Authors: Misty Evans
Copyright © 2013 Misty Evans
Cover Art by Hot Damn Designs
Formatting by Author E.M.S.
Editing by Marcie Gately and Judy Beatty
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the author, except in brief quotations embedded in critical articles and reviews.
eBooks may not be resold as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
To Mark and the real-life Thunder…you are the inspiration for this story.
As Cooper and Celina would tell you, it takes a team to pull off a successful undercover op. Writing, publishing, and promoting a book is also a team effort. Without my friends, family, and editors, this book would still be unfinished, languishing on my computer.
Thank you, Dianna and Adrienne, for asking me to include this story in a boxed set. You provided the motivation to finish the book and the perfect outlet to publish it. Many thanks, also, to Amy R., the best and fastest beta reader in the world. You were the first to see the finished product, and I’m so grateful for your accurate and timely feedback.
Undying gratitude to Nana, who cheered for this book since the day I ran the plot by her five years ago, and who is my source for all things Southern California.
And as always, I’m grateful to my husband and sons for understanding when I’m up at four a.m. typing away…and still going at it after bedtime. For all the times you asked what you could do to help, and all the times you just did it—laundry, dinner, walking the dogs—I love you and appreciate the team work. I can’t wait for our next vacation to Carlsbad.
Celina Davenport looked out at the dark sky, the even darker ocean on her right, and the track of highway flying under the belly of the Porsche. The high pressure sodium freeway lights and the stars shining overhead did nothing to reassure her. The all-consuming view was like a sci-fi movie when the starship hit warp speed and the stars turned into streaks of light.
Warp speed. Her mind was flying in tandem with the car. This was no sci-fi movie. Weirdville, yes, but still planet Earth and still part of her job.
What awaited her on the other end of this crazy ride was either death at Emilio Londano’s hands or the successful end to her first undercover case. A year out of the academy, she’d managed to stay alive so far, due more to her wits than her training. Spending the past two months with the head of the San Diego mafia had taught her more than her training at Quantico ever could. More about flirting with danger while never losing sight of her goal.
At that moment, odds weren’t in her favor that she’d live to see the sunrise only a few hours away.
Time to do something about those odds.
Taking a discreet deep breath, she turned her big, brown eyes to her companion. In the light from the dashboard, Emilio caught and held her gaze. He loved her eyes. Loved her petite frame with its Cuban curves.
He smiled. The cat about to eat the canary.
She gave him a full-on, sexy smile back. The canary about to become the tiger.
Emilio Londano was a man too handsome for his own good. His Latin roots were evident in every hair, every smile, every polite command. His predictable self-confidence came with a self-deprecating charm. The power he held in every pocket of his skin overcame any and all resistance.
No one, man nor woman, said no to him. The legions of employees he directed, from his drug cartel to his housekeeping staff, were more than happy to make Emilio happy. His generous philanthropy and good citizenship wooed the everyday world of executives who clamored to do business with him through his legitimate organizations while they recruited him to be on their community boards.
The man driving Celina into the dark sleeve of the night was irresistible.
But so was she.
He had flirted, charmed, and tried to seduce her for the past two months. She had flirted, charmed, and seduced in return, stopping short of sleeping with him. That she would not do, not only because it would effectively destroy her job as an FBI agent, but because even handsome, charming criminals made her skin crawl. While Emilio and his lieutenant, Petero Valquis, checked into her past and watched her for any sign of deceit, Celina covertly collected information on the Londano operation and fed the damning evidence to her bosses in Carlsbad and L.A.
To Emilio and his mafia world, she was Celina Mendez, photographer and graphic design artist. She took photographs, fed them into her computer, and made art with them. Some of her designs resembled Warhol. Others were more Picasso. Celina Mendez made a comfortable living selling artwork to commercial venues as well as private parties. Emilio himself had a collage she had created of the infamous Che Guevara hanging in his home office.
Finding nothing in her cover background to give him pause, Emilio was in full conqueror mode, every move in his book in action tonight in order to get her into his bed. Generous amounts of flirting aside, the most Celina had offered him was a kiss. A sensuous meeting of her mouth with his that she knew had left the mafia leader weak in the knees.
Never had a beautiful woman said no to him or his advances.
Never had he wanted anyone more than he did her.
“You are quiet tonight.” Emilio down-shifted the Porsche as he brought it to a stop at a red light. They had entered Carlsbad. Nearing two a.m., most of the shops and restaurants that lined the divided highway were closed.
A man, tall and filling out a Billabong sweatshirt to the max, crossed in front of them walking a Chihuahua. The hood of the sweatshirt was up and his face shadowed, but a familiar prick of recognition made Celina’s pulse quicken. Military straight back, self-assured gate. He hit the sidewalk and turned south, the tiny legs of the dog double-timing it to keep up with his long stride.
Checking up on me, are you, Mr. Boss Man?
Time to initiate her plan. A plan DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Southern California Violent Crimes (SCVC) taskforce, Cooper Harris, wasn’t going to like.
Celina continued to watch the straight back while she nudged her fingers in between Emilio’s on the gear shift. “The Pacific Highway does that to me. The rocks, the ocean, the open expanse of night sky. It’s beautiful.” She let go of a soft sigh. “Makes me feel happy and carefree, like I might dare anything.”
Squeezing his hand, she gave him a knowing smile. A smile that said she might be willing to give him what she knew he wanted.
One side of his mouth tilted up. His dark eyes penetrated hers. “Then I’m glad we chose it over the interstate.”
The light changed. As Emilio shifted the car into first gear, Celina teased open the lapel of his crisp, white shirt. He’d ditched his jacket and tie before they’d left the parking lot of the theatre. The fundraising benefit for one of his favorite charities had given Celina the perfect set up for this take down. She needed him away from the tight security of his home as well as getting him to lower his guard while Petero Valquis was taking care of business elsewhere. Tonight’s date had secured all three.
“You look very handsome,” she murmured, leaning toward him and pressing her breast against his arm. She stroked her fingers across his collarbone.
“We were a perfect pair tonight, then.” He glanced admiringly at her cleavage as he shifted the car. “You’ve never looked more beautiful.”
The dress Celina was wearing was Marc Jacobs, a gorgeous flesh-pink silk and gauze combination with a beaded halter that showed off every inch of her assets to full advantage. When she’d met Emilio at the door of her apartment, he’d been speechless for the first time since she’d met him. Speechless was good.
She hoped Cooper would be speechless when he saw her too.
The first part of her plan a success at the apartment, she’d kept the distaste off her face and smiled as Emilio twirled her around, ogling every inch of her body. It had worked. He did not have his security goon search her, because he was either so enthralled with the merchandise that his mind went blank, or he was so sure she wasn’t anything other than a beautiful woman in a slip of a dress who would finally share his bed tonight.
His mistake. The microphone she wore was a cordless number she’d sewn behind the large jewel centered at the cusp of her cleavage. The transmitter, a small, square, plastic box, was tucked into the left cup of her bra. Off-balanced breasts would have been too noticeable in the dress, so she’d sewn a thick layer of Kleenex between the fabric and the lining of the other cup to even things out.
Which did a great job of hefting her boobs into outer space.
“Oh, look at the sky.” Celina tilted her head to look through the open moon roof. “Let’s stop at the boardwalk and go down to the beach.”
Emilio frowned before looking back at the road. “It’s late. Too late. Parking anywhere along here—” he waved his hand at the empty parking lane next to the concrete sidewalks “—will get my car towed. Let’s go back to my place.”
“Please,” Celina begged. She shifted her pleading eyes to his face and again brushed her boobilicious upper body against his. “A walk on the beach would be the perfect ending to this night.”
She scooted as close to him as the seats allowed and mentally morphed him into her fantasy man before she ran her right hand around his stomach. Her fingers touched leather. Gun holster. One that held a mean Glock.
Nothing like reality to interrupt her fantasy.
Sliding her fingers under the gun, she gave him a small hug and resuscitated the image of Cooper. Sexy, serious.
in the urban slang so widely used in the surf shops and outdoor restaurants she frequented when not on duty. She’d started calling him that behind his back, and the other taskforce members had picked it up. Cooper hated it. She loved that he hated it. He was no beast. In fact, he was two hundred and thirty pounds of sexy. And she wanted to be his Beauty.
Probably a lot of women in the DEA, FBI, and CIA had their own particular fantasies about him. Women all over Southern Cal as well. Too bad for them, she played hard and never gave up. He’d be hers. And soon.
While Cooper and Emilio were at opposite ends of the spectrum, running her fantasy-man mental movie always worked when she had to deal with Emilio. That particular mind game was the only thing that had kept her seduction act even close to believable the past few weeks.
She placed a soft kiss on Emilio’s neck, still pretending he was Cooper. Which took a superior imagination. “One of your men could drive the car around for a few minutes while we walk the beach.” She nipped the lobe of his ear. “If you’re scared of getting towed.”
Emilio’s two bodyguards were behind them in a black SUV. They were characteristically big, bad and ugly. To arrest Emilio without endangering anyone, Celina had to ditch them and get him totally alone. If one bodyguard had to drive their vehicle and one had to drive the Porsche, she’d have Emilio all to herself.
The key to success. Easy on paper. Hard in reality.
Time for the big guns. Or boobs, in this case.
“The night is dark and the beach is unlit,” she said softly. Emilio leaned toward her and she teased his lips with hers as she spoke. “The rocky walls and concrete boardwalks will hide us. You don’t need your security detail.”
She switched her lips to his earlobe, and still envisioning Cooper, she whispered, “You’ll love this dress even more when it’s wet.”
That sealed it. Emilio’s hand came off the gear stick and grabbed her by the back of the head. He drew her to him, bringing his mouth down on hers even as he drove the car.