INTENSIVE CARE Cover Reveal!

Coming August 4th:

The compelling third book of the

Diagnosis: Love Trilogy!

Preorder here!

If Grey’s Anatomy makes your heart flutter, this series is for you.

He’s science and tradition. I’m nature and new age. We clash at every turn. 

Emma

I don’t know who I am anymore.

I broke the heart of someone dear to me because I couldn’t love him the way he deserves. I threw away a chance of happiness because I can’t stop wanting a man who has proven that he doesn’t know how to love me.

When it comes to my patients, I’m an eternal optimist. Maybe that’s why I’m determined to try one more time with Deacon.

As long as there’s life, there’s hope. And hope is all I have.

Deacon

I don’t know what to do.

I thought I’d lost the woman who haunts me, body and soul. I was sure that she was in love with someone else. I was prepared for the pain, again. I was braced for the hurt. But I was wrong.

I have one last chance with her. If I screw it up this time, I’ll lose her forever, and if that happens, I know I’ll also lose my only hope for happiness.

I never give up on a patient. And I’m not giving up on us.

Coming August 4th:

The compelling third book of the

Diagnosis: Love Trilogy!

Preorder here!

 

Love in a Small Town Re-Read: The Last One

In 2013, I wrote my first adult contemporary romance. It was called The Posse, and it was set in a small Florida beach town. I assumed it would be a single, stand-alone title, and that would be it. Then I’d go back to my YA/NA paranormal romance books.

WRONG! First of all, there were more books in Crystal Cove. Second, there was just something about Jude’s daughter Meghan that drew me. I knew she had a story. And when that story began to unfurl, I realized that it was taking me to an entirely new small town.

So I decided that in the summer of 2014 I would write that story. What I didn’t realize was that both the book and the summer would be a turning point.

At that time, I had written seven books–and most were paranormal romance. Four were young adult. I fully expected to go back to paranormal romance as my main genre.

And my family was living in Sanford, Florida. If that sounds familiar, it should: some of the more notorious Florida cases in recent years have either happened there or been tried there. It wasn’t our first choice of homes, but through a series of circumstances, we’d ended up moving there in 2012. By 2014, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

At the start of that summer of 2014, we’d decided it was time to move. My husband, at the time a hospice chaplain, was working about an hour away. We had the option to move to the east coast of the state to be closer to his work. But there was also a chance that he was going to be offered a position in parish ministry on the west coast of the state. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, we couldn’t make any move until we knew . . . so we were in limbo. We were packing boxes, but we didn’t know where we would land.

And in the midst of that, I wrote a book.

Meghan is also in a time of flux. Her father has died. Her mother fell in love with and married a man who had been a long-time family friend. Her younger brother learned that he was a father and also got married, and then came home to help run their family’s restaurant.

She has just finished her third year of college and embarked on a summer gig to teach art to an underserved community. She isn’t entirely sure what she wants: romance? Probably not. True love? Definitely not. She talks about reinventing herself in a new place. Getting away. Is there some part of Meghan that wanted to escape herself? Most definitely!

Sam, on the other hand, has his feet firmly on the ground. He’s serious and focused on keeping the family farm above water. When he meets Meghan the first time (after her night at the Road Block) he makes some really big judgments that might not be based on her actions as much as they are on his own feelings.

The Last One is about two people falling in love, when doing that is the last thing either of them wanted or expected. But it’s also about life in a small town, about healing after loss and about being courageous enough to take a chance.

We’re going to discuss all of the Love in a Small Town books in my reader groups, both on Facebook (the Temptresses) and on the forum attached to this site (Tawdra’s Inside Squad). Come join us there to chat!

An early taste of INFORMED CONSENT

I’m so excited! This is the very first sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . but in this section, the new naturopath doctor meets the sexy guy in charge. But who’s really the boss?

Preorder here! Coming July 21st


“Oh, my God. Why didn’t you tell me he was back?” Darcy’s eyes went round as she whispered to the nurse next to her—I couldn’t remember the other woman’s name. Addy? Abby? Something like that.

“I didn’t know. He wasn’t scheduled to be here until Monday.” Both women’s eyes were fastened somewhere over my shoulder, and I had the irresistible human urge to twist in my chair to see the object of their excitement, even though I had a hunch that I already knew the answer. With a sense of fatalistic resignation, I ventured a glance down the hallway.

The man who stood outside of Angela Spencer’s room, reading from her file, had a . . . presence. I wasn’t sure why that was my first impression of him, but it was true. I could only see him profile, and the corridor was dim, since we hadn’t yet switched the lights to full brightness for the day shift, but even from this angle, I made out the breadth of his shoulders and the way his dark gray T-shirt hugged his chest. I noticed that his hair was longer than I’d expected it to be; the way everyone in this hospital talked about the revered Dr. Deacon Girard, I thought he’d be perfectly coiffed, with hair like my Ken doll used to have. Of course, old Ken’s ‘do had been molded plastic . . .

Dr. Foxy, I thought, remembering Jenny’s confidences with a smirk.

As though he felt the weight of my stare, Dr. Girard’s head turned slightly. I couldn’t tell for sure from this distance, but I thought maybe he was looking at me. My face grew warm, and I hoped like hell my cheeks weren’t flaming red.

With no little effort, I bent my head over the keyboard again and tried to remember what I’d been doing a minute ago. Frowning at the screen, I dragged my attention back to Mr. Crew’s latest bloodwork report.

“Dr. Carson?”

His voice was deep and nuanced, with just the faintest hint of the south woven into it. The eyes that rested on me were an almost shockingly bright green, framed by long, dark lashes. His nose was straight, his jaw strong and his lips were surprisingly full.

I realized that he was waiting for me to respond. Unfortunately, I was afraid I might have forgotten how to speak.

“Uh—”

“You are Dr. Carson, aren’t you? Our new naturopathic doctor?” He leaned his folded arms onto the counter in front of me, gazing down over the computer’s monitor.

I cleared my throat. “Yes. I’m Emma Carson.”

He chuckled softly. “That’s a relief. I’m pretty sure I know most of the people working on this floor, but I was taking a risk by assuming the person I didn’t recognize was the naturopath.” He extended his hand. “I’m Deacon Girard. I’m sorry I wasn’t on hand when you arrived.”

“No problem.” I slid my fingers into his, squeezing slightly. “I heard you were off saving the world while the rest of us were back here slogging away.”

The moment the words left my mouth, I knew they were wrong. I wanted to bite off my tongue.

Dr. Girard’s eyes took on a decided chill as he pulled his hand away. “I don’t know about saving the world. I was working with a group in South America—an organization that’s trying to eradicate childhood hunger. The doctor who’d been scheduled to work that tour was in a car accident, and they needed a last-minute substitute. If they’d been able to get anyone else, I wouldn’t have left. Going away two weeks after we opened this wing wasn’t exactly part of my plan.”

“I didn’t mean to—” I began, anxious to walk back my mistake, but Dr. Girard ignored me.

“I landed in Tampa a few hours ago and drove home. I planned to sleep all day today and come in here on Monday morning after I had the weekend to catch up, but then I read the messages from Mira. She said the new naturopath was trying to completely re-do Mrs. Spencer’s care plan. So instead of going to bed as I’d planned, I took a shower, got dressed and dragged my ass in here to make sure you weren’t screwing up all of my work.”

The embarrassment I’d been feeling morphed into indignation. “Hey, I’m not screwing up anything. I have no idea what Mira might have told you—” I gave her name special emphasis. “But I didn’t re-do anything. I just added my own recommendations and made some adjustments to her dietary plan.” I paused. “And we discussed some alternatives to some aspects of her treatment. Nothing that will affect the outcome.”

“And just how the hell can you be sure of that?” His jaw clenched. “You’ve been here for what . . . a week? And you think you know better than the doctor who’s been managing her illness for months?” He pointed a finger at me, like I was a child who’d misbehaved. “I’ve known Angela since she was diagnosed. She was referred to me by her primary care doctor, and I’ve been working with her out of the Calumbra Center until this wing opened. You had no right to make any changes without going through me.”

“Dr. Girard, with all due respect—”

He snorted and rolled his eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to haul off and clobber him. Instead, I pushed my chair back and rose to my feet, stiffening my spine and narrowing my eyes.

“It was my understanding when I took this position that my role would be as a full partner in the planning and implementation of treatment for the patients here. That’s how it usually works. I don’t know what your experience is with naturopathic doctors, but we don’t exist to do your scut work. We’re not window dressing to make your facility look like it’s forward thinking and innovative. I’m here to make sure the patients have every benefit of both worlds—of science and nature, of traditional medicine and natural remedies. That’s how this works.”

Dr. Girard’s eyes glittered with something akin to fury. “Dr. Carson, this is my hospital. My wing. My town. I’m the one who calls the shots. I’m the one who says how things work, and I’m here to tell you that the kind of partnership you envision is only possible if there is mutual respect. And that sort of respect begins with not making arbitrary decisions about care.” He smacked one palm flat onto the counter, making the two nurses who were staring at both of us jump. “This morning, I’ll be explaining to the Spencers that until such a time as I see the need for change, Angela’s chemo will proceed exactly as I originally prescribed. In the meantime, you will stay away from her unless I give you express permission to participate.”

I was so angry, so supremely pissed off that my head began to spin a little. Still, I held it together as I leaned forward and spoke in a tone my friends and enemies would’ve recognized as deadly.

“The hell I will. You may be the guy who made this wing possible, and you might be the big man on campus in this town. But you’re not my boss, Dr. Girard. You’d do well to keep that in mind before you go around issuing ultimatums and directives.” I eased back slightly and pasted an icy smile on my lips. “And until such a time as the board tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep on doing my job. So you can take all your bullshit superiority crap and shove it right up your fine ass.”

Preorder here! Coming July 21st

I’ll take three hot soldiers for a thousand, Alex!

I am thrilled to announce that the next installment in my popular and super-sexy Career Soldier series is releasing on April 7th (which just happens to be my birthday)!

And today, I’m revealing the sizzling covers, designed by the talented Meg Murrey. Check them out below and click PREORDER so all three will show up in your e-reader in a month.

 

The Mustang

 

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Lark

Look, I don’t need a psychologist to tell me why I am the way I am. I grew up with a mom who was forever chasing her happily-ever-after, never considering the cost to herself–or to me. That’s why I’m not interested in fairy tales or in finding some elusive prince charming to solve all of my problems.

Until I meet him in the bar where I work. One night of fun somehow begins to mean more, and it scares the crap out of me.

Nolan

I joined the Army when I was just a kid, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I never dreamed I’d love it enough to make it my career, but now here I am, an officer, stationed at West Point, leading a company of soldiers. What started as an escape has become my passion–and it’s one that doesn’t have space for anything–or anyone–else.

Until I meet her at my buddy’s bachelor party. I think I’m indulging in one meaningless night, but I can’t stop thinking about her. Remembering her. Wanting her.

Preorder Here! 

 

The Rotorhead

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Addison

The last thing I wanted was to move back in with my father, the hard-ass who raised me in the same strict military style that he ran every platoon, company and battalion he led. But thanks to some of my, uh, ‘life choices’, I’m living with my dad at West Point–and everyone knows me as the commandant’s wild daughter. I hate it.

Until I meet him one night at a party off-post. Sure, he’s a little too straight and serious for me, but still . . . he might be the one addiction that I can’t quit.

Sawyer

I’m an Army helicopter pilot. It’s my life, my dream and everything I ever wanted. Being stationed at West Point is fine for now, but I see it as a stepping stone for my next big move. When the commandant asks me to keep my eye on his out-of-control daughter, I agree to do it. I’ll do anything to keep advancing my career.

Until I meet her. Running into her at that party isn’t as random as she thinks, but pretty soon, I find it hard to remember the real reason I’m spending time with her . . . I just know I can’t stop.

 

Preorder here!

 

The Shavetail

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Paige

For two long years, I’ve been silently and hopelessly in love with a guy who doesn’t see me as anything but a casual friend. I stood by and watched as he found a woman to love–and as she dumped him the day before their wedding. I haven’t given him even a hint about my true feelings.

Until the day he asked me to be his pretend girlfriend. Now that he needs me, I finally have the chance I’ve been longing for–to show him how perfect we can be together.

Wyatt

My life was perfect. I was about to graduate from West Point and marry the most beautiful girl in the world all in the same day, then launch my career as a brand-new second lieutenant. When my fiancee dumped me, I thought I’d lost everything. I didn’t know how to go on.

Until the day I panicked and asked my friend to be my fake girlfriend. She saved my ass, and now I find myself looking for reasons to keep her close . . . because it turns out I don’t want to let her go.

 

Preorder here!

 

 

 

 

A new romantic suspense box set for only 99 cents? Yes, please!

Where can you find a three-book read with romance, suspense, AND characters who leave you wanting more–all for less a buck? How about right here?

Check out my friend Lisa Hughey’s new box set–which is 99 cents for a limited! As a very special preview treat, I happen to have an excerpt below . . . keep scrolling, because I promise, you’ll be hooked once you read this tempting tidbit.

This box set includes the first three books in the ALIAS series: Stalked, Hunted, and Vanished.

Stalked: Opposites attract, unfortunately.

Rule follower, Federal US Deputy Marshal Alex Saunders has been assigned to protect a federal judge after the judge receives death threats. This detail is standard until the judge insists on his son’s PR firm provide backup security, which isn’t even in the rule book. But because Alex is already in hot water, he follows orders to keep the judge happy.

Rulebreaker, and former CIA analyst, Kita Kim reluctantly agrees to go undercover, posing as the judge’s aide slash girlfriend, but in return she expects her boss at ALIAS to help her protect an abused woman and her nieces even though technically keeping the children from their father is against the law.

From the very start, Alex and Kita disagree about everything. But their sizzling attraction continues to grow as the threats against the judge escalate and put them all in danger. Can these two opposites find enough common ground outside the bedroom, or will their diverse philosophies result in disaster?

Hunted: There’s only one thing worse than seeing your unrequited crush every day at the office…and that’s getting trapped with him in a snowy mountain cabin.

Maria Torres has been through hell and back. A former kidnapping victim, she’s used to being famous for all the wrong reasons and having people handle her with kid gloves. And it seems that the man of her dreams, Dwayne Lameko, is no different.

So when an ALIAS client requests her presence on an op, Maria believes she’s ready to spread her wings and prove all her co-workers wrong…especially Dwayne. But when danger follows them into the wilderness, Maria has no choice but to prove to herself and Dwayne that she’s strong enough to handle anything…even his love.

Maria Torres was first introduced in the Family Stone series, Still the One. She finally gets her happily ever after.

Vanished: He’ll do anything to find his brother’s killer….

His final opportunity…

On an unsanctioned mission, Scottish NCA officer Hamish Ballard tracks his brother’s killer across the ocean…until he hits a dead end at Adams-Larsen Inc and Associates, a supposed PR company. Owner Jillian Larsen knows more than she admits, and he’ll do anything to uncover her secrets, even fake an interest her. He’s got one week to complete his goal. But his attraction is all too real and using her when she was just a name in a report was easy, but now he’s falling hard for his foe.

Her first responsibility…

Jillian Larsen’s purpose in life is helping people who are in jeopardy disappear and she has never betrayed a client. When a Scottish hottie accuses her company of hiding a criminal, she has no intention of revealing her client’s whereabouts or giving in to her inconvenient attraction for the sexy pain in her ass. But what does she do if the woman she relocated turns out to be a criminal? When her business partner vanishes along with their complicit client, can she use Hamish to track them down without risking her heart?

Their only chance…

He needs her resources. She needs his intelligence. Working together is the only logical choice, but it means jeopardizing everything.

Now enjoy this sneak peek from the first book in the box set!

Excerpt from Stalked

Alex Saunders already hated this job.

Federal judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams was a pain in the ass. He’d agreed to protection and then demanded a backup. A private backup. From everything Alex could ascertain, the judge was throwing his son a bone, tossing cash to the son’s firm, Adams-Larsen Inc. and Associates. The judge insisted on hiring them as secondary security protection. A service that as far as Alex could tell, the firm was ill-equipped to provide.

Adams-Larsen was an image consulting firm. He tried to keep an open mind…although in his opinion if you lived a clean life, you shouldn’t need help cleaning up your image.

So far, he’d seen a chick dressed as a giant mugger assaulting a frail woman that a strong gust of October wind would blow away. He couldn’t say why he thought the mugger was a woman, except that there’d been something in her stance….

She’d been watching him and he’d had a vision of stripping away the mugger outfit to reveal what lay beneath. Her gaze had pierced the armor of his self-control and for a moment, he’d been tempted to stand by the floor-to-ceiling windows and just…watch.

Mentally he gave himself a slap. He was acting just like the guy harassing the judge. Except something hinky was definitely going on with the judge and his stalker. Alex just didn’t know what. Yet.

They stopped by a receptionist’s desk. The judge halted, bent to the Latina woman who guarded the inner sanctum of this business.

“Maria.” The judge’s voice had softened, gentled.

Ho now. What was that all about?

“Hello, Judge Adams.”

“Now, darlin’, I’ve told you to call me Bobby.” He reached out to clasp one of her hands, but after she pulled back subtly, the judge patted her hand. “How are you?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her smile uneasy. “I’m doing…good.”

“I’m very pleased to hear that.” Judge Adams beetled his brows. “You need anything, you call me.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The weirdest part of the whole exchange was the way the judge acted almost fatherly toward the woman. In the two hours Alex had observed him relating to women, he hadn’t once displayed this kind of behavior. And he’d watched Judge Adams interact with a lot of women.

“Gentlemen.” A smoky contralto interrupted his thoughts. Alex turned toward the sexy voice and stopped.

She was freaking gorgeous.

Slender, stacked, and elegant. She wore a suit with a pencil skirt in a bold patriotic red, glossy lips matched her skirt and demanded attention, and a pair of heels made her legs look fantastic. She had classic Scandinavian coloring, white-blond hair, pale skin, and high cheekbones with unusual dark gray eyes.

The judge straightened. “Jillian, dear.”

So this was Jillian Larsen. The judge’s son’s business partner. For some reason her name sounded familiar. The judge smiled and clasped Jillian Larsen around the shoulders, embracing her in a hug that went on just a little too long.

Her smile was absolutely, politely professional as she eased away. “Nice to see you again, Judge.”

“Where’s Marsh?”

“Marsh is on assignment right now.” She was lying through her perfectly straight, unnaturally white teeth. “He sent his regrets.”

“Not a problem.” The judge dismissed the statement, either not knowing or not caring that she’d lied. “I had planned to request a favor from you in any event.”

“Why don’t you both come into my office.” Jillian Larsen led them toward a set of tall mahogany doors. “And you can tell me all about it.”

Her stride hitched for a barely perceptible moment, then she led them away from the giant desk situated in front of a wall of bookshelves and toward a more casual sitting area with wing chairs and a small sofa. She strode easily and confidently, leaving the men in her wake, while the judge stared at her butt for just a little too long.

She was young enough be to his daughter. But that didn’t seem to matter to the man. He was an equal opportunity dawg. With the very bizarre exception of the receptionist.

Jillian Larsen sat in a wing chair, leaving another chair and a settee for Alex and the judge.

Quickly Judge Adams introduced Alex, only by name, not mentioning the reason he was accompanied, then skimmed over the details of his problem.

Jillian Larsen didn’t say a word as the judge glossed over the specifics of receiving very detailed emails, expertly encoded letters no less, with explicit death threats. No cut-and-paste pictures out of magazines for this guy. The US Marshals’ computer guys were still trying to de-code the high-tech encryption. And they still hadn’t determined where the emails originated from.

Jillian listened intently, her mouth pursed and her unusual gray eyes flat.

The judge wound up, “So you see my dear, I’m hoping that we can hire you to be an additional…pair of eyes until this nonsense stops.”

Without even glancing at Alex, she demurred. “You’re asking us to engage out of our area of expertise, Judge. You are not our typical agency client.” She pulled out a smartphone and started thumbing through her contacts. “I can recommend several good security—”

“Jillian. Cut the horseshit.” The judge’s affable, good-old-boy demeanor had been replaced by the guy who’d managed to survive the Congressional vetting process unscathed and made difficult decisions to send traitors and high-level criminals to federal prison for life. “I need you to make this happen.”

Alex was pretty sure there was a threat in Judge Adams’s words but damned if he could figure out that underlying warning.

“You’re in a precarious position as it is after the debacle last month with the FBI.”

Maybe that was why her name sounded familiar. Memories finally clicked. A prominent Russian businessman with shady connections had been killed in a shootout right here at Adams-Larsen. The story in the press was that the Russian had a love interest in DC and had entered the country illegally. Something had gone awry and he’d taken a hostage. Congress was set to hold private hearings on the situation, wanting to know how the man got into the country and why he ended up dead. Alex had thought there was a whole hell of a lot of logistical things left out of that story.

“It would be embarrassing if you ended up with more negative press. Not great for a…PR agency.”

Mentally Alex perked up. Forget the prior veiled warning, the judge had just very clearly and overtly bullied Jillian Larsen, his son’s business partner. Although Alex still had no idea what the judge was talking about.

Jillian blinked, never once losing her composure. “With Bliss and Rissa mostly on the West Coast these days, I’m shorthanded right now.”

“You’ll do.”

Denial in her gaze was swift but her comeback was smooth and unhurried. “I’m sorry but I’m needed here at the moment. Perhaps Dwayne.”

“Need a woman.” The judge was shaking his head. “She can pose as my personal aide.”

Finally the reason they were here clicked in Alex’s brain. The judge didn’t want an additional bodyguard, he wanted a playmate. Or he wanted a bodyguard who looked like a playmate.

“Ms. Larsen, perhaps it would ease your mind to know that the US Marshals will be running point on Judge Adams’s case and he will be under their protection.”

“That would be you?” she asked coolly.

Alex nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

Her eyes went flat again, almost as if his being a deputy marshal worked against him. Alex could practically see her brain synapses firing as she considered then rejected options. But she didn’t shut the judge down. Did that mean she didn’t trust the US Marshals? The United States Marshals office was the best personal protection security in the world. Certainly head and shoulders above some Beltway spin doctors who were so bad at PR they were going to be part of a congressional hearing.

This detail was a freaking train wreck.

But on his last job, after loudly protesting the authenticity and suitability of the US Marshal’s witness he’d been charged with protecting, Alex had received an official reprimand from HR. It didn’t matter that his instincts had been right on target. The fucking idiot had violated the terms of WitSec within a week of being relocated, and in another week he’d been dead.

Killed by the very people he was supposed to be hiding from.

Alex had a bad feeling about this job. But the ding in his personnel file didn’t give a shit, and he could not afford to fuck up this assignment.

The immediate consequence of speaking up on his last case had been a transfer to the Judicial Protection branch of the Marshals, and the protection of one ornery Judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams.

Right away the judge had put him in an awkward position by requesting the addition of an Adams-Larsen employee. But Alex’s new boss told him to do whatever the judge wanted to keep him happy. Having additional backup outside the assigned Marshals—namely him and his partner, Shep—was highly unusual.

“I may have one person.” She was so reluctant that Alex couldn’t imagine her choice would be acceptable.

“Well, go get her,” the judge ordered.

Jillian Larsen moved elegantly, crossing her legs, and pressed a button on her cell phone, turning it into a two-way comm system. “Maria, can you page Kita for me?”

The judge glanced at his diamond-rimmed, 14-carat gold Rolex. “I’ve got an important pretrial meeting in an hour.”

Alex was an expert at reading people. Jillian Larsen wanted desperately to tell Judge Adams to go to hell, but she pasted a very polite smile on her lips and held back the harsh words.
“Maria, have her come up right away.”

Alex made a mental note to check into the background of the employees of this agency. He hadn’t had a chance to do more than find out they did image consulting since Judge Adams dropped this bomb on him.

“But, Jill.” They could all hear the hesitation in her assistant’s voice. “She’s in the sparring room.”

“Right. Away.”

“Okay.” You asked for it was implicitly implied in the receptionist’s dubious tone.
#

Kita rushed up the stairs. Was something wrong with Marsh? She couldn’t believe that thought hadn’t occurred to her when the judge walked in.

They needed to see her right away.

She’d removed the padded assailant suit, stripped down to a tight wicking sleeveless top and a pair of skimpy spandex shorts. She’d tugged on a pair of running shoes and splashed water on her face and skimmed over her pony. The temp inside the assailant suit got damn hot and her face felt like she’d sat in the sun at a Nationals game in the dead of summer. She also smelled a little funky and the quick spritz of Dwayne’s Axe didn’t really mask the odor. She’d have preferred a cold shower. But Jillian had said, “Right away.”

Kita burst into the reception area. “Everything okay? Something wrong with Marsh?”

“Not as far as I know,” Maria Torres said softly. She was still finding her confidence. She’d been abducted as a teenager and spent eight years in a solitary prison before she’d managed to escape. Kita couldn’t even imagine the fortitude it had taken for her to not crumble up and wither away. But she hadn’t. And slowly but surely Maria was coming out of her shell and growing into the woman she was meant to be.

Relief washed over Kita.

“When you ask for right away, this is what you get, stinky and sweaty.” Kita grinned.

“Apparently they couldn’t wait for you.” Maria rolled her eyes and Kita loved that little bit of ’tude. “Go on in.”

She strode into Jillian Larsen’s office, then felt as if she’d walked into an alternative dimension.

Three people, elegantly dressed, sipping beverages out of delicate china cups, turned at the same time as if choreographed. They were having a tea party and she’d just crashed it.

“You wanted to see me.” Right away. They sure hadn’t given her time to clean up.

“Kita, thanks for coming so quickly.” Jillian put down her cup, the clatter of china loud in the suddenly silent room.

In her St. John suit and matching pumps, with her perfectly smooth blond hair and expertly applied makeup, Jill was the epitome of polished and poised. Kita was the unkempt homeless girl compared to Jillian’s high society princess.

Both men rose to their feet. If she hadn’t been distracted by the sheer power of the man to her right she might have been amused at their old-fashioned gesture.

Immediately her gaze went to the unknown man. Up close his presence was even more compelling. Blue-black hair, a leanly chiseled, uncompromising face, and the stoic expression in his reserved pale blue eyes captivated her.

Like the magnetic pull of the moon, she couldn’t stop staring at him. She was drawn to him. Power. He’d exuded it merely sitting in the effeminate chair.

His shoulders were broad, and although his button-down cotton shirt was just a little too loose to reveal the muscles beneath, she sensed his strength. And she wondered again who he was and what he wanted with her.

She knew what she wanted with him.

Get it now for only 99 cents!!

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