger brass ones than the big boys with whom she was forced to play ball. Control was never more important and she’s taken the motto “Never Let Them See You Sweat” to heart in the boardroom. But in the bedroom it’s a completely different matter. Behind closed doors Brooke would love nothing more than to give complete control over to a trusted lover. Never did she realize the one man who could do all that and more for her is the very man she’s shared daggers with over the years.

Yes...if looks could kill... But then, looks can be deceiving.

How Can I Refuse - The concept was simple—go undercover to a sex club to find a killer. The execution was a bit trickier for Gaby Keating. She turned to the one person who could help her—her father, attorney Marvin Keating, one of the “movers and shakers” in that community. His refusal falls on deaf ears as they both knew it would. Gaby didn’t get to be where she is as a police officer by playing it safe. But that’s just what Marvin intends she do. His world, his rules, his associates who will prepare Gaby for the assignment...and go with her.

Nick Tristan’s voice has always been magic to her ears. Gaby can’t count the times she's rocked out listening to Mesquite. But never in her wildest imagination did she ever except to find magic in his fingers or between the bodies of two gorgeous men. In fact...how could she possible refuse?

Note: The stories in Heartbreakers were previously released as standalone titles but have been combined in a convenient set.

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id
Amazon
Kobo Books

EXCERPT

Paul held Ceci as close as he dared, rubbing what he hoped were soothing circles on her back, muttering words of comfort. She clung to him, head against his shoulder. He’d envisioned her in his arms for too long. His cock responded accordingly. Paul tried his best not to let her feel his erection. She might not be with Brian anymore, but she was still hands-off to him because of that previous relationship. A good brother didn’t sleep with his brother’s ex. It wasn’t done. While his brain understood that, his heart and body firmly disagreed. He’d betrayed Brian simply by lusting after her. It was the guilt he’d carried around since he first realized how much he wanted her eight months before.

They’d bonded over plans for decorating this beautiful house. His brothers couldn’t have cared less about the place. Paul loved it at first sight. He and Ceci had fallen into an easy rapport over plans. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment his feelings latched onto her. Maybe it was the scent of her as they’d leaned over each other’s shoulder looking at fabric. Or that time they’d touched hands when picking out drapes. Or any of a hundred situations that put them within each other’s grasp. He’d thought touring would get her out of his system. Wrong. It made him crave her all the more. And she belonged to Brian. Or had…until today. Now she was free—a decision mutually agreed upon by her and Brian. Still the brother code kept him from going after her. And if it didn’t put some distance between him and Ceci right now, Paul was going to violate that code big time.

He focused instead on this latest news—that Brian had married someone years ago and never bothered to tell them. Talk about breaking the brother code. How could Brian not have mentioned her? Their parents were going to freak. It was a wonder they hadn’t called yet.

“Damn him!” The words exploded from his mouth.

Ceci lifted her head from his shoulder, fingers flexed against his chest. A little closer and her palms would cup his nipples. A little lower and her fingers would be able to toy with his hard flesh. The knowledge shot down to his groin, adding more substance to the cock already hard beyond capacity. An erection swelled down one leg of his jeans. That was what he got for going commando. He placed his hands over hers, intending to move them. Instead, he pressed them flat, stealing the sensation he longed for and trying not to show how much it devastated him that he couldn’t have it honestly.

Tears glistened in her sea-green eyes and spiked her long lashes. Mouth parted, lips moist and full. It mystified him again why Brian could not be all over her all the time. How Brian could drift away from her the way he had, when Paul ached for a glimpse of her, held his breath for the sound of her voice, the kiss of her constant laughter, the light in her eyes.

“Don’t,” she said. “You heard him. He thought Howie had handled all the paperwork for the annulment. It was a wild, crazy weekend ten years ago.”

“But he didn’t tell us.”

“Do you tell him every detail of your sex life?”

Ceci had him there. They weren’t teenagers anymore. Sharing sex tales had ended in high school. But it pissed him off that Ceci was defending Brian. Where was her outrage, her fury? True, she had broken the engagement, indicating she’d made that decision before news of Brian’s marriage had come out. Maybe she was relieved. If so, why had she let him pull her into his arms to comfort her? Why was she crying?

She pressed closer, angling her hips a whisper away from his. Too close for Paul’s fragile control. Her body heat poured over his pelvis. His cock pulsed with a life all its own, demanding he thrust forward and cover those last few millimeters between them.

“Paul, I…”

He braced his hands on her hips and gently set some distance between them before he gave in to the urge to grind his cock against her. All he wanted to do was yank her back and kiss her, haul that cute black-and-white sundress to her waist and wedge her against the nearest wall while he showed her what loving a woman was all about.

She slid her hands over his shoulders, reclaiming the distance he needed. Paul’s resolve started to crumble. It would be so easy to take advantage of the moment, so easy to swoop in and have her, to know what it felt like to be wrapped in her arms and buried in her heat. And lose her completely because of it. Because if he made love to her once, Paul knew it would never be enough. One of them would have to go, and since he’d be the one at fault…

He grabbed her fingers and took a small step away, holding her hands between them for a shield against his emotions and the aching cock that so wanted to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

“Women like Alexandria Claremont are a dime a dozen. I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to ride the Mesquite gravy train long before now.” He snorted. “She obviously didn’t realize their marriage was still valid or she would have. Ms. Claremont won’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. I swear to you I’m going to find out everything I can about that woman. This is one fight Alexandria Claremont won’t want.”

Ceci held on tight when he tried to walk away. “Paul, don’t do this. Let Brian handle it. It’s a relief actually. We both agreed. You heard that.”

“You’re crying your eyes out and you call that relief?”

Ceci’s eyes widened at his shout. Paul bit back an apology. If it helped keep them apart, that could only be a good thing at this point. Right?

“I’m going to fix it this. I swear it, or die trying.”

He strode into the house before he caved, before he spread her on the nearest chaise lounge and made his dreams come true. Before he told her how very much he loved her.

* * * *

The chaise’s padded cushion whistled with Ceci’s weight as she sank into it. Normally, that sound resulted in bawdy fart jokes from the Tristan brothers. No one was laughing today, especially her. How in the world had she let things go this far?

What little fire she and Brian had between them had fizzled after two months. She should have ended it then but didn’t because doing so meant stepping away from their lives and returning to the shadows to do the redecorating job she’d been hired to do. She couldn’t bear the idea of never being able to hang out with them. Worse, she wouldn’t be able to see Paul.

Ceci buried her face in her hands. Paul’s was the face she searched for, the smile she sought, the one whose presence she missed the most when the guys were gone. The more time she let lapse, the bigger the hole she’d dug for herself grew. All because her stupid heart wanted a man she couldn’t have. Or rather, shouldn’t have. How could she explain to Paul that her tears had nothing to do with Brian? She cried for the loss of Paul from her life.

The guys were tight. They had that all-for-one sibling code—blood-thicker-than-water stuff. Which was great for a family, great for them as a group. That unity had helped them weather all the crazy ups and downs in this business. It sucked for her. Tristans always stuck together. No one ever came between the brothers, especially a woman. Hell, they’d even bought this huge house together—a place she and Paul had spent hours working on.

Ceci jerked her head up at the slam of the studio door. It was most likely Paul. She’d never seen any of the guys this upset before, but then a secret wife would do that. She prayed it wouldn’t drive a wedge between the brothers.

No, that was what she was doing, more or less. Her agony now was a result of her silence. Of not breaking it off with Brian when she realized two months in that nothing more than friendship and sometimes nice sex could exist between them. She’d stayed with him for the wrong reasons. Had she acted then, perhaps time and distance would have gotten her the man she really wanted.

She swiped the tears from her cheeks. Her makeup was a mess. She didn’t need a mirror to tell her that.

Ceci pushed herself to her feet and hurried inside. She’d dumped her purse somewhere between the front door and the den—the brothers’ favorite room in this sprawling house, after the recording studio behind the pool house. She retraced her steps and found her black hobo purse right where she’d left it just inside the den. Luck was with her. Caz and Nick weren’t in the room. It looked like Howie had taken off too, which was just as well since the brothers were furious with the man.

She snagged her purse and sank into Paul’s big recliner. His scent wafted around her, wrapping her in the comfort she longed to feel in his arms. She tucked her legs under her and nestled deep into the soft blue cushion. There were dozens of other things she should be doing instead of wallowing in self-pity. After all, she had a job to finish. Or would she even have that now that she and Brian had mutually decided to end it? Oh hell, she hadn’t considered that. She’d been too worried that she’d never see Paul again.

Ceci plunged her hand into the depths of the bag to find her cell phone. She needed to make sure she and Brian were still good, still friends.

Nerves crawled over her skin. Hope deflated when the call went to voice mail. He would have flown to Vegas and had the device turned off. Fine. She’d wait him out, providing he’d return her call and not delete the voice mail unheard. If that happened, she’d keep trying until he finally answered. She burrowed deeper and swiped the last remnants of tears from her face. Mascara and eyeliner blackened her fingers. God, Paul had seen her like this. Great image. Too late to unring that bell.

Ceci hopped to her feet and hurried to the nearest bathroom down the hall. The silence in the house haunted her. As if the place were holding its breath for what would happen next. That was how she felt, locked in perpetual wait mode, afraid to think beyond what she needed to do next. If she thought further than that, Ceci would start dwelling on the ramifications of her actions—never seeing Paul again. Those fears had stymied her in the past. She couldn’t allow them to do so again.

She shut herself in the bathroom and leaned against the door to steady her nerves. The brothers had designated this as her bathroom. Shades of black-and-pink Victorian designs embellished the room. No Tristan male dared cross the threshold. Makeup, curling iron and rollers, blower dryer, and various other necessities of feminine life filled the drawers in the vanity. Plush towels were stacked in the linen closet. Bath oils, bubbles, and soaps lined the shelf around a tub made for relaxing. Magazines and paperbacks were within easy reach. Her place, her nest. Her sanctuary in a household overrun with testosterone.

She’d also taken over the walk-in closet across the hall for clothes, shoes, whatever. Paul had moved a chest of drawers in there for her use as well. The place was huge. She could have fit a twin bed in there if she’d wanted. From what she recalled of the Realtor’s rambling accolades about the house, it had once been used as a dressing room for the bathroom opposite it. Ceci had wasted no time claiming it as hers. Crazy that she’d done so. Crazy that they’d let her when Paul suggested it.

Another sigh launched her off the door and to the mirror. The damage to her makeup was worse than Ceci expected. She washed her face and left it at that. God only knew how many more tears she’d shed today. Fear and anxiety were the boss of her today. No makeup was better than smudged and runny.

Somewhat revived, she walked back to the den, kicked off her wedge sandals, and tucked into Paul’s chair once again. It felt like heaven to sink into its depths. The only thing missing was him. She should leave. After all, she’d done what she came here to do—end the engagement. If she couldn’t focus on her work, she had no business remaining, but she couldn’t make herself leave, either.

“So are the three of you just about done dancing around each other?”

Ceci jumped at the sound of Caz’s voice. Instinct made her check to make sure her dress wasn’t gaping. He hovered in the doorway, making the space look insignificant. He was no larger than his brothers at six feet, but his personality always made him seem bigger. He stared at her with those Tristan brown eyes. The brothers could have been quads, they looked so much alike. The difference was in their personalities, and the bear in this brother had been poked.

“What do you mean?” She tucked her dress down over her knees.

Caz stalked toward her. “You know damn well what I mean. Nick and I have watched the three of you play this game for almost a year. It’s ridiculous. Brian avoids you. You avoid Brian. Paul makes cow eyes at you. You giggle over Paul and use every excuse to be near or touch him. You and Brian don’t want to be together, and neither of you had the balls to speak up until today. You and Paul want each other so much I can smell it, and neither of you has the balls to speak up.”

He was over her now, fists braced on the arms of the chair, nailing her in place with his presence, those eyes.

“Paul respects—”

“Bullshit,” he spat out. “He’s chicken. And stupid. The signs are clear enough if he’d open his fucking eyes and look. He can’t see past the fact Brian had you first. It wouldn’t matter to me, sweetheart. If I wanted you, I’d come after you. I thought of it a couple of times just to throw a scare into Paul and get him moving.”

“You did?” Ceci didn’t know how she felt about that news.

“I did,” he said with a smile. “I would have too, if I didn’t find you too vanilla for me.”

Ceci glared up at him. “I am not vanilla.”

Caz’s grin widened. “You are too.”

“Am not.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Really? Prove it.” He jerked his head toward the door. “Go get your man. Someone’s got to make a move. Might as well be you. Do it, sweetheart. Go out there and go crazy on him.”

Heat rushed her from head to toe. Ceci knew a blush went along with it. She stared at Caz, saw the continuing challenge in his eyes, and didn’t know what the hell to do.

“I…I…” She shook her head. “Not until I talk to Brian.”

“Need permission?”

His smirk pissed her off. “No. A clear conscience. The brother code and all.”

“And that, dear Ceci, is why we all love you. Some of us much more than others.” He pushed back and walked away, but only got as far as the door before he looked back. “Don’t dawdle. Nick and I are sick and tired of the facade. We’re prepared to take matters into our own hands if we have to.”