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Authors: Virna DePaul

Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction

Shades of Temptation

BOOK: Shades of Temptation
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WILL HE HELP PROTECT HER…

Carrie Ward understands dangerous men, and she’s got the
scars to prove it. These days, the Special Investigations Group detective saves
her risk taking for the job. But when she’s asked to pursue a high-profile
serial killer, she’ll have to join forces with the last man she wants to depend
on—Jase Tyler, an ace senior detective who’s as reckless as she is cautious. And
despite her best intentions, the sparks begin to fly.

OR DRAW A KILLER FROM THE SHADOWS?

As Carrie and Jase race to try to save the next victim, the
passion that simmers between them ignites. But a cunning killer at the top of
his game is challenging Carrie to play to the very end. Now all she can count on
are her instincts—and Jase, the one man daring enough to keep her safe….

Dear Reader,

Being a writer frequently brings milestones—that first sale,
the launch of a series, gaining another fan, listening to your first audio book,
etc. There’s a new adventure around every corner, and that’s equally true for
the characters in my stories. I love how characters I think I’m familiar
with—characters like Jase Tyler and Carrie Ward, whom I first introduced in
Shades of Desire—
can surprise and challenge me.
In
Shades of Temptation,
my biggest challenge was to
realistically explore the attraction between these two cautious, strong
individuals despite the horrific circumstances forcing them to work together. I
wanted to dig deep, past what I thought I knew about them, past the
superficialities, past their fear and insecurities, until I uncovered what was
rich and unique and flawed and perfect about them. I hope I’ve succeeded!

One theme I explore in
Shades of
Temptation
is how appearances can be deceptive and can also
contribute to many of the emotional limitations we place on ourselves. In my
opinion, the strongest individuals are those who attempt to see beyond the
surface and who understand nothing is wholly black or white, good or bad,
beautiful or ugly. Instead, our world is enriched by each color of the rainbow,
and life is about exploring every one. Thank you for your interest in the
Special Investigations Group series.

Wishing you much love and happiness always,
Virna
DePaul

Also available from Virna DePaul and Harlequin HQN

The Special Investigations Group

Shades of Desire

And coming soon

Shades of Passion

Thank you to my writing buds (including Susan Hatler, Cyndi
Faria, Rochelle French, Vanessa Kier and Joyce Lamb) for your help on this one!
Special thanks to Michael Faria, who makes his mom proud and I can totally see
why. As always, I’m lucky to have the support of my agent Holly Root, my editor
Margo Lipschultz and, of course, my boys (love you!). Finally, thank you to all
the individuals at Harlequin Books for spreading the word about me and this
series, and for showcasing us in such a wonderful way!

CHAPTER ONE

S
PECIAL
A
GENT
C
ARRIE
W
ARD
entered McGill’s
Bar to break a dry spell, but there was to be no alcohol involved. She’d just
closed another difficult case for SIG, the California Department of Justice’s
Special Investigations Group, a five-member state equivalent of the FBI, and she
intended to celebrate by ending five years of celibacy. It didn’t matter that
she probably wouldn’t achieve climax. She rarely did with a man. But pleasure
wasn’t what she was really after. She just wanted physical contact. Intimacy. To
be able to pretend for a few hours that she belonged—on this earth, in this
city, maybe even to a man who cared about her and saw her as more than a woman
trying day in and day out to get away with doing a so-called “man’s” job.

Less than thirty minutes later, Carrie exited McGill’s alone.
Her chest ached with loneliness far greater than any she’d ever felt before. And
it wasn’t because she hadn’t found a man to seduce but because the one man she
truly wanted to seduce—no, the one man she truly wanted to make love to, if
there really was such a thing as making love—was getting ready to bed another
woman.

She should never have come, she thought. It was a Friday night
and she’d known Jase Tyler, a fellow SIG special agent, had a date. But she
couldn’t have known he’d bring his date to McGill’s Bar, a favorite hangout of
the San Francisco P.D. She’d seen him there with women before, of course, but
they’d been women he’d picked up while he was there. She’d figured he’d take a
date someplace swanky and more conducive to seduction.

She’d been wrong.

Her stomach contracted as she recalled her brief conversation
with Seth Roberts, an SFPD cop. He’d said something that had made her laugh just
before his friend had nudged him and said “Jase Tyler” in an admiring tone. With
dread, she’d turned to look. Sure enough, she’d immediately recognized the back
of Jase’s elegantly dressed frame, his hand pressed against the slim bare back
of the woman standing next to him. His date wore a black cocktail dress more
appropriate for the opera than McGill’s, but who was Carrie to judge? She hadn’t
even bothered dolling up for her manhunt. Instead, she was still wearing her
standard office attire, which made her feel as feminine as usual—which was to
say, not at all.

Now, standing outside McGill’s, Carrie prayed Seth hadn’t
noticed the devastation she’d felt upon seeing Jase with his date. The way he’d
looked at her, however—with slightly softened features and a hint of pity—told
her she was wasting her time. But if he dared say anything to Jase about it,
she’d make him sorry. If nothing else, she’d challenge him to another
racquetball match and wipe the floor with him just as she’d done the last two
times they’d played. Shoving her hands into her wool peacoat, she turned to walk
to her car.

“Leaving so soon, Ward?”

She froze at the sound of Jase’s voice. For a half second, she
wondered if she was hearing things. If she’d made him materialize from sheer
desire. The true question, however, was whether he’d appeared alone or with his
date.

Slowly, she faced him. He was standing a couple of feet away,
hands in his pockets, his ever-present tie loose, his suit jacket left behind.
His sandy-brown hair was artfully disheveled, his tall, lean body showcased to
full advantage by his tailored clothes. Although Jase would bristle at any
suggestion that he was a metrosexual—and making him bristle used to be one of
her favorite pastimes before the sexual tension between them had grown too
dangerous—even Carrie wouldn’t go so far as to label him as one. He cared about
how he looked more than the average male. He dressed well. Looked good. Smelled
good. But he was too intense and masculine to ever fit within that category.

It was no surprise, then, that Jase liked his women purely
feminine. So why was he out here with her rather than inside with his date? She
frowned, not because he was alone, but because of how damn relieved that fact
made her feel. “What’s up, Tyler? Did your date send you out here to retrieve
the rest of her outfit? She getting chilly?”

He’d been watching her with a serious expression. Now, he
grinned the same grin that always made women go weak-kneed and googly-eyed, her
included. Thankfully, her slip with Seth aside, she was really good at hiding
it.

“I’m pretty adept at keeping my dates warm,” Jase drawled, his
deep voice tinged with a hint of Texas twang. “I just saw you leave and wondered
why you didn’t stop and say hi.”

She raised a mocking brow. “Didn’t I? Sorry about that. Hi,
Jase. How are you? Has anything interesting happened since I last saw you…let’s
see…” She glanced at her watch, a plain, simple design with a sturdy black
strap. It was as fashionable and gender neutral as the rest of her. “Since I
last saw you an hour and a half ago at the office?”

She looked back up at him. To her surprise, he’d moved closer
and was practically looming over her. He hardly ever stood this close, as if he
was trying to intimidate her with his sheer masculine presence. His body heat
blasted her with the intensity of a raging fire. His scent, fresh and clean but
with a hint of cologne, overpowered her. Desire rushed through her veins, making
her dizzy, making her panic. Automatically, she took a step back and barely
stopped herself from taking another.

She pushed a wayward strand of hair back over one ear and
licked her lips. “Careful, Tyler. Your date might not like it if you stand so
close to me. I mean, not that she’d view me as a threat or anything, but you
know how silly most women can be.”

Jase’s fingers flexed. Absently, she noted he’d removed them
from his pockets. He had big hands. Long, elegant fingers that belonged on some
kind of artist rather than a cop. He had big feet, too. Although he had more
than his fair share of height, he lacked the sheer bulk of some of their
teammates, especially Liam “Mac” McKenzie and Simon Granger. And while he was
handsome, Jase was more pretty boy than ruthless masculinity. It often made
people underestimate him, shocking them when he transformed from dazzling
charmer to dangerous badass right in front of their eyes. Sometimes even Carrie
forgot how ruthless he could be. When that happened, he’d inevitably remind her
by apprehending a dangerous suspect or responding to one of her snarky comments
with a scathing retort. Tensing, she waited for such a retort now.

It didn’t come. Instead, he lifted one of those big hands of
his and lightly brushed her cheek with his fingertips. Her heart beat wildly.
Immediately, she was tempted to close her eyes and lean in to him. As it was,
she recalled the first and only time he’d kissed her, just a week ago, when
Mac’s girlfriend, Natalie Jones, had been assaulted and ended up in the
hospital. Jase’s kiss had been one of comfort, a light, brief touching of lips,
over too soon. But its effect on her had been as forceful as a blow. Just as his
touch was now. She couldn’t help it. She trembled, and from the way his eyes
heated and narrowed, he didn’t miss her reaction.

“Regina should definitely view you as a threat,” he said
softly.

Her eyes widened. No. Surely she’d misheard him. She tried for
a mocking laugh, but it came out breathless instead.

“I want to kiss you again, Carrie,” he said before she could
respond. “But this time I want to do it right.”

The air completely left her lungs. She stared into his eyes,
searching for signs that he was drunk but finding none.

His fingers trailed down to her jaw while his thumb lightly
pressed against her bottom lip. When she gasped, he gave a shaky sigh and
lowered his hand to shove it back in his pockets along with the other.

“The question is, are you going to let me? Or are we going to
continue playing the same tiresome game, pretending we don’t want to rip each
other’s clothes off and screw for days?”

His crude choice of words broke the hazy spell she’d been
under. Jase was a lady’s man. A bona fide charmer. He didn’t use words like
“screw” with women, at least not outside the bedroom. But she wasn’t like the
women he dated. She wasn’t soft or feminine, and he obviously didn’t feel the
need to use his normal charm and gallantry with her. Or perhaps he was just
being honest. He wanted to fuck her. Why waste his time with pretty words?

He was watching her carefully, with an almost predatory glint
in his eye. Over his shoulder, through the windows of McGill’s, she saw his date
scanning the bar as if searching for him. She was just as beautiful from the
front as she had been from the back. More so. So once again Carrie asked
herself—what was Jase doing outside with her, pretending a desire that couldn’t
possibly be real? The only explanation was he was looking for some variety in
his endless stream of sex partners, but she’d be damned if she was going to be
the one to give it to him.

Deliberately, she softened her expression and bit her lip,
hoping it made her look appropriately receptive. “Jase,” she said shakily,
keeping her gaze down.

Just as she hoped he would, he bent down to bring his face
closer to hers.

“What is it, Carrie?” he asked, his voice deep and dark. “Tell
me.”

She peeked up at him through her lashes and lightly placed her
hand on his chest. She could feel his heart thudding, strong and slightly
erratic. She had him rattled, and while that should have made her feel
triumphant, the ache between her thighs told her to tread carefully lest she be
caught in her own trap. Ignoring the inner warning, she cupped the back of his
neck and leaned up until her lips touched his earlobe. “Jase,” she breathed
again.

His hands settled lightly on either side of her waist, then
tightened. He was getting ready to pull her against him. To press her body up
against his hard, delectable length, and she knew if he did that, she’d be done
for. She wasn’t sure she’d have the strength to pull away from him. Turning her
head, her gaze once more found Jase’s date inside. She’d homed in on them, and
her posture told Carrie she’d be coming after him any second.

At that exact moment, Jase turned his head and brushed his lips
against her jaw. A sizzling tingle shot up her spine before settling in her
breasts and every other erogenous zone she possessed. She wanted to rub against
him like a cat in heat. Not only that, but the temptation to fight Jase’s date
for the right to touch him—to
love
him—blindsided
her.

Fool! What was wrong with her? She was teaching the guy a
lesson here, not stamping her mark on him.

She kissed his jaw the same way he’d kissed hers. Then she
clamped her teeth around his ear and bit him—hard.

“Shit!” Instinctively, he jerked. She immediately released him
and took several steps back, this time not caring if it looked like a
retreat.

Jase brought a hand up to rub his ear and glared at her. “Damn
it, Carrie, what the hell was that for?”

“That,” she replied breathlessly even as she continued to back
away from him, “was to remind you that I’m no threat to Regina, but the same’s
not true for you. If you’re bored with the bimbos you’ve been dating, then maybe
there’s hope for you yet. But don’t waste my time by feeding me your bullshit.
You don’t want me. You want to beat me. Prove that you can make Special Agent
Ward another notch on your bedpost. It’s never going to happen.”

“I don’t want to beat you. At least, I didn’t until you tried
to take a damn chunk of my ear off, but—”

The door to McGill’s opened. “Jase,” a soft feminine voice
called out. Regina held the door open and shot a look at Carrie, her expression
one of obvious concern for Jase. “Do you need any help out here?”

Carrie actually snarled. The woman was acting like Carrie had
cornered Jase and trapped him; after all, why else would he be bothering to
speak with someone like her?

“Give me a second, Regina,” Jase said. “I need to finish—”

“Oh, you’re finished,” Carrie said. She glanced at Regina.
“Don’t worry, I’m a cop. Jase and I work together. We were having a little
disagreement, but he was just telling me how anxious he was to get back to you.
So run along now, Jase. Have fun, you two.”

“Damn it, Carrie—”

Ignoring him, she whirled around and walked in the opposite
direction from her car. She’d come back for it later. After she’d calmed
down.

After she remembered why she’d pushed Jase Tyler away rather
than done what she’d really wanted to do—throw her arms around him and never let
him go.

BOOK: Shades of Temptation
11.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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