Play With Me 

Book 3

He’s a single dad and she hates kids.

Lola and Brooke will share their story as they search for Xavier Black, March 30, 2018

Brook

The only woman who can call me “Daddy” is my little girl. She’s the reason I live, and I always thought it would be just the two of us.

And it was – until I met Lola Lowes. That crazy, spirited woman drives me nuts. She keeps me on my toes; she’s also the reason my hair is short and my balls are empty.

But now the lies I’ve had to tell to keep her are catching up to me.

Lola

My life had a simple objective: to finish my late husband’s investigative work. But then I met Brook Madden. Life threw us one curveball after another until our painful pasts twisted our fates into one future.

He’s become the pulse my heart relies on, but I’m afraid when he finds out how broken I am, he’ll disappear… along with all that love I never knew how much I needed.

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Prologue: Lola

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Help me! I don’t want to die. Please help me!” I cried out, coughing. I could barely hear my screams over the roaring fire.

“Ma’am, where are you right now?”

I strained my gaze but I was unable to penetrate the thick cloud of smoke. It irritated my eyes and throat. Something protruded my stomach. I touched my belly. It felt wet and sticky. I coughed again into my sleeve, trying to remember how I’d gotten here. Nothing around me seemed familiar. A loud bang echoed in my ears, vibrating, and then there was a fire. My body ached. Hot flames roared in front of me, and I had nowhere to go. I could barely move.

“I… I don’t know. The fire’s spreading. Help me! Pleeeeeease…”

The air thickened into an impermeable fog in a matter of seconds. The taste of smoke filled my mouth, and when it reached my lungs every few breaths, my head spun. I covered my mouth with my arm in an attempt to breathe through the sleeve. Giving up wasn’t an option. I banged on the window beside me, hoping someone on the other side would hear me.

“Ma’am, what city are you calling from?”

“I. Don’t. Know. I need help. Use your satellite signal.”

Holding the phone between my shoulder and chin, I fanned my other hand in front of my face, but that didn’t help either. The window wouldn’t open. I was trapped.

“We’re trying to trace your call right now. Can you get to a safe room? If so, put a towel underneath the door and stay low.”

A minute ago, I’d been certain I had more time. I’d been sure I could get out, but my situation worsened. Now I was stuck. The door was jammed, and the fire had spread too quickly. A loud bang shook the earth underneath me, and all of a sudden it seemed that the outside was more dangerous than my current location as a new bright orange fireball spread upward toward the sky.

“It’s okay, princess.” I heard a familiar voice beside me, but I couldn’t see where it was coming from.

“You’re going to be okay,” he cooed. “Hold on.”

“I… I can’t.”

I pinched my nose. Breathing through my sleeve was less effective. I had few seconds left, but sometimes seconds mattered. Seconds saved lives. Holding that air for as long as my lungs let me could buy me a few precious seconds. It could buy both of us time.

“We’re having a difficult time tracing your call, ma’am. Can you see anything out the window that you can describe?”

Fuck me! My phone wasn’t traceable; it wasn’t supposed to be. I’d have had better luck calling my friend Emma than dialing 911. She’d been there for me before. And why was the dispatch calling me ma’am?

“No.” I coughed again. “Nothing. No, wait….”

My eyes were stinging from the smoke almost as much as my lungs, but I had to give the dispatch something.

“I can see trees,” I said.

“Any buildings? Bridges? Can you see anything else, ma’am?”

I took one last dirty breath through the fabric of my sleeve and placed my face against the window again.

“I see a penis.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s a huge dick! Help me!”

“Ma’am, how much have you had to drink today?”

Fuck her! Though many might have contested the claim, I’d never had a drink in my life. I tried to take another breath but inhaled pure soot instead.

“Ma’am… Ma’am?”

I heard those words echo in my mind until the last beat of my heart stole the life inside me.

Chapter 1: Brook

Six years later – New York

Truth? Every woman I’d ever fucked, I’d met at a bar, and it didn’t look like tonight would be an exception. I eyed the Twizzler candy in the gorgeous brunette’s drink and wondered whether she was as twisted as the stick. The nutty ones were the best. They didn’t tend to stick around.

I admired the path of her toned arm to the defined shoulder. She looked good in a tank dress. Very fucking good. It hugged every salacious curve of her body. Her ass spilled over the round stool underneath her, and the belt around her small waist was so tight it cut into her flesh. I sat down beside her and felt her presence immediately overwhelm me.

“Is your daddy Willy Wonka?” I asked.

The woman set the glass aside and turned in her seat to face me. I usually judged well from behind, but I wasn’t prepared to be stunned. Few women in my life shocked me.

“Excuse me?”

“I asked whether your daddy is Willy Wonka, because you look delicious.” The words didn’t come out as funny as they’d sounded in my mind. It was that damn Twizzler in her drink. Who mixes alcohol and candy?

“Actually, my dad’s dead,” she replied, her voice void of any emotion.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I never met him. Use another one.”

“Use another one what?”

Her request threw me off guard, and I wondered how much she’d had to drink. Judging from the clear liquid in her glass, not much.

“Another pick-up line. The way I’m feeling tonight, it might work.”

I felt my lip lift and instantly decided that I liked her. My dick definitely liked her because it had been growing in my pants since the moment I’d laid eyes on her ass. My crotch was beginning to feel confined.

“How about I buy you a drink instead?”

“I already have one.” She pointed to her glass.

“What are you drinking?”

“Gin and tonic.”

Why would she need a cheesy pick-up line if she was drinking? Which I knew she wasn’t. A stray drop had lingered on her lip since she pulled the straw away from her mouth. Since I was a man in dire need of forgetting his woes, I decided to play her game.

“All right. Here’s another. If I were blind, I would still know you’re beautiful.”

Intrigue flashed in her eyes.

“Better?” I asked after a moment, and waited until she breathed again. After she exhaled, she shamelessly checked me out, nodded that she liked what she saw, and popped her bubble gum. When she used her tongue to remove the stray goo that had stuck to her lip, I was totally gone. She had my full attention, and that was not an easy task.

“So, what happened to your dad?”

“He was shot in an alley when my mother was pregnant. You have a fascination with daddies or something?”

“No. You mentioned that he died. I was just curious what happened. Losing a family member can be traumatic.”

I knew that better than anyone. When you lost someone, it felt like a rope had been permanently tied around your neck, on the tougher days tightening its hold, teasing with death that would never come. Death would have been easier than the constant grief and pain; unless, that was, you had someone else to live for. My someone might have been a sassy six-year-old, but she was my everything. She kept me moving forward.

The brunette burst out in laughter. This woman wasn’t just beautiful. She was crazy.

And stunning. Don’t forget stunning.

“I’d enlighten you on my fucked-up family if I had one,” she said.

What?

Making sense of her words was like trying to understand another language.

“All right. You might have had a drink already, but I think I need one to actually understand you.” I ordered a glass of spiced rum and coke. “Unless you want to be drinking that water alone?” I asked.

“How did you know it was water?”

“Gin has a glow. You’re drinking water.”

“Nice catch. What are you, a detective?”

Something like that.

“I just know my drinks. You sure you don’t want a stiff one?”

She looked me over again and I knew that she was contemplating my hidden offer.

“No, thank you. But I could use a distraction right now.”

“All right. So, who’s got you all wound up?” I asked, imagining all the ways in which I could relieve her stress. “And if he’s here, show me the asshole and I’ll get rid of him.”

She chuckled.

“There is no him. I’m a one-woman show. What you see is what you get. Life is short, buy the shoes, eat the cake, take the trip, and don’t step into shit.”

Whoa! And she talks in puzzles.

“That’s… a lot to take in all at once.” I really liked her. “Why don’t we start with a name? I’m Brook Madden.”

She tilted her head with more interest, saying, “I know you.”

Really?

“You’re one of the bounty hunters.”

“I am.”

“And a pussy-licking asshole. I heard about the stunt you pulled over at Kissed nightclub. You’re a madman.”

That was true as well, and I wanted to know which one of my previous flings had been spreading rumors again. Whatever night at Kissed she was referring to, it must have been for a job. Clubs and the social scene had been part of my life for a long time, but they never were my life. And if part of that life included finger-fucking a pussy and then licking her clean in risqué places, who was I to complain? That would be like complaining about an all-inclusive work conference in the Bahamas.

“How can you judge fairly if I haven’t licked yours?”

“Are you offering?”

I leaned in to her ear until my nose was trapped in her delicious scent and whispered, “Not yet. Before I devour my victims, I like to know their names.”

She gasped. It was the first time since hitting on her that I felt what I thought was vulnerability with a touch of insecurity. That, and lust: pure and unfiltered lust.

“Lola Lowes.”

“Lowes? As in, you work for Cross Enterprises?” She smelled so good. My mouth watered, and I knew exactly where I wanted tonight to end.

“I see you know my people.”

“It’s part of my job to know people. How can we have the same circle of friends and have never met?”

The cartilage of her ear called out to me, and I skimmed my lips close enough that she’d feel their heat before pulling away. The swell of her breasts had risen and my dick twitched.

“I’m what you’d call a workaholic. My social life is non-existent.”

What about a personal life? When was the last time you had sex?

“So why the sudden change? Why are you at a bar, on your own, drinking water?”

I wasn’t sure where the need to tone down our conversation was coming from. Usually when I met a woman, it was a one-liner, a drink, two to three sentences, and I’d be pounding between her legs. As a single father, I didn’t have much time to waste; yet with her, I wanted to waste it all. I found her captivating and fun to play with. I enjoyed teasing her. And I liked the way her body was reacting to me. I found it fascinating that her nipples pebbled into harder nubs the longer we spoke. The number of questions I had for Lola was increasing by the minute.

“I’m leaving town tomorrow morning.”

“For a job?”

“Yup, tonight’s my last night in New York.”

“I’m curious.”

“Sorry, it’s confidential.”

As I thought it would be. “All right, what can I do to make your last evening in New York special?”

She took a sip of her water, and her focus remained on the half-full glass for a good half minute before she looked up.

“You’re already doing it.”

All of a sudden, pounding between her legs moved down the list of my priorities, and I couldn’t quite explain why. She wanted me to keep her busy. She needed me to make this night special, and I wasn’t sure I could live up to her expectations.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

“So, we’ve established that you don’t have a boyfriend. How about a husband?”

“Definitely a no.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want anyone coming after me when you leave my condo in the morning.”

“Actually, it would be you leaving my house. If I let you inside in the first place. I haven’t quite made up my mind about you, Mr. Madman.”

Oh, she’d let me in all right. We both knew it. But going to her place would feel too personal. Lola was one of those women I’d have a difficult time leaving when the sun came up. Now that I thought about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d met someone I wanted to wake up next to.

“It’s Madden,” I corrected.

“I know, Madman. I called you that because you must be mad if you want to hang out with me.”

“What I am is a lucky guy, Lola. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re a woman who deserves to have a relaxing night before she leaves. Don’t sell yourself short.”

A relaxing night?

I side-eyed my liquor to ensure it wasn’t spiked with more mind-fuckery.

“Thanks. You’re pretty cool. What brings you to the bar tonight? I’m hoping a stupid girl stood you up.”

“I don’t get stood up. Family trouble. My father’s heart is failing. They say money can buy anything, but one thing it can’t buy is time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m sorry I made the comment about daddy issues, too. I didn’t know about your father.”

“No harm done.”

I shifted in my seat, still hopeful that the wood in my pants would soon be taken care of.

“You know, that’s the biggest problem with having a family. They suck the life out of you.” She bit the tip off her Twizzler and chewed the candy.

“I gather your family gives you trouble?”

“No, they don’t, actually. I don’t have a family.”

“Like no one? What about your mom? No siblings?”

“Nope. Like I said, I’m a one-woman show.”

Though she caught me off guard with her comment, I kept a composed face. Working alone was one of my mottos as well. That way, I had fewer people to rely on, fewer people to trust, and fewer to argue with over small details. All that lowered the chances of making fatal mistakes. After all, my job as a bounty hunter didn’t forgive mistakes.

There was one exception to my job, though: my brothers. I’d work with them because our trust was unbreakable. In fact, I couldn’t imagine a life without them. They were the ones who pulled me through my darkest hours, and God only knew, there’d been too many of those for a man my age.

I couldn’t imagine my life without my family. Lola had no idea what she was missing.

“That’s… sad,” I said.

“Are you kidding me? Hey, listen. I don’t need pity. Single life is beautiful. I can do whatever I want, whomever I want, and whenever I want. There’s no one to clean up after, no one to feed, and no one to disappoint you.”

No one to laugh with or cry with. No one to love you.

“All I care about is doing my job well, and you know why? Because lives depend on it. If someone depends on me, I will not fail them the way life failed me.”

She was a walking contradiction. Technically sitting at the moment, but still a contradiction. Was it the hormones?

No, don’t ask her that.

She could have been on her period.

Definitely don’t say that.

Maybe someone spiked her drink and she didn’t know it? That couldn’t have been it either, because she’d been guarding that water-filled-glass like a pro. What else did I expect from a Cross Enterprises employee?

Was it me?

Nah. I haven’t had a woman reject me in… well, no woman has ever said no.

Her nudge on my arm brought me back to her.

“See, you’re doing it now, and you don’t even know it. You’re not listening to what I’m saying. How is it that you’re trying to get into my panties and ignoring me at the same time?” she asked.

I shook off my intrigue and scanned through my short memory for all the words she’d said in the past minute. Juggling between my thoughts and real conversation had become second nature the past six years only because some thoughts weren’t meant to be spoken. Regrets and heartaches were better left unsaid.

“Of course I’m listening. You said you hate kids and you never want to have one of your own. You said some families weren’t worthy to be called such. You also seem to think that family equals heartache. I must say, it breaks my heart that you’re not open to experience that kind of love because even if you don’t have a family now, you could just create your own. You could create your own corner of the world, filled with love and family.”

It was how I’d survived.

I watched her gasp at my words, and that was the first moment I was certain that holding Lola Lowes in my arms all night long, listening to her breathing, would be better than getting rid of the wood in my pants.

Yeah, I see where we could have a few issues, though I wasn’t sure why I was considering it being an issue at all if all I needed was a one-night stand.

And why would she think I didn’t listen?

One of my jobs was not only to listen, but also to be in tune with women. One woman to be exact. Her name was Sophie, and I knew that I’d never love anyone as hard as I loved my daughter.

“Hmmm, maybe you have been listening. I’ve got plenty of love, Madman.”

“It’s Madden.”

“Okay, Madman. I’m just being realistic. Tell me I’m wrong, then. Tell me that you can depend on life, no matter what it throws at you. Tell me that you haven’t been hurt in life. Tell me that life hasn’t betrayed you and stolen your faith and everything you ever held close to your heart. You won’t be able to, because I’m right. At some point, life takes away from everyone. No one’s immune to its bitchy side when it kicks you in the gut and throws you against the concrete right out of a fucking speeding car. When they say life’s a bitch, they mean it. The only way I can avoid disappointment is to depend on myself. I can control what I do and whom I help. You kick me down and I come back ten times stronger. Beat disappointment to the punch, ya know. You must be able to identify with that as a bounty hunter.”

She was definitely a walking contradiction. Of course I understood her point of view, but with her closed-off attitude she was missing out on so much more that life had to offer. She lived for others; she was driven by selflessness yet didn’t know it. Or did she? Either way, she sounded like her life was all about work and zero self-reward.

Well, I could definitely help her with that, in fact, I could do it flawlessly? As soon as the thought crossed my mind I imagined her last night in New York, in my bed, squirming underneath me, spasming and twitching as I played with her body. I could play with her until she fell asleep with a smile on her face. With me at her side, she would forget all about the cowardice and selfishness filling this world. Tonight, I could be selfish for her and give her the kind of pleasure she deserved.

“It must be lonely to be you. All work and no play.” I took hold of her hips and gently pulled her toward me. She slid off her stool and glanced down at my greedy hand as I brought her closer. She didn’t object and relaxed her shoulders, showing me a moment of her vulnerability, before she looked up again.

“Are you offering to play with me, Madman? Are you going to be the knight in shining armor who makes me see and feel fireworks?”

Yeah, I was definitely he; and I definitely would. She would see fireworks until she couldn’t keep her eyes open.

“Do I really look lonely to you?” She pouted.

That was a trick question. If I answered yes, I could lose the chance to feel that warmth I felt radiating from her crotch to my knee as she pressed her pussy harder to the joint, around my dick. Her hips swayed left and right and her mound rolled over my cap. That move made me even harder. If I answered no, then I would have contradicted myself.

I decided to ignore the question instead. “A family takes away all the loneliness. It makes you feel whole. It has your back. You can count on family members for anything. They accept you for who you are, and they’re there at your darkest hour. They’re with you through all the good times and the bad.”

“Ha! If that’s the kind of family you got dealt, then you’re lucky.”

I was lucky. I had been lucky in the past as well as the present. Though Marissa was no longer here, I still felt her presence each day. Listening to Lola, I realized that I hadn’t felt the need to know more about another woman in almost six years. Instead of inviting her to the hotel upstairs, I wanted to learn more about her.

“What about Christmas time?” What was I doing? Here she was, offering herself to me, practically orgasming while rolling back and forth over my knee, and I was chatting religious holidays.

“What about it?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never celebrated Christmas.”

“I’ve put up a tree and cooked.”

“For yourself?”

“Who else for?”

I sighed. “I’m going to work you so hard, princess, you’re going to realize that I’m the key to what’s been missing in your life.”

Fuck me! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d come up with such a good one-liner.

“Please – anything but a princess.”

“Not all princesses are about pink dresses, flowers, and rainbows. Some are more like queens. Like Wonder Woman.”

Her mouth lifted as soon as I compared her to a fierce woman, and a satisfied grin spread over her face. Her hands snaked up my chest, nails scraping gently over the cotton fabric that I wished were my skin.

“You sure know a lot about princesses, but you don’t know me. And that’s just one of the reasons that I can’t offer more than what you see. No matter what happens, tomorrow morning, I’m leaving. The only memory you’ll have of me will be a new scratch on your bed post.”

That did throw a curve ball because suddenly I realized that one night with this woman wouldn’t be enough.

“What I see in front of me looks perfect,” I replied. “Let me play with you, Lola. Let me give you what you need this last night in New York, and we’ll go from there.” Her fingers trailed to the back of my neck and skimmed across my hairline. She was playing me as hard as I was playing her.

“But how can trust you? We’ve just met.” She slowly shifted off my knee to between my legs, and I pulled her in even closer.

“Exactly. That’s why tonight, as we start building that trust, will be all about you.”

“Hmm.” She placed her finger over her lips, and then drew it down to her chin, over her neck, and over the swell of her breasts before she brought it to my mouth. “I’m not sure how I feel about a one-night stand with you just yet, but I guess I could find out.”

As soon as her hand stroked over my zipper, I was lost. Tonight I’d agree to anything, and I’d let fate decide our futures. It seemed that planning around this woman wasn’t my forte. But if this was in fact to be a one-night stand, I’d ensure that she remembered it for the rest of her life.

“Hey, listen. You don’t need to ask, but I don’t want to just sleep with you. I want to devour you, cherish you, and satisfy you; and at the end of the night I’ll fuck you so hard that your neighbors will be having a cigarette after we’re done.”

“Are you playing with me right now?” She leaned away from me, chuckling.

“Not yet,” I replied.

“All right, then, I’ll play. Do you want to know what truly makes me feel whole, Madman?”

“What?”

“When I have a dick in my pussy and fingers up my ass. So – are we gonna fuck or not?”

Chapter 2: Lola

Three months later – Pace, Arizona

I swept the broom along the rich grain of the dark oak salon floor. Sweat beaded down my forehead. Outside, the wind swirled tornado-like dust funnels and then died down again, over and over. After a longer pause, a fresh gust swept the hovering clouds away, and the sun hit the front window again.

Three months ago, this place was a boring dump, and nothing had changed since I arrived in the small town of Pace. My only form of entertainment was the text messages Brook sent me.

I sat down on a wooden chair, wiped my forehead, and scrolled through my phone.

Brook: Want to play a game?

Lola: What kind of game?

Brook: Any game you’d like except hide and go seek

Lola: WTF and why not that one?

Brook: Because it’s impossible to find an incredible woman like you

Lola: You were right when you said they could get cheesier

Brook: Stay safe

Lola: You too

That was three months ago, and they didn’t stop coming. Sometimes it felt like we’d never parted.

Brook: You remind me of my big toe.

Lola: Why?

Brook: Because next time I see you I’ll bang you on every piece of furniture at my house

Lola: You bought a house?

Brook: Not yet but will soon. Need to get away from crazy. Need you.

I bit my lip each time I read that last line. Sometimes his words felt like more than pure entertainment, and I wasn’t sure what it meant exactly. He confused me. Though I’d spent only one night with Brook Madden, it felt like I’d known him my entire life, yet at the same time like I didn’t know him at all; and I wanted to know so much more about him.

Lola: I thought you loved your family

Brook used to live with his brothers and father, but they had all been forced to move in with their mother. And if he only knew what I knew about his move, he wouldn’t have been so keen on getting to know me. This relationship – which wasn’t even a relationship – had the structural integrity of uncooked pasta, yet I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life.

Brook: Love them to the bone but living with my mother and father in the same quarters is like trying to fit a lioness and a lamb in the same cage.

Lola: Now you’ve got me intrigued. I’m guessing your mother would be the lioness

Brook: You got it. Long story. I’ll tell you about it when I see you. Stay safe

Lola: Stay safe

I lowered the phone to the counter and peeked out the salon window. The single dusty road in Pace was deserted, as it would remain for the rest of the day. My new friend, Kate, who was also my client, would soon stop by for a promised morning coffee. Except she didn’t exactly know that she was my client. When I’d joined Cross Enterprises, a top-notch private investigations and personal security firm, five years ago, and received my first case to anonymously protect Kate Black, I never realized I’d be working on it for five years. I’d followed Kate home after work, watched her eat lunch from across the street, and scrutinized her every move until she fucked up by blowing up a van full of narcotics.

Now that she’d put a target on her back, my new job had taken me on an adventure to this beige-toned town, and we’d become friends — good friends, in fact. It was the first time I’d revealed myself to her in person, but my gut told me that I had to remain close. If I got as much as a whiff of Aaron Cortez’s return, I would need to move Kate to safety within minutes.

So, she thought I was a hairdresser, and that was okay for now. But when the case closed, I hoped we could remain friends.

I picked up the broom from the corner, wiped the new sweat off my face with a handkerchief, and then started clearing a path down the hardwood floor. The dust around here never gave up. The summer’s high temperatures weren’t giving up either. The thick, dry air formed heat waves out in the distance. Unfortunately, it seemed that the concept of air-conditioning hadn’t been heard of in this town of one hundred and seven.

I clicked the fan to its highest setting and went to open the side window. It would bring in more dust, but I chose dirt over heat. I was gulping down another glass of water when the front door chimed.

The shop didn’t open for another hour, and I wondered whether Kate had decided to come early. I set my water bottle down and turned around.

The heat I thought I’d managed to control returned with a force that slammed straight into my chest and traveled down my body, settling nicely between my legs.

There he was: Brook Madden, all six feet plus of him, stood at the threshold with a sly grin on his face. The man who’d managed to weasel himself into my life in a matter of few hours, who’d kept me entertained through text messages over the past three months, was here. Though we’d spent only one night together, it was a night I would never forget because Brook Madden had blown the meaning of a giving man off the charts.

“Brook? What are you doing here?”

“You’re a hairdresser?” he asked.

“No.”

Even though it appeared that I was, my primary job was in security, and he knew it.

“Did you follow me? Brook, you can’t be here. I’m on a job.”

“Lola, I’m just as shocked to see you here as you are to see me.”

I highly doubted that. “Okay, call me skeptical at this coincidence, but if you didn’t follow me, why are you here, then?”

“For a haircut. And for my brother.”

I felt my brain fire up with a charge that scanned every single tissue, and then it dawned on me. We’d had a new arrival at our parish, and he was due for a haircut as well, in less than a couple of hours. Father John had made his appointment last week. I hadn’t seen him yet, but there was only one Madden brother crazy enough to risk everything.

“Oh, hell! Cameron?”

“Yup. And the only answer I can give you is – don’t ask.”

“But Cameron’s a priest.”

“Yes, he is. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about that.”

“Is he here on a job?”

“Yes.”

“What’s the job?”

He closed the door. The lock clicked on the twist, drawing goosebumps over my arms. Brook had barely been back for two minutes and had already managed to stir havoc in my head. His confident walk toward me stirred something in my belly. He then took my hand and lifted it to his lips to kiss it. There weren’t many men in the world who could make my heart skip a beat, but they also weren’t Brook Madden. I squeezed the broom’s handle for support.

“You know I can’t tell you.” He stepped closer, bringing my whole front to rest against his. Heat rose from between us.

“And you know as well as I do that if we’re both in the same little town on a job, then we’re sharing the job. It’s too much of a coincidence.”

“All right. I’m willing to discuss a way we can work together. But not yet.”

He cupped my face between his hands and my lips instantly became his. I let go of the broom and it crashed to the floor, but neither of us paid attention. The longing of his mouth stole my breath, and with a few simple strokes of his tongue, he reminded me why it had been so difficult to forget about our night together. It was almost impossible to get him out of my mind, and I’d have been lying if I’d said that I hadn’t been thinking about him since we’d run into each other back in New York. The scary part was that I thought about him constantly.

He consumed me. He was stealing my attention at a time when I was supposed to be concentrating on my job, and that was dangerous for Kate. He had to leave; but hopefully not for another hour or so.

Brook finally pulled away, and I opened my eyes. He held onto my face and drew his thumb over my parted lips. That only made me want to kiss him again.

“I missed you,” he whispered.

“I… ahm… sorry, I’m still a little shocked.”

“Here.” He finally let go of my face, removed my gum from his mouth, and held it between his fingers. “I think this is yours.”

My knees buckled and I gripped his arm harder for support.

How did he do that?

Get a hold of yourself, Lola.

I let go of his arm, picked up a trashcan, and lifted it up to his offered hand. He disposed of the gum with a smirk on his face.

“No cheesy pick up lines today?”

I took a much-needed step back on my wobbling legs. That was a mistake, because when I turned around to face him again and saw that he was hard underneath his zipper, I longed for the support of his arm again. Gripping one of the counters, I looked over his body without shame. I wasn’t sure how he’d managed it, but he looked so much hotter than he had three months ago.

“I was going to say, Kiss me if I’m wrong, but the Earth is flat, right?

I reached up and pulled my fingers through his longer hair. He did need a cut.

“That would have been cheesy.”

“Yeah, so I figured I’d go right for your lips instead. It was a smart choice.”

Damn!

“So, is there anything decent in this town?”

“No, but your brother’s due here in a couple of hours. You can’t tell him about me,” I warned.

It wasn’t my place to confront Cameron about his intentions in Pace. The Madden bounty hunters knew what they were doing, and their name had earned them respect in the industry. The last thing I wanted was to meddle in their business — and I definitely didn’t want them to meddle in mine. My worry was that if our professional paths crossed, it wouldn’t be pretty. But as long as Kate’s well-being wasn’t jeopardized, we were good. They couldn’t have known that Kate had blown up that warehouse.

I shook my head. “Okay, our jobs… we can’t… I don’t want to talk about work when I’m with you. It complicates things.”

Brook was complicating my life more than he realized. He was messing with my head both professionally and emotionally, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was the first time I’d felt anything this powerful in six years.

“I don’t tattle. When someone tells me a secret, it’s kept as well as it would be by a dead man. I promise not to mix business with pleasure, Lola, though I’m surprised my brother hasn’t recognized your name.”

“I’m not planning on him recognizing it,” I replied.

“You’re that good, are you?” His mouth lifted with approval.

“It’s my job.”

“So it looks like we have more in common than we thought. It’s a good thing I’m not here to discuss our common interests. My only interest now, is you.”

He grasped me by my hips and brought me in for another sizzling kiss. The strokes of his skilled tongue reminded me how well he worked between my legs as well. When he then pulled away, I could barely breathe.

“Have you thought about me since our night together?”

Every spare moment I have.

“I might have,” I replied.

“Have you given any more thought to another night?” He dipped me back, traced his lips across my jaw line, teasing, and then stood up and answered before I had a chance to catch my breath. “Because I have – at least a hundred times. I have a couple of hours I can spare. Tell me you have time right now.”

His excitement dug into my thigh, and a memory of him deep inside me flashed through my mind. The delicious thought managed to tighten my ass, and my breasts lifted at least an inch higher.

Instead of replying, I took his hand. He followed me to the front door, where I flipped over the “Open” sign. I then led him to the stairs at the back that would take us to my tiny apartment. As soon as the door closed, I was back in his arms, kissing him with desperation. The day’s heat no longer bothered me; in fact, it only added to the haste I felt to remove our clothes. I grasped the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. I was instantly rewarded with the view of the strength in his bunched muscles.

In one swift move, Brook removed my shirt, then my pants, and he didn’t stop until I stood naked in front of him. I felt my bed at the back of my knees, grasped at his arms, and pulled us both down. We sank into the uncomfortable mattress. One of its broken coils poked me in my back, but it was difficult to pay it much attention when a hot piece of flesh was about to pound between my legs. I aimed for his belt and zipper, flipped us both so that he was underneath me, and then grabbed his jeans and carefully slid them over his beautiful erection. The task wasn’t easy, and I made a mental note to remove them before he was hard next time.

I watched his mouth curve up, and with that permission I slid down his body, all the way to his standing cock. I licked my lips and gripped him with my hand, stroking his heated skin up and down, forcing that drop of pre-cum to his tip. He let out a moan of appreciation, and I lowered my mouth to his crown, drawing my tongue underneath its ridge. Brook shuddered, grasping my head, guiding my mouth over him. I took him deeper and cradled his balls with my hand.

The pulse of the ridged vein that ran along his dick throbbed against my bottom lip. His hips lifted as my mouth slid down him until I felt him hit the back of my throat. I relaxed my jaw, ignoring the gag reflex. I’d imagined having him in my mouth ever since he’d fucked me that night in New York, then ate me out like he was at one of his favorite buffets.

With an internal grin, I tightened my lips, gripping him harder, and bobbed my head faster. The slow drips in my panties were becoming nearly unbearable.

“Lola…”

I didn’t stop as he tensed and relaxed repeatedly. He was close. I could taste it. Just as I felt my own need slide down my thigh when I shifted, Brook gently grasped my head and lifted me off him. He slid out of my mouth with a pop.

“I’m not done, Brook.”

“I know. Stay there, but move your ass over my head.”

Oh!

I shifted, straddling him backward and resting my knees at the sides of his shoulders. His cock stood like a mast, awaiting salvation. I lowered my mouth back to him and felt his fingers in my pussy and his lips around my clit. He didn’t hold back, and I was ready to lose it after the first two licks. He sucked on me hard, flicking his tongue, pumping his fingers in and out of my pussy, and all my senses were lost. I didn’t know what to concentrate on – his slick dick sliding in and out of my mouth or my throbbing pussy and his eager tongue.

Oh, God!

And then he did that one move that made me lose my mind, where he rimmed my puckered ass. Desperate for relief, I pumped him quicker with my hand, rolled my tongue over his hot tip, licked him with each stroke, and then took him in deep every few strokes.

He massaged my smaller opening before inserting his finger in my ass. I squirmed. My toes curled and my hips moved back and forth with the much-needed pumping motion. The pulsing intensified. I could feel him everywhere: sucking on my clit, two fingers in my pussy, and one expanding my ass, and that took me over the edge.

“Brook!” I screamed.

He kept his mouth over me much longer as my orgasm took time to settle. The electrifying shocks of relief flew through me over and over again as Brook slowly finished me off and then exploded in my mouth. He withdrew, jetting his remaining heat on my face. I lifted to my knees, shaking. His cum dripped down my lip to between my breasts. He reached for a corner of my sheet and used it to wipe his cum off my cheek and chest, grinning with pride.

I lifted off him and rolled to the side. Brook shifted and came up to lie beside me. He kissed my breasts, gently fondling them while I listened to my heart drum with a new beat I didn’t recognize.

His lips danced over my skin, slowly meandering to the middle of my chest. He left a trail of kisses along the scar and then continued upward until he arrived at my lips.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, perfect.”

“Good.” He sighed. Somehow I knew exactly what he was thinking. I knew he wanted to ask about the extra ripple of skin running over the middle of my chest, the way he had asked back in New York. Well, I hadn’t been ready to answer him then, and I wouldn’t do so now. I wasn’t ready to answer anyone, and I had a feeling that I never would be. Just the thought of that fateful night made my throat tingle, and the last thing I wanted was to cry in front of him. I didn’t want to cry in front of anyone — ever.

“Don’t ask, please.”

“All right. But you’ll tell me in due time.”

“I… I don’t know. Just don’t ask.”

“Is that why you wear scarves?”

“Yes. I’m not ashamed of it, I just don’t like people asking questions.”

“For what it’s worth, it makes you beautiful. I already told you Wonder Women like you are fierce. You’re a survivor. Whatever happened, Lola, it’s made you stronger.”

“I think you see what you want to see and not what’s real.”

“Princess…” He stopped as soon as he caught the venom swimming in my eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Brook, if we’re going to try this thing between us… there are things I can’t really talk about.”

“Same goes here.”

I saw understanding in his eyes and wondered where it came from. “So, you think when I return to New York, I could see you again?”

Did I just ask him for a date?

It had been years since I’d felt an ounce of vulnerability in my body, yet here it was, reclaiming my heart with full force.

“I would be hurt if you didn’t. You’re mine now, Lola, and I’m not done with you.”

The promise of his words stirred something deep inside my chest. The way he spoke, as if he’d never be done with me, confused me. Never wanting to feel again, up until now I’d set all relationships aside; but Brook seemed different.

It was bad timing right now, but it wouldn’t be in the future, would it?

Brook licked his lips, reminding me how good it felt to be devoured by him. I felt a new wave of hormones consume my body.

“Explain how you’re not done with me.”

“What?”

“How are you not done with me? Or is that just another one-liner? Because I came, and so did you, so we should be done.”

He laughed. “Don’t you see that I want much more from you than an orgasm? I like you. I actually really like you, and I think we have a lot in common.”

There was a flash of doubt in his eyes but my attention returned to his tongue as soon as he licked around one of my nipples.

“Well, I must say that the sex part definitely tops the charts,” I said.

“You haven’t seen anything yet, my queen.” He mumbled against my skin.

“And are you someone who practices often?”

“Are you jealous?”

“I don’t get jealous.”

Truthfully, I did this time. I cared for this man more than I sometimes allowed myself to believe.

“If it makes you feel better, you’re the only one I’ve practiced with since the day I met you.”

It did make me feel better. “I trust you, Brook. That’s all. And it’s not something I say often.”

A twitch in his jaw made me doubt him for the second time that morning, but as soon as the back of his hand swept over my cheek, the thought vanished.

“Wait – I did have some help from my right hand. The past three months that I’ve been thinking about you and slapping the monkey I’d grown an extra bicep.”

“You masturbated thinking about me?”

“Can you blame me?”

I laughed. Giving, charming, strong, handsome, and funny too. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because Brook was pulling all the right strings.

“What I tell you in private stays between us. Works stays aside. My job is my job, and your job is your job. You don’t use me, and I don’t use you.”

“But I want to use you, my queen.”

He came in for a harder kiss, and I squirmed. I hadn’t squirmed in a long time.

“And no background checks from either of us,” I said, between our lips.

He lifted me and I fell back to the mattress, that broken coil reminding me of our hot sex. Supporting himself on his elbows, Brook hovered over me, kissing my lips, my nose, and each of my cheeks.

“Got it. No background checks. I want to get to know you all on my own.”

There hadn’t been a man in my life since my accident, and truthfully, I never thought there would be one again. Especially since I wasn’t looking for one. What surprised me the most, though, was how much Brook got me. Spending time with him was easy. He was the perfect distraction from the heartaches of my past. They say that the best things in life were the ones that came unexpectedly, the way Brook had come into mine. I hoped they were right. Glancing at the sexy man above me, I prayed that they were right.

I trusted him and I believed him. There weren’t too many people in my life I could say that about. Something told me that he was worthy of at least a chance. I felt so drawn to him that I believed he could be the reason I was spared that day.

He seemed too perfect and too real, and I was afraid that this warm feeling in my chest meant I was falling for him.

If I was wrong, if the shoe did drop, I was afraid it would squish me like a bug.

And unless another miracle happened, I was afraid that this time, the damage would be irreversible.

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