Table of Contents
Shelley Bradley and
Bound and Determined
"With plenty of chick lit wit, this story explores one of my favorite fantasies ... a desperate heroine takes a handsome alpha male hostage. Much sexy fun is had by all. Especially when the yummy captive turns the tables!"
"Steamier than a Florida night, with characters who will keep you laughing and have you panting for more!"
New York Times bestselling author Susan Johnson
Bound and Determined
doesn't have you grinning, it will have you grabbing for the nearest fan (or man)!"
--Jenna Petersen, author of
"A searing, frolicking adventure of suspense, love, and passion!"
Berkley Sensation titles by Shelley Bradley
BOUND AND DETERMINED
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation edition / July 2006
Copyright (c) 2006 by Shelley Bradley, LLC.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
eISBN : 978-1-101-00423-4
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY SENSATION is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The "B" design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
This book is dedicated to the memory of
a great fan and friend,
You never failed to make me smile
and touched me with your kindness
far more than you ever knew.
I miss you!
With special thanks to Jenna Petersen and Lora Leigh. Both of you contribute to my mental health (in a good way!) by assuring me I'm not writing drek and providing needed laughs when I'm ready to go postal. You share your talent, your time, and your tears with me. I'm so grateful!
ow do you feel about spending every night surrounded by adoring women eager to worship your body?"
Mark Sullivan stared at his brother-in-law across the desk in the posh Manhattan office as if he'd lost his mind. "Is this a trick question?"
With a rueful smile, Rafe said, "I got a call from my pal Norton over at the FBI yesterday. He needs a little freelance work done."
"Really? Is that regulation?"
"It's a favor. I owe Norton for keeping my ass out of a sling while I was ... bending the law to prevent you from doing ten to twenty in beautiful Leavenworth."
"Then I owe him, too. Big time. But why don't you want this? He asked for you, right?"
Rafe hesitated. "This is a little beyond my realm. You know my business is primarily electronic security. This case really needs a CPA, my man, and that's you."
"Okay. What's up?"
"Norton wants to send in a civilian, someone who has fewer rules to follow, someone fresh. The FBI has an agent in this location already on a separate case but ... they suspect something is up, that maybe the agent has gone rogue. They haven't heard from this person in nearly three months."
"Got a name?"
"Nope." Rafe shook his head. "Norton wouldn't spill it, just in case the agent is even deeper undercover or has temporarily stopped communicating because things are hot. In either event, watch for signs and steer clear."
"Sure." Mark grinned. "When do we get to the part with the adoring women?"
"Ha! I knew that would get your attention." The smile slid off Rafe's face. "We'll come back to that. Have a seat."
Frowning, Mark stared at his sister's husband and lowered himself into a black leather club chair. The jagged Manhattan skyline jutted up into a gray sky, but the sight did nothing to distract him now. Why the secrecy? Why the formality?
"Okay, I'm sitting. What's this about?"
"Here's the deal: The Feds are chasing a Mafia connection. Money laundering. If they can figure out where the money is coming from and where it's going, they hope it will net them a big fish."
"Makes sense." Mark shrugged. "So why are you looking at me like I'm a big game hunter and you're about to tell me guns have been outlawed?"
" 'The tip came from your ex-wife, Mark. She finally gave up some information about her connection. With her trial starting soon, she's looking for a plea bargain."
Apparently she valued her plea bargain more than her neck. While he was glad she was finally cooperating, it didn't surprise Mark that Tiffany failed to grasp the fact her freedom would be worth nothing if she was dead. Appreciation for lasting things had never been her strong suit. She'd certainly valued quick, easy money more than their marriage.
"So what did Tiffany say?" Mark finally asked.
"She didn't have the guy's name, just a description and the name of the place he worked at the time of their connection. She claims her contact told her he would gain control of the money pipeline this summer."
"Okay." Mark realized Rafe held a manila envelope in his hand and wore a reluctant expression. "What's in the envelope?"
"Nothing, really," Rafe said, looking away and tossing the brownish rectangular envelope on his desk. "Just some papers and ... nothing."
"Bullshit." Mark stood and crossed the space in three long strides. "When I came to work with you, we agreed up front to complete honesty. Don't go back on your word now, man."
Rafe rolled his eyes. "Now I know why your sister can sniff out even the tiniest white lie. You trained her too well, damn it. I can't even surprise her for Christmas, while she managed to blow me away with the announcement that she was pregnant."
"Stop trying to sidetrack me. What's in the envelope?" Mark said through gritted teeth, feeling his temperature rise.
Whatever it was, Rafe wanted to hide it bad. Since coming to work with his brother-in-law, they'd been nothing but even, equal. After a rocky introduction, they'd settled into a great working and familial relationship.
So this shit just pissed him off.
Rafe sighed and reached for the envelope. "Don't look at this. It's really unnecessary. What you need to know is, the guy we're after is Caucasian, stands just at six feet, is somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-five, has dark brown hair and brown eyes, no distinguishing tattoos or birthmarks."
"Gee, that narrows the suspects down to ten percent of the male population. Hell, that could almost describe you. Let me see what's in the envelope."
Without further comment, Rafe sighed and handed Mark the packet.
First, he withdrew a piece of paper with a candid head-shot taken out on the street during a cloudy day, along with small bio. "Blade Bocelli? This is the guy we're after?"
"With the description Tiffany provided, I called a PI who owed me a favor. He narrowed the list of suspects down significantly. This is the most viable one. Bocelli is a mid-level thug, but he has a direct line to the upper echelons of the Gamalini Family, we think, through Pietro DiStefano. Bocelli's brother was Mafia, but he went to prison a few years ago for murdering a federal prosecutor. Anyway, it appears Blade Bocelli is the dude the Feds want to nail."
"Great." Nodding, Mark reached inside again and withdrew an eight-by-ten glossy photo.
The breath left his body in a single rush.
Mark stared at the picture of his ex-wife, taken during their marriage, as evidenced by the fact she was wearing the wedding ring he'd put on her finger one rainy November afternoon. She had her skirt hiked up to her hips, her black high heels spread wide and a dark-headed man standing between them, his pants loose about his hips. Black leather stretched across the man's wide back and shoulders as he held Tiffany in place with a white-knuckled grip. In the heat of the moment, her red hair had fallen askew and her mouth opened wide.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered.
"You didn't need to see that, Mark. Seriously. I tried--"
"It's not as if I didn't know she cheated." But it didn't keep the sight of it from curling rage through his stomach. "Some computer tech head, the janitor at the bank, now this guy. That's the least of her crimes, really."
Tiffany didn't have the power to hurt him now, nearly a year after their divorce. Shock, at times. Annoy, every time.
She'd only married him to frame him for embezzlement so that she could launder money for the Mafia and take her cut. A year ago, when he'd first learned the truth, it had devastated him. The knowledge he'd meant nothing to her beyond the means to a profit had flattened his heart. He'd loved her--or thought he had.
Today, she was just a stinging reminder of his failure to see her for what she was, his piss poor ability to recognize what true love wasn't, and his really, really bad taste in women.
"I'm sorry," Rafe muttered. "Look, if this case is too personal ..."
Too personal? Being humiliated and duped was personal. Catching the jerk who helped orchestrate his downfall--that sounded like a good time.
"No, I want it. If this Blade Bocelli is the scumbag who helped Tiffany on her way to
--while plowing his way between my ex-wife's thighs
--"and he's laundering money, he deserves to do hard time."