Authors: Cheyenne McCray
The Edge of Sin
His life was based on lies.
Zane Steele rubbed a hand over his jaw, his gut tightening as he studied the blond sitting on a park bench in the Common.
Sunlight winked through the trees and caressed the woman's lightly tanned arms and legs.
A light summer wind lifted her sun-streaked hair from her shoulders.
Boston might be a little on the humid side this morning, but his throat was completely dry as he watched her eat an ice cream cone, her tongue darting out delicately as she licked the ice cream. He hardened as he imagined exactly where he'd like those lips and that tongue to be.
Zane hitched his shoulder up against a tree and found himself unable to take his gaze from her. He shouldn't even be thinking of introducing himself This wasn't a one-night stand kind of woman. This was a woman a man would want to come home to at the end of a long day and warm his bed every night. And for Zane, pursuing any kind of relationship while living a life of secrecy in order to protect everyone he knew, was downright insane. But that didn't stop him from staring.
As far as he knew, most Recovery Enforcement Division, RED, agents who had relationships with civilians didn't have the same qualms about keeping their real occupation secret from the ones they loved.
He wasn't one of those agents. He couldn't have a relationship based on not being able to share everything with the woman he loved.
Zane pushed away thoughts of commitments and studied the woman slowly licking her way around the ice cream cone. She wore a skirt that landed just above her knees before she'd sat down. When she'd made herself comfortable, the skirt hiked up her thighs just enough to tease. His heart almost stopped when she'd crossed her legs and her skirt inched up higher.
Dear God, those long legs were made for wrapping around his hips as he sank into her as deep as she could take him. Moans and whimpers would come from that pretty mouth that would beg him to fuck her harder as they rocked together. Her breasts would be perfect handfuls with beautiful nipples that he would suck and nip.
He'd bet she made a lot of noise in bed. She'd call his name as he brought her to orgasm after orgasm. She'd beg him to stop.
He wouldn't stop. He'd just take her again. And again.
The sound of shoes pounding along the path had Zane looking over his shoulder. Out of habit, he moved his hand closer to his Glock.
It was a male jogger. He passed by and the woman smiled. The jogger acknowledged her with a nod and a wink.
The surge of jealousy that slammed into Zane almost knocked him on his ass.
What the hell?
Goddamn, but she made him want her in ways he'd never wanted a woman before. He wanted to claim her. He wanted to make her his in every way. Not just for one night. He wanted to come home to her, wanted to hold her when she slept, and he wanted to wake up to her in the morning. And he hadn't even touched her yet.
In the past, he'd refused to take any relationship beyond the mutual understanding that it wouldn't go beyond sex and friendship— pretty much in that order. The woman could never question him on any aspect of his life. If she came to his bed, it was just for fun.
Pure animalistic, unadulterated, hard-core fun.
Zane's throat worked again as he watched the woman in pink slowly run her tongue up the cone as she licked it where it had started to drip.
Shit. With this one, he wanted more.
But he didn't want to bring anyone into his life whom he would have to lie to every single day for God knew how long. Maybe forever.
The only family member who knew the truth was his younger sister, Lexi, who lived the same life and also worked for the clandestine government agency, RED. It was an offshoot of the NSA and technically didn't exist. Not even their big Irish family knew what Lexi and Zane really did, what there careers were.
Only RED's director; the deputy director; a federal judge; a federal prosecutor; the head of the NSA; Senator Jeannette Shelton; and the President, knew. Not even the Vice President or the President's cabinet members were aware RED existed.
RED had four divisions and Zane worked Narcotics and Weapons Trafficking.
At least when he was in the Secret Service it didn't matter who knew and they just had to understand that he couldn't talk about Work. Same for Lexi when she was Army Special Ops.
Zane shifted against the tree, feeling the rough bark through the overshirt that hid his Glock. He shouldn't be watching the woman like this. He shouldn't be
her like this.
But he couldn't fight back the images of pushing her hair from her heart-shaped face and tasting the perfect fullness of her lips. Of cupping her breasts while sucking her nipples.
Of tasting the sweetness between her thighs then the caress of her long sun-streaked hair over his skin as those beautiful lips slipped over his cock.
He dragged his hand over his jaw again. His informant would be here in the next half hour and he needed to concentrate on his current case. Not on some woman he didn't even know.
Willow Randolph did her best not to look directly at the man who was focused on her so intently.
Law enforcement. He had it written all over him. It was the authority that radiated from him even though he was thirty, maybe forty, feet away. It was almost tangible. She felt like she could reach out and wrap herself in all his power.
From beneath her lashes she saw his throat work as she licked her ice cream and sucked some through her lips. His expression was pained and she did her best not to smile at the nice-sized bulge in his jeans.
Dangerous, that's what he was. The kind of man who'd be hazardous to a woman's heart.
He had "Bad Boy" written all over him.
She'd bet a month's salary from her job at Macy's—well maybe a week's—that he was something other than a police officer, but still in some branch of law enforcement.
Definitely not a desk jockey.
His hands looked strong enough to snap a man's neck yet she imagined that those same hands would be gentle on a woman's skin.
Willow could almost feel his fingers glide over her body. That simple thought hardened her nipples beneath her pink blouse and sent a heated shard of desire straight to that place between her thighs.
He was a stranger, but she had the incredible urge to run her hands over his muscular chest before she slipped her fingers into his black hair. His carved biceps and strong forearms would hold her tight as he slid deep inside her.
She almost moaned as she licked her ice cream. She could picture herself wrapping her arms around his neck, and bringing him down for a kiss as she pressed her body close to his. He had a quarterback's build from his broad shoulders to his lean hips, so he would feel hard and strong against her softness.
Willow licked the cone again and imagined it was his erection. Strong as steel but soft under her fingers and in her mouth.
Maybe it had just been too long since she'd had sex, because the way he made her feel just standing there watching her and the way she was fantasizing about him was insane.
She crunched on her cone while he watched, then she slowly and deliberately sucked each of her fingers clean.
Let him go home and wish he had at least come up to her and introduced himself. Let him wonder what it would be like to be with her and wish he'd had more guts.
No, there was nothing in the least bit cowardly about this man. He didn't make decisions without weighing his options.
The man pushed away from the tree he'd been leaning against.
Willow couldn't help it. She raised her eyes and met his. Green. His eyes were such a beautiful shade of green.
The pounding of her heart seemed to rise from her chest to her throat. Swallowing at this moment wasn't an option. She couldn't have torn her gaze from his for the life of her.
Heat traveled through her as he made a more blatant assessment. His gaze started traveling over her from her ankles to her nearly bare thighs, up her belly, and rested on her breasts. Her nipples grew so hard that he had to see the effect he had on her.
Two could play this game.
A breeze teased her hair as she parted her lips. She tasted the sweetness of ice cream on her lower lip as she ran her tongue along it. But it wasn't the ice cream that she was trying to taste. It was the image of herself on her knees in front of him, taking him deep into her mouth that was firmly in her mind.
She let her gaze freely roam over his powerful form. Such incredible thighs and muscular build. Just to push him closer to the edge, she let her gaze rest on his excellent package before she met his eyes again.
Willow curved her lips into a wicked smile as she braced her hands to either side of her hips on the park bench.
I dare you,
she told him with her expression.
Zane couldn't have stopped himself if he tried. When the woman gave him that challenging little smile that was all it took.
He never backed down from a challenge.
She looked surprised then almost amused as he walked toward her. When he reached her she looked up at him and smiled again.
"You've been driving me out of my mind," was the first thing that came out of his mouth.
Her smile turned into a grin. "I know."
Zane wanted to smile in return but instead he sat a couple of feet away from her on the park bench: He rested his forearms on his thighs and leaned forward, studying her.
Goddamn but she was even prettier up close. The breeze carried her scent to him and reminded him of the ocean and sunny days as his gaze rested on the curve of those perfect lips. He met her eyes that were such a pretty sea blue it would be like getting on a boat and getting lost for days on the brilliant Caribbean Sea.
"Zane Steele." He used his real name and not one of his undercover ones as he reached his hand out to her. He only used his real name when it came to personal things.
Everything about this woman would be personal.
"Willow Randolph." She took his hand and her warm touch had more than his gut tightening. His jeans were going to strangle him if he got any bigger.
It seemed they were both reluctant to part as they slid their hands away from each other.
Her touch tickled his palm in a way that made him think of those fingers all over his body.
"Randolph . . ." Even as he reveled in Willow's touch, a combination of anger and pain burned his skin at the memory of another Randolph. "My sister, Lexi, just lost a friend, Stacy Randolph." On an undercover op with RED, he added silently. No one outside RED knew she'd died a hero and not a victim, because no one knew she had been a special agent with RED.
Willow's smile faded a little. "Stacy was my cousin. She was one of my best friends."
Willow sighed as sadness crossed her features. "I'm staying with my aunt and uncle for a while so that they're not alone now that Stacy's gone. She was their only child."
They were both silent for a moment but they never broke eye contact. Those sea blue eyes would be easy to get lost in.
"Your accent isn't New England," he finally said. "I'd guess Upper New York."
"You're good." She smiled and her eyes had an edge of amusement to them again. "But then a cop is trained to notice everything."
A small shock jolted him. He tried to keep his expression from showing he was startled that she'd come close to nailing him. "What makes you think I'm a cop?"
"Not really a police officer." She cocked her head as she studied him. "But definitely law enforcement."
Shit. If he was this easy to read how the hell had he made it through so many undercover ops?
"Secret Service," he said. He had been SS and everyone thought he still was. "You pegged me. Now I want to know how." "Ah. Secret Service." She crossed her legs at her ankles. "Taking some time off?"
"Something like that." Funny she hadn't answered his question. He glanced at his watch.
His informant should be here soon and he shouldn't be sitting here having this conversation. "Are you going to ask me to dinner?" Willow had a clearly curious expression. Not like a woman who expected a man to ask her out, but a woman who was observant enough to know when a man was attracted to her.