Meet Silas MacCreedy and Nica Fraser:
Mingling with a trio of high rollers calling it a night, Silas quickly took the stairs down to the main floor. In the glare of bright lights from the showroom where exotic dancers displayed their agility, MacCreedy cast about for a place to conceal his smuggled evidence.
“Hey, Creed,” came a loud call. “What are you doing down here? You ain’t supposed to leave the game rooms until your shift is over.”
He turned to see one of the massive bouncers striding his way. Damn. Now he’d not only have to explain, but also would most likely be searched on the spot. He had the lighter in his hand, readying to give it a toss when another voice intruded.
“There you are, lover. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
He got a quick glimpse of glossy black hair and deep sapphire eyes. Then slender arms encircled his neck, pulling him down for a ong, lusty kiss that had him gripping her narrow waist to keep his knees steady. Finally, she slid from his mouth to whisper against his cheek, “You looked like you might need some assistance.”
He rubbed his hands up under the skimpy lace top she was wearing. There was no time to question her presence or motives as he tucked the lighter into the waistband of her scandalously short skirt, murmuring, “Take this for me. I’ll owe you one.”
With his arm about her hips, Silas turned to the glowering bouncer, Todd, with an awkward smile. “Sorry—had to let my lady know I was working late, and they don’t allow phone calls from upstairs. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to come down on my break.”
She immediately produced a welling of tears. “You’re not going to get fired, are you? Because of me?” Her voice trembled.
“No, miss,” Todd assured her quickly. “I’ll make sure he don’t. I’ll tell them he came down with me. Just this once.”
She gave him a wide, wobbly smile that would have melted a heart of stone. “Thank you. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
He flushed as she stroked his arm, then stammered gruffly to MacCreedy, “We’d better get you back before Mr. Blu sees you’re gone.”
“Right away.” Then he turned his attention to the enigmatic woman at his side. “I’ll be by later to pick up where we left off.”
She touched a soft kiss to his lips and said serenely, “I’m sure you will.”
She answered his knock wearing loose black lounging pajamas with wide-legged pants and a cropped top. The fluid knit skimmed her long sleek lines. Spaghetti straps bared pale shoulders and arms delineated by firm muscle. Her hair was loose, cascading to the middle of her back in soft thick waves. Her feet were bare. Silas found the look dangerously alluring for its femininity and display of unapologetic strength. And his chest was suddenly so tight he could barely take a breath.
Simple sexual chemistry. An irresistible pheromone drawing him to his mate.
He inhaled, holding his breath until his mind cleared and the clutch about his ribs relaxed.
She handed him a glass of wine and let her gaze caress over him. He’d come straight from the club, still wearing the tux. The tie hung loose about his neck and the first few buttons of his dress shirt were open. Her stare went to the chest hair revealed in that careless V, her deep blue eyes going a shade darker.
“I feel seriously underdressed,” she murmured in that smoky voice.
He didn’t react as her fingertips traced down the lapel of his jacket. “I don’t know your name.”
She smiled. “Nica.”
His heartbeat quickened as her touch traced over him and he kept his tone brusque. “I believe you have something of mine, Nica.”
Her smile faded at his abruptness. “Come in, Detective MacCreedy.” She turned away to start down a long hall.
Silas had no choice but to follow. He’d been naïve to hope she’d just hand him his property at the threshold. “How did you find me?” he asked, trying to keep his gaze from the hypnotic sway of her hips.
“I called your station, said one of their detectives had done me a great service and I wanted to write a note of appreciation. When I described you, they told me your name. Then I staked out your district office and followed you to the strip club.”
Simple, logical, efficient. He admired practicality. And he more than admired her, even if her intentions were highly suspect. Following him wouldn’t have been an easy task; he was extra careful in his undercover role not to invite a tail. He had a very good idea of what she was and what she did, but that didn’t lessen the attraction. It should have.
Why was his brain having such trouble keeping up with his libido?
The wine, the sexy outfit, made him wary and aroused. If there’d been candles and music he would have backed away, recognizing a sensual trap. But the living area was well lit, and she headed for a laptop open on the coffee table. She sat on the couch, not the love seat, and patted the ample space next to her. As he sat, he looked to the computer to see one of his photos of the commissioner, Cummings, and Blutafino filling the screen. She’d already downloaded his images. Alarm stirred.
He’d respected her privacy with the backpack, but she hadn’t returned the favor.
Nica leaned back into the cushions and sipped her wine, watching his expression tighten. “What are you up to, MacCreedy? Indictment or extortion?”
“That’s my business, not yours.” His tone was gruff with displeasure.
“I believe you invited me to make it mine when you passed me these interesting snapshots to smuggle out. Try the wine. It’s an excellent pinot gris.”
He ignored the glass on the table and gave her a challenging glare. “I want my property and any copies you might have made from it. And I want these erased.”
“You want a lot and give little.” Her jaw squared with equal belligerence. “You make it sound as though I’m your enemy.”
“I don’t know what you are.” He couldn’t seem to pull himself from her hypnotic gaze, and he fought the attraction threatening to drown him.
“I told you, I have no stake in this game you’re playing. I’m merely a spectator intrigued by the entertainment value.”
“I’m glad you’ve been amused. Give me my property.”
Her tone could have frosted the glass in her hand. “Ask nicely.”
His fierce expression didn’t soften as he drawled, “Pleeeease give me my property so I can go home.”
She held his hard gaze for a long moment then turned to the lap top, closing down the program and deleting the file from her hard drive. Surging up from the sofa, she stalked to the bar, reaching over it to find the lighter on the shelf behind it. Then she returned to the couch, tossing the lighter to him.
“Apparently the Terriots still don’t train their beasts to have manners. Get out.”
The smart thing would have been to go. Yet Silas hesitated, angered by her tone and words, shamed by his behavior toward a female who’d had no reason to help him, yet had. And agitated by the way her scent tormented his senses into a painful awareness, even as she glared at him with disdain. An apology started to form, but couldn’t best his abused pride.
“I’m not on a leash to the Terriots,” he growled.
“No?” she sneered. “If you wear their mark seared into your flesh, you obey their command. Expecting me to believe otherwise insults me even more than you have with your rudeness.”
“I don’t care what you believe. You say you’re an independent? Don’t pretend you have any more freedom than the rest of us.”
She winced at that then grew even colder. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know you’re a slave to whoever holds your reins. We’re all bound by someone’s chains—so don’t act as if you have no master.”
Visibly trembling, she said with a contemptuous chill. “You no longer amuse me. I was wrong to think I saw something in you. You’re a waste of my time.”
“And you’ll take up no more of mine.”
Silas surged to his feet, towering over her. She held her ground, clearly unimpressed by his size or his temper, fearless in her fury and purposely barring his exit.
“You’re in my way,” he snarled. When she remained planted, he took her by the upper arms, intending to move her aside.
But the feel of her bare skin shocked through him, awaking strange, overwhelming emotions. His focus faltered, then fixed upon her incredibly warm, smooth skin. So soft and deliciously scented. Desire rumbled and his hands lingered, lightly stroking, drifting upward to the firm curve of her shoulders. An earthquake of urgency shook him, and even as frantic logic argued against it, Silas knew he’d never wanted anything as desperately as he wanted this female.
Nica’s pupils widened. She took a shuddering breath, then clasped the back of his head in her hands to drag him down to her parted lips.
Explosive pleasure shut out all else.
Nica’s feet and shoulders ached from the busy night at Cheveux du Chien, and all she was looking forward to was a long, steamy shower. Then she saw Silas MacCreedy waiting at her door and her priorities changed.
He sat on the cold air register against the wall of windows that overlook the central courtyard below. He was wearing jeans, tennis shoes and an olive green T-shirt that temptingly accentuated his powerful chest and arms. The need to run her palms over that masculine terrain had her greeting rather breathless.
“MacCreedy. This is a surprise.”
He rose smoothly to his feet as her hungry gaze followed. She was wondering how long it would take to get him undressed and horizontal, until she focused on his expression. He was unsmiling, his mouth and eyes narrowed. No trace of her fiery lover from the night before warmed his posture or tone when he said, “Let’s talk inside.”
She ran her key card across the lock, a wary caution building. She was very aware of him, big and bold and potentially trouble at her back. He clearly wasn’t here for let’s-get-better-acquainted sex. Too bad for them both.
“I had to close out for Amber. Her little girl was sick,” she chatted as she moved down the hall in front of him, all of her muscles tight and her senses alert. “I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”
“No. Not long.”
Something in his voice had her nerves taut and tingling.
Don’t start something I’ll have to finish, MacCreedy. I really like you.
She placed her backpack on the coffee table and pulled off the white shirt she wore over a snug black tank top. “Can I get you something? I think I have more of that wine–“
“No. This isn’t a social visit.”
“So, why are you here?” She gestured toward the couch, hoping to maneuver him from his squared and readied stance.
“I think I’ll stand.”
So, that’s how it’s going to be. What a waste. She sighed. “What’s on your mind, MacCreedy?”
“I found those two men.”
Her attention targeted like a gun site. “Where?”
“I have them on ice. They’re part of my ongoing investigation.”
Investigation? It came together with an unpleasant click, like a well-hidden trap.
MacCreedy hadn’t been in that alley by chance. He hadn’t stepped in with no ulterior motives just to save her life. His plan all along was to save the two who could destroy her.
“I don’t care about your investigation,” she told him. His cop business wasn’t a blip on her radar, unlike their personal business had been. Few moments had passed throughout the day where intimate thoughts of him hadn’t hovered.
And he’d been using her. How very…disappointing.
“I don’t suspect you do,” he continued. “But I have to keep those two alive long enough to give statements.”
How much did he know about her? How much had he guessed? Why was he here, alone, to confront her?
Nica stepped closer, her movements deceivingly relaxed, until they were toe-to-toe. She placed her palm on his chest. His heartbeat was strong and steady. If he knew anything, he had nerves of wrought iron to stand there so cool and composed.
“What have they told you?” Her gaze held his while her hand eased upward to distractedly stroke his neck and the side of his face. Not a muscle moved beneath her light touch.
“All sorts of interesting things.” His tongue grazed her fingertips as they glided over his mouth, but his stare remained unblinking.
She stretched up to nuzzle his warm throat, to breathe in his scent and taste the heat of his skin with her lips. As she rubbed her cheek against his, she whispered, “What sort of things, lover?” She glanced up to find his stropped steel gaze upon her.
“Impossible things,” he replied as his hands settled lightly at her waist. “Things I never would have believed if you hadn’t left your fang prints behind.”
“You know Shifter females can’t change shape,” she reasoned quietly. Her pulse pounded wildly. He knew. She couldn’t let him leave this room with that knowledge, couldn’t let him tell anyone what he’d discovered. Everything she worked for, every sacrifice she’d made would be for nothing.
Primal self-preservation kicked in, and she backed away.
“So,” Silas asked, watching her closely, “if you’re not one of our females, what does that make you?”
“More dangerous than you could ever imagine. Tell me where they are, MacCreedy. I’d rather take you back into the bedroom for a nice long tumble than scoop your remains into a plastic bag.”
Silas laughed. “Having sex with you is about the last thing on my mind.” Not exactly true. “Don’t get out the plastic yet. You need me alive to find them.”
Nica laughed, too, a low throaty sound completely without amusement. “You’re wrong, hero. I can scent out those cowards without your help. So I guess that makes you . . . unnecessary.”
Even ready for her, Silas hadn’t anticipated her speed. She was on him before he could blink, and he was barely able to keep her snapping teeth from his neck.
She was everything he feared . . . and more.