Authors: Lorie O'clare
Angela didn't move. "My father said if he started discussing his missing persons case with me, I would lose focus here but you have no idea how focused I am right now," she finally said, her tone sharp yet soft-spoken. The amount of control she exerted at that moment dripped in every syllable out of her mouth.
Jake shouldn't push it. Where would it lead them? He was here to work a case with her, an incredibly dangerous case where many would die if he and Angela treaded just slightly in the wrong direction.
He had to know. If he didn't push her, his concentration would be shot to hell with just the wondering of what might happen. This way at least both of them would place their limitations out on the table.
"How much did you tell your father about our might in Tijuana?" he asked. This time he adjusted her stance, taking both her arms and moving her so she faced him.
"You are so arrogant. There wasn't much to tell."
Angela fought for a second when he pressed his fingers under her chin, encouraging her to tilt her head and look at him. "I'm sure KFA's reputation wouldn't be what it is if one of you were completely incompetent," she murmured, then pursed her lips together as if she would kiss him. Her green eyes were bright. She was challenging his work and his nature.
"Did you tell him how it felt dancing with me all evening?" he asked.
His reputation was sound. Obviously Angela was a control freak and she might think she could keep him in line if she knocked him down a few notches. Jake could take orders just fine but sparring with him would result in only one thing. He had no problem showing her how competent he was.
"You're right. It wouldn't be," he said and brushed his fingertips down her cheek. "So you told your father we had a couple dances and that was it?"
Angela jerked backward, banging her backside against the door. When she instinctively moved forward, Jake captured her in his arms, pinning her against him. He ran his hand down her hair, feeling her shoulder blades stiffen when she looked up at him of her own accord.
"Why are you doing this?" she demanded, her tone not quite shrill but, along with her expression, proof her frustration grew in leaps and bounds. "I swear, Jake. You're the one who can't focus."
Jake thought she'd push against his chest, demand her freedom. He hadn't decided whether he'd give it to her or not when instead of shoving against him, she gripped his shoulders. Suddenly Angela was stretched against him, her head tilted, her long, thick lashes fluttering over her smoldering gaze. When she licked her lips, moistened, then parted them, something clicked inside him. Angela stretched further, her lashes lowering, her lips still parted, as her fingers slid up his shoulders to the sides of his head.
She drew him to her, initiating the kiss without another word. Jake lowered his head, his attention on her mouth as he slid his hands into her hair, tangling the thick, smooth strands around his fingers.
"I told him everything," Angela whispered just as Jake's mouth captured hers.
Her lips remained parted and Jake eased inside her when he kissed her. The heat that greeted him damn near made him teeter with need. It was something he'd wished he'd done a year ago and gone back and forth on over the months after parting ways with her. If he'd known what she'd tasted like that night a year ago, he might not have let her go. Now, feeling her moist, soft lips open further for him and her nimble tongue willingly swirl in a dance of lust around his, Jake understood why the attraction between the two of them had been so noticeably intense.
He gripped her hips, pulling her closer while lowering his head and feasting on her mouth. She was soft yet firm. Her breasts pressed against his chest and he ached to cup them in his hands, feel how hard her nipples were.
God damn! Ripping her clothes off her and enjoying every inch of her hot, sultry body suddenly seemed the logical next step.
Angela's fingers moved over his arms to his chest. When he guessed she might try pushing away from him, he brought one hand to the middle of her back, pressing her even closer. She arched into him, stretching her fingers over his taut skin. Her gentle touch, exploring and inquisitive, sent fire searing through his insides. Maybe it had been a while since he'd taken time to enjoy the erotic touch of a lady, but nothing any of the women he knew came close to matching how incredibly hot Angela was. And all they were doing was kissing.
She balled her hands into fists, still pressing them against his chest. Jake decided to end the kiss, allowing him the upper hand, before she gathered enough strength to push him away and claim she didn't want him. He wasn't sure he could handle her lie and was sure they would be the first words out of her mouth.
He nipped her lower lip before straightening and enjoyed her gasps as well as her lashes' fluttering open as she took a moment to focus on his face.
"I'm not going to fuck you," she whispered, her voice scratchy.
"I know," he said, and stroked the side of her head. Her hair was as smooth and silky as he had imagined and the picture of it falling down her naked body as she rode them both into explosive orgasms wasn't a vision he wanted to let go of.
"No. I don't think you do." She blinked, making no effort to back out of his arms but staring up at him as her thick, black lashes hooded her gaze. "You think I would lie and say that, blaming you for kissing me, and storm out of here. That isn't what I meant. I'm not a liar. I know you can't wait to fuck me and I admit I've been intrigued since I met you a year ago. But we're not going to have sex, Jake."
He easily could have gotten hung up on her saying she'd been intrigued since first meeting him. It was something about her relaxed expression and the way she spoke softly, as if the guard he'd ached to force her to let down was finally gone. She sighed when he ran his hand down her hair again. There was more and he wanted to hear her mind. Resting his hands on her shoulders, he held on to her gaze when she licked her lips and studied him.
"I can't be seen with you. You're a King. Mario Mandela knows who you are."
It wouldn't be the first time he'd hunted a criminal who knew too much about Jake. It was the price of his family's success. He wasn't so cocky as to not see he hadn't earned that type of reputation on his own.
"Who I am isn't going to change." Jake let go of her and walked into the middle of his suite, then crossed his arms and stared at her. "We aren't going to solve this case arguing over issues having nothing to do with Mandela."
"Which is exactly why I worry we aren't a good match to work on a case together."
"Because we want to fuck each other?" he asked softly.
She stared at him. "You're blunt, but okay. Yes. And I can't risk anything distracting me from this case."
"Do you know what the difference between a bounty hunter and a private investigator is?"
He loved her smile. It was more than just the curve of her full, moist red lips. Her entire face transformed when she grinned. Her eyes flashed, showing her amusement, and she tilted her head just a bit to the right, flashing her white teeth.
"Now you're redirecting." Her grin didn't fade. "What's the difference?" she asked.
"When a private investigator is on your tail, you know it. You see him, or her," Jake added, and watched her tongue dart over her lips. "A good PI knows how to build the trepidation, make their target sweat. That target will know in their heart the moment they slip up, they're snagged."
"And let me guess." She laughed and walked toward Jake. She tapped her finger against her cheek, more than likely trying to be serious when she obviously found him amusing. "A good bounty hunter is never seen."
She got close enough that Jake tapped her nose with his finger. "You're right, sweetheart."
Angela nodded and turned away from him. "That isn't going to cut it, Jake."
Snaking his hands around her waist, he pulled her back against him. Her smooth, round ass snuggled against him. Blood drained from his brain, making him light-headed. Jake fought the urges inside him, using more strength to control getting hard when that hot little ass of hers continued moving against him. But he would make his point, and to do so he couldn't let her see how greatly she affected him.
"It's more than not being seen, my dear," he whispered, lowering his head and breathing in the perfumed scent in her hair. It smelled like coconut, but there was a lingering aroma as well that reminded him of roses. He imagined every inch of her smelled like that and fought an overwhelming desire to do whatever it took to find out if it did.
Jake pressed his lips against the side of her neck. Angela sucked in a sharp breath, and when he nipped at her warm flesh she gasped. He wondered how strong her reserve actually was with her insistence that nothing happen between them.
"You'll think I'm gone," he continued, straightening so he wouldn't be dragging her intoxicating scent into his lungs with every breath. "No matter how hard you search for me, you won't find me. You won't see me. But believe me, the moment you're in any kind of trouble you'll feel my arms around you like they are right now, pulling you to safety."
It was almost weird how a man who stood so tall, with more brawn and sex appeal than should be legal, could appear so compassionate and concerned. It was damn unnerving. If Angela didn't know better, she'd swear Jake King was worried about her. Reminding herself of what she already knew about him, of his infamous reputation as being a player, as well as her dad's advice that a man like Jake would need a very tight leash in order to obey, Angela assured herself Jake was simply being himself, playing the field with the lady nearest him in his arms.
But there wasn't time to worry about that when her legs were suddenly as stable as wet noodles. She needed to get the hell out of there, but her body didn't want to cooperate. The most gorgeous man she'd ever laid eyes on had his hands on her, cradling her against him as if she meant more to him than anyone else in the world. If she couldn't think clearly when standing this close to Jake she was in serious trouble. There was no way they could work together. She'd miss every available clue.
He might be trying to convince her they'd never see each other, but she knew better. When they weren't in the field they'd be brainstorming--together. She knew as well, as any good detective would that without a solid plan, carefully thought out and every angle explored, solving a case could be damn impossible to do.
Which made all of this seriously suck. She would definitely have some words for her father once she could speak to him alone. All she wanted to do was grab Jake's massive arms and push him toward his bed. Exploring every inch of his perfect body sounded better than walking out of his room.
God! She was in serious trouble.
It was imperative she get Jake out of her system. And it was terrifying that in a matter of minutes he'd put her in this state of mind. He did the same thing to her a year ago, seducing her into lowering her guard until she was babbling out all the information she could think of to help him when he didn't even know that was what she was doing. It was disgusting.
Angela took a step backward and Jake let his hands fall to his sides. When she faced him her insides were so swollen with need she could hardly think what to say. The longer she remained here, the more the need would grow. It was a craving for something she'd never had before, yet there was knowledge inside her that without any doubt it was exactly what she needed.
"I can see your hunger."
Angela blinked, realized she'd practically been drooling while staring at the well-defined bulging muscle underneath his T-shirt. She snapped her attention to his face. "Go to hell, Jake."
"It's like seeing my own emotions in a mirror."
He was fighting off a grin, the bastard. Like she would stand there and amuse him just because he liked the idea of them being hot for each other. Angela needed to remind herself how many women he'd probably used that line on in the past.
That was it. Maybe if he kept talking like a pompous ass it would piss her off and turn her off. She dwelt on anger, forcing it to surface. It was the only way she'd walk out of there with any dignity.
"At the rate you're going, I doubt you ever see any of you inside me." The moment the words were out of her mouth, she regretted them.
Something darkened in his gaze. "Keep standing there and I will definitely see me inside you," he whispered, his tone dangerous.
The heat that swelled inside her was unbearable. "I see how it is." Angela shook her head, praying she appeared disappointed. "Looks seriously are deceiving. You're so strong and incredibly tall, but the truth is you're weak." She dared lifting her gaze to his face. Butterflies fluttered frantically as she stared into smoldering domination. No way he'd see her sweat, though. "The only way you can meet my terms is to insult me, so I'll storm out and leave you alone."
Jake cleared the distance between them too fast for her to react. Grabbing under her arms, he lifted Angela off her feet, holding her in midair so they stared into each other's eyes.
"I never said I planned on meeting your terms, sweetheart," he informed her. "You're hoping if you get pissed off it will soothe the fire that has already ignited between us." Jake lifted her an inch higher as if she were light as air. His thumbs pressed against the bottom of her breasts, torturing her even further. "I'm here to tell you it's not going to work."
"Put me down." She hated the pleading sound in her voice.
Jake lowered her until her feet were once again on the floor. He didn't let her go, though, and she hated thinking if he had she might have teetered backward. When his large hand gripped her jaw and fingers inched their way around her neck, it was as if he paralyzed her. Angela stared as his face moved closer to hers.
"You want me," he breathed, his coarse tone scraping over her already-too-sensitive nerves. "We aren't going to argue that anymore. But also, both of us want the game ended. We're going to work together, use our strength and knowledge as the professionals that we are, and end the game once and for all. And sweetheart, once this case is solved, I plan on enjoying every tantalizing inch of you."
Angela grabbed his wrist, which was so thick she barely wrapped her fingers halfway around it. She sucked in a breath, blowing it out and reminding herself what she was doing here in the first place.
"That's enough, Jake," she said, her solid tone and conviction enough to douse the sizzling lust that had made the air thick. "I know about your playboy ways. Your reputation as a player might be as strong and solid as that of a bounty hunter. Obviously flirting and seducing women is such a part of your nature you might not be able to help yourself. And possibly that is the reason why you fucked up in Mexico."
"I didn't fuck anything up," he retorted, his voice suddenly so thick and dark it was impossible not to look at him. "And where have you heard about me? Because, sweetheart, if you're prone to listening to gossip, keep in mind over half of it is always wrong."
Angela swore she was working more undercover right now, fighting to keep her feelings and emotions under lock and key, than when she'd been with Mario and faked enjoying his attention.
"You're more intent on getting in my pants than you are on working this case." She walked out of his hands' reach, plotting her choice of words. If she left he might sense a victory. It was best to make sure he understood every rule. She needed to spell it out clearly so the gorgeous hunk staring at her would turn off his seduction skills when they were together. "I'm going to put everything in perspective for you." She straightened, clasped her hands in front of her, and stared him down, determined to see him simply as a tool to help solve this case and nothing else. "All you are to me is solid backup. Nothing else matters but this case. Do you understand me? Nothing."
The blank look he gave her in return did a weird number to her insides. Angela forced herself to stay on track. Now wasn't the time to dwell on any type of emotion, good or bad. Angela marched over to the door, this time determined not to look at him but to leave, head upstairs, calm down, and call her father back.
"Do you think I don't know why you've gone undercover?" Jake used a tone she hadn't heard out of him before. It was deadly sounding, bone-chilling, and sent a rush of trepidation prickling over her flesh. "I already know about your case and why you're staying here, in this extravagant hotel, instead of at the small house you own."
She stopped in her tracks, forcing herself not to turn around.
"You're seducing Mario Mandela, working to get him comfortable around you, so you can take him down." Jake was moving, closing in on her. Every tiny hair on her backside stood at attention, as if the sexual charges radiating off his body created some kind of electrical response inside her. When he continued speaking, his voice was just above her ear. "You're calling me a player, a seducer, someone who isn't concerned with anyone's feelings but only interested in getting himself off. Well, lady, that isn't how it is. If all I wanted was to fuck you, I would have simply asked if you wanted to fuck. I'm not trying to trick you into thinking all I want is a piece of ass while I'm here."
"Don't even suggest I spend my time trying to manipulate and seduce men," she hissed. "Mandela is one of the lowest forms of life and I will do anything to take him down." She wouldn't fuck the bastard, though.
Jake moved closer to her. "And it might require anything to take him down," he said, his baritone deepening and sending chills rushing over her flesh. "You're a detective moving into waters so dangerous you very well might not make it out alive."
"You think I don't realize how dangerous this job is?" she whispered, staring at the door handle in front of her when she wanted to turn around and give him a piece of her mind.
"You're not going to do this alone."
"I never said I was. I thought I was working the case with my father."
Jake's phone buzzed and he moved away from her. Angela prayed he didn't see her sigh with relief and her body sag. She reached for the door handle, turned it, and pulled the door open. The door didn't have time to close behind her when Jake grabbed it and stepped outside his room.
"Angela," he said, making her name sound more like a demand.
She waved over her shoulder, refusing to look at him and damned if she'd run to the elevator. "I'll talk to you soon," she said, and pushed the button for the elevator.
His heavy footsteps sounded in the hall. Dammit! Would he seriously follow her to her room?
"That was a short call," she said, knowing she was snapping at him when he reached her side.
"I need your cell number and room number." Jake wouldn't give her the chance to claim not to have anything to write with or on. He shoved a small hotel suite notepad in front of her along with a pen.
She took it, jotted down her number, and shoved it back at him.
"Room number, too."
The elevator doors opened and she stepped inside. Jake faced her, holding the doors so they wouldn't close, although he didn't step inside with her. The look he gave her was enough to show her he would close them off inside this small space if she didn't give him what he wanted.
"I'm in room twelve-twelve."
Jake let go of the elevator door and it slid silently shut.
* * *
"Okay, Dad, what the hell is going on here?" Angela released all her pent-up frustration on her father the second he answered his phone.
James Huxtable didn't often find humor in situations. He wasn't a morbid soul, but he took life and all around him seriously and treated it with respect. He did the same with his daughter, using his calm, smooth, assuring tone that used to solve her world's problems when she was young.
"I thought you liked Jake King," he said.
"Dad!" Angela paced the length of her suite, slapping her hand against her hip. "He is the last thing I need right now. But Jake isn't what this is all about. Something is going on with you."
"I'm fine, Angela." He remained calm, which didn't confirm or deny her suspicions. "All that matters is you stay focused. I'm sure I'll have things wrapped up on my end in no time, hopefully soon enough to help blow the game up once and for all. You can handle everything until I'm back by your side, right?"
It was on the tip of her tongue to answer. All she'd ever wanted was her father's acknowledgment that she was one of the best, top of the line, just like her old man. Angela might be young, but she'd pulled off some moves. The cops in their precinct and the D.A. had all acknowledged Angela's abilities to unravel a crime. But to hear this praise from her father, even in the form of him saying she could hold down the fort in his absence, was enough to make Angela jump on the bait.
She stopped pacing, looked up from the carpet she'd been scowling at, and stared across her hotel room suite.
"You know I can," she told him, but didn't feel the joy she knew would come when her father, the great James Huxtable, told her she was good enough to run lead on one of the most dangerous cases, possibly, in American history. "Something strikes me as odd," she continued, her tone flat.
"It's a tough case, I know." Her father had picked up on her suspicion that he would step away from this case. "The Kings are the best there is, or I wouldn't have pulled Jake in on this one. The fact that you two have already met actually works to your advantage. The second he saw your picture, he jumped on the case. He will protect you to death. I have no doubt."
Again her father had thrown her a curveball. The bait he dangled in front of her was damn near impossible to resist. Angela squeezed her eyes closed, fighting to remain focused. She desperately wanted to know every detail around Jake accepting the case after that small bit of enticing information her father had just offered.
"I'm sure," she forced herself to say. It was what her father wasn't telling her that mattered more than what the most gorgeous man she'd ever met thought of her. "Dad, why are you taking another case right now when we're ready to bring down the game?"
"It won't take long," her father said without hesitating.
Something unpleasant twisted in Angela's gut. The charged sexual energy between her and Jake still zapped at her insides. His aggressive nature and the look on his face when those elevator doors closed had left her weak with need. Angela managed to shove her personal desires out of the way as she collapsed on the edge of the bed.
"Who are you looking for, Dad?"
"No one. All you're to think about is the game, and Mario Mandela. One wrong move--"
"I know that, Dad," she snapped, interrupting him. "And you know that, too. Which is why I find it incredibly odd that you're focusing on another case."
"You need to brief Jake."
"I know what I need to do. Everything is under control."
"Why won't you tell me about this missing persons case? It's not like you. You need to fill me in so I know what you're doing. That's how you taught me to work in our business, Dad. Always keep the other one informed, at all times."