See what happens when 30 Escape authors decided to collaborate to write one short story! Every day from Valentine’s Day an Escape Artist will post up to 200 words here! There’s no master plan, no one knows where this is going until it’s written. So come on an Escapade with us by visiting the blog daily over the next month and prepare to be delighted….
14/2 – by Rhian Cahill
Once upon a time, Laura Ashford thought she led a charmed life. That was before she learned her stepfather had gambled away the family fortune. Before she discovered her fiancé in bed with another woman. And before she found herself standing on the front step of her new duplex in the pouring rain with a key that wouldn’t work. Staring at the offending key, she jammed the metal in the lock one more time and jiggled it around. Nothing. “Argh!” Could life get any worse? She threw her hands up and, fisting them, brought them down on the door that refused to open. With a screech, she tipped forward as she met no resistance. Too startled and confused to right herself, Laura landed with a distressed cry in front of a pair of bare feet. Large, masculine feet. Laura’s gaze travelled up hairy shins, thick thighs and hips covered by a deep blue towel. Tilting her head back, she saw a set of abs a nun would shiver over, a chest sprinkled with golden curls and shoulders wide enough to support the world. But it was the angry blue gaze that stole her breath. “Who the hell are you?”
With Rhian Cahill kicking us off, it’s no wonder the hero is already half-naked. If you want to read more of Rhian’s half-naked, mostly naked, and completely naked heroes, check out her holiday trilogy Christmas Wishes, New Year’s Kisses, and Valentine’s Dates.
15/2 – by Keziah Hill
“I… I’m…” The strap of her shoulder bag wound around her arm as she struggled to stand. She would’ve made it without further damage to her dignity if the rain pouring down her face hadn’t blinded her, resulting in a crazy muddle between her foot, the strap and her innate clumsiness. Just as she managed to disentangle herself, get upright and settle a look of outrage on her face, she slipped on the wet front step. The blue-eyed stranger grabbed her as she slammed into his naked chest. “Ooff…sorry! I’m not normally this disorganised, but it’s been a bad day and the key didn’t work and…” Her brain fried as strong, hard arms surrounded her while the scent of his expensive, citrusy cologne made her want to curl against him and forget about the sudden chaos of her life. She closed her eyes, letting her hands slide against his warm, golden skin… Hang on. Chaos! Laura pushed her sodden hair off her face, straightened her spine and glared at him. “Who the hell am I? I’m the owner of this duplex. Who the hell are you?” “Cormac O’Connor,” he said tersely. “This is my place.”
16/2 – by Caitlyn Nichols
“Number fifteen?” Laura stepped back and peered at the door, but there was no number.
“Who sent you?” he snarled.
“What?” she scowled at him. “No one sent me. I just moved into number fifteen.” She glanced past him, into the duplex. The furniture was not familiar. This wasn’t her place, she’d come to the wrong door. A hot embarrassed flush crept up from her chest.
He shook his head. “Nice try sweetie, but there is no number fifteen. Now tell me who sent you.”
A loud crack beside her head made her duck, and as wall plaster showered down Cormac O’Connor grabbed her wrist, hauled her inside and slammed the heavy door shut.
“Stop!” She dragged a can of mace from her bag and aimed it at him.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped. “That was a gunshot. Someone shot at us.” He took a step back, keeping a close eye on the mace. “See, bullet hole.” He pointed to the wall.
She glanced up, and the very moment her eyes were off him, he moved. He wrenched the mace out of her hand, and in a second she was face down on the floor with his full weight on top of her.
“Tell me who you are,” he snarled into her ear.
“Laura,” she gasped. “I’m just Laura and I moved into number fifteen.”
Where did those bullets come from? Oh – it’s Caitlyn Nicholas in charge. Things always get a bit hairy when her characters come out to play. You can find proof in her romantic suspense novella, The Danger Game.
17/2 – by Lee Christine
“Wrong answer!” He shifted his weight a fraction, though one hand stayed between her shoulder blades, the downward pressure so strong it pinned her upper body. “Someone just took a pot shot at you and drove off.” Laura’s heart beat like a timpani against the hard wood floor, long strands of wet hair plastered to her face and sticking in her lip gloss. “And mace is illegal in this state.” The offending can clattered to the floor as Cormac tossed it away, but she barely noticed, her attention riveted on the contents of her handbag, strewn across the living room floor. It hadn’t survived the crash tackle. Neither had the blue towel lying beside it. He’s naked. And on top of me If it bothered him, he didn’t let on, just planted his hands on either side of her head and growled in her ear again. “You got enemies, Number Fifteen? If so, now would be the time to speak up.” Laura swallowed in a parched mouth. “Only my ex.” And the standover merchants trying to recoup Harry’s debts. She rested her forehead on the floor and abandoned all thoughts of trying to buck Cormac O’Connor off her. Not while he was making like a blanket, with his dangly bits hovering over her. She closed her eyes and dragged in a shaky breath. Oh yes. Life could indeed get worse. Guys – we have dangly bits. Who would have expected it from the author of the polished and sophisticated In Safe Hands, Lee Christine? It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for…
18/2 – by Rebekah Turner Then the weight on her back shifted and was gone. Tears blurred her vision as she scrambled to her feet, looking anywhere but at the naked man in the room. She scrambled around, head bowed as she collected up the contents of her handbag with shaking hands. Was he serious? Had someone just taken a shot at her? “Okay, relax…Laura, was it? Just breathe.” Strong hands helped her into an armchair. Laura buried her head in her hands, handbag cradled on her lap. She felt like she was losing mind. Had she really gone to the wrong duplex, on the wrong street? She’d just sprinted from the bus stop, her only thought to get home and dry off. “Do you really think your ex would take a shot at you?” Laura kept her hands over her eyes. “I have no idea. Look — are you still naked?” He chuckled: a deep, rich sound and his voice turned silky. “Do you want me to be?” She tried to be flippant, show him she had a spine. “I usually want dinner and a movie first.” There was a rustle of cloth. She peeked between her fingers to see the towel back around his waist. She watched as he twisted the end of the towel, and tucked it in low on his lean hips.
Rebekah Turner brings the wit and the sass – the heroine may be soaking wet, in danger, and in a naked stranger’s house, but there’s no reason to lose her sarcasm. Want more snark? You’ll love Bek’s urban fantasy Chaos Born.
19/2 – by Alissa Callen
Laura lowered her hands from her face. The stress of the past days and the blinding rain may have brought her to a stranger’s duplex, but fate had delivered the near-naked answer to her prayers.
Now she’d better not over-cook the damsel in distress act. She offered a token smile and made a mental note. Next time she hired Reggie to take a shot at her he’d better damn well not shoot so close.
“So is this ex of yours likely to pay another visit?”
Cormac’s casual tone didn’t fool her. Hands on hips, muscles corded, he stood battle ready. If another gunshot sounded she’d again end up on the floor beneath him.
Maybe she should have paid Reggie the extra for a second round of shots.
“No, he wouldn’t be that brave — or dumb,” she said in a breathy voice, guaranteed to bring every superhero to her rescue.
Cormac’s now hard stare narrowed. “In that case, as soon as the rain eases, you’ll be safe to leave.”
She secured an unfamiliar auburn strand behind her ear. Whether her temporary hair dye had survived the downpour was suddenly the least of her worries. There was no way she’d be leaving.
She might be in the wrong duplex, but she’d just found the right man.
20/2 – by Nicole Flockton
Cormac O’Connor checked all the boxes on her list. Now all she had to do was convince him that he needed her. Wasn’t he cold standing there in nothing but a towel looking all ominous and sexy at the same time?
“I’ll be fine sitting here, if you ahh…you know, want to change.”
She really wanted him to leave the room so she could check her handbag. She wasn’t positive she’d picked up everything that had fallen out. Last thing she needed was to leave any incriminating evidence in this place. Although it may give her an excuse to come back.
He gave a negligent shrug that seemed to start at his abs and ripple upwards to his shoulders. Man she could do with a drink. Something strong. Something that would make her forget Harry’s stupid debts and Reggie’s asinine plan to fix all her problems. The only highlight of the stupid plan so far was Reggie’s ability to track her to the wrong apartment.
Cormac looked like he was about to say something when he fixed his gaze on the ground at her feet. He took two steps forward and squatted, his towel spread open giving her a view no woman wouldn’t enjoy looking at. He stood abruptly.
She hadn’t picked everything up. Dangling from his fingers were her fur lined handcuffs.
She was so busted.
You’ll all be disappointed to know that there are no handcuffs in Nicole Flockton’s Bound By Her Ring, but I’m holding out hope for the sequel…
21/2 – by Jenny Schwartz
“The handcuffs are my fiance’s, my ex–fiance’s.”
Do not look at the towel. Do NOT look at the — heaven help her, he liked the handcuffs.
Why use 200 words when 26 will do? Jenny Schwartz proves why she’s the master of keeping it short – Check out Drawing Closer, Mistaken Engagement and the up-coming Memories of Love, short stories, long on love.
22/2 – by Coleen Kwan
23/2 – by Juliet Madison
24/2 – by S.E. Gilchrist
S.E. Gilchrist has a real thing for the military hero – in both her steamy science fiction romances like Legend Beyond the Stars and apparently in Pass the Parcel multi-authored contemporary romances!
25/2 – by Elizabeth Dunk
She’d been too worried, too distraught to focus, but now she took a moment to enjoy the feel of his body against hers. Her breasts crushed against his chest. His hard thighs, pressed against hers. Her hips cradled by his.
His excitement over the handcuffs had dulled a little but still, it was an impressive length that was squeezed between the two of them. She thought of it being squeezed within her and shuddered.
They couldn’t go anywhere. Perhaps she could convince him to take her mind off her troubles for a while.
She looked up, met a gaze smouldering with anger, not passion, and decided that now probably wasn’t the time to take this intense attraction any further.
“You are going to tell me exactly what’s going on,” he said in a soft voice that showed how angry he was more effectively than shouting would.
He didn’t threaten her — he didn’t have to. That he had come to the end of his tether was clear in every word, in the harshness of his face, in the fingertips digging into the skin of her back as he held her against him, escape unavailable.
If her saviour was going to be convinced to rescue her, then maybe it was time to come clean.
Did Elizabeth use ‘escape’ ironically? Promotionally? Correctly? Or are we all just too distracted by the full body press to notice? I’m guessing the latter. If you like the heat, you should probably check out Arranged to Love, which has a bit of smouldering of its own.
26/2 – by Nina Hamilton
Well partly clean, at least.
Laura took a step back from Cormac’s masculine heat and felt a reminding tug of metal at her wrist.
“Solider boy?” She used her freed hand to point at the picture of Cormac standing with other uniformed men. “If you were stationed in the desert, I know they teach you kidnap evasion techniques. A man like you surely won’t be defeated by a sex shop lock designed for the submissive among the general population.”
Maybe he would also get a taste for rescuing her.
“Yeah, I could probably figure something out.” Conversely, he didn’t seem to be heading for the kitchen knives, or whatever worked on handcuffs. “But, I’ve decided that redheads who arrive at my door, under gunfire, shouldn’t be more than arm’s length away.”
Giving herself time, Laura looked around the room. Her attention to detail was something she had acquired honestly as part of her professional development as a photographer. Cormac’s shelves were piled with a range of reading material; non-fiction leaning toward academic writing tastes as well as literature. The man also had an expensive chess set, laid mid-game.
He was the man to protect her doing the drop. Unfortunately, his obvious intelligence meant she had some explaining to do if she wanted his help.
27/2 – by Louise Forster
A knowing smile creased Cormac’s rugged features.
Laura’s eyes darted to the USB stick he waved just out of her reach.
Adrenaline exploded in her chest as his broad shoulder met her belly, ‘Ooof!’ And fireman style, he carried her upstairs.
A soft cry escaped her as he dumped her on his bed. Then he straddled her hips, the towel stretching across his hard thighs.
Don’t look down!
He raised her arm above her head, and staring into his laughing blue eyes, she heard a clicking noise.
She jerked her wrist. “What the…?” He’d cuffed her to the bed head.
He chuckled, slipped off the bed, turned his back, and dropped the towel.
Oh my God. Perfection.
He grinned at her over his shoulder. Embarrassed, she quickly covered her face with her free hand, peeking at him through her fingers. Who in their right mind would miss watching him move?
Cormac pulled on a pair of black, stretchy jocks and, with intent, adjusted his ample dangly bits.
She dug in her jeans pocket for the key, felt his presence beside her and looked up.
Eyebrows raised in question, he held out his hand and murmured low, “Give, or submit to a body search.”
A heady mix of desire and excitement rippled through her.
Hmm, tough choice.
Reluctantly, Laura handed him the key and, with a sexy smile, he slipped it inside his jocks. “Nice try,” he rumbled.
He climbed on the bed, grabbed his laptop, adjusted pillows behind his back, stuck the USB into a port, and waited.
The screen lit up.
“Shit! What’ve you done!”
Cormac’s got some moves, when Louise Forster gets him in her hands. Of course, having read Finding Elizabeth, we already knew that Lucy’s heroes bring the smooth. Well, maybe not on ice skates. But definitely when it comes to planning an unforgettable evening out.
28/2 – by Juanita Kees
It took a moment for Laura to process his words. Her focus was elsewhere…like on how she could retrieve the key from his impressive package. Strong fingers gripped her chin, directed her enchanted gaze to his heated one. All naughty thoughts fled as she met his, flashing with anger.
“What have you gotten yourself into? Have you any idea what this is?”
Laura drew herself up against the headboard as far as the cuffs would allow. Leaning into the rock-hard body, she peered over his shoulder. “Some kind of map?”
His fingers flew over the keys. The rub of his corded arm against her breasts almost made her lose focus.
“What are you doing with the plans to the Fremantle Prison?” His fingers stilled and he turned his head to look at her.
All Laura saw was kissable lips and a jawline she wanted to trace with her tongue. His mouth twitched and a dimple appeared in his cheek.
“The what?” The question came out a squeak.
Cormac tossed the laptop onto the mattress and rose up over her to grip her shoulders. Looking deep into her soul, he said, “You’d better start talking.”
Well, there’s heroine diversity for you. Given Under the Hood, I would have expected Juanita Kees to have Cormac on his knees after a good dose of what’s-what from Laura. Then again, I’m not sure any of us would be all that coherent, given the proximity of, and I quote, ‘ample dangly bits’.
01/3 – by Sami Lee
“I don’t know anything about plans for a prison, I swear.” Laura stared up at him, hoping he’d read the truth in her eyes. Perhaps honesty was worth a shot. She wasn’t certain she could trust him but at this point she had nothing to lose. “I took the USB from my ex-fiance. I didn’t know what was on it.”
“You didn’t look?”
“I figured he was blackmailing someone with a freaky sex tape or something. I didn’t want to see that.”
He cocked one eyebrow. His glanced strayed momentarily to the handcuffs, then back down to her face. More specifically her lips. “You have something against freaky sex?”
Oh. Boy. Perhaps a girl who’s handcuffed to a bed with a half-naked man above her shouldn’t use the term ‘freaky sex’ in a sentence. Not unless she had time to explore the possibilities, anyway.
You do not have time, Laura. She cleared her throat. “Nothing against it, in the right circumstances.”
“Good to know.” The smile he flashed her was gone as quickly as it appeared. “You had to know the drive was something valuable, possibly even criminal, or you wouldn’t have taken it. So why?”
“I needed money, okay?” Laura blurted. It was pretty difficult not to spill your guts with a great wall of intimidating male leaning over you. In fact it was downright impossible. “I knew there was something important on that drive and I figured Miles would pay to get it back.”
“So you’re blackmailing your ex-fiance, this Miles character. And now he’s shooting at you?”
Laura let out a sigh. “Actually, Reggie’s an entirely different problem.”
2/03 – by Donna Maree Hanson
His eyebrow lifted. “Reggie?”
“A family friend. He thought he was helping by shooting at me to get the stand-over guys off my case.”
A heavy sigh escaped him and she rushed on. “Harry died. He’s my step-father. That’s when I found out he’d lost all our money gambling. He’d been borrowing from the wrong sort of people and now they are after me. Reggie thought he could fake my death.”
Cormack’s eyes rolled up.
“It’s true,” she said.
He leaned away from her. Laura reached up with her free hand and cupped his chin. His gaze riveted to hers. “Harry was a good man, but a stroke left him with poor judgement. I didn’t know about the gambling.”
The hard glint in his eyes softened. “I’ll unlock you.” He leaned over her again, key in hand. A shaft of desire thrust through her. What was that? So intense! “Wait a minute.”
He paused, his face very close, his lips full and kissable.
“Kiss me first. I’ve never…you know…tied up.”
She felt the electricity of attraction arcing between them. Cuffed with him leaning his hot, taut body over her sent her libido into orbit. She had to know what kissing him like this felt like. Come what may.
His lips came crashing down.
3/03 – by Jacquie Underdown
And oh, the taste of his sweet lips pressed against hers, and his tongue as it gently probed her mouth, was entirely delicious. What a contrast this moment with Cormac was: his rigid unrelenting body, her hand fixed to the bedhead, and then this — the most sensual, tender kiss. Her chest heaved against his. She wanted more. Laura gripped his waist with her free hand and sunk down onto the mattress, wrenching him fully onto her, blanketing her body with his warmth. A long sigh streamed from between her lips as she felt his evident lust press firmly against her stomach. Every one of her senses became overwhelmed and she was filled with an irrepressible need to have him; have all of him.
Laura’s hand drifted over Cormac’s hard shoulders, across every undulation of his muscled back. His mouth was relentless against hers, his needy hands exploring her body. Electricity sparked with every caress, with every breath, with every kiss.
But then Cormac finally drew away and looked at her with soft eyes, his lips curling at the corners. Key between his fingers, he reached towards the cuffs and twisted the key in the lock.
She was free.
4/03 – by Sandra Antonelli
“Was that freaky enough?” Cormac said, still smirking. “Or should we try it again with both your hands cuffed?”
Laura had wanted to come clean, but now she just wanted to come. Leaning back into the pillows, she gazed up into blue eyes that had briefly softened, but were now filled with lust and calculating, hot anger. He was walking a fine line between desire and fury, a line she knew well. Thanks to Miles. “You’re a very good kisser,” she said, giving him a wry little grin. “But I think my Introduction to BDSM 101 is over now, Professor. Thank you for the lesson.”
“I’m all about experiential learning.” Cormac dropped the key on the bed and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. “So let’s get back to blackmail, gambling, Reggie, and this idea of faking your death, which, by the way, is completely preposterous and won’t work.”
“How do you know?” She sniffed.
“I’m all about experiential learning.”
Laura licked the taste of him from her bottom lip. Her brain was still a bit fuzzy with lust, but she was pretty certain he’d intimated he’d…She blinked and sat up. “Are you telling me you…are you saying you faked your own death or something?”
“Reggie, Miles, blackmail…” Cormac cocked his head. “Explain it again.”
Laura played with the handcuffs. “No, let’s talk about you and how you knew you were looking at blueprints for a prison. And why I think I have a proposition for you.”
“The handcuffs weren’t enough of a proposition?”
05/3 – by Lily Malone
Cormac tensed. He stood, paced to the window and looked out.
“What?” Laura whispered, dropping the handcuffs to the mattress.
“There’s a strange car out there.”
If it’s a bright red Festiva, it’s probably Reggie.”
“Christ,” he swore. “Tell him next time he does a stake-out, go for the white sedan.”
Laura checked her watch. Almost six.
“What time is the drop?” Cormac asked. He’d turned one-hundred-percent serious in a heartbeat.
It was supposed to be two minutes from now.”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. You grabbed the phone before they told me, remember? You probably scared them off.”
“Who was coming?”
“Maybe Miles. Maybe someone he sends.”
“It’s time for new rules.” Cormac prowled to the wardrobe, grabbed a pair of denim jeans and a t-shirt and pulled them on. He was every bit as hot clothed as he’d been in that blue towel.
“New rules?” Can I bring handcuffs?
“You’ve got something your ex wants. That means you have the power. Call him. Set up the drop on your own turf.”
“Here? Are you crazy?”
“You’re in the wrong place, sweetheart, remember? Me and Reggie are the only ones who know where you are.” He reached up to the top shelf and pulled out a gun. “So let’s go downstairs and set up a nice surprise for your friends. What did you ever see in this Miles guy anyway?”
Laura blushed. “I met him in my Prison Break phase. I thought Schofield was hot. Miles has the same velvet sandpaper voice.”
“Jesus. I gotta work on your taste in men. But first I gotta get that target off your back.”
Hook, line and sinker.
Don’t hate Lily Malone for putting clothes on Cormac – she’s still your kind of writer, I promise: His Brand of Beautiful opens with a mistaken-identity stripper scene, and is all about drinking wine!
06/3 – by Robyn Rychards
Now, if she could stop getting distracted by how hot this guy was, she could get her job done. Focus Laura. The situation with her step-father and Reggie complicated matters, but if she stayed on her toes, she could still pull it all off. That meant no more ogling.
“You’re doing a good job of it so far.”
His puzzled gaze flew to her face.
Oops. Focus. “The taste part, not the target part.”
“I’ll let you know, when we’ve got this situation under control, if I’m happy about that. First we get rid of Reggie.”
He checked the safety on the gun, set it on the nightstand, then grabbed a holster and shrugged into it. After securing it in place, he loaded his gun into it and turned back to her. She struggled not to let him see how it affected her. Your average Joe didn’t carry weapons in that manner. He was way more than ex-military.
“Are you some sort of cop?”
And if he was, how come she didn’t know about him? Undercover? No… ex-military probably meant something more along the lines of Special Agent. Must be. She knew everyone directly involved in the operation to bring down Miles, as well as the whole department at this point. She’d been working with them for months.
He gave her a wicked smile.
Maybe inadvertently landing on his doorstep wasn’t so serendipitous after all…
Eek! Robyn Rychards has Cormac putting on even more. It’s okay – she makes up for it in Her Man From Shilo, a lovely American West-set contemporary with a fabulous vintage feel where her characters get into trouble by taking clothes off.
07/3 – by Bridget Gray
“Here’s what’s going to happen.” He sat on the bed, his fingers flying over the laptop keys. “I’m going down to have a chat to Reggie. Thank him for his services and let him know we won’t be needing him to shoot you anymore. We’ll ask him to wait round the corner.”
“Round the corner? What for? Reggie’s not bad, he’s just…. Reggie.”
Cormac continued as if she hadn’t spoken. He was in charge. It was delicious. “Then you’re going to call Miles. Set the meet up here. Tell him it’s No 19.” He half smiled and raised his eyebrows. Damn. Two doors down. “When we’ve got the money from Miles, we’ll give it to Reggie to pay the debts. Can we trust Reggie to do that?”
Laura nodded and took a shaky breath. The fear crept through her. She felt cold. Miles was poisonous. Sweet tasting at first. Ultimately toxic. She shuddered. He’d been so good after Harry’s death. She’d been grieving and vulnerable. When Miles realised she would no longer inherit a fortune, everything had changed. Everything.
“You want Miles to come here… now?” Her bottom lip quivered.
Cormac pulled the USB from the laptop. He stood close, the citrus cologne enfolding her. She focussed on the scar on his cheek.
“If Miles is coming… you’d better call Sam Newberry.” She could do this. No more fear. No more lies.
“I just messaged him.” Cormac stood close, his blue eyes gleaming.
She blinked. She must have misheard.
“You just messaged Sam Newberry from Organised Crime?”
Laughter lines became obvious. “Old army buddy. When you moved in, he asked me to keep an unofficial eye on his best informant. Miles is a scumbag and you’re about to take him down.”
08/3 – by Jane O’Reilly
“You knew? When you opened the door and let me in, you knew?” Laura couldn’t figure out if she wanted to slap him or slap herself.
“Of course.” And he didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed. “Someone had to watch out for you.”
“How long?” Her memory began to dredge up little flashes. The launderette. The supermarket queue. At the bank. That was why Cormac looked so familiar. He’d been in the background of her life for weeks.
A horrible thought snuck its way into her mind. “The woman I caught Miles in bed with…”
Cormac nodded. “One of Sam’s. He’d figured out by then that you weren’t mixed up in Miles’ business, and he needed to get you away from him.” He reached out, touched her cheek with his fingertips. “Can’t say I’m too disappointed you dumped the jerk.”
Laura stepped back. She couldn’t think straight, not when Cormac stood so close, letting her feel the pleasure of his warmth and all that height. She swallowed hard at the thought of the honey trap that Miles had dived into. How long would she have stayed with Miles if she hadn’t caught him with his pants round his ankles? Too long. “Remind me to send her a thank you note,” she said, her voice scratchy.
“Already taken care of,’ Cormac informed her, as he moved towards the door. “Now, is there anything I should know about Reggie before he and I have our little chat?”
In Jane O’Reilly’s novel Once a Bad Girl, (available 1st APRIL) the heroine has a wardrobe malfunction. I have to admit, I was hoping for a little malfunction here as well, if you know what I’m saying. I’ll settle for the emotional nudity in a cheek cradle though. Awww…
09/3 – by Frances Housden
“No, he’ll be cool,” she said, then watched out the window while Cormac had a man-to-man talk with Reggie. A few minutes later he stood away from the car and Reggie drove off.
When Cormac re-entered the room she asked, “How did he take it?”
“Well, your friend recognized the urgency of the situation. Now it’s your turn, make the call then we can move forward.”
Nervous, her hand shook as she punched in Miles’ cell number and it didn’t improve when he cut her off without a goodbye. Finished, she read the time. “We have an hour and twenty.”
Frowning, Cormac stepped in front of her. “Why so long?”
“I haven’t a clue, but don’t take his time frame as exact. Miles can be tricky,” she warned.
“So what, I have a few tricks we could perform in less time.” He flashed her a grin. “But that will keep. Help me understand why you two got involved.”
Laura, defensively, backed away. “Miles can be charming, within a few weeks we were engaged, and though he never bought a ring I was convinced he would. Miles is a restless sleeper. For nights on end moaned about diamonds. That was before the worm cheated on me.”
Cormac moved closer. She pulled in his scent with every breath and edged away, toppling onto the mattress.
A mattress that dipped as Cormac joined her.
Laura sat up immediately, flustered.
“Why didn’t you tell Sam this?” he said. “It all makes sense now – Freemantle – diamonds. You see, the guy who pulled off the biggest diamond heist in Australian history is locked up in Freemantle. And the diamonds were never recovered.”
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – and our motivation! Frances Housden drops a big, vital clue into our love story. Speaking of big and vital, check out the titular character from Frances’s Scottish historical, The Chieftain’s Curse. Talk about big. And vital.
10/3 – by Robin Thomas
Laura’s senses reeled. Despite everything, she never suspected Miles was in this deep. Her involuntary shudder drew Cormac’s intense gaze.
“You didn’t know.” It was a statement, not a question.
“You thought he loved you.” No mistaking the sarcasm.
What? Was it impossible for Cormac to believe Miles could have found her desirable? “I’m not unattractive, you know,” she said defensively.
He leaned towards her, his warm breath fanning her face, his darkened gaze inviting. She closed her eyes in anticipation of those sensuous lips against hers again, and then … she heard his soft chuckle.
“I’ll let you know after we’ve settled this business first.”
Her eyes flew open. Warmth flooded her checks. Jerking away from him, she said, ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself, Cormac. When this is over, there won’t be an after.’
His glance was amused, but his tone was serious. “There’s more to this than the USB. What else have you got on him, Laura?”
“I didn’t think it was important but Miles seemed anxious to recover it.”
She rummaged in her bag and handed him the address book she’d stolen from Miles. She’d thought it appropriate to deprive him of his girlfriends’ contact details at the time. Now she wondered if this little black book was more than it seemed.
Cormac’s face paled. “Do you know what this is?”
“A list of girls even more stupid than me?”
He shook his head impatiently. “It’s a code book. If I’m right, this information is going to put Miles away for a very long time, not to mention help solve the mystery of those missing diamonds.”
Snappy dialogue and getting things done – this has Robyn Thomas written all over it. Her novella High Stakes is one of the most original I’ve ever read, told completely in timeline format
11/03 – by Vanessa Stark
The bed creaked as Cormac leaned back on one elbow. He continued to stare at the little address book, head shaking from side to side.
“So just how long will he get?” Laura asked.
He looked up, those steely blue eyes of his sending a delicious shiver down her spine.
“Let’s just say he’ll be very old by the time he’s out,” the corners of Cormac’s lips upturned and those steely blues melted into twin steamy spas of desire, “far too old to date beautiful fiery redheads.”
Laura’s heart stuttered. He wants me, he wants me so bad.
“Come here.” Cormac tugged at her wrist and Laura fell against him for what felt like the millionth time in one day – not that she was complaining.
Heat flooded her veins when she looked down and saw just how much he wanted her. Either that or he had some kind of kinky thing for code books. She gripped a firm, tan bicep to steady herself. “I thought you wanted to settle ‘the business’ first.”
Cormac licked his lips and grinned.
“What better way to kill time waiting for your ex? We’ve got an hour and twen-.”
Laura, overtaken with a sudden need, crushed her lips against Cormac’s. He moaned in response. She teased his mouth open with her tongue and straddled him as he continued to make low, sexy growls at the base of his throat.
Just as Cormac’s hands travelled down her back towards her behind, somebody banged on the door.
Cormac lurched to his feet in an instant, leaving behind an utterly dazed and aroused Laura sprawled against the mattress. “I thought we had time!”
Laura sucked in a shaky breath and half-smiled. “I also told you Miles could be tricky.”
Bang! Bang! Bang! “Laura, open the door now!”
What the hell was Reggie doing here?
Thank heaven’s for Vanessa Stark, the erotic romance author. It’s about time we had a bit less action, and a bit more action. Speaking of which, Room Service gets intimate with the actions one can get up to in a hotel. What happens when at a conference, stays at conference.
“I thought you told him to leave?” she whispered to Cormac as they ran down the stairs.
“I did.” Cormac flicked the gun safety switch off. He peered through the peephole in the door, then swore. He opened the door quickly, and raised his gun in a two-handed grip.
An apologetic Reggie stood on the porch, while a furious Miles stood behind him, clutching Reggie’s collar, a gun pressed to the man’s head.
Miles frowned. “Who the hell are you?” he snapped at Cormac, training his gun on the new threat.
“Just a neighbour,” Cormac replied, his voice calm. Laura looked from one to the other. A Mexican standoff. It was an interesting contrast. Laura eyed the casually-clad warrior in front of her. Her ex-fiancé looked like an anaemic wraith in contrast.
Miles looked past Cormac to Laura. “Gimme my stuff.”
Cormac backed up, forcing Laura to retreat behind his bulk, and Miles pushed Reggie over the threshold.
Reggie tripped. Miles fumbled with Reggie’s collar. Cormac pounced. He smashed his gun into Miles’s face. Miles fell to the ground, gun clattering on the floor. Cormac pressed his pistol to Miles’s head.
“That wasn’t neighbourly,” Cormac growled.
Laura sagged against the wall.
Shannon Curtis just can’t help herself – guns, battles, good guys triumphing. She puts the action into satisfaction. Don’t believe me? Check out Enamoured (OUT IN MAY), a beautiful fairy tale romance/romantic suspense. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
13/03 – by Ros Baxter
“Now. We can do this the hard way,” Cormac said, low and slow like an old gangster movie. “Or the hard way.” He flicked the safety on the pistol and pressed it back in to Miles’ temple. “Your choice.”
Laura felt Cormac’s soft threat slide down her spine, and settle somewhere lower, and infinitely more dangerous.
Miles was kneeling. He gurgled and nodded, his eyes wide and pale by the big, black gun.
Cormac nodded. “Good boy. So. You want the USB?”
“And the address book?”
This time Miles managed several quick nods.
“Excellent. It’s always good to know exactly what we want.” Did she imagine it, or did Cormac rake a look right down her length as he said it? “That way we can deal.”
Miles finally spoke, his clipped tone sending a shudder through Laura. “What do you want?”
“Just three little things,” Cormac soothed, brushing Miles’ floppy fringe back with the gun. A single drop of sweat ran from Miles’ nose.
Three? Laura felt her insides clench.
“First,” Cormac drawled. “The money. Where is it?”
Miles swallowed. “Car,” he said. “Keys are in my back pocket.”
Cormac nodded to Reggie, who lay frozen where he had landed. Reggie was up and had extracted the keys within seconds.
Cormac frowned at Reggie. “Get the cash,” he said. “And go fix Laura’s…situation.”
Reggie made to move, but Cormac spoke again. “And Reggie?”
“Yeah?” The older man looked nervous.
“No more playing with guns.”
Reggie didn’t need to be told twice.
“Second, Miles,” Cormac continued, holding out his hand to Laura, who grasped it like a life buoy. “I think you owe someone an apology. Don’t you?”
Oooh Ros Baxter does love herself some sassy, smart-ass, sexy banter. The heroine in her new urban fantasy series, Fish out of Water (OUT IN APRIL), is just that sort of character. She’s also a mermaid. In the middle of a desert. Intrigued? You should be.
14/03 – by Elise K Ackers
Miles pressed his eyes shut. His thin lips curled. “I’m sorry.”
Cormac pushed the gun hard against Miles’s cheek. “That didn’t sound very sincere.”
Laura squeezed Cormac’s hand. “It’s fine, I don’t care. I’m going to…I’m going to get the gun.” Cormac may have his pointed at Miles’s head, but she’d feel better not having Miles’s gun close enough for him to dive on it.
“Try anything,” Cormac warned the kneeling man, “and you’ll be a mess on my carpet.”
Laura took a few halting steps forward, bent and retrieved it. She stepped back quickly and pushed it at Cormac. Laura looked back at Miles, thinking of the hundreds of ways that he’d let her down.
She moved to stand in front of him, took a deep, steadying breath, and slapped him across the face.
“I hope they never let you out,” she murmured.
Cormac grinned. “Hear hear.” He turned his ear towards the door. “And if I’m not mistaken, that would be my ol’ buddy, Sam.”
Chaos ran through the door. Armed men in vests, boots and civilian clothes rushed into the duplex and surrounded the three of them, their weapons raised and pointed at Miles. Cormac lowered his gun, handed Miles’s to the tall blond who had just strode in — Laura’s contact from Organised Crime, Sam Newberry — and stepped back to give the police officers room to haul Miles to his feet and drag him outside.
Laura narrowed her eyes when Miles glared at her, but expelled a sharp breath when he was gone.
Cormac stepped over to take her hand again, and squeezed it reassuringly.
She leaned against him and sighed. “Wow. Just…wow.” They stood there like that for a moment, absorbing everything that had just happened.
When Laura opened her eyes, she was exhausted, but curious. “What was the third little thing?”
In our penultimate entry, Elise K Ackers begins to tie up loose ends with chaos, confusion, and a character that I kinda hope gets a spin-off? Speaking of confusion, Elise does that to her characters a lot – her fantastic novel Unforgettable features a man, a woman, amnesia, and an enormous construction project.
15/03 – by Ainslie Paton
Cormac shrugged. He ran his other hand over her hair, brushing it back from her face. It was still damp. “I think I’d liked you better as a blonde.”
Of course, he’d been watching her, he knew about the stupid hair colour disguise. She dropped his hand and stepped away. He’d served his purpose and something good had come from the idiocy of stumbling into the wrong apartment, but now it was time to get her life back together. No more problems leftover from Harry, no more hair dye, or being shot at, and no more of the nightmare that was Miles and all she’d agreed to do to help bring him down, foil the prison break and locate the diamonds. She shuddered. It was hard to believe she’d once fallen for the guy and thought she could help him.
She looked around Cormac’s living room. Interesting that it was identical to hers in all things but the furnishings. It’d be awkward having him as a neighbour especially as he’d seen her play the helpless, hapless act to the hilt. Especially as she’d already seen him naked and preferred him that way. If only Sam had filled her in and not only about his dangly bits.
“And there’s this.” Cormac bent to pick up her keys from where they’d fallen what seemed like days ago now, but in reality was only an hour earlier. He inserted her key in the front door. What, now it fit? This, not the idea of handcuffed sex with Cormac was freaky.
He looked suddenly less like the badass who’d tackled her in nothing but a blue towel and more like a schoolboy caught smoking behind the bike sheds. “What have you done?”
“Saved your bacon.” Okay, the badass was back.
“I was totally capable of saving my own bacon. But why put myself out when there was you ready to go all urban gladiator?”
Cormac opened his lips to protest, a look of amusement on his face. Laura stopped him with a hand over his mouth. She sighed when his tongue flicked over her palm. He’d pay for that. She stepped into him and he stepped back, his eyes flaring wide. She pushed him and he staggered, his hands went behind him. Perfect. Before he knew where he was she’d handcuffed him to the stair railing and moved away.
“Hey, I just helped you out.”
“You just got your rocks off being a hero. I’d call that win win.”
“You do know this is your apartment.”
“I figured. And my stuff?” Cormac’s stuff was nicer. She’d have to see if she could keep it. And him too.
“Garage. You didn’t have much.”
“You don’t tend to in my line of business.” A business she was definitely retiring from. Photography was so much more fun when it wasn’t for surveillance purposes. And Miles was the last dog she was going to try to rescue then impound when that proved impossible. But then there was Cormac. He didn’t look like he needed rescuing, but he could do with some lessons in obedience.
“What do you want from me?”
Laura grinned. “I want you suitably attired and then we’ll talk.”
He frowned. “Suitably attired?”
She put her hand on the button of his jeans—popped it. His eyes went down and the air whooshed out of him, but he didn’t try to stop her. She leaned into him, pressed against his chest and whispered in his ear.
“Blue is so your colour.”
Everyone’s favourite pair of handcuffs make an encore performance as Ainslie Paton brings it home, ending our irrational, extensive, exciting, and (we hope!) entertaining experiment on just the right note – Cormac getting naked. Again. Reward our fearless leader by checking out her books: Grease Monkey Jive and her new release Getting Real (OUT IN APRIL).
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