Snippet Saturday…

I’ve been working on a new story featuring Jason, a Dom (of course!)  and Abby (his potential sub) but as I’ve been writing it, I ran into a scene with Master Silas. He’s a character who, much like Master Gabriel, will run through this series of books. I thought I’d share with you a snippet of the kind of man, and Dom, he is.


Sharada’s voice was low.  “Trevor was being a real bastard that night. He knows verbal humiliation is a hard limit for me, but he … he called me names anyway. I used my safe word, but he just laughed. I didn’t want to cause a scene since it was only words, so I let it go.”

“Fuck.” Master Silas came over from the door, stopped in front of Sharada and pulled her to her feet. He cupped her chin, forcing him to look at her. Her eyes darted away, and Abby knew how she felt. It was incredibly hard to look a strong Dom in the eye, especially one in protective mode. “You will never let someone step over your hard limits again, is that understood, pet? You have limits and a safe word for a reason. If he does not listen, you call for a dungeon monitor or one of us. I can tell you for certain if I’d heard him, I’d have banned him from the club for consent violations. I may still do that. And, pet? There is no such thing as ‘only words.’ For some subs, words cause more damage than cane strikes.”

Her eyes filled with tears, and he swore again, holding her close as she worked to pull herself together.  “Consent is something we’ll be addressing again at the next all-member meeting.”


I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into my writing project….



Matzoh and Mistletoe Excerpt (Chapter One)

NOTE:  Content is intended for adults 18 and older only.


Chapter One

 Another Christmas mitzvah, another day at the police station.

Rebeccah Rickman stood at the entrance to the squad room, her pulse pounding as she surreptitiously watched sexy-as-sin Officer First Class Jeremy Kohler. It’d been nine months since she’d volunteered here last, on Easter Sunday. Nine months since she’d seen Jeremy, and the first time in the five years she’d known him that she was a single woman.

So what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? She shushed her inner devil and started forward.

He looked up, a wide grin crossing his square-jawed face. He shot out of the chair like he’d been spring-loaded and came around his desk. “Becca. I was hoping you’d be here today.”

He was? Swallowing her surprise, she held out her hand. “Where else would I go on Christmas Day?”

He ignored it and pulled her in for a quick hug, then let her go and studied her face. “The movies? Out for Chinese?”

She laughed at his not-far-off-the-mark assumption, but it sounded rusty in her ears. When was the last time she’d really laughed at anything? “Maybe later. Right now, though, I’m here to help out however they need me.”

He frowned and went dead still. “You’re not going to ride along with me today?”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d be working. And I didn’t know if —”

He cut her off with a shake of his head. “I work every Christmas, you know that by now. And why wouldn’t I want you to ride with me?”

She felt heat creep into her cheeks, but she didn’t answer, except in her head. Because the last time we rode together, you seemed uncomfortable with me? She lifted a shoulder but otherwise didn’t respond.

He shook his head. “C’mon. It’s just about time for shift change and I already told Lieutenant Mallory if you were volunteering today, I was claiming you.”

His words made her flash hot all over. She knew he couldn’t have meant them the way she thought them, but every single one of those five years she’d ridden along with him? She’d been attracted to him in a way she’d never been attracted to her ex-husband, though she’d made sure Jeremy had never known it.

They walked together to the large meeting room where all the volunteers met. Every Christmas Day and Easter Sunday her synagogue and others in the local Jewish community asked for volunteers to help out at the police station and the hospital, so non-essential personnel could spend the day with their families. It was a mitzvah, a good deed, and her family volunteered every year on those two holidays. When she’d moved to Maryland with Sam after their wedding, she’d signed up here. He hadn’t been interested, but she’d refused to give up the tradition she’d followed since she’d been old enough to participate.

The room was full. She assumed Jeremy would sit with the other officers up front and started toward her friend Hannah, but she was jolted when Jeremy hooked a finger in her belt loop and drew her backward. “Stay here,” he murmured in her ear. “By me.”

Oy. Shivers ran down her spine and she licked her lips. “Uh, okay.”

To her utter shock, he didn’t move his hand and his knuckles pressed against the small of her back, hot even through the thick material of her blue jeans. She stood there, rigid, while Jeremy’s lieutenant handed out assignments. Some volunteers would make copies, keep the coffee pots going, fill out forms and be all-around gofers. Others would ride along with an officer, keeping them company on what was usually a very long day.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Jeremy muttered under his breath.

She turned her head and looked up at him. He was taller than her by at least eight inches, about six-two to her five-six. He made a goofy ah, hell, did I say that out loud face and she had to hold back a snort of laughter, but it died in her throat when his knuckles brushed against her skin in the small gap between where her sweater ended and her jeans began.

Heat flared in his eyes and she couldn’t have broken her gaze from his if her life depended on it. Even so, the touch had to have been an accident. Had to. He’d never touched her before, aside from shaking her hand and that innocent hug in the squad room. He’d always been one-hundred-percent professional around her.

She shoved it out of her mind and focused on Lieutenant Mallory’s words. “…Mr. Silverberg, you’ll be with me, and Ms. Rickman, you’ll be riding with OFC Kohler. And once again, we really appreciate the help from your community.”

“About damn time.”

The words were again muttered under his breath, but she heard them and they set her heart thumping. Be real, Bec. He’s just anxious to get out and start his shift so he can get it over and done with. It’s Christmas, for heaven’s sake. He probably has plans.

Her musings were interrupted by Jeremy’s hand landing on her back. “C’mon, Becca. Time to roll.”

God help her, she didn’t want to move away from his warm touch but she forced herself to walk. “I’m ready.”

As he slid past her to open the door, she could’ve sworn she felt his fingers brush her waist and hip. She shivered and looked up at him, faltering. Tight jaw, one hand scrubbing the back of his neck, no sign of his usual light-hearted smile.

They headed out to his squad car in tense silence, her stomach a giant knot. The front desk area was quiet and so were the hallways leading to the garage. Most Christmases were like this, but one year had been bad. She tried not to think about it much.

At the car, she watched as he did a quick check of his gear. Her fingers itched to touch the glossy black hair that was cropped close to his head in the style she noticed most cops wore. His eyes were a deep hazel and throughout the day, she knew they’d change from blue to green depending on his mood. She’d seen that on her previous rides with him and, unable to stop herself, had wondered more than once what color they’d turn when he was aroused. The small dimple in his cheek helped soften his square jaw. One usually said the uniform made the man, but she had no doubt he’d look just as good in jeans.

Or naked.

Your mind isn’t pure, Rebeccah. Nice Jewish girls don’t think that way or ask for such things. The hated words echoing in her mind made her flinch, or maybe it was the memory of Sam’s hands clenching and unclenching right before he… She shuddered but forced herself to focus on the here and now. She never had to see him again. They were divorced. Over and done.

Jeremy went around to the back of the cruiser and opened the trunk. She’d seen him do this same thing every time they did their ride-along and it reminded her she’d brought something for him. She reached into her big purse and pulled out two small stuffed toys. One was a bear wearing a fancy dress. The other one wore a pair of blue jean overalls. “Hey, I brought these for you.”

He grinned, though it didn’t quite make it to his eyes. “Santa told you I was a good boy, huh?”

She laughed for the second time in twenty minutes. That was a record, at least recently. She looked up at him. “You know why.”

He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Yeah. And thank you. They’ll help.”

He carried stuffed toys in his car, as did most of the other officers, for the youngest victims they encountered. She’d seen first-hand how they’d helped calm the toddler who’d been the only survivor in the car crash that one terrible Christmas she still had trouble putting out of her head. She brought him two new ones every time she rode with him.

He leaned to place them in the trunk and her eyes landed on his rear end. She bit back a moan at the way his uniform pants hugged his incredibly fit body, then jolted when the lid closed with a sharp thunk. She lifted her gaze and flinched at his raised eyebrow. Great. Caught ogling his ass. She tried a smile but it felt forced.

He narrowed his eyes. “Are you okay, Bec? You seem not quite yourself today.”

Not going there, no way. Not. Going. There. “I’m fine. Ready to roll, partner?”

He gave her another measured look but nodded. “Ready, partner.”


Christ. He hadn’t been lying when he said she looked off. She was a beautiful woman, with long brown curls and brown eyes, both the color of milk chocolate. For years, he’d wondered if the tiny freckles that dusted the bridge of her nose were anywhere else on her body. He imagined so, and the thought tormented him, as did her incredible body. She was average height but built like a pin-up girl, or she had been when he’d last seen her nine months ago at Easter.

Today, however, she looked as though she’d dropped twenty pounds and, while she was still gorgeous, she also looked exhausted. And, to him, far too thin.

He held her door for her and closed it behind her, then got into the driver’s seat. “Buckle up,” he ordered, starting the car.

As they pulled out onto the street, his radio was silent. Christmas Day was either a fucking zoo or a ghost town. He was selfishly hoping for the latter so he could spend more time talking with Becca. He only got to see her a few hours twice a year.

The minute the thought crossed his mind, he swore silently. Shit, after the torture he went through the last time, sitting in his car, surrounded by the scent that was uniquely Becca, he should never have told Mallory he wanted her as his ride-along tonight. He wasn’t stupid. He knew there was some serious, heavy-duty attraction between them, but she’d tried to hide it and so had he. If she’d been single, he’d have made his move. But she was married and though he’d hated the prick on sight, he didn’t poach. And that shift on Easter had nearly killed him just with the nearness of her. Every time they did this, it cost him. Big.

He spent an inordinate amount of time imagining Becca Rickman naked, bound and on her knees. And he measured every other woman he met up to her. He wanted her, but he couldn’t ever have her. Fuck him, he couldn’t even keep from touching her today, and his lack of self-control was appalling. Why the hell had he set himself up for this again? He wasn’t a masochist.

No, you’re a Dom in cop’s clothing, and she trips every goddamn one of your triggers. Now shut up and focus.

He reached out to wake his computer screen, then frowned and slid a glance her way. Was it his imagination, or did she just flinch?

She shifted in her seat and turned to him, derailing his thought. “So what’s going on in Jeremy’s world? Did you take that vacation you were talking about? You were going to the Outer Banks this past summer, right?”

Good memory. “Yeah. It was great. I didn’t want to come back to work. I mean, I love my job, you know that. But a week fishing, sitting on the beach, hiking? Can’t beat it. Did you go anywhere for vacation?”

He watched her square her shoulders. “No, not this year,” she said, and then she fell silent.

Jesus, she’d never had trouble talking with him before. His dominant personality reared its safe, sane and consensual-minded head, telling him to give her a chance to safe word out of this assignment. Something was up, or else his people-reading skills needed some serious fucking help. “Bec, did I steamroll you into riding with me today? Because I can take you back to the station if this isn’t what you want to do.”

To his wholly inappropriate satisfaction her face turned pink—the same heated shade it turned when he’d caught her staring at his ass—and she dropped her gaze. “No. I want to be here.”

“Okay,” he said quietly, fighting back the surge of pleasure that reaction roused. He could be patient, mostly. They had eight hours to share. He’d pry whatever was on her mind out of her, even if it took his entire shift.

“Really, I’m—”

His radio crackled to life and Becca snapped her mouth shut. With a sidelong glance at her, he answered the call for a 911 disconnect and turned on lights and sirens. She stayed silent on the ride over, and he was grateful. It gave him the chance to get his head in the game.

When they reached the address, he stepped out of the car, ducking his head back in. “Wait here. You remember how to use the radio if I need help?”

She looked worried but nodded. “Press the red button and say, Alpha 269 needs immediate assistance, then give them our location.”

“Good girl,” he murmured. “Be right back.”

He straightened and stepped away from the car. Good girl? Had he really said that out loud? Jesus, he needed to watch what came out of his mouth around Bec, or he’d give himself away. And he needed to focus. He took a moment to suck in a breath and push everything but his training out of his brain. An inattentive cop could be a dead cop, and yeah, that wasn’t in his plans for today. It didn’t take long, though, to figure out that the call was a mistake. He wished the family a merry Christmas, accepted a plate of cookies from the embarrassed woman who’d answered the door, and headed back to his cruiser.

“Everything okay in there?”

He nodded, then keyed his radio. “Alpha 269 clear.”

“What happened?”

“Big family gathering and one of the kids picked up his grandma’s phone and pushed the red 911 button. Happens a lot.”

“Ah. That’s better than the alternative.” She relaxed against the seat with a sigh. “Much better.”

“Yeah.” He took a minute to log the call into his mobile laptop and then he pulled back out onto the road. “Coffee?”

She jumped. “Excuse me?”

He stifled a sigh. In all the ways he’d hoped today would go, expected today to go, Becca being distant and distracted wasn’t it. “I’m going to stop for coffee. Do you want any?”

“Oh. No thank you. We had a big breakfast.”

Jealousy poked him hard in the gut. He didn’t want to think about Becca with her husband, still fresh from sleep…or whatever. Married, he reminded himself. Off limits. “No problem. Maybe I’ll wait too. I need to do a patrol check, anyway.”

They drove through town in relative silence. It was only when they got to the airport that Becca spoke up, her voice wistful, her eyes dreamy. “I always wonder where the people who own these planes go.”

“Me too,” he admitted, and it wasn’t a lie. Theirs was a small regional airport with a lot of corporate jets, small private craft, and the occasional landing of a blimp. Even presidential helicopters, due to the proximity of Camp David. “Wherever it is, it’s nowhere I can afford to go. Not on a cop’s salary.”

She snorted. “Not on a teacher’s salary, either.”

He raised his brow, his curiosity getting the better of him. “Isn’t your husband a hotshot lawyer? I figured you took all kinds of vacations.”

She flinched at the words, then turned to stare out the window.

“Bec?” When she didn’t answer, he pulled the cruiser to a stop near one of the hangars and turned to her, putting his hand on her shoulder. Shit, he hadn’t liked the guy and was jealous as hell of him, but he hoped something bad hadn’t happened. It would explain the weight loss and the exhaustion, though. “Rebeccah? Talk to me.”


Becca heard Jeremy’s honest concern and made herself meet his gaze. She’d figured this conversation would happen sooner or later, but she hadn’t really planned for how she’d answer it. She stared down at her hand, at the naked ring finger that still felt empty, even though she’d been relieved to be free of Sam. “I’m not with him anymore. We’re divorced.”

“How long?” Jeremy growled.

She jerked her head back up, startled by the vehemence in his tone, his choice of words, and the clench of his fingers against her skin. His eyes were narrowed, his jaw tight, like it had been earlier at the station. “Nine months since we separated. Four months since the divorce was final.”

“Fucking waste,” he muttered under his breath.

She didn’t understand what he meant, but the look in his eyes was disconcerting, to say the least. “I…what?”

He dropped his hand and fell silent, just watching her. Her stomach churned. For months, she’d imagined telling him she was single. This wasn’t the reaction she’d expected, though. Interest, maybe. Sympathy, even. But anger? It was reminiscent of their last ride-along, and this was why she’d considered doing her mitzvah in the station rather than with him. When she’d first met him, he was easygoing and fun to talk with. But over the years, he’d changed. And this Jeremy—this intense, brooding guy—made her itchy and nervous. Not necessarily in a bad way, but totally aware of him on every level. “Jeremy?”

Her cell vibrated. She ignored it, focusing instead on the man she couldn’t get out of her thoughts, the one who still had his eyes locked on her face as though he were searching for something there.

“You should answer that.”

With a sigh, she dropped her eyes and looked at the screen. Her best friend, Hannah, who was riding with another officer. The texts came one after the other in quick bursts, kind of the way she spoke. Fun stuff. Glad u talked me into this. Hot cop. Single. Not Jewish, which may kill my parents, but oh well. One long pause, then another text. Going for it. Not getting any younger.

In spite of the tension in the car, Becca laughed.

“Something funny?”

She looked up at the question on his face and giggle-snorted. “My friend Hannah. She’s riding with Officer…” she paused, looked at her phone, “…Christianson. She said he’s hot and she’s not getting younger. She’s only twenty-three. She’s got plenty of time.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, Matt’s okay. Good guy, great cop. Single, as a far as I know.”

She nodded and dropped her phone back into her lap. That did make her feel better, but you never really knew, did you? She stared at her naked ring finger again. The silence between them stretched on for what felt like forever.

“Why didn’t you tell me you got divorced, Bec?”

Right for the hard questions. “I was going to, but… Does it matter?”

He grunted. “Fuck, yeah, it matters.” The minute the words came out, he flushed. “Sorry.”

Though she was still trying to process what he was getting at, she answered his apology. “What, for the F bomb? I teach middle school, remember? They love that word. And I have three big brothers, so I’m more than familiar with it.” She rolled her eyes at his raised brow. “I’m not some recluse who’s never heard anyone swear before. And I’ve been known to drop my own F bombs a time or two.”

With that, Jeremy’s lips quirked into a tight smile, though again, it didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Really, a nice Jewish girl like you, swearing? I’m appalled.”

She felt the blood drain from her face. In the last few years of their marriage, whenever Sam had gotten mad at her for something, that’s what he’d thrown at her. She swore? She wasn’t behaving like a nice Jewish girl. She wanted more than the missionary position in bed? She wasn’t behaving like a proper Jewish woman. She knew Jeremy was teasing, but damn, she wished he’d chosen other words. Any other words. She bit the inside of her cheek and forced her insecurities back into the farthest reaches of her mind. They didn’t belong here and, dammit, she wouldn’t let Sam ruin things for her now that she’d gotten back on her feet.

She forced herself to look at Jeremy and was bowled over by his tight jaw and narrowed eyes. She froze, locked in his intense gaze.



Text Copyright © 2013 by Jodie Griffin
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Forbidden Obsessions Excerpt

NOTE:  Content is intended for adults 18 and older only.


Chapter One

Gabe checked the clock again and frowned. He’d expected Olivia Watterson nearly an hour ago and he was starting to get concerned. What the hell had he been thinking, agreeing to allow a woman a week and a half out of the hospital to stay with him here, at his currently under-renovation bed and breakfast?

The security system beeped and he glanced over at the monitor. A small SUV was just coming up the driveway. He headed outside, wanting to be there to meet his new…what? Guest? Housemate?

He leaned against the porch railing and waited, taking a few seconds to put on his genial host face. Not that it was an act, because he genuinely enjoyed meeting new people and hosting them at his inn, but this was different. Olivia’s story had made the news, and he’d been shaken by it. As a former firefighter, he still had a lot of friends on the line, and the accident that had injured her could’ve happened to any of them. He’d agreed to this as a favor for a mutual friend, and in spite of some reservations he still had, he wanted her to feel welcome here.

She turned off her car. He didn’t think she’d seen him, because she sat for a minute, her head tipped back against the seat, her eyes closed as if she were praying. When a minute turned into two and then into three he grew worried, but as he pushed himself away from the railing, she got out of her car, looking around with interested eyes.

He came down the steps and offered his hand with a practiced smile. “Olivia?”

She smiled back tentatively and placed her smaller hand in his. “You must be Gabe.”

Her smoky voice was hotter than hell, especially with the faintest hint of a British accent to it, and the jolt he got from her simple handshake was nearly enough to fry his synapses. Now he remembered what he’d been thinking about when he’d agreed to let her stay here—his visceral reaction to the photograph of the confident, gorgeous woman that had been shown on television and in the newspapers. But the picture hadn’t done her justice, at all.

He released her hand and she broke their visual contact, her eyes dropping down and away. As a Dom, he found her innocently submissive gesture tempting. Arousal pooled low in his gut and anticipation sizzled inside him, but he tamped both reactions down. Just out of the hospital, he reminded himself. Not a potential playmate.

“Welcome to Bondage and Breakfast,” he said. Her cheeks pinkened slightly, giving her far-too-pale skin a much-needed bit of color. He reached out a hand. “Here, let me get your bags.”

“No, I’m fine, thanks.” She tilted her head stubbornly, a firmness to her jaw he’d seen in many a headstrong sub. “I’ve got them.”

He nodded once and stepped back, watching her carefully. She looked as if a soft breeze could blow her over, but he figured that had more to do with her recent hospitalization than her normal fitness. She was fairly tall, about five-eight to his six-one, and as a firefighter, she’d need to be in great shape. She had more strength in her than he’d figured, because even just out of the hospital, she managed her bags without any issues.

He circled around her on the porch and held the door open. She murmured her thanks and stepped inside, setting the bags on the floor as she looked around the foyer. She seemed fine with stairs, which was good, because all the bedrooms were on the second floor.

“Let me show you to your room.” He grabbed her bags before she could, and waved away her denial with a grin. “Hey, as an inn owner, it’s what I do. I take everyone’s bags upstairs.”

The urge to argue flitted across her face, but then she shook her head and smiled slightly. “I take it you’re used to getting your way.”

Arousal surged, hard and fast. While he’d insisted his friend tell her what kind of inn Bondage and Breakfast was, he had no idea what she’d been told about him, personally. Either way, her words and her expressions were a challenge to his dominance he wanted desperately to accept. “Most definitely. After you,” he said, gesturing at the steps. “At the landing, turn left. Your room is two doors down.”

With the last of the renovations still going on from the fire that had temporarily closed Bondage and Breakfast, he’d put her in the suite that had a king-sized bed, a luxurious bathroom and a small sitting room that overlooked the back garden and wooded area behind the house. It was the same view his personal rooms shared, a view he loved, and he hoped it would give her some peace. Besides, the house was empty, so why not give her the most spacious suite he had?

He shifted the bags to one shoulder, pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked the door. He handed it to her with a flourish. “The keys to your temporary kingdom, Princess Olivia.”


Funny, he didn’t look kinky, and neither did his bed and breakfast.

The inane thoughts were bouncing around Liv’s head, so much so she almost missed what Gabe was saying. She caught the tail end of it, though, and she groaned. “I’m going to kill Marcus.”

“Oddly enough, I said the same thing about him a few weeks ago, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He laughed, but he looked puzzled at the same time.

She felt herself turn scarlet. She’d walked into that one. She shrugged, laughed a little. “Princess Olivia. That’s what he took to calling me in the hospital. I’ve asked him not to call me that a million times, but he insists. I don’t care for it.”

That wasn’t entirely true, but she was sticking with that story. Marcus had spent a lot of time with her at the hospital over the length of her recovery, and if she were being honest with herself, he’d not only saved her life and her spine, but those visits had also saved her sanity. She owed him, and he could call her whatever he wanted to.

Gabe opened the door for her, and she gasped, stepping inside. “Oh, it’s beautiful. Are you sure it’s okay for me to stay here?” She turned and looked up at him, only to find his eyes already on her. Her heart sped up at the intensity in his gaze.

A small smile quirked the corner of his mouth. “Why wouldn’t it be? There’s no one else here, and it’s the nicest guestroom in the house.”

When he’d met her outside, he’d worn a reserved, professional smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes, and she’d wondered what Marcus had promised him for agreeing to let her stay here. But now she was wondering if this was a setup. Marcus wouldn’t do that to her, would he?

Sure he would.

She stifled a sigh. She needed time away from her family and their well-meaning but overbearing attitudes, and Marcus and his fiancée, Bella, knew it. At dinner earlier this week, they’d told her about Gabe McConnell and his unique business, a kinky twist on a traditional bed and breakfast. Regardless of the fact Gabe was a former firefighter and Marcus thought the world of him, she hadn’t been sure about staying with someone she didn’t know—until she got back to her apartment and found her mother there, yet again, loaded down with food and lectures about the unsuitability of her job. She understood her parents’ concerns and worries, but she was thirty-four, not eighteen. It had to end, or she’d lose what was left of her mind.

So here she was.

Gabe McConnell was tall, lean but fit, sexy as hell with his close-cropped dark hair and penetrating gray eyes. He exuded intensity from every pore, stirring the attraction she’d always had for powerful men. Bella had told her he was a Dom and explained what that meant. Seeing him now, Liv had no problem imagining his intensity transferred to the bedroom.

Another time, she’d have been sorely tempted. Unfortunately, though, now wasn’t the right time for her to indulge in possibilities. Goals, she reminded herself. First things first. Get back in shape, get back to her life, get back on the line.

The timing sucked, no matter how attracted to him she felt.

She ignored the queasy feeling that always rose in her stomach when she thought about going back to work and turned her attention to Gabe.

He set her bags on the bed and walked across the room, opening the door to what she assumed was a bathroom. “It has its own sitting room, and this bathroom has whirlpool tub. I understand you have physical therapy to do, so I thought you might enjoy that. When I was rehabbing my knee after my injury, I used a whirlpool whenever I could. The heat and jets felt great.”

Oh, right. Marcus had told her he’d blown out his knee on the job. She poked her head in the bathroom and her jaw dropped. “Wow.”

He stood right behind her looking over her shoulder, and she swore she could feel the heat radiating from his body. It took everything she had not to lean back into him, but instead focus on the room. It had the tub as he’d said, but he hadn’t mentioned it could seat four. This was the most decadent, elegant bathroom she’d ever seen. She looked around, her eyes lighting on the large glassed-in shower, the marble vanity that held all sizes and shapes of white candles, the green plants everywhere.

“Like it?” he said quietly, his breath teasing her ear and making her body break out in goose bumps.

“I love it.”  She didn’t bother to hide her admiration or appreciation, but she did the best she could to mask her attraction. “Thank you for letting me stay. And for thinking of the whirlpool. Sometimes my back aches deep inside, not the muscles or the surgery sites. A soak in the tub usually helps that, so this will be lovely.”

He stepped back into the bedroom, past the iron four-poster bed covered in sumptuous linens and a myriad of pillows. Her eyes followed him as he walked, but flew back to the bed. If she wasn’t mistaken, there were circular hooks on each of the posts. One set way up high, one set low near the mattress. Odd.

He caught the line of her gaze and that small smile quirked his lips again. “Every room in the house is outfitted with furniture and fixtures for restraint. You do understand what kind of bed and breakfast this is, right? Marcus explained?”

“I do,” she said. She wouldn’t tell him how intrigued she was at the thought of the things that went on here, though it was likely the flush she felt crawling into her cheeks would be a dead giveaway.

“I’m not expecting guests, but I can’t promise you won’t run into things that surprise you or shock you.” He pointed up above his head. A large eyebolt was set into the ceiling. “Every room has at least one of these for restraining a submissive. Including the bathrooms. I’ll let you discover the rest of my little secrets yourself.”

Oh, that sounded like a dare, and she could never pass one of those up. “Works for me.”

He grinned, and it changed his face from merely attractive to devilishly, devastatingly handsome. No. She had a plan, and she needed to follow it. Period.

“Do you want to take a bit to get settled in? Or I have lunch ready for us, if you’re hungry.” The loud whine of a saw split the air and he winced. “I am so glad this part of the renovation will be done in a few days. Maybe we can have that lunch outside. Away from the house.”

The sudden noise was deafening, and she wasn’t sure how he dealt with it. “Outside sounds wonderful.”

They ate at a bench in a secluded garden in the woods behind the house. She’d never have guessed it was there, but it was lovely and quiet, a small fountain bubbling in the center. The food was delicious, and for the first time in what seemed like forever, she had an appetite. Maybe it was all the fresh air. Maybe it was the man beside her. Funny, but it didn’t bother her when he watched her eat her meal, not like it did when her mother counted every single bite she took.

Well, it bothered her, but in a completely different, very arousing, totally bad-timing way.

And the silence wasn’t awkward as it normally was between two people who don’t know each other. Gabe seemed to know when to speak, and when to let her stew in the chaos of her own mind. She appreciated that, especially after the constant interruptions in the hospital.

She finished her sandwich and sat back against the bench, careful not to twist too far to the side as she faced him. It was that twisting motion that aggravated whatever was going on in her back now. She’d give it another few days before she mentioned it to her doctor. It might be nothing but, after all she’d been through—the accident, multiple surgeries to remove small bone fragments threatening her spinal cord, not knowing how permanent her injuries would be—the thought of another surgery was more than she could bear. Head in the sand much, Olivia? “That was delicious. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He smiled at her, and his face turned serious. “I don’t know how to ask this except outright, but will you tell me what happened? I saw the news reports but they were vague.”

She shuddered as her stomach did a slow roll, making the food she’d eaten not such a good idea. She hated talking about the accident that had brought her to this point, but he was being gracious enough to open his home to her, and she got the feeling he wasn’t asking out of prurient curiosity. “Marcus and I were in the same Fire Med refresher class, and during training we got called to a live fire. We were on the ladder truck, and I’d just scaled it to start soaking the roof. I asked for water and I felt the hose expand, but I couldn’t get the nozzle to work.”

The sick feeling she’d gotten on the ladder returned. She’d known something was wrong right away, but it had been too late to stop the chain of events. “The rest is a blur to me, and I’m not sure how much of this I actually remember or how much of it is what I was told. Apparently there was a defect in the hose. The pressure blew a hole in it and the force pushed me off the ladder.”

She shuddered and looked over at Gabe. He was still, his face blank, but he was listening intently. She forced herself to continue even though she wanted to never think of it again, even though it took several long heartbeats to make her voice work again.

“From what I’m told, I hit the truck on the way down and then landed on my SCBA.” She had a vague recollection of falling and blinding, intense fear, but that was it, thank God. She couldn’t share the rest, not now, so she made it short and not-sweet. “Hospital, surgeries, rehab, and here I am.” She took a deep breath and blew it out, digging deep inside for strength and calm.

He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn’t easy. So how are you feeling? Is there anything I should be looking for, or anything you shouldn’t be doing?”

Her eyes widened, dismay flooding her body. “Did Marcus ask you to watch over me? Because I’ll kill him.” She wouldn’t be surprised. They’d developed quite the sibling-type relationship and, while he teased her with the occasional whine, whine, whine, he’d made sure she didn’t push herself too hard.

He held up his hand. “Don’t go after him yet. He didn’t ask me to babysit you.”

She sagged against the bench. “Okay, I’ll let him live. Maybe.”

He laughed. “Even if he did—and he didn’t—he only has your best interests at heart. That’s just how Marcus is wired. Something I need to remember too,” he added, almost to himself.

“What do you mean?”

He looked startled he’d spoken aloud, then his face grew grave. “Marcus did something that felt like a betrayal at the time. I blamed him for not warning me about the investigation into my business and my life, but he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.” His face lightened, and a rueful grin landed on his lips. “I know that now. And now I’m going to have to make it up to him, damn it.”

She cocked her head. “Does it have to do with the fire and the renovations?”

He nodded. “I’m not sure how familiar you are with BDSM, so I apologize if it sounds like I’m talking down to you.” He paused, almost as if he was waiting for her to share her experience level with him. When she didn’t answer—because she didn’t have one to give himhe continued. “BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism. I hold classes and host seminars for people into BDSM play, along with running the inn. I’m a firm believer in safe, sane and consensual rules of play, or SSC. This means every person who plays here or stays here must be here willingly, and I reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone who doesn’t follow those rules.”

He stopped, waited to see if she had any questions. She didn’t, at least not yet, so she nodded.

“A few months ago, I refused to allow a couple who didn’t follow SSC rules to attend a seminar. I could tell right away this Dom was abusive, and he went ballistic when I wouldn’t let them in.” His shoulders heaved in a deep sigh. “Two months later, after an arson spree that affected all of the other couples who were here that weekend, they wound up here, where they tried to burn the house down. She was so young, and he was a manipulative, sociopathic Dom who took advantage of her, twisting what domination and submission means to his advantage. He messed with her head, and in a very bad way.”

Her stomach churned all over again. “Oh, wow. I’m so sorry to hear that. But the police got them?”

“They got him. She died in the fire.” Gabe scrubbed his face for a long moment. “Anyway, Marcus was part of the team investigating the fires, which didn’t sit right with me.”

“Well,” she said, shrugging one shoulder slightly, “it’s not like he would’ve been allowed to tell you, right?”

He smiled wryly. “It took you thirty seconds to come to that conclusion. The correct one, as it were. It took me a little longer.”

She couldn’t help but grin back. The story was sad, but he was still alive, and a house could be repaired. She didn’t say it, though. As a former firefighter, he knew that firsthand.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” he asked, holding out his hand.

She blinked. “Don’t you have work to do? And don’t you need to be here to oversee the construction?”

He laughed, an incredibly appealing sound that made her heart skip a beat. “It’s good to be in charge,” he said, winking. “The construction crew is small, just four local guys, and I trust them all. They’ve worked here before.”

She put her hand in his, allowing him to tug her up to standing. Her fingers tingled, and her body flooded with heat, which settled low in her stomach. Being around him was like touching a live wire. She dropped his hand but walked beside him on a narrow path, their arms occasionally brushing, keeping her on edge.

“It feels good to walk out here in the fresh air. There were days I thought I’d never…” Her voice drifted off. Bloody hell, had she really just said that? She never told anyone about that fear. No, it was more than fear. It was her worst nightmare, abject terror that kept her from sleeping, and those nights she had slept, she’d woken covered in sweat, her heart racing. She’d never spoken it aloud, afraid that voicing it might make it happen. Daft thought, but then panic never was rational. She slid a glance his way.

He looked at her and nodded once, not commenting.

Thank God he understood she didn’t want to talk about it.

The woods thickened as they traveled in silence, then the path and the tree line suddenly ended at a white wooden fence that encircled a lush green pasture dotted with sleek horses. There was another bench near the fence, but instead of sitting, she rested her arms on the top rail. “Oh! Are they yours?”

He leaned against the fence the same way. “Nope. Neighbor’s, but he doesn’t mind me letting my customers sit and watch his horses. I like to come out here, too, especially at night when the moon’s out.” He looked almost embarrassed by his words, but she was thoroughly charmed by them. And then he turned to her, his eyes intent. “You haven’t said much about my choice of inn. Most people are either appalled or intrigued, but I don’t get either vibe from you.”

Her heart stuttered, and she searched her mind for something to say. Nothing came, though. Nothing she was ready to share, anyway.

He looked back at the horses, breaking their eye contact, and sighed. “Sorry. That’s just me being nosy. It’s not really important to you staying here while I don’t have guests.” His phone chirped, and he looked at the display and swore. “I need to head back to the house. Do you want to stay and enjoy the view, or walk back with me?”

She figured now was as good a time as any to head back and get unpacked. “I’ll walk with you, thanks.” Before they left, she looked up at the metal pole standing between them. A twisted bit of rope hung from one of the hooks on either end of its crossbar. “Looks like you need a new flag.”

He shot her a puzzled frown, and she pointed at the shreds of rope. “Your rope frayed.”

His eyes blazed fiery hot and locked with hers. “That’s not a flagpole, princess. It’s a whipping post.”


Text Copyright © 2013 by Jodie Griffin
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


A Taste of Forbidden Obsessions


In just three months, those of you who’ve told me you wanted Gabe’s story will get your shot. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d dole out pieces of Chapter One, a little at a time.

What, you wanted it all at once?  *Jodie channels Gabe’s inner sadist*  Sorry. You’ll have to deal with the long tease. Because, you know, the longer it gets drawn out, the better it is when it gets here…..



Chapter One


Gabe checked the clock again and frowned. He’d expected Olivia Watterson nearly an hour ago and he was starting to get concerned. What the hell had he been thinking, agreeing to allow a woman a week and a half out of the hospital to stay with him here, at his currently under-renovation bed and breakfast?

The security system beeped and he glanced over at the monitor. A small SUV was just coming up the driveway. He headed outside, wanting to be there to meet his new…what? Guest? Housemate?

He leaned against the porch railing and waited, taking a few seconds to put on his genial host face. Not that it was an act, because he genuinely enjoyed meeting new people and hosting them at his inn, but this was different. Olivia’s story had made the news, and he’d been shaken by it. As a former firefighter, he still had a lot of friends on the line, and the accident that had injured her could’ve happened to any of them. He’d agreed to this as a favor for a mutual friend, and in spite of some reservations he still had, he wanted her to feel welcome here.

She turned off her car. He didn’t think she’d seen him, because she sat for a minute, her head tipped back against the seat, her eyes closed as if she were praying. When a minute turned into two and then into three he grew worried, but as he pushed himself away from the railing, she got out of her car, looking around with interested eyes.

He came down the steps and offered his hand with a practiced smile. “Olivia?”

She smiled back tentatively and placed her smaller hand in his. “You must be Gabe.”

Forbidden Fantasies Excerpt (Chapter One)

NOTE: Content is intended for adults 18 and older only.

Chapter One


God, she hated conflict, especially the kind between her and Alex. And really, if this whole emotionally draining, nerve-twitching situation was anyone’s fault, it was his. After all, he’d been the one to give her the gift card she’d used to buy the first book. And the second. And the third.

Jessica Meyers sighed disgustedly as she tested the water of her bubble bath. No, none of this was Alex’s doing. It was all hers, and she was going to have to find a way to fix it. Soon, before the confused frustration she saw in her husband’s eyes turned into something irreparable.

It was late, but she needed to unwind. The kids were sound asleep, and Alex, a Maryland State Trooper, was still at work. He probably would be all night, unless the MSP caught a break on the case that had been all over the nightly news. It was quiet for once, and maybe now she could figure out what the hell she was going to do to make things right again.

She lit some aromatherapy candles that matched the scent of her bubble bath, turned off the overhead light and climbed into the claw-foot tub, sighing as the steamy water did its thing on her muscles. She settled back and closed her eyes, breathing deeply, letting the soothing aroma of eucalyptus seep into her pores. Her hands drifted idly over her stomach, back and forth through the thick bubbles.

Alex. She loved that man so much, even more than the day she’d said I do. They’d been through a lot together these past fifteen years, but never once had she been sorry she’d married Alex right out of college. She still wasn’t sorry. She couldn’t imagine ever being sorry. And yet, as much as she loved Alex and their life together, she was restless and itchy, and it had all started with a book.

It had been another Friday night, and she’d been alone in the house. Ten-year-old Kara had been sleeping at her best friend’s house, and seven-year-old Ben had gone on a camping trip. Alex and Jess had planned a much-needed date night, but then Alex called her to say he’d caught a case and would be working late.

Jess was frustrated, but she’d been a cop’s wife long enough to suck it up and not blame Alex for things out of his control. Rather than sit home alone, she drove to the bookstore in Frederick, looking for something new and fun and distracting to read.

She picked up book after book, looking at the covers and reading the backs, but nothing caught her attention. She was kneeling on the floor, surrounded by possible choices, when she found it on the bottom shelf.

The cover drew her attention first. It showcased a hazy photograph of a wrought iron four-poster bed with plush white bed linens, rumpled as if someone had just woken and stepped out of the room. A silky black scarf, tied in a knot like a blindfold, lay at the foot of the bed. Men’s ties were looped around each of the four posts.

Her mouth went bone dry, her mind whirling with images of what might’ve happened in that bed. She flipped the book over to read the back cover copy and got sucked right in. The erotic promise in those words flowed over her like warm honey, and she turned to the first page. Exactly what she’d been looking for. She paid for her book and headed home.

As she read, she found herself shockingly aroused by the words on the page. She’d never read anything like it before, but the visual images she got from the words had her hands trembling, her heart pounding, and her core slick with desire. The woman in the story was bound facedown on the bed, helpless to stop what her boyfriend had planned for her, but she was a willing subject. He knelt beside her on the mattress, one hand fisted in her hair as he swatted at her bottom with his other. In between swats, he dipped his fingers into her moist sheath, using her own fluids like gel to ease his way into the snug depths of her anus. The woman struggled on the bed, her orgasm just outside of her control. He held it out of her reach until she was a writhing mass of need, begging him for mercy. Finally, he let her go over.

After Jess finished the book, she lay in bed, restless, unable to sleep for all the thoughts bouncing through her mind. She was aroused and so damn tempted to make herself come. She needed the release but doubted it would be enough by herself.

And then Alex came home. She stripped him of his clothes before their bedroom door even shut all the way. To say he was stunned was an understatement, but he didn’t complain in the least. He laughed, low and sexy, as he peeled off her nightgown and backed her up against the bed. He rained kisses across her cheeks, then bent to cover her breast with his mouth. She sucked in a shaky breath and squeezed her eyes shut as images from her imagination took over.

He turned her toward the bed, his body hard and hot behind her. When he finally stroked inside her, she shuddered, coming apart at the seams. But she couldn’t let loose, not all the way. She felt frozen, until she pictured herself in one of the scenes she’d read earlier, tied facedown to the bed, at her lover’s will. She grabbed at the sheets, forcing herself to be still, pretending to be under Alex’s control. It seemed wrong, but her body didn’t think so, and as Alex came with a shout, she let go.

It was the most explosive lovemaking they’d had in months, but she turned away from him, curling up on her side, silent, tremors shaking her body as he tried to get her to tell him what was wrong. She didn’t even try to explain it to him, because she didn’t know if she could. The guilt eating at her gut had only gotten worse when Alex curled up behind her, his warm, sated body spooning hers, his lips against her hair, whispering words of unconditional love.

Jess jerked back to the present with a start when she heard the garage door, her pulse pounding as she withdrew her trembling hand from between her thighs. She hadn’t expected it, but Alex was home. Thank God. She sighed with relief, the same sigh she breathed each time he came home from a shift, safe and whole.

The door to the bathroom opened. Already clinging to the edge of orgasm from her own touches and vivid memories, Jess picked up a bath pouf and started running it over her raised leg, letting the soap suds slide down to the junction of her thighs. Her breath hitched and she did it several times, pretending not to notice her husband leaning against the door, his arms crossed.

Even though he wore a sexy-as-sin smile on his face, his eyes held a wariness that had grown over the past few months, as if he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he’d get. She hated that she’d put that look in his eyes, and vowed to find a way to fix the mess. But tonight was not the night for her personal demons. Alex looked exhausted, she thought with a pang, as if he needed to be cared for. She dunked the pouf again, picking up more bubbles, and then squeezed it so the water and the suds cascaded over her breasts.

A low rumble came from his chest. “Hi, honey. I’m home.”

She turned her head and smiled lazily at him, even as her body flushed with heat. “So you are. You have too many clothes on. Get naked. There’s plenty of room for both of us in this tub.”

His grin was all male, and it chased some of the tired from his face and most of the tension from his body. She loved the way Alex looked, with his spiky dark hair and clear hazel eyes that were now sparkling with lust.

He pushed himself away from the door and started a very personal strip show. She swallowed hard as he unbuttoned his shirt slowly, torturously, exposing a broad, muscled chest with just the right amount of crisp hair.

She scooped up some bubbles and painted them on her body, drawing one finger through the froth, circling the tip of each aching breast, pinching the already hard nipples.

He pulled his shirt off. “Kids asleep?”

“Yes,” she breathed, groaning aloud as she became more aroused.

“Thank God,” he replied thickly, reaching behind him to lock the door. He never took his eyes off her, which was incredibly sexy. “I like what you’re doing with those bubbles, but save that job for me.” Working quickly, he removed his belt with his strong, sure fingers.

Fingers she wanted on her body, in her body, doing things she’d only read about and fantasized about. Things she wasn’t sure she could ever ask him to do. Things she worried he’d find disgusting, considering what he saw on the job. She shuddered, shoved the insidious thought away, and feasted her eyes on her husband’s body, letting him feel the weight of her yearning as she visually caressed the bulge of his arousal.

“You keep looking at me like that,” he said, his voice rough with desire, “and things are going to be over before they even start.” He unzipped his khaki pants and shoved them down, stepping out of them, pulling his socks off at the same time. He tossed the wadded ball of clothes behind him, toward the hamper in the corner of the bathroom, not bothering to look and see if he’d made the shot.

He hadn’t. Like she cared, though.

“You’re still wearing too much,” she said softly. Even though she loved the way her husband looked right now, clad only in a pair of skin-tight black boxer briefs that left nothing to the imagination, naked would be so much better.

“Workin’ on it.” He skimmed his briefs down his body, giving her a quick flash of his incredibly sexy ass. In less than a second, he sailed them through the air toward the rest of his clothes.

She loved that part of his body, loved being on her knees in front of him, digging her fingers into the tight muscles as she stroked his penis and sucked him until he couldn’t stand it anymore. And she loved it when he lost his famous control, threading his fingers through her hair, holding her head as he drove into her mouth, faster and faster, until he came, flooding her mouth and her senses at the same time. The salty sweet taste, the musky smell, the contradiction of soft and rough textures—all of it was pure, undiluted Alex. She didn’t feel guilty afterwards, because when she loved him that way, she didn’t need the fantasies from those books.

And it was the fantasies that were slowly driving her insane.


When Alex pulled into the garage after the shift from hell, all he’d been thinking about was sleep.

Not anymore.

Tired flew right out the window as he watched his sexy wife playing with the bubbles in the tub. Playing him. She was definitely in one of those turned-on, hell-on-wheels-in-bed moods tonight, but he didn’t mind the game. Not at all. Light from those scented candles she loved so much flickered over her body in the otherwise dark room. Her red curls were piled high on her head in a messy knot, her cheeks flushed pink from the steam, and she had a come-hither look in her gorgeous green eyes.

That was one invitation he wouldn’t refuse.

He stalked over to the tub and crouched next to it, dipping his hand into the water, circling the tip of Jess’s breast, catching her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. He leaned forward and kissed her, and at the same time he pinched her nipple gently. She gasped and he slid his tongue in her mouth, feasting on the taste that was uniquely his Jessica’s, with a twist. “Sneaking the kids’ Easter candy again, babe?”

She flushed prettily. “Guilty.”

He laughed, bumping noses with her. “You’re not the only one. I stopped in the kitchen before I came upstairs. Ben’s bunny is missing a little more of his ears now.”

She flicked some water at him. “You’re worse than I am. I only took some jellybeans.”

He kissed Jess again. “Scoot up.”

When she did, he slid into the tub behind her. He leaned back against the tub’s high walls with a heartfelt groan. The hot water felt great. He slipped his arms around her, tugging her back against his chest. That felt even better—her ass was pressed right against his aching erection. He nipped at her shoulder and cupped her full breasts, reveling in the weight of them, slowly rubbing his thumbs over her hard nipples. Her head dropped back against his shoulder, and she clutched at his arms.

“Want me to stop?” he murmured in her ear.

“I’ll kill you if you do,” she said, the breathy sound of the words adding to his arousal.

“Hmm. What if I do this instead?” He kept one hand working at her breasts, but he slid the other lower, skimming gently over her stomach to her curls, using one fingertip to nudge her clit before sliding that finger deep inside her body. She was so wet and swollen he knew it wouldn’t take long for her to come tonight. He kept up a gentle pace, loving how it made her writhe, which rubbed her body back and forth against his hard, straining cock.

The warmth of the water, the heat and movement of Jess’s body, the potent scent of the candles in the air—all of it put him on the razor’s edge of climax. When she finally went over, he fought against his need to do the same. He cupped her head and pulled her into a deep kiss, covering her mouth with his, swallowing the sounds of her release, a long, sensual orgasm that left her limp against his body, sated, at least for now.

He, on the other hand, was nowhere near done. His heart galloped, his breathing ragged as he held Jess close while she came back to earth.

She kissed the back of his hand and then turned all the way around and settled between his thighs, facing him on her knees. Water sloshed over the edge of the tub, and small waves rippled in the water’s depth, caressing his cock the way he wanted Jess to. He gritted his teeth, not wanting to go over, not yet.

“Hi there.” She leaned up to kiss him, coming half out of the water like a mermaid from the sea. Her long, curly hair had fallen out of its knot and now trailed over her shoulder and tumbled down her back.

He wrapped a finger in one of her curls and tugged lightly. “Hi yourself. This is a nice surprise.”

She tilted her head and reached out, splaying her hand across his chest. “For both of us. I thought you wouldn’t be home until morning.”

“Really? You were already pretty wet when I got here. Playing without me?” he teased, intrigued by the thought. Damned if it didn’t send a lightning bolt of lust straight to his cock.

She flushed, and something uncomfortable skittered across her face. She ducked her head, hiding her eyes from him. “From the hot bath.”

Not wanting to ruin the mood, he let it go. Talking about sex was always hard for Jess, but something told him there was more to her embarrassment than just him talking dirty. This wasn’t the first time she had distanced herself from him during sex, and one of these days, he was going to have to figure out what was going on in her head, why she seemed so flustered lately, because it was driving him nuts.

“It doesn’t matter either way, babe.” He stifled the frustration that seemed to be his constant companion these days and ran his knuckles gently down Jess’s cheek. “I’m just glad you’re awake and I get to spend some quality time with my gorgeous wife.”

He’d deal with the questions some other day, though, because now Jess had her hands on his thighs. She slid them forward until her fingers nestled in the crook of his legs, close to his cock and balls, but she didn’t touch them. And oh, how he wanted that. His muscles bunched and flexed as she rubbed her thumbs closer and closer.

“Babe, you’re killing me here.” He closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the edge of the tub. “Touch me. Please.”

“Touch you how?” Jess’s voice was like velvet, her softly uttered words uncharacteristically bold. And totally at odds with the uneasiness he’d seen in her eyes just a minute earlier. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

His eyes flew open, and in the dim light, he saw raw desire on his wife’s face. Damned if that didn’t turn him on too. Whatever was going on with Jess, whatever she wouldn’t—or felt she couldn’t—share with him, it definitely added a spark to their sex life. He liked it. A lot. All except for the emotional distance, but he shoved that thought away for now.

He kept his eyes locked on hers as his heart threatened to gallop out of his chest. He had to clear his throat twice to get his voice to work. “Get your hand all soapy, and wrap it around my cock. I want to feel your fingers on me, stroking me, touching my balls.”

Her eyes lit up. “Like this?”

Steam rose around them, but he wasn’t sure if it was from the water or from the heat they generated together. Her slick, soapy hand stroked tightly up and down his erection, and she slid her thumb over the head each time she reached the tip. Her fingers cupping his balls were gentle, caressing that sensitive spot underneath them. She scraped there with her fingernail, and his body jerked in response.

It felt like hell, and it felt like heaven. “Stop,” he groaned. “Or I’m going to come like this.”

She didn’t listen.

As she worked him with her tight fist, she slid her other hand under his balls, pressing against the tight hole there, sparking the nerve endings to life. She’d never done that to him before, but damn, it felt good. He wanted her to do it again. Later, when he had more control over his body. His balls drew up, and he knew he was going to lose it, right there, without being inside her, if he didn’t do something fast. And he didn’t want to come alone.

He tugged Jess up his body, draping her legs on either side of this, and urged her down onto his pulsing cock. As good as her warm, soapy hand had felt, it was nothing like the heat and tightness of her pussy. He held her hips steady, thrusting up until he was fully enveloped in her body.

“Alex,” she cried out as he pressed deep, closing her eyes and biting her lip.

“Ride me.” He didn’t care how needy he sounded. He could feel the ripples inside her body, urging him toward release. He slid his hands into her hair, pulling her down for a kiss as she rocked back and forth on his body, her movements drawing him closer and closer to the fire.

She went over first, and he tightened his hands in her hair, deepening the kiss, swallowing
the ragged sound she made as her orgasm flashed over. She shredded his restraint, and he followed her almost immediately, holding her close as wave after wave of pleasure overtook him.

They lay together in the tub, breathing heavily, and he stroked a hand up and down her smooth back. He didn’t know how long they lay there like that, entwined, his softening cock still inside the grip of her body. This was the first time in a long while she seemed content to stay connected to him, to rest in their intimate embrace, and he felt even more tension leave his body.

“A husband could get used to coming home to this every night,” he murmured in her ear, and he felt her smile against his neck.

“So could a wife,” she said with a satisfied sigh.


Text Copyright © 2012 by Jodie Griffin
Cover Art Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Forbidden Fires Excerpt (Chapter One)

NOTE:  Content is intended for adults 18 and older only.

Forbidden Fires

Chapter One

“Nice job out there tonight. We made some solid arrests.”

Delia rolled her eyes at her temporary partner. “Good thing too. I’d hate to think I dressed like this for nothing. Next time, you get to be the bait.”

“In your dreams, Robinson.” Roy’s laughter drifted over his shoulder as he turned into the squad room to start working on their arrest reports.

Exhaustion dogged her stiletto-clad feet as she headed toward the women’s locker room. She couldn’t wait to get out of her undercover getup and into a hot shower. Pulling a double shift that involved dressing in skin-baring clothes, a platinum-blond wig and three inches of makeup made for a hellishly long day.

A short time later, cleaned up and back in her street clothes, she sat at her desk in the nearly deserted squad room, staring dejectedly at the pile of papers Roy had left for her.

She pushed them away, leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, shutting out the sounds around her with an ease born of practice. She sighed with relief. Five minutes of downtime. Five minutes to shake off the slime of the street. Five minutes before tackling the mountain of paperwork from today’s arrests. Five short minutes. That was all she needed.

One measly minute into her self-imposed time-out, the phone rang. She groaned and reached for the phone. The display read Chief’s Office. And when the chief called, you answered. Immediately. “Detective Robinson.”

“My office. Now.”

Yikes. His growled order didn’t sound good. Rather than waiting for the elevator, she tore up the stairs, welcoming the rush of adrenaline. By the time she reached his office, all thoughts of her five-minute respite were gone. She took a deep breath and knocked on his door.

“Come in, Detective.”

Her mind raced to figure out what she might have done to warrant a call from her boss. She stood in front of his desk at as relaxed attention as she could manage, her hands clasped tightly behind her back. Warning bells went off in her head as he cleared his throat and narrowed his gaze. “Sir?”

“The State Fire Marshal’s office is investigating a serial arson case and asked to borrow you for the assignment. They were impressed with your work on the bombing task force last year and thought you’d make a good temporary addition to their team. I agreed. You’ll be on loan to them for the duration. The deputy fire marshal will fill you in on the case.”

The State Fire Marshal’s office? Oh, no. No, no, no. But a movement by the windows to her left stopped the automatic denial that wanted to spring free from her mouth. She swiveled her head and felt the floor drop out from underneath her. It was proof of her exhaustion that she’d completely missed the man standing there, leaning casually against the window frame. Too bad, because she could’ve used the time to brace herself.

Deputy Fire Marshal Colin Butler.

“Hello, Delia.”

Colin’s voice was smooth and rich like chocolate, and it set off every nerve ending in her body, as it had the short time they’d been lovers. And damn it, she hated that he still had that effect on her. It had been nearly a year. She should be over him by now.

A long, tense moment passed while she tried to regain her equilibrium. “Colin.”

The chief raised an eyebrow and she berated herself for the breathlessness that tinged her voice.

In spite of that, she couldn’t stop herself from giving Colin a quick once-over or deny the shiver that ran through her as she did it. He looked the same as he had a year ago, although the cast on his arm—a souvenir from one of the bomb blasts—was gone. His hair was still thick, sun-streaked light brown and his eyes were still the same hazel as a stormy ocean. Sexy as ever, but that shouldn’t matter. They’d had their time together, and it was over.

Colin pushed away from the wall. “I asked for Delia to be included in this operation. She was an asset to the case last year, and we can really use a new set of eyes looking at the crime scenes and the evidence.”

She froze. He’d asked for her?

The chief nodded, satisfaction on his face. “Great. You can use the conference room down the hall to get things squared away. Before you get started, I need a minute with my detective.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” Colin exited the room, closing the door behind him.

She let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. It seemed whenever she was in the same room with Colin, there wasn’t enough air to go around. That had been true a year ago, and it was true now.

The chief got up from his chair and came around his desk, leaning against it, watching her with sharp eyes. “I agreed to the loan because you’re good at your job, but you’re still family. I want you to watch your back. Not just on the case, but with Butler.” He frowned, and his all-too-knowing gaze hardened into that of a protective uncle. “I get the feeling there’s more than just work history between the two of you. Be careful.”

His words brought a flood of memories to her mind, rolling through her brain as if she were watching a movie with flashbacks. The long weekend she and Colin spent at the beach. The first time they’d made love. Reading the Sunday paper together in bed. The bomb blast that had broken his arm. The vicious arguments. She shuddered and pushed the memories away, both the good ones and the bad ones.

Her uncle Joe hadn’t made chief by being stupid, and he’d obviously caught the intimate undercurrents between her and Colin. Still, her sex life wasn’t something she wanted to discuss with either her boss or her uncle. She stepped forward and leaned into him for a quick hug. “I always am.”

As she left his office, she decided to ignore the clamoring of her body and listen to her head instead. Something she should have done the first time she’d met Colin. Then maybe her heart wouldn’t ache quite as much right now.


Colin waited for Delia in the hall, pacing back and forth. Well, that had gone better than he’d expected. He’d figured she’d tear into him for the way things had ended between them. Then again, maybe she didn’t want witnesses to the massacre. The snarky thought made him grimace.

It had been eleven months since he’d seen her last, but her impact on him hadn’t lessened in the least. God, she was still beautiful, with dark red hair that fell past her shoulders, creamy pale skin, unbelievably green eyes and a body that wouldn’t quit. Even the Frederick Police Department’s casual uniform of khaki pants and unisex polo shirt couldn’t hide the curve of her hip or the slope of her generous breasts. She was sexy in the uniform and drop-dead gorgeous out of it.

It was cold comfort realizing she seemed to be as affected by him as he was by her, if the unguarded way she’d checked him out from head to toe was any indication. But she hadn’t been able to hide her shock at seeing him there. A blanch like that couldn’t be faked. Regardless of how they felt, though, they had a job to do and time was of the essence.

As a division of the Maryland State Police, the Office of the State Fire Marshal was responsible for the criminal investigation of fire and explosive incidents throughout the state. Just over a year ago, he’d been assigned to investigate a series of pipe bombings in the city of Frederick. Delia had been the liaison between city police and his team. She’d been the one to pull the last thread that had brought it to a close. His boss was hoping for another success story, so here he was, looking for her help.

She came out of the office a few minutes later, looking deep in thought.

“What was that about?” he asked.

“None of your business. Why are you here, Colin?”

The sharpness of her voice made him set his jaw. “Weren’t you paying attention in there? We’re investigating a series of arson fires we believe are related. I reminded my boss we’d worked last year’s bombings together, and he contacted your office to see if you were available to assist with the investigation. Here I am.”

“Right.” She pinned him with a hot glare that would’ve melted steel. “Because there are no good cops in the Maryland State Police.”

Colin sighed. “Does everything have to be a battle with you?” The minute the combative words left his mouth, he regretted them. This was no time for personal baggage. He held up a conciliatory hand as her face flushed with anger. “Sorry. It’s been a long couple of weeks. Yes, there are plenty of good cops in the MSP, but they’re not you. Forget everything else between us for a minute. We worked well together and solved a case that had Frederick on edge for months. I’m sure you’ve seen the news, Dee. This arsonist has killed eight people in the past three weeks. We need to find him and we need to take him down.” His tone was vehement, but he didn’t have time to mince words.

They were the right ones to catch her attention.

She exhaled sharply and led the way into the conference room. “Fine. Let’s go talk it out.”

She went to the small refrigerator in the credenza and pulled out two bottles of water, handing one to him. He reached out to take it, and his hand accidentally touched hers. She pulled back as if she’d touched a live wire.

He knew exactly how she felt. The sizzle leaped from his fingers to his groin, and he wondered if his hair was standing on end. He sat in one of the chairs and put the bottle on the conference table in front of him, waiting for her to ask her questions.

“So tell me about this arsonist.” She twisted the cap off the water and paced the confines of the small room.

“Here’s what we know. He’s targeting high-value private properties. And he’s only setting fires when the homes are occupied. For each of the three fires, the homeowners had guests. All three were in different counties.” He ticked them off on his fingers. “Baltimore, Howard, Carroll.”

“That’s it?”

It chafed him, but the truth could be painful. “Unfortunately, yes. We don’t have a lot more than that. But we’re just putting things together now. It took the third fire to see that this might be serial arson. The fact that they were in three different jurisdictions didn’t help. Now that the OSFM is involved, we can pool the information gathered from the individual agencies investigating each fire and hopefully come up with a viable suspect.”

She watched him thoughtfully, then took a long sip of her water. In spite of himself, his gut tightened as she licked the moisture from her lips, and he had to shift in his chair, not that it helped much. Jesus, he hoped he could keep his shit together long enough to get the job done. Their short relationship had been intense and, though it hadn’t ended well, the attraction was obviously still there. He forced his thoughts back to the briefing. “In each case, the people present at the fires were couples. Mostly married. We need to see if we can find the thread that links them all. So far, we’ve come up with a whole lot of nothing.”

When she didn’t make a comment, just kept eyeing him blandly as though he was a bug under a fucking microscope, his temper spiked. “Look, if you don’t think you can handle working with me, fine. Just tell me now so I can find someone else who can.”

Anger rippled across her face, lending credence to the whole redhead temper thing. “You know, I’ll put up with a lot of shit. I have to, in my line of work. But don’t ever question my ability to do my job.” And with that, she stormed out the door, leaving him sitting there with his mouth hanging open.

Goddamn it.

Why he was surprised, he didn’t know. Delia’s penchant for walking away in anger had been one of the things that had killed their relationship. It wasn’t until she was gone from his life that he realized she did it to cool down first. It took even longer for him to admit it was actually a smart way for her to handle things. Words that couldn’t be taken back wouldn’t get said in the heat of anger.

He heaved a sigh. If Delia still ran the way she had a year ago, she’d be back in a few minutes, after she blew off some steam. He hoped that hadn’t changed, because this had to work. He needed a partner, and while he’d find someone else if she really pushed back, he wanted Delia. They’d worked well together and, in spite of their past, he figured they’d work well together now. He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair, propping his feet on the table, prepared to wait as long as it took.

Less than five minutes later, his feet got shoved off the table. His eyes flew open wide as they slammed onto the floor.

He glared at her, and his voice came out a low growl. “What the hell?”

“Get up.” She barked the order, standing with her hands on her hips as she gave him the eye. But behind it, he saw the light of challenge, and the tiniest bit of trepidation.

The knot in his chest loosened slightly, and he stood slowly and faced her. He had no idea what she was up to, yet he was man enough to admit the determined look on her face intrigued him.

And turned him on.

“You don’t think I can handle working with you because of our past?” Deliberately, she touched his waist as she brushed past him, and his muscles bunched from the light contact. She closed the door, the click of the lock as loud as a gunshot. Then she turned around, walking toward him, never taking her moss-green eyes off his face.

He narrowed his eyes but otherwise kept his face devoid of expression, which was way harder than it should’ve been. “What are you doing?”

“Proving a point.” She reached out and ran her thumb across his lips, smiling the tiniest bit at the sharp intake of breath he couldn’t have held back if his life depended on it.

His pulse pounded as her grin widened like a Cheshire cat, and he started to sweat. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You think maybe I’ll be so bowled over by what we had I won’t be able to keep my hands off you?” She cupped the back of his head and drew him close, angling her body into his.

He remained motionless, when every memory from their shared past taunted him to grab her close—or maybe thrust her away. He wasn’t sure which. All he knew was that he was frozen to the spot, unable to either stop her or encourage her. “That’s not what I said, and you know it.”

“No? Sure sounded like it to me.” She stood on her toes, placed a bold, wet kiss on his mouth and threaded her fingers into his hair. She tugged him closer and continued her tantalizing assault. Finally, he caved, throwing caution and common sense to the wind. With a deep groan, he took the lead, delving his tongue into her mouth with wide, sweeping strokes while he pulled her body tight against his painfully aroused dick.

Reality intruded when she let out a low moan, then backed away, breathing harshly, her color high and her eyes dazed.

She wasn’t the only one in shock, but he was covering better, or so he hoped. Jesus, who knew they’d still have this kind of chemistry? He tucked his shaking hands into his pockets and waited to see what she’d do next.

She threw him a smug look he didn’t buy for a single second, not with that pulse pounding in her neck or the red flush on her cheeks. “Now that that’s out of the way, don’t ever imply I can’t do my job again.”

He watched her for a long moment, but decided to call her bluff. “My mistake. You’re more than capable. But Delia? You still want me.”

She glared at him. “No, I don’t. I did for about two months a year ago, but I’m over that now.”

“That’s cold, Dee.” He rocked back on his heels, shaking his head. “And I don’t believe it’s true.”

“You should.” The words were an in-your-face retort, but the heat of anger had left her eyes and her voice, and he wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince—him, or herself. “But we don’t have time for this with your arsonist on the loose. Let’s just get the job done.”


Text Copyright © 2013 by Jodie Griffin
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Forbidden Desires Excerpt (Chapter One)

NOTE:  Content is intended for adults 18 and older only.

Forbidden Desires Cover

Chapter One


“You’re cheating.” Bella shook her head wryly as Myrtle laid down her second straight flush of their weekly poker night. “I haven’t figured out how yet, but I know you’re doing it. Bunch of scam artists.” She softened the accusation with a teasing smile, but before Myrtle, Edna or Alice could answer, chaos erupted in the hallway just outside the nursing home’s community room.

Two firefighters hurried by, followed by paramedics pushing a stretcher, and the room fell silent. That didn’t bode well, and Bella’s heart twisted for the three sitting at the table. They’d each lived at Roseville Manor about six years, and they were close with all the residents.

Caroline Reeves, her friend and an ER nurse who also volunteered there, stuck her head in the door and gave a thumbs-up. “Everyone’s okay. The director said they’re testing emergency response times.”

Sighs of relief rippled across the room, and everyone began talking at once.

Relieved herself, Bella looked at her favorite senior threesome and grinned. She and Alice sat on one side of the table, and Myrtle and Edna sat on the opposite side. Bella tapped her cards on the table. “Wasting playing time, ladies. Are you in?” She tossed some pennies into the bowl in the center of the table. “The bet is five, and I’m telling you, this is my hand.”

She said it, but she knew it wasn’t true. She was losing, and she always lost. Maybe because the wild three were in their nineties, and they’d had more time playing poker than she’d been alive. Or maybe they really did cheat. She didn’t care. She loved them, and just enjoyed spending time with them.

Myrtle snorted. “Humph. We’ll see about that.” She tossed her five pennies into the bowl.

“You should know better than that, dear. You’re toast.” Alice’s sweet tone was completely at odds with her words. She dropped her bet in the pot and anted up.

Bella laughed, waiting to see what would come out of Edna’s mouth. Their usual banter often had her laughing so hard her stomach hurt. But right now, the woman was quiet, her eyes comically wide as she looked across the table between Bella and Alice.

“Hello, ladies.”

Bella jerked at the sound of the deep, masculine voice, and nearly dropped her cards. There was a hint of roughness to it, enough to send shivers down her spine. To cover her reaction, she turned and looked up. Her heart skipped a long beat. Standing behind them, in a firefighter uniform and holding paramedic gear, was the sexiest, hottest guy she’d ever laid eyes on. Super hot. Heart-attack hot. Five-alarm-fire hot.

His Italian heritage was stamped on every delectable inch of his six-foot-tall muscular body. His dark hair was wavy and thick, and his eyes were the color of dark chocolate, her favorite indulgence. If he’d been a piece of candy, she’d have gobbled him right up. Instead, she picked up her bottle of water and took a sip, trying to quench her sudden thirst.

“I’m Marcus Aiello. What’s the game?” He cast a glance around the table, smiling at each woman as if she were the only one in his sight.

Ninety-three-year-old Myrtle looked him up and down as if she was undressing him in her imagination. “Poker. We play every Wednesday. Want to join us?”

“It depends,” Marcus said with a wink and a devilish grin, not at all taken aback by Myrtle’s obvious once-over. “Is it strip poker?”

Oh, jeez, he was as bad as they were. The hoots of laughter from the elderly women made her shake her head in amused disbelief. These three were the wildest of the bunch she’d met here, and the stories they’d told her of their escapades as young women had made her hair stand on end. The things they’d done with men—hell, to men—were things she’d only fantasized about.

Bella yelped when Myrtle kicked her under the table. Never one to be subtle, Myrtle nodded toward Marcus. “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything? Haven’t we taught you better than to let such a fine specimen of a man go to waste?” She shot Bella a disgusted look. “The shy one here is Bella Massey. She’s single and going to turn into a spinster if we don’t find her a man. Apparently, the cat’s got her tongue. You’re not married, are you? Or gay?”

Bella wanted to fall through the floor, but she laughed anyway, even as her face flamed. What else could she do? It was obvious Myrtle’s comments and question hadn’t embarrassed Marcus at all. He let out an amused chuckle, and a matching sparkle lit his eyes. He was enjoying himself, she was sure, but she doubted she even showed up on his radar. Not that she was putting herself down. She was comfortable in her own skin, and she’d had plenty of dates, but she was being realistic. Men who looked like him? They went for the cover-model type, not the plus-sized librarian next door like her. So when he winked at her, she blinked, rendered speechless.

“No, I’m not married. Or gay. I appreciate the offer, ladies, but I’m still on duty. Can I take a rain check and join you next week?”

“We’re always up for fresh meat, if you think you can keep up with us,” Myrtle answered, deadpan. “Right, ladies?” When the other two nodded, she gave him details. “We’ll expect you here at seven sharp, so don’t be late.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll give it my best shot. Good night.” With that, he turned and started toward the hall.

There were three identical sighs.

“That man has amazing buttocks.” Alice’s voice held a dreamy quality that made Bella turn her head so fast she was surprised she didn’t get whiplash.

Edna gave a sly grin. “I’d like to nibble it.”

“I’d like to spank it,” replied Myrtle tartly. “What about you, Bella? What would you like to do with him?”

Tie him down, lick every inch of him, from top to bottom, spending extra time on that incredible ass. Bella didn’t say that out loud, but she sure thought it. “I’d like to play poker with him. I need help figuring out how you three cheaters manage to win every hand.”



Marcus turned his head and looked over his shoulder just in time to see four women ogle his ass. The first three sets of eyes were a little disconcerting. The women they belonged to were even older than his nonna had been when she’d passed away. But it was that last set of eyes that had him intrigued. Bella Massey was one sexy-looking woman.

She had rich, coffee-brown hair with streaks of cinnamon in it. It hung past her shoulders, thick and wavy. Her eyes were a startling bluish green, like the color of the Caribbean Sea he’d seen on vacation. And those curves. Jesus Christ, those curves of hers had him salivating. This was a woman with the kind of body a man could hold and not be afraid to break. He’d bet his next paycheck she considered herself overweight, but he thought she was built exactly the way a woman should be.

He stepped into the hallway and grabbed his end of the stretcher.

Dave Robinson stared at him in disbelief. “Did that old lady just ask you if you were gay? Seriously?”

Marcus scowled. “Yes. And don’t call them old ladies. It’s rude. Would you talk about your grandmother like that?”

“Jeez, buddy. Take it easy. No disrespect intended.”

Marcus rubbed the back of his neck. Dave was a good guy and a top-notch paramedic, but he wasn’t always the most tactful person. Usually it didn’t bother him, but today it stuck in his craw. “Yeah, sorry. I know. It’s been a hell of a day.”

Dave snorted. “You can say that again.” He glanced back into the community room. “You ask her out?”


“The hot babe sitting with those old—” Dave checked himself and changed his words. “With those women.”

Hot babe? Something that felt a lot like jealousy made him want to sock Dave in the jaw, but it couldn’t be jealousy. He’d just met the woman, for Christ’s sake. He forced himself to laugh, although it was the last thing he wanted to do. “Never mix business with pleasure.”

Dave looked like he was going to say something pithy to that, but for once, he kept his mouth shut.

Wise move. “Come on,” Marcus said. “Let’s head back to the station before we get a call. I need food.”

“Just waiting on you, buddy.”

It took everything Marcus had not to look back at Bella one last time, to take another mental snapshot of her. Not the right time, he reminded himself sternly. Even if he was interested, he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Not when he was this close to getting his life back together. Not now.



Marcus arrived just before seven, dressed nicely but casually in jeans and a thermal shirt, carrying three bunches of colorful flowers. He handed one each to Alice, Edna and Myrtle, kissing them on their cheeks. “Thank you for inviting me.”

The women blushed like teenagers, and Bella was charmed. Then, with a small smile, he handed her a single calla lily. If she hadn’t had a thing for him before, she had one now. Any man who gave up his free time to play cards with three ninety-something women—and still treated them like beautiful women, not like old ladies—was okay in her book.

Bella felt less tongue-tied around Marcus this time, but she still didn’t say much, preferring to watch her friends interacting with him. They tossed a barrage of personal questions his way, but whatever he thought about the inquisition, he kept it to himself, indulging their curiosity with a smile she found sweet and sexy. So when they excused themselves to get refreshments after two hours of no-holds-barred poker, she wasn’t surprised that Marcus blew out a gusty sigh.

He pushed his chair away from the table, folded his arms over his incredibly wide chest and crossed his impossibly long legs at the ankles. “Jesus. Are they always like this?”

Bella laughed. “Pretty much. But they mean well.”

“Oh, I know they do. They remind me a lot of my late grandmother. I think that’s why I find them so charming. And I don’t mind the grilling.” A cheeky grin appeared on his face. “But if they ask me what size briefs I wear, I’m gone.”

Bella laughed again. “They’re really enjoying the attention. Thanks for coming tonight.”

They sat at the card table for a while, making small talk as they waited for the trio to return. Well, Marcus talked. Bella mostly listened, surprised by how comfortable she felt around him. So much so, that as his low, sexy voice rumbled on, her mind wandered into dangerous territory.

She was a photographer taking pictures for a firefighter calendar. He stood in a shower, his face turned up toward the spray, his hands braced against the tile wall. Water dripped down his back, sliding over his body in a tantalizing show. Unable to take the torture anymore, she set the camera on the vanity and stepped behind him. “Don’t move,” she ordered, and then she sank her teeth into his muscled ass, leaving her mark on him. She licked at the love bite, then lapped up the water with her tongue. When he moaned, she began nibbling her way around his hip to his—

He touched her arm and she jolted back to the present. To cover her lapse in manners—and to give herself a second to get her wayward libido back in check—she shook her head and cleared her throat. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“Nothing important. You feel okay?” He searched her face with sharp, concerned eyes and frowned. “Your face is flushed.”

“I’m f-fine.” Still flustered by the direction her thoughts had taken, she continued without censoring her words. “I was just imagining you in the shower.” With a gasp, she clapped a hand over her mouth. Jesus, Bella. Good going.

Marcus looked away for a moment, then laughed self-consciously. “Well, I’m flattered.”

Her face flamed, and her stomach heaved. His discomfort was obvious, and she owed him an apology. “I’m so sorry. Sometimes the filter between my mouth and my brain shuts off. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” She stood, grabbing for her jacket and purse with trembling hands. “Look, I’m going to head home. Myrtle, Edna and Alice are really enjoying their time with you, and I don’t want to ruin that. Tell them I wasn’t feeling well, and I’ll see them next week.” She raced for the door before she could say anything else stupid.

She barely made it to the hallway before Marcus came up beside her, stopping her with his hand on her arm.

“Wait, Bella.” He looked around, swore under his breath at the curious eyes watching them, then ushered her into a dim, mostly deserted hallway. “I don’t want you thinking you did something wrong.”

She couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes. “Riiiight. The old it’s not you, it’s me thing.”

The corner of his mouth tilted up in a slight grin. “Oh, you’re wrong there. It is all you.”

At her glare, his grin widened. It turned downright wicked as he backed her up against the wall and stepped close. He braced his arms on either side of her head, essentially caging her where she stood. She felt trapped, but for the life of her didn’t know whether she liked it or not.

He leaned in and spoke softly in her ear. “You paying attention?”

She swallowed hard and nodded. Shivered, too, as his breath danced across her skin.

“Good. I wasn’t bothered by what you said. Just surprised. And to be honest, I was embarrassed, but not for the reason you think.” He shifted slightly, bringing his body closer to hers.

He came no closer than two people dancing a first slow dance, but close enough for her to feel the thick, hard ridge of his undeniable arousal behind the button fly of his jeans.

He wasn’t acting like any man she’d ever known. He hadn’t taken advantage of her startling admission by trying to charm his way into her pants. And he hadn’t gotten angry or disgusted. Surprisingly, his actions didn’t make her uncomfortable, either. She didn’t like it when a man pulled rank, acting all macho and I’m the boss. Dominant men did not trip her trigger.


But there it was. She was attracted to him, in all his take-charge glory, although she hadn’t guessed the feeling was mutual. She hadn’t really thought much about it, but the hard proof was there for her to feel. “Oh.”

Oh. And I’ve got to tell you, the timing sucks.” He stepped back from her and sighed raggedly, scrubbing his face with his hand. “For many reasons.”

Bella bit her lip and stifled her disappointment. “I understand.”

Marcus laughed ruefully. “I don’t think you do. I don’t want to flash an erection around your wild friends, because who knows what they’d say or do.” His handsome face turned serious. “But more than that, I just got out of a relationship, and it didn’t end well. I got distracted at work, and that wasn’t good. I can’t go through that again. I swore off women for a while, yet here I am, looking at you.”

“Why?” The minute the word left Bella’s mouth she wished she could call it back. Hadn’t she put him on the spot enough tonight?

He tucked his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Why not you? Maybe I’ll regret this later, but in spite of the week-long argument I’ve had with myself about my priorities, I’m interested. Go out with me Friday night. On a real date. Dinner and a movie, just the two of us. No chaperones, as wild as they are. What do you say?”

“I should say no, shouldn’t I?” His obvious dominance notwithstanding, she was too tempted by him and his honesty to turn him down. “But I don’t want to. So, yes. It’s a date.”


Text Copyright © 2012 by Jodie Griffin
Cover Art Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.