Authors: Jill Sorenson
He’s her weapon of choice
Psychologist Mia Richards wants revenge. Her new client, tattooed Cole “Shank” Shepherd, provides the perfect means. She just has to manipulate the felon-turned-informant into eliminating her husband’s killers—members of Cole’s rival motorcycle club. The first step, seducing Cole, is simple. As for walking away before she falls hard—it’s already too late...
Dirty Eleven practically raised Cole, and he plans to double-cross the cops rather than sell them out. But smart, sexy Mia is an irresistible distraction. While she’s evaluating his mind, all he can think about is her body...until he discovers her true intentions. Walking a fine line between desire and betrayal, they’ll have to outrun her past, his enemies and the law for a love that’s dangerously real.
ICHELLE KNEW SOMETHING
was wrong as soon as she walked through the door.
There was mail strewn across the floor, as if Philip had knocked it off the counter and not bothered to tidy up. That wasn’t like him. Voices in the study alerted her that he wasn’t alone. He made his own hours, and often invited colleagues up for a drink or to debate about art. But the tone of the discussion struck her as strange. It sounded more like barked orders than a friendly quarrel.
“Philip?” she called out, setting her satchel on a chair.
The voices went silent.
Feeling a stab of unease, she strode down the hallway. The door to the study was ajar. When she reached the threshold and peered in, her world tilted on its axis. Making sense of the scene was difficult; the visual images were scrambled. Philip was on the floor with his arms tied behind his back. The wall safe stood open, and there were two other men in the room. All three turned to look at her.
She got the impression of puzzle pieces, floating independently. Philip on the ground. Two strangers, dressed in black. One held a gun. He had a tattoo on his wrist, between his glove and the sleeve of his leather jacket.
“No,” Philip shouted.
One second ticked by, maybe two, while she stood frozen. Then she turned and broke into a run. She didn’t even try to make it to the front door. She was wearing designer high heels, and her ankle twisted as she fled. Smothering a cry of distress, she ducked into the guest room. There was an antique phone on the nightstand, totally inappropriate for an emergency. She didn’t have time to dial 911. Instead of reaching for the receiver, she dived behind the bed and scurried underneath it, praying she’d be left alone.
Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, drowning out other sounds. When a hand wrapped around her ankle and tugged, she screamed at the top of her lungs. The man dragged her across the polished wood floor. Rolling over, she kicked out with her free leg, but failed to connect. He caught her other foot and wrenched her legs apart. Some kind of mask covered the lower half of his face. He had dark eyes.
Those eyes were all she could see. Her soul seemed to separate from her body, drifting up to the ceiling. When he clamped a gloved hand across her mouth, she snapped back into reality. She bit down on his palm and bucked underneath him, pummeling him with flying fists. One of her wild blows connected with his throat, and his grip loosened. Her hands found the phone cord. The heavy antique piece came crashing down on his head.
It was just enough to hurt. Not enough to stop him.
With a growl of fury, the masked man picked up the phone and threw it, smashing a hole in the drywall. Then he grabbed her by the front of her blouse and slammed her into the hardwood. Pain exploded in her skull. Lucidity flickered in and out like candlelight. When she came to, her hair was wet and warm.
“Fucking bitch,” the man said, straddling her waist. “I was just going to fuck you. Now I’m going to fuck you
Another voice said, “Get off her.”
The man looked over his shoulder. His partner, also wearing a half mask, was standing in the doorway.
“No DNA,” the partner said.
“No witnesses,” her attacker replied. Then he grabbed a decorative pillow from the top of the bed and held it over her face.
Michelle didn’t think she had any fight left in her. She was wrong. Instinct took over and her muscles sprung into action. Robbed of oxygen, fueled by panic, she clawed at his forearms, searching for tender skin. Her fingernails found no purchase, only slick leather. Her heels scraped uselessly across the floor.
Philip’s voice spoke to her. Not from down the hall, but from another place.
She forced her arms and legs to go slack. The man continued to smother her, not letting up until she was almost unconscious. When he lifted the pillow to study her, she kept her eyes open, staring sightlessly into the dark recesses under the bed. Her lungs ached to draw in a full breath, and black stars twinkled behind her eyes. Her bladder released in an embarrassing rush, as if her system was shutting down.
The man made a noise of disgust and dropped the pillow. He scrambled to his feet to avoid getting wet. Urine soaked into the fabric of her skirt, which was bunched around her hips. She lay in a puddle of her own body fluids, dying.
“What a waste,” her attacker said.
“You’re a sick fuck, you know that?”
“You told me to take care of her.”
“I meant knock her out or tie her up. Jesus Christ.”
Unable to draw a breath, she let the black fog take her.
to her feet as her new client, Cole “Shank” Shepherd, walked through the door.
She’d anticipated feeling resentment toward him, even loathing, so she schooled her features into a pleasant mask as she stepped forward to greet him. Not too pleasant—there was no need for coy friendliness or overt displays of interest.
The stark prison photograph she’d pored over the night before hadn’t done him justice. With his chin up and his head tilted to the side, displaying the spider’s web tattoo on his neck, he’d resembled an ordinary white male thug. All hard edges and hooded eyes. He was better looking in person. Taller and more intimidating. She registered his towering height along with the span of his broad shoulders, his bulky biceps and ink-sleeved arms. He wore a plain T-shirt with no leather jacket for protection; maybe he’d left it with his bike. Faded Levi’s covered his long legs. His scuffed motorcycle boots were almost Frankensteinian.
She lifted her gaze to his face. His eyes were the color of amber ale, pale brown and a little bloodshot. He had dark hair, cut razor-short on the sides and longer on top. His jaw was angular, his nose had seen better days, and his mouth was a sardonic slash. There was a sharpness to him that extended beyond his features.
Mia felt a jolt of unease. She hadn’t expected him to be so attractive. He was the kind of man who would draw female attention wherever he went, based on his build alone. Some women were excited by danger. They probably went crazy for his tattoos and checkered past, too. Mia was disturbed by her own lack of repulsion. Executing her plan was going to be even more difficult than she’d imagined.
Tamping down her nerves, she offered him a polite smile. “You must be Cole. I’m Mia Richards.”
He gave her figure a brief perusal as they shook hands. She’d taken pains with her appearance today, applying extra makeup and styling her sleek brown hair in tousled waves. Her slim-fitting skirt clung to her hips and her silk blouse accented soft curves. Overall, the effect wasn’t showy or obvious. That was next week.
His hand was big and rough, dwarfing hers. The warmth of his skin seemed to soak into her bones, making her aware of the chilly air-conditioning. She’d cranked it down to compensate for her nervous sweat, and the one-hundred-degree heat outside. Although it was late October, the blazing temperatures hadn’t waned. It was summer all year round in Indio, California.
He smiled back at her in a way that suggested he liked what he saw. There was a hint of dark humor in his expression, as if he thought this was all a ruse. “Should I call you Dr. Richards?”
She released his hand and closed the door behind him. “I have a PhD in psychology, but I’m not a medical doctor. You can call me Mia.”
“Mia,” he said in a lower pitch.
God. The man’s voice was a deadly weapon. Instead of using him as an informant, the DA should be employing his services to interview uncooperative female suspects. They’d melt into puddles as soon as he spoke.
She gestured to a set of chairs by a coffee table. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“I thought there’d be a couch.”
It was a typical comment in her field of work. She doubted he meant to be suggestive, but her mind conjured a vivid picture of him pushing her down on leather cushions. “Sorry,” she said, flushing. “No couch.”
He examined the room with acuity, as if searching for hidden cameras or escape routes. There were no secret-spy devices in here, as far as she knew. A single window dropped three stories to a crumbling asphalt parking lot. The chairs were cheap, with worn mauve wool cushions and polished beige wood. An art piece of smeared pastels hung on the far wall. She’d seen better prints at fast-food restaurants.
“Is this your office?” he asked.
“No, it’s just a space that was private and available.”
He returned his attention to her. He didn’t seem eager to get started, but that wasn’t unusual for required sessions. Many of her clients were reluctant and incommunicative. She didn’t take it personally. What concerned her more was her ability to act natural in such a high-intensity situation. She’d been waiting three years for this opportunity.
Three weeks ago, when she’d glanced at Cole’s file, she’d known he was the one. The perfect instrument for her needs. She hadn’t anticipated her physical reaction to him. She’d been numb for so long, she’d forgotten she could feel.