Authors: Leslie North
The more she discovered in the files about these guys, the more the whole thing stunk. There were documents that didn’t line up, witness statement that either hadn’t been corroborated or were inconsistent, and questions that had never been plausibly answered and were brushed under the proverbial rug or ignored. It almost made her ashamed to be a government employee.
She’d been working for what seemed like a few minutes, but—if she judged by the delicious smells drifting out of the kitchen—it had to have been an hour or so, at least. Rolling her stiff neck and shoulders, Hayley looked up from her screen to see Scotty bustling around the small, well-appointed kitchen. He had a sexy grin on his face and appeared to be singing softly into the end of a spoon.
Yeah. Definitely time for a break.
She set Natalie’s laptop aside and stood, stretching before heading over to the galley-style bar separating the open-style concept kitchen from the living room. “What’re you making?”
He turned and waggled his brows. Her knees went weak with want. “My specialty. Sausage and peppers.”
“Let’s hope it tastes that way too.” He stirred the contents of the large frying pan, then replaced the lid and lowered the flame before removing his apron and facing her once more. A spot of grease stained the corner of his firm, full lips and she had the insane urge to lick it off. “You find anything else interesting?”
“I brought my laptop along so I could get into the Bureau’s system to check out a couple of leads but I have to be careful. They spot hackers from a mile away. I’m not too concerned yet, since I helped design their security systems. I know all the ins and outs and backdoors. But one wrong step and we’ll have a whole crew of cyber cops on our doorstep within minutes.”
“Yikes.” He took a gulp of his wine then grinned at her over the rim. “You hungry?”
God, yes. And not just for food either.
She cleared her throat and looked away fast, but not before taking in his broad chest and muscled arms, the way that silly white apron only made him look even more incredibly appealing, if that were possible. Her throat was desert dry, so she grabbed her glass of water from the living room then returned to the bar. “I’m starving.”
“Awesome.” He pulled out two plates and silverware from the kitchen’s inventory, then loaded up a portion of food for each of them. “Have a seat, Red. I’ll serve you.”
Not wanting to pass up such a rare opportunity, Hayley did as he asked. The spicy scent of the peppers mingled with the rich, greasy aroma of the sausage had her stomach rumbling loud.
Scotty took a seat on the stool next to hers and smiled. “Go on. Try it. Not poisoned, I swear.”
He didn’t have to ask her twice. She’d skipped lunch, working straight through to catch up the other projects she’d been letting slide due to this case. Now, as she dug into the delicious food this gorgeous man had prepared, it was pure ecstasy on a plate.
Hayley groaned low in her throat after the first bite, her eyes closing. The tangy flavor of the peppers contrasted perfectly with the mellow, salty snap of the sausage and the slight sweetness of the caramelized onions. Perfection on a fork. That’s what this was. Yep. After she swallowed and opened her eyes again, she looked over to find Scotty watching her—naked desire in his deep blue eyes. Her stomach flipped, for entirely different reasons than appetite this time. She took a large swallow of wine and gave him a nervous half-smile. “It’s really, really good.”
“Yeah?” As if in a daze, he reached over slowly and brushed the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip. “How good?”
“Excellent.” The warmth from where he’d caressed her lips zoomed straight between her legs. He’d barely touched his own food, she thought absently, as he leaned closer, closer, until the space between them disappeared and his mouth captured hers.
The kiss was soft and sweet and gentle, his hands cupping her head while hers fisted in the front of his soft blue T-shirt. She relaxed into him and he deepened the kiss, sweeping his soft tongue against hers, once, twice. On the third pass, he stood and brought her with him, slipping one arm around her waist while the other hand traveled a slow path down her arm to cup her breast through her white cotton blouse, his thumb brushing over her hard nipple through her shirt and bra, teasing her.
Scotty broke away and leaned his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes, his breath panting and his pupils blown wide. “I want you, Hayley. So goddamned bad.”
The tingle in her knees spread upward to her inner thighs at the stark need in his gruff tone. She’d never been with someone where the chemistry was this highly charged, this electric. It might be wrong, they might’ve only known each other for a few days, but hell if she’d let this moment pass by. “I-I want you too, Scotty.”
Her words seemed to unlock something within him, because before she knew what was happening, he’d picked her up and carried her to the living room then cleared off the sofa and laid her down on it. Slowly stripped off her clothes, then removed his too.
Scotty Devonshire in jeans was a sight to behold. Scotty naked and full aroused was a near sacred experience. As he stretched out beside her, Hayley did her best to savor each sensation—the heat of his skin, the slight rasp of his chest hair against her nipples, the citrusy smell of his aftershave mixed with the woodsy scent of him. He kissed her again, stroked her, lavished attention on her sensitive nipples, then knelt between her legs and used his talented lips and tongue on her sensitive folds to coax her to the brink of orgasm again and again. By the time he slicked on a condom and positioned himself at her wet entrance, she was nearly out of her mind with lust.
“Do it,” she growled, digging her nails into his muscled shoulders. “I need you inside me. Now.”
“Patience, Red.” He kissed her again, slipping his fingers through her hair as he trailed his lips down her neck to the sensitive spot just below her ear. “Normally, I’d torture you a bit more, but I want you too damned bad tonight to wait.”
“Please,” she begged. Hayley had never begged a man to touch her before, yet here she was doing just that. “Please, Scotty.”
He groaned and nipped slightly at her neck, rotating his hips so the tip of his erect cock teased at her. “Fuck yes.”
One long, smooth thrust and he filled her completely. Then he rested atop her, giving her body time to adjust to the size and girth of him. She’d never felt so filled, so stretched, so utterly overtaken by another person in her life. It had never been like this before with another man and never with her ex. The feeling wasn’t awful. In fact, it was pretty damned wonderful.
She arched against him, drawing him down for an open mouthed kiss. He inhaled sharply and moaned. “Jesus, Red. You’re so tight and hot. Tell me what you want.”
“I want you to make me come.”
Scotty grinned then, all pure alpha male confidence. “Your wish is my command, Red.”
Within minutes, they were both panting and hovering near the edge. He reached in between them and stroked her again, sending Hayley’s long-neglected body right to the edge. Just as she was about to plunge over, he slowly drew himself away, until he was hovering above her, leaving her empty, unsatisfied.
“No!” she gasped out. “I want—” She clawed at his hips, tried to pull him back to her, but he resisted, giving her nothing a wicked smile and a raised eyebrow, even though she could feel him shaking with his own need.
“Please?” she whimpered and was rewarding for her begging—more goddamned begging—with another long, smooth thrust. She couldn’t help herself and moaned what was meant to be
as he repeated the performance, until she was writhing beneath him, clutching at his firm ass, pressing his hips into hers so he could find his way to her center even more even more deeply.
His breathing came harder and faster and everything about him seemed to grow more taut. That was what finally sent her over the edge, the way he tightened inside her, the way she felt his release the split second before her body echoed his, clenching around him again and again.
She clung to him, willed him to stay inside her until at last, he dropped his head and nuzzled the side of her breast, then chuckled and lifted himself on one elbow to smile down at her. “That was…wow.”
“Yeah.” She winked. “You were pretty wow yourself.”
“Thanks.” His stomach grumbled and he bit his lower lip, laughter sparkling in his gaze.
They dozed for a while in each other’s arms. Hayley ran her fingers over his arms, his back, his chest, learning the lines of him, still not quite able to believe that she’d given herself to him so freely.
He opened his eyes, a tired smile on his face. “Okay, Red?”
“Fantastic.” Heat crept into her cheeks and she lowered her gaze.
Scotty placed a finger beneath her chin. “Don’t tell me you’re shy, Red?”
“You don’t have to be,” he said, leaning in to kiss her again. “Never around me, okay?”
“Okay.” She smiled as his stomach growled loudly. “Sounds like you got another hunger to appease.”
“Does, doesn’t it?” Scotty raised the same brow as before and rolled away from her. “You up for seconds?”
“Hell, yes.” She sat up and pulled on her panties and his T-shirt while he donned his jeans and nothing else. Hayley followed him back to the counter and took a seat on her stool once more, a million times more relaxed than before. Amazing what some mind-blowing sex could do for a gal. She couldn’t help teasing him a bit. “More like firsts though, since I really didn’t get more than a bite before you ravished me.”
“Oh, I ravished you, huh?” He snorted. “Take a look at these claw marks and then tell me who ravished who, Red.”
She glanced over at where he pointed to her claw marks on his shoulders and heat rose in her cheeks. “Sorry about that. Got a little carried away, I guess.”
“Love scratches.” He grinned. “I kind of dig ‘em.”
“Yeah?” She smiled around a mouthful of food.
“Oh, yeah.” He shoved a forkful of sausage and peppers into his mouth and chewed.
They finished their meal in amicable silence, each brush of their hands or knees making her heart skip a beat. Sleeping with him probably hadn’t been her wisest move ever, but she’d already blown her career to smithereens by disobeying her boss’s orders. Why not obliterate her inhibitions too? Besides, the mystery surrounding Nick’s murder and his widow’s disappearance was too tempting for a puzzle-solving geek like her, starting with the crappy encryption on Natalie’s computer. All of this added up to one thing and one thing only.
Someone wanted her to find those files.
Now, she just had to figure out who. And why.
“You hungry again? Can I get you anything?” Scotty asked, interrupting her flow.
Hayley waved him off, scowling at her screen. “I’m fine. Just give me a minute.”
“I’ve given you five hours, Red.”
She blinked a few times then looked over at him. Seriously? She’d been online that long? Muscles stiff and throat cotton-dry, she sat back and rubbed her eyes. Wow. Talk about losing track of time. Still, that’s what always seemed to happen when she was grooving on her research. A quick look at the tiny digital monitor blinking in the corner of her screen showed her safe zone for poking around in the FBIs databases was long gone as well.
Her boss would have a team here soon, if they weren’t lurking outside the place already.
Without a word, Hayley stood and tugged on her jeans then pulled off Scotty’s T-shirt over her head to pull on her own bra and blouse. She tossed his shirt in his stunned face. “Better get dressed.”
“Aw, Red. Here I thought we might spend a little more time in our horizontal love nest.”
She sat again to put on her socks and shoes, then removed her Swiss army knife from her back pocket and stowed it in her sneaker. If they were doing a lot of running, she didn’t want to take the chance of it falling out and getting lost. “Does that line generally work for you?”
Scotty tossed slung the shirt over his muscled shoulder and grinned, looking entirely too scrumptious for her own good. With those bedroom eyes and that shadow of stubble, Hayley wanted nothing more than to tackle him to the floor and ravish him again until they were both satisfied. But work came before fun. Always.
An engine rumbled outside then cut off.
Hayley glanced toward the front windows then back at Scotty. “I’d say we’ve got about thirty seconds.”
“Thirty seconds until what?”
She stood and packed up her gear then grabbed her coat and headed for the backdoor. “Shoes, shirt, skedaddle. Now.”
“I still don’t—”
His speech was severed by the cha-chunk of the power shutting off. “What the fuck?”
“FBI. I might have alerted them to our presence and my hacking.”
“Smooth move, Red.”
“Thanks.” She gave him a snotty look then waited while he pulled his shirt over his head then jammed his feet into his combat boots while he stashed his weapon in its holster. “You ready yet, Rambo?”
“Funny.” He stuffed a few energy bars and a couple of bottles of water into a side pocket of her messenger bag, then pushed her toward the hall. “How many of them do you think there are?”
“Well, we can’t just walk out the door. They’ll be waiting for us.”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“C’mon.” He took her hand and led her upstairs. Shadows passed by the windows on the first floor and her heart kicked harder against her chest. “There’s a big oak tree outside, I think it’s close enough we can crawl out on the branches if we can get onto the roof.”
“That’s your plan?” She tried to dig in her heels at the top of the stairs, but he yanked her forward anyway. “Odds are statistically against this being successful, you know. Less than 5% of all oak trees in the United States are healthy enough to produce strong branches capable of supporting the weight of two grown adults. And given your sizable—”
His hard kiss cut her off. Even in the dark in the middle of an ambush they weren’t likely to escape, Scotty’s touch made her blood zing. He broke away, her head still cupped in his hands. In the pre-dawn gloom, his eyes looked deep and dark and infinitely intriguing. “You got a better idea?”
The front door crashed open and she jumped.
“FBI!” someone yelled.
Nope. The gal with all the answers was fresh out of ideas.
Hayley exhaled and closed her eyes. “Fine. Let’s do it.”
“Good girl.” Scotty kissed her fast once more, then took her hand and pulled her to the last room at the end of the hall. After locking the door and jamming the back of a chair beneath the knob, he slid open the lone window and peered out. “It’s a bit farther than I expected, but I think we can make it. Trust me, Red?”
Way easier said than done in her case. She’d been burned one too many times to trust anyone other than herself these days. Footsteps pounded up the stairs and her pulse jackhammered loud in her ears. “Not like I have much choice now.”
“Right.” He slid one leg out, then the other, balancing his weight on a slanted section of dormer. Then he leaned back in and waggled his fingers. “C’mon, Red. Let’s do this.”
This was a mistake. This wouldn’t end well. All of her numbers and probabilities said so.
Thump, thump, thump.
“FBI! Open up!”
Following a deep breath for courage, Hayley rushed over and took his hand.
Scotty helped her out onto the roof alongside him then pointed toward a large, thick branch about ten feet away. “I’m going to run and jump, grab that and hoist myself up.”
“What do I do?” She swallowed hard against the growing lump of panic in her throat.
Heights weren’t exactly her thing either.
“You just hang on for the ride.” He squeezed her hand and smiled. “Okay?”
She glanced down. Big mistake. Squeezed her eyes shut and nodded. She heard the agents busting into the rooms downstairs, moving closer, closer… “Okay.”
“I’ll protect you. Promise.” He tugged her to his side as the chair jamming the door in the room behind them clattered to the ground. “Trust me?”
Adrenaline and pure fear kept her from answering. She was a desk jockey, a number cruncher, a tech head extraordinaire. This wasn’t what she was trained for, this wasn’t something she could do…
“Red? Red!” He grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard. “I want you to climb onto my back and let’s get the hell out of here. Now!”
He faced away from her and ducked slightly so she could place her arms around his neck. Shaking, she did as he’d asked then squeaked as he stood and her feet dangled off the ground. “For your information, this is highly dangerous.”
“Better than getting taken into custody. Hang on.” He backed up to the wall of the house, then sprinted forward and leapt.
She squeaked and buried her face in the back of his neck as he caught and held the tree branch with both hands, a low grunt grumbling through him with the effort. Somehow, she’d lifted her thighs and now had her legs gripping his waist tight. No way was she letting go. No way in hell.
“Be careful,” she whispered, peeking around the side of his head to focus straight ahead and not on the plunging depths below.
“Always.” He passed one hand over the other down the length of the branch until they reached the thick trunk. There, they held their breath in the shadows for a moment as a member of the FBI team beamed a flashlight out the window, searching the backyard for suspects. Luckily, the new leaves were thick and the light skimmed by them without revealing their position. Beneath her palms, she could feel the sheer strength and solidness of his form, the slight shake of his muscle under the strain. Scotty chuckled low and the rich sound warmed her insides, despite the situation. “You keep feeling me up like that, Red, and we’re going be a while.”
Heat flooded her chilled cheeks and she narrowed her eyes. “Just get us out of here.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He shimmied them down the trunk of the tree then ducked again so she could climb off him while he brushed bits of bark off his clothes. “All right. Ready?”
“Where are we going to go?”
“Away from this place sounds like a good starting point.”
“Agreed.” Taking either of their vehicles would’ve been too risky, with all the agents swarming around, so walking was their best bet. She took his hand in hers, still trembling, and they sped off into the darkness.
An hour later, they strolled through the empty Lincoln Memorial, hand-in-hand, as slivers of pink and gold were just starting to streak the horizon and a few birds twittered in the pre-dawn chill. After spending the night with her, getting to know her, being inside her, Scotty felt more confused than ever. Yeah, she seemed to be on his side and open to the SEALs cause, but something about her still bothered him.
“How’d you know that FBI squad was coming?” he asked, glancing over at her in the gloom.
“I have a monitor on my computer. Let’s me know when the Bureau’s system has me locked and loaded when I’m hacking.”
“Huh.” He frowned. “You hack into your employer’s stuff often?”
“No.” She turned away, adjusting the bag over her shoulder. “Yes. Sometimes.”
They walked a bit farther then leaned against a nearby railing. He’d done his usual inspection as they’d walked and he knew the place was deserted, but he still couldn’t seem to shake the feeling they were being watched. He rubbed the nape of his neck, the tiny hairs prickling there, his well-honed instincts flaring.
She rested her hips against the cool metal beside his. If he closed his eyes, he could still remember the feel of those hips in his hands, the taste of her arousal on his lips, the warm, wet embrace of her body around his. Muscles tight in response, he crossed his arms and stared at the illuminated monument in the distance and changed subjects. “So, why did you?”
“Why did I what?”
“Besides the fact I consider myself a good citizen and don’t like the idea of my government framing innocent people?” Hayley exhaled and squinted at the ground. “And I really wanted to sleep with you, and sleeping with suspects isn’t allowed, so…”
The slight quiver in her voice told him he wasn’t the only one affected by what had happened between them. Scotty grinned. Hell, truth was, sex only made it all more complicated and sleeping with her had probably been a huge error in his judgment, but damn if he could bring himself to regret it. “Yeah, the sex was pretty fucking hot. I didn’t know a woman could do that with her—”
She kissed him this time, shutting him up. He deepened the caress, sweeping his tongue into her mouth to taste her spicy sweetness once more. Hayley was like a drug, addictive and deadly, but God what a rush.
“I was kidding, you know. About the sleeping together part.”
“I wasn’t,” he said and kissed her again.
Her wanton groan urged his libido higher. He’d always been a man who loved sex, lots of it, and he’d never found a partner who could keep up with him. Until now, it seemed. She clutched the front of his shirt then reached lower to stroke his aching cock through the front of his jeans and he damned near embarrassed himself in public. He could take her, right here, right now, and she’d joyfully go along for the ride.
Goddamn, he loved that about her.
His mind screeched to a halt.
Absurd. Ridiculous. He didn’t love Hayley Stevens. Hell, he barely knew Hayley Stevens. And yeah, they’d just spent some incredibly intense, incredibly steamy time together, but no. It was the heat of the moment, the surge of adrenaline, fight or flight.
Speaking of fight or flight…
He broke off the kiss and set her away. Her breath panted and her lips were parted and wet and swollen. From his kisses. Scotty couldn’t resist the flush of masculine pride those thoughts created.
“We need to come up with a plan, Red.” He raked his hands through his hair and did his best to get his own raging hormones back under control. Times like these demanded a cool head and a clear vision. Right now, his head pounded with blood and lust and the only thing he could envision was Hayley naked, her long legs wrapped around his waist as he drove them both toward orgasm.
Yeah. Not helpful. Not helpful at all, dude.
“Right now, we’re too vulnerable. Which isn’t good,” he said, raking a hand through his hair. He could count on one hand the number of times he’d acted alone, on one finger actually. This time. He’d never worked a mission without his team. Never. Until now.
She cleared her throat and picked up her bag from where it had fallen to the ground in the frenzy of their passion. “I can check the location of other safe houses in the area.”
“I’ve always got the condo, but the other guys are crashing there right now. Might be a bit crowded,” he said. He should call Kyle, fill him in on what was happening. Let him know they were safe. Yeah, that was best. No more of this acting on his own shit. Hell, his team was like the fucking Musketeers—all for one and one for all. “I’ll contact my team leader.”
Hayley nodded and headed over to a bench to set up her laptop.
Scotty pulled out his cell and hit the speed dial for Kyle. So what if it was the ass crack of dawn. His team mates never had a problem interrupting his sleep when it suited their needs. Turnabout was fair play. And a bitch. He frowned. No wait, that was karma.
Anyway, he was calling. End of story.
The phone rang once. Twice.
A twig snapped nearby and silence settled over the area.
Things were quiet. Too fucking quiet.
Behind him, Hayley yelped and Scotty swiveled fast, taking in the scene in flashes.